Weighted Blanket Miracle

So many times I have thought to myself, "Oh I need to write about X" or "I can't wait to post about Y and Z." I have many posts I would like to write but just haven't had the time lately. However, tonight we had a HUGE breakthrough, and I am dying to share all about it. 

Tyson's surgery and specifically his recovery was extremely traumatic for him. I will share more details later, but for now, just know that he has been TERRIFIED to be apart from me. His anxiety and hyper-vigilence during the day has been in overdrive. You can imagine the terror he has felt when taking naps and going to bed at night. We tried co-sleeping and sleeping in his room, and neither option worked for him. The poor little guy just could not relax and get into deep sleep. He ended up screaming and crying all throughout the night. The idea behind co-sleeping and sleeping in his room was that every time he woke up, he would see us/me there beside him and feel more secure. The hope would be that his security at night would transfer to security during the day, too. 

When those ideas did not pan out, I reached out to an adoptive momma for whom I have great respect, and she suggested that I try a weighted blanket. I looked into purchasing one, and they can be crazy expensive. I decided to jump on Pinterest to see how to make one. After getting a good idea of how to put one together, I thought about what materials I could use. I remembered that I have 3 blankets that are silky on one side and various textures of fleece on the other. We received them as gifts when we were pregnant with Noah. I also had rice on hand. Rather than spending a lot of money buying material and poly pellets when I didn't even know if he would like it, I decided to give it a try today!

When you make a weighted blanket, you need to sew columns first in order to put the rice in each "square" and then sew that row closed. I knew this blanket would be perfect because I could just follow the lines already present. 

In order to figure out how heavy to make it, most guidelines suggest 10% of the child's body weight and add 1 pound. All disclaimers say to consult your occupational therapist or pediatrician. So, do that. :) I used my kitchen scale to measure out the appropriate amount of rice.

Rather than get all fancy, I decided to keep things super simple and just cut the silk side of the blanket away from the silk binding around the outside (see below).

Then I pinned the first column and sewed it from one end to the other. After that I pinned the second column and sewed it...and so on...until all columns were sewn.

I used a paper towel tube and inserted it into the first column, pushing it all the way to the bottom square. I had read that rice or other materials often get stuck in the blanket on the way to the right place, so in order to avoid that, I came up with this idea. I took my overall ounces of rice needed, divided it by the number of squares in my blanket, and measured out that amount of rice. I poured it into the first column/square and repeated until all of the first squares were finished in each column.

I pinned that row of squares and then sewed the row closed. The picture below shows the first row complete, and you can see the rice in each individual square.

This picture shows the first 3 rows completed, again, with each square containing the appropriate amount of rice.

When I got to the top, I folded down the silk binding (where I had originally cut the silk layer), pinned it down, and sewed across in order to close the top of the columns. Below is Noah holding the final product.

And here is the back side of the blanket!

The entire project took just 2 hours to complete, and honestly, it would have been less had I not helped Liam after he spilled rice from our sensory bin all over the kitchen floor while he played. :) It was SUPER easy. I am no seamstress, and even I was able to pull this off.

When it came time for bed, we got busy with the normal routine of undressing, using the restroom, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc. I could feel Tyson wrapping his legs around my waist for dear life getting clingy, and worry was written all over his face. I doused him with some essential oils, as I've been doing the past several days and then went to say goodnight to each of the other boys. They each reminded Tyson in their Daniel Tiger sing song voice that "Mommy, comes back." We went into his room and turned on the sound machine. He started to whimper a bit, and we sat down to rock. I put his Curious George (that Ryan bought for him at the hospital) under his arm and the new weighted blanket over his body. He started to cry but quickly stopped. I rocked him and sang to him, bumped the rocker into the wall, which I discovered at nap time makes him laugh. We sat there for 10 minutes laughing and making sounds at each other. It was precious time! This was the first time in WEEKS that I have been able to rock Ty without him screaming in terror (i.e., the nap time separation anxiety happened before surgery).

When I stood up to make the transition to his crib, I was prepared for the crying to start, as that was when it usually went to screaming...but it never came. I kissed his face a dozen times and told him I loved him. He still didn't cry with anticipation. I laid him down in the crib and braced myself. He laid there with his arms spread wide, completely relaxed. I couldn't believe my eyes! I just watched him for a bit and reminded him that "Mommy, comes back." When I walked away, he fussed for maybe 3 seconds but never cried...never screamed...and he remained completely quiet.

I almost cried. Seriously. I marched downstairs and wrote this post because I know there are others out there fighting this same battle, trying to build security in the hearts of your children. My heart breaks for the loss Tyson has experienced, and the fear it puts in his heart that I might leave him, too. I am so thankful that I am his mommy forever and that I get to earn his trust and love. Eventually, I am hopeful that he will feel safe and secure in our family. Praise Jesus for the peace that Tyson felt tonight! What an incredible step forward.


Tyson's Smile

I cannot believe that an entire month has passed since I last posted in my blog! After writing nearly everyday throughout our trip to China, a month long hiatus was much needed. I have put off writing this post, because I am addicted to watching Flip or Flop on Netflix I am in denial about what is taking place tomorrow - Tyson's first surgery.

As I looked back at previous posts, I realized that Liam's surgery took place on November 16, 2011, and Tyson's is taking place July 16, 2015. This is no coincidence, friends! God is always, always in the details if you are willing to look. Three years and eight months after Liam had his cleft lip repaired (you can read about it here), Tyson will have his cleft palate repaired. If you click the previous link I mentioned, you will actually see a photo of Tyson's surgeon, Dr. Tholpady at Riley Hospital for Children. Dr. Havlik was Liam's surgeon, and we really loved him, but he moved to Wisconsin. Dr. Tholpady was Dr. Havlik's fellow and actually assisted in Liam's surgery in 2011. I met with Dr. Tholpady a month ago and was very pleased with his level of compassion and confidence, as well as his calm and cautious nature with respect to Tyson being recently adopted. We feel very confident moving forward with him as our lead surgeon for TyTy's care.

Tyson has been in our arms for 7 weeks. We spent the our first 4 weeks home strictly cocooning and focusing on our family of six. Since that time, Tyson has spent a small amount of time with each set of grandparents, attended one 4th of July party, joined friends at one pool party, and had dinner at two different friends' houses. It has been SO nice seeing our friends and family again, though I think Tyson has become more clingy and less secure again as a result of doing so. If I am not sitting still 2 feet from him, you will find us holding hands walking throughout the house together. He panics if I walk to a new area, so you can imagine his response when I leave the house. People have often asked, "Do you think he transitioned so easy to you because he is so young?" I always say no because his initial transition is only a testament to the Lord's mercy, as he really answered our prayers in that way! Because Tyson has lost EVERYTHING he knows, he is understandably very fearful of being losing everything he knows again. Some of you had a parent walk away from you when you were growing up. Others have lost people who meant everything to them, and because of that pain, you may often wonder if and when the people closest to you will walk away, too. Imagine how little TyTy must feel, wondering and worrying that when I walk out of the room, he will never see me again. So so sad.

I am hopeful that this recovery period will help Ty continue forming those deep roots of felt safety and security in our family. I cannot imagine how scary this transition has been for him. To go from living in one place, with certain people, particular food, a certain crib, and a certain language at 20 months old to living in a totally new place with new people, new food, a new crib, and a new language - it's truly unimaginable. Now we are going to rock his entire world again when he undergoes a very painful surgery and recovery I am so sorry, TyTy!

Tyson with my sweet Dad

Just like with Liam, we truly and absolutely LOVE Tyson's smile just the way it is. His lip and nose repair will not take place until November or December, and honestly, I am grateful because it gives me more time to enjoy him with the smile I love so much. Although the lip and palate can be repaired together at times, we have decided to do them separately. When repairing the palate, a device is used to keep the mouth open. As the procedure takes place, the surrounding tissue can become quite swollen. In order to give Tyson the best possible repair on his lip and nose, we have opted to have a second procedure later so that the surgeon is not working with swollen tissue.

I love this picture, but it is a mirror image! His cleft is on the left side.

When we are out in public, I usually do not even think about Tyson's smile until I notice a child staring at him, eyes wide and mouth gaping open. Depending on the circumstances, I will often say something like, "Oh, did you notice his lip? It doesn't hurt at all (kids are often worried that it does). That is just the way God made him. When he grew in his first mommy's belly, his lip did not close all the way. The doctor is going to make it look just like yours." And usually with that, they relax, smile, and say, "Ok!" I am thankful that Ty is so young in these situations, as I know that children with visible differences can become quite frustrated and sad by these situations (and rightly so!). When Liam was a baby, I worried about how people might treat him in the future or if they would hurt his feelings in relation to his scar, but honestly, that has never, ever happened. And when I tell children my Tyson spiel, Liam will sometimes show them his lip with great confidence and pride. This is just the beginning of why I am grateful that my sons share this special bond!

Liam smooching Tyson - brothers for life! 

With that said, I'm going to share something with you. After Liam was born, Ryan and I had such peace that we were done having biological children. I was honestly relieved, too, because I later learned that since we had one child with a cleft lip, our chances of having another child with cleft issues were increased. I remember telling people that I didn't want to go through surgery and recovery again - that it had been so hard. I didn't want to see another baby go through what Liam went through after surgery. Seeing him in pain was difficult, don't get me wrong! But my goodness, what a selfish and short-sided thing to say. What a privilege it will be to hold my new son after his palate repair is complete and meet his every need as he recovers from this procedure!

TyTy signing Mommy in his own special way! 

As I rock Tyson at night, especially in the past few days, I can't help but cry thinking about his biological mother. I am broken hearted that she doesn't get to hold this little boy's hand...that she doesn't get to tickle him and hear his beautiful laugh...that she has to live every day of her life without slobbery wet kisses from this adorable little guy. This surgery has made me think about her a lot. I wonder if a lack of money to address his medical needs was the cause of her relinquishment. I am so honored to be TyTy's mommy, but how I wish I could hold her hand during his surgery and pray together for his healing. I cry for her because she cannot be with him tomorrow as he recovers.

Being a mom is hard stuff. Days like today when I am anticipating Ty's palate repair, I want to pack up my family and run for the hills! My flesh tells me to stick my fingers in my ears and hum until the scary parts are over. But my faith...my faith keeps my eyes looking up to our Father who loves Tyson more than I ever could. I know that once again God has gone before us, and He will supply us with everything we need to get through this surgery and recovery together.

Tomorrow, when we go to the hospital for surgery, I want Ryan to hold Tyson and have them take me back to surgery instead. I want to take the pain that my son will experience. I want to suffer in his place. This is love. And this is exactly what Jesus did for us. The desire to prevent our children's pain and suffering is born from the same place that led Jesus to the cross. Oh how he love us! My desire to suffer in Tyson's place is keeping me at the foot of the cross this week. I feel Jesus' deep love for me, and for you, so strongly today.

This is a view I never want to forget

Will you join us in praying for Tyson as we move into this next part of our journey? Here are my focused prayers:

1. Successful surgery that results in complete closure to Tyson's entire palate - that no fistulas form.

2. Tyson's pain is well-managed with medication to prevent unnecessary discomfort or trauma.

3. Tyson will continue to make progress in attachment and bonding while he recovers from surgery.

4. We are all able to get restful sleep in the weeks following surgery.

Thank you for your prayers today, tomorrow, and throughout the weeks that follow. I am very ready to have this surgery behind us. This is an extremely important milestone so that Ty can begin developing expressive language! Our little guy wants to communicate so badly. Although I am super sad for the pain that he will experience, it is such an honor to be his mom and take care of him until he reaches complete healing. We don't have to do this - we get to! I love you, TyTy. I hope your little heart will feel even more secure once this part of your journey is behind you.

Thank you to Michi and Ashley who each saw how much Tyson loved this toy in China and surprised him with one for when we got home. He is spoiled having one upstairs and one downstairs!


Ten Days Home

Allison A. Mayer captured our homecoming and all of these special people so beautifully! 

Today marked our tenth day home as a family! Many of you have asked how Tyson is doing and how our family is adjusting, so hopefully this post will offer you some insight. First of all, I want to thank all of you who prayed for Tyson to feel safe around our dog, Kya. His response to her presence has improved drastically! When she comes into the room or if she gets too close, he will still sometimes scream in terror, but these occurrences are becoming few and far between. Continued prayers in this area are appreciated! We are confident that soon Kya will be a non-issue.

I am incredibly impressed by how easily Noah, Liam, and Tucker have accepted Tyson with open arms. They are very fond of the little guy! Their faces lighting up when he waves hello to them is adorable. Noah is a natural with Ty after having spent two weeks together in China. Seeing Liam play the big brother role has been especially sweet to me. Tucker adores Tyson and is very gentle with him. You should hear his sweet "I'm-talking-to-a-baby-voice!" At the same time, I think Tuck might feel a bit uprooted from his "baby" position in the family. When Tyson is not in my arms or on my lap, Tuck is quick to jump into that space. It is good to be loved!

Ryan and I missed so many of Tyson's firsts over the past 19 months. However, I was thinking today about all of the firsts I have experienced since meeting him 3 weeks ago.

He cut a baby tooth.
I pushed him on a swing.
We took a bath together.
I taught him how to go up and down a slide.
He went to the park with his brothers.
I received my first unsolicited kiss.
He looked into my eyes as he fell to sleep.
I had his intake meeting with First Steps
He rode on my hip while I vacuumed.
I resisted the urge to scratch my nose after he fell asleep in my arms.
I taught him the signs for more, please, thank you, stop, and milk - and he is using them!
I fell in love with his daddy again. This has happened each time we have been given a new son.
I thought of his nanny who is surely missing him but was so happy he had a family.

And today - I cried for Tyson's first momma, who will not see this precious boy grow up.

My heart aches at the thought of her living today, maybe even with Tyson's birth father, and wondering what happened to their son. I have prayed that God will grant them peace in a dream - that He will give them a vision of Tyson in our home, surrounded by his daddy, brothers, and me. I pray that it gives them lasting peace for the decision they made. 

Photo credit: Allison A. Mayer

The last ten days have been busy and wonderful and difficult and amazing. We came home to a stocked fridge and pantry thanks to my dad and Danette! Not only did they take care of Liam and Tucker for 2 weeks, but they really went above and beyond in every way. Our neighbor cut our grass twice when we were gone. What a gift! My friend cleaned our house for 3 hours the day we came home - we are so grateful! Another friend set up a meal train for us, and not only did we have dinner the first three nights we were home, but we have continued to have them every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday since then. These meals are continuing through early July! What a gift to our family!! Not having to worry about meal planning and preparing has helped tremendously, especially since Tyson is super attached to me these days (another praise!). So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart those of you who have already brought meals and those who will bring them over the next 3 weeks. I also want to thank my mother and father in law for asking me to make them a grocery list in order to pick up necessities while they were passing through town. What a relief to have our fridge and pantry stocked while I focus on our children! To everyone who has encouraged us and prayed for us, thank you will never be enough. Your intercession on our behalf means everything!

Tomorrow Tyson has his first appointment with a cleft team in Indianapolis. I appreciate your prayers as I fly solo for this appointment. Tyson will see numerous specialists over the course of 4-5 hours, and after our last medical appointment experience in China, we will need your prayers. We hope...

...that Tyson will cooperate with the various specialists who will examine him.
...to find out the course of action proposed by the team.
...that Tyson's hearing is within normal limits.
...that we will learn about speech therapy options outside of First Steps.
...that we will leave with confidence in the proposed treatment plan.
...that we will feel peace about working with these specialists over the next several years.

Photo Credit: Shannon Gill 

I am going to miss Tyson's smile. I know I will - just like I missed Liam's first smile. At the same time, I am very excited for him to learn how to express himself verbally, as his motivation to use sign language has shown me how eager he is to communicate more effectively. This is going to be a long road, but I am so thankful that I get to be his mommy. It is both a privilege and an honor! He is such a gift to my life.


My Heart is Finally Home

Almost three years ago, God asked us to take a journey - to follow Him in a way we never had before. Our knees shook as we took those first steps forward, but He guided us to China, Lifeline Children's Services, and eventually to Tucker. Not long after we brought him home, we knew that we would someday go back to China again to bring another sweet one into our family. So, although we were home together, a piece of my heart remained in China. The feeling only became stronger when I felt pulled to a little boy a few months later. The desire and urgency to return grew stronger and stronger even when life at home was still complicated and in transition. 

When we learned this past summer that the little boy's file was being prepared and would come to our adoption agency, we prayed and had peace that it was time to return to China. For Ryan, this was happening a bit sooner than expected, but for me, I felt like I was back in the place where I belonged. As the months went by, we reached several milestones in the adoption process. Although difficult at the time, God ended up choosing the very best family for the little boy, and I have loved watching him thrive in the arms of his mom, dad, and precious siblings the past few months. The urgency to find the son God had been leading us to all along grew even stronger.

One month later, as my littles middles laid down for their naps, I received a phone call from our social worker about an adorable 1 year old boy with cleft lip and palate. Tyson's file arrived in my inbox soon after, and the rest is history! Four months later we traveled to China and met the little boy in the pictures and videos I had memorized. Holding my son in my arms for the first time was a moment I will never forget. Tyson was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. 

As I looked out the window during our final flight home from Chicago to Indianapolis, I was captivated by what I saw. So many thoughts came to mind simultaneously. 

We had made it. We had finally made it home. God had gone before us, He had been with us, and His love was shining down on us as we flew within this beautiful creation. The beams of His radiant light reminded me of the one true home where I will live once I have fulfilled my purpose in this world. With the sun almost out of reach, I pondered how those in China were waking up to start a new day. In those moments, my heart released as it said goodbye. We had finished what we started. A sense of completion washed over me. My heart is finally home.

"From life's first cry to final breathe, 
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home, 
here in the power of Christ, I'll stand." 


Day 14: Traveling Home

This morning I woke up before my alarm at 4:35 a.m. ready to go! I am not a morning person, but I couldn’t help but smile knowing that, God willing, I will have my two little boys in my arms in 28 ½ hours. It will surely be a long, long day, but this part of our journey won’t last forever. There is something so peaceful about time. No matter what, it is constant. The clock ticks at the same pace whether we are walking or running.

Ryan and I got ourselves ready, and the bellboy picked up our bags in our room at 5:00 a.m. sharp. I got Noah up five minutes later, got him dressed while he slept standing up, and put on his shoes while he laid back down on the couch. In the meantime, Ryan prepared Tyson’s bottle. We were running like a well-oiled machine! I got Tyson out of his crib, and he sucked on his finger as fast as he could. He drank his bottle and finished with a sweet smile on his face. I put on a long-sleeved white onesie on him and a pair of fleece sweatpants. Airplanes get so cold! He was happy and let me dress him without even a whimper. It is usually like dressing a moving train when I put clothes on him. I sat next to him and put on my shoes. Then, we loaded him into my Ergo carrier, put on my backpack that is filled to the brim with his crackers, and walked out the door. Ryan checked out at the front desk, and just as we saw Aron coming to greet us, our friend Rachel and her daughter came walking up. I was so thankful to see her, as we had spent the entire week in Nanning together. However, her husband had to return home early, and I hadn’t seen her much since being in Guangzhou. We waved goodbye to The Garden Hotel, hopped in the van, and drove off.

Ryan is done checking us out of The Garden Hotel!
The hotel personnel had provided us with boxed breakfast, and each one contained 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple pastries, a yogurt, a juice, and a banana. We ate our breakfast on the way to the hotel. Tyson happily finished off his banana! They are one of his favorites right now. When we reached the airport, our luggage was put on a cart, and we made our way into the very busy Guangzhou airport. We walked to Rachel’s designated airline, and with tears in my eyes, I hugged her goodbye. We met our babies together on Memorial Day, and our time together in China has created a bond that will never end. That is how the adoption community is – once you take the leap of faith, you have an instant family for life.

Aron walked us to our ticketing counter. We are flying Air China from Guangzhou to Beijing, and then we will switch airlines. Air China is contracted through United for this portion of our trip home. Ryan is currently walking around the terminal with Tyson. At first he wanted to walk by himself and explore, but now that the terminal is getting busier, he wants his daddy to hold him. When we went through security, one of the officers took him from me as they scanned both he and I, and he was not a happy camper! So thankful that he feels safe in my arms!! I know even this will grow in time. I will celebrate the day that he feels secure enough to be more than an arm’s length from us because his trust in us will have deepened. But for now, I will enjoy my sweet snuggles! Being a parent to all of our children is such a privilege, and adoption has really helped me understand that so much more.

Ryan keeping Tyson entertained while waiting to board our first flight
I am going to try to write throughout our trip home, but much of that will depend on Tyson. I am hoping that once we are on our flight to Beijing that he will fall sleep for a tiny bit since we had to wake him up so early. If not, he will sleep eventually. In some ways, I am sad to leave China, sad to take him from his birth country. However, I am very excited to be home, establish our new normal, and have my family all under one roof! I’ll write again soon.

Getting ready to board in Guangzhou
Waiting for take off
The flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was miraculously on time. Tyson and I sat by the window, and Ryan and Noah sat across the isle in the middle seats. I played with Tyson for the entire 3 hour flight. That little guy didn’t even pretend to be sleepy. We played with his spinny toy and a toothbrush holder. We watched out the window and played peek-a-boo. Although we bought him his own seat, Tyson preferred to just sit in my lap. I turned on Doc McStuffins for him, as our plane had private televisions for each seat. He would watch the show off and on while we played. On Tyson’s seat’s television, I played the latest Hunger Games movie, more or less to help pass the time. I listened to the movie while we played together. I was having fun with him and only had to give him 3 crackers before the flight attendants served a breakfast. I love that most domestic flights I have been on in China include a meal. I chose the eggs with a roll, ham, pea pods, potatoes, and oranges and got Tyson congee with a roll, oranges, and a preserved egg. He loved the roll with strawberry jelly and ate about a third of his congee. He liked the oranges but eventually spit out the pulp, and he attempted to eat the preserved egg but spit it out immediately. I gave him each bite slowly, trying to make the meal last for as long as possible.

Here we go again, guys!

By the time he finished eating, we had about 30 minutes left on that flight. Biting his feet and rubbing the spinny toy all over him kept him laughing and having fun. He needed another couple crackers, but I celebrated that we only used 5 for that flight!! I knew we would need many, many crackers for the long flight to Chicago.

I am so sad in this seat belt!!

We made it to Beijing!!!

As soon as we reached the Beijing airport, Ryan and Noah used the restroom. While waiting for them out in the hallway, Tyson slipped into deep sleep without me even noticing. Haha!! He continued to sleep for about 45 minutes while we walked through the airport, rode the train to our terminal, and walked through immigration. He woke up just before we went through security, and it’s a good thing since I had to take him out of the carrier anyway.

Once we made it through security, we had about 3 hours to kill. We walked over to a waiting area and found a grocery cart with a car that Tyson could sit in while we pushed our carry ons above. It was PERFECT!! Seriously, Beijing, you are so smart to have those carts for small children. Thank you!! What was really interesting was that only one child could fit in the cart. In the US our child-friendyl grocery carts have enough room for 2 children to sit in the car, but in China, with One Child Policy, their carts only have room for one. Interesting, huh? We walked and walked around the terminal. Tyson was happily riding in the car below, so we just kept walking. Eventually, Ryan was getting hungry, so we started looking for restaurants. I said to Ryan, “Look, I think I see a cheeseburger sign ahead!” Turns out, it was just a mirage. Who knew this Indiana girl would crave cheeseburgers so badly at the end of this trip. 

Is that a burger sign in the background? 

We almost went into a restaurant that served sandwiches and Chinese food, but Ryan saw Pizza Hut, and the decision was made. Noah and I went inside and ordered the “regular” size stuffed crust pepperoni pizza that serves 2-3 people. This was the largest pizza at that Pizza Hut, and as you can imagine, we gobbled down every single bite. I ordered Tyson fried rice with bacon, and he ate a huge portion, as well! Traveling apparently makes us hungry. He was super cute! He kept signing “more” and “eat” to us. He is such a quick learner, and I think he is relieved to finally have a method of communication other than pointing and making sounds at people. I can’t wait to teach him more!

Noah with the Chinese Pizza Hut menu

Stuffed crust pepperoni pizza...SO DELICIOUS! Again, this is the biggest size they serve.

So proud that he is signing for more already!

After we finished our food, we found a play area for children on the way to our gate. This is another thing I love about the airports in Seoul and Beijing. The play areas are small, and there are several to choose from throughout the airports. Noah was able to climb and be a boy for a bit. I took Tyson inside the train, and he stuck to me like glue. I am amazed at how overwhelming it is for kids, who have resided behind orphanage walls, to have new experiences like that. He was trembling and making his sounds that tell me he is scared, and all the while, we were simply sitting inside a playground train. Poor little guy! 

Unsure about the playground
Ok, Mom, I'll get on the train as long as I can have my back against you.
This is why cocooning will be so important when we come home. Ty will need a consistent schedule, routine, and the familiar faces of our family for quite some time before we introduce new people and experiences. It is just so overwhelming to his senses and his mind. We still are not dealing with indiscriminate affection. He sticks to us like glue, but he is very scared to be separated from us. I would definitely say he is functioning in a state of separation anxiety, and by separation I mean walking a couple feet away from him let alone leaving altogether. This will just take time as his trust and security grows stronger.

My first double decker plane!

Noah found a very comfy chair before boarding the plane.

Last picture in Beijing
At 3:00 p.m. we made our way to our gate. The waiting area was already very full. I looked out the window and noticed our double decker plane! I’ve always wanted to ride on one, and I was excited to do so with Ryan, Noah, and Ty. We boarded on time and got settled in our seats. Ryan said he wanted to take the first shift since I had Tyson on our flight to Beijing. By this time it was 3:45, way past this baby’s nap time, especially with a wake up call at 5:05 a.m. CUE THE SCREAMING! Oh goodness, can this boy scream and thrash like no one I’ve ever known. He was beyond tired and overwhelmed by all of the people. Ryan wrestled in a bit, and eventually, we gave him a cracker when we realized he wasn’t close to sleeping yet.

Unfortunately, we sat on the plane for over an hour before finally taking off. I was able to catch a quick 10 minute power nap while we waited, and Tyson was entertained by Ryan. Once the engines began to roar, and the plane lurched forward, Tyson crawled up Ryan’s body like a monkey. Ryan held him tight, and eventually, he finally gave in and fell to sleep. He is still sleeping across Ryan’s body now. Food is being served, but I will write again in a bit. Thank you for your continued prayers!!

Thankful for a sleeping baby

Our total flight time, including time on the ground before take off and after landing, was around 14 hours. We spent the rest of the flight from Beijing to Chicago watching movies, passing Tyson back and forth, playing with Noah, eating a couple meals, etc. Noah was doing really well, but I wanted him to get some sleep, so I gave him a melatonin, and he passed out in 2 minutes. His body was so tired! He stretched out across our seats for about 4 hours. Ryan got some sleep here and there, though none of it was probably very restful or deep. I slept in increments of 5-10 minutes throughout the flight, maybe for an hour total. Tyson got two huge sleeps, one mostly in Ryan's arms, and one mostly in mine. I was so thankful!! When he was awake, he would let us entertain him with toys, eat some crackers, go on walks around the plane, and eat meals when served. I honestly can't imagine the flight going any better with a 19 month old baby, though it was still a very, very long flight to Chicago. Those of you who have traveled internationally understand! 

The newest US citizen!!!
As soon as the plane landed, Tyson was officially a US citizen!! HOORAY! All the of the paperwork, home visits, milestones achieved throughout the adoption process, plane rides, and time away from Liam and Noah - 100% worth it to have this little guy in our arms and on US soil. We were SO grateful to be back in the midwest. We made our way from our terminal through customs and waited for our adoption paperwork to be processed. That actually went very quickly, and we were rechecking our bags for our domestic flight from Chicago to Indy in no time. Then we took a train to our new terminal and got back in line to go through security again. I mean, at this point, I was started to feel a bit unraveled. We had gone through so many security check points, so many terminals, so many gates, so many planes, and I was just ready to see my little boys. We finally reached the front of the line, and the lady took our boarding passes. She looked over them for a long time and then had to call a supervisor. The boy who checked us in at the Guangzhou airport did not put Chicago as the departure city on our boarding passes to Indy. I started thinking to myself, "If they make us get back in line to reprint our boarding passes to then go through this security line again, the dam will break, and my crazy is going to pour out." I had held it together the entire trip so well, and I could feel my grip slipping. Thankfully, the supervisor had mercy on us after seeing our e-tickets, and she let us continue through security. Once again, all carry ons were processed, Tyson was taken out of the carrier, computers and iPads put in bins...you know the drill. Noah could do it with his eyes closed now! We made it through security and even saw some of our first smiles from airport employees. We started to believe that we really were almost home.

Ty-Ty fell asleep in no time
While I went to freshen up in the restroom, Tyson fell asleep on Ryan's shoulder. It felt SO amazing to put on a fresh shirt, brush my teeth with tap water (had to use bottled water in China), put on some make-up, etc. I emerged feeling a million times better! Tyson woke up by the time I got back, and Ryan went to grab some food for Noah, Ty, and himself. I didn't have an appetite and was just eager to get on our last flight to Indy. I started to crash, and Ryan offered to hold Tyson on our final flight. 

As soon as we boarded, we met so many really nice people on the plane. One woman shared that her daughter had just announced that they were going to adopt from China. Her family had already adopted three children from the Congo, and they also had 3 biological children, I believe. Do you see what adoption does to you? It changes everything, and suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by precious children who were once orphans. Such a beautiful picture of the gospel! Being with these friendly people remained us just how close we were to Indiana. The people here are just so friendly and kind overall! I slept maybe 25 minutes on our final flight to Indy and felt quite a bit better. 

Once we were 20 minutes from landing, I started to feel the tears coming. I was imagining seeing Tucker and Liam for the first time in 2 weeks, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. The plane landed, and we raced off toward our family and friends who were waiting for us to arrive. Ryan was holding Tyson in one arm, while holding hands with Noah, who was holding hands with me. We walked as fast as we could, smiles on our faces and crocodile tears in my eyes. And then, Allison Mayer captured our homecoming so beautifully, so perfectly through her Red Thread Session (click the link to read about them) for our family! Aliy, I will never be able to thank you enough for your amazing gift to our family! 

I have tears in my eyes, remembering that moment when Liam started to run toward me. I let go of Noah's hand and ran to my son, something we practiced many times before leaving for China. I bawled as I hugged him as tightly as I could, and before I knew it, Tucker was in my arms, too! Once we had a few minutes to visit with the boys, I began making my way around to everyone. I found Danette first and just cried as we embraced. She had taken care of my babies for 2 solid weeks! Not only did she keep them safe and provided so many opportunities for fun and making memories, but she also met their emotional needs from being separated from us for so long. This was especially crucial for Tucker, who needs abundant love and reassurance and security due to his history. Danette, we are FOREVER GRATEFUL for all that you did for our children! We will never even know 95% of how you supported their needs while we were away, but please know that we love you and are so thankful you are part of our family! The boys called Ryan and me "Grandma" many times that first day home. Liam asked, "Will I see Grandma again?" Clearly, they love you very much!! 

I made my way to hug my dad, Ryan's parents, his sister, and our niece and nephew. What a special treat to have them all there and be able to thank each person for helping Tyson come home!! I COULD NOT STOP CRYING! I was so grateful to be home - so much more than words can describe. After greeting those in our family, I was able to go hug some of our most treasured friends. I was still crying as I thanked them for all they had done for not just Tyson's adoption but Tucker's, also. They all had supported us financially, emotionally, physically, etc. for the past 3 years. Noah's friend, Bryson, even came to welcome his buddy home! It was so fun to introduce Tyson to our family and friends, and he ran around us like he owned the place. I'm sure it was nice to finally stretch his legs, but he was so tired, as he stumbled and staggered all over the place. Ryan finally announced that it was time to go home. We walked toward the parking lot together, our prayer warriors and a huge part of our support system all around us. We put Tyson in his car seat, and he cried only for a minute and fell asleep in no time at all. Ryan drove us home. All four of our sons were finally together, sitting side by side. Our family was together. We were home, and you know what? There is absolutely no place like home. 

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