Good morning…good afternoon and good evening!! My sleeping schedule is extremely mixed up so I’ll just say all three!
The kids have been doing wonderfully on this trip, and John and I are learning how to handle the bumps in the road that come. Yesterday’s visit to the orphanage was SO encouraging with Wesley doing so well leaving his foster family, and with Elyana feeling secure and solid in our love during all the craziness of nannies grabbing her to love on her.
A second cousin of mine commented that she was just reading/waiting to see how Wesley would do when leaving his foster family. So were we!! We didn’t know how he would react, but he is already finding such comfort in us. It’s amazing and God is moving already on his little heart! A friend texted today that “God really protected Wesley’s heart!” and, “Wesley can feel and see the love of Christ through his new family and that is why he felt at ease knowing he wasn’t going back to his foster family. As loving as they are there is no God there…Wesley is feeling the pull of Christ’s love through your family! So awesome!!”
I truly believe what she shared!!! God’s love isn’t just a feel good happy idea. It’s life changing and can be felt in powerful ways. We have sure felt this same powerful love poured out upon our family! To the prayer warriors, workers and those who have volunteered to paint our home and get things ready for our boys to settle in and adjust……I just have to say I’ve been in tears of thanks so many times!! I am in awe that God would pour out so much love. So maybe this is what Wesley’s heart is feeling too. I know it is beginning to heal the broken places and trauma he suffered as a child.
Thank you all for your wonderful messages and encouraging notes!! Please know EVERY one of them means so much to us. We keep all this support and love near us now.
With each day Wesley is becoming more and more attached. He has been panicking and having anxiety if I get too far from him and when I leave, it sometimes sends him over the edge. In fact I heard him screaming/crying at the Terra Cotta Warriours today when I left him with John to go find the group. (I told John later I should not have left) I quickly ran to him as John was trying to have a Chinese man interpret to him that I would be back. I wiped his tears and in a few minutes he was laughing and being silly. He is so fearful he will be left or that a big change will occur again. He wants to know I am there and we are all together. When we are in the hotel room he is fine, because we are away from crowds and he realizes we are all there. He seeks out attention from us in affectionate ways and turned a corner today with John. He is reaching out for John more, feeling more comfortable, and wanting to play ALLOT with him in our hotel room. When the other children are being silly with John, he just smiles and joins right in. It’s so beautiful.
John is able to make potty trips with him and took him to buy some Chinese street food. And when John left to get more dumplings he asked me where Baba went. (Daddy in Mandarin is Baba) I took him to show him that Baba was getting more dumplings (they were SO good!!) Wesley is opening his heart to a Daddy that loves him SO much!! Each day I believe his heart will find more and more comfort! On the bus yesterday he said “Baba silly!” He had heard me say it and copied it in perfect English. Sometimes he copies us when he is in a very goofy mood. He is already saying the names of his brothers and sisters. Jenna’s name is the easiest for him. He calls Ryan Gege (pronounced gu gu). Yesterday he told him XieXia (thank you ) GeGe, when Ryan handed him something. It’s a big deal to us, because he is now recognizing us as his family and speaking it out.
He speaks so much, so all our fears about him not talking are gone. They told us again when visiting the orphanage that he is caught up with his peers. He loves to write his letters and numbers, and was counting for us today in Mandarin. We know this is a miracle from heaven since his special focus need was developmental delays!! God is truly amazing. We completely understand he will have SO much to work through. He has a hard time with being told no, self regulating, and food. All normal things for adoptees. We have to be careful to not allow him to eat himself sick. He puked this evening and again woke up tonight getting sick. I’m thinking it could’ve been the weird street food!!! I’m going with that. I think from here on out we are going to be careful to keep things as “somewhat normal”in his diet as possible.
Breakfast here is my favorite meal. Wesley really likes his noodles, dumplings, eggs, fried rice and really likes french fries. Lots of starches!
This was the plate he helped me make for breakast. He ate everything except the wierd fried dough balls with something purple inside! He quickly gave them to me.
Elyana is enjoying the pancakes. She asks me to make them at home all the time.
She is wanting to be very independent on this trip. I think she is trying to show her brother “she’s got this.” So cutting her pancakes was something she was handling like a pro! lol. She has done wonderfully and there hasn’t been anymore talk of retreating back home without brothers. She told Jenna today it makes her sad when Wesley cries. She is such a sensitive, loving little girl. She is an awesome traveler and we’ve realized this trip how VERY far she has come since her Gotcha Day almost 2 years ago.
Ryan and Jenna are a big help this trip. They were so funny pushing strollers (which saved Johns back and my hip today) So worth renting and bartering with a Chinese lady over. We weren’t sure if Wesley would think we were treating him like a baby…but he hopped right in. He has wanted me to hold him a lot (which I am happy and SO willing to do) But, I was in pain….so this was a total blessing. After walking throughout the day without carrying a load, I felt SO much better!
Today’s tourist trip was one of my favorites. The Terra Cotta Warriors in Shaanxi (the province Wesley and Elyana are from) are over 2,000 years old! In the 1970’s a Chinese farmer found remains of these Terra Cotta Warriors when he was digging a well.
So the short story behind the Terra Cotta Warriors is an emperor had these warriors built out of dirt/clay because he believed in the after life they would protect him and be his warriors. It took many years to complete them and the 700,000 workers who helped make them were all killed by the emperor, so no one would know where they were hidden for his afterlife. Anyway…some other warrior found out anyway where they were hidden and after the emperor died came in and smashed them all and took the weapons. So many of the Terra Cotta warriors have had to be pieced back together and there are about 8,000 more buried that they cannot recover. They were once all hand painted and looked very realistic.
I would say these are the most realistic ones I saw all day….
This place is like seeing the Egyptian pyramids for me. It’s AMAZING to see in person.
And since our little guys Chinese name means soldier, today seems fitting. He was named Chu Ai Jun by the orphanage. The Chu was his last name, and Ai Jun would be his first name in Chinese. Ai means love, and Jun means soldier. So perfect. His name is now officially Wesley AiJun Sparks. When we are calling him we use both his middle and first name.
Before seeing the terra cotta warriors we went to the place where they use some of the dirt from the dig site to make minature versions. They let them dry for months then bake for months inside a kiln.
They make the Terra Cotta miniatures, and also life sized replicas for restaurants. They also paint beautiful pottery here…the crazy horses are John and Jenna’s favorite.
So…we can’t share the good stuff without being real about the hard stuff today. Wesley has an extremely hard time with us saying no when he is overstimulated. He loves our phones or anything with buttons, so when he is told no he reacts with fits or crying. After visiting the orphanage we now understand everything was very simple and uncluttered. All the things he could play with and touch were at his level. We aren’t sure he was told no very much. And he certainly wasn’t exposed to tourist shops much.
It was very interesting and Wesley did wonderfully until he realized I would not let him touch and knock down every single miniature soldier out of the hundreds that were all neatly set up at his level. This caused a fit and him laying on the ground kicking and crying. I think the Chinese put things on the children’s level so Mama and Baba will buy them!! I don’t know how many times street vendors will hand our kids something and we quickly have to hand it back. Anyway John ended up having to carry him out while he cried Mama. I couldn’t hold him because that was the place something popped in my hip!! Pure craziness. So I was holding Elyana’s hand and Ryan and Jenna were concerned asking “what is the world is wrong with him?!” I told them this is normal. John and I have read enough and knew that this was pretty mild compared to what other adoptive parents have faced. But in the moment it can be unnerving.
Our little guy has had so much change in the last few days. His brain and heart is trying to process so much. So we are trying to be calm and allow him to figure things out. We are not “laying down the law” and our parenting may not look like what it would’ve with our biological children. For now we are putting up safe boundaries and the structure we can while traveling (which is hard). Once we are home and into a daily routine we believe so much will click for him.
I hesitated on whether to share these photos above, because we want to protect him from any shame or embarrassment later on. He is a hurting little boy, and just because we think it’s great that we are his family, doesn’t mean he has a clue yet what that means. Nothing feels normal or familiar to him. The food, his bed, smells, people, and environment is all different. He is on sensory overload while grieving.
I was explaining to Ryan and Jenna last evening that when children suffer trauma in the womb or in the months or years after it can have long and lasting effects on their brain and physical development. There are pathways formed in the brain in the mothers womb and every day after. And children who experience stress in the womb, are abandoned, abused, traumatized or have experienced hunger will have pathways that were criss-crossed, dead ended, or have never even formed….
But the good news. God can heal even the brain! New pathways and behaviors can be formed and with consistent repetitions the old ones will be replaced. It takes a long time to heal the damage done, but we know the HEALER!! I can’t imagine those that even try adoption without God. Each day we will get up and do the same thing with our new boys…and with all our children….ask for God to help us love them in the specific way they need to be loved. To meet them where they are and fight with them, not against them. It reminds me of the Kari Jobe song “I am For you…I’m not against you.” They may resist our love, even reject it at times. But isn’t this what we have done with our loving Father so many, many times. And yet He never fails meet us daily with fresh mercy. “His mercy is new every day, great is His faithfulness”
Because Wesley is such a sweet and well natured child, he quickly comes out of his fits. We were able to move on and enjoyed the rest of the day! Runing around outside with some other children also did wonders for him. At one point when he got hurt and began crying another little boy (JJ), who was just adopted, came over to hold his hand. These kids are amazing!!! The love and care they have for each other is astounding. It’s like they feel each others pain and distress.
These boys were making me laugh. Just being boys and playing around….
Ryan and Jenna are so good with the kids. Wesley and Elyana just cracked up laughing when they would race each other in the strollers or on piggy pack.
Above is our guide Sherry with some of the little ones in our group. She is one of our favorite guides. We had her for Elyana’s adoption also. She assists us in talking to our children when needed and has taught us some Mandarin songs. She is on top of things and we haven’t had to stress about anything.
After touring all day we were tired and hungry. We decided to be brave and try the street food. John is the adventurous one who will try just about anything. I believe the name “Iron Stomach” was picked out for John by our friend Tracy Keen who traveled with us the first time to China.
The dumplings were my favorite and a beef and noodle soup with cabbage. Wesley picked a very spicy (gross) meal that he recognized right away. He loves very spicy food! We are so amazed. His foster mother did tell us she would use peppers and spices and that he would know if something was too hot for him.
A trip to China would not be complete without John’s adventures with the oldest 2. They have a great time trying to find the weirdest things possible out on the streets. We’ve been so busy they haven’t been out much wandering yet, but here are a few pictures from last evening’s grocery trip. No, he thankfully did not bring me any chicken. yuck! John and Jenna both tried chicken feet here at the hotel…for breakfast.
The local Chinese people often stare at us and yesterday were even following us and a few other families in the group. It’s creepy until you realize they hardly ever see Americans and are very curious. It doesn’t help that we are toting around 2 children who look like them..and one speaks English and the other Mandarin. We are totally confusing them!!! They try and take photos of us…so John has fun with it and just offers to take selfies with them. The Chinese people at the food market were cracking up when he did this. It broke the ice and they all giggled at us as we walked away.
I’ll close with a group photo…where we are all squinting at the sun we hadn’t seen shine in days!
It’s so different from our first trip here, when the smog was so thick we couldn’t even see that there were mountains here!
Today was challenging in some ways, but so very good in others. We see Wesley making progress with each new day.
John and I want to thank you again for your prayers, encouragement, and love. I think we are already looking forward to being within the walls and comfort of our home, but we are trying to soak this up while (almost) all of our children are here together with us.
Please pray God prepares Hudson’s heart to meet us, and that He renews our strength daily. I am asking He helps us to remember to seek Him first above all else so that we will be full of Him and able to react with love, wisdom, and humbly admit when we have made mistakes.
But they that wait (seek, rest and rely) upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Have a wonderful night!