Monday, November 8, 2010


I know, I know, I have been so bad about updating on Drew and Jaxon and I apologize for that. So, I figured while the kids are watching a movie, laundry is going and my homework is caught up (sort of), I would sit down and just start typing. So, here goes.

Andrew's adjustment has been nothing but amazing for the most part. Most of you know he was at New Day Foster home in Beijing since he was 8 months old. Because of that, not only did he receive excellent love and care, but from the moment we contacted them about being his family, they did anything and everything possible to prepare him for our arrival and his departure. I am not kidding when I say that place is amazing.

From the moment we met him, he knew who we were. He has done amazingly well with transitioning into our family as well as learning English. Once we arrived home, he jumped in with two feet, and never looked back. Honestly, it is like he has always been here.

Drew is sweet, funny, loving, kind, ornery as heck, smart as a whip. He is a pleaser and loves to help. If I am doing laundry he is usually right there to help me transfer from the washer to the dryer. He loves to eat, and will pretty much eat anything. Seriously, if we would allow him to eat all day, I honestly think he would. He is definitely energetic. He is like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going and going, and going until he can no longer go. He is the best of all the kids when it is time to go to bed. Within minutes of putting him to bed he is out cold (probably from all the playing he does during the day). He is a protector. If one of the other kids needs help or gets hurt, he is the first to make sure they are okay. He definitely loves to rough house and wrestle and is pretty tough for being only 4. He has such an infectious laugh. I love tickling him just so I can hear him laugh. He is very stubborn. I don't think I have ever seen a kid as stubborn as him. Oh, and the faces he makes when he's mad just crack me up. He definitely knows how to push your buttons as well, especially Gabe's.

One of the questions we get asked alot is how Gabe and Drew are getting along. Before we had Drew everyone kept saying how Mylee was going to have the hardest time getting used to not being the "baby" anymore (there is a whole 24 days between them in age). In my mind, Drew and Gabe were going to be the best of friends. Uh, not so much. Drew and Gabe are alot alike in some ways especially hen it comes to me so there is ALOT and I mean ALOT of completion between those two. Sharing has been our biggest issue. Gabe wasn't really used to sharing his toys and still after 6 months has a hard time saying our instead of mine. Drew was so spoiled in China by his foster family that I think whatever he wanted was handed to him, no ques tons asked. So, sharing is definitely something we struggle with and are working on. Don't get me wrong, they do get along and can play really well together, but they both have to be in just the right mood for that to happen.

As for Drew and Mylee, they get along very well most of the time. Even though Mylee is older, she is much, much smaller which has sort of kept her the "baby." Although, she is very quick to let Drew know that she is his big sister. Mylee and Drew are like an open flame and a can of oil. Boy can those two get into some TROUBLE together. Most of the time is is just innocent fun, but if they are together and it gets too quiet, look out.

I will be honest, the first few weeks with Drew were difficult. I recently had a friend ask me if I felt like he was my son. Without hesitation I said yes, because I honestly, wholeheartedly love him. He is my son, without a doubt. But, I don't know if I liked him much those first few weeks. Now, before everybody gets bent out of shape, let me explain. As most of us know, the boys in China are very spoiled, and because of that, Drew didn't really have any boundaries, no consequences, and had most likely not heard the word "no" much. It didn't matter what we told him, he was going to do the exact opposite just to get a reaction from us. He hit, scratched, punched, bit, threw anything and everything, etc. I honestly felt like nothing I did mattered, and that he was just going to continue to act out. I know there are several different approaches used for behavior like this, and I also know that his behavior was mostly a result in never really being disciplined before. Once he learned that negative behavior was going to result in negative consequences, he has been a different child. Don't' get me wrong, he is not perfect, and still throws fits, but nothing like he used to. I can honestly say that not only do I love him more than anything, but I like him now too.

All in all, things are going great with Drew and like I said earlier, it is like he has always been here. He is such a blessing to have in our family and I honestly cannot imagine it without him.

As for Jaxon, things have been a little more difficult, but not unbearable. Let me back up just a little. When I first approached Matt about the possibility of adopting Jaxon, I knew it was a long shot to get him to agree. Adopting an older child (especially a boy) was something we had both said we would never do. The thought of bringing an older child in our home with small children terrified us. There were just too many unknowns that we didn't think we could prepare for. I remember looking at Jaxon's referral picture and thinking there was something different about it. There was something calming about him and his picture that reassured me that everything was going to okay, we just needed to get him home.

Jaxon's adjustment has also been quite amazing. We were not sure what to expect, but were preparing for the worst. We spent quite a bit of time researching about older child adoptions and talking with other been there done that parents. We welcomed any and all advice. We jumped into this with both feet not knowing what to expect, but knowing that he was our son and we needed to bring him home.

The day we met Jaxon I remember looking up at Matt and saying "I think I am going to be sick." We were both nervous. We didn't know if we should shake his hand or give him a hug. We just decided to play it by ear and see what happened.

All I can say is thank God for our guide, he was absolutely amazing. He did a fabulous job of translating everything that was going on to Jaxon as well as letting him know that everything was going to be okay.

Jaxon has done amazing well considering all the changes he has gone through. I cannot imagine being 14 and having to give up everything that he has given up. Courage and bravery come to mind when I think about all that he has been through these past 6 months. He could not have truly known what was about to happen. I am sure someone explained it to him, but did he really "get it?" I think back to when I was 14. I don't know if I could do what he has done. He had the courage to walk away from the only "home" he had ever really known. He had the courage to leave the only "family" he has ever really known. He said goodbye to his friends, his "brothers" and "sisters." He did all of this not knowing what he was walking into. If that is not bravery and courage, I don't know what is.

Jaxon is a great kid, a really great kid. He is such a joy to have in our family. The day we met him he wouldn't really look at us. He walked with his head down. Now, he walks nice and tall, has great eye contact, and even has a little bounce in his step. He used to eat with his face buried in his plate, shoveling it in as fast as he could. Now, he eats sitting up straight and not quite as fast as before, but still fast. When we first got home would spend hours in his room on the computer, or just being by himself. Now, the only time he really spends in his room is when he is watching a movie or sleeping. He never smiled and if he did, it was forced. Now he smiles, all the time and even laughs. He has a great laugh.

I will admit that we did and still continue to limit his time talking with his friends in China. At first we were so excited that he would be able to communicate with his friends, but that is all he was wanting to do. The longer and more often he would talk with his friends in China, the more and more distant and isolated he was becoming. So, after talking with several other parents, we made the decision to completely take away all communication with his friends for awhile. We explained all of this to him and why we were doing it. He was obviously upset, but took it pretty well. Little by little we have been letting him get back on, but he is more interested in playing games than really sitting down and talking with his friends back in China.

He went from only playing with Drew to playing with all the kids. When we first got home he really didn't play, I don't know if he had ever really been around kids younger than him. Now he will go into Gabe and Drew's room and play with them and their toys (Lego's, imaginext). He loves picking on the kids, especially Drew. I think his favorite past time is doing whatever he can to make one of them scream.

Emma adores him, and I think the feeling are mutual. They pick on each other constantly, in a good way. A while back Jaxon, Emma and I were out doing some errands and he was messing with her. She asked me why he picked on her (although she does the same to him) and I looked at Jaxon and said, "well, Jaxon loves you so much and that is the only way he knows how to show you so everytime he does it, just run up to him and give him a great big hug." Jaxon just smiled from ear to ear.

Blake and Jaxon get along really well. They have completely different personalities though. Blake is so goofy and really doesn't care what anyone else thinks. He will make a complete fool out of himself and laugh about it not caring about what others think. Jaxon is more introverted and does not like a whole lot of attention on himself and will do nothing that is going to make him stand out. Blake and Jaxon share a room, something Blake is getting used to. Blake didn't have to worry before about being considerate of someone else. Jaxon shared a room with several other boys so this was something he was used to. Blake does a fantastic job of asking Jaxon to join in if he is going to hang out with friends. Most of the time Jaxon declines, but he has gone a few times if it involves playing basketball or football. We have only had a few "issues" with the boys and those were mostly due to Blake and his adjustment of having a brother. Most of the "issues" were mis-understandings anyway and once we hashed those out, everything was all good.

Jaxon's English is really well. He did know some English when we got him. In fact, I am certain that he knew and understood more than he led on. I can't even tell you when we used the translator last. He does still get frustrated now and then when he is trying to say something and it is either not the right word, or he is saying it wrong. He gets frustrated and just says "never mind," which is something I don't allow. I make him try to get out what he is trying to say and 99% of the time he does or I am able to help him. We have a 15 year old Chinese girl from the High School that comes once a week to help Jaxon with his English. She works on vocabulary words, nouns, pronouns, and reading comprehension.

School is also going really well for him. Our school system has been extremely welcoming and very accommodating. Most of his classes are with Blake. Right now he is on a pass/fail system until we is better to understand everything. He takes Math, Science (which boys boys do not like), English (his teacher is awesome), Reading, Art, and ESL (English as a Second Language), and P.E. Even though he is on a pass/fail system we have asked that the teachers grade him just as they would any other student so we can see how he is doing. A couple of weeks ago the kids got their report cards and Jaxon is really doing well. He had all A's and B's and one C (in science). I told him he has to keep learning and really trying hard so he can go to high school next year. He asked me what happens if he doesn't get to go to high school and I told him he would have to stay in 8th grade. He thought about it for a minute and said "If I no go to High School, I stay home and you teach me." My reply, "No, you will go to high school because you are going to do your best, I don't home school."

Jaxon also takes piano from a local Chinese woman. She is fantastic and really been wonderful with him and helping us to let him know what is going on if it is something out of the ordinary. He seems to like it even though he has to be reminded to practice (typical).

Jaxon still does not call us mom and dad. He will say mom if he is talking about me, or dad if he is talking about Matt, but will not directly say "mom" to me. He has a couple of times yelled out to Matt calling him "dad." The other day we were in a store and he wanted to show me something. I was in the aisle across from where he was and all of a sudden I hear him saying "hey, hey, hey." Yes, hew as talking to me, trying to get my attention. I kindly let him know that I don't answer to "hey" and that the best way to get my attention is to call me mom. It is not something we are pushing. He will call us mom and dad when he is ready, then again, he may never. We were talking about birthdays a while back and he asked me what I wanted. I thought for a minute and then said "you know what I really want and would make me happier than anything, is for you to start calling me mom." He got this huge smile on his face and looked down. Today is my birthday, so we will see if that happens or not.

Not everything has been rainbows and sunshine here. We have had many gray, cloudy days, and some real thunderstorms. Not long after we got home we decided to go ahead and let Jaxon go to school which is something he wanted to do. Like all our kids, when they came home we asked how his day was. This went on for about a week before he got really angry and shut down. He wouldn't talk to anyone. We finally broke down and called our guide in China to help us figure out what was wrong. It basically boiled down to him feeling like we didn't trust him because we asked him what he did at school everyday. He wasn't used to anyone caring enough to ask what he did at school, if he had homework, or what he had for lunch. He really opened up that night, broke down and just sobbed as did I. I explained to him that we weren't asking because we didn't trust him, but because we cared about him.

The real "storm" came about 2 months after being home. He and Emma were in the garage cleaning up the bikes, he got mad, threw one of the bikes and broke. Emma of course came running in to let me know. When I asked Jaxon why he threw the bike he said "I don't know." The more and more I talked, the madder and madder he got. Finally he started crying and said he wanted to call Micheal (our guide in China). It was about 2:00 a.m. in China, but I didn't know what else to do so I called. Luckily, Micheal is a great guy and was able to talk to Jaxon and translate what was going on. Apparently Jaxon felt like Emma wasn't helping and he got mad resulting in him setting the bike aside. He felt like we were taking her side and was hurt. I sent all the kids to the part with Blake so Jaxon and I could talk. He was really starting to shut down which terrified me. Finally, he looked at me and said, "I want to go back to China, I don't like it here." I honestly felt like I was going to be sick. I didn't know what to do, or what to say. I tried hugging him which he pushed me away. I did finally tell him that if and when he was older and wanted to go back to China, dad and I would support his decision. I also told him that no matter what, we loved him just as much as the other kids, which is something I tell him often. I make it a point to let him know he is just as important and loved and Blake, Emma, and Gabe. Even though he is adopted, we love him just as much.

We haven't had any other break downs like that in a while. I did ask him not too long ago if he was starting to feel more at home and more comfortable. He said yes, so I asked him he he still wanted to go back to China, he response "yes, but not to stay, just to visit, I just want to see my friends, then I come home." It doesn't get much better than that.

Despite everything though, I would do it all over in a heart beat. Jaxon is an amazing kid, and I truly do love him as my own. We have only been home six months and when I look back I am in awe of everything he has done, and how far he has come. I will be honest, adopting him was probably one of the most difficult, terrifying decisions we have ever made. We completely put all our trust in God and just went with it. But, it has also been one of the most rewarding. Is it hard? Absolutely! I would be lying if I said everything, everyday was a piece of cake. I think the hardest thing has just been the communication barrier.

He is trusting us more and more which is awesome. A few weeks ago, I asked him if he remembered much about his time before the orphanage. I have asked him a few times about this and his answer was always "I don't know, I was little." So, I was completely blown away when he just started talking, nonstop. I asked questions, and he answered. I was completely unprepared, but thrilled that he was sharing this part of his story with me. As much as it hurt me to listen to it, I was overjoyed that he felt comfortable enough to tell me. This was a huge step for him. I reassured him as I do often that we love him unconditionally, and are his family forever, no matter what. He smiled and said "I know."

Jaxon is very smart. He is incredibly handsome and has a great smile. He is an awesome cook which is a bonus for me. He loves the outdoors, fishing, starting fires, playing in the woods, and swimming. He and Matt go to the range quite a bit which is great because it gives them some bonding time. He is trusting us more and more which is awesome. He is talking more and more as well. He has even said he wants to play football next year and maybe run track in the spring. He loves animals of all kind and tries to catch just about anything. He is a great big brother to the little kids.

We just had out 6 month post placement on Sunday and were a little surprised that it has only been six months. The social worker talked directly to Drew and Jaxon about living here. Obviously Drew didn't really have too much to say, but Jaxon answered all her questions without any trouble and seemed very comfortable. She asked us how it was going and we were honest, we told her for the most part things have been great, we have had a few bumps along the way, but without a doubt we would do it all over again. In fact, we had her go ahead and update out home study while she was here...


Suzanne said...

Hi Mandi

thank you so much for sharing your heart about your beautiful boys. I followed your adoption journey to them.

will be praying you get your birthday wish!

Stop by my fundraising blog and say hi and become a follower. I'd love it if you could help me spread the word

Team One Less Broken Heart
Bringing them home, one orphan at a time

Gwen said...

Thanks for the update AND Happy birthday!!!

I appreciate your honesty about your adoption experiences. I have always wondered what it would be like to adopt an older child.

Sounds like Jaxon is doing very well and is learning to accept and enjoy being part of a family! :) Thanks for sharing this with us!

I'm on pins and needles... you updated your homestudy?

Hmmmm... :)

Kel said...

Really wonderful reading! Great to hear how the family are doing. I was worried for you adopting an older boy, but it seems that Jaxon was open to it in the right kind of way, and ready for a new life with you all.

Wonderful news re the home study!! Have you any room left in your house??

The Ferrill's said...

Happy Happy Birthday to one amazing woman!

I loved this post so much. It is amazing to get a little view of your journey thus far. Thank you so much for letting us take a peek. I hung and clung to every word!

I can so relate to Drew's adjustment. Our Quan was the same way as far as never being told no. We called him the little emperor! Kevin was rotten in his own way...but I think that's OUR doing! He is the baby in every sense of the word! :) We spoil him and I'm the first to admit it. ;) I'm working on that! :)

Jaxon seems like one amazing guy. He does seem to have a very sweet spirit. I love reading how you've handled the bumps. Such love yet such firmness! A perfect combination.

I think my favorite part of this post was your last sentence...the update! WOO HOO!

connie said...

Mandi, super super update! Kinda left us hangin' though - lol!

Tara Anderson said...

Happy Birthday!!! I feel like I'm the one getting the incredible gift by reading this post! Such a WONDERFUL update on the glad to hear that you're getting the kinks all worked out. I was actually thinking about that this morning while I was laying in bed wondering about my TA. This whole process of being "grafted" into the family. It's not something that happens overnight. Slowly, over time, the grafted branch becomes a permanent part of the tree, vine, etc. Of course, I'm totally nervous about it but your stories have been a great encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mandi,

A very Happy Birthday! Thank you so much for your update. You have a beautiful family.



TanyaLea said...

Oh Mandi...Wow! Thank you SO much for this post. I have thought of you often, and wondered 'the inner details' of how things were going since bringing the boys home, and how the adjustment has been for them and the family. Your candidness is MUCH appreciated. I know many have wondered, and this will surely be a help to some who are in your shoes or considering it.

I think you have handled everything so amazingly well. No one expects 'perfection' which is part of why this is so refreshing to read. I love how you addressed the issues at hand with both boys: with consistancy, teaching boundaries and 'who' is in authority over them, and wrapping them both in unconditional love. They are both such treasures, and it's beautiful to see them gelling more and more with your family with each passing day. The road is never an easy one... but the rewards are PRICELESS!

I had to laugh at your first sentence describing Drew: "Drew is sweet, funny, loving, kind, ornery as heck, smart as a whip." ...LOL!! He sounds much like Khloe! ;) I wish you all lived closer!!!

And Jaxon is so handsome. I love how your relationship with him is evolving with time. It's only natural that things are taking longer with him, and I love how he stated that he only wants to 'visit' China now. That speaks VOLUMES!! :)

Happy Birthday, dear friend!! Praying your birthday wish comes true, and then some! May God richly bless you in the year to come.

Can't wait to hear more about that "updated homestudy"!!! ;)


Kristi said...

I have to say that I cried happy tears as I read all about Jaxon. Amazing stuff there ~ thanks for sharing!

Chris said...

Thank you, we are 6 weeks into our journey with a 10 y.o. son. He is smack in the middle of our 6 has been easy and incredibly hard...none of my fears are happening, but things I didn't expect...are the hard things.

Oh and it looks like an older daughter on the horizon?

WilxFamily said...

How cool, Mandi! So, SO many changes in your family, and yet you walk through the hard moments and keep going. It's good to see the boys!!! I know what you mean when you said you loved Drew, but wasn't sure in those first few weeks (or....maybe months!!!) if you liked him. Me too!

In our home....we have NEVER seen a poochy lip like Evan's. He could have earned an academy award over and over for it.

It's so fun to see pics of the boys and to get an update too.

I'm speechless when it comes to Jaxon. What an amazing young man...all the changes in just a short amount of time.