Monday, November 18, 2013

Life on the HOMEfront!

HOMEfront!  I'm still in awe that I am able to say that word and know that it INCLUDES Nora in it!  Yes, we are all home and enjoying the day-to-day life with Nora present.  On one hand it feels a bit surreal still and on the other hand it seems completely normal to see her running through the house with the other kids.  I guess 2+ years of having Nora a part of our family has helped this transition be a bit easier.  We are used to her name being said all the she just comes over when we call it!

Our time in Haiti was as smooth as ever--thank You, Jesus!  We got a message when arriving in Florida that both guest houses at Mountain Top Ministries were super full with mission team members so they had worked out a way for us to have a room at a wonderful hotel between Petionville and Port-Au-Prince called The Hotel Montana.  It was very nice to be there, but we really did miss out on seeing friends of ours who were going to be at MTM the same time as us.  We were appreciative of their extra efforts, however, to make sure we had a place to stay and actually found the quietness of our place to be very positive for our bonding time to Nora.  Nora was very timid when we first got her back to the hotel.  She did not enjoy being looked at or having us touch her much at all (like rubbing her back or tickling her sides).  She would mainly just lay her head on our shoulders so she would be close yet not have to look into our faces.  She had a terrible cough/cold too so we knew she just wasn't feeling very well on top of the upheaval of her life as she knew it.  It seemed as if just the slight movement of our position would make her uneasy and we would have to try to rebuild established trust.

Tuesday morning, however, after getting dressed, I got my first slight smile out of her as she and I built a tower of blocks together.  When she got the last block on the top I would clap and tell her she did it and smile.  She would smile ever so slightly back.  And then came the breakthrough...I asked her to give me a high five for doing a great job and she lit up and gave me one instantly.  I could have just sat there crying tears of joy.  It was beautiful to finally see that smile on her face!  From that point forward, we saw more and more smiles intermixed with set-back moments as we learned what she was comfortable with verses what was asking too much of her already.  It was sort of like taking two steps forward and one step back.  A beautiful and delicate dance of learning how to trust the two people who have loved her as their own for 2 years but she just didn't know it yet.  By the time we left on Wednesday morning, we knew we were heading in the right direction yet also knew it was time to get her home.  With every change in scenery, came more "restarts" on her trust level with us.  We were very ready to simply have her in our own house where all of the craziness of the outside world could be shut out for a bit and better trust could be built.

While at the orphanage we thoroughly enjoyed seeing Nora's birth-mom, Adrienne, again.  We missed seeing her on our last trip to Haiti so we were so glad to be able to visit this time around.  We had some little gifts for her to help her remember Nora and know how much we love and appreciate her.  Mainly we just wanted to thank her again for entrusting her daughter to us to be our own.  We are blessed to know we can send photos and messages to our orphanage director from here on out and Adrienne will come to get them.  She will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We were also very much looking forward to meeting with Mary, the American physical therapist whom has been a God-send to us, but without being able to stay at the guest house, we were unfortunately unable to meet up with her at all.  We were so sad about that.  Thankfully Mary is from the States so we have made promises to stay in touch and someday meet face-to-face here.

We stayed at the hotel Monday and Tuesday and left Wednesday morning to head back to the States.  ALL of our paperwork was completed already before we arrived on Monday morning so our stay was very relaxed...praise God for the answered prayers there!  What a relief to see that stack of paperwork on my lap the moment we got into our director's vehicle.  Amazing to know all of our wait came down to these precious papers being handed over to the correct people at the Immigration room of the Ft. Lauderdale airport and with was finally over!  We celebrated with a meal at Chili's in the airport and Nora began smiling, teasing, and talking with us more than she had been yet on the trip...maybe she sensed the completeness of that moment as well.

After an 8 hour layover in Florida, a flight back to Detroit, a late night stay in a hotel there and our 3 hour drive back home (complete with a lovely puking incident 10 minutes away from our house), we arrived HOME!  Grandma and Grandpa had been staying here with the kids and they were all very happy to see us bring Nora into the room.  Her hesitant, more shy act quickly wore off as she got comfortable with Lily, Toby & Quinn.  Within the first half hour of being home she was laughing, talking, and running through the house with the others like she had always lived here.  What felt like 3 days of hard work for Micah and I to break through her walls of protection, our other kids were able to break through in a half hour--wow!  What a beautiful answer to prayer!

Since arriving home, we have enjoyed the quietness (or non-quietness) of our house with 4 children.  Nora is coming out of her shell more and more and she is showing us just how beautiful she is.  She is happy, assertive, very loudly talkative (in Creole still for now but is repeating more and more English words after us), loves to laugh, and really enjoys cuddling up tight in Daddy and Mommy's arms.  She loves to have us skim through books with her, plays with blocks and other toys, knows how to flip through the iPad (thanks Mary!) and really, really LOVES to look in mirrors and wrestle with Daddy.  She HAS to have shoes on her feet at all times and gets very upset when one falls off.  Yesterday when we hadn't put her own on, she ended up finding Lily's shoes and preceded to wear them the entire day even though they were huge on her.

She is eating just fine as well.  We have been trying to have a more bland diet for her at the beginning because she has been fighting a cold and had been getting sick.  She seems to be doing better each day, however, so we are slowly starting to introduce some more options to her.  Sleep is going fairly well.  She fights the going to sleep part, but once there she sleeps all night long in her crib with no problems.  Lily is enjoying being in the same room with her, although she also can't wait until Nora doesn't go to bed earlier than her so they can talk to each other before falling asleep like the boys do.  Nora's nap time is the only thing that has been a bit of a struggle because she was only sleeping as long as Micah and I were holding her.  Although it was fun to hold her and cuddle her, this just wasn't going to work for 2 hours every day from here on out.  After some experimenting, we discovered she does much better taking those naps on a blanket in the living room where all the action is still happening (like she did in Haiti) than in her bed alone in the other room.  So far this new method seems to be going great!

Another huge praise is we got her parasite stool testing back and she actually doesn't have any!  Praise Jesus!  We have been praying daily for her protection in Haiti and we believe God has answered those prayers for sure.  We will still continue to watch her carefully because I have heard other stories where there are still some "hidden" parasites to deal with even with negative testing results, but for now we trust she is healthy!  We look forward to watching her continue her great health and growth in our own home now and we are thankful for the wonderful care she has been given at Rivers of Hope up until this point.

Lastly, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been following our journey these past 2 years and 4 months.  What a journey it has been!  You have each played a role in our support--whether it was financial or prayer, hugs or tears, celebration or heartache.  We were incredibly blessed by each of you.  We got to see many of you on Saturday at our Meet and Greet but there were many of you who we wish we could still see in person to extend our thanks to.  We hope and pray some day we will be able to do that.  If you were not able to join in on the fun on Saturday, here is a link to the Fox 28 news report for you to watch...

I'll end this post with a slideshow of photos I put together of our take home trip to Haiti and our first homecoming moments here in Goshen.  I hope you enjoy!  We will keep you updated as Little Miss continues to thrive in our family.

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