Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

        I thought I'd make up for not posting after Nathan's birthday. I've had some requests for me to update my blog. I tried to blow them off and say-"We're home-there's no more excitement!" But then a part of me thought that maybe seeing our ordinary life would make you smile as much as it's made us smile in the past several months. Our home is filled with laughter, dirty laundry, dancing, apple juice, choo choos,  ravioli stained clothes,  and lots of hugs and love.
Fun in the sun. June 2011
Take me out to the ball game!
        It's New Years Eve. Fireworks are going off and with each one, I'm hoping Nathan doesn't wake up. My how things have changed since the New Year's Eve trips to Gatlinburg that Greg and I went on 10 years ago!
Enjoying Naples as a family. July 2011
       2011 has been good to us. We've been home now for over nine months. Nathan has been with us longer than he was in the orphanage in Taiwan.  In May we celebrated his first birthday and since then, so many other firsts have taken place. To bid farewell to 2011, I thought I'd share some of our highlights.
        Summer was so much fun! We traveled to  Lake Cumberland and took our first family vacation to Florida. Nathan spent lots of time splashing in whatever water he could find. Whether it was his splash table, the baby pool, or the beach, wherever there was water, Nathan would jump right in! When we weren't in the water, we were taking in Red's games and having fun with friends.
       Nathan was baptized in August at St. Al's on the Ohio. It was a wonderful day for us.  St. Al's is the church I was baptized in, and the church my dad attended as a child. This old, beautiful church held just our family and friends for the occasion. The priest asked the children to come up and watch over Nathan. Even the German Homoelle's -Dieter and Marlies were able to make it. Nathan looked quite "spiffy" in his little white outfit (There aren't many options for older children's outfits!)  My mom gave him my dad's old wooden rosary to hold.  Our ornery little guy looked angelic-just for a minute :) 
Holy Baptism- August 2011
         As the fall approached in September, Nathan spent time watching Colby's football games and going to lots of pumpkin patches.  We went to Lebanon's Apple Fest and to Iron's Fruit Farm. Nathan learned how to say pumpkin, and got used to going to Miss Nova during the day. 
         October is our favorite month. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary with our first trip away from Nathan for the night-and he did just fine for Mimi and Papa. I love the fall, and I especially LOVE Halloween. I couldn't wait to have Nathan here for our annual Homoelle Halloween Party that we always have for our neices and nephews.  I had the perfect plan-a visit from Brian at  He brought a few creepy critters and we had a blast.
A creepy Halloween party guest. October 2011
          Halloween night was just as fun. Nathan was a monkey and loved the idea of getting things put in his pumpkin bucket. His first taste of candy-a piece of a Starburst, brought a wild, crazy look to his eyes, and I vowed to never give him it again!
          Thanksgiving came quickly in November.  We traveled to Lexington to Uncle Tom's and Aunt Patti's.  Nathan ate lots of turkey, but especially liked Aunt Patti's wicked pumpkin cheesecake. We counted our blessings.
Our little monkey. Halloween 2011
          New Years has a different feel to it this year. I'm excited for 2012. I know we have a lot more in store for us as parents. I can't look forward without looking back. We're so grateful to have Nathan in our lives. Thanks to all of you for supporting us and celebrating all the ordinary and extraordinary gifts parenthood brings.


Christmas Through a Child's Eyes

        Right after Halloween, the first Christmas commercial came on TV and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Christmas. Christmas with a child. It's been 5 Christmas's since we thought it would be our LAST Christmas without a little one. And finally, the joy that we had been waiting for came our way.
Decorating and adding the star to the tree at Mimi and Papa's
         Wow, we knew we were missing a lot of fun, but we really had no idea of how magical Christmas could really be.  Our holiday celebration started with the annual Homoelle tradition of decorating at Mimi and Papa's house. Each year we rotate who gets to put the star on the tree. Last year, we thought we would have Nathan by Christmas, and so there was still some sadness that he wasn't with us. This year though... he was the STAR!
"Choo choo, choo choo, choo choo!!!"
        December was full of holiday fun.  We may have gone a little overboard with the holiday hoopla. Nathan became obsessed with choo choos, and so we made trips to Entertrainment Junction and the Duke Train Display. Santa knew exactly what Nathan needed for Christmas-a train table.  For the entire month of December Nathan chased a motorized train around the house, with lips pursed saying "choo choo".
Having fun at MND's Santa's Breakfast
       Unfortunately, Nathan did not like Santa as much as he likes choo choos. We tried to see him on several occasions, and no matter what, he wasn't going to sit on Santa's lap and like it! While he had a great time at Mount Notre Dame's Santa Breakfast with his cousins, we didn't get a good reaction from "Ho Ho".  At Entertrainment Junction, the sugar cookies were better than the Santa experience, and at the Duke train display, we paid 27.00 to get the snapshot of Nathan looking up at Santa as if saying "Who the heck are you?"  
A family picture with Santa at Entertrainment Junction
      Nathan did enjoy all the lights, treats, and fun with family and friends. Daddy became Clark Griswald for a period of time. He rented a 40 foot ladder and decorated our house in lights for the first time in years.  Mommy became a little bit of  Martha-although way more sleep deprived at wired all a the same time. We made a gingerbread train with Colby, and decorated Mommy's homemade sugar cookies.   Shopping became strategic-one of us would take turns going in while Nathan napped.  And while our Christmas cards were not the ones I had envisioned, we went with the JCP portrait option and realized that an 18month old may not be able to smile on command (despite my practicing at home!) By Christmas Eve, all the baking, buying, cleaning, sending, wrapping, and recleaning was finished and we were reading.
This toy earns two thumbs up and one loud squeal of approval.
       Here come the Ritter's. My family always celebrates Christmas together on Christmas Eve, and after we moved into the house we're at now, we started having it here. While it's not a ton of people, they are so special! My three brothers and their families always attend. This year it meant three boys -Colby, 11, Jonathan, 3 1/2, and Nathan. We couldn't wait. Uncle Mike and Uncle Tony bought Nathan a Step2 rolleroaster. We quickly put it in the kitchen and the kids had a blast. There were squeals of delight-but they were often drowned out by the electric guitar that Colby was playing in the background. It was the loudest Christmas Eve the Ritter's have had in a while!
Santa left the perfect gift.
      Christmas morning with Nathan was magical. Santa left his train table in the living room under a blanket. When we brought him downstairs and lifted the cover, he knew immediately that it ws a "Choo Choo", and started playing with such concentration. Greg and I didn't even open our presents to each other.  It was no longer about us.
Opening lots of presents at Mimi and Papas
        Christmas Day was spent with the Homoelle's at Greg's parents house. Nathan was so spoiled by Mimi and Papa and his aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was so fun to see Nathan right in the middle of Rose, David, Michael and Sam opening all his presents. Later, the extended family joined us for a big gift exchange. Nathan sat on the floor again, the youngest of them all.  Our hearts overflowed with joy. As he ran around the big living room, we didn't have that empty feeling that struck us every year when we would watch all the cousins and we would be the only ones without kids. It felt so normal to have him there, and he had so much fun.
      Nathan was certainly our gift this year. We feel so blessed to get to see what Christmas is like through a child's eyes-our child's eyes. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Nathan Wei!!!

       A year ago today Greg and I sat on a couch in our social worker's AGCI office and hashed out the "state" of our adoption journey.  It was probably one of the the lower moments of our life. I had just had my third surgery and we had been waiting for over a year to hear that we had a little girl from Nepal.  We had spent December to April completely skeptical and uncertain of whether we could continue waiting for what seemed to be an illegimate process. After 4 months, we were just done. I called our social worker from school in April. I remember crying to her over the phone, desperate.  She wanted to meet with Greg and I and see what options we were open to. So, we agreed to meet on Tuesday, May 11th.
     She knew our story. She knew our life-after all, she had to write up our home study which included a 14 page biography. She knew about our loss, my struggles, losing my dad, ALL of it! She sat and listened to us share that we couldn't continue putting our hope into a country that seemed so confused, corrupt, and cluttered when it came to adoption.  And then, she said "Let me tell you about what All God's Children is trying in Taiwan."
     When she explained the program, it sounded too good to be true. If only it had been open when we started our adoption journey. We knew we would be matched with a birthmother and she asked several times how we would feel if the mother had a little boy.  We both agreed that it didn't matter (we could repaint our pink room if we needed to!).    Little did we know that about 12 hours before, miles away in Taiwan, our baby had just been born. Chung Wei,  5lb. 5 ounces, 20.5 inches long was born on May 11th, 2010!!! 
      It wasn't until Tuesday, June 8th, that we knew that the sweet baby born on May 11th was set aside for us. Kate, our case manager called on the busiest day of my year-the last day of school. It had only been a couple weeks since we had terminated one country's set of papers and signed up for the Taiwan program, and then, we got the call. I will never forget sitting in the parking lot of Mason Intermediate and talking to Kate, who asked me if I thought we would want this little boy.  I didn't even hesitate. Of course!!! She sent us pictures within minutes.  We had a baby!!! 
    The next day I went to my teacher workday and struggled to even get my work complete. That night we recieved an email. We needed to name our baby. Hmmmm.... We hadn't even thought of that. My mom said we should pick a name that means gift. So, I Googled it, and Nathaniel came up. Nathan. Nathan Wei . Perfect!
    And now, Nathan Wei is a one year old! We are so lucky we've been able to experience so many firsts with him.   Our first zoo trip. Bubbles.  Easter. Mother's Day. So many wonderful moments.  And while all those big moments mean so much, I find myself cherishing the little ones just the same.  Feeling him grip my finger as we walk through the yard, watching Greg show him how to make pancakes, and seeing him notice an airplane in the sky for the first time.   I can't wait to see what this next year will bring!
Daddy shows Nathan how to make Homoelle pancakes.

The tulips at the zoo made for the perfect picture!

Nathan didn't care much about the candy in the egg, but he liked banging the egg together!

We couldn't get Nathan to stop bang, bang, banging his eggs together to pose!

His first Easter outfit was a little big on him, but he'll fit into those 12 month clothes soon!
We spent his first birthday getting pictures taken at Portrait Innovations, going to OT at Children's, and then to his FIRST McDonald's trip. Colby got to feed him his first french fry.  Hey-it's okay in moderation, right!?

More please! 


Monday, April 11, 2011

Thumbs Up! Our Eleven Month Old Slept Through the Night!

         Nathan turned eleven months today. I knew it was going to be a good day when we woke up at 6:00 and he was still in his crib. For the first time since we've had him, he slept through the night. We had to get up extra early today for an appointment at Children's and I had to wake the poor guy up!
        Our appointment was with a hand specialist, Dr. Cornwall, to check Nathan's thumbs. He has not been using them, and we were concerned that there may be some physical cause. He keeps both of them tucked into his hand, and won't use them to grab things appropriately. I will never forget getting a call from our agency months ago from our concerned case worker. The nannies in Taiwan noticed he wasn't using his thumbs and wouldn't open his hand.   Without seeing Nathan in person, we didn't know the extent of the condition. And, we had learned that children can have so many conditions.  My special ed background was more of a curse than helpful, because I knew that closed fists could mean,  CP-cerebral palsy.  We had to sign off on official paperwork that we were aware of the medical issue and whether or not we still wanted Nathan. I remember that the call came on a Friday, and I spent the entire weekend worrying and praying. All those WHAT IF's were going through our heads. By the end of the weekend, I knew we were going to sign the paper. No matter what it was, Nathan was ours already. We had named him, we wanted him, whatever he had.
        Fortunately, after a few x-rays and a look from the Doc, Nathan's thumbs are okay, and he won't need any surgery. Some occupational therapy and lots of good playing, and he should learn to use them. We've already made sure his toys include all kinds of thumb stimulating gadgets like blocks, balls, and tiny buttons!  With his dad, the physical therapist, and all our PT friends, he is in good "hands".
       After his appointment, it was off to get the shaggy boy a haircut. I can't believe he's had his head shaved already in Taiwan, and this second head of hair needed cut!  Aunt Shelby took care of him, and he looks like such a little man.

         He's grown so much since we've been home. Here's 11 things our 11 month old has learned to do:
1. Take 20 steps on his own
2. Give kisses.
3. Wait with Ellie for Daddy to come home..
4. Knock over a stack of blocks
5. Wave goodbye
6. Nod his head "yes".
7. Play with the door stop on the floor.
8. Dance by bouncing up and down.
9. Say momma and dadda
10. Bounce a ball.
11. Make us feel like we're the luckiest people in the world.

Nathan in plaid, looking a little like Papa Ritter. While he's not here with us, there have been some signs he knows what we've been waiting for has come. Every "Ritter" has had their picture on this tractor.   On the day we took this picture, I think the grass was a little greener, the sky a little more blue.   I can picture Dad behind the garage, holding  a Keystone with his tan skin, white t-shirt, navy pants and work boots on, grinning from ear to ear.
       We are so blessed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3 Weeks with Nathan and Lots of Learning: Following the Bonding Rules

       Our first three weeks with Nathan have been wonderful. We've laughed, we've cried, and we've been learning as we go.  Pretty normal for parenthood, I've been told. We've also been dealing with something a little more "atypical", the issues surrounding an adopted child.
       Greg and I had to read several books, take online courses, and attend a 5 week class at Children's. Along with all of that, we've had some guidelines suggested by our agency on how to transition Nathan to our home. Now, I must admit, I am a rule follower, and these guidelines seemed a little...harsh.  We were told to coccoon for 6 weeks, allowing NO ONE else to care for Nathan but the two of us. At one point, they even said if people wanted to help, they could do the grocery shopping and the laundry and we can leave things at the doorstep for them. (Seriously? I really don't need that, but that's how serious they are!) Basically, we should "shut down" the house for 6 weeks. We were also told to "wear" Nathan in a carrier for 6 hours a day. All of these things would create a secure bond and provide Nathan with time to adjust to so many new things.
     So, we came home and followed some of the rules.  SOME.  Greg and I are the only ones feeding him and changing him, putting him to bed, and so on. BUTTTTTTT,  because he seemed to be attached to me at the hip, we thought he was bonding well. Until bedtime.  He's bonded, but after speaking with two adoption professionals today, they both think this is a really anxious bond. He's so worried that I'm not going to be there when he wakes up, that it's torture getting him to nap or sleep at night, and when he does finally get to sleep, it's broken up. He wakes 2-3 times a night wanting me. I've been sleeping on an air matress by his crib, not the best place anyway. Add that to late bedtimes, multiple wakings, and early risings, and Mommy is wiped out. Right now, I'm sure all of you moms out there are saying "Welcome to my world!".  I know, I know, I feel your pain.  I had one of those moments of desperation this morning at about 10:50 when I laid Nathan in his crib for the 3rd attempt and said out loud, "Please God, let this baby sleep".
     God had my back, and at 11:00 he was still asleep when our adoption education coordinator, one of the professionals I mentioned above, called to check in. Great timing!  After I explained everything, she really emphasized how important these next 6 weeks are for Nathan, and that we have to make some decisions for the three of us.
      Many of you know, I'm not very good at saying NO to anything, but, as she said, it's laying the groundwork for his development. We have to start limiting visits to family, and wearing Nathan more (the wearing is the easy part). All of you have supported us and we're so anxious to allow you to see and get to know Nathan. And, as you all know, we're kind of "social" people, so I hate that I have to tell you that you can't come over right now.
   So, this is a hard blog to write. I'm hoping all of you out there who've been awaiting the "visitor permit" understand and are willing to wait a few more weeks. We are hoping it's not 6 weeks, and we'll just have to see how Nathan's sleeping goes. In the meantime, I am going to go NUTS if I don't get to interact with people for 6 weeks, so be prepared. Instead of visits, there may be phone calls!  I still want to hear what's going on out there in the world!
   Despite my moaning and groaning about lack of sleep, this little boy is truly the light of our lives. All he has to do is smile, and I forget that he was thrashing around in a tantrum hours earlier :)  Thanks to all for understanding, and pray for a "secure bond" in the next few weeks.

Nathan doesn't just wake Greg and I up, he likes to check out Ellie when she naps on the couch as well!

My little froggy after bathtime.

Nathan got to meet Micah, another little one adopted from Taiwan. Micah's only 4 months older than Nathan.
We're so lucky we met his family. The Walls family  held Nathan when they picked up Micah at Hannah's Hope in June! One of my good friends happened to randomly  meet Micah's mom at Entertrainment Junction, and told her about us. Natalie, Micah's mom, was a teacher at Mason!!! Now Nathan will have a playmate here who has been in the same orphanage.  Amazing how things work, isn't it?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Let the Bonding Begin and Time Zone Zombies-March 12, 2011

       Our first few days at home have been wonderful and challenging at the same time. We have adjusted to the time zone change fairly well. However, little Nathan is still on Taiwan time.  He's sleeping for some of the night, but Wednesday night he was up at 3:30 in the morning wide awake, playing patty cake in bed. This was after he woke up at 1:00 wide awake and we had a play session downstairs. I thought I had him settled at about 3, but by 3:30, he was up again. As I type he's sleeping on a quilt on our living room floor. He was supposed to wake up from his nap at 4:00, and he's still sleeping. I've tried to wake him 3 times now, each time resulting in complete meltdown and then he falls back asleep.  I guess it will be a late night again.
       Despite the sleeping adjustments, he's doing so well. He's met Ellie Homoelle, and after two days, he'll crawl up to her at pat at her while she sits next to him. He's learned if she gets too close it could mean a kiss in the face, so he closes his eyes to get ready.  When it comes to eating, he's enjoying his bottles,  rice cereal, fruit desert, and broccoli. I think he feels heavier already!   Bath time, which was totally unenjoyable for all a few days ago, is now the highlight of our night. And when it comes to bonding, I think we have a spoiled baby already.  Experts say it can take up to a year for a healthy, solid bond.  We're glued to him for sure. From day one, he's had our hearts. We're starting to see that he loves us already as well.
       Bonding is a huge concern with adopted children, and we're trying to do many things to help ensure he attaches to Greg and I and develops appropriate relationships later in life. The nannies at Hannah's Hope have helped out with this already, because he's already bonded to them. It was so obvious on the first day we received him that he was particularly attached to Mei Mei. He bounced up and down in her arms and smiled. He now does that to me if I pick him up after not having him in my arms for a while. We've taken classes and read about all the things we should do to foster this bond.  Common parenting practices-like letting babies cry it out when it comes to bedtime, aren't recommended for adopted kids. Instead, we're supposed to answer every cry to show him we are there for him. Sometimes I think it's creating a spoiled rotten little boy, but when I think of all he's had to deal with, all the changes, I think I should just be there for him.
      I had a moment last night when I finally realized I've got to take his adjustment one day at a time. I was so concerned that he start sleeping in his crib. He's been waking up crying so much in his crib that we've been scooping him up and laying him between us. It's honestly been the only way he sleeps. The problem is-I don't sleep. And the other night was the "last straw" when I woke up to a finger in my eye, water streaming down my cheek, and the thought I might never see out of my left eye again. 
     So I started last night with the "that's it, no more co sleeping" mentality. I "bounced" him to sleep and he was safe and sound in his crib at 9:30. By midnight, he was standing up in his crib crying. So, I put him to sleep again. The very second he felt me put him down, he was up again. This went on 2 more times, until I placed him in between us. For the first night home he slept through the night. Around 4:50 I woke up as he stirred, and heard a song on the radio we had left on low for light noise. The song, Rascal Flat's "I Won't Let Go", said it all. No matter what, I just need to be there for this little guy as he deals with his whole world changing. While it was meant to be a love song, I'm sure that the words in the song ring out to all parents. Tears streamed down my face as my little one rested along side of me. The crib can wait another day, maybe even another week, another month.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome Home Nathan Wei! March 8, 2011

          "We survived." Greg said. Then, simultaneously, we both said, "BARELY!" 
          Our travel day home to the states was certainly a test of our patience and parenting skills. We woke at 5:00 am before Nathan to get ready and head to the airport.  It took some time to get checked in and we made it to the gate with plenty of time. So far, so good. Until a gate agent approached Greg and asked if he lost a cell phone. Sure enough, it had fallen out of his pants pocket. Jacko, our great cab driver from our zoo trip was so kind, he actually drove it back to the airport. We made our flight to Tokyo just fine. Nathan even slept most of the way.
           Then came our flight from Tokyo to Detroit.  The trip through security alone should have been a clue. I had Nathan strapped to me in the carrier.  They made Greg unload every single electronic from the computer bag and then wanted to check the diaper bag. Of course, they can see all the contents in the x ray machines, but needed to see the baby food jars. Soooo,  unloading a bag that was packed to last for
at least 24 hours was not fun to unpack.  We loaded the plane and were ready to go when a flight attendant gave us a heads up that we would have to de-plane due to a chipped wing. Soooo, we all unloaded, realizing we were going to miss our connecting flight from Detroit to Cincy.
        After an hour and a half we boarded for our 12 hour flight to Detroit. Nathan hardly slept, and I'm convinced that the next Minute to Win It Challenge should be to put a diaper on a baby within the space of an airplane restroom. 3 diaper changes, 4 movies, and many walks around the plane later, we arrived in Detroit. And Nathan, once again, decided to sleep. (If only he had done this about 10 hours earlier).
       Nathan had to be emmigrated to the U.S. and receive his Green card, so it was off to customs and immigration. And Nathan continued to sleep. He missed his big moment! Then I noticed something was missing.  Our new camera was nowhere in sight. I would have cried major tears, and almost did, but I think exhaustion prevented it. Instead, I will admit, nastiness took over. I would have been devastated to lose all those pictures, except, thankfully we were downloading our images every night due to posting on this blog.
Here we are loaded down with all our luggage, and Nathan, bickering in the airport about where our camera could be.
         Our reception at the airport and at our house wiped away most of the bitterness.  My mom and Greg's family - his mom, dad, grandma,  brother Brad and sister-in-law Angie along with their children-David, Rose, Sam and Michelle stood at the window with my friend Michelle and  her daughters, Shayne and Hailey. They had cameras ready and balloons and gifts for Nathan. To see them so excited just warmed our hearts.  When we arrived home our friends Matt and Anne and our neighbors Mike and Sharon and Denise and Jeff had made signs and put up balloons. As we turned the corner, we both knew losing our camera wasn't so bad for what we had gained. Nathan Wei was finally home.