Owen: A Year(ish) later

For Owen Xu Wei Hoyt it has been a year in the states. It is not easy to capture all the changes his mind, body, and spirit have gone through. I will try to capture in this writing a lot of the things that are important to him. It will certainly have its limits because these words do not originate from him. I believe every adoptive parent goes through this. They think “if I could only know what is going on in their little mind, I could do so much more”. This is the adventure the entire family goes through being a part of the adopted process.

For those of you who have been around Owen, you have learned some of his favorites. Without any contest, his favorite color is anything orange. The louder and more orange the better. I remember the first time we went to a rack store… I let him pick out any shirt in his size that he liked. Let’s just say nine out of the 10 shirts were either orange or loud in color! So if you’re ever deciding on something to buy for him and colors are an option, you know the way!

The next favorite item is of a very, VERY serious nature. We’ve all heard the adage ‘the way to a man is through his stomach’. We see evidence through Owen that this wisdom has not changed! Like Scooby Doo loves Scooby snacks, my boy likes the pizza. I remember we were sitting in a hotel in Nan Chung, and it was the Lord’s will that we find pizza! The concierge knew English well and guided us to Papa John’s. I exclaimed “we are saved!” At that point we were struggling to find familiar food that agreed with our stomachs… Our poor American stomachs! I rushed back to the room, to share the good news… And when I did, Owen lit up like a Christmas tree and exclaimed “pizza!” We still don’t know where he knew about pizza, but apparently pepperoni is international currency. If something weird happened in the world, and the only thing left was pizza and fruit, he would be okay with that 🙂

In working all day with senior citizens, I have gotten common questions: how does he eat and how is he learning the language? The first one now completed, his language has grown in leaps and bounds! Considering you can count on one hand how many English words he knew when we met him… He has a full vocabulary. I won’t make wild claims like he’s the next great Asian scientist or Nobel Peace prize winner, but he is certainly smart and creative. He loves making unique creations with Legos, and also raw craft items. You may remember a picture from one of the original blog writings… He took a balloon and cut out paper and attached it to the balloon in a very creative way.

Owen is not an overly introverted child, as some adopted ones can be. He will be quiet natured until he is comfortable, he is a quiet natured boy…until he’s not! Then the words start piling up like falling leaves at the end of fall season! He is learning simple things to communicate beyond what he wants like praying at dinner, explaining a situation, or describing something he doesn’t understand. Amaya has been a great help communicating in a kid friendly way. Considering how much Amaya talks, he has plenty of opportunities to learn new words!!!

This first picture is of Christmas this year and the second is while we were still in China preparing to come home. Wow he looks different!

Christmas 2016
Playdough creations!

Each day is new….

It has been such a roller coaster since we returned home from China and to think we left for China 2 months ago today. 2 months!! And this morning I sit amazed at God’s goodness through this entire process because it has certainly been an adventure, for all of us!

IMG_20151208_181110891[1] Owen continues to amaze us on a daily basis. He is in half day preschool 5 days a week and loves it. He enjoys the kids and the structure and is learning so much.  This photo was taken last night just before our Christmas program at school. The preschool was going to sing one song, which Owen has been singing for days. I was not sure he would want to stand on stage in front of about 300 people, but he was persistent in wanting to do it. I explained to him in 4 or 5 different ways that afternoon, about what was going to happen and each time a resounding “yes mama” came with huge smiles.  And he did great! He stood up on stage with his class and sang the song so clearly that American Christmas song.  We may have a performer buried deep inside there!  When finished the kids found their parents in the crowd and then he loudly expressed..”AMAYA” as she was on next! A very proud brother just bubbling with excitement!

Last week Owen celebrated his 6th birthday and was so full of excitement about his cake and presents. I am sure that was a first for him. His eyes just danced with excitement and joy.  Now we are beginning to focus on Jesus’ birthday which is helping him put Christmas into perspective. He loves the lights of Christmas ! So much for him to process but his level of understanding is amazing to me. He is learning words daily and as he puts the language IMG_20151121_163816894[1]together more of his personality is coming forth, which is exciting to see.

We had our first big snow and Owen loved sledding. It did not take him long to start standing up on the sled because sitting down was not exciting enough!

Last week we met with his cardiologist in Fort Wayne and received a great report. Turns out Owen was born with a hole in his heart which was repaired at 11 months old.  Now his heart is healthy and strong with no signs of concern. Huge praise!   As you can see he recently got glasses as well and saw his first airplane flying in the sky the day after. He was SO excited about that plane, he just yelled at the top of his voice “airplane” and bounced with excitement on the trampoline!

Amaya continues to be an amazing sister. They both have bonded so well together and their personalities “fit” as only God can do.  And Owen is certainly getting to be more of a teasing type of brother which I am not sure Amaya has signed up for, but it is so good! The joy of both of their hearts resounding through our home is such a blessing to Jeff and I.

God is certainly blessing our family and this little guy as we continue to walk through this transition process.  Please continue to pray for us! There are many highs we continually have some lows as well which is to be expected. But it is the prayers of so many that help us all make it through.



Alive and Jumpin’!!!

Sorry for the delay, time and energy have not been mixing well at the right time. I realized I had not been to the chiropractor in about 6 weeks, and I haven’t been sleeping solid. I don’t get total aches and pains, just uncomfortable to sleep. When I run consistently that also seems to help, but the new schedule back home here is a work in progress! I had everything nicely fit, but throwing in a hungry Asian boy for a hearty breakfast has thrown off my rhythm! I make 4 breakfasts and Denise/I’s lunch also. Denise makes the kids lunches and supper. It all works somehow so that perhaps Denise and I can have just enough time for some needed exercise. For some inexplicable reason I have trouble with every possible technological device/app/wifi…you name it, it confounds me. I must have inherited that huh mom? I will have every password, email address all correct and still cannot get through! Isn’t that maddening? Progress has it’s challenges.

Owen is adapting like a champion! He is just like us, he has mostly good days and the occasional rough day (sound familiar?). He sleeps with no trouble at all. Usually heads in at 8 and sleeps all the way until at least 7. He is attending 3 days of school now (still preschool), but get this…without mom altogether! We never dreamed he would adapt so independently. Denise is working in the building and he does not need her at all, we are kind of amazed! M/W/F he has all morning in classes. He is adapting well, increasing in language and understanding. He is physically active in activity and play like any 6 year old would be. He is ready before the process says he needs to be! With most adopted kids you will hear a lot about trying to get them up to speed…for us we are trying to keep him fully engaged so we feel were worthy of it.

Yesterday (Saturday) Owen and I hung all day while mom went to Michigan City for some shopping and much needed break. The kids next door were here, and hallelujah dad said! The 5 of us played outside the entire afternoon, minus a break in the mild sunny November sun. We discovered the joys of ladder ball and tag on the trampoline! Plenty of silliness and good play for all. Amaya unfortunately spent the day on the couch sick :(. She was sick overnight Friday and out all day…this morning seems fine. I was happy for the opportunity for him to bond with the neighbor kids, as he will be playing with them for years to come! I find it easier to play with a slightly larger group of kids. Entertaining just one or two kids at a time can be challenging! Owen had already gotten bored with the ladderball once, but since 3 other kids liked it, he was good. The kids must have bounced on that trampoline for about 3 hours. All kids really need is an atmosphere for creativity and they will often take right off!

We all know that in mid November the days of sunny play are ending. While the cold/wet days are my least favorite, they lead to the wonder of fluffy, white, plush snow. In China where he was from, they would get the occasional light snow…son ya ain’t in China!!! He is already using his new favorite words “chilly” pronounced chilleeee, and “cold” pronounced kooold. He has a personality you can’t but help to enjoy (minus the whiny parts!). He is gaining great physical stamina and strength from jumping and yes..walking around the block. We weren’t sure if he would ever car to walk much, but I think he was used to just simply not walking far. Each day he seems to discover new foods, toys, and activities he truly enjoys. The whole family is finding new activities and yes foods we enjoy too! There are days when the coffee is just not strong enough, but the rewards are priceless to us. What do you do when you are depleted? You seek His rest and find some natural breaks while having Him fill you up again to love some more. Some mothers seem to have a natural gifting from God to give and give more. It is a true gift indeed that often is overlooked in our fast paced culture!  We value a lot of things that truly work against good family…period.

Amaya has also changed so much! I don’t really notice it day to day, but when I look back 6 weeks I think “when did my little girl change into a tweener”? It won’t seem like a minute until she is technically a teenager, and she is doing so well to exhibit new maturities. I call her ‘little mommy’ because she is so easily taking on that role. She does everything humanly possible to help her little brother. It further teaches me how to be a better dad to a boy. I learned a lot of the little girl idiosyncrasies as she grew up…so far it seems the boys are different, yet what I remember growing up for the most part. I am so proud of Amaya’s growth as a person. She is learning to totally let a 5 year old child drop into her private world! An only child can really labor over this, but she doesn’t mind it a bit…in fact she is daily excited to share and do new with him.

Stated earlier, a mom has deep levels to give that not many men can even do. I have learned it may even lead to tears from being so spent! All given, all in love! Denise is just that type of person. It is perhaps why she has her introverted side, she just can’t infinitely give…it would be to her detriment as a person. Some people do not energize from other people all the time, it can deplete them. Denise and I are similar that way…we certainly enjoy people, but in a different way. We have learned we must save the best of ourselves for the family first and foremost. I have seen many people spend that love in their careers, pursuits, and outside the home. It is important that we know who we are and the way God wired us! That all said, I cannot imagine walking this journey with any other life partner than the one chosen for this destiny together!!! I am realizing something here though…the longer between posts, the longer the posts tend to go! Thanks to everyone who has kept up with this journey, encouraged us, and prayed for our new family.

American Attention Spans and An American Boy (Well Almost)

For those of you who are not too ADD to get to this point in the blog…thank you! I made a preposterous title to pull you in, let’s face it these good things can’t go on Ad nauseam. For each of you that posted a comment or two a special thanks from all of us. We enjoyed seeing these, they helped us along the way. There were far too many to respond to in reasonable time, but know that we have created a Word file to copy and paste each one into so we will always have your kind and encouraging words. If you know us we are fairly private people, so this was a different experience for Denise and I to share these moments with a crowd. What exactly is wrong with people who thrive on sharing every detail of their lives on the internet anyway? There were several long days in China that your words and prayers were beyond appreciated…so thanks again each of you!!!

I am feasting on extra strong french press here just to get my game on. Yard work and a huge Saturday football lineup makes a man a little sleepy in the a.m.! It was getting pretty chilly on Friday and I was powerwashing a bulk of the day, which took some wind out of these sails. In my mid forties and feeling like my body wants to retire! Only 20 years to go I tell myself.

Speaking of attention spans…on to the boy! I wanted to pull a few pieces together about Owen as a person. To try and paint pictures of his personality and what seems to make him tick. We are just 3 days away from a month’s anniversary with him ourselves, so to say we have learned all of his full palate of idiosyncrisies (sorry butchered that spelling I know) would be untrue. Each day is like his favorite tv show Curious George. A full day of learning and yearning to know!

Owen can chill with his fav TV shows for a bit, but he will soon be getting anxious for a plan and purpose of why the sun happened to come up today! If it is travel, going to school, or pretty much getting ready for anything…Owen is the first one ready staring at the door. If we are talking food, remember, if you set the table two hours early, he may be sitting there at his spot for an hour and a half! Do not be fooled by his 40 something lb frame, he out eats all of us! So if we come remember he can put away food like a sumo wrestler at times!

Owen has a big heart in there. It has been reworked in the natural as many of you know…he was in a Beijing hospital getting heart surgery at one year old. Now it is full of desire to serve others. Yesterday he was helping mom and I rake leaves. He wants to be in the middle of anything he can help with. He helps set the table for dinner…and pick up toys…well we are working on that one! He works hard at making people laugh and have fun. He has his whiny times, usually when a few of us are gone. He isn’t the same without his whole family.

Surprisingly he is greatly drawn to electronics, not really having been around much of that. It must be natural to a degree I suppose. There are the small, cute things you come to associate with your adopted child. When he runs, he keeps his hands down at his waist. He enjoys jumping on the trampoline…an entirely new sensation to him. He likes to giggle and carry on with his jie jie (sister). He doesn’t enjoy walking distances himself…for now it is rides in the stroller until he gets used to walking more. He is slowly discovering the many toys hidden all around the house. He is still learning to play normally. It was just different how he interacted at the orphanage…an adopted child knows however he knows.

School was more necessary than even we realized. We figured he would need eased in…and he will…but more from the perspective of having Denise with him for awhile and adaptation of language. His writing of English letters was impressive to me considering hardly one of us could even write a Chinese letter without great practice! Our hope is that he be drawn to learning English quickly and also learn social skills with others. I have met few Chinese adoptees thus far that weren’t socially shy, so it is just something to work with.

Part of his issues stem from the 2nd class citizen vibe that the kids there get. Sorry to say, but the kids are only mildly valued there, and rarely the focus of attention culturally speaking. The orphanage kids would be so all the more, so a rebuilding of his self esteem/confidence will take some effort and time. Hard to fathom, but the truth is he is better off in an American working class household than upper middle class in China. If he were born of middle class people they would most likely have aborted him because of his special needs. We are thrilled to have this opportunity and freedom to sow into his life!!!

While I don’t know how many more blogs I can use to describe my son in this family, I know there will be more to learn in the grand process. His little smiles, expressions, and personality grow each day into who God has created him to be. Just like Amaya we take seriously our responsibility and role in shaping him into what God has for him. All I know is I am blessed to now have two amazing kids that in spite of my hang ups at life, live creatively and wondrously!

Owen and I ( by Amaya)

This IS another Amaya installment here to start, and I will finish up after with a partial. For goodness sakes don’t tell me if you can’t tell where Amaya’s ends and mine starts!!

My brother and I are very good friends. We adopted him from China. My brother and I have many similarities and differences.

Some of the similarities are we both like to be silly and laugh. We both need glasses and hate spicy food. We both like noodles. Similarly we like to write and in the same way we are shy around new people and like to dance. We both love music and like pink (this is dad I am denying the latter part of that statement!). We both love getting new clothes!

Some of our differences are I don’t like octopus even though my brother does. I like the movie Home. I have not been adopted from China. Owen does not like the movie Home and has been adopted from China. I have brown hair however he has black hair. I’m a girl but he is a boy.

Now you know a little about me and my brothers differences and similarities. We both have each others back.

Owen and Amaya also both love toasted cheese (his with bacon). I am so proud of both of them! Amaya just got great grades in spite of all the traveling and preparations for major life changes!!! Her creativity continues to inspire her old man to “rock on dude” as she would say herself. Owen had two days of school this week. You have seen the artsy one, and today he wrote the alphabet phenomenally well! He can color pretty well when he applies himself (now tell me that is not every 5 year old boy). Looking forward however, he will probably not be using the old dating line “likes long walks…” anywhere! For some reason just doesn’t care to walk very long. One certain blessing is that he does sleep in when tired unlike Amaya! She can be up until 1 a.m. and still up before 6:30! Oiy!

Owen has the smarts to roll with school. He just doesn’t have the language with it yet. So that is the goal to simply have him soak the language in as he continues learning. He is a quick study, observant, and mimics pretty darn good for a language so starkly different than ours. Our biggest challenge is communicating with him when he is rattling off expressive Chinese. He speaks so much I can’t process it. The piece of crap Google translator doesn’t even translate his speech into English! It is so far off that he and I both laugh at it when it says something dorky back in English.

Owen will have his times of grieving and those times are unscheduled or unexpected. I believe that it is a normal part of our process here, I just don’t find myself surprised. He is adapting well to life here, and is full of excitement each day! He is fickle and five, what can you do? Well, actually almost six…his birthday is less than a month away. He is quite expressive with kisses and hugs for all three of us each, which we are ecstatic about! Many Asian children seem quite quiet and reserved there, so we are enjoying that he is not typical. Perhaps that is why he fits in so well here…at least his dad is admittedly ‘an eclectic blend’.

Owen’s First Big Day!

We really weren’t sure what this first month would look like or morph into. Everything always feels different than perception going in. Life doesn’t always play out like you might think. We had planned for Owen to be overwhelmed and shell shocked by new life here. Your going to give a five (almost six) year old boy from an orphanage his emotional blow ups and less than fine moments. If life never consisted of anything aside from institutional routine, regardless of the quality of care, it will have to be ironed out to “regular life”.

Mix in the stark culture, food, and environmental changes he is experiencing and it seems obvious some buffering is needed. Thus far his biggest challenge is not being challenged! Yesterday was Owen’s official first day of American learning. At this point it does seem like he will be bored in preschool, but it will take some time with language to have him prepared for kindergarten. Perhaps the first of the year. I have had many people tell me immersion is the best way to go. Thus he has 3 hour school time on Tuesday and Thursday starting out at least. He knows his a,b,c’s and 1-10…colors and basics like that. He likes to learn and will bloom as the language takes off. You will see in the pics that he was painting and working the dough.

Owen loves to paint
Owen loves to paint
Playdoh letters with his class
Playdoh letters with his class

We can tell that senor Owen is like a lot of us. He likes the predictability of routine! After dinner he wants that bath going and just might pout if it doesn’t go down! If the dinner table is set and the food is not ready, he will sit there impatiently until that food hits his plate! The boy doesn’t need to be motivated to be ready for well…anything. As we have all heard, whether it is flying, traveling, school, and especially food…boy was born ready! So moving forward we will need to tap into that energy and help him discover his passion…drive is not an issue.

Amaya is an eternally wonderful big sister. She is learning the new boundaries and where the heck the old ones disappeared to! She is learning that her quiet little world has been invaded by the Far East! She loves him more than any comforts though, and that is all a parent could wish for. We are so proud and grateful for all that Amaya has brought to our little man. He will certainly look back and know his big sis is foundational in his development. She does have one job to do yet, and that is teach him to enjoy the dog! Poor snickers slid down the pole of importance. His life will never be the same either. It has been a little harder for him to fill his doggie love bucket up!!!

Quick note from Denise…..First off thank you all for your continued prayers! We need them. So much adjustment going on and still searching for a “normal”, but then I had one person say that won’t come til my kids are 18! I certainly hope to find it before then! Owen continues to adapt well over all. He will still have some emotional moments but he enjoyed going to school so much yesterday. Recess was a bit overwhelming and that will take time, but he loved the school environment. Not sure how much Preschool I can take but he loved it!

We are still waiting on an appointment to have Owen’s heart checked by a pediatric cardiologist in Fort Wayne, which I hope is in a couple weeks.  As well as a pediatric urologist from Riley in Indy to check out a few things there. Otherwise the doctor was amazed last week at how healthy he was! A huge praise.

Amaya continues to be an amazing help and wonderful big sister. I am surprised some days at how well she does.  But then again, I shouldn’t be, she is a natural.

We will keep you posted! And please keep praying….

Post Lag La La La

We are finally post lag (I think), and morphing into a normal(?) life here. Thanks to Tricia for reminding me I need to blog! I enjoy writing, just need a few days for more to report. Although I never did write an essay on the top 10 reasons to love America…and it’s food. We are seeing more of his real personality, emotions, and “food flexibility’s”!!

This was my work weekend, so I don’t think I caught everyone up on what happened Thursday yet. Thursday was a big medical checkup and shots for polio. He had 4 shots in the quads, which stung for awhile, but he seemed to be alright from…until 1 a.m.!! He was burning up with fever, so we knew right away we had to get him over to ER and figure out the motrin mix. His first round wasn’t enough, so after he waited awhile they gave him some more. So I was here because Amaya was still sleeping (and never did know what was going on until the next morning. Mom and Owen finally got back around 3 and the big sleep off was under way. Owen did wake up by 8, but he was on the couch sleeping most of the morning. I was off that morning because of the work schedule…so Owen and I were getting out what we hoped would be the final vapors of that jet lag! Thus began a Curious George marathon amidst deep rest. He ate just a little at lunch and back to sleep. That was Friday and he did come around for evening  visit with grandpa and grandma. This is Sunday late afternoon as I write this, and he still has had some medicine today as his fever spikes. Boy that crazy polio medicine!

The food adventure is an ongoing experiment, reminiscent of the poor Americans in China for two weeks! He is good at trying new things, which is a huge blessing. We have to hone in on what he really likes, since even the American versions are different. He doesn’t like uncooked anything, so sushi was a waste of money. He will eat scrambled eggs and pancakes. He isn’t going to go for the sweets like we do, and sauces need to be very minimal. He will like a hard boiled egg, but we still have to learn how to pickle that thing! Loves meat of almost any strip. Bacon and breakfast sausage are go to’s. We are still figuring out what else will work. I have shrimp to boil yet, I know he will like that. Half of what we thought would work has not thus far. So we dig deeper and onward.

He is learning new words each day, putting things together. He is not language delayed in Chinese in the slightest. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of learning delays, but time will tell as it all goes English. Children from orphanages are going to be emotional, and this is no exception to that rule. He will be laughing and carrying on silly, then suddenly you notice a change in demeanor. You can see it coming somewhat, which is helpful. He is predictable in many ways, but the down emotions can last for lengths of time. Overall he does quite well, but this is truly foreign to him so who can blame him? Nothing of his life inside an orphanage would be easily adaptable anywhere else!! It just isn’t like much else of normal family life. He had houseparents with him regularly, which we are grateful for. He had 100 children in his orphanage, so he is used to a lot of kids around, but in a certain type of environment…with all Chinese speaking, food, etc. He was found when he was less than 48 hours old, so he knows nothing of “normal family life”…how could he? So please pray for us that we can provide that and emotional stability as he hits the roller coaster some days. I implore you all to especially lift up Denise as the mother and primary emotional support. She is doing all she needs to do, even if she doesn’t feel like it. I am a proud husband and so thankful to her for being willing to work so hard at it. It would have been easy for us to pack it in with contentment that we had brought a wonderful young lady into the world…but here we go! We are especially happy that we skipped diapers and potty training! We know that we must not get distracted by the little things, but work hard to remain consistent and offer the best thing he can receive…our hearts.