Friday, April 18, 2014

A Birthday Announcement

With our March/April birthday celebrations finished, we have a little reprieve in birthday planning until October. But this year, instead of only planning one party for Dad and a big, already-requested princess party for Reshma, we'll be planning another big, birth day festivity.

Early this year amidst all the craziness of cocooning and bonding, I started having some crazy symptoms. Incredible Indian food turned my stomach and late night grocery trips for random produce and pickles started happening. We've known officially since early February but only dared tell a few people because we needed a little time ourselves to process. Finally, on April 6th, we felt we couldn't hide it any longer (for obvious reasons) and that our two little ones were ready to hear. Reshma immediately expressed interest in a sister and Levi said, "A new baby...I think I'll kiss it." Last Tuesday they went with us to hear the strong heartbeat of little baby brother or sister. Tegen #5 is well on the way due October 16th. We're all still taking it in but thankful it's bonding our little family in the whirlwind together.

Already this little one is teaching my kids patience and giving us an even more intensified period of bonding during these nine months before baby. The day after we discovered our little one was on the way the kids and I went to a birthday party where Reshma carried the birthday girl's baby brother around the whole time loving on him. Several people commented that she'd make a perfect helper for a new baby not knowing the secret only Jason and I knew. But those ladies were right. She LOVES babies. We only need to teach her a good deal more about gentleness and we think she'll be set in her big sister role. She's pretty excited that a baby can't hit, run you over with a tricycle or call you names like her current little sibling can so those are a few things in the baby's favor. And if you ask her, she'd really like a girl because one brother is more than enough. Oh the sibling love we've seen in the last two months...

The bonus of sharing so late is that in only about five short weeks we'll also be able to share whether we'll be welcoming a second girl this year or making good use of the bins and bins of baby boy clothes we have upstairs. Either way, as long as we have a healthy baby and two well-loved, prepared siblings we'll be more than happy.

We have lots more pictures to share this weekend. This is Reshma's first Easter home and lots of new firsts by way of celebrating. We've been going through the Resurrection Eggs this week and have a cross hanging on our front door ready for fresh flowers to celebrate on Sunday morning... which is when she'll get to wear that pretty new Easter dress, hunt eggs (again), see live bunnies, get her Easter basket, etc... We'll look forward to sharing the celebrations!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Birthdays at our house come in two waves. Last week ended our first one. In late March I celebrated thirty-four with the family on Sunday, my actual birth day. 

Then last week, our little blonde-headed joy turned four! Already! One thing I love as he gets older is the quirky, funny personality that keeps emerging. He's never boring! The weeks leading up to his birthday he constantly surprised us with his present requests and detailed birthday cake order. Nothing less than an open book cake with a lighthouse and truck driving up to it would do. He added to that request that the truck have bananas and a candy cane in the back and that he be driving it. How does he come up with this stuff?! 

Mimi, the master cake decorator, went to work ordering and planning to fulfill our four-year-olds dream. Jason's mom, Nana, was busy too searching for the present Levi told her was his dream present-- running shoes and matching running clothes. Reshma has definitely been influencing him to be more active and to keep up with Dad thus the request, we believe, for clothes that look like Dad's. And since the party those running shoes have been "giving [his] legs energy" and his most prized possession. 

We enjoyed reading a favorite book at the party, playing a "find Ramesh" game, playing at a pretend library (that I somehow got no pictures of), opening lots of presents and then jumping some of the food and cake off with an Indian dance party. 

All for this sweet, brand new four year old!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Little Give and Take

I've been thinking a lot lately about how rich my life is because of other families out there who are sharing their stories via blogs or simply sharing their resources online so the rest of us can enjoy them. The online world is one of give and take...and I have a bit of each to share in this quick update.

During a recent reorganizing (my husband's love language) project, I thought again of this sermon I once heard and how it radically changed the way I think about the concept of enough. Even down to the small things like putting a shoe organizer in our closet and realizing my shoes wouldn't fit. Right in front of me was my visual "that's enough" fence and a call to step away from so much excess. 

I've also thought a lot about a challenge I got here on picking my battles with our new I-have-my-own-sense-of-fashion daughter and how wisely one mom shared her heart on the matter. It comes to mind often and has helped me in this area though I still have trouble biting my tongue over tights and open toe high heel sandals... 

Over here I've found myself very encouraged by someone much more fashion savvy than myself...and one wiser about what goes and what doesn't. Not being very artistic, I can't easily put together clothes and colors creatively. So for those challenged like myself, we can borrow ideas from inspirational places like this one.

And finally, after Reshma asking for weeks for Biryani I scoured the internet and found this GREAT recipe! We were cooking supper for nine people that night which is not usually the best time to try something new. That morning I prayed a very genuine prayer that the Biryani would turn out, and this recipe didn't disappoint. If only we could whip this up in an hour rather than almost three we'd make this a weekly tradition! 

In all of my trying to prepare Indian cuisine, I'm still looking for other good, go to recipes. So now comes the taking part of the blog world. Any good Dal Makhani, Samosa or other great Indian recipes you've found in your internet searching? I'd love to know! Reshma would be delighted. And Jason and Levi would be relieved that we finally found some tasty, not-too-spicy meals!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nine weeks

We've been home nine weeks now and this adopting an older child, out of birth order has felt like exactly that these last few weeks. When you have a biological child attachment usually takes place well before your child can speak. But in adoption and specifically older child adoption, the bonding process is set to take place with a child experiencing culture shock, exhibiting coping and self-protective behaviors and testing boundaries. Not exactly the cooing, innocent infant that steals your heart. Never did I think bonding or attachment would be an issue. How naive I was even after all the reading. Adoption is not natural. It is a willful choosing to give time and love and energy. To be honest, it would be a terrifying undertaking without a really good Model and Ever-Present Helper.  I think the rubber met the road around the 2nd or 3rd week. Food was hard, "no" was hard, sleeping, and having a younger sibling--hard! Culture shock was in full force on both sides. We share this because too often people only get warm fuzzies about the beauty that is adoption without the truth that beauty is not all glitz and glamour.


I've thought a lot about Caleb and Joshua from the Old Testament lately. Their parents had wandered for so long and finally they were entering the promised land. Surely the lights would shine from heaven and milk and honey would be oozing from every crevice. But instead of cows and bees, giants greeted them. It was going to be anything but a smooth transition entering this promise. So has been the case seeing our flesh and blood girl of promise. This transition has been the hardest thing we've experienced in our nine years of marriage. What is amazing us, though, is how we seem to be rapidly progressing through the stages of development with Reshma and already seeing tremendous improvements in behavior and attachment. As Jason pointed out, it seems we are starting to step out of the toddler behavior stage into one where words are used a little more than behavior. Currently we're in the questioning stage wanting to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of every situation. 

After a really rough patch for both kids, Reshma is starting to respond to correction and even engaging playfully in making agreements ahead of time over things we foresee becoming battles. That beats the hours of stonewalling, arms folded, don't touch me behavior we saw prior. Unfamiliar, non-Indian food, though still hard, doesn't get the gagging sound and reaction it once did every time. And her tender, quick-to-forgive nature toward her tag-along little brother is slowly giving way to Levi accepting and even some days really liking this new big sister.  

The day before Valentine's she signed her name Reshma Tegen all on her own right underneath a big I Love You. Daily her English improves and already in our language lessons she's reading short, simple sentences. Her favorite read so far is The Cat in the Hat of which she can read the first thirteen pages! Additionally, we've made great strides in Math too! Thankfully in this new homeschooling journey we've had a veteran to walk alongside who's tutoring her twice a week and keeping me on my toes about meeting her needs and targeting her difficulties. Our lives are so richly blessed by Mrs. Donna!

Last week we made the big trip to the doctor and dentist. It was very belated due to the major adjustment phase and a big insurance switch. Really, the last thing we wanted was to welcome her home to lots of needles and foreign-looking doctors doing examinations. Though we weren't supposed to wait so long, we were thankful for the time to let her settle before the tests and doctor's appointments began. The five shots she got at her first appointment were just as traumatizing as we expected them to be. 

Just last week after sharing the difficulties of the past few weeks with some friends, it has been as if a wave of reprieve has swept through our house. I overheard Levi saying, "You're the best sister in the whole woh-ld" and all on her own initiative Reshma shared the details of what happened back in India. We are so thankful to be connecting and to already have earned enough of her trust to hear these deep details of her past. 

During the last month with all of the adjusting we also made our way down to see Mimi and Papa which included a promised trip to climb the local lighthouse. We're the little specks you see. Some of the time in Georgia also included a little getaway for Mom and Dad to celebrate nine years of marriage while the kids enjoyed fun times with the grandparents!

There is progress and connection coming after a little season of really hard days. We know there will continue to be an ebb and flow, but today at nine weeks in, we are more than relieved to see so much good progress forward.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Whole Lot of Firsts

Life is anything but quiet with two kids and a whole community of college students outside our door. Sometimes at night we've joked that there is a ringing in our ears from the absence of noise. The buzz means that the kids are sleeping well, that Reshma's English is improving daily and that our kids are interacting lots. We're so thankful to be a month in and see so many improvements. Here are a few highlights from the last few weeks.

Sibling love and learning with Alphabet Go Fish (Reshma's favorite game)

Sibling photos, take one...

...and two...

...and as good as it got that night!

First four wheeler ride! 

Feeding horses

Enjoying warm days before they gave way to this...

First snow and lovin' it!

Becoming a fan of bowling

First zoo/road trip. She's not used to long drives and car sickness adds to the difficulty!

And, first bonfire with s'mores! She loved the fire but not the sweets. Wish the rest of her family felt the same way! (See Levi cradling his beloved hot chocolate?!)

There's a blizzard in the making outside our window and a day off of school which means there will be lots more snow pictures to come! Then, only two days to Valentine's! Happy, happy Wednesday!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Two weeks home and counting

We've been together as four just over three weeks and have been home for two weeks. Honestly it feels so incredibly good to be over jet lag, to feel more settled into our new reality and to be beyond the initial days that were so challenging. 

Reshma has continued to adjust and connect with us day by day. Especially when we are at home alone - just the four of us - we feel she has come alive and connected with us deeply. Every day seems to have something brand new for her. Sometimes those are little details and sometimes they are huge adjustments.

Despite the fact that we haven't seen 50 degrees since we've been home (save one day) we still had two very willing children at the suggestion of ice cream :)

Kelley has loved the addition of all things girl. Levi was intrigued by the painting of toe nails...and Dad compromised to allow two toe nails to be painted just this once... In pride Dad made it out without any girl paint...

On the one warmer day we've had (MLK day) we had a wonderful hike to Triple Falls in the DuPont Forest of North Carolina. Considering this was probably only her second time in the woods (first was last week) she did awesome!

Ceasar's Head:

Having spent her entire life in southern India, ice was a fascinating thing to Reshma. She was thrilled to break off chunks of ice and throw them in the river over and over...

Both our kids got a bad case of 'lazy legs' during the hike. We felt like a few pack mules...

We've eaten a lot of Indian cuisine this month. Reshma loves to help cook and when left un-checked will tear around the kitchen throwing ingredients into a pot attempting to make something from India she liked. On this particular morning the soup in the red bowl was hot as fire. It tasted like it had 5 times the amount of spicy it should have! We all grinned and bore the terrible burning :) Reshma even admitted it was 'a little hot.'

Our walls are full of freshly colored pictures. Coloring has been so therapeutic...

We were so blessed to have an Indian/American family bring us some authentic Indian food for dinner tonight. We took the opportunity to invite another friend who is a grad-student at Clemson to enjoy it with us. He speaks Reshma's native tongue - it was so fun to hear her chatter away with him in Tamil. He just said, 'She talks a lot.' :)

God has been so good. His faithfulness continues day by day, hour by hour. Our days are still scattered and challenging. We have beautiful moments and incredibly hard moments. All considered we feel so honored at God's amazing gift of our children. Words really don't suffice. This whole journey has already been so long in some ways and yet still continues to just begin in many more ways. Worthwhile - it's all been so worthwhile. Week three here we come!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Names, Easy Street and Levi T.

Happy 'holidays' to you! Reshma calls any non-school day a 'holiday' and it's been fun looking at every day out of routine in that light. Considering she has only done two formal days of homeschool so far it's probably seemed like life will just be one long string of 'holidays!' 

There have been a few things we've wanted to share that haven't yet made it into other posts so we thought we'd take a little time during 'holiday' to share. 

1. Her name
You may have found yourself in our writings wondering how in the world you should pronounce R-E-S-H-M-A. That was us, too, until about six months ago when we finally decided on a pronunciation - mostly because we were referring to her name a lot since we had finally learned it. REEsh-mah is what we had been calling her but when we arrived in India and heard every Indian pronouncing it with more of a long 'a' sound instead of a long 'e' we started rethinking our pronunciation. Wanting to keep her birth name yet make it as easy for Americans to pronounce as possible, we were in a conundrum that was finally solved when Reshma's communication improved enough to give us her opinion. While she's still not so sure about the three names we've tacked onto her first, we are confident in time she will learn to appreciate each. We wanted her to forever carry and remember her story. And so, finally, we can share that she is officially-- 
Reshma /raysh-mah/- silky
Amariah /am-ah-rye-ah/- promised by God
Elaine /eh-lane/- sun ray, shining light (family middle name on the Harrell side)
Tegen /tee-gen/- the last surname she will have to carry until Mr. Husband 

2. The Latest
The past week held many more firsts for Reshma - she is taking everything in stride like she's been going to the grocery store, tromping through dense forests and eating in our school's cafeteria all her life. Her favorites so far (which all seem very therapeutic) are to sit quietly and color with Jason, play simple card games like 'Uno' or 'Go Fish' and late night hide-n-seek with the family. 

We had one particularly hard day this week. Reshma withdrew emotionally quite a bit like what was normal during our first week in India together. In response we simplified/rescheduled and spent a quiet morning at home before visiting the Indian grocery store in the afternoon for a little heart TLC. Her eyes lit up at all the products she recognized and on more than one occasion she kissed her hand to some of the favorite things she found on the shelves. It's so easy to forget how foreign everything is for her - including foods that seem so normal and tasty to us. 

We were able to find one of Reshma's Indian favorites, Maggi (essentially Indian Ramen noodles), that she'd been asking for since coming home. It was great to find that and so many more 'comfort foods' for her to stock up on - including a few other little things like the shampoo she always used and the puffed rice she ate often for breakfast. It was hard to know where to draw the line and say no because she would have brought home the whole store! Needless to say, we'll be trying lots of Indian dishes based on the bags we toted out of that grocery store! Radha Grocery was very thankful for Reshma Tegen this week!

3. Homeschooling.
Homeschooling is going well thanks to the amazing support of homeschooling friends in our area. Just last week as we were looking up expensive curriculum options, two homeschooling moms blessed us with FIVE huge bins full of books! We're still wading into the waters of this intimidating ocean but it is so comforting to find other families out there with us. Even though this is hard work, it's the best decision for our family at this point. One of our greatest concerns and biggest prayers in keeping her home, though, has been for good friendships with girls her age. In India she had rich, close friendships with about five different little girls and her having to say goodbye to them added a heavy layer to the difficulty of her leaving. But already in this past week and in the play dates arranged for the coming week we are amazed by the answers to these prayers.

4. Daddy's Girl
Watching the change in Jason has been awe inspiring. That God would allow a husband to humble himself and listen to a wife talk about dreams in the night then act on those leadings and fully embrace an almost pre-teen girl is amazing. Every time I see him wrestling or coloring or making over a little over dramatized boo-boo, I'm amazed and thankful. Already, he'd do anything for her...even let her give him a bindi! (Though he's drawn the line with shaving his beard and growing his hair which she's asked him to do multiple times.:) Good things are happening in both their hearts as she's being loved extravagantly by this man! 

5. Levi T.
We also wanted to take a minute to share about Levi. While Reshma's gotten most of the blog spotlight, Levi has been getting lots of attention on the home front. This transition has been no easy street for him. Getting an older sister, traveling halfway around the world, eating spicy food, and on and on... The boy has had lots of adjustments to make and a lot of the attention he's gotten hasn't been for the positive. But just yesterday we saw our silly, fun Levi emerging again. Let me share a little of his antics-- Yesterday he got up with me before everyone else and we spent a little time together in his room. For Christmas he got two fake fish from the grandparents as a way of preparing for possible real fish in the future (the only pet we're allowed to have in our apartment complex). Levi has LOVED those little fish - which are magnetized and appear to 'swim' around their little bowl even though they are plastic. Almost daily I see him scooping them out of the bowl toting them somewhere or cleaning out their tank. When the fish were missing yesterday I asked where they were and Levi proudly led me to his top bunk to find them 'safe and cozy with Sir Topham Hatt (from Thomas the Tank Engine)' just as Levi had left them the night before. 

"But fish can't live outside of water," I told him.

"I won't take real fish out," he said. "We'll just buy them a waterproof blanket so they can stay warm and cozy in their bowl!"

"But Levi, you can't put your hands in their water will make them sick. And by the way, the water in their bowl so dirty - have you been putting your hands in it?"

Levi adamantly began declaring he hadn't been playing in the water as Reshma came into his room and shed some light on the subject... "No fingers, but he fed them crackers yesterday." LOL

This boy makes up for the hard parenting moments with his sweet, innocent disposition! Sometimes it's all we can do not to laugh out loud. Like when he was getting disciplined for not telling the truth about eating something and lost the Indian cookie/cracker in his hand as a consequence. The only thing he had to say for his actions was, "Oh man, I should'a ate it faster..."

Oh, this boy!

We're thankful for the joy that gets mixed in with the sorrow! Parenting is a great adventure and one we wouldn't trade for anything in the world which that leads us to our final thought for the morning...

6. Good Reads
Much like becoming a new parent and scouring through What to Expect the First Year, it's been nice to have a similar book for this new parenting adventure. One that I've found to be exceptionally insightful and helpful to us is Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen. We hope this resource reference might be helpful to other adoptive families as well. We'd be interested to hear about other books Indifamilies have found helpful too!