Wednesday, October 14, 2015

a long overdue update

Wow! I can't can believe it's been 3 months since I've updated.  Life is busy. You parents who update daily or even weekly amaze me. I can't even get my brain to function before noon, and by then it's time to pick the kids back up (almost).  I'll try to be coherent and make sense. :)

this is a laugh--a laugh during prayer. it's okay, we allow it, it's biblical even "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 corinthians 3:17) 

 This photo progressed like this, with a surprise from behind attack-turned-peace sign with brother:

We now live outside Atlanta, and the kiddos loved being a part of the move. They were able to set up their new bedrooms, pick out their bed sets and show us how they wanted their furniture arranged.

School started super early down here: August 3rd!  These awesome kiddos had been in the states barely a month when they began attending school. The teachers at their school are amazing, and it happens that Lucy is in a "super class" (it's like a class and a half with 2 teachers), and in her "super class" there are two sisters who speak Mandarin! This has been so helpful for her adjustment of course, but also for her teachers, who when in a bind, have these other sweet girls who are so happy to help and translate.

Their English language acquisition has absolutely boomed! We are home a little over 3 months, and for the most part, communication is good. We only use the translation app if there is a new concept/words we are using, or if we are trying to explain something that requires more than piecing together basic words they have.

Their personalities continue to shine, and they become more confident in who they are and their identity strengthens each week.

They continue to trust us more and more, and they continue to attach and bond as sons and daughters more and more. We had a huge break through last night when they both shared some really heavy things. It was one of those occurrences where their vulnerability, trust, and sharing led us well past their bedtime without notice--when your children are pouring their hearts out and baring themselves and that level of vulnerability, you let it flow as long as it needs to.

The dude is enrolled in Taekwondo classes and the lovely does an extra-curricular art class after school each week.

They each love to take the dogs for walks with me, and the dude loves putting them up in their crates each night (which is quiet the comical site since each dog is bigger than he is!).

It seems as if we have settled into our little family routine, and it couldn't be sweeter.

We eagerly await the coming holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finishing out birthdays (we just celebrated the dude's at Chuck E Cheese).

And two pictures that pretty perfectly capture our family.  :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

the dude

i'm going to be super honest: he hated me the first 4-5 days in china, as in:
*he would pull away from me and choose to walk in front of a moving car rather than walk next to me
*he would be thirsty and parched instead of just taking the bottle of water or soda from my hand
*he would rather be bored than take his kindle fire from me when i was offering it
it happens. pick up trips aren't always filled with unicorns sliding down rainbows into gumdrop seas. but it gets better!

one day in guangzhou (the final leg of the journey) i was walking through one of the rooms in our hotel suite (and he had hidden himself on the other side of the door) and he jumped into my arms. just like that. and ever since then, he's been my cuddle bug, my right-hand man. my dude.

most of the pictures we had of him he seemed somber and quiet. ha!
even our main guide in guangzhou said "wow, he was so quiet when we met him a few months ago". ahhhhh, we still laugh about that....

he is the most energetic, wild, and personable dude.
gosh, this kid, y'all, he really does have so much personality.  i just wish all you you could meet and enjoy it with us!

he loves electronica music--the kids has some mad dancing skills. i set the t.v. to my pandora "moby" station, and he will dance his little heart out.

and his high and roundhouse kicks--chuck norris would be jealous of them.

here is a photo documentary of his personality:

the dude loves technology too. 

he's a blessing to us. he really is. 
i know others are well intentioned when they tell us we are a blessing to the kids, but honestly, we are the blessed ones. 
my heart and soul are full--and house loud now :) 

Monday, July 20, 2015

the sweet girl

the moment we met was quiet honestly, awkward, as meeting your ("older") child for the first time throughout the process of adoption is for most i would assume. she smiled sweetly in the doorway--eyes hidden behind her novelty sunglasses. she wore a fancy dress with a ribbon tie and sheer overlay, a floral pattern underneath. her hair pulled into a the familiar ponytail we have seen in all her pictures. 

she greeted us with a smile and gently came into our embrace. she is 85% gentle and silly spirit and 15% put brother in his place serious.  

we feel she's picked up an impressive amount of receptive english language--that or she infers what we are trying to tell her and brother and she then, with great "confidence and conviction" tells him in mandarin. 

the hotel we stayed at while in hefei had a nice heated indoor pool and hot tub.  the little dude was weary of the pool but LOVED the hot tub. xinhua was quiet the opposite--she didn't care for the hot tub at all, but loved the pool. she even held onto her daddy's back and let him walk her around the pool. this seemed like the most frightening thing in the world to the dude, so he hung on the sidelines. 

the second night together, we split the kiddos and xinhua and i stayed in one room and the dude and daddy stayed in the other (momma HAD to sleep). (the first night was full of excited, noisy, and active chaos as described in the previous post).
a storm came through--lightening and thunder, bangs and crashes, downpours and waterfall like rain washing over our hotel room window. sweet girl became afraid and got up to turn on the light. after she got back in bed she whimpered "momma" and held my hand and feel back asleep. 

the next day was uneventful aside from walking around the small shopping area near our hotel. xinhua was more quiet this day and we allowed her to be and to have her space--we were just happy to be in the same room as her while she played on her kindle. that night as we laid in bed my sweet girl started to cry. she sat straight up and began wailing. i thought at first she had an earache from swimming in the pool for 3 days, as she had grabbed her ear and cried and screamed. we walked next door and got baba (daddy) and the dude to come back over and called our in-province guide to ask her to talk to xinhua and find out what was upsetting her. sweet girl told her that she missed her foster mother; so we helped her call her. the foster mother reassured her she was loved madly by both herself and me, and we relayed through our guide that xinhua could call and write her foster mother whenever she needed. 
to me, it's not a competition for love. i cannot deny the incredible role her foster mother played in her life for 8 years. i cannot and will not demand she forget the bond and trust she had with this woman and exchange it for instant and unwavering allegiance to me. that will come with time. trust, love, and belonging comes with time and cannot be forced, or faked. 

since that night she's had her quiet moments (i'd be more worried if she didn't) and her moments of frustration with little brother (but honestly, he's a feisty dude), but honestly, she's been more than resilient. i believe she is strong because she has to be:
when we had returned to the states, we were to move a week later, so life was still not going to "settle". two days before the moving company was to arrive, the hubs had to drive down to atlanta to close on our new house--the kiddos and i stayed "home".  we went to the pool, had junk food, and lots of fun. the next day, i had to drive down to atlanta due to a snafu with the schedule for our power, water, cable, internet, everything! to be turned on. (this put me driving down to atlanta and back up on the same day, the day before we moved!). the hubs stayed "home" with the kiddos.  i ended up not having a quick turn around trip, and on my way back the hubs called and said luke had been upset for a while and wanted to know when i was going to be home. oh, trust me, i had wanted to be home HOURS ago! i asked about sweet lucy, and he said she was doing great and even trying to calm him down. 

when i finally arrived back, they were in bed, so i went up stairs to kiss them goodnight and show them i was indeed back home. luke was good and gave me a big hug and kiss. lucy, who had been great all day, and even helping "baba" (daddy) with luke, immediately said "mama", and the tears came. she cupped her hands in front of her face and sobbed as she hugged me. i don't have to state the obvious, but i will: my heart sank. my sweet girl, strong for everyone, until she didn't have to be.

she was known as the "helper" in her orphanage. her nanny/foster mother's right hand girlie. she is here too. she folds laundry with me, better than i do, she helps wash dishes, she helps serve food, she-helps. she has such a servant heart. 

we are homeschooling as much as we can for now--lots of ground to cover. she has made incredible strides, and continues to impress us with her desire to learn. on her own, one day last week, she brought us a piece of paper where she had written out the englsih alphabet in upper AND lower case letters. she's become very fond of math lately, and every little milestone is a great celebration. no progress is too slight to escape notice and jubilee. 

we received the greatest treasure ANY adoptive parent could when we met them in china---HUNDREDS of photos of her (and also of her brother, but his post is next...) from her time with her orphanage/foster group.  y'all, Half the Sky really is all about the children. i cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of joy that i have hundreds of pictures of her from her young toddler years to current. most families have only pictures that came with updates--we have developmental milestone, memories, activities, etc. recorded--in photos! 

until i can scan some of those and share them, here's a few of our sweet lucy-girl: 

feeding koi :)

meeting birdie for the first time! :)

she loves gnarls barkley too (the dog, hasn't heard the rapper yet!)

childhood complete: merry-go-round! 

call her dr. doo-lucy! 

everyone loves stello!

first time on a trampoline!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

and now there are 4

we landed in beijing late around mid day on friday the 12th and spent the next day and a half doing what you do in beijing: touring the forbidden city, tianamen square (which is apparently a big deal aside from it being where the young man stopped the tank), and the great wall. it our last weekend together sans our children and was spent with us exhausted, hot (but at least not rainy!), and ready to get this show on the road!

the incline/toboggan down)

walking the Great Wall (you would be disgustingly surprised how many people have vandalized it and written their names on the stones/bricks :( ) 

sunday we flew into hefei (in anhui province) and TRIED to sleep before meeting our children on monday.

you have no idea how you are going to feel, how you will react to each other: will you cry (tears of happiness), will they cry (tears of fear), will you hug them, will they let you hug them? will they pull away from you, will they gladly accept the affection they've spent their lives without...
so many questions

we were in hefei with another family from our agency (they are adopting two young girls), and we all met downstairs in our hotel lobby to ride to the civil affairs office (this is where you meet your children). they had adopted several times before and were a great wealth of experience and insight into what to practically prepare for.

the civil affairs office/building is nondescript and very unceremonious for what you consider one of the biggest events of your family's life.  sterile tile floors and white walls, offices that perform civil duties such as marriage liscences, fee payments, etc. and then the room for adoptions. you are seated at a long table with other families and sort out piles of paperwork. then--with no announcement, ceremony, or even interruption, you look up (i did out of nervousness and happenstance) and saw in the doorway, the profile of my sweet and silly girl, and beside her--our goofy and larger than life boy. that was how we met--no cloud parting moment, no soft whipser introduction...they were brought to the office, just like us: in a van and walked up to the room. except they had backpacks full of candy and snacks, that was a total win for them.

first 30 seconds of meeting, loads of awkward. nothing prepares anyone involved for this. 

i was frantically trying to pull up pictures on the are a universal language

seeing their doggies and cats, grandparents, and new home

she brought the first panda we sent her in a care package  :) 

trying on daddy's hat and sunglasses. he found them very silly! 

i showed them pictures of the family on our iPad: nana, aunt sherri and the cousins (her children), momo (ryan's mom), and poppie (ryan's dad), and of course the fur siblings. ryan left the room a short time later to pay the civil affairs fees, orphanage donation, and notary fees (it's best to do that to avoid the appearance that you are "buying" them as a commodity.). the orphanage donation pays nannies salaries, medical bills for the children, upkeep of buildings and supplies.

and just like that, they were ours. they were our children. in the flesh, with us.

walking out of the building, our xinhua (lucy) immediately reached out for baba's hand (baba is chinese for daddy) and i held jiacheng's (luke). that evening she called me mama. this seems exciting and sweet and wonderful, and it is, it shows she was somewhat prepared. despite her seeming prepared, we continue to let her have some control in her comfort level--we want to limit false sense of comfort.

i bathed her that night--washed her back, her shoulders, her hair, and i gently showed her how to wash her other parts.  afterward i helped her out of the shower to dry off and dry her hair. she smiled the whole time and had learned "thank you" at this point. such a sweet and "silly" thing, a child--your child, thanking you for helping them bathe. oh the precious one.

there was a snafu with our rooms booked, so we ended up with two adjoining rooms at this hotel. xinhua (lucy), jiacheng (luke), and i stayed in one room and the hubs stayed in the other. that was the second night in 4 days i went without sleep (the first night i went without sleep was our last night in the states (of course!). they laughed and jabbered, they jumped and rolled on the bed, they enjoyed their freedom.

the next day we had to go back to the civil affairs office to finalize the adoption. because xinhua is over 10, she had to sign documents stating she wanted to be adopted. luke is only 8 so they used a paint pad to color his hand red and have him put a hand-stamp down. and that was it: how it becomes "official".

we are now a family of 4. it still doesn't feel real.

i still don't feel like the mother of 2 children. (except for i do--like in the hefei airport when two older women were being rude to my sweet girl (i didn't understand a word they were saying except for mama and baba to her and i saw her frustration growing...). i walked over to them, gave them the evil eye and guided her back to us. a family traveling with us brought their oldest adopted daughter who could translate for us and told xinhua momma didn't want her talking to strangers because sometimes strangers are rude and will hurt her feelings. and then momma would have to end up in a chinese jail (except we didn't really relay that last part...)).

xinhua began asking about when we leave for america so we made this handy-dandy countdown sheet :)

upcoming posts:
all about xinhua (lucy)
all about jiacheng (luke)
the final days in guangzhou and heading home

we have prayed for over a year for these days, and we have had worship music playing in their rooms non-stop since we began the process to bring them home. we believe where His praise is, so His Spirit will too be, and we want nothing more and nothing other than for His presence to be where they are. we can commit them to Him, we can commit our house to Him, but above all, we must remain committed to Him in all we do: in front them, behind closed doors, and everywhere we go. His service begins with us, and the journey is just now beginning. challenges await, trails will come, frustrations will manifest, and there will be times everyone questions if they are strong enough. we aren't. nobody is. but we can persevere and come out stronger in all we are and do. eyes upward and hearts open and moldable. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

time is on my side

i used to love that song, but then that creepy movie with denzel washington came out, and this song played throughout, every time i hear this song i see that little cat prancing off through the woods at the end.  "time is on my side, yes it is"...:demon cat jaunts off:

this post isn't about that movie though. it's about time. and it's about His plans. and me pretending i'm stronger than i am.

when we started this process, we *knew* we'd for sure be home before lucy-girl's 11th birthday in January...and then we found out about our awesome luke-dude and changed gears so we could bring them home together. you can read about that here if you are new.

there have been several bumps along the road, a "few" melt-downs, and thus, A LOT of snuggling with this fathead:

we are finally a mere day, two days away from luke's TA. (we hope...)
--we had been under the impression, because of the information relayed to us, that we would likely be able to have family day on may 18th....and then that didn't happen. it really, really, really looks like we will have family day on june 15th, but then again, it could be june 22 since nothing in our timeline has actually worked out like it "was supposed to".

in seasons of despair, there are really two choices for me (and all believers): draw nearer to God and listen and rest while you grow in your trust of Him; or question, becoming bitter, and distant in the closeness you once dwelt in.

He is not the one who moves away from us, He is not the one who drops His arms to His side, He is not the one who changes his desire to speak to us.
--We are the ones who turn our backs and walk off on our own, we are the ones who cross our arms in front of our chest, we are the ones who decide what it is we will hear that will "pull us out of it".

in reflection, He proves that each "delay" has been only for our blessing:

* when our home study wasn't sent for approval to our agency, and thus to the government for our i800A approval, for  WELL over a month, that delayed us at least 6 weeks--but it was that 6 week delay which gave us that extra period of time for our agency to be in China and find out about our little awesome luke-dude and allow us to add him on and bring them home at the same time

* it was that same delay, that then turned into a 4 month+ delay to bring lucy home that allowed us to be gifted with a completely unexpected financial grant

* we also hit another delay at the beginning of the process to add luke on when we were told no fee was due for our supplement 3 on our i800A approval (which approved us to adopt two), and turns out, there was a fee due--this delayed us 3+weeks (to receive the RFE (missing fee notice)) and then mail in a check and have it wait 10 days to clear (government policy) (after it had already sat for 10+days the first time)--but this delay allowed us to be at just the right point to receive yet another unexpected last minute grant we were submitted for.

* all these delays put my leaving date later for my job at the time, which allowed me to receive a small raise for my last bit of time there

these delays have forced me to cry out, reach out, step out of my comfort zone and in turn, develop some incredibly blessed friendships with other mommas walking this same path.

this extra time has also given me time to sit in His presence, and painful as it is, allow Him to prune my heart. in the stress of this process, you often neglect your spiritual health, letting your guard down and allowing thorns to grow up in your heart--surrounding the good things He has planted.

please join us in prayer, that luke's TA would come soon (we've had lucy-girl's for a while) (and that plane tickets don't skyrocket even more--summer is an expensive time to travel to China!)

*i can't even imagine what it will be like when our children are finally home!!!--i'm so used to this fathead being my only sight (he's a total free-loader, all he does is lay around!), oh, the joy to finally be able to look up and see them too!