6 months

We have had over half a year with our sweet girl! She is a joy! She loves to be helpful and cries when it is someone else’s turn to set the table. She adores her siblings and is loving having them home for the summer. She has been fearless in trying lots of new things this summer from camp, the cabin, road trips, fishing, boat rides, beaches, back-yard pools, cross-town bike rides…she embraces it all! We are loving all the new memories made and seeing her joy in her new (forever) life.
   
    
 

2 months

We have had two months with our girl and it has been incredible. Everyday we see more and more of her little personality. She fits so well with our family and we are forever grateful! We love her!

Some insights into our girl:

  • She is girly! She loves dresses, shoes, having her hair done, purses, finger nails painted, etc. Here she is twirling in one of her favorite dresses.DSC_0101
  • She dressed herself on this day and could not have been more proud of her outfit! IMG_0986
  • She is a picky eater! We have found a few staple foods she likes, but we have been largely unsuccessful at getting her to eat a single vegetable. In fact, as soon as she sees vegetables being brought to the table she starts saying, “No thank you, Mama!”
  • She has learned several English words and has started saying 3-5 word sentences. We also have had success using some sign language. For the most part we are able to communicate using the two without any difficulties. She has dropped all Mandarin except the occasional counting to five.
  • She has a good sense of humor which is necessary to survive in our family. She giggles at the jokes of brother and dad and occasionally tells her own little jokes.
  • She adores her big Sister and plays well with big brother. She misses them when they go to school and gets so excited when she knows it is getting close to the time for them to come home. She sits at the window and watches until she sees them. IMG_1229
  • She loves to play outside! Although only moderately enjoyed the snow.IMG_0649
  • My three monkeys :) IMG_1197IMG_1138
  • She hates being messy! She asks for a napkin at every single meal. We have been working a lot on sensory play. Some of it she likes, the messy stuff she hates. IMG_0635This is her worried look.IMG_1081

 

  • She loves books! We spend hours each day reading books.IMG_0954
  • She is crazy flexible! She loves to do flips, time to get that girl in gymnastics! *I love when she does the wrinkled nose smile! My favorite !IMG_0541
  • Loves tea parties with her sister! IMG_0411
  • And so much more!
  • We could not be happier! DSC_0012

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China recap: part 3 Guangzhou

We were thrilled to get to Guangzhou and be in the final stretch of our trip. Here we had to do a medical appointment, consulate appointment, and get her visa. The weather was warmer and we could also do a lot of outside activities.

First up was the medical stuff. No fun. Lots of waiting, being examined/measured, and of course, blood draws. Here we are waiting.

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Outside the offices we found this machine. We joked that it was placed there out of necessity to survive these types of appointments.

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After the medical exam we had time to explore the parks by our hotel and nearby shops.

She loved playing outside!

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This was the park within our hotel.

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Let the Americanization begin!IMG_0248.JPGThese are the famous stairs of our hotel. Our agency takes pictures of each team of families on these steps. Finally it was our turn!

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We had a lot of free time and explored some cultural sites, Sharmian Island, and a Safari Park. DSC_0107

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The Safari park was a lot of fun! She loved seeing the animals. We discovered the giraffe was her favorite!

IMG_0305.JPGIMG_0311.JPGDSC_0297DSC_0365We enjoyed one last authentic Chinese meal with our travel friends. We really liked the food in China! Can you tell we are a little tired? And very much ready to be home.

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We picked up her visa on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 28th and immediately got in a van and headed to Hong Kong. It was around a 4 hour van ride and I’m not sure exactly why, but it made me extremely carsick. Worse than the mountain roads in Honduras! It was touch and go, but finally we made it. We checked in for a quick overnight and hopped on the plane the next morning.

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She was a fairly good traveler and minus a little crying, did fantastic!

We were all too thrilled to land in America. U.S. citizen! Woohoo!

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And we were even more thrilled when we finally made it home!

Our whole family. Together at last. Together forever.

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China Recap: Part Two, Xi’an

Sunday, January 18th. It was a big day.

We left our hotel in Beijing in the morning. A guide took us to the airport and helped us get our luggage checked in (phew our bags were just under the weight limit!) and print our tickets. As we were waiting she told us, “I know your daughter! I went with a team to her orphanage last year. I have held her. She is really cute!” 

 The flight to Xi’an was relatively smooth and we landed in the afternoon.

Then we had to drive an hour to our hotel. We hit some traffic and soon learned we would have about 20 minutes to drop our bags, get everything ready to go to the government building where we would get our daughter. It was a rushed time!

Then we stopped at the bank to exchange our crisp, unmarked dollar bills into Chinese currency to pay for the necessary legal documents (passport photo, notary, etc.). The bank was incredibly slow and what should have been a 10 minute procedure ended up taking an hour. At this point we new our girl was at the government building waiting for us and our patience was wearing thin.

We finally got to the government building around 3:30 pm. Eek! We are here!

DSC_0235Is this really happening? I honestly wasn’t sure. We had faced so many obstacles, even walking into the building I wasn’t sure if this was really going to happen.

I took a deep breath and walked in. There she was! She looked EXACTLY like all of the pictures we had received of her. She was all bundled up (like we expected) in so many layers!

She came right to me and when I picked her up she said, “Mama!” and gave me a big kiss. I’m sure the nanny had told her to do this, but it was still really sweet! She did the same to James and it was a perfectly wonderful moment of meeting our girl.

DSC_0238We gave her a sucker, asked the nanny/director of her orphanage a few questions, and signed some forms. Everything was going really well.

DSC_0258The director and nanny hugged and kissed her goodbye. Whispering words unknown to us. She remained fine during the goodbyes, but as soon as they left the room the crying, screaming, yelling for the nanny started. And that is where our pictures from the day ended.

There were a lot of tears.

At that point no candy, toy, media enticement would help.

She grieved in full force and it broke our hearts. It was hard to see her in pain and not be able to comfort her. Even more so, knowing this pain will not be quickly erased with love and care. It is an injustice.

 The next day we had to go back to the government building to sign more papers and meet with the director of her orphanage one more time. It was very hard on her, but we got through it. Someone really should have told us about a footprint being needed so we wouldn’t have dressed her in tights!

DSC_0278-001Then we went back to the hotel to settle in and spend some time connecting with our girl. James won her over with oreos and a marker tower.

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Later in the week we visited the Terracotta Soldier Museum. We had watched a documentary before we left so we had some background knowledge. Basically, China’s first emperor, the man responsible for ‘uniting’ China ordered that all these soldiers be made so that they could be burred with him when he died. There were over 7,000 of them buried by his tomb and they were only recently discovered in the 1970′s.

It just made me sad to think of this man’s fear of death being so intense that he would want to take a clay army with him. Also, to think of the many, many slaves that were forced to make them and then were most likely killed (so they wouldn’t give up the burial/soldier secrets). Also, the guy was so afraid of death that he ingested mercury believing it would prolong his life and that it was the fountain of youth. I am sure you can guess how that ended. His tomb has never been opened because everyone knew it was filled with mercury and wouldn’t risk it.

Anyway. We enjoyed exploring the museum.

DSC_0327DSC_0331DSC_0378DSC_0381The other days we were in Xi’an we visited their city wall, explored the city via the subway, and met up with some American Friends at the Muslim quarter.

 

 

Then it was time to leave her home province. She was ecstatic to see her suitcase packed, but the sadness soon settled in when she realized she had no idea where we were going. 

We loved xi’an and hope to return someday as a family to visit!

China Recap: Part One

Our first days in China were spent in Beijing sightseeing. We called this part of our trip our ’10 year anniversary getaway’. No kids! So Romantic :)

The first day we got to see the WALL. It is big, in case you haven’t heard. The steps are also crazy uneven and steep, making for quite the climb.

DSC_0057What goes up, must also come down!

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Later we visited the Olympic park. James was feeling the Olympic spirit and had to stretch before his lap with the torch.

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The next day we visited the Forbidden City. We underestimated the size of the Forbidden City. It is very large; hence a city! It is beautiful and you really can’t capture it in photos. So much history!

Here we are in Tiananmen Square, with the Forbidden City in the background.

DSC_0113And James, being James.

DSC_0120Near the back of the Forbidden City there are two trees that have grown together to become one, just like our lives, slowly over time, twisting and tangling to be this one beautiful life.

DSC_0191Later we visited the Summer Palace. It looked very similar to the Forbidden City. The funny thing was on the way there, one of the families that home school their children were prepping them on the history. The mom said, ‘The Summer palace was built by the Russians.’ Uhm, what?! Turns out she was teaching her kids about a different Summer Palace. We all got a good laugh!

We ate a lot of good Chinese food, mastered chop sticks, had an official tea ceremony, were encouraged pressured to purchase jade/pearl/silk/tea, adjusted to the time change, and tried to have fun in Beijing all the while knowing that soon our lives would change forever.

 

 

 

We are home!

We are home and slowly settling into our new normal. I have a lot more I would love to share, but jet lag and sleep deprivation are getting the best of me. Pray for all of us to sleep in these coming days!

We are in love with our girl and are so thankful for all your prayers and support.
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First days

We have our girl! We flew to the capital city of her province on Sunday, arriving at the hotel just in time to drop our bags and head to the government building. As soon as we walked in the room, we saw her. She looked exactly like the pictures we have seen! She came to me right away and said, “Mama!” I picked her up and she gave me a big kiss on the cheek! This was very unexpected, but clearly the nanny had trained her to do this. She then went to James and said, “Dada!” and gave him a kiss. The nanny handed her our family picture we had sent in November. She pointed to each of us and said our names with a big smile. Things were going well and she was very happy. It was good we got to see this side of her before the grief started.

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The nanny and her orphanage director gave us some gifts and said their goodbyes. As soon as they walked out of sight our poor little girl starting screaming. We had to get her picture taken for the documents and she is red-faced with tears streaming down her cheeks. She screamed all the way back to the hotel and then all night at the hotel until she finally cried herself to sleep. We just held and rocked her through it all. She loves to cuddle and even in her crying she was very snuggly.

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The next morning she woke up crying, but quickly quieted down. She refused to eat or drink anything and was just expression-less. Unfortunately we had to head back to the government building and meet with her director again to sign the official documents, finalizing the adoption. She did not cry and was good through the appointment, but would not respond to the director or his questions/comments. He said goodbye for the last time and then she started to cry again. It is hard to see a child go through so much grief. She has had a rough start to life and it seems so unfair! I cannot image how frightened she was, losing all she has ever known and heading off with two complete strangers that sound/look/smell so different.

Finalization

She fell asleep on the way back to the hotel and woke up once we were back in our room. Then the bonding could really start! We played with toys and discovered she loves coloring. She started to smile and engage with us. She also likes to be neat. She picks up after herself with every toy she takes out. She cleans up any spill she sees, runs to get a napkin to wipe her nose, and throws away trash. She must have been the little momma of her class!

 

We never managed to get her down for a full, real nap so around dinner time she really crashed! We quick ran to KFC to eat (although we got there and were told they were out of chicken! How is KFC out of chicken?!). Then it was back to the room where she again cried herself to sleep.

Today she woke up smiley and eager to get down to breakfast at the hotel buffet. We have learned that her favorite foods are yogurt and noodles. She does not like ketchup or the apple sauce pouches, guess I shouldn’t have packed so many! She is a three year old and refuses to drink out of the sippy/straw cups I brought. Only real cups for my big girl! She is totally potty trained, which I did not expect. We spent a lot of time playing in the hotel room. We got some giggles and lots of smiles out of her. She has started to speak again and has learned the words ‘thank you, water, hello, bye, mama, dada.’ She says a lot more, but we don’t know the language we don’t know what she is saying. It is still good to hear her voice (it was really horse from all the screaming on Sunday).

Each day gets better and better! We can’t wait to get her home to her brother and sister. She loves the other kids we spend time with and I know she will enjoy her siblings. Please pray for our health and energy. She has been getting up at 4am and we are all tired! Our arms and backs are sore as we are not used to carrying a toddler for hours on end! Tomorrow we get her Chinese passport and then we head to a different province to get the USA visa stuff finished.

2014 Recap: what a year it has been!

Last December at this time we were driving home from Virginia and maximizing the car time to goal plan for the coming year. We had hopes, dreams, and items to check-off our ‘to do’ list. We were ready and excited about the coming year!

I’m so thankful we didn’t know then what we were driving back to. We got home and almost immediately faced cancer (again). Suddenly our hopes and goals went out the window and each day felt like the best we could do was just get through it. And get through it we did, all by God’s grace.

Spring rolled around, the snow melted, the hair slowly grew back and we got the good news of ‘all clear’! After having had to postpone all adoption plans we were eager to get back to it and get all the updated approvals we needed. Summer came and it looked like we would be able to bring our boy home in September. We started hoping and dreaming and prepping for another son. Little did we know that by August we would lose our referral and be back to square one. Telling our kids the sad news was miserable. Their tears and ‘why’s’ echoed what we felt in our hearts, too. Why had we gone through so much and come so far to get stopped once again? Only God knows and again, it felt like the best we could do was just get through one day at a time.

Leaves fell and autumn emerged, both kids were in school full-time. My life did not look at all how I had pictured it back when we plotted out 2014 goals. So now what? We decided it would be best for me to get another job and try to embrace the season of life God had given us. Adoption was put on the shelf indefinitely as our agency made it clear that our odds were not good.

Back at the end of 2013 I had written in my journal that I was praying God would be glorified in our new year of 2014. What I meant was that I was hoping our adoption would speed through in record time and amazing ease, all to God’s credit. I certainly did not picture God receiving glory through our struggles! Glory came through victories!

Right? Right?!

Well, God is good and he was glorified in our 2014, struggles and all. He carried us through a really scary time of cancer. He strengthened our marriage as we sat side by side at chemo. He grew the character and faith in our children as they watched sickness and then health restored. He surrounded us with community, both old and new, that supported us, loved us, and prayed us through to clear scans.

God is good when we lost our referral and through tear-stained cheeks he gave us a sense of HIS peace. We had confidence that if God wanted that boy to join our family, then he would have made a way. For whatever reason that way was not made and God was glorified as we learned to trust him more. God was glorified when we broke the news to family and friends and they responded with love and not anger. God was glorified when our kids decided to still earnestly pray for sweet boy, knowing he would now not be their brother, but trusting God would give him a family to love.

God was glorified most this past year when through all our struggles we learned to trust him more, no matter the circumstances. I would like to hope 2015 would be an easier year in comparison. I am all too eager to say goodbye to 2014!! But, I also know that no matter what is in store for us this coming year, we will be okay because God is still God and his love endures forever.

You know what? I bet you had a crazy year, too. Maybe you faced struggles, transitions, health issues, loss, and unmet expectations. Maybe you are headed into a year of difficult circumstances and are wondering how you will make it through. I don’t have any grand words of wisdom, but I can say with confidence that God’s grace is sufficient and his love is enough to get you through each and every one of those days. He is most glorified in our lives not when when everything is picture perfect, but when we truly trust him in all things.

My hopes and dreams for 2015 are different than last year. My prayer is simply that I would trust God more and my hope is to love others with the lavish love God has given. (I can’t wait to love a certain little girl that currently lives half a world away!)

My prayer for you is that no matter how crazy and messy your year was or will be, that you would experience the never-stopping, never-giving-up, always and forever love of Jesus. His love that would come to this messy earth to live among us and offer the greatest sacrifice to give us a HOPE.

One of the best moments of this past year happened on a muddy river bank, serving as a visual reminder that it doesn’t matter the mess we are standing in ~ God is glorified.

MissE made the decision to be baptized, professing her faith in Jesus as her Savior.

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Happy New Year! May you experience God’s love and faithfulness in 2015.

Prayer Request

We have a prayer request. We are waiting on the country to issue our Travel Approval, the last thing needed before we know our travel dates and can book tickets. Unfortunately the country’s computer system has been down for a week and they will be closed from Dec 27 – Jan  5. Will you please pray with us that somehow our travel approval can be issued before they close. It is a small window of time, but we know our God is able.

I am praying we get it before Christmas! It would make the perfect gift

Thanks so much!! What a journey this has been.

Thank you to all who have donated or mentioned I could have/borrow hand-me-downs. I updated our list of needs based on what has been offered and what we still need.

  • size 2t-3t clothes
  • pajamas
  • swimsuit
  • winter coat
  • underwear
  • socks, etc.
  • size 6 toddler shoes
  • bibs
  • baby carrier/sling (Ergo?)
  • sippy cups, snack cups
  • toddler snacks (apple sauce pouches, goldfish, etc.)
  • candy (aka bribes for appointments and long plane rides)
  • small toys/books to take with us for the plane
  • toddler backpack
  • Target registry of other items needed