cherished and dearly loved daughter

I love this picture from my daughter’s surgery today.  I’ve been staring at it since we put the kids to bed.  When I see it, I see a simple picture of her sleeping to recover from anesthesia, but there’s also so much more.  That pink blanket, tucked securely around her, has been to China and back.  I vividly remember standing in the store agonizing over what to send in the care package, and finally choosing this blanket. We have pictures of it on her crib in China, and then we got it back when we met her.  Her Chinese name is written on the tag.  It isn’t her consistent favorite at home, but it was the first thing that she allowed to bring her comfort after surgery today.  Those sweet casts so clearly show the incredible amount of love that the medical professionals at Scottish Rite Hospital put into caring for the children there.  That someone would take the time to cut out a heart for not only my daughter’s cast, but also her doll’s, moves me to tears.  I cannot communicate how much Scottish Rite means to us.  The beautiful shade of her skin against the white sheets takes my breath away.  Her complexion hints at the story of her birth family’s journey across Asia, a story we will likely never fully know.  The Beanie Boo, her favorite “kitty cat” stuffed animal, makes me smile, because in some ways she’s already just an American kid.  The overall picture shows her as exactly what she is – someone’s cherished and dearly loved daughter.

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mothers’ day

It’s such a hard day for so many women, a hassle for others, and a disappointment for some.  For me, this year, it was all about a petite, dark-haired woman who lives thousands of miles away. I will never meet her. I will never know why she did not raise the daughter that we share. I will never stop wondering about her thoughts, her motives, her dreams, her prayers. I can’t say something sentimental about how I know she’s wondering if that baby with the perfect lips and sweet, round face is happily growing up with another mother, because I can’t know that, and we’re trying to be honest about the few facts we have. We never want our daughter to feel like we lied to her. But, we do know that someone carried her for 9 or so months, felt her kicks, and gave birth to her. We do know our precious one wakes up crying for people we have never met.  Does her first mother grieve at night, too?  We do know that she is fearful of being left behind every time we so much as get out of the car.  What were her first mother’s fears? We do know that she loves to look at books, is interested in animals, and thinks tangerines are the most delicious thing in the world. Maybe her first mother likes some of those things, as well? I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know. It physically hurts to think about telling my spunky, tenacious little girl, bit by bit, how much we don’t know.  Her heart will be broken, and this mother’s love will not be enough to make it okay.

One week ago, we honored the several other women who have loved and mothered our daughter.  I don’t know if they are thinking of us, but I do know we will never stop thinking of them.

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care package update!

Little Miss Fu Mei’s care package was finally delivered to her!  It had a slight detour because of the fact that she was moved a while back from her orphanage to foster care – which is great news!  She’s pretty much in the most wonderful place she could possibly be, in our opinion.  She’s with foster parents who seem to care about her, and frequently receiving therapy and structured play at the foster center.  We’ve earnestly prayed for two years that our daughter would be well cared for while we couldn’t be the ones caring for her, and God has been faithful and answered those prayers better than we could have ever asked for.

The only downside to this wonderful news is that her grieving process will most likely be intense.  It seems to us from the little bit of information that we have that she is close with her foster family, and her innocent heart will likely be broken to leave them.  Will you please pray that God will somehow prepare and protect her heart and mind throughout this process?  And that her foster family will prepare her as well as they can, by talking about it, showing her our pictures, and telling her who we are and that we love her?  Thank you!  My heart aches for what she’s about to go through.

Now for the fun stuff – we learned that she is still on a bottle and formula (which is common for a Chinese toddler), and that she loves rice, apples, and oranges.  She also loves dolls and toys that play music.  We didn’t get any additional information about her limb differences, but we aren’t too worried about that right now – we’ll take it a day at a time and see what treatments she needs when we get home and settled.  She has gained 5 pounds since her birthday, and seems to be healthy!  Ann at Red Thread told us that if we don’t receive pictures now, the director of that center always takes lots of pictures of the children for their adoptive families, and we’ll receive them when we go to get her.  Having pictures of her life in China will be such a priceless gift.

I’ve randomly started tearing up a few times in the last couple of days because I’m so blown away by God’s goodness and provision for our sweet Fu Mei.

all I want for Christmas is you…

An Fu Mei 10.10.14 pic 3Our Christmas was beautiful, slow-paced, and sweet.  We read the scriptures, sang the hymns, and thanked Jesus for His precious gift.  We enjoyed time together and the kids were [mostly] well-behaved and thankful for their gifts.  My husband and I spent some special time together on Christmas night and exchanged just stocking stuffers this year – the little things he got for me made me feel so loved and cherished.  It was perfect…

…except for the hole in my heart that belongs to a little girl who is 8,097 miles away.  Her stocking was hung by the chimney with care, she got a few little gifts, and we had Chinese food on Christmas Eve in her honor.  If I could whisper something in her ear right now, I’d tell her that Jesus came for her and her friends, too, and that we’re coming to get her as soon as we can.

you might be adopting internationally…

I think, all the time, hearing Jeff Foxworthy’s voice in my head, “you might be adopting internationally,” when I do something crazy that I know other people in the process have probably done.  Here are a few from this week:

-If you hope you’ll be awaked at 2 am by a shipping update text, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you start crying (hard) at Target when you finally find the perfect toddler mittens, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand at the UPS store, desperately trying to find the right words to make them understand that these are THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS THEY HAVE EVER SHIPPED, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you hand sew a stocking for someone 8,000 miles away who you’ve never met, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you look at your spouse and say, “This paperwork is literally insane.  No one could possibly do this.  I cannot do this.” but somehow stay up two more hours to finish it, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand in the baby toy aisle for thirty minutes, texting your friend about qualifications for the perfect toy to help a toddler start catching up on two years’ worth of deficient sensory experiences and motor skill development (that also happens to be small, lightweight, and easy to pack), you might be adopting internationally.

What have you done this week that could be added to the list?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done these things!

so big

All of my kids are in the middle of growth spurts.  They are eating and sleeping more than usual.  Today, a sweet friend gave us these shirts they had bought for us in China, to celebrate us getting our LOA/RA/LSC.  The kids LOVE them, and so do I. DSC_0137My mama heart is clinging to my littler two’s littleness lately – my younger son starts Kinder next year, and my daughter turns 3 soon.  Neither of them is teeny tiny anymore!  They’ve had such a sweet three years home alone together, and they’re the best of friends.  Soon, we’ll be bringing home Fu Mei, and soon after that, he’ll start school.  I’m both eager and anxious to see how the relationship dynamics will all shift. DSC_1813

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

fearfully & wonderfully made

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We still can’t share details about our daughter’s special need, but I’ll tell you that it falls under the category of “limb differences.”  She will probably have a few surgeries after she’s home with us, but she will always have a visible disability.  The medical professionals we have spoken with assure us that she will be able to adapt and do anything that she wants to do in her life.  Honestly, we’re less worried about any possible physical limitations than we are about her attachment and emotional development.  Those will be the primary focus upon returning home, and will keep us all very busy for a while.

But, twice since receiving her referral, I have witnessed children saying hurtful things about other children with visible disabilities.  Both times, I wanted to cry – both for the child it happened to, and for my own sweet one in China.  I worry about adults asking inappropriate questions and making inappropriate statements, and I worry about children being mean.  Of course, we expect inquisitive comments, and we especially know that young children are curious and don’t intend to be hurtful – that is really not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about when they’re old enough to be deliberately mean.  I’m hoping we’ll still be at our sweet charter school that has such a family-feel, and where her older brothers and sister will be close by to defend her, if needed.  I’ve also heard from other families with kids with limb differences that the child’s circle of friends is usually fiercely protective, and that the child gets good at brushing it off.  We think she’s gorgeous and perfect the way that God made her, and pray that our families and close friends will feel that way, too.

I already feel the heavy burden of responsibility on my shoulders of teaching her and the bigger kids appropriate responses.  I will have a little bit of time to practice answering before she can understand me and process what I’m saying, but the three older kids will be carefully watching and listening from the very moment that she’s in the US.  I feel like I can’t mess it up even once.  I talked about it with a good friend, and expressed by concern that I’ll just fall apart early on if someone says something really hurtful.  She said, “Well, I sort of think that would be an appropriate response.  I guess maybe they’d learn to think before they speak the next time.”  That gave me a little freedom to let the expectation of perfection go a little bit, but it still weighs heavily.  I’m praying I’ll be able to educate with grace and love when needed, while setting a polite but firm boundary when that is what’s called for.

Anyone reading have experience with this?  Want to weigh in?

PS – The yellow onesie underneath the black one has her monogram!  I can’t wait to show it to you.  Both of them are beautiful, and were purchased for a very good price HERE.

this kid

His favorite part of feeding the ducks is eating the bread.
He’s so quirky and silly and fun.
He’s so affectionate and sensitive and loving.
He has been working so hard at being brave and trying new things.
He makes me laugh every day.
He makes every day interesting and exciting and new.
He’s about to turn 5, and it’s breaking his mama’s heart a little bit.
He promised me he’ll still be little when he’s 5.
Being his mom is amazing.

“good job, mom.”

It was definitely one of those days. I tried to cram in too much fun, and we all paid for it. Someday, maybe I’ll learn.

As I tried to round up my kids to go from one play date to another, my middle little one didn’t come when I called him. I called him again, and he didn’t come. I called him more sternly, and he finally sauntered over.

I said, “C, let’s practice. Go back over there.” He did. I called him. He yelled, “Yes, ma’am!” and came over. We practiced again. And again.

It was just a normal, everyday mom-of-a-preschooler moment. I wasn’t extra patient or loving or kind or creative or sweet.

But a mom, standing near by watched us. She had several little ones of her own. She said, “Good job, C!” and then…

“Good job, mom.”

I almost burst into tears.

As moms, we don’t get a lot of recognition. Infants don’t coo, “Thank you ever so much for changing my diaper!” Toddlers don’t exclaim, “I was so impressed with the consistency of that mac & cheese!” Generally, the things we do are only noticed if we don’t manage to get them done. That was really one of the hardest things about the transition to being a stay-at-home-mom for me. No more good evaluations, no more positive and encouraging emails from the boss, and no more bonuses or accolades for great work. If the kids are clean and fed, you actually did your hair and wore makeup, you did some sort of craft or learning activity, healthy dinner is on the table, and the house is clean when your husband gets home – your reward is that you get to do it again tomorrow.

And it is a reward. I know that. I am so thankful that I get to stay home, and I love serving my family.

But today reminded me that I need to choose to be more deliberate about encouraging and building up the moms I see every day. How much better would motherhood be if we were all telling someone, “Good job, mom!” every day?

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

good job, mom

this kid

Is finally feeling better after the “24-hour VBS stomach bug” stuck with her for more than 5 days. We went to a West African Drum & Dance performance, and she wanted to sit quietly on my lap and just take it all in. The only times she got up were to find a snack (apple) and to dig in my purse to find this paper and pen to draw. She’s such a sweet mix of being totally independent and totally a Mommy’s girl. I love it. I wish I could just bottle her the age she is now. I think this is my favorite, favorite age.