Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tender Time

Everything has been so smooth for so long that I didn't remember coming into the holidays that it's all wonderful and exciting for me as a mom, but completely new and unknown to Jie Jie. She's excited, but also has some trepidation as it's all new to her. The best way to describe her for the last couple days is mildly moody, which for her is pretty moody because she's normally so even-tempered. I'm getting tons and tons of kisses. Believe it or not, it's actually annoying, but it's a sign that she needs more of me right now. Today, she grabbed my hand as I was dumping toddler potties into the toilet and kissed my palm before I could stop her. Ew - gross!

Two nights ago, I realized how much she still needs "baby play." Tickling, little piggies, hiding under blankets, etc... Like all our children, she needs a LOT of physical contact and I've had a lot of trouble with my back lately so I've not been able to pick her up or hold her like I usually do and she's missing it.

In the next moment, she'll be reciting the alphabet and reading letters on anything with a label, or organizing the daycare kids into a fun game.

Then, she'll get all quiet and when I ask if she's okay, she sort of shrinks a little more. When I put my arms around her, her eyes start to well up with tears, then she cries softly for a little bit and is fine. Sometimes she says she misses those she loves in China, other times she says she doesn't know why she's crying.

Each low mood is last just a few minutes. It's long enough for me to realize she's working on the next level of adjustment and attachment, along with figuring out what all this holiday stuff means.

Today I had the daycare kids draw a picture of their families. This exercise was really for Jie Jie's benefit since she's the only one old enough to draw and not just scribble. She drew me and herself, gong gong, ayi (my aunty), and another ayi, the friend who came to China with me. She came up with this family grouping all on her own. I am thrilled that she realizes that this is her family circle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One Year Ago Today...

...I wrote this:

"Monday, November 29, 2010
Update #10

I am so blessed to have the Light of Christ in my life; to know there is a living God who is always there for me - no matter what. Today another prayer was answered in seconds. My agency has agreed to contact the proper authorities in China and request the file of the Child of my Heart.

It's been ten days since the file was supposed to have been released from an agency's Special Focus program, but since we truly don't know how an early-released file gets back to the Shared List, we don't know if we should wait longer or what, so we've agreed that it's time for action. Funnily enough, though, we didn't all agree together. I was going to beg for this, but they had already decided to do it!

I had put out word on boards, forums, egroups, etc... but no one came up with anything. The charity sponsoring her also hadn't heard anything, which led me to believe that her file was not with any agency.

I hope to know in a few days if I can apply to adopt this precious child.

Earlier, I felt scared, afraid that I wouldn't receive this wonderful gift of life. A short time later, I felt an elation in my heart, a blessing from God, that spurred on my hope to new heights and is still burning bright within me.

I don't presume to know God's plan, no matter how strong my faith, but I hope and pray that it is for this little child and I to be united as a family. I asked that you please pray for us, for this, but that God's will be done and we accept it with peace in our hearts.

Look at me today. Now this child is my daughter. I love these words the most:

Earlier, I felt scared, afraid that I wouldn't receive this wonderful gift of life. A short time later, I felt an elation in my heart, a blessing from God, that spurred on my hope to new heights and is still burning bright within me.

I "Caught" Her

The other day Jie Jie was telling me something and there was a time reference that I didn't quite understand so I asked her, "When?"

She replied, "When mama come China and catch-a me."

She was talking about the time we met and I adopted her! She loves that I "caught" her!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Family for 8 Months Now

A sneak peak of our Christmas photo.

Matching upper and lower case letters.

Jie Jie's hair has grown about 3 inches in the last 8 months.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Intro to Christmas

Real whiskers and all, this was a very nice Santa
and the pics were free as part of a promo!

Union Square, San Francisco (taken from Macy's)

I love the theme "A Million Reasons to Believe" since it certainly describes my faith in our Savior.

One day, a few weeks ago, as we were in my friend's store, the words, "Santa brings presents to all the good boys and girls in the world," crossed my lips. I immediately regretted them, and, thankfully, they were lost on Jie Jie. Santa didn't go to China and leave any presents for Jie Jie. She didn't have any toys in China, that she can remember or that I saw in her room when I visited her SWI. The store owner, single mother of two girls, now in college, overheard me and noticed the look on my face. We spoke a bit and she mentioned that they didn't do Santa in their house, except as a fun legendary figure, part of their German heritage. After some serious thought and reflections on my own beliefs concerning the commercialization of the holidays, I came to a decision that I feel very good about...

Santa isn't coming to our house. In fact, Santa, in our house, is going to be taught as the figure of history, folklore and legend that he is. I'm teaching Jie Jie that the three wise men brought Jesus presents when He was born because they loved Him and mama will bring her presents at Christmas time because it's a time when we remember the birth of Christ and show love toward each other in many ways. One of those ways is to give thoughtful gifts. She's only getting a few gifts but one is rather large. It's something she wants badly, but I also have an ulterior motive behind it since it will be a good teaching tool, too. I will also teach her about the beliefs of others so that she understands, or will as she learns, that most young American children are taught that Santa brings the presents if they have been good.

We also chose a card of our church's "giving tree" which has the info of a young child on it who lives in poverty nearby. We will shop together and talk about giving to the needy. As time goes on, and she becomes more aware of the ramifications of her past in China, I'm sure this will get a little more complicated, but for now, I want to set an example to her of charity with love.

Our Thanksgiving Day

Mother and Daughter! I've been very emotional lately. My heart is full to bursting. Every minute of every day, I remember how I felt this time last year and in the same minutes, all day long, I look at the beautiful child in front of me and marvel that she's my daughter. I am so very grateful! I love motherhood, as I knew I would, and even more.

A feast for many, but only one guest out of four showed up.

I'm afraid Jie Jie felt a bit let down. I, too, felt let down, in a way. While cooking, Jie Jie would wander into the kitchen and asked, "Mama play with me?" and I'd reply, "No, I have to cook for our big party." When no big party occurred, I felt like I'd have rather played with her and then had soup and sandwiches instead. However, like the optimist she is, Jie Jie perked up once she saw that I meant business when I told her she could have the biggest "bone" to eat that she could imagine. This child can pick a chicken leg bone dry, so I was eager to turn her loose on a turkey leg.

She almost didn't know where to begin!


After the first sitting, along with mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, squash, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

After a second go at the same leg later for dinner.

The final pies. See the carnage our cat Merlin wrought on the apple pie? They still tasted great!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Getting Bigger is Still Pretty Tiny

Jie Jie has grown 3.5 centimeters since coming home; she's a whopping 106cm tall and growing into size 5 clothes. I can hardly believe she'll be 8 years old in 3 months! Her feet finally grew, too, but not a whole size. She just fills the shoes she's got a bit better now.

The boy to the right of Jie Jie just turned 3 years old, and he's average sized. The girl next to him will be three in Feb. and she's a little tall. The four little ones on the left are all 2 year olds.

The Thanksgiving Chef

The chef with her new(used) kitchen.

We interupt the baking to double over in pain.
This is part of our life and the cooking continued when the pain stopped.

Mama loosened the waist to see if it made Jie Jie more comfortable but didn't expect them to fall down. Quick modesty check then had to grab the camera. Laughter is definitely the best medicine!

Pictures of the finished pies will be posted tomorrow, but I'll tell the world now, our cat Merlin, helped himself to a good bit of the crust when the pie was piping hot and still on the cooling rack!

I am So Very Thankful for My Daughter

I cannot help but reflect upon the process I went through this time last year as I prayed for my daughter's file. I read many of my previous blog entries from this time and I'm amazed at what I wrote, yet can still remember the feelings I had at that time as if it was yesterday. I cannot imagine my life without Jie Jie now any more than I could then, before I had even met her or had locked her file or anything.

I remember the intensity of my faith as I discovered a deeper level of prayer that exposed my truly broken heart to God. I remember the feelings of unworthiness that made me strive harder and harder to be a better person in all ways, and that this made me worthy to be this child's mother. I still carry the responsibility to God to raise my daughter well and to love her and do all I can as perfectly as I can, even when I make mistakes - especially when I make mistakes!

I hope I never lose the memory of what I went through and how I feel now. I want to wake up each day and look into Jie Jie's eyes and remember it all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Counting Blessings

Last Saturday, Jie Jie and I attended a birthday party at a small tumbling place. I waited until the last minute to decide if it was safe to go, and only after consulting with the head neck specialist at the chiropractic college. (I'm still waiting for the second opinion from the medical doctor.) There were rings to swing on and a trampoline, balance beams and bars. Jie Jie LOVED swinging on the rings.

As I watched Jie Jie swing on those rings and turn upside down and romp and play, I realized that she is so far from disabled. Yes, her special need is severe and does place significant limitations on her in some areas that will become increasingly hard to manage as she matures, but she will be able to manage them, I'm sure.

I've read so many blogs this week of families with children who have very serious, life-taking conditions. I poured over the pictures of waiting children and read their sketchy information, things like heart defects, missing limbs, severe facial anomalies, bone, blood, nerve and spine disorders, etc. I've read of true miracles for some that are astounding, and of others still hoping and waiting for a miracle, and those praying to leave the earth and go Home where there isn't any more pain and agony.

As Jie Jie played at the party, I took inventory:

Neck, so far so good...
Brain, great
Eyes & ears, great
She can eat
Arms, great
Legs, good
Feet, good enough for now
Things in the middle, not quite where some things should be, or doing what they should, but we are managing well. She's thriving!

I took out the two-wheel bike on Sunday. It's been quite awhile since we last tried it. Jie Jie pedalled the bike about 50 feet!!!!! I could clearly see that the difference was due to all the kicking she's done in the water lately. Those nerves and muscles had a good sense of what to do, and with some specific hints, she started to get the hang of it. 2 Biggest hints: The legs take turns pushing the pedals down, and Look where you are going, don't look down at your feet, or you will crash.

The funniest moment was when she headed into the grass, toward the street and I expected her to stop. Nope, not my child. She rode down the curb - a full fledged curb - maintained her balance, and only stopped when her disbelieving mama caught her in the street. Both of our faces looked shocked. She's definitely old enough and responsible enough to understand the dangers of going into the street, but I guess she didn't know how to stop. In fact, another funny tidbit is that when I'm driving and there are pedestrians, she always cautions me be to be careful!

As I count my blessings, I'm sending out a heartfelt, soul-deep prayer to all the children and families who are among the poor, sick and needy, that they will feel the hand of God comfort and bless them, that the sick will be healed or taken Home swiftly, that orphans will be adopted by loving parents, the all may have the necessities of life.

55 Months Logged In

It's true. My dossier has been logged in for 55 months now. Happily, God's plan was such that by having that dossier there so long, I was able to adopt Jie Jie. In this time I've seen singles be eliminated from the adoption program and then allowed back in, even if it is in a limited way, currently.

Apple still fills my thoughts and heart, as does my hope for an older daughter. My home is filled with positivity on all fronts and it's a wonderful feeling.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Said it Today

I said, "My daughter is disabled."

Up until now, I've only said, "My daughter has a disability," and only occasionally, when needed. It wasn't a conscious decision at all, just how it's been so far. I never thought about the words at all until the ones above came out of my mouth tonight.

It was a bit of a shocker because, when I look at her, I don't see a disabled child. I see my beautiful child, who is wonderful and very capable, and living a normal, well, mostly normal, life, who just happens to have been born with a birth defect. But partway though the big IKEA store we were in tonight, she said, "Mama, my feet tired," which means they are starting to hurt. And I didn't have the stroller or a cart. Then, the medical device she wears started coming loose, which can be noticable, and it was, thus having a brief conversation with another mom that brought out the above sentence.

Sometimes I want to shout out all the details of my daughters condition from the rooftops, put it all out there, sometimes for support, sometimes for empathy or even sympathy, sometimes to explain the odd things we occasionally do, or to educate others, get help, find resources, or just plain to get it out so I don't have to remember who knows and doesn't know so I can remember who I can talk to about things once in awhile.

But the bottom line is that this isn't my decision. It's my daugher's. Until she is old enough to decide how she wants to handle it, I feel a deep responsibility to respect and protect her right to privacy. Meanwhile, I encourage Jie Jie to do all she can, while I learn where her real limitations are, if they can be overcome, how best to go about it, all while enjoying her to the fullest extent possible.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Never-ending Awe

Tonight after work, Jie Jie and I walked to the bank and local drugstore and as I held her tiny hand in mine and looked down - way down - at her, and she looked back up at me, my heart swelled with love and amazement that this precious little thing is my daughter. I hope I never get over it, that I never take her for granted, or forget the miracle of having her. I marvelled at how much she loves me and the process she went through to get where we are and how our relationship is so strong, yet fragile, too.

It's hard to believe that she's getting closer and closer to eight years old, yet still wears size four. I think it's on my mind a lot because my daycare kids, who are two and three years old, are growing into Jie Jie's size shoes.

Today during our homeschooling time, I took out a math game that we've done before, but not for several weeks, and her face fell a little when she saw it because it was hard before. Today, we could both so easily see her progress because the game was a cinch!

I am learning to be a much better person as I respect my daughter's learning style and her needs. She is learning that I am very open to hearing what she needs and acting positively on it. We recently had a talk about how I am not always right and that she can tell me when she disagrees with me or doesn't like somethings and that we are a team and can change things to make them better, as needed. This was such a novel idea to her that at first she denied it, then warmed up to the concept and how it works. I am learning to listen first, without judgement, which has been hard, but is getting easier and easier, because I come from an extremely judgemental family. I love that I can trust her and not worry that she is being calculating or manipulating because I know she has honest desires in her heart.

I love watching the seed of her faith in Christ has started to grow. I know that she has an innate sense of her Savior, that she's had it all her life. She gets so excited over anything to do with Yesu (as Jesus is called in Mandarin) and truly thirsts for more knowledge about Him. Tonight, on her own, she asked me to help her say grace. Last Sunday, a little girl from her sundayschool class who we had over a couple weeks ago, was excited to recognize Jie Jie at church and grabbed her hand and together they walked to class, Jie Jie's real age class, not the little kid class, and Jie Jie had a GREAT time. Tears came to my eyes as I watched these two precious girls walk down the hall holding hands. The sweetness of Jie Jie's little friend enveloped me and I rushed downstairs to tell the little girl's mom all about it.

For the last two days, at play, Jie Jie is playing "marry." She tried to make her doll blankets into veils and wedding gown trains until I gave her a shear scarf to play with. She is marrying her favorite doll, Bao Bao, which I think is so cute and funny.

Our foster kitten, Speck, will soon be Spot, and will be going to his new home, one block down from us, this weekend. You'll never believe the family he is going to belong to. A couple months ago, I saw a caucasian woman walking down the street, right past my house, with two Asian adolescents. From my car, I rolled down the window the lagging teen and asked, "Is that your mom?" which got the mom's attention right away. Thus began a new friendship. This woman adopted her two daughters, now 18 and 14, as a single mom, and was her agency's first family to adopt from China when single women were first allowed to adopt. When her first daughter was 4 years old, she adopted her second daughter. It will be wonderful for Jie Jie to see "Spot's house" every time we walk that way, which we do, several times a week, and to be able to visit him. She seems fine that he is leaving us, though she's said she'll miss him, and happy he has a new family. We will take him to his new home rather than have him picked up, though we already had a tour when we stopped to trick-o-treat on Halloween. We still have our slightly younger kitten, Ruby, who has been going to the adoption center on Saturdays with the hope that her family will find her soon.

I ache to add a teenage girl to our family along with our mei mie, Apple. I don't know if it will be possible or not, but I will begin praying diligently soon for some ways and means. I have time, Jie Jie needs me exclusively until her surgeries and healing are complete, but the sense of urgency I feel for this teen daughter of mine in China somewhere is sometimes overwhelming, just as it was when I knew that my 7-8 year old daughter was out there. I will even admit that it's stronger right now than the pull of Apple, perhaps because that adoption is already paid for and in process. When I talk to Jie Jie about this, she says that Mie Mie (Apple) will be for her and Jie Jie (teen sister - remember jei jie means big sister) will be for me. Tonight I explained that it doesn't work that way and talked of other details and she asked if she could come shopping with me to buy Jie Jie (teen sister) some toys.

Kiss and hug your children tonight, for they are truly miracles, each and every one, and it's our priviledge, not our right, to be their parents.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Enjoying Jie Jie

I really live for weekends. By the end of the work week, Jie Jie is tired of sharing me with the daycare kids and starts acting more and more rambunctious and I'm just plain tired.

Come Saturday morning, we sleep in, get up slowly, have a lazy pancake breakfast around lunch time, then get moving. Jie Jie plays in her room while I potter around, peeking in quite often just to watch her play. Last night we attended a baby shower so today, all of her play was about giving her doll a baby shower. She put her doll's things into various bags as presents and then I sat down and handed them to her to open.

I've been talking more about family relationships, grandmother, mother, daughter, grandfather, etc... but it's still a concept far out of her grasp. I did learn that Jie Jie definitely prefers women, and definitely good looking women. At the shower last night, where she met some of my friends for the first time, she readily allowed herself to be hugged. Afterward, in the car, I asked her about it since she usually doesn't like to be hugged by anyone but me. She said she liked it because "all people girls."

Today she finally confided in me that she is scared of doctors. She didn't have a clue that I already knew this! Funny how their little minds work.

It's hard to believe that she's going to be eight years old in less than 4 months. In many ways, she acts exactly her age, and I love it. In other ways, she's still my little baby, and I love that, too. In the above picture, taken today, she is wearing a size 4 Gymboree sweater and leggings, a size 3 Children's Place skirt, and size 4 knee socks that fit like leg warmers with the heel hanging out her little shoes, the only pair I was able to find in China that actually fit her. In US sizes, she wears a size 7 or 8 (toddler) shoe, depending on the style and/or brand.

I try to stay in the present, especially with all the unknowns still about her condition, but it's hard not to wonder about her future. She never had the amazing growth spurt that so many adopted children get. She's still just a tiny bit over 41" tall and 35-36 pounds, depending on the scale I use. New neck x-rays have revealed some scary things. I'll be getting them evaluated by a specialist, but common concensus so far is that Jie Jie's neck is extremely fragile in two different places. We need to avoid all things that carry a high risk of falling on the neck or even stressing the neck until we know more. The fragile areas developed by compensating for other areas that are malformed. Any injury to the neck at this level is life threatening or catestrophic since it's at the top of the spinal cord. At the playground I want to shout, "Don't climb so high," and "don't hang upside down," and don't do this and don't do that... Instead, I'm becoming the anxious (hiding it well) mom, almost hovering (okay, I am starting to really hover sometimes because she climbs VERY high), too distracted to carry on a conversation with other moms, ready to rush over at any second and make a critical catch."

On the other hand, we are having great adventures in every day life. We biked to the park one evening, took a walk along the shore on another evening and watched the sun set.

Homeschooling is going very well. Jie Jie is getting really good with the alphabet. She can name all the letters that I sign, even out of order, and she can read them, too. She is learning all the lower case letters now, just by seeing them often paired with the upper case letters. I'm amazed and pleased at how easily and fast she is learning the lower case letters. Numbers are coming along, too. She doesn't know the language of math, and is still learning to write all the numbers, but she can already figure simple arrithmatic on a practical level, only she doens't realize it yet so she can't do math problems on paper yet. I think she'll be able to in less than one month.

Call me a baaaad mom, but her first science experiment was to make a bomb. No kidding. We made a vinegar and baking soda bomb in a bag and tried to explode it in the garden. We failed. I didn't have a lot of vinegar so I halved the recipe and used good quality bags (yes, they are as strong as the commercial claims), so our bag eventually leaked a tiny bit at the zipper rather than burst, but we're going to do it again the right way because it was so much fun and we want to see it explode!

Shake Your Booty

And shake the rest of you, too. We had another earthquake today. It measured 3.2 on the R-scale.

All of these recent earthquakes have been centered VERY, VERY near me. Today's earthquake's epicenter was about 3 miles from me.

I just keep hoping that all these little ones are relieving the stress on the faults, not building it up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I 'Member, Mama

Today while driving, a large, long boxy white van came along side us then in front of us, first on the road and then into the same parking lot. Suddenly, Jie Jie said, "I 'member, mama. In China that kind car come baby. Bye bye baby."

I asked her which baby, but in my heart I already had guessed. "Baby die, mama. Big car, white, like that one, come, take baby. Take big people die, too."

This made me remember about the time my TuTu died in Jan. 2008, when a white van came to take her, too. I shared that with Jie Jie because she seems to have some kind of connection to my grandmother even though they, obviously, never met. In fact, last week, out of the blue, she drew a picture and it was of TuTu in a "box" and she was dead. Jie Jie drew a flower next to it and rain. I have never talked about my grandmother's burial with Jie Jie, but it did rain.

Reflections of Last Year

If you've followed my blog for very long, you will know that this time last year was horrific. I was chasing Jie Jie's file and spent two months doing it, always on the tail of an agency, one particularly uncooperative, along with forgotten promises to contact me by families reviewing then turning down Jie Jie after reading her file. The amount of time and energy I spent in fervent prayer, along with the prayers of several of you, were eventually heard, but tonight as I walked through Tar*get, I was so glad to see my daughter flitting around in front of me. I felt such a powerful surge of feelings, love for her, amazement, relief that it worked out and she's really mine, etc...

I remember going through Tar*get last year, raiding the sales, never imagining that I'd not find and lock Jie Jie's file. Then, in my deepest darkest moments, wondering if God found me inadequate to mother this child. I later learned that this was sort of the case. The spiritual growth that I experienced during The Great File Hunt made me worthy of being Jie Jie's mother. I know that without a doubt.

So, tonight, as I browsed the store, I marvelled at how fantastic it is to be a mother, specifically, my daughter's mother. I wondered about Apple and the teenager I'd love to find to be my daughter (provided some big miracles occur). I wonder if I'll even be able to give my daughter(s) the ultimate gift, a father to love them as I do. I know that I am fulfilling God's plan and that more blessings are in store for my tiny family of two and I'm looking forward to them more than anything.

A Whole Lot of Kisses

My darling Jie Jie is falling more and more in love with me. She is showering me with kisses. She wasn't kissed before so I had to teach her about kisses and she's still got some learning to do. For example, today I taught her how to kiss without leaving a saliva trail. She also kisses over and over in the same place, like on my hand, which almost starts to feel like she sucking on me, because her kisses have been so wet. It's funny and sad at the same time.

She says, "I kissy ni lot." (I kiss you a lot)
I aske, "Why do you kiss mama?"
She replies, "I ai ni big one." (I love you a lot)
"Why do you ai wo?" (love me)
"Ni sing me. I like ni sing me."

We've all heard and felt the power of song and music, but this week another mom posted a very touching story of her newly adopted teenage daughter singing to her and what it meant to both of them.

It's amazing that it's the simple things, the most natural ones, that Jie Jie notices and feels the most.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Playing the Baby

For a couple of weeks now, Jie Jie and the daycare kids play "baby." One of them is the baby and the others take care of the baby. Jie Jie makes sure that everyone gets to be the baby, she's very fair that way, and, eh, bossy, but I keep my eye on this game closely to see if I get any clues as to what her needs may be in relation to her history and make sure it stays appropriate. So far it has.

Tonight after I helped her into her pajamas, she got right into my lap and said she was the baby and wanted to sleep with me holding her. I said that she could and that I love holding her, but that mamas hold their babies while sitting in the rocking chair. Remember, we moved the rocker out of her room several months back and haven't used it in all this time.

She was very interested in finding out what the rocking chair was, even though it was in the livingroom. She didn't know the English word for it and didn't remember when I rocked her in it a long time ago. She LOVED it! She snuggled in and tried her best to fall asleep. I discovered last week that she loves to have her head stroked, as though brushing the hair back from her face, while she's falling asleep. I did that, then started stroking her cheek and tracing her lips with my finger, then her little ear, which tickled too much and she giggled, then grabbed my hand and put it back on her head.

After my arm no longer had any circulation in it, I carried her to bed and tucked her in, all while she stayed "asleep." Then, in mere minutes, was really asleep.

I know she was with her birth family for several months. She was nursed, so that means a lot of snuggling. This week, she's given me a ton of kisses and told me she loves me. I think that she's fallen more in love with me.

I never thought much before about how many layers the depth of a relationship could have, but as we fall deeper and deeper in love with each other, I'm astounded. I have to admit that my favorite part of Halloween was watching her go down the street to go trick-o-treating and seeing the little tail on her costume wriggling back and forth as she skipped and danced.