The Gift of Adoption

I can remember before we adopted Sophia wondering if I could love a child I didn’t give birth to. This was something I debated for months. My turning point was when Matt and Kelli came home with Maia. I can remember telling Tim while they were in China that I knew the depth of their love for Lili, and I just needed to see if was the same for Maia. I needed to know if I could do this too. We met Matt and Kelli for lunch a couple of days after they got home. I distinctly remember Kelli, with tears streaming down her face, telling me how great her love was for this precious baby placed in her arms. It wasn’t a question I asked her, but something she felt compelled to share.

I can’t explain how it works, but there is no question that I love my girls with all I have. While they were not born of me, they are mine. And whether it is an infant or a three year old, it doesn’t matter. The second Kate was given to us, that instinct that she is mine kicked in. And I saw it happen to Tim too.

We are traveling a different, but familiar road this week. Things have quickly improved over the past four days. We have now seen joy on our daughter’s face and heard her laugh. While there are far more quiet, reserved moments, we do see the light there and know that we will be there sooner than later. We have a peace that was not there Monday and Tuesday, and I am so thankful.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.”
Psalms 68:5-6


Thursday in Nanning

We spent Thursday at a shopping mall and a park. We didn’t buy anything at the shopping mall. Styles are very different here, and clothing is as expensive or more expensive as in the US. We have really done no souvenir/gift shopping yet. That should come in Guangzhou.

After the mall, we met David to go over paperwork and check for errors. He then took us to a park within walking distance of the hotel. It was set around a large lake, and was really nice. The only problem was the H-E-A-T. I really can’t convey how stinkin’ hot it is here. Within minutes of being outside, we are all drenched in sweat. It’s disgusting. The kids (and David) played on the playground equipment for a bit, but it didn’t take us long to find a shade and buy some popsicles. They hit the spot! Our last adventure at the park was to purchase fish food. Now, this was a deal! Thirty US cents for a bag of fish food which turned out to be a huge hit. All four kids got a bag. They began throwing a few pellets at a time into the lake. Fish were swarming and fighting over the food. Then, all of a sudden, Kate got crazy and dumped her whole bag in. The fish went NUTS! They were leaping out of the water and fighting each other so badly for the food, we all got wet. She thought it was hilarious that she had caused such a ruckus. We were all cracking up!

Right before she got crazy and dumped her whole bag…

…and the fish literally out of the water fighting for the food!

We had lunch together at Pizza Hut. It was the smallest medium pizza I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s no wonder that the Chinese are so much smaller than we are. Sophia and I swam away the afternoon while Tim and Kate napped.

It was a very uneventful afternoon and evening. Friday should be pretty quiet too. We basically hang out at the hotel and swim until David gets us at 2:30. At that time, we go to pick up Kate’s passport and then fly to Guangzhou for our last piece of the puzzle.

We are missing Ella terribly, but she is doing fantastic. She had a great week at school and Matt/Kelli’s. She has helped on the farm, kept tabs on Lucy, and she ran her first race – a 1K. So proud of her!  Matt, Kelli, Lili, and Maia – We love you all and are so blessed to call you our friends! Thank you for loving on our girl and taking such good care of her!

More About Kate

We have spent the past 72 hours getting to know our girl. She is beautiful, smart, and so organized! I know that the organization thing is a strange thing to say about a three year old, but we knew it within minutes of her time in our hotel room. Then, on Tuesday when we saw the nannies again, they told David to tell us that she is organized. We had him tell them that we already had that figured out! Everything has its place. She loves to line things up and place things in her backpack. It’s very cute!

The smiles so far have been limited, but most of them come when she’s interacting with David and Bella June. I think she just misses having someone to talk to. David reminded us at lunch today that within a month, we will be communicating. Most of the rest of her smiles come when Sophia is playing or singing with her. We are so thankful that she is on this trip with us. She has been a huge help! The two other times she has smiled or laughed are when she was on the rides at the park and when Tim puts her on top of his shoulders. She thinks she’s big stuff up there!

She has a bit of attitude which is also funny. She is very good at ignoring us when we say her name – really just pretends she doesn’t hear when I know she does. And we have loved some of the things David has told us she has said. Today, while at another park, we bought popsicles. She sat down beside Bella June and said, “My popsicle is bigger than yours.” Then when Bella June’s popsicle started melting exposing the green beans in the middle (yes, green beans!), she looked at her and said, “Nasty!” I’m so glad we have David there to translate because it’s hilarious!

Can you see her fingers? This is the first time she held up the peace sign. I asked David why Chinese people always do that in pictures. He says it means they are happy. She was cracking us up doing it.

She is very independent also. As we left the hotel for the park yesterday, she headed out the front door without an adult. David called to her to stop, and she said to him, “I want to ride in a car!” She also fought with Bella June over crayons on Tuesday which was funny to watch. She likes to do things for herself. She has the full socks/braces/shoes routine down well. When she gets bored with the hotel room, she gets her shoes on as a signal to us that she’s ready to go somewhere. Last night, she was already in her pajamas, but put her shoes and a headband on and went to the door. Tim took her for a walk around the hotel, which seemed to satisfy her.

Her clubfoot really looks great. It’s evident that she received excellent medical care through An Orphan’s Wish/House of Love. We do, however, have some concerns about her left leg. I just finished a Skype session with the director of AOW, Kirsten. She was so helpful and offered us a lot of guidance in how to proceed once back home. Whatever is going on is effecting her walking/balance. I’m anxious to meet with an orthopedic doctor so that we can get her on the right track.
We are a week from heading home! Can’t wait for you all to meet our sweet girl!

The People’s Park

While the adoption paperwork was complete on Tuesday, we are awaiting certified copies of all of it as well as Kate’s passport. David is wonderful. When he isn’t entertaining us, he’s running errands to make sure that we get all necessary documents before we leave Nanning on Friday. We love him! I’m going to do two posts today. One to share what we did today and another to share a little more about Kate (coming later today). So wish I could post pictures.  I’ll get caught up later in the trip, I guess.

Our Wednesday:

We had another great breakfast at the Marriott. There were chicken feet being served today, and Robin apparently can’t pass up a challenge. SHE ATE THEM!!! Oh my gosh. Our whole table was going nuts. She decided that if she was going to rise to David’s challenge, the Marriott was the safest place to do it. Todd took pictures and video. Hilarious!

After breakfast, we met David and the Nichols family to go The People’s Park of Nanning. It’s the oldest park in the city. David explained that we could see people doing a variety of morning routines including exercise, music, dance, and games and that there were amusement rides there. The park did not disappoint! We had so much fun!

When we entered, we walked a large path around the lake. It was mostly older people out. Some were doing routines together – dance, swords, fans, etc. They were eager to get our kids involved. It was really neat. Some were playing instruments. Some were playing a dominoes sort of game. Some were reading together. Some were singing with a microphone. It was just really funny. The cultural differences are so interesting to me. This is their version of morning coffee at Hardee’s. Once we passed through that area, we moved on to an area where a large group (15 or so people of all ages) were doing a dance together. I asked David why the younger people weren’t at work. He explained that they were on break and just came down to get some exercise. Can I tell you how hot it is here?!?? Sweat is rolling down us. Our eyes are red from where sweat is running into our eyes. I can’t believe they are out there doing that and then going back to work. He said that the reason the parks are so full of people all of the time is that they live in tiny apartments and have nowhere to do anything. This is their only option. It was amazing to watch all of the activity, and they were perfectly happy to let us take pictures and video.

Sophia learning how to hold a sword correctly

Sophia got a lesson in dancing with a fan. Now she’s dying to find a fan when we shop!

Next, we entered the children’s area which has amusement park rides. Sophia immediately went to a roller coaster that spins as well. It was pretty crazy, but she talked JD into riding with her and they had a blast! The two of them also rode the big swings and another crazy ride I’ve never seen before (don’t even know how to explain it). They rode three rides with the little ones – an airplane ride that goes up and down kind of like Dumbo, a carousel, and a little car ride. Kate LOVED it! I asked David if she’d ever done anything like this before, and he said that he was sure she hadn’t. She was even asking him to ride the big rides, and he had to explain to her that she wasn’t big enough.

Roller coaster time!!! Sophia and JD

First ever amusement park ride and having fun!

This is the CRAZY ride that Sophia and JD rode. They were the only two on the ride which turned out to be a good thing since they were bumped and bounced all over it. We quickly realized why they were told to take their shoes off before getting on the ride!

Kate and Bella June

Right before she started to get on the last ride, she was tugging at her belt. Tim went into a panic and decided that she needed to use the bathroom. We were nowhere near one, so I picked her up and basically, David and I ran with her to the bathroom. We got there, and they were all squatty potties. I freaked out. David gave me some tissues and told me that Kate would know what to do. We got her pants pulled down, and she squatted. I’m still trying to figure out how she’s going to do this without peeing all over her clothes. She stood up as if she had already used it and wanted me to pull her pants up. I saw nothing happen, and thought, “Wow! This really is magic!” I went back out to David and said, “Ask her if she used it.” He did, and she said, “No, I don’t need to. I want to play.” All of that trauma for me because Tim saw her tugging on her belt!!!

By this time, we were so, so hot. We let Sophia and JD ride their favorite coaster one more time and then headed out. As we left, I stopped to videotape a woman singing and a man playing an accordion. I guess he felt the need to play something I knew, so that broke into Jingle Bells. Hilarious!

We stopped at McDonald’s for food on the way back to the hotel. A little more salty and greasy than I’m used to, but it worked for us.

Kate eating her first McDonald’s. Loved the fries!

The rest of the day was spent at either the pool or hanging out in the room. We hit the bed early. All in all, a fun day for us, and Kate did a ton better!  Check back later for another post about her!

Cute in her swimsuit, but not too sure about getting in the pool

What A Difference A Day Makes

Wow! The difference a day makes!!! While it didn’t start so great, the day quickly improved. That’s not to say that she hasn’t had moments of grieving today, but nothing as heavy as yesterday. Thank you so much to the many people who have been praying for Kate and for us!

I woke Kate (we’re still calling her An Ning or Ning Ning right now) a little after 7 a.m. Tuesday. The second she saw us, her lower lip started quivering and she went into full grieving mode again. While I held her and rocked her and she couldn’t see my face, I cried as well. I looked over at Tim, and he was too. It’s simply heartbreaking to see/hear that kind of hurt in a child. I’ve never felt anything like that before. While it’s so hard to watch, I know that it’s healthy for her. It assures me that she was bonded to someone and loved them very much and has the capacity to do that again.

We quickly got her dressed for breakfast as we wanted her to see Bella June hoping that would help. It did! She was surprised and thrilled to see Bella June. She actually tried to steal Todd’s chair at breakfast to sit near her friend. They compared hair accessories, which was funny. Following breakfast, we had about 30 minutes before our day’s appointments began and came back to the room to Skype Ella and Nana/Pop. Let’s just say that separating from Bella June was not an easy thing. This was our second meltdown of the day. My parents got to meet her for the first time, which was sweet to see.
We had two different appointments today to finalize the adoption. All went well, and Kate is legally ours!

Kate is being held by her preschool teacher. Bella June is being held by one of the nannies. These two ladies along with an orphanage supervisor brought the girls to us on Monday and stayed through our paperwork process on Tuesday.

The Sharp and Nichols families with orphange/preschool staff

She did great in the car today thanks to some Dramamine that the Nichols family gave us and a smooth driver. Apparently, the driver yesterday drove very erratically which led to the motion sickness. This sort of driving is normal in China, but as David said, Tim and I won’t be driving like that at home. I was prepared though — full change of clothes, wet wipes, and a bag to throw up in! I learned to be prepared following an episode with Sophia in China when she was a baby.

While at our appointments today, we saw three other adoptive families, two of which were from the US. It was good to touch base with other Americans on a similar journey.

Kate and I spent a couple of hours this afternoon taking a nap while Tim and Sophia meet up with Todd and JD at the pool. I’m so glad that JD is here. He and Sophia have become great friends. He is a fun kid and seems to enjoy Soph’s company as well.

This evening, we went to a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was good. David ordered a variety of things for us to try – none of which were too crazy, although he has challenged us to try chicken feet and takes great delight in discussing it with us. I don’t think so! Kate ate a great dinner. Her foster mom had sent a list of things she wanted us to know, one of which was what she liked to eat at each meal, but also said that she is not a picky eater. I can tell! Once she finished eating, tears started rolling. She had one of her full out grieving moments at the restaurant calling out for her mama. Bella June, Sophia, and I took her outside for a walk and that seemed to settle her down.

As we all went to bed tonight, Tim tried to get her to go with us. She shook her head no. We let her continue to play and within fifteen minutes, she was trying to climb into the bed herself. I really didn’t know if she would come on her own, but she did.

Back when Sophia was little – maybe three? – we took Chinese lessons at Matt and Kelli’s once a week with a lady from Beijing teaching for the Nelson Co. Schools. One of the things that Ms. Helen taught us was to say “I love you” in Chinese. We’ve said it some to Sophia over the years, but I’m finding myself using it much more now – out of necessity. As we tucked Kate into bed and gave her kisses, Tim and I both told her again, “Wo ai ni.” She quietly went to sleep. While it’s 3 a.m. and I’m up because she just had a grieving episode, I can honestly say that today was much better. She played with Sophia, talked to herself a ton, fought with Bella June over some crayons, ate well, looked at us when we called her name, has learned the bathroom routine (her home had a squatty potty so we’ve taught her to sit on the toilet/flush/wash hands), and taken a bath. We’re going to attempt teeth brushing tomorrow. 

While I can’t post myself or get pictures posted right now, I am able to read your comments because they come to my e-mail. Thank you so much for your prayers and words of encouragement! We love you all!

Gotcha Day

Today was Kate day. Very fitting to get her on August 27 as that’s the day I first became a sister (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETH), and I’m glad my girls will always have this as a special day as well.

A little about our day before getting Kate… We had an awesome breakfast at our hotel. Really, really good. I ate so much that I didn’t eat again until dinner. We Skyped family and went to Walmart. That was a neat experience that I’ll share more about later. The lack of sleep was catching up with us by early afternoon, so Tim and I slept for about an hour.
We were told to be in the hotel’s business center at 3 p.m. to meet Kate. About ten minutes before that, David called our room to say she was there and that we needed to get there quickly. I could hear her sobbing in the background. When we got in there, she was a mess. She had thrown up in the car on the way (motion sickness), and they had quickly changed her clothes before we came in. She has a cold, so between that and all of the crying, her nose was a mess. And she was crying over and over, “Mama! Mama!” So, so sad. We were able to calm her down fairly quickly (within ten or fifteen minutes, I’d say). It helped that the orphanage staff left, but Bella June stayed. David needed a family picture for records for the orphanage. Kate wanted Bella June in our family picture. So we ended up doing a picture of the two of them and then she warmed up to the idea of a picture with us.

We spent the next hour or so in the business center showing her toys and trying to get her to warm up to us. When David suggested she go to the room with us, she did so willingly and without crying for Bella June.

The next couple of hours were o.k. She played quietly with Sophia. We quickly learned that she is a smart and organized little girl. When I took her shoes off her, she took her plastic braces off that were inside her shoes, stood up and walked over to where I had put her shoes and neatly lined up the braces as well. We had noticed when she first came in the room, she located where we keep our luggage and placed her little backpack on top of our luggage. It’s easy to tell that she has been taught that everything has its place. At 5:30, we met the group for dinner. She did very well at dinner and was able to signal to me that she needed to use the restroom. When I used the Chinese word for bathroom with her, she nodded yes. Our first real communication!

When we got back from dinner, David came to our room to help us with the blogging issue (still not resolved). I noticed that she was busy packing her backpack up and placing her shoes on top of it. Apparently, she thought that when David left that she was leaving because when the door shut without her, she LOST IT. I mean, it was awful. Our very quiet girl was suddenly talking 100 miles per minute in Chinese and all we were getting was “MAMA!” in every other sentence. She was sobbing. I really thought she was going to throw up. To say it was heartbreaking would be an understatement. The three of us had a hard time keeping it together because it was very difficult to see her in that much pain. At one point, she opened the hotel door and attempted to leave. Sophia cried.

To try to distract her, we ran bath water and put some ducks in there. Sophia got in to take a bath, and I hoped that Kate would. I took her dress off. She left the bathroom and put her old tennis shoes on with her panties. She got her Chinese dress out of her backpack and wrapped it around herself. She was determined to leave. There’s nothing to do in this situation but hold her, agree with her (not sure what all I agreed to), and love her. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I did realize that she calmed down when I sang, so I did a lot of singing. I think her foster mom must sing to her a lot because we caught Kate singing a few times at dinner.

She is used to sleeping with her foster mom, so Tim and I put her between us. She cried herself to sleep, but seemed to bring it down from sobbing to quiet tears as I sang. She woke at midnight and needed to use the bathroom and get a drink. She cried again for her foster mom. I sang, and she was asleep again in about five minutes. She woke again at 3 a.m. for bathroom/drink. No crying this time. Tim says she sat straight up in bed at 4 a.m., looked at me then at him and laid back down and went to sleep.

Sophia looked at us after two hours of the sobbing last night and said, “Will she always be like this?” I reminded her of how she would feel if she had been taken away from us. It will take a while for Kate to recover from this. Until then, we will show patience and love and pray that each new day is better than the last.

Goodbye Hong Kong, Hello Nanning

Matthew and the three Hong Kong families

I think all blogs are blocked from this province. I can read your comments as they are coming to my e-mail account, but I don’t think that I am going to be able to blog. My sister, Beth, is going to help me out, but posts may be delayed.

It’s 2:15 a.m., and I can’t sleep. I have not made it past 5 a.m. since we’ve been here, but this is even early for me. I think that part of it is the time change, but I’m sure the bigger part is nerves. We get Kate in just a little over 12 hours.

We said goodbye to the two families from Colorado and to Matthew on Sunday morning. They are headed to another province to adopt. We will meet up with them in Guangzhou on Friday. We had a free day to do as we wanted, but had to be out of the room by noon. Sophia and I took an early morning swim and then packed our bags. After checking out, she and I went to a Chinese restaurant near the hotel for lunch. Tim wasn’t hungry because he had breakfast while we swam. I did pretty well ordering and paying with Hong Kong dollars. I had some fried noodles (so, so), and Sophia had hot and sour soup with chicken. I noticed when they brought it to her that you could literally see red on the surface of the soup. She and I both decided it was Tabasco Sauce as it lit her up. At one point during the meal, she came to me to have me feel her forehead. She was dripping with sweat. She kept it eating though! It’s interesting that when we walk into the Chinese restaurants, I think to myself, “It stinks in here.” Then she says out loud, “Mmm…it smells good in here!” I told her today that I wish I knew if it’s just a matter of she really likes Chinese food or if there’s something in her that reminds her of her first home. It’s so strange.

Around 2:00 Sunday afternoon, Joy from CCAI picked us up for the airport. Matthew was still tied up with the other two families. Joy was very sweet and was helpful guiding us through the airport. Our flight left around 5:00, and we were in the air under 1 ½ hours. As soon as we sat down in our plane seats, Sophia fell asleep. It was an incredible take off in terms of view – probably the best of my life. Hong Kong was beautiful from the sky. It was dark when we landed Friday night, and I had missed it. To see from the air all of the little islands was amazing. And on top of that, we had a great view of Disneyland from the sky. We recognized it because of Space Mountain. Matthew was right. It’s very small compared to our Magic Kingdom! I really wanted Sophia to see it, but she wouldn’t budge. Actually, she was so out of it when we landed that we were the last ones off the plane. She cried when we woke her up. So tired! Jet lag had hit her badly.

We had about an hour drive to the hotel. We are now in Nanning. This is the capital city of Guangxi, Kate’s province. Our new guide, David, told us that we will get Kate at 3 p.m. on Monday (that’s 3 a.m. for all of our friends/family at home). Her foster parents are putting her and Bella June on a train very early this morning with the orphanage staff. I can only imagine how hard that will be for all of them. They have had these girls for over 2 ½ years. David said that he had spoken with the foster mom by phone and explained that the two families are committed to keeping the girls in contact with each other and that that made her feel so much better. He also told us that Kate is called Ning Ning most of the time. I’m sure we will slowly transition from that to Kate. He said that he had the contact information for the foster parents, and that we could call them at any point this week with questions that we had. So kind of them!

While in the car, David talked about the plight of older orphans explaining that it’s so much more difficult to place them in families than it is infants. I asked him why the orphanage waited so long to put Kate and Bella June up for adoption, and he didn’t know. I am still baffled by that. Why couldn’t she have been placed with a family once her clubfoot treatment was over in January 2010? David is currently advocating for two 12 year old girls in Guilin. Their good friend was just adopted a couple of weeks ago to the US (Hi, Vickie!), and he desperately wants to place her friends.

I don’t want you to think that the whole hour with David was serious talk. Actually, we laughed most of the drive. When he found out that JD (Robin and Todd’s son) has been waking at 3 a.m. every day, he suggested that he go karaoke. Apparently that’s very popular here. He cracked us up talking about how some of his friends will spend the entire day listening to karaoke, hanging out, and eating from the buffet (“boo fet” he called it). We were rolling! David is probably in his early to mid-twenties and will be a ton of fun this week!

So, our day looks like this:

Once we’re all up: Figure out Internet so that I can post this and Skype Ella.

10:30 a.m.: Meet David to go to Walmart. It’s about a five minute walk from the hotel. I’ve never been to Walmart in China. So excited! Ha! Ha! He suggested that we buy some typical Chinese snacks so that the girls aren’t overwhelmed by our American snacks.

3:00 p.m.: Kate will be brought to our hotel. This is weird to me as I’m used to going to a government office for this, but I do know this happens sometimes.

7:30 p.m.: It will be 7:30 a.m. in KY. Hoping Ella will be up so that we can Skype her and introduce her to her little sister.