Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This is DQ country

There is nothing like country livin...and this is coming from a city girl who at one time thought she had been banished to a rural, no man's land.  But now, there's no going back for me! We spend our evenings driving the golf cart up and down the road, watching for the neighborhood owl, and we can actually build a campfire right outside our back door.   And if you ever drive through rural East Texas, you are bound to see a Dairy Queen in every small town.

Sophia loved her first taste of the DQ! Mini size, strawberry blizzard.  She ate it ALL with a little help from her big brother after he finished off his sundae.  Now that is good country livin!

Attachment is a journey

I always want to be honest in my posts. Sometimes, adoption is not an easy road.  But then again, most valuable relationships take work.

Although Sophia's adjustment is moving along, we have occasional setbacks in the attachment process.  You see...by the time Sophia came to her "forever family", she had experienced multiple losses in her short life.  Loss of her birth mother.  Loss of her original caretaker.  And then just a few weeks ago, loss of her orphanage nanny.  After being hurt multiple times, we can find it difficult to trust again.  Why make ourselves vulnerable when that person could disappear just like the others?  This is the emotional dilemma that the newly adopted child finds themselves in.

We have good days and bad days with Sophia.  Some mornings she is all smiles with lots of hugs and other mornings she goes into the corner and turns her back to me.  It's as though she is thinking, "Is this mommy the real thing?"  (I am!)  "Will she love me through thick and thin?"  (I will!)  "Can she be trusted?"  (I can!)  Attachment is a journey that takes time, but we are in it for the long haul.

This essay entitled "A Different Perspective" gives such incredible insight into what a newly adopted child might be feeling.  It's told from the perspective of a new bride, and I think it hits the nail right on the head.

A Different Perspective
Immense Loss; Walk a Mile in Baby’s Booties

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a 

spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancee. You love his 
touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Days

We've been staying close to home a lot lately to allow Sophia time to adjust to her new surroundings.  Some days, we don't even get out of our pajamas!  One of Levi's favorite afternoon activities is building a "house" out of the couch cushions and setting up shop inside.  Sophia was happy to join in on the fun!  I love seeing my kiddos play together....that is when they aren't arguing over toys or one has the other pinned to the ground in a head lock. :)

Here's some pics of how we pass the time:
Please pardon my son's nudity...he sees little need for clothing in the summer!

Sophia loved climbing through the tunnel house
"What IS this thing?"
First trip to the neighbor's trampoline

Picking tomatoes from the garden

Levi pushing Sophia, a bit too fast for her taste!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A difficult post

I could never bring myself to write this post while in China.  Perhaps the emotions were just too fresh.

The day before we saw the US consulate, I met our guide at the hotel to review and organize our paperwork for the big visa appointment the next day.  I saw Sophia's Chinese passport for the first time, and I remember giggling at her passport picture where she is sporting a huge bow on her head.  She will hate me someday for that.  ;)

The other document I saw for the first time was Sophia's abandonment paper, the official Chinese document stating the details of her abandonment and finding.  It was printed in both English and Mandarin and was authenticated with some kind of seal.  This document is needed to verify that a child has true orphan status and is available for adoption.

Viewing this piece of paper was so emotional for me.  I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I stared blankly at my guide, and he knew to give me a moment.  The details of Sophia's abandonment were not a surprise to me.  In fact, everything matched what I had read many times on her referral papers and in her finding ad.  But for some reason, seeing it again after actually meeting my daughter was a new, profound experience.  Now, I had held Sophia close, rocked her to sleep, and dried her tears.  I had seen her beautiful smile.  Now, I knew I would do anything for her.

Someday, sweet Sophia will read this document herself.  She will know her story.  We will face  difficult conversations and tackle questions that may be steeped in hurt, confusion,  and disappointment.  I pray The Lord will provide the answers I need at just the right time.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalms 34:18

My two blessings

Monday, July 15, 2013

Welcome Home Sophia!

The last few days have been a blur....or was it more like a fog?  Yes, a jet lag-induced, nocturnal fog.  Adam and I joked that each time we return from Asia, it takes us longer to recover.  Maybe because we are older, or probably more because we return each time with a new addition to the family!  But, I think we are close to aligning our internal clocks with the Central time zone, and for that I am thankful.

We arrived at DFW airport to a warm greeting of family and friends waving American flags and homecoming signs.  What a welcome sight for this homesick family of four!  Upon arriving home, we found a spotless house decorated with all things pink and a fully stocked fridge.  Ahhh, it's the simple things in life.  

Sophia is adjusting nicely. She is affectionate and learning to give hugs and kisses.  At first, she resisted being rocked to sleep but I kept trying, and tonight, she snuggled in close and smiled before falling sweetly to sleep.  Since her orphanage had few toys, she had no idea of how to "play" so it's been exciting to see her experience simple toys for the first time.  Stacking rings, building blocks, and  baby dolls.  In fact, she has experienced many firsts.
  • First ride in a car seat ( not a fan!) 
  • First trip to Walmart (She and Levi fell asleep before we got there)
  • First taste of McDonalds (She loves French fries, but who doesn't?)
All in all, we could not ask for a smoother transition.  In the upcoming weeks, we will tackle the necessary doctor visits, early childhood evaluations, and post adoption home studies but for today, we are just enjoying our time with our new daughter.

My NEW mini-van has room for 3 more...just saying! :)

French fries, yum!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The home stretch

What do these 3 pictures have in common?  JET LAG big time!  It's 3am, and we are camped out in a Seattle hotel awaiting our morning flight to Dallas.  We should be sleeping, but instead everyone is awake...all except Sophia.   Levi is watching Bubble Guppies on the I Pad, and Adam and I are catching up on emails and such.  I would be enjoying leftover pizza from last night but Adam got to it first and finished it off.  Well, at least he left me some Dr Pepper.  No wait, it looks like Levi already got to that.....grrrrr!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Leaving China

This morning I woke up singing,

"Cause I'm leavin on a jet plane,
don't know when I'll be back again."

That's right. We leave today and begin the long, long trek home.  Please keep us in your prayers, especially since we will be traveling with two little ones.  We fly Guangzhou to Beijing (3 hours),  5 hour layover, Beijing to Seattle (12 hours), spend the night in Seattle, then one final flight to Dallas (4 hours).

I think I can....I think I can.....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sweet Sophia

With each day, our baby girl is opening up more, and we are seeing her sweet personality blossom and bloom.  Giggles, smiles, and even the occasional quick hug or snuggle!

It was an early morning for us.  We had to be at the United States consulate at 8:30am for our visa appointment.  This is the LAST step before heading back to the States.  Since Sophia would be taking the U.S. citizenship oath (actually we took it on her behalf), I thought it was only appropriate to dress her in red, white, and blue.  When the fashionista's ensemble was finally complete, Adam asked chuckling, "You think it's a bit much?"

Too much???? Impossible!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Church in China

Ready for church

Today is Sunday, and we are missing home and missing our church family.  For two people who grew up in the Bible Belt and attended church while in utero, the religious void in China can be quite a culture shock.  There is not a church on every corner nor a Bible in the nightstand at the hotel.  In fact, our guide in Beijing had never even heard of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Wow...we still have a lot of work to do to fulfill The Great Commission.

Fortunately, thanks to some new friends we made in China, we got the opportunity this morning to attend Guangzhou International Christian Fellowship.  It is one of the only churches that operates "above ground" and in full knowledge of the Chinese government.  It is an international community of believers from all over the world.  All except one place....China.  No Chinese citizen is allowed to worship there in accordance with the license issued by the Chinese government.  Foreigners only.  The ushers even have to check passports at the door because unfortunately, one mistake could shut down the entire ministry.  The church, thankfully, is working to provide other legal opportunities to share the gospel with the people of China.  What an incredible challenge.

May we never take for granted our religious freedom and our opportunity to worship and fellowship with other believers.

Snapshots of China

We've seen many exciting sites while in China...way too many to blog in detail. Here are a few snapshots of the highlights.
Tiananmen Square and famous photo of Chairman Mao

 Tiananmen Square is a bustling place full of tourists and patriotic Chinese waving flags and waiting in long lines to see the body of the late Chairman Mao.  What I found so strange is not a word is ever spoken about the massacre of protesters that happened here in 1989.  The Chinese government has forbidden the people to speak about it, and it's considered taboo to ask your tour guide about the event.  Talk about burying history.

We've also visited The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the Temple of Six Banyan Trees.  I've loved learning the history and culture of the Chinese people.  Levi, on the other hand, has been content to run through the green grass of the parks that surround the historic sights or push his sister in the stroller.  And Sophia???  She's slept through most of the tourist attractions!  She can't be bothered with such things!

Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven

Sophia bored....

Levi and Daddy going for a run!

Temple of Six Banyan Trees

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mama said there'd be days like this...

Crying before she ever saw the doctor

Today was Sophia's medical exam.  I was planning on leaving the "boys" at the hotel, but Levi insisted on coming to make sure Sophia would not be scared when the doctor listened to her heart.  :) We entered the doctor's office with our group, and the place was abuzz.  Imagine a room (with no A/C) full of screaming, terrified children who are visiting the doctor for probably the first time ever.  This puts a kid on edge for sure, and Sophia was no exception.  She screamed her way though most of her three exams, but I'm happy to say that she passed the necessary tests to receive her visa.  One step closer to coming home.

After our stressful morning, we all took a good nap and then headed out for the activity that makes all girls feel better....shopping!!!  I purchased a few (ok, more than a few) future Gotcha Day gifts,
Chinese dresses for Sophia for the next several years, and six pairs of squeaky shoes in all colors and sizes.  They were "buy five, get one free" and I'm a sucker for a good deal! LOL! Adam says we may need an extra suitcase to haul home all our cargo!
Headed out shopping!!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Extra guacamole, please!

When we are traveling, Adam and I always crave Mexican food!  Nachos, tacos, quesadillas!  We walked forever in South Korea to find an On the Border so we could eat chips and queso.  Sad, I know, but we love our Mexican food.

Last night, we were needing a fix and found a Mexican food restaurant right down the street from our hotel.  We were in heaven!  The meal probably would have been just average in Texas, but here among all the noodles and fried rice, it tasted wonderful!

So, Sophia had her first taste of "what's for dinner" usually at our house on the weekends.  And guess what?  She liked it!  This girl LOVES to eat!  In fact, she devoured the guacamole.  Yeah, Sophia, you will fit in just fine.  :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Orphanage visit

Dongguan City Orphanage

Today, we visited Dongguan City Social Welfare Institute, the place Sophia called home for the first two years of her life.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  My experience with overseas orphanages,
especially those for children with special needs, has been heart breaking to say the least.
Sophia's orphanage apartment 
The playground area  
Baby girl's meltdown
Sophia's crib

I LOVED this cutie!

Shower area 

Sophia's nanny giving her a cookie

Dongguan City SWI is a huge complex responsible for over 500 children.  Sophia lived in what
China calls an "imitative family".  A husband/wife team reside in a small apartment on the orphanage campus providing care for 16 children (most with special needs) around the clock.  Can you imagine the physical and emotional strain?  With no breaks.  They eat with the children, sleep with the
children, and then awake with the children to do it all over again.  This certainly is not an ideal
situation.  I had to chuckle a little at the term "imitative" family because families with 16 kids are not typical, unless you are the Duggers.  Nevertheless, I have to applaud China for at least attempting to provide these children with consistent caretakers and the opportunity to bond with a parental figure.

Sophia had a meltdown when we entered the orphanage apartment.  I think the overwhelming emotions and fears of the week's events were finally surfacing.  Sophia's nanny scooped her up to soothe her and appease her with cookies and treats.  It warmed my heart to see Sophia interact with her friends and nanny.  She smiled and giggled and danced to some music.  It gave me a slight
glimpse into our baby girl's personality that I know will shine once we are through this difficult

Then, we toured the small apartment.  16 iron beds each with a pillow and blanket but no mattress.  A television and toy bins but no toys.  And, a small sink with a shower wand for bathing.  All in all,
there was not much to the apartment, but it was spotless (unlike my own home with far fewer kids)
and the children appeared to be well cared for. Sophia's nanny requested to feed her one last time so Sophia ate a huge bowl of rice with pork followed by a marshmallow treat.  I gave some gifts to the
husband and wife team to acknowledge my deep appreciation and gratitude for their love and care for our daughter.

So we left Dongguan City SWI and headed for home.  I'm so glad I chose to make the long trek.  The global orphan crisis is overwhelming.  In fact, Sophia's crib was already occupied by another baby girl.  So many children who will probably never be adopted.  Heartbreaking.  I said a prayer for those she shared her first few years with, and we left for the 2 hour drive to the hotel.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hands tell a story

You can tell a lot about a person from looking at their hands.  Maybe their hands show evidence of laboring long hours in the hot sun.  Or, maybe freshly polished nails on a woman suggest a special occasion right around the corner.   We are told in John 20 that even after the resurrection, the hands of our Savior Jesus Christ still bore the marks of the nails driven through for our sins.  Yes, you can tell a lot about a person from their hands.

Honestly, I was nervous about seeing Sophia's hands for the first time.  What would they look like? As a mother, you naturally want to shield your child from all hurt and disappointment . I couldn't help but wonder, "Would children on the playground make fun of Sophia's hands?"  Or, "At the middle school dance, would the boy she admires want to hold her hand and dance?"  Before coming to China, I rolled these thoughts over and over again in my head.

But now, one of my favorite things about our little girl is her precious hands.  I love to hold them
tight and kiss them over and over again! They are beautiful in my eyes.  And as Adam says, "They make her unique."  I'm amazed at all Sophia can do with those little hands.  I tried to wrestle an empty bottle out of her grip today, and man is that girl strong!  Needless to say, she won the wrestling match.  :)

I pray that someday Sophia's hands will tell her story and her testimony...testimony of the loving, merciful Son of God who himself has unique hands.

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  Isaiah 49:16

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More paperwork, really?

After two adoptions, we are no strangers to paperwork.  Most people can't recite from memory the passport numbers for themselves, husband, and son but I can.  :)   And, apparently the paperwork is not confined to only the U.S. because that is all we've been doing in China....running from appointment to appointment to finalize Sophia's adoption. Yesterday the adoption registrar office and today the police department for a background check.  

But fortunately, Levi has found some sweet friends in our travel group to help pass the time during our long appointments.  They kick the ball, play with toy cars and I Pads, and even fight from time to time.  But as everyone loads back on the bus, the three of them are usually crammed into one seat giggling and laughing like school girls!