Thursday, November 22, 2012

How do you measure a year in the life?

One year ago today I Audrey was attending her first Thanksgiving feast with our family. One year ago. One Year. What the???
365 days, 525, 600 minutes, 31,557,600 seconds. One year.
 I think I've only slept, like, 20 of those minutes.
 What a year. Two surgeries, physical therapy, walking, talking, temper tantrums, doctors visits, potty training that is NOT happening, testing limits, growing out of clothes that used to fit, finaly sleeping most of the night. if we forget where we put that panda one more time, sleepless nights...having a two year old...This has been the hardest year, the funnest year, the most maddening year, the helpless year, the year of learning. This year has been full of giggles, hugs, kissing boo boo's, bows, hair cuts, clothes, It took a year but Audrey and I have finally found our groove.
As I think about how drastically both of our lives have changed over the past 365 days, I stand in awe of how well it has gone. Don't get me wrong, This has been hard. Last week I was about ready to call in the parents and run far away after Audrey's second day in a row of major defiance. The medical costs alone have almost sent me to the poor house quite a few times. And we all remember when Audrey was sleeping only 3 to 4 hours a night...well I remember those nights anyway. But to find our place, our comfort zone 12 months into this journey, has been a blessing.
As I have said before, Audrey is the most resilient child I have ever met. She bounces back from adversity quickly and does so with a giggle and a smile on her face. Though she says, "I don't yike the boo boo docta," she immediately wants to hug him or her after a procedure. She still falls alot, but gets right back up and keeps on moving. She is very sensitive and wants to make up quickly after discipline so she can get back to having fun. I am so blessed to be her mom.
I've learned so much these 365 days. I've learned that I am NOT tollerant of bad behavior, that my idea of what a clean house is has changed, that just when I think my heart could not over flow more with love, it does it again. I also have learned that I still need a forgiving savior. As many times as I have been selfless and have loved my daughter through her fears and behavior, I have been selfish and have not handled her issues properly. I have learned to ask for her forgiveness as I have failed her many times. Mom guilt? Yes. But also a realization/reminder that I still need the God who brought my daughter from the other side of the world to handle the small details of our daily life. As He rescued her from the dying room, I need Him to rescue me each day. (thanks Ashley Ivester for the post to remind me of this)
I need to go wake my daughter up and celebrate this Thanksgiving Day. Wake my daugher up...my DAUGHTER... for THIS I am Thankful.
 Gotcha Day 2012
Gotcha Day 2011
 

Monday, May 7, 2012

6 Months Yesterday....No Body Told Me....

I was thinking that I might want to make a post since I had not posted since our return. The I realized Audrey had been home for 6 months. WOW. I look back at my posts and laugh at how naive I was to this whole thing - not that I am wise now by any means. How certain I was then that God would take care of us on this journey...and He has. My adopted/adoptive friends already know this - but Audrey is the perfect match to me and my family/ She couldn't be more perfect for me even if I would have birthed her, and this is no coincidence. It has been so fun to watch her bloom and grow, learn, and become herself within our family. I look back at those photos of Gotcha Day and just stand in awe. She has changed physically of course - atleast one inch in height, 3 pounds, and has leaned out. But also in her confidence. That scared little girl that sat on my lap and cried for two hours straight is now a confident little pistol whose favorite activity is yelling, "Come on girl" to her Momma and trying to take off walking. The little girl who sat quietly and played with her stacking cups now enjoys screaming at the singers on Idol and dancing around to the music. The not-so-picky-eater has started to hate everything but mac and cheese, hot dogs, and cheese. The weak, shakey baby that first pulled up on a stool in our hotel room is now taking her first steps and wollering her mother each night. It has been a transformation I have been priviledged to watch.
    Funny how I was so scared of those doctors appointments. Audrey is the bravest little girl I know. She charms everyone in the offices and is greeted by name by most of the nurses in the MRI/CAT scan area at Cardinal Glennon. She was won the heart of her surgeon - and I think the crush is mutual. She has exceeded his expectations of her progress with physical therapy and will only need a small amount of the testing he originally thought she would need. Dr. Elbabee is confident that the hole in her skull will close and that her Chiari malformation is not ever going to be a big deal. He is also confident that she will walk independently. None of this would be possible without the loving care she recieved at the Starfish Foster Home. While in China I got to visit the home where Audrey was saved. What a wonderful place and I can't wait to go back with her.
Gotcha Day scared baby first time on my lap

in GZ barely standing with nelp

Easter Sunday standing alone, just leaning on fence

Easter Sunday wanting to get down and play

     Six months has flown by. I hope to post more about our trip like I said I would, and hope to post more about how God has worked through this whole life changing event..... I think I am still trying to digest and process the whole thing. No one told me it would be like this, or if they did I didn't have the ablilty to understand, nor do I feel now that I have the words to adequately describe my experience to another. All I can say is that my little girl is asleep in her room about 6 feet from me. I waited almost 5 years to say that. She is the love of my life...and when I think I can't love her more, I do!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Panic begins with a haircut!

I've been realizing little by little over the past few days how much my life is going to change next week. NEXT WEEK! I'm going to be a mom NEXT WEEK! Holy Cow.

People keep asking me if I am getting excited about the trip to get Audrey. I keep answering that I am taking it one day at a time so I don't lose my mind too quickly. And that is true. Did you know that the first week after I decided to adopt Audrey I only slept a couple of hours a night? True story. I started planning and thinking, worry and fretting about this path that God has us on. But everything sort of fell into place and it got easier sleep and not worry.
Then last week some volunteers at Starfish gave Audrey a hair cut. I just about lost it when I found out they cut her hair....alot.... I know they are still in charge of her there and take REALLY great care of her. But they cut her hair and I was panicking. I'll be in charge of her hair cuts, doctors appointments, budgeting for two.....seriously......I will be in charge of ALL of this. Me? Really? God, are you sure about this, 'cause you know I'm the worlds biggest ding dong... I quickly fell back into the not sleeping well and worry mode.



Fast forward....
This week I made Audrey's first doctors appointment, scheduled her first haircut here, and am making plans for play dates. I've done all of this with out panic not because of anything I have done, but because of something that my friend Dian reminded me of in small group at church this week: When I can't, God can. He has a plan. This lesson hit me on so many levels because I had focused on the things that I can't control and the things that are not important. So she has a short hair cut that I didn't chose, big deal. She has people around her that love her and want her to look beautiful for me when I pick her up. So what if I have a limited budget. If I live within that budget and honor Him with our spending He will provide. So what if she is going to have lots of doctors appointments. We are blessed to live near St. Louis, Mo. where there are some of the top doctors in the United States for children practicing at Childrens Hospital. (and of course near the CARDINALS!)
I've had other realizations this week: this is the last pay check I'll get where the money is all mine, this is the last week I will be only getting myself up to go to work, and this is the last time I'll be making posts while sane. But it is all good. And to answer the question: YES I AM getting EXCITED!

Here is Audrey sitting with her Ayi (aunti or nanny) and her YaYa (the man they call Grandpa who happens to be the husband to her Ayi). Also pictured here are some of the wonderful volunteers that I can't wait to meet - Shang, Christy, Oliva, Ting. The kids here are Iris, Jack, Joy, Seth, and my boyfriend Jack. I can't wait to meet and hug those little babies!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

John BonJovi is my Baby Daddy!

Ok not really. But in my dreams he is the father of my daughter and treats her like a princess. He cooks, cleans, and lets me live a life of luxury, meets my every need, and loves my curves. He grants my every wish and whim and lavishes me with gifts and love songs. And feeds me chocolates. Shhh.....don't wake me.

I've known the face of my daughter for 5 months now. Since that fateful May (friday) the 13th, the day I found her, I have become the worst worry wort. I worry about her spina bifida. I worry about what to feed this girl. I worry about the first few days together, if she will be alergic to anything, if she will trust me quickly, is she will sleep well. I worry that she will scream all the way home, that she will have diarhea all over her and me, and that we will have brought the right size of clothes for her to wear. I worry that she will need surgery, that she won't bond with me, that she will not walk properly. I worry that she will not respond to my parenting, or that we will have enough money, and that she will hate all the things I love. I worry that I won't be enough for her. And I worry that she does not have a Daddy.

 When God brought me to the point in my life where I knew it was time to adopt, He clearly said, "trust me." No other explaination was given. "Trust Me." I did pretty well with that command for all the years I have waited for Audrey. Now with just 5 weeks left before I meet her I find it harder and harder to do. Maybe the reality is sinking in, or the fact that I know that any control I had over my life is now going to be handed over to a soon to be two year old, but I find it harder and harder to NOT worry. Am I crazy, or unrealistic? No. These things I listed above are valid and reasonable concerns. So why before, when there was so much unknown, was it easier to trust than it is now? Is it because the issues are concrete and not a figment of my imagination? Is it because I never expected to be faced with these issues? I don't know. But here they are and here I am. "TRUST ME". ugh.

As of now Audrey doesn't have a father, a Daddy. She doesn't have a man who will make her feel like the prettiest princess, or kiss her booboo's, or tell her she is the smartest little girl in the world. She doesn't have a man in her life to be the leader of her home, be an example of Christ, or lead her to Jesus. She has me. And this scares me to death. Of all the concerns I have listed above, the over-riding question I have is, "Am I going to be enough for her?" God tells me that I am and I have to believe Him. I have to believe Him because he told me to believe Him. Guess my years of teaching fatherless, lost children cause me to doubt this simple command. But His word states it clearly:

Jeremiah 29:11 - 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
Philippians 4:4-7"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Matthew 6:25 - 26
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

God has called my to this place, a place with alot of unknowns. All he has asked me to do is trust Him. Well, trust and obey (for there's no other way - everyone sing along). Simple, right? 
My free time for dating will be extremely limited in a few weeks. He asked me to trust Him. Why shouldn't I trust Him? He is bringing me my daughter from the other side of the world. If he can do that then why wouldn't He bring to us a father for Audrey and a husband for me? He can, if it is His good and perfect will. If not I know - and have to believe - that Audrey and I will be ok. I know this because he said, "TRUST ME, Trust me, trust me."


This past week my new FB friend Vicki went to get her daughter Olivia from Starfish. The family went back to visit one day and Vicki took lots of photos and a video of Audrey. I can't get the video to appear on here so you can see it on my FB page. Here are the photos she took!



"HI"! Thanks Vicki for the photos! Just a few more weeks and I get to kiss those chubby cheeks!
Oh Ya - and my baby daddy! Whew!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A different kind of Perfect.

That day in May, when I saw Audrey's face for the first time, I made a decision. I decided not to tell many people about her condition. Why? Well, her condition will probably NOT affect her life in a negative way. If I never told you about it you may never know she had a challenge at the beginning of her life. I want her to grow up with out any prejudices or assumptions made about her, and have every opportunity to accomplish her goals and dreams. Now that I've been living with her condition as a part of my, her, and our life, I feel that I need to expain more about what we face when she returns home. Also, I feel that I'm leaving out a bit of her story that is SO important for all to understand just how AWESOME God is.
Audrey was born with Cranial Mengocele Spina Bifida with Hydrocephalus. Because of her spina bifida she also has a Chiari malformation. Here are some definitions as to what that diagnosis means:

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. In spina bifida, a baby's spine does not close completely during early pregnancy.

Meningocele

  • A cyst made up of membranes, which surround the spinal cord, protrudes through the open part of the spine.
  • Spinal fluid can leak out.
  • The cyst can be surgically removed.
  • Development after surgery is usually normal.
Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus occurs when excess fluid builds up in your brain, most often because of an obstruction preventing proper fluid drainage.

Chiari Malformation
Chiari malformation (kee-AHR-ee mal-for-MAY-shun) is a condition in which brain tissue protrudes into your spinal canal.

Sure is a mouthful to say, isn't it? Basically Audrey was born with a fluid filled sac at the base of her skull. Since her fluid was protruding out of her skull, the skull has a little bit of a bigger gap in it around her spinal column than most of us have. I only have some basic information about her early months and hope to find out more when I go to China. What I know is that when Amanda got her, she was in a lot of pain from the pressure in her head. That was in December of 2009. In January of 2010 she was taken to a local hospital and had surgery to close the sack. She still was in pain and not well so a few days later a shunt was placed in her head to relieve the pressure. Since then things have gone well for Audrey. She is developing normally, though a little behind. Heck, she had brain surgery twice when she was two months old....I'd be a little behind if I had brain surgery. She should develop normally for her whole life and only we only expect her to have minimal restrictions....like not playing contact sports...which is fine with me. :)
We may have to have some physical therapy when we get home, we may not. We may have to have some speach therapy, we may not. She may have to have a shunt revision (brain surgery) when she gets home, she probably will not. The only difference we see in her is that she will have to visit a neurologist a couple of times a year to make sure the shunt is working. That is it. For someone left in a dying room when she was in the orphanage, she sure has come along way. Without God getting Amanda to Audrey, she would have been left to pass away. Without God providing her wonderful surgeons, Audrey would have suffered more pain and major brain damage. I've written before about how God has watched over her and blessed us with the Starfish Foster Home and Amanda. God has something amazing in store for this little wonder, and I can't wait to see what she does with her life. She had a rough start, and was not born under our definition of perfect. She is a different kind of perfect, and I think that is the best perfect, because she is the only perfect for me!

This week she recieved the scrapbook I made of me, Mom and Dad, Sophia, and her room. She also recieved a voice recoreded book that I read to her. Here is a photo of her with the books. Shang, the gal who took the photo, said she just kept smiling while looking at the book and while they were taking her picture. You can also see the chicken pox that she is recovering from.





Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shhhhh.....don't tell my mommy I don't look like her....

It may come as a surprise to many of you, but my daughter won't look like me. I know, I know, a shocker. The title quote for this post came from a t-shirt that is no longer in production. I saw it when I began the adoption process and am sad that I can't purchase it any more. As an adoptee, it was just luck of the draw that I happen to look like my Dad' s side of the family. I resemble them. I never had the uncomfortable conversation with folks who ask who my "real" parents were, nor did my parents have to explain to others what my country of origin was unless they told someone I was adopted. Audrey will not have that luxury. At all.
I remember a conversation with my friend Janene one night after a day of completing an online adoption class. " I'm not sure why they keep asking me all these questions about multi-racial adoption. My daughter is just from China, she's not of another race. We are not going to be a multi-racial family, are we?" "No, you won't be a multi-racial family," Janene replied, "Wait...." she said. And so began my realization that I will have a multi-racial family.
I knew my kid would be from China. I knew that she would have dark hair and olive skin. I knew she would be Asian. I just didn't think it was different. When you are looking through the eyes of love (you can thank me later for getting that song stuck in your head) I guess the differences doesn't matter to the Mom. What I had not figured out is that though I don't see our differences, the world does. Though I knew my kid could be purple with green polka dots and I would love her anyway, the world cares. Maybe because our family is different, maybe because they are racist, maybe because they don't understand how someone could love a child that didn't come from their body, I don't know. But people will notice, and have questions, and make snarky remarks. I'll never know where some people get their sense of entitlement to ask rude questions, but they have it, and they do. I would like to think I am prepared with intelligent, reasonable, kind answers to their questions. But I know myself and will have to really THINK before answering the ones I expect to encounter. And I will have to help my daughter with intelligent, reasonable, and kind answers to give as well. She will learn to answer these people from my example. And I hope I honor her with those answers.
Here are some questions and statements I expect to hear: (what I want to say is in italics, what I will say in regular font)
- Are you her real mother?  (Have you asked your mom if your dad your real dad?) Yes, I am her real mother!
- Where is she from? ( A town called Nunyabiznaz) Bethalto.
- Do you know her real parents? ( No, they didn't give me the serial number when they made her at the factory) Yes, I know myself quite well.
- How much did she cost? ( $1.25 - ON SALE!) She is priceless.
- Does she speak Chinese? ( She speaks 12 languages - a child prodigy) She is a baby and baby is the
   same in all languages.
- I don't understand how someone could throw away/give up a child! (when you were married to your spouse did your family throw you away?) She wasn't thrown away/given up. Her birth parents turned her over to God and trusted that someone could raise her and give her medical care.
- Your child is so lucky - you saved her. (She sure the heck is lucky to have me as a mom...I rock!) I
   didn't save her. God did. I just get to raise her!
I don't think that most people are out to be mean. The person asking may know someone who has or is adopting internationally or may be interested in adoption for their family. Most of the time, however, people are just curious as to why we look different. Or they may want me to know that they notice the difference. Or they are mean. Whatever. My family, my kids' story, is really no one else's business. All that matters is that I am her Mom and she is my kid. You that read this blog are priviledged to know most of Audrey's story because I love you and I am just so excited about her that I can't keep quiet. I want you all to know of God's provision for us and how He has made this journey just for His glory. There are things that I will not share with you because it is her story and I want to let her make the decision as to what she wants to share with people. Our looks are obvious, yes. But our story, her story, is one that is precious and not for public display.
I (hand on the computer, one in the air) pledge to answer intelligently, respectfully, and reasonably those questions that other people may ask of me and my family. Most of the time. I will refrain from saying, "So what if she is adopted, maybe you were a mistake." I will bite my tongue and not pretend I can't speak English. I will be kind and not punch people in the throat. But in the words of the great Ron White, "You can't fix stupid."


We are about the same age in these photos. Doesn't my Dad look groovy?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who Woulda Thought....

Orphanage. Social Welfare Institute. I am sure those words conjure up preconceived images your mind as to what those places look like. And those images are not all that pleasant. When I started the adoption process one of the first things that we were informed about was where our children would come from. Without reviewing the whole one child policy situation lets just say that when international adoption started most if not all of the government run orphanages were overflowing with babies, mostly girls, and struggled to feed, clothe, and take care of them all. We have been educated that our children may be underweight, not make eye contact, may not be able to suck from a bottle, and not used to diapers. They may not know how to play with toys, call out for help, and if older may hoard food. Sad, but a consequence of the situation. I use the word MAY because over the past 10 years the orphanage situations have become better and are more able to take care of those entrusted to them. There are some very good SWI's (Social Welfare Institute) that take excellent care of the children and have plenty of staff and people to love on the kids. There are still some that are not.
Since I felt the call to adopt, one of my many prayers to God about my daughter was that she would be placed in a SWI that had plenty of resources and lots of people to lover her and pay attention to her. I prayed that she would have good health and access to good medical care, lots of food to eat, and had the opportunity to make strong bonds with her care givers. I just assumed that she would come from one of the SWI's and she would have the same start that most children adopted from China have. Who woulda thought that she would be placed where she is - the Starfish Foster Home. I had no idea that places like this existed, but God did. He knew. He knew that on December 27th, 2009 a sick little girl would be found and taken to an orphanage. He knew that they would see that she was sick and would take her to a hospital - a hospital where a woman named Amanda would find her and take her to her foster home. He knew that Amanda would get the best medical care for her and take care of her until she was ready to be placed and get her forever family. He knew.
There is so much to Audrey's story that I will never know. I will never know if December 14th is her actual birthday - the hospital estimated her birth date when she was brought in. I will never know what happened in those few days between her birth date and her finding. I will never know if she has brothers and sisters, if she looks like her birth mother or father, if she was well fed. But God knows, and that makes it all OK with me. He knew exactly what she would need and took care of her. As Psalm 139 says (excuse my poor paraphrasing) "I know you and made you and all those days adorned for you. You can't get away from me because I know where you are. I know all you will do before you do it and I got you, I will never leave you." He knew her Chinese name and that she would be known as Sally. He knew that she would need the Starfish Foster Home. He knew that I would need the Starfish Foster Home even before I knew anything about it. He knew a chubby little girl across the world would need a mommy just like me and He brought us together.

The Starfish Foster Home is a gift from God. I never knew that a place like this existed. I thought all children adopted from China came from government run SWI's. But I was wrong.(borrowed from the Starfish web page) In September 2005, Amanda de Lange founded Starfish Children's Services to save children who have special health needs that are the most at-risk in its partner orphanages. This promptly resulted in the establishment of Starfish Foster Home (SCS) to rescue children in need of medical care by working in collaboration with local orphanages. After nursing them back to health through solid nutrition and a loving environment, Starfish Children's Services organizes and pays for the children’s surgeries before providing post-operative care. After the surgeries, the goal shifts to getting these children in the adoption pipeline so that they can join a stable, loving family. Here is a link to the Starfish Foster Home web page -  www.thestarfishfosterhome.org. On this web page you can find out more about Amanda and the work she does, the kids living there, and how you can help. The foster home is different from the typical SWI in that it is privately funded, not government run. The fosterhome has a ratio of 1 nanny to 3 kids. Amanda has access to excellent surgeons and medical care for the children in her facility. I have been so overwhelmed by all the Angels God has sent ahead of me on the path to my daughter. There have been so many volunteers that help Starfish and take care of our babies. Taylor and Jet are the two that have sent me photos and video of my girl.  Yonna sponsored my girl for a year before I came along, sending her clothes and gifts. And Amanda just sent me a message on FB that said that Audrey (Sally) is cruising the furniture and will be walking alone soon. Who woulda thought? I sure didn't, but I am so glad that God did. He has her, all the rest of those babies, and me in his hands. And it is good!
Taylor also sent me some new photos and video! Enjoy!


  
 


 
 


video
I think it is funny that at the end of this video she walks over to get some food!


Please go to the Starfish page and see if you are called to help out. You can send money, supplies, or donate to a specific child's care by sponsoring them or helping to pay for a child's surgery. Some one did that for my kid. If you feel led to adopt a child you can contact any agency dealing with international adoption and China, and also contact Amanda from the web page. If I ever get the chance to adopt again I would request a child from this place. They are well taken care of AND are just so gosh darn cute. I'm going to have a hard time not taking another child home with me. I do plan, when she is old enough, to take Audrey back to volunteer. Right now Jet and her family are there with daughter Nora volunteering - Nora was adopted from Starfish.
Here is the story that gives Starfish its name: An older man was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy was walking slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed a beached starfish back into the ocean. The older man, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, "I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely, such an industrious and kindhearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?"The boy looked up at that man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, "For this one, it makes a difference."