Monthly Archives: November 2015

One week home from China

I’ve kept it real for the duration of this adoption (that’s not really a stretch for me anyways), so I’m going to keep on keeping it real here.  It has also been very helpful for me to read the one or two blog posts I could find from families who were very honest about their experiences as they came home from China.

We’ve been home as a family of five for one full week now.  Yay!  The feeling of driving up to our house with all three of our kids was sweet relief and victory.  Also, brushing our teeth with sink water, sleeping in our own bed, making coffee how we like it in the morning, and having access to a kitchen.  It is good to be home.

Home was also very, very hard for a few days.

While we were in China, Elliott became increasingly more comfortable with us.  For her, comfort means that she feels secure enough that she will allow us to put her down without throwing a fit.  It means that she will play independently and walk around, without holding up her arms to be held constantly.  We also saw less and less “indiscriminate affection” as the time went on (“indiscriminate affection” = randomly approaching anyone and lifting her arms to be held in an attempt to get attention.  This is common for kids coming from orphanages.  It is also a big deal – we want her to learn that we are her parents and we meet her needs.  It is also deceiving, because just because someone may hold her it is not true attachment.  Often if someone else will hold her there will be a fit or sadness afterwards for her, because the attention eventually ends.)  In China, she would lift her arms up to EVERYONE.  Even random people on a billboard.  That decreased significantly as time went by and by the last few days she stopped completely.

Almost immediately as we got home, things were very hard.  Elliott reverted back to some of the earliest behaviors we had seen in her – maybe even more difficult and puzzling behaviors then we had seen before.  She was scared and irritable.  She would throw a fit if we set her down or even rested her on the counter.  She was very resistant to the kids.  She can be a little spitfire when she’s not feeling something, and we saw a lot of that the first few days; some hitting, crying when the kids would even talk to her, and lots of fit throwing for various reasons.

The kids were pretty heartbroken.  Bennie especially struggled for a few days, grieving hard his loss as the position as the youngest child, pretty disillusioned that this little sister we had waited for was so cranky, and trying to adjust to us being home from China after two weeks.

It felt sort of like Russ and I had our two kids, Campbell and Bennett, and then this other kid.  Maybe we were babysitting?  We both felt pretty irritated with her and overwhelmed with trying to manage the needs of all the kids.

And finally, jet lag is a beast.  We were not just tired.  I felt moody, foggy, and angry.  I couldn’t think clearly.  I didn’t like Russ anymore, who wasn’t exactly acting like Prince Charming.  I felt like I left my nice, loving, helpful husband in China.

Things reached a peak of bad on Tuesday night.  Russ was sick with some awesome stomach thing he brought home from China and I did night-time duty with our little jet-lagged girl by myself.  That night just happened to be the worst – she was up from 12:30am to 4:00am.  Somewhere around 3:30 I lost all ability to have rational thought and wondered (hysterically) if the rest of my life would look like this.  It wasn’t pretty.  That’s a drastic understatement.

I would say for the most part I have felt pretty educated about the adoption process as we have gone along.  There has been a lot of training involved, I have an incredible friend and mentor who has two little girls from China who has walked me through it all, and I’ve made lots of connections in Facebook groups and gained lots of wisdom from these women who have done this – some of them many times.

So although I have felt very prepared for many parts of this, this was definitely one part of the adoption process that I was just not prepared for.  I knew jet lag would make us tired, but that is about the extent of what I expected.  I did not know that re-entry would be this hard.

I am so thankful for the people who have gone before us.  One of my favorite passages of scripture has long been 2 Corinthians 1.  Paul says “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”

I think so often we miss out on this because we aren’t willing to release the hurt.  We are still mad or resentful that we went through something to begin with and so we miss out on the beauty that God can redeem it by using it for good and to bring comfort to someone else.  Or maybe pride says it is ours and we don’t need to share.  And sometimes, on the other end of it, we aren’t willing to be vulnerable enough to say “I need comfort.  I need to learn and glean hope from God has already gotten you through.”

I was honest with my fellow adoptive mamas and my closest community and got some feedback that I desperately needed.

I was reminded that jet lag is more than just tiredness.  That it can mimic depression.  That we aren’t necessarily falling apart, we are struggling with the effects on our bodies of warping through many time zones.  I was also reminded that she is struggling the worst of all with jet lag, and likely some of the irritability and clinginess is the result of jet lag for her.

In these interactions I was reminded that she has lost the country she is familiar with, that every single thing is now new.  I was reminded Russ and I breathed a sigh of relief when we walked in our home, but for her – this is a big, unfamiliar, scary place.

And I was told, over and over, that she would adjust.  That a week from then, a month from then, six months from then, I would not be sitting on my couch holding her.  I was reminded that we would get to see victory after this very hard point.

I was reminded that although this time feels unimportant and boring, my endless sitting on the couch is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now.  Although it feels like I am essentially a lazy bum, I am giving her the connection she has lacked for the first two years of her life.  I was reminded that if I sit on this couch long enough, she will eventually feel safe enough to get down and start playing.

This hope helped me endure through what has been, without a doubt, the hardest days through this adoption process.

Around Thursday things started to look up.  We started to get more sleep.  The three of us started to feel like we belonged in this time zone.  Russ got himself on an antibiotic.  We started to like each other again.  We started to make it through the day without feeling like zombies (now we just feel like normal very tired parents of three!).  We started to see glimpses of the Elliott we knew in China – funny and spirited.  She did, in fact, get down off my lap and start playing around me.  She has started to get down and play more and for longer stretches.  She started to interact with the kids more and seemed to not be so overwhelmed by their presence.  She actually walked on the tile yesterday for a minute willingly (she is adamantly opposed to hard flooring – tile & wood!)

Last night (Saturday night), Elliott slept a full night – from 7:30pm to 6:30am, with no help from Melatonin and no waking up.  Hallelujah!

There is still a lot of transitioning happening and left to happen.  Becoming attached is not a one and done thing.  The goal is to become securely attached – where time away and other relationships do not effect her relationship with Russ and I (and Campbell and Bennett) as her primary relationships.  We are continuing to cocoon.  We are continuing to work through hard moments (hello, high chair).  We are continuing to try and learn her (today I realized she becomes very clingy when she is hungry).  We are continuing to love on Campbell and Bennett through the newness of this.  We are continuing to pray for wisdom and grace as we navigate all of this.

We are definitely grateful to be doing it without jet lag now though!

Some pictures from our first week home:

Meeting the neighbors!

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Middle of the night jet lag shenanigans

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I love french fries

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Hanging out at home

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Car seats are the worst.

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We spend a lot of time on the rug on our living room floor

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Thanksgiving!

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Black Friday shopping with the girls

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Girlfriend will NOT walk on hard surfaces.  She stays on the carpet or the area rug.  She is nosy though, and is starting to get interested in what is happening beyond her self-imposed limits.  It’s only a matter of time before something entices her to take those scary steps!

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I’m so grateful to rock her to sleep.  I think often about how much touch she missed out on for the first two years of her life.  She is such a sweet snuggler.

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Dancing Girls

 

Coming Home!

On Friday, November 20th we woke up in China and got ready to head home.  We ate one last buffet breakfast at the hotel, finished packing our stuff, checked out, and headed to the Guangzhou airport around 8:15am.  Our flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was scheduled at 11:55am.  We were all checked in and sitting at the gate round 10:15am and it was scheduled to board at 11:25.

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Around 11:20, there started to be a lot of commotion around the ticket counter.   In pretty scarce English, the gentleman at the ticket counter told me that there was a flight delay and we would be leaving about 30 minutes late.

Russ and I were pretty stressed.  We only had a two and a half hour layover in Beijing and had been told when we checked in for this flight that we would have to claim our bags, recheck them and check in for our flight, and go through security again.  We anticipated that Beijing would be a fairly large airport.  Also, we were in China – so everything was made difficult by the language barrier.

We were steadily watching the time and calculating what our layover time would look like by the time we left.  We eventually took off at around 1:00 and arrived around 4:00, with our flight scheduled to take off at 5:40.  An hour and forty minutes might seem like a long time, but in airport time that is nothing.  It took us 20 minutes to taxi to the gate and get off the plane.  Around the time we were waiting for luggage I started to panic.  I did NOT want to get stuck in Beijing.

To make a long (ridiculous) story short, we ended up running for our plane.  After they had Russ basically load our luggage himself because we had missed the point where they took the luggage (Oh China) and we went through the lengthy, very detailed, multi-stop security checkpoints (sure, go ahead and taste that baby food).

Once we boarded the plane, super relieved, we found our seats and breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for our long flight.  We started to taxi away from the gate, only to have the pilot announce there was a problem with one of the generators and it would be a few minutes.  A few minutes turned into two hours and our hopes of catching our next flight started to diminish.

The problem was finally fixed and we took off.  The ten hour flight wasn’t too painful.  Elliott slept a lot of the time and we handed her back and forth to give ourselves breaks.  She was awake for about the last two hours and she was pretty happy.  Russ and I slept on and off and watched movies.

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We arrived in Detroit with only 20 minutes before our connecting flight to Houston left.  We already knew it was going to be pretty impossible – we had to go through immigration, including a second immigration stop with all of our adoption paperwork.  Right as we were wrapping up immigration, I asked someone to check and they said our flight was taxiing to the runway right then.  Ugh.

Of the probably 9 adoptive families on that flight from Beijing, all missed their connecting flights that night except one.  So did probably 75 other people.  We waited in line at the Delta counter and they hooked us up with a flight for Saturday morning, a hotel room, and lots of food vouchers for the hotel and the airport.

Officially an American Citizen!

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We took a shuttle to our hotel in Detroit, ordered room service, tried to sleep (hello, jet lag!), and then got up in the morning and packed up all our stuff one last time to (finally!) head home for real.  We got to the airport without issue, ate breakfast, and waited for a while at our gate, because our flight was delayed an hour (we were three for three at that point!)

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Elliott slept the whole three hour flight home to Houston and when we touched down in Houston, Russ and I both got choked up.  Finally, after 16 days and about 50 hours straight of traveling, we were home!

We got off the plane and walked towards baggage claim, so SO excited to see our people.

What a beautiful sight.

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We are so grateful for the crowd that came to welcome us home.  It was a beautiful moment and to see the faces of the people we love the most after such a long, emotionally intense journey – amazing.  I felt like I could finally exhale.  Elliott was not the least bit overwhelmed, she was absolutely adorable – giving high-fives, smiling, and pointing at people.

 Finally, a family a FIVE.  Headed home to start life together.IMG_5874-2

{All airport photography by Abby Hoagland – A’s Creations Photography – and Rachel Madison Photography.  Both girls are super talented!}

Coming Home – To our family and friends

After so much preparing, hoping, waiting, and a beautiful (and hard!) first two weeks, it’s almost time to bring Elliott home!

We want to share with you some information that we hope will best equip everyone around her to assist us in laying the strongest and healthiest foundation for her– emotionally, physically and spiritually.  It has truly taken a village to get us here.  Our village continues to be just as important as we bring our girl home.

In many ways, Elliott will be just like Campbell and Bennett. We will raise her to know and love the Lord — seeking constantly His guidance and wisdom as we parent her. But there will be a few differences in the beginning as our daughter learns what family is.

As we had been preparing to bring her home, we researched bonding and attachment in children, especially those coming home through adoption from an orphanage setting. There were several steps in the adoption process that focused specifically on educating us about the attachment process.  While in China, it was heartbreaking, amazing, and at times overwhelming to see initially the lack of attachment and the beginning of the attachment process play out.  It has been hard, beautiful work.

God is for the family.  Our lead pastor often states that the primary way that Christianity is demonstrated in the world is not the church, but the family. God’s heart for us so often displayed in a family’s love for each other — and the children’s natural trust of their parents. However, for many children raised thus far in institutions, this natural trust has never been established and will take time to form between Elliott and us.

Usually the primary caregivers meet the immediate need and soothes the baby. This starts from infancy and is repeated consistently over and over. With each response of the caregiver to a cry or need, trust is built. This trust, which takes time, lays an important foundation in their hearts. It will overflow into every relationship and how they relate to future relationships with family and friends.  The child develops a security within their relationship with their parents, which then effects every other relationship.  We are working towards Elliott establishing first a healthy connection with us as her parents (and her siblings!)  so that it may overflow into relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends!

Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts and how they relate to others. The care has looked different for every child in an institution setting, and for the first few weeks we have just been getting glimpses of the things she has missed and trying our best to meet each need to begin to reverse patterns formed — to show her that when she cries, we are there to meet her needs, when she is hungry, we will respond to her. With each need being met we are establishing trust — teaching her that we are her parents, we meet her needs.

At first, it may seem we have a lot of structure, boundaries and close proximity to her. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on research and wisdom from trusted adoption mentors, as well as an increasing knowledge and understanding of her. We will be doing what we believe is best to help her heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. While she may be an active little toddler, if she wants to be rocked and drink from a bottle – because she missed this with a mommy and daddy – we will gladly give her this gift. We will move on to the next thing developmentally when she is emotionally ready. We want to give her time to heal emotionally, and we also want to give her the bonding moments we gave Campbell and Bennett.

Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play a vital role in helping our girl settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:

The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal physical contact with our girl. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! We understand this will be difficult (she is SO squeezable), but she needs to continue in the process of forming her most significant relationship with Russ and I, then with Campbell and Bennett.  It’s important that all needs – giving food, handing toys or gifts, changing diapers – are met by us initially.  As we move along in the attachment process, we will loosen these boundaries.  If you EVER have any questions about what is appropriate – please feel free to ask!

The second is to be patient and understanding with us as we hunker down at home for awhile. Children raised in institutional settings are not used to the pace of life we live.  Leaving home for years has meant maybe walking down the hall or going to the small playground gated around the orphanage. Riding in a car at first will be over stimulating and cause sensory overload (we are pretty scared about her reaction to a carseat!). We want to ease her into all the changes she will be experiencing from new family, new language and a new home – so our first months we may be limiting our outings closely watching how he handles one change at a time. This is called “cocooning” where you stay at home for a bit – just like a new mom stays home from the hospital after having a newborn. While in China we consistently noticed that she tolerated our outings fine, particularly if I was wearing her in a carrier, however if we were intentional about spending time in the hotel room, she would thrive.  It was with that comfort that we began to see her be more bold, walk from room to room, play on the floor with toys more, and show more personality.  While this will be hard for us, we will have to keep life fairly calm for a while.  Short visits at our house are highly recommended, provided she tolerates them well.  And I think Russ and I are pretty desperate to see our people!!

We have seen remarkable change in Elliott over the past two weeks as we have been mindful of all of these things.  It hasn’t been easy for us – we haven’t felt like we automatically know what to do, but we have been grateful for the wisdom God has given us and grateful for every little victory we have seen her have.  Our hope is that by continuing to make attachment a top priority, we can provide her the opportunity to heal, to gain confidence, and to establish trust in the most important of her relationships.

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Consulate Appointment & Recapping the last few days

Let’s recap.

Sunday we visited the Pearl Market and Shamian Island with the other families here with our agency.

Pearls are a big deal in China.  Almost all freshwater pearls manufactured now come from China.  They are sold cheap here – 4 to 5 times less expensive than we could buy in America.  We went to the Pearl Market, where we could select the pearls we wanted to be made into what we wanted.  We made necklaces for Campbell, Elliott, and Bennie’s wife for their wedding gifts.  We also made a few things for gifts 🙂

015 017 274 All of these are jewelry stores!  Some of them selling pearls, some of them selling jade and other gemstones.

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After everyone wrapped up buying stuff, we headed to Shamian Island.  For years, Shamian Island was the heart of adoption in China.  Most of the government buildings you would visit during your time in Guangzhou were located on the island.  Most adoptive families stayed at the White Swan hotel on the island for years and years.  In recent years, however, things have moved off the island and for several years the White Swan has been closed for renovation.  It is no longer the hub for adoption like it was, however it is still a favorite place for families to visit!  There are still some adorable shops to visit, with authentic Chinese stuff, and the island is beautiful and more peaceful than the rest of the city.

Getting a little snooze in on the way.

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028 029 030       Lunch at Lucy’s Cafe.  She LOVES beef.  Not always excited about chicken, but always goes for beef!

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These statues are famous in the adoption crowd.  It’s sort of momentous to get our child’s picture with them.

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Brides everywhere on the island taking pictures!

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The most beautiful Starbucks ever 🙂

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Monday we headed to the Chimelong Safari Park.  It was pretty fabulous.  The website says it is the largest wild animal theme park in the world, with over 20,000 rare animals.  The had a whole section you ride through on a tram & see the animals, plus TONS of exhibits (pandas, koalas, giraffes, white tigers, an awesome robotic dinosaur exhibits, snakes, monkeys, and on and on).

It was a good day, but long and HOT.  I wore Elliott all day (she’s very uninterested in a stroller).  By the end of the day, my body was aching!

Breakfast and a smirk

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Small nap on the way!

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Entrance

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All of these first pictures were on the tram ride through the safari park.

This kangaroo was straight chillin.

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Miss thing cannot stand to have the wind blow on her.  It’s one of the few things that really agitates her.  Her dad is good about protecting her from it 🙂

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This first picture is blurry, but I wanted to show how awesome this was.  This orangutan (?) was just hanging out on this net, right above our heads.

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The white tigers put on an awesome show.  They took turns jumping for the raw meat.

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Russ feeding a giraffe!

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I could have sworn this koala was fake.

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Pandas!!

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Two of the famous panda triplets!  They are the world’s only surviving panda triplets, born July 2014.  The other was hiding in the corner 🙂

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Tuesday we visited Chen Clan Temple.  “Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family is also called Chen Clan Academy or Chen’s Lineage Hall which was a place both for offering up sacrifices to ancestors and for study. Now it serves as Guangdong Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts to show the most characteristic Guangdong architecture.”

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The Henningfelds!  We LOVE them!  The adopted the two littlest girls in the picture on this trip.  These girls are #9 & #10 for their kiddos.  They were a joy to spend our days with.

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Door god.  Apparently bad things happen if you put this door god on the other door and vice versa.

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This man painted on the inside of glass.  It was pretty incredible.  We bought a small glass Christmas ornament with a panda painting & he painted Elliott’s Chinese name on the inside.

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We hung out in our room some in the afternoon, then headed out to stock up on snacks at Aeon (Chinese department store).  Wow.  I’ll never complain about Wal-mart being crazy again.  Russ and I have had so much fun and laughed so much at each one of these experiences.  Oh, China.  You are just so unique.  We were VERY happy they had Cheerios amongst their 7 stories at Aeon – little Miss is a big fan & had gone through our box.

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Today we woke up, ate breakfast (Russ is mourning the last few days of the breakfast buffet), and headed to our appointment at the U.S. Consulate.

We weren’t allowed to take in cameras or phones, so we don’t have any pictures of the appointment.  Here is the newest almost-citizen in her blue and white and converse 🙂

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At the consulate we took an oath, had a brief interview about the visa application we submitted for her, had fingerprints done, and received information about the next steps with things like social security card and birth certificate.  We are so glad to have that behind us – our last hurdle before we start the process towards home!

We have free time the rest of today and tomorrow.  We have a couple things we still want to do, plus we need to start organizing our stuff and packing.  Tomorrow (Thursday) late afternoon, our guide will pick up Elliott’s passport and visa from the U.S. Consulate, plus the packet of papers we need in order to go through immigration once we land in the United States and deliver them to us at the hotel.  Friday we’ll leave for the airport first thing in the morning.  Two weeks ago I was dreading doing the long travel day again.  Now, I will gladly tackle it to be home!

Overall the last few days have gone well.  Sunday and Monday had some hard moments.  It was really the first days we didn’t have anything adoption related going on and it started to feel like a long stretch of wasted time.  The novelty of moving to Guangzhou had worn off and we were pretty desperately missing Campbell and Bennett.  We prayed, asked for extra prayers from our people, kept busy, and plowed through.  Making some new friends along the way definitely helped – it was a joy to connect with some of the other families here in the adoption process.  Community is always, always a good thing for us.  We have also been mindful of what this time means for Elliott and her connection and attachment with Russ and I, and have continued to try to view this as a sequestering from the rest of the world where we can grow our bond with her.

As for Elliott, we marvel at her every day.  Working on attachment is hard.    For two years she received care from whomever was there.  The process of learning what it looks like to have parents is sort of painstaking for all involved.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  For the first week we had her, every time we went out she would reach for strangers (or random people on a billboard – no lie).  It was kind of heartbreaking for us.  Even though we intellectually knew it was part of the process and that she had no reason to find security in us yet, it was hard not to let it hurt.  This week, she has stopped reaching for people much and seems to find more security in us and exhibits less insecurity overall.  Yesterday we were in the hotel room of some friends and she was on the floor playing with their kids.  I stood up to put my purse on and start to get ready to go and she started to fuss, thinking I was going to leave her.  This is a big change from last week.  Last week it felt like even though she was enjoying us, we could have handed her over to anyone else and she would have gone with it.   We also think her eyes are brighter, her hair is getting thicker, her legs are a little less thin, she relies on us more to soothe her instead of using the self-soothing mechanisms she used in the orphanage, and she is less frantic or needy about food.  She smiles more, laughs more, and learns things easily.  She is definitely behind in some ways developmentally, but girl catches on quick – we generally only have to show or tell her something once and she grasps it.

Sometimes it blows my mind that for two years she was without a family.  She is so, so easy to love.  And she has so much love to give.  We are constantly grateful she is ours and we have been on this adventure to bring her home.

We made it to Guangzhou! (and the medical exam)

Yesterday we packed up, left Changsha on the train, and headed for Guangzhou.  The train ride was long – almost 3 hours – but uneventful.  Except for the random Chinese people who stared (a lot) and took our picture (white couple, curly hair, Chinese baby – we are quite a sight in China).  Our guide, Lucia, picked us up from the airport and brought us to the hotel.

010 021 025Our time in Changsha was good, hard, beautiful, and exhausting.  Moving to Guangzhou has been a very significant relief for Russ and I.  It is a more Western city with more foreigners and English speakers.  Changsha will always hold the memories of the place we met Elliott and spent our first days with her.  It is a breath of fresh air to be able to be able to move around more easily, leave the hotel, and to have variety in what we eat. (We ordered room service last night.  I have never loved a bunless bacon cheeseburger more.)

Our church has a prayer team led by one of our beloved friends.  The prayer team has led our church in praying specifically for us throughout our adoption trip, asking for requests from us.  Members of the prayer team and of our church body have prayed and fasted through significant days as we have lived them.

To say that Russ and I have felt carried through this would be a drastic understatement.  We have felt a supernatural peace, we have seen God move in ways we have specifically asked, we have felt a wisdom, patience, and energy beyond ourselves.  We marveled yesterday at the way God has provided for us in our time here – knowing that this is a direct result of the prayers being said on our behalf.

In our downtime before we left Changsha, we watched the worship service and prayer time for our adoption from last Sunday.  Their are no words that adequately describe our love and gratitude for our people.  Our family, our church, our friends.  People have thanked me for living our story out loud, but we have benefited from it a thousand times over.  We are so thankful we get to bring Elliott home to this love that we know.

133Our specific prayer request for yesterday was that Elliott would not feel anxious or scared as we moved to a new place, but that she would gain confidence in that we were moving on together.  Even more last night and this morning, we have seen her take risks, show more personality, and continue to look to us to meet her needs.  We are so proud of her and so thankful to our God who hears and answers.

We woke up this morning, ate at the amazing breakfast buffet, and headed to the medical exam.  Everything that happens this next week is in preparation to bring our cute little immigrant into America.  The first step in that is for her to have a medical exam and TB test.

Our hope for today was that it would be quick, they would be gentle with her, and that she would be able to find comfort in us.  In all of those ways, it was a success!  There were also no issues with her medical exam and we are good to go with that step.

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She had to have her picture taken before her medical exam.  Girlfriend does not like to be put down under the wrong circumstances.

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049 Lots of other adoptive families!  It’s been fun to meet these families, some of which we had already connected with on Facebook.051 052    The took her away from us & into this room to do a blood draw for a TB test.  We could hear her crying.  She came to us readily and calmed down afterwards.  And got rewarded with her first lollipop!054063

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Tonight we’re meeting some other families for dinner (at the popular Mexican food restaurant :).  For the next three days, until Wednesday, we are basically tourists.  We are waiting out our time until our scheduled Consulate Appointment on Wednesday to apply for her visa to travel to America.  We have some sites planned to visit, as we wait for Wednesday, and continue to work on bonding with our girl.

Orphanage visit, redemption, and the work of attachment

Yesterday (Wednesday, November 11th) was a big day on our adoption trip.  We headed out early to travel to Chenzhou, China, the city where Elliott’s orphanage is located.

Visiting the orphanage during an adoption trip is fairly standard.  Most people want to see where their child lived before coming into their family, and want to have the knowledge to be able to share with their child as they grow and have questions about their history.  For us, it had not really been a question for the past few months, we absolutely wanted to see where Elliott had spent her life.

Through the last several days, however, Russ and I had grown pretty nervous about it.  On Tuesday after we went back to the Civil Affairs building where we first met Elliott, she struggled significantly.  Lots of sadness, insecurity, and fears.  Russ spent a lot of that night holding her so she would sleep.  We worried about what might be triggered by going back to the orphanage.  Would she wonder if we were leaving her there?  Would it set back any progress we had made?

We prayed, we had our people praying, that this day would be one of closure for her.  That somehow, though she might not understand it fully, she would recognize that this was the last time she would go there.

Ready for the day and cute as could be!

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We rode the bullet train from Changsha to Chenzhou, where the orphanage is located.  The train was AWESOME.  I was pretty amazed at how smooth it was.  It was really neat to see rural China through the course of the ride.183

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016Our time at the orphanage was fairly brief.  We were shown Elliott’s complete file, which will stay on record at the orphanage forever, visited the room she stayed in and the playroom, and ate lunch.

109017Elliott with her nanny, who cared for her from the time she entered the orphanage at 10 days old, until she left at just over 25 months old.  You could tell Elliott was comfortable with her, but she reached to come back with Russ and I.

054    The crib room.

059Her (old!) crib.  They asked if we wanted to take her picture in it.  Um, no thanks.  We’ll just leave it empty.

069The playroom.  We have seen these blue floors in our treasured pictures of our girl!

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One of the best significant moments of the day, and a beautiful work of redemption for us, came just as we were about to leave.  If you have followed our adoption journey, you know that we were originally matched with another little girl, named Rosie.  Our agency advised us to a few days after being matched with her that they did not think she would be a good fit for our family.  (You can read more about that here, here, and here.)  While we have had no doubt that Elliott was the daughter God meant for us, there has still been some heartbreak in knowing that Rosie would be left behind and that we would see her during our visit to the orphanage.  Our hearts are broken that any children grow up in an orphanage, and we have a special emotional tie to this girl.

The woman at the orphanage who works on preparing files spent most of the time we were there with us.  Several of the children are being adopted out (two of the girls are being picked up by their parents in the next several weeks!  Hi Brandy & Diane!).  Russ and I had seen Rosie right when we came in and during the time we were in the room with the cribs, but it was a flurry of activity at that point.

As we were walking out, she was standing by herself in a doorway.  I pointed to her and asked our guide to ask the woman in charge of adoption preparation if Rosie was in the process of being adopted or was even currently considered adoptable.

038Rosie is not only being adopted, her parents will be here (from Spain!) by the end of the month to get her.  I followed our group onto the elevator, whispered to Russ, and just cried.  Grateful for the way God works when we don’t understand, grateful that our pain is never wasted, grateful there are stories being written in our lives bigger than the moments that make them up, grateful that He answers when we call out to Him and overwhelmingly grateful that this girl will be with the family she was always meant to be with.

We left the orphanage.  Tired, relieved, and happy to close the door on that chapter in Elliott’s life.

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After we left the orphanage and were waiting at the train station, we began to notice a change in Elliott.  For the first time since the day we got her, she smiled spontaneously.  She started making more eye contact.  We heard her laugh for the first time.  She started being silly.

Over the past 24 hours, we have continued to see a little more confidence grow in her.  She’s more easily soothed by us, she’s showing more of her personality.  It feels like we have taken a step forward in the long, long road of attachment.  I’m so thankful we went yesterday.

Today was beautifully low-key.  We visited the embroidery museum this morning.  Hunan Province, where Elliott is from, is famous for embroidery.  The women (and one man, I think) in this room were hand embroidering the most beautiful pieces.  We bought one thing for our house, that I’m so excited about.  Then we hit up Starbucks (!!) and McDonalds.

148 149 151 154 155 157 163 164 165 177 (no such thing as carseats in China!)

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Tomorrow we have the morning free while our guide picks up Elliott’s passport at the Civil Affairs office.  Then in the afternoon we take the bullet train again, this time to Guangzhou, where we will spend the next week completing the US Immigration steps to bring Elliott home to America.  One week down, one to go!  Our hotel in Guangzhou has a Starbucks in it, so it sort of feels like we are going to paradise tomorrow.  While we are very much looking forward to going to a city that is a little more western and where we can navigate around more easily, there is definitely a little bit of nervousness about if moving will interrupt the process of attachment we have going.  Our prayer is that the Lord would use the move to a new city to cement even further in Elliott’s heart & mind that she is a unit with us – where we go, she goes.

Officially Forever a King

Good morning!  Elliott woke up on her first morning with us (after sleeping 10 hours!), looked at my face, pointed, and laughed.  I think she was happy to still be with us!  She immediately starting looking for Russ (she loves Dad).  I showed her where he was still laying in bed sleeping and she climbed on him and started laughing.

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Getting ready for the day.  SHE IS SO FUN TO DRESS!  Although she is smaller than we thought she would be, so some of her adorable clothes are too big.

047Today we went back to the Civil Affairs building and officially completed Elliott’s adoption.  After today, all the steps through our 10 days remaining in China will be aimed at US Immigration (securing Elliott’s Chinese passport and US Visa to travel into the USA).

Completing Adoption Paperwork

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Officially a King!  Our daughter forever.

085Being adopted is exhausting

091We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in our hotel room, playing, and taking a nap (Elliott).  This evening we’re going to hit the town for dinner at McDonalds with Tammy, Jordan, and Mya (Elliott’s buddy from the orphanage).  We like to live it up in China.

We LOVE daddy.

100While we are definitely celebrating a forever complete adoption, today also had some very hard moments.  Russ and I have yet to actually sleep in China (jet lag is a jerk), so I woke up this morning at the end of myself.  Exhausted, homesick, desperately missing Campbell and Bennett, and not feeling well.   The reality is, this trip is not comfortable.  It is hard to not have the comforts of home, to not be able to eat freely (gluten free in China?), to not be able to go places easily, and to have all of that going on with a new baby and jet lag.

Once again we were carried through by the prayers of our people, who over and over again have loved us through this journey.  And my rockstar husband comforted me, prayed for us, and made an eating and sleeping plan for the day 🙂

Tomorrow we leave early in the morning and take a train to visit the orphanage where Elliott spent the first two years of her life.  We are nervous about the trip and its potential outcomes.  While she seems happy with us, we are clearly seeing insecurity and fears, especially in moments when we leave the hotel room.  We would love prayers that there is a sense of closure for her, that she gains confidence in seeing the nannies interact with us, and that this is a positive step in the direction of healing for our girl.