Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Two years ago today our little Hope was born!

Today is Hope's birthday. Or at least today is the day the orphanage estimated as her birthday two years ago. Our precious little Po was abandoned at the orphanage on a freezing winter night on December 24, 2009. I guess someone estimated she was around 4 days old, so we celebrate her birthday on December 20 this year!

Last year at this time I was beside myself in pain. I had held this little girl six months earlier and in my heart she was already MY BABY. Waiting on paperwork and approvals was painful and difficult! Every single day waiting was hard. Good meaning people would say things like, "Oh, you've waited three years, what's another month?" and "Oh well, you can have one last Christmas with your original family before you go get the new girls." Blah blah blah. My baby was in China and not with me!

And now that everyone has met and fallen in love with Po, they certainly understand why I couldn't let it go last year...why I was miserable waiting. Po is precious. Po is perfect. Po is so amazing in every way. I call Po my harvest. I feel like of all the times I've given to others, sacrificed, made right choices, turned to God, done the right thing....Po is my reward. I feel blessed. I feel lucky. I feel HONORED to be her momma!!!!

Here is little Po when she was days old. Now I'm sure her mouth alarmed her momma. And I'm sure if I gave birth to a baby with a big hole in her face (as Johnny calls it) that I might be upset too, but we just think Po is so cute here. In a little Chinese rat kindof way!

Here is Po when she was six months old.

Here is Po when she was 10 months old and I hadn't seen her in four months. This photo makes me cry to think about just how cute she is and I didn't get to play with her during these months!

Here is Po when she was one year old last year. The wonderful lady at the orphanage emailed me this photo on CHRISTMAS EVE last year!!! What a gift!

And here is little Po in February when we got our hands on her finally!

Here is Po a couple months after we got her.

And here is Po after she got her mouth fixed this past Spring.

And here is Po on her family birthday party this past Sunday! I really don't see how she could be any cuter, do you??

Hope Xiaodan Hope, aka Po, PoPo, baby Po, has filled our family with so much joy. When we first got her in February she was quiet and easy going but she really didn't want us to interact or hold her. She was at home in her crib by herself. She has always been a great sleeper and napper. SO EASY. By far the easiest baby we've had. And plus, Po has four older siblings that always want to get her up from her nap, play with her, and feed her and watch her. We fight over Po. "It's my turn to go get her from her crib!" She is like our little pet or favorite toy. She is pure JOY!

And do you know her name Xiaodan can be translated into CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL? Hello, isn't that the perfect child for us, and especially Husband as much as he loves Christmas. My mom said the other day that if we would've just seen her name and it's meaning we would've said, OH YES, that's our child! Plus, I am guessing God named her after Husband (dan).

So many times I do not go on and on on this blog about how wonderful Po is. I think I feel like because we have had challenges with Lily, if I write about how great everything is with Po then it will look like she is my favorite. Adopting a baby compared to an older child is different in every way, but my love for them as my children and as their mother is the same. Full and complete. But to not write about how Po has brightened our life would not be fair either. And I am going to try to balance that out as I continue to blog.

Po likes to tell her daddy how much money she saves him. Especially since we didn't have her until she was 14 months old. Daddy always responds by calling Po our most expensive child to date! Her two surgeries were worth every penny though. Po says a lot. Most of it only sounds like "uh uh" or "NO!" but we all know what she is really saying. We like to say that Po is fluent in Po, and that we understand Po dialect so it's all good. Po's speech is delayed due to her cleft palate, but this is normal and we are in no rush or panic. Po is Po and we love her just like she is.

We think about Po's biological mom a lot. I have a feeling she thinks of her often. I have a feeling she gave her up because Po was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate and she couldn't afford to take care of her. Why else would she take the time to wrap her in a blanket and take her to the orphanage to be found? And on that night two years ago, GOD KNEW THAT HE WOULD EVENTUALLY GET PO INTO OUR FAMILY! I am so grateful to God He chose us to raise Po!!! I love God so much. I am so honored to be Lily and Hope's mother!

Happy Birthday little Po. Mommy loves you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ten Months with Lily

It's been 10 months since we got Lily and Hope. It just seems like yesterday that we were driving to the airport in over a foot of snow to go to China to get them. But on the other hand, when I look back and see how far they've come since February, it seems like forever ago!

I was just bathing Lily the other night and remembering how in China she hated taking showers! She liked baths ok but showers were not fun. When I would pour water on her head she was so mad. She used to shrink back and glare at me like there is no way you are pouring water on my head! Now of course, I can't get her out of the tub. And she washes her own hair and doesn't act like she's dying!

Lily has come so far on her language. She can express herself completely, even if some words or phrases take a while longer. And some words, no matter how much I pronunciate, she just cannot seems to say. Like room. She says my loom, instead of my room. And Zach, zipper, or zip are said Yak, yipper and yip. "Mom, can I wear my yip jammas to bed?" : ) We don't correct all words because they are just too fun!

Lily still prefers indoors to outdoors (which is surprising considering she did not go outside much in her 9 years at the orphanage) and will oftentimes be playing alone inside while the others are outside playing together. I will ask her if she wants to go and she'll say no. Then I will just tell her to go. She does, and has lots of fun. She is clearly able to be alone and be ok with it.

Lily has a great sense of humor. She finds Johnny particularly funny. The other day we were all getting out of the car and Lily was in a daze. I said Lily! C'mom! You are in a daze! Let's go! And Johnny said, "Yeah Lily. You were just staring at the window like this (and he demonstrates) like you stared at the wall at the orphanage all day!" I turned to look at Lily, fearing she might be sad only to find her laughing at Johnny's demonstration! Whew! She doesn't get her feelings hurt easily. In fact, I'd say only about a handful of times has she ever got her feelings hurt and it was all when she got disciplined strongly about something. It's very hard to "break through" to get close enough to her feelings hurt. She has had to protect herself for so long that she just learned not to feel.

I could see it with Hope in China. It was hard to reach her. It was hard to connect with her. She just wanted to be put in her crib. That's where she felt safe and comforted. With her forehead pressed up to the crib slats. So when I think about Lily having spent 9 years learning protective measures like that....it all makes sense.

To the outside, it appears that Lily has adjusted perfectly and has attached to our family and is one of us. All in all, the adjustment has been great. I'd say our three original kids have responded in ways that deserve life long medals and prizes. They have been so great and loving and accepting. However, after 10 months we realize that the "attachment" will most certainly come, but it has not happened yet. In the beginning Lily only liked and wanted Husband. I was the maid and cook and teeth brusher and vitamin giver and shower and bath giver. I was and probably still am NO FUN to her. Husband was her hero. Knight in shining armor who rescued her from the orphanage. And for the next few months, there was always someone NEW and EXCITING coming through the door with love, and hugs and gifts, scooping her up and making her full center of attention. When that person comes in the picture, even Husband gets ignored. But after a while things settled down and got into a normal flow. And in the past few months we can see the "Honeymoon" stage has lifted with Lily and Husband. Since we are the ones who are teaching her, requiring responsibility from her, disciplining her, and since we don't carry her everywhere, when someone new is in the picture we both get ignored. Welcome to the club Husband. (He doesn't like it when I say that). It has hurt Husband. He feels like he really had something with her in the beginning and that since he has been more involved in disciplining her and hearing how she responds to me unfavorable at times that she has been reacting to him poorly. He wants to just get back to that way it was in the beginning, and I don't blame him. I never had that with her so I don't miss it...I just want it.

But I think the reality is that since we are past the honeymoon stage and the bright lights and welcome home parties have faded, maybe what we are building with her now will be a strong foundation. Maybe we aren't just on the surface anymore. Maybe now the real bonding that leads to attachment will happen.

When we were at Disney we were with a great family and Lily just had so much fun with them. Husband and I discussed that if we were to ask her if she wanted to go live with them what would she say. We both easily felt like she would go and not miss us that much. That is the only way I can describe the lack of attachment issue. It's hard to others to see it, because you might see us walking into school holding hands or laughing and such and never think anything. But the reality is that Lily has had a hard hard life without a sole caretaker meeting her emotional needs through nurturing and love. That really affects a child. And I'm speaking to myself now...I know it will get better! Time will heal all. This is classic textbook and we expected it. It's just hard.

I love Lily very much. I look at her as my daughter, easily. And we have come A LONG way in 10 months. She will come up to me on the couch now (even with Husband near) and snuggle with me. She does not glare meanly at me like she did the first month. Well, maybe only every now and then when I'm brushing her teeth.... But this attachment is by far the hardest thing I've ever gone through in my life. Let me tell you why...

In my life if people are mean to me I distance myself from them. Especially as a mature adult, we pick our own friends, right. If friends are mean to us and make us feel bad all the time we get new friends. My family is nice to me, my friends are nice to me. EVERYONE IS NICE TO ME. I have that good feeling in my soul that everything is all right! Except with Lily....that feeling gets interrupted. If I get hurt and offended then it's hard for me to snap out of it. I get weak and sad inside. And I think I'm doing fine and then about once a month I lose it and burst into a crying fit. And then I'm all better. I don't know why I cannot just move on. She will do the same thing to Husband and he will just tell her like it is and move on...he won't THINK about it and dwell on it. And I think a lot of it is expectations on our part. Ignorantly, we just expected the sweet little orphan girl to be so grateful for her new life. We never dreamed she would be mad about sitting in the back of our luxury vehicle and feel mistreated because she couldn't sit in the front! We just assumed she would be grateful to ride in a car at all, right? (Wrong. She's a kid FIRST. An ex-orphan next) And I've never been the type of person to hold offense...like in all those sermons when the alter call would be filled with people who are offended and hurt and can't forgive and move on...I could never think of someone in my life I needed to forgive. But now I know that feeling....and I'm trying to not be offended. Phoebe was such a strong willed infant! I can remember being SO stressed. My sister called me one day and spoke some sense in me and reminded me that I was letting a toddler get to me and rule me. I was the mature adult that could handle the situation and realize that she is a child and needs parenting. And when Lily responds in a way that hurts me, I need to remember that she cannot help it and probably isn't even aware of it. I just think mine and Lily's life together started out so poorly that it's hard to come away from it easily. It's hard for me to believe she means it when she hugs me and says she loves me because for months Husband had to come over to me and kiss me and hug me and say to Lily, "Look Lily, we love mommy! She is a good mommy. We love to hug her!" (Here Lily, your turn....you come pet the kitty now, I mean, mommy.) : ) I say this is fun but I am so grateful for Husband and I know he has been in an incredibly tough situation when Lily preferred him and neglected me.

I've dreamed of doing it all over again! I've planned in my mind how I'd do it different! I would've had Husband take care of Hope the whole time in China. I would've slept in the same bed (only me) with Lily each night. I would have kept her hand in hand, assuring her of MY LOVE first. Banishing preconceived notions that I was the mean caretaker that didn't care about her or wasn't fun. I wouldn't let ANYONE see her for three months after we got home. Only us 7 at the house. And then maybe then she'd love me right????

Do you think I sound crazy? Kinda reminds you of the movie Tangled, huh! Yeah, it sounds funny, but there is a lot of truth to that method...and all the books said for us to keep her away from others for months...maybe 6. Now I know why.

It's hard to have a kid that you want to love you so much and they just don't. I am sure maybe some of you know the feeling and now I empathize. I don't mean to whine, but it's just that I WANT her to like me! I want her to trust me and believe me. She doesn't understand trust or faith. Those are tough concepts. And I'm the big person...I just need to get over it. I know exactly what I need to do. I parent her the way I KNOW SHE NEEDS regardless of what I get back from her. And I DON"T TAKE OFFENSE when she doesn't believe that I washed her school blanket even when I tell her I did and she proceeds to sniff the blanket while glaring at me and telling me she didn't SEE me wash it. I know it's not her fault. I keep a photo of her when she was little (maybe around 4) by my bed each night to remember that precious little baby is what I am dealing with. Even though she is still so tiny, her strength is so great that she can give me a run for her money and she is super smart when it comes to winning an argument. She may not remember the color blue but by golly she remembers last week I told her I would buy applesauce for her lunch and I didn't and now she feels so forgotten.

Lily doesn't really hold offense. Well maybe for a few hours but then I really think her weak memory skills don't allow her to. This is helpful for her. She can be upset with me and be sulking and pouting to me all day and then she can come snuggle up to me! I will think, NO, you were mean to me. You need to feel bad longer! LOL. How mature! But you see, I need to be that way. I have got to learn to shake it off.

So many times I look at other moms and compare myself and think I am doing just such a poor job with Lily. I have bad thoughts sometimes of me meeting Jesus in Heaven and Him saying that I served Him and loved Him and loved others so well in life, but the way I responded to Lily ruined it all.

My three originals will act bad or get mad at me, and it doesn't affect me. But I know they love me and I am secure. I am just so insecure with Lily, that it bothers me. Insecurity is HORRIBLE! Ugh. I am not an insecure person so this is new to me and I hate it. A friend might be talking to me about Lily and say Oh she loves you Renee, and then I burst into tears. Clearly I have issues still.

So since I've made this post about Lily more about ME and my pity party....let me refocus!

Lily is thriving. She loves school. She loves her teachers. She loves life. Everyday Husband and I are so grateful to each other we both said yes and that we heard God telling us to get them. One night we just had the three originals with us, and while it was good to just have them (and three kids by the way is SO easy...that's what we kept thinking!) we clearly did not feel complete. Lily and Hope are part of us, through and through.

I cannot begin to give Lily enough credit for what she has done in the last 10 months. Learning a new language, a new family, a new culture, and new life, new foods, new rules. I think about how it would be so scary for me...because I would miss what I have now....but she didn't have anything to miss. I guess. Or maybe she misses them or her old life and we don't know it. She never shows it. Maybe it's all in there in her precious little mind and she just doesn't know how to express emotions. Would she miss us now if she left us?? These are all things we don't know. Does she have the ability to love and bond and attach and trust and have faith? Honestly, we don't know. We haven't gotten that far. Those are things that most people establish with their children in the first two years if not the first year. And since we started that process with her when she was 9 and half, that process will look a lot different and will feel different and will take a lot different.

I want to rewind life 9 years and hold little Lily in my arms the way I hold Hope and make it all right for her. If given the chance, I would relive my last 9 years for that very reason. I feel like I failed Lily in some way, not being there for her. It's funny how I don't blame anyone else but myself. Because I AM HER MOMMA and I totally feel that responsibility. But I will have to make it up to her and gradually we will get there. I can't treat her like a baby because she's too smart. I just have to be patient and persistent. She is worth it all.

One day Phoebe was saying she wishes she could see Lily's whole life in a movie so it would help her be more understanding when Lily is mean to Phoebe. I told her I understood what she meant and that it would probably be too sad for us to watch through. But we can change that now. And we are.

Lily may not be attached to us yet but we are attached to her. We aren't letting go. And if she tries to go live with a funner family we'll lock her in her tower!

One person she is attached to....