Tonight I was trying on Lily's swimsuits from last year. I was amazed at how much she has filled out. We think she was hollow! When we got her last year she was 9 and a half years old and 43 and a half inches tall and I think she weighed about 35 pounds. So she was about the size of a 4 year old. All the clothes I brought to China for her to wear were size 6 and 7. She was much smaller than I remembered. Much. Daniel said the first time he saw her he was in shock how little his 9 year old daughter was! She also seemed out of it that night. We both thought immediately that she was smaller and not as strong in mind that we had hoped and thought.
Now today, as Lily stood there in her size 6-7 bathing suit that she filled out, I squeezed her thighs and thought how much she has grown! She loves to push out her tummy and grab her thighs and show off her "healthyness" because last year we would tell her she had to drink her protein shakes so she would grow and she feels proud of them! So now Lily weighs about 46 pounds and she has grown about 2 inches!
Here's a glimpse of Lily then and now:
Last year she never spoke! I don't think she said two words in the orphanage. And now she is fluent in English and is speaking so well that I am now starting to get picky with her speech to help her advance. I cannot believe how well she has done with her speech!
Last year she HATED cheese, milk, yogurt, etc., so much so that she would sulk and refuse to eat if her taco accidentially had 7 shreds of cheese on it. Now SHE EATS EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN FRONT OF HER EXCEPT RED CABBAGE!
Last year she would sulk and give me mean eyes and act like she didn't like my food but she would say she loved other people's food! Now she helps me cook and at every meal says, "Ma, I looooove you cook!" (Praise GOD!!)
Last year she felt competition with Rob for Daddy's attention and they didn't get along. Today is much better and their relationship is stronger and growing.
Last year she couldn't stand Phoebe even though Phoebe had waited for the day she met her with huge expecations of how much they would love each other! Today is better, and we now realize that the gap is too wide (only 2 years in age but much more in intellect) and that she is much closer to Johnny in mind-age and behavior. Johnny and Lily are close. Johnny is fun and Lily really likes him! She asks to sleep with him on the weekends. Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he makes her sleep on the floor! She doesn't care.
Last year she hated me to blow dry her hair. Now she is able to appreciate she has a mommy fixing her hair in a darling bob with a roll brush every morning or in pony tails to make daddy smile.
Last year she always wanted to go be or live with anyone else who walked through the door who looked fun and gave her attention. Now she is happy here....we think!
Last year she would go up to every grown man or adolescent boy she saw and would outstretch her arms for them to pick her up (and they would) and she would get as close as she could to them and totally invade their personal space! Now she knows she only has one daddy and that is the only man she is supposed to do that too unless Poppa Sol or uncles extend their arms to her first. (This was a biggie. But I have really been working on this one because I want her to learn how to act with males so she doesn't grow up and seek attention from every male she meets. Husband is the perfect father for her too. He really loves her and gives her attention.)
Last year she hoarded strawberries in odd drawers around the house. Now she knows she will get fed every day!
Last year she slept in socks, flannel pajamas, and three blankets in the heat of summer. SHE STILL DOES!
Last year she acted like a Chinese princess and like she had been raised in royalty and had certain preferences and didn't feel like she should have to sit in the back of the car or go to bed earlier than Phoebe. She still does! But getting better. The other day she was complaining about laying down in the grass to take a photo but I don't think she had but a couple of baths a month in her life before us!
Last year she didn't want to share anything she had because she never had anything before. Now she shares with everyone.
Lily has come a long way. She is precious. Every single day I thank God that He gave us Lily and gave Lily to us. I am still so heartbroken that she had to spend 9 and a half years in an orphanage. Although I feel they kept her alive and free from disease, I am not sure of anything else. Her feelings were buried so far down deep without her that we are still working on getting them going.
Last year she would cheer and smile and laugh with joy when strangers or family members hurt themselves. Now she understands that that is not the correct response and she should act like she has compassion.
Compassion is a big one. I guess when no one around you your whole life cares about you or shows you love or nurturing then how on earth are you supposed to care about anyone else? Protective measures kicked in and they kept her alive, but they are so deep and thick that we are just starting to see them weaken. But thanks to our continual love and to her incredible teachers at school (who she probably likes way more than me, but that's ok for now) Lily is seeing and feeling love and she is starting to show love. She has friends now that she cares about and she has started caring about her belongings. One day one of her school papers that is important to her teacher got crumpled by Po and Lily got tears in her eyes. Do you know how many times Lily has cried in the past year???? Maybe 5. And that was when she got seriously in trouble for something and Daddy had to spank her and I believe she cried because it hurt and then because he wraps her up in his arms and the love just oozes out of him and she cannot handle what she is feeling! In fact, after she has gotten a spanking and Daniel loves on her is about the only times in the past year that we can see the walls come down and her eyes change.
Her eyes. They are not black or dark like most Chinese. In fact, she has brown hair too. Not black like most Chinese. I've concluded she is Mongolian. I can call her whatever I like! She's my kid and no one can disprove me! But her eyes are the one thing to me that makes me the saddest. Her body is gaining weight. Her bones are growing and hopefully she will grow to a better height than if we had not gotten her. Her body has muscle now. Before she couldn't walk more than about 10 steps and she would just stop, hold up her arms to Daniel and look at him like, "I'm not going another step so you have no choice but to carry me," which he did...all around China. At first we thought she couldn't walk due to pain from her hip dysplasia. It's like she was AFRAID to walk. She just wouldn't. Now I realize that she probably walked about 5 steps per day her whole life. And that was maybe around her room.
But her eyes, her eyes to me keep all the pain of her life in them. Windows to the soul....and her soul is hurt and injured and sad. Even after a year of wonderful imporovements beyond measure physically, educationally, and emotionally, she still tunes out when you try to talk to her about something of importance. She cannot hold her eyes fixed on you if you are trying to speak deep with her or correct her. She HATES when I correct her behavior or speech. HATES it. I can see in her drifting eyes and gasps. I don't blame her! Never getting her choice or the opportunity to try her whole life. I make her look at me. A lot. It's very uncomfortable to her. I tell her sweet things that are true and deep and eternal. You can tell by her blank eyes that her mind is searching every part of itself trying to find a place where deep meaningful things belong. There was never a place for those things before. That's too risky and painful to open that part of your mind up. And yet, that is the part we will not relent on until we feel that connection has been made.
My love for Lily has always been constant. From the day I met her at her orphanage the year before we adopted her, God made a Lily-shaped place in my heart for her. I have so much compassion and love for her. I still think of that little sad girl in those photos from her past and it tears me up. It makes me mad honestly. Mad that so many children are in orphanages without anyone to touch and love them and meet those needs SO VITAL when they are in those first few years that they may never recover from the neglect. I am thankful for her orphanage for doing all they knew to do. I won't go into all my feelings about that because bottom line is, they kept her alive until we got her. Children are so important because they are HELPLESS. Lily couldn't help the situation she ended up in and she was jsut at the mercy of her care givers. So many children are. And I love Lily as my own. I always have. I would give my life for her. I will give my life's love and energy to raise her and stay close with her forever. And now, Lily is learning to like me. Her teacher says she talks and responds about me as if she really likes me. And I know that the only reason she didn't like me in the beginning was because I was a female and that's all she had ever known in her life and those before me had not showed love and affection to her.
I still need to work on my affection with Lily. I am just not a very affectionate person to begin with. And I've always found it easier to be more affectionate with my boys than Phoebe. I am praying that God will help me in this way because I know Lily needs me to be more affectionate. In the beginning because she was so mean to me then I didn't want to cuddle with her (not that she wanted me to). So now that she is responding to me, I have got to make up for lost time. Honestly for the first 9 months I was trying to figure her out. I thought she was cunning and manipulative and mean. But she was only acitng that way to ME (and Phoebe). But now I don't think she was really that way. Because although I do think she is smart, I don't think she was smart enough to play games with me like I thought she was. I just think we got off to such a dreadful start, and I just needed to be the bigger person and respond as if she was nice to me and like me, but I didn't do that. I took offense and was so hurt by her actions towards me.
Now I don't. I truly, openly, humbly have asked God to help me parent her right, not take offense, and love her regardless since the day we got her in China and she snubbed me. And I do believe He has changed me and helped me. It has not been easy, but it's worth it. And now, Lily and I are in a fantastic place right now. Things are better every single day. I am feeling more and more like she is my daughter forever and I think she really likes having a mother.
I will apologize to her as she reads my blog when she's older that I took offense. And hopefully she will apologize for giving me evil eyes over Husband's back all the time!!! Just kidding. I forgive! I do!!
Im excited about Lily's life. She has done so well in K-4. Her teacher has pushed her and she has even started READING. She will be 11 years old in K-5 next school year but since she looks 5, it shouldn't be a problem. Actually there is nothing about her that is 10 years old right now. Well, maybe her teeth. She might be a Kindergartener with braces! Fun! But Lily is Lily. And the great thing about her NOT CARING about what others think, or really, not even being aware that others DO think about things, is that she doesn't care that she is 10 and in K-4. She's not embarassed of ANYTHING!!!! We try to embarass her sometimes.... "Lily, if you don't brush good your breath will smell bad when you get right in people' faces like you do!" Nothing. It doesn't phase the girl! She's quite the self-confident gal!!
I REALLY REALLY believe in my mind that she was a little hurt, neglected girl who stared at the wall in one room her whole life, never walking, never running (she couldn't), never jumping (she didn't know how, we taught her!), and never going outside (she was AFRAID to walk on the grass in our backyard. REALLY afraid, almost kicking and screaming. And I think that the day we got off that bus at 10 pm that night in Lanzhou and walked into that hotel and I took her in my arms and her face in my hands, that she was reborn. In only the way that God can do. Kinda like a new creation. He makes all things new! And Lily is new. She's learning things quickly, but she had to start from scratch. And so many things Po does to me, I realize Lily is on the same level in many ways. And she needs me to respond to her the same way I respond to Po. She doesn't need to advance quickly in school and grow up fast. She needs to be LITTLE as long as she can. She needs to have everything that loved infants and toddlers get. It's not fair to her that all tha gets skipped. I joked with her after her surgery on her bottom last year when I had to change her diapers that God gave me that opportunity to change her diapers since I missed the first go round! Ok, been there, done that. Moving on.
So I just wanted to try to express for mine and Lily's future remembrance how this year has been and where we are now. I am so thankful for Lily. My little wild, stubborn, independent, self-confident Chinese daughter. Not too unlike her momma and her sisters! God knew I could handle her. And I think I am finally starting to. In the right way!
I wish that everyone would adopt. Adopting Hope (at 14 months) has been so easy and rewarding and fun. Adopting Lily at 9 has been hard, but it is so eternally impacting that it overwhelms me so much I can hardly think about it without seeing spiritual parallels. Because Lily was chosen by us and now her life is full of love and provision. And I cannot get over how God did that for me!!! And I feel like He has showed me so much about His and my relationship through Lily. I really feel like it has helped me love and appreciate God more. He has blessed me and Daniel greatly through Lily. And I wish I could tell everyone to adopt older children but knowing how hard it is, I am not sure many people would knowingly go into that. Many people do, but I would not want to "convince them." But to "take a chance" on someone....like little Lily....is one of the greatest risks anyone could take!
I know there are so many more Lilys that need someone. Where are all the risk takers? Maybe God is calling you to be one?