One Year

 

I can’t even believe I’m writing this.  I can not believe it has been one year since we met our daughter for the first time outside the civil affairs office in Nanjing.

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It seems like yesterday.  Yet, I cannot imagine our family without her.

She has changed so much over past year.  We all have changed.

 

I was reading back over some of the posts I made in the first weeks home.  When we first got home she could walk but stumbled often on uneven surfaces.  She couldn’t go up or down the stairs.  She tried so hard to jump along with her brothers.

Now, I hear squeals of joy as she runs across the room with her brothers.  She is constantly jumping.  And I loved the proud smile on her face when she walked down the stairs for the first time all by herself.

A year ago she wasn’t speaking any words, even in Chinese.  She still has a ways to go in her speech development, but her language has exploded over the last few months.   For a little girl who may have learned to get her needs met by being the loudest (screaming) or being the cutest, one of my favorite phrases to hear lately is “Hold me.”   The first few months home we struggled with her showing affection to anyone and everyone who crossed her path.  We’ve worked hard to help her understand that we are her family.   Recently I have loved hearing her sit at the table and point to each one of us as she says our names, including herself.  She knows her people!  She knows her grandparents, she knows her cousins, she knows our close friends.  It’s such a joy to hear her squeal with joy when she recognizes those close to us.

And it has been such a joy to watch her develop a relationship with her brothers.

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I love this picture!  This is the first time they met yet it is such a true picture of their relationship.

We’ve had some rough days, we’ve had some long days, but it has been such a privilege and a joy to watch her grow and develop.  I am learning patience and compassion that I didn’t know I had.  I am learning how much grace, patience and compassion is so often shown to me.  God has been so good and so faithful.

 

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May 11

May 11…. a day that has been weighing on me heavily the last few days.  A day that will always be a reminder of God’s sovereignty.  This day has be significant since the moment we received information about our daughter.   But, I didn’t realize just how significant until a couple of months ago.

For those close to us you are aware that the beginning of 2017 was a very rough time for both sides of our family.   Brain surgery for one family member, another spent nearly two months in ICU, death of a family member, strokes, and just general life, all in the span of two months.  It was hard and it was stressful.  And while I believed in God’s sovereignty, I believed God could heal (and even if he didn’t He was still good), it was stressful on our family.  I spent many days crying out to God.  Every day I would hear that still small voice to look at his faithfulness.  I’d run through several events in my life where I had clearly seen God’s faithfulness, including our path to adopt our daughter.  But, I began to feel God pushing me to look deeper at his faithfulness.  I began to pray over this and write down everything he had done and when I really started looking at our path to Emily I saw his faithfulness and sovereignty in a way I’d never seen before.

May 11, 2014, around 1:30am an anonymous call was made to the police about a baby girl.  Shortly after that call the police placed this little girl, now our daughter, in the arms of a nanny at the orphanage just one block away from her finding spot.  May 11, 2014 was Mother’s Day.

One year later, on Mother’s Day, Greg and I had our very first conversation about adoption.  I always knew that conversation occurred on Mother’s Day because we were in Washington DC and had just finished brunch at the Kennedy Center.  But, I never really thought about the timing or the actual date…until recently.  Because of what I know about when we ate and the time stamp on pictures I know that conversation occurred sometime around around 12:30pm  on May 10, 2015, (May 11 at 1:30am in China).  Exactly one year after our daughter was placed in the arms of a new caregiver, while her biological parents were mourning that fateful decision and the impact on their lives, Greg and I were discussing adoption, a step that would forever change our lives and our daughter’s.

May 11, 2016 we boarded a plan for China.

When we began the initial paperwork for the adoption process one of the questions we had to answer was about our attitude toward the biological parents. I honestly hadn’t thought about it and really didn’t know how I felt, my focus was always on the children.  I gave an answer but I’d answer it completely different today.  There are times I watch my daughter and I wish I could tell them she’s safe, she’s happy, she’s growing.  As I have the joy of watching my daughter discover a world that was pretty much hidden from her for two years, I sometimes stop and grieve for the mom who has no idea where her daughter is or what she looks like.  I just recently discovered that May 11, 2014 was Mother’s Day.  I can’t imagine the agonizing decision she made; whether it was family pressure, finances or some other reason, I will never know.  I know very little, and can only make assumptions based on the little I do know, but I believe she was trying to choose a better life for her daughter.  Because of this mother’s decision, and our decision to say ‘yes’ to the call God placed on our hearts, I have the privilege of raising this little girl as my daughter.  I hope her biological mom would be proud of this amazing little girl, all that she has overcome and all that she will become.  God has a plan for this little girl.  He has been guiding our steps since before she was even born.

Psalm 92:4-5

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!

I sing for joy because of what you have done.

O Lord, what great works you do!

And how deep are your thoughts.

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6 Months

6 months…where did the time go?  I feel like we were just in China, yet it seems like Emily has been with us forever.  We can’t imagine our family without her!  She has changed so much in such a short time.

I love that smile!  All of the pictures we received from China show her with a pretty stoic face.  We got a few smiles while in China but nothing like today.  Now when I pull out my phone to take a picture, her immediate response is “cheese” and a big smile.

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Four Months Home

This girl!

She’s been with us four months!  It’s hard to believe.  I needed to record her progress so far before these months completely blur together and I forget.

When I look at her I am filled with so many emotions.  She has changed so much in such a short time.  She smiles more, she laughs more.  She jumps off tables more! This girl is a dare devil!  When we first met her she didn’t know how to climb.  Now she can climb almost anything.  I often find her at the top of the stairs or on top of the kitchen table.  If she can pull herself up she will climb it and most likely attempt to jump off.  She’s making up for lost time and scaring me half to death in the process.

Sometimes I look at her and my heart breaks for her first mom and dad, and the heart wrenching decision they made.  We will never know the reasons but I have to believe they hoped for a better life for her.  There are times I wish I could just tell them she’s ok, she is loved.   I see her squeal in laughter when her daddy comes home or plays with her, and I think of the daddy that doesn’t get to experience his daughter’s laughter.  I brush her hair and pull it into pigtails and I think of the mom who will never know what her precious daughter looks like as a toddler, as a teenager, as an adult.  It breaks my heart that my daughter will never know who they are.  In the first few months we filled out lots of medical paperwork and questionnaires.  There are huge sections that we will never be able to answer.  It’s hard for me to skip over those sections; one day she will have to skip those sections and it will be very hard.   It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to call her my daughter, to teach her, to guide her, to love her.

She is a sweet and brave little girl but one of the challenges we face is indiscriminate affection.  She will hug a stranger off the street and would let them pick her up if I allowed it.  Most people see a sweet, outgoing little girl.  And that may be part of her personality, but we also believe she learned that being cute and outgoing gets her attention, gets her food first, etc.  While most people see an cute, friendly little girl, we see a girl who is still scared and who doesn’t know that we are forever.

She has been through several major losses/traumas in such a short little life.  She lost her first mom and dad.  Her primary caregiver at the orphanage became her new mommy, referring to herself as mommy.  At 15 months old, she had a major surgery and spent three weeks away from the orphanage being cared for by people she didn’t know.  She did return to the orphanage but at 15 months old she didn’t know what was happening.  At 2.5 years old, we came to her and took her away from the mommy she’d known for two years.  While she was there, we have no idea how many additional caregivers came in and out of her life.  She has no idea that we are forever.  Based on her experience, she has no reason to believe we are forever.  We’ve watched her attachment to us grew significantly over the last four months but now when I leave she gets extremely upset.  She doesn’t know if I’m coming back.  The phrase I repeat most often to her is “Mommy came back.”  Just hearing that phrase brings tears to her eyes sometimes because she’s not quite sure that will always be true.  She’s just now started referring to me as ‘mama’ on occasion, but to her ‘mama’ is just a name.

As her attachment has grown she has also struggled with sharing my attention and affection with her brothers.  She loves them, loves to play with them and imitate everything they do.  But, when one of them needs my attention and affection she struggles.

Her sleep has improved thankfully!  For the first three months she would awake at random times each night scared and unable to go back to sleep without our assistance.  We’ve kept a mattress next her crib and have spent many nights sleeping in her room.  Around 3 1/2 months though, she started sleeping through the night.  She will still wake up around 5:30 or 6 and we will go lay down with her to help her get another hour or so of sleep but I’ll take 5:30 in the morning over 1:30 or 2.

One of the most frequent questions we get is, “Has she picked up a lot of English?”  Our daughter had a cleft palate, and while it was repaired in China, we don’t believe a lot was done to develop proper speech.  So, when we met her she wasn’t even speaking much in Chinese.  We began speech and occupational therapy pretty quickly after coming home.  We’ve worked hard to learn sign language and identify things for her.  She’s doing amazing!  She knows roughly 25 signs.  She’s learned a few words such as ‘hi’, ‘more’, ‘milk’ and ‘bye’.  She’s working very hard to say her name.  And just recently she started saying ‘yes,’ although it sounds more like ‘yeah.’  This has been a big step as we had to teach her that she has the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  We’ve had to teach her that she can make choices, she can express her preference.

She’s also made huge progress in the area of food.  For the first 2 1/2 years of her life she had a bottle or soft, mushy food.  She had no idea how to chew.  Through occupational therapy and consistently offering new foods she has made great progress.  She still eats a lot of pureed and soft foods but she now loves crackers or anything crunchy.  She will eat meatballs and when she feels like it, small pieces of chicken.  A few weeks ago I spent the day in bed with strep throat so Greg ordered pizza for him and the kids.  I asked him what Emily ate for dinner that night.  We typically offer whatever we are having along with something pureed but he offered her only pizza and the girl ate three slices!  Victory!  Of course, in typical toddler fashion the next day she usually decides she doesn’t want to eat that food again but we are seeing progress.

It’s so easy to feel discouraged day in and day out working on her language and eating.  But thankfully, our family and close friends who don’t see her every day help us to see the amazing progress she has made.

She’s had a lot to overcome, and still does, but she has learned so much!  We’ve had some hard days but it has been such a blessing to watch her grow and learn.  Many people say she is blessed to have a family, but she has been a blessing to us.  She is such a joy and it’s hard to imagine our family without her!

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One year ago…

One year ago today we took a huge step of faith.  One year ago we submitted our application for adoption with Holt International.  One year ago we began the process that was supposed to take 18-24 months.

I vividly remember the moment I hit submit on the application.  I was absolutely confident this was God’s calling for our family but I kept thinking Greg would change his mind.  I asked a hundred times “Are you sure?”  But he is not one to change his mind once a decision has been made.  And, we had talked and researched extensively over the previous two months.  As soon as I hit submit though, I panicked.  What if we aren’t supposed to do this?  The costs are enormous.  What if we aren’t prepared for this?  

Over the next couple of months God continuously reminded me in miraculous ways that this was his calling and in taking a step of faith we won’t always have the answers.  He had proven faithful in my life before and that wouldn’t change.

One year ago we began the journey to bring this precious girl into our family (although she was unknown to us at the time.)


We were simply hoping to be matched with a child at this point; we never dreamed she’d already be a member of our family.

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One Month as a Chapman

Yesterday marked one month since we met Emily and she joined our family.  That day in China seems like such a long time ago. While she still has a lot of challenges ahead she has changed so much in just one month.  

She plays with her brothers.

She lets us comfort her.

She can pick up a cheerio.

Just yesterday she pointed to herself when I asked “Where’s Emily?”

Her tantrums are fewer.  

She’s catching on to some sign language. 

She can say “Hi.”

She’s learning to feed herself with a spoon.

She put two shapes in a shape sorter yesterday.

She’s learning to put things down gently rather than throwing them across the room (well, sometimes)

She can crawl up 2-3 steps on her own.

Such little things, but such big changes in our precious girl.  She is thriving and changing but she is also changing us.  We can’t imagine our family without her.   We are blessed to be her forever family!

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One Week Home

It’s hard to believe we’ve been home one week and that Emily has been with us for three weeks.  She’s not the same little girl we met outside the Civil Affairs office in Nanjing.

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The first few days home are a little bit of a blur as we recovered from jet lag.  Thankfully my parents stayed for a few days and my mom through the weekor we might have been eating cereal and living in our pajamas.

We are slowly adjusting and finding our new normal as a family of five.  The boys love their little sister and have started calling her Emy.

We’ve had a few rough nights and some tough moments but Emily is doing well in so many ways.  It’s kind of like we brought home a newborn and a one-year old wrapped in a two-year old’s body full of two-year old emotions.  Emily still wakes one or two times a night unfamiliar with her surroundings or to make sure we are still there.  During the day though, we feel like we’re seeing lots of progress in her attachment to us.  She laughs and  smiles and enjoys playing games with us.  She wants to be held a lot and gets anxious if she can’t find me nearby.

When we first brought Emily to the hotel in Nanjing we would walk the hall to the elevator each of us holding one of her hands.  She often preferred this to being held.  Now she feels confident walking on her own but loves to be held as well.  She’s even made efforts to run in the last few days.  She takes off with a huge smile on her face despite the fact that she often loses her balance and falls flat on the floor.  And when her brothers begin jumping around like crazy people, she tries to copy them with a huge smile on her face.

Beyond sleep, one of the biggest struggles is food.  In the orphanage, she was only fed very soft or pureed foods.  Because of this and her repaired cleft palate she has never learned to chew or feed herself.  It’s been a challenge to figure out what she can eat and what she will eat, while providing her enough food to sustain her.  She definitely has aversions to specific textures and cold foods.  She is loving the opportunity to hold her own fork or spoon though, and is so proud of herself when she is able to get food in her mouth on her own.  I’m proud of her too!  In China, all she did was bang the utensils on the table.  Simple things like picking up a cheerio are new milestones she is just now achieving.  We are still working on actually getting the cheerio in the mouth.

She’s joined right in with her brothers.  When they wrestle with daddy she jumps on top and they had her sword fighting the day after we got home.  Collin is having a little harder time adjusting to having another child similar in size in our home but he loves her fiercely.  He will definitely let you know that Emily is his sister.

In the first week when I’d open a book to read to Emily she’d often shut it.  It seemed like a game to her.  Now she will sit in my lap while I read a book, and occasionally she’s even brought me a book to read.

I was looking forward to getting home to our rocking chair.  Interestingly, she sits facing out with her back to me.  If I face her toward me to rock, she turns herself around.  Last night though, when she woke in the middle of the night she turned in to snuggle and let me rock her to sleep.  It was a sweet moment even if it was at 1am.

She loves the water – bath or pool – which we learned in China but she hates getting her hair washed.  It’s quite the struggle.

She loves things that spin and she loves banging things together.  She bangs things on her chin, which I haven’t quite figured out.

We are learning more and more about our daughter every day and love watching her grow and change in her new family.

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