Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy to our world

It is hard to believe at this time last year Vivian was spending the majority of her days in a crib in a cold orphanage in China.  No Christmas joy in her life.

We were waiting for her and feeling her absence in our lives.

This year we are all together and I don't think any of us could have imagined the joy she would bring into our world.

I am so excited to watch her experience her first Christmas. 

I have to share these few "out-takes" from the day we tried to take our Christmas card picture. They make me smile so big.  We had a hard time getting a good picture and the main problem that day was Vivian!!  When she first came home we could hardly get her to smile, so seeing these pictures of her being wild and fun and crazy is awesome.  The big kids get such a kick out of her.

"joyful, joyful we adore thee"

Feeling incredibly lucky this Christmas for all that we have been given.

"the wonders of His love"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Attached at the hip

That is Vivian and I these days:  attached at the hip.  Like, literally.  This child does not let me out of her sight.
To be honest, I am exhausted.
Girlfriend follows me EVERWHERE.  If I walk in one room, she follows. If I sit at my computer, she crawls up on the chair with me.  If I run downstairs to try and quickly change over the laundry, she is right behind me. If I try to unload the dishwasher, she crawls up on it and tries to unload it with me.  If I shower, she gets in (like EVERY TIME I shower).  She even follows me when I go to the bathroom.  It is 24-7.  She is my little shadow.
And I am exhausted.
She has been home for almost 6 months and we been together for almost every minute of those almost 6 months.  Rob and I have had one babysitter since returning home.  I have been to the gym a big fat 0 times since returning home. 
I miss things. I miss having kid-free lunches with my friends.  I miss my friends, actually.  I miss nights out with my husband.  I miss the gym.  I miss exercise.  I miss running errands BY MYSELF while the kids are at school.  I miss being involved in the big kids school.  I miss being alone.  I am someone who really likes to be have some alone time and let me tell you, there is NONE of that these days. 
But, this is what I signed up for.  When you adopt, you read a lot about the importance of "cocooning" your family the first few months home.  And when we decided to do this I made the commitment the give up the "me" stuff to try and give my child what she needed, for as long as it took.  And the thing is, all this staying home, and not running around and not leaving the kids has had its advantages.  We have all bonded.  We have all had A LOT of  together time.  We have slowed down and relied on each other, and our extended family, for pretty much everything. 
And when I hear myself start to complain, I have to stop. I am aware that this stuff I am calling "hard", pales in comparison to the hard things my daughter has had to endure in her life.  When I think about what she has been through, I shut up. 
I am constantly living with the reality that there is a woman somewhere on the other side of the world that doesn't get to do what I am doing.  A woman who might give anything to be able to have one minute of my life.  A woman who may only dream of having her daughter follow her around everywhere.  And when that reality hits me I turn from tired and annoyed to humbled and grateful and determined to do better and be better the next day. 
I am reminded that Vivian is a gift, given to me by someone else.  Trusted to me to treasure and love. 
And really, it was the same with my other children.  They also were gifts, given to me and trusted to me to treasure and love.
Being Vivian's mommy may be hard in this stage we are in, but it is also awesome.  For all the worries I had before we went to China about attachment issues, I never dreamed my child would attach to me so well.  Yes, some days it drives me crazy, but most days I am grateful.  She had every reason in the world not to trust me, yet she has, from the moment we met. 
I may be tired, but I am loving being her mommy.

“...because "Mommy" is forever.  It's such a powerful name.

Mommy means "I trust you." Mommy means "you will protect me."

Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing with when you are excited.

 Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad, or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed.
Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts.

Mommy is a comfort place - a safe place.

 Mommy means "you are mine and I am yours and we are family. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vivian's past

In early November a team of therapists (from the organization TEAMworks), who specialize in caring for special needs orphans, traveled to China to work for a week in Vivian's orphanage.  Their goal was to help the children there (in particular the special needs children) and train the nannies to better provide for these children.  They were able to spend several days working with and changing the lives of the sweet children living in Vivian's orphanage.

I was lucky enough to make contact with one of the women in this group prior to their trip.  She reached out to me when she found my blog while researching the orphanage. We connected immediately (she has also adopted a little girl from China) and she understood my interest in their trip.  As you may remember, Rob and I were not allowed inside Vivian's orphanage, nor were we given much information at all about her life there, so we were hoping their trip could fill in some gaps for us and for Vivian.

What we found out did help explain some things about Vivian.

What we found out has also been extremely hard to hear and digest. 

For instance, we learned that there are approximately 35-40 kids in the orphanage (ranging in age from 8 months to 19 years old).  There are 2 nannies that work each shift -- one does the cooking and laundry leaving ONE to look after the 35+ kids. 

The TEAMworks group reported that the orphanage is very quiet, saying you could hear a pin drop at any hour of the day.  The nannies are just not talking to the kids, and the kids are not crying because they learn early on that no one comes if they do.  {This explains why Vivian came to us with little to no speech}

Perhaps one of the hardest thing to hear was that the children are taken out of their cribs one hour in the morning and one hour at night.  They spend the other 22 hours of their day in their cribs (including meals).  Yes, you read that correctly, they spend the other 22 hours of the day in their cribs.  {This also explains why Vivian came to us very weak and, at age 33 months, barely able to walk}

It has been really hard for me to process this information. It shouldn't be a surprise ... we were educated about what orphanage life is like through our parent training and have heard many stories from other adoptive parents.  Yet, somehow hearing it from people who were actually there makes it very real.  I can't yet put into words how it makes me feel, it is just too hard. 

On a positive note these therapists (who I consider angels on earth) were able to accomplish some wonderful things during their visit. They were able to sit kids up in wheelchairs who had never sat up before,

 and give children who had never had the opportunity to feed themselves a chance to do that.

 They were able to put bedding, wedges and mirrors in what were once empty cribs

We saw this room below in a video that was sent to us before we got Vivian.  In the video, the room was almost completely empty.  Apparently it was rarely used.  The TEAMworks ladies were able to get the children out of their cribs and into this room and fill it with mats and toys, encouraging the nannies to continue to bring the children in here to play,
and they were able to love on these sweet kids in a way that no adult ever has. 

 The TEAMworks team trained the nannies and gave them strategies to better care for these children.  Apparently the nannies were very receptive to these ideas.  They were also able to identify a few children in desperate need of immediate medical attention and urge the orphanage to seek help for them.  One is this sweet girl who has an unrepaired heart condition that is wearing her little body out.
 And one is this little boy who has hycrocephalous
And maybe the most touching story of the week was they were able to get this 19 year old girl to walk for the first time!!! It is heartbreaking to think she has spent her entire 19 years in this building.  These ladies fell head over heels in love with her and really wanted to bring her home with them!


The trip went so well that this group has been invited to come back again.   How wonderful for these children!!!  These women really are an amazing group who made a huge difference in the lives of these children. 

I want to leave you with some final images of the beautiful children living in Vivian's orphanage.  For those of you who donated toys when Rob and I went to China, and for those who donated through my blog to the adoption agency (A Helping Hand) partnering with this orphanage, and those who donated to the TEAMworks auction items, these are the kids who benefited, and will continue to benefit, from your generosity.  To my knowledge, only 6 of these children have the proper paperwork completed  to be adopted.  The rest are stuck for now.  I know that AHH adoption agency is working to process the paperwork on more of these children. We will continue to hope and pray that each of them will one day find their own family. These were Vivian's friends.  She shares a bond with them, and so we do also.  We are connected to them.  We cannot forget about them.



And now, knowing what we know about Vivian's life before us, we squeeze her a little tighter, spoil her a little more, and stand even more in awe of her strength.  Our hearts hurt for all that she had to endure and for all the love and attention she missed out on, but she is home now and for that, we are incredibly grateful.
*For more information on TEAMworks, please visit their website at www.teamworks.org, or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/teamworksteam.  They will be posting ways you can help them raise money for their trip back to China.
*For more information on A Helping Hand adoption agency visit http://ahelpinghandadoption.org, to donate to their partnership with this orphanage, visit https://hhaa.ejoinme.org/?tabid=472600.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

5 months

It's been 5 months since we met.

It is hard to believe how far she has come in 5 short months.

She is such an awesome kid.  She is so full of joy and, given all that she has been through, that amazes me.

I am amazed at the way she has gracefully left one life behind and embraced a new one

I am thankful this Thanksgiving for the gift of adoption in our lives.  Thankful for the way it has completed our family and changed us all.

“I didn’t give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you”

Linking up here this week
Ni Hao Yall