Some Things We'll Never Know

Both Monday and Wednesday, I took Grace to buy some new shoes, as she only had her sandals from the orphanage and a cheap pair from Target that got filthy in the rain and construction dust in Guangzhou. When the salewoman tried to fit a shoe on Grace's foot, our little girl completely lost it. When she cries hard, she holds her breath. And this time, she held it a good 8-10 seconds. Her face turned purple and then white, and we had to blow in her face to make her inhale. The same scenario happened again on Wednesday when she tried on a pair of new shoes. With these two instances being the hardest Grace has ever cried, they got my mind working.

When caretakers bring children from the Kunming orphanage to meet their parents, they typically put them in new outfits and new shoes. Appearance is a big deal to the director. I could picture a nanny placing the white and purple sandals on Grace's feet that Monday morning as they prepared to take her away, once again, from familiar surroundings. To Grace, new shoes might represent another uprooting. Another abandonment. I know she generally loves shoes because she brings pairs to me throughout the day for her to switch out on her feet. It's something about new shoes she's never seen before being placed on her feet that terrifies her. In reality, there may be no mental connection at all. But I can't help but wonder if she thought I was getting her ready to leave us.

Another situation I've pondered is the meaning of Grace's burpcloth-sucking as a soothing behavior. The second day we were home, I was feeding Grace her bottle. As I laid her down in the bed, she began to cry. She pulled the burpcloth out of my hands and shoved a corner of it into her mouth. The sobbing subsided, and she sucked on it for most of her nap. Since then, if she's crying hard, I can hand her the burpcloth to soothe her. She'll turn it around until she finds a piece that suits her and goes to town on it. I tried giving her a paci instead because I feared she'd somehow gag on too much material, but she clearly prefers the burpcloth. If I had been attuned to this habit in China, we may have had less tears and more restful sleep. I don't know whether she had a favorite blanket in her foster home that she sucked on. Maybe she first picked up this habit after the tumor-removal surgery on her tongue...perhaps they put gauze in her mouth and this somehow soothed her. I guess we'll never know. But I will have extra clean burpcloths on hand for awhile.

Each night as I look into Grace's eyes at bedtime, I whisper to her in Chinese that I love her. I still get the sweet reaction that I got a few nights ago. She clearly understands me and has heard it before. Did her foster mom tell her she loved her? Did Grace hear the parents tell their own kids that they loved them and has been waiting to hear it herself? She seems so giddy to be loved, as if she's been waiting for someone to cherish her. She makes it easy to love her, that's for sure.

Every day, I wonder about little details of her live in China that we'll most likely never come to know. Sixteen months of my daughter's life is pretty much a mystery. One day she'll have questions for me, and I'm not sure how I'll answer. Kunming did allow a Heritage Trip last summer where families could visit the foster village, and some kids even had the opportunity to meet their foster parents. This was a huge step of progress considering how locked-down the orphanage is on any information or contact. How amazing it would be to meet the family who cared for our little girl for almost a year. In the meantime, I guess I just have to trust God that He will guide us through the questions Grace has for us and help her to see His hand during that time of her life rather than the missing parts in her story.


Stitches and Tea Parties

If you can endure four stitches on your chin and a tea party with your little sister, all in 24 hours, you're a pretty cool stud in my book. Carter was so brave last night, and he was very sweet with Virginia Grace this morning. He can't stand to be awake and for his sister to be sleeping, so he's making a habit of waking her up. He climbs into her bed and says, "Hey Grace. Wake up Grace. Grace...get up!!!"

At least she's slept through the last two nights, so she's getting her beauty sleep.

As I watched Carter and Grace play with their daddy tonight, I realized that it seemed so completely normal to suddenly be a family of four. I had feared that I would miss our days of being just the three of us. But it's almost as if I can't clearly recall what that was like. It just seems very comfortable and right to have two kiddos running around their daddy and laughing as they anticipate being tickled. I thought to myself, God is really in this. During the crazy moments, it's easy to question what we've done and whether we've followed the Lord's direction. Then I see my son and daughter laughing together, or I feel them both hugging my neck, and I know without a doubt that God has brought us to this place.

It's been a challenging and tiring day, but I've expected that. Both kids are very needy right now, and I am holding one or both of them A LOT. But I know it will get easier. And thank you for the reminders of that. It helps to know I'm not just feeding myself a line. :)

I feel so behind in communication with everyone. Please forgive my tardiness in responding to emails, FB messages, blog comments, etc. So many of you have taken time to introduce yourself and share your experiences and inspiring words, and I am anxious to connect with you. Hopefully I can do that by the end of the week. Grace boycotted naps the last couple of days, so I'm going straight from 5:30 am until 8 pm (when I crash in bed alongside Grace). Though you haven't heard from me, please know how much I appreciate your comments and prayers.

I have lots of tidbits to blog about, so I'll work on that for tomorrow.

Sweet dreams!


We Did Well Until Bathtime...

...and then Carter split his chin open on the bathtub. Yes, I get an "F" for my first day on my own as a mom of two.

It wasn't even a chaotic moment. I wasn't being pulled in two different directions. Grace and I were simply sitting on the bathroom floor while Carter took a bath. He kept standing up and marching around the tub, and I continually told him he might slip and hit his head. I actually said that he could knock his teeth out, and Carter thought that was funny. Then, the irony of it all, is that as he stepped forward for me to get him out, he slipped and slammed his chin on the side of the tub. Blood began dripping from his chin (which confused me at first because I assumed he had hurt his tongue or teeth). While Carter didn't cry long, he most definitely has a deep gash in his chin. Our neighbor (a doctor) came over to look, and he insisted Carter doesn't need stitches. But Scott is with him, as I write, at the Children's Hospital's after hours clinic so they can bandage our son up. I think Carter got the point that he needs to listen to his mommy. And I still feel like crying because it's always traumatic for a mom to see her child get injured.

Other than our bath catastrophe, our day went pretty well. It wasn't easy by any stretch, but I also didn't feel like pulling my hair out. The hardest part was balancing attention toward Carter and Grace. Carter wanted to be held this morning, and this would cause Grace to have a fit. Then I'd hold her a for while, and Carter would be upset. I know it will get a bit easier as Grace learns I can love them both, and Carter adjusts to the idea of us being back home for good.

The little guy didn't want to go to school today. He refused to get dressed, so I assumed he was delaying the journey to Mother's Day Out. I asked him if this was the case. He said, "Mmmhmm." My reply was, "I know you'd rather stay home with us, but you'll have fun at school. And you'll get bored running errands with me and your sister. Let's get you dressed and then we'll talk."

As soon as I pulled up his shorts, Carter said, "Talk?"
Me..."Okay bud, what do you want to talk about?"
"You don't want to go to school?"
"No. Home?"
"You want to stay home? How about you go to school for a little bit, and I'll pick you up early. I know you'll have a good time playing with your friends."

He ended up doing great. His teacher said he had fun and was well-behaved.

Grace fell asleep in the car while running errands, so she ended up not taking a nap. It was frustrating not to have any time to myself the entire day, but that's part of being a mom and dying to self.

Last night, as I laid next to Virginia Grace so she would fall asleep, I whispered, "Wo ai ni," which means "I love you." While I've said this to her many times, I've never gotten the reaction I got last night. Her eyes darted up to meet mine and lit up, and she gave me the biggest smile. A few seconds later, I repeated the words, and she looked back quickly and giggled with delight. I realized that she truly understood my words, and it was amazing to see her response!

Here are a few pics from this afternoon. I have a lot more pictures of Grace than Carter...my son has suddenly begun refusing to pose for the camera. Have we reached the "too cool stage" already??


We're Home - Part 2

I looked around our house this morning and couldn't really believe we've been to China and back. Oh home sweet home!

The journey home was not nearly as rough as we anticipated. Grace slept almost the entire flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, and we were given seats in bulkhead...meaning we had the extra leg room and a tray that came out on which they strapped a bassinet. So Grace was able to sleep in a comfy and cozy "bed" and our laps were free.She charmed the flight attendants by blowing them kisses. They LOVED her!This is Grace's smile after being declared an American citizen at the Immigration gate in San Francisco. After Scott said, "Yay Grace!" she clapped her hands. Waiting to board the plane from Houston to Birmingham. This was the only flight she stayed awake on.Looking out at the clouds.Meanwhile, Carter was waiting at the airport. My parents had taken him to Build A Bear to pick out a panda bear for Grace. (We had a gift from her to him too.) He was so excited about giving the panda to his new sister.Family and friends had made signs and had balloons to welcome Virginia Grace. (My cousin Ashley with her kids: Cece, Graham, Tate, and Alex.)
After 24 hours of traveling, I was overjoyed to be walking off the plane...Wiping away tears..such joy to see family and friends welcoming us home.

My sweet friends...
One of my college roommates with her son, BennettEmily (who blogged for me while we were gone) and her daughter, Lia Kate. Danny and Emily brought her home in January. I love how they just stared at each other!We know they'll be close friends.My Aunt Judi, cousin Leigh Ann and her daughter Mary Katherine, and my sister CourtneyMy sister brought us beautiful roses.Carter, Scott, and Scott's mom. (All my pics are from other people's camera, and I'm still missing photos of my SIL, FIL, and some other friends who were there. I'll add them as I get them!)We loved seeing how excited Grace and Carter were to see each other. We've had to show Carter how to hug Grace gently because he kept taking her down with really enthusiastic bear hugs. :)Hugging her panda on the way home. She had never been in a carseat before, and we thought she might hate it, but she did great.Playing out on the deck when we got home. This was about the only time she was out of my arms on Friday. I am sure the house was overwhelming since we'd been living in hotel rooms. And she was also afraid of our dog Jackson. Thankfully, she has since warmed up to him.

Grace and Carter playing. They are really funny together. They will mimic what the other is doing...I'll try to post one of the videos soon. It's hilarious.
By Saturday, she was walking around the house and interacting with our families. She seems to be adapting well!

If only she'll adapt to the new time zone. The last two nights, she's woken up at 2:30 am, ready to play! We've gotten her back down by 4 am, but it's a long 90 minutes when you're fighting jet lag and already exhausted. Please pray she'll adjust quickly!

Eating Chinese food her first night home. We were told not to immediately switch her to American food because it will throw her little tummy for a loop.
Carter playing his musical instrument from ChinaI bought these pjs in Fairhope months ago, and I am so thrilled they're not too small! Virginia Grace is a tiny little peanut. The pjs have Chinese writing on them...although I have no idea what it says.
Grace is still always eating...
and eating.
And we're trying to wean Carter off his paci since my mom allowed him to have it outside of his bed while we were gone.
At least both of them having their mouths full keeps the house a little bit quieter. :)
Scott and his two kids....wow, that's weird to type. :) Please pray for me this week as I will be on my own during the day. My parents left this morning, so I am jumping right in with being a mom of two. And two TODDLERS! The days are going to be long if Grace keeps up her crazy waking schedule.

I'll try to keep up with posts as we adjust. I know I can't count on my memory to capture all the moments, so I need to document them somehow. Much love to all of you and many thanks for continuing to encourage us, pray for us, and celebrate with us.