Hellos and Goodbyes

**Warning....very long post!

Yesterday morning (Wednesday) started off with a call from our guide that we would have to postpone our orphanage visit due to the rain. In other words, the new director doesn't like families to visit the social welfare institute at all. So we had a free morning to play in the hotel and do some more crafts. LiYun took a nap along with Carter and Grace. And then it was time to visit LiYun's foster family.

We loved meeting her foster parents and her foster brother's wife (the brother had left to go back to the city he now works in). They were very warm and offered us tea and fresh fruit. You'll see in the pictures Carter's toothpick and pineapple creation, the family, and LiYun's room. Her room was the width of the twin mattress with about 3 feet from the end of it where you could stand or sit on a stool. But small as it was, I loved being able to see where she has slept for years and spent her time.

LiYun's room at foster family home

We were able to ask the parents questions through David, and we learned a good bit about our daughter. We discovered she has always been very sensitive about not having parents, and she has also been jealous of other girls from school having more than she did. So it made much more sense to us that she had asked if we could help her buy small gifts for her two best friends. Giving them gifts means that she now has a family...she has means to offer presents to them.

We were also told a story about LiYun when she was around 8 or 9 years old. A neighbor asked her where she was from. She replied that she didn't know. He asked her who her parents were, and she said she didn't know and that she was an orphan. After asking her several times, she said, "You have asked me this three times in one week. What is the significance of this?" And from that point on, she began working very hard in school to prove that she could succeed despite being an orphan.

LiYun was very tickled by the discovery that her new parents are younger than her foster brother (Scott is one year younger than him). LiYun's foster mom told her that because I am younger, there is not as big of a generation gap between us and that maybe she could communicate more with me.

The foster parents have done a wonderful job of raising LiYun. One of the risks of adopting older kids is that their values and personality are already molded when you become their parents. We are amazed by LiYun's manners, maturity, and sweet spirit. She always carries the groceries or bags for me. She takes the kids to wash their hands or get dressed. She expresses gratitude for everything we give her. And she even told David to tell us that she is a "traditional girl." Meaning that she isn't into being wild and crazy. That was certainly good to hear!

On the way to visit the family, we talked about inviting the parents to dinner, and David said he would make a reservation at a nice restaurant. Knowing that we would be footing the bill, LiYun told David "Only if it's okay with Mommy and Daddy, and no place too expensive."

After our visit at the apartment, we all got into the van to head to dinner. LiYun and I were the first ones to climb in. And before anyone else got in, she turned to me and asked, "Are you happy?" I am not sure whether she was wondering if I was happy with her, or with her foster parents, or what. But she seemed to need reassurance. Several minutes later, she said, "Mommy, I am very happy."

I was surprised that LiYun was not more emotional when we parted with her foster family outside the restaurant. David said that she cried a bit on Monday and that she had already told them all she wanted to say on that day. I was also surprised that she stayed closer to me during the whole afternoon and evening. I guess I expected her to want to stick close to her foster parents. They were certainly shaken up by the reality of losing the girl they've raised for the last 7 years. Scott later told me that on the way to dinner, both the dad and mom wiped a few tears away.

Scott and me with LiYun's foster parents

This morning, we had a quick visit at the Nanning Social Welfare Institute where LiYun spent 3 years before foster care. She had the chance to say goodbye to a few friends who are still there. Her foster parents showed up to visit, wanting to see all of us one last time. LiYun seemed a little shocked to see them again. I asked her tonight if she thought we were leaving her when she saw them there at the SWI. She said no. And on the electronic translator, she wrote, "I will never leave you. I will not run away. Therefore, I invite you to rest assured."

I have told her over and over again that it's okay to be sad with all the big changes. And she repeatedly assures me that she is not sad. David warned me that she might be "performing" for us, fearing that if she shows sadness, we will not keep her. This may very well be true. But I also think she is so focused on moving forward and having a family that she isn't grasping the magnitude of what's happening. I think she may end up grieving more in a few weeks or months. However, I also think the foster parents did a good job of preparing her.

On the way back to the hotel from the SWI, we stopped by her finding place to snap a few photos. Since it was raining, only David and Noelle got out to take the pictures. David said he had not told her what we were doing and that we could tell her about her finding place when the right time came. However, as we were waiting in the van, she got out the electronic translator and this is what the translated messages said.... "This transport center where I was discarded?" My heart stopped when I read those words. I showed it to David as he got back in the van, and he was astounded that she had put it all together. LiYun is a very observant and perceptive girl. I was glad she asked though because we were able to have a brief but good discussion. I told her how much her parents loved her to leave her in a place where she could quickly be found and have access to opportunities for a better life. I asked her if she remembers anything about that day (she was 22 months old), and she doesn't.

LiYun's finding spot

This afternoon and evening, LiYun spent time with her two best friends from her school. They came back to our hotel to watch a movie and play. It was so neat to see LiYun laughing and being silly with the girls. She seemed so confident while in her element. And she was clearly proud to present the gifts and show them her new belongings (not to mention, her new brother and sister). They also ate through ALL of our snacks. :)

Scott and I were faced with our first "big" tween-parenting decision when they asked us (through David) if they could go window shopping in the adjoining mall by themselves. We had no idea what the mothers allow their kids to do. With the input of David, we ended up letting them go on their own for an hour. We gave her a small amount of money. And they came back with lollipops for Carter and Grace. :) The two friends were very sweet and had even called David on his cell phone over the last few days to make sure LiYun was doing okay. (She had called them from our hotel room, but I guess they wanted to be sure she wasn't just pretending to be okay.)

I have to admit that by 8:00 pm, I was ready to have my girl back. I loved that she was able to hang out with her friends one last time before we leave, but I also sensed the "I have to be cool in front of my friends" attitude. She was still very respectful but I just missed having her to myself. I realized how much I enjoy her company. The girls were getting pretty rowdy about this time, and it was getting late. So David took them home, and LiYun played UNO with Scott, Noelle and me. She seemed down at first, but she told me that saying goodbye to them was good because she was "departing for something better."

I have felt pretty emotional today. I got choked up saying goodbye to the foster parents this morning. And I just watched LiYun walk around the hotel room taking pictures so that she will remember it. I feel like we've just gotten over jet lag and got settled with our new daughter in this hotel room, and now we have to pack up and fly out tomorrow to Guangzhou (which will be LiYun's first flight). I am emotional about taking LiYun from her friends, family, and the city that has been home to her for 12 years. And I am surprised at the depth of love I already feel for this girl. I didn't think I would love her so much so soon. She has certainly made it easy because she communicates a lot with me. She is polite, helpful, affectionate, and considerate. There is so much more to learn about her, but I am anxious to discover the good, the bad, and everything in between.

She wore her hair down today (like I wore mine last night) and
didn't pin back her bangs...she looks so grown up to me!

I apologize for such a long and rambling post. I am so tired that my sentences may not even make sense. I feel like I am leaving out so many details, but I will include them tomorrow if they come to mind. Thank you for your continued prayers and encouraging words. We are humbled beyond belief by your comments. It is a joy to travel this road with you.

Much love,


Elation & Exhaustion

I am so tired, so I apologize for the brevity of this post. I promise to include a full update tomorrow. I want to be able to do justice to the significance of the events today. But in the meantime, here are a few pictures from this morning.

It was interesting that LiYun put her hair half up today, the way I've been wearing mine. I have never seen her hair different than the pigtails...from pictures dating back several years, she always had that same hairstyle. She looked so grown up today that I almost wanted her to put her hair back up in pigtails!

The visit with the foster family went very well. I will include more details tomorrow, but LiYun told me after parting with them, "Mommy, I am very happy."



Settling In

I have to admit, when I woke up this morning I thought LiYun might have changed her mind about being adopted by us. After some challenges in translations last night and then feeling her toss and turn in bed, I feared she might be doubting her decision. But when we met up with David, she told him she was very happy. (Although she did admit to not sleeping well.) The rest of the day kept getting better with each hour.

While at the office to do the interviews and paperwork to legalize the adoption, Carter and Grace stayed with their Aunt Noelle in another room. When we got back, Carter had out his "briefcase" and said he was doing paperwork so he could become LiYun's new brother. I am always amazed by the concepts that Carter understands at the age of 3.

Tomorrow, we will visit the orphanage where LiYun lived from ages 2-5, prior to foster care. We asked through David if she had any good memories there, and she said "not really." But she is looking forward to seeing a few of her friends still living there. While in foster care, she had to make monthly visits so she befriended the girls during those times. We are bringing candy for them, upon her request. And we are also donating a basic digital camera, as that was an item the orphanage director said they needed. I do like the idea that a new camera will provide nice photos of the children that will be treasured by adoptive parents. We inquired whether we could get any baby pictures of LiYun (from the age 2, when she was brought to the orphanage), and they said they would try to find some. Please pray that they will follow through with this. I would hate for LiYun to not have any physical representation of her life before the age of 5.

Speaking of pictures, she asked us if we received the pictures of her birthday that her foster brother had sent to us via email. We never received them. I know God is over all the details, so I'm not too upset. But it would have been amazing to get those pictures back in November and have an email address to contact her throughout the wait.

We had another great lunch with the help of David and LiYun ordering for us all. Then our guide left us for the rest of the day and we all went back to the hotel to rest. The afternoon seemed like a turning point for LiYun and me. We played UNO with Scott and Noelle. We did crafts with the kids. And she and I had an hour long conversation on google translate. I learned that she enjoys badminton and in-line skating. And she would love to learn taekwando and to play the piano. (Her expression was priceless when I informed her we have a piano at home.) After dinner of Pizza Hut pizza (her request), she and the kids went swimming in the indoor pool. From her expressions, she seems even more joyful than yesterday. I do worry, however, that she may be disappointed when we resort back to the daily grind of life. :)

One of her friends is coming to play with her on Thursday morning, so we look forward to being able to glimpse a part of her life and history here in Nanning.

Just a few sidenotes... when Scott brought back the pizza, we discovered they had included several pairs of plastic gloves! I guess they think such a greasy mess should be handled with care.

And while doing crafts, LiYun used glitter glue to decorate a sign that says "I love you -LiYun" and presented it to me. While I know she doesn't really love me yet, and she may even think it's just what I want to hear, I was touched that she would even feel comfortable expressing a sentiment like that. And when she calls out to us, she says "Mommy" and "Daddy"... I still do a double take hearing that in a voice that isn't coming from a toddler.

To be real, it hasn't been all fun and games. Carter had a MAJOR meltdown earlier because Scott went to get the pizza without him. And I later heard LiYun imitating it to her friend on the phone! :) He and Grace have both pulled away from LiYun at times, and I had to explain to her that they're into being independent...they're not rejecting her. There have been moments when I have had to set expectations or limits and I fear crushing her spirit. And there have even been a few moments when I've missed life with just the four of us. But I think that's because there's not yet the intimacy of knowing LiYun as well as a mother would know her 12-year-old after raising her for her whole life. I know that intimacy and normalcy will come in time. What I can honestly say is that she seems to fit into our family. And I would have never dared ask that she be as brave, patient, mature, understanding, and loving as she has been in the last 30 hours. Wow...has it really only been one day?

Oh, and one more sidenote....I forgot to mention yesterday that Noelle and Stuart missed being together for their one-year wedding anniversary so that she could come with us!! So we are so thankful to them both for allowing her to join us on this journey. She has been helpful in so many ways. I will be so sad when she flies home on Saturday. (And thank goodness LiYun is so hands-on with the kids...I feel more confident about surviving the rest of the trip without Noelle's help!)

Love to you all.


More Thoughts on Gotcha Day

I am still in awe of the confidence that LiYun portrayed when she walked into the room to meet her forever family. I still can't believe how affectionate she is, and how she placed her hand over mine as we sat down. I love how she takes the initiative to play and help with Carter and Grace. David said when we got back to the room that she was still nervous, but you would never have known. I never expected her to call us Mommy and Daddy already. She clearly has waited for this day for a long time. In fact, David said she has several friends her age at the orphanage, so she feels lucky to be adopted and have a family.

Back when Scott and I were praying through whether God was calling us to adopt LiYun, I connected with an amazing mother, Shelley, who also adopted a 12-year-old last year. I remember her telling me about how God cofirmed so many of their steps, even after they brought Avery home. Yesterday, we had two neat incidents that I felt were God's winks at me to confirm that we're right where He wants us. First, I told two of my coworkers a week or two ago that I dreamt I was speaking in Chinese to LiYun on Gotcha Day and that she reponded with "Very good!" And in my dream, I was so pleased that I had spoken correctly and then even received feedback in English. Well, David told LiYun I had been practicing Mandarin, and when I spoke some phrases to her, guess what she said?? "VERY GOOD!"

In Birmingham, we discovered an authentic Chinese restaurant called Mr. Chen's. When we go, we're often the only non-Chinese people. A few months ago, I tried Almond Milk Tea and fell in love with it. I asked David about it here, and he said he had never heard of it! Last night when we went to dinner, LiYun ordered for us all. And she also ordered...almond milk tea. ;) I laughed with incredulity!

LiYun loved going through her new clothes and trying them all on. She even changed before we went to dinner. We also went to Walmart last night to buy her some shoes. David left a little bit after dinner, and I will admit that LiYun and I both got a little nervous without our translator. We used google translate, our dictionary, and our electronic translator, but we didn't always get correct translations. Some of the translations were just confusing. Such as..."America land China exactly." We still have no idea what that meant. She told me through the translator that she likes to stay up late to watch tv and read. Scott and I were trying to figure out how to set boundaries already. We'll probably ask the foster parents what kinds of rules they had. We already had to tell LiYun to switch channels because she had chosen Die Hard 2 in Chinese to watch, and Scott pointed out that there is a lot of vulgar language and cuss words in it.

LiYun wanted me to sleep with her, and there was a moment in the middle of the night when I woke up and felt her tossing and turning. I am sure the initial excitement has worn off a bit and she now feels nervous waking up in a new place. Right now, we are the only two awake. She is reading a book, and I'm typing up this post. I'm not sure whether to try to communicate with her right now or just let her wake up. :) But I know we will figure it all out in due time.
We head back to the office this morning to fill out paperwork. I will post more pics as we upload them. Noelle has done an amazing job of taking the pictures and editing them so I can email them to Emily...who then has to download each one from email and re-upload them to the blog. Thank you dear friends!
Your comments have made me tear up over and over again. I can't get over the amount of support, prayer, and love that you've shown us. I'll continue to keep you updated. And please continue to pray that God would give us wisdom in how we move forward in bonding, setting limits, loving and communicating with LiYun, etc. But despite the learning curve ahead, we feel so overjoyed and grateful for how things are going so far. LiYun is a special girl indeed.

Beauty and Courage

Gotcha Day has been amazing! This day has been such an answer to prayers and I'm so thankful for all of your encouraging messages. Today went so much better than I imagined. When we first saw LiYun, she immediately reached out to hug me and Scott, and then went to pick Grace up. She has been so great with the kids, reaching for their hands and braiding Grace's hair. Grace and Carter seemed shy at first but they have warmed up and are loving being with LiYun now. She is very affectionate, even linked arms with me on the way to dinner. The amazing thing is that she is already calling us mommy and daddy! She told our guide David that she is very happy. We know she's nervous but she's doing so great. She called her foster parents tonight and David told us she told them, "my mommy and daddy are great." She brought some books and a photo album along with her. And we learned that she loves to cook. She does know some English, and she loved the clothes we got her. In just these few short hours, we've seen how very thoughtful and helpful she is. She seems very excited, and we're so thankful for that. We found out that her foster parents' only child gets married tomorrow morning. It is happening at the same time as when we go sign adoption papers, so we will not be able to go. However, we will get to meet the foster family.

I'm sorry this is coming out so late. I have received several emails and I'm thinking many of you have been worried. My apologies. LiYun just asked me through the electronic translator, as I was uploading pictures, if we don't like to talk. So, I can't concentrate on the blog when I need to be with her, but I will write more later! I just wanted to get this post up quickly. Thank you again for all the prayers. We received so many emails and messages of people who were praying in the middle of the night. Please know how thankful we are. Today was so much better than we could have imagined. Enjoy the pictures ...