How to Guarantee a Big Hug from your Chinese Daughter

Present them with.....dried squid.

A very popular snack in China is dried fish/squid, and this is one of Caroline's favorites. I found some through Amazon (Amazon never fails me!) and had it shipped here. When I opened the box, I grabbed the bags and ran to Caroline because I knew she would be overjoyed to have a familiar and beloved food reach her distressed and over-American-food taste buds. She. was. ecstatic. She broke into the biggest smile I've seen in a while, and she threw her arms around me in a big hug.

It felt so good to bring her joy. I know...it was over dried squid. But I was giddy all afternoon.

The last few days have been really great, and Caroline and I have definitely had some bonding moments. I can't go into details, but let's just say that God equipped us both to face some major milestones. And I found that I may handle tween issues much better than toddler tantrums! Thank you so much for all your prayers...they are obviously working!

Our biggest challenge this weekend is staying cool. Our air conditioning is out, and the thermostat currently reads that is is 87 degrees in our house. Luckily, the unit for the kids' room is working, so we've all been sleeping in that small part of the house. But we can't hang out there 24/7. The chocolate chips in my pantry have actually melted! Hopefully we can get someone out here tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm sitting in front of a box fan and taking advantage of the situation as an excuse to be lazy and eat out. :)


Grafted In

God is still using Dr. Karyn Purvis' bible study guide as a huge blessing in my life, mainly in reminding me of concepts, facts, and approaches I learned pre-adoption that now need to be applied post-China. One of the most important points I've been reminded of is the need of adopted children to develop trust, self-worth, and self-efficacy. As a parent to Caroline, my role right now is to help her believe "I am safe, I am precious, I am heard." (page 12 of Created to Connect)

Through awareness of Caroline's history and needs, Dr. Purvis teaches that I can, with God's help, lead her to healing and restoration. The challenging part is creating a balance of nurture and structure, and discerning which is appropriate for each situation. From a practical standpoint, I've realized that I'm more likely to be compassionate and employ the best approach when I've: (a) prayed that day; (b) had enough personal time to be refreshed. In fact, a child psychologist I once consulted said that the four most important things moms can do to maximize their impact is to get good rest, exercise, spend time with the Lord in prayer and study, and have an hour of personal time each day. Unfortunately, I tend to feel guilty when I take time to read, nap, or do something I enjoy. Because I can't help but think of the bills I need to send, or the 4-day old emails I need to return, or the friends I need to check on. Then I'll get the bright idea that I can cram all things into one day. So I make iced coffee in the afternoon, drink myself silly with caffeine, and try to stay up as late as I can still be productive. This lasts until 1:30 pm the next day when I crash on the couch during naptime and I lose valuable hours in the day to achieve the very things I hoped to get done.

Does anyone else feel the same way? This isn't a complaint by any means...it's just a question of how to balance everything and make personal time a priority when you feel selfish in doing so. At some point, a ball has to be dropped. And even when I've succeeded in simplifying our lives, the to do list seems endless. While driving the kids around to lessons has been a relatively new experience this summer, I actually enjoy the guaranteed down time that comes along with it. For instance, during Caroline's piano lesson (the toddlers were at summer MDO), I had an hour to read and do my quiet time. I think I may like this development in our schedule!

Anyway....moving on! Caroline and I have had some really fun moments during the last few days. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with fondness for her. And what do you do when you feel love for your small child? You scoop them up, embrace them with a bear hug, and cover them with kisses and zerberts. I'm not sure that would go over well with my 12-year-old. So instead, I restrain my zeal and just look at her with crazed eyes and a goofy grin and hope she can sense how big my heart feels because she's in our lives.

One of the challenges of adopting an older child is connecting her with friends, assessing talents and skills, fitting her into existing groups, etc. These are things that typically happen organically as your children grow up. In Caroline's case, we're essentially grafting her in to social, academic, and church contexts and opportunities. And with all the options and connections that have come up, I feel like I've got a bunch of puzzle pieces that I need to figure how to fit together. Does that make sense? Carter and Grace's involvement in all these areas will happen naturally as they grow and develop and make friends each year. There is a great website that friend Kelly started last year called We are Grafted In, and it's a great adoption resource. I never realized before now what a great title she chose!

We feel blessed that, despite the challenges, God is truly grafting Caroline into our family, and she seems to be taking to our roots. Kelly wrote an incredible blog post on grafting as a metaphor for adoption...you can read it here.

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Romans 11:17, New Living Translation)

Have we really been home THREE weeks today? Impossible! :)


Sketches & Supper

We discover more about our new daughter every day. I noticed in China that Caroline enjoyed doodling, so we journeyed to a crafts store on Tuesday to buy some art supplies. I thought it might be therapeutic for her to draw or paint when she doesn't know how else to express her emotions. Anyway, it had been our most challenging day yet (in fact, I stomped into the store leaving her behind me, and she asked a few minutes later..."Are you not happy?" I emphatically said NO!"), but after some good honest discussions, she emerged from her room with a smile, a new attitude, and these awesome sketches! Okay, I know I'm probably biased. But the drawings of the anime characters look darn good to me!

Recently, Grace will spend as long as an hour (which equals 3 hours in toddler time) coloring, decorating paper with stickers, and streaking glitter glue across her masterpieces. She loves art! So it was precious to see a 2-year- old and a 12-year-old side by side, enjoying the same activity together. How often does that happen?

And to boot, Caroline isn't just good with a pencil. She's great with a spatula too. She whipped up this yummy dinner for us last night! Essentially, it's just eggs, green peppers, salt, and soy sauce. But it was really tasty, and she made it all by herself. She was nervous about cooking for us and even said, "You might not like this food. It's Southern after all." (meaning Southern China) I assured her that eggs and salt are favored in Southern America too. The real test was that Carter ate his entire portion! The kid typically will not even touch anything green. Unless it's a green Sour Patch Kid. But he ate every last bite of the egg and green pepper dish, which especially pleased his big sister. I really like this assistance in the kitchen deal, so I asked for an encore tonight. :) (By the way, the picture below doesn't do the eggs justice but it's the best I could do....I was hungry and didn't feel the need to evenly spread out the peppers. You get the idea.)
The last couple of days have been a real turning point. Caroline is picking up on English phrases rapidly now, and the light in her eyes is coming back more and more each day. Keep the prayers coming... God hears them and is using the petitions to bring glory to Him!



photos by Caroline; taken during zoo trip last week

I still can't get that song "Lead Me" out of my head. There is one particular phrase that keeps lodging in my mind and challenging me in my spirit, and it's the lyric "give them the best of my life." On Saturday night, as I was on my knees in our kitchen cleaning up the latest apple juice spill, I complained to my husband, "Is this really my life right now?"

I know. I sound bitter, ungrateful, and whiny. It had just been a long day of cleaning, laundry, playing referee between my toddlers, tempering my tween's 'tude (as friend Elissa calls it), and using a toothpick to pry PlayDoh out of the soles of my shoes. What I really wanted to do was lounge on the couch with my suspenseful novel, sip on a glass of wine, and relax to my heart's content until I felt like heading to bed. But I felt guilty as soon as my complaint left my mouth.

So that lyric has been popping up in my thoughts, and I've struggled to figure out what that looks like in parenting my children. I felt very convicted because I certainly don't give my kids my best on a daily basis. And my incredible husband often just receives my leftovers. How do I give them my best? Especially when I feel so defeated and run-down? The answer came during my quiet time this morning.

I've been working through "Created to Connect," a bible study companion to the highly acclaimed Christian adoption book The Connected Child. Author Dr. Karyn Purvis provides so much wisdom and direction. In chapter one of the study, she reminds parents that we are to be "mindful of their child's 'heart, mind, soul and strength' even as they learn to fully embrace their child's past, present and future. By loving and nurturing our children in this holistic way we can give them the gift of 'real hope' - an opportunity to heal and become whole - even as we teach them about and point them toward the source of everlasting hope in Jesus Christ." She explains that just as the Hebrew fathers in Deuteronomy 6:5 reminded Israel to "Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength," we are to love our children in the same way...the same way that we were created to be loved by our Father. And we take this seemingly impossible approach by placing our hope in the One who helps us, sustains us, and leads us.

The study encouraged me to focus on the amazing qualities of my new daughter - gifts and traits that she has had long before we knew her name. I felt a connection to contributor Cheryl Macdonald who shared her experiences with the daughter they adopted at 12. I couldn't believe the similarities when I read this paragraph by Macdonald:

"As with my backyard garden, there are also other things in the garden of my daughter's heart and life that I did not plant but cannot ignore. There are hard things that do not give life and instead seem intent to steal the beauty and joy from her victories. There are the fast-growing vines of fear and loss that try to choke out the trust and sense of permanence that has blossomed between us. And then there is the stubborn root of self-reliance that impedes vulnerability and healthy attachment. Nurturing the beauty and healthy growth in my daughter's heart and life requires constant vigilance, regular work and the humility and willingness to call upon and utilize available resources (much like the 'weed man') when needed."

(Click here to access the full study guide. It is free!)

I've been so thankful to have some incredible resources placed in my life...especially other adoptive moms. I have loved talking to mom Elissa who brought home 12-year-old Hope two weeks before us. Hope and Caroline are so similar, and we even set up a phone call for them yesterday. Caroline was pretty hesitant (in fact, she flat out refused to talk on Friday), but they ended up talking for over half an hour! I think she loved having someone to speak Mandarin with. And Elissa and I joked that they were probably exchanging stories about their crazy mommas and the ridiculous food we serve them. (By the way, here is a link to Elissa's blog. She is one of the funniest bloggers I've ever read.)

On a totally random note...In the car this afternoon, Grace said with a huge smile and much enthusiasm, "I love purple and pink. Purple and pink make me happy!" Maybe God is trying to remind me that it's the little things that can bring a smile.

Anyway, it was a great lesson for me to put on paper the qualities in all my children that I adore. And the ones that need some "weeding,"....well those are ones that I am called by God, as a mother, to tend to. I have to be intentional and alert. He gives me grace and patience if I ask. I just have to remember to ask! (And yes, I may just have to stick some post-it notes around my house to remind me.) And as the bible study taught me, persistence in pruning and weeding will lead to blossoming. And I will have the joy of witnessing the work God will bring about. That's some motivation to keep me going, even when I don't feel like it.

Hope your Monday is going well. I'm off to tend the "gardens." :)


Puppy Love

She's been caught red-handed. Not just petting Jackson, but even going so far as to cover him with a blanket. Caroline probably wouldn't verbally admit it, but I believe she's smitten. :)

Carter has been obsessed with going camping in the mountains. We couldn't accomplish that just now, so we sent him camping in the next best place....the exciting wilderness of our back patio. He slept there most of the night.

And Grace's current beloved phrase is "how 'bout that?"
As in, "Mommy, can I have a fruit snack?"
"No Grace, not for breakfast. But you can have one after lunch."
"Okay, Mommy, How 'bout that?"
(Don't be fooled...she is not always that easy-going.)


"Lead Me"

First of all, a thousand thank yous for your words of encouragement and affirmation. I teared up a few times because I don't at all feel inspirational, equipped, or successful in my parenting. But on the upside, these feelings have driven my prayer life to a new level.

A few mornings ago, I heard a new song on the radio. It's called "Lead Me" by Sanctus Real. I immediately fell in love with the melody and lyrics. It's written from the viewpoint of a husband and father, but the concept also relates to the feelings and prayers we have as wives, mothers, friends, caretakers, servants, and more. The words are so real, particularly for men. I downloaded and played the song this morning for Scott, as I know he feels so much responsibility and pressure to work hard, provide for his family, love, play, and lead our family.

Here is the video from YouTube. Listen to the lyrics, and I promise you will be touched.


When Expectations Meet Reality

Sorry for the lack of posts during the last week. My computer was hijacked by my 12-year-old when she discovered that she could watch Chinese TV shows and movies online. The last week has been great in that we've had some steps forward. But it's also been difficult in many ways. There is a lot I won't share on here for the sake of my daughter's privacy, but here are some recent observations and thoughts. I've had a lot to process this week!

EXPECTATION: Because I did so much reading, talking to adoptive families of older children, praying, researching, etc., I thought I'd be more confident in how to handle each situation.
REALITY: I am constantly second-guessing myself and my decisions. Just like babies, every child is so different that not one can be treated "by the book." I continuously battle questions such as Are we bonding quickly enough? Should I give her more space? Do I teach her more English phrases today or is she overwhelmed? Do I lay down the law now or go easy with her for a few more weeks?

EXPECTATION: Given that Caroline is 12 years old, I thought she might more easily grasp the truth that I repeatedly tell Grace and Carter: "Mommy always comes back."
REALITY: Knowing her background of being abandoned at nearly 2, leaving beloved caretakers at the orphanage at 5 to join a foster family, being adopted domestically and then going back to the foster family two weeks later, and then leaving the foster family she has loved for 7 years, this girl probably has more heartache, insecurity, doubts, fears, confidence, and courage than I could ever imagine. This past weekend, she asked Scott how "we could love a random stranger." We explained to her that we have loved her for months, and we also choose to love her and nurture her. Last night, when I asked Caroline if she believed that we love her, she responded on Google Translate with "That bad." When I asked what was bad, she replied that she might lose us again one day. My heart skipped several beats as I realized that she still has fears that she'll lose her forever family. She finds it "bad" to believe in our love and to return our love because she thinks it's necessary to protect her heart. Deep down, she fears that we'll leave her. It had been a rough day, so I assured her that no matter what she does or says, even if she is really angry or rude to me, we will love her and will never leave her. She is our daughter forever. Her response was, "that would be best of course."

EXPECTATION: I knew food would be an issue, as nearly all Chinese people find American food hard to adapt to. Chinese food typically doesn't include butter, cream, cheese, herbs, or seasonings, so meals can taste incredibly foreign to them. Just as some Chinese delicacies might make us bite our lips and cringe.
REALITY: I have been making HUGE meals with the hopes that at least two items would appeal to Caroline's taste buds. Some nights, she hasn't liked anything I've prepared. I wanted her to be honest and tell me her true opinions, but when she has (and even made a gagging motion after tasting my chicken pot pie!), the flesh in me wanted to stomp away and let her go hungry. HOW HORRIBLE IS THAT??? Even when I know she may not like the meal and I totally understand where she is coming from, I find it difficult to not take it personally and to stifle my sinful reactions. I have to remind myself that I would make a gagging motion too if I were taken to China at age 12 and given chicken feet for dinner. I took Caroline to an Asian supermarket and we stocked up on some Chinese ingredients, snacks, and noodles. And really, she has done so well trying and eating new foods. She strives to not be picky, and even when she gives honest feedback, she is not being rude at all.

EXPECTATION: Given Caroline's affection and enthusiasm in China, I anticipated being best buds when we returned home. I dreamed of spending time together reading her bilingual books, bowling on the Wii, watching So You Think You Can Dance, playing games, learning English and Mandarin phrases, and more.
REALITY: I lost my cool factor pretty quickly. When we're in my minivan, she sits all the way in the back even when it's just the two of us! :) She hasn't really wanted to spend time with me. She has preferred reading, watching Chinese movies, and some crafts. While I candidly share my dreams, I also knew it was unrealistic to expect that closeness. But even when you have realistic expectations, the reality is harder to embrace when it arrives. I talked to one mom on the phone last night who adopted a 12 year-old from China two weeks before us. She has so much wisdom and insight, and she shared that her daughter responded the same way. She suggested that both girls might have become scared when they realized they were starting to fall in love with their new families. Maybe they even feel guilty for loving a new family when they loved their foster families. And just maybe they're freaking out and pulling back because they don't know how to process their emotions. I know that Caroline and I will continue to bond in time. Twelve is a difficult age because kids still long for the comfort and boundaries from their parents while also feeling the need to spread their wings and test their independence. A hopeful sign that we're progressing in attachment is that every morning this week when I have dropped Caroline off at ESL camp (English Second Language), she has looked back at me right before walking in. She wants to be sure I am watching her and that I am still there. I hope to entice her to cook with me this weekend, as she has expressed interest in preparing some of her Chinese favorites.

EXPECTATION: With China's Communist history and mentality, I assumed parents had strict regulations and rules.
REALITY: We just learned from a Chinese friend that since the government cracks down so hard, parents usually don't censor much. One of Caroline's frustrations is that she feels "over-regulated" because we limit her time on the internet, we don't allow food in her room, and we have forbidden her to read comics online. While the anime comics are very popular with tweens and teens in China, many of the stories are incredibly violent, provocative, and inappropriate. However, the whole concept of parents censoring media is new to our daughter so it seems abnormally unfair to her. I never expected censorship to be one of our first battles! But the flip side is that Caroline loves to read good books and has finished two classics in three days.

EXPECTATION: That Grace and Caroline would form a tight bond very quickly.
REALITY: It's Carter and Caroline who have clicked immediately. Grace has really taken to her big sister too but it's so sweet to observe how much Carter and Caroline enjoy each other. Yesterday, Carter climbed into Caroline's bed so they could each read their books. He is also very protective of her. EVERY time we get in the car, he says, "Remember your seatbelt Caroline! In America, it's the law." (In China, no one wears seatbelts.) Last week, when we dropped Carter off at his grandparents to spend the night, he stopped playing and ran up to his big sister before we left. He held up his pointer finger, saying, "Remember your seatbelt!"

It's been a hard week in that we've had to establish more boundaries, discuss disobedience, and face our tween's sadness and frustration. But we've also had sweet moments, laughter, hugs, and breakthroughs in understanding. My heart melts every time I hear Caroline's sweet voice call "Mommy." I continue to pray for wisdom and discernment to know when to push her forward or when to step back. I want to be more affectionate without smothering her. I want to encourage her to open up without prying too much. I want to make our authority as her parents clear without appearing too harsh. Sometimes I just wish she would let her walls come down and cry in my arms. Then I remind myself that we've only been home two weeks. We have a long road ahead, and we're with her on this journey to eternity. She's stuck with us!


Lake Pics from Weekend...Post to come soon

Caroline's first sea doo ride
Caroline and cousin Mary Katherine
Carter and Daddy
Grace contemplating whether to jump into the water
Grace and cousin Cece
Grace feeding Caroline
(Apparently this is a rite of passage for each new family addition...I just realized I have a very similar picture of Carter feeding Grace a cheerio last year!)


Angels in Construction Hats

Photo by Charissa Hanson, November 2010

We had quite a scare this morning. I was walking Carter and Grace into summer camp, and Caroline had decided to stay in the car. Holding two bags and a beach towel in one hand, I held Carter's hand with the other, and he held Grace's hand. Our trio had just taken a few steps forward to the right when I suddenly heard men yelling. Unbeknownst to be me, Grace had stumbled and fallen, letting go of her brother's hand. And when I looked back, she was on her hands and knees about a foot away from the tire of an SUV that was backing up. I lurched to grab her, and the mom suddenly saw me and braked. I was so shaken that we just bolted into the church.

When I walked back outside, I searched for the men who had yelled warnings. I finally found a group of construciton men and thanked them for alerting my attention. Whenever the 3 of us are walking in a chain, I alternately glance at the kiddos and then around us for moving vehicles. So within a couple of seconds, I would have seen Grace had fallen behind. But given that she fell so close to the car and, at the same, it was backing up, a few seconds might have been too late. I have teared up several times today thinking of what could have happened, especially given that our Sunday school class has been praying for a little girl who ran behind her father's truck last week and was run over. She was critically injured but survived and will recover in time. I thought I was being careful with all of us holding hands and moving slowly, but I realized how quickly tragedies can happen. I have given endless thanks today that my precious Grace was saved and that God used men on their work break to play a part.

Whenever close calls happen, you immediately been reevaluating your priorities. This afternoon, when Grace awoke from her nap, she crawled into my lap and cuddled with me. Periodically, she'd place her little hands on my cheeks, turn my head, and say, "Mommy look at me." For a 2 1/2-year-old, she has incredible eye contact. When she is speaking to you, she wants to have your full attention and eye contact to connect. As she looked so deeply into my eyes this afternoon, I realized she was looking for much more than a response her to exclamation about Kai-Lan's playhouse. She was saying, "Mommy, look at me. Really look at me. I am not feeling very secure right now, and I need you to reassure me."

I have honestly felt so annoyed the last couple of weeks by her constant questions, temper tantrums, sassiness, and jealousy. Today I realized that I need to get to the root of the issue and give her more attention. Simply by stopping and looking her in the eyes, I can make her feel loved and cherished. I really believe she's questioning how she fits into her momma's heart and life right now with our new addition, and I want her to know that I love her so much it hurts. It's sad that it took a nearly tragic incident to reveal all this to me, but I am thankful God knows exactly how to get our attention.

On a lighter note, I received a call from the vet surgeon this afternoon and learned that Jackson did very well in surgery today. He will spend the night there and will hopefully be able to come home with us tomorrow. This morning as we waited in the animal hospital, Jackson was shaking uncontrollably with fear. Carter, who typically antagonizes our dog, put his arms around Jackson's neck and kept saying, "It'll be okay Jackson. Don't worry." And Caroline even kept coming over to pet Jackson. He's definitely winning her over!

Thank you, thank you for all the coupon and grocery tips!!! I plan to check out all the sites tonight and make meal plans accordingly. You all are amazing!!!!!!! I think my husband is more thankful now than ever for this blog. :)


Jet-lag has zapped my creativity so I don't have a title

Why these huge smiles?

You probably won't believe me, but Grace and Carter were grinning from ear to ear because they were going to....summer school. Really, it's a summer camp on Mondays and Wednesday for the rest of July, but Carter likes to call it school. And I was so thankful that they didn't get upset when they realized I wasn't dropping off Caroline too. Grace has been jealous when Caroline and I leave together. It's such a great blessing to have a few hours these two mornings when I can focus on Caroline's needs and know the kids are having a blast.

It's hard to truly evaluate what's like going from 2 to 3 kids because it's still early. But I will say I felt like a ping pong paddle trying to lunge and hit back three balls this morning. I was trying to help Caroline with her piano exercises, periodically jumping into Carter's "office" to be his client, and running sprints into the kitchen to fetch Grace more juice, more yogurt, and anything else she could think of to keep me in the room.

And I'll confess that I lost my cool a little at the sporting goods store when we were trying to buy some running shoes and workout clothes for Caroline, and Carter was picking out which sports bra was his size, and Grace dumped out all the "necessities" in her pink purse which she insisted on bringing into the store. Now if those run-on sentences tire you out reading them, then you get the gyst of how I felt today. :)

But all in all, I'd say that we're all doing pretty well. We decided to stay home from church on Sunday because we didn't want to overwhelm Caroline with too many new experiences at once. Also, because she's already a little skeptical (not sure if this is the right word) about our faith (as she has no religious upbringing), we wanted to teach her some things about church and our beliefs first so she has a foundation. On Sunday morning, we read a Bible story together as a family and prayed. Then I had her read and listen to an online devotion in Mandarin that a Christian adoption group had recommended. She has listened to one of the devotions each day and seems to be receptive, so this is a good start! We've told her that we want to share with her about our God and all that we believe because our faith is the most important thing to us. However, we also told her that it will be her choice to follow Jesus Christ. We won't force her to adopt our beliefs. I think she felt more open to learning when she learned she had a choice. The same is true for Carter and Grace. We can't make them believe what we believe, but we certainly pray with all our hearts that they will one day choose to love, serve, and follow the Lord!

On a light note, we've been laughing at my confusion of words. Especially in China, I would exclaim a phrase in Chinese to the kids without realizing it. And then when I couldn't think of the right Mandarin word to speak to Caroline, I either came out with French or an English word spoken in a Chinese accent. :) For example, "Ni find thee maga-zeeeen." Embarrassing, I know.

Then, I was trying to get Grace down for her nap yesterday and she was not following my instruction. For a brief moment, I turned to get the electronic translator, somehow thinking that would help get my point across! Can I blame all this on jet-lag??

Caroline had her first piano lesson yesterday and picked it up very quickly. She has enjoyed practicing and is eager to learn more.
She surprised me by deciding to participate in an ESL camp at school next week. The camp is every morning from 8:30-11:30 am. When I told her on Google Translate that I was glad she was going but that I would miss her, she placed her hand on my shoulder (she was sitting behind me on Grace's bed) and left it there a few moments. So sweet! After next week, she'll start tutoring lessons with the ESL teacher. We also bought Rosetta Stone today so she can work on her English that way as well. She picks up more every day.

Oh and a cute story from yesterday.... her piano teacher, Julia, is an old friend of mine. Julia is very slim and petite and had some clothes, jewelry, and shoes she wanted to give away to Caroline. When we got home and laid it all out on my bed, she said, "Oh! Show Daddy...Daddy say no more shopping!!!" All afternoon, she anxiously waited for Scott to get home so she could play her little joke. And he totally fell for it. He was giving me eyes that said, "How could you spend so much money????" Caroline just giggled and giggled and then looked up the phrase "Fool you!" on google translate. It was a great moment.
But speaking of spending lots of money, we got some bad news yesterday. Bad news for our bank account, and bad news for our sweet dog Jackson. He hasn't been acting right for quite some time. I even found blood in his urine before we left for China and took him to the vet. The doc put him on an antibiotic while we were gone, but Jackson seemed even worse the last few days. Xrays taken yesterday revealed a jagged stone in his bladder. The only way to remove it is through invasive surgery. So we take him to a specialist in the morning for an evaluation, and they may even do surgery tomorrow afternoon. And I about developed my own stone when the receptionist said the preliminary estimate for the surgery was between $1200-$1400!!! So for all of you expert coupon-clippers and savers out there, I need your help! With little spare time right now, I am tempted to pay someone to clip me coupons and help me save on groceries. But I suppose that defeats the point. On a serious note though, if you know that, say, chicken is on sale at Publix, such a comment would a HUGE blessing! :)

And pray for sweet Jackson that he would do well with the surgery and recovery.



The little kids are napping, Caroline is reading, Scott just headed to the office to catch up on work, and I am marveling at the fact that I'm sitting here (awake) with a few moments alone. Lately, as soon as I am alone, I crash into a deep sleep. Thank you for being patient with me in posting an update.

Let's see... where to start. Here is a picture Caroline took out her window on the airplane. With the long flight being her 2nd plane ride ever, she was very intrigued with the view and took tons of pictures.
Here are two pictures from our homecoming at the airport that I didn't have for the last post:
Incredible friends who came so late to welcome us home: Michelle, Joy, Emily, Susan, and Amy
And Caroline with some of her new cousins (Mary Katherine, Alex, and Tate) who brought her flowers and candy! They have been so sweet and excited about Caroline's arrival in the US, and we have a feeling they will be pretty tight buds. We'll head to the lake this coming weekend so they can hang out and have some bonding time over swimming, skiing, UNO, and other fun games that don't necessarily require language skills!
Grace and Caroline have been doing so well together!! I am so thankful. I admit I was worried for a little while but figured Grace would come around. She is just fiercely attached to me (which is great adoption-wise) and possessive of my attention. I presume she's been feeling like her mommy was being taken away.
I was also worried when Caroline informed us at the airport on the way home that she doesn't like dogs or any animals (despite telling us she liked dogs earlier in the week). Jackson is a Maltese, so he's small and doesn't slobber or shed. But he DOES rejoice in sitting on the lap of anyone who will sit still. To our surprise, Caroline will pet Jackson and let him sit close to her. But after getting up, she's been immediately heading to the sink to wash up. And not just her hands...she washes up to her elbows! :) Through the translator, she kept insisting that dogs carry bacteria and germs and mites. I tried to tell her that Jackson is an indoor dog, takes monthly treatments to prevent fleas, and had just had a bath the day before. But my arguments were to no avail. I am actually just encouraged that she tolerates our sweet dog!
On our drive home from the airport Thursday night, Carter cracked us up with his comment, "Daddy and I are so excited to be going to work again!" And later in a poignant moment, he said, "Daddy, I just want to be like you."
So sure enough, on Friday morning, Carter dressed up in his "suit" and tie like Daddy. He grabbed his blue briefcase and a banana (what Scott grabs on his way out the door). As Scott headed out to his car and waved, Carter went out the back door waving and went to "work" in the playhouse in our yard. It was precious! And just to be honest, I am getting this whole story heresay from my mom, as I was still sleeping. :) My parents came over to help with the kids and even cooked us dinner Friday night!
Some fun welcome home surprises were these balloons that my cousin Ashley and her family put on our mailbox.
And this priceless banner and post of pictures that our house/dog-sitters, Lindsey and Martha, made before we arrived home. They had even printed a picture from Gotcha Day and put it in one of Caroline's empty frames in her room. They are amazing!!!! Martha had even gone grocery shopping for us to stock our pantry and fridge. Thank you sweet friends!

Some highlights from the last couple of days:
  • When we got home after midnight Thursday night, Caroline loved looking around the house and then spent several hours organizing her room, framing pictures she had brought with her, setting up her bookshelf, etc. She and I didn't go to bed until after 3 am. But she was so excited, I wanted to let her make her room her own. I have to admit that I cringed when she moved the bookcase, rearranged some items, and put some stickers on the lamp and dresser. Until now, I have had total decorating control over the whole house. But I realize I have to relax and allow her to create a bedroom that is truly "tween" and her own.
  • Friday, I let Caroline sleep until 12 pm and then woke her up. We spent the day playing and resting and visiting with my parents. Courtney (my sister) joined us for dinner. And then Scott's sister Julie and his parents came over for dessert. Julie gave Caroline a game set that includes badmitton (Caroline's fave sport), and we all had so much fun playing in the yard. We found that she is VERY coordinated! I am checking into tennis lessons for her since the US doesn't really sport a strong badmitton program.
  • Another activity Caroline has LOVED is playing our piano. She has spent a ton of time on the bench picking out tunes from "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to "Fur Elise." She says she has never played a piano before now. So she's either tricking us, or she's got a knack for music. By Saturday, I had her a piano lesson scheduled for this week. :) It might sound crazy to be throwing her into activities, but she has made it clear that she gets restless and wants to have some things to do. I think she'll love having some piano exercises to practice.
  • Yesterday was a challenging day. We are trying to establish rules but don't want to overwhelm our new addition. We've told her that she can't lock her door, she has to eat in the kitchen, she has to ask before she eats snacks (particularly sweets or junkfood), lights have to be out by 10 pm, etc. Caroline began to cop an attitude with us (I'm sure her ideal family she envisioned didn't include rules), and we had to establish the mindset that we are her parents. We value her opinions and input, but we ultimately make the decisions and expect her to obey us. She seemed to understand this and was very cooperative the rest of the evening.
  • One funny thing that she did before our "talk" was her effort to sleep. She had already napped for several hours and Scott had to wake her so she would sleep last night. He explained with the translator why it was important for her to get up then and that she could go back to bed early. About 10 minutes later, we couldn't find Caroline. After a brief search, Scott discovered her in her closet sleeping on some pillows she'd piled on the floor. He woke her again. Five minutes later, she was missing...again. Scott found her under her bed!! We were aggravated at the time because she wasn't following Scott's orders, but it's funny to think about now. The poor child just desperately wanted some peace, quiet, and sleep and couldn't fathom why her new parents were so bothersome. :)
  • Yesterday, I took Caroline to get some new clothes (since most of the clothes I had brought to China were too small) and shoes. Another funny note, the reason the clothes were all too small was because the measurements emailed to us a few weeks prior to our departure were incorrect. Her weight had been rounded down by 8 lbs! I laughed when I realized what had happened because isn't that a typical female thing to do?? I mean, honestly, who of you has your ACTUAL weight on your driver's license? I am pretty sure mine is from high school.
  • And one more update from our first 2 days home....Caroline woke up at 5 am yesterday. She waited until 6:20 to wake us up. But in the time before that, she had made her bed, made Grace's bed (Grace ended up in our bed during the night), cleaned the den, and had breakfast.
I have more to update, but this post is long enough. I guess I need to keep the posts more frequent to avoid hour-long reads. And I know if I don't get these updates on "paper," there's no way I'll remember the details even a month from now.

Thanks for all the reminders that tweens are moody and emotional even when they aren't adopted. That definitely helped me realize that she wasn't reacting to us personally and we aren't necessarily doing anything wrong. But I still covet your prayers as we transition. I will write more tomorrow about yesterday and today's emotions, challenges, and progress.

Hope you're having a restful Sunday!

Much love,


Sweet Home Alabama

After 28 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Birmingham airport at 11:20 pm. It was a challenging journey given that I only slept one hour total during our travel, and we were so frustrated when we got skipped over in customs at the Chicago airport which led us to miss our connecting flight home. Then our re-booked flight was over an hour delayed in departure. Thankfully, the kids did pretty well. But I could tell that Caroline wasn't sure about this whole America thing. This is how the kids looked on our last flight home...
Carter would tell everyone he saw that we were going home to Alabama. When we were just 30 minutes into our van ride from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, he asked, "Are we on the other side of the world yet?"

The long flight went pretty well. Grace and Caroline had a few clashes along the way, mainly because Grace is very hot and cold with her big sister. And Caroline finally told me on the translator, "I don't like her right now." I told her that I understood and was so glad she was honest with me. I also let her know that I appreciated how patient and persistent she had been in playing with Grace despite the little princess' diva attitude.

Carter, on the other hand, absolutely adores his big sister. When we got through customs and then reached the luggage recheck point and were told we didn't have time to make our flight, I was practically begging the airline employees to let us on whether our bags made it or not. Carter burst into tears, and we didn't know the reason until later when he explained that he thought the "police officers" weren't letting Caroline through. The poor boy thought his sister wouldn't be allowed to fly to Birmingham with us, and he said, "I want her to live with us!!" For ten minutes afterward, she carried him and he kept hugging her neck, looking at her face, and hugging her tightly some more. So sweet!

The moment finally arrived to greet family and friends who had headed to the airport very late to welcome home our new daughter!
Meeting her cousins, Tate, Alex, and Mary Katherine (my cousins' kids).
Mary Katherine has been so excited to meet Caroline! They will be in the same grade together.
Caroline and Scott's mom
Caroline and Scott's dad
Caroline immediately recognized my sister, Courtney (who goes by Aunt Coco)
With my family (minus Court's husband, Ivan)
With Scott's parents. Julie was there but I don't have any pictures with her in them...sneaky Aunt JuJu! :)
So thankful to be home with out any meltdowns from the kids! They were troopers.
Caroline and Aunt Coco

I will post more pics that other people are sending me. Thanks for all your prayers for our journey home. More updated info to come tomorrow when I've had enough sleep to create coherent sentences. :)