Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gotcha' Day Anniversary

One year ago today five little girls were escorted into a sweltering room at the Lottery Hotel in Nanning China and there they met their new families! They were understandably confused about this bizarre change in their lives! It was a wonderful, nerve-wracking, never-to-be-forgotten day!

The first baby presented to her parents was Fu Qing Rong. Grace looked beautiful all dressed up in pink ruffles. She took her own sweet time in showing us her smile, but it was such a happy day when we saw her grinning at her dad!

A year later and Grace is all smiles with her brother and sisters! Lisa said, "Grace makes us laugh and laugh and encourages us with her hugs and kisses and sunggles and adds such joy to our days with her enthusiasm for life. Even if I have been home with her all day, when I walk into the room if I have stepped out for a minute, she will look up with her bright smile and yell, "Mama!!!"

"Grace finds such happiness in things I often take for granted. She loves new sensations, especially weather...Rain, Wind, Snow, Sunshine...she loves to lift her little face to the sky with a huge smile and just take it in."

Gracies's dad left last month for a year in Iraq and she misses him very much.

Next came sweet little Hua Yu Fen with her 3 bouncy pigtails! It was fun to watch her brother, Matthew's excitement as his new sister joined the family! Julia perfected a "Scarlett O'Hara" pout in China that amused us all! She was quite a mimic and Lyle liked to make faces at her (no, he's not above that!) to see her make faces right back!

As you can see, Julia is still full of personality! She and her "twin" brother Carson have a great bond and are two peas in a pod. Leah says, "Julia is doing wonderful. She has turned into a very kind, inquisitive child."

She has had surgery to put tubes in her ears and will be having eye surgery to correct a lazy eye. Next year she'll have scar and nose revision surgery from her cleft lip. Poor girl!

Leah just recently stopped working and is home full-time with her four kids. She said she feels like she's on an exhausting vacation! Despite the exhaustion, she said, "We feel so blessed every day to have Julia...we are very fortunate people."

Jin Qiu Ju was brought into the room carried by the orphanage accountant! When I first held her, she looked around curiously at everything and then started to cry and reached for her dad. Apparently she hadn't been told who did all the paperwork!

She was smiley and happy from the start, but everyday started to show more of her "assertive" side! She ate food from her plate and ours and still wanted more! It's amazing how well she communicated her wants and needs without language. She learned quickly that an ear-piercing shriek could send her new parents flying into action!

Fast forward one year, and she still shrieks--we're working on it! Seriously, she has a big personality, but she's also a sweet, smart, perfect addition to our family. She's very verbal and can say almost anything she wants in English and also knows about 100 signs.

She loves balls and sports and has great dexterity. The first time she saw a soccer ball, she dribbled it expertly down the field. She likes putting clothes on in interesting ways, singing songs, and is obsessed with a truly annoying DVD we bought in China called "Booh Bahs".
She is very devoted to her flannel blankie which she calls "beese". Her brother and sisters made it for her before we went to China and I'll never forget the first time she laid down on it and rubbed the soft fabric with her hand. She sighed so contentedly and just seemed to appreciate it so much! We knew right then and there that it would be hard not to spoil this girl!

Although this isn't the prettiest recent picture I have of Maya, it is so HER--the messy hair, silly grin, something dribbled down her shirt, and of course, that familiar look of mischief in her eyes! We are so in love with our Maya Qiu Ju!

The fourth little girl to meet her family was Barb and Rick's daughter, sweet Qiu. She looked so cute in her pink dress and pink jelly shoes.

She's sad in this picture, but from our perspective, she seemed to blend into her new family so quickly and smoothly (maybe Barb and Rick remember it differently!). She and her older sister Min looked like they'd been sisters forever!

This past year the bond between sisters has only grown stronger. Barb said, "Min and Qiu are enjoying learning to swim this summer. They are so bonded...cannot get them to stop talking and playing some nights....they act more like my sisters and I did as adolescents."

Qiu had her cleft palate repaired after coming home and is doing very well. Barb said she's having a language explosion and although she can understand her 95% of the time, most other people can't, so she'll start speech therapy soon. This photo was taken at her preschool and put into a mug for her dad. What a sweet girl!

When our guide, David read off the order we'd be in to meet our girls, he got to Jin Xia Yue's paperwork and said, "And the last one is the bad one..." (followed of course by David's hilarious laugh!) Nothing could be further from the truth--little Summer is a total sweetie!
She looked so sad and tiny in China, but we'd see flashes of the amazing little girl inside, ready to take her place in the world.
She had open heart surgery after coming home and her doctors have said her heart is now totally perfect.

Summer is a "girly" girl and loves shoes (even high heels!), but she also loves her brothers' toys like Spiderman action figures. Julie said, "Many times during the day, while Summer is playing, I hear her say the names of her family. She lists them all off. It is so precious. It's like she KNOWS we belong to her and she belongs to us! I LOVE IT! I often think of Summer's biological mother and wish she could see her smile. Her smile lights up a room. I pray that, in some way, her family might know in their hearts that their little "Su Mei" (third sister) has a family who loves her fiercely. I am grateful to them for the precious gift of her life."

What an amazing difference the love of a family can make it one year! And what a difference these sweet girls have made to their families!

Gotcha' Day Revisited

Tonight we did a special Family Home Evening. After a Chinese dinner (with watermelon for dessert, of course), we listened to the Mandarin version of "I Am a Child of God", did a lesson, and then relived our Gotcha' Day.

Adam put Qiu into the outfit she was wearing a year ago and carried her into the family room announcing, "Jin Qiu Ju! Vernon and Eileen!" He had even stuck up her hair like it was when we met her! Her Gotcha' Day clothes were so huge that it wasn't a problem getting them back on. A year ago they'd actually tied the straps of her shirt to keep it from being too ridiculously big. So, since it's a stretchy knit and the shorts have an elastic waist, I think we can stick her back into that same outfit every July 24th until she leaves home! She'll start dreading July! "No, not that horrid Hello Kitty outfit AGAIN!"
We tried to duplicate a couple of our favorite photos from a year ago. Maya did amazingly well on Gotcha' Day. She was so brave, but I love how she looks so content and happy being held by her dad now, and in the photo above from a year ago, her little eyebrows are knitted together in a "I'm not so sure about this!" expression. Really, though, I'll always be thankful that her heart seemed prepared for this meeting. We were probably the first Americans she'd ever seen, she'd recently been taken away from her foster family and put back in the orphanage, and still, she was trusting of these new strangers. What an amazing girl!

We watched her adoption video and Qiu really enjoyed it. She babbled through the whole thing, naming all the family members and even saying "Qiu Ju" when she saw the pictures of herself in the orphanage.

I couldn't get her to close her eyes and smile like in the picture above. It's funny how when I DON'T want her to close her eyes, that's what I always get, but when I ask for it, no such luck!
She's definitely gotten tanner this year! And it's not because we have much sun in Washington, She just hadn't spent time outside in China.

We ended the evening watching the Guangxi video that played continuously at our hotel in Nanning. Maya wasn't as interested in that, so she played her current favorite game, "hop on pop!" She bounces up and down on Dad's tummy causing him to make distressful noises which she thinks are hilarious! Happy one year together Miss Qiu!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer and "Autumn"

It was nearly a year-ago when "Autumn Chrysanthemum" and "Summer Fun" sat on the famous red couch at the White Swan Hotel. They were both from the Guiping orphanage and met their forever families on the same day. This weekend the girls and I drove out to Spokane for the Small World Adoption Agency's picnic. What a thrill it was to see how much Summer has grown and changed!

This is not the same girl we met in China! She's so full of personality and fun! She was a nut in the wading pool and repeatedly plopped down on her bottom to get a big splash! Abby loved meeting some of the people from our China trip. She thought Summer was hilarious!

The people who put together the Small World Luau did a fabulous job. There were wading pools for the little kids, a huge water slide for the big kids, a kiddie fishing pond, hula dancers, and lots of great food.
Julie and I wanted Maya and Summer to hold hands, but they'd have nothing to do with it.

I think the sweetest moment was when Maya handed Summer a piece of sidewalk chalk and Summer said "thank you" and Maya said "welcome". I realize that there's nothing amazing about that little interaction, but I couldn't help but think how thrilled and relieved we would have been a year ago if we'd had a crystal ball and could have foreseen this normal American toddler moment. What a blessing that they're both doing so well!

Maya and Summer made sure that Guiping was represented in the hoola hoop contest.
I can't believe Summer is now taller than Maya. That girl has grown! Both girls had a different hoola style. Maya kept her feet pretty still but shook her hoola hoop back and forth while Summer held her hoop steady but spun in circles. They both got ribbons--I think for their obvious cuteness and not necessarily for technique!

It was so great to see our China representatives--Lily and Rebecca. They brought their daughters Angela and Winnie, who are the same age as Madeline. It was funny when we were in China how shy Madeline felt with them as they confidently led her around, and now how the tables had turned and Madeline was on her "home turf" and the other girls were the shy ones.
Janelle, Lily, Kathy, and Rebecca

Getting there may be half the fun, but getting home was a bit dicey! We left the reunion at around 9:30 and I thought I'd drive for a couple of hours before stopping at a hotel for the night. Our first stop was the town of Moses Lake. There were about 6 hotels there and not a single available room.

I was getting a little worried, but saw a sign for lodging in the small town of George. I figured maybe because of the nice lake there were lots of summer travelers in Moses Lake, and George might be a good bet. Well, as I turned off for George I saw that the lodging was 6 miles down the road. I wanted to turn around, but coming the other way was a steady stream of traffic leaving the Dave Matthews Band concert that had just finished at the Gorge Amphitheather. So, that was probably a half hour side journey just to get back to the highway.

I didn't hold out much hope for Ellensburg, but thought maybe with the 8 hotels, there might be a room. No, it was not meant to be. Sweet Madeline kept sending encouraging words from the backseat, "Don't worry Mom. I'm sure the next one will have a room! Just don't fall asleep! I'm staying awake. I'm here for you, Mom!"

I was honestly thinking we'd have to spend the night in the car at a rest area, when at about 2:15 A.M. we pulled into the town of Cle Elum. There were only 3 hotels listed on the road sign and we'd already seen a "No Vacancy" sign lit up at two of them. But, down the road, much to our tired eyes' surprise, was a red glowing sign that said "YES"! We cheered as quietly as we could without waking up Abby and Maya.

As I pulled up to the hotel, the front desk person was waiting outside. He said in a thick accent, "We just had cancellation. The only thing we have is jacuzzi suite. It very expensive." I asked him how expensive. He gave me a price and then quickly said, "but I feel bad for you. I give you a discount." (I'm sure it also helped that his chance of renting the room at 2 AM was dwindling!)
So, happily we trudged up to the second floor jacuzzi suite. I was so dead tired. Abby and Madeline got into one of the queen-sized beds and instantly fell asleep. Maya and I got into the other bed next to the VERY prominent jacuzzi. Well, Maya, who'd slept so well in the car, decided it was time to WAKE UP! She was so hyper! She loudly announced (she can't pronounce the "L" sound) that "Abby is seeping! Sissy is seeping! I paying!!" She would then grab me by both cheeks, put her nose right up to mine and yell, "MOM! MOM! You seeping? I do jumping!"

I'd put her crazy little body back down with a stern order to GO TO SLEEP, when she'd then discover that the headboard made a funny sound if you banged it against the wall. Or, she'd loudly announce that "Mama have a ELBOW!" or "I count! 1, 2, 3, 4...." (while performing a seat drop on my back with each number). You get the idea! This went on until 4 AM.
Then housekeeping came at 7:30. I about killed the poor woman. Well, there was no going back to sleep, so the girls tried out the jacuzzi tub! Because after all, if you pay for the jacuzzi suite, you may as well enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Adoption Number 2!

Adoption #2 of the same kid that is! Today we went to the Juvenile Court to re-adopt Miss Qiu Ju. Since the adoption was finalized in China, the only real purpose of doing this was to get a U.S. birth certificate.

We answered questions like, "Did you or did you not begin adoption proceedings in the year 2005? Was your adoption in accordance with the laws of the People's Republic of China? Is it still your intention to adopt this girl? To the best of your knowledge, is she an American Indian?" Ummm, Yes, Yes, Yes, No--pretty sure she's not an American Indian! My favorite question was, "Dr. Beck, can you please state the date of your marriage?" Poor Lyle looked rather flustered and stammered, "Um, January... no...uh, July? Yep, July 31, 1992." The judge said, "That's pathetic. I just like to ask the dads that to see them squirm."

Maya may look sweet and innocent in this picture, but she really wasn't in the courtroom. She was intent on putting sunglasses on everyone in the family and climbing onto the bench. Abby told me she was scared that the judge would yell, "Quiet in the court!"
The judge asked Abby what she thought of her little sister and she said, "Great!"
So, for the second time, Maya Qiuju was proclaimed our daughter. The judge gave Maya a teddy bear and Abby a piece of chocolate, we took a few pictures, and that was that! If we didn't do the re-adopt, anytime in Maya's life when she'd be required to show a birth certificate, she'd have to pull out her abandonment papers, which seems a bit depressing. Of course, also if those papers were ever lost, we'd be in a world of hurt, trying to get in touch with someone in China. So, now we don't need to look at those orphan papers ever again. She'll have a U.S. birth certificate with us listed as her parents. Unfortunately, Adam and Madeline couldn't be here to share in her day, but I guess since they got to see the first adoption, there was no need to see the second!

With Daddy outside the courthouse. We made her promise that she'll never again need to make an appearance at Juvenile court!

I'll end with a quick Maya story! Last night Lyle was at the kitchen sink cutting up strawberries for dinner. Maya asked for one and Lyle plopped a berry in her mouth. Maya said thank you and Lyle, intent on his cutting, didn't say a word. Maya said louder, "THANK YOU!" and still Lyle was quiet. She said even louder, "THANK YOU!" and in true Dad-fashion, Lyle was oblivious. Finally Qiu said with great frustration, "Dad, say YOU'RE WELCOME!"

I think our days of teaching HER English are over. From here on out, she'll tell US what we need to say!

We love you Maya and are so proud to once again say with no reservation whatsoever (Indian or otherwise!) that we still want you to be our daughter!