Friday, April 21, 2017

Gotcha Day #3!



Ni Hao!

Yes, it’s been a year since I’ve blogged. The other day, a friend asked me if I blogged any more.  I chuckled and said, “No…mainly for 2 reasons:  (1) No one would be interested in the mundane day-to-day chaos of the Martindale family and (2) I barely have enough time in the day to bathe, much less blog.”  I think bathing is probably more important, and I’m sure my family and co-workers would agree.  



Please bear with me.  I’m just going to type and see where it leads.  Maybe it’ll be short; maybe it’ll be long.  But, I am purposefully taking time to do this because I think it’s important to document my feelings on this very special day.

It’s been quite the year!  Another friend of mine says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  Isn’t that the truth?!?  I can.not.believe that it has been 3 years since traveling across the world to meet Olivia.  



Many of you know our story, but many of you may not.  I’ve said it many times, but our story is one of perseverance, grace, and multiple blessings.  Blessings and grace that I don’t deserve.  It’s a story that growing up, I never would have imagined living.

I guess I’ll start with the significance of today.  You see, it was on this day, April 21, 2014, that Yong Ning Yu became Olivia Yu Martindale.  It’s a day that I will never forget.  It’s a day that I had waited for….for almost 8 years.

I grew up thinking that I would go to college, get married, have children, etc.  I did the first two and then hit a “snag” in “the plan,” or what I thought was “the plan.”  At age 30, after many rounds of fertility treatments, I was told that the next step was in vitro and even then, there was no guarantee that I would be able to have children.  Wow – insert shock and awe here.  I’d never really thought that infertility would ever be something I would have to face (ignorance on my part).  So, after weighing the pros and cons and much prayer, we decided to go the adoption route.  We attended an information session at Children’s Hope International (We had friends who had adopted through them, and at the time they had a local office.) and started the adoption journey.  I will spare you all the details about the paperwork (You can read them deeper in the blog if interested.), but let’s just say that any unorganized individual would be overwhelmed with the paperwork. 

At one point early in my life, I prayed for patience.  As my grandmother would say, “Be careful what you wish for.”  Wow – did God answer that prayer!

We waited, and waited, and waited…..keeping our paperwork up-to-date along the way.

Fast forward to 2009 – S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E!!!!  A pregnancy test came back positive, and baby Ansley was born in September!!!  (That’s a story for another day.)  http://martindalefam.blogspot.com/2009/04/surprise.html

This is a current picture of Ansley.
 

We continued to wait and wait and wait….keeping our paperwork up-to-date.  I also read blogs and scoured information to see where we were in the time warp with this adoption. 

Finally, in January of 2014, I got the call.  The call I had been waiting on for almost 8 years.  I will never forget that day as long as I live.  Read that blog post here:  http://martindalefam.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-moment-weve-been-waiting-for.html.  

This is the first and only picture we received of Olivia.
 

Fast forward to December of 2015, and we had another surprise – baby boy this time!  (Olivia loves her little brother Reese and is very nurturing and motherly.)

Here is a picture of Reese. 


Stealing words from my blogpost last year because they are still applicable:
I remember it like it was yesterday.  I remember the wait….the long wait….that morning/afternoon until it was time to leave the hotel to meet Olivia.  I remember the smell of the hotel and how I did not sleep the night before…I remember how nervous and anxious I was….I remember how emotional I was….I remember having breakfast in the hotel that morning and crying when I met a mother who was there with her 12 year old daughter on a heritage tour and telling her, “today is the day.”  I remember the silence in the van on the drive over…except for Ansley chatting away…I remember the construction at the building….I remember the awful elevator we had to ride, how cold it was in the building, how it smelled.  I remember the room where we waited.  I remember hearing footsteps, and our guide saying, “That’s them.  They’re here.”  I remember turning around, and there she was.  Little tiny thing….with no expression whatsoever…..Ansley tried to give her a stuffed panda bear that we brought her, and the orphanage workers speaking to her in Chinese telling her that it was for her.  I remember the looks on the orphanage workers faces and how they checked us out.  I remember how they genuinely looked sad to leave her.  I remember how she wasn’t too sure about Philip at first….I remember taking our first “family of 4” photo…I remember taking a picture with the orphanage team (so glad we did)…I remember how she screamed in the van on the way back to the hotel.  I thought at the time she was grieving.  (As it turned out, she screamed every time we got in the van.)  I remember trying to give her a bath, but she wouldn’t sit down in the tub….so, I bathed her standing up.  I remember the first smile…her signature, infectious smile….the one that melts your heart…I remember seeing her terrible front teeth…I remember holding her as she cried going to sleep that night.


Olivia continues to thrive.  We are so thankful for how healthy she is.  She's very small for her age, but she makes up for it in personality.  She’s a great eater, and it appears that her food possessive issues are slowly going away.  

Olivia's school friends. They love her unconditionally, too!



She is stubborn, hard-headed, highly spirited, independent, strong-willed…..all of those adjectives apply.  All of these traits will serve her well in life, as long as we can survive until then!  J  She is strong and athletic.  We discovered in December that she’s musical.  (If I can figure out how to post that video, I will.)  She is loving; she is sweet; she doesn’t know a stranger.  She loves to play outside.  She’s smart and inquisitive.  She loves to work with her hands, help in the yard, and help fix things.  She has a 100,000 watt smile that lights up a room.  




Her English is SO much better!  She still has speech once per week, but she has made great strides.  We have made the decision to go ahead and start her in kindergarten this fall.  She is ready, and I think she will do great!  



For those of you wondering, she does not sleep with her shoes any more.  That tells me that she’s finally comfortable now and knows that no one is going to take her shoes.  She is rather possessive about what she deems as “hers,” and we are still working on sharing.



We celebrated her 5th birthday with an ice skating party.  She had a blast and wants to do it again!  



 

Adoption is tough, and parenting is, too.  It’s hard; it’s exhausting; it’s painful, but it’s also beautiful and amazing.  We do our best each and every day.  Some days are better than others!  We have and will continue to have open dialogue and communication with all of our children about adoption.  As Olivia grows older, we will share all we know about her past.  She knows she’s from China.  She will see other Asian people and say, “They China.  Me China.”  She is beginning to make the distinction.  Before, it was just eye color.  Now it appears to be other things.  She asks about when she was a baby, but I don’t think that she’s made the connection that she has a birth mother out there.  She is beginning to pick up on more and more things.  Some day soon, we’ll have that conversation.



I couldn’t do “life” without the unwavering support of Philip, our families, and our friends.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been nothing but supportive in every way throughout this entire process.  They love Olivia….they love her for who she is…..her crazy little sweet and stubborn Chinese self, and they love us even when we aren’t at our best.  THANK YOU!





The other night, we were looking at our pictures from China and talking about our trip.  There’s a great shot of Ansley as we are leaving the hotel to meet Olivia.  I said, “Ansley was excited to meet you.”  The next picture was this one….the first time we saw her in person.  I said, “We were waiting on you.” and went on to tell her the story.  She said, “You?  Wait on me?”  And I said, “Yes, baby girl…we were waiting on you.”  We waited on YOU for almost 8 years, and YOU were definitely worth the wait.

This is the picture of that moment when she walked into the room. 
Thanks for sharing in our journey.
Jill

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our 2nd Gotcha Day

Where do I even begin?  It has been a LONG time since I blogged, and MUCH has happened since my last post.  So…..this post will be LONG.  (My apologies in advance.)  Many of you have followed our story from day 1, but many of you don’t know our story.  Our story is a story of perseverance, love, faith, and blessings…multiple blessings….and blessings that I am not worthy of.  It’s a story that I never dreamed in a million years that I would have the privilege of living.  I give all thanks to God for what I’ve been given.

As I sit here with tears in my eyes, I’m just going to type and see where it leads.  I guess I’ll start with the significance of tomorrow.  You see, it was on this day, April 21, 2014, that Yong Ning Yu became Olivia Yu Martindale.  It’s a day that I will never forget.  It’s a day that I had waited for….for almost 8 years.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I remember the wait….the long wait….that morning/afternoon until it was time to leave the hotel to meet Olivia.  I remember the smell of the hotel and how I did not sleep the night before…I remember how nervous and anxious I was….I remember how emotional I was….I remember having breakfast in the hotel that morning and crying when I met a mother who was there with her 12 year old daughter on a heritage tour and telling her, “today is the day.”  I remember the silence in the van on the drive over…except for Ansley chatting away…I remember the construction at the building….I remember the awful elevator we had to ride, how cold it was in the building, how it smelled.  I remember the room where we waited.  I remember hearing footsteps, and our guide saying, “That’s them.  They’re here.”  I remember turning around, and there she was.  Little tiny thing….with no expression whatsoever…..Ansley tried to give her a stuffed panda bear that we brought her, and the orphanage workers speaking to her in Chinese telling her that it was for her.  I remember the looks on the orphanage workers faces and how they checked us out.  I remember how they genuinely looked sad to leave her.  I remember how she wasn’t too sure about Philip at first….I remember taking our first “family of 4” photo…I remember taking a picture with the orphanage team (so glad we did)…I remember how she screamed in the van on the way back to the hotel.  I thought at the time she was grieving.  (As it turned out, she screamed every time we got in the van.)  I remember trying to give her a bath, but she wouldn’t sit down in the tub….so, I bathed her standing up.  I remember the first smile…her signature, infectious smile….the one that melts your heart…I remember seeing her terrible front teeth…I remember holding her as she cried going to sleep that night.


This was the first and only picture we received of Olivia.




This was the first time we saw her.



This was our first "family of 4" picture on that special day.



This was the first smile we saw.





This week, I will spend some time sharing blog posts from our trip.  This is more for me….for me to go back in my mind and remember.  Those 2 weeks were very special for my family and me.  My goal on the trip was to “live in the moment,” and I did.

Olivia is doing well, really well….she is in great health, for which we are so thankful and blessed.  She is from Hunan, and we had heard that Hunan girls are called “spicy girls.”  Well, let me tell you…she is one spicy girl!  I recently heard that Hunan girls go through 4 seasons in one day, and I believe it!  As we say in the South, “She’s a mess.”  She has a zest for life that is incomparable; she is highly-spirited and strong-willed; she is independent; she is loving; she is strong, athletic; she’s a climber; she is inquisitive; she is funny; she is possessive; she is NOT serious; she is smart.  Along with the strong-willed and highly-spiritedness comes a temper and frustration that is unrivaled, especially when she cannot communicate what she needs/wants.

Speaking of communication:  her English is getting better, but it is not where it needs to be.  That has been the major thing that I completely underestimated.  She continues to have speech once per week, and while it has vastly improved, we need to see it improve leaps and bounds before we can even think about her going to kindergarten.  We are probably 2 years away from that.  Her favorite phrase is, “I do it self.”  Everything is that…from opening the doors, going to bed, whatever it is….she wants to “do it self.”

She used to say that her name was, “Yu Yu.”  (That’s what they called her in the orphanage.)  Now, she’ll tell you that her name is “Owia Mahdale.”  I sometimes use “Yu Yu” when I’m trying to get her attention.  I will also use a couple of Chinese phrases if I need to get my point across.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

Olivia is finally doing better with bedtime, almost 2 years later.  She is able to “do it self.”  She still sometimes sleeps with her shoes on, or at least in her bed, but she goes to sleep without anyone in the room now.  Hallelujah!!

She eats really well, but she still has food possession issues.  What I mean by that is that she takes major offense if someone takes her food without asking first, and more times than not, she will not share her food.  She also wants what everyone else has.  Even if we’ve given her the choice of what to eat, if she sees that someone else has something different, she wants that as well.  She is eating more meat now, but her favorite food is still any kind of noodle.  She still loves that drinkable yogurt!!

I will be the first to admit that our lives probably look/sound like a fairy tale, but they are far from it.  Adoption (and parenting for that matter) is messy; it’s hard; it’s confusing; it’s exhausting; it’s painful.  Our lives are not all cupcakes and rainbows, people.  In fact, we are having a pretty hard time of it these days.  For those of you who don't know, we welcomed a (surprise) baby boy in late December.  Life was crazy before he arrived, but now it is even crazier!  (But, I wouldn't trade it for anything.)  This week came at a really good time for me.  I needed to go back and remember all of the feelings that I had the 2 weeks we were in China.  I needed to stop and take a breath to reflect on where we started and where we are now, because at the end of the day, we've come a long way.

Another area that I underestimated is how we teach our children to play as they grow up.  Yes, play.  Olivia didn’t know how to play, and that is something we are having to teach her.  I know it sounds crazy, but she is like a “bull in a china shop” when it comes to playing with others.  She just doesn’t know how to do it.  That, coupled with the communication issues, has really been hard…especially for Ansley.  Not to mention the fact that the two of them are polar opposites in terms of personality.  I told someone the other day, “It is very hard to parent someone who doesn’t have your DNA.”  I meant that on many levels, but on that day in particular, with discipline and motivation.  I can tell you what motivates Ansley because she is just.like.me…..bad, I know-ha!  With Olivia, we are struggling to figure it out.

We have and will continue to have open dialogue/communication with her regarding adoption, and as she grows older, we’ll share with her all we know about her past.  She knows she’s from China.  In fact, if she hears someone say China, she’ll say, “Me China; Mulan China; Mrs. Ping China.”  We watch the video of our China trip with her, and we look at pictures.  We ask her if she remembers the orphanage workers, and she says, “No.”  (We don’t call them orphanage workers, but we’ll say, “Do you remember them?”)  The only physical differences that she’s noticed so far is our eye color.  She is very inquisitive about that.

Olivia loves to play outside and jump on the trampoline!  She is a great little swimmer and is in swim lessons.  We also have her in gymnastics and soccer.  She loves for us to read to her, watch movies, and play board games.  Unfortunately, she and Ansley do not play together particularly well (see above).

I couldn’t do this life without the unwavering support of Philip, my family, and my friends.  Philip and I are a team in every sense of the word.  God knew what he was doing when he put us in UT Singers together all those years ago.  I literally could not do it without him.  My family….my family has been uber supportive every step of the way, and they love Olivia.  They love her crazy little Chinese self for who she is.  They babysit; they help with meals; they do it all.  My friends….they are my go-to support group when I need to talk, and they love Olivia, too.  They know when I’m almost to my limit and send me sweet cards, texts, and emails.

I also couldn’t do this life without our day care.  They have been unbelievably supportive and have helped us get Olivia where she is today.  (They shaped Ansley as well, but I feel that they are even more instrumental with Olivia.)  They are top-notch and have taught her so much!  They give me advice and some days help me get out the door with everyone…literally!  One of her teachers this year is our beloved, Mrs. Ping.  Mrs. Ping is the one whose friends took us around while we were in China.  She still speaks a little Mandarin with Olivia, but she believes that now Olivia understands more English than Mandarin.  That hurts my heart a little, as I was hoping we could maintain the 2 languages, but it is much more important for her to learn English right now.

Well, this turned out longer than I had planned, and I didn't even talk a lot about our new bundle of joy, baby Reese.  If you’ve read this far, bless you!  As always, THANK YOU.  Thank you for your love and support.  Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for your kind words.  Thank you for sharing in our journey.  If you’re interested in the background of our story and have a lot of free time, feel free to get some coffee and go back in the blog to catch up.  I’ll try and do a better job of posting!

Happy 2nd Gotcha Day, Yu Yu!  We love you to China and back, and we're so glad you are part of our crazy lives!  We can't wait to eat Chinese with you tomorrow night!!

Here are a few current pictures of Olivia.
She loves baby brother Reese!

Olivia's 4th Birthday, January 1st


Olivia at swim lessons



With happiness & love,
Jill

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

May Mayhem

May was a busy month for the Martindales!  On May 1st, we celebrated being home with Olivia for one year.  

Olivia also went to the beach for the first time.  It was a great trip with several of my family members.  (Philip was on a bicycle trip to France during this time.)  Olivia did great at the beach.  The girls played well together and enjoyed building sand castles and playing in the ocean.  This was our first beach trip with multiple children.  We had a 5 year old, a 3 year old, an 18 month old, and an 11 month old.  It was busy, but oh-so-fun!

























My dance teacher growing up had her last dance recital in May.  Ansley and I traveled to Camden for the occasion.  It was such a special night full of many memories!

The end of May was super-busy with Ansley's preschool graduation and dance recital.  Thanks to all of our family for supporting us through this exciting time! Our little girl starts Kindergarten in August - oh my!!











Thanks for reading!


April Adventures

In April, we had our last adoption post placement report for a little while.  This is where a social worker came to our house to observe Olivia in her "element," and to interview us.  This report was sent to China for Olivia's file.  We have had several of these done since we've been home, and we will update again in one year.

Olivia's first GOTCHA DAY was on April 21st.  I'll never forget that day.  I enjoyed spending some time reading the blog from our trip and remembering back to what a life-changing trip it really was.  Olivia really has come a long way in one year.  It's amazing.






At the girls' day care every year, they have a FUN RUN – Olivia didn’t quite know what to think, so I carried her around the track.  She loved the popsicle afterwards!









We also started swim lessons in April in preparation for our family beach trip in early May.  The girls both did really well.  

Until next time,
Jill