Saturday, June 21, 2014

Two Months Ago Today….

Happy 2 Month Gotcha Day, Sweet Olivia!

Two months ago today, across the world on a rainy day, a small, timid little girl was placed in our arms.  Our lives haven't been the same since, and Miss Olivia has really changed since that day.  I had always heard that the child you meet in China is not the child you end up with, and that is the truth.  First of all, she has gained some weight, which is a good thing.  She is becoming much more comfortable around other people and in new settings.  She definitely knows that we are her family and comes running when she sees us.  She has a HUGE personality, and her mischievous side continues to take shape.  She freely gives hugs and kisses (sometimes to strangers).  If she has changed this much in two months, I can't imagine what I'll be saying in a year!

April 21, 2014 - Gotcha Day!

June 21, 2014 - You can see some of the personality in this one….also check out the cute dimple!

We hope everyone is doing well and enjoying summer.  We sure are!  We have been busy.

Last weekend we traveled to my home town in West Tennessee for their Relay for Life, benefitting the American Cancer Society.  This is a special event in our family.  My Mom is heavily involved in this organization and has been since she had breast cancer many years ago.  It is also special to me because we lost my mother-in-law to cancer in 2003.  We miss her dearly, and she would LOVE being a grandmother.  We also know and have known may other friends and family who have been affected by cancer.  We got to see many of you who have traveled across the world with us through this blog.  I'm so glad you all got to see Ansley and meet Olivia.  Here are a few pictures from the event.

Jen Jen, Beth, Grammy, and Olivia

After the Relay, Olivia got to meet more family and took right to them.  We enjoyed spending the night at Grammy's house.  She even had balloons for the girls.  You would have thought that she had given them gold!  Thanks, Grammy (and everyone), for a fun time!

On Saturday morning, the girls enjoyed swimming at some family friends' pool and spending time with more family.  We then rushed back to Nashville for Ansley to spend some time with one of her teachers (Miss Samantha) and her horse, Mona.  Ansley truly enjoyed learning more about taking care of a horse and even got to ride Mona!  She's already asking when she can do it again.  Thanks, Samantha, for such a fun time!

We also celebrated Father's Day.  Again, this day is happy and sad to me at the same time, but for one distinct difference.  He left us far too soon.  He would LOVE being a grandfather to these two girls, and these two girls would love him.  I can just see him now with them.

It is happy to me, though, because I get to see Philip and his Dad enjoying our girls.  For many years, we longed to share this day with children, and that day is finally here.  We pray for those who have lost fathers, lost children, or who desperately want to be fathers.  We also pray for Olivia's birth father.  I wonder if he even knew about Olivia….we'll never know.

The girls just finished swim lessons.  It was every week day for 3 weeks for 30 minutes per day.  It was the 3rd and final week when it finally "clicked" with Ansley.  It was a great experience for Olivia as well.  She absolutely loves the water, and as we've said before, has no fear.  She will be swimming soon; that's for sure.  It was good for her for several reasons:  to be away from me for a time and realize that I would come back; to learn how to follow directions; to participate in a group activity; to wait her turn; and to listen.  We got to go in and watch on the last day.  If you didn't know our situation, you would not be able to tell that Olivia has only been with us for 2 months.  She did a very good job following directions, listening, and waiting her turn.  I was very pleased!

This is the summer for animals. We also attended a fun "cowgirl themed" birthday party.  Ansley chose the dresses that they wore, so sorry for the duplication from above!   Olivia came out of her shell with animals at this party and freely participated in the little "petting zoo."  They even touched a snake!  Yuck.  She still would not "ride" the donkey, but she did pet the animals.

Chinese Cowgirl

To catch you up on a few other items that have been pending…

Olivia went back to the pediatrician last week and got another shot in the series to help complete the re-immunization process.  We go back in November to hopefully finish that up.

TEIS also came last week to discuss Olivia's individual plan.  She will be assigned a "teacher."  We have asked that the teacher go to day care once per week for services.  We set a few goals for Olivia between now and 12/31:  25 words, a few 2-3 word phrases, putting puzzles together, and listening/participating in story time.  (I think I got them all.)  I will hear from that teacher in the next few days to schedule a meeting.

We finally heard back from our insurance, and Olivia's dental procedure will be on July 2nd.  We have to be at the surgical center at 9am and expect to be there until 12 or 12:30pm.  There will be some pain that afternoon and the day after, but supposedly, se should be back to 100% by the 3rd day.

She will also start day care twice per week in July.  We will begin slowly with 2-3 hours per day and then work up to the full day when we feel that she is ready.  I think she will be ready pretty quickly, based upon her progress up to this point.  She will go full time beginning in August.  I truly feel that she will thrive in this environment, and I also feel that the language will come quickly.  Life will change again once I go back to work.

I think I covered everything since the last post.  If I forgot anything, I'll add it in the next one.  :)  As always, thanks for your love and support.  We appreciate all of the kind words, prayers, and thoughts.

Take care!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our One Month Home Anniversary!

Howdy!  Sorry for the hiatus from blogging….I knew this would happen.  Our day-to-day lives just aren’t that interesting, so I’ve tried to spare you from our mundane activities.

Wow - it’s been one month since we arrived back in Nashville.  I thought I would reminisce for a minute with some photos from those moments coming off the plane in NashVegas.  Some of you may have seen some of the photos from FaceBook.  Here are a few you may not have seen.  A special thanks to INHAUSCREATIVE for the photos!

One month…..hard to believe.  Well, that’s not true.  Some days it feels like we’ve been home for months/years with our sweet little one.  She is just amazing, and the adaptation into our lives could not be going any more smoothly.  When things aren't going so smoothly, we have to remind ourselves that it's just been a month.  She is so, so sweet and so very happy, but she is definitely a “Spicy Girl.”  This is a phrase that the Chinese use to describe girls from Hunan, her province.  They use this phrase because of the spicy food that they are known for.  But I’ll tell ya, she has a spicy side to her, and she’s a flirt.  I’m not used to a mischievous child, but I’m a pretty quick study.  She is quick to stand up for herself and is definitely not a pushover.  She has the funniest little looks and faces that she makes.  When you tell her, “No,” she’ll look at you with a grin and do it again.  When you tell her, “No” again, she’ll pucker up for a kiss.  See what I mean?!?  After the second, “No,” we redirect.

I am so fortunate to be able to spend these first weeks at home with her.  My concerns about bonding/attaching with me are gone (Thank you, Lord!), but I now have concerns with separation anxiety.  With Philip working during the day, she is completely my shadow.  She does not like for me to leave and go anywhere without her, whether it be in the next room, or leave the house all together.  Philip and Olivia need to do a little more re-bonding, but they have plenty of time.

This morning, we attempted church in her Sunday School class, without me.  She did great!  I snuck out of the room, and she did not make a single peep while I was away.  I left her in there for an hour, so that is a really good sign.  We have also received word that beginning in July, she can start going to day care a couple of days a week.  We originally thought it would be August, so that is great as well.  I will begin taking her in July for a couple of hours at a time and then increase that time as the month goes on.  That way, she is ready to go full time when the time comes.

She is learning so much and is beginning to express an interest in talking more every day.  She understands much of what I say now, and that is good.  However, she is beginning to get a little more frustrated when I can’t understand what she is trying to say.  But, we are figuring it out.  She is also finally trying to mimic some words.  She can say, “Baby” (kind of sounds like ‘Buh Bye’), “Bye Bye,” “Hi (kind of sounds like ‘Hey’),” “Mama” (still not consistently related to me), and she is trying to say “Sissy," “Doggie,”, and "Hot."

TEIS came back last week for a further evaluation.  We should know more this week what their recommendations are.  My fine motor skill concerns are no longer. She is doing great with that.  I would still like for her to have some speech if possible to help jump start her on the language piece, but she is doing great with her motor skills.

She LOVES the water and has really enjoyed going to the pool the couple of times that we have been.  We start swim lessons for both girls tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes. The folks have been wonderful to work with and have told me that if it doesn’t work out with Olivia, they will refund my money considering the circumstances.  I cannot be in the room during the lessons, and that is my main concern (see above).  Hopefully she will like it so much that she won’t care where I am.

She still eats and sleeps great.  This girl LOVES any kind of noodle.  When in doubt, give her noodles.  Mac & Cheese are usually a good “go to” if we are at a restaurant.  She likes chicken, but doesn’t love it like Ansley does.  In terms of sleeping, she likes to sleep with her shoes.  I'm not sure what that is all about, but we go with it.

Our girls are TOTALLY different.  Ansley is dramatic, musical, has very strong leadership skills (aka Bossy), and is very detail-oriented.  Olivia is more interested in how things work, and I’m not sure if she is going to be as bossy or detail-oriented.  For instance, Ansley is interested in what color Philip’s bikes are.  Olivia, on the other hand, is more interested in how the gears shift.  Ansley wrote a song the other day about our trip to China and enjoyed performing it for us with her microphone.   Olivia, on the other hand, was more interested in how the sound was coming out of the speaker and how she created feedback when she put the mic too close to the speaker.  Our lives are definitely going to be interesting….and FUN with such different children.

I will tell you that adopting a toddler is a totally different experience than birthing an infant. With an infant, you are able to teach them things from day one and the learnings are gradual:  right from wrong, boundaries, words, phrases, rules, schedules, sitting up, crawling, walking, etc.  With adopting a toddler at the age of two who is already walking, she has already had the opportunity to develop habits and who knows what type of rules she had to live by in the orphanage (if any).  She has habits we are trying to break, rules and boundaries we are trying to teach, and a new language she is trying to learn.  We have to constantly keep an eye on her, particularly near water, any type of playground/slide, outside, near stairs, etc.  She is a DARE.DEVIL, and I’m not used to that.  It’s not easy, folks, but I’m not complaining.  I just don’t want to sugar coat it and make it seem like it’s something it isn’t.  With her constant attachment to me, being “on the go,” her mischievousness, and constantly working to communicate, (oh and I forgot to mention managing the emotions of our 4 year old who is also adjusting to our new life), it is exhausting….but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  We are having a lot of fun, but there are some times when I just need 5 minutes alone, though. :)  When I do feel like it's hard, I remember the families who adopted kids with special needs and how hard it must be for them.  I also think about the years I spent longing for children and how hard it is on the people who dream of being parents.  That puts me back in my place really quick.

Speaking of Ansley, she is doing much better.  We take it day-to-day; some days are better than others.  Overall, things are better.

In terms of me keeping my sanity, I told myself before we left for China that while I was off, I would get back in shape.  And, I’m working on doing that.  As often as possible, after Ansley goes to school in the morning, Olivia and I head out for a run.  I’m not going any crazy distances, and I’m not setting any PR’s….but, I’m out there, and it feels great!  Olivia enjoys being in the jogging stroller, and it helps us both to get out of the house for a little while.  I’m trying to figure out how in the world I can keep this going when I go back to work, but I haven’t come to any conclusions besides waking up at 4am every day.  And, those of you who know me, you know that’s just not going to happen.  I’m open to any and all ideas that you all have.

Someone asked me the other day an interesting question….she asked me if I had to do it all over again, and I knew what I know now…..would I adopt first and then have a biological child, or have a biological child and then adopt?  At first, I didn’t know how to answer, and of course, we didn’t have a choice in our order of events, but as I’ve had time to think about it, I think having a bio child first and then adopting would be my recommendation….if it’s a toddler you are adopting.  If it’s a baby you are adopting, I’m not sure that it would matter.  I feel like since we had the experience of Ansley and going through the toddler years with her, we kind of knew what to expect with Olivia, to some degree. I think it would have been more difficult for us if Olivia had been our first child, and we were jumping into parenthood with a 2 year old.  We also know that the toddler years DO end eventually.  J  Other parents may have a different opinion, and I may change my mind as they get older.

A lot of people stop me and say how blessed Olivia is that we adopted her, but I feel that WE are the ones who are blessed.  We are blessed that God chose US to be her parents.  He could have chosen anyone else in the world, but He chose us.  WHAT.AN.HONOR.  I pray that we always make the best decisions for both of our girls.

Again, thanks to everyone who supports us in any and all ways:  by prayers, thoughts, words, “Likes,” comments, etc.  I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that.  We are so blessed to know each and every one of you, and thank you for traveling this journey with us.  It means so much to us, and we are just amazed at how many people mention this blog or our adoption journey to us in conversation.  I hope this blog has proven helpful or motivating for someone, but especially someone contemplating adoption or in the process of adopting.  I know that I spent hours upon hours reading hundreds of blogs while we are waiting, and many of the blogs were so uplifting and really kept me “going” during the long wait.

Until next time,