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 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!!
With happiness & love,