Scars

Sorry for the delay in updates.  We have not been sleeping like we once did.  Caris finds a reason to wake up almost every night (gas pain, being cold, attachment–i.e. Momma are you still here?).  Every waking moment I spend doing something other than updating the blog.  We have also had several doctors appointments.  Our international adoption clinic has had nothing but positive things to say about Caris’s development and progress.  She was in a great orphanage, and it shows.  We are thankful for that!

I haven’t disclosed on the blog but many of you know already what Caris’s special need is.  It’s not an obvious one.  Many of the adoptive families in China asked us if she even had a special need.  We told them we felt like we “cheated”.  We signed up to bring home a special needs child but after 1 surgery for a congenital heart defect, our little girl is fine.  For that reason, I did not want to take her to the cardiologist today.  I don’t like driving in the city, getting out in the cold, or navigating parking decks, especially alone.  She has had her surgery.  She’s fine.  We don’t really need a cardiologist, but I will go to appease the doctors.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, Caris slept through the night.  I was so relieved when I woke up at 8 to a whimper.  I was even more relieved when she went back to sleep.  Now, before you think we always sleep until 8, God must have seen fit to show us extra grace today.  The big kids are like alarm clocks preset for 7:30.  Despite Caris’s restlessness at night, she still wakes up before 7 most mornings.

Time with the Lord has been sparse for me lately.  I’ve needed it more than ever and find less and less time for it, myself, or sleep.  Adoption is hard.  Three kids makes life like a circus.  And I need time with the Lord before they wake up.  I have nearly had a breakdown a couple of recent mornings because of the constant screaming of “Momma!”  It is one of the few words Caris knows and it means “momma”, “more”, “give me that”, and “daddy”.  She says it from the time she wakes up until she goes to bed at night.  I am so glad she is saying it, but I need a little breathing room.  I can’t set an alarm for a quiet time because she would wake up to it before I would.  I’m saying all this to let you know how rare a much desired 30 minutes with God, first thing in the morning, has been for me. I have not been pleasant. At. All.  So, when I woke up this morning and realized I was the only one in the house awake, I crept to the living room very quietly.  I asked God to bless Caris’s cardiology appointment and give us a reason for going.  He already knew I felt it to be a waste, so I asked Him to show me something from her past that would help me know more than I did.

From the time we first got pictures of our daughter we’ve known she had a scar on her chest from heart surgery.  It is not pretty, but we will take that over the myriad of other things that could be wrong.  Today the doctor did an ultrasound and they turned out the lights for it.  When his nurse turned the light back on he was wiping the gel off her chest and said, “What’s the scar from?”  Now, he didn’t seem like a jovial kind of guy, but I tried to respectfully state the obvious.  I was thinking, “For goodness sakes, you’re a heart doctor.  That is the whole reason we came!”  I replied, “From the PDA surgery she had in China.”  He politely shook his head and said, “No it’s not.”  My jaw dropped and I said, “You’re kidding!?!”  He said, “No”.  At this point I had lots of questions for him, “What’s it from then?”  “Where’s the scar from her heart surgery?”  “What is that ugly scar?!”  I have thought the scar looked bad since we first saw it in person, but not knowing what all is involved I haven’t questioned.

The doctor could tell from the x-ray (that I had to hold her down for) that she has in fact had the procedure, but it is performed differently.  He has seen several Chinese adoptees with the same condition as Caris and none of them have that scar.  He said they do the surgery the same way in China as they do in the states.  They go in the artery through the leg and it leaves a tiny circle of a scar in the crease of the leg, if it leaves one at all.  He said the one on Caris’s chest didn’t even look like a scalpel cut because it was “irregular”.  Well, that’s a nice thing to call it.  It’s thick and wider on one end, and about 2 inches long.

After several questions, like “Could it have been exploratory surgery? “Pre-op?”  he politely kept answering “no” and told me he had no idea why it was there, what it could be from, or what motivation they would have to perform it that way.

Not what I was expecting today.  I left with more questions than answers.  But that’s part of adoption.  There are baby pictures I will never see, videos that never got taken, “firsts” that I missed, loss.  BUT, God reminded me today that there are other scars far deeper for most adoptive families.  Maybe we’re whimps, but I knew when we began that a baby was all I could handle.  I have so much ahead with this sweet girl.  We have watched her cut teeth, learn a ton of sign language, say “momma”, “bubba”, “bye-bye”, “glasses”, and “thank you”.  WE got to watch her take her first steps a few weeks ago.  She walked like a sleep walker at first, putting her arms straight out for balance.  Now she tries to play it cool and but them by her side or on her front pockets.  It’s adorable.  And I have also watched her forgive me for being angry with her when she doesn’t sleep.  Now, she’s not quick to forgive.  She refuses to kiss me if I have fussed at her in the last 24 hours.  I don’t blame her.  She is brilliant.  I am amazed at how quickly she has picked up words and mannerisms and cues.

I will probably always be a little upset about that scar that doesn’t have to be there.  It’s ugly.  But praise God for all the prayers He’s answered and how pale a scar is, to how much blessing we’ve gotten from this little tot!

Getting Settled

Hope you all are off to a great 2015!  We are finally sleeping at night and Caris is attaching to us. Before we left China she was already calling us, “Mama” and “Dadda”. An answer to prayer, she reaches for me now while saying, “Mama”.  One of the nannies told us she could walk and told another family that their daughter couldn’t walk.  Apparently, she got the 2 babies confused.  When we tried to put her feet on the floor she would pull them up to her.  In less than 2 weeks she was standing while holding our fingers.  Now, she pulls up, cruises (pretty fast cruising!), and walks holding our fingers.  She loves her big brother and sister and they love her.  We taught all our kids some very basic sign language before they could talk (to teach them to use “words” and not scream).  She signs “more”, “eat”, “milk”, and “bath”.  Our first week home she woke up in the middle of the night (A LOT!), but now that her cold is gone and she is over jet lag we are all doing much better.  She blows kisses and will occasionally kiss us on the cheek, but we have to beg for it.  I got bitten every time I stuck my cheek to her mouth, but finally started getting kisses :-).  You might wonder why I kept putting my cheek in her mouth.  It sparked a little jealousy when she kissed ONLY her daddy, so I persevered.

She is soooooooo smart!  We are amazed at how quickly she learns.  I rock and pat her to get her to sleep normally.  A few nights ago I just rocked her and she looked up at me and started patting her thigh.  I took the cue but when I stopped patting, she did it again.  So cute to see her chubby little hands on her chubby little thigh!

I wish you could see the wonder in her eyes when we walk outside or she sees anything new.  She stares out the window going down the road.  I took her outside a few nights ago and she was mesmerized by the night sky.  I pointed out the moon and she pointed and stared, trying to say “moon”.  She responds to her name and she loves bath time.

All of our kids have endured their parents' crazy idea of "Crazy Hair Doriety".  Sorry Caris ;-)

All of our kids have endured their parents’ goofy idea of “Crazy Hair Doriety” at bathtime. Sorry Caris 😉  If you look at those teeth you’ll see another reason why we lost sleep the first 2 weeks home, and probably why she was biting me.

Christmas was overwhelming but fun.

Christmas was overwhelming but fun.

Who wouldn't want a new red sports car for Christmas!?  She loves it!  Her daddy and siblings took turns pushing it (way too fast) through the house.  What a grin it got from Caris!

Who wouldn’t want a new red sports car for Christmas!? She loves it! Her daddy and siblings took turns pushing it (FLYING) through the house. What a grin it got from Caris!  The faster the better.

She must have had some experience ripping paper.  She didn't have near as much trouble as our other 2 with tearing into a gift for the first time.

She must have had some experience ripping paper. She didn’t have near as much trouble as our other 2 with tearing into a gift for the first time.

Newly adoptive parents are cautioned to not shower their kid with gifts soon after they're home.  Since she is so little and we had been home less than a week, we decided to keep the circus going thru Christmas.

Newly adoptive parents are cautioned to not shower their kid with gifts soon after they’re home. Since she is so little and we had been home less than a week, we decided to keep the circus going thru Christmas.

Elliott mentioned several times he wanted this "Moustache Smash" game for Christmas.  We had to order all our gifts before we left and every place was out of it online.  So, when you have jet lag and are awake at 6 a.m., 2 days before Christmas, you drive to Target.  Especially if you are a busy momma and need to get out of the house while everyone sleeps.

Elliott mentioned several times he wanted this “Moustache Smash” game for Christmas. We had to order all our gifts before we left and every place was out of it online. So, when you have jet lag and are awake at 6 a.m., 2 days before Christmas anyway, you drive to Target. Especially if you are a busy momma and need to get out of the house alone sometimes.

Guess who else got to wear a mustache.  Poor baby is getting picked on already!

Guess who else got to wear a mustache.

I told you they love her.  This was my attempt to satisfy their need to bond with her.  They practically lay on her when she's trying to crawl and are constantly touching her and in her face.  They took turns feeding and burping.  This gave the poor baby a break for a while.

I told you they love her. This was my attempt to satisfy their need to bond with her. They practically lay on her when she’s trying to crawl and are constantly touching her and in her face. They took turns feeding and burping. This gave the poor baby a break for a while.

Caris didn't know she would be the baby sister of a very hungry-for-American-history brother.  Since he can't read yet, he's giving her an education on the pictures in his "Boston Tea Party" book.

Caris didn’t know she would be the baby sister of a very hungry-for-American-history brother. Since he can’t read yet, he’s giving her an education on the pictures in his “Boston Tea Party” book.

"Momma: tell me he's joking about the fate of this perfectly good tea!"

“Momma: tell me he’s joking about the fate of this perfectly good tea!”

Bed story time.

Bed story time.

One of these days we will find someone to take a picture of all of us.

*Disclaimer: please don’t judge me by the clutter you noticed in any of these pictures.  I promise I kept a clean house before children.  And anyway, we were gone half the month of December so it’s still Christmastime :0).

From Orphan to Daughter

I have to share some pictures of our sweet little girl!  She seems to love us already.  She is going to fit in well.  She likes to sleep and loves to laugh.  We are so blessed!

IMG_3244

IMG_3241

IMG_3316

Our visit to the orphanage went well.  Caris didn’t cry (thankfully) when we went or when we left.  She played with the nannies but she was ready to go when it was time.  I hope our pictures and video will be good for her later.

Caris seemed to have a close bond with this lady.  There's a special program at this orphanage called "Half the Sky" and unfortunately, her "Half the Sky" nanny was away this week.  We have a baby book she made for Caris and I hate we didn't get to express our thanks.

Caris seemed to have a close bond with this lady. There’s a special program at this orphanage called “Half the Sky” and unfortunately, her “Half the Sky” nanny was away this week. We have a baby book she made for Caris and I hate we didn’t get to express our thanks.

IMG_3282

IMG_3281

I wish you all could have heard them shouting her Chinese name when we went in.  It’s been hard not to call her by it because of the way it grabbed her attention.

IMG_3288

Caris’s bed had already been taken over by another child, so her nanny rummaged around in a drawer to find her name card. She gave it to us to keep.

IMG_3289

Her nanny insisted on putting her name card back in the slot and sticking her in the crib for a photo. Daddy is reassuring her we aren’t leaving without her.

IMG_3293

It was meal time while we were there….congee. Congee is rice boiled to a pulp. This had chicken and a little bit of veggies in it.

IMG_3296

Her nanny politely asked if she could feed her by signaling. I motioned for her to wait while I put her bib on. What we failed to get a picture of is the nanny handing me the spoon and bowl to finish feeding her. Brought tears to my eyes.

I wish I could post pictures of the other babies we saw there.  So many need mommies and daddies. We have nearly 30 families in our group, and some of them have adopted 2 kids on this trip.  Breakfast time at the hotel is a humbling revelation of the gospel, seeing such severe needs being taken on by people just like us.  Simply being around these other families has opened my eyes to so much.  Here’s a picture of us crowded in the medical clinic to get clearance to bring our children home.

The little guy with his back to the camera was just a few weeks from aging out of the orphanage.  He will be 14 in January and his forever family arrived just in time.  Had they not made this trip this month, he would never know the love of a family.

The little guy with his back to the camera was just a few weeks from aging out of the orphanage. He will be 14 in January and his forever family arrived just in time. Had they not made this trip this month, he would never know the love of a family.

Wish you could be a fly on the wall for this experience.  Please keep these sweet families in your prayers.  Some of them have a lot ahead.

Gotcha Day!!!

Our prayers we’re answered!  She may have been the only one today who didn’t shed a tear.  She came to us and for a little while we thought she was going through “shutdown”, a response to a traumatic event, then she began playing with me.  Her shoe fell and I picked it up.  She grabbed it and threw it on the floor.  I picked it up and said, “shoe”.  She grabbed it and threw it on the floor.  We did this for a few minutes and I have never been so happy to see a baby throw a shoe in the floor.  She was interacting with me!

This is one of the nannies walking in with her.  We got some "lucky" pictures and video because it was nearly impossible to tell which one was ours.

This is one of the nannies walking in with her. We got some “lucky” pictures and video because it was nearly impossible to tell which one was ours.

We wanted to be sure not to charge at someone else's baby, we waited to be very last.  There were lots of people between us and Caris, so when they got out of the way I pointed to her and asked if that was her by saying her Chinese name and pointing.

We wanted to be sure not to charge at someone else’s baby, we waited to be very last. There were lots of people between us and Caris, so when they got out of the way I pointed to her and asked if that was her by saying her Chinese name and pointing.

IMG_3127

IMG_3128

IMG_3130 IMG_3134

IMG_3135

IMG_3136

IMG_3146

IMG_3147

IMG_3171

I wonder what was going through this sweet baby’s mind.  She was cool as a cucumber.  One of our guides has already told me, “She looks like your husband.  She going to be Daddy girl.”  I thought she looked more like me. Ha!

This is what looked like "shut down" to us at first.  Once I realized it wasn't , I got that eyelash out of her eye :-)

This is what looked like “shut down” to us at first. Once I realized it wasn’t , I got that eyelash out of her eye 🙂

Brent noticed this nanny crying as she watched Caris bounce in his lap.  She was very close to her and hated to see her go, but said she was happy she had a family.  She said, "Please take very good care of her." Brent said, "the best".  She said, "I know you will."  We thanked her for her love and care.

Brent noticed this nanny crying as she watched Caris bounce in his lap. She was very close to her and hated to see her go, but said she was happy she had a family. She said, “Please take very good care of her.” Brent said, “the best”. She said, “I know you will.” We thanked her for her love and care.

She was waving at Caris as she left.

She was waving at Caris as she left.

She apparently wanted a better "goodbye" than she could get from the door.  We were all crying...except Caris.  Caris waved!

She apparently wanted a better “goodbye” than she could get from the door. We were all crying…except Caris. Caris waved!

We can tell our daughter was very loved.

We can tell our daughter was very loved.

IMG_3208

IMG_3209

They were all loving on her and snapping pictures.

They were all loving on her and snapping pictures.

China! A picture post

View from hotel room window

View from hotel room window

View from our hotel room window.

View from our hotel room window.

Gingerbread house....quite impressive!

Gingerbread house….quite impressive!

Other adoptive parents in our group

Other adoptive parents in our group

Cooking on the sidewalk

Cooking on the sidewalk

Picture menus have been helpful...though I still don't know what all is in there.

Picture menus have been helpful…though I still don’t know what all is in there.

Scooters everywhere!

Scooters everywhere!

We were glad to see a Wal-Mart!  That's a mask you see on that lady's face for the smog. (notice the haze)

We were glad to see a Wal-Mart! That’s a mask you see on that lady’s face for the smog. (notice the haze)

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart...LOOK!  PEANUT BUTTER!

Wal-Mart…LOOK! PEANUT BUTTER!

This is the GROCERY section.  I guess she's catching dinner.

This is the GROCERY section. I guess she’s catching dinner.

Lots of options...fish, turtle, frog.

Lots of options…fish, turtle, frog.

On our way to catch the subway

On our way to catch the subway

This is our trip to Walmart.  It's on several floors of this building, but very narrow.

This is our trip to Walmart. It’s on several floors of this building, but very narrow.

IMG_3077

In front of hospital

In front of hospital

Children's Hospital

Children’s Hospital

Brent trying to get it figured out for tomorrow.

Brent trying to get it figured out for tomorrow.

We made it!

We arrived very late China time last night, and were exhausted!  We felt like we had been up 3 days, and besides catnaps, that was close to true.  It was crazy and intimidating being in Beijing airport for 5 hours and trying to find our way around.  It was the first time I’ve slept on a chaise in a public place (that I remember).  Today we found some other adoptive families to hang out with.  One couple lived here for a year and helped us navigate.  We were able to take the subway to the hospital where Caris was abandoned.  I wanted to upload pictures tonight, but I’m having trouble doing that right now, and I’m not willing to stay up to get it done.  We are still tired and tomorrow is going to be very busy.  It’s Gotcha day!  This is Caris’s last night as an orphan!  It’s hard to believe she’s just across town and tomorrow she will be in my arms!!!

We won’t be able to get her until the afternoon because one poor child is coming from 4 hours away. He is the only one from his orphanage in this group.  There are 9 others (counting Caris) who will meet their forever families tomorrow and they are all at the same orphanage.  Praise God for all these who will have families! And that’s just from our agency and Caris’s province.

Thank you all for the encouraging calls, texts, emails, and prayers.  God sustained us through the tired traveling, and I while I didn’t enjoy the 13 hour flight (who would?), I didn’t mind it.  Normally, my ears hurt really bad when I fly, especially on the descent.  This time, I barely noticed.  We were even encouraged on the plane by strangers who wanted to know why we were going to China, and then wanted to hear our story. It’s hard to believe after waiting so long that we are finally here!  It will be 2:00 pm (midnight in Alabama) when we meet our sweet baby.  I hope you all will be sleeping soundly at that hour, but please lift us up before you go to bed.  We love and appreciate you!

The Wait is (Almost) Finally Over!!!

Our Travel Approval came and we will be boarding a plane for China in less than 2 weeks!  We are over-the-moon excited to meet our little girl, but nervous too.  We would covet your prayers as we pull her away from everything she’s ever known to bring her home.  As much as we want it to be a sweet meeting, the truth is she’s likely never seen Westerners.  We will have several flights with her in-country, and then a 14 hour flight home (with a baby!).  Yikes!  Please pray for safety and wellness for our entire family as we are away from the other 2.  Thank you for your prayers and support thus far.  So many of you will rejoice with us as we bring her home because you had a hand in her adoption.  Hopefully we can post while we are in China, but I probably won’t post for the next 2 weeks.  We have to get everything bought for Christmas before we leave, on top of the trip preparation and soaking up time with the kids before being gone 2 weeks.  We will be home just a few days before Christmas, but what an exciting Christmas it will be!

What about the others?

About a year and a half ago, I was looking at another adoptive family’s blog , and the mother was advocating for a child in China who was believed to have Muscular Dystrophy (MD). She was begging someone to consider this little girl and promised readers they could handle MD. She would know. Of her 3 adopted children, one is a little girl with MD, and they knew this was a strong possibility when they took her in. She kept asking readers to pray for this child she’d found.  You could sense this mother wanted to take this child but insisted they did not have the means.   I suspected in a matter of time God would provide for them to take her in.  He did. They now have 4 children, all adopted.  God is so faithful to fund what He favors if we are open to His plans.

A friend of mine dared me to look at a website that advocates for orphans before we felt the call to adopt.  I knew I could handle it and was so convinced adoption was not in our future, I looked at them.  I was sad for them, even though I felt my role in orphan care did not involve bringing one home.  Looking at those pictures and reading their stories is NOT what led us to adopt.  But it was eye-opening.

Since we’ve begun, and while constantly waiting for paperwork I sometimes find myself searching for information about the process.  I ask myself if I read the email they sent “just right” or if I truly understand what will happen on our trip, or if that document will really take 4 weeks and not 3.  I don’t like the unknown or waiting, so I search for answers while I wait.  When searching, I find myself looking at orphan profiles.  I pray for them and yearn for them to have families.  It’s unfathomable that a child will spend their first 14 years of life in an institution and then “age out” of the orphanage poorly prepared for life.  They are forced to fin for themselves, despite their lack of knowledge and experience.  That leads to a life of slavery or prostitution for most.  They grow up in terrible circumstances and then they’re thrown from the frying pan into the fire.  They never experience true love or what it feels like for someone to say, “I’m sorry you have a sore throat.”  Let’s face it, most of them don’t know what it’s like to have a warm meal and a hot bath, or clean underwear.  Then, they become someone’s property.

B caught me looking at those profiles one night last week and asked what I was doing, and when I answered, he asked me why.  I understand his confusion.  Someone else asked if I was searching for child number 4.  NO!  It’s not my desire to take on more responsibility when we are all stressed to the max.  I couldn’t understand what was so strange to everyone about what I was doing.  Then I started to think maybe I was a little nuts for looking at them.  It’s like looking for trouble, right?

The next morning, another adoptive mom sent me a picture of a baby boy in China who she said had “wrecked” her heart.  He wrecked mine too.  His little face and clothes are dirty and you can see hopelessness in his eyes.  I confessed to her I had looked at similar faces the night before and prayed for them.  She said, “I do it all the time.”  Whew!  I’m not a weirdo….or at least if I am I have company. I sent the picture to B to prove I’m not the only one.  By the way, it wrecked his heart too.

Once you see their faces, you can’t help but desire for them to have forever families, even if your role is praying or giving (and never discredit these).  Adoption is not for everyone.  Families are for everyone.  As I look at the pictures we have of Caris, I can’t help but search the background and look at the other children’s faces.  I am excited for her, but what about the others?  Will they ever have a family?

Please bear with me as I have a desire to advocate for these vulnerable children.  Here is a link to our agency’s website where you can see waiting children in Korea and China.  You can also read their blog where they have some special features for National Adoption Month.  There are touching stories of adopted children, as well as children who were able to stay with their birth families through sponsor donations.  Reading those won’t make you a weirdo…I promise ;-).

Happy Birthday!

Caris,

I pray someone in China is celebrating you today!  If not, we will do our best to make up for it.  I promise, as long as it’s within my power, your first birthday will be the last lonely birthday you ever have.  Next year you’ll have a homemade cake and hopefully a favorite American meal by then.  If not, I will learn how to cook Chinese dumplings or whatever it is you like.

I am sending a package your way.  I hope the photo album helps prepare you for your waiting family and I pray that somehow when you meet us, you will recognize us and know that we are yours forever.  Maybe the essential oil I put on your stuffed animal will help you feel calm and recognize my smell.  I’ll be wearing it when I come to get you. (It won’t take long for you to learn your family doesn’t go far without our doTERRA :-).)

I’m sending you a CD that might help you sleep.  Playing it when you get home might help you feel at home, if you’ve listened to it at the orphanage.   I know you can’t read our card, but maybe your nanny will read it to you and explain who we are.  We’ve recorded our voices on the card, so maybe English and “I love you Caris” won’t sound too strange.  We are so grateful for your nanny.  I know she is taking good care of you while you wait for us.

We love you and hope to see you in a couple of months…maybe less!

Love,

Mommy

IMG_3019

We Received our I-800!

Last Wednesday, we got another important document….the I-800 from Immigration.  It allows Caris  to become an immediate relative of a US citizen (i.e. Me).  Immigration also sends a letter to the National Visa Center (NVC) that we’ve been cleared.  Now we are waiting on a letter from the NVC stating they have forwarded our clearance to the US Consulate in China. We need the NVC letter to file a DS-260 (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application).  Our agency sends our DS-260 and NVC letter to the US Consulate in China, who will issue an Article 5.  An Article 5 is what allows us to obtain custody and actually complete the adoption and we can’t travel without it.  The U.S. Consulate sends the Article 5 to the Chinese Welfare and Adoption Center, who issues our travel approval.  The travel approval goes through our agency’s China office, who sends it to the US office, who sends it to us.

Trying to be proactive, I was going to go ahead and apply for our visas (which is completely separate).  Turns out, we can’t even do that without a copy of a plane ticket and hotel reservation.  So, the hurry up and wait continues.  One thing hinges on another, so I’m living from stress point to stress point right now, and trying to keep my mind busy on things that matter in the meantime.

What’s the time frame?  We’ve been told it takes about 2 weeks from the time we receive the I-800  to get the NVC letter.  That would be next Wednesday, but a PDF version can be requested.  I requested one as soon as I knew how, but I’ve heard nothing.  Crazy making I tell you!  Long story short, we are expecting a December or January travel date, and hoping for the former.  We watched videos Sunday of her orphanage and it made us even more eager to get her!  The kids are eager too, especially E.

If you haven’t seen a picture of our sweet girl and would like to, please post a comment below requesting one (with your email address) or email me at candacedotdoriety at gmail dot com.