Friday, April 10, 2015

2 Month Update

Time for a much overdue update!  We have been home 2 1/2 months and are slowly starting to peal away the layers of healing.  We get asked all the time about how things are going so I thought I would jot a few things down to keep everyone in the loop

How are the boys doing?
Good news: they have normal sibling rivalry
Bad news: they have normal sibling rivalry
Both Jonah and Hudson are finding their new role with Annabelle and it's becoming a lot easier.  Hudson was not so sure about her getting all the attention.  He kept saying "Mommy she is famous and I'm not"  I kept telling him that YES you are famous and are adored by everyone.  I mean, who wouldn't love Hud?  Jonah has learned what it's like to be a protective big brother (Hudson doesn't need the protection ha!).  He doesn't have the jealous tendencies that Hudson has but the only time he may get uneasy is when he wants alone time. 

First, let me explain that we are still in the "transition" phase.  We do not know how long it will last but in the mean time we have to adjust and need help from our family/friends during this time.

How do you handle a child that emotionally is a 2 month old but has the behavior of a 3 year old?  People will tell me to trust my instincts.  My instincts tell me my reactions to her behavior is not "natural" and to trust my TRAINING instead.  There is nothing "natural" about bringing a child from a foreign country into a home where her family looks different, sounds different and probably smells different. (like roses I'm sure).  There is nothing "natural" about a child being separated from his/her birth parents and being raised by someone else.  There is pain in the journey with us picking up the pieces while raising her as our daughter is an absolute honor. 

First and above anything we are building TRUST.  An infant trusts his/her parents because they are helpless and they learn from the very beginning that mom/dad is there to care for his/her every need.  Annabelle is learning that with trust building exercises.  Repetition in her routine...constant on skin contact...playing peek a boo.  We take huge strides forward and sometimes she will have a trigger and turn to herself for comfort.  She is doing very very well learning that we are her comfort and are here to protect her. 

Here is what I can report:
#1 her favorite word is MOMMY
at the beginning she absolutely refused to address me at fact, in China one translator said she kept calling me "big sister"  (yes I cried after I heard that, but understood)    I had a very hard time at the beginning with her not knowing who I am.  Here's what I learned: her love language is MUSIC (yes!!!!!!!)  We sang songs with our names to learn.  BINGO!  She not only addresses me as "mommy" but sings my name all throughout the day.  I remember hearing my self proclaimed "adoptive" sister Rebecca's daughter Alayah say "momma" ALL day long when they first brought her to Texas.  I remember hearing her heart just want to repeat it over and over as if she were having to pinch herself that THIS beautiful lady was HER momma.  Annabelle is starting to do that with me and it tickles me pink that even when she is with my mom or Jeremy she still sings my name as if she is telling herself "I HAVE A MOMMY!"  Praise God

#2 She is now a huge fan of Satchey (our Quasimodo 15 year old dog)  Poor Satchey has been kept in our front formal living/dining room because Annabelle was terrified.  Now, Annabelle will pull her collar, pat her on the back and chase her with such joy.  I think Satchey is ready to go back to the formal/living with baby gates!

#3  MOST importantly....our baby girl's tender heart is healing.  We named her Annabelle because it means "joy" after Mawmaw.  She is a bottle of JOY!  I can honestly say from the pictures I post on facebook....maybe 1/20th of them is NOT blury!  It takes several tries to get a still photo because she is jumping, smiling and so excited.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Date to Remember....February 20

February 20, 1988

Our family changed. My beautiful sister, Hattie, met Jesus.

Why did this happen? Did I do something to cause it? What did we do to receive this kind of pain?  These were the questions in my 7 1/2 year old little mind.  Even as an adult I do not understand the pain of this Earth.  How can we get through it?  Answer: by grace and the love of our heavenly Father. 

Even though I was very young I have lots of memories. I vividly remember the day she died. I remember seeing my mother grieve at the hospital. I remember the funeral. I remember the hugs and love shown by our community.    Other than in the hospital, I do not remember my mom hurting.  So I can tell you where I was hiding when we were playing hide and go seek before my dad and William Brown came to tell me the news, but I cannot tell you much about my mother grieving.  My mom always told me that the Lord handed her patience on a silver platter.  She taught me about grace and stood strong with her faith through it all.  She taught me not to lean on our own understandings but on His alone.  When life doesn't make sense you have to hold on to God's promises. She is my hero. 

Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding"

We have our faith and nurture it through the good times so that WHEN the hard times come we can turn to God and use the recipe (the Word) He gave us to survive.  

February 20, 2012

Unbeknownst to us, in Wuhan, China a little girl came into the custody of the Children's Welfare Institute.  The pain, the grief and the decision these parents had to make giving this precious and beautiful baby girl away.  This baby girl was given a name by the province.... Something simply to identify her by dates and location with one word of something good: "Jing".  They told us "She was given this name because we hope she would be elegant and would contribute to the society when she is grown up"  

February 20, 2013

My dear friend Monica shared with me her testimony about their precious daughter, Sophia.  Sophia was adopted from China and she met Jesus at the tender age of 6 years old.  I was honored that Monica felt the Spirit lead her to share her family's testimony on my sister's 25th birthday.  I shared with her that adoption has always been in my heart because my brother was adopted.  She challenged me to pray over it and see where God leads us.  
Here is sweet Sophia...

February 20, 2014

We announced to the world that we were adopting a little girl in China!!  We spent a year in prayer, study, counsel and MOUNTAINS of paperwork.  At this point we were sending everything over to China preparing to get a child's file.

February 20, 2015
**This was our due date for all the post adoption paperwork needed to be sent back to China.  We did not choose this date, it was given to us after the adoption was complete January 20, 2015**

In the process we missed spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and her 3rd birthday in 2014.  In our minds we thought we would have her in our arms by then.  It was very hard experiencing these joyful times knowing our baby was over 7,000 miles away.  We had a birthday cake and party on November 1, we took family photos during the holidays holding her picture in a frame.  We did these things so she could look back one day and see that she was with us in spirit before we came to get her.  

God had clearly kept sending us these special nudges on Hattie's birthday.  We decided to celebrate 2015 on February 20 for all the things mentioned above. 

We had birthday cake...
(This was the top piece of her birthday cake made by Mona Jimerson from her party November 1.  We froze it and she finally got to eat it!!)

Chicken Enchiladas....

We opened Christmas presents...

 MOST pictures were of her in a blur because she was all over the place LOL

We remembered Hattie...

We remembered Sophia...

Above all we gave glory to God for whom all blessings flow.  

I have several friends who have lost their children suddenly.  One family, who is very dear to us, lost their baby girl the day before we got Annabelle just one month ago. Being a mother, I cannot even begin to fathom the pain their families are feeling.   I do know healing is a journey and not something that is linear (stole this from advice Monica gave me).  My mom described it to me like this: When you loose someone like that you are on a roller coaster ride.  At first you are low, very low just moving along. Then you experience a small joy, then pain back down low.  This cycle continues for a while, even years.  Eventually, through time and prayer your highs get higher and your lows aren't as low.   The highs become more frequent and she said she felt normal again where she could remember Hattie and smile.  She said she kept saying to herself "Behind every grey cloud is a silver lining"

All this to say, if you know someone hurting, be patient with them. Be there for them. Pray for them. Listen.  Give them time and by no means ever EVER judge them.  For us, I lost my sister 27 years ago and I am now rejoicing that somehow her death has brought so much joy to this Earth AND brought many people to the kingdom of God.  

Our God has already won the war.  Make sure you are on the winning side.  We will keep posting updates on Annabelle but above all I want her journey to be an encouragement to you in whatever phase you are in now.  Peace does come. Healing will happen. Pain will come again.  Surround yourself with love and immerse yourself in the Word getting ready for battle.  Love to you all

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Over the course of our adoption journey we have many questions asked.  We love hearing from you and I thought it would be good to compile some of the most common questions and post it here.

It's very important to understand the Chinese culture in order to get a glimpse into Annabelle and what she is experiencing.  Their way of life is completely different than what we are use to here.  

Did you get to meet her birth parents?

In China, it is illegal to give a child up for adoption.  That means every child that is an orphan was abandoned.  There are some families that hire private detectives to find the birth parents but that is a slippery slop because if the birth parents were discovered they could go to jail.  Parents who adopt from China receive medical history starting from the time they came into custody. 

There are many reasons for Chinese parents to abandon their child.  We may never know the intent behind it but what we do know for sure is there was pain behind that decision.  Most children that come into the orphanage will have a medical need.  China is still a communist country and there are many families that simply cannot care for their child.  If they choose to abandon their child, it could mean saving their life.  Can you imagine having to make that decision? 

There are so many wonderful agencies and organizations that help fund the orphanages and hospitals in China.  It does warm my heart to know that there are people who understand this cultural issue and are helping out these precious children.

We do know a little about Annabelle's history but out of respect for her we are keeping her story private.

Does Annabelle have any medical issues?

When she was 12 months old she had to have open heart surgery.  She was diagnosed with CHD and ventricular septal defect.  When we received her medical file we had our pediatrician and a pediatric cardiologist look over everything.  We were told the surgery was a success and no further treatment is needed.  We do have an appointment next week with the cardiologist to learn more about what surgery she had and to have Annabelle examined to give us peace of mind.   She does have a scar and we are very proud of it because it matches the one Pawpaw had.

How is Annabelle doing developmentally?

Considering the cultural differences, language barrier and attachment she is doing fantastic.  For those of you in the adoption process or thinking of adopting I cannot tell you how important it is to get training.  The China program requires it before you can adopt.  Dr. Purvis changed our lives and if there is a seminar near you stop everything you're doing and GO! 

Emotionally we are dealing with an infant.  We have to start from scratch for her to learn about family, life and love.  She is obviously a 3 year old behaviorally so it is challenging.  You cannot go through the bonding process disciplining and trying to get her up to a 3 year old level developmentally.  It's important to share with you so you can also set up the expectation of not holding her to that standard. 

Another piece of the puzzle is what we mentioned above. She had surgery at 12 months old and that also took into play with her development. 

The great news is that she is with her family now and her muscle stregnth is building every single day.  She is running, climbing, discovering and exploring everything.  It took her about a week and a half to really feel comfortable in our home and now she is having a ball.  It is VERY important to let her do these things on her own right now.  She does not know what it is like to have choices and during this phase of her attachment we are encouraging her to explore within boundaries.

Is she potty trained?

Yes and No....the above question helps explain this portion.  She was potty trained at the orphanage but the Chinese use squatty potties which is essentially just a hole in the ground. (see post from Beijing for a picture) She started using the potty in China just sitting on it.  Now, she points to the potty and asks to go.  She has only gone a few times but we are not pushing her.  It is on her time table when she is ready and comfortable.  No pressure just fun and happy times with the "western" potty.

How are the boys doing with her?

The boys first and foremost adore their new sister.  With that being said, they are children and are dealing with jealousy.  They have said she thinks she is the queen and that we let her get away with too much.  We are having to reassure them of our love for them and that this is only temporary during her transition.  When we are out in public they are very proud to show off their new sister.  At home, they will play with her on occasion and sometimes they want their space. We are respecting that and are fitting in "one on one" time with both Jonah and Hudson.  The emotions they are feeling are natural to any child receiving a new sibling which warms my heart.

Does she have a favorite toy?

This goes back to understanding the Chinese culture.  They are not big on stuffed animals and attachment that way in the orphanage.  She did not have any one particular item that "belonged" to her.  Everything was shared with the masses.  She is slowly starting to understand that her Mulan doll is hers and the "girly" room is hers.  I still feel like she looks at it as just a fun room.  Through attachment, she will slowly learn about what it means to have something belong to her.  Same goes for her family.  She doesn't understand the concept that we are her parents. She doesn't know what a parent means.  Through repetition, grace and love she is learning these things.  We are born with these desires but coming from a place of pain and grief erases that.  This reiterates why it's important to start with her as if she were an infant to show her these things.

Is she on a bottle?

Rewind back to understanding the Chinese culture.  The bottle isn't used as a method of bonding/soothing.  It is simply used as a way to feed the masses.  When Jeremy toured the orphanage, he got to see how they made the formula and mixed the thick rice in with it.  It is the most efficient way to feed these children. 

When we got Annabelle, her nanny told us the name brand formula she was on so we went to the store to get it.  When I tried giving her the bottle she didn't know how to drink from it.  The first night she got dehydrated and I put a pedialite packet with bottle water in her sippy cup.  It literally took her an hour to drink it.  I did face time with my good friend Jennifer who has been through this experience twice asking for help. She said in the orphanage they cut open a huge hole so the children drink it quick.  We cut open the opening for the nipple on the bottle and gave it to Annabelle.  She guzzled it in less than 30 seconds! 

We used the bottle as a bonding tool to hold her and cuddle at the beginning.  Now that we're home we put Pediasure in her bottle as a means to get the vitamins and nutrition into her little body.  She was never given water (for good reasons!) and when we would give her bottle water in a sippy cup in China she would make a sour face. Now, she is getting use to water and likes to drink out of a straw.  She does like to try and drink out of a cup too.  Anything she wants to experiment with we encourage and make it like a game.

We've learned that children understand better when these simple tasks are made into a game.  Nap time, eating, brushing her teeth, etc. is all fun!  I usually have a cheesy song to go along with each task.

How are we doing?

We have mostly great days.  Now that we are finding our routine and she is comfortable with her surroundings, it makes our family life easier.  The beginning was very hard and we still have days where she struggles emotionally.  I'm hearing that is not just an adoption thing but a little girl thing too HA!  Adoption is tough because you are picking up the broken pieces and creating something beautiful from the pain.  Grace, love and prayers help get us to that goal.  When I said we need y'all now more than ever that rings so true.  We have built amazing relationships with people in the adoption community that we now call family.  Talking to them on the phone, sharing experiences, and encouraging each other has helped immensely.  It's amazing how God intentionally places people in your life using the Holy Spirit to give them the words and wisdom to share. 

Thank you all for caring and being a part of our family through this adoption journey.  Some of you tell us she is so lucky....I don't see it that way.  WE are the lucky ones.  This precious soul fits into our family beautifully. We are honored to be her family and help her transform into the beautiful human being that she is.   I hope this answers a lot of your questions and gives you a glimpse about the adoption journey.  It's so important to understand so you can be the best support for her and our family.  We're honored to have you be a part. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

2 weeks being HOME

I have to brag.....on YOU!  From the very beginning of this journey we have been immensely blessed by all your encouragement and support.  It's amazing to hear from each of you through text, facebook and calling.  You have all given Annabelle her space and respected the time she needs to find out what an incredible creation she is.  She does well with short visits so please feel free to text/call if you would like to come by and see her.

During the week, we have been keeping ourselves home most of the time.  We may venture out to the store or to Taco Bell for dinner....yes I'm slowly starting to cook.  Mona Jimerson hooked us up with some AMAZING frozen meals that have kept us going. THANK YOU!

We made it through 2 church services and everyone at Alpine has been incredible towards her.  She gives out a lot of 'high fives' and is observing how much her church family loves her.  I PROMISE once we get her acclimated we will be visiting our family at South Main soon!!

Part of being on this journey is sharing.  I feel it's important to share with you some of the hard times and the good times.  We have days where we take two HUGE steps forward and we have days where we take a small step back.  We are making progress and I can say considering everything she is doings very very well.  The attachment boundaries and prayers are helping her find security.  We are seeing her over time discover this beautiful human being that has been inside her this whole time.  She is learning how to be independent and love the skin she's in.  The hard days are when she does not want any boundaries and grieves what she has "lost".  Even thought we all know how much better our current circumstances are, she still sometimes sees it as we took her away from everything she, clothes, atmosphere, people, language etc.  The grieving time is becoming fewer and fewer and we realize this will be something she will always have as part of who she is.  We are very proud to have a daughter from China and she will grow up hearing that from us.  I wouldn't change a hair on her head and am SO very glad she was put on this Earth.  We know she is a perfect peace to our family puzzle.

What we're learning about our girl:
She is a girly girl (YAY!!!!!!!!)
She LOVES having her hair done
She let me flat iron her hair and would have me do it all day
She LOVES to brush her teeth (combined with her mommy singing a corny song)
She loves to pick out her bows
She loves to pick out glittery shirts
She's finding an obsession with shoes (oh dear)
Taking a bath is still the highlight of her day
Her favorite food is any kind of fruit.  Thank goodness for the Magic Bullet where we can mix fresh fruit!
She loves to sing!
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is her favorite and she can sing about half of it in English now
She understands a LOT more English than she has led us to believe.....
Which brings me to she is incredibly smart and has already learned how to get her way
Her brothers called her a diva (I said YES of course she's my daughter!)
She adores her brothers and follows them around the house
She loves Satchey as long as she stays in the front room with the baby gate
She does NOT care about the tv
She is getting a LOT more mobile in her walking, bending and climbing.

****This post is dedicated to Phyllis Ashby for her Annabelle fix ;)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Annabelle's first church service

Today we took Annabelle to worship and fellowship with our family at Alpine. This day has been a long time coming. Just thinking that this will be the first time for my daughter to hear praise music to her heavenly father gave me butterflies. 

We were so excited to see everyone and share hugs, laughter and praise that our Annabelle was finally here.  Jeremy filled out our first membership card as a family of 5. Oh how I've waited for that sweet yet small confirmation that we are a family that is united in one place. 

I watched her face as she heard us sing as a church family for the first time. She was in awe...
The next song she decided to join in singing. I could hear her sweet voice of Chinese jibberish and repeating a few English in between. When we sang "This is holy ground. We're standing on holy ground. For the Lord is present and where He is Is holy" Tears swelled and I lost it...

This sweet baby came from a land where so many do not know of our Savior. She will not be one of those. Baby girl, we are humbled by experiencing your first worship together.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

One week home!

I get scolded in China by the Chinese grandmas about how I don't dress Annabelle in 50 layers of clothes and in the states I get scolded by all my adoptive parents/grandparents about updating the blog.  I can say I'm SOOO grateful for my adoptive family that requests the updates over getting scolded in Chinese HAHA!

It's been a week since we've been home and I'm still enjoying the little things about home....seeing pastures, restaurant signs in English, being able to stay in the traffic lines while driving and not getting run over just to name a few!

Annabelle is really adjusting so well.  She's soaking in all the attention and it's amazing to see so many "new" things through her eyes.  Simple things like walking on grass for the first time...

She got to meet both of her great grandmothers!  Oh what an incredible memory...

She was really drawn to Uncle John.  She kept walking up to him asking to be held...

 And she went to Aunt Cheri...

Here is a picture of her Nana & Papa (and the rest of the crew) at the airport.  I love her Papa's sense of humor with the boys AND his wearing red for his new granbaby girl!

We are getting out to the store and eating out (I’m still not caught up to really cook) so she got to experience Taco Bell,Whataburger and McDonalds…

She discovered Dee Dee and Poppa’s house….

She discovered Mawmaw’s house and the rocking chair Pawpaw painted for her right before he passed away.  I was in tears watching her rock in that chair.  He was so proud of it and was looking forward to her enjoying it.   
Many people ask how she’s doing with her brothers.  I can tell you they both are so in love with her. Not that life is all roses when they’re playing but that is how they truly feel.  Jonah absolutely LOVES picking her up and Annabelle giggles every time he tries carrying her. Hudson is still not sure about giving up his “being the baby” status so we are spending extra time snuggling and reassuring him.  They are pretty far apart in play development and the obvious gender difference so sometimes play time can be hard.  The boys are finding ways to include her and play at her level. 

We met with her pediatrician yesterday. Have I mentioned lately how much I love the USA and our health care?  I know everyone has an opinion but I've seen the other side of the world.  I could kiss the ground of her pediatrician office and I don't care how many germs are there!  Her Dr (Dr. Michael Austin in Tyler, TX) has been with us on this journey from the beginning.  He helped us fill out our medical forms in 2013, he reviewed her medical files and he even answered my emails while we were in China.  He is our favorite!  When we had our visit yesterday and we got so much done!  She had her 6 shots (OUCH), blood work and a urine sample (not even going to go there to tell you that story...)  All the staff was so helpful and understanding in getting everything done in record time.  She screamed her head off each time we needed to get something done.  When we were in China she barely cried at that medical check up.  She has been trained to hold all emotions inside and not to have an opinion.  Her screaming was a huge relief to me because she was displaying signs of a normal child expressing her discomfort.  Twisted isn't it?  She has only been home for a week and she has learned that it is ok to cry when she hurts and that her mommy will be there to sing, hug, comfort and cry with her.  

We do have development delays and other medical referrals to deal with in the future.  Right now we are not going to actively seek any therapy until she is established at home to see what she really needs.  Also, for the medical issues we are just having her checked out but as far as we know there are no underlying issues that are alarming.  We do know that she had open heart surgery when she was 12 months old and she has a visible scar on her chest.  We were told she has CHD and if you ask me anything more past that I will have no idea how to answer what she has.  It was our understanding that whatever issue she had it was resolved by the surgery but we are still seeing a pediatric cardiologist for verification.

Today our social worker came over for our post adoption visit.  We were so glad to have her over and it was more confirmation that we are home and it's all over!  Many have asked what now....The adoption is final. It was final on January 20, 2015 in China.  We had to get paperwork etc. in order to get home so she could legally be a US Citizen.  In the next couple of years we will have to send reports back on her development and we will apply to get her a Texas birth certificate (YEE HAW!)  

We really are so thrilled to run into friends at the store or any time we are out and about.  We are welcoming visitors as long as you text/call me before you come to make sure she is not napping.  She still will sometimes go to complete strangers so we are working on telling her that she needs to stay with mommy or daddy.  We do not tell her "no" to strangers only redirect her to stay with us.  Once she understands that we are her safe haven we will lift that boundary where she can freely go to whomever she chooses.

Thank you all for understanding, supporting and encouraging us along the way.  I will say it one more time...we are SOO glad to be home and I will be keeping you all updated as time progresses :)

I want to leave you with this.....God created us for family.  I wanted you to see the visual difference of our baby girl before a family and just 5 days later.  The first picture is what they took on the day we got her.  The second picture is the one they took for her Visa....yes it is the same child but the second picture is 5 days having the love of a family....God is so good

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Annabelle's Adjustment

We have known of our daughter since May 2014.  We've read her files, had therapists, doctors, dentist and anyone who was a specialist in adoption or medical field look at her history.  I can say she has completely blown us away with her adjustment and growth!  There are things we were pleasantly shocked at and other things we did not expect. 

May 2014

January 2015 (only 8 months later)

We have come to learn that now is the time to cocoon.  What that means is that we will have to be staying at home a lot for now.  She has been in the orphanage the majority of her life.  She does not know what a family is.  She does not know what a mom/dad and brothers are.  She does adore us but it has not really sunk in that we are a permanent family. 

I want to share with you these things because we need your help and support now more than ever.  Keeping her close to us and at home will teach her security and what family life is about. She needs to understand that we are her security and her support.  Her life was interrupted and the design and emotional foundation for a family was never instilled into her. 

Right now she will go to anyone because I am telling her everything is ok.  She does not meet a stranger.  This is not good with attachment.   
The good news is that she has a forever family and we can rebuild the attachment and help her heal from her hard past.

Here is what we need from you.  We are very open to short visits but right now we need to be the only ones to hold, touch, soothe and instruct her.  The longer she gets into her routine with us the more she will build this trust and find security.  We plan to still get out, go to the store, go to church and keep many things as normal as we can. 

What we ask of you is to please understand this TEMPORARY transition of not being held, touched, soothed or give any direction to her.  Once we are out of the cocooning stage she will have the ability to have healthy relationships outside of her family. 

Please continue to pray for us and feel free to ask any questions.  I love hearing from you and want to share if you want to know more about what we are going through.  Please feel free to come visit too! (just text me first to make sure she's not asleep) I definitely do not want to feel trapped at home.  As long as we keep our visits short and the physical boundaries we will be fine. 

I cannot tell you how much each of you means to us and how your support/encouragement have carried us through this journey.  We love you all

Here are some pictures of the first time she saw her room....