Stromberg's Adoption Dream

The journey to our little girl in China

11:11

It’s mothers Day and I’m filled with gratitude that I get to be a mother.  Not everyone does, so I see it as total gift.  It’s going to be a sweet day filled with church, sweet homemade gifts and extra hugs and kisses from my kiddos, especially Lydia.  She’s been counting down the days until Mothers Day or ‘Muvers Day’ as she calls it.  So sweet.

Today I’m grateful for all the mothers who came before me and I will have the joy of spending the day with my own dear mother and grandmother.  My grandma is 91, beautiful, healthy, and living independently.  I have also been blessed with a wonderful Mother-in-law and I will be thinking of her today too.  So grateful.  And perhaps this year more than ever I will be thinking of a woman, a mother I don’t know.  She lives in China, or at least this is what we assume.  I don’t know her and very likely never will, but I love her.  I love a stranger half a world away, because she gave me my daughter.

I say I don’t know her, but I do know some things about her.  I know she is beautiful.  I know she is courageous and I know she thinks of Lydia, if not in fleeting moments, then perhaps every day.  Because though, she is not raising this little girl, she is also her mother.

We introduced Lydia to the term birth-mother about a month ago.  It wasn’t planned and in fact the conversation came about a year or more earlier than I anticipated.  It happened in the car.  Big parenting moments never seem to come when you think they will.  They almost always catch us by surprise and we rarely feel ready for them.  This certainly keeps us humble and dependent on God, which I suppose is a gift itself, because I’d rather trust God for words than fumble for them myself.

We were driving back from getting Lydia’s birthday balloons and some ice cream on a Saturday night.  Albin said, “Papa said we were related to King George, so why aren’t we still royalty?”  (note- my Dad got really into Ancestry.com, several months ago) We chatted a bit and then Lars and I sang several renditions of “You’ll never be royal”.
The kids thought we were SUPER cool. …No they did not.  🙂
The car was quiet for a minute.
And then Lydia said, “I’m related to my nannies in China.”
Lars said, “No honey, you’re not related to the nannies, but they took care of you.”
Lydia- “Who am I related to?”
(BIG PAUSE)  I had fleeting thoughts of she’s so little, this is so big!  Which term do I use?  ‘tummy mommy’ ‘china mommy’ ‘brith mommy’ ???
Me- You’re related to your China mommy.
Lydia – What’s a China mommy?
Me- The lady who had you in her belly in China.
Lydia- I miss her.  I don’t know her name.
Me- You’re right, we don’t know her name.  (And then I said the one thing I do know) But we do know that she was beautiful, because you’re beautiful.
(without skipping a beat)
Lydia- Yeah, she had earrings.  🙂
Me- Yes, Lydia the woman who had you in her belly is called your birth mommy.  Because she gave birth to you.
(After a few long moments of silence)
Lydia- Yes and do you know what else I know about her?  She loves God…  And Jesus.
Me front seat- Full, silent, ugly-cry.  Just not at all what I expected she might say. And she said it like it was simple fact.  Not an idea or a curiosity, like it was something she simply knew. Lydia didn’t see my tears in the front seat that day.

Deep breaths.  Just wow.

Lydia’s response in telling us that her birth-mother knows God is so significant to us because maybe a year and half ago we decided to set a time each day to pray for her birth-parents in China.  This falls under the category of prayers you throw out to God knowing he sees a much fuller picture than you do.  So everyday at 11:11 we pray.  We pray for their health and well-being.  We pray for their safety and happiness. But mostly we pray for their salvation.  That they would come to know God, to know Jesus as savior and to have life in his name.  I have a Chinese friend who came to faith as an adult and she has shared that living in China she didn’t know hope.  And yet, she knew deep in her soul that their was more to life, and that this life was not all there is.  I believe this to the core of my being. So, once or twice a day, at 11:11 I pray that Lydia’s birth-parents in China would come to faith, and because it’s very unlikely we would ever meet them here on earth, I pray one day she would meet them in heaven.  And I think she will. This seems lofty and unrealistic, but it’s not.

God is that big, that good and his picture is not limited, it is full and complete.

And for some wonderful reason I actually see with my own eyes the numbers 11:11 flash on a screen at some point each day.  What I’m saying is, I happen to glance at the clock each day at 11:11.  Not at 11:10 or 11:12, at 11:11.  I assure you, this is not some jedi-mind trick, rather it feels a whole lot like some kind of miracle. Some times I’m running errands with Lydia before lunch, other times it’s late at night just before bed.  But I am certain to catch 11:11 on the microwave, the oven, the computer, the car, Lars’ alarm clock, my phone (which I started taking pictures of) every day at 11:11.  It’s become a joke between Lars and I, like, oh, there it is again, time to pray.

I take it as a gesture of comfort from God.  First, he cares enough about Lydia’s birth-parents to have people praying for them, daily.  This is amazing.  And then he cares about me enough to remind me to glance at a clock at this exact minute of the day.  The mystery of it all is amazing and gracious and I’m so grateful.

So, today I will think about Lydia’s birth-mother in China and reflect on the fact that I don’t know her story.  I don’t know if she is tall or short, single or married, working at a factory, or behind a desk, or perhaps home with other children to care for.  I don’t know her story, but I do know her courage to carry a child in her womb and her love in choosing to place this precious girl at the gate of the orphanage, shy of a week old. Whatever her story, she courageously chose to give Lydia hope and a future and for that, I love her.

So, if you’re a praying person, I invite you to glance at a clock at 11:11 and lift up a prayer. And whether it’s for Lydia’s birth parents or someone God has put on your heart, you can trust God in his full-picture glory is listening.
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Overcome

I have not updated the blog in almost a year.  I have had things to say and share and somehow they never made it onto ‘paper’.  But yesterday stopped me in my tracks.  I had a regular check-up scheduled and I needed to bring Lydia with me.  As we drove Lydia began asking questions.  Big ones about when she was in China.  She said, “Mommy, how did I grow in a tummy in China?”  I said, you grew in a womans tummy and God made you grow.  He formed you.  He made every part of you.  There was silence.  And then after a few long moments Lydia said in the most sincere voice.  “Mommy, that was a big miracle.”

Yes, it was.  I pulled into the parking lot totally overcome with wonder at this little girl.  Wondering at how Lydia, in her little four year old self is able to, in some sense comprehend the idea of her little life being a miracle.  I took a breath, grabbed her hand and checked-in at the desk.  Lydia charmed the nurses, told me ‘good job’ as I stepped on the scale and then we were taken to our room.  We walked down a long hallway, and I dropped Lydia in the childcare. As we walked, I had a pit in my stomach, because I knew the room we were headed to.  The office has many patient rooms, but we were headed to a room tucked around the corner from the main area.  The ultrasound room.  This was not a happy room for me.  This was the room, where Drs with stoic faces searched for heartbeats.  This was the room where weeks of tentative joy, turned into long silences and quiet tears.  Sometimes not so quiet tears.  This room meant more bloodwork and more waiting. This room is where our dreams had ended, three times in a row.  I hated this room. But there I was, staring at the ultrasound machine, updating my dear Midwife on life and all it’s fullness.  I shared about Lydia, and how she is thriving.  I shared about the boys and Lars and life and ministry.  The ups and downs and mainly how grateful I am.  She listened, as did the student working with her.

It was somehow a strange and beautiful full-circle moment. And I was struck with how strangely sacred that exam room was.  For some it was a joyous room, where life had been confirmed and celebrated.  For others it was a room where dreams had ended and questions filled the air.  For others still, it was an exam room, where health was affirmed or perhaps a difficult diagnosis shared. It was important for me to be in that room.  And the fact was, that room, and all of the loss and sadness it held for us, was what ushered us into our adoption journey.  That exam room, was an important part of our story. How gracious of God to redeem even a room for me. I walked out of the exam room, overcome. And as I held Lydia’s hand I was filled with gratefulness for the ‘big miracle’ of this little girl. And how very able God is, to bring beauty from ashes.

Gotcha Day 2016

I just woke up to Lydia quietly walking in our room and crawling in bed with us to snuggle.  Dressed in her pink popsicle jammies and holding her baby doll like always. And we did snuggle for a bit.  Then came requests for watching Clifford, and downstairs we went.  As we walked through he kitchen she noticed all the decor I had put up the night before.  We get to combine celebrations of Gotcha Day and Chinese New Year each year because the dates are always so close to one another.  She peered up at the Chinese Lanterns and red and yellow streamers and dragons made of tissue and said a very slow, “Wow, we go China.”  Yes we did.

I can’t believe another year has past since little Wu DanQing very literally walked into our arms.  And I’m very aware that Lydia is beginning to learn her own story.  In the past year, we have had to answer questions like, “I in your belly in China?” That was a tough one and I had to seek assistance from other adoptive mothers in how to appropriately answer. We decided to explain in simple terms that she was in another womans tummy in China.  We have not yet introduced words like, “China mommy” or “birth-mother” or “tummy mommy”.  And we will let her questions dictate when we introduce those kinds of terms as she grows.   In the last year, Lydia has learned that she lived in China in a big house with other babies and the nannies took good care of her.  She likes this idea and fairly often wants to talk about when she was a “tiny baby in China and nannies change her diaper and give her bottle.” To us the important part is that she always know her story.  So as she asks we will share more details.

A couple of days ago I let her watch the video of ‘Gotcha Day’ in China.  She loved it!  She must have watched it 10 times savoring us holding her.  She noted her short hair, “because she was a tiny baby” and how Daddy smiled, and the other people in the room.  She noticed how the nanny had said, mama and how she came to me and how I was crying.  We talked about happy tears and I told her it was one of the best days of my life.  She hugged and kissed me, snuggling into my arms as we watched.  It was precious.

Each year that passes will likely carry more emotion for her as she learns more of her story and begins to understand all of what that day meant.  For now, I will enjoy the simplicity of her excitement over watching the video of mommy’s happy tears and daddy’s smile and how she was so clearly and immediately loved.  She does understand that much.  She knows she is deeply loved, deeply cherished and right now, at three years old, that’s all that matters.

Tonight we will eat Chinese food, watch videos and look at pictures of our trip.  We will let her open a gift we bought her in China and we will celebrate the wonderful joy of that day in China two years ago.  All is gift.  God is so good.

Watch our Gotcha Day video here.

Back in the Swing!

After a whirl-wind Summer of Camp, more camp, youth group trips, and family vacation, it’s Fall. And we are finally back-in-the-swing of things! The boys had the note-worthy experiences of a first full week at Summer camp for Quinn and first time ever to a sleep-away Summer camp for Albin. They did great!  Lydia enjoyed the fun of family camp, and family vacations complete with her first trip to the Pacific Ocean.  She also enjoyed the peace of Northwoods lake-culture and some wonderful boat rides.  Their was ice-cream and sunshine and aside from a few stitches after jumping on the bed and bumping her head, it was a wonderful Summer.

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The big accomplishment of the Summer for Miss Lydia was in learning to talk.  I use the word ‘talk’ loosely, bc Lars and I have become very good interpreters.  But the reality is that Lydia is talking.  She is expressing her thoughts, ideas and needs through speech. Her first full sentence was at the end of the Spring when she turned to me, after washing her hands and said, “Mommy, buy more soap please.”I was so excited I thought, YES! Yes I will, I will go buy more soap right now!  She even had the word please in there!  Hallelujah, she’s speaking and she’s polite!  😉

As Spring turned to Summer Lydia’s words kept coming.  She was gaining confidence to try new words everyday.  And it was just happening! Which leads me to believe that her time-frame for speech really is about a year delayed.  She speaks very much like most two year olds do.  She has a cognitive understanding of a three year old, but the expressive ability of a two year old.  And to this I say, wow!  Thank you Lord for surgery and speech therapists and her very talkative brothers!  Lars and I are confident that with two more years of preschool and speech services she will be up to speed with other Kindergartners when it’s time. And then comes the continued work on enunciation.  This will take time.

Another development that happened this Summer is that Lydia began singing.  She began sustaining sounds long enough to work them into a song.  She sings her own rendition of ‘Twinkle-twinkle’ and ‘Trust and Obey’ and a song she calls, “Jesus, Bible Tells Me So”. 🙂   A few months ago, she didn’t have the vocal strength to attempt these things, but now she’s attempting songs every day.  And it’s so much fun!  She even attempted our Swedish bedtime hymn, ‘Children of the Heavenly Father’ a few nights ago.  Precious.

As her speech develops so does her personality.  Lydia continues to be a wonderfully cuddly-tornado of a child. (That made perfect sense to our whole family).  But she has also learned to express her compassionate little heart, asking every day, unsolicited, if she could “call Papa to see if his arm-booboo was all better.” (Dad had a major shoulder injury this Summer at the beach) She amazes us with her independent little spirit, putting on coat, shoes, backpack all by herself, often without being asked.  Climbing in her carseat and buckling herself, combing her hair, picking out her clothes and dressing herself.  She is very much in the “I do it all by myself” phase, which I think for her, may just be her stage…forever. This is who she is.  A truly independent spirit, who still wants to be cuddled.

Lydia is particularly attached to me at the moment and while its a bit much at times, I can only pretend I don’t totally love it.  Because I do.  It’s what I prayed for.  I often tell Lars, that when I look at Lydia, noticing all her unique features so different from mine: the shape of her mouth, her deep brown eyes, her beautifully tanned skin, I still have the gut feeling that I somehow birthed her.  A silly thought, yet I truly feel that level of connection and attachment with her.  Words fail to express it, but the feeling is so real.  I wonder if other adoptive mothers feel this way.  It’s strange but beautiful.  And then to think this is the connection, the attachment God feels with me, his adopted child.  It blows my mind and humbles me.  I am continually overwhelmed that my relationship with Lydia, has somehow given me an inside look into who I am to my heavenly Father.  How he treasures me.  How real his love is.

So we are back-in-the-swing and the school year is underway.  Another year of learning and playing and growing.  And a year and a half later, with two surgeries complete and our family fully adjusted to life with three children, it all feels normal.  I’m praising God for normal right now.  We’ve done waiting, and hoping and excited and scared and adjusting and now normal just feels really, really good.

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Progress and Preschool!

After Lydia’s second surgery in September, we had the notion that she might come through surgery and, begin speaking.  As though her tongue had been loosed or something.  This was naive and now, having a better understanding of cleft issues we know it will take time. But we have seen progress.  First words we so longed to hear, then more words, then actual three words sentences.

Three months ago, after one of Quinn’s Saturday morning basketball games Lydia said something wonderful for the first time.  She said a clear, ‘Daddy’ from her carseat.  Lars’ face was priceless.   It was a year before Lars heard this precious word and it was so special.

About two months ago, Lydia began adding to her expressive vocabulary some new words.  And she can now say the following words, and although some are more intelligible than others, we are thrilled with her progress all the same.

Lydia says, “Yes, No, Hi, Bye, Yellow, Blue, Yeah!, Uh-oh, Done, Mine, Night-night, Star, Eye, Nose, Mouth, More, Choo-Choo, One, Two, Three, Nine, Mama, Baby, Please, Up, Down. ” And more recently she is putting words together.  “My Mom, my Dad, My Mom, home? Stay my Dada.”  It’s so sweet to watch these words and phrases develop and begin to see her personality come out in words.  Quinn continues to be “Wen” and Albin “Meo-meo”  Ha!  She’ll get there.   

Very recently, as in the last few days we have noticed she is much more likely to repeat words after us.  This is thrilling. Lydia has been doing this for months with her dear Speech Therapist, who works with Lydia in our home.  But she has been hesitant to repeat after us, when “Lulu” (as she calls her) is not here to guide her along.  So, this change is wonderful and perfectly timed, because… tomorrow Lydia turns three! And then on Monday she begins (big gulp) Preschool.  Amazing. 

In February, Lydia was evaluated by the district to determine eligibility for Speech services at our Grade School, which houses the District Preschool.  The Preschool program is made up of both children with special needs and other children from the community who pay to attend.  It’s a mixed class, which is perfect for Lydia and we were thrilled at the prospect of her attending the program.

So jump ahead to March 20th, we sat around a large table in the board-room of the Elementary school with several different specialists, social workers, teachers, and District office specialists.  Our EI Speech Therapist “Lulu” was also there for extra support and to bridge the gap from one set of services to another.  We heard wonderful things about Lydia, that she is a bright little girl, typically developing in every area, except speech.  And while we already knew she was indeed a bright little girl, it was wonderful to hear this from professionals in multiple different arenas of education.

And then came time for the recommendation.  Either she would receive walk-in services, that to-me, seemed not nearly enough to really help her develop her speaking ability.  Or she would be recommended for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Preschool Program.  We were thrilled to learn the recommendation was for the full Preschool program!  And we were relieved.  The program is wonderful.  Lydia will have teachers in the classroom, working with her on specific speech development and everything is integrated and the services are simply a part of her regular daily routine.  And she may even see her doting brothers in the hallways.  How great is that!?! (They are a little excited) 😉

Then the School Psychologist said these words, “Now when is Lydia’s birthday?” I responded that it was April 10th.  She then said, “Oh, Okay, well that’s a Friday…she could start that day, or you could wait until the following Monday?”  Here’s where I kinda freaked-out and as tears welled-up in my eyes, I told myself, “Suck back the tears woman! Don’t fall-apart! wait until you are safely in the car!” Ha!  Somehow Lars and I assumed this program would begin for Lydia in the Fall!  The Fall, as in six months away Fall!  Nope this was happening.  Like, now.

As I thought about my emotional response, I realized that because we have only had Lydia for a little over a year, I felt somewhat like I was sending a baby to school.  A one year old.  But tomorrow, she turns three!  Three isn’t a baby, it’s a tiny person. A tiny person ready to take-on the world!  And she will LOVE the school environment, she will thrive.  So I did my best to suck back the tears, and after the initial shock over her starting date, and our excitement and some deep breaths, we asked if we could see the classroom.

It was great!  Lots of little stations and creative spaces for wonderful play and learning to happen.  The teacher also informed us Lydia would have a backpack and locker and snack-time.  We thought it was great.  And then came the cherry on top.  I asked to meet the Therapist who would be working with Lydia.  She introduced herself, asked some specifics about Lydia’s surgery (stuff I didn’t even know, which I took as a good sign, because this meant she could educate me!)  And then said, “Years ago, I worked in the Craniofacial Department at University of Chicago.”  Cherry!  She knows cleft issues!  And as my sister said when I called her later that day, “That was just God showing-off.”  And it was.

Every step of this crazy-wonderful journey with Lydia, God has not only showed-up and walked alongside, but He has shown- off.  He reminds us through every detail of Lydia’s story, that He is the one with the plan, He is the one providing, and He will, in his timing, meet every need.  And though I know not every step of this journey will be easy, we are not alone.  His love for Lydia is far and away greater than ours could ever be, as impossible as that may be to grasp.  And as has always been the case, we are simply to trust and walk forward.  And so we will.  Next Monday we will drop her off at Preschool and she will, I’m sure with great confidence, walk forward with her tiny little backpack, toward her new classroom and her next chapter.  And I will cry for many reasons, but mostly because I am so very grateful for God’s very good provision.  Again.

 

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Gotcha Day 2015

One year ago today, a little girl in China woke up in the wee hours of the morning, traveled by taxi and train to her province’s capital city, and then walked into our arms. And just like that 😉 little DanQing became Lydia DanQing Stromberg and made our dream a reality by becoming our daughter.  We believe as we did every step of the adoption journey, every moment of the waiting, that God hand-picked Lydia for our family.  And what a good match-maker He is.

It is with intense joy that we remember the day Lydia became our daughter and we her parents.  The day we met we were very immediately in-love, but we had so much to learn about this little person, she was a little mystery unfolding each day.  A year later here are the things we know about our daughter.

Lydia is smart.  She is inquisitive and bright.  She is unafraid (except for dogs…)  She will try new things.  She is incredibly independent.  She is willful.  She is very affectionate.  Very trusting. Very responsive.  Very capable. She loves music.  She loves wrestling with her brothers.  She loves snuggling and reading.  She LOVES her baby named ‘baby’.  She loves going to church.  She loves running.  She loves climbing.  She loves people.  She is funny.  She is playful.  She is tender and feisty all wrapped up together.  She is a joy!  And somehow, though she was born half a world away, she is ours.  Our beloved daughter and treasured sister, grand, great-grand-daughter, niece and cousin.

Lydia has changed our family’s world in every good way and we are overwhelmed at the gift that she is.  Tomorrow evening we will celebrate with a big party, but today we will quietly remember the firsts we had with Lydia that first day.  First hug, kiss, and meal. First bath, bottle, first nap holding tightly to my finger.  First time Daddy made her laugh.  First books we read to her. Oh, how we love this little girl.  Happy Gotcha Day Lydia DanQing!

Please visit my Facebook page to view the video of us meeting Lydia for the first time.

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One year later

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Surgery Take Two…or Three.

(This post about Lydia’s Second surgery has been sitting unfinished for months, finally found the time today.  Life has been moving too quickly!)

What a trooper Lydia is!  September 4th was on our calendar for four months.  We were ready, we had all our childcare figured out, thank you Mormor.  We packed our bags, arrived on time, got up to the check-in area and then…we were told, “no, I don’t see Lydia’s appt here. Oh, wait here it is, in the clinic.”  Huh?  What?  My heart sank and on we walked down a corridor, to a bridge connecting the maze of buildings and over to the clinic.  The clinic…where we had an appt, for nothing.  We got many quizzical looks from reception staff as we stood suitcase in hand.  Back we went into the clinic area and in came our Dr.  He was puzzled, we were puzzled.  Lars said, something like, we’re a bit confused at what happened here.  And the Dr. explained he wasn’t sure but, that he did not do surgery on Thursdays.  I sat, stunned, so disappointed.  Oh, and mad.  I couldn’t even look at the Dr. until her gently took my arm and said, “Are we okay mom?”

No.  We were not ok.  We had this date on the calendar for months.  We planned, we prayed, we packed, we prepared the boys, my mother had stayed at our house on the couch the night before.  I so wanted the surgery to be over-with.  The anticipation was hard.  So, no I was not ok in that moment.

I  took a deep breath, tears welling in my eyes as a resident and the geneticist talked with our Dr. confused as to why we were there, after Lars had already had the 5 hour long appt (alone, with a two year old) in early June in preparation for the surgery.  The Dr. offered that maybe the appt was made so we could sign the consent forms.  Lars noted he had already done that at the last appt.  Silence.  Quizzical looks.  More silence.

The Dr. apologized that the surgery would not be happening that day and offered another date.  The 10th.  I texted my mom to check her availability to take care of the boys.  I continued staring at the ground, not wanting to cry.  Again the Dr. apologized for the mix-up.  We scheduled the appt. for the 10th and we left in a fog of ‘what just happened?’

Lars drove in silence as I texted family saying, ‘no surgery today, scheduling mix up.’  And then Lars broke the silence as he remembered what happened.  At the last appointment.  Our Dr. the surgeon who had been with Lars and Lydia on and off for a couple hours, walked into the waiting room, said, “Let’s get that surgery scheduled” and then sat Lars down…at the wrong desk.  So instead of a surgery appt, Lars got a regular clinical appt.  That was that.  Simple mistake.  And after hours of chasing Lydia into every specialist clinic room that day, Lars didn’t ask questions, he simply sat down and the appt was made.  Aw sugar!

A SUPER unfortunate, simple mistake, right patient, right Dr., wrong desk.  And for as mad as I was at the inconvenience of it all, and the emotional roller coaster that the day was, I landed on the simple truth that everyone is allowed to make mistakes…just glad it was in scheduling and not in surgery.  😉 We will never know if their was greater purpose, behind the changed surgery date, but perhaps.

So… fast forward to Sep. 10th.  Same prep, same packed suitcase, same valet parking, same prayers.  This time all was a GO.  We sat in the waiting room with another family whose daughter was in surgery, having the same phase two palate repair surgery.  Lydia made herself at home, inviting the grandmother to have tea with her at the play table, even borrowing their little girls purse and pretend cell phone as she walked around the waiting room.  They were a very generous and lovely family, waiting for their 18 month old daughter, Melissa to come out of surgery and into recovery.

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Finally they got word Melissa was out of surgery and back they went, relieved I’m sure.  Then it was our turn to be called back.  Lydia played in another waiting room, where she was measured and weighed, (as was her baby doll, named Baby).  Then she changed into her little hospital gown, and we met the anesthesiologists and the patient care representative who came in to give Liddy a little home-made looking doll.  Lydia looked at the doll and promptly threw it across the room, reaching instead for Baby, as if to say, “Thanks, but I’m good”.  Heaving it onto the floor felt  a bit rude, although I will say the doll had button eyes, which I find unnerving myself, so ah-well, what are you going to do?  It was now 2pm and Lydia had not eaten for many hours so she was hungry, and had missed her nap.  Then our Dr. came in and said it was time.  We walked toward the red line, painted on the floor and handed her over.  She went semi-willingly  with a few whimpers and the group of Drs. passed through the doors.  We walked back into the waiting area, I had some tears, and then we left to get lunch.

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Measuring Baby.

Measuring Baby.

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Then began the wait.  We texted, we read, we checked Facebook, finally Lars decided to nap in the recliner chair and I sat.  We got two phone calls, one in the beginning of surgery and one in the middle saying all was well.  The surgery went longer than expected and finally at close to 6pm the Dr. came out and said, all was done, he was able to use all her own tissue, and that things had taken longer, because of all the waiting involved in using her tissues. This made some, not much sense to us as non-surgeons.  But using her own tissues seemed the best idea, right?  He attempted to explain the surgery, and honestly, even after watching a youtube about it, I still don’t understand.  I’m just glad that our Dr. spent months of medical school learning how to do it, and do it well.

We were walked back to recovery.  The nurses noted that Lydia was very agitated and upset and had been pulling at her monitor cords.  She was crying, confused and in pain…until they put her in my arms.  She calmed immediately and all was right with the world.  Oh how I love her.  She rested.

Behind a curtain in the bed next to ours was a little boy, from his sobs, he sounded to be Albin’s age, maybe six or so.  He was clearly in a lot of pain.  His father spoke what sounded like Mandarin to him in attempts to calm him.  The boy continued to cry and then we began to hear quiet sobs from the father.  The curtain remained pulled as the nursing staff looked at orders and gave him more pain meds.  And then we heard two Drs looking at the boys chart, and one said to the other, “Well it was pretty major surgery.” Then the mumbled ‘something…Sarcoma’ and then talked about removing the boys arm.  We continued to hear moaning from the bed next to us.  That sweet boy and his heart-sick father…  I was so overwhelmed to imagine what the father was thinking, how grateful, yet grieved he must feel for his young boy.  I was also overcome with the reality that Lydia’s surgery, though intricate and challenging, was a ‘corrective surgery’.  She was being given something-the ability to develop speech.  I sat holding her and cried for the little boy.

It wasn’t much longer before we were admitted and sent up to our hospital room.  A room at the end of a hallway.  We were sharing it with the other little girl who had cleft surgery just before Lydia.  Once we settled in the night went by quickly.  Lydia was certainly more uncomfortable than with the last surgery.  She whimpered and cried more and was much more swollen, but still she slept comfortably in my arms.  Early the next morning her surgeon came to check on her.  He noted that we should get out of the hospital asap as there was a terrible respiratory flu going around with many patients on our floor.  He explained that the ER was full with children with the virus the night before and that he himself had taken another exit so as not to have to even go near the ER.  Shortly after he left I worked to get Lydia to eat and drink something, as that was out ticket OUT!  She was a trooper.  She was so sad and so out of it from the pain meds, but she did manage to drink something.  Sweet girl.  The attending came in to check on us and I asked if we could please go home.  He took a look at Lydia and said, “Yes, I’m sure she’ll be more comfortable recovering at home.”  And an hour later we were discharged!  Hurray!  Less than 24 hours beginning to end!

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So swollen. Poor baby.

So swollen. Poor baby.

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Liddy had a rough night at home and by day two she perked up and was back to playing and eating.  Eating lots of milkshakes and pediasure drinks.  Yum!  She continues to amaze us with her strength.  She’s a tough cookie and we are so amazed at how she has handled these surgeries.  Our hope is that this will be it for a good long while.

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tummy troubles.

tummy troubles.

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Two weeks after surgery we went in for a post-op appointment and the surgery was officially deemed a success!  And now months later, the roof of her mouth is pink and fleshy, looking almost totally normal a bit less smooth, but fully closed.  God is good. Now it’s on to more Speech Therapy.  This will be our road to travel together with Lydia.  She can not form many sounds, most sounds really.  So we have a ways to go, and lots to learn.  But how grateful we are for Illinois’ Early Intervention program and our School District program which happens to be at the boys grade school.

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So happy to have her 'no-no's off!

So happy to have her ‘no-no’s off!

And we remind ourselves, she’s only two.  She will get there, in her time, with the help of many.  But oh man, I can’t wait to hear that little voice of hers speak in sentences someday.  Lydia is such a smart, curious, delightful, willful, funny and affectionate little girl and I’m positive once she starts talking, she won’t stop, because it’s clear she already has so much to say!  🙂

Firsts

This Summer has been the Summer of firsts for little Lydia.  Between camp, a week at Mormor and Papa’s, and regular Summer days at home Lydia’s Summer has been full of firsts.  First dish of chocolate ice cream, first fireworks show, first visit to a Northwoods lake, first time feeling sand between her toes, first time on a slip n slide, first taste of fresh peaches, first encounter with farm animals, first taste of cotton candy, first visit to a county fair, first time on Papa’s swing, first time driving with the windows down, first swim in a pool, first campfire, first s’more, first twirl in a pretty Summer dress.

The whole family, extended family and all have been soaking up these precious firsts as we watch Lydia.  And we have marveled at her response to all of them.  With the exception of fresh peaches, which she didn’t care for, her response has been the same to each ‘first’ experience.  She simply puts her little hands together and makes the sign for ‘more’.  She does it over and over.  She can’t get enough of each new thing she experiences.  She wants more ice cream, more fireworks, more running, more rides, more swims, more jumps, more sand between her toes.  She is loving life.  She is taking it in, soaking it up and she can’t seem to get enough.

When I think of all that has changed in her life over the last six months I am overwhelmed.  Her response reminds me of  the movie The Wizard of Oz, when the door to Dorothy’s house opens upon landing in Oz and suddenly her world becomes a technicolor dream. Bright and vivid and overwhelming in the best way.

Today I took the kids to the pool and for the first time, Liddy let me take her into the deeper water.  She finally relaxed, stopped clinging to me and just let me hold her loosely so she could feel the water.   And then I watched something click in her little mind.  And she jumped off the edge to me over and over.  Signing “more!” after each jump with a huge smile on her face.  She wanted to play, to enjoy, to splash. She wanted me to hold her on her belly, she even learned to kick.  It was a beautiful first.

And as I watch Lydia I am reminded to experience life the way she does.  To delight in ice cream and sand between my toes, to marvel at the feathers on a rooster and the stickiness of cotton candy, to take it all in and enjoy every moment for the gift that it is.  How sweet and sweetly profound to watch this little girl discover the world.

 

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First dig in the sand

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First chocolate ice cream

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First ‘chocolate ice cream coma’ 🙂

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First 4th of July

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First backyard water table fun!

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First campfire!

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First cotton candy

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First rooster siting!

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First pig! 🙂

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First County Fair!

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First twirl in this pretty Summer dress- she was so proud.

 

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First pose for a picture. J/K – we just happened to catch her looking the right direction. 🙂

 

 

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

We are fresh off the heals of a wonderful week at Family Camp. Every year, we pack it up and travel 7 hours North up to Covenant Point, a camp in the U.P. of Michigan to enjoy a week of fun and fellowship with some of our church family. We sing and learn and swim and play games and eat great homemade camp food, all while smelling pine trees and enjoying a pristine Northwoods lake in the backdrop of every scene. It’s my favorite week of the year.

The Northwoods of the midwest provide a sort of escape from reality. We are no where near a Starbucks and Target is out of reach- it’s a beautiful thing. We are away. And in this away-ness we have time to think and ponder and run around with our kids and just be.

This year Lars, who serves as camp pastor during our week of Family Camp, worked with the theme of landscapes in Scripture. We talked about mountains, and rivers and deserts and lakes and starry skies. Scripture lead the way to great conversation, both with our kids and in the adult, ‘coffee talk’ time, where we are kid-free and have time to share.

On the day Lars addressed lakes he talked about the storm on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus lay sleeping in the boat as his disciples were sure they would drown, and how Jesus spoke, “Peace, Be Still” and faithfully calmed the storm.  Lars invited the group of twenty-some adults to share about a time when God faithfully calmed a storm in our lives, a time when God ‘showed up’ BIG to bring peace to a storm.

As the group began sharing I wondered at whether I would have the boldness to share the storm I had faced early in the adoption process.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to share something so intimate, so in a way, strange.  My storm would make some people wonder or feel uncomfortable.  We went around the circle one by one – I was second to last.  And then out it came.  My storm and my story about Jesus ‘showing up’.  I’m a big believer in giving testimony.  I think it’s something often lost in Evangelical America.  So I went for it.  It felt like a safe enough crowd.  Some people who knew me well, others basic strangers, I would never see again this side of heaven.  And on I shared.

My storm began in mid May of 2012.  Lars and I had very recently decided to adopt from China.  Our application had just been accepted by our agency and we were started into our paperwork.  It was a weeknight evening and I was turning lights off, as I so often do before heading up to bed.  Lars had already headed up. I was standing in the kitchen turning off the mudroom and kitchen lights and in a quiet moment while standing in the dark I heard three words very distinctly.  “Don’t do it.”

I stood there stunned.  When I say, I heard, I don’t mean audibly heard, I mean in my head, or heart or somehow, but the words were clear and left a chill up my spine.  I took a breath, thought, ‘what in the world?’, and knew instantly the words were in reference to the adoption, but after standing for a quick moment longer, I swiftly convinced myself it was my own nerves talking.  We had just made the biggest decision of our lives, of course I was nervous and it was to be expected that I might have doubts, right? Except truly, in my heart of hearts, I didn’t feel doubtful.  I put the thought, the words, aside and went to bed, unsettled.  I didn’t mention it to Lars.

Fast forward a couple days.  I stood in the kitchen late at night, turned the lights out, and just as  before, clear as could be, I heard “Don’t do it.”  This time I stopped.  I stood, rather sickened, wondering who’s voice as I hearing.  Is it the voice of wisdom, a voice of doubt or a voice of discouragement.  Two things occurred to me.  One – I was standing in the dark.  I have always hated the dark.   I have always been hyper aware of the link between physical darkness and spiritual darkness.  In the dark you are susceptible.  In the dark you are vulnerable.  In the dark you are blind. And two- the voice was not familiar.  It was not a safe voice.  Not a voice I knew.  Not my own voice.

As I stood there thinking, it became abundantly clear what was going on.  I was being discouraged.  This was not God’s voice and I knew it.  Over and over God had said, “do it!”  God had set this adoption dream in my heart as a teenager.  He had confirmed it in my early college years. He had affirmed the dream as good and he had brought us to the moment of decision to pursue it at this time.  God was saying, Yes, Go, Do this.  This I knew.

So I walked upstairs, fearful of this voice of discouragement but wanting to fight.  But how?  I lay in bed, Lars was already asleep, and I stared out into the darkness of our bedroom.  I wanted the right words.  I prayed for words of truth to come against this lie.  I felt alone and I was shaking.  I continued to pray, asking for words.  And then they came.  I said, out loud, to a dark room, “God is faithful.”  And just like that a wash of peace and calm and tears swept over me.

Those were the words.  The truth that overcame the lie.  The truth is that this dream was from God, and He would be faithful to bring it to fullness. He had propelled us to the decision. He would raise the thousands of dollars we didn’t have.  He would decide it would be Lydia, born a month before our application was even received. He would be in every detail of the process.  And all I had to do to find peace in the storm was to proclaim him faithful.

I rested that night knowing nothing- no discouragement, no lie would ever again seep into the adoption process.  And it didn’t.  It would be weeks before I would share all this with Lars.  And when I did, he was quick to say, “Why didn’t you wake me up?  Why didn’t you tell me?”  And honestly, I don’t know why.  It’s not like me to keep anything from him.  I think the experience felt raw and strange and somehow precious all at the same time and I didn’t know how to express it, how to share it without it somehow losing it’s significance for me.

But there I was up at camp on a sunny Thursday morning, sitting in a circle with old friends and new, sharing this experience.  And it felt safe and good and even exciting to speak of God’s faithfulness.  To give testimony to God calming a storm. To give testimony to truth winning the day.

As I write this Lydia is upstairs sleeping.  She is safe, she is loved, she is no longer an orphan.  And no discouragement, no lie will ever keep me from seeing God’s faithfulness in her, because her precious life is my every day testimony.

God is faithful.

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Happy Birthday Lydia!

This post is late in coming, but Lydia is two!  On April 12th we celebrated her with a sweet little family birthday party.  We decided on a farm theme because since she arrived home we have read her Big Red Barn, for every nap and bedtime.  She loves the animals and the rhythmic storyline and what strikes us as funny is that she has most positively never actually seen a farm.  🙂  None-the-less it’s her favorite.  So with toy farm animals and a farm themed cake we celebrated little Lydia DanQing.  Her first birthday party.  Wow.  To think how we fussed over first birthday parties for our boys and here she was being truly celebrated for the first time.  It was a wonderful day.

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In contrast her actual birthday, two days before her party April 10, was a bit of a strange day for me.  I experienced a strange mixture of joy and grief on that day.  Adoption is beautiful, and messy and as I think my older sister put it once, life can be a bit of ‘beautiful mess.’  That’s how it felt on Lydia’s birthday.  I woke up, went in to her room, got my usual big bear hug from her, snuggled her, and went about getting ready for the day.  I was overcome with my love for her.  Lars and I say it often, “we couldn’t love her any more!”  She is so wonderful.  After knowing her for all of three months I could say she is quick to learn, clever, determined, responsive, receptive and  SO loving.  She is ‘all-in’. She snuggles hard and hugs tight and wants to be held most the time.  She can’t get enough.  She is a beautiful, active, smart little girl and she is a delight.  …Here is where the ‘mess’ comes in.

Somewhere in China, there is a woman who will never know her daughter.  At one point in the day I was overcome with sadness over this fact, and  sat sobbing at my computer.  I just sobbed.  Grieving for Lydia’s mother  in China who didn’t get to know this child.  I think of Lydia’s birth mother often, like every day.  I pray for her and I wonder about her.  And I grieve for her loss.  Because no matter the difficult circumstances surrounding her being unable to keep Lydia, she gave birth to a child, and is I’m sure, remembering her in some way.

This email best sums up the emotions of the day for me.  And for all the fellow adoptive parents reading this blog, I’m sure I’m not alone in the emotional messiness I experienced on this day.

“Family,
What a special day. A bittersweet day. So strange the emotions I’m feeling. I could not be more in love with this little gem that has forever changed our world. I am so, her mother. She is ours, such a treasure. Such a gift to us.
And yet, I have burst into tears twice today as I think of Lydia’s mother in China. Because no matter the circumstances that surrounded her having to give up her baby girl, she is remembering today…this week…last week, whenever her real birthday is/was. She will never forget carrying Lydia and giving her away. I am so overcome with grief for a woman I will never, ever know. The reality of her loss has hit me like a brick and I’m just so sad for her.
So, please pray that this mother out there somewhere, halfway around the world, has some crazy knowing sense that Lydia is fine. That she is adopted and loved and provided for. I believe God is that big, so pray with me.

Love you dear family.
Kate”

And God is that big.  So if you’re a praying person, pray with me. Pray for Lydia’s birth mother (and father) somewhere in China.  That God would touch their lives, reveal himself, bring them health and peace and a knowing sense that Lydia has found a home where she is safe and healthy and loved.

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