Stromberg's Adoption Dream

The journey to our little girl in China

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

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We are home. (insert Hallelujah chorus here)

The end of our journey was fairly smooth, or as smooth as it can be with a 21 month old on a plane for nearly 15 hours. We left from Hong Kong, ever so thankful for our last minute decision to purchase a seat for Lydia and there we sat three ducks in a row. Lars and I so aware of all that was about to change. We would be a family of five. Lydia would be meeting her two brothers, her grandparents, one great-grandmother and dear friend of mommy’s at the airport in a ‘mere’ 🙂 15 hours. Lydia DanQing Stromberg would become an American citizen once her feet touched the ground in 15 hours. So much was about to happen for Lydia and there she sat in between Lars and I totally unaware. Beautiful.

The flight consisted of Lydia looking at a great board book, lengthy games of ‘moving cheerios’ between various cups, fitful sleeping, some tears and one good 1.5 hour nap. It was a LONG flight. On a flight that long, watching the map screen on the seat back in front of you, go from ’15 hours’ to ’12 hours’ to ‘9 hours to destination’ gives no satisfaction. It’s just a long time to be off the ground any way you slice it. Lydia did great. Honestly, she was awesome, and she didn’t even kick the seat in front of her. Wow.

The only hiccup came during the landing, when her stomach got the best of her and she threw-up a couple times. Poor kid. We were prepared with zip-lock bags and came away with no damage to us or her sweet little dress. But she arrived in America exhausted and pale. 🙂 But hey, so did I and I didn’t even puke.

We got off the plane, glided effortlessly through customs. And then it was time to present our ‘sealed brown envelope’ to immigration. This was the final document of the adoption. We stood at the counter, handed the envelope to the officer, he looked at Lydia, said congratulations and Lydia promptly threw-up…in my hands. And there it was, a somehow appropriate response to the events of the day, and a bumpy landing. A long plane-ride, citizenship, meeting your family for the first time. I would throw-up too.

We left immigration and walked through the doors. And there was the crew. Both sets of parents, my Grandma Peterson and dear friend Courtney with baby Joy in-tow, and two sisters on FaceTime. It was wonderful. Lydia, fresh from a sick stomach was a little apprehensive, but did so well meeting her brothers for the first time. Lars and I hugged them first and then they met Lydia.

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And there was much rejoicing! And then we got in the car, the five of us, a family. Lydia had never been in a car-seat and cried for part of the way home, and then we came home to this.

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An awesome welcome from our church family. All the people who prayed for and supported us through this long journey. Their messages are precious and we felt so loved. Not to mention the boys and Grandma and Boompa had decorated the house for Lydia’s arrival.

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The rest of the day was spent letting Lydia explore the house. To think, she had never been in a house. Never climbed stairs. Never seen a fridge, a dishwasher, a fireplace. She walked around, content to look and wander, occasionally making sure Lars and I were close by.

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Lydia seemed content and surely tired as she played and explored the house. But truly, it just felt good and even somehow ‘normal’ to see her walking around and playing with blocks and her brothers’ match-box cars. Like, of course, it’s just as it should be. And I know Jesus agrees. After all, this was the story He chose to re-write for her life. This was His idea, not ours. This is His working faithfulness. And He was smiling yesterday. Smiling because all is as it should be. Lydia was rocked to sleep in the ‘blue chair’, she ate dinner with her brothers and grandparents, she has clean clothes and a warm house and toys to play with, she is safe and treasured and so deeply, deeply loved.
And as I think on the last 24 hours, my eyes fill with tears, because Jesus is smiling on little Lydia DanQing Stromberg who is finally and forever home.

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Re-Entry Plan

Well, we’re officially done. We’re done with the paperwork, visa in hand, done packing, done shopping, done with Chinese Yuan money, and totally done with this trip mentally and emotionally. We’re ready to come home in a way that is beyond words.

Lars here, our last night in Guangzhou. We head by van to Hong Kong tomorrow, stay one night and then hop on a direct flight on Sunday morning, yes, the same Sunday morning we arrive in Chicago. The math takes my brain hurt too. We’ll be on one of the longest flights in the world, direct to Chicago. Pray for sleep for Lydia.

So with that in mind, we thought we might share some thoughts on our re-entry plan. These feelings come from our experience with Liddy thus far, conversations with fellow adoptive parents, and a lot of reading on childhood attachment. We do this because it’s important to share our expectations with friends and family upon our return. Bringing this child into our family and community is so fundamentally different than bringing our newborn boys into our world. We think it’s only fair to share a few important items to us. As we shared the other day, it’s all about Lydia right now, and these requests are all in her best interests.

For the next several weeks/or perhaps months, unless we let you know otherwise, we need to be the only people to hold or care for Lydia. We request that you not pick her up or attempt to take her from our arms. Also, we need to handle feeding, diaper changing, clothing, etc. The reason for this is to ensure that Lydia understands who her parents are and that she bonds and attaches to us. God’s design for the family has been disrupted for Lydia, and it will take some work for us to restore it.

So please don’t be offended at home, church or elsewhere when we don’t pass Lydia around. Feel free to greet her warmly, speak to her, and give her a squeeze while she’s in our arms. Lydia is not shy. In fact, our concern is that she is quite indiscriminate. She may well reach for you, and Katie and I will pull her back in our arms. Please understand that we trust and love you all, we haven’t all of a sudden become germophobes or anything like that. We’re simply following good sound wisdom. I am confident that it won’t be long before Lydia is fully integrated into our family and community system and is attaching properly. Until then, we’ll be keeping her close and guarding her from confusion.

We hope you understand. Please don’t be shy about knocking on the door if you’re bringing anything over to the house (thanks for organizing meals, WOW!). We’d love to say hello for a few minutes, introduce Liddy if she’s awake, and give you a hug for all the prayers and encouragement throughout this entire process.

We’re SUPER excited for you to meet Lydia, and it’s hard for us to be so careful with her interactions, but thanks for understanding and supporting us as the process continues.

If this all seems a bit heavy handed, here are some adorable pictures of my daughter. Love to all.

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80%

In the two weeks we have been traveling, certain phrases have made their way into our everyday vocabulary. Two of the phrases were coined by a veteran adoptive family. This family is back to adopt their second daughter and the last time they traveled with…drumroll please…17 other families. Oh my! Now that is a BIG group!

The first phrase is “80%” or “eh..about 80%”
You speak this phrase in reference to something being almost, nearly, or kinda tasting like “home” or “American” or “the way you’re used to it” And typically the phrase is said with a little shrug or twinkle in ones eye.

Here are some ways this phrase can be used.
“How was the burger from the hotel retaurant?” “Eh, 80%.”
“How did you like the grilled cheese?” “About 80%.”
“Good ketchup on the fries?” “80.”

We have been using this phrase a fair amount because at this point in the trip we just can’t eat Chinese food for every meal. Just can’t do it. The way I wouldn’t eat a hamburger everyday at home. Not that the food is bad, because it’s not. It’s very good, or most of it has been, but man are we all craving ‘western’ fare. In truth our days revolve around entertaining the children and looking forward (or not) to the next meal. It’s something to do. We are touring, napping, or eating, when we’re not doing something adoption paper-work related and the desire for ‘westsern fare’ was the birth of the 80% comment. The last time the veteran CCAI family was here they ordered grilled cheese sandwiches and felt they were good, but somehow, something was off, something was different. Maybe the cheese was only partially melted, or the cheese was only partially cheese, but no matter, something made the grilled cheese, 20% not quite right. And boom, there it was “80%.” It’s the perfect phrase. And it need not only apply to food. It can also be applied to street signs, that when translated into English, almost, but don’t quite make sense. Signs such as, “No stepping” “No Funning” “No noises” “No Matches”. Yeah, 80%

Now, we must share that two dining endeavors proved to be 100% there. One is good old McDonalds. But this is only 100% because it’s not really food so you can’t mess it up. True? True. The second is Starbucks. Totally 100%. Way to go Starbucks.

The second Phrase of the Trip:”Survive and Advance.”
The veterans shared this one right off the bat. They shared that when they had come to adopt their first daughter, she lived on poundcake for two weeks. The idea behind this phrase is, “Hey you’re in China, and you were just handed a baby, a tiny stranger. So just do what you need to do to get through the day. And if all they eat is pound-cake, so be it.” Survive and Advance. This has been very helpful to Lars and I. It was helpful when Lydia barfed all over herself and Lars. We cleaned it up, put her in new clothes, apologized to the van. Looked at each other and said a silent, “Survive and Advance” with our eyes. Or when she didn’t eat for two days, spitting out food, throwing it on the floor, having a screaming fit in her highchair. We called it, left the beautiful breakfast buffet with hungry stomachs, walked by all the other babies happily eating, took a breath, looked at sweet, spent, Lydia, and chose an attitude of “Survive and Advance” as we headed towards the elevator. Or when she can’t settle to bed, with huge crocodile tears streaming down her face. And she won’t even reach for us, because she has kind of blankly ‘gone inside’ somewhere. We gently pick her up, let her cry into our shoulders and after a LONG eventually, she falls asleep. Another fit over, another day done. “Survive and Advance.”

The last phrase is one Lars and I are using just between the two of us. And all parents know this well. But somehow, it’s more poignant with this dear child, in this scenario of family forming.
“It’s not about us, it’s about her.”
This phrase is us recognizing that this go-around of parenting, and especially while on this trip, it’s very important for us to remember it’s not about us, it’s about her. We may want her to buck-up and eat the food we’re presenting her with. We may want her to stay in her stroller, or drink more water, or stop yelling, or sleep in her crib. But here’s the thing. A few very short days ago, she was sleeping in a metal crib in a concrete room, with 19 others babies vying for the nannies attention as they cried. And Praise Jesus, that day is done. There will be time for order and correction and proper eating habits and appropriate behaviors and sleeping in cribs. But, not now. Now is the time for extra patience and letting her lead the way. Now is the time for holding her little hand as she falls to sleep next to us on the bed. Now is the time for extra snacks and in-proper meals and whatever the heck she wants. We are building trust. We are proving ourselves present. We are becoming safe and familiar and constant. We are becoming something she has never known. We are becoming family.

We are here Lydia. And it’s not about us, it’s about you.

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Visit to the Pearl Market

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Lunch on Beautiful Shaiman Island

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Back at the hotel for some group pictures.

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Our solution to Lydia’s nightly scratching ritual.

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A fun visit to the zoo on a beautiful day.

Life-long Learner

Good morning from Guangzhou. It’s 55 and sunny, with only a little smog. Feel like San Francisco. It’s great.

I’ve always taken pride in being a life-long learner. I read a lot, I try to ask good questions, I invest in new hobbies and interests. It was drilled into me by a number of Seminary professors (chiefly Paul Bramer), that one of the best things you bring to your congregation as a pastor is to continually be learning new things and sharing them in creative ways. I am committed to being a life-long learner.

And now, one week into this new adventure of adoption, I’m realizing that I’ve got quite a learning curve. With my own boys, I feel as if we had a year and a half runway to figure them out – their personalities, tendencies, how they slept, what they ate, when they needed comfort, when they needed loving discipline – and while things often change quickly, Katie and I feel like we know our boys so well that we can adjust to almost anything. If Quinn all of a sudden started waking up in the middle of the night, we’d find a solution. If Albin all of a sudden wasn’t motivated by dessert, we’d figure something out (don’t expect that one to change).

But Lydia is different. The runway is short. She’s trying out language already. We haven’t had the time to know her tendencies. We’re just learning what is her real cry and what is simply fussing. All this being midful that her life is changing fundamentally, she’s learning a foreign language, she’s trying strange new foods, and slowly realizing that these two adults are indeed sticking around.

Our big challenge over the last few days is that all of sudden, Lydia wouldn’t eat. We had a stretch of about two days where she ate in total, 1 banana, less then a handful of Cheerios and 4 bottles, this after watching her eat everything in sight for the first few days. Why? What changed? Does she have a stomach ache? Was she just in shock the first few days? Did she realize that there is indeed enough food for her? Is she growing comfortable with us? Is she simple not hungry? We don’t know. We’re learning.

I realize that this will not change overnight. Katie and I will become life-long learners of our own child, and she will bring new opportunities for us to be challenged in a beautiful way. And as Prof. Bramer said, the best gift we can give our own children, is that we commit to being life-long learners of who they are. It’s a holy joy to do so.

And if you’re wondering, Lydia finally chowed down Papa Johns pizza last night and some soft fried bread this morning. We’re learning!

Here are so picture from the last couple days:

– China hotel pool
– Buddist Temple/ Old Chen House
– Xiexiu Park
– Pearl River boat Cruise

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“Getting to Know You”

Katie Here:
Boys, I hope this post will help you get to know your sister, even before you meet her.
The day we arrived in Zhengzhou, right after we hopped on the bus to our hotel, the CCAI Representative Rita, gave us an “update”on our children. Here it is.

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This was helpful in learning a bit more about Lydia’s daily routine, personality, etc. But here’s what we have learned about Lydia in the four days we’ve been together.

Food Likes:
Crackers, especially rice crackers. (Good thing our town has an Asian Food Market!)
Scrambled Eggs
Rice porridge
Puffs (Sweet Potato especially)
Rice
M&M’s
Pringles
Bread
Yogurt
Noodles
GoldFish Crackers
Multi-grain Cheerios
baby food (we brought those little squeezy-food packets and she loves them)

Food Dislikes:
Oatmeal
cold fruit
cold drinks
cold anything… If it’s not lukewarm or warm, she doesn’t want it. Unless it’s a cracker.

Personality:
The ‘update’ report we got was right-on. Lydia DanQing is lively. She is very active, maybe our most active kid yet. Hard to tell, because she has been exploring a whole new world of freedom in the last four days. So perhaps, she will slow down eventually… Perhaps. 🙂 Lydia is sweet as pie. She is indeed very smiley and very affectionate. She loves, loves, loves, to be held. She wants to be picked up all the time, and when you do, the look on her face is priceless. She is thrilled that someone is holding her. She is affectionate to most anyone, which we will have to work on, per all the attachment books I read. Although, when a random woman tried to pick her up in a store today, she did lean back into Lars, rather than put her arms out, so that’s progress. She laughs easy and loves to play. Lydia loves to share her food. She has fed me about as many cheerios as she has fed herself. She offers toys to other children, and pats smaller children on the head nicely. If she is over-tired, she gets fiesty! But once she is asleep, she is out. She is also very clever. She knows where things belong and puts things away. She is great with fine- motor skills. She likes stacking cups and climbing and just today learned how to get down off the bed. Bummer. 🙂 She also makes some awesome faces, where she crinkles up her nose and she knows she is being funny. We can’t wait to see how you boys make her laugh. It will be so fun!

What’s new to Lydia?:
-Stairs. She is doing pretty well, but she’s a bit over-confident.
-Stroller riding. Sometimes she likes it, sometimes, she hates it.
-Riding in Cars. We learned that Lydia gets car-sick. Yesterday on the way to the temple we visited, Lydia threw-up everywhere. She was riding in the ergo carrier facing backwards, and had done fine the day before. But after I handed her back to Lars for a change of scenery she promptly threw-up big-time. Soaked her outfit and Lars’ pants… After riding the rest of the way in just my scarf (should there be more coming…) I did bring a change of clothes and we did okay. So, now makes two of my three kids who get car-sick. Good thing her car-seat is up with yours, Quinn. You can show her how to look straight ahead to the road. Stay strong Albin. 🙂

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-Not being bundled up in many layers every day. She has seemed to love being unencumbered by clothing.
-Being kissed so much. It’s clear that she isn’t sure what to make of all the kisses on the top of her head when she’s in the Ergo carrier, and kisses in general. But, how can we not!?! Those chubby cheeks!
-soft toys, and blankets. She isn’t sure what to do with the little dolly-blanket and other blankets we have brought with us. They don’t have blankets in the orphanage and certainly not individual little blankys. We’ll see if she warms up to them.
-Going to sleep without 19 other roommates. The whole going-to-bed process is really hard for her. She fights it. She fusses and cries and tries to get you to play and rolls over and cries some more. She gets rather frantic. Honestly boys, we don’t know what to make of it. Rubbing her back does not help, nor does patting her back. We have tried walking with her, swaying, bouncing. Nothing is really working, but we will figure it out, Daddy and I. We have found that if we lay with her on the bed and hold her hand, while pretending to be asleep, she will eventually calm. But it takes a lot of time, and she likes to grab your nose, which makes it hard to pretend you are sleeping. 🙂 So, we will all need to be really patient as she learns to go to bed in her own room, eventually. I’m hoping we can teach her to like her crib and her room, by spending good time in there with her. And Alby, Daddy and I thought of your nightly prayer for ‘no bad dreams’ and we’d love for you to pray that for her too. Thanks honey.

Hmm… what else. She loves other kids. She loves watching the two older boys, ages 5 and 7, on our trip. So, she will LOVE having two big brothers! We have shown her your videos and she always tries to touch the screen when you sing to her. So sweet.

Daddy and I are really missing you boys. We are ready to be home and be a family. Lydia is a joy and we are so excited for you to get to know her. We know you will love her and she will love you! What fun it will be for you to have a little sister!

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Please feel free to stare

Great day today, our last one in Zhengzhou. Good evening, Lars here.

Today, as our hosts waited for our children’s Chinese passports to arrive, we CCAI families had a free day to tour or rest before we head to Goungzhou tomorrow and start working on getting our daughter back home. Katie and I joined our KC friends Jeff and Tracy on a day trip to the Shaolin Temple, a Kung-Fu mecca just a couple hours out of the city, and beautiful opportunity to experience Chinese culture. We traded the heavier smog and concrete of the city for slightly less dense smog and rolling mountain peaks.

One thing you should know is that in Chinese culture it is perfectly acceptable to point and stare at others. We’ve experienced it ever since we’ve arrived. Some are inquisitive and want to try out a little broken English. Some follow you with kind eyes and warm smiles. Some simply stop their walking and stare at you like you’re a panda at the zoo. We’re raised in America to see this as exceedingly rude, a real etiquette faux pas, but it’s a normalized practice on the streets of China.

And man, did I get some stares today. I spent the entirety of our 4 hours tour with Lydia facing me in the Ergo baby carrier, laboring much of the day to keep her from pulling off her hat, kissing her on the cheek, and whispering little things about her brothers in her ears. The last hour, she slept on my shoulder. It was really great. But nearly every Chinese fellow tourist looked at me and laughed, smiled, stared, pointed. I typically would smile at them, say hello, and move on.

While this might be seen as rude to some, I had no problem with the pointing and staring at all. First, I’m sure for many locals, it is an exceedingly strange sight to see, and I can’t blame others for noticing and being interested in why these white westerners are carrying around a Chinese baby. But second, and most poignant, I don’t mind the stares because, even after only 3 days, this is no longer strange to me. She is absolutely as much my child as Quinn and Alby are. She’s not an interloper, and truly never felt like one. She’s my daughter and though it may look strange to some, both in China and when we return home, it’s not the least bit strange to me.

So please, feel free to stare. She is remarkably beautiful.

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Tomorrow we fly to Goungzhou, a 2.5 hour flight, so it will be a good test run for the big trip home in 9 days. All of our Chinese paperwork is completed, and our focus turns to the US consulate and all the American paperwork yet to do. A couple of items to pray for:

– No hiccups with paperwork. Things have been remarkably smooth thus far (thank you CCAI – can’t say enough about them).
– Bedtimes for Lydia. She is acting frantic and we’re not sure what to do. Tonight was better than last night, and I would pray for a calm spirit for her and discernment for us. Pray that each night would get a little better.
– For time to move quickly now. We’re missing the boys but have enjoyed Facetime in the mornings. We’re ready in our minds and hearts to come home, but are choosing to see this last week or so as a gift of special time with Lydia. Patience is not my chief virtue. Pray for time to go quickly and be well spent.
– Praise that Lydia is eating great, has an incredibly sweet spirit, and that we’re having a great time with the other families in our group!

Goodnight everyone! Enjoy a few pictures from the day.

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Xinyang

Yesterday was a big day for all of us. We were up and out in a taxi by 7:30am. We traveled to the train station where we got to ride the Bullet Train. Boys, it was pretty cool. We were traveling at speeds of up to 300km/hr! Whoa! And it felt like silk. We sailed along on a very smoggy, grey-sky day, past cities and farmlands to the town of Liddy’s orphanage, Xinyang. The city is home to some 7 million people.

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We arrived to a government building where we needed to present some paperwork for Lydia’s passport. It turns out they had already taken her passport picture, but we did have to take a family picture, not sure for what purpose. It was a quick visit. Lydia was not herself during the trip. She was sullen and sleepy and it occurred to us that perhaps she felt unsure about re-living a trip she was on only two days prior. Same taxis, same train, same building… Who knows what babies can take-in and understand. But, no doubt, she was rather quiet while in Xinyang.

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Then it was back into a taxi and off to her orphanage. We passed bridges and tall buildings. One building sign read, “Center for Breast Disease Care” another “Rural Credit Union”. On we went, maybe 25 minutes and then I read a familiar sign. It was the address I had written on the care-package I sent a couple months ago. “Bao Si Bridge” I think. And we turned left and there it was. The orphanage, and for Lydia, also her ‘finding place’. The place she had been found by orphanage workers one day in early April, 2012.

My mind was spinning as we pulled-up. Suddenly every person I had seen on the streets of Xinyang was important to Lydia’s story. Any one of them could somehow be her relative, her sibling, her father, her mother… Any one of them could have been the one to bring her to the orphanage that day in early April. How desperate it feels to not know. How painful. I can invent stories in my head, but the truth is we will never know and it would be unfair to Lydia for me to even guess. That reality is one she will have to work through on her own as she grows. The not knowing.

I got out of the car and was ushered passed the entrance to a set of concrete ramps leading to the floor where Lydia lived. We passed by a floor where they housed a preschool. It looked well supplied with artwork on the walls. We got to Lydia’s floor and I immediately recognized the outside hallway, from the picture we were sent with her update. Where she stood in puffy red over-alls. First we were shown the play-room. A 10X15ft room with foam play-mats on the floor. There were cubbies but no toys, except for two plastic rocking horses. (her development update said her favorite toy was a rocking horse) Were these the only toys? I am hopeful there were other toys elsewhere. The nannies were in the room holding babies. They were smiling, very sweet. Our CCAI representative said to one of the nannies that I had adopted DanQing. She smiled broadly, nodding.

While we were standing there, taking in the room, there was a commotion in the hall. A film-crew was filming something for a local hair salon. They were suddenly in the room and filming another CCAI mother and me. Very strange.

Then it was on to see where DanQing had slept. We walked down the hall into a small room full of metal cribs, we counted twenty. The cribs were tied together end to end. Three solid rows with enough room to walk in the aisles between. I knew this would likely be the case, a room full of cribs, but somehow I had secretly wished for better.

The sleeping room I had visited in college was in a brand-new orphanage in Gejiu, China. It looked like a castle, with big open rooms, high ceilings, muraled walls and colorful play-mats and lots of sunlight. The cribs were blue plastic and all was clean.

I was overwhelmed as they showed me her crib. Had this really been her home just three nights ago? No blankets, just a bottom sheet. The babies were interested in us, some standing, some sitting, others crying with the commotion of visitors. I did ask to meet and have a picture with the nanny who primarily cared for Lydia. They went and found her for me. The other nannies whispered to one another and one finally told me how ‘young and beautiful’ I was. Oh my. I smiled awkwardly. We commented to the one nanny who spoke English that we were amazed to see so many care-givers. She said, yes, and that all had been trained by Half-the-Sky, an organization that works with Chinese orphanages to teach child-care techniques and developmental programming, even starting preschools. Then in came Lydia’s nanny, a woman with a sweet face. She seemed a bit annoyed to have her picture taken. Maybe it was bad-form for me to ask. Or maybe she didn’t want her day to be disrupted, she was busy I’m sure. I’m glad I asked, because I want Lydia to have that picture. I did not get her name.

And that was it. The ‘tour’ was over. A mere 10 minutes and we were ushered out. They said, it upsets the children’s schedule to have visitors, which I totally understand. But there was no time for quesitons. No discussion with a nanny about DanQing or anything specific. I was going to ask about which brand formula she had and how much at a feeding. But, no time. On our way out we passed by other nannies with cups of rice and meat going in to feed the babies. We passed by a room with smaller babies, it had a vaporizer in it. We walked down a stairway and passed a woman carrying what looked like 2 gallons of rice in a metal bucket.

And then we were back in the courtyard. I did see a playground area, but we were told that little ones did not get to play there in the Winter months. I don’t imagine the workers have time or resources to dress little toddlers for outside play. Especially when there are 200 children to care for in the orphanage. As I walked out I did take several pictures of the outside entrance, Lydia’s ‘finding place.’ And then I got back in the taxi where Lars and Lydia had been waiting. And then I fell apart. Lydia was quietly resting on Lars’s shoulder and I quietly sobbed.

I was overwhelmed by the ‘what would have been’ verses the ‘what will be’ for Lydia DanQing. I was a jumble of emotions I didn’t/don’t really know how to process. I was struck by so many things that made me sad. The small rooms, the shear amount of concrete and grey and cold. And the toys. Where were the toys?

(Here is where I stopped writing for a while, because Lydia woke up from her nap and we took her to the park) As we walked to the park I told Lars, “I’m just holding-out hope that the Half-The-Sky organization actually came and worked with Liddy at the orphanage. I would feel much better just knowing that.” After a lovely visit to the park- a long sprawling park, with ponds and paddle-boats and carnival rides we returned to the hotel.)

We got back to the hotel, reviewed some paperwork with the CCAI reps and then Jesus gave us a gift. Our rep Rita gave Lars a packet. The packet read, “Half the Sky Foundation: Child’s Memory Book” starting 7-9-2012. And there it was. Lydia’s history in pictures and development reports. Everything. Jesus is so kind, so gracious and loving to soothe my mothers heart with this gift. There were footprints and reports listed for every ten days. Pictures of her learning to sit up, to crawl, playing with TOYS, walking outside, holding flowers, playing with friends. I am overcome with all that we now know, or rather, all that we will know, because the entire report is in Chinese. But, the moment I get home I will find my one Chinese friend and see if she can translate it for me. I may need to pay her… it’s long. 🙂 What gift for Lydia to have that memory book, some of the missing pieces to her history. And what a joy to think of sharing it with her when she begins to ask questions in a few years.

As Lars and I sat on the bed looking at the pictures together we experienced a strange combination of emotions. We were elated and then grieved all at the same time. Lars noted that we were looking at all that we have missed. We didn’t get to see her learn to crawl. We don’t know her first word. We were not there to hold her tiny hands as she learned to walk. But we rest in the peace that someone was. Nannies and the woman in the pictures with her. Someone was there to clap for her when she took her first steps, to say good job when she mastered a new skill. Someone cared, and that’s what matters.

So it was indeed an overwhelming day. And I remain sad for the environment Lydia was in, for the amount of concrete and lack of stimuli, but here are some things I am thankful for. I am thankful that Lydia was well cared for- that there were many nannies at the Xinyang Orphanage. I am thankful there seemed to be adequate food, Lydia’s thighs are a testament to that. And with our afternoon gift of Lydia’s Memory Book, we are ever so thankful to know that Lydia had a good amount of intentional nurture from trained care-givers.

And now she is ours. Ours to teach and encourage and watch grow. We get to be her cheerleaders, her encouragers, her safe-haven. And so much more. We get to tell her we love her, to hold her when she cries, to delight in her laughter, to introduce her to Jesus. She is ours. What gift, what blessing, what grace.

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I Don’t Deserve This

Good morning from Zhengzhou. Lars here.

I can’t escape the truth that I don’t deserve this, and by this, I mean everything I know. I was born of two great godly people, healthy, mentally well. So was my wife. Those four special people came from great godly people, and on and on it goes. There are certainly issues in our family past and present, but let’s be perfect honest, I don’t deserve this. It’s what we call grace.

I sit here writing not 6 feet away from a sleeping child who can’t say the same. She only knew six days with her mother, and perhaps father. She knew loving care givers in her orphange, but they will fade from memory, in fact, I pray that the first 20 months of her life might fade from memory quickly because we don’t know what the whole of her life holds thusfar. She didn’t deserve that. I think I’d call that injustice.

The beauty of adoption is that grace triumphs so severely and suddenly. We will call on God’s grace for Lydia as we continue to bond here in China, as we figure out bedtime routines and meals, as we bring her back to Hinsdale to her loving brothers and a church full of grace, as we start to tackle medical issues, as we help her through a life with some significant questions. I trust that God, who is himself Grace, will answer us in His own way. But for all the grace still needed, I’m overjoyed to bask in grace
right here, and right now. Lydia is getting the love and care she deserves, which of course, none of us deserve. It is a reality that we are experiencing here, and it’s remarkable.

Today, we head to Xinyang, Lydia’s home town, by bullet train (pumped for that!). There we will do some registration work for her passport. She is an active and excited child, especially around food, so we’ll see how the 2 hour train ride goes. Katie will hopefully go and tour the orphanage if we are given the chance. Please pray that she’d be able to go and see the orphange. I feel important for one of us to do so. I would keep Lydia while she does that. Thanks for all the emails, comments, and likes. Our inboxes are full and we feel so loved. I’ll leave you with a few photos from yesterday, a couple being from, yes, Walmart again.

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Gotcha Day!

We woke up around 7am. I had only slept off and on since 4… To be expected I suppose. We got ready for the day, had a nice breakfast and gathered our belongings. We got on the bus and our CCAI representative shared all the “what to expect” information. It’s normal for the child to be in shock, to cry. It’s normal if the child bonds with one parent over the other for a while. It’s normal for the child to have a glazed-over expression from all the commotion of the day. Whatever might happen, it’s ‘normal’.

This was helpful to hear, again. As she talked, we passed by many tall city buildings, my stomach doing flip-flops, I sat squeezing Lars’ hand. Whispering, ‘this is happening.’ And then all of a sudden it was. One CCAI rep leaned over to tell the other something. And then she announced to the bus, “We just got word that the children from Xinyang have arrived, they are already here.”

They are here?!? No time to think, to take in the room, to imagine the doors opening, and our daughter being brought in. She was there waiting for us. She would be receiving us. It was all backward, and somehow it was perfect. We were barely in the door but three seconds and they said, ‘Lars and Katie Stromberg.’ That was it. Our moment. We threw our cameras at our newfound friends for the journey and we turned to hear her nanny holding her say, ‘DanQing’ and just like that she saw us and reached for me. It’s true, it’s on video. How and why she did that, I don’t understand, except to say I had prayed for weeks that she would accept us and she did. God is so faithful. Her hair smelled of Jasmine, an unfamiliar exotic scent. We stood there amazed at her. We were holding our daughter. This little stranger, stranger no more. It was so much to take-in.

No doubt Lydia was in a fair amount of shock, her expression was rather stoic, but still she seemed peaceful. No tears. No fussing. She looked rather exhausted, which I’m sure she was as she had arrived here after a two hour long train ride. As we walked the room, witnessing other families being formed, she clung to us quietly. She even rested her head on Lars’ shoulder for a bit. Quiet and tender. I was grateful, I did get a chance to ask her nanny some basic questions, like, was she still on formula or regular milk. The answer was both/either. The nanny clearly liked Lydia, she was very smiley and said, “She’s very out-going. She eats well, she sleeps well, very happy, very active.” I said a heartfelt, “Thank you. For caring for DanQing.” And she responded with a sweet smile and said, “You’re welcome, it is my job.”

PICTURES

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After about 40minutes, a few signatures and official photos we got back on the bus. Lydia was tired, she was wearing five layers of clothing and she was clearly warm. I couldn’t wait to get her into the room and peal off the layers to let her breath. She fell asleep on the ride back, waking up when we got into the room. We laid her on the bed and began peeling off the layers. One puffy jacket, One pair of overalls, one pair of split-pants, and two long sleeve shirts, socks and shoes. We let her lay there for a few minutes in nothing but a fresh diaper and she seemed warm. She did have a low-grade fever so after a little medication we gave her a bottle. She had to work hard to take it, because of her cleft palate, and even with the nipple cut to make it faster flowing it’s clear it takes work for her to latch-on to the bottle. But, eventually she got it all down.

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After her bottle, she was very playful. She liked the little cars we brought, and the finger-puppets and the books. She spent at least 40 minutes carefully moving cheerios between three different bowls. In most every way, she seems a very typical toddler. She likes things with hinges and she liked her bath. She loves to be held. Lydia’s only tears came when we went to put her in her crib. She had slow, raspy sobs and we decided to just lay her on the bed beside me. I laid with her and she calmed. Eventually she stuck her thumb in her mouth and then the best part. She would not let go of my hand. She grasped my fingers and slowly fell to sleep. It was heaven.

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We ended our day with dinner a the hotels Italian restaurant. Where Liddy was all over the place. She was happy, but very busy. 🙂 And then we had her first bathtime, which she loved. She did go to bed in the crib, just fine after a nice slow bedtime routine, with bottle and book and singing. It was wonderful. Lars and I keep looking at each other, like, is she real, is this real? And ever so thankfully, it is.

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A Day of New Beginnings

“His mercies are new every morning, Great is Thy faithfulness! I say to myself, The Lord is my portion and therefore I will wait for him.”

Isaiah utters these words in Lamentations in the midst of, well, his own raw and real lamentation as a reminder of the opportunities of each new day. It has been employed to many God fearers to impress the idea of second chances, God’s faithfulness, and the invitation to a new start.

I’m so thankful for this daily promise of new beginnings, and God’s faithfulness in my life. But I’m thankful today for the particular mercies of special days. Days when you are fully aware that your life is about to fundamentally change.

Lydia Danqing is most certainly now in a van or on a train from Xinyang to Zhengzhou to meet two strangers who love her immediately and will necessarily change her life in every way. And she, in turn, will change ours forever.

It’s a new day for all. The Lord is our portion.

In the interest of full availability in numerous directions, we have no set plan for sharing updates and pictures today. We will update you as soon as we feel like it’s OK to turn our attention to reflection and testimony. Thanks for your patience.

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