Tuesday, November 15, 2011

her story - part five

Go here for PART ONE.

Go here for PART TWO.

Go here for PART THREE.

Go here for PART FOUR.

Our journey to being matched with our daughter had resulted in fulfilling confirmations of our decision to move forward.  We shared the news to everyone we could think of and sometimes just sat dreamily with smiles on our faces while we felt the love in our hearts grow for our daughter.

I mentioned previously the "compressed air" feeling of my emotions toward her, but my man described it perfectly (and hilariously) during the days immediately after our announcement.  "I feel like the Grinch at the end of the movie when his heart starts pounding and his emotions knock him on his rear."

It starts about at about 1 minute 30 seconds in this clip.

Oh how I love my Grinch.

I was recently reconnected with an old high school friend who is adopting from China and was just matched with her daughter as well.  We have exchanged some emails and she told me that she found out the meaning of her daughter's Chinese name.  I realized that I had never even thought to ask about the meaning of our daughter's name, so I wrote to the person at our agency who is Chinese by birth and fluent in Mandarin to ask her to translate for me.

"Rough and tumble", "stands with a fist", or "takes no crap from brothers" would have been perfectly appropriate translations and would have made me confident that she will fit in around here just fine.

But the reply I received was more perfect than anything I could have made up.

Her Chinese name means "In the light of winter".

Seriously, if you've been around for very long on this blog, you know that we live in (what feels like) eternal winter.  Our summers feel like other regions' winters.  In fact, we don't really put out winter clothes away, we just take some shorts and t-shirts out to add to the mix.  We smiled when we realized that our sweetie was made for winter.

Predictably, the cold weather and snow started to blow into our mountain town and in the coming weeks, I had the chore of changing out everyone's summer and winter clothes (well, really just putting away shorts and sandals), including my own.

P1000198I came across a treasure that I received nearly 15 years ago to the day.  My dear friend Karen and I met early in our freshman year of college and have always been close.  On the outside, Karen and I can appear quite different.  She like bare feet, I like shoes to protect my soles.  She likes big cities, adventures, and risks into the unknown.  Me, I like small towns, well planned out trips, and certainly knowing what I'm getting into.

On the inside, Karen and I are quite similar and where we differ, we very much compliment each other.  We have shared many cups of coffee and bottles beer over the years sharing our dreams, passions, and lots of laughter.  I am so thankful that we have not lost touch in the 15+ years since we graduated from college and I'm sure that we will still be calling each other in 25 years to share laughter over the births of our grandchildren and sorrows over the loss of loved ones.

When we graduated from college, Karen chose to spend two years in the Peace Corps.  I remember being in the campus library when she came bounding in to tell me where she had been assigned.

P1000197"I'm going to China!!!" she told me with a hug and a smile.

And she did.  She spent two years in China at the foothills of the Himalayas teaching English to Chinese high school students.  Although my kids find it hard to believe, we didn't have email during those days, so Karen and I were faithful pen pals across that tremendous ocean.  In the fall of 1996, she mailed me a beautiful piece of artwork from her new home.

scroll1This beautiful scroll is a wall hanging that I have kept with me for 15 years.  I have moved it many times from one home to the next, and always had it tucked in a safe place.  In fact, my husband (the de-clutter freak) has suggested many times that I get rid of it because I've never had quite the right place to hang it.  I refused every time, saying that I didn't care if we never hung it up, I would keep it until my dying day because it was dear to me.

Little did I know how dear it really was.

As I was taking out my sweaters and putting away my shorts, I saw the scroll peeking out from the open bin from underneath my bed.  I have looked at it many times in 15 years, but this time I had new eyes to see it with.

The pink flowers and Chinese writing instantly made it the perfect centerpiece for Mrs. Nesbit's bedroom.  I was excited to bring it out and start planning her room around this precious keepsake.

But it gets better.

I have never detached the note that Karen sent with her gift.  I have read this note so many times, but again, with new eyes, I was able to see that God had planned this perfectly.

note1"October 24, 1996.  Laurie, I like to think of a piece of China hanging on your soon-to-be own apartment wall next to your photographs from all over the world.  The words at the top are a poem that talk about a man who is far away from home that misses his friends and family.  I cannot begin to express how much I long to have you near.  Think of how much I love you when you glance at the plum blossom.  My friend described this winter flower as 'the one that comes out when the others go away.' Always near you, Karen"

Immediately, my eyes filled with tears as the goose bumps formed on my arms.  In all the times I have read this note simply to feel close to my dear friend who has since lived far away from me, never did I dream that the note spoke of my daughter!

Joya will suffer grief in some form as a girl stretched between two continents.  Her love and loyalties will be challenged and distributed.  Although right now, she is lucky enough to be in a loving foster home from just days after she was found, the painful part of that is that she has no idea that she is an orphan.

When she is placed into our arms in a few months, she will not feel relief that she finally has a family.  She will justifiably feel confused and angry and ripped from the only family she has known.  The family she loves.

But we will wait for our little plum blossom to show herself.  We know that she is the winter flower that will blossom with us when the others go away.  We will patiently endure her emotions through the transition and growth into connection with her new family.

Her forever family.  Our family.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

her story - part four

Go here for PART ONE.

Go here for PART TWO.

Go here for PART THREE.

After making the decision to be Mrs. Nesbit's parents late on Sunday night, I don't even need to mention how hard it was to sleep.

Joya basketball I had a very busy Monday on my calendar, the bulk of which I was scheduled to be at Squirt's preschool.  We were up bright and early printing pictures of Mrs. Nesbit for the boys to take to school to show off.

But first we had to tell them.

What a fun experience.  They were all eating breakfast and my Beloved and I said that we had a big surprise for them.

"Is it a Wii?" one asked.

"It is better than a Wii," we answered and added, "And we are not a video game family, so don't plan on a Wii arriving anytime soon."

"Are we going on a trip?" a second boy took a guess.

"Well, 'we' are (indicating Mom and Dad), but 'we' aren't (motioning to the entire family)," I replied.

At that moment, their proud dad turned his laptop screen around toward them revealing her sweet face.

"Hey, I've seen that picture before!  Who is that?" Sauce chimed in.

"That is your baby sister!" we excitedly told them together.

Excitement and laughter and questions about her quickly filled our kitchen.  We told them everything we knew about her and what her new name would be in our family.  All four boys, who had the words 'Mrs. Nesbit' firmly ingrained in their vocabulary, symbolically left her orphan status in the past by immediately ditching the nickname and have referred to her by her real name ever since.

Joya 3a "Aw Mom!  I wish we could go get her tomorrow!"

"Me too buddy.  Me too."

They all tenderly put the pictures into their backpacks and anxiously headed off to school to show her off.

Like I said, I had to get going with my busy day, but I was bursting at the seams to tell as many people as my excited and scattered brain could think of before I left the house.  First, I called my mom, dad, brother, and aunt, so that they wouldn't hear through email or social media.  Then I compiled a short but sweet email announcement to as many people dear to me that I could think of in the time I had left.

Off to preschool we went and to my delight, replies to my email came in all day.  Thank God for smart phones.

Do you remember my mention of signs coming after the decision was made?  Good.

I want to stop and tell you a couple of things about my sister in-law Andrea, the brilliant neurologist who helped us with Mrs. Nesbit's file and medical diagnosis.  She is so gifted in so many areas beyond medicine.  She is a wonderful mother and wife and sister and friend.  I look up to her in many ways.

She is also VERY logical and fact oriented.  She is much like my husband, seeking concrete evidence to make a decision or determine authenticity.  In fact, when I was getting tired of waiting for that blasted x-ray, she made me laugh by saying to me, "I have to side with Kenyon.  You'll have to go to Jeff for sympathy on this one."  Jeff is my brother (and her husband) and is much more like me in decision making and emotional reactions.

When Andrea experiences God, she does so through clinging to the truth of His Word and deliberately focuses on His promises.  She is not a "sign" type of girl.

Which is why, I am sure, that God chose her.

She did not know that we made our decision late Sunday night.  She was still praying for us through the process, but thought we were waiting for more medical information to solidify our position.  She was included on my email Monday morning.

Her reply:
"I was going to email you anyway today because I had the most vivid dream last night.

The dream was of little Joya clinging onto your leg tightly like she was afraid and you were soothing her like any Mommy would... and then bigger versions of the little girl walked up one by one... the first "bigger version" of the littler girl was a grade schooler, and then a high schooler, and then a grown woman... each one knelt down by the little girl clinging to your leg and told her that everything was going to be alright and that you would take care of her and that she didn't have to cry... and the last one was the grown woman and she was full of poise and grace and had a beautiful smile... and then she disappeared but the little girl stopped crying and was smiling up at you with big, shiny wet eyes...

I was breathless when I woke up. "

Sign from God?  Check.  Kenyon and I were both brought to tears and in awe of how perfectly that happened.  If anyone else had experienced that dream, we could have easily written it off as ordinary for that person.  But not Andrea.  Increased faith?  Check.

As if that wasn't enough, we still received two more little gifts from God that made us delight in our decision.

But it would be no fun if I didn't string you along just one more time!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

her story - part three

Click for PART ONE.

Click for PART TWO.

A sign, a sign, a sign.  "God please give us a sign, whether it be a green light or red one.  A wide open doorway, or a closed vault door with an impossible lock.  Most of all, give us eyes to see the sign.  Give us faith to believe that you're sending it.  Increase our faith in the process."

As if God had not already dealt with us GENEROUSLY where our faith lacked in the financial aspect of this process, now we were asking Him to step in and speak to us specifically about this precious little girl.

Our couples' small group prayed with us for a sign.  My sister prayed for a sign.  My brother prayed for a sign.  I honestly lacked faith that we would see the sign or accept it as coming from God.

Isn't it funny that the Bible tells us Gideon asked for a sign in Judges chapter six though eight and how, when God gave him one, he wasn't satisfied.  He asked for another.

We are no different.  We believe God is there, but it is so easy to question Him at every turn.

When the updated pictures of Mrs. Nesbit came to us, again my Beloved was out of state.  I texted him that the pictures were in his email inbox and he later told me that he was standing in the jetway waiting for his gate-checked suitcase, so he booted up his laptop so he could see her immediately.

When he called me later in the day, I asked him if he looked at the pictures and he responded that he did and he thought they were great.

Joya Christine2a "Did you notice the color of the motorcycle she was sitting on?" I asked with a grin.

"No....  Was it yellow?" he responded.

"Yup." I answered with a giggle.

'It's a sign! It's a sign!'  I wanted to scream and shout.  I wanted to hear my husband say, "Wow, that's clearly the sign.  God knows about our passion for the YELLOW CAR! game.  What may seem ordinary to others, stands out to our family.  We're good to go!"

But that was all in my head.  I knew that it was not my place to be the Holy Spirit in my husband's life and identify the sign for him.  So, I simply smiled and moved on in our conversation.

We waited for another few days to see if that x-ray would come through, but it never did.

One night Kenyon was sitting on the couch looking through the new pictures on his laptop when Sauce walked behind him and peeked over his shoulder.  Our nine year-old son had no idea he was possibly looking at his little sister.  He blurted out one thing.

"YELLOW CAR!"  (smile)  Then he walked away.  He never even asked who was in the picture.

The next Sunday night we were climbing into bed for the night.  It was late (well, 10:30 is late for me) and I was going to read a couple pages of my current book and then get some shut eye.  I had a very busy Monday coming up and I was exhausted.

My Beloved had other plans.  He put his pillow by my feet and told me he wanted to talk.  I said sure, and had a feeling this would be about Mrs. Nesbit.  I was right.

"How do you feel about all this?" he asked.

"How do you feel?" I said, purposely turning it around on him.

"I feel like you're shutting me out.  Why haven't you been talking to me about her?" he answered.

I then explained that I had been intentionally silent, letting him process the situation we were in and the decision we faced.  In a conversation that took another hour, we faced that decision together.

Kenyon said a couple of things that stand out in my memory.  He told me that he heard a quote by Colin Powell that said something like, "If you can't make a decision on 70% of the information, you'll never be able to make the decision."

He also explained that he had come to the realization that his struggle is with wanting control.  He accepted that this was a decision we would have to make with gaps in the information.

AND that he took note of the yellow motorcycle.  Smile.

"I'm in." is how he summed it up as he positioned his pillow back into the rightful place at the top of the bed.

"What?  Did we just make a decision?" I asked with a trembling voice.

"I don't know if you did, but I did." he answered with a smirk.

Oh my word.  The moment passed me by and I didn't even realize it was happening.  "AAAHHHH!  Can I call my sister?" was the first thing out of my mouth.  It was 11:30 in Utah and my sister works the night shift as a nurse in the Chicago suburbs.

Smiling, he said, "Sure, but don't you think we should name her first?"

We knew all along what her first name would be.  Joya was our favorite girl's name for several babies now.  No one knew that though because I never said it out loud to anyone but my husband in all those years.

We took all of two minutes to settle on Christine as her middle name.  Christine is my sister's middle name.  Amy is my only sister and my best friend.

Less than a minute after that, I had Amy on the phone wondering what in tarnation would have me calling so late.  We shared happy tears and giggles over what lay ahead on this journey.

I was thankful for the sign that God sent to us, however, little did we know that the most profound signs were to come AFTER we made the decisions to be Mrs. Nesbit's forever family.

Curious?  Check back soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

her story - part two

If you haven't read part one, go HERE.

Although I was assured by our agency that an x-ray is not an unreasonable request and should be easily attained, we were never promised that it would happen.  Every few days, I checked in with my main contact there and quickly made myself "the squeaky wheel."

Inside of a week, we received an update about Mrs. Nesbit, consisting of thorough answers to our follow-up questions and six recent and PRECIOUS pictures of her.

Some of our major concerns were taken off the table simply by reading the updated information about her.  But before we announced to the world that we had a daughter, we decided to wait for the x-ray so that we could have a better assessment of her future surgical needs.

We then entered a time of delicate emotions.  My husband wanted as much information as possible so that he (the amazing provider and planner that he is) could prepare himself for what was ahead and make a confident decision that we were the right family for her and her medical needs.

Being less detailed and more a "step of faith" type of girl, this was a struggle for me.  I wanted to take a chance and believe that whatever need met us in the future, we would rise to the occasion with our best effort and God would take care of the rest.

Not being just a planner, but also a very wise man, my husband told me at one point, "Laurie, I can't be pressured into this by you.  I want to be 100% in this so that down the road when it gets hard, as it surely will, I won't blame you.  I will own it."

Enough said.  He made a great point and it reinforced the vow I made on the day we made the decision to pursue adoption.  I promised myself and God to never be in the driver's seat.  I did not want to pressure or force our family into a direction that my husband (and God) may not be on board for.

I immediately imagined my inner emotions toward this little girl as compressed air inside of me.  I kept them to myself.  I prayed for her, prayed for the process, our decision, for my husband, and for our marriage.

When we did finally get word on the x-ray, it wasn't what we hoped.  Her caretakers had taken her for an x-ray, but she wasn't cooperative (go figure for a 21 month old toddler).  Her caretakers had reservations about sedating her in order to get an x-ray, and Kenyon and I were grateful for that.  The last thing we wanted was to cause her any harm.  I dare say that we were feeling like protective parents already.

Although the information relayed was that they would try again, I think we both realized that it was unlikely that we would get this piece without sedation.

I continued on keeping my mouth shut and letting my husband process this life-altering decision in his own way.  Each time the subject came up, I would answer his question or give a short answer and then let the subject die.  I had full faith that he would make the right decision for our family. And whatever it was, I was dedicated to unity.

In the midst of all this, he also decided that we should ask God for a sign.

Hold the phone here..... my husband is not the "sign from God" type of guy.  In fact, although I consider his faith to be one of the most genuine I know, I often tease him that he can be such a cynic sometimes.  A sign from God can be a tricky thing for a cynic to process.  In fact, this was the first time in the 15+ years that I've known him that he was asking for a sign from God.

Next up, we ask and God delivers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

her story - part one

The call for Mrs. Nesbit's referral to us came quite unexpectedly.  I was at the very tail end of putting our dossier together and had left a message at our adoption agency with a question about a specific portion of the paperwork.  When my phone rang with the agency's number on the other end, I was assuming it was just the call back to answer my question.

When I heard the director of the China program greeting me, I had a teeny-tiny suspicion that she wasn't calling to answer my rookie dossier questions.

She calmly informed me that they had a little girl's file that they wanted us to look at and did I want to hear about her?

Um, yes please! (Imagine shaking hands, pounding heart, regretting that my Beloved was away on business, and scrambling for a piece of paper -all in the next few seconds.)

I then reminded myself to cherish this moment, because it would likely be a highlight when we tell Mrs. Nesbit her adoption story.  I grabbed the only paper I could find which happened to be too small for all the things I wanted to jot down.

She was described as 20 months old and living with foster parents.  She was found nestled in a paper box on a doorstep of a home on a cold day in January, 2010 when she was just 11 days old.  Her birth mother was loving and cared about her future as evidenced by the note she left with her.

I have not seen the note yet, but it said something to the effect of, "She was born on {gave her exact birth date}.  I would appreciate if some kind hearted people would adopt her."

Gulp.

People, if that is not evidence that there are trials in this world that we cannot even fathom, I don't know what is.  I think about her birth mother all the time and have so many thoughts about her possible situation and struggles, but that is for another post.

The kind woman on the phone from our agency then described her medical need to me as " a deformed right ear and an asymmetrical mouth."  Hmmm, what might that look like?  Did we want to see her file and photos?

Well, I couldn't make that decision without first talking to my man, who was working hard in Denver and had no idea that this call was coming.  Luckily, he answered his phone the first time and we quickly discussed it.  We had some fear over the vagueness of the description of her medical need, but in the end, we wanted to see her.

I nervously called the agency back and asked them to send her file over.  Then I hit "refresh" on my email box about 764 times, waiting for them to come through.

The bulk of her file was from her 18 month check up.  Her development and milestones exceeded some of my boys' timelines and the description of her personality made us giggle.  "Outgoing," "Likes other children and cats and dogs," "Lovely."

I have never even met her and she is lovely to me.

We had a short amount of time to review her file and have medical professionals advise us regarding her health.  I immediately called my "personal medical professional" - a.k.a. my brother's wife who is a brilliant neurologist at one of the most highly regarded medical facilities in the country.  She is always willing to help us and has been excited for our adoption journey.  Did I mention that she is one of the smartest people I know?

Mrs. Nesbit's health needs are not exactly in my sister in-law's area of specialty, but she was eager and anxious to get the ball rolling for us and dig a little deeper in order to get a thorough medical assessment.  If she wasn't an amazing doctor, I think she would make a great police detective - except her big heart wouldn't be able to handle the tragedy in detective work.

I also called my friend from church who had adopted a son from China with a cleft lip and palate.  She gave me the name and number of her son's craniofacial plastic surgeon AND the name of the office manager, Bonnie, who turned out to be wonderful.

I called the office before they opened and left a message for Bonnie explaining my situation and my time crunch.  Five minutes into business hours, she called me back and offered me an appointment for noon the next day (over the surgeon's lunch hour).  Bonnie was warm and friendly and had a calming effect on me.  After traveling all week, Kenyon just happened to be home the next day AND have a flexible schedule that allowed us to go to the appointment together.

We walked into the office the next day and gave our names at the front desk.  I informed them that Bonnie had booked our consultation and she immediately came out of her office and around the front desk to the waiting area where we were standing.  I extended my hand and started to introduce myself, but Bonnie would have none of that, she wrapped her arms around me so quickly that I wasn't sure what just happened.

What just happened was that just when I needed it most, God sent that warm, reassuring person that I needed to calm my fear and nervousness.

We talked with her a little bit about our family and our adoption journey as she walked us back to an exam room.  She hastily cleaned the room up, as the rest of the staff were all clearly on their lunch hour.

Shortly after she exited, the surgeon came in and shook our hands as we all introduced ourselves.  This man is Asian himself, and has a very calm, soft spoken nature to him.  He reviewed our daughter's file and confidently gave a name to the larger syndrome that he is certain that she has (which of course, was the exact syndrome my sister in-law came back with the night before).

He calmly explained it at a more basic medical level.  The most impressive part was the fact that he sat and let us ask as many questions as we could think of in that moment.  We even repeated and rephrased some of our questions.  He let large moments of silence pass comfortably, never rushing us to get going and let him be done.

Overall, we felt he gave us a generally positive prognosis with the little information we had at hand.  In order to solidify his diagnosis, we left with a plan to request a jaw x-ray and answers to some specific medical and developmental questions about Mrs. Nesbit.

We never asked in advance how much the consultation would cost us.  But, we had discussed it and knew that even if we had to pay $200 out of pocket, it would be money well spent in this process.  When we got back to the front counter, I took out my wallet and asked Bonnie how much we owed.

"Oh, there is no charge."

The wave of emotion immediately flooded me.  I choked back the tears and tried to force the words of gratefulness out of my mouth.  Seven months into this adoption journey, I had not yet met a major component of the process that didn't cost us money.

We walked out in a bit of a daze.  At our favorite sandwich shop, we visited some of the tougher scenarios and things to consider about her future needs.  Our goal was not to go in this blindly, but to face the situation head-on.

I called our agency that evening and expressed the need for a jaw x-ray and then compiled the email of remaining questions to be answered about her.

Then we faced some of the hardest times of waiting yet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

we're just a tad bit obsessed

Sometime within the last six months our family has grown to love a game we play whenever we're in the car, without fail.

A game most affectionately titled: "YELLOW CAR!"

I wasn't there, but I'm told that it started when my Beloved and Sauce were on a somewhat long drive together.  They, in their matching competitive natures, craved beating each other at something, so the game came to life.

The (unwritten rules) are these:
1.  The game starts over each time we start a new ride, i.e., each time our car is turned off and back on again the scores reset.  No one needs to officially start the game, it is always ON.


2.  The first person to actually see a yellow vehicle yells out "YELLOW CAR!" as loudly and obnoxiously as possible with absolutely no regard for anyone who might be speaking at the moment.

yellowcar3

3  The first person to call the YELLOW CAR gets one point.

4. Construction equipment does not count.  It must be a vehicle that can actually drive on the road.

5. Due to his age, Squirt gets every point regardless if he is the first to call it out.  We all just respond with, "Good job Squirt!"

6. The game grows and morphs the longer we play it.  "Slug Bug Yellow!" now earns an extra point.

yellowcar4

7.  If you call out "YELLOW CAR!" and the car you've called is so far in the distance that you only thought it was yellow (and took a chance because your kids were winning by an embarrassing number of points), and the car is not actually yellow in color, you then LOSE a point.

8.  If a sibling argument results from calling a YELLOW CAR, both arguers lose a point.

So, now that you know the game, you can understand why a sight like this might make us get into a fender bender of some sort.  :-)

yellowcar1

And why watching movies of any kind will have us screaming, "YELLOW CAR!" from the couch at the slightest glimpse of one in the movie, hence distracting us from the actual dialogue and general plot of the movie.  Because c'mon, we can't willingly lose a game!!!

Enter our current problem:

yellowcar5

I just thought you should know in case you catch a ride with us somewhere or come over for a movie night.

About Me

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Messy and wonderful perfectly describes my life as a wife and mom of five. I'm passionate about advocating for orphans by telling their stories and encouraging adoption and orphan care. My schedule is messy and wonderful as I am charged with four sons and one daughter. We love living in our little mountain ski town. We do a little camping, a little skiing, a little hunting, and a lot of laughing and loving. Life is dirty and loud around here but we wouldn't want it any other way. Okay, maybe a little less dirty!

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