Monday, March 19, 2012

orphan no more

Our night was long with little “Lien Lien” as she was called by her loving foster family (pronounced like a Chinese person would say the American name “Leah”). She cried and cried and if her red photo book had inched out of reach, that would be what she wanted. We all got up and turned on the lights at about 1:30 a.m. and hung out and facebooked a bit.

We went to breakfast at the hotel and had a moment of shock when we didn’t see any American fare options. Luckily, we were mistaken because “Goat Lung Soup” did not sound like the eye opener we were looking for. Joya’s paperwork said that she liked the Chinese food “congee” (it is like a porridge) and that part was true, because when we served up a bowl of it for breakfast, she gobbled it down.

Our hotel has little water features in the lobby that have huge goldfish swimming in them and she was enthralled with the fish. After I showed her how to make fish lips, she started making them on her own when she walked up to the water. She also learned the sign for “more” today, and picked up more iPad skills. She can also blow her own nose into a tissue and wipe her face clean.

She is a genius for sure.

After breakfast, we traveled with our guide Tracy to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize our adoption. It was crowded with people speaking loudly into cell phones and was filled with cigarette smoke. We were lead into a small office where several of the officials from yesterday were shuffling our paperwork (orphanage director, civil officials, etc.). I noticed another familiar face from yesterday as well. A grandmotherly type woman who I thought was Joya’s foster grandmother was at the desk, but when she saw us walk in with her, she quickly tried to make it out of the small office without being noticed by Joya. On her way out she looked me in the eye and put her finger to her lips like a “shhhhh” motion.

Well, Joya saw her and immediately lost all control. She fought and kicked and screamed in Kenyon’s arms. She wanted to go out of the office and find that woman so badly that when Kenyon wouldn’t let her go, she slapped him in the face and spit in his general direction. She clearly had a connection to this old woman, but it turns out that we still don’t know who she was.

Tracy told us afterward that she asked if she was the grandmother yesterday, but the family had told her that she wasn’t. So we really don’t know who she was or why she was still here in the city.

That was really the turning point of our day that brought waves of emotion for Joya. She recovered for a while as we signed and stamped our promises to love, protect, educate, and care for her until she can do so for herself. She did okay as we quickly made a trip to the Walmart Super Center for diapers and miscellaneous snacks and supplies (i.e. Snickers and Pringles).

But as soon as we stepped back into the hotel room, she sobbed and cried for her Mama again. She repeats over and over the Mandarin statement, “I don’t want it.” and “I want to leave.” Thanks to our guide Tracy, we know what she means now. Kenyon is the ONLY one she wants and luckily is able to comfort her when she is upset. He started to worry today that I was feeling left out, but I am not at all offended. I am thrilled that she loves him and finds comfort in him. If I had raised a child for two years and then sent her off to someone else, I would hope she would pitch a fit and not replace me within 36 hours.

Joya fell asleep chest to chest snuggled up with her “Baba” for a 2.5 hour nap. When he tried to move her next to him after she was asleep, she sat up and crawled right back into position on top of him to finish her nap. It is totally precious, but a lot of work for my man, which I wish I could help him with.

Luckily, he is sold out for her.

After naptime, we put her in her Chicago Bears sweatshirt and went walking along the lakeside path across from our hotel. This city of six million people (think the size of NYC) is peaceful and very safe. We were stared at by anyone and everyone who passed us and some even stopped to talk to us or interact with our cute-as-pie daughter.

One man stopped us and pointed to her and said, “China girl?” We nodded and said, “Yes,” (well, Kenyon answered him, “Si” but then nearly fell over in embarrassment for answering in Spanish instead of Mandarin or even English). Joya was walking next to us on the sidewalk and this man took her hand and started to walk with her. After only a couple of steps, she let go and ran to Kenyon. She buried her face in his legs and said, “Baba” over and over again.

She is sold out for him too and we both melted in that moment.

There is another couple staying in the hotel room next to us who are adopting their two year old daughter through another agency. Since we have four more days here waiting for our daughters passports, we became fast friends. Tonight we all walked about two miles to partake of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and French fries….

Joya loved them, by the way. Welcome to America sweet girl.

She passed out in her daddy’s arms on the walk home and we didn’t bathe her or even change her before we laid her down in her crib, hopefully for the night.

I have said several times today, that I went into this trip expecting it to be hard. I expected it to feel like she and I had a long road of relationship building to do before I really felt like she was ours. I said that if it was anything less, I would just be pleasantly surprised.

I am VERY pleasantly surprised.

This girl was meant to be ours. I look at all the other Chinese babies around us in the park, and I can’t imagine having anyone else but her in our (well, Kenyon’s) arms. She is FULL of personality, smart, independent , and genuine (which anyone who knows me, knows that last one is huge for me). I don’t feel like we’re babysitting or like she is an intruder.

I feel like she fits. And we love her already. Enjoy the pictures.


  1. Laurie,
    This post is so bittersweet. I am so happy that Joya has found so much comfort in her Baba's arms. That fact that right now she favors him and it does not bother you speaks volumes about how well the Lord prepared you for this precious journey(not to mention your compassion for this little girl). You and Joya will have a bond out of this world because of the love you have for her! You are just an amazing woman! God Bless all of you. I will keep the prayers going up :)

  2. This post made us smile because that is exactly what I was telling Jeff at dinner last night - that I was so glad you chose Joya because from the very first post it seemed like her personality was going to be a perfect fit for your family! So glad that your hearts feel the same way. I have also totally said "Si" before to some of my patients (e.g. someone from the UAE speaking Arabic), so tell Kenyon not to feel bad! Though you might want to find out if "si" means anything offensive in Mandarin... :) Love you all! Andrea

  3. I am so overwhelmed seeing these pictures of her smiling and somewhat happy. Now I can't wait to hear her voice. The fact that she has bonded with her Baba is really wonderful. I think that it must be harder for a man to love a child that he had no part in making, than it is for a woman with a Mother's Heart. She will love you soon. How could she not!!! So proud of you both.
    Love, Mom

  4. Such a cool thing to see you (ok, Kenyon) holding the little girl we have been talking about and praying for! So happy that you are pleasantly surprised! love you!

  5. My sweet Laurie -
    I opened your blog yesterday while sitting in Mid-Mountain Lodge with the family where we last sat with your sweet hubbie and two oldest boys. I cried and cried and shared the photos with the kids. Paul couldn't even discuss the matter of the "Gotcha Day" - softy. He did smirk through his tears and mention something about how Kenyon now fully understands the "Father/Daughter" bond. Precious! We miss you guys and are counting the days until you all three return. You inspire me!

  6. Laurie,
    You are probably the first western blonde woman that Joya has seen. The bond will come in time. For now BaBa will keep her happy (with his dark "Asian" color hair.
    You two are very blessed. Cabella's may be a great father daughter trip in the near future.
    Enjoy the trip. See you soon.

  7. Love hearing your heart about your first few days with Joya. I LOVE that Kenyon has this amazing bond with Joya already...there is just something w/ girls and their daddy, huh? But like your mom said...she will grow fast in love with you too. I am have my phone...can we chat?

  8. So great to read and see your first days with your sweet girl. I will pray for her heart and her transition. I will pray for wisdom for you and strength. Love, Jules

  9. She is precious. So precious. Orphan no more. Praise Him. One day she wont be able to get enough of her mama. Love from us all.


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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