Monday, October 29, 2012

Changing Seasons

I have never in my life seen a more beautiful little girl.   
How did we get so lucky?

It's been a long time since I posted on this blog.  I'm not sure why because it's really been my only journal for the entire adoption process and I can't believe how much of the past 8 months I've probably already forgotten.  Thank goodness for pictures!  

I guess I can't start this without commenting again on the amount of rapid growth that we have watched our daughter go through.  It's astonishing to witness the effect that good nutrition has on the human body.  When we met Princess Petals in China this past February she was wearing 6-12 month clothing.  This week I have started purchasing 2T for the winter!  I am really excited for her next Well Child visit to see where she is falling on the growth charts considering she was barely on them just 8 months ago.  We are assuming that because of this tremendous growth her body is in need of major sleep.  Our precious daughter slept 14-16 hours a night over the summer with 2-4 hour afternoon naps.  Once the school year started it just wasn't possible to allow her to continue that schedule so she only gets 12-13 hours a night during the week with an afternoon nap, and has made a habit of catching up on the weekends with 17-18 hour nights.  On the 18 hour nights we skip the nap and just shoot for an early bedtime!

Everyone always asks about bonding and I am thrilled to say we have had no attachment or bonding problems.  I attribute a great deal of this to the recommendations that we were given by our agency as to how to conduct ourselves once arriving home.  We stayed in...a lot...for the first three months.  We kept her close and limited interaction with people outside of our family as much as possible.  Very few people held her and only Jon and I met her basic needs for food, diapering and comforting.  Was it tiring?  Absolutely.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Is everything perfect?  No.  We are still getting to know Princess Petals as her little personality continues to develop and there are episodes that are difficult to label as "normal toddler" or "orphan" behavior.  For example, sometimes she gets really clingy to me, even at home - the I can't put her down for an hour kind of clingy.  Not truly knowing the cause is tough, but we roll with it and I just vacuum and piddle around the house with her strapped to me in a Moby Wrap until she squirms to get down.  Sometimes she just seems to need the closeness and I'll admit I love the snuggles although we get pretty sweaty doing housework that way!  Then as quickly as her need to be pressed against me comes on, it goes, and she is off playing with her brothers or rummaging through the kitchen cupboards pulling out the Tupperware.  

I've never really thought about it much before, but now I am in complete awe of large families.  I love my children but three little ones are honestly exhausting and the jump from two to three kids was much more difficult than I thought it would be.  One more person creating a need for laundry, dishes, diapering, playing and cleaning up.  I'll be honest and say I have a hard time keeping up.  Jon takes care of his own laundry now and the kids and I pretty much dress out of laundry baskets...  I hope that by this time next year I am more efficient at managing my time and can feel better about the state of our home.

The Summer Of Many Firsts:

At the end of May Princess Petals played in a sprinkler for the first time.  She wasn't really sure what to think of it...

She LOVED playing on the playground though and figured out how to climb the ladder very quickly - she is a determined little thing!

In June, when Princess Petals was 18 months, we had her tested by the Early On program through our school district and she qualified for speech and occupational therapy.  We've been going twice a week since school started.  It's all play based and she really seems to enjoy the program.  I wouldn't say she necessarily has a speech delay, but she is missing some of the early sounds that a child who grew up listening to English would have naturally.  She is adding new words constantly and we're loving watching her little personality develop.

First fireworks!  The park across the street from our neighborhood puts off an awesome fireworks display every June so Princess Petals got to see her first fireworks.  We were a little nervous that she'd be scared, but we should've known better - she loved it!

Next we went to the zoo!  She was much more interested in running free than visiting with the animals. With the difference in ages of our children (6,3 & 18 months at the time) it was tough getting them all interested in the same thing...but everyone enjoyed the carousel ride!

We learned this summer that Princess Petals is more sensitive to sunscreen than the rest of our family (notice the swollen/squinty right eye above).  Even though I've always purchased "tear-free" for the boys, it was definitely not "tear-free" for Princess Petals.  It took a lot of experimentation but we finally found a brand that works for her.  Sunscreen put a real downer on several outdoor events before we got it figured out!

At the very end of June Princess Petals had her first haircut.  She'd had lots of buzz cuts in China, but on this day she went to a real salon and had just the back trimmed.  We are growing out the front and sides and just trimming the back until the rest catches up.  To date she has had two hair cuts now.

In early July we traveled south because although my Mom had met Princess Petals when we returned from China, my Dad and Jon's parents had not yet had the opportunity to fall in love with their new granddaughter.  First we visited with Grandma and Grandpa in Georgia where Princess Petals and Grandma played dress up.  Fire works started a little late for her and amazingly she slept through the awesome display that was set off by my parents neighborhood right in front of the house.  This kid can sleep!!!

Then we traveled up to Tennessee to visit with Jon's family.  Princess Petals got to meet not only Jon's parents but much of his family as well.  It was wonderful to see the love that everyone already had for her!

When we returned home we had lots of family time playing in the backyard.  Princess Petals warmed up to the sprinklers and had a blast with her brothers.  At the end of this afternoon our oldest son asked me when we were going to adopt again.  He said he'd very much like another little sister so there would be two boys and two girls.

We took Princess Petals across the street to the park and introduced her to our ducks.  She enjoyed throwing bread but found chasing them much more fun!

In August we tried something new - tent camping with kids.  I thought it sounded exhausting and I admit that I had zero interest in this, but some good friends made plans to go and my husband really wanted to try it with we did.  I'll admit I was wrong and even though it was cold and rainy the first two days we all really enjoyed it!  

The sun peeked out on our last day of camping with our friends and we were able to enjoy some time on their boat.  Princess Petals liked tubing...

...but not enough to be able to stay awake!

After her nap on the tube she was a happy camper again!

Everyone had so much fun that we planned another weekend of camping a few hours away on Lake Michigan.  While there we had the good fortune to meet another adoptive family.  They have a little girl that is very close in age to Princess Petals, came home from China around the same time and also has a limb difference!  What are the chances???  They were a wonderful family and we hope to get to see them again next summer.  

All the kids enjoyed the fire pit and we were burning wood from breakfast until bedtime.  

When we could pull the kids away from the fire we went hiking through the woods.  

First time playing in the sand!  Loved it!

School started in September which brought with it a hectic schedule of running around from D's elementary school to W's pre-school and then twice a week to Princess Petals' speech/occupational therapy.  Mid-month we celebrated D's 7th birthday - where does the time go???  

The rest of September was just a lot of running around in the backyard trying to enjoy the awesome fall weather.  Princess Petals has grown very interested in cameras which I love!  My boys are over it and typically look away now.  It's nice to have a willing participant again!

After our camping adventures we decided it was time to spruce up the fire pit in our back yard and make it a little safer with some retaining wall rather than just a hole in the ground.    

And here we are in October!  This means cider mills, pumpkin patches, W's 4th birthday and watching Daddy at his Cyclocross races.

Princess Petals' first CX race.  Go Daddy, go Daddy, go!

First pumpkin patch.

Today we enjoyed a little pumpkin carving.  Last year at this time we had just received new pictures of Princess Petals and we were putting together a care package to send to her orphanage while we waited for our LOA (Letter Of Action) from China so we could submit our second round of Homeland Security paperwork. 

But now, a year later, she got to play with pumpkin guts - another first!

So that gets me all caught up on many of Princess Petals' "firsts" over the summer and fall.  She has truly been a blessing in our lives and I had no idea how comprehensively her adoption would change me.

During our 8 years of fertility treatments I prayed and I cried and I wondered, "why me?"  I never thought in a million years that I would ever be thankful, so utterly thankful, to have had fertility problems.  Yes that's right, I am thankful.  For all of it.  I am not angry or resentful for what we went through. Everything we experienced led us here - and here is a great place to be.  I know in my heart that Princess Petals was meant to be in our family and I wouldn't change one step of our path.

Another part of our adoption journey that I wasn't expecting was the commitment I would feel to the children left behind.  Shortly after we arrived home I started advocating for orphans in the Waiting Child program.  I can't unlearn what I know and am haunted by the children who are still in China waiting for their families - many of whom are living in conditions that we simply cannot comprehend.   Princess Petals slept on a piece of plywood with the paint peeling off around her.  She had bites all over her body from Scabies and still has scars from all the scratching.  At 14 months she was barely crawling, had not yet tried solid foods and was at the very bottom of the growth charts.  I look at her now and marvel at how much she means to me beyond the love I feel for her.  With her came a purpose and I am overwhelmingly thankful to have been brought to this place in my life.  

If you are even the least bit curious about adoption - forget what you think you know and all the reasons you feel you can't do it.  Learn about the program and search your heart.  There are thousands of amazing kids waiting for their families to find them.  Don't let the idea of a "special needs" child scare you off because beyond whatever physical issue they may have, their biggest and most urgent "special need" is love.  

Please email me at if you have any questions about the Waiting Child program in China and/or adoption funding, and before you move on, please take a peek at the sweet babes in the next post - they are just a glimpse of the children waiting for someone to take a leap of faith.