Friday, November 8, 2013

Memories of Coming Home

Today Maeryn turned 19 months old. Time is just moving right along and each milestone we hit makes me stop and reminisce a bit. I love to look at pictures of Maeryn from Gotcha Day to now. What a difference! Her hair has grown out a lot and she has filled out so much! She is growing rapidly through shoes and through clothes! When she isn't popping another tooth through, her appetite is very big! 
I remembered that I wanted to link the post my sweet friend Sarah did from our homecoming, and I hadn't yet done that. It seemed fitting today to share it. It was so neat to see it through her lens. Thank you, Sarah for capturing these memories! I'm so glad you made it!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Maeryn's Dedication

We recently dedicated Maeryn to the Lord at our church. Our church does 2 baby dedications per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. We knew that she would be one of the oldest at 18 months, so we definitely wanted to do it this fall.
All of the babies were pretty quiet and still, but Miss Wiggly wanted to be free of her daddy's clutches! She gave us a workout on stage!
Our family came for her dedication and it was a sweet time for all of us. This was definitely a moment that I had been looking forward to for a long time. We love this little girl so much and are so blessed and humbled by the responsibility God has given us to lead and disciple her as well our other children.
We don't have any good shots of the actual dedication, but here we are afterwards.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

2 Months Home

My friend Brandi Tribout goes to my church. I actually didn't meet her until we were in Beth Moore's James Bible study together during the referral process of the adoption. Brandi is a photographer and takes beautiful pictures so I asked her if she would be willing to come to the airport to capture the moments of Maeryn's homecoming. She was excited and wanted to be there.
We are blessed with a large, loving family and they wanted to be there when we flew home. Maeryn at that point didn't do well in crowds and seemed to shut down when she was around a lot of people, so we just kept it to that and 2 of my closest friends here. We also had been traveling for about 35 hours and were EXHAUSTED!!!
I didn't really even remember a lot about our arrival. It was such a whirlwind of emotions. We were SO thrilled to be home. And Maeryn was NOT so thrilled to be surrounded by all of these new people. Add to that, she didn't sleep much on our flights...
So when Brandi gave me this video in July. It was just too much! In a good way, but I just couldn't get through the entire thing without bawling. I saw everything with different, open eyes. It took me a while to process all of it. Re-live it. She did an amazing job and I loved seeing the photos of them waiting for us to get there. And seeing all of the sweet faces that were so lovingly welcoming Maeryn into our family.
2 months have passed since that day. We have watched in awe and expectation as this little cookie has grown and changed rapidly before our eyes. She seems to develop months at a time over a period of a week. She is saying many words, mimicking words & sounds, she started walking the first week home! She adjusts pretty easily to most situations. We have seen her go from not even realizing she had 2 arms to now grabbing things and carrying them around with her lucky fin. She went from eating no solid foods to loving mexican lasagna, and anything else we are eating! I truly believe there will never be anything she CAN'T do, unless she doesn't want to do it! She is fierce and mighty and determined!
I watched our homecoming video this morning and all of the emotion came flooding back. What an amazing, awesome experience. It is still hard to put into words. We are so blessed. In endless ways.

Home 2 months!

For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future~Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Maeryn's Lucky Fin

After losing our first referral and before we received Maeryn's referral, we went through a difficult time where we were receiving referrals that were very severe health problems or very mysterious health issues. There were lots of missing pieces to the puzzle and not any way to obtain valuable information.
Because of what had happened with little Dan Dan, we just felt like there were certain things we needed to know. Therefore, there were several referrals that we could not move forward with because there was not enough or incomplete information. 
And it was killing me.
I hated it.
It pained me to see a little face and feel like I was rejecting it.
However, we said minor and/or correctable special need, and none of these were in or close to that category.
We started to realize that there was some communication break down somewhere and so we discussed with our case worker again what special needs we felt we were equipped to handle.
We had a long list too. We were open to a lot of different health issues and special needs.
One she mentioned to us was limb difference. We had originally said we weren't open to that. I don't know why. It's kind of odd and feels weird filling out this checklist of special needs in the first place, and you just have so many things that you are considering. Some people check off only a couple and I feel like you have to do what you feel is best for your family. We had checked off numerous special needs so we were just confused as to why we weren't matching up.
Earlier in the week we watched a video that was circulating on Facebook and I'm certain it was definitely for us to see.

It is about Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without arms or legs and has overcome obstacles and trials and succeeded in life all the while giving the credit not to himself, but to Jesus Christ!
It is so inspirational and motivational! It will "shut your mouth" for a bit about what we think are problems in our life.
I watched it with tears streaming down my face and then shared it on my Facebook wall. Our family was here over that following weekend for Mason and Marlee's Upward games and we all watched it together. They were all moved as well.
So when we talked with our case worker later that same evening and she asked us about limb difference, we said it was something we wanted to consider.
That following Monday night, was the night that we had made peace with the fact that it may be several months before we got a referral that was right for us. And we made our plans. ;) Around 1 am (or 2, I can't remember exactly) was when I opened the email from our agency with a referral. Sweet little Maeryn's face was the first thing I saw. And it was obvious that she was missing her lower right arm. And I just kept reading the medical file waiting to find out what other needs she had because her arm was just a non-issue for me.
The file said her limb difference was caused from amniotic band syndrome. She was born with this. Here is the definition from Wikipedia.
In the morning, I showed everything to Mark and he felt the same way as I did. We also showed the kids her picture and they thought she was adorable too. In fact, Marlee didn't even notice her arm!
We shared a picture with our family, but not showing her arm at first until we got the report back from the orphanage phone call. When that came back so good and we knew we were going to move forward with the adoption, we sent them a picture that showed her little arm. They were very supportive and if they did think anything negatively, they didn't say it to us. ;)
We shared her special need with very few people, mainly because, we just wanted people to focus on her and not her little arm. We knew people would know when they met her.
Mark says he never has had a moment where he worried about it. I had one. It was early on and I was laying in bed and I sat up thinking, "how will she be able to tie her shoes?" Then I thought, she can wear slip ons or velcro! HA! That was really the only mini-freak out about it. And I now know that she will be able to learn how to do it her own way!
What really helped was the adoption community of limb differences. Before we accepted her referral, I posted on a China advocacy page on Facebook trying to get any information I could about her and I received numerous messages and responses from other limb difference adoptive parents encouraging us. They wanted us to know that this special need was not a big deal at all. So many said their kids can do everything other kids do! They also suggested joining a few Facebook groups such as The Lucky Fin Project, Born Just Right and Living One-Handed.
A couple other cool things were that a girl named Sarah on the Bachelor had limb difference and this was on tv at this same time.

And just a week before we left to get Maeryn, Miss Iowa was crowned and it she also has limb difference!

When we met Maeryn, she had a long sleeved shirt on and her arm was covered up. We saw that she has the bend in her elbow, which will be helpful. It was obvious that they kept her arm covered all of the time and that she wasn't used to using it, although she does crawl with it.
We took off her clothes from the orphanage and put on a little sundress with tank straps. She just was fascinated with her arm. She grabbed it, studied it, pinched it, etc. It was like she had never seen it before. She wouldn't use it much the first few days, though she would raise it and move it. By the end of the first week, she was using it to pull up and to pull things closer to her. We are working on putting small toys in the bend and trying to get her to grab them. So far, she hasn't figured that out, but we know that she will.
At the doctor on Monday, he said that he will have it x-rayed here and send us to an orthopedic doctor to evaluate it. We are all in agreement that we just want her to have maximum use of it and then later on if she wants to have a prosthesis, that will be an option. We are also going to have her evaluated with First Steps so she will be able to catch up anywhere needed developmentally.
Regardless of all of that, we love her just the way she is. To us, she is just perfect!

Every day when we went to leave the hotel, Mark would say to Maeryn, "How's the lucky fin?" And then he would say in a little voice, (supposed to be Maeryn replying) "Lucky!" Just like Marlin says to Nemo in the movie Finding Nemo. That has become our little thing.

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 14-The US Consulate!!!

Today was the day we have been waiting for while in China! Our visit to the US Consulate is the last step on this side of the adoption process that you have to do before leaving the country.
We had a 10am appointment and Jack said our driver would be here at 9am. We could not be late!
I woke up with a headache, but overall, felt much better than yesterday. We got ready and had to wake Maeryn around 7:30am because she was still sleeping soundly.
We got her dressed in her red, white and blue and headed down to breakfast. I laid off the bacon today ;o and kept it more bland. I also took some Excedrin Migraine to make sure my headache didn't take a turn for the worse as they sometimes do. I also drank some coffee today, for the headache, but had to switch to hot tea. The hot tea has just has tasted so good to me since we've been here. It is just like having a cup of tea at my Aunt Marie's house! And Aunt Marie knew just how to make the perfect cup of hot tea!
Maeryn ate a bowl full of cereal in the room and was eating up my fried potatoes and "wa fu" at breakfast as well.
She has become quite the eater!
We finished up and got our passports and headed out to meet Vicky, another adoptive mom with our agency. Since I was sick yesterday, we missed the trip to the zoo. We were debating on going because it would be so hot and we didn't know how much Maeryn would really enjoy the zoo at her age. So, me being sick answered that question! The others in our group went and some of them had earlier appointments at the consulate, so Jack had to go with them. Vicky knew what the driver looked like, as it was the same one they had for the zoo. So we saw Vicky in the lobby with her sister and her sweet Mila and followed them out to the van.
We hopped in and I assume it was about a 15 minute ride to the consulate.
When we pulled up, I thought something was wrong because of all of the people outside of the building. We got out and Jack walked us in. He said that the people outside were waiting in a line to get a US Visa to come visit the United States to visit. He said it was about a 2 hour wait for them in the line!
We thankfully, were in a much shorter line!
We weren't allowed to bring in any personal belongings. Jack had told us beforehand to not even wear a watch, they aren't allowed. We asked about taking a picture since I have seen the pictures of other adoptive families in front of the flag sign at the consulate and I wanted one too! Jack said we could bring one phone and he would keep it for us downstairs.
He walked up a few escalators with us and then gave us directions at a security checkpoint that he wasn't able to go beyond. He gave us our Visa packets that were completed with all of the necessary paperwork to apply for Maeryn's US Visa.
We went into this little room and waited for our appointment. Many other adoptive families started filling the room and right at 10am, a gentleman approached the window and started giving the run down of what was going to happen. After that he had all of the adoptive parents stand, raise their right hand, and take an oath. We were basically declaring that all the documents were true and accurate. It was really so quick and not supposed to be a big deal, but I felt a lot of emotion come over me in that moment. It was so significant to me. To be standing in the US Consulate with our daughter, after all of the paperwork, the time and effort that went into all of it, the emotions that we have felt over this past year and a half, the ups and downs, all for this official moment of making her ours was so profound! I held back the tears.
After the oath, they called the families up one by one. Vicky was called 2nd. Then we waited. Mark started thinking we'd be last because her last name "Zhao" was at the end of the alphabet, but soon after he said it, they called our names and hers. I think they were going alphabetically from our last name.
We went up to the counter and handed our packet over. She wrote on several pages and checked things off and then handed back our passports and said, "All done!" It was quick and simple!
Jack will pick up and deliver Maeryn's Visa to us tomorrow afternoon and as soon as we get that, we are free to leave the country!
I can't wait to get home and hug my babies! I can't wait for them to meet Maeryn! Oh what fun that is going to be!
As we were having Jack take our picture, I saw several Chinese people taking our picture as well! HA!
After we got back we fed Miss Thing her lunch. Two bowls of rice cereal with veggies mixed in! Plus at ton of Cheerios! This is Maeryn throwing a fit between bites because I wasn't shoveling it fast enough for her!
Having. A. Fit.

After her lunch and a few hissy fits, we laid her down for a much needed nap. She went right down and slept for a few hours while we started some packing. When she woke up, she was in a great mood and thought she would "help" us pack! LOL!

She has no idea how much more love awaits her on the other side of the globe!!!


Day 12-Trip to Shamian Island and MY BIRTHDAY!!!

I'm going to be honest. When I woke up on my birthday morning, I was feeling kinda sorry for myself. I was down that I was here in China and all of my family, my friends, and especially my big kids were all in the United States, without me. How pitiful.
Then I remembered that I had so much to be thankful for and that I was blessed to be having a birthday in the first place.
I have a cousin in the hospital that had open heart surgery last Friday and she is young, and has 2 daughters. She is going to be fine, praise the Lord! But, that's something to be feeling sorry for yourself over, if you want to feel sorry for yourself (although, she was not doing that!).
I am so blessed! I am here with my loving husband, who made the day special, and our sweet baby girl, whom we have been waiting on, for so long!
So, before I popped out of bed, I turned my pouting around into positivity!
Plus, we were going shopping on Shamian Island! That was planned in advance by our guide! Perfect!
I didn't get many pictures of the day, because we were loaded down with bags, a stroller, an umbrella and we were busy, but it was a neat place. Lots of little shops with super deals on souvenirs and gifts. I didn't get anything for myself, but had the best time shopping for the family! We got the kids traditional Chinese outfits and I can't wait to see them on them! I also found squeaker shoes for Maeryn for $5 a piece! They were so cute!
I had a few suggestions from others on where to shop, but we found the best deals/items at Helen's (for those of you getting ready to go) and Jenny's had the squeakers.
Several of the businesses were closed and others going out of business due to the White Swan still being closed due to construction. The White Swan is famous in the adoption community because that used to be where the families stayed because everything was right there (the US consulate and the medical clinic). This is what it looks like right now.
The famous Lucy's

I thought this was funny! Loved the little pug!
My birthday dinner that ultimately did me in! At least I enjoyed it! ;)

Sweet baby.

Happy baby!

My birthday cake that was waiting on me back at the hotel.

Day 11~Making MORE Friends and Dinner with Jack

This morning at breakfast a beautiful girl and her mother stopped in their tracks to say 'hi' to Maeryn. We got to talking and they told me that they were here in China for the 1st time in 19 years since this young lady had been adopted.
They were so sweet and nice to talk with. They asked us a lot of questions about how the adoption process has changed since then and we got to ask her some questions about how she felt about being back and what it was like to visit her orphanage as an adult.
She was enjoying it all and she was surprised to find out her finding spot that she thought for 19 years was her finding spot, was not really where she had been found. She seemed to take comfort in knowing this new information.
She was going off to college and was just so beautiful and normal. ;) She had been adopted at 6 months old and we were laughing at some of the odd comments or questions people have made and asked over the years because she was Asian and adopted. She had a really good sense of humor about it all and said she realized when someone would say something it was because they didn't know any better.
We talked and talked. Our breakfast grew cold, but we could have cared less. It was so nice talking with them and having a little glimpse into the future.

We had a pretty low key day in the room. She has been ready for a nap around 10, and if we get that in and keep her from napping in the afternoon, she goes right down for us at bedtime.
The orphanage said her routine was: wake at 7am
                                                           nap from 12-2
                                                           bed at 9:30
On days we don't have to be anywhere in the day, she has been waking at about 8am. Napping from 10-1. Bed at 8:30.
I'm sure that will change a little at home, but it's been great here.
When she woke up from her nap, her daddy surprised her with some KFC mashed potatoes. Girlfriend loves KFC mashed potatoes!!!
That night, we went to dinner with Jack and some new families that arrived this week. We had also gone with them to the temple the day before. It was the same Chinese restarant we went with Jack to last week, but some different dishes. It was even better than last time! And lots of fun with all of the little ones!

Sweet potato something...dessert

Sweet Rosalie was adopted the same day as Maeryn.

These 2 sweeties, were both adopted from China. Leah a couple years ago, and Mila, the same day as Maeryn.

She made the funniest face when Mark started feeding her with the chopsticks!

It broke Jack's heart that Maeryn cried when he held her this time. She wanted Mama! :D