Take In This Moment

This morning, the kids and I were ahead of schedule. This was quite the accomplishment because Bryson was out of town. Y’all. We were way ahead of schedule and I had time to fix my hair. We were going to get to school early even if we had bad traffic. But y’all. My kids turned into the slowest sloths of all the precious earth when I asked them to put their shoes on. Sloths.

I was frustrated. Though we had enough time to encounter bad traffic on our commute, apparently my kids turning into sloths takes even more time than bad traffic on Yale.

I had another migraine headache and was sighing.

And then it hit me.

Mandy. This time last year, you weren’t rushing to get to preschool on time. You were rushing to China to adopt your son. Breathe. Take in this moment. He is here with YOU – he is no longer in an orphanage. They are more precious than time. Be patient.  

So we were late.

But I stopped them, told them to smile, took the moment in, snapped a photo, and apologized.

I let them stomp all through the leaves.

Cutest sloths on the planet earth.

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Love,

The World’s Okayest Mom

Prayers for Lydia – Surgery at Shriners Hospital

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”  – Elizabeth Stone

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On Tuesday morning, at 8am, the biggest piece of my heart — Miss Lydia — will undergo hand surgery on her lucky fin at the wonderful Shriners Hospital in St. Louis.

The idea of placing her entire well-being in strangers’ hands is gut wrenching. But, Dr. Goldfarb is an amazing surgeon and compassionate. As Lydia always tells me, “I love my Dr. Goldfarb.” She notices any change in his facial hair or haircut, and always makes sure to mention it when she sees him.

Lydia is having web-deepening surgery on her lucky fin in an attempt to give her more of a “thumb” (not really a typical thumb, but to give her more space between her thumb nubbin and pointer nubbin so that the thumb nubbin might function more as a helper). The thumb accounts for 40-50% of a person’s hand function, so this could absolutely help her have more function. She often tries to pick things up with her lucky fin, but has no space for that pinching function. She is also having a nail removed from her thumb nubbin. Many kids with symbrachydactyly grow nails that get irritated and quite painful on their nubbins. Lydia has one like this, and will have it surgically removed.

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I have been asked if the surgery will make her hand look more typical, and the answer is no. Surgery may make her lucky fin look less typical. For us, functionality is key.

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I would love for you to storm heaven for our bright light.

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Please pray for a safe and effective surgery. Pray for Dr. Goldfarb, the anesthesiologist, and all of the nurses. Pray they provide excellent care and are compassionate. Pray for Lydia’s heart, mind, and body – pray for God’s angels to be surrounding her and protecting her. Pray for protection against harm. Pray for healing and pain management. I will need to share Lydia’s history with those who will care for Lydia, and pray for ears and hearts that will listen and advocate for her.

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Lydia has requested that we come right home after she is discharged on Tuesday, so we will do our best to do that. Pray for traveling protection and no vomiting. We have a 6-7 hour drive each way.

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So grateful for the way so many of you love our family.

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Lydia is our bright light, our treasure.

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Adoptive and Foster Mom Retreat

Hi friends, I am the speaker at an adoptive and foster mom retreat soon and wanted to invite you to join us. Blessings, Mandy

His Hands of Hope invites you to a fun retreat for adoptive and foster moms on April 1 and 2!! Join us in the Fireside Room at Grace Community Church on Friday night from 7-11 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:30a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Lodging will be on your own).

Our speaker this year is adoptive momma Mandy Moore. She blogs at mooretolove.org. We are so excited she is joining us to share her story!

Cost is $30 which includes two meals, snacks, and more! (Lodging is not included.) Registration deadline is March 23rd.

You can register by visiting www.gcc-online.org and finding the retreat under events. Checks should be made payable to Grace Community Church with HHH retreat in the memo line. Your $30 check can be mailed to Grace Community Church c/o HHH Retreat, 1600 S. Anderson Rd., Newton, KS 67114. Please contact Christy Vogt with questions – rcvogt02@hotmail.com

We look forward to relaxing and encouraging one another and would love for you to join us!

“Mama! Come Here!”

Co-sleeping with this little dude has been a game changer. Slow progress, but progress in the right direction.

He was terrified of our bed, and so we did not force it.

He started in the pack-n-play, and as he got more comfortable with us, we tried our bed again. No way. 

Little Miss and Barrett FanFan were keeping the entire family up all night, and so we decided to split up. I would move to the office/guest room with Barrett FanFan and he would stay in the master with Lydia. Now neither child was particularly enthusiastic about this plan, but we knew we had to split up rooms.

For the past 8 nights, FanFan and I have slept in the “guest room.” I have a twin bed, and he has a twin mattress of the floor.

He has been slow to let me cuddle him or let me lay down on his bed. But I have seen incremental progress.

Last night, I heard “Mama!” at 1 am and my little guy wanted to snuggle up next to me in my twin bed. He wanted me to cuddle him and comfort him that way.  A first.

He also belly laughed in his sleep. Who does that? A precious little guy.

I am not usually one of those who compares myself to others, photos, or what I see on Pinterest or Facebook. I get it is not the complete picture and often people present the ideal self online. But, for whatever reason, the past 3 weeks I have felt guilty when I see the perfectly decorated home for Chinese New Year or a newly home family that is dominating at Christmas and life.

Why can I not dominate at life? I wonder.

Christmas here was very simple (as in you all will laugh at me when I post about it soon).

Chinese New Year this year? Gosh y’all. We will just go out to eat. Maybe. Nah. Probably takeout.

And today, I told myself it is okay if like FanFan, I can only take small steps during this season of change. Returning texts? Currently have 73 unanswered text messages. And the unanswered Facebook messages. Hundreds.

The same grace I extend to him, I must extend to myself with all of the extra. Because right now, my capacity is focusing on the two little people entrusted to my care and learning who the newest little is. That’s it. And that is perfectly wonderful and simple and complicated and messy and enough for one mama.

So for now, those 73 text messages will go unanswered.

The Christmas tree will stay up.

The pumpkins on my front porch leftover from Halloween will remain there.

And my life won’t look Facebook perfect.

Because tonight when a little boy said, “Mama! Come here!” and hit his lucky fin to the pillow to say “this spot is just for you, mama” I could tell he was opening his heart to me for a second, wanted me to be near, and to learn a little more about his new mama too. That is a miracle, but none of today was perfect.

I am not putting pressure on FanFan to be anything other than who he is and I am doing my best to give him extra grace during this adjustment, and I need to do the same for me.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a mama doing her okayest looking at me.

And okayest is really good enough. 

Saying goodbye to pressure is a gift.

Mama Come Here

Day 11, Friday (12/11) – Nanning to Guangzhou

Lydia and Kristen spent time together playing and doing a session (Kristen is Lydia’s attachment therapist). I took FanFan on a trip up and down the escalators at the mall–it is his favorite thing in the world.

On our way to the escalators at the mallOn our way to the escalators at the mall

Both Barrett FanFan and Lydia were “off” today, given my long day away in Wuzhou. However, I know that in the long run, every thing Kristen and I learned in Wuzhou is the best thing.

Bryson and I packed up our room and were eager to see the familiarity of Guangzhou, but sad to be leaving Nanning. We were also nervous about getting all of our luggage on the train with two littles in tow. We typically pack light, but this trip, we did not. I had a visit to the ER the weekend before we left, and was left confined to the couch until the day we left for Tulsa to China. We also packed lots of comforts from home for Lydia.

We were to check out and meet our guide in the lobby of the Marriott. From there, we would pick up Barrett FanFan’s Chinese passport and get on the train to Guangzhou. (Domestic air travel in China can be awful and is plagued with delays, so we chose the bullet train from Nanning to Guangzhou).

Once in the van, our guide handed us our paperwork from the Notary in Nanning. We noticed there was an error in our address. It said we lived in Arizona–and though the warm climate sounds lovely right about now–we actually live in Arkansas. This mistake was not good, and meant that with little time to spare and lots of traffic, we had to go back to the notary to have Barrett FanFan’s paperwork redone.

I gave Kristen the look, the look that said “I cannot deal.” She nodded.

If you know Bryson and me, you know one thing. When traveling, we get everywhere VERY early because we always have margin for Murphy’s Law in a foreign country. When traveling with a guide, they don’t always have the same buffer.  In this case, we did not and it proved to be such a stressor.

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Our guide looked at us and said, “You might miss your train to Guangzhou. If there is any traffic, we will not make it.” Not the words any of us wanted to hear. Oh, there was traffic. Lots.

Bryson and our guide got our paperwork redone and our guide made some frantic calls asking the person to meet us in the parking lot with Barrett FanFan’s Chinese passport. Our guide was sweating, and not because of the heat. When we got to the parking lot, the person had his passport in hand. Our guide then serenaded us on the way to the train station.  Lovely touch, but not the time.

Thankfully, our driver was driving in illegal lanes (not something I would typically celebrate) so that we were able to get to the train station. It was like a movie, except not. It was my life.

The train station was very different and much older than the one Kristen and I went to yesterday.  There were several flights of stairs, many suitcases and carry-ons, one hysterical toddler, and a mom, dad, guide, and therapist running as fast as we could to make our train.

Literally, within a couple of minutes of getting on the train (not seated yet), our train was on its way to Guangzhou. The three adults were in awe that we made it, and Lydia hated that we had to run so frantically to the train. But we made it.

Bryson and I were drenched in sweat. We had both been wearing babies, carrying big backpacks and suitcases in our sprint to the train. And so, once seated, we drank the only very cold beverage available on the train: a Tsingtao (if you have been to China, you know I am not kidding about cold beverages. They are hard to come by). Truly, I should’ve had two.

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The train was an easy four hour ride to Guangzhou, and though not bad at all, Barrett FanFan was sick of it about an hour before Guangzhou. It probably had more to do with the entire day and that it was bed time than the actual train ride.

Entertaining FanFan with selfies.

Entertaining FanFan with selfies.

 

After awhile, Elmo wasn't cutting it. Introducing FanFan to Adele and Jimmy. He is a FanFan.

After awhile, Elmo wasn’t cutting it. Introducing FanFan to Adele and Jimmy. He is a FanFan.

Our bags were in various locations on the train because we were literally the last people to board. It took all three adults splitting up to locate the bags and remove them quickly once we arrived in Guangzhou. Lydia is not a fan of us splitting up, but we had to.

We were the last ones on the train in Nanning, and also the last ones off in Guangzhou.

Kristen and Bryson carried all of our luggage down flights of stairs while I had a crying toddler – which one, I cannot remember. Tears and trains, baby, tears and trains.

We were relieved to see our Guangzhou guide waiting for us in a waiting area and she took us to our van.

Guangzhou, we made it.

Lydia was tired of traveling. Who could blame her? Qe all were and it was 9:30 PM and we were still in disbelief that we made the train.

This time, we decided to stay at the China Hotel in Guangzhou instead of The Garden. I’ll post more about that later.

We got checked in to our amazing executive suite and ordered room service since it was around 11 PM. Barrett FanFan was so tired, he fell asleep on our bed momentarily, just like Lydia had when we arrived in Guangzhou with her nearly two years ago. It was truly deja vu.

Barrett FanFan asleep

Barrett FanFan asleep

 

Lydia asleep in the bed upon arrival in Guangzhou two years ago.

Lydia asleep in the bed upon arrival in Guangzhou two years ago.

 

Proud big sister looking at her little brother as he sleeps

Proud big sister looking at her little brother as he sleeps

 

She is Kind: Becoming a Big Sister

Seriously. What a hard thing to instantly have a toddler brother you don’t know to share with, instantly.

We’ve all had moments where we’ve made ugly mistakes in the process of learning to love each other and embrace each person.

But this girl is so kind to her brother. She’s providing lots of help at craft time. And seeing the two of them together – wow – I’ve had a front row seat at her transformation over the past two years and despite the messy moments, it is truly remarkable.

Craft time

26 Days

Bonding and attachment takes time, for all involved. 

And even though Barrett FanFan calls me mama by name–and has since day one–I can tell he doesn’t feel I am mama just yet. That takes time. But I know that’ll come.

And the same is honestly true for me. Soon, it won’t feel like babysitting. That is already starting to change, in slow increments each day. (There are some who likely cringe that I stated that it feels like babysitting at first, but it does. We don’t have an attachment yet.)

In our instant gratification culture, it is hard to wait. We want, what we want, instantly. Often, we want it without hard work or sacrifice. We don’t want to invest. That’s just not how much of life works.

Even with cocooning, we realized some people were not supportive of our cocooning efforts with Lydia because it is so counter our culture. It is counter instant gratification.

Wait. Just wait. See what slowing down and pushing the pause button on rushing here and there does. Watch what happens when we choose to slow down life and focus on one thing: connection for the four of us.

Barrett FanFan doesn’t feel comfortable with my kisses–so wait. Oh, how I would love a slobbery toddler kiss, but I will wait. Give it time. He doesn’t feel I am mama just yet.

But that is starting to change in slow increments. Saying no to the busy and hectic, saying no to the dishes and cleaning gives me permission to watch the most beautiful work unfold.

Yesterday, he asked me to get off my twin bed in the guest room and join him on his twin bed next to mine. “Mama,” he said and grunted like a little dinosaur, smacking his hand down next to him. He was saying mama, I want you here. So there I went, only getting as close as his body language told me he was comfortable with.

What a huge gesture. What a big step for both of us as we step into mama and son. 26 days. It took 26 days.

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2015 In Review

2015. What a Year!

January

I started writing for No Hands But Ours with some of the kindest people who love Jesus and are passionate about adoption.

In January, Miss Lydia finished seeing one of the best and nicest physicians I have ever met in my life. When he placed the stethoscope on her chest, Lydia said, “You gonna take dat stethoscope and wisten to my boobies?” He told me the fact that she can say stethoscope at two years old means she’s going to be a physician. I am so thankful Lydia has access to excellent medical care in the US. 

We have had the best treatment at Arkansas Children's.

We have had the best treatment at Arkansas Children’s.

We also saw how Lydia was beginning to relax and trust more. We went to the grocery store one night in January and I couldn’t help but compare that night to every shopping experience just a few months ago. She trusted that no one was stealing our food when we put it on the conveyer belt and that it was coming home with us. That doesn’t sound huge to you? In our lives it was HUGE. “Dis all my food,” she said with a smile.
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Lydia started to refer to herself as the Princess Daughter.
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We saw Barrett FanFan’s face for the first time and submitted paperwork in a rush to say we wanted to adopt him. This is Lydia’s face the first time she saw him in a video. We will be forever thankful to Celeste for telling us about FanFan.
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Lydia also helped me move out of my office at JBU ending my full-time career. Mommy and daddy cried when I closed that office door one last time.
February 
We made the announcement online that Lydia was getting a promotion.
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We received PA from China in early February saying we could adopt Barrett FanFan. We decided to name him Barrett after some precious people in our lives. And his smile. Look at that smile.
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Twenty minutes after getting PA, we found out our business was getting audited. Awesome.
We celebrated Chinese New Year with some of our friends. Lydia was pumped.
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Lydia enjoyed her first time playing in the snow.
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March 
I was in some serious need of self-care. I took my first trip away – and left Lydia in the capable hands of Bryson. I got to spend time with some of the best people I know.
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When I got home, someone was happy to see me and mad. Someone said she was so mad that her mama went bye bye. “I so mad at you. I miss you and you still didn’t come home to Wydia.” I told her it was definitely okay to be mad, but that mama comes home. She kissed me.
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Lydia and I ate lots of ice cream.
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I taught her how to catch raindrops with her mouth.
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We shipped off tons of adoption paperwork.
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We celebrated Lydia’s third birthday. Precious girl and such a gift to the world.
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April
I turned 34. We celebrated by touring a local museum which happens to be one of the best in the US.
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After lots of PT and OT, Lydia was able to pedal a bicycle on her own.
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May 
We went to Washington, DC and met Nina – Lydia’s best friend from her orphanage. What a precious, life-changing visit.
“Once upon a time in China there was a baby girl who lived in a big room with lots of other babies. The girls shared cribs with one another and became great friends. The girls had nannies to take care of them, but each was missing something — a mommy.” from the book “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes”
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Lydia, Nina, and Leah at the orphanage.

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It was like seeing sisters reunited.

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June

We spent a lot of time at her favorite creek, in princess dresses.

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Lydia learned to SWIM!

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We sent a birthday party to China for Barrett FanFan.

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July

Lydia passed her ISR Winter Clothes test for swim lessons.

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Bryson worked hard to finish our documentary, The Making of a Family. It currently has 13,000 views on YouTube. Insane.

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August 

We spent lots of time with some of our favorite people.

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September 

Lydia started preschool. It is unlikely she would’ve been allowed to go to school in China, due to her special need. I was overwhelmed with the fact that my incredibly bright daughter gets to go to school.

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We went to Atlanta and spent some time with precious friends.

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October

Lydia rode on her first roller coaster and loved it.

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We took lots of lovely fall walks.

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We went trick or treating with Stella.

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November 

Lydia and I went to Shriner’s to see her amazing ortho hand specialist, Dr. Goldfarb. He will do surgery on her lucky fin sometime in 2016.

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December

We took Lydia back to China…

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we became a family of four…

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and journeyed safely home.

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The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

We look forward to sharing more memories with you in 2016.