Three Years

At this exact moment, three years ago, Bryson and I met our daughter Yong Feng Qi aka Lydia.

Saying yes to being her mama has been my most meaningful yes. Hard but so good and transforming.

I just cannot even describe to you the joy it brings my heart to see her understand what it means to have a mama and a baba, family, a safe home, and security.

It wasn’t rainbows and unicorns. It was hard work. It was walking away from a successful career. It was dealing with our own garbage. It was putting up firm boundaries with others so she could grow and blossom.

She has.

And even if not, He is still good.

The Kitchen Counter

The week I found out that we had a zero percent chance of having a biological child, I had a dream where our Asian daughter sat on the kitchen counter. And here she is. There was lots of loss involved for each one of us, but thankful that we found each other and that our bond is what it is.

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

“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.

mandy and barrett

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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Day 10, Thursday (12/10) – The Day I Went to Wuzhou

Today, Kristen and I jumped on the bullet train and went to Wuzhou. The train station we departed from was like 50 Tulsa International Airports – very, very modern and clean. It was a beautiful and easy train ride through some of the most incredible terrain I have seen. Guangxi province is just stunning, and My God is an incredible Creator. I absolutely cannot wait to go back to this province with my children when they are a tad bit older.

And why don’t we have bullet trains in the USA? They are amazing.

The bullet trains in China are so much smoother and more comfortable than the high speed trains I have traveled through Europe. Kristen and I were both worried about nausea, but neither of us experienced any.

I told my agency that even if I could not tour the orphanage or visit Barrett FanFan’s foster family, I HAD to go to Wuzhou. With Lydia’s adoption, I regretted so much that I was not allowed to at least visit her town in Jinagxi province.

Bryson stayed back at the hotel with Barrett FanFan and Lydia. Lord bless that man. Barrett FanFan has been forming his trauma bond with mama up until this point, and was hysterical when I left the hotel. It was hard for me to leave, but I knew for the long run, I needed to go to Wuzhou and see the city where Barrett FanFan spent his first two years of life and was found.

Though there are many things I share about our family, there are things that I will never blog about or share publicly or even with friends…like where and how my children were found.

But today, I was able to go to the spot Barrett FanFan was found. Kristen had to remind me to take photos and videos of the spot so that I could show Barrett FanFan someday, because I was altogether too overwhelmed by the ordinariness of the location and yet the significance of it for our child. I tried to imagine why, I tried to imagine who, I tried to imagine all of those moments leading up to that decision. I tried to think through how I am going to explain this to each of my children. “Mandy, take more pictures,” Kristen said. Yes, today, I will focus on taking more pictures. Today, I can do that.

This is the restaurant Kristen and I ate at in Wuzhou

This is the restaurant Kristen and I ate at in Wuzhou

Kristen and I ate an authentic meal in Wuzhou. Though I love spicy food, I ate some of the spiciest dishes I have had outside of Thailand. We dined on hotpot and lots of local dishes. Our favorite dish was a pork tenderloin dish that tasted like it was encrusted in peanut brittle. Sounds odd but it was delicious. I would love to find a recipe for it.

After eating and going to the finding spot, a bunch of local school girls could not stop giggling at Kristen and me. We could tell that in Wuzhou, we stuck out a little.

A tree lined street in Wuzhou.

A tree lined street in Wuzhou.

I asked if I could be taken to key parts of Wuzhou.

A market area in Wuzhou.

A market area in Wuzhou.

We went to see The Dragon Mother Temple. I could see The Dragon Mother shrine at the top of a large hill as we were driving through Wuzhou and told our guide I’d like to see it up close.

Dragon Mother from the city

Dragon Mother from the city

Our guide told me it was some important holiday for the Dragon Mother and that we were lucky we were visiting on this day. It was very crowded and people were setting off hoards of fireworks in honor of this holiday. There were many tourist buses from Guangzhou there for the occasion.

These are the casings for fireworks that have been set off. Thousands and thousands of fireworks.

These are the casings for fireworks that have been set off. Thousands and thousands of fireworks.

I took this photo as someone set off hundreds of fireworks immediately behind me and jumped for my life.

I took this photo as someone set off hundreds of fireworks immediately behind me and jumped for my life, hence the blurriness.

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Dragon Mother sits atop of a large hill and overlooks the river and port

Dragon Mother sits atop of a large hill and overlooks the river and port

From the temple, overlooking Wuzhou

From the temple, overlooking Wuzhou

The tree was covered in prayers or wishes

The tree was covered in prayers or wishes

The river from the temple

The river from the temple

Much of what I experienced on this day won’t be blogged about, but it was truly one of the most special and important days of my life. I loved having the opportunity to see the city where Barrett FanFan lived. Such a beautiful place.

It was close to 8:00 PM by the time I got back to the hotel room. When I opened the door, Bryson declared it was the hardest dad moment his life and that precious Barrett FanFan had cried for me nearly all day… I hurt for Bryson and Barrett FanFan, but knew going to Wuzhou was the best decision for the longterm.

We all went to sleep knowing that tomorrow would be our last day in Nanning before heading to Guangzhou.