Barrett’s Prayer

Thank you God. 

Thank you mama.

Thank you house. 

Thank you baba. 

Thank you…thank you…thank you (this is where he usually says “Wydia” for Lydia).

Thank you party.

Thank you Thomas Train. 

Thank you Poppy. 

Amen.

 

Holding Hands

This morning, they were cracking up because they went to hold hands and realized there were no fingers on that side. And in true Lucky Fin fashion, they adapted and held elbows, which only brought them closer together.

I Hated Valentine’s Day. She Changed That.

I’m not going to lie. I usually hate Valentine’s Day. Bryson and I have never celebrated it.

However, several days ago, I told him that I wanted to make the kids a candlelit dinner. I really wanted to demonstrate what loving pursuit and hospitality looks like. Lydia adores special meals and Valentine’s Day is her favorite because as she says, “it is all about love.” She is an old soul in a little body. 

It made me think why I have an aversion to this holiday, and why she loves it. So much of our culture wants instant gratification, it’s about me me me, consumerism, and often love is equated with feelings. Truth is, when I was very young, I dated an unkind person who overwhelmed me with gifts on Valentine’s Day. I always said to Bryson, “It is what we do all of the other days of the year that counts.”

But knowing my little girl’s true adoration of this holiday, I wanted her to relish in it, and feel our adoration. I wanted her to feel pursued.

Her love for Valentine’s Day made me think about what love means to her.

There was a time when I did not know if she could love us back, and I had to be content with that, and keep pursuing anyways. As I was making chocolate covered strawberries tonight, I thought long and hard about those tear-filled prayers. I begged that she would know love and be able to love in return. Not for me. Not because of me. Because of life. Life is about connection. I didn’t want more hard for her.

For a minute, I thought “I wish I could tell that Mandy, ‘it’ll be okay.'” But then I realized, “Nope. I am glad I didn’t know. So much of our culture wants instant love, they want to know that they’ll be loved in return, they don’t want risk. I am so glad I learned a different kind of love. I am glad I didn’t know and pursued during hard, hard moments.”

Tonight, as we sat down for dinner, Lydia sighed and sincerely said, “Mommy and Daddy, I love happy endings.”

“You love happy endings?” I expected to hear about her new favorite movie, Moana.

“Yes, mommy. Every kid should have a kind family like my family. I am so glad I don’t live at the orphanage. I wanted a mommy and daddy, and now I have you. I love happy endings.”

And I stopped myself from explaining loss. I stopped myself from explaining that we are dysfunctional and that our story is no fairytale. I stopped myself from saying we did not rescue her, this time. I have said it before. I bit my lip this time and simply said, “I wish every kid could have a family too. You add joy to our family.” I do wish that.

We are not a perfect family. I am far from a perfect mom. Bryson is not a perfect dad. Sometimes, I am a connected parent, and sometimes a dysfunctional one.

But this Valentine’s Day, we celebrate a type of love that is not based on DNA, feelings, consumption, religion, gifts, instant gratification, skin color, geographic boundaries, or reciprocation. We celebrate a kind of love that has taken time, patience, risk, courage, commitment, and sacrifice.

We have learned so much from our little Valentine.

I am thankful for the way she has helped me embrace a holiday that I once detested. I am thankful for the ways she taught me to pursue hearts, especially her heart and little Barrett’s. And I realized that tonight’s dinner did not demonstrate what loving pursuit and hospitality looks like, but we demonstrated it–with plenty of mistakes–the past three years.

Oh my goodness Mandy, what love for these two little people.

 

She closed her eyes while we set the table. She had no idea what we were doing.

Bryson gave Lydia and Barrett roses. They both insisted that mommy receives the roses.

Lydia gave me her rose and her new slinky toy.

She was so happy. And Barrett was too. He declared, “I like baba. I like mama. I like Lydia.” And though physical affection weirds him out, little love kissed my hand.

1 Corinthians 13The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

My Daughter, The Teacher

My January post for No Hands But Ours is up today. I would be humbled if you took a moment to read it and share your thoughts with me.

“One of the lessons I often repeat to my daughter and son is that sometimes little people and big people are scared of differences, and that they might be the first to teach someone that even though we are different, we can still be friends.”

 

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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