Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our First Week Home

We have survived our first week home with Hannah!!! It has been a tough week. We're thankful it's behind us. I've never wiped so many tears in my life, or made so much food in my life. Usually at least 1 child is crying, sometimes two, or all three. Micah and Elijah have had a tough time re-adjusting to Mama and Daddy. Mama and Daddy are still grumpy from jet-lag. And Hannah, bless her heart, doesn't know her up from down. I feel like we brought another newborn home (in the sense of exhaustion, crying spells, being busy), but a tall newborn that can get into everything. But each day gets a little better.

We have been so blessed by our friends and family. Granny was here the first couple of days we were home, which helped a lot. Grandmother did a lot of laundry for us. And meals are being brought to us 3x week. And we are so thankful for all of the people praying for us.

I have noticed how hungry Hannah is, in more ways that one....

A Hungry Heart - Her emotions have been very out-of-whack. I dont think she's ever been taught how to manage her emotions. Now it's compounded by having a family that cannot understand what she says. The emotional issues have been, by far, our biggest struggle.

A Hungry Soul - There is a constant need for love and affirmation for a former orphan. Hannah constantly needs TLC. Constant reminders that "We love you. We are not leaving you."

A Hungry Body - I have never seen a child eat so much! She eats at least 2 Raman noodle bowls a day plus whatever we eat.

A Hungry Brain - She is soaking up anything and everything we teach her. She is learning lots of English, the ABC's, colors, counting .... Learning lots about how to play with toys, how to play outside, how to be safe in the kitchen, how to be quiet when others are resting, how to share with her brothers, how to help with family chores (which she loves to do).

Some fun "firsts" this week....
  • First time to play in the yard. She didn't know what to do at first. She made a face that said "huh? you expect me to play in the dirt?"
  • First walk around the neighborhood
  • First ride on the swing in the yard. She giggled and giggled, and then I pushed her too hard and she belly-flopped in the dirt. Woops! Bad Mama.
  • First outing as a family of five. We went swimming at the Opelika Sportsplex. She loved it.
  • First time to play a piano (thank you Macy Maddox)
I have been complaining a lot to God lately ! The hardest thing for me has been to "give up" my afternoon quiet time while the boys nap/rest. Ever since Micah was born 5 years ago, I've protected 1:00 to 3:00 as my time to rest, catch up on personal tasks, etc. I can't do that now (although I am working towards it with Hannah). But God reminded me of what Jim Elliot said "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he can't lose." My time is not really mine to keep. It all belongs to the Lord. When I give away my time and my life to my children, I am storing up treasures in heaven, treasures that will never perish, fade or spoil.

My definition of success, as a Mother, has been challenged as well. God brought to mind Micah 6:8 "What does the Lord require of you? To love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with your God." If we are learning about how to treat others with mercy and learning how to bring glory to God, than it's a good day for me.

We are planning to stay close to home for the next month or two. We don't mind visitors, we love visitors actually, just not more than a few people at one time. Hannah gets very overwhelmed and over-stimulated, and we're helping her establish what family is.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Week 1 1/2: Orphanage Visit

We were able to visit the orphanage yesterday. This was the first time Meiqi Hannah has been back since our gotcha day last week. She was very nervous. She held my hand tight for the entire drive there. I think she was scared we were bringing her back, although our facilitator told her (in Chinese) we weren't. The orphanage staff were very warm and welcoming. They brought out some fruit and candy for us, talked with us for awhile, and gave us a tour of the facility. Our family was only the 5th or 6th "International" family to adopt from there.

A Small courtyard for kids to play in. Their only outdoor space.
We learned lots of new things about Meiqi Hannah. We learned more pieces of her "lost" history. We learned more about her life as a baby. Some of it was heart-wrenching to hear. They told us some funny stories about her too. Seeing where she spent her first 10 year of her life gives us a much better context about where she is coming from.

When we arrived at the gate, we could not even see the orphanage. It was hidden behind a big fancy apartment building for old folks.

Hidden. The kids are hidden away from society. No one even knows they are there.

The orphanage was very sterile and very plain. There was nothing "soft" or comfortable about it. Nothing homey about it. No carpet or couches or fluffy pillows. Just concrete and beds and a few toys.

No Jesus. No church. No Sunday School. No VBS.


Her orphanage has about 50 kids. About 20 of them are available for adoption.

We were encouraged that Meiqi Hannah was excited to leave with us. That means she has formed a good bond with us this week and that she trusts us. She was proud to show the nanny's our matching necklaces. She was proud to leave with us. She was not upset.

A room full of babies in cribs. Meiqi Hannah shared her candy with all of them.
I think she spent a lot of time helping the Nanny's with these younger kids. 
We are becoming more in tune with our daughter each day. We learn a little more about her, and vice versa. We are learning to laugh more. As Todd says "If we're gonna laugh about it in 5 years, we might as well laugh about it now."

The word "no" is foreign for orphanage kids. They have no concept of boundaries. But Meiqi Hannah has received more loving discipline in 10 days, than I think she has received in 10 years. It is amazing to see the change a child undergoes when she is well loved.
Even tough love!
It is amazing to see the peace that overwhelms her when we pray for her.

Meet Jesus, Meiqi Hannah Pate.

It's also pretty awesome to see how well she is learning English! She's been greeting everyone here "Hello, how are you?"

Ummm, Todd, can we bring another one home?!

Telling the Nanny's Goodbye.
It has been a tough week for us though, I'm not gonna lie. Adoption is a tough journey. It is not for the weary in heart. The enemy has a tight grip on these kids. He does not want them to be loved. He does not want them to hear the Gospel. He wants to keep them locked up, in a communist country, with very little chance of hearing the Gospel. The enemy will do everything in his power to keep families away.

We are sooooo ready to come home!!!!!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Week 1: Hope When It Seems Hopeless

10 years of institution life (although not really life)
No Jesus
No Education
No Mother or Father
No Social Skills
No Discipline
No Manners
No Social Skills
No English
Very Little Chinese
New Parents that don't speak any Chinese

Seems pretty hopeless, right?

On the contrary, we're finding hope in this mess!!! We are choosing to embrace this mess. We are seeing change and progress.

Todd and I aren't sure who is being changed more: Meiqi Hannah or us. Todd and I are being pruned and pruned again. God is using Meiqi Hannah to help us become more patient and kind and loving and compassionate. I am experiencing our Pursuing God on a whole new level. Chasing her through the hotel while she pitches a fit reminds me of myself. I pitch fits sometimes too and God always pursues me and reminds me of His love.

First carnival ride
After 5 days of lots of smiles and tears, we are rejoicing that we have made it thus far! In some moments, we are thankful to be surviving, and other moments we are thriving. Some things bring her so much joy, and sometimes she will just cry and cry and cry. But isn't it that way with all of us girls?

We have made a lot of progress in the last 5 days since Meiqi Hannah's "gotcha day." We understand a little more about what she needs and wants (much like a newborn) and she is understanding us a little better as well. She is very smart. But I don't think she's ever had anyone teach her and point her in the right direction.

She has learned the tune to the ABC song; she has learned a good bit of English (she says "hello, how are you, thank you"); she can count to three!; she layed with me in the bed while I read all of "Goodnight Moon" (Im pretty sure that's the first book that ever been read to her); she is making good eye contact with us; she knows to stay close to us when we're out in public; she is comfortable with Todd; and we made it through all of dinner at a restaurant without a meltdown tonight!!!! And she has actually chosen to spend time with us rather than watch the dumb Chinese soap operas.

Auburn fans, you'll appreciate this: for some reason, MH loves to scream out "HEY!" very, very loud. A way to get attention, or a bad habit from the orphanage I guess? So we've taught her instead to say "WAR EAGLE, HEY!" It's also pretty funny to hear her say "hey yall" in her Chinese accent.

First piggy-back ride in the park
 I watched Meiqi Hannah sleep tonight and I wept for her. I wept for her heart. I wept for her soul. I am so sad for her. I am sad for her that her own people cannot care for her, and I am sad that we do not understand most of what she says, or look anything like her. I pray that she does not notice the stares we get from her people. I pray that she will, one day, feel like she fits in somewhere. I weep for the 1 million other kids here too, that may never know the love of a Mommy and Daddy.

We are trusting God with a lot. But we have a big God that can move mountains. We have a big God that made everything in 6 days. We are trusting God for a miracle. We are trusting God that He will breathe life into this lifeless soul.

We are trusting God with the plane ride home (24 hours, ugh!). We are trusting God with life once we get home. I am trusting God for Micah and Elijah's little hearts and their understanding of the changes they will have to endure. I weep for them too. I have been a weepy mess!

First swim in a [chilly] pool. Todd is a good sport!

We have one more week here. I want to soak it all in while I can, because this may be the last time we can. I want Meiqi Hannah to soak it all in as well. As much as I don't want to see underwear hanging out to dry when I look out the Pizza Hut window, I will endure it for Meiqi Hannah. As much as I can't stand Chinese soap operas, I am willing to let her watch them for 1 more week! As much as I cannot stomach noodles for breakfast, I am willing to endure the smells for her sake. As much as I want to go home, I am willing to enjoy this culture for 7 more days.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day's 3 and 4: Big adjustments

The internet and our VPN have been sketchy, so I"m not able to post as much as I would like!

We've had an exciting couple of days. We are learning a lot of Cantonese, and Meiqi Hannah is learning a lot about boundaries, English and love. She's had a lot of firsts: first escalator rides and first time to read a book with an adult (I think). We read a page of "Goodnight Moon" together. She repeated what I read. We've learned, with the help of our translator, that she has no reading and writing skills.

Meiqi Hannah loves baths (3x day!) and eating! Two things, I assume, she's never had much of. As soon as we get back to the room, she jumps in the bath and puts on clean clothes. She eats a noodle bowl (like Raman noodles) every few hours. She carries her backpack around with all of her stuff in it everywhere we go. I think she's afraid of losing it all.

She knows how to test the boundaries. We are learning a lot about sacrificial love.

Please pray for us! Sometimes we are at a loss as to what to do.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 3: Gotcha Day/One Less Orphan!!!!

We have a daughter! She is just precious. Meiqi is no longer an orphan.

 The first thing she did was run to me and hug me and jump into my arms! She squeezed me so tight. I could tell she was a little scared. I could feel her heart racing, but there were a lot of smiles. She didn't want to let go of our hand for quite awhile. She was ok with saying goodbye to her Nanny's.

We spent a lot of time with her Nanny's - getting information about her. They were all very kind and helpful. These two Nanny's have been with Meiqi since she was a baby.

We're still not sure what to call her. The Nanny's had a nickname for her. We're calling her Meiqi Hannah. We originally thought it was pronounced May-Chee, but apparently in her dialect (Cantonese), it is pronounced "May-Kay." We've been calling her "May-Kay Hannah"

Saying Goodbye to the Nanny's
We stopped by the store on the way back, with the help of our guide and picked out some things for her to eat. She wanted to put everything in the cart!! But the guide told her "only one" in Cantonese and she obeyed. She went on the escalator for the first time and loved it. She loved the van ride too. She just kept smiling. We took out some granola bars. She tried a few bites of one, and then wanted mine. So we traded granola bars.

Leaving our exciting shopping trip!

She has been smiling a lot and getting into EVERYTHING! She is very curious. She never stops!

In the first hour of being back in the hotel, she has gone through every drawer, pocket and bag.

We have a little diva on our hands! She has already taken a shower, blow dried her hair, gotten dressed, put on flip flops, DONE HER MAKEUP! with my makeup she found in my bag, painted her finger nails WITH 2 COATS!  And then handed me her dirty clothes and asked me to hand-wash them! O boy!

She loves technology. She has figured out Todd's phone and my Kindle Fire, has both TV's on and goes back and forth between the TV's watching different shows.

She has tried atleast 1 bite of everything in our hotel room!

We were told by the Nanny's that she had a difficult time speaking. She has spoken a little with the guide and has tried to a little with us. We've been doing a lot of hand-signals.

Micah, she does not like bugs or worms :( But she does love junk food as much as you do I think!

She is very thoughtful-she just brought me some tiolet paper to use with my dinner. We're eating noodle bowls in our hotel room. We are all emotionally worn out tonight!

Another family with their new sweet 2 year old

Thanks again, everybody for all of the prayers and support!