Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Official

It's official.  Mei Mei and Annie are becoming sisters.  Mei, like a true big sister, has a love that is steadfast and unwavering for little Annie.  Annie, well it depends on the moment.  But, the good news is that most of the time, Annie really enjoys Mei Mei now.  I am hearing more and more giggles between the two of them and Mei Mei is overjoyed.  As I am witnessing this blossoming relationship, I can't help but be in awe of the joy and the loving heart that Mei has.  Many times I hear, "I'll protect you Annie" or "do you want me to hold your hand?" or "don't be afraid, Annie, I'll protect you" in her sweet little voice.  I marvel at how far we have come with Mei Mei in 3 years-- it is amazing.  It can be fragile though, always requiring vigilance.  She has also regressed in other areas though, wanting a sippee cup with Annie most of the time-oh well, why not?

Just as an aside:  I am an optimist.  I don't try to be and I am not sure if it's nature or nurture but I can usually find good in most situations or people.  Yep, I have cruddy days but you can usually find something good in them.  I am blessed, I know.  And I never want this journaling to sound like our kids, me, or our family are perfect--far, far from it.  I just find beauty in a lot lately and it's not because they're my kids.....I am just really grateful to God for all He has given me.  I know that family and love is not a given for a lot of people in this world.  Since adopting, I just have a new appreciation for its importance and a sadness for the gravity of its absence.

It was so cute this morning.  We were a little late dropping Mei Mei off at school so she hugged only me and ran off to join circle time.   Annie looks at me and says, "Mayyyyy, no kiss Annie?"-- I promised her we'd get one at pick up.  She really looks forward to picking her up and asks frequently if it's time.  Annie started singing "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Teddy Bear" with me this week--it's so cute.  I'll try to post video soon.

Everyone else is doing well.  It's been FREEZING here......-8 temp on the way to school the other morning so we've been staying in.  Jeff was in Orlando all weekend and returned a few days ago.  He had the flu for 90% of his trip-yuk! Cole is in Washington D.C. at the March for Life for a few days and then we have our last Mother/Son dance this weekend.  Hadley is starting Rugby practice indoors (Rugby-that's a post in and of itself.) Ethan is starting piping lessons again soon and lacrosse will be here soon for him, Cole, and Mary Claire, as well.  Mei Mei is starting gymnastics again next week and has been counting the days.  We have really enjoyed having a low key winter around here with less activities but will enjoy getting back into them soon.  I will probably regret typing that.

That's all for the Baker crew for now.  Have a great weekend!!

Annie's little snowman

 This morning's beautiful sunrise

 Friday dance party

 Annie loves Cole's truck

Press On!  Deb

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Pick Your Travel Partners

A long overdue post....... So many have asked how we chose which kids to take to China with us.  The honest answer is that we really didn't.  It was just so obvious to all of us who would/should go:

*would love to add another country to his passport pages for fun (he mowed for 3 summers to go on a pilgrimage to Rome with his 8th grade class a few years ago) 
*completing his last chance final semester to raise his GPA for scholarships
*potential travel before or during final exams
*kept an emotional distance from Annie until he knew she was ours
*likes only very plain food and is very traditional in his eating-doesn't like to try new things

*never been out of the country
*loves people and watching and them
*involved in every step of our journey to Annie
*loves kids
*wants to adopt one day
*is a food connoisseur-always adding some spice or flavor to foods
*happy to sit and do nothing but chat

*never been out of the country
*always up for an adventure
*prayed every day for Annie
*had his school class pray every day for Annie
*involved in every step of our journey to Annie
*is a food connoisseur- loves to cook and change flavors or add spice
*loves to read

Mary Claire-
*never been out of the country and never wants to be
*the thought of flying that long over an ocean almost makes her cry while sitting in Wisconsin
*loves to be at home 
*loves to be at home in comfy jammies
*did I say loves to be at home?

Mei Mei-
*loves Mary Claire and wants to be wherever she is
*5 years old.......

So, you can see that it was a pretty easy decision.  Between cost and the length of the trip, we knew it was not a trip for all of us.  And many times, although we missed everyone desperately, we knew that we had the perfect travel mates with us.

A New Girl

First, I must share some news with you all which in one breath makes me so happy and in the other, makes me so scared.......Hadley got her driver's license yesterday!  Yep, hard to believe but she is very excited!!  Every time Cole talks about some new accessory for his truck, I always kid him that Hadley will love it next year when he's gone to college.  Cole picks her up from school most days and he told me today that he's going to start having her drive home so he can take a nap.   No joking, all parents can do is pray, pray, pray.

Annie has had an amazing week! I could tell something was going on with her a couple of weeks ago but I just couldn't put a finger on what it was.  I thought it was probably adoption related and that she must be grieving.  But as the days went on, I knew something wasn't right.  Sure enough, I took her to the doctor last Tuesday and she had an infection.  After 24 hours of antibiotics, the transformation was amazing!!  She has been a different girl!  She is so happy and joyful.  She is sleeping through the night :)  She is not only tolerating Mei Mei, but actually liking her.  The other day when we were driving Mei Mei to school, Mei asked her, "Who do you want to unbuckle you, me or Mommy?".  I wish I would have had a camera when Annie responded "Mei Mei".......Mei's face lit up with the hugest, happiest smile.  Annie laughs at her and will even give Mei a kiss now.  Things have really been going great between those two and I am so happy and thankful.   Annie is talking a ton.  Our favorite thing now is that she will say "I love you" back and she will make the kiss sound when she kisses you-it's so precious!  One night when I was taking her to bed, she said she wanted to "kiss the kids" goodnight.  Either she is super sweet or she's already figured out how to  postpone bedtime--maybe both.

Here's some things about Annie: she loves to be read to, rocked, snuggled, she likes to put bandaids on imaginary boo boos, hates carseats, likes music ("sing" as she calls it), likes to look for "big trucks" when we drive, likes to tell me "all done" when the kids get out of the car in the morning and we still have a 15 minute drive home, will not touch any  food except yogurt and granola or cheerios, chocolate milk, fries, and chips,  she loves baths, lotion, and brushing teeth, and she loves Lilly and "meow meows".

I remember this time last year being so hard....the waiting and waiting and not knowing if she would ever be our daughter or not.  I am just in awe that she is here with us!!  A day doesn't go by that I don't thank God for allowing us to be her family.

Press On!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Catching Up

A little of what's been going on here.......

The 2 little girls have enjoyed some quality "sick days" in their jammies

Mei Mei joined the ranks of "big girl" when she got to join her Baba and Mary for some ice skating with friend's dads and daughters.

Hadley is always looking for a distraction from exam studying.  Where are the little girls?  Hiding in bed with their big sis!!

I'm trying everything to get Annie to see that Mei Mei is such an awesome big sister, too.  They made granola together.  Annie has the cutest voice and often says, "Mei Mei" with the cutest southern draw combined with her "tonal" Chinese.  It's getting better between the two of them every day.

And, these next pictures just speak for themselves.  I know many people think we are crazy for adopting and say that we are almost "free".  I can't explain the joy that is multiplied to see our biological children open their hearts to their new little sisters.  There was a time that I thought a big gap between kids or a late-in-life child would be the worst thing.  I have to say, it's the best thing.  When your 18 year old asks you in the morning if he can wake up his littlest sister before he leaves because he is getting home late and won't see her all day, it just melts your heart.  When your 16 year old has a day off of school but asks you to wake her up early so she can go to preschool with her little sister, I just shake my head in disbelief that our joy and love can be multiplied.  When the door flies open 4 times from school and the first thing out of their mouth is their sisters' names, it's amazing and beautiful to witness.  Teenagers who can be so self-absorbed are suddenly thinking of others (sometimes).  Is it perfect all the time?  No. Do the girls count the minutes until they can bug their siblings while they are doing homework?  You bet.  Does that go over well?  Sometimes.  Do the biological siblings treat each other like they treat the youngest 2?  Rarely. Adding the girls to our family has been so is multiplied........

And, since Cole doesn't read our blog, I can tell this on him.  He was pretty neutral about this adoption and never got emotionally attached to Annie as we were waiting and hoping that she would become our daughter.  He just always said that he would be gone to college soon so it didn't matter.  It has been so awesome to watch the two of them.  She loves him and I think he's pretty smitten with her, too!

I captured some sweet, sweet sister time!!  How blessed are they to have each other???

 And someone had a birthday!!!  She must be the luckiest woman alive!!  Yep, those are dark circles but boy am I getting some good night time snuggling in with Annie.  Wrinkles-oh yeah-lots of smiling going on.  Our first picture as a family of 8!!  Is everything perfect?  No way.  Crazy?  Yep.  Would I want it any other way?  Not for a second.

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A "hard" day

I'll start out with pictures today since that's probably why you're checking in :)

Annie helping Mei get her prosthetic on:

 She paints her (and anyone who is willing) hand every day.....

Yes, that's a popsicle stick.......but at least they were sharing!!

I just have to start out this post by saying GOD IS SO GOOD!!!  I have seen His handprint all over this adoption and He has been with us every step of the way.  I know He is still with us and His Spirit is guiding us and we are so blessed by that truth.  Adoption is such an amazing blessing.  But, I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is hard at times.  There have been "hard" moments in the past few weeks but that's just part of adoption.  So much growth comes from the struggles and they can be huge blessings.   Adoption is hard because you bring home a child who has gone through so much change in such a short time.  Already at 2 1/2, Annie has gone from her biological parents to the orphanage, from the orphanage to New Day and then to us.  That's a lot of change for anyone and more importantly, a lot of loss.  So, when you say "yes" to adoption, you already know that "hard" is just going to be part of it.

So, here's why it was a hard day for me:

It was a hard day for Annie.

Today I was reminded of two of the hardest parts of bringing home your new child. #1-Change  and #2-Not knowing your toddler who had a lot of days of life before they met you.  All kids do better with consistent schedules where they gain security from knowing what's coming next.  Since we have been home, we have kept a very rigid, predictable schedule purposefully.  Although we have been home "doing nothing", there has been nothing "unpurposeful" about our days.  Our family bonding, connecting, and building trust with Annie was our #1 priority and all else was off our list.  It is a small sacrifice but a necessary one.   That schedule keeping has been great until today.  4 of the kids started school this morning so I jumped up early to try to get a start on the day.  Jeff was flying out so he, too, was up and moving.  Of course, Annie chose today to sleep in (why is that usually the case????).  So, when she awakened, no one was with her.  She wasn't too happy with us from that moment on.  We came down and she didn't want to eat.  Ethan and Mary Claire were finishing breakfast and getting ready.  They haven't been up this early over break so mornings were usually just me, Jeff, and Annie.  Next, there was shouting that E and MC's ride was here and after a hug and kiss, they were out the door. WHAT???? Annie wants to know where they are????  "School" I tell her, "they'll be back".
Baba gives us all a hug and kiss goodbye but he's got a suitcase.  What's this talk about airplanes??  Mei Mei is up and eating and is ready to get dressed.  Hmmmm....we had lots of jammie days over break.  I get the girls dressed, they brush their teeth(Annie loves this part), Annie is forgiving me and is becoming playful.  She says, "Haddie" with a smile as she points to her room.  I tell her that she's at school--uh oh- she left before Annie woke up.  Then, we go down to get Mei's snow stuff out to pack for school.  Annie is excited--she thinks it's time to go out and play in the snow.  I break the news to her that it's time to take Mei to school.  We get to preschool and people are so sweetly welcoming Annie and Annie is giving them "the stare".  We come home.  Cole is up and a friend is with him (who's this guy?? Annie wonders) and they are heading out to play hockey.  The house is quiet. She doesn't want me to put her down.  Not even for a second.  She eats a little while I quickly clean the kitchen from the morning mayhem.  I bring out some games, dust off some fun puzzles from days gone by-- not even interested.  Hey, let's play with the baby and that stroller that your sister didn't touch for the last 3 years but wants to play with all the time since you love it.  The one where I set the timer so you all can take turns.  She's not here--it's all yours.  Nope, wants nothing to do with it.  What's wrong?  Is she feeling ok?  Did she get enough sleep?  What can I get her to eat?  Could she be getting sick?  She must miss the kids so much. and on, and on, and on. then I remember.  #1-Change.  #2-I don't really know my girl yet.  And yes, it's hard to think about because my heart breaks for her.  So, I reassure her as best I can and spend the whole morning doing nothing but being her Mama and I feel so privileged to do that.  I thank God for calling me to do this because nothing could be more important or more enjoyable right now.

And, as I lie down every night, I am exhausted.  Being a mom to 6 is not just physically exhausting but mentally.  Just wondering if everyone is getting what they need......that's where prayer comes in.  So much easier to give it all to God because He knows I can't do it without Him.  And being a wife, I won't even write about that.......

I missed all the kids today.  They all laugh at me now because I am so quick to cry since China, for some reason.  I have just been really soaking in the moments and sometimes it's just too overwhelming to believe that God could bless my life so much.  And with Cole starting the 2nd half of his senior year, I know the moments are fleeting so they are so cherished.

And, I had to say goodbye to my 3 travel companions who I've been with nonstop for a month.  I wish every family could have that kind of time with their kids away from normal life.  Yes, they missed a lot of school and yes, I am worried about how it will effect them academically.  Even with their teachers being amazing and their friends who gathered and scanned and emailed homework being amazing, that's still a lot of class time missed. But big picture....what an unforgettable adventure and journey to their sister and what an incredible 3 weeks together.

SO many emails, phone calls, and texts to return and not enough time to do it.  Adoption can be so hard on friendships.

Yep today was kind of harder than most for my girl and therefore, me.  Then I chuckle and think about what "hard" really means as so many people struggle with big issues and problems and I know that I am so blessed.  I am reminded that it wasn't really hard at all.  I am happy to do hard with my girl--honored really.  That's adoption--the good and the bad.  You sign up for it and do tons of paperwork even.

So, if I don't get to the phone or get to visit and have coffee, please know that it's not because I don't want to.  I am just trying to minimize #1-change and maximize #2- trying to really know my girl.

Press On!!