Celebrating the gift of life- A Birthday Post

i wrote this post on caia’s birthday…

October 10, 2013 This is the day we celebrated Caia’s birthday…10/10/10. A perfect 10.  The actual date is rather arbitrary since someone assigned her a birthdate when they estimated her age around the time she was found.

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Referral picture

I’ve learned “found” is a kinder, gentler way of saying abandoned or orphaned.  However you phrase it, the fact is her life changed dramatically and large holes began to swallow up the landscape of  her life story.  And a lot of someones began to make decisions for her that will impact her forever.  Caia’s birthday will always be celebrated on October 10. Today, however,  I kept correcting myself because it’s not her BIRTHday we celebrate… its the day we celebrate her birth.  (Semantics are important after all I suppose.)

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Hhhmmm

I have read that birthdays can be a trigger for some negative emotions in adopted children.  I can understand why as I think about all the celebrating I have done with my bio children…talking about the day they were born, what exact time,  looking at pictures of family at the hospital awaiting the arrival of the next Anderson, giggling at the newborn pictures, etc. Someday this may be hard for Caia, and then again it may not.  Who really knows at this point. I will have to be prepared for the hard questions that have no easy answers.  In the meantime, we celebrate the gift of life: a life that began in a mountainous region of China and made its way to Crestwood, Ky in three short years.

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Scene outside Caia’s former foster home
Yunnan Province, China

A life that is full of joy and laughter and spunk.

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“Selfie”

A life that melts your heart with her smile, and inspires your day with her strength.

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Say CHEESE!

A life that has embraced the gift of  life.

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Happy BIRTHDAY Caia.  I am so glad you were born.  You make the whole world, especially mine,  a better place!

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This Sunday, November 3, is Orphan Sunday.  Please join me in praying for the many orphans around the world still waiting for their forever family.

Caia’s first 4th

Today we celebrate America’s birthday trying not to let the rain dampen our holiday spirit.   For our family, we are celebrating 3 months with Caia and her first 4th of July.  For 2 1/2 years she lived under Communist rule and as an orphan she had no rights.  Had she continued to grow up there, she would have no right to choose an education or a profession. Most likely, had she not been adopted, she would have been dependent on the government for the rest of her life.  There would be no freedom to speak her mind, no freedom to live anywhere she chose, to see whatever dreams she had come true.  At 2 1/2 of course, this means very little to her.  But someday she will know where she came from.  As an American citizen, her options are without limits.  So many of the rights and privileges we take for granted weren’t hers just three short months ago.  Today, the 4th of July takes on a new meaning for me. My daughter from across the globe shares all of our rights and privileges and I am so happy for her!

Caia Chun Anderson

Caia Chun Anderson

I have not had time to write a blog post even though I have written many in my head, ideas have swirled but lack of time has prevented me from posting.  And to be honest, emotionally I have had a hard time sharing.  Even now, I type, delete, type, delete.  There is so much to share and yet my heart has played like a turtle: ducking inside its shell for protection while contemplating what’s going on around it. There was so much I didn’t know that I thought I had all figured out.  I knew how to be a mom, I had Been There Done That.  Knew how to be a wife (done that for almost 20 years). Knew how to manage a family, knew what it meant to be a Christian, knew how to maintain friendships.  I went into this adoption confident that I was ready.

And then one little girl changed everything.

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I have had adjustments to make in every area. It hasn’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t change a single day. I love being Caia’s mama and I love the joy she has brought to our family.

Caia has adjusted very well, given the world she came from and the shock of entering this one!  She is speaking lots of English phrases especially the ones she hears most often: “just a minute”

“be right back”

“I love you”

“what are you doing?’

“sit down”

“Oh, my goodness”

Our biggest adjustment has been sleeping.  She just has trouble turning off her brain at the end of the day.  So much new stimuli all day, I can’t say I blame her.  Really, I can’t complain and I am very thankful that things have gone as well as they have.

I often think of where she came from, the struggles and pain she had to endure as an infant that no child should have to experience, and I hurt for her.  My heart breaks when I think of this child I love so much being lonely, crying with no one there to hear her, scoop her up and comfort her.  I long to be able to heal wounds that only time and love can begin to touch.  I didn’t know my heart would be so broken for her.

I will try to post more often so I can share the joy that is Caia.  Here are just  a few of our favorite moments over the past 3 months:

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Hope ya’ll have a happy, happy 4th!

Love,

Debi

…and back

“I love you right up to the moon…and back.” Big Nutbrown Hare

This is my “and back” post that I have wanted to write since we returned home. From America to China and back.  When I titled the blog and gave it this subtitle, I really didn’t give it much thought.  I was actually in a hurry, setting up the details on the computer the morning we left for China, causing Van to send a few frustrating looks my way as he loaded the car with our suitcases and “secured the perimeters” of our home because that’s what Marines do.  But the “and back” part of our story is so much more than two little words added hastily to a blog.  How can these two little words sum up bringing home a new Anderson and a new American? How can these two little words sum up 25 hours of travel, 4 airports, a nearly missed plane, forgotten luggage, irreplaceable items rescued from the Beijing lost and found, a really bad Chinese version of pizza, the intrigue of Saudi Arabian men who couldn’t seem to stop staring at the Chinese baby with an American family? But even more than that, a one way trip to a far away place is a whole lot of love, but the return trip is the real test.  It’s the 4:00 a.m. wake up the first morning. The midnight play times/snack times/ explore the house because her body says its noon times.  It’s the times of discerning what is typical 2 year old behavior versus what is an attachment struggle.  It’s the joy of seeing a child discover a room full of toys and bright colors as if it was Christmas morning. It’s the laughter, the smiles, and the tears as many firsts are discovered and boundaries are drawn.  Big Nutbrown Hare had it right in Guess How Much I love You.  To the moon isn’t far enough.  The “and back” makes all the difference.

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Thanks, everyone, for all the prayers, comments, texts, messages, emails, meals, etc.  We feel amazingly blessed.  Our story isn’t ending…it’s really just beginning. Guess I will have to change the title of the blog :-)

Love to you all,

Debi

“Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” 1 John 3:18

Homeward Bound

Today is our last day in China. I have been wanting to write another post since Easter, but my only free time is when Caia is asleep. And when she is asleep, so am I! She is napping this afternoon, but I am awake and I have a little time to sit and write before her Visa is delivered, our final document that allows her to travel home!! Home, such a sweet word it almost brings tears!

I am thrilled to report that last night she went to bed without walking the hallway. She has become more and more relaxed with us and I am optimistic that our attachment will continue to deepen with time. I know the next few days and weeks will be an adjustment as we get home and acclimate to the time zone change and to our American family life. We are enjoying getting to know her and have seen spunkiness in her personality.


Our days here in GZ have included some fun excursions, such as a visit to a park where we played hackey sack with some locals and a dinner cruise along the Pearl River. On Monday, we visited the GZ Zoo:


We have experienced the Chinese culture by trying different foods:


And seeing strange delicacies we were unwilling to consider:


Red Bean Green Tea Cheese Pie


Fried Silkworm Chrysalis anyone?

And we enjoyed McD’s because its comfort food in a land of rice and noodles. Even Caia loves the fries:


We have learned a bit of the Chinese language, but have also determined it is very difficult to pronounce the words and nearly impossible to read the letters. Incidentally, we were wondering what “sush-wa” meant as it is how Caia consistently addresses Van. Our guide, Simon, interpreted for us and it means “uncle!” A few months ago we sent Caia a care package with family pictures. We ordered the package through a woman named Ann in China, sent her the pictures which she labeled in Chinese before sending to Caia’s orphanage. (This is a picture we received back in February of Caia looking at the photo album)


I am sure this is how she knew to call me “mama,” Cambria “jie jie” and the boys “ga ga.” If we get home and she calls one of her uncles “ba ba,” (which means Papa) we will know that there was some confusion in the labeling. We did not receive this album back unfortunately. The bear, or “wa wa,” was also part of our gift package and is nearly inseparable from her:


We came to Guangzhou for our appointment with the U.S. Consulate, which was set for April 2. It is here that we applied for her Visa which allows her to enter the States with us. We anticipated this day with excitement, entered the building filing past long lines of Chinese also applying to enter the U.S:


We were allowed one photo opportunity before going through security, where phones and cameras would be checked until after our appointment.


And here is the long awaited Visa that Simon, our guide, just delivered to us:


Now all that stands between us and her citizenship is about 25 hours of air line travel! Even though this sounds dreadful, I am ready. We are all ready. I ask for your prayers yet again as we navigate through three airports, head through customs, and arrive safely home Thursday evening!

Before we left the U.S. I remember feeling the strangest mix of emotions. Happy and sad, peaceful and worried, content and fearful. They are conflicting emotions, yet I didn’t feel conflicted. I don’t know how to explain it other than trying to say it was like being hot and cold at the same time, not one then the other. I wanted to hold Caia, to finally meet her for myself more than anything. The months of waiting and anticipating had been very hard, yet I also had these thoughts: what if she had attachment issues, what if I couldn’t I handle the unknowns, what if her medical issues were worse than we expected, what if her behavior was difficult and it changed our whole family for the worse, what if I didn’t love her, what if she didn’t love me, what if, what if, what if. On this side of the adoption, I can see that many of these thoughts were unfounded. And many were irrelevant. Of course it would be hard, of course there would be challenges and many unknowns. Van and I didn’t go into this because it was easy. Every step of it was out of our control and we knew it. Unlike anything in my life, this has been my most challenging journey of faith ever. I have seen God’s hand at work, I have witnessed prayers answered, I have seen God’s heart for the orphan and in the process more fully understood His love for me. And now, this journey doesn’t end because we leave China with our daughter. In fact, it really is just beginning. She is 2 years old, and we have a lifetime together. I am looking forward to teaching her English, to taking more trips to the zoo and to teaching her to place her banana peels on the table rather than throwing them on the ground!
I will also need to teach her that in America, it is not ok to drop your drawers and pee on the sidewalk!

I wish I could sit down with each of you over coffee and tell you so much more about our trip. I would tell you about the 72 year old man I met in Kunming who retired and moved to China to run a business but was really a missionary, spreading Christ’s light in a land of darkness. I would tell you of the young girl in Starbucks with the pink flat billed hat with SWAG written across it, who pulled up a chair to talk and told us she was a hip hop dancer and learned to speak English by watching Hollywood movies! I would tell you of the mom who was in China to adopt two children, her 15th and 16th, both born with dwarfism. Or the mom we met from Sweden adopting her 4th child from China, who was traveling without her husband and would be in China for 3 weeks with a 15 month old boy born with anal atresia. I could tell you more about the sights, sounds, smells of China if I could and if we had time. I never want to forget all the details, so please ask if you are interested. This is Caia’s heritage and I may never be back. Talking about the experiences will help me remember them!

Again, thanks for reading about our adventures. It’s been amazing, Caia is beyond what I imagined she would be and my love for her deeper than I thought possible. I can’t wait to bring her home and introduce her to America and everyone we know and love!

Next post will be written from Crestwood, KY! Amen hallelujah!


Blessings,

Debi

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Guangzhou, China

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from Guangzhou! I am happy to report that the smiles and laughter far outweigh the tears at this point. We still are taking the walks in the hallways, but for the most part we are seeing a new side of Caia. She has even called me Mama! Cambria she addresses as Jie-Jie (big sister), Caleb and Chandler are Ga-Ga (big brother) and Dad is Sush-wa (not sure what that is but it’s consistently daddy). Thank you all so much for the prayers. I was thinking this morning about the meaning of Caia’s American name and how fitting it is for this time of year. Her name means “Rejoice” and this Easter we have so much to rejoice about!! It didn’t even dawn on me until today that her American name, Caia, combined with her Chinese name, Chun, means Rejoice, Spring is Coming! We can already see signs of Spring in her sweet personality:


The plane ride from Kunming to Guangzhou seemed to transport us a few decades forward in time into a world of skyscrapers and flashing Neon lights. Think Times Square + Vegas smash-up. We arrived at night on Friday and Caia was great on the airplane. She is very observant, so seeing the plane and all the people kept her entertained. She even looked out the window during take off and until we were above the clouds. Then it must have become boring, so I started pulling out tricks from our travel bag to keep her occupied. She ate a sucker, colored for about 60 seconds, ate some cheerios, climbed into my lap and then started to fuss. I was thankful this was a short flight and tried not to think about the 13 hour trip we have to get home. She actually didn’t escalate into a full wail until I had to buckle her in for the landing. Keep in mind, they don’t use car seats in China, so she has never been “buckled up.” She must have been too distracted during take off to notice she had a belt around her. If this is any indication of how she will take to a car seat, we are in big trouble when we get home! How will I explain to a two year old who understands and speaks more Mandarin Chinese than English that in America, we buckle up for safety??!!


We are in Guangzhou because this is the city where the U.S. Consulate is located and where we finalize the adoption. It is a very wealthy city compared to Kunming. And being the spoiled Americans that we are :-) we have taken to the luxury of the accommodations and the Western feel of things. Here is the view from our hotel room:


The large television screen at the bottom of the picture runs constant commercials, all in Chinese of course.

All U.S. families come here as their final step before going home, so American families with Chinese babies are numerous and common. We don’t draw the stares here that we did in Kunming. On the flip side, it is much busier and crowded. And we still can’t drink the water! I must say to the kids several times a day how thankful I am to be an American.

On Saturday morning, Caia was examined by doctors at a Chinese medical center. She was also required to have a TB test. She did very well overall and seemed happy in the waiting area but as soon as we entered the exam room she started to cry.


The doctor was very nice, spoke with her in Chinese and like a good pediatrician, used a few squeaky toys to try to distract her. The worst part was the TB test when they drew blood from her arm. Four white coats took her from my arms and whisked her behind a curtain. I must say I didn’t like that feeling at all. Fortunately it was over quickly and only a few tears were shed.

The rest of our time here will be spent visiting the zoo, some shopping areas, a local park, and plenty of free time. We will also have an appointment at the consulate where we receive her Visa. Her American citizenship begins as soon as we land in Detroit on April 4!

Some more pictures of Caia:


Yes, she uses chopsticks. Can out-eat us all! She’s cleaned up a bowl of noodles and I’m struggling with the first bite!

Thanks for reading our blog and posting your comments. I wish I could respond to every one individually. Facebook and WordPress are blocked here and my time to get past the firewall is limited. But I do receive them all by email, so thank you!

Please continue to pray for us as our time winds down here. We are all homesick and tired!

Happy Easter to everyone and God Bless the USA!

Love,

Debi

Parting Thoughts

I started to name this post “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and the Beautiful” which would be an honest title to what I am about to reveal. I could paint a rosy picture of the past 4 days, but that wouldn’t quite be an honest portrayal of our time here in the birth province of my fourth child. We miss America. Funny what a play on words that is. Miss America has always been the title of a beauty contestant, not words that cause me to crave fresh water from a tap, the ability to read a map, or ask where a bathroom is located. But it’s not all bad either. The people here are very friendly, even if we can’t communicate. The thumbs up is a universal signal of approval when they see our American family with a Chinese baby. They understand the future we are giving one of their daughters and they are quick and genuine with their approval. Also, fried rice is really very delicious on a daily basis. And the weather is warm…70 degrees every day. In addition, the heritage here has longevity. We have seen structures over 400 years old.

So what’s the ugly? Unfortunately, it’s the grief we have had to watch Caia endure. Adoption always involves loss whether we like to talk about it or not. No matter if it’s domestic or international, the birth parent and the child have suffered a disruption of one of our most formative, deeply rooted relationships. For an infant or child, this breech has no words. It is only the feeling of a heart breaking, and it’s only expression is tears. For our sweet Caia, this is her second loss. She was abandoned by her birth family when she was already over a year old. We have no information on her prior to January 2012, only that she was brought to the orphanage on January 21 with wounds which were apparently burns on her right jaw and arm. This “happens” to be our wedding anniversary, and when I saw this date on her referral I knew she was ours. You can already see God’s hand in working all things together for her good. She was in an orphanage with exceptional medical care, run by Love Without Boundaries, a Christian medical organization that provides care to orphans around the world. She was loved by a foster “grandma” who obviously provided her with exceptional attention: she is “potty” trained, can use chopsticks, wash her own hair, and practically dress herself. I can only assume that the first loss was just as hard as this one. She growns from a place deep within her that no amount of hugs, kisses or “oy eye nee’s” (I love you) can soothe. It seems our hotel room is the catalyst for the grief to surface. So, we pace the hallway outside our room. We gaze out windows to distract from the ache inside her but that only helps for a moment. Thankfully, she allows me to hold her and whisper my love for her even if she can’t accept or understand. (Unfortunately, no one else can hold her. My arms and back are so sore, no one else can hardly touch me. I’m not complaining, I would carry her 24/7 if that’s what it took to prove my love for her. It’s just the opposite from what I had prepared myself for.) I can also report that these grieving sessions are getting shorter. Today, she seemed to relax in our hotel room, play with Chandler, Caleb and Cambria, and laugh a natural, joyful gushing of happy!

I guess the ugly isn’t all that ugly when we have the hope that things will get better for her. Our guide, Susan, told us that Caia’s Chinese name, Chun, means “spring is coming.” Yes, Spring is coming. A new beginning for Caia in America, with a family, and a bright future in a free country where she has the opportunity to become anything she wants, do anything, dream anything. Where she can freely learn about Jesus, and the God who created the universe and loves us personally. I have used Jeremiah 29:11 throughout this journey: God knows the plans He has for us…plans to give us a hope and a future. For Caia, I have no idea what His plans are, but I do know He has them. I have seen some of them in the works already.

Some images which I really think do capture the good, the bad, and the ugly as we say good-bye to Kunming, Yunnan Province, China:

View of Kunming from the bell tower at the top of the Golden Temple:


A local selling her handmade shoes


Kentucky Fried Chicken!!


Around these parts, the kids are like celebrities: these are their fans who would walk up and ask for a picture:


Some sad times:


And her first laugh with us:


More happy times together:


Our group with the same Gotcha Day:


Off to Guanghzou today for the second half of our adventure. We are all ready for a change of scenery. Thanks for following us. We love you and miss you and appreciate your prayers!!

Love,

Debi

Location:Qianju Street,,China

Gotcha!

March 25, 2013

Monday was an amazing day, to say the least, and there are so many details I hope I never forget. Not only do I want to share them with Caia someday, but I want to always remember the day she came into our family. As I said in my last post, the beginning of the day crept by, but once we set out to the Civil Affairs office, the minutes passed like sand between my fingers and I couldn’t hold onto them. Following a 30 minute ride through jaw-clenching traffic and crowded streets, we walked into a disheveled building that I have to admit made me nervous. This was the setting for this momentous occasion? Didn’t match up with what I was feeling! But there was no time to give that more thought, because minutes after we settled inside, Caia arrived! She was excited to see us:


Yes, she was sound asleep!!! There were 2 other families meeting their children at the same time, plus at least 6-8 guides and officials in a small room and she slept through it all. Turned out to be a blessing as we each had a chance to hold her before she woke up. Her “Grandma” (her guardian angel and foster mom over the past year) handed her to me, then stood in the background watching us embrace a child she clearly loved. When she came over to say good-bye, I thought my heart would break. Every night since we received Caia’s referral, Cambria and I have prayed that she would be loved well. We prayed for her caregiver, and here she was in front of me, charged with loving this orphan for just a little while, knowing that she was going to have to let go of her one day, and that day was here.


A child who is loved early has an easier time loving again. I know that with time, this woman will be a faint memory for Caia, but for me, her face will be etched in my memory forever and I will remind Caia how much she was loved. This is Grandma in an update we received a few weeks ago. At the time, we had no idea who the woman was in the middle. Now we know.


After a frenzy of paperwork, and I do mean frenzy, Caia awoke and the scene changed a little:


Things were hectic after this. Seems they were in a hurry to get us out. We were able to speak with the orphanage director and ask specific questions about her care. Then we were whisked back out to the van. That whole process took about a less than three hours start to finish. We were back to the hotel by 5:00.


Our first night ended pretty peacefully all in all, but not without some tears shed by more than one of us. She slept through the night, ate a good breakfast and we headed back to the Civil Affairs office for more paperwork. It’s at this point they ask the question “Do you want to adopt this child?” There was no question, we had that decision made…Yes!

We even got a few smiles on Tuesday:


Now we are settling in to getting to know each other, trying to communicate, and trying to comfort a child who is missing her “Grandma.” Each day will get a little better, but keep us in your prayers!

Thanks for all the Facebook and blog comments. They are an encouraging reminder that we are not alone.

Debi

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad