Monday, September 1, 2014

One Year Later

And here we are, one year later. A million things are floating through my mind about our experience for the past year; all noteworthy, and yet all so mundane. All the milestones I can think to report are just regular kid-growing-up-kind of things. Maddie learned to walk, she speaks in sentences now, she is potty trained, she finally put on some weight/height, she rides a bike, she started school, she jumps, she sings, she sleeps through the night, she watches TV, she "reads" books, she still takes 2-3 hours naps on most days...the list goes on. And therein lies the significance I was overlooking: she has blazed through all these milestones in one short year. She went from being (at best) at the level of a 1 year old, to a regular 4 year old in the span of just one year. To say she is doing well is an understatement. I can't find the word to describe how incredible she is doing.  

Madeleine does not live subtly. Whatever she is doing she does with gusto (hence, earning her the title "Chairman Maddie"). When she is in a room, everyone knows it; when she is strolling down the block with her sisters, neighbors can hear her coming; when she arrives at Nana and Papa's each morning, they can hear her announcing her arrival from the back of the house. Maddie is friendly and a joyful child. Those in the adoption world are familiar with the term "Indiscriminate Social Behavior", and yes, Maddie definitely falls into that category. And while Ryan and I carefully watch her social interactions with the world around her, I love the fact that she is so open and welcoming to the world. I thank God that through all her ordeals, He so perfectly preserved her spirit. That spirit is going to serve her well as she makes her own path.

I know it is cliché to say, but it does really feel like she has always been a part of the family. We talk about our trip to China just about on a daily basis, but in the past week, it has been on our mind even more. Each day I would recount for the girls, "Today was Mommy's last day of work before our trip" or "Today we got on the plane to fly to China", etc. When I told them that "Today was the day we climbed the Great Wall of China, but Maddie wasn't there, so we will definitely have to do that again when we go back...", Keegan and Regina immediately retorted with "Yes, Maddie was there". And, as much as I tried to remind them she wasn't there yet, they wouldn't believe me. They actually supplanted her in their memories of the Great Wall. It wasn't until I showed them our picture roll (without Maddie) that they started to believe me.
    On that note, I sometimes walk into situations a little too cavalier (which could be considered a talent or a flaw, not quite sure what side that lands on) and while I prepped, researched, and studied everything I could about China and adoption, I never really prepared myself/our family for the possibility she would reject us or have a rocky start. I just didn't think it was in the cards, and certainly if it was going to happen, Ryan and I are easy-going enough that we could quickly work through it. Well, I had a moment of panic when we were in China that we were really in for it. We toured Beijing for a few days before flying to Maddie's hometown of Zhengzhou, and that time in Beijing felt like a vacation. I kept having to remind myself that we would be meeting our daughter in a few days. At any rate, on the bus ride from the airport (the afternoon before getting Maddie), our guide wasted no time in prepping us for the events of the following day. Suddenly, everything was sinking in, and I got butterflies in my stomach--the vacation was over, and our official business was underway! We were sitting at the back of the bus, and when Yisha said "Zhou AiBei" I popped out of my seat to grab Maddie's final info sheet, and that's when I felt awful. The information on that sheet contained the most up to date details we had about her and came directly from her foster family. And two things there made me want to turn around and run in the other direction. It said she was shy around strangers and did not like animals. Well, we (Ryan, the girls, and myself) are strangers, so I immediately translated that into she wasn't going to like us, and we have dogs and are an "animal family", so what were we supposed to do with her once we got home? My heart literally sank, and I started to feel sick. So imagine my utter confusion when she was placed in my arms, and Maddie was smiling, laughing, kissing, rubbing my cheek, and calling me "Ma-ma, ma-ma". I remember thinking, "But, the sheet said she does not like strangers..." and then having no explanation as to why she was so happy to see me. I started to cry, and held her as tightly as I could and my first words were, "Maddie, I am so sorry it took me so long to get here. Let's go home". After a while, I remembered that I had to give her to Ryan too, so I finally handed her over, and the same reaction: she was just as overjoyed to see him too! The rest of the day's events are a blur, I remember going swimming in the hotel pool, eating at the Italian restaurant for dinner, watching her take a nap, and not being able to wait to Skype with our family and introduce her to everyone. On the bus ride from the Chinese adoption office back to our hotel, she nestled into the crook of my arms, and started to suck her thumb. That's when I knew God had matched us perfectly, and the rest of our days would be as so.

I sometimes hesitate to talk about how well she is doing, because I know that some children that are adopted have a rougher transition into their family. I've followed blogs and have spoken with other adoptive parents that have struggled with a few issues. We have not had that experience with Madeleine's adoption. From the moment she was placed in my arms, she has accepted and trusted us with all her might. In fact, many times when people ask how she did on Gotcha Day or with her early transition to our family, my usual funny line is, "She hit the American lunch buffet at our hotel and never looked back"! And for the most part that is the truth. I honestly cannot think of one thing that we can account to her rough start in life or her transition to a whole new world (literally). There have not been any odd behaviors, sleepless nights, issues with eating, etc. everything has been perfect. Any issues we deal with stem more from the fact that we have three children under 6 years old in our care than anything else!

To mark our one year anniversary, we started a new tradition. We volunteered this morning at our local Ronald McDonald House and baked blueberry muffins (my grandmother's recipe). Each year on our Family Day celebration we will volunteer together in our community. I'm hoping Maddie will soon be able to tell us where she wants to volunteer and participate in planning the event. While I was hoping we could volunteer for orphans (could not find an opportunity besides sending money or supplies), I think we got pretty close with RMH. Many children that come home from other countries have special needs that land them in a hospital for a period of time, and have stayed at RMH. We were lucky that Madeleine's heart surgery performed in Beijing was a complete success and we have had to do minimal with her heart condition thus far. But, things could have easily been different, and we could have been one of the families staying at RMH. It was a fun morning and I definitely see us returning for more baking events (BTW, any other families out there looking for good volunteer opportunities that you can do with the little ones, this is perfect).

Making Boom's blueberry muffins for the Ronald McDonald House families