Wednesday, May 28, 2008

For This Child I Have Prayed - Gotcha Day Anniversary

One year ago today, our daughter came into our life. Actually, this raven-haired beauty captured our hearts long before then, but one year ago today Oakley Xinxiang physically became a part of our family. I’ve written this post a thousand times in my head and I can never seem to do it justice.

I love reliving Gotcha Day -- walking into that office and seeing those scared, soulful little eyes looking up at us. Knowing that she was my daughter and that her whole world -- and our whole world -- was about to change. But words evade me when I try to recap all that Oakley means to me and to our family.

I simply wonder time and time again … what if

what if ... we hadn’t listened to God’s voice telling us that our little girl was waiting for us in China.

what if ... we hadn’t followed our hearts.

what if ... we had given into the fears of treading those unknown waters, of not being able to financially afford to grow our family through adoption, of not being able to meet her needs.

what if …

I praise God for his unending faithfulness and for the blessings he has bestowed upon our family. Oakley has blessed us in ways unimaginable. She is pure joy, uncontained, with such a zest for life. She finds excitement in the mundane and she is THE most loving child I have ever met.

She has allowed our boys to unabashedly show their tender side. They love her, adore her, watch out for her, and are so proud of her. Sawyer will forever hold a special place in her heart, and her in his. Their relationship is too precious for words. She referred to him as Ge-Ge (older brother) in China, and she still reserves this title for him alone.

But she loves Hagan and Sullivan mightily too and calls them her brudders. I met with Sullivan’s second grade teacher this afternoon and she informed me that Sullivan has become quite the advocate for adoption. During a recent SHARE time at school, he informed his classmates that when he grows up he plans to have a large family … probably four children, and he wants to adopt at least two of them. My eight-year-old then proceeded to tell his classmates that maybe they should adopt too, because it’s a great thing. LOVE this boy!!

Michael and I love our girl unconditionally and with all of our being. It’s so hard for me to put into words all that I feel. I cannot begin to comprehend life without her.

Before travelling, I read all the material I could get my hands on regarding adopting a toddler. A lot of it was scary stuff and I had mentally prepared myself for the worst. But our own experience was just the opposite.

Oakley came to us not only deserving of a family of her own, but needing and wanting a family of her own. She was receptive to our love and reciprocated almost immediately. She thrived on our love and attention, blossomed and transformed in front of our eyes.

We met with the social worker last week for our final post placement meeting and Stacie asked if she ever went through a grieving process. And she honestly didn’t. I’m not so na├»ve as to believe there won’t be rough times ahead … difficult questions, a longing to know “why”, and quite possibly some grieving. But we are fully prepared to see her through it and we will do our best to help her heal.

Today, Oakley is a beautiful, talented, spirited and FUNNY three-and-a-half year old!! She loves to draw and color, she sings to her heart’s content, she talks non-stop, and she loves to play dress-up, tea party, dollhouse, puzzles and games. She’s also partial to lipstick and asks for it every morning before heading off to school.

She’s incredibly smart, knows each letter of the alphabet, can spell, write and sign her name, can spell a few words (STOP being one of them), can recite the Pledge of Allegiance and knows the words to many, many songs. I sometimes joke that we have a Child Wonder on our hands. She picked up the language at such record speed, it astounded us and all of our family and friends. She’s also really great at remembering names, even if she’s only met you once, and she loves to use adjectives like disgusting, obnoxious and beautiful, beautiful, beautiful (always said three times in succession.)

She still speaks of China often … she talks about her best friend Caeleigh, her blue bed, her little round bathtub, the playground, and Ayi. And every times she sees a plane, she shouts excitedly, “I ride on a plane! Mommy and Papa and Ge-Ge come to China and bring me home!” She always follows that up by telling me that she missed me when she was in China. She also tells me two or three times a week that she missed me when I was in Louisville (for a scrapbook retreat last January) and that she missed me when I was at the phone store (getting a new cell last month).

I pray that she will maintain a fondness for her birth country and we will do everything in our power to make sure she is proud of her heritage. I’m not sure how much she remembers about her homeland and how much she is remembering through the photos we took while there and through the scrapbook pages I have completed. I do know that she’s lost the ability to speak any of her local dialect with the exception of a few words, and that she can no longer remember all the words to the little nursery rhyme song she used to sing soon after we arrived home. This makes me sad, but I know it’s natural given her age and her desire to move forward.

The first year with our girl has been incredible. We are blessed and very fortunate to have been given the responsibility of raising her, loving her, and watching her grow as a child of God.

“For this child I have prayed,
and the Lord has granted me what I have asked of him.”

1 Samuel 1:27

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What a Doll Baby

I love that Oakley loves her baby dolls, especially her Bitty Baby doll. She likes pushing her around in her stroller, feeding her in her highchair and playing tea party with her. She also puts her to bed each night and covers her up (head and all) before she climbs into her own bed.

Bitty Baby joins us at church frequently and Oakley always puts this little gown on her -- I guess it's her "Sunday Best!"

Don't get me wrong, she also loves trains, Matchbox cars, and soccer ... and she can hold her own in a wrestling match with any of her brothers.

But when I see her playing with her dolls ... the way she caresses their faces, gazes into their eyes, and loves them tenderly ... it melts my heart.

My baby girl has a heart full of love and compassion.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rest in Peace Sweet Baby Girl

The Chapman family needs our prayers.

I am at a loss for words as I try to express my grief and sorrow over their loss. I have a little girl and I have a teenage son. I can't imagine.

Yesterday I wrote that life is fragile. It truly, truly is.

I pray that God will heal their broken hearts and that they find some comfort in the arms of family and friends. They have blessed so many lives in the adoption community and they have made so many dreams come true. What generous souls and gentle spirits.

please pray

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WOW! What a Weekend! (i'm glad it's over)

This past weekend I hosted a National Scrapbook Day Retreat at my house. I love this annual event because I get to spend time with some of my best clients, who just so happen to be some of my closest friends and favorite people. I cherish their company and we spend the entire weekend working on our album projects, sharing photos and stories, enjoying some serious girl-talk and feasting!

Michael volunteered to keep the kids all weekend and we had multiple soccer games scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. Well, all was going splendidly when I got a frantic call from him late Saturday afternoon asking me to meet him at the hospital.

My heart stopped.

Sawyer was playing in the Bluegrass Invitational Tournament and was injured during the game. From all accounts, he and an opposing player were running full-speed, side-by-side when they got tangled up. Sawyer went flying through the air and came down on his shoulder, arm tucked beneath him, where he proceeded to do somewhat of a somersault. He bounced back up, recovered the ball and completed the play.

Then he asked to be taken out of the game.

Which he never does.

The game was almost over at this point and at the conclusion (we won!), the coach sent him over to Michael. He had a lot of stomach pain, was having trouble breathing, and at the urging of some of the other parents, Michael took him to the hospital.

Thank God!

I left my scrapbooking buddies to fend for themselves and met Michael at the hospital to pick up Oakley and Sullivan. Michael said it would be several hours before they had the results of the tests and that he'd call as soon as he knew more. I took the kids home, got them settled and ready for bed, and joined my ever-supportive friends while I awaited more news.

After a CAT-scan and a lot of blood work, Sawyer was diagnosed with a lacerated spleen and some internal bleeding. The doctors say that his spleen was twice the size of a normal spleen in a "child" Sawyer's age, but not having a baseline to which they could compare it, they weren't sure how much of that was caused by the injury.

He was transported by ambulance to the UK Medical Center for further testing and monitoring. They wanted him to have access to the trauma unit in case his spleen ruptured. He endured more tests, and thankfully, the bleeding eventually subsided on its own. He spent the next 72 hours in the hospital and Michael and I took turns staying with him. He had lots of visitors, including some of his soccer teammates. His team won the final game of the BIT on Sunday and his buddies came to visit and brought along the team trophy! They are a great group of kids.

He was discharged from the hospital yesterday afternoon and is now at home. He's on the mend, although he's still in a lot of pain. He's been restricted from any physical activity until at least June 10, when he returns to the doctor for another CAT-scan and an evaluation. He's so disappointed about missing the rest of the soccer season. The State Cup Tournament begins this weekend and he'll be cheering on his teammates from the sidelines.

However, I am just thankful that time will heal him and that his spleen did not rupture. I know we're lucky that his injury wasn't worse. Despite how strong and fit are children may be, they are fragile.

He's 16-years-old, he stands a full-head taller than me, but he's still my baby boy.

He always will be.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Impersonations and Props

One of Oakley's favorite things to do is role-play, and her favorite person to role play is her Aunt Lori, my sister, who just so happens to be one of Oakley's all-time favorite people. and mine, too

In the past week or so, she's started adding props, and this is what Lori looks like each and every time she plays her. Notice the reading glasses. Lori comes over often to scrapbook with me and when she does, she always wears her readers, so Oakley apparently identifies her this way.

"Look, Mom, I'm Lori," she says.

And from then on, I have to address her as Lori, and I must always say her name when speaking to her.

For instance, if I say "Hello", she reminds me (rather impatiently) to say "Hello, Lori."

And so the game begins.

"How are you today, Lori?"

"I'm fine, Jana."

"You look really nice, Lori."

"Thank you. I like your pink lipstick, Jana."

"Do you want to go to the grocery store with me, Lori?"

"Yes, Jana. I want to get some milk and some raisins, Jana."

We have great conversations, Oakley, aka Lori, and I.