Sunday, March 3, 2013

Return to Zaozhuang

I've not posted for a long time and had kind of decided that a year home was a good time to close the blog.  However, March 2, 2013 was a pretty eventful day in Claire's life and it bears recording.

When we adopted Claire in 2011 we promised that we would bring her back to visit as soon as we could.  My guess is that Director Lu thought he'd never see Claire again.  We certainly didn't think we'd  be back this quickly.  Since we were coming to China to adopt again, we decided that making good on our promise was a priority.

We arrived in Beijing on March 1.  On the second we got up and headed to the train station to travel to Zaozhuang.  We had arranged ahead of time to have our previous guide, Missy, join us there.  As it turns out, our train went through Jinan and Missy got on the train there.  It was a huge relief to see her because the train had been stopped in Jinan for over an hour.  The staff didn't speak much English and all we got was "Long time", "Red Light" and "Sorry".  This was worrisome as Saturday was the only day we could go to Zaozhuang.  I knew people were waiting and I was worried that the whole plan would fall apart and we'd find it very difficult to get back to Beijing.  Missy found us on the train just about the time it started moving and the rest of the trip was uneventful.

We arrived in Zaozhuang and of course orphanage officials were waiting for us.  They had cameras and were so excited to see Claire who they are still calling Bai Bai.  Claire was very shy and stuck close to us.  We were escorted to vans and we travelled to a nice restaurant where Director Lu was waiting for us.

If you've followed this blog you will remember the lavish meal and many toasts from the first time we visited.  This was the same although there weren't quite as many people.  Many toasts went back and forth about the love and care that Claire has received from her "Chinese Family" and us.  Director Lu was pleased to see that she "is more beautiful" and "can do many more things" than before.  He immediately quizzed us about her health and we about school and medical history.  The whole time, Claire was treated like a celebrity . . . or a baby depending on your point of view.  At one point she was sitting on the lap of one of her nannies and being fed noodles!  I told her "Don't get too used to that!" and she said "I know".  While Luke and Catherine are not Zaozhuang kids, they too were treated well. Everyone wanted pictures with them and as a mom I love how special all of my kids are to Claire's other family.


After lunch we went to the orphanage where Claire lived.  This complex was not strictly an orphanage, but a social welfare institute so there were also old people living there.  The orphanage part is now housed in a new building about 30 minutes away, but the old people remain in the previous building.  Many of the people remembered Claire and were thrilled to she her.  She was less excited than they.

Next we traveled to the new orphanage where we got to see several sweet children and some of the other nannies that cared for Claire.

We also found that there we a couple of posters of us and the Dotsons, up in the new building.  These are made of pictures that we have given to Director Lu.  Clearly they are proud of Claire and Tai and still love them a lot!

The day ended with more pictures, promises to visit again, and for Director Lu and his family to come visit us and the Dotsons with his family some day.

It was a very important day for all of us and I think that all involved are so happy to see how well God's plan for Claire is unfolding.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nearly a year!

It doesn't seem possible, but we are fast approaching the one year anniversary of our Gotcha Day with Claire.  It seems she's been with us our forever when in reality it has been just a snippet of our lives.  This year has been full of so many firsts.  Soon they will be seconds . . .second Halloween, second Christmas, second birthday . . .and the promise of many, many more to come.

Here are a few of the firsts we have experienced since May.

First Hoopfest.  She didn't play, but she participated in her first ever Flash Mob.  

First Gonzaga Alumni/Eastside Rotary Soap Box Derby for special kids.

This is Claire being driven by her sister and helped out by our good friends Claire and Josh.  Extra points for anyone who can identify the guy in the Cubs hat photo bombing in the back.  You might have to be a Zag fan to get it. . . .

First time "chillin'" with a Zag.

First trip to Priest Lake and this was with most of the maternal side of the family.  This is Claire with her Auntie Wendy.

More fun at Priest Lake.

Her first time kayaking.  Mastered it, easy peasy!

Her first hike in the woods.  This is an old growth forest near Priest Lake.  Only my girly, girl would hike in a skirt . . .

First time shooting a gun . . .a Daisy BB gun.  

First inner tube ride.  

First Karaoke . . .Singing Usher's "DJ's Got Us Falling In Love."

First bonfire

Not the first roasted marshmallow, but the first picture of her enjoying a marshmallow.

I'll say it over and over again . . . I am simply amazed at how perfectly Claire fits into our family.   God is certainly very, very good!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Days!

It has been a crazy few months but the joy that Claire has brought to our lives is immeasurable.  There have been peals of laughter, tears of sadness and lots and lots of love.  Lots of highlights over the last few months.  Here are just a few:

Chinese New Year with the Dotsons

 Headbandz with her sister

Making cupcakes for her first birthday party . . .EVER!!!

THE birthday party

First Soccer Game

Friendships . . .

First Communion and Confirmation

I really can't find the words to describe what a blessing Claire has been to us.  Bringing her into our family has been so much better than we ever imagined.  Thank you Lord for our girl!!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Concert, Court, Christmas and Christening

Wow!  What an amazing month it's been since Thanksgiving.  So much has happened and most of it has been in the last week.

Claire was all set for her first Christmas Concert at school.  There was a play and she got cast(without even auditioning) for the part of "The Littlest Angel".  She was thrilled and there were a lot of practices.  She had a costume and kept trying to tell me what she had to do.  So there we were, the night of the concert.  The kids were loaded in the car.  The girls had special, Christmas dresses they were wearing.  Tights and new shoes completed the outfits and everyone was excited.  We were running a bit late, but only because the seats with the best view were at a premium and we needed to get there to lay down coats.  We got about 4 blocks from home, from the back seat I heard Claire say "Mommy!"  I turned around and she threw up.  Then she began to cry.  Home we went, cleaned her up and into jammies while Kevin took Luke and Catherine to the concert.  I guess Claire's theatrical and concert debut will have to wait until next year.

Over the last week we have completed her re-adoption.  In China Claire was placed with us and the following day we adopted her under Chinese law.  For a variety of reasons and at the recommendation of our agency, we also adopted her under our local state law.  This was done on the 21st.  Typically a sad day for us as it is the anniversary of a family member's death.  But now we have a reason to really rejoice on that day!  Here is a picture of our family after the adoption order was signed.

Just a few days later, was Claire's 1st Christmas!  She was so excited.  She clearly understood what a special day this is.  On Christmas Eve she asked me to write a note to Santa for her.  It was full of thanksgiving.  "Mamma, daddy, thank you so much Santa" she had me write.  Christmas day she was so excited about each present and flew into the arms of each giver to hug and thank them.  Her joy was really wonderful to watch.  You can see how excited she was.

Then the day after Christmas we had Claire baptized.  We asked the Dotsons to be Claire's Godparents.  They are Tai's parents and if it weren't for Tai and his mom, Claire would not be a part of our family.  Who better to stand in that role than the very people who were looking after our child's best interests before she joined our family?  It was a really special day and Claire took it all in with a sense of importance, solemnity and reverence . . . .in her own way.  

Here is grandpa(who nearly didn't make it due to vandalization of his car) making the sign of the cross on her forehead.  Each of us there did this.

I think Claire wasn't quite sure what to think of all of this.  Especially when Father asked lots of saints to "Pray for us".  This was a special part of the ceremony as he had asked for the names of the people that were going to be there.  He then researched who their patron saints were and those were the saints he named.

Here she is being held over the font and being baptized.

Fragrant oil was poured over her head.  Looks like she really wasn't impressed with this part.  I can only imagine what was going through her head at this moment.  I love the smell of the oil and her head still smells like it even though we washed her hair many times.  

When it was all over we started taking pictures and the challenge was to get Claire to smile instead of the usual tongue sticking out.  This one is a keeper with Fr. Connelly and the Dotsons.

Our new normal is feeling really good.  Claire is funny, sassy and so loving.  There are times when she just looks at me, throws her arms around me and says "give a hug, mamma I love you."  What a beautiful sentence!  Kevin and I are getting used to having a third child around, Luke and Catherine are settling into the routine of having to share their domain with someone else and Claire is really doing a beautiful job of adapting to life in a family.  She has, by far, had the biggest adjustment.  

This amazing year is coming to an end and for all of it's blessings we are so very thankful.  We look forward to 2012 and all the adventures that life with our beautiful children will bring.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Already a TV Star!!!

We've been home just 2 months and Claire is already a TV star!  This story ran on our local news station this morning.  I had sooooo much more to say, but probably good they limited me to the short clip.

Pretty great subjects . . . .I could have talked all day long on this subject!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

1st Thanksgiving

We have been home a month and have celebrated, today, Claire's 1st Thanksgiving.  Each family has their own traditions.  I'm afraid that Claire might think that ours is something akin to WWE Smackdown.

While there have been many firsts and amazing things about having Claire with us, what I have been most surprised about is her language development.  Her receptive language is through the roof.  It seems she understands everything we say to her.  Her expressive language is coming along really well too and there have been times over the last couple of weeks where she surprised me by asking "Mamma may I have a hug?" and "Hi Mamma, how are you?"  

We've been able to get Claire and Tai together over the last month.  It's really sweet to see them together.   Yesterday we took them to Build a Bear.  It's really clear that Claire is happy to be able to see Tai.  Here they are walking around the mall.

There have been several other firsts since Halloween.  

First trip to Montana, first snow and first sledding trip all rolled up into one.

First time making snowflakes

The first wedding and dance

And the first visit to Santa.

We were reminded that it was a year ago today that we got approval from the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs to move forward with Claire's adoption.  How blessed we have been in the last year!  We are amazed at what a perfect fit Claire is for our family and are thankful each day for her!