TeTe

“TeTe! TeTe!” From the minute we left the children’s welfare office in Wuhan, our sweet girl screamed for “TeTe” with panic and terror and total heartbreak in her eyes, often until she made herself sick or until she was exhausted and fell asleep. We will never forget her seeing the elevator doors close as her favorite social worker left before we did, and hearing her scream “TeTe” as she tried to pry the elevator doors apart with her delicate little fingers. The look in her eyes as she screamed for him and tried to leave the hotel to go find him, while I, the awful stranger she didn’t even understand blocked the door, will haunt me for the rest of my days.

TeTe.

The worst part? We misunderstood, for so so long. We never learned what TeTe meant, and it wasn’t in any of the lists of super important words or phrases that we were trying to learn in Chinese before we left for China. The social worker who brought our sweet daughter to us was so kind, and loved her so much, that we assumed that was her name or nickname. We will forever kick ourselves – how naive could we have been? 

It’s okay now. In fact, it’s beautiful. But it wasn’t then. When it comes to older child adoption, we feel strongly that others should know as many uncomfortable, icky, heartwrenchingly painful details as possible going in because this is LIFE. And life is all of those things. We shouldn’t hide from them. The bit of hiding we’ve done along the way – most of the time unknowingly (the heart protects) kept us, all three of us, from fully living our best rich gorgeous lives together. In fact, I haven’t blogged for so long because Maya didn’t want me to. She liked keeping her story private for a while. But after the events of the story I’m sharing with you now, she’s changed her mind and as I write this, she is my editor. Maya feels strongly, as do her dad and I, that it’s a story worth sharing. 

So, back to it. 

The grieving for TeTe did not stop. It did not wane. Leaving the Beijing airport and getting on that plane from China for good broke our baby’s heart, and she was so sad and afraid that she was physically ill all the way home. Our family had quickly fallen in love right away, without a doubt. In Guangzhou, our second week in China, the three of us held each other and laughed and smiled and snuggled. So on this long trip home, we comforted her as best we could and she accepted as much comfort as she could.  Hours turned into days and days into weeks, but the grieving for TeTe and the nightmares and the sadness were pervasive. 

We had some friends who lived in Nashville that we had met through the local Chinese community, who were actually from Wuhan, which is where we adopted Maya. One day not long after we had gotten home, we met them at a local Chinese restaurant for lunch. They had a brand new baby boy, and as they strapped him into his highchair, we heard them and their other children refer to him as DiDi. 

Wait, WHAT?!

TeTe. DiDi. Little brother. 

If you know me at all, you know that I sprang into action. Let me just say thank God for Holt International‘s post-adoption services. Since we had such a close and trusting relationship with Holt, I was able to contact them and tell them that I thought there was a baby brother somewhere. That my girl was having a hard time being without her TeTe, that a riddle of sorts had just been solved, and I desperately needed their help.

A few months later in July 2014, as we were leaving the grocery store while on a family vacation in Nags Head, North Carolina, a moment I will never forget, I received a phone call. I learned that Maya GuanXin indeed had a little foster brother, that he had been matched with a loving family, and that they were Americans. My sister-in-law, who was quite aware of what we were dealing with, and I hugged and cried and had cold chills as people tried to maneuver around us to get into the store. With our permission and with their permission, we were put in touch with one another and slowly the sunlight began to pour in. 

In December 2014, sweet Thomas MuZhu’s family brought him home from Wuhan. They were on the West Coast, which was fairly far away, but these two were now at least on the same continent and both had forever families who would do anything in the world for them. The face-timing began once we thought they were ready. And oh my goodness, these precious kids, both having to turn their heads sideways to focus clearly since they both have a visual impairment called Nystagmus, getting as close to their iPad screens as possible and gazing at each other as their eyes filled with tears. Touching their tiny hands to the screen. And that’s when she knew, that’s when Maya GuanXin knew that her baby brother was safe. 

Fast forward again, as we waited for both children to be ready, not only to reunite but also to separate again without it inducing more trauma. They talked and talked and planned and planned, and finally the time came. Maya and Thomas discussed what they would do when we came to California to visit. Since he did not live too far from Legoland, of course that made the list. Maya talked about her trip to see him from sunup to sundown. Day after day. She made plans, she tweaked plans. She rearranged plans. We knew that they were going on a train to the ocean, and we knew that she was going to take him to Legoland and hold his hand as they walked around Legoland. These were non-negotiable. 

And so we did it. And it was beautiful. I can’t say that this happens often, but there is a sweet energy connecting these two that encompasses everything, and so the plan fell into place perfectly and everything was beautiful, a dream come true. Not only did Maya get to hold him, kiss him, and feed him just like she did in Wuhan, but she fell madly in love with his brother and sisters as well. And are they still family? Of course they are! It’s important to understand that when children are raised in a foster family, often the only measure of family they’ve ever known, it doesn’t simply end when they are adopted. We had some good talks during our trip to California about family of choice, and the fact that they can still call each other brother and sister for the rest of their lives. They are family. And as her dad says, her family just got a little bigger.

And now from Maya: she and Thomas are going to do more and more and more, to make plans and make plans and make plans, forever and ever and ever. 

And a special thanks to Legoland: Nystagmus is worse in bright sunlight and also in crowds, and they were gracious enough to make sure these kids had special passes so they didn’t have to manage crowded lines. We are forever grateful. Maya and Thomas managed Legoland without a hitch, including riding all of the roller coasters. Next stop, Disneyworld! 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Flat Side

I made chicken soup for my daughter tonight. Mindlessly, chopping and peeling and crushing, which is how we all make chicken soup. But these days are different: gone are the days of celery, carrots, turnips, fresh parsley from the garden. These are the days of thick slices of ginger, crushed to let the juice out, many many garlic cloves, also crushed and juicy. Fragrant star anise, spring onion, very finely ground white pepper. When the chicken is cooked in this fragrant broth, I pull it out and shred, shred, shred. Then it all goes back into the pot. Without even thinking about it, I grab the big beautiful Chinese soup bowl, the white Chinese soup spoon with pink flowers on it, and ladle it out for my girl. Sometimes I stop and smile, and tonight was one of those nights, at how excited she gets when we’re in an Asian store and she gets to pick out bowls and spoons that look like the ones she had in her home in Wuhan. I have to smile at the pink floral rice spatula, the one that she practically begged for, and how she quietly gets it out of the drawer and places it beside the rice cooker when I make rice.
I love her relationship with food. Her culture is so rich with flavors and smells, they’re all deep in her soul. As she waits for the soup to cool, her nose as close to the surface of the soup as she can get it, I hear, “mmmmm, onion. mmmm, gijjer. mmmm, gahlic. mmm, pepper. mmm, spice (star anise), mmmmm….shicken.” Oh, my heart. 

  
This sweet girl, who thinks she’s not worthy. Look at her, isn’t she worthy of everything? Every beautiful thing in the world? But she doesn’t see it that way just yet. More and more though, she does with us, and that’s a big step. She often sees herself as quite worthy at home, of everything! Until we screw up. But: She ran like hell to me today and grabbed my head close and said “I love you”, plain as day, at school pick up. Usually it’s “I uh you.”

And then there’s the flat side: Do you know about the flat side? Do you know that there are babies all over this planet who lie alone, staring straight ahead, not being picked up or nurtured enough, so that their sweet heads lose shape and become flatter on the side or back, however they sleep? Or stare. Because that’s what I think about sometimes, when I’m watching her sweet little head, I think about what it must feel like to just stare. For  years. 

And so at night, while she’s sleeping, I rub the flat side of her head and kiss it kiss it kiss it. I keep thinking I can fill that space with kisses and touching and round it back out again. 

I know this all sounds very deep, and heavy, and I know that it reaches your heart in places that can cause the ugly cry, but that’s real. It’s real, but in no way defines this girl. It did, but every day it becomes a smaller part of her story. Here’s her current story: a happy child who’s slurping her soup and watching Teen Beach 2 (“I pick. Beach. Boy.”)

I haven’t updated the blog in so long because Maya keeps me BUSY. Oh, so busy. When we met her, almost 18 months ago now, she was tiny. She weighed around 38 pounds, her iron level was 2, and our sweet girl couldn’t stand long without falling because she was so weak. Flash forward to today, where she’s getting so much stronger that she’ll probably graduate physical therapy by Christmas. She has Nystagmus, and I’ll let you read all about that here:

http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/nystagmus?sso=y

Because we weren’t aware of that at first, and because it’s taken us a while to filter out what’s caused by weakness, what’s caused by Nystagmus, what’s caused by lack of exposure, what’s caused by nutrition, what’s caused by trauma… we have just recently wrapped our heads around this diagnosis enough to be creeping out of the “educating everyone everywhere” zone, into the “this diagnosis will not define her” zone. 

And here’s where I want to give a special shout-out, to the doctors, therapists, teachers, school administrators, vision experts, other mothers, sweet friends, and everyone else who listens patiently and shows their obvious love for our child. We are supremely blessed beyond measure to have the support that we do, and it shows in Maya’s ever-growing confidence, her bounce, her risk-taking, and most especially, VERY especially, her laughter.

  

  
We’ve come so far in our almost year-and-a-half together, and I just CAN’T WAIT to see where this family is going.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

one year

One year ago today we promised forever to our sweet Maya, and she promised us forever right back. What a joy our sweet daughter is! We celebrated by going to the park on this sunny afternoon after school, eating our weight in Chinese food, and then coming home to a surprise of cake and balloons. The three of us are exhausted but happy. Next up, Maya’s seventh birthday! 



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Half a Year, Half a World Away

FullSizeRender (1)

Eight months! Another season change, and our sweet Maya continues to grow and amaze. The love and joy she brings is immeasurable, and we trip over ourselves just to see her smile and to hear her laugh. Earning the trust and love of a little person who’s been neglected and let down, cast aside, really, her entire life up until she met you is no easy task. And it doesn’t come quickly. I’ve  alluded to this before, but those first days were full of pain and fear for our daughter, and frustration for us. And just when we thought it was going to last forever, when days turned into weeks and weeks turn into months, things started to turn around. We started to see our daughter smile more often, teachers told us that she was smiling in class and beginning to act and interact with confidence. We saw it too, not just the rare but slowly increasing smiles and giggles that we got from the beginning, but a real letting out of personality that could only come from trust. Pure and simple, Maya GuanXin  was letting us know who she was. And she was trusting us to be okay with exactly who she was.

IMG_0026

Man oh man, this girl is incredible. Her sense of humor is so amazing, sarcastic and dry and sweet and funny all at the same time. She doesn’t miss a beat, and she remembers everything. Her teacher even put her to the test by telling her when her Share Day would be, but not emailing us even though  he usually emails parents the night before their child’s day to share. Fast forward to one morning when Maya was determined to take a rainbow striped monkey to school that our sweet friend Sharon had given her. I had learned by that point not to fight it, but I did tell her that her teacher would just ask her to put it in her backpack when she got to class. She adamantly said no, and held it up in the air with her left hand while holding her backpack in her right. I shrugged and we left for school. We were on a string of days where Maya was grabbing her lunch box and backpack from me, giving me a kiss and hug and telling me goodbye about 20 feet from the classroom door. Today was one of those days, so as I watched for her to get into class and for her teacher to wave to me to let me know everything was cool, I saw her hold up the monkey and I saw her teacher exclaim in happiness. I thought to myself, “Wow, I guess he just lets them bring anything to school these days.” Then that afternoon came the email, where her teacher glowed with admiration as he told us that he had wanted to test her English comprehension and her comprehension of classroom routines, and the three of us were all so incredibly proud of her. That’s just one example: what we’ve learned now is that Maya  hears all, observes all, and somehow this little creature who is wise beyond thousands of years, often knows the answers in life before we do. Which brings us back to what I was talking about earlier: the transition into being a precious and cherished daughter in a loving family when you come from a place of nothingness, of shame at wondering what you had done to deserve so little during your first years of life.

Yesterday morning, out of the blue, Maya woke up happy but then couldn’t eat. It took her almost a full hour to eat just a little bit of food. At one point when I asked her what was wrong her eyes watered as if she was going to cry, but she clammed up and just forced herself to take a bite of food. By this point I had whittled away all options for a healthy breakfast at the table over morning coffee, and had settled on a turkey corndog in front of the television. Usually that will do the trick in even worst case scenarios, but not today. Things went really downhill when it was time to brush her teeth and get dressed. After some slapping and kicking of the Mommy, turning into a jellyfish when it came time to put on clothes, then crying and refusing to put on shoes, we finally got to a point where she smiled, let us hug her, got dressed and got in the car. She was still really quiet so I asked her for the millionth time if she was nervous about the class pictures that were happening today. This time, she said yes. I asked her if that’s why she hadn’t wanted to eat, and why she had acted the way she had this morning. She said yes. And we talked about it. We talked about how scary the individual pictures were earlier in the year, and how people kept telling her to pose in a way that felt unnatural to her. Helpful mothers who wanted her pictures to come out well don’t understand that this was the first time strangers had ordered her to stand still for a picture since she was an orphan, having a referral photo made and hoping some stranger would like it. And like her. All of those memories and fears came flooding back, and I was just so proud of her for finally opening up and telling me. And so incredibly frustrated that I had been on the verge of tears all morning because she doesn’t yet know how to use her words, even the ones she knows in English. It worked out, as it always does: we weren’t late, we even made a game of trying to get to class on time. We high-fived when we made it, out of breath, but I could still see that she was nervous. 15 minutes later I had an email from her teacher telling me that she did great and she was okay.

1488044_10153286711837892_3471222100120545834_n
So there you have it, one more step in the right direction but not without pain. And hurt feelings. And misunderstandings. And then, as always, the sun comes out brighter than ever, Maya’s confident smile is wider than ever, her eyes shine and she looks more relaxed than ever.

IMG_9995

She even takes on monumental tasks, like trying to convince her Daddy that she is old enough to wear mascara (he’s not buying it).

1962787_10153303088612892_4384605461981558481_n

So now we move forward toward the holidays. We’ve been talking about Thanksgiving and what we’re thankful for, and we’re teaching Maya about Christmas. All of the sappy, cheesy parts of Christmas. She even has an Elf on the Shelf, and she named her elf Pink. (Don’t even think about mentioning that it’s not Thanksgiving yet. Our sweet girl likes to take her time getting used to an idea. And we are more than happy to oblige her.) We spied on Santa in the mall the other day, making sure he couldn’t see us, but just scoping out the situation. Maya thinks that maybe when the day comes to tell him about her list, she can stand beside him and whisper. Sounds good to me. We go over the list every night, and she has it memorized pretty clearly. She wants little girl things, like a seat to attach to her bicycle so her baby doll can ride with her. She wants her ears pierced, but her Daddy thinks Santa might ask her to wait until her birthday. She wants long hair. And she wants a wedding ring, on her wedding finger, just like Mommy’s  and Daddy’s so that she’ll be officially married to us. We can’t wait to see that ring on her finger.

IMG_9613

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Our New Life, In Color

Oh my goodness, where to begin? I can’t believe I haven’t updated my blog one time since we became parents. It’s ridiculous, I know.

Have you heard that saying about something or someone taking your life from black and white to vivid color? Well, here’s our new life, in color.

We met Maya on March 17, 2014 in the amazing city of Wuhan, Hubei Province. She was so brave, quiet and strong, with a nervous smile. You could tell she had been told to be brave and to trust us. The next two weeks were a blur of laughter and tears as we all made each other laugh at the funny mistakes we made learning to take care of each other as a family, and as we comforted Maya through her visceral grief and fear.

When we first met this little girl, she was so afraid and so fragile and so beautiful and her heart and (old) soul were just so HUGE. We didn’t know if we had what it took to take good care of her, to give her everything we knew she needed without making mistakes. The funny thing is, the bigger lesson in all of this has been learning how to accept everything she gives us with grace. Maya really understands that she’s part of the team, that the three of us are a team: us against the world. She now knows that we have her back always. And in return she has our backs always. The love in this house is immeasurable and it keeps growing, minute by minute. It’s a beautiful bubble we’re living in, and we’ll never leave it. I could go on and on, but you probably want to see pictures since I’ve been so lax in blogging, so without further adieu, here’s a glimpse into the life of Miss Maya Guanxin from the day we met til now.

March 17th, 2014: “Gotcha” Day

IMG_0666

IMG_0663

IMG_0667IMG_0670IMG_0867IMG_0692

Our first week together: Wuhan

Wuhan 32014IMG_1273DSC06064

IMG_1247

20140319_143048

Flying to Guangzhou: Maya’s First Plane Ride

IMG_1360Guangzhou

IMG_1463IMG_1471Beijing to Chicago

IMG_1642March 28th, 2014: Home Sweet Home

IMG_1756892150_10152710174762892_1634966211_o

10256479_10152750171347892_8897175654935907339_n

10170981_10152790835992892_1865312598568747992_n

10292205_10152796709002892_2088134680046007990_n

10320494_10152853328526258_3452699568143834653_n

photo 1 (1) securedownload (2)

photosecuredownload (5)securedownload (6)securedownload (1)securedownload (7)


10302639_10152778787012892_1098852584228110756_nsecuredownload (3)

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

the home stretch

 
Well folks, we’re getting closer and closer to the time when we can meet our little booboo and become three Prices instead of two, and it’s crazy exciting. Since my last blog we’ve received two new pictures of our precious daughter. One was with her little foster sister, and our girl had a fierce look of love and protection on her face, with one arm holding onto her little sister protectively. There were so many emotions that came with those photos. Someone commented that our daughter was a lover, and it’s so evident in that photo. The heartbreak we feel at separating her from her foster sister, and at the pain she’ll feel upon that separation, is with us every minute. If you’re inclined to send good thoughts, vibes, or prayers our way please include our daughter and her foster family. 
 
But we’re also excited every minute, since we’re getting closer and closer to the day when we can scoop her up, wrap her in love, start putting our little family together, and get on with the rest of our lives. And in this picture, it looks like our little MGXP is excited too!
 
 
 
MGXP 3-10-14
 
We’re going to have a fabulous summer. Having just made the painful switch from brown rice to white, we feel we are beginning to understand the meaning of parental sacrifice (joking!). 
 
I want to give a huge shout-out to our friends. So many people giving so much of their resources and time and love. From our beautiful shower, to the chalkboard frame, to the sweet gifts from little girls waiting to show Maya GuanXin the ropes.
 
 
photo 1
photo 2
photo 3
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Best Valentine EVER.

“I have learned not to worry about love; But to honor its coming with all my heart.” -Alice Walker

And just like that, with no fanfare and much, much earlier than expected: TRAVEL APPROVAL. That’s it folks, we’re going to China! We are over the moon. Beside ourselves. Smitten. Giddy. And…like a couple of deer in headlights. When do we go? Well, we don’t know for sure but will know within a day or so. It’ll be at least a month. Would I post it here even if we knew? Nope. 😉

But we will go. And we will finally meet our little cupcake. The girl we pine for and plan for and stay up til the wee hours of the morning worrying about. The girl whose room we have rearranged a thousand times over. The girl whose pajamas have been lovingly washed and folded and then…stared at, unfolded, and folded again. Our girl who, we just learned yesterday, prefers toy cars and airplanes to dolls, prefers dresses to pants, and prefers playing outdoors to indoors. A tomboy! Oh, my heart. We were in love already, now we are just putty in her perfect little hands.

This lovely gift made for her by a dear, dear friend is perfect: purple (her favorite color), nature, and strength.

wall hanging MGXP

We also learned that she’s not so sure about the name “Price” (fair enough), and that she reads the photo book we made for her and the letter we wrote to her often. She understands that she is being adopted and what that means. And she’ll be with her foster family (the family she knows as her own) right up until we get there to scoop her up. Heavy, heavy stuff.

So tonight, whether you’re the praying kind or the vibing kind, send either her way. This is a great thing–a forever family–there’s no debate. We will try every second to be the best parents we can be, and to give her every opportunity to explore and learn and grow and love while being safe and warm with us always, but she is still going through a huge life change for such a tiny person and although she’s gaining a family, she’s losing one too. And send those good strong vibes our way too, so that we can be every thing she needs.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments