Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Big girl undies...

a little over 10 months home.... 10 months of colley being our roommate.... I frequently suggest she go to her bed in the room with her sisters and she laughs "I stay with you mommy!"  But it isn't so bad..... I wake up most every morning to her rubbing my cheeks and saying "I love you so much mommy!  I love your face, I love your eye brows, I love your nose, I love your chin, I love your hair, I love your back, I love you so much!"  Even if it is a little earlier than I would like, its oozing with sweetness.....  everyone should have a Colley in their life!

We think she may be brilliant..... not only does she talk up a storm but we realized recently that she can read every letter of the alphabet!  While trying to teach Henry and Mei Sims their letters, her little brain was soaking it all in.  She is very very aware of every detail of life and forgets nothing.  If I can't find my keys, shoes, or anything else that I frequently misplace,  I ask her and she is ALWAYS right.  She is pretty much breath-taking in more ways that one..... and her little world is going to be rocked on December 9th.

I had sinus surgery about 4 years ago and was utterly freaked out about the post- op appointment which might involve cleaning out some packing..... so psycho that I took a valium that they gave me-- and when I went in, I can remember just talking my head off to the nurse (which is what I do to cope when I'm nervous)..... she finally said "Girl, you need to put your big girl undies on!"..... her nice way of telling me to quit being a wuss and just let them look up my nose.... and guess what?  I lived to tell about it.

So time once again to get out of the land of denial, put my big girl undies on and get ready for the date that as I see quickly approaching on my calendar.... Colley's surgery..... first step was to actually buy plane tickets so that we would in fact be there for the surgery.... I checked that off my list a week ago.

Originally we planned to be in baltimore for 2.5 weeks and were going to celebrate christmas at the Ronald McDonald house.... but after trying to plan, talking to the doctor and praying some more, they are going to let us leave.... we now only have to be there for 8 days!  HUGE answer to prayers!!  When we thought we would be there longer, I convinced Derek that we needed to forgo our griswaltchack christmas lights this year to keep life simple..... Derek's first reaction when I told him the good news about them letting us go home?  "You know that this means?  We have to do our decorations now!"  Love that that is what his mind went... what a mess.  So there will be a scissor lift at our home this weekend as we begin the journey to lose our minds....

Here is where I need you!  We need prayer.  I'm not a stranger to having kids have surgery.... my other kids have had a combined 9-10 surgeries (I'm losing count at this point).... but this will by far be the most complicated and hardest recovery.  So here are the specifics:

1.  Pray for Dr. Standard

I'm thankful for a dr. who believes in God rather than thinks he is God.  He is awesome!  Pray that the Lord will guide his hands and give him wisdom once he gets in there.

2. Healing
She will be having an 8 plate put in her knee (to correct the knock knee), her tibia broken and straightened (to correct the valgus in the bone), and her outer ankle (which she doesn't have) rebuilt with bone and tendons here and there being tweaked.  It's a lot at one time.  Pray against infection and that her pain would be managed well.  These procedures are not a true lengthening but once everything is aligned correctly, she should in face gain a bit of length.... so I'm praying that she will gain a couple of centimeters.

3. Colley's little heart and mind

She had surgery in china for another issue and spent a month in the hospital, had an infection, had to have the procedure revised and from all accounts was in a lot a lot of pain.  Also, she did NOT have her foster mom with her but rather a nanny.  When we questioned the Hepu folks about her time in the hospital, I didn't even need a translation because their faces said it all.... it was very hard on our baby.  I feel sure that this setting will trigger things in her mind, flashbacks, fears, whatever it may be...... given how smart she is, it may be worse for her than some.... just pray that God will meet us in whatever mess this creates emotionally.

4.  My fortitude

I have a college friend who almost throws up at the word "socket"..... we all have words that seem to make us cringe..... I have discovered a new phrase that is striving to undo me "cleaning pin sights"  Excuse me while I gag..... actually I'm realizing that this may be a universal feeling based on the looks on other people's faces when I describe this process to them..... I'm the type of mom who is trying to comfort a vomiting child as I am dry heaving watching them.  My stomach is not made of steel.  I can barely look look at pics of what is about the happen to colley.  It will involve lots of pins going into her foot and ankle..... screws going into her tibia (which we will have turn a nut on the fixator every day for maybe 12 days to turn the bone into a straight position) and it will all need daily cleaning.  Praying that Colley won't freak when she sees her external fixture and that I will be able to also maintain composure as I do things that I never dreamed I'd have the mental strength to do.....

5.  Safety and Health of the whole family

I'm truly not a fan of having our little clan scattered, so praying for peace, good health and safe travels on Dec. 6-14th.  My dad is making the journey with me and Colley to Baltimore for a lot of reasons.  First, Colley pretty much thinks he hung the moon and secondly its much easier to leave Derek in charge of the other kiddos than to figure out plans for everyone.  Then Dad will leave and Derek will come up with the girls, leaving the boys with my parents.  We will all be reunited on Dec. 14th assuming things go as planned for Colley Bear.

I am sad about the pain the Colley is about to face and wish that I could take her place but I have to add that I have total peace about everything..... Colley is our daughter precisely because of this physical need.... God perfectly knit her together and in His loving providence, saw fit for her to walk this path..... I praise God that she is not walking this path alone but He has called us to walk with her... it is an honor to be her mama, truly.

As I saw this surgery on the horizon, I set 2 goals for the fall.  I wanted to have a quiet time every day and I wanted to train for and run a half marathon that is coming up.  In my mind, if I could be at my peak physically, mentally and spiritually, then I'd be ready tackle this!  I'd be a rock for Colley.....  Any guesses what happened? I failed miserably at both goals.... 5 kids and a quiet time has seemed like an urban myth.... and after a long run resulting in my first ever ocular migraine where I called Derek because I was in my car but couldn't see..... I hung up my shoes for the time being.

I had planned to bring my A game to this surgery....  and God has gently and not so subtly reminded me that He has this.... He has Colley.... He has me.... and HE will be a rock for both of us!

So here I am, out of shape both physically and spiritually and signing off with my big girl undies on.... which by the way, Colley potty trained herself in September.... so she is joining me in her big girl undies and ready to get the show on the road.

I'll update regularly while we are there.

ready for the baltimore winter weather!

Is it just me or do she and bob kind of look alike?

Mei Sims is like a little mama.  I came in to find she had colley sitting in a toy basket with a quilt on her, doing a sticker book and even gave her a trash can if she needed it.

Just because she is so stinkin' cute

Pre-op appointment

Before pic-- this is 2 feet on the ground

Before pic-- this is how she walks

Saturday, May 30, 2015

He guides our steps....

Amputation was always our plan.  It was always our doctor's plan.  Only now we know that it was never God's plan for Colley.  We were at a fork in the road about to turn right when he gently guided us to the left.  Let's just say if He had told us this would be a left turn when we got her file, I'm scared to think that we might have said no....Thank goodness God let our ears hear what we needed to hear from doctors to get her here where she was meant to be!  And now we are turning left and headed for limb reconstruction thanks to God's faithfulness to provide wisdom and clarity.

I have asked many of you to pray as we have consulted 4 different orthopedic doctors so I want to share with you how God was on the move and answering prayers.  I also want to write it down to remember His faithfulness the next time we are facing a fork in the road.

A little disclaimer..... every kid with Fibular Hememilia is unique..... there is a broad spectrum of what all this diagnosis can entail and therefore a broad spectrum of treatment plans.  I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty of her leg on here.  Our plan was never to "save her leg" but to set her up the best we can for life with a functional limb.... we had plenty of time to process the idea of amputation and we were happy with this option for her based on her anatomy.  Over the past few months I realized many people had no idea that this was our plan based on the looks on their faces when I would convey this to them.... but the same look of shock accompanied by a small gasp was my reaction if anyone mentioned limb reconstruction... only God could fill me with peace about going this route.

So, let's back up a bit and let me tell you the crazy ways God moved to direct our footsteps:

Step 1:
When we got Colley's file and needed to talk to the orthopedist,  the limb lengthening specialist (Dr. Gilbert) was out of town, so we consulted with his partner (Dr. Doyle) who is a family friend.  This was where we heard what we needed to hear to say yes to our little peanut!  His words as I remember them were "slam dunk with an amputation.  She will have an awesome life.  Go for it!"

Step 2:
We met with Dr. Doyle once we were home and he still said amputate but to get 2-3 other opinions so that we would be able to defend to Colley one day why we made the choice we made.  Easy, I thought.  Let's go to a few others, they will say amputation is the best option for her and we could move along.  Two weeks later, Dr. Doyle pursued us.... calling twice and texting to say we needed to talk.  He had a change of heart, was now 50/50 as to what we should do.  He gave us an hour of his time (free of charge) one friday afternoon.  You could tell he had really been thinking about Colley and wrestling with what to do as if she were his own child..... such a blessing to have a doctor who cares and a doctor whose heart God was directing.

Step 3:
During our time with Dr. Doyle, Mei Sims' orthopedist happened to pop his head in and see us and then sit down and join in the discussion.  So we had the undivided attention of 2 doctors! We left with a plan to go to Dr. Gilbert and to Dallas.

Step 4:
I talked to an old friend whose dad is an orthopedic doctor in Memphis.  She was telling me about a spatial frame used in lengthening the tibia and I said I had heard of it.... to which she casually says "That's dad's invention."  I was slightly floored to say the least.  There is something comforting to know that you might use a device and you have access to the inventor of it!

Step 5:
Dr. Gilbert was great and felt like she was a strong candidate for lengthening, but agreed that this was our decision to make.... meaning he couldn't for sure say this was the path to go.  In the meantime, he got her a big shoe to help her out.

And then some "strange" things began to happen!

Step 6:
I met the father of one of Rollins' new friends at school.....upon meeting colley he asked what was up with her leg.... he explained that for 20 years he sold all the devices used to correct issues like that.... he then went on to say that his parents were told to amputate his legs when he was born and they chose not to.... his legs are corrected, he is great.... and he ended with "I don't even have a hat in the ring here, but I don't think you need to amputate."

Step 7:
I'm telling a friend at church about all of this and come to find out she has a totally reconstructed ankle... which the ankle is one of Colley's larger issues... hmmmmm..... at this point I'm thinking "Ok God, what are you doing?"

Step 8:
Driving down the road one day, I was deep in thought about our decision and thinking we just need to amputate when I look in my rearview mirror to see Colley kissing and stroking her right foot.... this happened 5 separate times over the next couple of weeks!  I remember just thinking "oh no!  There's no way we can remove her foot!"

Dallas was great and all they agreed on was that this is a 50/50 as to what to do....  we were left in a gray area where the decision was very much in our hands to make.

Step 9:
I found out about a neighbor who I had never met..... her son is 6 months older than Colley with the same diagnosis of Fibular Hememelia!  It is almost unheard of to have a child in your city with this same issue and she is walking distance from my house.  God was providing....  a child who would look like her on some level.... even if he is a boy and is white!  Ha!  She also has a Chinese buddy with a different need but a similar "big shoe"..... both of these friends are going the reconstruction route which will be so encouraging to have moms who understand.  And all 3 kiddos will be at the same school!

After all of this that was happening, I felt like God was so clearly guiding and directing who he put in our path that I would be shocked if we didn't lengthen but at the same time I felt like a kid saying "I don't want to do it!!!!!"  It just seems like a hard and long long road for colley and for our family.  We were still indecisive so Dr. Doyle thought it was worth our time to go to Baltimore to one last doctor.

Step 10:
Before Baltimore, we went back to Dr. Doyle to get fitted for an AFO to stabilize her ankle when she walks.  I met his PT for the first time and she was such a blessing..... found out she is a close with my friend who dad is the inventor doctor and was also a long time PT of another friend's sister.... she has walked with her through limb lengthening for years..... AND get this.... she has a heart for china and has gone on mission trips to orphanages there.  When I asked her what city??  To the same city I lived in after college!

Step 11:
Fast forward to the waiting room in Baltimore.... On Facebook, I have reached out to 2 moms whose daughters were also from china and had FH that seemed similar to Colley's.... guess who happened to be in the waiting room at the same time?  One of those sweet babies and her mama! So nice and surprising to connect in real life!

In Baltimore, we met with one of the top dogs...... Dr. Standard....Our prayer was for clarity.... at the end of our meeting, Derek was like "I don't know why we'd go anywhere else.  There really isn't even a choice here. We have to reconstruct" Well, there is your clarity!  My text to my friend was "Well crap.  We're coming back to baltimore.  He is awesome."  Excuse my language but Baltimore is far and I'm one of those people who thinks there's no place like home.

He met with us for an hour, was not in the least bit frazzled by the nerds and tic tacs dropping all over the floor as we talked..... was able to laugh when Henry threw his stinky feet up in his lap to be examined.... and even laughed when Henry found a "hairy thing" as he called it in his socks and put it in the doctor's hand.  In other words, He can handle us and we have confidence in his abilities.  Its a great match.

At one point he said something about a shallow hip and I plugged my fingers in my ears and said "I can't hear you, I can't hear you"....  any mention of anything spica causes this reaction ;)  Once I explained why, he laughed and said, let's cross that off the list of to dos for now..... one step at a time.

Step 12:
I told him we have 5 kids so baltimore is going to be hard.... would he be open to a team approach with Dr. Gilbert in the years ahead.  His reply "I learned long ago that doctors need to check their ego at the door and you need to do what is best for everyone.  Skip is a good friend of mine, we talk all the time and I'm happy for us to all work together."  WOW!  Come to find out that they go on mission trips together so it is a true friendship, not just work related..... that was an unexpected blessing.  What does this mean?  There may be times where Dr. Standard puts some hardware in and Dr. Gilbert can take it out...... or times where Dr. Gilbert and Standard talk before a surgery and Dr. Gilbert performs it so that we can stay here..... I haven't actually informed Dr. Gilbert that he has been drafted to our team so I hope he's ready for us!

And there you have it, 12 steps to a decisions. 12 instances where we clearly saw God move to get us to where we are now.  Praise God for a plan!  Next winter we will schedule her first procedure ..... something coined "super ankle" surgery.

Either decision could have been a right decision..... but I'm thankful for a God who cares.... He cares about Colley..... and was faithful to guide us along the path He has chosen for her.

Personally, He was so faithful to guide us despite myself.... Colley has been home 4.5 months and during that time, I can count on one hand the number of quiet times I have had.... sure I'm dependent on prayer these days but I feel guilt over my lack of ability to find time alone, to focus when I actually do find time and to pursue God with my whole heart.  I KNOW that His love and affection for me are not dependent on my level of love and affection for Him.... He is constant while I am all over the place.... I've always known this is my heart but now I see it played out in my life.  So this journey to "make a decision" is a beautiful reminder to me of that simple fact.... He loves me and I am firmly in His grip.

Tuckered out after a long morning

Dr. Standard

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One month in our arms.....

..... Plus a few extra days thanks to a stomach bug in our house! I've been meaning to update but life is busy as you can imagine.

 One month ago, Colley was placed in my arms and fought me with all that she had in her... It was traumatic and to some degree I felt as if I was kidnapping a child.... yes, I knew God created her to be a Waltchack but she knew nothing of that plan.... she knew who her family was and it was not us. I don't know what I expected would happen in the month to follow, but I know that where we are now is so far beyond my wildest expectations for this adoption... I have seen God take her broken heart in His hands and begin to heal it in ways that only He can.

Colley is brave. Colley is beautiful inside and out. Colley is goofy, silly and has a sense of humor unlike any 2-year-old I have met. Colley exudes joy and life. Colley loves to be loved and loves to love others. She is quite simply amazing. In the words of Henry "Do we really get to keep her forever mommy?" I almost need to pinch myself to see if this is really really real.

Let's back up a bit to get to where we are now. The flight home? Derek and the big kids left me a few days early as most of you know. Rather than stay on my regular Delta flight, I decided to switch to an American flight with friends so that I wouldn't be alone. It wasn't until a few days later that I found out the original delta flight had to have an unexpected 24 hour layover in Japan!!!! Ya'll! God was all over getting me to switch! I would have been an emotional basket case to be stuck in Japan with Colley!! On the flight she did a better than I could have asked.... I never even had to slip her some benadryl or melatonin. She slept a 7-8 hour stretch and only had one REALLY loud grieving episode... like REALLY loud and lasted 35 minutes but was finally extinguished by a dumdum courtesy of one of my travel buddies.

My stellar travel buddy!

 The airport felt magical.... to see all of kiddos together in one place.... to see all of my family....and to see my sweet friends cheering... just to be home. Home! Ahhhh, I love being home!!!!

Reunited and it feels so good....

Not gonna lie.... the first time I saw this, I thought "Where the heck did all those kiddos come from?!"

 Driving back, we wondered what Colley would think when we walked in the house... would she be clingy and scared, would she explore, would the kids totally overwhelm her.... I could have never predicted what actually took place. We walked in and she SQUEALED, took off running into the kitchen, looked around....squealed some more and then laid down on her back and began doing the motions like she was making a snow angel right there on the kitchen floor while giggling uncontrollably. She would then pop up, laugh at all the kids, run in a circle, and lay down again squealing as she made another "snow angel".... this happened over and over. Derek and I kind of looked at each other like "What the heck?" She was so excited, so confident, so brave and bubbling over with joy.

Snow angels... blurry because she was moving so fast!

I don't remember much of the next week. I remember trying my best to make it until 7:30 to go to bed. I remember feeling crazy and emotional and then saying to Derek "Don't let me discuss anything about how I'm feeling until jet lag wears off!" .... I didn't want to responsible for anything I said, thought or did while under the evil spell of jet lag.... 5 kids felt like a lot.... like every corner I turned, there was another kid in our house. I had moments of feeling overwhelmed that God would entrust us with so many lives.... moments of thinking that God had lost His mind. BUT, jet lag went away like I knew it would and I became more emotionally sane now amid the chaos.... I no longer think God is crazy but think He has pretty spectacular plan for our family.

So, the question I get asked most is how are the little kiddos adjusting?? And it is better than I could have hoped for. Mei Sims was made to be a big sister.... she adores Colley and mothers her in many ways.... from picking out her clothes or pjs to getting a tissue to wipe her nose.

A sisterly talk over pretzels

 Henry makes me laugh as he asks me questions like "Am I doing such a good job at being a big brother?" I want to remind him that he already was a big brother. ha! I quickly realized that he has always felt like he and Mei Sims were the same age and for the first time he is finding his groove as a caring/ smothering big brother.

He wants to be close to her day and night.  This night they fell asleep snuggling.

Of course there are bumps in the road.... a few more tears here... a few more fits there.. but thankfully they think Colley is the greatest, cutest, funniest baby ever.  Colley loves all of her siblings but it is obvious that she is very attached to Rollins.... she lights up when he gets home from school.  (Which he of course delights in but the others start screaming and sobbing "Why does he love Rollins more than me?!")  It has been a sweet thing to see God use that relationship to bring out a side of Rollins we never saw before.... I always tell people that he has such a tender heart but it is often buried under many many layers.... Colley has brought out an even sweeter and nurturing side to his personality and it does my heart good to see this....

It's not all fun and games all the time, I promise.... remember, Colley is 2!

She can pitch a fit like the best of them.  So far, fits only seem to be triggered when I say NO, when Henry hugs her one too many times, or when she wants to be outside (she would live out there if I would let her!). Our only other issue has been food.... the girl loves Chinese food. Only Chinese food.

Exhibit A

The first several meals, I would put a plate in front of her and she would turn her head and refuse to make eye contact with me. I wasn't about to cause attachment issues for the sake of nutrition so right now take out or noodles it is.... lunch and dinner every single day. She is slowly trying a few things here and there but when she wants to eat and says "fan fan" by golly, she means that fan fan better be noodles or else. I've had a good laugh though because put any brownie, cookies or cake in her path and she will devour it. I'm thinking she knows what she is doing! In fact, a brownie prompted her first sentence "I unt mo!"

She is such a smart cookie... picking up words left and right. In one month, she has learned all of our names, more, please, bye, hello, Shake it off, let it go, phone.... you know, all of the important stuff. We were talking to someone at the grocery store this past weekend and when we walked off, she screamed "Bye! See ohhh ater!" I saw shocked. She just mimics everything we say and do. At bedtime a few nights ago, she surprised me and pointed at her eyes, ears, nose, hair and mouth while saying the word for each one. And she understands EVERYTHING we say. I'm astounding at how fast her language abilities have grown. I sometimes test it out to make sure I'm not making this up.... so I asked her to go and get her banana that she left in the den and bring it to me in the kitchen.... and she did just that.  I don't even know if my bio kids could have done any of this at 2  and english is their first language!

Truly Colley's only "adoption issue" we have seen is that she continues to grieve at times....but this is a good thing! And it has gotten much much less..... In those moments, I just hold her tight and kiss her tear stained face.... telling her that I know this is hard while praying for God to be the voice that comforts her.... for Him to speak truth into her sadness.... she is so young to be dealing with something so very heavy..... BUT, one month in and she seems to be truly at peace the majority of the day and night.... she has a sense of confidence about her place in this family. I know that so much of who she is is due to the love she received in her foster family.... it wasn't until looking through pictures once we got home that I realized she had been the youngest of 5 in her home! They told me she had 3 foster sisters which I assumed included the adoptive daughter, but in pictures I realized it did not.... God is in the details!! Only God could take an orphan in China and prepare her in such a specific way to be the youngest of 5 in a family across the ocean.

This is not a normal adoption at all! Bedtime with Colley reminds me daily just how "not normal" this has been... there is no form of self-soothing..... she simply puts her doll to bed, lays down beside her, pulls my hand to her cheek, then says lots of silly things in chinese (I don't know what they mean but her giggles let me know they are silly). Then I tell her its time to sleep and say "I love you" and she smiles at me and says "Ai ni" (love you in chinese.... boy am I gonna miss it when she quits saying this in chinese!!) Then she simply closes her eyes and goes to sleep.... so simple yet so very sweet.

This is not normal! Even the doctor and therapist at the International Clinic at one point, put their notebooks down and laughed and said "You know this is not normal, right?" She is a bright, loving well-adjusted child... We've really only had 2 rough days together since we got home..... Honestly, I'm so thankful that this part of her journey has been as pain free as an international adoption process can be... she will have a bit of a long road ahead of her with her leg... that part of her journey may be painful both physically and emotionally.... so I'm thankful she is simply enjoying life right now...

Anne Rainey was inside throwing up.... Colley has been easy although life has been insane with a nasty stomach bug and a fever virus!

I remember when we were waiting to be matched telling Derek that I just had this feeling it was going to be easy this time.... which kind of made him laugh... I don't know that I really thought EASY but I think I thought, we have been through this.... we have made it to the other side.... the one where God took brokenness and made something beautiful... so I knew we could do it again and it wouldn't be as scary. I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined where we find ourselves now..... God gave us something already beautiful and is simply allowing us to all enjoy this gift.... and it is so so sweet.

 I have to say one more time that this is not normal! Do you hear me?! I fear that someone following this adoption will be like "Oh, adoption sounds fun and easy, let's do it!" Adoption IS a beautiful thing. Don't get me wrong. But go back to March 2012 on this blog to get another perspective.... Adoption is hard, messy and painful for the most part. It's interesting to have experienced both ends of the spectrum as an adoptive mom. Many people have remarked about how God has blessed us for Colley to be doing so well and they have used the phrase that "God is so good" .... while I totally agree it is worth remembering that God was still blessing us 2 years ago when adoption felt like the hardest path I had ever walked..... God was still good when my baby was raging at me and I felt like I couldn't make it through the day.... God was just as faithful to Mei Sims when she was alone in an institution as He was to Colley when He placed her in a foster home..... the paths were different, the emotions for all involved were different but God was good because He IS good... not because He gave us an easier process this time....  I'm thankful for both paths we have walked and wouldn't change a thing.

So, one months in and Colley has added such a sweetness to our family.... it is remarkable. I was thanking God the other day for speaking to us over 2 years ago.... whispering in our ears that there was another.... Oh, how we would have missed out had we not followed where we knew He was leading.

Pretty sure that only God can take this:

And turn it into this!

"Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning."  Psalm 30:5

I'll leave you with a quote from my hubs:
"Adopted kids come to us hard, brittle and rough. But over time they soften up, inside and out. 
I was observing and holding Colley and noticed that most of the bumps and scratches that she came is with have disappeared. Her formerly coarse hair is bunny soft. And her rigid body has gone limp, trusting that we love her, we won't hurt her and she doesn't have to protect herself any longer.
The same pattern was true for mei sims. I remember when we first got her, the word that kept coming to my mind was she felt and smelled wild. She now is our most dainty, elegant and gentle child. 
Every discussion about adoption and the progression kids make seems to
point to the gospel and how we all started out wild, untrusting, rough. But once we start to trust Jesus, he turns us into softer, kinder, trusting children because of his gentle love and protection of us."

PS- Pretty sure that blogging will be next to impossible for right now.... too many kiddos, too little don't hold your breath for an update but holler if you need me!  

Saturday, January 17, 2015


cutest sleeping baby ever! 
Already has good dental hygiene!

She will now tolerate daddy as long as he is doing something fun like throwing her in the air!

Reunited with her foster mama and sister

At the medical visit.  The boys slept in and AR came along as the official family photographer.

Our guide in Nanning, David.  If you close your eyes, he sounds JUST like Franck from Father of the Bride!

Derek is always documenting the trip so a little proof that he is actually here ;) 
at the medical visit

With Xiao Xiao and her son!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The past few days....

The past few days have been both extremes of amazing..... amazingly heart breaking and amazingly joyful.  Colley's 2nd morning with us, you could tell when she woke up and began to look around that her heart felt heavy.  I think she realized on some level that this hadn't just been a fun playdate but that she was stuck with us.... and her heart began to break.  Grief is a hard thing to walk through on your own but even more gut wrenching to observe in your new child.  As much as I tell her that we love her and will take good care of her, all she cares about is that she has lost what she loved and she has no control over it.  With Mei Sims, we experienced rage and fear.  Colley isn't angry at all but genuinely so so sad.  Yesterday she dealt with it by sleeping all morning long while we walked in the park.  When she finally woke up, she spotted some older ladies that must have reminded her of her foster mom.... she spent the next hour sobbing, moaning, pointing for me to walk and go find them and calling out some heart breaking things in Chinese (which our guide translated for us).  She finally collapsed from exhaustion and slept more.  And then just like that the grief subsides and her totally adorable personality comes out.  She truly is full of life and joy!  That night, another wave of grief washed over her....  She was fine as long as we were walking around outside.... it seemed like she felt like as long as we were walking, we were looking for her mama.  But as soon as I would sit down, she panicked.  Again she snapped out of it and became her joyful self.  We went to starbucks that night and when we walked in, she turned to the worker and said "HELLO!"  We cracked up.  This girl is smart.... always observing and soaking things in like a sponge.

So on to Thursday...... our day to go to her hometown.  Our guide here realized he needed to go to the passport office so he would not be able to accompany us to Hepu.  He called me to ask if I felt good enough about my chinese to lead us to Hepu.  I semi panicked.... while my chinese has come back to me somewhat, that was 20 years ago that I lived here!  So I asked if he could see if Xiao Xiao (the head of Grace and Hope) had a colleague who could join us.  He called us back to let us know that she herself said she would love to.  We were so surprised that she could come on such short notice.  Our guide also told us that it would not be a good idea to visit the foster mom so I kind of let that dream go.

That morning, we had a 3 hour ride in the van to Hepu and I have to say that spending that time with her was amazing.  She is a believer so I felt like we could connect with her on such a different level.  We talked about life stories, what it is like to be a believer here, marriage, fellowship,  and a host of other things.  She is so knowledgeable and enjoyable to talk to.

We got a little history lesson on Hepu from Xiao Xiao.  The town itself is considered small although by our standards it is anything but.  It is more of a farming community but there are still plenty of high rise condos and buildings.  The town is 2000 years old and there is an ancient chinese proverb that says something about pearls from Hepu were fit for the emperor.  Back in the day, they had giant beautiful pearls that were actually sent to the emperor’s palace once harvested….. they no longer have pearls now because they were all harvested hundreds of years ago.  Kind of fun to think of our little Hepu sweetie as a jewel fit for the King.  

So our guide has known the orphanage people for 20 years.  The previous director was the one who maybe 8 years ago made the decision to close the baby rooms--- which meant all the babies were sent to foster homes and whenever a new baby is found, he/she is immediately sent to a family.  Many of the former nannies became foster parents, which was the case with Colley’s foster mom.  There are now only elderly people at HEPU SWI… about 40 or so. 

Several years ago, this director found out he had very aggressive cancer and was given a month to live.  Once he heard the news, he called Xiao Xiao and said “I don’t know why but I feel like I am supposed to call you.”  She shared the Gospel with Him and he received Christ!  In fact, his wife, parents and whole family became believers.  He lived another year and then passed away.  It is so amazing to me to see how God moved in him to make a decision that even now continues to change lives and in the end, God saved his life as well.  His life had such a ripple effect of  changing lives here on earth as well as for eternity.  We were able to meet his widow when we visited the orphanage.  I love hearing stories of God moving in corners of the earth that it would be easy to look at and think He has forgotten about..... I love that He seeks His people out which is always my prayer for my girls' birthparents.

So, Hepu SWI is down a bumpy dirt road.  It used to be surrounded by fields but now to one side you can see high apartment buildings (which is where Colley lived) and to the other you see old huts of sorts, chickens, crops and poverty.  It is well off the beaten path.  It is kind of surreal to stand their and realize that your child’s birth mother walked that path to arrive at the orphanage gates in hopes of giving her child a better life.  It takes effort to get here which somehow comforts me to know that her birth parents put forth that effort.

When we pulled in, we immediately saw her foster mother and oldest foster sister standing there with smiles across their face.  Colley leaped out of my arms into hers which was fine with me.  With Mei Sims, I didn’t want the nannies to get her from me but with Colley I knew that they needed this and that she needed this....  One last snuggle.  Well the one last snuggle lasted 4 hours…. Through talking, lunch together and then shopping together!  We were able to sit with her, ask questions, learn more about Colley’s life for the past 2 years, learn more about her foster mom….. it was a dream come true.

This woman has had 10 foster babies and said it never gets easy to say goodbye.  She radiates joy and love for these children. She is not a believer but we hope and pray that God will move in her heart.  A few tidbits to share--- Colley was the youngest of 4 foster sisters yet she was the leader of the bunch.  She said whenever it was time for dinner, Colley would announce to everyone and round up the troops.  Ha!  She also said that Colley loved to sit beside the biggest sister as she did her homework and pretend to do her own.  Colley came to us knowing how to swipe through pictures on the cell phone and we found out that she loved to play with her foster mom’s.  In fact, she laughed that Colley broke the last 3 of hers.  Along with the foster mom came an “aunt” who was the mom’s daughter in law and the biggest sister who the mom adopted.  Apparently she never got to say goodbye when Colley left on Monday because she was at school.  So she was so upset when she got home.  This gave her a chance for closure.  That Aunt and I have already been e-mailing back and forth.  So excited to be able to maintain a connection with her past life and to send them pictures of Colley over the years.

If I had to sum up this gift we were given in Hepu, it would be that it gave Colley some closure and understanding even at 2 years old….. and her heart began to heal .  The orphanage had a talk with the foster mom before we came, telling her to be strong in front of Colley and she pulled it off beautifully.  She had a talk with Colley reminding her that this is her real family and she needs to go with us to America and to be brave and to not worry about her.  I feel like Colley didn’t understand on Monday when she told her goodbye what exactly was happening.  But now she had the only mama she had ever known telling her that I was her real mama and she needed to go with me.  And then her foster mom handed her to me and walked away.  There was something so significant in that hand off.  Colley was so upset as you can imagine, but the mom remained strong and smiled at us and waved goodbye.  When I glanced out the rear window, I could see her turn around and break down…..  Colley and I were both a mess….. it was all so hard and intense but so beautifully perfect......  

Colley passed out in sleep the next 3 hours and woke up a new person that night.  I know she will continue to grieve on and off but she no longer calls out those phrases and seems to be looking for her mom during the day.  She now looks for me and calls out for me.  Her personality even seemed to come out more after our day in Hepu.  I truly feel like God did a little miracle in her heart that day and I praise Him for orchestrating our day.  It was nothing like what I thought the day would look like when I woke up that morning….. I’m so thankful He ordains our footsteps.

We left Nanning yesterday and flew to Guangzhou.  One step closer to home!  Colley did awesome on the flight.  Hoping it is a good sign for the long flight!  We are so excited to be back in the city where we got Mei Sims.  It is comforting to be somewhere familiar and to have better food!! (i.e. not chinese food all the time!!)  We have friends here also and are loving seeing people.  Colley had her medical check up-- which she hated but skittles made her tears disappear.  

She is such a happy, sweet and joyful little thing.  I never knew it was possible to connect so quickly with your adoptive child!  She has my heart.  I really thought people that said things like that a week in were full of lies.  ha!  But now I know its possible.... and oh it is so so sweet to already feel this way.   I cannot wait for you to all meet her!  

Henry and Mei Sims are doing great from what I hear!  Henry made the decision that it was best not to FaceTime because it makes him sad, so I miss seeing their faces but in one week, I will be able kiss all over them!  Thanks for all of the comments, e-mails, texts etc.  So encouraging to know we are being covered in prayer!  Thanks friends!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

We have Colley!

Well, despite our VPN, I cannot seem to get a good internet connection to update everyone!

I won't be sharing pics of our actual gotcha moment as it was very traumatic as we suspected it might be.  BUT, when we got back to the hotel, she warmed up a bit and actually laughed, smiled and played.  It was shocking and amazing.  The big kids were a huge help at breaking the ice with her.

She came to us with the baby doll that I mailed her a couple of months ago.  It was awesome to see that the doll was well worn out.... the fabric has those little balls on it that show she has loved on it over and over.... and the face looks like dolls in our house, covered in pen marks.  Even some snazzy eye brows were added.

Bedtime was when I think she realized "Shoot, I'm staying here"  and it broke my heart.  First she refused her bottle and next she refused to lay down.  She finally fell asleep on top of me, still wearing her clothes she came to us in.  She was so fearful of us trying to take them off that we didn't push it...... even though we were dying to get her bathed and smelling sweet.  She woke up a few times confused as to where she was and calling out for her mama...... it was heart breaking but also such a sign of the healthy attachment she had to her foster mom.

After she took some time to wake up this morning, she has been so awesome..... like I can't even describe to you how much fun we are having with her.  She giggles, she runs laughing, SHE LETS ME PUT HER DOWN WHEN I NEED TO POTTY!!!!!!!, she talks fast as can be in Chinese, she has called Anne Rainey Jie Jie (big sister) and me Mama.  (They actually told us today that the foster mom went over our pictures with her to the point that she could point at each photo and identify who it was... so sweet).  She's almost too good to be true.  The big kids are in love.  Anne Rainey knows so much adoption talk that she keeps saying "Mommy!  I'm already attached to her!  It didn't take any time at all!"

Today was the actual adoption day where we pledged to love her and never leave her and keep her as our own.  Done.  She's a Waltchack now.  The director, vice director, nanny and her husband met with us today to go over questions we had.  They were a great wealth of info and such kind and loving people.  Yesterday, Colley wanted nothing to do with me yet today when the nanny reached for her, she clung to me. The nanny was in shock  (since yesterday was VERY dramatic).  She made the others watch multiple times as she motioned for Colley to get in her arms and Colley would refuse.  She actually teared up so I put Colley in her arms for one last snuggle.  (Hepu is a very small orphanage program and it is obvious they all know and love all of the babies)

We had been planning on calling her Yun Yun and found out that's not what the foster family calls her. Instead they call her Hua Sheng Mi which means very tiny peanut!  I love it!  We called Anne Rainey peanut when she was little.  The nursery workers at church still call her that.  So now we have peanut and very tiny peanut! :)   And she is TINY!!!!! Most all of the clothes I brought are too big! oops!

We will not be meeting her foster mom but it is best for now.  This women is a saint and she is struggling.  I won't go into all the details but our guide actually called us for an update last night so they could call they foster mom to comfort her with news of how Colley was doing.  The foster mom is older with 2 sons my age.  There is a young girl (maybe 10 years old)  in lots of our pictures who I assumed was her granddaughter.  We found out today that it is her daughter..... who she adopted....  this is NOT common in China for a grandmother aged women to adopt a child after raising her own. Our guide was actually shocked when they told him.  ( In addition, she has 2 other foster babies, one with severe CP and one with a cleft lip/ cleft palate.)  I basically turned into a blubbering, sobbing mess as I told them messages that I wanted them to convey to her and to her daughter.   I am rejoicing in our new daughter and the gift we have been given but everything still feels very raw.  Please pray for this sweet family and that God would be very present with them.... filling them with peace and knowledge of his love......I snuck a Jesus Storybook Bible into their gift.... praying they will read it and find eternal comfort and rest.

So our tiny peanut is resting now..... she is seriously the cutest thing ever.... can't wait for you to all meet her!  I'll try and add pics soon to Facebook but feel like I should hit post while the internet is working!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tomorrow is the day!

So, here we are in Nanning..... the city where we will get our little treasure..... even with a VPN to get around the great firewall of China, I seem to be having issues on Facebook so this may be the easiet way right now to update...

Let's back up a bit.  We left our home in Birmingham at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday..... we barely made it there for our 5:25 flight.... in fact we got to the gate just as they announced the door would close in 3 minutes.  Starting out the journey in true Waltchack crazy fashion.  The next 28 hours were a blur or planes, shuttles, taxis, etc.   We all managed to sleep 7 hours on the big flight which helped to pass the time.  We ultimately passed out on amazing beds at the Ritz in Hong Kong.... a wise splurge for weary travelers in my opinion.  It was incredible.

It is a TOTALLY different trip bringing 2 kiddos with you...  I know it was the right choice and I pray that it will impact their lives..... that they would have a better understanding of how blessed they are, of the hurting in the world, and of our call to be a light in this dark world.... I would venture to say most 8 & 9 year olds think mostly about themselves on a given day..... how they are feeling, what they want to do and so on.  Praying this will shatter their southern, american, well provided for mindset and grow in them a heart after His own heart.  That being said, it is tiring for us to have them here with us.... but we know the heart impact far outweighs any extra mental and physical fatigue they are giving to us.... heck, even this is teaching us to get over ourselves....  we have laughed a lot and are building great memories.  My heart continues to feel like it is in 2 places.... thankful to be here and homesick for my babies all at once.  Sweet Henry keeps wanting to FaceTime me and then proceeds to sob and beg me to come home as soon as he sees me.   So, for now we will cut back on the FT and try to keep him in a happy place.  Mei Sims seems like she hasn't skipped a beat and is all smiles, which is a big answer to prayer.

We got to our hotel in Nanning last night at 9:30.  I can best describe it as looking like what you would picture a communist hotel from back in the day looking like...... we may have set ourselves up for failure by staying at the ritz!  Ha!  We walked through the lobby to a hundreds of staring eyes.... the only white people around.  As we made our way through the thick cloud of cigarette smoke, we made it to our room.... which turns out has no AC!  It is centrally controlled (thank you communism again) and hotel has on its heat because it is winter after all.... and a blustering 65 outside.  Sleep last night was rough and hot.  Anne Rainey woke up in a pool of sweat and covered all over her body with a heat rash of some sort.  Poor thing is itching like crazy.  Needless to say, we moved hotels. We landed at  the marriott this afternoon in an air conditioned room that doesn't smell like someone sprayed perfume to cover up a smoke smell.  We even took a family swim this afternoon with cute little mandatory swim caps on.  I finally feel settled in here, have unpacked and am ready to get to business.... getting little Colley.

So today, Colley spent her last day with her foster family.... her mama and baba.... her sisters.... And tonight she is sleeping with her foster mama for the last night....Tomorrow it all changes.  Tomorrow we are asking Jesus to help her to be brave.... braver than I have ever been called to be.....  So while I can't wait to hold her, my heart breaks for her.  I'm approaching tomorrow with such a mixture of joy and sorrow in my heart..... Thankfully though, I know the one who is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (Psalms 34:18)

One of my best friends sent this prayer to me and it is so perfect for tomorrow so I'll leave you with this:

O Thou who alone knowest what lies before me this day, grant that in every hour of it I may stay close to Thee. 

In Thy will, O Lord, is my peace.
In Thy love is my rest.
In Thy service is my joy. 
Thou art all my heart's desire,
Whom have I in heaven but Thee?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.