Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saturday Night Revelations

In Guangzhou riding to one appointment or another
January 2013
We are beginning our 8th week as a family of 7. To be honest, I was shocked at that realization. I feel like Elli has been part of our family for such a long time. Is it really still February? Yes, I suppose it is. I guess I shouldn't be surprised then at the conversation we had the other night.

I am almost fascinated at how we, she and I, communicate. It's less and less through Google translate and more and more that she understands what I'm asking her or saying to her. There are hand gestures for sure, she has beautiful, tiny, almost infant-sized hands. They are practically perfect and miniature. They speak volumes when she uses them to help her ask for something specific or when she uses them to express some emotion that she has had.

Sam and Elli... their first meeting.
It had been a really fun day. Most of her days are. There is a lot of laughter, giggles, and lately, silly faces around here as she loves to delight in her surroundings and loves to make people laugh. I suppose for the most part that is somewhat of a defense mechanism. After all, if you make the people around you happy, they are less likely to send you back where you came from. She's always a winner when Sam is around. He cannot help but smile and laugh at her whether she is being appropriate or not. It's always a great day in Elli's mind when Sam comes over. It's never for long but it's always for an Elli fix (and sometimes for dinner).

As adults, we assume a lot. I assumed that after "all this time" Elli should be totally secure in our love for her and the permanence of her as a member of our family. Then, I looked at the calendar and realized it'd only been 7 weeks from the day we first met. I am not sure I am convinced of much of anything after 7 weeks let alone being a loved and adored part of a family. She is a 5 yr. old little girl who is only just now becoming comfortable with a language she hardly ever heard. She is only just now considering American food to be palatable. She is only just now dropping her defenses and being honest about an occasional negative feeling.

Before 10 minutes ago, I was shocked about our conversation of Saturday night. Now it makes a lot of sense.

Saturday was a busy day, most of it because of all the rain we've been having was spent inside and, for me, in the kitchen preparing food for the coming week. Kate spent most of the day with a friend down the street and Josh was typically upstairs in his room hunkered down with friends on Xbox Live or drumsticks flying filling our home with downbeats and fills or strumming and plucking on his guitar. Saturday, Elli had daddy, that was important because daddy was leaving for the week beginning on Sunday morning. Daddy is Elli's Chinese communicator and when he's gone she doesn't get a lot of easy communication.

By Saturday evening Kate had returned and she and Elli had disappeared into her closet. Within 15 minutes I  saw two silly girls emerge dressed in a mish-mash of colorful apparel and ready to put on a show. They danced and twirled and sang and laughed and before they knew it, it was time to dial down, take a bath and head off to bed.

Usually if daddy is around, Elli insistes that he put her to bed. Saturday night was no exception, except one, after he kissed her goodnight and left the room she called for me. That has never happened. I was almost a little put out. After all I had more to do and she had already been tucked in. I put on my happy face, told myself to suck it up and headed in to give her a kiss goodnight. That was not the plan that Elli had, though.

I could tell that she was jazzed. Not really relaxed and sleepy enough to close her eyes. Her mind had been racing. Elliot jumped up onto the bed and cuddled up next to her (because after all it's not possible for me to be out of his sight). She began to ask me about daddy being gone. Elli wanted me to reassure her of all the things her daddy told her. One thing he said, the most important thing he said, was that he would be home in 5 days, "on mommy's birthday".

I confirmed for her that what he told her was true. That it was time to sleep. She would have none of it. She started talking about birthdays, that my birthday was next, then her birthday, then Kate's birthday then Sam's birthday, then Drew's birthday... all of this she said to me in English. She has come a long way in 7 weeks. I confirmed, once again, that she was correct. She's excited about her birthday. We've looked at birthday cakes. She had made sure earlier in the week that she would have one and that it would be "BIGGGGG" (with her arms open as wide as she possibly could open them).

Josh's birthday cake made of milk chocolate
delivered to our room in Guangzhou
compliments of The Garden Hotel
I told her that she would be 6 on her birthday. Then she did something I didn't expect. She did her typical "point towards the floor" meaning "here at home". I said "yes, of course, you will be here for your 6th birthday."

She began to list everyone's birthdays in order again. She got to Josh's and I told her it was a long way away because he had had his birthday in Guangzhou.

Once again, she made a comment about Guangzhou. Guangzhou was the city in China just Northeast of Hong Kong where the American consulate is. That is where all the Americans have to go and stay for about a week after leaving the province where they received their children. That is where all the paperwork is finalized in order that our children, born in China, can arrive in the states and become immediate citizens. I was a little baffled about her mentioning Guangzhou because it was not a place she'd ever been before the 11th of January of this year. I was confused and honestly thought she was telling me she wanted to go back.


With a little fear and a lot of trepidation I asked her. "Baby, do you want to go back to Guangzhou?"

"NO NO NO NO NO!!!! Meiguo" (pronounced Megwah - meaning America)

 She promised me that she had no interest in going back. She wanted to be in America. I asked her if she was happy to be here. I asked her if she was happy I was her mommy. She said yes, very happy.

Then she again asked me about her 6th birthday and I realized what she needed to hear.

I held up the appropriate fingers and I said "Elli, you will be 6 here, and 7 here, and 8, here..." she joined in the counting. "and 9 here, and 10 here..." we got as far as 30 and I then said "then you will meet a man..." she looked at me puzzled and I sorta laughed to myself. I knew very well that her smile and pretty face and heart of gold she would meet a man before she was 30.

Her first look at her bedroom "is this all mine?"
She began her daily reminder to me (often several times a day) of all that was "Elli's". She pointed to her bed and her room and her toys. She just wanted to confirm that she BELONGED. After all, if that room was hers she was surely staying.

Then, she sat up, looked in my eyes and said "Mommy," making her hands into fists and putting them to her eyes as if she was rubbing them (her symbol for crying) "Guangzhou" she added. I knew what she meant.

Her first plane ride... Jan 11, 2013 - from Haikou to Guangzhou
On our last day in Guangzhou, first thing in the morning, before breakfast, she had a throw-down of sorts. It was to a degree legit but it got out of hand. It was crunch time, we needed to eat breakfast and hand off our baggage to be taken to the van. We needed to get to the airport and begin our 20 hour excursion back home. She decided to stand in the middle of the hotel room crying at the top of her lungs for one full hour. She wasn't going to move, she wasn't going to be quiet, there was no calming her as I had successfully done previously. There was only one thing to do - ask our guide to speak to her.

Sweet Rebecca did just that. She came to our room and not only calmed her down but did it with reason, not allowing her to continue to wallow in her circumstances. She basically told her to "get a grip". We ended up leaving for the airport with a very angry but tearless and quiet little girl. I, on the other hand, lost it on the van ride to the airport. That had put me over the edge. I wasn't crying for myself, I was crying for her. Crying because we were taking this little princess to begin a wonderful life in America but she had no way of being assured of that. Thankfully, within the hour, she was her old happy self.

A new American Citizen. Antics on the
Plane-Train in the Atlanta Airport
 "Mommy," she said again, "Guangzhou" and again she made her symbol for crying.

I smiled and said, "Yes, Elli, I remember. You cried in Guangzhou."

"Mommy, I sorry."

I was stunned... "What?"

"I sorry" symbol for crying "Guangzhou"

Oh my, I really didn't know what to say. I took her hands in mine. I smiled at her.

 "I love you, Elli"

"I love you too, Mommy"

She laid down and cuddled under her blankets. She looked up at me and grabbed my face in her hands. She has a routine of kisses before she closes her eyes. She turned my face and kissed my right cheek, then my left cheek. She pushed my face down and kissed my forehead and then, the most prized kiss of all - a big pucker to my lips. I did the same and she said. "Goodnight, Mommy, see you in morning."

"See you in the morning, Elli. I love you."


I  cringe every time I hear her say that. There's something unnerving when your daughter tells you "bye" as you leave her room after tucking her in. She has always said that so I've tried not to let it bother me too much. I think when she learns more English, I'm gonna tell her not to say that anymore.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What other surprises are in store?

Friday, Elli and I spent most of the day together. School was pretty much ditched because of appointments and misc. waiting. Kate was still recovering from having the stomach bug the day before so there was no dance lesson for her that day. Elliot needed grooming so Elli and I left Josh and Kate at home while we drove the 20 minutes to the PetSmart that has the best groomer this side of the Mississippi. (biased I know but why else would I drive 20 minutes?)

I tried to warn her that Elliot - who she calls "go go" because that is the way "dog" sounds in Chinese - would cry when we left him. He is very much like a toddler with separation anxiety. He really thinks life cannot go on without me. Although most of the time I love that, unconditional love from any living creature is wonderful, sometimes it's just overbearing and I just hate that he can't understand me when I want to tell him "Suck it up and take it like a man."

She thought she was prepared for his crying but she wasn't. He FREAKED and she had never heard shrieks and screams and crying from an animal like that. If she didn't have her built in giggle protection (she has one particular laugh/giggle that she does when she's either in trouble and bummed that she got caught or worried/unsure of something) she would have probably fallen apart right there on the floor of the grooming section.

She spent the whole walk out of the store replaying the event, "Go go Whahhh" (as she rubs her eyes in a crying pantomime). This went on for minutes... I mean M.I.N.U.T.E.S.

"Yes, Elli" he cried.

"Yes, honey"

"But we will go back for him"  Geezzz where was Google translator when you needed it?

So, to relieve the stress of watching such a traumatic good bye... we shopped.

That went well except that she asks if she can have every thing she sees that she thinks pertains to her at all. I'm thankful that we are currently broke or I'd be more than happy to have obliged but I have learned the skilled art of saying "No" with a smile on my face. Then, when I have been pushed to the point of giving in I have learned that she knows exactly what I mean when I say "You can have 'this' or 'this'"

Ironically, she usually chooses the item that is most "useful". I almost want to tell her no because push pop makers are not what a little girl should want more than puzzles. But I let her choose. She had frozen root beer push pops later that day.

Finally, we did what we always end up doing when we have time to kill


When we sat down she asked for the thousandth time when we were going to pick up Elliot. It had been almost 4 hours so I knew Tasha would call soon telling me he was ready. We sat down at a table with chairs and she tried out several different ones to decide which one she liked best. In the process she did something that hurt her chest and proceeded to lift up her shirt - to her neck - to show me what happened. 

Of course I was about to pull her shirt down when I was reminded that there was a traumatic event in her past that I knew nothing about. I find it bizarre, looking back on it, that we didn't just come right out and ask her but for some odd reason we didn't, even when we discussed it at the doctor's office at UAB. 

The scars. Tons of them. Well it looks like tons on a tiny little body like hers. I bet she has 6 or 7 all over her torso.All of them no less than 3 inches long, some longer. Clean, not jagged, but not remotely straight. One large scar has what looked like suture marks on either side. We have no record of that so we had no idea. We wondered with the doctor if maybe she had some benign tumors removed or something like that at one time but there was no rhyme or reason for the scars. 

So, I asked. She and I have gotten to be pretty good at communicating. Actually SHE'S gotten to be pretty good at communicating. 

It was a dog, a very big dog when she was a very little girl (she's still a very little girl). It growled and showed his teeth and then attacked her and bit her "here, and here, and here..." she pinched herself all over her torso and her legs, everywhere. I was aghast! 

I would ask her questions to get specifics. She knew what I was saying and she would confirm my responses with the most matter of fact "Yes... Yes". No smile, no frown, just a serious, information providing look as she continued to make it clear exactly what the dog looked like and sounded like when he came after her.

My precious little girl was almost eaten alive by a dog and yet she wants to know when she is getting "HER GO GO" back. 

She has never ONCE acted remotely afraid of Elliot. I find that fascinating. 

After thoroughly explaining her trauma she went back to finishing her french fries. 

Tasha called soon afterward and off we went to pick up Elliot.

Elli sat happily in her seat in the back and as I drove across the street I began to sing...

Bless the Lord
Oh my soul
Oh oh oh my soul
worship His Holy Name.

and out of nowhere I heard a little voice behind me singing with me, in English, the exact tune, with just the slightest Chinese accent.

I was floored. I had no idea when or where she had the chance to pick that up. She could have only heard it a couple times at best on the radio in the car and yet, there she was, singing that song. 

We kept singing it all the way to the store and into the groomer. 

Elli insisted that she was in charge of "go go" and she leashed him up and walked him out. 

I drove home with two happy little critters in my car that afternoon. No, make that three.

Elliot was rescued from the mean groomer Tasha who insists he look and smell like a puffy white cloud on a clear sunny day.

Elli was on her way home, laughing at her "go go" trying to find a place near my leg to rest his head and finally decided on the tops of the two Iced Tea cups sitting between us.

And I, because I had just had a full, long afternoon with my daughter who barely knows my language but seems to understand me completely. Because I discovered another very important thing about her past today. And I heard her sing another song to the Lord.

It may be a year before she really understands all the songs that she is going to learn to sing over the next several months but God will do a work anyway. He is just like that. If He waited until we fully understood all that He is He'd never act upon us. 

He's got something huge for her. I am sure of it. I'm watching and waiting with great excitement. May she glorify Him with all she is until the day she rejoices with Him in Heaven.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"The Talk"

So, we had "the talk" tonight... Elli and I.

How did it happen, you ask? How were we able to do it so soon? After all it's only been a month since "Gotcha Day".

After church Wednesday night, Elli and I came home together, just she and I. We had a lot of time alone and I wasn't in a hurry to get her to bed even though she needed to go. She didn't want a bath, she needed a bath, she didn't like the snack I picked out, she needed something before bed... then she wanted a bath... UGH.

Then she asked the question, more with her hands than with her mouth as is typical between she and I.

"Are you staying here (meaning here in the house) when I am in the bathtub?"

Wow, where else would I go? She's never seemed to worry about that before. But then, she's never had a bath alone before. Usually Kate dons her bathing suit and sits in our big tub with her. Kate has never grown out of tub toys and has more rubber duckies than Ernie. Between the rubber duckies and the Barbie mermaids they have a grand time. I wonder if Elli wonders if Americans all bath for over an hour with toys every time? They don't sell bath toys in China. Actually, they don't sell very many toys at all in China.

So, I got on my handy-dandy Google Translator and told her that I was staying right here the whole time she was in the tub. That seemed to satisfy her curiosity.


Just then...

I had a thought.

I got back on the translator. I typed in, "I will never leave you alone."

She smiled and nodded her head.

I typed again. "I am your mommy, F.O.R.E.V.E.R."

She stopped, nodded and held up the number 4 on her hands.

No, I'm not gonna assume she knows what I said.

I typed again. "I am going to ALWAYS be your mommy."

She stopped. She turned off the Kindle show she was watching. She turned to me and smiled. Not a huge, my life is complete, kind of smile. She smiled at me like "I was pretty sure of that but now I'm happy to be totally sure of that."

Then I typed "We are always going to be a family."

She pressed the button over and over to hear it in Chinese two, three, four times. Then, she did something that I wasn't expecting. She wanted me to retype what I said but put in there that Mommy, Daddy, Drew, Sam, Josh, Kate and Elli were ALL a family. She wanted to hear every name spoken together, Oh, and to add the dog too. She doesn't often call him Elliot. She usually calls him "go go".

So, that is exactly what I did. Elli pressed it over and over and over again. She could not get enough of hearing that Chinese lady's voice remind her of her Forever Family.

If she wasn't sure a week ago, two weeks ago, she is sure now. She is Elizabeth Hope Farhart. Elli for short.

             and Ever

Monday, February 4, 2013

You'll kill me...

"You don't tell anyone about this do you?" Kelly asked me toward the end of the first half of our appointment at the UAB International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham, AL. She was joking... well mostly joking... well, maybe half joking. You see, our appointment went really, really, REALLY well.

Daddy and Elli waiting for our appointment to begin.

Elli was relaxed and happy and acted just like she always acts. No manic moments (as sometimes comes in the evening brought on by the Prednisone we are slowly trying to rid from her body). No lack of desire to be obedient. No intentional digging in of heals when I or daddy said "no" or "not now". She just was... Elli. She laughed and giggled and played almost the entire time on daddy's lap. She'd occasionally look up at the muted TV with SpongeBob or Scooby Doo or Dora running across the screen. She'd catch Kelly glancing at her out of the corner of her eye and respond with a wide smile and twinkling eyes, never moving from the comfort and security of daddy's lap.

Kelly loved that about her. Frankly, Kelly loved
everything about Elli. Kelly loved almost everything we told her about our whole adoption experience from "Gotcha Day" until that day 22 days later. It's not that Kelly had never seen such a good outcome so quickly before but it was rare. I desperately tried to pull thoughts and events and feelings from the depths of my memory to share with her in the hopes...yes HOPES... that she would tell me "Oh, well, THAT's a red flag." But, no, there were no red flags.

She was hoping I'd not gone on and on about how wonderfully things were going because she was afraid it would be discouraging to others. It's not that I didn't realize that or that I'd not chosen to keep my mouth shut, especially on the adoption Facebook site I frequent because I knew other moms who were really struggling with A LOT. Of course I'd not want to be the source of discouragement. I know those moms, they'd be so happy for me. But honestly, when you are jet lagged, when you have other children that are making demands of you, when  your newest family member won't let you put her down for even a second in spite of the fact that she might weight 30 pounds and you haven't slept in 2, 3, maybe 4 WEEKS! Well just how much happiness is left in your body especially for someone who just throws it out there that she is experiencing none of what you are.

Hmmm, nope... not sharing a dang thing.

Kate and Elli in front of Blair Batson Children's Hospital

Just 2 days earlier we'd been to see the head of the hematology department at Blair Batson Children's Hospital here in Jackson, MS. Yep, that's another thing I sorta kept to myself. This woman is seriously busy. She is awesome and came highly recommended. It's not like there aren't other docs there that are great too, she's just the one who a few people we asked suggested we TRY to see, if we were "lucky", IF we could get in. We called on Friday, we saw her on Monday afternoon. We weren't expecting that. We didn't assume that. We didn't even ask for that. Her appointment nurse just GAVE us that appointment.

Everyone was right. She is great. She's perfect to work with children. You just know a doctor when he/she should focus on kids. She sees a lot of sad circumstances. Her heart is happy though. She agreed with us that Elli needed to come off the Prednisone and echo'd a friend's comments who's son has Chronic ITP like Elli. "This is no big deal." She spent some time telling us why but it's so not a big deal that there's really not even much to tell. We fashioned out a plan and decided by the middle of March that Elli would be drug free and we'd see where she stood with her platelet counts. Easy Peasy.

Hmmm, yep... NOT talking too much about the whole Easy Peasy part.

I just realized tonight that I was breathing. I mean really breathing... easy. I don't remember the last time I sighed and if you ask my family why I sigh they would say "because that is just what mom does". I realized that I spent the last 12 months being prepared to watch my entire life change completely - I was holding my breath to see what was gonna happen.

It's not happened at all like I thought it would. I thought I was going to fail Josh and Kate second semester. Not fail them because THEY didn't perform in the manner expected of them but that I would be the failure because Elli's arrival would deprive them of being able to learn in the manner they deserved to learn. But no, Elli is as eager to learn as any other 5 year old. She happily sits at the table and traces letters, colors papers, repeats phrases and words that she needs to know and understand. Nope, school really hasn't changed..
The first day back to school. 5 days after arriving in the US

 hmmm NOT sharing that, not right now

Then there was the decision to stay away from church and ministries and well, pretty much everything because, you know, everyone has to cocoon for at least 3 months, right? So MAYBE by the end of March I'd be able to go back to church. So MAYBE she will quietly sit next to me in the sanctuary in "big church" for a month or two. THEN I will sacrifice the summer and attend Sunday night and Sunday morning classes with her so that HOPEFULLY we will all feel comfortable with her starting Kindergarten Sunday school classes in the fall.

Finishing her George Mueller coloring page from her
first evening in Treasure Builders
After two weeks we could no longer stand it. She was so comfortable, so well behaved, so.. well... so able to go to church with us that we just HAD to go. Two Sundays after we'd arrived home in the US we were all sitting in the sanctuary watching and waiting to see how this little girl was gonna handle a contemporary Christian church filled with hundreds of people. Actually EVERYONE was watching her. I am surprised that our Pastor didn't clap his hands to get our attention and point his way and say "I would be the one to watch right now."

She was great. She did exactly what any of us would expect a well behaved 5 year old to do. She was amazing. When it was over she handled the 500 photo ops she had brilliantly as well. The next weekend  (this past weekend) I chose to take her to the Sunday evening class for her age group. I sat in the class but she insisted on sitting with the kids. She was bummed about the big chunky crayons because, after all, she is almost 6 and she colors flawlessly, but THEY didn't know that. After listening to 10 other kids get their name called she realized that each time a name was called a child chose to give an "animal sound". To my amazement when the teacher said "Elli" she responded "Meow"... now really, we are SO ready for this! Next Sunday we will be in 9:30 Lifegroup for the K4's. Oh My she has no idea what's ahead of her.

Of course I will stay with her until she feels like she can go it alone but somehow I doubt it's gonna take until the fall. It's an exciting development but I'd hate to share the ease at which we are adjusting with a mama who is just desperate to feel the physical arms of her women's Bible Study group around her again after being gone for months because her new daughter or son just cannot be left in childcare yet.

The inner rocker came out tonight just under 1 month
from the day we first met this princess
Tonight, as I was getting Elli her bedtime snack she heard Michael and Josh upstairs playing some of the Praise Team sets that they have to be prepared to play over the next several Sundays and Wednesdays. She had just been bathed and it was late, after 9:30. She should have been in bed an hour before.

I messed around in the kitchen awhile, waiting for her to come down to have her snack and then go to bed. She was a no-show; for a long time. So as I've gotten in the habit of doing, I grabbed my phone and headed upstairs to see what was keeping her and low and behold I saw a blur. A blur that had been full-on for 15 minutes and would continue for another 15. She found new ways to dance to Praise music and then... out of nowhere, Josh did what we had not expected... out of the amp came "Gundam Style". Right there, in front of my face, the itty bitty very new Farhart danced You Tube perfection with her big sis as Josh drummed to the song and her daddy and I just stared in awe. She became 100% Farhart at 10pm February 4, 2013.

And I breathed and breathed and breathed. And I realized that was exactly what I was doing.

Don't get me wrong, I, like you, think this has been WAYYYY too easy. Like you I realize there will be a trigger. Surely there's gotta be a trigger. Elli has cried only twice (only once with audible noise) since the day we met her. Some people, kids included, just aren't big criers. After all, she flat out watched the Lab Tech at UAB stick the needle in her arm and take 9 vials of blood. (I swear the number of vials increases each time we tell this story) She didn't utter a sound. She didn't even quiver a lip.

But I suspect that one day, maybe soon, something is gonna happen. Some memory or realization is gonna come storming to the front of her little brain and she is gonna look at me and lose all the composure that she's been so bravely trying to keep all these weeks. But here's the deal... that's ok.


Because yesterday... when I told her "I love you, Elli." Instead of her just smiling and saying "I love you too, Mommy." (which is pretty awesome in and of itself). She smiled at me, leaned into me so that her face butted up against my neck and whispered into my ear "I love you, too Mommy." And then, just for a minute, I stopped breathing. It was then that I got my first, real, "I love you".

So when it comes, if it comes, I'm ready. And maybe it will come totally BECAUSE it's official. She really does love me and she knows what that means and she KNOWS that she can totally lose it all over me and I will hold her through it until she cries out every last tear even if it takes hours. That if she is no longer that amazingly composed, always cheery, "A" game girlie, it won't change one little thing about how I feel about her. I will still think that she is one of the most brave little girls that I've ever had the honor to meet.

I love this girl!

"Oh no. Don't smile. You'll kill me. I stop breathing when you smile." 
-Tessa Dare, A Lady of Persuasion