Monday, June 30, 2014

His Plans

Friday, Lily and Ava played outside.  As I pulled into the garage later in the afternoon, this made me smile...

I've thought about this picture a lot over the last few days.  Four short years ago, I had no idea that walkers and wheelchairs would be a part of our everyday life...that they would  be lined up outside my kitchen door after an afternoon of playing outside.  It blows my mind that I pull up and am happy to see my girls' wheels.  There is no sadness or regret, just excitement that Lily and Ava are ours.   

It honestly doesn't bother us that Lily and Ava don't walk.  If there is a cure for Muscular Dystrophy in my girls' lifetime that will restore muscle function, I will be praising Jesus the loudest of anyone.  If that cure doesn't come, I'll still be the one praising Jesus the loudest!  God has given complete peace about our girls.  We didn't bring them home to fix them, just to love them.

Never in a million years did we think our life would lead us to where we are today.  Never in a million years could we imagine our life any differently than it is today!  God knew!! Never in a million years can I praise Him enough for bringing the six of us together.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11) 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Brother's Love

I don't blog about my bigs much, mainly because they are teenagers and I'm forbidden.  Today, I'm sneaking in a post about my Reece.  I've said many times that he has a servant's heart.  He is the first one willing to stop what he's doing and help someone.  He is super aware of other people's feelings and needs.  There is no way to even begin to describe his devotion to his sisters, especially Lily.  He realizes what she misses out on because of her MD, and it breaks his heart.

First time Reece held Lily in China (2011)

Last year at the beach, her little body just couldn't handle much time in the ocean.  Every afternoon, a tide pool would form and he spent hours playing with her.  No one asked him to, his sweet servant's heart chose to spend time helping Lily enjoy her beach time.  These are some of my favorite pictures ever... 

 I'm so proud of my son and the man that he is too quickly becoming.  As I watch him with his sisters, there is no doubt that he will one day be the most caring husband and Daddy (if I ever let him leave me).   Reece would do anything for Lily and I'm sure Ava is realizing he will do the same for her.  She already worships her GuGu and calls out for his help often.

GuGu and Ava on the Pearl River Cruise in Guangzhou...their smiles say it all!

This morning, Reece woke up with a headache.  As I doted on him and gave his some medicine, Ava and Lily noticed.  Lily understood the GuGu was feeling bad and through our gestures and broken English, I helped Ava understand that his head hurt.  As he fixed his breakfast plate and sat down with the littles, the servant became the served.  Watching the girls baby their big brother was one of the sweetest thing I've ever seen.  I'm so glad my camera just happened to be on the kitchen counter, I promise none of these photos were staged...

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10)

Flight delays, delayed homecomings, illness, and surgery just can't steal our joy!  When scenes like this play out at our kitchen table, there is no doubt that God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought us all together!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What a Week!

My last post seems like years ago. Our last day in China ended up not being our last day in China. We sat on the runway in Beijing waiting for 6 hours for our plane to take off. Fuel pump problems and the pilot being on duty for too long before takeoff ended up canceling our flight. Our real last night in China was spent at an airport hotel.  Missed planes and cancelled flights left us sleeping on the floor in the Detroit airport and spending another night away from home in an Atlanta airport. Almost 68 hours after leaving the Garden hotel, we finally walked through our front door...20 days after leaving and finally with our sweet Ava in our arms!!

I planned on posting hilarious pictures of us sleeping on airport floors and other odd places during our crazy journey to get home. I was going to blow the whistle on Delta for the poor treatment of our littles and their total lack of empathy for their special needs. I wanted to post about how God used our sweet Sunday School class to renew our spirits and remind us that He would not fail us. I wanted to post pictures of my FOUR miracles finally home and tell all about the perfect day that God gave us on Tuesday. It was a glimpse of His perfect plan for was so good!!

That post won't happen for awhile...because Wednesday happened and my Lily, our joy, got so very sick. There were hours during that day that I thought we would lose her. Trent says that this blog is my release, and this early Friday morning as I sit at Children's Hospital...I need the release. I really want to lay in the floor and scream and scream and scream, but I'll type instead. Warning up front, it's a crappy story but God wins in the end. He picked us up and carried us through once again.

Wednesday morning, Ava (still only answering to Yu Fang, but Ava's easier to type) and I woke up earlier than everybody else. She was so happy and gave me lots of hugs and kisses. I made her some noodles and she ate and we played. Huge step for us because by the end of our trip, she was a total Daddy's girl. That's so common in adoption, but it's the first time our new child hasn't bonded with us both equally. Kinda broke my heart, but I could see improvement since we were finally home.

Lily woke up asking for water. As Ava played Barbies, I snuggled with Lily and helped her drink her water. Around 8:00 am, she complained with her stomach. Thinking she was hungry, I made her some toast with hot sauce...gross, but it's her favorite!  We sat on the couch and she started to writhe from the stomach pain. I rubbed her little belly and thought she might need some Miralax...very common for her because of the MD. Reece had gotten up and got everything ready for me since Liky was in my lap whining from her tummy ache. The whining and writhing are very unusual for Lily, who NEVER complains. By this time, she is very pale and her lips are white.  We make a dash for the bathroom and she gets sick. I'm thinking our sweet girl has her first stomach virus.  After her second vomiting episode, Trent calls the pediatrician and the nurse says they want to see her. They usually always want her to come in because of her MD.  She gets extremely sick one more time before I'm out the door on our way to Hoover. I kissed Ava, hating to leave her but Lily was so sick. I knew Ava would be more satisfied at home with Trent and the bigs.

Lily slept all the way to the pediatrician. She dehydrates so easily, so I'm certain at this point that she's already dehydrated. By the time I carried her into the pediatrician's office, she was lethargic and barely talking.  I'm hoping to get something to stop the vomiting and get some fluids in her. I packed a bag before we left home thinking we may end up at Children's Hospital for fluids. I'm cool with that, I can handle it...seriously, I really thought I could :)

By the time they had done a blood draw and gotten a urine sample, Lily was even more lethargic. As I laid her back on the exam table from taking her to the bathroom, she was barely responding to me or the nurse. I watched her heart racing and could see it pulsing in her neck...way too fast and she was almost panting to get her breath. I opened the door and the doctor was in the hallway and came in quickly when he saw my face. My friends know I don't have a poker face, no doubt he could see the terror and panic. As we shook her and tried to get a response, he raised up her arm and jabbed her armpit several times. She didn't even flinch. He quickly says it's time to get it the ER, silly me says...ok, tell me the fastest way to get there. Nope!  The ambulance is called and I'm trying not to panic. I call Trent who is an hour away and my Daddy who works nearby.  By the time I'm on the phone with Daddy, I can't talk I'm sobbing so hard. They both head for the ER.

As I watched Lily sleep the scariest sleep I've ever seen (heart racing, panting, and one arm twitching), I hear the siren. As long as I live, I won't ever forget the feeling of knowing that wailing was for MY child. I followed the stretcher out praying and crying. There is no way to describe how I felt...but I know any parent understands. It's your worst nightmare.

Lily woke up a little during the ambulance ride (by the way...the sirens and lights mean get out of the way, when did people stop moving for emergency vehicles??) and asked the EMT questions.  I was so relieved.  They took her straight back to a room in the ER and by the time a nurse came in, she was unresponsive again. The doctors suspected her appendix because of the high white blood cell count...36!!!  Normal is around 10.  They told us there had to be infection somewhere based on those numbers and her symptoms lined up with appendicitis. 

Trent carried Lily with the nurse for an ultrasound.  As they returned, the doctors and nurses started working in a frenzy.  Somewhere along the way, they checked Lily's blood sugar which was horribly low...31.  The ultrasound didn't show any problems with the appendix.  They started IVs in both Lily's hands and they are hanging maintenance fluids, dextrose, and a strong antibiotic. I worked part time doing speech therapy in a hospital when the bigs were babies, so I'm following what's happening.  Then I hear the doctor say sepsis and my heart almost stopped.  I followed her into the hallway and asked if she thought Lily was septic.  As she shook her head, I fell against her in tears, begging her to save my baby.  Sepsis is a toxic response to infection, it can be fatal.  For a tiny little girl with a progressive muscle is really, really, really bad.

The doctor called Trent out into the hall and explained what was going on and then we told my Daddy.  My bigs and Ava knew something was wrong as they sat in Lily's room.  As Trent and I sat on either side of Lily with my Daddy standing vigil in the corner, Reece started to sob.  Mary Ashtyn was red faced and trying to hold it together.  Ava just sat and took it all in.  What must she think about family at this point?  Bless her heart.

I looked and Trent and whispered, "I'm not ready yet".  I have known since Lily's MD diagnosis that she could have a shorter life expectancy.  She's taught me to enjoy every minute God gives us with her...but I wasn't ready to let her go.  My sweet little girl that has made us so much better and stronger than we've ever been was so sick.  It was the most desperate and helpless feeling. I prayed over and over for God to let me keep her. 

The doctors did chest x-rays that were clear and sent Lily for a neck and stomach CT...they had to find where the infection was coming from.  One doctor came in and said that Lily was a puzzle, and they were doing everything they could to figure her out.  After hours of her not responding, she finally woke up a little after 3 bags of fluids.  She talked to us a little and kept her eyes open for awhile.  The CT scan did show that her appendix didn't look normal.  Appendicitis??  Sepsis??  We really didn't know anything and were transferred to the Special Care Unit with very few answers. 

Around 11:30 pm, we found out that Ava couldn't stay in the room with us since we weren't on a regular  floor.  Another thing to worry about as Trent and Ava left at midnight to find a hotel.  My newest daughter really didn't know what a mother was and now I've spent a whole day away from her.  My heart was torn, but I couldn't leave my Lily.  At this point, I'm realizing it's a very good thing that Ava was such a Daddy's girl since they were forced to spend so much time together.  I just sat and sobbed after they left...both of my sweet littles were facing so much. 

Around 3:00 am, Lily really woke up!!  I'm not sure how many bags of fluids she was given, but it was a lot and the nurse said she was on strong antibiotics.  I do know how amazing it was to hear that sweet little voice waking me up to go to the bathroom.  We laid in her bed snuggling and talking about her surgery.  Sweet girl was nervous!!  Would it hurt? Would she have to wear hard pants again??  (She had hip surgery in 2012 and wore a body cast for 6 weeks).  Would her belly button be an outie after surgery? 

Fast forward to after surgery, Lily's appendix was removed and didn't look that bad.  The doctor didn't think it would account for her extremely high white blood cell count.  The plan was to take Lily off all IV fluids and antibiotics and recheck her numbers the next morning.  Lily came out of recovery wide awake and ready to eat.  She did away with a popsicle and drank some Sprite.  We spent the day worrying about what the lab work would show.  What if her white blood cell count was still high...what next??

Our sweet night nurse, the same one who had braided Lily's hair in the early morning before surgery knew how stressed I was.  As Trent and Ava left for the night, she cried with me.  I will be forever grateful to her and how she took care of us.  Bless her, she did the blood draw around 12:30 am, knowing I wouldn't sleep until I had some idea of what we were facing.  When she flew into Lily's room around 1:00, I couldn't believe it when she said 9.5.  9.5...NORMAL white blood cell count!!! 

By the time the sun came up, Lily was eating breakfast and we were waiting to come home!!  

I can honestly say that my faith and trust in God has never been tested more than over the past week. As I sit in my den with my kids scattered around me, I can honestly say that we would not have made it through this week without God!  He proves over and over again that He is enough to carry us through anything.  Even if there comes a time that He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want, He will still be enough. 

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

These miracles will always remind me of what God can do, even on the hardest days!

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" James 1:2-4


Friday, June 13, 2014

Last day in China

We enjoyed our last big Garden breakfast this morning. As we sat together this last full day in China, I couldn't help but think of our last breakfast before Ava torpedoed into our lives...

Nervous, anxious, and excited doesn't even begin to cover the emotions from the morning of Ava's Gotcha Day.  In less than 2 weeks time, our tiny tornado has moved effortlessly into our family. Her smiles and giggles melt our hearts and her mischievousness keeps us on our toes. We wondered how she would fit into our family and it's been amazing to watch her find her place with us. It will take months before the attachment and bonding is complete, but it is already so easy to love Ava. 

As I packed our clothes, my tears started. I have been ready to go home since early in the week, but it's still difficult. We take another treasure from China, so a part of our hearts will always be here.  Russia, Kazakstan, and China gave us our greatest blessings.  God's plan for our family brought us through so much loss and sadness.  Each of our children let go of a homeland, a culture, and most tragically, a birth family to create our family.  Only God can take this brokenness and make us complete. 

This is my last post from China. It's been an awesome journey to our daughter!  Now, our new normal begins. Don't stop praying as we come home. We'll begin doctor's appointments and testing to figure out why sweet Ava's legs don't work. We've been there, done that with Lily and don't look forward to it again.  Our impossible~difficult~done cycle begins again. No matter how impossible Ava's diagnosis may seem and how difficult it will be to get will be DONE!!  No matter how God chooses to get it done, our faith in Him will be more than enough to get us through. 

Every great work of God, first is impossible, then it is difficult, and then it is done. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Loving Life

Tonight, we got to go back to our favorite thing in China from Lily's trip....

We love the circus in Guangzhou!!!

As I carried Lily to our seats, it was amazing it think how far we've come since 2011. Our Lily has opened our lives and hearts to so many things. Because of her, we completely trusted God when He nudged us toward Ava.  I could barely watch the circus for looking at my sweet miracles. FOUR of them!!  Trent and I spent several years thinking we would never be parents. Oh, what God has done for us!!

Lily kept screaming "this is AWESOME"

Ava kept saying "look Mama"...her mouth hung open most of the night :)

At one point, I looked up at Trent and he said, "this is what life's all about".  We are so blessed by the life God has given us!!  It won't always be easy, but we look forward to every day. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pool Day

Our travel group went to the zoo today. We decided to stay at the hotel and swim!  It's so hot in Guangzhou and it really wears Lily out. Ava is not a big fan of the heat either.  We had a great morning together.

Rooftop pool at The Garden

Ava liked the water, she can't balance as well as Lily yet...but she wasn't scared!

We are so very busy keeping up with these four :)  Loving every minute of it!!

     For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me which I asked of him.  
1 Samuel  1:27-28

The Littles

God has blessed us with the most beautiful Chinese treasures. We are so amazed by our littles!!  Each day, Ava is getting more settled.  As we get to know her, we are realizing that although our girls share the same birth country...they are as different as night and day. Neither is better or worse, just different. Lily is our prim and proper princess.  Ava is our rough and rowdy girl. While Lily refused to try to learn English for at least a month, Ava is already trying out several English shoes, where are you, open, mine, picture.   Lily was very quiet and didn't speak Mandarin to us. Ava chatters away and we just smile and try our best to figure out what she wants.  It took Lily several months before she would sleep with us, Ava hopped in between us the very first night. Lily has a tiny, quiet laugh while Ava has a big, loud one. 

Through all the differences, they are already developing a strong bond. Ava looks out for Lily and puts her arm out to brace her in the van. Today, they wanted to ride together in Lily's chair.  

As they giggled together in the bathtub, I imagined the years they will spend together laughing, fighting, and sharing secrets.   

They will share so many things. Mainly, parents and their bigs who are absolutely head over heels in love with them.  They'll understand the frustration of weak legs that don't allow them to do what others do. From this weakness, they already share a determined spirit to never be left behind. I'm most thankful that they will live a life loving Jesus and an eternity with their Savior!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Guangzhou: Medical

Today was our first full day in Guangzhou. We were excited to be back at the Garden Hotel where we stayed with Lily.  It was great to meet other adopting families and spend time sharing our experiences.

Our Breakfast view

We had Ava's medical appointment this morning. Everything went tears and very little drama. 

Sweet girl waiting her turn, YAY for iPads!

Not impressed with the vision test

BaBa is very entertaining during the exam...Ava loved his pink hair :)

Only a little drama after the blood draw, Ava's arm stopped working for quite some time :) We enjoyed babying her. 

So blessed with our four miracles!!!  Our arms and hearts are full!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

All About Ava

Adoption is tough and my posts have been emotional the last few days. We don't cry all day, there were actually NO tears today.  We had a great morning at the Botanical Gardens and shopping!!   Our littles got new sunglasses, purses, and shoes. It is so much fun buying for them.  

We are watching Ava's personality unfold and I have to share....

She is VERY dramatic. Trent and I are laying here laughing just thinking about her reactions. She came to us with a pair of crocs that will not stay on her feet. When we carry her, they fall off. As soon as she feels them slipping, she panics and starts screaming, "my shoe, my shoe"!!  Rides in the stroller are just as dramatic. If we hit a bump, she throws her hands out and screams like she's falling off a roof, then gives us her big grin. Think Fred Sanford when he's sure it's the big one and he's on his way to join Elizabeth (anybody else grow up watching Sanford & Son??)...that's our Ava!!

She is so sweet. She is quick to share anything she is eating.  A beggar approached us on the street today and it made her so sad. She asked our guide many questions about her and was so upset about it.  She will stop whatever she's doing to climb in my lap to cuddle. She melts my heart when she wraps her arms around me and kisses my cheek.

She loves making pictures. The bigs have taught her to make selfies.  She is so stinking cute....

She loves jewelry. She wears the necklace and bracelet that we sent her plus a bracelet her teacher gave her along with another red thread bracelet. She also wears the ponytail holder that she was wearing on Gotcha Day around her wrist. She's added a strawberry shaped blinking watch that she got in a Happy Meal. She takes everything off for her bath and it all goes back on as soon as she is dressed.

Ava adores Reece. She will repeat anything that he says. Today, he had her saying, "oh no, baby".  Now, she looks at him and just starts shouting it over and over.  We've threatened Reece within an inch of his life if he teaches her anything else :)

She can write her name, Ava, and the word Spring.  Lily taught her to write spring and helped her turn her s around the correct way.  I taught her to write her name. After I wrote it, I underlined she underlines both words every time she writes them.

Ava has already won an award. All the children in several different orphanages draw pictures and they are submitted to the Civil Affairs office to be judged.  Her picture won third place. We were given her certificate and they are supposed to email us a picture of her drawing.

She snores and flips and flops all over the bed ALL night long. She wakes me up by patting my cheek and grinning at me.

Ava is a little ball of energy who is keeping us on our toes. We are so very glad that she is forever ours!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 5: Last Goodbye

Ava, who only answers to Yu Fang, woke me up before sunrise to use the bathroom. She happily crawled back in bed and gave me a big hug. I rubbed her hair as she drifted sleep was finished, time to pray and think about our trip to the SWI/orphanage.

After finishing more paperwork this morning, Yu Fang is officially Ava Frances Fang Bamberg....our daughter. I'd like to say it was an emotional, tender moment, but Reece and Lily were arguing and we had to interrupt the notary's proclamation to shut them up!!  LOL The life of a big family, never boring or quiet...I love it!!

We left the Civil Affairs building and began the 2 hour drive to Ningbo. We worried how our tiny tornado would handle the long drive, but she was still and very entertained by the IPad. 

We pulled into the gates of the SWI and Ava happily waved to the guard.  I half jokingly asked Nancy if she thought Ava would cry to stay at the SWI, I was so nervous!!

The front of Ava's SWI

We got out Ava's walker and she hurried inside. I could hear her excitement as she greeted the
orphanage staff. They were as happy to see her as she was to see them. It was so obvious that our sweet girl was loved.  We took an elevator to the second floor to meet the orphanage director and her assistant. They presented us with a beautiful glass figurine and we did our best to convey how thankful we were to them for taking such good care of Yu Fang.

As we talked, Ava's friends were brought into the office. Beautiful, sweet babies so excited to see their friend. Ava grabbed the IPad and gave them a demonstration. She was sweet to give them each a turn to play. We took suckers for her to pass out..she was careful to give them two each.   The rest she kept a tight grip on :)

Two of these children have families, the others need one so badly!!

Ava was doing so well, but around this time my tears started. This precious little boy introduced himself, told us he was 11 and really wanted a family. I reached out and touched his face and thought about stuffing him in our backpack. Seriously, he had the cutest personality and the director kept telling us how smart he was.

Pleading for his family

They are blurry but I couldn't tell through my tears.  Look at that huge smile!

I took pictures of all the children on my good camera and will share those when the connection is better and they will download.  It breaks my heart to see these  normal children, giggling and laughing...just needing a family. 

As we walked to the building with Ava's classroom, she started to whine. I thought she was upset about, our little princess told the director that she didn't like to use her walker anymore!! She said her BaBa would carry her...oops, we've spoiled her already :)

Ava's teacher was so happy to see her. She grabbed her and gave her the biggest hug. 

Walking to the van, the last goodbye

Both of Ava's teachers. They quietly told her goodbye, reminding her to study hard and believe in herself.  

BamFam6 with the Director(in turquoise) & the Assistant Director

As we loaded in the van, Trent turned to face the entrance to the SWI. The last look at the place our daughter had lived for her entire life. Realizing that this was the last look, I know he was memorizing every detail. Through our tears, we climbed into the van to wave goodbye to the teachers. Yu Fang started to sob. As I scooped her up she fell against me and we cried together. I locked eyes with the teacher who loved her so and shook my silent promise to always love and care for her.  The teacher's tears absolutely shattered my heart. As we pulled away, I rocked Ava and let her cry.  Praising God that she was so loved, but the final goodbye was so very hard. 

As Ava quieted, she slipped off my lap and sat beside Lily. Still somber and hurting, sweet Lily put her arm around Ava. I cried again, both of my little girls know the pain of letting go of a life, the fear of starting a new one. 

My tiny girls are so strong!

I can't write a post to do justice to this day. It's hard and it hurt us all. We all ached to watch those beautiful children leave the office where we played with them. I looked at Mary Ashtyn's face and knew that she was barely holding it together. Lily was so quiet, her memories probably too much to handle. Reece is just like his Daddy, hanging out with each child and making them feel special. Love my kids everyday, but I am so proud of the way they handle themselves when life really matters. Today, they lived in the moment and were His hands and feet.

The last goodbye was so very difficult, but it is done. Our sweet girl will not forget those who loved and cared for her for 9 years. She has more grieving to do, but she is realizing that we will be here to comfort her. Slowly, she will see that family is forever. 

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families."   Psalm 68:5-6