One year ago, Grace and I were sound asleep in the Gloria Hotel in Nanchang, Jiangxi, China. We knew we needed to get up but after traveling since Friday, there was just no way I could wake up!
We slept until 11:00 p.m. and woke up realizing we were hungry, in a strange place, and disoriented to time and space. I don't remember much more and glad I have Grace to help me remember.
The next day, June 28th, we got up early and had our first breakfast buffet back in China. The breakfast buffets are legendary among the adoptive families because of the WIDE variety of dishes served, everything from summer melon soup to baked beans. I usually found the toaster and had a little bacon with coffee that was left from the Cold War.
But this day was extra special as we were expecting Annabel to arrive, just not sure of the time.
I had hoped for a day for Grace and I to have in China to get oriented and for her to have a chance to "experience" the city of her birth, before adding in a sister, but the SWI or Social Welfare Institute (another name for orphanage) had a different idea and sometime before noon Annabel arrived with the orphanage director, whom I did not recognize at the time.
Annabel was in a pink party dress with LOTS of fluff and a big bow in the back, her hair pulled back in a pony tail, carrying a bag that had a few of the most bitter apples I have ever tried to eat, but did, since she brought them to us. (The apples were in a bowl at the end of the hall!) She wanted to bring a gift and in hindsight, realize that is her true nature.
When I realized there were no clothes and she was so tiny, I knew our first task was finding her clothes. I had packed clothes size 10 and up and she was barely in a 6x. Her shoes did not have soles and she did not have any others.
We hit the ground running and bought several new outfits and had our first meal at McDonalds all before noon. She just grinned the whole time.
I am glad I have the record in my other blog as it all runs together now.
I know I could never have made it on the plane in the first place if my sister Lisa had not come to help out. I had collected a ton of stuff for the orphanage and it was all over the living room. On my trip to adopt Grace I did not know to do that and Jana had several suitcases full of clothes and other supplies to leave there. So to carry on Jana's tradition, I had done the same.
I am pretty sure if Lisa had not been there to start throwing it in bags I would have missed my flight!
Tonight we had dinner with friends, all who have adopted children, most from China. We celebrated our "gotcha" day together, which is the date of the adoption.
One of the best unexpected benefits to adopting has been all the wonderful people we have made in the adoption community. These friends kept our refrigerator stocked for the first month or so with the most delicious comfort foods you can find.
But back to Annabel.
I think I keep getting sidetracked because it is complicated.
Annabel had a much rougher beginning than Grace and her time in the orphanage was a lot longer. She had several foster families and I guess was not sure what to expect with this "new" mother.
I asked her tonight what she was thinking when she first met us and if she thought who is that big old white woman? All she would say is that she wondered if she would have a dad. No dad, but a great Poppa! And they are so much alike it is incredible!
Not very often is Dad the "stern" parent, but I remember him telling me that Mom could not handle me adopting a second daughter and neither could he.
Annabel was used to taking care of herself. Plus two or three other smaller children.
Here was a mom who insisted on taking care of her.
It has not been the easiest year of my life and probably not for her either. Or for Grace.
But it was also the best decision I have made since adopting Grace.
We have continued to meld and pull apart and come back together and bond until I think we are reaching a more comfortable sharing of our lives. We have gone beyond co-existing to finding our love for each other.
Annabel is a remarkable child who constantly watches out for others and tries to jump in to care for them. If Mom is around, she has grabbed her arm and ensures she arrives safely. She and Dad spar constantly or pitch a ball back and forth or take verbal jabs at each other.
She and Grace enjoy sharing their bedroom and playing together. I love it when they whisper to each other and have secrets just between them. I don't mind being left out as their need to develop that deep relationship is paramount.
Annabel has gone from fighting my kisses, to hiding from them, to actually returning a few.
Annabel always needs a task and no job is too big or too small, but once she is tired, she is ready for bed and can't go any further.
She loves our stinky old mean dogs and treats them like her babies.
She has forced Grace and I to get up off our bums from watching TV and get outside to play. As a result, we are both losing weight! Yea!
She amazes me in her grasp of the Bible and the depth of the questions she can ask and the insights she has. We were driving to the doctor the other morning and the sun's rays were breaking through the clouds. I pointed it out to her. She said, "You can just imagine Jesus, right there. You know that's how He is coming back, don't you?" From there she asked a lot of questions about being baptized.
With Grace it took a full two years to really feel that bond.
With all the changes and things we have gone through in the last year, I can't wait to see how it improves in the next year.
If I am known for only one thing, I would not mind it being that I adopted these two wonderful children. They have made my life.