Wow. 2 Months since I last updated. Time flies! I'm finding it so hard to believe that Emmi has been in our family for 8 months! We also met the big boys 7 years ago in September - they have grown from tiny toddlers to 3rd graders and Titus came into our lives when he was born 5 years ago in August. We are blessed.

Recently, the boys have been asked if they are brothers and if I am their mom with some confusion. We have all affirmed our relationship and the subject has been dropped but I asked one of the boys why we were asked - he matter-of-factly answered, "Because we don't look alike." It did not seem to concern him at all, it's just a fact, just the way our family is. I acknowledged his answer and let it go - he seems to be handling it right now.

We have hard days and hard weeks but overall we are seeing maturing and growth in all of our children. Emmi has been going through another transition stage coupled with a new toddler stage - fun times. She is testing us at every turn, screaming, shouting 'no,' and exhibiting all kinds of lovely behavior. The rest of the time, she is sweet as can be but very independent. She definitely keeps us on our toes and definitely has the whole family wrapped. Her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds and she sees a new ophthalmologist this week.

We enjoyed the local Chinese Festival with great friends of ours last weekend. It was fun to celebrate our girls.  We've had a few changes around here but I think things will settle into a really great place. Life keeps moving on - I feel like if I blink, I'll miss it.

Calvin - always the actor

Yeah, getting all 4 to look the same direction = nearly impossible.

Looking all grown up - she LOVES her "boots."

Chinese Festival fun - who knew pirates would be there?! Patrick was so proud of that face!

Titus Batman - adore that smile.


6 Months

Dear Emmarie,

6 months ago you were placed in our arms. Precious girl, you cried your eyes out and then fell asleep on my shoulder. You were so scared and confused and my heart wept for you. Those first snuggles while you slept were amazing though - I couldn't believe I was holding you! My daughter, I had prayed for you for many months and longingly gazed at your photo - missing you before I even met you.

When you woke up, you decided that maybe we weren't so scary especially since we had snacks and toys. It was so fun to see your sweet smile sneak through. You were kind to the other children there and your mothering instinct was instantly evident as you graciously shared your snack with another scared little girl.

I can't believe it's been 6 months. Our mother and daughter relationship took a little while to start blooming but oh how I am loving seeing it deepen! We have so much fun together - teasing, laughing, tickling, doing hair, finding clothes, admiring shoes, painting nails, and sharing our own private jokes (yes, even at 2 you have quite the sense of humor). Emmi, I can't imagine life without you - your brothers adore you, you are Daddy's little girl, and you are the beautiful fourth child in our forever family. How thankful we are to be your parents. How thankful to be a part of God's story of your life. You have certainly amazed us.

6 months ago, our lives changed and we are so glad! I love you sweet baby girl - a forever love.

Love always and forever,



Today I am frustrated. Frustrated with the medical professionals we have trusted. We had a disappointing appointment with Emmi's ophthalmologist - we will be finding a new doctor asap! She had not even looked at the MRI report - the MRI she wrote the order for and we did 3 months ago. That is a complete deal breaker - not to mention the fact that she does not answer our questions, is not good with Emmi, and completely changed what she said last time (aggressive vs. conservative).

We also learned today that our developmental pediatrician (who we really like!) did not send the vaccine reports after titres and did not send any report after the MRI. We found out last week, that she left her practice and is working elsewhere in a different type of medical work.

FRUSTRATING all around!

Thankfully we have a fabulous pediatrician - she spent 15 minutes on the phone with me today. She listened and empathized and helped make a plan. She gave me referrals and personal references for ophthalmologists. She is having her nurses call and get information we need and we will reconvene next week to chat. I LOVE her.

It's been a long day. It makes me all the more grateful for the awesome doctors that have really been advocates for our family!

At the end of the day, we have these four, sweet blessings! They make me laugh and smile (and sometimes cry :)). I love them with all of my heart and we would do anything for them!



Building Trust

Emmi has been sick this weekend and it breaks my heart - this is the first real illness that she has had since coming home. It was clear when she first started feeling bad, that she didn't expect to be held and cuddled. I just can't imagine. Life has changed so much for her. We love her, we want to meet her needs but sometimes it's still hard for her to let us. Amazing how much must be unlearned from that fight-or-flight/independent attitude that is so common (and necessary) among orphans. Thankful (despite the whine and tears of the past few days) for the chance to show her again that we are here no matter what - it's all part of that unconditional love and part of building that trust.

What a sweet girl we are blessed to parent!

She is so pretty - even when she isn't smiling. :)
Funny girl! She has a fantastic sense of humor!
Mommy & Emmi - 4th of July!
Cutie pie.
Daddy & Emmi - 4th of July 


A Year Ago

Last summer, we were in full adoption mode. Everything we did (almost) was related to it - we cut every expense we could think of (and felt guilty every time we spent any not-completely-necessary money), we worked as many hours and did whatever jobs we could, we filled out paperwork, and we waited. It took its toll - we were exhausted and stressed. I constantly battled God - struggling to know if we were doing the right thing. We were determined to work hard for this adoption - an adoption that we KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was something God had called us to. 

She is SO FUNNY!
This summer, we have our delightful daughter - a precious gift from God - running around and keeping us busy. I'm enjoying this summer a lot more. :) But through it all, we saw the gracious hand of God. Over and over, He showed me that this adoption was not about me, it was about Him. He challenged my heart and humbled me. I was brought to tears more times than I can count. This journey was about so much more than adding a child to our family - it was about orphan care and awareness and trust and grace and mercy and humility and trust (yes, I said that twice). God showed us in no uncertain terms (it was actually incredibly amazing) that Emmarie was our child but it was a huge step of faith for us on the medical side of things. Today we stand in awe at the beautiful child we are privileged to call our daughter

One year later, I am glad to be on the flip side, thankful God called, and so thankful for the way He provided through so many people and so many means. Our desire is to pay that forward over the coming years. We were (and are) truly blessed. We have seen God in new ways and He not only called but He led and provided every step of the way. Our hearts failed, our faith was weak, but our God carried us through. He is faithful and He did not leave Emmi as an orphan - she is an orphan no more! That is a story that only He could write!

Beautiful Daughter.

These two have a remarkable and special bond - it melts my heart every time.


A Heart Full of Love

Some days I just have to pinch myself - four beautiful children who call me mom! Never in my wildest dreams did I know how beyond blessed I would be in this life. I look into each of their faces and feel privileged that God chose me - He brought us together. We may not share the same eyes or skin color or hair color or build or genetics but we share a love - a forever, stick together, heart kind of love. We certainly have hard days and my children have experienced loss and hurt and stress from hard beginnings that are tough to overcome (and that no child should experience), but we are unconditionally committed to one another. I watch each child experience life and I have noticed my tears are often near - joyful tears, sad tears, thankful tears, loving tears.

This week has been a favorite of mine - full of reading, swimming, playing outside, learning together, laughing, playing games and so much more. We truly love nothing more than to spend time together. I have happily sighed each evening, knowing that I have thoroughly enjoyed being their mom this week. It hasn't been perfect - we've had meltdowns and tempers flare and tears of hurt and unkindness but what championed through? Forgiveness, faith, fun, love and sweet dreams.

How thankful I am that God turned my heart to adoption when I was still a child myself. I had no idea what He would do with my desire and I stand in awe. These gifts. These children. What an amazing God. This is my dream - I wouldn't want it ANY other way.


Favorite Picture!

Seriously, does it get any cuter than this?! She is so cute, so funny, and so gorgeous...not that we are biased at. all. :) Love her so much!


A Reason for Thanks

Emmi had her MRI on Monday and she did really great! We were so thankful to get the report this afternoon for Emmarie. They did not find anything they were looking for - no lesions, no vascular bundles, and her eye and orbits look fine. We are praising God for this great news! We were prepared for just about anything because no matter what - she is ours!. 

We talked to her pediatrician this afternoon and she has been incredibly impressed with Emmi's development and progress. She has been our pediatrician since we brought tiny, sick, malnourished Calvin home so, needless to say, we have been through a lot with her and she has been a wonderful health care provider for our family. How thankful I was that she told me to call if we had not heard by today so she could make sure and get the results for us. It has been a long few weeks waiting for the MRI and then this week waiting for the report. We are rejoicing tonight.              

Our beautiful, sweet girl is loving life, learning new words weekly, and richly blessing our lives. How grateful we are for God's clear call on our family to add #4 and for the gorgeous girl we have the privilege of parenting.

Here are a couple of pictures of her with her Easter Basket (she was so cute about it!):




We have settled into some semblance of normalcy. We are still staying home...a lot...and it's good. Emmarie is a delightful but busy little girl. She can tear apart a room in a matter of seconds - we are working on that. :) She continues to bring a tremendous amount of joy, laughter, and femininity to our home. Just this morning she insisted on wearing her fancy pink shoes and she is completely obsessed with her Best Friends shirt - she brings it to me to wear any chance she has. I love that she cares...for the moment...I'm sure it can be frustrating. I think I love observing her blossom into having an opinion, making a choice, and knowing that her voice will be heard.

She continues to work on her words and communication and impresses us with her determination. Her hair is growing and she is wearing headbands and bows more. Her brothers still adore her. She is still a daddy's girl but has relaxed on that quite a bit - as in, she doesn't cry when he leaves. :)

Andrew and I went on our first date - a breakfast date - and she did great! She finds comfort in being with her brothers. She experienced her first Easter and with that, a family gathering - my family is large and just with my immediate family, there are 21 people...needless to say, we don't have a chance to get together very often. So, other than meeting almost everyone when she came home, we have not all gotten together - she did pretty well and definitely enjoy the egg hunt.

Her MRI is next week and we appreciate prayers for her and for us - I am ALWAYS a nervous wreck when any of my kiddos have to go under anesthesia. We are thankful for her amazing doctors - they have been incredibly kind, very helpful, and we feel they have exercised much wisdom. It's often a bit of a mystery to unravel the health history and current health of internationally adopted children. We are anxious to have this behind us, hopeful that it will be clear but trusting for guidance with whatever the results are, and thankful for the chance we have to take care of our sweet daughter. What a blessing she is to us!

We finally took a family picture on Easter - our first since the airport! I promise Emmi is usually more smiley - she was pretty over the picture idea. :)


8 Weeks

Eight (!) weeks ago this past Monday, Emmarie Doris Xiaochan was placed in our arms. She cried as I held her close and assured her everything would be okay. It's hard to believe how quickly you can love someone - I am always amazed by that as I have met each of our children. In eight short weeks, I have fallen completely in love with this fourth little blessing and can't believe she hasn't always been here. She fits so perfectly.

Meeting each other for the first time

A Few Milestones:
40+ words and phrases
Several signs
Singing w/hand motions
Laughing - oh this girl can laugh
Making funny faces
Climbing up and down the stairs
Counting to 3
Animal Sounds
Identifies Eyes, Mouth, Nose

Every day is a new adventure with her! She has a wonderful sense of humor and keeps us laughing! Her brothers continue to completely adore her - the newness has not worn off. T has a hard time not picking her up - he pretty sure he should carry her everywhere (he is not that much bigger than her :)).

Emmi's height is in the 50th percentile and her weight is in the 5th-10th percentile. She has gained a little over a pound since coming home. She is a great eater and rarely turns her nose up at anything.

I'll add some updated photos soon! We have yet to have a family photo shoot which means we haven't even sent announcements which was my plan since we didn't send out Christmas card - ah life. Poor #4. :) One of these days...


Doctor's Reports

Where to start? I'm not not exactly sure. Today, we saw the pediatric ophthalmologist and two weeks ago, we saw the Developmental Pediatrician who specializes in International Adoption. I told a couple of people that I now feel like we have a giant question mark hovering of our heads.

Everything has been inconclusive so far - we have 1) a strange and relatively unhelpful 1 year old+ medical report (which we knew and had evaluated when we moved forward with her adoption), 2) a couple of physical "abnormalities" (ie birthmarks), 3) zero developmental concerns, 4) zero cognitive concerns, and 5) a drifting or lazy eye.

There has been some debate on whether or not we should do an MRI. The ophthalmologist did not feel it is warranted from her exam today. She found that Emmi's optic nerves look exactly the same but they are not absolutely the best they could be - they are "slightly pale" (but it is bilateral and could very well be her baseline normal). She was willing to do the MRI though, based on what we wanted and what she knew our other doctor wanted. The IA specialist told us that we should do one if her optic nerve is pale and if it's not, than she wants to consult with a pediatric neurologist and see if he thinks we should do an MRI. She also stated that Emmi is doing wonderfully and is a developmental pediatrician's "dream."

The long and short, we have an MRI (under sedation) scheduled for March 27. No one can tell us what they are looking for or what we should be watching for - literally their words are, "I don't know." We have no concerns at this point with her development and cognitive abilities. I feel like it's just a puzzle to the doctors. My gut is that they don't want to miss anything and while one thing alone wouldn't give them pause, the combo is interesting and somewhat concerning. We know that they could find something on the MRI and we were aware of that when we became fully convinced that she was our daughter.

Oh and back to the eye (which has been noticeably better lately), we will be patching her "good eye" (left one) for 2-4 hours per day and will visit the ophthalmologist again in 3 months. We will also see her regular pediatrician for her 2 year check up next week - whew, this girl is a trooper!

In the mean time, we continue to enjoy our sweet girl - what a joy she is! I love watching her with her brothers - they ADORE her. C said to me today, "I just love her so much" - warms this mama's heart.

Her hair is getting a little thicker and growing since this picture in China!
We have been home for 6 weeks!



I can hardly type this post with tearing up... Last April, we began this journey - a huge financial step in faith for us - because we knew without a doubt that God had called us to it. We had a few thousand to start but knew we would have to work very hard and trust that God would provide the rest; it was our deepest desire to complete this adoption debt free. Many, many times along the way I questioned the call, questioned if we were doing the right thing, and wondered if we would actually be able to do it. 11 months later, we paid the final bill...with cash. I am in awe. God provided every single bit (even for the unexpected expenses) - He used a variety of means, a variety of people and organizations, and a variety of jobs. If ever I doubted, He confirmed, once again, that He called us and chose Emmarie to be a part of our family. I look at the little girl happily playing beside me (and bringing me food from her kitchen) and am beyond grateful we listened.

The hardest part (and most joyous) is yet to come - caring for her and raising her to adulthood - but the journey to bring her into our family is complete. We are thankful - more than we can possibly express. We are just so blown away with the faithful provision and call of the Lord.



She stroked my face, looked into my eyes, and said, "Love you." 

Melt. My. Heart. 
She didn't have to. 
I was just holding her (which seems to be most of the time). 
Sweetest thing ever.  

Makes the tantrums and sleepless nights fade away. 
How blessed am I to be her mama? 

She amazes me. 
Just when I think I couldn't love her more...
I find myself falling in love all over again.

Adoption has changed my life.


Day 19 Home

Today, I feel like we will make it and that's a great feeling. Emmi has really been adjusting very well despite the sleep issues but I have had a hard time transitioning to four and to having a toddler again. I know I haven't given myself enough time to really recover but I immediately felt the pressure to get back to a full home school schedule etc. It's pressure that I put on myself (lest you think it is others). :) Anyway, it's been a little bit of a nightmare and has made me feel very inadequate and very ill-equipped to continue educating the boys, managing our home, etc.

However, today, I finally feel like this is going to eventually work. We finally had a great night of sleep which in and of itself was rejuvenating and gave me a renewed outlook on life. And we were able to get in a really good day of school - I was able to teach all of the boys, Emmi was happy overall, and Titus and Emmi played together while I worked with the big boys. I am hoping this is the start of a normal routine. I would like to emerge from this fog and feel like we are not only going to survive but that we are going to THRIVE!

Our sweet girl has far surpassed our expectations. She is doing so well! Yes, she is into everything and not sleeping well but she is communicating and connecting and we are amazed. I fall more in love with her with each passing day. She is spunky, opinionated, hilarious, affectionate, stubborn, genuine, smart, and adorable - I am not biased at all. HA! I am thoroughly enjoying having a daughter - I painted her nails tonight. :) So that's our update. I'm exhausted tonight but feeling relieved that there is light at the end of the transition tunnel.


Safari Park

We LOVED the Safari Park in Guangzhou! We went on January 27! It was by far the coolest animal adventure we have ever been to. There were so many different animals and so many of each different kind of animal. The tigers were probably our favorite. We did a driving safari  (we took a tram up close to the animals) & a walking tour. We spent 4-5 hours there and thoroughly enjoyed it! Emmi also tried her first ice cream and loved it - she has quite the sweet tooth - must be related to her dad. :)


Nitty Gritty

Andrew said to me the other day, "I can't believe we have a toddler again." :) We so definitely do. She walks from one thing to the next to see what she can get in to, terrifies us on the stairs (she is learning how to ascend and especially descend them), and enjoys shredding kleenexes and papers. We must keep her in our sight and clean up in her wake. I'm sure it is delightful to her to be free from the confines of the playroom at her orphanage! She is interested in everything and curiosity is a great thing at the age of 2. It's fun to see her excited about things!

However, we are EXHAUSTED. I mean bone tired right now. I resorted to paper plates last night because that just seemed easier. Kind friends are bringing dinner and I don't think they will ever know how thankful we are. By 5 or 6, we look at each other and wonder aloud if it's bedtime yet. :) We'll make it...eventually! :) Sleeping was better but is getting worse again. Emmi is often wakeful for 1-3 hours in the middle of the night and isn't napping well (ie not long). I know the general rule of thumb is one day for every hour of time difference, so I'm thinking (wishfully perhaps?!) that we are still in the window of time for jet lag for her (day 13 will be Tuesday).

We enjoyed overall great health in China which was a huge answer to prayer. We have mostly not been very healthy since arriving home. Andrew & Emmarie have taken the brunt of it with nasty colds.

The boys are so excited that Emmi is here but are also testing boundaries. It's so much change for everyone and I know they are just trying to figure it all out but it's hard. We've had tempers flare, apologies given, bad attitudes, nasty words, and sweet hugs, kisses, and prayers. It's been the gamete. It makes us a little extra tired. They are so sweet in their desire to protect and love Emmarie.

So thankful, so blessed, and so wishing to be through this stage of the journey. Ready to feel back to myself!

And by the way, it's seriously hard to stay frustrated with the cutest girl on the planet - she charms with her smiles, generously gives kisses (to us), loves to laugh, adores cuddling, and has the funniest expressions!


Home Sweet Home

Okay, okay, I know...bad blogger. :) Honestly, our internet connection was A LOT better in her province than it was in Guangzhou - not what we expected. So, I will be going back and catching up on blog posts. We were BUSY the whole time in Guangzhou.

We made it home one week ago today. Travel was long but not awful. We took a train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong and it was actually a really nice way to travel. We spent the night in Hong Kong and checked into our flight the next morning. That was an adventure - 45 minutes at the ticket counter, confused representative, phone calls, supervisors  grumpy toddler, stressed out mama...we were about ready to call our travel agent when they finally worked it out...so we thought. She still wasn't on the flight list when we arrived at Immigration in Chicago. Thankfully, we had her boarding pass to prove she was a passenger. And thankfully, we made it through customs, through immigration for her, through re-checking our bags, and to our gate in time. We boarded our flight and it started to snow. So, we sat on the plane for an hour...for a 50 minute flight home to see our boys. It was the hardest part of our trip.

Despite all of that, we cannot say enough good about C*athay Airline. Best economy experience ever. Emmarie did decide that she only wanted Daddy on the trip home - that's a lot of hours of not wanting to be held by anyone else. :) She was a really good traveler and we were really glad we had a seat for her. Oh and she has since decided that I'm totally okay again.

What a sweet reunion with our boys! We missed them like crazy and they were SO excited to meet Emmi. We saw them from a distance waving and Emmarie started waving a smiling like crazy - like she had been waiting for them her whole life. :) She LOVED looking at their pictures and even kissed the pictures while we were in China. It was so adorable.

Both of our families were also there to welcome us and Emmi home and we had a pizza party back at our house before crashing...for a few hours. Yep, jet lag has taken it's toll. Honestly, we thought that it wouldn't be too bad since we hadn't slept very much on the 20+ hour trip home. WRONG. So wrong. We are finally beginning to feel a little more normal and Emmarie is having more regular sleeping hours. It's been hard - especially with three boys not jet lagged. We have been thankful for some extra help and some meals to make this transition a little easier. We also are the proud parents of a very active toddler. She is a busy, busy gal and it didn't take long for her to feel at home and start getting into everything. We kind of forgot home much energy toddlers take (Ty is 4 1/2) but we are loving almost every minute. :)

She is one smart girl! She is copying words and seems to understand a fair amount of what we say to her (as in, she responds appropriately). We have taught her a few signs and plan to teach her more but she is really wanting to use words. Today, she said, "thank you" several times in an appropriate context - I couldn't believe it. She has warmed up to the dog and is trying desperately to fatten Pippi up by sharing her snacks. In short, she has completely amazed us.

She will be seeing an ophthalmologist next month for her eyes - her right one doesn't always track the same. We noticed almost instantly but it is not noted anywhere in her records and the nannies at the orphanage said that everything is fine. :) It does not seem to be significantly effecting her vision (or she is compensating well) - she can obviously see okay. We will see what the doctor says and see what we need to do!

We are completely in love with our sweet girl. It feels like we have known her much longer than 16 days. She fits right in and holds her own.

Finally...here are pictures...courtesy of my favorite (very talented!) sister-in-law, Ashley.

They see us coming - how sweet are they! And my aunt gave them the 'Big Brother' outfits! SO CUTE!

They were incredibly excited and started to go past the Do Not Enter sign. :)

She was seriously thrilled to meet them!

I missed my boys so much - they were such troopers throughout this adoption journey - they encouraged us so much to move forward on adding another child to our family. Such big hearts.

They were pretty excited about being at the airport.

Yep, she has him wrapped - it didn't take long at all. And seriously, check out that smile! That's after travelling for so many hours and having all kinds of new experiences!

All of my kiddos together at last.

Our family of SIX!