2 Months HOME & a Piece of Her Past

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It’s been 8 weeks since we came home with our precious daughter. For some reason, writing “8 weeks” minimizes the how we FEEL. It seems as though she has been with us forever. I know I have said that since Day 1, but it is true! It is something that can only be explained as a God-thing. HE made us for each other.

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So, here is a glimpse into our house these days:

We still try to have all the kids stay in bed until at least 7am. If Mia wakes up in the middle of the night, I’ll take her potty and then put her back in her toddler bed. I have to stay in there with her until she falls asleep, but then I wander back to my own bed. If she wakes up between 6-7am, we usually take her potty and put her in our bed until the boys wake up. Sometimes she sleeps a little more, sometimes she just lays with us quietly, but the rest of us can at least have a little more down time.

She is down to only 1 “bottle” a day, which is in the morning. This is basically 3 scoops of toddler formula powder in a take n toss sippy cup. We heat the water and that is what she wants first thing, while the boys eat their cereal. She has settled in nicely with the quiet morning routine where the kids watch something on the ipad or go play in their rooms for a while. But, eventually the nice play time turns to chaos and fighting and by then, I try to get my workout in. Sometimes they join me, sometimes they don’t and just fight with each other, which makes me push that much harder in my workout. 😉 Mia loves to jump and dance and be RIGHT UNDER me wherever I am working out, so I try to include her as much as possible without stomping on her! She definitely gives me an extra challenge.

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We have spent a lot of time with nerf guns, tiny legos that get lost or stuck on everyone’s feet, and hot wheels. While Mia has dolls and a cute dollhouse, she tends to follow whatever the boys do, good or bad. All of the kids love going outside and playing in our little pool. I use sunscreen on her beautiful brown skin, but she just gets darker and darker, with no burn. She still LOVES bubbles and swings and anything outside.

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We weren’t sure if Mia would be okay in a carseat (since she never had to ride in one before coming to the USA), but she does just fine, and loves to buckle herself in. Our biggest problem is what we call the “storm before the calm.” This is where she screams out or spits or does something else that she knows she shouldn’t do, and tries our patience on end….until she falls asleep in the car. The boys tend to laugh at her antics, making it even harder to teach her that we need to be kind and not kick seats or scream or spit. *sigh* We’re trying. We’ll get there.

Karate is twice each week, so Mia has learned that is coloring time and we try to stay out of the way of the kids in class. For the most part, she does really well. She really likes when other kids are there to play, too.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mia’s food choices have broadened. She will now eat some cooked veggies, and tried and liked edamame this past weekend. She still prefers carbs and sweets, but what kid doesn’t? Raw veggies and hummus are the family fave and she loves her fruits for sure. Meats are hit or miss, but we are doing better than when we first got her. I would say definite progress! 🙂 We have given her apple juice on a rare occasion, but almost exclusively water. We still haven’t braved the regular milk thing again, but will probably start mixing it in her formula to wean her off that. She does fine with dairy and other milk products, but regular milk makes her sick, so we are being super careful of any drinks other than water. But, this girl, like her brothers, loves Shakeology! So, at least I know she is getting some vitamins and minerals in that way!

The hardest part for our family has been the transition the boys are going through. Mia feeds off of her brothers’ energy and attitudes, so when they throw tantrums (and they do), she thinks she should/can do the same things. So, basically it is chaos in our house many times throughout the day. Owen is a great big brother and super caring for his sister, but he will get tired of that role and start yelling at her or Camden out of nowhere. He can take that ‘parent’ role too far, and we have to remind him that while he has been given some extra responsibilities, he is not actually the parent. Camden has many issues with sharing toys or anything really. Since Mia tends to slap him, he will also be pushing her or grabbing toys out of her hands that she took from him. It is very exhausting. Some things we need to share, and other things they need to be able to have in their own possession. This control thing with the kids is difficult because their world has been turned upside down and completely OUT of their control. We try to be sympathetic, but honestly, I am very blunt and logical (which typically gets lost on them), and I just try to explain that if they want something, this is how you can get it, and being kind is always the answer. Thankfully, there are many hugs and kisses and compliments going around as well.

Discipline is hard with Mia because we need to practice “time-ins” where she sits next to us or at least in the same room. There is no “go to your room” talks with her. Sending her away is not going to help her, only hurt her and cause her to question abandonment. While she understands almost everything we are saying (and we are able to do less and less with charades), she STILL does not understand family dynamics like the boys do. We do not spank her or anything that would be perceived as harm. While we believe that she was very loved at her orphanage, we honestly have no idea what her past holds. And we never want her to think that Mommy and Daddy are going to hurt her. So, what do you do when your child is directly defiant? Well, that is what we are working on. It is a lot of trial and error and trying to show love and what is right and wrong, all at the same time.

Over the last two weeks, we have made great progress with attachment, to the point where we felt she was able to stay in church child care without me present with her! It was amazing! I actually was able to listen to a couple sermons LIVE this week! I had gone 10 weeks without being IN a church service, so I think God knew I needed it. I had no reservations about Mia being in Gregoryville kids church or Wednesday night, because we had been there enough that she knows some of the kids. The first place we ended up using childcare was at LifePoint Church on Father’s Day. Let’s just say, she did MUCH better than I did! I was a nervous wreck! If you know me, than you know that I have never had issues with leaving my kids in nursery…but this is different. What if she needed me? What if she looked for her “Mama” and I wasn’t there? Well, she did great and I worried for nothing! So, we had her go back to kids church at Gregoryville this week with her brothers and she happily waved ‘good-bye’ to Mom and Dad and skipped off to class. Another reason why I praise God! He has just blessed every single step!

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Mia had two doctor appointments this week with specialists. The one says she only needs to go every six months, and the other says only once a year! For a kid labeled “special needs” I think she is pretty fantastic and pretty healthy! We give thanks and praise to God for how he has healed her in some ways and protected her in others. I know this is vague, but we are keeping this part private from our blog. Just know that if you have EVER considered adoption, PLEASE consider a child with “special needs.” The most beautiful children can come with an ugly label that doesn’t have to mean scary and unmanageable things. I am forever grateful that I was able to work with all kinds of kiddos with needs at Maria’s Big House of Hope in China and allowed God to open my heart to consider adoption in this way. I am thankful that God opened John’s heart, too. If not for that trip, I don’t know that we would have had our daughter.

Speaking of China, we had a special surprise over the weekend. John connected with one of the nannies when we went to visit Mia’s orphanage. In China, everyone uses an app called, “WeChat.” This is very much like Facebook Messenger, but since Facebook isn’t allowed in China, they use “WeChat” for everything. So, John and the nanny, Esther, exchanged WeChat information so that we could receive old pictures of Mia from her and she could get updates from us. She was especially fond of Mia because her daughter, Jolie, was good friends with her, so the two girls kind of grew up together. So, when John received a WeChat message from Esther I was pleasantly surprised! Of course, she wanted to know about Mia and we wanted to know about her past. She sent some moving pictures, which we couldn’t capture from the app, but there were a couple of still pictures we did receive, including this one…

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Every little piece of Mia’s past is incredibly important to us. We want to be able to share with her as much as possible, if she wants to know. I am so glad that she had a nice little friend there, and that Esther cares enough for her to keep contact with us. She even sent Mia a little voice message in Chinese so Mia could hear it! Mia definitely understood what she said and seemed to recognize Esther’s voice. I know she is losing her Chinese language, but it was neat to have the technology for her to hear that. A couple of days later, Esther sent us this picture of Mia at 11 months old…

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Isn’t she GORGEOUS? Oh, my heart! It was just the BEST thing to see this picture. To date, this is the youngest picture we have of her.

Oh, sweet girl, as you are currently sleeping on your floor (because you constantly fall out of your toddler bed), I am so grateful for YOU. I hate that it took 2.5 years for you to be in a forever family, but we are yours and you are ours. We love you with an everlasting love. I hope you always know that you are safe, you are treasured, and you are loved. We thank God that He hand-picked you to be Mia Luoshu Harvey. May you grow to know Him and love Him and trust Him all of your days.

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Meeting the Family…

This past weekend we spent about 22 hours in the car over four days. Why? Well, our siblings were moving from Pittsburgh to Charlotte, and with all the crazy moves we have done in our married life, we owed them one. The plan was to drive from Kentucky to Pittsburgh, from Pittsburgh to Charlotte, then Charlotte to Kentucky again. John was to be the muscles and help with loading and unloading, while I entertained the three kiddos and took Mia around to meet some family members. While it was exhausting, it was SO worth it.

First stop: Morgantown, West Virginia. This is the hometown of John’s father and the Harvey clan. We have always made it a point to stop and see his grandparents every time we drive through, since well before we even got married. John’s grandmother passed away two years ago, making these visits with Grandad even more meaningful for all of us. We know that time does not stand still and we want to make sure to visit as much as we can. It was a thrill to watch Grandad interact with Mia and see her play with all the toys that have become classic family favorites. We ate lunch together at the local Denny’s and then stopped at the family plot where John’s dad, grandmother, and other relatives are buried. We spent a little more time back at his house, and unfortunately had to say good-bye. Mia really enjoyed meeting her Great-Grandad and I was so happy that she could. This man has been a huge influence on John’s life and is a constant source of encouragement to us both. His love for his family and community is never ending. We are so blessed!

Next stop: Pittsburgh. Well, we SAY Pittsburgh, but technically, our family lives north of the city in Beaver County. It was great to see our siblings and nephews again that evening and for Mia to finally meet her Grandad Gary. Time with Memaw and Grandad is always fun, and we were glad to spend two nights with them. I think Mia liked wearing Grandad’s hat!

The next day, John was busy helping his brother load up the moving truck, so I only stopped by for a few minutes for Mia to meet a long-time family friend. Miss Anna has been around a LONG time with us. My mom taught her piano from the time she was a little girl, and now, Anna has been teaching our nephews piano for years. She has an amazing heart and she and her family are just dear friends of ours. It is so wonderful to see my mom’s work carry on through one of her students!!!

After that quick stop, I took the kids across the state line to see my Grandpa in Ohio. He lives at an assisted living facility, where my sister had visited him the day before. She had told him that we were coming and bringing Mia to meet him. It was SUCH a great visit! We had a wonderful time talking about China, the process, and he constantly complimented her and how pretty she is! She played with some stuffed bears with Grandpa and they got along really well. He loved watching all three kids interacting as siblings do, wrestling a little and playing together. These moments are always precious to me. I am sure that it makes my Grandpa a little sad to see us because it reminds him that my parents are gone, but on this day, he was happy. And that makes my heart happy, too.

That evening, we went to my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Pete’s house. My mom was the oldest of four girls, and Aunt Cindy is #3. Her daughter, April, is my best friend and we have done absolutely everything together. In fact, we talked about adopting from China together when we were just little girls. Going to Aunt Cindy’s house is like going home. Mia took to everyone so so well. We played corn hole and demonstrated some exercises the kids like, and just had a great time! My Aunt Carolyn (the youngest sister) joined the party a little later from Cleveland. It was so special to have her drive all that way to see us! Mia honestly acted like she had been part of the family forever. She had no problems playing with everyone and posing for pictures! Any time I can see my aunts is a blessing to me. I am so glad to share my daughter with them and the joy that comes with her.

Saturday was “moving day.” This was the longest driving day, but we made it in 8 hours, even with a couple quick stops. When we arrived in Charlotte, my cousin, Shawna, and her husband, Michael, were there right away to help unload the truck. Their daughter, Madison, is only six months older than Mia and the two girls played like best friends! I was thankful that Maddie is outgoing and went to play with Mia right away. Camden was a great big brother/cousin on the playground, and eventually, we got all the kids together! What a treat! The only family we were missing from this generation of littles is my cousin, April’s. They live in St. Louis with two boys and a little girl. Maybe some day we will get them ALL together!!

The last of my mom’s sisters got to meet Mia Saturday evening. Aunt Jo Ann and Uncle David have lived in Charlotte for many years now, and my sister lived with them during the summers when she was in college. The fact that she has finally moved there is exciting for them all! Aunt Jo Ann is the second oldest after my mom, and the sister who shared a room with her growing up. The two of them were very close. Sunday, before we left to come home, we were able to visit a little more with them.

The drive home was long, but the entire weekend was worth it. I grew up knowing that family is so so important. They give you roots and wings. They are your friends. They know the real you, and love you anyways. My mom’s side of the family has always been close, even through many ups and downs. I am grateful to know and love my cousins and their families. I hope this next generation of kids will have the same opportunities to have that bond. I know we sure do try!

As we were coming home, I was just thinking about what this trip meant to me and started getting emotional. It’s hard to process through the feelings. Our daughter got to meet her FAMILY this weekend. These people who will love her through thick and thin. They will protect her and guide her and keep her on the straight and narrow. I know they have done that for me. I don’t have my parents anymore, but I DO still have family. My three aunts are the closest I will ever get to my mom, and I do not take time with them for granted. They love me and my kids like we are their own. How special it was to see all three of them in the same weekend. When you don’t live in the same states, it makes it really hard to see each other! Whether near or far, there is always love. I am thankful that my children are still recipients of that kind of love, even though their Nana is in heaven. I’m grateful that they can know their history and heritage through their aunts. I am grateful that I grew up in a family who does not see color, but sees the child. What our family passes down is more than nationality. They pass down the love of God and lives of integrity and worship.

No, Momma isn’t here anymore, but pieces of her are all around. I carry her in my heart, and I know that my aunts do, too. I can’t help but praise God for His blessings!!

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One Month Home!

13094141_10153459798756781_6863760584558066426_nIn the last month, we have learned a lot, but it feels like she has always been a part of our family. God is really, truly GOOD. He has just woven our stories together and bonded us from the start. If we didn’t have the language barrier and obvious orphan history, everything we are doing and going through would be the exact same as either of our boys at the toddler stage! She plays, she fights with her brothers, she loves sweets, fruits, and breads, and she loves being outside and playing in water.

Owen has done really well continuing on in his “big brother” role. He makes it his mission to take care of his siblings in the morning and get them breakfast and shows to watch as they slowly wake up. He protects Mia and tattles on Camden. Pretty normal, right? Mia, in turn, loves her brother, Owen. In fact, she calls both of them “Owen” quite often, and we have to remind her that Camden has his own name! It’s cute.

Camden and Mia have an interesting relationship. They love each other, but fight the most. I hear this is very common with the middle and youngest children. Sometimes they play really well together and Camden enjoys being a big brother, but most of the time he bosses Mia around and makes sure I know if she has done something wrong. Patience is not necessarily his strong suit at his tender five years of age. But really, they are doing pretty well. We had our first adventure with scissors this month, as Mia decided to play “beauty shop” with Camden, and he let her…

Miss Mia has settled into her role in our family quite nicely. She is learning the routine of the family and takes most of our verbal instruction really well. She can go get her shoes on, or pick out pajamas or sit down for dinner or a snack. She has no problems with sitting in her carseat, though she can get fussy and it is hard to understand what she wants on longer trips. The fussiness usually ends in a nap.

Speaking of naps, if we are out and about, Mia may not get a nap, except for whatever time she can rest in the car. This creates some problems with attitude and smacking her brothers if she doesn’t get her way. Sleep is important, but even if we are home, she doesn’t always take a long nap. In China, she would usually sleep between 1.5 and 2 hours from 12-1:30 or 2:00pm. In America, we are lucky to get her down at all, sometimes it takes as long as 20-30 minutes for her to fall asleep, and then she might sleep another hour at best.

Sleep has been our biggest struggle (aside from language). She understands what the bedtime routine is and anticipates each thing we do. She definitely thrives on routine…and don’t we all? We typically pray in Owen and Camden’s room in a circle on the floor and then give hugs and kisses. John and I say good-night to the boys and they settle down very quickly. Then, we go to Mia’s room with her and she wants us to pray with her again and will lay down if we give her a mint candy (the same ones from her pockets on Gotcha Day). We replaced the melatonin with the little candy instead (like the size of a Skittles) and the night terrors have seemed better. The thing about night time is that she wants BOTH John and I in the room with her until she falls asleep, which isn’t always possible, but we try if we are both home. I have put her to bed solo several times, but John has yet to do that task without me. We play soft baby classical music and she likes the inside of the seahorse toy that also plays music. We have a nightlight and fan on as well. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour for her to fall asleep. And even then, she can wake up at any time and be inconsolable before we get her back to sleep again.

The good news is, we have had very few accidents at night in the last week or so! Yay! Mia does wake up anywhere from 1-4 times, and there is no consistency in that. I typically spend whatever hours she does sleep working until around midnight or 1am, and then she wakes up around 6am. Sleep is hard to come by! But, this is only one month into a very new routine, so any sleep is good!

I get a lot of questions about Mia’s medical condition and her history. I try to answer these questions as nicely as I can without delving into a lot of specifics. It’s hard because I know that we have been very forthcoming with the details of our process and the day-to-day while we were in China. Now that we are home, there are some things that we need to keep close to our family only. This is HER story, and it will be up to her in the future whether she wants to even know the details of that story or not. It will be up to her if she wants to share particulars of her past and her history. So, that being said, I think I will leave it up to what we have already shared in this blog and let that be that. If you have questions about the adoption process, our experience with our agency, traveling, or anything from OUR perspective, we would be happy to share. In fact, my passion is to HELP other families who would like to pursue adoption! But, things that are particular to Mia, should probably stay protected and close to our hearts.

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Mia is our daughter. She is very loved and as much “ours” as Owen and Camden. Our family is complete for now, though we have not closed doors to what God may have for our future. I know that our job is to spread awareness of the need for families for orphans, but our daughter is an orphan no more! PRAISE GOD! We are so grateful to be parents to three beautiful children, all of whom are blessings from the Lord!

Thank you for your continued prayers for our family. Adjustment is not a one month process. It takes many months and even years! We certainly appreciate the love and support from our friends and family every step of the way!