... at our family blog, right here. This site was dedicated to bringing home our daughter, so now that we've been home a year, we are exclusively posting (when time allows!) on our family blog. See you over there!
Six months ago today, Lia Kate's nannies carried her into a room in a government building in southern Ch*na, and placed her in my arms. Our lives were forever changed. That day we met a quiet baby girl, with spiky hair and sad eyes. But fast forward six months and we have a happy, spirited little toddler full of laughter and life. We are so grateful to have been chosen to be this little girl's parents. People often comment on how blessed she is to be adopted, but, really folks, we are the blessed ones here. She is such a joy!
Lia Kate was baptized by her daddy a few weeks ago at our church. It was a precious moment in the life of our family ... made even more special by the fact that she was baptized alongside two little boys also adopted from China and two more recently adopted from Ukraine. Such a picture of the family of God ... these children who came from the ends of the earth ... now with mommies and daddies ... and a bright hope and future ... their lives a beautiful metaphor of God's redeeming love. We are blessed to be a part of Lia Kate's story.
This was the best family picture we got, and by best I mean, at least both kids were looking at the camera. :o)
Britton was remarkably well-behaved when we stood at the front of the church. If you had seen him before the service started, you would know what a feat this was.
When we got home, we changed Lia Kate into the white silk gown that we got in China.
And she was really digging her pink cake!
Lia Kate and her Gigi.
The boys table. Look at those rosy-chipmunked-cheeked Giffen kids.
Lots of family came in town for the weekend. In fact, two of Lia Kate's great-grandparents made the trip, which was quite a treat.
Lia Kate with my grandmother and her great-grandmother. She is both my and Lia Kate's namesake, as we all share the middle name of Ruth.
Britton and Lia Kate went to "school" together for the first time today. Our church offers some Mother's Day Out days in the summer and I was really looking forward to some child-free-house-cleaning-errand-running time. Britton loved playing with his church friends and Lia Kate ... well, she was a trooper. We are working on getting her comfortable in that kind of setting. She just started going to the church nursery recently, so this is all new to her. She sure was excited about her new "pack pack", though!
These cute plain backpacks are sold at Hobby Lobby. I had not seen them until a friend monogrammed one as a gift for Lia Kate. I loved it so much I had to make some fun ones for my two. I love these projects and am glad I have two little ones to make things for!
This is one of the funniest moments we have captured of Lia Kate on video. She has been jabbering like this a lot lately. I have no idea what she is saying, but she is sure emphatic about it! My best guess is that what you hear is a mixture of English and Chinese babble. Enjoy...
We have been home almost four months with our little girl! On one hand, it seems like time is flying by and on the other, it seems like we've had her a good while now. I guess the early days of jet lag and her insecurity made for long days and nights. She is doing a million times better these days and already acting like she owns this place and all the toys here in it (much to Britton's dismay). She has turned into an affectionate, happy, silly little girl who loves playing with her brother, loving on her bunnies and baby dolls, and showering us all with kisses. It has been quite a transformation. There is a lot I want to write about, so here goes ...
Lia Kate has grown a lot since we got her. For starters, she has gained four pounds. She started off at 16 pounds, then was a 17-pound 17-month-old when we got home, and then an 18-pound 18-month old and so on and now she is a 20-pound 20-month-old. One of the more surprising numbers is her head circumference. When she came home, her height and head circ were about 5% on the charts, and her weight was off the charts low. A month later, her head circ was higher on the charts. Typically, you do not want to see fast head growth at her age. However, with former orphans, they often have what is called catch-up head growth. Meaning, when they go from an institution to a loving family, their brain grows. It is really quite amazing. (Yes, the brains of institutionalized children grow and form differently than children who grow up in a family structure.) She has gained four pounds but I believe her weight is still low/off the charts. We're working on that.
On the Medical Front We have taken Lia Kate to a lot of medical appointments in the past four months. Thankfully, the doctors have assured us that her medical issues are likely to go away in time and she will not have lifelong medical needs. We will continue to follow-up once a year with the cardiologist. He will check to see if her VSD is getting smaller. Her Chinese medical reported a 4mm VSD, but our cardiologist here found that it was ~2mm. This is great news ... it means the hole is getting smaller. We are hoping it will close completely but if it doesn't, it will most likely never cause her a problem.
We had a follow-up visit with the surgeon this week and he thought her incision was healing up well. She has not had any more leaking since the small leak she had post-op. As far as long-term follow-up ... she will have a MRI of her spine once a year for the next three years. If all is well then, that will probably be the end of all follow-up.
We also discovered, in the process of these doctor's appointments, that Lia Kate has some kidney reflux. This is when urine goes from her bladder back up into the kidneys. To our knowledge, her reflux has not resulted in any bladder or kidney infections since we've had her. To prevent them though, she is on a preventative antibiotic for the next year. We will follow-up with the urologist yearly. He said she has about a 90% chance of growing out of the kidney reflux. If she doesn't outgrow it and she starts having kidney infections, she will have to have surgery to stop the reflux.
Her three medical issues may sound a little overwhelming to some of you, but to us (especially being on this side of her surgery) it really hasn't been too big of a deal. I guess when you've had a child lying in the NICU fighting for his life, things like Lia Kate's "fixable" medical needs just don't seem like that big of a deal. We are grateful that she is doing so well. And above all, she looks and acts like a very healthy little girl. She is a great eater and she looks so healthy now that she has started putting some meat on her little bones.
Speech Lia Kate has blown us away in her speech development. We did not expect her to say anything for awhile since she had suddenly been immersed into a new culture and language, but she is picking up words right and left. Within a week of being home, she was saying "mama", "dog" and "dada", and within a month of being home she had over 25 words. I have lost count of how many words she has now but she is very good at repeating and imitating. Aside from her English words, she jabbers all the time, especially in the mornings, and I often wonder if she is speaking in Cantonese, or Cantonese-jabber. It is funny when she gets going. I am thinking she is going to be quite the little talker when she starts speaking in sentences!
Sleep She is sleeping really well these days. When we were in China and first home, we struggled with getting her to sleep and keeping her asleep. We finally put her in our bed as we figured she needed the security of being near us. She has been in our bed for 3 1/2 months and it has worked wonders for her security and attachment. She is doing so well and I'm so glad we went for the "family bed." She was showing signs that she was ready for the crib (falling asleep immediately and sleeping through the night), so we decided to move her to the crib. We moved the crib to our room, and she has been sleeping soundly in it for a week. She only cried for the first two days, and now she practically giggles when you put her in bed. A huge part of her sleeping security is that she finally attached to a comfort item. She has a soft blanket with a big stuffed bunny on one corner. She loves her "bunny blanket" ... but probably not as much as I love bunny blanket! She does not nap for long (at most an hour), but as long as she sleeps through the night, I am happy. We will move the crib to her room after awhile ... want to get her good and secure in her crib first. Since many chidlren adopted from China have sleep issues (as do many that come from her orphanage), I am just so thankful she is doing so well in this area!
Socially She is a happy, outgoing little kiddo! She often waves at people we pass in the store and she blows kisses to everyone, and bats her eyes very slowly, which always makes people laugh. But she can also give her infamous little scowl if someone gets too close for comfort. She is a funny little thing.
Blowing kisses to mama.
She loves her Daddy now and has no problem waving "dye dye" to me and going somewhere with her daddy (hallelujah!). When Danny comes home, she and Britton race for the door to give him hugs and kisses. Lia Kate and Britton play well together ... for the most part. They have their moments like any kids do. Most of the issues are on Britton's part, but we're working on it. I guess these kind of transitions take time. ;o) In the good moments, they laugh and cackle at each other. It is funny to see them crack each other up.
We are going to start letting her try Mother's Day Out this summer to get her ready for her two-year-old preschool class this Fall. So far, she has not been to church nursery or anything like that because it is too similar to an orphanage setting. I am hoping that she'll be ready when we start trying it out this summer.
Lia Kate making her "funny face." She is a total crackup.
We are really loving life with our daughter! Thank you for going on this journey with us. So many answered prayers have gotten us to where we are today. We are so thankful for you and for your love for our family.