Author Archives: Hillary

I was born to do this

“Everyday of my life was recorded in your book, every moment laid out before a single day had passed…”

Psalm 139:16

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“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

Today is my birthday, so naturally I am sitting here reflecting on this past year, my 31st year of life…. It was an amazing year of following the Lord as a family, a lot has changed for us in these past 12 months.

We brought Reese home…The girls no longer attend the private school we loved, because I no longer teach there…. They are now being homeschooled. We moved to the country. We lost our beloved dog of 12 years… : ( and We were very recently blessed with my brand new nephew.

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I look forward to this next year of my life, excited to see what The Lord has for us as a family. I have been so overwhelmingly, undeservingly blessed … And even though we’ve felt deep loss in some years of our lives and things get hard, I know I can look to the future without fear because He is there. He has written our days long before any of them came to be…. And I love and trust him fully. My creator God. The author and perfecter of my faith.

So come on year 32.. I’m ready:

I was born to do this!

And so this is Christmas….

Last year, not a single Christmas tradition passed, that I wasn’t imaging Reese there with us, in the middle of whatever we were doing as a family. And then I would think about how far away she was, and how much I longed for her to be home doing those Christmasy things with us .

We had a stocking for her,

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gifts for her under the tree, and a very special ornament hung with her picture inside.

This year, she helped decorate the tree,

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and held the very ornament we held onto so dearly the year before.

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She even had her turn at putting up the star with daddy.

Last year, at mickeys very merry Christmas party, we carried around Reese’s bunny so she could be with us, But this year, we carried around Reese “bunny” ๐Ÿ™‚

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She decorated doughnuts for Santa for the first time, as is our Christmas Eve family tradition.

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(We figure Santa gets enough cookies, plus we get to eat the “leftovers” in the morning.) She mostly just ate the icing for the doughnuts. ๐Ÿ™‚

This year she was with us when we went to see the Christmas lights….

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and she sat with us each night as we read the story about the coming of baby Jesus.

IMG_0153.JPG“Tell me the story of Jesus, write every word on my heart….”

 

And so Reese,this is Christmas…. We are so glad you’re home.

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From our family to yours!

One year ago today…

One year ago today…We didn’t even know who she was. Not a face, an age, or a name we couldn’t properly pronounce….. ๐Ÿ˜‰
and then, at 1:05 pm, the phone rang.

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(I wrote in detail about that emotional day in the blog post titled, “the day we saw our daughters face”… Posted Dec 2013)

Because of needing to complete the necessary paperwork and such, We decided we would wait two days…. until on Thanksgiving day , to share the news with our girls, and the rest of the family.

The girls were so excited when we told them about their new baby sister! We gave them a small frame with her picture and then we took the picture to our family’s Thanksgiving celebrations. Just as everyone gathered around to pray before the meal, we shared the good news!

We were all in tears of thankfulness as we filled our plates with all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Her picture sat in the middle of the table for everyone to see, and we talked about how, “on the next Thanksgiving” she would actually be there, in person, with us! We couldnt wait!!

This was my Instagram post on Thanksgiving morning last year:

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Tomorrow she will sit gathered around the table, surrounded by her forever family. We are so thankful. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Octobers

October has always been the start to a busy season for us…… so it was no big deal to add in another birthday =)

When we received the call about being matched with Reese, one of the first things they told me was her birthday….. October 15th. I immediately trailed off into my own thoughts… “she’s only 13 months old… Riley is going to LOVE that their birthdays are so close!” Riley’s birthday is the 19th of October, and she relishes in being a big sister, so, while a lot of kids might be a little bummed to have to “share” their birthday week, I knew she really would love it.

So this October we started off by celebrating Reese’s 2nd birthday. Her first birthday home. The weekend before the big day, we had a very small gathering with immediate family at a beautiful local state park.

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It was so fun celebrating her and seeing her experience all the birthday traditions for the first time. We helped her blow out her candle, let her dig into her “smash” cake, and watched her tear through her presents. Its hard to say if her first birthday was at the least acknowledged in an orphanage that big. Its sad, but, I doubt it was. It would be tough for them to keep up with so many birthdays….. anyways, I think she likes birthdays. ๐Ÿ™‚

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On her actual birthday day, Caleb, the girls, and I went to the beach to pray together and to thank God for bringing Reese to us. We also prayed for the woman on the other side of the world who carried Reese in her belly, and who then, for reasons unknown, felt that she had to let her go. =( I can only imagine that she must wonder time and again (especially on that day) about where Reese is now. We released a red balloon asking for peace for her heart and for her to know that reese is so loved , and we are so grateful.

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Then, later that week, this amazing girl of ours turned 8:

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She is thoughtful, and compassionate, driven, and oh so beautiful. I am so lucky to be her mommy.

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I just wish she’d stop growing up so fast. ๐Ÿ™

As we enter the holiday season I look forward to many more “firsts” with Reese, and as a family of five….

Halloween has already come and gone….

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So bring on the turkey.

“OH MY!!!!” (Part two)

If you haven’t read the post “OH MY!!!!” from the blog, an entry I wrote just before we traveled to China to bring Reese home, go back and read it. Go on…… I’ll wait….. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ok, well, here is “part two” of the story……

After God connected our families, and we found out our girls actually knew one another, we prayed that while we were in China, we would have the opportunity to see their little girl and and get pictures for them. As you may recall, someone had done the same for us, and by the grace of God we got pictures and an update on Reese during “the wait”. ANY sort of update is litterally a breath of life for a family during the waiting period… but when it happens so miraculously, and someone you’ve never met actually gets to physically see your child, hug them, and love on them for you….there are no words. Just happy tears and a feeling of thankfulness to the Lord and to the family that he used.

Once in China, we mentioned to our agency’s guide that, if possible, ย we wanted to try to see this family’s little one, and that we knew how to find her… Reese and her foster family were friends. ย He did not like the fact that I knew this information, and questioned how we came upon it ( it was God, of coarse!) ….but, he was willing to try to connect us anyway.

Amazingly, we were able to see sweet Eliza on the day we visited Reese’s foster family. We got pictures and even video of her for her forever family.

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I was soooo happy to be able to do this for them. We give all the glory to God. We couldn’t have done it on our own account.

So…. fast forward to August. Reese and I traveled up north to visit my sister and her husband. We had such a good time with them. I loved seeing them get to know and fall in love with their newest niece.

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When I knew we would be traveling, I contacted Eliza’s family via email to let them know we would be in their home state, even though I knew they lived pretty far from where we were staying….. and Eliza had only been home for 5 weeks at that point. BUT, Stephanie, Eliza’s mom was so excited and sweet and insisted she didn’t mind driving the 3-4 hours it would take to meet us. So Reese and I took a bit of a road trip.
First, we stopped and had coffee with another God-given adoptive friend 45 minutes into the road trip…. Their son came home just a month before Reese.

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These two little ones were so cute together and it was so fun to actually meet this mama in person, talk about Gods goodness, and look across the table at our little miracles. โ˜บ๏ธ

Next, we drove another hour and a half to see Eliza and meet her forever family, our new friends. I can’t even begin to tell you what it was like for me to see Eliza on this side of the world with her family. She seemed excited to see Reese and we wondered if she recognized that she was “familiar”.

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ELIZA is so sweet, and seems to be transitioning well. And her family….. they are the best!! I just cry over Gods goodness of how he brought our families together for such a time as this.

“Oh my!!!!”

We are not consumed

I know y’all….. its been a ridiculously long time since my last blog post. I am so sorry! I will try, the best I can, to quickly catch you up on these past three months, and to get you to where we are in our journey as a family. Our youngest daughter has now been home for FIVE months!!! I still cant believe we are on the other side of this! I can’t believe that after all the praying and waiting, she is finally home!

She is growing so fast. She has gained over 5 pounds, and has grown over an inch since we brought her home. She is still REALLY small for her age, but she is catching up quickly.

She says (or has her own form of the words) ย “Mama, “Dada”, (sisters) “RiRi” and “RoRo”, “HaHa” (her cousin), “NaNa”, “Papa”, “MeMe”, “more”, “up” “uh oh”, “Hi!”, ย “mocha” (our dog)…. and she understands pretty much everything we say to her. Like, “Can I have that?”, “sit down”, “Where’s Dada?”….. she’s so smart and we are so amazed at how quickly she has picked up on everything.

We have had an amazing Summer, filled with lots of quality family time.

 

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We also went through one of the toughest things we’ve ever faced as parents this Summer.

In June, we traveled down to Daytona Beach for a night away to celebrate our middle daughter Rowan’s, 6th birthday.

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She was finally able to ride in her daddy’s race car, a moment she had been waiting a whole year for. (Riley had done it the year before but, she wasn’t allowed because you have to be six years old to ride along) She was sooooo excited =) and it was so much fun to watch her, even with a sick baby in my arms.

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Reese had started running a fever while we were there, and she very quickly made a turn for the worse. When your paramedic Husband looks at you and says “we need to get to the hospital now”, you go to the hospital…..now.

We ended up in an emergency room for the first time ever with one of our daughters. Reese was soon sedated and intubated and rushed by ambulance to the children’s hospital downtown where we spent 9 days in the Pediatric ICU, 5 of which she was fully sedated and on a ventilator. But, God never left her, he never left us.

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He brought me to this verse on the second morning I awoke on the couch in the pediatric ICU:

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

I clung to that verse as the anchor for my hope in Him. Although, it was hard, and there were many tears, we had an overwhelming sense of peace. We felt his presence. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Because of his great love and faithfulness, We were not consumed.

Thank you for all who prayed for us, for Reese. There is no doubt, your prayers were being heard.

A friend of ours had sent a text to me while we were still in the hospital to tell me she had been praying for us and had a prophetic vision. This is definitely a spiritual gifting of hers, as I have seen the Lord use her this way while ministering together in the past. In part of the vision, she said, the Lord handed me a bouquet of yellow flowers. This may have seemed like an insignificant detail to her, but I told her that yellow was my favorite color and I thought it was so neat that the vision was so specific that the Lord would have handed me a bouquet of flowers that were my favorite color. I left the hospital that evening feeling encouraged and at peace. I took the girls home to sleep, leaving Caleb for the night at Reese’s bedside. When I arrived home, a different friend of mine showed up unexpectedly at my door. When I opened the door there she stood, bouquet of yellow flowers in hand!!!! I started to laugh and cry at the same time and explained the significance. She said she was at the grocery store when she saw them, and felt as though she should buy them for me, having no clue of the prophetic word given to me just hours earlier that day. God is sooo good.

Long story short, Reese had a severe case of croup and a “newer strand” of RSV, that her little body could not fight off on its own. It hit her hard, but after 9 days, we were able to go home.

She is doing amazing now, completely healthy and back to herself. We came through it all with a deeper bond, and greater appreciation for our three daughters than ever before.

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Ive been really trying hard to focus on each day, and soak it all in. Walking through the day with the full awareness that today will soon become yesterday…… Can we please just all agree to slow time down a bit?! The good times, even the hard times, and all the normal “everydays” in between….. I want it all to slow down.

We’ve moved into another new season of our lives, and we aren’t complete convinced yet that we aren’t totally crazy but, we are homeschooling our girls this year. I knew I couldn’t return to teaching having another little one at home, as it has always been my desire to be home with my babies when they are still babies. And, we knew we couldn’t afford the tuition to keep our girls at the amazing christian private school I was teaching at without my paycheck coming in, so here we are.

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We really feel at peace about where God has us for this season in our lives. We are continuing to grow together as a family and are just soaking in the time we have with our girls while they are little. Although, some days are hard, I know we will never look back at this time and regret having this extra time with them. I am so thankful to the Lord, for we are so undeservingly, incredibly blessed.

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Two months later…

Two months ago today we boarded a plane and traveled halfway across the world to bring our youngest daughter home.
I remember saying sometime before we left for China, that I couldn’t wait to be home and on family vacation at Hammock beach. 1- because its a blast, and 2- that would mean we were far enough out from the trip to have had some adjustment and bonding time behind us, and we would be in a place as a family to really be able to enjoy each other.
Well, we are here ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’d say adjustment and bonding is going great.
“hold me mama”….

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She is doing amazing, we are doing amazing. Balancing three kids can be, exhausting at times, and that has really been the biggest adjustment, but we are getting the hang of it.
We had family pictures done this week and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way they came out. Our friends Amy and David (who are photographers) came over for dinner and brought their camera with them. I told them the idea of what I had in mind, and the pictures came out better than I could have imagined.
They did such a great job capturing our family perfectly. Thanks again y’all!!!

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When I look at these, I am so humbled by the Lords goodness. He has given me three amazing, beautiful, smart, and funny little girls, and a husband who chooses daily to lead his family in whatever the Lord may call us to do. I’m so glad he asked, and that I said “yes” 12 years ago ๐Ÿ™‚ what an amazing adventure it’s been!

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Thank you again for praying and walking along with us.
I’m looking forward to writing new blog posts and seeing what the Lord has for our family in the future as our journey continues…..

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Adjustment, bonding, and X-ray results!!

Its kind of hard to believe but, one month ago today, we sawย (through blurry, happy tear filled eyes)ย our youngest daughter in person for the first time. We waited so long to be able to hold, kiss, hug, and lovingly smother our sweet baby girl. =)

This was taken just a couple hours after “gotcha”.ย ย IMG_3116It was so surreal. We still look at her sometimes and say things like, “I can’t believe she’s actually here!!”

I know this is so cliche… but it’s true, so Im just gonna say it. It feels like she has always been here, always. She is completely ours, and we are completely hers. I feel it 100 million percent, in every single way….. its the exact same, ridiculously deep, can-never-be-put-into-words, type of love that we feel for our other two daughters.

I’ve been a christian for pretty much my whole life, but I’m still learning so much about who God is everyday. Today, through our adoption journey, I came to realize how he loves each and every one of us the same. We are all sons and daughters of Christ, and no matter how we came to him, or at what point in our lives we come to him, his love for us is the same…… and its deep. He is our creator, our father, and we have been lovingly adopted into his family.

Though I may try to tell them everyday, in all sorts of ways, our girls will never be able to fully understand the love we have for each of them.

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and though He may try to tell us every single day, in all sorts of ways, we will never be able to understand the love he has for each of us!

WOH. I may need to let that soak in for a minute…..

 

Ok so, we have finally adjusted back to this time zone and are sleeping through the night again!!! THANK YOU JESUS, and thank you to all of you who prayed!

We are slowly starting to get back into a normal routine. Meanwhile, we have been amazingly blessed by friends and families this past couple of weeks who have brought us meals to help make our lives a little easier for awhile. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! What a blessing you’ve been.

Here’s some random pics from our first couple of weeks at home spending time bonding and adjusting as a family, and also some of us starting to get out and about.

Here is Reese FINALLY being introduced to her church family=)IMG_2994

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Her first trip to Target…

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After bath time snuggles and giggles…ย 
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Her favorite place to hang out…… =)
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Sweet sisters……
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Daddy is our hero…IMG_2861Walking, and growing too fast…
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Beautiful baby girl taking it all in…

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We’ve had some more Dr appointments, and even a day at Nemours Children’s hospital to continue getting her checked out from head to toe.

She is not even on the charts for her height and weight…..IMG_3036

but she is catching up quick! She has already gained almost 2 and a half pounds since the day we got her!!! Yay for American food! =)

 

Now, about our day at Nemours….
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We saw an ENT to do a routine check of her ears and hearing, etc….. everything looks pretty good. She had wax build up that had to be flushed out at our pediatricians last week (that was awful) so that her ears would be clear for her appointment yesterday.

She did great, but she had a little bit of fluid sitting behind her ear drums. They aren’t sure how long its been there so, they want to recheck her in two months. If the fluid drains, then she’s good to go…. if not, we will have to talk about putting tubes in her ears. =(

The main reason we went to Nemours was to see if we could get some answers through x-rays about her previously diagnosed “left lower limb dysplasia”. This was the thing that had her labeled in China as “special needs”, the diagnosis that essentially led her to us.

We had several X-rays done of her legs, hips, and knees…… and first thing this morning, I received a phone call from our friend at our pediatricians office who was on pins and needles for us, trying to get the results as quick as possible. She located the results and read them to me aloud…..

 

 

“NORMAL!!!!”

The results read that there is NO discrepancy in either of her legs, NO dysplasia, NO abnormalities. Everything is symmetrical!!! PRAISE GOD!!! HE IS SO SO SO GOOD.

Things could have been way different, she could have needed surgery, more bracing, or at the very least physical therapy…… and that would have been ok! Because even if that was the case, she is still ours, He is still God, and He is still good!

I just love this story he has written for her.ย His hands have been active in her life since the day she was formed in her mothers womb, and he continues to move on her behalf each and everyday. Oh how we adore this beautiful miracle of ours….

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He has used her story to remind me just how much he loves us…..


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Our eyes are not quite the same shape. =) Your hair blows in the wind a different way. But I am your Mother and I love you just the same. So, Ill take your hand honey, you can take my name. This love, this love is the deep kind…”

This will be the happiest Mother’s day of all!! All of our babies are home!!

 

 

“This love” by Mandy Mapes

1st Dr visit

We really didn’t know what this appointment would be like. Taking an 18 month old to her first real doctors appointment, would be at the very least, traumatic.
When we went to the medical check up in China, Reese was not a fan, and that was a cake walk compared to what her first appointment at home would be.
We were greeted at the pediatricians office with hugs by our friend who works at the front counter. She’s been counting down the hours until we had to bring Reese for her 1st appointment so she could meet her.

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The rest of the staff was just as sweet and congratulated us. Everyone “ooohhed” and “aaawwwed” over her cuteness.
We were given the first time patient forms to fill out for her, and
my pen went directly to check the box next to white/Caucasian. I laughed and then found the box to check for Asian/ Chinese . I said “awe, I get to mark Chinese!” Lol, I thought that was kinda fun.
The next couple of pages asked the routine questions about her birth, including weight, height, c-section or vaginal, were there any birth complications, was she allergic to anything, had she ever been hospitalized, family health history… Ect..

Tears started to fill my eyes. I guess I hadn’t even thought about that part of the appointment. I grabbed a couple of tissues and wiped my eyes before handing the papers back with an “I’m sorry, there’s a good bit that I had to leave blank.”
The truth is, those and many more questions surrounding her birth, family, and even the first 17 months of Reese’s life will remain unanswered, blank. It’s hard for me as her mama. I couldn’t even tell them what my daughter weighed at birth. But, It’s the beginning of her miraculous life story.
Caleb , having been adopted himself, will in the future be able to understand in some ways what it’s like to have unanswered questions, a list of “I don’t knows”. He can tell her from experience, “it’s ok” because God fills in those blanks in a way only he can, and his answers are beautiful.
There’s a peace beyond understanding, an assurance of who we are IN HIM.
I’m so glad God chose Caleb to be her daddy.

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We were called back and they continued with the routine checks. Temperature, height, weight….

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And that was the easy part ๐Ÿ™

We got into the room and the nurse asked the routine developmental questions for a little one Reese’s age.

Now, I remember answering those routine questions with our other two daughters and welcoming the chance to gloat about their milestones achieved. ๐Ÿ™‚
But Reese checkup is not in the least bit routine, it’s so amazingly different. So I wanted to roll my eyes at each routine question asked.
I know, I know, sorry…I love love love my doctors office, and this poor new nurse I had never seen before was only trying to do her job. I was not mad at her, I was just being a protective mommy who has had very little sleep.

“Does she speak 20 words?”

Uh “no”. And if she did, it would be Chinese, so we wouldn’t understand anyway.

“Can she obey simple commands, like if you tell her to come here?”

Uh, again, “no”. She was surrounded by Chinese speaking people her whole entire life until two weeks ago. She doesn’t understand English. I’m sorry, maybe i forgot to mention, She just came home from china 5 days ago.
(Remember, these were not my actual answers , I was only being a brat in my head.)

“Can she walk backwards?”

“No”, she was born with a left leg issue that we are actually here to find out more about, and I was actually feeling super encouraged about her walking ability and such, until just now. Ugh

I just wanted the questions to stop. I kind felt bad, she left the room with really short answers and barely anything to go on.
Soon our doctor entered the room. He’s been our family pediatrician since I was 6. He’s a kind man, who loves his patients. Reese liked him.
We talked about our trip to China and he watched her interactions with us. He said she looked as if she was doing exceptional in her interactions towards us. There’s an apparent connection, and bonding. He said we should continue spending time with her at home, and reiterated the importance of these first few weeks.

She happily walked back and forth to Caleb and I so he could watch her walk. He believes there is a very slight limited range of mobility in her left hip, but believed her knee is a non issue.
He ordered X-rays for her hip and knee, and lots of other test we will have to do soon like blood work, and hearing tests… things she would have already had checked since birth. She also has to catch up on ALL of her shots from birth until now. Which meant 4 shots yesterday. I cried, just like I did the first time my other two babies had their shots:(

After it was all over she didn’t want her sticker.

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I don’t blame her

Jet lag

Every time I’ve traveled to China I’ve experienced it. China time is exactly a 12 hour difference from where we live, so it’s literally night and day.
On the way over, and once you actually get there, the jet lag is bearable, and only seems to last for just a few days, hitting it’s worst after lunch time each of those days. One fun little fact about jetlag is, It is ALWAYS worse after the return home.
This trip is the longest I’ve ever spent in China’s time zone at one time. And we’ve returned with a little one who has never known any other time zone in her little life.
I’m so glad that the girls went with us and are also experiencing the same sleep deprived mess that we are. It would be horrible if they were functioning normally as we struggled to stay awake during the day. Just look how confused Riley was on Easter morning..

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Lol, yes, her pjs say “santas little helper” ๐Ÿ™‚
In China, once we were past the first few days, everyone was sleeping through the night. Even Reese slept through the night from day one.
Our first night home, everyone was so exhausted that, not only did we sleep through the night, but we all slept in. (This is extremely rare!)…..
And it hasn’t happened since.

We’ve been spending our days barely able to keep our eyes open. Yesterday, we actually got out of the house and took a walk to the nature preserve to put our toes in the river hoping the much needed fresh air would help keep us awake.

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20140423-050026.jpg It did help, and we were able to keep our eyes opened until bed time….. Unfortunately, that is when we are the most awake!! It’s crazy, no matter how tired you feel hours before, when the night comes (which is daytime in China) you are WIDE awake.
We put the girls to bed and managed to lay down about 1130pm.
At 12am, our dog barked at our bedroom door to be let outside. At 1230, Reese woke up crying, then again at 130, and 230. Caleb, Reese and I have been awake since then, and the big sisters made an appearance at around 3:30am, when I heard a noise in the hall bathroom and found them washing their new chopsticks, uh what the world?!
It is now 5:07 am,

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And that’s pretty much how she looks right now. Happy as can be. She babbles and sings and plays. Good thing she’s so cute. I guess ill just stay awake. The big sisters return to school today so we have to be up soon anyway. Good morning.