taking it slow, but getting out and about too

Over the last year I’ve chosen to share both the struggle and the joy of our adoption process. Too often I think there is a ‘storybook picture’ of adoption. A family welcoming a new child into their home and everyone lives happily ever after. And yet, there is so much more to life than a storybook. So much of the beauty of life happens after the struggle. We began this week ready to see our daughter grieve hard, to scream all night, to refuse to eat, to shut down. The very opposite has happened. She is eating like a champ. She cries some, but doesn’t scream. She sleeps soundly all night next to me. It is far too early on to know how she is really adjusting or if she is attaching to us. We don’t know if her content and peaceful nature is her personality, an answer to prayer, or a defensive mechanism she has had to build up. We just don’t know yet. Hard days could be ahead, or it could really be this wonderfully smooth for her and she could attach easily to us. And honestly, it just doesn’t matter. Today we are soaking up these wonderful days of bonding with our daughter. We are delighting in her and enjoying the slow paced days learning her ways. Each day is a new day and we are thankful for every moment we’ve been given.

So despite my intention of not sharing a ‘storybook’ picture…well, that is kind of what is happening! She is doing remarkably well.

Some answers to some questions that have been asked:

  • Yes, she is with us all the time. We were given custody on Monday and that was that.
  • She does have a name, but I have chosen not to share our kids’ names on my blog. “FireCracker” is a nickname, not our oldest daughter’s real name. Little One might get a new nickname once we know her a bit better. Her real name means “God is gracious”. Her real middle name is “Song”….it is part of her given Chinese name.
  • I wrote a post regarding common questions about her cleft lip & palate, click here to read it.

About 6 months ago I lost my appetite…well it returned on Monday night. China is a great place to gain your appetite back. Breakfast of champions.

8.29.12-1

So I mentioned before I left that I got a bunch of really cute Tea Collection clothes for Little One. Well, evidently a few of the ones I picked out don’t scream “Little Girl”…we have been asked many, many times if she is a boy or a girl. To me, the pink dress she wore yesterday and the t-shirt with ruched sleeves today are both totally girly. I’m thinking her little head will look quite lovely in a headband tomorrow.
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Their favorite game to play together. He hides. She looks. He cracks up. Repeat.
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There is that amazing hand again. With my first four kids I would just assume they are in the ‘hand phase’ – you know the one where they discover their hands. With her, so much is a mystery. I wonder if it is just a normal baby phase. I also wonder if it is related to hours in a crib without a toy. Either way, she sure likes her amazing hands.
8.29.12-8

We had her medical exam today. She did great, some tears but overall was a trooper. She actually did better than I did. I couldn’t help but think about all the medical stuff she will face in the future. I wish I could endure surgeries for her. I wish I could protect her from all the physical and emotional pain. I wish. I wish.
8.29.12-10

Seriously Mommy, enough with the pictures already.
8.29.12-11

We found a beautiful park, but we will have to explore it later. She and I were covered head to toe in the formula she spit out all over me. At least the formula/cereal smell covered the stinky sweaty smell I am sure I had from walking with a baby strapped to me in the heat. Her brothers wanted a picture of all of them with the elephants – she was so excited about that idea.
8.29.12-13

She is slowly learning how to be held and carried. She is very strong and stiff – not relaxed in our arms at all. Even when we hold her close, she will not hold on or grasp…just holds her hands out. And that is totally fine, we have to earn her trust. We have to earn the right for her to feel safe and comfortable in our arms. It could be a very long process or short process, but it will be a process.
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Dawson, Brandon & Sawyer – he would like you to see this picture and he wants you to know he finally lost his first tooth in Guangzhou, China!
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FireCracker, I spent $14.00 and scored you and your sister two new dresses. Thought you would like to see them…you’ll enjoy spinning in them!
8.29.12-19

Tomorrow we will make the 3+ hour drive to our daughter’s hometown and orphanage. We are grateful for the opportunity to visit where she spent her first year of life. We are also looking forward to spending a few days in her hometown to learn more about her history and what life is like in her community. I hope to get lots of pictures to share with her one day. We are also going to visit a little island on our way back to Guangzhou. Both towns are very small by China standards, so I am not sure what our internet will be like. The next few days will probably be wonderfully hard. Such a treasure for us to get pieces of her past, but so difficult to come to grips with those pieces too. Onward we go…

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  • Jenni - Wow! Such a beauty, congrats! I am so glad you are enjoying her being ‘easy’ right now. Your perspective is SO wonderful. I will pray that God will give you some moments that put you in awe of Him and that you will have a chance to share His love with people along the way.

  • stacey - thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! it is wonderful to watch your family embrace the joys and struggles and see them all as a blessing from God. cheers to you campbell family and God bless you and your beautiful new daughter!!

  • Marcella in Muskogee - SOOOOOOO HAPPY for you :o)
    Glad things are going well so far!
    Thanks for sharing your journey with me!
    Safe travels over there and on your way home :o)

  • Rebecca Armitage - I have been a reader of your blog for a number of years now, (since it was just your photo blog) it has always been the first place I check in the mornings, and I have always enjoyed everything you post. I am so thankful that you have brought all your readers along for your adoption ride. You said in a previous post that both having your own biological children and adopting were both plan A. I loved that! That has always been my plan as well. My husband and I started looking into adoption after we were married, and were basically laughed away because of our age. Which I don’t fully understand. We have been trying for the last 18 months to get pregnant to no avail, and are currently going through a bunch of fertility tests to find out the cause of our inability to conceive. Reading through your journey has been one of the only things that has kept me sane throughout this process. I read through your heartache when day after day you were left waiting and wondering, and now you finally are able to hold your beautiful daughter in your arms. Your blog has been a constant reminder for me to take things day by day. And I know, that just like you I will have my own biological children, as well as ones waiting elsewhere for me. Because like you, that has always been my plan A, and also like you, I am blessed to have a husband who is on board with that plan. I thank you and your family, and your precious new daughter for reminding to be patient, because the best things come when you wait for them.
    Rebecca

  • giozi - Low how she look your husband.
    I like the photo where it seem she is saying no more photos please :)

    Your boy looks so cute with out tooth
    Dresses are cutes, FireCracker is going be happy both going look pretties.

  • Andy - fun times. awesome post. love heaing about the adventure. love the dresses you got. they are awesome. :)

  • Sophie - I think in these posts, your boys have really stood out – they are so wonderful with her and love her so dearly already. They’re truly a credit to you and your husband, and I’m sure your other two kids will be just as great when you get Little One home :)

  • Lennie - So happy to see the journey unfold. I am glad your appetite is back you need to be strong and healthy for your family…keep eating!!! :)

  • Rachel B. - Losing a tooth in China?! How awesome is that???
    Continuing to pray for you all!

  • Sarah - The hand facination definitely needs to be caputured… maybe a clay cast? Or a fun print? To me it seems like one of those things that really explains the journey shes been through. Those hands have kept her company the whole way.

    Psalm 47:1-2 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of JOY. For the Lord most high is awesome, the great king over all the earth”

  • Natalie - Your outlook on this is beautiful..I am sure it is the way our loving Father is looking at us all here on earth. How we are going to act with each obstacle that come into our lives. It’s like the saying..”I never said it was going to be easy, just worth it!” She looks content and I am so very happy for you all!

  • Suzanne - I am happy that things are going relatively smoothly. You all have been covered in prayer, and He is faithful! Those dresses are an.maz.ing!!! I can’t wait to see the girls wearing them!!

  • Amy at Fig Milkshakes - Congrats on losing your first tooth in China, little man!

    I can’t wait to see pictures of Firecracker in those dresses…14 dollars?!?! SCORE!

  • Ursula Page - I just wanted to tell you how happy I am for your sweet family. Little One is surely blessed to have such a wonderful family and I know that she will bring you so much joy. She is beautiful and to be honest, I don’t really even “see” the cleft lip…I guess I just see happiness. Thanks for your constant posts. I always look forward to reading them. Also, I have always been so impressed with how many things you do with and for your kids and all of them are centered around love and fun and not how much you spent or what you went off and did with them. Last of all… I LOVE those dresses. Is that a brand we can get in the US?

  • Amber Campbell Hibbs - We have more than a few superhero/scifi TV onsies and I ALWAYS get comments about what a cute little boy I have when my daughter wears them. I’m pretty sure that means that my husband’s claim that they are unisex is false, but she’s also too young to care if people think she’s a boy (3 months) so I usually just roll with it. Flowers and ruffles seam to clarify it for most people though. Oh, and am I super selfish for being a little bummed you didn’t keep Amber in Chinese as her name? The world needs more Amber Campbells.

  • Linda - We adopted from China nearly 13 years ago. Our daughter was nine months at the time. She had the same hand waving thing. She did it constantly. First one hand. Then the other. Then both together. We were told it was because of lack of stimulation in the orphanage. And since it was familiar it was a coping mechanism when she left the confines of the crib. It slowly disappeared as she gee and bonded more tightly with us. Now we love to watch video of our daughter with the “waving hands”! Btw, she is a gorgeous teen now and the
    Oldest of adopted brother and bio sister!

  • Sadie - LOVE this post! I was beyond excited to see a post from you today! I wasn’t expecting it! Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us. It’s a blessing! She makes me melt!

  • Matthew - Thank you so much for sharing your journey. My wife and I found your blog through a friend. Our son is currently in an orphanage in Shaanxi. He also has a cleft lip and palate :) We are hoping to travel by the end of the year. The wait is so difficult. The blog is so encouraging to us. Your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations!

  • jenny - So many emotions reading your posts lately. I am SO thrilled for your sweet daughter and your whole family. What an amazing blessing all the way around!
    So thankful things have gone so smoothly thus far.
    And I am also enjoying the photos of China so very much. My heart is very much in China and every day I long to be there living a new life with my family that I feel like we are being called to.
    thank you so much for sharing everything with us!

  • ashley jensen - So so so happy for your family and especially for Little One! There are so many children in this world that need families and now Little One has a forever family. Thank you Campbells!! I am curious, I am guessing you changed her first name and did not keep her birth name? I know this is a very personal decision to make and some keep the name and some change it, I was just wondering if you did change it.

  • Carly - What a beautiful story you are sharing with us and the provisions and blessings God is providing your family. I can’t help but think back to a post you did a while back on serving your family only rice for supper. Those type of things are part of the reason your boys seem so happy to play peek-a-boo in a hotel room with their new baby sister. Also, the picture of your husband holding LO as she fell asleep for the first time in someone’s arms is haunting. It helped my husband to truly understand for the first time the desires of my heart to adopt as well as have our biological children.Thank you!

  • Melissa - Two quick comments – I say Little One’s contentment with your family is absolutely an answer to prayer. No doubt about it – He is so good. Also, our second (American) daughter was born in China (where we lived for a couple years). Pink dresses, big headband bows, wrapped in pink blankets, it doesn’t matter… I was still asked every single day if she was a boy or girl. It’s because many families dress boys in girls clothes and vice versa (still can’t figure out the confusion with hair accessories though!). To them it’s just clothing and they put the baby in whatever is available. We became close friends with a (poor) Chinese couple and their baby boy wore nearly every piece of clothing we had/gave them from our baby girl. Initially I had pulled out all the gender neutral stuff (green, yellow, brown, white) and then they asked if it was okay if they used the rest of the clothes since they were such good quality. Broke my heart. Also inspired a trip to the store so that little man could have some proper guy gear, but he’d still show up at our house decked out in pink! The pictures bring such a smile to my face. Sweet memories. So happy for your family and will be praying for you all over these next several days too.

  • steph - You are just awesome for sharing this with us. We are lucky lucky people to get a glimpse into such a magical (and difficult!) time. I can’t get over how beautiful and how big your Little One is! She looks well cared for and strong, not the delicate vulnerable little flower I’d been picturing. And good for her, she’s brave and it shows.

    Best of luck on the rest of your travels, we’ll be grateful for any glimpses and especially can’t wait to see Firecracker meet her sister for the first time! OOOohhh every little girl deserves a sister and the girls in your family each have one now!

  • Angie - I have so enjoyed getting to know your precious daughter these past few days. It is a joy to finally meet the sweet soul we’ve been praying for all these months. She is treasure. She has a tender little spot in my heart. Thank your for sharing all the bits and pieces of your incredible journey!

  • Emily - She is so lucky to have you as family – I’m certain that once you earn her trust and she meets her sister/new BFF, there will be many, many tight hugs. it’s just a matter of time.

  • emmybrown - aw, praying for you and your growing family each time I think of you during the day…..hugs from Iowa.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - It is probably safest that you don’t use their real names. I don’t use my kids’ names on my twitter, but I do elsewhere, which could be a bad decision.
    Your children are all beautiful.
    That is wonderful how much Little One loves her little hands, but that does make sense that it would be a lack of toys.

  • Ryanne - Oh, I think Little One is so lovely. Your posts make me so happy for your family. Blessed you are. Congratulations

  • Kim B. - Ashley and Chris — you’ve been on my heart and in my prayers, your whole family (including your family back home caring for Firecracker and your youngest son), and your daughter’s caregivers at the orphanage, everyone. What a gift you are giving her. Loved the boys’ quotes about her.

    Wish I were at home, I’d come to Tulsa and see you in at the airport. As it is, I may have to send my mom and dad ! :) just kidding

  • Danielle - …and onward we pray for your beautiful family! Can’t wait to read more!

  • RachaelB - I’m glad these beginning stages have been … “easier” than anticipated and hope that transition will continue to be smoother than rough. It’s been a blessing to read your whole journey even if parts yank at my heart, like not knowing if her contentedness is part of her personality or if it’s a defensive mechanism. Or if she’s in a typical toddler “hand phase” or it it’s due to not having toys. Ugh. That just makes me want to scoop up every child on this earth who is in need and just hold them tight.
    I hope your trips to her home town are filled with answers and wonderful discoveries.

  • Jill - She is so incredibly precious and beautiful… thank you for sharing this journey with us. I believe, just as God has been preparing your hearts for her all these years, He has been preparing her heart and spirit as well. You and your family have been covered in much prayer and now you have been given the rare gift of seeing the Holy Spirit in action. It’s a beautiful and miraculous thing. I have only experienced such a glimpse twice in my lifetime and my heart was forever changed. God is so good.
    btw… you may have said this elsewhere but how old is Little One?

  • Leah S. - Thanks so much for giving us a little picture of this process for you guys – you’re little one is amazingly beautiful! And those dresses are tooooo cute! Our God is SO GOOD!

  • Jamie - Ashley- I have heard from a great friend of mine who has looked into adoption from China… that the nannies in Chinese orphanages will most often tie the hands of the babies down to the cribs with a rope in an effort to keep them from hurting themselves. They love the babies and don’t do it an an act of abuse (though by our standards here in America it seems that way)…. but as a way to protect them since there are so many babies for only 2-3 nannies to care for. Perhaps little one is so fascinated with her hands because she hasn’t been able to explore them much. Just a thought…. you may find out when you visit the orphanage tomorrow….
    excited for you to explore China with her and get more familiar with the country she was born into.
    Such a beautiful blessing from God…. every bit of it!!!
    xoxo~ J.

  • amber - Ok. So I laughed out loud when you said that Firecracker wasn’t your oldest daughter’s name;). Hilarious. Also, those dresses are so cute. And, the hands. Melt my heart. The hands. Praying for you guys…she’s so precious.

  • Jessica R - Ashley, she is so beautiful. I want one!!! :) Adoption has always been on my heart and though our family isn’t there yet, I am so enjoying watching you getting to enjoy your sweet girl. I’m so glad that the first few days are going well. I hope it continues. Thank you for sharing her with us. I’m enjoying every single photo and tidbit of your journey.

    She’s so, so beautiful.

  • Fliss - I look forward to your take on Yangxi… the photos etc you know, I had completely forgot about what you said and Shauna when we first got her… she too didn’t know how to be held… just was ‘there’… now, she truly knows it… lol… 3 and still says ‘hold me, hold me’… people say I shouldn’t carry her… but I say for the first 10 mths of her life she had NO ONE to truly hold her and love all over here… I will do it as long as I can… can’t wait for more updates… hugs

  • Kim - LOVE the “seriously stop mommy” photo. Looks like she’ll fit right in :) I’m also so happy that you’ve had such wonderful days so far. Even knowing that could change doesn’t mean these precious first days can be taken away from you! Travel safe! (I almost said see you soon like I actually would be seeing you in person soon because we’re “friends”! Ha!)

  • Erin - Your blog fills my eyes with tears every time I’m here. Some sad, but mostly happy. It’s so strange to be so excited for someone you don’t even know, but I’m so happy you get to change the photo on your landing page of ashleyannphotography.com!

  • Natalie - She is absolutely beautiful. Your attitude through your journey makes me think of our loving Father above. He knew that life for us would be difficult, there would be trials, and joy. I am sure he is over joyed with your love for one of his sweet little children..and right while everything seems to be great there will be times of difficultly I am sure bit it’s like the saying..I never said it would be easy…only worth it. She is worth all of it!

  • Jeannette` - What – Tea Collection did say girl! Love the pics and your sweet family!

  • Jess - I think SingSong is going to give Firecracker a run for her money – two gorgeous sisters who will simply delight in each others company. There is so much true beauty in your family, as a new mum I’ve learned so much from you, thank you.

  • Alison - Hi!

    I am a friend of Emily’s, and I clicked over to your blog from hers. First, your little one is gorgeous! Second,I was shocked when I saw your Forever Family moment pictures. The very same nanny brought our precious daughter to us in Nov. 2004! My husband recognized her immediately as well. From the things that you have written, I know the girls are from the same orphanage. Our daughter enjoyed her “white cloth” and it was her special lovey for a long time. We bought a package of soft, white diapers at the Friendship Store close to the Garden Hotel in GZ, and those were what she loved until age 4. She also had a “hand friend” that disappeared about a month and a half after coming home. Toward the end of her time with her “hand friend”, we noticed that it only came out when she was stressed in new or loud situations. Once she began to trust us, she learned that she didn’t need it any more. Our daughter’s adjustment was very smooth like yours has been so far. We have been to Ch*na numerous times and have worked in orphanages in different parts of the country. As a result, we were determined to go to her orphanage. We were SO thankful we made every effort to do that. Compared to other SWIs, hers was a great one! The babies seemed to be really well cared for and 7 years ago, it was a very nice, clean building. Nice small town as well. The area is known for making knives and scissors, so we had our guide take us to a department store in town, and I rushed around and grabbed things like chopsticks made in her town, a chef’s knife, tea mugs for grandparents, and a tea set for her. We had only 15 min, and the guides thought I was nuts, but my husband took our daughter and whispered, “Go, get all that you can!” We have traveled a lot internationally, and I wanted to have as many tangible things for her as possible from her area. When we returned home, our pediatrician (who has seen children adopted from all over the world) commented that our daughter was the healthiest that she has ever seen from Ch*na. There was a different director when we adopted, but I was very thankful that my daughter was cared for in good circumstances as far as an orphanage goes. I am so glad you are making the journey to the small town. It is a pretty drive once you are out of GZ. It is worth every penny and more to be able to tell your daughter and describe to her in detail the town and the SWI. Priceless. Enjoy these days in Ch*na with your family. It truly is a special time. My daughter is in 3rd grade now, and it just feels like yesterday that we were making this trip, too. Thanks for letting me reminisce! Alison (our daughter went to school with Emily’s son, Caedmon)

  • Ceri - I think I only ever comment on giveaway posts. Yup, I’m one of those people.

    Found you when Firecracker was in her cast (18 mo or so ago? Time flies). You and I have just about nothing in common besides loving Jesus and having dear, dear husbands so I love the glimpses into a life vastly different than mine. I don’t envy you, but I thank you for allowing others a peek in.

    For years I’ve recoiled at the advertisements packed with photos of babies with clefts that you’ll see in, like, Reader’s Digest and other magazines. I would try to make myself look, but it hurt somehow. Your pictures of Little One don’t draw the same reaction from me…I think it’s because, while those ads mean well in their attempt to raise money, there’s some tone of exploitation or something. Your photos are full of dignity, however, and her cleft becomes a trivial trait, hardly noticeable, because of your deep love for Little One. You’ve changed my perception of clefts as a result.

  • abbie - oh my sweetness. I want to kiss her cheeks! so so beautiful. your family just got more lovely! I hope you share her first name at least once, I’ve caught all your children’s names at least once hidden in your blog and I love your name choices. more importantly, she is perfect. you all are so blessed.

  • Trish - I cannot stop coming back to your blog today just to look at your pictures again. Your daughter is simply beautiful and I am continuously praying for your family.

  • Karen Davis - first, i LOVE that you’re on my side of the globe… !!! Second, she is absolutely precious. When we adopted our little one, it was the complete opposite- when we held her, she was as limp as a noodle…absolutely no core to hold her up. A year later, it’s AMAZING to see how far she’s come- and you’ll do just that with your little one. She has a crazy adventure ahead of her, and a WONDERFUL God to help her through it all, alongside her new family! how beautiful…

  • Karen - Your daughter is beautiful & she will treasure all the pictures you have taken of her with her family. Thank you for sharing with us, it is truly a joy to be an outsider looking in on your incredible journey.

  • tracy a - in the picture you captioned, “enough with the pictures already mommy” i love how contented chris looks! she is done, but he could hold her for hours…lovely!

  • Wendi K - Ashley, so excited for your family and that you are finally able to hold your daughter. God is good! Just wanted to share a few things we learned with our daughter when she came home to us. We were told she was very stiff and it was recommended to us to do massage ( mostly feet, legs and hands). This gave us an opportunity to establish trust with touch and loosen up her muscles. There are some great websites for baby massage. We also were told to try and hold her in the cradle position and curl her in. She hated it but it was great therapy. Praying as you all transition.

  • susan leah - i cried the moment i read the time you meet her, then, i cried again, and again. guess i’ll be crying with joy everytime you post about her.

  • Monica - Thank you for sharing your journey. I cried reading through your posts. I pray that God will bombard you and your family with His love and that He will give each one of you the wisdom and grace to know how to handle each situation as you adjust. God bless you and your family. I can’t wait to see what is to come!

  • Tamar - So touching…
    It realy good to know that this little gorgeous girl will grow up in your goodhearted family.
    You are so brave and admirable.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Jelena - She is so pretty! :) Congratulations to the whole family. Btw, she seems to be (at least in the pictures) an “observer baby” – the one to sit back and watch and take everything in, so I am sure she will start attaching to you soon.

  • Yanet of 3 Sun Kissed Boys - She looks pretty snuggly in the photograph of Chris holding her and she’s looking up at him. Precious.

    As for you “storybook” adoption story, my belief is that when things “flow” like this, it’s because they are meant to be. Things fall into place because the right decisions have been made. If you feel this way too, I’m sure you find it very reassuring.

  • Kari C. - Love following along! Makes me miss China! If you go to Shamian Island, don’t forget to buy squeaky shoes. :) Lucy’s is yummy and so is the Cow and Bridge. What a precious time with your daughter.

  • lindsey - she looks so happy!!! I’m giving God all the glory for this smooth, bonding beginning! Can’t wait to hear more…

  • angie webb - She sure seems to love daddy. I love how she looks at him. Those dresses are crazy beautiful – only $14? Wow! Cannot wait to See Firecracker and Little One wear them!

  • Ashley - Siobhan, jean, and Johanna all lovely names

  • Heidi M - I have been reading your blog for over a year now and I thoroughly enjoy reading the real life posts and learning from your creativity. I am a silent reader I guess. I don’t have a lot of time to comment. Ya’lls journey through the adoption process has been very close to me. I spent a few weeks in China 4 1/2 years ago with some friends who live there. They are now in the adoption process of a special needs child as well. When you posted the pictures the other day when you first met her. I cried. Now thinking about it again I might just cry now too. :) I am so excited for y’all. I know the journey is not over.

  • Brooke Whitis - These dresses are beautiful! Love them!

    Our first days with Eli, he would be limp as I picked him up, almost as if he didn’t know he was supposed to pick his head up as I picked him up. Probably a lack of being picked up the first 13 months of life… you wouldn’t believe the difference 3 months has made. We had a similar story to you. I expected a tougher road…and he is doing incredible. Adjusting well…loving well….trusting us.

    Today, we went to my doctor and some friends tried to play with him. He came running, screaming back to ME. He knows I am HOME. I am his mom. Forever. You are her mom, forever. Thankful that you are with your sweet girl. Soaking in these moments! Enjoy it. It goes so fast.

    My best friend started researching chinese adoption 3 days ago…when you posted the post about meeting her. PRAISE JESUS for your story and your witness. THANK YOU!!

  • Sharon - Your Little One is so beautiful. God is so good. Thank you for sharing her with us.I guess you know you are a special couple.
    Love Sharon

  • Jessica H. - I see the pictures with her studying her hands and how it is a little different than what your other children did as they grew up. I imagine the Lord is going to use those hands to honor and worship Him. Those hands that are so interesting to her will be vessels for Him to touch the lives of those who are broken and her strength will be used to hold them up as He displays His love for them through her. I believe (as you and your husband are so faithful to pray for her) that the Lord is shaping and forming her (yes even her hands) to be the woman that He created her to be. Thank you for sharing this journey with all of us.

  • Shannon { A Mom's Year } - I clicked over from Design Mom and I’m so glad I did! Congratulations on the newest member of your family. Our youngest is from China as well, and we traveled there 7 years ago with our three older children and my mother. One of the best three weeks of our lives!

    Lily had some challenges (including heart surgery soon after we brought her home), but she’s doing beautifully now. I hope your transition continues to go smoothly!

  • Jen - You guys are where we were in February and having a very similar experience. Our daughter arrived to us from the Jiangcheng SWI, and has “Song” as her middle name, too. I hope you have an awesome time in Guangzhou and not too much trouble with the jet lag when you return. Just allow yourself lots of time to adjust. For us, it has been like having a newborn again. We’re still co-sleeping six months later.

  • julia - praising God for the little one in your arms! What a precious gift!

  • Vhonda - We were foster parents and when we got our “forever son” initially as a foster child, he was 7 months old. He was filthy, had never had shots and when the nurses and I held him down to give him all his shots, I threw up because of how horrible he smelled. He hadn’t been held and was stiff like you described your daughter was. It took a week for him to relax against me and longer to adjust to my husband. What a crazy world for these precious babies. He, initially, was diagnosed as a “failure to thrive” baby, now he’s 7 years old, eats like a hedgehog (his words!) and is smart as a whip! No signs of the trauma that he endured his first 7 months of life, he knows that he’s adopted and that we prayed for him for 10 long years before God gave him to us.

    God bless you and your wonderful family!! God is so, so good!

  • Maddy - Shr’s beautiful! And those eyes!!! Thank you for sharing the journey.

  • Inga - I wish I could share a photo of my 2nd son on his first day of school. He was younger than most of the children starting, yet so excited and independent – I was told to stand back, he would go by himself to put his bag away.

    My son was born with a near identical smile. I too wished that I could endure the surgeries instead, to save him from the pain. He had two in his first year and is coming up for a bone graft to allow his adult tooth to drop (where the palate cleft is joined).

    The surgeries are so long ago, and now seem to be such a small part of his life, when I look back over the years. He’s had a lot of speech therapy, funnily he is so self assured that he blames others for not understanding him. So much for worrying about him feeling different or being teased, he is very resilient.
    I separated from the boys father when my 2nd son was 6months old due to domestic violence which continues sadly. It’s amazing what can be over come with unconditional love.

  • elizabeth - i love the photos of little one in your hubby’s arms!!
    {and that aqua TEA shirt w/ the bird :0}

  • silver - Hi Chris, Ashley Ann & family,

    Two of your photos were included in a very heartwarming post on Buzzfeed today, and I followed the link to your blog, so now I’m sitting here at 3.30am in Ireland with happy tears drying on my cheeks. I just wanted to leave you a note to say Thank You.

    I have a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and although I’m 33 and all the repair work is behind me, I’m sure you know it’s not an easy road. I was lucky to have two incredible parents and four loving siblings who supported me every step of the way. (I promise you, it’s harder on them than it was on me. So take heart! Kids are incredibly resilient.) I can tell by these photographs – and by the way you write – that this little bundle will have all the support and love she needs, to weather those storms.

    The reason for the “Thank You” is because I feel an unspoken kinship with anyone born with the same challenges ahead of them as I had. It can be very difficult for me to look at pictures of cleft babies – it’s distressing on a very deep level – but when I see one as happy and safe as your little daughter is, it has a healing effect on me. So Thank You for that, and for giving her a loving home, and for offering her a future of which she would surely otherwise have been deprived. She’ll thank you herself in years to come, but for now, please accept my compliments on your beautiful family and warm, generous hearts.

  • tulle & chalk » ashleyannphotography.com - […] is a Matilda Jane dress from a couple years ago. Some of FireCracker’s favorite dresses are two I bought in China last year. She loves the frilling, ruffly, twirly kind. So many of you have asked about them over […]

  • Melissa - Even though in most European countries pink is a feminine color, not true in most Asian countries, especially China and Japan. Pink is more often found on boys there than for girls. I smiled when I read your confusion over why so many thought your gorgeous little girl was a boy!
    My granddaughter was born with a unilateral ceft lip and I just wanted to pass this on to you, she will survive and in fact thrive, because of the emmense love you bring to her world. Will it be easy, heck no! But she will grow stronger along with all of you and that strength will be but one of her gifts. I still miss my granddaughters big smile before her surgery at 4 months.
    She is just now 10 and has had three surgeries so far, two that she can remember. The last one was the toughest because it took her out of soccer for the summer and swimming for most of June and July. The pain was secondary. She is one tough, smart, gorgeous, popular little girl and I cant express the love and admiration I have for her. What you have done is such a gift for your precious 5th child. She will adore you forever and you, her. It is a given of course but untill someone raises a child that must face such adversities, they cant begin to imagine the adoration and pride that comes along with the challenges. Congratulations on your wonderful family.

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