umm, looks like i need to find the baby gates...

might be the worst video quality ever... and i was squawking so loud and annoyingly because this was moments after she crawled for the first time. it's unbelievable to think how immobile (and unstable) she was a month ago!!


surgery dates and attempted packing

i sure hope there are other people who procrastinate to organize and file the never-ending supply of papers and bills and documents and recipes and receipts and random papers that i'm pretty sure i could throw out, but then again, i might just need that one day. i've spent 2 evenings sorting through my unkept file bin and finally i've come up with a solution. i'll purchase one of those fancy document scanner things so i never have to file anything again! although, i'm sure i'd just end up with a giant pile of things to "scan" instead of a giant pile of things to "file".
so long fleeting dreams of the easy way out. hello manila folders and never enough time.

i've mixed packing into our routine, although i wouldn't so much call it packing as i would attempted and momentary box filling. it seems that as soon as i pack a box, 4 little hands peel it open again.

 but packed up toys have advantages...namely creativity. we've invented so many games and ideas and crafts this past week...oh how i beam when they use their creativity.
today we worked hard at race tracks...which included smiley faces and "painted" tracks so awesome power slide skid marks could be visible.

is that an almost crawling girl i see??

uh oh, woman down

she's so cheerful and lovely!

we got her palate surgery dates today...sept 26th!! wow oh wow, i had no idea it would be so soon! i'll be honest...i cried on the phone with the surgeon's admin today. i kept it to a low sob so as not to alarm and then be forced to explain myself to the nice lady who worked a near miracle in finding our date.
when i told foster she got her surgery dates, he didn't say anything at first. a few minuets later he asked, "mom, does she have to have surgery? if they change her lip, she won't look like emery anymore. i love the way she looks."

oh precious big brother. i do too, my love. i do too.

i just can't get over her. she's so striking.
and cute.
and squidgy.
and squrmy.
and busy.
and wonderful.

and hopefully in a few months, palate surgery behind her, she'll be learning all sorts of new words. like "i love you gu gu" (big brother) much to the delight of two little boys i know.

oh and see that thing poping out around her middle parts? that's a belly folks. or at least, almost :)


so apparently there is a storm approaching.
i tend to never believe the weather channel.
but i did, in fact, drag 3 kids to the grocery store last night with all of creation to get milk and coffee creamer.
that was after the longest day in history.
after jing liu fought her nap for 3 long hours before collapsing from exhaustion.
after my dear friend came for a play date and then left during my neurotic franticness about jing liu not napping...because i could hardly function, let alone hold a conversation.
after the 3 hour early intervention coordinator interview (in which a small amount of mayhem ensued - que TV coma)
after the truck broke down (with trailer attached) on the way to pickup a freezer (free!! thank you dear new friend) and a craigslist washer and dryer.
after picking up my parents car to pick up the trailer to pick up the appliances.

it was now 7pm.
no one had eaten dinner.
jing liu, poor baby girl, screamed in the car for the last 45 min
the boys excruciating pleads from the backseat beckoned for food and an end to the screaming
i made a b-line for chick-fil-a
and after we scarfed large amounts of waffle fries, the boys played
and smiles ensued
and we did our usual secret ice cream maneuver

it was after all of that i attempted wegmans.
and guess what?? chick-fil-a ice cream in combination with a car-cart seems to be the best solution ever invented.

although i will always say i hate car carts more than anything else...i have broken my own rule and embraced the world's worst store contraption.

the grocery store was actually the best part of our day
and that's the first (and probably last) time i'll ever say that :)


1 month anniversary

one month ago, this was our girl. sweet. lovely. timid. quiet.

today, she learned how to sit up on her own and earlier this week, she learned how to roll over...she's even mastered the tri-pod stance without falling over (most of the time).
with each passing day she is showing us more and more of who she is.
it's like unfolding a fantastic rose, only to find more and more amazing buds on the horizon.
oh and have i mentioned her giggle is the best sound i've ever heard?

what a difference a month makes!!


ice cream boy {& my lovely girl}

my day ended with this buddy.

we had a rita's date night.
we giggled and ate each other's vanilla/chocolate custard with sprinkles.
we scaled the local castle playground.
my boy was so delighted he giggled for an hour.
we came home and he was still so delighted no one could understand his muffled giggle rantings.
i'm hoping i will reap the benefits of our special time together tomorrow.
i'm praying for the healing qualities of one-on-one time together.
my buddy who is slowly but surely coming around and remembering who he was before all of this change.
remembering it's ok to be cheerful.
remembering how much fun we have together.

our meeting with emery's plastic surgeon at CHOP went splendidly today.
and i called her emery all day long, because that's what's on her charts.
and it sounded lovely.

she's gained nearly 2 LBS!!! yes, nearly 2 lbs in a month!! what a triumph!!

oh, i nearly kissed her cleft surgeon.
nearly, i said nearly.
not because he is strikingly handsome (which he is)
but because he was so candid and kind and saw right away what a gem my girl is.
we chatted about her options, and it's not cut and dry. with such a tender and sensitive situation, the correct order of proceedures and timing is difficult to decide.
he suggested we repair her palate first in order to help her develop speech sooner.
he's thinking palate surgery in 6 weeks from now (eek, that feels so soon!) and lip/nose surgery 6 weeks after that.
she will later need a bone graph to repair her gumline and a rhinoplasty because of the shape of her nose.
her cute little nose.

he said he's booked solid for the foreseeable future but he will clear time for her.
no matter what, he will find time.
because he cares.
he reached over and touched her little foot while we were talking. and she didn't cry.

and then he said to me "but the real question about her readiness depends on you. we want to know how you think she is adjusting and if you think she can handle surgery. we really value your opinion because you're her mom."

ok, now i really love you mr. surgeon.

"be sure to take lots of photos of her beauty, just the way she is now. when we're done, she'll look so different. we're going to do our best to make it perfect, but many parents grieve the change because they love how their kids were created. she is so beautiful just the way she is now."

and then i wanted to tackle hug/kiss him.
he gets it. the love. the loveliness.
but i didn't.
i shook his hand.
the man who will soon hold my child's life in his hands.
i love anyone who gets it.

i thought i knew how to love deeply
beyond my being
beyond what i know and can comprehend
but when i look at my 3 kids through the filter of the past 3 years...
when i see the world through a small girl who has seen more of life than i have...
i see my kids with new passion.
not perfection...i am so far from...i get agitated and snippy among many other faults.
but i've realized how much my filter has changed the way i view life.
it's a good change.


pinterest i adore you.

can i have an entire home made of pinterest-ness?
i have a zillion ideas. they are all swirling around.
must. find. time. to. craft.

i've categorized items i can craft with little or no cost involved. just time. time i will carve out somehow this month. somehow, someway.
any takers on a mini craft weekend in sept??
we could be like all of these uber cool craft weekend gals we all admire so much. good gracious, wouldn't it be fun to be one of the ones attending this????

here's my project list, round one:

ashley, i will ever love your gal's room...can i live there too??
i have a sneaking suspicion there is a collection of crates hanging out behind my father in law's barn. hmmm, i wonder if anyone will miss one or two??
clint, if you happen to read the blog, this project will be in your not-so-distant future.
unless you want me rummaging around your tool collection :)

chick wire + old frames = done
at last, christmas stockings i can get on board with!

pillowcases sewn together? the boys would love to work on this project!
they will go perfectly with this...
pup tents x 3. one for each kiddo. just found striped duvet covers in the barn
scrap wood + staple gun = done.

i'm thinking old craigslist patio set turned new again

must do this tomorrow. awesome!!

i have a stash of old windows (at least 30) that have been waiting for a grand idea. just found it.
this will donn our kitchen next week.

i would like to spray paint everything in sight after seeing these.

hmm, i love anything with that amy butler print and grey paint. hello emery's room!

i'm not into doilies but these make me swoon

find credits for these ideas and more here

i (heart) cleft lips.

we are headed to CHOP tomorrow for our first meeting with the cleft surgical team, as well as the resident ENT. i'm prepping my brain to absorb mass amounts of information and i'm prepping my bag with a full day of snack and toys. it's going to be a long one, but i am glad to finally get a feel for the plan ahead, and be able to fire away my many questions. such as, how on earth is a palate repair done? i am fascinated by the process, and yet, terrified at the same time. i can't quite wrap my head around my baby girl having to undergo any kind of surgical procedure, let alone one so intense. i am hoping talking it out will help me feel more at ease.
if i'm being totally honest. i love her cleft. i love how she was created. if it wasn't for the speech and eating and people staring, i wouldn't change it. her smile is killer adorable. you know why? not just because i love the shape and beauty of her mouth, but because when she smiles, her eyes sparkle and smile as well. she's such a beauty. i can't picture her any other way than she is right now.


saturday pack-a-thon {jing liu vs. emery lin}

i'm not sure how, but we are moving next week to a cute little apartment. there's a whole saga of reasons, but we decided not to buy right now and to keep trying to recover after this past year. i'll spare the blog world the details, but we are finally at peace with the decision to rent. there. i said it. rent.
i keep saying i'm packing, but whenever i try there is a baby sleeping in our room. or i forget to make dinner and need to use my most skilled maneuvers to turn kitchen remnants into spaghetti a masterpiece. or i sink into a pile of exhaustion and wake up in the morning to find a horrible site in the mirror. some worn out lady is wearing the clothes i wore yesterday. she has smudgy makeup and unbrushed teeth. i think i know her, but i'm not sure. she used to look lean and could throw on a tank top without her middle parts sticking out. good gracious i do know her. someone hurry...makeover needed on isile 5 :)

i have (i mean had) grand plans to pack and organize things ahead of time. but it seems that every day i set out to pack ends up just like it started...unpacked. at least i made it to the barn for a few hours today to rummage through organize a few things we've had in storage for almost a year and a half. in nearly every box i found drinking straws. funny thing is, i don't ever remember buying or packing them?? oh and i also found alarming amounts of stink bugs. i don't really remember packing them either :)

the past 2 days have felt semi normal. the boys have laughed, i haven't cried, and we've started to do normal things like meeting friends at the creek. we sat on blankets and fed babies. got lost in laughs and life while the big kids built sandcastles and splashed in the water. it was heavenly.

oh, and at all times, miss jing liu is crazy delightful. she has captured all of us. can this girl get any sweeter? impossible.

and about her sweet name. i get a lot of questions as to why i keep calling her jing liu, when for years i've called her emery lin. ("emery" because i L.O.V.E. it, and "lin" in honor of my mom, linda, and our favorite city in china, Gui lin).  even i am surprised by the change.
and i can't really explain it. when we started the adoption process, she was emery. when i saw her picture she was emery. i dreamed of her in my arms, prayed for her at every passing moment. i knew this little photograph person. i studied each and every image. and she was emery.

but when i held her for-real...when i looked in those lovely eyes...when i felt her slim figure and kissed the softest cheeks of all time...when i spoke my first precious words to her...she was instantly jing liu. i didn't even think about the shift, it just happened. it felt natural. even now when i say her name, i think of that sweet little baby on that first day. she was, and still is, the loveliest thing i've ever layed eyes on. i think of how it felt to be in china. i hear the sounds of cars whizzing by and i feel the scorching heat in the soles of my TOMS.  my jing liu clung to me at all times. it was beautiful. she is jing liu to me.
and then again, she is emery, too. the boys and i interchange emery and jing liu as if they are the same name and i love it. i hope that we always use them both.

i am constantly struck by the fact that she is really here. it hits me at strange times, and i get all choked up. especially when i rock her to sleep, i can hardly get out the words as i sing to her. i've started singing in chinese (be thankful you can't hear me. good gracious, my voice is horrible, let alone the fact that i am singing in another language) but she really seems to love it. oh how i love moments of quiet with her. i've always loved rocking my babies...but there is something about knowing how many moments i've missed out on with her. it is pure joy to know she is drifting to sleep drenched in love.

and in other news, i have yet to pick up my camera. sad but true. i still haven't had time to even download all of the pics from china! all memory cards are maxed out. i'm determined to clean those babies off and walk life camera-in-hand like usual. i think this is the longest i've ever gone photo-less and at such a pivotal time...get on the ball ang. seriously. until then, the camera phone will have to do.


what does mayhem look like?

i'm pretty sure it landed at our house for a few hours this morning. you know, just in time for the nice lady (in heels and a WHITE skirt) to arrive for our Univ of Delaware adoption study interview. the one that is VIDEOTAPED and VOICE RECORDED so it can be STUDIED in a federally funded 5 year study. yes, a perfect morning for mayhem. the very classy allison arrived to a driveway full of bikes and sand toys and markers and coffee drenched blankets and construction paper blowing like tumbleweed...mixed with the Rover pulling up and my granny's departure to the senior center. oh and we have a wonderful aid (adore her) who comes every morning for a few hours to help care for granny. it's challenging, to say the least, to explain, so i just said "we're in a bit of mayhem this morning. come on in." she graciously smiled. the boys were in rare form when the day began. i could tell a nap was necessary and it was 9am.

i don't care to relive the morning, but after various high round kicks, volume wars on the vbs sound track, and large amounts of brotherly "love" also known as a headlock and punching bag, i felt like screaming. i felt like i was the worst mom ever. i felt like these two boys are going to drive me bonkers and if they don't calm down and stop flailing every known body part. yes, they are showing off. yes, they are boys who don't sit down long enough to pee. yes, i get it. but we had talked about it. i had explained yesterday and today that the nice lady in the heels and white skirt would be coming. i explained the sitting and the quietness.

so, i resorted to my best known weapon. the whisper. and when mom whispers, kids listen.

oh, and then i took them calmly into the other room and gave them a mound of food and let them watch 3 consecutive shows. perhaps this is how i should have started the interview, instead of expecting such grand calmness.

then the nice lady in the heels and white skirt then informed me that they would be glad to provide an intern who could come to each of the 10 week sessions and play with the boys so i could focus on jing liu during the VIDEOTAPED interviews and physical therapy sessions.
yes, please.

oh and this little lady?

rock star.

for the last part of the interview, the nice lady set a voice recording device next to me and said "now, please talk for 3 minuets about jing liu, and tell us anything you want about her."
wow, what a fantastic exercise! intimidating since i'm sitting in front of someone who doesn't know me at all, but fantastic that this someone who doesn't know me at all, cares so deeply about seeing kids transitioning from institutionalized care flourish with their family. tears streamed down my face, feeling the weight of a sleeping baby on my chest as i talked, i realized with each word how incredible all of this is. how easy she feels in my arms. how i already know her sounds and her expressions. how much i know about her in the 3 short weeks since we met. we have moments when we don't understand each other. or days like today when she is exhausted but refuses to sleep. she's different than i expected. she's even more terrific and brilliant and adorable than i could have dreamed. and she's determined. she hasn't once given up. oh, and quick? this girl learns like a sponge on acid. already signing "more" and "all done." and she loves cats. goes positively wild when she sees a cat. she prefers cheerios over puffs, smiles proudly when she flings food over long distances, and throws her hands up for "so big" like she's been doing it for ages. she's petrified of men, but 2 mayhem boys are her biggest delight. and when i hold her, she rests. she finds comfort when she's in my arms. and to me, that is the biggest success so far.

after the beeper beeped and the 3 minutes were over, i realized i need at least an hour just to get through the basics about this girl. then a lifetime to tell her all the ways i adore her. admire her. the dreams i have for her and the prayers i breathe for her future.

and my boys of mayhem....they are peacefully asleep as i type. i have a feeling 2 boys will awake that will once again breathe mayhem, but i wouldn't have it any other way. perhaps the video session review board will learn a few new high kick maneuvers :)


video montage

it's misty this morning. the kind of misty that's heavy with impending downpour. after a weekend of rain (thankfully for the garden which is all foliage and light on fruit) i was hoping we could be outside today, but i'm thinking it's not going to happen. the boys are going absolutely stir crazy and have been in a serious wrestling mood. not just with each other, but they take on each of us, and i have to say, as a tag team, they are marvelously strong and sneaky. foster is just plain scrappy and monster strong. we are constantly reminding him to learn to control his strength. but what fun is that, mom?? rowan, on the other hand, sits on my head, tickles my sides and holds my nose all the same time. i am instantly defeated because as soon as i start to giggle, my ultimate spider wrestling move goes out the window. great amounts of laughing ensue. they love tickling me, and oh how i loathe being tickled....but their little tickle fingers are just so wigglie and cute.

we are heading to the pediatrician today, and i've already had a talk with the boys about the vaccinations jing liu will have and the crying that is sure to come. thankfully, they both got shots at the beginning of the summer. i say "thankfully" because they immediately said "oh wow, that's really going to hurt! we'll talk to her and help her feel better. and we'll show her where the lolly pops are!!"  yes, i'm sure they will "show her" the lollypops :)

yesterday, we worked hard at our eating and exercising. i have a few videos. please don't watch them to the end...they are LONG and i don't know how to edit videos yet (on my list of university google for this year) but i just have to show off my smarty pants girl who is coming alive after (and during) each meal. it's like we are literally watching her food tank rise as her silliness meter goes up.

(p.s. lots of eggs floating around in these videos...another thing we've realized is she has never played with food! a rite of passage we are letting her indulge at every meal. she is thoroughly pleased!)

and then my parents walked in and the "so big" got even bigger...

and the exercising...well, sometimes it goes well, and other times, it's just plain hard. i try to push her only for a few moments, and then we rest. this video shows just how hard her little body is working. i don't think she was ever put on her belly because she literally has no upper body strength and her legs fight the crawling position tooth and nail.


my little warrior {and family photo birrage}

i wake up almost every night, scouring the covers for jing liu. i keep dreaming that she is so tiny that she falls from my arms like a piece of glitter and i loose her amongst the sheets. i wake up, elbow deep in a swirl of blankets, to find her sleeping peacefully beside us in her crib. what a precious and amazing girl...who sleeps soundly through the night, every night since we met her. so peaceful.

i learned a new world about this tiny one yesterday. we all keep saying how tiny she is, and with good reason. we met with several doctors and professionals with the CHOP foreign adoption team, and WOW...what would we do without them? 3 amazing women sat and played and talked and looked deep into this sweet little being and saw what i see...so much light and life, hidden inside a small body that is trying hard just to survive. they are going to work closely with us to get her weight and strength up in preparation for surgery, and they had so many suggestions for the many questions i have. there are moments that i see a spunky, glittery, oh-my-goodness-girl-you-are-so-wiggly child...but then she becomes exhausted, so she sits. now i know why. she hasn't been given the opportunity for the past 14 months to consume enough calories to grow. she has only been given the opportunity to exist. so tragic that i cry just typing it out. she showed the CHOP ladies her amazingness and they were stunned when she solved a difficult problem-solving-game right of the bat (and then did it 3 more times just to prove it :).  i don't even know how to express all that i learned about her. most of it, i will never share on the blog, because it has to do with her incredible story of survival, and her unrelenting spirit to never give up. but i will say, that the malnutrition has hindered her in many ways. they think she spent a lot of time laying down, so her feet work like hands. we we see her explore with them all the time, and now we have a better understanding of why. her fine and gross motor skills are similar to a 6 month old, but her cognitive ability is right on target at 13 months (she is 14 mo old). they were so encouraging and gave us mountains of things to work on, even a trial by the University of Delaware with a scientist that will come to our house each week and video tape sessions and work with our family and with jing liu to build strength and skills. i'm so excited!!

my heart is bursting with so much love and respect for this 13 lbs baby girl. i wish everyone could spend an hour or two with jing liu. she beams joy. she makes me want to stand up and fight for each child who isn't getting what they need out of life. she makes me feel stronger and stronger about foreign adoption because i see so much more of how her life existed only 3 short weeks ago. i am in the presence of a little warrior.
after a long, but exhausting afternoon (including an hour of blood work in which she and i both cried), she rested.

and when evening came, we received my favorite gift of all time....photographs. i love all things documenting, especially photos that can document a season in our family that is so beautiful. cait and jeff jensen are a photog husband and wife team brimming with talent. they came to us with so many great ideas, and they must have sprawled out on the grass at least 15 times to get these great shots.  they were so much fun and we are soooo thankful for these amazing images they created!!! not only are they talented photographers, but cait (and jeff too :) writes a food blog that is so much more than a "food blog" and has been one of my favorite sites since they started.

oh melt me! this shot of our feet is my favorite!!


fyi, i'm not above bribing the boys with a special "after photoshoot surprise" (which was sherbet ice cream in a cone) to get happy faces. but this time, i think the bribe was totally unnecessary! they had so much fun, and i think we all giggled for a solid hour! they made cait and jeff take at least 20 "take a picture while i run and jump!" shots and thoroughly enjoyed our noodle fight :)


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