Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding ad

When a child is abandoned in China and then at some point deemed ready to be adopted, a finding ad is placed in the paper. This tells the child's approximate (or possibly known - if there was some kind of note) birthdate, where they were found, what date they were found, their sex and any "characteristics of the body". This is to give the parents an opportunity to reclaim their child. I'm guessing this is a very rare event. Sometimes when you meet your child in China the orphanage will give you a copy of their finding ad. When ours did not I contacted someone who obtains finding ads for families who have adopted.

We have so little of Cadence's first 16 months of life. The original 4 pictures from her referral, the 20 pictures from the camera I sent to the orphanage, and the memory book that her nannies made for her. Anything we can get so that she will know a little of her past is so important. I had someone ask me once if we would tell her she was abandoned. Cadence will have so many questions about her life before us that I can't imagine keeping anything from her. As difficult as the knowledge may be, it is her past and will shape the person she becomes. Although I am happy to have a small piece of her life, my heart breaks that it is her story. I cried when I opened the paper and I cried as I looked at each of the 17 children listed. I pray that each of them will find themselves in a parent's loving arms soon. I cried when I saw that she had "nothing" listed under "items found with her". I pray that her birth parents somehow sense that she is safe, warm, and loved now. When she is old enough we will look at this together and I pray that as she grows she will be at peace with her story.

Cadence is in the middle.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I bought these stocking hangers over 8 years ago and prayed that one day we would fill them. So happy that this year the dog's doesn't take up the "E"!

The Christmas spread.

Here are my pretty and sometimes super silly girls before church! Cadence cracks herself up!

We had a wonderful "first Christmas" as our family of 5! A fabulously relaxing day of gift giving, karaoke singing, and family snuggling! Sierra and Laurel waited until our 7:30 wake-up time to get us and Cadence up. Cadence's "big" present was an adorable pink chair. She loves to sit in/on things her size and I have always wanted to get one of these for the kids. Regardless of how many stools or boxes she sits on, she is underwhelmed by the chair! I think the cats have enjoyed it more! Cadence mostly observed the gift opening in the morning. I think she was still a little tired.

Sierra got Playstation 3's SingStar Dance and she has not done much else except perfect her Lady GaGa impersonation since then. Great! I'm wishing that there was a more age appropriate version for her, but we'll monitor as we go. She loves it though and Cadence "sings" into the microphone every chance she gets. One of Laurel's favorite gifts was an art set from her gramma. Girlfriend loves to draw!

Never thought I'd hear Brad singing Soulja Boy!
Cadence perfects her pitch!

We had our wonderful french toast casserole then lounged around watching Christmas shows. Eventually we all snuggled into our bed for lots of giggling and laughing. The feeling of love and warmth was my favorite gift of the day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First snow!

I'm from Ohio. I'm used to having snow dumped on us and looking at it for months until it finally melts away. I moved to Virginia to get away from that. Until last year, generally we'd get a dusting of snow or a couple of inches and it would be gone the next day or two. Then the snow insanity of 2009/2010 hit! Three huge snow storms shut the area down for weeks, power was out for days, people were stranded in cars overnight, and the snow stayed. We waged bets on when Mt.Chipotle would melt (the HUGE snowpile in the shopping center parking lot). I predicted my birthday, April 28th, and was only off by a few days. It was madness! And a fluke, I hoped!

We got our first snowfall last week. The kids had two snow days and we had a ball sledding. I'm sure Cadence saw her share of snow out the window in Inner Mongolia, but considering that they like their children sweltering hot in China, I'm doubtful she ever got to see the white stuff up close. I'm not sure if she was unsure about the snow or her outfit ("I can't put my arms down!" kept running through my head!) but she warmed up quickly and joined in the fun!

What is this stuff? And you want me to do what with it, Mom?!

This is kinda like a rickshaw!

I think I got this now!

Sierra making me nervous. Cadence LOVING the sledding!!!
Hearing the kids laugh and play in the snow makes me think it's ok if it snows again... one more time this year!

These are a few of my favorite things!

Reynaldo, our "Elf on the shelf" makes his first appearance in our Christmas tree!

The first ornament after Brad and I got married. Who knew this is where we'd be 10 years down the road!

I love looking at our tree! There are handmade ornaments from the kids as well as ones from my childhood. My first priority in the morning is to turn the lights on and they stay on all day. Due to the late appearance of the tree this year it may stay up a little extra late!

Definitely 3 of my most favorite things!!

Our gingerbread village - or the gingerbread ghetto as it's come to be known around here!

Of all the Santa's that we happened upon, this is the only one with all 3 girls. Cadence is very skeptical about the big guy!

All I want for Christmas...

Yes, she gets to sing it! Laurel has lost her two front teeth just in time to sing the song! After losing the first one a week ago she's been actively wiggling the other one just for this occasion. We've had the Tooth Fairy and an Elf wandering through our house at night this month! Laurel has always been "cute". Tiny button nose, sweet little voice, gentle nature. Generally, just cute! (I'm a little biased, but most people agree!) And now her two front teeth are gone and soon to come are some over-sized, too big for her little face, type of teeth. She will grow into them, which means, she will grow up. For some reason this makes me profoundly sad. I love to watch my children grow, but on the other hand I desperately don't want them to grow up. I want them to become competent, independent beings, but I don't want them to not need me. Such is the juxtaposition of being a parent. When I tell Laurel not to grow up she blames me. She says that I make her eat her vegetables. With perfect reasoning, she simply tells me not to make her eat her veggies and then she won't grow up. I'm considering it!


With the move and all it's been a little challenging, but I think I've finally gotten into the spirit of Christmas! Reynaldo, our "Elf on the Shelf" made his first appearance on December 8th. We had our tree up by December 14th and I got Cadence her "First Christmas" ornament a few days after that. My friend brought me a huge container of cookies to indulge in and I finished Cadence's stocking to hang by the fireplace. Alas, none of these made me feel the excitement and anticipation that usually starts right around Thanksgiving.

The Mommy Guilt was creeping in. How could I not be over the moon excited about Cadence's first Christmas? I should be making this one of the best experiences of her life, right? We should have pictures coming out the wazoo of good times and cheer. But I wasn't feeling it. Cadence has been minimally interested in the tree (probably a good thing!) and she has not been a fan of Santa (not unexpected). We've bought less presents due a big "family gift" of a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. I've only used a portion of my Christmas decorations since most are packed away in the garage. We are in a different house, one that is not our own. We haven't seen Brad much due to extra time in the OR and to top it off I have been facing a long, four day stretch at work. (When it's 12 hour days they are pretty consuming.)

I am at the end of the stretch and finally, 3 days before Christmas, finally, feeling like it's the holidays! I anticipate baking a few cookies and wrapping all of the presents in the next day or so. Brad and I will enjoy our longest stretch of days off together since Cadence's surgery. The kids are out of school and things will shut down for a couple of days. I'm planning on excessive time in pajamas, curling up on the couch with the kids, watching "Polar Express" and "A Christmas Story". We will be lazy and overindulgent with the cookies and hot chocolate. The kids are anxious for their sleepover under the tree. If we're lucky, we may sleep in a bit! We will open gifts with excitement and watch each other opens the things we have given them with even more excitement. And we will be surrounded in the love of our family. While the excitement was slow to come, I hope that this is what Cadence feels the most... the love of our family!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moving and Growing

Cadence is growing and moving! She is in constant motion it seems. Always running here and there, getting in to everything... she never stops! Cadence loves to look at books. Well, she loves to look at one page of each book! She's happy to sit with 3 different toys and alternate playing with all of them. I'll view this as toddlerhood vs. ADHD at this point! She is definitely growing, though. At her 19 month check-up this month we found that she has grown 2 inches since she came home in September. Probably due to decreased eating after her cleft palate surgery, she has only gained 10 oz, but we were very pleased with her growth!

Our family is moving - not growing, though. We are definitely done growing! Our family of 5 feels like the perfect size for us. But we have moved out of our home of the past 7 years. We are currently living in a rental and hoping that they will break ground on our new home soon. The rental is set up with our furniture and our Christmas decorations, but I think I've had the hardest time adjusting out of everyone! I still feel like a visitor in someone else's house. It feels a little odd to walk around so casually in my pajamas, let alone trying to sleep in the "master bedroom". When someone knocks on the door I feel like I should answer "We don't live here"! The kids all seem to love the house and the novelty of being somewhere new. I think a few more family movie nights and pancake breakfasts will leave it feeling like it's our temporary "home" instead of "house".

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Giving Thanks

We have so much to be thankful for this year! Brad finished grad school and started working. We have sold our home and will start building a new one soon. Sierra and Laurel are healthy and happy and thriving. And Cadence... where do we begin to give thanks here? We are thankful that her surgery went well and that she has bonded so amazingly with all of us. We are grateful that we made it to China and back with her in our arms. I won't bore you with the details, but around the time of Cadence's referral there were a lot of "near misses". By this I mean all of those little details that happen - or don't happen. Those tiny events in life that put you in the right place at the right time. The way situations unfold that you have no control over or even want to have control over, but if they didn't happen exactly as they did, your life could be completely different. There were a lot of "near misses" and if a few circumstances had been just a tiny bit different, we might not be giving Cadence her first bite of turkey this Thanksgiving! We might not watch her balance her bowl on her head then laugh and clap in delight! We might not be watching her blow kisses for the first time! So for those "near misses" that ironed out just right - we are forever thankful!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Honoring First Families

When Cadence came into our lives I developed a new hobby. Blogs. Occasionally it has been a slight addiction - particularly on a slow night shift at 3am. I've said "If you have been to China or are planning to go to China soon, I know a lot about you!" due to my frequent blog-stalking! While I love following people's journey, what I crave the most from these blogs is knowledge. I'm always looking for insight into the process. Initially I wanted to know, what will China be like? How do children react on Gotcha Day and the first few days and weeks afterwards? What helps them to feel more comfortable? Where is the best place to get squeaky shoes?!

As time goes on, the answers that I am seeking evolve. What will help Cadence adapt to her new life? How can I help her feel secure in her place in our family? Will there be things that she is thinking about or feeling that I may not even realize? What do I need to think about as she gets older and processes her adoption on a more mature level?

So, I continue to blog-stalk! I have found some wonderful stories and insight in the process. I am so thankful for these people who have chosen to allow strangers to read about their triumphs and heartache, their victories and their struggles, and the highs and lows of their daily life. I hope that reading these stories will help make me a better parent and person. Below is a link to a blog about adoptive families honoring their child's first family. I have thought about this a lot when people ask me if/how we will tell Cadence that she was abandoned. When people ask how someone could do that to their child. While I could never imagine abandoning my child, I don't think that Cadence's mother is a terrible person. I don't know why she did it or how she felt, but I do know that she gave us a beautiful, happy, headstrong, silly little girl. And for this I will always be grateful.

National Adoption Month: Honoring First Families

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No rest for the weary!

We are almost 3 weeks out from Cadence's surgery and she is doing fabulous! Back to eating and sleeping normally and generally she's the happy, silly, playful little girl we love so much! She will have her lip repaired at the end of December or beginning of January. Although we are bummed that she has to go through another recovery we do love that smile! A friend made sweet comment the other day that she hopes to see Cadence before her next surgery because "...the smiles of cleft kids really light up the room!"
Last weekend we celebrated Laurel's 6th birthday! It's so cliche but so true... where has the time gone?! Laurel had a Spa Party and the 7 friends that joined her all had a ball! We painted nails, relaxing facial masks with foot massages, made body glitter and bath salts, and topped it off with a Princess cake. The best part was playing "Put the lipstick on Daddy"! I think it was one of my favorite birthday parties we have had!

Cadence was baptized today! It was a beautiful service and our pastor did a wonderful job of involving Sierra and Laurel in the baptism too. No tears from Cadence although I think she wanted to hop in the water to play. We had family and friends over to celebrate her day with us. It was a very special day!

We have a contract on our house now with a closing date of December 7th. Yikes! I haven't packed a single box yet! I must be in denial or truly hate packing (probably a combination of the two!). We plan to move into a rental until our new home is built. I am sad to be leaving this house. When we first saw the model in the Parade of Homes it felt like a dream home for us. We built it and got everything we wanted in a house. And then we moved in and made it our home. Sierra was only a year old. We have brought two children into our family here. We've rocked our babies to sleep here, we've watched our kids celebrate many "firsts", we've celebrated many holidays and birthdays and had many good meals with good friends and family. I know that we will always have these memories, but I am sad to be leaving the walls that hold them. Much love has grown under this roof. But now we will look forward to the future. To a new "dream home" as well as a a barn and farm animals too! We will build new memories there and our love will continue to grow wherever we are. We are blessed!

Great documentary~

I'm sure a lot of adoptive families have already seen this, but if you haven't it is a very good documentary. It aired while we were in China so I have just gotten around to seeing it (and it's only online til Nov. 30th, so hurry and watch it!). I will never know what went through Cadence's head and how she felt those first few days and weeks that she was with us. It's very insightful to watch an 8 year old girl who is being adopted from China transform from a scared, frustrated, confused little girl into the happiness at the end. This documentary was both heart-breaking and heart-warming... one that I don't think I will ever forget.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home from the hospital

We got home from the hospital yesterday and Cadence is doing well. She hates her "armies" (I don't call them no-no's with her because I don't want her to associate them with doing something wrong) but usually tolerates me putting them on when we need to. She never seems to be in "pain", just seems "off" a lot of the time - not her usual silly, happy self. Eating has become a struggle but it's hard to tell if it's because she's hurting or a small power struggle. I've found that if I distract her (give her some toys on her tray) while trying to feed her it goes more smoothly. I'm breaking two big meal rules : no toys at the table and no eating when you're distracted (ie. eating in front of the TV). But I'm breaking lots of rules right now, just to get us through the day - and night for that matter! Cadence is not doing well being unable to suck on her thumb/blanket to soothe herself to sleep. She was awake every 30-45 minutes last night until I finally brought her into bed with me where she slept for 5 hours. Since I am such a light sleeper I've never been able to have any of the kids in our bed at night! We may have some "re-training" to do after this is all said and done, but we do what we have to do for now.
Pics include the going home fashion, right after surgery, and Cadence after she got versed!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surgery day

Today was the big day! We headed out bright and early - ok, not so bright at 5:30am - to the hospital. Cadence was pretty suspicious of, oh, everyone until she got some happy juice (versed) while waiting to go to the OR. She then became her typical silly and engaging self as she took Brad's OR hat off and on! Brad carried her back to the room and she was under fairly quickly. A nurse in the OR called us every hour or more to update us (it's nice to have connections!). Dental filled her cavity and took x-rays, then she had her ear tubes placed and a hearing test done. All of that went well with good results. Her palate repair took about 2 hours and by then her lip was too swollen to fix. We'll come back in a couple of months to do that.

I had already been up to the Peds ICU and knew that my good friend, Julia, would be Cadence's nurse. She texted me after she got report from the OR and let us know when to come back. The first nurse that saw us said "She's feisty!". Oh, yes!! I predicted that she would wake with a vengance. They had given her same pain meds before we got back that knocked her out for a few hours. By 4pm, though, she was awake and not too happy. My parents and the girls came to say hello and Cadence was a little overstimulated. Laurel drew a sweet picture of Cadence in the hospital bed and me standing next to it crying. (She's not far off!) She slept in my arms off and on for the next 4 hours. Brad headed home since he has to work tomorrow. My friend, Michelle, is her night shift nurse and we just got Cadence settled for now.

It's been a challenging afternoon but nothing unexpected. I hope she feels up to eating tomorrow... the sooner she does that the sooner we can get home! While it feels quite strange to be on the other side of the bed as a parent rather than the caregiver, I am happy to be in a place where I know that everyone is looking out for her!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lots of firsts!

We celebrated our first holiday as a family - Halloween! I had an adorable ladybug costume for Cadence, but then realized that it was for a 9-12 month old child, aka one who isn't walking. It would have fit but Cadence would not have been happy with bulky padded feet when she couldn't walk! Last minute I found the perfect costume. The superhero that she is, Cadence wore a "Super Cutie" costume, complete with a cape! She rocked it!
Laurel fit into Sierra's old glittery red shoes and decided to be Dorothy which was perfect since we still had the costume that Sierra wore. The outfit was completed when we petsat Tupelo and were able to take their picture together. I real, live Toto (she's a Yorkie, but close enough!
Sierra has wanted to be Harry Potter since she started reading the series this summer. Due to the chaos of the year I was a little behind ordering her outfit and worried that it wouldn't get here in time, but it did!

We carved pumpkins. Laurel drew the faces on hers and Cadence's and insisted that Cadence's pumpkin have a cleft lip. I love that she thinks that Cadence's cleft is so special that it's carve-worthy! We all attended a couple of Halloween parties and trick-or-treated on the 31st. The McDaniel's joined us for the 7th year in a row, which I loved! It's amazing to see the big kids running house to house and remembering that we used to pull them in a wagon and carry them up to the houses! We had 2 other families join us... it was quite the crew! The kids kept some of their candy but left some out for the Great Pumpkin (aka - me!) for which they received a small toy. They also decided to send some of it to the military overseas.
Now we prepare for Cadence's first surgery. She is first case in the OR tomorrow for dental work, skin tag removal, ear tubes, and then her cleft palate and lip surgery. The plastic surgeon estimated she may be in the OR for 5 or 6 hours. The last thing to be done is her lip and if she is too swollen he isn't going to repair it right now. She would have to go back in a couple of months to repair her lip. I've been so focused on the recovery period that I really haven't thought too much about the actual surgery... until now! Brad is planning to walk back to the OR with her and then we'll wait. Wish us all luck! I know everything will be fine, but I'm a momma... it will be a rough day for all of us!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Today was Cadence's first day with a babysitter. We've found a very sweet girl named Katie who is actually willing to come to our houst at 5:30am when Brad leaves for work and I am still at the hospital for night shift. Brad and I have primarily opposite schedules, so we probably won't have to use her much. Today we had to get the basement repainted (our house is on the market) so Katie watched Cadence while I slept and Brad painted.

Katie is very easy going and engaging with the girls. She had no problem coming in and really just taking over care for the kids. Cadence seemed to enjoy her time with Katie and only cried a bit when I went up to bed. Unfortunately, Cadence's anxiety seems to have surfaced tonight. She ususally goes to bed very easily but tonight she cried everytime I walked out of the room. Oh, how I wish she could talk!! I imagine something like this is going through her head:

"That girl was nice, but the last time I was handed to a complete stranger (Brad and me) I never saw everyone that I had lived with for the last year. Is that what they are planning on again?"

Poor kid! I know she will adjust and this will be a part of her/our lives, but talk about some Mommy Guilt!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Unsolicited kisses...

My heart is still melting from this one! I read Cadence her usual book ("Counting Doggies" by Sandra Boynton) and sang her a song ("Hush Little Baby"). She has leaning into me like she does after I turn out the lights and turn on her star turtle. Suddenly she leaned back and looked at me very intently. I said "I love you, baby" and she leaned in for a sweet kiss! Then she pressed her head against my chest and said "Ah, ah, ah". From the inflections in her tone, I'm going to consider it an "I love you". Oh, how did we get so lucky?!

Monday, October 18, 2010

We have a date!

Just a quick note to let you all know that we have a date... Novemeber 2nd is when Cadence's surgery is scheduled. We are happy that she will get to have her first Halloween and hopefully be recovered (mostly) by Thanksgiving. Probably no turkey for her, but mashed potatoes will do! Besides having her cleft lip and palate repaired she will also have ear tubes placed, dental work done, and the "skin tag" on her neck removed. Interestingly, it's not just a skin tag... it's actually the same type of tissue that forms the ear (cartilage and all!). It should be just as easy to remove though. More details later!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


These are a little late, but some people have asked about Cadence's room. Sierra and Laurel used the same crib bedding, but I sold that a few years ago and was happy to buy Cadence new bedding. I was searching for polka dots and found a great deal on her bedding online! I already loved the sage green color that was in the 4th bedroom and found that it would match well with the new crib set. The bumper and quilt have green, brown, and pink polka dots on one side and an adorable bird print on the other. I already had a "family tree" from years past (it's from Hallmark, where you put your family's pictures on it) so that seemed fitting to stay in the room. My friend, Kristi, painted some fabulous pictures that match the bedding too! The room is small, so only a small book shelf, dresser, and rocking glider could comfortably fit. The "China" box next to the bookshelf was made about a year ago. The girls were always bringing things home or drawing pictures for the "China girl" so I made something to hold it all! And the giraffe was made by my grandfather for my brother. It has been taking up space in my parents' basement, so we figured we should get it out for the last of the grandkids. All in all, it's simple and sweet!

Monday, October 11, 2010


I have known a lot of doctors throughout my career and have a few favorite names: Dr. Love (a cardiologist) and Dr. Doctor (pediatric intensivist). Soon we will come to know Dr. Horribly... aptly, an orthodontist (ok so it's spelled "Horbaly" but I think the former is more fitting!). Cadence has been to 4 different doctors since we've been home. Her general pediatrician, the plastic surgeon, the ENT, and the dentist. Tomorrow we will head to the International Adoption Clinic.

We've been told that she will probably have at least 3 to 4 surgeries from a plastics standpoint. The ENT said that kids with clefts generally have 3 sets of tubes placed. She will most likely have braces placed when she is 6'ish and keep them on until she is 18 or 19. So I think we will come to know Dr. Horribly very well.

I had thought that she would have her lip repaired this month or so and then wait 6 months to have her palate done. The surgeon said that because she is 17 months and so close to developing her speech, he wants to repair her palate now. I wasn't quite ready for this and all it entails. Four weeks of soft foods, no-no's on her arms so she can't put anything in her mouth (including her blanket and thumb to sooth herself to sleep), the pain and discomfort of a big surgery. I was hoping to delay all of this for at least a few months. But I trust the surgeon and know it's better to only have anesthesia once (for now), so I guess this is the road we will journey down now. He hopes to have her scheduled for the beginning of November. Since I will want to be home for her recovery I am headed back to work this week for a few shifts here and there. I'll post more when we have a date.

Everything else is going wonderfully! Things continue to be baseline busy and Cadence is adjusting well to it all. She went for her first long hike this weekend and first Virginia wine tasting (of course, she didn't taste, but she enjoyed the picnic)! I don't seem to get much done around the house during her waking hours which is why I'm signing off now... I'll be getting up before the sun to fit my workout in! I'll post some pics tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home one month!

How time flies! Realized that I never posted our first family picture! (Keep in mind that 4 out of the 5 in this picture had been up for 24 hours!)

Laurel insisted that Cadence wear blue pants and a pink top to match. However, Cadence didn't tolerate a tiara!


All of your childrens' "firsts" are special and memorable. The difference this time is that I get to watch Cadence react to her "firsts" in a much different way than my other girls. Not only am I watching her enjoy (or not!) some of her first experiences, I also get to learn her responses and expressions for a "first" myself. Although she has probably done it all before, I love that it's the "first time I've seen her make that face" or "first time I've heard her make that noise". So even though I missed out on the first 16 months of her life, when she does something new it is a special "first" for me.

Some "firsts" in the last week:
First Old Farm Day (including seeing llamas, a barrel ride, and a short hike in the woods)

First bonfire smores (ok, so she only got the graham crackers, but she watched us all eat the smores!)
First party in her honor (thank you, Kristi, for my wonderful shower and thank you to all of my friends and family who came)

First trip to the beach (ok, lake, but it has sand and water, so it counts!)
And I got to watch her enjoy them all!