Thursday, February 28, 2013

One Month

Today marks one month that Olivia has been forever ours.  One month ago Hui Juan became Olivia Tinsman Sund.   I feel so emotional today, just as I remember feeling when my other two babies turned one month old.  Except, she is 15 months which means we lost 14 months with this joy filled child.  I will forever savour each moment and each first with her knowing that we lost so many.

One month ago we were handed a child who was scared, shut down, screaming and far too tiny for her age.  She looked at us with deep eyes obviously trying to figure out who we were.  She clung to me tightly not out of love but, out of fear.  When she would wake she looked at me, screamed and stiffened her body in protection. 

At the time we were too overwhelmed seeing her so scared to feel emotional.  Looking back on these pictures of our daughter and remembering those first moments is absolultely heart breaking.

 Her stiff little body breaks my heart.  Bottle snuggles are now her favorite.

We spent 10 days in China dedicated solely to getting to know our new daughter and teaching her what it meant to be loved unconditionally.  We watched her slowly let down her guard and we began to see her personality emerge. 

It wasn't until we were home that our true joy filled daughter emerged.  Our home is now filled with more giggles, more smiles, more hugs and kisses.  We truly believe that she knows we are hers, and she is ours.  A few mornings ago Olivia was drinking her bottle in bed between us and after just a couple of sucks she stopped to give dada a kiss, then mama and repeat.  It is now her daily routine to pretend to be asleep while I am rocking her only to look up and give me kiss after kiss.  Each day we fall deeper in love with our daughter and the same happens for her.  She lights up when Kyrie and Brooks are in the room.  And they think she's pretty great too. 

Somebody is starting to take his role of big brother very seriously.

I can say without any hesitation that this journey has blessed us more than we have blessed her.  Olivia has taught us so much about letting go and letting God.  She has taught us to be patient, to love even when it's hard, and how to help heal a broken heart.  Watching how far she has come has taught us so much about God's grace.  In China we never could have imagined that our child would be running around laughing, throwing temper tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants and be freely acting like the 14 month old she is. 

I pray that Olivia's story is a testimony of God's role in adoption.  It is my hope that some one will hear her story and will act on the nudge that they have heard from the Lord about adoption.  There are so many children left behind in China and all over the world that need a family.  Yes, Olivia was loved in her orphanage.  But, that love is nothing like the love of a mother and father, a sister and a brother.  I am confident based on her sad eyes in all of the pictures that we have of her orphanage life that she never felt joy before.  Now her eyes scream JOY.  She is now free to be the child God created her to be.  So if you feel God even whispering in your ear, take the leap.  I promise you won't regret it.  He will meet you every step of the way.  If it's financial concerns, he's got it.  If you worry you won't love an adopted child the same.  I promise you will!  If it's time, yes the wait is hard but, so worth it. 

Sisters!  They already have a very special bond.
This is our neighbor Brooke.  She fell in love with Olivia them moment she met her in the cul de sac just days after she came home.  These two are little mommies.
This is Olivia's typica I'm running so fast I am going to topple over.  Luckily her helpers were there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


The Lord has met us at every corner of this process.  Today, he showed his favor once again.

The week we returned home from China we learned via a facebook group that our adoption agency was going out of business.  Yes, you read that right.  Our agency neglected to include us in the email that notified it's clients of their bankruptcy.  Due to their closing, we are now transferred to a new agency for our 5 years of post placement paperwork.  Our previously paid post placement fees are null and void which means we now owe more money to the new agency.  Of course this was very upsetting and disappointing to us.  However, through it all we have counted our blessings.  There are families who are now waiting an additional month plus to get their children home.  I could not imagine the heart ache those families are going through.  We are praising God every day that Olivia is home with us and the agency closing had no effect on our timeline to her.

However, the money is a reality and we have been dreading having to hand over more payments just when we felt like that part was all over.  Of course in God's perfect timing, just after the notification of our agency closing occurred, we received a grant application from our amazing church Forest Hill.  They have a newly offered adoption grant and our family had the opportunity to be one of the first to apply.

With less than 24 hours to process our application, WE WERE APPROVED!  We were given the maximum allowed grant and now our financial concerns have been once again removed.

We are forever thankful first to our God for meeting our needs every step of this process but, also to our church home who has supported us along this journey not just financially but in prayer and tangible support as well.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" Philippeans 4:19

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Change is hard.  This was our first week alone as a family of 5.  Oma (Brad's mom) was here for our first full week home.   She was a good distraction especially for our little man who is going through a huge change as he moves from baby to big brother.  We saw a bit of regression when Oma was here but, this week it has taken on a whole new level.  Big brother is trying to find his role and is acting out big time.  We are seeking wisdom through prayer on how to best handle his new unkind behaviors.  They are of course being disciplined but, mostly we are bathing him in love.  We are being intentional to give snuggles, praise and one on one time. 

Daddy took Brooks on a date so we had girl time.  Olivia enjoyed dipping her first popsicle in the bubbles.  I don't think she ever even tasted it.

I told Brad the other night that I never imagined the hard part of our transition home being the big kids.  Kyrie did have a couple of rough days but, she has really adapted beautifully.  Olivia is a dream.  She fits in completely and is 100% comfortable in her home.  She runs around squealing and giggling in delight.  Our favorite time of the day is after bath when she runs around naked and gets going so fast she topples right over.  It is amazing to see her let go of her anxiety and just be the joyful child that she was created to be. 

She was sent this toy by her great Aunt and Uncle Barry and Whitney.  She loves it!

Our sweet pea had her first set of blood work this week.  She took it like a champ.  She cried because she did not want to be held down.  Once the needle was out the crying stopped and she was our sweet happy baby once more.  After the blood work I ran to the baby store for another crib sheet.  I let her walk in the store.  Bad move.  The child is a hurricane.  She ran through the store tearing everything off the shelves.  I got her first temper tantrum as she fell in love with a monkey and would not put it down. Yes, I caved and bought it for her.  

Little hurricane has a bit of a naughty side and loves her brother and sister's reactions.  Driving home from gymnastics this week Olivia bit a whole in her sippy cup and quickly realized if she shook it water would go everywhere.  Oh boy did she love the other kids yelling "It's raining" as she shook water and drenched the car.  Her other favorite thing to do is try to stick her finger in the electric socket, wait for someone to say "no" then clap for herself proudly.  Yes, baby proofing is on the agenda this weekend. 

We are loving life with our precious girl.  We couldn't love her any more and we just keep marveling in the fact that she has been ours for less than a month.  We can hardly remember life without her.

 So in love with this face!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snow Day!

We don't get snow too often in our area.  In fact last year we didn't get any at all.  We have been teased by the weather reports a few time already this season.  Finally, yesterday afternoon around 4:30 we looked out our window to see beautiful huge snowflakes falling from the sky.  The kids quickly ran upstairs for their gear and we headed out to play.
They LOVED it.  They first thing they both did was make snow angels.  Then we walked up the street and ran into some friends outside playing.  They rolled up and down the hill and got as wet as possible.   We had to drag them in after about an hour because poor Olivia had had enough.  Smart girl stayed bundled in a blanket in her momma's arms and didn't get down to play much at all.

I think this is one of the prettiest pictures I have of my big girl.  (Thanks Mindy)

This is the "I'm emotional about becoming a big brother and cry about everything" face.  We would appreciate prayers for his little heart.

The next morning Brad took the kids out sledding while I fed Olivia breakfast.  Brooks came in after just a few minutes because he was melting down.  His sleep has been very poor since we got home and he needed to go back to bed.  I took the girls out (isn't it fun that I can say "the girls")?  Ky loved pulling Olivia in the sled and Olivia giggled and giggled.  She did not want her feet to touch the snow though.


 Less than 24 hours later and most of the snow is melted.  We sure did have fun while it lasted.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Out take 1: Pre-lollipop

I guess the key to a pic of all 3 is candy

Reflections on 1 week Home

I'm not gonna lie. Our first 5 days home were ROUGH. We were exhausted beyond belief and there is no sleep wen he baby sleeps with 3 little kids at home. Our first 3-4nights home Olivia was averaging 2-4 hrs of broken sleep. She would only sleep on my chest and went back to her night time grieving. Sweet heart was an angel during the day. This was our light in our sleep deprived state. She absolutely adores Brooks and Kyrie and they love her just a much. We could just sit back and watch the 3 of them interact. We have been waiting for this or so long.

Night 5 Olivia slept until 6:30 am. She was up and down through the night but we finally woke rested. Night 7 was even better. She slept in her crib 6 hrs!!! This is a record. She hasn't stayed in her bed this long since her 2nd might with us in China. I consider this an attachment victory. She is feeling safe that we aren't going anywhere. Poor babe woke up with a fever and started her day with a bottle and Sesame Street at 5:00am. Thankfully we have a doctors appointment today anyway

So it's not all about sleep. Olivia has made other huge strides since coming home just under a week ago. Thanks to Brooks and Ky she now loves bath time. My floor and walls are soaking from 3 kids splashing. She is now secure enough to allow me to shower without completely melting down. She wanders the house happily with frequent check ins to make sure I'm around. It's a huge step that she freely lets me out of sight. Her attachment is growing in that she refuses food from Kyrie and will only eat from Brad or I. She now seems to be slowing down when full. Initially she would eat to the point of vomiting. Brooks taught her to play hide n seek. She idolizes him and he can get her laughing harder than anyone else. Little lady loves kids. She waves to everyone at preschool and loved meeting some new friends in the cul de sac earlier this week. She is just a joy to watch blossom

Words she knows: Hi, dog, dada, mama, Olivia, baba (bottle), signs more (pretty impressive for 2 weeks of English)
Love how she is squatting like a little Asian
 Making huge strides with daddy.  Pulled on his pants to pick her up here.
Sweet sisters

Horrible pic but had to document the first happy bath

Update: We went to the doctor and Olivia is in perfect health.  She weighs 17.5 pounds which doesn't even place her on an American growth chart.  She is in the 10% for height.  On the Chinese growth chart she is in the 50% for both height and weight.  We have to take her later this week for blood work. 
 Can you tell we play a lot of dress up around here?


Friday, February 8, 2013

Our journey home

We started our travels home on Tues at 5:30 when our train left Guangzhou to Hong Kong. It was an adventure for sure. The train station was absolutely packed because of Chinese New Year. People were sleeping everywhere as they waited on connecting trains to their home village.
Once on the train I was overcome with Nausea and quickly realized I was being affected by whatever Brad had. I took a Zophran and suffered through it. We arrived at our hotel at 9:30 pm and went straight to bed

I woke up vomiting the next morning knowing that our 14 hr flight left in just a few hours. I took another zophran and prayed. Once at the airport we waited over an hour for boarding passes. They had to be hand written because of a printer issue. We made it to security and found that the date was handwritten wrong on the ticket so we had to go back to the ticket counter. Meanwhile I was on the verge of passing out or throwing up.

Checking out the plane that is going to take her across the world to her new home.

We made it to our gate with 20 mins to spare. The flight was okay considering we had a 14 month old with us. She slept about 8 hrs total and ate the rest of the time because that was the only way to keep her happy. I kept a steady stream of zophran in me. It was about an hour before landing when Olivia and I woke up. I realized I was very dehydrated and thought I was going to pass out. All I could do was pray. By the grace is God we made it off the plane, through immigration and onto the next flight. We found some Gatorade in Chicago which helped tremendously.

When we landed in Charlotte we were overwhelmed with emotions. Seeing my babies was the best feeling in the world. We walked own the escalator to a sea of familiar faces. At that moment our fatigue and illness seemed much more minor. We got home and loved watching the kids play. Olivia is already idolizing Kyrie and Brooks surprised us completely with how well he is handling the role of big brother. He is constantly rubbing his sister's back and hugging her while calling her "sweetie".

We are now hunkering down at home and praying for sleep as our little one has her days and nights confused. I will do a post with airport pictures in a few days and continue to update through our transition home.
Thank you to all who have continued to check in on us. It means the world.

Monday, February 4, 2013

China Day 9

Today was a big day. It was our US Consulate appointment. It marks the end of this long 9 month journey  to Olivia. The oath we took was in a group along with a least 15 other families. Despite the lack of formality I became overwhelmed with emotion during the ceremony. It was amazing to me to think that last week Olivia was an orphan and today she has, "all the gifts and privileges of an American citizen". She won't actually be a citizen until we land in Chicago. One of my favorite parts of this tip has been meeting other families and hearing their stories. It was beautiful watching them in the Consulate today and seeing how far many of them have come since Gotcha Day.

Olivia in her red white and blue outside of the Consulate
We are with our guide Helen. We actually had a different guide, also Helen for our first 5 days.  Olivia LOVES this Helen

After our appointment we went to the room so Olivia could nap. Brad and I packed. We leave Guangzhou tomorrow. We are beyond thrilled to get home but wouldn't trade this experience for anything. China is an amazing place and we have learned so much about the culture and life of the country where our daughter was born. 

Please pray or Brad. He continues to struggle with his stomach. He was stuck in the room all afternoon while Olivia and I played on the hotel grounds. I loved meeting even more families on the playground today.  One of the hardest parts of leaving China will be leaving behind this support system of families who are going through the same thing.  This hotel is an amazing place.  So many families and memories are created here each day. 

This may be my last China post.  We leave the hotel tomorrow at 3:00 to go back to the US Consulate for Olivia's visa.  From there we will catch the 5:30 train to Hong Kong.  Our flight leaves the next morning at 11:10 am.  Please pray for traveling mercies and a sleepy baby on the flights.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

China Day 8

We had a fun day at Safari Park.  It is an amazing zoo-like park where one side is a traditional zoo and the other side you ride a tram through to see the animals in their natural environment.  It was amazing to watch and the animals appear very well cared for.  Olivia was more interested in her musical toy, cheerios and napping in the ergo than she was checking out the animals.  Brad and I enjoyed it though and the weather cooled off today which was nice.

Our travel mates

 Kyrie  this is for you.  They are baby Pandas in an incubator

Olivia had her best day yet. She had zero grieving and only fussed when she wanted out of the stroller for a nap in the ergo and when she was hungry. She has been exploring our room and playing independently. She is a little sponge. She now signs "more" and is leaning so many English words and phrases. This afternoon she brought me a sock and I told her to bring it to daddy to put on. She walked right up to him and even sat on his lap without crying. We are so proud of how far our brave girl has come in a little less than a week. 

Someone discovered herself in the mirror today
 She loves her belly button.  I so remember Kyrie being the same way at this age.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

China Day 7

Last night we had food poisoning from Pizza Hut...I know I know why Pizza Hut in China?  We are just a bit over the Chinese food and were craving cheese.  Bad idea.  In addition to the tummy issues, Olivia had an hour or so of intense crying where I could do nothing to soothe her.  Luckily this was after I was sick.  She finally fell back asleep about 10:30 and we all slept until 6:30 which has been a record for length of sleep from Brad and I.  I think we are getting used to the time change just in time to come home.

We were tired this morning from our long night and debated skipping out on the tour that was planned.  But, because we are starting to get homesick we thought it would be good to get out of the room.  We ended up skipping breakfast and having a long skype session with the kids.  They got to watch Olivia run around the room and thought she was so cute.  She tried feeding them her bottle and snacks. 

The tour for the day was to a Buddhist Temple called Six Banyan Temple and to a local Garden.  The Buhdistt emple was very interesting and we enjoyed learning about some of the Chinese culture.  We were offered a blessing for Olivia but, politely declined.  We had a few ladies stop our guide to ask why we were with a Chinese baby.  She explained that we had adopted her (apparently most Chinese people are not aware of adoption).  The ladies looked at us and bowed and told us "Thank you" in Chinese.  If only they knew that we were the ones blessed by this adoption. 

On the way to the Gardens we enjoyed hearing the guide's perspective on the one child policy and how is is affecting China and adoptions in general.  Once we got to the garden we were pleasantly surprised to see it was the season for tulips here and it was decorated in a Dutch theme.  Perfect pictures to send home to

 Someone snoozed through the Gardens

We are learning more and more about our baby girl each day.  Today we learned about her naughty side.  She likes to run up to the electric sockets, put her finger near them, look at us and laugh when we tell her "no".  She is saying more and more words each day.  Today she said over and over "uhhm ahh" for food and drink when she wanted it.  She is trying to say Olivia.  It sounds like "ay yah".  She is becoming more and more independent.  She wandered the room and even let me out of sight on a few occasions.  She also threw a fit when I wouldn't let her use the spoon to feed herself rice cereal. 
Bedtime is usually really hard for Olivia.  She cries a lot and resists falling asleep.  Tonight she fell fast asleep in my arms with no resistance.  When I laid her in the crib she didn't even stir.  She usually ends up in our bed in the middle of the night which we don't mind but, tonight's bed time was great progress that she is feeling more and more secure.

 Serious face
 Walking with daddy
Today we have a specific prayer request.  We are both getting very anxious to be home with our babies, our home, friends and routine.  We ask for prayer as we make it through these last few days away.  We are going into day 4 of no adoption related appointments and it's getting hard.