Our soon to be daughter was 4 and 3 months of age. She had lived a lifetime without a parent literally from hours after her birth until this day. They told us to wait she wasn't there yet when we arrived. Wait. That's what we've been doing for the past 6 months since we first saw her face in a photograph. Waiting. The funny thing is I'm a photographer and I know even the best picture is just a picture capturing of the quickest moment in time and it doesn't come close to tell you the context surrounding that smile.
Then there she was holding the hand of her guide that brought her by train that day to us. She walked across the room to a side office and all I could help but notice was this lost look on her face. Unsure of everything. Nothing was bad or good. I had enough time to turn on the camera thinking I could actually record something. But within moments she was being shoved towards us. Lost and unsure. She was in a city that spoke Mandarin and she didn't. The guide was soon gone. Then she saw Grant's sucker (thank you Jesus for Dum-Dums!) and she smiled. Food and sugar are an international language all it's own!
It's crazy good to think of how far she and we have come in one year. One year ago we were Mama and Baba (Daddy). Those were our names without any meaning of trust, security, or unconditional love. She had no clue of this thing we humans and even the animal kingdom call family. It meant nothing to her. She would literally gravitate to the sweet things in life. (Random Chinese people carry a LOT of candy in their purses!)
I was never so glad to be home and start the crazy and at times super frustrating process of molding and shaping this child into our daughter who now a year later laughs like we laugh, sings like we sing, dances to the tune of our music. She knows what we expect and when things are not right. She knows now why she's in trouble and sometimes purposefully chooses to be ornery for the fun of it or because her brother does it.
She is strong and getting stronger. She is also strong willed too so she fits right in with our crew. She has SO MANY why questions and all of them need answers! She knows all of her Uppercase letters and most of the sounds they make. She has learned to share and that it is ok if we say no and that we still love her. She has learned that being grumpy doesn't get her what she wants. She has learned Jesus Love Me and that he can live in her heart...but she has a way to go to completely understand that concept. Although I have no doubt that is why God "made a way where there was NO way for her to hear about him".
Caroline will be starting Pre-K next year and is so excited after watching Jack go in and out of that class all last year. She still mimics everything and is learning like a sponge. She even has taught herself the American Crawl swim stroke from observing it in the stands at Savannah's lessons the past two months. (Don't throw her in- breathing while swimming is a whole other concept!)
I think the biggest challenge as her parents is to talk, encourage, discipline, teach, and help her because even though her vocabulary is robust and expanding daily she uses her words with routine and not out of understanding the concept of what is being said. It took us a while to grasp this. We recently had her tested in speech and communication skills for the start of school next year. Her current age is 5 yr 3 months and she is understanding at a 4 year old level but her recall or ability to communicate her thoughts is at about 2.5 years. This makes so much sense!!! It just takes time! Every month is so much better than the last and she is expected to catch up quickly!
Some of her most difficult words to learn were color words. She could repeat them easily but it became apparent she didn't have the concept of color. She didn't have a parent sitting with her as an infant reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear over and over again.
We are so proud of Caroline and so so thankful for the privilege of being her parents. She is incredibly sweet and loving and is making up for all the hugs and kisses she missed out on those first four years. You bring so much joy to our lives! So Happy Gotcha Day Sweet Caroline Joy! We LOVE you, Mama and Baba (Daggy) :)
Caroline's Gotcha Day Video: