Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Charming China

Well, everyone!   I can finally blog so I have a lot of catching up to do!

Mike and I arrived in China after a 14 hour flight from Detroit to Beijing.  We arrived and went straight to our hotel and called it a night without dinner and were asleep by 5:30 PM.  The next morning we were up early and got our exercise in.   I only say that for families who are thinking of adopting.  Self care on your trip is super important.  We did very little on our last trip and we are being really good about it this time and it is definitely making a difference.  After a great breakfast we headed out into the streets of Beijing and promptly got lost.  We were blessed to run into a local art teacher who showed us the way to our desired destination and also gave us the heads up about his art school’s art sale.  We dropped by and bought three beautiful prints!

The forbidden city was really cool and also really crazy.  It would be cool of me to go into the history of that place right now but I’m not going to.  If you really want to know, you’ve got google!  This ain’t no history lesson, lazy bones!

The part I will tell you is that it’s insanely huge and insanely crowded.  And there is no order there so if you’d like to see a throne or anything you’re gonna have to get super comfortable with being crushed to death by crowds.  Chinese people are amazing at a lot of things but being polite isn’t one of them. My first attempt at getting to the front failed to yield results but I did laugh uncontrollably trying!

The second time I made it to the front and I truly laughed giddily like I’d won the lottery.  Behold the lackluster photo from that moment.

Since we didn’t realize the immensity of that place and that there’s only one way out and that is by going through the whole place, we were short on time.  In our desire to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible, we decided to hire a motorized rickshaw to take us the mile back to the hotel.  Hindsight is 20/20 and we now realize we should haggled from a price before we got on.  In the end, the driver realized our brains weren’t converting currency very well and charged a $100 U.S. dollars for that 5 minute ride. 
Naive Bliss!

I hope you’re happy, Mister.  I hope you had Peking Duck for dinner with your family.  Jerk!
After we got back we went straight to the airport and Mike and I headed our separate ways.  He went up north to the Laioning province to get Daniel and I went south to the Hubei province to get Eve.  We chose to do it this way to shorten our trip from a month to three weeks even though we weren’t excited to be apart.  Mike and I both arrived in our respective cities of Shenyang and Wuhan that evening and waited anxiously to meet the kids the following morning.  For both of us, being in China this time around is a completely different experience.  We were stressed and overwhelmed and strapped for cash last time but this time we were actually a little nostalgic and sentimental.

***For the next part of my trip I’ll only be able to describe my experience in Wuhan.  Mike will have to jump on and write a post of his own!***

The morning before getting Eve I went out for a walk in the park across from my hotel.  The park is over a dozen miles long on the shoreline of the Yangtze river.  It was super great to stroll along and see so many people out enjoying themselves.  

At any given time in that park you will find people dancing, singing, practicing an instrument, painting, flying a kite, exercising, riding a bike, gambling over poker or mahjong, or just out for a pleasant stroll with their family.  It was really charming and is one of my favorite traits of the Chinese people.  They are outside!  They aren’t all living disconnectedly in their homes but out together having a joint experience.  I don’t really have the words to express it yet but I love being a part of it.  I totally don’t mind all of the staring this time.  I just smile and say, “Ni hao!” and most people smile right on back and say, “Hello!”

Breakfast on the corner.  So cute.

Loved these guys even if they are gambling away their wife's inheritance.

Tai Chi!


Working out in the park!

Flying a kite!


Wuhan was full of pretty trees and greenery but because of the pollution everything is covered in a thick layer of "dust".

This particular morning I made one of my favorite memories.  There was a group of women being led in dance by a very expressive Chinese man in sparkly clothes.  After I watched them dance for a little he seemed particulfly proud and wanted to impress me so he went over to his boom-box and switched the song from traditional chinese music to “Gangam Style”.  Now, if you know me, dancing in public is a weakness of mine that I very often regret and so my knees started bouncing and hips starting swaying and quickly some of the grannies invited me to join them.    So, I kicked off my shoes and tried following their expressive instructor.  After about thirty seconds I couldn’t take it any longer and did the actual gangam moves and the ladies went nuts.  It was awesome and their cackles and screams lifted me up to cloud nine.   Which is good because I would very quickly need any happy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right.  After my walk in the park, I was picked up by my guide to go and meet Eve XinLi at the government office.  I was so excited to see her again but I was keeping my excitement slightly curtailed because I knew she had given me the cold shoulder for the first 10 days eh was in the US this past summer.  I knew there was a chance she wouldn’t be would have a hard time with gotcha day but honestly in my mind I was still fantasizing her running into my arms happily shouting, “Mama! Mama!”

When we got there she was already there and the moment she saw me she cried and screamed and wanted NOTHING to do with me.  Seriouly folks, it felt awesome.  Really awesome when all of the Chinese people are like, “That’s so strange!  Didn’t she live with you this summer?  She’s usually so happy to see people, why is she so scared of you!?”  Umm, I have no answer for that!  I’m just trying not to show how monumentally bummed out I am so please don’t point out AGAIN how strange her behavior is.  So, yeah.  Eve was panicked and terrified of the change.  She kicked and screamed and wriggled and cried but I picked her up and forced her to leave with me.  That’s the real gotcha day for a lot of us, peeps.  We wish it were magical but it just isn’t.  It’s hard.  These kids are going such intense trauma and we are the only ones that they know to blame.  They kinda hate us at first.

And man, I want to say I was super cool and understanding about it but I wasn’t.  I cried my eyes out that afternoon.  And then again the next day too.  Being alone in a hotel room in China with a little girl who doesn’t even want to look at you while your husband is meeting your super happy sweet son and doing all og these cool things…that’s hard.  I know it's not as hard as what Eve was going through but it's hard for moms too.

Eve after being forced to leave with me.  This is pretty much how she looked for a couple of days.

But after praying, hearing from other adoptive mommas, drinking some caffeine and taking a bath…I felt better.  And so did Eve.  I got her on Thursday and by Saturday we were doing OK.  By Sunday, we were brilliant.  Actually, that whole experience reminds me of another dark Friday followed by a triumphant Sunday summed up in one of my favorite quotes:

“Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.”
― Joseph B. Wirthlin

Eve on Sunday!  Hooray!
Sunday afternoon we took the bullet train to meet Mike and Daniel in Zhengzhou where we would also pick up Jude the following day.

But wait, I forgot!  On Saturday I got to go visit Chairman Mao's villa!  It was actually pretty cool except that it was randomly closed and I couldn't go inside.  But you know what I did do?  I climbed through Mao's backyard and peeked through his bedroom window.  How crazy is that?  Also, who knew Mao was actually a fan of the mid-century modern movement?  I didn't get any good photos of it but his place was a super hip modern house built in the 1950's full of super dreamy furniture.  All of the original stuff is still in it!  It's a 1950's mid century GOLD MINE! Too bad he was a thug.

Mao's car.  A gift from Mao's buddy Stalin.  #thuglife

Front entry way.  Bad photo - get over it!

Extra pretty driveway to his villa.

To be continued…

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Here we go again!

For several nights this week I've dreamed of holding a baby.  Feeding it and feeling it's soft skin against mine.  I wake filled with such happiness and warmth.  

Until this past Tuesday we expected to leave some time between October 25th and November 1st.  But Daniel's province was being difficult and said the ONLY day we could get him was Thursday, October 22nd.  That meant that suddenly we had to leave Monday the 19th and we only had 6 days to get ready.  How stressful and exciting that idea was.  We've been working around the clock to do that.  It was more fun at first - now it's just terrifying.

Last night I had another dream with a baby but this one was different - it wasn't dreamy or loving.  It was terrifying.  I had a baby in my arms but it was strange and something about it scared me.  I knew it needed me to help it overcome whatever was making it so strange but I didn't know how.  The last thing I remember was laying it in it's strange bed and walking away.

We are frantically pulling together every last thing - socks, diapers, paperwork, extra luggage, the list goes on.  It's so stressful that it's hard to feel the joy of adding to the family.  I know that this feeling will be the norm while we are in China.  At least it was last time.  We weren't overjoyed when we finally got the girls - we were stressed out and overwhelmed.   We wondered why we had done such a crazy thing.  That's a terrible thing to think about now, but I think it's good to remember so I can accept those feelings this time as a normal part of the adoptive and attachment process.

There were moments of joy.  There were beautiful times in China.  I need to remember that too.  And this time I have the experience of being attached to two beautiful girls after the hard times.  I know now that it DOES work - that eventually we attach to one another and feel a deep and lasting love.

So, here goes.  I plan on blogging through the trip this time as well.  And just like last time, I promise to be as honest and open as possible.

Thanks for all of your love, support, and prayers.  It has been such a blessing to have this community of friends and loved ones through both this and the last adoption.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Adoption FAQ's

Hey everyone - long time, no see, eh?  We are so thrilled to be traveling to China in 5 short weeks to pick up the kids!  What a blessing this journey has been!!!  In the mean time, there are a few questions we get asked all of the time so I wanted to write the answers out for all of you who wanted to ask but weren't 100% comfortable asking.

1. Does XinLi have Down Syndrome(DS)?

Yes, she does!

2. Why did you decide to adopt a child with DS?

It wasn't one single thing but a journey of several years.  I have always had a feeling that I would have a child with down syndrome. I had done some volunteer work at my school with special need kids as well as having an extended family member with DS and I think that played a part in that feeling.  I knew that many DS kids were abandoned or given up all over the world including here in the US but I had read and researched a little to know that this was a tragedy because DS kids and adults can live full, happy lives.  More recently I had met other adoptive families who were so blessed by adopting DS kids and who were willing to act as a mentor on our journey.  And finally, we hosted XinLi and loved her and knew she was ours.

3. Did you decide to adopt XinLi after you hosted her?

We planned on making the final decision on whether Xin was right for our family after hosting but because of the way the timeline worked out we had to decide before she came.  We knew when we picked her up that she was going to be ours but unfortunately we couldn't share that information publicly until we got to a certain point in the adoption process.

4. Does she have a "mild case" of down syndrome?

Down Syndrome affects each child differently just like each typical child develops differently . Each child has their strengths and weaknesses in different areas.  XinLi isn't down syndrome just like I am not green eyes.  It is an aspect of how her brain processes information but she has a personality and gifts and talents beyond that.  If you really want to open your mind up about down syndrome, watch this video!

Karen Gafffney's amazing TEDx talk on down syndrome.

5. How does hosting an orphan work?

From my agency's site:
Hosting allows older orphans from China, Latvia, and Ukraine, generally school age, to live with American families for 4-5 weeks over the winter or summer. Hosting helps these children learn everyday social skills, receive an introduction to American culture, English, and experience the meaning of a family. Without hosting many of these orphans will age out and never experience the life changing love that a family provides.

6. If I host a child do I have to adopt them?

No, many families host children so they can advocate for them and teach them about what the world is like outside the orphanage walls.  If you are interested in truly changing a child's life forever through hosting - click here! PLEASE DO!

7.  Are you nervous about having 3 more children for a total of 9?


8. Are you changing their names?

Yes. with both of our daughters we kept their Chinese name as their middle name and gave them an American first name.  We love both of their names and feel this gives them some flexibility for the future.

Di Hui will be Daniel Di Hui
Xin Li with be Eve Xin Li
Yu Hui will be Jude Yu Hui

9. Do they speak English?

No, they don't.  Our last adoption of two girls who were 6 and nearly 10 showed us how quickly they pick it up.  The girls could communicate fairly well at a month home and were fluent by six months!

10. How do I find out more about international adoption?

I thought you'd never ask!  We love our agency and have been so blessed to be working with them.  You can get tons of question answered at their website but if you have more specific questions you can message me anytime - I love answering questions about it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Paper chasing and picture taking.

For the last six months Mike and I have been pulling together endless amounts of paperwork.  Well, really, Mike has been. The last adoption Mike was working full time and I was at home so the burden fell on me and I was terrible at it!  This time around since Mike is working from home with me, he has taken over the paper chase and he has been amazing at it!  He is always one step ahead of the process - knowing what we need to get and do next.  It is an answer to prayer and I have no doubt that he has heavenly help - adoption gets high priority up there! 

This week our paperwork has been in Washington D.C. at the state department and at the Chinese embassy.  When it gets back to us we will send it to our agency and after it is approved and translated it will be sent to China.  That is what we call our Dossier.   It includes every government document on us EVER - our birth certificates, wedding license, passports, medical clearances, FBI clearances, photos of us, as well as a huge home study that talks about each and every intimate detail of our family life.  

Compiling the dossier is definitely the hardest part of the adoption process - at least for us!  Once that's in everything from here moves quickly and easily.

We are also pulling together a package to send Di Hui.  Last week I finished editing a digital photo book telling him all about us and his future life here.  It was so happy to describe each of the kids and include photos of our life.  I loved telling him about how he is going to homeschool, sharing images of all of our recent trips, and filling a page with his dozens of cousins!

Once we get that back from the printers we'll close it up with a bunch of other fun things and send it to him.  I hope and pray that he can sense of the happy family he will have and the love we already feel for him!  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Joyful Adventures

The months after the girls came home were really difficult.  In fact, we felt like our former life had died and that we had to rebuild a new one.  So, after a few months of shock, rebuild it we did.  And the life we rebuilt was 1000 times the life we had before we adopted the girls.

About six months ago we moved across the country from Washington state to North Carolina.  With that move we had the ability to leave behind parts of us that we didn't need or like anymore.  We had the chance to change and grow.  And Esther in particular really blossomed.  

Watching that process and the healing that she underwent was incredible.  It filled me with joy, and gratitude, relief, and hope.  And it opened my heart to adopting again.  While we were in the trenches with the girls adopting again was not something we wanted to consider.  Our lives with filled with so many painful unknowns and it made us feel sick to our stomach to start that process again.  But as the girls healed and our attachment strengthened we could feel that we had more children in our family out there.  It was terrifying but also totally exciting.

So, as you may already know, we are adding two boys to the Knorpp family this fall.

The first is this cute little guy.  He turned 2 in January and we are so excited to have him in our life even if we are a little scared to go back to the toddler phase.  :)
Jude Yu Hui Knorpp

A few weeks after we accepted Jude's file and started the process we could feel that there were others and that maybe we should bring another child home at the same time as Jude.  Confirming that Mike felt that way too, I went to our agency's site and looked at the list of waiting children.  I was looking for a 4-5 year old girl but as I scrolled down I saw this face:
Daniel Di Hui Knorpp
And I knew he was a Knorpp.  I just knew it.  It was electrifying,  He was our son.  But can I tell you how terrifying that was?  A 13 year old boy!?  What were we going to do?!!!

We were so blessed that he had actually been hosted in the US for a month only weeks before we saw his photo so we could talk to his host family and find out so much more about him.  How grateful we are to them for that.  I am so grateful that they sacrificed financially and emotionally to host him in their home, getting to know him, taking photos of him, and helping us understand him so we could confidently become his parents.  We seriously love them for that.

And now here we are.  And we know that they aren't the only ones left.  In two weeks were are hosting a little girl named Xin from China for a month.  She is five - just the age that we felt we were missing.  And she has down syndrome.  I always felt I would have a child with down syndrome.  I can't say with certainty that she will be ours - but I know my heart seems to swell whenever I think about her or tell someone about her.

How do I feel? Amazing. I feel so truly blessed.   I never knew that children could bring so much joy - that watching them grow and learn and love could fill me up so completely.  I also wondered how I could love so many children!  I was afraid that my heart had a finite amount of love in it that must be split up between each child - their slices getting smaller the more we had.  I have instead found that as we add more children my heart grows exponentially larger and larger - so that each of my children gets more love from me than ever before.  I didn't expect to be so into this whole big family thing - but its become the most fulfilling blessing of my life.  GOD IS GOOD!
Until next time...

Monday, September 1, 2014

18 Months Home

I always knew I would adopt.  Since I was a teenager I could just feel that I would someday adopt.  I could say it was just a desire to do something good or a random feeling but I know it wasn't.  In my faith, we learn that before we were born on earth we lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father.  There we prepared to come here and have the experiences we would have.  I know that while I was there, I knew and loved my future children, and that each of them were given specific purposed to fulfill while on this earth.  My two daughters were called to a difficult task as part of that mission - to be born to a different mother in a country far away.  It was part of the experience they needed to have in order to be the women they were created to be and they accepted that challenge.  I believe I promised them then that I would never forget them and that I would find them.  Looking back, I feel like there must have been angels reminding my heart of the missing children in my life.  There were even times where my other children seemed to be feeling that same emptiness in our home.

And we did find them.    And what joy it has brought us - though that isn't to say it was or is easy all of the time.  But since when was a good life easy?

Family Pictures - Summer of 2014
The girls have been home for just a little over a year and a half.   Their English is near perfect, both are fluent readers, talkers, and have found their place in our family dynamic.  While in China Pearl had very little formal schooling but she picked up everything so quickly when she got home.  She now reads beyond her grade level in English and we still wonder how she did that!  Esther was in the third grade at a public school there but her Chinese report stated in a roundabout way that she was a very average if not below average student.  Since the moment we met her she was as smart as a tack and picked up everything she was taught.  Now that she's been home for a while and talking through her time there we know that school was an awful place for her and that no one learns when they are in constant fear of abuse and ridicule.
Such smart girls!

The children are comfortable enough to fight, to play, to laugh, and even sometimes to hug.  The girls are trusting and becoming more and more vulnerable to me - letting me be their mother.  I knew I would need to teach them English and about our culture but I have come to realize how much I also need to teach them about what love feels like, what a mother/daughter relationship can be, and how to be a friend.  (The girls differ somewhat in the learning curve on this because of the difference in their situations in China.)

Esther and her Dad.
Esther is especially fond of her dad.  She seeks his approval, wants to sit by him, and thinks his opinion ranks higher than any other.  I am pleased that she is seeking a father's love in her life.  Her foster father was a good man but he was quiet, removed, and not very affectionate with her.  She needs and craves Mike's love.
Riding the bus through Seattle.

I love finding selfies like this on my phone.

Pearl lived the first 3-4 years of her life with her biological family.  After that she was in an orphanage filled with loving women.  She was ready to belong to our family the day she came home but we have seen lately now that time has passed and she feels even safer here that she is starting to let out the hurt and anguish of abandonment she suffered when she was younger.  My heart aches for her.

Pearl loves all things Princess - but with a sword in hand.  She'd feisty and funny but I think she hasn't completely let herself bloom here yet.  I know with time I'll be able to coax her fiery spirit out to light up wherever she goes.
I love how open the girls are to try new foods!

Last day of school.
We were grateful to have the amazing public school we did this last year and for the ladies who taught and loved our children.  We finally feel ready now to homeschool everyone again and we are excited to get back to the rhythm of that!

Picnic time!

This summer we had more time to play together and I completely believe in the value of family recreation!  We created so many memories that enabled us all to continue to bond and grow closer.  

Hiking on Mt. Spokane

Chinatown, Seattle

Happy at the Washington Coast

Riding the Hiawatha Trail 2014

The journey isn't even close to being over but it DOES get easier for all of us everyday.  When I think of how easy it would have been not to find my girls it steals my breath away for a moment in fear.  I am so so so thankful that we found each other and so thankful for the whisperings of the Spirit of God to teach me how to help them be whole again.

And in case you were wondering....Adoption works.  Adopting older children works.  Adopting out of birth order works.  Adopting special needs children works.  Do it.  But don't do it alone - do it with God at your side!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Esther's baptism.

One of the main reasons I started this blog two years ago was to record what my feelings and experiences were on the adoption journey with the hopes that another family in this process would find comfort. And still I am so pleased to continue to share hope and happiness from our journey.  Recently some good friends returned from China with two new adopted children and they are in the thick of the hard stuff right now.  It was actually good for us to talk with them and reflect back on when we too felt overwhelmed and exhausted and slightly terrified.  Back then we worried, "Will we ever love them as much as our other children?"  "Will it always be so difficult?"  and there were even moments of ultimate discomfort when we asked ourselves, "Why on earth did we do this to ourselves?"

If you find yourself there - trust me on this - it will get better.  It will slowly - sometimes it's painful how slow - but it will get better.  And then after some time your heart will be overflowing with love and gratitude that you stuck it out and your dear children are home with you.  Today was one of those days for both Michael and I.  Today Esther was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church by Michael and it was beautiful.

Esther and Mike in their whites just before the baptism

In our faith, children who are over the age of eight and would like to be baptized need to take lessons from the missionaries and be interviewed to show that they understand the commitment of baptism and that they have truly gained a testimony for themselves of God and Jesus Christ.  Esther has been spending the last few months meeting with the sister missionaries and learning the principles of the Gospel.  She has been reading the scriptures, praying, attending church, and asking the Lord to answer her prayers.  The very nature of this process has been difficult for Esther since it requires so much vulnerability and emotion.  She has not had very many people in her life safe enough to trust with her physical safety let alone emotional.  But line upon line, He has answered her prayers.  As we have shown her love, she has been able to feel His.  I can not say enough how loving parents enable a child to feel the love of a divine parent.  Without that safe and loving relationship, it makes it very difficult to understand a God full of love and grace and mercy.

These ladies have put their lives on hold for 18 months to teach others about Jesus Christ.  They were assigned to teach in Spokane and we are so grateful.  They have loved Esther and she has loved them right on back.

But today, after gaining a new and budding testimony, Esther was baptized.  We were overwhelmed with love and gratitude.  The spirit whispered to our hearts that we were attended by angels and we could feel it.  The Lord loves his children and these girls are very special to Him.  How marvelous it is to feel His love for them mingled with our own. 

The ragamuffin group.
My heart was bursting with love for my sweet daughter today.

Next month we are traveling to Boise to be with family and to take the girls to the temple there.  There we will be sealed together as a family for eternity - the same temple that Mike and I were married and sealed over 13 years ago.  We are so incredibly grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ - that His love and sacrifice is helping to heal our daughter's hearts of the pain and anguish.  But even more grateful that He has given us temples so that we can receive the ultimate blessing to be a family forever.