Thursday, April 27, 2017

Special Visitors!

Annika and Asher reading together
Annika has been doing really well these days. She is doing great in school and we continue to work to get her 504 and special services in place. We continue to wait to hear from the third opinion on her ear canals - hoping to hear before this week is up!
Annika loves all things sports, baseball being her favorite these days. She loves to watch her brother, Eli, play and is excited for the day she gets to be on a team. The soccer season just ended for her and she loved being out there playing. We are thankful for great coaches and teammates who accepted her in with open arms! 

Aunt Cal came to visit!

Aunt Carol came to visit us for a few days and meet her newest great niece! Y'all, Annika is usually pretty shy and reserved, even a bit stand-offish to new people. She welcomed Aunt "Cal" with open heart and arms! Annika literally jumped for joy and squealed with delight that Aunt Cal was staying a few days with us! Talk about melt my heart. We loved having Aunt Cal here, and unfortunately, a stomach bug has been going through our family and it went home with aunt Cal. :( (So sorry about that!) Tummy bug aside, we loved having our aunt here and soaked up every minute. She taught us a new fun activity: kumihimo! It's Japanese braiding! So easy and so fun! Annika enjoys it as do the rest of us (Jay watches from the recliner ;) Thank you, Aunt Carol, for coming and visiting. We always love when you are here! We missed seeing Uncle Jim and hopefully he can come next time. We love you guys dearly!

Yang AoFang and Hong Fu

Yang Ao Fang and Hong Fu......Annika and Jack 
Two VERY special kids who share a special bond. 
They were like brother and sister during their days at their orphanage. I have several pictures of the two of them together...inseparable. Many more like the ones included here. Jack left the orphanage in April 2016 when he was adopted by an INCREDIBLE and loving family. Annika did not see him again until we brought her home in December and they were able to reunite via Facetime and by sending videos to each other. 
Well, GUESS WHAT?!?! On May 19, 2017, these two precious children are going to be reunited IN PERSON when Jack and his momma, Rainer, come to TEXAS from Tennessee to spend the weekend with our family!!! I didn't catch Annka's initial reaction on video when I told her the news today, but she squealed and jumped up and down in excitement! To help her understand the concept of time, we got the calendar down and created a countdown from today until they come. 23 days! 
I cannot wait to witness these two together ... reunited once again! Making more memories! I've got big hugs ready and waiting for Rainer too! We want to give Rainer and Jack a warm Texas welcome and make some great Texas memories when they come! What are some must-dos we should do with them? :)
God is good!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

4 months a Sappington!

Annika saw me getting ready to write on our sign tonight and immediately knew what it meant and what number we were going to write on it! She was so excited and it warmed my heart with her happy reaction! It was picture time and she posed all on her own and I went with it. :-)

4 months since we first saw her in person...4 months since she walked into that Civil Affairs room, so scared and inconsolable for many hours afterwards... what an amazing transformation these past 4 months. What an amazing kid she is and I am so proud and honored to be her momma. 

As of today, she loves all things baseball. She can now count to over 130 in English. She recognizes many of her alphabet letters, and can even read the word GO in English.  Her favorite food is still noodles. She is quick to smile and laugh.  She's a pro on her scooter (she was so wobbly when she first came home). She loves to be outdoors and play with anyone who will join her. Her kind heart and sincerity continue to show more and more, and she is blossoming with each passing week. 

God is good. 
Happy 4th month anniversary, our dear precious Annika. You are dearly loved!


Monday, April 10, 2017

How is it going with Annika?

I know I haven't been posting as much these days, so tonight feels like a good time to get you caught up!

Ears update: 
I heard from our ENT last week and after much conversing with other doctors and thinking through, he felt it best we pursue another doctor to do surgery on Annika's ear canals and cholosteatoma removals. Jay and I highly respect him for saying he didn't want to risk messing up the final outcome and goal: ears for Annika. Her case is a complicated one with the location of her ear canals and cholosteatomas compounding the issue. In a way, we are kind of like being back to square 2, which is frustrating, but I'd rather be back to square 2 than to risk it. Our ENT recommended 2 other doctors for us to look into and they are actually doctors we have heard of because they are the best of the best. Both doctors are out of state. Our ENT said he was going to fax Annika's CT scans (with our permission) over to each doctor while Jay and I decided which doctor we wanted to pursue. That was last week (Thursday, I believe) and today I put a call into the doctor in Virginia to initiate contact as well. Tomorrow or Wednesday, I plan to contact the other doctor who is in California and see if we can get the ball back rolling again on getting surgery on the books to remove the cholosteatomas in the next month or two. 

Tomorrow is our first post placement visit with our social worker. Per adoption requirements, we have to submit a 6 month, 1 year and 4 other post placement reports to our agency who then submits them to China. It's China's way of knowing that we are indeed loving and taking care of our child we promised to never hurt or abandon and to love her as our own flesh and blood. I can't help but be a bit excited for our social worker to come and see our family and meet our Annika! We enjoyed working with her in the adoption process and we really connected well with her, so we are looking forward to seeing her! 

Annika continues to grow and blossom and thrive. She still has many moments of complaining, and often we have to work on our polite manners and not being disrespectful (and lots of patience on our part as parents), but she continues to improve and the Lord continues to give us mercy and grace as parents, as a family, as individuals. Tonight, while at big sister's 3rd grade program, Annika wanted me to hold her so I obliged. She was enjoying her sister's musical program and then at one point, randomly leaned in and gave me a loving and happy kiss on the cheek. I needed that and she didn't even know it. Sometimes I worry that she's not happy with me as a parent, but that random moment when Annika's heart spontaneously came through, my heart melted all over again and I thanked the Lord for that gift. She continues to grow (physically, emotionally and socially!) and I thank the Lord for bringing her into our family. 

Annika's English language continues to grow! And at nearly 4 months since Gotcha Day, I'm also thankful she's still communicating in Chinese. I try to make her read/hear Chinese everyday so she doesn't lose her first language, but getting her to willingly and without complaint to read in Chinese is not easy. Once we are past surgeries and such, we are planning to enroll her (and her siblings, if possible!) into Chinese school once a week after school or on Saturdays so she continues to retain and grow in her native language. 

Prayer Requests:
- for wisdom, favor and provision for Annika'a medical needs. With traveling out of state for ear canal surgery and ear surgery... that won't be cheap, but it will be worth it all in the long run. 
- for Annika to continue to grow in the love of our family
- for refreshing for Jay and I. It's been a busy, tiring and draining several months. 
- for Annika to come to know and love Jesus and her Lord and Savior. As opportunities arise, we try to teach her about our Heavenly Father who loves her and made her for a purpose. Her heart and mind are not comprehending yet, but I pray that one day she will not only understand, but fully receive Him with arms and heart opened wide. 

To God be the glory....


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Library Books in Chinese? Yes, please!

Can I just brag again how awesome Annika's school is? I want to express how amazing the school librarian, Mrs. Toal is! She ordered books in Chinese for the school's library so that Annika would have some books to check out and read. 

Today, she cheerfully sat in my lap as we looked through this book together and she read some of the pages to me. She's even having me practice my Mandarin by repeating her when she reads. (I have no idea what I am saying sometimes, but I love that she's "teaching" me her native language.)  Later, as I made dinner, she proudly counted to 100 in English. This girl is learning so much and having fun doing it! She's also recognizing her alphabet letters and saying them aloud. 

I am so grateful for all the people the Lord has placed in Annika's life. She is truly flourishing and I am in awe of her beauty inside and out. Her tantrums are fewer these days and she's genuinely happy. I am truly blessed to be her momma!

We are currently waiting to hear back from our ENT sometime this week after he talks to Dr. Lewin in California regarding Annika's ears and canals. We have an estimated timeline of Annika's first round of surgeries happening around the end to middle of of April to remove the cholosteatomas in her ear canals.

Friday, March 10, 2017

stop and smell the roses

Can I just be real? 

Life has been fast-paced, nonstop and quite "full" the last few months. It's been hard, it's been fun, it's been worth it.... but this momma is just depleted. A floor of muddy foot prints, laundry piled and a house desperately needing a top to bottom clean...has turned me into a blubbering hot mess today. I texted Jay earlier and said I'm crying and the kids are looking at me like I've lost my mind. 
The truth is I don't know why I was crying except to think those muddy clothes and floors were just one more thing to get done now. And that made me feel even more rotten for thinking that. I should be thankful for the muddy trails in my house because that means I have children who fill our home with life and adventure. 

My sweet husband came home with flowers in hand and "I love you" on his lips and wrapped me in his arms before taking the kids out back to get them to help him fill in the mud hole they had created..... 

Our 11th anniversary is Sunday. If we're lucky, we'll get a date in this weekend, but even if we don't.... I think I'll sit awhile, count my blessings and smell the roses.....



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Annika can hear soft voices now!

After she got her BAHAs fitted, we went to celebrate with ice cream! 

This video REALLY shows how well she hears now. Beforehand, if we are in the car and I would talk at a soft level, she wouldn't hear me. I'd have to turn towards her and talk louder. Not anymore! 
(Ignore my ugly cry at the end! I couldn't help it!) 

My heart is so overflowing at this HUGE day in my baby girl's life. And when I think of how the Lord has provided, and when I think that for the first time in her 8 years that Annika can hear clearly..... I can't help but cry tears of gratitude and thankfulness. 

 God is good. He is good indeed.

Annika gets her BAHAs!

Dear Annika,

Today was another life-changing moment for you when your audiologist fitted you with your BAHAs. We could see how nervous and apprehensive you were, because you aren't used to positive change yet, but you handled it so well in spite of your inward fears. We know when you would answer with a "no", that is your go-to response when you're nervous or you don't understand what we are saying. The great thing was you were hearing our voices at a soft level when you responded! That was incredible!!! I wish we would have caught on camera the smile you were trying to hide when you could hear your sister being silly and you were trying NOT to be amused. She was doing such a great job of helping you relax.  We could tell you were amused with her there, though you tried to keep your smiles and giggles at bay. :-) I wish we could have caught on camera when you whipped your head towards me when I wasn't looking at you and I whispered, "Annika" not once, but two separate times.  I wish we could have caught on camera in the hallway when we were talking to the first audiologist who did your first hearing test and you could hear her asking if you wanted a sticker or my saying "Do you want to go get ice cream?" in a soft normal voice. And how quickly you responded happily both times. I know you didn't understand why mommy cried tears at that moment and hugged your audiologist. It was a momentous afternoon and I was crying tears of joy that you, my precious daughter, have been blessed with hearing clearly for the first time. I was crying tears of joy and gratitude that our Heavenly Father who loves you so much more than I do, had provided once again, for your every need. These BAHAs are 100% paid for.... not because of daddy or I.... but because your Heavenly Father loves you. 

I hope one day that you look back at this video, my sweet Annika, and you remember that though you were apprehensive, how incredible it was to hear like that for the first time. 

We love you, sweet girl.  We know you're nervous about school tomorrow and what people will think. I know you're worried people will make fun of you, but I promise, once you walk through that door, nothing but GREAT friends and amazing moments await you! You will soon see, my precious daughter. The scariest part is always the first step. And you, my dear, are so brave. 

I love you,