Cali has been home with us for just over 5 weeks. We couldn't be more in love with this beautiful girl of ours! Jeremy and I continue to be amazed at how smooth her transition has been. Part of this perhaps lies in the fact that we are getting to be pros at this adoption thing and have figured out a lot of things that help. But I believe most of it lies in the fact that Cali is a courageous and beautiful soul who was prepared for a family. This preparation came in part from the wonderful people who loved and cared for her in the orphanage and in part because of our ability to Skype with her beforehand so that she would feel more comfortable with us. Most importantly of course was that she was prepared by the one who loves her most! I am so grateful that she was taught about Christ before we ever met her and that she knew that because of Him, she would never be alone.
Last Sunday, Cali began taking the missionary discussions to learn more about the gospel. The sweet Elder who taught her speaks Mandarin. Cali and Graci sat through the whole lesson smiling and often giggling. At the end, the Elder asked if she would pray. Cali is extremely shy around people she doesn't know, so she declined and Graci prayed instead (all in Chinese). The spirit that filled our home was tremendous and was such a strong witness that Jesus is the Christ and that He loves Cali more than we can understand. As the Elders left, they challenged her to read the scriptures. Now each night we hear Graci and Cali in their room together reading out loud together in their sweet little voices. I love it! Cali has also begun to pray when others are around. She had learned to say recited prayers, but is learning more about being able to open her heart to her Heavenly Father and just talk to Him. Jeremy said that the other night as he listened to her pray that she asked Heavenly Father to bless her mama's finger to get better. Aw... I love that girl!
Many people have asked how the language acquisition is going. Professionals will often tell you that it usually takes approximately one month for every year old the child is to become conversational in another language. For example, Xander was adopted at age four, so it would take him four months to have pretty fluent conversations. We have found in our family that this pretty much holds true. Graci was nine at the time she was adopted, and nine months is right about where she could hold her own in any conversation. If this holds true, Cali should be pretty fluent in about a year. Luckily, the stages between not knowing English and fluency are not as difficult as you might think. Cali is already understanding a lot. She tries very hard to use English words and once in awhile, even attempts simple but complete sentences on her own. VERY impressive. (: I yearn for the day where I can cuddle her and have a deep and meaningful conversation, but for now we do lots of hugs and smiles and "I love yous" and she is very good at expressing her basic needs.
Because there wasn't an immediate opening at our charter school, Cali enrolled in our nearby elementary school. This has actually been a huge blessing. At the charter school, 6th grade is included in the junior high, meaning she would be rotating classes all day. At the school she attends, 6th grade is just a normal class. I think it's good for her to be with the same kids all the time and get to know just one teacher. We weren't sure if Cali would even want to go to school so soon, but when asked, she got a big smile and said, "yes!" She found comfort in the fact that her sweet friend, Kara, who lives just a few houses down and has invited her to play several times, would be attending this school. Kara has been a phenomenal help. We pick her up in the mornings so she can push Cali into class. After school she brings her to our van and I drive them both home. She looks out for her at lunch and recess. ALL of the girls are so, so good to her. Her teacher was thoughtful enough to sit her next to a girl who was also adopted from China. Though she doesn't speak Chinese (she was adopted around the age of two) it is good for Cali to be with someone that she looks like and has something in common with. Her name is Lia.
Cali is getting more used to American food. She was quite picky at first and didn't eat much at one sitting, but we have found foods that she definitely likes. Yesterday she had two big enchiladas with rice and fruit salad and told me "thank you!" with a big smile afterward. She also loves bow tie pasta with roasted red peppers and sun dried tomato sauce, ham and potato soup, and anything with alfredo sauce. Of course, she loves when I make fried rice or egg rolls or congee, and I often pick up something from the Chinese restaurant nearby just to surprise her. She is so much fun to spoil because she is so appreciative of anything. (: Oh, and she eats about 5,000 oranges a day, or so it seems!
Cali loves to "qq" with her friends from China and listen to Chinese music. She and Graci will often sing along at the top of their lungs-- so cute. I love how well she and Graci get along, but I also love that Cali gets along and plays with EVERYONE. Jesi is particularly enamoured with her, and Cali is patient to play with her and make her feel special. Cali LOVES Parker. They are just one month a part and so cute together. Parker goes out of his way to hang out with her and give her attention, and Cali always loves to go and watch his and Taylor's basketball games.
Last night, Jeremy started dancing around the living room, trying to get Cali to laugh. Cali said, "Mama dance too!" So we danced together. She exclaimed, "music!" and turned the ipad on so we could have something to dance to. After awhile, others started joining in, but of course she was just sitting there. Jeremy went and got her wheelchair and asked her to sit in it. "Where?" Cali asked, wondering where she was going, but Jeremy just had plans to dance with her in her wheelchair. She immediately propelled herself out of the chair, way too shy to dance. So we brought her in our room to the computer and showed her this:
She had the cutest smile on her face as she watched, so we followed by showing her a video of wheelchair basketball. It was sweet to see the wheels turning in her head as she contemplated the things you can do in a wheelchair.
I love this sweet angel of ours. I am so grateful to be her mother and for the sweet spirit she has brought into our home. Sometimes I will just stop and be hit with the fact that just a few weeks ago, this darling girl didn't have a family to call her own. To watch her sit on the couch cuddling with her siblings under blankets and eating popcorn as they all watch a movie is such an extraordinary thing when you think of where she was just last month. If you have EVER considered adoption...
...consider it MORE. (: