Video of Ya Nan Singing-at 8:30 on video

Our Beautiful Ya Nan

Our Beautiful Ya Nan
From the moment I saw her, I knew she had my heart...

Our Timeline

8-21-12: Saw our Daughter's face for the first time
8-31-12: Decided she is indeed a Johnson
9-17-12: Home Study Visit
9-24-12: Home Study Visit
10-18-12: I800A received
11-5-12: Walk-in Fingerprints
11-28-12: I800A Approval
12-17-12: DTC
12-27-12: LOI
1-17-13: OOT
2-1-13: LOA (China approved 1-29)
2-4-13: I800 received at lockbox
2-15-13: I800 request for evidence
4-26-13: RFE sent
5-1-13: I800 Approved
5-6-13: GUZ #
5-7-13: Cabled
5-9-13: Article 5 Drop Off
6-11-13: Article 5 Approved
6-13-13: Article 5 Pick Up
6-21-13: TA
Leave for China!
Gotcha Day

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Sunday, April 13, 2014


What Happened to the Blog???
When I received an email from an unknown reader about missing the blog posts (thank you so much for the message and encouragement to blog again) I realized that I have left many people wondering what happened to us?! We made it to China (and home) but unfortunately, the blog has suffered the effects of my OCD. While in China I intended to blog every day so that when we returned I could continue to post thoughts and updates. However, the days in China were busy and we tried to soak up every moment of time bonding and taking in the sights and culture. Since I hadn't finished blogging about China, I felt I couldn't blog about being home! I know, it's crazy! So, I've decided to attempt to put aside my issues of chronological order and OCDness and catch up on China posts later. For now here's what's been happening since we returned home 6 months ago.

When we first arrived home, things seemed to transition very smoothly. After a couple of weeks, the finality of being in a family started to surface. As I share about our particular struggles and successes, please understand that this does not equate to regret. And although we have experienced some difficult times that we have chosen to keep private because this is ultimately Maeli's story to share, we know that God has given us such grace and blessings throughout this journey. Our good days far outweigh our hard days. Our dedication to her and our family are much stronger than the difficulties. Many times our struggles are more learning how to function as a family of 5 rather than adoption in general. Add to that we have a tween and teen in the house and it's a recipe for interesting family dynamics. However, I think that being real so that families who are walking a similar journey can have insight is important. I want to be transparent in that this journey hasn't been easy but at the same time the triumphs and victories of creating a family through adoption has been rich and overflowing.

Our biggest hurdle has been sibling cohesiveness. We are still, 5 months later, trying to cultivate positive and genuine sibling relationships. I've decided this process is going to take a lot of time... We have found planning intentional activities for the kids to do together has been helpful in teaching them to play and interact together. We have struggled with finding individual time for all the kids and that continues to be a challenge. Also trying to find time for Ryan and I to catch up, take a breather, and spend time together has also proven to be a struggle. This seems to be the case with other families and we aren't as diligent as we should be in setting aside time. This is a vital area in that needs attention as it's hard to be a team if you can't plan and reflect with your spouse. So please pray for us as we continue to work through this.

Socially, Maeli is very "Americanized." People tend to gravitate toward her because she has such a funny and witty personality. She is great at reading people and it can be scary how complex her insight is about others! Praise God she has common sense! This isn't something you can teach and we are thankful she has a sense of cause and effect as well as great problem solving skills.

Maeli's ability to adjust and persevere has been amazing to say the least. Her language really began to take off after being home 2.5 months. Her receptive language, as expected, has always been strong. We are taking great strides to keep her native language as well. She journals in Chinese, reads Chinese books (buy them in China, they are much cheaper there), and watches Chinese TV (DVDs are much cheaper in China too). It has taken time to find a healthy balance between English emersion and the familiarity of the Chinese language. Ryan and I decided that even though using a bi-lingual approach would delay her English acquisition slightly, it complimented her personality and helped her adjustment more. We know other families that chose different paths and their children did well. I think each child is different and as parents you have to decide as a family which is best for your particular child. We started Rosetta Stone about a week after being home (at her request) and that has been a great resource. We also work on basic phonetics and Frye words for about 30 minutes a day. She does System 44 at school everyday in place of a regular 7th grade Language Arts class. After being home almost 6 months, we rarely use Google translate (only for more complex vocabulary) and she is currently reading on 2nd-3rd grade level.

We try not to force English learning on her but instead incorporate games and activities that require her to use English. In addition, she has an outgoing personality which lends itself to talking often. When we arrived home she connected with a few of her friends from China and that has helped with her Chinese retention. She also goes to Chinese class at the high school three days a week.

One of the greatest blessings has been watching her experience many firsts. The first time she saw the beach and the sand on the shore will be a memory that I will never forget. She loves life and wants to experience and try new things. Seeing things through her eyes is not only humbling but gives a fresh look at things we take for granted...

Here's some photos of a few of things we've been up to:


Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 8: Shopping for China Gifts

We didn't have anything formal on the agenda for today, so Maeli and went shopping for gifts and souvenirs while the boys swam at the hotel. I wanted to get something for Maeli to have for each "Gotcha Day" until she turns 18. So with my list in hand we went shopping with Ann, an adoption advocate. She helped us send Maeli's birthday package in April so it was great to meet her in person. Lots of adoptive families go shopping with her because she knows where to find the best prices and knows where the stores are located.

I wanted to make sure we purchased a couple Chinese dresses for Maeli to wear for family photos and special occasions. She found a couple of headpieces she thought we needed, lol! Her sense of humor makes me laugh!

After silk and tea set shopping, we went to the pearl market. I was fascinated by all the pearls stacked in the shops. China is known for pearls and jade so I wanted to make sure we brought some of each back for Maeli. We purchased a pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings that were made out of a strand I picked out. The clasp says happiness in Chinese and will be a great graduation or gotcha gift for when she turns 18.

Ann took us to a traditional Chinese restaurant for lunch. She said this place in particular is very popular and she was right! It is natural to eat at the same table with people you don't know if there aren't open tables. We sat with someone for a few minutes and then had the table to ourselves. Maeli ordered her favorite, dumplings, and a mystery dish that I later learned was chicken feet! You can see them in the photo below... I ate the dumplings and beef I ordered, but let Maeli have the chicken feet! :)

After lunch we went to the jade market. It was neat to see the many shops lined with hundreds of pieces of jewelry. I couldn't imagine trying to make a decision without Ann's help! There are so many different colors and options! Ann helped us pick out some nice pieces and we made our way back to the hotel after a day of shopping success. The boys spent the day hanging out and swimming in the pool. We ventured out for dinner with Coco that night. We went to Paddy Field's an Irish restaurant where the guys could eat Western and the girls could have Chinese. After dinner, we said goodbye to Coco until we meet again in America at the end of July. We can't wait to see her again and look forward to spending the upcoming months together at home.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 7: Church and Shaimen Island

Today was a day I have looked forward to for a long time. I've spent many moments thinking about what it would be like to take our daughter to church for the first time in a country where it is illegal to evangelize. There is a church on an island in Guangzhou known to adoptive families. Until recently only Americans could attend. This morning was extra special because not only were we attending church together in English and Mandarin, but we were able to go as a family with my dear friend Coco. Coco and I had worshipped together in America at my home church this past year and after returning home, she face great opposition regarding her faith. Being in God's house and hearing His word in Chinese was a very moving experience. It gives a glimpse of His vastness. Knowing that we were worshiping in two languages and feeling the presence of God there made for a moving worship service.
I wasn't for sure how Maeli would react to going to church. Coco translated what the schedule was for the day and she said she had been wanting to go to church but had never been. She's mentioned Jesus in her cards and letters and even pointed out a photo of Jesus hanging in one of the shops. Her institute prepared and loved on her in BIG ways. I will be forever grateful for the seeds that were planted in her heart there.

The island is a beautiful place. There are many people there taking wedding photos and relaxing along the courtyards.

The island also has many restaurants and shops that cater to Western adoptive families. Some of the stores use the proceeds to help orphans in China.

Here the service schedule of church.

Today happened to be communion Sunday. It was a great opportunity to explain what communion means and for her to hear in her native language the story of the cross. The sermon was from 1 Corinthians and the pastor talked about the love of the church and the what love really is. I love when God reinforces exactly what we need to hear.

After the service, we went to the church bookstore and Maeli asked for a Bible. This is the first thing she has asked for since we got her. She specifically asked for an English/Chinese Bible. We were happy to get one for her. My prayer is that the word of God will fill her heart and she will grow to love and know Him deeply.

This is a famous photo spot for adoptive families.

We found a noodle shop close to our hotel that served a tasty lunch! All this for less than $10!

These are Chinese pancakes. I have to say they are delicious!!!

The kids loved the window markers. It was a great way for them to interact and have some fun.