Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Had you asked us in August (or even any time during the fall), we would have happily told you we would not be visiting an OR again for some time.  A couple of years, even.  But, you know how this all goes.  Hannah is complex and God has other plans.  Hannah is having surgery tomorrow...again.  It will be her third surgery in less than one year.  This will be the surgery for her second set of ear tubes and the sedated, thorough hearing test. 

The tubes will drain all the fluid currently behind her ears and will be a part of her life for the foreseeable future.  Tubes are commonplace in the cleft world and something we fully expect to replace annually.  Her current set of tubes were placed at the time of her lip repair last spring and did not seem to last as long as I would have expected.

The hearing test should give us accurate information about what sort of hearing loss we are dealing with.  She could simply have loss related to all the fluid in her ears, which "should" be alleviated and drastically improved from merely placing the tubes (though I did not notice a great difference in her hearing after her first set of tubes).  Or, she could have permanent hearing damage/loss, possibly related to ongoing, chronic, untreated ear infections earlier in her life.  Either is a possibility and I go back and forth on what I think the results will tell us.  Parents who have walked this road before us say we will get the results from the doctor on this hearing test immediately following the surgery.

This should be a fairly in and out procedure (the whole thing is expected to last less than an hour!) with minimal issues related to recovery.  We do not expect any surprises or real difficulty with recovery related to this.  Honestly, I think it will take them longer to do all the pre-op stuff than it will for them to get it done and get us out of there.  We didn't even start preparing Hannah for it until today and as of right now, she is "cool" with it (though I did have to tell her over and over that there would be no owies when she wakes up this time).  And while we expect this to be completely routine and fairly a breeze compared to her previous procedures, we do recognize the great power and peace found in prayer.  We invite you to join us praying for Hannah and her procedure tomorrow--for minimal anxiety and discomfort for her and for a direct path to be laid out for us as far as assisting her with her current hearing deficits. 

One thing in all this remains quite clear and sure.  Hannah is brave.  Braver than most.  Again.

Friday, February 19, 2016

I Blinked {Joshua and Grace Turn Five}

They started so small and helpless.  Two miraculous bundles.  Bundles I never thought I'd have the ability or human capacity to carry to term.  Bundles I fully expected to come too early and have all sorts of preemie disadvantages to overcome.  But God had other plans.  God likes to work miracles.  God's creation is beautiful and my body did just as He created it to do (despite feeling like I had a torpedo residing inside my belly).  They came right on time.  My body held out.  They arrived healthy and robust.  Our little miracle bundles.

Then....I blinked.  And they aren't our miracle bundles anymore.  They aren't "the babies" anymore.  They are five.  Five!  It almost pains me to say it.  A whole hand!  Five fingers!  They are growing and maturing.  They are big.  They are treasures.  I cannot imagine our family without them.

Joshua, leading the way by one minute, is so eager to learn to read.  He keeps asking when he will learn and I keep telling him when he is five and in kindergarten.  Today he told me, "Mama, I am five now!  Will I learn to read in school today?!"  He is athletic and strong, aggressive and brave, yet he loves a tight squeeze, a warm snuggle, and he begs for me to rub his sweet little head.  He is ever devoted to his twin and looks up to big brother with stars in his eyes.  He is smart, quick, and the one who keeps us full of laughter in our home.  God has mighty things planned for his charisma and energy.

Grace, following by one minute, is very thoughtful and kind.  She has a true servant's heart and seeks ways to help, serve, and bless others.  She is graceful and feminine, tender and sweet.  She is devoted to her twin brother and an extraordinary big sister to Hannah.  She loves a good book and adores mothering her ever growing collection of baby dolls.  She cherishes her "girly time" at ballet each week and has many dreams involving pink ballet slippers and fluffy pink tutus.  She is all things girl: accessories, pretty hair, shopping for clothes, baby dolls, and play kitchens.  I know God is cultivating her beautiful servant's heart to be used for His glory.
We are no longer a home of babies.  We are a home of BIG KIDS!  I blinked.  And they turned five.  Happy Birthday, Joshua and Grace.  You'll find me desperately soaking in all of the moments I can until the next big birthday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Moments & History {A Letter to Hannah}

Dear Hannah,
You have been home, in our arms, for one whole year now.  It feels like a major accomplishment.  You and I have had some emotionally intense moments this past year--some beautifully messy and some hard and ugly, but we walked those moments together.  Side by side.  In a family.  Building trust.  Finding healing.  Building moments.

I will admit I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when we hit the one year mark.  We are no longer in a time where all things will be new to you.  You have experienced all of it at least once.  You've had candy plucked into a trick or treat bucket, you've unwrapped your first Christmas gift, you blew out a birthday candle, and you feasted on your first Thanksgiving turkey.  You swam under the summer sun, felt the breeze of a brisk bike ride, and learned to love the playground swings.  I treasure those moments up in my heart.  They weren't your "real" firsts....but they were your firsts with us.  The funny thing is that while I treasure it all up, I'm also feeling even more eager for year number two and while I'm nostalgic, I'm not really sad to see the first year draw to a close as I may have otherwise been in the past.

There is a struggle for me at the times of these milestones.  I can so easily be swayed to look back, to overlook the moments I did have and long for the moments I never got to have.  We are in the season of birthday celebrations in our home and as always, there is much talk about the arrival of each child.  How big my belly was, how we knew you were ready to arrive, what time the arrival occurred, and so on.  It is very easy for my heart to be dismayed as I realize I can't tell you any of those stories.  I don't know what time you were born or what the day had been like prior to your arrival or if you cried immediately or not.  I don't know if you slept like a champ or loved your first taste of solid food.  It is so, so easy to drift into this area of the gloom of the unknown.  What I can't and won't ever be able to answer for you.  What can't be replaced.

But rather than sitting there in the past I can't get back for either of us, what I do have are the moments we have now.  We made it through the first broken, disjointed, challenging, hilarious, messy year.  And rather than being sweetly sad to see baby's first year draw to a close, I rejoice and shout from the mountain tops--ONE YEAR!  She's been ours for ONE YEAR!  What does that mean?  We have history.  We have a past.  There are stories and memories to share.  I can tell you the "remember last year at Christmas" story and talk about what costume you wore to Halloween.  We have a past.  We have a history.  Moments heaped up on moments just adding to the depth of our relationship.

So yes, I bid the first year a fond farewell and get excited about the next.  There will be more moments.  And it is all adding up so that our memories with you will be greater than those without you.

Hannah, nothing about what you experienced this last year was easy for you.  I am in awe of your strength, your grace, your passion, and bravery.  You are a strong, resilient girl.  Our family is so much richer because you are in it.  We love you fiercely and we can't wait to add more moments to our history with you.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Xin nian kuai le! {Happy Chinese New Year!}

It is our second Chinese New Year in our home.  Starting a new tradition is fun, yet much grace is required.  We are still figuring out what place Chinese New Year will have in our home and just how it will be celebrated.  We enjoy the cultural aspect of it and find it important to celebrate in some way, as it is the largest, most important holiday in the whole year in China.  It is the Chinese equivalent to the American Christmas.  It is a big deal!  We want to honor Hannah's heritage, but also make it our own...it needs to be not just a Chinese thing, but also part of the Burri heritage too. 

So, it is our second year of celebrating and we are still very much in the process of figuring out just what it will look like from year to year in our home.  Timing is a bit of a struggle for us...Chinese New Year almost always falls late January to mid February and is a time of significant celebrations already happening in our home.  Late January is Hannah day, February 5th is Welcome Home Hannah Day, February 19th is the twins birthday, 2.5 weeks later is Hannah's birthday, and then another two weeks later is Jacob's birthday.  All this on the heels of an already festive Christmas and American New Year!  Phew!  That is a lot to celebrate.  So Chinese New Year sort of takes a back seat and gets sandwiched in and grouped together with some other activities we have going on, but we at least want to give it a nod of attention.

What did it look like this year?  Well, since it fell so close to Welcome Home Hannah Day, we went out for a Chinese dinner and celebrated both Hannah's arrival home and Chinese New Year at the same time.  We baked cookies cut out in the shape of hearts and China and used those for both celebrations as well.  On the start of Chinese New Year (which is actually 15 days of festivals and various celebrations in China), we set aside part of our school day to read many books about China, Chinese New Year, and Chinese culture.  The kids colored Chinese New Year coloring pages, and got to make lion masks.  The girls got to wear their Chinese silks.  We ate super long noodles for lunch (considered good luck for a prosperous year in China).  We ate China cut out cookies and will have dinner off festive CNY paper products (yup, you can actually buy that stuff right here in KY!).  We'll have mandarin oranges (another symbol of prosperity in China) with our dinner.  We hung red lanterns around the house about a week ago.  It isn't much, but we're still very much figuring it out.  Part of it will also involve learning what Hannah wants to do, how much she wants to celebrate, and how connected she wants to remain to her Chinese heritage over the years.

Overall, the main thing I've learned about Chinese New Year is that it is largely about family, being home, and being together along with a sense of a fresh and new start.  We are thankful Hannah is home and we already know that the Lord's mercies are new and fresh each day and that is ALWAYS worth celebrating, so celebrate we will.....in our own awkward Kentucky sort of Chinese New Year way.  Over the years I'm sure we'll find what works for us, what excites the kids, and what helps draw our eyes beyond the superstitions associated with the holiday and keep us focused on Christ and how He can equip us for a new year ahead.

So, in our awkward Kentucky Chinese New Year way, may we say,

Xin nian kuai le!


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Journey {12 Months Home}

We've been home for a year.  The memories of that flight home are still fresh.  Very fresh.  I haven't been on a plane since that trip.  I still don't know if I want to ever get back on one.  Thirty plus hours of travel with a child you've known for all of 10 days is beyond grueling. I can still remember the sheer panic I felt in the airport in Guangzhou and see the terminal where I shed probably at least three or four rounds of tears as Hannah threw a fit on the floor and people stared at her and me.  I remember running her around Shanghai and refusing to let her sleep and singing, "No sleeping in airports!  We sleep on planes NOT in airports!" to her like a crazed Caucasian maniac.  I remember the speed my heart was racing as we sat on that plane, just praying we'd have that row of four seats to ourselves.  I remember looking at Chris as the plane filled and filled and eventually the steady stream of passengers slowed and tears just ran down my face.  I was so grateful to God for providing those seats.  I may still be curled up in a ball somewhere on a Delta flight trembling  and rocking if it weren't for those amazing seats (we were in a bulkhead row, four seats to ourselves--we had purchased two adult seats and one lap ticket for Hannah.  There is no way we could have survived that flight with her in my lap the entire time).  I was shaking and crying and totally overwhelmed with those seats.  That was pure answered prayer and I know we had people at home praying us through those flights.

We didn't recognize Hannah that day.  Totally....different....child.  Yes, we had a bit of wild tantrums and screaming in the Guangzhou airport and I know we graced Shanghai and Detroit with at least a short burst of twitching and dancing and some crying, but it was nothing (NOTHING) compared to what we had experienced over the course of our stay in China.  She slept.  On every flight.  Almost entire flights.  Including the flight that lasted FOURTEEN hours.  She slept for the entire trip from Guangzhou to Shanghai (after a HUGE fight and massive meltdown on the tarmac) and then easily slept on the short trip from Detroit to Lexington.  We...were....stunned.  And in awe of God.

I remember watching the ground slip away in Shanghai and realizing we were leaving China.  Forever.  And all that Hannah had known there was now gone.  And I felt sadness, but truth be told, my panic over the flights ahead overshadowed a large amount of my sentimentality that day.  I remember seeing the lights of Lexington.  I sobbed.  Like for real.  Cried like a baby sobbed.  Nose running, eyes dripping.  We....were....home.  My arms ached from holding Hannah through all those flights, I was exhausted, I had no idea what time it was or even what day it was for the matter, but I knew those lights of Lexington and I cried like a little girl as we touched down.  I remember waiting for our gate checked bag and being the....very....last people off our flight.  And then came the escalator.

I remember wanting to sprint and hug the big kids so bad.  I had missed them so much and I needed the sense of security and normalcy that being with them brought.  I hugged my eldest and he broke down and sobbed on my shoulder, which of course opened my jet lagged, travel weary, adoption battle worn flood gates of tears and I sobbed too.  We....were....home.

Our journey was complete.  Right?  We'd traveled the globe.  We'd brought her home.  Mission accomplished.

Wrong.  While so many thought our journey was finished, what they didn't realize was that on that day, as we came down the escalator, our journey was far from complete.  It was just merely beginning.  The paper chasing was complete, the adoption was complete, the fundraising was done, but  the journey?  The journey hadn't even really started until we walked through our front door that cold February night.  And the journey continues.

We may be one year home.  We may have one year under our belts (and a lot was accomplished in that year).  But our journey is far from over.

When we said yes to Hannah we signed up for what is the longest, most grueling, most trying, most sanctifying, most personally gratifying marathon you could ever run.  Only we didn't get the super cool t shirt and medal to go with it.  We knew we were signing up for the marathon, we really did.  But do you ever fully understand just how FAR a marathon is until you try to run it?  Wow.  It requires everything you've got.  Physical stamina, mental toughness, training, preparation.

So we are one year home and while we are far from those early days, there are still moments that creep in and our home smells strongly of jet fuel.  We refer to those hard moments as "fresh off the plane" moments.  They are far less than they ever were, but given the right set of circumstances, they can easily slip back in.

We....have....come....so....far.  We have yet to arrive.  We have accomplished so much.  She has accomplished so much.  We have asked so much of her.  SO much of her.  And she takes it all in stride.  We are so proud of her.  We are deeply in love with her.  Our lives are so much richer, so much louder, so much funnier, and so much fuller because of her.  Our family is profoundly changed because of her and we would never want to go back to life before she was in it.

Our journey didn't end when we stepped off that escalator.  Our journey doesn't end now, as we celebrate one year of stepping off that escalator.  We praise God for the endurance and grace He has afforded all of us as we have blundered our way through this first year together as a family of six.  We look forward full of great anticipation and eagerness to see what the next year holds.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

The journey is far from over.  God's work is not yet complete.  We thank Him for choosing us.  For using us.  We praise Him for leading us to say, "yes."