Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birthdays and Blogs.

At her first birthday party, surrounded by her parents and uncle, and dozens of friends of all ages, Xiao Ya Ellyse digs into the chocolate cake and prepares to welcome the big 0-4.
Perhaps it's the harness booster seat in the car that she can almost enter and exit on her own. Or the household chores with which she's begun to help. Or the six inches she's grown in the past year. Or maybe it was the incessant birthday countdown. In any event, it has felt for quite some time like Xiao Ya was about to turn four. On Monday, she did.

The day before, we pulled together a party at a local community center. Amid crafts, music, balloons and more "tofu chicken" and dairy-free macaroni and cheese to feed a small village, Ya Ya's village assembled to wish her well. We even had a handful of folks who didn't bring any kids! It was a perfect day, and our hearts were filled with pride when our little girl did as she'd been coached -- and watched Mama serve every single person a piece of birthday cake before she got her own.

She also played with the older kids and fed all the babies, even taking a minute in the hallway to help a nearby mom who was not with our party change a diaper. She said hello and goodbye to everyone, and was of course too excited to eat everything that we set in front of her.

For me, this was a fitting coda to a long week that also featured an all-day adoption conference. The focus of the workshops I attended was self-identity and cultural affiliation. These raised some thorough, tough yet fair questions about how our children will grow up, where they will live, and whom they will see as role models. It's slightly uncomfortable to realize there is much more to do -- and more still of which to be aware -- while you're simply trying to make sure the dishes are done and she gets out the door for school on time and in matching socks. At the same time, we are very fortunate to have some control over the answers to these questions. Many parents do not.

"This year just wouldn't have been the same if Xiao Ya hadn't shown up," one of her teachers told me yesterday morning. I replied that I felt the full weight of that statement every day. She is an extraordinary human being, and her journey to date has left her uniquely qualified to take on the challenges she'll face in the future. From what we can tell already, she will have the social skills and the sense of humor to handle a life story with more than its fair share of loss, adversity, struggle and unknowns.

Her parents will give her the support and reassurance she needs, as many answers as they have to various questions, and help seeking out the answers to others. We will shield her from friendly but overly inquisitive or insensitive strangers, and do our best to make sure that life story is hers to tell.

To that end, we have decided that this will be the final Planet R-H blog post. The story began with our first post almost four years ago, when Xiao Ya was barely a few months old and none of us had any idea she -- or anyone from her country of birth -- would end up as part of our family. It was about us, and our journey toward raising a family. And while our adoption journey will be a lifelong one, we'd like to begin building a zone of privacy around our daughter.

This is no small feat in a connected world, and it's a world that continues to be more connected in ways that are novel yet terrifying. I have to admit, as a guy who works with words for a living, I loved blogging. I loved the connection with the audience, and the feeling of memorializing the day, the week or the month by emptying the thoughts out of my head and onto the screen. She's a photogenic and personable kid, we got great feedback from every photo and every story, and we're incredibly proud of her. But we have realized we can't claim sole ownership over the subject matter anymore.

At the same time, we also hope the archived posts will continue to serve as a resource for parents, or potential parents, who find themselves headed down a similar path. Here's hoping, for a few years at least, that we manage to tell her as much of the story as we can ourselves before she does any online detective work.

Or at least before she's old enough to reach the pedals.

We remain ever grateful to those we have met along the way, whether in person or only virtually. Your examples have inspired us and given us hope for ourselves and other families like ours. We're part of an amazing, supportive community of people linked across thousands of miles around the world.

To those who took the time to read: please don't be a stranger. Email us, find us on Facebook, or stop us in the grocery store. We're so pleased to have shared Xiao Ya's launch into this part of her life. And thank you so much for caring.


AnnaJ said...

Thank you for sharing so generously about your journey and your family.

Blessings and best wishes as your adventure continues to unfold.

One thought as you ponder the ways in which your daughter mayor may not embrace her heritage....we have recently been facing this as the college selection process continues. Check out (if you are interested and have time) my recent post at

again, thank you.

the decorated cookie said...

Sniffle sniffle and more sniffles. What an extraordinary journey! And I'm so glad to be a tiny speck in it. Your writing about your experience has even made me evaluate my own in an entirely new way (I type as Miss V, featured above, cries in the other room for me, which seems fitting somehow). XY is the luckiest kid! And seeing her at home in the year of 4, it makes sense this is the blog farewell.

Kelly said...

I'm so happy to have met you through this journey and to have added (now three) new friends to our own circle. Thank you for sharing your journey to your amazing daughter, and allowing us to be a part of her special birthday celebration. I understand and respect your decision to end the blog, but I am thankful that I will be able to keep up with you in other ways!

Cory and Molly said...

Wow, she's four? And so, so beautiful! Our little one is on track to grow that much this year, it's so amazing.
I used your blog a TON while trip-planning for our China adventure, and want to thank you again for your exhaustive account of planning, travel, meeting XY and everything else. It was incredibly helpful and will continue to be so for those currently on the journey. I was always excited to see a post from you, and am so thankful that I got to be a small part of your experience. You have a beautiful little family!!
Best of luck to you all in the future!

MarthaB said...

This is the best final blog post ever. I have enjoyed following your blog as we prepared to travel and eventually brought our daughter home and have always looked forward to your updates. I completely respect and understand where you are coming from and thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Korinna Bauer said...

Thank you.

We are about to be home with our son for 4 weeks now.

I will miss reading your log as ou are a person of great words.

I just wanted to say hello and send my best wishes and regards to our wonderful family.

Korinna, Hjalti and Sindri, Reykjavik, Iceland

Karen said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed following your blog and am glad to have "met" you all and kept up the "connection" for our daughters. Please keep in touch! Belated birthday blessings to Xiao Ya!!!

Maureen said...

I have been a blog follower for some time, but have never commented. I just wanted to say thank you for your blog. We are getting ready to travel to meet our daughter in China, and I'm sure we will be referring back to some of your blog posts when we get ready to go. Your blog has been inspiring and informative. I have a blog, also, and intend to end it at some point once we are home for the same reasons you are ending yours. Your daughter is beautiful and I wish all of you all the best.