Two years ago today, I walked into the Civil Affairs office in Changsha, China, wondering what our first encounter would be like. Would the room be filled with crying children and anxious families? Would I recognize you from your one recent picture I’d been studying? Would you smile at me? Would you be terrified of me?
I had been waiting for this day for well over three years. But it almost happened too fast. I wasn’t ready for the moment.
When we walked into the waiting area, I saw a little girl in a red coat being held by a young woman. Along with two other official looking people, they were the only ones in the room, and Daddy and I were the only couple there. The instant I saw your face, I did indeed recognize you.
I nearly panicked because I didn’t expect you to already be there- you waiting for me. I whipped out my phone like a old west gunslinger and snapped this, my first picture of you.
You seemed very curious. Eyebrows up, eyes wide open, taking in the strange new place. You even started to take my hand as if to inspect me, then promptly attempted to bolt from the room, orphanage director in tow.
You were scared, terrified. And rightly so. We were new and different, and you had no way to understand what was happening. You finally fell asleep in my arms mid-protest. And that began to bond us. You woke up still in my arms and looked right at me. You still looked nervous, but you didn’t cry at all. We took you on a new adventure, where you thoroughly enjoyed every inch of Walmart. Then we went back to the hotel where we started to get to know each other and become a family.
I was, and still am, so amazed by you. Every single day you made huge leaps and strides- learning, growing, struggling and triumphing. Within days you had learned to clap, crawl, wave, sign “thank you,” say “Dada” and recognize your new name- Zoe Xiu. Your deer-in-headlights look was slowly replaced by sweet little smiles and giggles.
Nights were hard. Filled with night terrors and unrest. Days were fun. We explored new places and enjoyed getting to know each other. Your little personality started to emerge. You were a super sweet little girl with flashes of boldness, stubbornness… spiciness. You even began to give us a “spicy face” every time we called you Spicy Peanut.
Two years later, you are still super sweet with just a dash of spicy. We have celebrated two birthdays with you and watched you absolutely beam with excitement each time. You have discovered a love for chocolate, icing and people singing to you.
You have a style all your own. You love to accessorize and have found your inner princess. From dresses with rain boots to pajamas with Tinkerbell shoes, you confidently rock every style you try out.
You are super playful and often breakdown into a fit of unstoppable giggles. We have decided that you have the best laugh in the world.
A lot of times you’re quiet, taking in the world around you. You often sit back and observe while everyone around you is busy doing. You always stop to pick flowers. You notice things we miss… a lot.
Your serving heart abounds. When you know someone needs something, you immediately spring into action! You are big sister extraordinaire, always making sure little brother has his paci, plenty of toys, and a push in his walker to get him where he needs to be. You love to get out your play dishes and set the table while I’m making dinner and pull out our chairs for us to sit. And you are always available for super Zoe snuggles when anyone needs them.
Zoe, we are so blessed to have you as our daughter and sister. You fill our house with joy and our hearts with overflowing love.