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Friday, March 1, 2019

Update: Tess

On February 29, 2008, I saw this gorgeous picture for the first time. 
11 years ago today, I saw this gorgeous face for the first time.
My girl. My daughter. And I pretty much knew it was her when I first saw her,
But I was completely unaware and unprepared of how much this single person would change me forever!

Tess is 5 months old in this photo. It was her referral pic. The first time I saw her, knew her name, knew who she was and that she existed. We had been waiting to our referrals for a while and I was so excited to know who she was. The first things I noticed about this pic was those lovely bow tie lips, her broad nose and those amazing dark eyes that even at 5 months old, that even in a photo just seemed to piece right through you to the soul of you!

Tess and Jude's adoption was hard. If it could have gone wrong it did, and after a crazy long battle with so many turns and huge delays, I found myself in a very large conference call with legislators, lawyers, US government officials and lots of very anxious and upset adoptive parents. Yeah, really, legislators and lawyers. ***gulp*** And in the midst of that life-changing phone call, I prayed, mustered all the bravery could, unclicked the mute button, and pleaded with anyone who would listen to help the special need's children come home and get time-sensitive the medical attention they needed. Someone listened to me, and we were on a plane within a week as the Vietnam adoption program closed around us.

Neither Tess or Jude fared well during that extra waiting period that their adoption journey had to endure. Tess especially was slipping deeper into what I now clearly define as institutionalized autism. We could see it in the many many photos and videos that we got of her while we waited. She was 12 months and 1 day old when we got her into our arms, and let's just say I was immediately aware of my own fear about what lay in front of us. I was unprepared and scared.

We made it home after a whirlwind of appointments and me almost too frightened to admit how scared I was. and those first years were so hard. I often thought it was too hard and that I would break from the weight of it all. It was years till I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and years more before I could feel the warmth of that light. But fast forward 10 years, fast forward to this sweet baby girl growing into a beautiful young lady that has come through it all... oh my word, what amazingness she is.

Through it all, I really really mean it when I saw I am a better me because of it.

Years later, I can see more clearly. I can see the specialness that Tess always was and always was meant to be. Back then I couldn't, but now I clearly can.
She is amazing.
She is strong.
She is unique.
She is beautiful.
She is brave.
And I wouldn't change a single thing about her or the very hard process that we went through to get to this point. The journey is not over. Many things are still hard and some things always will be. But, wow, it is amazing where we are right now... and this young lady? Ohhhh my. I can't really call her a baby or child or little girl or even girl anymore. After all she'll be 12 years old this summer, and young lady seems to be the most appropriate thing to call her now, although she'd surely cringe at the term.
So I thought a little update on my Tess might be in order.

Tess in all her amazingness...
Her favorite color black.
She can spin and maneuver a bow staff (or long stick. Whatever.) like nobody's business.
She's quick with a hug and the patron saint for lost causes.
She's still a tiny little bug. At 11 1/2 years old she weighs 55lbs and still hasn't hit the growth charts although I am just starting to see the first signs of her body changing.

She loves to read, and is often found squirreled away in a comfy chair or in her room with her nose in a book... which is kinda ironic since school and reading don't come easily to her. She has to try hard, but books are her little safe place, and I'm more than happy to encourage that with as many of fantasy and dragon books as I can get my hands on. Thank you very much public library.

Remember the years of eating/food therapy? Well food is still a struggle for her, especially most all fruits, but as a mama I've come to realize that it's not a hill I'm willing to die on. She still has "safe foods" that she turns to when nothing else looks appetizing, but these days she'll try most anything (although not necessarily with an open mind!) and mostly prefers vegetables, edamame, celery and Brussels sprouts being her favorites.

You'll usually find Tess hanging out with the boys, and Jude is still her favorite partner in crime, although she has some other close friendships too. Specifically, Lily, Ava and Nolan.

She loves to exercise and is ridiculously athletic. Tess has taken parkour classes off and on, golf lessons each summer and was on a soccer team for a couple years, but she hasn't found a "sport" that speaks to her yet. Honestly I think she might be a runner, but we haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet. Next year when she and Jude start middle school, I'm hoping for some opportunities for her to try running out. Yep you read that right... they are starting middle school next year!
Tess and The Man Child, who is now 20 years old, have really evolved an amazing relationship. I think they feel like they are kindred spirits and "get" each other. Life can be hard for each of them albeit in different ways, and I often find them together just talking. The Man Child often seeks her out just to give her some extra support in life. What amazingness adoption weaves.

She's not sure what she wants to do when she grows up, but she does say that she wants to be a writer often. She does like writing short stories! My daughter, Tess the writer. I like the sound of that!

I love you to the moon and back, my beautiful girl!
And thank you, Lord, for the gift of being this wonderful, amazing child's mama!


  1. Oh I love hearing about Tess! Such a beautiful little soul. Madeline's story is much the same and she is doing so well. Aren't we the luckiest mama's out there getting to see God's story unfold before us?!Looking back and being thankful for the hard is what it is all about right, I too am a much better me because of Madeline! Hugs to you!

    1. I still think of you and Madeline. I remember when we met way over there. Sometimes the amazingness of the www is such an amazing wonderful thing!

  2. Think about Obstacle Runs as a fitting sport for Tess. Only running isn't "tessy" enough.... 😉

  3. Love this! Love you. Tess is gorgeous.


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