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Tian Duo
Age: 7 years

Many of you are familiar with Maddie (Jun Ping) and Noah’s (Tian Duo) story. For those who are not, my husband James and I met them in 2006 when they were both lively toddlers in the China Care program, and we were immediately smitten.

Maddie didn’t talk, but she managed to boss everyone around with facial expressions and gestures. Watching the two interact was a lot of fun. Our trip was ostensibly to deliver supplies to the China Care Home, but it turned into a trip that was the start of our efforts to bring Maddie home. A year later, we were able to return and adopt Maddie.

As soon as Maddie gained enough language skills to do so, she began to ask questions about Noah. “Does he have a family? Has he had surgery? He needs surgery and he needs a mama in the hospital with him.” Every day she talked about him and every night she prayed for him. She would even talk to the moon as if she were talking to him, reasoning that he could see the same moon. “I have a family! You will have a family too! I love you and miss you,” she told the moon (and Noah).

Soon Maddie’s talk and prayers began to change. “Why not get an airplane and fly to China and bring him home like you did me?” she asked. “You could be his mama! Jesus, bring him to my family.” She did not know that we had been searching everywhere for his adoption file. One day in March 2009 we finally found it. We were thrilled; Noah was coming home.

The Reunion

The reunion between Maddie and Noah did not go as we’d imagined. There was no running to each other, hands outstretched, giggling, dancing in circles. It had been more than two years since they had seen each other and their reaction was much closer to shock than joy.

After a week or two, Maddie came to me in frustration announcing, “Mama, this Duo is not my Duo. My Duo, a baby. This Duo, a big boy.” Maddie was finding that Noah no longer allowed himself to be bossed around and he could indeed take care of wiping his own nose and washing his own hands. He did not need Maddie to mother him and it was initially hard for her to accept.

At the end of last year, Noah had the first of what we knew would be several surgeries--a 14-hour procedure to correct his severe congenital facial deformity. He was in the hospital for a week, and though his recovery was tough, it was a time of bonding and connecting for our family. The day we left the hospital, Noah hugged me for the first time. Later, while I was holding him, his body relaxed against mine in complete trust. We arrived back home on Christmas Eve.

Maddie and Noah continued to work out their relationship and soon language was no barrier. In the spring they very happily told me, “We are twins, mama!” and from that point on they were once again inseparable. This little dynamic duo has a lot of fun together.

Working Through Language Barriers

For a few months Anna, whom he knew from China Care, would call him every weekend. We were so grateful for her calls because he was still learning English and had many questions and things to say that he couldn’t communicate to us.

For a while, he would talk for an hour or two each time. At the end, he would give me the phone and Anna would ask his questions: “What is the loud thing mama pushes over the floor?” (vacuum) “I see mama take our dirty clothes into a room and then bring them out dry to fold. How do they get dry?” (dryer) “Why are there no soldiers here to keep us safe?” I’ll never forget the day he very excitedly told her, “Did you ever eat in your car? Mama took us to a window and they handed her food for us to eat in the car!”

Last fall, Noah and Maddie started 1st grade. They were both excited and are in the same class. Math comes very easily for Noah. Often he’s nearly finished with an assignment before the teacher has even finished explaining it! Reading and spelling take more effort, but he loves to learn and has been quick to pick up his new language. Recently he’s been telling me, “My favorite part of school is recess and lunch!” He is a very typical boy.

Family Ties

Maddie and Noah have a little sister, Sophie. One day Noah asked me, “What kind of people is Sophie?” “She is a person just like you and me.” “But why doesn’t she talk? She just makes noises. Why does she like to tear paper?” “Sophie is autistic and that means her brain works a little differently than yours.” “Oh... Sophie is an ostrich?!?”

Later he declared, “When I grow up, I’m going to build a machine for ostrich people. They can make noises in one end and words will come out the other end. Then I will be able to understand what Sophie is telling me.” He and Sophie have a special relationship. He is a very good big brother.

We are currently waiting to travel to adopt Josie, who was Noah’s little sister at the China Care foster home. Noah and Maddie ask me every day when we are going to get her, though Noah has made it clear that he doesn’t think Josie should be our last adoption. “After Josie, we need to adopt another boy so the numbers will be even,” he told me. I laughed and told him our car wasn’t big enough. At school recently they were learning the difference between “want” and “need.” Their teacher gave them a paper with fill-in-the-blank answers. One statement was “My mom and dad want ______. Noah filled in “a bus.” Uh oh.

I often look at my children and think what an honor it is to be their mother. I sometimes feel I should pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming. I can’t believe I have the privilege of watching these amazing children grow up. I have a front row seat and I can hardly wait to see what they accomplish in their lifetimes.

By Marjorie St. John