May is now 13, having celebrated her milestone birthday with dinner out, chocolate cake, gifts, and a sleepover (cue the giggling and squealing).
She was 6 years old in the first pictures we saw of her, and 8 when we met her, a small girl with a big spirit. She knew the Western alphabet, multiplication and division, some patriotic Chinese songs, and that was about it. She had watched Chinese TV and traveled to Shanghai, so she had broader life experience than most children in orphanage or foster care, but she knew little of the world. The only countries she could name outside of China were Japan and the United States. She did not know anything about, say, the earth or the solar system, and she could identify only a few plants, animals, and birds.
Now she is a straight-A student in seventh grade, an accomplished dancer, a sensitive writer, a loving family member, and a good friend. She is also, on occasion, whiny, lazy, vain, and sassy -- in other words, a normal teenager. It is a bit shocking to me when she talks back, since she had been a paragon of filial obedience for the past few years, having been well schooled in the Chinese system. But I think overall it's a healthy thing. I would worry if she didn't push back at all. And I know she will always come back for a hug and kiss at bedtime.
I love my funny, sweet, beautiful girl. I'm so happy we found each other.