This year, the anniversary of a very important date in our family’s life quietly snuck up on us.


Exactly 11 years ago in a hotel lobby in China, my life was changed when our son Kai, was first placed in my arms.

He was 2 1/2 years old and wasn’t sure what to think about me at first.  But, by the next morning he was calling me “mama” and was following me around our hotel room.

The first photo we ever saw of Kai, which captured our hearts.

Kai wasn’t our first child adopted from China, he was the second.  However, he was and still is our only son.



Our two oldest daughters came with us on this journey to China as well as Gracie who was excited to have someone her own size to play with.


We spent 2 weeks in China completing the adoption paperwork, which was filled with touring the sights as well as enjoying our newest family member.


My husband was fast learning that little boys take wrestling more seriously than little girls do.


Kai spent the first year of his life in an orphanage and then the next 18 months in a foster home.


It was obvious to us that he had been well cared for.


Our Chinese guide saw us through the maze of paperwork as well as showed us around some beautiful places in China.  We traveled in January and it was cold!


We took some time to visit the orphanage where Kai grew up and say “thank you” to the nannies who helped raise him.


As we neared the end of our trip, we paused to take this family photo before we left to fly home.  Little did we know that we would be back to adopt again 2 1/2 years later.


After a long flight home, we stepped off the plane and into the arms of family who were anxious to welcome the newest member of our family.

Our first day home was spent with Gracie showing Kai some of her favorite things to play with – a yard stick and a wooden spoon 😉

The age difference between these two is only 6 months (Gracie is the oldest) and it’s funny to see how much taller that she used to be.  Now, Kai towers over her.  

Kai had some severe special needs involving his feet, hip and hands.  He has been through countless surgeries and doctor office visits.  But through it all, he has shown us how resilient he is and the joy that he finds wherever he goes.

I can hardly imagine life without him.


Kai and Gracie still get along (most of the time) and he knows what she loves most for Christmas – ‘sugar’ cereal and chocolate.

So, “Happy Gotcha Day” to my wonderful son! We will enjoy your favorite dinner and dessert tonight 🙂

**If you would like to learn more about Kai’s incredible journey along with the other challenges that he has faced, you can click here.  

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

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