Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Miracles and Magic...whalla!

Click here to watch PART ONE of the Arndt Family Holiday Video.

Click here to watch PART TWO of the Arndt Family Holiday Video.

This holiday season has been so wonderful. God has blessed us with immeasurable moments we don't ever want to forget. It's Izabella's second Christmas with us, but her first one really understanding the meaning of Christmas and the Magic of Santa Claus.

It's been such a magical time of creating new traditions and sharing our old traditions with her. AND best of all--It's been full of surprises like:

• when our sweet friends (that are more like family) Shayna and Matt invited us to join them in the company suite for a production of "Disney on Ice"

• and simple surprises like the day it snowed for the first time and "stuck" and Izabella had the "idea" to ask "her" God to help it snow FASTER so she could go out and make a Snow Angel and a Snow man!

• the way she surprised us all with her performance at her first Christmas Program--with a bow and a curtsy at the end of each performance.Thank-you Katie for coming to your cousin's program--and bringing your video camera--this first time mom--forgot to check the battery--you saved the day--I'd be crushed if I didn't catch this performance on video for her and to share with family.

• the way we felt as her parents, "my heart so full of pride and appreciation" as we watched her perform.

• the fun of Izabella making her first Gingerbread House--and arranging a playdate with "family" (this is huge for us as we live hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles from our family) to join her.

• when my husband is over-the-top cooperative at our, very COLD (freezing infact) "self-timed" family portrait session, where he ran back and forth to the camera for us, and even took an extra set of photos of Izabella and Mom when the first round we had our eyes closed in all of them. This is NOT his favorite thing to do--it's mine--and I always capture some precious moments of Izabella and Dan, but miss having some special pictures of Izabella and I. This was a huge gift for me. I treasure those images. As a result it was so much fun to finally design our family Christmas greeting card. I have waited to do this for so long--and last year I was too sick to get it done.I have designed so many families greetings--and it's special to do so. I've even designed cards in previous years for Dan and I and the girls. But this year I took the time to do our family card--and it was a milestone of sorts for me.

• how Mom & Dad just beamed with joy on Thanksgiving Day, as they had their whole family with them, only missing one of their 6 children, and only 6 of their grandchildren weren't there (who couldn't make it home from Texas and the grandchildren--one is serving our country at this time of war--and three are in training to do so).

• the way I ate up the fun decorating the tree this year--with Izabella's help. Even Dad didn't mind doing it this year. And I think it has to be one of the most beautiful tree's we've ever had.

• the joy of hanging 5 stockings on the mantel!

• the blessing of a "perfect" heart visit to the cardio doc. A huge blessing. Izabella says, "Doctor say, I'm fine." A miracle we don't ever take for granted.

• sitting at the counter preparing our greeting cards for family and friends with Izabella. She surprises me with all she can do. She figured out how to "stuff" the cards herself, and watching her run her little tongue along the seal was precious. I have video--but not downloaded yet. Another post.

• the un-expected tear in my eye, when Izabella opened a her surprise package of princess treasures--including her first pair of "ballerina" dancing shoes! What a treasure--from her Aunt Michelle and Uncle Ken.

All these little surprises and more are captured on video in this movie. It's a VERY long movie. But, full of all things Izabella--and after watching it again--gives you an idea what our beautiful life is like with her in it--Over the Moon Amazing and full of surprises--everyday!

Merry, Merry Christmas Everyone. I hope your days together are blessed immeasurably as well!

I will close with a very special story that I don't want to forget. During Izabella's time in the orphanage, her caretakers there shared, she had a special friend. A little boy named Ta Meng. Since we returned home, I have tried to get word of how he is doing. I have emailed the orphanage, posted on the Xian CWI yahoo group in search of his family, with no word. Then one day, I was moved to drop everything and try the yahoo group again. And we were blessed with a much anticipated update. But the news was not good. Little Ta Meng has been suffering for a year longer than Izabella with a parasite and scabies--he is not well. The miracle is, he does have a sweet woman in China advocating for him to get him into foster care, where he can recooperate and get back on his feet. So, our prayers at night started to include a specific prayer for Ta Meng. We always pray for ALL the children. Last night Izabella's prayer went like this:

"God. Thank-you for making Ta Meng feel better. And bring Ta Meng family back." Just before she prayed she said, "I got my family back. " A sweet way to say, "I had a family, I lost them, and then I got a family back." She then went on to say, "Mommy where Ta Meng live?" I said, "In China-where you used to live." She said, "Where do I live?" I said, "You live in America now." She said, 'I want Ta Meng live in America now. And, I, I, I, want Ta Meng ride pony. He hold on like I hold on." I said, "Yes, I want Ta Meng to live in America and ride a pony someday too."

On that note, I will close by praying for a miracle for Ta Meng--that he get well and find his forever family--very, very soon. Hang in there Ta Meng--listen to the words God whispers in your ear, and take comfort in His promise. It will all be ok."

Miracles and Magic--it's the reason for the season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Part 2: Decorating the Tree

Izabella was so excited to decorate the tree this year! She said, "Hurry, hurry! We have no Time! Santa is coming! And I have to put the star on top!" She's so much fun this year.
Here's a few photos of our decorating time together.

NOTE: Little Santa's Helper Izabella, Sadie the Reindeer, and Montana and "Ahhh...the --Who Cares Santa!"

Take a picture Mommy! I love how she touches my face, everytime we take a picture together. The only way to get her not to do this is for me to hold her hands--like on our Christmas Card. She's always done this--since our early weeks home. It's definately an Izabella thing. :) And I hope she never stops.

She helped me put on most all the ornaments. It was so fun!

And took her job very seriously. While Daddy watched football.

Christmas Part 1: Gingerbread House

Izabella's cousin Katie (the creative cousin) came over to make a Gingerbread house with Izabella. They spent a few hours..and as you can see it's a pretty amazing gingerbread house.

Izabella said, "I want to do it again!"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Surprise! We Won! We Won!

Remember that amazing 30-days of Give-Away's I told you all about recently? Well, Praise God we won! We won!

A precious soft, blanket made by Mamaeant --an adoptive mom--designed like the flag of China.  The woman who makes and sells them was determined to make a blanket for her daughter from Ethiopia, so she taught herself to sew.

And in the process found other mamas who wanted the same special blankets for their internationally adopted children.  To help them feel more connected to their birth country.

Izabella is running around the room saying, "We won a blanket, a china blanket, yeah! And then she had to draw me the blanket too! She's not too excited is she?

We are so blessed!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Un-expected things...

11.13.2010: This weekend was full of unexpected little "joys".  I've put a movie together of the moments I captured--just us...a family of 3.

Izabella--Every day is an amazing day with you in it!

PS--today we found the most adorable tutu skirt with a polka dot bow on it and matching leggings. But daddy said, "No." So when I asked Izabella what she wanted Santa to bring, she said, "A pink princess dress with polkadots". She figures if Daddy said no, she'd just ask Santa to bring it. She had already earlier said she wanted Santa to bring her a "flute". It was her only request until we found the tutu we couldn't get. :) Too funny. This Christmas is going to be so fun. Last Christmas we were home just 8 weeks--still to new--still didn't really know what was going on. I still remember her standing in front of the tree looking up at it as if to say, 'What is this tree doing in our house?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30-days of Give Aways..or more...

Knowing Stephanie it will be more--everytime she does anything it always exceeds all expectations or original goals. It's fun to watch it all happen.

And if you're looking for a really, really special gift for that "someone" hard to buy for person--how 'bout "sponsoring a child from An Orphan's Wish" in honor of someone special. I can't think of a better gift--
An Orphan's Wish

Her little mind...

M: Izabella what's your favorite color?
I: Red

M:what's your favorite toy?
I: China (her special stuffed painted pony)

M: What's your favorite clothes?
I: Princess Dress, Pink.

M:What's your favorite game to play?
I: "Turkey!" (Must be a game you play at school)

M: What's your favorite food?
I: Orange

M: What's your favorite thing to do outside?
I: Snow Angels. I want to make Snow Angels.

M: What's your favorite thing that ever happened to you?
I: You come get me Mommy! You come Mommy!

At Lunch Today:
Izabella and I were eating lunch together at a Pizza place. I know the owner Tom. He's a great guy--and he gave Izabella a BIG cookie and she was sooo happy. We don't usually give her cookies. Needless to say, Tom was a hit. And in Izbella's words, 'Tom good cook."

As we were eating our pizza, all the people in the restaurant left and the pizza makers (they make the pizza's in front of you), were all gone to the back kitchen. Izabella asked, "Where everyone go Mommy?" I explained that everyone had to go back to work. Just like Daddy has lunch and then he has to go back to work.
Then, I explained that everyone has a job they do.
Izabella asks, "What you do Mommy?"
I said, 'I'm an Artist."
Izabella asks, 'What Daddy do for work Mommy?"
I said, "Daddy drives BIG Trucks and Big Machines."
Izabella asks, "What Tom do Mommy?"
I said, "Tom is a Pizza Maker. He makes yummy Pizza."
I asked her, "Izabella what will you do when you get older and go back to work?"
She thought for a minute, then said, 'I be doctor Mommy."
I said, "Oh you'd make a wonderful doctor Izabella. You're so compassionate, kind and nurturing. And very smart. You'd be a very good doctor." Then I asked, "What will you do as a doctor?"
Izabella said, "I fix your babies Mommy."
I said, "Oh I won't have any more babies for you to take care of. Will you take care of other babies."
Izabella said, 'Yes, I fix all the babies."

Last night:
Izabella was downstairs spending some time with Daddy. I was upstairs working. When Izabella walked in my studio and said,
"Mommy, you come downstairs! Be Family."

Tonight as we headed to the car:

Izabella: "Wait for me Mommy!"
I turned around and they were trying to get her shoe back on. I said, "What happened Izabella?"
Izabella: "Daddy stepped on my Alligator Shoes."

Her "alligator shoes" are the shoes her Daddy bought for her that have a leopard skin pattern on them.

Dan and I just chuckled under our breath and didn't correct her--it's too cute.

Tonight in the car waiting for Dan to pump gas. I called to Dan, to ask him a question. He didn't hear me. So I waited for him to finish pumping. Izabella looks at me with the biggest concern and says, 'Don't worry Mommy, Daddy be right back. Daddy be right back, he won't leave." Dan entered the car again soon after. Izabella said, "See Mommy, Daddy right back."

It's a Chinese Princess Hair Clip!


In traditional Chinese folklore, the tiger is believed to have special powers as king of the beasts to protect children. The tiger-head hat, given as a gift to a child, implies a prayer of blessing for the child as well as a celebration of the child’s loveliness and vigorousness.

I saw these hats for sale online at Jialyn Designs. Our special friend Kelly (remember she is the one that first showed us our Izabella's face) is facilitating all orders for a couple in China that is raising funds to support their growing family.

For me--it's a way to get authentically Chinese handmade cultural items for Izabella--and to celebrate her birth country heritage. I have been wanting to order since Kelly first told me about this project. She recently added a few very special items--one of which was these tiger hats--only $10 ea.(and there is a special Christmas Promotion going on right now--check it out)!

I love the folklore associated with them--infact, it wouldn't surprise me if Izabella's birth grandmother made her one when she was a small girl. Because, she is definately "lovely and vigorous" as the tradition says, AND she has been protected all her life by so many earth angels and our God in heaven.

Ok, I thought they were really cool--but once we got them, I realized how VERY special they are. You can feel the love that went into each handmade stitch. Izabella doesn't know her birth Grandmother--but the next best thing--it was made by a Chinese grandmother with the same tender loving care. You see these hats are hand embroidered complete with the traditional Chinese character for king stitched in the front middle. Each one is entirely unique and varies in color and design. Again, a beautiful way to celebrate Izabella's heritage and own a piece of artwork of a fading tradition.

Inside the package was a special envelope for Izabella--she was so excited. I ran upstairs to get my camera to capture her opening this special gift--of the earth angel that helped bring her home to us. As I was upstairs getting my camera--she yelled up from the bottom of the stairs, "Ok Mommy, I wait! I got it! I wait!" When I looked down at her she was holding--both the tiger hats, the envelope from Kelly, her special "family pocket purse", her sippy cup and was ready to find a place to sit and open. Too cute.

When we opened the envelope--there was a beautiful "Gotcha Day" card--with words that, when I read them to Izabella, brought tears to my eyes. And a gorgeous, handmade "tiger hair clip", also made by Jailyn Designs. I didn't know that's what it was called but it was so beautiful--I said, "Oh, Izabella it's a Hair Clip made just for Chinese Princess'!" She LOVED it--tried to put it on herself--I helped her and we both agreed we needed some pictures. So out we went to take some sweet Chinese Princess pictures--and sent them to Kelly as a thank you. Kelly then forwarded them to the sweet Grandmother that so lovingly made these items for Izabella. I hope it lifted her spirits and she felt the joy--she had a hand in.

If you haven't checked out Jialyn Designs yet--do so now for Christmas. They have some very special items--perfect gifts for Grandparents, and special family members of our beautiful treasured children from China.

Thank you Kelly! It's the perfect Gotcha Day gift for a little "Chinese Princess".

Side Note: When Izabella was dressing for the day, I asked her what sweater she wanted to wear. She said, "Grammy Sweater". I said, "ok. Which one?" She said pointing insistently at one of the many sweaters hanging in her closet handmade by my mother--her adoptive grandmother, "That one Mommy. That one!" That is the sweater she is wearing. I didn't think of it until I was re-reading this post--that she has a Chinese Grandmother Handmade with love hat and an American Grandmother Handmade sweater on. sweet. God is so good!

Monday, November 8, 2010

"It's a Princess Dress!"

11.8.2010: This morning Izabella wanted to dress herself. I had told her she could wear one of two precious dresses given to her by some sweet neighbors. She was so excited. She pulled the dress of choice out of her closet and danced around her room with it--saying, "Oh Thank-You Mommy--It's a Princess Dress." When I pulled out a pair of tights for her to wear with it--she insisted she needed to wear the striped ones--and her "alligator shoes". She calls her leopard patterned shoes her "alligator shoes". And to top it off--she had to put on her 'crown" (which is what she calls her headband--the one she actually wore on Adoption Day in China--although she doesn't know that).

I told her she looked so beautiful--I must have a photo before school. She agreed. We went out front and this is what I captured in less than15 photos--she was obviously very happy about this princess outfit.

I love this girl...she's so crazy wonderful.

This afternoon after her nap--she went to the potty--and returned with a pair of striped pants on--and her tights were off. I said, "what happened to your princess tights?" She said, "I changed Mommy. I not wear my LONG SOCKS." Ahhh..ok.

Then this evening--when it was time for PJ's--she wanted to sleep in her "princess dress". I almost let her--but decided that was probably not a good habit to start. She reluctantly took off her princess dress--put on her heart jammies--and fell asleep holding that princess dress!

No kidding. :)

Freedom! Precious Freedom!

Sweet, Precious Izabella:

One year ago yesterday--we stepped off a plane that into Chicago Airport and your feet hit America's soil. Something that is an everyday occurrence in airports around the world. But to our family of three--and more importantly to you--this was a very big step. This step meant you would be free to have a voice about how your government runs your country, a freedom that is not a reality for the people of your birth country. You will have the opportunity to do and be whatever you want to be, whatever you set your mind and your heart to. You will be FREE--to be YOU in all the amazing ways God made you. You will have rights in your life that will challenge you and elevate you at the same time. You will have a life of your very own choosing. I pray you always appreciate and understand the meaning of this freedom, the sacrafices so many men and women have made in service to our country, and never take it for granted. I pray when given the opportunity or presented with the situation that allows you to stand strong for your new country--you will do so with immense pride and a sense of belonging. I know you don't fully understand this--another one of God's gifts to you--right now--but when you do--you know that no matter how you came to this country by birth or as an immigrant--our FREEDOM--is for all those that honor, cherish, guard it and respect it--this amazing country--you now call home--your America.

Happy Freedom Day our Chinese Princess! Your presence in our life has given us--new meaning to the word FREEDOM!

Ironically--this year--your first anniversary is also the voting season--and you accompanied us to the voting booth--and dropped Mommy's vote into the ballot box. Very special indeed.

This photo was taken in the Guangzhou airport, waiting in line to check our bags to America. It is one of the last minutes you would spend in your birth country--and you rode out of it on the wings of a chariot--loaded with baggage. Your daddy and I both commented on how you looked like a Chinese Princes a top her golden chariot.

On the plane--waiting to take off-- you had your first "head phones" experience--and you LOVED it! Hmmm...ipods here we come.

We flew, and flew, and flew for 20 hours across the ocean! Half way around the world to America. We watched the map as our plane drew closer to home.

Just as we took off from Chicago to our Home City, you reached over and grabbed Daddy's elbow, then reached across to touch me, knocked your head over on Daddy's arm and fell sound asleep. It was very moving--it was as if you were saying, "I have my Daddy. And my Mommy. And I'm safe, and will be home soon--exhale!"
As we landed in our hometown airport--your new home--I am reminded of this post from our travel blog about the end to a very long and very rewarding "magic carpet ride" to you and home.
Once home we took you for walks and introduced you to your new family and friends, your new home, your new puppies, your new room, your new bed and it's all yours

At your Daddy's Mom and Dad's home.

Daddy introducing you to your backyard and all the things surrounding you now.
November 8th, 2009
November 8th, 2010

You've grown soooo much! Last year you reached down and picked up a leaf and studied it. This year you wanted to dance like a princess. What will you do next year? 


11.8.2010: As I waited in the hallway for Izabella's class to dismiss today--my attention went to a big wall board that said "Kernel's of Thanks" with a HUGE cob of corn in the middle.
This photo--(lousy--I didn't have my camera with me--it's a phone photo--sorry) of the wall with the corn cob.
Upon examining it closer--this is what I found.

They asked each chlid, what they are "thankful for" and this was Izabella's answer, "Jesus". Need I say more?

I prayed and prayed and prayed when we were waiting the almost 3 years from application to the day we met Izabella, that God would be "whispering in her ear words of reassurance and comfort--that it was going to be ok." I prayed, that He would see her through this." When I see this response, the visual that comes to mind, is: Little Chun Lei, frightened and scared when she realized, she as she puts it, she "couldn't find her mommy and daddy". Right then, Jesus walked up to her, reached out his hand and took her for a little walk. On that walk he explains how He is with her. Not to be afraid, for He will send many earth angels to care for her and love her--this is how she will know He is always with her. Just then, Jesus touches her heart, and places her hand in the hand of the first angel that He commanded. Over the next 18 months--He would return to her many times to whisper in her ear, words of comfort and reassurance. I know He was at her bedside in the hospital during surgery, at the orphanage the day before we arrived to prepare her for our arrival and I imagine...this is why, she is so "Thankful for Jesus."

Perhaps this is just my idea of what happened. Perhaps she doesn't really understand what she was saying to the teacher when asked, "What are you thankful for Izabella." It's possible. But this mother's heart is comforted, knowing she was never alone--just as He promises all of us--even in her darkest hours. What a blessing. I believe all these little details (like this Kernel's of Thanks Wall) along our journey of life, are little whispers to us--that we are in the right place, doing the right thing--and assurance that we should march on, and keep our ears and eyes open to Him always.

Clearly, I was so proud of my little 3-year old who clearly knows who her Savior is. So, of course, I immediately whipped out my camera phone and took this shot. Then I started to read some of the other kids responses--"Mommy & Daddy." 'My family.", "My mommy." How precious. Then I thought, let's hope, we're her second thing she's thankful for. :)

The un-tarnished spirit of a child that was clearly in the palm of God's hand and lead through lifesaving surgery, and eventually on to a full life with her chosen forever family--by the only one who could make that happen for her--God and His son Jesus!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't talk loud to my Puppies Daddy!

11.5.2010: Tonight at dinner, Dan was giving the dogs a command to get out of the kitchen. You've heard this before, we say it constantly--the temptation of food is too much, especially now with Izabella--lots of crumbs and delicious droppings from her. Obviously his command was loud.

What comes next is too good not to write down:

I: Don't talk loud to my puppies daddy!
D: Oh, ok.
I: They're old. My "nonnana" and "sadie" are old. You need to talk softly. Not loud. Soft. K? I love my puppies.
D: Oh, ok.

She's something else.
 Izabella's first School Pictures! Fun! 
I feel like a real mom in little ways everyday. It's an un-believable feeling. As one who was on the recieving end of these precious pictures from family and friends children--I am so happy to have some to give out of our precious Izabella!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Seriously Mommy! Seriously!

11.4.2010: OK, Izabella, I'm laughing out loud right now! You are soooo funny! I was just putting your shoes on to go take a walk. Once we got them on--you stood up and said, "Oh No Mommy! I can't wear these! Seriously Mommy! Seriously!" Then you ran over to get your other shoes and said, "I wear these Mommy. Those hurt big toe!"

I so wish I had a video and at minimum an audio of you saying this. It was hysterical.

I love you soooo much.

Hmmm...wonder who says that all the time.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Day and Adoption Day

Simply and seriously there are not words to express how special this year and this day are to us. We celebrated it with a gift for Izabella that we bought for her in China--a Chinese Princess Barbie. She loved it and called it her "prize". She means "surprise". I told her we had a special surprise for her after dinner. We went for an ice cream cone--one of Izabella's favorite things to do--but not a food item she loved from the start. The COLD was not fun for a little girl that was only used to eating foods and drinks that were room temperature. She still likes her food that temperature and insist on us blowing it til it is.

If you've been following along you know all that the year has brought to us and to Izabella. It's amazing, it's beyond a dream, and unfolded in a way I'd never had dreamed--but every day we learn more about the wisdom of God's plan in all that this year brought our family.

My Sweet, Sweet Izabella,

My heart is full, even if my pockets are empty, except for the little toys you slip in while I'm busy doing something else. Your smile, tender compassion, and nuturing and healing way have given new meaning to the word "forgiveness" and "love". There is not a single bit of anger in your heart, even as much as you've been through that you could be angry about. Your ability to understand what has happened to you and what is happening around you is amazes us and everyone around you. Your patience and flexibility are to be admired and give new meaning to the word "flexibility". You ask for very little and never accept something you have enough of already. You light up the world around you and everyone in it. And most of all, you make me so honored and proud to have been chosen to be your "MOMMY".

The gate that took us to the plane that would
carry us to you--the day we met.
One year ago, we traveled half way around the world to a far away land, where they placed you in our arms forever. My life would never be the same. As we were landing in Xi'An that morning--the weather was rainy and drizzly--just like it was here one year later. We didn't know what was next, when we would meet you or where. But we knew you were close--and my heart was so full with that thought--yet I wondered how you were doing, where you were and if you understood what was happening to you this day--and we too were very nervous.

It's hard to express how we felt
on the flight coming into Xi'An the morning of the day we met you--your Daddy squeezed my hand--as we looked out over your city--the city where you were born. He squeezed so hard--I thought he's squeeze my fingers off my hand. We landed and as we looked up, there stood the most beautiful woman smiling at us--she was, what we agreed was, the most beautiful woman and we were stunned by the resemblance to you. We imagined you all grown up--as beautiful and precious as she was. This image of you as a young woman was comforting to us as we took our last steps to you.

Approaching Xi'An City Airport.

The view as we landed in Xi'An City--we are so close to you.

Taken from the cab--as we entered the City Wall.

As we entered your majestic and ancient city we were in awe of the city wall, surrounding so many modern things. The contrast was much like what your life in China versus what you will soon know as your life in America. So different, yet so beautiful in each it's own way.

Your Daddy took a nap--as soon as we got our hotel room, he was especially anxious. When we arrived at our room, there was a crib for you--it was at that moment, I realized, this is not a dream--that just hours from now I will be a mommy! A lifetime dream--that I knew would happen someday--but couldn't happen fast enough. However, the room was much too small--we planned to spend quite a lot of time there with you--getting to know each other--and this room barely had enough room to get in and out of the beds. The guide had left, so I attempted to upgrade our room, trying to communicate with no interrupter, and not a lick of Mandarin in my vocabulary--yikes. But, the hotel was so very kind, called on their best english speaking employee (and I think the manager) and we were upgraded within a few minutes When we arrived in the new room it was truly a home away from home--it even had a little corner with a couch and chairs that we would come to spend our first family hours together in. So, I immediately settled our room into a temporary home for our new family and struggled with what to wear for such a big occasion. Silly me. I landed on a black turtle neck sweater (mistake it was too hot) and a pink scarf--as I really didn't like pink until the thought of you became a reality in July of 2007. Once home--one day we were chatting about your "family day" and you said, "Mommy monster. Mommy black monster." I remembered the black sweater and realized it was probably not the best choice--but I wanted to be conservative and respectful to the Chinese officials. Hmmm...hind site being 20/20 I would have worn something bright and cheerful. Sorry Izabella.

A few hours later--we met our guide in the lobby and she escorted us across a very busy street--to the civil affairs office building. I always imagined those last steps to you as being memorable--I never imagined they'd be terrifying. As we wove through the crazy traffic of rickshaws, buses, cabs, cars and pedestrians, all moving without rules or organization through this complicated intersection, your daddy warned me to stay close to the guide and she'd get us across safely. She did. A deep breath and we were headed up the steps of a large very old government building. Inside the building was cold, all marble and very quiet except for our footsteps. A woman did pop her head out of an office to see who was coming--but otherwise--no one in sight. I wondered what she thought of us--a big Nebraska guy, a Caucasian woman well endowed and a little Chinese woman. I know now--the office we were going to was the office where all Xi'An Adoptions take place--infact for most of Shaanix province. So she probably saw many sights like ours. Although, not enough--we were told only 30-40 children find their families a year from your orphanage. That statistic broke my heart-but I was so profoundly blessed you would have a forever family. The hallway/foyer we entered was very large with a very high ceiling, lots of doors to the right--and to the left was the elevator that would bring us to where we'd meet you. We took the elevator up to the 6th floor. I remember looking at Dan and thinking "well this is it. we're here." We walked across a hallway--our shoes echoing with each step--to a corner office. There we put our stuff on a large black couch. Our guide talked to the official and we waited. He was a very quiet--man--very focused on the paperwork of his job. He had an what appeared to be an assistant. She was very young--and obviously egar to please the offical. Later an older woman, the notary/accountant would also join us. But we were the only family there that day.

I asked the guide if you were here in the building yet? They told me "You were on your way." My heart skipped a beat. Then I focused back on the VERY important paperwork--as our agency AWAA guides had so wisely instructed us to do. As they said, and it was so true, we had waited 3 years (and my heart had dreamed of you for over 36 years), surely we could take a few minutes to focus on the paperwork to be sure all was done perfectly. We wanted to leave no room for any delays or errors that would require us to add any steps, or time, to the finalization of making you our daughter--forever and ever. In fact, the paperwork was wrong. They had mistakenly put another woman's name where mine should have been--so they had to fix it--taking a little longer than normal. While we waited for them to fix the papers--you arrived!

My first glimpse of you. I'll never forget this image of you.
You were finally here--right in front of me.
Daddy said, "Here she is." I looked over to the door to see you in the arms of your Nanny. You looked so scared and confused. The sight of you took my breath away. I gasped for air and said, "OH MY she's beautiful!". I had prayed for weeks that I would have the strength to not get emotional with tears of joy. I knew these might confuse even more than you probably already were. And God granted me that prayer. My eyes were dry, but heart beat out of my chest--as I restrained my desire to run over and take you into my arms. You sat with your nanny quietly, taking it all in, while your nanny whispered to you what we hoped were words of reassurance that you'd be ok. Telling you who we were. She clearly loved you the way she constantly brushed your hair with her hand and even had to leave the room, to what I think was time to compose herself just before she know you had to go.

We still had some paperwork to proof and be sure was accurate--and your Daddy was very good at making sure that was done right. We didn't want to lose you--we had waited so long--it would only be a few more minutes. Finally, what seemed like an hour later--was only 4 minutes--the guide told us we were done--we could go to you. We shared the toys we had brought for you--you loved the "kiddie car keys" that made sounds the best. The button you liked best was one that sounded just like the bell on a rickshaw, that button is almost worn off from your little finger hitting it over and over again. Ironically enough--it was the toy that so playfully made sounds from the backpack as we moved through the airports, airplanes and shuttles on the way to you. The sound always brought a smile to my face then--and would put a wee-little smile on your face in those early minutes of meeting you. We visited with your Nanny about your schedule things we'd need to know to take care of you--as she shared all the special things she brought with you from your home in the pink castle. Things for you to remember them and your home there forever--and for us to get to know you better.

Poor Baby.."I know, I know. It's so hard, so very hard."
Then it was time to leave--your nanny gently encouraged you to go to me. You were not sure about that at all. I reached down to pick you up and you were so sad. It broke my heart. The tears I had been holding back welled up in my eyes, as my heart broke with you. A day that was so happy for us--was such a traumatic day for you. Yet again, you would be torn from all you knew to be handed to two complete strangers that didn't even look like you. I didn't know how to make it better. How to make you understand it was all going to be ok. To tell you I understood your pain. There was simply nothing I could do to change that, except to whisper assurance and love on you best I could, as you kicked, arched your back and pushed me away. Oh sweet baby, I'm so sorry. It chokes me up to think of that moment even now. How very hard this was for you. So very hard.

Once we got moving and you were a little better. The tears stopped and it was if you were just numb. Realizing there was nothing you could do but go along with it--and see what happens. Such a trooper, such a survivor.

Your first hours with us were spent rushing through the streets of Xi'An City, on foot, no cab to be had, to a small photo studio for our first family picture. That is on your adoption certificate-- and in your Chinese passport, then off to the store to purchase some formula and a few items we needed. Then we took my favorite form of transportation back to the hotel--we rode through the crazy streets of Xi'an City in a rickshaw--the breeze on our face was refreshing. I remember as we sat all squished together in that rickshaw seat, "ah--we are a family--a FAMILY! Finally. I smiled the entire way back to the hotel." You didn't make a sound or a whimper. You just rode along with whatever we did or wanted. Back at the hotel, we dropped off our things in the room and grabbed a sippy cup for you--and headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

Mommy holding you just a few hours
after meeting you.
I was so worried about you.
All I could do was love on you
and kiss you. Hoping my love would
sooth your sad, sad heart.
By the time we got there--you were very passive and disoriented. I was soooo worried about you--precious girl. I handed you to your Daddy, and once on his knee--you came to life. You drank your apple juice and ate a french fry. I have never been so relieved in my life. It as right then--I knew you'd be just fine. From that point on--you and Daddy were best buds. He carried you all over China--always guarding you, teaching you about all the things you'd see, loving and caring for you--his very special little Chinese Princess. It's what we called you--to us you were the most precious thing we ever laid eyes on--and you will always be our special princess. The second day together--Adoption Day you showed us your smile and giggled a little. But still no words--not even babble.

Mommy could not console you.
You were just limp and passive as can be.
I was so worried about you my sweet thing.
But, seconds later, sitting on Daddy's knee,
with your keys at dinner,
much more alert and eating--what a blessing.
Holding on to the keys you
wouldn't part with, even when you went potty.

We would later learn and assured
(from a dear, adoptive mom and friend Petrie)
that little arm around Daddy, as we returned to our hotel room,
shows you clearly trusted
and bonded with Daddy right away. A relief for all of us,
a sign that you felt safe with us.
Asleep in my arms on the day we met.
Daddy urged me to put you in bed, afterall you were asleep.
But I insisted on holding you a little longer,
I had waited so long for you I didn't want to let you or this day go.

The insection in Xi'An City that shows
Izabella's finding spot--on the left side of this picture.
On Adoption Day our guide drove us by the intersection in the city where an electric company once stood. It was behind that electric company, in the living quarters area, that your Ba Ba said good bye with such a heavy heart. You have shared your memory of this day with us recently, clearly he was very sad, and didn't want to leave you. Your words of this memory are, "Ba Ba (father in Chinese) gone." Said with a very sad but definitive face. "I not find Mommy Daddy. I sad." As I look at this picture today--I contemplate his steps across this street to this place--his precious daughter in his arms, knowing he would never see you again. That thought breaks my heart in a million pieces. I can not imagine his pain, their pain. It is unfathomable. I regret we could not get our guide to stop here with you--if I could over again this is one thing I would have pushed harder for. When I requested she take us here--she was shocked we knew the address, when I produced it--she was surprised. As was I surprised when she told us in the cab as we approached this special place--where a father let go of his daughter--our daughter. I asked to her just pull over for a minute--but she insisted we were on a schedule--much to my frustration. I was appreciative to have been able to drive by--you asleep in my arms. You see that big blue bus on the right side of this photo? That bus was next to us for blocks, as the guide warned us we were approaching your "finding place". I was panic'd that your Daddy, posed and ready with the camera out the window, would not be able to capture this special place for us. Worried he'd only get the side of a big bus! I prayed this would not be so. And God would not let that happen. Like he parted the Sea for His people, he seemed to part the crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic, opening the view for a split second as we passed. The electric company was located on the left side of this photo. You can see it is gone now--and a new building is under construction there. I recall saying a little prayer--that they would know you are safe and very, very loved. Perhaps we will meet someday. You never know--it would be an honor.

We thought it would be a while before you opened up and started talking to us. But, on the morning of our third day together--as your Daddy was in the shower getting ready for our trip to see the Terra Cotta Warriors--you stood next to me as I picked out our clothes for the day--and looked up at me, smiled and started babbling. Your Daddy even heard your precious babble from in the shower and poked his head out excitedly and said, 'Was that Izabella I heard?" Yes indeed. And there was not a more precious voice in the world.

Each time I reach down to pick you up--I recall that day we met--and I am reminded what journey we've both been on--together--even when before we met.

I remember holding you as we walked out of the Civil Affairs Office--as we waited for our guide to hail a cab for us--I realized--my arms and my heart are full now--so very full.
You can see you're alert and engaged--
this is Adoption Day (Day two together) at breakfast.
Outside the hotel, you always fell asleep in the cab.
It was just too much for a little girl to take in.
As you can see I was happy to have you in my lap.
No seat belts in China. Now--back home--
you know how important seat belts are and say, "Safe Mommy. Safe."

Here you are asleep on the way to the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum.
With your Dolly. This was the first day you would let go of your keys.
We had finally assured you--you could have them anytime you wanted them.
That we would not take them away forever.
Clearly, you were not used to having anything that was all yours.
I love this picture of us. It is the second family picture taken of us.
Can you tell we're so happy you're ours. A family of 3.
On the same day a year later--as I bathed you for the day--I had to capture these pictures. I thought--this is perfect--you see--it occurs to me everyday--many times a day--but notably during your baths that you are such a precious gift. I stare at you laying on your back floating in the water, so sweetly, looking up at me smiling from ear to ear--as if you had not a care in the world--and with such love and joy--it moves me many days to tears. Then I wrap you in your soft towel--and call you my "baby" and carry you to your room--where we put lotion on and dress for the day. This time is so precious--and not a day goes by I don't count my blessings in you--and thank God for placing you in my arms.

As I put you down to bed each evening--I sit next to you and just look at you and tears of emotion well up in my eyes, my throat closes up and I can hardly breath with the emotion of knowing that God blessed me soooo deeply, so very profoundly with YOU! How can I be so blessed--as the words of the Sound of Music Song goes, "I must have done something right."—I am teared up as I write this. As I often do, when I write of my love for you and the miracle of your life.

You are beyond my wildest dreams--a dream indeed. One that I am so happy not to have been awaken from.

I can not wait for each day with you--and miss you when you go to sleep. Time is moving so fast! Much too fast.

My only wish is that you always know these things:
--That you were loved by your birthparents with all the love that only your birth parents can give.
So much so--that they gave up a life with you--so that you may live!
--That you know you have been growing in my heart for as long as I remember--and that although I
don't believe God meant for you to be abandoned--that He prepared and laid your precious face, and
who you are, on my heart and lead me to you and only you.
--That you really are a very special little girl, that is loved by so many—forever and ever--near and far.

"I love you Izabella!",