Saturday, May 22, 2010

The meaning of a Name--A GIVE AWAY! Enter Today!!! It's FREE!

My VERY special friend "Kelly" is working with one of her father's co-workers in CHINA to create these very special Chinese Character Charms at ! Jaiyin Designs ! And she's giving away a charm to one lucky winner--just leave a comment on her blog post (go here to enter/comment and possibly win!) and you'll be entered to win--it's free--all you need to do is think of what "chinese character/word" you'd like the charm to have on it. These charms are all handmade and one of a kind. Pretty cool! And by the way taking a peek at her beautiful Lydia--home just over a month now--and her other beautiful kids is fun too! Double whammy of sweetness! See the pic below as a sneak look at the sweet angel that first showed us our Izabella's face and her little angels.

For those that know our story--Kelly is the the very special online friend and mom that--in an effort to sooth my sad heart in the time just before our referral--emailed (see the actual email she sent me that amazing day below) me a picture of a little girl she found on her agency's WC Shared List website. She thought she was the perfect fit for us--our agency was in transition and we didn't get our WC Shared list email that month-thus my deeply sad heart and frustration (we are not with the same agency). Well the miracle is--that same little girl was referred to us the next day by our agency--we accepted her and that little girl was our Izabella! And if you go to the website and place an order--you'll see our Izabella's picture on that page! She asked if she could use Izabella's pic and I said, "absolutely!" It is an honor to be a part of this couples work in China in supporting their small business. To read more about God's Miraculous events in our journey to Izabella go to this post on the day Kelly headed to China to get her little girl. Her story of their family's journey to Lydia is nothing short of miraculous as well--go here to read that.

A fun story about Izabella's Chinese Name: We all labor of what to name our children--after all it's for a lifetime and one of those precious things we give our children that is so personal. This is a universal world-wide event--and doesn't go without fanfare in China. The Chinese language and characters are fasinating and mysterious and hold so much meaning and in our case clues to her past. Izabella's Chinese Name is "Chun (Spring/Budding Flower) Lei (Thunder)" She was abandoned on March 27th, 2008 (at what they estimated when she was about 10 months old)--obviously it was "Spring" and we also think there were thunder showers that day as well. The ophanage that cared for her from that day forward, named her-as she was abandoned without any identity or clues to her birthparents or past. We asked the orphanage director why they named her "ChunLei", they told us because she was a beautiful as a budding flower. We choose to keep the "Lei" in her american name as part of her middle name--a link to her past that is very important to her. Hence, she is now Izabella DanielLei Arndt.

Names are important to everyone--so these necklace charms are a great way to share that in a unique way--by discovering the meaning of your child's name in Mandarin and honoring them at the same time.

I plan to buy one for Izabella and hold onto it to give her on our 10th Anniversary as a family--called "Gotcha Day" in the adoption community. Which is not very long away--time is flying by so fast. Cherishing every moment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stranger called Mommy!

5.18.10: Yup, I said "stranger"! As much as I love this girl with all I have and all my heart, recently I can't help but remember I must still be a "stranger" to her. Mind you, a stranger that feeds her, clothes her, comforts her when she's sad or hurt, celebrates her accomplishments, teaches her about the world around her, reads to her, plays with her, tucks her in at night and just loves and loves and loves on her every day--all day! Really much like the nannies in the orphanage that took such loving care of her for 18 months. Yes, still a stranger, more a stranger than the 3 women that took shifts caring for her-- and based on the meeting we had with one of her nannies--loving her. Yet, you'd never know it by the way she looks at me. Sometimes she puts one hand on each cheek and says, "Listen!" and then babbles something in what sounds very much like mandarin to me. I wish I knew what she was telling me--I am listening! Sometimes, she presses her nose against mine and looks so deeply in my eyes and says nothing but says everything with just that look. I wonder--did she do this with her nannies too--the other strangers that she loved. I am forever reminded that she went through life-saving heart surgery in the care of those women--and this is no small bonding experience. I often wonder what she was thinking when she was going through it all. What they told her and how they soothed her broken heart-both physically and emotionally. No matter how, she came through all of this--as far as we can tell, with the most loving, easy going, joyful spirit that defies all she's been through in her short life.

I longed for this little girl in my life and I am in complete and utter awe of what she shows me and does everyday. But I can not shake the reality that I am not the woman she first called Mama. I am not the women that cared for her when she was sick and sad and hurting. I did not carry her in my womb for 9 months and I did not have to sacrifice a life with her in it--to save her life.

But, I AM a stranger, that flew half way around the world, put my arms around her and against her will at the time, loved on her and told her it was going to be ok. An oxymoron of sorts. I am the stranger that put her on a plane and took her from all she knew and placed her in a home full of strange things and smells and sounds. I am the stranger that rocked her and sang her songs at night while she likely looked at me wondering "what in the world just happened to me?" I am the stranger that God told her about while she waited. And the stranger that teaches her about the love, care, guidance, power and wisdom of that God that whispered in her ear for so many months while she waited.

And just over 6 months later--I am still the stranger--all be it less stranger than a few months ago, but still a stranger--that made her my daughter. And I so hope and pray, that she is happy with this stranger--that gave her a "family again"--and that she now calls 'Mommy!" And I pray everyday, I don't disappoint her. Because whether we as adoptive parents acknowledge it or not--there is a lingering fear she'll wish she had someone else--will like someone else better than us--and want or wish someone else would be their Mommy! Afterall, she's had so many loving women in her life--why wouldn't this seem like a possiblility to her. Silly fears--perhaps--but reality just the same. I think it's part of my bonding with her, something I didn't think much about during the journey to her. I thought long and hard about how she'd feel--questions she'd have, ways to edge her into this new world, this new way of life, this new family she has--but had not given much thought to how I'd feel. She grew in my heart for so many years--it just seemed all would be natural --or as natural as possible.

Even though I love her sooo much and I can't imagine loving her mor-- I know--she is still learning to love me and accept me as her new "Mama" (which BTW means "mother" in Mandarin). I'm happy to give her the time--and in that time--surely my fears will dissipate. But, until then--this is how I"m feeling. I think this fear is just a reality check--that keeps me in the moment and sensitive to her perspective. It's so easy to get caught up in how JOYFUL she is and forget all the stuff of her past and assume that she is "just fine." Although, I do think she is fine. I do think she is still processing and likely always will. In the end--I know the relationship we have with her will be one that is NOT like any other she has had or will ever have. One surely we both will always treasure.

All these feelings are prompted by a number of things--but most recently these sweet things/moments/times with her:
  • she started calling me "Mom and Mommy"! That stirred some things in me along with some events of late. And by the way, she says it "over and over" and "over" again all day! I never tire of hearing it. She also started calling Dan "Daddy". This is especially fasinating--as the word for father is "baba" and she has started to connect "baba" with Daddy and with Dan. It's a beautiful thing!
  • whenever I pull her out of the tub with the towel wrapped around her, we always play, "where's my baby?!" a peek-a-boo game of sorts. I didn't think anything of this--until recently she started wanting to play "where's my baby" here and there throughout the day. She'll crawl up or reach up her arms to me and say, "Mommy, Mommy, Baby!" And I happily play along--cradling her tight in my arms like a newborn and rocking her and saying, "'re my baby, you're my sweet baby." She always responds by saying, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" with a face that beams up at me that is so full of love and affection. I can't tell you what these little moments mean to me. Sometimes I wish they would never end. The other day I heard her doing this with Dan as well.
  • she says, "hawup me? hawup me?" holding up her sippy cup for me to help her with it like a bottle.
I think all these things are so beautiful and a healthy sign that she really is starting to understand that this "stranger that told her she was her Mama" really is her "Mommy" now.

In addition--recently she awoke a couple times at night or from her nap--crying out "Mama! Mama!" She wakes up crying a lot, but rarely calling for anyone. Just crying--a sad cry. Once we get to her--she's all smiles and is usually standing up in her crib ready to get going with her day. Tears always float on her cheeks so clearly she was very sad--from a dream--or waking up alone and afraid we had left. Once she see's us she always has a smile on her face and is ready to get on with the day. However, these past few times she cried out for "Mama" I got to her crib and she was not standing but lying down on her back, looking up at me, and says, "No! No!" and pushes me away when I reach in to hold her or comfort her. I don't know for sure--but it was so clear to me she was crying out for her "Mama" and it was not the face she expected to see. It breaks my heart to think--she is in so much pain and grieving. I simply can not fathom that feeling! Surely there is nothing I can do -- but love her and be there for her--to help her.

Yet--through all this--clearly she is opening her heart to us--everyday! This is a very long process for all of us. And oh what a joyful loving heart she has--so tender and sweet. And oh a sight to behold!

To say we are blessed is not good enough--even though it is the closest word to what it is I feel. It's not adequate to describe--what this stranger's heart feels for this little beautiful, precious girl from half way around the world. Love--a love that is different than any other love you could feel. Thank-you God for letting me be the stranger that wraps my arms and heart around this little girl--now and forever!

I am reminded of a comment made by a woman in her home city of Xi'An as we sat and had tea while shopping for a Xi' An tradition-black laquer art pieces. As interpreted by our guide, Ray, "She fell into a bucket of honey and will live a very sweet life." Indeed she did and it's very thick, sticky honey called love of stranger (s). We too fell into a pot of honey when we she was placed in our arms. And as sticky as all these emotions are for all of us, it's a pot of honey that is sweeter than words can express-not sweeter than growing up in her birth parents home and her birth country--just sweeter than anything anything we could imagine for our lives without each other. I am also reminded of the look on the civil affairs officers face when he said as interpeted by our guide Ray, "we appreciate you taking care of and loving this child." We responded that "we are the lucky ones, she is our precious chinese princess! Thank-you for letting us love her--forever. We are so grateful to you."

Here's some glimpse's of what I get to see everyday! She's amazing!

Our first End of Year: School Picnic

5.18.09: It started out rainy--and ended just gorgeous out! Izabella and I headed out and she said, "Nice Out!" We were so happy our first picnic wasn't cancelled! The food spread was amazing including all kinds of ethnic food! I love this group. Izabella had her first baklava and it was the best baklava I've ever eaten--melt in your mouth! We brought Chinese food. I labored over what to bring for weeks--and the night before I made chinese food for dinner and I had an ah-ha moment.

The playground was packed! But Izabella didn't let that bother her. She was so patient and even polite at times. I was so proud of her. She still loves the swing and the sandbox best. If I remember right--those were my favorites too.

The minute she hit the car seat she was fast asleep. She really had a great time! I did too!
Dina's Mom was soooo sweet to offer to take a photo of Izabella and I playing in the sandbox at the picnic. I love this photo. Incase you're wondering--this smile you see a lot of--is truly on her face and in her heart a large part of her days! It's crazy good.

This is one of Izabella's new friends Dina. They played so well together. Both girls are rather shy and play very independently--but this day they really enjoyed playing together.They just moved from San Diego, my old stomping grounds. So the mom's have some fun mommy time too!

Our Pre-School Angel--Brighter Beginnings Director Sonja! We are so blessed with this program! I am still in awe of how fortunate I have been to have the wisdom of Sonja and the other mom's in the program. Their wisdom has gotten me over some new mom hurdles and I am so grateful. I am equally blessed by the the safe and comfortable environment this program offers to ease our Izabella gently into school and some days time away from mom.

She really LOVES to swing. Just learning how to kick your feet and make it go!

Have you ever seen a sweeter thing in your life?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meaning of Mother's Day...

5.11.10: First and foremost--a letter to Izabella's birth-mom--There is not a day goes by that the thought of you doesn't cross my mind and my heart. I will never, ever forget the sacrifice you made to save her life and ultimately bless us with an amazing daughter. Although we've never met--what a special and very courageous woman I know you are--and as Izabella's personality unfolds before our eyes--I feel as if I know you. I can see you in her face, and in her sweet, joyful loving spirit. And on this mother's day--you are again in my thoughts. I know you don't celebrate mother's day in your culture--but this day has special meaning to me. And you are as much a part of it as I am a mom. You will forever be in her heart and ours. I pray God comforts your broken and courageous heart with the knowledge that He has your daughter in the palm of his hand--and will never let her go, nor will we.

I went to bed "Mother's Day Eve" dreaming about what the day would be like. How would I feel. What would we do? As I lay there thinking about it, I thought, this is so strange--but I feel like I should write a card to my daughter and one for my husband for Mother's Day. After all--I am the one that is blessed. And if this day is about Mom--well this mom is sooo deeply appreciative of the blessing of being just that--"a mom" to my Izabella--what an honor it is indeed. Every chore, every little thing I do for her is my pleasure. Although I am exhausted sometimes--my wings pick up wind with the thought of her and how very happy she makes me, how full she makes my heart, my life. And how very grateful I am that I have a husband that stepped out of his comfort zone--and took this leap of faith with me--so I could be a mom! How can I tell them how I feel--how can I show them! It's not possible. So I just keep on loving them and thanking God I have them!

So the meaning of Mother's Day has new meaning. It's a day for me to celebrate the honor of "being a mom!" I am soooooo deeply, honestly, immeasureably, eternally grateful to be Izabella DanielLei Arndt's Mom!

This mother's memories of this first mother's day: As we approached this mother's day I was so excited. It really hit me when at pre-school the teacher announced the children would be making all the mom's a mother's day gift in class, tears welled up in my eyes, as I batted my eyelids to shed the tears before they dropped for fear of being caught a "super-sappy mom" in front of everyone! Wow! I knew Mother's Day would hit me in a special way this year, but I had no idea. What I soon realized is the tears were for the joy of finally, finally being a mom-and the anticipation of having my daughter hand me a special handmade card on mother's day. I can't tell you how many cards like this I've seen and thought "oh my, does that mom know how deeply blessed she is with that card?" While I was certain they did--I didn't really know how it would feel--now I do. The card was precious--and I will always cherish it!!! A simple flower made from a paper cupcake liner. When I asked Izabella if she made this card for Mama, she replied, "No! Mine!" I said, "Yours to give to Mama?" She thought for a moment and she said, "Yesss!" with a huge smile on her face and gave me a big hug!

Izabella woke us early Mother's Day morning, so Dan let me stay in bed, went in and got Izabella and brought her to me in bed. She greeted me with the biggest hugs and kisses and excitement to see me! I thought--"that's all I need for mother's day!" They then took me to breakfast at Cracker Barrell--yum! The best part is I didn't have to make breakfast! yeah!

After breakfast--Izabella and I attended the 9:15 service at HOPE. Other than Izabella's hugs and kisses that morning--this was definitively the best part of my entire day. Dan didn't join us--he had some things to get done, so Izabella and I had a beautiful "Mother's Day" time together. Although I wished Dan could go with us-as always I soon realized this too was a part of God's plan. When we go anywhere, Izabella is definitely a Papa's Girl and sits with him! Since it was just her and I, she sat with me the entire service. She spontaneously would sweetly kiss and hug on me and was such a good girl! About 1/2 way through the service she fell asleep! I love it when she falls asleep in my arms. Nothing could have been more perfect! I had my daughter safely in my arms as I worshiped the God who placed her there. It could not have been any better. I was sad when the service was over.

As a childless woman until I was almost 50 years old--I've had some rough mother's days, but as I moved through my first mother's day as a mom--I was reminded of how horrible a mothers day I had last year. We were in our 5th month waiting for a special needs referral with no "call" and were at the 2.5 year mark from the beginning of our journey. So I was so very sad, yet another mother's day would pass without seeing the face of our precious daughter. But thankfully, we were in Vermont--with my mom and my sister--and that made it special.

So many Mother's Day's everywhere I'd go--people would greet me with "Happy Mother's Day" and hand me a flower! I just wanted to scream "No!!! I'm not a mother yet--I just want to be in the deepest way possible!" WELL now--this year as we entered a store--a woman walked swiftly my way and said, "Happy Mother's Day! Did you get your flower?" I was stunned! "YES, I am a mother and THANK YOU!" It was the most beautiful red rose! Then when we entered church they handed me a white carnation! YES, YES, YES! I am a mom--and a mom to the most precious little girl in the world! Can I scream that at the top of my lungs?! Nah..don't need to. :) What a blessing. Might seem small--but to me it was HUGE.

We spent the rest of the day doing whatever I wanted to do. We headed to the park as a family (including our first two four-legged children/dogs)--took a long walk home, got a really nice call from my little brother, talked to one of my favorite sister-in-laws and ended it rocking my sweet Izabella to sleep! And Papa helped Izabella make a handmade card for me too--TWO in one mother's day! It is a treasure.

I also got a beautiful card from my niece! The message inside moved me to tears. It was very special--and it was also handmade with love! All decorated with green flowers--cause she knows green is my favorite color.

Side Bar Memory: Izabella has always called me "Mama". Ironically this word means the same thing in Chinese as it does in English. But the week before Mother's Day she started calling my "Mom and Mommy"! Ahhh.. the yummy delicious sound of those words from my sweet daughter's lips!

Watching Izabella Play with her Papa is a treasure!
Her "weeeeeee! weeeee! giggle as they swing (featured in the video above) is priceless!

She is so proud of herself walking Montana and Sadie!

One of the two precious handmade cards--a treasure forever!

The rose from that first "store" we went to. It was a Harley Davidson Store too! And the white carnation from church--Izabella accidentally broke the stem off--oops!

Life with Izabella!

5.11.10: Some clips of video from the past month or so. It's a little long--but worth the time. She is hilarious, smart, talented and so over the moon sweet! This video says it better than words.

(My First Mother's Day Post to come next)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Midwestern Prom...

5.1.10: We ventured out to Gladbrook yesterday to experience our first modern mid-western prom. We've been planning on doing this ever since our special friends came to town to pick out the dress for their gorgeous daughter (gorgeous inside and out!) Hillary. Both Dan and I thought Izabella would LOVE all the pretty girls in their dresses and the whole experience and besides, we just love this beautiful family and we cherish this new relationship that God gave us--yet another gift from our journey to Izabella. (If you've been following along with us since PRE-Izabella, you'll recall this is the family that purchased our boat and named it Izabella--before we had her referral!--Very, very special people.)

Izabella was fasinated by it all. If I could show you all the pics you'd see she hung very close to Hillary and copied her every move. She adjusted her corsage when Hillary did, she even lifted her dress like Hillary did! It was precious to see her. She was exhausted by 5:30 and fell asleep on the way to the parade/walk-in event. But was a trooper through it--until dinner that is--when she just couldn't keep her eyes open. She did manage to wake up enough to eat dinner and then crashed hard on the way home. Too much pretti-ness for one little girl! Of course, you'll note, Izabella had to wear one of her pretty dresses too. It was a fun day for everyone!!!

I couldn't help of dream of the day our Izabella would be attending her first prom! I can only imagine how exciting and sweet that day will be for us all! All the preparation and the excitement of the day! And I know, like Hillary--she will be stunning "inside and out"! Dan and I will be so proud--as proud as Vicki and Terry are of their precious Hillary!

We tried very hard to wrangle a deal with Vicki and Terry to purchase Hillary's dress for Izabella to wear to her first prom--but they wouldn't let it go for the price we were offering. :) Just kidding. Love you Vicki and Terry!

Here are some of my favorite shots of US for the day and a slide show of the whole day.
Love this shot--so few of Izabella and I...and Vicki caught how she loves to put her hands on our face and love on Izabella style lovin'!

Such a happy girl--always!

Love this quiet, comfortable look! She's so content hangin' out on Dad's shoulders.

Vicki took this picture of us! I have so few pics of all three of us!

Love this picture of (from left) Izabella, Vicki (Hillary's Mom, I know she looks like her sister), Tia (Hillary's BFF), and beautiful precious Hillary in her room finishing up the final touches before heading out to the prom.