Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkins and Hats...

9.26.2010: It was an anniversary weekend--but it was really uneventlful. Like all holidays and special days we celebrate--I spent the weekend being thankful for having a Family of 3. Remember last year at this time--how we were anticipating the arrival of our little Izabella.

It was a rainy--anniversary dat (11 years)--Saturday--but today was gorgeous. We had to "bowl" this morning--and then headed to the pumpkin patch. Izabella found a couple hats she decided to try here's a couple pics of our day today.

Note: Izabella spotted her first pumpkin very quickly--but was afraid to pick it up. So Daddy had to show her it was ok. Then she was thrilled and went about pushing that big cart all around the place picking out six more pumpkins--then she had to decide on just 3 of them. With much deliberation--she did--then as we headed out to the car with our pumpkins she spotted a replacement for one of them--and it was so funny! The man at the store loved her and gave her a tiny one--too. Very sweet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New 50 yrs. old

9:23:10: So many people couldn't understand why a couple in their 50's would want to go half way around the world and bring home an family-less child to our child-less family at age 49 and 51 years of age. Their thinking is logical and we all know the "why nots" that's easy. Each time, I would try to explain "the why" the best I could. And each time I tried, I got a little closer to the answer that explained it best--or I thought.

Then--last night I decided to finish up an "Izabella In-motion" video that I had been working on. I kept adding and adding and adding to it until at 2:30 am I tried to post it praying it would be "short enough" to upload within the limits. Well, "No can do!". I took a look at how to cut out 2 minutes of the video and realized there was not one second of it I wanted to lose! Infact, I really "should" add more. Her first day of school, the long walks with "her puppies" video...etc. I can not edit it back. So I published it to my .mac account instead. I've never done this before--but it is beautiful. I can't embed the video here in my blog--but you can view it on a separate screen! Yeah! And the upside--no time or size limits!

This realization was HUGE in that, I have been trying to do an adoption journey video for Izabella and each time I would get discouraged with the 10-minute time limit. It's a much bigger story than 10-minutes--how do I condense a series of God's miracles and the most precious "magic carpet ride of our lives" to each other in a mere 10-minutes! Afterall--this is part of her lifebook--the details are important--I don't have to be concise--and I'm not concise by nature anyway. So, Impossible!

We are approaching our 1-year "Family Day" Anniversary--my self-imposed deadline. I'll admit--I also wanted to do it closer to the 1-year mark, so that I could include a glimpse of our families transformation--once a family of 3--not just the beginnings of our family. So, the timing, as God always does, is perfect.

I let my work publish last night and this morning after we made Daddy lunch and breakfast, has a cup or two of coffee and Izabella rose and had breakfast Izabella and I sat at my computer for our first screening.

Keep in mind: I watched this video at least 100 times-proofing and tweeking. And there are a couple of spots that hit me deeply but I this morning was so different. Here is--as close as I can put into words--what rushed through my heart and my mind--as I watched this video unfold.

I want to preface this post by saying: Adoption was laid on my heart at the tender age of 13--it is truly God's plan for my life--this I am sure of. He clearly showed us through miracle after miracle that this is true--beyond a shadow of a doubt. Clearly that is the simple answer to the question. But, this video and this post is about the day-to-day effects and feelings of why. The things we experience and rewards in doing what everyone questioned and still question so many with such deep concern for us--or as they consider doing this themselves. These are the things we think about everyday and never dreamed they'd be so amazing.

You can watch it first here.

First and foremost I watched before me the answer to "the why" we chose to do this at 50-years old. Just watch it and you will know--a little bit of the answer to that question. Un-questionably we did the right thing and are rewarded deeply everyday for stepping off the normal path of life--in faith--and doing just doing it. There are so many orphans out there--and so many families that parents are almost 50 and 50 somethings that could use an infusion of life and joy in their empty-nester lives. Perhaps..? Hmmmm....

This quiet house is not silent anymore in a good way. It is filled with laughter, giggles and constant questions, and chatter from Izabella and our answers and conversations. We went from talking about politics to talking about "Why the sunshine is not up at 6am" and "Why the moon and the sun sometimes go away--they are hiding behind the clouds", with all the simplicity that comes with a new and curious mind.

I don't have to imagine our child feeding the ducks anymore...she IS feeding them! And the peace that comes with doing this with her is beyond comprehension.

Dan is a funny guy--we laugh a lot--but now we Belly-Laugh. Her laughter is constant --that when escalated to a deep belly-laugh by the most simple things--is miraculous and awe inspiring.

Working to connect with her past--to find comfort situations for her in this ALL NEW world is deeply moving and has brought so many amazing people into our lives, with a common journey, a common heart, an understanding that is unspoken and powerful in it's silence as we gather. The profound change in how I see the world around me is instrumental, transforming and only possible through these children. When you see those little girls all sitting on the edge of the playground, having snack--I see a happiness in them that is so gut level there are no words and no need for words for it. Gracie said it perfectly, when she said, just before they all sat down together, 'Let's sit and have a chat!"

I've done things I've never seen or done before and some things I have that I see with a new EYES! Simple things--like going to a "Splash Pad Park", visiting the zoo, a game Arcade, the fair, meeting Clifford the Red Dog. All things as a childless mom, I would in many ways avoid and in some ways, just plain had no need to do or investigate.

Shopping takes on a whole new flavor--it's fun--it's silly--it's can really be as fun as an amusement park. I have never been much of a material girl. But this child brings a new meaning to "I don't need that". She asks for nothing material at all from us--even when handed a toy or piece of clothing she'll look at it intently and say, "well. naaaa." and hand it back to us or put it back on the shelf. It's as if she is full to the brim with all she needs now--and has no need or no room for extra stuff that is meaningless. And when I pull out a new or old shirt, or she crawls in bed at night--she will very often say, "I like this mommy--pretty--princess! Mommy buy this?" Thne she says, "Dank-you Mommy!"

But when something really special comes to her, which is very rare indeed, we know it instantly. And I knew it the minute I spotted the pretty spotted horse. I could hardly wait to pull it off the shelf and see what she would say. The video shows her response--this little horse had a very special name. Her uncle bought it for her, I'm not sure who was happier--Uncle Topher purchasing this special item for her--or Izabella.

The moment she landed on her Papa's knee, with the secure feeling of his arm snugly around her, just hours after meeting us, she knew she was safe. I am reminded of the special bond they have, that is not biological but "special-gical", when I see her riding a top his shoulders with the same safe and comfortable feeling--only now with a birds eye view on life just taking it all in. A far cry from the confines of a crib and orphanage grounds.

Birthdays take on a whole new meaning. This year they were "Happy Day to you"--happy days. I for one wanted nothing--for me it was a gift to another birthday arrive and she was finally home with us. Birthdays are a reminder that life is moving along and when something is missing--they are a reminder of the dream in the works not yet realized. We realized it--we have it--it's a miracle.

Riding the Carousel with her is precious--the first few moments after the carousel starts--her face is deliciously delightful!

I remember as a child and even many times as an adult I have experienced or witnessed events that just "are not fair". This too takes on new meaning now. We watch her all everyday with intense joy in our hearts and anticipation of what she will do next. She shows us talents that are clearly a gift--and as we see these things unfold in her we are forming a picture of who she is and who the amazing people that made and gave birth to this child are. How truly special she is and they must be. As much as this comforts my heart to feel like I know them in some little way--just as quickly--it breaks my heart to think they can't be with us--with her. Now that in the most deeply essence of life is "not fair". Not fair at all. Then my mothers words ring through my head, "You're right Lisa it isn't fair. But sometimes that's the way life is. Life is just plain "not fair" sometimes. And many times, there is just nothing you can do about it. Just pick yourself up--dust yourself off and keep moving forward the best you can." And we do--never forgetting the injustice done--to those beautiful people--that had no choice--when they should have had a choice. NOT FAIR--NOT FAIR AT ALL! loved school. But I forgot all the details of what I loved. Now, I am remembering all the simple school loves I had. I loved learning, I loved the day our NEW books would arrive that we had ordered. For some reason I remember the day my 'The Middle Sister" book arrived. I don't recall why--but I was a "middle sister/child". I think I thought this book would give me some insight on how to survive as a middle sister/child. :) Or another thought--perhaps it was one of the few books I could order. We didn't have a lot of money in our family--but lots and lots of love. you remember mom? I haven't thought of this book or the arrival of these books at our classroom for years--but it was a comforting memory. So fun to re-live it all with her.

Anyone else read/order this book? I actually think I might still have it in my chest of special childhood things/memories.

She is FREE! Free to be whatever she wants to be now! This is so clearly obvious. Although I know the love of a family can transform a child--I understand this--and believe it's true. But with her-for some reason-being FREE seems to be so natural to her-it comes easy to her--and I seriously wonder if she hasn't always been FREE. And the transformation is not about her as much as her getting back to being herself in this new family, world, and life she has found herself in. No matter--the beautiful thing is--she is FREE!

She transforms the hearts of everyone she meets--even complete strangers are taken by her in passing and can't resist saying something to her. But I am so deeply moved by how she transforms and brings such over-the-top joy into our extended family members lives. This was glaringly obvious this summer with visits from both sides of our family. But watching this video--and the memories of time with my sister and her entire family with my entire family is deeply moving for me. I can't tell you how many million times I quietly watch my sister and her beautiful children and family and long for the day we could enjoy each other's families together! Thankfully, regardless of distance--she has worked to keep them close to me in heart and physically as much as is possible--letting nothing stop her on that mission. Now I am even more grateful, as her visit to see us this summer with her two grown children and husband was that much more special because of her hard work all those years of waiting--for me to complete my family--and our reward is being together at last! Izabella completely adores her cousins. All of them--on both sides--and they adore her. It's as though she awakens a spirit in them that was asleep, deep in their soul--un-known to them until they met, this beautiful little girl that has endured so much and radiates such a joy and zest for life. It's a sight and feeling to behold.

This is a comfort for this mom more than most--I know she will likely not have us around for as long as I have been blessed to have my parents around. So it brings me much comfort she will have her cousins to wrap their arms around her everyday and always be there for her--even when the day comes we can not be--physically.

Yesterday I struggled with the question of whether, given a choice (which of course she did not have) she "would she have chosen us". Today--after watching this video. I know the answer to that question as best I can without really ever knowing what is in her heart. And I know this--no matter if she would or wouldn't--I am honored to be the one God chose to be her "Mommy" at this time in her life. And I would chose YOU IZABELLA over and over and over again--no matter what!

If you didn't make it to the end of the video--you need to see it--skip ahead--it is truly the most special part of the entire video. Izabella shares her "family" with you!

And I love how after climbing the stairs with "no hands" (a feat that is huge for a little girl who was very wobbly just walking only 11 months ago), her puppies run up beside her careful not to bump her, and she looks back to be sure I'm still there--coming up behind her. The wind lifts her hair and she's off--into her HOME for another beautiful day with us. Our family. Forever and ever and ever! Amen.

I will forever be grateful for the gift of YOU! And there will never be enough words, or hugs or kisses or time to express that to you. Someway, somehow--if it is possible--it might not be possible to express--BUT--I will try and try again--forever.

All this and more is the answer those questions of "why?"

Need I say more. Problably not. But I likely will. :) As we move into the next phase of this life with Izabella (ChunLei), a little girl from halfway around the world, that rocks our world--at 50.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catching up a little...

9.20.2010: I am working on a video montage of the summer's video clips of Izabella. All I can think when I'm working on it is "Izabella in motion". I don't have alot of time--just evenings late--so it will be a little to get it done. But, here are some updated photos of what we've been up to.

It's been a good summer--and I love fall--football, leaves, halloween,'s all good. :)
Izabella's second day of school Dan took her and picked her up. She loves it when he does this. Unfortunately, he won't be able to do it much longer--as his 4 day a week 10 hour day schedule will go back to 5 days 8 hour days. :( And we'll miss him sooo much! But until then--we're enjoying having him home.

Above: Izabella and her "Pocket" (Purse)!
See Story below.
Izabella's first week of school it was her week for an "All about me" day. She had to bring a few things to share with the class about herself. So the night before I pulled out this little purse, that came with a top (we bought at Jordin's in China on Shaimain Island). Then she took interest in some photos on my night stand--so I thought--we'd pull out our pile of photos and let her pic some to take to school and share. She tucked them carefully in her purse--and she was off--along with her horsey named CHINA. This is how she shares her photos with everyone--and I suspect it was the same at school.

Family Picture #1: "Family!" Points to each member and says who they are: "Mommy, Daddy, and that's me!"

Picture of Mommy and Izabella: "This is my Mommy! And me!"

Picture of Daddy and Izabella: " This is my Daddy! He's FUNNY!" Big smiles and giggles.'

Family Picture #2: "Family!" Usually this one there is not identifying the people in the picture--but sometimes she does.

Picture of Montana and Sadie" "This is my PUPPIES!"

Then she tucks them back in the purse--and carries it with her--for few days after--and still will pick it up and want to pull them out and share who they are. That night, after her big day in school we went for a bike ride--and the neighborhood kids stopped us (as often happens when we're out). She got off her bike--pulled off her purse, sat on the sidewalk (and the other kids sat with her) and she pulled out each photo and shared her 'Family" with them. It was the sweetest--most touching moment for me. I was so proud of her. And all the kids just 'oooohhh'ed and ahhhh'ed over all of them. It was precious. Truly.

Hence--this is the red purse from China with her Family pictures in it.
She calls it her "Pocket"!
We went to the apple orchard. Izabella's first. She was too scared to pull the apples off up on Papa's shoulders. But she found one close to the ground and with some pursuation she pulled it off. The next picture is right after. She's showing me her apple!

Then she swiftly began to eat it. She loves apples.

The MacIntosh apple trees were pretty bare--so we picked them clean so we could make some apple pies. I love MacIntosh to eat and make apple pies--it's the preferred apple in Vermont. If you look closely--you'll see the apple Dan shook from the tree dropping into his hand with the bag in it. Pretty neat shot.
Izabella was sure she could carry this big bag of apples. It was almost as big as her.

Obviously that didn't work. But she was impressed her Daddy could carry it.

Then she trotted off happy as could be. Notice the "Pocket" had to go with us too. :)
We also took Izabella to Union Park to a restored old carousel. It was fabulous and the day we went it was FREE, courtesy of a classic car show group. So Daddy got to look at classic cars, we had a picnic (burgers from the food stand) a few rides around on the Carousel and then home. She loves the carousel--she still talks about this one. Every once in a while she will say, "Mommy! I have an idea! Let's ride the Zebra!" This "I have an idea!" is new and so funny to us. It's hilarious. We say, 'You do? What's your idea?" Sometimes she has something she'd like to do--other times she looks very serious and says, 'Well. Let's see." So adorable. I love this girl.

It was the last weekend for the big Indianola Bike Ride In. So we headed south to it. Izabella and I followed Daddy down in our car like we always do. She went in the jumping castle--we had a great time. I love this series of photos. We had such a nice time that night. It was a gorgeous night for a bike ride. And I have to say--I was a bit jealous I didn't get to ride the bike. But, when I looked in the rear view mirror--all that melted away--and I was happy to be in the car with my girl--and my man on his bike in front of me.

I love this "giving myself a hug Mommy" shot. Lately she says this a lot, "Mommy! (or Daddy) I need a BIGGGG HUGGGG!" And she gives you the biggest bear hug ever. She's such a sweetheart. I wish she would always do this--but I know this too will end--when she gets older. :)
This is a sweet picture of us. I look so funny to myself here--without my glasses. I've only worn glasses for 5 years--but it looks funny. I had my perscription sunglasses on that night--so I took them off for the picture--so I could see.
This is my favorite of the two of us. I have so few pictures of us--I treasure everyone. Each time I see one--I think--"Hey--that's mom and daughter! That's what we look like together. Hmmm..I like that! Can't get enough of it." That shirt she has on was a surprise gift from Daddy--it's a sweet little 'heart" harley shirt. :)
This picture was taken last weekend--That gorgeous sweater she has on was handmade by my mother for her years before we met her. She had one that was smaller that she wore last winter--but this one fits perfect for this winter. I love these irish knit sweaters. She puts a zipper in them for the kids--and it's a washable wool. So she can actually wear it for running errands in the winter without being over bundled in her car seat. We carry her big winter jacket and pants in the car for emergencies--but this is ideal. It was a very cold day last Sunday--so this was ideal.

And that sucker she has in her hand--it's only one of 3 she's had since she's been home. The realtor is a friend of ours--she gave it to her--didn't know we don't let her eat candy. Want to keep those teeth healthy and her body healthy too. :) Oh well--one or two won't hurt her. As you can see she LOVED it!

That's it.

Shelly--if you're reading this--please share with Mom, so she can see how adorable that beautiful sweater looks on her granddaughter. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Million Dollar Smile {First Model Photo Shoot}

9.21.2010: Warning: Proud Mommy Moment to follow!

The photos are back from the photo shoot in July! Click Here to see them all and use password: ArndtIz

Some of them are priceless! You probably remember Izabella was asked to model for a photo shoot to capture images of children for decor in a new dental practice--also soon to be Izabella's dentist--taking care of that million dollar smile. You read it right--our daughter--an orphan from China has a million dollar smile. The dental office said her photos are among the best they have! We still don't know if they will actually use one of her shots for the office--but I'm so proud of her--no matter what happens.

She is really rather shy around strangers--so I wasn't sure how it would go--but the photographers were fabulous--and were able to capture her amazing smile when it did pop through!

My favorite is the one of her holding the eggs. I also love the one's of her laughing with the cowboy hat. When she saw those she said, 'I couldn't see mommy!" And giggled hysterically! I like the first two images as well--they capture the essence of her inner beauty--such JOY. It is hard to pick.

For those that want to order prints--just email them and they will send you a price sheet for our group. Password is: ArndtIz Click here.

Izabella--you continue to amaze us!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

9.1.2010: What a wonderful world it is Izabella--with you in it. Your first day of school was so smooth you'd think you'd been with us for always! However, you have not--infact--just 10 months home. However, you are "so ready" for school and oh the things you'll learn there.

We headed out early--I did NOT want to be late for school. It was a good thing--cause in my rush to get out of here--I forgot my purse--and the snack bag. Thankfully we're close to home--it was no big deal. We got there early--so we hung out and visited about what was going to happen again. You said, "OK Mommy! Mommy come and get-cha?" I said, "Oh yes--I will come and getcha!"

Then, Mrs. P walked by and you got so excited--you pulled on my hand to go--NOW. But we had to let Mrs. P set up the classroom for your full day of activities and learning. So, we waited a little longer. Your backpack and sweater were already hanging on your hook--with your name above it. All that was left to do was take you to your room and say goodbye. A breeze. I waited with a couple other mom's near the door of your room, watching you to be sure you were ok. I was about to leave, when you got up and ran over to me and said, "What you doing Mommy?" I told you again--that I was going to go home while you stayed at school. And then I'd come back and getcha!" You said, "Ok Mommy." That was my cue--I was off.

I didn't cry tears of sadness or joy. It was actually the most natural thing we've done together yet. I was a bit lost without you on my heels, holding onto my hand and chatting away with endless questions. But--I was soooo proud of you.

I went home to work and watched the clock carefully as to not be late to "get-cha". I arrived at your classroom door before class had ended. So I waited in the hall with the other anxious moms. Suddenly the door opened and there you were--arms open wide--that big beautiful smile of yours--and I got a BIG HUG from my special girl. You were happy to see me, grabbed my hand to show me something in your class that you were excited about. It was the art project you had done. They weren't where you thought they were--they were in the hall waiting with your backpack. We looked at all your papers. I asked you what your painting was. I asked, "Is it a face? You like to draw faces like grammy showed you." You said, "No. It's a sun!" Ah...yeah a blue sun! You were excited when I wanted to take a picture of your artwork. You insisted on being in it too. How could I not oblige? :) Note how almost perfect that circle stroke is! Do you know how hard it is to make a perfect circle freehand? Excellent!

The teacher said it was a "thumbs up day--everyone did GREAT!" She tested your colors--and even though you know all your colors--apparently you decided to not know the colors red, brown, gray and white! On the way home I quizzed you again--and you did fine--except for Gray--we don't practice that one enough.

I asked you what your favorite part of the day was--and you said, "Mommy I talk later. I tired." You were asleep before we got a couple blocks away from the school. Once home, we had some lunch and chatted about your day.

"Izabella can you tell me your favorite part of school today?"

"My Teacher Mommy. Teacher."

"What else did you do at school today?"

"Sing. And Singing." Then you sang, "Special, God, Special.."

I looked at your sheet and we sang this song together and you did very well with the song too!

(Sang to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)

The Bible is a special book. Special book. Special book.
The Bible is a special book. It says that God loves me!

Friday, your second day of school, Daddy will take you and pick you up. Your Daddy is so proud of is sure to be a another big day for you and for him.

Here is a little video of your day: