Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where she slept....who she is...

3.29.2011: Another child from Izabella's orphanage was matched with their forever family! Always a blessing indeed. Recently a mom on the Xi'an CWI yahoo posted a batch of photos of their visit to the orphanage. So I headed out to see if could get a glimpse of izabella's sweet friend Ta Meng. Unfortunately, he was not in any of the pictures. But, there was a blessing for me there today.

We were not allowed to visit the orphanage when we met Izabella in Xi'an City. Even though we asked, and asked again. I have mixed feelings about this. I longed to see with my own eyes the place were our daughter was cared for--where they gave her lifesaving surgery--where she slept while I was praying for her, wishing and waiting for her. I wanted the reality of her life--not one that my head conjured up.

As I was scanning the photos in this recent visit batch--I came on a picture of a room in the orphanage with a slew of toddler beds. Izabella was sitting next to me as I clicked through, but not paying any attention--she was reading her books. When I got to this photo--I wondered if Izabella's bed was in this room? So, I asked the only person that could tell me, "Izabella did you sleep in this room?" She said, "Yes!" I said, "Which bed was yours?" She said, "This one Mommy, the one by the window." At that moment--another answer to prayer. God answers all our prayers--in HIS time. And although this might seem like a small thing to some. To this Mommy's heart--it is one more piece of her life I know. All these pieces are forming a picture, a history of our little girls life--before coming home.
Izabella's bed was the last bed on the right just before window.

Izabella--always hated her crib--of course for safety purposes we needed to keep her in a crib, until we were sure she was safe at night. This explains why. I have a picture of her sleeping in a crib at the orphanage at age 14 months. I discovered this picture of her after we got her home--and knew immediately it was her--from the way she was sleeping--and then was confirm by other details. I remember it stopped me in my tracks the day I ran across it on the group photo albums. Snapshots of our child's life--before we met them. Like an ultrasound photo of sorts--but in full color and with so many more unknowns.

Discovering these pieces of your child's past is a bittersweet experience--for obvious reasons. Ironically, these pieces are not "unknown" to Izabella. She remembers, she knows, it was her life, she lived it. I think to dismiss this fact, I feel we'd be doing her a disservice. Sure, some were too young to remember--as far as we know. Some just don't have a memory that allows those memories to stay with them. Some just block it out for survival purposes. But so many things she says and does--tell me she does remember. This knowledge is a responsibility that I have struggled with how to handle. Is it hurtful for her to remember? Is it traumatic to show her pictures of the orphanage? In the end--every time--I opt to not shield her or protect her from the things of her past that are unknown to me--but not to her. My fears are not hers. And every time she shows me there is nothing to fear. She shows me the good in it all. Yup--at this age--she can do this. I guess I could dismiss it all and tell myself--good or bad she doesn't really remember--she's just making things up. But this just doesn't feel right to me.

Afterall--we know she greives the loss of "the things and people of that part of her life" that is gone forever. But, the question for me is, why would you grieve the loss of something horrific? Some say it's because it's all they knew--they didn't know better. But for me, none of these answers are answers--more like excuses or easy, comfortable ways to make it all ok, to forget and move on with her as if it didn't happen.  However, I know every child's circumstances are different--and every child remembers and reacts differently to those experiences. Which leads me to believe--this is not the approach that is best for her--or us.

As I manuever this territory ever so carefully, I am assured she is ok with so much of it. I like most mom's, want her to be proud of her life--every moment of it. The good, the bad, the joys and the sorrows. I want her to not forget all the loving people including her birthparents and all the doctors, nurses and orphanage caretakers that loved on her for those 28 months. That gave her their best! And how they made an impact on this beautiful, joyful spirited child. I want her to go through life holding onto the memories of those early years as a part of her life that formed the survivor, the strong and compassionate side of her. The part of her life that gave her gifts that we will only realize much later in life--when faced with challenges that we can't predict today.

You know, we want them to be proud of their heritage, identify with the Chinese culture, we encourage them to hold onto the language, the traditions of their birth country. But we don't openly encourage them to remember the details--the good things--the little miracles that happened to bring them to where they are today. Instead we want them to grieve it, leave it and move on. Seems a contradiction to me.

I might be horribly wrong about all this--I hope not. I hope she can be proud of her heritage, the colorful culture of her birth country. But I also hope she can remember all the love and the courage of her birth parents--living in that culture--and making the sacrifices they had to in order to give her life.

But, her life is not a mystery to God. He knows every detail of her life before meeting us and coming home. And I know He was with her every step of the way and is with her now as well. And I am comforted by this--HE is in control and has allowed her to her remember--while she can--and do so with hope, with faith, with love and with all her child like abandon. I thank God for being there when we couldn't and even when we are today. And I thank God for giving her the ability to remember and recall those years with out a us--with the love and forgiveness that can only come from a God that was right there with her through it all. Never leaving her. As Izabella has told me so many times,  "God hold my hand.", "God help me find pink castle Mommy." "God with me in hospital Mommy." "God my friend."

Right now, she doesn't want to go back--she loves her home, her family and life here with us--and tells us so multiple times a day--and looks forward to every day--to her future. Some day that might not be true--and as much as I wish I had a video of those 28 months of her life to hand her to help her process all this as she figures our her own identity--I realize--that's impossible. All I can do is be here for her--as she makes her way through the memories--or the lack of and pray she comes out of it--the beautiful spirit she is today.

In the end--the reality is--I will likely discover little pieces of her life at Xi'an City CWI here and there. Which I know will be such a huge treasure to her. So I will continue to pursue any lead to pieces of her life in China. But the one piece, the most valuable treasure of her life in China -- I will likely never find, her birth mom and dad's faces, names and life history/family. But, no matter, she remembers, and I document as much as I can the memories she shares. The clues to her past that if she doesn't remember--she can recall through her Mommy's journal.

She has given me glimpses of who they were. But for now--I see them in her face, in her personality, in the things she loves and all the things that are unfolding in her. That's the closest thing she has to them--I will remind her of this when she wonders. I hope that's enough for her--when and if she wants to know more.

I pray that she'll always remember, if not their faces, their love, their sacrifice, their courage and know that that beautiful joyful spirit of hers was passed on from them to her. And they loved and nurtured her beautiful little spirit for a precious 10 months (or more--since we don't know the exact amount of time they had with her) and again, although I don't know any of this for sure--the evidence is clear--in who she is today. There is no denying that. She's precious beyond words.

Thank you God for taking such amazing care of our little girl. She's a treasure!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

things she does and says...

3.16.2011: Everyday Izabella says things that make us chuckle, sometimes they make us wonder, sometimes they just stir your heart. They are too many to keep track of. Each time I think I should write that down--and I can't get to my computer to do so. But last night.....

Izabella was saying her prayers. She still prays everynight for her Grammy and her best friend at the orphanage (TaMeng) to feel better and for Ta Meng to have a Mommy and Daddy very soon. Usually that's the end of her prayers. But last night she rambled on further--and said something that wasn't clear, so I asked her. She said, 'God my best freind, He's my best friend Mommy."

She's all about getting big, and wants to grow up fast so she can do laundry for her baby and be a mommy. Reminiscent of my own childhood. I recall that's all I ever wanted to be "A Mommy." and I couldn't wait! Pretty neat.

She is so much about Mommy EVERYTHING that she's started to ask the questions, "I grow in Mommy's tummy?" You hold me like this when I was a tiny baby?" (holding her arms in a cradling position. The answer is always the same, but never gets easier. "No. You grew in my heart at the same time you were growing in your China Mommy's tummy." Then she says, "China far away. Around the circle (which is what she calls the globe)"

The other day, I was making the bed and cleaning when I heard her say, "God, Please. Please make me tall so I can be a Mommy." I looked over and she was looking up while making this sweet plea.

She loves us to tell her "Stories with no books." I wasn't too good at these stories--but with all the practice she's giving me--they're getting better. She will always tell you what the story should be about, A little frog. Or a little rabbit. Especially since the day I told her about the "Itsie, Bitsie, teenie, weeny, itsie, bitsie frog."

It's pretty sweet how when you ask her to do something she's say, "Of course! No problem!" So grown up.

As obsessed as she is with getting tall--she's equally obsessed with eating things that make her, "Big and Strong and Healthy!" She always picks fruit, or vegetables for a snack. She is allowed to get her own snack from the refridgerator. Yesterday, she came up stairs with an apple and declared, "Mommy. We're all out of apples! We must get some more at the store." She knew our plan for the day included a trip to the store, and upon entering the store she declared, very loudly, "Apples! Apples! Where are you Apples!"

She's amazing with puzzles. On Sunday we were reading the Sunday paper at the breakfast table when Izabella climbed into the chair at the end of the table with her "24-piece Isabella Castle Puzzle" and within 10 minutes had it assembled all by herself--no assistance at all. Then she grabbed a Tinker Bell puzzle book (one that's for age 6) with a sliding (rubics cube) like puzzle on the front and had that solved too. OK--I worked on it for 10 minutes and couldn't get 'er done.

Yesterday, she came up to me and said, "Mommy it's time for lunch." I said, "Ok." She had her little spiral bound writing tablet and pencil in hand. Handed me an old date book i gave her to play with and said, "Here is the menu." I said, "What do you have?" She said, 'Look at the menu." We have Apples, Oranges, Banana's, Hot Dogs, Cheese. What do you want?" I gave her a list of things and after each one she'd diligently write them down in her notebook. Then look up at me and say, "What else?" When I said that's all, she marched over to her little kitchen set and prepared my lunch from her shopping cart full of items. Pretty sweet my little waitress cook.

When we sit down to dinner, and she likes what we're having (which is almost everything we eat.) she will say, "Oh Mommy. You good cook! Daddy good cook grill. I good cook upstairs in Mommy's office."

Last night we were sitting in a big chair by the window when she said, "Mommy! Mommy! A star! I'm going to wish on the star." Then she made her wish, "I wish, I wish a sister and a brother." Me too Izabella. :)

As I was preparing lunch one day a few weeks ago--she grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and said, "Mommy I write a note." I asked, "Who do you want to write a note to?" She said "Daddy." I said, "Ok. You tell me what you want to say and I'll tell you what letters to write to make that note." She said, "I want to say, I love you Daddy. And miss you." So as I worked in the kitchen I worked with her on this note. Here "I lobe you Daddy. Mis." The end I think is where she was trying to write her name--by herself.

I'm sure there are more memorable events--I promise to try to write them down more.

I love my Daddy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday {Front Room} Moments...

Our front room is definately the place we all just relax and enjoy each other. This weekend was no exception. This weekend was full of "wait a minute" moments for me as well. I'm sure everyone has those moments, when the world stops for a moment you see what has become an everyday occurrence with new eyes.

•  When we were headed into the mall to go to the playground. Izabella is between us--as we each hold her precious hands and I see the reflection of the three of us in the store entrance windows. I think, "Hey, that's us! My family! SWEET!" 

When I see Izabella riding her Harley Rocker--that sat still and lifeless for years as we waited for her to come home. There are a lot of reasons I love this photo--but the best part is, that rocker is "movin' and shakin'" with the life of a little princess on it now! No more looking at it, "wishing she was home". She's here!

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY MY FAVORITE! She was playing on her Harley Rocker--I was just "clicking away" and this is what she did. So spontaneous--I love it. She's hilarious! Love that messy hair do too. She looks like she just got back from a ride with her hair a-blowin' in-the-wind.
When I am working to fix something on Dan's computer and I hear giggles behind me--and I turn around to see Dan, cuddled up in a big chair reading to our little princess. And lovin' every second of it! Moments before he was reading his "American Biker" magazine.
She loves to be read to--she has books in every room in our house, comes down the stairs every morning with blanket, pillow and books in hand. Here Daddy is reading her a book that was in our front room.
Like: When she reaches her arms up to me to pick her up and says, "Mommy!" I pick her up and she wraps her arms around my neck and says, "Mommy. I love you wit all my heart. The whole world!"

Like: When I'm taking pictures of her--no words--and she stops and looks back at me to see that I'm still there. :) Then rolls over and throws me a sweet little smile. :)

"My show": Izabella is a performer--she loves to do shows for us. Our front room sits one step down from our foyer--which is now Izabella's stage. Here she had just told Daddy to use her "play Cinderella princess camera" (Grammy Cota bought it for her) and take pictures of her show. She's blowing him a kiss.
This is the model pose.
I love how this captures her in a quiet moment...
Like: When she ask me to read the new book a dear orphanage sister gave her on Friday called "You're my wish come true." and I get all choked up and struggling HARD to hold back the tears while reading it. She reaches out her precious little hand and brushes my cheeks so gently, in an effort to stop my tears. She doesn't understand yet-they are tears of utter JOY. 

Like: When I put her down to bed and she says, "Mommy. I grow in your heart? Not your tummy right?" Oh yes...so right. 

Yup--all things that happen so often...yet sometimes when they do--when the world stops around you--you realize--you're truly and utterly blessed to be living a your dream--in awe that our God would give you so much. Your heart is overflowing at a rate that you never dreamed possible.

A sweet little God's wink moment: I splurged and bought this creme-y-green princess skirt for her on Saturday. I saw it a year ago on the clearance rack at Gymboree,  and wanted to buy it for her 3rd birthday outfit--but decided it was too much--even on clearance. I was shocked to see it on the clearance rack AGAIN a year later! Surely a sign--it should be ours-Izabella's. And it was 1/2 the price it was last year. So I bought it and it's perfect for her. Perhaps the perfect "tu-tu" for her 4th birthday party. Although she wore it to school today--pleased as punch. Perfect for the "zoo" visit today at her school don't you think? :) 

Ni Hao Yall