Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Family Day Izabella-Love, Your LOVE Mommy and Daddy!

This is a raw un-edited Mommy's heart --my gift to my sweet daughter--on the day we honor God's Blessing of her--to us--our family. 

A picture speaks a thousand words. What a difference two years makes.

Izabella and Mommy--Just a few hours after we met our precious, precious girl in Xi'an City, Shaanix Province, China -- 2-years ago today.

Izabella and Mommy--October 2011

We have all grown in this past 2 years together as a family of 3. We've aged considerably, she has taught us so many things about ourselves and the world around us--and she has adjusted and grown by leaps and bounds. You can see the maturity in her face. She's as JOY-ful as always. What you don't see is how brilliant she is in so many, many ways. 

--Her wobbly little legs are now strong and powerful. Where she initially couldn't walk with much stability--she now races up and down the sidewalk giggling and laughing with no fear of falling and great confidence.

--She's been dancing since our first days together--her stand in place wiggle has transformed to the most beautiful graceful movements that show signs she is going to be an amazing contemporary dancer-with all the emotion of a matured dancer years her senior. 

--Her little confused and scared heart--has revealed itself to be the most loving, sweet heart we have ever witnessed. 

--She always understood what we were saying to her. This--even not knowing a lick of english in her life. But her language now--is up with her 4.5 year old peers in school. So much so--the teacher didn't realize she had only been submersed in english for just 22 months at the start of school. And those language skills have proved a gift--to unlocking her memories--still fresh in her little mind--like all these little ones--giving us a little glimpse into what her life was like the day she said goodbye to her China Mommy and Daddy and her nannies the day we met her. 
With all the challenges this presents to us as parents on the recieving end of this information from our precious sweet baby girl--and the fact that as much as we read--we felt completely incompetent. All we could do--and as instructed by professionals that know much more than we do about these things--was walk through the door to her past--and be there with her--hold her and hug her. It was her first waking moment of grieving (previously--her greiving was done at night during sleep--in the from of night terrors--that she didn't remember the next morning.) This is a new development this year and a mile stone in ability to let go and reconcile with her past. Of course we know there is more to be done in this area--a lifetime of reconciling--as she grows and matures. However, it was as if sharing this memory with us--released her to be "sad"and released her to move on to the next step for her--in trying to make sense of this crazy life she finds herself in. 

--She continues to blow our minds with her ability to process her traumatic past and every situation she finds her little self in. A gift that serves her well in dealing with her past as well as the sometimes crazy world around her, and will serve her well all the years of her life.

Here is a little "bit" I wrote and never posted about how she has processed her new family--her China family--and all the things that have happened in her short 4-year life--well this is pretty phenomenal!  She has taught me so much--thank you Izabella for sharing your heart and your wise soul.
"Mommy, tell me about the day I was born." This has to be the question of the summer. Initially I thought she was asking about her China Mommy. So I would tell her I can't tell her about that day because I wasn't there. Her China Mommy and Daddy were there with her. Then I'd tell her--her story--of how we can assume somethings--mostly that they loved her. This is a gift for her--that is a question mark for so many--but her story is one of sacrifice to give life. Then I'd tell her the story of how she grew in my heart and how we came to meet her in China and bring her home. As the summer progressed, she'd ask me to tell her that story--and I'd happily oblige. Recently, she asked me again, "Tell me the story about the day I was born, the day you came to China to get me." Wow. She has processed all this information as factual as I can give it to her without embellishments, and age appropriate as I can--to the point where she now refers to the day we met--as the day she was born. Here words. Her conclusion. Precious I tell you.
That day was like giving birth. Complete with all the gripping each others hand as we approached the Xi'an City Airport. I thought Dan would break every finger on my hand. I'll never forget that part. Walking into the hotel room to see a crib set up--empty waiting for the arrival of our little girl. Settling in our hotel room as our new home--away from home--preparing the perfect place to bring her home. The rush across a crazy busy street to the big Chinese Government building--Civil Affairs Office. Asking our guide where she was, she replied--"she's on her way here." To the moment when she appeared in the room on the hip of her Ayi and all I could say was, "Oh she's beautiful!" I imagine--that is what I would have said in the delivery room--if i gave birth to her of my body. Just like a babe covered with the blood and fluids of the mothers womb--our girl was dressed in clothes that were very boyish--she needed a bath--and was covered with scratches and scars. I wouldn't even notice any of that--until much later when we looked back at pictures of her. She was simply beautiful to us--so much so we called her from the day we met her (she was "born" as she puts it) "Our Chinese Princess".

One evening during our nightime routine"Mommy Izabella Chat" she wanted to talk about the day we met her in China. I asked her what she remembered about that day. She said, "Oh. I didn't like Mommy. I just like Daddy."

 That's right. I asked her why and she said, "You not look like me Mommy." Of course, how silly of me to not know that. Surely my green eyes were a scarey sight to a little girl in a world full of brown eyes and black hair. Even the locals wanted pictures with me--and it was then I realized--like her--it must have been my green eyes. When I'm happy-they are really green. I"m sure they were super green that day. Then she said, "But you look like me now Mommy." Ahhhh.... :)
She now says--I have TWO Mommies and TWO Daddies! ONE--China Mommy and ONE Love Mommy (that's me.) ONE China Daddy and ONE Love Daddy. These are her words--I never like the label Forever Mommy--so we don't use the term Forever Family or Forever Mommy or Forever Daddy here. In doing so--we allowed her to come up with her own description of what label she wanted to give us. Frankly--I think it's precious. As demonstarted in the above story 

--She bonded with Daddy from the start--as evidence in this photo the first day we met her--headed to our hotel HOME--her sweet little hand wrapped around his back--so loving and trusting. Her bond with Daddy this past year has been a miracle to watch. She is the center of her Daddy's world--he's lost without hearing from her while at work. She has his sense of humor and loves to giggle and be "silly and goofy" with him. Their favorite game on the phone each day she calls him--and says, "Hello. Hello? Are you there? Are you there?" repeat refrain...over and over again. No matter what a bad day he's having--I hear his voice lifted to the heavens in JOY when she does this. 

"Izabella your Daddy sent a very special text to me this year--I want to share it with you. He said, "I know I've told you this before but, thank you for brings Izabella into my life. She makes me laugh and I hope that never changes. She is the best thing that ever happened to me."

--Her humor is balanced with a compassionate, sensitive side. Dad and I like to say she got the best of both of us--his humor and my sensitive nature. This morning is the perfect example of this. We discussed today is Family Day--and how we'd celebrate. Here's how we started our day.

Mommy: "Good Morning Izabella!" Hair all mussed and in her face--so much so I couldn't see her precious face. As I whissped it away from her face and gleefully telling her I found you my little Izabella.
I: A groggy- "Good Morning Mommy! I so tired! I not sleep good."
Mommy: "Ahhh...I'm sorry. Then go back to sleep." As I snuggled her in tight to my chest to love on her rubbing her back.
I: "No Mommy. Isn't it Family Day today?!"
Mommy: A tear rushed to my eye, the world stopped for a moment, my heart warmed so sweetly, as I  replied--my voice cracked-EVER so slightly--"Yes it is."
I: Her head buried in my chest, my arms wrapped so tightly around her--I couldn't hold her close enough, she said, "Mommy have happy tears?"
Mommy: The emotions flooded my eyes, my chest tightened with deep emotion, as I said, 'Oh yes. Mommy have happy tears. I am soooo very glad you are here with us--and that God found us YOU and we met you 2-years ago today. So VERY HAPPY." The truth is--no only was I  overwelmed with pure and utter Joy of the kind I have experienced so often since we met her--but I was stunned yet again--that she is so sensitive--that she could "HEAR the tears" in my voice--when I utter just three little words--and tried to conceal it from her even. She is so amazing and so sweetly, compassionately and genuinely sensitive and loving.
I: "I love you Mommy. Forever and ever!"
Mommy: "Oh me too Izabella. I love you too--forever and ever."
I: "Mommy tell me about the day I was born."
Mommy: "Ok...well....let's get you ready for school and I'll tell you all about it." And we did. As we dressed, brushed our teeth, jumped in the car, buckled up and headed to school...all throughout she'd say over and over again, "Then what happened Mommy? What happened next Mommy?" In the car on the way to school--we got to the day she walked through the door in the arms of her Nanny and she was so scared....
I: She stopped me and said, "But Mommy my China Daddy told me it would be ok."
Mommy: "Really? That's great. Was your China Daddy there with you? Or could you not see him--just hear him?"
I: "Oh I just look up at the sky and I hear him in my ear." as she looks to the sky through her window and points to her ear. "Mommy, wouldn't be cool if we could all be together in the same place?"
I don't know if she meant her China Daddy (bio father) or God her Daddy in heaven. She talks about God talking to her all the time. She even thinks God lives in China taking care of all the children without families and she wants to go be with Him and help them. I didn't clarify with her. I just left it alone.
In the parking lot--we had to wrap up the story--so...
Mommy: "At the end of the day we met you--after you had met many of your new family on the computer from our hotel room, we put you in a warm fuzzy PINK pj's and you snuggled down on Daddy's chest and fell fast asleep."  As captured in the picture below--NOTE--she is holding tight to those keys--the ones she wouldn't put down from the moment we gave them to her in the Civil Affairs Office--even when she went potty. She loved them--still does--Daddy just changed the batteries for her. The "beep, beep" that sounded like a rickshaw (ironically our ride back to the hotel after meeting her was in a rickshaw) horn--the symbol almost completely worn off with wear from her pressing so much. Eventually, she learned--it was HERS and no one was going to take it away. Just like our LOVE--it's hers for ever--no one will take it away.
I: As we entered the school foyer--the director of the school greeted us. She let go of my hand and ran towards her yelling, "Did you know I fell asleep on my Daddy chest in China?" 
Ahh.....sweet girl. :) I was sure to share with her teacher this was our Family Day--thinking she would be sharing it a lot today. The teacher replied that YES--she heard all about it yesterday. Very exciting. I said, "Yes it is. We will celebrate tonight." And I quickly headed out the door--choked up all the way to the car--with the un-shakeable overwhelming feeling of gratitude and pure JOY that God had Blessed us so extraordinarily! 

She finally started naming her "babies" (stuffed animals). This beautiful lamb-given to her by one of my best friends from high school and her family, Laura--she has named "Franny." Ironically, it is the first baby to get a name--other than her horse CHINA, that was named in the store before we bought him. :) 

--She is now--43 pounds, 42" tall. But, she is soooooo little here--just 28 pounds and 30"tall! I am always amazed when I see these images of her at 28 months and so tiny. Now 2 years later--a full grown 4.5 year old! Crazy I tell you. 

I will close with the same closing as the post from China the day we met--cause I still feel the same way--would only add--her beauty continues to astound us--inside and out this girl is a gift of immeasurable value. I am deeply grateful--so deeply: 

Izabella's mom! I'm a MOM! Finally! and never imagined it would be to such a beautiful chinese princess! I love her beyond words!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

OK...I can't stand it any longer...

....the sight of my precious Izabella's blog untouched except a few "mistake" postings from my phone. It has been a really hectic, sometimes very stressful summer. But through it all...Izabella continued to have fun at just about anything--including playing happily by my side in my studio, and grow, and laugh and learn more than I think a 4-year old can learn in one summer. She has astonished us in so many ways.

We are creeping quickly up on our 2nd Anniversary Family Day--the most amazing day of my life, our lives. The day we met the most precious little girl anyone could possibly ask for--October 26. I will post an update soon and an anniversary post for sure. But, I just have to share some little things she's done and said recently.

This morning! Izabella said, "I have two Mommy's--a China Mommy and a Love Mommy!"

Over the summer she's become aware of her skin color--Izabella has recently been talking and asking a lot about skin color. The other day she came running into my studio and said, "Mommy Look. I have white skin on this side of my arm like you--and peach skin on this side." Big smiles.

You know how the inside of your arm is a lighter color than the outside--she was thrilled to have a little of us and a little of her all in one Izabella. 

We were at the park on Sunday--and there was just one other boy there. Izabella loves the sand box and was playing with her toys--when the boy approached. I told her she could share her toys with him--if he would like to play. This is the conversation that insued:
Izabella: Hi! My name is Izabella. What's your name?
Jackson: My name is Jackson.
Izabella: Hi Jackson. I'm from China.
Jackson: I figured as much.
Izabella: --giggles--and proceeded to pull out some toys from her bag--then she got to her sand dump truck "And I have a BIG TRUCK. Just like the one my Daddy has a work! It's really big! Do you have a Daddy?"
Jackson: No I don't have a Daddy.
Izabella: Oh? Who is here with you?
Jackson: My Mom. She's right there with my Dog.
Izabella: Oh! I'm here with my Mommy too. What is your Dogs name?
About 15 minutes into playing together--really sweetly--she yelled--hey Mom her Mommy is a Boy. Yikes what? Geeez....turns out--Jackson had two Mommies too--no Daddy--and the Mommy at the park was soooo nice and a very loving Mom. We had a wonderful conversation while we watched our children play. Later, I explained that Jackson had two Mommies too--she thought that was pretty sweet! 

"Mommy. I have a question." This usually means she has something to tell me. And usually it's pretty fun to listen to."

"Mommy. Did you know that when butterflys go to sleep and die they lay some eggs out. Then the eggs move and do the work and become brothers and sisters and do what their Mommy and  Daddy did all over again."

We went to the grocery store on Sunday. Izabella loves to help me with all things! And frankly--I love having her next to me to do it all. We opted to drive up for our groceries--as the parking lot is a pretty scarey place--trying to navigate the cart full of groceries and a 4 year old at the same time. But even without a cart--I'm always focused on getting us to the care safely--buckling her up--and answering her million questions as we go. I then made my way to the exit to go home--when I hear Izabella say, "Mommy! We don't have our GROCERIES." Oh goodness--God was so good to me to give me a 4-year old when I was 50 something! She fills in where my memory lacks.

"Mommy. I miss my lovin'!" This is the sweetest thing to hear. She--loves her Mommy and Daddy lovin' and can't get enough of it and we I can't love on her enough. Can you tell by this pic below--on our 12th Anniversary--September 25th.

I: Mommy. I want to go to be with God.

Oh Izabella, if you went to be with God, I wouldn't see you anymore and I'd miss you sooo much!
I: No Mommy. I just go to China and be with God and help him take care of all the girls and boys that don't have a Mommy and Daddy.
She talks about God and Jesus alot when talking about China. "God found me and took me to the Pink Castle. Then he found my Mommy and Daddy." "Jesus was with me in the hospital when the God fixed my heart." When I ask her if she was scared living in the pink castle with no Mommy and Daddy she always responds promptly and confidently, and I'd say even matter of factly, "No Mommy God was with me. I wasn't scared."

Playing with her play doctor's kit, she invented a oxygen mask--from 1/2 of a plastic easter egg shell. She held it up to my face and said, "Mommy. Breath. You feel better." I wondered how she knew this, so I asked her. She said, "Oh. Doctor tell me." I asked what doctor she was referring to. She said, "He look like me Mommy. You know black hair and black eyes." At the hospital? I asked. "No. At the Pink Castle."

We did our nighttime routine--she settled into her toddler bed--I into the couch to "sit for a little bit" (as she says to me every night) with her. It was pitch black--I was dozing off--when I felt little fingers on my arm and Izabella saying, "Mommy. Can I nuggle a little bit?" Absolutely. It has become a pretty regular thing now--we "nuggle" (snuggle) together on the couch for a bit. Then when she's ready she'll say, "Mommy. I go to my bed now?" and off she goes.

I: "Mommy. I want to be on the-X."
What's the X?
I: You know that show they sing on?
Oh. X-Factor.
I: Yes! Mommy. When I grow up. I'm going to be on the X-Factor and ALL the judges are going to say YES and I'll be a TV Star.

She does love to sing and dance! You never know.

We were headed to the Omaha Zoo--and just before we got there. Izabella said, "Mommy. I'm so excited! I'm so excited my eyes and my whole body are going to come right our my eyes!" Then as we approached the pumpkin patch recently--she said, "Mommy. I'm so excited my eyeballs are going to come right out of my head forever and ever!" As we got closer--to the pumpkin patch--she proclaims perched atop Dan's shoulders, "Is this cool or what Mom!? Is this cool or what?"

She was playing with her baby dolls on the floor directly behind my chair in my studio when I heard her talking to her baby, "Don't worry baby. It will be alright. I will NEVER EVER LEAVE YOU."

We were grocery shopping one day--after a visit from my sister Shelly and her husband Topher. Topher's favorite vegetable is Brussel Sprouts. So we had some during their visit. As we were gathering our produce she said, "Mommy. Can we get some Brussel Sprouts?" Ahhh...yeah...we can.

"But Mommy. I'm just a little girl. I can't do that." 

"Mommy. We need to have a little talk." with her hands firmly on her hips--looking up at me in complete seriousness.

"Mommy. I'm going to miss "tana" (our dog Montana) when she go to heaven to be with God. I don't want her to go to God yet." 

One Sunday morning we were all laying in bed being silly and just hanging out. We had just found out a few days earlier--one of her little friends still at the orphanage in China--had finally found his family. Izabella had been praying for her friend "Ma Teng" for months and months. After we received the good news--that night I told her she didn't need to pray for Ma Teng to have a family anymore. I used it as a way to show her God listens to our prayers when we pray--and He answers. Then a few days later--in bed that Sunday morning--Izabella looks at me and said, "Mommy. I prayed to God and asked him to let your Daddy and your Grammy out of heaven. And he said Yes!"

So many things to write little time. More later...promise Izabella.