Wednesday, October 29, 2008

what we're doing

Since I can't seem to break away and hide long enough to compose a thought-provoking or encouraging or eloquently-written post, I decided to just write about right now.

Right now, Eli (5th grade) and Bill are poring over a logic problem for one of Eli's classes. Eli started working on said problem... oh, 2 hours ago... and has had many frustrating moments along the way. His dad finally arrived home from a long day at work, around 8:15 p.m., to "rescue" him and help him figure it out. That was half an hour ago. Some logic problem.

Jacob (9th grade) is hidden away in his bedroom doing homework. He and I just spent quite a while (way too long, actually) trying to find colored pencils for something he was working on. The colored pencils were supposed to be in a certain place, but magically had disappeared from there. While searching high and low and everywhere in between for this rainbow of color, I ranted - I mean, I gently spoke of - the fact that once these pencils were found, that I was going to collect and organize them, along with other important school supplies. Once I have done this, if a student in this household needs a certain item, I will have it locked away and ready to be "checked out," then returned directly to me. Sounds like a plan; but, will I actually follow through with it? I guess time will tell.

Seth (11th grade) has yet to return home from a small group Bible study that he's part of on this night. He had been home from school less than half an hour, earlier today, when he proclaimed that HE would go pick up Eli from school. I believe his exact words were, "I've gotta get outta here. I have cabin fever." Cabin fever! After just getting home! Teenagers.
And, I know that "outta" is not a word.

From the other room, I just heard Bill explain: "I GOT it!" The logic problem, that is. Hmmm, I think that was supposed to be Eli "getting" it, but I'm sure Dad will walk him through it...

As I sat down here at the kitchen table to type this, I had just started picking up all of Ahna's toys. Yes, they are scattered everywhere. As are all the plastic plates and bowls and lids from "her" cabinet in the kitchen. She is tucked away in her crib, sound asleep for the night.

Ahna is a soothing balm to her Daddy's tired soul, and he was disappointed that he wouldn't get to love on her tonight. I didn't think he'd be home 'til much later, or I would've kept her up a bit later.

And so back to this moment, where I hear much laughter from upstairs, where the Dad and two of his boys have gone. Probably a bit of "boy humor" going on up there, that I wouldn't think as funny in the least. I must go remind them that Sister is asleep.

Good night to you all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ours 3 months

, almost 16 months.

Three months ago yesterday, this little angel became a physical member of our Forever Family. And today she is not the same. Neither are we.

She has brought so many smiles, so much joy and laughter into our home.

The little babe who could not pick ANYTHING up with her fingers or hands, now grabs everything in sight and explores every inch of it.

Her lazy, slumped posture has become more upright and much stronger. She has gone from scooting a little on her belly, to crawling slowly on her hands and knees, and then to crawling so quickly that we can't keep up with her!

As the photo implies, she now stands solidly on her own, and is even trying to take 2 or 3 steps. She LOVES to fall over into Mama's or Daddy's arms!

Her face literally lights up when her brothers get home from school and greet her. She is always at the ready with her "mockingbird" face on, to show them all her silly looks and make them laugh.

She is still quite wary (sometimes downright afraid) of strangers, but is becoming more and more comfortable with friends and family who she comes in contact with.

One of our biggest hurdles has been that she has a fairly significant oral aversion. For weeks she allowed nothing, except her bottle of formula or her thumb, near her face or mouth. After several weeks of playing "face and food games," she has decided that she will try to eat pureed food. She had learned that every time we sat down to eat we would all say "Mmmmm, Mmmmmm," to help her understand that food is a good thing. So, almost every time she sees anyone eating, she makes the same excited "Mmmmm, Mmmmm," sound. So sweet. She is still not willing to bring food purposefully to her own mouth, and still gags alot with anything that has texture, but we are thrilled that she has at least begun to take 'baby steps' toward eating.

She is so affectionate! We in this family are daily recipients of her snuggly hugs and her wet kisses. It has been astounding to watch the transformation from the baby who wouldn't even turn towards us when we were holding her, during those first days.

Love is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today, he turns 15.

He has somehow gotten much taller than me.

His big round brown eyes that captured his mama's heart the day he was born, will capture other hearts in the years to come.

He is determined, with his sights set on a lofty goal; and he refuses to settle for anything else.

He works hard when there is work to be done, but plays even harder.

His passion at this stage in his life involves intense physical training and concentration, and he is living up to the challenges before him.

He is a 'softy' at heart,thoughtful and kind, tho' at times he might not want others to find that out.

He has a tendency toward mischief, adventure, and all things risky; and more than once these qualities have landed him in the Emergency Room.

He is witty without always intending to be, and has a bright personality: the kind that draws people around him.

He has learned lessons that come from making decisions that are not the wisest ones; and he is allowing these to shape him, to teach him.

He is becoming. As we all are.

I am esteemed to be his Mom.

I love you, Jacob.

Happy Birthday

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ahna day revisited: part three. yeah, really.

Don't faint, you loyal few. :-) Part Three is here...... FINALLY. And boy, is it long.

(written in present tense rather than past - I know one is not 'supposed' to change tenses during a writing project, but anyway.) And you'll probably have to reread Parts 1 & 2 before going on...

Here we are, in the same room as our Ahna. We walk into that room with some semblance of order and quiet, but once we're inside, that all changes. We adoptive family groups are hunched together, our gazes fixed on those babies, our c
onversations marked by only one thing: which baby is ours? I sense the activity around me, our guides trying to find the appropriate authorities to deal with so that we can have our girls; family members talking, pointing, searching; the babies becoming increasingly aware that the very air in this room has changed, since all these strange-looking white people entered. The volume in the room begins to increase by a significant amount, and in a moment it feels like disorganization reigns. Though it does not.

This procedure is to be like many others before it. We know that soon our names will be called, and we will be summoned to step forward so that we can receive our new family member. We have done our homework about Ahna's orphanage; we are aware that often there is simply a quick passing of our baby, from one set of arms, to ours. Will that be the way these moments unfold for us? We wait, we watch, we listen, we try to remain calm and focused.

Everything is happening at lightening speed now, or so it
seems. There is a bench to our left: Two Chinese women hold babies, and it looks like one of the ladies has brought her young son along, today. He is maybe 10 or 11 years old. My eyes scan the sweet faces of those yet-to-be-terrified baby girls, trying to match the image we received 6 weeks before that has burned into my head and heart, with the true flesh-and-blood face of our daughter.

My eyes are drawn to the corner of that bench, to a little one sitting alone but directly beside one of the ladies. She has her head tilted down a little, her right arm raised and resting on the bench armrest, her fingers scratching the wood ever so intently. Her eyes are fixed on her little task, but when she glances up to see what all the commotion is about, I see those eyes and I know that it is Ahna. The eyes. The lips. The fine black hair that has grown out some with the passing of time. It is July, and the photo we received was taken in March.

(The photo is so blurry, but captures the first moment we saw her, exactly.)

I tell Bill and the boys that it is her as I point her out from that short distance away. A couple of them initially disagree with me, as we all realize that she has changed. Her precious and fragile form in full view now, we are beginning to grasp the realization that we are here, in this room, to take her away forever.

With our entrance, the relatively calm environment quickly dissipates, and soon one of the babies is crying. Not long afterwards, so are most of the others. Ahna has joined the crying party. An orphanage employee, a pretty lady wearing glasses and with ha
ir pulled back in a ponytail, dressed neatly in jeans and a nice top, has made her way over to where Ahna is sitting. She positions herself on the armrest that our girl had been scratching, and in a few more seconds she picks up crying Ahna.

So much noise, now. I don't want to take my eyes off Ahna, but I realize that parents are stepping forward and the unions are beginning. I am smiling, watching Ahna, who is now crying in the arms of the aforementioned woman; then I'm watching as one baby is being placed in a Mama's arms, then another. Video cameras everywhere. Cameras constantly flashing. Family members moving, dodging, trying to see, attempting to get the best view for a photo. History being recorded. Tears. Laughter. More tears.

Stunned babies.

Then Bill is moving away from me and I realize that it is OUR TURN. I haven't heard anyone's name called, nor did I hear or see our family being summoned. But Bill must have. We are now part of this unstoppable force that is bringing us to the moment that we've waited so long for. Can it be? How many videos and documentaries have we watched with tears in our eyes, seeing strangers receive their long awaited children? And now it is us. I am moving behind Bill, ready to be given this one that we are already in love with.

We walk over to our guide, arriving just about the same time as Ahna arrives in the arms of this woman she obviously knows. Ahna is frantically clawing at the woman's shirt, this woman who is trying to smile and pull our daughter away. I face her now, this woman. Bill at my shoulder. The boys right behind. Bill flashes our documents to her. Or maybe Maggie, our guide has them, and does so. I am only aware now, of this baby. This very sad and scared and tear-soaked baby, who is finally pried from the woman who carries her, and is given to me. She is fragile. Horrified. She is weeping.

And she is in my arms. Just. like. that.

I think I smile and nod a thank you before I turn and begin to move away from all the activity. Later, I feel badly that I did not linger and speak heartfelt words of gratitude to this woman who placed Ahna in my arms. All that mattered in that instance, was trying to help our daughter during these traumatic moments of transition. (We find out when Bill
visits the orphanage, that the lady who gave Ahna to us was an office worker, rather than a caretaker.)

I walk to the outskirts of this large room with Ahna in my arms. She is turned toward me with her head on my shoulder. Sobbing, still. I am elated that I have her, but I do not want to overwhelm her any further. So we just walk. I try to get her distracted by the flags waving along the wall that are being blown by the air conditioner.
To no avail. So we just walk. She clings when I try to turn her around or move her, because she is shaken and scared. I sit down on a bench with her after a few minutes, and the boys and Bill draw nearer. She continues to sob. Bill takes her and walks over to an air conditioner, a stand-type that is in the shape of a small refrigerator. For a moment the tears cease, when she feels the cool air blow through her hair. But then they are back. Such heart-wrenching, devastated cries, from a baby who doesn't understand what in the world is happening to her. She is so worn out.

Her yellow cotton dress (like the other babies are wearing) is quite wet, and she smells of vomit. We find out the next day that she got carsick
on the long trip from the orphanage. She wears some type of disposable diaper underneath the dress panty, but it does not have tabs that close, and has come out of place. So her dress is also soaked with urine; and tears and snot. We are given no information about her schedule or ANYTHING, today. However, we have been told that the next day we will back in this very room, and we may ask the orphanage director questions about our daughters.

In direct contrast to Ahna's demeanor and emotion, I feel an overwhelming relief simply wash over me like a flood. And sweet joy. It has been just over 3 years since we made this decision to add a child to our family. We never could have imagined that the wait would become so long. But we did our best to wait with grace, to live life fully during each season that came and went. We were busy and our time was occupied with raising our sons. But always, we waited with anticipation and a sincere desire that a speed-up in this process would take place. It never did.

Within minutes, we deliriously happy families are being asked to return to the bus. What a sight it is, to see these precious ones being held in the arms of their Forever Families. Ahna again decides to stop crying for a few brief moments, as we walk out of that building and board our bus. She is in my arms again, and her little body shakes with each breath as a result of the weeping. But again, the pause is short-lived, and she sheds even more tears during the short drive to the hotel and as we exit the bus and as we make it to our room. Bless her sweet heart. She must be so weary.

Once in our hotel room, we decide Ahna probably needs a little space, so we place her on the middle of a bed. We don't wipe her dripping nose our her tear-stained cheeks just yet. That will only add to her trauma. Sitting there on that bed, ever so slowly, she seems to pull herself together. Legs outstretched straight in front of her, her trunk bent in a slumped position, she begins to look us over. Just a little. She is able to sit alone, but her posture will certainly need some work. We sit on the other bed in the room, gazing at her. She is definitely the center of attention. Eli wants to creep closer to the bed where she sits. Ahna's whines let him know that he is not allowed. We keep our distance, thankful that she seems less stressed out for a time. Her bare right foot rotates at the ankle, her leg lifted up just a bit. She twirls and twirls and twirls that foot, looking around the room. We are in awe of her.

The next few hours actually comprise another chapter to this story, but for now I will briefly summarize. We are able to keep our sweet girl from crying that first day, only for brief moments and when we hold her facing out, away from us. Bill actually first discovers the best way to calm her: by walking her over to the full-length mirror on the closet door. For the next several days, when she would get upset, we would head for the nearest mirror.

After much prodding and later on into that evening, we are finally able to get her to take a few ounces of formula from a bottle. Our guide had gone to a local market to purchase formula for all the babies, since we were given none when we received our girls. Our plan is to keep Ahna on the Chinese formula that she is used to, and begin the transition to American formula once we are home with her.

And finally, rest comes for her. On this day that has marked her new beginning, our new beginning, she sleeps. It is a restless sleep in a blue metal crib that is beside our bed. In this crib we have put her own colorful, soft blankets as a way to help her understand that she will no longer close her eyes in a cold, stark bed. It will be many days and weeks before she understands this. Before she trusts. Before she allows herself to face us and look us straight in the eyes and smile.

But now? Smile, she does. And joy she exudes. As I finish this and prepare to hit "post," she sits in her highchair moving her head back and forth to music, flipping the pages of the board book that she is looking at. She still rubs and scratches everything intently, just as she did in that first moment we laid eyes on her. She glances up frequently while I sit here, to flash me a big smile with her 8 teeth. And then, it's back to the book. Today is "pajama day," and she looks adorable in her polka dot pants and light blue shirt that has "sweet" written on it. And oh, how SWEET, this life with Ahna is.

**Don't give up on my blog yet! You have no idea how much I want to continue what I started, here. I love it. Yes, life itself has had me in its clutches, but I am trying to make myself find a specific time of day to invest in this.**