Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fun with Ana Claire

Yes - you're getting 4 posts in one day...one night actually. So, to catch you up on this most exciting week....here we go:

We had a fun day with our friends today. We met Ana Claire, her mother Lisa, and our new friends Stephanie and Greg for lunch at Chic-Fil-A. Stephanie and Greg live just down the street from us and they are waiting on their travel approval to head to China to adopt their daughter Hannah Grace. It will be so fun to have her here and so close to us!

After lunch, Hannah and I went to Lisa's house for the girls to play. They had a great time, and Lisa and I enjoyed getting a chance to talk too.

Christmas Day!

We had a great Christmas day!! Christmas morning was absolutely as magical as I had hoped. Guess who woke up first? That would be me - not typical. I watched Hannah sleep and kept thinking 'hurry up already!'. Finally, she woke up, crawled in my bed and smiled. I asked her "do you think Santa came last night?". She whispered "yes". I said "do you want to go downstairs and see?" She sat straight up, said "5 more minutes sleep" and fell back on the bed! Ha!! She didn't really get it yet. I bet that's the last time I hear that on Christmas morning!
When I finally got her up and moving, I made her sit on the top of the stairs so I could run downstairs and grab the video camera. Oh - I wish I could get that video on here so you could see it. You know those commercials where the kid comes down the stairs on Christmas morning and the look on their face is just priceless? It was exactly like that...so sweet and precious.

"Wow" was the only word out of her mouth for the first 2 minutes at least!

Enjoying her new kitchen

We got a break from the rain just long enough for Hannah to enjoy a few minutes on her new bike.

Sipping "tea" with nana - otherwise known as Beth. Beth and her husband Wayne are very special to us. Beth travelled with me to China (and will hopefully get to go next time too!) and she now picks Hannah up from school about once a week to spend time with her while I have my faculty meetings (and sometimes get to enjoy running a couple child-free errands too before I go home). She and Wayne are a second set of grandparents to Hannah and I'm so thankful for them!! They came over Christmas night to eat and hang out with us a while.

Christmas Eve

I love this photo I took before church!

Having fun with grandpa!

Hannah loves her new playhouse, especially the front porch - compliments of the grandparents / great-grandparent!

Opening presents - Hannah was happy to get this computer from grandma and grandpa so she can "work" like mama!

A very tired Hannah saying bye to her paw-paw, her great-grandfather.

A New Swingset!!

Hannah had one "pre-Christmas" present - a swingset. She got it a couple weeks before Christmas but since it took some time to put together, it wasn't finished until a few days before Christmas. (Before you get too impressed - I didn't do it. My dad came several days to put it together). Hannah loves it!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Reflections and Big News!

Look for a post on all the fun and wonder Hannah experienced on her first Christmas home soon. But, tonight I want to take a minute to share what's on my heart and mind. Tonight, after everything was ready for Hannah to walk downstairs tomorrow (I can't wait!), I sat in the middle of the living room floor, looked at the tree, and in the quiet began to reflect on this past year and on my life. And I think AMAZING! I am so incredibly blessed by all God has done. I am thankful and will always remember this leg of the journey of my life. It's one of the times where I know that I know that I heard God's voice, and despite the fears and uncertainties that accompanied it, I answered and did my best to follow. That's not always been true. Like most of us I imagine, I've told God no a few times. More often, I've just "tuned him out" and not listened. But this time, I did listen. And God walked beside me through the most wonderful, amazing experience. (Or actually, it went kind of fast..I like to think God "picked up the pace" and skipped in joy alongside of me because He knew what was coming and couldn't wait for me to get there!!) But, I've been reminded in many ways lately that it is an ongoing journey. And once again, God is calling me to step out of my comfort zone a bit and move forward in faith on the next leg of the journey.

My church has been doing an advent series titled "We're Expecting". It's been about expecting the Christ child in our lives, but it's been using as examples families in our church who have "expected" a child and how that child has impacted them. Hannah and I were first and one day we headed to the church to be videotaped for use in the series. I was asked to talk about new dreams. I talked about the dream of having a child becoming reality. I shared the story of how I began the adoption process, how I met Hannah, and life together afterwards. The guy doing the interview asked me what dreams I had for the future for Hannah and for myself. I shared a little bit about my dreams for Hannah. But, I wasn't entirely honest. I said I didn't know what God had for the future for me. That was true, but he didn't ask what I KNEW, he asked what I DREAMED. And in truth, there was a dream in my heart. I just wasn't ready to share it yet with 300 or so of my closest friends on Sunday morning. But the dream had begun taking root before I even had Hannah, though I pushed it aside at the time. But, I caught myself occassionally saying or thinking the words..."next time,_____" What?!!? next time? no way! I'm single and most definately NOT rich! This is great. Thanks God for the opportunity THIS time, but I can't do it again. After Hannah was home, I was so busy with her and I was so happy with her, that I didn't think a lot about "next time", but I did keep it in the back of my mind. I'd catch myself thinking "look how nuturing she is to her doll..wouldn't she be a great big sister?" or "what would it be like to have two kids riding in the back seat of the car?', etc. Eventually, I decided in my heart that I would try to adopt one more child , but I would wait about two years before starting the process. That way, Hannah would be older and could be more a part of it. She'd have more time to be the baby. I'd have some time to save and prepare. About a month ago I told a good friend "I know now is not the right time, but I have been thinking a lot about adopting again. But later. I know now is not the right time". But, I have thought about it a LOT over the last month.

And then, WHAM!! Many of those in the china adoption community know this, but two weeks ago China announced new regulations for their adoption program. One of those regulations is that they will no longer accept single applicants after May 1, 2007. That's four months away - May 1. (You don't have to complete the adoption by then, but have your paperwork to China by then.). The night I heard the news (at that point it was actualy just a rumor..), I went to bed a bit sad, thinking "well, that's it for that dream. It'll never happen now." For those wondering, yes, there are other countries that accept single applicants. But, China was the one in my heart. And, part of the dream for me also was having two children that shared the same background and heritage. Which is not to say that is the "right way" or that others who have children adopted from different cultures is the "wrong way". I actually think it's great. It's just not the dream in MY heart right now. I briefly thought, "I wonder if I started RIGHT NOW..would I have time to get my paperwork to China by May 1". But, I kept thinking that wasn't my plan. My plan was to wait two more years. Interesting how God works. Now that I've had some time to sort it out a little, I think God planted the DREAM, but I made the PLAN to reach the dream. When it was obvious that the PLAN wouldn't work, I mistook that to mean the DREAM had to die to. Thankfully, it was a temporary lapse of understanding on my part. I've learned that God really is in control. I just forgot that for about 24 hours. I thought my plan was right because logically it was a good plan. It took into account what I believed was best for Hannah (let her be a bit older before starting) and also what I believed was reality (I could better prepare and save with a little more time). Well, you know what? God's plans are based on a deeper reality that He is able and willing to do more than we ask or imagine. (okay, there's that "more than we ask or imagine" verse that keeps popping in my head over and over in the past year...I'm trying to listen!!) And as much as I love Hannah, and I do love that little girl oh so deeply, and as much I want the very best for her - SO does God, even more! So, anyway - that night I'm telling God that I wish it could be different, I wish it had worked out...and the next morning I get in the shower and I suddently realize what I was talking about...that the PLAN had to go, but the DREAM did not. So, to make a long story shorter, I e-mailed my social worker and asked if the rumors were true and if adopting a 2nd child was still a possibilty for me. The answers came back YES. I've since talked more with her and met with her and she has been very honest with me. There is a bit of a risk. We have to work fast to get my paperwork to China by May 1. I'm willing to work fast, and she is willing to help me as much as she can. (I'm so fortunate to have a GREAT agency and a GREAT social worker there!) The key part of this process is going to be getting that CIS approval (citizenship and immigration) that is currently taking a long time. That's something that can't be guarunteed, but right now it looks like it will work out. I'm choosing to at least begin the process under the non-special needs program. Many of you know, I adopted Hannah through the special needs program. It was my intent to adopt a 2nd time the same way. But, I have found my heart very at peace with working towards non-special needs at this time and it has the advantage (to me - disadvantage to many! sorry!) of having a much longer waiting period. I'm looking at possibily 2 years until I have my daughter. Going this route is an option quite honestly I didn't even see until I gave up "my plan". So, I'm cautiously working towards this new plan. But, I'm going to **try** to remember that God really is in control. I may switch over to special needs later in the process. I may not. The process may speed up, or it may slow down. Or, China may even decide at some point to stop single adoptions entirely, even if my paperwork is already there. (That's not typical of the way they have made changes in the past, but just a reminder that in the world of international adoption, truly anything can happen). But for right now, I feel like God has opened a door for me and it's only open for a short time. So, I'm walking through it. And, while this long message almost makes it sound like I'm not excited, that's not true at all. I was just trying to put on paper the thought process and experience of making the decision. I am very very excited about the possiblity of adding a 2nd daughter to my home. That, after all, has been the dream in my heart.

So, now that you've made it though this very long post, please pray for us. Pray for me to remain open to what God is doing, pray for Hannah, and pray for God's hand to guide us in adding a 3rd member to our family. (And, you can pray for quick immigration approval too!!)

And with that, I'm now going to bed so I can sleep a few hours before watching my sweet Hannah head downstairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought. Part of my dream for her is to enjoy the wonder and magic of santa now while she's little, but to also grow up knowing that the true reason to celebrate Christmas is the birth of God's son. Hannah does know who "baby Jesus" is, but one day, I hope she fully realizes why He came. I dream of the day the love God has for her becomes so real in her heart that it gives her the courage to live the life God has called her to with joy and thanksgiving. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


One night I was playing with Hannah's hair and I put them in pigtails. Her hair really isn't quite long enough to do it right, but she loved them! The next morning I went to brush her hair and she said "two...two..two hair" and held her fingers up on top of her head to show me she wanted pigtails. (Once I taught her that they were called "pigtails" she laughed and kept saying "oink, oink"!) So, Hannah wore pigtails to school that day, which just happened to be "Pajama Day" in her classroom as well. Here's a picture of her at school that day.

Now, Hannah wants the pigtails every day! I'm really not so good at them. If someone wants to give me lessons in getting that nice, even part all the way down let me know! But, I've given Hannah pigtails the last couple days. She gets excited and loves it and I figure I need the practice anyway!

hmm... this tape and wrapping presents thing is kind of tricky. But, I want to do it "BY MYSELF!"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Some Recent Photos

Future praise team band member! Hannah LOVES listening to the praise team at church. My brother gave her this guitar and she has completely loved putting on concerts for me!

I Just LOVE this picture. Every night we read two or three books before bedtime. On this night, I told Hannah to pick out her books while I went downstairs for something. When I came back up, this is what I saw. She was so intent on reading her book and after I snapped the picture, she looked up, smiled, and said "BY MYSELF!" (her favorite words these days by the way!)

Santa Hannah!

Doesn't she look so sweet?

I took Hannah to ride the "Santa Express" - a real train in Calera. She loves trains and had a great time. She got to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and even sat in his lap for a few minutes on the way back.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Six Months Ago...

Six months ago today, I woke up very early (about 2:30 a.m.) in a hotel in Wuhan, China. Seven very long hours later, my guide met me to take me to the Civil Affairs office where I met Hannah for the first time. I was nervous and very excited. She was terrified and NOT excited.

Fast foward six months. I have so much to be thankful for. I have a very healthy and happy 3 year old daughter who amazes me with her strength and resilience. That's not to say every day is easy or every adjustment we've had to make together has been easy. But overall, I think things have gone very well! I have family and friends who surround us with their love and support, and whose very prayers and support helped make getting Hannah here possible in the first place. Hannah definately knows her her "mama" is and is so affectionate and sweet. She climbs in my lap in the afternoons to watch t.v. or read. She jumps in my bed in the mornings to cuddle and play before getting up. And yet, she is secure enough now that I can leave her with others and she mostly handles it well. She'll usually look at me and say "right back!" (as in, I know, I know - you'll be right back!) Hannah LOVES school. She loves her teachers, she loves her classmates, and she loves the playground! She plays well with her friends for the most part, though she can be a bit bossy. She also LOVES church and we have a wonderful church family. Hannah has great doctors who have provided her with excellent care. Her surgeon did a wonderful repair job on her cleft palate. And while those two weeks following surgery were a bit sleep-deprived and rough, it all seems like a distant memory now. I still smile in wonder every time Hannah laughts or cries with a wide-open mouth and I see a complete, intact roof in her mouth. I'm thankful that Hannah is now sucking through a straw, blowing 'raspberries', and making some new speech sounds. We still have a very long way to go on her speech, but everything is set in place and moving now. I see a few tears and pouts, but I see many, many more smiles and laughs. I have a child who can manipulate her way into staying awake a few more minutes by calling out, "mama! hug!" (and yes, I do give in to this one. Those who know me well know that I don't give into many kid schemes...but I can't say no to this one and she's figured that out!) God has truly blessed me this past year. As Hannah and I put up the Christmas tree (well, as *I* put up the Christmas tree and Hannah danced around in her Halloween princess costume with the gold ribbon she found in the ornamament box...), I couldn't help but think that a year ago I was still working on my homestudy and thinking 'next Christmas, she'll be here!" Wow!! I am so grateful and humbled by all that God has done in this year. I know Hannah was meant to be my daughter and all I can do is say "Thank You" and then do all I can to help her discover and live out God's plans for her.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Silly Hannah!

Hannah has the type laughter that is whole-body laughter. The kind that just doubles a person over. I've said since I first met her in China that her personality is "intense". When she is sad, it is intensely sad. Mad is intensely mad. And, happiness is intensely happy. She does nothing half-heartedly. Her sad and mad have gotten a little less-intense over the last 5 months, but I'm so thankful her happiness is just as intense. Here's some pictures from us playing this afternoon. The one of her bent over is one where she just laughed so hard she fell over.

In other news, Hannah had a speech evaluation at the Univ. of Montevallo on Friday. She did wonderful and cooperated with the students who were doing the evaluation very well. They, in turn, did an amazing job with her. I was very impressed. She will hopefully begin receiving services there in January - probably twice a week. We still have to work out the scheduling and all, but they seemed very willing to work with me to get her a time-slot that was after school. Her scores on the tests were a bit of suprise to me. Her articulation (speech sounds) was very low - which is to be expected from a child who has just had a cleft palate repaired at 3 years old. Her expressive language was somewhat low - also to be expected for a child who was adopted from another county 5 months ago. But, what stuck out to me was her comprehension score. She scored completely average. According to that assessment, she performed as well as any typical 3 year old who had spent those entire 3 years hearing English. I expected her comprehension to be the highest score of the 3, but didn't quite expect it to be that high. The child has only heard English for 5 months!! I'm so proud of her!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fun and Crazy Weekend

It's been quite the busy weekend around here. Friday, Hannah had a friend come home with her from school who is also named Hannah, so I spent the afternoon saying things like "Hannah come here - no, the other Hannah" and "Hannah, give this to Hannah" and the one that really confused them both "no, it's Hannah's turn now' (to ride the bike, play with the toy, whatever!)
But, actually the girls were both good and had a good time playing together.

After Hannah's grandmother picked her up (the one who doesn't live with me), we had more company. Two friends from college come over and brought dinner. One of them also has two children, Joy and Luke, that joined us. Hannah has played with them before and always has a good time with them.

Saturday morning, we headed to Inverness Office Park for the Juvenile Diabetes Walk for a Cure. It was a very fun event for a good cause. Hannah had a ball and loved seeing all the balloons. She also made friends with a dog for the first time. Hannah has never been one to warm up to my friends' dogs, but she liked Champs (who belongs to a friend who was also walking) and even fed him a dog biscuit from her hand.

After the walk and lunch, we headed home for a nap before heading back out again Saturday afternoon. We went to the zoo. Birmingham Zoo has a great Halloween tradition called "Boo at the Zoo". It was a last minute decision to go, but I'm so glad we did. They had "haunted" train rides (not really scary - it was appropriate for little kids, particulary before dark when we went), inflatable jumping things, lots of cool "weird science" type magic tricks, and more. Hannah's favorite by far was the trick-or-treating. Local non-profit groups set up booths all around the zoo for the kids to trick or treat. It took one time for me to demonstrate to Hannah how to trick-or-treat, and she was off! This kid is a natural!! She also loved looking at all the other costumes and wasn't scared by any of it. There were even a group of adults dressed like Darth Vador and other Star Wars characters. I thought Hannah might be a little scared of them since you couldn't see their real faces at all. But, she just laughed at them. She even let a grown-up in a dog costume hug her and toussle her hair! She has come a long way!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fun at Old Baker's Farm!

Jumping off the hay is fun!!

This pumpkin is a little heavy!!

I think this one is just the right size for me!

I know it's green - but I like it that way. This is the one I want.

A fun day with friends Bethany and Jordan.

My first S'more - kind of! I put the roasted marshmallow on the graham cracker, but did not want my graham cracker broken in half. Oh, and the chocolate? Well, I ate that first.

We spent a fun afternoon at Old Baker's farm yesterday with some good friends. I love fall...and having Hannah here this year to share in all the activities makes it that much sweeter!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We Made It!

We have officially made it to the one month post-surgery date! (as of yesterday!) That means, Hannah can now officially eat pretty much whatever she wants. No more soft food diet! So, we celebrated after school by heading to McDonald's for chicken nuggets and french fries. Her palate looks really good. There's still a few stitches, but they should be dissolving any day now.
Her surgeon said it would be several months before we knew for sure if her palate was working properly, but there are already good signs. She can blow bubbles, she can blow whistles, and she can make some 'p' and 'b' sounds now that she couldn't before the surgery. So, while she has a long ways to go still, she has also come a long ways. I'm so proud of her, and grateful to God, for all the progress she has made.

In other news, our school had their annual health fair last week. We rotate all the classes through stations all day to check hearing, vision, blood pressure, heart, and dental screening. They also participate in educational programs on safety and nutrition. My class and Hannah's class were paired together for the entire day and she did great with that. Here's a photo of her having her blood pressure checked in the gym.

We took a trip this past weekend to visit my parents. Hannah did great on the 3 hour drive and had a great time visiting. She was properly spoiled and doted on by her grandma and grandpa!

That's it for now. Check back soon for Halloween pictures of the prettiest princess ever!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Post-Op Appointment

Hannah and I are becoming pros at entertaining ourselves for hours (AND HOURS!) in dr. offices and hospital waiting rooms. Here's our latest venture to the cleft clinic this week. Yep - we're doing a Thomas the Train puzzle. We also read numerous books, worked on a sticker collection, sang songs, excercised (really - jumping jacks and toe-touches), played file folder games, and colored. Oh yeah - and Hannah received a manicure and pedicure during the wait too. Actually, that's what we were doing when our surgeon, Dr. Grant, came in to see us. Nothing like having to tell your child's doctor "okay, you can examine her now, but don't mess up the wet fingernail polish". :-) The good news is that he was a good sport. The REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS is that he said we need to continue her soft diet for the next two weeks but that her mouth was looking perfect and he'd see us back in 6 months. Oh - and he said I could start brushing her teeth again. YEAH!! We haven't been allowed to since her surgery due to the risk of messing up the repair site. I won't give details, but let's just say this is very very good news that we can now resume toothbrushing (with something minty fresh!) :-)

This is what Hannah did to her hair driving home from the park this afternoon. I had to stop the car and snap a picture.

Blowing Bubbles! Yes, this looks like your everyday picture of a little girl blowing bubbles. But for us, it's a celebration. Hannah couldn't blow bubbles a month ago. Well, she'd try and try, and occassionally get one out...but she just couldn't build up enough air pressure in her mouth to blow fast enough to get bubbles. That's something the palate repair fixed...now my sweet girl can blow bubbles to her heart's extent! (and she did too!) Of course, speech is our greater concern. But for tonight, we just enjoyed blowing bubbles.

Thanks for checking in on us. If you haven't yet read the previous post about Ben and the Walk to Cure Diabetes - please scroll down and check that out. Thanks!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

2006 Walk To Cure Diabetes - Help Ben's Buddies!

Hi friends,
I appreciate how many of you check this site for news of Hannah regularly. She is doing well, but I want to take this opportunity to tell you about another child. Ben White is an 8 year old boy from my church who has juvenile diabetes. That's him in the photos above, and the 2nd one includes his younger sister Mary and his older brother Jake. Ben was diagnosed when he was 2 years old and in the last six years has had over 13,000 fingerpricks to check his blood sugar and thousands of insulin injections. He now wears an insulin pump that helps control his diabetes, but still must check his sugar 7-10 times a day and endure painful site changes to keep the pump working properly. In addition, his parents must carefully monitor everything he eats and all his activities.

On October 28, Hannah and I plan to join Ben's family and friends in the 2006 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes at Inverness Office Park. If you're not familiar with it, JDRF is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and they are doing some amazing research with juvenile diabetes as they search for a cure. Ben deserves that cure - as do all the many other children across the world affected by juvenile diabetes. I'm posting this in hopes that someone might be moved to make a donation to JDRF in honor of Ben. Asking for money has never been something I was good at or felt comfortable with. But this is important. Ben is not just "some kid at my church". He and his family are a part of my family - my faith family. In fact, I've taught both Ben and his younger sister Mary in the children's programs at different times over the years and their mother is a good friend. But, besides all that, God has blessed me tremendously with support from those around me when I needed it most. Now, it's my turn to be on the giving end. But I can't do it alone. If you'd like to help with any donation amount, I would very much appreciate it and I know Ben's family would appreciate it greatly as well. You can give in one of two ways. Follow this link: http://walk.jdrf.org/walker.cfm?id=86556208 to donate online OR e-mail me directly at DeEtte530@juno.com and I will send you my mailing address for you to send a check (made out to JDRF). All donations are tax-deductible and every donation helps. Thank you!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


First Step, make sure all the babies have a pillow.

Next, make sure all the babies have socks on their hands. But since I'm the mommy in this game, I don't have too.

Here I am with my baby getting ready for bed for real.

Yesterday, I was in the computer room checking my e-mail and Hannah was playing on the floor beside me. All of a sudden, she got up and told me "right back" and ventured off. She worked hard dragging all her baby dolls into the room with me. Then, she found enough pillows for them each to have one. She told them all "night night" and joined them. Well, then it got even cuter. She had that "I've just thought of something" look and off she went again. I heard her in my bedroom opening drawers. I was curious, but didn't go after her to look. I knew whatever it was she'd have in the room with us in a minute. She returned with my socks! She then proceded to put them on the hands of all her babies. See, that's what I've been doing to her since the surgery. She has these arm splints that most kids wear after cleft palate surgery that keep her from putting her hands in her mouth and messing up the surgical sight. She hates them and her surgeon told me she didn't have to wear them as long as I was watching her. So, most of the day goes by with her hands free. But, I have been putting socks on her hands as a compromise for those times I'm not right with her. Mostly when she goes to sleep and when she's in her carseat. She doesn't particularly like it, but she cooperates and definately prefers the socks over the arm splints. I thought it was cute that she decided to put them on her baby dolls. As you can see, she chose not to put them on herself. I figure she decided that in this play, she was the mommy so she didn't have to wear the socks. It was kind of like her own personal therapy because when we got ready for bed that night and I held out the sock for her arm, she not only cooperated, but smiled and then held out her baby doll and told me what color sock to put on her.

On another note, she had her follow up appointment with the ENT today and it went GREAT! He had told me a week ago that he was going to plan to suction her ears out because they were so bad. Well, he took one look today and said everything was clear, it looked good, and he'd see us back in a year! YEAH!!!!

Our follow up with the plastic surgeon is October 5th. I **hope hope hope** he gives as glowing a report as the ENT!