Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Then and Now

Here's Hannah in her "gotcha day" clothes both 1 year ago and today. Thanks Lisa for the idea from your blog! hmm, it appears she's grown this year! :-)

Keep reading the post below this one for more on our day today and my reflections of the past year.

Family Forever Day!

Hannah and I celebrated our first "Family Forever Day" today. I chose that term because it's one that has meaning to her. A few months ago I left the house to go grab something from the car while Hannah was in the bed, but not asleep. I didn't tell her and she heard the door open and close I guess. Anyway, it scared her and when I came back in (had to have been under a minute) she was crying. When I went to her room, she looked scared and said "no bye-bye!". I'd left the house for things like that (mailbox, grab something from the car, etc.) a 100 times before and it never bothered her, but for whatever reason, that night it scared her. As I was comforting her and telling her I'd always come "right back", I remembered something I'd read that a fellow adoptive-mom did with her daughter. I held up my hand and had Hannah do the same. We locked fingers and I told her we'd be a family forever. Since then, we've used that phrase often. Sometimes I've initiated it, and sometimes Hannah has. So, that's what I decided we would call this special day.

We mostly spent the day playing and doing things Hannah likes. She got new nail polish and painted her nails. We ate ice cream and strawberries (strawberries were always one of MY favorite foods, and Hannah loves them just as much!) She rode her bike, she played in her little pool, and she spent a long time playing with my neighbor's niece and nephew who were visting. I picked up a balloon with helium in it at the grocery store for her and she was thrilled! She played and played with that balloon and then we "released it to China!" okay, not really. We had no intention of releasing it. She wanted to take it outside and I kept trying to tell her if she did, she was going to let it go and then it would be gone. I could not convince her so I said okay - go play with it. She had a ball! She played with the balloon for a long time, watched it blow in the wind, marched around with it singing, and just generally enjoyed it. It was fun watching her. Then, she pretended it was cake and had me blow the candles out and then she asked me if I wanted more. When she did, she let go of the balloon to sign "more" while she said it and up it went. She had that "uh-oh look" on her face and I said "WOW! Your balloon is going to China!". She looked at me like I was crazy for a few seconds and then said "yeah. balloon go to China" and went off to play again. Then, tonight we went to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant with 3 of our friends. Hannah was so excited and all day kept saying "all the people eat supper (with) Hannah - in China!". Ha! :-) I did forget the camera though - so no pictures of dinner. Just a note about the "getting dressed" pictures below. My independent-spirited child wanted to do her belt "all by myself". So, I sat and watched, and then had to laugh and grab the camera. She struggled and struggled with that belt and then was quite perplexed when she couldn't figure out how to buckle it since she put it on backwards. I was prepared to let her wear it backwards, but she did decide to ask for help in the end. And yes, I know most people don't wear a purple belt with a fuschia-colored skirt. But this is preschool style afterall! :-)

What an amazing year it's been. It's so hard to believe that one year ago I was handed this beautiful child. She has had quite a year herself. She flew on an airplane for HOURS (and screamed for most of it), had a new home that I'm convinced she thought of as her next hotel for at least a few weeks, met so many new people who knew of her and had prayed for her for so long but who she had never seen before. She adjusted into all her new environments (church, nursery, school, speech, etc.) amazingly well. She has faced numerous doctor appointments, a couple dentist appointments, and several speech evaluations. She had surgery for her palate and a cast for a broken arm (and actually had them at the same time!). She has completely enjoyed every holiday and celebration with a sense of awe and wonder whether it be a birthday, Christmas, Valentines Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter. But what I love is she's had the same sense of awe and wonder over: a balloon, ice cream, nail polish, new to her (hand me down) clothes and shoes, or me telling her she has 10 more minutes to watch TV before bed because it's summer so I'm letting her stay up late (ah - and at 3 she really believes 10 more minutes = staying up late!).

We watched the video of me receiving Hannah in China this week, and she has asked for it again and again. She curls up in my lap and watches it quietly, occassionally asking "where's mommy?" (when the video is just on her). Then, she laughs later as the video shows her playing in the hotel room trying to say 'bye bye' (which at the time was "eye-eye" since she couldn't make the b sound until after her palate repair). She's also looked at her pictures of our time in China more recently. I don't know what she might remember of her time in China. She doesn't demonstrate any emotional reaction to people in the pictures (the lady who handed her to me, the orphange director, etc.). I don't have any pictures of her foster family though so it's hard to say what she remembers about them. But I just believe they were so very good to her. Life has not always been easy for my little girl, but she has a strength, passion for life, and a resilient spirit that is rare and beautiful. I wish I could thank her foster family because I believe the care they gave her for two years at least partly enabled her to be this way. Even while we were still in China - her spirit shone through. Looking back it's easy to see how at times she *almost* shut down and how she was scared. But, she never really shut down. She was "fully alive" even then (don't know if that makes sense, but it does to me!). She had a fighting spirit that quite honestly, made her a little difficult to deal with in China at times. Those who followed the blog then may remember her "sit-in protests" she was becoming famous for, or her lying on the street because she didn't want to go to the medical exam, or some of her other antics. But even then, she also had laughter and joy and it was obvious she had been loved and knew how to love. I belive that spirit inside her has helped her not only to survive the obstacles in her life (phsyically and emotionally) but has also helped her thrive! Everything she does is with her whole heart and to me, that is incredibly courageous! So, Hannah, Happy Family Forever Day to the most courageous person I know!! I love you!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mother's Day, School Program, and Build-a-Bear!

What a fun month this has been! (and it's not over yet - look for more things coming up in the next two weeks!).

I completed enjoyed my first Mother's Day. We went out to eat after church (Hannah's treat thanks to Grandma!) and then went home for a nap and a chance to play in the water that afternoon. My friend Denise, who is also Hannah's speech therapist at school, took her out of her classroom that week to make this flower pot for me with her hand prints.

This past Friday, we had our end-of-the year program for the two preschool classes at my school. This is the first year our classes combined for a joint program instead of doing them separately, and I must confess...it was my idea to combine simply so I could be sure not to miss Hannah in her program! It went great. Both classes did a great job and Hannah totally enjoyed herself. I so wish I could get the video on here, but I don't have a clue how. She laughed, and sang, and was quite the performer. When her name was called, she proudly walked to her teacher to accept her certificate. A little while later when her class was finished and I stepped forward to give out the certificates for my class, Hannah YELLED across the room "look mommy! I have one! me! Hannah! I got it!". I am so very thankful that school has been such a positive experience for her this year. She loves her teachers, loves her classmates, and generally greets each activity with enthusiasm. Of course, she's also had to learn to share attention and toys...which while not easy has definately been good for her. And oh, what she doesn't yet realize. It's just a taste of the kind of sharing she'll have to do when she gets a sister!
After the program she left with "Nana" (my friend Beth who travelled to China with me) and her granddaughter Elizabeth. They had so much fun playing together and I picked her up that evening.

It's kind of hard to see - but Hannah's in the front in the brown dress with pink bow.

Hannah and Elizabeth- These girls are two years apart but play together so well! They love being together!

Saturday, we went to Build-a-Bear. I had heard that they were allowing people to make a bear for free for their annual charity day that would then be shipped to adoption agencies and other groups that would send the bears on to children waiting to be adopted. So, we thought that sounded like a good idea and decided to participate. Of course, since it was Hannah's first visit to Build-a-Bear, I couldn't let her leave without her own bear! So, we made two - one to stay and one to take. I bet you can all guess which bear came home with my girly-girl princess! And though not in the picture, it also came home wearing a princess dress!

Finally, Saturday night, I went to a party to celebrate a friend's birthday. Like a real, adult party without kids. Hannah spent the evening with one of her favorite babysitters. We were both a little late getting to bed, but hey - it was fun.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Visit to Boaz

The first Sunday in May is what's known in Boaz as "Decoration Sunday". My parents are both from the Boaz area and most of their families are in or around there. So, Hannah and I headed to Boaz today to join in the event of decorating the graves of family members who have died over the years. And to show her off some too! She's spent a lot of time with my parents and a fair amount of time with my grandfather. But, this was Hannah's first time to meet some of our other family members, such as my aunts and uncles. She did very well. Here's just few pictures from the day.

Pretty Girl!

Hannah and Grandma

Hannah, papa (my grandfather), and me. Well, Hannah's not too interested in having this picture taken as you can tell!

Hannah with my aunt Helen and cousin Diane

Hannah and my uncle, Ronald. However, Hannah calls him "santa". Yes, really. She was fascinated by his beard and kept saying "ho ho ho".

Silly Face at lunch!