Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Creative Solution...

for a child afraid of loud noises, to help make it through the firecracker-filled New Year's Eve ahead of us.

Year in Review ~ 2009

A couple of years ago, I read an End of the Year post over at Stepping on Legos and loved the idea behind it. Basically, you take the first sentence from the first blog entry of each of the twelve months of the previous year. (Phew... that was a LOT of "of's" in that last sentence!) I have done this for the last three years... since Isabel came home. It's a fun way to recap the year succinctly. And so... here is this past year's summation.


January ~ A trip to Saint Augustine last night included a visit to Winter Wonderland, where Isabel and I explored an elf village, walked through a candy cane forest, watched folks speeding down a double two-story ice luge, and experienced out first ice skating foray together.

February ~ Isabel changed preschools and her verbal skills have taken off exponentially

March ~ Spring break… how I have longed for your arrival.

April ~ So I decided the best place to decorate the eggs would be outside.

May ~ We were able to get together with some friends for a fun night outside watching Finding Nemo.

June ~ Another night of great laughter, good wine and wonderful friends… with three (daringly courageous) newbies that joined us.

July ~ What a whirlwind of a trip this has been.

August ~ When I bought this house five years ago, I knew immediately which bedroom was going to be mine and which was going to be Isabel’s.

September ~ Seven little girls, plus assorted dancewear and footwear and one dance teacher equals an hour of fun.

October ~ What a great day.

November ~ As a rule, I don’t let Isabel have a lot of candy.

December ~ Three years ago today, I sat in my classroom and watched the face of my long-awaited daughter appeared on the computer screen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Home for the Holidays

I am fortunate to have two separate friends who have been intentional for years about including us in their family activities. And so, we spent Christmas Eve at one home and Christmas Evening at the other. I have known one family for 15 years and the other for almost 30. They have walked through college, marriage, divorce and adoption with me. They know me and they love me without reservation.

One of these friends once picked me up from the airport when I was in particularly rough shape and just gave me a huge hug and said (in her South Carolinean drawl) "Baaaay-be! You just need to stay around people that LOVE you!" Through both her words and actions, she has demonstrated true friendship.

The other friend is one of a HUGE Italian family. I walked into her home Christmas Day and was surrounded by food, kids, music, food, people, food, babies, dogs, food... (seeing a theme here?). It was the exactly what I needed: unconditional love, acceptance and family. While I am separated by thousands of miles from my biological family, I am never that far away from the love of two friends who have given of themselves and given to me and my daughter... a place we call family. It is the best gift of all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thoughts of China

A card from her orphanage on Saturday and her latest journal on Monday... China is never far from our thoughts.

A Birthday Gift Good For 18 Years

During the long wait for Isabel, I was blessed by the love and support of so many people. Of course, it was those whom I saw day to day at work who were most invested in the process. When the long-awaited referral finally came, my sweet friend Shirley threw a baby shower for my colleagues at school. Of all the gifts I received, the most precious is one that I get to relive every year... for 18 years!

At one point during the shower, each guest drew a number (1-18) and was given a beautiful piece of stationery and envelope. On this, they were to write a message to Isabel on the birthday that corresponded with the number they drew. When finished writing, each person sealed their message and gave it to the host. At the end of the evening, they were all given to me, wrapped in a cream colored satin ribbon.

In the craziness of preparing for the Princess Party, I completely forgot about opening this year's envelope. I happened to glance up at my bookcase this morning and saw the box. Isabel and I opened the envelope together before she left for school. The message (that can be read clearly if you click on the photo) could not have been more perfect.

Along with the three other wishes that came before, this one was just beautiful. And the best part? There are fourteen more!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I just LOVE this time of year!

During our trip to New England last summer, Isabel was given several Barbie DVDs (Thanks, Livvy!). One of them was Barbie Nutcracker which Isabel quickly fell in love with! I knew then that her big Christmas/birthday gift would be to go see the Ballet in December. The decision was... when? We have several showings in our city and I really wanted her first experience at a ballet to be a wonderful experience. I spent quite a bit of time online looking and was finally able to get some great seats. (We were in the seventh row.)

When we went to the symphony for the first time in October, Isabel ended up falling asleep before it was over. So, I really didn't think she would hang in there for the whole dance performance but, much to my surprise, she did. I think having some friends along helped keep her interest. We went with two other girls from China and discovered some more friends were seated just a few rows behind us.

From the theater, we visited a dear friend's home for a nice Christmas party before heading out to see the annual Luminaries in a nearby neighborhood. We stopped by the live nativity scene and then took a ride in the horse-drawn carriage, singing carols. It was wonderful...even without snow!

I just love this time of year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Good News and the Bad News...

... regarding THIS year's Gingerbread House.

The Good News is that the roof didn't slide off like last year's. (See the first three pictures)
The Bad News is that the bag of coconut for the "snow" wasn't sealed tightly when I shook it rigorously. [I'll let your imagination picture what my just-vacuumed living room ended up looking like.]

December 2008

December 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wow... seriously?

It began with the letter Q. As I picked up Isabel from preschool this afternoon, I checked her folder and found a cute piece of art on the letter Q. We have similar pieces taped around the house. When I saw it I said to Isabel, "Hey look! It's the letter Q, like your name." Another mom looked at me like I had suddenly grown a third eye. I explained that her Chinese name Qing Qing (pronounced Ching Ching) began with the letter Q.

Okay... now here is the strange part. She looked at me with a confused look on her face and said, "She's Chinese?" I told her yes, that I had adopted Isabel almost three years ago.
Her response: "I never knew that. I thought you had her, you know, yourself." She continued to tell me she thought my husband was Asian.

Now I was as confused as she was. Me? The almost 6 foot Irish American? With a Chinese husband? That thought would never have entered my mind... not because of the mixed races but because of the mixed heights. As a TALL woman (who has always been aware of my height), the thought of me being with a (traditionally) short Asian man never entered my mind...

... at least not before this conversation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bethlehem, Breakfast and Book Club

Last weekend was a busy weekend (although... when is any weekend NOT busy in December?) with a visit to an amazing re-enactment of the town of Bethlehem on Friday night, Breakfast with Santa on Saturday morning (Thanks, Melissa!), our annual FCC ornament exchange later that afternoon, and our December book club that night. A packed day... to say the least!

Soldiers Guarding the Entrance to Bethlehem

Breakfast with Santa, Mrs. Claus and Rudolph

Our Amazing Group of FCC Women

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mother Bridge of Love

Four years ago today - somewhere in the small city of Wannian, Jiangxi, China - a woman gave birth to a tiny baby girl. The little information I have lets me know that she only kept her daughter for one day… 24 short hours… before leaving her on the steps of the Wannian City Hospital. I will probably never know the circumstances concerning her decision.  (My heart tells me that she – like most mothers in her situation - waited in the shadows to make sure her baby was found, before walking away.) She lives in a world as different from mine as can possibly be. I don’t pretend to even begin to imagine the pain of giving away your child less than a day after bringing her into the world. It is a bittersweet thing that my joy and happiness come at the price of such pain. I know that today, on the other side of the world, a mother is grieving.

And so, tonight, I offer up a prayer that somehow, some way, God would give her a peace, that she would know in her heart that the little baby girl that took her first breath four years ago today is a strong, intelligent, happy girl with an impish grin, contagious laughter and a tender heart.  That she is compassionate, generous and stubborn… that she wears her heart on her sleeve and has a deeper understanding of empathy than I do. She is her four-year-old daughter. My daughter. Our daughter.

Mother Bridge of Love 

Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.
Two different lives shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.

The first gave you a need for love. The second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality. The other gave you a name.
One gave you a talent. The other gave you aim.

One gave you emotions. The other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile. The other dried your tears.

One sought for you a home that she could not provide.
The other prayed for a child and her hope was not denied.

And now you ask me, through your tears,
the age-old question unanswered through the years.
Heredity or environment, which are you a product of?
Neither, my darling. Neither. Just two different kinds of Love.


Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas....

I just LOVE that mischivous grin!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Birthday for La Princesa

Take five sweet girls from China

Add copious amounts of balloons, paint, sugar (and wine)

and you get a wonderful afternoon Princess birthday party.

How thankful I am that my daughter gets to grow up among such sweet friends and sisters.