Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our First Christmas with Natalie

We chose the name Natalie because we think it is beautiful, but its meaning of Christmas Day is particularly fitting for this time of year.  Our first Christmas with Natalie was our best one ever.  Our long awaited daughter is the best gift we could ever receive.  Natalie astonishes us every day with her sweetness, intelligence and sense of humor.  The way she fits into our family so perfectly is phenomenal.

For a not quite 2 year old, Natalie was much more engaged in unwrapping and looking at presents than we thought she would be.
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The Asian-American Girl baby doll she received from our friend Carolyn was one of her favorite presents of all time.

"Hurry Auntie!! I'm ready to hold my baby."
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Natalie is a natural nurturer.
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Two proud Mamas!!
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Showing Baba her new baby
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Auntie brought Natalie a bunch of finger puppets from Boliva
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Raggedy Ann came from our dear cousin Marilyn
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When I was a child I was never very excited about gifts of clothes, but Natalie sure was.  She was so enthusiastic about her new slippers from her Grandmother that she had to try them on right away.
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They are now her very favorite thing to wear.
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She also got an adorable mermaid raincoat.  It's a little big, but Natalie will grow into it soon.
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Playing with Mama and Auntie.
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Natalie's report from the orphanage said she likes musical toys best and it still seems to be true.  Here she is playing with her piano from another of her other Grandmothers.  It wasn't really a Christmas present, but we made her wait until Christmas to open it.  She is really having fun with it.
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Natalie and Louie, her faithful sidekick
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Cousin A came to visit again.  We feel so lucky to have seen her 3 times in a week!  By the way, Natalie wasn't mad in this picture.  She was just very focused on her toy when Gary asked her to look up.
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Natalie asked her cousin to hold her new baby for awhile.
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Katie and our sweet cousin
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Me and My Newfs

A very short story by Natalie Wanhan...

My Newfs are the greatest friends ever.

I love to take them for walks every day.  No one is going to bug me when big Louie and Katie are around.
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I like to feed them because I enjoy sharing and the poor little things always look so hungry.
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They are also bigger by far than my largest teddy bear.
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When they have wrestling matches it cracks me up and when they bark I like to say "Woof!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Natalie Meets Some of Her Cousins

During the last couple of days some of our cousins have come to visit.  We had a great time with them and are happy that Natalie is getting to meet some of her new extended family.  

My cousin Carrie holding her daughter and Natalie
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Cousin A helped Natalie get her babies covered up with their blankets.  Natalie has a hard time getting the covers straight and needed some assistance.
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Cousin A and Louie
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Cousin A came back again today with her Aunt Rebekah and Cousin J
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Three beautiful cousins!
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Friday, December 16, 2011

From Noodles to Pasta

While we were in China one of our nicknames for Natalie was Noodle Girl because noodles were one of the few things we could get her to eat.  Now that we are home she eats almost everything we do.  I thought that whole wheat pasta would be too different from ramen noodles, but as you can see she loves it.  She also loves oatmeal, chili, all green veggies and even wild rice & mushroom soup!
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She is learning to use a spoon and fork, but it is a messy process.
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Yummy in my tummy!
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Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favorite Things: Food, Friends & Fun

Let's phone some friends to meet us at ZaZa's for pizza
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Oh look...they're already here.  Mitch and Donna came to play with me during dinner.
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Mitch and I made up a fun game of passing pieces of cereal back and forth.
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After I ate a bunch of yummy pizza I got to try my first gelato.  It was ok, but a little too cold for my taste.
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Then I made up a cool game where I went from Mama's lap...
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Donna played peekaboo under the table with me.
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We had lots of laughs together.
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Mitch and Donna, I hope we get to play together again soon.  Love, Natalie
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Friday, December 9, 2011

The Future's So Bright, I've Gotta Wear Shades

Remember that song from the '80s?  That's what came into my head when I introduced Natalie to the concept of sunglasses a few days ago.  She took to wearing them immediately.  In fact, when we were inside where it was a bit dark she screamed when I first took them off of her.  Now she seems to understand that we just wear them when we are outside.
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This week I began walking the dogs in the afternoons with Natalie riding in the baby carrier facing out.  She loves being able to see everything that's happening around her as we walk through the neighborhood or through the park.  During our walks she giggles and babbles a lot.  When she hears a dog bark she says "Woof", her new favorite word.

Since the Newfs are so powerful I am walking them one at a time when I have Natalie with me, so our walks last for over an hour.  Yesterday during the Katie part of our walk I tried to take a picture of all three of us with my iPhone.
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Thankfully a neighbor appeared on the trail and took a better one for us.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One Month Ago Today...

...we met our beautiful daughter Natalie on the third floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nanchang, China which is in Jiangxi Province.  Ling Wan Han was the last child to arrive that evening, so every time the elevator dinged I would hold my breath for a moment wondering if she was about to appear.  When Wan Han finally stepped off the elevator she was walking while holding on to the hand of a woman who was assisting the orphanage director.  This woman was not her nanny or caretaker previously, but Wan Han desperately clung to her hand as someone she was familiar with for at least the last few hours.  As Wan Han approached us we knelt down to make ourselves less intimidating, but she was beyond overwhelmed by the whole situation.  The combination of leaving her home, being in a new place with a bunch of strange people all focused on her, it being past her bedtime; and the fact that she was hungry was just too much for little Wan Han.  When she started to cry I just scooped her up.  She didn't want to let go of the assistant's finger; she was terrified.  It was truly heart wrenching.  I abruptly went around the corner with Wan Han to get the assistant out of her sight for a few minutes.  As I was walking Natalie was actually pushing me away from her as hard as she could.  She was so upset and angry.  I started speaking to her in both English and Mandarin and rubbing her back.  In less than one minute she completely calmed down and Gary and I began our journey to earn Natalie Wanhan's trust and love.

It has not always been easy.  We are Natalie's fourth set of parents.  She was abandoned by her birth parents at one day old.  She lived with her first set of foster parents until mid August of this year.  At that point for some reason she was switched to another set of foster parents.  I am thinking this change was likely the most painful one of all.  Since she had been with the original foster parents since her second day of life she thought of them as her Mama and Baba.  Then less than three months before Gary and I met her she was taken from them and placed with a new set of foster parents.  In the photos that I have from this period of her life she looks very unhappy.  I think she was really missing her "Mama and Baba".  When Gary and I came along she was extremely quiet for the first week.  I think she was resigned to the fact that she had been switched to yet another set of foster parents.  Her attitude was one of neutrality and survival.

Now that she is starting to trust us her "Spicy" Jiangxi personality is coming out in full force.  Natalie Wanhan is not at all the quiet little obliging wallflower that she at first appeared to be.  She is a very clever child with opinions about everything and will not hesitate to let you know exactly what those opinions are.  She can be quite a little clown; she loves to make people laugh and smile.  She is a caretaker... she discovered some dolls in her room a few days ago and one of her favorite things to do is put them to bed by covering them up with a blanket and patting their backs.  She is nearing the terrible twos and has fiery little tantrums when she doesn't get her way about something.  She loves to chatter, dance, sing, run, pet the dogs and to be rocked to sleep.  Sometimes she will grab our faces with both of her hands and lay a big kiss on us or run to us from across the room and grab our legs and giggle while she holds on tight.

It's a little hard for me to watch the beginning of this video because Natalie's emotional pain is so intense, but knowing that the story has a happy ending helps.  The happy ending certainly didn't come that first night or for the next several days, but gradually Natalie let Gary and I into her heart.  Our time together in China was a wonderful start to the beginning of building our relationships as a family, but being home for the past few weeks has bonded us all (including Katie and Louie the Newfs) so much more.  Natalie knows what home is now.  She knows who her family is.  I know we still have a long way to go, but the progress that we have made together is miraculous.  Really, has it just been one month?  That seems impossible.  Natalie fits into our family so perfectly...like she has always been here with us.


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