Every day when I get home from school I say, "Hello Kitty Dress please Mama!", "Bow shoes please", "Hello Kitty socks please".
And everywhere I go I must have one of my three favorite soft cloth dollies with me.
This is me with my favorite Teddy Newf
Books are another of my favorite things. I like to drag mine all out and have them surrounding me for easy access. As always I have my Hello Kitty dress on and one of my favorite dollies by my side. This particular dolly was the exact one my Daddy gave me when I first met him and Mommy in China. Thanks Papa for picking out this great dolly.
Speaking of China, I am a big fan of the Nickelodeon show "Ni Hao KaiLan!" I now use two Mandarin phrases on a regular basis: Ni Hao (hello) and Xie Xie (thank you).
One of my favorite episodes is when KaiLan and her friends go on an airplane to China. I have lots of pictures of myself when I was a baby in China and I've decided I'm ready to go back for a visit. Mama says she will take me when I get older, and since I am a little older everyday I make sure to mention at least 10 times a day so she doesn't forget... "Mama, I want to go China. Mama and Natalie fly on airplane in the sky, ok?"
[Note From Mama: She calls China "Natalie's China" and says "No you China, Daddy/Mommy; Natalie's China!" I want to take her on a heritage trip in about 10 years.]
These pictures were taken over a month ago. Since I spent my recent free time creating the movie showing our 1st year with Natalie I'm a bit behind on regular posting. I thought some of these were too cute to skip.
Exactly one year ago Natalie, Gary & I arrived home after our long flight from China. All this time later every day still feels like a dream to me... is it the loveliness of having our beautiful daughter home or sleep deprivation? Probably a good portion of both! Seriously though, Natalie is a dream come true and we couldn't have imagined a more wonderful child to be a part of our family.
Our jet lagged little sweetheart - November 20, 2011
A year ago today my dream of becoming a mother came true, Gary finally became a father and 21 month old Ling Wan Han had her life torn apart as she was given to two strange sounding, odd smelling and different looking people. Wan Han was abruptly thrust into a whole new world without a clue of what was happening to her. It was a bittersweet day for me knowing that in her short life Wan Han had lost her birth parents, two sets of foster parents and the only home she had ever known at the Shangrao Ling Orphanage.
From the first moment I held Wan Han in my arms I remember feeling fiercely protective over her. I wanted to keep her safe and provide her with all the love and care she needed to heal from her emotional wounds including the huge one that was inflicted on her the day she met us.
Wan Han cried a little the first few days that we were together, but she was mostly eerily quiet. We wondered if she would ever smile; her spirit seemed broken. She constantly looked around as she seemed to be assessing her new environment for danger. Wan Han quickly decided to turn to me for security while she took in everything with her big shell-shocked eyes. I remember so vividly the moment she made that decision the first night. After we brought her up to our hotel room I was going to leave her with Gary as I took my turn going downstairs to sign paperwork. When Wan Han saw that I was going to leave her she spoke the only words we heard during our first 10 days together as she reached her arms towards me desperately crying out "Mama, Mama". It was so very sad. That is when I realized that she chose me as the person she would cling to during her time of loss and confusion. I knew that to Wan Han "Mama" meant caretaker and that it would be quite some time before I heard that word again with the meaning of mother. (By the way, I ended up taking her downstairs with me and she sat on my lap as I filled out and signed document after document.)
Soon Wan Han decided that Gary was a good playmate and would play stacking blocks with him on the bed. However, for the first several days even her playtime was solemn. It took awhile for all of that fear to turn to love, but eventually it did. Tiny cracks in her somber veneer began showing up on Day 6 and little by little she opened her heart to us. Since then the love between Gary, Natalie and I has never stopped growing.
This movie documents our first year as a family of five: Baba, Mama, Daughter and Newfs. I love seeing how Natalie's face has changed over time as she learned to trust us and fully embrace her new home, dogs, family, life and all the love we have to give.
People we encountered in China frequently gave us thumbs up and said "Lucky Baby" when they realized that we adopted Natalie Wanhan. We feel that we are even luckier to be her parents. Natalie has changed our lives and our hearts forever in the best possible way. We love our amazing, beautiful, precious daughter so much! Every day we have together is a gift that reminds us to live in the present moment and fills us with gratitude.
When we met Natalie she was wearing over 2 pounds of clothing. That is a lot for a rail thin little girl who only weighed 18 pounds at 21 months old. I never previously published these photos, so I thought it would be interesting to show what Natalie's Family Day clothing looked like.
Chinese people believe in dressing much warmer than we do in the U.S. Because Gary and I were warned before travel about the unofficial "clothes police" we tried to be very careful to keep Natalie well covered while we were in public. However, we still had a few ladies come over to us and tug Natalie's pant legs down where they had ridden up. I think it's interesting that they don't seem to be big on wearing hats in China. Maybe they don't know that a lot of body heat can escape through an uncovered head.
Outside layer - The overalls, the only new article of clothing, were donated to the orphanage by a Families with Children from China organization in Spain I believe.
Fourth layer (including split pants and undershirt both with multiple repairs visible)
Underneath all of that was a dry diaper which was likely put on Natalie just for travel purposes. In the orphanage the children wear split pants and have bare bottoms to provide easy access for using the potty. Natalie was about 95% potty trained when we met her.
When I took Natalie's diaper off I discovered one final layer. A big white bandage had been taped to her abdomen. When I saw it I remember feeling a moment of panic. I was scared to take the bandage off because I was expecting to find a large wound underneath. Instead I found a muddy looking poultice that had been covering up her belly button. What a relief! I found out later that this was an herbal remedy likely meant to prevent colds or digestive problems.
November 3rd, 2011 was the day we set out on the tangible part of our 6 year long journey to our daughter. The last 12 months have been a wonderful whirlwind. In some ways time has flown, but when I think about the fact that Natalie joined our family less than a year ago it is mind boggling. It feels likes she has been with us for so much longer. Everyday still feels like a miracle to me.
November 7th is our Forever Family Day. Stay tuned for a special movie (1 year in the making :) that will be posted on that day.
3:30 a.m. on 11/3/11 First in line at the Little Rock Airport
Later that day at the Chicago Airport...
2 bleary eyed, but happy future parents on the way to Hong Kong
Love Without Boundaries is an organization that provides humanitarian aid to orphaned children in China. They sponsor many different orphanages in areas such as medical, education and nutrition. Natalie's orphanage, Shangrao Ling in Jiangxi Province, is one that they sponsor, so LWB is near and dear to my heart.
In honor of National Adoption Month, LWB just created this awesome video to promote adoption. I've never before seen a video that makes me want to dance and cry at the same time!
When you shop at Amazon.com please click on the above logo to do your shopping. You will be supporting LWB, an organization that provides many orphans in China much needed surgery, food, education and love.
"Welcome home to the Happy Haus" is the greeting I used to receive from Gary when we arrived home from work each day. Gary and I brought our daughter Natalie home from China in November 2011 to live with us in our cozy cottage. In October of 2013, we unexpectedly lost Gary, our dear husband, father and friend.
Our family includes our two sweet Newfoundland dogs, Katie and Louie. Newfoundlands are working dogs, so we make sure our two always have a job to do. Katie and Louie are both certified therapy dogs and bring lots of joy to people who are in need of some Newfie love. They have also competed in Rally Obedience. Katie has earned a Rally Advanced title and Louie has earned a Rally Excellent title. In keeping with Newf tradition, Katie has become a proficient draft dog while Louie prefers practicing water rescue whenever he gets an opportunity. They are also both protectors of their little sister, Natalie.