Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Natalie & Her Lifeguards

During the Memorial Day weekend Natalie got to try her kiddie pool for the first time.  With three personal lifeguards I don't think she was in any danger of drowning in the tiny pool.

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Katie watching over her little sister
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A sweet hug from Natalie to Mommy
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It was about 90 degrees outside, so we tried to get Louie and Katie to go inside.  But they were determined to keep watch beside the pool.  The water was chilly so we didn't stay outside long.  Next time it will be warmer and Natalie might actually sit down and splash around.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Becoming a Mother

When my mother first became a mother herself she was only 24 years old.  That seems extremely young to me, but somehow she managed to be the best mother I could ever dream of having.  She has always given me so much love and encouragement.   She is also one of my very dearest friends.  Her love has been my inspiration to be the best mother that I can be to Natalie Wanhan.

Me and my Mommy
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Me at four years old borrowing my little sister, Leah, to practice being a Mommy
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Mama with me and Leah
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Just hours before I officially became a mother...
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November 7th, 2011

Me and Natalie during our first hour together.   I felt so many emotions when we met, but I think the strongest emotions I felt at the time were love and protectiveness towards Natalie.  She was going through such a difficult, life-changing time.  I wanted to do everything in my power to ease the way for her - to offer her every possible comfort.

So many of my friends tried to explain to me what it's like to be a mother, but I couldn't fully grasp what they meant until I first held Natalie in my arms.
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One week after meeting Natalie Wanhan.  She was rapidly becoming a mama's girl.  Don't get me wrong, she adores and loves her Daddy, but if she is at tired, hungry or sick she wants her Mama.  Daddy is her favorite for playtime.
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After 5 months together
carousel with Mama

Tomorrow we will light a candle for Natalie's first mother.  I think of her often.  Mother's Days and Natalie's birthdays will be times we will be sure to do something in her honor.

I am so fortunate to be celebrating my first Mothers Day with my own mother and my beautiful daughter Natalie.  Happy Mother's Day to all of the loving mothers in the world.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six Months Ago Today...

We met our amazing daughter, Natalie Wanhan on November 7th, 2011.  The day we became Natalie's parents was both wonderful and intimidating for Gary and I.  Despite all the years of preparation I still felt overwhelmed by the beginning of parenthood, but it didn't take me long to get in the groove of being a mother.  Now I look back on this day as the most defining moment of my life.

People often speak of the miracle of birth.  Adoption is just as much a miracle.  Gary and I waited over 5 years and traveled halfway around the world to bring a child who was chosen for us by strangers into our family.  When Ling Wan Han's adoption file and our dossier crossed paths in the child matching office in China some person, who I will always think of with extreme gratitude, put the two files together and made us a family.  It's mind boggling to think of that simple act that created some of the deepest love I have ever experienced.

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From the perspective of Ling Wan Han:  After being taken from her foster mother and the orphanage home she had always known, Wan Han then had to travel by car for about four hours - very likely the longest trip she had ever experienced.  That evening she was brought to our hotel in Nanchang where she became the center of attention with several people speaking to her all at once.  It was after her bedtime and she was hungry to boot.  Suddenly a odd looking woman with curly hair and weird eyes (me) knelt down in front of her, reached for her and spoke in a strange language.  It makes complete sense that her reaction to being handed over to total strangers was initially one of terror.  As a friend recently wrote on her blog, to a child this experience is like being abducted.  Wan Han screamed and pushed me away as hard as she could when I picked her up. She was surprisingly strong for a 21 month old undernourished child who only weighed 18 pounds at the time.  I will never forget the force of her little hands pushing into me as she tried to escape and return to the familiar orphanage staff.  Photobucket

Natalie's screams stopped in less than 60 seconds. I think my soothing words in both Mandarin and English helped a little bit.  However, she kept her body twisted away and avoided eye contact with me.  She was more willing to look at Gary - perhaps since he wasn't the bad person who wrenched her away from the only familiar things that were left in her life.  Or maybe it was because Gary was the one to introduce her to "Dolly" who quickly became Natalie's favorite comfort object.

For the next five days Natalie went into an emotional shutdown.  Other than crying out "Mama, Mama" as she reached for me later that first night Natalie did not speak. Nor did she crack a smile at any of our attempts to be amusing.  She was scared and she was grieving.  Even as she played stacking blocks with Gary on our 3rd day together her face was very serious and intense looking.  On the 6th day she began showing us glimpses of her true bubbly personality, but I don't think we completely saw the real Natalie until about a month later.
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Watching Natalie grow into the happy, healthy little girl she is today has been an awe-inspiring experience.  She has been through so many difficult times in her short life, but her resilient, beautiful spirit has helped her to adjust and heal so quickly.  We love her so much and are grateful for every day we have together.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Playgrounds Galore!

Natalie visits 3 different playgrounds in the video at the bottom of this post.  I've edited it down to the cutest parts.  I'm posting this for the Grandparents and Aunties who believe there is no such thing as too much Natalie footage :)
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A rare moment with Natalie on something other than a slide
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