Friday, November 30, 2012

Autumn Days

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.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Year Ago Today: Welcome Home to the Happy Haus!

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
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We love you Natalie Wanhan!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Year Ago Today: A Forever Family!

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.

Happy Forever Family Day Natalie Wanhan!

One Year Ago Today: What Wanhan Was Wearing

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.
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Second layer
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Third layer
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Fourth layer (including split pants and undershirt both with multiple repairs visible)
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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.


One Year Ago Today: Where Wanhan Used to Live

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Shangrao Ling Orphanage
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Natalie's crib in the orphanage
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A year ago today Natalie traveled approximately 3 1/2 hours from the Shangrao Ling orphanage to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the capital of Jiangxi Province, Nanchang.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Year Ago Today: On the Way to China


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



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Love Without Boundaries

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!


If you are interested in supporting this wonderful organization in a way that will be super easy and cost free to you please copy and paste the link below and use it whenever you purchase anything from Amazon.com.  Love Without Boundaries will be given a percentage of the profit which will enable them to continue to expand the number of surgeries they perform, children that they feed, and love that they share with orphans in China.
http://www.amazon.com/?&tag=lovewithoutbo-20&camp=15345&creative=331677&linkCode=ur1&adid=1VPM3G1YR77ZPP132GFC&

I'm going to add a permanent button that accesses this link at the top of the right side of my blog, so you can also access it from there at any time in the future.
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