Saturday, December 7, 2013

Katie the Newf: Protector and Transporter

In the two years that Natalie has lived at The Happy Haus I have watched her relationships with the Newfs evolve.  Louie took to Natalie immediately and they quickly developed a very sweet bond.  Katie, on the other hand, was quite wary of Natalie and therefore needed to be watched at all times when the two girls were in the same room.  After about a year I began to feel more comfortable with their interaction as Natalie matured and learned more about manners around doggies.  About 18 months after Natalie came home I no longer had any concerns about the two girls being together.  However, I always felt like Katie simply felt neutral about Natalie…that she didn't care if Natalie was part of our family or not.

A few days ago I was walking Katie while pushing Natalie in her stroller.  We were almost home when suddenly a familiar Boston Terrier started running towards us.  Katie had an encounter with this dog back in 2007 when she was about 10 months old.   As she did previously, Katie acted nonchalant when the dog approached.  She didn't bark, move a muscle or seem to be on alert at all.  The dog's owner quickly followed.  Natalie asked if she could pet the dog.  I asked if the dog likes people - especially children.  We were assured that it did and the owner picked it up so that Natalie could reach its head to pet it.  The Boston Terrier acted very friendly, so I was surprised when Katie dropped her indifferent attitude and at lightening speed threw herself between Natalie and the other dog and pinned the dog to the ground.  At the time I didn't realize that Katie was protecting "her" Natalie.  I was just concerned about the fate of the little dog, but other than having a back covered with Newf drool it was completely unharmed.  Katie's intention was not to harm or she easily could have done so.  Her intention was to remove a possible threat to her girl.

Whenever Natalie expresses fear about the evil sea witch from "The Little Mermaid" or the mean man from "Beauty & the Beast" coming to get her I always explain that lots of people work to keep her safe.  I tell her that her teachers will keep her safe at school and when she is at home Katie, Louie and I will keep her safe.  I always believed this to be true of the Newfs after reading so many stories about Newfoundland dogs putting themselves between their humans and danger.  Seeing Katie's protective nature in action warmed my heart.

Unlike her brother Louie, who is not a fan of draft work, Katie also enjoys pulling Natalie around in her cart.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Natalie and Friends

Yesterday Natalie and I attended a Potluck dinner at her school.  It was so fun to see her interacting with her friends.  For a girl who can sometimes be very quiet she also likes to take charge and show her extroverted side sometimes.  In the video below she shows off her strength as she pulls a couple of the boys around.

Natalie with a couple of her girlfriends.
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Donna and Mitch… a couple of our very best friends... after they helped us with our Christmas card photo shoot.
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Louie wants in on the love too :)
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

2 Years Ago Today...The Greatest Gift Was Given

Two years ago today, Gary, Natalie and I were given the gift of each other as we became Daddy, Mommy and Daughter.  My sister Leah gained a precious niece while Natalie gained the most loving Aunt Sissy.  Marm, Papa, Greatgrandmother, Grandmommy and Granddaddy were given the gift of a sweet grandchild while Natalie was given the gift adoring grandparents.  Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Friends were blessed by this feisty Jiangxi girl and in return blessed the life of our little firecracker from China.  Katie and Louie the Newfoundlands got a little girl of their very own to lick and love; Natalie gained two zealous protectors who will always do their best to keep her safe from harm.

Natalie has touched so many hearts and lives and in return she has been so very loved.  In China so many people would give us the thumbs up sign and say in Chinese "lucky baby".  I believe it is more accurate to say "Lucky everyone whose life is touched by Natalie, and lucky Natalie to be the giver and receiver of an enormous circle of love."

On November 7th, I lifted a screaming, terrified little stranger into my arms.  Now Natalie and I share a bond which is so tight that at times it feels that we can read each other's minds.

My darling daughter, Natalie Wanhan, thank you for filling my heart and soul with more love than I ever dreamed possible.  I will always love you, and not even death can stop your Daddy's deep, indelible love for you.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Finding Our Way During the Autumn Days

Natalie and I are gradually adjusting to life without Gary.  Other than some nightmares Natalie is doing well.  I have been treating the topic of Gary's death exactly like I do her adoption.  It is also something that has become part of our daily conversations and is discussed in a simple, honest, matter-of-fact way.  I was so afraid that after losing her fourth father (birth, foster #1, foster #2 and Gary) that Natalie would become afraid of losing me too, but thankfully that has not happened.  There is a little song that we had been singing for months from the cartoon show "Daniel Tiger" with lyrics that say "Grown Ups Come Back".  An hour or so after I told Natalie about Gary's death, she approached me and asked "Daddy not grown up anymore?" I think I felt my heart physically twist in my chest.  In order to try to save her faith in me in particular coming back I immediately said, "No Daddy's not a grown up anymore.  When you die you aren't a grown up anymore."  I didn't know what else to say, but that seemed to suffice.

For me, recovering from the unexpected loss of Gary has been a slow process, but every day the pain is a little less.  I am beginning to feel somewhat normal as I craft a new life for myself and my 3 kids (including the 2 giant furry ones :) We have been so lovingly supported by our family, friends and everyone at Natalie's school and that has meant the world to us.  To all of you who have held our hands, filled our bellies with wonderful vegetarian food, given us hugs & cards and lifted our spirits you have my eternal gratitude.  Even in the face of the biggest loss of my life I find that I have so much to be grateful for.  Much love to you all!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dark Days at the Happy Haus

Our dear Gary unexpectedly left this earth on Monday, October 7th. We miss him so much but are grateful that he is at peace.  While death may have physically separated us, our love was strong enough that we know we will always be together in spirit.  

It will take quite a long time to come to terms with the fact that this beautiful human being, amazing husband, and loving father is no longer going to be here when we arrive home to tell us "Welcome to the Happy Haus".  We will keep up the tradition in his honor.

Goodbye my love...

Monday, September 30, 2013

2 Years Ago Today... We Fell in Love With a Photograph

Two years ago today, Gary and I saw our daughter's beautiful face for the first time when we received her referral photo.
After 6 years of waiting we finally found out our daughter's Chinese name, Ling Wan Han.  We learned out that she was living in an orphanage in Shangrao in the Jiangxi Province of China.  Our 20 month old sweetie had been living in the orphanage since she was about a day old.  

We thought that she was the most beautiful child we had ever seen and we couldn't wait to hold her in our arms.  It was probably the most emotional day of my life.  I was so filled with joy and relief that I cried for hours.  The below video shows a messy version of me, but it gives an idea of what referral day is like.  
I will never be able to fully express the immense love that we have for this amazing child who we are honored to call our daughter.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Like Mother, Like Daughter

3 year old Charity in her messy room
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40 years later.... 3 Year old Natalie in her not quite as messy room
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During the many years we were waiting to adopt a child from China I would often wonder what our child's personality would be like.  Would she be a super energetic child who never slows down or a child who likes to read and enjoys quiet activities?  It turns out that Natalie and I have very similar personalities.  We both enjoy a balanced mix of rowdy and quiet fun.  We are both extremely reflective introverts.  And despite the messy room pics above we are both very organized and detail oriented.

Sometimes we are so much alike that I temporarily forget that Natalie is adopted.  We have, however, already started having talks about her birth mother in China.  At 3 years old Natalie is already asking the hard questions.  "Why wasn't I in your tummy?" "Why was I at the orphanage?" I answer her as honestly and simply as I can.  I never expected to have these types of conversations at such a young age, but hopefully we are laying a foundation that will help her better understand her past as she gets older.  In the meantime, we will enjoy learning even more about each other and feeling gratitude every day that we were the fortunate people that were chosen to be parents to this amazing little girl.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Half of Her Life

Today, August 17th, 2013, is the day when Natalie has lived exactly half of her life with us.  Every day still feels like a miracle and we are so grateful to have such an amazing, spicy and sweet little girl in our family.  Natalie, we love you very much and are so lucky to be your parents.

I know that attachment and adjustment in adoption is different for every child, but many experts say that as a general rule of thumb this cycle is complete once the child has spent the same amount of time with their new family as they spent in an orphanage or in foster care.  I feel like Natalie has had a healthy attachment to us for quite a long time now, and it is wonderful to feel our bonds growing stronger every day.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back-to-Back Pool Parties

Last weekend Natalie was invited to two pool/birthday parties.  She had a fabulous time at both of them.  She likes hanging out with her friends and is starting to really enjoy the water.
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I am so happy that Natalie will finally smile for the camera.  I love to see her beautiful smile.
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Natalie's friend "L" was getting sleepy... nap-time was approaching.
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After School Antics

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

A New Tradition: Half Birthdays

It drives me a bit crazy that Natalie's birthday is so close to Christmas.  If I was a child I would rather have my presents more spread out, so I decide to informally celebrate her half birthdays.  For Natalie's 3 1/2 year birthday I surprised her with a horse and carriage to transport her cherished princesses around the house.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Circle Time

Natalie is pretending her dolls and animals are students.  They are all lined up and ready to enjoy circle time while watching Ni Hao Kai Lan.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Window Into the Mind of a 3 Year Old: Evolution of a Ritual

Observing the development of Natalie's personality and intellect is the most fascinating endeavor I have ever undertaken.  This is my first entry into what I envision as being on ongoing series of posts (Window Into the Mind of...) that will document some highlights of Natalie's childhood and share a few smiles, laughs and, inevitably, tears along the way.  

Natalie takes great comfort in daily rituals; however, her extremely imaginative mind likes to bend and stretch them gradually over time until the end result barely resembles its humble origin.  One example of this is Ring-around-the-Rosie.

I can't even remember how it got started, but at some point many months ago Natalie wanted us to do Ring-around-the-Rosie with her right before bedtime.  It put her in a happy mood and seemed conducive to good sleep.  After a few weeks of doing Ring-around-the-Rosie the standard way Natalie began directing us in making changes to the routine.  The changes occurred something like this...

1) Ring-around-the-Rosie standard style

2) Ring-around-the-Rosie with Dotty Dolly in between me and Natalie

3) Ring-around-the-Rosie with 3 dolls, one in between each pair of humans.

4) Ring-around-the-Rosie with cell phones replacing the 3 dolls

5) Ring-around-the-Rosie with dolls again, but singing Happy Birthday instead of the standard song.

6) Falling down on Mommy during round one, and then a request for me to whisper in her ear to fall down on Daddy after the second and final round - back to standard Ring-around-the-Rosie song.

7) Natalie said "I'm the baby doggie, you're the mommy doggie and Daddy is the daddy doggie" thus ring around the doggie rosie was born.  The song was barked instead of sung.

8) Next we all became snakes crawling around on the floor.  The song was sung and hissed.

9) Last night it became snake/lion-rosie where we did a combination of hissing and roaring, crawling and pouncing.  I wonder what tonight will bring?

Maybe someday Natalie will be a director.  She always has a clear vision in her mind of what she wants to achieve and is getting very good at communicating her ideas to us.  It's so much fun because we never know what's going to happen next with our creative girl.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Natalie's Big Weekend

Saturday morning Natalie and I met some friends at the zoo.  We had a great time riding the carousel, feeding the Lorikeets and the fish, and spending time around lots of little girls all within a couple of years of Natalie in age.
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The penguins were a big hit with Natalie and her classmate and good friend.
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The penguin seemed to be as curious about the girls as they were about it.
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We saw part of a cool animal show.
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Natalie had her first ever veggie burger for lunch (she loved it).  Afterward the girls were looking out the cafe gate at the elephant exhibit.
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On Sunday afternoon we went to a birthday party for Natalie's teacher's son who is about 6 months younger than Natalie.  We had a nice time, but Natalie was too scared to try out the main attraction which was a bouncy house with a water slide that went into a little pool.  I think she was a bit intimidated by the older kids and general rowdiness of the group.  At one point I asked her if she wanted to go home and she said no that she wanted to watch the other kids play.  Maybe next time she will try it out for herself.

Natalie and her favorite teacher