One year ago today I received one of the most beautiful gifts I could have ever asked for… my Amalie. As I’m sitting down to pen this blog I noticed that the last time I took time out to do so was February and she had only been home for two months. How time has flown by and this past year has been somewhat of a blur. As I think about her Gotcha Day, that cold night in Jinan at 10:00 p.m. in a dark hotel lobby, my heart skips a beat. I remember with such clarity the moment she was placed in my arms. I remember how she felt, how she smelled. I remember feeling her tears fall on my arms as my shaking hands signed the papers that would make her ours. After a year of having her home with us and all this time to settle in to our life together, there are so many moments that bring a new revelation of how I was her mother all along. Just the other day, I was cleaning out a closet that I dad haphazardly thew a bunch of stuff into just before taking off for China last year… yes, it’s taken me a year to clean it out. Anyway, among everything in the closet was some leftover flooring from the kitchen remodel we did just before we left for China. Upon smelling the new flooring I immediately felt nauseated… you know, like smelling something that reminds you of being sick and during, in my case, your first six months of pregnancy. The feeling passed and I didn’t think much of it… until I caught another whif of it and the nauseated feeling overtook me again. It was at that moment that I realized that I was carrying a baby the last time I smelled that aroma… I was carrying her in my heart. I know I’ve used that phrase before and it might seem somewhat cliche but it is so true. My brain triggered the “you were pregnant” thought as soon as I smelled the flooring. I’m so thankful for quirky little moments like this and pray that will always stop me in my tracks and thank God for the amazing gift that He has given me. Speaking of my sweet gift, I feel an update is in order… She is somewhat spunky, a tad bossy, a bit stubborn, very independent, extremely lovable, quick to forgive, and very ticklish with the sweetest little giggle. Her and Lincoln have become best buds. Their favorite activities include “reading” to each other, and playing “tackle” (their version of football). All in all, she is loving life and we are loving her. Everyday around 2:30 when we start getting shoes on for school pick-up she says, “We go get the kids?” She loves all of her brothers and sisters so much and they love her just the same. However, nobody fights about who is going to sit by her anymore. She is officially, “just” their little sister… just another one of the crew:) Brittany and Stephen’s is one of her favorite places to be… I have a sneaky feeling she gets away with more at the Johnson house than she does at home. She loves walking over to Grammie and Paw Paw’s and if she and Lincoln go missing that is usually the first place I look. I have seen her grow and change so much in this past year and am so thankful for all of the times we have to look forward to in the years to come. I thank God for giving her a forever family… and so thankful that we were chosen to be it.
Learning As We Go. February 17, 2011
Ms. Amalie has been home for two months now. I hold her and still find it hard to believe that she is really in my arms. The past two months have been filled with amazing memories that my heart wants to hold on to forever. But, I know as time passes certain memories will be erased forever unless they are documented in some way so here are just a few I treasure…
For the first few days we were home with her every morning Lincoln would look at her, point to her face and say “Wat wong wif you eyes?” She, having no idea what he was saying, would just stand there and stare at him. Then, she would laugh and this truly puzzled him. He would look at her and, in a very annoyed voice, say, “Open you eyes”. So precious to me. The little things that I never even thought of him noticing. Now, after two months he has grown accustomed to her beautiful almond eyes and he no longer thinks she is closing her eyes in an effort to ignore him when she laughs. And, that’s a good thing because she laughs much.
She loves all of her brothers and sisters with all of her heart. I have been so blessed to see their relationships unfold. She runs to Lenzie and Luke for protection, Bella loves to be her little Mama, and Lincoln is her shadow and her his. She squeals and giggles and begins chattering Mandarin each day as they are getting in the truck when I pick them up from school.
Right after we arrived home we went to Austin’s bon fire birthday party and Amalie saw fire for the first time. She was memorized by the crackling flames and reached out to try to catch the flying embers. I will never forget the smile on her face as the fire light bounced off of her little cheeks.
A few nights ago I was putting Amalie to bed. A day filled with errands combined with no nap made for one grouchy little Asian. So, by this point in the day her answer to everything was “No”. As I tucked the covers tight in around her I whispered in her ear I love you. Then, I looked at her and said “Are you home?” to which she nodded yes, smiled and reached her little arm around my neck for a hug.
Her and Lincoln are truly “bonding”. But, in the past few days she has learned a few new phrases that he is not so happy that she has picked up on. When we first came home she would run into the room whining, or crying pointing to Lincoln who was trailing behind laughing. She would say “Mama, Mama…..(insert Mandarin here). Lincoln would look at me, then at her, then back to me again… grinning the entire time as he knew she could not communicate to me what toy he had taken from her or if he pushed her down or pulled her hair. Well, three days ago, that all changed. She ran into the room crying with Lincoln trailing behind her with his little grin. She pointed to him and said, “Mama… Lincoln push me!” His eyes popped wide open and his draw literally dropped. He just stared at her as if to say… “What? You speak English now? When did this happen?”
Every time we are getting ready to leave the house I say “Let’s go chica baby”. So, now when she sees me putting my shoes on or grabbing my purse she says, “Bye chica baby?”.
Everyone always asks me how well she is doing learning our language and adjusting to our pace of life. I tell everyone how smart she is and how she is just one of the crew, learning every day. But, truthfully, I think I am the one learing. She has taught me what it is to totally trust and accept before seeing the big picture. In her eyes I see that love crosses all boundaries, and transcends time. She is beginning to give me her heart little by little and it reminds me that it is my heart that God desires from me… his daughter. There have been a few tears, much laughter, and some “what now” moments and we are figuring out what life with our family of seven looks like. We are, in fact, learning as we go.
“Adopted ~ Unknown” January 25, 2011
Yesterday I took Amalie to the Pediatrician for her well baby check up. And, just as with the four before her, I had to fill out a “New Patient” form. It began with the standard questions… name, age, address and occupation of Mom and Dad, etc. Then came the questions. At what age did your baby say his/her first word. What was his/her first word? At what age did your baby crawl, and sit up unassisted? When did your baby’s first tooth come in? For the four before Amalie, with a little thought, I could answer each of those questions. But as I sat in the waiting room this time, all I could fill those blanks with were question marks. I wrote at the top of the page “Adopted ~ Unknown”. I looked at my writing and it seemed so cold. At the end of the form I looked at a paper filled with question marks and held back the tears. It made my heart so heavy that these simple questions will forever be unanswered. Well, somebody knows the answers… it’s just not her Mama. Suddenly, the nurse swung open the Doctors office door. “Amalie Aragona” she called. I stood up, Amalie looked up at me and reached out for my hand. It made me smile and realize that, though I will never have her past, I have her future and that is an amazing thought.
And now as I think about those words that I wrote at the top of the page “Adopted ~ Unknown” it is such a picture of what Christ has done for me. He adopted me, He loves me, and calls me daughter, regardless of my history. So many times when I focus on my past the Holy Spirit reminds me that I’m “Adopted” and He considers my past “Unknown”. I’m so thankful for his love for me.
A Family for Christmas January 4, 2011
Amalie ~ Day Thirteen December 18, 2010
We are coming home!!! Sleep was restless last night as we could hear all the planes taking off but this morning we will be on one of them!!!! Fourteen hours and twenty fiive minutes after take off we will land in Detroit. Then, roughly another ten hours later we will be landing in Lafayette. WooHoo!!! Hugs and kisses to all from Amalie, who has her travel face on. We cannot wait to see all of y’all!
Today is the day! We leave Guangzhou for Hong Kong… then, Hong Kong for Lafayette! Finally. This morning, we were able to Skype the kids one last time. They were all at The Johnson’s house. I know Brittany and Stephen are ready to have their family of four back and I’m sure my parents are ready to just be Grammie and Paw Paw again. You know, spoil the kids and send them home. Right Dad?:) I’m so thankful for all they have done and know that none of this would have even been close to possible without all of their help, prayers, and support. They ROCK! And, we are ready as well. But, before we could pack up for Hong Kong it was back to Shaiman Island to purchase yet another suitcase. We are now up to five and we came with three. So, we haven’t doubled our luggage… yet;) On Shaiman Island the weather was beautiful. Bright sunshine and a crisp cool breeze. A perfect day for some pictures of Miss Amalie right? Wrong. As it turns out, it is just as difficult to photograph your own children in China as it is in Louisiana. I had her all dressed up, found the perfect spot, sat her down and, just like clockwork, the bottom lip made it’s appearance. Apparently, she didn’t care for me walking the ten feet away from her that I had to in order to get the picture. Paul tried to help me distract her with crackers and I was able to capture so many adorable images of her chewing with her mouth wide open. So, I decided to call it a day and leave the picture taking to the professionals back home:) After the foiled photo shoot it was time to return to the hotel but not before one last stop on the island. Amalie “needed” one more pair of shoes. So, after her last little pair of squeakies were purchased, we were off to the hotel. And I learned that a brake happy cabbie makes for one weary Momma. But, no rest for the weary as it was time to finish packing and leave. Yes, leave! Lily met us in the lobby at checkout with the sealed envelope of Amalie’s documents to give to U.S. Customs when we land in Detroit. We loaded up our many bags and were off with our driver to Hong Kong. We were in for about a three hour drive and, as hard as Miss Amalie tried, she could not keep her eyes open. With no car seats or seat belts to stop her she fell asleep in her Ba-Ba’s arms… that’s what she calls Paul (Chinese for Daddy:) We arrived at the hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat and setteled in for the night. 6:00 AM cannot come soon enough… I’m so excited to be going home I don’t know if I’ll even be able to sleep tonight. Actually, I can always sleep… (right, Gina;)