Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Family Day!!!!!!

This is Grace on January 1, 2007. We were still in Danang anxiously waiting to head to Ho Chi Minh City.

Friday was our one year anniversary. It's only been a year, however I really can't remember my life before Grace. It feels like we have always been together. Our celebration was small - just the two of us. We have so little time together so it was very special to celebrate together - just the two of us. We did see Nanny and Pappy for a few minutes in the morning. And what Family Day would be complete without a visit from Aunt Terri who was along for the entire journey. Here's Aunt Terri feeding Grace dinner and helping her perfect her wink. It looks alot like the Elvis face when she winks.

Our G&R was on December 28. The nannies and orphanage director brought the babies to the government building where the ceremony was to take place.

We walked in and there they were dressed in their thick sweaters. It was about 85 degrees outside! The orphanage director was holding Grace. He immediately put her in my arms.

We all went to the room where the G&R would take place. While we were waiting for things to get started. The nannies were having their last moments with the babies. They would come and take them off to another room for a feeding or maybe just some cuddle time. It was so hard for them.

I couldn't believe that it was such a short and simple ceremony. I signed a big book then they asked me you to come up front where they asked me a few general questions about how I will love and care for her. Then they handed me Grace and some papers.

That is the moment we became a family. One year ago.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas! Grace had so much fun with paper and boxes. She got tons of stuff from friends and family. I wondered how she would react to her gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. They were unwrapped, under the tree in the living room. She noticed them immediately, threw down her cup of milk and went from one thing to another. I will post Christmas pictures ASAP. I left my camera at my parent's house today.

I feel so blessed this year, celebrating Christmas at home with Grace. We will soon be celebrating our first anniversary as a family. December 28 is our "Family Day," the day when Grace officially became my daughter. My thoughts are consumed by meeting Grace, Vietnam, and the friends with us on the journey.

At almost this exact time last year I was meeting my daughter for the first time. Our visit to the orphanage was originally supposed to be in the morning, but was pushed back until after lunch. We visited the Hoi An orphanage (where we got to see Debbie meet baby Lily) as planned that morning so we had time to kill until we could go to the Que Son orphanage to meet Grace, Lucy and Khai. I really don't remember much about what we did during that time, I just remember checking my watch constantly. It seemed like 1:00 p.m. would never arrive.

When we finally got to the orphanage Kelly and Terri began shouting "there's Grace, there's Grace." Even though I know it was only a second, it felt like it took me forever to locate her with my own eyes. Suddenly there she was, one of the nannies was on the porch holding her. I immediately flung my camera to Terri and took off. It was like seeing a superstar whose picture was plastered all over my house. It was very surreal. This was the first time I saw her, she took my breath away.

I am so fortunate to have friends like Kelly and Justin. They are wonderful people and we all feel it is important for our girls to always stay in touch. We have been able to get together a couple of times this year and I hope that we can do it again very, very soon. I am dying to see Lucy. I am so thankful that I heard from the other two families during the holidays. I am going to do my best to keep track of these families. I want to see how all the babies grow and change. Here are the mommies and their angels in Hanoi.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Grace is Seventeen Months Old

Today Grace is seventeen months old. She is not a baby anymore, she is a little girl. She looks so grown up to me. Last night I was looking at baby pictures. She was such a little chubby thing with big cheeks and no hair. It is funny looking at pictures of her at different ages. I can still see that little baby’s face lurking in the picture, no matter what age she is…just more and more beautiful each day. Grace is such a little individual. She has her own personality and is not afraid to show it. Some things about my little girl:

• She is 33 inches tall, weighs 22 pounds and has 8 teeth.
• Bubba is her word for “play this.” My mother has this doll named Bubba that talks when you squeeze his hand. Therefore any toy that sings, talks, etc. she will bring it to you and say Bubba. That means she wants you to play it.
• Duck is her favorite word. Go figure. I think it must have to do with her love for bathtime and the stuffed duck she carries around.
• She knows how to work the system. She uses the fake cough, fake injuries and fake tears. She takes it all in stride when we call her on it. She will just continue on about her business.
• She had her first haircut on Friday. It looks SO much better. I was so proud of her, she sat on the booster thing they put in the chair just like a big girl.
• I am blessed with an extraordinarily good girl. She sleeps well. After we got home it only took two weeks until she was sleeping through the night. Grace is a happy morning baby. She has always been a good eater. The only thing she won’t eat is Jello. She only cries if she is hurt, sick or faking it.
• Grace gives strangers “the stare.” She will let anyone hold her, but if she doesn’t know them she will stare them down with a solemn face. I get so tired of people saying -“she is such a solemn baby, doesn’t she ever smile?” Grace’s smiles, giggles and belly laughs are reserved for people she knows and things that crack her up. However I truly do hate it that she won’t smile for pictures. She has to be amused by something. Saying cheese and squeaking a toy doesn’t do it with her.
• She melts my heart when she blows me a kiss. It also cracks me up because she not only blows a kiss, but she has to pucker her mouth up like a fish to do it. It is so sweet.
• I think she wants to be a dog like Ellie. If I am not careful she will eat Ellie’s food or crawl into her kennel. I have a hard time keeping her from getting on her hands and knees in the tub and drinking her bath water. It is so disgusting I know. When Ellie growls ferociously out the window at some random dog, Grace does it too.

I could go on and on. I am truly blessed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Break in Routine

My morning routine usually begins the same. Normally when I hear Grace beginning to stir I get out of bed and put on the coffee, let the dog out, fix her milk and fix my cup of coffee. Then I go to her room to get her out of bed and change her diaper. Yesterday my morning was like usual until I got to Grace's room. I opened the door and there she was standing in her crib jumping and talking. When I saw her I died laughing. One of her arms was completely out of her pajama top and she was so happy and smiling. I broke routine and grabbed the camera. Isn't she precious?

Here is Grace in an adorable outfit her Nanny bought for her.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My Little Vietnamese Jumper

Grace loves to jump. She has since the first day I met her. I called my parents from Vietnam and told them to go buy a Jumperoo so she would have it when we got home. Unless you have witnessed it in person there is no way you can imagine what a jumping wild woman she is.

Because of her love for jumping, I thought she might enjoy gymnastics. I found a gym with a toddler class and we tried it out on Saturday. It was very informal and we just sort of played around on things for a while. She loved the spring floor. Her favorite part of the day was playing on the big mats. Her favorite was the huge triangle mat that you could slide down. Here she is sliding down on her tummy.

She jumped on the trampoline and in the big jumper. The big jumper's net sides amazed her. She thought it was so cool that she could lean on them and they would move with her and still keep her from falling.

The big foam cubes were awesome! There was an area filled with spongy, foam cubes that were great! She had a great time playing with them. She was amazed that everything had this bouncy kind of surface.

The day was just as much fun for me as it was for Grace. By the way, I thought the spring floor was way cool too. Maybe next time I will try the uneven bars. Maybe not. I shouldn't get too carried away.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

Lots has been going on since I last wrote. Christmas is my favorite time of year. It is also my busiest time at work. Non-profits are always thankful for the charitable feeling people have around the holidays.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. My family is very close and we get together often. It is always loud and lots of fun. We drove to Arkansas on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to visit my Uncle Bob. My mother's brother and sister from Memphis were also there. Uncle Bob has prostate cancer and is having surgery in December. We really enjoyed our visit. Please remember Uncle Bob in your prayers.

The trip there wasn't so great though. Grace is a champion traveler. She has been on countless flights and long road trips. The drive to Mountain Home, through the Missouri bootheel and north Arkansas, was terrible. The roads are curvy, hilly and mostly two lanes. Poor little Grace got carsick. She threw up four times (once in my face). She was so pitiful and it was so hard to leave her in the carseat. She was fine once we arrived. I got baby Dramamine for the trip home and she did fine.

I am thankful for so many family, my health, my friends. All the things most people treasure. I am also thankful for many small things. I am thankful that:

Grace can help me dress her. It has made life much nicer.

Grace is such a good eater. I can usually find her something to eat wherever we go.

Grace loves books. She is constantly bringing me a book to read and likes to sit by the bookshelf and look through her books.

Grace will be spending her first Christmas at home!! Vietnam was great, but I got really sick of Sandy Beach Danang and that Christmas tree on the second floor.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Lost Pumpkin Photos

I realized that I hadn't posted our impromptu visit to the pumkin farm. Grace and I were on the way to the mall for a day of shopping with my nieces Kristan and Kayla. On the way to the mall there is this farm called Green Acres; they raise strawberries in the Spring and pumpkins in the fall. We thought it would be fun to take Grace. She had her squeaky shoes on that day and it made a hilarious video. Green Acres is right beside the highway so there is a lot of background noise.

Friday, November 09, 2007

This was originally a comment left on my friend Kelly's blog. Kelly's post seemed to stir people up. I weighed in on the subject a little late. Since I am fairly opinionated, I want to make sure everyone knows how I feel about things. I left this comment on Kelly's blog. Please go back and read her original post. She says some important things very eloquently.

Kelly and I have gone through this journey together. I traveled to Vietnam with she and her husband. We met Lucy and Gracie at the same time. Obviously I also used VORF. I also changed from another agency, one who FORGOT to put me on the list when I recieved my 171. There are many reasons, personal reasons, why a person may switch agencies. I am glad I did. When we had our CIS interview in HCMC the interviewer commented on how ethical and together VORF is.

When we were in Vietnam Kelly and I met families with extremely young infants, families with very sick babies, families who had no idea about physicals or appointments. Agencies provide you with a list of references in your application packet. CONTACT THEM. If you don't get references with contact info MOVE ON and find another agency.

Yes we got quick referrals because it was a new agency. VORF only started facilitating adoptions in Jan 06. Prior to that they were strictly a huminatrian agency working to make things better in Vietnam. However they hired a very experienced facilitator and in country rep. Check out their website to see the fantastic things they do in Vietnam.

I began my journey to Grace in Jan 06 when agencies were just being liscensed. During that entire year, until I held her in my arms, I was terrified that corrupt practices would again close Vietnam adoptions. Remember those families who received referrals just before Vietnam ceased adoptions? I read their blogs as they were slowly receiving travel approval. That broke my heart. All that heartache because some people didn't want to follow the rules.

Those people completely disregard everyone else when they make unethical decisions. What about the babies that were crowding the orphanages during the period when adoptions halted? There were growing older. People don't request older kids. The orphanages were full. Were all children take care of? Orphanage workers could only do so much and with no adoptions, monetary support for the orphanages must have severely decreased. Less money and more children...a problem caused by selfish people.

In closing, the only story about her abandonment that I have to pass on to Grace is the one that I was told. Is it suspect? Maybe. But that is the history I have to give her. That and little Lucy sleeping in the cradle beside her.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Aunt Rachel's Birthday

My great Aunt Rachel turned ninety and we celebrated with a huge bash in Chicago. I was so excited because I haven't seen her in four years. I used to fly to Chicago a couple of times a year until she moved to Wisconsin. Travel became a little more complicated then.

I have to tell you Aunt Rachel is the most amazing person you could ever imagine. She and her husband moved from TN to Chicago during the Great Depression to find work. Her husband died when she was in her 50s. After that she decided to get her GED. Then she graduated from college. After college she began traveling. Most of her trips were with Elderhostel.

She has stayed on a sheep farm in New Zealand, she was in Poland when Communism fell, she has worked at an excavation site in Mexico. You name it she has done it, she has been everywhere. Except for Vietnam. That is the one place she always wanted to visit and never got to. She was so excited to meet my little angel from Vietnam. There is another reason she was excited. Grace is named after my lovely grandmother who I adored. Gracie and Aunt Rachel were sisters with a very close bond. Here is Gracie from Vietnam meeting her great, great Aunt Rachel. Grace really liked those pretty pearls.

Is she doing yoga?? Cobra pose?? In a dress??

Exercise is done and it's time to get up and socialize some more.

Grace found a great new friend in her cousin Dan. Dan is Aunt Rachel's son and he is the kind of guy that kids always love. Grace was no exception. Dan made her laugh and smile. He also gave her juice. Juice means alot to her.

Grace and her Pappy. He is always there to encourage a funny face.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happy Halloween

Okay I am running a little behind. We have just gotten home from a long weekend in Chicago. More on that later.

I had a hard day at work on Halloween. Therefore Grace only visited Aunt Becky, Aunt Terri and her grandparents. I figured she will only remember it in pictures. Sadly I did not get the best pictures. She wouldn't stop running so most are blurred. Terri said that she has some great ones so maybe all is not lost. It was very sweet, everyone had bought her favorites. She got raisins, peaches, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, etc. Here is my little fairy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gracie the Animal Lover

My daughter loves animals. She always has. They always make her smile and giggle. The other day we were sitting outside and my parents' two cats got into a fight. She thought it was hilarious! I had to hold her back, she wanted to run over to them.

She loves Ellie, our yorkie. She has always loved to watch Ellie run around, she'd just laugh. Now the more mature, more mobile Gracie has begun to chase Ellie. Ellie bolts under the couch or some other out of the way place to hide. Here's Ellie making a quick getaway.

I hate it for poor Ellie, but it is so funny. Not only does she run around after Ellie, she squeals with delight while she does it. She also likes Ellie's things.

I am hoping that the Department of Human Services doesn't show up on my doorstep, but I had to post this. It's happened before and I try to keep the crate shut all the time. However sometimes I slip up and leave it open.

This is Grace in Ellie's crate. I looked up and she had crawled inside. All you could see was her striped butt. Fortunately the camera was on the table
and I was able to capture the moment. Before you are too disgusted, please know that I change Ellie's pillow very frequently.

I have had several people comment about how long her hair has gotten. Isn't that crazy. She was such a little bald baby when I brought her home. Below are a few recent bathtup shots. Look how long her hair is when it's wet. Compare that to the bald baby bathing in the sink in Vietnam.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Big Girl

Doesn't she look like such a big girl in these pictures? Sometimes I look at her and it amazes me how much she has grown and changed. And jeans always make babies look more grown up.

She looks so calm and serene in this picture.

And then the baby of a million faces emerges...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Miss Personality

What is Miss Personality like these days?

I know this looks strange but this is something Gracie CONSTANTLY does. If you are sitting she will straddle your ankle expecting you to take her for a ride on the "horse." In this photo I was sitting on the couch and she just came up and sat on my foot.

This is Grace with her beloved Leapfrog table. Her new thing is to turn it upside down and just sit on it and rock.

Grace's favorite toy is her Winnie the Pooh car. Here it is standing on end after a crash.
At least she found an inventive use for the piece that fell off.
Her most recent injury.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

She Looks Like a Wild One

Like all of us, Grace doesn't look her best in the morning. She kind of looks like a wild little baby. Doesn't she remind you of Mowgli from the Jungle Book? I think it is the hair. However I absolutely adore that wild look. It makes me think of Saturday mornings. That is when we enjoy lazy mornings in our pjs. We have so little time to just hang out, that is why Saturday mornings are so special.

I love this photo. She looks like she is doing the supermodel pose with her cheeks all sucked in.

This is Grace's favorite toy. Aunt Terri gave her this lovely Winnie the Pooh car for her birthday. It features a nice, loud horn and you can push a button and the Pooh song will play. Grace's favorite road trip starts at the sofa and ends at the window looking onto the front yard.

Barrel rolling - Gracie style