Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Hanna!

Nine years ago today this tiny and precious bundle entered this world. Little did I know the effect this sweet and innocent child would have on my heart. She introduced me to pure, unselfish and endless love. How could she go from adorable helplessness to this beautiful child overnight? Happy Birthday Hanna - we love you so much!

Monday, December 29, 2008

We always want what we don't have...

Even when it comes to hair styles! Hanna has been asking me to straighten her hair, so we finally got out the straightener and she loved it! The whole time we were working on Hanna's hair Rylee was telling me how much she wanted curly princess hair so once we were done with the straightener we got out the curling iron for Rylee. They both LOVED their hair but sadly (for them) neither one stayed that way very long!

Notice Rylee's princess attire - she has been dressed as a princess in some form or another for the past week. Her grandparents sent her a beautiful "Christmas/Princess Dress" and we could hardly get it off her for three days (see below)!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hanna's Surgery

December 18th Hanna had her tonsils removed. The picture above is before we left for the surgery and the ones below are after we returned home.

Hanna is very interested in medical things. She loves to watch shows like Mystery Diagnosis and although she was scared about the surgery, she was also intrigued to find out what it was all about. Her surgery was scheduled for 9:00 and we were to be there by 8:00 am. She wanted to have a couple of sips of water in the morning so she got up at 5:30 am. We arrived at the hospital a bit before 8:00 and it wasn't long before they had us settled in her room. She checked out the sparse furnishings and put on her hospital gown. She was pretty shocked that it was open in the back :). At about 8:50 the nurse came to get Hanna and they walked down the hall together to the room where she would be prepped for surgery. We watched her walk away from us, she never even looked back, just followed the nurse down the hall, gown flowing freely behind her.

We got coffee and went back to Hanna's room to wait. I was sitting there thinking that maybe we shouldn't have done this - maybe it wasn't really necessary when the door suddenly opened. I had a clear view of the clock on the wall in the hallway behind the doctor that was standing in the now open door. It was 9:08 - I immediately thought something was wrong. I checked the clock again and it really did say 9:08, I asked what was wrong. He said "We are done!" - What???? Oh my goodness, how amazing it that? They can put someone out, perform a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy and come to see the parents all in a matter of less than 20 minutes?

She was so brave and really has done great recovering. She has done her best to do exactly as the doctor told her to do. Drinking something every 30 minutes, eating lots of soft foods (read ice cream, jello, shakes, Popsicles, mashed potatoes etc...) and trying to do only quiet activities.

Apparently, Holly also had her tonsils out during the procedure... Hanna wrote her a letter asking Holly to forgive her because she did not know that they would also take Holly's tonsils - poor girl felt so bad for the little elf!

Rylee really just did not understand what was up with her sister. We all tried our best to explain to her that the doctor went in Hanna's throat and took out her tonsils and that Hanna has a sore throat and has to rest because of it. We were pretty sure she was still not really getting it. The first time we had someone visit, Rylee told them "My sis have surgery - da Doctor take big knife and cut her throat (using hand motions to draw her finger all the way across her neck)". Hanna and I just stared at her for a minute - pretty much speechless! "Oh my goodness - Rylee not like that!!! Inside her throat!" Yikes!!!

Our corrections don't seem to have any effect, because she is still telling everyone that we see the same details. Maybe she likes the totally shocked responses that she is getting!

Backtracking a bit - Annual Christmas Cookie Day

Just a few pictures from our annual Christmas cookie making day. We had lots of fun and a big mess when we were done. The girls picked out their most special creations to take to their teachers at school.

This poor guy was last seen dangling from the mouth of one of the dogs. A wild chase did NOT result in a rescue - Dad was so disappointed to lose his best cookie!

Friday, December 26, 2008

We hope you all had a great Christmas!

Apparently this is the appropriate response to getting an MP3 player!

This is typical... Hanna talking on the phone and Rylee following after her!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

10 Years Ago...

We were on a beautiful island, just married and dreaming about our life together. Today - our 10 year anniversary were vowed to be back here: http://www.ottleys.com/

Sometimes things change and don't turn out exactly the way we planned. Our vision was of few responsibilities. We would live in a condo, have no pets, no children and travel the world.

Instead of St. Kitts we went here:

Instead of no responsibilities, we have these:

Instead of my life being filled with exotic golf resorts, relaxing beach vacations, leisurely dinners out etc... My life is filled with big squealing hugs, every day laughter, more smooches than I could have ever imagined and so very much sweetness and overflowing love. When I look back to contemplate what could have been... that life seems so plain, so planned and so very selfish. I would not give up what I have for anything in the world! I can never thank my husband enough for the gifts he has brought into my life. For stepping out in faith and agreeing that yes we did in fact have a child that was out there, somewhere, waiting for us. In doing so he changed not only her life, but also our lives. Happy Anniversary baby - you are a great husband and a wonderful Daddy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

School Snow Delay!!

Since I know that my northern living family is just dying to hear about our snow delay today - here ya go... This is what an Alabama snow delay looks like! Yep, you see it right - not one speck of snow! But the girls enjoyed the extra hour and a half to play on this beautiful sunny morning (but cold YES!). The girls were very disappointed though and Hanna even got up at about 5:30 am just in the hopes of glimpsing, tasting, holding and maybe even capturing some snowflakes (to store in the freezer)! And Rylee - well she was just bummed that school didn't get completely cancelled!

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Dis you Elf-a-bet Hannaw?

Okay, so to fully understand what is going on around here I have to take you back to about three days before Christmas LAST year. We were in Alabama visiting the friends that we so quickly had to pick up and leave when Pat lost his job (right at the time that we received our approval to travel to China to get Rylee). So anyway, we were here introducing Rylee to our friends and one of them happens to fill Hanna in on how you go about getting an Elf to visit your home.

All you have to do is write a letter to Santa, leave some crackers and water out and presto - your elf arrives. She fills us in on these amazing facts two days before Christmas on our 9 hour car ride back to Myrtle Beach. I say "What? I have never heard of such a thing!" What I get back from her is "It's true Mom, you leave a letter for Santa, put out crackers and water and the elf will come! Then the elf will cover our house in toilet paper, put makeup on Daddy and do all sorts of crazy stuff while we are all sleeping! It's true, Ms. "A" told me so!" So, I do the only thing a good and loving Mother would do and I call said friend to find out the actual facts. Alas, with a big sigh I hang up the phone. Yes it has in fact been said to be true, these things have been told to my daughter and confirmed by the friends Mom (in case you are wondering yes, we are still friends). So my starry eyed daughter leaves out her note, the crackers and even the water the night before Christmas Eve.

The next morning she leaps out of bed, eyes sparkling in anticipation and runs down with the full expectation of finding her assigned elf there just waiting for her. Unfortunately what she found was not an elf, but instead a letter explaining that ANY and ALL available elves had already gone to other families (before sweet Hanna's request had come in) but she was assured that the next available elf would be hers! Slight disappointment followed but she understood, due to the lateness of the request and all.

Fast forward to this year and several letters have been sent out in the mail reminding Santa that she has been promised an elf and she is anxiously waiting it's arrival. I tell her things like "Hanna, if you get an elf and it messes up the house - who do you think is going to be responsible for cleaning it up?". "I will Mom" Hanna assures me followed quickly by another note requesting that Santa send her a "well behaved elf, please". Every few nights signs would appear in the Kitchen stating things like "Elves always welcome" and "We love Elves" and "p.s. Please don't mess up the house!"

Finally when Santa could take the pestering no longer - a preview of the coming elf arrived:

A picture of the elf, along with a note saying that "Holly" would soon be done working and would be able to join our family for an extended vacation. Holly, we are assured, is one of the best behaved elves that Santa has and she is looking forward to meeting and spending time with Hanna. Every morning she races out of bed to the kitchen to see if Holly has arrived. All the elf facts have now been reinforced by countless number of friends and in addition to that, elf sightings are frequently being reported in and around school.

Finally, FINALLY, she arrives! Hanna wakes me up with shaking hands to show me the note Santa left about Holly, along with snowflakes from the north pole. Hanna is beyond excited, over the top giddy about her new found friend. Even when she was discovered balancing over the fish bowl using a home made fishing pole (which prompted a big NO FISHING sign to be put up by Hanna)!

Rylee watches all of this with only slight interest. When Holly finally arrived Rylee's comment was "Dis you Elf-a-bet Hannaw finally today?" She studies Holly with her nose crinkled up and says "Oh." Nope, not to interested in elves here - she has other interests, like GINGERBREAD MEN!

Not to worry though - her thoughtful and loving big sis left another note! "Dear Santa, please send my sister and elf!" Hmmm... maybe Santa should have planned ahead a little on this one!

Friday, December 5, 2008

We had this great idea...

that the girls could be "reindeer" for our Christmas cards this year. The girls were really excited about it but when we got to the store to pick up the antlers, the only ones they had left were the kind that flash lights all over them. Well okay, we can still make this work. The girls picked their own outfits and got ready for the "photo shoot". We had scary deer, flying deer, leaping deer, deer without legs, deer without a neck, silly deer, scared deer and confused deer. What we DID NOT have were sweet, docile sitting pretty type deer!

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I think we will try again with the Christmas dress in front of the tree type poses and see if we can get that to work better!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is hard to believe that 4 years ago exactly we began our adoption journey. So much has changed along the way and it certainly did not end in any way that we could have expected. We began our adoption journey in Russia and after two losses, finally received our daughter in China just over one year ago! Our lives have completely changed in the past four years, we now live hundreds of miles away from our families, have had a couple of job changes, have lost from our lives people that we loved, have suffered hurts and betrayals and surly have caused unintentional and sometimes unknown hurt to others, we have gained new friends, new family members and hopefully more wisdom. The last four years have been a journey of faith and has been fueled by the belief in something far greater and far better than we can even imagine or can ever be on our own. Today I am thankful for a God that loves me and forgives me, even when I have been unlovable and unforgivable to others. I am thankful to live in a country where I can freely practice my own religious beliefs. I am grateful for a husband that has brought unexpected journeys, love and joy to my life. I am so very thankful for my Mom, who has always loved me and I treasure the relationship we have today as adults as well as for our extended family. I am thankful for my in-laws that have embraced the love of their grandchildren and have travelled several times to see them. I am especially thankful for our children, ours and his, and for our grandchildren who all bring their own unique light to our lives. I am also so grateful for friendships passing and lasting that we have been so fortunate to experience.

For the first time, we spent the entire day at home alone with the girls and cooked a traditional Thanksgiving feast and celebrated our thankfulness quietly at home. We hope you all have enjoyed your holiday however you are spending it!

Sunday and the Memphis Zoo

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Memphis has a really wonderful zoo and after breakfast and a little playtime, we headed out to see the animals. You can click on the photo collage to enlarge the photos.

Memphis has an amazing display for the polar bears and we had so much fun watching the bears play with the girls. We almost had the whole zoo to ourselves and all the animals were so active. It really was a wonderful day!

Saturday & Memphis Children's Museum

This is my first attempt at making a movie and I have the wrong date on here. I couldn't figure out how to get back in and change it, so it's staying as is. This video has a few highlights of the girls first day together on Saturday (Nov. 22nd).

This kids all had fun at the museum and such a great time playing together. The last photo in the video is the kids playing "rock". If you ever need your kids to be quiet, this game works great! The winner is the one that can stay still and quiet the longest. The older kids did much better than the younger ones!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Xinyu Sisters!

From Collages

This weekend was priceless for us! Rylee got to see one of her best friends from the orphanage. While they are different in so many ways, they are also so much alike. They have the same squeal, the same energy and so many of the same facial expressions and attitudes. They played together like they have never been apart and far better than I have seen Rylee play with anyone else.

They are both very loud and with four kids there I was amazed that we only got one noise complaint! I am so glad that we were able to get these girls back together. It was wonderful to see them together and know that they each have someone that has always known them!

This picture pretty much sums up the entire weekend...

Rylee and I...

had a little time to ourselves on Thursday night to pack for our weekend in Memphis. How lucky am I that my girl loves to pose so I can practice with my camera!!!

Now, I have so much to post about our weekend that I am going to do it in a few different posts. We were packing to head to Memphis to meet up with one of Rylee's best friends from her orphanage. I couldn't help but wonder if they would remember each other. Rylee has been asking every day for the past two weeks, if today was the day to go see her friend. The next post will be about their reunion.