Sunday, December 16, 2007

O' Christmas Tree

I'm late, I'm late and Christmas is just 9 days away!! I'm behind this year, but I'm making progress. Our Christmas cards are made, but not addressed; shopping is still incomplete, although I did put a big dent in it this weekend; the dreaded Christmas card photo shoot took place this afternoon; I'm just about finished decorating; and the pecans for my Bourbon Balls are marinating as I type.

We FINALLY got our Christmas tree Friday night and decorated it on Saturday. So there IS light at the end of the tunnel. And the light in Oakley's eye's speaks volumes.

She is overjoyed with our tree and I think she's already memorized every ornament. She goes round and round the tree as she repeats, "Don't touch it .... just look." Last year we celebrated Christmas without Oakley, knowing that she was halfway around the world, without her family, and without knowing what a very special day it was. It was a difficult holiday for us, but we found comfort in knowing it would be the last Christmas she would ever spend alone. Words can't describe how wonderful it is to have her home with us this year.

I must admit that adding another child to the mix made our annual Christmas card photo shoot a little more interesting. Oakley was dressed and ready long before any of the boys, so I positioned her in front of the tree to get some solo shots. By the time her brothers were ready, she was done with the photo shoot and more than ready to move on to something else ... lunch, in particular.

Bless her heart, I bribed her with a sandwich and chips, and she managed to find a few more smiles. Amazingly, I was able to get a few photos with everyone's eyes open, and everyone smiling (albeit some of the smiles were obviously forced!)

I haven't decided which shot we'll use yet, but I need to get busy if I want to get them in the mail before Christmas!! Care to let me know your favorite?

Next year I vow to have a professional photographer take our Christmas card photo. I don't think I've used a professional photographer since Sullivan was just a baby! It's about time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When Bad Hair Happens to Good People

We were preparing to head out to dinner and I asked Sawyer to go upstairs with Oakley and fetch a bow for her hair. They were gone for a while and this is how she looked when she returned.

Sawyer, of course, was all smiles. He's no stylist, but you've got to admit, he's got flare:).

Oakley LOVED her new look and was more than happy to pose for some photos.

Yup, Sawyer continues to be her hero!! When we pick him up from school each day, she greets him with a smile and a "Hello! You're my friend." And she never fails to ask him how his day was.

I love looking back in my rear view mirror to see them holding hands -- their mutual affection is so evident.

Ahhh ... it melts a Mother's heart!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I'm a slacker. I can't believe I let an entire month escape me with no post!! I missed Thanksgiving and our 6-month GOTCHA anniversary. We've been crazy busy, but I apologize for not posting an update last month. I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't take time to share how THANKFUL we are to have our sweet girl home.

Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning this year and it often overwhelms me just to look at Oakley. She is absolutely amazing in every way and as I experience each holiday and each event through her eyes, I count my blessings. She reminds me daily to remember what's really important -- the love of family, the grace of God, and the tenderness of a child's heart.

She's so appreciative of all the little things and she was beyond excited as I decorated the Thanksgiving table in anticipation of sharing a wonderful meal with our immediate and extended family members.

I LOVE Thanksgiving. I love our family traditions -- watching the Macy's Day Parade in our pajamas and cooking our favorite dishes with the sound of football games in the background. I love that Sullivan ventures out mid-morning to find the brightest red leaves to adorn our table, and I love spending time with family. It's low-pressure and lots of fun. And this year, Oakley's excitement was icing on the cake, or whipped cream on the pumpkin pie! Yes, she really loves all the hoopla surrounding each holiday, not to mention the food. The girl still REALLY loves to eat!

"Soooo pretty, Mama. It's gonna be FUN!" she exclaimed repeatedly as she helped me set the table.

And with Christmas just around the corner, you can only imagine how she reacts to all the Christmas lights, the holiday music, and the general hustle and bustle. She knows Jingle Bells by heart and sings it non-stop .... non-stop. Michael decorated the front of the house with wreaths on the windows and twinkly lights on the landscape shrubs. She tells him daily what a good job he did.

We visited the mall, and much to my amazement, she climbed right up on Santa's lap, gave him a big hug, and asked him for a baby doll. She was thrilled with the little coloring book he gave her. She talks about him like he's a long-lost friend. And I guess he is.

As we prepare this season to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I thank Him for His presence in our lives, I thank Him for my wonderful husband, my beautiful boys, and my precious little girl.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Raggedy Ann says HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Raggedy Ann wishes you a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

To say that Oakley was thrilled with her costume is an understatement. She could barely contain her excitement last Friday as she prepared to attend her first Halloween Party/Birthday Boo Bash for Bella, one of her best friends from school.

Just look at how happy she is ... and this was before the sugar-high!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Big Brown Eyes and Little Brown Boots

We were getting ready to head out to the pumpkin patch last Saturday and Oakley was so thrilled with her new boots that I had to get some photos before we even left the house. She was ready to pose!

"CUUUTE boots," she exclaimed happily as she zipped up her boots. She had a little extra kick in her step as she sashayed through the house that morning.

Cute just happens to be one of her favorite adjectives right now and she uses it to describe her daddy's tie, her brother's artwork, my purse, and anything else that catches her fancy.

All day long she'd look down at her feet and let me know just how much she appreciated her new boots.

"I like a boots, Mama,".

I know, baby girl.

I'm so glad that a pair of little brown boots can light up your day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pony Tails and Panties

Funny story.

I normally take Oakley to school each morning on my way to work. A few weeks ago, I had an early morning (6:45 am) meeting, so Mike agreed to take Oakley in for me. I laid out an outfit for her to wear, complete with a coordinating bow, so at least I knew she'd be matching when I picked her up from school.

She's all about "poatie tails" right now, and even though her hair is still pretty short, she begs for one each morning. She looks a little like Pebbles from the Flinstones, because the only place I can get enough hair for a pony tail is right up front!

After my meeting, I called Michael to see how Oakley fared without me. He said she was a little on edge all morning and went from room to room calling for me. She was really upset at first, but he was able to calm her down and get her dressed.

His biggest struggle that morning seemed to be getting "that useless pony tail holder to stay in her hair. They're too small for normal fingers to maneuver." He tried his best to convince Oakley that she just needed a bow, but she wasn't going for it.

It's hard to resist an adorable three-year-old pleading for a "poatie tail."

When I picked her up that afternoon, that pitiful little pony tail was the first thing I noticed. Honestly, there were probably only 5-6 hairs in it and it laid straight down on her forehead. But something else was askew as well. Her cute little Hanna Andersson dress that I snatched off ebay for pocket change, didn't look quite right. Now admittedly, it was a little too big, and with her matching leggings, she looked a tad too Granny Clampett-ish.

But, why was the neck pulled up so high?

And, why did the back drape so much?

Why, oh, why? Because her dress was on BACKWARD, that's why! And she'd apparently worn it like that all day.

"Ummm ..." I questioned her teacher. "Is that how she came dressed to school this morning?"

"Yes," she answered meekly.

"Her dress is on backward," I noted.

"Yes," she agreed, nodding her head. "I thought maybe that's how her daddy wanted it."

Who can argue with that?

And Mike's response to my discovery .... "I thought the buttons always go in the back!" Well, honey, not always. Not when there's a big fat tag in the front.

Fast forward to last week.

I picked Oakley up from school and her teacher casually mentioned to me that after Oakley had gone potty that morning, she came out of the bathroom and asked where her panties were. The teacher thought maybe they were caught in her shorts, and she wasn't able to get them both up at the same time. After a quick but thorough search, they discovered there were no panties to be found.

YES, I sent my three-year-old daughter to preschool commando. Wearing a cute top, a pair of short shorts and no panties. But her pony tail looked fantastic.

Thank goodness there was a spare pair of panties in her cubby.

Paybacks are hell.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Number One Fan

All three of my boys play soccer, so Oakley spends a LOT of time at the soccer field. Seriously, we have soccer at least six days out of seven, and generally we're shuffling around to multiple games and practice sessions. Oakley doesn't seem to mind (yet) and she's certainly the boys' Number One Fan.

She cheers for them throughout the game, even during half-time, and even if they don't happen to actually be IN the game.

"Go, Sawyer!"

"Woo Hoo, Hagan!"

"Good Job, Sullivan!"

Her repertoire is somewhat limited, but very spirited and very heartfelt.

It's been 90 degrees plus at most every game, so she's generally a sweaty mess. She has a great time, however. Especially if the concession stand is open. And especially if there's pizza.

Sawyer plays varsity for his high school team and she knows most all of his teammates by name. They ALL know her; she's somewhat become the team mascot. And I will admit, she's already a little partial to the dark-headed boys and she calls out to them long after they're out of hearing range.The boys are all looking forward to the day that she puts on her own uniform and scores her first goal. They are ASSUMING she's going to play soccer. I've tried to tell them she may prefer dance or gymnastics. They're not going for it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sweet Sophie

During our long wait for Oakley, I felt blessed to have the support of the members of my Yahoo Group - families who have all adopted, or are in the process of adopting, from the Zhangzhou Social Welfare Institute in the Fujian Province. It was through this group that I learned the most about Oakley's province, what to expect when we travel, and all about the best places to stay, dine, shop and visit as we soaked in our baby girl's homeland.

It was also here that I was able to secure photos from Oakley at varying stages of her life in the orphanage. Families who traveled before us often took photos of the children and posted them on our Yahoo site for the waiting families to see. These photos are treasures to me, and will one day be treasures for Oakley, too. Someday she will yearn to know all the details of her first 2 1/2 years of life. It pains me that I won't be able to recall for her the early milestones -- her first smile, her first words, her first steps. But thanks to this blessed community, I will be able to share with her photos of her first friends.

One of these first friends is sweet Sophie, seen in the above photo taken in March 2005. Sophie is the second sweetheart from the right in the first row (chubby cheeks)! Oakley is the second from the left in the second row. Sophie's grandmother, Yvonne, was a huge inspiration to me throughout our journey. She was the first to congratulate me when I posted good news, the first to encourage me when I began to lament the wait, and she followed our journey to China and rejoiced with us when I finally held Oakley in my arms.It turns out that Sophie, her Mom Melissa, and her grandmother, Yvonne, live in a neighboring county - YEAH! They came to visit us in late July. Sophie is absolutely precious, beautiful beyond words, sweet and kind. I look forward to these girls being able to rekindle their friendship and I have no doubt that Sophie can teach Oakley all about Disney princesses. She's quite the expert, especially where Cinderella is concerned.

Sophie brought a little basket of toys to share with Oakley and Oakley LOVED the Fisher-Price Snap 'n Style Dolls!

Imagine our surprise when we found a gift at our front door on Oakley's birthday! Sweet Sophie gave Oakley her own set of Snap 'n Style Dolls.

Thank you Melissa, Sophie, and Yvonne, from the bottom of our hearts!! We can't wait to set-up another play date!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Look At Me! I Just Turned Three!!

Oakley's first birthday celebration -- I wanted it to be special for her, but not overwhelming. We decided to keep the festivities small and just invite our extended families over for ice cream and cake. Those of you who know us realize that it's never a small occasion when our families get together. Mike and I both have lots of siblings. And collectively, they have lots of kids. So there really is no such thing as a small family gathering, but rather a boisterous bunch, which suits us just fine. It seems to have suited Oakley just fine, too, and I have no doubt that she knew she was surrounded on her very special day by those who love her the most.

We talked for days before her party about her birthday -- the words cake, ice cream and balloons caught her attention quickly. Mention cake and ice cream, and this little girl is ready to party! Let it suffice to say that she was excited about the prospect, even though she couldn't yet grasp the concept of a day dedicated to celebrate her birth.

We gathered around the table as Oakley prepared to blow out candles on her very first birthday cake. As we sang Happy Birthday to You, she gave us a "look of disgust". I know this to be her nervous, embarrassed face. I've seen this look several times, but not many other people have witnessed it before. It is hysterical, and just to make sure I captured it on film, we belted out another rendition so she would do it again. So here it is, for all to see. Honestly, the singing wasn't that bad! And yes, she made this face through the entire song. Twice.

She thoroughly enjoyed blowing out her candles (so much so that we had to do it twice, too).

Every child deserves to be celebrated, and although I was not there for Oakley's birth, I celebrate her life every day. I am thankful and honored that I was chosen to be her Mama', and that I will be the one to love and cherish her, encourage and comfort her, teach and guide her.

I pray that I can provide her the love and security she needs in order to grow and find her wings. And I pray that her birth mother, whom I know is loving her from afar and praying for her well-being, has peace in her heart. Her decision to give this little girl life is our greatest gift.

Our baby girl is officially three years old, which she will show you as she holds up both hands and displays three fingers on each.

She was thrilled to discover (on her own, I might add), that three fingers also closely resemble the letter "W", which just so happens to be her favorite letter.

i have no idea why.

She is obsessed with the letter "W" and searches for it everywhere -- on road signs, correspondence, magazines, books, cereal boxes -- everywhere. I digress. I suppose Oakley's obsession with the letter "W" deserves a post of its own, so look for that later:).


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Best Friends Reunited

Two beautiful little girls once shared their daily lives in an orphanage in China. Just a month apart in age, they lived in the same social welfare institute and according to their nannies, they became best friends.

As fate would have it, at the age of 2 1/2 they would both be adopted, within months of each other, by American families using the same agency -- one living in Iowa and the other living in Kentucky. Caeleigh was adopted in March and we received Oakley in May. While I celebrated Caeleigh's Gotcha Day with her forever family from afar, I mourned Oakley's loss of her best friend as she waited a few more months for our arrival.

Yesterday these two little girls were reunited! The Whitts were in town visiting family and they set aside some time to come and visit us. What a wonderful day it was! Oakley and Caeleigh share a very special bond. I thank God that they had each other in China, that He orchestrated our paths crossing, and that as parents, we recognize the need for them to maintain their relationship.

I told Oakley Friday evening that Caeleigh was coming to visit, and I honestly think she understood. She ran to retrieve her photo album, opened the page to Caeleigh's picture, and said, "Ku Xinke, Oakley's room, play tea." She was so excited yesterday morning and when Hagan announced that they were here, she ran to the window to peer out.

And oh, the joy in their little faces!! Oakley radiated with happiness and she repeatedly said to me throughout the visit, "Mama, Ku Xinke," as if she just couldn't really believe she was here! It was an emotional reunion for me, although I hadn't expected it to be. It's so amazing to know that just a short period of time ago they were living in an orphanage together, and now they are living with their respective forever families and are both loved and adored!

They held hands, hugged, kissed, played dolls, had a tea party, and celebrated their reunion with lunch, cake and ice cream. Thanks, Karen and Jeff, for bringing the cake -- what a sweet (and delicious) and thoughtful gesture, which was much enjoyed by all!!

I love these little girls and I love the friendship they share. Thank you to the Whitts for making time to come and visit. I feel such a kinship with this family -- our girls, are in fact, sisters in heart, and I look forward to them growing up together. So much of their past is lost to us, and to them, but they will always have each other -- best friends.