Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chinese Silks

Can you tell she was feeling pretty good about getting to wear her Chinese silks?

These photos were taken before one of the Chinese New Year celebrations we attended this year. I'm really regretting not purchasing more silks when we were in China. More of everything, really.

After seeing how excited she was to put them on, how very PROUD she was to wear them out, I wish I had purchased silks in every size. I'm sure I can order them online, but it just doesn't seem to carry the same weight to me.

I look forward to celebrating special times in Oakley's life, being able to offer her meaningful little gifts from her birth country. And scouring the shops for the "perfect" gifts for her was one of my favorite pastimes in Guangzhou.

I just wish I had splurged a little more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Sweetheart of a Day

First and foremost, thank you to Danielle for my blog makeover!! I'm so excited about the new look and it's exactly what I had envisioned. The "my girl" that she incorporated in the header holds special meaning for me and Oakley.

"You're my girl, Mama."

I honestly hear those words out of Oakley's mouth at least 50 times a day. And she loves to hear me tell her that she's my favorite girl.

I know lots of folks believe Valentine's Day is just a Hallmark holiday and that it's been blown WAY out of proportion. I agree to some extent, but I must admit that I LOVE it nonetheless!

Oakley was just as excited about this holiday as she was about Christmas. I thinking painting her fingernails bright pink for her Valentine Party really helped get her in the spirit. We painted them after her bath the night before the big event, and the next morning she came down the stairs in her pajamas, tousled hair, holding her fingernails straight out in front of her so as not to muss them!

She loved her beautifully decorated shoebox full of little cards and when I picked her up from school she couldn't stop talking about her "Balenties". She wanted to get them all out in the truck but I persuaded her to wait until she got home and promised her that she and Sullivan could each dump them out on the floor and look through them all.

"Yes, Yes, YES MAM!" she cried happily.

And as soon as they hit the door, she and Sullivan threw backpacks aside, dumped out their Valentines and began trading -- Sullivan received all of her Batman cards and she scored his Strawberry Shortcake cards. It reminded me of me and my little sister sorting through our Halloween candy and trading Smarties for Milk Duds. And those little cards with candy attached to the envelopes ... Oakley was in HEAVEN! She's definitely a chocolate kind of girl and can smell M&Ms a mile away.

The older boys arrived home from school in great moods, and once Michael got home from work, we gathered to exchange our own Valentine cards and gifts. The boys all made cards for one another, for me and Mike, and for Oakley ... and they were SOOO sweet!! It's amazing how some cardstock, colorful markers and heartfelt sentiments can create such goodwill. We ended the evening at a family-owned restaurant in our little downtown. The perfect way to cap off a perfect day!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cutie Pie

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SNOW Day!!

FINALLY, a snow day where the kids actually got to play in the snow. They were out yesterday because it snowed about four inches Tuesday evening. But by morning, rain had set in and it poured all day long. Sullivan was devastated because he had banked on sledding all day and it was a mushy, gushy, icy mixture. NOT a day for playing outside.

The temperatures dropped last night and all that rain froze. The roads were icy and treacherous this morning, thus schools were closed again today. I had planned on going in to work, but Oakley woke up with a low grade fever, a cough, and a nasty nose. I decided to stay home today with all the kids, and much to our surprise, it snowed pretty much all day long.

The boys were elated and as they began to get their snow gear on, Oakley begged to join them. I promised her we'd go out for one run down the hill and when I brought her little brown snow pants out (still with the tags on), she was thrilled!

"I SO HAPPY for my snow pants!" she shouted.

The boys were out for hours, but Oakley and I only lasted about 30 minutes. She rode the saucers down the hill with me and her brothers several times, and she was such a trooper!! It's pretty steep and I thought she'd be terrified, but she laughed like crazy. It's quite a hike back up the hill and after a few runs, she complained that her legs were tired. I don't think she was feeling all that well either, because on the way back to the house, without any prompting, she informed me that she was a little bit tired.

So we had lunch and she went down for her nap. The boys came in later, soaking wet, faces red, and grinning ear-to-ear. They were all ready for some hot chocolate and warm clothes.

We've been praying for a big snow fall all winter long, and although we didn't get a lot of accumulation, at least we got the chance to enjoy it for the day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

For God So Loved the World

This beautiful book was a gift to Oakley from sweet Esther Strand, one of her Zhangzhou sisters. It quickly became one of Oakley's favorites. She has it memorized and will "read" along with me. There is nothing sweeter than hearing her say, "For God So Loved the World," as she turns each page. The book is a work of art, beautifully written and illustrated -- the words For God So Loved the World appear in different languages on each spread. And it has such special meaning for us, not just because it's a wonderful reminder of God's love for all the world, but because it was given to us by such a special family.

The Strand Family traveled to China in November 2006 to bring home their baby girl, Esther. While there, they took time to photograph all the children and posted them on our Zhangzhou yahoo group's website for the waiting families. These photos were priceless to me -- you can read about it here.

In addition, this precious family took some amazing video of their visit to the orphanage and Oakley and her friend Caeleigh are in several of the frames. They posted the video on their website and we viewed it over and over and over again ... freezing the frame on Oakley -- studying her every expression, her every movement ... looking for reassurance that she was okay.

In November 2007, we received a package in the mail from the Strand Family. It contained this beautiful book, written by Dandi Daley Mackall, and a copy of the orphanage visit video. What a treasured gift!! The first time we viewed it in it's entirety, I was flooded with emotions. We are so BLESSED to have this baby girl, to have traveled to the other side of the world to bring her home.

On a day-to-day basis, it's easy to forget that she had a life before us -- it's hard for me to accept sometimes that I wasn't there for her when she needed me most. We allowed Oakley to watch the video with us and she was entranced. She alternated back and forth throughout the video from talking animatedly about it, to becoming very solemn and quiet -- almost reflective. She asked to watch it again as soon as it was over, and we did. Then she smiled broadly, ran upstairs to her room to play dress up, and she hasn't asked about it again.

We placed the video in Oakley's Life Chest, along with her Finding Day clothes, her Gotcha Day clothes, and the beautiful locket given to her by the orphanage staff. These items will one day help fill in the missing pieces in her early life and I have no doubt that they will mean the world to her.

So ... a belated thank you to the Strand Family and to sweet Esther Li Lyn. You hold a very special place in our hearts and we are forever grateful to you.