We spent Christmas Eve at my mom's house. Anna Grace opened her first present, a babydoll from her Aunt Jacque, and she was so happy with her present that she did not feel the need to open any more gifts. It took us a long time to convince her to open more. Then, she opened a stroller for her doll, and she was gone making circles around the house pushing her new baby. She was so amazed when we got home that night and her presents had come home with us. She looked at her little doll again and laughed and said "Wow!!" I don't think she realized that she was going to get to keep all of the toys that she opened.
This year was especially special because we had all of the grandchildren there for Christmas. Anna Grace has not been the only missing grandchild at Christmas time during the last few years of our wait for her. My brother's oldest son has been with his mom on Christmas since he was a little baby, but he was finally able to rejoin our family this year. This was the first Christmas in a really long time that I finally felt like we did not have anyone "missing."
Christmas morning was spent at home playing with gifts from Santa and opening the presents under the tree. Cole and Alex were especially anxious for Christmas morning because several weeks ago, when I wrapped the presents to put under the tree, I left off the name tags. Each kid had a different kind of paper, so the boys have spent the last few weeks trying to trick me into telling them which one was theirs. They kept telling me over and over, "Mommy, this is torture!" They had one gift that was to both of them that was wrapped in a patchwork of both kinds of paper. They did not know until Christmas morning that the secret to which paper was theirs was written on the back of the patches of paper on that gift. Later on Christmas Day, we all headed to Mike's parents' house for more family, presents, and food. We always have a great time on Christmas Day with his family because many of the extended family members come. We always have a large crowd of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I have been learning to make pillowcase dresses and tops, and this is a little Christmas shirt that I made for Anna Grace. Mike got me a new sewing machine for Christmas so that I don't have to keep borrowing my mom's every time I want to make something. Who knows, I might even learn how to make something with sleeves soon!
We got several inches of snow on Christmas Day. Anna Grace kept going to the window yesterday saying "Oh pretty! I ready snowman!" She calls all snow "snowman," so even this morning she is going to the back door looking out at the "pretty snowman" that is covering our deck. Yesterday, the boys were headed out to play in the snow and Anna Grace was determined to go out with them. She kept saying "I ready snowman too!" After she ripped off her pjs, she put on her mittens and hat and started trying to put on her snowsuit. I laughed so hard at the sight of her sitting in the floor wearing nothing but her underwear, a hat, and mittens crying that she could not put on her snowsuit because her mittens were in the way. I love the little tail on the back of Anna Grace's snowsuit!
Christmas Eve is tomorrow and Alex has lost another tooth. He lost his first tooth on Christmas Eve of last year. We had Santa and the Tooth Fairy come the same night. In fact, we even had to leave treats for the Tooth Fairy so that she would not get jealous of Santa's plate of cookies. Alex still does not have that tooth grown completely in, and he has lost 4 more! The latest tooth was lost this week when he decided that he and Anna Grace should put on swimsuits and go swimming in a bubble bath. Somehow Anna Grace punched him in the mouth, and Alex's tooth popped out into the bubbles. It took a while to find it, but the tooth was eventually found.
This is what Alex will look like if he keeps losing teeth!
The rest of these pictures are from a cookie decorating party we went to at a neighbor's house. The kids had a great time icing cookies while the adults ate chili. Everyone brought homemade goodies to swap, so we came home with a box full of yummy treats.
Today we went to the courthouse to readopt Anna Grace under American law. Even though she was legally ours under Chinese law, we wanted to adopt Anna Grace under American law so that she can have an American birth certificate and there can never be any question about the adoption procedures. We did not want her to have a birth certificate with her parents listed as "unknown." We are her parents, and we want her to have a birth certificate that she can be proud of.
It means so much to us that both sets of grandparents came with us to the courthouse. The hearing was very short and easy, and the judge allowed us to take pictures after it was finished. Then, we all headed to my friend's new restaurant for a yummy Italian supper. Stacey and her husband also have a daughter adopted from China, and they suprised us with a cake for dessert. They were so sweet to our entire family (even when Anna Grace crashed a plate on the floor!)
We are getting ready for our first Christmas with Anna Grace. Every time she sees a present, she says, "Its a birthday!" I guess she is technically right since it is Jesus's birthday. She opened a few presents when we first came home from China, but she has never celebrated Christmas or opened a pile of presents. I can not imagine how she is going to react when Christmas comes, and she realizes that many of the presents under the tree are for her to open.
I posted a link is to a "One Less" video on my sidebar. I thought it was touching since Anna Grace is now "one less" orphan in the world.
Part of the annual tradition of our small town is the Christmas parade. We look forward to the parade every year because it seems like the whole town shows up- either as spectators or in the parade. There are just as many tractors as there are floats and all of the kids come away with bags of candy. This was the first year that we partipated in the parade with the adoption group. I walked with Alex and Anna Grace while Mike, Cole, and my mom watched. I decorated a wagon for Anna Grace to ride in so that I would not have to carry her the whole way, one of the moms made a bunch of jingle-bell bracelets for the kids, and another one of the moms put a little red pompom on her nose to make her look like Rudolf. Anna Grace had so much waving at the people we passed.
Then, the whole group met to eat at an Italian restaraunt with Santa Clause. Anna Grace did not like "Clause" at all, but she did let him come up and talk to her while she ate. I really wish I could get a picture of all 3 kids with Santa, but Cole and Alex refuse and Anna Grace is too scared. I would push Cole and Alex harder if I thought I had a chance with Anna Grace, but I don't want to scare her. Oh well, maybe next year!
We are so thankful to have our first Thanksgiving with Anna Grace. She loved eating "turk" on Sunday with Mike's family and then on Thursday with my family. Yesterday we made our annual trip to cut our tree from a tree farm. We had debated not going this year because Anna Grace is not very easy to ride in a car with. She says "Mama, Mama, Mama" at least 20 times a minute and then babbles her little stories continuously unless she is "torturing" everyone with her Chinese children's songs that she likes to listen to in the car. It is not that bad for a short trip to the store, but 2 1/2 hours to get to a tree farm is not easy for any of us! We survived by giving her a DVD player and movies and her pacifier (that is usually reserved for naptime). The weather was cold and windy, but we had a great day spending time as a family.
Six Reasons to be Thankful: 1. I am so thankful that God spoke and told us that we had a daughter in China. I am so thankful that He made it so clear to us that our little girl had a heart defect and would come to us through the Special Needs Program. It was His Word that gave us the strength and the determination to persevere the long wait for our daughter. It was not until we received the referral for our sweet girl that we learned that Anna Grace was born at the same time that God was speaking. At the time I did not understand why I felt such a sudden, nagging urgency to complete all of the adoption paperwork, but God's plan is larger than I could ever imagine. 2. I am so thankful to Anna Grace's biological parents for the sacrifice that they made to allow Anna Grace the chance for a healthy life. My heart breaks for the pain that they must still feel for the loss of their daughter. But, they gave her the chance to have a life saving heart surgery. I pray that they might find peace in somehow knowing that their little girl is growing and thriving in her new life. 3. I am so thankful for all of the people who cared for Anna Grace while she was in the orphanage, hospital, and foster home. I know that they cared for her to the best of their abilities. 4. I am thankful for all of the friends and family who have been so supportive to our family and for the way that they have welcomed Anna Grace and made her feel special. 5. I am thankful for the way that Cole and Alex have adjusted to life with a little sister. Even when they groan when Anna Grace insists on listening to her Chinese music in the car, I know that they love her. They love to cuddle with her and watch cartoons in my bed on Saturday mornings and read her bedtime stories at night. Their eyes light up when they walk into a room and she shouts her "hello." Their sacrifice in sharing the time and resources of our family has been large, but Cole and Alex have a love for their sister that grows more and more each day. 6. I am thankful for each day that we have our sweet little girl. I love watching her grow and learn and explore the world. I love watching her sing and dance and cheer when it is time to go to "tada" (gymnastics). I love how excited she gets when it is time to go to church and how she adjusts to new experiences with such courage. I thank God for every day of the last 6 months and for the life that we now have as a Family of Five.
We had a busy, but exciting weekend celebrating Halloween. Even though Halloween was officially on Sunday, most of our neighborhood did their trick-or-treating on Saturday this year. We live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, and we get several hundred extra visitors to our neighborhood for Halloween every year. We always hand out buckets of candy.
We invited another family over to watch the football game and eat chili. I believe I have eaten chili every Halloween of my life. After supper we set off for a night of trick-or-treating. All of the kids had a blast. Anna Grace had 2 other little two year-old girls to trick-or-treat with. It did not take her very long to figure out how to say "trick-or-treat" and open her little lady bug purse to collect her candy.
Sunday night was another round of trick-or-treaters visiting our neighborhood. Cole, Alex, and Anna Grace put their costumes back on to pass out candy. Cole and Alex had fun hiding in the bushes and jumping out yelling "boo!" Anna Grace had a chance to wear her second lady bug costume.