School is out and summer has started. So far, it has been really busy. We have had 2 birthday parties to attend, our last post-placement visit with our social worker for Anna Grace's adoption, several trips to the pool, and a playdate with Anna Grace's friends- and I have been off of work for less than a week!! Anna Grace is really enjoying to pool. Last year at this time she was terrified of water, but she has come a long way. I have a feeling that by the end of summer she will be jumping off the side of the pool into my arms.
I truly love summer break and having the chance to stay home with my kids. Mike loves summer because I can do more of the cooking and housework. He gets to take a bit of a break. However, I struggle with guilt every summer. Whenever I am playing with the kids I think that I should be doing some housework or project, and when I am working on housework, I feel like I should be playing with the kids or working on the summer school work that I give them. I know it sounds silly, but I feel like I need to make the most of every minute of my time.
For a long time I have been planning a big father/ daughter party to celebrate Mike's 40th birthday and Anna Grace's 3rd birthday & first Adoption Day. I love planning parties, and I wanted to celebrate this special time in a big way. So, with my mom's help, I started planning this party months ago.
Saturday was the big day that we had been waiting on. I had special pillows for the patio furniture and coordinating table cloths, Chinese lanterns, party favors... you name it and I had it all planned out. My mom and I both took Friday off of work so that she could decorate the cake and help me make the food. We planned hot dogs and a homemade edible fruit arrangement for the kids and Cajun food for the adults. However, the day would not go without a glitch. The weatherman called for rain, and we invited way too many people to move the party inside our house. Even though there was not much rain, it did cause an extra layer of stress added to the weekend. Another problem was that our hot water heater went out late Friday night while we were preparing for the party. Mike worked on it until after midnight with no luck, and he wound up spending all of Saturday morning working on it. Thank goodness that his dad was able to come help, but it put us behind in getting ready. The third thing that went wrong was that the moonwalk that we had borrowed from a neighbor did not work. Mike wasted a lot of time setting it up only to find that it was broken and had to be quickly put back into the garage. An hour before the party, the wind kept blowing away my table cloths, I was exhausted from all of the stress, and I was in tears. I felt like after all of the planning, our party was not going to be the perfect evening I had envisioned for so long. Somehow though, it all came together in time. My mom put the final touches on the food and got the kitchen cleaned while I got Anna Grace and the boys ready.
The guests started arriving just as the wind died down. We got a few sprinkles of rain, but it was just enough to make my tablecloths stick to the tables so that they wouldn't blow way.
Mike started cooking the jambalaya in big pots outside while the kids blew bubbles and jumped on the trampoline and the adults ate appetizers.
Anna Grace had a great time playing with all of her friends. Her mentor, Grace came and brought her family. I enjoyed chatting with her parents about China.
All of the food turned out great. The fruit was a hit with the kids and the adults enjoyed the jambalaya and craw fish pie.
After supper, it was time for presents. Anna Grace enjoyed opening all of her gifts, but I think her favorite part of the evening was just playing with her friends.
I don't think it mattered to her that we did not have a moonwalk. She enjoyed blowing bubbles, getting her face painted, and decorating party hats with stickers.
To celebrate Anna Grace's Adoption Day, we had the same kind of candle that we were given last year when we celebrated her birthday in China. It was a lotus flower that flames and spins around in circles while playing the "Happy Birthday" tune. Mike and Anna Grace had to work together to blow out the candles in the flower. I was really happy that everything finally came together and everyone seemed to have a good time.
Last year at this time Mike and I were packing our final suitcases for the trip that would change our lives and the life of a little girl forever. It was the big moment that we had been waiting for during the last three years. We were excited, nervous, sad about leaving our boys behind, and anxious all at the same time. We celebrated Mother's Day weekend and Mike's birthday as a family of four knowing that we would soon become a family of five. On Thursday, May 13 Mike and I took a van to the Civil Affairs office in Zhengzhou, China along with 2 others families and our guide. We were about to meet little Zheng Ping'An. That day, May 13, was her birthday- a day that should be celebrated but it would be the fourth time in her life that she would lose every one and every thing that she was familiar with. She had been with her biological family, the orphanage, a foster family, and now us.
She was waiting for us when we arrived. She had a very worried look on her face the moment that she saw us- we were strange looking to her, but our guide encouraged us to go talk to her and try to pick her up. The moment we got close, she started crying. She was so scared and had just been taken away from her foster mom of the last several months. She cried for her "mama," and the "mama" was not me. My heart broke for the pain that she was going through. We knew that she would not be allowed to stay with her foster mom and that we were giving her a better life than the orphanage could provide, but it was gut wrenching to see her go to the door of our hotel room and cry out for her "mama."
Over the next few days, our little Anna Grace's personality started to emerge and she started to trust us more and more. She started to smile, laugh, and give us hugs and kisses.
As we celebrate Anna Grace's birthday and Mother's Day this week, I feel a great sorrow for the mother that Anna Grace first had. I wonder if this other lady on the other side of the world has the same kind of vivid memories of the day that her sweet daughter was born as the vivid memories that I carry of the birth of my two boys. I feel that she must have loved her little daughter- she kept her for 7 whole months. I can not imagine the heartbreaking decision to place this sweet baby in the care of the orphanage in order to provide her the life-saving heart surgery that she desperately needed. I feel so sad for this poor lady who gave my daughter- our daughter- life. Her sacrifice will never be forgotten. I am forever grateful and wish that I could provide her with the comfort of knowing that her precious baby is safe, healthy, and loved.
In the last year, Anna Grace has adjusted so well to her new life and family. She loves her dance classes and riding horses. She calls her brothers "my boys" and has them wrapped around her finger. This morning as I was fixing her hair at the bathroom sink just before church she started singing the words "Amazing grace, I once was lost and now I'm found." I did not even know that she knew that song, and there she was in front of me, on our first Mother's Day morning together singing "Amazing Grace." Yes, Anna, God is amazing. He has given us such wonderful gift and has given you enough spunk and perseverance to survive. Happy birthday, precious girl.
Anna Grace had her first dance recital last weekend. She has been taking a creative movement dance class designed for toddlers and the little ones were asked to perform with the older kids at the spring recital. Actually, we weren't really aware of what we were getting into when we agreed to be in the recital- the cost of the costume, theater tickets, pictures, and of course the professional video has been a little overwhelming. Anna Grace's 2 minutes of fame was quite expensive.
We had a dress rehearsal at the theater on Wednesday. Anna Grace was so excited to see her teacher and the other girls in her class. I had to explain to her that she would be going up on the stage to practice her dance. When her teacher came for her and led her up the back stage stairs and then across the stage, Anna Grace started yelling, "Look at me, Mommy! I'm on stage!" All of the other parents from the older girls' classes thought she was hilarious. Then, the director turned down the lights and Anna Grace started yelling, "Mommy, its dark up here!" That was when I really started getting nervous for Saturday's performance. I just knew that she was going to be her normal little talkative motor mouth on stage in front of the entire sold-out theater. I also knew that our tickets were for seats all the way up in the balcony, and she would not be able to see me in the audience if she felt the need to comment on what it was like on stage.
However, when Saturday came, Anna Grace was a shining star. We could hear her call out, "Mommy??" as her teacher lead her out on the dark stage. But when the lights came on, and she was standing there with the two other little girls in her class, the audience cheered and Anna Grace started doing her little Teddy Bear dance. The other little girls were looking around and only half-participating, but Anna Grace followed her teacher's lead and danced for the whole song. I could hear people all around us commenting on the little one in the middle, my precious Anna Grace.
This is Anna Grace with her dance teacher.
It is so hard for me to imagine that this is the same little girl who less than a year ago came to us weighing only 20 pounds as a 2 year old with huge delays in her development. She could not even step over a tiny door ledge or crawl into her toddler bed, and there she was on stage dancing and following her teacher's lead along with the other little girls. We feel so blessed to be witness to this huge change in our little girl in the last year.