Four

Today is a very special day.  It's a day that my heart is celebrating and aching at the same time.  It's a day that a special little girl, on the other side of the world, is meant to be celebrated.  She's meant to be pampered and spoiled and loved and hugged and kissed.  Surprised with balloons and cake and presents.   Today, that special little girl turns four.  Another year older. Another birthday, alone.  I'm sure she's grown taller, I bet she's mastered a few more skills.  I hope and pray that today, someone kisses the top of her head and tells her that she is loved.  Tells her that she is meant to be...



 She will always hold a special place in my heart.  She has touched lives in a way I'm sure she'll never realize and she is the part of a much bigger plan, that I will never quite understand, but God knows.  She was the start of something....incredible.  Incredibly beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking.  She is twisted pretty tightly into the path of Josie's homecoming.  She opened my eyes and my heart.  She was unknowingly placed in a holding pattern, that resulted in another little girl being brought into a family.  Another little girl, who woke up today with a kiss from her Mama, a cupcake for breakfast, a pretty bow in her hair.  Another little girl who will go to school with her friends, spend time with her Grandma and enjoy an afternoon playing with her Mama.  Maybe swinging at the park or walking along the ocean.  Another little girl who will devour a delicious dinner, splash in the bathtub, read books in her Mama's lap and get rocked to sleep with lullabies.  Another little girl who will get one last kiss from her Mama before bed.  Of course, that first little girl, who gets to be celebrated today, has no idea that those people exist.  She has no idea that she is such an important part of their lives. But... I pray everyday that she will someday find out.  Someday.

Today, we had cupcakes for breakfast.  Her 'sister' helped bake them and took some to school to celebrate this special day.  Today, we will swing a little extra and enjoy a little extra time outside.  Today, we will sing and blow out candles.


 


                               Today, we will celebrate a little girl who deserves to be celebrated.  
And pray that someday, she will get to be a part of her celebration.  


We will continue to love a special little girl, who deserves to be loved. And pray that someday, she will know how very loved she is.  Pray that someday, she will get to feel the love of her family.  



For today....

 
Happy Birthday, Lizzy Bear! 


   





One Less



One Less

There's a child.
Been abandoned on out on the street,
now she's waiting for someone to be her miracle.

There's a wife.
Somewhere half way around the world,
begging God for a little girl she can call her own.

Well, worlds collide,
and colors fade
and a man and wife
brought their little girl home today!!

And there's one less
ONE LESS
one less broken heart in the world tonight

Yeah there's One Less
one less
One less broken heart in the world tonight!

We are called,
to the widows and the orphans
but it's easy to ignore their silent cries.

Oh, but every single time
somebody reaches into the darkness,
makes a choice to help the helpless
they let mercy save a life.

And there's one less
One Less
one less broken heart in the world tonight

Yeah there's one less
ONE LESS
one less broken heart in the world tonight!

Well the truth is we are all the orphans,
But love has left the ninety-nine
just to find the one....

So let worlds collide,
colors fade.
Let your life,
be the miracle today!

Tonight I know there's one less
One Less
one less broken heart in the world tonight

One less night alone
One less child without a home
One less birthday gone forgotten
One more soul rising from the bottom

One less night alone
One less child without a home
One less birthday gone forgotten
One more soul rising from the bottom
One less
One less
There's one less broken heart in the world tonight!!!





Leaving Colombia


Two weeks ago today (after triple checking our luggage, paperwork, itinerary, tickets, passports, oh my...before heading to bed the night before) I woke up bright and early to get ready to head home.  It was honestly a day full of such mixed emotions.  I truly enjoyed my time in Colombia and met some wonderful people while there.  I loved getting to learn about J's culture and visit some amazing places.  I was sad to leave and sad that she would be leaving the only place she'd known. BUT at the same time (and more so!) I was happy to be heading back to the US.  Back to start our lives together.  Back to begin some sort of 'normalcy' and routine. Back to our home.

 I pulled Josie out of bed, still in her pj's and unaware that today was not just another one of those 'run around to different buildings and meetings and appointments' kind of day.  I do think she sensed a bit of emotion from me, but I know (as much as I tried to prepare her) that she really did not have any idea of how much her life was going to change in one day.  She enjoyed a little breakfast in the car on the way to the airport (and babbled to Rene and all of the other cars passing by.)  We had some help getting our bags checked and then said our final good-bye to Rene before heading through customs.  It was a bit of a wait while the super friendly serious customs agent read our paperwork over and OVER and OVER!!  We had to hustle a bit to our gate where J got to stretch her legs for a few minutes before boarding our first flight.  The plane that would take us out of Colombia.  I held back tears as I sent a final 'WhatsApp' message to Soraya, letting her know we'd made it through customs and were about to board.  After finding our seats and getting the girl all settled (she traveled like a CHAMP, I must add), I took a few pics of my sweet girl (and her bunny) curiously watching out the plane window as we rolled down the runway, heading away from such an amazing country and everything she's every known.  I got to a point that the tears were not stoppable.  And I cried as my darling girl waved out the window, while our plane took off.  (The poor lady next too us also seemed sad to be leaving Colombia behind.  She was in tears, as well, as our plane took flight and once we leveled off a bit, she actually held out her packet of kleenex to me.  I guess she was just the right person to be seated next to.)

Our first flight was uneventful.  We read books, played with stickers, J took a short nap (the ONLY one of the day!) ate some lunch and 'watched' Rio 2.  We landed in Atlanta right on schedule and went straight to immigration.  After getting sent to the wrong line (twice!) we finally got escorted to the front of the correct line (straight to the agent actually) where after looking over our paperwork, talking a little about our trip and smiling at my sweet girl (who was still being such an excellent traveler!), the kind man stamped the magic little stamp on her passport and welcomed her to the US.  We said 'Muchas Gracias', crossed the yellow line (literally!) and.....


                         Voila! a US Citizen!


We had to collect our luggage, head through another customs check, recheck our luggage and then (again) hustle to the gate.  This was the only time that J really let me know she was getting tired of this whole traveling experience.  She whined for about 10 minutes as I fast-walked/jogged to catch the train to our terminal, rode to the next stop and then found our gate.  Once there, she had a little snack and got to stretch her legs again and turned back in the the happy traveler she'd been for most of the day.  They assigned us seats across the aisle from each other (which I didn't realize was the case until we were ON the plane) but after some help from a very kind flight attendant and a couple of generous passengers, we had seats together - J's again being a window!  I (who really hated flying up until this experience) enjoyed looking out of the window with her watching the clouds and the ground below.  Just as we were approaching our final destination, the pilot announced that we had to go a little to the side as there were some storm pockets he was going to avoid (this would add another 20 minutes to the flight, but greatly help with any turbulence).  I was so ready to be on the ground, but very happy to avoid a bumpy decent.  There was a pretty great sight in the sky over where those storm clouds had been.  Something that deserves a post of it's very own.

When we finally landed, I was so anxious to see everyone.  I think J sensed my happy anxiety, but at the same time she was so weary from traveling (with only one very short nap) and was also just happy to be off of that plane!  We collected our stroller, loaded up our carry-ons and strapped her into the carrier.  Then we were off, down the longest halls ever to find the people waiting on the other end, so anxious to set their eyes (and hands) on my darling girl.  It was such a welcoming sight to see such amazing friends and our family, waiting at the end of that last hallway.  With colorful signs from all of my little preschoolers (and J's soon to be new friends!).  She took to Grandma and Grandpa right away and we spent a good hour (it seemed) letting her play with all of these new people who had prayed so hard for her and this homecoming.  She really soaked up all of the love.  So did her Mama.  We are so blessed to have come back to such an amazing group of people and such a great little place to call home.









      I knew I missed these kids (and my family) while I was gone.  But I didn't realize truly how much I missed having them around until I saw them all waiting to meet my girl as arrived in the US.  I am so thankful that my daughter will grow up with some AMAZING, Godly role models.  They really are so wonderful!
 
Welcome Home.




One happy puppy that Mom came home!













 





  She has adapted so amazingly well over these past two weeks.  I see so much growth in her already.  
You can see how much she's changed here.  She's such an awesome little thing. 
 I am so blessed to call her my daughter.
 








Home

"Ciao, Colombia!"
The end of our process in country happened so quickly.  Our travels home were crazy! And our first few days have been quiet, finally getting some time to settle in.  Many times I look at my sweet girl and think, 'Wow, we made it, that is my daughter playing on our living room floor, or sleeping in her carseat on our way back to the house, or enjoying lunch in her high chair in our dining room, or snuggling together in the rocker in her bedroom, or spending our morning snuggling in Mama's bed."  Waking up in the morning and getting to walk in to her room and see that sweet face, knowing that she's going to be there EVERY morning, makes my heart so happy. 

We have taken this first week to simply 'adjust'.  Monday was a LONG day of traveling, lack of naps and lots of changes, really EVERYTHING in her world just changed into something new...except Mama.  So, we've just enjoyed exploring her room and new toys, chasing around the dog (and staring at the cat), enjoying meals in our own house (and a couple lunches out),  spending A LOT of time just playing.  We've ventured out for a few walks around the quiet parts of the island.  Tested out the swing in the little playground (while there weren't a million other kiddos there!) and even stuck our toes into the ocean.  Okay, well, the little one stuck her entire self into the ocean, but it was just a quick impromtu test of the water during a short morning walk.  Ocean water = big win.  She may not be a fan of the soft dry sand, but the wavey ocean water was a huge hit!  Can't wait for our first real beach day!!

First dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house!
We did have a few weeks in Colombia to begin bonding and J is really settling into the family VERY well.  BUT she also had a HUGE life change over the past few weeks.  Which is why we've been a little 'eclusive this first week home.  In many cases, families 'cocoon' for a bit after arriving home with newly adopted children.  You can read a bit more about cocooning and different ideas, in these other blogs...Natalie Keller wrote a great post here, and Jen Hatmaker (who's entire blog is AMAZING) wrote a great post in response to a question about families 'after the airport'.  It's a great read!!  As we had so much time in Colombia, I didn't feel we needed weeks to cocoon, but I knew that even though I was coming home and sort of jumping back into routine, that J was starting all over...again. And that was going to be tough on her.  She has been so great with all of the changes, but I do see how some things are a little tough on her.  Our first few days she had a very tough time getting to sleep and I think adjusting to being in her own bed in a different room.  The first time she slept in her own bed, in her own room, was literally, the first time she'd slept in a room alone.  That's a big deal for a kiddo who's spent the first three years of her life surrounded by other kids and people. She is adjusting, but we're taking it slow.  She has still been so good, even though I can tell she's off a bit sometimes, she's still super eager to see Grandma and Grandpa (and her uncles) when they come visit and she is really enjoying exploring her new toys, watching the dog and cat in their EVERY move and still loves a good snuggle with her Mama. 

Love playing with new babies!
We will be keeping a low profile through the weekend, even though I'm anxious to get back to church (and anxious to get her there as well) I think she needs a few more days before we jump into such a big crowd.  I know a lot of people are so anxious to meet the darling bunny girl and I am so excited to have some play dates and watch my girl get to meet new friends and enjoy her new life here on our little island.  We are going to start adventuring out a little more starting next week.  And of course, Mama will have to go back to work at some point...which is going to be so hard!!!  I am so excited to be starting our new life together here in such an amazing place with such great people!  I can't wait for everyone to meet my darling girl.  And for her to get to meet the hundreds of people who have been praying so hard for her (and her Mama) throughout every step of this process.

I know I have quite a few posts to catch up on.  (We had some great adventures while we were bonding in Bogota!) and some more specifics on the girlie and how she's been doing.  I will do my best to get them together and posted asap.

In the mean time, here are a few pics of our first few days home...



We stopped for a quick swing during one of our afternoon walks.  The girlie LOVES swinging (which does not surprise me, since she loves such big motion). It was so wonderful to see my sweet bunny enjoying the swings....with a view of the ocean. 

 On our first walk near the ocean, the tide was up so we couldn't really walk the beach, but we checked out the waves splashing on the rocks.  She was not really sure what to think! 








We tried again during another walk, when it was low tide and....

 the first step into the ocean was a HUGE hit!

 

 
We took a quick trip to the store, where she did great riding in the shopping cart (and of course needed a new pair of shades!)  And also went to Grandma and Grandpa's house for dinner one evening.  She loved riding around on her little car, helping get ready for dinner.




I would love to know what they BOTH were thinking.  She has a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the cat.  She really wants to touch her, but at the same time, the cat runs away (and moves quickly) and I think that makes her nervous!  (Which is fine! I'm not sure what would actually happen if she did make contact with the cat!!)  She LOVES watching the animals though and gets really excited when they move from place to place in the house.

Playing 'peek-a-boo' with the 'Peek-a-boo sock monkey'.  She's such a smart thing.  She loves peek-a-boo and loves when she can make the monkey play all by herself.  (And I love her little peek-a-boo hands!)

  

And of course, had to take a first trip to the book store.  She loves to look at all of the books and really can't get them off the shelf fast enough.  I think we'll definitely be making a trip to the library very soon, so we can actually take a few books home!!!












Hoteles Zuetana

During this trip, I stayed at a hotel that is specifically run for adoptive families.  There are a few different locations to this organization and where I am staying each family has their own little apartment type space.  In my apartment we have a bedroom, living/dining/kitchenette area and bathroom.  It's really just enough space for us and allows me to prepare meals for the kiddo so we don't have to eat out for every meal.  We have ventured out, of course, but it's quite nice to have a place to keep and make food that I know she will eat.  There is a nice common area/front yard that has a variety of toys for the kids and a patio area to still be outside if it's a little rainy, or just to chill with other families for a bit.  It has laundry access (which is great for such a long trip!) and still has a staff that runs the front desk, comes in and cleans our rooms as needed, provides fresh linens & towels and really just about anything we might need.  Need a blender? They'll hunt one down for you.  Need a prescription filled? Call the owner, she'll contact the pharmacy and voila, prescription delivered. Everyone that is a part of this place has really been extremely helpful and they work very hard to make the stay as close to 'home' as possible.  While here, a family had their anniversary and their daughters first birthday.  The owner babysat so they could enjoy a dinner out on their anniversary and helped put together a wonderful first birthday party for their daughter!  They also pulled out the grill and decorations for a pretty enjoyable 4th of July front yard cookout for all of the families here now.  It has just been a really great place to be.


   I have met some wonderful people here who I am glad to say have become friends and I know we will stay in touch through our lives.  There has been one family who has already gone home since I've arrived and another moved into the empty apartment.  Currently there are four families here from the US and one family from Italy. The majority of the kids are little (under 4) but there are two who are very early elementary and it's fun to watch them all play.  The oldest boy is so sweet with the little ones, such a kind and gentle soul.  Adjusting to a new family after 7 or 8 years is difficult, but this boy seems to have such a sweet nature.  

It's so great watching them all adjust to their new lives, watching them bond with their parents, it is REALLY great to be able to see those changes.  Little ones who a month ago had no idea what 'Mom' or 'Dad' were, now get jealous when another kiddos climbs into their parents lap, or when there are 8 adult outside, your child chooses YOU to come too for help or comfort or silly giggles.  Those are great moments that we will cherish forever.  We've gotten quite a few pictures with the other families and other kiddos and they absolutely will end up in Josie's scrapbook.  When she's older it will be so nice to have these memories.

It's also great to have those parents to chat with.  They understand the process, the frustrations, the joys, the simple little things that are such a huge giant deal when dealing with adoption and a child who spent their first year or two or three (or 7) in an orphanage.  It's so great to know that you can share about struggles that you may be having without fear of judgement and at the same time share that tender moment when your kiddo peeked through super tired eyes while falling asleep, realized you were still there laying next to them, smiled and fell back asleep.  And they get it.  They get how those struggles can be, yes, a part of everyday parenting, but the reactions are TOTALLY different with an adopted child.  And those little moments, yes, every parent treasures them, but they are the core moments when your child is still realizing that you are Mama and you aren't going anywhere and you do love them, all the time, no matter what.

I will miss this place and these people. 
 Our morning play times and afternoon chats.  Sharing stories and silly antics. 
Cab rides and city adventures with new friends.
 There is not anything I would change about my stay here...it has been wonderful!! 
 (Okay, I'll admit...I'm looking forward to a long hot shower...)












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