Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hello, My Friend!

In another life, I worked for a WONDERFUL State Farm Agent, Hilda Clifton. She also happens to be my mom... and we had some really great times. It was even more fun once my sister, Jamie was there. It seems like a lifetime ago.

It was working at the State Farm Office that I met one of my dearest friends, Bridget. The first day that she came to our office, I actually wasn't there. Bridget loves to tell this story... she says that Mom told her (and I completely believe this to be true...) that she sent me home to get a better attitude. If you've ever met my mother... you will know that this is absolutely something that my mother would do... and even moreso that I most likely deserved it. I love that lady! Tough love... but always love.

Anyhow... back to Bridget.

McCaleb loves Latitia!!!!

We became fast friends. We have had some of the most wonderful times... bless her heart... one of our first road trips we went to Mississippi to see Daddy. She wanted to start out driving. I don't know where the time went... it's a 7 hour drive... but "POOF" we were there. We talked, laughed, cried... it was the fastest trip to Mississippi ever! For kicks, since neither of us had been to Arkansas, we decided to drive across the bridge and buy souveniers just to say we had been there. :)

Bridget and Jennifer

When Bridget and I met, her daughter Latitia was TINY. She reminded me of Cyndi Lou Whoo from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. So tiny and so adorable! Now, Latitia is a 21 year old beauty, all grown up and even engaged.

We've been through a lot... that's for sure (Too much to mention here! :) ha)

On Saturday, Bridget and Gary were driving from their home in Michigan...passing through Kentucky on their way to her brother's in North Carolina... and stopped in for a visit. Latitia and her fiance Adam also came down from Northern Kentucky. It was so wonderful to get to see them! The last time I saw Bridget, was the first summer Ali and Rachel were home - when Latitia graduated from High School. The girls and I drove up to Michigan for a whirlwind trip. Since then we have added McCaleb and Sara! WOW!

The kids loved seeing Bridget and Gary... and as always they LOVED seeing Latitia. All the girls want to cut their hair like Latitia's... and McCaleb is just in love with her! Adam has a little competition there...

The kids were in awe of Bridget and Gary's bike. They were all ready to go with them! When they left, McCaleb had to get out his "motorcycle" so he could ride like Gary did! Such a sweet boy! He even let Rachel ride on back.

Gary and Bridget... it was so wonderful to have you all take the time out of your trip to visit us! We love you and miss you like crazy. We don't want to wait another three years before getting together again! Bridget, you should be so proud of your baby girl. She is such a blessing to everyone that knows her! She is a joy to be around. I hope that my babies grow up to be as wonderful a person that your Latitia Hope has turned out to be! We love you guys!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sara's Big Day (times two)

The month of September has been crazy for our family... and it seems that Thursdays have been the craziest! On the 4th, Sara's 5 month anniversary at home, and Tim and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary. On the 11th, Rachel had her teeth pulled... and on this past Thursday (the 18th) Sara turned 9 years old! WOW!

The fact that we will have a double-digit-aged child next year is not lost on me. I am amazed. But to know how easily that she has transitioned into our family and into our lives is AMAZING. We have had very few communication issues... she has been so quick to learn and so eager to please. We have had only one very small issue - and while it nearly scared me out of my mind - I don't think that after that one incident we will have to worry about it again. (Imagine a park, out of town. She asks if she can walk to the OTHER side of the park with some kids... I say "NO" since Tim was not with me and I have 4 kids to keep track of... so she asks another mother there...who says "SURE". I look up and cannot find Sara... terror grips my heart. You get the idea.) By the way, Mom... if you are reading this... sorry for ever doing this to you. I get it now.

Back to sweet Sara: The fact that Sara was turning NINE - ALMOST TEN was absolutely not lost on Sara. She has been counting down days since September 1st. Every morning she would say, "9 more days until my birthday - then I be nine." And at dinner that night she would change it to "Tomorrow is 8 more days until my birthday" already counting the day down - in advance.

We had family in from Missouri the weekend before her birthday, so on Saturday we began her birthday week celebration with a small surprise family party including Mamoo, Papoo, Aunt Jamie, Uncle Chuck, Briana, cousins Mickey, Betty and Chelly. It was so much fun! The best part (for me) was telling her why they were all there, as they carried in cakes, food, balloons and gifts! She was on cloud NINE. We played games, ate food, had cake... and she had a complete blast! She was a very good sport with all of it, even the games - I was so proud of her.

She loved her impromptu surprise party ... and it was really nice to get to see Mickey, Betty and Chelly again. Sara had only been home a month when they met the first time at out family reunion in May. So it was fun for them to see how well she has adjusted. (More about that, later.)

Sunday we began to "gear up" for her big day. We knew that we would have to be at the office, so at the beginning of the week we made arrangements with the Hi-Tech guys (who are a huge part of our lives) to be in town on Thursday - and we all went to her favorite restaraunt: Mi Mexico. She was sooooo excited. The waiters even sang to her and brought her out a wonderful dessert... and one of them put whipped cream on her nose. Sadly... I walked out of the office and left the camera!!! I was so disappointed. Not Sara. She says... "It's OK... I'll put whipped cream on my nose tonight. It's OK!" ;) She is such a hoot.

We went home - and she asked for Cheesy Chicken Tortellini for dinner. YUM. I am loving this sweet girl... she knows the way to MY heart. (pasta) Then we got out all the ingredients to make her cake. She was so excited - and asked if she could watch. I simply said, No... I don't think so. Her face was priceless. Total shock. And then I handed her an apron, and she was even more shocked! If you could only see how huge she smiles when she is so excited over doing something new. It is really wonderful! She loved every single thing about it... except for the egg whites on her fingers. That was a completey different face. She did a great job. She was so excited and proud... it was truly precious. These are the kinds of things that I love to do. I love it when I can sit back and watch the kids do something they have never gotten to do - and just see their face light up full of pride.

Later, after the baking - it was time to ice the cake. WOW. Sometimes, less is more. Not with Sweet Sara. TWO ENTIRE CANS OF FROSTING. She wanted the color of the cake to be Orange and Green. (sad... I was out of green food coloring) So she decided on white and orange. But then she thought it would TASTE orange. oops. Forgot to explain that to her. (Lucky for me, I had Orange Extract from the orange fudge I make.) So her lemon cake had orange icing. TANGY. Then she wanted to accent the top with more icing. White. We started out with a nice heart in the center... and then a couple of squiggly lines. And then more... and more.. and more. WOW. You had to literally eat this cake with ice cream to cut the sweetness.

Sara was so incredibly proud of her cake. And I was so proud of her. She shared each step with her brother and sisters... and let each of them have licks of icing, batter, everything. She is really such a sweet and generous girl.

After dinner we had cake and ice cream, and then opened her gifts. She was so excited. She wanted to share each item with everyone. She tried to read each of her own birthday cards... (Thank you, Dolly for such a WORDY CARD). The kids had made her cards from each of them... and she took the time to look closely at each one and compliment them on their hard work. It was very precious and sweet. She really embraced the entire day - and even saved a few things that came in the mail earlier in the week for her actual birthday celebration.

When we went to bed that night... she wanted to pray. She said Thank You God, for my family. That they love me and I am so happy. She then prayed for her other friends that are still in Guatemala... they they could soon come home on the airplane like she did to their families, too. That is my Sweet Sara. So kind, so unselfish... and so sincere

Tim and I were talking earlier about Sara. You almost hate to say things like this out loud... for fear that you are setting yourself up. But I am going to say it regardless... I am so amazed at how God had prepared this sweet child to come into our lives. She has transitioned almost seamlessly into our hearts and into our home. I honestly have a hard time remembering that it has not even been six months that she has been home. I keep waiting for "problems" to crop up. Not in a bad way... just a kind of realistic way. She did in fact have an entire other life before coming here to our home... and even before her two year stay at the hogar in Guatemala City. If you take into consideration all that she has endured the past two years alone... it really does boggle the mind. I am amazed! Not only by Sara... her eagerness to do whatever, whenever, and with plenty of enthusiasm. I am also amazed at Ali, Rachel and McCaleb. They have been awesome. From the very beginning, they have loved Sara unconditionally... and have never looked back.

Last year at this time... we weren't even sure we were going to be able to bring Sara HOME. Adoptions in Guatemala were stalled - and there was a real threat that we would never be able to get Sara home. As we have seen so many times in our life... God worked an incredible miracle. With the state of adoptions even NOW in Guatemala... it came at just the right time.

As the day drew to a close... I am very aware of how special this day was to our family. Since we began this journey to bring Sara home - she has spent two birthdays without a "family" other than the children at the hogar. This year we were blessed and honored to be able to show Sara how special she is to us... and what a blessing she is to our family. Happy Birthday Sara!!!