Well I haven’t decided quite yet how we are going to categorize and emphasize all these celebrations. Is every month since “Gotcha Day” going to be what we buy balloons over? Or will each month since our homecoming be the ice-cream-trip ticket? For now… this Mama’s answer is simply yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes. To all the celebrations, just yes.
When you’ve missed the first 18 months of milestones, the first smiles, those first little steps, the first “mamma, dadda,” etc. Well, you just make a BIG deal over everything for a while. I think that’s perfectly OK, right? Maybe after she turns two, we’ll choke it back a little. Maybe. Probably not.
But yes, today’s celebration is Month 1 at home. One month since we got off that plane onto the Texas soil that would make her a U.S. Citizen. And then after a seemingly momentary flight home to Nashville, one month ago today was the heart-thrilling day our Willa met her fan-club-of-a-family. I’ll never forget the beauty of that airport celebration. Jesus was in our midst. There’s just nothing like watching joy and love on display.
So one month home. How’s it going? I get this question every day and haven’t yet answered it the same way twice. There just are no words. I keep trying to get my answer just right, just eloquent-enough to really convey all that’s been wrapped up in these first few weeks. But I just can’t. This first month home has been a blur of sleepiness, sickness, and sweetness. The entire gamut of emotions has been not only implemented but fully exercised. Willa has certainly grown in her trust with us, but at times, I feel like no progress has been made. Really, “two steps forward, one step back,” is the very best way I can describe these long days.
I have kissed those little cheeks a thousand times, squeezed the fire out of those defiant scratching hands, raised my own towards Jesus time and time again. Yes, this month has been one for the books. But in spite of it all, a semblance of peace is creeping into our home. Now if you walked into my living room right now and heard the singing/screaming coming from the “no-nap bear” upstairs, you might be a bit bewildered. But trust me, the sound of each baby doll hitting the ground, thrown from the crib by her determined little arms, doesn’t tell the whole story. The slightest shift towards comfort is happening. It’s slow, but we’re in motion.
Yesterday, I finally took the time to save my China pictures to our share drive. I glanced at a photo that had never caught my attention before, and suddenly, I was right back in that moment. It was a glimpse of the day Willa was placed into my arms. The screaming, the thrashing of her tiny body, the look of pure pain in her eyes, it all came right back. I realized I’d almost forgotten about this little girl. Her pale skin. Those size 3-6 month pants on a nearly 18-month-old little body. Those scratch marks, oh my those scratch marks, mostly on her left elbow but also behind her ears and along the nape of her neck. Those scabbed marks of a stressed little girl, the marks of a little one who’d learned to deal with it all in this sad, self-soothing way.
I’d spent the last few days thinking no progress was being made. She seemed to be getting worse and worse with her tantrums, and mercy, nap time was the biggest fight of my life. But there in that picture, I was prompted to remember the journey of how far we’d come.
So today, we are celebrating the baby steps. The little changes, doors once closed now opened by trust and love. When I look hard enough, I’m easily able to see the obvious progress we’ve made. I don’t want to take any of it for granted. Lists are always helpful for quick recall, so I’m going to share with you just a few things about this first month home I never want to forget. For those of you who prayed our Willa home, please continue to pray for our transition to life together. “We got a live one,” Chad loves to say, and boy is he right. The Willa ride is full-impact but never disappoints. We are just trying to hang on and enjoy the ride. Thank you for continuing to follow our story. God is just getting started with this little girl.
In Your First Month Home:
– You’ve gone from a ravenous eater, to a picky little bird. Food is plentiful and the fridge is stocked. Why eat something you don’t want, right?
– You still love cookies, watermelon, and rice, but yogurt, string cheese, and peanut butter are your new jam.
– Your skin has gone from pale and scaly to honey-colored and smooth. Mama can’t quit with the kisses.
– You’ve learned to say so many words. “Bye-bye, stinky, Mama, Dada, Cici, Bubba, Poo Poo, and bath” are your favorites. You try to say “I Love You,” but your little tongue is still learning the “L” sound. It’s adorable and hilarious.
– Bath-time is still your favorite, but you’ve graduated from mere splashing to full-on water boarding yourself. You seem to love it, but mama is a little concerned.
– You try to swim in the bath tub and will lay down and put your head under to hear the difference between Dadda talking above water and below.
– You love to hide things. Especially mama’s iphone. This is a problem.
– You have learned to love your grandparents. Every time you pick up mama’s phone, you look at it and say Cici expectantly. When you’re “talking” on the phone, Bubba is your favorite to say.
– Reading books has gone from a heated battle, to one of our favorite pastimes. You’re still pretty bossy about turning the pages, but you love to say the words along. I never thought this day would come.
– You’ve gone from napping like a champ, to throwing every single thing out of your crib in defiance. Sorry girlfriend, nap time is not negotiable.
– You raise your hands and sway when we listen to worship music in the car. Mama wipes tears from behind her sunglasses.
– You rub noses with your mama and do a happy dance when Daddy comes home, Mama does too. You are so full of love.
We love you, Willa James. You are more than we bargained for and so much more than we even dreamed. I promise many more kisses in month two. I’ll trade you cookies for naps. Sound good??