Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Our Funny Girl

Noelle practicing walking down our stairs

Things about our daughter that make me chuckle...

-The way she loves all kinds of liquid medicines - allergy meds, cough & cold meds, gas relief drops, etc. (When she sees us preparing the medicine dropper, her eyes light up and she says "mmmmm". Yesterday evening when I put her to bed and gave her her cold syrup, she smiled hugely and performed the sign for "More!")

-The way she says "Hi" to our friends in a whisper with a sidelong glance

-The way she flirts and blows kisses to complete strangers in the store or on the street

-When we hold her in our arms, the way she smiles indulgently down upon us while patting our backs

-The way she runs at top speed, giggling and screaming while rolling her head from side to side (mom and dad have to stay close, so she doesn't crash into innocent bystanders)

-When she 'putts' (as we say it in the Johnson household), the way she opens her mouth wide and gasps "Oh!", then pinches up her face and giggles

-The way she hugs and kisses her baby doll so tenderly...then flings her across the room

-The way she cracks up when she tells herself private jokes

-The way she loves looking at photos of herself on our digital camera
-The way she says "mmmmMMMMMmmmm" as we go down the grocery aisles

-The way she impersonates a teenage girl by having way too much fun trying on new clothes (family and friends have truly kept us in supply)

-The way she gives herself a sitting ovation every time she "tinkles" on the grown-up potty

-Every time we walk down our stairs, the way she nods to me and pats the top of her head (she recently took a head-first tumble down several steps, poor baby!) (And yes, she is fine, but scared me half to death!!)

Noelle making a fashion statement

(Okay, the t-shirt and shorts are my doing, but Noelle is

responsible for the choice in hat and shoes!)

Clapping for the American Idol contestants


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our World Has Changed (for the Much, Much better...)

A recent visit to the park with new buddy Austin W.

Today we have been home with Noelle for 1 whole month. WOW!!! Eric and I can hardly fathom it. We are still reminding ourselves almost daily that we are parents to a real, live child. Again I say, WOW!!!

Parenting is indeed a challenge. It is also very exhausting. (Our once quiet house is now like the Kansas Speedway race track, picnic food-fight, Worlds of Fun amusement park, Barney, and the K.C. Zoo - all rolled into one!) But, boy is it ever worth it!

The joy we experience as we see that happy smile on Noelle's face each morning- Listening to her giggles and screams of excitement as she runs through the house- Watching her cuddle with her Asian baby doll (Thanks Lisa M.!) or stroke her kitty cats- Playing hide-and-seek when her backside is clearly visible at the side of the couch- Wet, gooey kisses- And, oh, SO much more!

We give you thanks, Heavenly Father, for chosing this special little girl for our family. Help us to love and care for her as she deserves. And give us the wisdom and strength to raise her in such a way that she grows up to love you with all her heart. Amen.

The end of a serving of prunes-
Thank goodness she thinks it's pudding, 'cause we
gotta clear this recent blockage of her, ah, plumbing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cleaning Machine Extraordinaire!'

Noelle is the oddest kid. Whenever she's not making messes (often), she's cleaning up other people's!

Let me illustrate. Our 3 cats are sloppy eaters. Their food never stays in their bowls but ends up all over the floor. This has bothered Noelle from day 1. She is always going over to kitty corner and placing the kibble, one piece at a time, back into each dish. (And yes, she has tasted the food on several occasions, much to our chagrin. The kitties' food is a no-no, but Noelle assures us she is merely doing a quality control check.) Now when mom has the broom and dustpan out, even better! Noelle grabs both in her little hands and tries to sweep up the mess. This task takes awhile since the kibble just spreads across the laminate floor even further with every awkward swipe of the broom.

Another time my little gal demonstrated her housekeeping skills was when mommy made a mess. I had set Noelle's sippy cup on the couch, failing to notice that it had turned over. I didn't notice that the water was leaking into the cushion, but Noelle sure did when I sat her down on it. She promptly slid off the couch, found a slightly used napkin somewhere, and began dabbing at the wet area on the seat. She dabbed, dabbed, dabbed until she was satisfied, put the napkin on a side table, and went off to play.

My last example is the cutest yet. After an afternoon stroll with Noelle around the block, I wheeled the stroller into the kitchen (we keep it in the garage usually - don't know where my mind was that day). Problem is, I forgot that the wheels were very muddy from our excursion. Noelle looked at me with reproachful eyes when she noticed what I had done. She began to inspect the damage to the floor, but I whisked her away before she could kneel in the fresh mud. Well, I left it there to dry and we went off to other things, including fixing dinner to take to daddy at karate classes.

When we entered the kitchen again later that evening, Noelle spotted the patches of dry mud. She immediately grabbed a damp cloth that had been left on a chair and kneeled down by the stroller. Before I realized what she was doing, Noelle had already scrubbed one muddy spot off the floor!! And she proceeded to do this to all the other messy areas around the stroller!! (By this time, I was stretched out on the couch with a box of bon-bons...) Within minutes Noelle was satisfied with her work, plopped the wet cloth back on its chair, and headed to the living room to play with her toys.

Now, if I can just figure out how to get her to scrub pans...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Noelle: Feline moderator and disciplinarian

Noelle is very effective at keeping an eye on our 3 cats' inappropriate behavior. If they jump up on top of any surface, she is sure to grab handfuls of fur, yanking them off unceremoniously. If they sniff at any of her food or start batting around any of her toys, she yells at them in toddler Chinese. And if they fight with one another, she sets them straight.

This evening, our somewhat elderly cat Shadow was peacefully napping on the top of his cat "tower." Rainie, one of our 10 month old kitties, wanted to play with her best bud and started batting at Shadow's tail and face. Shadow quickly became miffed and fought back with some punishing blows to Rainie's face.

Well, Noelle was quite disturbed by this unruly behavior and immediately stepped into the middle of the action. As Shadow is her favorite Johnson cat, she ripped Rainie off the scratching post, threw her to the floor, and waved her hands while shouting a brutal scolding. This scene occurred 3 times while mom watched, chuckling from the kitchen.

Unfortunately for Noelle, Shadow did not appreciate his manhood being insulted by having a wee child come to his rescue. When I saw that Shadow was deciding whether or not to teach Noelle a lesson, I separated all 3 and sent them to their corners.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

One Month Today!

I can hardly believe it.
We've been parents to the most amazing little girl for one whole month!!!

God sure knew what He was doing we He brought the 3 of us together. She is just the right daughter for our family. Eric and I just keep praising the Lord for His special blessings.

Dearest Noelle, we eagerly anticipate the next 999 or so months as your parents. :-)
We pray for you a rich and joyous life!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Letting bygones be bygones

I told you all in an earlier post that soon I would fill you in on the rest of our China trip and the 30 hour journey home to Missouri. Well friends, I'm thinking it may not happen. I would LOVE to reminisce with you about the last week of our trip and fill in the details with the incredible sites we captured on film. But...I think I might just skip it.

I'm soooooo sorry. I know, it's terrible of me. But as great as some of the memories are, there are other memories I would rather forget. The illnesses (all 3 of us at one time or another), the stuggles with bonding, the fears and tears (mostly Noelle's...), the miserable 30 hour marathon flight home (with motion sickness), the squatty potty facilities w/out t.p. (actually, you sorta get used to them after your 5th or 6th time), etc. Our 2 weeks in China, however, DID bring us to some dear, precious families who will always be special friends to us and Noelle. We loved our guides - Rosa, Maggie, and Jane. We saw some fabulous sites that delighted and amazed us (I still can hardly believe we climbed the Great Wall!!). And, of course, we were given the gift of a lifetime - Noelle JiaZhen.

You see, I would rather look forward than backward. I am blessed to be back in our own house with our sweet daughter and my wonderful husband. I am blessed to be back in our town with our friends and worshipping with our church congregation (more like our family). I am blessed to be eating good ol' American food and sleeping in my sleep number bed. I am blessed to snuggle on the couch with my family and our 3 cats. I am blessed to have 2 marvelous parents and 2 fabulous parents-in-law, and a whole host of great siblings (in-law) and nieces and nephews. I am just blessed!

So if Eric and Noelle decide to take a vacation without me and I'm just bored to tears, I might take the 39 hours needed to post all the photos from the trip (dial-up, remember) and write a travelogue. Otherwise my sugestion is this. If you really want to see photos or hear stories from the trip, check out the blogs of the Denzel Family and the Woods family (fellow Hefei-ers), or some of the other AWAA families who traveled in mid-March. Several of them have written in great detail about the whole experience, and some even have photos/video of our family. Happy blog viewing!

For your viewing pleasure... (More pictures added 4/13/08)

Noelle barking at the scary kitties on our first or second morning back home
(she loves them now!)

The view from above

Noelle in time-out (Just kidding! She just really likes her little pink stool!)

She likes her tricycle, too!

(What do you think of the eighties socks-up-over-the-pants look?

I'm thinking we need to get some leg warmers, too)

Can we go outside, plllllleeease, mom?

Lookin' cool in my overalls (but mom, whazzup with the haircut?!)

Investigating the kitties hide-out

Grammy and Grandad (Jen's folks)

(We're working on getting a picture to post of Grandma and Papa Johnson with Noelle)

Helping the grandmas load the dishwasher

First Sunday back at church -

Noelle is not quite sure what she thinks about yet another new place

Checking out the piano - Maybe she'll put mom out of a job as accompanist!
(She loves our piano at home, so we'll watch and see if we have a budding musician in the family.)

Bathtime antics!

Grammy getting Noelle dry - Love those hooded towels! (Thanks, Karen!)

Do you dare me to jump? Huh? Do ya??

Get me to church on time!

(sippy cup - check!; snack trap filled w/ Cheerios - check!; Froggie - check!)

Waking up from a Sunday nap with daddy

Gaaaag me with a spoooooon!

While I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and Noelle was still in her booster seat finishing up her peach flavored apple sauce (mmmm...BIG smiles!), I started hearing weird sounds that strongly resembled gagging. I called to Noelle with concern, and she just looked over her shoulder at me and grinned. Okay, my kid wasn't choking or about to vomit. Whew!

Well, I continue loading the dishwasher and hear the sound again. Once more I call to Noelle, and she smiles back at me. Hmmm...

Then the third time Noelle gags, I go over to investigate. I notice that she is in the process of gagging herself with her spoon - literally!! I watch fascinated as my smirking 19 month old shoves her plastic toddler spoon back into her throat and makes an awful retching sound. I promptly pull the offensive utensil from her hand, and Noelle bursts out laughing. Crazy kid!

The Eighties and "Valley-Girl" comes to mind -- like, totally.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Our visit to the doctor...

(Sorry for the belated nature of this post, but here goes--)

Noelle's visit to the International Adoption Doctor went.....well-ish.

On the positive side--
-The visit was very thorough; 2 1/2 hours rather than the 1 hour we were expecting.
-Dr. Swanson was wonderful with Noelle. He repeatedly tossed a bouncy ball around the room with her, even digging for it several times underneath the exam table. He swooped her up from time to time with tickles when she tried to dig in the trash or get into other things that were off-limits. He graciously handled her stealing his pen and trying to tear his paperwork. He won Noelle over with his kindness, patience, and silliness. (It won mom and dad over, too!)
-Eric and I feel like Dr. Swanson is a well-trained and very capable doctor. We felt very comfortable with him and appreciate his genuine desire to answer questions / offer advice as often as we may have them.
-Noelle saw several nurses and techs for her various tests, and they all were patient and kind with Noelle. They also were very capable at their jobs.
-We have a follow-up appointment at the end of May. We will bring a stool sample with us to be tested, Noelle will see a pediatric heart specialist, and she will have a hearing test.

On the other side--
-Noelle was frightened of many of the procedures and cried full out several times.
-Mom and Dad had a difficult time watching some of the exams and tests performed on Noelle, and Mom almost didn't make it through Noelle getting 4 vials of blood taken or receiving the painful TB shot.

Thanks for your prayers. The visit could have been even more difficult were it not for prayers. But overall, we feel things went well, we liked the clinic (esp. Dr. Swanson and his nurse Ms. Carriker), and are thrilled and praising God at the positive feedback about our daughter. Thus far, the consensus is that she is a very healthy and happy little girl!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday's Sermon: The Johnson's Story of Adoption

Today at church, Eric, Noelle and I, in our traditional Chinese clothing, shared our journey of adoption and the lessons the Lord has taught (is teaching) us. We brought along several momentos from our China trip, and Eric prepared a power-point presentation complete with photos. We grabbed our stools (you know, for a nice casual approach) and launched into our presentation on the platform. Well, Eric shared from the platform, while I chased Noelle around the sanctuary and back up the platform and down again! She had quickly tired of grabbing for the microphones (she actually knows how to use those things!) and trying to stick her wet finger in the mic jacs. Poor Eric! I was supposed to participate by sharing my thoughts and insights, but Noelle decided that actions (hers) would be more interesting than words (mine). I think the congregation might just agree with that! ;-) They didn't seem to mind the show, as chuckles from the pews could be heard quite often. I'm not sure if anyone even noticed the photos up on the screen - the real thing was much more interesting!

Well, even though our presentation didn't quite go as planned, we were just so blessed to be sharing our testimony of God's grace and His many blessings in a room with so many of our friends (more like family members!). We were somewhat distracted and didn't cover all the points we had hoped, but in spite of that, we pray that God touched hearts today. We are so grateful for the way He moved on our hearts so many, many months ago - how God changed our view of His world and the lonely, fatherless children He loves so much. We pray that maybe someone present today felt God tugging at their heart and will obey the call on their life.

Eric and I couldn't imagine not stepping out on this journey. What we would have missed is unthinkable!! Through adopting Noelle, we have learned so much about our Heavenly Father's heart, yet there are so many more rich lessons ahead. We look forward to all that the future holds. Thank you, Jesus, for calling to us. Thank you for giving us the courage to step out on our biggest faith journey to date. And thank you for our precious daughter.

(What is our Heavenly Father calling you to today?...)

Noelle's physical is Monday morning

For the night owls out there, or the early birds, we just wanted to ask for prayer for Noelle's physical tomorrow morning at the Children's Mercy Internation Adoption Medical Clinic. The appointment is to last approximately an hour. I'm not sure how many doctors will be looking at Noelle or what kind of tests they will run. I'm thinking they will schedule us to come back for another visit with specialists to evaluate her PFO and past issues with proteinuria. We just really don't know any specifics other than what time to show up. Aren't surprises fun?? Please pray that whatever happens, the doctors will be very thorough in their examinations and that the Lord will give Noelle (and her parents) the courage and strength to handle yet another new experience.

Thanks everyone! I'll let you know what we find out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Cat Is a Thief

I hate to say it, but the littlest of our 3 cats, Stormie-too (named after a previous much-loved cat), is a thief.

Although all 3 cats are doing very well with Noelle and seem to love her inspite of the usual toddler tortures, Stormie-too still has her reservations about the newest member of the Johnson household. She still shrinks somewhat from Noelle's aggressive advances, so I'm wondering if the reason that our kitty steals from our daughter is-- latent frustrations.

If we forget and leave a bottle nipple overnight in the dish rack, we undoubtedly find it the next morning in Stormie-too's bed (and we still have not recovered the one stolen last night). If one of Noelle's dirty socks isn't put away in a timely fashion, it gets dragged around the house as well. Other items have met the same fate. Then today when we came home from grocery shopping, the soft green washcloth that had been hanging over the tub after bath time was now in the living room floor.

You might think it unfair that I accuse Stormie-too of this heinous act, but I have a strong circumstantial case: the cat is always found at the scene of the crime. If the thievery continues, I will decide whether to press charges or look for a feline therapist.

This investigation is ongoing.

Gotta brag a little

Since I wasn't able to get on the blog to brag on Noelle a few days ago, I'll do it now. ;-)

Noelle has been 'tinkling' on the big girl toilet!! Yay for mommy and daddy's big girl!!

I thought our daughter might be getting to the place where we could start some early toilet-training. She is very sensitive to her wet diapers and will always acknowledge the need for a diaper change, with sign language, when I ask. Several days ago I noticed her tugging at her pants and squatting down. So I walked her to the bathroom, placed her too cute little bottom on the toilet seat (sorry honey, I know this will embarass you later when you read this blog, but it's a mom-thing)(at least I didn't take pictures, but I'm still considering it...), and she went!! I clapped and hooted and kissed her sweet cheeks so that she knew mommy was proud of her. Then we wiped, flushed and put the diaper back on. This ritual has been repeated several times now. I'm thinking we're gonna have to invest in a potty chair and some pull-ups very soon!

I also wanted to brag on some of the new words she is learning. She has been singing and chattering in Chinese since we met her, but now she is learning to say "Dad", "bottle", "Bye-bye", "Shadow" (our large gray cat, her best bud), "socks" and other words which escape my memory right now. Eric isn't here and Grammy and Grandad are gone, so I will check with them to see what words I've missed. 'Cause there's more! Really there is!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

19 Months Old Today!!!

Our little punkin' is 19 months old today! What a cutie she is, with her thick shiny hair, dimpled smile and rosy cheeks. Noelle, you have brought such joy and wonder ('wonder what do 2 newbie parents do with a little girl such as yourself?!) into our lives. :)

We love you, sweetheart!

A quick update from the homestead

I am SO sorry the blog has been silent for several days. I just have hardly had a moment (or the strength/energy) to get to the computer. Things are getting better day by day as Eric, Noelle and I are adjusting to our new life together. We are still trying to catch up on sleep and working on getting Noelle into a regular nap and nighttime sleep schedule. We have our good days and our rough days, but overall I think we are moving in the right direction. My parents have been with us since last Wednesday but are heading home back to Knoxville today. We have truly loved having them here - they are having such fun with Noelle and have been helping greatly with household chores - but this has prevented us from getting into a regular daily schedule. I will miss them greatly, but look forward to a calmer and quieter home and having the opportunities to continue forming a strong bond with our daughter.

I just gave you all the barest of information on the last couple days of our time in China and hinted at the rough 30 hour trip home. This weekend I hope to fill in those gaps as well as provide details and photos of the past several days here at home. I must warn you however, that we are back home with our dial-up internet connection, so I won't be able to add as many photos as I would like. It just takes forever!! And with a busy toddler, I can't sit and watch the monitor for each photo to upload. Even though we were rarely able to get online in China, when we did have the opportunity, it was high speed, so adding photos was more practical there. Boy do I miss that! If I can figure out Flickr better (I haven't yet figured out if it can do a speedy download with our slow computer), I will just clear out Eric's laptop and our camera of all the photos from the past 3 weeks and put them up on that website for everyone to see. What'dya think 'bout that?

I've got to get back to my little sweetie - daddy is keeping Noelle entertained while mommy writes this quick post - but we both want to say a big thank you to all of our dear family and friends who have followed our journey so faithfully these past few weeks (and months). Your loving and supportive comments and prayers are deeply appreciated and have lifted our hearts and spririts. Our gracious Heavenly Father is a God of BIG love who gives such amazing gifts to His children. We continue to be humbled and amazed at the precious gift of our daughter Noelle. We look excitedly to the future as God's plan for her life, and our lives together, unfolds. :)

Just like Noelle is learning to do, I'm blowing you all kisses--