Friday, April 18, 2008

Introducing Elizabeth Grace Smith

At the end of the last Lizzie update I said that I would have the next update out around Mardi Gras. Those of you who know me should have rolled your eyes and said "sure" in a very sarcastic tone. At times like this I am reminded of a poem.

It has taken too long
and this message is late
but quit you complaining
cause here's your update.

With that for an intro let's get right to the latest news.

The biggest and best news is that earlier today, April 18th 2008, Valentina Elizabeth Bohlen became Elizabeth Grace Smith. Judge Don Davis presided over the final step of our becoming a "forever family" when he granted our petition to adopt Lizzie and to change her name at approximately 9:20 this morning. Ashley, Lizzie and I want to thank everyone who has helped and shown interest in our journey and who has assisted in making Lizzie feel like part of the family, which she finally, legally is. Please continue to pray for us as we know the biggest part of our adventure and life together is just beginning.

The last update was sent right after New Years. As I told you, Lizzie had a wonderful holiday season. Ashley and I were both off work the entire week of Christmas which made everything even more magical. Ashley and Lizzie were also off the week following New Years. Ashley and Lizzie came to my work to have lunch with me several times that week. Lizzie has made some special friends with some of my co-workers who enjoy seeing her whenever she comes to the office. Lizzie asks about "Miss Rebecca" regularly and inquires as to when she will get to go back to work to see "Miss Rebecca" again. She also asks about “the man with the dogs” who she sees regularly at work waiting to pick up his wife.

The following weekend the three of us made our first out of town trip together. We travelled to Acworth Georgia to see our friends Dick and Mary Bird. Acworth is north-east of Atlanta. We got a late start as both Ashley and I had to work that day. Lizzie was very excited about the trip and had been looking forward to the trip for days. She was a joy to travel with. When we were north of Awe-burn, Roll Tide, she asked several times how much further and we did our best to explain to her how long it would take. I was worried that we would hear "are we there yet?" a hundred times but our explanations must have satisfied her because she never asked again. As evening set in we stopped at a Chick-Fil-A to grab some quick dinner. We saw that the restaurant had a play area and we told Lizzie that we were not going to have time to play because it would already be late when we arrived at our destination. Lizzie was resigned to this and made no fuss about it, but while we ate I could see her looking at the play area. I told Ashley that I could use a cigarette before getting back on the highway and so we told Lizzie that after we ate she could play just long enough for me to smoke. I watched from outside as she played. When I tapped on the glass and told Ashley I was finished, I watched as Lizzie got her shoes on and then gave each child in the play area a hug goodbye. Lizzie can made friends the fastest of anybody I know and she does not make acquaintances, each child she plays with is her new "friend."

During our weekend trip, we visited the Atlanta Aquarium. When we got to the Whale Shark display we stopped for a short while to enjoy the display. Ashley and I sat on the bleachers but Lizzie wanted to sit down right in front of the glass. After a few minutes another little girl came in with her parents. Lizzie introduced herself and the two of them started talking and looking at the fish, pointing out interesting fish to each other. When the little girl's parents said it was time to go, Lizzie had to give the little girl a hug. When Lizzie walked back to where we were sitting she had a sad look on her face and said, "I'll probably never see my friend again." We asked her who she was talking about and she said her new friend she just met. Lizzie never meets a stranger. About an hour later we were in the car going to the Atlanta Zoo and Lizzie got real quite. When we asked her what was wrong she said "I miss my friend." What a kid!

The next day, on our trip back from Atlanta we stopped by Pine Mountain, Georgia to visit a drive-through zoo. Lizzie took great joy in feeding all the animals from the car with one exception. While feeding an Ostrich, she held onto the food a little too long and the impatient Ostrich grabbed the food pellet from Lizzie's hand along with one of her fingers. Lizzie had such a hurt look on her face and big tears welled up in her eyes. But after a little consoling she was OK again. But she did not want to feed any more Ostriches. And for days she blamed me for her getting bit. When we asked her what her favorite part of the trip was, she never failed to mention her least favorite part, the Ostrich. Of course we have the entire incident on video and now Lizzie enjoys watching as the Ostrich grabs her finger.

Mardi Gras was very early this year. Now I ain't naming any names but someone very close to Lizzie is in a Mardi Gras organization and they paraded in January. Lizzie took great joy in visiting the float barn and looking at the floats before the parade. She enjoyed going to the different floats and getting beads during float load-up the night before the parade. Her grandparents brought her to the parade and then took her home to spend the night while Ashley and I attended the ball. Lizzie cleaned up at all the parades. Especially at the Joe Cain Day parade. She was the only child for about 50 feet in each direction of the parade route and she got an average of two stuffed animals from each float. I was glad to see the end of the parade because the huge bag we brought for her swag was overflowing.

Lizzie's birthday fell on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras Day, so Ashley took her out for a special day as the public schools in Mobile are closed for Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday. They started the day at Libby Lu's in the mall where Lizzie had a Hannah Montana make over. Following the make over they had lunch at Chuck E. Cheese where Lizzie hit a jackpot on one of the games giving her close to 1000 tickets. Ashley said that when Lizzie turned in her tickets she was very excited to be picking a prize from one of the shelves and not trying to decide which color of spider ring she was going to get from the display case up front. After Chuck E Cheese the two of them went to the Hannah Montana 3D concert movie. That night we had Lizzie's family birthday party. Her Grandparents came for dinner, Lizzie picked the menu, Spaghetti and Meatballs, which was what she picked for our first meal we had together the night she came home with us and we became a family. We had cupcakes and ice cream and she got her family birthday presents. It was a full day.

The following Saturday we had Lizzie's big birthday party at Pump-it-Up. Lizzie had invited about 25 kids from school and church along with all her cousins. We had a grand time but the most memorable moment came when Lizzie's 83 year old grandmother insisted on going through the inflatable obstacle course. Some people were amused; some where shocked but most were just worried, including me. Lizzie cleaned up on the presents and had a great time. Lizzie's hair was soaked with sweat from jumping and playing so hard.

Not long after we became a family, I gave Lizzie my old digital camera which I doubt I would ever use again. The cost was nothing since I had the memory stick and charger and the camera was a lot better than the cheap digital cameras that they sell in the toy stores. The camera is just a 1.3 mega-pixel but it is a Sony and it still takes good photos. Earlier in the year Lizzie entered some photos she had taken with her digital camera in a Cultural/Arts competition which the PTA at her school sponsors. Two of the three photos she entered were selected to represent her school in the county wide competition. Lizzie was very glad to win 1st place in her category in the county competition. Lizzie attended the awards ceremony where she received a certificate and a medal. Her winning photo went on to the state competition but was not selected, maybe next year.

Lizzie has had a full social calendar. She has been to a bunch of birthday parties, including a tea party themed birthday party at Spot of Tea and a skating party. Lizzie picked up on skating very quickly. Lizzie has also started enjoying going to the park again. Those of you who have been following these updates from the beginning will recall that when we first became a family Lizzie would get depressed and be very quite and timid when we visited parks. Now she loves going to parks. We have taken her to Mobile Municipal Park to feed the ducks and play. We have also visited Cottage Hill Medal of Honor Park several times, including once with our Sunday school class for a picnic. Each time Lizzie has had a great time. She will play with any child she meets. Whenever friends stop over with their children they are all her best friends by the end of the day. Following the Tea Party we took Lizzie to the Chili Cook-Off in downtown Mobile. Lizzie particularly enjoyed listening to the live music but I was amazed at the fact that she wanted to try several of the chilis.

Lizzie was given a children's Bible storybook and she enjoys having the Bible stories read to her. One day on the way to school Lizzie was talking about the virtues she was learning at church and the way the devil tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. She was being particularly hard on the short comings of a couple of her classmates who shall remain unnamed. She was going on about how the devil was in this classmate's heart and how the devil made this other classmate do something bad. Ashley said it reminded her of a preacher in the pulpit. Ashley said she felt like saying "Preach it sister" but instead she reminded Lizzie about something which she had gotten in trouble for the day before and asked Lizzie if it was Jesus or the Devil in her heart when she got in trouble. Lizzie was real quite for a few seconds and then said "I don't want to talk about that any more. Let's sing." Lizzie then immediately began singing a song she made up on the spot about loving Jesus. Ashley said that she had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing and that Lizzie reminded her even more of a country preacher with the speed with which she recovered and changed the subject.

Lizzie has started playing T-Ball and seems to be picking it up OK. She sure looks pretty in her uniform with her pink cleats. She plays all her games at Christ United Methodist Church on Grelot. She is half way through the season now and enjoys playing. E-mail me if you would like a schedule. Lizzie has decided she wants to play flag football this summer. She could choose between cheerleading or flag football. Lizzie said that she would rather be playing than watching from the sidelines. She has also signed up for swim lessons and then will join the swim team this summer.

Easter carried on for a full three weeks for Lizzie in typical overdoing it Smith fashion. Two weeks before Easter our church had an Easter egg hunt, Easter stories, Photos with the Easter bunny and a pancake breakfast. I think Lizzie got 89 candy-filled Easter eggs on that hunt. The following week Lizzie spent Saturday night with her grandparents and visited their church. It was Palm Sunday and Lizzie was very excited about holding a palm frond during the service. We had read Lizzie the Easter story about a week before and Ashley mentioned that her parents church celebrate Palm Sunday with palm fronds so she was all into going. The church also had an Easter egg hunt before the service. Lizzie again filled her basket with candy and scripture filled eggs. The following week, Easter, we discovered that the Easter bunny had visited our house. Santa must have given him directions. The Easter bunny had filled Lizzie's basket with goodies and a few toys and he even left Easter baskets for Ashley and me. Apparently the Easter bunny was very busy while he was at our house as he hid some candy and toy filled eggs out side in the back yard too. Following all that excitement we continued our day by going to church. Lizzie requested to attend the adult service with Ashley and I which we obliged. She behaved very well and was quite and attentive. Following the service we first went to Ashley's parents’ house and had Easter dinner and several egg hunts in the front yard. Then we went to my families Easter celebration where more Easter egg hunts were held and another Easter dinner. All in all she made out about as good as Halloween in the candy department. Next year I am going to ask the family to donate to her dental fund in place of Easter candy.

As I mentioned earlier, we read bible stories several nights a week and we recently read the story of Joseph. To refresh everyone's memory concerning old testament history, Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel in fulfillment of God's promise to Jacob's grandfather Abraham to make his offspring a great nation. Joseph was the twelfth son of Jacob and was his father’s favorite. You might remember the "coat of many colors" Joseph was given. This made his brothers very jealous. God had blessed Joseph with the ability to interpret dreams. This again brought friction between Joseph and his brothers. While on a trip away from home Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and reported to their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. From slavery Joseph was put into prison where he spent many years. While in prison, Joseph correctly interpreted a dream for a person in Pharaohs royal court. Years later Pharaoh was plagued by a set of recurring dreams and the member of Pharaohs court for whom Joseph has interpreted his dream years earlier suggested that Joseph may help. At this time Joseph had been either a slave or in prison for 13 years. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream to mean that Egypt would have seven years of great harvest and followed by seven years of famine. Joseph proposed a plan to save Egypt by harvesting all the grain that could be harvested in those seven years and storing some for the coming famine. Pharaoh changed Joseph's name and made him second in command of Egypt, in charge of overseeing the storage of the grain and answering only to Pharaoh himself.

When the famine hit Joseph had been apart from his family for 20 years. To Josephs surprise he once again saw his brothers when they travelled into Egypt to buy grain; the famine had also hit Canaan. Long story short, God had a great plan for Joseph but in order for Joseph to be in a place where he could save his entire family, who were the twelve tribes of Israel, he had to be sold into slavery by his brothers and spend years in prison. After reading the story I reflected on this and tried to relate this to Lizzie's life before coming to us. I explained to Lizzie that God knew that she was destined to be our child even before we knew that we could not have children of our own. And in order for Lizzie to be in a place where we could find her and become a "forever family" she had to be adopted by her previous family. They got her from Russia into the US, something that Ashley and I were not in a position to do, and although it was not the most pleasant time for Lizzie it was like Joseph being in prison, but it was God's plan to put her in a place where we could find her. That seemed to be comforting to Lizzie and to give her some closure on why God had put her in that home. I truly believe that it was the hand of God that kept Lizzie and her previous Mother and Father from bonding. It made the separation that much easier for Lizzie, one from which she has never looked back.

Sorry there is no real news in this update. I just know when it is past time for another update. After about the fifteenth person asking "When is the next 'Lizzie' update coming out?" I figure I should get busy. As time progresses and we fall into our routines we have fewer and fewer interesting incidents and memories of the bad days. I really cannot remember life without Lizzie. I pray that each of you know the happiness that I feel each time I hear the word "Daddy." Thanks again for sharing in our story.

Reggie, Ashley and Lizzie

PS - The story of Joseph can be found in Genesis Chapter 37 and continues in Chapters 39-50. Hint: Genesis is in the front of the Bible.


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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Very Lizzie Christmas

The Night before Lizzie
The Perfect Christmas Gift

I could not decide what to title this Christmas / New Years edition of the "semi-irregular Lizzie Update" so take your pick.

One thing that Ashley and I regret is that we do not have and probably never will have any baby photos of Lizzie. As I was preparing this update, Ashley was going over the paperwork that came with Lizzie, her owners manual. Actually Ashley was looking for Lizzie's social security number and ran across something we had not seen before, it was a rather crappy quality photo, printed on regular copy paper of Lizzie when she was about two years old. At the bottom of the page is a notation saying "The e-mail photo of her from the orphanage before our trip." Will wonders never cease? I have included the photo with this update. Remember that the source is very poor but we are thankful just to have any photo of Lizzie when she was younger.

Lizzie had a fantastic Christmas. Right up to Christmas Eve she never added anything to her paltry list of items she had given to Santa. On Christmas Eve we had the traditional Smith Christmas gift exchange at my brother’s house. As usual it looked like an explosion at the Christmas gift wrapping factory. All the children made a very good haul with tons of swag. My mother decided to come home with us and spend the night so she could see what Santa brought Lizzie the next morning. I drove Mom in her car and Lizzie rode with Ashley back to the house. When we arrived home it was already 10:30 PM and we still had to get Lizzie to bed so Santa could come. Well, having missed the first five and a half years of Lizzie's life we had some Christmas Eve traditions to create, reindeer food, cookies and milk for Santa and reading "A Visit from St. Nick," more commonly know by the first line of the poem, "Twas the night before Christmas."

The proceedings were going kind of slow and I knew that I needed to speed things up a little so while Lizzie was taking her time, carefully laying out the reindeer food for Santa's team, I went into action. I asked Ashley loud enough for Lizzie to hear if they had listened to the radio on the way home and Ashley answered no. Perfect. I then announced that I had heard on the radio that Santa was running a little ahead of schedule and was already in Atlanta and would be getting into Alabama in about twenty minutes. You would have thought that Lizzie's butt was on fire. She finished putting out the reindeer food in about two seconds. She was rushing around in the house ready to get her pajamas on and get into bed. We had to encourage her to take a minute to get some milk and cookies out for Santa and she was totally ready to skip the reading of "A Visit from St. Nick." Ashley telling her that the story was short was the only way we got to read it to her. She was still rushing Ashley to read faster and to turn the pages. During the story she asked what a "clatter" (as in When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter) is. We explained that it is a loud noise. After the story as we said prayers and gave good night hugs and kisses, Lizzie asked if we had any "of those things to go in your ears so you cannot hear." We asked her what for and she said she was worried that if she heard a "clatter" outside and woke up Santa would not stop. Her head hit the pillow and then I had to go to work to get a couple of things. I heard from Santa that his helper elves stayed up until three AM putting a trampoline together and an electric car for Lizzie that night.

Christmas morning came early. Lizzie awoke Ashley and me about 6:15. We had told her to come get us and not to go into the den without us. I got my robe on and told Lizzie to go wake up Mom while I went to check and see if Santa had indeed stopped by the Smith house. As a tradition from Ashley's youth I yelled down the hall that I did not think Santa had come but that Lizzie could check anyway. As she come down the hall she had a worried look on her face but when she got in the den her face lit up and she said, "He did come. He did come" as if she was not quite sure that he had. She absolutely sparkled with enjoyment and the wonder of Christmas. As I mentioned in my last update, Lizzie had an elf, Emma, come live with us during the holidays. Emma went home with Santa Christmas Eve but she left a note for Lizzie. We found the note after the gifts were opened. In the note Emma said that she would be sorry to be away from Lizzie but that she was going to work real hard to finish all her North Pole chores so she could come back next year and spend the Christmas holidays with Lizzie again. Emma also said in her note that she asked Santa why he had left Lizzie rocks last Christmas. Santa said that he was sorry for the rocks and that Lizzie had been so good that he left her something special outside to make up for the rocks. Of course we live in beautiful Mobile Alabama and Santa brought something else with him from up north, rain. Lizzie had to put on her rain coat and rubber boots that her Aunt Ashley gave her and use her umbrella to check out the trampoline and to drive her car around the yard once.

After breakfast we loaded up and visited Ashley's Aunt Andrea and Uncle Tim to get the Gray side of the gift giving started. We had a wonderful Christmas lunch and exchanged gifts. Then we loaded up and went to Ashley's parent’s house for even more debauchery. It was a late evening getting home but Lizzie had to jump on her trampoline again, once again getting soaked even though it had stopped raining hours before.

The next day, Ashley's parents and her niece Avery come over to spend the day and play. After work Ashley's brother came over and we all had chili and cornbread. Thursday was just a play day with Lizzie and Friday our friends Steve and Julie came over with their grandchildren Daven and Mason. Daven spent the night and Saturday morning with Lizzie. Sunday we had more friends with children came over, Tiff and Chris came with their children, Logan and Gannon. Needless to say Lizzie has had a wonderful holiday season. But even with all the toys and playing, when we asked Lizzie what she liked the most she said "my new family." I want everyone who has helped us shower this angel from heaven with the love she deserves to know that you are all part of her "new family" and we thank God for each and everyone one of you.

In the words of the legendary Ron Popiel, inventor of the Pocket Fisherman, But wait, there is more...

We have achieved Schaefer. Right after the last update we received an invitation to Schaefer’s birthday party. To refresh your memory, Schaefer was in Lizzie’s extended day class at her old school and the only friend she ever mentioned from her life before us. Schaefer had an army birthday party at a park in Daphne. Ashley took Lizzie shopping for some camouflage pants and a shirt. We never told her that we were going to see Schaefer or an army party. She kept asking why we were buying boy clothes. On the day of the party we told her we were going to a birthday party for a friend of "Daddy's," that little white lie helped explain the birthday present we were taking. Now this is reaching way back but if you remember from the earlier posts that Lizzie's old parents lived in Daphne. Each school morning, Lizzie rides with Ashley to one of the exits right before the tunnel. Well on this day Lizzie was her usual self right up to the point that we went through the tunnel heading to Daphne. She was so quite that Ashley asked her several times if she was alright, each time Lizzie answered that she was OK and nothing was wrong. Well we got off at the Daphne exit and started heading to the park for the party. Lizzie never said a word. We passed right by were she used to go to school and her old parent’s home and she was still quite. We then passed the park where her old parents gave her to our attorney she still did not say a word. When we turned to go to the park she started asking where we were going again and we told her to a birthday party for an old friend of mine. Well, she finally asked what the name of my old friend was and I told her "Schaefer." She became a little more animated and said "Schaefer? I have a friend named Schaefer." I said "Hmmmm. I wonder if it might be the same one." Just then the park came into site and she saw Schaefer. I was worried that she was going to jump out of the car. She played and played and had a great time. For party favors Schaefer gave out toy canteens with lemonade, toy dog tags, toy soldiers with parachutes attached and plastic army helmets. A tank was the piƱata. We stayed until the last person left and Lizzie did not want to leave then. On the way home we again had to drive past Lizzie's old parents home and again she did not say a word but when we drove by her old school seconds later she was quick to point out the school to us. I feel that on the way over Lizzie may have been worried that we were returning her to her old parents which is why she "shut down," or it could have just been an automatic response which she was not even aware of caused by the familiarity of the route we were taking. I don't know.

This past Monday while I was at work, Ashley took Lizzie to get her a new pair of tennis shoes. While measuring her feet the salesperson asked Lizzie her name. Lizzie responded that it was "Lizzie" but soon it would be "Smith." The lady looks quizzically at Ashley but then Lizzie continued. Lizzie said that she was being adopted and loved her new family. The lady responded that Lizzie was going to make her cry. Lizzie then reached out and stroked the lady's arm and said reassuringly "Don't cry. It's a happy thing."

Now for the big finale...

The Thursday following Christmas I was outside smoking when our attorney called. She asked if I was sitting down and then told me that Lizzie's old parents had signed the papers consenting to Ashley and me adopting Lizzie. As early as next week we will be ending all actions in the Juvenile court and file in Probate court to adopt Lizzie. The attorney said that once the papers are filed, a court date will be set for the hearing. We expect a court date in mid-March. After getting the news from our attorney I was still outside smoking when Lizzie came to the door to tell me something. I told her to give her Mom a message from me. I said something like, Tell Mom that Ms. Donna called and your old parents have signed the paperwork so you can become a Smith. Lizzie's eyes got real big and she did not say anything but just kept staring at me from inside, then she slowly started closing the door and staring at me like she was expecting me to say "Just Kidding!" Finally all I could see was one eye as she kept slowly closing the door and staring at me. I stopped her and asked her what she was going to tell her Mom and she repeated it back to me, getting in a rush now to go tell her Mom. She closed the door and seconds later I heard her Mom shouting and laughing from inside the house. I went inside and we all danced around holding hands and singing "We're gonna be a family, we're gonna be a family." If you ask Lizzie now what the best Christmas gift she received this year was she will tell you it is her new family. I want everyone who has helped us shower this angel from heaven with the love she deserves to know that you are all part of her "new family" and we thank God for each and everyone one of you.

God Bless us everyone.

Reggie, Ashley and Lizzie Smith.

I will send out another update sometime during Mardi Gras.

If you received this Lizzie Update as a forward and would like to start getting your own copy then send an email to and you will be automatically added to the distribution list.

If you are receiving these Lizzie Updates as a forward and want to stop receiving them then you need to tell whoever is forwarding them to you. I cannot do anything about that. However if you are receiving these Lizzie Updates from me and you do not want to continue receiving them, then send me an e-mail at and let me know you want to be removed.

Photos of Lizzie can be viewed at and at

Missed an update? Catch up on all the Lizzie updates at