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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