This time last year I was on a plane somewhere between Ethiopia and Nashville. Our journey to Zoe was coming to a close. We were getting ready to be HOME. All three of us, together, a family at last. I remember the days leading up to us being home my mind was racing. Could i do this? Could i be a mother? Could i be a mother to a toddler? Could i be a mother to a child that so vividly remembered her birth mother? Would she ever see me as her MOM. Would i be enough?

Ready or not, we were home!! Arriving at the airport was a night that i will never forget. We were surrounded by family and friends (who are just like family) who cheered as we walked down the terminal.  It was our first...First. Our first day in America as a family. Although it was overwhelming, Zoe was all smiles. She Was so excited to finally meet her FAMILY! This was just one of many First for my Zoe Girl.

First Time at Home
When we arrived home, Zoe got to see her new home for the first time. She was truly excited about her playroom and room. She was even more excited that her cousins were there to share in the excitement. Zoe had been counting down the days to meeting them. (Sophie, who went to Ethiopia with us- along with Patti Grams- had told Zoe all about her cousins. Zoe was especially excited about meeting Lillie because she was a "baby" Zoe instantly took to Lillie and began mothering her and carrying her around as if she were her very own baby. Little did Zoe know about the newest baby growing in Aunt Carrie's tummy :)

First time Away from Mom and Dad
So most parents don't stay the night away from their first child for months and months. Not us. Zoe's second night at home was also her first night away from me and Derek. This was not our plan. However, i ended up having to be taken to the Emergency room and stay the night and stay a night away from my brand new daughter. Not how i would have planned it, but just how things go sometimes :)

First Time at the Zoo
So all the books tell you to keep your newly adopted child at home the first few weeks and not go out. Well, since we had already not gone "by the book" so far, we decided to venture out to the Zoo on Zoe's first week home. She loved riding the carousel on that day and continues to love it today.

First Trip to the Beach

In July of 2001, we took Zoe on her first beach trip. Again not "by the book" Instead of a short trip to test out being away from home we went to the beach for 2 entire weeks. As always, our Zoe did great. Zoe truly loved the beach. She loved the sand, the ocean, the pool...everything. We experienced another first on that trip. We were at the beach on Zoe's fourth Birthday (her first in America). Of course, in Jones fashion, we did not let the fact that we were in a condo in Perdido stop us from decorating and celebrating. We spent the day doing things that Zoe loves. She spent the day with her cousins (WHOM SHE LOVES) we went swimming, we ate pizza, we went to a super fun restaurant where she got to get a glitter tattoo, and then ended the day at build a bear where Birdie was "born". (Birdie is one of the family in this house. Birdie does not miss out on much.

First Birthday Party
After returning from the beach we celebrated Zoe's Birthday with her very first Birthday Party Ever!! Zoe choose to have a Mary Poppins Party. From decorating kites to making piggy banks to hold their tupons, to chalk drawings and "racing" carousel horses, to eating spoons full of sugar, the day was definitely a "jolly Holiday" that was "Practically Perfect in Every Way."

 First Day of School
In September, Zoe had her First Day of School. We started the morning celebrating "Whooooo's going to Preschool". We had a "crazy" breakfast of Zoe's favorite cookies. We then followed the White Family tradition of a First day of School pic in front of the door on the front porch. Finally we were off. It was the first and only day that we were early to school :). We waited anxiously in the hall until this guy arrived. Will is Zoe's best guy. They are the best of friends. and i am so happy that they got to spend her first year of school together in the same class. I cannot stress how much she loves ALL HER COUSINS, but she and Will definitely have a special bond.

First Surgery
In October we found out some crazy news. As a part of Zoe's initial exam by the international adoption clinic we were told to have an x-ray of her chest. We honestly just forgot about it. She was a healthy happy kid and we just honestly never thought about getting an x-ray. After our amazing pediatrician urged us to go ahead and get it we went. By the time we got home, we got a call from the doctor- they had seen a spot on her lung. That led to 10 days of test, more test, a consultation with a surgeon and then October, 27, 2011- Zoe's First Surgery

 During the testing phase of this little journey we found out that 100% of Zoe's stomach was above her diaphragm. The crazy thing was she had NO SYMPTOMS. All of the doctors were amazed. We later found out that most kids who have this have it at birth, and most don't live more than a few days. How our little girl, in a third world country, with no medical treatment had lived 4 years like this is nothing but a miracle. We met with a young doctor. Our first meeting with Doctor Tom was one that i will never forget.  He showed us pictures of Zoe's stomach. He explained to us the severity of her condition and the importance of doing sutrgery as soon as possible. He then looked straight into our tear filled eyes and through his own tears said that he had a daughter the same age as Zoe and he totally understood how afraid we were but that he promised he would take very good care of her. I knew in that moment that we had been directed to the PERFECT doctor for us. So on October 27, we checked in to Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital for what would be one of the longest days of my life. Zoe was in surgery for over 7 hours. It was the longest wait of my life. My little tiny girl was on a table in the care and hands of a man we barely knew. After the longest wait, Doctor Tom came out. Everything had gone beautifully, He was able to do the entire surgery laproscopically (which we were not sure was going to be possible).

Zoe had done great and was ready for us to see her. Dr. Tom then followed us to the waiting room to meet and hug every member of our family! We were told to expect to stay in the hospital for a minimum of 5 days. Unfortunately that meant that Zoe would miss Halloween. We tried to make the best of it, as did the hospital. 

They had face painting and then a private concert for the kids and familiys with Rascal Flatts. 

Although Zoe fell asleep during the first song, it was a brief relief for Derek and I. For the first time, we didn't feel like we were in a hospital. We sat and listened as the group sang "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you". I thought about our journey to Zoe. How nothing had gone as planned and yet it was the exact road that the Lord had planned for us. After the concert, we went back to the room to settle in and start making Halloween plans since we would not be able to go home. Well, Zoe had different plans. She did not stay 5 nights in the hospital, she stayed only 2. Dr. Tom literally could not find a reason to keep her any longer. She never had one drop of pain meds outside of Tylenol and Advil. She never had any of the symptoms that she should of had after a surgery of that magnitude. She was perfect. She was happy, and she was ready to go home.

First Halloween
Well we made it home for Halloween. We were told to "take it easy" so we loaded up our Princess Tiana in a little red wagon and with our favorite flower, lightening mcqueen and ariel, we set out to trick or treat. 
Well, the wagon didn't last long. Before we knew it Zoe was running the streets. So much for taking it easy. 
She collected TONS of candy and really did great even when she realized that due to her food restrictions she would not get to eat hardly any of it.

First New Baby
After waiting and waiting the day finally came for Lucie White Roden to enter the world. Zoe was over the moon excited. She had been planning for months all the ways that she was going to take care of baby Lucie. She had let Carrie know what she was going to be allowed to do and that Zoe would do all  the rest. She also spent lots of time giving Carrie mothering tips (as if she needed them). Finally the day was here when she would get to see Lucie and hold her for the first time. 

 Zoe was so excited i thought she was going to come out of her skin. She could not believe that Lucie had finally come out. She was ready to begin her newest mothering gig. She instantly feel in love with Lucie.

Even today when she is running wild with Sophie, Will and Lillie, she will out of no where stop and very gently come over and give Lucie some special gentle love. She lights up when she sees Lucie. I believe that she takes true pride in the fact that Lucie is healthy and happy.

First Thanksgiving

Zoe had a truly blessed first Thanksgiving. We had much to be thankful for. She had spent her first 6 months at home. She had survived and thrived since her surgery and probably the thing she was most thankful for--- SOLID FOOD. Thanksgiving day was Zoe's first day off food restriction since her surgery. She had been a champ about the liquid and soft food diet, but my little meat eater was thrilled to bite into some turkey. Thanksgiving was full of fun. All the kids performed a play about the first Thanksgiving and Zoe ate herself silly. We all shared what we were thankful for and spent the weekend just being one very big happy family!!

First Christmas
There is neither time nor space on this blog to fully describe Zoe's first Christmas. It was AMAZING!! I will have to come back and blog on it later so that i can do it justice.

First Circus
For Lillie's Second Birthday we ALL went to the Circus. Zoe sat in utter amazement. She danced clapped and later mimicked everything she saw. As i watched the tight rope walkers, i felt like my future life was flashing before me. My little dare devil took in every step they took. I just new the day was coming when i would see her shimmy across something... and sure enough she has. The Circus was a great night for all of us. Lille had more fun than any kid i have ever seen. It was a great night of Firsts for many of the kids.

This year has been full of a lot of FIRSTS. And now, the day is finally here. April 30, 2012- Zoe's First Anniversary of being in America, of being home. My what a difference a year makes. Zoe is doing amazing. She is adjusted to our family, she is adjusted to our home, she is adjusted to our community, she is adjusted. This year has been full of celebrations. We have not missed one opportunity to celebrate and today, again we will celebrate. As i look back at this past year, i realized what a crazy year it has been. There have been wonderful days, and some very hard days. We have all 3 laughed a lot, smiled a lot, played alot and cried a lot. There have been days when i have asked myself those same questions i asked myself on our first day home- "Can i do this? Will i ever be enough?" I can say that the Lord is faithful in all things and that Today i can honestly answer all of those original questions with a big YES. I know that our life is not going to always be easy. Zoe still has a lot to learn, as do I. She and i are going to clash. We are SO So much alike. I could not have a child more like me if i birthed her myself. We do everything to the extreme. We Laugh hard, we play hard, we fight hard and we love hard. Zoe describes our family as 2 feisty girls and 1 slow daddy. We are both glad to have a 1 slow daddy because he is able to keep us grounded.

My sweet Zoe. This is been the best year of my life. I never knew what it would actually be like to be a mom. I surely did not realize it would be as hard as it is sometimes. But i also did not know how wonderful it would be. You have brought more joy to my life than i could ever imagine. You smile can light up a room and your laugh is contagious. You have such funny habits and phrases that you like to say. Every day is an adventure to you and you are FEARLESS. (which sometimes scares me :) You have the confidence that most people dream of having. I pray that is something you never lose. You a very curious and your questions are never ending. Even though you claim to not like learning, your constant questions let me know that you are constantly learning more and more each day. I can t believe how much you have done and learned this year. More than that, i cant believe how much you have taught me. You have stretched me in many ways. You have opened my eyes to things i had never really seen before. You love life. You go through each day full speed- and my girl you are FAST. You literally RUN through many days. You LOVE BIG. Your love for your cousins is one of my favorite things to see. You have such a unique and personal relationship with each and every one of them. So while you still think that aunt Carrie knows the most of anyone you know and even though you want to please her so, and even though you still at times ask to be a Roden, i know that you are right where you need to be. You are a Jones- You are Zoe Renae- A life Reborn. You are my daughter, and i wouldn't trade one second of this past year with you. I LOVE YOU AS BIG AS THE SKY. Thank you for a WONDERFUL FIRST YEAR OF FIRST!

You are my Sunshine!!

Love Mom.