I could look at pictures of you all day, you are so cute! If you are old enough to be reading this, you know, however, that I would never want your beauty (which you have in spades) to be the focus, because of the million wonderful things that you are. Your beauty is the least of you, because you’re one amazing little girl – one that went through so much, defied the odds, and is now my niece! My brother’s daughter! I can’t get over how wonderful and weird that is to say. Your Dad is my big brother, and has always been my protector and best bad example and source of wisdom and advice and solace and a million other things, and now he’s your father. I can’t tell you how happy (and teary!) it makes me to say that. In fact, I remember the first day he picked you up from your original foster family’s home for their very first weekend visit with you, and how nervous and excited he and your Mom, Lindsey, were! Your Grandma was there, and she said Todd didn’t know what to do with himself when he first got you home – he could hardly get you out of your carseat and into the house! But look how happy and in love with you he was, from the first moments he had you in his life – like here, when he got you all safe and sound in the car before driving you home that first time.
There you are, kickin’ it in the back seat in a strange car with a big man you just met, already knowing you’re right where you are supposed to be. Such a wise little one!
Everyone who knows Todd and Lindsey knew that you were their meant-to-be little girl from the start, from the way they talked about you to the way they took pictures and obsessed over you, but we all played it cool – it was a long process to officially have you as their very own, so they didn’t want to get their hopes up TOO much about maybe someday being lucky enough to get to have a little girl as cool as you!
You have always been such a tough little chickie, and not just because you’re a Browns fan. You’d been through so much, more than anyone should, in the first year of your life. You withstood physical and emotional pain and abuse, being handed from person to person to home to home, and you took it all in stride with that sweet smile on your face. When I first learned about your story, I couldn’t believe such a strong, brave soul could be real and be in such a tiny angel, but there you were, in my brother’s new Daddy arms.
See how you fit perfectly, just so, into your his arms? You fit the same way into your family. You, Todd, & Lindsey, the three Musketeers, the coolest little family there ever was, in a pretty home in a quiet little town with your sweet purple nursery and everyone falling in love with you the minute they met you, from the social workers who saved you, to your first foster family, to your parents, to your grandparents, to your aunts and uncles and random people in stores and restaurants and… basically everyone. I have to admit, though, I was really REALLY really nervous to meet you! Your uncle and I were the last ones to get to, because we live so far away, and we’d heard SO much about you and how awesome you are and how everyone loves you and you love everyone that I was scared that somehow I would mess up and you wouldn’t like me. I’m not much of a kid person – I’d never even babysat before – and I couldn’t stop obsessing over what could go wrong. ‘What if I drop her?’ I worried. ‘What if she takes one look at me and starts crying?’ Everyone told me that was crazy, but I’d never really known a person as young as you very well before, and what I did know was mostly little people like you crying in restaurants and filling up poopy diapers and screaming on subway trains and generally being unhappy. ‘She’s different’, everyone said, and I knew in my heart they were right. Not to mention your Aunt Beth and Uncle Jeff were crazy about you, and you were just as crazy about them,
and that you and my best friend Audrey were madly in love and cuddle buddies from the start,
and so I hoped the same would happen for me and tried my best not to worry. But I worried. A lot.
So the time finally came to fly home from New York for Christmas and, more importantly, to meet you, and everyone was right. I loved you.
Even if you were looking at your Mama while I was squeezing you tight in this photo. I understand, because after all, she is an awesome Mom. I’d probably look at her too.
That week was full of getting to know you, of Uncle Tom juggling for you and me singing with you, me learning how to feed you, us trying to take a Christmas morning picture in our matching PJ’s your silly Grandma made for us all with your Dad’s camera phone but your dog buddy Samson putting his butt in the photo and cracking us all up,
and Uncle Tom and I giving you your bottle and putting you to bed for the first time,
even though I had no idea what I was doing, and me crying over you in your crib out of pure joy for my brother and his wife, for having finally found the perfect little girl they had hoped for and wished for and prayed for for so long… and you looking up at me from your crib with those big sleepy eyes as if to say, ‘Get it together, crazy lady I just met! I’m trying to go to sleep here! Geez!’
The best part was that the more I got to know you over visits and our Sunday video calls, the more I realized how much we have in common! Whether or not you end up a glitter monster or not, girly or sporty, nerdy or punky, I know that you and I are kindred spirits. You LOVE music – you can bop better than anyone I know, especially to bluegrass! You pounded out some serious beats right away on the bongos your Uncle and I got for you for Christmas, and you look awesome in a rock and roll t-shirt, especially ones with your Papa’s favorite band on them.
You look awesome in any outfit you pick out to wear, and you wear EVERYTHING! From jeans and tees to frilly dresses and feathered headbands, you always rock your look with plenty of sassy attitude!
You are also VERY silly. You are a true comedienne, and I can’t wait until you start to talk – I have a feeling we won’t ever get you to stop, because you already have us cracking up ALL of the time! I want to be like you when I grow up, because you don’t take anything too seriously, and you love nothing more than to make us smile.
I guess I’ve established that I love you to tiny, itsy bitsy bits, we ALL do, and that we were all REALLY really REALLY excited to have you in our family officially and on paper and in the record books and for the whole world to see. Because as much as you were a part of our family the moment you came into our lives, there are rules when it comes to awesome little ones like you – they don’t just hand you out to any old person! Your Mom and Dad had to go to tons and tons of classes, take tough tests, go through interviews, have their house inspected, and wait and wait and wait just to get to MEET you. Then they had to share you for a while, and after that they got to have you all of the time but STILL couldn’t adopt you until they had had you for SIX WHOLE MONTHS. It was a REALLY long time to wait. Finally, the day came when we were lucky enough to be able to have you join our family. EVERYONE was there – it was the biggest crowd the courthouse had ever seen for an adoption – and we all held our breath the entire ceremony, until the judge finally said:
and we all cried and clapped and cheered and took a million pictures while you CRIED and SQUIRMED more than I’ve ever seen you do before! Maybe you were saving it up for the first few minutes that Todd and Lindsey were your official parents to really show them what parenting meant?
It really was a wonderful day. Then, a week or so after your adoption ceremony, it was your second birthday (!!!), so your crazy Aunts couldn’t help but throw you a BIG FUN PARTY to celebrate you, Miss Ariana Grace Teschke, to our family and to your second year!
Did I mention your aunts are crazy? We might have gone a little overboard, but it’s just because we were so EXCITED! Everyone had so much fun. You got silly and did your now-famous CHEEEEEEEESE face,
your Mom and Dad got silly while reading the Jenga pieces everyone who came to your party signed (if you haven’t yet, go read them, because tons of people came and wrote about how great you are),
Grandma got silly with you and a GIANT GOOFY FISH your weird Aunts made for your fishy party,
Uncle Tom played with you alllllllllllllll afternoon, juggling for you and running around with you and being your wacky Uncle,
and did I mention that your Dad was, and is, very silly?
So that brings us to the present day. You’re a Teschke now, whether you like it or not, girlie, and that’s for life! I will always be there for you, your fun and funky Auntie who will take you shopping and teach you how to put on makeup and accessorize and take you to get your first tattoo (if you want one, of course, but you will want one – you are your parents’ child, after all) and your Uncle Tom will play sports with you and teach you how to play guitar (or bass, or drums, or euphonium, or trombone, or recorder, or Candy Land, or Final Fantasy, or… anything), and our house will always be a place you can come to to escape your LAME parents when you get older, and we will always, always, always love you so much you will inevitably get annoyed with us, too – but we won’t care. Because you are our Ari.
To the parents who will love you more than you can ever imagine forever and ever,
and to you, a one of a kind, amazing, brave, smart, funny, beautiful, miracle girl who was the missing puzzle piece that finally made your family complete.
We love you!