A reason to be thankful
Eric and Tracey Malone know they have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. But at the top of their list is the fact that their family is all together thanks to an active little 3-year-old girl who has changed their lives forever.
After a two-and-a-half year journey of hope, heartache, uncertainty, and overwhelming joy, the Malones are celebrating their first official holiday season with their adopted daughter, Maddie. “We’re so thankful,” Tracey said, tears welling in her eyes. “We’ve cried many tears over the last few years.”
The Malone family of seven, including four older children, Austin, 17, Kobe, 14, Mason, 13 and Kennedy, 9, welcomed Maddie, who was born in Haiti and just turned 3, home last April after a long international adoption process.
Tracey Malone said Maddie’s adoption was never really part of her plan when she went to Haiti several months after a devastating earthquake leveled most of the country in January 2010. She was just going on a missions trip. “In fact, I had a whole list of reasons why we shouldn’t be doing this,” she recalled.
But the Malones believed God had different plans for them. And for Maddie.
After seeing the devastation in Haiti, Tracey felt compelled to talk to Eric about adopting a child from Haiti.
“We knew we couldn’t save the whole country, but we could make a difference in one life,” Tracey said, adding that Maddie was actually the first baby she held upon arriving to the orphanage in Chatulay. “The reality is she’s made more of a difference in all of our lives. “
The process of making Maddie’s adoption final included a total of nine trips to Haiti, which for Tracey, often meant leaving her four other children and family behind. “It was hard. It made me wonder if it would be worth it,” Tracey said. “But somewhere over the ocean that changes.”
“The unknowns were the hardest part,” Eric added.
The Malones recalled the hiccups along the way; which included a scare where Maddie’s biological parents took her from the orphanage where she lived. “We weren’t sure we were going to get to bring her home at all,” Tracey said.
The Malones credit their circle of family and friends with their ability to cope with the roller coaster of emotions that came with the journey to bring Maddie home.
That support system includes a group of 20 or so women who have been dubbed Team Maddie, who have provided a great deal of support to the Malone family through the entire process.
“I cannot say enough about the people who have come along side us,” Tracey said. “They’ve cried with us, laughed with us, raised money to bring her home.”
After having 7 months to adjust to life with an active toddler, and reflect on the experience that brought her home, the Malones said it was all worth it. “Six months ago, if you would have asked me if I’d do it again, I’m not sure how I would have answered,” Tracey said. “But now, absolutely I would. I wouldn’t trade it.”
The Malones said Maddie has adjusted to life in Minnesota remarkably well. “She’s done so well, we joke that people should ask Eric and I how we’re doing,” Tracey laughed.
When Maddie arrived in Minnesota, she spoke mostly Haitian Creole, but Tracey said she has adjusted well to her English speaking family. And when Tracey and Eric don’t understand her, they said they rely on Kennedy. “She’s Maddies’s translator.”
Tracey said adjusting to life in in the Great North — which could see winter temperatures up to a 100 degrees colder than Maddie’s native Haiti — has been nothing short of easy for Maddie who has turned into a true Minnesotan.
She loves the snow. She loves the cold. She even loves putting on her snow gear. Tracey said Maddie is fascinated at seeing her breath on cold days. “She watched me breath out and said, ‘Mommy smoking,’”, Tracey laughed. “Now she loves to watch her own breath.”
As any other 3-year-old would, Maddie’s curiosity gets her into trouble from time to time. “She’s so curious,” Tracey said, adding that Maddie even rivals the toddlerhood antics of her older brother Kobe. “Kobe was active — he would stand on the table — (Maddie) has dethroned him.”
Tracey said it’s hard now to imagine life before Maddie in the Malone home. Tracey described last year at this time, as a miserable season. “We were so sure she was going to be with us for the holidays,” Tracey recalled. “And she wasn’t.”
Tracey recalled a phone call she received from Team Maddie member Renae Goos last year. Goos told Tracey about a dream of Tracey and Maddie standing in front of the Christmas Tree. “At that point we didn’t know if that was ever going to happen,” Tracey remembered. “And now it will.”
Tracey said despite the chaos that comes with having five kids and raising a toddler, this holiday season she finds herself often sitting back and just watching.
“It’s amazing where we’ve come from,” she said. “We decided a long time ago whatever God was going to do with Maddie’s story we would jump on board with it.” We are just amazed at the impact it’s had so far.”
Tracey and Eric agreed that seeing their older children make Maddie a part of their family has been a particularly moving part of their journey together. Eric said he often comes home and finds Maddie playing with one of her brothers in their room. And although, Kennedy wasn’t real sure about sharing her room, Tracey relents that having a sister has been something Kennedy has been waiting for a long time.
“ We just love how they all love her,” Tracey said. “As a mom, that’s all you really hope for — that’s a great gift.”