Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Amazing Grace

I missed Gracie's gotcha anniversary, as I was in Orlando last week with my friend and her family. (Disney World in June... hot, crowded, long lines... but SO MUCH FUN!) so I'm about 8 days late on this, but of course can't forget about the year that has passed since we met Miss Grace!

June 21, 2010. It was a Monday. We were sitting at a restaurant with the other 2 families in our travel group when all of a sudden, someone says, "Oh my gosh! It's already 1:30!" We quickly left, went back up to our rooms to grab some stuff, and met back to leave for the civil affairs office. 

One word to describe the bus ride. Anticipation. We had no idea what to expect. We were driving all over Nanchang, taking in the sites, pinching ourselves to remind ourselves that this was all real. That we would be meeting our sweet Grace within minutes.

The past 7 months of staring at her pictures and praising God for the MANY miracles he provided all along the way... and it was all coming down to this.

We walked in and I scanned all around for OUR Grace. She wasn't there yet. Babies were screaming as miracles were taking place all around the room. There truly is no way to describe the miracle of adoption. It's a beautiful thing.

Whereas our other gotcha moments have been less hectic, this one was incredibly crazy. The tiny room was packed full of people. 2 of our 3 were in tears, there was a leak in the room, kids were crying, parents were crying... it was HECTIC.

And then she walked in and everything stopped for a moment. All I could focus on was MY sister walking toward us. The precious 10 year old girl we had prayed for throughout the past months... with the biggest smile I've ever seen.

She walked over and just looked at us, slowly approaching each person in our family. And over the next hour, we stayed in that room, getting to know each other.

Adopting an older child is so different. It's awkward, but it's amazing. In her, we saw this DESIRE to be adopted and to have a family. She wanted to be helpful. She would always stay close to us-- holding onto the stroller everywhere we went without even being asked to. She loved to hold hands as she would walk around. She had grown up knowing how it is to be in a family, and as a result, she has adjusted beautifully to being in one. There was an absolute love of life that was so obvious then and continues to be incredibly obvious. 

From the moment we met her, she has always been our amazing Grace. She is strong and brave. She is beautiful on the inside and out. She is helpful and obedient. She is HILARIOUS and always cracking us-- and herself-- up. She is such a tom boy and getting her to wear skirts and dresses is no easy task. She loves having a family, loves her siblings, and has an especially close bond with AC. They are a bit competitive with each other and have their moments of arguing, but since the day we met her, they have been best friends. 

Her English has come so far. I remember Mom and I would wonder if she would EVER speak English, because the first couple of months it was just not there and she didn't even really try. Yet now, if it weren't for her strong accent, you would never guess she has only been home from China for 1 year and only knew the most basic English words prior to coming home. And although she admits sometimes that she has forgotten a couple of her Chinese words, she has still retained much of her Mandarin. She has a few friends that were also adopted from China that she talks to every once in awhile and I just love to hear her talking away in Mandarin, the beautiful language that is so much a part of her.

She has come so far in this past year. She is SO much a part of our family and it is shocking to me that it has only been a year. I am so thankful that God called us to her family on that day back in November of 2009. She was an unexpected surprise, but an amazing little girl that fits so perfectly into our growing family. And speaking of growing... she is absolutely overjoyed at the fact that we are returning to China to adopt again. She has asked for months now to return to China for another sister. Of course, she was hoping for a sister her age, but she is just as excited for a baby! :) 

I love you, Gracie and am so thankful that God has placed you in my life. You are amazing and beautiful and don't ever forget that! Your strength and courage amazes me each and every day. The love of life and love of other that you have is truly something beautiful. The obvious growth you have had this past year-- both literally and physically-- is something I am so proud of. I love you so much!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Year of Charlie

It was a Thursday afternoon in Chongqing, China. It was hot, humid, and we were anxious. We had been in this province for the past 3 days, wanting desperately to just meet our sweet boy. (Thank you, dragon boat festivals.) For the past year, we had been looking at his pictures, getting to know his features, and counting down until we could finally wrap our arms around him.

And the day was finally here.

He was 4 and a half years old and finally going to meet his family. The excitement was felt all around. Yet with it were nerves. We had only adopted baby girls. What was it going to be like to adopt a pre-school aged boy?!

The van ride to the orphanage was the longest ride I have ever been on. There was so much anticipation of what was about to occur.

I don't think anyone was anticipating what actually happened though.

We were quickly greeted and led from the car to an elevator. The moment we stepped of the elevator, there was a little boy. With a sweet little cowlick. OUR little boy. He was pointing to each of us, saying, "Mama. Baba. Jie Jie. Jie Jie. Mei Mei!" He was smiling as he pointed. And he never really stopped. There was an incredibly brief moment of tears when Mom tried to hold him in a picture and he wanted Dad, but that was really about it.

We played with some toys in the little playroom at the orphanage for a little. Charlie showed us his crib, got his pillow from it, and spent awhile pointing to the faces on the pillow and then to each of us in person. It was the most unique gotcha experience I have ever seen, but I do think it was incredibly good for him. Instead of being thrust into strangers arms in a strange place, he was able to get to know us in a very familiar place with familiar people around him. He got to show us his things, his nannies, his friends.

As the nannies stuffed his little hands with candies, coaxing him onto the elevator to come with us, I was sure the tears were going to start. Yet again, they never did. He simply smiled and squealed, climbing into the car with us. He and the little girls sang and laughed the entire way to the hotel.

In China, he would get into EVERYTHING and hold a pout like I have never seen before. But that was it. Other than that, he has always been an incredibly happy and go with the flow little guy. He has an AMAZING personality. He is tender, sweet, and incredibly loving. He is BRAVE. He had his club feet surgery in March and although in immense pain, didn't really complain all that much. For the next couple of weeks, he had casts from his toes to his trunk. At 5 years old, he couldn't move or walk for about 6 weeks. Added to that, we had some very hot days and the heat must've been immense on his legs. I can't even imagine. He had his casts changed again, this time shorter ones. He mostly scooched around, but he did have to learn to stand and take a few steps, as we cheered him on for overcoming something that he had at first been terrified of trying. Finally, he just got those off and is now sporting little Thomas leg braces. These he will wear for the next few months. He is learning to walk on feet that are straight... something that he is not used to. Through the whole process, he hasn't complained. He has just gone with it with a sweet little spirit about him that I adore. And he is already back to riding his bike! :)

He is an amazing addition to our family and I can't imagine life without this sweet little guy. IN a house full of girls, his go-with-the-flow and drama free attitude is very appreciated. He and Kate have an especially strong bond. If Kate is not there, he continuously asks, "Where's K Cakes?" They are so sweet together and always have fun together-- with very little arguing.

He has done very well this past year just transitioning into family life here. He loves having siblings and constant play mates. He hardly ever gets into things as he once did in China. He has had some struggles with the language and although you can understand what he says, he does stutter a lot so he does have speech therapy once a week. He is doing well with that :)

I love this little guy with all my heart and am so thankful that God chose US to be his family. There aren't many moments that a huge smile isn't on his face. He is just a happy little dude... always has been and I pray that he always will be. He is constantly just cracking himself up and I absolutely love his sweet little laugh.

To my little Charlie Man... I love you more than words can describe and my heart is very full with you in my life. I am so thankful that God called us to YOU and for everything you have been to our family. Happy one year together, little man!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Right after we received Ellie's referral, Mom remembered that Visiting Orphans was taking a trip to Chenzhou. She emailed the trip leader, Shannon, about our sweet girl and told her that any info and pictures would be so appreciated. Little did we know just how many pictures and how much detail we would get on our precious girl. Some of the pictures are above for your viewing pleasure. Isn't she a DOLL?! And then... one of the girls on the trip really connected with Ellie and has posted many detailed posts on her blog about our girl! So the following are her posts about Miss Ellie. They are more for me to have on here to look back, but go ahead and read about our beautiful, shy, sweet, puzzle loving little girl! I'm a little jealous that it's not me over there holding her and feeding her :)

One little girl who is being adopted didn't want anything to do with us. Anytime we would touch her she'd cry (I'm sure she'd never seen anyone like us). I tried to move her away from one kid who was on her back kicking, and out came the water works. I just sat her on the floor and rubbed her back for the longest time. I'm sure she hated it, but she eventually stopped crying, and we sat there together. Feeding time came, and I had the privilege to feed her the congee they had for her. This little girl scarfed down a HUGE bowl of this stuff. She got to the point where she was used to me and would actually look at me with a pleasant face... Not like she was about to burst out crying. By the time we had to leave, she was fairly happy. I got up to go and she started looking all around the room for me. I thought, what a great break through. She's getting out of her comfort zone and she's not scared anymore. It'll hopefully make her adoption that much easier.


At the orphanage we played with the babies some more. I found the little girl I talked about yesterday. I played with her the whole morning. Her parents are naming her Ellie, so I'll refer to her as that from now on.

Ellie wasn't happy to see me. She was sitting by herself, so I figured she'd want some company, but boy was I wrong. She cried and cried. I rubbed her back again and then Katie brought out some of the toys that someone donated. She quieted down and became interested in the puzzles. Anytime I tried to move her, she'd get upset.

We sat in a circle and sang songs and played games, but she didn't want much to do with it. She held on to her two balls she had real tight and that made her happy. I knew picking her up and walking around would set her off, but I just wanted to try... Get her a little used to new things. As suspected, she cried, but stopped soon. She's a curious baby, always wanting to see what others around her are doing.

Feeding time came, and she ate up her big bowl of congee again. :) the kids at this orphanage eat well. Some get two or even three bowls if they're hungry enough. Many of the kids are chubby ;)

Ellie and I walked around some and sat down. She began to actually look at me more. She started touching my face... My eyes, nose, and mouth. Then she played with my hair. It was nice to see her making some physical contact.

By the time it was time for us to go, she was getting tired and rubbing her eyes. I think their nap time is right after they eat.

My goal for this week is that I'll get a smile out of Ellie. It may be hard, but I'm going to work at it.


We went back to the orphanage, and we were told to go upstairs and play with the babies. I found Ellie, picked her up and walked around a little bit. She didn't fuss at all, and no tears formed in her eyes which made me happy.

Progress. Slowly but surely, progress.

We played for awhile. She loves balls and things that make noise when you shake. She found my toes and started playing with them, looking at the purple nail polish, it was funny. And she loves to observe everyone else. She's a very chill baby.

Its sad because they have heat rash all over their bodies. They sleep in a hot room with only two air conditioning units in the middle, and they keep them in long sleeves and pants. Ellie was itching all over today, so I scratched her back and arms softly and she liked it.

At one point we were just sitting there playing and a little smile started to form. We almost got there... So close. It made me happy. But then she went back to the same old face she has. Haha. I'm going to keep working on that.


I found Ellie and picked her up and sat her down. No tears! We found some toys and she went about playing. She loves toys that squeak. After awhile I laid on my stomach and was at her eye level, then. She looked at me and grabbed some toys and put them on my face. I began to shake my head crazily, and she just gave me the biggest smile. She's such a beautiful baby. She kept doing that for awhile. Then she put the toy down and took her hand and started touching my eyes and my nose. Then she put her fingers in my mouth, and was interested in my teeth.


Food came and every single baby in the room got food except for her. She sat there waiting forever. I felt so bad for her. As soon as that first bowl of congee comes out and is handed to a baby, so immediately stops playing and just waits. And she seems to always be the last baby to receive the food, ha. Poor thing.

And then the funny thing is, when she gets it... She's such a slow poke eating it. She takes a mouthful and slowly swallows it as she watches all the other babies play. Its kind of funny.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Story of Ellie.

DSC_7937 by annaclaire07
(precious Ellie... taken YESTERDAY by a sweet woman who is at Chenzhou with Visiting Orphans!!!)

So I bet no one was expecting THAT! :)

I know y'all want the story of how this precious little girl became ours. The way that she became a part of our family is nothing short of miraculous and is completely God. 100% his doing. There is no other way to explain the events that have happened in order for sweet Li Meng to become our precious Ellie. She's our little miracle and what a gift God has given us already by bringing her into our lives. So without further ado....

Ellie's story starts with a date. March 31, 2010. Aside from being my 17th birthday, this was also the day that our dossier was logged in for Grace. Of course, if you have been following my blog for the past year or so, there's a good chance that you know that that dossier was never used. Right after we sent it, thinking we would take two separate trips to adopt Grace and Charlie, we received Gracie's LOA out of the blue. That was completely miraculous, and it still amazes me that we literally were approved to adopt Grace off of Charlie's dossier... a dossier holding a homestudy requesting that we adopt a 4 year old boy. That's all.

So here we are with this log in date for a daughter. A dossier just sitting in China. It was often brought up of what we were going to do with this dossier. We couldn't just let it sit there! I remember someone in our travel group said, "not using that dossier would be equivalent to having an abortion!" And so for a short time, we thought maybe there would be an 8th child in our family. However, it wasn't long before that thought had changed and we were done. A complete family of 9. I don't think the longing for a child ever really went away in Mom's heart, although the rest of us were perfectly at peace with our family.

In February, Mom had this sense that we weren't done. We actually started the process of renewing our homestudy, which was just about to expire. She asked our agency coordinator to look on the Feb. shared list, feeling like her daughter may be on it. However, it was not to be. Mom and Dad talked some more and decided it was really not the time to adopt. Mom let Diana know and started to try to feel some sort of peace that our family was complete.

So from mid February until May 26, we were sure our family was complete.

God was probably laughing. Because what was about to happen is something that we never expected. Typical of Him. :)

May 27, 2011. A day that had been anticipated for a long time. My high school graduation day.

That morning, Mom woke up to an email from Diana.

"I think I have found your baby girl!"

Wait, WHAT?

She was one year old. Precious and adorable. Mom showed Dad, who agreed that she was precious, but answered with a "no, now is not the time for us to adopt again." A while later, Mom sent a very hard email to Diana, basically saying that it was the perfect referral, but that now was not the time. Because that's the truth. The file of a 12 month old baby girl with a special need we are very comfortable with. What Mom had dreamed of. But it's also true that with three of us in college in the fall, it's truly not the best time.

After Mom sent this email, an email that as you can imagine had her crying, she actually READ the referral information. The baby's name jumped out. Chen Li Meng. CHEN. We know that surname. It's the same as AnnaClaire's. Mom read further and sure enough, she is from Chenzhou. While this might not seem like a big deal, it was to us. You see, it's been a pretty known fact in our family that if we could ever adopt another baby from Chenzhou, we wouldn't even think twice about it. I'm not sure why that is, maybe just the connection and emotion behind that being where we first adopted from, but for one reason or another, that has always been something we've dreamed of doing... adopting another baby girl form Chenzhou. Mom told Dad, and then sent Diana an email telling her we were going to talk and pray about it more, and ending the email by asking when the file unlocked. We were told that we had until Sunday night.

Meanwhile, it is my graduation day. There are 15 people in our house. Mom and Dad are trying to keep this to themselves. Yes, that's right. I didn't even know. Mom didn't want to take away from "my" day. I think she was probably scared of my reaction, too. It might surprise you to know that I am the one who was totally against adopting again. I had my reasons, but in the end, that was just how I felt.

The day went on. Mom was an emotional wreck. She was exhausted and wanted time to herself and to really think and pray, but was entertaining a houseful instead.

I was woken up too early (considering the time I got home that morning from all of our graduation stuff) by Mom who said, "let me show you something, but don't say anything until I'm finished." It didn't take long for me to figure out that she was showing me a baby... and not someone else's baby.

I thought she was adorable. Mom told me to actually read the referral, and of course it didn't take long for me to read that she was from Chenzhou. Or to notice that her mug shot looked IDENTICAL to AnnaClaire's. Mom was crying and I was just taking it in. I kinda sat there for a second before asking what they were going to do. Mom told me they had declined it at first but had until Sunday to officially decide. At this point, I was crying too and told her my thoughts... "Mom, you KNOW I'm not for another adoption. You KNOW I think we have enough kids in our family. But there is NO WAY you can decline this referral. God couldn't make it any clearer that she belongs in our family. Saying no would be like slapping Him in the face." I think that is exactly how Mom felt, but I think she was glad to hear it from me.

Because here's the the thing. Her age... her special need... Chenzhou... and we never even asked. We had said we were done and not to look anymore. And here we have this beautiful child staring back at us with these little things we had prayed for for so long. God literally dropped her in our laps. There's no other way to describe it.

Dad was downstairs with the 15 people that were over at this point. I asked him to come up, because I know that me saying that I was okay with it was an answer to prayer in one way or another. And I wanted to tell him exactly what I had told Mom.

And the rest is history. That night, they wrote our LOI and started on all that needs to be done in order to update our homestudy.

Our LOI was sent on May 29 and PA came on June 7 while Mom and I were up at Au*burn for my orientation. And we are completely clueless on timing because of the fact that we are logged in and through review, but we have to update everything. Sometime this year though, Miss Ellie LiMeng will be coming home from Chenzhou CWI. Our first adoption from there, our last adoption from there. We've come full circle and are so excited.

And we're praising God. Because only He could do what He has done.

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Elisabeth LiMeng "Ellie"

Chen Li Meng

Born on May 4, 2010

Living in Chenzhou CWI in Hunan, China

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kate's Dance Recital

On the 21st, Kate had her ballet recital! I was so sad to miss it, but was home the night before for her dress rehearsal and snapped some pictures. She looked absolutely beautiful. Our girl LOVES to dance. Isn't her costume so pretty? She wears it around the house daily. She is definitely our princess :) The pictures at the recital were taken by Dad, who treated her to a bouquet of white roses afterwards! The dance was to "How Great is Our God," which is in Kate's adoption video and she loved that she got to dance to "her song!"