Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Christmas Present...Ever.

Twenty-two days ago, Santa delivered us our present early. Nearly every minute of those twenty-two days we've been looking at photographs of our daughter, searching her expressions, her eyes, her mouth, her hands, her feet even! "This is our girl", we almost have to say out loud, because really, we still need convincing.

Yesterday, Larry shipped off a package to Ella's orphanage. In it was a very special blanket, chocolates for the caretakers and a small photo album with pictures of us, our cat and our home. It is our hope that it will make it to her. We know there is a chance that it will not. But we had to try, no matter the expense or hassle in shipping half-way across the world. We bought this blanket over the summer (with extra help from our friend Brynn) and have slept with it ever since. We are told that this helps the child in becoming familiar with our scent which will be much different from what she has known. We will do anything we can do to help with Ella's transition. And when we meet her and she doesn't have the blanket or photo album with her, well then, perhaps another child is being swaddled in it. That's OK, too. We had the much-needed help of Sarah, our Chinese UT grad student friend, in preparing a letter to the orphanage staff explaining the delivery.

Last week, we sent a care package through a company who specializes in assisting adopting families. In that package was a teddy bear, a disposal camera and a letter asking the caretakers to photograph Ella in her surroundings. Again, we hope the camera is returned to us so that we have glimpses of her life before us. Once developed, those photos will represent Ella's very limited history. We will cherish them.

Just this morning, there are indications that families who received referrals the same time we did are receiving Travel Approvals. The TA is needed before we can purchase plane tickets. The TA tells us when we will be leaving! We have not received TA yet. But this is fantastic news and much quicker than we had thought. There seems to be no question now - we will be meeting our daughter in January. Happy New Year to us, huh?

Thanks for helping us unwrap the best Christmas present ever. It wouldn't have been the same without you. H&L

Monday, December 21, 2009


Any other year, it would be a flurry of pre-Christmas preparation in our lives. This year is quite different. Most of our days and evenings are spent juggling full-time jobs, preparing the house for Ella and sifting through Visa applications and care package deliveries to her orphanage. It is a flurry of emails and phone calls and translations.

In the next week, I will start the very serious job of reviewing and organizing the packing list. We are quite certain the journey will commence in January but what exact date has not been set. Our acceptance letter has been sent back to the CC@@. The CC@@, in turn, will issue a formal Notice of Coming letter (aka Travel Approval). This can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks. We're hoping against hope it falls somewhere in the middle.

We have a loose game plan of travel...
Detroit to Hong Kong for a few days alone to explore
Hong Kong to Kunming to meet up with the other two families adopting from our agency as well as our guide (7-8 day stay)
Kunming to Guangzhou (7-8 day stay)
Guangzhou to Detroit!

Upon arriving in Kunming, Ella will be in our arms within 24 hours of stepping off the plane. In some cases, it happens that same day. What a rush!

Blessings to you this Christmas. Health and happiness and joy to you in 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I found a dream that I can speak to...a dream that I could call my own*

We still feel like we're dreaming. I suppose until we have Ella in our arms, that will continue to some degree. With eight days under our belt, now we are on to the arduous tasks of Visa applications, getting the house ready, gathering items for a care package to send to Ella and packing lists. I think the packing will probably be the death of me. Three weeks in a foreign land with a confused baby and packing for every worst-case scenario? I'm so thankful that Larry and I have quite a few European trips in our history together. We are great travel mates.

As you know from my earlier post, we received the original referral from China. Larry and I reviewed it and signed the Letter of Acceptance. Within an hour, I was out the door to expedite that signed Letter to our agency. Oh, that felt great! That Letter, along with those from the other families in our travel group, will be sent to the CC@@ in China. This Letter gets the ball rolling for our eventual travel. When that travel will occur is a gray area. We hope to be on our way in January sometime. After four years? This wait will be a piece of cake.

So, let me share a little about Ella. For sure we know that she lives in the Kunming area. And we know that she spent her first several months at the Kunming CWI. We are comforted by these photos of the orphanage. In the next few weeks, we will learn if she has been moved to a foster home. (It is customary for this orphanage to move healthy babies to foster homes at five months of age.)

Here's a bit more:
Chinese Name: Man Li
At 3 1/2 months: 13 lbs and 24 inches long
She likes bright, loud toys. She likes to be held and rocked.
Her disposition: obstinate
She laughs out loud.
She eats every
three hours and is a deep sleeper.

We think that sounds like a perfect fit for us. She'll be pounding the drums with her daddy in no time.

*Ella Fitzgerald, At Last

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brown Delivers.

The package has arrived and this nice young man was our stork. Meet Dan. He was a good sport and very excited to learn he was handing over such an important envelope.

The Stork In The Big Brown Truck

Today is the day that Ella's original file will be delivered to our front door by way of a certain brown truck that specializes in such expedited deliveries. In international adoption circles, this day presents the perfect photo opp! The unsuspecting delivery person will be asked to pose with us as he or she 'delivers' Ella to us.

I am glued to the house today until the doorbell rings. Larry's schedule is a bit more hectic today. He's home for now and fingers crossed the timing works out that he's here when the stork arrives.

So, what's in this package? All of Ella's original documents in Chinese, the complete English translations, photos and the Letter Seeking Confirmation. That letter is what we sign and mail back saying, "YES! YES! We accept this referral!" It will be the letter that sets in motion our goal of achieving Travel Approval (or TA).

And by the way, pinching is still required. This is surreal. We can't believe this is finally happening. More details on your girl later!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

Oh boy, are we still floating high, high in the clouds! And the grins?!! We are awaiting all of the translated documents. We will share that information, although somewhat limited, when we get it.

The last three days are a blur and yet crystal clear all at once. Does that make sense? We’ve looked at her photos no less than a thousand times. The phone calls. The voicemail messages. The text messages. Facebook even! And it continues on still this morning. Wednesday night was a flurry of this plus the doorbell ringing and ringing with bulldozer hugs greeting us at the door from my parents and friends. What a rush!

But more than the impact this little person’s presence has had, is the outpouring of love, joy, support and celebration of our family and friends that washes over me. We have an army behind us. Not a mere village but an army. She has no idea what awaits her half way around the world. Or does she? I look at the close up photo of her to the right and think clever, clever girl. Maybe she does know? Maybe she’s known all along?

To know us is to also know how deeply we adore the children in our life. Years filled with sleepovers, milestones, art museum classes, trips to Tony Packo’s for live music, the teens at church…To be able to share the news of Ella with these little people (and some not so little anymore) has been heartwarming. So, I leave you with a few quotes from Wednesday night.

Isabella, age 5: “She’s adorable. If she was here now I could just stare at her all day.”
RJ, age 2 and little bro to Isabella: “She’s 'dorable.”
Isabella: “I think that’s the Ella that they should keep. I want them to have that Ella.”
RJ: (at the top of his lungs) “Ellllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”
Madrin, age 3: “I go see her now please.”

And my personal favorite…

Isabella: “Feather’s belly never got very big.” (Yes. Feather and not Heather.)

Go have yourself a great weekend. Check in with us soon. Love, H&L

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ella, At Last

Meet our beautiful daughter.

Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.*

It is with unbelievable joy, and I mean that - joy - to type these words.

We have a daughter. I took the call at 4:30 pm. I managed to figure out the conference call feature on my office phone, with jittery fingers. Larry, driving home got patched in. We heard the glorious words, "Congratulations to you both. You have a daughter."

Ella was born in Kunming, China on May 19, 2009. Our daughter was born on my birthday. And really, it doesn't get any more perfect than that.

We have no translated details yet. But you better believe those details will be coming at ya' as soon as we can get them to you.

Enjoy. Celebrate. Hug your babies, your spouses, your pets. We are over the moon. Speaking of which, it is a full one. Gotta love this girl's timing.

*Proverbs 25:25

I Hear The Train A Comin' . . .

We're trying to not get ahead of ourselves, but a convergence of information allows us to conclude that referrals have been made, and have been mailed. Our agency will notify us when it is in-hand, even if they have no other information available at that time. It could be tonight, it could be tomorrow . . . or, dare I say, we could be let down again. We are biting our nails and trying to stay focused on the tasks at hand. Stay tuned.