Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our First Christmas Part Two

Christmas night was spent with my (Heather's) side of the family... a lot of tall bodies in my parents' small house. I hope to post the group shot later when my parents email that over to me (hint, hint). Until then...

(Ella hanging out with her Uncle JB and Uncle Greg. It's hard to tell if they adore her, huh?)

(Showing off her outfit to cousin Haley.)

(Taking a break to catch up on the basketball scores. That's my girl.)

Tomorrow we gear up for four of our little FCC friends to come over and play. Actually, it will be our own little United Nations - three little girls from China; one little one from Guatemala and one from Russia. Yes...the camera is charging.

I hope to post one last time before the ball drops on Friday night. If I don't, it is only because we're just having too much fun (off work until Monday). So let me say Happy New Year. May 2011 be a blessed one for you, filled with health and joy. 2010 will go down in history for us. Although, I'm pretty certain Ella will do her best to top it.

H, L & EML

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our First Christmas Part One

(Ella in her Christmas Eve dress before church. Dress compliments of Grandma Irene!)

Oh wow!! Wow. Wow. Wow. Our first Christmas as a threesome was really quite wonderful, to say the least. There was: a candlelight worship service; John & Jennifer's annual Christmas Eve soiree; presents; a visit from Grandma and Grandpa; Skype and a near four-hour nap. Folks, that was just part of our celebration.

I'm busy editing photos and will leave you with part one - Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. More coming your way later on!

Ella slept in until 9:15 on Christmas morning. Merry Christmas to US! We thank John and Jennifer and friends for tiring her out the night before.

(Santa scores with an Ella-sized kitchen.)

(Ella firing up the laptop to Skype with her BFF, Roz, so that they can compare presents.)

Before hunkering down for a cold winter's nap, Ella enjoyed cookies made especially for her by our sweet neighbor.

Family celebration pictures in Part Two's post. Have a wonderful Monday, Ella-Land!

Friday, December 17, 2010

We told you December was a big month!

We have learned that raising a child is a series of landmarks and anniversaries. Today is a special one for our family that we have looked forward to for several months. As of today, Ella Man Li has been part of our forever-family for the same amount of time that she lived in China as Guan Man Li.

People often comment that Ella (obviously) won't remember her time in China. Although well-intentioned, that comment often misses the point. It is (not was) part of her story and her development. It still amazes us when we think that by the time we met her at approximately nines months of age, she had been uprooted no less than seven times. We are still working to comfort, reassure and build a sense of permanency in an effort to overcome what must be in the back of every orphan's mind, either consciously or subconsciously: this ain't gonna last.

So, crossing today's threshold is a major step for us, whether it's merely symbolic or not. We remain so thankful for those that were with Guan Man Li. Anyone who knows Ella knows that she was obviously loved. Someone played her music and made her bounce. Someone had a sense of humor and made her laugh. Someone kept her safe. Someone was beautiful.

And finally, to further prove the legend of the Red Thread, and that this was somehow meant to be, it is not lost on us that today falls on the birthday of Ella's best friend, Roz, who has her own special China story to share.

Larry, Heather & EML

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nose pressed up against the window pane

She saw her first snow. She was intrigued, for sure. She doesn't seem all that excited about being out in it, however.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Little Girls

On Sunday we celebrated Larry's birthday at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The weather was horrid - freezing temperatures, howling wind, blowing snow. We had the place to ourselves! Two families joined us - Roz's family...

...and Lana's family...

At one moment during that evening, I looked around the table and it hit me like a ton of bricks. But for these three little girls, we would not have been celebrating Larry's birthday together. We all met through our local FCC group several years back. Like life with Ella, it is difficult to remember our lives without their love, friendship, celebrations, phone calls (especially Lana's), emails and texts. I marvel how our paths crossed so perfectly.

Three little girls from halfway around the world - Vietnam and China - brought three families together, all who live within 20 minutes of each other. Good stuff.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Operation Christmas Card 2010

Here's what you will not be seeing on our Christmas card...

Ella with her 100 Wishes Quilt. No way. No how. Even giving it a three-day rest in between photo shoots.

Photographing my friends' children in the past has me seasoned, right? (There is one little 3year old miracle in particular however, and she knows who she is, who challenges me to no end!) This should all be a piece of cake...right???

Never did I think that my own child would be so unbelievably uncooperative about a camera in her face. Sure you see some cute pictures here on the blog. I refuse to tell you how many are taken in an effort to secure three or four good ones.

What were we thinking with the Santa beard?? She may be laughing here but it got u-g-l-y fast.

We hope the Christmas cards will make it out before the ball drops on December 31. We really, really do. H, L & EML

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


We are experiencing the first blast of cold weather here in Ella-Land. This really is all new to Ella. The climate she knew in China was far from this... "springtime all year long" is how the Chinese refer to Kunming. (It is no exaggeration.) Each time we bundle her up and she fights us, we apologize!

This past weekend was big fun. We got the Christmas tree up (lit but no decorations yet - sigh), there was a trip to Ella's favorite record store and a birthday party for Ella's BFF Roz. Roz will be two years old in a few weeks. Since her grandparents were in town, the celebration kicked off a bit early. The girls had a great time together!

We were honored to be included in Roz's big day. Stay warm out there!

H, L & EML

Thursday, December 2, 2010

4:30 pm December 2, 2009

"4:30pm...We just took Veronica's call. Sweet heavens. I did a conference call from my work phone. Your Dad was driving home - in the rain. You are from Kunming. Your birthday is May 19. Baby girl - your birthday is the same as your Mommy's. I have a zillion phone calls to make...first up? Grandma and Grandpa."

The rest of the night unfolded like a dream. Literally, hundreds of emails and phone calls. The doorbell again and again. She touched so many lives that evening. God's hand guided us home. Together. A three-some. At last.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Referral Anniversary Eve!

(Drums...The Daily Ritual in Ella-Land)

One year ago tonight, we had no idea what she looked like. Conceptually, we knew she was with us, under the same full moon. But we didn't have the face to gaze at yet. A year ago tonight was essentially the last night we were a two-some. Every single decision and thought wrapped around her from December 2nd thereafter.

Over the last week, I've been spending time reading through our Ella Journal entries from one year ago. That Journal is golden! I am amazed at the detail, most of which has slipped my memory. I share an excerpt written by Larry on the morning of December 2. It's just a little peak into that enormously emotional, happy, surreal day.

"This morning, the phone rang while I was still in bed. Your Grandma Irene was in tears, telling me to check R@mor Queen. At the same time, our friend Katie was calling your mom's cell phone, telling her the same thing, and actually reading her today's blog post over the phone. If correct, your package, and many others, are in transit to the respective adoption agencies. You're in the air, baby! At least we hope so. To be honest, we are nervous. Maybe scared, just a little. This is life-altering stuff, for you and us. I'm ready if you are."

So, raise a glass or a coffee cup or a teacup tomorrow in celebration!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An end to a great week

EML celebrated her very first Thanksgiving. We packed it up and traveled a few hours south to my brother's. My sister-in-law prepared a feast. I packed everything but the camera. Nice, huh? You'll have to trust me. She looked pretty cute. She figured out the lay of the land and took over. We are delighted with how much she enjoys a party. (Such a cool little chick, really.)

We greet this holiday season with open arms and a little extra bounce in our step because of Ella's arrival. Personally, it is nearly impossible to remember life before her. Her presence is so huge; her spirit so out of this world that the bittersweet edges from past holidays have faded.

Enjoy some shots of our fun weekend together. You'll note that Ella is bathing in the sink. When mama is nursing a bad back, this is how we roll.

Ella ready to shout amen, sing and dance in church wearing the dress her daddy picked out while we were in China.

H, L & EML

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Not just tomorrow

Frick and Frack. Peas and Carrots. Ella and Roz. They are distinctly different little women and yet perfect for each other. The world awaits them, doesn't it?

Not only are we approaching our first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year as a threesome, we are coming up on several other big milestones (stay tuned). Our cup overflows. Continually. We are thankful, hopeful and grateful. Not just tomorrow. But every day.

Thank you for being with us every step of the way. Give thanks.

H, L & EML

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Family Traditions

Since my grandmother, Donna Ruth, passed away eight years ago, we gather together near her birthday and whip up all of the recipes she left behind. I could spend a few blog posts on Donna Ruth and the relationship I had with her, for sure. (At least a handful would be how I would give anything for her to meet Ella, if only for a moment.) She could feed a soul like no other. Her meals could uplift a bad day, cure a cold or a broken heart. She had an amazing way of doing the Lord's work through her food.

We wanted to make sure that in some way, her gift continued. And so it does. We gather from all parts with Donna Ruth comfort food in hand, and the group photo keeps getting bigger and bigger! And we eat and laugh and reminisce. Ella met some of her people for the very first time. It warmed our hearts.

With cousins Kaia and Alyssa.

Ella and Marie chatting in the kitchen, munching on the well-known sugar cookies.

Ella with her cousins Nicole and Matthew.

Perhaps my favorite from the entire day, Ella with Uncle JB.

Even with a costume change into pajamas, she was still going strong. Her cousins were so good with her.

If Donna Ruth could, she would have called me early Sunday morning to re-hash the festivities. With tears of joy, she would have talked about the pride and love she felt for her tribe. The conversation would have started, "Now Dolly (her term of endearment for yours truly), I want to talk about how wonderful yesterday was for me..." When it was important, the conversation always started out "Now..."

One day we will get to tell her all about it. Until then, we'll keep cooking, baking and gathering.


Friday, November 19, 2010

18 Months!

Today marks the one and a half year milestone for EML. What could be bigger than that?? This...

A switch flipped. She's off and running. I shudder to think how our Amen! yellin' daughter is going to behave during church on Sunday. With these new-found wheels, she might feel the need to assist during the sermon or at least help her daddy out on the drums.

A big celebration at our house tomorrow. Pictures and good stuff to come!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Put one foot in front of the other...

...and soon you'll be walkin' 'cross the flo-o-r!

C'mon. Admit it. You know this song. It is from the 1970 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' children's special. Oh how I love these old school Christmas shows. (With Ella on my side this year, surely Larry will lose the battle and struggle through my singing and dancing as they air between now and Christmas!)

But really, this is about Ella and she is definitely putting one foot in front of the other. At last count, six steps on her own. If we could get her to stop giggling in excitement, she'd probably accomplish more. This is a mixed blessing. We are incredibly relieved she's hitting this milestone in her time, that her balance and strength are catching up with her voracious vocabulary. However, because she knows she can do it, her frustration levels have shot through the roof. "Walk!" Up!" "PLEASE!" These are all constant demands and at least she sprinkles in a little sugar with the occasional "please". Selfishly, we feel a bit (oh heck, a lot) melancholy that our baby is growing up. We'll try to get some video up for our out-of-towners soon.

Thursday, we were Roz's (Ella's partner in crime) special guest at her weekly music class. Ella was a fool, I tell ya. A fool. She sang, danced, shouted and shrieked. Roz didn't know what to make of her.

Here are the girls before going into class.

We went out for bagels and chat-time afterwards where Roz made sure Ella was getting cared for.

Enjoy the weekend everyone! H, L & EML