Monday, March 29, 2010

Need An Adoption Travel Fix?

We meet some pretty cool people in these adoption circles. The Surridge family (Mara and Chris) are exactly five weeks behind us in their journey to adopt Hannah from Kunming. Mara and I have spent quite a few times on the phone and emailing as she prepared for their travels. They live in the D.C. area.

They met Hannah yesterday. We are thrilled for them. I think you will see the similarities to our journeys with Ella. Click on The Surridge Family in the right column. Enjoy! H, L & E

Friday, March 26, 2010

Our Own Goodwill Ambassador

Thursday was a big day for our own personal goodwill ambassador, Ella Man Li. She continues to meet new faces, and to charm them all.

Ella met her cousins (Heather's niece) Nicole and Brian and her second cousins Michael and Matthew. In a way, this whole journey started when Heather, then age 11, started caring for Nicole as an infant.

Next up was our own personal version of the Traveling Wilburys, Jeremy, Alli and Mike, who stopped in Toledo en route to Chicago, after finishing a string of gigs in Canada. We warned Ella about musicians first, then turned her loose.

After all that, who could cook?, so we went family-style to our favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant, where Ella already qualifies as a regular. These waiters have been known to flirt with a pretty girl or two, and they fawn over Ella. The staff has always made us feel very welcome there, and this week was no exception. L, H & E

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's The Little Things...

...that make us smile. I promise to get better with updating some photos of Ella. I'm finding it difficult to photograph her. She smiles right up until the second I put the camera in front of my face and then a sense of bewilderment sets in. Since my lovely assistant (Larry) is at his paying gig, well, you get the idea.

We documented Cheerio eating yesterday. Who knew there could be so much joy?!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finding Her Voice

Sunday marked our one month anniversary as a family of three. I've said it countless times before, it seems as though Ella has always been here. I am pretty sure that means we're adjusting.

We have bumps in the road, no doubt. Yesterday was a visit with Ella's doctor and four shots. Last night was our first semi-sleepless one in two weeks. Today has been much the same. Who can blame her?

On Sunday morning, she babbled and sang at the appropriate times during our church service, legs kicking and arms going during the music - especially when Larry was playing the drums.

Today, we packed up the car and headed downtown for lunch with Larry.

Cheerios are making their way into her mouth, with her own hands. Clapping and waving are new tricks. She has found her voice, that's for sure. The proof is in the video. Have a good day, all. H, L & E

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Planting Seeds...Watching Them Grow

Today marks two weeks that we've been back on U.S. soil. In so many respects, it feels like two months. It feels as though she's always been here greeting us with sleepy morning smiles.
Been a few days for us, so let's back-track a bit to Sunday. Ella, dressed in her Sunday best, really went home. We crossed the threshold of our church. Her people gathered her in. It was "all that and a bag of chips" (to borrow a quote from our friend Brynn). What moved me way beyond tears, certainly beyond words, was the youth group, and dare I say my youth group.

This blog is Ella's - her journey. But it is impossible to separate some parts of our worlds. This would be one of them. While we were in China, some of the teens attended a spiritual retreat in Cincinnati. On Sunday morning, they got up in front of God and everyone else, shared their joy in Ella's journey home and presented a video (pictures of our journey in China) with a particular song they had heard at the retreat. The song moved them and directed their hearts to Ella. The video ended with their written words of love and joy and thanksgiving.

Years of planting seeds with these teens, and it all grew in front of my eyes, our eyes. So there we were, a family of three...finally, these precious teens all grown up and all the puzzle pieces fit together. It isn't often you get to feel so sure of something. Boy, did I.

And Ella's week hasn't really slowed down. She has met so many of her cheerleaders!! We've been laying low the last two days to let her adjust a bit more. We hope to get back into the swing of things this weekend. I'll leave you with some photos of her and her extended, huge, wonderful family.

A very curious Ava and Ella..

Ella and two pretty smitten men, Daddy and Uncle Jeffie...

The chicks came over for food and adult beverages this week. Ella was sworn to secrecy by all that she heard. Auntie Cara...

Auntie Karri...

Auntie Sarah...

and Auntie Michelle.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rainy Days Don't Stop Us

It is a dreadfully dreary, cold and rainy day here in Ella-land. It didn't stop us! Perhaps being mobile and global for 16 days has helped us in this regard? We put on our gear, packed the stroller and headed to our wonderful art museum for a Gordon Parks photo exhibit.

We had lunch in the museum cafe and strolled the exhibit. Ella used her manners and 'inside' voice. Before leaving, we stopped to see Larry's favorite painting Van Gogh's Houses in Auvers. All that culture...tired a girl out.

A friend tracked us down on Larry's cell and joined us for the exhibit. He did his fair share of fussing over Ella. We smile and shake our heads at the outpouring.

It is impossible for us to comprehend we have been home nine days as a family of three. China feels like a lifetime ago. God willing and the creek don't rise, we'll all be in church tomorrow morning. I have missed it so... H, L & E

Friday, March 12, 2010

Golden slumbers fills your eyes smiles awake you when you rise…*

As of 8:32 am, the chick is still sleeping. That means she has slept, as of now, 11 hours straight. Uninterrupted. Happily. Peacefully.

Our home is a happy place today.

I am transitioning rather nicely into my new position as social coordinator for Ella Man Li. Each day brings a new face and voice for Ella to learn. It has been wonderful. We are constantly reminded of her impact. Here are a few pics from this week.
(Isabella, Uncle Wobbie and Ella)

(Lunchtime at Feather's...with chocolate cupcakes!)
(Cousin Grant home from college...)

I am slowly working away on photos from our first weeks together. You'll see more posted, I promise. Enjoy your day. H, L & E

*The Beatles, Golden Slumber

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Through a Camera Lens

We posted the video of our welcome home at the airport. It was sweet footage but since I was the one operating the Flip, it was tough to capture it all. Honestly, I wanted to hug everyone (especially my babies) so I turned it off and lived in the moment.

My sweet friend Nikki was there with her gifted eye and her fantastic camera. She outdid herself. We were honored at her presence. Words cannot express what we feel when we watch this. No way, no how.

You need someone to photograph you and your family? Send me a message. I'll gladly pass on contact information for NicoleLee Photography. She's local!

Grab a few tissues, perhaps. And we all thank you Nikki. H, L &E

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Only a Matter of Time

Last night was our fifth night in our time zone. Ella is still struggling with sleep. Likewise, so are we. This nice stretch of sunny, warmer weather has helped greet each morning, however bleary-eyed we may be.

Larry is back to work and confessing how much he misses ‘his girls’. No question, Ella is missing him. She sits in her highchair and peeks around the corner for him to come waltzing in. (Me too.)

The introduction to the drum set occurred last night. I nagged about keeping it as quiet as possible. Ella didn’t flinch. (On Saturday night, Larry sat down to the drums and pounded away. She was unscathed by it all in her crib, sleeping peacefully.) I’ll leave you with a video. Next step: infusing a bit of old school R&B and Michael Jackson into her repertoire…

Friday, March 5, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

We are back home! The travels were brutal. By the time we made it through customs and immigration in Chicago, we had just enough time to run (no exaggeration) to the gate for our Detroit flight. Oh what a sight we must have been. On the bright side, of our 13 hour flight from Beijing to Chicago, Ella slept 9 of those hours. That is 9 consecutive hours. Ella Man Li is the Teflon traveler, for sure.

We had a fabulous welcoming committee at baggage claim* in Detroit. We appreciate your making the trek to the airport so, so much. (Video below.) We came home to a clean house, a refrigerator stocked with food and a freezer stuffed with dinners to heat up later.

So it seems that the unwavering support of our family and friends continues. We are humbled. We are thankful.

We are rubbing our eyes in disbelief. Ella is beautiful. We are smitten a thousand times over. Here's hoping the jet lag exits quickly.

H, L & E

*It seems our baggage had a difficult time making that connecting flight to Detroit as well. It was just delivered to our front door 30 minutes ago.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Signing Off From Guangzhou

Larry and I are both saying good-bye tonight. We hope you have had fun on our journey. Really, it has only just begun but the last 16 days have been brighter, happier, calmer knowing you've been behind us, surrounding us, in front of us.

Today we gathered Ella and three other fantastic little people for the Red Couch photograph. You'll see Larry's video footage of the fun. It is a milestone event at the White Swan. I'm including just a few photos. I must have taken 100 shots before it was all over. You'll have to be patient with me as I edit those in the weeks to come. You may recognize the other two little ones from the medical exam post and photos. We've all journeyed together for the necessary steps here in Guangzhou.

We can't promise what the next week is going to bring. I warned you that we may be sliding into home base, arms and legs everywhere. Based on how we feel, there's a pretty good chance of that. It may be quiet as we try to acclimate Ella and ourselves to the time zone and climate changes. (I've forgotten what kind of weather will be waiting on us!)

Friends from our FCC family told us we'd be blown away by our time in China. Amen to that!

I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures from today. See you on the other (our!) side of the pond.

H, L & E

We're Rounding Third

I would sign off in Chinese, but I don't know the word in Madarin, let alone Cantonese. We miss all of you. Staying in touch via the blog, email, and for a few people, Skype, has added an extra dimension to this special trip. We are beat down, plain and simple. It is time to come home. The extra suit case is purchased. The souveniers are packed. The wake up call is scheduled. Our life with Ella Man Li awaits. If only we could skip the l-o-n-g flight home!

See you soon.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Post That Was Lost In Cyberspace for Three Days!

Note from Gretchen:

This text and these photos just showed up in my inbox, but they appear to be about 48 hours old. Email is a funny thing!

Under The Same Full Moon

Today marks the last day of the New Year celebrations in China . The moon is big and beautiful here in Guangzhou . In just a few hours, you all will be seeing the same full moon.

We’ve had a full day. The trip to Qingping Market was quite an adventure as the video shows you. I’m including a few pictures as well. Ella stole the show with the locals. She took an hour nap in her stroller through all the noise, smells and heat then woke up with a grin for her parents. (Note: Ella's mother was not grinning at this point. She had way more than her share of funky smells and heat and sensory overload.)

Our interaction with the local merchants has stepped up a bit. Larry and I are feeling more confident in our bargaining skills. (You negotiate on price here. Call me uptight, feels odd.) There is some new art for the Densmore walls.

Tomorrow morning our guide will take Ella’s file over to the U.S. Consulate for her 9:30 am appointment. He does this for us but we’re required to stay in our hotel room near the phone in case there are any questions. He’ll give us the green light when he’s finished. On Tuesday, the Meyer family of three will go to the swearing in/oath ceremony at the Consulate. Hard to believe we will be heading home in four days!

I will leave you with some photos and Ella stats. We’ve received quite a few emails asking these questions…

Sleeps all night (8+ hours), can nap just about anywhere.
Loves formula and drains a bottle in record time.
Gets more affectionate each day.
Has a very distinguishable ‘shut down’ mode, especially in times of stress.
Giggles. A lot…
Three teeth, two on the bottom and one on the top.
Has a solid sense of rhythm which delights Larry.
Bonding well with both of us.
Getting used to Larry’s ‘scratchies’ (beard)

Enjoy the moon!!!!

H, L & E

I Do Solemnly Swear…

At 2:30 today, we loaded onto a bus with droves of other adoptive families for the 25 minute drive to the U.S. Consulate. The security was much like that at an airport. We’re getting used to the hot, sticky conditions inside buildings…like you can feel the moisture in your clothing even before you break a sweat. This waiting room was no exception.

“The parents of Guan Man Li, Window 22”. We approached, signed documentation and took our seats again with the others. Twenty minutes later, a sweet young lady came out, explained a few things and then issued the oath to the entire group at once. I’d be straight-up lying if I told you we didn’t get a bit choked up. It is a mixture of emotions. As delighted as I am to have the last of four years of paperwork finally behind us, to have Ella Man Li one step closer to being a U.S. Citizen, she is losing everything she has ever known.

If you don’t understand our mixture of melancholy, it’s OK. We’ve been away two weeks. You want us home. You want to see and touch your girl. But here, at Ground Zero so to speak, you can’t escape her loss and how it sneaks up on you, even at the U.S. Consulate.

With the exception of this excursion, we took it very, very easy today. In fact, Ella and Larry are on nap #2 of the day. Rough going for Larry the last 24 hours, but I think he’s on the upswing. Ella and I spent the morning strolling (and shopping) on Shamian Island giving Larry the room to sleep.

Tomorrow, Peter will deliver Ella’s passport with visa to us. Once that is in our hot little hands, all is complete. You’ll hear us cheering shouts of thanksgiving about 3-4 am your time!

Until then…H, L & E

PS No photos allowed at the Consulate. So, a few random pictures from last night and today, including Ella and Larry with their latest purchase. Watch out Augsburg …drumming China style?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Buddha and Meltdowns

Today we had to stay in our room until Peter (our guide) called. He took our paperwork to the U.S. Consulate for review. At 11:02 am he called with a big "Congratulations!". Tomorrow afternoon the Meyer Family will head to the U.S. Consulate for the swearing in/oath ceremony. More to come.

We caught a quick lunch and cabbed it to the Guangxiao Si Buddhist Temple. You'll see Larry's video footage. The Temple and the grounds are peaceful, reflective. Ella did a nice job of schmoozing with the monks.

The rest of today was spent lounging in the room or walking on Shamian Island. Honestly, I thought we did a better job of taking it easy today. It didn't pay off. Ella went into meltdown mode for a horrifically long time. Then Larry wasn't far behind her with feeling lousy. This whole one-room living situation is tough on nights like this!

Video of Temple Visit

So, I'm sorry to say I'm short on wit this evening. However, I will leave you with some photos and the video. Check in later for an update after our Consulate ceremony!

H, L & E