Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drum Roll. . . Long Time Coming!!

This has been a LONG time coming!!  But, it is finally complete!!  :)  Be sure to check out the video link at the end of this post before you go!  It captures our China journey better than any words could ever say!  And, it takes you along with us :)

Our Mei Li is doing so well!  I know I haven't posted often lately.  We have been busy living life and enjoying our family.  Mei Li had a follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon a few weeks ago and he was very pleased with her progress.  And, yesterday, we had the follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon and he wants to have her daytime AFO replaced with a different kind that will help straighten her knee.  She walks with a dip and is compensating with her other leg.  So, we will be getting a new brace that should help straighten her gait.  She has come such a long way!!  We are so very thankful!

WELL. . . I have been busy learning how to use the movie maker on my computer and I am now ready to unveil  the video of our China journey!  So without further delay. . .   Here is "To China with Love. . . We Are Family".  I hope you enjoy!!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mei Li. . . 6 months later :D

What a difference 6 months can make! In these pics, you can only see how much her hair has grown and how happy she is. But, the pictures don't show the corrective surgeries, or her walking normally, or how beautifully she is speaking and understanding the English language. Just goes to show the miracle of "love". The greatest of these, indeed, is "Love". :)

In Guangzhou, China with our two girls. . . 6 months ago
Mei Li in the airport. . . October 2011. . . Her whole world is strange and brand new. :)
Aunt Emmalie sent Mei Li bows for her hair. She couldn't decide, so she wore them all. :)
Her big wish. . . to have long hair.
Mei Li March 2012. . . 6 months home with her family

April 2012. . .

Love this precious girl~

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Springtime in Asheville

The last 24 hours in pictures!! A mad dash to Asheville for a quick and much needed getaway! Here are a few pics from the adventure. :)
"Alice" may still be looking for the White Rabbit,
but Mei Li has found it! . . . and has it in a chokehold!!! ;)

My two beautiful girls in front of Aunt Beth's Weeping Cherry tree

Silly sisters. . .

This Easter, the Cherry blossoms are smiling because our Mei Li is finally home!

Sweetness with a dash of "diva"! ;)

Equal parts of sugar and mischief! ;)


My heart. . . . Oh, do we ever love this little girl!!!

The prettiest blossom of all!

My beautiful angel. . . AG

There is nothing more beautiful than God's artistry! These dripping blossoms hanging off the branches. . . this lovely young lady. . . nothing manmade can compare :)

Nothing better than fresh mountain air and the flowers of spring to rejuvenate the soul!!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

6 Months Later. . .

SO proud of her pretty blue suit!
Not sure who that poor unsuspecting lady is in the background.
Completely unafraid of the water!! :)

Happy as she could be in the water! :)

It is hard to believe what has transpired in the last 6 months of our lives. . . and, to be honest, for the 4 years leading up to it. The face of our family has changed permanently. . . and we couldn't be more thankful!
We have just marked our 6 month anniversary, on March 19th, of meeting our Mei Li in the sterile room of the Civil Affairs Building in Shanghai on Monday, Septemer 19th, 2011. Within that 6 months, Mei Li has come to love and adore her family. We fell in love with her the very moment she entered that Civil Affairs room with her big brown eyes, her eyebrows raised in joyful little rainbow arches and a smile that, if we could figure out how to bottle, would bring fortune untold! But, we are, indeed, rich beyond measure as a result of this little ray of sunshine we call Mei Li!
So, besides acclimating to her new family in a brand new country with a brand new language (which she understands perfectly well and is speaking remarkably well), Mei Li has conquered even more hurdles in the past 6 months. She went through 5 weeks of serial casting on her club foot, surgery on her Achilles tendon to lengthen and stretch and correct her foot so that she now walks on the bottom of her foot instead of the top. After her cast was removed from her foot and the 5 inch pin removed from her heel, she began alternating two types of night braces to keep her foot properly positioned and a day brace for support. She has undergone therapy to strengthen her quads and build her legs to give her a more normal gait.
On January 29th, Mei Li underwent a more critical surgery on her spinal cord to detach a fatty tumor that had adhered and wrapped itself around her spinal cord. It already had caused scarring; and, in time, would have caused paralysis and incontinence. She, then had to lie on her back for 10 days to allow the surgery site to heal.
In all of these traumatic firsts that have come one after another within a 6 month time-frame since coming home to her new country and family, Mei Li has met each one with a resilience and strength and positive attitude that I can't explain adequately with words. To say she is tough is a huge understatement. She just rolls with it, whatever comes her way . . . smiles her happy smile and moves on! Now, we are on the other side of "acclimating to her new family" and "surgeries". So, the next 6 months. . . and from this point onward, we look forward to soaking up every day and enjoy watching her relish her new life.
A couple of weekends ago, Anna Grace, Mei Li and I went to Atlanta for a little overnight fun trip. Mei Li's BIGGEST wish since coming home has been to swim in a pool---something she had NEVER done before. Well, we stayed in a hotel in Atlanta that had an indoor pool, so she got her wish!! I have included a picture of her enjoying her swimming fun. Enjoy!
Tomorrow, I plan to get some flowers and get her to help me plant them. She's never planted flowers before. She is still learning her colors, so tomorrow, I'm going to work with her on her colors while we plant pretty flowers! Anna Grace is busy at the theatre every day rehearsing for her big role in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Amazing how much our lives have changed in 6 months. . . But oh, so good!
Thanks so much for following along our journey with Mei Li!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Funny Story!! "Who Works for #1???"

So, let me see if I can capture this story adequately in words. I'm not sure it is possible. It may just be one of those "you had to be there" moments. . .

Last night, we went to eat at a little Mexican restaurant for dinner. Of course, like clockwork, Mei Li tells me halfway through the meal that she needs to make a potty run. Is it just me? Or, do all of my other mommy and daddy comrades experience the same thing? Every time we are in a public place. . . restaurant, store or otherwise. . . someone ALWAYS needs to visit the potty. I just LOVE public restrooms!! I enjoy them so much, I can't even think of going to out to dinner without spending at least a quarter of my dining experience in the public facilities. . . Of course, my tongue is firmly jabbing the inside of my cheek! Haha! :-)

So, last night was no different. Thankfully, I had finished most of my meal. But, about that time, Mei Li informs me that her tummy hurts. So, we head to the throne room. Of course, Anna Grace comes along too. It's a family party! Mei Li sits for a while and becomes frustrated that things are not moving as quickly as she would prefer. The next thing I know, in Mei Li style, she huffs in exasperation and slaps her knee and yells out, "Come on!!! Come on, poo poo!!! Come on!!!!" I laugh out loud at her spontaneous outburst and try to get her to quiet down in the event any other patrons happen to walk in to her "poo-poo calling ritual". I tell her to just relax and playfully tell her to find her "zen place". I began to hum "OHMMMMM. . . " She looks up at me and rolls her eyes and says, "Mama. . . stop it. " The next thing I know, Mei Li does her own version. She looks up to the ceiling of that Mexican restaurant potty and goes, " Meoooooooooooooooow".
Oh my!!!! It's a good thing no one else walked in to the restroom during our little potty experience!! Normally, I get frustrated when I have to leave a perfectly good meal on my table to go hang out in a dirty public toilet. But, last night. . . I was thoroughly entertained!!! Ha!!! This just goes to show. . . there is NEVER a dull moment at the White house!!!

Of course, we got back to the table and shared the story with Daddy, and he laughed out loud and said it reminded him of the Austin Powers "who works for #1?" scene!!

Sorry to start your Saturday with potty humor, but this one was just too funny "not" to share!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Patching our lives together. . . The new normal. . .

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged, and I apologize for keeping people hanging. Since Mei Li's spinal surgery on January 30th, she is doing absolutely beautifully! We couldn't have hoped for a better outcome. And, Mei Li, as is always Mei Li's style, took the surgery and recovery period on her back in great stride and with an amazingly positive and cooperative attitude. As a result of her cooperation and lying still for those 10 days, her back healed beautifully. And, a couple of weeks ago, we visited Dr. Blount with our follow-up. He was thrilled with her progress and gave Mei Li the "all clear" for normal activity. Now, I'm a bit overly-protective. And, honestly the very thought of Dr. Blount having to remove a piece of her spine during that surgery is all I need to closely monitor every activity Mei Li does. . . at least for a little while. I cringe at the thought of her hurting her spine. So, her "normal activities" have been closely guarded at least for a little longer. Ha!! Until mom is feeling more confident that Mei Li is not fragile.

In the meantime, we have been getting outside a little every day. The recovery period was hard on everyone. . . cooped-up inside the house. The walls begin to close-in around you after a few days. So, as soon as we got the "all clear" from Dr. Blount, we get outside and take walks, we've visited the zoo. . . just about anything to get out and see the sunshine. That feels mighty good!

And, it feels great to know that there are no more surgeries on the near horizon (and hopefully none down the road)!!! We've spent the last 5 months in the medical/surgery phase, and settling in with our new daughter as a family of 4. Now, we are moving into a therapy phase to get her legs and ankles strengthened to improve her gait.

Now that we are leaving the surgeries behind, we are evolving into a little more "normal" phase of our new family. How much fun will it be to take Mei Li swimming this summer and maybe even to the beach for her first time ever? It will be incredible to step into a new time of living and embracing our lives together. . . experiencing new things.

Another exciting piece that is being added into our lives is my writing. I am currently writing a book of our adoption and journey of faith to Mei Li and the miracles that came about as a result. I hope to have it completed in the next few months. And, then, to find an agent. . . I will keep you posted on the book developments.

The one thing I've missed the most during the last 5 months is singing. I've done very little of that, and although every moment with my girls has been precious and well-spent, I am so very happy to have some opportunities to sing again! It feels like "coming home" after being away for a long time. So, I have some gigs coming up in the months of April and May, and I couldn't be more thrilled to get back in the saddle! I'll keep you posted on my music as well!

The past month, Anna Grace has been working hard memorizing her Alice in Wonderland script. She has 2/3 of the script learned and is doing an amazing job! I can't wait to see her blossom in the role of Alice once she begins rehearsing later in March. If you live in the Birmingham area, I hope you will make a point to come out to see her at Birmingham Children's Theatre in April! And that's not all Anna Grace has been "up to"! She has also joined with her cousin Ramsey (age 7) and friend, Cheslee (age 8), and they have created a singing trio called the Chicklets! They have performed a couple of times already and won 1st place in Talladega's Relay for Life Fundraiser talent show this past weekend. So proud of her!

So, life is settling in and we are moving forward as a family with two wonderful daughters! And, Mei Li can move forward and embrace the rest of her life with a corrected foot and an untethered spine!! She is not facing paralysis or incontinence! Just a happy healthy future with her family who loves her.

So thankful for this next stage of our family's journey! Embracing every moment. . .

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Just One Miracle. . . Of Many Miracles

Our journey to Mei Li has brought along with it so many instances of seeing God's hand work in miraculous ways. These instances began over four years ago and have come in a steady stream ever since. It always takes my breath away when God shows up and does something at the perfect time and in the perfect way. And, because these miracles have been so numerous and so incredible, I've actually begun writing a book of our journey to China and God's call on our family. I hope to finish writing it this year!

But, I thought I'd share "one" of these miracles with you. It just happened a few weeks ago, and it's pretty incredible.

Most people don't have a concept of what the financial cost of an adoption is unless they are going through the process or have a friend going through the process. At least, I know I didn't have any concept before we began our own journey. But, the cost of the adoption process, including travel to your child's country, is substantial. And, unfortunately, it is a barrier for many "would-be" parents and keeps them from being able to adopt at all. That truly breaks my heart because there are SO many children who desperately need families. And, cost of the process should "not" be a deal-breaker for these children or for the men and women who wish to become parents to these children.

We have successfully made it through "the process", and we are so thankful to be home with our precious little girl. . . she is such a gift to our family! But, we will be chipping away at the debt for many years to come. It's just the fact of the matter. But, since we have come home, we have had many medical visits, and two major surgeries. And, thankfully, Geoff has insurance through his job, so the bulk of the medical fees are covered. But, even so, those co-pays and deductibles have been adding up fast! A few weeks ago, I stopped by Children's Hospital to find out what we owed, what was still outstanding and what was pending insurance approval. . . and the figures added up to $1000 give or take. And, I know when compared to what it would have cost without insurance, $1000 is not so bad. . . but, when you add that on top of what already exists. . . we just breathed deeply and said, "Okay, Lord. . . we're going to just add it to the mountain and pay as we can. Just keep chipping away at it. A little bit at a time." I mean, that "is" how you eat an elephant, isn't it? One bite at a time?? But, there is this uneasy pit that sits in the stomach when you know that the mountain is growing and not shrinking. I remember the verse in Matthew that tells us "to be anxious in nothing. . . but in everything, through prayer and supplication, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus." I keep reminding myself. . . "Be anxious in nothing. . . "
Within a couple of days of finding out the news that we owed $1000 in medical bills. . . and that was before the spinal cord surgery just last week....Geoff and I were at church that next Sunday morning. Geoff ran into a good friend of ours who also has just recently completed their adoption. And, this friend told Geoff that he and his wife had been so blessed to have their entire adoption paid off. The funds came through for them and that they even found themselves having "more" than they needed. So, they were feeling led to use that "excess" to help some other families who were going through the adoption process. One of the families they felt led to help was our family. Mind you, they knew nothing of our bill "update" from Children's last week, and they had no idea of the amount we owed. We had told no one. So. . . he told Geoff, "My wife and I would like to give your family $1000 to help you in whatever way you see most fit to cover costs of your adoption process.". . . .

I know the world is full of critics who would chalk that up to coincidence. But, not me. . . I know where it came from. It was exactly the amount we needed at that very moment to cover the medical bills Mei Li's visits had incurred since coming home.. . up to that very moment, not to mention it was within a couple of days of our learning the balance of our outstanding debt. God's timing is perfect! And, He always shows up "in the nick of time" and cares for His children. To us, this is an inarguable and reaffirming fact.

Yet another beautiful example of God's faithfulness. . . delivered through a wonderful couple who listened to God's voice and became His instruments to bless someone else.

Thank you, Lord, for your providence and blessing. Thank you, for the beautiful people you have placed in our lives whom you have used as your instruments to answer the prayers and meet the needs of others. Thank you for speaking to your children who may hear your voice, if we will only listen. And, thank you for equipping us to do everything you call us to do because if we have your vision, you make provision. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your faithfulness.

I am thrilled to share this story with you and I hope it offers you encouragement. As always, thank you for following along! Have a wonderful rest of your week.