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The other little boy at our table

Today is Orphan Sunday.

Full Plate Mom wrote a nice post on the love-hate relationship, I too, feel when I hear this word.

Eli has been home for three months. He’s a brave, funny, and smart little boy who is adjusting so well to his new world. There’s so much to update on Eli: his love for puzzles, his hard work to learn the alphabet, our concerns as we receive more medical results, and his first Halloween ever!
Today though, I want to share about another little boy who it often feels like is with us-especially at the table.
Eli doesn’t often feel like talking about China. We’ve tried to take his lead when he’d like to talk and when he’d rather not. He seems most reflective and talkative about China when we eat together and there’s one person who has never left his heart….and now will never leave mine.

Apu is 4 years old. He was Eli’s best friend in the orphanage. They shared a bed. Eli took care of him. Eli has shown me several times how he said goodbye to Apu on their last day together. He left Apu his bag of suckers we’d mailed him. Eli looks at his pictures several times a week and smiles as he touches Apu’s picture. Eli sometimes becomes sad as he connects the opportunities he’s enjoying and Apu is not. He suddenly became tearful a few weeks ago as he colored. I asked him what was wrong and he answered, “Eli color. Apu not color….no mama, no baba, no color.”
Eli sometimes seems to feel guilty as he’s said, “Eli mama, Eli baba (Daddy), Eli mei mei (sister)….Apu no mama, no baba, no mei mei.”

Hannah, too, is touched by Eli’s worry for Apu. As we ate last week, she said, “I think we should find a mommy and daddy for Apu.” So with that-we’re on a mission! This little boy-like so many others-needs a family.
Apu is on the “Shared” list, which means his family could work with any agency they choose. It also means he’s waited for a long time. Apu’s diagnosis is listed as cerebral palsy. While I don’t have access to a full medical report, video and pictures indicate a very mild case of CP. Interested families could access Apu’s file right away to learn more. As we still work to help Eli adjust, we know we are not Apu’s family. Eli has actually clarified this! He very much wants Apu to have a family-but not his;) While we know that we are not Apu’s family, we would love to help anyone who steps out to bring him home. We learned a great deal from writing grant applications and could also help plan fundraisers. Apu is the closest connection that Eli will ever have to his past and it’s my hope that we could somehow keep these two, sweet boys connected.

If you’d like more information about Apu, please contact me at


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Apu is right behind Eli in this picture.


Thank-you! It’s official….

We are coming home!

Our guide got the call and raced to the visa office grabbing Eli’s visa. He made it 3 minutes before they closed for their 3 hour break!

Thank-you so much for your sweet messages, donations, help with our hotel, and general pick-me-ups. Even before the good news, I felt surrounded by love as we woke up this morning.

It’s been a whirlwind canceling, rearranging, and negotiating but people-from friends to big business-have been so compassionate. I’ll never know the reason for our rather large speed bump but I have learned that I was wrong about my promise to leave my advocacy cape at home! It turns out it was needed afterall! While part of me has felt very frustrated with our US government, I have also gained a new and very personal appreciation for the hard work the people behind our federal government, their staff, and our Congress do for American citizens who need their help. We’ve also seen how much generosity exists in our community. We are so blessed. Please know your hard work, prayers, and effort to bring attention to our case has made all the difference.

Our guide told Eli he’s going home to America! I tried to catch the moment but Eli looked so somber….I then realized that our guide was scolding him for jumping on an elevator before us, slamming the door, and inciting a hotel-wide (18 floors!) search! He’s definitely kept us on our toes as we’ve worked through all of this. After we got all that behind us and Eli was delivered the GOOD news, he delivered his trademark hands in the air, “oh yeah oh yeah!!!!”

Checkout is arranged for 5:30am our time tomorrow (we are 12 hrs ahead of the US). If all goes well and stays on time, we’ll make it home around 5:30pm Friday! Can.not.wait!

Now to celebrate……with a nap! Keeping up with US time in China is exhausting!


We are snuggled into bed listening to Eli’s giggles as he watches Despicable Me 2. He got wish 1 of 3 (his watch) when we went shopping yesterday at Shamian Island. His wish to see his sister should now happen as we’d hoped onThursday evening-just 3 more sleeps! Oh and his other wish (for a gun!) will have to wait a bit!

We are so very thankful that the visa system seems to be back up and running. While I wish we could have spared the families who were delayed the incredible cost and hardship, it has been so nice to meet them. Eli has played with a new friend, Jay, several times since we arrived to this hotel. We’ve loved getting to know Jay, his family, and so many others. So thankful these children are on their ways home and I can’t wait to watch them all grow! This experience is a special one to share and I am thankful for new friends in the process.

And in speaking of shared experiences, our guides have been incredible. I don’t think I could have hand-picked two better people for us. Our first guide, Rosary, was so sweet and knowledgable. She helped us traverse those first days with Eli in the more difficult province for accessibility. I will never forget the way she helped us communicate those early expressions of love and Eli’s returned happiness to join our family. We met John in Guangzhou and he has kept us sane through the fear of being stuck. He’s fun and has taught us so much about the culture here and Eli. In yet another “what are the chances” twist, he actually met Eli a couple years ago! Eli had been brought to a summer event where American adoption agency officials come to meet hundreds of kids. If a child stands out, they are sometimes selected by an “advocate” who works hard to get that child adopted. To our knowledge Eli was never selected….until us obviously!

We’ve also shared this experience with Adam’s parents, Bob and Donna. I could not be more thankful for their help and support from the very beginning of this adventure. This trip has had such intense highs and such difficult lows. They’ve made us laugh through tears, helped traverse the tricky terrain, carried our not-so-light minion who somehow has all the energy in the world to run in the hotel but cannot walk 5 feet outside, and helped us show Eli the love that is family. They’ve been up for anything and we’ve done just that! I hope they feel even a fraction of how grateful we are for their love.

We are also so thankful to all the people at home who have made this dream-our dreams-a reality. From people who donated to help us reach our goal of fully funded to everyone who has shared words of encouragement or our story-we are so thankful. So many friends and family have cheered us on from the start. The disability community has been such a strong source of support. We just learned tonight that Eli will meet three new friends with achondroplasia at the airport. I remember my first time seeing other people who looked like me and I am so excited for all that is ahead for him. We can’t express our gratitude enough to our family who have cared for Hannah while we have been gone. Missing her has been the heaviest weight on our hearts but knowing she is having fun and well-cared for has made it possible to accomplish our mission here-getting Eli home! We are strong believers that “it takes a village” and there’s no way we would be days from bringing our son home without the support of ours and their shared belief that this was possible.

And finally-I am most thankful for my Adam. We’re generally not into giant public, online displays of affection but a piece on my gratitude wouldn’t be complete without him. I can’t imagine sharing this crazy journey with anyone else. Adam makes me feel like there’s nothing I can’t do and together-I think he’s right. Adoption-especially for us- can be scary. It’s not easy to let your heart be vulnerable enough to start loving a little one that you know little about and there’s such a winding path to your union. Adam has been a rock and there’s nothing I like more than watching him being a Dad (and now Baba).

For those hoping for an update post, I do have lots to share about Eli’s first trip to the zoo. We need to crash early tonight though because tomorrow morning Eli will be sworn in as an American citizen. I am so proud of our country and can’t wait for him to start to blossom in the opportunities he’ll now have for a bright future.

Until tomorrow!

Day 6: A Day at the Park

Popping on for a short update as we wait for our flight (on Friday Day 7).

Yesterday was a free day. Our guide handled business for us that we didn’t need to be present for. Instead, we spent the day at the park. It’s so much fun getting to know Eli. He is a tiny politician-shaking hands with all we meet and still telling the we are his parents and now he adds,”I am their son.”

The world is now like a giant candy shop for Eli so we are also learning to reel him in and try to avoid overstimulating him. He can be a bit like the yellow minions! He wants each toy we see but is also so sweet. He pointed to a plastic bracelet and said, “Mei Mei Hannah.” We did pick up some bubbles at the park and his joy was incredible. He loves them!

We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and then joined other adopting families for dinner. It’s been nice to see their little ones (all younger than Eli) opening up and bonding.

And finally we all slept well! Feeling rested and ready for Guangzhou!

See you there!



Day 5: Eli’s last visit to Nanyang

Today (Wednesday in China) we headed to Eli’s hometown to apply for his passport. It was a 3 hour drive there and over 4 hours back. I had been dreading this trip because I had heard that some people haven’t had air conditioning in their van, hadn’t been able to use the bathroom all day, and couldn’t eat all day. We have an amazingly awesome guide, van, and driver. I actually enjoyed the trip because it gave us a chance to cuddle with Eli. He’s a busy boy so it was especially good for me to get some closer, quieter, extended time.

Eli’s city has fewer tall buildings. Life is a little more slow..a few scooters instead of dozens. People were friendly and we were told the city is very safe. Eli’s orphanage directors came to fill out paperwork. We learned he’s been living in not only an orphanage but a welfare institute (where people of all ages live who need support from the government). One of his directors said hello but Eli didn’t seem to have any reaction. Our guide let us know that he probably didn’t have any contact with them. He got very excited to enter the city but wasn’t sad or confused. Our guide asked him about the day before when he cried before our nap. He adamantly denied crying so I guess it’s the first of a few hard times neither of us will fully understand.

Our trip took the vast majority of our day. We did stop at a Chinese hamburger joint….in one word-YIKES! Besides the random urination on steps or the sidewalk (which can put a quick end to your appetite), the food was pretty unrecognizable. A random girl without parents in sight sat at our table. She was adorable and super friendly but also mocked Ei’s height at some point in our conversation. On a more humorous note, she told our guide that Adam looked like Mr. Bean! After we ate, we stopped at a rest stop (per Eli’s request) and I was so shocked…they had an accessible bathroom-in the middle of the Chinese countryside! I was amazed!

The ride home was a tad terrifying. Lane lines are completely a suggestion. As is the direction of the road-even the highway! Imagine the worst traffic you have EVER seen…triple it and it’s every day here in cities. Our driver decided to take a detour….on dirt scooter roads. Since we lived to tell, it was pretty awesome. We eventually dead ended into a narrow pedestrian passage. So naturally, we just reversed back down the dirt road.

We were all exhausted after the day so bath and our increasing bedtime routines ended our night. Elil is a fan of routines so we’re hopeful some of these can transfer to our next hotel. We are officially finished with provincial business and just need to head to the next city for our national business. We need Eli’s passport first though. It should be ready by Friday morning and we fly out at noon.

All for now!

*Disclaimer: Please ignore typos! I have to peck these out on my phone.








Day 3: Gotcha Day!

Dear Eli

As you snooze peacefully next to me (hands perfectly folded on your chest!), I want to tell you about the day we met you-the day we became a forever family…

I now know that we’d both been preparing and dreaming for that day. You’d flipped through our picture album until some pages were so worn they might come out. Your nanny said you immediately looked at our family picture and knew-WE were your family. Someday you’ll know that people like us have to make all kinds of decisions about when and how to share about our disabilities. We have never struggled over that decision more than when we sent our introduction to you. We worried your questions wouldn’t be answered or you, like so so many adults, would he uncertain. We decided we wanted you to know everything you could about us and that if we wanted you to be proud, we had to keep practicing being proud (by the way, I’ll tell you all about a woman who put that quote in my heart someday). My heart was pounding when I mailed you our book. I sometimes laid awake at night wondering what you would think of us. How would we let you know we would keep you safe and that we have so much fun? I practiced how I would talk through your interpreter. Fear would sometimes seep in as some would ask, “but has has he seen your pictures? Does he KNOW?” Yes…you knew and from the very first moment, you knew that we could, would, and DO love you!

You walked confidently through the doors of the government affairs office this morning right up to your Baba and me all smiles! You were wearing the Ninja Turtles shirt we sent you over The Chinese New Year! After we shook hands, you giggled when we liked your hair-a mohawk! You immediately joined in play with us and the other kids at our Gotcha Day. We can see you are social, happy, and on-the-go! Despite our terrible Mandarin, you listen well (so far-heehee). When we said it was time to go, you wanted to wear your new backpack and go! You a did say goodbye to your nanny first though. She hugged you tight and when you turned to play with Baba, she began to cry. She loved you so much. I promised her we would keep you safe and take good care of you.

On the ride back to the hotel, you showed us how well you can play games on the phone. Our guide asked if you’d like a nap since you’d woken before 6 to drive from the country to meet us. You said you’d rather go to the park! It’s (literally) 105 so the park came to our room and hotel halls with balls and balloons. Your guide chatted with you about your new name and you’ve already begun to respond to it!

You are such a curious and smart boy! In our room, you found your headphones first and gestured you wanted to put them in. You did and we showed you Hannah’s music on the iPad. You chose Frozen and started belting out “Let it Go” in Mandarin! We couldn’t believe it and I can see you, like your sister and BaBa love to make people laugh.

We Video Called a few family members who were awake at home and you lived waving and telling them hello. You even told your Lao Lao Birdied congratulations after she’d told us. We walked to lunch with your NiNi and YeaYea and you share some of YeaYea’s soup AFTER you are an entire plate of dumplings! We learned we should order what you do. You picked it out from the menu yourself! You looked around taking in your first restaurant meal. You’d occasionally rattle off sentences to passing waitresses and they’d laugh-we are clueless but cracking up!

In our room, you’ve explored every nook and cranny. I’ve never seen someone more excited about new shorts and shoes. You’ve shown off your shoes in the hall and just twist your ankle in the air as you beam. We make out “thank you” in Mandarin when we’ve given you something you love. You are so sweet and what a helper! You want to hold every door and hold the elevator for Mama each time.

We did eventually take a quick nap and you were ready for more play. You love music and technology. We’ve been communicating pretty well so far. I feel a little like I’m talking to ET. EVERYTHING is new and you want to know what it is and how it works….,,the scale, flossers, balloons, and all sorts of cords. Whatever you get out, you put back neatly! You even gave me a look and hung my towel that was on the floor! You’ve got your hands full with Hannah. You asked about MeiMei within seconds of meeting us and you two finally “met” on FaceTime when she woke up. She studied you and you waved saying “Hi MeiMei!!” (again) smiling. I cannot wait for us to be together!

You took your first bath and seemed to love getting clean! Wow-those ears! I don’t know how you even heard us through that wax! We used our phone translator to explain it was time for bed and you climbed in. It was clear you’d rather play but you are such a good listener.

What a day! I will never forget this feeling Eli. We’d prepared ourselves for what we thought was anything but I don’t think I allowed myself to think it could be this amazing. I was prepared that you might attach to one of us more than the other at first but you’ve come to us both and been so loving. It feels like a dream. We are already so proud of you and love you so much. We know today wasn’t easy for you as you left everything and everyone you’ve known. You are so brave and I’ve never felt a love so courageous. Your sweet voice whispered “wo ai ni (I love you) Mama. Wo ai ni Baba” before you went to sleep. When we go home, you’ll hear people tell us how lucky you are to be adopted. Please remember we are the lucky ones!

Love you to China and back,





China Day 1| Beijing

Waking up in China!

Our room was so nice but the jet lag is tricky. I woke up at 3:30 missing Hannah and WIDE awake. Adam was just as awake and we spent a couple of hours leaving funny WeChat’s. Thankful to our friends and family who helped us pass the time. WeChat is a free app. Add us if you’d like to chat!

So far we’ve managed arrangements and the language barrier fairly well. It’s helped that many in Beijing speak English. We met a taxi driver coming out of the airport yesterday. He had a van and knew we’d need it. He asked if he’d like us to comeback and pick us up this morning and just did! So far everyone has been really kind. There are some stares and it’s a little getting used to that fewer people smile back but we have that in the States too sometimes.

We are on our way back to the Beijing airport now for our flight to Zhengzhou. We’ve been told that THIS is where our accessibility challenges will ramp up so please send positive wheeler vibes our way.

Eli has just one more night as an orphan….

More to come on what was actually Day 2 for us but making sure this posts

Telling our story

10468359_10203411500639875_92640005391714258_nFridays are always jam-packed for us. Since Adam works on Saturdays, it’s one of our only days to get a few things done and spend time together as a family. We started the day with Hannah’s last swim lesson for a couple of weeks. Her coach and friends wished us well and everyone is excited that the next time they see us…we’ll have Eli in tow!

This afternoon, we worked with videographer/journalist to start filming what will become a short piece about our family and our journey to Eli. Once again, Hannah was quite the character but she eventually calmed so much she passed out on the couch! That gave us a chance to answer several questions and talk more in depth about adoption, the rights of parents with disabilities in the US, and what led us to and through this process. It’s so nice to work with journalists who treat disability as a cultural variable. We’ll film a few other pieces together in the next few weeks and Adam and I will even be capturing footage of our own in China. I’m excited to have these memories documented in such a cool way but more importantly-I want other people with disabilities to know that parenthood-through many different paths-is possible. I can’t wait to see how the piece turns out!

We capped our night with a fly-in visit from Birdie (aka my mom). We spent the evening at one of our favorite playgrounds and enjoyed some Kona Ice. I know our lives will get a bit hectic in the next few days as we pack and make final arrangements. Still, ,we’re trying to soak up these last few days as a family of 3 and enjoy this amazing summer before our adventure of a lifetime.


Getting closer by the day

It’s been an adoption whirlwind around here since we received our Letter of Approval. The very day we received our LOA, we were able to apply for the next step (the i800). This step entails permission from Homeland Security for Eli to become a citizen. Friday before last, our approval arrived! Thanks to my months of studying the alphabet soup process known as adoption, I knew that I could save a few days if I emailed the US Visa offices rather than waiting on hard copy correspondence. Within an hour, I got what’s called a GUZ number. You then enter this number into a form on the Secretary of State’s website that will grant another piece of the permission puzzle for Eli to enter the country. By the end of the day on that Friday, we’d accomplished everything! These steps can sometimes take up to 1 or 2 weeks if you wait on letters to be mailed. So now…….

We’re waiting for what’s called Article 5 pick-up. This step is again back in China and unfortunately we’ll be just a tad slowed by Memorial Day AND Dragon Boat Festival. It’s the consulate so they are closed for both American and Chinese holidays. In the meantime though, we’re moving right along with another step as we mailed our visa applications out tomorrow morning. We’re hopeful that visas and our Article 5 will be picked up between June 3 and 5th.

When that happens, we have just two waits left! First, we wait for TA or travel approval. That can come in as little as a few days or some families wait a little over 20. The last wait is usually the very shortest and that’s for your CA-or your consulate appointment. This is your last appointment in China so it tells you the date you could fly home! After TA, you’re usually given a CA within just a couple of days.

Long story….and lots of letters later….we hope to have Eli in our arms in just a little over a month! To give you an idea of just how far we’ve come, here’s the visual of the adoption process. I didn’t create this graphic but I’ve referred to it countless times to help me understand where we are, where our documents are going, and what’s next!

steps for international adoption

An image showing the 14 stages to international adoption

We’re a tad overwhelmed with all that remains to do but we’re excited that the end is in sight as well as so many new beginnings!

This weekend-we’re tackling organization of Eli’s new room so we’ll share pictures with a future update.



LOAcelebrationWe’ve waited 71 long, tedious days to announce that China has approved our adoption of Eli! Our agency received the hard copy of our Letter of Approval (LOA) this afternoon and it should be on our doorstep tomorrow. We couldn’t be more excited. Most people travel between 8 and 10 weeks from the day their receive LOA. We still have a steps-like getting visas and getting Eli’s immigration paperwork finalized. The remaining steps seem to move for people with a tad more predictability. We also find it pretty amusing that we were logged into China’s systems on Adam’s birthday and will be officially signed and sealed on Eli’s. It’s becoming closer by the day and we cannot wait to get Eli home. In the next few days, we’ll be preparing a care package for Eli-which will include our pictures and an introduction. It’s comforting (and a little terrifying!) to know that we’re once again on a track where each day matters. Cannot wait to get our little guy home!

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