March 19th was Rylee's 4th birthday. Oh my, was she ever excited! We had her birthday party two days before her actual birthday, March 17th. After having been here for Tucker's birthday exactly two months before, she knew what this day meant in the Harmon home. There will be cake. There will be ice cream. There will be family in town. There will be presents! (Which let's be honest...was her favorite part.)
Of course the theme of the day was Peppa Pig! Her favorite part about the cake was the "muddy tuttles" as she says....we would just call them muddy puddles.
She loves her family and they love her right back. Papaw (the guy in the middle) and Rylee have a sweet special bond. Those two together just fill my heart up. He's Tucker & Rylee's great-grandfather. I'm so thankful Tucker & Rylee have grandparents and great-grandparents to love on them!
The family was so excited to share Rylee's special day.
Yes...there was presents galore. Lots of frills, pink, sparkles and Peppa Pig.
Her birthday party was incredible.....for so many reasons really. All throughout the day I was thinking to myself, "We could have missed this." We could have said no when God called us to adopt. To even think that now breaks my heart on what we could have missed.
That date, just two years before, was an unbearable day. Exactly two years before on March 17th, 2016, Jason and I were sitting in my OB/GYN's office listening to my doctor tell me that the little baby growing inside me would not survive. Exactly two years ago, my life was changed forever and I was heartbroken, crushed and wondering what God was doing and why was this happening to me. Now I know. I realize had we not had that moment of complete brokenness, I wouldn't have been able to see the joy and experience the life and love this little girl has given us. Had we not fallen on our knees before God....we wouldn't have had the courage and been able to hear Him call us to China, where our daughter was. The irony doesn't go unnoticed that March 17th for Jason and myself was a day of loss...and now it's a day of celebration. I love how God turns things for our good.
If you've meet Rylee, then you know her personality is like none other....but she's also very much a Harmon...and I would even dare say my mini-me. It is unbelievable just how similar her and I are. Well, really, God knew what He was doing when He gave us Rylee's file and impressed it on our hearts that she was our daughter. I'm amazed, daily, how this bond, attachment and incredible love I have for her grows.
The bond, attachment and love is growing in all of us for this sweet girl. I love that adoption brings a total stranger into a home, but automatically the love you feel for that child is just as strong as if it were born into the family. The entire family is wrapped around our little girl's finger. And I'm pretty sure Rylee knows it.....and let's be honest....enjoys it. ;-)
On her actual birthday, which was the following Monday the 19th, on our way to dance we stopped by our favorite local coffee shop Split Bean Roasting Company and had a cup with our buddy and owner, Chris. I asked Chris for a picture that day because I wanted to document the day. He obliged and then gave Rylee a treat for her birthday.
Since it was her special day, Ms. Rebecca asked Rylee what song she wanted for her "free style" dance. Of course, since it's ballet, we went with something super classy and elegant ....."Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars. #keepingitclassy
We picked Tucker up from school and headed to Nashville for a fun surprise. And let me just say, these two.....it's like they've been around each other their whole lives. They are the definition of brother and sister. They fuss at each other (let's be honest...like a lot) but when it comes down to it, would do anything for each other. They protect one another and love each other fiercely. They are best friends and my mama heart loves it. I pray they always stay close.
Her face in the middle picture cracks me up. They turned on the machine that fills the bear and she wasn't having it! Ha!!
Of course, big brother got to pick out one too.
And the finished product. I was so excited to take her there because I just knew she would pick Trolls (one of her favorite things) or a cat of some sort (another fav) but nope, she wasn't interested in any of that. She of course picked Spider-Man. Tucker picked a transformer.
We ended the day with a fun dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.
I wanted to also share a little about her progress. I'm going to try & keep the same format as before because it helps me remember!
Sleeping: She rocks this whole sleeping thing. We don't have an issues whatsoever and I'm so thankful. She does, however, suck her thumb when she sleeps, so we're trying to figure out ways to keep her from doing that, but she's a great sleeper. (YAY!)
Eating: This girl loves all the cucumbers and tomatoes she can eat! She really does great with vegetables and fruit. She's coming around on meat too. She is always willing to try new things too, which I love. Today she had riced cauliflower and ground turkey meat with Mama and we both loved it. She's a great eater!
Speech: Ya'll.....let me just say this...Rylee knows ALL the words! If you are my facebook friend then you've seen her "Boomshakalaka" video. If she asks me for something (candy...toy...tv time..etc) and I say yes...her response "YES! (fist pump) boomshakalaka!" Every. Single. Time. It's seriously awesome. Like the very best. You can very much have a full on conversation with her in English and she would understand every word. This is truly a miracle. Just seven months ago she literally had no idea what she was saying. Her new thing to talk about now is how when we were in China she says, "I didn't even know what you were saying!!" She remembers how she couldn't understand us when we were in China and how it sounded like gibberish. Even as I type that, I'm shaking my head thinking...."Wow...God is so amazing." Just seven short months ago....we had no way to communicate with each other and just pushed through....but now....literally non-stop with her conversations. Amazing.
Watch this video. I told her to tell the story about when we were in China. It's hilarious and amazing all at the same time. She obviously has trouble showing her personality. ;-)
Her name: We get a lot of questions still about her past or about her in general. One question we get a lot is did we get to name her. Answer: Yes, we did. We chose Rylee because it's special to us both. Jason's middle name is Riley and of course I'm Aimee with two E's...so we chose Rylee with two E's. It's a bit of us both. We chose Mei because Mei Mei in Mandarin means little sister. Tucker's middle name is Ray....so with Mei rhyming...I mean it just worked. Right!? Tucker Ray & Rylee Mei. It's like a country song and we do live in the south. Rylee did have a Chinese name, but we preferred a name we could say and spell easily. :-)
These two on Easter Sunday morning. I really should post the 7 other pictures before this because they weren't cooperating. I'm pretty sure we may have mentioned something about "no Easter egg hunt if you don't smile." #reallife #momlife
These two bring us so much joy and I'm constantly reminding myself how grateful I am that God chose this path for us. The path of adoption, the path of opening our hearts...but more importantly the path of using us to show others God's abundant love through this process. There are times I think about that little baby that I will not meet on this Earth, but not necessarily in a grieving way. I'm grateful for that little one who God chose to take to Heaven, because had He not, I would not have Rylee. The path to this point was definitely rocky and hard, but I would do it all over again.
I recently met a new friend who is traveling to China with her husband to get their first child, a sweet little girl. We met for coffee and she mentioned how this whole process is an amazing way to share the gospel. I couldn't agree more. I pray that through our journey, as you read this, you see that it's nothing we've done, but it's everything God has done through us. Our prayer is that if you're reading this and adoption is on our heart, please do not dismiss it. God placed it there for a reason. Trust me, we NEVER thought this would be something we could achieve, but God provided everything we needed. Trust Him to provide for you.
We could have missed this. I'm forever thankful that we get to live this.
Wow! Has it been four months? We got home with Rylee September 8th, so yeah, January 8th marked four months. I started this post at the two month mark, but now we're already into the four month mark. Obviously, I'm late..but we've been living life and having fun! In some ways it's like she's always been here. She was definitely born to be our daughter. We have done a lot in these last few months and I wanted to share her progress.
First things first, get her some Vol gear! :-) #gbo
I'm a big fan of the Mix and Match Mama, she has adopted two sweet girls from China and I like how she does her post adoption updates, so with that in mind, I'm working smarter and not harder and copying her outline. :-)
Sleeping: Rylee is a great sleeper. When in China, she slept right beside me. Once we got home that first night or so, she slept in our bed. We ended up getting her a Peppa Pig pull out bed/couch for her to sleep next to me at night, but not in the bed. She didn't want to go to sleep unless I was right beside her, so I ended up falling asleep with her every night at 8:30. Which sounds great for all of us tired Mama's, but we all know once those kids go to sleep that's when the work begins! I needed those few hours at night to finish up things that didn't get done during the day. So after a while I would tell her "I'll be right back" and "in just a minute" and she understood that I was coming back, and she would drift off to sleep. During the day however, she would take naps upstairs in her big girl bed. I would have to lay with her until she fell asleep and quietly slip out. Then I got to where I would tell her
"in a minute" and she would be fine. Now for nap time I always say "Rylee, know what time it is?" she'll say "Sleep time?" I say yes and she heads up to bed negotiating how long she has to sleep. "Just a little bit Mama?" with her hands close together showing me how little..and I'll pull her hands apart and say "This much!" and we both laugh and she says, "Ok, Mama" and she goes right to sleep. I mean seriously, she's the best sleeper!! She now sleeps upstairs in her big girl bed every night and doesn't get up until morning! (Although she sometimes comes to our bed for a few snuggles and I'm ok with that.) All the praise hands UP!
Here you can see her "bed" she used for a bit. We were having movie night and we quickly discovered she loves "pop-a-corn"! This was probably month one that I took this picture.
Eating: She's a pretty good eater. She does eat vegetables like a champ. Just last night she tried turnip greens and said, "Mama, I like it!" Whoa. She loves pretty much all fruits and quite a few veggies. Some of her favorites are carrots (raw only), green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn on the cob and roasted potatoes. Fruits...give this girl all the oranges! She loves oranges!! And to be totally honest, I absolutely HATE peeling an orange. I just can't handle it. Yes, I used a knife for a while, but then I remembered Cuties or Halos! Kids can peel those!! Yay! So now this girl does her own oranges...and she probably eats 3-4 a day. She's getting her vitamin C! Meats on the other hand...that's hit or miss. We grilled pork chops and she liked that, she does like chicken nuggets and if we're going for protein she LOVES peanut butter. (She is my daughter for sure!) She loves peanut butter anyway you can give it to her. Spoon, bread, cracker whatever just give her peanut butter! She also loves shrimp. Grilled, not fried. She's not much of a "breading" person. She's definitely a healthy eater, although right now if you asked her what her favorite food is she'll gladly say "CANDY!" HA.
As you can see here, she's also a big fan of spaghetti! Which brings me to my next topic...bath time!
Bath: She HATED baths when we first brought her home and even some in China. I think it was mostly the water being poured over her head...but she HATED it. So I had the bright idea one day to let her & Tucker "bathe" together. Don't worry, they both had swimsuits on. I just thought that her seeing Tucker in the bath might make it a fun time for her and maybe less traumatic. I think it actually worked. She now has fun in there and doesn't mind it. We also have a good system, I make sure and put my hand over her eyes and she knows now to lean her head back. It's working and we can now bathe without a meltdown! I call that a huge success. Oh...and the best part is she lets Daddy bathe her now. Sometimes she even takes a shower!
Bonding with Daddy: There's nothing sweeter than a Daddy/Daughter relationship and these two have quickly fell in love with each other. She loves her Daddy and is so excited to see him when he gets home from work. She runs to him and yells, "Baba!" or "Daddy!!". It is precious. She has really come around in just few short months. They play together, they love on each other and they have bonded quickly. It's amazing to see. In this picture, we visited Daddy at work and when Rylee saw that microphone she had to test it out!
This picture warms my heart so much. Just a few short months ago she wanted nothing to do with Jason. Now, they play, laugh, and have such a great daddy/daughter relationship. It's just a beautiful thing God has done in such a short time.
What she likes: Rylee loves all the girly things. She loves bows and dress up and make up and shoes and jewelry (the infamous black pearls!) and everything that glitters. She also loves a good muddy puddle and Spiderman. She's pretty well rounded. Ha. Peppa Pig is her favorite right now...and yes, I blame Peppa for her love of puddles. You Mom's know what I"m talking about. Dumb pig jumps in puddles all the time...so that means I'm constantly washing her muddy clothes. Thanks a lot, Peppa. Anyway, she really loves the Paw Patrol, Trolls and Minnie Mouse too. She's also getting into princesses and I'm really excited about that! I love princesses! Ha.
She loves getting herself dressed, most of the time. We recently got her hair cut and she is now coming into her own sense of style. (Thanks, Amanda!)
Big brother Tucker had cowboy day at school, so she decided she needed Hulk day.
But if there were only one thing this girl could do forever...it would be going outside. She loves being outside! Whether she's playing with our goats, cats or chickens or riding around with big brother, she doesn't care, just let her be outside! Today we're actually supposed to get snow....yay! We will see what she thinks about that. Ha.
Attachment: This is Rylee in Sunday School. I was going with her the first few times, and one Sunday Jason was going to stay with her while I attended our own class. I heard our class door open and saw Jason standing there. I was pretty upset. I'm not going to lie. He had one job and that was to stay with Rylee during Sunday School and he didn't even do it.
Now you're probably thinking, "Sheesh, cut the guy some slack!". Yes, you're right. But there's more to the story. Rylee has basically been speaking fluent English at this point. She understands you and you can understand her. It's amazing. Just the Sunday before this we had a special Christmas choir practice. During that practice, I let her stay with our nursery workers and our sweet Nana B, who is everyone's Nana at our church. I knew she would be in good hands and she was! Rylee told me she didn't even cry! Yay! That was great! Well, Monday came and as soon as she woke up from her nap, she came downstairs and said, "You're not my Mom. I want to go back to my school." Oh.....I was crushed. Completely crushed and honestly I got mad at her. It hurt me so deep and it was so out of the blue I was just shocked and heartbroken. Where did this come from? We are doing SO well....like amazingly well? Why all of the sudden is she saying this? And what's more, she said it and then went about her business like nothing had happened? Are you kidding me!? I didn't say anything to her other than, "What? Rylee I am your Mom. I love you." And I couldn't really say much more because I was just too hurt.
We got in the car because it was time for us to go get Tucker from school. I'm in the car with the radio on and just thinking about what she said. I was getting more and more angry and hurt. Does she not know the things we've gone through to get her here! Doesn't she realize we've given her LIFE?! A life better than she would have had! I rescued her. I saved her! Yes, those thoughts ran through my head. Yes, I know I'm not her savior, but this was real and raw and I'm just being honest.
Just then I heard a song come on our Christian radio station talking about our Rescuer. I was thinking "Yes, I rescued her!" and then....just like that.....God spoke to me and said, "Aimee, I rescued you. I am your Savior. I've given you LIFE. And daily you tell me I'm not your Father and you go back to your old ways and habits." O-U-C-H! Oh...I repented right there in the car line. He used that hard, heartbreaking moment to tell show me how I treat my Savior. Just then a grace poured over me towards Rylee. God loves me anyway...even though I run away from Him. It was grace to see her through His eyes and see what true unconditional love was. At that moment all my anger and hurt washed away and love and grace poured over me. I love Rylee no matter what. She is my child. It was a precious and eye opening event for me. I honestly pray I never forget that. I needed that reminder of grace.
So that next Sunday was the day Jason was supposed to stay with her. After what all transpired during the week I wanted him to stay with her. He didn't. Yes, it upset me because I was afraid she would forget me or replace me, but she didn't! She didn't cry and she came running to me after class. Whew. Nothing sweeter than seeing your child's face light up when they see you! Now she goes to class every Sunday without incidence. And she hasn't said those words since. She does however talk about her "school" and sometimes it's hard to hear, but sometimes it's really sweet memories too. One day we will get the scrapbook her orphanage gave us and go over everything, but at four months home it's a little soon.
I don't say all this for any other reason than to be real. I don't want anyone to think we live in some sort of fantasy. I read other blogs and I never hear about their hardships. I want anyone thinking about adoption to know that it was absolutely the best decision we've ever made, and absolutely the hardest. Rylee was born a Harmon, no denying that, but she also has some baggage that a little three year old shouldn't have. She does talk about her "other mommy" from her foster home. She does talk about her school being far away. But she also says "Mommy, I love you so much!" which makes it all worth it.
The holidays this year were really exciting and Rylee really got into all of them! Halloween she went as Ariel. I think just because the outfit had sparkles, sequins and frill. Ha. Tucker was the superhero, Falcon. We did some trick or treating around our town square, then headed to a friend's neighborhood. Rylee nailed the "Trick or Treat!" One house she got so excited because all these people were giving her candy...she yelled at the lady opening the door, "Happy Halloween!!!" while holding up her bag for candy. HAHA!!! She was a great sport and gave her candy anyway. It was so funny.
Thanksgiving was extra special this year because both sides of our family had lots to be thankful for. The picture in the middle is Rylee & Tucker with all of their cousins. I love Thanksgiving because their is no other agenda except a great meal and family time.
Christmas was EPIC this year. She completely understood all of the excitement and Tucker was a big help in telling her all about Christmas.
Yes, we have an elf. His name is Chippy, although Rylee kept calling him Chubby. I hope she didn't give him some sort of self image complex?! Anyway, it was super fun to see them both waking up to see what sort of antics he'd been into the night before. I'm going to be honest, Chippy was a bit lazy this year because trying to watch two kids rather than one is exhausting!! Maybe next year Santa will send two elves so it's a 1-1 defense, but we will see.
It's SO hard not to touch the cute elf. We almost lost him this year, but thankfully he pulled through after a few.....er....make that several days of rest. ;-)
They were really excited to set out the milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. They may have eaten one or two. Sorry Santa!
This Christmas was extra special and extra hard. We were missing a few family members this year as they spent their first Christmas in Heaven, but God showed His grace and gave us a wonderful memorable Christmas. Rylee's first Christmas was so special and she was spoiled beyond belief as was Tucker.
We spent the last few days of the year with our niece and nephew. Ashlyn & Rylee played with some make up. Ashlyn did Rylee's and then Rylee did Ashlyn's. I'll not post Ashlyn's after...just think Picasso and you've nailed it. HA! We had a lot of firsts during their visit. We went bowling, Rylee's first time. She did great and loved it. As you can see she strutted after every time she bowled. Ha. We had some nerf wars and had tons of fun! We went to see some fun Christmas lights around town too. It was such a fun few days.
We spent the last few days going to Rylee's first movie and hanging out at home because it was like negative 100 degrees outside. (Insert eye roll emoji) New Year's Eve we camped out in the living room and watched movies and made masks. These little rookies couldn't hack staying up all the way to midnight. Rylee made it to 10:00 and Tucker made it to 11:00. I made it to 11:30 (which I thought was awesome!)... and woke up just as the ball dropped and fell back asleep. #mamaneedssleep
What a wonderful four months this has been. There's so much more that has happened, but this post would be crazy long if I wrote it all out. I'm so incredibly grateful that I get to be the Mom to these two kids. Though somedays I'm frazzled and stressed out, it's still such a blessing to get to watch these two grow, fuss like brother and sister, play and love each other. I can't wait to see what 2018 holds for us! Stay tuned...my resolution this year is to update this blog more than once every four months. We'll see how that goes....
The next day started off pretty typical.
We realized Rylee was not much of a morning person pretty quickly. Ha. Apparently, on this morning I was a little too chatty for her. ;-)
This day we were headed to Shamian Island and the pearl market. I was really looking forward to this. It was pretty much shopping all day. We went with several other families. On this particular day it was raining...terribly. And lucky for us Shamian Island was completely outdoors! (she said sarcastically) So needless to say I didn't get many...ummm...make that no pictures at all. So for your viewing pleasure I've Googled for you some pictures of Shamain Island. It was very pretty and reminded me of New Orleans. Although I've never been to New Orleans, it had that vibe, to me anyway.
As you can tell, it was very pretty. It had several shops, a Starbucks and a place called Lucy's where we went for lunch. In the rain it wasn't nearly as fun, but at least it wasn't terribly hot that day! #winning
We headed to the pearl market too. It was more like an indoor mall/flea market with TONS of vendors selling various gems and jewels. Again, no pictures, but there wasn't much there to take pictures of. One funny thing that happened though, we bought Rylee a white pearl bracelet. The guide asked her if she liked the bracelet and she said she wanted the black one. Ha! Ok, then. Black it is! The shop owner gladly exchanged it for us, but we knew right then that Rylee was a girl that knows what she wants!
After that we went back to the hotel for a nap and some down time.
Side Note: I'm writing all this after we have returned and I keep looking back at notes I took along the way so I can remember things about the trip. Here's a note from this day.
Not sure what day it is today in the journey, they all seem to be running together, but it's 2:23 pm here and we've all laid down for a nap. Apparently 2:30 for me whether am or pm is my "wide awake time". I can't seem to sleep during those hours. So I lay here looking at this beautiful sweet China baby sleeping beside me, thinking about 1 year ago I was telling Jason, God is telling us to go to China because our child is there and Jason was still on the fence. Then I'm thinking about everything that has transpired within the last year that brought her here, to us, to become Rylee Mei Harmon. I'm overwhelmed - maybe that's why I can't sleep, but it's an overwhelming thought to think that God had this whole thing planned out even before we knew it. He knew exactly which sweet China baby was ours when she was born, 3 years ago, when adoption was the farthest thing from our minds. Now I'm looking at her wondering what God has in store for her. No doubt mighty and great things with her fiery personality and sass. All of which I tend to think are positive attributes and quite similar to her Mama's. It's just amazing the steps we took to get to this moment. Me, laying beside her, hearing her breath ever so gently and watching her sleep. She's beautiful and perfect and exactly what our family needed.
At this point of the journey Rylee is still not very keen on Baba (Daddy) especially when we are out of our room. In the room, however, they do play some. Here, she grabbed Baba's hat and pranced around the room. This was the best picture I could get because she was running around all over. Those moments were precious and very special.
Finished with the nap and ready to hit the town again!
There was a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel. We headed over for some coffee and Rylee had her first taste of hot chocolate....she wasn't a fan...however she was a fan of the whipped cream from my frap! HA. We walked around and visited some shops. Afterward we headed back to the hotel because we heard they had a play room for kids. (Please note the black pearls) Insert eye roll emoji here. ;-)
We played with our new friend Hannah and her family. We had a great time with these guys. That night we had dinner together at this Irish Pub. Of course, no pictures, but just imagine lots of laughs, screams (from Rylee) and really good food with some new life long friends.
The next day we had our appointment with the American Consulate. We were not allowed to have our phones, so again no pictures, but I will say seeing the United States flag on that building was a welcoming site. I remember Jason and I breathing a little sigh of relief just seeing it...it felt a little like home.
We had to go through all sorts of security and finally got to the "holding room." We were there with lots of other families. Some we knew, some we didn't. The room looked kind of like the DMV, however they did have a play area for the kids. Rylee really enjoyed it. At one point they asked one parent of each child to come up to say the oath. It was pretty special.
Once we were finished we left...and it was POURING rain!! Jason, Rylee & I had to walk to where the others were waiting on us about 2 blocks away. Someone yelled at us in Chinese and said something about "the child" in English. I think they were saying "Get the child out of the rain!" and they threw an umbrella at us. So we ran to get the child out of the rain. Once we got to the building where the other families were, we were SOAKED. It was pitiful. Thankfully they had a coffee bar! Oh, and the best part was as soon as we walked inside the building another family was about 5 minutes behind us and they came in dry as a bone. Of course the rained stopped as soon as we got inside. Ha.
Lacey, Katie and I did our ugly selfie because we were done with appointments at this point...and rain. Notice my drenched hair. Thanks Meili for the ponytail holder! (I still have it and think of her every time I see it!)
That evening we were invited back to the consulate for a luncheon. This had never been done before in the history of Chinese adoptions, so we weren't really sure of what to expect. Other families we knew were invited too. We arrived and they had some fun things for the kids to do, movies, games, toys and such. They basically wanted to get to know the families that were there to adopt and hear about our process. They also had some really good "almost" American food! Ha. It was a really neat experience and they explained part of their process too.
The next day was a free day. We decided to go back to Shamian Island in the dry this time! We took two taxi's because we went with our new freinds, the Manuel family. This picture from left is me, Rylee, Landon and Addie. Those two kiddos captured Rylee's heart right away. I'm pretty sure she wanted to live with Addie...but sorry kid...you're with us. When I saw them together though it made me very excited to get her home to big brother. I knew Tucker and her would be instant friends. (Fast forward...they are best friends!)
We had a really good day here and got lots of really fun presents! (Thank you China...we're almost done with Christmas shopping!! All the praise hands! Whoo!!)
That night was probably one of our favorite nights in China. The hotel held an "Adoptive Family Night Reception" and all of us met in this lounge area and they had a band, food and lots of dancing and fun! (Thanks Lacey for letting me steal your photos!) I was terrible at picture taking on this night! I was having too much fun!
Meet Rylee, Addie, Meili and Hannah!
Rylee, Addie & Maelin-Kate!
These two were cutting a rug!!!
The Manuel family and us. As you can see from the reflection in the mirror, Addie & Rylee are still dancing the night away!
The next day...we were headed to our final stop before coming home! Ahhhh....almost there! We took a train to Hong Kong to catch our flight HOME the next day.
We seriously considered adopting Landon & Addie too. Ha! Those kids entertained Rylee quite a bit while in China...which was a big blessing. She loved them and they loved her. It was sweet. We had to wait at the train station for what seemed like forever to get on the train. It was incredibly crowded and being that Hong Kong isn't part of China, we had to do the whole customs stuff again. We got to be pros when all was said and done.
Some pictures from the train.
Katie took this picture of Rylee on the train. She was pretty excited the Manuel's were right behind her.
We sat beside our new friends Nick & Tia, who happened to be staying at the same hotel we were staying at that night! #score They had actually worked in Hong Kong before and knew exactly how to get from the train station to our hotel! Hooray for Nick & Tia! They were gracious enough to be our guides and we were incredibly thankful. We would have really struggled to get to where we needed to be had it not been for them. They adopted two sweet babies while we were there. (Hi guys! We owe you big!)
We took several different trains to finally arrive at our final hotel of this 16 day trip. Let me preface this next part by saying we realized about 3 days before we actually left that we were on our own for our last hotel stay. Meaning, all of our hotels since we landed in China were booked by our adoption agency, so we were assuming all was taken care of. Well, I'm so thankful Jason looked closely at our itinerary because all was not taken care of. So we (and by we I mean me) freaked out and scrambled to find a last hotel on the last night of our trip, then it hit me. There's a Disney Land in Hong Kong. Could we actually do that?! Stay at Disney Land Hong Kong!? If you don't know me personally, just know that just saying the words Disney Land gives me goosebumps. I am a 33 year old kid. I LOVE Disney! Like...REALLY LOVE IT!!!! So for this to even be an option to just stay at a hotel on the Disney Land premises in Hong Kong was just amazing. We looked into this option further and it wasn't much more expensive than any other hotels we found. (Insert squeal here!) So, we booked it!
As it turns out, Nick & Tia work at Disney in Florida and had worked at the Hong Kong Disney Land. What are the odds!? (Thank you Jesus for this blessing!) They knew exactly the route to take. They lead us right to our hotel. We took this last train and Rylee's face lit up! She knew who Minnie & Mickey were!
Disney magic was in the air! I was so excited....and so was Rylee!!!
We stayed at the Disney Explorers Lodge. It was so fun. We needed this little boost at the end of our trip to help us get through the next day, which was 30+ hours of travel time.
We got to our hotel, got settled in and were starving. We ate at the hotel at The World of Color restaurant. It was delicious and perfectly Disney!
The next morning we had a special surprise for Rylee. We got out early and explored the hotel a little bit before the surprise.
We obviously couldn't get it together with these pictures, but you get the idea. Ha.
Of course it was crazy hot here and the humidity made my hair look ridiculous...but we didn't care..we were almost home!
She was very much all about Mama on this journey. Still, Jason was a trooper and so patient with her.
We met Mickey & Minnie!!! You can't tell from this photo, but she was so excited. I really think this was a turning point with her relationship with us. These "strangers" that took her away from what she knew....know Mickey & Minnie! How can they be bad? It was like she let go a little after this, put her guard down some and trusted us a little bit more. It was completely worth it for that moment.
Rylee was in awe of Mickey & Minnie. She even got to hold their hand when they walked out. It was amazing.
After breakfast, we headed to the airport! YAY!
So Hong Kong is a Crown Colony of the British Empire. (Yes, I googled that to make sure I'm saying it correct, if it's not right, blame Google.) That being said, they drive on the other side of the road and it was strange! Ha. I had never seen that before and I know all of you world travelers are like "No biggie" but I thought it was so cool I had to take a picture!
When we arrived at the airport we were very early, but we found our friends and they made the time past faster. We ended up traveling back on the same plane as about 4 others families we knew!
And we're off!!! We had movies and lots of stuff to keep us entertained for this 14 hour flight. We were ready for the worst....but this girl ROCKED that flight!!! She did amazing! We were so proud!
Hello, Dallas!! This little sister was ready to meet her big brother! Just one more flight to go!
Her and Daddy playing at the airport while we wait on our last flight of the trip to Nashville. It was as if as soon as she hit American soil, she knew she was home. She changed somehow, her demeanor changed and actually wanted to play with Daddy. It was amazing to see.
And then we finally landed in Nashville. We were home! We knew some friends and family would be waiting at the airport for us...but we never expected this!
We were overwhelmed with joy seeing a lot of our friends and family welcoming us home! Oh my heart could still burst just thinking about it!
This little guy was super excited to meet his baby sister....and see Mom & Dad again! We missed each other so much!
Everyone was so excited for us to be home....especially these grandparents & big brother, Tucker.
I missed hugging this sweet boy so much!! I think Rylee was wondering what all the fuss was about. Ha.
Tucker was so sweet to Rylee. The flight attendants gave her a pair of wings and she was pretty focused on getting that on her shirt at this point.
Her Poppa helped her pin it on her shirt. Whew...glad we got that out of the way! ;-)
Finally our little family was all together. We knew right then, at that very moment, our story was just beginning.
Finally! We arrived in Guangzhou and Jason was a rock star! Rylee wouldn't let him hold her or hold her hand during our trip there and because of the crowds of people and me being a nervous Mom, I carried her, a lot. That meant Jason was stuck with all the luggage...all the time. We finally got smart and found a cart at the airport, but most of the time he was huffing it around behind me. He should get a medal! Also, we packed entirely too much! Who knew!? We had never been out of the country before, so we weren't sure what was needed and what wasn't. It was a learning experience, for sure. (Oh and thanks to our friends who let us borrow their luggage! We could see it a mile away!)
We arrived late on that Friday night. It was very, VERY hot there. The humidity was about 1000% all the time...even at night. It was just about miserable.
When we arrived we found our guide and met up with another family who were adopting two sweet kiddos. (Hi Nick, Tia, Bronx & Kiera!)
When we finally arrived at the hotel we were starving. We hadn't eaten since about noon that day and at this point it was after 11:00 pm. Guangzhou was very Western, so right beside our hotel was a McDonald's and a Starbucks! Hooray for Starbucks! We dropped off our luggage and walked down the street for some Golden Arches food. I wouldn't say Jason & I are the biggest fan of McDonald's...but when all you've eaten for the last 10 days is noodles, pork buns and dumplings a hamburger and fries sound really good!
We had to document Rylee's first happy meal. In case you're curious, she didn't like the burger, but she did like the fries. She's still not a fan of chicken nuggets or burgers, but she loves french fries.
Our hotel in Guangzhou was absolutely beautiful. We weren't able to pick any of our hotels for this trip, our adoption agency did it for us, so we had no idea what we would be staying in or what the conditions would be. This one was so pretty. Every day they would put out a big display of hydrangeas in the lobby and it would smell wonderful!
Rylee each day would show us a little more of her personality. This particular morning she had picked out her own clothes and was pretty excited about her purple outfit her great-grandmother had gotten for her. (Of course the headband didn't last long.) Oh and it's blurry because she was dancing around the room. I think she knew we were about to head to breakfast! Ha. The girl loves to eat.
After breakfast we headed to our medical appointment. We met up with some other families that day too. Some we had met through Facebook already, but it was awesome seeing Americans and being able to talk to people! Ha. It was also great because we all understood what each other was going through.
Rylee was a trooper during this appointment. It was definitely obvious this wasn't her first doctor visit. She knew exactly what to do. She never cried, even when they had to take blood. We had some good news here. I'll not delve into her special needs, there are some things we just want to keep to ourselves for now, but I will say you would never know this girl has a special need. She's so active, spunky and can run circles around us. Thankful for this special girl.
One crazy thing happned on this day. As we were on the bus with the other families headed to our appointment, we were chatting with each other. Of course all of our questions started with "Where are you from?" We said, Lebanon, TN and this lady we were talking to said, "Oh I have a friend that lives in Lebanon, I've been there lots of times." Turns out this lady was best friends with the sister of one of my very good friends! Seriously!? What are the odds!! So she & I had to take a selfie and we of course sent it to Nora & Megan (the sister and my friend) and we were all just amazed at how small the world really is.
Monica and I! Please excuse my, ummm, we will say "glowing" appearance...did I mention how HOT Guangzhou was!? Seriously, ya'll, it made me very glad I'm going to Heaven!
After that we all decided to do a little grocery shopping. The place was like a Target. (Not really...but that's what our guide said, there's no other place like Target...just saying.) But it had everything from clothes to groceries. We didn't make it to the clothes section, we wanted to get some snacks Rylee would want. Of course, all she wanted was candy and chocolate. She's three, what do you expect!? Ha. While at the store, this lady wanted us to take our picture with her. I'm still not sure why, maybe it was because Rylee was such a cute model, but she asked, well more like gestured, for us to take our picture with her. We happily obliged.
Notice the tiny cart Rylee is sitting in? Everything there is smaller, I'm guessing because there are so many people and not enough space for everyone. There was only enough space in the cart for her, so Jason grabbed another cart for our groceries.
Once back to the hotel, we were pretty much done for the day.
Day two in Guangzhou was a fun/hot one. I keep saying hot because I need everyone reading this to know it was HOT. You may think Florida in July is hot, but it has NOTHING on Guangzhou. I hope you're getting this...it's automatic sweating as soon as you walk outside. Gross.
Ok, I'm done talking about the heat now...maybe...probably not..but I have digressed so I'll press on.
Day TWO! This day we went to a park and a "temple" but it wasn't like a church, more like a park/market.
This was the park. It was so beautiful there. It, of course, was crowded, but it was really quite pretty.
This is the Five Goats Statue at the Yuexiu Park.
In this part of the park, there were probably 5-8 groups of people playing this hacky-sack type game. They kicked it around with their feet, but it looked kind of like a shuttlecock with actual feathers. It was so fun to watch! There were men out there 3 times our age kicking around that thing. This was a little guy in our group that started kicking it around with them. They were so good at it!
From there we went to the temple. It was really neat. There were lots of little shops to go in and a courtyard area.
While in China, we wanted to make sure and get some items to bring back home for Rylee from her home country. This was one thing we thought she would enjoy. It's a beautiful painting with her name written in Chinese. We definitely want to keep her heritage alive in our home and throughout her life. This painting was beautiful and it's in her room now. Hopefully it's a great reminder of her heritage.
After the park and temple, several of us had lunch at a local noodles place. It was really good. We are still working on her "Cheese!" face. HA! I love this picture. Keep in mind, we've literally known each other at this point under a week. I love this picture for that reason too. She's leaning in, wanting my hand to hold and it was a wonderful thing.
That evening we went to dinner at a place called 1920. It was a German restaurant. We went with our new friends we had made. (I am not sure why I didn't get a group picture that night! Sheesh!)
I don't always take pictures of my food....but when I do..you know it was good. Obviously it was so good we couldn't wait to start eating! Ha. Jason's is on the right, he had the duck. I had the sausage and mashed potatoes with sauerkraut. Oh. My. Gosh. It was so yummy!!!
It was a really fun night with some really great people (not pictured...gosh...so sorry Nathan, Krista and their sweet Joanna!) The restaurant, food, friends and laughs were what we needed on this night!
Guangzhou Part Two....coming up next!
Over the next couple of days were just hung out in the hotel getting to know one another. We didn't venture out at all because our hotel was tucked back this wooded area and honestly we didn't need to for Rylee's sake. She needed to get to know us and we needed to get to know her. What better way than in a small hotel room. We did,however, go outside quite a bit and Rylee loved it. We kept saying, "She's going to love Harmony Acres! There's lot of room to play." (Fast forward...she does! She loves being outside at HER house!) So we would take the ball we brought, the bubbles and of course our jackets because it was chilly and head outside. Oh, and in case we forgot our jackets ,the hotel staff would quickly remind us that it was cool outside (upper 60's) and made us go get our jackets. We would oblige and Jason and I would just laugh.
Although in this picture she isn't smiling, I really think she's getting more comfortable and starting to trust us here. The day we got her, she asked our guide (after much time had past) if we liked her. It broke my heart to even hear our guide say that she asked that. From that one question was so much behind it. So much it's even hard to think about. Possibly she was thinking about her foster family. She didn't live with them anymore, so was this going to be temporary too? I told our guide to tell her we love her. I still tell her that every day. She says it back to me and it's amazing to hear. I still am not sure if she comprehends it all, and I know unconditional love is something that is completely foreign to her, but everyday is a little better and a little sweeter.
We mostly had dinner at the hotel restaurant. On this particular occasion Rylee had pointed to something on the menu and Jason & I both were like, "Really!? She wants that!?" So we ordered it...and she gobbled it up! Yes, the picture below is what I'm talking about. She ate that whole shrimp (minus the head) and we ordered her another! She loved it! Whatever...as long as she's eating and happy! #ewwww
Finally we were able to get out of the hotel and head to a mall and a park. It was a day I was really looking forward to, just because I was ready to get out for a bit.
She thought it would be fun to switch sunglasses, so we did. Notice the "Peace" signs in all the pictures. Apparently that's an Asian thing and anytime you hold up your phone or camera to take her picture, she throws her hand in the air. It's pretty adorable.
I didn't get any pictures at the mall, but it wasn't very much different than an American mall. One thing, you can't pay for your stuff at each store. You take your ticket to the cashier of the item you want, then you pay, then go back to the store with the "paid" written on your ticket and pick up your item.
Next up, the park! We got tons of pictures here. It was beautiful! This was field full of flowers. It was so pretty!!
Obviously, the "Peace" sign is now a Harmon family standard while posing for pictures.
With Hannah, our sweet guide. She was just an incredible lady.
The sculpture park was so neat. It was pretty warm on this day, but still so nice to be out and about.
While we were walking around the park we were trying to point to things to teach Rylee some English, or to get her familiar with it somewhat. We were gladly surprised when she repeated us....for instance, we would say "Flowers" and she would repeat "Blabbers." Close, sis! Good job! So funny.
Often times when adopting and reading blogs and books and stories of adoption it's all about the good times and warm fuzzies. They sometimes leave out the hard, ugly, messy, stressful, difficult hurtful times. I don't want anyone thinking adoption is a fairy tale. It's beautiful, but it's also very messy. At this point in the week we found out some "survival skills" Rylee had acquired in her 3 years on Earth. Some things were not so great...like biting or hitting and so on. It was hard for us to assess this and know how to handle it. We talked to other families while we were there, we asked friends & family back home to pray for us. And on top of all of this, she just wasn't attaching to Jason...at all. She wouldn't do much with him, no stroller pushing, no baths, not even holding his hand. She would play...but that mostly ended up with her hitting or biting him. He was such a trooper during this time. He just tried to love her. He would tell her, "Baba loves you. Baba protect you." Those were such sweet words to hear from him, even though she didn't understand it. It was really tough on him and me. One friend connected me with another Mom that had adopted and she had dealt with these same issues. It was such a relief to know we weren't the only ones. Actually, this sort of behavior is very common with orphans. This new friend shared with me her blog and it was such a comfort to us both. It was exactly what we needed to hear. We needed to remember that Rylee has just gone through something traumatic, and still was, and was processing all of this the best a 3 year old could. None of her outbursts ever caused any harm physically, but emotionally it was hard. She didn't understand unconditional love and that we were not just the "family of the week." She needed to learn we were forever...and what that meant exactly. It's still a work in progress...but progress has definitely occurred.
The next day we left that late on an obviously sunny afternoon for Guangzhou! Jason and I were looking forward to this because we knew there would be other families there adopting. We loaded up on this plane and headed far south of China. I was not looking forward to the flight. Once again traveling inter country is not for us. Small planes, lots of stares and a crying kid made up for a horrible flight. Luckily the lady in front of me who kept staring didn't speak English. Le's just say I had enough of her turning around to look at us and I let her know....with a smile...I promise! Rylee struggled during this flight. We left at 4:15 and arrived in Guangzhou at 8:15. That is her bedtime...so that was tricky. We were so relieved when we landed! Jason & I both got a picture of Poppy fixing Tucker's hair for picture day as soon as we landed and we both just melted. It was just what we needed at that desperate moment.
She slept for a total of 15 minutes on this flight, in between screams. It wasn't fun...but Guangzhou was!! I will tell you about in the next post. Thanks for following along with our story.
It was finally here. The day we've been praying about and dreaming of for the past year. This day has so many thoughts and emotions but I will do my best describe the day.
The night before Jason was watching a video of another family on their Gotcha Day and she had packed her son a backpack with toys and candy. I'm not sure why, until that moment, it never occurred to me to pack some things for Rylee, but I'm thankful that video gave me that idea. We packed her little panda backpack with a stuffed animal, snacks and a few books. We were ready....we thought...we hoped...we prayed.
We arrived at the Civil Affairs office that morning. That was were we were going to be meeting our little girl for the first time. I was nervous, anxious, excited and a little apprehensive because I wasn't sure what to expect. We were not able to go to her orphanage on our trip because it was about 3-4 hours away from the airport. With that in mind, I knew Rylee had been traveling and like any kid, may be tired from the journey, may be a little irritated because she had to wake up so early.....just so many unknowns.
So we waited in that little room while our guide and the civil affairs officer talked about various things, small talk mostly. I, on the other hand, was just trying my best to keep my emotions in check. Jason kept telling me not to cry because I might scare her. Yeah, he's seen my ugly cry before and no doubt it would have freaked her out! HA.
Then....we heard footsteps coming down the hall.....my heart was racing. In walks in this beautiful little girl.
"Be cool, Aimee. Don't cry. Oh my gosh, she's beautiful! Be calm! Don't scare her! She's so pretty!!!" I kept telling myself that. I cried....but thankfully not an ugly cry. Just sweet tears of joy. My beautiful daughter was here, although she wasn't sure about us just yet, she walked right up to us and shook our hands. Her confidence and bravery amaze me.
"Oh....she touched me!! Don't cry, Aimee!!! Calm down!"
We were just overwhelmed with love for this girl. It is amazing how automatic it was for me. In that instant, my mama heart just fell in love with her. She was perfect.
The lady next to Jason was her nanny. The man beside me was the civil affairs officer, the other gentleman and lady were from her orphanage. This picture is incredibly special because these folks helped bring her into our family.
We were there probably about an hour, filling our paper work and getting used to one another. We left here to go to a place to have our photo made for our paperwork. Rylee's nanny from her orphanage came along with us to make things a little easier for us. Even though we knew we were her parents, that bond wasn't instant for Rylee. I read somewhere that we are creating a family member, not just adding one. That is so true.
I feel like this next part should have some sort of disclaimer. It's raw, it's real, it's full of emotion and it was the hardest day emotionally we experienced there. It was time for Rylee to leave everything she's ever known and go with us....who were strangers to her. It was hard. Very, very hard. I had to peel her off of her Nanny who had taken amazing care of her, loved her like her own, rocked her, kissed her boo-boos and sang her lullaby's. I carried her kicking and screaming to our van and it was gut wrenching. She was terrified, distraught and heartbroken because although they had told her Mama & Baba (Daddy) were coming for her, she is three years old and still didn't understand completely. Her and I sat in the van on the way back to our hotel and she just cried, and my heart ached for her.
We made it back to our hotel and it was just hard. I keep saying that word, but that's all I can think of. Emotionally, physically, mentally, it was hard. I hurt for our baby girl who was hurting and so confused. She would just cry and cry and we would try and tell her she was ok, she was safe, she's with Mama & Baba, but she didn't understand. We called our guide and asked her to interpret for us some. We finally asked her if she was hungry and she said yes. We went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for lunch.
Bless her!!! She fell asleep in the restaurant chair. She was exhausted...as were we.
After lunch we came back to the room, we had her noodles brought up, I asked the sweet lady that brought them up to find her something to watch on tv. I figured something familiar may help and what's more familiar to her than some Chinese cartoons.
She watched the cartoons....and we just watched her.
As the day progressed it got a little easier. She showed us her personality a little more which meant she was trusting us just a little. We gave her a bath and changed her clothes. It was still pretty early in the day and I remembered I had brought some bubbles with us.
Her pose! She may not be smiling....but at least she's styling! We headed outside for some vitamin D and bubbles.
Jason is of course showing off his drumming skills. She was impressed.
After some fun outside, which was pretty chilly, we headed back inside to our room.
Then it happened. She smiled. This smile was a very welcomed site after such a long, hard day. This girl is strong, smart, sweet and so funny. She's also so brave. She left all she knew to live with strangers, and by night one she had smiles. Such a brave girl.
This day is one you could never prepare for. I read all the blogs, books and thought I was ready, but it was much harder and much sweeter than I ever dreamed. Adoption is beauty through tragedy. We will never know her parents, she was found at 2 months old. No note. Nothing with her. Her birthday is March 19th because they found her on May 19th and guessed she was 2 months old. We will never know her real birthday. We didn't get to see her orphanage because it was so far away, so I'll never know how she lived for those 3 years she wasn't with us. However, I do know she was found by someone who cared enough for her to help her. She was taken excellent care of by nannies who loved her and fed her and fixed her boo-boos. I do know that whoever her birth mother was, must have known she was someone very special and left her in a spot that she would be found easily. And I do know she was meant to be our daughter. She was born a Harmon. She has a bright future and I have no doubt she will change the world, not because of anything Jason and I have done or will do, only because she is Rylee Mei Harmon and she is fierce. She is determined. She is brave. She is confident and she is full of life. She is my hero.
Traveling to Changchun from Beijing was.....well.....we will just say it was probably one of the worst days we had. Traveling inter-country in China was a little stressful. We arrived to the airport with another family and Nelson, our guide. The Beijing airport is huge. None of us spoke Chinese, except of course Nelson, so we had to fully rely on him. Thankfully he was completely trust worthy. We never had any fear otherwise. We get our boarding passes, checked our massive amounts of luggage (which we, during the course of this trip, we kept kicking ourselves because we packed entirely too much) and started through security. A gentleman (who had spoken with Nelson earlier) came up to us and motioned us to go with him. We reluctantly did. I didn't have a good feeling about it. He tried taking us around security and a guard came up and started yelling at him. We all walked back to the regular security line and the other family we were with ended up giving him about $3 to get rid of him. It was a scary moment for us. We were obviously Americans, who didn't speak Chinese, and he was looking to make some quick cash. We should have known better, but no harm no foul in the end and lesson quickly learned.
China is extremely thorough in their security process...which quite honestly I was thankful for. We made it through with no problems and waited in what looked like a Greyhound bus station for our next flight. We were stared at a lot. I'm sure they were all wondering why we were going to that remote area, but we stayed together. I literally could feel your prayers that day. Thank you so much!
We had to take a bus to the airplane, that was horrible. Everyone pushes past everyone else and there are no such thing as lines, but we made it. It was chaos and I literally wanted to just cry, but I held it together until we got on the plane. It was just overwhelming, the man at the airport, the chaos, the smells, the people, feeling completely alone in a foreign country with no lifeline and being very aware our baby boy was literally on the other side of the world, it was a hard moment to say the least. Then some verses came to mind, I held Jason's hand, we prayed and a sweet peace came over us both. We are so grateful that God was with us. It was a much needed comfort from our Great Comforter at that moment.
We were up and in the air.....then quickly landed. It was a short flight and I was SO grateful!
Her province was Jilin, a northern more remote province. We were grateful to be out of a city and into more "country". This area was very pretty. You can tell it has a little more wide open spaces from this picture.
Sweet Hannah, our guide, was a very welcomed site, as you can probably tell by my face. We were thankful to see someone who spoke English and had a smile. As it turns out, she went to school in Chattanooga and was SUPER excited we were from Tennessee. She was incredibly sweet and will be a friend forever.
We arrived about 11:30 so we were ready for lunch at this point. Hannah took us to a dumpling place. It was really good! The picture I took was before 2 other dishes came out! We had no idea what Hannah was ordering, but it was yummy. The statue picture was at the entrance of the restaurant, so I had to take a picture.
The staff at the hotel was decorating our room for Rylee when we got back. It was incredibly sweet. It all became very real seeing that little bed in our room. The next day we were meeting our daughter for the first time. Tons of emotions going through me at this point. Jason and I were ready for rest and for the next day to hurry and get here!
Hannah told us to be ready by 8:30 the next morning. They would take us to the civil affairs office and that's where we would meet our little girl. So we were ready by 5:30 am.
This was us at breakfast on our Gotcha Day, working those chopsticks and trying to keep our emotions in check. And by our....I mean me! Jason's as cool as a cucumber....for the most part.
That morning there was apparently a wedding going on near our hotel and we saw a Rolls-Royce and another fancy car. Again, this was just a ploy to get our emotions and minds off the fact our world was about to be rocked by Miss Rylee Mei, more than we would ever know.
Gotcha Day was here. Finally. After waiting on this moment for the last year, it was here. Let that sink for a bit. That momentous day needs a post all it's own.
We wanted to document this trip as best we could for Rylee when she's older. I'm hoping she reads this one day and understands all the love that went into this trip. Most everyone reading this has done something to help us in this journey too, and we are so grateful. This little girl is exactly what this family needed. She's a perfect fit.
It was finally time to leave for our biggest adventure ever. We couldn't sleep the night before, so of course I used that time wisely to rearrange Tucker's room because I just couldn't leave for China without his drum set being in the play room and his bed moved about 3'' to the left! Sigh...I had lots of nervous energy obviously.
So my Mom arrived on Tuesday so she could do the car line with me on Wednesday. Then it all became very real that we were leaving for China in less than 24 hours.
The morning of our flight we were to fly out around 6:30, international flights were to get there 3 hours early. So that meant leave at 2:30 am. Our sweet friends offered to drive us to the airport that early! Wow! So we met at their house at 3:00 am and headed off. I was a ball of nerves. First of all flying 14 hours did not sound very appealing. Secondly, we were going to China to pick up our little girl! To even say that still makes me shake my head in disbelief.
So thankful these two were willing to get up so early and send us off in style! Love them both so much!
And then here we are, at this point it's probably around 4:30 in the morning, made it past security and all checked in ready to board our flight....in two hours. Ha. I'm obviously excited...Jason's obviously still sleepy. Which is odd because he's the morning person in our family. And our buddy Chris showed up with some candy and goodies for our flight! He works for a big airline and it was such a nice thing to see a familiar face...even though we were still in Nashville! HA!
First stop was Detriot. It was an easy flight. We had some time to walk around and have lunch.
And we're off! We were really excited. Of course...we were in the middle of the plane...with people on each side of us. It was fine though. The guy next to me was apparently an Olympic in line skater...or almost. Did I get a picture of him? Of course not.
Airplane Hair! Don't Care! We made it!!! Finally! That plane ride was literally 100 hours. The worst part of it was the landing....several people got sick on the plane and I almost did! Jason ended up fanning me and I had to will myself to not get sick. I'm not sure what was happening with the plane, but it felt like we were on the sea. Yuck.
So after traveling for about 30+ hours we were hungry, but at this point so tired we straight to our hotel and went to bed. We did meet our guide at the airport and two other families that became good friends during our trip. ( Hi Manuel Family! Hi Wood Family!)
Breakfast at the hotel that morning. Chinese breakfast and American breakfast are not exactly the same. They had lots of new things to try, so we did. It was interesting. We tried to fill up because we knew today was a big day of touring Beijing and powering through the jet lag!
Tinnamin Square! It was amazing to see.....but crazy crowded! I was trying to soak it all in and really be in that moment. I kept telling Jason, "We're in China!" I mean that was just surreal.
We moved on in and checked out the Forbidden City. I felt like maybe I should have studied up on these places before I left because Nelson, our guide, was telling us all this cool stuff about it and it just made me want to learn more. China is so full of rich history and tradition. It was just amazing. We plan to keep some of those traditions alive for Rylee too. It's her heritage and it's important.
Now I feel I should post some sort of disclaimer here because again, I am trying to document as much detail as possible for Rylee's sake one day and also because when I read a blog I love the pictures! So here come a random assortment of pictures. Enjoy.
Again, it was very crowded there so it made it a little hard to enjoy it all and soak it all in, but it was really interesting. The city itself is huge and it took us a couple hours to walk through it all. Pictures do not do it justice.
Next stop on the tour was lunch and a jade store. Jade there is extremely valuable and really important to their culture. So we picked up some things and had lunch. Of course, none of us have any pictures of these two events, but it happened.
Then we headed to the Great Wall. I was looking forward to this! It was magnificent! Just wow!
Here we are standing on The Great Wall of China looking very touristy - we were ok with that. Do you see that big building on the very top in the background? Yeah, Jason walked all the way up to it! Not me. Those steps are STEEP!!!!! Like crazy steep! I walked half way and looked behind me....big mistake. My knees were shaking and I realized how high I was. Um...yeah. I came back down. Those steps are also really tall and narrow! Bad combo for me.
This was Nelson, our guide while in Beijing.
This was the view from the step I landed on. It was breathtaking....but I felt like I was on a ledge....so I quickly walked down.
This was the view Jason saw from that first tower. You can tell how much further he went than me because those buildings are so much smaller! Ha.
Jason coming down from the long walk up to the tower. I was on flat ground taking this picture..and he's basically straight up. You can tell how steep those steps are. Mom - you would have hated it! HA!
So, after this big day we all headed back to our hotel. We took naps and met back with the other family and Nelson for dinner. Nelson wanted to take us to a noodle place. It was really good! All they served was this type of "noodle soup" and pork or veggie buns. You could pick which size noodle you wanted. The sauce the bun is in is vinegar. Oh, and we both got pretty good at using chopsticks while there. Jason more so than me...I'm guessing it's because he's used to twirling drum sticks around. Chop sticks and drum sticks are practically the same.
The next day we got up bright and early for our flight to Changchun.....where we would meet our baby girl!! AHHHHH!!!!!!
More on that day soon!!
Did you guys hear that big "THUD" Monday around 9:00 am? Did you feel the ground shaking? Well, that was me....doing this.....
Quite literally actually. My jaw hit the floor!!! So why, you might ask? Well, Monday we received a call from our adoption agency saying it looks like our travel date is going to be.....are you ready for this......AUGUST! HOLY COW! That is THIS month!!!! Yep - your jaw hit the floor too, right?! I thought I felt the crowd shake!
While I was talking to our agency she kept mentioning different dates and I was all...."Wait, wait, wait.....are you saying AUGUST!?"
She said, "Oh yeah, August! Looks like you guys could be leaving in about 3 weeks." All non-nonchalant and casual like no big deal. Again......see below for my actual picture at that moment.
So, of course, because I'm like Super-Mom and have it all together and I'm always so chill about everything....(ummmm, sure, you bet) I began to FREAK OUT! I'm calling Jason, who is working in the field on this particular day out in the middle of no where with no cell service!! (Seriously, what area in this century has no cell service by the by!? Get it together, people, it's 2017 for crying out loud! I need to call my husband to tell him we're getting our China Baby!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!) Ok, I digress, so I couldn't reach Jason, so I tried my Mom, she answered right away like a good girl in an area with wonderful cell phone reception, and we both cried. It was awesome.
Biggest question! What's next?? Next is "Travel Mode." We have papers to get in order and flights to book and clothes to pack and supplies to purchase and...and ....and.....I feel like there's a never ending list. This list has been my favorite so far though! I'm scouring websites and picking people's brains on what to pack and what not to pack. I remember having a 3 year old boy, but that was 2 years ago and now it's like my brain is mush on what 3 year old littles like! It makes me incredibly thankful for friends of little girls who have helped me think through this. You guys are amazing.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention all of these awesome things are happening the week my sweet boy starts kindergarten! Yes! This sweet, calm, quiet, relaxed like his mother little kiddo is starting kindergarten.
HAHA! Yeah, right!? All of you that know us personally are like.......
Tucker starts kindergarten this week and it's so surreal. People keep asking me how I'm doing and I'm actually ok. I'm not sad, however when I see those two pictures above it makes a tiny tear want to form, but I quickly wipe it away because what a ride this is!! Being a Mom is awesome and my kid is pretty amazing. Yes, he's mine, yes others may disagree on how amazing he is, but wow, what a blessing. And the best part about my sweet boy is what an amazing big brother he's going to be to Rylee. After I got off the phone with our agency I was at home with Tucker. I ran to where he was and said, "Tuck, guess what? I have some great news!" He said, "What is it, Mama!?" enthusiastically. "It looks like we are going to get our China Baby in about 3 weeks!" He looked at me for a second, as though he's processing the information, then his kind blue eyes opened wide and with a huge smile he gave me the biggest hug ever and said, "Mama...I'm so excited!!" My heart just melted as he hugged me. What a precious moment it was one that I know I will never forget. He has such a big heart and he is so excited for "his China Baby" to come home.
This verse has been our prayer from the beginning, that we will come to Rylee and to our Savior even more. And more importantly in the process God will be glorified and honored. This verse is about to become a very real and tangible act of God living through His people. Not because of anything that we have done, we have just obeyed His calling, and in that we have seen others come and others obey and it is very humbling. We feel overwhelmed by His faithfulness, love and provision in this journey. We also feel very unworthy, but we pray through this you and others see Christ and He alone because without Him, none of this is possible. We would never have grown in our relationship with Him and would have never met Rylee and known the blessing she already is to our family.
Pretty soon we will see this girl face to face.
Keep looking sweet Rylee Mei, Mommy & Daddy are almost there!
It's hard to start this post for some reason this time. I know it will be full of extreme highs and extreme lows, but it's hard right now for me to put into words these last few weeks, and I love all the words. Words are my jam. It's just not happening for me this time, so I'm just going to start this post by saying this. 3 months. In 3 months we should be traveling to go get our sweet Rylee Mei and I am overwhelmed by that thought. This God sized adventure started last September, and I'm now seeing a light at the end of this part of the tunnel, I'm just overwhelmed. It's an amazing feeling. We are coming, thankfully and humbly, we are coming.
There are so many things running through my head as I write this. One thing really dwelling on my heart is the passing of my husband's precious grandfather. I say "my husband's" but I am incredibly thankful that he thought of me as his own. I am so grateful for the relationship we shared and his love for me and the love and respect I have for him. He passed June 4th of this year. Just a few short weeks ago. The wound is still fresh for myself and I know for the rest of our family.
I am so incredibly thankful Tucker got to spend some quality time with Granddad just a few weeks before he passed. I can't imagine what those two were talking about but I have no doubt Granddad was imparting wisdom, as he always did, and Tucker, I'm hoping, was soaking in that sweet memory.
And in just 3 short weeks our family experience two other deaths in our small family too. Two of my husband's great aunts passed as well. This month, as I said, has been full of extreme highs and extreme lows. As I've heard many times and was reminded again today, I don't know how people get through this world without the comfort, peace and strength from our Savior. And more importantly the hope only He can give in times like these. The hope that we will one day see our sweet family members again.
In the midst of our sadness, we were given a glimpse of joy and hope. China said YES! That's a big deal for us. We have been waiting not so patiently for the "OK" from China since May 2nd. A little over a month later we got it. That just means the Chinese government said "Yes, the Harmon's are approved to adopt little Rylee Mei." So thank you China! We needed that sweet victory in these dark days.
And another precious gift was an update on our girl and this sweet photo!
I think she's looking for Mom, Dad & big brother!
With this new information, it looks like we will be able to travel this September! We are so excited! It's not much longer. We can't wait to hold our baby girl and shower her with love.
Soon, baby girl!