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!
Everyone keeps asking how we're doing and mentioning how excited we must be. Of course we are! We have a baby girl on the way. But the "what if's" and "unknowns" always creep in with that excitement. I want to get excited, but there's a part of me that is very guarded and protected in this process. A small part of me that can't fully release until I have her in my arms, in my home. Then I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
So while we wait, the excitement of getting a little girl's room together is looming. Yes, I may have already purchased bedding and possibly a few of the biggest bows you'll ever see. (Have you met me!? Of course she will have bows! I love accessories!) But in that excitement and joy, I am not naive enough to think once she gets here it will be pure bliss and a fairy tale. There could be some attachment issues, there WILL be a language barrier, and there will be fears from all sides that need to be overcome. Little Rylee has no idea her life with us will be great. She has no idea she is loved by so many already. She has no clue that her big, strong Daddy is already wrapped around her little finger and that her Mama is already planning fun girl trips to get pedicures and milkshakes!
My sweet, beautiful Rylee has never even seen a white person, not to mention hearing the English language spoken. Can you imagine a 3 year old seeing someone totally different and new and not understanding them, and then being taken away from everything they've ever known with those strange people!? How frightening! She will fly on a plane with Jason and me, the "strangers", to another city in China and then fly 24+ hours to America again with these "strangers." She will have no idea that we are her Mom & Dad and we love her so much. She has no idea we are here for her good.
The article below was sent to me this week, written by an adoptive mom. This explains all too well the struggles of adoption and of all the changes that we are about to experience. I don't send this for any other reason than to ask that you guys pray for this transition and understand that once she arrives yes, we will be just over the moon in love, but we will need prayers and patience from family and friends. We will be working on trusting one another during that time. We will be teaching her that we are Mom and Dad and big brother. We will be trying to communicate through any means possible. We will be showing her we are safe. We will be praying. We will be choosing love.
The waiting is over. You are now counting weeks, or maybe even days, instead of months. The moment you have dreamed about, hoped for, prayed for, cried for, begged God for, is about to arrive. You will see your child, face to face, for the first time. You go from pure excitement to immense panic throughout your day. Your to-do list seems to keep growing even though you are in constant motion preparing for travel. You cannot wait to see your child and yet you wonder if you are actually ready and questioning if they are ready to meet you.
Mama, you are about to embark on your own metamorphosis. The road ahead will not be easy. You already know that in your head. But you are about to actually experience the knowing in your heart and soul. Your journey may not play out exactly as mine, but here are a few things from my mama’s heart to yours.
Relationships are built over time and thankfully love is not a feeling it is a choice. Keep choosing love, mama. When you see your child for the first time your heart may leap with joy and immediate attachment. If that doesn’t happen, don’t panic. Relationships are built over time and thankfully love is not a feeling it is a choice. Keep choosing love, mama. Even when your emotions take you the other direction, choose love. Tell that child all day long that she is precious and loved.
Visually you may see a six year old boy, but your heart needs to see a newborn baby. You must go back. There is no other way forward.
If you are still waiting to travel, add a book about how to care for a newborn. Repurpose it to try to recreate as much as possible from that season of life. The brain is an incredible organ and neural pathways can be recreated by constant repetition. Your child needs you to allow them to be a baby again.
He may not want you to touch him at all. Do not give up, keep trying. Connect through food by attempting to feed him. Connect through play, even if that just means parallel play for now. Make a goal all day long to make eye contact. And if he won’t look you in the eyes, try putting some stickers on your face. If he wants to go into a shell and cry, sit beside him.
She may not let you put her down. And I mean ever. The panic goes beyond separation anxiety into an all consuming fear. I promise it will not last forever but it may last for a long season—ours lasted a year. My biggest tip is to get a really great child carrier so you can still be mobile. Let your child choose when they are ready to be out of your arms, out of your sight, out of your presence. Don’t rush it.
Educate your family and friends before you travel about what to expect after you return home. Invite anyone to the airport who would like to see you and your new child. It is so chaotic and you will all be completely exhausted but this allows people to see you so you can then go cocoon. Your new child will likely be scared and completely overwhelmed. In the madness, don’t lose track of where they are. Hold them the entire time or if they are older, hold their hand and don’t let go. Let your loved ones know that this is THE time to see you and you are not sure when the next time will be. You will also want to ask them to not bring any gifts to the airport and to not touch your child without asking you for permission first. It is not perfect but we have found it is the best way to allow everyone to see you. While it can be crazy for your new child, it is definitely a welcome sight for your own heart and can give you the encouragement you need for the next leg of the journey. With our older child adoption, it took a long time before we could have visitors in our home. We started the process slowly by having people over for short periods of time and staying outdoors during their entire visit.
Assemble a tribe while you are waiting. Assemble a tribe while you are waiting. You WILL need people to love you through this next year. Yes, I said “year.” However you communicate with people—text, email, social media—make a group for those whom you can send an SOS to at a moment’s notice. People will want to help so let them. Here are a few ideas:
Realize that you HAVE to take breaks or you will break yourself. Your entire life will change. You will not be able to do the things you used to do. Maybe for a season, maybe for longer, but you still need to find ways to put on your oxygen mask. If you run out of air, you will be totally useless to your child.
You are precious and you are loved, Mama. Be kind to yourself. Some days are going to be horrible. But remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. It is okay to have bad days. It is okay to make mistakes and not get it right every time. It is also okay to ask for help. In fact, it is absolutely necessary. If you are struggling it doesn’t mean that your adoption was a mistake or that you are not the right mother for your child. Connect with mamas who have traveled your road before. Find therapists in your area who are specially trained to help children from trauma…and find one for yourself, too.
You are precious and you are loved, Mama. Be kind to yourself.
All my love,
A mama who has gone before you and is cheering you on
About the Author: Sonya Judkins is an adoptive mother and frequently posts about faith, motherhood and adoption on her blog “Trading Tea for Elephants.” You can view this original post here.
See this beautiful little girl, well that's our daughter. Meet Rylee Mei Harmon. She is 3 years old and we are completely over the moon for her! It's absolutely amazing how every time I look at her picture, I automatically get all the feels I get for Tucker when I look at his pictures. Adoption Rocks!!
She already has a big smile like her Momma! :-)
I'm in awe of this entire process and this little girl who we didn't know existed one week ago, one month ago or one year ago. One year ago we were just overcoming the loss of a baby through a miscarriage and I was trying to heal. I realized as I was typing this it was almost exactly one year ago this last week that I was having a D & C procedure for the child I would never meet. Now, I have a sweet baby girl waiting on me to come for her. God is always faithful, even when we don't see what's happening or understand why, He knows exactly why. This beautiful little girl that is going to call me momma and who I am going to love and adorn with the biggest bows on the planet....she was exactly our why. It wasn't meant for us to have a baby biologically at that time. But I know if it hadn't been for the miscarriage and the pain of that time, I wouldn't have succumbed to His why. Sometimes that pain is exactly what we need.
It was that "why" that led us to adopt. I am grateful that God choose to use this adoption experience to grow our faith and stretch us completely out of our comfort zone so we can see His big plan.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." He is able to accomplish SO much more if we just step out on that leap of faith.
So now, the big question on everyone's mind...."When do we go get her!!???" The short answer is we aren't sure. The longer answer is there is much more paperwork to be done and arrangements to be made, but from what we can gather at the very most, it would be 6 months. That's a good guess anyway. In the meantime we work hard toward our financial goal and of course the fun stuff like prepare her room! But now when we do those things, we know what precious baby we are working towards. We see her beautiful face and see that precious big smile!
We are so so excited to share with you all in this journey and we can't thank you enough for praying for Jason, myself, Tucker & Rylee. Please keep us all in your prayers as this journey isn't over.
It's amazing how much love Jason and I both felt when we finally agreed this was our child. Adoption is such a precious gift, for the child yes, but for the parents even more so. You realize the love our Heavenly Father has for us in a very real way. To take the orphan and rename them, and call them His own. Such an incredible gift. If you're thinking this may be something God is calling you to, I would love to talk to you about it. I definitely don't have all the answers, but I love talking adoption and would be happy to help!
We are so blessed!
I want anyone who reads this to know it's nothing we have done, it's all because of the Lord! We give Him all the praise for this amazing family He has blessed us with! We are so unworthy!
Rylee - soon baby girl! Momma & Daddy and big brother Tucker are so excited to meet you!