Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One Month Ago Today….


One month ago today, our lives changed forever.  I nervously sat in a building that was under renovation and had scaffolding everywhere to meet my new little girl.  At first, it wasn't quite the scene that I had pictured for the past 8 years, but it ended up being perfect.  Yong Ning Yu became Olivia Yu Martindale that day and was placed in our care by strangers in a strange city, in a faraway land where we stood out wherever we went, where there was very little English, and very little anything that was familiar to us.  I will never forget that day as long as I live.

This brave little girl was placed with strangers herself, came to people who looked different, smelled different, talked different, ate different foods, and left everything she had ever known.

After surviving the first week together, we then traveled to another city, where we still stood out, but not quite as much…there was a little English around places, and some familiar restaurants.  We were united with other adoptive families, who knew what we were going through.  We felt more comfortable and were learning how to be a family of 4.

We then traveled back to Nashville on a VERY long flight and were met with an unforgettable homecoming….with so many loving and supportive family and friends.

We have been to several doctor's appointments and have met many more family members and friends.

Olivia has experienced many firsts:  playing in the grass, playing on the play set outside, her first dance recital, her first grocery store experience, church for the first time, and the list goes on and on.

Throughout it all (except the shots), she has smiled.  She is such a happy little thing and very resilient.  She is very inquisitive.  She loves to try to figure out how things work.  Warning:  she is a mess.  I can see T-R-O-U-B-L-E in her.  Life will be interesting around here with one compliant child and one trouble maker.

We have come a long way in one month.  Here is our first family picture.  We went from not too many smiles to many smiles every day.  We are so blessed.

It is hard to believe that we traveled across the world, got our sweet girl, and have been home for 20 days now.  Wow….I can't wait to see what we accomplish in the next month!

Once again, thanks to each and every one of you for your love and support.  You have welcomed Olivia into your hearts as if she was born of our flesh.  Words cannot express how much we appreciate you!  I hope that Olivia gets to meet each and every one of you.  God is good.

Ephesians 3:20 - 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.

With love and blessings,

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ansley's Busy Weekend

I hope everyone had a great weekend; we sure did.  It was pretty much all about Ansley, which is probably what she needed.  This past week was a better week in her camp.  I'm not going to lie:  week before last was hard on her (and me), but this past week was much better.  I'm hoping that this week is even better!  We are getting into a routine now that Philip is back, and we all operate better when we are on a routine (at least in our family).

Olivia is still doing just great.  She is eating great, sleeping great, integrating great….the whole nine yards.  We seriously could not be more blessed.  We also heard back from the pediatrician that her stool samples came back normal, so she essentially got a clean bill of health!  The only strike against her are the two front teeth, but that's no big deal in the long run.  So, yay for Olivia!

On Friday, Ansley's preschool had their annual Fun Run.  It is the largest fundraiser of the year, and in conjunction with the Fun Run and sponsorships, we have incorporated a silent auction.  I serve as the president for the Parent Council for the school, and it was a struggle to get everything organized before we left for China.  I was fortunate to have some great parent volunteers to help pull everything off.  Thanks, everyone!  I am waiting to hear the final tally, but I'm pretty sure we set a record for money raised this year.

Here are a few pictures from the run:

It was a little chilly in the shade, but otherwise, the weather was perfect!

The kiddos are stretching before the run.

Little Bit is the 7th from the left.  All of these kids are in her class at school and are around the same age.  She just happens to be on the small side.  :)

She had the same look on her face the whole run….I think she's trying not to smile.

Way to go, Ansley!

On Saturday, Ansley and I had some Mommy/Daughter time.  I think this went a long way with Ansley and probably something I'm going to have to do more of.  I'm learning what pushes her buttons these days.  I took Ansley for her first mani/pedi, and she loved it.  We had to get ready for her big show!

On Sunday, Ansley had her 2nd dance recital.  She did great!  Her class dressed as fish and danced to "Under the Sea."  The girls were so excited because Ariel came to dance with them on stage.  I'm happy to report that none of these crazy headpieces fell off during the dance.  We had a large cheering section for Ansley, and we so appreciate everyone who was able to come and see her dance.  After the recital, we went to Sweet CeCe's to celebrate with frozen yogurt.  What a special day!

Before the show.

Ansley is the 4th from the left.

Ansley is the 6th from the left.

Miss Trina, my dance teacher, was so sweet to come watch Ansley dance today.  
Thanks for making the trip, Trina, especially after your recital last night!

JenJen and Joe were there, too!

And, Grandad and Uncle Scott.

And, Grammy and Beth.

And, Su, Da, Hilary, and Baby Case (his first dance recital!)

Kisses from Ansley…..

Olivia did great at the Fun Run and Dance Recital, too.  I also took her to her Sunday School class this morning.  I stayed with her the whole time, but I want her to get familiar with the surroundings.  I will start to leave her for short periods of time in the coming weeks.  She warmed up to her teacher pretty quickly, so that's a good sign.  She's pretty good natured and doesn't seem to freak out when I leave a room, or even the house for that matter.  So, I'm hoping that is good news in the separation anxiety arena.

This week will be a fairly busy week for us.  I am looking forward to introducing her to some more friends of mine.  I hope she behaves!  :)

I hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our Journey to Olivia Video

Hello!  While we were in China, Philip put together a wonderful video capturing a few special moments of our trip.  Please make sure that the sound is working on your computer.  The song is "When Love Takes You In" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Have a great evening!

Here's the link in case the embedded video doesn't show on your screen:  


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Olivia's Dental Appointment

Happy Tuesday!  We went to the pediatric dentist this morning.  He was recommended to us by our pediatrician whose own children go to him, so I feel confident with the choice.

Girlfriend was not enamored with going back into a doctor's office.  Poor sweet thing, as soon as he put on his gloves, she started to cry.  He was still able to examine her, despite the tears.  Fortunately, all of her teeth look good except for the front two (as we suspected).  She is also cutting her 2 year molars right now.

He has seen hundreds of internationally adopted children, and he said that we are fortunate that it is only two teeth that we're talking about.  Often, he has had to deal with ALL of the teeth.  Unfortunately, it is her front two.  In order for him to get a better look, he will have to put her to sleep to take some x-rays.  More than likely, those 2 teeth will have to go.  The best case scenario is that he can cap them.  (The caps these days are SOOO much better than when we were little.  They are white on the front and silver on the back, so you can't even really tell that they are capped.)  Worst case scenario is that they can't be capped, and she is without her front two teeth until her permanent ones come in.  I pray that this isn't the case, but if this is the worst we have to deal with, we can handle it.  My understanding is that he will make the decision at the next appointment while she is asleep and go ahead and do what needs to be done right then and there.  I am waiting for a call from their hospital coordinator who will also check with our insurance to see what they will pay and get a date/time.  They work with Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and do the procedure off-site at a local surgery center, near Vanderbilt.  I believe that their scheduled day of the week is Wednesday.

He was super nice and made the comment that working with adopted children is some of the most rewarding work he does.  He also said that she will be a different child in 6 months and will flourish in her new environment.  I was pleased with our experience.

On another note, Ansley's Dance Recital is this Sunday at 3:30pm at the Willard Collins Alumni Auditorium on the campus of David Lipscomb University.  We will celebrate afterwards at Sweet CeCe's in Belle Meade.  Come and join us!

Have a great week!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Catching Up

Hey there!  I thought I would spend a few minutes getting everyone caught up on what's going on with us.

Olivia went back to the pediatrician last week for the results of the TB skin prick test.  Fortunately that was negative, as well as all the other things that they tested for.  While that is good news, testing negative for one meant we have to re-vaccinate for a few things.  Either they didn't really vaccinate for those in China, or her body rejected it.  Nevertheless, she had to get yet another shot on Thursday, meaning that she really hates the doctor now!  That also means that we have to go back in 6 weeks for another round of vaccinations in the series.  We also did 3 stool samples last week that we are waiting on results for.

Regarding jet lag, it took Ansley about 4 days to completely adjust to Nashville time, but it has taken Olivia longer.  In fact, it took about a week.  She did wake up at 4:30 Sunday morning, but hopefully that's just a fluke.  6am became her "normal" later last week.  I can handle 6 much better than 4:30!

She is still eating everything!  The only thing she has really turned down so far is strawberries.  She LOVES bananas and the Danimals drinkable yogurt.  Thanks for that suggestion, everyone!

Olivia has learned to kiss, and it is adorable.  If you say, "Kiss," she'll pucker up.  So sweet!

She hasn't quite gotten who "Mama" is.  She knows me, but she doesn't know that's my name.  Right now, she pretty much calls any female, "Mama," even Ariel the doll.  That's okay, though, she'll learn.

We braved church on Sunday morning.  Olivia sat with us in the worship service and did great.  Eventually, I will introduce her to her Sunday School class slowly. I will more than likely stay with her for a few weeks and then try to leave her once she's comfortable.  That, along with day care, is going to be interesting.  I'm not sure how the separation anxiety is going to work, but we'll figure it out.

We got to spend Sunday (Mother's Day) afternoon with extended family.  She did really, really well and went right to several people on her own....after she spent some time observing.  She is doing better than I ever imagined.  She doesn't let me get too far out of her sight in a situation like that, but it's still good to see her warming up so quickly to everyone.

Warming up to Hilary and Case...

Beth's "Aunt" shirt in Chinese...

Grammy's "Grandmother" shirt in Chinese.

Warming up to Cody...

We haven't really cocooned like a lot of people do.  We have pretty much gone about "business as usual," and she is fitting right in.  If we begin to have challenges, or if I feel it is not the right situation for her, we will pull back and not do something.  But, so far, so good.  I haven't braved Target or the grocery store with her quite yet.

She got to see a cat and dog up close on Sunday as well.  I'm pretty sure she has never been around animals before.  She really wanted to pet Charlie (the dog), but she wasn't quite sure.  She was definitely intrigued.  By the end of the day, she had warmed up to Carey as well and was leading her around the yard.

After an already wonderful Mother's Day, Philip arrived home late Sunday night.  We are thrilled that he's back.  Olivia picked right back up with him!  It will be interesting to see what our new routine ends up being.  I'm so ready for a routine!  It will also be good for Ansley to have him back as well.

This is going to be a busy week for us.  It seems like we have something every day this week!

We had our first post-adoption meeting this morning (Monday).  This is the first of six required meetings that we will have over the next few years in order to complete all of our requirements for the adoption.  The social worker is from Catholic Charities.  While we did not use Catholic Charities as our adoption placement service, we use their services in order to fulfill the post-adoption requirement for the adoption.  They also did our last Home Study and paperwork update for us.  It is hard to explain, but they are Hague Accredited; therefore, China recognizes and approves of them doing these post-adoption reports.  The social worker was at the house for about 30 minutes.  She asked us about our trip, our adjustment, how Olivia is bonding/attaching, how she is eating, her health, etc.  They require 8 photos with captions on the back of each.  This set of photos will need to be of our trip to China, with at least one being a photo with all 4 of us in it.  So, I will get those together this week and turn those in to them.  Our first report is due next week and then the next required report is due in 6 months, so we will do it again at that time.

TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System) came out in the afternoon for an "Intake Meeting."  This is a service provided by the state of Tennessee for children under the age of 3 with disabilities or developmental delays.  Our pediatrician recommended evaluation primarily due to the fine motor concerns that we have, as well as speech.  The therapist was at the house for a little over an hour today for the initial evaluation.  Part of it was parent interview where she asked me questions.  The other part was asking Olivia questions and seeing if she would respond by doing an action or answering her.  She looked at 5 areas of development in Olivia:  adaptive, social, communication, cognitive, and motor (gross & fine).  Olivia scored under threshold in communication and cognitive.  This is not really surprising due to the fact that she doesn't know English.  Part of passing the test was being able to perform commands without using motions.  Needless to say, she didn't know what the therapist was saying, and you could not act out the part for her to pass….which is what we have been doing for weeks now….a form of charades.  She did pass the motor portion of the test, so no further evaluation there as far as I know.  She is doing much better with her fine motor skills, so I think exposure is the answer to this.  She is getting really good at blocks and continues improving with the stacking cups.  The next step of the process will be an even more in-depth evaluation in order to come up with an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan).  In order to be eligible for services, a child must be delayed 25% in two areas or 40% in one area.  We think that we will be eligible for communication, due to the language.  While I'm not concerned with her learning English, I spoke with my cousin the Speech Therapist about this yesterday.  She recommends that if we are eligible, we go ahead with therapy.  She feels that this will help jump-start Olivia in learning the language. So, if we are eligible, more than likely we will go ahead and do the speech therapy.  Unfortunately, her clinic does not take our insurance, so we'll see what our options are there.  In terms of the cognitive portion, the only reason she failed this portion was because she would not mimic her playing peek-a-boo and would not copy her silly faces.  I'm definitely not concerned with Olivia's cognitive skills at this point.  Olivia will only be eligible for these services until the age of 3.  At that point, they do have other options if we need to go that route.

Olivia's dental appointment is tomorrow.  I'm definitely anxious to hear what he has to say.

I found some pictures from our trip in China that I thought you might like to see.  These were all taken the day we left for the US.  Enjoy!

This is the lobby of the Garden Hotel in GZ.  They changed out the centerpiece the night before we left to get ready for their national holiday on 5/1.  I don't know if you can tell, but there are balls of roses on the bottom, and live roses in this grapevine rose up top.  Beautiful!

The girls looked really cute in their Tennessee dresses before Olivia got sick on hers in the van on the way to Hong Kong.  This girl looks good in orange!  Go Vols!

This is what the scene looked like in the Hong Kong airport.

Olivia enjoyed putting the rings on her arms like bracelets.  The funny thing is that Ansley used to do the same thing.  As you can see, Olivia had a wardrobe change into 
these pajamas after the episode in the van.

Here are a few photos from last week, our first week home:

Olivia's first trip to Chick-Fil-A.  
This was Ansley's only request of where she wanted to eat when we got back.

Ansley's band:  Jean on the maracas, Jenna on the tambourine, and Joe on the drums.  
Ansley was the conductor.

Olivia LOVES the playset, and she is a daredevil.

Look out, Grammy!  Here I come down the slide….ready or not!

May 9th marked the 8 year mark since beginning this journey.  I'm so glad that we have Little Miss Olivia home safe and sound after all these years.  It has been a great first week home, and we look forward to many more!

I hope everyone has a great week!  Thanks for reading!  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Let me start out by saying that this has been the best Mother's Day ever.  I am SO BLESSED this year to have had a great week with not only the world's greatest Mom, but I've been blessed to also spend it with not one, but two daughters this year.  

I have had the opportunity to grow up around many strong and talented women that not only taught me about life, but also taught me about being a mother.  The number one woman I am speaking of is my mother, Jean Fry.  She is the definition of a mother.  From driving Mom's Taxi while I was growing up to typing me letters several days a week while in college, you are the best.  Words do not do her justice, so I'm not going to try.  All I'm going to say is that she is a strong, Christian woman who is selfless and would give her right arm to help someone in need.  Her hobby is helping others.  She absolutely has more patience than any other human I know.  For those of you who know her, you know what I mean.  Thanks, Mom, for all you do for me, and especially thanks for your help this past week.  I'm glad we were able to spend it together.  I appreciate you opening your heart to love my little girls, especially the one who is not of our flesh.  Thanks also to all of the other mothers who I know.  I have learned so much from so many.  

Now for the not-so-happy part of this see, Mother's Day hasn't always been a happy day for me, and it isn't a happy day for so many.  It actually elicits many emotions inside me.  This year is a happy one for me.

For those of you who have lost a mother, I pray for you.  I know that it must be a hard day for you.  Each Mother's Day that passes, I think of Philip's mother, Diane Martindale.  Oh how I wish she was still with us.  She would have LOVED being a grandmother.  I learned so much from her in the short time that I knew her, and we miss her so much.  

For those of you dealing with infertility, I pray for you especially on this day.  In my opinion, Mother's Day was the hardest holiday for me when I was going through that.  I wanted to be a mother so was always so difficult to put on a happy face when all the day was about was being a mother....something that wasn't happening for me.  I pray for better days ahead for you.  It is so hard to see God's plan right now, but just know that there is one.

For those waiting adoptive moms, I pray for you.  Those Mother's Days were also hard.  I spent them wondering if I would ever meet my little one, who she was, was she born yet?, what was she doing right then?.....the questions went on and on.  God's timing is perfect, friends.  While it is hard to see it while you are living it, trust me.  I pray for your patience.  

For those of you who have lost children, I pray for you as well.  I cannot imagine the pain that you go through every year on this day.  I admire your strength and perseverance and pray for you to have peace.

And last, but not least, for Olivia's birth mother, and other birth mothers out there who were not able to take care of their little ones, I pray for you.  I pray specifically that Olivia's birth mother has a peace about her tonight that her little girl is loved by so many already and is safe.  She is thriving in her new home, and we love her so much.  (I have many thoughts around this, but I'm not quite ready to put them into words.)

I will close by saying that I'm still in a little bit of shock every time I look up and see the faces of my two precious angels, and I'm humbled and honored that God chose me to be their mother.  Of all the women in the  I will do my best every day to live up to this great responsibility.  

Happy Mother's Day,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

First Pediatrician Appointment and Other "Firsts"

Hi!  Sorry it's been awhile.  

Olivia has had a few more “firsts” the past couple of days.  I took her out in the jogging stroller Monday and Tuesday.  She seemed to really like it.  Her very first stroller ride was in China in a little umbrella stroller, which she did fine in as well.  She also took her first trip to the mall yesterday.  I think that might have been sensory overload for her, but she never cried.  We were in and out pretty quickly and only went in a couple of stores.  We still have not ventured out to Target or the grocery with her quite yet.


We are doing well, really well.  Olivia is still waking up at 4:30am every morning, but we’re working on that.  It is not unusual for it to take several days for children to adjust back to regular time.  Ansley has been sleeping until6:30am (except for this morning), so I think she is getting back on track. 


Olivia fits right in and is like a little sponge.  She absorbs everything and is very inquisitive about how things work.  She will turn a toy over a million times to try and figure it out.  She especially likes toys that make noise, and she loves to be outside.  She’s not too crazy about soft toys, however.  We saw this in China as well. She never took to the loveys or small stuffed animals that we offered her.


The main “first” we had was her first pediatrician appointment Monday.  Let me start out by saying that we have THE BEST pediatrician in the whole world.  He and his nurses were totally prepared for us when we walked in the door with a plan.  I presented him with what they gave us in China, which was a little tiny book of shot records.  Of course, we aren’t sure how reliable these records are, so we are being cautious and testing everything.  It was a pretty traumatic day for Little Miss, but we have to make sure she is well taken care of.  She had 5 shots, a blood draw, and a TB skin prick test.  I also learned that Girlfriend HATES Bandaids with a capital H.  This is totally opposite of her sister who thinks that Bandaids cure everything.  Poor thing screamed and screamed when they were torturing her with those needles.  I felt terrible for her.  She did want me to hold her afterwards, so that also proves that bonding is going well. 

This is us before the drama!

The doctor was really pleased with what he saw.  I think she was in better shape than he expected.  She was certainly in a higher percentile than I expected for weight, so that’s good.  She is in the 50th percentile for height (35”) and the 10th for weight (24.4 pounds).  Despite her 18 month clothes almost falling off of her, she isn’t the smallest of the bunch!  For the most part, she is wearing 18 months clothes, except for Gymboree.  The 18-24 month Gymboree pants/shorts are way too big right now.


We have a lot of follow-up in the coming weeks/months.  It’s a good thing that I’m off for a little while.  I can only imagine what the other families who adopted special needs children are having to go through to get them up-to-speed.  Here are a few of the things we are focusing on:  seeing a dentist (next week for her teeth issues); TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention Services) for an Occupational Therapy evaluation (fine motor specifically) and a speech evaluation; hearing evaluation (standard for an international adoption); and getting the results back from the blood tests.  As long as nothing out of the ordinary shows up there, we should be good for at least a few weeks.  We will have our next round of shots in 6 months.  


I am really looking forward to Philip coming home and settling back into our “new normal.”  We are so blessed that my Mom and Beth have been able to be here while he is out of town.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done by myself.  Ansley is adjusting pretty well, but she has her moments.  She is requiring more “alone time” with me than I anticipated.  Thank goodness Mom and Beth are here to take Olivia when she needs that time with me.  She is back at school in a fairly normal routine for her.  The differences are in the morning and in the evening when little sister is here, too.  I know that this is typical when you introduce a new sibling into the mix.

For those of you interested, I am working on posting my packing list…..what we were glad we took and what we didn’t need.  I spent years scouring blogs for packing lists, so hopefully this will be helpful to those of you in the process right now.  It is a daunting task.  I am pleased with what we ended up taking, but I would make some adjustments.


As always, thanks for your support and interest.  We appreciate you. 


Until next time,






Saturday, May 3, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Hello from good 'ole NashVegas!

It is soooo good to be back my own bed, eating "regular" food, using MY own hair know, the little things.  We made it back around 6pm last night and were welcomed by so many loving friends and family from as far away as South Carolina and Atlanta.  What a surprise!   It was so amazing to walk through the exit and see so many familiar and smiling faces.  Granted, some of them looked like paprazzi, but we will let that slide for this occasion.  :) But, seriously, we are so blessed to have always had amazing support from everyone.  We will have pictures to post soon, but Olivia was a little overwhelmed with the spectacle.  She was pretty stoic but not many tears.  She did well riding in her car seat for the first time, and honestly, we've only had tears once on the car at all.  

After we left the airport, the Dulins were kind enough to have a little Welcome Home Celebration for us at their house.  Olivia became more comfortable with everyone and came out of her shell a little.  She enjoyed playing with some musical instruments.  Ansley was on cloud 9 with all of the attention, so that helped her as well.  

As I walked in their house, I realized that Olivia has probably never been in a house before.  It was a sobering thought as she was exploring around, climbing steps, and looking in all the rooms.  This little girl is going to have so many firsts in the next little bit, and I can't wait for us to be the ones to show her.

The travel day started bright and early at 4am China time, 5pm Nashville time.  We had to ride in a van from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  It took approximately an hour and a half to get to the border.  Some of you may not realize this, but while HK is technically also part of China, it hasn't always been like that.  For 99 years, HK was under British control.  Only until a few years ago did it change back to Chinese rule.  It is still considered a separate entity from Mainland China, so we actually had to exit China and enter HK.  That meant two immigration stops and some stress.  

The first stressor was Olivia got car sick before the first border crossing.  Luckily, I had a package of wipes pretty close by when it happened.  My thought at that point was that I would just change her clothes when we got to the airport.  I had only packed one extra outfit in my carry on for when we got to Chicago, so I had to re-think that strategy.

We made it through the Mainland China border just fine.  We had to enter this tunnel-type thing; the driver had to open the back of the van for them to look at our luggage; we had to present our passports; and there was a bright spotlight-type of thing that they turned on us.  The officer went through every passport and compared the picture to us.  All was well, and he sent us on our way.

The Hong Kong border was more stressful.  For those of you who have seen the movie, "Argo," that's what I felt like to some degree.  Again, another tunnel.  This time, the driver not only opened the back of the van, but he opened the back door to where we were sitting.  The first officer scanned our foreheads for fever.  (He didn't get too close, thank goodness.). We had heard that they scanned for fevers, but we couldn't figure out who they monitored that.  We are so thankful that Ansley's fever went away before the scan.  After the fever scan, we went to a second officer.  He looked at our passports once again, and when he got to Olivia's, he said in broken English, "This your adoptive child?"  I said, "Yes, sir."  He said, "I need paperwork."  So, I got out the brown envelope and handed it to him. He then closed his window.  Now, keep in mind that we could not see inside this little window when it was closed, so I couldn't see what he was doing.  It seemed like he was behind this window for hours, but I'm sure it was only minutes.  

I just realized that I failed to blog about the brown envelope and its significance.  We received this brown envelope from the US Consulate when we got Olivia's visa.  It is the ultimate, the end-all-be-all envelope, the "guard with your life" envelope, and WHATEVER you do, DO NOT OPEN THE BROWN ENVELOPE.  If said envelope is open when you get to customs in the US, you cannot bring the child into the country.  Period.  

So....when he said, "I need paperwork," and proceeded to close that window that I couldn't see behind, I thought I was going to lose my mind.  My stomach ended up in my throat, and I was sick.  Philip and I looked at each other, and I said, "What if he opens the envelope?"  About that time, he opened the window, handed the brown envelope (unopened) and passports back, nodded his head to the driver, and sent us on our way.  Whew!!!  Praise God!

Right after I had breathed a sigh of relief, Ansley said, "Mommy, Olivia threw up again."  This time, it was more than any other, and she was covered in it.  We ran out of wipes about the time we pulled up to the airport.  We unloaded our stuff and ran into the airport to find a bathroom.  I changed her into some pajamas that were on top, thank goodness.  I also had Philip dig through and find one more outfit and some more wipes before we checked our bags.  Once we checked our bags, it would be too late.  I had 7 diapers with me at the time as well.  That is critical because, you see, she blew through 5 diapers and all available outfits except one before landing in Chicago.  The only outfit left was the one that I had planned for the girls to wear upon our arrival in Nashville.  Thank goodness we made it through customs before having to use the last diaper and outfit.

When we boarded, you could see the look of dread on some of the passengers faces when they saw a 4 year old and a 2 year old come aboard.  There were others that smiled at us.  I think they probably figured out what we were up to.  The flight attendants were fabulous again and very considerate of the girls.  All of them were Asian this time, except for one.  The pilots appeared to all be American.  The girls did really well on the flight in totality.  Olivia had a spurt of crying, but it was over after a few minutes.  They each slept approximately 7 of the 14 hours.  After we got off, someone complimented us on their behavior.  That made me feel really good.  Unfortunately, it was a full flight.  We were sitting 2 and 2.  The only good thing was that because of where we were sitting, there were only 2 seats on one of the rows, so we didn't have to worry about a "neighbor."  But, inevitably, both girls wanted to sit with me most of the flight, so there were 3 of us in 2 seats.  It ended up fine, but we were pretty crowded.  Philip felt terrible that I had both of them most of the flight (which meant basically no sleep for me) but I decided to just let them be instead of fighting with them about where they were sitting.  I could sleep later.  14 hours of flying later, we finally landed.  After celebrating landing in the good 'ole USA, we had to get our luggage.

After retrieving our luggage, we had to go through immigration in Chicago.  This is where Olivia would become an American citizen, and where we had to present the SEALED brown envelope.  We had to pass through a couple of passport checkpoints before getting to the "brown envelope" line.  As we were standing in that line, one of the workers saw us and could see that Olivia was the only reason we had to stand in a special line.  (Most of the people in line were entire families or groups of people.) She pulled us aside and had us give our file to another officer and have a seat.  At the time, he was dealing with a large family that appeared to have been coming from Africa.  They had about 4-5 children with them, and one was particularly wild.  The officer eventually had to get stern with them and tell them that they all had to stay together for this portion.  After that circus was over, he called us up, opened the brown envelope, stapled some stuff together said "Congratulations and welcome home!"  That was pomp and circumstance with the envelope, no pictures allowed.  We were done!  We did it!  Philip and I breathed another sigh of relief, said, "Thank you," walked away, and high-fived.  Again, Praise God!  We then went through baggage re-check and went to find our gate.  Everyone was hungry, and we found a mini-Chili's.  We ducked in there and had our first "real food" in 2 weeks.  By the time we ate, we only had enough time to change clothes, freshen up, and board the flight to Nashville.  It's a good thing that we had almost 4 hours between flights.  It would have been even more stressful if we had to have worried about missing our connector to Nashville in the midst of everything else. 

Some of you may not realize this, but Philip did not fly back to Nashville with us.  He had a commitment in France that I insisted he keep.  It is a bike trip that he has done for the past couple of years, and I wanted him to be able to do that again this year.  My Mom and sister were more than happy to come and help while he is away.  

I wasn't sure how Olivia would react to Phikip not coming, so he just kind of disappeared when it was time for us to board.  It was a tiny plane; 2 seats on one side and 1 seat on the other.  Technically, Olivia had her own seat, but there was no way she was sitting by herself.  Thank goodness the flight attendant understood.  She sat in my lap and was quite wiggly until we took off.  The people on the flight were so nice to help me when I needed it.  Then, thank goodness, both girls fell asleep for the duration of the flight.  

I will never forget the feeling I had when we walked off that plane in Nashville.....home.  We walked around the corner of the exit, and there stood all of those people looking at awesome.  It was emotional.....after all of these years, all of the prayers, all of the paperwork, all of the tears, all of the all went away in the blink of an eye.  We.were.home.  

So far, so good.  Olivia is adjusting remarkably well.  She slept until 4 am this morning and then took a really long nap this afternoon.  She went back down pretty easily tonight.  She is sleeping in her crib, so that is good.  I have read blogs where around the 3rd or 4th night, sleep becomes difficult, so we will see.  She is eating really well and drinking whole milk.  I found some more of the sippy cups that she likes, and that helps tremendously.  And, you were right, the Danimals drinkable yogurt has been the trick.  She loves it! 

Ansley is doing well, too, and insisted upon going back to school today, so I took her for a little while.  We introduced Olivia around, and she got to meet Mrs. Ping!  Mrs. Ping tried to speak with her in Chinese, but Olivia wasn't having any of it.  She stuck to me like glue, so we will see how it goes with them on down the line. I had read that some children never felt comfortable around Chinse people going forward.....I hope that's not the case.  

Tonight, Ansley asked if we could go to Chick-Fil-A, so we did.  Olivia had her first experience there and loved it!  We will see what this weekend holds.  If it's nice, I'm hoping to take the girls to the park and maybe have a picnic.  I've started laundry and unpacking.  Yuck!  

Many of you have asked if I will keep blogging.  All I can say is that I'll try.  I'm flattered that so many of you have been enjoying the blog as much as you have.  I'm amazed by your sweet comments and number of viewers every day.   I'm not sure that our "real life" is all that glamorous, so we will see if I can come up with things to talk about!

Wow, I just realized that I wrote a novel in this one post, so I apologize.  Again, I'll try to post some pics from my paprazzi as soon as I can.  Philip has the laptop, so it's a little more difficult for me to do things on the blog.  If I've left anything out that you're wondering about, feel free to ask.  I'm sure I've left out a lot!  I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  "THANKS" for going on this journey with us.  It's been a trip of a lifetime, that's for sure, and God has indeed blessed us beyond measure.  Have a great weekend!

Take care,