Friday, August 18, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend, Home Sweet Home Edition

Shooey! What a month it has been for our family! After being at the beach for a week, then home for a week, then off to China for two weeks, then getting home with one week to go before school started back up, you could say things were a leeeeeetle crazy around our house for awhile. BUT. We are getting back into a good routine, which is a good thing since the 2017-18 school year started back yesterday! 

One thing I love about our elementary school is that they now do a "staggered start" for kindergarten. This means that, for each of the first four days of school, each child only attends one day (which is determined based on the month of their birthdate). This allows the kindergartens to have a nice, small intro to kindergarten with just a few students in the class at a time. For Raleigh, because her birthday is in January, she got to go on the first official day of school, along with Banks. But now, she won't return again until next Wednesday, when all of the kindergarten students will begin attending together. So, it's like I get a few bonus days of summer with her, which I am so excited about! Also, because of the big eclipse happening on Monday, Banks only has a half day that day, which will be so fun! 

Annnnnnywho. Now that I have blabbered on about that, here are a few things we are saying CHEERS to 'round these parts over the last couple of weeks: 

Kindergarten. I was so, SO excited when I got the email informing us of who Raleigh's kindergarten teacher would be. There were two we were hoping for and she was so lucky to get one of them. Yay! We went to meet her teacher (and teacher's aide) earlier this week, and while Rals was timid, she opened right up as soon as her teacher started asking her about Bella. <3

Ready to rock this year!

It's going to be a great year for our kindergartner!

Then, yesterday was the big day! As we do, our whole family loaded in the car for the big first day drop off. Per usual, Raleigh was excited...but a bit timid. I wasn't sure how it would go. But. She did GREAT. I dropped her off and her sweet, sweet teacher swooped right in and complimented her dress. So, she pretty much won our dress-loving girl over right then and there-ha!

Walking into school with Momma <3
And let me not forget my sweet 2nd grader, who also had an awesome first day! He was so sweet and insisted on helping walk Raleigh to her class with me. :) And then he didn't even flinch and walked right into his room. Done and done! I didn't tear up one time...until I was in carpool line to pick them up?! As soon as they started coming out, my eyes welled with tears. I was just so proud of them and couldn't WAIT to hug them and hear all about their days. And they both just went on and on about how much they loved it. Full heart, over here. 

P.S. Harrison wanted in on the photo taking action this morning, undies and all :)

Bella's adjustment. We are really so proud of our Bella. Now, don't get me wrong: things haven't been perfect or easy or perfectly easy. We are still getting to know one another and we are trying to understand each other and we have quite a long road of unknowns and challenges ahead of us. BUT this girl is amazing. I will do a full update in a couple of weeks but for now, I will share that she is eating and sleeping like a CHAMP. She really only gets fussy when she is tired, hungry, or hot. And this girl is absolutely ADORED by her big siblings. They love to help her walk and make her laugh and snuggle her. She is so well loved. <3

The sweetest, most nurturing big brother

First time in the swing!

My girlS. Dream come true.
Her biggest fan :)
Poolside chats with Daddy 
My babies <3

Generous and gracious friends. When we moved to the Mill, we basically hit the jackpot as far as friends and neighbors go. We live in such a wonderful, family friendly neighborhood and are so blessed to have made so many amazing friends here. Every night since we brought Bella home, we have had friends drop off meals, which are scheduled to continue into September. This has been the biggest  blessing for us, especially as we work to overcome jet lag, adjust to being a family of six, try to learn about and understand one another, and prepare for the new school year. I seriously cannot thank our friends enough for all of the support they have provided us. Because I despise cooking, my litlte family isn't used to such awesome dinner meals. We have been spoiled and my poor hub and kiddos will certainly miss the delicious food once I have to take the dinner reigns again. ;) 

My new nephew. The most amazing thing happened while we were on our flight from Hong Kong to Los brother and sister "in law" welcomed their second child, a BOY (no one knew the sex of the baby; they already an amazing, smart, beautiful little girl). It was so fun to be texting with my sister "in law" while on the other side of the world when she started having contractions at home and then to find out mid-flight that the baby was here and a boy! I cannot WAIT to get my hands on sweet Avery. <3

Football. Can I get a heck yeah?! College football is right around the corner. Although this is the first year my hub and I opted out of our season tickets to save money for our adoption, you can bet your bottom dollar we will at least make it to a couple games this season. And I fully intend to get back to our season tickets next season, when all this America stuff is old news to our Bella. :) So, even though we'll be watching many more games from our couch than we have in years, I am still pumped for football Saturdays and all they entail. Go Tigers!!! Different team, same dream. #wewonthenatty ;)

Wrapping up summer. We closed out summer with a bang. From the time we got home from China, we had exactly one week until school started back up. And while we certainly are following Bella's cues about what she can handle at this point, we were still able to have some fun outside of our home! It was a great way to end what was certainly the most eventful (and fast!) summer of our lives. 

Cheering on Daddy in his church softball tourney...

...Spoiler alert: they won! Go Forest Hill!

Not so sure about her first wagon ride, but at least Harrison was excited! ;)

So fun introducing Bels to our neighborhood pool!

A little back-to-school shoe shopping with my big two

The perks of having great friends who have an older boy with the same name as your youngest son :) Shop's open for business!

Supporting our favorite new orthodontist, who got to man the practice's snowcone truck for the day to help introduce her to her new town :)
Ready for our annual summer scavenger hunt. Love seeing these four together :)

Last day of summer ice cream. Bella HATES ice cream. And snow cones. And anything cold, really. (In China, everything is served room temperature or warmer)

Plan-free and happy as can be. Given the chaos that was the latter end of the summer, we are keeping the next few weekends as low key as possible, which will definitely be a nice change of pace. :) We have some special visitors arriving today and will be attending our neighborhood's back-to-school pool party tomorrow. Other than that, we will follow Bella's cues on what she feels up to. I am happy to share that we were able to go to church last Sunday, even though we had only been home for three days. Our church has a separate viewing room for any families who may need it (e.g., families with new babies); so, Clay and I were able to sit in there and watch the sermon with Bella while our older three were able to participate in their regular church classrooms. This was INCREDIBLY important to me - God has been with us every step of our journey and I just needed to be at church ASAP, so that I could feel even more in His presence and express my gratitude over and over and over. Amen. 

And with that, have a GREAT weekend. And here's hoping we all have a great view of the solar eclipse on Monday!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kindergarten Eve

Your bag has been packed;
Your lunch has been made;
Your clothes, been laid out;
We've fervently prayed.

And now you're tucked in,
We've counted those sheep;
I peek just once more;
You're still, fast asleep.

I am not yet ready
For this bright new start;
But here's the thing, Raleigh,
you certainly are

You're ready for reading;
You're ready for fun;
You're ready for lunch,
Recess in the sun.

You're ready for math
And P.E., too;
You're ready for friends,
Both old and new.

You're up for the challenge;
You're ready to soar,
To reach your potential,
To learn so much more. 

You're ready, my Raleigh,
But please know this, too:
You're taking a piece
Of my heart there with you.

I'll squeeze your hand gently
As we say goodbye;
Give a wave and a smile,
And then wipe my eyes.

I'll count down the minutes
To see your sweet face,
To hear your adventures
Within this new place. 

Tomorrow we start:
Bring on all the fun;
Adventure awaits!
Take care, little one. 

Raleigh Jane, it's time, sweet girl. The day has come! You are more than ready for this next chapter of our lives, and I cannot wait to watch you soar at FMES. I'll be waiting for you, honey. Counting down the minutes to hear all about your newest adventures. Now, let's do this thing. Kindergarten or bust!

With All My Heart,


Monday, August 14, 2017

Welcome HOME, Bella

It was one of those days I will never forget, for as long as I live. 

Back in Guangzhou, we headed down for our last (delicous!) hotel breakfast at the Garden Hotel. We then packed up our room and waited in the lobby for Bella's visa and our travel van to arrive. The second it did, we hopped in the van and embarked on the 2.5 hour drive to Hong Kong.

 Double fisting - spring roll in one hand, banana in the other :)
 Ready to rock!

 Last photo before we head out of the room that had been our home for almost a week

 Happily waiting for our travel van in the lobby

 Bella didn't nap at all during the van ride; so, once we were finally through security and a had a couple hours to spare before our flight out of Hong Kong, she napped on a restaraunt bench while Clay and I enjoyed celebratory beverages. 

 We made it!!! Two weeks in China and now headed home where we all belong! 

Only 30 hours of travel separate us from China and HOME!

Bella slept restlessly on and off on the 12.5-hour flight. Once our plane touched down in Los Angeles, she was officially an American citizen. Her daddy was SO proud, and I may or may not have teared up. We then had a 6-hour layover in Los Angeles, which was spent going through Customs/Immigration, re-checking our bags and going back through security, getting some dinner, and watching the Panthers/Texans game in an airport bar and grill. Our flight was then delayed about 45 minutes and then, after we boarded, we sat on the plane for another 30 minutes (45? I was delirious by this point) before we were able to take off. But finally, we were bound for Charlotte!

 The moment our daughter became an American citizen

 Studying up ;)

 Charlotte or bust!
 Let's do this thing!

We all slept on and off again and were so happy when our plane finally landed at 6:45 am, after 30 hours of travel. We quickly changed Bella out of her jammies and into the outfit I had excitedly made earlier in the summer, when I was dreaming of the day all four of my babies would meet. Back at home, her three big siblings were dressed in their matching shirts and excitedly waiting for their little sister to arrive!

 She's ready!

 They're ready!

Wearing our matching bracelets (Raleigh had hers on, too). I wore this every day during our wait and every day in China

We got off the plane, quickly picked up some Chick-Fil-A breakfast while en route to baggage claim (so good! Oh, how we missed our CFA while in China!), and then collected our bags. We ordered an uber and were soon on our way to our home, which was about a 25 minute drive from the airport. Oh, how slowly those minutes passed! We were absolutely exhausted but also absolutely ecstatic to get home to unite our family. 

Meanwhile, we had a few close friends and a few family members waiting for us at our home (Because our flight had been scheduled to arrive so early in the morning, we asked our family and friends to meet us at our house, instead of the airport, so that they wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to meet us at baggage claim). I am incredibly lucky that one of my closest friends is a talented photographer, who was there to capture some of the best moments of my life. 

 I mentioned before that I left little surprises for the kids to open each morning while we were away. The last one was a new set of markers and poster board so they could make "Welcome Home" signs for their sister. Ohmygoodness. They did an amazing job. Raleigh's said, "Bella I will love you forever." Yes, my tears were flowing. 
 Our welcoming crew!

 Our sweet friends made the most adorable sign to welcome our girl. Their youngest daughter, beautiful Olivia, was also adopted from China and it was so fun to finally get to introduce her to Bella <3

It was time...

We pulled up and immediately saw the signs that our kiddos and friends had each made. We saw the mailbox covered in pink balloons. We saw my own momma standing there, waiting to meet her 12th grandchild. We saw my aunt and uncle and noticed the chalk signs they had drawn on our driveway to welcome us. I took it all in, took a deep breath, and opened the door. 

Our big three ran straight to the car, hugging their daddy before he even get out of the car before running to greet Bella and I as we came out of the other side. I immediately teared up. My babies were together. And it was the happiest I have EVER seen them. Bella was so calm and observant, taking it all in. 

"This is our Bella?" asked my Banks, eyes sparking.
"This is our Bella," I managed to choke out as my eyes welled with tears. 

We spent the next few minutes hugging and talking to our beloved family and friends, introducing Bella to them all, laughing as she waved to many as she met them, including her Bammy

Then, at long last, we let the big siblings hold their little sister for the first time.

As everyone left to continue on with their days, we snapped a couple of first family photos before heading inside to begin our life together as a family of six. 

The amazing friend who was behind the camera, who I am so very thankful for. 
 Letting Bammy hold her for a second

On July 31st, 2017, Bella became an official member of the Lu Crew. On August 10th, 2017, she was finally able to meet the founding members. It was a day I will never forget.