Photgraphy

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our First Family Photos

EEEK! I'm so excited to share these. I knew that shortly after we got home from China, that I would want to get some photos of our family of 6. Just as when you have a newborn, you do the same.  It's just silly to wait that long, you want to capture those moments when it's new.   Even though we are all still adjusting, I didn't want to wait very long.  

Typically we do pictures in the fall so it was nice to change things up and do a Summer shoot. Plus I wanted to dress in a different type of wardrobe as well.  It was definitely warm during our session but if you wait till an hour before sunset it's not terrible and that is what we did.  We met Sarah, the photographer at 7:15 in Dallas. She was so sweet and great to work with. 

I know being a photographer myself that late evening sessions can be tougher on the little ones but it's so worth to try and make it happen so you can get this yummy light. We put the girls down for later naps that day so that they wouldn't have a meltdown mid session or be really tired and out of it.  Plus it's Summer so I figured, what the heck! Let's try and make this work. 

The first picture I'm sharing is my favorite one of our family of 6.  It's not really posed  (which is what I wanted) and we each are just looking at each other.  Willow was patting Coopers back which was sweet and Libby was just looking at the flowers,  I think it just turned out perfect.  You can see all of our outfits pretty well too.  This mama worked hard on that part.  LOL!



Choosing outfits for a session can be daunting, lol.   It really can.   I genuinely tried to make this work without having to purchase anything.  However I did end up buying (on the day before our session) a few items because I really just wanted this to come together as best as possible.  It was obviously a very special session with Willow now being home.  There are more images of Willow too since this was her first session.  That was intentional in case you might be wondering why there are so many of her.  I have thousands of pictures of my other 3 kiddos as I've always got to photograph them since they day they were born.   

Typically I tell Moms to choose what you want to wear first.  Because lets be real, how often our us moms always in the pictures these days??  It was actually Libby's matilda jane romper though with the lemons on them, that I centered the outfits around.  I knew it was the perfect summer outfit for pictures so I started there.  The boys were easy.  I brought in blue as another color so we had a pretty soft pastel palette.  Cooper wore the blue shorts with a grey shirt, which he already had.  Score!  Aiden wore the green pants so all the boys were not wearing shorts and it was a nice compliment to the green in Libby's romper as well.  I did buy Aiden just a plain white polo to wear which he can totally wear again. No big deal.  Tyler wore a blue polo shirt which complimented Cooper's shorts and a light khaki shorts which he already had in his closet as well. 

I wanted to bring in more yellow (which is definitely not my color) so I found this simple yellow dress at baby gap for Willow with the white lace embroidered trim around the bottom and it was the perfect compliment.  It was on sale too for $14 which made it even better.   I try not to mix too many different patterns for a session.  I already had the flower crown that Willow is wearing and believe it or not, she loves to wear it.  Unlike her bows that she always pulls out. 

So far, I had only had to spend about $30 for Aiden's shirt and Willow's dress but I still could not find something that I loved for myself.  I had some dresses but nothing that was the right color or style. So I glanced at Nordstroms the day before and got super lucky with this one.  It was a soft pink and very flattering on.  It had these beautiful ruffles around the front and had a nice flow to it.  Although it isn't something I will wear often, I absolutely fell in love with it and will wear it again. 

Here it is.  If you need a dress for a wedding or just a special occasion, consider this dress.  It comes in 5 colors too. The color I got is called Hibiscus which is a little darker than the color shown on this model.  Its a great price as well and great length for those that are not real tall....like me. ;)


Alright, so enough about our wardrobe. Let me share the other favorites from this session. 

Lots of tickling here :)




I love the colors so much in all these photos but I love me some black and whites too!




 I wish you could see some of Willows face in this picture but she was reaching down to grab Cooper's hand.  So Sweet! We were all just doing our own thing and that is what I love about it.  Definitely one of my favorites!


Now Willow is looking, but Miss Libby looks kinda sad.  ;)  She wasn't her perky self for this shoot.  She was not a fan of the tall grass not to mention she is 2 1/2 so there ya go. LOL.  But this is real and this is us.  I still love it!


Kisses...I just adore this one!


I'm so thankful for all the precious photos Sarah got of me and Willow.  It really shows what a joy she is and how much our love is both growing for one another.  It's still so surreal that she is home and in our arms.  God is so good and my heart is so FULL!




Next up, was photos of just the 4 kiddos.  Much easier said than done. lol. But they turned out really cute!

Libby's face though...there is always one. ;)



This is when Tyler and I were acting totally ridiculous trying to get them all to look like they love each other.  Lol. They really do but if you are parents you know what I'm talking about.  It's more so on their terms so whenever you really want them to cooperate, it's going to be more of a struggle.



I can't believe we have 2 blondes, a red head and one with black hair.  Looks like we need a brunette now. haha.  I'm sure if Tyler is reading this, he might of just passed out. 


We were getting ready to all lay on the quilt for more family photos and Willow came up to me which made for more sweet shots of just me and her.  I couldn't love these more! 











Tyler joined in as well.  The other 3 kiddos were having some skittles (yes we bribed) and taking a little break.  The boys especially were getting hot. Aiden complained about having pants on.  There is always something with one of them. 








How beautiful is this quilt that Sarah brought? 







Thank you again so much Sarah Hamilton Photography! We will cherish these photos and absolutely love how they turned out.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

2 months home with Willow

Can you believe that as of June 14th, we have been home with Willow for 2 months?  She has been in her forever family of 6 now for 2 months and about 2.5 months since she first met myself, my husband Tyler and her brother Cooper.  It feels so much longer than that and at the same time, some of it feels like yesterday. 

She has come a long way even though she started out doing amazingly well with us from the beginning.  I'm so grateful for that because I know that isn't always the case.   When I think about how much her world was completely flipped upside down and how incredible she handled that, I'm just blown away.  I would of for sure been a complete wreck.  Maybe the fact that she has down syndrome, it could of helped with that transition.  Although I know not all transitions for kids that have down syndrome don't go as smoothly which is completely understandable.  I would imagine most kids are confused, scared and wondering who the heck is this person that I've never seen that is feeding me, holding me, bathing me, etc?   Going into this process,  it was best for us to expect the worst and hope for the best.  So that is what we did.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Like almost every single day since we got Willow, Tyler or I have said, she is just So Good! She is our easiest child in most ways.  For the moment ;)  I definitely don't want to jinx us but I think all children go through seasons where you have more hurdles or where its just more smooth sailing.  Regardless of being a typical developing child or having special needs, they all have them.  Those hard seasons and those smoother seasons where you just want to freeze the stage/age they are in because you just enjoy it so much. 

Lets just look at this sweet face!  I took these pictures of Willow right about the 2 month mark from her family/gotcha day in China which was March 28th of this year.  This is one of my favorite matilda jane dresses that Libby got to wear last year. I'm so thankful I held on to many of Libby's clothes for this sweet little girl that I knew was coming. 





She loves doing the signs to different songs.  She especially loves, "Jesus loves me" and "If your happy and you know it."  When any kind of music comes on,  she loves to dance.  It's like her little body just starts swaying and moving and she just can't control it.  She starts skipping around and just gets so excited when music comes on. 


This right here sums up the JOY that she is.  You can't help but smile and just give Thanks to God! I know adopting a child with Down Syndrome is not everyone's calling but I pray that our story creates ripple effects all for God's Glory.  I pray that not only more families would open up their hearts for adoption but to also consider down syndrome adoption.  Let me tell you first hand, there is Nothing Down About It.  It is heartbreaking how many of these worthy beautiful and perfect children are waiting for someone to give them a home.  A family.  A chance.  Each of them deserve it and I can promise you, you will be blessed so much more than you could ever imagine. 


I love how she was so carefully collecting the flowers.  


This is her doing the Jesus loves me part to the song.   I was so excited to capture these sweet images of her.  I know she will be grown in a blink. 


Here are some more observations and different things I want to note about Willow at the 2 month mark.  

What she LOVES:

Music & Dancing!
That's at the the top of the list for sure.  I mean, the 2 go hand and hand right? 

Tickling!
She loves to be tickled, thrown in the air, spun around.  She can't get enough!

Swinging! 
She could swing all day in her swing in the backyard!

Food!
 This girl can eat and she gets a little HANGRY when it's been too long.  She will let you know too.  She is our best eater as far as eating the biggest variety of foods.   She isn't very picky but if she doesn't like something, she will just throw it off her high chair.  That is something we are working on.

Baths and Swimming! 
She loves baths but I think she loves swimming even more.  She really has no fear in the water which is a little bit scary.  She jumps right in with the biggest smile, mouth wide open.  I'm trying to teach her to keep her mouth closed. lol. 

Being Held! 
At first when we held her, she was just kind of dead weight and hard to hold on the hip. Now though, she wraps her legs around you like a little monkey. This girl loves to be carried and snuggled. 

Hugs!
Willow will hug just about anybody...if we let her.  We are still working on those special hugs just coming from Mommy and Daddy so she knows who we are.  She is quick though and sometimes it just happens.  If you give her attention, chances are she will lean in for a hug. 

Remotes and Phones!
Like most children her age, she loves to get her hands on a phone or a remote.  It doesn't matter if she only has the remote for 1 second either, she manages to always change the channel. lol.  She has deleted several apps on my phone and sent random texts and even made some facetime calls to people.  She loooves taking selfies on my phone too.  It's hilarious to watch her do it.  

Aiden!
I hope my other kids don't read this later and get their feelings hurt but she loves her some Aiden.  She adores all of her siblings but she often wants Aiden the most.  I knew Aiden was going to be an amazing big brother to her.  Little ones are often drawn to Aiden and Aiden loves them as well.  Willow just started to recently cry if Aiden gets out of the car.  She doesn't do that with anybody else but him.  It's really sweet!

Being Outside!
Willow loves to be outside.   Especially in our backyard because that is where her swing is and the playset.  I used to be hesitant about her getting on the play set without me being one step behind her but now she goes all over the play set without any assistance.  Of course I'm watching her but she climbs all the way up to the second level by herself and goes down the slides.  I have confidence in her too, she does it well.  She pretty much enjoys anything outside though.  She loves the outdoor toys and playing with chalk.  Bubbles are a big hit outside as well.  This girl just prefers to be outdoors doing something. 

Toys that make sounds and light up!
Right now she looooves any of the singing stuffed animals we have.  She loves this trolls karaoke toy that she sings along with all the time.  She also has this dancing robot toy that lights up and plays music.  And lets not forget the singing alphabet toy that is magnetic and goes on the fridge.  She will play with all of these types of toys for long periods of time. 

Those are all things that really jumped out to me as "LOVES" of Miss Willow in the first 2 months that we have had her.  She is pretty content and happy doing just about anything so there are more of course but these are what came to me first. 

Here are some general subjects that I will elaborate on every couple months so I can look back, because I know I will not remember everything. 

Eating
She loves food, and often shovels too much in her mouth.  She isn't too picky either.  However she does not like pineapple and a couple other fruits I have noticed.  She loooooves Mexican food, especially beans and rice mixed together.   This girl can consume a large amount of food.  She will also double fist some popcorn.  She is serious about popcorn, guys. LOL!  She also really loves yogurt.  She likes anything with noodles but she does not care for macaroni and cheese that much which makes no sense at all.  Who doesn't love macaroni and cheese? ha!

Sleeping
She has always from day 1 slept like a champ.  Sometimes she cries a little when we lay her down or sits up and starts playing with one of her stuffed animals but for the most part, she lays right down and goes to sleep.  She sleeps in a pack in play in our room so when I lay her down,  I stay in the room till she dozes off. When she wakes up though, she climbs right out of her pack and play to come find me.  Obviously I'm always close by, either in the room or right outside of the bedroom.   But if she doesn't see me, she goes right to the couch and sits down.  When Willow wakes up the morning or after a nap, it takes her a good 30 minutes to really wake up.  She sleeps about 11 hours at night and takes about a 2 hour nap each day around 1pm. 

Challenges
 There is the obvious challenge of having 4 kids now and Libby not always treating her nicely, but that is more so Libby's doing.   As far as challenges specific to Willow, right now we are not facing anything major.  There are little things like when Willow throws her food she doesn't want on the ground (as I mentioned above) Sometimes she pushes or hits Libby (mainly to defend herself) but overall nothing is like a really big challenge yet that we are struggling with.  She does love to go to just about anyone so after the first couple weeks we realized that we needed to reign her in more and keep her closer to us.  I feel like she got that pretty quickly too.  We encourage her to give high fives now and that is what she mainly does.   She is a grabber.  If are in any kind of store, she will try to grab anything she can get her hands on and she has a tight grip too.  So it is those kind of things.  She really does cooperate most of the time if we tell her not to do something.  She is a stinker too though. lol.  She will purposefully take Libby's blanket and run with it through the house giggling up a storm.  Of course it's not funny to Libby but they are definitely acting like sisters.  I see them playing a lot more together too than I did earlier on so that is really encouraging. 

Development
This is where she really just blows us away.  Everything from how quickly she is understanding the language to her climbing up and down stairs by herself,  how she brushes her teeth, her front roll overs, etc.  I could go on and on.  She is so so smart! I can ask her to point to her nose, eyes and mouth and she will do that now as well. 

Speech/Sign Language
We started teaching her sign language from the very beginning.  She picks them up so quickly.  Pretty much after showing her 1-2 times.  I remind her of signs of course so she will do it and not just whine for something.  Her receptive language is incredible.  She can do several things after I ask her to do something, such as throw that in the trash or go get yours shoes. She really does get it especially if it is something she hears often or just part of the usual routine.  She is also speaking some as well!  She says her name, Willow and its absolutely precious.  Other words she says often are Mama, Night Night, Poo Poo (Yes she says that word) Bubba, Hi, Bye Bye.  Oh and recently, No No!  She holds out her little finger too and gets a serious look on her face too. haha. You can't help but laugh. Those are probably the most frequent words that are clear enough for other people to understand.  When she sees a dog, she will say Roo Roo.  Its the cutest thing.  She makes a lot of other sounds too that she uses over and over for something and will try and repeat words and sounds that she hears.  

Physical Growth
She is still 25 lbs and 32.5" tall just like she was in China.  I thought for sure she would of gained weight especially with all that she eats.  It must be because she is so much more active now.  I'm not quite sure the reason but her weight and height is the same.  Her hair is definitely growing and getting thicker, that I can definitely tell. 

Attachment 
Willow came to us immediately and never looked back.  With saying that though, our love grows for her by the day.   She gets more comfortable with us as time goes on and we are both just learning each other and discovering new things about one another every day.  We missed those first 3 years of her life so we are playing catch up now.  God is so good though because I have drastically seen the steady growth in all of us.  Willow is definitely starting to understand that I'm her mama.  Little things she does or looks she gives me, shows me that she is figuring it out.  We are over the moon for her and I think she is pretty fond of us as well.  When she reaches up for me and says, Mama, my heart just melts.  She knows my name and she is starting to understand what exactly the name Mama means.  That will take time.  She absolutely feels like my daughter.  It feels like she was always meant to be with our family.  God gets all the credit too here.  I remember the fluster of emotions I felt in China and lots of overwhelming thoughts I had and God has completely calmed those and shown me so much about the BIG LOVE he has for all of us through Willow. 

Dr. Appts
We have had her first well appt with the pediatrician and she did awesome.  All of her blood work came back normal which was a huge praise.  We are so thankful for her Pedi and the wonderful resources we have around us in Mckinney. 

Willow has also been to an ENT doctor and we will do a follow up again in about 4 weeks.  She does have some fluid in her middle ear and it likely isn't new fluid.  The fluid is causing her hearing to sound muffled so she probably will need tubes.  She did okay on her hearing test but not great.  She was not a fan of going in that little room for part of the hearing test so that could of been part of it.  We will go back and re-check her hearing and see if the fluid is still there in about 4 weeks and then make a decision on whether she needs tubes or not.   Either way, its a simple procedure if she does. 

We will have some more appointments in the future but nothing immediate that needs attention right away. 

Overall so far,  it really is going great!  After missing those first 3 years of her life, we have a lot to make up for.   Lots of cuddles, tickles, and playtime.  Love is what she needs and I think she is loving her forever family too.  She may not realize that we are a forever deal, but hopefully soon she will.  I want her to feel so safe secure and loved and never have a doubt in her mind that we wouldn't be there for her.  Because we always will. 

Stay tuned for a post with all of our family pictures we had taken last Sunday! I can't wait to see them all and share them with you all. 

Here is a little peek from our session, that you might of also seen on Instagram! I couldn't love it more. A HUGE thank you to Sarah Hamilton Photography.  Go check her out!  Being a photographer myself, it means so much when you can actually be in the pictures as well.  I'll go over all of our wardrobe, getting ready for the session and how it all went very soon!






Friday, June 2, 2017

Our Journey to China - Days 13-19

Back again to recap our final days and I must admit I didn't take as many notes during this part of our trip.  If you want to see Days 7-12 click here.

To see Days 1-6, click here.

We had way less down time in Guangzhou and enjoyed this city so much.  So here is my best shot at a recap.  Better late than never right?

April 8th - Day 13

We went down for an amazing breakfast buffet at our hotel and saw several adoptive families.  It's so refreshing to talk to others going through the same thing as you.  

After breakfast, we explored a bit outside.  It is such a beautiful hotel.  

Cooper next to the giant waterfall at our hotel.

 

 Miss Willow


The giant koi fish


And here she is in front of the beautiful flower display in the hotel lobby of the Garden.


Selfie with Mommy


Our guide met us at 9:30am to take us to Willow's medical appointment.  It was a close drive and not too busy which was great.  It's a medical clinic but they have a separate area just for adoptive families. 

Willow did well and was very cooperative during her exam. They didn't have any concerns.

They did have to draw blood for the TB test.  They took her into another room to do that and of course she cried some.  She was only away from us though for a few minutes and then we got to comfort her. 

Next stop was Wal-Mart but not nearly as Big as they are in Texas.  We grabbed a few things and then our guide wanted to take us to lunch.  We found an Irish pub restaurant right behind our hotel and were excited to eat there.  We had Pizza, Nachos and Potato Skins and it was all Delicious! We would definitely be coming back to this place. 

Later in the day after Willow's nap, we took the kiddos for a swim.  The water was too cold for me but Tyler got in the water with them.

Getting her feet wet.


Didn't take long before she was all in. HAHA!


Since the water was a bit chilly,  they got in the hot tub next.


Love this boy so much! This trip wouldn't have been the same without him.  We needed him with us just as much as he needed us.  Having Cooper with us has been great for Willow as well.  

April 9th - Day 14

It was another nice day, very humid of course but we met our guide again at 9:30.  She took us to a nearby park in the heart of the city.  It was gorgeous to walk through.  In the park you will see people doing exercise, dancing, and playing hacky sack.


Much different than what is used at home for hacky sack.

Check it out.


We enjoyed walking through this park very much.  There is a legend behind this 5 goat statue but I forgot what it was. Pretty neat though.


Willow wanted to explore so we let her loose for awhile and thankfully she kept a hold of Tyler's towel. Lol.  It was really cute.



That face though. :)


As we were about to exit the park, we fed the koi fish and cooper noticed these neat Jeep boats.  Of course he wanted to ride/drive one so we did that next.  If you ask Cooper, this was one of the top highlights on the trip for him.




Next was the Pearl and Jade Market.  I have never seen so much jewelry in my life and this place was like 6-7 stories.  Insane!  Jade is a very precious stone in China, much like we value diamonds.  

I bough a jade necklace for myself and 2 smaller ones for Libby and Willow to give them later.

In the Chinese culture, you would give Jade to your daughter on her 16th birthday. I don't know that I will wait that long but they are a little too young for it now so I will save them for the right time.

We also bought a strand of pearls and made a few bracelets with it.  You can get an amazing price on fresh water pearls in China. The boys were troopers on this stop.  It was hot and humid inside this jewelry mall.

Here we are looking at pearls.


Cooper made a friend too. :)



This day wore us out. It was almost 80 degrees but felt like it was in the 90's because of the humidity.

We got back to the room and this was the current feeling.  Whooped!


We laid low the rest of the day and visited the little outdoor park at our hotel.  We were not sure how Willow would handle steps.  She was determined and had absolutely no problem at all, we were just wanting her to slow down a bit. This girl is really showing Down syndrome who is boss.  She seriously amazes us each day with something new.

April 10th - Day 15th

On this day, we had plans to visit The Little Home.  The Little Home was started by Children's Hope International (CHI) our adoption agency and there are actually several of them.  Its amazing what these little homes do for families. 

The little home is a home for families whom have a child that is going through treatments at the hospital.  It gives them a place to stay free of charge and they share this home with a few other families.  The families said it is a nice support system to have for each other as well. 

We entered the home and the very thing I noticed was how little it was.  The kids began coming into the living room and my goodness it broke my heart.  All were bald and visibly looked tired.  We got to talk with them via our guide/translator and Tyler prayed for all of them before we left.  They were Christians which was wonderful to hear. Praise God!  It was so sweet but yet heartbreaking.  Here we are before with some of the families.


We look forward to sending medical supplies via Mission Regan that these families would otherwise have to purchase. We are so thankful for this stop in our itinerary today.  As hard as it was to witness, it was a very special part of our trip.

The next stop was Shaiman Island! I have lots of pictures from this next stop. Its a man made island and I really enjoyed walking through here. 

There are statues that are throughout the island and these in particular ones have become famous that you see in almost all adoptive families photos when they come to the island.





We were thrilled to see some friends as well. I had met several families online through social media before going to China and some of us knew we would be there at the same time so its exciting when you run into them. 


I found another Starbucks on the island as well.  Carmel Frap for the win! I was smart this day and wore shorts.  I actually bought then the day before from H&M across the street because I did not have any.  This is Tyler's, "Oh gosh, not a another Starbucks face." lol


A real one this time without Starbucks.


This is what you call the Asian Squat. ;)  Cooper is practicing it with Willow and a little friend she made.


More walking through the Island.  She loves her Daddy!


We found some souvenirs and squeaky shoes for Willow.  She was a big fan of them.  Too bad I can't play the little video of them.  I also got both her and Libby an authentic Chinese silk dress.  

Then we visited the Swan hotel to get a famous picture on the red sofa.  It's kind of a tradition to do so.

The silly one is my favorite!


Inside the hotel, I think we have maxed out our picture taking for the day! LOL.

 

We stopped at a little park and let the kiddos play for a bit.


Then we had burgers at Lucy's restaurant on the island.  It was Delish!

One more pic before leaving Shaman Island and this one is my favorite. haha.

I think we nailed it though. ;)


We went back to our hotel for awhile and even though Willow was very tired, I wanted to try her new dress on.  This is her sleepy face.  She loves her new doll too.


For dinner, we decided to try a German Restaurant my friend Shay highly recommended.

Take a look at the ribs they brought out to us. YUM!!!


Well that dinner pretty much summed up our evening. Good thing we had a little walk back to our hotel after consuming so much food. :)

April 11th- Day 16

Today was our U.S. Consulate appointment day! Very Exciting! We kind of sported our red white and blue in a subtle way but believe me we are very "Proud to be an American."

A couple pics in the hotel before leaving.


Look how tiny she is next to Cooper.


Here we are before going into the U.S. Consulate.  We could not bring out phones in.


This was seriously the last picture we took this day.  We went back to the Irish pub restaurant this night because we knew it was a hit and it was also right behind our hotel.  

In less than 48 hours, we will receive Willow's visa and be able to leave China and head home. We are so excited and can not believe our journey to China is coming to an end. 

April 12th - Day 17

Today we were crossing our fingers and toes that the weather would cooperate so we could go to the Safari Park and thank goodness it did. This was our favorite day of the whole trip. Besides the day we met Willow of course. :)  I think it was also a favorite day because it was our last full day before heading home so it just felt good.  Plus the weather ended up being a little cloudy and breezy which made for a perfect day to visit the Safari Park.  Seriously, it was the best Zoo Experience (by far) that I have ever been on.  If you go to Guangzhou, this is a MUST DO!!!!!

I was like a giddy kid arriving to the Safari Park.  I could tell it was going to be fantastic soon after arriving. I'm not going to share a picture of every animal we saw.  Lol! Lets just say all the animal encounters were phenomenal.  Most of the animals were up and moving and even a little too close for comfort at times.  Here are some of my favorite pictures.  You can head on over to my IG page as well @embraceandgrace if you want to see some of the videos I posted from this day.  Feeding the elephants was awesome. I posted a video of Tyler throwing a banana right in it's mouth.  If I could figure out how to post videos here correctly I would. :)


BIG BOYS!!!


Look at the cute little Koala in the bottom left of this collage.  I wish we could of held him too! 


I was probably the most excited about seeing the Pandas! Willow loves Pandas but during this part she was asleep so we had to go back so she could see them.




We were probably entertained the most by these Orangatangs.  We seriously watched them play and show off for like 45 mins.  We got several great videos.  Cooper could have watched them all day. 


Cooper loved the dinosaurs as well! Willow was not a fan so we walked past them rather quickly.


Look at the baby tigers in the incubators. 




And the Koala Bears, how sweet are they? 


Willow was not feeling this character. lol.


Gotta love the Giraffes, it was fun feeding them too. Willow held on really tight to Tyler. 



That wraps up most of the excitement! 


Just as we were leaving, it started raining.  The day could not have went any better.  We will never forget our day at the Safari Park.  

April 13th - Day 18

We finished packing and received Willow's visa at about noon.  Woo hoo!!!!  We said our goodbyes to our friends and went to the train station to catch a train to Hong Kong. 

Cooper and his buddy Will


Willow and Nicky.  We just enjoyed visiting with this family so much. 


The train ride was fun, we pretty much had our own train car to ourselves.  We made it into Hong Kong a few hours later, just as it was getting dark.  Everything was all lit up.  
*not my picture but exactly what it looked like. 


Once we arrived, we got a taxi to the Marriott Hotel that was basically connected to the airport so the next morning would be super easy.  It would have been nice to have a full day in Hong Kong but all I could think of was getting home to my other babies.  Had we had all of our kiddos with us, visiting Disneyworld in Hong Kong would have been really tempting. ;)

April 14 - Day 19

THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE DAY!!!!!  EXCITED< NERVOUS< ANXIOUS….A little bit of it all! So many emotions!  Grateful, Happy, Relieved, the list goes on.

Excited to go home.  A little nervous about the long flight and how Willow would do.   And just a little anxious about it all.  We knew that Libby was a little upset with us at this point, based on our recent phone chats with her.  She was justifiably a little ticked off we were still gone and didn't want much to do with Willow on the phone anymore. It actually broke my heart one night.  She told me, she wasn't my friend anymore.  So I think I was just anxious about the upcoming transition. 

Right before the flight, I started to feel a bit off.  I couldn't figure it out.  I had just had a Starbucks drink so you would think, everything would be golden.  lol. 

As soon as we boarded the plane, I actually got super sick to my stomach and dizzy.  It wasn't nerves because it didn't feel like that but I seriously thought I was going to pass out.  I turned white and I think I freaked Tyler out a bit.  I was just praying non stop that it would pass and we would just get in the air so there was no turning back.  

Thankfully, it did pass but it took a good 2-3 hours.  For those few hours, I was worthless. I sat in my chair, drinking water with my eyes closed and had to be completely still.  UGH! The only thing I could think of was that maybe I had neglected to drink enough water leading up to this point and in these very humid temps, maybe I was getting dehydrated.  That's the only thing I can think of.  As a couple hours went by and I kept drinking water, I started to feel more normal.  Whew! Thank the Lord!

Willow did fantastic on the flight, she slept a good 6-7 hours at one point and happily played in her chair and ate snacks during the remaining hours. 

After 14-15 hours, we finally landed in DALLAS!  Gosh, that felt so good just to land!

We had to go through customs and immigration.  We actually landed an hour early but it took almost a good 1.5 hours until we made it through the Big Automatic doors to see all of our family and friends on the other side.  It was a whirlwind of excitement! 

Here is a LINK to see an awesome video that Sunny Mays Photography shot for us.  I'm so in love with how she captured this homecoming for our family.   It's only a few minutes but it's packed with so much love and excitement.  I will treasure this keepsake. 

Here are some images from our arrival as well!!!! Getting to squeeze both my kiddos couldn't have felt better and Libby and Willows first hug was just simply amazing. 

This was our friends and family waiting on us before we walked through the doors.




I think this is my favorite.  Seeing both the girls hug for the first time was absolutely priceless.  I think I love how much Aiden and Cooper are squeezing each other so tightly just as much in the bottom left corner.  You can feel the love in this picture for sure.


Another angle of this shot :)




Willow loved giving high fives to everybody! This just makes my heart so happy. 


I love this collage too my friend Brittany made. 


Some of my precious girlfriends that could make it.  *Not all are pictured here


All of our extended family that came to welcome us home.  It's blurry but I still love it. 


Last but not least, our FIRST picture as a family of 6! YAY!


Whew! I think that was the longest post ever! Thank you for all the love and support!  We most definitely felt the prayers and they certainly helped carry us through.  We couldn't be more excited for this new season as a family of 6.  

Stay tuned for Willow's 2 month post adoption update.  I'll be doing them at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and so on until 1 year.  Then I'll post one update every 6 months after that.  

I post frequently on IG so if you don't already follow us on @embraceandgrace you can see daily pictures and videos there.  I'm kinda obsessed with Insta-stories. :)

Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts! May God get all the Glory for orchestrating this entire journey and all the details along the way.