December 30, 2011

Takin' Over the Block

We're still in full holiday swing here in the McConnell household.  In fact, as I write this I can hear my family playing cards and watching movies in the living room. It's good to have a full house.

On the 21st we had an awesome Christmas dinner with my dad, followed by a few super relaxing nights on the mountain. When we returned home, we didn't even have time to unload the car before the McConnell clan started showing up from all corners of the country. It was an exciting greeting to say the least, as half of the family I hadn't seen since LAST CHRISTMAS! (WHAT?? Shameful.)

Since our friends/ neighbors knew they were going to be out of town this week, they very graciously offered their homes to us.  This has allowed the McConnell family to spread out into three houses on the street and officially take over the block.  It has been amazing.  

For the past 4 mornings, I have woken up to coffee brewing in the kitchen and quiet voices chatting-it-up in the living room. As I wander in, grab my coffee, and sit by the fire, other family members eventually wander over from their respective homes and by 11 am, we're still all in our pjs, starting  our 3rd pot of coffee.

Tonight is the first time in a week that I have been in bed before 2 am, and as I type this, I can still hear the dealing of cards in the dining room and the loud laughter of mom and siblings at the table.

By this time next week, the house will be quiet, the dogs will be depressed, and I will seriously have family withdrawals. (Why did I just say that? Now I'm getting sad prematurely. I'm going to go back to believing that nobody's leaving and there's no such thing as Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina, or Georgia.)

Cheers to family, cheers to friends, and cheers to the season that brings us all back together again.


December 22, 2011

Daisy, the deer, at Christmas

One day when I was about 9 years old, I was spending the afternoon with my grandmother when my uncle walked in with a tiny box.  He explained that inside the box, there was a baby deer, whose mother had been shot.  The fawn wasn't going to survive unless someone intervened. He asked my mom if she could take the deer home and tend to its needs.  As I peeked into the box, I could not believe my eyes.  This baby deer, covered in bright white spots, was smaller than a cat... It was unbelievably cute (equally as cute as that tiny giraffe in that commercial), and I was immediately smitten.  One minute I was playing dominos by myself on the living room floor and the next I was holding a baby deer in my lap with one hand.  Pure childhood magic. 

My mother agreed to help and we took the deer home and named her Daisy. For months we bottle fed Daisy, rubbed her bottom with a warm paper towel to help her go to the bathroom (simulating what a mama deer would do) and helped Daisy learn to stand and then walk.  She lived on our back screened in porch where she got used to all the sounds and smells of the outdoors, while being protected from lurking coyotes and other predators. (We lived on a farm.)

Before long, Daisy had lost her spots and had grown into a large, strong, beautiful deer.  Daisy was free to go.  We had many deer that would come to our house in the mornings and occasionally Daisy would run off with them.  But before long we'd see her trotting back from the woods and running beside our car with the other puppies.  At night the other dogs would come inside and Daisy would stand outside by our door.  We couldn't bare the thought of her feeling "left out" so we eventually starting inviting her in every night with the other dogs.  She had her own dog bed and would sleep through the night and then go back out the next morning. 

Daisy was a part of our family.  Here's Daisy one year at Christmas. 

As a kid, having a real deer cuddled next to me by the fire on winter nights was almost too much for my tiny heart to take.  She was the best.  She was sweet and quirky and would occasionally try to get you to play with her.  (Beware of sharp hooves.) Every second with Daisy was like being a part of a really great Disney film... except she wasn't a cartoon... she was a real-live-5 foot tall (when she wanted to stand on her hind legs) animal with a super sweet demeanor and a deep affection for us.

While Daisy is no longer with us, she had an amazing life while adding a very special chapter to mine.

I keep this picture in my "December" section of my calendar each year and as November rolls away and December begins I'm always so excited to put it up on the frig.

Glad I get to share it with you!

Enjoy your holiday weekend everyone!

Merry Christmas!

mae mae

December 21, 2011

Dance Like Everyone's Watching

Some people just know how to live life. 
My friend Danielle sent me this clip today and I haven't stopped laughing since.



December 19, 2011

I can't think of a title to fit these 3 things.

First, I just found this video of Sean on the internet.  I was there that night (such an awesome venue with amazing people) and I remember how much I LOVED hearing Sean sing this song. So glad someone got it on video! It's one of my favorites.

Second, if you're on a Christmas music kick hit the "Merry Christmas Baby" button on the right.  You can download Sean's song portraying a modern-day version of the Christmas story for free. He wrote it a few years back and I LOVE it.

Also, if you need a feel-good holiday film this week try "Nativity!" Seriously. Try it. (That exclamation mark is part of the title... although I really am as enthusiastic about this movie as it makes me appear.) I'm a fan of Glee and High School Musical, but sometimes it's refreshing to see real kids, being real kids... sans the auto-tune.  Nativity! follows a group of real kids who perform a modern/alternative version of the classic nativity play.  It's super charming and loaded with flat notes, sub-par dancing, and everything great about being a real kid.  Plus, all the kids have a British accent, which makes it a million times cuter.
Here's the trailer.

6 days until Christmas!

Baby Abi Buttons

The brilliant Maddie designed these buttons for Abiella.
We continue to pray that God would send someone to hold Abi and cuddle her and stimulate her brain and move her tiny muscles and do all the things we can't do right now.
We also pray that the timing for court and bringing her home would be right (but preferably soon) and that she would continue to be filled with joy.

Thanks for these buttons, Maddie! I love them!!
Feel free to grab one if you're so inclined :)
We'd be honored!

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" width="200" height="200" /></a>
<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" width="200" height="200" /></a>
<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" width="200" height="200" /></a>
P.S. Baby Abi rhymes.  (Abiella is pronounced like BABY-ella... not ABBY-ella.)

7 days home.

Okay. I'm back. For real this time.  Life's been a blur the past week.  I still can't believe we were in Africa one week ago.  I think my jet lag has finally subsided... (we went to bed around 7 pm and woke up around 4 am for much of this week)... just couldn't seem to get back on track.  Now, it's 10:17 pm and I'm still awake; I'm doing good!

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  (I can't post full pictures of Abi until after court... so these will have to do for now.)

This is our room with the mosquito net. 
 It was a very nice hotel.

Notice the woman carrying things on her head.  So amazing.
 We got to spend about 3 hours with Abiella each day and she just wanted to be held and cuddled the entire time. Her hands are so cute and she loved grabbing hold of our fingers. Can't wait to show you more!! 

This week has been very good and very tough.  Before we left for Ghana, I didn't allow myself to think about what life would look like after the trip.  I didn't want to set myself up for anything specific or place any expectations on what I would feel or should feel.  As our plane left African soil last weekend, I looked at Sean and started to cry.  I was excited to get back home but so sad to leave Abiella.  Twenty hours later as our plane landed in Nashville, I felt so grateful to be home and so incomplete all at the same time.

I thought each day would get easier, but instead it has gotten harder.  Each day I'm here, I feel further away from Abiella and quite honestly the culture shock of being back in America has been a little more than I anticipated... stepping off the plane into the middle of commericialism packed, every kid deserves a million gifts, American Christmas is a little hard to take.  As I see people buying hundreds of dollars of gifts for their kids (not saying that's wrong...) I ache.  I want to give my little girl gifts too.  Except, I simply want to get her vitamins for her formula, a mobile for her crib, a visit to the Vanderbilt Children's hospital, the physical therapies that she needs, the mental stimulation her brain craves, and most importantly a lot of love... and yet none of these things are possible right now. (Of course I can love and pray for her from a distance... but I want to have her in my arms, praying for her, singing for her, kissing her adorable cheeks... )

At the same time, I'm enjoying life on a deeper level.  I feel God.  I look at life with a greater appreciation. I am grateful for the little and the big. I hold life with a looser grasp and find some sort of peace in knowing I'm out of control...

Today, Sean surprised me with a Christmas tree.  I had been planning on getting one all week, but hadn't made time.  When I came home tonight I looked up and in the corner was a beautiful tree, already set up, with the lights on, just waiting to be decorated.  What a great surprise!  He told me to find a Christmas special on tv. I'm glad he did... I landed on Mrs. Miracle... pretty cute. I may just watch it again.  (Instant Netflix.)

Bottom line: This time is hard and this time is good.  It is stretching my faith, expanding my understanding of God, growing my appreciation for those I love, and rocking my world with an ache for this child. 

It's also testing my patience with the country I love so much and a culture that spends an estimated 470 billion dollars on themselves during a season meant to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I can't help but think of the little girl I saw begging for water in Africa, and the little girl down the street receiving her first cell phone, and think "What's wrong with this picture?  This is how we've chosen to celebrate Jesus?"  (And yet I'm part of it... I've spent $8 on two coffee drinks the past two days. WHAT?!?)

On a different note, I'm looking to connect with moms who are in or have been in the same boat as me (adopting, already met their child, and waiting).  So if you know anyone... hook me up :) My email is located in the contacts page above.

Also, if you feel like sending some of your Christmas cheer towards a fantastic non-profit, check these out.  I'm in love with each one :)

Blue Monarch - residential women's shelter for women suffering from abuse and oppression.  I attended a graduation celebration for one of the women today.  These women are some of the bravest, most courageous women I've ever met.
Ride for Reading - donates new and gently used books to underpriviledged children
Ekisa - oprhanage in Uganda for children with special needs

Much Love,

December 15, 2011

Missing These Hands...

Can't wait until I can show you full pictures! 

Linking up at The Anderson Crew today.

Happy Thursday!

December 12, 2011

We're Back

We're back home. The hotel's internet didn't work well the last few days. But we had some pretty awesome things happen. On Thursday Abi's cough was almost gone. We had been told by our coordinator that the hospital was pretty intense and to be prepared for seeing "new things" if we decided to go. Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to the visit…especially if Abiella's cough wasn't an issue anymore. I was also a little concerned that by taking her to the hospital needlessly, we'd be exposing her to things she wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. We prayed that on Friday morning we would know for sure if we needed to take her.

Friday morning, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and then went to the orphanage. As soon as they put Abiella in our arms she started coughing. This was the answer. We were going to the hospital. A nurse, another orphanage employee, Sean and I, our driver, and Abiella (in my lap) loaded into a car and headed to the hospital. When we got there we walked in. It was one big room with wooden benches. The place was PACKED. Every bench was completely full. Maybe 300 people there. We were the only obrunis (white people) there. Around the room were nurses walking in old-school uniforms with the structured white hats. Very surreal. The nurse that came with us from the orphanage found us a place on a bench to sit and then she went into a backroom with the hospital staff. As we sat there Abiella was completely happy. A man sitting next to Sean pointed to the three of us and said, "White, white, black baby... how does this happen?" Haha. Sean tried to explain.

Then the most amazing thing happened. A beautiful woman dressed in full African garb (dress, beautiful head wrap, etc.) walked up to us. She said, "I'm here with another child from the orphanage. I saw you at the home yesterday?" We nodded although we had never seen her before. She then pointed to Abi in my arms and explained that she takes care of her. WHAT?!!?? We hadn't been given the opportunity to meet her caregivers. We said, "You take care of her?" And she said, "Oh yes, I feed, I bathe." She then picked Abiella up out of my arms, and started holding her, squeezing her, playing with her, amazing. She was SOO good with her. Honestly, the most perfect "Aunti." She said, "She wails when she's hungry... and then she's good." We confirmed, "She cries when she's hungry?" "Oh YES. She wails... and then she's fed and she's good!" THANK GOODNESS. Sean said, "If that woman's taking care of Abiella I feel a million times better." Me too! It was amazing. It was just by chance that that woman was at the hospital when we were and that she came up and explained who she was. I'm not totally sure she's even a human. She was soo beautiful and it was such a profound moment.

Soon the nurse and woman who came with us to the hospital walked up to us and said, "We're up." (Clearly they pushed us near the front of the line b/c the original 300 patients were still sitting there.)The woman grabbed Abi out of my arms and told me and Sean to sit on another bench. They took her behind a curtain. I could see them undress her, take her temperature, etc. Then they dressed her and walked past us and said, "We're going to see the doctor. Wait here." They really took great care of us. Until she's through court the orphanage is legally responsible for her so the staff took care of her at the doctor's office. After 5 minutes or so (and a LOT of stares and whispers around us) they brought Abiella back to us. She was still very content and happy. The orphanage nurse told us it was just a "typical cough" and that the other woman needed some money to run to the pharmacy across the street and get Abi’s prescription.. The other nurse said she was running upstairs to get some wound dressings for someone else. We were left in the waiting room... the three of us: Sean, me and Abiella. We ended up waiting there for almost an hour. It was burning up! NO AC... babies crying, etc... But sweet Abiella, sweating up a storm, just sat contently in our arms... looking around. While we were waiting a woman brought us our hospital bill.  Sean paid it (10 cedis... approximately 7 US dollars!) .  Soon, both women returned and we were back in a taxi. We had to go to another pharmacy b/c the first one was out of one of her medications. As I held Abi in my lap, smashed between two strong Ghanaian women, watching Sean in the front seat, and holding Abi's head steady while the taxi slammed every which direction, I thought "Wow this is one experience I'll never forget.”  While Sean and the other woman were in the second pharmacy, the nurse and Abi and I sat in the taxi alone. Abi coughed. The nurse looked at her and said, "We give her medicine. She'll be good." It was so comforting. She asked when we were going back, I said "Today. In a few hours." She said, "Oh...we'll miss you. Abiella will miss you." Abiella eventually started to fall asleep in my lap.  

We finally arrived back at the orphanage and the nurse directed someone to take Abiella and go feed her. We waited under the tree. Eventually, K’s partner showed up to take us to the airport. Sean went and asked if we could see Abi one more time to say goodbye. They asked, "where are you from in America?" Sean said, "Tennessee." They said, "Oh we hear that place in songs!" (Are you kidding me??) Sean said, "Oh that's what I do... I write songs." The director said, "Oh next time bring your guitar and you can play for the kids.” So nice.

Eventually a woman brought Abi out. I walked up to the building and Sean and I loved on her, prayed for her and told we'd be back as soon as possible. Very sad but we made it. (We'd been told to do all you can not to cry b/c it's a cultural 'no-no' and would make EVERYONE super uncomfortable. So we somehow managed... ) Abiella had just eaten and was super happy. Eventually we handed Abiella back, waved and smiled to the staff, told them, "Thank you so much" about ten million times and got into the car.

20 hours later we were at our house in America... with toilet paper, and clean water, and clean food, and no Abiella.... It's a wide array of emotions. But ultimately, we couldn't be more thankful for the way things went on Friday. We got her medicine for her cough, we met her super unbelievable caregiver at the hospital, we were invited by the staff to come back and spend more time with the kids, and we learned that Abiella cries when she's hungry... (Thus making us feel that she wasn’t hungry when we visited with her… she didn’t cry much with us.) So, So, So good.

We feel very blessed...We cannot express how much all of your prayers and encouragement and messages meant while we were in Africa... more than you'll ever realize. We felt your support from across the world and it helped us in the hardest hours. We are so grateful for all of you and CAN'T WAIT to share pictures and videos with you of our precious Abiella. She is literally the strongest, most resilient, most amazing person I've ever had the honor of meeting. We are so in love and we miss her so much. Can't wait until she's here with us!!

December 7, 2011

3 Days

Wow! What an incredible three days. I’ll try to recap as best I can without writing a 300 page novel.  We pay for internet by the hour here, so my time is limited.  We’ve been able to email family each night so in order to save time I’m stealing bits and pieces of those emails below:

Day 1

“Today was amazing. First let me say that Abiella is more beautiful than we could have ever imagined and her spirit is absolutely amazing. Our meeting was so divine and as you'll eventually see in the pictures it was just perfect. The whole time I was hoping for just one smile. We got about a half-dozen in five minutes. It was so, so amazing.

Now, let me tell you more about the day and how we got to spend time with her. We were picked up from our hotel by our social worker, "K". K took us to the government buildings where our hope was to meet the man who could give us clearance to take Abiella to the hotel. Unfortunately, he was not there. (K has gone every day last week to get this arranged and he has always been "very busy.") While we were there folks looked over our paperwork and asked us questions. "Why do you want to adopt from Ghana?, What do you like about the country?, Why do you want to adopt a special needs child?" Every time we answered, "We love the country, it's so beautiful, you have a rich and wonderful heritage, we have an amazing support system at home, a wonderful hospital specializing in special needs, great schools for children with special needs, unique opportunties, strong family and friends, much, much love,.... we love her already, etc." Everyone was nice but stern.

Next, we were taken to the orphanage. Traffic here is intense. Motorcycles driving through lanes of traffic, people walking in the streets selling items from baskets on their heads, we stopped at one street vendor to pick up office supplies for K. It was a shelter with roosters walking all around and a man chopping coconuts outside. So interesting. We finally made it to the orphanage. Sean and I had a wonderful peace. We met one woman who worked there. She spoke only to K. We did not understand their language. Eventually a woman walked in with a tiny baby covered in blankets. I couldn't see the baby's face. I asked, "Is this her?" and they nodded yes. I stood up and they handed her to me. It was beautiful. She is the most amazing bundle of joy. My biggest prayer has been that she would be joyful. She is. She appeared to be just waking up, but she came to and her eyes would roll around pretty lucidly but she would focus in and then make a connection. She would listen to me talk and then glance over at Sean and listen to him. We told her how much we love her, how beautiful and perfect she is. She smiled really big 3 or 4 times. I handed her to Sean. She loved looking up at him and listening. She smiled very big at Sean. She seemed very okay going back and forth between us.

We asked permission to take pictures. K asked on our behalf and they agreed. We were able to get about 6 photos. So special. They did not let us take her to the hotel, as we didn't have a signature from the person we were looking for earlier.

Eventually K said we couldn't take her and that we would come back tomorrow and the woman came back and took Abiella. We told her we'd be back and how much we love her and then she walked away with her.

After we left, we had a few more stops to make with K.  Eventually K said, "I'm sooo hungry. I have to get something to eat." So Sean and I followed him. We walked across town and then back through this alley where there were women with huge pots and business men eating under a tent. We followed K down this hallway. He asked if wanted anything to eat but Sean and I had been eating granola bars all day and weren't hungry so we declined. Seemed like he didn't plan on us eating this food anyways. He told us to wait outside. We didn't know where to go, we were directed out of the small hallway back into the courtyard. We stood. A group of business men told us to go sit in a chair. They were very friendly. (Everyone has been so nice.) K came back out and ate his food. As he ate he taught us the Ghanaian way to eat the dish. Wash right hand with the bowl of water and soap on the table, eat with clean hand, pick off piece that you can swallow (not chew). He ate a massive bowl in about 5 minutes. Good thing we didn't order b/c I would have NEVER been able to eat all of it and we were in a hurry to get back to a certain office. After the meal, I asked if there was anywhere I could use the bathroom. He pointed to an alley behind the cooking area. (Blocked off only by cinder blocks.) He smiled, "You may not find a WC there. Just a trough. You just go." I said, "Okay. No problem. Is it for men and women?" He said, yes... So off we went . Sure enough, just a public trough in the ground. We did as we were told.  Wow. Interesting.  Before he dropped us off at our hotel K showed us how to walk from our hotel to an art center. We may do that another day. We were too exhausted today.

That was our day. Very, very good.

Bottom Line: our meeting with Abiella was heavenly and wonderful and special and overwhelming and peaceful and joyful and more than we could have ever hoped for. We are so thankful.

She is so beautiful.

Oh and she also has pierced ears."


(I’ll spare you the email here, b/c it’s a bit emotional and VERY long.)

Basically, we weren’t able to get clearance to bring Abi to hotel b/c the man whose approval we needed was still out of the office.  We learned that he would be out of town until next week.  We were sad but still grateful to be able to visit her in the orphanage.  So, K took us to Abiella and for the rest of the afternoon we held her and rocked her under the shade of a tree near the orphanage.  She was not as cheerful as our first meeting. Although she wasn’t crying she wasn’t beaming with smiles as she had the previous day.  I soon realized why.  She had a deep cough.  She was teething.  She didn’t feel well.  This concerned me and when we called K he said he would help us get her to a nurse the next day.  We were grateful.

Day 3

(Portion of email to family.)

"Praise God!! Thank you so much for your prayers! Today was a miracle.  I don’t even know where to begin.  First, Abiella seemed much, much better today.  She still has a wicked cough but she wasn’t coughing nearly as often as yesterday.  When I took Abi from her caregiver’s arms today, she immediately started smiling.  Her smiles continued on and off for about 3 hours. Her cough was noticeably less…

She LOVES being held.  This is huge as we know that some babies who aren’t held much don’t like the feeling.  She smiles and snuggles close to you.  The wheezing in her lungs was less today.  Her tongue is very often coming in and out of her mouth… I’m not sure if this is b/c she’s hungry, she’s teething (she has 3 new teeth with more on the way) or if it’s just a thing she does.  At one point Sean kissed her cheek and she smiled so big all 3 teeth were showing.

She’s an incredibly resilient, kind spirit.  At one point another child ran over and tried to climb over Abi to get to Sean’s glasses… Abi was bumped a little but Abi just closed her eyes and smiled. 

We held her and rocked her and sang to her all afternoon.  After two hours our social worker showed up.  (Per our request due to her cough.)  He got the orphanage’s nurse to come out.  She explained to us that the babies are always lying in their cribs, and so when they sit up they just cough a lot.  This does make sense to me as her spit-up is always just SPIT… not mucus.  However, while she was standing there Abi coughed and perhaps it sounded worse than she expected.  Because they spoke in another language for a while and then K told us that, all five of us would go to the doctor’s office before we leave Friday night.  I hope this happens.  If she’s completely better tomorrow there’s a chance it won’t happen.  Who knows.    I would be thrilled to get her medicine! 

We sang to her a lot today and she’d occasionally talk back, her voice is so cute…

She’s so resilient and so strong. She’s got the most gentle spirit… she’s an angel and we’re so in love. She’s an absolute angel. AWESOME DAY.  We finished the day by taking a taxi to a restaurant that specializes in American food.  The Ghanaian food is amazing but it was nice to have something familiar.  Grilled chicken and French fries.  The chicken had a Ghanaian flavor that was just awesome.  I ate a TON. This was only our third meal since we arrived.  Geez.  The food was much needed.  (We’ve been so busy we just keep eating the granola bars and fruit strips we packed.)

We are so, so, so thankful for a very good happy day with Abiella.  Please pray for us tomorrow as we start the adventure again and Friday as we venture to the hospital to see about her cough / head back home."
That's all for now.  Can't wait until I can share photos!!  She's BEAUTIFUL and I'M TOTALLY SMITTEN!!
Much Love from Across the Globe,

Mae Mae

December 4, 2011

It is 3 am

It is 3 am.  I have been awake for an hour.  I'm typing this under my mosquito net.  I can hear the sound of a constant drip of a leak in our bathroom, the low roar of our ac, and the occasional loud crash of waves outside. Today is the day.  My alarm will go off in 4 hours and we will plan to go meet Abiella.  My mind is racing with what to bring, what to ask, where to go to get more formula, how long we will be able to visit, and a million more questions.

Tonight we fell asleep at sundown (by accident) and then rallied again to go have dinner.  I'm so glad we did. Dinner was amazing.  We went to the restaurant here on the hotel grounds again. Yesterday, we went when we arrived.  It was late afternoon.  Tonight it was a little after 8:00 pm.  It was so different going later.

As we approached I heard the voices of Americans.  An accent I haven't heard since we said farewell to our flight attendant.  It was strangely comforting.  As we entered the outdoor restaurant, there was beautiful music, the crashing of the waves, and a candle at each occupied table.  The waiter seated us, positioned a fan to blow on us and brought us a candle.  It was a very nice dinner.  I had beans and fish and fried plantains.  Absolutely delicious.  I also had a coca cola, served to me in a glass bottle.  It was awesome.

There were 5 occupied tables.  An older couple sat beside us drinking water, eating nothing, reading the Bible by candle light... interesting.  Another couple looked like they could be on some sort of romantic getaway, another group looked like they were seasoned travelers and here for fun, two other men sat by themselves... one on his laptop.  For a second, I thought I spotted Anthony Bourdain walk in and when I mentioned this to Sean he about spit his drink out he was so excited.  But alas, no Anthony... just an impressive look alike. 

Our waiter heard our accents and asked us if we were American.  The language barrier is a bit more difficult than I had anticipated, but nevertheless I think we all understood each other.  He told us that America was his "dream" country and that he had friends in Florida and he hoped to visit one day.  He said he had studied so much about America he felt he knew more about the country than some Americans.  He asked us about Florida, New York, and New Jersey.  Seeing his eyes light up at the word "America" was amazing.  It reminded me that YES, we are from a great country with unbelievable opportunities. How much I've taken for granted... access to education, clean water, food, shelter, the list goes on.
Something just howled outside....hmmm....

On that note, I better try to get some rest :)
It's now 3:30.  Will I ever fall asleep again?? So excited!!
Please pray for us :)  This journey is unique and unlike anything I've ever, EVER experienced.

Mary Susan

We are Here

We are in Ghana! The flights were great. (Love the screens above each tray table that have movies, tv shows, and music, and a map of where you are and how much time you have left in flight. So, so cool.) We landed in Accra mid-afternoon, early Saturday morning Nashville time. We made it through immigration, exchanged some currency, and then waited for our luggage. After watching about 350 bags roll around the baggage claim, all 4 of our bags finally showed up. I was so relieved. Good thing our agency had told us to take good care of the baggage tickets they gave us in Nashville b/c everyone had to show that the numbers on their bags matched the numbers on their tickets to get out of the airport. As we were exiting the airport we were greeted by a sign with “McConnell’s” on it. Such a nice feeling.

Our social worker’s brother and his wife were there to greet us. They helped us get a phone and some water and then took us to our hotel. The hotel is incredible. The AC works wonderfully, we have a view of the ocean, there is a mosquito net already attached to the ceiling over the bed, and there is a restaurant on site. Dinner there last night was AMAZING. It was friend plantains mixed with a spicy sauce. So, so good.

From our view of the beach, we see hundreds of people walking, running, playing... I literally just saw 2 men racing horses on the beach. Quite the active stretch of sand here. Many women walk with loads of goods on their heads... fruits, meals, etc. It's very impressive.

Today is Sunday and since most things shut down on Sunday we weren't able to go to the orphanage today.  We will definitely go tomorrow.  In the meantime, we’ve enjoyed a Fanta Lemon (so, so good) under a hut by the beach and we've enjoyed reading on our deck. We'll probably start putting the baby swing and tummy time set we brought together soon. (We hope to leave those here with her) Hoping to meet Baby Abiella soon!!

December 1, 2011

We are leaving tomorrow.

When I think about it a surge of energy shoots through my body.  A surge that is new, and foreign, and awesome.  This morning I was folding clothes and Sean walked in and said, "Do you feel it?" and I said, "Yes. My blood is on fire."  It's the only way to describe it.

We leave tomorrow morning.  We'll be keeping in touch through this blog and calling family when possible.

We are praying for the bonding process with Abiella, as well as the bonding between us and her caregivers.  We are praying for Abi's health, for healing, and for clearer discernment regarding what we can do to help her mind and body grow, for safe travels, for a joy and peace throughout this journey, and for a wonderful experience getting to know her beautiful country.

Much Love!
Mary Susan

November 29, 2011

3 days and megan james...

We're leaving in

WHAT??!?? It's so exciting!!! Each day we continue to mark things off our list.

Today, my goal was to get all of my school work finished for this week and next week.  Unfortunately, this includes a term paper that has officially frozen my mind.  I need someone to hit control,alt,delete on my brain and reboot me.  I'm not kidding when I tell you that I've been sitting in the same spot for the last 9 hours, and all I have is the heading.  What? I'm normally good at writing papers.

Luckily, on my 6th hour of research staring blankly at 6 textbooks, I heard a knock at the door and when I peeked through the window (expecting to see a delivery truck) I saw this beautiful face staring back at me:

(She really is that gorgeous all of the time. Very frustrating.)

Pop-ins are the best.  Megan walked in, squealed about the piles of baby gear that have currently taken over our living room, celebrated the 3 day mark until Ghana, and then proceeded to tell me one of the most hilarious stories I've heard in a long time.  Megan's life is like a sitcom.  After the five years I've known her the most unimaginable things continue to happen to her...  Ten minutes after she was gone, I was still shaking my head, repeating unmentionable phrases under my breath and wiping away tears of laughter.  If you haven't already, you really must check out her blog b/c this gal has got some serious talent (she's an UNBELIEVABLE singer/songwriter) and has some super serious ability to attract hmm... how should I say it...unique situations. I believe it's her spiritual gift :)
I leave you with a video of her melting faces in Nashville. 



November 28, 2011

We leave in...

mae mae

November 25, 2011


A few weeks ago a bunch of girlfriends and I had a wonderful weekend at a cabin in the mountains.  You can read about that glorious mini-vacay here.  While we were there we decorated the letters to Abiella's name.  

While making them, none of us looked around to plan a theme or color palette, and yet when we lined them all up at the end, they worked perfectly! These letters will eventually go in her room, but for now they live on my mantel... where I can stare at them everyday.

Thanks ladies!!  Y'all are the best and I can't wait to put them in Abi's room!

mae mae

Merry Indie Christmas


Happy Post Thanksgiving Folks!
Hope you had a great one!
We sure did.
(Pictures to come later.)

But first, if you're here from Follower's Fest, WELCOME!
Become a follower or leave a comment and I'll gladly come check out your space.
I always love to meet new bloggers and see the amazing things people are doing in their lives... it's a bit like looking in a stranger's home as you drive by at night when their lights are on... except with blogs they know you're looking and they're okay with it.
Very satisfying and slightly addictive.

On this blog, I tend to write about life, friends, family, and our adoption journey.
Today, however, in honor of a Merry Indie Christmas I thought I'd share with you a cheap gift idea.  I love word searches and at you can make your own. Today, I used it to create a gift for my friend, Katherine.

 On this site, I created a word search with her name as the hidden word.  I then printed it, found her name, and circled it in red.  Next, I grabbed a clean jar (that my pasta sauce lived in last night), stuffed the puzzle inside, tied it with rafia & a ribbon, and topped it off with the letter 'H' (the first letter of her last name.)

Katherine loves office supplies, so Christmas morning this jar will be full of freshly sharpened pencils, a few of her favorite pens, and an old wooden ruler.
Way under $5 and the wrapping itself serves as a gift.

Have fun blog-hopping and cheers to the Christmas Season!


November 23, 2011

Making a List & Checking it Twice

Wow.  The past few days have been awesome.  We are getting so excited for our trip we can hardly stand it. Our bags are getting packed and things are getting real.  We got our second round of shots yesterday, booked our hotel, confirmed our itinerary with our social worker, met with our pediatrician, and took two trips to Target for things we need.  Sean and I bought our first set of wipes and diapers (very exciting) and loaded up on small things we can leave with Abiella.  We're packing one of those baby chairs that bounces and vibrates and has a mobile on top.  It fit nicely into our luggage.

On Monday afternoon, Sean said, "What if I break my glasses while I'm there?" and I said, "Oh my gosh... what if you do?? You'd be blind. You need a backup pair." So 45 minutes later he was sitting in the doctor's chair getting a current prescription.  I needed a new pair as well and so we got it all done in one visit.  Here I am getting fitted for my glasses.  If you haven't been lately, get ready for the not-too-exciting contraption they put on your head to fit your glasses to your face.  It takes a magnified photo of you and then displays it on their huge screens where all customers walking by can see.  Imagine a closeup of your face times 20.  You can tell by my stance I wasn't too happy about this.

While I was at Target a mother and her two daughters were walking past me in the Christmas aisle when the young daughter spotted the "holiday" bras next to the ornaments.  Seriously Target... seriously?  But anyhow, she immediately broke out into song singing her original, "Deck the halls with bras of glory, fa-la-la-lala-la-lalala."  Her mother was humiliated but I thought it was hilarious.  I've had it in my head for two days now... and maybe you will now too.

Looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow and Follower's Fest on the 25th!!

I'll post again soon, but for now I've got to finish loads of laundry, go to the store for tomorrow's feast, and finish washing bottles and baby clothes we're taking.  What?!?  So exciting.  Meanwhile, if any of you know where to find a mobile that attaches to a crib, let me know.  We're on the hunt (we want to leave it there with her) and for some reason Target doesn't have any.  Next stop: Essex, Wal-mart, Babies-R-Us, and anywhere that sells a hot holiday caffeinated beverage... 'Tis the season!

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving Day!

November 21, 2011

Our Tickets are Booked!

Our tickets are officially booked!  In 11 days we'll be flying here

Woohoo!!!  We will be leaving the states on December 2nd. We're so excited we can hardly stand it!  We will stay for a full week, visiting Abiella everyday, and experiencing life in her beautiful country. We've been told to pack a pair of nice clothes for us and Baby Abi just in case we go to court while we're there.  This doesn't mean that Abiella would be able to come home with us, but it does mean that she'd officially be a McConnell!

Also, we had our first doctor's visit today at Vanderbilt International Adoption Clinic.  That hospital is amazing.  I love that the directions to their office included the phrases, "Go past the train and follow the big yellow stars on the ground to the correct elevator."  I felt like I was walking through the Santa's workshop instead of a hospital.  Way to go Vanderbilt!  I'm very, very impressed.


We'll be keeping you posted!!

Mary Susan

November 17, 2011

It is 4 am...

It is 4 am and my mind is racing. Tuesday we received $1,800 worth of vaccinations, yes $1,800. We knew it would be that much money, we didn't know it would be this much achiness. At the time of the shots I felt fine, but hours later I felt like I had been hit by a truck. 35 hours later my arms are still super sore and I feel basically exhausted. In addition to the yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A & B, meningitis, and other shots I can't remember at 4 am, Sean got a chicken pox shot, we both got flu shots, malaria pills, deet/mosquito repellent detergent kit, as well as some preemptive antibiotics. It feels good to have that task behind us... even if it's almost $2k out the door. When I look at what I'm protected against, 2k seems like nothing.

We have sent off our new 1-600A, got our last two papers notarized, mailed off our dossier (fed-ex overnight to a family in the states who will be hand-delivering it to Ghana on Monday) and are beginning to make plans to travel! It has been a whirlwind two days, and now we're in the process of applying for travel visas and securing a travel agent (at the advice of our agency... looks like there are a few travel agents that receive such significant discounts it's worth using one...). Bottom line? We are getting closer. Much closer. And if feels unbelievable!

When I think about holding our sweet Abiella I literally can't contain my excitement... Sometimes Sean and I just pace in our living room... A million thoughts running through our minds. I constantly look at the clock and count forwards to know what time it is in Ghana. Right now for instance, it is 9:29 am. What is she doing? Has she been awake long? What are the sounds and smells and sights around her?

It's an odd feeling to just want to hop on the next flight and not be able to. Yesterday I literally almost hit 'purchase' on a flight that would have us leaving next week only to remember one small detail: travel visas. Oh yeah... of course. Geez.

After Sean fed-exed our dossier, he returned home with a bouquet of flowers and the demand that I use an old gift certificate I have and get a massage on Friday. He called and booked it for me. So sweet.

Tonight, my friend Lindsay and I babysat sweet Preston. It was so fun being with Preston. We're so blessed to have so many great friends right on our street. Speaking of street, we took the house off the market. If we were to sell it now, it could add months and months to the adoption process. Honestly, that's been such a stress-relief... I was sad to leave this house and this street and knowing I get to stay here makes life just a little sweeter.

Tonight Lindsay gave me this print from persimmonandpink.

How sweet!! It reminds me of the meaning of Abiella's name, and I can't WAIT to put it in her room! Speaking of bedroom... I think I'm going to try to go back to sleep now... Looks like I still have a little time before sunrise.

Over and Out,
mae mae

linked with casey

November 15, 2011

Turkey Week

Today is Day 2 of Mrs. Thriftary's Turkey Week! Are you as excited about the holiday season as I am?  Cold weather, hot drinks, good company, and awesome food makes for my favorite time of the year :) This week, Mrs. Thriftary picked me up and drop-kicked me into full turkey-lovin' bliss with her 5 days of Thanksgiving inspired content. Roasted butternut squash and pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon icing? Yes, please.

You can join me on this week's walk through holiday heaven here:

See you there!

November 14, 2011

~Girls Getaway~

This weekend I got some much needed rest and relaxation at my mama's house.  My stepdad built this house 7 years ago, and it's basically a dream cabin.  It rests on the bluff and is surrounded by wooded acres, a state park, and multiple waterfalls.  When I can, I love to bring girlfriends to the cabin to relax, eat home cooked food, and sleep. This weekend our entire book club was miraculously in town and we left the boys at home and hauled it to the mountain.  
It was amazing. 

 When we walked in Friday night, I was greeted by this basket! Inside the basket were loads of craft supplies and all the letters to Abiella's name.  My mom had gotten it all for us to decorate over the weekend.  
I loved it!

Since every girl can use an old-fashion sleepover, my mom made us all goodie bags... Yes, goodie bags.  Let me just tell you, getting a goodie bag as an adult is way more exciting than it was as a kid. It was filled with candy, kleenexes, and fun-colored nail polish. 
I mean seriously...

Friday night we ate chili, got in our pajamas (aka the outfit for our entire weekend) and talked by the fire until we all made pallets on different levels of the house and fell asleep to the sound of the fire crackling on the floor below. (The second floor is more like a loft...)  Sleeping on pallets with sleeping bags is seriously the best.  Apparently someone even woke up and saw me smiling in my sleep... that's how relaxing it was.

This little guy was a nice face to be greeted by in the morning. 

Saturday morning, Elizabeth drove up to meet us with Preston and we all enjoyed our second cup of coffee together on the bluff. 

 We observed rock climbers on the opposite side of the bluff... (The other side's a state park.)

Kristin, aka The Dog Whisperer, made some new friends. 

A few hours later, we took a picture with Elizabeth & Preston before they had to leave :(

After they left, we went on a stroll around the property...

After our walk we started decorating the letters my mom had given me. They turned out so well that I'm going to write a separate post about it. 
I mean, they're a.m.a.z.i.n.g. 

Some took a mid-day nap... (Don't miss the body on the floor.)

And then right before sunset, a few of us went on a mini-hike to see the falls...

We returned to homemade chicken pot-pie, spinach salad with goat cheese, pears, and poppyseed dressing, and spiced baked apples with oatmeal toppings for dessert.  What?!??
Sooo good.

Then, we read magazines, listened to music, told stories, and kept feeding the fire. 


The next day we enjoyed coffee by the fire, ate huge muffins with fresh fruit and granola, and then packed up and headed home... But not before Zeb got to swing in the hammock with his new favorite.

Thanks Mom for an amazing weekend!!!

We're coming back soon!!