Our First Day

Monday night Leo slept shockingly well.  He likes to ball up into a tiny mass on his belly…everything tucked underneath him…covered up in his rainbow blanket.  It’s pretty dang sweet.  Tuesday morning we woke up and today Leo would officially become our son.  This would be our first full day as a family of 9.

Everyone was still waking pretty early so we kicked our day off with his first bath.  I can remember all of my kids’ first baths.  I have no idea why, but I can.  Like weird little details, but I love it.  Leo loved the water and splashed the water with his hands and gave me small grins.  Eventually his teeth began to chatter and his lips starting moving towards that cold blue color so I got him out, bundled him up and got him dressed for the day.

After breakfast we started our long day of appointments.  We headed to the civil affairs office first to officially complete Leo’s adoption.  You wait in this big room usually with other families.  Your paperwork needs specific stamps and signatures.  You sign your name, they do a small ceremony, say some meaningful words and hand you over your paper.  There are pictures and small rounds of applause by the other parents because they know this moment feels good.  Our groups appointment took crazy long.  There we’re some snags and we were in the civil affairs office for hours.  Parents looked weary and kiddos were losing their minds.  Everyone was trying to keep everyone pacified the best they could.

Leo decided on this day to pick me as his parent.  This is super common, but we’ve actually never had any of our children do this before.  He did not want to be held by Josh at all and he really didn’t like any of the boys getting up in his face.  It’s been hard and frustrating, but we know it’s a phase and can already see him moving out of it, but on this crazy long day, it was not a fun or easy factor at all.

As I was looking through photos from the civil affairs office I found the one below.  Instant laughter.  I feel like this sums so much up.  Might be our Christmas card this holiday season.

Our civil affairs appointment took so long we missed our notary appointment, so we grabbed a quick lunch and Leo grabbed a quick nap.  We we’re on the go the whole day so Amon and our littlest didn’t get their naps which meant they were falling sleep in cars sometimes in a full on snore.  Amon even found a pillow to sleep on.  Hahahahaha.

After our quick break we headed to the notary office for the next spot.  Bringing all of our kids has not been easy, but I am so glad we brought them.  We needed to be together for this.  They needed to be apart of this transition and we set the bar high on what all they could handle for this trip and they have risen to the occasion.  Have they been kids…and grumpy…and have there been fights and complaining…has there been sassiness and disrespect…and has everyone been homesick…yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.  Yes to all of that.  Throw Josh and I in on all of those things as well.  Grief and exhaustion and change and being away from home is incredibly hard, but I have been amazed by their flexibility and kindness…their love for Everett and Leo and each other…their willingness to do the hard things and to keep chugging along.

After our notary appointment we headed to get Leo’s passport picture and then over to the police station.  This day contained lots of waiting and the need for patience, but we got it done with everyone in tow and nobody died.  Hallelujah.  Wendy our guide is insanely awesome and kind and is always on top of every last detail. She ran this crazy show with poise and grace and love.  Wendy was actually our guide with Everett too.  The first morning I saw her after arriving in Zhengzhou she grabbed my neck, told me how sorry she was about Shuai and cried.  We stood there in the lobby just crying together and wiping our faces with paper tissues.  It meant the world to me that she chose to recognize Everett…to recognize how painful this was going to be…beautiful, yes, but also deeply painful.  She had walked this same road with us just a little over a year ago with our Shuai and I loved seeing how she loves both of our boys and our family as a whole.

This was the best group photo we could pull off in the police station.  Poor Wendy!  There are just too many of us to make things happen. 🙂

We were suppose to visit Everett and Leo’s home this day too, but because our civil affairs appointment had gone so long we bumped the visit to the next day.  By the time we got back to our hotel it was dinner time.  Our friend Hilliary, who works for the boys’ home, came to Zhengzhou so we could finally meet in person.  I’ll never forget the day we met Everett Hilliary sent me the most beautiful message about him and how thrilled she was for our family.  I sat at the little table in our hotel and sobbed reading her words.  I knew instantly she was someone I needed to remain connected to.  Hilliary also served and loved us so well in losing Everett.  She reached out so much and sent beautiful handmade rainbow items from China to us. She was just incredibly kind and with us on this journey even oceans apart.  Meeting Hilliary was so important to me because she knew and loved both of our boys.  She was connected to both of them.  She was apart of their history.

Hilliary, Hannah and Hannah’s mom came and met us for dinner at a little place down the street.  Josh, Amon and our littlest actually stayed behind because no one had napped and they were pretty much zombies when we tried to get them up for dinner.

We walked down the street and  sat around the table and enjoyed beef dumplings and noodles.  Leo broke a bowl and chopsticks.  By the end of the dinner everything was moved out of his reaching distance. 🙂  We all sat there eating and laughing and chatting about everything from China to family and adoption to middle school literature to movies and everything in between.  It was such a nice break from the heaviness of this trip…just what I needed.

When there are people who are so rooted to your kids, I want to hold onto them forever.  They play a role in our kids stories we will never fully know or understand or be apart of.  They are special and sacred and hold keys to their little lives no one else holds.  When Hilliary was leaving I hugged her neck hard.  I likely held on a little too long, but she knew Everett…she had held him, laughed with him, loved on him, told him about his family, played with him…she was even there the day they gave Everett his care package we sent him and told him he had a family.  She had witnessed so much with both of our boys and my gratitude for her and the way she loves my boys runs deep.

A stress-filled, long day ended on such a sweet note.  A brightness in our day.  A love we all could feel and needed to be reminded of.


  1. All I can say is you, Josh & your family are amazing!!

  2. Misti Coleman says:

    Oh the sweetest of smiles in this final picture of you and Leo <3 I love how y'all are beautifully weaving Everett into every piece of this journey for your family. I love your courage in saying yes right away. Your family is a true treasure. Continuing to pray for you as you grieve Everett and as Leo fills up each of your hearts! Also – that would make an outstanding Christmas card!

  3. Peggy Carlton says:

    What a blessing your family is!! Love following your journeys!
    Have one question: when or will we ever be able to see your “youngest” beautiful face?

  4. Aunt tootsie says:

    Laura, how old is Leo?

  5. Love me some Kelley’s- especially the kind that get grumpy, fight, and complain, and can be sassy, disrespectful, and homesick too – gives me hope that God still uses real people (you all just happen to be extraordinarily beautiful people – must be all that Light shining out) Always praying for you all – in grief and in joy ❤️

  6. Andrew Marsh says:

    Just caught up with your latest three posts about Leo. Wow, you Kelleys are just dark horses, aren’t you?? Hahahaha. I am SO SO thrilled for every one of you and will pray that Leo is soon a fully fledged integral part of your little flock. And that all the medical meetings, over there and back home, will go textbook simple. Leo will help you all to transition the grief road into a hopeful future. I don’t mean that you won’t still grieve for Everett, just that having Leo with you all will give you a positive focus, where you’re able to serve another little heart boy. May our Good God graciously grant great grace!! Bless every single one of you!!

  7. Yes, please to the Christmas card picture.

  8. Laura I’ve been praying so much for you all. Just can’t get you guy out of my mind. When I read about your journey and about Leo there’s a song always rings out and I just want to sing…. “Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting out battles. Every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb……. He’s with you Laura fighting those battles for you and your little precious Leo the Lion, keep bowing cause nothing can stop the Lord Almighty. Much much love to you all xx

  9. So happy for you all to have Leo join your family. What a beautiful journey and walknof faith your family is working through!!

  10. Such sweet smiles on your handsome Leo! Thanks for sharing them – and him – with us. 🙂 I’m glad he was so well loved before he came to you. I’m also glad your terribly long day is over and ended on a sweet note. I hope the days since have been smoother!

  11. Love love love hearing your story. Hard days, no doubt, but some that you and every member of your family will treasure forever. Hope the rest of the trip goes well and it’s a smooth trip home!

  12. Gina Lister says:

    Love hearing about your life journey. Praying for this newest little one named Leo. Thank you for living an authentic life before us and loving others hard. Much love and respect for you guys. Travel safe. ❤️The Lister’s

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