Thursday, September 13, 2012


Today we just hung out at the hotel and waited for Jack to arrive in the afternoon with Mia's passport, visa, and immigration paperwork. Everything was in order, of course, and when we showed Mia her passport with the visa inside, she said, "Kennady, Ava, Carson, Landon."

She is understanding so much English already. Let's go eat, brush your teeth, Do you want to go swimming?, and several more. Amazing.

We head out at 6:00am in the morning to Hong Kong via private van. It's a two hour drive. Then flight to Chicago! We leave Hong Kong at 11:00am and arrive in Chicago at 12:30pm. Wish it were really a 1 1/2 hour flight! We're just happy to get out of here before the Super Typhoon hits in a few days!! Yikes!

Pray for our trip! Got lots of new games on the iPad for Mia and her "USA" shirt is ready for her to wear! :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DAY 11: US Consulate appointment

We arrived almost an hour early for our appointment with the US Consulate. Jack never wants to be late. He was not able to enter past security, so he verbally walked us through the process of what would happen and then handed us our packet of paperwork, including Mia's passport. Security was much like the airport. Once we got in, all adopting families stood to take an oath, saying that all of our information was correct and we were who we said we were. When they called us to the counter (they spoke behind a glass) they pulled out all of the papers and went through them one by one. This is where you hold your breath and hope it's all there. She's already ours, as of 9/4 the adoption was final in Shanghai. But this process gets her visa so that she may enter the US as a US Citizen. As soon as we hand over immigration paperwork in Chicago, Mia is a US citizen. Of course, all of the paperwork was in order, and I could tell the consulate assistant wasn't surprised, since it was Gladney. Gladney has such a good reputation everywhere we go.

Jack had told Mia, before we went in, that she would NOT be receiving any shots here. She's a little leary of every place we go after receiving her TB test. Can't blame her. He told her that some US officials had to see her papers and stamp them so that she can go to the US. She was ok with that. The funny thing was...the consulate assistant stamped every paper we gave him. As soon as he was finished, Mia looked at me and said, "Kennady, Ava, Carson, Landon!!" with the biggest grin ever. She has the kids' names memorized, in that order.

Throughout the week, Jack would remind Mia that she will have many siblings to play with at home. We saw a bike in a store. I told Jack to tell her she will have one at our house. We saw a scooter. I told Jack to tell her the boys have scooters she can ride. He told her about camping, bike riding at the park, amusement parks we have, and all kinds of things. He has helped so much with this process. He's helped get her excited about what's to come.

I have felt sorry for several families here who are struggling with one thing or another. One mother who is here alone with her two special needs girls has an assistant from her agency (her "Jack") who leaves her everywhere and she doesn't know where to go. He assumes since she has been here before with a previous adoption that she knows what to do. In the US she even had to call the US consulate herself to get some things fixed. When she was at the window today she said, "Thanks for all your help!"" and she called him by name. I said,"How do you know him?" And that's when she shared that she had spoken to him several times over the past few months. What a headache! I can't imagine!

Another family at the US Consulate today was trying to get final papers done and notarized before their appointment. They were going back and forth between offices nervously trying to finalize it before their appointment deadline. If you miss your appointment, it could be a week or two or more before you can get another one. Again, they were working with an agency! I realize more and more how blessed we are to be with Gladney. Not one detail missed. And we have done this twice, in two different Gladney programs...Ethiopia and China.

So, boring day. There's nothing fun about the consulate. A little shopping and a little swimming. That's it. No funny stories. So it was a hard day for Gary and me. Very homesick. He was worse than me today and I told him, "You can't do this! You have to be happy and normal or I'm going to go downhill fast!!" He tried to "get happy" but he's sad. I'm sure Mia senses it. Just gotta get home quick. We pack tomorrow!! Whooo hoo! And Jack will bring Mia's passport with the visa printed inside around 4:00. He'll also have the sealed immigration paperwork for us to give immigration in Chicago. Praise the Lord, it's coming to an end!

A Few More Tips for Gladney Families

1) No matter the age of the child, take wet wipes and hand sanitizer everywhere you go. Many bathrooms in China do not have soap. Small bottles of hand sanitizer can be taken on the plane. There was no soap in the bathroom on our long flight.

2) We brought a first aid kit, like Gladney suggested, and added needle and thread and safety pins. Many families do not know the exact size of their child and their  clothes are way too big. We've used it to mend torn clothing. We've seen many small toddlers in the pool with their swimsuit straps tied in a knot in the back! :)

3) The long flight we took from Chicago only served two meals and one snack. On the way to China, I did not have enough snacks. I will include many more on the way home for Mia. (and me :)

4) Read The Connected Child by Dr. Purvis. Many of her examples are a bit extreme and hopefully you will not need that much information. The two things that have been very good for Mia have been eye contact and playing with her. Side by side playing like drawing and coloring as well as full contact like horse back riding on dad. Since Mia doesn't like to be told "no" and can be a little stubborn, we've used Dr. Purvis' idea of gently touching the chin, make eye contact, and tell her "no." Then we praise her when she obeys. This has taken a conscious effort on our part since we are used to traditional parenting where we expect our children to obey the first time we say it. I wish we could avoid telling her no while in country, but unfortunately all she would eat would be ice cream and candy and we would be broke buying her every toy she picked up. I'm not flying 14 hours with a 7 year old that has only eaten sugar!! :)

5) I didn't bring any workout clothes and there is an awesome workout facility at The Garden Hotel. Wish I would have. I feel so much better after walking a long way or swimming laps.

6) Practice Skype before you leave! Make sure everyone you wish to Skype knows how it works. It's easy, but both accounts (in China and at home in US) must stay logged in in order to hear the call. Your screen can be minimized on a computer screen and your ipad can even be closed, but you must be logged in to Skype. If, for some reason, your computer must be restarted or someone completely exits out of Skype, you won't be able to hear it ring. Make sure everyone knows this.

More to come, I'm sure. As I think of things, I jot them down on paper! (just like my mother!!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DAY 10: Mia has never been swimming before!!

Most people try for a Tuesday consulate appointment. Tuesday was booked, so ours is Wednesday. Today was a day to kill while we wait. Two highlights...

The first was finding out that Mia had never been swimming before this week! We were telling Jack how clumsy she was in the water. I asked him to ask her if she got to go swimming often. Well, the answer was "never." We couldn't believe it. The first day at the hotel, she jumped in and started floundering around like she was part fish. It was just obvious she had never been taught how to swim. She went under within only a few minutes! The first thing she asked to do when we arrived at the hotel last Friday was swim. We just assumed it was a favorite activity. Funny thing was...she told Jack that she was upset that she couldn't actually swim once she got in the water. He explained that it took some practice and that we would teach her. He told her that it took him about 10 times in the pool to learn. He said, "How many times have you been in the pool?" She said, "Only 4." He said, "Well, see. You have several more chances to learn." She told him she could do much better if she had goggles and a nose plug. He told her "Goggles, yes. Nose plug, no. You should learn how to swim without holding your nose. That's the right way." So, off we went to find goggles at a nearby department store. And we were successful. Happiest girl I've ever seen.

So, she wears her goggles into the hotel and doesn't take them off. We get to the pool, she jumps in, goes under water for a loooonnnngggg time, and comes up smiling. We showed her very specifically how to kick above water and how to butterfly under water. That's all it took. That little determined girl swam back and forth to Gary and me about a million times. I took off to the steam bath for 30 minutes, came back, and she was still going. I really think she's trying to beat Jack's 10 day timeline. Two hours later....still in the pool...:)

2nd highlight...earlier in the day....While most Americans  (of ALL ages) are sitting on the couch eating McDonalds and potato chips, the Chinese (of all ages) are exercising every day and eating vegetables, rice, and noodles. Jack took us to an amusement park/garden/park with a walking trail/lake with paddle boats/exercise park. Yes...all of that in one park! It was absolutely beautiful. Most adults and children were at work and school, but there were hundreds of retired people, ages 45 to 145 (ok...maybe not THAT old) gathered in groups...singing, dancing, doing tai chi, and on exercise equipment. There was an area with about 50 exercise machines. Didn't exactly look like Gold's Gym, but the same idea. We saw an elderly man slowly pull his body up over a pull-up bar and flip completely around...about 20 times. Gary tried it. Almost made it around once. I probably could have done it several times, but I couldn't reach the bar. Darn it. :) The man smiled and nodded to Gary as to say, "nice try." Everyone is so friendly. We stayed in this exercise area longer than the amusement park! I was so intrigued by the number of elderly exercising and the things they could do. I even took pictures of them. I couldn't help but think...most Americans are sitting on the couch eating McDonalds and if we HAD exercise equipment in a park, no one would use it! You've seen a few bars and things like obstacle course type equipment at some parks, like Tyson Park. Have you ever seen anyone use it? I haven't!

Mia rode a few rides and we went out on the lake in a small motor boat. Mia drove us. She is a fast learner. We ate at a neat restaurant on the lake, then headed back to the hotel.

Also, not only did we meet a couple from Springdale yesterday, today we met another couple from Siloam Springs. We even knew some of the same people. Crazy.

Day 10 - SUCCESS. And we're getting close to the end!!!! Can't wait to see my OTHER children! Can't wait for them to meet Mia.

Tomorrow - the US Consolate. Finally! (And Jack takes care of the LOADS of paperwork. All we have to remember are our passports. Praise the Lord!)

Monday, September 10, 2012


In your travel packet, Gladney suggests you get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to access all websites in China. Many websites here are blocked. A VPN is easy to do, just google "Free VPN" I used VIPVPN Co.

But, here's the deal. It's free for only so much data usage. So, you won't want to leave it on for ALL of your online stuff. Just have it on for FB and blogs, or other sites that may be blocked. Don't do a lot of downloading of pics, because that uses more data usage. I left ours on because I didn't know it was limited. After you exceed your free usage, you have to pay a few dollars for more. It doesn't cost much, but I haven't been on it enough now to see how much usage FB or blogs use.

It's very frustrating when your email closes out a million times, or you can't access your bank account online. A VPN number alleviates this. And the VPN websites walk you through it step by step. We are using an ipad. Very easy to loads itself into the settings and gives you an icon app to purchase more usage.

You CANNOT get a VPN while in China. All of those websites are blocked.


Day 9: Reality Sets In, And It's Very Sad

This morning we Skyped with the Cobbs. So happy to see them and they were so excited to meet Mia. I told her "friend" in Chinese and she understood. She got her photo album of her foster family and showed the Cobbs. Then she spent the next 15-20 minutes looking through the pictures. She started pretend crying and kicking on the bed like she was a baby throwing a fit. She was smiling and and acting like she was playing, but I knew she was hurting. We went downstairs for breakfast and everything seemed fine. We always talk to other couples who are adopting, and the couple we met today lives in Springdale!! By Smith Elementary!! That was a little weird! Luckily we didn't run into any other SEC couples. So embarrassed that the Hogs lost.

Jack picked us up to go back to the medical clinic to have her TB test read. When we got back in the van to go to a children's park and popular tourist attraction, she started to get very quiet and wouldn't move. When I asked her what was wrong, she started crying. And cried hard. Big tears. Loud cry. No movement, just crying. So I started crying. I knew what was wrong. And a piece of me was relieved that she was actually processing everything. And Jack was so helpful and compassionate. He just told her "It's ok. It's ok." And we patted her. He told us just to let her cry, that it was good for her. Everything she has ever known is changing and she knows it. She knows she'll never see her foster family again. And she loves them dearly. She finally slowed her cry enough to look up and notice that I was crying. I asked if I could hold her and she jumped in my lap and hugged me tight. She kept looking at me. I told Jack to tell her why I was crying. He told her that we understood her hurt and that she was going to have so much fun with her siblings in the US. But for now, it's ok to cry. She stopped, I continued. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it together. All I could compare it to was Carson. He is 7 like her. What would he do if he was taken from us and given to a Chinese family? Clothes look and smell different, given a new name, new expectations, new way of doing things. And soon, a new country where everything looks and smells differently. So I just held her tight while she kept checking to make sure I was ok and I prayed that God would fill the void that she's feeling. Only He can meet a need like that. She smiled at me several times. It must have felt good to know her mother was grieving with her. I hope so.

She didn't want to get out of the van when we arrived at our destination. But she wanted Gary to hold her instead of Jack. That was comforting. We went into a souvenir shop and she was immediately drawn to some toys. We bought some, of course. She started playing and before long she was back to normal, thanks be to God.

Jack took us to lunch at a place called Lucy's. Chinese and Western foods. Again...a little laughter...ABBA and The Carpenters played in the restaurant while we ate in front of a huge poster of Elvis.

 I love the parks in China. First of all, there are tons of greenery and flowers. Gardens and parks are the same thing. Jack said the government takes pride in the parks and because no one lives in houses, they have no place at home to go outside. So they beautify their parks. There are groups of people in every park we have been to that are either playing cards, hacky sack (especially the elderly!!), singing, and tai chi. Jack says they do it for exercise and relaxation. And to have a place to meet together. So neat.

Took Mia swimming for two hours and visited with other families at the pool. One family adopting their 3rd special needs girl from China. 3 biological boys. 6 kids total. One of the girls severly disabled, nonverbal and can't walk. Newest adopted girl is 6 and has cerebal palsy. What a special family. And precious girls. 

I'm not used to a 5 star hotel. Drinks and towels brought to me at the pool. Men in suit and tie checking the pool to make sure it is perfect. There's even someone standing at the elevators to have and elevator open by the time you get there! Of course, Gary always has a remark to make everywhere we go. Keeps me laughing.

Time for bed. It's been an emotional day, but God is good.

Day 8: The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen

Today was a fun day. We went to the zoo. Normal zoo except for one small part. The kiddie pool. Yes, the kiddie pool. Where toddlers swim right? Well, kind of. In this wading pool, 2-5 year olds chase goldfish with a small net. Whatever they catch, they can keep. The funny part...most of the kids were completely naked!! Hilarious! Running around naked trying to catch goldfish. I'll never forget it.

Later Gary took Mia swimming while I went to the supermarket across the street. Big department store...very fancy...Fendi, Armoni, etc., but on the second floor is a huge supermarket. American brands that are not produced in the US are very expensive. Swiss Miss Chocolate packets were $5.00 (31 yuan).  But locally produced items are much cheaper than in America. I just get a little tired of trying to convert $ to yuan!

On my way to get dinner (take out since Mia is tired of walking and complains the whole time), I did a little shopping in a kids clothing store. I tried not to laugh out loud as I read the shirts with English writing. "I Beautiful Girl" and "Momma Poppa Girl." There were a few shirts that were misspelled so badly I couldn't decide what they were trying to say. And that's bad...I'm an expert at reading kindergartener's writing and I couldn't read this! I did find a cute shirt for Mia (I didn't bring many clothes for her and one of the shirts has glitter on it that upsets her skin condition). It was 39 yaun...about $6. Old Navy prices! :)

Kennady did great at her cross country meet. She took a full minute off of her time. Hated that I wasn't there. Ava has been a little better...keep praying. She asked this morning on Skype "When are you coming home?" If she only knew how badly we want to come home!! Landon sends me funny messages on Skype...we love that. And I'm really missing Carson since we're not seeing him on Skype. Going to check in with Andee tomorrow and see how he's doing. Momma's aren't designed to be away from their kids for two weeks! I hate it.