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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Travel Tips for Gladney Families

Since Gladney families like to follow one another's blogs, I thought I'd post a few traveling tips that are not in your travel packet. They may be personal opinions, but nevertheless...

1.) The Garden Hotel has a beautiful swimming pool. Bring swimsuits, if it's summer.
2.) The travel guide warns not to overpack. Once you get to China, you'll want to buy a few souvenirs and things for your child. So, we bought a very large suitcase in Shanghai for Mia's things as well as for souvenirs. This suitcase would count as her check-in luggage. We weighed them in the hotel and they were all just under the 40 lb limit for in-country travel. Remember the international travel limit is 50 lbs, but in country is a 40 lb limit. Buying a suitcase for her once we were in Shanghai was an awesome decision.
3.) Having laundry done at the hotel (both at Shanghai and Guangzhou) is extremely expensive. It was going to be about $60 for a few outfits. I could buy new clothes for that! So, I wish we would have brought a few more lightweight t-shirts or casual shirts and more underwear.
4.) In Guangzhou, Jack, our assistant, knew of someone who would come pick up our laundry and deliver it the next day for less than half of the price of the hotel. So that's what we did.
5.) There have been several times I could have used zip lock bags. Both sandwich size and gallon size.
6.) The travel guide says bring a poncho AND an umbrella. So, bring a poncho AND an umbrella. If you've read our blog, you know why. The agenda doesn't stop because it rains. And there is a good chance you will be a mile away (walking) from the hotel when it begins to rain. You will be much drier with a poncho. You can buy them folded up in a small package so they won't take up space. Too bad you don't have room for rainboots.
7.) If adopting an older child, go to bed when he/she goes to bed. Translating via body language, trying to bond, etc. is all very tiring. So, we slept more hours than usual and felt rested in the mornings.

I'll post again if I think of other things!

And, by the way, we have been to both Ethiopia and China with Gladney. Both have been awesome. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine. Drivers and assistants take care of everything, are always on time, and are available if you need anything! I have had absolutely no complaints about the entire process, both in and out of country. This time I have been much more aware of all of the "behind the scenes" work that must happen for us to bring home our children. They have it down to a fine art. You are blessed to be with Gladney!

Day 7: Medical Exams & Swimming!

Evidentally all of the families adopting from any province in China must come to Guangzhou to the US Consulate for visas and final paperwork. And it looks like many of them stay here at The Garden Hotel! There are probably 10 families here at this hotel but we saw many more at the medical clinic where we went this morning for Mia's medical exams and TB test. Most (or maybe all) of the families have special needs children or older children like Mia. Our driver told us that just 10 years ago there were over 8,000 adoptions per year out of China just to the US and 95% of those were healthy infants. Now it has reversed. Since it takes 5-6 years to adopt a healthy infant (and, of course, they are not infants by the time they come home), most families adopt special needs children. And there are only 3,000 adopted to the US and 3,000 to other countries. Many of the needs are minor, like Mia's skin disorder (which, by the way, has improved dramatically
just since we've put Cetaphil cream on the scaly patches on her torso, head, and ears.)

It's neat seeing all of the families at breakfast every morning. It seems we have much of the SEC conference represented...a family from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and ARKANSAS! And then there are some from Canada, Great Britain, and others who don't speak English. A few families have returned after adopting in China previously. One family had three Chinese girls at the pool today...all speaking very clear English. One family brought their four biological girls with them from the US and had their two adopted Chinese boys with them...all at the pool. Super cute.

That leads me to the pool...Oh how Mia loves the pool. Notice I didn't say she loved to swim. She loves the water. But I've never seen a child TRY to swim like she does. Honestly, she flails around like crazy with arms and legs going every direction. Completely out of control. I'm not sure how much experience she has had in the pool but she has had NO experience swimming. We even had the pool boy translate for us to tell her how to keep her legs close together to kick. It didn't help. But she loves the water. So much that we couldn't get her out.

Dinner at another Chinese joint. Luckily we sat next to two girls who knew some English. Mia just wanted drinks with ice cream and sugar and nothing to eat, so we had to have help telling her she had to eat. I'm getting tired of Chinese food. And I've gained a few kilograms. (hehe)

Vanessa is handling things at home like a pro. Even with Ava being her strong-willed self. (Please pray for Ava. Her behavior has been horrible and it has been the worst part of the trip.) As bad as we miss the kids, we feel so good that Vanessa, Kelley, and Andee have been with our kids. I think we are going to make it, thanks to Skype.

Didn't take long for Mia to go to sleep. She hasn't napped since we've had her and all of that swimming made her tired. Didn't take us long to go to sleep either.

Mia has been brushing and "fixing" my hair since I've been typing. I'm not sure I have any hair left. And Sponge Bob just came on. First time I've seen it since we've been in China. She just screamed with pleasure...even though it's in English and she can't understand a word of it. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Facebook Failure!

A message from Tammy & Gary regarding Facebook:

To all the FB friends sending messages--I'm getting emails of notifications, but cannot log on to respond.  Sorry! 

Day 6: A "Memory-Making" Day!

Today was one of those days that was a "Memory Maker." Now that it is over, I'm glad it happened because it's a great story to remember.

We didn't have to meet Alice until 2:00pm, (to go over pages and pages of paperwork, verify information on Mia's passport, etc.), so we thought we'd go to a new place for an early lunch. It had been cloudy most of the week, but at the last minute I put our umbrellas into my purse. A few blocks away, about 3/4 mile, we found a strip of restaurants and stores. Krispy creme, yet another McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, and Chinese (surprise surprise). I wasn't fond of the pizza at Pizza Hut and the thought of eating at McDonalds again made me want to just go ahead and try sushi!! So, like always, we ate at a Chinese joint that has pictures of the three staple Chinese items that I like. Rice, noodles, and egg rolls. Picture menus are very important because even if a menu includes English, you still don't necessarily know what you're getting. Gary is a little more risky. He'll try new things. Just nothing raw, per suggestion
of our adoption agency. :) Then, to McDonalds for Mia's favorite cream.

Then, the storm. It poured rain. Thunder sounds very, very scary and extremely loud with hundreds of sky rise buildings around. We waited about 15 minutes, hoping it would let up. But it was 1:00 and we had to meet Alice at 2:00 and then plane flight at 5:00. So here we go...through the rain. And Gary thought he knew a short cut. Oh brother....Short cut through a construction zone where walls were built up so high I felt like a mouse in a maze! He was carrying Mia. She had one umbrella and I ran behind with the other umbrella. We were the only two people in Shanghai bothered by this storm...lightening, thunder, pouring rain, and people are walking around with umbrellas (carrying on conversations with one no hurry) or riding scooters with ponchos like it's a beautiful sunny day. I hate being wet.

When we came out of the maze, our hotel was directly across the street, diagonal from us! Thank the Lord for Gary's military training. He can sense direction like a dog! And Mia is such a good sport. Go with the flow. We got to the hotel, where our luggage was already packed and ready to go, but we got it all out again to change clothes and put the wet clothes in our suitcase! Yuck.

After reviewing ALL the documents with Alice (30 minutes!) we took off for the airport. Mia had told Alice that her only fear was that she would throw up on the airplane. We knew this to be true from the prior van ride where Mia held the plastic bag in her lap the entire time! :( We told Mia we could take care of that fear...DRAMAMINE!!

Flight delayed almost two hours. Oh, well. Mia had a great time. Only belts are optional in China, so she didn't understand why she HAD to wear it on the plane. She kept taking it off. I was reminded of ALL the changes she is having to experience! So many little things that are new to her. It must be exhausting. Gary and I were exhaused from all of the acting we've had to do for days. That's the ony way to commuicate...unless you have google images. We determined that our translator app doesn't have the right dialect to work right. She was speak into it and it would tranlate something like "My Australian mom force political view in green valley." It did provide us with great entertainment, however.

When we were packing suitcases, Mia put EVERYTHING in her suitcase (which we bought in China to get everything home without being over the weight limit!!) We tried to explain (through acting and body language) that she could carry the backpack with her on the plane. But she thought, since we were taking it out of the suitcase, that we were asking her to leave it at the hotel. So I got on google images and googled "Children on an airplane" and showed her children coloring on the plane. She finally understood and quickly started stuffing things in her much that she couldn't carry it. It was cute.

So...on the plane...we received dinner. WOW, was this a nice surprise for Mia. And so nice that the stewartess could speak Chinese to her!! She ate and napped for about 15 minutes. It was a 2-hour flight. We met Jack at the hotel and he and the driver brought us to The Garden Hotel. 5 star hotel. Extremely nice. Shopping, spas, pool, health club, several restaurants. Nicest hotel I've ever stayed at. And I am a very well-rounded, experienced traveler. (hehe). In our room, Jack went over the items and money we would need for the next day's medical exams and TB test for Mia. Then, straight to bed. Can't Skype at night, kids are getting ready for school or have already left the house. We Skype every morning, though. Without Skype I'd be a basketcase. I love seeing the kids. It puts a little bit of normalcy into this experience. We miss them a lot. I hope we are never gone for two weeks again. I can barely stand it. But what a blessing
Vanessa, Kelley, Eric and Leah and Justin and Andee have been. Taking care of our kids and all the details. We couldn't do this without them. We thank them for being a part of "Team Mia."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 4 - no update.

Day 5 - Alice is meeting us in the hotel lobby with all of the official documents and Mia's passport. If everything is correct, we fly out for Guangzhou at 5:30! We are halfway done with this trip! Can't wait to see my kids!!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DAY 3 - Sightseeing

Today was fun. No paperwork. Just sightseeing while we wait for her passport. We saw the Shanghai Buddhist Temple and Gardens. Funny...the temple is actually traditional Chinese buildings with the funky roof but it is an outdoor shopping strip. We bought souvenirs for the kids. 
We ate Chinese...surprise...and I could hardly look at Alice's plate. Unidentified meat wrapped in soft squishy noodle. It wasn't as bad, though, as the gal sitting behind me that had a STRAW IN HER NOODLE!! That's just wrong.

 After shopping, we went into a beautiful garden.  Mia rode the swings and a roller coaster, laughing the entire time. Then, long walk home and to bed. No Skype tonight. Kids are getting ready for school when we are getting ready for bed. I miss them soooo much, but Skype really helps.  I am ready to go home!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DAY 2: Adoption Finalized

When Mia woke up, she look right at me and jumped into our bed and gave me a big hug. What a relief to see her so happy! We got to Skype with the kids and even took the iPad downstairs to breakfast and Skyped while we ate! The kids got to see the "yummy" breakfast Mia was having. Peanuts, rice, and shredded (and somewhat feathery) pork sprinkled on everything. Gary is trying the new foods. I, on the other hand, had pancakes, rice, and noodles. I do not eat foods that I cannot identify!

We met Alice after breakfast and went to a few government offices to finalize documents, take family pictures as part of the documents, and meet some officials for interview. We were given all of Mia's information and papers. We were given the letter that was left with her when she was abandoned at the hosptial. The offical translated it for us. I cried. We were asked to promise that we would never abuse, neglect, or abandon her...that we would treat her as biological from now on.

There was a lot of riding in the van today. And the driving reminded us a lot of Ethiopia. Crazy. No rules. Cut people off...including the hundreds of pedestrians on bicyles! So, Mia got car sick and rode most of the way with a plastic bag in her lap. It was pouring rain when Alice took us for shopping at The People's Square. Very westernized. Got Mia some lotion for her skin condition. It is very scaly around her torso. She doesn't complain, but it looks pretty bad. We ate at Burger King! I've never enjoyed a fast food hamburger so much! Of course, Alice went around the corner for Chinese. But Mia had no trouble inhaling a cheeseburger! :)

I didn't know the driver was gone for the day and that Alice would be walking us back to the hotel. "It is a close walk," she said. A close walk in Shanghai means something totally different than a close walk in the US!! And it was pouring rain! I bet we were 2 miles from the hotel! And NO ONE WEARS RAINBOOTS! Alice said it rains all the time, but everyone throws on a poncho and rides their bikes or motor scooters like it's a normal sunny day. Same shoes, same clothes. Just soaking wet. How miserable!

Back at the hotel we changed into dry clothes and decided to stay in for dinner. Gary went around the corner to the "EZ Mart" where we ate the day before and ordered take-out. Mia was in bed and asleep at 7:30. Two days straight without the 2-hour nap she is used to was a bit much.

Playing Babies

Mia's Favorite Parent :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DAY 1: Mia's "Gotcha Day"

Alice, our Gladney assistant, picked us up at the hotel Monday morning to take us to Shanghai's Children's Welfare Institute to meet Mia. When we arrived, Mia was arriving too with two women from her orphanage. We knew immediately it was her so we started crying and waving. Mia recognized us, stared, but never changed expressions. The women rushed her inside before we could talk!

We were taken into a room where two other families had just been united with their toddlers. We filled out paperwork at a table in the back while watching and listening to these families ohhh and ahhh over their toddlers. I was so nervous I was signing my name wrong, writing the wrong birthday.... and Alice was so sweet. She had to point to every space to show us where to sign and date. Then, the director of the welfare institute went to get Mia. Alice turned on the video camera.

When she walked in we were waiting just inside the door. She was so sad and very lifeless. Sad eyes, sad face, sad posture. I'm certain she wished she was with her foster family. She had been put back into the orphange two weeks prior to today, so I'm certain she was missing them. I am so thankful for Gladney's preparing us for this moment. I had thought through it many times as I read "The Connected Child." Gary and I both dropped to our knees to be at her eye level, smiled, and begin talking, asking the interpreter to tell her how happy we were to finally meet her. That we had waited so long. That she had brothers and sisters that were waiting for back in America. The interpreter talked to her for a long time and convinced her to give us a hug. I felt sorry for her. It was forced and she didn't want to do it. I wouldn't either, if I were her.

We moved over the couch and I asked the interpreter to explain to her that we understood she was sad and that it was okay. That we knew she would miss her foster family and that we would try to make her comfortable, safe, and happy. She had our photo album with her, but I brought ours, too (the same one from Shutterfly). We looked together through the pictures and just talked about all of the fun we have as a family. Her entire body begin to loosen and relax the longer we talked. I asked if she was ok with us hugging and touching her. She said yes, so we began touching her and smiling.  When we finished looking at the book, she showed us pictures of her foster family. Then we gave her gifts. By the time we left, she was smiling. God had prepared her heart, just like we asked. We left with the things she brought with her from the orphanage...a few clothes and shoes, a picture book the orphanage made for her, a traditional Chinese ink stamp of her name in Chinese symbols, and a bag of snacks. That's it. That's all she owns.

We took some pictures then went straight to the grocery store. Our biggest fear was that she wouldn't eat. Alice translated the entire time. We told he to pick some food she likes and a few toys. She began grabbing things and throwing them in the cart. It was hilarious. Alice asked her to make decisions and change out one thing for another. Several times she tried to hold Alice's hand and Alice told her "Mama and Papa's hands." She held our hands throughout the store. We were on a hunt for "strawberry cakes" that she wanted  for lunch. (And we were going to let her have whatever she wanted for lunch!) Gary finally found a box similar to Hostess cakes and she snatched them fast and immediately put something else from the cart back on the shelf. He was now her hero. She is very independent. She wanted to weigh the fruits, put everything in the basket, and she ran down aisles where she saw something she recognized. She had clearly shopped with her foster family before.

We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel room playing with toys we brought her.  After a few hours I fell asleep...I had a bad headache from all of the crying and emotion! When I woke up I couldn't believe all of the drawing, coloring, and playing Gary and Mia had done together. She was laughing and smiling and clearly loving all of the attention. For the rest of the day and even the next day, she preferred Gary over me. As we would walk on the streets or in buildings and as we would get on elevators, she wouldn't go two steps without Gary's hand. So sweet. Once she almost pushed me out of the way to make sure she got on the elevator with Gary. Once again I thought about "The Connected Child" book that helped us prepare for this. Playing with older children is the best way to bond because it helps them feel safe. I had clearly missed some bonding time while I napped!

That evening we went walking, trying to find The People's Square. ALice had told us there were many American restaurants and great shopping. We walked for 30 minutes and never found it, so we ended up eating in a little Chinese fast food place. Gary calls it "The Chinese E-Z Mart." Thanks goodness it had a picture of all of the food choices, so Mia could point to what she wanted. She has a HUGE appetite.

That night we Skyped with the kids and introduced them to their new sister. So sweet. Mia waved big and was quite intriqued with the whole Skype thing. Since she is used to a two hour nap, she went to sleep quite easily that night. Peaceful and happy....just like we had prayed. Nothing feels better than being in the middle of God's will. And Skype is helping so much with the process. I love seeing the kids back home. I hope it helps them as much as it helps us. We miss them so much!