Monday, March 26, 2012

We're Home!

It is so good to be home!  Our journey home was less than smooth, but we made it.  Leah was a trooper getting up early and flying to Shanghai and being at the airport for about 5 hours.  She loved riding on the luggage cart and wearing the luggage tags on her wrist.  By the time we boarded our long flight at 5:30 pm and it sat on the runway until 7 pm it had been about 13 hours since we left the hotel--with no nap!  As you can imagine the long flight was a little rocky.  Leah was extremely exhausted and constipated which are a bad baby combo.  We had screaming for a good 4-5 hours of the flight.  She could not be comforted, although she did like the strange guy sitting behind us.  He had a ponytail, earrings, etc...not exactly the type you would picture a child liking, but Leah was fascinated with him.  We started calling him the baby whisperer.   Sadly even the baby whisperer could not make things okay, and I felt bad for Leah, us, and everyone within 10 rows of us!  We survived a long, miserable night of flying with Leah eventually sleeping very fitfully in our arms and then this bassinet thing we tried since we were in the bulkhead seats.  I'm not going to lie...that's not a flight I'd like to repeat.  We got to Chicago, went through customs and immigration making Leah an official US citizen, and got to our hotel about 28 hours after we started.  After a few hours sleep we were all feeling better and Leah was a champ on the flight home the next morning.

It was so exciting to see the boys.  I cannot explain how much I missed them.  They each looked like they'd grown about a foot and Ian was suddenly not the baby anymore.  That's always kind of bittersweet.  They were also extremely excited to see us and their new baby sister.  My parents took some good photos and video so when I get them loaded I'll post them.  At first Ian kept asking about Leah's "broken arm" but now he seems totally used to it.  We went to lunch with all the grandparents and headed home as a family of six!  (We owe huge thanks to our parents for dividing and conquering the babysitting for two weeks!  They did a great job, the kids were loved, and we appreciate it so much.)

The rest of Thursday and a lot of Friday are sort of a blur.  The jet lag has been killer on the return trip!  I could barely string together a coherent thought on Friday morning.  Luckily Jer was home from work one more day, between us we had nearly a full brain, and we enjoyed being home with the kids.  The boys are so excited about their sister, and she is quickly warming up to them.  She is warming up in order of age:   Luke, Seth, then Ian.  Luke is so amazing with her.  He was teary about going back to school today because he didn't want to leave her.  He makes her laugh, and she likes to sit on his lap.  He said her little arm is so cute and has mentioned to me several times since that he doesn't even notice it anymore.  Seth is also being cute and sweet.  I could not ask for better big brother behavior from them. Ian had a rough few days, but I think it was mostly because we were gone so long.  He really missed us.  He has been nice to Leah though and we've had very few problems.  He likes to help and check on "baby yeah."  He's also been kind of rude to some of our neighbors and told them to leave his "baby stister" alone--we're working on that.  Leah is not really ready for other people to hold her yet which is actually a good sign and what is recommended in terms of attachment.  She seems to feel more comfortable and love us more each day, and the same is true for us.

Jet lag aside we had a great weekend with the family and spent lots of time just enjoying each other and the beautiful weather.  Lots of friends, family, and neighbors have stopped by to see Leah.  We have been so blessed with meals, gifts, and help...thank you!  We have such a great support system of family and friends that have been there throughout this entire process--I can't thank you enough.  As expected there have been lots of comments and questions from the little kids about Leah's arm.  That's something that she and we will face forever, but it hasn't been that big of deal to just tell them that's how she was born and Heavenly Father made her that way.  In case you're wondering the technical term is something called Amniotic Banding Syndrome.  It occurs in the womb and isn't genetic or connected with any other problems.  If you will soon be seeing us around with Leah do us a favor and explain ahead of time to your kids about Leah's little arm.  It seems to help a lot if kids are prepared because it can be quite surprising.  I honestly don't give it much thought until I see people looking.  We're just going to have to raise this cute girl to have courage and confidence.  We so appreciate all the love and kindness she has already received--it doesn't take long to focus on her cute smile and forget all about her limb difference.

We took Leah to her first check up today.  As expected she is tiny--only 16 lbs. 3 oz., but the good news is that her weight gain the last 6 months has been pretty normal.  The doctor thought she looked great and didn't seem concerned at all.  He thinks she will grow and develop like crazy now that she's home.  Everyone at the office thought she was so cute and couldn't get enough of her.  The doctor was even a bit skeptical if her age is correct based on her open fontanel and teething.  The only way that could be true is if her finding date was incorrect, but I guess we'll never know.  It doesn't really matter anyway. We will just treat her like the developmental age she is, and she is making tons of progress already.

A few funnies:
**Luke's surprise that Leah had a belly button.  He asked me with surprise if "even Chinese people have one?"  You can see we really educate our children about the birds and the bees around here.
**Seth's utter shock when seeing Leah without her diaper the first time.  He was seriously looking for the man parts and was floored but quickly recovered by stating that what he was seeing was her bum.  Again, we're really into education in this household.
**Ian stating multiple times today while patting Leah's head that he's going to "pet" his baby sister on the head.  I'm trying to emphasize that she's a person not a kitten.  She really has looked like a mauled baby kitten a few times this weekend when all of her brothers are within an inch of her face jockeying for her attention.  Sensory overload!

Overall though the adjustment is going great.  Leah is starting to get her nights and days straightened out again and hopefully we will too!  In my jet lagged fog I have neglected to take any cute pictures this weekend.  I made the boys pose with Leah right before bed tonight and the result wasn't great, but I'll post a few anyway.  I hope to update this blog with maybe one more wrap up post and then I'll just be back to the family blog because Leah's home now!  It is incredible to remember that just over a week ago this was a little girl without a home or a family, but we're here now and ready to make up for lost time.  She is so beautiful and sweet, and we couldn't love her more.  I also officially survived my first day as the solo mom (during the day) of four kids all within 6.5 years of age and now I'm tired.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Last Post From China

In less than 10 hours we will be on the road and starting our journey home.  We are going to start out a 26 hour travel day by getting Leah up and out of here by 6:15 a.m.  It's going to be a party.  We fly to Shanghai, have a long layover there, and then leave Wednesday 6:00 p.m. China time to fly to Chicago.  We gain time all the way home so even though it's a 13 hour flight we will end up in Chicago at 6:20 pm Wednesday evening.  Wednesday night will be so much fun we're going to do it twice!  We have a quick over nighter in Chicago and can hopefully regroup just a bit and then we fly home bright and early Thursday morning.  I am so excited to see the boys I can hardly stand it.  It is a little bittersweet leaving China.  This is Leah's country of birth and we've had a great experience here.  We've also started saying goodbye to friends we've made as everyone leaves over the next couple of days.  Part of my heart will always be in China after this trip, but I'm taking the best of China home with me.

Yesterday was our appointment at the US Consulate.  We took the oath and did the final paperwork for Leah's visa processing.  We now have her visa and immigration stuff in hand, and she will be a citizen as soon as we go through Immigration in Chicago.  In the afternoon we went with our guides to a jewelry market.  It was like a really huge shopping mall with at least 5 floors that were just jewelry.  We went to the pearl market.  Pearls are a big thing to buy in China and you can get them at wholesale prices here.  Our guides took us way upstairs to a shop that they trust.  It was wall to wall pearls and other jewelry in there.  Many adoptive parents buy pearls for their Chinese daughters to wear on their wedding day, and I think that's a really neat tradition so we got a necklace made for Leah.  It's beautiful.  Now I just need to keep track of it for the next 20ish years.  Jer also spoiled me with pearls, and we bought some gifts.

We headed out in the late afternoon with friends back to Shamian Island.  The evening was beautiful with a breeze, and we had great food at Lucy's. It was a perfect evening to sit outside and eat.  Lucy's backs up to a park where older people are doing tai chi and playing badminton and there are lots of pretty flowers.  There are also tons of brides and grooms on the Island getting their wedding pictures taken which has been really neat to see. We did a little more shopping, survived the cab ride back, and called it a night.  Today was our last day in Guangzhou.  There wasn't much on the schedule except for a group picture.  Most of the kids were in some sort of traditional Chinese dress and our whole travel group got their picture taken together.  This really has been a nice group of people to spend two weeks with, and I will miss them.  While we were taking the pictures on the steps in the hotel lobby some Chinese people were stopping and taking our picture too.  I guess we were quite a spectacle.  This afternoon we made one final trip to Shamian for lunch at Lucy's with the McAdams before they left for Hong Kong.  The rest of the evening we've spent packing and getting ready to leave bright and early tomorrow.  It is so amazing to me that Leah was placed in our arms only a week ago.  She is such a different girl already.  That shy, scared little baby has become a happy, bubbly baby girl.  She is such a cutie with a  funny personality.  She laughs and smiles a lot and is becoming quite the ham.  She is also rolling and army crawling all over the place and even loves to take steps everywhere with help.  She has brought us such joy already, and we feel so blessed to be her parents.  I just can't wait to get home to the boys and have our whole family together.  Pray for sane and safe travels!  America here we come.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Few More Photos of a Pretty Girl

Another Day in China

Today started off great with a skype call to the kids.  I am really missing them now, but it won't be too much longer.  Luke and Seth are so excited about their baby sister.  I'm not sure what Ian thinks.  His little blond head just bobs in and out of the screen every now and then.  I really need to squeeze that kid.  Today it got into the 80s and was so muggy.  I'm talking serious humidity.  Leah is a sweaty little baby anyway and today she had the major head sweats.  Carrying her around in that pack is like having an extra little heater.  Lets just say between the heat, some spit up and other unmentionables I have a not so fresh feeling right now!  I need a shower.  Our shower here is so clean and nice I almost forget the water could probably kill you.  Almost.  

This morning we toured a few sights in Guangzhou with our group.  This is the third biggest city in China with a population of 15 million people.  It is so green and lush here with beautiful flowers and gardens.  We visited a buddhist temple that is about 1500 years old.  There were lots of beggars and some human fecal matter on the sidewalk, but it was beautiful inside.  We also went to the Chan House which now has exhibits of all the local crafts:  jade carving, ivory carving, embroidery, and egg shell porcelain.  We also went to the Provincial Arts and Crafts place where we could shop.  There are so many beautiful things to buy here in China, and we have got a few.  We are limited though by our suitcase space to take it home, and you can only have so many fragile carry ons.  I already feel like a bag lady everywhere we go toting Leah, the camera bag, the diaper takes Jer and I just to haul this stuff around.  The airport could be scary. 

After a very quick lunch we headed off in cabs with Richard and Katie's family to Shamian Island.  It was beautiful there, but so freakin hot!  We were all a sweaty mess, and I saw Chinese people still wearing long sleeve shirts and even sweaters!  We did some shopping and had fun wheeling and dealing at all the shops.  We had to rush back to meet and get all of our visa paperwork in order, so we're hoping to squeeze one more trip in.  This evening we ordered Papa Johns pizza (which was really good) and ate with friends at this neat outdoor tea table they have at our hotel.  There are actually a whole series of them on covered patios, a nice playground for kids, and a beautiful pool.  We had lots of fun chatting with Matt and Carrie from West Virginia.  Paul and Ann were there too.  They are a very nice couple from Georgia and have an interesting situation.  They have a very cute 2-year-old daughter Emma here with them, and they just adopted a two-year-old girl they named Noel.  They are going through some major adjustment issues right now!  Poor Ann left early because she was not feeling well and Richard and Katie's family couldn't even come because they are all puking.  I feel awful for them, and I'm so hoping we can continue to dodge that bullet!  I feel brain dead right now and am basically giving a list of what we did today, so I'm going to shut this down.  I'm a bit sick myself with a hacking cough.  Now that I've had it for days I'm trying some Chinese Zithromax which you can buy over the counter here, so hopefully that doesn't kill me!  Maybe I can manage to be more interesting tomorrow.  I'll tack on a few cute pictures of Leah just to make this worth viewing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ni Hao From Guangzhou!

After a long day of traveling yesterday we made it to Guangzhou.  I am so glad!  This means we are getting closer to coming home, and it is so much nicer here!  That last day in Zhengzhou was getting a little depressing. There were some great people there, but it's such a busy city with not many pretty things to look at and terrible air.  You look out the window of the hotel and just see yellow sky.  Guangzhou is very green and tropical and muggy.  It's in the 60s to 70s here.  They have air conditioning which is a first since we've been here (at least that has been turned on).  In Zhengzhou those last few days up on the fourth floor were very warm, and the day we took the bus to the aquarium we all thought we'd pass out from the heat and mugginess.  When our driver finally turned on the air at our request Jer said it smelled like they filtered it through a dirty gym sock.  Speaking of dirty gym socks, we don't get the laundry we sent off as soon as we arrived back until tomorrow at 5 p.m., so it's slim pickings around here.  We didn't bring that much to begin with.  We are staying at the China Hotel which is a Marriott, and it is very fancy and nice.  I'm sure it's the biggest, swankiest hotel I've ever stayed at.  Our room is beautiful and modern with no smoke smell and there is a beautiful pool, gardens, etc.  It is an enormous hotel. Guangzhou is a much more westernized city.  Don't get me wrong this is very much China but there are lots of foreigners here and every US adoptive couple passes through here for their consulate appointment so there are lots of Americans with Chinese babies around.  Even though we got here late last night and everyone was exhausted we had business to attend to this morning.  Our local guides are Grace and Jocilyn, and they are great.  They speak amazing English.  I continue to be so impressed with our agency and how efficient and organized they are with every step of this extremely complicated process.  We didn't eat lunch or dinner until we got here about 10 pm last night so once again we had to hit the McDonalds which is right across the street.  On a very strange note, Jer got solicited by a prostitute both coming and going.  He said the lady asked him if he wanted a "lady massage" and then tacked on "with the sex."  Seriously.  After discussion today it appears that happened to every man in our group that ventured out last night.  Nice!

First thing this a.m. Leah got her picture taken for her visa.  She was one of the few babies that didn't pitch a huge fit.  She seems to be adjusting so well.  In fact, she has been babbling mama a lot but tonight when I was getting her ready for bed she put her hand up by my face and said it, and I think she meant it for me!  So sweet.  She is so smiley and darling.  She is eating like crazy.  She sits in her high chair to eat and sleeps in her crib very well.  She likes the tub and is so happy and friendly.  She has learned to wave, give fives, and blow kisses.  We love this cute girl.

After breakfast we headed on the bus to get Leah's medical exam.  Every adopted child has to do this with the Chinese government.  It's quite silly really because many of these kids have known medical conditions already, and they don't treat them anyway.  It's just a formality prior to them leaving the country.  There were three stations, and you cannot imagine the pandemonium!  There were so many kids there--not just our group.  The kids get an ENT check which consists of squeaking a toy by their ears, shining a light in their eyes, and looking in their ears and mouth.  They get measured and temperature taken and a "general physical exam" which consists of the doctor basically looking them over.  The Chinese nurses were wearing full on nurse dresses complete with hats and masks which freaked most of the little kids out--Leah included.  This used to be done out on Shamian Island where the White Swan was that everyone stayed but now it's been moved closer to where we are currently staying (I've heard our hotel is much nicer than the White Swan was, but I do know it had a fun location and lots of adoption history).  It took several hours for everyone in our group to be completed but that's one more thing done.

Tonight many members of our group went to dinner at the Macau Restaurant in walking distance of our hotel.  It's much easier to walk here because scooters are outlawed.  They serve Portugese/Cantonese food, and it was really good.  After we headed with two other families we've become friends with to do a little shopping and get some ice cream.  Richard and Katie are here from Tennessee with their two boys Trey and Wills, and they adopted a little girl named Poppy (she's in the picture with Leah).  Matt and Carrrie are from West Virginia, and they adopted Andrew who is their second Chinese son.  He's darling.  It's been fun getting to know some new people.  I will miss them when this week is over.  Leah ate her first ice cream ever.  She pulled a face like it was a lemon.  I think it was because it was so cold.  Once she warmed up to it she loved it!  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Farewell Zhengzhou!

We've had a relaxing few days here in Zhengzhou and in a few hours we will fly to Guangzhou for the final leg of our trip.  We are loving our time with Leah, but I am getting anxious to be home and see the boys soon.  I miss them like crazy! Skype has been a lifesaver.  I do have to admit though it's kind of nice to have no dishes, laundry, cleaning...but I've really come to appreciate all of the simple pleasures we have at home.  Cold drinks, clean water, ice, refills, good food, and blue skies just to name a few!  It has been really weird to just have free time with really nothing to do but just hang out in our room and tour around the city.  This is definitely not a tourist destination in China, but we've had a good time here. Our group is just about the only westerners here that I've seen.  We have walked everywhere and we get lots of looks now that we have Leah with us.  Staring is not considered rude in China, nor is violating one's personal space, and we've had quite a bit of both!  Many people smile and our guides tell us that the local people are happy we are adopting these kids and giving them families.  Others are not smiling and seem to disapprove but maybe I'm misreading them.  The second night we had Leah we walked to the McDonalds with her (only twice this trip so far so that's not bad).  There was a very nice Chinese lady there who came right over to our table and was talking to us about Leah.  We couldn't understand most of it but the general idea was that she really appreciated what we were doing.  She was smiling a lot and gave us thumbs up and was patting Leah on the back.  Our local guides here have been great.  We have Yisha and her assistants Vivian and Cindy.  They really know how to do their job and have been extremely efficient with getting us everywhere we need to be and getting all of our paperwork in order.  Just a few hours ago they delivered the final thing we need to move on which is Leah's passport.  For the rest of this trip she will be traveling as Dang Mei on a Chinese passport, but as soon as we touch down in Chicago she is automatically a US citizen!  I did want to buy Leah something from Henan province so today we hit a few local shops.  We bought her a really pretty yellow tea set.  It has these delicate, intricate designs painted on it and came in a beautiful box.  It's not one she would play with but a keepsake she can set out and take with her when she gets married someday.  I've heard they have cute inexpensive sets in Guangzhou that we could get her for a toy set.

We have had some interesting outings here in Guangzhou.  The night we walked to McDonalds we stopped at the city park on the way back.  It was dark, but they had the trees lit up with Christmas lights.  There were hundreds of people there doing some sort of group exercising that involved slapping their legs over and over again.  There are also lots of little "outdoor gyms" here with exercise equipment.  Jer of course has tried it out.  We'll have to get some pictures in Guangzhou--they are everywhere.  On Wednesday lots of people traveled back to visit their children's orphanages.  We were the only family from Nanyang.  It really wasn't offered as an option because it's a 4.5 hour drive each way, so it would have been quite the trip to make in a day with Leah.  I would have really liked to see it.  Leah's schedule we got from the orphanage mentioned a little friend she had there and then our guide Vivian remembered seeing Leah there and meeting an American mother Mia who adopted one of Leah's orphanage friends.  She said Mia took pictures of her daughter and Leah together.  I would love to see those someday.  Last night we were given some new information about Leah we'd never seen before.  It was her finding ad that was published in the newspaper.  A question I have received from people is how do these kids come to be in Chinese orphanages.  The sad answer is that they are all abandoned and that is why they are available for adoption.  In China it is illegal to relinquish your child so children are abandoned without a trace of their biological parents.  I have heard of kids being left with a note pinned to them but for most of them there is nothing.  Leah's picture is in this newspaper along with eight other children.  In the picture she looks like a tiny, skinny face with ears.  Our guides wrote the translation on the back which stated her name (given by the orphanage), her dob (guesstimated by the orphange), her finding date and place, and a description.  It described her as having an "oval face, large eyes, and a skinny body with a missing left arm."  As I read it I thought for like the millionth time of Leah's birthmother and what must have been going on in her mind as she left her beautiful girl behind.  I do know that she left Leah at a safe place--on the steps of a hospital in Nanyang.  I'm so grateful to have this little piece of Leah's history especially as she is entering this new phase of her life and is orphaned no more!  She is ours forever, and we are so grateful.

Eating here is interesting.  I have yet to eat what I'd call a delicious meal, but it has been okay.  The drinking part is the worst.  You either have to drink soda or bottled water warm.  They bring you a glass of water to your table, but it's really hot--that's because they have to boil all the water here before you can drink it.  A cup of super hot water just doesn't do it for me.  We had a bowl of hand pulled noodles at the hotel next door that was pretty good.  Neither Jer or I really knew how to eat it.  Several people in our group have come down with bad stomach bugs and been puking, but I'm so hoping we can avoid that!  Our first night with Leah we ate at a little coffee shop that's also near our hotel.  We had several cute teenage girls waiting on us.  They brought us one menu then stood like two inches from us while we tried to decide what to order.  All ordering is done by pointing at the pictures in the menu.  They came back and had questions about our order that we had no clue how to answer.  They carried Leah's high chair out to us together and then helped us get her in and buckle her.  They started to gradually bring out a drink, a fork, a napkin (huge shortage on those here), a placemat...when they brought something we ordered they would pick up our bill and mark it off.  Like an hour later we finally had everything, and I was starting to realize why they marked it took so long they would probably forget otherwise!  They do have good fresh squeezed juices here. 

Our biggest adventure in eating was last night.  We headed out in taxis (totally crazy driving) to go to some Chicago Western Buffet a guy in our group had found online.  We were with three other families from our group.  It quickly became obvious that our drivers had no clue where this place was (should have been a clue), but after serious winding and side streets we finally got there.  It was not as advertised!  The whole place was decorated in really tacky Christmas decor. The first thing that hit you when you walked through the door was the really bad smell!  Needless to say after checking out the buffet we did not eat there.  We ended up at a nice place across the street that was pretty good.  The English on the menus and the signs in English we've seen everywhere are quite funny--lots of stuff gets lost in translation.  Our ride home was very direct and took about 1/4 the time.  We had Leah out partying until almost 10, but she was so good and ate everything we put in front of her in the restaurant.  She was such a cute girl!

I'm boring even myself now, but I'll quickly finish my last few thoughts.  Thursday morning we went on a group outing to the local aquarium.  Let's just say it was not Sea World!  It was entertaining if you could get past the overpowering fishy smell.  Yesterday morning Jer had an interesting experience.  I'm officially about to give too much information on the blog so feel free to stop reading now.  When Leah is older she may appreciate this story.  Yesterday morning I woke up to find an unexpected visitor on our trip---several weeks early--I guess induced by stress, emotion, something.  Well, I was completely unprepared so I sent Jer on a mad dash to the Walmart.  He literally wore shorts and ran so we could be ready for our aquarium trip.  I'm pretty sure the people of Zhengzhou have never seen a burly redhead running down the street.  On the way back he had his Walmart shopping bag with him and he said people were parting to the side to let him through--they may have thought he stole it!  He made it back with all sorts of pads (yes I'm back in 7th grade because that's all they have in China), and he now wins husband of the year award!  

Well, we are off soon.  The weather here is much warmer than Beijing, and as we head south it will get even warmer.  We've abandoned the thick, bulky coats.  You have to beware the older Chinese women though. The other day we took Leah on a walk through the park and a woman came up and pulled her pants up to her knee.  When she found only socks underneath (instead of a couple more layers) we got a scolding complete with finger wagging.  That's how it's done in China!  I'm out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One More Picture!

Beautiful Girl!

It has been an incredible couple of days here in China.  Leah could not be any cuter.  She is such a sweet baby, and we love her so much.  Everyone who commented on the picture with Jer is right...he's totally smitten and she's got him wrapped around her little finger already.  The boys could not get enough of her on skype.  Luke just kept saying over and over how cute she was.  We taught the boys "I love you" in Chinese which sounds like wall-eye-knee.  They kept telling her and Seth would tack on a "Ni Hao" for good measure.  They are so excited to see her and her cuteness definitely will not disappoint.  It's amazing that just a little over 48 hours ago we were basically handed a 16-month-old infant.  The changes in her already are truly remarkable.  

In terms of size we were right on about Leah.  We haven't been able to weigh her, but I'm guessing maybe 17 or 18 lbs.  Surprisingly she actually has a little buddha belly but her arms and legs are really skinny.  Her fingers are so delicate, and she has the tiniest feet--even the size 3 shoes I brought are big on her.  Her 9 months clothes fit snug, so I think she can graduate to 12 months soon!  She could maybe pass for a very tiny one year old in terms of size.  Everything about her is petite from her body to her little facial features.  When she smiles her eyes get so squinty, and it's so stinkin' cute!  She has 6 teeth, and her front two are surprisingly big for her tiny mouth.

Jer and I feel like based on her development and some of her behaviors we are kind of piecing together what Leah's life was like up to this point.  Between her start as a very tiny, weak baby whether due to prematurity or failure to grow in the womb and then lack of individual attention since then she is very behind.  Surprisingly I'm not too freaked out about it.  It's obvious to us that Leah is a smart, happy baby that is so able to learn and just needs some love and TLC.  One of the first things we realized is that she had never fed herself anything.  We have also discovered that despite the report about her eating solid foods she has never chewed before!  We have basically remedied that.  Tonight looking at my sweet girl chomping Ritz crackers on the bed like a pro it was a far cry from the baby that looked at us blankly just two days ago when we put Cheerios on her tray.  She is now eating finger foods and chewing well, and she seems to like to eat.  I'm not sure she's done much of that in the past.  French fries and Ritz are two her favorites.  She seems willing to try lots of different foods.  We are also feeding her formula with a bottle.  We got a little information sheet from the orphanage on Sunday when we got here that supposedly told us about her daily habits.  It said she ate 5 oz of formula at 5 different times throughout the day.  Two of those feedings were during the night.  I was totally prepared to feed her at night, but she hasn't woke up once.  I am really skeptical that they were waking up at night to feed her.  She actually sleeps like a champ for both naps and nighttime.  She chats and talks herself to sleep even with us in the room...although as she get more spunky we're seeing her personality more.  Tonight before she fell asleep she kept lifting up the towel that we draped over the side of the crib to keep her from seeing  us up and then laughing.  That's not something she would have done Monday!  Based on what we read about feedings in China orphanges we knew that babies take their bottles quite warm with a big slit in the nipple (we cut an X in it with a knife) to give fast flow.  They also eat rice cereal mixed in with it.  We  have been trying that and it's worked great.  Yesterday she spit up a bit, and I think it's because we were overfeeding her and she has eaten a lot of new foods.  This schedule also said she had a bowel movement each day at 5 p.m.  Seriously?  We haven't found her to be quite that clockwork!

When we put Leah on her tummy for the first time it was obvious she had not done that much and didn't like it.  We have continued and been right there on the floor playing with her, and she is already so much stronger.  Even though one of the reports we had indicated she might be able to roll over I'm honestly not sure she could.  The first night she was here she slept on her back the entire time even though it looked so uncomfortable.  Now she is rolling all over the place and flips over to sleep on her tummy at night (the schedule said she slept only on her back).  She is also working on her own version of an army crawl and is very persistent and creative with the methods she comes up with to get to toys.  Based on all the pictures we have seen of her in the last 6 months we're pretty convinced that once she learned how to sit that's basically what she did all the time.  Today she went from her bum to her stomach to get a cracker, and I'm pretty sure she had never done that before!  She is also spending more time on her feet and getting much better at standing holding on to stuff.  The other big change for her has been use of her little arm.  In the orphanage pictures she was always completely bundled with her little arm up inside her sleeve.  She has basically been completely one armed her entire life up to this point. She loves having her arm out.  She uses it in unison with her other arm just like any other kid would.  She even takes something in her hand and then transfers it over under her little arm to grab it and hold it.  Very smart girl!  Watching her come out of her shell...smiling, laughing, teasing, waving, pointing to her nose, learning to blow kisses has been so fun.  I guess I can just feel privileged that I get to experience some of these milestones with her that I otherwise wouldn't have based on her chronological age.  I don't mind where she's supposed to be.  We are just enjoying where she's at and continue to be amazed with her ability to learn and love.  This honestly has been kind of like being first time parents all over again.  We are here with only Leah to take care of, and both of us are hanging on her every little move.  Maybe we can make up just a little for the lack of attention she's had so far.  We can tell she's starting to feel comfortable with us.  She is so happy and likes us both (lots of the kids in our group will only go to one parent or the other).  We thinks she's perfect and are so grateful she's ours.  

Being out and about with Leah in China has been quite the adventure, but I need to save that for another post.  I've rambled for long enough.  Hopefully the pictures come through okay.  Have I mentioned she's really cute?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Official

Leah has been officially ours for a long time but now it's legit.  Today we went back to the adoption registration office and then on to the notary office to make things official.  Now we have a couple of days to chill in Zhengzhou while we wait for Leah's passport and then it's on to Guangzhou and home!  I'm tired tonight, but we had a great day and Leah is doing so well.  I'll write more about Leah and how everything's going tomorrow.  Thanks for all the comments and's so nice to hear from everyone back home.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gotcha Day!

Today was the day we have been waiting for.  It was a very emotional and truly amazing day.  We arrived at the registration office about 9:30 and the first few children were already there.  I had no idea how choked up I would feel just watching the other families receive their babies.  For one of the first couples it was their first child and they have been waiting a very long time and watching the joy on their faces was so touching.  (Their little boy was one of the ones who really kicked up a fuss with his caretaker also in tears.)  We have 13 families getting 14 babies in our group (one family adopted two children).   We knew Leah would be one of the last ones to arrive because of the distance to travel to her orphanage.  Pretty soon lots of kids had arrived, and it was a scene of total chaos.  We kept watching and waiting and taking pictures for everyone else.  By 11:00 every family had their baby, and we were still waiting!  Jer was pacing by the door, a guy in our group Paul was acting as lookout with our camera, and then she finally arrived!  At that point I couldn't hold back the tears...hence the ugly cry face in every picture!

Leah is beautiful.  We are so blessed to have her.  She is every bit as cute and sweet as she looked in her pictures and then some.  She arrived bundled to the hilt as usual.  She had on a huge snowsuit which turned out to be layered over a boys' blanket sleeper and a huge princess undershirt.  All morning at the registration office I kept pulling her jacket down to see her mouth and check out her cute little face.  Leah was very calm and didn't cry at all.  She just looked around with big eyes at everyone.  She let both Jer and I hold her with no fussing.  The orphanage workers who brought Leah were not the girls I've seen in pictures, and I don't think they ever really directly cared for her or dealt with her but I was still a little disappointed.  They basically gave her to us and were ready to leave.  After kind of answering a few questions through our guide they were ready to go.  The one lady did snap a picture of us with Leah right as she handed her over.  We had to ask them for a picture as they were walking out the door and then they left and never looked back.  The one lady in particular seemed 100% detached from Leah and didn't say goodbye or look back once.  I guess I just expected them to seem like they cared like some of the caregivers we saw that morning.  

After signing a few documents it was time to go.  We did get back a few toys we sent Leah, the photo album of us we sent (which looks well used!), a few random hats, some of her local formula and a few diapers, and the disposable cameras I sent in her care packages.  One of the cameras had only a few pictures taken, but the other had them all so I'm excited to get them developed when we get back and get a little glimpse into her life before we came.  One the bus on the way home Leah sat on my lap facing us and stared directly into our eyes the entire trip.  She is so cute!  She started to get really sweaty, so I stripped the big parka off of her.  Once we got back to the room we made her a bottle and changed her into a new diaper and onesie.  After that she really started to open up to us.  She smiled a lot and was very playful!  Her overall condition seems pretty good--no diaper rash or problems like that.  She wasn't very clean and didn't smell good but nothing major.  She does have a really snotty nose and sounds cruddy, but it doesn't seem too serious.  We skyped my parents for the first time since we've been here, and she was darling playing with the computer and hamming it up the entire call.  They are so excited.  I can't wait to skype with Jer's family and the boys in the morning--they are going to be so excited!  We gave her a bath which made her cry a little, but she seemed to really enjoy being toweled off and dressed.  Leah's arm looks about like we thought it would.  She has an elbow joint and about 30% of her arm below that and uses it a lot.  That is really a non issue for us.  Her development in general is also about what we thought.  Her size and development are both significantly delayed, but we have no reason to believe that she won't start to thrive now she's with us.  For her size she actually has a little chub on her.  The 9-12 month clothes I brought fit pretty well.  If you were to just see her you would think she's a healthy baby maybe only 9 months old or so.  She is sitting, and she can stand with support.  It's obvious she's never spent much time on her tummy which probably explains why she can't crawl yet.  We've also realized that she doesn't really know how to feed herself.  I don't think she's really been given that opportunity.  She had fun today at dinner playing with and attempting to eat little cereal treats at dinner--obviously something you'd expect from a much younger baby.  She has started making lots of noises and babbles mama--even the way she sounds when talking or crying sound like a younger baby.  Jer and I have both been so happy with how well Leah has responded to us--she loves Jer and seems to think he is so funny!  She has cuddled into us and accepted our kisses, but it doesn't really seem like she is used to that yet--it's more like she's laying against you because you're there.  We are going to work to build her trust and help her feel safe and loved.  Today truly was one of the most amazing days ever.  As we cared for her and walked around the rest of the day I would catch a glimpse of myself carrying this tiny, beautiful dark-haired baby, and it almost seemed unreal.  It could not have gone more smoothly and as I speak Leah is sleeping peacefully in her crib.  She looks like a little angel.  We are so grateful for the gift of this beautiful daughter!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Since I can hardly keep my eyes open past 8 p.m. here I've been asleep for a while, but I woke up and decided to do a post.  We are in Zhengzhou now and tomorrow is the big day.  In less than 12 hours we will meet Leah for the first time!  With that said I am feeling like a nervous wreck.  All of the excitement, anxiety, nervousness, you name it is right there at the surface and today has been quite the long day.  We have the crib in our room and all of Leah's stuff out and ready and tomorrow morning we'll be coming home with a baby!  Leah's orphanage is about 4.5 hours away from here, so they were going to bring her here to the hotel, but we found out today they will actually bring her to the registration office where all of the other families are going.  I'm really excited about that.  Now we will get to watch and wait with everyone else in our group as the kids arrive.  Leah is one of the youngest kids being adopted on our trip and considering her tiny size and development I think she will definitely be the mei mei of this group.  

I know once Leah is here I will never record anything about our second day in Beijing, so I'll try and do it now.  Saturday in Beijing was great.  There was a freezing cold wind blowing all day, but it was good because it blew all the pollution out and made for blue, sunny skies.  We headed with our group to a jade factory and then on to the Great Wall of China (about 1.5 hours from hotel).  That was so amazing.  We climbed to the top of the Juyong section.  It had some really steep pitches with lots of steps ranging from like 18 inches to only a few just to keep you on your toes.  Along the way are a series of towers.  It was pretty cool, and we had a lot of fun climbing it along with some other families in the group.  When we got to the bottom Jer and I ate our Chinese Snickers we had purchased the day before--this time I came prepared with daytime snacks.  It doesn't really taste like a Snickers at home...maybe one that's been on the shelf about a year, but it was good nonetheless.  Today's food was much better, so I wasn't starving all day.  I found a few things I like at the breakfast and our Chinese food lunch today was delicious--no mystery meats!  Some of the men in the group tried a tiny bit of some rice wine they offered.  They served it in cups about the size of a thimble and the label said it was 58% alcohol.  Apparently it was pretty tough stuff!

After lunch we headed back in to Beijing.  It really was amazing today to drive around and see just how vast this city of 20 million people is.  I can't really describe it.  I have never seen so many banks and glass skyscrapers in my life.  The high rise apartment buildings seem to go on forever--amazing!  The traffic and driving here is crazy.  We've been in a bus the entire time, so it hasn't been too scary because we're usually the biggest.  People just go pull out in front of each other all over the place.  I am seriously impressed with our bus driver's skills--some of the places he has squeezed our bus into have been incredible.  You would really have to know how to drive to get around in this city.  There are people riding scooters and electric bikes everywhere.  In contrast to America, I have yet to see one person wear a helmet.  They drive like crazy and head out into huge intersections with no fear.  Being a pedestrian is scary.  They don't exactly yield to pedestrians here!  It has been a real eye opener to just see the sheer number of people everywhere you go.  I guess that's what you should expect in one of the biggest cities in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.  Our guide Candy has been so awesome.  I will miss her. She speaks excellent English and has a great sense of humor.  She has entertained us and taught us a lot about her city which she obviously loves.

Back in Beijing we made a quick stop at the Olympic Village for a few pictures and then went to a Chinese acrobatics show--think Cirque de Soleil Beijing style.  It was in kind of a dumpy, rundown theater, but the show was incredible.  Guys doing handstand presses on huge stacks of chairs, 12 girls riding a bike at the same time, 6 guys going around on motorcycles inside a cage--you name it and they did it!  It was very entertaining, and I think Jer was even more wowed by it than I was.  Jer was all excited because he smelled popcorn.  When he came back he had a bag of microwave popcorn with "American Flavor" that left quite a bit to be desired and some Coca-Cola Lights in a can that taste just like Tab.  Yuck!  I may be over my Diet Coke thing when we get back because there is none to be had here!  You can't drink the water so it's been bottled water with the occasional Sprite thrown in here and there--no ice.  This morning we packed up and left the hotel at 8 a.m. to head to the airport.  Our guides here are very prompt.  Getting up early is no problem because of the time difference, but it always makes me laugh that literally the second the last person's foot is on the bus the doors close and we pull away.  You don't want to be late around here!  The flight was only around 1 1/2 hours and our next set of guides Yisha, Cindy, and Vivian met us at the airport here.  They seem very nice.  The rest of the afternoon has been spent unpacking and getting things ready for tomorrow.  All of the men in the group walked with the guides to the bank to exchange money.  We have been doing up to this point in our hotel.  They use renminibi or rmb which they also call yuan here.  It is about $1 to 6.3 yuan.  You feel rich in China when you fork over 35 yuan for a drink or something!  We need cash to finish the adoption process.  There are a bunch of remaining fees we will be paying during our stay here.  We were told to bring new or at least very good quality $100 bills to China with us.  Today Jer exchanged $1000 of them for yuan.  He said the bankers inspected the bills very carefully and all of ours passed.  Only 3 out of 13 families had all of their bills pass inspection.  They are very particular about the condition of the American money they accept here.  The drive from the airport was pretty sobering.  The landscape in this part of China is very stark and we passed lots of rundown hovels along the way.  Once we got the city it got nicer.  This is also a big city with lots of skyscrapers and people everywhere!  Our hotel is quite nice with lots of amenities nearby.  There is even a Walmart a few blocks away.  Here the people drive their scooters on the sidewalk.  Whole big fleets of them come along on the sidewalk honking for you to move.  They cross the streets in big groups and then on to the sidewalk again.  Well, I better get going.  We leave her at 9:30 a.m. to head to the registration office.  I'm sure this is rambly and full of typos galore, but I'm too tired to check that now.  Thanks for the's so nice to hear from all of you back home!

Friday, March 9, 2012

We Are in China!

I tried to post this once with no success, so I'm trying again with only one picture.  Please comment and let me know if it works.  Any of you who have used blogger via email from China...any tips about posting pictures would be appreciated.  Thanks!

Well, it's early Saturday morning in China and I can't sleep anymore.  I meant to blog last night, but I was honestly so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I can definitely see why they have you come a few days before you get your baby so that you can try to get over the jet lag.  It has also been a good experience to learn more about China's culture and customs since this is our daughter's heritage.  So here's a long, rambly rundown of our trip so far...

On Tuesday night we left Logan and stayed at my parent's house.  We could only take two 44 lb. bags with us, so we spent lots of time shuffling and getting rid of stuff to make the weight work.  We finally got there about midnight, talked to my parents a while and then attempted to sleep a few hours before we left at 4 a.m. for the airport.  My parents dropped us off about 5 a.m.  We were tired and I was sad about leaving the kids, but we were ready to go.  Let's just say things didn't go smoothly getting checked in.  There was a huge line, and the kiosk wouldn't let us check in because an agent needed to verify our passports.  We stood in line forever.  There were two clerks on duty, one of which was new and needed help most of the time.  There was a family in front of us who spent about 25 minutes at the counter shuffling items back and forth between garbage bags and luggage and stuff to avoid paying overweight charges.  My blood pressure was rising.  When we finally got up there they had trouble with the fact that Leah was only a return passenger even though I had checked that numerous times with the agents.  The agent typed for like 15 was like that scene in Meet the Parents, except it wasn't funny when it was happening to us.  We finally got checked in at 6:15 and got through security and to the gate about 15 minutes before our flight left.  Another lady near us who they were also having trouble checking in showed up, and they had hand written her a ticket.  Seriously?  It was not a good first impression of American Airlines!

We then spent 8 hours in the Chicago Airport.  Yes, 8...I think that speaks for itself.  In that meantime we invested in some of those sweet pillows that wrap around your neck for our 13 hour flight to Beijing.  We left Chicago at about 8 pm.  We both slept on and off during the flight but not great.  It was a really long time to sit and when we got there it was 11 pm the next night in China.  The Beijing airport was amazing.  It's the biggest thing I've ever seen!  It's a huge glass structure.  After we finally got our bags and got through customs our guide Candy was there to pick us up.  She works for our agency and has been our local tour guide.  We headed to the hotel in a van with another family.  We finally rolled in here about 12:30 a.m. after about 30 1/2 straight hours of traveling.  

Friday morning we got up and tried to skype the kids.  The laptop died and the plug in we had didn't work, so I was pretty sad but we got an adapter from the front desk and were back in business.  It was so great to talk to them.  I sure miss those boys already.  Our hotel is very nice--not just nice for China but nice in general.  I had high hopes for the continental breakfast but lets just say that eggs were the only recognizable thing on the menu.  I left hungry!  We left at 9 a.m. with our group on a bus to tour Beijing.  We rode a rickshaw through the hutong which is a very old part of the city made up of all these little lanes and alleys where people live.  We even went into the house of a local resident, Mrs. Wu, where she told us about her life in that same one room home with a shared restroom/water facilities for the last 50+ years.  It was very interesting.  She served us some saffron flower tea which had the most bitter, awful taste ever.  I thought it was pretty interesting that she was a Catholic and had religious pictures all over her house.  We also visited a silk factory and learned about the whole process of making silk fabrics from the silk worms.  It was very cool!  There were lots of beautiful things to buy, but we refrained.  We then ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  They brought out lots of dishes for us to try.  A few were pretty good, but I again left hungry.  After lunch we headed on the bus again to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City.  Our guide Candy was great, and I learned a lot today.  She has taught us some new Chinese words and a lot about the history of the city.  It is the National Congress right now, so we couldn't actually go into the square.  The Forbidden City was incredible.  I can't even describe how huge it was.  It was built 500 years ago and was home to a series of emperors until the early 1900s.  Truly incredible.  After we got back to the hotel around 4:00 I was bonking so bad.  We both fell asleep for a while and then decided we had to eat something.  We ventured out about 7:00 to find something.  I couldn't bare the thought of more Chinese food, especially some that might make us sick, so we searched high and low for McDonalds.  Yes, while we're here McDonalds is a good thing.  We put in about 3 miles of walking round trip and did succeed in finding one!  We got in there and of course the menu was in Chinese.  Luckily, they whipped out a picture menu in English for us, and we pointed to what we wanted.  We finally made it back home and that's when I crashed and slept like the dead for a while.  Now we're ready to hit the city for one more day before we fly to Zhengzhou tomorrow.  Beijing has been very interesting but just like when I've visited big cities in America it has reminded me that I'm not cut out for city living.  Add the really bad air pollution and the fact that people are smoking everywhere, and I'm ready to move on to the next phase of the trip.  


Saturday, March 3, 2012

China Itinerary Test Post

We leave for China in four days!  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that...probably because I have been so incredibly busy and a crazy insomniac all week.  Since blogger is blocked in China I'm giving this posting via email thing a test whirl.  We got our flights booked and thankfully our agency handles all the in country stuff for us.  We are going to be all over the place.  I am so grateful for flight miles...this whole process is spendy but for 190,000 miles and about $350 in various fees and a lap ticket for Leah we got our international flights booked.  Jer and I are taking the early flight...7 am because the later one was twice as many miles.  We still have delusions of needing those miles and actually taking a vacation again someday!

We have our China itinerary:
3/7 Fly to Chicago and then Beijing.

3/8 Arrive in Beijing.  They are about 15 hours ahead of us so that's going to cause some serious jet lag.

3/9-10 This is the touristy part of the trip.  Jer and I will get to see some of the cool sights and hopefully get adjusted.

3/11 Fly to Zhengzhou which is the capital of Leah's province Henan.  I thought I may spend my birthday in China--so happy birthday to me!

3/12 GOTCHA DAY!!!!  This is the day we've been waiting for.  We will actually get to see and hold our daughter for the very first time.  She will be brought by orphanage reps to our hotel.  I can hardly wait and if you go by US time this is actually happening on my birthday!  

3/13 Complete Adoption Registration to make Leah officially ours.  From this point on it's a done deal!

3/14 Free time in Zhengzhou.  (I'm hoping we will be able to visit Leah's orphanage, but I know that's pretty uncommon with Nanyang.)

3/15 Free time in Zhengzhou.  (These days are here while we wait for paperwork and Leah's Chinese passport which she will use for travel.)

3/16 Receive Leah's passport.  Fly to Guangzhou.  (This is in southern China and is the location of the US Consulate in China.  Every US adoptive family travels here to complete the process.)

3/17-18 Paperwork days and free time in Guangzhou.

3/19 US Consulate appointment.  

3/20 Waiting on Leah's visa packet.

3/21 Fly to Shanghai then on to Chicago.  Arrive in Chicago at 6 pm and stay overnight  (at a cheap hotel that may be super scary)!

3/22 Fly home to be greeted by the kiddos and our families at the airport!

Wow, that's a long trip.  Just thinking about leaving the boys that long gets me all teary, but it is for the best of reasons and I'm so excited.  Seth is so funny and always aware of the time of day where "Leah Mei" is...these last few days he keeps telling me to just go get her!  We can only take two suitcases, period, so I'm sure hoping the laundry services pan out or it could get ugly.  I'm hoping to do one more post before we leave--kind of a Q/A to answer a lot of questions that I've received about Leah and this whole process--I guess I just want to save myself some explaining when we get home.  I really can't describe how I'm feeling right now.  I'm such a bundle of emotions.  I'm so happy that in less than 10 days Leah will be with her forever family.  I'm so sad that once again she is going to be torn from everything familiar to her.  She has already experienced so much loss in her short life...abandonment by her birth parents, separation from the foster mother she was with for over a year, and now removal from the orphanage and her caregivers there.  It is amazing what the human spirit can endure.  I know this--she's already one tough cookie and has shown more strength and fighting spirit in her short life than many people do in a lifetime.  She has had such a tough start, but I'm praying that once she transitions again she will be happy and have the life full of joy that she deserves!