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It’s hard to believe we’ve been away for two weeks! I miss my boys so much and can’t wait to hug them. At the same time, I can’t believe that our precious little girl has already been with us for a week and a half. She has changed so much in such a short amount of time.
The first week Emily would only eat rice cereal and pureed baby food. She still doesn’t really know how to chew but now she will suck down noodles, inhale rice and gobble up fish. She wants nothing to do with rice cereal any more.
She loves to give hugs and kisses. She loves to make faces. She makes a serious face and then switches to a surprised face. Cracks me up! I can’t seem to catch it on camera but it’s hilarious. She loves when we play along and make faces with her.
For the most part sleep is better. She no longer cries when she goes to bed. The opposite is now true, she plays in her crib for 30 minutes before finally going to sleep.
Friday morning at 8am (Thursday at 7pm in Kansas) we will leave Guangzhou on a flight to Beijing. We have about a 4 hour layover then we will fly to Dallas. We have to spend the night in Dallas and will finally arrive home Saturday afternoon. Please pray for us while we travel. Friday will be about 24 hours of traveling before we land in Dallas. Our flight from Beijing to Dallas will be a very long 14 hours. We have lots of activities, videos and snacks for Emily, but for a little girl who is constantly on the move, 14 hours on an airplane is going to be very, very long.
Thank you for everyone’s support and encouragement along the way! We are excited to get home and get into a new rhythm as a family of five. Emily seems to be bonding well with us; however,we’ve been living in an adoption bubble the last two weeks, and getting back to the US will be an adjustment for both us and her.
We are excited for everyone to meet our daughter but we would kindly ask you to help us to continue our bonding with her. We need her to know that we will be her provider and protector. So, as much as we know each and every one of you love this little girl already, we would ask that Greg and I be the only ones to pick her up and hold her for the time being. Please allow Greg and I to be the only ones to feed Emily, even snacks and treats. Also, if you do have a gift, please allow us to give it to her at this time. She loves high fives and thumbs up so please feel free to give those generously. This will only last for a short time as we continue to bond and learn to become a family of five. If you are unsure about something, just ask. We would be happy to answer any questions.
Thank you again for all your support! We are excited for everyone to meet our daughter!
Tuesday most of our group had an appointment at the US consulate to get their child’s visa to the US. Since we didn’t receive travel approval until the week before we left for China, consulate appointments were full on Tuesday so ours was Wednesday morning.
We had a free day Tuesday so we took a taxi to Shamian Island to explore and do some shopping. Shamian Island used to be the home of the US Consulate and was a popular place for US families adopting from China. At some point in recent years the US Consulate moved to the downtown area in Guangzhou but Shamian Island still has a few neat shops and is a cute little island to explore.
We got a few traditional Chinese dresses for Emily and we found all of our names written in Chinese characters. I am really excited about Emily’s name. I had prayed over the name Emily for several years but when we first started the adoption process I wanted to see what our daughter’s Chinese name was before we settled on an American name. Emily and our daughter’s Chinese name (Zou Mei Hua) have absolutely nothing in common. Emily means hard-working or industrious. Mei Hua means beautiful flower. Zou is her last name. I’m not big into the meaning of names but I really wanted there to be some link. Ultimately we decided that after praying over the name Emily for so long we would stick with that and just use her Chinese first name as her middle name, Mei.
When I found Emily’s name in Chinese I discovered a link between Mei Hua and Emily. When writing English names in Chinese they use the sounds; every syllable in an English name will translate to a Chinese character – Ai mi li. Mi (or Mei) is the second syllable. So, her English name in Chinese characters means love, beautiful, pretty. I was so excited since Mei Hua means beautiful flower. Again, I’m not into meanings but I really wanted a connection between the two names and it was done unintentionally. It’s a small thing but one of the many ways I’ve seen God’s hand in this adoption.
Wednesday we had our appointment at the US consulate. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take cameras or phones in with us so there are no pictures. However, there wasn’t much to take pictures of. We walked up to a counter and handed the lady some paperwork that our agency had compiled for us. A little while later Greg stood in front of a window with 11 other parents and repeated an oath while I played in the play area with Emily. Then, we went to the counter again, they looked at the documents, Greg had his fingerprints scanned and we left. Tomorrow we will get Emily’s Chinese passport back with a US visa. Once we go through customs in Dallas she will be a US citizen!
The most interesting part of our visit to the US Consulate…the hundreds or maybe thousands of Chinese citizens standing in line, many of them outside in the ridiculous humidity, waiting for a chance to apply for a US visa. I really wish I could have captured it on a camera. As US citizens we were able to walk right in.
On another note, our daughter loves food. We knew this based on the reports we received from the orphanage but I just could not believe that she weighed the 28 pounds stated in the report. Oh, but she does! At the medical exam, out shopping, at the hotel, people comment on her size and how chubby her cheeks are. Everyone calls her beautiful. We certainly think so! But, most people can’t believe she was in an orphanage. Most people ask if she was in a foster family, which she was not. Oh how we love this little girl and appreciate how well she was cared for! One of the reports we received said she had white skin and the Holt adoption program director told us that the Chinese consider that beautiful. I didn’t really understand it but when we were in Nanjing we noticed a lot of people carrying umbrellas when it wasn’t raining and people driving motorized scooters with what looked like oversized oven mitts. I wish I would have captured a picture because it’s really kind of funny. Anyway, our guide told us that many people do this to protect their skin from the sun. They prefer light skin and consider lighter, or white, skin more beautiful. Crazy, considering all the money and time spent on tans in the US.
Today we had Emily’s medical appointment in preparation for receiving her US visa. We were supposed to have this appointment on Saturday but since our flight was canceled to Guangzhou Friday night we had to go today (Monday). We headed to the clinic around 7:45am to beat the crowd; another agency was taking a large group around 9am. When you go with a large group it can take 2-3 hours to complete all the medical evaluations. Ours lasted about 30 minutes. The doctors simply check to make sure the child is healthy and document any special medical conditions. Emily has a repaired cleft palate (not a cleft lip) and she takes medication for hypothyroidism. The final step was the TB test. I thought she was getting a shot but they actually drew blood and will test it for TB. For the blood draw they took her into a room with frosted glass windows and shut the door. I heard lots of crying but she was out within a few minutes. She was still crying but cheerios seem to fix almost everything for her. This girl loves to eat, especially snacks.
When we walked into the clinic around 8:15am it was already packed with people. However, as a US adoptive family we were able to walk straight to an exam room. Our guide said most of the people waiting had family that had immigrated to the US and many had been waiting about ten years to begin the immigration process (and the medical evaluation is only the first step!) This is only half of the people we saw waiting.
A few of the many skyscrapers in Guangzhou.
The tall, thin building on the left is the TV tower. It is apparently the third tallest in the world and they are quite proud of it, at least our tour guide is. 🙂
After the medical exam we met up with our group and headed to the Safari Park here in Guangzhou. It was amazing! They have a ton of animals and you can get pretty close to most of them. They don’t just have 3-4 giraffes or 5 elephants. They have probably 20+ of most of the animals.
We started with the ride through safari then continued to explore for another 3 hours on foot.
Emily loved it but all the new sites and sounds wore her out!
By the way, it is so hot and humid here. It feels like August in Kansas or Oklahoma!
We finally made it to our hotel in Guangzhou around 9pm last night. It was such a relief. We were looking forward to seeing familiar faces at breakfast this morning!
Emily did awesome on the 2 hour flight from Nanjing to Guangzhou! Snacks, coloring and looking out the window kept her occupied.
Today we explored the hotel in Guangzhou and the area surrounding it. It’s very different than Nanjing. In Nanjing there were only a handful of Westerners, and we really only saw them on adoption day. One morning at breakfast a gentlemen told us that his daughter was scared of us the day before because she’d never seen a white person.
In Guangzhou there are tons of families from the US; all families adopting from the US have to end their trip in Guangzhou to get their child’s visa into the United States. There are also a lot more people in Guangzhou, although there were a lot of people in Nanjing. Today there are approximately 19 million people in Guangzhou according to our guide. In 1980, there were only 3.5 million people. In every city we’ve been in, there are just so many people; you see building after building.
View from our room in Beijing.
View from our room in Nanjing.
Emily has been one brave and resilient little girl. She left the only home and people she’s known for the last two years and walked away with two complete strangers. She’s now slept in three different hotel rooms and seen and experienced so many new things in just one week. Yet she has been happy and eager to explore.
It seems the loss and the newness is starting to catch up with her though. In the first several days she slept far more than the orphanage indicated. She would cry briefly when we put her to bed but we had to wake her up in the mornings and after long naps. In the last couple of days though she has woken up early in the morning and after a brief nap crying . It seems she’s afraid we won’t be there anymore. Her cry breaks my heart.
We’ve had many happy moments but she’s had a lot of tears today as well. She’s grieving all that she has lost and she’s frustrated too. She understands so much of what we say but she can’t communicate her wants and needs to us. She is drawn to every child she sees; I think she is missing all the children that surrounded her each and every day.
She still cries when we put her to bed. I’m not sure if it’s the darkness, her desire to play or her fear that she will be alone again. At first she fought me when I would try to rock her and sing to her before bed. But in the last couple of days she’s relaxed a little and the tears don’t come immediately. In the first few days, despite the tears, she would be asleep in a matter of minutes; all the new sights, sounds and experiences were exhausting to her. Now, however, I’m starting to get a glimpse of how she soothed herself to sleep at night. With no one to rock her to sleep she must have rocked herself to sleep turning her head back and forth, back and forth as if she’s shaking her head ‘no.’ No matter how much I rock or sing, this is how she soothes herself to sleep. I long for our rocking chair at home, for the opportunity to rock and rock until she feels safe.
Despite some of the tears and fears, she is one happy little girl. She loves to be outside and she LOVES the water. Bathtub or swimming pool, I think she’d splash all day if we’d let her. She also loves to play in ball pits. All of our hotels (even the airports) have had a children’s play area, which is such a blessing. After her first time down the slide she couldn’t get enough. She was also quite fascinated with the swings today.
This precious girl has stolen our hearts!
Tomorrow we have a medical appointment in preparation for receiving her visa to the US. We would appreciate your prayers. She will have several people looking her over. And, because she is over the age of one, she will have a TB shot, and the parents are not allowed in the room for this part. I’m not really sure why we aren’t allowed in, but we have to put our daughter into the hands of complete strangers while they whisk her away for a shot, which terrifies every child. I’m told it only takes a couple of minutes, but that’s too long for me.
Three different days of flying so far and every single one of those days it rained. Today when we checked in at the airport we found out our flight had been cancelled due to storms at our destination. We stood in the airport for three hours while our guide tried to get us on another flight or a train. When that wasn’t going to work she tried to negotiate a hotel room but then there was the issue of getting us back to the airport. We walked down to the hotel attached to the airport but with so many flights cancelled they raised the rates to ridiculous amounts. She eventually logged on to some booking program she had and was able to get us a room at the same airport hotel for $100. $100 we weren’t planning to spend but it’s a nice room, a bed to sleep in and we don’t have to worry about how to get back to the airport tomorrow.
Our guide actually works for our adoption agency here in China. She traveled to Nanjing to be our guide for the week and had train tickets back home this evening. So now we are on our own. Without her today though I’m not sure what we would have done. We have paperwork to get us checked in seamlessly tomorrow so hopefully it all goes well.
Our baby girl did amazing though! We explored the airport, we rode escalators and we ate lots and lots of Cheerios. She was happy the whole time.
8 hours in the Dallas airport last week, 3 hours in the airport today, probably another 4-5 hours in the airport tomorrow, a 2 hour flight to Guangzhou and still three flights to get home next week. I am so ready to be home!
I was looking forward to today and dreading it at the same time. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to visiting Emily’s orphanage, the place she has lived for the last two years. It was emotional, and my heart broke many times, but it was a blessing to see how much this little girl was loved.
When we arrived we waited outside while our guide called to let the orphanage know we were there. As we were standing around taking a few pictures several nannies began calling our daughter’s name and we could not keep her away. At first it was hard to see her run to them so quickly but at the same time I’m glad they care for her.
A bunch of the nannies were outside with kids from her room so we spent a long time outside while the nannies hugged and talked to Emily. Their nickname for her is Hua Hua (Wa Wa). This little girl was LOVED!!!
The one in the yellow shirt is the nanny she was closest to. They were all so excited to see her. As much as they enjoyed holding her they were great to ask her where mama was and point her to me. When I would hold her and a nanny would come for a hug she would turn away from them. Made this mama heart happy that she recognizes that I’m her mama. We are her forever family.
One thing we’ve noticed is this little thumb thing she does. If you give a thumbs up she will copy and then touch her thumb to yours. The nannies did it several times while we were there.
The outside area we were in had cars driving in and out so they were pushing the kids around in what looks like a crib on wheels. Emily kept trying to climb in so one of the nannies put her in with some kids from her room and we walked up to the orphanage.
Inside we got to see the room where Emily spent most of her time playing and eating. We also got to see the crib where she slept.
We also got to see a preschool type room that she went to often. We stayed for about an hour and when we left there were no tears. She waved good-bye and we left.
Our guide then took us to the spot where Emily was found. It was right outside the orphanage outside an apartment complex. We took a picture but it’s hard to imagine parents leaving her there in the middle of the night. The note left with her was detailed so I have to believe they wanted her to be found but I cannot fathom leaving a child like that. Yet it happens so often because of the laws, lack of affordable healthcare and cultural expectations.
Now there is a safe house right outside the orphanage. At night parents can leave a child in the safe house and a caretaker will come for the child.
I am thankful that our little girl was loved and cared for so well over the last two years. But, we look forward to the years ahead as we get to know her and love on her every day.