Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ella's Back!

It's amazing what 24 hours can do! Last night Ella started to give us eye contact while feeding her. And she woke up smiling and giggling this morning. What a relief! And we found out from the other families this morning that they all had a rough day yesterday. It must just be something about that 3-day mark. And I'm guessing the adoption agency probably knew it, as they had nothing scheduled for us that day.

Today we went to Green Mountain Park. It was very beautifully landscaped with temples and relics, gardens and towers. There was a coy pond with an unbelievable amount of fish waiting to be fed by the tourists. It was an overcast day, which helped keep the heat down. But the humidity was so high.

After the park we went to the Pearl Market. Guangxi province is known for the pearls from the South China Sea. We are about an hour from the sea and 2 hours from Vietnam to the south. The ethnic minorities are apparently very similar here to what they are in Vietnam, and there is a large population in Nanning from Vietnam and Laos.

Friday we fly out in the afternoon to Guangzhou, the last stop on our trip. My dear friend Cathy, who is living in Shanghai, will fly in to see us. We get in late in the evening so I probably won't get to post.

If you'd like to see more pictures from our day, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the folder entitled Day 8 - Thursday.

Free Day

Wednesday was the first day that we had totally free, no appointments, paperwork or tours. It was great being on our own schedule.

In the morning we walked to the Nanning People's Park, which is about 2 blocks behind the hotel. It was absolutely beautiful. Very lush and green, clean and relaxing. There were quite a few groups of elderly people playing instruments, singing and playing cards or checkers. There was an area of the park that was for children, with amusement rides and game vendors. And there was another area that had goats, rabbits, peacocks and pot-belly pigs. Even though the temperature was 92 degrees and high humidity, it was a much-needed break from the schedule we had been keeping. And Ella took to the stroller like a champ (we checked out a stroller at the hotel front desk), which gave our backs a much-needed break from her 22 lbs of weight!

The rest of the day didn't go so well due to the grieving that I wrote about in the last post.

If you'd like to view more pictures from our day, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the folder entitled Day 7 - Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

She's Ours - Officially!

Today was the day we did the provincial paperwork and ceremony to legally adopt Ella. First we went to a office where the notary was. We were asked if we were willing to care for Ella, never abandon or abuse her, and give her the best education and medical care available.

Then it was back to the building where we originally received the babies for a round of similar questions, fingerprints and a million signatures. The orphanage director and nannies were there. We could really tell from their reactions to seeing the girls that they truly did care deeply for each of the babies. That was very comforting to me. The director asked us to email her pictures of the girls' new lives in America, which was more of a personal request than a requirement. It was fun watching how the nannies could get each of the girls giggling, whereas us parents have yet to figure those tricks out. A couple of the babies reacted strongly to the presence of the nannies, and cried terribly for them once they left the room. Ella did not seem to be affected by that - at least outwardly.

Back at the hotel later that afternoon, we finally heard Ella cry...and cry, and cry, and cry! She was chewing hard on her fingers, and feeling her gums we could tell that she has molars about to pop through (she already has 8 teeth).

However now I'm feeling like the teething crying has proliferated into grieving crying - grieving for the only life she's known until now, the only people she's been attached to, the only place she's lived. She's with strangers now, and she doesn't understand what's happening to her. The crying is just different than before. She cries when we try to console her, but stops if we leave her by herself. She turns her head from me when she's crying and I try to come closer. She prefers just to sleep all the time, which is probably easier for her than dealing with her emotions. It is heartbreaking to say the least, but a necessary process for her to go through before she can fully trust and bond to us. Let's just hope it's a short process rather than a long one!

Not too many pictures from today, but if you'd like to view some click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then click into the Day 6 - Tuesday folder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gotcha Day

Ok, so I'm a bit behind on my blogging...give me a break - I'm a new mom!!!

Monday morning started extremely early. We had to leave the hotel at 5:30am, which meant up at 4:30am. Unfortunately both Bill and I were up at 3:00am...plenty of time to meet for our ride to the airport, but it meant just that many less hours of sleep before we received Ella.

The flight to Nanning seemed so long. Everyone commented on how it seemed longer than the 14 hour flight we all took from Chicago last Wednesday. Anticipation was playing into it for sure.

Nanning is like paradise. Bill and I are amazed at how similar to Mexico it seems. If you just change the language on the street signs you'd think you were in Playa del Carmen - minus the huge resorts. Coral colored hibiscus, hot pink bouganvilla, pink petunias, banana trees, sugar cane - they are all over here, growing wild along highways and professionally landscaped for hotels. There is farmland everywhere, and from the plane we could see that every inch of rural land is either plowed or terraced for growing fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is known as the "Green City" here in China due to its lush tropical foliage. Nanning is considered a small city in China - only 2 million people. And everyone rides a scooter here. Much fewer cars than Beijing and thousands of people on scooters and bicycles. Nanning is a direct contrast to Beijing this time of year - warm, muggy and colorful vs. cold, windy and drab. Technically Ella is from a town about 3 hours east of Nanning, but we are here because it is the capital of Guangxi Province and where we need to do all of the official paperwork.

So on to the good stuff...

After settling into the hotel for an hour, we were off to the civil building where the babies were brought by the nannies. The anticipation of our group was unbelievable. Some of us had tears in our eyes, everyone was smiling, some were shaking. We've all waited 3 years for this day to come. After what seemed like forever, one worker called each of our family names individually, checked our document and passports, and then the director of the orphanage brought our baby in and handed her to us. It was an amazing experience.

As you can see from the pictures, Ella was asleep when the director handed her to me. She slept for probably another 15-20 minutes amongst all the commotion of the other families and babies! When she did wake up, she just looked at us with her beautiful eyes and crazy hair. I'm sure we're the strangest looking people she's ever seen...we look and smell very different from what she is used to . But she didn't cry, and 24 hours later as I'm writing this she still hasn't cried at all. She seems to be very content and not fussy (so far!). She has been snuggling up to us and reaching for us. We've gotten 2 smiles out of her this morning. I think she's still in shock and just trying to soak it all in. She is a non-stop eating machine when we give her a bottle or some table food. And last night she went to bed at 8pm and we had to wake her at 7am this morning - not a peep out of her all night! (But unfortunately the beds here are just as hard as in Beijing and neither Bill nor I slept again last night!)

Ella sucks her left index finger upside down, just as I remember my youngest brother doing. She even has the same callous on it from sucking. We did hand her a pacifier last night and she took it right away and kept it in throughout the night...kind of strange considering she's almost 15 months old and has never used a pacifier, but if it makes her happy I'm all for it.

We're having a great time with the other families. You do develop a certain special bond considering we've all just gone through 'labor and delivery' together! It's fun seeing the differences in babies and their similarities due to being from the same orphanage. It seems like most were good sleepers last night, which could mean they developed that way from the orphanage schedule or maybe they were just wiped out from the long and terrifying day they had.

I'm going to try to get a nap in while Bill and Ella are napping. Ian, if Gramma is reading this to you, we miss you soooo much and can't wait to see you!

If you'd like to view more pictures of this unforgettable day, click on the More Pictures link on the top right of this page. Then click in the Day 5 - Monday folder.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 4 - Sunday

Today we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the large plaza that sits in the center of Beijing. Government buildings border it. It also holds the mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong, who was the founder of the People's Republic of China which ended the reign of emperors in China. The lines of people waiting to see the tomb stretched on for as far as you could see, and it is like that every day.

From Tiananmen Square we walked into the Forbidden City. This was the home of 24 different emperors (one at a time) and housed over 3,000 people who supported the emperor on a daily basis. The complex was forbidden to anyone but royalty, and therefore the name was derived. The complex was absolutely huge and we walked 2/3 of a mile from one end to the other.

Next we rode in rickshaws through the hutong. The hutong is the 'old' city of narrow streets and courtyard residences. Some of these houses date back 300+ years. We were fortunate enough to be invited into the home of a 290 year-old residence. It housed 3 families - the grandfather, daughter and son. The daughter gave us a talk about her family and the history of the house. The hutong area is very poor, with communal toilets and not very many amenities. The government owns a lot of the property and rents houses out very inexpensively to poor families. However the few people that own their own properties are very lucky - if they were to sell the property they could get $8,000 per square meter. The land is quite valuable as it is the center of Beijing.

Finally we ended the day with a tea ceremony. It was just what we needed to end the cold and blustery day!

For more pictures of our day, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then click on Day 4 - Sunday.

I probably won't get a chance to post tomorrow. We leave for the airport at 5:30am to fly to Nanning. At 3:00pm we get Ella! I'm sure we'll be in a for a long night. The next post you will be able to see us with our daughter!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 3 - Great Wall

Today we had a busy day. First the group toured a cloisonne factory about an hour outside of Beijing. Cloisonne is an ancient art of combining metal-working with painting. You can read more about it and see examples here. It was very interesting, but unfortunately I couldn't really view it from an art form perspective. Thanks to my safety-awareness training at work, all I could see is the potential safety hazards in the ancient production process: a man guarding his face from the kiln heat with his arms, unguarded grinders, no personal-protective equipment. I know, I'm kind of a geek to think about that stuff when I'm 6,000 miles away from home and work. Deb B - if you're reading this, can I mark this down as my February safety observation?!

Then we drove to the Great Wall at Badaling. There were people everywhere! We first took a cable car up part of the mountain, and then hiked/climbed up to another section. It was literally shoulder to shoulder with people. Fortunately we had great weather - clear and sunny and about 35 degrees. The wind was a bit brisk but it felt good to be outside in the fresh air and doing something active. I think we all felt refreshed and rejuvenated after the hike. The Great Wall is over 4,000 miles long, was built to try to keep out enemies of China, and was constructed between the 5th and 16th centuries B.C. It is estimated that 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.

I seem to be quite the novely in China - a lot of Chinese people wanted to have their pictures taken with us. I'm not sure if it's my red hair, the fact that I was wearing a pink hat and scarf with a lime-green jacket, or that we were Americans! Or maybe they're just plain friendly people!

After the Great Wall, we went to a Chinese luncheon and then to a jade factory. Jade is a precious stone that is carved into various designs by artisans.

Bill & I rested a bit back at the hotel and then caught a taxi to the Wang Jing Fu night market. It was kind of like the Times Square of Beijing, with lots of neon, fast food, stores and restaurants. But off to the left of the main drag, there was the Snack Street, with outdoor food vendors selling everything from glazed fruit on a stick to pigs intestines, starfish and crickets. All grilled before your eyes. The smell was unique to say the least, to the point of overwhelming at times. And I need to tell you that our guide, Joy, forbid Bill from eating any street food as he wanted to. We had asked her for directions on how to get there and she said "no street food - too important for you not to be sick"! Just a disclaimer stating that Bill didn't chicken out on the food...the wrath of Joy if he had become sick was too much to chance it! Next time we're in China.....

The traffic in Beijing is horrendous - all the time. There are 16.3 million people in the city, and I swear they are all in their cars at the same time on the freeways! And road signs and rules are just a 'reference' for drivers - basically if you can find an inch on a road someone will take it. We were in a taxi last night that made a right hand turn across 6 lanes of traffic from the leftmost lane! But what is amazing is that you don't see accidents everywhere, or scratched or smashed cars. They somehow all manage amongst the chaos.

Beijing is also a city of extremes - new and old. A fancy Land Rover next to a donkey pulling a cart full of bricks on the freeway; Starbucks next to a roadside noodle vendor; Burberry and Dior next to a cart selling chopsticks; the stereo-typical old Chinese man in rags walking down the street next to an obviously wealthy woman.

If you would like to view more pictures from our day, click on the More Pictures link on the top right of this page. Then choose the Day 3 - Saturday folder.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Unfortunately our bodies didn't realize that they were in a different time zone than back home. We didn't sleep much last night, even after getting to bed around 1am. At 5am we were both up and ready to go! I'm sure the fact that the beds are so hard you could literally dribble a basketball on the mattress - no kidding! The beds feel like plywood covered in a sheet!

After a nice hotel breakfast, we had an orientation meeting with our Bethany Christian Services guide. She lives in China but has studied law (if I remember correctly) in the States. She's been doing adoption guidance sine 1992 for Bethany, so she knows what she's talking about! She talked about everything from emotional state of the babies the first few days to safety in China.

Then the group walked over to a local grocery store for water and snacks for the room. It was quite comical, seeing fresh fish leap out of tanks and on to the floor as workers scrambled to wrestle them back into the tanks! Imagine that happening at Pick-N-Save! The store was very bright and colorful - the Chinese use quite a bit of 'loud' packaging to make their product stand out from the others.

After dropping off the groceries, Bill & I headed to an authentic Chinese restaurant with Jen & Jason from Minnesota. Thankfully the restaurant had picture menus, and we just pointed to what looked good. The food was awesome and we had a lot of fun with Jen & Jason.

Later in the afternoon, the group went to a Chinese Acrobat show. The show was very entertaining with lots of strength and flexibility feats.

We were pooped out after the day with very little sleep. China has a very distinct odor and feel to it. The people seem quiet and always seem to be moving with a purpose. It is very fun getting to experience Ella's birth country. Even though we've only seen a few square blocks of the area around our hotel, it has left a lasting impression on us that we will never forget.

Oh, and only 2 more days until we get our sweet Ella!

If you'd like to view more pictures of our day, click on the link at the top right corner of this page entitled More Pictures. Then choose Day 2 - Friday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Long Wait

Our flight from O'Hare ended up being delayed over 6 hours. We didn't leave Chicago until 7pm (we were originally scheduled to leave at 12:33pm). Apparently the airplane needed some maintenance and was eventually determined unable to be fixed. So we had to wait for the plane arriving from Shanghai to arrive before we could use it.
It was great getting to know the 5 other couples we'll be traveling with. We are a varied group for sure, and from all over the midwest. Our flight was thankfully uneventful, and we arrived in Beijing around 11pm or so. We were met at the airport by our agency guide, Joy, who will be with us through Nanning.

For pictures of the other couples we are traveling with, click the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then click on Day 1 - Thursday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

Kind of a lazy morning today. Our flight was supposed to leave at 12:33pm this afternoon, and they've already delayed it to 4:30pm due to aircraft maintenance. So we're going to take our time getting to the airport this morning and just hang around the hotel room for a while.

The ride down was comical. Bill got a new GPS that he was trying out. I think we got lost 4 times! He's the only guy I know that second-guesses a GPS! After 13 years of marriage, I think we've learned that we function much better with good ol' MapQuest instructions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

...And We're Off!!!

Well, this trip's been 3 years in the making, and leave it to me to still be packing the last day! Actually, we decided to head down to Chicago tonight and spend the night in a hotel due to the predicted snow/ice storm for tomorrow. Today is Bill and my 13th wedding anniversary, so maybe we can catch a decent dinner to celebrate also.

I've got everything packed for 3 people for 2 weeks. And did it into 2 checked suitcases, 1 carry-on wheely bag and a backpack. I've got everything from diapers and formula, to baby food and sunscreen. Gifts for the nannies and the orphanage director, and toys for Ella to play with in the hotel room. A thick packet of paperwork for the U.S. Consulate, and various electronics including an iPod, laptop, camera, video camera, headphones for calling home via our computer, etc. Oh, and a few clothes for Bill & I! Don't be surprised to see us in the same clothes in every picture!

Today I went to school and had lunch with Ian. He was uncharacteristically quiet. I think it's starting to hit him that he won't see us for 2 weeks. I'm sure I will miss him more than he misses me, though. He's got some fun stuff planned for the weekends that we're gone.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trip Itinerary

Today we received our itinerary for the entire trip. Here's a breakdown of what we'll be doing each day:
Feb 18 - Leave O'Hare at 12:33 pm
Feb 19 - Arrive Beijing at 4:25pm. Met at airport by guide and taken to the Days Hotel & Suites.
Feb 20 - Orientation meeting at 10am. Chinese Acrobat show in the afternoon. We hope to visit "Snack Street" (aka Beijing Night Market on Wangfujing Street) that evening for some culinary oddities!
Feb 21 - Visit the Great Wall and Cloisonne Factory
Feb 22 - Visit Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City. Take a Hutong tour in a rickshaw.
Feb 23 - Flight to Nanning. Stay at the Majestic Hotel (aka Mingyuan Xindu Hotel). Receive Ella in the afternoon!
Feb 24 - Adoption registration and notarization.
Feb 25 - Free day to spend with Ella (good - looks like we'll need a relaxing day after all the touring!)
Feb 26 - Visit Green Hill Park
Feb 27 - Receive all adoption documents. Fly to Guangzhou and stay at the White Swan Hotel.
Feb 28 - American visa pictures and medical exam.
Mar 1 - Meeting to prepare for visa appointment
Mar 2 - Visa appointment
Mar 3 - Take oath at the American Consulate and pick up visa
Mar 4 - Flight to Shanghai at 9:30am. Arrive O'Hare at 4:30pm

Monday, February 9, 2009

One Excited Big Brother!

Ian is so excited to finally have a little sister! He wanted to get something special to meet her at the airport for the first time. So yesterday we went to Build-A-Bear Workshop and Ian picked out a bunny for Ella. He made sure that it wasn't stuffed too much, so it would be nice and squishy and cuddly for his baby sister. Then he took great care in picking out the softest clothes he could find. And finally, Ian named the bunny "Bella Bunny". What a sweet gesture - I know he's going to be a great big brother!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Updates

Today we received more updated measurements, this time from our adoption agency. Here's the latest:

  • Height = 27.95"
  • Weight = 22 lbs
  • Ella now has 8 teeth!

If you noticed, these measurements are a bit different than the ones we received on 1/12/09. Ella is 1" shorter and 2 lbs heavier! It just goes to show how difficult it can be to get accurate data when you have a squirming 14-month old and different attendants doing the measuring. In the end, it is what it is, and all the measurements in the world don't come close to the feeling of pure relief and contentment when I can hold her in my arms!

We leave 2 weeks from yesterday. I'm pretty much all packed for Ella's stuff, and Bill's and my clothes will have to be packed the day prior to departure. I've got all our paperwork organized, and lists of 'Important Stuff' for Bill's mom to have on hand while she's here with Ian. Time is ticking by very slowly waiting for February 18 to roll around.