Monday, March 23, 2009

One Month Ago Today....

....Ella was placed in our arms for the first time. It definately feels longer than a month ago. Ella has come so far in such little time. Her personality comes out a little more each day. She is turning into a giggly, smiley little girl.

She is soooo close to walking! She moves around rooms by holding onto furniture or walls to balance herself, and will even venture to take a couple steps to be able to reach something. For the first week, she mostly stayed confined to the living room with her toys. But now she is venturing around the house. I'm finding out quick the things that need to be baby-proofed!

And the girl can eat! As much as an adult at some meals. She eats all soft table food that we eat (she doesn't have any molars yet). And we have yet to find something she doesn't like, which works for me!

Ian is an awesome big brother. He wants to feed, hold, play, walk and cuddle with Ella. "Everything but the dirty diapers", as he tells me! He is just smitten with her. I think her favorite activity is when Ian lays down and Ella crawls all over him.

It's amazing how our family has fell into a routine. It's kind of like we've been a family for longer than just one month. Ella fits our family perfectly and we can't imagine life without her!

Enjoy some of pictures of our happy kids!

Monday, March 9, 2009

We're Home!!!

Sorry for not posting sooner....the jet lag is kicking our butts!

Our trip home was long but uneventful, thankfully. Ella slept most of the ride from China to Chicago. Unfortunately, neither Bill nor I slept due to a circus of misbehaving kids across the aisle. I was just waiting for the toddlers to give up, and after 9 hours of flying they finally did!

We made it through customs and immigration (Ella became a U.S. citizen when we passed through immigration) and walked out into the arrival hall. Bill's mom and sister had brought Ian down to meet us at Chicago! It's a good thing Ella was strapped to me in the baby carrier, because I dropped all my bags onto Bill when I saw Ian and ran (or rather waddled with a 22 lbs baby hanging from me!) over to him. I didn't realize how much I missed him until I saw him. I was so happy to finally have both my children with me that I started sobbing. Of course Ian got embarassed and asked me to stop crying - he's becoming such a little man. The others in our adoption group were standing there witnessing it all, and all the women had tears in their eyes also. Although we were so happy to finally be home, it was kind of sad to think that we won't be seeing this group of people whom we've grown close to over the last 2 weeks. We did plan to have a reunion in the summer of 2010 in Memphis (Graceland, here we come!), so that our daughters can keep ties with each other as they are 'sisters' from the orphanage.

Unfortunately the transition home has been hard. Bill and I have experienced jet lag...waking up in the wee hours of the morning because our bodies are still on China time. Bill even gave up trying to sleep and went into work at 4am last Thursday and Friday. It was Sunday before I felt like my old self. But Ella is still on China time. She's been waking up at 2am and wanting to stay awake until 6 or 7am. Then she wants to sleep all day. We've been trying to limit the napping during the day, with hopes of her sleeping more at night. Last night I was so excited because she made it to 3am before waking. Then I realized that with Daylight Savings time it was still 2am! Oh well, a girl can dream about sleep! Friday was the first of many 39th birthdays to come for me, and for my gift I asked Bill to let me take a Tylenol PM and sleep through the night in my own bed. He took care of the baby duty for the night. Best gift I've ever received!

Ian is one excited big brother. He loves to play with Ella (or rather reacquaint himself with all the baby toys he used to play with!). The only thing he's not interested in is diapers and feeding, as "that is just gross, Mom"!!! He always wants to give Ella a bottle, burp her and hold and snuggle her. And he's such a good helper for me. And he had the house decorated with Welcome Home signs and balloons.

We can't thank enough all the friends and family that have supported and prayed for us. We couldn't have done this without you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goodbye China

Here we are on Day 13 already. We leave at 5:45am tomorrow. Today we had the famous "Red Couch" picture. For all adoptive families that stay at the White Swan, it has become a tradition to take a picture on the red couches that are in the lobby. All the girls wore traditional Chinese silk dresses. (I'm bringing a whole suitcase of them home - they are only about $5 each!!!)

After the picture, we all loaded onto a bus and headed over to the American Consulate. It was a welcoming sign to see the U.S. flag. We were handed our daughter's passport with a visa stamp inside. This visa indicates that the moment she steps foot on American soil, she will be a citizen of the U.S. The administrator at the Consulate told us that they have processed over 70,000 adoption visas for U.S. families that have adopted from China, making that Consulate the busiest in the world for adoption visas. All the families had to raise their right hands and take an oath stating that all information that has been provided to the government is correct and that we intend on being the new parents of our daughter. Unfortunately they did not allow cameras so there are no pictures.

Tomorrow will be a bittersweet day. On one hand, our daughter will become a U.S. citizen. On the other, Ella is leaving her home country, its heritage, and the only 'sisters' she's ever known. Tomorrow also marks the one year anniversary of the death of my grandfather. He would have wanted so much to see another great-grandchild of his. I'm sure he would have been tickled to meet Ella and see her personality.

We have made some wonderful friends on this trip. We hope to stay in touch for years to come, with annual reunions and periodic updates of how the 'sisters' are doing. It's been amazing to see the progression in each of the girls just since a week ago when they were handed to us. I can't imagine what a month at home will do!

We can't wait to get home and see Ian - we have missed him very much. Thanks to all who have emailed and posted well-wishes to us....we love to read them! We just can't wait to get home and start the next part of our life together as a family with our new daughter!

If you would like to view more pictures from our last day in Guangzhou, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the folder called Day 13 - Tuesday.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday - Day 12

Another free day for us. Bill, Ella and I explored the hotel a bit more. There are 2 beautiful pools, and we brought our swimsuits. But unfortunately the weather has been gloomy and only in the 60's. It doesn't stop Bill from wearing shorts though!

Then we found the Swan Room. It's a playroom sponsored by Mattel in the hotel. That's how many adopted babies come through this hotel - enough to warrant a manufacturer to sponsor a playroom.

In the afternoon we took a taxi to the Guangzhou Folk Art Museum. It is a complex of buildings dating back to an emporer in the 1800's. The architecture was beautiful. My favorite exhibit was the embroidery that this province (Guangdong) is known for. It was so detailed and intricit that it looked like an oil painting.
I most likely won't be able to post again until after we're home. Tuesday we'll be packing and later in the afternoon going to the U.S. Consulate to take the oath for Ella's citizenship. We leave for the airport quite early Wednesday morning.

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 Day 12 - Monday folder.

Sunday - Day 11

Sunday was a very relaxing day for us. We had nothing scheduled and were able to enjoy Shaiman Island. Cathy flew back to Shanghai around noon, and then Jen (MN) and I did a lot of shopping! I have no idea how I'm going to bring it all home!

For dinner, our guide took us to a wonderful Italian restaurant. We had a birthday cake and celebrated all the girls 1st birthdays, as we had missed them while they were in the orphanage. Ella loves anything sweet, so the cake and frosting were a hit.

After the dinner, Jen, Jason and Addison strolled along the Pearl River with Bill, Ella and me. It is a lovely, quiet island and it was beautiful to look across the river at bright and bustling Guangzhou.

Ella is doing wonderfully. She snuggles up to us, and we even got belly laughs from her last night when Bill tickled under her armpits! And of course we're falling in love with her more and more each day. I just wish Ian was here to bond with his mei mei (little sister).

To view more pictures of our day, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the folder called Day 11 - Sunday.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Last night my friend Cathy met us at the airport in Guangzhou. She is living in Shanghai with her family for 3 years and flew in to stay with us for the weekend. Here is a picture of Ella opening her first 'Welcome the Family' gift from Cathy.

We are staying at the White Swan Hotel. It is the most beautiful hotel we've stayed at so far this trip. It has a waterfall in the lobby, and many Chinese antiques. There is a coy pond and even a huge birdcage filled with songbirds.

The White Swan is located on Shaiman Island. The island is on the Pearl River and was originally settled by the English and French back in the 19th century. All the architecture is very European. It is very laid-back and relaxing compared to the cities in China. The streets are lined with trees, boulevards have parks in the center, and there are very few cars. There are a couple of big hotels on the island and many shops that cater to the tourists who are staying at the hotels. Every adoptive family from the U.S. must come to Guangzhou to go through the American Consulate, and most families stay on Shaiman Island. We are definately not an oddity being a Caucasian couple with a Chinese baby like we were in Nanning. The breakfast buffet at the White Swan is lined with high chairs. We've met so many new families with daughters from all over China. Of course I think we have the cutest one!

As a requirement of the American government, Ella had to have her first medical exam today. It was quite cursory, with a quick check of temerature, height (30 inches), weight (23 lbs - yes, she is a chunk!!!), hearing and heartbeat.

After the medical exam, Cathy took Jen (MN) and I shopping. She's quite the bargainer and able to converse somewhat in Mandarin with the shopkeepers. She drives a hard bargain and sticks to her guns. Jen and I bought so much that we also had to have Cathy bargain for a new suitcase to haul all the stuff home - and we each got a suitcase for the equivalent of $11 each!

My sweet husband watched Ella for the evening and told Cathy and I to go out to dinner and have a drink. We ended up at a wonderful Thai restaurant and talked for 2 hours over a bottle of wine and some seafood. Who knew I'd have to come all the way to China to have a long, uninterrupted chat with one of my dearest friends?!

If you'd like to view more pictures from our first day in Guangzhou, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the folder called Day 10 - Saturday.

Day 9 - Friday

Didn't do too much today. Packed up the suitcases to head to Guangzhou this evening. I haven't bought many souveniers so far, but my suitcases sure aren't packing as nicely as they did before!

It's the last day in Ella's province. I think all the families are ready to move on to the next leg of our trip. It is sad to think that we are taking Ella from the only place she's ever known though.

We've had many interesting encounters with food here. Most everything we've tried is very good. However there are some things we haven't tried. There was a super-long cafeteria style restaurant near the hotel. Bill took some pictures of the menus.

If you'd like to view more pictures from our last day in Nanning, click on the More Pictures link at the top right of this page. Then choose the Day 9 - Friday folder. You may be able to zoom in on some of the menu pictures to get an idea of what kinds of food are available.