Sunday, April 28, 2013

They Put Out the Welcome Mat!

It's been just over a week since we saw this group of people waiting for us at the airport:

We started our long journey back to the US on Friday, April 19th.  We left Guangzhou, China around 9 am and took a three hour flight to Shanghai, China.  We collected our luggage, re-checked it for our international flight and joined at least four other guys from Jamie's company for our long 13 hour flight to Chicago.  Normally I don't get too excited about our long flight, but it was special because another family, that works for the same company as Jamie, was in China finalizing the adoption of their son.  

I'll be honest and tell you that I set my expectations really, really low for this flight.  I knew that LBean and EBean would be fine; they have flown this flight many times.  But, ChinaBean on the other hand, she is my loose cannon.  Not many people get excited about traveling with a 20-month old on a 13 hour flight.  I was also a teeny-tiny bit bitter about having to sit in the back of the plane in economy when Jamie had enough miles to get us into Economy Plus for free.  But, strangely enough, they're weren't 5 seats together in Economy Plus. Instead we were in the very, very back of the plane.  It actually turned out to be a wonderful place for us.  No one was behind ChinaBean and we put EBean in front of her so if she kicked a seat, it was just her big sister's (sorry EBean)!  ChinaBean surprised me and slept as we flew over Japan to western Alaska in her car seat and from Alaska to the Canadian boarder on my lap.

When we landed in Chicago it was snowing - no kidding!  We got in the longest line I have ever seen for immigration, but thankfully they moved everyone through quickly.  Many flights from the day before had been cancelled or delayed because of the extreme rain and flooding in Illinois and there were a lot of travelers at the airport.  After we collected our luggage, we had a special line we went through to hand over ChinaBean's immigration papers.  One friend, who flew into a different airport last year with her daughter from China, was sequestered in separate room for a half an hour while they processed her daughter's paperwork.  Thankfully we were all kept together and it only took about 5 minutes to process ChinaBean's papers.

We rechecked our luggage again and then crossed our fingers that the flight to Peoria would not be cancelled.  We were in luck and our last flight took off as scheduled.  As we were getting ready to land EBean looked at me and said "Let's go find a grandma!"

I did not know what to expect when we landed.  The only thing that was for certain was that my mom (my dad was also flying back from China that day, but on a later flight) and Jamie's parents would be at the airport along Jamie's cousin & aunt who would be taking pictures.  I was secretly hoping that maybe a few of my best girlfriends would be there, but I didn't know if they would be able to meet us at the airport at 9:50 at night. (Although, I knew all their kids would be in bed and dads could be at home to watch them...)

When we walked out into the airport we saw some really excited grandparents...

A "welcome home" sign...

Once I saw these excited faces...
I started to do this...
We call what I did the "ugly cry".  I might have made some loud noises along with my crying.  It was not pretty (my friends have confirmed it), but it was sincere.

We had been traveling for 36 hours.  We left 70 degree weather and landed in 30 degree weather.  I hit US soil for the first time in 6 months and for my big girls it had been 9 months.  I saw friends I hadn't seen in over a year.  And, I was celebrating the fact that our entire family, all 5 of us, were in the US together.  I really didn't know if it would ever happen.

Love from the grandparents and China Grandma (Cathy).

We made it!

This just sums it up right here!

I love seeing all of my close friends oohing and aahing over ChinaBean!

It really was a perfect ending to a long journey.  I will treasure these memories for a lifetime.  Thanks to Josie and Jan for capturing it all for us.

(And, I love that my friends know me well enough that when I send them my flight schedule that it might be my not-so-subtle hint to please come meet us at the airport!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Journey to ChinaBean's US Visa in Guangzhou, China

Our time in Guangzhou is nearly over.  In about 4 hours we'll be on a flight to Shanghai to begin our long journey back to Central Illinois.

All US adoptions are processed through Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) at the US Consulate's office.  This is where all the children obtain their US visa, so that they might fly to the US.  

We arrived on Tuesday morning after a very early start (4:30 am) to catch a plane from Wuxi to Guangzhou.  We settled into our room at the China Hotel, grabbed a quick bite from McDonald's (which happens to be next door) and then we were off for ChinaBean's medical exam.  

The medical exam is standard for all adoptive children and it was very basic.  If ChinaBean would have been older than 2 years, then she would have had a few additional requirements.

Here we are waiting for the exam to begin.

First we saw the ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor.

What terrible thing is this nurse doing to ChinaBean?!  She is taking her temperature.  ChinaBean has already developed White Coat Syndrome during her short life and does not like doctors or nurses.  I hope the Children's Hospital is ready for this feisty one!

ChinaBean (by that I me "we") survived the medical exam and our guide, Lucia, sent us back to the hotel.  Lucia stayed to wait for the medical report to be finished so we could take it to our consulate appointment on Wednesday.  We celebrated by jumping in the pool!

Pool time with Baba (daddy)
Wednesday morning was our consulate appointment.  We, along with 4 other families, met at the consulate's office just before 10 am.  We raised our right hand and took an oath swearing that the documents we were presenting were true and accurate.

At this point several things were going on.  We had three girls running around and playing  with the toys in the office.  EBean was being assertive (in a good way) and telling an aggressive little Chinese boy how it was going to be.  He kept trying to block the door to the playhouse and EBean yelled "bu ke yi" (you can't) repeatedly.  

At the same time I was begging for a little mercy because I had overlooked a small step in the paperwork and did not have one of the documents notarized.  Notary services in China require a visit to the closest consulate's office-no bank people or church secretaries to call - which for us involves a 2 hour car ride to Shanghai.  The consulate's employee was very kind, but it did require me going to the payment window to get a receipt that said $0.00 (the service was free for us) and return back to our consulate's employees window.  At this point I realized I had been in China too long.  You have to understand that China has over 1 billion people and it is survival of the fittest.  If you don't push your way to the front of the line you might not ______ (fill in the blank with: eat, get medical care, get on the elevator, etc.)  So, being under a bit of pressure, I cut in line.  And, I got called out, by a Chinese person none-the-less!  Oh boy, I need to get back to a place where people wait patiently in line because I have forgotten my manners.

We got the paperwork submitted and decided to do a quick bathroom break before our 30 minute taxi ride back to the hotel.  We were just about ready to leave and EBean got pushed/helped (accidentally?) out of the playhouse by another little Chinese boy.  She banged up her nose and was crying.  It's too bad because just minutes before she and the little boy had been playing very nicely together and it was going well enough that she kept yelling "Shen me ni de ming zi?" (What is your name?)  I don't think it's quite the proper Chinese sentence structure, but impressive still.  

I know my girls are going to roll their eyes some day at being
dressed alike.  But, to me, it says "we belong together."  
We're a family!
We celebrated our consulate appointment with a picture.  Too bad EBean is still traumatized by her experience in the play land!

After we returned to the hotel we continued the celebration with ice cream for the big sisters, mochas for the parents and a nap for ChinaBean.

We ended our day at the wonderful International Circus in Guangzhou.  It took almost an hour to get there by taxi, but it was worth it.  I love the picture below because none of my children are looking at the camera.  (I have a feeling that this is going to happen a lot in our pictures!)  All three of our girls enjoyed the acrobats, animals and performers.

I love that none of my girls are looking at the camera.
I think this will happen a lot in the future!

Yesterday was a much more relaxed day.  We met with a caseworker that will help file our first post-adoption report for China.  It is due one-month after the adoption is finalized within the child's province.  We spent the morning at the small, but fun play-ground, took a long afternoon nap while Jamie worked and then finished off with some swimming.
Yes, yes I did dress them in matching dresses again.
They didn't seem to mind!
That is a man on a mission.  Cell phone in one hand,
Starbucks in another.  Someone needs to work in this
Chinese Dim Sum delivered to our room.  Usually though,
the Dim Sum is made to look like what is inside.
Bird paste anyone?!  (I don't really think it was bird, but
it was fun to tease Jamie!) 
I told them to "smile pretty" and this is what I got!
For about a week now I have been butchering Neil Diamond's song "America" and belting it out at random times.  I am publicly admitting that I purchased the song on iTunes today and all I can say is...

We're coming to America! 

(At least through August).  See you in a few hours!

Friday, April 12, 2013

She's Officially Ours (and the Rest of the Story)

Wow- what a week!  There is so much I want to share and yet I’m not sure where to begin.  We spent Monday and Tuesday in Nanjing finalizing ChinaBean’s adoption.  It was an amazing two days that I thought may never come and yet I was fully grounded because I was chasing around 3 girls under the age of 7 years.  They insisted on acting their ages!

I would love to share a little more about our daughter’s story, but some of the details I’ll have to share with you over a yummy mocha at Starbucks.  The fine details are better shared in person!  

Adoptive families become connected with their future children in many different ways.  Some fill out their paperwork and wait for their agency to call with a referral of child that the agency feels would be a good match with the family.  Others see a child’s picture on an agency’s website or an advocacy website and submit a request to adopt a specific child.  We actually experienced both.  Early in 2012 we were called by our agency with a referral for a little boy with cleft lip and palate.  With my background in speech-language pathology and our family’s willingness to adopt a child of either gender, I actually was pretty certain that we would receive a referral like that.  And, the kicker was he was from the province where we are living, which was a secret prayer of mine.

But, we turned the referral down.  Jamie and I had a few long talks and my sweet friend Megan prayed a powerful prayer with me while I did the “ugly cry” prayer (as we secluded ourselves in my bedroom, the only private space away from my very new housekeeper - we didn’t want to scare the poor woman as two foreigners cried their eyes out) and we decided to not accept the referral.  

Just by living in China, we have been given the amazing opportunity to be aware of specific needs of the smaller orphanages.  At the same time as the referral for the little boy came in, we learned that a little girl was in a healing home.  She was recovering from a surgery that occurred while we had been in the US for Christmas.  Advocates were attempting to get her paperwork ready to be processed so that she might be matched with a forever family.  Of course, you can probably guess that our ChinaBean was that little girl!  We worked all summer and fall on submitting our paperwork to specifically adopt ChinaBean and many times we were told “wait”, “probably not”, “we’ll see” until we got that magical call on December 21st when we heard that our agency had received our Letter of Approval (LOA) from China.

December was especially difficult for me because not only had we not heard about or LOA, but I knew the clock was ticking and ChinaBean needed to preparing for her next surgery, which was by far a greater concern than any paperwork.

January brought the news that ChinaBean’s next surgery could wait until the adoption was finalized and we returned to the US with her.  And that brings us to this week!  Nanjing is done and ChinaBean is officially ours.  Next is Guangzhou and to obtain her US visa.

On our way to Nanjing:
EBean's sign 

Day 1 in Nanjing:

Isn't she pretty?!
This is what a tired toddler with no nap looks like!
Trying to get a picture for ChinaBean's adoption certificate.
Day 2 in Nanjing:
Using our right thumbprints over our signatures to
make it official.
Thumbs up! (Don't mind ChinaBean and EBean in the
background.  Big sister was trying to help dole out the
snacks, but little sister thought the snacks were being
taken away!)
ChinaBean had to do it too! 
Just a few more papers.
Answering a few questions about why we wanted
to adopt ChinaBean and promising to always take care of her.
As we were preparing to go to Nanjing, we explained to LBean and EBean about what would happen and why we were there.  Both girls asked if they had to sign any papers.  I told them no and that just mommy & daddy would sign papers.  It did get me thinking about why Jamie and I got to have all the fun, so the night before we left, I created a "Big Sister Pledge".  After Jamie and I finished signing all the papers I presented LBean and EBean with their own papers.  I read the pledge to them and they both signed their names at the bottom.  Jamie says I created some fun chatter amongst the government officials and the orphanage representatives.

I love how EBean is looking at me.  She's probably thinking
"what am I signing up for?"

Please sign here.
Good job EBean!
Jin, our Nanjing guide who helped us file all of the paperwork. 
Look at those three cuties!
This is the best we could do for a family shot.
It's hard to get 5 people looking at a camera!
Home at last!
We were greeted by a beautifully decorated entryway when we returned from Nanjing.  Friends had hung balloons, decorated signs and delivered flowers to welcome us home.  It was such a nice way to end the day.

On the other side of the world my mother-in-law decorated her mailbox to announce the arrival of her newest granddaughter.

ChinaBean's adoption announcement...yes, I know it has her name on it, but from now on she'll be ChinaBean on the blog.  You've just seen some "insider" information!

Thanks to Jamie's cousin, Josie, at Creative Touch photography
for taking my random ideas (big flowers, the color red,
and make it look like a dictionary entry) and
making them look good!

And finally, just in case you were wondering, ChinaBean is from our province too.  Divine!