Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 14: Dec 25, Christmas Day

By crossing the International Date Line on our way home, we ended up with a 37 hour day, and arrive home Christmas night. Here, Julia waits in front of our United flight that will take us from Beijing to Chicago.

By the time we reached home, we were all exhausted, and I didn't get pictures of the 5 kids together for the first time. I was too busy hugging and kissing on all 5 of my kiddos. We didn't get home until after 11pm, and after unloading the car and showing Julia the house, we were up until after 3am.
None of us are really back on a good sleep schedule yet, but the kids are a lot closer than Scott and me. Jet lag is much worse coming home than going on the trip. Oh well.
As of today, Dec 30, all 5 kids are getting along. Of course we have rivalries and territory issues, but all in all, all 7 of us are adjusting.
Next time, I promise a picture of all 5 kiddos together.

Day 13: Dec 24, Visa Day

Julia now has an American IR3 Visa in her Chinese passport. This means that she will be a U.S. Citizen as soon as she arrives in the U.S. Our final hurdle is complete. In less than 24 hours, we begin the long journey home.

Day 12: Dec 23, Consulate Appointment

Our paperwork was delivered to the American Consulate Tues Dec 23 to get Julia's Visa to come home. We had to stay in our hotel room during the appointment time just in case they had to call with a problem. Julia used this time to dress up in her gold princess dress.

We did not get a call from the Consulate's office, so all must be well.

Day 11: Dec 22, Guangzhou, Medical Visit

Monday Dec 22 was Julia's medical appointment to get the appropriate medical forms to submit with her US Visa application. After our appointment, we went to a local park to play, and had a dinner cruise at night.

The White Swan Hotel does a lot of adoptive family business, and they delivered each of us a special Adoption Barbie Doll (Barbie with a Chinese baby). Julia did her best to get us to open it up, but we are saving it for her as a keepsake.

Our hotel from the dinner river cruise...

Guangzhou from the cruise...

The parks here are set up for the whole community to exercise. Young and old can complete a circuit for strength training, cardio, and flexibility. Exercise is an everyday portion of Chinese culture, and the elderly are nearly as flexible as the children.

Oh yeah, notice above the jeans, denim jacket, and pink Mary Jane shoes. This is one stylish little girl.

Day 10: Dec 21, Free day in Guangzhou

This day we went on a little sightseeing and shopping expedition. Juila and Daddy were sporting new sunglasses for the occasion.

Our entire group at Memorial Hall in Guangzhou...

I didn't get pictures of the shopping center, but it was a huge, multi-story mall packed with a maze of shops about the size of a small storage shed each. Pearls, jade and silver jewelry were the specials of this trip, and we enjoyed finding a few deals for the girls.
After shopping, we met up with Julia's schoolmate and his new family for dinner at Lucy's restaurant. We let the kids share an American Fried Chicken dinner (chicken strips, french fries, and onion rings). Neither of them would eat the chicken, but they had a good time with the fries and onion rings. They had us all giggling with their dinner chatter, and clinking their apple juice drinks together before they drank. We were dining at an outside table, so when the kids were done eating, they got up and danced on the sidewalk next to us. Very cute.

Day 9: Dec 20, Guangzhou

Disclaimer: Yes, I know I am a week behind in posting these and I am sorry. But really, I am just happy to be slowly catching up. :-)

We flew from Guilin to Guangzhou on the 20th. Our hotel was the White Swan Hotel, and It was absolutely beautiful. At home the kids reported that there would be a white Christmas, but here it was in the 60's, breezy, and a light jacket was all that was required.

This waterfall is in the main courtyard area of the hotel. The pond at the bottom is full of beautiful fish.

The hotel has the "Swan Room" on the ground floor, it is a very nice, clean, air conditioned play room. We spent a little time each day here playing with new friends, and meeting up with a very special old friend too. One of Julia's friends from her school was adopted by another American couple through another agency, but we were able to exchange info with them in Guilin, and met up for dinners and playtime as we both completed our adoptions.

And the pictures just wouldn't be complete without pictures of Julia's first ever plane trip.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 8: Dec 19, Guilin

So what happens when you try and snap beautiful scenic pictures with a 6 year old??? What you cannot see is the tour group that stopped behind me to laugh and giggle which just egged her on more. Oh well. This is real life right here.

One of Guilin's famous landmarks is the elephant trunk mountain. It is naturally created and exquisite to see in person.

The highlight of today was visiting Julia's orphanage and school. I really didn't know what to expect before we went. We knew that she was found at the front gate of the orphanage, but there was so much we didn't know. It was an orphanage for disabled children, and there were many children with Downs syndrome, wheelchairs, missing limbs, and some obvious physical ailments. We found out that her foster family lived a few blocks away, and there was a market between her former home and school. The school was located inside the orphanage.
What I could never have anticipated was what happened when Julia went in the front gate. She was barely a few steps inside the gates when a nurse called her by her Chinese name. She ran to the nurse for hugs and kisses. Word spread that she had returned, and soon nurses and teachers were there calling her name and she ran to each of them with a big smile and received a hug from each. We could not understand most of the words between her and the adults that helped to raise her, but we could see love on all of their faces. The most precious gift we received this morning was to see first hand that she had been cared for, in her foster home and in her school. We didn't need an interpreter to understand as she pointed out her Mama and Baba to each adult that welcomed her.
We were greeted as honored guests, but really we were there to honor them. We had the opportunity that many adoptive parents do not get. We saw how she interacted, and all of the adults in the orphanage thanked us for adopting Julia. But, I am the one who owes a debt that I can never repay to these wonderful, loving people who loved my daughter until I could bring her home.
I am sure that most people who will read this have heard horror stories about orphanages in China, especially for disabled children. We did not experience that. What we saw was a clean, organized, maintained facility and adults who cared for our daughter. Sceptics may say that is all for show, but trust me 6 year old kids don't fake this kind of response. It wasn't rehearsed or coerced. This was love between a child and her caregivers.

And, this is a little girl who got to show off her new Mama and Baba...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beautiful Song...

Merry Christmas by Third Day is a song I heard for the first time today. I am so glad that this Christmas she is home. I will complete the travel days as I recover from jet lag and upload more pictures. But we are home safe and sound, and Julia met all her siblings on Christmas night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 7: Dec 18, Julia's 6th Birthday updated with Li River Cruise pictures

I wish I could share pictures today, but the connection just isn't cooperating. Sorry. (Updated with cruise pictures) We started the day with the Li River Cruise, a 5 hour boat trip to see the beautiful mountains surrounding Guilin. Then we finished off with Julia's 6th birthday dinner that we were able to share with her Chinese foster family. It was a very special privilege to meet them. She joined their family when she was only 8 months old, and was with them over 5 years. We are both so very happy to see how much she was loved and cared for. Her foster mom also explained to us what she has done over the years to help Julia compensate for her special needs. Today was a very special day indeed.

Day 6: Dec 17, Daddy and Julia Day

It wasn't planned to be this way, but day 6 was Daddy and Julia's time together while Mommy was in bed recovering from traveler's tummy. :-( We had a 5 hour train ride to Guilin, where Julia is originally from. Mommy then went to bed at the hotel and Daddy and Julia had the afternoon out with David, our coordinator. Julia made out pretty good on this little outing, coming back with a panda bear purse, and lunch all over herself. :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 5: Dec 16, Adoption Day

On the way to the Civil Affairs and the Notary's office to become Julia's permanent legal parents.

Julia loves her new doll. She hasn't had a doll before, and she has changed the doll's clothes many, many times already. She has us in stitches watching her teach the doll to "walk."

Waiting at the Notary's office.

She loves steps. She knows very little English, but everytime we go up and down steps we count to 10. She is getting pretty good at it.

Since our first meal together, Julia has been asking for a hamburger at McDonald's. She actually didn't eat much of the hamburger, but polished off the french fries and ice cream with gusto.

Today's checklist:
1. Complete Adoption Paperwork
2. Buy new shoes... must be pink
3. Buy a new Barbie. Forget the Chinese Barbie, she wants blond, blue eyed Barbie
4. Eat at McDonald's

We are now officially Julia's Forever Family.

Day 4: Dec 15, Gotcha Day!

After all the waiting, we are finally here. Gotcha Day arrived, and Julia ran into the meeting room at full speed yelling "Mama, Baba (Daddy)." Big smiles all around. CHI has been preparing us for possible screaming and crying, but we haven't had any yet. She did ask David why her foster mother cried this morning when she left, and David explained that it was hard for her foster mom to say goodbye. Tomorrow we finalize the adoption registration documents and we will officially be her forever family.

Play time...

Watching Disney movies on the computer...

New baby doll...

On the way to the hotel...

Here we all are...

Looking at the Christmas lights outside the hotel...

Showing off her new clothes...

She loves the mirror in the elevator...

This one just might become one of my favorite pictures ever...

Till tomorrow,
Erika, the one with 5 kids.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 4: Dec 15, Waiting

There are exactly 4 hours to go until we leave the hotel to pick up Julia. Scott is calmly sitting in a chair, reading a book. I cannot sit. I cannot read. I am a mess. I have surfed all the blogs I follow, and that only took one hour. We discovered a lovely trail by the river and took a beautiful walk after breakfast. I had the best sleep of our entire trip last night so I am physically doing well, but my mind is going a million miles an hour. The camera is charged, all 12GB of memory sticks are cleared off and ready to go. Her new backpack is ready with gotcha day gifts, and the rest of her presents and clothes are stacked on the table in our room.

Next time, I promise the photos of a lifetime. :-)

Day 3 Dec 14, Continued: This made us laugh....

Today we had to load up on kid-snacks and juice boxes, so where else would we go???

Day 3: Dec 14, Nanning

We arrived at our hotel to find it lit up for Christmas. The entire lobby is surrounded with mini twinkling lights , and there is even a "snow covered" house in the back. According to our coordinator, David, this is about as close to snow as Nanning sees. He said they have a green Christmas instead of a white Christmas.

David has been fabulous at making us feel welcome and answering our million and two questions.

This is the little walkway just a few steps down from our hotel. When CHI said they were putting us in nice hotels, they weren't exaggerating. The hotel in Beijing and the one here are beautiful.

This is part of the newer section of Nanning. Lots of construction in a city of 6.4 million people, but all still very beautiful.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 2: Beijing Dec 13, The Great Wall of China

Mac's Team visited the Great Wall of China today!!! We love you Mac!!!
See the first watch tower? We climbed up to there and then turned around. Those steps really do go straight up.

We also visited the Forbidden City, and Tiannamen Square today, but the Great Wall was by far the most spectacular.
Tomorrow, we fly to Nanning...