Monday, June 27, 2011

Homecoming Pictures

Here are a few pictures of our arrival in Peoria, with thanks to our dear friend Lisa S!

Family and friends waiting to meet us!

It was so nice to be so warmly welcomed home!

Our new American citizen, taking it all in.

Elizabeth wore a shirt that said "jie jie" (big sister) and Evan's said "ge ge" (big brother). Amelia's shirt said "Made in China."
Our sweet girl!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's good to be home!

on the train to Hong Kong

the LONG flight to Chicago

only 7779 miles to go!

It is so nice to be home again! We are settling in and beginning to figure our days and nights out. It's wonderful to be able to drink water from the tap, to eat fruits and vegetables, and to sleep in our own beds. Our wonderful care group from church had stocked our fridge for us with lots of yummy things, and we have been receiving meals from our Sunday school class. We are very blessed to have such a wonderful church family!

It seems as though many people have the same questions, so in case you're wondering, I'll answer some of them here.

1. How is Amelia adjusting?
She is doing very well overall. She had a horrible night Friday night -- she was up for the better part of the night crying inconsolably. We think she figured out that this is the last stop and that she's not going back to her orphanage. It didn't seem to matter what we did or even if we were in the room with her. We tried everything; she just didn't want us. It was miserable for all of us. We have been trying to stay awake during the day to recover from jet lag, but when you can't sleep at night either it's pretty rough! Thankfully, that seems to have been her one bad night. Since then she has been sleeping really well. She is playful and active and smiley during the days, especially here at home. She gets shy and won't smile when we're in new situations or around new people. She also doesn't like to smile when we have the camera out! Developmentally she seems to be doing well. She babbles a lot and has said mama, dada, and Amelia. She can go up the stairs easily but doesn't know how to go down. We can tell that she hasn't been read to. She doesn't know what to do with books and pushes them shut when we try to read to her. We'll keep working on that!

2. How are the other kids doing?
It seems that our immune systems may be a bit compromised due to all the travel, as Evan and Elizabeth have both been sick in the last couple of days. Evan woke up with a fever and sore throat over the weekend, and Elizabeth has been feeling poorly and sleeping all day today. It took Amelia a few days to warm up to them, which was especially hard on Elizabeth. She felt a little rejected and thought she wasn't being a good sister. Now that Amelia enjoys them more, things are going better. Elizabeth likes sharing her room so far.

3. What about Amelia's special need?
She was born with clubbed feet, which have already been corrected. She looks a little bow-legged, which we will ask her doctor about next week, but she walks fine and doesn't seem to have any trouble. We are thankful that her need seems to be so very minor!

Overall, things are going very well, and we are so thankful! I think the most challenging thing now is knowing how to balance meeting Amelia's need for bonding and attachment with our need not to let a toddler dominate our home. We are teaching her what "no" means while making sure she feels loved and safe. It's impossible to know whether some of her behaviors are adoption related or just stem from being a toddler! Please pray for wisdom for us as we set boundaries for her while helping her feel secure and loved.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. And a boat.

Well, we're home! I'm feeling the effects of jet lag tonight, but here's a quick update. I hope it makes sense! Our last evening in Guangzhou we went on a dragon boat cruise of the Pearl River with some other Holt families. It was amazing and one of the highlights of our trip. The boat was beautiful, and our guide made arrangements so that we could sit on the top deck. The buildings and bridges are all lit up, and we cruised past Guangzhou Tower, which is the tallest building in China. The lights on the tower change color and it is so cool to watch!

Wednesday morning we packed everything (again), spent the last of our Chinese money, and ate lunch at the Deli Shop near the White Swan hotel. They have amazing ham and cheese buns -- we ate them two days in a row! We met our guide at 3:00 and drove by the US Consulate to pick up Amelia's passport with visa on the way to the train station. Praise the Lord that it was ready on time with no problems. We got to the train station plenty early and waited with our guide. She was very helpful with buying our tickets, arranging for a porter to help with our luggage, and telling us what to do when it was time to board the train. We had to go through customs and immigration since we were leaving mainland China for Hong Kong. The train ride was pleasant, and we arrived in Hong Kong around 8:00. Another guide met us at the station, helped us with our bags, and had a van to take us to the Regal Airport Hotel. Wow! This was by far the nicest hotel we stayed in; too bad we were only there for twelve hours. The rooms were huge and it smelled fresh and clean -- a nice change after the musty feeling of our hotel in Guangzhou.

Thursday morning we walked from the hotel through an enclosed walkway to the airport. We had decided a couple of days before to purchase a ticket for Amelia, and the very helpful United agent moved all of our seats so we could all sit together. We are so glad we had that extra seat, because Amelia slept about half of the fourteen-hour flight in it! Once again, it was L-O-N-G, but everyone traveled well, and we made it to Chicago! As soon as the plane landed, Amelia became a US citizen. We had to go through immigration, customs, hand over her visa packet, go through security, and Mark had to check in for the last flight because of some computer error in Hong Kong that wouldn't let him check in for both flights at once. We made it to our gate with just enough time to grab some dinner. All three kids slept on the flight to Peoria.

What a welcome sight it was to see many family and friends there to greet us! We are so thankful for our church's orphan ministry and for the support we have had all along this journey! It was a blessing to be met with signs, balloons, hugs, and smiles from so many people! We got to our own sweet home around 7:30, approximately 24 hours after beginning the trip. Amelia loved exploring the house and even climbed our whole staircase by herself. She evidently had not seen grass before, as she resolutely refused to walk on it and cried when we tried to set her down in it!

We are so grateful to the Lord for how smoothly everything went during our trip. We had NO problems at all with travel, connections, finding our various guides, any paperwork, or sickness. Praise God, and THANK YOU to all who prayed for us so faithfully! It was a great experience, and now we are happy to be home again!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Consulate appointment

This morning Mark, Amelia, and I got up bright and early for our appointment at the US Consulate. We had to apply for Amelia's visa, which will be issued tomorrow, and then we can come home! Because we are staying at the Victory Hotel, we were on our own for transportation to the consulate, so our agency helped us book a car through the hotel. Everything was going smoothly and I was just feeling thankful that we were in a private car with Amelia sleeping on my shoulder. And then, about five minutes before we arrived at the consulate, she threw up. All over me and herself. And just as we got our wits about us and realized what was going on, the second wave came. We tried to mop ourselves off with baby wipes and got a little panicked as we saw she had blessed the inside of the rented car as well. We think she was just car sick, as she has seemed fine ever since. But just let me say that there will be no more strawberry milk around here anytime soon! So feeling yucky and wet, we made it to the consulate appointment. There were twelve families at the 8:30 appointment. We took an oath as a group saying that all our paperwork was true and then they called each family up to a window to sign one last form. That was it! We rode back to the hotel in the same car, which thankfully the driver had cleaned up while we were gone, tipped the poor man, and showered immediately.

We did a bit more shopping, and I think we are all done now. The question has become whether or not we need to buy an extra suitcase to get it all home! Amelia is napping right now, and I have an "exit meeting" to go to soon. Tonight we are planning on taking a cruise on the Pearl River with our Holt group, and tomorrow we prepare to come home.

sleepy girl

beautiful Shamian island

one of many bridal couples we have seen getting their pictures taken

some of the many shops on the island

Safari Park

We spent the day today at the safari park here is Guangzhou.  It was great!  The park is so big -- we didn't have time to see all the animals in the five or six hours we were there.  We started by taking a trolley ride through part of the park.  The animals are very close to the trolley and easy to see.  The funniest thing was the camels; there were six or eight of them chasing each other around in circles!  I'd never seen camels running before, but it was worth the trip!  After the trolley ride we walked through the other part of the park and saw the elephant and tiger shows.  The kids all enjoyed the park, and it was a great way to spend the day.

The weather has really been pretty nice.  It's not as hot as we had feared since there has been some rain, but it is SO humid here.  The sheets on the bed feel damp all the time, even with the AC on.  There is a somewhat musty smell everywhere, and our allergies are beginning to act up.  

Amelia is still doing well.  She does great all day and doesn't like it when either of us are out of her sight, which is a good sign that she is bonding with us.  She will even let me hold her when Mark is around, which is a big change from a couple of days ago.  The last two nights she has had a harder time falling asleep and has woken up in the night crying.  We think that as she is beginning to attach to us she is more afraid of us not being there when she wakes.  We're trying to help her through this however we can.  We have to remember that she has only been with us for six days, and she really is doing amazingly well.  During the day she is happy, giggly, and fun.  And she is SMART.  Twice now she has followed directions we have given her in English, and she has said "Amelia" a couple of times.  She has a couple of orphanage behaviors that we need to work on (hitting, for one) but overall she is very well-behaved.  She can sit patiently in a high chair with nothing to entertain her for an impressively long time!

We are still having some internet trouble, but I'm going to try to attach a few pictures from today.  We are ready to come home!

Pearl market pictures

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  Two are from our trip to the pearl market, and the other two are just too cute not to share!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jade and Pearl markets

This will be a short post today.  We have been having trouble accessing the internet at all from our laptop, so I am using the computer that came with the hotel room. (?!)  I can't upload pictures to this computer, but hopefully we'll be able to figure something out tomorrow.  Maybe our laptop will work from Starbucks? 
We went to the jade market and pearl market this afternoon with our Holt group.  It was crazy.  We found some beautiful things and were able to do pretty well bargaining on the prices.  But I've never seen anything like it before.  The jade market was like a huge flea market, only everyone was selling the same things.  It was hot and smoky, but worth a trip anyway.  The pearl market is basically a six-story shopping mall filled with only jewelry stores -- pearls, silver, colored beads, etc.  We bought Elizabeth and Amelia each a strand of pearls for when they are older.  We chose the pearls we liked, and the girls in the store strung them while we waited. 
We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner called Cow and Bridge.  We waited a long time (which seems to be the norm here) but the food was excellent.  Again, there were many things on the menu that in my opinion shouldn't be classified as food, but we all found something that was tasty and not scary.
Tomorrow if the weather is nice we are going to go with the other Holt families to the Safari park.  This is something our kids have been looking forward to, so I hope we are able to go.  We are all getting ready to be home.  We miss the food, especially fruits and vegetables.  I am very tired of not knowing where anything is and trying to live out of five suitcases and seven carry-on bags.  Please pray that we will finish our time here well and with good attitudes.  Please pray also for our flight home.  We didn't buy a seat for Amelia, and it's going to be a LONG ride home.  Right now there is a seat next to our five that is open.  We would be so thankful if it stayed that way so we would have a little room to spread out.  Good night from Guangzhou!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A few more pictures

Here are a few more pictures of our girl. They were taken in the playroom in Wuhan.

Guangzhou Day 1

Yesterday was a long day. We spent the morning getting everything packed again and headed down to the hotel restaurant to have lunch. We decided to take a chance and ordered "American hamburgers." They came eventually and looked wonderful. However, upon first bite we realized that they were barely cooked. Nearly raw inside. And we were the only ones in the restaurant, which meant there were at least six very attentive wait staff waiting anxiously to see how we liked everything. Pleasing us is VERY important to all of the hotel staff we have encountered. We were able to communicate that we had wanted the meat "well done" and they took our plates back to the chef. Shortly thereafter, we got them back again. The same ones, cooked just a little bit more. By this time, it was time for us to check out and be ready to leave for the airport, so we each took a couple of tentative bites and left the rest, thankful we would not be returning for another meal.

Our guide was waiting for us, so we quickly checked out and headed back to the Civil Affairs office where we picked up Amelia's passport and a few other important papers. She slept through the whole time there. I was glad that she didn't have to wonder why we were going back to the place where her nannies left her. We got to the airport, checked in, and found that our flight was delayed. We finally took off at 7:45 and arrived in Guangzhou around 9:15. After claiming our luggage, finding our guide, and driving to the hotel it was very late and all the kids were exhausted. The adults were, too! But our hotel here has soft beds, so we had a good night's sleep.

Amelia's first plane ride. She did well, as long as Daddy was holding her.

We are loving Guangzhou! We are staying at the Victory Hotel (west building, for anyone making travel plans soon), and it is very nice. It feels smaller and quieter than the other places we have been. We have a balcony, and there is a Starbucks just around the corner. The bathroom is huge, with a separate shower and deep tub. The hotel is located on Shamian Island, a very small island that caters much to adopting families. It is so nice to be able to walk around without worrying about being run over! This little island used to belong to the British, so the architecture is quite different than the rest of China.

One of many statues on the island

Amelia had her medical examination this morning that she needs to get her US visa. The clinic was not crowded today, and it really didn't take long at all. They checked her height and weight, ears, nose and throat, and did a brief exam. She passed with no problems and was very good.

Tomorrow we will be going to the pearl and jade markets with our Holt group in the afternoon. Otherwise we have a free day. We did some shopping today and plan to do more tomorrow. Amelia continues to do well. She never did have a major grieving spell; she has just become less and less quiet and shy. Today she has been giggling and smiling at all of us, and once when she saw me in the hotel hallway she came running to me with her arms up. God is good!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We have giggles!

We are finally seeing a happy girl! Last night in the tub she was playing with stacking cups and all of a sudden made a little giggle. After that it was like we had a different girl! Not only is she happier, she is eating better and seems stronger already. The first day we had her she was very wobbly and could hardly stand herself up from the floor. Last night she was practically running between the two hotel rooms and getting up and down easily. Praise God that she is doing better so soon!

We leave this evening for Guangzhou, and we will be glad to get there. We have tried hard to really enjoy our time in Amelia's province, but it will be nice not to be the only Westerners anywhere to be seen. People look at us and try to figure us out. You can tell that they kind of understand the white family with the Asian baby, but then they see Evan. . . and don't have any idea what to do with that! Our next hotel is said to have softer beds also, which will be nice. The ones here are pretty much like sleeping on the floor. We brought pool rafts to put on the beds which has helped some, but it's still not quite right. I'm off to finish packing. We leave at 2:00 to pick up Amelia's passport and then head to the airport.

Yellow Crane Tower

Before I get to today, I need to write about our dinner experience last night. With directions from our guide, we started out for a walk to a Pizza Hut. We finally saw the sign, but apparently the restaurant is being renovated, because it looked completely destroyed inside. We must have looked hungry, because someone outside handed us a brochure for another restaurant inside this shopping mall we were in front of. We finally found it, and we were greeted at the door by a very friendly young lady who spoke a little English. We were quite the attraction being Westerners. We were seated in a private banquet room that said "VIP" over the door. Amelia was so good. She sat up on a big chair the whole time without making a fuss. The menu was huge. There were some things on it that we wouldn't touch (pig bowels, anyone?) but we found lots of things that looked good. We ordered a pizza, two ribeye steaks, a bowl of spaghetti, a lasagna, and five sprites, and our total bill was around $38. The waiters shut the door to our little room after they delivered the food so we could eat in private. Quite an experience!

Today we went to see the Yellow Crane Tower, one of the most popular sites in Wuhan. The first tower was built 1700 years ago, and it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. This tower was built in 1984. It was quite a walk to the top carrying a very heavy baby, I can tell you! It wasn't too hot today, but we were all drenched due to the humidity.

This afternoon we went swimming at the hotel again. Amelia wasn't too excited about it, although she did eventually let Mark hold her in water up to her shoulders.

When we left the tower, we stopped at the notary office to pick up some of the documents we need to take to Guangzhou. Tomorrow afternoon we will check out of the hotel at 2:00, stop by the registrar's office to pick up Amelia's passport, and then head to the airport. Our flight to Guangzhou leaves around 7:00 pm and arrives at 8:30. Thank you to everyone who has commented or sent e-mails -- your messages are so encouraging to us!

The millenium bell from the Yellow Crane Tower

view of Wuhan from the top of the tower

Amelia ate a whole cup of oatmeal today. She hadn't been eating much, so we were thankful to see her eat this well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Official!

This morning we returned to the Civil Affairs office to register the adoption.  The official there asked us several questions, we signed lots of papers by stamping our fingerprints in red ink, and Amelia even signed with a red footprint.  Amelia's nannies were there again, and we saw our first smiles from her when she saw them.  They are both so sweet and obviously really love her.  When we finished at the Civil Affairs office we drove to the notary office, where our guide dropped off the paperwork to get Amelia's passport.  We came back to the hotel and had lunch in our room and then went to play in the hotel's play/exercise area.  Then Mark, Elizabeth, and Evan swam in the hotel pool (swim caps included) and I brought Amelia back to the room so she could take a nap.  When she wakes up we'll venture out for a walk and to find some dinner.  Last night we survived our first street crossings, which felt a lot like playing Frogger!  Hopefully we'll be able to find some place to eat this evening.

Amelia is doing extremely well, given what she's been through.  She fusses occasionally for just a short time, but she still hasn't had a major breakdown.  She is beginning to respond to her name.  (We've tried calling her Ran Ran, which is what the nannies called her, but we can't even come close to saying it correctly enough for her to understand.)  She will let both of us hold and feed her, which is a huge blessing.  She still prefers Mark, and when he and the kids left to go swimming she stood at the door and pointed, wanting to follow him.  She is beginning to show a bit more of her personality.  Yesterday she just sat and observed everything quietly.  Today she is letting us know more of what she wants and doesn't want by pointing or pushing things away, and she is beginning to babble a little.  She is walking on her own but seems a little unsteady.  We will have to make sure she gets lots of practice with her leg muscles.  She does really like to walk holding our hands.  We're still trying to figure out how well potty-trained she is.  She woke up dry this morning and went in the toilet when we set her there.  But it doesn't always work quite like that.  I am beginning to wish I had bought pull-ups yesterday instead of diapers.  She has a bit of a cough that woke her several times in the night last night.

We're having trouble accessing blogger today, so I'm sending this post by e-mail.  There are six photos attached.  I don't know how they will display.  Hopefully our VPN will be working again soon.  Thank you for all the comments and e-mails.  It's truly encouraging to read them!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A few more pictures

Sleepy girl on the way back to the hotel

She took a nap on the bed this afternoon.

Amelia did well with her bath -- no crying!

Daddy gave her a bedtime bottle, and she fell asleep in his arms.

We have her!

We have Amelia! So far she is doing very well. Our guide called us this morning to say that the orphanage workers had brought her to Wuhan last night, so we could meet her this morning instead of this afternoon. So we got our things together and headed to the Civil Affairs Office.
When we arrived we took an elevator to the 3rd floor. We turned a corner and I could see that Amelia was already there with two of her nannies. We took things slowly and let the nannies continue to hold her. There was a play room that we went into, and she began to check us all out.
So far she has seemed sad and confused, but she hasn't really cried much. She is a heavy girl! And so pretty! I can't wait to see her smile! The nannies told us that she is beautiful and very smart and a favorite at the orphanage.
We filled out a paper saying that we would take custody of her for 24 hours. Tomorrow we will go back to the office and fill out the paperwork to make the adoption official. We were all doing well until it was time for us to leave and her nanny started to cry. That made all the rest of us cry too! We are so pleased with the care she received in the orphanage. They gave us several keepsakes today, including a beautifully labeled photo album filled with pictures of her. We also received the clothes she was wearing when she was found, a copy of her finding ad and the note that was found with her, a picture she colored along with the markers she likes to use, and a brochure about the orphanage.
She fell asleep in the van right at her scheduled naptime. Unfortunately we had to wake her when we got to the store to do some shopping. We picked up diapers, formula, and some snacks before heading back to the room. The nannies gave Amelia a little yogurt drink, and she has been holding onto the empty bottle for dear life ever since. You can see it in the pictures. Mark took it from her to rinse it out, and she cried until she got it back. Hopefully in the next few days she will begin to relax and be able to let go of it. So far she is letting both of us hold her and she let me give her a bottle, but she definitely prefers Mark right now.

We are going to try to go out for a walk and to find some dinner. We'll try to post more pictures later and possibly some video.