Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fabulous Four!!

My sweet girl is FOUR today!

Our Macy is funny and kind and sweet, with a hearty side of sass.

She has had the biggest adjustment when it comes to her new sister and she has done amazing. While she does miss having most of Mom or Dad' attention, she always loves on her sister. She is a great helper, always getting a diaper or wipes for me, helping with the bottle and looking out for small toys on the floor.

Macy has a lot of patience with Maggie. Sometimes Maggie gets too excited and scratches at Macy. Macy calmly and patiently will grab her hand and show her how to touch gently. It is so sweet to watch. Macy is an amazing caretaker.

Macy loves her friends and her family and always looks out for them. She loves to wait for the bus with her brothers and the neighborhood girl, giving each one a hug (much to the dismay of her brothers) before they get on the bus. 

She is full of life, spunk and heart and we could not be more proud of her!

Happy 4th Birthday, Macy!

We love you so much!!

Friday, September 15, 2017

China Day 5~ Gotcha Day!

Waking up on the day that you are going to meet your child is strange. I never had a scheduled birth with my other children, so this was a very new feeling for me. We did not have to be to the Civil Affairs building until 2pm, so we had most of the morning to ourselves.

We had breakfast. We tried to take a walk, but the humidity in Nanning pretty much makes you sweat on contact, so that was short lived.

We walked down to the Wal-Mart and decided to buy a stroller for Maggie that we would use and than fly home with us. Everything was a blur, actually. We moved around, we cleaned up the room. We double and triple checked paperwork. We showered and got ready. We stared out windows and just looked at each other. 

18 months of active working and we were at the climax. We were hours and minutes away from meeting our daughter. It was an overwhelming feeling. I couldn't eat lunch and felt like throwing up most of the day. My heart rate was racing when we got into our little van and headed out. We went with another family who would adopt the little girl whose crib was right next to Maggie. Their little lady was a couple months older than Maggie and the girls were put together a lot. We all felt nervous and excited and completely overwhelmed. I honestly thought I may throw up.

The building was like a DMV. People were waiting to get into after the lunch break, just like the DMV in the U.S. We went and sat in an open room, with desks around us. People were waiting to be seen,  just like every day occurrences. We sat down and waited to meet our daughter. It seemed so odd. A massive life moment was going to happen in the equivalent of a Chinese DMV.

We waited and were told the orphanage director was running late. 10 minutes ticked by and we were told that one family would go into a small room to meet their daughter and than the other family would go in.

20 minutes after our scheduled meeting time, we were told that the girls were here and that, due to time constraints, we would both go in together and meet the girls at the same time. We were relieved to be able to do that together. We saw a lady carry a dark haired little girl and my heart stopped. Was it Maggie? Was it Lucy?

Sunshine, our adoption guide, led us into a small room and I heard Sunshine say, " Li Ya. This is Li Ya." and pointed to a lady that was sitting on a bench, holding a baby. I was not sure how I would respond. I vacillated between wanting to puke and then feeling overwhelmed, but when I walked into that room, trembling with anticipation and nerves, I saw her and I started to cry. There she was. I had been waiting for her for so long.

Her nanny stood up and handed her to me. We were prepared for her to cry the whole time, but she did not. She just stared at me, with a stoic serious face. She was dripping with sweat and her back was completely wet. Ryan and I talked to her, showed her a stuffed elephant that the kids picked out for her and tried to engage with her. She just looked at us. She did not cry, she did not smile. She held her hands out, a "don't touch" type stance and just looked. The room was filled with talking and tears as the other family talked and played with their daughter and we talked with ours. The orphanage director and two of the nannies were able to talk with us and tell us about Maggie and tell us about her story.

Here is the thing. My daughter's story is incredible. It is mind boggling and it leaves me deeply humbled that I was chosen to be her mother. Hearing about her beginnings and her fight and her beautiful resilience makes me so proud and honored and completely humbled to be apart of her story from here on out. We are so lucky to have her. Maggie's story is not my story though, so we will not be sharing it all here. It is her story to tell, when she is older and when she wants to. She does not need to read about it online. She will get to decide what is known or not known.

We will say this. She was born premature and spent time in the hospital. She was born with Duodenal Atresia, which means that part of her intestine was closed. Because of this closure, she would vomit and have diarrhea after every feeding. Even though she would get sick from eating, she would still fight to keep eating, to give her body the nutrients that it needed to survive. The nannies were so proud of her. They said that other children would have died. They would not have fought so hard to eat, regardless of how sick they would get. But our girl, our little fighter. she kept going. She was able to have surgery in China and the closure has been corrected.

L to R: Maggie's main nanny. The Orphanage director, us, second nanny.

And this strong, stoic little lady was ours.

We talked with the nannies, we cried, we took pictures and than all of a sudden, we were told it was time to leave. We walked into this plain, sterile building alone and we walked out with a daughter. They literally handed her to us and that was it.

We went back to our hotel and spent time signing and fingerprinting all sorts of legal Chinese papers.  We would legally adopt Maggie tomorrow. We had to have her for 24 hours before we can legally adopt her, so these papers were very important. While we signed and fingerprinted, Maggie fell asleep on me.

This sweet girl had one of the hardest days of her little life. She experienced a very large loss, the loss of her life as she knows it. She went on a van ride, possibly the longest of her life, to be handed to complete strangers who do not look like her, sounds like her, smell like her. She left her caretakers to be placed in the care of people she has never seen before. While we had been working, preparing and praying for her, she knew nothing of us.

She woke up in a strange room with strangers and she cried. She grieved and it was heartbreaking. Ryan held her and I talked to her and she fought emotions. I watched her grow very sad, lips trembling and then completely stop. She would literally stop herself from crying and shut down, only to repeat the whole process again. This went on for awhile and it was truly one of the most painful things to watch.

Food helped and we tried to play with her. She just was stoic and sad and confused. We stayed in the hotel, ordered room service and just loved on this sweet, sad baby.

When it was time for bed, we kissed her, prayed over her and laid her down in the pack n play, unsure of what to do. She could see me from the mesh siding. She let out two little cries, put her thumb in her mouth and went to sleep. It was one of the saddest things for me. This little girl was totally able to put herself to she did every single night of her life.

Adoption is born from loss. There is no way around it. Maggie lost her biological family, she lost her orphanage family. She did not have a choice in any of these decisions. But there is redemption. There is hope and there is a future for her. A future that many people who deeply loved her put into place. Her birth parents gave the ultimate sacrifice by giving her up, thus allowing the government run orphanage to get her life-saving surgery that she needed. Her orphanage nannies loved her so much, that they placed her on the international list, so that she would be able to get a better education, better medical care and have a better life. They could have placed her on a domestic list and possibly been able to see her more often, but they did what they thought was the best for her. And we get to raise this amazing, beautiful lady. The full circle of people that loved on our Maggie is so beautiful. She will always know how loved she is.

Our China Adoption Trip:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

China: Day 4~ Hello Nanning

Day 4 started bright and early, meeting in the hotel lobby at 5:50 am. The whole group was heading out of Beijing, so we loaded up into our little van and made our way to the PKG, the Beijing airport.

Chinese airports are quite interesting. The Chinese do not really follow line rules, so you have to kind of push your way forward, or you would never make it. Someone would always cut you off. Luckily, our guide pushed her way through and we were able to get our luggage tagged and our guide got our boarding passes. (Travel in China was booked through our agency, so we did not have access to our flight or train information. This was slightly panicky for me, as I normally triple check my travel information and could not there)

Contrary to popular belief, but you can NOT see the Great Wall from space.  

We boarded our plane and were off to Nanning. Our tour guide in Beijing told us that Nanning was a "small city" in the southern part of China. We knew to expect weather similar to southern Florida.

As we started our decent, I noticed a large city that spread for miles. I showed Ryan and we both agreed it could not be Nanning, but we should look up what huge city it was when we landed.

We were wrong. It was Nanning. This "small" Chinese city held 7 million people. 7 MILLION. Just for reference, Nanning does not even make the top 20 most populace cities in China, so to our Beijing guide, it was small.

We landed, grabbed our luggage and headed out to one. No one was there. No signs, no people looking for a group of Americans. Nothing.

After some frantic calling, emailing and WeChats (Like a Facebook/messaging app that is widely used in China. Facebook and anything Google is banned) we found out that our guide was given wrong flight information and our driver (who doesn't speak english) would pick us up shortly. With some hand motions and waving, we made it out of the airport!

The air of Nanning was dramatically different than Beijing. Hot and heavy with humidity with a scent of tropical florals in the air. As we drove into this massive, sprawling city that was lined with beautiful flowers, the real reason for all the travel hit me. We were going to meet our daughter here. In this city. Tomorrow.


We met our guide, Sunshine, at our beautiful hotel and we went through the plans for our Gotcha Day tomorrow. Sunshine was efficient, prepared and very thorough. She has done adoptions for 17 years, and we were instantly put at ease with her. We had the times, we had the paper work, we just had to wait.

When we entered our room, there was a pack n play set up, with a little blanket and pillow all ready. It took my breath away. This room was already for a baby. My baby.

Our hotel was attached to a huge beautiful mall that had a Wal-Mart in the basement. We walked around, had dinner at Pizza Hut (one of the only restaurants with English menus...or pictures) trying to take it all in, while also trying to remain somewhat calm. My nerves were in overdrive at this point.

I would like to tell you that I was excited and eager, and I was, but the overall feeling was intense. More intense than I thought it would be.

Every emotion. Every feeling. I felt them all. It reminded me of when I was about to give birth. I was so ready to be done, but yet, there was the unknown that I was not quite sure I was ready to do... what would it be like? How would I respond? 

Sleep was evasive that night, and it was not due to jet lag. My mind was racing with questions about how tomorrow would go, how we would feel, how she would respond. 

Tomorrow was the big day. Our Gotcha Day. After 18 months of being in the China program, and two years since starting the process, tomorrow we would meet our daughter.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

China~ Day 1~3

Detroit Airport

On August 3rd, Ryan and I tearfully hugged and kissed our kids good bye and embarked on a journey of a lifetime, a trip 2 full years in the making.

We boarded a large plane that would, in 13 hours, land us in Beijing, China. The anticipation was exhilarating, tinged with sadness of not having our kids with us.  

We were off!

On our plane, ready to take off!

We arrive, exhausted and excited, the following day at 2pm ish, having lost 12 hours of our life in transit over the arctic. Customs and baggage claim lead us into the steamy weather of Beijing. We loaded into a small van, with two other families and headed to our hotel.

 View of Beijing from our hotel window.

To battle the looming jet lag, we checked in and headed to a local mall with one of the couples to eat and keep ourselves moving. Sleep came easily at 8pm. Unfortunately, at 11pm, I woke up feeling awesome and completely refreshed, ready to go explore Beijing...until I looked at my phone. Nope. Back to bed I went. This happened again at 3am and than finally up at 5:30 am for the day. Jet lag is weird.

Day 3 woke us up bright and early for our big (long!) day of touring the main sites of Beijing. We were able to see Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

 Tiananmen Square

The first impression of China was that it is vast and hot and crowded. This impression persisted through the remainder of our trip, regardless of the location. Everything is bigger than you would imagine, and more crowded. People are everywhere. There are no rules, no lines, no order. It is every man for himself and you better move if you want to get somewhere. The odd part of this is that no one is mad. No one cares that you just cut them off, as they will cut you off next. It is just part of life, the flow of streets.

Every part of our touring day surprised me. Pictures do not do Tiananmen Square justice. It is vast and expansive, with enormous museums surrounding it, important government buildings (similar to Capital Hill ) and the mausoleum of Chairman Mao, which people still go to and mourn at. It is an impressive site to see in person.

Tiananmen Square leads you directly into the Forbidden City. It is a literal City that expands, gate upon gate until it leads you into the inner courts and the celestial gardens. You could spends hours and hours in that place and not see everything. 

One of the courtyards in the Forbidden city.

The Forbidden City was named because only the emperor and his family and military protection were allowed in...everyone else was forbidden. The royal family lived in unbelievable wealth and luxuries in an ENORMOUS city, all to themselves, while the rest of their people starved outside of the gates.

Each gate of the Forbidden City leads you farther into the Imperial area. The emperor was thought to be a god, so the farther into the city you went, only the emperor, his wives and concubines and eunuchs were allowed. They had to make sure the bloodline was pure.

One of the main buildings in the center of the Forbidden City. The more animal statues "guarding" the building at the top, the higher the status, the more important the building is.

 After the Forbidden City, we headed out. The Great Wall is an hour and half away from Beijing. We had lunch at a cloisonne factory, a hand made brass medal and ceramic work that is stunning in person. We did a short tour and than were off to lunch.

A cloisonne workers filling in colors of powdered ceramic.

It was the first time that our entire American group was escorted to a separate side room...and it wouldn't be the last. I am not sure if it is because we are such a large group, or if it is because we do not understand Chinese, but every restaurant we went to, in every city, we were taken to a private separate room, away from the general Chinese population. We have no idea why.

The Great Wall was magnificent to see. It was so surreal, looking at it in person and not in pictures.
 Am I glad that I climbed a portion of the Great Wall? Absolutely. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Would I climb it again? Probably least not to so high. The Great Wall's stairs are not the same depth. Some of the stairs are only inches high, some are as high as a foot and half...there is no rhythm to it. So, you had to watch your step at all times. It was VERY crowded and most Chinese carry umbrellas to protect from the sun. So imagine body to body people, with umbrellas, climbing up and down steep and intricate steps. It was hard to navigate. It was also VERY steep in sections. Like, you could probably crawl up the stair easier, it was so steep. 

It was also HOT. By the time I got to one of the flat sections of the Wall, I was dripping in sweat, pushed against by bodies of people and than I looked out.... and it was HIGH. I mean, we were REALLY high up. And I don't do so well with heights. It was definitely out of my comfort zone. Ryan convinced me to climb one more section that was less crowded and I was able to find a spot that I could catch a breeze and not be pressed against people.

 Ryan climbed one more section and we began the slow and cautious trek down. Ryan would have kept going, but he was nice to his sweaty and shaking wife and we headed back down. I did feel better when our guide told me that he also was bothered by the heights on the Wall and he said to just watch my feet climbing down. He said that it was his 3rd time going up and down the Wall and it gets better. I am going to take his word for it!

Our drive back to the hotel let us see Beijing a bit more. This city literally just kept going, sky rise after sky rises, apartment complexes that had not 2 or 3 building clusters, but 15-20 clusters. The pure expanse of it was mind boggling. It is just SO big.

We did dinner with our group, before we were going to separate the next day. One of the families were coming with us to Nanning and the other was going to a different province to meet their daughter. We would all meet up back in Guangzhou.

But, Day 4? Day 4 we head to Guangxi to get our girl.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Spectacular Seven

Oh my heart.

My boy is seven.

This kid. I just love him so. He is funny and witty and dramatic and sensitive and gives 100%, good or bad, all the time.

His great love is soccer and it is SO fun to watch him play. He may be rocking the 22% height on the growth chart, but he plays like the biggest guy out there.

A sample conversation in our house.

Ryan and Jack were discussing a adult basketball rec league.
Jack: "So, what does 'Rec' mean?"
Ryan: "It means recreation, that you play for fun"
Colin, who was coloring off to the side and not in the conversation at all, " I don't play for fun, I play for competition." 
And he means it. The boy lives for his games. He can tell you the exact score, who did it, who assisted and what angle the goal was shot from.

He is also so excited to meet his new sister. He has saved his money to help us get her. He has asked about her, prayed for her and even wrote about her in school. Colin may not be a man of many words, but when he does use them, they are sweet and loving. I am so proud of his little heart during the adoption. He has been the most on board the entire time. I can't wait to see him interact with Maggie.

Seven is a big year and I can't believe that my baby boy is this old.

Happy 7th Birthday, Colin. We can't wait to see you grow!

We love you!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Be Brave, Little One

Dear Maggie~

Today, my daughter, you turn 15 month old. I am beyond excited to know that this is the very last time that you will do that alone. Next month, your sweet 16 month, you will be with me. At home.  Forever.

I have been waiting so long for this day. We have tickets to come get you. They are booked and bought. It is real now. The final itinerary it set. The last travel meeting completed.

We have been working for this moment for 18 months, thinking and praying about it for over 2 years. Hours and hours of paperwork, reading, writing, scrolling, absorbing much information. The reality of being so close to seeing you in person is a bit surreal.

We've seen pictures of where you sleep. The pale pink walls, lined up with cribs. We've looked at the outside building, with it's 3 stories and barred windows. The tile floors and the play room with the boppy pillows stacked high.

We are so glad that you had that place to keep you safe and keep you warm. But, we are ready for you  to be at our home, with our family. Your family.

Your bed is ready, with a very excited big sister waiting to share the room with. The bags are slowly being packed. The car seat installed. Everything is moving forward to becoming a family of six.

And now, my Little One, we are coming. For you.

See you in a week sweet girl.

Be brave, little one.

Be Brave.

Momma and Daddy are on their way.

Love you always,

Monday, July 10, 2017

LAST CALL: Puzzle Pieces for Maggie

We are weeks away from traveling thousands of miles to go get our girl. We are waiting for our travel approval and consulate date from China and then we can book those tickets!!

SO, with those upcoming events happening so soon, we are doing one last call for our puzzle fundraiser.

We still have puzzle pieces available for the puzzle picture that will hang in Maggie and Macy's room.

We will be shutting down our fundraising page soon!

How does it work?

1. There are 252 pieces to this puzzle we created.

2. We are "selling" each puzzle piece. You can buy one for any amount.  It can be $10, $20 or $100. It doesn't matter to us. Anything helps. No amount is too small or too big. We are grateful and thankful for anything.  (If you're wondering, the total cost of adopting from China is approximately $35,000.  We are still trying to raise the last $8,000)

3. For every donation we receive, we will write YOUR name on your puzzle piece. Maggie will be able look at her puzzle and know that you were apart of bringing her home.

4. Once every single puzzle piece has been "sold", we will put the puzzle together and hang it in a double-sided glass frame in her room. It will be a beautiful reminder of who had a "piece" of bringing her home, and all those that joined together with us and became apart of our own love story.

5. If you would like to buy a piece of our puzzle, please click HERE. There are buttons on the right side of the page for any size donation and every donation is tax deductible. If you do not want your name on a puzzle piece but would still like to donate, just let us know.

We are so grateful for your help in our journey to adopt Maggie. We love having people join with us and bring one more orphan home, one puzzle piece at a time!