Monday, August 25, 2008

And now the real adventures begins…

So much has happened since my last post on July 10, the day we arrived back in the States. Suffering from jetlag, we all went to sleep early that night and when we awoke the next morning something amazing happened. With the dawn of the new day in a country half way around the world from where this little girl’s journey began… Chloe must have sensed she was truly home. The morning started with the usual routine of Ted getting her up and ready for the day. Shortly thereafter Chloe was sitting on floor and as I approached she raised her arms in the air towards me as if to say “pick me up”. I happily obliged. Believe it or not, that was the end of her grieving. I still to this day cannot believe it happened so quickly, so matter-of-fact. Not only that, but the same morning she accepted me as her mom, she also lovingly accepted her big sister, her grandfather and her great-grandmother. From that moment on she readily came to me as if it was something she has done every day of her life.

It has only gotten better from there. Chloe is a fabulous, happy little girl with an incredible personality. When I pick her up the first thing she does is pucker her lips and lean in for a kiss. She does the same for her daddy and her big sister. Unfortunately, she also puckers her lips for the dog, but we are working on that one. She has learned how to blow kisses, how to wave “good bye”, and how to say “ah oh”. She is in aw of her big sister, who she follows around to the best of her ability. She loves to play with any toy that makes music so she can bop to the beat. At times she will be scooting across the floor (she doesn’t crawl) and singing a precious little song as only she could do. Her favorite items in the world are her pink blankets and her purple koala. She likes when people talk to her because it’s an opportunity for her to show off that huge smile and nose crinkle to everyone she meets. She likes to lay her head on my chest and suck her thumb when she snuggles. She loves to splash in the tub. She has mastered pulling herself up on just about anything (including the dog) so she can stand. She loves to giggle and laugh out loud.

I could go on and on. Can you tell how in love we are with this child? Skylar and Chloe are the loves of our lives. I couldn’t write a story with this spectacular outcome… it would seem too unrealistic even for a fairytale. Now the real adventures begins… the adventures of our forever family.

I wanted to thank everyone that has followed along on this adventure. Your love and support has been overwhelming. Chloe (and even Skylar) has received gifts and well wishes from family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and even casual acquaintances on the soccer field. Aunt Laura and Uncle Alan went out of their way to throw our family a wonderful “Welcome Home Chloe” party. (We love you guys!) Thank you everyone!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We Are Home

We have arrived home with our little American citizen, Chloe. She spent the entire time in immigrations flirting with the officers. Why does that not surprise me?

Skylar has been great with her little sister and Chloe seems interested in what she is doing. I will post more in a day or two along with some photos, but tonight my internal clock is way off. Time to go to bed and hopefully get back on PacNW time.

It sure is good to be home. Cheers!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Letter to Chloe

My dear little panda bear,

Today is our last day in China. Tomorrow morning we board a plane and head to your new home where your sister, grandpa, and great-grandma are all anxiously waiting to meet you.

These last ten days we’ve spent with you in China have been amazing. You are by far one of the happiest babies in the group. You have a beautiful smile that you share with anyone who will take the time to greet you. You have one of those smiles that encompass your entire face and even your eyes light up with joy. This morning we were playing copycat and you blew me your first kiss from across the breakfast table. I will always remember that moment.

I will also always remember our goofy “conversations”. You like to say “ah da” and if I repeat it back to you we can go on and on for minutes with some very intellectual and stimulating conversations.

Chloe, I can’t properly put into words how grateful I am and just how lucky I feel to have you in my life. I know it sounds trite to say that I loved you from the moment I saw your picture, but it is so very true. How could I not? You are loved beyond measure by us and I hope you sense that.

I want you to know that your birth mother also loved you. While we do not know who she is, we can tell you were very loved by where she took you so you would be safe. Your birth mother also placed a red thread around your neck to wish you special luck and good fortunes. China is a very complex place and she was not able to keep you, but she made a decision that would keep you safe and would allow you to find us, your forever family.

I promise to love you and keep you safe. I promise to be there to tuck you into bed each night and to read you your bedtime stories. I promise to always support you and to be on the sidelines cheering you on with whatever you do. I promise to be overly protective, to annoy you sometimes and to probably embarrass you in front of your friends at least once or twice. I promise to bring you and your jie jie (older sister) back to China when you are older so we can all experience this fascinating place together as a forever family.

Forever, with love, your ma ma

"An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break." - Ancient Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Long Distance Friendships Realized and The Red Sofa

The wait for Chloe was a long one but it was not a lonely journey. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we made many friends during the 2.5 year wait. As soon as our paperwork was sent to China we discovered Yahoo Group communities. First I joined a group for all families that were with our adoption agency that had a “dossier to China” date during the month of December 05 or January 06. We got to know each other and passed the time by chatting, participating in postcard exchanges, secret pal match-ups and even an online baby shower. We all shared in the joy as the families with the earlier logged-in dates received their referrals and traveled to China to meet their daughters. We also gained knowledge from their experiences while in China.

As it got closer to the time when we’d receive our referral, those of us with a January 12, 2006 logged-in date also formed our own Yahoo group. These are the people I am in China with right now. Of all the people traveling to China at the same time, there were 13 families who went to the Guangxi province. We feel very fortunate to have had such wonderful families in our Guangxi travel group. We all received our children at the same time, we participated in tours and several group meals together, and we had the opportunity to sit and chat at length with most everyone in this group. They are all truly remarkable people and I know I will keep in touch with many of them. It will be fascinating to see pictures as their children grow and I hope that someday I will get the opportunity to see some of them again.

One of the traditions for adopting families that stay at the White Swan hotel is to get photograph of all the children in the travel group sitting on the “red sofa”. Here is a picture of the 13 children from our travel group.
And here is a picture of four (out of the five) girls from the Guiping Social Welfare Institute.

Another tradition at the White Swan is the (very non P.C. but still priceless) adoption Barbie Doll. It is an honest to goodness (Caucasian) Mattel Barbie doll holding a Chinese baby inside a box with caption that reads “Going Home”. The back of the box says “This souvenir is presented by Mattel (HK) Ltd. to adopting parents of Chinese orphan children staying at the White Swan Hotel, Guangzhou, China.” You can not purchase these dolls anywhere. They are a limited edition given ONLY to adopting families. This is the 6th edition of the doll.

I had to include this picture today. Chloe was sitting on the floor playing with her toys. Next thing I knew she had her legs straight out in front of her, her head was laying on the ground, her thumb was in her mouth and she was sound asleep. She stayed like that for about 30 minutes. Then she sat up and kept on playing. Can you tell that she is feeling more and more secure around us?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Power Shopping and Blessings

Today was my day to shop. I went with three other girls and we paid a guide to take us shopping at all of the non-tourist stores. It was wonderful. All we had to do was tell her what we wanted buy and she would take us to the proper stores. We’d then pick out what we wanted and she did all of the negotiating. I bought so many things that I need to buy an extra suitcase tomorrow to get everything home. The prices were fantastic, but on the flip side I realized just how badly I was taken when I shopped a few days earlier in Guangzhou. (Fortunately I got good prices when I was shopping on my own in Nanning, but that is not a big tourist city either so that probably helped.) I sure wish I had my camera with me because we went to one market place that reminded me of something out of an Indian Jones movie. Wow!

Later on in the day we took Chloe to a Buddhist temple and the three of us were blessed by a monk. (Thankfully, I did have my camera for this excursion.) The temple was fascinating and the blessing was a cool experience. I figure as new parents again we need all the help we can get.

Chloe had a great day today, however last night she experienced some night terrors. It was so hard to sit by helplessly while she screamed. Ted had to hold her and rock her into a sound sleep and then she was fine the rest of the night. When she awoke the next morning she was fine. She has been a happy baby since a few hours after our gotcha moment, but every single day she gets happier and more content. What a joy to watch.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chen Family Temple

I'm sitting in our hotel room on the 26th floor, having a cup of tea and I can still hear the soft sound of Chinese wind instrument being played on the street below. It is such a beautiful sound.

Today we went to the Chen Family Temple. The most recognizable Chen family member that you may know is Jackie Chen. This was by far the best tour we have been on this entire trip. The art work inside the temple was magnificent. There were carnings on everything imaginable - granite stones, wood, ivory, cinnabar, and even olive pits. One room had the most breathtaking embroidery that I have ever seen. It was as if I was looking at a photograph and not stitches of thread.

As you can see from the photo, Chloe was not as impressed with the temple as we were. We also managed to do some shopping today, but I plan to do the power shopping tomorrow.

I don't have much to write about tonight because I think this whole experience has finally caught up with me and I'm exhausted. It's nothing that a good nights sleep won't cure. I would however like to take a moment and say "thank you" to all of you that have posted comments. Your kind words have been so encouraging. When we return home I plan to print this blog with all of my posts and your comments and create a book for Chloe. Someday she can read the book and see how wonderful this journey was for us.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Change of Scenery and Even More Progress

Chloe took her fist airplane ride today and she did remarkably well. She is such a happy baby. We’ve discovered that if there is motion, any kind of motion, she will say “ohhhhhhhhhh” so that the vibration of the movement makes a funny sound coming out of her mouth. She does this on bus ride, stroller rides, a bounce on daddy’s knee and even airplanes.

We are now in Guangzhou on Shamian Island. The island is like its own little world. There is very little car traffic and there are many more shops and restaurants to visit here as opposed to Nanning. The only thing we don’t care for is the bartering. I so dislike to barter. We were joking today that we feel like we are in Puerto Vallarta because if you pass by a shop they are trying to entice you to come into their store. Once inside nothing has a price on it. They tell you a price, you offer them 60% of what they said, they say no and ask for something higher then 60%, you counter offer, they say no, you start to walk out, they change their mind. See I’ve been here less then a day and I already have this down to a science… but I still dislike doing it.

My two favorite things about Shamian Island are the hotel and the Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks!!! (Hey, you try having instant Nestle’s coffee every morning for eight days straight and I bet you too would be craving a good cup of coffee.) It looks exactly like the Starbucks at home. The hotel is also very nice. Now this truly is a five-star hotel. We have a suite here and we are glad we do. One room has become Chloe’s play room. We’ve discovered that she doesn’t crawl… she scoots along on her bottom to get were she wants to go.

Chloe now smiles at everyone that is willing to pay attention to her. She crinkles up her nose when giving someone her special BIG smile. I even got to hold her today several times and for a while there was very little fussing. This evening I held her and fed her a bottle. She’d drink for about 30 seconds, then stop and cry but she would start drinking again. We made it through the entire bottle together. Ya!!!

Today we had Chloe’s picture taken for her visa and we also did the “medical exam” (I use the term very loosely) for the visa. The exam is done at a clinic for children being adopted. We spent more time shuffling from room to room then we did for the exams. The important part is that she passed. She is 18.74 pounds, and 30.32 inches long. After this we only have one more piece of the adoption to complete and that involves the U.S. Consulate. I sure hope everything goes smoothly there. The only part I worry about is a silly address mistake made by the State Department of Immigrations. I have no idea how or why they did it, but somewhere along the line they have us living in a different city but all of my supporting documents have the correct city. Every items they sent us arrived at our address because the street and zip code were correct so I never noticed the city blunder until just last month. With my luck it will be earth shattering (a.k.a. adoption stopping).