Monday, February 28, 2011

Why? The answer.

When we first started this adoption process almost one year ago... I wrote this post titled "Why? The answer".

But then I didn't know this face.

Now...I really know the answer.

It sparkles in these eyes. It flows through a scrunchy face grin. And it's heard in laughter.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

7 days of love

One week ago today our daughter was placed in the waiting arms of her Momma and Baba.

For one week, we have fed her, changed her, played silly games...

and loved her with every ounce of our heart.

We see a difference. Do you?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Culture shock, love and squeaky shoes

When you go from Zhengzhou... capital of the most populated and one of the poorest provinces in China, heavy with smog and poverty....where a Dad carrying a baby is pretty much unheard of and and American Dad carrying a Chinese baby is definitely something they have never seen... to Shamian Island, Guangzhou... where the buildings look like Bermuda, the people all speak English and an American carrying a Chinese baby is as common as a

it's a bit of culture shock.

(from our hotel room)

(Daddy and Grace at a park near along the Pearl River)

In a way, it's a welcome change. Being in province is hard. It's the first couple days with your baby, your overwhelmed (imagine how the baby feels), and you are in a city that is so far from everything that you are used to. Guangzhou feels like an American city, or maybe more like Bermuda. The weather is gorgeous. The green gardens and flowers. AND AMERICANS!!!

But, S and I both feel quite sad about leaving Henan, our daughter's home province. Taking her so far from her roots. Leaving Zhengzhou was the first step in that process. OK... so maybe when she was placed in our arms last Monday, that was the first step. I feel so sad about this. S vows to learn how to make dumplings (Grace's favorite), and fried rice, and meat buns. Maybe it's because he likes to eat them, maybe it's because Grace does. But, I think it's because he... we.... want to so much to honor our daughter's culture and the beautiful country of her birth.

Everyday Grace seems to open up a bit more. Slowly be surely. This time with her one on we await paperwork upon paperwork... is really a gift. It gives us the time we need to start to create Mommy and Daddy bond with her before we throw in three excited and active siblings.

Yesterday morning we had to have Grace's picture taken for her US visa and we had to have her physical exam. Again... and I know I say this a lot.... it was chaos. Probably about 30 American families with their new babies (of all ages)... children screaming. In rooms that were too small. Instead of crying, Grace just got all glazed over. Poor thing.

She weighs 19.5 lbs with clothes and shoes on. and is 29 inches long. :)

After her nap we went out for some shopping. They have tons of little souvenir type shops. Home of squeaky shoes (I already bought a couple pair and plan to buy some more!)... and chinese silk dresses. I'm not usually a shopper, but this is different.

We also went to Starbucks (I know you are all surprised)... lots of young adult Chinese students sipping their lattes. In Zhengzhou, no one would be able to afford a Starbucks, here things seem very different.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant with our whole group. Looking around the two tables we see parents showering their little ones with love. Barely able to pull their eyes off their child to have a conversation. LOVE. Pure and beautiful love. Once orphaned children... now loved beyond words. This children will survive this transition because they are survivors. These children will thrive. Because love can do that.

(Once orphans now cherished sons and daughters. Praise God.)

(Part of our group at dinner)

Today, we have a morning free so we are going on a city tour of Guangzhou. Then it's back to work this afternoon to prepare paperwork for our 7:10 (!) am US Consulate appointment tomorrow.

Steve is laying behind me on the bed, quite literally, watching Grace sleep. Because a sleeping baby with her little toosh sticking up in the air is so stinkin' sweet you can't help but just stare.

Smiling Grace

OK. She's not smiling here... but she IS standing!!! and eating a few cheerios. Snacking, her favorite past time.

More on beautiful Guangzhou and Shamian Island, squeaky shoes, the White Swan, culture shock and orphans turned beloved sons and daughters TOMORROW. After I sleep. Because I'm tired. Because 17 month old's are busy. and living with one in a hotel room for several days in a foreign country is exhausting. And fun. And exhausting.

Friday, February 25, 2011

We've made it to Disney World

Good Morning from Guangzhou! I feel like we are Disney World compared to Zhengzhou. Warm weather... beautiful view of the Pearl River... STARBUCKS... yes STARBUCKS. Whew... we made it. :)

The two hour plane ride was a little preview of our 13 hour one later this week. I'm thinking it's not going to be too fun. But, at least on the long flight home 1. we will be able to speak English to the flight attendants and perhaps they won't knee our sleeping baby in the head when they walk by 2. they won't speak over the loud speaker every 5 minutes and startle our little girl awake and 3. we won't have a Chinese man sitting in the seat next to us yelling at us in Chinese on how we should be comforting our screaming child.

All in all... it was a great flight. :)

Because I am a weakling... Steve spends a lot of the time carrying Grace in our baby carrier. The stares we get!!! Steve gets the "awe... what a cute baby" stare. I get the "what kind of mother are you" stare.

I'm a little behind in our updates on what we have been doing because S wrote the post yesterday... which melted my heart by the way. Every day, every hour, every minute I am reminded that he IS the best Dad ever. For those of you that don't know... S is a kid magnet. So, it shouldn't surprise me that he is winning over our G's heart minute by minute.

A week ago, or wait that was just two days ago, we traveled to Shaolin Temple. About a two hour bus ride away. Through fields and mountains... seeing our daughter's homeland. The poverty is quite unreal to these American eyes. I vow to never complain about money or lack of things again. If I ever do... to any of you... please just say "remember China".

Shaolin Temple is a beautiful temple built about 1500 years ago! This is also the birthplace of Kung Fu. Surrounding the temple there is the largest Kung Fu in the world. I would describe it as a military academy/boarding school for kids ages 8 or so though high school. 20,000 kids! We saw kids, in their red uniforms, practices all sorts of Kung Fu skills.

(students in groups practicing Kung Fu)

(Students washing their dishes after lunch)

(S as a tough Kung Fu master)

OK enough about our travels... I know you want to know all about Grace.

A few days perspective from the orphanage visit helps me to realize that, however painful it was for us... it was so very important. It gave us greater insight as to what she has come from. While we knew it might take time to develop attachment with her, we now know it might take a LOT of time. Months... years...
(getting her neck tickled always makes her smile)

(scrunchy face smile from being tickled)

(signs of walls coming down.... touching Mommy's face)

Every morning when she wakes up. It's like starting all over. She looks at us like "oh you guys again" (and perhaps a little "I was hoping you'd go away"). Usually we manage to warm her heart back up with a little food. And then we start to see some smiles again.

Missing our kids back home terribly. But, we know that they are so happy. Reports are that Grandpa is feeding them ice cream and loads of tootsie rolls. How could they not be happy? Here is a picture of Devin on Skype making faces at G. What a great big brother already!

She is absolutely amazing. In every way. NO ONE will be able to resist her scrunchy face smile. I stand in awe as I watch this miracle unfold... and somehow, someway I am in the middle of it. I'm not sure how it happened. I don't know how we got here. It's crazy surreal.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top 10 reasons why being a Dad again is awesome

Obviously this is not Deb. Steve here at 5:51 am local time. I woke at 3:00 with a big fear that I would not be able to go back to sleep but I managed to nod off again until 4:30 or so. I imagine I will slowly sleep later and later until I get it just right and then have to go back home and start the process all over again.

Deb asked if I wanted to make a post about my thoughts. I have too many thoughts and most of them are a big jumbled mess. This experience so far has been everything I thought it would be and nothing I thought it would be all at the same time. Maybe the best way to communicate is to throw a few thoughts out there. And since I am a funny guy (if you don't believe me just ask me) I figured I would steal Letterman's act. I must throw a disclaimer out there that only a few of these are meant to amuse. Here we go.


10- This trip has given me an opportunity to experience life outside of North America, something I sadly have never done. I am truly appreciative of everything I/we have where we hang our hats.

9- I am already loving the looks/stares we are getting from the locals here with the two of us with this beautiful girl. I can only imagine what they will be like when we get home and she is seen with the rest of our blonde haired/ blue eyed clan.

8- This trip has also given me the opportunity to spend some much needed quality time with Deb. She is an amazing Mom/wife and she has not been given enough credit (by me) for all she has done to make this happen.

7- I am meeting and getting to know an amazing group of people that I can only hope that we will still be friends with 20 years from now. I bet we will.

6- Spending this much time away from my 3 bio kids is truly harder than I ever thought it would be. I promise I will make up the lost time by being the best Dad I can to them.

5- Fried Noodles for breakfast rocks! And now I am going to learn how to make them when I get home. Along with fried rice and dumplings (Grace loves dumplings)!

4- The fact that Grace's eyes totally disappear when she smiles/laughs (which has not happened nearly enough by the way) is quiet possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen.

3- WARNING- Becoming a Dad a again in this manner is addictive. I'm just saying. One adoption is probably enough, (unless we win the lottery and then I would adopt 10 more times). Just maybe more advocacy and help on our part.

2- Now I truly believe (I know I am biased a bit) that I have the best family around!

And the number one reason why being a Dad again is awesome:

1- Grace Lin Xiao Yun Migneault

Reason #1 was supposed to be a VIDEO of her laughing being tickled but I couldn't get it to upload. This is basically a picture of the same.

I promise this will be my one and only attempt at blogging this trip. My guess is that sometime tomorrow, or even later today, or even in about 5 minutes, my wife will come and post something far more intelligent and well-written than what I can do.

OK I have to go now. Grace has decided to take an impromptu nap so I am going to watch her sleep.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Random Pictures from Zhengzhou and Jiaozuo

I know my loyal followers are waiting for more pictures. :) So, here are some random shots from our day yesterday. These below are two pictures taken on our walk to Walmart. (Yes, Walmart... these are our big outings these days!)

Believe it or not ... yesterday was a bright sunny day. The smog is absolutely unreal. And it didn't get any better in Jiaozuo. In fact... maybe even worse.

Back at the orphanage... Grace with one of her nannies. Grace was unfazed about the whole thing. I am having a hard time figuring out if that is good or bad... perhaps good for our emotion yesterday, but not good indicator of her attachment to the nannies.

Her room at the orphanage. There were about 4 toddlers walking or in walkers, and about 8 or 9 babies in cribs sleeping, crying or eating (with a bottle propped in their mouth).

Her empty crib. Praise God.

With Daddy in the baby carrier.

Sleeping, peacefully and safely with Daddy.

This one doesn't need a caption. :)

Highs and Lows

Quick post... I'm too emotionally exhausted to do much more.

This afternoon on the two hour bus ride home Grace was smiling like crazy, playing games and doing lots of babbling. Repeating sounds and clapping her hands.

She just came alive!!!! It was awesome. She is such a little spitfire. And her whole face scrunches up and her eyes seem to disappear when she smiles. She is the cutest little thing ever!

Some day I'll find the words to express our visit to the orphanage. Right now... I just can't. I'll just say this...

Our Grace is a survivor. God must have BIG plans for her. And we are honored that He placed her in our arms.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yours Forever Sweet Pea

I had some trouble with posting last night... so hopefully this works today, if not I might have to go to the backup plan and have a friend post for us. The internet connection is so spotty that by the time I type the message the connection disappears and I can't post.

As of 10 am yesterday Grace was officially ours! We signed the final adoption papers and were handed her adoption certificate. It's funny that they give you a 24 hour waiting period... I know for some it's necessary... but for us there is NO WAY I was handing her back to ANYONE the second she was placed in my arms.

So, as far as China is concerned... she is ours. Of course, we felt that way about 5 months ago when we first saw her picture.

Here is a picture taken at the registration office. It looks really officially but the funny thing is the sign says "Marriage registration office". Of well, we won't tell anyone... oh wait, I just did. :) This was taken just a few moments after were given the adoption certificate. Only thing missing is B, K and D (who we miss terribly by the way... thank God for skype!)

And here is a picture of our cutie in a cute hat... waiting at the registration office. As you can tell... she sort of has a deer in headlights look. This look comes and goes. This would be her "shut-down" mode. She does come out of it and gets quite lively... but most of the time she is a lot like this.

Today is going to be quite a day... we are headed to Jiaozuo (the city where Grace's orphanage is) to have our documents notarized. We have been given permission to visit her orphanage!! So, we will be going there after. Steve and I will take turns going in and seeing it...and we will leave Grace in the bus. It will be too traumatic for her to go in and see her nannies again. We are so grateful that we will be able to do this! We are HOPING that we will be able to visit her finding location as well, but we were told that it might be as far as an hour a way out in the country. So it will all depend. Needless to say, this will be a long and emotional day. So, please keep us in your prayers.

Grace seems to be feeling better. Her cough is slowly but surely improving. And she did not have any fever yesterday. Thank God our pediatrician prescribed an antibiotic for us!!

Steve and I are trying to estimate her developmental level.... she is small. She is the smallest of the kids in the group, even though there is a little boy that is supposably 4 months younger. Unless she is holding back on showing us her walking and standing skills (quite possibly) her gross motor skills seem to be at about 10 or 11 months. Her fine motor skills are better... maybe 14 months or so. Probably too early to really tell though. She is very proportional in size. She isN'T skinny, but not too chubby (despite her crazy cute chubby cheeks). :)

Needless to say... we are sooooooooo very in love with her. I can only pray that she senses that. We aren't going anywhere sweet girl.... we are yours FOREVER!!!!!

While she is update...

Our girl is sad. So very sad. There are moments when tears just come down her face... without any sound.... just tears. She has every right to be sad. and scared. and totally and completely overwhelmed.

So, the fact that there are times when she seems to go into complete shut down mode...I think it's OK. All we can do is hold her, cuddle her, tell her we love her. I pray she feels our love and somehow knows she is safe with us.

There are also moments that she is very feisty! throwing things... and busy, busy hands... finding anything within reach to grab (and throw). We have had a couple good smiles (especially after food!) and even a few giggles.

Her cry is pathetic. When she cries very little sound comes out. I think she has a very wide cleft and the air escapes before the sound comes out??!!! (bloggy Mom's of cleft affected kids... is that possible?). Her giggle is much the same... you know she is giggling but there is very little sound.

She still has a very nasty sounding cough. We are hoping her fever is gone. But, I won't know for sure until we make it through the evening without any motrin. I would swear it's bronchitis, maybe even pneumonia, but hoping the antibiotic will take care of whatever it is.

As far as walking... we haven't seen her crawl (which we KNOW she can do because we have seen pictures)... let alone walk. We have tried to stand her up a couple times today... but she just cries because she doesn't want us to put her down.

She will go to either one of us... but doesn't want to let the other parent out of sight. We are VERY grateful that she is going to both of us. Hope that doesn't change. Again, today she has been very clingy... we can't even put her on the floor next to us, she will cry. She has to be held all the time.

It is very hard to carry her because she doesn't know how to wrap her legs around you waist or hold on at all. So, even though she doesn't weigh all that much, it is very hard for me to carry her around a lot. We are going to break out the infant carrier for our trip to Walmart later.

I'll post some pictures from our day later... a BIG day I might add... but I just wanted to post an update on she is adjusting while she was napping.

Thanks for all the kind and loving comments you have left. I can't tell you how much it means to read them. As we operate in our bubble here in the hotel, you sort of feel a million miles away from everyone and everything... the comments make us feel very supported, very loved and not so far away.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Things we've learned so far

Itsy Bitsy spider never fails to make a child smile.... and maybe even giggle just a little.

(handprints for the adoption registration... that's our guide Rita helping)

When you have a 17 month old a dinner table you must always clear the table of any objects that are within an arms length.

With Grace, you must clear two-arms lengths.

A glass knocked over by a 17 month old holding chopsticks will break. Oops.

Don't let her size fool you... she is quite the spitfire! She WILL let you know that she does not want something... mostly by chucking it across the room. and don't try again... because she will just throw it further.
(second bottle of the day given by Baba)

We weren't sure if this was myth or reality... but it is indeed real. A child with an unrepaired cleft palate will sneeze rice out their noses. And is a good way to make a table full of 18 tired people laugh. oh and her sneeze is quite possibly the cutest thing I've ever heard.

As warned by blogger friend Emily... don't believe the reports.. The report said she only had four bottles of formula a day (and some crackers for snack). Last night she ate a cup of fried rice, a dumpling and about 50 cheerios (by the fist-full). Clearly she has eaten from both chopsticks and a spoon.

(eating rice - YUM!)

They key to a good night sleep in China is having your daughter within arms reach and hearing her breathe all night long.


(Meeting B, K and D over Skype... and shoveling cheerios in her mouth)

I'm pretty sure this is the first morning of her life that she has two people standing over her crib not-so-patiently waiting for her to wake up so we can see her sweet face and play with her.

Forever in our arms

Our sweet Grace Lin XiaoYun. You are an orphan no longer. Our hearts are overflowing with love.