Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane

After a very scary morning with our consulate appointment, we are clear to leave China!!!

Our facilitator received a phone call, when we were ON OUR WAY TO THE CONSULATE, saying that the home study update that we supplied with our passport and visa application was not signed by our social worker and that they needed a signed copy! AAAHHHGGGHHHH! The US Consulate was suppose to review the paperwork yesterday and let us know if there were any issues so we would have time to rectify them before our "swearing in ceremony" this morning. Needless to say, the stress level was beyond measure! Our social worker is currently in Vietnam hosting a homeland tour and I have no way to contact her. I did not have any phone numbers or contact information with me for either or our agencies, because we were told not to take anything with us to the consulate except for the necessities for Willow. Since it is a government office, they do not allow any electronics, video or recording devices. All I had was a baggie with some diapers, wipes and a toy for her.

Once we got to the consulate we had to meet with the "Supervisor of Adoptions" to see what options we had. The first thing this man, Arturo Hines, said to us was "We are not going to hold you up for this". THANK GOD!!! All we ended up having to do was to sign and swear to an affidavit saying that we would fax a copy of the signed home study update when we return home. Can I just say...Mr. Arturo are a SUPERHERO...MY SUPERHERO!!! I had visions of us being stuck in China, for who knows how long because of the holiday and because we are flying on frequent flyer tickets and who knows when we would be able to reschedule our flight.

So, all is good, and now we are leaving for the airport for our wrong way, marathon plane rides home. We leave Guangzhou at 8 PM for Beijing, from Beijing to Madrid, Madrid to Philadelphia and then to Phoenix. After all of those flights, we don't arrive in Phoenix until 9:35 PM January 1st. Crazy, I know...but after all we have been through for this adoption...why would the end be easy?! Let's just hope at this point that Willow is a "good flyer"!

Say a prayer for our safe travels...and we will see some of you soon!
Gotta Go!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Two Days To Go

Well our journey is finally coming to an end. We leave to bring our Precious Package home tomorrow night. Today, Tuesday is our Consulate Appointment well actually we do not go to the appointment our facilitator Peter (not his real Chinese name) goes and presents all of the documents from our four families for processing. We all have to stay in our rooms to await "The Call" to tell us everything is fine or to find out what is needed to complete our adoption for the US Government and get Willow's Visa for her Chinese Passport. We will have to apply for her US Passport when we return to the states. Once we get the call we will be free until 2:50 PM Wednesday when we will board our bus to go to the Consulate for our "Official Swearing In" of Willow as a US Citizen. Once we land in Philidelphia New Year's Day she will be considered a US Citizen. We then will hurry back to the hotel where Judy & I will load our suitcases in a car and head straight to the airport for our 8:00 PM flight to Beijing. We are really cutting it close but these were the only frequent flyer flights available until at least the 6th of January. We were able to find an additional FF business class seat for Willow for our Guangzhou to Beijing, Beijing to Madrid and Madrid to Philidelphia flights so we'll have more roon to be comfortable. Willow will have to ride our laps to Phoenix but that is the shortest leg of the trip.

I hope I have all of this right because Judy knows all of the details better than I do and she usually writes all of this blogging stuff but she is under the weather right now with the whole stomache thing that every one of us has had. She was the last one to get it from our group. We hope it clears up before our flight Wednesday night. A & L from Florida got it first last week, then me on Saturday, S from Wisconsin this morning and Judy this afternoon. Most of us got over it within 24 hours. Our 4th family from Florida came with a Chinese friend and they flew up north to be with her family for Christmas so I don't know if she got sick as well. We all have been reallllly careful about what we ate here but it didn't seem to matter. Let's all hope Judy gets over it really quick.

Willow and I had a Daddy - Daughter Date night for dinner. We went to La Dolce Vita Italian restaurant that we ate at last week. The food is really good and the hostesses and waitresses were enamoured with Miss Willow. She even allowed our waitress to carry her down the stairs while I carried the stroller. She has come so far it's unbelievable. She is such a Sweetheart. More to come......

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday December 26th

After breakfast, Tom and Willow had some quality "Daddy/Daughter time" while Mommy rested. I was just wore out and needed some extra sleep, so Tom and Willow went out for a walk to the park. He said one of the parks they went to they watched locals doing Tai Chi and Ballroom Dancing. They then met up with another family in our group at the playground and "the girls" spent some time playing together. This is where Tom discovered that Willow LOVES to slide! He said she was quite upset when it was time to leave. It is so wonderful to see her enjoy herself!

They came back to the room and it was Willows naptime. After Willow took a nap, we all got ready and went over to the White Swan for a very nice dinner at the Silk Road Restaurant. It is a pretty fancy restaurant, candlelight, piano & violin player, etc...and Willow did great! She did not want to sit in the high chair, so I put her in a regular chair at the table and she sat right there and was quiet and ate her dinner like a big girl. I was very impressed. She got to experience what I am sure was her first taste of steak and seemed to like it. We were careful not to give her too much, as I do not want to overwhelm her system and get her stomach upset. She really does not hesitate to try anything and really the only thing I have found that she won't eat is watermelon, but she does love other fruits. She does have quite a sweet tooth though and loves her puffs and cookies.

After dinner we took a walk along the river for awhile and headed back to the hotel. We played in the room for awhile until bedtime. Willow is now pretty much refusing to take a bottle, even of her Chinese formula. She is old enough to start drinking whole milk, but don't want to try to start her until we get back to the US, so we will continue to try with the formula while here. She is drinking water though, so no worries about her being dehydrated.

This sweet, funny wonderful girl is opening up more and more each day...and it is wonderful!

Christmas Day

We spent most of Christmas Day walking around the island and doing some shopping. Christmas evening we went on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River with 2 other families. The boat we went on was very nice, we had a wonderful table right by the window directly in the bow of the boat and they had a good buffet for dinner. The night skyline and scenery was wonderful with all the lights. We went outside on the top deck of the boat for awhile, it was cool and pretty windy, but beautiful!

Willow seemed to enjoy herself, taking all the new sights in. She is really beginning to open up and show her true personality. Shes starting to interact with the other kids and seems to be enjoying playing with them.
I really can't think of much of a better Christmas present than seeing her smile!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve here in China. I have changed the time/date stamp on Blogger, so I think it will give the accurate time on my postings now...if I did it right!

The streets here on Shamian Island are bustling with activity. There is a very festive attitude, but an unusual interpretation of how to celebrate Christmas Eve for an American. It is more like a sense of New Years Eve than Christmas Eve, with street vendors on every corner selling light up necklaces and wands for kids and for some reason, the big thing is to wear this headband with light up horns on the top, like devil horns. Not sure what that is all about, but everyone seems to be in a very good mood. It would be interesting to know how many people out celebrating are actually of the Christian religion and really celebrate Christmas.

Speaking of the Christian religion, Tom, Willow and I attempted to go to a Christian Church here on the island for a Christmas Eve service. The church was a mad house! We got there about 15 minutes prior to when the service started and there were literally hundreds of people waiting outside that could not fit in the church! We stayed and listened to some of the service and had a lot of very nice conversations with people in the crowd. Everyone was very nice and welcoming and interested in where we were from and about our adoption of Willow. We spoke to a man out in the crowd who is with the church and he says about 5-10 percent of China population is Christian, with only about 5 percent actively participating. According to him about half of the people who where at the church tonight were first timers. The actual sanctuary holds approximately 300 people and there is an "overflow room" that holds another 100 and both of them were completely full as well as us and a couple hundred of our closest friends outside on the grounds. It got so crowded that they had to close the gates to the grounds of the church because they were worried about crowd control. Even though we didn't get to participate in the service, it was nice to be there. We got to hear many Christmas carols in English and in Chinese and they had a wonderful choir. We got the opportunity to speak to a lot of locals as well.

Willow did amazingly well with the crowd. She was much more relaxed than she would have been just a few days ago. So many people were interested and making a fuss over her, it would have been easy for her to get overwhelmed, but she did really well taking it all in stride. When it did get to be too much, she quickly looked to me for refuge and once in my arms, quickly settled down and relaxed. All of these are very positive signs. Little by little she is coming around. This afternoon we went out with another mother and daughter from our travel group. Her adopted daughter is 1 month younger than Willow and from the same orphanage, so they have likely been together their whole lives. But today was the first day that Willow interacted with her. They were playing together and not only did it get some smiles out of Willow, but a whole hearted laugh! Nothing could possibly be a better present than seeing her begin to relax and be comfortable. Everyday we see a little more of her true personality...and it is beautiful!

Tomorrow for Christmas we are going on the Pearl River cruise for dinner with 2 other adoptive families in our group. Hopefully the babies do well on the boat! We miss being with the rest of our family for Christmas, but this one will certainly hold many memories that no other ever will!

Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas......
.....Love, Tom, Judy & Willow

Monday, December 22, 2008

The First Smile!

She fought it...she tried really hard not to...but eventually she had to give in! Just for a few moments...but they were a few glorious moments!

Tom had just changed Willow's diaper and put her pants back on and he was playing with her feet and suddenly she broke...and cracked this little smile! Even gave a little bit of a giggle! YOU GO DADDY!!!!!!

Tuesday Update

Yesterday, Monday here, Willow had her medical examination. I found out one new thing about our daughter...she is very strong for the little thing she is...and not hesitant to use that strength if she deems it necessary! She was not at all happy with anyone who wanted to try to examine any part of her and very actively tried to get away. We are in for quite an adventure when we get back to the US for her ped. appointments, because this medical exam was basically a formality, not at all what anyone from the US would consider a through exam. Anyway, her exam findings were fine and she was given clearance for us to proceed with our adoption process with the American Consulate.

All of our paperwork and appointments are finished with the Chinese Government, as far as they are concerned, Willow is legally our child. Now we just have to work with the US Consulate for the US part of the legal process. Our first consulate appointment is on the 30th, we do not have to go our facilitator just drops off our paperwork and they review it. As long as everything is in order (which it better be, as I did paperwork for 2 hours yesterday for the consulate!), we go back to the Consulate on the 31st at 4:00 PM and have our swearing in ceremony and receive Willow's passport and visa. After this we can leave for the US! Our flight out of Guangzhou is at 8:00 PM on the 31st, so we are cutting it close. Hopefully there aren't any problems at our appointment on the 31st!

It got very cold here on Monday and is suppose to be for the next couple of days, so while they are free days, I don't think we will be doing much other than hanging out at the hotel. Willow still hasn't "come out of her shell" much, so she is not all that active and does not seem to mind being in the room. There is also a playroom in the hotel that we will spend some time in with other children who are staying in the hotel.

More soon...stay tuned!
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Back One Day to the Orphanage Visit

Yesterday, Saturday, took a bus to Yangjiang to visit the orphanage where Willow has spent the first 21 months of her life.
We were able to tour the orphanage and had lunch with the orphanage director.
While we were in Yangjiang, we were also able to see where Willow's "finding place" was.

To be perfectly honest, I was quite apprehensive about going there, since Willow is having such a difficult adjustment, I was worried that as soon as she saw the orphanage and the orphanage caretakers, that she would be happy and want to stay. I was afraid we were going to have to take her back out of there kicking and screaming! What a nightmare! But that was not at all the case. She seemed quite indifferent to the orphanage and the caregivers while we were there. Pretty much the same indifference she seems to have for Tom and I right now. The only thing that I really noticed while we were there was that as I was holding her, I was interacting with many of the other children who were still there in the orphanage, telling them hello, stroking their hair and faces. And the closer the other children got, the more distressed she got. Not distressed as in jealous over me giving others attention, because both Tom and I have given attention to the other girls in our travel group and gotten no reaction at all from her, it was more a distress like she was afraid of them. It leads me to wonder if she was picked on in the orphanage and these kids were mean to her. The reality is that we will never know and she will never remember, but it would be nice to know.

Despite my fears over Willow's reaction not remotely coming true, it was a very difficult trip. To see where and how your child lived without you for nearly the first 2 years of her life is hard enough just because it is not with you, but to add institutionalization to the issue is just heartbreaking. To stand on a dirty street and look at a spot that your child was left, wrapped only in a baby blanket, when she was only days old is almost incomprehensible.

The orphanage director told us that there are currently approximately 100 children at the orphanage. I do not know how many of those are special needs or older children. We saw probably about 40-50 kids while we were there in the 2 rooms we were allowed to visit. We saw the Toddler Room, where Willow was prior to her adoption, and the Baby Room. We saw about 10 or so special needs children outside prior to our tour. We stopped prior to going to the orphanage and bought candy for all the children and they were distributing it while we were there, so they all had visitors and candy...they were VERY excited! It was heartbreaking to leave them behind. They were all so very starved for attention and just a little stroke on the hair or across the cheek brought out some of the biggest grins and certainly some of the deepest "wanting" stares that I have ever seen.

The bus ride back was miserable. I think everyone was relieved to have the visit over with, but know everyone had this "pit" in their stomach. Between seeing a glimpse of what your child endured for the beginning, most formidable time, of their lives and seeing all the other children that are left, it is almost too much to take. It left my heart broken and sick to my stomach. I know we, and I'm sure others, held our daughter even tighter when we left. Told her that she NEVER would have to go back there (unless she wanted to visit, when she is older), nor would she ever have to live like that EVER again!
Beyond all the emotional impact, the traffic on the way back has horrible and while it took us 3 hours to get to the orphanage, it took us almost 5 hours to get back. Everyone was mentally, physically and emotionally spent and very quick to "hunker down" in each of our individual rooms and hold our families tight.

Sunday--Finally A Day Off

Today was Sunday here in China and we did not have any "adoption business" to do today, so the day was free to do as we please.

Willow, Tom and I slept in and got up around 9:30 AM and went down for breakfast. After breakfast we walked over the bridge to Guangzhou from Shamian Island (where we are staying). We went to the Guangzhou Pedestrian Street, which is sort of like an outdoor mall. There are blocks and blocks of stores all up and down the street and the street is blocked off to traffic, except on foot...thus "pedestrian" street. The place was an ABSOLUTE zoo! I don't know if it was because it was a weekend day, or if it is like that all the time, but I don't think I have ever seen so many people in one place! It was quite overwhelming and we did not last for long. We did buy some items for Willow and found a McDonald's for lunch, which after being in China for a week, tasted very good to have something "from home". At lunch we found out that Willow really likes french fries!

We returned to the island late afternoon, relaxed for a bit in the room and then took a cab back over to Guangzhou to the Carrefour (actually a French owned store, but very similar to WalMart), to get supplies (formula, diapers, snacks, etc...) The mall where Carrefour is had a Papa John's Pizza on the corner, so we ate there for dinner. So, all around, today was a pretty "americanized" day as far a food goes.

Willow really has made very little progress and is still pretty shut-down. Tonight at the Carrefour, she seemed to show an interest in where she was for the first time and afterwards at dinner, there were a few brief moments of "almost" interaction with me. Hey...I'll take what I can get at this point. We'll keep of these days she is going to come out of her shell and she is going to be even more beautiful!

Tomorrow afternoon is her medical examination and then we go back to the government offices to pick up her official paperwork. After those appointments, we return to the hotel to start working on the mountain of forms for required for the US Consulate. Our consulate appointment is December 30th.

Stay tuned....more to come soon!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Quick Update

Yesterday we went to the Chinese Province Government Offices and were officially made Willow's parents!
We spent the evening exploring local shops and went out to dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant.

Today, Saturday, we took a long bus ride out to Yangjiang. This is where Willow is from. We had lunch with the orphanage staff and director and then toured the orphanage. It was a tough day emotionally, but I am glad we got the opportunity to see where our daughter has spent nearly the first two years of her life.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a free day and we plan to go off the island and into the city of Guanghzou to do some exploring and shopping.

After a 4 1/2 hour bus ride back from the orphanage tonight, we are all exhausted. Physically and mentally exhausted. So that's all for tonight. Tomorrow I should have time to load some more pictures and comment more on our orphanage visit.

Stay tuned......

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Family Day

Today we held our sweet baby girl in our arms for the first time and it was AWESOME!!
She is just as cute as can be and of course we are crazy in love!

As if the whole issue of being handed over to these strangers who look or talk like no one I have ever seen was not enough of a shocker for her, after the families in our group received their children, our facilitator took us to the grocery store to get any items we needed. After our trip to the store, we decided to go back to our room and have some good quality family time, just the three of us.

Willow never cried when she was handed over to me. I think she is kind of in shock. Sort of a sensory overload. She has been very subdued, just taking everything in. I really haven't had a chance to really check her all out physically yet as she fell asleep while I was feeding her, so that will wait until bath time in the morning.

Even without her true personality showing yet...she is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

We have to go sign paperwork for the China Government tomorrow morning, and then she will be officially ours forever! If she is adjusting okay, maybe tomorrow we will go out and do some shopping. Saturday we are planning a trip to visit the orphanage that she is from. It is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Guangzhou, but with traffic, it took them 4 hours today to get the babies here! So Saturday could prove to be a long day, but well worth it, as we will get to she the only home that Willow has known since she was 5 days old.

More to come tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We're In China!

We're here...we're here...we're really here!! After approximately 26 hours from the time we left our house for the airport until we arrived to our hotel in Guangzhou, we have made it!

All the travel was relatively uneventful, just VERY LONG!

Our facilitator, Peter, picked us up at the airport and told us to meet him in the lobby tomorrow afternoon at 1:50 PM to go pick up Willow. Holy crap, after all this time, after such a long wait, everything is going so fast. I can't believe that we are actually going to finally see, hold, kiss, hug and love Willow in just over 12 hours from now. My emotions are all over the place!

For now, I am going to have a snack and try to get some sleep. May be the last night I have that option for awhile! But somehow even knowing that, I doubt there will be much sleeping.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas In China!

After a nearly 3 year wait, we finally have our travel dates to go get Willow! And, only a weeks notice to be in China! Holy Crap!! Needless to say things have been quite crazy around here and there has been little to no sleep this week.

So far, here is what I know about our itinerary:
12/16 depart 8:40 AM, Phoenix for Guangzhou
12/17 arrive in Guangzhou 9:35 PM
12/18 meet and take physical custody of Willow! Our Family Day!!
12/31 depart 8:00 PM Guangzhou for a very convoluted route.
But I will talk about that later.
01/01 arrive 9:37 PM in Phoenix

Home and a complete last! I can't begin to think of a better way to start 2009!

There are a lot of things in between the 16th and the 31st, government appointments, medicals, consulate appointments, orphanage visit, and of course sightseeing and shopping! I plan to take our laptop and blog from China, as time allows, adding pics, etc. So stay tuned...I'm sure it is going to be a wild ride!