Sunday, January 12, 2014

The last couple days...

The last couple days have been fairly low-key compared to the visit to the orphanage. Saturday morning was the medical appointment for Eva. She handled it really well. We found out at the orphanage that Eva had actually been in the hospital for 2 weeks to be treated for bronchitis. She was pretty sick (hence the 5 medications they loaded us down with). It sounds like she had only been out of the hospital for a few days when we got her. The Lord was totally in the timing of us coming for her. We actually got travel approval earlier than we expected and could have gotten her as early as December 23. We didn’t have a peace about coming that quickly, and it’s a good thing because unbeknownst to us, she was in the hospital. She is doing MUCH better now. She’s eating well, sleeping fairly well, and definitely has lots of energy! The last update we got said she weighed just under 16 pounds. That must have been with her sumo suit on because she came to 13.9 pounds on Saturday. I have a feeling she didn’t weigh quite as much as they said, and she probably lost some while she was sick. She’s making up for lost time now though!

Today we went to the wholesale pearl market and had a little bracelet made for Eva. The way it works there is that you buy a string of pearls, and they make whatever you want from it. It’s fun to watch them string them! Since Eva would probably just chew on it now, we got one for when she’s a little bigger and then another for when she’s an adult. Ayla has the same thing at home.

After the market, we went to the Chen Family Temple. It is over 100 years old and has lots of traditional Chinese art and architecture. My mom and I took the girls to the very back garden where you could see the backs of some actual homes. It was our favorite part!

Ayla is doing a little better. Yesterday she said she liked Eva, which was an improvement from what she said the day before. She still has more meltdowns than normal, but we do see the real Ayla in between those moments (right now she is dancing on the coffee table to the Mulan music), which I’m so thankful for! Ayla is learning the art of “sharing.” You know, if Eva has something she wants, just take it and put something else in her hands. It’s working for her for now, but it won’t last long! Seriously though, I am just praying for wisdom and grace in dealing with her. I want her to be able to express what she’s thinking about Eva and “big sisterhood” without feeling like she’ll get in trouble. It’s the same openness I want both girls to feel when the tough adoption questions come as they get older. It won’t always be easy to talk about or what I want to hear, but I never want them to feel like they have to act or answer a certain way to be loved and accepted. 

Anyways, I feel like this trip is flying by! We are going to the zoo tomorrow, which Ayla is really excited about! Tuesday morning we have our consulate appointment and then a dinner cruise that night. Wednesday we go to Shamian Island to shop, and then we head to Hong Kong that evening to fly out at 12:55 am Thursday. Yeah, you can go ahead and be in prayer for that one! It feels like we just got here, and it’s almost time to leave. We will fly into Atlanta at 9:25 am on Thursday morning and then drive back to Birmingham. I’m tired just thinking about the trip home.  We won’t have an airport welcome this time around… unless you want to come to Atlanta… during rush hour… that’s what I thought! ;)

Ok, I’ve got two little girls trying to climb in my lap and we’re about to head to dinner, so here are a few pics from the past several days...

Checking out the fish before we take our babies
to the doctor.

Waiting to see the doctor...
Eva didn't make a peep (neither did baby Stella).
Getting measured. Almost 14 pounds. (I love the nurses' hats!)

3 proud dads!

While daddy holds Eva... some much needed cuddles with my big girl!

At Hagan Daas... the chair looked like a cage.

picking out some pearls...

trying them on...

Eva too!

Chen Family Temple

Our group of 5 families (2 more joined this week after getting their girls
in other provinces)

While mommy was shopping, Ayla took Daddy on a tour of the place...

The home took 6 years to build and is made of only brick and wood.

The back garden with the homes behind.

Keep up Daddy!

A rock...

A courtyard.

A home behind the Temple walls. It looks
like a set.

Let's shake on it!

I might like her...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Maoming visit...

Wow, it’s hard to know where to even begin! Today was such a special day. It started early, as we left for Maoming at 6:30 this morning.

Actually, let me back up a little to something that happened yesterday that completely describes where we are with Ayla. The girls were playing on the floor, and Eva likes to do her little army crawl all up under the table and chairs. She’ll get to where she can’t get out, so I’ll get her and pull her out. As I picked her up one time, I said, “Come here you little peanut.” Ayla’s immediate response was, “Can you call me peanut too?”

I laughed as I called her peanut too, but I could have cried. Bless her heart! She has been really clingy to me and doesn’t really want anyone else to do anything for her… especially when I’m holding Eva. She’s just extra sensitive right now. I am really trying to be patient with her more-than-usual neediness, but it does get wearing. Pray for grace for both of us!! When it comes down to it, she is a mommy’s girl. I knew that my time and attention being divided was going to be a tough transition for her, but praise the Lord Eva loves for Daddy to hold her, so I can give Ayla some one-on-one time. I know it will get better with time, but watching her struggle in those moments is hard.  Eva is “in her space,” as she’s said a few times. And she is. The hard part is that it’s not just her space anymore. There have been several sweet and fun sister moments too. They play together really well, and Ayla loves helping me with diapers… it just hits her in waves that things are different.

Maoming Social Welfare Institute, where Ayla and Eva lived while they were in China.

So back to the orphanage visit. Eva first. She is super curious (we’ve nicknamed her George) and starts waving whenever we get out of the van. I had her in the carrier in case she seemed anxious, but as we started walking up the stairs, I could tell she knew where she was. She started smiling and kicking her feet with excitement. At that point I just prepared myself (if that’s possible) for her to lunge for her nanny and not want to leave her. We got upstairs to her floor and several nannies were there to greet her. I took her out of the carrier so the nannies could see her. They wanted to hold her, and Eva seemed fine, so I handed her to her Grandma (her primary nanny… more on that later). She went to her, but almost immediately reached back for me. I almost fell apart. Partly out of pure joy and relief, and partly for the sting that the nanny had to feel. I honestly wasn’t expecting that. One by one, the nannies would reach to hold her. She would let them, but then she’d reach back to her mommy. Every time, the nannies would cheer and give her thumbs up. They were saying all kinds of things to her in Chinese (I learned today that Maoming has it’s own dialect, but I don’t know what it’s called), but the one word I kept catching was “mama.” They were excited for her! We went into the little playroom where she spent so much time, and she played with all the familiar toys on the floor with her nanny. She would play as long as I was close by. It was so sweet to watch, but it’s hard to know what to say to a woman who has loved and cared for your baby for so long. I hope she knows how grateful we are! We went into the crib room for a few minutes. The other babies were just going down for a nap, but we got to see 2 little empty cribs. One was Eva’s. The other was the little girl of the family there with us. When they learn that certain children are being adopted at the same time, they put them in cribs next to each other. So sweet!

Ayla has been looking forward to going back to Maoming since we started talking about it several months ago. We pray for her nanny, and she has been so excited to see her. Several of the nannies knew Ayla. She gave them some shy hugs and smiles. Her primary nanny (her Grandma) was not scheduled to work today, but she knew we were coming and made a special trip to see Ayla. She is SO sweet! Ayla gave her a little gift and hugged her initially, but quickly started having a “moment.” A while later, the nanny had to leave and I told Ayla to give her a hug. She wouldn’t do it. How do you explain to a 3 year old the significance of a day like today? I told Ayla she wouldn’t get another chance to hug her nanny, but she still wouldn’t do it and I wasn’t going to force it. As the nanny left, we walked the other direction. I was disappointed and knew Ayla would be too later. We walked down a floor to the playroom where Ayla had played. She perked up and was playing when her nanny walks back up to thank us for the gift. Ayla looked up and RAN to her and gave her a big hug! I am SO thankful for that moment, and that the Lord gave us a second chance for it!

The orphanage cook had made lunch for us. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it was really good! After we ate, we took a few more pictures and left to go to Eva’s finding spot. We pulled up to a hospital. It was being renovated and didn’t really look like a hospital at all. Eva was left on the fourth floor, which is the women’s and children’s floor. It was so surreal to be standing in that place. Somewhere, probably nearby, is a birth mother who felt she had no other choice but to abandon her. She was a preemie and weighed just 2 lbs. when she was found. Somewhere is a woman who thinks about Eva, but has so many unknowns. I am so grateful for her birth mom. She chose life for our little girl!

It took us a lot longer to get back because of traffic, but I got some good snuggle time with both girls. On the way back, I was also able to talk to our guide, Aron. I was a little confused about the “Grandma” program at the orphanage since most of the “Grandma’s” were fairly young. It’s actually called a social welfare institute because part of the campus is for the elderly. I always assumed that the “Grandma” was one of the elderly women that lived there, but it is actually just the term they use for each child’s primary nanny. They call them the Grandma so they can prepare the children for their adopted mom and dad without the kids feeling like they are getting a “replacement” mother. This is especially great for the older kids.

Today was a sweet, long, overwhelming wonderful day. Praise the Lord!!

Steven will put more pics on fb, but here are some...
This nanny greeted us as we got out of the van. She knew Ayla.

Headed up to Eva's floor.

Her "Grandma" was so happy to see her.

She didn't want to go back to her...

Ayla's "Grandma" shows up, and was so sweet and excited
to see Ayla.

Ayla gave her a little gift. Normally they don't open them
until we leave, but Ayla wanted her to open it.
Good thing, because mommy accidentally mixed up the
gifts. Here's the right one! ;)

All of us with the girls and their nannies (Grandmas).
Steven wanted one with just the girls... Eva wouldn't go
back to her nanny, so neither did Ayla.

Two little empty cribs... Eva's is on the right.


All the Grandmas!

Walking away without saying goodbye...

Ayla running to her when she came back!

Big hug!

Yay for second chances!!

About to leave when we saw this
nanny waiving...
waiving bye bye

Eva's finding spot...
The fourth floor of this women and children's hospital.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gotcha details...

I thought that maybe since we had already been through one Gotcha Day I wouldn’t feel so nervous this time. I was wrong. It was that same exact feeling in my chest and stomach when I woke up Monday morning… like I could laugh, cry or puke, but mostly just crazy excited. We had several things to do that morning, so it helped the time pass by quickly. Before we knew it, it was 2:00 and time to head to the civil affairs office to meet Eva. We loaded in a van with the two other families… who were all feeling the exact same way. On the way there, we were talking about our girls and we figured out that all three of them were within 5 weeks of each other age wise. One of them is from the same orphanage as Eva, and our guide said they were crib buddies (which meant they were in the  same room in Maoming). About 20 minutes later, we arrived at the civil affairs building and headed in.

Last family pic before Eva
Gotcha Day was amazing! Since our travel group is just us and 2 other families, it felt way different than last time. The civil affairs building was not very busy, so everything seemed really calm and laid back. We checked over some paperwork and sat down to wait until it was time to meet Eva. Within about 1 minute, the first baby came out before anyone expected. By the time we stood up, they were bringing Eva out. I recognized the nanny who was holding her, and she recognized Ayla immediately! She was so excited to see Ayla that she headed straight towards her and forgot to hand Eva to me. I finally just took Eva from her so she could talk to Ayla. I LOVE that they are from the same place, and that moment made me so grateful for the love and care they received as babies. 

As soon as I held Eva, the first thing I noticed is how light she is. She was dressed in this puffy one piece sweatsuit monstrosity, and it felt like that’s all I was holding. She did really well. She didn’t cry when I took her, and within a few minutes we saw some smiles and heard some giggles… tiny little giggles. The nannies gave us all the things we had sent in the care package, and she immediately grabbed her little photo album. It looks like she played with it a lot… and chewed on it! We heard some little baby babble that sounded like mama and baba (which means daddy). Her nanny must have looked through it with her a lot. One of the best parts of the day is that she let Steven hold her! She will go to either of us, and that is a huge answer to prayer. I think her seeing Ayla with Steven and the fact that she’s so young has helped a lot too!

We were able to ask the nannies some questions before we left. They told us Eva has bronchitis, and handed me five, FIVE medications that she’s on. They also mentioned she has a temper. We saw it for the first time when we tried to give her the medicine. She is NOT a fan! They also mentioned she has a poor appetite and likes to “skip” naps. Great. (I will say, that as I write this, she is napping in her crib. This was after she drank almost a full bottle and took her meds. I did get a little in my face when she spit it out).

Ayla has done great too! She is playing well with Eva, and Eva thinks she’s hilarious! It is so cute to watch them play together. Eva is feisty and will definitely be able to hold her own. She would act like she was handing her little photo album to Ayla, but would yank it back as soon as Ayla would reach for it. It became a little game and we heard some really cute laughs. Ayla suddenly seems SO big and grown up now. So far she is loving her new role as big sister.

Eva is not walking yet, but she can get around pretty fast. She has a funny little army crawl. She also like to roll over quickly multiple times. She stops whenever she runs into something.

It is still so surreal that she’s finally with us. When you’re in the process, it really feels like you’ll just do paperwork forever. The beautiful thing is that there is actually a child at the end of all that waiting and paperwork. We know people are praying for us, and we are so grateful! Please continue to pray as we walk through these next few days! God is good!

The head nanny at Maoming was so excited to see Ayla
So glad my mom, "Debe", is here with us! Three generations.
My mom, me and Eva all have the middle name Ann. 
Kisses from Daddy


Sweet smile... (not mine)
Daddy's first hold

A good look at her huge outfit.

Hailston girls!
First family pic. Ayla was really excited, but I love her expression in this! 
Maoming staff and our sweet guide, Aron (right)

And just like that, we walked out... with 3 more than when we walked in!
Checking it all out

Precious girl!