Monthly Archives: April 2014

China “Special needs” adoption

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Just over a year ago Caleb and I filled out an adoption application with our agency online for the China “special needs” program.
That term can be scary and may sway some from adopting from China because of it. We knew through talking to others, and our own research that a “special need” in China is not necessarily what we consider it to be in the USA. It could simply be as minor as a birthmark in the “wrong place”, or low birth weight. (How many of us could be considered special needs then?!)

When we applied, we had to go through a “medical checklist” and basically check off what medical conditions we thought we would be able to comfortably handle as a family. Then we had to say to what varying degree, major to minor.

It was crazy tough, and we had to look up lots of terms.
It was hard for me not to think of each of these conditions as precious kids who needed families regardless of there physical need.. But we also had to be realistic. We did the best we could to check off parts of different categories. For us, most of the conditions we checked off were minor conditions.
In November, just a few weeks after completing the necessary paperwork, we received the referral of our precious Reese.
She was reported as having a medical condition that was not even listed on the check list. “Left lower limb dysplasia”. The term, as well as the medical charts, were very vague, but despite the lack of information, we knew from the second we opened her file and saw her face, that she was ours. We just felt it.
There were times of worry in the waiting, and a lot of “what ifs”, but we had peace in knowing that God had picked us for one another and he was in control.
Although we received updates, we knew we wouldn’t really know the extent of her condition until we met her, and maybe not fully until we had her home and she had been seen by a doctor.
But that didn’t matter. She was our daughter, and we would do anything and everything we could to provide what she would need. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Just like we already do for our other two daughters.
Reese is so teeny and is a little delayed developmentally. Completely normal for children who have lived in an orphanage at some time in their life. I am so thankful that she was placed with a foster family after she was matched to us. The orphanage worker who was there on “gotcha day” said that Reese improved so much in her development in just the short 4 months she was away from the orphanage with her foster family. Her leg developed the muscle tone that it was lacking.
She is doing so great, you cannot even tell that she has ever had anything “wrong” with her leg. Even our guide who has been with us the whole time in Guangzhou had assumed she was on the “non special needs” list, and was surprised when Caleb told him she was in fact listed as “special needs.” He then showed him the scar on her left leg.

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I noticed it on gotcha day and asked the nanny about it right away.
The orphanage nanny said it was prob from the brace she wore on her leg… 🙁
Ok, fine but it shouldn’t have scarred her.
My poor baby:(
This is the hardest part. It hurts my heart to think about the time before we were together. We couldn’t be there to comfort her when she was wearing the leg brace that caused that scar… It makes me cry those hard sobs that come from way deep within.
BUT the Lord watched over her, of this I am sure. He wrapped his presence around her little body when we couldn’t wrap our arms around her. He knew and saw our daughters face way before we set eyes on her.
She has always been with him. He has never left her side.
And now, finally, we have her in our arms. We can’t even believe she’s really ours!! We are so lucky!!!
Today we had to get her picture taken for her visa and she had a basic medical check up.

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She did not like any of it. It was so sad 🙁 She screamed in a way we had not ever seen her do before. Our guide said said she was a “fighter” and she had strong lungs. LOL

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So glad We are now here to comfort her.
When it came time to fill out the medical form we marked “special needs”, BUT she is in no way shape or form even close to having a “special need”. Her only need was her family.

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Do they have a box to check for amazing or perfect? Because that would be a way more accurate description. 🙂

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Shamian Island

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Shamian Island is the home of the famous white swan hotel. Its where many adoptive families used to stay when finalizing their adoptions in Guangzhou. But the US consulate has now moved off the island and the White swan is closed for construction.
It’s still a gorgeous place to visit. The buildings are different then any other place in China because Shamian Island was under British Rule until the 1940’s.
Many adoptive families will go to visit the island to walk around the shops and and take the traditional photos.
This one is the most famous. The idea is to have your newly adopted child stand in the line of these statues of children and take their picture.

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Reese did not think that was a good tradition. Lol

It is a nice scenic walk, and you are sure to see couples taking wedding photos all over the place.

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We went into the shops and took the opportunity to buy a few things for the girls for super cheap. Here’s a few cute things I got to add to Reese’s wardrobe.

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That cost us about $20 American. The shopping was so chill compared to bargaining in one of the Beijing markets.
On the taxi ride back Riley was happy that she had scored a Chinese dress (she wanted one so bad) and Rowan was… Exhausted. 🙂

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The rest of our afternoon was spent at the hotel pool. It was about 80 today and it’s humid, so we feel like we are at home in Florida 🙂
It was Reese’s first time in a swimming pool, and I think it’s safe to say she loved it!!!

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And look how adorable she is in her bathing suit!!!!!!

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Oh.my.CUTENESS!!!!!!

Forever family, Day 2 :)

Ok, confession. On the morning of our second day with Reese as I lay in bed thinking about what’s on today’s agenda, I got really exited about…. Getting her dressed in a cute (too big for her) outfit!! Lol

She woke up today only wanting mama. We have been making sure to split our time and duties, such as feeding, changing, and putting her to sleep, so that she would have equal time to attach to both of us. Caleb walked her and put her to bed last night, so it was odd that she only wanted me this morning.
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She does this sweet thing where she puts her face against ours. I think it’s comforting to her, and we love it.

Don’t worry, Caleb walked down the hall with her for a bit, and she was back to normal.
She loves watching her silly sisters.

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Daddy got the best laughs from her!! This is my favorite picture yet!!

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We must have worn her out, because soon after she got very sleepy.

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The appointment this afternoon was to apply for Reese’s passport. It was at the police station, very quick and very easy. We got to see our official adoption certificate.

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And Reese had her picture taken for her passport. I guess we will see that later. She will have a Chinese passport for the trip home because she doesn’t become an official US citizen until her feet touch ground in the USA.

This evening we ventured out with our Jacksonville friends to go to a Mexican restaurant everyone raves about, called “Tekila”.
All 14 of us (there is 9 of them, they have been nicknamed “the big family” lol) waited in “line” (Chinese people do not form lines, and it is NOT rude to cut in front of people.) for about 30-40 minutes. For a taxi.
Once we got a taxi it only took about 10 minutes to get to the restaurant. And it was worth it!!!!

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Such a sweet family. So glad we have to keep in touch forever because of our daughters connection to one another.

We experienced a few “firsts” with Reese today. Some fun, and one not so fun.
Reese had Mexican food for the first time (rice and beans) and she loved it!! She’s definitely my daughter! She ate so much!
She also gave us our first kisses!!!! We could tell she had no idea what a kiss was 🙁 but Caleb and I would kiss and say “kiss” and then kiss her to show her what it is, and today, she leaned in and gave us one on her own. A couple of times:) soooo sweet.
She also said “mama” for the first time. She may not know exactly what it means yet, but she was saying it to me… “Mama mama…”
This last one made me kind of sad. We have read that some of the children being adopted will want try to go to any and every Chinese lady in their sight (because they look familiar) Well, Reese hasn’t done that, (thank goodness) but while waiting in line for the taxi she wanted to go to the Jacksonville families’ blonde daughter. I knew better than to pass her over as it is so important for attachment and bonding not pass her around, but it happened so fast she just leaned towards her and then, she cried when I took her back less than 10 seconds later!!! 🙁
It broke my heart, but reminded me that even though she seems to be attaching and she only wants me at times, it’s only been a couple of days. She needs more time with only her mommy and daddy so we don’t confuse her.
A few minutes later she was with Caleb and whined when a blonde woman walked by. At least she’s wanting people who look like me. Most of the rest of the night, she only wanted mommy again so my back was killing me. 17 pounds is heavy when being carried all day. Good thing she’s so cute! 🙂 That’s it for now goodnight!! Thank you for all your prayers and support and for following our journey!

She is officially OURS!!!!

This morning we headed back to the civil affairs office to finalize the paperwork for our adoption.

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We had to take an official family photo for the paper work…

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Sign some more papers, answer questions like, “are you satisfied with her?” , “do you still wish to adopt?” And “do you promise to never abandon her?” Ummm YES YES YES!!!!! WE ABSOLUTELY ADORE HER!!!
As we exited the room, the family from jax that we are traveling with entered. Caleb told them, “the answer is C” LOL

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That’s it!! She’s officially ours!!

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Next we headed to the grocery store to get milk and snacks. Reese was drinking out of her sippy, which we can tell she is very unfamiliar with, and all the sudden, for the first time, she started to cry. A sad cry. Broke our hearts. We didn’t know if she was finally taking it all in or what…. Moments later she was asleep in her daddy’s arms and she woke up feeling a little warm. We think she’s teething. She seems fine now. Please be praying.
Later we went to the pool at the hotel and hung out with our Jacksonville friends. The girls swam and Reese just watched and splashed and snacked.

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What a view.

In sad news. we learned that one of the families we saw receive their child yesterday, actually the one I mentioned was crying near us, the adoptive parents declined to adopt today as we were there finalizing ours:( our guide was so sad when she told us. She’s only seen this happen 2 times in 10 years. The little one, I believe had a repaired cleft lip, and maybe palette. I believe this would have been the couples first child.
They have to say why they declined, the answer was the child was running a fever and couldn’t drink from the bottle correctly. (This is normal for Cleft lip and palettes, even repaired needs some physical therapy.) whatever the reason, that’s hard. I feel bad for the adoptive parents, what they must be feeling, but even more so for the child. Abandoned once again. Please be praying for all involved. We cannot possibly understand what the adoptive parents- to-be must have felt, or have been going through to decline a sweet baby.
This makes us so appreciative for all the prayers and the Lords guidance and direction and constant presence. Adoption is hard, but it is also beautiful. God redeems these little ones into families, just as we are redeemed into his.

Gotcha day details…

More about yesterday. Gotcha moment is such a quick blur. We were lucky enough to be traveling this week with just one other family. Next week our agency has 18 families coming to adopt. Wow.
The civil affairs office is not very big. And it was super hot in there, If they have AC, it wasn’t on. During the time we were there, there was only maybe 3 or 4 other families, not with our agency, receiving their children. What a blessing. One was a teenage boy, it made me want to cry tears of joy.
There wasn’t a lot of commotion, and maybe that’s part of why Reese did so well. There was a baby crying next to us for a while, but she seemed oblivious. She was too busy throwing something in the ground for the girls to pick up. (Oh yes apparently that game is international) lol
Our agency guide said she has seen a time where 62 families were there at one time!!! I am so glad that wasn’t our experience.
Mya, Reese’s forever Jacksonville friend , seemed to have done well too. We learned that they were indeed in the same room together at the orphanage, and maybe even the same crib when they were younger. They have only 10 babies in a room… So amazing how God would place them in the same city with their forever homes.

When we got back to the hotel, Reese was so sweet, just taking it all in. We were worried that she would be scared moving to another new environment. We sat and played and slowly took off her jacket and shoes, trying to get a glimpse of her actual size. She only had two layers on, thank goodness. (No more snow suit) The jacket she had on was from old navy, It had most likely been donated to the orphanage by foreigners.
She started playing this game of walking back and forth to Caleb and I, she thought is was hilarious. She has a cute deep laugh.
She’s been copying us a bit by saying dada and mama, but of course she doesn’t know what that really means. (Caleb would want you to know she was saying dadada first) 🙂
She is so funny about eating. She will grab a puff on her own, but then she will hand it to you for you to put it in her mouth. We didn’t bring a bottle, because the last update had no mention of one. But since being back at the orphanage she would have been given a bottle again. She’s been learning the sippy cup, but again, she wants us to do it for her. Lol
At bed time, I was worried she would be sad. She’s had so many different sleeping arrangements in her life so, I wasn’t sure what she would be most comforted by. I tried walking her, she was all crooked and not settled, (she didn’t know how to be held this way) and then I laid her in her crib, she quickly stood up and was starting to get upset, So, I picked her up and laid with her in our bed, ( for now we will meet her emotional needs immediately , so she understands that we will take care of her) She wanted to play. We tried walking again, and the crib again, and then the second go around with the bed she was out in two minutes. We are learning each other.
She woke up at 2am, and sat up. She looked around and then settled back in and went to sleep. I was holding my breath, lol. She is used to constant noise from other babies around her, so we have her crib in our room. Big sisters are sleeping with mommy and daddy.
Sorry for the lack of pics in this post, I just wanted to write out more details. The next few post may be less details and mainly pics. A moment alone for a Mom with an infant is rare:) which reminds me, I need to shower before she wakes. Day one as a forever family awaits!!! 🙂
Here’s some photos from breakfast.. (Added in later)

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GOTCHA

When I woke up this morning I had a song in my heart and mind. I love it when that happens. This morning the song was, “it is well with my soul” and so I down loaded it onto my phone and put on repeat.
“When peace like a river…” I felt completely at peace all day before our gotcha moment. It had to have been the prayers from you all…. We can’t thank you enough. We had our morning meeting,

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And then the time went by soooo slow!! FINALLY, it was time. 20140408-214735.jpg
That was taken on the elevator when we were going down to the lobby to meet up with our guide and the other family from Jacksonville, to go to the civil affairs office to meet our children.
It was a quick 10 minute bus ride, and we were there. We went up the elevators and were all putting our stuff down arranging who would be videoing and who would be taking pictures, etc….
Some babies were in the other room behind a half drawn curtain and we were kind of joking with the other family about trying to see our girls, but also wanting to wait until the big moment, kind like waiting to see a bride on her wedding day until she walks down the aisle. Then our guide said our girls weren’t there yet! What?! They were the closest orphanage but they were running late. They would have to walk right through the room where we were to get to the waiting room… Oh no… Then we would see them for sure. Did we want to turn our backs? No, we couldn’t possibly….and just as we sat there contemplating what to do, they arrived. The nannies were quickly walking them through and then they stopped and turned them to face us. I started weeping happy tears. She was so beautiful!! Oh my goodness. She’s real.

Before we knew it, our names were called and she was handed over. It felt as though she had always been mine. No tears this time. I was so happy and in awe.
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(Sorry for the blurry pic, we have a video but not good pics, hopefully we can find one of two in there somewhere)
She didn’t cry at all,

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and she even gave us some smiles before we even left the building. She’s wearing Riley’s headband, she wanted too put it on:)

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She’s perfect!!! Seriously, Caleb and I (and the girls) are so in love. She hasn’t cried, she’s been super easy and we even figured out bed time pretty quickly… I’ll leave you with pictures from the day.

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We feel so lucky, so blessed. She is amazing. And perfect, and so tiny!! Just 17 pounds at 17 months old. ( we will need to buy smaller clothes and shoes) Please continue to pray for us, this is when we need it most. Pray for bonding, attachment, and peace. I better get some sleep. Goodnight.

BEFORE GOTCHA:

This morning we ate breakfast for the last time without our precious Reese. We were again surrounded by many other adoptive families and their new little ones. I loved watching the families interact with each other and their kids. Adoption bonds people quickly. All of the tables were talking back and forth, asking how the night was, how they were feeling, it was so sweet.
I ended up talking to one woman in the food line who had just adopted two at the same time. She was so thrilled to hear our “gotcha day” is today and she introduced us to the other families. They were all so excited for us. The woman said I have the “love sick” look on my face as she watched me looking at the other children. She said “just give it a few days”, LOL
All of these families will be heading home within the next day or two, including our new friends from the park yesterday. We sat and talked with them for a few minutes at breakfast, such a sweet family. Their little Olivia was all smiles for the girls again.
This morning seemed like it lasted forever!! We had to be down in the lobby at 10:30 for a meeting and to check paperwork. We knew we would be traveling with another family from here on out, who are also with our agency. Today is both of our gotcha days.

We introduced ourselves and sat down at the table making casual conversation. The woman said, “we are from Jacksonville, Florida, where are you from?” I think our response was something like, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!!”
How crazy. Seriously, only God.
Our daughters are just months apart in age. They have been living in the same orphanage, most likely in the same room, and possibly the same crib, until they were transferred to their foster families. We learned today that Reese had been with her foster family for about four months. That is exactly what we figured, through the over a analyzation of every pic and update we have received.
We also learned both Reese and this families daughter, had been transferred back to the orphanage a couple of weeks ago. 🙁 We had been praying she could just stay with the foster family until she was given to us, but we know the Lord works everything for his glory and for the good of those who love him.

The other family’s update said their daughter, who had been with her foster family twice as long as Reese, was “very attached” to the family and had a hard time leaving them:(
Praying for her adjustment as well.

So, how crazy is that?!? Reese will have a friend who is from the same orphanage, who is the same age in Jacksonville!!! God is so fun.

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ONE HOUR!!!!!!

Rowan said her “tummy tickles” because she’s so excited.

Taking it all in…

I woke up super early again this morning (230am) and decided I would spend some time with the Lord. I walked around and prayed over our hotel room, asking it to be filled with his presence. I want this to be a place of peace beyond understanding for Reese. (and for us) I turned on some worship and was really moved, once again, by the words of “awakening”. (I actually played this song when we were driving from our house to the airport on the morning we left the USA)

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This was/is my hearts cry this morning. A fresh awakening deep in my soul, being made aware of His constant presence as we walk in THIS moment in THIS hour of our journey, and that we would glorify Him and Him alone.

After everyone else woke up, we walked down our never ending hallway to go to breakfast.
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(That is not an optical illusion) 🙂

We were sitting by several families who had very recently adopted. And I could barley eat my mostly Chinese breakfast plate due to my staring.

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I was fighting back tears of joy as I watched these families. One family in particular, was the focus of most of my stares, based on their proximity to us, and the fact that their little one looked to be close to Reese’s age. Riley was staring too 🙂

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Don’t worry staring in China is not considered rude, at least not when the Chinese do it.

After breakfast we decided to venture out and try to become familiar with the hotel’s surroundings. We aren’t “stay inside of the hotel” kind of people, we want to take it all in. We want the girls to see and experience China… and that they did… Maybe a little too much… LOL

The walk started with an “oh, look a seven eleven”…

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Then we found a museum that hadn’t opened for the day yet.
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Next, a restaurant where you can choose your food. (The girls just thought the aquariums were there to look at)
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The further we got away from the Hotel the more emerged in the culture we became. Just a couple blocks away we found a really neat street market opening for the day.
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The first stretch of the street market was just fruits and vegetables…
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Then we saw real China. The China that a the majority of its people live in everyday. It’s much different than the lives you and I live back in America. (Remember this is just blocks from 5 star hotels)
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Most of the people come to this street market daily to buy food. They dont earn enough to buy food for the week. They buy their food off of the street, literally, it’s sitting on the asphalt.

We walked into a meat market, and (as I’ve known from previous trips to China) there is no law about refrigeration, so the smell is horrendous. Unfortunately for us, and our girls, the meat in this market was as fresh as you can get…

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Caleb, Riley, and I saw a chicken that was freshly plucked, head chopped off, that was still flapping it’s wings and flip flopping around the table. My “protect my kids” instinct kicked in and we headed straight for the exit.

Rowan, who missed the whole thing, but could clearly identify chickens and other animals sitting out on the tables ready for purchase, asked me to go back in there and tell them, “it’s not very nice” and that “God made those animals to live.” She has such a tender heart towards animals.

We thought we were in the clear when we saw this old man squatting on the side of the street with a bag of snakes.

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Just as we approached, he picked one up, cut off the head, and peeled the skin off in one piece. Oh my word… HURRY.. keep walking.

We got out of the market (thank you Jesus) and were heading back to the hotel when we spotted the sweet family from breakfast that morning. We said hello, and I apologized for staring during breakfast, explaining to them that we were also adopting a little one, TOMORROW!!!
We stood and talked with them for a few minutes and became quick friends. Their little Olivia is 19 months and is beautiful!! She loved the girls and was smiling and being so sweet. Riley of course, was eating her up.

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We took a long walk with our new friends in a park across the street from our hotel. They are a sweet Christian family, and we shared a little about our journeys so far. (So cool how my prayer this morning would be an awakening and being aware of him, and hours later we are sharing about God’s leading and his goodness with new friends)

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This park was gorgeous and had a lot going on. We rode on a ride

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Caleb said my left eye must still be jet lagged, LOL

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Watched the locals dance, exercise, do tai chi, and even sing.

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The park was so beautiful

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We stopped to let the girls play in the grass for awhile. Olivia happily played with Riley

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And Rowan chased butterflies. (Yup, animal lover)

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By this time it was around 11am (yes, the day is long when you wake up at 230am) and it was time for Olivia’s nap, and for us to get lunch.
We headed over to “the coffee club”, an Australian restaurant. The girls had pancakes topped with ice cream

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Which was not listed in the dessert menu, but prob should have been. (Yep, that’s what they had for lunch today.. We figured after we traumatized them this morning they deserved something somewhat familiar, and anything that had not ever been alive, LOL)
When we were finished with dessert, I mean lunch, we went looking in an eerily empty mall for a store in which to buy diapers.

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Our guide said it would be “directly above the subway.” We saw the metro station entrance NEAR the mall but, it wasn’t IN it. In his broken English, he said it would be IN the mall. Maybe he made a grammar mistake?? We quickly realized upon approaching the mall, that it was actually us, who had made the grammar mistake…

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Oooohhhh!! “Subway!” LOL

It didn’t matter though, there was no store there anymore. So we decided to venture out in a taxi. We got the hotel concierge to write out where we wanted to go ( a Carrefour) on a paper for the taxi driver.

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10 minutes, 13 yuan (1.50 US dollars) later, we were there. (SO CHEAP!!)

We got our bottled water, and Reese’s diapers, and a few other things

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And we were back at our hotel in no time.
It’s now dinner time, and we are less than 24 hours away from meeting our baby girl. I am so glad we kept busy today, but now as the day is winding down I am getting so excited, and nervous!!! OH MY GOSH!!!! We meet our daughter tomorrow!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!! It will be the middle of the night for you, somewhere around 2am, 2pm here, when we meet. Please be praying for her little heart and mind, and please be praying for us. I will post as soon as I can. I know you are all excited to “meet” her too!!! Ahhhhhhhhh THANK YOU JESUS, ITS FINALLY TIME!!! 🙂

Hello Guangzhou !!

We left Beijing this morning, just as the smog was settling in. Our guide said we must have brought the good weather with us. She was surprised how clear the air had been while we were there. But, as the sun came up over the horizon, hours after the Gressman crew had already been awake, you could see a thick haze settling in just over the tops of the buildings.
When we arrived at the small airport, we let the girls go to the little store to purchase a treat, they thought that was fun!

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We were the only Americans in sight.

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The flight was only three hours, so it wasn’t bad. I’ve never traveled to southern China before, the landscape was so gorgeous as we were arriving.

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So…we are finally here!! The city where our daughter was born and spent the first 17 months of her life. The city in which we will become a forever family. 🙂
After we checked into the hotel we headed to the room to get settled and this was waiting for us:

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YAY!!!

Next we had important business to attend to… Getting things put away in the room, stocking the diaper bag, making copies of important documents, doing laundry in the bathtub,

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Going to mcdonalds,

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getting our first Starbucks, You know just the important stuff. 🙂

The hotel here is really nice, and we’ve seen tons of families with their newly adopted little ones. I can’t help but smile and stare!! TWO MORE DAYS!!!!! 🙂
Thank you for the continued prayers and encouraging words! We are reading them, we just don’t have a lot of time to respond. Please know it is so encouraging and it gives us fuel for each day!! Thank you!!

Last day in Beijing

Today we, along with 150 million other people, visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city.

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Ok, maybe not 150 million, but it was the most people I have ever seen in one place!! It was crazy. Despite the crowds, it was a really neat experience. Some parts of it date back to the 1400’s!!!

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Our family became a tourist attraction within a tourist attraction. Someone would approach us and ask if we would take a picture with them, and then people would gather and start forming a line, and we would take picture after picture. Then we would walk another 5 or ten minutes and do it all over again. Our guide said many of the tourist were from all over china and some had never seen Americans before!!

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This little boy was hilarious, not shy at all.

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We have had the best weather since arriving here. China is beautiful in the spring.

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Later in the afternoon we walked around the city a bit. We have seen everyone eating these dates on a stick, so we thought we’d give it a try..

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They weren’t like dates at home. These were sour, and the outside “glazing” was crispy and sweet.
Next we headed over to the “night market”, just a few blocks from our hotel. This is where street vendors sell food in the evening. We had heard this was a “must see”, and this is why….

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Locals actually buy and EAT that stuff!!!!
We think we will just stick to the dates on a stick. That’s adventurous enough for us. Although these looked tempting..

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LOL
Tomorrow we will head out to Guangzhou, the province where Reese is!!! Just 3 more days until “gotcha”!!! 🙂