Author Archives: Hillary

This is home

We walked through a hallway bridge connecting out hotel in Hong Kong to the airport check in area at around 8am on sat morning.
Out flight wasn’t scheduled to take off until 11:40am, but we decided we should get there a little early…. We are so glad we did. We walked up to check luggage and get our boarding passes and the girls sat on the floor to draw while they waited.

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That picture was taken right before the woman behind the counter informed us that Reese’s airline ticket had been cancelled. CANCELLED?! Apparently, the ticket we purchased for her through our travel agency, who specializes in adoption travel, booked her a round trip airline ticket, and so United airlines, cancelled the ticket when Reese didn’t “show up” for her flight from Jax to Beijing. (yea, uh, she was already in China)
We were then informed we would have to purchase a new lap ticket for her one way trip. Ugh. Ok, fine.
Caleb and the girls stayed in line while Reese and I took her passport and stood in another line to purchase another ticket for her. I emailed our travel agent while we were in line, and she emailed back right away. She said that was united’s policy and they shouldn’t have cancelled her ticket. If they wouldn’t reinstate her ticket ( they wouldn’t) then, she said that she would refund us for the first ticket. Great, but right now we are in Hong Kong just trying to get her home.
It took forever to get her ticket then it was back to the other counter to get her boarding pass. I asked for the bulk head bassinet seat for us, but the flight was full. Ugh.
Next we waited in line to go trough security. When we handed them our boarding passes the officer took a look and said… “There’s a problem with her ticket”
SERIOUSLY?! I already wanted to cry, and Riley WAS crying. She had been so patient waiting to eat breakfast until we were through security. The security officer said they misspelled Reese’s Chinese name and that it didn’t match her passport. He called another guy over and the other guy said “it’s ok”, I said are you sure!? Because I don’t want that extra letter A in the middle of her Chinese name to stop her from being able to board the plane! They said it would be ok, and we were now running low on time, so we took our chances.
We had about 40 minutes until boarding, and still had to take a train to a different terminal and get the girls some food….

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Thankfully, that wasn’t our plane taking off 🙂 We made it, no questions were asked about her boarding pass and we got to our seats.
Reese and I were in the middle seat in the middle row. A poor young woman sat down next to me with the, “are you kidding me, I have to sit next to a baby for the next 15 hours?” , look on her face. Lol
She didn’t even say “hello”, or tell me how cute Reese was. While I sat there contemplating whether or not this poor poor young woman either had bad eyesight or was mute, (I mean why else would she not have noticed or gloated to me about how beautiful my children were) 🙂 ,
a nice stewardess came over and started talking to Reese, and she noticed her cuteness right away, (thank you) and she also noticed the fact that I was traveling with her in my lap in the middle seat.
She excused herself and appeared moments later with her supervisor, who told me how gorgeous Riley was. 🙂
They were so sweet and asked the poor young woman next to me if she would be willing to change seats. She jumped up with a quick “yes” before getting any further details. (Oh, she can see and speak?! Well now I’m just offended.) She moved and this allowed us a whole row to ourselves. I will forever be grateful to those stewardesses.

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Reese SCREAMED like she was in pain on the take off. I felt really bad for her AND everyone around me. She settled down and fell asleep for three hours!
When she woke up, she pushed and grunted, she was constipated. Poor baby, that’s what was wrong with her:(
She, and the big sisters, did so good the rest of the LONG LONG flight. We had other passengers commenting to us on how well they all traveled when the flight was over.
I only slept for about 40 minutes of that whole flight, so by the time we landed in Chicago we were all so tired.
We handed over her sealed paperwork to the appointed officer at customs and she officially became a US citizen:) yay!! We were greeted at the entryway of our new terminal by two familiar faces:) My sister and her husband. Reese was relaxed and warmed up quickly to them in the few minutes we had. I’m so glad it worked out for them to meet her during our short layover:)

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We had one more 2 hour flight from Chicago to Jax. We were so happy to arrive, especially because we had some friends and family anxiously waiting for us:)

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Our good friends took professional pics for us so we will post more pics when we get them:) (Thanks Amy and David!!)
We hugged everyone and got to our car. Caleb drove so I could sit in the back with Reese. It was her very first time in a car seat, she cried for awhile but, we expected that. Each time should be a little less traumatic. Then we were home!! WELCOME HOME REESE JIA KINLEY!! We have prayed for this moment for so long. We longed to have you at home in our arms. God is so good.

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“Yea this is home, I’m finally where I belong….”

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Our hearts are full. We all slept so sound. Riley and Rowan were wide awake at 4am but we told them the best thing they could do was to try to sleep. Thankfully, they fell back to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed. Reese didn’t move and had to be woke up at 11am!!! We actually checked on her to make sure she was still breathing! (like first time parents)  Lol
About 6 months ago, we nicknamed Reese “bunny”, (Riley is “bear”, and Rowan is “bug”) having no idea her first morning home would be Easter. God is so fun, and he is in all the details.

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Happy Easter from our family (who stayed in our PJs and took a 5 hour nap) to yours!!
Jesus is alive!!! And His love for us is amazing.

Hong Kong Disney

For our one and only full day here in beautiful Hong Kong, and as a reward to the girls for being such amazing travelers, we decided to go to Hong Kong Disneyland!!! 🙂
Even though the castle and the park itself is not as grand as Disney world, (The price reflected that, as it was SOOO cheap in comparison. Only $198 for the five of us) We still had a really great time. Here’s some of the pics from the day…
Tickets in hand and so excited:)

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Waiting for the last gates to open. (They open Main Street a half an hour before the rest of the park.)

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Rowan mapping out our day.

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We went directly back to Toy story land since that is something we don’t have at Disney world. So glad we did that before the crowds got bad in the afternoon. This was our favorite part of the whole park!!

20140418-203319.jpg Caleb really liked it too 🙂

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This ride was so fun!

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Reese did so good just watching and waiting as the big sisters rode the big rides.

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20140418-203445.jpg Crazy girl, I wonder who she gets it from…

20140418-203456.jpg LOL Reese loved these water geysers, I promise. I just didn’t catch her giggling that time. Daddy and his girls…

20140418-203505.jpg “It’s a small world” takes on a whole different meaning when you’re riding it in a different country.lol

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Waiting in line for Reese to meet Mickey for the first time.

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She wasn’t even impressed enough to wake up 🙂

20140418-203532.jpg No, thank YOU China! It’s been amazing!
But, tomorrow we fly home 🙂

The picture on the left was taken just 4 days before we met Reese. The one on the right was taken today, just 10 days after. What a difference love makes.

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Stranger danger, lol

We said goodbye to Guangzhou and our agency group this afternoon. (Although, we will get to see the Morris family at home in Jacksonville )

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Reese waved “bye bye” for the first time out the window of our hotel room before we left for the train station. The train ride was about two hours long, and pretty uneventful.

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I did get a little sad. It’s bitter sweet to be leaving Guangzhou.
In talking with our guide before we were sent off on our own, he said after we arrived at the train station in Hong kong and we went through customs, ect… We needed to first, get some Hong kong currency, and second, catch a taxi to our hotel. He said we would actually have to get two taxis because of all of our luggage. Which meant it would be twice the cost and Caleb and I would have to split up… I was getting a little worried about that.
I did not want to take a taxi on my own with one or two of our children. I expressed my worry to Caleb, but there was really no other way.
I said a quick prayer to myself and we exited the train station with all of our luggage and three kids in tow, and went to the back of the line to wait for a taxi.
We were quickly approached by an older gentleman who said he had a big van that could fit all of us.
Normally we ignore any person
who approaches us on the streets but, We liked the sound of that. I asked how much. $300 hkd. The two taxis would have cost us around $700. Ok, yes.
As we walked to a parking lot where his van was supposedly parked, Caleb and I were shooting nervous looks back and forth. What are we doing?!
Its night time, and we are about to get into a strange vehicle with a strange man and pray that he just takes us to where we need to go. We wouldn’t know any different if he headed in the wrong direction. We’ve never been to Hong Kong before.
As we waited to cross the street, I checked my spirit. I wasn’t feeling like we were in danger… At least not yet.
We approached his rickety old van and he opened the back door to put our luggage in. We all piled in the back, and he got in on the right side. That is the drivers side in Hong Kong.

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Caleb and I watched for airport signs along the road to make sure he was taking us in the right direction. We quietly discussed how at the first sign of anything “off” the girls and I would jump out of the moving van and run… yeah, that was the genius plan. Lol
I mean, I guess you could say we didn’t quite trust this man we knew absolutely nothing about. Go figure.

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I looked at Caleb at one point and said..”our parents would flip!”
If they knew we had gotten in a strange van, with a strange man, in a strange country with their precious grandchildren…. We would be in BIG trouble. That goes against everything they ever taught us when we were kids.

Once we could tell he was going the right way, we relaxed a little. Somehow, in the craziness of it all, it actually worked out great. The man was kind, and we even gave him an extra $100 hkd for not being a murderer. Lol
So we made it:) Don’t worry nana, papa, and meme. We are in Hong Kong, and we are very tired Goodnight.

Travel day

Not much to report. We are packing up today, and will be heading by train to Hong Kong.

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I told the girls by the end of our trip they will have traveled by car, plane, bus, taxi, van, cable car, rick shaw, train, boat, and today they added subway to their list.

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We Floridians navigated the subways system pretty well by ourselves for a last minute shopping trip!

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Reese was not so impressed but we were proud of ourselves:)

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I got 15 headbands for $1.40 American!

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Why? I say why not?!! Lol
Once we get to the train station to head to Hong Kong we will be on our own. No guide, no other families, just us. Hong Kong here we come….

Us consulate

Last night we did the dragon boat cruise on the pearl river. As always, we were on exhibit as we waited for the boat to arrive. Lol

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Guangzhou has beautiful buildings that are lit up in neon colors along the river at night.

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It was a nice relaxing time with Caleb and the girls, and the other families from our agency.
In typical American style, We ate papa johns pizza while enjoying the city views.

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This morning was the big Us consulate appointment!! We applied for and finalized documents, and took the final oath that enables our daughter to become an official us citizen when she steps foot on US soil. In keeping with adoption tradition we all wore our red, white, and blue. Well, Except Caleb, he did it the cool way:)

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When we walked up to the consulate there were a ton of Chinese people in line, or waiting outside to get in line. There was security everywhere that was checking documents but we walked on by with out being asked to show anything. I guess the red white and blue and the blonde hair clued them in on the fact that we were American 🙂
It was an easy short process, and before we knew it we were done. That was it. Last appointment complete. It’s weird.
Tonight is our last night here in Guangzhou. 🙁 We can’t believe it. We love China, and have had the most amazing time here bonding as a family. Guangzhou will always have a special place in our hearts for its significance in our lives. It is here that our youngest daughter was born. (Near Guangming) and here we became a forever family. We are actually sad to be leaving, but excited to be heading to Hong Kong for a couple of nights, and then heading home to see you all and to settle into our new life together as a family if 5.
Goodnight for the last time from Guangzhou, China!

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Taxi!?

This is just a short fun post.
Getting a taxi at times in china can be, challenging.
I ended up on a shopping trip yesterday with China’s famous shopping guide Ann, and Chris. (The dad from the other family from Jacksonville because Caleb had fallen asleep with Reese and we needed to get a few things)
After hours of speed walk through alleys and shops,

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(Ann is a tiny little Chinese woman with a really quick stride.) Chris and I walked over to Shamian island, which was near by, to grab our 50 pound bags of laundry the guys had dropped off he day before.
We were really tired at this point and even more so from dragging the luggage. We walked to a busy corner and grabbed the first taxi that would stop for us. We threw our luggage in the back of the cab and jumped in. A minute down the road I saw the taxi driver reach up to his meter and it started to make a beeping noise. The taxi driver pulled over and started speaking angry Chinese and acting like he was trying to fix the meter.
This is not my first time in China, and although I have never had a taxi driver try to pull one over on me, I have been warned this game is very common when they pick up foreigners.
I knew right away what he was doing. He then turned to us and started speaking Chinese loudly and throwing his hands up and then pointing at the meter.
I cut to the chase and asked him in Chinese, “duo shao chien?” Or “how much?”
Both of our families had already taken a taxi to and from Shamian enough times to know that it shouldn’t be more than 20 yuan, or $3 American.
He then started trying to hand us his phone. We didn’t know why, and then I pulled my phone out after figuring he wanted to negotiate.
I punched in the number 20 on the calculator on my phone. He shook his head. And started loudly speaking Chinese again.
I think he first punched in 60 on his phone, to which Chris and I shook our heads and started to get out of the cab on the side of the road. He then came back with, 40.. At which point we started getting our luggage out of the back and then he punched in 30. We said no. Grabbed our stuff and he jumped in his taxi, the meter flipped on normally and he drove off. Ugh.
We went up to the next corner and stopped a second taxi. Gave him the piece of paper with our hotel name on it in Chinese and hopped in. He inspected the paper, pulled his glasses out, (oh dear lord) and then inspected it again. He shook his head yes and took off in the opposite direction of our hotel. As were were at a dead stop in our taxi prison,

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going to who knows where, I desperately tried to use Google translate…

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No wifi. So we were just stuck, going along for the ride. I was convinced he was taking us to some alley outside of the city where all of his Kung fu buddies would be waiting to mug us.
Lol
All the sudden we recognized a building and we were there!! Hallelujah, we made it! And it ended up costing us 24 yuan because he apparently went the really long way. Oh well. Lol

The orphanage visit

We knew yesterday would be a hard day… But it started off bad at 2am when Riley woke up with 102.5 fever:( thank you to everyone who prayed for her during the night. (well, it was day time for you) I just sat and prayed over her and cried.
Yesterday was so important for us as a family, and I knew I didn’t want her, or one of us to have to stay behind and miss it.
After medicine, she fell asleep on the couch, and I miraculously fell asleep on the ground next to her listening to “I need you” …..

“..bowing here I find my rest, and without you I fall apart, you’re the one who guides my heart.”

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Riley woke up with no fever!!! So we got ready and ran down stairs. We were traveling again today with the Morris family to go to the orphanage that both our daughters lived in for a portion of their young lives.
First we went to little Mya’s finding spot. It was outside of a hospital on a very busy street. When it comes time to actually see the spot where your daughter was found, there is such a crazy mix of emotions. You’re sad that they were abandoned, but happy that they were found… The emotions are all over the place.

Just as the bus was stopping at Mya’s finding spot, Riley started to throw up in Caleb’s lap:( Poor, poor baby. Poor, poor daddy. She was crying but felt better afterwards.
The next stop was meeting Reese’s foster family at their apartment.

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See poor Riley:(
I was really nervous about this. I was wondering how she would feel returning to the place she spent the last four months of her life. Would she cry, or be confused? Would she want her foster family and not want to return to me? We had no idea what would happen, but what we HOPED would happen, DID happen, and it was so good for my heart:)
She didn’t want to go to them at all, and when the foster family’s dad insisted, she cried and leaned forward to come right back to me:) see my overjoyed face?! 🙂

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It’s ok baby, mommy is right here. 🙂

We got to ask a little about what they knew about Reese. The foster family said she is the prettiest baby they have ever fostered, and they have fostered a lot:) so sweet. They said she doesn’t like to be “criticized”, or for you to make a “straight face” at her…. Basically she doesn’t like to be told no. Lol
We were there for about 30 minutes, it was a nice experience. This family has such an amazing heart for children so they foster little ones transitioning to their forever homes. I will forever be grateful for this family and the time they cared for Reese.

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It allowed her to experience a family environment instead of staying at the orphanage.
In the four short months that they had her, Reese’s physical development thrived.
Next we took a short 5 minute ride to the orphanage. It was clean, stark, and even though it was so full, it felt so empty. The unanswered cries of little ones filled the halls and the faces I saw in the rooms silently cried out for a family to love.
We saw where Reese played, ate and slept. Just a bed apart from Mya.

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Here some pictures from the orphanage….

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I couldn’t help but imagine other families in the past visiting the orphanage with their newly adopted children and unknowingly seeing our Reese. There were so many little ones, and they all need homes.

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Reese is now in the arms of her family, I’m praying for many many more families to adopt. The need is great.

As we were taking this picture when we were about to leave the orphanage, the older kids were outside.

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They were all staring at us. They knew why we were there. I could see the sadness and hurt in their eyes. The feeling of “what about me? When will it be my turn? Am I not good enough?” This affected me the most. As they watched us get into the van and drive away with our babies, I was in tears about those left behind.

Baiyun mountain

No appointments today so we went with the Morris family and one other sweet sweet family from our agency to Baiyun mountain. Or “white cloud” mountain. It’s a beautiful place. Our guide said it’s not really a mountain, more like a hill. We told him for us Floridians it is a mountain!! Lol
We took a cable car to the peak. Everyone thought that was pretty fun. 20140413-161003.jpg20140413-161025.jpg
We really enjoyed the day, despite the fact that it felt like 100 degrees outside. On the mountain they have lots of different types of birds. And some beautiful peacocks. 20140413-161418.jpg
We even saw some rare white ones.20140413-161454.jpg
We’ve really been blessed to have been here with the family from Jacksonville, the Morris family. Our families are around each other so much, we are now beginning to accidentally match. LOL20140413-161652.jpg
Rowan and sawyer, and Micah and Riley are close in age and always near one another.

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Noah and savannah, their older two are amazing with all of the younger ones. Such sweet kids.

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Here’s Angie and I with our youngest littles at Lucy’s on Shamian island last night.

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I am so glad they are from the same room in the same orphanage and are now going home to the same city. God is so good. We will forever be in the Morris family’s lives (sorry y’all) as we now have this special bond, not only between our our girls, but our families as well. 🙂

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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!!!!!!