“They sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year….”

Dear Jia,

One year ago tomorrow, we were standing in a hot room in a government building in Zhengzhou, China. While we were waiting, you were traveling, covering the three hours between your orphanage in Nanyang and where we were. I can’t even imagine what thoughts had to be going through your head. There is no way to really explain to a two year old that they are going to meet their new mommy and daddy. If they told you where you were going at all, they would have said that they were taking you to meet your mommy, which to you meant Aunt Jenn. So I can’t imagine how confusing it must have been to walk into that hot, crowded, loud room and see some strange new white people that your ayi’s insisted were your mama and baba, when for you, we most certainly were not.

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I look back at pictures from that day, and I can see, now, how scared you were. I know you and your expressions well enough now to know that you were terrified, and so confused. I can almost literally see the process of your feelings, from unsure, to shut down, to resigned. Later in those pictures, we have some of you being so cute and funny, and crazy and I remember thinking at that time that you were adjusting unusually well. Bizarrely well. And now I know that those antics are actually a coping mechanism that you pull out when you are unusually stressed and scared. So even though those pictures bring me joy because they are the day our story began, they also make me tremendously sad, because I know you now, and I know how hard that day was for you, and it breaks my heart.  

*******

Our time in China together was so good (except for every plane and bus and van ride because, child, you are the reason they make car seats, I am just saying). We got to know each other, and you started to trust. We started to learn and know how to read you better. Coming home was an adventure in itself. I’m not sure Dad had eaten yogurt again since we’ve been home, likely because you pretty much painted him with it on the airplane. But we made it and started our lives together as a family of four.

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Those early days were hard for all of us, but especially for you. You were so overwhelmed, so confused. None of the things that felt homey and familiar to us felt that way to you. It smelled and sounded and felt different. But honestly, you adjusted better than we could have asked for, better than expected. You were open and willing to try. You adjusted to new rules, new expectations. In many ways, you walked into our lives like you belonged there, and set up your space. That is a unique and wonderful quality you have that I hope you don’t lose.

*******

You are funny, and crazy. Athletic and crazy strong. You love to sing and dance and do somersaults. You are the most strong willed kid I have ever in my life met, which is awesome for later in your life, but for right now is occasionally enough to make me pull out my hair. You have made me parent in a totally different way, to be more patient, to explain more, and to choose my battles. I am a choosing battles PRO these days, so thanks, kid. You are loving, and caring. If someone is hurt, you are the first to offer comfort. You love babies and want to pet them all. You are coming around on dogs, and Finch is your BFF unless he wants to sniff your food, in which case he becomes your mortal enemy. You are an amazing tiny human, and it is my privilege every day to get to shepherd all those amazing qualities.

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*******

You told me the other day, out of the blue, “I have two moms!” I said “actually you have three moms.” You’ve asked me if you’re going back to China. When you see Asian babies you say “babies in China like Jia!” You are starting to make sense of your life up until now… who was in it, who came later. I can see your little brain trying to work out how you came from there to here, and whether that’s all going to change again. You worry, a lot, about us leaving, which usually comes out as rage and grief. We have mantra that we say over and over again… “Jia stays with Mommy and Daddy and Eden forever.” It sounds simple, maybe, but when you are tense and angry and flailing, I say that and feel the tension melt as it sinks in again. We say it every day, as many times as you need to hear it, until you believe it.

*******

It’s been one year. One glorious, marvelous, hard, sad, happy and joyful year. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. I am so proud of all the work you’ve done this year, and I just cannot believe how far you, and we all have come. What a crazy year you’ve hard, little bean. New parents, new sister, new country, new house, grandparents, aunts and uncle, cousins, friends, teachers…. new life. I am constantly in awe of how well you’ve handled it. Blown away by your bravery. I love you, so much and I am so glad I get to be your mom.

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I am your biggest fan, always.

Love,

Mommy

 

“Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye, in every gesture dignity and love.”

Dear Eden,

One year ago today, I took you to McDonalds for lunch. Got you Chicken McNuggets and Root Beer, and tried to soak up every minute with you because this was it: your last day as our only child. We would never have another day together that didn’t also take into consideration your sister. I was at turns thrilled and sad. So excited to start the journey to get Jia and equally sad to be closing this chapter of our lives together. We had 7 really good years where it was just the three of us and I knew that was all changing… ultimately for the better, but that the road to get to the other side might be hard. We made the most of our day, and then the time came to say goodbye for 18 days and start our new lives as a family of four.

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I told you this morning that this was your only child-aversary and asked if you liked being a sister. YES!, you said, without hesitation. You said you love playing with Jia the most. I asked if you missed being an only child and you said sometimes. “What do you miss about it?” I asked. “Well”, you said, “we used to play board games more.” That made me laugh because of all the things you could have said… attention, time to yourself, two parents doting on you all the time… you chose board games. I think that is something we can fix.

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*************

Those first few months were pretty hard, right? We all struggled a lot, and sometimes Dad and I weren’t the best about being there for you because we were having a hard time too. We all spent August and September pretty much treading water, each of us trying to help the rest of us stay afloat. We all stayed in it with a combination of humor and grace and help from the people who love us most. And you were so patient and ready to forgive when things went haywire. When I think of those months, grace is the word I think of. You had it for us in abundance as we figured out how to parent two kids, how to divide our time, and how to support both of you in the ways you needed it. Thank you for that. I doubt you’ll remember, in the grand scheme of your life how chaotic those first few months were (in fact, you said to me the other day “remember how great it was when Jia first came home?”), but I will and I will be forever grateful for the maturity and love that you displayed while we transitioned to normal.

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You are possibly the world’s most patient sister (most of the time). You are caring and kind, attentive and fun, creative and entertaining. Jia is braver when you are around. She watches you to make sure it’s okay and trusts you implicitly that it is if you say it is. You two crack each other up. You are fiercely protective, and watch out for Jia. You are her comforter, challenger, antagonizer and biggest fan. She admires you so much, and for good reason.

But you are more than a sister, too…. You are kind, funny, smart, creative, “sportsy” (your favorite word to describe yourself right now) and sweet. You have a wide variety of really cool interests from Abraham Lincoln to women’s basketball to Ancient Egypt. You are a great conversationalist. You have lots of good thoughts, and interesting questions and smart things to say. You are FUNNY, on purpose and unintentionally. You are brave and willing to try new things. I could not possibly be more proud of you and I’m so glad you’re my kid.

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So, on this, your only child-aversary, I want you to know how proud I am that you are such a great big sister. That I see how hard you try. That I know this hasn’t been the easiest year and that I am so proud of you walking through the hard times with grace and courage and coming out on the other side with your heart wide open, ready to embrace Jia and your new, slightly crazier, definitely louder, life. I am your biggest fan, always.

 

Love,

Mama

 

An ode to Glenwood…

I didn’t think I actually wanted to go there, you know. When the announcement that we were consolidating schools was made, I worried. This wasn’t what we signed up for. There was a school literally in our back yard. We were happy where we were. But like or not, we started first grade at Glenwood, nervous and uncertain (and that was just me – I’m sure Eden had some feelings too.).

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Now, two years later, I am so, so incredibly grateful to have gotten to be a part of this community. From the beginning, they have exceeded every expectation I had. They were welcoming, friendly, funny and open. They answered my questions, assuaged my fears, and replied to my emails at 11 pm, which is just crazy and they should stop doing that and get some sleep. They created fun and magic in their classrooms in a national teaching environment that makes making magic really hard. They celebrated big and small accomplishments, noticed the little things that are actually big things, and encouraged, pushed and paid attention to not only my kid, but all the other ones too. And it’s not just classroom teachers, either. Art, Gym, Music, Library. All of it, just full of fun and excitement and enthusiasm. Every single person in that building, from the office to the lunch room, is amazing.

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Having safe supportive adults in your corner is great anytime it happens, but this year, Eden went though some serious transitions, and it was hard. The school counselor, her teacher, our principal, they all rallied for my girl, and did it like it was no big deal. She had a safe place to talk, people who checked in on her, and a place to just be herself away from all the craziness at home. They just loved her a little extra and probably didn’t think much of it. But it changed her year, and our year and we are so grateful.

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Tomorrow is our last day at Glenwood for the next two years, and I have shed a few tears about it because we will miss this tremendously. I love it there. They have created an environment that is affirming, enthusiastic, and loving. The kids in their care are very lucky to have this amazing group of individuals in their lives. I am so glad to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of this community and can’t wait to come back.

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I didn’t want to go there. And then it up and changed our lives for the better. Lucky us. Thank you, Glenwood. We love you.

“You’ve given me everything that I will need to make it through this crazy thing called life.”

I am mother to a daughter who has had three mothers.

Her first mom gave her life, brought her into this world, cared for her as long as she was able, and then let her go. There is so little I know about her, but I imagine that Jia has her nose, or her eyes or that maybe those enviable lips come from her. There is a lot we will never know about her choices and actions and motivations, but we will speak of her in our home with all the respect due someone who gave us one of the greatest gifts of our lives. There are moments when I am rocking Jia before bed, I think of her first mom and how she might have done this too when Jia was just a little baby. She stared at those same eyes, saw her with the tufty hair she had as an infant, and, I want to believe, loved her.  She holds her first moments, her first cry, her teeny tiny baby hands and feet. She holds the beginning of Jia’s life and I hope that somehow, she knows that Jia is well and home and loved.

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I still remember getting a phone call from our adoption agency that started with the words “so, we have a very unique situation for you.” They went on to say that Jia’s foster family wanted to be in touch with us, and would we want to be in touch with them? Uhhh, duh. Yes, yes we would. About 5 minutes later, I started writing an email to the woman who had been raising this child I called daughter, but barely knew, as her own for the last 16 months. Jenn and her family were living in Shanghai because of her husband’s job, and they had become aware of the opportunity to foster Chinese orphans while they waited for their forever families. The way that Jia made her way to their family is another long story altogether, but she made it there, sick with pneumonia, and in need of the love of a family to heal her, body and soul. In her report to CCAI when Jia’s file was prepared, Jenn described her as “learning things at 150 miles per hour.” At Jenn’s house she learned her first words, took her first steps, and most importantly, learned how to be daughter, sister, and beloved child.

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Not to mention Jenn somehow got her to eat vegetables. Miracles abound.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to all the sudden “meet” the people who are going to parent the child you consider a daughter. But Jenn embraced us with open arms and more grace then I can even fathom. She shared information with us, answered our million questions, and worked hard to keep in touch with us through weird Internet and time zone challenges. She prepared Jia for our family as well as you can prepare a two year old for a complete life upheaval. I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been, to prepare a child you love to leave you, and walk into the next part of her life. And I can’t even talk yet about how the end of Jia’s time in China went down, but suffice it to say that Jenn has more strength and backbone then anyone I know to make it through those last hard, sad weeks.

Jia's last day with her foster family...

Jia’s last day with her foster family…

There are no adequate words for what Jenn and her family did for us. No way to truly convey the enormity of their love for Jia without sharing more of her story then is mine to share. But let me just tell you that the foundation that they laid for her will carry her forward for the rest of her life, and will impact all of us forever.

Jia's second birthday... this is one of my favorite pictures of her and Jenn.

Jia’s second birthday… this is one of my favorite pictures of her and Jenn.

****

There is a quote that floats around the adoption community that says this: “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.”  In our case, Jia is a child born to and a child raised by other women and never do I take the immense privilege of being her mom lightly. On Mother’s Day, the day we’re supposed to honor the mother’s in our lives, I want to make sure I take time to honor Jia’s other mothers, the one I know and the one I don’t. I feel them alongside me daily, I see them in Jia all the time, and it’s my joy to have them as part of our lives in whatever way is possible. We love you so much. Thanks for loving us and especially Jia, so well.

 

Glorious Ordinary

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There is an Internet trend of choosing one word (or for me, one phrase, because I cannot follow the rules) to guide your year.  Last year, my word was “Sure”, which was the result of this epic and typically angsty email to my best friend, Anna:

“Have you heard of the thing where you pick one word as the theme of your year and kind of mediate on it?  Well, my one word for this year is “SURE” because back when we very first got matched with Jia and everything felt really good and really right and I was riding the high of getting matched, (and please pardon how over spiritual this sounds  because BLECH, but it’s how it happened so…) I really felt like God said “listen, you need to remember how sure and right this seems right now because things are going to happen that are going to make you wonder if this is the right thing to do and it is, but it won’t always feel like it”.  So I am gripping that with all the will I can muster right now.” 

I clung to the word “Sure” like a life raft last year, reading that paragraph over and over because there were, indeed, moments when the doubts and challenges pushed hard on my surety. 2015 was one of the best years, but also one of the heaviest, and through it all, I focused on Sure.

So when it came time to choose a word for this year, I kept coming back to the word “Normal” as in, this will be the year we find our normal.  But it didn’t really capture the entirety of what I was looking for. So I kept searching, and in my New Year’s Eve Facebook post, I finally found it – a combination of two words that really got at what I was hoping for this year – glorious ordinary.

In all reality, we haven’t had a year of ordinary in a long time. We started fertility treatments back in 2011, so every year since then felt like constantly sitting in anticipation and what if’s and why’s. And then we started the adoption process and, I don’t know if you know this, but the process of adopting a kid is KIND OF BONKERS so we had the opposite of an ordinary year in 2015.

We spent last year bearing witness with wonder and awe at some REALLY BIG THINGS that have happened and we would have had to be blind to miss them.  But now that we’ve found something a little closer to normal, the wonders that happen are smaller, less dramatic, more, well…. ordinary. And glorious ordinary is an invitation to make sure we’re still paying attention, still embracing the wonder, still standing in awe. That we aren’t missing the quieter miracles we see every day.

Glorious ordinary is seeing Jia run off to play with her cousins like she’s been in the thick of them all along.  Glorious ordinary is feeling like we can actually go on a real date and leave the kids with a babysitter because they’re finally ready. Glorious ordinary is watching Jia and Eden play their favorite games because they HAVE favorite games now, which they’ve made up together. Glorious ordinary is hearing my kids fighting because, umm, yeah, they are absolutely real sisters. Glorious ordinary is being surprised when we realize someone hasn’t met Jia yet because it’s like she’s been here forever. Glorious ordinary is watching Eden just come into her own self, her own skin, and shine brighter than ever after a rough end of summer. Glorious ordinary is morning snuggles, reading books, home work, temper tantrums, bike rides, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at bedtime.  It’s the stuff we take for granted because it’s like it has always been that way but I don’t want to miss the miraculous in the mundane.

2016 is my year of glorious ordinary, embracing the quiet wonders, the everyday, the little stuff, imperfectly, as best I can, because, let’s be honest, no one really, honestly relishes temper tantrums, glorious ordinary or not.

 

The Beginning of Normal

5 minutes away from my house there is a nature preserve. It’s where I go to run, which means it’s also where I go to think. I’ve been running there for almost 5 years, so that means that those trees have heard a lot… my arguments with God and raging questions, my tears and eventual acceptance that our family would not expand the way we expected, my “can we really do this adoption thing” questions, my desperate, fervent prayers for protection and heart preparation for Jia, and my joy and wonder at unexpected provision. I have lived a lot of life and dealt with a lot of feelings while my feet have covered those miles.

Recently, I took Jia there for the first time, and as we walked around the pond, it occurred to me that the fruition of all those prayers and wishes and hopes and wants was literally walking beside me, real, here, in the flesh. There were many, many moments in these last 5 years that I wondered how this story would eventually end, and here it was, the end cap of all those hopes. Jia is, in the realest possible way, a dream come true.

The day we met...

The day we met…

We have known Jia for three months now, and we’ve lived a lot of life in those three months. There have been so many amazing moments like getting to experience firsts with Jia (s’mores, peddling her Big Wheel on her own, her baptism), seeing Jia and Eden’s relationship really grow, finally feeling all of us settle into a routine and find our rhythm, and a million other little insignificant moments that make up the fabric of a family. It is truly hard to remember life without Jia (although I remember that it was quieter… I think the decibel level in my house increased by 50% when she came home! 🙂 ), and she has really just adjusted to being part of our family so well, like she was always here. I have no words for how thankful I am for that because I know that is not the case for so many kids. Jia was loved so well by her foster family and prepared so well to be part of our family and we reap the rewards of that daily.

But, here is the other side of that coin. These three months have been hard. They have been exhausting and overwhelming and challenging. I have cried more tears in these three months then I care to count. My preference would be to tell you that it’s been GREAT and that we’ve all adjusted seamlessly, but that’s just not true. Bringing home a toddler, making sisters out of strangers, seeing your oldest child grieve the loss of her only child status, adjusting to being a stay at home parent…. this is not for the feint of heart. We have all dealt with grief and had to readjust our expectations and had to fight through some really, really sad, hard days in the last three months. And I think that every adoptive family has their own version of that, of the things that made coming home feel at once like a gift and a deep grief, but it’s hard to talk about.

I have struggled over these words because I don’t ever want Jia to read them and think that it was about HER, that she, personally, made it hard, when the truth is that she was what made it all worth fighting through. All the sad, hard stuff was situational, things that we needed to acknowledge and wrestle with and adjust to so we could fully embrace the new life in front of us.

There were moments where it felt like we would never be through the adjustment part, like we would never see normal again. And that’s the thing…. when you’re in it and everyone keeps saying “it will get better” it hard to see how it will. You feel like you will be the exception to the rule, the one who struggles forever. It’s hard to see that eventually, you remember how to parent a toddler and it’s not really that hard, relatively speaking. Eventually you learn how to sit with your grief for the life you had and even more then that, eventually you move into appreciating the life you’re making, and one day you look around and really see the glory of the imperfect life you have. You figure out how to help your other kids adjust and you watch her thrive again. You stop crying everyday. You can think about something other than getting through the day without it being totally overwhelming. Eventually, you look around and realize that you’re doing it. It doesn’t feel as weird anymore. It doesn’t feel like someone else’s life anymore. There are still moments where it’s hard, but more in a normal life sort of way then a frantic sort of way. That’s the work we’ve been doing over the past three months, a little each day, until we eventually made it out of the weeds.

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I know that there will be other moments, other struggles, but for now, we are just stabilizing. We’re doing well. We’re good. It’s been a journey through some rocky terrain to get here, but we made it. Because three months from the day that we met, I look at her and she is a marvel. She is worth every moment of the work it took to figure out how to make us a family. I’m so glad she’s ours and we’re her’s. Here’s to many more “normal” days and years ahead. I really like normal.

One month home: life is brutiful.

So we’ve been home a month and it’s finally time for an update. It feels nearly impossible to wrap up a month worth of memories into a blog post, but I’m going to give it whirl because someday, I’m going to want these memories and I won’t remember as well.

Here is the truth…. the first couple of weeks home were so, so hard. All of our lives were in complete upheaval, Josh had bronchitis, our sleep was all messed up, Josh and I were learning how to parent Jia in our house, and how to parent two kids for the first time. Eden was figuring out how to share her parents with a toddler sibling, and how to manage her expectations of herself and of Jia, and Jia was just totally overwhelmed and out of sorts and trying to figure out her boundaries and how to be a member of our family. We got home on Saturday, Josh went back to work on Wednesday and the girls and I muddled through to the weekend (I honestly have no idea how. None. I’m sure I have pictures.) By Monday I had to call in reinforcements in the forms of my parents and they generously gave up the rest of their week to come and help so I could try to get my head in the game. It was a solid two and a half weeks before I felt like I even began to truly adjust.

So here I want to sing the praises of my village. My parents showed up every day for two weeks and stayed as long as I needed them. They supported us emotionally, physically, and mentally, and they were the rock we leaned on hardest when things were messiest. My parents are so amazing… I am so thankful they’re mine. My group of fellow China mamas picked me up, brought me food, gave me a safe place to tell the truth, and loved me so well. My friend Heather made us a meal train, which saved me in so many ways. I had multiple people (thank you Heather, Lindsay, Anna, Kendra, Sarah and Danielle) who texted me every day just to offer support and love and commiseration. Never, not once, did anyone make me feel anything other than loved, supported, and believed in, and that alone is a gift beyond what I can possibly repay. I have always felt like I am rich in the friends and family department, and this has proven me right. You all can’t know how much I love you.

In the end, my path to adjustment has included antidepressants, visits with my therapist and a lot (A LOT) of support from family and friends. But a month in, I can tell you that I feel like we’re finally starting to find our new normal. We’re finally starting to have a rhythm to our days and a decent idea of what to expect when, and how to navigate the potholes when they come. We’re starting to see what the long term is going to look like, and it’s going to be awesome. Jia truly is adjusting SO WELL, and we have so much to be grateful for.

Let me tell you a few of my favorite things about Jia, now that we’ve known her in person for 6 weeks…
Her laugh is THE BEST. We will work HARD to get that giggle going.
She is seriously silly, and loves to be a goof ball.
She is very sweet and motherly. She loves to play with her dolls and is such a sweet mama to them, laying them down, patting them, feeding them. She is also very caring when someone is crying or hurt, and will come over to check on them, give them pats, and make sure they’re okay.
She’s an awesome dancer.
She’s recently started saying “thank you Mom”, which just slays me. She’s always been very polite, but there’s something about how she says it that melts my heart.

And then let me tell you about Eden. That kid, man. She is such a good big sister. She’s patient and loving, she forgives easily, and keeps staying open, she’s usually willing to give up what she has to make Jia happy, and she’s such a good example.

We are so, so, so lucky to be the parents of these girls.

So, moving forward, Jia and I are finding our path together now that I’m home with her full time and we’re learning all these things together. I delight in her more and more every day. Like I said before, life becomes more and more “normal” every day, although it typically takes about 6 months to a year for most families to really settle into their rhythm.

I promised myself when we started this process that I wouldn’t sugar coat it, because there are people coming after me who need to read that not everyone comes home and settles into normal life, no matter how it seems on Facebook. I think we in the adoption community need to be more honest about what “after” can look like, and sometimes it looks really hard and sucky for a while. I am so fortunate to have family and friends who made those hard parts so much easier and that we all recognized that this wasn’t something that I should wait out, and that my people encouraged me to get professional help. If you’re in the position of being a “person” to someone who is bringing home a new family member through adoption, keep an eye on them… it’s a lot like being postpartum, except to a toddler, or preschooler or 3rd grader. And sometimes they need the extra push to take a break or see their doctor or find a therapist.

So, anyway… that’s how the last month has gone. Not at all how I expected or hoped, but it’s what it is and I want to use that to help someone else who might have a hard time. And now, I am really looking forward to the future and to tomorrow, and to a lifetime with my awesome family. At the end of the day, we’re just so freaking lucky to be here.

China Day 12: Medical Exam, Pearl River Cruise and Jen Throws a Temper Tantrum.

Yesterday was a busy day! We had Jia’s medical appointment and Visa photo in the morning, so we had to go across town to the Visa office. We arrived, and they took about 5 minutes to get all of our pictures, then we went upstairs to the medical area. Any Chinese person who wants a Visa has to come to the same place, and also get their pictures taken and a medical check, so there were hundreds of people there, waiting. They have a special area just for adoptive families, which is nice, but it made me feel bad for the people who had to wait in the chaotic large room. Our guides went to complete our paperwork and we hung out and waited. Jia was a wild child, running between Josh and I and cackling. She was so funny! We waiting about 20 minutes and then suddenly a doctor and a few nurses showed up and they were ready to go. The medical check consists of three different stations in three different exam rooms, a general screening, where the doctor looked at her spine, hands, feet, etc, listened to her heart and lungs, kind of like a well visit. Then we moved to the ENT, and he checked over her ears, nose and throat, and then we went to see the nurses for her height and weight check. She was cleared and healthy as can be.

 

The last part of the exam is the least fun… the blood draw for the TB test. It has been long standing protocol that parents are not allowed in the room with their kids while they’re getting their blood drawn, and I think there are reasons for that, although it’s against my natural inclination. Alas, there is nothing you can do about it, so we prepped Jia as best we could, and the nurses came and got her, and took her into the room. She made not one peep and it was over in 3 minutes, so it sounded a lot worse then it was. We greeted her with suckers and snuggles and she was okay after about 10 minutes, although I think it’s the most subdued I’ve seen her yet.

The blood draw room.  The characters above read "Door of DOOM".  At least, we're assuming.  ;)

The blood draw room. The characters above read “Door of DOOM”. At least, we’re assuming. 😉

But survived the Doom Room like a champ.

But survived the Doom Room like a champ.

Showing our friend Will her BandAid.

Showing our friend Will her BandAid.

 

Jia, someday when you read this, take this as proof that we were VERY SAD about your blood test.

Jia, someday when you read this, take this as proof that we were VERY SAD about your blood test.

 

Then we headed back to the hotel for lunch and naptime. We were going to try this Middle Eastern place we had read was good, but we got there and it was not open, or something? We’re still not really sure. So then we walked a little further for noodles and they were PACKED, so that is how it came to pass that I threw a mini temper tantrum in the middle the sidewalk of Guangzhou. I’d hit my limit. I was DONE. I wanted to be able to look around and at least be able to understand my options, or have a chance of someone speaking English who could help me. I believe I was the very definition of hangry. My brain was kicking and screaming on the floor, unable to see past the CRISIS in front of me to the options that I actually had, and I felt totally frozen in indecision. Long story short, we ended up back at the hotel, at Starbucks, eating over priced, under good sandwiches, but at least we were caffeinated and fed. Sometimes, that’s enough. And in the end, Jia took a looooooong nap, and that was much needed rest time for all of us. If you’re reading this and yet to travel, you will likely have a moment like this, too, and when you do, you can think back to this post and realize you’re not alone. This adoption trip is wonderful, but it’s HARD and overwhelming and weird. Throwing mental temper tantrums in the street is a thing, and it’s just part of the experience. Solidarity, friends. Tomorrow will be a new day.

 

So, that night, reasonably rested and slightly more mentally stable, we went to the Pearl River Cruise. Unbeknownst to me, so did like, all the other adoptive families in Guangzhou and I was delighted to run into my friend Kasey and Tracy and to make my Internet friends into real friends. That, and so many other friendships I’ve made on the adventure, will go down as some of my biggest, most loved gifts. It was so great to get to hug the actual necks of people I have only seen on FB, and they were just as lovely in person as in pixels.

 

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The Pearl River is the 4th largest in China, and we did a loop, basically, passing Shaiman Island, and the cable tower, and many other beautifully lit hotels, bridges and buildings. It was really fun and Jia had a ball, so it ended up being a great night.

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Yesterday ended up being a mixed bag of emotions, from worry, to grief, to joy and contentment. Welcome to adoption and parenting, and international travel, right? Today is better, and I got to go shopping, so HEY.

 

3 more days, and tomorrow is the Consulate appointment, the VERY LAST PIECE OF THE POLLARDS GET TO GO HOME PUZZLE. Think I’m excited much?! Spoiler…. I AM.

China: days 9, 10, and 11: infirmary, the miracle of flight and Buddhist monks are my favorite

So, last we left off, we had just completed a nice relaxing day of not doing much, which culminated in our group going out for dinner to a restaurant suggested by our guide. I felt fine when we got there, but by the time we left, I had started to feel pretty lousy, mostly sinus symptoms, nothing super serious. I have a few food related allergies, so I just assumed it was either that or the smog, and we headed back to the hotel so I could take some Zyrtec and hopefully avoid more serious issues. And that was all a good plan until I woke up at 3:00am feeling like I had been hit by a truck. The full range of cold/flu issues…. Exploding sinuses, aches, chills, sweats and general misery and angst. I was SICK and I knew it.

 

We had been planning to go the Aquarium with our group that day, but I assumed that since I was out of commission, Josh and Jia would just chill at the hotel. Nope. Super Dad loaded Jia up in the carrier and got on with life. They had a pretty decent time over all at the Aquarium, and I was able to rest for several hours, which helped immensely. By the time they got back, I was feeling well enough to remain upright for longer then 10 minutes, and just in time too. Because we were headed to Guangzhou the next day, and we needed to pack up all of our stuff, AGAIN. So we spent the rest of the day packing, and eating room service.

 

The next day, I woke up feeling much better, but still not (even as I’m typing this) 100%. I’m not sure if it’s allergies or legit cold, but I’m definitely still feeling it. We met our group in the lobby at 11:30 to go to the airport, which was an hour away. I might jinx myself by saying this, but riding on the bus has been much better recently, thank goodness. We’re down to one meltdown per trip, but we started at about 100870585 per trip, so we’re just rocking busses now, pretty much. Progress has been made.

Jia helping Daddy move the suitcases to the hallway.  She's ready to hit the road.

Jia helping Daddy move the suitcases to the hallway. She’s ready to hit the road.

 

Once we got to the airport, our guide got out tickets and walked us to Security and then has to say her goodbyes. It was bittersweet for sure, and we could not have asked for a better guide in Zhengzhou. Rita is the best.

Our fantastic Zhengzhou guide, Rita.  We literally could not have done it without her.

Our fantastic Zhengzhou guide, Rita. We literally could not have done it without her.

 

So we hoovered some food, and eventually boarded the plane. We ended up being delayed by about 45 minutes, but everyone kept their wits about them, so it was fine. It was finally time to take off, and that’s when the trouble started. Jia really doesn’t like to be strapped down by seat belts, but of course, the airlines do not care. So after trying to keep her in her seat, they eventually gave us a baby seatbelt, which attaches to the adults seatbelt and then around the baby, so they can stay in your lap. Oh, she was LIVID about it. So we were the parents that everyone stares at and thanks their lucky stars they aren’t sitting beside. But once we got in the air, she was totally fine, happy as can be. We played, she watched Frozen, she ate some (gross) air plane food, and then fell fast asleep in my arms. We kind of just adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for seatbelts on the way down and we made it through landing with no belt and no problems.

No seatbelt, no problems.

No seatbelt, no problems.

 

Since we landed late, we didn’t get to our hotel until almost 9:30 and we were TIRED. Luckily our hotel is right beside a McDonalds and we caved and got chicken nuggets, burgers and french fries. Judge all you want, they were delicious. :).

 

The next day was some optional touring of a Buddhist temple, the Chan House, which is a museum and has lots of shops, and then another shopping area. We woke up in the morning kind of kicking ourselves for saying we’d go on this tour, but we were committed, so off we went. I am SO GLAD we did. It was one of my favorite things so far.

Jia, ready to take on the day.  I love this picture of her!

Jia, ready to take on the day. I love this picture of her!

 

The Buddhist temple is simply beautiful, full of statues, pictures, and history. There are several different buildings, each housing a different Buddha. The people who were there worshipping would light odd numbered   sticks on incense, say their prayers to the Buddha, and then stick the incense in the sand so their prayers would rise to heaven. There are different Buddha’s for different types of prayers, including one female Buddha specifically for women and children.

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I mentioned on FB that I also had an opportunity to see and be blessed by a Buddhist monk. I wish I could adequately express how lovely his countenance was… I just really enjoyed seeing and meeting him. He blessed us with a safe journey home and I could feel the sincerity of his prayer. So special to me.

 

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From there, we went to the Chan house, which is mostly a museum, but also a shopping area. It was HOT and crowded and we didn’t have a lot of time, so we spent a lot of it in the shops, especially the calligraphy shop, where we got our names and the girls names and our family name on different scrolls. I’m excited to display these in our home! After that, we went to another shopping area, but by then I was DONE and couldn’t make any more decisions. So we were pretty much just waiting to go back to the hotel by then.

 

So, that’s pretty much the last few days. We’re really enjoying being in Guangzhou, everything feels much more accessible and a lot easier to navigate, plus, did I mention Starbucks IN THE HOTEL? God bless it. We are starting to wind down and get REAL homesick though. We’ve been gone a long time and I’m ready to go home. I’m working on staying open and enjoying the time we have left (which will be full of really neat things that our agency has planned), but I am longing for home now. I think that everyone hits a point on their trip where they are just DONE and I’m there today. It always gets better, but right now it’s hard. 4 more days! We’re really in the home stretch now.

China days 6, 7, and 8: officially official, squatty success and the van ride we shall never speak of again.

I’m behind on blogging… it’s funny how that happens when you have an insta-toddler and have to re-remember how to parents one of these lovely creatures. But she is currently napping and I have a moment to catch up, so here we go…

 

Tuesday morning, we met our guide in the lobby at 8:30 to go to the registration office where you become legal guardians of your child. We met the notary in the same room where we had Family Day the day before. The notary checked all of our paperwork, and then said a few words, basically thanking us for adopting these children, wishing us well and encouraging us to take good care of them. Then he said “you are now legally their parents”. To say that was lovely to hear is an understatement. We feel so lucky to be Jia’s parents and now it’s now it’s official not only in our hearts, but on paper too.

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Funny side story: most families who adopt their children in Zhengzhou take a picture in front of this red wall with Chinese writing on it, and we were no exception in wanting our pictures there. It seemed kind of momentous and I’d been waiting for a long time to get to stand there. So all the families in our travel group took their photos and we all felt very pleased with ourselves…. Then our guide said “do you know what that says?”. We all said no, of course, and she said “it says ‘Marriage Bureau…. So any Chinese person will wonder why you got married when you were adopting your child'”. We all found that highly amusing. It doesn’t change the symbolism for me, but it will make me laugh every time I see it.

 

From there, we went to notary office, which was 6 steep flights up an old government building. We sat around in a conference room for a while (we snagged the seats right in front of the AC… so nice!) and then we went to another room and had our picture taken. Then back down the stairs and back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the day just hanging out, going for walks, playing in the playroom, and chilling. Josh went to Wal-Mart and got stuck in a torrential downpour on the way back.

 

Wednesday was the day that we went to apply for Jia’s passport. For most families, you have to go to your child’s home city to apply, and in Jia’s case, her home city, Nanyang, was 3.5 hours away by van. As I mentioned to some of you on Facebook, they don’t really do car seats here, and kid are pretty much free to climb around their vehicles at will, I guess? I don’t really know. But I had chosen not to bring a car seat because there isn’t a reliable way to install them safely, so we were pretty much winging it. In the end, the less that is said about that day, the better. It was HARD. Jia didn’t like sitting in a lap/being held the whole time, there were major tantrums, and lots of tears, the latter both hers and mine. But in the end, we survived it, and sometimes that’s all you can say. I also think that it helped us get over the hump of Jia’s intense temper tantrums because when you have 85904904367340 of them in a day and your parents don’t give in on the big issues, that usually means they’re serious. So it seems like her tantrums since then have been shorter and less severe, which is nice. I feel like we fought the battles that will eventually win the war, so to speak.

At the beginning of our trip when spirits were still high and hopes plentiful...

At the beginning of our trip when spirits were still high and hopes plentiful…

Two of my favorite goofballs...

Two of my favorite goofballs…

 

 

Also, yesterday I successfully used a squatty potty. I will let you look up with a squatty potty is on your own because I DID NOT take a picture.  I do have some boundaries. I debated about talking about it, but it is a source of great pride for me and I feel like I’ve accomplished some international travel bucket list item, so whatever, man. My thanks to my friend Gretchen for her tutorial on squatty potty usage.

 

Today we have a free day, which we desperately needed, so we had a leisurely morning, went to Wal-Mart and to lunch and now we’re chilling in the room. I see swimming and playroom in our futures.

Jia LOOOOOOVES seaweed snacks.   She is welcome to them all.

Jia LOOOOOOVES seaweed snacks. She is welcome to them all.

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As far as how we’re doing over all, I think that we’ve all had our moments where we’re so glad to be here, and some where we can’t wait to go home. I miss fresh fruits and veggies and water out of the tap. I miss idly eavesdropping on people at the next table over. I miss my house because living in a hotel gets old after a while. I really miss Eden and my friends and my family, although that’s been made easier by Facebook and WeChat, and we’ve gotten to talk to Eden every day, sometimes twice. I think I am just ready to go home and start my life again, just life + Jia. We have one more day in Zhengzhou and then we fly to Guangzhou on Saturday, to start our last leg of the trip there. We’ll be there for 6.5 days and then we head HOME. We are SO, SO ready. I can’t wait to eat a salad.

Spicy beef fried rice...  yum!!

Spicy beef fried rice… yum!!

China kids meal:  chicken wings, fried prawns, stir fried greens, corn, ramen and Fanta.

China kids meal: chicken wings, fried prawns, stir fried greens, corn, ramen and Fanta.

 

 

But on the other hand, we, and especially Jia, are leaving a lot behind too, and I think it’s really important that we don’t forget that. We have all gained so much in the process, but she is losing a tremendous amount too, and leaving her home country will be bittersweet.

Wearing her shirt from Eden...

Wearing her shirt from Eden…

I said "Jia, are you ready to go to America?" and she said "Let's go!"

I said “Jia, are you ready to go to America?” and she said “Let’s go!”

 

 

Keep the comments and posts coming, we have been so encouraged by them and it helps the homesickness. Thanks as always for following along on this crazy trip. Love you guys!