Gotcha Day + 1.001

A year ago yesterday, we were handed a little girl, bundled up in about 5 layers of clothes. We were already in love with her; it took her a little longer…

A year ago yesterday, we were handed a little girl, bundled up in about 5 layers of clothes. We were already in love with her; it took her a little longer… within a matter of seconds, she started screaming and didn’t stop for several hours until, exhausted, she fell asleep on my chest in our hotel room in China. Our lives haven’t been the same since.

Deb and Li enjoy a new book on Gotcha Day + 1
Deb and Li enjoy a new book on Gotcha Day + 1

What a difference a year makes. Those first few days were tough for all of us (and probably tough for the people in the hotel rooms near ours!), but bolstered by the prayers of friends and family, we all survived. She is still a very “spirited” young lady, and there are many aspects of that strong will and personality that we started getting to know a year ago that show through every day. She has grown in every aspect of her development, and that growth has been matched only by the growth of our love for her.

We celebrated “Gotcha Day” with my parents this past weekend; we celebrate this incredible gift we have been given every single day.

Home again…

Home again, despite our heads, stomachs, watches, and our little girl all being in various timezones between here and China.

… home again, jiggedy-jig.

The past couple of days are basically a blur. My head, my stomach, my watch, and my little girl are all still operating on different timezones, which is resulting in a weird dizzy sort of feeling.

The last day in Guangzhou was some shopping and a little exploring off Shamian Island on our own in the morning, and then the big event where we took the visa oath on behalf of Li so that she could travel with us. Thursday was a 31-hour day, starting with a 4:30am wakeup to get going for the airport and the first of four legs of plane travel to make it home. The flights themselves were pretty uneventful; we were a little late getting out of Hong Kong, but we still had plenty of time in LA between connections. Li is teething — it looks like the first little molar is trying to poke through — so she was pretty fussy at times on the planes. The first four hours or so on the Hong Kong to LA flight were pretty tough, but after that she conked out and slept until we were landing in LA.

Li is down napping for a bit right now, which is probably a good thing, as last night by the time we made it home she was exhausted but her clock was still on mid-day in China so the last thing she wanted was to go to bed and sleep. She was up until about 3am before sleeping a few hours. I’m sure it is going to take all of us a few days to get back into any sort of routine and to get our bodies back on Mountain time.

Thank you to all of you for your thoughts and prayers these past two weeks. You have no idea how much they have meant to us and how much they have helped.

In addition to our little girl, we brought back lots of pictures and even more memories. Over the next few days, I hope to pull some of those together in a couple more posts to try to share some of our experiences with all of you…

Guangzhou: A City of Firsts

Sorry for the delay between posts; we’ve been too busy and too tired. Guangzhou has been a city of firsts for Li, but we’re ready to be home.

Ian and Li in the Nanchong airportSorry for the delay between posts. Between being busy and being exhausted by the time evening rolls around, it has been hard to find both time and and energy to even think about writing. The good news is that we are all surviving and adjusting and growing and adapting. And there is no bad news…

On Saturday, we flew from Nanchang to Guangzhou. We’ve finished all of the paperwork, and have just one appointment left here in Guangzhou — at the US Consulate tomorrow afternoon — to get Li’s travel visa so that she can enter the US with us. We finished the paperwork on Sunday, and then had a bit of a sightseeing tour and another checkup as part of the adoption process on Monday. Officially, Li is 23.4 pounds — making her the heaviest baby in the group by more than a pound, 30 inches tall, and has a head circumference of 18 inches (and from everything we’ve seen so far, that head is packed with brains!). We took it easy this morning, and then went to the pearl market here in Guangzhou this afternoon, which is near Li Wan plaza, sort of a combination of a huge mall, a huge pedestrian shopping district, and hundreds of jewelry and pearl stores. It has to be seen to be believed.

Red Couch PhotoSunday afternoon, we also did the traditional “red couch” photo of all of the girls in the adoption group. What a riot! Li is third from right, in the back row, staring intently at the photographer. About 3 seconds after this was taken, all 13 girls were screaming at the tops of the lungs.

Guangzhou has definitely been a city of firsts for Li:

  • Li’s first airplane flight brought her here from Nanchang, and her first flight delay had us an hour late leaving Nanchang. They held the plane on the runway for almost an hour once we had boarded. Despite the delay, she did just fine.
  • Li’s first ice cream was mango ice cream with lunch on Sunday. Every bite brought a scrunched up face and then a request (demand?) for more.  She has also tried green tea and taro flavors and loved them.
  • Li’s first stroller rideLi’s first stroller ride was Monday afternoon, and started as a white-knuckle sort of affair (probably until she decided I wasn’t going to dump her out going around corners) and ended up pretty relaxed, as you can see.
  • Li got her first pair of “squeaky” shoes this afternoon. These have to be seen (and heard) to be believed: they have little squeakers in the soles under the heels to get kids to plant their heels as they are learning to walk. Every step results in a squeak. They’re a hoot, but I don’t think she’ll be wearing them on our plane rides home.
  • Li’s first bedtime without screaming was Monday evening, but tonight the screaming was back, but not for as long. Some progress there, at least.

Guangzhou is an interesting city, but the area where our hotel is located (Shamian Island) is way too touristy for our tastes. The hotel is great aside from the beds (I’ve slept on softer sidewalks), but it is so large that our group is all spread out and it feels a little impersonal compared to our hotel in Nanchang. We are ready to be home; it hit Deb and me today and it hit Ian a day or two ago. This has been an incredible experience, but we are ready to be home.

We travel home on Thursday, which will be a very long day between the early start, all of the flights (Guangzhou to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to LA, LA to Salt Lake, and finally Salt Lake to Idaho Falls), and the time change. All together, it will work out to something like a 28 hour day by the time we make it home. We can definitely use your prayers as we head home, and we are grateful for all of them these past two weeks.

Wednesday Update

It’s Wednesday evening, and we’re all doing well. Li is an amazing, beautiful girl; China is an amazing place; Ian is an amazing big brother; and each day brings big changes.

Li Zhong and Deb - Nanchang, TuesdayEach day brings big steps. Monday was an early start, which was really hard after such a tough evening on Sunday (“gotcha day”). We had early appointments at three different government offices to get the paperwork started for Li Zhong’s travel visa and to finalize the adoption. She did great, however. She was up early on her own, which helped even if she wasn’t really rested. She ate well — she loves fruit (which helps in lots of ways, if you know what I mean!) and she loves riding in the bus. By the time we left the last set of appointments and got back to our hotel a little after noon, she was well past her point of no return and she went into meltdown mode as soon as we were back in our room. And the meltdown lasted pretty much until 9pm when she collapsed exhausted. A tough afternoon on all of us.

She did sleep most of the night, though, waking once to briefly take a bottle and then sleeping until almost 8am.

Tuesday was much more relaxing, with nothing specific planned in the morning other than a quick checkup with a doctor here in the hotel room — she is completely healthy. The doctor did comment with a laugh on her cheeks and her thighs (she is by far the heaviest of all of the girls in our group). Li Zhong and Ian - Nanchang, TuesdayThere’s a temple and pagoda with their entrance to the grounds about a block from our hotel, so we walked down there in the morning. Li seems to like being outside and the temple grounds are fenced, so they are much more peaceful than the bustling city around us. Lots to look at and see and she really did enjoy being out. Ian and I climbed to the top story of the pagoda (he got some pix I will post at some point) — imagine 10 stories of ladders to get to the top (and then back down)… an amazing view of the city around us.

In the afternoon, most of our group went to Peoples’ Park, a huge park here in Nanchang. Fish ponds, paths, lots and lots of people out enjoying a grey but not rainy day. Ian attracted quite a crowd while he was juggling his soccer ball, between being pretty good with the ball and being blond and blue-eyed. Our group attracted lots of attention with our bunch of girls. The people of China are amazing: they are so open and friendly and curious, and their reaction when they find out why we have these little girls is touching. They are so excited for these little girls, it is hard to explain.

The park has a pond where they will zip you inside an inflated ball about 2 meters in diameter and then send you out on the pond. You have to try to stand up in the ball and sort of run inside it to make the ball move around on the water. It is hilarious to watch. More photos of Ian coming on that one, too…

Again, Li just loved being outside and watching things going on around her…

Evening was tough again, though, as she started screaming pretty much as soon as we were back in the hotel and didn’t let up until she collapsed around 9pm. She did sleep pretty well, though, waking up around 4am when she drained two whole bottles in about two minutes, and then slept until about 7:30.

Li woke up pretty happy, had a bit to eat and drink and was content to sit on the bed playing and looking at books while we got ready to go eat breakfast — which is a huge change from the past couple of days where she has been very clingy, demanding to be constantly held (Deb and I refer to this as the Chinese weightlifting program, as we are both exhausted from this by the end of the day, as she is a solid 24 pounds and very strong!). Along with a couple other families, we caught taxis to go to a local market (Evelyn, our local rep, wrote out directions in Mandarin to give to the drivers to get us there and back again).  Traffic here is unbelievable — I will write more on that at some point, too — but we made it. The market is a huge building backed with little bitty stalls where people sell stuff. Again, the girls got lots of attention and the people were friendly, curious, and amazing in their reactions when they found out why we have them…

Li Zhong - Nanchang, WednesdayThe afternoon was very low key. Li was perfectly content again to sit on the bed and just play and is becoming much more verbal — both good signs. She is also much more willing to be held by any of the three of us, which is again a good sign (and a welcome relief for my aching arms and back!). She really did have a great day, she’s eating and drinking, pooping — all the things we love in babies. She’s smiling more, she’s ticklish, she gives kisses. The only bad part today was the pre-bed meltdown, which again was an hour of uninterrupted screaming…

Li is beautiful, strong, healthy, curious, becoming much more verbal, clearly becoming much more secure in her relationships with all three of us. She is also very strong willed, and each day so far she has clearly been happier. She is very attentive, and is very coordinated. And yes, those cheeks are every bit as big as they look in the pictures, maybe bigger — she has three sets of dimples.

Each day of this phase of our journey has shown big changes… and there’s more to come.