Friday, November 22, 2013

Orphanage Visit

Today we visited Mariel's orphanage, the Social Welfare Institute of Guangzhou.  That place is huge.  There are several buildings, and I couldn't keep up with what each of them were for.  There was a newer building for offices and a physical therapy center, one for medical treatment, some that housed some of the staff, and more children's residential buildings.  There were a couple of play structures, a sandbox, and a small fish pond.  The grounds were pretty well-kept and the building that we went in was older, but clean.  It was reported to us that about 1,000 children are under the care of the SWI, half of those in various foster homes and half residing in the institution.  This orphanage is partly supported by Half the Sky, which trains the teachers and caregivers, and pays several of the salaries.  If you are able, giving financially to this organization or to one like it (Love Without Boundaries and others), is a wonderful cause that truly does change the futures of so many children.
Mariel had been in foster care for about the last 2 1/2 years, but she would come back to the orphanage from time to time.  I'm not sure if she had extended stays during these times or if they were just day visits.  Prior to foster care, she lived here exclusively, so it was important to us to see it.  She came back to stay at the orphanage prior to us adopting her, on November 4th. 
She seemed pleased to show us around and introduce us.  At one point, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.  This was the first show of affection she has had toward me, which was so welcomed, but I know it may have been merely for show at this point.  But I took it as positive anyway. 
We first saw a large group of babies with a few nannies in a playground area.  It was a beautiful and warm day, and I enjoyed seeing them outside in the sunshine.  There were some in cribs and some on blankets on the ground.  There were some of them being held.  But there were so many...  Helping them was a beautiful young girl who our guide said has already "aged out," meaning she's over 14 and is no longer eligible for adoption.  Her place in life is to live at the orphanage and work as a nanny and care for more orphans.

We went in the building where Mariel lived.  The 3rd floor was open and there was a courtyard below with a basketball court.  There were a couple of preschool classrooms (this is the only education that Mariel has had) and the children in this area were below having their PE time.  Mariel showed us her classroom and the chair she sat in.  Down the hallway were some younger children lined up in high chairs watching a children's program on TV.  We then went through another door to the residential area.  We saw the laundry room, restroom, bathing room (big stainless steel sinks and a couple of large basins), bedrooms (Mariel's room had 10 cribs in it), and an eating area.  We went down to the basketball court to see the children.  There is a little girl who is Mariel's best friend who is being adopted on Monday!  We got to get a few pictures of them together.  Hopefully, the girls can stay in touch.  Each child we saw was beautiful and to watch them and know where they are and why they are there just tears at your soul.

All I can manage in this post is observations.  To go beyond that is something my heart just can't do right now.

We left and went to Mariel's finding spot, the place of her abandonment.  Only me and our guide got out so I could take pictures.  We did not tell Mariel why we were there.  I left there only wanting to know more, but there isn't anything else to discover.  We'll likely never know the how's and why's.  I do know that she was meant to be found.  Amazing Grace.

In front of the sign for the orphanage

Wish I could read her mind here.

Mariel and her favorite teacher

The restroom

Where she was bathed

The dining room

Her bedroom

Isn't this the cutest?  Their little drinking cups.

Waving hello to her friends.
Our guide told us that she yelled happily to them, "I have parents!"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Next 3 Days....

It's been a few days since I've written anything.  I guess I feel like now that we have both our girls that we're in the home stretch!  Home is still a week away.  :(  There also hasn't been a lot of time to write.  This tiny apartment is crowded, and it seems like someone always has the ipad! 

On Tuesday, 11/19, we went back to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize the adoption.  We had to sign several papers and were asked some of the same questions that we answered about Cora Li.  The notary interviewed us as well and stumped us for a second on how long we have been married.  :)  We were there a couple of hours, I think.  Mariel didn't have much reaction to being there again.  She and the rest of the kiddos were pretty bored.  The afternoon was spent at the hotel.  Mariel began showing some of her personality.  She is so girly and prissy, a little bossy, a little dramatic, but fairly easy-going.

On Wednesday, 11/20, we had the morning free.  We walked to a nearby park.  It had an area with a few kiddie amusement park rides.  Mariel was SO excited to see these.  The boys thought they were too big, but Mariel and Rebecca rode a little train, a carousel, and some little go-carts.  The girls were hilarious on those cars.  These were not bumper cars, but with Mariel not seeing well and Rebecca having little sense of space, let's just say we are very hesitant about drivers' licenses in their future!  They also were drawing a crowd, which was a little embarrassing.  I think we were the only ones laughing.  We then walked through the park some.  There were people there doing various exercises and dancing, and a few others singing or playing instruments.  It was a really beautiful day and many older people were out enjoying it.  We also rented a paddle boat and everyone but Cora Li and me went around the lake a couple of times.  Cora Li was getting a little fussy and I didn't think she would want to sit still in one place for that long.  In the afternoon, we had to go to another building to apply for Mariel's passport.  Upon returning to the hotel, I had to go and complete paperwork for both girls' American visas.  That evening we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  About the time our food came, Mariel started complaining of her head being hot.  She did feel a little feverish, but she ate pretty well.  Billy carried her as we were leaving.  She laid her head on his shoulder.  Because we had to pass McDonald's, we stopped in for some ice cream to go.  By the time we got back to the hotel and had some ice cream, ibuprofen, and decongestant (she's had a little congestion and cough since we got her), she was back to her happy self.  It was good to get to baby her a little.  We didn't get a chance to check her for fever, so we did not lie at all on the medical questionnaire the next day...

Today, the girls had to get their medical exams and TB tests.  They don't do the skin tests anymore; it is a blood draw.  :(  Mariel did well and was very cooperative for all her exams.  Her vision, of course, was abnormal.  If I am remembering correctly, her vision in her left eye was 20/100 (not too bad), and in her right eye was 20/800 (yikes).  I'm anxious to get to her ophthalmology appointment once home.  She does have to hold things very close to make out characters or detail, but she does fine seeing changes in terrain, like stairs, and notices a lot of her environment like any normal-vision kid.  She does have nystagmus pretty bad. 

Cora Li was pretty OK with the exam as long as I could hold her.  She screamed so much during the general exam, she pooped everywhere.  The doctor got out of the way though.  :)  The worst part was that awful TB test.  Two nurses did it behind closed doors.  We were not allowed in there for that.  Oh, how she screamed!  She must have fought pretty hard because it took them about 10 minutes to get a blood sample from her.  She was exhausted and a sweaty mess when they finally brought her out to us.  We now wait for the results to come on Saturday.  If either of them is positive, we will have to stay another 6 weeks, so pray that all is normal. 

We left there and went to the Guangdong Museum.  There were several different exhibits: History, culture, natural resources, pottery, painting, wood carving, etc.  The museum, to me, was too big with a lot of wasted space.  It was difficult to find all the exhibits or at least where you were to enter them.  The kids got really tired of all the walking that they didn't really enjoy it. The architecture, including the museum, and the surrounding buildings was amazing.  The opera house was the strangest building I've ever seen.  The Canton Tower, the 4th largest structure in the world, and the largest television tower in the world, was across the river.  There was also a massive stadium there that was built to float on the water.

Our day was finished with another trip to Trust Mart, our first shopping trip with Mariel.  She kept loading up the shopping cart!  :)

Tomorrow we visit Mariel's orphanage (where she was until she was 7 1/2) and also her finding spot.  I'm sure it will be an emotional day for all of us.  I'm praying that it will be a somewhat happy one for Mariel, to see some familiar faces, but also a chance to say her goodbyes again.

 She wanted a bow too. (Good thing I had one of Ellen's in my purse!)
 Opera house
 Guangdong Museum
Canton Tower
 Happy about eating!
 Nap time
 Paddle boat ride
 (Civil affairs office). Dad entertains.
(Civil Affairs office). Passing the time.
 Ready for a new day

(Notary office). Twirling with her doll

The cars

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gotcha Day Pics

The Moment

Meeting Her



Pretty sure Billy and I were exchanges tearful glances here.

Our family (minus 3) plus "Wendy" from Guangzhou SWI

Still in shock but she did take my hand.

Gotcha Day

 I'm finally getting around to putting the words down 24 hours later.  Yesterday was emotional.  The whole day.  First, Cora Li didn't sleep that well.  She didn't want to be in the crib, so she slept with us most of the night.  Her little feet "gently"massaged my side most of the night.  ;)  After we got up and finished breakfast, I went with our guide and the other families to do some preliminary paperwork and make a few copies.  Billy took the kids back to the room during this time, including Cora Li, who screamed in protest.  She calmed down and, you know, after that, she's been much happier with Billy and being away from me (and by away, I mean a few feet).  Maybe she's beginning to trust that Mama always comes back.

   I went back and forth from excited to nervous the whole day.  The boys were particularly antsy as well, lots of roughhousing, which didn't help my mood any.  We finally met our group downstairs at 2:00 to go to the Civil Affairs office.  It seemed to take forever to get there as there was lots of traffic.  The area where we went was on the 8th floor.  This is the same area that we received Rebecca over six years ago.  Along a couple of walls, there are red couches with black and white pillows on them.  There are two other families in our agency's group and there were four more families there as well.  We had to double-check a document for accuracy before they started bringing the children out.  I know one of the other families got their children before us (they got a boy and a girl at the same time) because the little boy screamed at the top of his lungs and did so the entire time and even halfway back to the hotel.  When it was our turn, we all walked toward the playroom area and they brought Mariel out.  She had her head down and stood there for us to greet her.  She finally managed a "ni hao"and we all headed over to our area on the sofa.  She sat down, and the lady from the orphanage prompted her to show us some things from her backpack.  I in turn gave her a Cinderella doll and a stuffed pink "My Little Pony." She had Cinderella on her backpack too, so it was a neat connection.  She had the things that we had sent her (which did not look to be used at all, so I wonder when they were given to her) plus a few other items of clothing and a couple of photo albums.  The lady from the orphanage told her to show us her photo album.  When she turned to a picture of her with her foster mother, big tears started to flow.  She sobbed a little, but never made a sound.  Billy handed her a tissue, and she wiped her eyes.  I just sat beside her and rubbed and patted her back.
   About this time, Billy was communicating through Miko, one of our guides, to ask the orphanage worker some questions about Mariel.  I don't even have an idea of how long we were there, but it seemed like an eternity sitting there watching our daughter experience such sadness and loss, while I felt powerless to give her any solace.  I know the One who did though.  We got up to take a family picture with the orphanage staff person, and not long after that, we all left to come back to the hotel.

   When we arrived back, Billy went with our guide to complete more paperwork while I took all the children back to our room.  My plan was to walk her through the rooms and show her around, but she took charge and pretty much went through and checked everything out on her own, with me following.  She loved all the things we brought for her, the clothes, and especially the costume jewelry.  She was especially excited to see the little tube of lip gloss and the bottle of glittery nail polish.  When Billy returned, it was time to think about dinner.  We debated whether he should just go and get something to bring back to the room, or if we should all go out to dinner.  We finally decided on the latter, and then as we were walking, there was the decision on where to go.  We ended up picking a pizzeria, thinking that there would be some Chinese options on the menu.  There wasn't so much, but we got our waitress to ask her what she wanted.  She ordered mushroom soup.  We ordered some penne pasta and chicken for Cora Li and, of course, a pepperoni pizza for the other kids.  When the food came, the total unfamiliarity of the food and the family she was with, I think prompted more tears.  Uh-oh, big mistake on the eating out.  What do you do when your child's world has just been shattered and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it better?  Well, when we finished eating, we stopped at McDonald's and got some ice cream!  She had a strawberry sundae, and it really did bring some smiles.  :)

   Bedtime went pretty well.  Mariel and Rebecca took a bath together.  She wanted to wash her own hair and do all of her own self care.  She did let me brush through her hair.  At some point, we facetimed with Nannie and the kids so that they could "meet"her.  When she was tired, she headed to her bed on her own, and I went to tuck her in.  Kissed her good night.  I remember saying, "I know you have no idea what I'm saying, but we are very happy to have you as our daughter." I then told her "I love you"in Mandarin.  Good sleep was had by all.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Airport Waiting

Sweet Slumber


Dad is a Lot of Fun!

At The Garden

Guangzhou Day 1 & 2

We arrived at the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou around 11:30 pm Friday night.  By the time we got checked in and in the bed, it was after 1 am.  Cora Li was not happy.  Our flight from Fuzhou was supposed to take off at 7:30 pm, but got pushed back until 8:20 pm.  Even after we boarded the plane, we sat at the gate until 9:15.  The airplane was full.  We definitely stuck out like sore thumbs.  Cora Li was exhausted.  All she wanted to do was to lie down, get comfortable, and SLEEP!  She finally slept about 20 minutes on the van ride from the Guangzhou airport.

We slept in a little Saturday morning, barely making it downstairs to the breakfast buffet before it closed at 10 am.  We were all pretty hungry, and the breakfast was SO much better than at our last hotel, so we all stuffed ourselves.  The rest of the day we mostly rested in our room, which is a small 2-bedroom apartment.  The set-up is nice.  You walk in to a small kitchen and living space, and then to each side is a bedroom and bathroom.  The boys are impressed with the bidet function of the toilet.  The one in our bathroom also has a heated toilet seat.  Nice!  :)  We have a tiny washer/dryer combo.  And by combo, I mean it's the same appliance.  It goes immediately from the washing cycle to the drying cycle.  The drying part is a misnomer.  It actually just heats up the clothes a little.  We have to hang the clothes to dry all over the apartment.  We had saved all of our laundry for the past week to do here.  It took pretty much the whole day on Saturday to get caught up.  Late in the afternoon we went to Trust Mart (Wal-Mart) for a few items and ate at KFC for dinner.  The boys don't attract quite as much attention here as in Fuzhou.  There, everyone stared and wanted to touch them.
Today was a little more interesting.  We took a walk down a few side streets near the hotel.  There are lots of small shops and food markets to take in.  Along one of the streets were some people selling turtles, eels, and snakes (all live).  There was a woman crouched down gutting and preparing an eel.  Another man at the back of a cart was cleaning a chicken.  Other than that excitement, the guys spent some time in the gym and we took Cora Li to the small playground here at the hotel.  Pizza Hut was for dinner.  We devoured 2 large pepperoni pizzas! 

A little progress...I have had to lie down with Cora Li for her to go to sleep at naps and at bedtime.  She just cries if you put her down in the crib, so we transfer her to the crib after she goes to sleep.  Tonight, Billy is lying down with her!  Yea!  So I'm sitting here catching you up on all the boring happenings on our "rest days." :)  Just checked on them, and they're both sound asleep...
I also have been wanting to share a little about Cora Li's special need.  She, like John, was born with spina bifida, in the form of a myelomeningocele.  They both will have to be monitored for spinal cord tethering, kidney damage (result of infection due to a neurogenic bladder), scoliosis, and of course, their orthopedic issues.  Both also have hydrocephalus with no shunt.  Most of what affects John is obvious...his shorter leg and his dislocated hip, resulting in his severe limp.  Cora Li, we think, will have more issues.  We knew this before we decided to adopt her.  What we have seen with her has been no surprise.  She is unable to walk unassisted yet.  She definitely has the strength in her legs, but she doesn't have great musculature in her ankles and feet.  She'll likely need AFO's.  (John wears one on his left leg).  And physical therapy. She is 2 and still in diapers, but we're pretty sure she'll be incontinent.  She doesn't seem to leak urine constantly, but I'm concerned about her being able to fully empty her bladder.  I'm thinking she will need cathing several times a day.  She also has frequent bowel movements.  She is not constipated, but seems to leak quite often.  We are in the process of figuring her out, but I'm sure it will be after several more packs of diapers and wipes!  We've almost used an entire box of wipes and half of a large box of Huggies.  I'm crossing my fingers that there are good wipes sold here in China!  I feel certain we can get her on a bowel regimen where she can eventually achieve social continence as she grows older.  As far as her hydrocephalus goes, hers is more obvious than John's.  His big head is proportional to his big body!  :)  She seems very bright, and her language is not severely delayed, but she may have some issues.  I am anxious to hear from our neurosurgeon if he recommends a shunt for her.  I'm sharing all of this because I want these things not to sound "scary." Yes, she has a special need that will require a bit more care than a healthy child.  But, it is not WHO she is.  I know she was created to do great things!  Sure, in a heartbeat, I would want to take away any disabilities my children may have, but I don't regret AT ALL that they are my children.

Tomorrow at 2 pm, we leave the hotel to meet Mariel.  We are all very excited to be the family for this very special girl and can't wait to experience her apparently contagious spirit and personality!  I'm quite nervous though.  She is an almost 10-year-old girl who has lots of ideas and feelings, and I don't speak a lick of Chinese.  A few words here and there just isn't going to cut it!  I'm praying for God to intervene and give us all some extra grace and peace during this transition.  Most of all, I'm praying for her heart, for healing from all the loss she has suffered and still yet to suffer more, and for it to open up to us, and for it to overflow with love.

Sent from my iPad=

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fuzhou days 5 & 6

Yesterday we visited a huge Buddhist temple, Xichan.  Several of the structures were built prior to 900 A. D.  The place reeked of incense, as there were several places to give your "offering." The massive statues of Buddha were made of solid bronze and were everywhere within the temples, with places to kneel before them.  There were also statues of the lesser gods, apparently of those who achieved enlightenment, that people pray to as well.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside the temples.  There were some monks chanting and praying over a couple that were kneeling before Buddha.  We saw various people kneeling before different statues and performing small rituals as they prayed.  There was all kinds of foods set out as offerings to the gods.  There was also a towering multiple-story pagoda that used to house various items.  Elaborate and ceremonial as these places are, I still cannot fathom how these people buy into this stuff.  The grounds were lovely, with ponds of fish and turtles and old lichee and banyan trees.  The oldest lichee tree had a trunk that was completely hollow yet had healthy branches growing from it.  There was an enormous banyan tree that had multiple trunks that had formed from the horizontally growing branches, some even growing out of water. 

After visiting the temple, we stopped and ate at a Chinese restaurant.  I enjoyed it until I accidentally ate an extremely hot pepper.  I really thought my throat was aflame.  In the evening, we took another walk around the West Lake park, but not nearly as long as the first day.

Today we are leaving for Guangzhou, so it's been mostly hanging out here in the hotel room.  We did go down to the fitness center, where they also have a bowling alley and played one game.  We all pretty much stunk.  Billy had the highest score, in the 60's.  We're convinced the balls were warped or the lane wasn't flat or something.  At least that's what we're going with.  The guys had been spending some time in the afternoons on the exercise equipment, running off some energy.

Cora Li is doing better with us every day.  She still prefers me and cries after me if I'm not holding her, but she's getting down to play more and more.  It also looks like we're over the food battles, although she definitely has an opinion on what she likes and doesn't like.  She's napping now, which is a blessing, since it will be fairly late before we get to the hotel in Guangzhou.  Hopefully, she'll be in a good mood for the plane ride.

I have mixed feelings about us choosing not to go to the city of her birth, Xiamen.  Although she was in foster care, the orphanage was where they initially brought her after she was found.  We could have also visited her finding spot.  However, the trip would have been over 3 hours one way, and we thought it would have been tough for all the kids.  We've been making steady progress with Cora Li, so it could have set us back some.  Anyway, that's some of what weighed into our decision.  Certainly, if we had been able to meet her foster family, it would have been worth the trip.

Bowling (Fuzhou day 6)

Waiting on bedtime. (Fuzhou day 5)

Banyan tree at Xichan temple. (Fuzhou day 5)

Xichan temple. (Fuzhou day 5)

Pagoda at Xichan temple. (Fuzhou day 5)

Xichan temple. Food offered to Buddha (Fuzhou day 5)

Xichan temple (Fuzhou day 5)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stop Taking My Picture


Fuzhou day 3. Pandas!


Fuzhou Days 3 and 4

Yesterday we went to "Panda World." There were 5 giant pandas and several red pandas.  I think I read somewhere that there are 7 pandas total in U.S. zoos, so to see 5 at one time is amazing!  There was a show with red pandas where they did various tricks, like swinging on a swing, climbing a ladder, and jumping through a hoop.  The kids enjoyed it.  There was also a panda museum at Panda World which displayed panda skeletons and panda internal organs.  If that wasn't creepy enough, there were jars of panda fetuses alongside jars of human fetuses in different stages of development.  The boys had been snapping photos left and right, but even they refrained from taking pictures of the babies.  Henry pointed out that they were all girl babies.

Today we went to an old marketplace with residences that dates back to the Ming dynasty.  It has been restored as sort of an outdoor mall.  We looked at several intricate stone, ivory, and wood carvings.  We also toured the Ye residence museum.  The boys were bored for most of this.  :)  One of the things we bought was a comb that was carved out of a bull horn.  This city is famous for these combs, but William wasn't very impressed.  We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant, which was very good.

It has rained for the past couple of days, so we've spent the afternoons in the hotel room.  The kids have been doing some of their school work.  We're trying to get as much done during the downtime. 
Cora Li is doing very well.  Her cold is getting better.  She gets more comfortable with us every day, showing us more of her personality.  Her favorite thing is to take things out of various places and put them back.  Lots of cleaning out backpacks.  :)  She loves getting William's pencils.  Yesterday morning, when I was getting dressed, she was crawling toward the bathroom looking for me, saying "Mama." So sweet.  While yesterday she pretty much wouldn't let me put her down, today she would as long as I was near her.  She fell asleep easier tonight also.  We're making progress.  She's learning she can trust us.  Really, the biggest "issue"right now is mealtime.  She gets very upset if I don't feed her exactly what she wants, in the correct amount, and at exactly the right time.  She is perfectly capable of feeding herself, which she does, on occasion, when she forgets she has to do this power-trip thing.  It's frustrating, but I understand that her food intake is the only thing she has any control over.  I'm thinking this will get better over the days and weeks to come. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fuzhou Day 2

Cora Li slept well last night.  She coughed a few times, but didn't wake up until around 7 am.  However, with a new day came more anxiety.  She wasn't happy unless I was holding her.  There were a few times that she'd let me put her down, but only a few.  After I finally managed to get a shower, we went down for breakfast.  She had a good appetite, and ate a few bites of everything.  Her favorite was the drinkable yogurt and orange juice.  Guess we had dehydrated her?
After breakfast, we went back upstairs and talked a little with the kiddos back home.  Oh, how I miss them!  Their sweet smiles were so welcome this morning.

We met our guide in the lobby to go to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize the paperwork for Cora Li's adoption.  The two women and one man from the orphanage were there again.  While Cora Li wanted one of the ladies to take her yesterday, she clung to me when one of them reached for her.  Yes!  We answered questions like, "Why do you want to adopt this child?"to "How do you plan to raise her?"and then officially promised to never abuse or abandon her.  A given, but a formality nonetheless.  We went then to the Notary Office to sign more paperwork

Our guide took us to Wal-Mart to pick up a few drinks and snacks for our room, and we looked at some of the interesting food items.  The kids were equally amazed and grossed out.
Fuzhou is not very westernized, so American fare is hard to come by.  We requested to find a McDonald's on the way back to the hotel, so the boys wouldn't starve.  :)  We had to drive around a little to find one.  Just Billy and our guide got out to go in to order.  After we got back to the room to eat, Billy had ordered Spicy Pork McNuggets for Rebecca instead of Chicken McNuggets, but she didn't seem to mind.  I thought they were awful! 

We hung out in the room the rest of the afternoon since it was raining.  Cora Li got to take a much-needed nap.  The kids did some of their math and reading homework.

Bedtime didn't go quite as well.  It was a good two hours before sweet baby finally gave it up.  She has the most soulful eyes.  I always wonder what she is thinking when it gets quiet like that. I know she must long for her old life and everything she knows.  We have completely taken her from all of that.  She's experience so much in her little life.  I can only assume that she has come to this place due to her special need.  Why?  Why should she be seen as less because of a birth defect?  Why should she be seen as less because she is an orphan?  She is an orphan no longer, and I vow to advocate for her in every capacity I have.  She now has a family to speak for her, to stand up for her, to accept her, to love her.

We always ask our guides questions about Chinese culture, food, social policies, and the like.  We were discussing the one-child policy today, and our guide told us about how her mother was forced to have an abortion when (our guide) was a little girl.  Most everything else she told us was rather matter-of-factly, but I could tell that she and her mother are still deeply affected by it by the change in her tone.  An "I'm sorry"just didn't seem good enough.  Pray for the Chinese people.  They are proud of their country, but they live under such an oppressive government.  Even the number of churches in an area is strictly controlled by the government.  They need the Word and are hungry for it.