Friday, February 27, 2015

Grief from the Parent's Perspective

So yesterday I wrote a very honest post about grief and Hannah's grief in particular.  She isn't a mold, so no adoptive child will ever quite match her expressions of grief.  We have been fortunate enough, though, to connect with other adoptive families who have adopted children who fit the "angry grief" category more than others.  They are all in various ages and stages of the process of adoption and connecting with them has been such encouragement to us!  There is hope, y'all.  She will (and we will) come through the angry part.  And let me tell you, from what I see from these other families, it is good.  Like, good-good, go adopt again, good.  That speaks volumes to us.  Pouring in and building trust is going to get us to the really good stuff.  So we pour in.  And build trust.

I mentioned yesterday that it is hard to experience the grief alongside your child.  I wanted to write a little more about our experience, from the parent perspective, about what makes it hard.  You know, I am going to be totally honest about my naive thinking.  When we sought to adopt a child and we learned about the grief the child would experience, I never once thought that I, personally, would be riding the grief train right alongside that child.  Nope.  Never once did that cross my mind.  Yes, sure, I saw myself there, with the child, helping them get through it.  I just never thought I'd be in it too, experiencing it too.  Not just a witness or an assistance tagging along, but a fully involved participant.  I wasn't really ready for that.  I have to tell you, there are days that I wake up and I think, I am here, in my home, in my safe place with my safe people, I am not in the mood to grieve today.  Currently, that is not a choice I get to make.  If Hannah grieves, I grieve (honestly, we all grieve).  Sometimes I can get whiplash from the rapidly changing moods and moments of grief and like most things with kids, grief almost always comes at the most challenging of times (sitting on the toilet, for example, or elbow deep in raw chicken meat, or burning food in the oven).  The only way to experience it is to fully experience with her and move with her through it--right then--at that moment when she needs it.  It is exhausting, but so rewarding when she looks deep into your eyes (she can seriously look way deep inside you) after the moment has passed and sees that you are still there, still loving, still present and willing to remain there--in the muddy icky messiness that is grief.  It is almost this look of "Oh!  Wow.  You're still there?  Huh.  Perhaps there is something to you....." 

We have seen a big change in her grief since China, she wanted to thrash on the floor alone.  Kick, scream, hit the floor--all that.  We would try to pick her up or comfort her and that wasn't acceptable.  We would just speak love over her and try to pat her back, eventually picking her up once she was calm enough.  Even when we first got home she was this way.  As a parent, this is incredibly hard.  You feel very powerless and helpless.  Now, three weeks at home?  I will move her to her "safe" place to get all of that out when I see it coming and she will immediately jump up and come right back to me.  She wants to be held now...close...and patted.  She wants me to comfort her.  She wants to scream and cry and let the tears flow, but she doesn't want to do it alone anymore.  The thrashing on the floor days are drawing to a close and now she is letting me in.  Because I sat through all those thrashing on the floor days and stayed present, even when she acted like she didn't want me to.  Now, she wants to open up and let me in to see how hard and ugly it is.  Sometimes I don't want to see how hard and ugly it is, but I am so thrilled she seeks me out, wants those arms around my neck and her head on my shoulder.  I am safe.  I am earning her trust.  She is giving me tiny specks of her heart.  And that is what I tell her as she sobs and screams against me.  "You are safe.  You are loved.  We love you.  You are home and it is going to be okay."

I will also be honest and say I do not always get it right.  I am not superhuman.  I rely heavily on the Holy Spirit to guide me and cry out to my prayer warriors often to intercede in tough stuff.  I fail.  I get it wrong.  I react harshly or perhaps in a way I might react to my biological children.  I lecture (ha, ha, I am sure I sound like the Peanuts teacher when I do this to her....).  I sometimes raise my voice (big post adoption no-no).  My parenting style has had to change and that makes my brain really, really, really think.  A lot.  I am constantly looking to see what needs to be improved, what I can do better.  We want to allow her to express how angry she is (I mean, let's be this point in time the girl is totally allowed to be pretty upset about the current situation), yet we want her to do it in more productive ways (like, not hitting people, but hitting an object instead).  Anger is not the enemy right now.  Anger is acceptable.  It is how we express anger that needs to be adjusted and that can be challenging with a little one, limited language, and limited understanding of the emotions she is feeling.

As a parent, this is all very hard.  I have moments of full clarity.  I see it from her perspective.  My heart breaks and is fully present with her through it.  I get it.  I don't take it personally.  We get through the moment and move on.  This happens many times throughout the day.  When I am fresh (first thing in the day or first thing after a good, long nap), I have my better moments in responding.  I am better able to see it, put myself in her shoes, and move through it the best way we know how.  As the day wears on and I am dealing with various other things (needy "middle" kids who just need more of me now, or fighting siblings, or homeschool, or dishes, or know the list), I get to the point where I am not so fully able to have that clarity.  I get frustrated.  It feels like a personal attack.  I get offended or take things personally.  Often her grief feels like disrespect toward Chris and I and well, that is just something we have never tolerated.  We won't tolerate it now, either, but our response needs to look a little different. 

Adoptive parent in the trenches with an angry griever, know you are not alone.  You do not fight this battle everyday alone.  That is what this is.  It is a battle for her heart.  I am pretty stubborn and I fully intend to win that little heart over.  It will never be the same little heart she was born with because it has been broken so many times, but what remains, I want it.  And I'm willing to fight for it.  I want it so I can shape and mold it.  Teach it about love, family, safety, security--and the assurance that while we provide those things for her, there is an even greater Father who can provide them even more and He will never fail, not like I do.  I pray that I continue to earn little bits of her heart so that I can turn those little bits over to Him.  I cannot wait to see how He continues to work and unfold all of this.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


When we prepared for our adoption, we learned all kinds of things about grief and the emotions our adopted child would experience throughout the process, beginning very early, in China.  We are so thankful for all they did to prepare us.  Prepared as we were, we were still somewhat shocked and caught off guard by the way Hannah experiences and expressed grief (and continues to experience and express grief).  We want to share our experiences, not to scare anyone or drive them from the thought of adoption, but to be totally open and honest so that others can be fully prepared.  This is meant more for Hannah to one day look back on and her grief was a very real part of the journey.  Failing to write about it would be leaving out a huge part of the journey to who she will one day be.  We found the more we were prepared and the lower our expectations were, the better the outcome always was.  We hope by sharing we are allowing others to become more prepared for their own journeys with their children.  God uniquely designed us to experience grief (and joy and all the other great stuff).  It isn't something to hide from or be ashamed of.  It is a very real process...and order to fully move forward with life.

As a refresher to us all, there are five stages of grief.  You do not necessarily move through them unilaterally.  You do not have to go through them in order.  You may spend more time in one stage than you do in others.  You might gloss over one stage and then be caught off guard to find you have returned.  There is not one set way to experience grief.  You can't grieve in a way that is right or wrong. Hannah was blessed to be in a foster home.  Her grief is a very real reflection of the life she lost there--the people, the home, the love she experienced there.  We were warned that foster care kiddos grieve a lot deeper and harder, especially in the early days, but that on the other side of things, the bond and attachment would be just that much deeper and true.  We are finding this to be true of Hannah, as well.  So as a reminder, the five stages of grief:
1.) Isolation and Denial
2.) Anger
3.) Bargaining
4.) Depression

We have seen many of these from Hannah.  Her energy seems to be more focused on one stage over the others, but we have seen glimpses from each stage with her.  Her denial was very short lived and lasted probably the first 24-36 hours in China.  She was able to giggle and play with us those first few minutes and days, but it was as if she thought we were just simply babysitters.  Once she realized we were there to stay (and she was too) things took a drastic turn and the grief began.

I have mentioned several times to people that China was hard for us.  Very hard.  It was hard in a myriad of ways--the culture shock, the jet lag, the lack of access to food (regardless of what kind, it was hard to get to and find in province!), hotel dwelling, living out of a suitcase, feeling isolated and alone, missing our kids, missing our families, missing home (no, LONGING for home), feeling judged for making cultural parenting mistakes, feeling somewhat incompetent as a parent altogether.  I could go on and on.  All of those things made China hard for us (and many of those things likely make America hard for Hannah, now).  However, probably one of the hardest (scratch that--it was THE hardest thing) part of China was experiencing Hannah's grief with her and not knowing how to respond.  I will be honest.  We expected grief from her like most of us picture it.  Tears.  Sadness.  Lack of appetite.  Sleep disturbance.  General lack of happiness.  While we did have some of those issues (certainly not the lack of appetite though!), Hannah skipped right on ahead to stage two of grief almost immediately.  She was angry.  Very, very angry.  Angry in a 23 month old child in ways I had no idea were possible.  And the anger was hard.  And shocking.  And also at times, intimidating, to me.  At first, your response to anger is compassion.  After a while, it draws out shocking emotions within yourself, as well.  And compassion is dwindling.  And annoyance is brewing.  And you are losing sense of why you are here or what you have done and you seriously wonder if any of you will come out of it okay.  It is in those moments that you have to be totally secure in your call to adopt.  You have to trust that God called you directly to the spot you are in and that He will certainly not leave you there alone.  Hannah is a angry fighter.

Look at it like this.  She isn't quite two yet.  She doesn't understand what is happening to her.  Basically, in her mind, she has been abducted.  A much wiser, seasoned adoptive mama reached out to me while we were in China to bring me comfort about Hannah's rage.  She reminded me of things I knew in my head, but needed to get to communicate with my heart.  Rage is a good sign.  Rage shows she doesn't want to be there, that she wants to get back to the people she loved.  It shows she was bonded.  In the world of adoption, bonding is a huge issue.  A child who was once bonded has a fairly good shot of transferring that bond to the adoptive parents.  Her rage showed us she was and is capable of bonding.  Once we earn her trust, that bond will transfer to us.  And our relationship will be far more secure than it could be otherwise.  Think of it also like this.  If someone came and took Grace from us....put her in a van, showed her pictures of her new mommy and daddy and then within a 20 minute appointment left her with these people who look nothing like her or speak her language or eat her food....and then locked her in a hotel room with them for days.  What would we want her to do?  Warm right up to them and climb in their laps and just simply accept her new circumstances?  No way!  We'd want that girl to fight and do the meanest, nastiest, ugliest things she could dream up to do to them to get them to get away from her!  We'd want her to do things she would never do here at home (or has never done).  Anything!  To get away!  That is precisely what we saw (and still see to some degree) with Hannah.

None of what Hannah does (or did) is shocking or alarming.  It is hard to see these things come out of a 23 month old child.  It is hard because we know we can do nothing but remain patient and present.  I share her grief, not to embarrass her down the road, but to show how deeply wounded she was and how far we know she will eventually come.  She loved her foster family and loving us would not come without a fight.  She did (and does) all kinds of things to us, against us, in front of us, to try to drive us, her abductors, away.  She had no self all.  Temper tantrums were always brewing just under the surface.  We could not say no or redirect her in anyway without some form of consequence.  She would hit us...often.  She bit us (thankfully we left that little goodie in China).  She can't really spit on us because she has a cleft lip, so she did the next best thing and filled her hands with spit and would fling it at us.  She would scream (like out of body, loss of control, no sense of where she was of what she was doing) screaming for no apparent reason.  She would throw things and food.  She pulled hair.  She this uniquely Chinese cultural way (no words, more actions--think of the American version of giving someone the middle finger---it is on the same level).  She would thrash around on the floor and kick, intentionally trying to get close enough to kick someone or something.  She would go ballistic with massive emotional meltdowns each and every time we returned to the hotel room (her jail cell, we assume is how she viewed it).  Grief is hard.  Ugly.  Necessary.....  Experiencing grief alongside the child you have prayed for, longed for, and worked so hard to get to is hard.  Ugly.  Necessary.....

Three weeks home and has Hannah's grief ended?  No.  Is it as bad as it was in China?  Not presently.  Could it return at any given moment?  You betcha'.  Dealing with grief is like dancing.  We take one step forward and then go two steps back.  Negative behaviors disappear and then magically reappear out of nowhere.  New issues crop up (like sleep disturbance....had none of that in China and we are now seeing it here at home).  When will Hannah's grief end?  I don't know.  Only God knows.  We will likely face various parts and stages of grief for all of Hannah's life.  Will it be an everyday occurrence?  No, but there will likely be times and stages of her life that it will come bursting out.  We make strides each day to help her overcome her grief and find that place called acceptance.  The only prescription for that is time.  And trust.  Lots of building trust.  Which is why we are doing this thing called "cocooning" (another post on this later).  Cocooning is just giving us dividends into that trust bank, the security bank, the safety bank.  Routine and security here will make it possible for there to eventually be security and safety outside our home.

Grief is so hard.  It is hard to experience.  It is hard to witness.  It is hard to live through.  It is hard to be on the receiving end of her grief, but we serve the most awesome God....the God who heals and brings joy each morning.  We know none of this is outside His realm of power.  And we know that one day soon, Hannah will experience the depth of peace that can come only from Him.  Peace that passes all understanding.

Would you please continue to pray for our girl?  Pray for all of us as we play our role in helping her dance her way through the stages of grief.  She is a fighter and we have the power of Jesus on our side.  She is brave and strong.  She will overcome and she will know peace....and joy.  We already see the joy coming in.

Hannah four weeks ago on Gotcha Day in China.


Hannah now.  This was taken at two weeks home, three weeks in our arms.

God can do mighty things!  Even in the midst and depth of grief.  He can and is working.  Through all the ugly and hard.  We are so blessed He chose us to be the ones to dance this dance with her.

Arrival Video

I wanted to somehow post this video directly here, but can't seem to figure it out.  Here is the link to it.  A friend of ours from church spent a lot of time on this for us....and it is truly going to be a treasure to us forever!  We hope you enjoy it!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

On February 5, 2015 we began the long, arduous journey to get back home to the United States.  It would take us thirty hours from the time we left the hotel to the time we touched down in Lexington and I was a mixed bag of emotions.  I simply could not wait to be home, couldn't wait to see the kids, couldn't wait to be in my own bed and not living out of suitcases and have access to my full kitchen.  Yet at the same time I did NOT want to get on that plane.  It was a hard flight for just Chris and I.  I knew it would simply be misery with Hannah.  And we had only a lap ticket for her.  I just knew it was going to be torture for all of us and all our fellow passengers.  Hannah's grief came in the form of fighting and she had certainly not given up the battle at this point.  I just never knew what she would do or when she would do it or if we'd be able to calm her down or contain her.  Thirty hours of traveling....I knew we were in for some major meltdowns.

The bellboy came to collect our bags at 5:40AM and we had to be ready to get on the van for the airport in the lobby by 6:15.  We had a really fast breakfast (the buffet opened at 6) and headed out.  I will not lie.  I cried and got frustrated more than once before we even left the hotel room.  I sobbed like a psycho crazed woman in the Guangzhou airport more than once before we even boarded our first flight and Hannah threw down more than once in the Guangzhou airport.  I just knew....what a day.  I was terrified and so was she.

The first leg of the journey was an inter-country flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai.  We were on that flight with three other adoptive families, so that brought me some comfort, but it was still worrisome.  We climbed on and Hannah got mad.  No, not just mad.  M-A-D.  The thrashing sort of mad.  I knew she was tired and thankfully the mad lasted just a short time and we were able to shush her to sleep.  She slept almost the whole flight to Shanghai.

Once in Shanghai we had something crazy like a four hour lay over.  Or maybe it was five?  It all blurs at this point.  She was hungry.  And got tired.  But we did NOT want that baby going to sleep in Shanghai!  Not with a 14 hour flight ahead of us.  No ma'am, no sleeping in Shanghai!  We had to claim all our luggage, go through customs, and then recheck our luggage for the flight home.  Great news?  We were too early to check in, so we were stuck, outside the gate area (where the decent food and such is located) with our huge, overflowing cart full of luggage for two full hours.  Yippee.  Hear my sarcasm?  Again, traveling with other adoptive families made it easy to divide and conquer...using the restroom or going off to get food, without having to take the massive luggage cart along too.  Hannah had fun playing with the other kids and we ran her little legs off.  Work it out, girlie!  You are about to be trapped for a longest stretch of time known to man.

When we checked in for our flight, they issued our ticket and seats.  As an after thought I asked the agent if these seats included the bassinet for Hannah.  Our travel guide had said he would request one, but that it wasn't a guarantee.  Again, we had purchased only a lap ticket for Hannah.  We were praying there would be an empty seat in our row to allow us a little bit of wiggle room.  The agent quickly said no, our ticketed seats were not for a bassinet, but she made a call to the gate and they said they would accommodate us.  They changed our seats!  It is a total God thing that I asked.

I had begged many to cover our trip home in prayer.  I knew we couldn't do it on our own.  I will tell you this is one area we saw God come out in a BIG way.  Our journey home couldn't have been more pleasant (unless it only took us a couple hours).  When we got on the plane, we found we were in a bulk head row (so the front of the line for that particular row).  This was great.  Extra leg room and room for Hannah to walk around in front of us, with NO SEATS in front of us for her to kick or pull on (we'd already had that issue on one of our shorter flights).  It was a four seat row and we were assigned two of those seats.  The plane continued to fill and I was certain at least one person would come and sit down with us.  Praise God, no one ever came!  We had a four seat row completely to ourselves, on the bulk head!  God knew just what my shot nerves needed to make that flight home work.  Once we were in flight and certain no one was joining us, our stewardess was happy to tell us to take over the full row.  I sat on one end, Chris on the other, and we were able to lay Hannah completely down on the two seats between us.  She slept for a good four hours at the start of the flight, was awake for a couple, slept another chunk, and was then awake for the final couple hours.  Another blessing was that tailwinds were in our favor and what was a 14.5 hour trip on the way over, was only 12 on the way home.  YES!  Chris and I didn't sleep much, but we were able to at least relax and not have to hold Hannah the whole time.  The people behind us were very friendly and didn't mind her endless game of peek-a-boo for the final 45 minutes or so.  Seriously.  We could not have asked for a better flight than that.  I was able to eat (I didn't think i was going to be able to, since food was such an issue and I was concerned about space), Hannah slept, bathroom trips worked semi-well (try taking at two year old with you to potty on an airplane.  Not a whole lotta' space in there).  I know she cried and fussed a couple times, but nothing that made my face turn red or the sweat start to roll.  I can't really remember a truly horrendous moment on that flight at all.  What a blessing!  God showed up big time.  The seats, her mood, her demeanor, her sleep....all of it.  HIS HAND ya'll.

Once we touched down in Detroit we were again blessed to be ushered to the "special" lane for customs and didn't have to wait in the massively long line with a kid who really didn't want in the ergo and wanted to stretch her air legs ferociously.  We moved through immigration pretty quickly, claimed luggage, went through another round of customs, and had our bags re-checked in record time.  Oh, did I forget to mention?  Hannah became a US citizen in that moment.  Welcome to America, baby girl!  Your life will forever be changed.

 I think I was delirious from all the travel and high on adrenaline and a touch giddy at this point.  We were in DETROIT, y'all!  Hallelujah and we hadn't made any enemies on the long flight there (or at least I don't think we did.....).  Introducing Hannah Ruth Zhen...the newest American citizen.

We had another long....torturous four hour layover in Detroit.  We knew we needed a good size buffer of time to clear immigration and all that, but once all that was done and we still had three hours looming ahead of us, we were so ready to get home.  All we had at that point was a short little 45 minute flight back to Lexington.  Let's get the show on the road folks!  I want to get HOME.

The "rules" in Detroit were much the same as the "rules" in Shanghai.  Run her little legs off and no sleeping in airports!  We sleep on airplanes, but we most certainly do NOT sleep in airports!  We had a small snack and just paced the corridor by our gate till finally we got to board.  She had another big, I'm mad and tired, fit right when we got on and then went to sleep and slept that whole flight too.  When we began approaching Lexington and I could see the lights, the tears started to flow.  Big, giant, silent tears.  Home.  We were home.  With Hannah.  After all the work leading up to it, the long process, the build up, the anticipation....we were home.  With her.  And we were about to see our kids for the first time in two weeks.  I simply could not hold back the tears.  The sight of them, at the bottom of the escalator....I just couldn't get to them fast enough.

Being in China gave us a healthy dose of culture shock (magnified by the amount of stress and pressure an adoptive family experiences as they undergo such a major change to their family).  The culture shock has helped us feel more sensitive to how Hannah would feel in those early days home.  The sights, sounds, tastes, smells, people, language....all different and so foreign.  And the longing for HOME so powerful, even if this home is a better home in the long run.

Home is a beautiful thing.  We are so grateful to be here.  With Hannah.

Welcome home, Hannah.  Welcome home.

Home, in Lexington, with all our kids in the same place--a family of six!  Such a beautiful thing!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shamian Island Shopping

We spent all of Wednesday, February 4, 2015 simply passing time until we could pick up our Visa for our flight home the next day.  We spent the entire morning shopping on Shamian Island.  This could have been a great place to have relaxed strolls and enjoy the architecture, but it was really very cold....and it rained.  And none of us came prepared for rain.  Our guide dropped us off and then told us what time to meet the bus back to the hotel, so unless we wanted to venture to a taxi on our own, we had to wait the whole time.  It was another difficult day for Hannah and she chose some really opportune places to have tantrums (with the whole Chinese stare going lovely).

The story behind the island is that this is once where the US Consulate was located, so every adoptive family had to come through here.  It is also where the world famous White Swan hotel is located.  This was the first (and only) five star hotel in China for quite some time and was built to accommodate the many western, adoptive families that were coming to stop at the US Consulate.  Since that time, the US Consulate has moved and is no longer on the island.  The White Swan has been closed for renovations for three years now and no one knows when or if it will reopen, so The Garden has become the hotel of choice for many adoptive families.  What was once likely a bustling and busy place is now more of a quick stop for tourists and a great place for Chinese photo shoots.

We did enjoy the shopping here and found a store where the owner, Michael, was very helpful.  He was able to help us pick sizes for clothing for family back home and was really just willing to do anything you needed.  We bought quite a bit dresses for the girls, t shirts for grandparents, and other items.  They were so friendly and everything was very reasonably priced. 

After the shopping was done we spent most of the time trying to either get Hannah to sleep in the stroller or keep her asleep.  As I mentioned, not one of her best days.  So we walked a lot and had lunch at a nice restaurant.

 We couldn't believe she cooperated!

 This statue is a must stop for all adoptive families!  If you follow any China adoption blogs, you've seen this a million times!

 Friendship Garden on Shamian Island.

I was so excited when I saw this hanging on a building on Shamian Island!  Jesus!!!! In China!!

Then we went back to the hotel and waited for the magic hour of 4:30 to arrive so we could pick up her passport and visa.  Hooray!  Success!  We got it!  Our ticket OUT of China and IN to the US!

 Horsing around in the hotel.  She really liked getting in and out of this basket and was one of the things that would make her smile in China.

 Daddy spent all two weeks in China trying to earn his place with Hannah (and honestly, home almost three weeks in the US, he still has to earn it daily).  Snacks are the way to her heart and this was the first and only time she sat on him in China.  It was brief, but it was a baby step!

 The golden ticket!! We have a Visa!!  Let's go home!!!!!!!!

After that we spent the evening with the R family since this was our last night with them.  What was supposed to be a really quick trip to go get ice cream turned into quite the adventure and the most expensive ice cream I've ever eaten....with an added stop at Burger King since the ice cream turned out not to be quite enough food to count as "dinner."  Despite being an adventure, it was a fun time with the R family.

 We Americans were thrilled to delight in a big dish of ice cream.  Hannah was not a fan.  Chinese people don't eat a lot of things cold (even water comes to your table boiling hot).  Ice cream was way too cold for her!

Time to head out in the morning for the thirty hours home.  Hard to believe our time in China is done!

Consulate Appointment and Pearl River Dinner Cruise

On Tuesday, February 3, 2015 we had our US Consulate Appointment.  This was the time that our entire trip centered around.  We had to be there for this appointment and it also dictated when we could leave.  This was our application for Hannah's visa to enter the Untied States upon our arrival home.  I'm not sure if those outside the international adoption world understand how some of the immigration portion of the process works, but with Chinese adoptions, your adoption is final in country (ours was finalized on January 27, 2015, the day after we met Hannah).  Your child is issued a Chinese passport, since they are still Chinese citizens.  You then apply for your child to receive a US Visa (there are lots of steps involved in the visa process and it begins very early in your adoption journey with various approvals from the United States for you to bring an orphan child back into the country).  Once your child receives the US Visa, you are golden.  You can GO HOME!  Upon landing in the United States (for us, it was Detroit) you process through immigration and have a couple more steps that you would if it was only you landing.  Your child becomes a United States citizen in that moment and you receive their certificate of citizenship a few months after arrival.  Hannah is a United States citizen now and has all the same rights as you and I.  The only thing she cannot do?  Become the President.  You have to be born here to become the president.

Anyhow, I digress.  Tuesday was a bright and early morning.  Like, be on the bus by 7:30 or something ridiculous.  With a kid like hours who could literally spend all day grazing at the breakfast buffet this meant some seriously early waking hours!  Ha!  This was not one of our better days (nor was the day we went to the zoo).  Hannah needs beauty sleep, people!  Regardless we dragged her grumpiness out of bed and did our best to survive the morning's activities.

The US Consulate appointment (referred to as CA) is really the most non-monumental experience....ever.  I had this thing all built up in my mind, like this super formal interview, etc.  BEEEP.  WRONG!  It was a whole lot like going to the DMV, only the man behind the glass window actually had a personality and was really quite funny (or maybe I was totally delirious at this point, which added to his humor).  Your guide gets you there and I kid you not, the lines out front are wrapping around the building.  US Citizens sort of get a "jump to the front of the line" pass and get sneaked in some side entrance door.  You still go through security, but I kind of felt bad as all those people watched us cut through the line, get passed through by the guards, and then enter, after they'd been there lots longer than we had.  Your guide cannot enter the consulate with you, so she gives you very clear directions about what door to enter, what floor to go to, what window to go to and how to get a number.  We were there with all Lifeline families and the kids enjoyed the small play area while we adults got the funniest lecture ever about "not opening the special envelope" we would be issued along with her visa.  Opening the envelope would lead to all kinds of being detained in Detroit until China was awake 13 hours later to verify the authenticity of our documents.  Yes, the funny man had us all convinced to place the coveted brown envelope into a deep crevice of our carry on luggage where we would not be tempted during the 13 hours home to open it under any circumstance.  We were also reminded that they are not FedEx at the consulate and while our visa "should" be ready in 24 hours, there was not guarantee (none of us really liked that "no guarantee" disclaimer....we all had flights within 36 hours and were very eager to be on them).

Our consulate interview went something like this:
Man: "Paperwork please?"
Chris had already done all of this paperwork and had it neatly organized in a folder by our guide a few days prior.  All we had to do was slip it through the window.
Man: "Tell me about your child's medical condition?"
Us: "Uhhhh....cleft lip and palate?"  (Like, isn't it obvious?)
Man: Okay!  Have a nice day.  You should receive your documents within 24-48 hours. 

.........And that was the consulate appointment.  I kid you not.  We waited for all members in our group to jump through this hoop and exited the building together and walked back to where we were told to meet the bus back to the hotel.

We broke out the red, white, and blue for Hannah to wear to Consulate Appointment.

We got back to the hotel still fairly early in the day and we decided to venture to a park with the R family (I'm pretty sure it was called Martyrs Park).  It was a longer walk than expected, but we got to see some neat things.  Chinese people take their exercise very seriously and there was all kinds of activity to see in the park, despite being a Tuesday, mid-morning.  People playing something like hacky sack (I mean, these people could play!), ballroom dancing, rhythmic dancing/interpretive dance, jogging, karaoke, you name it, we saw it there.  We really wanted to check out all the communist monuments, but they all had tons of steps leading to them and we both had strollers and kids who were getting a bit frustrated at the notion of the stroller that day, so, we skipped out on them.  It was still a nice walk.

 Read the sign closely and you will see all the communist monuments listed.

 Scenery inside the park.

 Scenery inside the park.

Later that night we went with our agency group on the Pearl River Dinner cruise.  I wish I had been feeling better that night because I think it could have been really neat.  It had been a difficult day and I was just drained--and now trapped on a boat--with a child who was not really pleased with anything that particular day.  The food was so, so, but Hannah loved the corn on the cob.  Who knew?  Cleft kids eat corn on the cob!  The food was buffet style, so we Americans kind of stood on the fringes of the frenzy while other people got their food and then we went through all orderly like westerners.  Chinese people aren't rude, just culturally they don't do lines or orderly progression through things like a buffet. The bridges and buildings are all lit up along the river and it is really quite pretty.

 She pointed and grunted when she saw the corn in the buffet line and I kept telling her she couldn't eat it.  She was about to throw down in a massive temper tantrum and since we were trapped on the boat, I decided I would just put it on her plate.  Who knew?  She at that cob clean.  I mean clean.  Not a kernel of corn left.

Other cruise boats passing us on the river.

 The rainbow tower is the biggest part of the cruise.  It changes colors and is really very pretty.

 For the return portion of the cruise there was entertainment...juggling.  This lady was a hilarious actress, but a great juggler and the kids loved her!  We are all so glad that one of the staff members stopped the R family from throwing out a poopy diaper in the bag of balloons for the kiddos!  HA!

So, consulate appointment behind us.  Tomorrow, we meet our guide at 4:30PM in the lobby to get our child's visa.  Let's pray it is ready!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Forging Friendships in China

We were told prior to traveling that our time in province would be difficult.  You are often alone, without other adoptive families, and this is rather isolating.  Things are less "western" in the provinces and your access to some "creature comforts" may be limited.  We were very fortunate prior to our travel to connect with another adoptive mama who was going to be in Nanning the whole time we were, at the same hotel!  She was traveling alone, as her husband had to stay home to take care of their other children.  We were thrilled to connect with T.  This was her third China adoption and just simply having another English speaking, white faced companion was wonderful.  She was with a different agency than us, so she was not with us for any of our planned outings or appointments in province, but she did meet us each day for breakfast at the "less than western" buffet and we would touch base with each other throughout the day about getting other meals.  Her adopted son was so precious and sweet and Hannah seemed to enjoy him.  We were so thankful for T and T while we were in Nanning!  We did not get to take the same flight to Guangzhou, but she arrived later that same day we did, and stayed at the same hotel again.  We were able to enjoy some dinners and breakfasts with them at the Garden, as well.

Everyone told us our time in Guangzhou would be much more comfortable, and they were right.  We were able to connect with other families with our agency (and even some using other agencies) and attend all of our appointments with them.  They went with us on the outings and we often spent time together during our "free" time as well.  Adoptive families were a dime a dozen at this hotel and not many people stared.  They were used to the white families with Asian babies coming through.  It was less of a mystery here.  In our group there were two families there with all their children and this was not their first adoption.  Much of what we went through was old hat to them.  There was one other family there that we just seemed to really connect with.  They are the same age we are, this child would be their fourth child, their oldest child is just a year older than Jacob, they home school their oldest, and so on.  They were God's biggest blessing to us during our week in Guangzhou.  At first, I wasn't sure how "real" I could get with them, but I quickly learned being "real" was totally welcome and needed by both parties.  Chris and M hit it off right away and W and I tried to cheer each other on as best we could to keep on fighting the good fight.  We spent everyday with them in Guangzhou and quite a bit of our free time, as well.  Their oldest daughter, R, came with them to China and Hannah literally adored her, and she was so sweet and gentle with Hannah.  I can't say it enough.  Would....not....have....survived Guangzhou without them, their ability to be "real" with us, the no sugar coating it, THIS IS HARD, real part of it all.  I was so eager to leave China and get home, but I will say, the one thing I miss is seeing this sweet family each day and walking this road with them.  We remain in touch and I think they will forever be a part of our fondest memories related to China.  We are the best cheerleaders for each other because we truly get it.  We are both right there, deep down in the trenches of this thing called adoption, and while one had a good day, the other does not.  I honestly think part of God's plan and timing of our adoption was related to the preparation of our hearts and Hannah's heart, but also the weaving together of lives during this week in Guangzhou.  We will forever be thankful for the little gift He had in store for us in Guangzhou in the form of a forever friendship in this amazingly awesome family.  So wish we lived closer together!

When we departed, we got to be on the same flight out of Guangzhou as T and T and then spent a long four hour layover in Shanghai together with another adoptive family.  God orchestrated all of the details we needed to make each leg of our journey bearable and possible.  We are thankful for His plans and timing!

This is the lobby of our hotel.  I told you it was grand!  This is our travel group from our agency--all here for the same week in Guangzhou.

This is a portion of the family that truly made our time so much more enjoyable.  See Hannah holding R's hand?  And their new adopted daughter, J was seriously the picture of a true fighter coming out of the orphanage system.  I can still hear her shouting, "MAMA!"  This girl was so thrilled to have a mama of her very own!  W is on the far right.  Forever changed by them, forever thankful for them.  Blessed indeed.  We miss you, R family!

Guangzhou Zoo

Monday was another tourist day in Guangzhou while we waited for things to process with the visa and for our consulate appointment to finalize the application.  Today we visited the Guangzhou zoo.  The weather was gorgeous for this and all the kids in our group seemed to really enjoy this trip.  The zoo was a pretty typical zoo, though I will say it reminded me a lot of what older zoos were like in the US.  Less "natural" barriers for the animals and more concrete slabs and metal cages around them.  Regardless, the kids loved this trip, and Hannah was no exception (aside from the portion she slept through).  We even got to see pandas, though it was too warm for them to come out, so they were inside their little "house".  You could still see them a little bit.

After the zoo we ventured to the Aeon store, which is a lot like target.  We needed to find more formula for Hannah and replace a bottle nipple for the bottle the orphanage had given us (in order to drink, Hannah bites the nipple, rather than sucking.  Obviously, biting really wears the nipples down and the one we were given had several holes in it.  I was concerned she would bite it entirely off and then we would be without for our flights home).  This trip was.....not our best outing.  We'd been to Aeon before and purchased cheerios (the smallest, most expensive box of cheerios I ever bought....we paid more than the HUGE box price here at home and got a box that Chris could have easily eaten for one serving).  We felt pretty confident in how to find it and get what we needed.  Our guide had helped us with the formula, writing out on a slip of paper exactly what I needed.  Well, the formula purchase turned out to be a total disaster.  They did not carry the brand Hannah was used to (apparently formula varies from province to province and she was on a "local" brand).  Our guide had written down a back up plan for us so we showed this to a clerk in the store (clerks in almost every aisle....there must be a theft problem in China!).  Well, the clerk took my note to mean that I spoke fluent Mandarin and just started babbling away and showing me a can.  I kept saying I didn't understand, English, English, only English.  Then she started ferociously showing me the writing on the can, trying to get me to read it.  Ha!  If I don't understand you, there is no way I can read the can.  Then she gives me an empty can.  Through lots of pantomime I get down to the fact that this can is empty.  She fills out a slip of paper and gives it to me and takes the can away.  We figure out that the can she is giving us is over $50!  Um, no thanks.  She's almost two.  We can skip the formula bottles and we had just enough of her other formula to get us to touch down in Lexington.  We knew American formula would be different and had hoped to bring home Chinese formula with us to mix, so as to ease the transition, but that was an utter fail.  We walked away frustrated.  As it turns out, after talking to our guide, we found out that you have to PAY for the formula FIRST and then go back to the aisle to retrieve your goods.  Oooooooo.  And I think all the clerk's pantomime was to show me we were trying to purchase an imported formula (our guide did this on purpose, because it would most closely match American formula), which was tons more expensive than the local Chinese formula.  Hindsight?  I would have purchased the cheaper Chinese can and paid first!  Ha!  I almost cried during that whole fiasco and we still had to find a new nipple to fit her bottle!  Up to the third floor we go, stroller on escalator and all, despite the sign that indicated strollers were not to be used on the escalator (we had an incident the last time we visited of being utterly trapped in the elevator, faces against the wall, and since there is not such thing as waiting your turn in China, we almost got trapped on it!  No more elevator for us!).  The bottle nipple situation was also challenging...we had a Chinese brand bottle and they did not carry that particular bottle in this store.  Thankfully, we had successful pantomime with the clerk in this area and she found us an alternative and even opened the package, allowing us to ensure it did, indeed, fit our bottle.  We made that purchase and got out of there!  Oh the joys of being in a foreign country, with not a lick of the language to use aside from Hello and Thank You.

So excited about the panda exhibit at the zoo!



Daily occurrence, she fell asleep in the stroller during an outing.  The stress and emotions were running high for all of us and I think she was truly exhausted from all of it.  Her file did not indicate that she took more than one nap per day, but in China, she did.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pearl and Jade Market and Chen Family House

On Sunday, February 1, 2015 we did not have any adoption related appointments to attend.  While we waited for medical exams to be reviewed and processed for our visa applications, we did some sightseeing with our agency group around Gunagzhou.  This was the day we went to the Pearl and Jade Market.  We were not there a very long time and in hindsight I wish we had been there longer or that I had gone into it with a more defined plan of what I wanted to purchase there.  We did buy each of our daughter's a strand of pearls for her to have for her wedding and I bought several gifts in an embroidery shop.  I look back and wish I'd bought myself a strand of pearls too....the prices were really out of this world!  Maybe on the next adoption trip (ha, ha...kidding....maybe).

Seeing the pearls in the market was amazing.  You will never see anything like it!  Our guide was very knowledgeable and took us to only reputable dealers where we would get fair prices and "the real deal."  No fakes here.

The day prior to this we also borrowed a stroller from the hotel we were staying in and discovered that Hannah really liked to ride in it.  What a blessed relief for me!  I was the only one she would allow to handle any of her care in China, she wanted to be on me at all times, and was also sleeping in our bed for bonding purposes.  I was exhausted, the ergo was getting heavy, and her volatile moods were making it difficult to contain her in the ergo at all times.  She was so happy to ride in the stroller, it got her physically off my body for a short stretch of time, AND Chris could push the stroller if we didn't make a big deal out of it (she wanted to know where I was at all times)!  I cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful break this was.  Our group outings with the stroller were welcome times for me to just simply get a break from the physical demands of being her primary caregiver throughout our time in China.  Yes!  Praise Jesus!  She likes the stroller!  I felt like a new woman.  Seriously.  You have no idea what this silly borrowed stroller did for my state of mind that last week of China.  I wish we'd asked for one in Nanning!

 Closing the deal on our pearl purchases.  I did the shopping, Chris handled all the money.  This American girl can only calculate US Dollars in her non-math brain.  Chris was a Chinese Yuan genius.  So thankful God paired us the way He did!

 Bags of pearls?  Yes, please!

 As far as the eye could see!  Seriously, it was a sight to behold.

Yay for the stroller!  Seriously, YAY!!!!!  Can I get an Amen or a cartwheel?  Yippee, girlie likes the stroller!

After our shopping was complete at the pearl and jade market (no jade for me....I just didn't see anything I loved) we went to tour the Chen Family House.  Honestly, this trip was happening very close to lunch and nap time and Hannah was getting restless.  We were not there very long and I did not use the time wisely to learn anything about it.  Ha!  I have no clue why it was a big deal, why we went there, or what made the people there so special (aside from having lots of money).  What a horrible tourist I am!  Survival mode, y'all.  The second week of China was total survival mode.  We did, however, get a really awesome scroll of calligraphy with Hannah's Chinese name and American name on it, Gotcha Date, and information about the calligrapher.  We plan to hang it in her room.  While we did little to "tour" this spot, we did get some cute photos!

 We were there while everyone was gearing up for Chinese New Year celebrations.  I loved all the red lanterns and wanted to find some to bring home for our own celebrations.  I struck out in a major way on this project!  Maybe amazon or etsy can help me now that we are home....  Sad.  I really wanted "authentic" decorations.

 Chen Family Home.  The carving on the outside was so ornate.

 The calligrapher making Hannah's wall scroll.

 Within the home.

 More sights.

 The front entrance.

 More about this amazing family in a future post.  They were God's secret little nugget of blessing to us for our week of Guangzhou.  Seriously.  Probably would have gone off the deep end or still be hiding in a corner of our hotel room if not for breaks of sanity and "normalcy" with them each day.  People say you are forever changed by those in your travel group.  So true.

 I spy with my little eye a.........SNACK CUP!

Snack cup security = relatively happy Hannah (as happy as she got in China) and relatively secure Mama.  One day I thought I had forgotten the snacks.  I kid you not!  I panicked!  Heart to the floor panic!  Looked at Chris with tears starting to bubble over...."I think I forgot THE SNACKS!"  His face sunk.  "Seriously?!"  "Yes!  I don't remember putting them in the bag!"  What was likely thirty seconds that felt like at least a half hour later, we discovered we had, indeed, packed the snacks.  Crisis averted.  PHEW!

Consulate Medical Appointment

On Saturday, January 31, 2015 we had to be up bright and early to meet in the lobby of the hotel to go over for Hannah's medical exam.  All adopted children seeking a US Visa must first pass a medical exam.  This was another big step in the process and also not one of Hannah's happiest days.  This was the first time we got to meet the other families that were traveling at the same time with our agency and it was exciting for us, to finally have others to share experiences with!

Since we were now with a larger group, we no longer took vans everywhere, but instead took small buses on all of our outings.  Our guide told us what to expect as we traveled to the medical center.  The medical center was fortunately not too busy, mostly just our group, at the time we arrived.  Hannah had a photo taken for her visa application and then the exam part of the process began.  There were four stations: 1.) Nurses station where you had height, weight, and temperature checked.  2.) ENT where they checked hearing.  3.) Physician station where they did a routine "exam" of sorts.  4.) Blood draw for TB testing.  We got the super fast pass and got to skip station four--only children aged two and above had to complete the TB testing.  Hallelujah!  No blood draw for our fighter girl.  I will be honest, the whole medical exam process was sort of comical and unorganized.  You just jump from station to station in any order and just make sure you get them all done.  It was also a bit like stepping back in time.  The nurses still wear caps and white dresses and the doctors wear those circular mirrors strapped to their heads.  Some of the "tests" they did were a bit interesting too and I did wonder if they were really truly checking anything at all.  But, whatever, we had no choice.  You have to go if you want a visa and we certainly wanted a visa and back on that plane on Thursday!

Hannah did not (I repeat emphatically, did not) enjoy this part of the process whatsoever.  She was ballistic throughout all of the exams.  With all her fighting and thrashing I again seriously wonder what on earth actually got checked on her during the whole exam process.  The doctors don't tell you anything about the exam and you just wait for a day later to hear from the guide if you passed or failed.  No news means you passed.  Phone call means you failed and have to follow up in some fashion.  The worst part of this process was that we went with a large group and therefore had to just wait for the rest of the group to finish all the steps of the process.  The waiting area wasn't all that clean and this was indeed the day Hannah decided she would throw several fits on the floor and also refuse to wear shoes and socks.  Being the awesome American mommy that I am, I just let her wallow on the floor and gave her a bath later that night.  Thankfully we passed our medical!  Another box checked and one step closer to home!  Man, I was homesick at this point!
ENT station

 Super "official" hearing check with squeaking toys....

 Physician station.  I think the tambourine was a distraction while listening to her heart?  Not super sure.

Nurse station.  Height, weight, and temp.  This did not go over well.  I have visions of what all of her future medical appointments will look like......and it isn't going to be pretty.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Farewell to Guangxi and Nanning, Hello Guangzhou

On Friday morning, January 30, 2015 we said farewell to the capital city of Nanning and the Guangxi Province, Hannah's birth province.  Our guide had heard several things about our intended flight later in the evening being cancelled and the alternative being overbooked.  He did not want us to get bumped from our flight and be stranded alone in a China airport, so he changed our flight to the morning flight out of Nanning to Guangzhou.  We really should have stayed until later in the day to pick up Hannah's passport, but with the flight issues, we opted to go early and our guide got the passport and sent it overnight to our new guide in Guangzhou.  It all worked out flawlessly and all major documents arrived as planned and as needed.  We left the hotel a little after 8 to take the 40 minute van ride to the airport.  Our guide, David, was awesome and walked us through all the check in process, even getting our baggage overage fees waived!  He took us to the security check in and stood outside the area to be sure we passed security safely and then waved us goodbye!  It is share the emotions of such a momentous week with someone you may never see again.  David was really a great guide and quite helpful.

The flight, to be honest, had me very nervous.  We had heard so many things about cleft babies having major issues on planes with their ears and the pressure causing them great pain and distress.  Hannah was already dealing with some seriously intense emotions, so I wasn't sure how we would cope.  I packed snacks and a bottle and hoped and prayed for the best.  She had a major meltdown right when we got on the plane, which lead to yet more China staring.  Oh my....the China staring.  Truly, I do not miss the staring.  This was yet another time I really wanted desperately to hold a sign saying, "I just met this child four days ago!  She is angry about the situation and I don't know how to comfort her.  Please, just act like we are not here and I will do my best to calm her down quickly, but you staring is only making matters worse."  Fortunately she gave up the fight just prior to take off and slept through all take off and landing and then got really mad one more time as we taxied to the gate.  All things told, it could have been far worse. 

We claimed our luggage and met our new guide for the week, Aron.  Aron hosts all the Lifeline families that come through Guangzhou and she is very organized and methodical about getting you through each step of the consulate phase.  I love organized and methodical.  She met us right at baggage claim and had maps of the area around the hotel, restaurants marked, and a full schedule for the week.  She loaded us in the van to the hotel and told us what time to meet tomorrow as she stayed at the airport to greet another family due to arrive.

The new hotel was.....glorious compared to what we had in Nanning.  Nanning wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  There was just not a lot of space for hotel dwelling and suitcases, etc.  The Garden hotel was very grand---doormen and bell boys and exquisite everything.  The room was a large suite with a living room that was off the bedroom and bathroom.  More room for Hannah to play and more space for us to feel like she could nap and we could do other things.  It was closer to a "home" like setting, though it was still difficult to be in a hotel.

The week in Guangzhou was not at all like the week in Nanning, but it was very difficult in its own respect.  Hannah's grief really started to boil over in Guangzhou (well, it had started in Nanning) and we were jet lagged and road weary.  I felt like in Nanning I was supposed to be over the top thrilled and happy all the time, despite how difficult some of what we were going through was.  Finally, within the first two hours in The Garden in Guangzhou, I let the floodgates open and sobbed to Chris, sharing some of what was going on in my heart.  It was a hard day.  A day of a lot of tension (the flight, packing, a new hotel, yet another week ahead of appointments, a new place to figure out, homesick, missing our kids, grief with Hannah) and getting to the hotel was just enough to trigger a meltdown.  This was a meltdown of many to come from both Hannah and I during our week in Guangzhou...all productive and necessary meltdowns.  Just part of the process.  Lots to take in, lots of changes, lots to face, and so much unknown.

Our week in Guangzhou was filled with consulate appointments and sight seeing while we waited for paperwork to be processed related to Hannah's visa to enter the United States.  All the adoption paperwork had been processed in the province, now we needed her golden ticket to be able to come home with us.

Welcome to Guangzhou!  The view out our hotel room window.
 Streets of Guangzhou when we ventured out to shop in the Aeon (supermarket/Walmart type store).  Oh the was an adventure all by itself).

So interesting to see sights around Guangzhou.  Such pristine and fancy hotels and business districts surrounded by random, rather run down looking apartment buildings.  And the cars.  So many cars!  And scooters!

Exploring Nanning

On Thursday of Gotcha Week (January 29, 2015) we had a day off from adoption related appointments.  Hallelujah!  Our guide was available in the morning and asked if we wanted to explore Nanning or do any sight seeing.  We quickly said yes!  We wanted to see as much as we could and we really only felt able to do most of it with our guide with us.  It was a pretty day (warm!!) so we went to another park located in Nanning called Qingxiu Shan.  It was wonderful for us and right up our alley since we all really love to hike in our family.  It reminded us a lot of an arboretum here in the states and was just so scenic...and HUGE.  We could have easily spent the entire day exploring here.  Hannah was really worn out from the emotions of the week (I'll post later about our experiences with her during our time in China, specifically about her grief) and slept part of this trip in the ergo, but she woke up just in time for the fish feeding frenzy.  Oh my!  I have never seen a fish pond quite like this!  Sooooooooo many fish fighting for these tiny nuggets of food!  The weather was glorious and we welcomed the time to take a slower pace.  Our guide then took us out for dim sum lunch.  Quite an experience!  Not really sure how to explain what it was.  It is little bites of things (think small appetizers) and you get bunches of them and it is all steamed food.  You go around to carts and pick what you want and just get several of them to share around your table.  You can only eat there for breakfast, lunch, or brunch.  No dinners.

 These monkeys were everywhere around Nanning.  They had just hosted the Chinese rhythmic gymnastics competition and the gymnastics monkeys were outside all the parks.  This is the entrance to the park.

 Hannah was sound asleep for this part.  The tulips were gorgeous!  In January!  As far as the eye could see and so many colors!

This was a favorite tulip.  Reminded me of a candy cane.

 The fish!  So many fish!!!

 Tons of scenic areas like this in the park.  It was so big you had to take a "tram" to various parts of it!

Checking out the fish!

 She accepted fish food out of Chris' hand!  Major victory!

An early spontaneous smile.  We honestly didn't see a lot of smiles during China.  Not like we see them now.

This is some sort of Buddhist temple.  Chris climbed it.  All of it.  To the top.  I made it three stories or so before my added 20lb load strapped in the ergo slowed me down and made me stop.  No way!

Chris showing off his mad chopstick skills....

This was our last full day in Nanning.  Friday morning we headed to the Nanning airport where we would take a short flight to Guangzhou for the remainder of our stay.  I hate to say it, but we were ready to move on and get to Guangzhou where we would meet up with other adoptive families.  We were ready to share our experience with others who understood fully what we were going through.