Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

October 28, 2010

Tonight I am writing what will be my last post from China. I kind of have a heavy heart. There is a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My feelings are mixed as we gather up our belongings and pack our bags for the long flight home tomorrow.

How is it that I am so excited and anxious to get off that plane and see my family and friends, who I miss so dearly, yet I am so very sad that our trip has come to an end?

When we set out on this journey almost 5 years ago, I never imagined in my wildest dreams what I have experienced these last two weeks. They have been nothing short of miraculous on so many different levels.

This trip is not for the faint of heart and it is far from a dream vacation, but it has been an experience of a lifetime that I will never ever forget. I pray that I will retain every last detail so that one day I can share it with my daughter.

Instead of writing about what we did today, I wanted to share some of the more memorable moments of our two weeks in China.

Waiting with the Nanny BLOG
I never posted this picture, but Marla took it the second she realized the cute little girl sitting on the bench with the tell tale two fingers in her mouth, was Reagan. She was supposedly not even there yet, but when we looked up from our paperwork there she was sitting with her Nanny with her little arm wrapped through the strap of her purse. Yes, she was destined to be my daughter she already has a love of handbags.

Reagan Day Over the Shoulder BLOG
That very first day I could not stop staring at Reagan. I was fixated on her and almost could not believe that I was there and she was with me. The one thing that struck me immediately was her eyes. She has the most beautiful and expressive eyes I have ever seen on a child. She does not need to speak a word. Her eyes really say it all, don’t they?

As cute as can be BLOG
Reagan has blossomed right before us.

Going for the bow BLOG
I was so very worried those first few days in Changsha as we watched her basically shutdown. You tell yourself it is normal, but in the back of your mind you pray that it is only temporary and that they will pull out of it quickly.

Playing with Jewelry BLOG
Thankfully she did!

Looking Back BLOG
She has a smile that could light up a room and she is not afraid to use it to get what she wants.

Marla Susan and Lisa BLOG
I feel the need to talk a little bit about the people that have surrounded me on this trip. I feel incredibly blessed to have had Marla along with me every step of the way. I honestly do not know what I would have done without her by my side. Words cannot express how much it means to me and to my family that she was able to make the trip....and capture all those spectacular images along the way for us. She and Derek made lots of sacrifices to make it happen and we are so grateful for their generosity. They will always be Aunt Marla and Uncle Derek to Miss Reagan and will always hold a special place in our hearts. I think we might be making our way to Texas before too long for a visit because we are certainly going to miss Aunt Marla. We had such a good time together. In addition to all the special and tender moments that Marla got to witness, there were lots of laughs and funny stories that neither of us will ever forget. We might have to share a few of those once we get home!

While in Changsha we had the most incredible guide, Susan. She was PERFECT in every way and tended to our every need. Marla and I already miss her and told her that when we bring our daughters back to China for a Heritage Tour, she HAS TO be our guide again. She was born and raised in Changsha and knew it like the back of her hand. In addition, she did everything within her power to grant our wish to go to the orphanage and accompanied us that very special day.

As I am sure you all know from my previous post, that day was unsurpassable. I can’t imagine this trip without the day we got to spend in Chenzhou.

View from the orphanage BLOG
We were immediately taken with the sights and sounds of the city. It was very different from where we were staying in Changsha. It was only within a matter of minutes of looking at the orphanage surroundings for me to realize how different Reagan’s life would be if she were not adopted. It hit me hard and deep and I could not shake that eerie feeling the rest of the day.

Man in the straw hat BLOG
I found myself walking the city streets and inspecting every inch of the city....her city.

Girl Eating Rice Front BW BLOG
With each person we saw or came into contact with, I had to wonder if they could somehow be related to my daughter.

The Boy Who Touched Our Hearts BLOG
As for the children of Chenzhou, I would be lying if I said that they did not haunt my dreams, especially the young boy in the orange who said “Hi Mama” every time he saw us. I know he touched your hearts as he did ours. When I looked through my photos, I realized I had another one of him. He sat on that little bench eating his rice as happy as could be. He had the sweetest personality and it broke my heart to think of him day after day eating there in the room full of crying babies. How could a child be happy living that kind of life? I would imagine it is because he does not know anything different.

The door to Reagan's Room BLOG
Room 512, the baby room. Reagan’s room.
She lived 10 months of her life in this room and when we walked through the door I was overcome by what I saw; babies from 4 weeks to 12 months old, some waiting for families, some who will never have families.

Reagan's Crib at the Orphanage BLOG
Reagan’s crib was empty the day we visited. I would assume by now it is occupied by another child. I only pray that child is as fortunate as our daughter and will find a forever family.

China is a country that I am not sure I will ever fully understand, but I have grown to love and respect.

I entered this country two weeks ago and was handed a child who was essentially a stranger and now I am leaving with a beautiful, loving little girl who is officially my daughter. There is no greater gift.

China will forever hold a piece of my heart and I know that I will sob as the plane pulls away from the gate. It is such a bittersweet feeling for me. Although Reagan will have a very good life in America, I am about to take my daughter away from everything familiar. Everything she once knew will be left behind and the only pieces to her past are tucked into her suitcase. A note handwritten by her birthmother and the outfit she was wearing the day she was found.

Thank you for following our journey.
Your prayers, comments, and emails have meant so much to us.
I will continue to post about China once I get home as I have lots of photos and things that I didn't have time to cover while here.
Praying for a safe and uneventful trip home

Folk Art and The Red Couch

October 27, 2010

Folk Art Museum BLOG

We are nearing the end of our time in China, but I thought I would quickly post about some of the fun things we have done here in Guangzhou. Today we went to a Folk Art Museum and then we went to the Jade and Pearl Markets.

Nick's Art Set BLOG

While at the Folk Art Museum, I saw these cool art sets that I have seen all over the small shops in Guangzhou. I have been looking for something to take back home for Nick and thought this would be something that he would LOVE.

Chop Making BLOG

At the museum they actually made the chop(it is like a stamp)for Nick. His art set has two chops in it. One will read "Nick" and the other has the Chinese Charachters for "Nick" I thought it was something unique and very special for him.

Making Nick's Chop BLOG

Here is the gentleman carving the first chop!

After we got done visiting the museum and jewelry shopping we decided it was a good day to try to go and visit the famous Red Couch at the White Swan Hotel. We got Reagan all dressed up in one of her new Chinese Dresses and well, we got every expression imaginable from her!!

Typically the Red Couch photos show crying babies, but not Reagan. She was happy to perform for us and anyone that walked by!

Marla and I took turns snapping while the other one watched to make sure she didn't crawl right off the edge of the couch. Below is a compilation of both of our photos:)

Red Couch Film Strip 1

Red Couch Film Strip 2-2

I know I said it the other day, but I will say it again. Can you believe this is the same little girl pictured a week and a half ago?

Her personality keeps coming out little by little, and with each side of herself that she shows, I fall deeper in love with this beautiful child.

Tonight just after we got back from dinner, I changed her into her pj's and got her bottle ready. She will typically lay back on me to drink her bottles, but she will not let me hold her like a baby in my arms lying against me looking up into my face. I have tried many times and she usually cries and pulls away. I remember last week saying to Marla that I loved holding my kids that way and many times Sarah would fall asleep lying on my chest after she had drank a bottle and I felt so awkward feeding Reagan in the way that she liked to be fed.

She totally surprised me tonight. She snuggled up with me and let me feed her the entire bottle and when she was done, she stuck those two fingers into her mouth and sucked away closing her eyes and fell asleep on my chest clutching my arm with her free hand. It totally melted my heart.

I am so very anxious to get home to my family so they can meet her. I am positive Marla and I will not be the only ones completely smitten by this little girl.

One more day left in China and I am already starting to feel funny about saying goodbye to my daughter's country. It will most definitely be a bittersweet departure.....and I get choked up everytime I think about it.

If you are playing along for Black and White Wednesday and need to link, go to my previous post titled "Medical Exam in Guangzhou" Sorry for the confusion. It has been hard to keep up while away.

Medical Exam in Guangzhou

October 25, 2010

UPDATE: We have a busy day planned here in Guangzhou and I didn't have time to get another post up. Please link your black and white Wednesday here. We are heading to the Jade and Pearl Market and then to the famous red couch to take pictures of the princess in one of her new dresses. New post coming soon:) Happy Wednesday to you all!

Guangzhou Exam BLOG
We had to say goodbye to Changsha and our wonderful guide Susan at 8am this morning. By 9am we had landed in Guangzhou where we met our new guide Lucy. She informed us that we needed to head straight to the medical center so we could have Reagan's physical completed and we also needed to get her picture taken for her visa.

Waiting for the Doctor BLOG
Inside waiting for the first doctor to see us.

More Paperwork BLOG
Reagan helping Mommy with the paperwork.

We found out that someone is a little ticklish under the arms.

Look at that BLOG
Checking out the doctor and giving him the hairy eyeball!

Temperature BLOG
Trying to grab the thermometer from the nurse.

Scale BLOG
Looking super cute on the scale........ all 17.5 pounds of her.

I don't have a lot of time to write tonight as the effects of waking up at 4:30am to catch an 8am flight are catching up with me, but I wanted to quickly update you all and let you know that we made it to Guangzhou safe and sound.

It is so different here, it almost makes me forget I am in China. It is a more westernized city. A lot more people speak English and we are now running into other Americans in the hotel and walking around the city. There are cute little shops EVERYWHERE! Marla and I popped into a few late this afternoon and I bought Sarah and Reagan matching Chinese dresses and I also bought Reagan her first pair of Squeaky Shoes! They are so darn cute, but we are having trouble finding them in smaller sizes.

I really need to call it a night, but before I go, I have a few more pictures I wanted to share.

Just after we got back from lunch I put Reagan in her crib to play with some toys while Marla and I got the room organized. I quickly opened the curtains and grabbed my camera when I saw her in all her glory.

All Smiles BW BLOG
Can you believe this face?

all 4 teeth BLOG
I am utterly amazed at the diffence a week can make!

All Smiles 2 BW BLOG
The last two days have been HUGE for us!

She gave us the first real smile on Saturday and then she started reaching out to me. Sunday she gave Marla and I lots of smiles and decided that maybe she would show us what she could really do.

The girl can crawl all the way across the hotel room.

It does not look as though she has been doing it very long. She is a little unstable and when she starts she rocks back and forth, but once she gets started she can MOVE!

In addition to all the smiles, she has started to babble/sing and we got the first true GIGGLE is the sweetest thing ever. I am bound and determined to get it on video so you can hear and see for yourselves.

I went back and looked at the photos that Marla took of her earlier this week and she does not look like the same child. She is showing us her personality and she is not afraid to let us know how she feels. We were not so sure she was truly a "Spicy Girl" but she has proven us WRONG. Miss Reagan seems to be about as Spicy as they come:)

We are heading to the consulate tomorrow to take the oath and then all we need to do is wait for her Visa to be processed so we can come home! Only a few more days to go.

Magic French Fries

October 23, 2010

Academy Corridor BLOG

Today we were going to visit the Provincial Museum, but when our guide met us in the lobby of our hotel this morning, she said that there was a little change in plans due to the weather. It was really beautiful today so instead of being stuck indoors at the museum, she suggested we go across the river to the other side of Changsha to tour the YueLu Academy, now known as Hunan University. The architecture was incredible and we really enjoyed listening to her tell us the history behind all the buildings.

I have not had much time to go through my pictures today, I really did not take too many, but there were two that I knew I had loved the minute I took them so I thought I would share those for now. I have a feeling you will be viewing my China photos for at least the next few months as I will never be able to post them all while here in China.

Bike in the corner BLOG

McD's In China BLOG

After we left the University, we told Susan we were in some desperate need of American food and asked her if we could go to McDonalds. She said she was happy to take us and order for us, but then she had to leave and we would have to take a cab back to the hotel. We were fine with that and very excited for a taste of home. I was also anxious to see Reagan’s first experience with French Fries.

Marla was armed and ready with the camera so she could capture Reagan ‘s first impression of American food.

Mc D's Fim Strip 2

I was pulling out all the stops to try to get that smile to appear. As you can see, I got the stink eye instead.

Mc D's Film Strip 1

Not only did she love the fries, she had a few tastes of my Big Mac. Yes, you read that correctly. I ate a big mac. When I skyped with Pat and Nick tonight, Nick could not believe that I actually ate at McD’s. I never ever eat there at home, but after one week in China with nothing but Chinese food, I couldn’t wait to down that mammoth burger and OH MY WORD did it taste good.

McD's Building BLOG

After we finished eating, we walked around the market that was attached before we headed out into the crazy streets to try to hail a cab. When we walked out, there were a group of men on motorcycles. They are all over the city on every corner. They are like cabbies. They provide transportation for one person and the men line up on side streets waiting for people who need to hitch a ride. It is funny to see all the motorbikes in China. I believe it is the preferred method of transportation. I have seen more bikes than cars on the streets and I still cannot get over the fact that they tote their children on these bikes minus helmets. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me though, they don’t use carseats either. They hold their children and babies when they are in the car.

Motorcycle Cabbies BLOG

It took us about 10 minutes to actually get a cab and then we were back at the hotel for what we thought would be another quiet afternoon of hanging out while Reagan took her nap.

Well, I am not sure exactly what happened today, but it was almost as if Reagan flipped a switch. The little girl, who would do nothing but lie on the bed or in her crib lifelessly and stare off into space, completely came to life.

She babbled, flashed a very quick smile or two, played with toys instead of just staring at them, and was constantly on the move. She was flipping all over the place and even pulled herself up to the standing position in her crib tonight. Marla and I just looked at each other in disbelief. Was this the same little girl who would not even look in our direction a few days ago?

We made some huge strides today. Earlier tonight when I put her down to go to sleep, I laid down in my bed beside her crib and she reached her little hand through the bars and held onto my finger and grasped it tight. My heart melted and for the first time all week I felt reassured that everything is going to be okay.

A Look Around Changsha

October 22, 2010

Marla, Reagan, and Me with the hosts BLOG

On Thursday we spent the morning at downtown at a festival where local artists showcased their embroidery, sculptures, and porcelain. We were led around by two of the students at the local university. These girls are going to school so that they can become embroiderers.

Attracting Attention BLOG

As we walked through the festival, I had wondered which was really on display, the art, or Reagan, Marla, and me? Again we were stopped quite frequently so everyone could have a look at the beautiful face buried in the baby carrier. We needed our guide Susan to translate so we could talk with them. One of the older women gave me a “thumbs up” after seeing Reagan. I am told that is like “Thank You” She was very sweet.

We saw some really outstanding things as we walked past all the different booths and even got to see how some of the things were made. At the end of our visit, both Marla and I bought a piece of embroidery. It is what the Hunan province is known for, so I wanted a small piece to take home and put away for Reagan.

This morning we had to go to the government office so I could proof read all the paperwork before they issued us the final adoption certificate and issue us Reagan’s visa. I was not expecting to get so emotional but as I stared down at the page and read what was written, I was envisioning our trip to Chenzhou…..her city, her finding place, and her birthmother who had to leave her. I have spent a majority of this week wavering between happy and sad. Happy that we have been matched with such a special little girl……….. but so very sad for the circumstances that brought her to us.

Walking Path BLOG

After we left the office, we went to Martyrs Park. It is a GIGANTIC PARK and in some ways, it kind of reminds me of Central Park in New York City. People gathered to sing, dance, and play cards. There were lots of young children there on a school trip. They were so adorable and caught our attention as soon as we walked through the gates.

Kids entering park BLOG

Kids entering park 2 BLOG

Marla and I went a little hog wild with the cameras today, it was hard to stop because everywhere we looked there was something so interesting. The people really intrigue me…… it is such a different way of life here in China. The first day as we drove down a city street, I saw a man squatting on the sidewalk holding a mug and brushing his teeth. I would bet that is part of his daily routine and is probably a common occurrence. I really can’t help myself and when I see something like this, I want to photograph it. I am not sure when I will ever make it back to China again, and I want to remember every detail and capture every moment that I possibly can so that Reagan might feel as though she has a little bit of her history…….her past and what life might have been like for her in China.

Card Games Men and Women BLOG

Concentration BLOG

The flute BLOG

I have taken pretty many photos the last few days and just quickly skimmed through to pick out my favorites. i Have not had a lot of time to sit and edit them in the way I would normally, but wanted to share them so you can see what we are experiencing.

coca cola BLOG

Motorcycle in doorway BLOG

At the water's edge with grandparents BLOG

Lucky Number 8 BLOG

RedBoots BLOG

Beautiful Bridge and Boat BLOG

Angry Food Vendor BLOG

Cooking the Food BLOG

Food Cart BLOG

It was a very cool day and extremely overcast. It really has been hazy ever since we have arrived. The sun peaks out every once in a while and then it disappears. Even though the weather has not been the best, it was great to be outdoors today. I think all three of us are going a little stir crazy in the hotel. We have had very busy mornings, but nothing to do in the afternoon or evenings.

After the park we went to “the friendship store” which is a big department store in Changsha. We spied a cute little restaurant and asked our guide if we could eat there. She had to get back to the Civil Affairs Office to finish our paperwork, but she was able to translate the menu and place our order for us before she left. Reagan, Marla, and I enjoyed a nice lunch and then we walked back to the hotel.

Once we got back, Reagan took her afternoon nap and Marla and I worked on downloading our photos.

Susan arrived back at the hotel close to 5pm to give me all of Reagan’s paperwork and certificates we need to take to Guangzhou to finish the adoption process. After we finished the paperwork we went out on the town for dinner. We had a wonderful meal and then decided to walk up the street to the little store and buy some wine to bring back to our room. As we walked up the street, Reagan was peering out of her little carrier in a way I had never seen before. Usually she snuggles up to me and will occasionally glance around, but not tonight. She was holding her head up high and looking around in all directions. Suddenly I realized that this was her first time being outside on the city streets at night. She had never experienced the bright lights and the loud sounds. Lots of firsts going on for this little girl this week……..and this mama too!

Unfortunately, we have not had a lot of opportunities to take pictures of Reagan out and about. When we are on the town, I keep her in the carrier. It is the easiest way for me to hold her and she really seems to like it.

When we get back to the room, she wants to be held and I am doing my best to do just that. Right now I think that is what she needs. She needs to feel secure and I am sure she is testing the waters to see how I am going to respond to her.

I was able to get just a few of her yesterday as she was eating her puffs on the bed. Another thing that she has decided she likes to eat!

Pretty Pink Polkadots BLOG

Still Sucking My Fingers BLOG

I am really enjoying China, but the first few days have not been very easy. After 5 days with Reagan, I can clearly look back and see that Reagan really had no clue what was going on Monday when she was handed to me. Tuesday, she was downright MAD. She pulled away from me every time I held her and did an awful lot of crying that day. It broke my heart to watch her, but at the same time I was feeling so sad and sorry for myself. I wanted her to look up at me and instead she turned away or cried when I talked to her or when she saw my face. When I finally got her to bed that night, I sat here and cried to Marla and prayed that Wednesday would be a better day…….and it was.

Things are progressing gradually. We are taking little baby steps. Each day she gets a little more trusting of me. Today, she looked up at me and did not wince or pull away. She even let me kiss her face. Tonight when I fed her a bedtime bottle, she reached up and touched my face and looked me straight in the eye. She is slowly but surely coming out of her shell and getting used to her mama. I need to give her time to adjust. I know she is suffering the loss of the life that she knew and has now left behind. She does not understand that in the end this will all be for the better. It is so very difficult to watch her work through this. I have known for almost 5 years that this often happens when children are adopted after they have spent the majority of their lives in an orphanage. I thought I was prepared for it, but I was not..... I don't think anything could have prepared me.

I must go to bed, but hope to update more tomorrow.