February 28, 2013

Day 5 in Nanjing - Meili has SO much to learn!

Oh.my.goodness. Miss Meili is learning more and more every single minute. It is truly an amazing experience to watch this little pint-sized person learn so much so fast. I can't even imagine what is going through her mind right now.

Today we decided to take it easy since yesterday seemed to be a little bit too much stimulation for her. We had the whole day free, so took our time in the morning and ate a very leisurely breakfast. Did I mention the breakfasts here are amazing? The whole room is filled with food - something different on every wall. Pastries, fruit, traditional Chinese food, traditional American food, even a Japanese section. So much food you could never try it all. However, a lot of it is not so great for a child who doesn't CHEW!


I wish so much that I had some good raw milk and coconut oil to feed this little one right now! She needs some healthy fat and protein! There's lots of fat here, and a fair amount of protein too, but I wouldn't exactly call any of those options "healthy." I was able to find some whole milk and real butter, but no one here eats cheese, the meat is who-knows-what from who-knows-where and she won't chew eggs. We did discover today at breakfast that she LOVES the pork and vegetables inside the dumplings, so we cut them open and dumped them out and she ate the filling from about 15 of them! I doubt the hotel staff was thrilled that we left 15 empty dumplings, but who cares - she's gained almost a pound already!

We relaxed in the room for a while...played some games with her, gave her a bath and later a nap, etc. We didn't head out until about 4pm.


We wanted to go down to the temple area to get a "chop." Basically it's a piece of Rainflower Stone that's been carved and polished into a square. Then an artist carves whatever you want into the bottom to make it like a stamp. We purchased a small one and had her original Chinese name (Jingjing) carved in.


China is so odd....right next to our BEAUTIFUL hotel and fancy mall is this:



Another view of the river:

And another odd China sight....we have NO idea what was going on here:


Meili is absolutely fascinated by almost everything. Today we managed to locate some non-moving steps. She wanted to go up and down and up and down....and we did, several times. We figured this would be a good way for her to build up some muscle in her legs.


This little girl is a CHARMER! We do not necessarily think this is her true personality...it's likely a survival technique she used in the orphanage. Cute, smiley, fun kids get what they want there. So sad. But I will admit, her antics and ability to charm people are quite entertaining right now. People stare at her whenever we go out. They follow us around, ask for pictures with us and her, and even gather other people around them to watch. Now, we don't know for SURE why this is, so here is my list of possible reasons:

1. She's just extremely cute and animated. (most other Chinese kids are very quiet. I'm not sure why)

2. She's a Chinese kid with white parents.

3. She's a Chinese kid with white parents who is not dressed like the Michelin man.

4. Number 3, plus her parents are MUCH taller than most people here.

5. Number 4, plus her mom wears ballet flats so her feet show (this is NOT something Chinese women do!)

6. Number 5, plus her parents do not wear coats. It's 60-65 degrees here and all the Chinese people have heavy coats on. People look at us like we're naked. So strange.


I honestly don't know what it is for sure. We were the main event here before we got her, but now it's definitely her. There is a bakery here that we like; they have wonderful pastries and most of them are super-cheap. There is usually 1 person working in the back who can see out the doorway into the store. As soon as we show up, she yells at everyone else working in the back and they all show up to make a big deal out of Meili.


She totally eats it up too!


For supper we had the Chinese version of HuHot. If only we had this in the US! It's the exact same thing, only you can choose rice instead of noodles if you want (we had rice tonight). You pick your meat, veggies, sauces, seasonings and they cook it on a smaller version of the HuHot grill. The servings are huge!


Total cost for this food: about $3. The first time we ate here I had noodles and it lasted me three meals.


Meili has learned so much in the last 3 days that I can't even begin to describe it all. One of the most interesting things has been to watch her play. Many BTDT (been there done that) parents told us the only toy we needed to bring was stacking cups. I didn't bring a lot, but figured I would for sure need a few more than just that.

Nope. That would have been fine. For a child who has never had toys, everything is amazing. Her favorite toys from the last few days are:


The first day - the box from the diaper rash cream. She carried it around and put puffs in and out of it for HOURS.


Second day - plastic fork and spoon. I had no idea these could be so much fun. She banged them together and on other things the entire afternoon.


Third day - an envelope from the hotel. This isn't the actual one. She played with the original one so much that it got totally destroyed.


Today - more plastic silverware. And a comb. She stands in front of the mirror and combs her hair. And Jon's hair. And anything else she can find that she thinks needs combing.

And right now, she's sleeping with a hotel toothbrush. I don't think we would have even needed the stacking cups!!

A couple big things happened today. First, she shared a piece of food with Daddy. This is good, because hopefully it means she's starting to trust that we'll provide food for her. Often when she gets a piece of food, she immediately hides it behind her, so it's encouraging to see that once in a while she'll give up a piece.

And she learned how to give kisses! I will admit, that was pretty stinkin' fun!


Daddy got the first one, but since then Mommy and Daddy have both gotten plenty of others. Unfortunately, she also blows them to anyone else she sees, and blew lots to the women in the bakery! So the kisses aren't exclusively for us, but it's still something she learned to do and that's pretty exciting.

Tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou! I'm hoping this is not confusing for Meili since she's just gotten used to being with us here and transition times are still a little difficult. Please keep praying for us! All things considered, Meili is doing really well. We'd be thrilled if it continues but have no reason to believe it will...all bets are off when it comes to how these kids will react in any given situation.

We also want to thank everyone for all the prayers and support. We honestly think we could almost feel them during those first difficult days. You have no idea how much all the encouraging notes and messages meant to us, especially to me. Forgive me if I am not able to respond to every one...sometimes our connection here isn't the greatest and I don't like to be staring at a screen while Meili is awake or isn't otherwise occupied with Jon. But please know that we appreciate every one very, very much!!


February 27, 2013

Little Miss Meili & day 4 in Nanjing

We are learning new things about this little girl every day. And let's just say there is a LOT to learn.

Yesterday was basically a free day. We had saved that day so that if we wanted to visit her orphanage, we could. After going back and forth several times, we decided not to. We were not going to take her back there, so if someone did go, it would have just been Jon. It is a 3+ hour drive to Huai'an and in the end we decided it was best to stay together as a family. We have wonderful pictures and video from others who have visited there that we can show her when she gets older.


So instead, our guide took us out for a walk around the Confucius Temple area to do some shopping.


For as tiny as she is, she sure gets heavy to carry! She has no idea how to "hold on" at all. Even if she did, I'm not sure if she could...she doesn't have much muscle in those tiny legs!


Nanjing is on the Quinhai River (I think!). If it were ever sunny here, instead smog-covered, it would probably be a really pretty river! Even without the sun, this area looks very "Chinese" and it was an enjoyable walk.



Nanjing is famous for 4 things: Rainflower stones, Rainflower tea, Cloud Brocade and one other thing I can't remember right at the moment. We went to one shop where they offered to let us try some tea. It was good...although I'm not sure what the giant bowl of gold fish had to do with it.


The fourth thing might be Nanjing duck. Mmmmm.....don't those look delicious! They're hanging all over the place. Apparently, they're preserved with salt; kind of like jerky only they do the WHOLE duck. If you wanted to try a food that was specific to Nanjing (like pizza is to New York), you would try duck's blood soup. Normally, I'd be thrilled to try the new foods in each location, but I will happily pass on that one!! Our guide said "I think, you would not like it so much!!" I think I agree!


It's always interesting to see things you wouldn't expect to see at home....like a chicken tied to a leash.


Miss Meili is doing better. We're still having a pretty difficult time going to sleep and waking up. Last night, we also had a hard time staying asleep. She tosses her head and flails her arms and legs like she's having a nightmare. She doesn't seem to wake up completely, but obviously is not getting good rest.


She did let Jon lay by her for nap time yesterday and that went OK.



She is learning SO much, and so are we. Some of the information we got from the orphanage staff conflicted with what was in our referral. I spent some time visiting with other parents whose children came from Huai'an, and the more we learn, the more I despise the place.

Our referral paperwork (done at 22 months old) said she loved eggs, dumplings, wonton, etc. But the orphanage "section chief" told us on Tuesday she had been eating solid food for only 6 months. That's odd, since she's 33 months old. And since we discovered we don't think she knows how to chew. She will put food in her mouth and mush it with her tongue, but won't chew. Another parent who recently visited Huai'an told me she saw them have "lunch" and it was a bottle and a cracker. It would make sense....every time she sees a bottle she gets VERY excited.


We tried to feed her an oreo. She can bite with her front teeth, but she did not chew it with her back teeth. And yesterday at breakfast when we fed her a piece of egg, she held it in her mouth for over half an hour (gross!). We wonder if that was a type of survival mechanism? Saving food so she has some for later?



We also think we are seeing some "placing behaviors." It's common for adopted children to act overly cute and adorable because doing this in the orphanage gets them what they want. She definitely seems to know how to do this!!


Little Miss likes to strut her stuff in the mall and smile and talk to whoever will listen. She's very good at charming little kids and women. And while we think she likes us, she is definitely not attached to us. She will happily go to whatever Chinese woman holds her arms out to her.




She also LOVES the escalator. She wants to walk up the stairs, which doesn't last too long since we quickly get to the top. We need to locate some regular stairs so she can practice using those leg muscles more! She also makes it very clear what she wants and swats away anything she is not interested in. It's interesting to me that she loves her boots. If I say "let's put on your boots" she immediately lays down on the floor and sticks her feet in the air! She also likes pretty hair bands and hats. She grabs them and pats her head, then runs to the mirror as soon as we put them on.


We were also told that on about day three or four, it was fairly common for newly placed children to begin to "test" their new parents. Oh my, did we experience this!! Little miss knows how to throw a fit!! At one point, I tried to let go of her hand so I could walk a few steps ahead of her and see if she would come to me. She was NOT impressed!


She promptly sat down and kicked her legs on the floor!



Starting to long for American food, we decided to eat at Papa Johns. It tasted much like home, but it was a sit-down style restaurant where someone actually waits on you! Holding her on my lap proved to not work at ALL. She grabbed and destroyed everything in sight. I made her sit in the chair and was NOT happy.



Afterward, we ate at ColdStone (also just like home!). She and I had to leave the store because she was being so loud and difficult to control. Just ask our friends, who probably will never want to eat out with us again while we're here!

Interestingly, the moment we left the crowded, noisy, busy mall and stepped through the doorway into the quiet, calm lobby of our hotel, her demeanor changed completely. She became calm, quiet and behaved much better. We think maybe all the stimulation in the mall was a little too much for her third day away from the orphanage. Papa Johns was especially overwhelming and that was when the trouble had started.


We have all day today free since the other family chose to visit their son's orphanage and our guide went with them. I think we'll take it a little easier today since yesterday seemed to be a little too much for her. It's a learning process for ALL of us.

Tomorrow, we will go to Guangzhou and couldn't be happier about it! We will be surrounded by American families and people who speak English! And most importantly, it means we're one step closer to HOME!


February 26, 2013

A 24-hour recap

Please forgive the short post yesterday. It was a very difficult day for all of us. The last 24 hours have proved to be very interesting, so we'll start at the beginning.


We went to the Civil Affairs Office around 2:30. Surprisingly, I was feeling OK most of the day yesterday. But when we pulled into the parking lot, I thought for sure I was going to throw up. We were there with about 5 other families. After waiting for about 5 minutes, we saw Meili out the window and I completely lost it. Not because of happiness; it was completely out of fear. There was no crying, by either her or us. But there was plenty of shaking, nausea and light-headedness on my end. Thank goodness I had Jon to be the strong one.


It was obvious she was very scared. When we got to the hotel room, she found a little corner she felt comfortable in and stayed there for a while. Eventually a lollipop lured her out.

(this picture was from yesterday's post, but it's the only one with the lollipop)


Part of the reason yesterday was so hard, is because seeing her in person made me realize how very small she is. She weighs only 21 pounds and developmentally seems to be about like an 18 month old. We expected this to some degree, but it's still a shock to see. Her little arms and legs are so, so tiny. She can walk, but she's wobbly.


Jon was able to get her to come out of her shell, and within a couple hours she was laughing and giggling like a regular kid. But bedtime was a different story. She doesn't cry, but you can tell she tries as hard as she possibly can, not to. Her lip quivers, her eyes fill with tears and she stiffens up. The same things happens when we try to change her diaper. She looks absolutely terrified.


She was very restless during the night, which means none of us got much sleep, and waking up is very hard for her too. The same little terrified look shows up and you can tell she's trying to figure out what's going on. We had to go back to the Civil Affairs office this morning to sign all the documents. She did OK, but I think it was confusing for her.


Once we were back at the hotel, her personality started to show through a bit again. She definitely knows what she wants and doesn't want and lets you know too by swatting away whatever she's not interested in. Oddly enough, she really seemed to want to have pretty headbands in her hair today. She would pull them out and then pat her head.



We think it's very possible she didn't have enough food at the orphanage. She finds a couple pieces of something and carries them VERY close to her. And she ate pretty much ALL day yesterday. I let her have one of those squeeze bottle baby food things thinking she might not know what to do with it, but she stuck it to her mouth and didn't remove it until it was gone, which only took about 15 seconds.



It's bedtime now and we can see the fear starting to settle in. She fights sleep with everything she has, even though she's very, very tired.


I know lots of you at home have been praying for us and it means SO much. This has been very difficult. I feel like people often paint a perfect picture of the day they receive their child, and I'm just going to be blunt and say that ours wasn't anything like that. All things considered, Meili has been doing pretty well. I have been the one having a hard time. But it is certainly not easy for her either. When she's scared, she folds inward and shuts down, and we're seeing that several times a day.


If you're still praying for us...

Pray for the times when she's the most scared - going to sleep, waking up and having her diaper changed.

I miss my kids at home horribly. It really set in today and it's been VERY hard. I'm not sure if it was triggered by having Meili with us all the time now, or even what to pray for....maybe just for peace, I guess??

Pray for her growth and development. I'm trying hard to find good food to help her gain weight, but it's difficult when I can't read any labels (is this skim milk or whole milk?) or nutrition facts.

For the rest of the trip in general. We aren't even half done. You have no idea how bad I wish we were going home tomorrow. Or at least going to Guangzhou. I'm ready to be done with Nanjing.


Time to try to do this bedtime thing again. Oh yeah...maybe pray for SLEEP too :)


February 25, 2013

Here she is!

It has been a very, very long and emotionally exhausting day. But we wanted to let you all know that we have her. Please continue to pray for all of us. I'll leave you with a few pics and hopefully will post more tomorrow.






February 24, 2013

Nanjing day 1 = CRAZINESS and lots of pictures!

We both commented several times while we were in Beijing, that it didn't really feel like we were in China. Everything in Beijing is written in English (in part because of the 2008 Olympics) and most young people and those working in hotels, restaurants, etc., speak English as well. The traffic was a little more chaotic, but not much. It seemed like we were just in a big city at home.


We were expecting the same thing in Nanjing. Boy were we surprised!

It wasn't difficult to say goodbye to Beijing. The smog index today was 400 (out of 500). Anything above 150 is considered a health issue and anything above 300 is considered a serious health hazard. It was just disgusting. If nothing else, it made me very grateful for our fresh, clean air at home.


We arrived in Nanjing about 12:30pm and found our new guide easily.



Her name is Denise and that adorable little girl in the corner is her daughter. Denise's English is not nearly as good as Tom's, but we can still understand her for the most part.




Our new room in Nanjing seems to be nicer than the one in Beijing...the hotel in general is nicer too. It's attached to a very large, modern mall with stores just like we'd see at home.




Denise explained that today is the Festival of Lanterns. I think it marks the end of the New Year, or something like that. She wanted to take us down to the Confucius Temple area where the celebration would be so we could return tonight for the lighting of the lanterns if we wanted. It was obvious something was going on, as there was a LOT of people there.



We walked down a shop lined street and eventually made our way to the river area where she said the celebration would be. Then we went back the same way we came. Jon tried to capture pictures that showed how many people where there, but these really do not do it justice.


We were standing in the midst of all this craziness when Denise said, "Ok, see you tomorrow" and took off! Ummm....okay....where was our hotel again?


She had pointed out a few restaurants where we might find some good Chinese food and we managed to find one of them again. Just coming from Beijing, and just having our guide desert us, we assumed everyone here would speak English.


Not even close.





They had NO idea what we were saying. We turned the faced the people in the restaurant and asked "English??" They all shook their heads. Thank goodness our friend speaks a bit of Mandarin. He managed to get them to get out a small English food translation booklet which we used to attempt to tell them what we wanted. By this time, nearly everyone in the restaurant was staring or laughing at us; including the cook who would periodically peek out from the back room to have a laugh at the dumb Americans. We're still pondering why our guide would drop us off by ourselves in the middle of a HUGE festival in a city where no one speaks English.



We continue to be quite a sight. People stare at us everywhere we go. We are not sure if it's because we're tall, or just because we're white. Either way, it makes for some interesting outings. This group of police officers was staring us down until Jon pulled out his camera and the ALL immediately looked the other way!



After managing to find our hotel, we decided to take a short break before heading out to the festival again at 7pm. We were all tired and thought a rest might be helpful. At 5:00, the fireworks started. I'm sitting here at 10:40pm, and they are STILL going. They have been going NON-STOP this ENTIRE time. And I'm not talking like a few fireworks, then a pause, then a few more.....it's like lots of BIG fireworks in SEVERAL places ALL.THE.TIME. So much for a good night's sleep.


When we went back out at 7, we were surprised by what we found. I cannot even describe the massive amounts of people here. I said there was a lot before, but I wasn't even close. There are 8 million people in Nanjing and I think half of them were there! I have never seen so many people in my ENTIRE life. And once again, we were the ONLY caucasians. We are actually really starting to enjoy the staring...it makes for entertaining outings.


This is the entrance to the temple area. What possessed us to continue into this mess, I'm not sure.



The lanterns were pretty, although I'm not sure seeing them was worth the effort. I guess we can say we've experienced a major festival in Meili's province, and that's definitely worth something. Once we got out to the river area where we'd been before, the masses were moving in a direction we hadn't been and there wasn't any going back. Since we had NO idea where they were going or where it would lead us, and since we were STILL the only caucasians amongst thousands and thousands of non-english-speaking Chinese people, we thought we'd better get out of there!!







The festival remind us of something like New Years at times square, mixed with Mardi Gras and Independence Day. There was lots of fair or circus type paraphernalia and lots of street vendors with food.




Some of it looked very interesting and we would have loved to try it. But we're also trying very hard to not get sick, so thought we'd better avoid anything our guide doesn't tell us is safe.




We did buy Meili a balloon.



It's a weird feeling to have a crib in our room again. Tomorrow is a very big day. We will meet Meili about 2:30pm which is 12:30am at home. We had really wanted to ask people to pray for us during the time we would meet her, but realize most of you are not awake at 12:30am! However, if for some reason you ARE, please pray for this event. We would be lying if we said we weren't scared to death. This experience (so far) is so drastically different than the way our other children came to be with us and we just have NO idea what to expect. And after today we're a little bit exhausted and overwhelmed.


I'm trying to constantly remind myself of 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul tells us Christ's grace is sufficient for us, but it doesn't seem to stop the fear and anxiousness from creeping in. I think a huge part of it is the "unknown," so I'm praying that when we meet Meili tomorrow, those fears will melt away.


And if we're lucky, the next post might have LOTS of pictures of our little girl!