March 16, 2013

Meili's heart

Remember I said we'd had a few crazy days since arriving home? The first one was Monday. We had intended for this week to be a "catch-up" week; laying low so we could get back on a normal schedule, planning to start the various doctors appointments next week. But at 8:30 on Monday morning we got a call from our pediatric cardiologist, insisting that we bring Meili in for an 11:00am appointment that morning.

I will admit I was a little caught off guard. We were still very tired, and we hadn't yet tried the car seat with Meili. Car seats are an issue for LOTS of adopted kids because they're so confining and they've NEVER been in one - they don't use them in China. But our doctor has seen lots of cases where adoption paperwork says one thing, but the reality is another and he didn't want to take any chances with her heart. I can appreciate this. And even though we had yet to meet him, he had been a wonderful help to us and I respected his opinion.

Poor Jon had to console me when I called...I wasn't quite ready to deal with a doctors appointment by myself so even though he had JUST arrived at work after almost three weeks off, he took another half-day of vacation and came home. We fed Meili a quick breakfast and headed to "the castle."

Now, I have had only a handful of experiences with this particular healthcare institution and two of them had NOT been good. But when it comes to our experience with the pediatric cardiology crew, it's a different story! When we initially started researching the various special needs we needed to know what was available for care in our area. So I made many phone calls to many different departments looking for answers and trying to find people who could review our referral file when we got it.

Almost no one would talk to me. They gave me the runaround, said I couldn't ask any questions without having a specific patient name, etc. etc. But when I called ped. cardiology, I got the most amazing woman! She answered EVERY question and talked to me for over half an hour. She told me the doctor she worked for was a Christian and had reviewed other adoption files as well. She gave me her email and checked up on me periodically. AND she put me in touch with people from ALL the other departments I'd been trying to reach. I didn't need them though - after talking to her somehow I knew we'd get referred a heart child.

And whattya know, we did. Miss Meili has a heart defect. I haven't said a lot about it because we wanted to get home and have her examined here to make sure we knew 100% what we were dealing with. I've heard too many stories of people coming home from China with children that they think need a routine procedure only to find out they have serious, serious heart issues.

She was a little apprehensive heading into the building - she is generally like this at new places.

This lasted roughly 60 seconds.

 Then she went into her typical all-out "charm" mode and attempted to get everyone wrapped around her little finger.

She was fairly successful.

It didn't hurt that everyone there is so great with kids. I suppose that's a pre-requisite to work at a Children's clinic!

We weren't quite sure what this appointment was going to entail so didn't really have an idea of what to expect. The doctor wanted to do everything. I was a little surprised...I guess I expected a simple check-up and then we'd have to reschedule for all the tests. It really worked out so much better this way though, now we've got it done and have one less thing to worry about.

First we did an EKG.

Then checked oxygen levels which were at 95% - excellent.

Blood pressure - great.

Then we did the echocardiogram. Basically an ultrasound of her heart. This took some time. She behaved like a champ and as long as she had her little cup of "shrimpies" we had no problems.

And lastly, weight and height, which we only did last because we were too busy chatting right away at the beginning. She's such a tiny little thing; weighing in at only 20.0 pounds. I'm including this picture just so ya'll can see how tiny she is and remember to pray for her to gain weight and start growing. We're trying our best to get her some nutrients and praying she'll start making some serious progress.

We consulted with her doctor after everything was done and the news was very good. It appears the information in her referral paperwork was accurate.

Meili's defect is called Tetralogy of Fallot. It is a combination of four different defects that always requires open-heart surgery to correct. It used to be referred to as "blue baby syndrome" because the children who had it often had a blue appearance since a hole in the wall between the ventricles (VSD - ventricular septal defect) caused the oxygenated blood to mix with non-oxygenated blood resulting in poorly oxygenated blood being delivered to the body.

For those of you who are medically inclined, here's a diagram:

We were prepared (and expecting) to be referred a child who still needed the surgery, so we were surprised when her file indicated her repair had already been done in China when she was 5 months old. As long as the repair was done well, this was a very good thing because the longer a child goes without repair the more risk there is of pulmonary hypertension. I had meant to ask how she managed to get surgery considering how poor her orphanage is. I wondered if one of the many non-profit agencies that work in China was involved? I guess we'll never know.

Anyway, the good news is that Meili's repair appears to have been done well. Her doctor also called her case a "minor tetralogy." TOF can range in it's severity and apparently hers was a more "cut and dry" case. We will monitor her heart every six months since issues can arise with the pulmonary valve. This valve leaks and causes a slight murmur and will likely need to be replaced when she's older (this is an expected outcome after repair) but as long as it keeps doing it's job properly, we shouldn't have to worry about that until she's close to her 20's.

Next week will bring more doctors appointments to analyze the rest of her health, which causes me much more concern than her heart did. Please pray that we'll get good news and be able to get connected to the right people to advise us on how to help her grow and develop properly. She has some catching up to do!

And if you're interested, there's a really great movie about the doctors who pioneered open heart surgery - they did it to help babies with Tetrology of Fallot. The very first open heart surgeries were done on TOF kids. It's called "Something the Lord Made." Find it HERE or on Netflix.

March 14, 2013

Being HOME!

It's been almost a week since we set foot back in the US and it feels like we're still trying to shake off the jet-lag and establish some sort of "normal" around here.

We came home to our kids, who we missed terribly, and my parents who had been staying with them. Our house was clean and my mom had a fabulous meal just about ready to come out of the oven...HUGE blessing not to have to worry about cooking that night!

Meili was so tired....we ALL were. But we brought her into the living room and she sat on my lap for about two minutes before hopping down and making herself right at home with our other kids. We were worried about how she'd react to them, but it was like she'd known them forever. And of course, they were crazy about her. She marched around here like the Queen of Sheba with her loyal subjects following closely behind.

It didn't take long at all for her to discover the stairs, and oh, what a discovery!! She timed it right - the kids were still 100% thrilled with her and so they happily went up and down the stairs with her at least 30 times that first night.

Our first attempt at a night of sleep went decently, all things considered. A great many adopted kids have pretty significant sleep issues, add a 14 hour time difference on top of that and it could have easily been a nightmare. But she went to sleep easily, woke up at 4:00 and came into bed with us, then got up for the day at 5:30. Not so bad for a first attempt! Since then, most of nights have gone pretty well, and aside from being awakened by her restlessness a couple times a night, we're almost getting a normal amount of sleep.

The kids were eager to play with her again the next day which meant that our entire household was up before 6:00am on a Saturday. Not ideal, but under the circumstances, it wasn't so bad. I was excited to start getting her on the diet that I want her to be on. She is definitely malnourished and I had some serious plans about how to get some weight on this child!

Each day is getting a little better, but her tiny body was used to a liquid diet and not being full, so it is taking some effort. We're adding grass-fed butter, coconut oil and avocado wherever we can and pushing protein. Thankfully, she seems to really like greek yogurt, so that's an easy way to get a good punch of fat and protein in the breakfast meal. We are allowing her to try to eat herself because she seems to really enjoy the attempt, but for right now, the main part of her diet is coming from us feeding her pureed "real food." Once she gains some weight, we'll let her do more of it on her own.

Oh, I keep forgetting - LOTS of people have asked if we know if she received the care package we sent.

She did! Well, at least the orphanage did. We don't know if she ever saw any of it. But we did get the little lamb back! Although in China, she hated the thing! We pulled it out and she would immediately swat it to the floor! If we left it sit on the bed, she would heave it across the room! We have no idea why. Now that we're home, she's grown a little bit more fond of him, but he is definitely not her favorite! I'm just glad we got him back :) The camera was also returned to us but we have not had it developed yet. The photo album was not, but we didn't ask for it to be.

We brought back a few souvenirs, although I'm already wishing we would have purchased more. We weren't sure what would fit in our suitcases and really didn't have a lot of time to shop. And when we did, it was hard to know what items were decent quality and what a good price was. I am glad we managed to get some silks for our girls - I bought one in every size available plus a couple extras so we'll always have one that fits for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Aside from regular running around, we are trying to mostly just stay home. We still have to get Keira to preschool and so Meili has met several of our friends as we go in and out of the church. Of course, she has a smile and a wave for almost everyone. She's also met a few of the friends who have brought us meals. Can I just tell ya'll how AMAZING it is to not have to worry about cooking when you're SO tired!?! It's really been a week of adjusting, with a few crazy days thrown in there (more on that later), and we are so thankful to the people who have helped us out this way. I will admit, it seems funny to accept so much help, especially when this is our fourth child and it feels like we should have everything pretty much figured out by now. But those meals have been an amazing blessing and I truly believe have helped us adjust more quickly. When mom isn't spending half the evening in the kitchen, jet-lagged and overwhelmed, things just go better for everyone. Our friends are awesome. Seriously awesome. Thank you!!

At home, we're still getting used to having a toddler again - baby gates, diapers, toys strewn all over, etc. It's also been interesting for us to realize how much most kids already learn by this age. Lots of basic things we just sort of "assume" a 2.5 year old would know, she doesn't. Like you don't throw books in the bathtub, or stick your arms in the toilet, or throw toys at the windows. She just has a lot to learn. One of the unexpected blessings that has come from this already is that we've been able to see our biological kids care for another child. They were all so close together that the older ones were too small to help with the ones below them. But boy, do they help now!! The older two happily play with her for extended periods of time, help her up and down the stairs and can effectively keep her from hurting herself. This is a learning experience for them, and I believe, a very good one. I'm sure the excitement of it all will wear off, but for now, I'm really appreciating and enjoying their willingness to help.

So, one week down, and things are definitely going better than expected. I can't help but think that it's due in large part to all the prayers that have been lifted on our behalf. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Our only rough spot (aside from normal adjustment stuff) is that our little Keira is having a bit of hard time losing her spot as the "baby." And I will be the first to admit, it has been hard for me too. She has been my little one for five and a half years, and it's hard not to have her as the one in my lap all the time now. She loves Meili and is a good big sister to her, but it's evident she's trying to find her place. Just one more thing to keep praying for :)

Now if we can just shake off the jet lag, we'll be doing good. We've heard you can expect 1 day of adjustment for every hour of time difference and that would make 14 days for us. I thought that was an insane calculation, but I'm beginning to think it may be more accurate than I want to admit. It seems to have hit Jon harder than me, so much so that the kids like to imitate him while he's sleeping ;)

Once we get fully back on schedule, hopefully we'll have time to update more frequently. Until then, if you're the type who likes adoption blogs, I want to point you in the direction of this one:
I follow a few of them myself, and I just have to say, some of these adoptive moms are nothing short of amazing. They follow God's leading and sacrifice their entire lives to care for children that would otherwise waste away without knowing the love of a family and without knowing Jesus.

"Our greatest fear should not be fear of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter." - Francis Chan

March 11, 2013

Day 7 in Guangzhou (and Hong Kong): LEAVING!!!

We spent our last day in Guangzhou doing pretty much nothing except impatiently waiting to leave. We had a late breakfast and spent the rest of the morning, organizing, folding, packing, weighing, re-organizing, re-weighing, etc. until we got everything to fit appropriately. Since we had to be checked out at 2pm but didn't leave until 4:30 we had some time to kill, so we mixed up some food for Meili and just hung out in the courtyard area on the fourth floor of the hotel to enjoy the nice weather before we left.

Believe it or not, it was ME that suggested we take a few pictures of our last few moments in China.

We're wearing our comfy sit-on-a-plane-for-20-hours clothes, but at least we captured the end of our trip :)

There is a cute little pagoda in the courtyard and I thought it might be a fitting place to take the last pictures...

....and these images pretty much sum up Meili's feelings about our last week there.

Oh poor Jon! How we BOTH wish she could be content with him!!

We received our documents from the consulate at 4:30 and immediately hopped into a van to drive to Hong Kong. Flights directly out of Guangzhou tend to leave at inopportune times of the night and only go to LA, so aren't very convenient for certain connections. It was a three hour trip to Hong Kong and Meili seemed nervous most of the time. Then we realized the last time she was in a van for three hours was when they gave her to us.

We thought maybe we'd get to see a little bit of the China countryside on this drive. We were WRONG. It was a three hour drive of giant, smoggy city after giant, smoggy city. If you live near me in the Midwest, next time you go outside take a big deep breath. And don't even complain if it's cold, because it's CLEAN. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate clean air now. We're convinced the reason we got these nasty colds is because of the air pollution. It's just flat-out disgusting.

Now, let me tell you about Hong Kong. I seriously considered writing a post entitled "Why I Hate Hong Kong" but decided against it simply because it just didn't seem very "nice." We should have known we wouldn't be thrilled with the place when our first experience there was at a Shell gas station that had ONLY squatty potties with no toilet paper in them. Or out of them. No toilet paper ANYWHERE. Or paper towels, or kleenexes. Awkward....

The plan was to spend the night there and get up to catch our 8:30 flight. So really we needed nothing more than a bed to crash in. However, we had been advised to stay in the hotel connected to the airport to make the morning easier. Ok, fine.

Oh, by the way, this hotel is super-nice and $250 a night. Grr....easy is good, so I guess that's fine too.
And the help there is rude. Good thing we won't be here long.
And you'll be starving after traveling for three hours and it has like 17 restaurants, but none of them are kid-friendly and none of them are cheap. Seriously?? 

So we ordered a pizza from the Italian restaurant. Cheese pizza. Meili was exhausted and there was no way I was waiting in the restaurant for it so Jon made them box it up and brought it up to our room. It was seriously the smallest, most expensive AND worst pizza I've ever had - at the same time. Tasted like the cardboard box it came in, was about 8 inches in diameter and cost $25. We actually laughed at it while eating it.

After having to pay $250 for the room, we got up early to eat breakfast at the included buffet. It paled in comparison to the other amazing buffets at our previous hotels. Our bill for this fine establishment when all was said and done: Just over $300. We could have stayed 5 more days in China for that!

We grabbed our luggage from the room and one piece promptly broke so Jon had to pull it apart to get the handle to go down. Because of this, we had to strap our two big suitcases together which made it impossible to get through the Hong Kong airport because for some reason they feel the need to put posts about 18 inches apart everywhere so you can't walk between them unless you have small pieces of luggage. So at every staircase or entry way we had to stop, unbuckle the suitcases, move them through one at a time, then attach them again on the other side. 

We wanted to exchange our money back to US dollars and of course, managed to get the guy who was a trainee and couldn't figure out how to do it properly....and waited....and waited....and waited....JUST GET US OUT OF HERE!!!

Thankfully, our flight was on time and we couldn't wait to get out of that city! The flight to Tokyo was about 3 hours and that little jaunt made our Tokyo to Minneapolis flight only 10.5 hours instead of the long 13-14 hour ones other families dealt with. I had initially just wanted to get it all over with at once, but I think the connection was a good thing.

Meili did amazing on both flights. I can tell ya'll were praying for us because based on our previous flying experiences with her, we expected these flights to be a NIGHTMARE. And they weren't at all. She slept for about an hour on the first flight, and about four ours on the long one.

She was entertained for at least half an hour by the crinkly pretzel and peanut snack bags.

A friend who arrived home with her son last Fall suggested a bag of toys that were saved for this flight so they would be "new" to Meili. GREAT advice. Coloring for the first time entertained her for over an hour.

By the time we got to Minneapolis, she was about ready to be done with it all. AND officially a US CITIZEN! I had an adorable dress that she wore for this event but after 23 hours of traveling, we forgot to take a pictures of it!

All three of us were asleep before our last flight from Minneapolis even left the ground, and we all woke up when we landed, so that one couldn't have gone any better!

Jon's sister did get one picture of her cute-ness when we landed.

My dad and Jon's sister met us at the airport and an hour later we were HOME.
And so, so glad to be there!

March 6, 2013

Day 6 in Guangzhou: US Consulate Appointment

The reason we are stuck here in Guangzhou for what feels like FOREVER was the appointment with the US consulate. They don't allow cameras or cell phones so we don't have much for pictures!
I was honestly pretty underwhelmed by the building. I was expecting something a little more spectacular, or at least a big US flag or something. It's really just a giant, boring, government building. About 12 families were there; none from our group except us, but several that we've met along the way. It was a pleasant surprise that the woman giving the instructions was clearly American and so nice to hear someone speak perfect English!
We took some oath about swearing all our information was correct, which seems totally redundant since we've already done that EVERY step of the way on EVERY.SINGLE.PIECE of paperwork. But whatever. Then they called us family by family to submit our official documents for our children's visas. Shiyan had collected these earlier in the week and then personally went through each one to make sure it was all correct and returned it to us today.
So far as we know, ours was perfect and we should have Meili's visa by tomorrow afternoon. At that point, we'll basically have a hand-off; Shiyan will give us the visa and then stick us in a car and send us to Hong Kong. We will spend the night in Hong Kong and then fly out for Tokyo at 8am Friday morning. YAY!
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. After the consulate appointment, our driver dropped us off at the Pearl Market. We were hoping to score some great deals on authentic pearls, but felt pretty overwhelmed as we walked around the ENORMOUS 5 story building with nothing in it but jewelry. You know how everything in the US is made in China? I can understand it now. It was just full of piles and piles and piles of pearls, silver, turquoise, beads, etc. I'm sure if you knew what you were doing and had the time and money you could get some amazing bargains. But since we both definitely have full-blown colds now and Meili slept TERRIBLE last night and kept us both up the majority of the night, all we could think about doing was getting back for a nap.
Thankfully, we did all get a nap. Then we played in the room for a while, played outside for a while and went for an early supper at a nearby Chinese restaurant called Macau Street. We had thought we were pretty adventurous with food until we looked at their menu., I don't care for a plate full of octopus tentacles. Jon got some sort of spicy pepper lamb thing which he said was amazing and I played it safe with beef and noodles. It was good, but the best part was that Meili devoured them! They were rice noodles; not wheat-based noodles like we've been having so far. So if nothing else, at least we found one other food that she likes.
There's not much else to report! A while ago, someone asked if I ever found out what the bracelet on her wrist is about:

...and yes, I did. Our guide was sweet enough to call the orphanage and ask. When they said her "nanny" was off that day, I expected we'd never find out the answer. Amazingly, someone at the orphanage called her back a while later. Apparently, about a month prior to us adopting her, a volunteer came to visit the orphanage. She thought Meili was cute and gave her the bracelet for good luck. Maybe it worked? ;)
It's not a great story by any means, but any little tidbit about her life prior to being adopted will be important to her in the future when she starts to question who she is and how she ended up in America with a white family. So I'm thankful that I'll at least have an answer for her.
That's all for today! Tomorrow we'll finish some last minute shopping, pack up and head for Hong Kong! Then hopefully the next thing you hear from us will be that we are safely back on US soil! Can't wait for that!

March 5, 2013

A Fathers Love (guest post by Jon)

It's 2:45 A.M., and here I am writing my first blog post, ever. This all started an hour and a half ago, 1:15 to be exact. Tossing and turning in bed, not able to sleep, I decided to reach out to my Heavenly Father through prayer. I find comfort knowing that He is there to hear me, even in the late hours half way around the world. While lying there, I have next to me a thirty-three month old little girl, who has to be scared out of her mind. This little girl practices summersaults in her sleep, all while grinding her teeth non-stop. In an effort to escape the teeth grinding and elbows to the back, the only logical thing to do was to take a hot bath, and it felt great!
In the stillness of the running water, I started to reflect on how I was feeling. To be quite honest with you, the word that came to mind is 'hurt.' Here I have a little girl whom I want to share all of my love with, and she won't accept it. Don't get me wrong, she acknowledges me, she even calls me "Daddy." But when she gets scared, she doesn't come to me, she runs to Virginia. Oh, how I wish just one time she would spread those arms wide open, run to me, embrace me, and non-verbally tell me "Daddy, I love you." I do realize that this little girl has a past, quite possibly a past that causes her to fear men. Or maybe she's never even really been exposed to men? I can understand that, but it still hurts.
I was prepared for this, at least I thought I was. But to be honest with you, I really thought that she would attach to me and that Virginia would be feeling this way. Saying I was wrong would be an understatement.
In this moment, I felt my Heavenly Father speak to me. He said, "Now you know how I feel when my children acknowledge that I exist, but don't truly love or trust me." When I heard this, I wanted to let everyone I know, know. So, here I am, in the early morning hours in China, trying to let as many people that I can know. How?By hijacking my wifes blog; I hope she doesn't mind.
If you've never opened your arms and embraced the love that your Heavenly Father has for you, I'm begging you to do so. From one father to another, I beg you. Repent from your sin ("For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God." Romans 3:23, "For the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23), and accept that Christ has paid the price for your sins ("...God commandeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8). Please, open your arms and run to Him!
As I continue to pray that my sweet little Meilil will finally make the decision that she can trust me, I will also pray for each of you, that you will run lovingly into your Fathers arms.
In Christ,

Day 5 in Guangzhou: Free day + thoughts 1 week in

Seems like we go in spurts here in China: crazy, busy exhausting day (or two) followed by a slow, boring day with nothing to do. In some ways, that's OK. Meili needs some down days. She's experiencing SO much that I can't imagine a little time off from all the "new-ness" would be a bad thing. For Jon and I though, it just seems like a waste. We've been gone from our other three sweethearts 2 weeks now and it's enough. We want to be home with them. And we want to get that horrible 24 hour day of travel put behind us. On top of everything, we both seem to be getting colds, and Jon has had some tummy rumbles going on...

Please pray we are able to stay healthy!! We're almost done here and we've made it this far....we can't be sick now! Also, please pray for that plane ride home. We are really worried about it. And the worst part is that right now, we aren't seated together. Since Meili won't go to Jon, that means it's me and her...for 14 hours. She and I have 2 seats in a row of 3. We're thinking once that third person realizes he's sitting by a crazy toddler and a totally stressed-out mom, he might be willing to switch with Jon. No guarantees, but I'm praying for that!!

Since today was our slow day, we slept in and had a late breakfast. Then we took Meili outside to play. Our hotel has a nice courtyard on the fourth floor that has some play equipment, a pond and a little waterfall.


Meili's first glimpse of the waterfall:


We played in the room for a little while, then gave her some lunch and a bath. Afterward, we went for a walk. We had heard there was a park close to our hotel so we attempted to find it. Amazingly, we were actually able to do it without much effort.


It wasn't exactly the type of park I was picturing. There was no grassy areas to run or relax, but rather a giant sidewalk running through nicely landscaped grounds. There is a statue in this park of 5 Rams...apparently it's a significant statue, although I couldn't tell you why. To get to it required climbing LOTS of steps, which Meili loved. It's obviously she hasn't had a lot of experience with steps, because she's very clumsy on them, but she LOVES to practice. She would go up and down them all day if we let her, so at least her leg muscles got a workout today.





I had read in an online forum that not too far from our hotel was a more "authentic" area that had a grocery store. We had wanted to find one because we've discovered a couple kinds of snacks that Meili really likes and want to be able to take enough of those home with us to last a couple weeks during the "adjustment" period. The 7-11 near our hotel had one kind, but we were missing the other one. Thankfully, we found it at the grocery store. The jaunt there took us a little bit out of our comfort zone, but it was neat to experience an area of the city that seemed a little more like real China.





Today is one of the first times I have thought about Meili's birth mother. In the safety and security of our lives in the US, we tend to look at these people who abandon their children with disdain and disgust. How could anyone be so cruel and heartless as to abandon their child? What I've learned through this process, is that that view is almost never an accurate one. The women (and men) who do this do it because is the only option they have left. They cannot afford to care for a child with special needs. Knowing that their child may die without a surgery they can't pay for, the only option to safe the life of their child is to abandon them and hope that they will be adopted. And you can bet they make that choice with much grief and pain. I can imagine mothers walking by the social welfare institutions every day hoping to catch a glimpse of their child to know they are OK. One of the children adopted by the families in our group was abandoned at 3 weeks of age midday at a hospital. Almost certainly they had just been told she needed life-saving surgery and knowing they couldn't provide it for her, made the choice to leave her there. I just cannot imagine having to make that choice for my child.

So here we sit, with a child who we'll take home to be ours because someone made that choice for her. And I can't say it's been easy for us either. Knowing almost nothing about the last 33 months of her life makes so many things difficult. I find myself looking at everything she does and wondering why she does it that way. And she's so small. So delayed. Most of the time I do OK, but sometimes the fear just grips me. What if she never catches up? What if there's a major issue that we don't know about? What if she needs more surgery? There are things we expected and so many things we didn't.

We knew she would be delayed. Kids in orphanages just are. Unless they're in a really good orphanage, which she was NOT. We knew she'd had open heart surgery at 5 months old and had a tough time recovering. Wouldn't you, if you had no one to love you and care for you during a month long recovery process? So we can just pretty much rule out any normal development during the first 6-7 months of her life. That puts her at about a 27 month developmental level. Experts estimate kids in orphanages lose on month developmentally for every 3 months they're there, so that brings her down to an 18 month level, and I would say that's pretty accurate. More in some areas, less in others.

I had read all of this but somehow never added it up. It's been hard to get used to. In my mind, we were adopting an almost-three-year-old, not a baby. But in many ways, she is a baby. And babies are exhausting. We're back to diapers for the first time in almost four years. We have to feed her to make sure she gets enough. She gets into everything. But her smile can melt your heart. It's pretty common for adopted kids to attach to one parent first and reject the other. Often, they will attach to the dad because they are so used to women caretakers caring for them and then leaving. In our case, she has attached to me. Even this has been hard because I will be honest and say I didn't have an instant attachment to her. But Jon did. He loves her like crazy already and it's tearing him up that she doesn't want to be with him. And it's also exhausting me! It's a good thing she flashes that smile a lot because it does make it a little easier.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. Lord knows we need them! Really, all things considered, everything is going well. I've heard lots of stories of worse experiences. But I also don't want to sugarcoat anything and personally, I appreciate it when people are real. So we're trying to keep it real around here :)

Tomorrow morning is our consulate appointment. If all goes well, we'll be done by 10am, they will issue Meili's visa the following day and then WE'RE OUTTA HERE!!


Day 4 in Guangzhou: Safari Park

Yesterday was a great day, but between the fun and a little incident that involved Meili throwing up on the bed, there was no time to post about it. So it's a little late, but better late than never, right?

Although it wasn't on the schedule, many of the families in our group had heard that the Guangzhou Safari Park was a great experience. Our guide added it to our schedule in case anyone wanted to go, and since we have to spend SO many days in Guangzhou, we figured we might as well go too. We aren't nearly as adventurous with Meili as we would be if it was just Jon and I, and we're already starting to go a little stir-crazy in our hotel, so planned expeditions with our english-speaking guide are a good thing :)


Isn't that an odd sign? Makes it look like you can drive your convertible beamer right through the park...which you can't. And be careful, a koala may hop in your backseat!



Reason #132 why Jon is an amazing husband: He shamelessly carries the pink backpack all around China since I am stuck carrying Meili all.the.time.

People were right; this zoo is amazing. The landscaping is beyond gorgeous and they let you do all kinds of things you would never get away with doing in the US. Like this red panda behind us; he is not in a cage. You literally could turn around and pet him if he would let you.


You can also feed the giraffes. I don't think Meili thought they were overly fascinating, but I loved them! And they don't have just 1 or 2, they had at LEAST 16 that we counted. They walk right up to you and eat out of your hands. We fed them a couple times, and I petted one on the nose.



We also went to the White Tiger show. They have at least 14 white tigers that we counted, plus several bengal tigers and about 5 lions; and those were just the performing ones. There were many others in their cages.


Occasionally they asked for audience participation. It made for quite a few interesting looks when the clown picked Jon! All the Chinese people stared and three other families from our group (who were seated on the opposite site of the arena) stood up and cheered! He had no idea what he was supposed to do since we don't speak any Mandarin, but taking cues from everyone else he figured out he was supposed to play tug of war with a Tiger.


They lost. But in his defense, I don't think those two Chinese girls were much help!

One of the plants in the park produces these gorgeous pinkish-red flowers. They look just like something straight out of "Horton Hears a Who." Meili loved them and carried hers around the entire visit.



I think this rabbit is wondering why on earth a grown white man would want his picture with him...


You can't see it very well in the picture, but we were looking at the baby tigers. That was another great thing about this zoo...they put all the babies out for you to see. There were several baby tigers and lions which were ADORABLE, some monkeys and lemurs, and several others. Meili did actually seem to enjoy the baby tigers.


And lots of baby bears! They also have zoo workers standing in many of the cages, and when someone walks up, they'll feed the animals or make them do tricks. You don't have to worry about walking around and seeing a bunch of sleeping animals. The baby bears would do just about anything for a treat and we also got to watch a whole exhibit full of monkeys fight for snacks. They even threw some in the water so we could watch them swim!


It really was a fabulous zoo. We walked slowly and took our time, so we only saw about half of it even though we were there for almost 5 hours. Meili didn't seem overly thrilled about any of it, but there were a few exhibits she seemed to like. And she definitely enjoyed having space to walk and run a little bit. We don't think she's probably ever seen any animals before, so it was probably a very unusual experience for her. If nothing else, maybe it will help her not totally freak out when she meets our cat.


Since we got back right about supper time, we decided to make things easy and get carry-out from the same Chinese restaurant we ate at the night before. We had Shiyan write down our favorite dishes in Chinese to improve our chances of actually getting what we wanted.


Barbequed pork, garlic broccoli and fried noodles with white rice = insanely delicious authentic Chinese.


Meili doesn't do well eating in restaurants or at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. She's way too distracted to concentrate on eating, and when she does eat, she makes a HUGE mess. We've been feeding her in our room instead. Usually what she gets is either rice cereal or oatmeal mixed with mashed bananas, yogurt, applesauce, or something like that. Yesterday she ate a LOT for supper, then before bed seemed ready to eat more so we let her have some extra. Then just before laying down she chugged a full sippy cup of juice. About 5 minutes after laying down she coughed a little and threw up most of the juice. We are REALLY hoping this was just because she ate/drank too much.

It was quite a sight trying to explain to housekeeping why we needed the sheets changed, especially since it was apple juice so didn't look like much other than a big wet spot. I tried pointing at her, then making puking sounds and motioning with my hands...I still don't think they knew what was going on, but eventually we got new sheets and FINALLY after a completely exhausting day and an hour past Meili's bedtime, we ALL got some sleep.