Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!

First a big Happy Birthday to our granddaughter Elyse and one of Hanna's best friends from Michigan - Sammie - we love you both and hope your Birthday's are wonderful!

Today we visited Teng Wang Villa and got to experience what it is like to be a celebrity! We had crowds of people following us everywhere we went. They wanted to touch Hanna, feel her hair, test out the springiness of her curls, hug her, kiss her and take pictures with her or with us. There were many schools age children having tours of the pavilion today and a couple of them around Hanna's age wanted to talk to us. The were so cute and kept saying "Hello" and "Nice to meet you" and then the would giggle and whisper to each other and then say "Hello" again. They were very curious about Hanna, so I asked them if they wanted a photo with Hanna, suddenly about 20 of them appeared all jostling for a spot in the photo. They then followed us - almost the entire class, until we got into the narrow stairway and someone called them back.

After that group there was a group of older students from something called Blue Sky Institute, there with their teacher. They also followed us and kept telling us how beautiful Hanna was and first one and then the other, and then another and then part of the group and then the next part of the group wanted photo after photo with Hanna, Hanna and I, or all of us. They followed us everywhere we went asking questions and wanting to tell us things about themselves. Then they wanted to know where we lived in Nanchang, I just knew they would show up here and want to hang out with us some more. They really were very nice, but it is definitely something we are not used to! There are some nice gardens surrounding the pavilion and we enjoyed walking in them and getting away from all the stares for a while. Rylee was a big Baba's girl today and was pretty quite most of the day. I think the crowds of people following us around was a little intimidating. I thought it was a good sign though that she wanted us to hold her and would move closer to us whenever strangers were around. So many people stop and ask us about Rylee. Usually they are asking if she is Chinese, I say yes and then that always brings much discussion among the group. Sometimes they look like they are trying to understand how we ended up with a daughter that doesn't look like us, sometimes they give us big smiles and nods. We asked our guide about this and she said that people that are local understand adoption because they see many families with the babies, but visitors from smaller cities don't necessarily know there is such a thing as adoption and they want to know how we got a Chinese baby. Rylee is warming up to us really well and getting more comfortable with us. She had many more smiles when we got away from all the people.

Our guide doesn't seem to understand silliness that much. Yesterday when we were in People's Park, Hanna was practicing her trotting, canter and gallop. Finally Wanda said "What that for? What purpose for that?" Ummm... I guess the purpose would be for fun??? Apparently children in Nanchang don't run around pretending they are horses! And then today Hanna posed in her duck walk pose and Wanda again looked really confused! Finally she asked us "What that? Why she do that?" We just couldn't help but laugh, she just couldn't see why you would do such a thing. We tried to explain and finally she just shook her head and walked away from us while we were still laughing. Poor women is probably trying to figure out what strange thing we are going to turn Rylee into - lol!!!

Rylee is not quite sure what to do with me yet. She is much more accepting of affection, but not initiating it much. Sleep time is key for us and it seems to be when I make the most progress. She was so tired at nap time that I held her and rocked her close to me so that she could hear my heart beating. When she fell asleep I laid her down and rubbed her back and her arms and snuggled next to her. When she woke up she was happy to see all of us and came to me often. At bed time tonight she tossed and turned. She would pull my hand over and put it on her back, but then she would push it away. Then she would pull me back and put my hand on her forehead (I have been putting her to sleep by rubbing her temples and across her forehead gently) and then she would push me away. Then she would pull me back and then push me away, and so on. Finally she let me hold on to her feet. After a while she reached out and held my hand and touched my face some. A while later she moved over to lay on me where she could hear my heart beat. There is so much going on inside that little person right now, and she is doing amazingly so well.

When we were in the elevator last night there was a group of people heading up to the hotel bar and we were all crammed in together. They started talking to me (I was holding Rylee) and the only thing I understood was Chinese National and they were pointing at Rylee. I said "yes", they talked to each other until a man in the middle placed his hands together, bowed his head then stood up looking directly at me and gently said "thank you!". I choked up because how could I explain to someone that does not speak my language that it is I who is so very thankful? I didn't know what to do, so I bowed my head back and could only whisper "you are welcome" with tears brimming my eyes...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nanchang Day 3

This morning Hanna slept a little later than the rest of us so we had a little quiet time with Rylee first, but as soon as Hanna got up Rylee ran to her, got behind her and followed her every where she went. If Hanna bent down, Rylee bent down, if Hanna ran, Rylee ran, if Hanna danced, Rylee tried her best to dance too! It was completely adorable and she had us all laughing. She finds her Baba hilarious and gets quite a kick out of him. She laughs out load at our attempts to mimic her Chinese and shakes her head "no". I cannot believe how good things have gone so far and I keep waiting for her to break down, have a tantrum, get frustrated or fearful but so far she has done none of these (with the exception of the swimming pool yesterday).

We had a fantastic day today visiting the Nanchang Zoo, where we saw monkeys walking a tight rope, tigers riding horses, a monkey riding a goat across a tight rope, a bear riding a bicycle and other amazing tricks. Hanna sat through the tigers riding the horses with her hands clamped over her mouth and her eyes as big as saucers (she said now she has something to tell Ms. Ashley, who has been her riding instructor, next time she talks to her). Rylee silently studied everything, a few times she gave me looks of confusion which is easy to understand. She has had little if any contact with animals and she wasn't quite sure this is what they should be doing.

After the zoo we went to People's Park nearby. The park is very beautiful and they have taichi and other exercises going on at all times throughout the day, we loved it so much we are going to try to go back before we leave at the end of the week. The girls had a blast running around, climbing on things, trying out the exercise equipment and just being together. Rylee was so much more relaxed with us today and especially tonight. Today she has good eye contact with all of us and even asked to be picked up and carried sometimes. While we were at the park she reached up and grabbed on to my hand, shyly peeked at me and gave me a heart melting smile. I got tears in my eyes, because it was such a genuine and sweet gesture. I am not sure why we have been so blessed to be given this child, but I am grateful beyond words...

Monday, October 29, 2007

We have had the first melt down!

The girls are tucked in for the night, so I thought I would do another quick update to let you know how the afternoon and evening went today. When we got back from our appointments Rylee was so tired so I got her ready for a nap. As soon as she realized what was going on she yelled, cried, kicked and screamed. I held on to her tightly and rocked her back and forth at the end of the bed speaking softly to her. She fought it so hard, but she finally settled in and whimpered while I rocked her. After about 30 minutes, we laid back in the bed and I rubbed her forehead gently and at her temples, very slowly she drifted off to sleep. I was watching her but she wasn't really closing her eyes. Finally I realized she was sleeping with her eyes open. Hanna came in and looked at her for a while and then she asked me if Rylee was alive. Well she obviously was because she was snoring! I told Hanna that and she said "Oh my gosh - she sleeps just like Scrappy" (our miniature daschund)! When she woke up she was her happy self once again!

We stopped at the hotel gift shop and I was glancing at a book while Rylee was standing behind me, I turned back her way and realized that she had dropped her pants so that she could admire her new panties right there in the middle of the store! She is fascinated with them and acts like she has never worn or seen anything like it before. She may be four and a half years old, but we still get to have lots of firsts with her!

We went out to the Walmart to get some shoes for Rylee and pick up a few snacks for the room. Rylee had never been in a cart before, but she settled in easily and sat there taking everything in. It did not take long for her to get this figured out and very soon she was pointing to things and then pointing to the back of the cart. I asked our guide about some of the things she was asking for, they were mostly things like rice crackers and other snacks that our guide said are popular with the kids. So we loaded up our cart with things for the girls and as we were passing the DVD section Rylee focused in on something and her eyes got real big. She started pointing and talking fast and so we started pointing to things and she would shake her head quickly no, I pointed to a few things but she kept saying no so I pointed to the sparkly Barbie DVD cover and she nodded YES! So, she now has Barbie on DVD in Chinese - I hope it works at home.

We tried out the swimming pool tonight and at first Rylee was ready to follow Hanna right in, but then Baba and Hanna disappeared under the water and Rylee panicked. She cried so hard and there was no coaxing her anywhere near that pool, poor sweetie!! She had silent tears leaking from both eyes for well over 45 minutes (and we had left the pool after seeing that there was no calming her while we were there). I wish I knew why she was so scared and what she was thinking! Once we got back to our room and changed into pajamas she was happy as a clam again. She had dinner, got ready for bed, laid down by her big sissy and drifted peacefully off to sleep!

Here is our first picture of gotcha day, taken by Hanna.

First morning together...

This morning Rylee woke up and sat up quietly in bed. She studied each of us intently and silently. We waited quietly to see her reaction and she let out a couple of sighs, fingered the blanket a bit, looked back at us... then she raised both arms up in the air, plopped back on the mattress and let out a squeal sat back up and we realized she was laughing, big gulps of laughter. I had just commented to Pat that I guess she is not a happy, jump out of bed kind of morning person like Hanna is - apparently I was wrong! She was all smiles and giggles this morning and has really enjoyed playing hide and seek with Hanna. Although the first time Hanna disappeared Rylee started to whine, but she caught on quickly.
She ate a great breakfast this morning and it was time to head off to the Civil Affairs office. When we got there the orphanage workers were there and came up to speak to Rylee. The smiles left her face and she turned her head away from them. They kept talking to her, but she ignored them completely. Finally the assistant director took her from me to talk to her. Rylee told her she wanted to go back to Mama. We had our interview, which went really well. They finalized our paperwork and gave us a gift for Rylee. While we were waiting the women were talking to Rylee again. They were telling her that it was time to leave and did she want to go with them. She shook her head no and pushed in closer to me. They kept trying to get her to go with them, but each time she shook her head no and tried to turn away from them. She was like glue to me today, the only thing that could get her away from me was Hanna and even then she looked torn about what to do. She was such a good girl at all the appointments and she is so happy! We saw lots of adopting families today, but Rylee is much older than all of them. Many people have commented on us adopting such an old child. I sat in one of the waiting areas today and listened to all the crying, oh so very cute babies and I just couldn't help but think... we may have missed so much in the first four years of her life but to me, to us, she is absolutely and wonderfully perfect!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We have her!!!

We woke up to clear skies this morning and arrived in Nanchang at 2:40 this afternoon. We arrived at our hotel at 3:30 and Rylee arrived about 20 minutes later. She was looking very timid and not at all happy when she walked into the room with two orphanage workers and the assistant director all speaking to her at once. She looked at Pat first, looked very solemn at me and then at Hanna. She turned back to Pat and lifted her arms and said "Baba", she stuck to him and only to him for about the next half hour. I could tell all the women were telling her to got to Mama, but I did not push her at all. She sat on Pat's lap and let out such deep serious sighs as if she new that she was here and she may as well just accept it. She studied everything we did very intently. Hanna pulled out a few toys and played with her a little bit. Slowly she slipped out of Pat's lap and followed Hanna into the bedroom. Hanna showed her the crib and the monkey slippers that we had placed under the bed. Then she got out the matching pajama's that we had gotten for the girls. Then they walked out of the bedroom so that Hanna could show me that Rylee was holding her hand. I was keeping my eye on them while I was asking the orphanage workers questions about Rylee. I could see Rylee by the bed studying the pj's and she started tugging at her shirt. I told Hanna that Rylee wanted to put the pj's on so they went into the bathroom and came out in their matching pj's. Rylee was so thrilled to show them to everyone and she was smiling a little more.

Then she tugged Hanna back into the bedroom and came teetering right back out with the slippers on (I don't think she ever wore anything so thick on her feet). From that point on she started mimicking Hanna. When Hanna would say something Rylee would copy her. She followed Hanna everywhere or pulled her where ever she wanted to go. The did stickers and played with some of the toys we had brought. They came to show me the page they had made with the stickers and I gave Hanna a big hug and Rylee tugged her away from me. She just kept studying me the whole time, arching away from me if I came too close. I just spoke softly to her whenever she was close and lightly touched her whenever I was close enough. The staff taught Rylee how to use the American potty before they left because she has never seen one that is the American style toilet. The next time she had to go, she took Hanna with her. She got more and more comfortable and was smiling a lot and looked much more relaxed. She LOVES Hanna and by the time the orphanage staff decided they would leave she called out "bye bye" waved at them and never let go of Hanna's hand. A while later after we were done with the paperwork and it was time for our guide to leave Rylee again said "bye bye" waved and gave her a big smile. I played with her some, showed her some of her clothes and we tried a couple of things on. She is tall and thin with very tiny feet. The shoes we brought were way too big! I tried the new Dora shoes on her but they were so big, I took them off to put her old shoes back on since they fit her but she let me know that she did not want those old shoes on, she most definitely wanted to wear her new ones no matter how big they were!

She was doing so well we decided to go to dinner instead of room service (which is what we had planned). As soon as we started to go toward the door she got very solemn again. She took my hand and kind of pulled back. I told her it was okay and asked her to come. She kept looking back at the room and looking at us. I think she thought we were going to take her back and she looked so sad. I picked her up and she let me carry her to the elevator. Once we got in the elevator she got distracted by the mirrors and pointed and said "Hanna" and then pointed to herself and said "Xiao Bao", a few giggles slipped out. Once we got downstairs she let me fix her plate for her and nodded yes or shook her head no for things she did not want. I tried to put some cucumbers on her plate and she protested, I was still going to put one on there but she actually tugged on my arm and emphatically shook her head no! She wanted and ate things I did not recognize and never would have put on her plate. She ate everything on her two plates plus some of Hanna's ice cream, something she obviously had never had before, but loved! She also tucked an orange and some small apple like fruits into her new purse before we left.

She took food from me and let me feed her a few things, but she is fully capable of feeding herself and is a very neat eater. The few times she dropped a piece of food on the table she quickly looked at us, picked the food up off the table and placed it back on her plate. There was not a drop of food on her part of the table when she was done. She studied us intently and copied the way we ate. If we used a fork on something, she used a fork. If one of us wiped our mouth or fingers with a napkin, she did too.

Hanna and I brought Rylee back to the room while Pat waited for the bill. I gave Rylee a bath and tried to get as much of the layers of dirt off of her hands and feet that I could. I got her ready for bed and tucked her in the crib and Hanna and I laid down beside it in the bed. Rylee gave us all hugs and kisses before she laid down. She just laid there, but I could tell there was no way she was going to sleep yet, so I let her lay in the bed with us. Hanna was coloring and Rylee wanted the pen. She took the pen and started writing small markings on the paper. She wrote them all the way down the paper and kept going until she had filled the page. She was very meticulous and it really looked like she was trying to write Chinese characters. She was so proud to show me what she had done and then she went out to show Baba. She is talking a lot and can understand Mandarin, but she speaks a dialect. We have had no trouble understanding her, and if we are unsure Hanna tells us what she wants or needs.

Hanna also explained to me what was going on during the My Little Pony cartoon that was in Chinese! I also found out today that Rylee had been in foster care for the first three years of her life and has been in the orphanage for the last year. She was really close to her foster dad and not so much to the mom. She has also been going to kindergarten and the director wanted to make sure that we put Rylee in school soon.

Back to getting to bed - Rylee was kind of laying on me but eyeing Hanna and she stood up on the bed walked over to Hanna, said "tickle tickle" as she rubbed her hand over Hanna's ribs and then doubled over in complete and total belly laughter. After she caught her breath she did it again and again, each time laughing so hard she could not even stand up! It was so hilarious that we all were laughing! She is adorable, sweet, a bit timid and so very brave! When I finally got her settled down she was laying between me and Hanna. She kept feeling my face in the dark and then Hanna's, finally she grasped my hand, wrapped my arm firmly around her and tucked my hand around her belly and drifted off to sleep. It has been an amazing day!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Great Wall...

I was thinking about how best to describe our day because today we have fallen in love with our daughters country. It is so beautiful and so very different from home, we love the sites, sounds and people that are here. It is rich in culture and history and the people are curious, genuine and happy. There are bicycles everywhere and at all times of the day. It could be old men, young men, mothers or fathers with their children riding on the back, weaving in and out of traffic or carrying large boxes or even furniture! There are mothers carrying their babies that are wearing split pants - so cute! When we were in the rickshaw we saw one little boy squatting and peeing on the side of the road, split pants can be really handy I guess :) Today we saw a group of people with their new babies here at our hotel. Tomorrow it will be our turn!

The great wall was amazing and the fall colors are out. The smog was still pretty thick, but I still have pictures to post.

If you look really hard in this picture you might be able to spot Pat a couple of levels below Hanna and I (he is wearing a light blue shirt).

There were several people that wanted to pose with Hanna but she was not real sure about that. We did get a couple of them when she was willing. A few people tried to explain to Hanna that she needed to make a Victory sign for photos - she prefers bunny ears!

Many of you have emailed me to let me know that you are praying for Rylee's transition tomorrow and we appreciate that so much! We are praying that her heart is open to us and that bonding will start quickly. We do not want to see her hurting, but know that grieving will be part of the process and that it is actually a good thing. I hope we can be everything she needs...

Our guide said if the smog does not lift we may be delayed, so we are hoping the sky will be clear tomorrow! It seems to be clearing up tonight so we hope that continues and we can get there on time tomorrow! Thanks for the comments too - we love getting them! We will post from Nanchang!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Forbidden City, Hu Tong Tour...

This was the view from our hotel room this morning. There was so much smog that you could hardly see the other buildings. They said on the news that this was considered a light pollution day! It was fairly nice out despite the thick smog which stuck around for the entire day.

We went to tour the Forbidden City today. It was amazing to see and Hanna even found it interesting. She sure generated a lot of attention (lots of pointing and stares), but she was either ignoring it or she was really in to the tour because she didn't seem to notice. After the Forbidden City we took the Hu Tong Tour, which our guide told us was where/how the common people live (or used to before they started replacing them with high rises). I rode in the rickshaw with Hanna so I got to experience this tour from a 7 year old point of view.

After the tour we went for lunch which was ordered for us by our guide. There were a few courses and then a final course of soup. Hanna picked up a white chunk of something and pronounced it turtle brains and popped it into her mouth. She next picked up a brown piece of something and said "what's this, sloth?" SLOTH - where does that come from? Who has ever even heard of sloth and turtle brain soup? I have to say China from her view point is quite an adventure!

We also went to the Chinese Acrobat show tonight, but it was just too much for the first day here and it was all we could do to stay awake. Some of us did better than others, but the show really was amazing and beautiful!

Tomorrow it looks like we will be touring the Great Wall in the rain! Two more nights and Rylee will be with us - can you believe it????????

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We are in Beijing!

Well, we did the very thing we were not going to do! When we got here it was about 2:00 in the afternoon (2:00 am for us at home) and we were going to stay up so that we could sleep tonight but somehow we all fell asleep and just woke up at 9:30 pm. So now it is night and we are awake! Pat was desperately trying to get someone to help him turn on the air conditioning in our room and has finally gotten someone that could explain to him that the hotel has only "natural wind" for cooling!

Our flights were wonderful and on time. Every time we fell asleep it seemed they were waking us up to give us more food! We are amazed that you can get half way across the world and arrive within minutes of our scheduled time but try to fly through Atlanta and you will be delayed for sure!

Our guide was waiting for us when we arrived and he got us safely to our hotel. The hotel is nice and located in the business district. He gave us lots of instructions for going out, but I think we will be saving that for tomorrow! Now we are just going to get dinner in the hotel.

I'm still trying to figure out about blogging from here, so hopefully this will post okay! We will update tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We are at the airport!

We are at the airport waiting to board our first plane! We got up at 3:00 am to be at the airport by 4:00 for our 6:00 am flight. We are so excited this morning and ready to go! Even Hanna is wide awake. We know that there are so many of you following along and praying for us as we make our way toward Rylee and we appreciate knowing that you are "here" with us. As the time gets closer we focus in on how many changes Rylee has coming in the next few weeks and we hope that it won't be long before she knows that she is safe and loved with us! Now we are off to board the first plane!


We have made it to the Newark airport and everything looks good for our flight to Beijing. We were checking the monitor and Hanna said "look Mom there it is, there it is!! BEIJING! MOM, do you think there will be a lot of Chinese people there?" Pat and I both started laughing - she gave us that "7 almost 8" year old look of exasperation and said "I mean on the plane!!!" lol!!
We gave her a CD player to bring and she has her own music, so for the last two days she has been wearing it around the house, singing along to Hanna Montana and High School Musical with gusto and well... lets just say we hope people seated around us have brought their own ear plugs! We haven't yet had the heart to tell her she has inherited her parents musical talent... maybe her cuteness will make up for the off key singing, right now she is just mouthing the words, dancing in her seat and having a great time!
Next stop Beijing!!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

We have an Itinerary!

I think we have finalized the details of our trip as much as possible and can hardly believe that we will be leaving in a little over one week! We will be leaving early Wednesday Morning (10/24) and arriving in Beijing on 10/25. Here are the details (click on the links to see where we will be):

10/25 arrive Beijing
10/26 Tour the Great Wall
10/27 Tour Hu Tong, Tian'an Square, and Forbidden City
10/28 Fly to Nanchang and meet Rylee at 5:30 pm
10/29 Civil Affairs to finish paperwork
10/30 Free Day
10/31 Tour Teng Wang Villa
11/1 Free Day
11/2 Fly to Guangzhou
11/3 Medical appointment for Rylee, Pearl River Dinner Cruise
11/4 Six Banyan Temple
11/5 Consulate Appointment
11/6 Pick up visa for Rylee
11/7 Fly home

Things are pretty crazy right now with the whole move and all. Since we are so close to traveling we have had to keep Birmingham as our permanent address until we get Rylee home, but we have been in Myrtle Beach trying to get everything settled so that Rylee doesn't have to do two moves so close together. I think it will be nice living so close to the beach, I can just imagine the girls playing on the beach and collecting shells together. We sure will miss our "Birmingham family" though, but can't wait for Rylee to meet y'all - she is sure to love you as much as we do!