Saying Farewell to Lanzhou

The past two days have allowed us a little more time to get to know the city of Lanzhou while continuing to learn about our sweet Ada.  This is a picture-laden post as I think the images tell more about the day’s experiences than my words can. Yesterday we spent the morning at Five Springs Park and had dinner at a Hot Pot restaurant.

Practicing calligraphy in the park.  The artist then allowed our guide to do each of our kiddos' names.
Practicing calligraphy in the park. The artist then allowed our guide to do each of our kiddos’ names.
These ladies took a break from Tai Chi to ask about us.  Most people stare, some strike up a conversation.
These ladies took a break from Tai Chi to ask about us. Most people stare, some strike up a conversation.

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Mark and Kit joined a sort of hanky sak type of game.  They were really impressed with their chest bumps!
Mark and Kit joined a sort of hacky sak type of game. They were really impressed with their chest bumps!
Why not wear a bubble hat while doing an exercise machine?
Why not wear a bubble hat while doing an exercise machine?
The monk on his iPhone at the temple in the park.
The monk on his iPhone at the temple in the park.
Ada laughing at Daddy during our walk through the zoo.
Ada laughing at Daddy during our walk through the zoo.
Hot Pot! We are pretty much the only westerners anywhere we go.  At this restaurant, our table had 2-3 attendants the whole time...and English translator, the lady who was afraid we'd burn ourselves, and a general audience amused at our lack of experience.
Hot Pot! We are pretty much the only westerners anywhere we go. At this restaurant, our table had 2-3 attendants the whole time…an English translator, the lady who was afraid we’d burn ourselves, and a general audience amused at our lack of experience.
Quite the little eater, we were told she only ate 2x a day...but she's cut back tremendously on the bottle and is trying every food item we offer her!
Quite the little eater, we were told she only ate 2x a day…but she’s cut back tremendously on the bottle and is trying every food item we offer her!

Today’s free day allowed me to rest in our hotel room (recovering from said hot pot dinner) while Mark and the Nowlins adventured across town to a market with crafts specific to Ada’s region of Gansu.  Lanzhou is the capital of the province, Gansu, so all of the official paperwork had to be completed here.  Ada’s birth town is about 8 hrs by bus from Lanzhou so we won’t have the opportunity to visit it this trip.  We hope to return with her when she is older, if that is something she seeks to do.

At least a dozen different kinds of eggs at the market.  I was severely scolded for taking this picture...not really sure why. Sorry grumpy egg sorting lady!
At least a dozen different kinds of eggs at the market. I was severely scolded for taking this picture…not really sure why. Sorry grumpy egg sorting lady!
Noodles are typical to Lanzhou cuisine, in fact there is a guy who hand pulls them for the breakfast buffet while you wait.
Noodles are typical to Lanzhou cuisine, in fact there is a guy who hand pulls them for the breakfast buffet while you wait.

Tomorrow we board a plane for Guangzhou in the south.  There we will finish up with paperwork and get Ada’s U.S. Visa….and head home!  We miss our boys tremendously, but they seem happily occupied with Mimi and Pops, their cousins and lots of love!  Thanks to everyone for continuing to pray for us!

Getting to know you

Monday afternoon, after a long nap, Ada perked up quite a bit!  We went with our friends, Kit and Jennifer, and their son Jake, for a walk around the block and then to dinner.  Ada was taking in the sights, smells and sounds from the safety of her Daddy’s arms.

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Not sure what these guys were playing, but it looked intense!

Later we meandered into a restaurant for some dinner (from a menu with pictures, yay!)  And sweet baby Ada ate up half a bowl of rice off the end of Mark’s chopsticks!  Little baby bird style.  She’s proving to be quite the little eater.

imageShe was up too late following the excitement of giggling over her brothers on FaceTime.  Ada loves to laugh, and we love to hear it!

Today started with a trip to the Waterwheel Park and then the Gansu Natural History Museum.  Our guides are very knowledgeable and it was interesting to hear history of this region.  Lanzhou straddles the Yellow River and was a major trade point along the Silk Road.  Even now, it is considered a “Migrant city” with many residents originating from other regions.

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This man was demonstrating the use of a sheepskin raft, he actually filled up the skins by blowing on them and tying them off!
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In front of the mother Yellow River…which should bless us with babies 😉

Thankfully we didn’t have to cross the river on a sheepskin raft although it looked intriguing!

Ada and her buddy, Jake
Ada and her buddy, Jake

While at the museum, Ada started squirming to get out of my lap (a first) and popped up into standing while grasping my fingers!  She then wanted next to her friend, Jake.  She soon fell asleep on our tour of the exhibits.

This one is for the boys!
This one is for the boys!

After some yummy Lanzhou beef noodles (two platefuls for the baby bird), she napped at the hotel curled up next to me.  Our Albuquerque friends had tried to set us up for a meeting with the Director of Foreign Affairs as they are friends and our cities are “sister cities.”  Tonight we were graciously invited to dinner with the Deputy Director and his lovely assistent.  He commented that it seemed as though we three had always been a family.  Ada sweetly nibbled lotus root, lily bulb and tofu and impressed us all with her charm!

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Tomorrow’s plan is Five Springs Park and the coffee place down the street. Woo hoo!  Here’s one last smile for ya!

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Okay…two.

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The day after…

Today began with a sleepy little lady.  After sleeping all night, Ada woke up hungry and still sleepy.  So after her bottle and another call to the brothers, she fell back asleep and we took shifts for breakfast.  Poor baby still has a fever and a general “nothing is quite right” kind of attitude.  She gives us glimpses of her playful and opinionated personality, usually the first hour following her Tylenol dose but then is back to averting her eyes from others’ glances and swatting at the toys we hoped would entertain her.  And though this is not easy (caring for a sick baby who’s world has been turned upside down… while being a bit upside down yourself) she is showing preference for us over others.  And it is sweet… reassuring even.  The truth is, yesterday felt like I was prayerfully persevering to care for her, whereas today feels more like I’m caring for her in love.  Love is growing, our love for her is changing.  please pray with us as we learn how to best love our sweet Ada and as she learns to trust us.

We prepared the gifts for the orphanage caregivers today before leaving our hotel.  Of course along with two other bags, the baby carrier, the baby and necessary paperwork we left the gifts in the hotel.  Eh, no worries, we got them delivered this afternoon.

IMG_7161Then we went to the Civil Affairs office for a morning of paperwork, and fingerprinting and our repeated assurance to love and care for Ada always.  When awake, our little lady wants us holding her and moving around.  No sitting! And heaven forbid we let the guide or other orphanage workers attempt to make her smile… she won’t have it!IMG_7185

IMG_7169And remember how we had to have that Happy Family photo yesterday?  It turned out like this…

IMG_7168Oh yeah, pretty happy.  I look about as thrilled with the photographer’s clucking sounds and flashing lights as Ada does.  Only Mark had a good humor about the whole thing.  He’s a happy guy to have around and I’m so thankful for his laughs and joyful attitude!

After time with 3 other families at civil affairs, we were driven to the Police Station for passports and more photos… this time it wasn’t so bad!

IMG_7191She even gave Daddy a few smiles! Who can resist this silly Daddy?

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She gobbled up a lunch of congee and kept Mark and I two-stepping around the room for over an hour while she fell asleep in our arms.  There was no sitting down on the job!  My goodness, she’s already got us wrapped around her little finger.  She’s still out now and Mark is headed out to do some laundry equipped with a quick lesson from Google translate. Fingers crossed!

We’ve got a bit more paperwork this evening and then the rest of our days in Lanzhou should be a bit more touristy and less official.  We leave for Guangzhou on Friday for another week of official paperwork and official waiting. 😉

Family Day (aka Gotcha Day)

My day started early, multiple times over and again between 2am and 4am when I finally surrendered.  We had a quick bite at our hotel in Beijing and all three families headed to the airport for our final destinations.  We and one other family took off on a 2 hour flight to Lanzhou, the capital of our daughter’s province where we were set to meet Ada and finalize our adoption paperwork.  This is both our families’ first adoption and it is wonderfully sweet to have a grace-filled sounding board and cheering squad at the ready when needed!  Praise God for planning this trip as He did.  We were given two cribs though, hmmm.IMG_7027 We were told that we’d meet our children at the hotel when they arrived between 1-2pm and to wait in our room for a phone call.  Well, I was antsy but the phone finally rang and we made our way to the Western Restaurant of our hotel.  A few moments later, there was our guide and a couple of nannies (Orphanage caregivers) one of whom was holding our daughter.  I could only see the back of her head, but she eventually gave us a glance…. IMG_7036And as much as I wanted her to reach out to me (and say Mama and act like we’d always been mother and daughter) she didn’t.  Let me stop here and say I didn’t think that was my expectation, but when she fussed and cried and made it evident she wanted to be no where near me or Mark it dawned on me that I thought it’d be easier!

Ada wanting no part of this situation and me trying to ask my questions to her caregivers
Ada wanting no part of this situation and me trying to ask my questions to her caregivers

Later Mark and I discussed the fact that it is good news that her separation from her nannies was so hard. They obviously cared for her and she was attached to them despite all the transitions she’s made in her short life.  The orphanage director walked in and straight away handed Ada to me… IMG_7064She didn’t seem too perturbed by the situation of being in a stranger’s arms but she seemed warm and angry-tired.  She was fighting off sleep and she kept making attempts at waving it off or groaning the urge to sleep away.  She finally succumb to rest in her Daddy’s arms for a few minutes before we headed out once again for an official police picture (I might have not fully been paying attention to explanations at this point). IMG_7076 All I do know is they needed her by herself and happy… and it wasn’t happening folks!  As a wonderfully wise and honest Grandma once said, there just aren’t any “mamby-pamby” children in this family. Ada certainly holds true to that characteristic, she has opinions and makes them known!  We survived many out-takes with prayer and giving her water out of a bottle cap, and made it back to the hotel for a long nap.  Well deserved after her 8 hour van ride into Lanzhou this morning.

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She was super sweet in Daddy’s arms for her first bottle.

IMG_7112And soon after with Daddy for her first bath after her first overwhelming spit up on Mama.  Thankfully this isn’t our first rodeo, folks, and we are gonna work hard to love her well and get her well soon.     

imageWe got to chat with the brothers.  J kept telling her “Ada, I wuv you.”. And occasionally said, “Ada, brown eyes too!”. He’s excited for another brown eyed family member.  We are too, Buddy!

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It was time for bed.  She slept all night…. all night and is still quite sleepy this morning.  Please pray we can get her fever down and feed her successfully too.  She’s pretty adamant about not taking the medicine, so its time for some creative parent strategy with solving that one.

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imageShe’s our truly adorable Ada, and we are blessed to finally be holding her.

 

Beijing Day 2

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I woke up this morning with a song stuck in my head which kept playing on repeat throughout the day, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love ya, tomorrow. You’re only a day away!”  It was tough with tomorrow on my mind, but we were happily distracted as we walked through a beautiful day in Beijing.  Yes, it has been warm (okay, hot) and no, ice is not typically found when you’d most like to have it.  But, it was a lovely day with glorious people watching and pieces of history and bits of the beauty of the Chinese culture all around us.

Our day started with a trip to Tiananmen Square where we as a group posed before crossing the street to the entrance of the Forbidden City.  I think Janet and I are the only ones who heard our guide say “Silly picture!”

IMG_6766There were many, many people at our Beijing destinations today.  It made for some great photos and friendly interactions.IMG_6795

IMG_6824After the Forbidden City, we had a quick bite and spent the afternoon at the Summer Palace. The breeze was certainly better at this location on a lake, and the details of this palace are truly gorgeous.

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IMG_6946This was Summer, our guide for the day.  She and the other families made today truly special….but tomorrow is the day we meet and hold our little girl!

Please pray for us.  That our hearts would be peaceful and that our faces would reflect that Christ-given peace.  That our Ada would be willing to get to know us, and eventually trust and delight in us as her parents.  And please pray for the Nowlin and Mylin families who will also meet their kids either tomorrow or Monday, that they too would walk in peace as they unite with their children.

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Beijing Day 1

Getting over jet lag meant hittin’ the ground runnin’ and at The Great Wall in China….that meant lots of stairs!  As you ascend all these steps you subconsciously think you’re about to hit the “wall” part of The Wall.  But ya’ll, there is not a flat top to this masterful piece of border defense.  I can only image the quad muscles the soldiers who guarded here must have had!

image The best part of our time here in Beijing is getting to know the other wonderful families from our agency waiting to meet their kids this weekend too.  There are three families in Beijing and we will meet up with two others in Guangzhou.  One of the other families is adopting a little boy from Ada’s orphanage.  He even has the same special need as our daughter, a bilateral cleft lip and palate.  What a blessing to have these other families here!

image  Next we spent some time at the Olympic Park wandering around the grounds and past architectural genius such as the “Bird’s Nest” or Olympic Stadium.

image  Needing a caffeine boost to get us through the late afternoon we were taken to a tea house.  At Dr.Tea, we had a brief education on the types, preparation and techniques for drinking various teas.  Here Mark and Kit demonstrate the manly way to hold a cup of tea with “dragon power.”  Close those fingers, men!  Our tea hostess threatened to call them “lady men” if they left their fingers open.image Here Janet and Lucy demonstrate proper ladylike tea drinking technique.  Fingers out, my dears!  Tomorrow promises a whirlwind tour of the Forbidden City and Summer Palace, just one more day til we have our Ada with us!  I’m glad they’re keeping us distracted and awake!!

We made it!

The literal journey began for us on Tuesday flying from Albuquerque to Houston.  Our three little guys were excited to see their Mimi and Pops and of course their Texas cousins!

imageThe little dudes were entertained watching C130s and Black Hawks at the air field as we waited to board.

image They did a  pretty great job on the plane (our 19 month-old little guy is not easy in confined spaces).  Thankfully Southwest has a rather family friendly approach to flying, we haven’t been kicked off a plane yet!  Mark and I got a few zzzz’s after Mimi fed us and helped put the kiddos to bed.  Oh how I miss those boys already!!

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We stared at the back of this seat from Houston to San Francisco (with one thing on my mind), and made a swift connection to arrive in Beijing late afternoon on Thurs.  When jet lagged, let me recommend getting yourself somewhat lost in order to stay awake.  It helps if you find amazing dumplings along the way.

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We are closer than ever before to our Ada!  Here is a pic of her just about 2 weeks ago when she returned to her orphanage.  We had ordered a little party to celebrate coming to get her, but I’d hardly call this cake little!! Glad there was plenty to share!

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One more night in the southwest

We’ve got just one more night in our beds.  After tonight, the next time we will  be sleeping under this roof, we will have all four of our kiddos together!  I have no idea where exactly we will be laying our heads, but I’m thinking that’ll work itself out as we get to know our daughter.  For now our plan is Co-sleeping with Ada.  In the midst of packing, the one thing I’m consciously trying to leave at a home is any expectation.  Sort of reminds me of the birth of my boys, right?  I mean, you write out a birth plan (especially with the first) and maybe you even prep for the second with some greatly helpful (though not fully successful) birth hypnosis, and by the time the contractions have lasted 10 + hours….you just want the little dude out of your body and into your arms! For the love!  Anyway, expectations never helped get those little guys from womb to bassinet.  Prayer, effort and flexibility were the most important things on those journeys, I’m thinking the same applies here.  IMG_3208

Despite my “expectations out the window” approach to all this, I still felt an urge to do some nesting.  Thankfully I had Mimi and Pops around to assist with some picture hanging and crib skirt sewing!  It felt like purposeful waiting…although this week I should probably be packing rather than hanging paper lanterns!  Though we will try to keep Ada near us for bedtime bonding, it is nice to have a place that is all her’s (and a place for all those adorable girl clothes!)

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For those who are interested in our adoption timeline here is a brief overview:

November 2012- Initiated process

July 2013- Home Study Completed

October 2013- USCIS

November 2013- Had our third son (put everything “on hold”)

January 3, 2014- Dossier to China

February 17, 2014- Logged In to CCCWA (in China)

November 2014- Home Study Update, Update of USCIS approval

December 2014- Officially waiting to be matched

May 5, 2015- Received Referral!!  (May 8-found out she had surgery May 4)

May 18, 2015- Referral Acceptance received

July 6, 2015- Travel Approval phone call

July 22-Aug 6, 2015- Travel to China  AND July 26-Family Day!

 

 

Ready or not…

…here we go!  After days of waiting, weeks of hoping and years of praying we are on our way to hold our sweet Ada!  Thank you to everyone who made it a possibility through prayer and encouragement!  We hope to keep you updated as we head to China this Wednesday.  If all goes according to plan, our daughter will be in our arms on Sunday July 26th.  Please pray for:

-the boys who are staying with their Mimi and Pops in Houston (that they’d be happily occupied with cousin-time)

-us, that we’d be grace-filled and compassionate, ready to love our daughter and each other well across the globe

-Ada, that she’d quickly feel comfortable around us and ready to trust us (and that we might get a smile that first day!)