Thursday, May 31, 2007

We're Heading to Guangzhou!!

Farewell from Fuzhou

Keep in mind that these photos were taken while strolling the park, after breakfast, but before a shower, and BEFORE make-up!! Oakley was still in her pajamas. There is a beautiful park across the street from our hotel -- it's huge, peaceful and serene with waterfalls, bonsai trees and trails lined with bamboo. I'd love to post pictures for you but I've been threatened with my life if I post photos of scenery instead of Oakley:)! We intended to take a short walk, but ending up touring the park for hours!
In the morning, the park is full of people exercising, dancing, and singing. The locals are very curious and some will approach us and try to ask us questions. The children seem to love trying their English out and most will greet us with a "hello".

We are packing this morning to head to Guangzhou. We are excited to be preparing for the last leg of our journey, but it's bittersweet. We'll be taking Oakley from her province, from the only home she's ever known, and from the land of her birth mother. We vow to love and cherish this little girl forever -- she is our own.
Please keep us in your prayers as we travel by plane with Oakley. We have no idea what to expect for this two-hour flight and we hope it goes well.
Sullivan and Hagan:
Hey guys, Oakley let me give her a bath today. A huge step toward her and I bonding. Oh...did I mention that I fed her Smarties through the process? We must do what we must to make things work. I am really missing both of you very much and I can not wait to get home to see you. Maybe we can head to the lake next weekend if the weather permits. Sawyer sends his hello as well. I think he is getting anxious to get back home and we are tired of eating mystery meals. I also think he is missing his late night conversations with Molly. We do know that our dinner last night included frog and probably the entire frog. Sawyer and I know that we will be stronger through all of this. Sullivan, the next time you are offered an opportunity to send us a message you better take advantage of it. We need to hear from you like we are hearing from Hagan. See you guys soon.
Love, Dad

Orphanage Visit

I'm so sorry I didn't post yesterday, and I thank everyone who emailed me to express their concern! Michael and Sawyer took the camera and visited the Zhangzhou Welfare Institute, the orphanage where Oakley spent the first 33 months of her life. Our guide helped us arrange the visit, which was not scheduled prior to this week. I'm thankful that the director granted our request because it's so important to us that we see Oakley's first "home."

I had intended all along to take her back to visit, but Michael and Sawyer were both really concerned that she would regress. She's doing so remarkably well -- we didn't want to chance a setback. After much prayer and soul-searching, I decided to remain at the hotel with Oakley. I hope I don't live to regret the decision -- I'm so torn on whether or not it might have provided a sense of closure for her.

Michael and Sawyer both feel good about the decision made. They returned late yesterday afternoon (it was an eight-hour round-trip venture) physically and emotionally exhausted. There are not many children left in the orphanage. I think it was really difficult for both of them to see the conditions where she spent her most formative years. Michael marvels at how she survived that experience and how she still managed to develop such a radiant personality. They were not able to visit her finding spot because it was much further out in the rural county. However, we did receive her "finding outfit" on Gotcha Day, along with the first photo ever taken of her and the disposable camera we sent in her care package.

Upon arrival, they were well-received by the orphanage staff and invited to take photos. They were able to get a photo of her crib and the director gave us the identification tag off of it. They also took a photo of her favorite piece of playground equipment and it looks something like a stairstepper. We took photos of all the children in the orphanage, but out of respect for them and their waiting families, we will not post individual photos publicly. I have shared them on our Zhangzhou Welfare Institute yahoo group so the families waiting can see their beautiful babies.

During the visit, they found out that Oakley attended kindergarten (pre-school) six days a week and she cried on Sundays when the school was closed. I'm sure it was a great relief to her to be mentally stimulated and challenged and we clearly see her love of learning. Not only has she picked up quite an english vocabulary already, but she's teaching us some Chinese as well. Our guide thinks she speaks the local dialect and not mandarin. I do know that when we're out and Chinese people approach her and start firing questions at her, she shuts down and refuses to respond. I catch the word "Mama" a lot, so maybe they're asking her if she's been abducted or if this strange looking American is her Mama. Last night we had dinner in town and a Chinese man said hello to her in english and she responded with "Ni Hao," so she does know some Mandarin.

She continues to amaze us and I thank God for uniting us with her. She blossoms more each day and I pray for every child still remaining in orphanage care to receive a forever family. They so desperately need the love, care, and nurturing that only family can provide. This afternoon I compared photos of Oakley at the Civil Affairs office on Gotcha Day, one of her three hours after we got her, and one of her three days after we got her.

A child transformed by love.
Sullivan and Hagan:
School is over -- woo hoo -- and summer break is here! We can't wait to get home and start our summer vacation. It's going to be so wonderful to have our family all together and I think Oakley is going to love going out on the boat. We have a lake right across from our hotel and she points to it now and says "water". Hagan, I know you were worried about how we were going to communicate with her, but I'm telling you, she gets her point across and she learns so quickly. Start choosing some books for her with easy pictures because it's a great way for her to learn to associate words and objects. We're still working on her manners and she's come along way. She doesn't say thank you very much but she'll remind you to say it, and she reminds you in Chinese and in English.
We love and miss you guys SOOOO much!!
Mom and Dad, Sawyer and Oakley

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Xinxiang (Oakley) and Her Umbrellas

Need I say more?

Touring Fuzhou

Isabel, our trusty guide, picked us up at 9:30 this morning and we headed to the zoo. I have mixed feelings about zoos in general, but the conditions here were really sad. I don't want to say too much, but let it suffice that we all left feeling pretty depressed. Sawyer noted that Hagan would not have been able to take it -- he's got such a tender heart where animals are concerned, and we're glad he wasn't there to witness the things we saw.

On the upside, we did see a really great seal show that we all really enjoyed. Oakley was in a fantastic mood and she was content to walk hand-in-hand most of the day. She was such a trooper, despite the 90 degree temperature and high humidity.

She wanted to carry her backpack today and she calls it Be Bo. It's now her new favorite obsession. She loves anything that it is her own and she packs it as full as she can with all of her toys, her sippy cup, her books, her photo album and her baby. She had it so full this afternoon that she could barely walk without falling over backward. She loves to get things in and out of it and she always knows exactly what's in it and what's missing.

After the zoo we toured a Buddhist Temple, built in 867. The grounds were breathtaking and we were in awe of the architecture. I think this was Sawyer's favorite tour thus far. We walked through the oldest temple in the world; it was huge, housing 5,000 monks at one time. It was so peaceful and serene. Their were many people there worshipping Buddha and although I respect their beliefs, I walked through the grounds thanking God for his blessings: for the little girl walking beside me, for Michael and Sawyer for experiencing this journey with me; for my boys at home waiting patiently for us to return with their little sister, and for my family and friends who have been cheering us on every step of the way.

When playing in the hotel room, Oakley puts all of her things away on the little counter we've set aside for her belongings. She stacks her books, sits her bear up, stacks her movies, and has a special spot for her Cheerios container (which she loves), her radio and her coloring book and crayons. She's a neat freak - YEAHHHH!! I realize this may be short-lived, but while living in such tight quarters, it's been quite a treat.

She also loves to have a hair barrette in her hair, although at present, only the alligator clip kind will stay in. She missed her nap this afternoon and she was so tired this evening that she kind of shut down on us. She had her little ladybug nightgown on and insisted on wearing her shoes, her backpack and her barrette, and she walked around in a daze carrying her sippy cup. She was a sight!

Mike and Sawyer took a taxi to McDonald's (yes, we were ready for some western fare -- what a relief to know what we were eating) to pick-up dinner. I kept her awake until I could get her fed and she about fell asleep standing up. After dinner we turned the lights down and she fell asleep in my arms (not a good habit, I know) in just a matter of minutes. I feel like she deserves the chance to fall asleep in her Mama's arms and I love watching her drift off to sleep.

God has certainly answered our prayers and we are already beginning to see a different look in this beautiful baby girl's eyes. I wish she could know how much we love and cherish her. I am so very thankful that God opened her heart to us and that she is letting us shower her with kisses, hugs and attention. Sometimes I look at her and just can't believe that she is ours -- what a precious gift!

Hagan and Sullivan:

Don't let everyone know, but although your little sister is great, she does have some bad habits that we are working on. She will blow her nose whether or not you have a tissue ready -- yuck! She will also spit food out if she doesn't like it or if she sees something else that she'd rather have. And yesterday, while sitting on the potty, she leaned over and spit on the floor!! We have taught her to cover her mouth when she coughs (most of the time), and we'll work on the other things. Today I let go of her hand so Dad could take a picture of me and Sawyer in front of a huge temple and she got so angry that she threw her backpack on the ground! She does have a little temper, but I guess we all do at times. And I'm sure she's still trying to figure everything out. For the most part she is sweet, loving, and REALLY funny!! She loves to act like she's scared of her teddy bear of little stuffed dog and she'll back away saying something in Chinese, and then laugh and laugh. She's going to love having two more brothers to play with!

we love you!!

Mom and Dad

Dancing to Her Own Beat

She LOVES her Fisher Price "radio" and she's actually learned some of the words to Wheels on the Bus, Patty Cake, and If Your Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands. But the funniest thing we've ever heard is her trying to sing This Little Piggy Went to Market because she shouts, "wing, wing, wing" all the way home.

She has choreographed her own dance moves and Sawyer has become her favorite audience and cheerleader -- he laughs at everything she does and she is thriving with all the attention. She's so silly and she has a great sense of humor.

You may think the photo of her hugging the teddy bear is sweet, but she actually bit his nose and then laughed hysterically before tossing him to the floor.

We fall more and more in love with her each day, if that's possible.

Monday, May 28, 2007

This Is How We Spent Our Day with Oakley

I was worried that when Oakley woke up this morning she'd be terrified, or angry, or sad, or all of the aforementioned combined. She was quiet, but smiled readily and she eased into the day with bravery. She's become somewhat of a "velcro baby," and if we venture out anywhere, I have to be holding her or she falls to pieces. She's great in the room and will walk around on her own, exploring her toys and bringing Sawyer books to read, but the moment we head out, she holds her arms up to be held and if I try to put her down to hold her hand, she gets hysterical, cries and does this floppy arm dance thing. She won't let Michael or Sawyer hold her yet if we're out of the room, but she's interacting really well with them both and will let them blow her nose (which we do A LOT), feed her, play with her, help her with her shoes, etc. We took a walk this evening and tried the stroller but she was having none of that. We would have probably gone farther, but my arm was ready to fall off and I didn't have the hip hammock with us. Lesson learned.

We had an appointment with the notary this morning, and promised once again, to take care of her, never abandon her, educate her and make sure she receives medical attention. It only lasted a few moments and then we did a little shopping. Michael tried to take pictures in Wal-Mart, but security came after him and the camera was quickly put away. It's SO VERY different from any Wal-Mart in the states and it's four stories tall. You have to see it to believe it, especially the meat and seafood departments. We bought Oakley a new pair of shoes but she still wants to keep her other ones on at all times -- ALL TIMES. She finally took them off on her own this evening right before she fell asleep in my arms.

She has a bad cough (mostly at night), some funky green snot, and yesterday she had a fever. We started her on antiobiotics immediately and she seems to be improving. She's a champ about taking her medicine and brushing her teeth, which I suspect hasn't happened too often in the past. Her teeth are not in really bad shape but she has some dark spots on the front top two. As you can see, she also have somewhat of an overbite and I'm guessing that's because she sucks her pointer finger to fall asleep. She turns her hand palm up when she does it and thus, pushes outward on her teeth. We know when she's getting sleepy because her finger stays in her mouth. She kept it there pretty much all day yesterday (I'm sure she was comforting herself), but much less today. She's a doll baby and we are totally smitten with her.

We are doing great and it's hard to believe we've had her less than 36 hours. Her personality is shining through and she's pretty silly. She LOVES to read books and I wish we'd brought more. Sawyer is teaching her all the body parts and she will readily say nose, ears, eyes, hair, lips, teeth and hands. She also knows baby and bye-bye (complete with a wave) and uses them appropriately. She's AMAZING!! We met a couple from Switzerland this evening in the hotel lobby and they just received their beautiful 9-month-old baby girl yesterday. Oakley completely turned on for them and they were astounded by what she can do and say. I know I sound like a bragging Mom, but my gosh, she learns so quickly.

I've posted some photos that show her pointing out her body parts to Sawyer ... too cute. If the photos are out of whack it's because I haven't been able to view our blog all day. I'm not sure what's up, but I hope I can at least get this to post.

Can't wait to see what's in store for us tomorrow!! Love to you all, and many thanks for the comments. It's wonderful to know that so many people are following our journey and rejoicing with us in our blessings!!

Love from Fuzhou!

Sullivan and Hagan:

You better get ready, because your little sister is too funny! Tonight she finished a bowl of dry cheerios, then put the little bowl on her head, walked to the mirror to see herself, and busted out laughing. She still gets really sad sometimes, but overall, she's doing really, really well. Sullivan, they had a bunch of fish tanks in Wal-Mart with fish as big as your leg! They also had cow stomach, dried fish heads, and lots of things we couldn't recognize. Hagan, we sure miss you and I hope you had a wonderful time on the boat and were successful in your fishing expedition. I'm sure you didn't catch anything as big as the fish we saw in Wal-Mart today -- that was CRAZY!! We miss you both so much and can't wait for you to see your little sister in person.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


It was the MOST surreal experience of my life.
We met Isabel, our guide, in the lobby a little before 11am and she told me she needed to speak with me. Seems there had been a change of plans, and we were not only going to sign the Authorized Guardian Agreement on Harmonization Period, but we were going to actually finalize the adoption procedure this morning. That meant we needed to have our gifts ready for the orphanage staff and the civil affairs official, and we needed to have our donation ready and the registration fee ready. Luckily, I had prepared the gifts last night and we had the donation money ready. However, we quickly scrambled to convert the registration fees from US to RMB. I know you all aren't really interested in all this, but it helps me to lay the groundwork and keep track of everything:).

After that was taken care of, we left for the Civil Affairs office, which was just at 10-minute drive from the hotel. Sawyer couldn't quit smiling, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, and Michael was being his usual supportive self. When we arrived we were ushered into a small room and Oakley was sitting on a couch with two of the nannies. Mike said it was like they had plucked her from one of the photos we have and sat her before us. UNREAL!! I sat down beside her and the nanny told her I was her Mama, which Oakley repeated. She had the little photo album in her hand and as the nanny would flip the pages, Oakley would say Mama, Papa, GeGe (big brother), etc.

Michael and I were quickly asked to sit at the desk to complete the paperwork with Jack, director of the Fujian International Adoption Service Center. He was WONDERFUL and both Michael and I liked him immediately. It was really hard for me to concentrate on what he was saying and the process was moving so fast. I kept turning around to see Oakley and she was interacting so well with Sawyer. He was taking photos for us and had given her the new photo album we had prepared. She called out each of our names, smiling each time, and was SO HAPPY to see the new photos of Caeleigh. Her little face would shine each time she shouted out her own name and Caeleigh's name. It was REALLY hard for me to focus on the formal proceedings when all I wanted to do was scoop her up in my arms. They gave us her finding ad and a little gold bag containing a beautiful silver locket necklace that stands for Security, Prosperity and Longevity. Inside the locket is a little scroll with her birth date, Gotcha date, and the orphanage's email address. It is a beautiful gift and we will treasure it forever.

We were asked why we wanted to adopt a baby from China, what kind of education she would receive, if she would receive medical care when needed and if we would promise to never abandon her and love her like our own. ABSOLUTELY!! He asked if we were comfortable signing the registration papers even though we didn't have the customary harmonization period. ABSOLUTELY. Nothing could ever make us change our minds -- she is our daughter!! our daughter .......

She cried only for a moment when I tried to pick her up to leave. We were driven to another office to take the family photo and I felt really sad that she wasn't able to say goodbye to her nannies. I'm sure they ushered us out so quickly to prevent a scene, but it breaks my heart because I know she was loved deeply there and I know they must be grieving her loss, just as she is grieving for them.

That being said, it has been so much more wonderful than I ever imagined. I truly had prepared myself for the worst, and it has been the best!! She sat in my lap on the way back to the hotel with her arm around my shoulder. I don't want to make you think that all is wonderful with her because there are long periods of melancholy and vacant looks. But she smiled for us immediately and is responding well to all three of us. And she is BEAUTIFUL and so very smart!! I could go on and on, but I'll try to keep this brief. Sawyer has been looking at books with her and she will repeat every word he says -- baby, truck, ball, bird, etc., and will point to the picture as she says it. I read I Love You Like Crazy Cakes to her and I would point to the Mama's nose, and say nose. She would repeat the word nose and point to her own nose, then smile so proudly. Smart, I tell you. And did I mention that she's beautiful?

She has danced for us, has eaten well (loves Goldfish and watermelon), and is drinking well. And Carter, one of the sippy cups you gave her has become her security blanket. You can see it in most every photo and she fell asleep with it at naptime today, refusing to give it up. She's napping now on the bed and she sucks her finger when she sleeps. She is completely potty trained and hasn't had an accident yet. She knows to wash her hands after she potties and she LOVES it, smiling each time we make a trip to the sink.

She's had her first bath and although she didn't play, she didn't make a fuss, even when I washed her hair. I had to post photos of the shirt and shoes she came to us in. Sawyer got a big kick out of the shirt -- I'm not sure what to think of it. The shoes are brand new and really cute. She's wearing the 3T clothes we brought and they fit her perfectly.

Sawyer is enamored with her and she seems to adore him as well. She gives him a big smile after he takes the picture. We can't wait for her to meet her other brothers. I'm posting several photos from the day. You'll see for yourself the many expressions we have seen. I'm hoping that as she becomes more secure she'll lose those sad eyes. She is brave beyond words and has only cried briefly -- I know she is scared and I doubt that the grieving has even begun. We will love her through it and feel blessed beyond words to be able to parent this precious child.

Sullivan and Hagan:

You are going to LOVE her!! She loves books and she likes to play. I can't wait for her to have two big brothers to watch out for her. She will say both of your names when we point to the photos in her albums, although Sullivan sounds somewhat like "Shu-shin." We'll post more photos tomorrow. Just email me if you have any questions you want to ask. We're telling her all about you!!