Monday, June 25, 2007

Look Mom ... No Cavities!

This afternoon Oakley visited Dr. Lange for her very first dental appointment. She acted like an old pro, despite the fact that I don't think her teeth had ever even been brushed before Gotcha Day. She had lots of tarter build-up, lots of staining and some discoloration. But she climbed up in the chair, donned her little "Finding Nemo" apron, opened her mouth wide like a champ, and let the hygienist scrape and polish her teeth til the sparkle! She didn't even resist the fluoride treatment, which I personally detest!

She is so proud of her pearly whites and I'm amazed at how great her teeth look now. And best of all ... no cavities!! Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take my camera, so I only have a Polaroid to capture her first dental appointment. But man, what a sweet smile my little girl has. It lights up our world!

And I asked Dr. Lange if I need to try to deter the finger-sucking at night and he said not to worry about it for the time being. I told him I'd be sending him her orthodontist bill.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Water Baby

Oakley has taken to water like a little fish. Not only do we have to coax her out of the bathtub now, but we've been swimming several times and we even took her boating last weekend. I was afraid she'd throw a fit over the lifejacket because they aren't the most comfortable thing to wear, but she was SO PROUD of it! The boys love to tube and she cheered them on with a happy "Woo Hoo!" She wasn't crazy about going fast. She didn't cry, but she did sit in my lap with her head on my chest and hold on for dear life.

We pulled into a cove and had a picnic lunch and then the boys jumped in to swim. It was SO HOT and although I hadn't planned on getting in, I threw on a safety belt and jumped in just to cool off. Well, that's all it took. Oakley decided she wanted to join me and she held out her arms and came right in with me. Although she had her lifejacket on, she didn't want me to let go. As long as I held her with both arms, she was one happy camper. Brave, I tell you, this little girl is brave.

We don't have a pool at home and it's been so hot lately! Last week Mike set up the sprinkler in the front yard for the kids. Sullivan and Hagan played in it and chased each other around with water balloons. Oakley, however, wasn't crazy about the sprinkler, so we dragged out one of the snow saucers from the garage and filled it up with water. She was happy as a clam. She played contentedly for about an hour in that little saucer with the garden hose and a few stacking cups.

Maybe it's time to invest in a little (bigger) plastic pool ......

I know. I know.

We visited The International Adoption Clinic this week for Oakley's first appointment with her pediatrician. She was a real trooper, despite the fact that we were there three hours and they had to draw a lot of blood. They intended to draw eight vials, but only got four before they blew veins in both of her little arms. She cried, but not too hard, and she never fought their efforts. She just buried her head in my chest and kept crying "All done? All done?"

After the fact, she was all smiles, although she would occasionally point to her arms, rattle off something in Chinese or gibberish and I would sympathize with an "I know, baby, I know." Now she points to her arms anytime she wants some attention, and sadly says, "I know. I know." Pitiful, but adorable.

Dr. Shawn Taylor was impressed (her words, not mine) with Oakley's communication skills and with all that she has learned in such a short period of time. She conducted a thorough exam and spent a lot of time learning all about Oakley. She's 37" tall and weighs 30.5 pounds. On the American charts, that places her in the 50th percentile in weight and in the 75th percentile in height. If she doesn't hit puberty early (which is apparently common in institutionalized children due to the stress they've endured), she could be 5'8" or 5'9". She really WILL be taller than anyone in our family. How awesome that she's so healthy, developmentally on target ... and cute, to boot!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Finding Her Way

It's been a little over a week since we introduced Oakley to her forever home and family and we are all adjusting really well. We had a few bumpy days - really bumpy days. She was initially jealous of Sullivan (and mean to him), which I totally didn't expect, and she was TERRIFIED of Scrabble, our springer spaniel.

I thought she'd bond with Sullivan really quickly since he's the closest in age to her, but I think she was threatened by him. She was so mean to him at first -- she wouldn't say his name although she said it readily in China, wouldn't look at him, wouldn't answer him when he asked her questions, and essentially, tried to act like he didn't exist. When he and I would cuddle, or he'd just sit next to me on the couch, she would cover her eyes with her hands and sob, and she even tried to push him away a couple of times. It was HEARTBREAKING for me to watch, and although I knew where she was coming from, I felt so sorry for Sullivan. He was trying very hard to be patient and to be a good big brother. As his eyes filled with tears at her rejection, I couldn't help but feel angry at her. And then I felt guilty for feeling angry. And then I felt like, what the heck have we done?!? Then I felt guilty again for even thinking that. Those emotions, coupled with severe jet lag, were hard to handle and I'm thankful those days were short-lived.

This was the first issue we worked on. We firmly told her "no" when she was not being nice to Sullivan and then lavished some love and attention on him. We played ring-around-the-rosie together, he played blocks with her and let her knock over his towers, he took a bubble bath with her and I sat with them while Sullivan read her bedtime story. He's now her best buddy and she gleefully shouts "Sunninan!" whenever he enters the room. She also gives him lots of spontaneous hugs and will place her little hand in his own as they sit side-by-side in the backseat of the car.

Finally, I clearly see the relationship that has blossomed and will continue to develop between them. I know they will someday argue like brother and sister and I will cherish those days too, (okay, maybe not cherish, but I'll accept them), knowing that they are finally comfortable with their new roles in this crazy thing we call family.

As for Scrabble, he came home Sunday evening, looking freshly bathed and groomed (thank you Lori!). He was beyond happy to see his boys! He sensed right away that Oakley was terrified of him and he kept his distance, never once approaching her, jumping on her, trying to kiss her, or even investigate. Despite his impeccable manners, she screamed bloody murder, hoisted her legs up as far as possible and squeezed her eyes shut every time she saw him. I know that at the orphanage she had no exposure to animals and I knew that she was scared of dogs because she cried in China the few times we happened upon one. But I had no idea she would react to Scrabble this way. She shook uncontrollably and was genuinely terrified. She did this for a few days, but after repeated assurance, after seeing the boys play with him, after hearing us all tell her what a good dog he was, she finally began to watch him wearily without shuddering or screaming. She whimpered for days anytime he came near her, but even that, too, has pretty much subsided. And this morning, she actually reached out and petted him (ever so briefly) on her own initiative -- great strides for one brave little girl.

I guess I owe Hagan $5. He bet me that she would be okay with Scrabble by the end of the week. I should have had more faith in our little girl -- I've seen first-hand the obstacles she has already overcome. I will continue to claim that jetlag temporarily skewed my reasoning. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Oakley is finding her way in our family dynamic and finding her way into the hearts of everyone who meets her. We love this little girl, who now taps her chest and smiles as she proudly exclaims, "Oakley Xinxiang!"

Thursday, June 7, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

Our journey home began at 5:30am in Guangzhou China and ended a mere 29 hours later -- home at last. We flew from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, to Newark, to New Albany, to Cleveland and finally, home to Lexington -- that's a lot of airplanes, a lot of cramped quarters, a lot of bad food, a lot of trips to a bathroom the size of my right thigh, and a lot of flying time. Oakley did remarkably well with only a few meltdowns. Believe me, if I thought it might have helped us get home any quicker, I would have had a few myself. It was an exhausting day for us all, but oh, so worth it. When we finally reached Lexington I was literally shaking with anticipation .... I couldn't wait to see my boys and our family there waiting for us. What a homecoming!!

Out of respect for Oakley, our family waited eagerly at arms length to see how she would react. She was amazing -- smiling -- naming familiar faces from her photo album. I think you could have picked my dear Mom up off the floor when she pointed to her and said "Mamaw." How could one little girl leave the only home she's ever known and in just two weeks time lovingly embrace her new family? This is truly God's hand at work. I prayed throughout this journey that Oakley's heart would be open to us and my prayers have been answered tenfold. She spontaneously give hugs and kisses and already adores all THREE of her brothers, though I think Sawyer will always hold a very special place in her heart. He was, after all, the very first to interact with her China. And I know she holds a special place in his. This child could not be more loved and cherished.

We are all feeling remarkably well, were able to sleep last night and napped again today. I was the last to go to sleep because I decided to check the blog before retiring. Not only could I not view the blog in China, but we probably only received about one-fourth of the comments left. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who followed our journey, kept us in your prayers, and left comments for us. I cried until about 3am, marvelling at our blessings and the loyal following that this sweet little girl has developed. Truly, your comments and emails will be preserved for her in a special album that chronicles her journey to her family. We are so thankful for your support and your ability to love and accept.

We came home to a refrigerator full of food, gifts for Oakley, and a clean and brightly lit dwelling. A special thanks to my family for making sure that our homecoming was warm and welcoming. We very much appreciate everyone's efforts and I will forever be grateful to Marla for taking care of our home and boys in our absence, and to Lori for taking care of Scrabble, our springer spaniel. He'll be coming home on Sunday and he's going to throw Oakley into a tailspin because she's terrified of dogs. I have no doubt, however, that he'll win her over quickly.

Oakley slept in her bed last night from about midnight until 7:30am and napped this afternoon in her bed from 11:30am until 4pm; I guess she has some catching up to do. She had a full day today playing with her brothers and they are completely taken with her. Sullivan adores her smile and Hagan loves the way she sings, dances, talks, squeals ... you name it, he loves it. She had cheerios and bananas for breakfast, watermelon (thank you, Marla), cheese and more cheerios for lunch and fried rice for dinner. She tried peanut butter and jelly for lunch, but wasn't crazy about it (Jennifer, have you been talking to her?). Peanut butter ... it's a staple food in our family. We have discovered that we can't offer watermelon WITH her entree, because then it's the ONLY thing she will eat. From here on, it's going to have to be a dessert for sweet Oakley.

After dinner we took a brief walk in the neighborhood and returned for a bath, which she loves. The first time I bathed her in China I gave her a set of stacking cups to play with and she had no idea what to do with them. She stood up to get out immediately after I washed her and we literally had to teach her how to play in the bath tub. Now it's one of her very favorite things to do and she was thrilled to play with a whole new set of toys! After her bath, she had a quick tea party with Papa'. Notice how daintily she pours the tea, and then tilts her head back and chugs it! Then we got in bed, read a book, turned the lights out, and she was asleep within minutes.

Thank you to everyone for following us halfway around the world. It's been the most amazing journey and it's only just begun! I will continue to update the blog with Oakley's escapades.

p.s. Our luggage is still somewhere out there, trying to find it's way home. We carried on all of her adoption documents and the camera, but would love to have our clothes, toiletries, souvenirs and gifts home soon. I am kicking myself for not carrying on her "finding outfit" and the disposable camera that was given to us by the orphanage staff. Maybe tomorrow we'll hear good news!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Riverboat Cruise on the Pearl River

Last night we joined our guide, David, for a riverboat cruise on the Pearl River. The Pearl River is the third largest river in China. The legend is that when it flows past Guangzhou city, it encounters a big stone island in the river, which is as smooth and round as a pearl. Hence, the name the Pearl River. It was a wonderful way to see Guanghzou's city skyline and Oakley thoroughly enjoyed going under the many bridges. David offered to order us a pizza to take aboard, but we decided to try the Chinese fare buffet and we all found something on there we could eat. Oakley was a happy camper because they had watermelon!!

We completed our final adoption business this afternoon when we travelled by bus to the US consulate to take the oath. We were there with 35 other families. I had heard that the oath is just a formality and so I wasn't expecting to get emotional, but I think Michael and I both felt such a sense of "family" -- it's really difficult to describe the wave of emotions that has overcome us these last two weeks. We received her visa following the oath, clearing her to travel home. Once she goes through immigration in Newark, Oakley is officially a US citizen!!

Tonight we are packing; our bags have to be ready and outside our door at 5:30 am. Our flight from Guangzhou departs at 8:30 and we travel to Hong Kong where we only have one hour to make our connection to Newark. We are SO READY to come home and begin our life as a family of six!! We've had a wonderful time here in China and are so thankful for our many blessings and for this precious gift that this country has bestowed upon us. But we are ready to reunite with family and friends, enjoy the comforts of western civilization and have a bowl of cereal in the morning with COLD milk.

Many thanks to all of you who have followed our journey, left comments and sent emails with words of congratulations and encouragement.

We love you all!

Farewell from China. A new journey awaits us at home!

Sullivan and Hagan:

We cannot wait to see you tomorrow night!! We love you both so very much and we hope you are waiting at the airport to greet us. Please remember that although Oakley looks really happy and well adjusted in the photos we've posted, it still takes her a long time to warm up to people and she still gets scared easily. She'll recognize you from the pictures and she will know that you are her brothers, but you're going to have to be patient and give her time to get to know and love you. Also, because we haven't yet started to call her Oakley, you might want to address her as Xinxiang (pronounced Shin- Shee-yong).

We'll call you when we get to Newark! Please pray that all of our flights are on time and that Oakley travels well. She's going to be exhausted when we get home.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Jesus Loves Me

Sorry we couldn't post yesterday .... we were experiencing technical difficulties.

We had another great day in Guangzhou and the highlight of the day was worshipping with the local Chinese people!! We attended a church service at 11am and I was moved to tears more than once. It began with a children's choir singing Jesus Loves Me in Chinese. Many more songs were sung throughout the service, about half in English and half in Chinese. The sermon was translated, and although it was difficult to understand, and quite lengthy (2 hours!), it was an experience I will never forget. It was so wonderful to be here and know that despite the language barrier and despite the cultural differences, we worship the same God. I sat holding Oakley, knowing that He is the one that brought us together, knowing that He knew her name long before we did, and that He had a divine plan for her before she was ever conceived. We have an awesome God!!

The remainder of the day was spent playing with our silly girl, completing some more paperwork, and shopping. I finally found one shop that had shoes to fit Oakley and she was as thrilled with the find as I was. Mike took a swim in one of the beautiful pools here at the White Swan while Oakley napped. We suited her up and brought her down later that evening for her first experience in the pool, only to hear thunder as we arrived. They had to close the pool -- we'll try again today.

We took Oakley out with us yesterday afternoon to have lunch and pick up our laundry, and left Sawyer at the hotel for some much-needed alone time. He ordered Papa John's pizza and feasted while watching Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on HBO. He's been so accommodating on this trip and he's been a HUGE HELP to me and Michael. He's having a great time but I know he's ready to come home. He's missing soccer, his brothers, his friends, and having his own space, I'm sure.

Many thanks to everyone who is leaving comments for us!! It's hard to be this far away from home for so long and we are so happy to hear from you! We'll share all the comments with Oakley when she's older so she knows just how many people followed her journey and loved her before they even knew her.

Sullivan and Hagan:

We'll be home in just a few days!! Tonight we are taking a river boat cruise and we're all looking forward to that. Our guide told us yesterday about a DVD store off the island that has really cheap movies so we're going to take a taxi there today and see what we can find for you. We are so ready to come home!! I'm posting some pictures of Oakley looking at the goldfish in the hotel -- they are HUGE!! I hope we can get her in the pool today and I hope that she likes it since I know you two are probably reading to go swimming when we get home!! She had her first taste of ice cream yesterday and she loved it, but when she eats anything cold, I think it hurts her teeth. We'll have to go see Dr. Lange when we get home and make sure she doesn't have any cavities. I don't think her teeth were ever brushed in the orphanage, but she LOVES brushing them now! She hasn't learned to spit the toothpaste out yet very well, and she usually swallows it and THEN spits!

I love you soooooo much!!


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Lovin' Life in Guangzhou

WOW! What a night! Our guide dropped us off at the airport in Fuzhou and all was well. We got our boarding passes, made it through check-in, and arrived at the gate with an hour to spare -- enough time to get a snack and relax. Then we found out our flight was delayed. It was delayed REPEATEDLY and we were stuck in the airport for FOUR hours .... four long hours! Oakley and I made at least 50 trips up the escalator and back down the steps, which she absolutely loved. She was REALLY good even though she was exhausted.

The airline served dinner to everyone at the gate at about 8pm and she chowed down. We had white rice, a three-layer entree consisting of a fried egg, green beans and squid, a chicken drumstick and a fish cake. She ate everything but the squid .... I told you she was smart! They also served us a paper cup with a packet of what Michael thought was a seasoning mix. He debated stirring it into his rice until we saw our fellow passengers adding boiling water to it -- it was TEA!!

We finally boarded the plane at 9:20pm, almost an hour an a half past Oakley's bedtime. She sat between me and Sawyer with her blanket in her lap. She was wide-eyed during take-off and kept looking up at us with a doe-eyed stare, but she never uttered a sound. We continue to be astounded at her adaptability. Having spent the last 33 months in a very structured environment, she has responded so well to new routines, sights and experiences and seems to take it all in stride. She was sound asleep two minutes into the flight and didn't wake up until we landed and I carried her off the plane.
We met our trusty guide, David, who is ABSOLUTELY wonderful -- we adore him! She was really scared when we got to the hotel and I can't imagine what she must have thought. The White Swan Hotel is gorgeous and the view from our room overlooks the Pearl River. Luckily, our room has a similar floor plan as our hotel in Fuzhou, so we set up her little toy area again and she seemed to feel more comfortable. We all slept soundly last night and woke up this morning happy to be here.

After breakfast, we met David and walked to a little shop to have Oakley's photo made for her visa. We then walked a few blocks (and man, is it HOT and HUMID here) for her medical exam. They listened to her heart and chest, looked in her ears, squeaked a toy horn to test her hearing, and weighed her. It was all over in a matter of minutes and they sent us on our way with a stamp of approval. We brought her back to the hotel, worked through a myriad of paperwork, and returned to our room to put her down for an early nap. In the room, she was thrilled to find a Barbie, compliments of the white Swan Hotel. And not just any ordinary Barbie, but a Barbie holding a little Chinese baby:). I can't say I see the resemblance in Oakley and the baby, but Mike says I'm a dead-ringer for Barbie (HA HA! Maybe a middle-aged overweight Barbie!)
After lunch at the infamous Lucy's, we walked the streets and did a little shopping. I bought two adorable outfits for Oakley for $6 each -- they are too cute. I also purchased a silk Chinese outfit for her for $4 and will take her picture on the White Swan's red couch - a tradition for adoptive families who visit the hotel. We LOVE Guangzhou!! The shopkeepers come out on the streets to greet us and congratulate us. We realize a lot of their friendliness may be a sales tactic, but I don't care .... it's so refreshing to receive such a warm welcome and it's fun to barter for the goods they are selling. It's amazing to see all the families in the hotel getting to know their new babies. I will admit that Oakley is by far the brightest of the bunch! People continue to be amazed at how much English she knows already and all the Chinese people remark at how clever she is ... and how big!
Sullivan and Hagan:

We picked up some souvenirs for you today at some of the little shops. Oakley is learning your names and she also points to Mamaw's picture and says Mamaw. She can speak some words so clearly, one of them being banana. You'd love the view from our hotel room. We see lots of boats and we're going to take a river boat cruise later this week. We are missing you more and more every day and although I'm not looking forward to the plane ride home, I can't wait to give you both big hugs. This is too long to be away from two of my favorite guys. Sullivan, be a good boy for Lori and have fun with Spencer. And Hagan, let us know how the party was! Here's a photo of some of the seafood you can choose to put in your dinner -- eel. They have it in big buckets in front of the restaurants along with turtles, frogs, crabs and big worm looking things. I think we actually ate some of these, unknowingly, in Beijing --- ugghhhh!

We'll see you soon!!
Love, Mom