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We saw the first pictures of our first baby (or the #1 baby as she frequently reminds Merry).

From this:

To this:


I have no idea how that happened. Seven years has gone by SO FAST!

And today – 7 years to the day we first saw her pictures and signed our Letter of Acceptance – Ava came home from school asking me to explain again what adoption really means because some kids have been asking her at school. She asked me if I would have rather she had been in my tummy (I said no, because then she wouldn’t be Ava) and she asked me some questions about her birth mom.

You know, it is freaking PAINful to look at your tiny little #1 baby/7 year old and tell her you don’t know anything about her birth mom. Don’t know who she is, where she is, got zip, zero, nada, nothing. And if it’s this painful to me then it shatters me to think of what she is going to have to process in her heart and psyche – and now I know it’s going to begin sooner rather than later.

Of course she also asked me if she had to get married and seemed delighted when I told her no and explained that she had a choice on who she could/would marry, when she could get married, or even to choose not to get married at all. Not quite sure where that one came from…

11/5/2007 – 3:04PM

I was not yet a mom. I was an anxiety-ridden hot mess of a pre-adoptive waiting parent. Waiting for what seemed like forever at the time (but compared to now it was really nothing) to know something – anything – about our baby.

11/5/2007 – 3:05PM

I got the phone call and my life changed in an instant. I immediately launched into mom worry. I knew who she was and where she was but that was pretty much it. I had no control, no oversight, nothing to reassure myself that all was well with this child that was to be mine and no way to watch over her, even from afar, to ensure her well-being. It was the one of the top 3 days of my life, no doubt, but it immediately changed my whole world in ways I never dreamed.

No big celebrations here for referral day. We just told Ava (again) the story of that day. Where I was (work), what I did (cried/laughed/cried more), who I called (J and both grandmothers), what they did (cried/laughed/cried). It was an amazing moment that I know I will never forget. I can see it (Technicolor), feel it (Warm Fuzzies), and taste it (Cotton Candy and a nice bottle of Moscato – but not together because that would be gross) like it was yesterday and I want to make sure that Ava always knows what a life-changing day that was…for all of us.

Annnndddd 5 years ago today we crossed the water and headed down to see our baby’s face for the first time. I barely remember the drive down and have no idea what we did afterwards – but I remember every single minute that we were inside that office. I didn’t think I would cry but I started tearing up when our social worker handed me the envelope and burst out into full on happy tears as soon as I saw Ava’s face.

We signed the paperwork immediately and handed it back – yes, we accepted Qi Xiao Bei, age 7 months, as our daughter. Without even a moments hesitation.

I can’t believe that was 5 years ago. A lifetime. But it was only yesterday, right?


I still remember that phone call and how I felt at that moment just like it was yesterday.

I spent the evening snuggling with my girl(s) and watching Sesame Street. It was a perfect way to celebrate.

No pictures today. We took them but I am too tired to even transfer them from the camera – much less upload them. Our internet here is, ummm, slow (to say the least). I will do my best to do a picture catch up post tomorrow once we get to Zhengzhou. We fly early tomorrow morning.

Today we went to the Beijing Zoo. By ourselves even though it nearly gave our guide hives that we took off on our own. He was appalled (“but you have to cross the street to catch a taxi back” and “it will cost you about 40 yuan each way”) but we managed to handle it with no problems. 40RMB is about $6, by the way. It didn’t break the bank.

What did annoy me was that our guide approached us this AM and told us we needed to pay 500RMB for our participation in the tour yesterday. We did not plan on touring with them due to the cost quoted by CCAI but were instead going to go on our own. He told us to hop on the bus with them to catch a ride despite me telling him that we were not participating in the group tour and he assured us it was pay as you go for our own tickets, etc. It’s not the amount of money exactly but the way it was handled and dictated to us after the fact. I gotta say, I’ve been really happy with CCAI overall but the experience we’ve had with the travel department has been the one sour spot in the process.


The zoo was interesting. I’ll spare you the history lesson about the grounds but they were old (Qing dynasty era) and beautiful. The animal enclosures, however, are a different story. They don’t even attempt to mimic a natural setting but are instead small and sparse. Everything was mostly clean and the animals appeared healthy but it left the animal lover in me a bit sad. People didn’t hesitate to feed the animals anything and everything despite signs to the contrary and there was no shortage of people throwing trash into the animals’ areas. I don’t love zoos anywhere but this one did make me appreciate the effort the US puts into their zoos these days.

Ava did enjoy herself though. The monkeys were cool (aren’t they always?) and we saw a teeny-tiny baby monkey hanging out with his mom. We saw penguins and tigers and pandas, too. Ava crashed hard in the stroller (yeah, I won on taking it today) so we only stayed about 3 hours before heading back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon packing, napping, watching movies, and just taking it easy. We all needed the downtime.

It’s been a bit of an unexpected strain on us in dealing with all the stares we get with Ava. I realize that staring is culturally different here and is not considered rude the way we Americans normally interpret it (aggression) but it gets tiresome. It is constant. The younger people seem much more likely to smile at us but the older generation does not seem to look upon us as kindly. I finally figured out that if we stare back it generally seems to stop them a bit quicker but we have been approached a few times. Most have been older women who are curious but kind and a quick answer that she is American tends to stop the conversation there. We’ve also had a couple interactions where the tone of voice isn’t so friendly and we simply walk away at that point. Thankfully Ava seems oblivious to most of this.

What’s great is that kids are kids and they are all friendly. So cute seeing her make little friends despite the language barriers. Why can’t adults be like that, too?

Another thing that is bothering me a lot more this time (likely because I’m more attuned to who’s around me with Ava) is how many disabled beggars there are. It is so heartbreaking to see them and I wish we could help them all – but we can’t because the minute we do then we would be swarmed. It just hurts my heart to know that we have so much in the US and a social support system that helps those who are unable to support themselves while people in other countries have so little – with the reasons for that absolutely out of their control. I swear, next time someone asks me why we adopted from China instead of one from our own country I’m gonna stick them on a plane and let them see how some people have to survive in a country without Medicaid and a decent social welfare system that at least allows most people some sort of a safety net. We did give a few yuan to a very kind elderly lady who was begging outside the zoo today since she heard J trying to buy tickets and she walked over and helped us buy the right ones. She was so grateful for us giving her less than $1 USD. No one else was even acknowledging her but they had no problem buying junk souvenirs and snacks from the many street vendors outside the gate.

I hate to end on a downer so I will instead reiterate how proud I am of Ava. She hasn’t been perfect but I can tolerate the extra attitude and over-dramatic moments since she’s barely 5 years old and is handling this trip better than most adults.

Merry day is in two days. Please send your best thoughts or prayers or whatever you do that this goes well for her and for us.