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Archive for the ‘Photographs’ Category

Welcome to the first installment of myPhone Friday. Since my iPhone is my most used camera these days (sad, I know) I’m going to try and post one of my favorite phone photos taken sometime the previous weekend/week. Sounds easy enough, right?

First trip to one of our many local splash pads. And yes, she did go through the big fountain all by herself (and showing up her big sister in the process since Ava has been too scared to do it…until now, that is).

Photo date: 12 August 2012

I know there are a few folks who have been waiting for a Merry update. I apologize for not getting to this sooner but we are just exhausted and are making it through this (barely) one day at a time. She is improving every day but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly difficult. I theoretically knew this but it’s way harder when it’s your baby who’s going through it.

So – I’m taking the easy way out and copy/pasting my updates from FB. I have a million thoughts that I want to share about the whole process but I am so very tired and cannot make myself do anything more tonight (or probably anytime soon).

Tuesday, May 8 at 12:49pm via mobile
Game on, folks. Merry has cleared all the pre-op requirements (and has gained almost another full pound in 1 week) so we have to be at the hospital at 8AM for a 10AM scheduled surgery time. She will have her lip, palate, and nose repaired and ear tubes inserted. Surgery should take 3-4 hours. I’m already fretting but I really like and trust our surgeon’s plan so I think (hope) all will be well. She will be admitted to the PICU immediately following surgery so it’s going to be a rough couple of days for all of us

Tuesday, May 8 at 9:48pm
I know not everyone will understand this but when I (and J) look at Merry we don’t really even see her cleft anymore – we just see Merry. We fell in love with this face just as it is and I can’t imagine a more beautiful smile than this little girl has. She just lights up a room when she grins and it is truly captivating.

I know this surgery has to be done and it is the best thing for her – – but I am going to miss this face soooo much.

Wednesday, May 9 at 10:35am via mobile
Still waiting — with J at Children’s Hospital of King Daughters (CHKD)

Wednesday, May 9 at 12:28pm via mobile
First update: Palate is halfway done and things are going well. We have been inundated with much appreciated updates and information from both her nurses and her doctors. Next update should be within the hour. The ENT doc came out to talk to us and said things are going great so far. I am no longer weeping in the corner thanks to the amazing folks here at CHKD (and a Xanax).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 1:49pm via mobile
Second update: palate is done and Dr. Magee is just starting her lip and nose now. Ears will be done last. Nurse says everything is going just fine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:05pm via mobile
J shouldn’t have let me go to the gift shop alone. The chocolate was calling me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:26pm via mobile
Hates playing the waiting game…. I never was good at this. (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:38pm via mobile
Update 3: SHE’S DONE!!! We should be able to meet her in recovery soon!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:16pm via mobile
Resting in the ICU……. — with A at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD). (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9 at 5:42pm via mobile
Update 4: Merry is ensconced in ICU for the night (precaution – no problems so far) and looks like she’s been in one heck of a barroom brawl. She’s mostly sleeping off the anesthesia but I suspect this is going to be a long night.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:31pm via mobile
Watching my little girl sleep.… She stirs a little, looks at me and will attempt a smile when she sees me then she will roll over and go back to sleep. Hate hate hate that she can’t tell me what hurts but I know she’s at least happy to see me when she opens her eyes and I’m just there….. (Posted by J)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 8:28pm via mobile
Update 5: This super sucks. J went home to stay with Ava and I’m staying here with Merry. She’s eaten a tiny bit of carrots and had some Pedialyte so far but is understandably cranky and tired and annoyed by all the monitors she’s hooked up to. She’s sleeping now and hopefully will for a while. Poor baby – wish I could take all of this pain away from her.

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 12:21am via mobile
Update 6: Hours rocking a sick baby and I was rewarded with a laugh, a quick game of Where’s Merry, a toy trade, and she smiled at me with her eyes. That was worth every minute I spent in that (hard wooden) chair. And now I’ve rewarded her by requesting pain meds since she’s clearly starting to hurt and that’s why I’m here – to help the nurses know what she needs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 3:49am via mobile
Being up at nearly 4AM was a whole lot more fun 10+ years ago and when there was a club involved. Now? Not so much.

Thursday, May 10 at 5:05am via mobile
Does this just break your heart or what? Note how she’s holding on to the blood pressure tubing and that she won’t fully relax her legs. This is pretty much the only time she’s been in the crib all night. She’s not sleeping but she’s tolerating (but grouching) me laying her down for a minute.

Thursday, May 10 at 12:43pm via mobile
Update 7: We can go home (as soon as our ride arrives which may be a couple of hours). Yay for home. Boo for me not bringing my car in preparation for Merry to be a rockstar and blow this joint earlier than expected.

Friday, May 11 at 12:55pm
Update from home 1: Merry perked right up once we got home last night and played for a bit. J propped the pack and play up on some books to elevate it and she (according to him) slept okay as long as he kept up with the pain meds. I wouldn’t know since I was dead to the world by 8:30PM. She’s taken a little formula and pureed vegetable soup today by medicine dropper – – all the while glaring at me if I so much as put anything that looks like actual food in mine. This liquid/soft diet for 3 weeks is going to be super fun, I can tell.

She’s very clingy and is sleeping a lot as long as she’s laying on one of us or in the Ergo carrier. The bruising and swelling looks much worse today (which we were warned to expect) and the Surgicel pack in her mouth is making her (understandably) cranky.

I miss her smile. We can tell she wants to laugh and smile but it hurts so she doesn’t. Her eyes still smile at us, though.

Saturday, May 12 at 5:08pm via mobile
Update from home 2: Rough night – poor Merry and poor Mama. She’s eating/drinking enough but not a lot and I can’t eat because she’s a Velcro baby that I can’t put down without her melting down. And then…

Saturday, May 12 at 5:14pm via mobile
Update from home 3: J and I both noticed this afternoon that the packing in her mouth – the packing that isn’t supposed to be out until next Thursday – was slipping. A frantic phone call to our surgeon’s cell and some video texted to him had him sending us immediately to see his partner at his (closed) office to remove the Surgicel now (to make sure it didn’t obstruct her airway). It’s now out, she’s happier and can breathe more easily, surgeon says repair looks fine and this shouldn’t affect proper healing, and I’m still freaking out and worrying about it anyway.

With bated breath we headed to the visa medical appointment. Merry was loaded up with ibuprofen and we headed out thinking good thoughts of a normal temperature and a patient child(ren).

We made it to the new building with no issues. The medical exam used to be done on Shamian Island but it’s moved to a a newer, more spacious (and much cleaner) building in Guangzhou (no idea where it’s located – we took a bus so I didn’t pay attention). It wasn’t any less crowded but they do have a separate waiting and exam area for adoption visas so at least we were out of the main drag while we waited. Ordinary Chinese citizens in need of vaccinations, exams, etc. for immigration or visa purposes must also use this clinic so overall it was quite crowded. They also do the visa photo there now as well. This used to be done separately so we found it quite convenient to have everything in one place.

The new building:

Yep – we’re in the right place:

The visa photo was done first. Painless (maybe because I didn’t do it). J handled that part while I wrangled Ava.

Then we headed back to the medical exam area.

We got there early so it was deserted.

(Note the Mickey Mouse on the floor. I swear there is something Disney every time we turn around.)

(Note also how empty it is. This did not last.)

See. Starting to fill up. (And I have no idea where Merry is in this picture. Presumably J had her.) This wasn’t even close to how busy it was just a few minutes later. It was packed in there.

We waited a while – rather impatiently I might add, while the doctors and nurses socialized so I snapped some pictures. The one below isn’t the greatest (out of focus and J is missing the top of his head) but I loved the smile on Merry’s face.

Merry did great, of course. She had a fine time playing with the doctors as they tried to examine her.

And there wasn’t even one tear when they looked in her ears or mouth. As much as she hates anything on her face I totally expected drama so it was a nice surprise that it went smoothly.

Aaaannnndddd her temp was normal. You have no idea how tense I was until they said that she was good. I will attribute some of that to the Motrin we’d given her beforehand, some to the antibiotic we started a couple of days prior, and some to all the good thoughts and prayers from everyone.

They also weighed and measured her.

New stats (approximately since I’m working from memory) and a few other tidbits:

29 inches tall

17.5 pounds

I would like to point out that she has gained 2(!) pounds since we met her. This little girl was ready to eat food and eat she has. Cleft or not, she eats pretty much anything and everything and gets MAD if you are eating in front of her and don’t share it.

She also has 4 teeth (she’s sprouted 2 since we’ve gotten her and I expect another within the next few days) and is starting to walk a little bit holding on to only one hand instead of 2. She is standing on her own easily and is getting braver every day. She loves being held and carried though and we are happy to oblige.

Once our medical was done in typical Chinese fashion – with no real order or lines – we snapped a sister picture (or 12) while waiting for the other families in our group to finish.


Again – not the greatest shot since it was taken quickly (and is clearly out of focus – no idea why) but it was the only one where they were both smiling and it didn’t look like Ava was contemplating tossing her down the stairs.

After we got back to the hotel and let the girls take a quick nap we took a taxi over to Shamian Island with a few of our travel mates. What a trip down memory lane that was. Good because it reminded me of being there with Ava but bad for a few reasons – the White Swan is closed and looks deserted, very few adoptive families around anymore, more than a few of the shops have closed down due to the lack of business, tons of staring and pointing at Merry, and because I quickly remembered how much I hated bargaining with Chinese shop owners. They’re just sooooo much better at it than I am and I really hate arguing with someone for a price difference of 10 yuan.

It was Saturday and the island was packed There were bridal photo shoots and fashion models EVERYwhere. And it was hot. Really hot so we we hit a few stores for the only pair of squeaky shoes (at Sherry’s place) that I could find in Merry’s size (she has really tiny feet), a pair of flip-flops for Ava that have already started falling apart, and a quick dinner at Lucy’s before we were just done.

It was a good day.

I’m kind of an emotional wreck today.

Due to a procedural change in the way the baby’s passport is applied for and issued we were required to apply in person in the city she is from. Her city, Nanyang, is about a 4 hour drive from the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, where we are now. Regardless of the inconvenience I was very happy to hear that we would be able to go as most other parents adopting from Nanyang have not been allowed due to the distance.

We headed out around 8:30 this morning and made really good time there. The drive was fine, although slightly hair-raising as usual. We loaded up the iPad for Ava and she did great. Merry slept the first couple of hours and then got a little fussy since she couldn’t get up and move around. Overall though, it was an easy trip. Very pretty – lush and green – once you get out of the city. It is a very agricultural area between Zhengzhou and Nanyang with the main crops in the area being corn and wheat. But yes, that is smog. (And sorry if the photo quality sucks but most of  these were taken from the back seat of a van, through the window, while hurtling down the expressway with a driver who clearly had a death wish.)

Driving into Nanyang was interesting. It’s a 2-3 lane road that Chinese drivers have made into an unofficial 6 lane road. These people know how to play chicken, that’s for sure.

I’ve been lobbying to visit her orphanage since before we even got to China even though I knew it was a long shot. The guide with us today was not encouraging but did promise that we would be able to visit Merry’s finding spot. We will not share this location with anyone as we feel it is Merry’s private story to share when/if she wishes – but let me tell you that going there with her today was one of the most emotional and heartbreaking moments of my life. J was holding her with one hand and taking pictures with the other while I walked on ahead to get a quick video with my phone. Picture me (red-haired Caucasian who kind of stands out anyway) just sobbing while I was doing this. I started crying the minute I got out of the van and approached the area and didn’t stop for quite a while. My heart is just so heavy when I think of my precious baby – as well as my little big girl – having to go through this part of their life alone. I know it’s the beginning of what brought them to me but it’s just so hard to think of it (and of the sorrow their birthparents must have felt) and to physically be there where Merry was found was just almost too much to bear. J felt exactly the same way. I am happy that I can say to both of my girls that I know with 100% certainty that they were left where they would be quickly found and for that I am grateful beyond measure. This visit to her finding spot is beyond priceless to me and I think the pictures and video will be to her later on.

The passport office was not open yet so we headed off to lunch. The guide took us to a “western” style restaurant where we had a chicken burger(?), really spicy chicken drummettes, deep fried sweet potato and corn nuggets, and the pièce de résistance consisting of 2 breaded and deep fried circular patties of Spam –  which you were supposed to liberally sprinkle with black pepper. Some of that meal was gross – I’ll leave you to figure out which part. We were also quite taken aback with the baby of one of the workers, complete with bare-bottomed split pants, perched right in the center of a table inside. A table where people eat. I love clorox wipes – I’m just sayin’. And the decor? Retro Disney and smiling Asian children. We neglected to take a picture of the Pooh decals on the other wall. I’m pretty sure that this usage of Disney branding is not official.

The passport procedure itself was simple. We met the assistant orphanage director and she, along with our facilitator, handled most everything. The orphanage director had to hold Merry for her passport photo and that went fine. They got the cutest picture on the first try and Merry was just a dream throughout the process. After we finished there we walked next door to submit the paperwork where there were 2 other orphanage workers to assist us and another family. We submitted Merry’s application, our passports, and had to sit down for a quick interview that consisted of another photo being taken of Merry and two questions. They asked us how many biological kids we had (zero) and then how many times we had adopted before (one). They only asked the last question after they spotted the old Chinese visa in our passports. This whole process lasted maybe half an hour.

We had lots of people looking and smiling and some approaching us in the office. One grandma type was clearly approving and asked Ava (in Chinese) if Merry was her mei-mei. Ava shyly nodded yes and then buried her head in my leg and refused to speak to anyone else. Once the paperwork was finished the orphanage director came over and reached out to hold Merry to say goodbye. Merry went to her easily but stayed only a minute before she was reaching for me to take her back. The women all cooed about how she wanted her Mama and smiled approvingly. I, of course, was near tears again.

After my incessant nagging we were told that we would be allowed to go to the orphanage but it didn’t happen. I was outvoted since I was the only one who wanted to. Apparently it would have added an extra hour to the trip. I cannot even express to you how sad I am about not being able to go. I would have given anything to meet the nannies who took care of my baby and to see where she came from – but majority rules and I lost. I will be sad about this for a long time, I think. I know we missed a once in a lifetime chance. We would have been one of the first groups allowed to visit the orphanage, by the way. They have not been especially open to outside visits.

I did have a chance to ask some questions of the director and she was so kind and tolerant of my questions even pulling out Merry’s complete file to answer some of them. We know that Merry was found by a passerby (time of day unknown) who contacted the police and two policemen (saw their pictures on the police report in her file) collected her and delivered her to the orphanage. One of the policemen named her and supposedly chose her name because she was so cute and lovable (she is). The director said they listed Merry for adoption because she was so sweet and full of personality (she is that, too). They would like to see updates on her so the assistant director gave me her email address and asked me to email a picture of Merry when we have her surgery. I broke down in tears (again) when I asked our facilitator to translate how grateful I was to her and to the orphanage and to convey my gratitude to the nannies and to her foster grandma for the care they provided to her. The associate director had tears in her eyes by this time and thanked me for adopting her. We said our goodbyes and headed back to the van – me crying and them following behind and waving the whole way.

We had an uneventful trip back despite an unfortunate squatty potty excursion – think the worst gas station bathroom you’ve ever seen and multiply it by a million. I did learn today that Ava can hold it for at least 6 hours if she wants to. I finally just started opening random non-bathroom doors at the second rest stop and came across a handicapped bathroom with a western toilet that apparently also doubled as a smoking area (as is the rest of China, so I’m not sure why people would specifically go in there to smoke – but they did). We remain the center of attention always but at this point I HAD to find a place for Ava to go potty and she was having NONE of the squatty potty experience so I didn’t care that I was a crazy foreigner randomly opening doors.

More scenery (and a public service announcement).

Oh yeah, and somebody slept some more. Well, actually two somebodies slept but I couldn’t take pictures of one of them since she was on my lap.

So – that was our day. One filled with much sadness, joy, regret, relief, and gratefulness all at the same time.


We left off last night with some sister playtime…

Today we finalized Merry’s adoption. This means that she is now ours legally and forever.

We started the day out early with breakfast at the hotel where Merry ate 422 dragon fruits. I exaggerate only a little. She LOVES these things – and they even provide long lasting entertainment, too. Have you ever tried to pick a million of those little black seeds off of a baby once they dry on there? Good times. In addition to the dragon fruit she had eggs, congee, banana bread, and whatever else she could snag off of my or J’s plate.

After breakfast we took our black speckled baby and her big sister and headed to the provincial registration office (which is where we met the babies yesterday). After lots of paperwork and a seemingly neverending wait we finally all stood and listened to a short congratulatory speech from the registration official before being presented with our adoption certificate. I teared up, of course, but managed to hold it together. It’s hard to do that, y’all. I’m just so darn grateful that I have been given the opportunity – twice – to parent these amazing kids.

After the registration portion most of us got back on the bus and headed to the notary office where the remainder of our paperwork awaits processing. This office will process the adoption paperwork and issue us the remainder of the official documents.

I will never forget this trip – if only because the office we had to visit was on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator to which I had to walk up loaded down like a Sherpa with all the backpacks, diaper bag, and camera bag while dragging a reluctant 5 year old whose shoe was falling off and who didn’t want to go in because “it smells yucky – like smoke.” (She was right, it did.) J got off easy since he was carrying the sleeping baby – who weighs in at about 15-16 pounds soaking wet. Did I mention this was SIX flights of stairs???

By the way, Merry was so impressed by the significance of this day that she slept right through most of it – including the notary pictures. (Did I mention how freaking cool it is to have a kid who sleeps anywhere and everywhere? This is a new experience for us. I like it.)

After we finished all of the legal stuff we celebrated like any red-blooded Americans will do in a country full of amazing local cuisine…we went to McDonalds where Merry experienced her first fry and Ava got to have corn as her side in her happy meal.

It was a win for all – especially since I got my long-desired fried pineapple pie (OMG – can’t even tell you how much I love these things).

We pretty much just crashed in the hotel for the rest of the day (where I was *that* parent who allowed my child to run up and down the hallway). We even had dinner in an overpriced hotel restaurant. Can I just tell you how surreal it is to be eating dinner in an Italian restaurant in China while a cheesy lounge singer and her guitar playing, backup singing cohort plays Lady Ga*ga tunes? And to watch my Chinese born but American attitude through and girl throughly entertain the entire restaurant by dancing her tush off and loudly applauding when there were finally (thankfully) done.

Loving our travel group, by the way. They’re an amazing group of people!