Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Day Home

This pretty much describes how Hannah felt about her first day with her family:

I woke Hannah up at 9:30 this morning so we could try to get her little body on track to conquer jet lag.  She joined our family in the breakfast room and ate a scrambled egg and some sausage in her high chair.

After breakfast, Joshua was eager to finally open up some of Hannah's Christmas gifts so 'she could play with them' aka so HE could play with them!  We opened up a miniature toy kitchen that makes noises and Joshua's favorite, the talking Disney princess castle!  Hannah seemed to love playing with new toys and interacting with Joshua.  Like most 18 month olds, she doesn't understand sharing or taking turns.  We've always said once of Joshua's gifts is social graces and he was so patient and kind with her, saying things like "Hannie we must share the toys" and a gentle "No Hannah, we can't throw that.  Someone might get hurt.".  She learned from Daddy that throwing things in the air is funny so we will be battling that new habit for quite some time!

Placing all my princesses in the castle

My two littles in my lap!  I am a blessed Mama!

Dressed and ready for the day in an outfit from Mommy's friend Kim and my new friend Emery!

As we played upstairs in the playroom Hannah was brave enough to not be glued to my lap all the time and to start exploring the hallway!  When I called out to ask her where she was going, Hannah's face lit up with this mischievous smile!  So funny!

Caleb's interaction with Hannah is different than Joshua's but still so sweet.  He showed her how to play angry birds and even helped move her finger to play the game and use the slingshot.  She was so intrigued!  Like most kids she loves electronics.  She can swipe her finger on an iPhone with the best of them!

Checking out what brother is doing!

Once everyone was dressed we went outside and tried out the swings (she was not a fan!) and then I took Joshua and Hannah on a short wagon ride down our street.  I thought she might cry but she liked it! I think having Joshua there really helps.

We got pizza for lunch and Caleb suggested a picnic outside.  We spread out some blankets in the backyard and enjoyed our lunch together in the warm weather-- much warmer than anything we experienced in China!

After lunch I took Hannah inside for her nap.  She drank a bottle and went right to sleep.  Bryan took Caleb on a quick hike and then my parents took the boys to get ice cream so Bryan and I could nap.  Hannah and I both slept until a little after 5pm while Bryan went to pick up Sadie at the dog boarding facility.  My parents left for home and we ate a simple dinner of sandwiches and fruit at the table together.  Hannah was being such a goof while eating her food!

Once we were done eating we put the cushions in Hannah's kid chair that my parents gave her for Christmas.  She was so excited and so proud to sit in it!  I can't get over how different she looks in these pictures vs two weeks ago at Gotcha Day.

We made the plan to bathe all 3 kids together tonight because we thought it would help Hannah enjoy bath time.  Some people don't recommend bathing kids together until you are certain the new child doesn't have intestinal parasites.  Luckily Hannah shows no symptoms of that so we loaded up the bathtub with kids!  Hannah is sitting  in a bath seat that both our boys used and I think it helped her feel secure and kept the boys from knocking her over!  Hannah loved her bath time! She played with a bathtub tea set and was kicking her legs and smiling.  She still hated having her hair washed but that will get better with time.  I was just happy to have a break from being in the tub with her, and thrilled to see her enjoy bath time!

Three sweet, clean babies in matching pajamas!
Overall Caleb is doing great with his new sister but he is struggling a little bit.  
This picture represents that pretty well ;) 

Hannah sitting in my childhood rocking chair.
 She looks like she's is saying, "I know! Can you believe I'm finally here???"

I could not have planned a better first day at home if I had tried.  Hannah had her happiest day with us thus far.  She loves laughing at her brothers and playing with them.  Hannah is laughing, smiling, babbling, dancing, bobbing her head and so animated.  We are all in love with her and can't believe how amazing she is doing with all of the changes she has experienced in the past few weeks.  We cannot imagine how awesome and fun she will be in the future.  I have a feeling the best is yet to come!!

Hannah's Homecoming

We are finally home! We have been back at our house for a little over 24 hours and it feels so great to be here together.  I wanted to document about Hannah's trip home before it all becomes a blur.

The night before our flight we put Hannah to bed earlier than usual.  She slept horribly and was in our bed within a couple hours where she continued to have fitful sleep.  We could not figure out what was wrong with her.  Bryan even checked her ears at 2:30 in the morning to make sure she didn't have an ear infection.  Looking back on it now, I think she must have been anxious after watching us spend the day packing up all the suitcases.

After just a couple hours of interrupted sleep, we were out the door at 5:45 with Hannah.  I hated to wake a sleeping baby but it was time to GO!  Our guide rode with us in a van to the Guangzhou airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:25.  We were so glad he came in with us to the ticket counter as there was a computer issue with Hannah's ticket.  It took a long time to get checked in and would have taken even longer had we not had our guide!

At this point Hannah was kind of fussy and we had not eaten anything.  I felt so nauseated and stressed.  I had Hannah in the Ergo while we tried to get through security and make it to our gate.  We had a few minutes to sit and eat a little bit before we got on the plane.  We were in the next to last row, middle and aisle seat.  I held Hannah in the middle seat.  She was refusing to let Bryan hold her and it was an ok but kind of rough flight.  We were just so cramped for space and I was sore and feeling sick.  We were thankful to land in Beijing without her having any major meltdowns.

Once we were in Beijing we had to change terminals and go through customs and security again to get to the international building.  What a pain.  We landed around 11:45am and weren't done with everything until 1:30pm.  Our boarding time was 2:30pm.  Bryan found some food and I was happy to let Hannah play in the airport chairs so my arms and legs could have a break from having her on my lap.  

Bryan searched for an airline rep to try to get us bulkhead seats with a bassinet for Hannah.  Our travel agent had said we had at least one bulked seat so we were trying to get two and sit together.  The rep at the gate told Bryan only middle seats were available, no bulkhead and no bassinet.  We would be in two middle seats on the same row but not next to one another.  At this point I was almost in tears thinking about sitting separate from Bryan and holding Hannah by myself for 13 hours.  As we began to board the gate rep called Bryan over and told him she found a seat for him right next to me.

As we made our way to the plane I was praying, "Lord help me.  Lord help me." because I knew I would not be able to get through the flight on my own strength.  We made our way to our seats and soon realize we were on the bulkhead sitting together! HALLELUJAH!  I almost started crying when I realized where we were sitting.  It was almost like someone had upgraded me to first class!  At that point I felt like, 'ok, I can do this!'.  It didn't matter if Hannah cried or was fussy - at least we would have room to move around and try to keep her happy.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to have a bassinet because they said Hannah was too heavy for it.  That was fine with us because at least we had room to get comfortable while holding her.

Hannah did great on the flight.  She drank a bottle at takeoff and landing, played with toys, watched some movies on the TV and on our laptop (Baby Einstein) and also slept from 6-7pm China time and then 9pm-2am China time.  We landed a little after 4am China time and Hannah did great on the last couple hours of the flight.  Bryan and I both slept off and on but never for any long stretches of time.

We landed around 2:15pm Houston time and went through customs and immigration, which took almost 2 hours! I know our family and especially our boys were getting antsy waiting for us.  As we predicted, Caleb was dramatically announcing that 'They are never going to come! They have gone back to China!".

When we came through the doors at immigration we saw this amazing welcoming committee!  It was so wonderful to see our family, especially Caleb and Joshua.  They were both so excited to see their sister!  We weren't sure how Hannah would handle all the commotion but she was calm and just took everything in.

After we were greeted at the airport we got in the van and went to Bryan's parents house for dinner.   Unfortunately Hannah was not a fan of the car seat.  She didn't like being strapped in and didn't understand why I wouldn't get her out and hold her when she reached for me.  I was sitting in the middle row of the van between Hannah and Joshua and she screamed bloody murder for the entire 30+ minute drive from the airport.  Nothing I did comforted her and it was difficult to see her cry like that.  There isn't much we can do as car seats are not optional here like they are in China!

Once there we had delicious fajitas and special cupcakes decorated with Chinese colors and toppers.  We expected Hannah to be overwhelmed by the commotion of all the kids (there were 6 kids ages 5 and under including her) but she really enjoyed it! She loved meeting her cousins (in spite of the stink eye she gave Charlotte) and sat and played, ate some food and even smiled some at the kids!

After dinner we headed HOME to College Station.  My Dad drove Bryan, me and Hannah in the van and the boys rode with my Mom in her car.  They came home with us for the first 24 hours just to help us with the boys while we battled jet lag.  Hannah started to cry on the way to College Station but I gave her a bottle and she fell asleep in her car seat.  Bryan and I both nodded off too!

Once home Caleb was eager to show Hannah her room.  He was very thoughtful and making sure to turn all the lights on upstairs for her so she wouldn't be scared.  The boys loved showing Hannah her new room and some of the toys in her room.  My parents helped to get the boys to bed and I put Hannah to bed finally around 11pm... or at least I think that is what time it was!  She slept well until 2:30am, woke up and drank a bottle and went back to sleep until I woke her up at 9:30am for the day.

It still does not feel real that we went to the other side of the world and brought home this precious baby girl.  We are so tired, but it is a good kind of tired.  We praise God for Hannah's adoption: tangible reminder of His faithfulness, His relentless pursuit of us as His children, and His love for the fatherless.

Welcome home, baby girl.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Coming Home!!!

We are getting ready to go to bed for our last night in China!  Like I said before the rest of our group members left today so we are the last ones to leave.  We spent the day playing in the room and getting organized and packed for our long trek home.  Hannah does best when we keep things low key so we wanted to have a slow-paced day before we turn her world upside down tomorrow.

We have to put our bags out in the hallway for the bellboy at 5:45am tomorrow morning.  We will leave the hotel @ 6 am.  Our flight itineraries and tracking information are listed below:

Guangzhou to Beijing:
Depart Guangzhou @ 8:00am Saturday/ land Beijing 11:30am Saturday
(Local times back in Texas:   5:00pm Friday night/ 9:30pm Friday night

Beijing to Houston:
Depart Beijing @ 3:00pm / land Houston 2:40pm Saturday
(Local times back in Texas:  1:00am Saturday morning / 2:40pm Saturday afternoon

We will basically leave China on Saturday afternoon and arrive in Houston on Saturday afternoon, all without the help of a time traveling machine!  We will have been awake and traveling for approximately 24 hours at that point so we will be excited but tired!

While we are excited to head home to everything that is familiar, poor Hannah has no idea what is about to happen.  She is leaving everything she has ever known by coming home with us tomorrow.   All the sights, smells, sounds, language and people in her new home will be foreign to her.  While we (and everyone at home) have spent months preparing emotionally for her to come home, she has had little to no time to be emotionally prepared.

Bryan and I want to do our best to make Hannah feel secure, safe and attached to us during this time of transition which goes well beyond our arrival at the airport.  We welcome anyone who wants to greet us at the airport to come-- just know that Hannah will stay in my arms while we are there, and our first priority is hugging and kissing our sweet boys and the wonderful grandparents who took care of them!  We are looking forward to a family dinner at Bryan's parents home before we head to College Station with Hannah.  We are excited for our families to meet her and hope she will handle that time well.   We have found that Hannah tends to shut down in large crowds and new places.  She lets her guard down and is happy, expressive, playful and funny when she's in the safety of our hotel room.  It may take days or weeks for her to realize her new home (and her new extended family) are 'safe'... or she may feel comfortable right away! We will just have to wait and see.

Once we are home, we will be conquering the beast called jet lag! So if you see us looking rough and tired, it's probably because we are tired and feeling rough!! :)  We will primarily be staying close to home with Hannah so she can transition into her new family and life.  Of course we will have to get out and about for some things - the grocery store, taking the boys to school, etc-- but all of those things will be new and overwhelming for Hannah.  We can't wait to see the familiar faces of people who have prayed for us, encouraged us, and shown so much enthusiasm for Hannah's adoption.  Just know that she may need a little space and time to warm up slowly, and will be staying safe in our arms especially when we are out in public.  In the months to come it will be important that Bryan and I be the only ones to meet Hannah's needs: changing her, feeding her, comforting her etc.  She has had significant changes in her life 5 times before she met us and we want her to realize that we are forever for her.

We don't say any of these things to sound harsh, but more as a way to prepare everyone for what we think will be best for our new daughter.  We cannot wait for you all to meet her and get to know her sweet, smart, spunky and sassy personality.

Thank you for joining us on this adoption journey! We are coming HOME!!!!

Thursday 2/20: We have Hannah's Visa!

On Thursday morning we had a free day since the consulate appointment was our last official step in Hannah's adoption.  We met other families in the lobby at 9:30 so we could head to Shamian Island here in Guangzhou.  In the past adoptive families always stayed at a hotel called the White Swam that is on the island.  It has been undergoing renovation for several years so it is not the popular place to stay for adoptive families but it used to be 'the place to be' while adopting in China.

Several families took the subway but we opted to take a cab.  We rented a stroller from our hotel and Hannah seemed happy enough in it while in the hotel lobby.  Sadly, she changed her mind once she was on the island!

We went to several popular shops to buy more souvenirs and the famous squeaky shoes for children that are popular in China.  We also stopped and took pictures at a famous statue; most adoptive families take a picture of their child standing in a line with the other kids. Hannah was in no mood for pictures and she can't stand well independently so this is the best we could do.

A man carving chops (personalized name stamps) for us

We enjoyed walking on the island which is very unique for China.  The architecture has a very European influence, the streets are cobbled and the trees are large and beautiful.  It reminded me a lot of what I picture Charleston to look like, although I have never been there.

We ate lunch at a popular restaurant that serves American food called Lucy's.  I had grilled ham and cheese with french fries and Bryan and I shared a chocolate milkshake.  Yum!  Hannah ate half of my sandwich all by herself.  Girlfriend is not shy around food!

Hannah napping in the Ergo before our food came

We headed back to the hotel where we had a scheduled laundry pick up.  We sent off two bags of laundry to someone our agency uses for laundry.  It was delivered back to our room that evening and cost us about $30.  The clothes (about 20 pieces) were clean and folded nicely and ready for our suitcases!

Playing with Mommy.  She is like a little piece of velcro on me most of the time!

Hannah took a nap and so did we.  At 4:20pm Bryan went downstairs to get Hannah's passport and immigration documents back from our guides.  She now has a visa to enter the United States!  This means we can officially bring her home!!  When Hannah sets foot on American soil she will be a US Citizen.  We cannot wait to bring her home!

That evening we joined the remaining families in our group and walked to a nearby noodle shop.  I think they were a little shocked when a large group of Americans with Chinese children walked in! We had fried rice with egg and noodles with vegetables and two drinks for just $5.

It has been bittersweet to say goodbye to our group members.  We have really enjoyed the 10 other families that we traveled with.  It is a real bonding experience to go through this trip together and so special to see each family meet the child they have longed for.  We even got to see two families become first time parents.  We have laughed and encouraged one another for nearly 3 weeks and it has been a wonderful experience.  Several families left for the airport immediately after getting their visas and the rest left today (Friday).  We are the last family to leave with an early morning flight on Saturday.  It was the itinerary that worked best for us but we have been sad to see everyone else head home while we are still waiting and killing time.  

Group pictures from Wednesday afternoon

We have enjoyed our time in China, loved our group, been amazed with our agency and most of all fallen head over heels in love with a darling little girl named Hannah Ping.  We cannot wait to be home so you can all meet her!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Daddy's Girl

As I write this Hannah and her Daddy are playing and laughing!  It is the sweetest sound to hear her having fun with Bryan.   She definitely likes to rough house and be wild and silly with Daddy!  Hannah still prefers me for comfort and when she is being carried all over China, but I'm thankful to see this blossoming relationship between Daddy & daughter!