Final Stretch

We have been away 2 weeks now but it feels like a lot longer because of all the experiences (and Ashling!) over the last 2 weeks.

This morning/early afternoon were filled with an uneventful consulate appointment. Lesson learned is don’t open the brown envelope before immigration or we are coming back!  After a long morning, we had an easy afternoon before heading on the Pearl River Boat cruise. The weather has been bad this week (rainy and humid) but despite the fog and mist we braved the weather for a fun boat trip. Guangzhou is such a huge city (16 million) and so lit up (think Vegas) that’s its fun to look at the building. We learned a 3 bedroom apartment on the river costs about $4 million US dollars which is shocking considering we had a feast (with beer) for lunch at an upscale restaurant for $25. The kids had a great time with their new friends… Ashling had another great day and is just all smiles and laughs.

Adoption wise we are done! All the kidddos in our group passed the TB test (thankfully otherwise its a 8 week stay in China for their parents) and now we just wait for the visa to be issued and enjoy a few free days of sight seeing.  Can’t believe we are in the final stretch…. going to miss this place.

Tomorrow I plan on doing some major shopping 🙂

Great Day!!

Today was a great day! We went to Chgimelong Safari  Park today with our group. The Park is really fun because you can get really close to the animals. Highlights were the tigers, feeding the giraffes, seeing the pandas and the 4-d movie (well not for Ashling-Disney may have to wait!). It was a humid day and our guide pushed us along at a ridiculous pace but the kids were troopers and had a blast!

Other than a well-deserved meltdown at dinosaur land (they were scary) Ashling was at her best today! She was 100% Ms. Ashling today chatting up a storm and loving the animals. Her favorite phrase is “Mama look at this.” She is amazed by everything. We are so blown away by our new daughter…

The night ended with an impromptu trip to the pool that turned into the adults hanging out with wine while the kids got a really long swim in. The weather was perfect and it was a great way to relax. The hotel pool is beautiful and the girls (Keira and some friends from the trip) wanted to check out the big indoor hot tub so I took them. Much to our shock, the women in the hot tub were naked. They were not expecting a bunch of kids. Just when I thought it could not get worse with shreiking 6 years old girls, the boys decided to barge in. Let’s just say, we had a good laugh and almost got thrown out of the pool 🙂

A great vacation day and 3 amazing kiddos! Tomorrow, we return back to adoption world with an early morning appointment at the US Consulate for a visa for Ashling and an oath taking ceremony. Ashling will become a US citizen upon entry into the US so we need to take care of the endless paperwork here.

We cant believe how quickly this trip is going by and are really looking forward to the rest of the week!

Shamian Island and Ms. Ashling

Today was a free day so, this morning, we went to Shamian Island with two other families. The Island is a historical location in Guangzhou.  It’s famous for its sculptures and is overall a pleasant place to spend a few hours.  And yes I am totally loving twin dressing  Keira and Ashling 🙂

We spent the afternoon hanging around the hotel room before having an easy dinner and letting the kids play at the indoor playground. The hotel here has a great lounge that is well worth the $ because it offers endless snacks and wine  and a chance for the kids to play without having to sit at another restaurant. Eating 3 meals out for 2+ weeks is hard on the kiddos ( and even harder on the parents!).

Ashling is doing wonderfully but she is a very different kid outside versus in the comfort of our hotel room. In our hotel room, she is bubbly, mischievous, loud, loving and starting to repeat our English words.  She has started calling herself Ashling-Nana and it is so cute. This side of her comes out sometimes when we are out but more often than not – in the last few days – she has been withdrawn and stubborn when we are with her in busy places. (Those of you traveling with us know what I am talking about!). Othertimes, she is 100% Ms. Ashling and makes everyone smile.

It is all normal and, while it is frustrating at times, I have to remind myself that she has only been with us a week and she is doing wonderfully and fits in perfectly with our family.

Tomorrow is the safari park and we are so excited for it!!

China Special Needs

Yesterday was a real travel day. Our 11 am flight did not leave until 7 pm due to severe weather in Guangzhou. (better than another flight delayed due to “military activity”). All the kiddos were amazing but we didn’t get to our room in Guangzhou to 1 am and it was a really long day.

I was going to blog yesterday about our new way of ordereing food–Google translator and asking them to Order for us and how shockingly well it worked out (so far…) but I was just too tired last night. Or how the reastuarnt videoed us eating lunch….

We have arrived in Guangzhou. We have a fun week ahead and I know its going to fly by too quickly. The weather was great today and although it is rainy season we are hoping the sun sneaks out everyday.

Today was Ashling’s medical appointment for her exits visit. As some of you may know, both Connor and Ashling have been adopted through a program called China Special Needs. There is a huge range of special needs available and the wait to adopt often depends on what special needs the adopting parents are open to. China allows children to get exit permits much faster with special needs, making the process much quicker and much more stabile. It’s an amazing program.

Connor was born with a cleft lip/palate and general small height/weight (now he’s 60% for height and 80% for weight…)  This time around we assumed we would be doing a cleft lip/palate again.  However, Ashling’s special need is completely different. I have been quiet about it because we just don’t have an understanding of it. She has a spinal issue that may be a fluid mass at birth or maybe a form of spinal bifida or something else. We won’t know until we get an MRI done and an evaluation by a neurologist, but whatever it is, we are ready for it.  She clearly is a smart, extremely active and potty trained little girl. We truly take for granted the medical care we have available to us!

The appointment today if often considered a hard day (and it was) because it involves the children being seen by many different doctors in a room of chaos. It ends with the children being taken from their new parents into a separate room to get blood tests done. It’s rough for everyone.

However it also amazing to see the beautiful children being given a new opportunity and the range of the special needs of the children joining their new families. There was a beautiful child with down syndrome joining a family who had a bunch of grown children. Truly heart warming.

Meanwhile our 5+ hotel has a Starbucks and is next to a McDonalds and you can imagine both Keira’s and my excitements-for very different reasons!

Orphanage Visit

This morning we travelled 30 mins to Jinzhong city. Jinzhong is a city of 3 million and where Ashling/Nana spent the last 4+ years and likely was born. Orphanage visits are extremely rare in China. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It’s taken me longer than usual to write this post because I am struggling with what to share and want not to share.

We were told there were about 60 people in the orphanage (pretty small) and we just assumed there were 60 kids. We showed up with 60 toys only to find out that only 10 kids lived there and the rest were severely disabled teenagers and adults.  I think this was the biggest surprise for me and apparently is very typical of orphanages here.  Ashling called some of the older girls- big sister.

The building was very sterile-lots of closed doors. We only saw the 2 rooms that Ashling spent her days in. The first was a small playroom with toys and the second was a room packed with cribs where the kids slept. Everything was clean just very very basic. There was no yard and we learned that she only went outside a few times when volunteers would come and take the kids out.

I am still having trouble digesting that she has mostly spent her life this far in those 2 rooms.  I can’t imagine what’s going through her head the last 3 days with all the new experiences she is having. She loved the esculators at the mall today. It’s amazing how happy and smart she is given her limited experiences.

But it’s also clear why Ashling was so loved there. As soon as we walked in, she lit up and led us to the playroom where her friends screamed “Nana, Nana.” They were all hugs and happiness. With the help of our guide, Ashling introduced us to her friends and thankfully told that we were her new mama, dadda and brother/sister. The caregivers were estactic to see her but also so sad to say goodbye. We posed for dozens of photos with every caregiver. It was clear that they truly loved Nana and she loved them.

It was hard to leave all the kiddos and say goodbye to everyone but the hardest part was watching Nana and her best friend Sami say goodbye. Sami ended up running down the hall because it just got too much. (Thankfully, we learned Sami is being adopted next month- to whom is my next project).

I am so thankful for today’s experience and for everyone that cared for her there. I cant put into words how basic it was but I know the workers did the best they could for these little children.  Ashling never went to pre-school yet she knows her numbers and her colors. This is solely because of the love of the nannies there.

Ashling blew me away today. She has been pretty quiet since we met her but was talking a mile a minute in the orphange. It was amazing to see her in her element. As sad as she was saying goodbye, she was ready to leave and clingying closely to us. I am in awe over how she can comprehend this situation and is processing it so well.

I also have to say Keira and Connor  were rock stars. They asked such great questions and acted so grown up today giving the little kids presents.  They also insist on calling Ashling “Nana’ as all her friends do so I think that nickname is going to stick for awhile 🙂

We ended the night at a noodle restaurant with our group. I really can’t believe we leave Taiyuan tomorrow. This trip is flying by so quickly. Tomorrow, we have a 4 hour flight to Guangzhou where we will spend the next week working with the US consulate there.  Looking forward to this portion of the trip but sad to leave Taiyuan. We will definitely be back.

Vacation Day and Grieving

People are telling me that they are loving this blog so I am going to keep it going for this trip- but if you are losing interest no worries!

Today felt like a vacation day. Our group decided to rent a bus and go to Jinci temple outside the city. It was founded 1400 years ago. Since it was winter our last trip here, we didn’t get the option of going. Although it was a rainy day- the temple and park were so beautiful.

We spent the afternoon having an amazing lunch at the hotel, swimming (Ashling went in the pool), and I even made it to the gym. Our guide took us to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner and we had another delicious meal of Taiyuan noodles.

Today felt like a vacation day and Ashling did great! She was all giggles and smiles! BUT tonight was a different story. She was so sad again after dinner. Little tears rolling down her face for an hour. We know this is healthy but it’s so hard to watch.

Tomorrow is a big day! The government generally does not allow adopting parents to visit the orphanages so we just assumed we would not see Ashling’s; however, they requested that we go tomorrow. We are so thankful we will get to see where Ashling lived for 4 years but a little nervous over what to expect. Ashling seems to have very mixed feelings about going and seeing her friends. Our guide has explained it in detail to her and when asked she said she wanted to go show it to us. So here we go!

 

 

taiyuan

 

This morning, we officially adopted Ashling at the Office of Civil Affiars. It was quick interview and a ton of forms.  The real highlight for the govt people was seeing Connor- we showed them pictures of them when we adopted him 4 years ago.

After the adoption, we decided to go explore the city. It was a beautiful spring day and less polluted then we have ever seen before here. We left the “5th avenue” area we are staying in, got 2 strollers, and went for a long walk through the real city. It’s such a huge city and so many different sites and smells. The traffic situation is pure chaos- don’t know how we crossed some of those roads. We had an amazing meal at a restaurant by using google translator and asking the staff to pick for us.

Keira continued to be amazing and allowed everyone to take selfies of her. She was stopped everywhere she went. Ashling sat in her stroller and took it all in. We learned yesterday that Ashling has been in a small orphanage that has no outside space. She probably has only been outside a handful of times when volunteers took the kids out for special occasions. So hard to comprehend.  It’s hard to imagine what’s going through  her head. She is really doing better we could have imagined.

Thankfully, she is getting along with Connor now- turns out she thought he could speak Chinese and was ignoring her. Connor and Keira are proud siblings trying to make her happy. She was much quieter today and I think she is processing everything and accepting that this is permanent. She still loves to give hugs and kisses to us.

Finished the night at  German beer hall for a few drinks with some new friends. Perfect end. A day we will never forget.

 

 

 

Ashling “Nana” O’Cathain

 

I don’t really know how to describe today in a blog post. It was amazing, surreal and better then expected. Today, we met and fell in love with our daughter Ashling “nana” and we also brought Connor back to the same room we adopted him from 4 years ago.

After waiting at the Office of Civil Affairs for an hour, we saw Ashling and her friend getting out of a van. There were several adoptions going on in the small room so it was chaotic and Ashling got very quiet and stayed that way for several hours before showing us her huge personality.

We are shocked how much of her personality came out today. She is funny, extremely funny, smart, social and a bit of a troublemaker. As smooth as today was, there is also some pretty intense grieving going on. She sobbed during nap time and bedtime and was clearly scared going to bed. She won’t let go of her new belongings- in fact is currently sleeping in her sparkly pink shoes and new emoji bracelets.  She adores Keira and holds her hand and hugs her nonstop but won’t hug or play with Connor. It’s been a tough day for Connor and I am SO proud of him for making the best of it. He is our official photographer and takes 1000 of pictures of her.

Overall an amazing day! She fits in perfectly with our family. She is really tall for her age, very easy going, very social and loves to laugh.

Today we are all feeling very thankful. We go back tomorrow to officially adopt her 🙂 Although she came home with us today there’s is an 24 hour waiting period. The only new information we got on her today was that everyone loved her at her orphanage, called her Nana, and that she was going to be very missed.

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow!!!

 

Happy Easter from Taiyuan China and yes the Easter bunny found Keira and Connor 🙂

Today we took a bumpy flight from Beijing to Taiyuan. We adopted Connor from Taiyuan so we have been here before. Taiyuan is coal mining world. It has the same thick smog over it and intense coal smell as it did 5 years ago. However, this time, we are staying at a 5 star hotel in a very luxury area. It’s crazy to be in a street with Gucci and Lamborghini stores knowing what the rest if the city is like. We are excited to go explore the rest of the week and revisit some of the parks.

Tomorrow morning we get Ashling. No words to describe how excited we all are.  Just hoping and hoping for a relatively smooth transition for her. Her whole world changes tomorrow. Can’t help but think this is her last night without a family and our last night without her as our daughter/sister.

 

 

Beijing Fun- Ready for Ashling!

We have so many amazing pictures from an amazing 3 days in Beijing but our internet connection has been terrible and we can’t upload anything.

Friday we did the Great Wall of China and a bunch of other site-seeing. Saturday we toured Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City with our agency. We are lucky to have a great group and the kids have made fast friends.

We joined some new friends for a Kung Fu show last night.

Jet lag is still pretty bad and the kids crashed early. Before going to bed Keira mentioned she could tell everyone was excited and nervous for Monday. She is right. As much fun as we had in Beijing we are all ready to meet our kiddos Monday.

We fly this morning to Taiyuan. The kids are hoping the Easter Bunny can still find them 🙂