Friday, July 23, 2010

Goodbye David... Hello Typhoon!

Friday, July 23, 2010
Today we said goodbye to our guide David. He was a really nice guy, though his favorite phrase was "It doesn't matter." Apparently, not much mattered in the grand scheme of things while we got our daughter. Sometimes I had to tell David it DOES matter. It matters if I get the photo and video of the person delivering my baby to me. It matters if I buy the Chinese outfit today or tomorrow. It matters to me that our daughter gets nutritious, organic food... or the Prada dress.

It was sad to say goodbye to David, but it was time to get on the airplane and head to Guangzhou.

Only one problem... there was a typhoon in Guagzhou that was headed to Nanning. By the grace of God, we missed the typhoon in both cities. There was concern at the beginning of our trip that our flight might be delayed, but the delay wasn't noticeable because they fed us a snack before we ever left. We were all distracted.

Our plane was able to get out of Nanning without problems. One of our traveling families was not so lucky though. They had chosen to take the train for a different adventure. The seven of them ended up in the train station for several hours and without any food or water. Their adventure was more than 18 hours long... our flight... less than 1 1/2 hrs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mei Mei Learns to Share

Thursday, July 22...
Our first day off from doing anything. A much needed break because it seems like we have been in China for 2 weeks already… maybe even a month… but, it’s only been 3 days.

We returned to Walmart to spend Chinese yuan and waste part of our day. Mei Mei wanted to walk, so daddy hunched over and held her body as she walked all around Walmart. Too bad she’s decided not to bond with me today. It caused a lot of back pain for Jason.

We had lunch at Pizza Hut. Mom ordered the standard: a 9inch deep dish cheese pizza with pepperoni and pineapple. Mei Mei ordered fried rice. We had to have a discussion about whose food was whose. The waitress always puts the food in front of the baby and the baby thinks it’s all hers. So, mama had to lay down some rules… and say who the food was for. Mama’s pizza. Mei Mei’s and Baba’s noodles. She has decided to share… especially her green and red peppers and pineapple. But, at times, she will share her rice and noodles.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guilin SWI... She Couldn't Even Stand! Kung Foo Mei Mei

We left the little shopping area and our driver took us to the orphanage. Through David’s personal connections and those of his friends or other connections, we ended up being rather surprised with our day.

We just “happened” to drive up when one of David’s friends was walking in the courtyard with her lunch. He mentioned that we had gifts and wondered if we could bring them in to the office. The office was 4 white walls, a desk, and a couple wood benches. I was DRENCHING in sweat. I literally had to wipe it off every part of my body every second or two. It was absolutely disgusting.

As we talked, of course, more people joined us. The Chinese are a very curious people… especially of foreigners and foreigners with their babies. We were able to ask many questions and get some answers about Gabriella.

The one thing that sticks out in my memory was that they all said she couldn’t even stand when she came to the orphanage. The doctors don’t know what is wrong with her or how to treat her. Their CT scan said she has a small cerebellum.

They did teach her some Kung Foo exercises though... Kung Foo Mei Mei! It sounds like her “therapy” was very limited and very harsh. The Chinese believe that if your baby doesn’t cry in therapy that she is not doing enough. Whatever she did, because her body is so weak, it had to hurt extremely bad.

One of the gals gave Gabriella an apple. She had four bites from that. We gave them the gifts that we brought… 2 boxes of surgical gloves, lots of coloring books and crayons, and candies: organic suckers and ring pops.

We left the office after having been blessed with an extreme amount of time… not sure what that amount of time was but more than 20 minutes… maybe as much as 40 minutes. One of David’s friends, still on her lunch break, walked us around the courtyard. We did not get to go into the buildings though. While walking, we saw a giant rat. Oh joy!

We stopped at the park where we had seen some photos of Gabriella and her Chinese mama and sister You Mu Lan (Monique). Gabriella was EXTREMELY exhausted, so the photos didn’t go as well as we had hoped.

After saying our goodbyes, we loaded up into the van and left. As we rounded the corner, David and the driver were talking frantically on the phone. Not sure what they were doing, but they seemed to be frustrated about something. Good thing we were in an air conditioned vehicle. They could spend as much time as they needed doing whatever it was they were doing.

She Can Use Chopsticks!

Wednesday, July 21...
Today we got up about 5am and got ready to leave our hotel to fly to Guilin. It cost us $450 US to fly roundtrip with our guide. We hired a personal driver to pick us up at the airport and transport us everywhere we wanted to go… waiting for us with a smile each time we returned. That was $100 / 650 yuan.

We flew to Guilin because that was where our little one was born. When we arrived, we decided to use the Sheraton Hotel restroom so that we could avoid the local squatty potties… which don’t work much for us female westerners because we can’t squat low enough to aim in the hole anyway.

We went for a bite to eat and discovered at lunch that our baby can use chopsticks. That was quite amazing. I think I was drinking my “cappacino” and she picked up the chopsticks and started using them. I was in complete shock. I didn’t even think she could feed herself. She ate her whole bowl of noodles and “meat”… possibly pork. It smelled horrible... I thought I was going to vomit. She wouldn’t leave a drop behind. She wanted to eat the noodles that dropped on her dress, table, and maybe even floor. And, sharing… well, that’s not even an option. We are going to work on this, but we had many things to do so we opted out of our first lesson on sharing. Baba got her a strawberry sorbet… she wouldn’t eat it, and we couldn’t… ice is not an option for us sheltered and protected Americans.

Mama and baba finished our “cappacinos,” convinced Mei Mei that it was time to go, decided to let her take the rest of her noodles so that we could avoid the screaming fit (which has started as of this morning when she doesn’t get her way) and left with our guide David. Our little princess is going to learn (hopefully before leaving China) that throwing fits are not going to work well on her behalf.

Our desires for today were great. We wanted to see Gabriella’s finding spot, the orphanage, to meet Gabriella’s foster parents, to purchase a red outfit, and a t-shirt from Guilin. We weren’t sure how the day would unfold, but hoped and prayed for the best.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photo Shoot of First 24 Hours Together

Here are some photos of our first 24 hours together... Gotcha Day!

David, our guide, helping us footprint her...

First bottle... she was soooo thirsty!

First teeth brushing...

First breakfast... at the Wharton Hotel in Nanning, China... loved the breakfast... 
did not like the hotel at all and would never recommend it. 

First breakfast prayer!

Isn't she just the sweetest little thing?

Her Name Just Got Longer!

With the discovery of Gabriella's birth mom giving her a name, we have decided to keep it. What an incredible gift.

Gabriella's new name is possibly the longest legal name in all of America.

Gabriella Grace Xu Zhi Ming Wufei Fouts... it has all but 9 letters of the alphabet.

Please read our miracle story behind the name Gabriella.

We gave her the middle name Grace because of the incredible work Grace and Hope for Children is doing in the lives of Chinese children... and, we desire for God's grace to be upon her all the days of her life.

Xu Zhi Ming (pronounced Shur Jer Main) is the name the Guilin orphanage gave her.

Wufei is the name her birth mom gave her.

Fouts, of course, is her last name... that is, until she marries her prince.

Given a Name By Her Birthmom

Tuesday, July 20...
Today we made preparations with our guide David to go see Gabriella’s city of birth: Guilin, Guangxi, China. As we were doing so, I mentioned that I would like to get her finding ad. He told me that he had it and he was going to give it to us Friday. I asked him if I could at least see it.

He read the finding add to me and found out that a note was left with Gabriella at the gate of the Guilin SWI on Fuli Road. The note said that she was born on (will add upon return to US) which translates to 1/24/2007.

Without that birth note, I would not have believed Gabriella’s age. I would expect her to be at very most 2 ½ years old, but more probably like an 12-18 month old.

An additional surprise and blessing was that Gabriella was given a name by her birth mom... Wufei... which means cute, beautiful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Her First Shower and Toothbrushing

What a day of activity... in the hotel room and mostly on the bed. Baba had to leave to go back to Walmart. With the diarrhea, we didn't want to have a mess to deal with. So, he ran for diapers. While there, he got a couple other things and a Pizza Hut pizza for mama.

While Baba was gone, Mama and Gabriella took our first shower. The kid is amazing. She held on while I washed her up and washed her hair. She did almost slip through my arms... that was a bit scary for me. She wasn't worried though.

We got her Princess jammies on and then I dried her hair with the hair dryer.

We went back and sat on the bed, had a couple bites of banana, plain white rice, and about 4oz. of her bottle of organic formula, some "juice" and some water.

We got up from the bed and brushed her teeth. She opened her mouth for the tooth brush. All the while, she was smiling. We've got such an easy baby!

She's not 3.5!

While Jason and I have only spent a few hours with Gabriella, I can tell you now that she is NOT three and a half years old.

She is much like an 18 month old. Much of this is due to being in the orphanage for a time. We continue to get conflicting reports on the amount of time she spent there before being moved into Chinese foster care through the Grace and Hope for Children program. Nonetheless, she was in an orphanage; and, although she was favored because of her beauty, she was still neglected.

Our little preschooler is really just our baby girl. It may take a year or so to see her mature in to a little preschooler.

Her First Steps

Gabriella's diagnosed special need is a small cerebellum. We are praying that God will miraculously touch her body.

I think there might be some other issues going on. She appears to have mild scoliosis of her back, and possibly short tendons in her legs towards her ankles or possibly even bones missing. She also has symptoms of mild CP. Her feet walk completely flat and with extreme awkwardness. She currently has limited mobility but is VERY DETERMINED.

She doesn't have the muscle strength to catch herself, so we will have to be very vigilant to make sure she doesn't fall. She is a fragile baby. She could move around the bed, she could use the bed to pull herself up, and she crawls. But, her attempts to walking even 2 steps are much like that of an 11 or 12 month old.

Her First Foods

Mama gave Gabriella a bottle with water... she needs to develop her mouth muscles to help her with her speech. Plus, it allows us to bond. She could not suck the bottle though for quite some time. We tried a cup as well, just to get liquids into her.

Her temperature was 101.6. We prayed over her, got liquids into her and stuck to the BRAT diet today: Banana, plain white rice, organic apple chips, and organic cheerio type cereals. It all worked. By the time she went to bed, her temperature was normal.

We decided not to give her any Tylenol. We really felt the diet and prayer would work for her this time... and, wanted her little body to fight whatever it was... off.

Later, we added some Univera Essentials. This product will get all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and nutrition her body needs. We call this, "juice." She would point to the one she wanted.

I really believe God is giving her a supernatural understanding of English words. She has picked up on EVERYTHING I have said... sometimes even repeating it.

Her First Words

When Gabriella saw the "parent" photo album we had given her Chinese foster parents, on the bed, she pointed, grunted, and stretched her arms towards it. We handed it to her.

She opened the photo album up, turned to the first photo and pointed to mama and said, "Mama". She pointed to daddy and said, "Baba." She pointed to Tyanna and said, "Jie Jie", she pointed to Kai and said "Gu Gu". She also pointed to Grandma Hoppins and said "Nai Nai." I called her "Grandma Angel"... not sure if we will keep that name or not... but, since she took off for heaven just 3 weeks ago, I thought we might keep it.

This clearly was her favorite thing. It even beat out the Telatubbie toy. She really was prepared for us.

Later, I handed her, her monkey toy and pointed to Chai and Belle, our dogs. She said, "Gou Gou". Daddy's not sure what she will do when she sees the dogs. That might be a big problem. But, we've been told that she really isn't afraid of anything except animals that fly.

Her First Giggles

That hard, plastic, red Telatubbie telephone toy brought many giggles. She wanted to show it to us and push the different buttons. We started to make real connections just a couple minutes after placing her on the bed.

She would show mama while she ran the video camera. She would show baba as he got closer to her. It was so sweet.

Can't wait to post the videos.

Her Backpack of Goodies

After Jason and I arrived back at the hotel, we placed Gabriella on the bed and gave her a bit of space. We opened her Mickey Mouse backpack of goodies that were given by her Chinese foster mom.

She had her giraffee-moo-moo, her soft pink bear, a yellow dress, a cow rattle, the monkey toy with our photos in it and both photo albums we sent... the one for the parents and the soft baby one for her. All of these items we had sent her in our care package.

Her foster mama also added a pink doggie like "Blue" and a red Tellatubies telephone which sang songs (this was her favorite toy and brought much comfort to her).

Gabriella came to us in an orange and white striped shirt and some matching shorts. She wore some blue plastic sandals with a little lamb a top them. The piece of candy in her hand was melting, so we threw it away. (Don't get upset... she wasn't. Besides, it wasn't organic... someday she'll understand).

Her First Tear

While we were playing on the bed, Gabriella passed gas. A tear and whimper came. Jason heard the gas passing and said, "I think she has to go potty."

I picked her up and took her to the potty. She was in a diaper because she acquired diarrhea in the last day... most probably from nerves. But, we hope to find out that story later.

I sat her on the toilet and said, "Go potty." Boy did she have to go. Not sure where all of that came from. But, since that moment, she seemed to feel much better.

In fact, this is what we did moments later... we looked at her photo book of her family... she named us all!

Gotcha Day... Whose Baby Didn't Cry?

Gotcha Day is the day that changes an orphan's life. Often times, with little or no preparation by the orphanage, the child is dropped off or handed over to a family and the caregiver turns and walks away... without ever saying anything.

Gabriella was the last of the four children to enter the room. The other three children were hysterical... the crying could have been heard way down the hall. It's a scary day because the children don't know who those foreigners are... they are just handed to them with generally no explanation.

Gabriella's caregiver walked in, handed her to me and walked out. I had to have David, our guide, get her and have her come back for a picture. Geez! As David said, this process is full of many types of tears, tears of joy and tears of sadness.

Gabriella never cried. She sat with us and looked at both Jason and I. The video camera was going... we also had a chance to get a few photos as well. Gabriella looked at both devices and smiled.

I will admit, that in those first few moments with us, she seemed to be looking at us and wanting to say,"Who the heck are you?" We just kept pointing to ourselves and saying, "Baba aiy ne" or "Mama aiy ne." Which translates into Daddy (Mommy) loves you.

Within maybe 5 minutes or so of getting Gabriella, David whisked us all out of the room and back to the van... off to the Wharton Hotel. That part was a little frustrating. I was trying to document this moment... and, he was dragging me out of the room. Argh!

We did manage to stop at the bottom of the elevator to take a couple more photos. Still no tears from our little princess. It began to worry the new baba... but, I reminded him, that I never expected tears from our baby. I always thought she would just sit in our arms and smile. That's just what she did. Thank you Jesus for such a perfect start!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Forbidden Burritos!

We left Seattle, Friday, July 16th at 9pm with that amazing visa I flew to San Francisco for the day before. We arrived in Beijing. Spent the night in the airport with many others... with no opportunity to buy food the entire time we were there.

I packed an entire suitcase of snacks and baby food, and had dispersed them among the bags. It was a good thing. We nibbled on some of that HOPING that something would open up. We did get a miniature "mocha" coffee just before take-off. It was definitely miniature... maybe the equivalent of 3 shots. Oh how I wish one of their Starbucks had been opened.

My $15 Q'doba burritos were confiscated after getting our luggage at the Beijing airport. We had walked through "security" with them and was questioned.

There was no negotiating. But, it was rather hysterical to watch their faces as they pointed to my burrito and asked, "What dis?" When I told them, they made another funny face as they carefully unwrapped it. Though they treated it like it might have had a disease, I really thought they were eventually going to eat it right in front of me. "It meat?" Yes, I said... cooked meat. They told me, "forbidden!" I could not take it and walk 3 steps backward out of their "security" area.

I had been looking forward to eating that burrito for 12 hours. I wasn't happy, but I didn't want to end up in trouble. Someone later emailed me and said I was VERY LUCKY not to get fined. Geez! I need to be a little more careful.

From Seattle to Beijing to Nanning

Last airplane trip without our littlest princess. We had our picture taken with Gabriella's photo. Can't wait to meet her. Landed in Nanning on Sunday, July 18th.

Gotcha Day tomorrow!

Welcome to Nanning, Guangxi, China… 11:11am

Sunday, July 18...
Welcome to Nanning, Guangxi, China… the place where you will get your first Chinese daughter tomorrow. Jason and I got off the plane, took the little bus to the baggage area, grabbed all 5 of our large checked bags, and our 4 carry-ons, and headed out of the area… Jason noticed the clock… it was 11:11am.

Every time we look at the clock it’s 11:11am. For years and years we have wondered why it is that when we look at the clock it is ALWAYS this time. A handful of times I looked up either in the actual Bible or computerized Bible every verse with 11:11. Then, I typed up the verses that could possibly relate to our family. There were 4 the last time I looked up the verses. I can't wait to re-read the ones I thought might be pertinent to our family.

In the last month, our lives have changed so drastically with Grandma Hoppins passing away suddenly, that I am going to look up the verses again. It's interesting that God allowed us to see the clock as we left baggage.

I wonder if 11:11 had to do with this day?