A rough storm came up one night and left a sandy beach strewn with starfish. The next morning, a child walked along the shore, stopping every few feet to pick up a starfish and flinging it out into the sea. An old man watched the child and finally shouted at him, "Why bother, son? There's too many starfish to make a difference!". With that, the boy picked up another starfish and looked at it intently before heaving out into the sea. He then turned to the old man and said...

"It Makes A Difference To This One"...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back Online

Hi Everybody! Sorry I've gone AWOL for the last few weeks. We made it home from China and hit the ground running, and I haven't had time to sit at the computer for any length of time. Since I'm at my home computer and no longer dealing with the "Great Firewall of China", I can also post some pictures!

Since our last post, a lot has happened. We didn't have any issues getting Brody's adoption finalized and getting his visa and passport, and were allowed to leave China without problems. We were able to get in a little more sightseeing before we left, such as the Guangzhou Zoo (where our group was just as interesting to the locals as the animals!), the 5 Ram Park, and we took a dinner cruise on the Pearl River the night before we went to the Consulate. The dinner cruise was a lot of fun! The dinner was very mediocre, but the buildings along the river are all lit up with colored lights and lasers, and it is very pretty. The evening was balmy and comfortable, and there is a deck on top where you could stand and look at everything. Makenna especially loved it.

Wednesday the 12th was our last full day in China. We'd had a great trip, but we were all ready to go home! That afternoon around 3pm we went to the American Consulate to take our oath promising never to abandon or abuse Brody, then we had a short drive to the train station where we bid a tearful farewell to some of our travelling companions and went into the terminal to take the train to Hong Kong. It was a 2 hour trip, and pretty enjoyable. The staff on the train were less than helpful, but there were a few people on the train who were willing to help us find our seats. We saw a little of Brody's home town, Dongguan, which truthfully looked pretty industrial and non-descript. When we landed in Hong Kong, our hotel was right across from the train station, so we wrestled kids and baggage across the street, checked in, and got to our room. The room had a moldy smell that bothered Makenna and me for several days afterwards, but otherwise the room was ok, and the view of Victoria Harbor was out of this world! When we bring the kids back for a heritage tour (when they are old enough to drag their own luggage!!), we plan to explore Hong Kong more fully. It is fabulously beautiful, and everything that we saw was clean, new and gorgeous.

The next morning, Thursday the 13th, we boarded our Continental flight to Newark, a 15hr 30 minute flight. I sat with the kids, who spent the entire trip either sleeping on me, fighting, or jockeying for position on my lap. Mom and Bernie were able to relax and enjoy their movies, and neither child would allow either of them to hold them for very long, and I wasn't allowed to sleep for the entire flight! It was a very long day, and all you really can do is sit there and gut it out (even though in my mind I was running up and down the aisles screaming "Lemme out! Lemme out!). We finally landed in Newark, cruised through customs, immigration, and security, and thought we were almost home free when we got to our gate and found that our flight to KC was delayed for 1 hour 45 minutes!!! AAAAHHHH! Of course by this time we are all exhausted and the kids are crabby, but there was absolutely nothing we could do about it! We finally got on the plane to KC about 2 hours later than scheduled and flew home without incident. There was no one to greet us when we got home, which was fine with us, so we were able to get on the shuttle and get our car. When we got to the long-term parking lot, we found that when we dropped it off 2 weeks earlier someone had left the inside light on so the car's battery was dead! When they finally got our car jump started and brought around, the guy turned off the car, took the keys out, and handed them to us. Of course the car wouldn't start again so soon after being jumped, so we had to wait for them to jump it again! By this time it was about 9:30pm, and we still had a 45 minute drive home. We made it home ok, went to Taco Bell for tacos, then came home, took showers, ate, and hit the bed. What a long long long day! We all slept all night, then the next morning, Friday, Mom headed home. We are ready to begin our new lives as a family of four!
The Empress has returned to claim her rightful throne!!!
Waiting to go get Brody!
Two beautiful children to love!!!!
Happy Mommy!!

Yeah, I'm talkin' ta you!!!

Happy Parents!!The Diva has arrived!!
Daddy loves this part!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Days 4-8: Sightseeing and Paperwork

On Tuesday, August 4th, we spent the morning doing paperwork and going back to the local adoption center to see the registrar and notary, and present our gifts to them. The first 24 hours you have your new baby is considered the "harmonious period", so theoretically if you decide for any reason this is not the baby for you then you can disrupt the adoption without repercussions. Once you see the Notary and Resgistrar and sign the papers, then the adoption is considered finalized. Brody is officially ours, no one can take him away!!!

In the afternoon, we went to the local mall (7 stories tall, all inside!) where Mom and I stopped at the Pucca store (Pucca is a cartoon character who is Chinese, and she loves a little Ninja named Garu, and she is always trying to catch him and kiss him-it's soo cute!). I had such a hard time choosing what I wanted, but ended up getting this really cute purse. Mom got a back-pack, and Makenna got a Garu doll. At one point Bernie was standing outside the Pucca store with both kids, and a Chinese gal kept trying to sneak pictures of them on her camera! Every time he would look at her, she was pretending to look the other way and hiding her camera. After the mall, we went to the Careforre supermarket and bought some pop, water, snacks, and a cute stroller. I love browsing the supermarktet-there's so much stuff that I've never seen before!!

On Wednesday, we visited a local park in the morning, then went to Shamian Island in the afternoon for the medical exam. That went very smoothly, then we had time for some quick shopping before returning to the hotel.

Thursday it rained all day until about 4pm. We took it easy all day and took naps, then that evening we struck out for a solo trip to Shamian Island for dinner and shopping via taxi. We had plenty of time to browse all the shops we wanted and purchase souvenirs, then we went to the local famous eatery "Lucy's" for dinner. It is famous among American adopters because it has some good ole' American comfort food, which tastes really good when you've had 1 1/2 weeks of Chinese food! We spent some time looking around the White Swan hotel, too. It has a really beautiful lobby with a waterfall and some of the biggest koi I have ever seen!

On Friday we took a trip to the Chen Clan Temple, that the Chen family built for ancestor worship. It is beautiful, with lovely gardens and rock formations, and very intricate carvings and paintings. After that we went to the Six Banyan Temple, which is a famous temple for worship. There were many worshipers there, and there are huge, fantastic statues of Buddha-covered in gold and over 2 stories tall! Really beautiful. We had Elsie ask one of the monks there if he would bless our children, so several of the families brought their children up, too, and we were all blessed by the monk. He chanted and beat on a small wooden drum, then sprinkled water on all of us. It was a very spiritual experience for me-I had goose bumps while it was happening! It really was one of the things about this whole trip that I will always remember.

I have absolutely no recollection of doing anything on Saturday, so we must have just laid low and watched Guangzhou go by outside the windows! It actually is very entertaining to watch all the traffic and people go by outside-it is a miracle anyone survives! We're on the 13th floor, so we have a great view! We occasionally need some down-time, kids included.

All of the sightseeing has been a lot of fun, but the best part of the trip has been watching Brody blossom before our eyes. Every morning he wakes up with a smile! He seems to really love to be around us, and loves to be included in everything we do. He is willing to do and taste anything, but certainly lets us know when he doesn't like something! He's turning out to be a reall mama's boy, too, and doesn't let anyone take him out of my arms. He gets really mad, pulls his arm back with his hand in a fist, and makes a clicking noise with his tongue if Bernie holds his hands out to take him when I'm holding him. It's really funny!! Brody is starting to recognize his name, and is becoming very verbal, with lots of babbling and laughing. Bernie and I think that we have gotten super lucky for the second time!!! We're having lots of fun getting to know our new son, and we think he's great!

Have I mentioned I would do almost anything for a bag of Pretzels?????

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day #4-Today is the BIG DAY- GOTCHA

I couldn't believe the day had finally arrived- the day Bernie and I had been preparing for and waiting for and dreaming about for over 2 years!! I have to confess that as you know, today is Saturday and we got Brody on Monday, and I just really don't remember much about the day leading up to getting to the Guangdong Adoption Center! I vaguely remember having breakfast at the hotel, then going to the bank as a group and getting our cash converted to RMB for the orphanage donation, then preparing gifts for the nannies and the orphanage director. It seemed like forever, but finally, 3pm rolled around!!! Our group gathered in the hotel lobby, and then got on the bus for the trip to the GAC. The Guangdong Adoption Center is in a typical Guangdong neighborhood-shops below, apartments above, extrememly crowded. We pull up to the building then went up to the 8th floor. Everyone was so excited! I was on the verge of tears, I could hardly wait to see my baby!!!

We get off the elevator and go into a large room with a hallway and offices, and in one room in particular we could see people with babies sitting around. Our babies!!! I looked for Brody but I couldn't see him. There was a lot of noise and confusion, because there was another group of families there at the same time getting their babies, too. Finally, they called one of the families from our group to come and get their baby, and that couple was so happy! I figured we would be towards the end because of alphabetical order, so imagine our surprise when they called our names next! Out through the curtain toddled a little tiny beautiful boy with a pale yellow shirt and shorts with blue jelly shoes and a crew cut!! He was sooooo cute! He was lead to us then stood there in all his tininess, and allowed me to pick him up. It really was one of the most wonderful and meaningful moments of my life! Bernie and I just looked at him, his tiny fingers and toes, and how pretty his eyes and mouth were! He just looked up at us, didn't cry one little peep. While the other families were getting their babies, Bernie, Makenna, Mom and I got down on the floor and played with Brody. We brought some toys to play with, and also some water and Cheerios. Food is a great ice-breaker! Bernie and I were just reveling in the moment, and Brody was letting us take turns holding, kissing, and squeezing him. We were able to go around and look at other familie's babies and congratulate them, and everyone was crying and taking pictures-it was great! Brody took it all in stride, acted like he did it every day. We got the opportunity to speak with two of the nannies from the orphanange and ask a few questions about Brody's life up to now. We were grateful to have a chance to have some questions answered!

After a long while, we all were herded back onto the bus with our new arrivals. There was remarkably little screaming or crying on the bus, or at least if there was I didn't notice it! While playing with Brody, we even coaxed a few smiles out of him, and he has a beautiful, big smile with beautiful white teeth! We got back to the hotel, and we all just sat around in our room and played, keeping everything low-key because we didn't want to stress Brody out too much. Makenna was in hog heaven, and was anxious to show him every toy we brought for him. They had fun playing together while he sat on my lap. Around 5:30 pm I had to meet with our coordinator for some adoption paperwork. As I went out the door, Brody cried just a little bit, and although I don't want him unhappy, I was really glad that he was already going to miss me! After I got back, we had some dinner and a bath, and Brody went to bed with very little fuss. He slept all night long without a peep, and I am hopeful that I am going to have at least 1 good sleeper.

What a great day! I am the luckiest Mom in the world-two beautiful babies to love!!!!!!!

Day #3-Off to Guangzhou

One more day to Brody!!! This is the morning we flew to Guangzhou. Up at 4am, breakfast on the bus on the way to the airport, check in, then everyone in our travel group went their separate ways. We have people going to many different places in China, and 2 families we met are going to Guangzhou with us, although we will be meeting 6 more families there. We flew China Air, and it was a nice flight. It was a huge plane, and I would say it was less than 1/8th full-seriously, I'm not exaggerating! Our flight was very comfortable and only 3 hours long. When the plane landed, we disembarked onto the tarmac and boarded a bus to the terminal. The terminal was under construction. Boy, was it hot, hot, hot out there on the tarmac!!! When we got inside, we picked up our luggage and met our Guangzhou guide, Elsie. She is absolutely fabulous, and I remember how nice she was from the last time we were here. Anyway, on the way to the hotel, Elsie gave us some info on our itinerary, and told us that we would be getting our babies after 3pm the following day (Monday). I didn't think I could wait that long, but I had no choice! We were taken to our hotel, the China Hotel. It is super nice! I was originally disappointed when I found out that we wouldn't be staying at the White Swan, but now that we are here I'm glad. The hotel is really very, very nice! We have an adjoining room with Mom, so we have plenty of room to spread out and the kids will have lots of room to run around. The rooms are larger than the WS, and there is more to do for entertainment in the area-parks, shopping, and restaurants. Also, the bathroom is awesome! Breakfast is included each day for all of us, and they have a large buffet from 6:30-10:30.

When we got to our rooms, we all unloaded and unpacked into the drawers. It is very nice to be staying in one place for the rest of our trip, because we can unpack and relax! We went to the 7-11 and got some snacks and pop. Elsie is going to have our driver pick up a case of waters for each family. It was fun to go into the 7-11. Snacks here are different from snacks in the US! There are Pringles chips-regular, cheese, crab, shrimp, and seaweed flavored (yikes!) We also saw dried meat and fish in packages, and many other things that we couldn't figure out what it was because the labels were in Chinese (of course!). There were also Dove bars, Ande's mints, M&M's, Haagen-Daz ice cream, and Lay's potato chips. We picked up a few things to munch on, then went back to the room. Bernie and I went to the McDonalds across the street and we all had Big Macs with fries. It tasted just the same as home. They offer corn as a choice for the Happy Meals! We were happy to just be able to eat something familiar instead of having to head out to a restaurant and try to figure out what's what since it was our first night in. We were all happy to be here, and had a relaxing evening just hanging out in our room!

Day #2- Sightseeing

Saturday was our day for sightseeing in Beijing. We were up early for breakfast at the hotel's breakfast buffet, then we all loaded a bus for Tienamen Square, our first stop for the day. On our way to TS, we passed by the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube Olympic venues, and the Olympic Park. They are huge! Too bad we didn't get to tour them, but there wasn't enough time. TS is just like I remember it from the last time- huge, crowded, and people staring at us like we have 3 heads. Our guide Jessie told us that people from all over China make the pilgrimage to Beijing to see TS and the Forbidden City, and many of them may never have seen "foreigners" before, and they are very curious. Also, in American culture it is considered rude to stare, but not in Chinese culture, so it made us feel uncomfortable but they don't mean anything by it. So anyway, before you enter the FC there is an opportunity to have a group photo taken that will be ready for pick-up when you exit. Our group wanted a photo, so as the photographer was trying to herd us into position (there were 30+ of us), we were attracting a lot of attention. We were laughing and the crowd was laughing, and when the photographer took our picture, many of the onlookers took our picture, too! It was pretty funny.

We entered the Forbidden City, and I now know what cattle feel like when they are herded into the truck to go the the slaughter house. Even our guides commented on how crowded it was, so for them to say that really means something! We were unable to really get close enough to see anything because of the huge crowds gathered around any artifacts, and nobody explained what we were seeing or the symbolism involved, because they couldn't be heard. About halfway in, one of our group members became ill, and our guides were going fast to get her out. That meant that the rest of us were rushing to keep up, and in constant terror of getting lost. If you stopped for anything or you couldn't make your way through the crowd, when you looked up everyone was gone! I put Makenna on Bernie's shoulders early in the tour because I was in mortal fear of losing her, and I was seriously relieved when we arrived at the exit. I feel bad for everyone who hasn't been there before, because they didn't really get to see much or experience the FC like Bernie and I did the last time we came to China. It is really a fantastic place, and I'm sure we'll go there again when we come back to do a Heritage Tour!

After leaving the FC, we stopped at a Peking Duck restaurant for a wonderful Chinese meal. Each dish was more delicious than the last! They carve the duck in a certain way, then you put it on a paper-thin pancake with strips of onion and celery and sauce, then fold it like a fajita and eat it. It is fantastic!! Also, the restaurant was Mom's first experience with a "squatty potty". She wasn't thrilled with it, but at least she didn't fall in and I think she got the job done. Now she really has something to tell her friends about- it's all part of the "full China experience"!!!

Our next stop was the Great Wall of China. By this time, the humidity was extremely thick and rain was threatening. You couldn't see the mountains until we were almost into them, and really couldn't see the Great Wall in all it's full glory, but it is definitely something to behold! Bernie, Makenna and I walked up a little way. Makenna was mad because she expected Bernie to carry her all the way to the top!! He went as far as he could, then they came back down. The GW is a very challenging climb, because it is very steep and the steps are very uneven. We were given plenty of time to wander around and do a little shopping. There are some beautiful gardens on the grounds, and it wasn't crowded at all like the FC was. You could see anything that you wanted as long as you wanted. It is really something to see in person something that was being built 2000 years ago, when my ancestors were still living in caves! The Chinese really have a lot of spectacular culture that they should be very proud of! Just as we were leaving, the clouds opened up and poured on us. A few of our group got soaked, but we were already on the bus enjoying the air conditioning (spoiled Americans!!). We went back to the hotel, had dinner and went to bed-we had a 4am wake-up call for the next morning because we were leaving for Guangzhou at 8am the next morning!!

Brody, your family is coming for you!!!!!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009


I again want to apologize for taking so long to post. This blog has been an exercise in frustration while here in China! Our host country controls its internet access, and Blogger is a "forbidden" site, so finding a way around it took up the first few days. When I finally had time to post, we were too busy or too exhausted to sit down for the time it would take to really catch everyone up. Then, I have tried 3 different times to post, and 3different times it has disappeared as I have tried to save or create a draft after working on the post for 2-3 hours each time! Since I am not one to give up, I am going to try again! Only this time I will make my posts shorter, so please bear with me. When I first started this blog, I told you I am not a computer whiz, and I still am not!

Anyway, we left home on July 30th. The day before that we stayed up until 1:30 am packing and getting things ready. I was doing just fine and not getting nervous at all. I reviewed our paperwork for the 100th time to make sure we had everything, when I realized that there was a form that we needed to take with us that needed to be notarized! No big deal, except that it was 10:30 at night, and our flight left at 6am the next morning!! AAACKK!!!! I got on the internet and was fortunate enough to find an emergency notary that lived close to us. He met us at the local Quik Trip, and we were done in under 15 minutes! Thank heavens! There for a while, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown! Anyway, the next morning we made it to the airport in plenty of time, and I was smiling all the way! I had fantasized about this drive for almost 2 years, and nothing was going to get me down!!!

We had a comfortable and uneventful flight to Newark, NJ, and the flight actually arrived about 20 minutes early. There was a 2 hour layover in Newark, where we were able to meet some of the families we would be travelling with and who were on the same flight as we were to Beijing. They are so nice, we knew we were going to have a great trip! Our flight to Beijing left on time, and it was just fine. Each seat had its own tv in front of it with on-demand movies and tv shows, and the food was really good. The seats were comfortable, too, even though we were flying coach. For anyone who will be flying to Beijing, I highly recommend flying Continental. We flew United when we went to China to adopt Makenna in 2006, and Bernie and I both thought that our Continental flight was better in every way-comfort, tv, flight attendants, food, etc. Plus, it was over $1000 USD cheaper! Of course, by the end of the flight all you want to do is get there- 13 hours is 13 hours, no matter how comfortable!!

When we landed in Beijing, we were all exhausted. We went through the "temperature check" and thank heavens we were all fever-free. We then made our way through the checkpoints to another terminal where we picked up our luggage, then we were to meet our CHI coordinator, Jessie, right outside the baggage claim area. It was a surreal experience-we are exhausted, hauling all of our belongings and a sleeping child, then you round a corner and there are at least 100 Chinese people waving 8x10 signs in every imaginable language trying to find their parties, talking, yelling and laughing really loud, while in the backdrop it is a huge terminal with thousands of people going in every direction and being very loud themselves. I was googly-eyed with fatigue, and we had to stop to focus on the signs-it was very confusing!!! Luckily, our coordinator found us and lead us to our group, where we met more families travelling with us. We loaded on a bus and headed to our hotel, which was very nice. We unloaded, went to a little shop for bottled water and some coke, then went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The sky over Beijing was very hazy, but it was from humidity, not pollution (like last time!). We were so excited to be there-the first leg of our trip was over!! We all went back to our room-by the way, did I mention that my Mom is with us, too? Everyone had a shower, I also had a sleeping pill, and the next thing I knew it was 10 hours later. Thus endeth the first day!

I am going to post this and write some more and post that, then maybe I can get the whole story out!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We're here

Hi everyone!!! I am SO sorry that I haven't posted anything yet- we have experienced some technical difficulties with the internet that we had a hard time getting past! In addition, in the days leading to our departure from the US, I was so busy and up late every night doing things for the trip that I simply couldn't spare the time to sit down and make a proper post. So anyway, things are up and running now and I will be able to get everyone updated!!! I'm still trying to figure out how to post pictures-things are a little different over here (any suggestions by anyone who has BTDT would be appreciated!). I will sit down at the computer later on today and do a much more detailed post, telling you more about what has happened so far. We are all doing fine, we had a great (but LONG!) flight over, the food has been really good, we haven't had any major mishaps (so far!), and are having a great time!

We are preparing to meet Brody in ONE HOUR!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so excited that we can hardly sit still! Our coordinator, Elsie, has given us some additional information about Brody that was recorded by the orphanage, for example, he is still on a bottle, eats rice cereal, loves noisy toys, is easygoing, and loves to dance to music! It was so much fun to learn a little more about him. I reminisce about how special and earth-shattering "Gotcha Day" was with Makenna, and how our lives were forever changed for the better after September 18, 2006!!! Today is going to be exactly the same when I look back on it, and if I live to be 100, I'll never forget it, how it feels to be handed that little child whose entire future is changed on that day. Wow! What an experience!

Well, I gotta get ready to go to the Government Office to get our new little boy! Our waiting is almost over! I'll post again soon!!!!!!