Thursday, January 15, 2009

Christmas Morning...

Initially, Anna had absolutely no idea how to open a christmas gift. I don't think she had ever opened a wrapped present.

Her brothers jumped in to show her how it was done and before long she was a PRO!

Sitting back with Ba-Ba and enjoying the bounty - she especially liked her pink tutu and purple sequence purse! I'm loving having a little girl in the mix!

Good News On The Medical Front

After meeting with the entire group of doctors at the Cranio-Facial clinic at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (surgeon, dentist, orthodontist, speech pathologist, ENT, etc, etc), we got very good news on Anna. Our surgeon said the surgeon in Beijing did a very good job at her cleft lip repair and there would be little to no other corrections needed. He said we'll monitor as she gets older but was very pleased with the work. And now we definitely know why she is so LOUD...she can't hear! Poor thing has fluid in her ears and so we will have ear tubes put in to assist with drainage and this will help her get fewer ear infections and help her to hear better. Once she can hear how LOUD she is, we are hoping this will help her tone it down!! :-) On 1/29, she will have surgery to put tubes in her ears, built a stint for her cleft palate repair, and have repair done on missing enamel on her front teeth. All done on an out patient basis. Then on 2/18, it is time for the "big" surgery...cleft palate repair. We'll be at the hospital for a few days. But the doctor feels Anna's palate is going to be fairly easy to repair (even though it is bilateral complete) and straightforward. We were thrilled. After that, she'll have about 5-6 more surgeries before she's 18. But all this will culminate in Anna living a completely "normal" life...we couldn't be more thankful!

Anna As Boo!

See any similarities???
After reading this blog, my friend Jen - who has a phenomenal sense of humor - sent me these two photos together with the following: "These are the same two people, right? And seriously, isn't that the studio lot for Monsters, Inc in the background?". Thought we would die laughing! Anna DID look like Boo!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Posing for Pictures...

Anna loves pictures. She runs to see the image in the digital camera - sometimes before I can even get the photo taken! Here are some cute poses with GrannyReba and Aunt Kathy (my sister).

And here Anna is just joining right in for pizza dinner with her brothers and her cousins, Quinna and Moraya.

Bonding with Daddy

In China, Anna bonded with me rather quickly. But it definintely took her more time to bond with Russ. And when you think of it, it is understandable completely. She had most likely never seen Westerners before and she had most likely never seen a man (other than in the hospital a year ago when she went for cleft lip surgery) Russ was a very big, scary person to her. She literally cried and screamed the first few times he tried to come near her after "Gotcha Day". So our strategy was that whenever possible, Russ fed her. And it seemed to work. Before we left China, she was doing much better with him -- even going to him and being playful around him.

As you can see by these photos...I am thrilled to tell you that Anna has totally bonded with "Ba-Ba" (Mandarin for Daddy). And she loves him dearly.

Preparing for Christmas

While Anna napped, Spencer, Kent and I decorated the Christmas tree. The boys were so much fun - they asked about each ornament and the story behind it. Russ and I collected ornaments from our travels around the world, so I had some good stories to tell them! It was fun to see their reactions to where all those ornaments came from and the adventures behind us having them to go on our tree! The tree was about 8 feet high so the boys got to use step stools to put the ornaments on - that in and of itself was worth it all to them! When Anna awoke, Daddy brought her down to see the are some of those can tell she is amazed at the lights and glittering ornaments!

Our Christmas photo for our Christmas card this year....

Anna Starts Day School - 12/1/08

Anna started to day school very quickly following our return from China. Our social worker gave us some good advice. She told me if I was planning to go back to work full time, I should ease Anna into day care as quickly as Anna was comfortable doing it. This was because she was already so used to a group environment there was no reason to remove her from a group environment for several months, get her used to one-on-one every day and then try to re-transition her back into a group environment. So one month after we got Anna, she started day school at the same preschool that Kent attended. The staff and director (and needless to say Russ, Granny Reba and I) were amazed at her ease of transition. She loves to jump right into the activities that are going on with the class -- painting, singing, story time, playground, etc. She didn't cry the first day that I left her (she was distracted by a cute little boy's t-shirt that had Christmas lights blinking - thank goodness!) but she did cry every day after that for about a week. Now it's hit or miss. And she only cries for a minute or two. She was even in the preshool's christmas program. Can you see her there in the little angel's costume beside her teachers? She didn't know a word of what they were singing but she stood up there as pretty as you please! I was so proud of her. She is courageous and determined beyond words.

Spencer picking up Anna on her first day of class. She was so thrilled to see us! Everyday when we pick her up, she runs to us laughing and screaming. The teachers think it is so cute. And, of course, the boys love it!

Spencer's Birthday at School -- Anna was his "Gift"

We arrived home from China after midnight on Spencer's birthday, 11/14, which was a Friday. So we waited to celebrate his birthday at school until the following Monday, 11/17. He wanted his class to meet Anna as they had talked about the adoption process during the school year and his classmates knew his mom and dad were in China getting his sister. So for his birthday celebration, he asked if he could bring Anna in to help him celebrate. Of course his phenomenal teacher said yes and she took this precious photo of Spencer showing off his brand new little sister. His expression says it all...he is madly in love! And so proud of her.

Anna's First Time to Our Church

Anna's last bottle before we head out for her first Sunday at our church (since she loves to eat - we always try to make sure she is full as can be before we go anywhere and always take extra snacks - even if we think she couldn't possibly eat any more - she always can!). Since we teach Sunday School for 2nd graders, we took her with us to our class (verses the nursery). The kids had been so anxious to get to see her for so many months, they were thrilled to finally get to see her in person. They thought she was very small and cute.

Here Kent is helping Moma and Daddy by playing with Anna as she finishes her bottle. Both boys have made a wonderful adjustment to being a "3 kid" family. Kent going from the baby to the "big brother" has been great for him. And Spencer, already big brother to Kent, loves being the big brother to a sister as well as his brother.

Getting to know you...

Our first day home we spent lots of time with the boys playing with Anna and showing her all of her new toys and her new home. She was fascinated with everything and quickly absorbs her surroundings. Our wonderful neighbors, John and Elizabeth, brought their kids, Dylan and Elise, down to meet Anna that afternoon. Elise was also adopted from China and was born 20 days after Anna!! They are very cute together and we hope they will be fast friends. They brought her the most beautiful bouquet of ballons that absolutely fascinated her. She played with them for days.

Spencer and Kent wearing their "ge-ge" shirts from Guangzhou.

Anna is a very quick study and very smart. Her ability to adapt and learn has amazed us. She is also very smart at "working the deal" to get her way. At this point, she continues to throw tantrums but we are excited about getting her on a schedule. Also, she had an ear infection (as we thought the entire time we were in China but the doctors there said she had wax buildup but no infection). She was put on antibiotics once we got her to our pediatrician and that significantly helped reduce the crying and screaming. That poor child was teething and had an ear infection while going through this transition!!

First Day at Home

Finally, Anna at home. Here is our first morning together on 11/15. The boys were beyond thrilled and Granny Reba was so welcoming and loving to Anna. Spencer and Kent couldn't wait for Anna to get up and had to be there when she opened her eyes. They also wanted to hold her for her first bottle.

Anna sleeping peacefully in her bed prior to seeing her brothers waiting for her to wake up.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chronological Review of Our Trip to China

To say things got extremely hectic during our trip to China and back home would be an understatement. I failed to keep up the blog but am now going to try to catch up and build upon what I started in China. Here's a chronological listing of what transpired while we were in China:
10/29: Left Atlanta for China
10/30: Arrived in China - Russ and I went out for "Beijing Duck" dinner - we teased that this was our last meal as parents of "boys only"!! :-)
10/31: Our visit to the Great Wall of China and a hutong. We also met up with Jill and Tom for dinner. Jill and I met over the internet before we knew were were traveling together or before we even knew we were both with the same adoption agency! Jill and Tom were there to adopt a precious little boy, Quinn.
11/1: Our "gotcha day" with Anna...we were so thrilled and so terrified at the same time...we really wanted to get home to the medical specialists to help us understand the severity of her condition and determine plans to correct. She is so very small...20 pounds at 25 months.
11/2: Our phenomenal guide in China, Leah Zhang, took us to "The Place" to allow some fun bonding time with the kids. It was a place with lots of soft things for the kids to crawl on / play on. Anna had a wonderful time. This was the first time that I saw her smile and giggle. As she threw her head back with laughter, this was also the first time I saw her cleft palate. She had such a great time. And to be as little as she is, she tried everything! Nothing stopped her. We went to the Super Walmart (yes, that's right) and bought supplies for Anna. While Anna and I were waiting for Russ to check out, a very old Chinese gentleman walked up to me. He was so kind and asked who I was and who Anna was. He spoke beautiful English which is very rare a Chinese gentleman of his age. After our brief conversation, he looked me in the eyes and told me what a lucky little girl Anna is and what a wonderful life she will now have. I thought I was going to break down and cry. It was one of the most moving things that has ever happened to me. I knew we were so blessed to have Anna. I also spoke to my mom that night and she shared with me some words I'll never forget. Those two events of encouragement (the Chinese gentlemen's comments and my mom's words) made all the difference.
11/3: Today we went to the Beijing Civil Affairs office and our adoption was finalized in China. When the government official stated that once we signed the papers, we could not give Anna back, Russ put out his hand for her to shake on it (like you can't take her back either). You could tell she was obviously surprised and seemed very happy that we were so thrilled to make that committment. We also went to the notary office, and went and got Anna's passport application. Anna really had a rough time at the notary office crying and screaming. I felt badly for the other families and the workers there. But it is such a huge adjustment for her.
11/4: A day of fun! We took Anna to see the Olympic village - the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. It was so much fun and you could tell that many of the Chinese tourist there, from all over China, had never seen Westerners.
11/5: Visited the Temple of Heaven...but it was VERY rough. Let's say Anna does NOT like taxis. Once we got out of the taxi, it seemed like it was going to be okay. We saw many elderly Chinese people doing their morning exercise, dance, and tai chai. Then Anna began crying and would not stop for about 35 mins. No matter what. She kept crying and screaming. The guide tried to help but the second time she tried to take her, I told her that I wanted Anna to get to know me for comfort. Anna really liked the guides to speak to her in Mandarin and that usually calmed her down. We learned that the guides are not supposed to play with and hold the children as that confuses them and interrupts the bonding experience with the new parents. A kind elderly Chinese woman offered Anna her tangerine. We finally had to leave the tour and grab a cab home (lovely, another cab ride!) but we got home and things got back to normal.
11/6: A visit to the Forbidden City and Summer Palace with our guide Tom. He was quite a character and very knowledgeable. As Leah said "he is quite detailed". At the summer palace an elderly Chinese woman came up and wanted to talk with me. She had never seen a Westerner and wanted her photograph made with me. I also got my photo made with her and her husband on our camera. She and her husband were very kind. Both the Forbidden City and Summer Palace were facinating and Anna did well at both places. Thank goodness!!
11/7: Today we went to Anna's finding place. Leah Zhang, with our adoption agency in China, was phenomenal at doing research and trying to get as much information as possible and translating it for us. Anna was found at the East Gate of the Final Station of Bus No. 28. She was found at 5:30am by a woman on her way to work. She was wrapped in a blanket with a note that stated she was born on 10/9/06 in the "midnight" at 12:20am. It states that she drinks milk well and is healthy. But her parents could not give her medical care and hoped kind people could help her. It was very moving to know that her parents kept her for 15 days before making the decision to give her up. And that they did it so that she could have a better life. It must have been so hard because she is such a precious child. That afternoon we went out to lighten things up a bit. On our way to Tiennamin square, we ran into a "student" who took us to his studio and did some art work for Anna. We'll hang that in her room. The government buildings and the big picture of Mao were surreal to see in person after seeing them on the television during so much conflict in China.
11/8: Today we went with our friends Tom and Jill to Confusious temple and Buddist temple. The guide we had used previously in the week (Tom) took us. Anna did pretty well today.
11/9: All I can remember about Sunday, 11/9, is that we went to dinner with Tom and Jill - always going to fun and good local places with them. And Russ got REALLY sick that night. As sick as I have ever seen him. I was petrified. We had to fly to Guangzhou the next day so that we could go to the US Consolate. Our entire trip was planned around that Consolate visit. I was so scared for Russ being sick (too afraid for him to go to the hospital in the middle of the night in China and he probably couldn't have gotten there anyway -- nor would he have agreed to go!) and so afraid we would miss our flight and our US Consolate appointment. And then it would delay getting Anna home.
11/10: It was a mess. But Russ was so phenomenal. I have no idea how he made it through the Beijing airport and on the plane...but he did! We made the flight. Anna did really well all morning as we packed and ate breakfast by ourselves trying to stay out of the room when possible so Russ could sleep. She finally got cranky at the airport and a kind elderly Chinese woman came up and asked "May I help you?" and I gratefully accepted her help. She spoke to Anna in Mandarin and got her calmed down. Anna did BEAUTIFULLY on her first flight ever - from Beijing to Guangzhou. She sat in her seat and played with her books and toys out of the backpack Auntie Ellen sent with us. She was an angel. I was saying my prayers of thanks to God the entire way!! Once we landed it was late and we had a bus ride to take to get to the hotel. She threw an absolutely fit at the airport (screaming, kicking, scratching in the baby carrier I carried her in) and during the bus ride. I was just so grateful it wasn't on the plane!
11/11: Today was medical clinic visit to ensure it was okay to bring her to the US and then SHOPPING in Guangzhou. It was so fun and the people are very friendly. Eating breakfast at the White Swan hotel was so interesting. The entire restaurant is full of adoptive families with their new Chinese children.
11/12: Photos were taken of the children in our travel group on the "red couch". Anna looks adorable in her red traditional outfit on the couch with Quinn, Melia, and Ari (and all the other wonderful children from the other provinces!).
11/13: Final day of shopping and hanging out with our new friends that we made in China. We leave tomorrow for home!
11/14: We left our hotel rooms at 4:30am to go to the airport. After much to do about nothing, we were ticketed and on our way home! It took 34 hours of travel (including stops and delays) to get Anna home...but we made it. And she did exceptionally well on the flights!! Only 2 times did she cry on the planes and one time at the airport -- which I thought was tremendous considering everything. When we landed in Newark, NJ on 11/14/2008 (Spencer's 8th Birthday), Anna became an American citizen. When we got home, Granny Reba had promised the boys that she would wake them up...and she did! They were thrilled. I'll never forget the look of awe and wonderment on their faces the first time they saw their little sister - it was amazing! True love. Mom and I stayed up and talked for hours after Spencer, Kent and Russ went to bed. It had been an amazing 2.5 weeks. I wanted to hear everything mom wanted to share about the boys and she wanted to hear everything I wanted to share about Anna and our trip to get her!