Day 6: A Day at the Park

Popping on for a short update as we wait for our flight (on Friday Day 7).

Yesterday was a free day. Our guide handled business for us that we didn’t need to be present for. Instead, we spent the day at the park. It’s so much fun getting to know Eli. He is a tiny politician-shaking hands with all we meet and still telling the we are his parents and now he adds,”I am their son.”

The world is now like a giant candy shop for Eli so we are also learning to reel him in and try to avoid overstimulating him. He can be a bit like the yellow minions! He wants each toy we see but is also so sweet. He pointed to a plastic bracelet and said, “Mei Mei Hannah.” We did pick up some bubbles at the park and his joy was incredible. He loves them!

We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and then joined other adopting families for dinner. It’s been nice to see their little ones (all younger than Eli) opening up and bonding.

And finally we all slept well! Feeling rested and ready for Guangzhou!

See you there!

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Day 5: Eli’s last visit to Nanyang

Today (Wednesday in China) we headed to Eli’s hometown to apply for his passport. It was a 3 hour drive there and over 4 hours back. I had been dreading this trip because I had heard that some people haven’t had air conditioning in their van, hadn’t been able to use the bathroom all day, and couldn’t eat all day. We have an amazingly awesome guide, van, and driver. I actually enjoyed the trip because it gave us a chance to cuddle with Eli. He’s a busy boy so it was especially good for me to get some closer, quieter, extended time.

Eli’s city has fewer tall buildings. Life is a little more slow..a few scooters instead of dozens. People were friendly and we were told the city is very safe. Eli’s orphanage directors came to fill out paperwork. We learned he’s been living in not only an orphanage but a welfare institute (where people of all ages live who need support from the government). One of his directors said hello but Eli didn’t seem to have any reaction. Our guide let us know that he probably didn’t have any contact with them. He got very excited to enter the city but wasn’t sad or confused. Our guide asked him about the day before when he cried before our nap. He adamantly denied crying so I guess it’s the first of a few hard times neither of us will fully understand.

Our trip took the vast majority of our day. We did stop at a Chinese hamburger joint….in one word-YIKES! Besides the random urination on steps or the sidewalk (which can put a quick end to your appetite), the food was pretty unrecognizable. A random girl without parents in sight sat at our table. She was adorable and super friendly but also mocked Ei’s height at some point in our conversation. On a more humorous note, she told our guide that Adam looked like Mr. Bean! After we ate, we stopped at a rest stop (per Eli’s request) and I was so shocked…they had an accessible bathroom-in the middle of the Chinese countryside! I was amazed!

The ride home was a tad terrifying. Lane lines are completely a suggestion. As is the direction of the road-even the highway! Imagine the worst traffic you have EVER seen…triple it and it’s every day here in cities. Our driver decided to take a detour….on dirt scooter roads. Since we lived to tell, it was pretty awesome. We eventually dead ended into a narrow pedestrian passage. So naturally, we just reversed back down the dirt road.

We were all exhausted after the day so bath and our increasing bedtime routines ended our night. Elil is a fan of routines so we’re hopeful some of these can transfer to our next hotel. We are officially finished with provincial business and just need to head to the next city for our national business. We need Eli’s passport first though. It should be ready by Friday morning and we fly out at noon.

All for now!

*Disclaimer: Please ignore typos! I have to peck these out on my phone.

 

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Day 4: Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Blood: With Eli’s red handprint and our red thumb prints over our signatures, Elijah Qian Ayers is officially ours in the eyes of the government here! We returned to the same government building where we met Eli to conclude what is called the “acceptance” period of 24 hours. This time with a much cleaner boy who was WIRED from the start this morning. He opened his eyes, popped out of bed, and opened every curtain and turned on every light…ready to GO! When we got to the office building, he spotted a ride-on toy. This room holds these adoption ceremonies every week. He was a wild man and yelled to our guide in Mandarin, “This is my motorbike!” A few seconds later though (and right as the government officials tried to start the ceremony), he tipped the toy and smacked his chin on the granite floor. I popped to the floor and cupped his chin, which was bleeding pretty bad. He cried but only for a few seconds. If we were in the States, some adhesive would probably help close it but overall, we are thankful it wasn’t worse. I have a feeling it won’t be his first bump or bruise but this one was hard to see.

Sweat: Our boy is a SWEATER! Even though today was the coolest day so far, it was still HOT. We went to a beautiful park after our adoption business was finished. There’s a lake filled with giant lily pads and a few small rides. Eli rode a train (for almost 10 minutes!) as ping pong balls shot in the air and he caught them with a net. He loved it. Our walk back brought on more sweat. Scooters FLY back driving both ways on the sidewalks. Cars don’t stop and go with any shared rules so you cross by weaving through moving cars and scooters. Our morning started off with some adrenaline as we sat in the hotel lobby eating breakfast and what sounded like a machine gun firing filled the area. I was a half second from hitting the deck when another adoption guide came down and said it a wedding. Between the heat and fearing for one’s life, I’d be worried if one of us wasn’t a hot, sweaty mess!

Tears: Overall, our day was again amazing. Eli proudly announces we are his parents everywhere we go. Even people who look pretty grumpy seem to soften when he points to us and says, “These are my mama and baba!” It’s pretty tear inducing how he says it with such pride. Those tears are easier than others… When we got back from the park, everyone was tired. Eli’s legs are pretty bowed and he has some significant bowing. His legs tire before he does and I know that’s frustrating. As we laid down, he asked me what I thought was could he watch TV. I used our phone translator app to say it was time to rest. He obediently laid down (hands folded again on his chest) but silent tears streamed from his eyes. It appeared he was in thought. We used the app to ask if we could help and let him know it was ok to be sad and we knew this was hard. I was prepared for him to grieve and know it’s actually a good sign for attachment…but it was still heartbreaking.

Tomorrow-we head to Eli’s hometown-where he was left as an infant and where he’s spent his entire life. It is a 3-4 van ride in the country each way. Please keep us in your thoughts as we anticipate it will be our most difficult part of the trip.

Hoping for some sleep tonight



Day 3: Gotcha Day!

Dear Eli

As you snooze peacefully next to me (hands perfectly folded on your chest!), I want to tell you about the day we met you-the day we became a forever family…

I now know that we’d both been preparing and dreaming for that day. You’d flipped through our picture album until some pages were so worn they might come out. Your nanny said you immediately looked at our family picture and knew-WE were your family. Someday you’ll know that people like us have to make all kinds of decisions about when and how to share about our disabilities. We have never struggled over that decision more than when we sent our introduction to you. We worried your questions wouldn’t be answered or you, like so so many adults, would he uncertain. We decided we wanted you to know everything you could about us and that if we wanted you to be proud, we had to keep practicing being proud (by the way, I’ll tell you all about a woman who put that quote in my heart someday). My heart was pounding when I mailed you our book. I sometimes laid awake at night wondering what you would think of us. How would we let you know we would keep you safe and that we have so much fun? I practiced how I would talk through your interpreter. Fear would sometimes seep in as some would ask, “but has has he seen your pictures? Does he KNOW?” Yes…you knew and from the very first moment, you knew that we could, would, and DO love you!

You walked confidently through the doors of the government affairs office this morning right up to your Baba and me all smiles! You were wearing the Ninja Turtles shirt we sent you over The Chinese New Year! After we shook hands, you giggled when we liked your hair-a mohawk! You immediately joined in play with us and the other kids at our Gotcha Day. We can see you are social, happy, and on-the-go! Despite our terrible Mandarin, you listen well (so far-heehee). When we said it was time to go, you wanted to wear your new backpack and go! You a did say goodbye to your nanny first though. She hugged you tight and when you turned to play with Baba, she began to cry. She loved you so much. I promised her we would keep you safe and take good care of you.

On the ride back to the hotel, you showed us how well you can play games on the phone. Our guide asked if you’d like a nap since you’d woken before 6 to drive from the country to meet us. You said you’d rather go to the park! It’s (literally) 105 so the park came to our room and hotel halls with balls and balloons. Your guide chatted with you about your new name and you’ve already begun to respond to it!

You are such a curious and smart boy! In our room, you found your headphones first and gestured you wanted to put them in. You did and we showed you Hannah’s music on the iPad. You chose Frozen and started belting out “Let it Go” in Mandarin! We couldn’t believe it and I can see you, like your sister and BaBa love to make people laugh.

We Video Called a few family members who were awake at home and you lived waving and telling them hello. You even told your Lao Lao Birdied congratulations after she’d told us. We walked to lunch with your NiNi and YeaYea and you share some of YeaYea’s soup AFTER you are an entire plate of dumplings! We learned we should order what you do. You picked it out from the menu yourself! You looked around taking in your first restaurant meal. You’d occasionally rattle off sentences to passing waitresses and they’d laugh-we are clueless but cracking up!

In our room, you’ve explored every nook and cranny. I’ve never seen someone more excited about new shorts and shoes. You’ve shown off your shoes in the hall and just twist your ankle in the air as you beam. We make out “thank you” in Mandarin when we’ve given you something you love. You are so sweet and what a helper! You want to hold every door and hold the elevator for Mama each time.

We did eventually take a quick nap and you were ready for more play. You love music and technology. We’ve been communicating pretty well so far. I feel a little like I’m talking to ET. EVERYTHING is new and you want to know what it is and how it works….,,the scale, flossers, balloons, and all sorts of cords. Whatever you get out, you put back neatly! You even gave me a look and hung my towel that was on the floor! You’ve got your hands full with Hannah. You asked about MeiMei within seconds of meeting us and you two finally “met” on FaceTime when she woke up. She studied you and you waved saying “Hi MeiMei!!” (again) smiling. I cannot wait for us to be together!

You took your first bath and seemed to love getting clean! Wow-those ears! I don’t know how you even heard us through that wax! We used our phone translator to explain it was time for bed and you climbed in. It was clear you’d rather play but you are such a good listener.

What a day! I will never forget this feeling Eli. We’d prepared ourselves for what we thought was anything but I don’t think I allowed myself to think it could be this amazing. I was prepared that you might attach to one of us more than the other at first but you’ve come to us both and been so loving. It feels like a dream. We are already so proud of you and love you so much. We know today wasn’t easy for you as you left everything and everyone you’ve known. You are so brave and I’ve never felt a love so courageous. Your sweet voice whispered “wo ai ni (I love you) Mama. Wo ai ni Baba” before you went to sleep. When we go home, you’ll hear people tell us how lucky you are to be adopted. Please remember we are the lucky ones!

Love you to China and back,
Mama

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Day 2: Henan and a lot of elephants

Another travel day and this one a little more challenging but well worth the endpoint.
Our taxi driver (who we met at the airport) walked us in and tried VERY vigorously to advocate for us to be moved through what seem like somewhat random lines. The “accessible passage” lines never had anyone else with visible disabilities. Our driver was more passionate than effective though so he eventually wished us luck and we waited…with our boarding passes in hand, we headed to domestic security. Their rules are different so some of our portable chargers had to be cleared. I was thankful they didn’t take our electronics!
We boarded without too much trouble. There seems to be no such knowledge of an aisle chair here so I climb/crawl and Adam knee walks. We also repeat what a new friend with OI who lived in China advised, “Mei wen to”. It means “I’m ok. No problem.” We repeat this because people are trying to be helpful but could cause more harm than good.
When we arrived in Zhengzhou, we climbed to the bottom of the stairs on the jetway and managed to advocate for our need for chairs THEN and not at the baggage claim. Once we had our own wheels, the flight crew found us new “VIP” van to the terminal. even through their learning curve of what we needed, everyone was really nice.
Once we got our baggage, we met our guide Rosary. She is amazing. So knowledgable and kind. I couldn’t be more grateful we have her by our side for this adventure.
She brought us to our hotel where we met 3 other families who are adopting! I’d known 2 of these from the Facebook groups that have taught me so much about his process. Eventually, we walked to another nearby hotel for what turned out to be a very confusing but hilarious meal . Adam thought he was ordering egg drop soup for all of us and instead, it was congee (a watery oatmeal-type dish). I was so hungry but my lack of chop stick skills were frustrating!
After lunch, we walked to this beautiful park. We do see a major difference In stares here but we’ve been so distracted by the life-threatening scooters on the sidewalk that we’ve got more important things to pay attention to….like surviving!
After all this-we couldn’t help but crash for a few hours. We missed out on easy/safe dinner options so a granola bar will do until morning.

One last little tidbit before signing off…
Ladybugs are a popular sign for Chinese adoption. Maybe because I can’t dress my lil guy in ladybugs, I haven’t collected much ladybug paraphernalia. Instead, I have a couple of adoption t-shirts with elephant designs from friends’ fundraisers who are adopting from Africa.
In painting my nails for the trip, I picked out ELEPHANTastic pink AND in response to my pants problem, I bought a pair of black leggings with elephants on them the night before we left. I don’t typically wear animals on my pants but I thought Eli might like them. and the final elephant connection….Our guide said that the character that represents Eli’s province translates to mean “a lot elephants” because this area used to have a high population of these animals. They might seem silly connections but it’s just one of so many signs that we were meant to climb this mountain. I’m so glad I have the partner I do to climb it with me and grateful we didn’t change course in moments of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.

Tomorrow is THE day. Eli is in his bed spending his last night as an orphan.

See you in the morning sweet boy. We love you!

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China Day 1| Beijing

Waking up in China!

Our room was so nice but the jet lag is tricky. I woke up at 3:30 missing Hannah and WIDE awake. Adam was just as awake and we spent a couple of hours leaving funny WeChat’s. Thankful to our friends and family who helped us pass the time. WeChat is a free app. Add us if you’d like to chat!

So far we’ve managed arrangements and the language barrier fairly well. It’s helped that many in Beijing speak English. We met a taxi driver coming out of the airport yesterday. He had a van and knew we’d need it. He asked if he’d like us to comeback and pick us up this morning and just did! So far everyone has been really kind. There are some stares and it’s a little getting used to that fewer people smile back but we have that in the States too sometimes.

We are on our way back to the Beijing airport now for our flight to Zhengzhou. We’ve been told that THIS is where our accessibility challenges will ramp up so please send positive wheeler vibes our way.

Eli has just one more night as an orphan….

More to come on what was actually Day 2 for us but making sure this posts



3, 2, 1…..TODAY we go to China!

*TODAY* we leave for China!

Despite the months, weeks, and days of prepping, pre-packing, and list-making, somehow I once again managed my all-night pack-a-thon. It seems to never fail with me! On a bright note, it usually helps me sleep on the plane.

I think we are finally completely packed. It was not without one minor hiccup. To make a long and rather sad story short, I forgot to pick up my alterations before they closed….which included e.v.e.r.y pair of pants I’d planned to wear on the trip. Perhaps this was some suggestion or reminder that now that there will be THREE little people in our house, I really should probably learn to hem. I am, however, thankful that none of the Menchie’s yogurt patrons next to the alterations shop called the police as I banged on the door….17 minutes after they were closed:( I’m sure the yogurt-eaters were wondering why in the world someone could need their alterations so urgently! Well…..when kids, juniors, petites, or women’s don’t fit exactly right….it’s urgent! I recognized it was definitely a first-world problem, sucked it up, and went to Khol’s for some pants that fit and I can chop them off or fold them up if they are too long. If my coping skills weren’t already challenged, the cashier (who informed me 5 times it was her first day) who checked me out folded said pants and put them in their own bag….but not the one she gave me with my other items. Fearing I may commit a crime before our departure, Adam retrieved them for me. Let’s hope that is our first, last, and only hurdle of the trip!

For our flights, we’re headed to Chicago and then Beijing. We’ll spend one night there and then head to Zhengzhou on Sunday in preparation of meeting our Eli Monday!

Thanks to all who have sent messages of good luck, positive thoughts, and prayers. We can feel them and truly appreciate the support. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am a tad terrified but this will be an adventure of a lifetime and more than worth it to roll our boy home.

In closing, I’ll share the very first picture we saw of Eli. I can’t wait to share his “after” picture once he’s experienced love, family, home, a ninja sister, and a grumpy bulldog in just a few weeks.

We’re almost there…

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Telling our story

10468359_10203411500639875_92640005391714258_nFridays are always jam-packed for us. Since Adam works on Saturdays, it’s one of our only days to get a few things done and spend time together as a family. We started the day with Hannah’s last swim lesson for a couple of weeks. Her coach and friends wished us well and everyone is excited that the next time they see us…we’ll have Eli in tow!

This afternoon, we worked with videographer/journalist to start filming what will become a short piece about our family and our journey to Eli. Once again, Hannah was quite the character but she eventually calmed so much she passed out on the couch! That gave us a chance to answer several questions and talk more in depth about adoption, the rights of parents with disabilities in the US, and what led us to and through this process. It’s so nice to work with journalists who treat disability as a cultural variable. We’ll film a few other pieces together in the next few weeks and Adam and I will even be capturing footage of our own in China. I’m excited to have these memories documented in such a cool way but more importantly-I want other people with disabilities to know that parenthood-through many different paths-is possible. I can’t wait to see how the piece turns out!

We capped our night with a fly-in visit from Birdie (aka my mom). We spent the evening at one of our favorite playgrounds and enjoyed some Kona Ice. I know our lives will get a bit hectic in the next few days as we pack and make final arrangements. Still, ,we’re trying to soak up these last few days as a family of 3 and enjoy this amazing summer before our adventure of a lifetime.

 



Hannah’s Handbook

10513441_10203398065223998_2494523346143035883_nBesides making sure we remember our toothbrushes and wheelchairs (or more accurately the flight crew remembers to load/unload those!), our most important preparations center on making sure that we’ve planned all that we can for Hannah while we are away.

In my anxious state, I’ve created a “Hannah Handbook” and shared it with the crew of family that will care for Hannah while we’re in China. I thought I’d share the headings for other adoptive families who might be preparing their little ones for an adventure of their own while their parents are in China.

Here’s what we’ve covered:

General Rules: For us, this includes the basics. Be Kind. Climbing and jumping off high objects if for gymnastics. Be a good listener and follow directions. Hannah recently informed my mom that I allow her to look under bathroom stalls “to see who’s under there” so I thought it would be helpful to clarify that we do, in fact, have a few basic rules!

Consequences: This covers how our family handles discipline. We primarily use 1, 2, 3 Magic with an emphasis on Hannah learning self-control. She’s encouraged to go to her room to calm down if needed and we don’t negotiate with whining terrorists.

Routines: This section covers our approach to morning and bedtime routines. I’m hoping little details (like the fact we read 3 books before bed) will help bring some stability and normality to Hannah’s little world while we are gone. There’s also the necessity to use her “magic” hair brush for tangles (or apparently it’s equivalent to cruel and unusual punishment).

Weekly Schedule: The bulk of the document involves a detailed planned schedule for the event. I included addresses, directions, phone numbers, and a couple of pictures for landmarks.

Favorite Outings: I’ve listed our top 3 playgrounds with addresses and their differences along with our library.

In case of illness/emergency: Here I’ve listed our pediatrician’s information along with where our medication/thermometer is located in the house. I’ve also listed vet information for our dog and our neighbor’s contact should their be a local crisis  event.

And last but not least, we’ve created and hung our Summer Fun list. I intentionally added a few activities that I know Hannah can check off during our time in China. She’ll have sleepovers with cousins, a trip to the dentist (she’s unaware this isn’t on everyone else’s summer fun list!), and she’ll make art with her Birdie (aka her grandma). And there’s the MOST exciting event-WELCOME ELI HOME!

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Now that this item (Hannah’s Handbook) is checked off my gigantic to do list, we’re on to packing this weekend!

 

 

 



Celebrating Eli Shower Style

We are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many loving and supportive people who-from the very beginning-have helped us roll Eli home. Before the complete craze of packing takes over our household, I wanted to reflect on a few recent adoption celebrations. The most recent being TODAY! My co-workers and supervisors threw me a surprise adoption shower during our staff meeting! I’m not the easiest person to surprise (or so I’ve been told) but it was so much fun to be completely caught off guard. In addition to the kind words, sweet gifts, and assurances that my recent fear a bird will fly int our plane engine is really irrational, I’m thankful that my co-workers and so many friends and family share our excitement. Prior to embarking on our journey, I naively believed that everyone thought adoption was as awesome as I always have. Everyone doesn’t. It makes me appreciate those that do all the more!

Here’s a picture from our Under the Sea themed shower at UC UCEDD (Shameless plug to LIKE our Facebook to find our more about our work for and with people with disabilities):
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I didn’t blog about it at the time, but my family also threw me a shower in early spring. With a combination of gifts and amazing gently used cloths from so many, many cousins, Eli’s drawers are full! In a couple weeks, we’ll know what actually fits but he’s off to a great start. Here are a few pictures from our family shower.
My mom made a picture book for Eli:
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For our super hero:
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Mernie the Great is excited to become a great-grandmother for the FOURTH time!
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And last but not least-we’re celebrating our almost-the-end-of-the-road by sharing our story! We were featured this week in the Cincinnati Enquirer. If you missed it, here’s the link: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/07/06/mason-couple-dwarfism-china-adoption/12277187/

As you can see, Hannah was pretty amused with her press coverage:
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Just 10 days until we leave!
The countdown is on!



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