Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goodbye Mainland China....Hello Hong Kong!

Rylie had a great day today (thank you for your prayers!!!). She had only 2 tantrums maybe all day long! :) She is a smart little girl and is catching on quickly. We packed up this morning and met the rest of our group at 2pm to head back to the Consulate to pick up the kids' passports and US visas. Then we headed to the train station to take the train to Hong Kong. The train station was nuts. One thing we have learned is that in China, no one waits in line, no one waits for their's literally a constant free for all. On a side note, if you see Rush, ask him about his elevator ride this morning. ;) Anyway, the station was crazy, but our guide did a fabulous job of getting us through the station with only about 3 minutes to spare getting onto the train. It was a little stressful to say the least. We had a pretty uneventful ride through China. Rylie was wonderful until literally the last minute when she freaked out about who knows what. The scenery was interesting along the way. We passed through another huge city (about 10 million people) and some countryside which was scattered with run-down shacks which were people's homes. There was a huge contrast from what we could tell, between the city and country, although we saw our fair share of shocking "homes" in the city as well.

We took a taxi to our hotel which is gorgeous! It sits right on the harbor with an amazing view of the city skyline.....I am in awe of how beautiful it is tonight. We are looking forward to seeing it in the daylight tomorrow! Right now we are waiting on Sharon to arrive, which should be any minute. We can't wait to hang out with her for a bit and explore before heading home. But now, we can officially say that everything associated with our adoption is complete!! HOORAY!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oath- Taking Ceremony

Today's plan got changed a bit. We were supposed to have a totally free day. At 9am, our guide went to the U.S. Consulate on our behalf to get everything arranged for Rylie's Immigration Visa into the U.S. We had to stay in the room for a few hours in case she had to call and clarify some information. Fortunately, everything was in order. However, she told us that our swearing-in ceremony was moved to this afternoon, instead of tomorrow. So, we rushed to get Rylie down for a nap, ate lunch and then headed to the Consulate, about 45 minutes away.
The whole process was kind of a formality. We went in through security and entered a room with about 50 other US families all adopting Chinese kids. It was a really cool sight, and I must say, I was very proud of our amazing country. We have such giving, loving citizens who are just flat out good people, and I felt so privileged to be in that room with them all. It really was quite a sight to behold. Each family was individually called up to a window to talk to a Visa Officer quickly and sign a paper. After everyone was done, we got a little speech and then everyone took an oath together. I really have no idea what the oath was about, because Rylie took the opportunity to scream her head off and I couldn't hear. Oh well... She's not a U.S. citizen yet. That will happen when we come through U.S. Customs in Detroit on our way home. My baby will become a citizen in Motown. :)
We came back to the hotel, ordered a pizza and Skyped with the kids at home. We haven't been able to catch up with them for a few days, so that definitely lifted our spirits to talk to them today.
Tonight, we pack up some and we will be taking the train to Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon. We will spend a day there with Rush's sister, Sharon, who is coming in from the Philippines and then we fly out the next day. Hooray! We can't wait to be home.
Thank you all for your kind messages and prayers. Today was a little better....but we have so, so far to go. Please pray for Rylie to have peace and to feel secure. Please pray for Rush and I to know what to do for her, to be on the same page, and to be patient!!! Thanks.

Love you all,
Rush, Jen and Rylie

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red Couch Day and the Pearl Market

The kids in our group....ranging from 10 months to 6 years.

One store in the Pearl Market...the girls were showing us how they made necklaces and the different quality of pearls.

Today, our group met up to do the "Red Couch Photo." We made quite a scene in the hotel lobby. Afterwards we did some paperwork, as tomorrow our guide goes to the US Consulate on our behalf to get Rylie's visa. This afternoon, we headed to the Pearl is crazy. Think of a large 5 story shopping mall selling only pearls and other types of beads. I have never seen anything like it!

There's not a lot else to tell today. Tomorrow is pretty much a free day, and we are trying to figure out what to do so we don't go stir crazy.

I've always wanted to be pretty truthful on our blog, especially when it comes to this adoption. Right now, the truth is that we really need your prayers right now....we are all struggling. It is very apparent to us that Rylie has had no discipline or limit setting/boundaries in the past. It seems to us that there was a general rule of appeasement for her. She has a good 20+ tantrums a day, which is really wearing on us. They are generally over the tiniest of things....she just loses it any time she doesn't get her way. The issue is much bigger than just normal almost-2-year-old tantrums. It makes it difficult to bond with her, as all three of us are generally frustrated a majority of the time. We knew this would be a challenging journey, but it is proving much more difficult than we anticipated. To take a 21 month old and try to start over is really hard. Really, really hard. Please just pray for us....we would appreciate it so much. Thanks. :)
Jonah and Reagan: We miss you guys so very, very much. We can't wait to give you some big squeezes!! Only a few more days....we're trying to hang in there. Love you, love you, love you!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Sightseeing....and Hitting the Wall


The entrance to the weird garden

Well, we are starting to hit the wall. As much as we have enjoyed our trip, we are definitely ready to come home. We miss Jonah and Reagan, we miss ice, napkins, meals without rice and noodles, and just about everything about the good ol' US of A. Not to sound ungrateful.....this has just been a LONG trip. We're ready to move to the next home. Only a few more days.

Last night we were thrilled to run into another couple from our group at dinner. We had not seen them since our time in Beijing and we got along really well with them. We enjoyed catching up and then again, hit Starbucks. Their little boy is just a bit older than Rylie, also with cleft lip and palate, although his are both repaired.

This morning we got some pictures back from a roll of film we had developed from the camera we sent in a care package to Rylie a few months ago. The pictures weren't great, but we will treasure them as a glimpse into her time with her foster family. She appeared to be well loved.

Today we visited what I considered to be the World's Weirdest Garden. It took like an hour to get to it and was totally not what we expected. Basically, there were beautiful gardens that were kind of ruined by strange statues of cartoon-like chatacters. We saw the likes of The Incredibles, Snoopy, Super Mario Brothers, Spiderman, Nemo and more. I just didn't get the point of was very confusing to us.

Anyway, we had another good and interesting lunch at a local Cantonese restaurant followed by much needed naps all around. This evening we strolled around the island some more and headed to a Chinese restaurant which was a bit of an adventure. Out front are tanks and buckets filled with fish, turtles, eels and some other stuff we couldn't identify. You can pick out your dinner, basically. We refrained from that, as well as many of the menu options which included goose intestines and pig neck to name a few. Our favorite dish were the snow peas....delicious.

Nothing else big to report. We are still figuring Rylie out and working out some kinks. When she is happy, she is hilarious, but when she is out. All along I was praying that she would be a little less feisty than Reagan.....I don't think that prayer has been answered in the way I wanted! Let's just say we're going to have our hands full with 2 stubborn strong-willed girls.

The red-couch picture was moved to tomorrow morning. After that we will fill out some paperwork for the US Consulate and then we will head to the pearl market in the afternoon.

Jonah and Reagan: I took the picture below for you!! :) Jonah, how was your baseball game? We have missed seeing you guys on Skype! Hope we can chat soon! Love you both so much! 5 more sleeps!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chen Family Temple Sightseeing Day


Hanging out in the hotel playroom
Walking through the streets on the way to the Chen Family temple

Chinese Attitude

Yesterday evening we walked around the island a bit and did some exploring. We ended up eating at a nice Thai place and then taking Rylie to her first Starbucks. :)

This morning we visited the hotel play room before we met our group. It was great.....I think Rylie really enjoyed playing. I don't think she quite knows what to do with toys that have sound and lights yet!

Today we visited the Chen Family Temple. It was built by about 70 families who combined efforts to construct the facility as a school for their children. It was then used as an ancestral temple. Our guide, Veronica, told us that the people here, in a way, worship their ancestors. When they die, they don't really believe they are dead, but instead, they are just watching from Heaven....and still are involved in family business. Now, it's more of a Guangzhou cultural facility with stores and displays of local arts including ivory, wood and bone carvings, embroidery work (which was amazing) and paintings.

On the way to and from the bus, we walked through a series of alleyways where people lived. The "roads" were quite narrow and the area almost seemed like a movie set.....small little apartments with iron gates on the doors, bamboo scaffolding, laundry hanging everywhere, people selling items on the street. I was glad we got to walk that way to the temple...very interesting to see how these "real" people live. Suddenly, I felt like my house was huge.

We then went to a store which sold various items and then to a local Cantonese restaurant for was delicious! By this point, it was about 2pm, and fortunately we headed back to the hotel. Rylie was in desperate need of a nap, and I think we are fairly worn out too. It will be nice to have our evening free again.

After we went to the store, Veronica talked about how much it meant to her and other guides to know that adoptive families were preserving their child's Chinese heritage in some way, whether it be through gifts of remembrance from their time here or teaching them Mandarin. She said the guides often say these kids become "bananas" once they get home...yellow on the outside, white on the inside. :) She also talked about Mao Tse Tung a terms of how he is seen by different generations. She said her generation and younger people are really indifferent, but her grandparents really revere him. It was interesting to hear her talk about the cultural revolution and the opening of China to the outside world and how that has changed things even in her lifetime.

More sightseeing tomorrow (a garden of some type, I believe) followed by the infamous White Swan Hotel Red Couch Photo!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Medical Exam Day

View from our room

Inside the White Swan Hotel
(aka The White Stork, because so many adoptive families stay here)

Amazing Jade sculptures in the hotel lobby

Walking to the medical exam, schoolkids were exercising.

Cooling off in the hot, humid clinic

This was after much of the crowd had dissipated and I could actually
extract my camera from my backpack.

My least favorite place....

I would love to see Rush driving one of these little cars.

Adoption Barbie!!!

Passed out after a long morning.

Today, all we had on the agenda was getting Rylie's visa picture taken and having her medical exam. We thought those would be quick and easy....we thought wrong!

This morning we had a great breakfast at our hotel. It was such a nice change of pace from our other hotel....we loved it! There are so many adoptive families here, they have an entire little area set up for all the families. It was so cool to look around at the kids with their new families! We found out that Rylie loves oatmeal. Finally, I have a kid that will eat oatmeal.

We met up with our group of about 8 families from our agency and went to the photo shop to get the kids' pictures taken. While we were there we dropped off film from the camera we had sent in a care package months ago. They returned it to us on our Gotcha Day, so we are hoping to get some good insight into her life before we met her.

After we were done, we walked to the medical clinic. I hardly have the words to describe this place. I think I said it was like Patient First on crack....about a thousand people crammed into a small building, everyone running around like crazy, pushing and shoving, no apparent organization at all. Seriously, if this was what health care was like in the States (and hopefully it will not become this way) there would be a revolt. There was no privacy. As people were being examined, other people were waiting in the same room! We were there for over 3 hours....all for about 10 minutes of care. She got weighed and measured, had her temperature taken, got a quick look into her ears, nose and throat, and had a 2 minute physical. Then we paid for the exam and shots. She needed 6. Such a bummer..... But let me tell you, this girl was amazing. She did awesome just about the entire time we were there (thank God for Gerber puffs). It was hot and crowded and overwhelming, and she was great. Even for the shots, she cried, but was fine within about a minute. Rush stopped and got her ice cream on the way home, which she happily scarfed down and now she's sleeping peacefully.

We came back to our room to find the infamous "Adoption Barbie." Mattel sponsors a great playroom in our hotel and gives all adoptive families staying here a Barbie is so cute!

I included some pictures of the hotel, but haven't gotten a chance to take many pictures of the island....hopefully this afternoon we will have a chance. The hotel is on a little island that looks a lot like Charleston, SC (and has the humidity to match) right beside a river. We love it! In fact, we have a great river view from our hotel room. Our guide said it used to be a colonial town. It's funny walking around because there are statues everywhere of obviously Caucasian China. It almost doesn't even seem like we're in China anymore.

Anyway, that's all for now....we're thankful to have some downtime this evening to go explore.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A few things I forgot...

One last visit to the playroom where we met Rylie in Nanchang.

From our hotel window in Nanchang, we noticed these people were raising chickens on their roof.

Firecrackers...constant, annoying LOUD firecrackers outside of the hotel.

Front gate of Rylie's orphanage

The brown building in front is for older people. The tower in the back is part of the Children's area.

Our guide told us Rylie probably lived behind the tall apartment building, where there were homes for foster families.

Good-bye orphanage!!!!!!

I just realized that in last night's post, I forgot a few things! (A lot of this info is so I remember it, so feel free to skip past anything you don't find interesting....)

On our way out of town, we were able to stop by the front entrance of Rylie's orphanage. We weren't even allowed past the gates, so we weren't really able to see the main children's building well, but I have seen pictures on the internet before. I am glad we were able to stop at this spot as well as her finding spot. The other couple we were with weren't able to see either, as their daughter's orphanage was about 2 1/2 hours away. We have been blessed with such wonderful bits of Rylie's history to share with her one day.

Our Nanchang guide told us there are over 100 orphanages in Jiangxi province alone. That's an unbelievable number of orphaned is heartbreaking. Even when we received Rylie's finding ad from the newspaper when she was abandoned, there were just rows and rows of pictures of babies who had no one to claim them. And that was from a small window of time. This goes on week after week, month after month, year after year. So many kids without families....

We were told that domestic adoption is on the rise. You may have more than one child if you adopt, as that doesn't add to the overall population. Jenny said that in order to do a domestic adoption, basically you show up at the orphanage, pick out a child, pay a few fees to the province, and go home. No application, no background check, no homestudy, nothing. What a contrast to what we went through!! She also said you have a month long trial run....if at the end of the month you change your mind, you can bring the child back to the orphanage. Fortunately, she said that doesn't happen much. It sounds horrible, but we thought to ourselves it almost seems like heading down to the SPCA to get a pet. The differences between things here and in the US are so crazy.

Rylie slept in her "crib" last night and did amazing! I didn't hear much thrashing and kicking...perhaps it helps when she feels a little more contained. I think when we get home we will try the pack and play and see how that goes. I know Rush and I were thankful for a beating-free night of sleep, although the beds here in China are pretty comparable to sleeping on a concrete slab with blankets. They are so hard!

The contrast between Nanchang and the area around our hotel here in Guangzhou is amazing. I will post about that tonight after we have had a chance to look around more and take some more pictures.

Here's hoping the medical appointment goes well and that Rylie doesn't need many shots!

Love you all!
Rush, Jen and Rylie

Jonah and Reagan: You guys would love this area! We are right on a river! I will post pictures tonight. I can't wait for Rylie to show you her "crazy"'s hilarious. I have a feeling you 3 will be running around doing it often. J-man, how was your spelling test? Did you spell America correctly? Reagan, we hope preschool was fun! Only one more week until we see you guys!!! We can't wait! Have a GREAT weekend! Love you both SO MUCH!!!!

In Guangzhou....thank the Lord.

Today was kind of a wasted day. We had an early afternoon flight from Nanchang to Guangzhou, where the American Consulate is. We will need to do a few things here in this city so that Rylie's U.S. visa can be issued before we leave.

I wasn't sure how her first flight would go. I had high hopes because she amazingly took a nap this morning before we left the hotel. Fortunately it was just an hour and 20 minute flight...and the results left me terrified of how the 14 hour flight home will be. Oh. My. Gosh. I have never seen a kid go so crazy. She was fine through takeoff....even waved goodbye to her hometown. Then all hell broke loose. For just about the entire flight, she had the tantrum of all tantrums. Screaming, kicking, arching, throwing her body around in every direction. Rush and I had to take turns pretty much completely restraining her so that she didn't hurt herself. Lucky for us, no one showed up to join us in our 3 seat row. I can't imagine how that would have gone. After making a lot of friends on the flight (not really....I think everyone hated us), we finally landed. We waited until everyone else was off the plane to try to get our stuff together, which meant we had to endure every single person walking by and giving ugly looks and muttering things under their breaths. It was lovely.

Rylie passed out about 2 minutes after we were picked up at the airport.

We had about an hour drive to the hotel. Guangzhou is a city of about 14 million....much bigger than I thought.

On the way to the hotel, our wonderful guide, Veronica, told us of another girl that used to be the local guide here. She is pregnant with her second child, and because of the one child policy, she is currently in hiding somewhere in the countryside until the birth. Veronica said there are community groups that monitor population and will turn you in for violation of the law. If you are caught, you can be taken to the hospital and forced to have an abortion. If you indeed have your child, you have to pay a huge fine to the government. If you do not pay the fine, your child is not issued a national ID card....which means no school, no healthcare, etc. She spoke of someone who's second child is 6 years old, and still has no ID card. The child is enrolled in a martial arts school since she cannot get into regular academic school without an ID card. We are told a lot of eye opening stories like this. It's unreal.

On a lighter note, I LOVE our hotel and the surrounding area. It is such a breath of fresh air after Nanchang. It doesn't smell like smoke everywhere and we actually feel like we can leave the hotel and walk around with lots to do. There are Americans all over the place with adopted babies. It's really cool to see! We are so thankful to be here.

We met up with another family from our Beijing group and had dinner. Their little girl is 3 1/2, also with a repaired cleft lip and cleft palate.

Rylie had a first taste of ice cream tonight. I think it was a hit!

Our itinerary changed a bit for tomorrow. We will have Rylie's medical exam and then a free afternoon. We are looking forward to exploring a bit!

No pictures today....sorry! I figured documenting a wild animal wasn't worth it! :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rylie's Finding Spot

Yesterday, we received a certificate which states the following:

"This is to certify that, through investigation, Hong Jia Hui (female, born on December 15, 2008) was found to be abandoned at the entrance of the Medical College of Nanchang University in Nanchang City by Liu Jianzhong, a resident of Nanchang City on February 9, 2009. Hong Jia Hui was sent to the Social Welfare Institute of Nanchang City by Zhang Jianwei of Dongjiayao Police Station of Nanchang City on February 9, 2009 and was settled into the Institute. After two months' investigation and researches, there was nowhere to find Hong Jia Hui's biological parents. Hong Jia Hui is an abandoned baby, definitely."

Not any more. Not. Any. More.

And never again.

19 months ago, a woman walked down these streets carrying her daughter. After caring for her baby for nearly 2 months, she had come to a sad, heart-wrenching decision. We have no idea how far she traveled to do the task in front of her, nor if she was alone or supported by someone else. I sense she loved this baby, perhaps more than I understand. Because, as much as I love my kids, I don't know if I could do what this woman did. I don't know that I could actually bring myself to leave them, in hopes of them having a better life, medical care, and a future. I want these things for all of my kids, but I don't know if I could do what she did for them to get it.

You see, at some point, she realized, whether it be through finances, family and cultural pressure, or her situation, that she could no longer care for her baby. So, she did what she had to do. She came to this place; a place where people would surely be. A place where her child could get medical care. A place to start a new part of her daughter's journey.
She came with her child....

....set her down....

....and walked away.


Never to know what would happen. Never to be sure of the outcome. Never to know if her hopes for her child would come to fruition. One chapter closed, another one beginning.

I don't know, nor will I probably ever know the circumstances surrounding that day. Where she was from, why she made her decision, how she feels now, if it was sunny or raining, how long Rylie sat there before she was found, etc.

What I do know is this: This woman loved her child. She cared for her as long as she could. She wanted her to be found quickly.

This woman, wherever she is, will forever have a special place of thanks and honor in my heart and in the life of our family. We will eternally be grateful for her, for her courage, and for her gift to us. She gave us our daughter...she gave us her daughter. I don't know how she did it. But I am glad she did.

What a Difference A Day Makes...

Porcelain store fronts

Inside one of the stores
Rylie's tea set

Amelia, Jenny, and Rylie (it was a feat just to get this picture....sorry it's not too good!)


Thank you all for your prayers for Rylie and for us. Without a doubt, they have worked and we are so grateful. Today has been wonderful!

Rylie slept horribly last much tossing and turning, thrashing and's a wonder she is getting any rest. I don't think she is getting much deep sleep, and I am sure that is leaving her pretty tired in the mornings. We did find out that the sponsored orphanage-based foster family residences, like she was in, have a bed for each child. Maybe that is part of the problem. She has been sleeping with us, because the "crib" the hotel brought us is made pretty much for a newborn and is not safe for her. Who knows....we are hopeful to get a little better sleeping option at our next hotel. Maybe it will make a difference (for her and for us!).

That being said, with her crazy sleep, I fully expected today to be a repeat of yesterday's day of tantrums. It has not been like that at all!!! Praise God! She started out a little feisty and has had a few moments here and there, but overall, she has been a pleasant, happy, funny, goofy almost-2-year old. :) This momma is happy and thankful for a reprieve from yesterday.
We intended to visit a local park today, but it is chilly and rainy, so we nixed that plan. Instead, we first visited Rylie's finding spot, which I will do a separate post about. I was so glad to be able to see it. It was a little surreal to imagine the events of the day she was abandoned, and to actually be standing where it all happened. Just the thought is emotional for us.

Afterwards, we went to a porcelain shop. Jiangxi province is known for porcelain, and produces 80% of China's product. We felt like we would be missing out if we didn't see firsthand Rylie's home's big product. The shop was beautiful....I was really impressed by the items we saw in the much intricate detail and care goes into each piece. We were able to get her a little miniature tea set to bring home as a memento. The store owner gave her a little porcelain mouse to bring home....she said it brings prosperity. Lucky for us, she was also born in the Year of the Mouse. :)

Then we headed to Pizza Hut for lunch. It is much different than in the US! It's like a fancier restaurant....not so much like fast food. There were multiple other adoptive families there from other agencies. It was nice to see some Americans again (and to get a break from the Chinese food). It's been a while....

Rylie has been so playful and happy today. I kept her in the baby carrier most of the day, thinking that it might contain her a little better and help us avoid the arching and thrashing of yesterday, as well as help her feel secure. We really don't know how much she's been out in public, if at all, so that probably becomes overwhelming quickly. I think the carrier really helped. (Thank you, Kristen!!!)

We are also learning she is quite a little ham! She will fit in with her big brother nicely! :) She even said (completely unprompted, I might add) "Mama" at lunch today! I think God knew I needed a little boost and that sure did it. She also did her signs for "more" and "milk" completely on her own. What a smart little cookie we have on our hands! We are smitten with our newest munchkin.

I'm sure there's something I am missing. Our guide, Jenny, provides us with so much great information, it's hard to remember everything. She has been fabulous! Tomorrow afternoon, we head to Guangzhou, home of the American Consulate, for our more official business. We have enjoyed our time in Rylie's home, but are looking forward to a change of scenery and meeting back up with the rest of our group meeting their kiddos!

Love from China...


Rush, Jen, and Rylie