Three Princes and a Princess

Our Journey to Gabriella step at a time.....

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday in Nanchang, Jiangxi

Yesterday was a great day, my first full one with Miss E! It is 3 AM now and jet-lag still appears to be winning and I was up for the day at 1:30 AM.

Here she is in all her morning crazy-hair glory!

Each morning we go down and eat breakfast at our hotel's very expansive breakfast buffet.  They serve everything from noodles to pancakes to dumplings.  Ellie ate well and we had a great breakfast, Heather and I even got to enjoy TWO cups of coffee......we needed it! Ellie is SUCH a neat girl, she doesn't get a drop on her when she eats and if she gets something on her hand she immediately gives me her hand to wipe off.  This is something I have not experienced with  my boys:)

After breakfast we came back up to hang out in the room as our guide and driver wouldn't be here until 10:30.  Ellie really came alive after  breakfast and her personality is so flippin adorable, she is so spirited and sweet. 

We were told we could not use a stroller when we toured the Pagoda so I decided to try Ellie in the ergo carrier and as soon as she was in, she nestled in........awwww!!

We met the Kim family (another AAC family) in the lobby and left with Maggie (our guide) and driver (I don't know his name, he is yet to utter a word to us on the 3 instances we have seen him) and set off to tour one of the oldest Pagodas in China, the Teng Wang Pavilion in Nanchang, Jiangxi.  The pavilion was first built in 653 after poet Tang Bo. 

Right after this picture we started up the steps to enter the pagoda and I felt a bit like Po from Kung Fu Panda with my little love strapped to me the whole way trying to make it to the top! lol

This is the famous poem for which this pagoda was built.  Maggie told us that children in Nanchang hate this poem because they have to memorize it in school and it is very long.

This is the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet.

Ancient piano

This piece was called 100 Butterflies and Flowers and was made with real butterflies

It was amazing to see how their industrialized city grew around this ancient structure.

I am attaching this picture because I had just given her highness her snack and she was directing me to put her doll under the strap of the carrier so she wouldn't have to hold it.  We can't communicate but this little girl still lets me know what she wants! A few minutes before this I had taken our tickets out of her hand and she put on a show like no other, lip out, sharp intake of breath and immediately covered her face in her hands before burying her head on my shoulder.  Two seconds later she picked her head up and peered at me as Heather and I just stared at her in shock, laughing.  Ellie is going through a lot but is still just a little girl who is capable of being a drama queen.  Here is a video of her sweetness, I can't get enough of her. 

This was a mural of the important people of Jaingxi. 

Sorry for all the history pictures but my third-grader, Nic is studying China this week and I wanted to be sure to share lots of pictures for him so he can show his class. 

After a wonderful time at the pagoda we walked  to a restaurant called The One that Maggie told us was the fanciest restaurant in Nanchang.........the meal for Heather, Ellie and I was $45 USD.  We had our own private room and several waitstaff helping us.  Our table was filled with several plates, glasses, chopsticks, fancy spoons and bowls, it was a bit overwhelming not knowing what utensil or dish to use and when.  We were served course after course of the local cuisine including noodles, chicken feet and a fruit called dragoneye which tasted a bit like a plum.  It was a very elegant meal and when we were done we went to a porcelain shop as that is what Jiangxi is known for, it was beautiful. 

That was the end of our touring day and we spent the rest of the day in our hotel room with a short break for Heather in the workout room and one for Ellie and I walking around the hotel lobby with her purse. 

Who doesn't like relaxing with a little Ni Hao Kai-lan after dinner?

She did remarkably well yesterday with only a few periods of intense crying and grieving.  She let me comfort her so that is a good sign.  She is also showing signs of anxious attachment and coming to me for safety so I hold onto these things as my hope that she will be just fine.  My little girl is amazingly strong and I am amazed by her. 

Tomorrow, which is actually today for us as we have been up most of the night (not Ellie she sleeps just fine) we will be touring People's Park and a Buddhist Temple. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meeting Gabriella Lin Pagano

First let me tell you that I got 6 hours of straight sleep last night! WOOHOO, that was the most sleep I have gotten in over a week so even though I was up at 4 AM I still feel better than I did!

Yesterday was surreal, I know I keep using that word but I can't find any other words to describe the feeling.  I was told they would call my room around 11 and tell me where to meet my daughter.  Our guide, Maggie called at 10:55 and told us that the director was bringing Ellie to us and he would be here in 25 minutes.  EEEEEEEEEEEK!!! So around 11:35 our time I met Ellie.  The director of the Fuzhou orphanage and a nanny brought Ellie to meet us and Maggie was also there.  Ellie came to me clutching the little purple and white doll and photo album of our family that I had sent to her back in September.  They all did their best to translate for me and the moments were great but a bit awkward meeting your child in a lobby of a hotel! The woman on the right in this picture is Maggie, she is wonderful!

After a few minutes we went back up to my room and Maggie and Heather worked on paperwork while Ellie cried and cried and cried.  Let me tell you, her grief was palpable and it broke this mama's heart.  She was so hot from crying so I started peeling off her layers, she came to me in a winter jacket and snowpants, 2 long sleeve shirts, a sweater and 2 pairs of leggings on!

Here she is trying to open the door so she could leave..................sob sob!

Somewhere in the midst of her cry-fest she did throw up, poor baby.  She finally stopped crying after three days 45-minutes and what finally did it was the purse I bought her.  I showed Ellie how she could carry all her treasures, 2 small books, bracelets, her cell phone and chapstick in this purse so from that moment on she carried the purse, the photo book and the doll around.  I couldn't get her to eat anything but she did take a bottle from me. 

In the midst of cleaning up the throw-up and getting my papers back in order, Maggie burst back in to the room and said it was time to go.  In my haste I forgot my stroller, the ergo, more clothes for Ellie.....oops! We rushed off with another AAC family that is here to the civil affairs office.  There were 4-5 other families there and it felt like CHAOS! We went from room to room with no rhyme or reason and there was no heat in the building (maybe turned off for Chinese New Year?).  One of Ellie's nannies was there and she came over 3 times to pull her leggings down and button her coat.  In China, the children dress in many layers and I would have dressed her warmer had I had a bit more time to prepare, oh well, remember I admitted to making lots of mistakes this trip! Here we are with the director of her orphanage that oversaw her foster care.

I am so thankful that we have another AAC family here with us, the Kim family from Chicago.  It is nice to share this experience with them.  They adopted a beautiful 2-year old, Emma from Nanchang.  I also recognized another RQ child at the civil affairs office and walked up to Julie (with Serena) and introduced myself! We didn't have much time to talk with all the craziness but it was very nice to talk with them, Serena speaks English so well (she is 12-years old and beautiful). 

After the civil affairs office, the Kim family, Heather, Ellie, Maggie and I were driven in a van to the notary office for Ellie's province where we were whisked in and I signed a lot of paperwork and then again the man disappeared and Maggie rushed me out (gift #2 not given............shoot!).  We were back in the van to drive to Emma's province notary office and keep in mind no one had eaten lunch and the babies hadn't napped! I kept feeding Ellie Gerber puffs and Maggie gave her some sort of bread treat and she was such a trooper! Our last stop in our very harrowing van ride was the police station where the girls had to get their pictures taken for their passports.  That went off without a hitch but apparently there is a new fee imposed now for expediting so we paid the extra money and were finally done with errands. 

Once we got home I knew Ellie needed a little nap even though it was around 4:30 by then.  I laid in bed with her and she fell asleep with all her treasures.

We had Maggie order pizza for us and I think we ended up paying $45 USD for this pizza but it was SO.WORTH.IT!

I had already stocked up on food for Miss Ellie at a local market so she ate a very good dinner of noodles and a clementine.  Could my little noodle girl get any cuter?!

We played a bit after dinner and she really is such a funny girl.  She would pick up the hotel phone and turn and look at us out of the corner of her eye and laugh, she knew she was being naughty!  She gave me several kisses when I asked her to yesterday and it melts my heart.  This little girl's world was turned upside down and she is so amazingly resilient.  I know we aren't out of her grieving process but I feel like things are going well.  Here she is after her bath and before we skyped with my family back home.  The boys LOVED seeing Ellie and every time they would talk to her she would smile and run away from the computer only to come back over and over.  She waved bye-bye to her brothers and daddy so it was a great night. 

After the excitement of her day, I gave her a bottle around 8 and then laid with her until she fell asleep.  I am thrilled she is taking a bottle from me even though it isn't the norm by US standards.  I love the bonding time with her when she feels secure and happy and we can just look at each other. 

My sister, Heather has been indispensable! I have been all over the place emotionally and she has been there for me and has been amazing, I am so thankful.  At all of our appointments yesterday I was holding Ellie and all her gear and different people would ask for various paperwork or passports or they would hand me things and she would just do what was needed to help, thanks H, love you!

Overall things are going amazing! Ellie is shorter than I thought she would be and she is very healthy and solid to carry.  Her skin is darker than I imagined too and she is far more beautiful in person than I have dreamed about.  She has been using the potty well but I still have her in pull-ups just in case. I will be honest and say that the orthopedic issues in her right hand and foot are more significant than we had thought.  I don't care in the least except I pray the recovery and healing of any additional surgeries for her be easy on her, she has already been through too much.  I will post more at another time about her special needs , I rarely talk about it because it doesn't matter to me but I am sure people are curious and I don't intend to be cryptic.

It is not even 6 here yet and Ellie is still sleeping.  Today we are sharing a van with the Kim family and going to do some sightseeing to a famous Pagoda and also People's Park, I am really looking forward to it.  Thank you for all the support from home and to everyone who reads this.  I have to say, I only started this blog for myself so I would remember this amazing journey but I am grateful others like it too. 

I feel so blessed to finally be with the daughter of my heart, I am so, so thankful and love her beyond measure. 

Today went GREAT

I am sorry to report that this will be short as I am having computer issues and am way too exhausted to fix it tonight.  I just wanted to let you know that today was an absolutely amazing day! Ellie is adorable, beyong adorable actually! I will leave you with a few pictures and update tomorrow morning on our day......thanks:)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Home Stretch.............

Well, it is now Sunday night and we are still TIRED and ready for bed at 7 PM but we are going to try to stay awake a little longer so I will blog to stay awake:)

Today was nice and quiet, we did some wandering around the hotel and learned where the restaurant is. We ate both breakfast and lunch in the hotel restaurant, mostly because we did not know of any other place to go.  Many businesses are still shut down for Chinese New Year and our guide says they might open back up tomorrow. 

Our wonderful local guide, Maggie came this afternoon and gave us the run-down on what will happen tomorrow.  The director of the Fuzhou orphanage is going to pick Ellie up at her foster family house and drive the 2.5 hours to get to our hotel.  We will meet her in some location in this hotel, but won't know which room/place until tomorrow.  So around 11 I will meet my daughter.................WOW! We will have a few minutes together and then we have to go across the street to do some paperwork and then take a taxi ride to the police station and the notary to have her picture taken and also more paperwork.  When we are finally done with all of that we will be able to come back to the hotel and enjoy some quiet bonding in our hotel room.  Poor muffin, she is going to go through so many changes makes my heart hurt just thinking about it. 

There are many things I could say, we had a lot of interesting, emotional and overwhelming experiences already today but I am going to keep this blog light and more family-oriented and share more when we return home. 

Here is the view from our hotel room.  Today was overcast but the next few days should be sunny and in the 50s so that will be nice.

Our guide, Maggie recommended we get a crib for our room in case Ellie wants to sleep there and she also got us the loan of a stroller from the hotel.  She called the front desk and within minutes someone came up and set it up, the customer service here is amazing. 

And finally, Maggie brought us to a local shop very close to our hotel.  It was so tiny but my goodness they carried almost anything we could need! Here are some of the things we got, milk for Ellie, noodles, water and yes on the right is Chinese wine which we will be trying in a few. 

When we came out of the store, the owner (who also had a meat vendor place set up there) tried to convince Heather to buy octopus on a stick but that didn't go over so well so she ate chicken on a stick instead:)  Jiangxi is known for its spicy food so Heather really got a taste of that.  Sorry for the bad picture but you get the idea!

And finally, when the hotel staff brought up the crib and stroller I thought this pink item was a toy.  Turns out it is a potty seat.........oops! LOL

There is another family here from my agency and Maggie is also their guide while here.  We are all going to go together to see some of the local sites after tomorrow, it sounds like a lot of fun and I am looking forward to soaking up the culture for Ellie.

I think that is it, in 16 hours I will meet my daughter.MY.DAUGHTER.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


After more than 30 hours of travel we have arrived at our hotel, the Galactic Peace Hotel in Nanchang, Jiangxi, China. 

Our flight from Newark to Beijing was uneventful other than I did not know I had to order a vegetarian meal ahead of time, rookie traveler mistake! I made do with the side dishes and Heather shared parts of her meals with me so I didn't starve for the FOURTEEN HOURS we are flying.  I am by no means a world traveler so thought it was so neat that on the video monitors around the plane it listed how far we had gone, how many more miles to go, local time and even showed us our route we traveled, so cool! We flew at 40,000 and the lowest the outside temperature was recorded was -92! We did fly through Greenland and Siberia so that explains the temperature. 

We arrived in the Beijing airport and went through customs and security with no problems.  We did, however, notice how conspicuous we were! We were quite literally the only Caucasians in the entire airport and we certainly got our share of stares and pointing, oh well:) We ventured around a bit and finally settled on a restaurant to eat in and had to order based on the pictures, thank goodness for pictures! Heather got spring rolls and I got vegetable noodles.  Another rookie mistake is not carrying my own silverware but I did quite well with my chopsticks and Heather only laughed at me through half the meal.  We wanted to take pictures around the airport but there were several signs saying no pictures so we decided we didn't want to push our luck. 

We had a long layover so just walked around or sat until our flight out to Nanchang.  By the time our flight boarded we were literally sleepwalking, I have never been so tired in my entire life! We were the only Caucasians on the plane of 120ish passengers.  It doesn't help that we are both tall so are a bit more conspicuous than normal.  We took our seats and both fell asleep before the plane even took off. Heather is a much better sleeper/traveler than me, I wasn't able to sleep much (even with Tylenol PM) because my mind was just racing. 

We were met at the Nanchang airport by a man holding a sign with our agency name on it, made us feel a bit important! He never said a word to us, just nodded, took my big suitcase and gave me his cell phone.  On the phone was our Nanchang guide, Maggie.  She welcomed us to Nanchang and told us about our drive to the hotel and explained how she knew we were tired so already called ahead and checked us into our hotel............WONDERFUL! Our driver just turned around and walked outside so we followed him around the dark parking lot until we got to his car and then spent a harrowing 30- minutes driving to the hotel.  The cultural norms are different here than what I am used to, lanes are not for staying in, turn signals are not used but horns are! LOL And although I am trying to follow the cultural norms and agency recommendations, I already did one thing wrong! When we got to the hotel, our driver helped us with our bags and then transferred us to the hotel busboys.  I turned around to give him money for a tip and he was gone! I feel awful about it but know I will probably embarass myself many more times during our stay here in China:)

We walked into our hotel lobby and were amazed by how nice this place is.  We had no less than 4 busboys help us with our bags and up to our room.  Here is the lobby...............

Our room is on the 23rd floor and the view is amazing.  It is 6 AM here so still dark or else I would show you pictures from our room. 

Overall we are doing well, we were able to sleep about 5 hours last night so that is good.  We will head down to breakfast in a few, I know we am starving! I was able to skype with Tony and the boys this morning so that felt great.  The boys excitedly told me about their days and Ben asked, "Where's the baby?" , "Are you coming home the next day" and  "Can I have a yogurt stick, Mommy?"....adorable! Our guide here in Nanchang said she would be here around 2 today and then we hope to go get a few things, stroller, water, etc. 

This entire trip has felt like a dream, part of me doesn't believe this is actually happening, that I am actually in China to meet my daughter! Tomorrow is the big day (Sunday night for everyone in the US as there is a 13-hour time difference) and I will meet my daughter.....SURREAL! Will share another picture of Miss E, cannot wait to see a smile on that face!

Will post more tomorrow about our meeting with Ellie, I have never been more nervous in my life! Well, maybe not since yesterday when I flew across the world:) Thanks for your support everyone, love you and miss you all! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

We are on our way!!!

First, I cannot believe this day is finally here! In roughly 60 hours I will be holding this little daughter.........

We had to wake up around 3:45 AM this morning and took a 6 o'clock flight to Newark.  We took a small 24-passenger plane and were only slightly alarmed when the stewardess asked us and a few other people to move to the back of the plane to balance out the weight! lol The turbulence was horrible and it felt like we were on a roller coaster but we made it.

At 12 today we will board a non-stop fligt to Beijing before catching a flight from there to Nanchang, Jiangxi. I think we will be traveling for 28 hours and we lose 12 hours wiyh the time change so it lucky w have te excitement of Ellie pulling us through.

It is rainy here but warmer so we are ready........I can do this!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just one little thing I forgot to mention...........

I am petrified of flying. SCARED.TO.DEATH!

I am not quite sure why this is just hitting me now, I mean I knew I would have to FLY to get to China to our girl but gosh I think I might vomit just thinking about it. 

In just 4 days I will be on one of these bad boys as it whisks my sister and I to Beijing.  I think I will have taken 7 different planes and one train ride in our 14-day journey to, in and from China.  Oh I know it is worth it, I have no doubts about that, but any tips to get through it? Mind over matter? Wine? Praying? Drugs? Really people I am open to suggestions as this will NOT be easy for me, but what in this process has been?

I know that knowing I will meet my daughter one week from today will surely help me through it....ONE.WEEK!

And just because, here is another picture of my Jiangixi cutie..............that beautiful sad face needs a mama!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Travel Approval......we are going to China!!!!

The past few days have passed in a blur for me and if you have seen me in this time I might even be a tad distracted:) On Wednesday I received the call that I have been waiting for for a is finally time to meet my daughter.  When you are adopting from China, the last approval you need is called your Travel Approval which just means you can come to China to complete the adoption. 

I have spent my days for the past 20-ish months waiting, doing paperwork, waiting for approvals, making phone calls, begging and waiting.  And then with one phone call everything changes, I am no longer waiting for an approval or an email or an update, all I do now is make travel arrangements to fly across the world and get my beautiful Ellie.  So our flights have been arranged and bought, our itinerary is set...............................

We will fly out of Rochester on Friday, January 27th into Newark and then Beijing.  Ellie is currently in foster care in Jiangxi province so we will then catch a flight to Nanchang, Jiangxi and finally arrive very late Saturday night and will be staying at the Peace Hotel.  Sunday will be a day of rest but I cannot imagine I will be doing much resting while waiting to meet my daughter on Monday.  Ellie will be brought to my hotel room on Monday morning at 11 and then we begin our life as mother and daughter.  We will spend the remainder of that week in Nanchang doing paperwork and bonding.  On Friday, February 3rd we will fly to Guangzhou, which is the yellow province below in Southeast China (Guangdong).  We will be staying at the Victory Hotel in GZ and that week have various medical appointments and paperwork to do while seeing the sights and bonding some more.  On February 8th we have our consulate appointment and then on the 9th we will receive Ellie's visa to travel back home.  We will then take a train from GZ to Hong Kong and stay overnight there before flying out Friday morning and will be back in Rochester 9:30 Friday night.  So many of you have asked what our itinerary will look like so there it is in brief form:)

When I think too much about the transitions my little 3-year old will be making in the next week I could just weep, and I have.  I pray her little heart is open to her new family and I hope our attachment goes well.  She has been with the same foster family for 2.5 years so she will surely be experiencing grief as she leaves the only home she has ever known.  My heart breaks for her foster mother as well because I can tell she loves her very much and how do I thank a person who has taken such excellent care of my girl?  The only way to thank her is to do my very best for Ellie, which I will do even though it won't always be easy......what part of parenting is ever easy?

I am lucky enough to have my sister traveling with me for this trip and my husband will be home holding down the fort with the boys, with a little help from my mom.  I have been so blessed on this journey will so many supportive friends and my family..............Ellie is coming home to a lot of love and I just CANNOT WAIT!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some days are harder than others..............

When we began this journey 19 months ago, I was sure things would go smoothly for me.  I know, very crazy and conceited of me and laughable at this point.  I thought because I wanted it so badly and prayed very hard, that I was organized and driven that things would just fall into place for my family.  We first chose Ethiopia to find our daughter because at the time that program looked promising, only to do all the work and find out almost a year later that it wouldn't happen if we stayed with that program. 

In April 2011 we switched to China Special Needs and re-did all our paperwork, our entire dossier filled with important paperwork and notaries and seals.  Then finally in July, 2011 we first saw our daughter and switched to another agency to bring her home.  I know for sure that Ellie was meant to be our daughter and we happily went through each step and waited and did more paperwork and waited.  Throughout this process I have certainly had good days and bad days and some very bad days.  My agency couldn't be any supportive and are so wonderful to try to keep us informed and encouraged.

As I am now waiting for Travel Approval time seems to be taking on a new meaning.  I go through each day with a gnawing feeling in my stomach that never quite goes away and my arms positively ache to hold my daughter.  My mind is completely preoccupied and I don't seem to be doing anything very well these days.  There are many things I COULD be doing, packing or preparing in some way but I feel immobilized not knowing when we will travel.  To make  matters worse, things in China will be shut down for a week for Chinese New Year in a couple of weeks which will throw us yet another delay.  

I have many adoptive mama friends who have had much harder roads then me, they have gone through program shutdowns, disrupted adoptions, lost cases.  I also have many waiting friends who continue to wait for their child despite years of waiting and wanting.  Knowing all that usually helps me get out of my funk and soldier on, but not today.  Today is Friday so that means the weekend is here and with it brings the impossibility of hearing any news for two whole days.  I spend my days waiting for the phone to ring with news about our daughter, so these two days seem to take forever. 

Of course we are busy, of course our lives are happy and full.  And I know the wait for my daughter is undoubtedly worth it, I know the wait will seem insignificant once she is in my arms. I now also know that wanting something more than you can possibly bear does not make it so.  The only thing to do is continue to wait and today I am just not doing it well.