Thursday, January 31, 2013

China Day 5

This post may have lots of typos and might not make sense.  I'm writing it on the floor with a little girl playing beside me at 5:15 am.  It wasn't written last night because someone wanted to party until 9:00 and we both crashed in bed. 

Day 4 was nothing short of amazing. We were supposed to go visit Huidong County SWI where Olivia spent her first 14 months.  But, due to her intense grieving we cancelled the trip.  We were sure that it would make us lose any progress we had made and we didn't want her to go through the same goodbyes she went through on Monday.  Of course Brad and I are sad that we may never see where she lived during her infancy but, right now our priority is making our little girl feel secure with us. 

Olivia woke up Happy to see her momma.  She snuggled in and drank a bottle.  From that point on she was great.  I was nervous because every other morning I showered before she woke up.  I decided I would put her on a mat with toys outside the shower so she could watch me.  There were no tears.  She just sat and watched.  She even sat alone on the bed while I got dressed.  This is huge because she hasn't left my lap or arms AT ALL since we got her.  I think she is starting to feel a bit more secure that we arent' going anywhere.  She really came alive today and out of the "check out" state she had been in.  She has started getting into everything and playing with her toys.  She is understanding English words such as, her name, mama, dada, high five, clap, and beep beep as a cue to play the beep nose game.

 This girl EATS.  She must have her snack trap at all times. 

We spent the rest of the day at Shamian Island.  The island is just gorgeous.  It is full of gardens, statues, shops and restaurants.  There are brides and models everywhere being photographed.  Our girl came alive here.  She ran around chasing a ball and even gave us some giggles.  She really interacted with her daddy which of course made his day.  I am not sure I can adequately put the joy that today brought us into words so I'm going to post pics that speak more than words.

We couldn't believe she actually sat in a stroller. 

A few menu choices on the island.  We chose to go to Lucy's, an American cafe and have a burger and fries

This is a church on the island.  You have to show your passport to enter because Chinese people are not allowed to worship there. 

Smiles for mama

 We think her crooked smile is the best.

Running back and forth between mama and dada

 Another crooked smile
 Our China Doll

Little one reverted back to her grieving at night and cried until 9:00 pm.  That's okay though.  We will take it.  Today was so worth it.

The pics below are just some scenes out our van window on the ride to the hotel.  This is traditional China city living.

This is a very tall apartment building and the colors you see are laundry hanging from each window/balcony

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

China Day 4

Praise God Brad and I slept through the night for the first time. We woke up at 5:45 am finally feeling rested. I showered early because I knew Olivia would be upset if I showered when she was awake. Baby girl slept until 8:30 in her crib for 13 hours. We can only hope this continues at home. When I went in to get her she was not happy that it was my face and not her nanny's but the tears were short lived and she calmed down with milk and Cheerios. We Skyped her cousins Eden and Julia as well as Oma. She slept too late to Skype Brooks and Ky.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast where she got off my lap and actually sat in a high steps. Then we walked around the gardens and played in the room. Olivia much prefers to be outside.

We met our guide for a Dim Sum lunch at a local place before heading to the medical exam. Lunch was delicious. It's so nice having the guide order for us because I was very nervous about the food in China. Olivia slept in the ergo during the whole meal.

At the medical exam she had her temp taken, her ears checked and and her weight and height assessed. Tiny thing is just under 17 lbs at 14 mos. I doubt she is even on the US growth chart.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

China Day 3- Adoption Day

We had to wake sleeping beauty so she could Skype with her brother and sister and grandparents as well as have breakfast before meeting our guide at 9:15. Ky was smitten with "that precious baby girl". Olivia had a brief moment of crying when she got up but overall was content. She drank a bottle and let me dress her. You can't imagine how fun it was to dress hr bow and all. She has definitely started attaching to me and won't let me put her down. We were told she can walk but she cries whenever I move her off my lap. For now Brad is trying to win her over with food

Speaking of food she gobbled p yogurt melts and cherries before breakfast then congee, pork dumplings and fruit at breakfast. The girl loves to eat!

At 9:15 we met our guide who was in shock in the change in Olivia's demeanor overnight. I really thing co-sleeping was the answer. We headed back to the civil affairs building to finalize he adoption. It was amazing watching all of he little families that were formed yesterday taking their oaths.

On the way back to the hotel the guide had our driver stop at a local shop. We bought the girls some traditional silks. Poor baby was getting so tired since it was her nap time. We managed to keep her up and she finally crashed in her favorite chest when we got to the room. She is asleep now but keeps waking with moments of grief filled crying. World of difference today. Thank you to all who are praying.

After nap we enjoyed some quiet play time.  She will only sit on my lap but is now interacting more with toys and has started feeding herself finger foods rather than just opening up for me to feed her.  She got a bit fussy so went for a walk around the gardens at the hotel.  She loved watching the fish and looking at the waterfall.  We even got to hear her babble a few words.  Once back in the room I had to change for dinner so Brad had her.  She was upset so he decided to put her down to see if she can walk.  Sure enough she ran with arms open wide to my arms.  So sad yet so sweet at the same time.  I will note that for two dinners in a row we have had to tell our guide, "No knuckles, no chicken heads, no snakes and no dog" before she orders for us.  No lie!

Snack time in the room

Sleeping beauty

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gotch Day part 2

So...I talked about not being nervous earlier in the day.  Well, about an hour before we were scheduled to meet our guide downstairs I started getting butterflies.  I don't think I was nervous, more excited.  We met the guide at 2:00 pm and the lobby was full of other families waiting for their gotcha moment.  The energy was incredible.  We loaded in the van with another family from our agency.  They were adopting a 2.5 yr old and had their 6 yr old with them.  She reminds me so much of Kyrie and was so excited about becoming a big sister.  On the way to the civil affairs building we got a true taste of China.  The sites were amazing.  Crowds everywhere, people carrying large equipment on bikes and vendors galore.

We arrived at the Civil affairs building and it was nothing like I imagined.  It was a skinny building in an alleyway.  Once upstairs, the sign I have seen in so many gotcha day pictures made the room look familiar.
We were inside for only a few minutes before our guide told us they were ready.  Olivia's nanny who I recognized from her pictures brought her out.  Sweet girl looked me so deeply in the eyes and held it together until the hand off.

We were allowed a few mintues to ask the nannys questions about her.  They let us know that Olivia is very smart, a good baby and likes to sleep. They say food and TV are what makes her happy.  I think she and her brother will get along just fine.
We handed off the lovies and the nannies were so appreciative then we got in the van to head to the store for diapers and milk (she isn't on formula).  I put her in the ergo at the store and she called right down.  She loves snuggles.

Back at the hotel we did some paperwork with our guide then headed to dinner with the guide and another family from our agency.  Olivia was okay at dinner as long as I was standing with her in the ergo.  It made for an interesting meal.  I finally sat down and took her coat off because she was sweating from all the layers the orphanage had her in.  I decided to try to feed her a bit of my dinner.  She gobbled up rice, soup and radishes.  We headed back to the hotel where she screamed on and off but finally fell asleep on my chest.  She slept snuggled beside me and only stirred around 4:00am.  I decided to give her a bottle since she didn't take one at all for me yesterday.  She is now sound asleep next to Brad and thanks to my dear friend jet lag I am wide awake blogging.
Praying for a new day today and beginnings of a healed bro ken heart.  We are completely in love with our precious girl.

 *** I have lots more pics to add but the Internet is spotty so I'm gonna have to stick with these for now

Sunday, January 27, 2013

China Day 2- GOTCHA DAY part 1

We woke up this morning after another rough night's sleep.  Brad was up for the day at 3:30 am and I woke up every 1-2 hrs through the night thinking it was morning.  I am actually surprised I slept at all though given the day we are about to have.  Despite a broken night's sleep I am rested and Brad is currently napping.  This morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at our hotel (The Garden Hotel) then explored the grounds a little.  There are adoptive famililes everywhere which is so fun to see.  Everyone is very friendly which makes being far away from home easier.  We made our way to the Care Four which is the Walmart here.  Boy was that a cultural experience!  Brad wouldn't let me take any pictures because we are already a spectacle.  People stare at his height which is pretty comical.  We managed to find some necessities like rice cereal so we can bring an already made bottle when we go get Olivia, bottled water, soda, snacks and beer.  We will go back later today with our guide for formula and diapers once we talk to Olivia's caregivers and find out what brand she is used to.

We have 3.5 hrs until we meet our daughter and we keep talking about how weird this all feels.  We aren't nervous.  We are excited but, no butterflies.  We aren't even wishing away the time.  I think we are trying to take it all in and just enjoy being in the moment.  I have read how others feel the same way on Gotcha Day.  It's such a peaceful feeling knowing that we are almost at the moment we have been waiting for so long.

China Day 1

We woke up this morning around 4:30 after only a couple of hours of sleep due to jet lag. We enjoyed the upgrade that the Marriott gave us to the executive lounge for free breakfast and lots of coffee. During breakfast we Skyped the kids. Brooks stuck his bottom lip out and was teary but, mom said he had been happy all day. She relates it to hunger and fatigue which sounds about right for our boy.

After breakfast we went back to the room where I wanted to spend the rest of the day sleeping. Of course we knew that would only make the jet lag worse so instead we got up and walked around Hong Kong Park. It was very cool with lots of Koi Ponds and beautiful gardens. We made our way to Victoria Peak which is a trolley car up a sleep mountain side. The views today weren't very good due to smog. After the peak and a walk to the waterfront we decided to head back to the hotel for some down time and lunch before our train for Guangzhou left at 2:30.

The train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou is called a high speed express train. Let's just say that is a generous term. We learned a few things today at the train station. First, we are so happy we purchased our tickets through a travel agency before leaving the US. We got to the station 1.5 hrs early and the tickets for the whole day were already sold out (including the 4 trains that left after ours). Second thing we learned is that there is no such thing as a line or personal space as we know it in the US. We were practically trampled going through security at the train station. Someone threw her bag on Brad's in hopes of getting through faster. Mind you, we sat outside the gate for over 30 mins after security. People ran and pushed through the gate. We thought seats might be limited but once the attendant translated our ticket for us we realized there were assigned seats. I still don't know what the rush was all about.

It is fun watching us go through small towns. I wish I had stayed up for more of the ride though. I fell asleep before we left the station and woke up 1.5 hrs later. Twenty minutes until we are in Guangzhou, the town where we will meet Olivia. Our guide will meet us at the train station and and we will find out our "Gotcha Time" for tomorrow!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Travel Day 1

We woke up from our 4 hrs of slumber around 4:00 am and enjoyed a nice hot shower. We woke the kids at 6:00 and by 6:15 I told Brad, "we gotta get out of here". I knew I would break down at any minute and I just needed to kiss the kids and say bye. Kyrie shed some tears but I think they were partly drama. We don't think Brooks grasps fully what is happening. He was content with a TV show and a promise of fruit snacks.

Once at the airport we were showered with texts and even a call from a dear friend who prayed over us via phone. Poor Brad was squished in our little puddle jumper to Newark. He is praying the seats are bigger on the flight to Hong Kong.

We leave in an hour and then will spend 14 hrs in the air. It is truly surreal that this day is finally here

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Almost Go Time/Happy 14 months baby girl!

We leave in a little more than 36 hours but, who's counting?
The emotions are crazy right now.  Mostly excitement mixed with some nerves and some near miss tears.  I keep saying that I will be fine once I'm on the plane and have kissed my babies good bye. 
Today we got our itinerary of the trip which was so much fun.  It's great knowing what we will be doing each day.  We are thrilled that the orphanage has granted our request to visit the place Olivia has spent the last 14 months of her life.  We also have some free time which will be nice.  We plan to use our free time exploring Shamain Island, shopping in the markets and just enjoying playing with our girl in the hotel room.

Here is our itinerary for those curious about what will be happening on the trip.  The length of the trip is required because we have to wait for her visa to be processed.  We actually paid a relatively small fee to expedite her visa so our trip could be shortened.  Most families stay an additional 3-4 days.

Fri Jan 25:  Clt to Newark to Hong Kong (This includes 26 hrs of travel and 1 16 hr flight)

Sat Jan 26: Arrive Hong Kong 8:30 pm (there is a 13 hr time difference.  It will be Sat at 7:30 am here)

Sun Jan 27: Explore Hong Kong/Train to Guangzhou.  Arrive Guangzhou 6 pm.

Mon Jan 28:  GOTCHA DAY

Tues Jan 29: Adoption Day

Wed Jan 30: Visa photos/physica exam in morning/Apply for passport in afternoon

Thurs Jan 31: Visit Huidong County Orphanage

Fri Feb 1:  Free Day

Sat Feb 2: Sightseeing in Guangzhou with guide

Sun Feb 3: Safari Park zoo

Mon Feb 4: US Consulate Appt 10:00 am/ Free time in afternoon

Tues Feb 5: Morning free time/ 3:30 pick up visa at US Consulate/ 5:30 train to Hong Kong

Wed Feb 6:  HOME (Olivia becomes a US citizen when we land in Chicago)  Arrive CLT at 4:50 pm

This is the picture calendar I made for the kids so they can see what we do each day and count down the days until we are home.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Attachment

Attachment is such a huge part of adoption.  This is especially true when adopting a child who is a bit older, not a newborn.  We have spent hours educating ourselves on the importance of healthy attachment.  However, we are by no means experts and we know there will be a learning curve when we get home.
We know many of you are just as excited as we are to finally meet Olivia.  Before she comes home, we just want to let you know a few things.  Initially, we plan to parent her in a way that may seem different from how we parent our other two children.  We will basically be starting from the newborn stage.  We will hold her in a baby carrier a lot, we will rock her, co-sleep if needed and spend a lot of time snuggling and reading.  We also will do what is referred to as "cocooning".  This simply means we will focus on our family unit and make sure as parents we are the ones to meet Olivia's basic needs including feeding, bathing, diapering and comforting.  We may have to decline certain social invitations and limit visitors physical contact with her.  This being said, our family will be going through a huge transition and friends will be crucial.  We don't want to push anyone away we just want you to understand why we may spend more time at home than usual.  We want our girl to understand that we are her stable unit and that we aren't going anywhere before we take her out into a world full of more changes than she has already experienced.

We want to share some reading material with our close friends and family before we bring Olivia home.

This one makes me teary every time I read it and think of all of the changes our precious girl is about to experience.  We pray daily for her heart which is about to be broken.


Imagine for a moment...
You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancee. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world...the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.
The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face. But it's not him! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man?? Where is your beloved?
You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay. But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?
Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language - either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.
You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away form him and any intimate words or contact. Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.
More time passes. One morning you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you? You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.
The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you. You are anything but thrilled to see him! Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hands in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.
The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along". You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.
Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one?? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheeks. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair. Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.
He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you are used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black. You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.
People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one another, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness. Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.
Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

How would YOU as an ADULT handle all of these changes?

Below are two blog posts that also explains "Life after the Airport":
(Some of the points in here may or may not pertain to our family's situation.  I do find both of these blogs to offer an interesting perspective on attachment)

Supporting and Understanding the Adoptive Family
How to Be the Village

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Face We Have Been Waiting For

This is the face we have fallen in love with.  This is our daughter, the girl we have been dreaming about having in our arms.  This is the baby who our kids call "sissie".  This is the girl that many of you have donated your time, money, skills and prayers toward. 

This is Olivia Tinsman Sund who we will hold in 12 shorts days!!!

These two are the referral photos that we saw the day we received her file. 
By the grace of God I met the mother of a little girl at Olivia's orphanage on-line shortly after receiving our referral. (read about it in this blog post) We got 3 more pictures of Olivia who helped celebrate her buddies first birthday. 
(Olivia is the one in the yellow shirt looking at the camera)
On Nov. 23 Olivia turned 1. We sent her a birthday package and in return the orphanage sent us 11 beautiful pictures of our girl. Here are a couple.



I know I am her mom so I'm biased but isn't she gorgeous? 

Sunday, January 13, 2013


The day we have been waiting so long for, travel assignment apparently came last Thursday. Unfortunately, we were not told about our TA arrival or given input onto when we would like to travel to China. That is a whole story which I am not going to get into. But, at this time our agency is working to get us there soon. We are of course praying to go before Chinese New Year which is Feb.8. If there are any more consulate appointments left, we will have our baby girl in our arms January 28 (one day after my birthday). If that doesn't work out, we will have her Feb. 18th. Either way, we have surrendered this to God. He is in control and he has written our beautiful adoption story in a way we never could have imagined ourselves. 

As I worshipped in church this morning, tears poured down my face. We Sang about trusting God at all times. He has taught me so much in this journey. Adoption is all about trust. We trusted God first with our finances, then to hand pick our child. Once matched, we trusted Him with with daughter since we are unable to care for her ourselves. We have trusted in his timing as all of the paperwork has moved from one step to the next. We have hit a bit of a hiccup during this last step. I am excited to find out God finishes our journey. Yes, I am anxious and yes I am emotional but, I think that is only normal during this time of uncertainty.

Praying for a timely answer of when our Gotcha Day will be. We were told mid-week next week but, I have hope it will be sooner.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Her Space

We went back and forth for awhile about where Olivia's room should be.  When we received our referral and found out how young she was we instantly knew where we would set up her room.  Our master bedroom has a sitting area.  We never use it and it is the perfect size for a crib, rocker and small book shelf.  We have plenty of room in our bedroom for her dresser.

Much of our reasoning behind keeping Olivia in our room is due to the importance of early attachment and bonding.  Olivia missed out on those primary newborn and infant steps of bonding and attaching to us as her parents.  We were not there to comfort her and feed her throughout the middle of the night.  She does not know what it is like to be held or rocked to sleep or wrapped in a warm blanket if she is cold at night.  We want to make sure that we are right next to her if she is the least bit uncomfortable during those first few months at home.  Yes, many will worry that we are spoiling her and creating issues down the road.  We have however learned through our multiple hours of adoption training as well as from other adoptive families how important it is to teach our child who has experienced more loss than most could ever imagine that we are her safety.  Once she learns that we will set more strict boundaries.   But, for now, we are happy to start at step one and teach her about unconditional love.  We have waited a long time which has been hard but, we know once she gets home is when the hard work will really begin. 

We knew that we would want to give Olivia as well as ourselves some privacy so we scoured Pinterest for ideas on how to separate the two spaces.  French Doors weren't in the budget although I think they would be ideal.  Instead we opted for room darkening curtains that will extend the width of the doorway. 
We painted her room a light grey so that we can keep it the same color when she moves to her own space.  Plus, I love a soothing grey for a baby room.  I made some wall decorations using fabric scraps and weaving looms and modge podged some scraps on a frame of Kyrie's first drawing of she and Olivia.  We bought a cute pink rug to girly up the room.  I am very excited to be using Kyrie's old crib bedding because I absolutely loved it when she was a baby.  The kids loved collecting books from their rooms and adding them to her collection of books I had already started. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Lovies, Lovies everywhere!

I apologize that this blog entry is way overdue.  I got caught up in the holidays then was sick for 3 weeks and completely slacked on pictures and writing. 
In the middle of December my friend Marybeth who organized the Lovey collection came over to
drop off what
had been collected.  She brought a large garbage bag inside and I was in awe at how many beautiful lovies and blankets had been collected.  As I picked my jaw up, she said, "Oh there's more".  She proceeded to bring in 2 more large trash bags and 2 paper
shopping bags full of gorgeous blankets and lovies for the children left behind in China. I was completely in awe at the hard work that so many people put into this collection.
The hardest part for me is that I want to thank each person individually but, many of the donations were anonymous.

So here is my heart felt THANK YOU to all who blessed the orphans in China with their time, craftiness, money and big hearts.  We recently received pictures of Olivia's orphanage and I will tell you these blankets and lovies are needed.  We saw pictures of metal cribs with wooden bottoms.  Babies were asleep in those cribs with no mattress and no blanket.  What a blessing your gifts will be to these precious children!

On a side note:  We need to get these lovies to China.  We are thinking Space bags will be the answer to compressing them into 1 suitcase.  Does anyone else have a better suggestion?