Saturday, December 31, 2016

December in review

As with everyone else, December got away from me.  I'm sure most of you have seen these pictures on social media, but here's the back story of what we've been up to this past month.

Backing it up a little bit, about a week and a half after we returned from China, we had our first visit with our caseworker.  (We have to report back to China on a quarterly basis that first year, then on years 2, 3, and 5.)  Our caseworker commented that Madeleine still had what she calls an "orphanage glaze" and that she notices kids seem to snap out of it around months 3-6.  CJ and I, being the naive, first-time parents we are, took it with a grain of salt, almost brushing it off.  We honestly thought the quiet, calm, deliberative child we brought home was who Madeleine really was.

We were wrong, and we couldn't be happier about it.

Somewhere during month two at home, a different little girl came out.  She's still curious and persistent.  But she's also become more like a toddler and as CJ says, she has found her little girl scream.  You all know the one we're talking about, the one that happens in grocery store aisle #20 that you can hear while you're still in the produce section.

As you'll see from a lot of this month's pictures, eye contact has been one of Madeleine's biggest improvements.  Yes, some of that is her being a toddler.  But a majority of it is still that eye contact is a learned behavior, and for the first time in her life, Madeleine has parents/caretakers who will look her in the eye, pay attention to her, love her.

A much more fun personality is coming out.

Mid-December, we took Madeleine to see an international adoption doctor (yes, that's a specialty).  Her doctor had reviewed M's file prior to us accepting her referral, so she knew of her "special needs."  I put that in quotation marks because we aren't certain her file is anywhere close to being accurate.  In fact, at this time, there is nothing medical in her file that requires additional testing or attention.

While there, we learned that in a six week period, Madeleine grew 1.5" and put on 1.4 lbs. Prior to this, she was only in the 25th percentile on the Asian growth charts and didn't even register on the American growth charts, so this is welcomed news!

Even though her medical file may not be accurate, we still did quite a bit of blood work to fill in the blanks and make sure there aren't any underlying issues her file didn't address.  And although we were provided her vaccine record, we still pulled her titers to determine what vaccines she has in her system and which may need updated, if any.

Additionally, and the most fun, we submitted stool samples for testing!  There's nothing like having some vials of poop sitting on your counter, even if they are double bagged.  The point of that is to rule out any parasites that many children in orphanages have.

(Due to the holidays, we haven't received results back from any of these tests.)

It's like once she started walking, a light bulb clicked and a whole new world was opened up.  She's much, much more curious and likes to test her limits quite a bit more than she did a few months ago.  She's finally becoming the toddler that she should have been quite some time ago!

While we are so thankful Madeleine is home and was able to celebrate Christmas, we're actually more excited for next Christmas, when she will hopefully have a much better understanding of what's going on (and so I can do Elf on the Shelf).  She still humored us this year and opened up some presents from Santa -- rather, she unwrapped her gifts just enough to see what was inside and then stopped.

A few days ago, a few therapists from First Steps visited for a formal evaluation of Madeleine.  We verified what we already knew - that due to her circumstances, she is globally delayed.  This means she functions more like a 9-12 month old (give or take), not at the 2-year old level.  We have the access and means to provide her with this early intervention, so there's no reason not to do it.  Although we're biased, we do believe she's a smart little girl and will catch up very quickly.

With the help of the therapists, we narrowed her (future) therapies down to speech therapy and to developmental therapy.  I didn't even know developmental therapy existed; I thought it was just broken down into specialties (PT, OT, speech, etc.). The developmental therapist will look at Madeleine globally - cognitively, through language and communication, behaviorally, gross and fine motor skills, and self-help.  Essentially general therapy like this will help her connect the dots.

A big part of First Steps is also giving us the tools and education to help her learn.  The physical therapist who evaluated her said she needed to work on more upper-body strength and commented how she ideally needed to crawl more. Since she's mimicking us now, we can play with her on the floor and try to get her to crawl around with us.  She suggested buying one of those play tunnels to encourage her to we now own one of those ugly things.  Another suggestion was activities that encourage her to use her hands more -- painting, play doh, etc.  I assumed she was too young for that, given her developmental age, but they assured me she wasn't.  You'll see above that attempt #1 with play doh was not a raging success, but we'll keep on trying!

 My final adoption act for 2016 was changing Madeleine's name with the Social Security Administration.  Talk about more unnecessary red tape.  When I completed her DS-260 for US Citizenship and Immigration -- the form to allow her to immigrate into the United States -- I was asked if I wanted Social Security to automatically send her card when she arrived.  I said no, knowing that most likely they'd sent it to me in her Chinese name and I'd have to redo it and that it'd be easier to start fresh.  Of course, that was ignored and we received her Social Security card in the mail shortly after arriving home -- in her Chinese name.  I basically told insurance, the doctor's office, anyone who needed it that we didn't have her number yet.  Imagine all the problems it'd cause, all the work I'd have to redo, if her names didn't match up everywhere (taxes, anyone?).  #hotmess

We finally received her Certificate of Citizenship a few weeks ago, which allowed me to change her name with the Social Security Administration.  I came armed with her Social Security card in her Chinese name, the Certificate of Citizenship in her American name, her Hague Adoption certificate in her American name, her Chinese adoption decree in her Chinese AND American names, my passport....and they initially told me it wasn't enough.  I also learned that even though US Citizenship and Immigration saw her as a US citizen, the Social Security Administration did not -- they still classified her as a legal alien.  After multiple people working on her file, her name change went through and her new card will arrive in two weeks.

Now do you all see why I said that all the trouble we had with her adoption wasn't caused by China, but by the U.S. government? 

Madeleine has been cool to stuffed animals and dolls since she got home.  We assume she never had them in the orphanage.  Since she's mimicking us now, if I pretend with the doll, she will now take her and pretend.  We got out her doctor's set to play with and now she will check her doll's heartbeat and give her shots. 

In many ways, 2016 has been a wonderful year, and in others, it has been kind of terrible.  Like most of you, we're ready to close the door on this year already and hope for a much better 2017.  In fact, I need to close down now so I can get back to planning several events for January -- Madeleine's birthday and Chinese New Year are right around the corner!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

a few more weeks down

As I was telling a friend yesterday, Madeleine continues to do really well, but I can't seem to get off the struggle bus.  Do parents ever get off the struggle bus?  Like, is it even possible?

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I was actually energized for the week, determined this week was going to be different than the last two were. It was better in some ways, worse in others.  I'm now in the unexpected process of hiring for an open position at work.  One of our dogs has become hyper-anxious the past two weeks (not around or with Madeleine, but maybe as a result of her joining our family).  Then my grandma died, which was expected and a relief, but still.  And then here I am, wondering why none of this could have happened on my pre-planned and convenient schedule.

I knew this going into the adoption/becoming-a-parent process, but it's apparent that one of the ways God is pruning me right now is to be selfless....because it's something I -- sorry for the language, mom -- really suck at.

But you all came to hear about Madeleine, so I'll stop my pity party.

Madeleine is now walking everywhere.  She walked a few steps here and there independently in China, but for the most part, since she's been home, she will only walk if someone is holding her finger.  No need for anyone's help now!

She still doesn't say any words, but she has started to make new sounds.  I've held off on getting a hearing test.  It's still a possibility that she has some hearing-related problems, but her hearing seems to be hit and miss, maybe even a bit selective at times.  This can be a sign of attachment, or lack thereof.  Once this week, not facing him, CJ used her name to correct her, and she immediately reacted - straightened up, stopped what she was doing, turned to him.  But then if we do it another time, she might not do anything.  It takes babies 6-9 months to recognize and respond to their own name, and she's only had 7 weeks in an entirely new language, with an entirely new name, so we'll give her a little bit more time.

Our biggest victory though -- we've moved out of her bedroom!  There were several days the week of Thanksgiving where she slept several nights throughout the night in a row, so we decided to try out sleeping in our own bed again to see what she would do.  And she continued to sleep through the night!  Some nights she wakes up in the middle of the night - we think she might have nightmares - but if we rock her, she normally goes right back to sleep.  Seriously, this has been a huge answered prayer and blessing for us, especially for me.  I now function more like a regular human being and less like a zombie at work!

This is what happens when I go to work.  Don't worry.  She can breathe.  It's just to protect her when CJ takes her on a 4 mile run when it's freezing outside.

Future Boone EDC Executive Director!

Her first Thanksgiving. Check out the turkey pants.  And those boots.  I'm obsessed with this outfit and bummed she won't fit into this next year.

Picking out our Christmas tree!  We decided not to really decorate for Christmas, so the tree just has lights and tinsel, and there are no other decorations around the house.  We're just starting to function normally need to add more new stuff this year.

She's really started to love books -- so exciting!

M loved Steak 'n Shake.

Just in case you thought we had the perfect, happy child, here she is after I told her no, not to climb and stand on the super slick end table, which she had been doing a few seconds before.

Up until recently, Madeleine hasn't really paid attention to us.  I've written that eye contact has been a struggle, and it's still hit and miss.  But it's things like noticing if I'm wearing glasses or not, what jewelry I'm wearing, or even the fact that I have hair -- things most toddlers will reach for, grab, put in their mouth, etc.  I took this picture one day after work this week, as this was the first time she's really even touched (and played!) with my hair.

She might be watching us on our cell phones a little more than I realize.

Seriously, we can't get enough of her.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

this too shall pass

It was a rough week.  Not for Madeleine, who came out looking like a rockstar, but for me.  I won't give details, as I don't need to throw myself even more of a pity party than I already have, but if you're a parent who works outside of the home, then you can probably sympathize.  

My mom likes to say that one of my grandma's favorite sayings was "This to shall pass."  I don't remember my grandma ever saying this to me, but I did find myself repeating it quite a bit this week.  And I while I find myself very thankful this year for many reasons, I'm also quite thankful that it's a short week and that I get two days know, to recover from just going back to work this week.

Here's what you came for though, a Madeleine update:

Madeleine's developmental growth has been slow and cautious up until really a few days ago and now she's started to explode.  Her little system is probably just starting to shake off the shock of moving halfway around the world with strangers, so I don't blame her one bit.  In the past few days alone, she has started walking more independently, has started using the "more" sign for food more consistently, and has started making more eye contact with us.  She's starting to like reading and will actually bring us books to read to her and will sit on our laps and give the book all of her attention instead of slamming it shut.  While she makes quite a bit of noises, she still hasn't said a word, but we do think she's starting to sound out actual syllables.

I am also thankful that this little girl isn't a picky eater.  She's eaten nearly everything we put in front of her, including Mexican, and in this case, Thai and Japanese.

Madeleine got properly fitted for shoes this week, thanks to Kern Brothers shoes in Zionsville.

One day this week, on a day I was at work, Madeleine spent the entire day in her pajamas.  I may have made a snarky passive aggressive comment about this to Madeleine (#goodparenting), to which CJ responded, "Mama doesn't get out of her pajamas most Saturdays, so I'm not sure she has a leg to stand on" (#touche).  But this day, CJ actually picked out this entire outfit, down to the bow!  I was seriously impressed.  He may have set his bar a little too high.

Reading. (Obviously.)

My parents watched M today while we went to the Colts game.  Was it the right thing to do, so soon after coming home?  Maybe, maybe not.  While I could second guess myself all day long, I do know that we all survived (including grandma and grandpa, who I'm guessing are exhausted!) and that we're refreshed and ready to get at it again.

Friday, November 11, 2016

getting back to normal

Well, we're just starting to get our groove down...just in time for me to return to work on Monday.  It's definitely time to go back.  A shout out to all of you stay at home parents.  I have a great amount of admiration for you now, as I know it's not a job for me.  And for those of you who are wondering, through the end of the year, on the days that CJ works, I will stay at home and vice versa.  This way one of is with Madeleine for the first 2 1/2 months at home.

Comparatively speaking, it was a busy week for us, and Madeleine did extremely well!

On Monday morning, we met with Madeleine's pediatrician.  The point of this visit was to get some baseline measurements and rule out any major problems, of which there were none.  We did learn she's gained about 1-1.5 lbs. in about 3 weeks.

Madeleine also has an international adoption doctor at Riley, and we'll see her next month.  That visit is a little more in-depth -- she'll have blood drawn, the doctor will determine what vaccinations she will need and when, and she'll refer us to other specialists if need be.

After that, we headed up to Grandpa and Grandma's house for a quick visit.  We're not sure why she was doing this, but she thought it was hysterical.  Every day, we see more and more of her personality -- which is quite happy and giggly -- come out.

Madeleine got her first ride in the combine with Grandpa too.  She immediately grabbed the wheel and pressed buttons. Grandpa thought it was cute.  I'm pretty sure if I'd done that, Grandpa wouldn't have thought it was so cute.

Tuesday was our first caseworker visit.  We are required to report back to China on Madeleine's progress four times the first year and then again in years 2, 3, and 5.

After that, Madeleine and I went to vote.  We don't want to talk about what happened.

I'm still learning what's appropriate cold-weather wear for children.  This might have been overkill.  She didn't rip it off, so I'm guessing she was comfortable.

Madeleine and I took our first solo trip to Target this morning so CJ could grab a nap.  She loved it!

Our pediatrician had commented on her low muscle tone, which completely makes sense given her circumstances and since she can't walk independently yet, so she got this ride on/pushing Minnie airplane at the store.  I didn't realize that it made noise and the propeller spun around until after I purchased it.  Prior to getting her, I was pretty adamant that she'd play with wooden blocks or high quality toys. (#snob) Now that she's here, well...we own all the annoying toys now.

We've ended our week with an initial visit from First Steps.  This was an introductory meeting to get some basic info about us and Madeleine.  A physical therapist and speech therapist will come back to visit in about a month to do a formal assessment and then determine if Madeleine qualifies for any services.  We think she's a pretty sharp little girl, but we're anxious to get her up to speed as quickly as possible.

Someone is waking up from her nap, so that'll have to do for now.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

first full week home

We're wrapping up our first full week at home and we're all still alive and doing quite well! CJ returned to work on Friday and I return in a little more than a week myself, so we're slowly creeping back into life again.

With the exception of one quick trip to the store, we've been hermits these past 10 or so days.  Part of that is because all three of us just went through a major life change.  We had a whirlwind tour of China and we are still recovering from jet lag.  The other part is intentional, as we are trying to quickly unravel 20 months' worth of orphanage life. Our biggest concern will continue to be Madeleine's attachment and bonding to us as her parents. I mentioned CJ went back to work on Friday. M didn't appear to notice and her behavior was really no different.  Might have been a blow to CJ, not being missed, but at the same time, gave us a good gauge on her feelings.  She also reaches out for strangers.  If you have a toddler or you've been through that stage, did your not-yet-2 year old reach out for a stranger to hold them? If they did, did it concern you at all?  Now, these are friendly strangers, but M doesn't know this and if we don't teach her now, then who else will she go to?  We're patient and realize this will take time, but this is exactly why we will continue to be overprotective of her.

All troubles aside, we see some great things out of Madeleine.  Her second day home, she grabbed the spoon from us so she could feed herself; this from the child they said only took a bottle.  She plays well by herself, but has started to interact more with us and her toys.  She still doesn't say any words, but makes the "mmm" sound quite a bit, so I'm really gunning for Mama to be her first word.  I have learned that eye contact is a learned behavior and it is gradually improving for us.  She has started to hold our fingers at night and she's just recently taken notice of my hair, wanting to run her fingers through it -- all good signs she's coming around, we believe.

As I wrote last week, we typically only use social media for our best and brightest moments.  So from what I've posted - and from what some of you have experienced if you've visited - Madeleine appears to be a well-adjusted, happy little girl.  While she is a child and children aren't known for being excellent sleepers (I was, but not at the times my parents thought appropriate), M's insecurities and fears come out most at night.

We've spent the past 10 days trying to figure things out, making tweaks here and there.  Nightlight, no nightlight.  Sound machine, no sound machine.  Swaddling her, not swaddling her.  Shortening her nap.  Waking her up earlier.  Trying, trying so hard to put her to sleep later. Feeding her before bed.  Giving her a sippy cup before bed.  Reading one last book.

We think we may finally be onto something though. Typically, M would go down between 7-7:30 pm and without any trouble whatsoever.  Around 10-10:30, she would wake up and would be inconsolable.  We then spent the rest of the night - literally - with her crying and screaming, pushing us away yet wanting to be held.  It is maybe the saddest thing we've experienced, knowing that she -- a CHILD -- is clearly torn between two very different worlds.

What has worked is, of course, the very thing I was adamantly opposed to for so many reasons -- co-sleeping.  But it makes sense for her and for so many other children who have been adopted.  M is used to sleeping in a room with 14 or so other children.  There was always another presence in the room, even if it wasn't a nurturing one. We also believe that as she has started to attach to us little by little, that she craves more of that attention. It was almost as if once she fell asleep and woke back up, she felt that if she fell asleep again, we might not be there when she woke up.

Thankfully the three of us have compromised on the co-sleeping.  The pack and play in our bedroom didn't work and I didn't want to open the door to sleeping in our bed.  Sleeping on the pull-out couch in our guest bedroom/play room worked, sort of.  I wanted her to get used to her own bedroom, so voila:

Our new sleeping arrangements

We now have a terribly uncomfortable air mattress taking up all of M's room.  It's worked, guys.  I hate it, but it's worked.  M now goes down later than she did, but she doesn't wake up a few hours later.  Or if she does, she immediately sees that one of us is right there and she goes back to sleep, no fuss.  And she ends up sleeping a majority of the night.

Just don't ask me what our exit strategy is here, because I have no idea.  All I care about now is that the three of us can start to get some sleep.

Oh, and you'll also see above that M is the proud owner of a new chair.  I spent hours painting her rocking chair and discovered that it's not exactly the most comfortable chair, especially for rocking a screaming toddler for hours on end.

Now that you've muddled through the rough stuff with us, here are some happy pictures to end your reading:

Getting some supervision from Ellie.

Must. Have. All. The. Little. People.


Not sure about this...

One of my biggest concerns was that Madeleine wouldn't know how to play with toys.  Thankfully she jumped right in.  Her cell phone is her favorite toy and she has started to pretend with it, allowing us to pick up the phone and hand it to her so she can talk.  Grandma and Grandpa seem to call an awful lot.

Grandpa will be proud she loves her tractor.

M loves watching the laundry.

To those of you who sent us messages after my last post and for those of you who have dropped off food or sent a gift card to us, thank you.  You have no idea how much it means and how much your small gestures really have carried us.

Friday, October 28, 2016


No one's social media account ever accurately portrays real life, and ours is no exception.

Here's the deal.  Madeleine comes from a really hard place.  She is not your typical 20 month old child who has always known the love of her parents and of a home.  She has likely had multiple caretakers and has probably never truly attached and bonded with anyone.  The concepts of warmth, love, and home are completely new to her.  Guys, she slept in a sterile room with nearly bare walls, cold tile floors, and with 15 cribs, each with only a thin mattress. She was one of 600 children in her orphanage.  Her caretakers did their best with the resources they had, but it's simply not the same.  While we have a happy child during the day, Madeleine's fears and anxiety clearly come out at night. This place, while better, is just not the same.  We knew nighttime would probably become difficult and while we certainly don't look for pity, we need you to all know where we are -- and where she is.

Before it gets too far gone, I'll call it -- we need some help.

First, even if we may not do a whole lot outside the house (and let's be honest, we never really did anyway), please don't let us become isolated.  Don't assume we're busy with Madeleine and don't need to stay engaged. We are busy and she will remain our priority, but we still need our friends and family.  Please send us texts, encouragement, prayers.

If you're willing, food would be of great help.  We're fighting jet lag, for starters.  We have a new toddler who probably needs 11-12 hours of sleep in addition to a daily nap.  While she gets a nap in, she's been averaging 4-6 hours of sleep every night - which means that mama and baba are getting even less.  This means there isn't a whole lot of energy to even think about meals or grocery shopping at this point.  So if you'd like to help, that would be a huge blessing to us.

And if you would like to stop by and see us, we'd love to introduce Madeleine to you.  But because we're trying to attach and bond with her, we do need your patience, understanding, and respect on a major rule: please let us parent her.  If she wants to be picked up, please redirect her to us.  If she needs a diaper change, please let us do it (and you're welcome).  If she wants food, even if it's just a little puff, please let us give it to her. If she needs a drink, let us give her the sippy cup.  This may sound a bit extreme, but we believe that over time, these small steps will allow her to attach to us as her parents, which will in turn make night time hopefully that much easier.

And one last thought...  I highlighted a few points above -- Madeleine's former sleeping situation and the fact that she lived with 600 other parent-less children.  I don't say this to get your pity for Madeleine.  I say this to spur you to action.  What can you do about this?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

China in photos

Now that we're home, I have more reliable internet, and I have my laptop, here are more China photos.  If you're on facebook, you've seen some of these already, but some are new.  Enjoy!

Getting ready to leave for China and this guy picked himself up some greasy Chinese-American food.  Yum.

Our hotel in Beijing.  It was...something.


These were in every hotel room.  Really glad they didn't get any use.

Oh, the electric mess.


Tienanmen Square overlooking the Forbidden City 

The Forbidden City.  Everyone always said you couldn't imagine how big it was and after looking at their pictures, I didn't see what the big deal was.  Turns out, pictures just don't do justice.  It just keeps going and going and going.  

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

So many people, we could only see inside by looking at CJ's pictures.

Forbidden City

Loved this little touch on most all of the buildings.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Still the Forbidden City.

Ride on a rickshaw.

This is a rickshaw.

There may have been several times during this ride where I held my breath and prayed we weren't going to hit a curb, tip over, or get wheels tangled.  This is a good example of one of those times.


A self-confidence booster: when your rickshaw driver has to get out and push your cart.

Traditional hutong - housing where several apartment homes share a courtyard and bathroom.


"This is what I've always wanted to tell you:  Flushing timely, you are the best."

We hiked up here to get a picture of the Forbidden City. This isn't fog, but it's smog and it was so thick we couldn't see anything.

We went to an acrobatic show.  Notice anything weird about the seat numbers?

Our first trip to McDonald's in Beijing.  It was rough.  I initially thought the touch screen ordering would be great for us, but it wasn't in English and we also learned that it wouldn't accept any of our credit cards.  Turns out no where in China would accept our credit cards.

Oh, Starbucks.

Tour of a cloisonne factory.  I'm pretty sure this was just for show, but it was cool to see the intricate work that these ladies do.

This cloisonne elephant cost USD $75,000.

Great Wall.  Again, this is smog, not fog.  We're still getting the smog out of our system.

I don't think the pictures really show just how high up we were.

I don't like hiking in general and I definitely didn't like hiking on uneven steps without a handrail.

CJ is hiking up to the top here.  This is where I kind of regret I didn't go all the way to the top, but if I hadn't, I would have missed out on my conversation with Han about Indiana (Jones), Disneyland, and how rich I was.

CJ's first train ride.  We took the bullet train from Beijing to Jinan, Shandong Province, where Madeleine is from.  I may not be a huge proponent for mass transit here, but I do love bullet trains everywhere else.

Jinan, Shandong Province.

When your branding is so good, I can spot it several stores away in another language.

"Bruschetta" from Papa John's.  It was great.

In a Friends episode shortly after the gang returns from London, they talk about Boddington's beer.  I thought it was made up and it's not!

Meeting Madeleine for the first time.  She came to us quietly and didn't cry, but would not make eye contact with us.  She has come leaps and bounds in the past few weeks, but eye contact can still be a struggle for us.

View from outside M's orphanage.  Isn't it beautiful there?

She fell asleep shortly after leaving the orphanage.  Even though she came quietly, you can tell by this photo that she was clearly stressed, and rightfully so.

After we got her back to the hotel, freshly bathed, and out of her multiple layers of clothes, we started to see a different little girl.

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan.  This was one of my favorite places in all of China.

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan

CJ the Celebrity.

One person stepped up to take a photo and then a larger group formed.  During our time in Madeleine's province, we saw 3 westerners the entire 5 days.

It looks like they're talking, but CJ said the guy faked it, probably to tell his friends about how he spoke English to the American.

Black Tiger Spring - Jinan

Daming Lake - Jinan.  Also a very pretty place, but all those photos are on CJ's phone.  We also got followed around and our photo taken quite a bit here too.

Madeleine's passport.  Now that we're home and she's an American citizen, it's no longer good.

Thanks for the beach ball, Aunt Linda!

Watching tennis with baba.  It was too hot to wear the footie pajamas I packed for her (the AC only "cooled" to 75 degrees) and the only other pj bottoms were 1-2 sizes too large, so she spent quite a bit of time without pj pants....or pants in general.

Checking out her city.

A few days in, Madeleine started to cuddle a bit more with us.

Waiting to board our plane from Jinan to Guangzhou.

Madeleine loves take-off -- giggles, laughs, gets very excited.

Settled into our hotel in Guangzhou

Get your child's visa photo taken, get your child's medical exam taken care of, and then grab some wine on your way out!

Madeleine's medical exam.  This was a requirement for her US immigrant visa.  There are four stations, but as she is under 2, she didn't have to do the TB test.  They basically took her measurements and then she visited an ENT and general practitioner.  The report was sealed and the US government now has it, so no idea what they ended up writing (and it was in Chinese anyway).

My biggest disappointment was that we didn't have the opportunity to go to Walmart.  We went to another grocery/department store instead.  I think there were 4 floors full of clothes, workout equipment, Halloween decorations, and groceries.  It was crazy.

Pink explosion.  By this time in the trip, clean clothes were a premium, so we were doing a lot of re-wearing and mixing and matching.

Um, guys? I'd like these pigs off my feet.

Skyping with Aunt Megan.

We love her and like her.

Sunday we visited Shamian Island in Guangzhou for some shopping.  This statue is typical for adoptive families to stop for a photo with their child in this same spot.  Madeleine was not into it.

Guangzhou from Shamian Island

Remember I nicknamed our trip The Whiteheads Sweat Their Way Through China?  This was the breaking point.  At 9 am, CJ had already sweated through his shirt.  Madeleine was hot and sticky and I was too.  It was probably 90 degrees with more than 90% humidity in Guangzhou and I didn't pack appropriately.

These people doing exercises on Shamian Island, not sweating.

She wasn't sweating either.

We stopped at the pearl market.  It was my intention to buy myself a strand of pearls and to buy Madeleine a set for when she is older.  It was so overwhelming.  There were 2 buildings, each about 2 blocks long with 5 floors full of beads -- pearls, jade, and others.  I managed to buy myself a strand of pearls and some jade bracelets.  I'm telling myself they're real.

First time swimming!

'Merica!  This was on our way back from the US Consulate appointment.  Cameras aren't allowed inside, so this is the best I could get.

I think we ate McDonald's every day for lunch in Guangzhou. I'm definitely over McDonald's for the next few years, but I did appreciate this little quirk -- their to-go drinks come in these little bags.

Dinner at a Muslim Chinese restaurant.  Two entrees, an order of onion bread, and two Cokes cost us $6.50 USD!

McDonald's delivers in China.

Not sure what this was.

That mobi wrap is great for naps.

Fried chicken at McDonald's. My first thought was how great it was...and then that it was the spiciest thing I've ever eaten in my life.

Loaded down, leaving Guangzhou.

Tuesday night, we left China for Hong Kong.  After not seeing the sun much for two weeks, this was a welcome, beautiful sight.

Spinning in the chair while we waited for room service.

The newest American citizen!