Tuesday, November 22, 2016

China: Days 9-10

Hey, friends! So, we've had a productive couple of days here in Guangzhou!

Monday morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and then headed downstairs to meet a tour guide who was going to take us to the Guangzhou Zoo. He was the sweetest man named Raymond, and he not only was a total gentleman, but he knew A LOT about Guangzhou history that he shared on the way there. ;) 

Mr. Independent leading the way. ;) 

The entrance.

This was the closest I ever will be and ever hope to be to a lion...he was pacing back and forth and actually growled a little bit...we were terrified...

Can you sense how THRILLED Brooks was with all the animals?!! #exceptnot

They were doing quite a bit of construction in the zoo, so we didn't get to see the whole thing, but we saw monkeys, birds, lions, tigers, and a panda from afar. Good enough for me!

In the afternoon, we came back to the hotel for lunch and naps and then ventured out to the grocery store. Ohhhh, what a disaster! Our guide had written the name of the store in both English and Mandarin on a piece of paper for us to show the taxi driver, but instead of taking us to Aeon, he took us to a Circle K convenience store. We got out of the cab thinking surely it was around the corner or something, but we were lost in the middle of Guangzhou and instead wandered aimlessly for about 15 minutes. Eeek! We got the courage up to try again with the next taxi we saw, and thankfully, he took us to the right place. We were petrified there for a little while! The grocery store here was three levels and QUITE the experience. 

(No pictures because we were so freaked out and out of place that we didn't snap any!)

We had a low-key night at the hotel, and then woke up this morning for our Consulate appointment! The BIG day! This appointment would issue Brooks his visa into the United States and is the document that gives us permission to go HOME.

No cameras are allowed inside the Consulate, so we had to grab a family pic after. 

How cute is my little man in his bowtie?!!

It typically takes about 24 hours to process and issue the child's visa...but, of course, we were informed that there is a little "communication glitch" between the Consulate here and D.C., so they are hopeful that we will get it tomorrow afternoon but aren't guaranteeing it yet. Friends, if you're the praying kind, PLEASE PRAY that we get our visa by Thursday. We have a flight out of Hong Kong Friday afternoon, and we need to get HOME to our big kids! 

Thanks, friends! More tomorrow! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

China: Days 7-8

Happy Sunday, friends!

Before I dive into my weekend recap, I wanted to answer a few questions I've gotten since I started posting about our adoption process...

1) How old is Brooks? He turned one on 9/16, the birthday he was assigned at the hospital, so he's now roughly 14 months old.

2) What is his special need? This one is a little bit hard to answer right now because, truthfully, his medical file was VERY slim. What we know is that China suspects he was born 4-6 weeks early, although our International Adoption doctor thinks he was a little bit closer to full-term than that, and he was hospitalized twice as a baby. The first time he was hospitalized was after he was found, and the second was at roughly six weeks old when he was dehydrated from Rotavirus. Both discharge notes mentioned he was mildly anemic, so technically, anemia is his "special need." That's truly all we know.

3) What do you know about his birthmom/birth family? Nothing. Brooks was abandoned at an intersection at approximately six days old.

4) What agency did you use? We used and love Holt International. I have seriously NOTHING but great things to say about them. They have been wonderful to work with!

5) Why are you STILL in China? Ha! The adoption trip is about 12-14 days depending on the government appointments you get. It's just part of the process when you are adopting internationally because you have to deal with two different governments. Last week was all about finalizing our adoption on the China side of things, and this week we are finalizing the adoption on the US side of things and getting Brooks's visa to immigrate into the country. We'll be home SOON!

Okay...here's what we've been up to!

We are loving our time here in Guangzhou spoiling our baby. :)

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning and headed to Brooks's medical exam after breakfast. This is a mandatory step in obtaining his visa into the U.S. from the Consulate.

He's definitely an Ezell boy - food is the key to his heart. :) Also...all the heart eyes for that amazing combover.

The general screening was step 1 - healthy boy!

The measurements were next - little man is 72cm long and 8.4kg! At last update from his orphanage two weeks ago, he was 70cm and 7.5kg. Our peanut is growing!

No pic of the third step which was the ENT exam...he was NOT a fan, so we'll skip straight to the part where he fell asleep on the way back to the hotel. ;)

Doctors are exhausting, y'all.

After his little nap, we headed out to the hotel playground. This, to our knowledge, was his first time on a slide or swing, and he LOVED it!
He slid down this slide no less than 50 times.

Peek a...

BOO!! :)

This playground was also the first place Brooks showed a preference for me over other women. Huge attachment victory!!!

After the playground, we ate lunch in the hotel restaurant. They had this precious little play area for people waiting on their food. Note to American restaurants...this is amazing!

He came back for another little nap after lunch and then we walked over to Lia Hua Park where we explored the lake area. How cute are my boys?!!

Hi, Mom!!

I see you!

Also of note, this man loves him some Noonday Collection...he held onto those paper beads the whole walk back to the hotel!

We ate dinner at the hotel and then headed to bed after a great first day in Guangzhou.

This morning, we headed out to Shamian Island to do some shopping and touristy things.
Taxi rides are always an adventure...

In front of the Pearl River with my boys.

Koi pond.

In case I've led you astray in believing he's perfect...he's definitely still a 1 year-old. ;) 

Shamian Island historic buildings - this felt so much like New Orleans!

Another view of the Pearl River.

Family photo op inside the White Swan Hotel.

This statue is a famous "China Adoption" photo that nearly all families take while in Guangzhou. I have no idea why, but it is super cute.

Hey, guys!

We came back to the hotel for a quick lunch and nap. After nap, we headed down to the hotel pool to attempt Brooks's first swim! He absolutely LOVES baths and playing in the sink, so we thought this would be a hit...
His favorite toys - cups!

You want me to WHAT?!!

Thinking about it...

Jury's still out...

I'm sorry...but this peanut drowning in his 12-month bathing suit...I die.;) 

It started raining a little bit after an hour, so we headed in for a snack and then explored the hotel playroom. 

I'm calling it now...this kid's an engineer. He is OBSESSED with putting things in and out of boxes, cups, bins, really whatever he can get his hands on. We spent about an hour putting these blocks together and then taking them apart. Future Aggie?!! (Fingers crossed!)

We wrapped up our day with dinner at the hotel again, a bath, and now we are conking out for the night early. It was a BIG day!

I know it's silly, but I can't stop thinking about where this little guy was just a week ago tonight...spending his last night in a cold, hard, metal crib with no mama and daddy to call his own. 

It breaks my heart to think of all those who remain there...cold, lonely, probably a little (or a lot) hungry...who are going to bed tonight with no one to rock them and pat their backs. There's no one there to sing "Jesus Loves Me" or tuck them in with a special blanket. There's no guarantee that the hands who laid them down will be the same hands who pick them up in the morning. Adoption is certainly not the ONLY answer to the orphan crisis in our world today, but these kids deserve better. 

All kids do. 

There are an estimated 1 million (yes, MILLION) orphans in China alone today. The nannies and caregivers do their absolute best, and I have no doubt there is a special place in heaven for all of those wonderful women...but they're not forever mamas. International adoption has declined so significantly in the last few years, and there were only about 2,350 children adopted into the U.S. from China last year. Brooks is one of the lucky ones, but so are we. These children are amazing. Adoption is amazing. If you've had adoption on your heart or maybe us sharing our story has lit a fire in you, please please please reach out to me! I'm certainly no expert,  but I'd love to tell you about our process! 

Hope you all have had a great day, and, as always, thank you for following our journey! 
Friday, November 18, 2016

China: Days 3-6

Hey, friends! Happy Friday from China! We are wrapping up our time here in Hangzhou today and headed to the second destination in our trip - Guangzhou. Here's what we've been up to!

Tuesday morning, we had breakfast and then headed back to the Civil Affairs office to finalize the adoption in Brooks's province and receive our Certificate of Adoption. He's officially an Ezell! 

After that, we loaded up in the van and headed out to Yiwu City, Brooks's birthplace. It was about a two-hour drive, so Brooks snuggled with Mommy and Daddy and snoozed a little bit on the way. 

We went first to Brooks's finding spot, and friends, can I just tell you how hard that was. Brooks was found on September 22, 2015 at the intersection of a VERY busy street in a village. While we there, I just couldn't help but wonder why someone would abandon such a precious little one, so I asked our guide, who knows the area very well, if she knew why women in this village would abandon babies. Given how healthy Brooks is (his only medical "conditions" are prematurity and mild anemia), she suspected he was born to an unwed teen mother, although we'll never know for sure. I just stood in that area praying for his birthmom. I know it's absolutely NOT the case, but I sort of secretly hoped she could see us there, holding and loving on her little guy so she could be assured he was healthy, happy, and safe.

After leaving here, we headed on to his orphanage. Here it was a very different story - it was as if the prodigal son had returned home. It was OH SO CLEAR that Brooks (or Zhi Qiu, pronounced GEE-CHEW, as they all shouted) was a favorite "toy" for the older girls in his orphanage. Not only did all of the caregivers light up when they saw us, but the older children did as well. He loved the attention and went easily from ayi to ayi before (thankfully!) reaching back out for me when it was time to leave. 

This is Brooks with our amazing guide in the exact spot where they took his original referral photo five months ago.

I'm not sure I'll ever get this image out of my head...rows and rows of cold metal cribs.

This is Brooks with his orphanage "mama" who absolutely LIT UP when she saw her little guy. He was equally excited to see her and reached right out for her to hold him. It was equally heartbreaking and thrilling to see how much he was loved. She was also SO concerned that I had him dressed in only a long-sleeved onesie and hoodie. It was 60 degrees outside, and he was sweating...but all of the kids in the orphanage were bundled in parkas and coats fit for the Arctic. ;) I guess when you have no heat or A/C in the building, you take more precautions.

This is the crib where our boy spent 13 months of his life. Although I will forever be grateful for these women who loved and cared for him as his own, this is no place for a baby to be raised, friends. These babies need HOMES. If you've got adoption on your heart and ever want to talk, PLEASE reach out to me! 

After leaving the orphanage, we drove another hour or so to Jinhua City to apply for Brooks's Chinese passport. He did SO well in the van (probably because China doesn't use car seats...eeek!), and then we headed back to the hotel for dinner and bed.

Wednesday was a free day, so we ate breakfast at the hotel and then went for a walk around the lake. We stumbled upon this amazingness, so we obviously went in for a latte break! #yesplease

We walked around the lake a little more after our coffee with our little guy in the Ergo. He is NOT a fan of riding in the front, but he seems to love the back option. 

After our walk, we rested at the hotel for a bit and then headed to the Chinese grocery store. We found some "treasures" like this...

and Brooks rode in a shopping cart for the first time. Get used to it, buddy! Mama loves her some Target. ;) 

It rained Wednesday afternoon, so we spent most of the rest of that day hanging around the hotel...womp womp.

Thursday morning, our guide took us shopping at a local souvenir market. It was an older, more historic area of town, and it was so pretty!

Have I mentioned how much we loved Echo? Because if not, it should be said again. God bless Echo!

Little man fell asleep in the backpack toward the end of our shopping adventure. It's exhausting being adopted, y'all.

Thursday afternoon, it rained again but we ventured out to check out the "mall" across from the hotel. Not much there to buy, but we did enjoy the escalator! ;) 

Friday morning it was time to say goodbye to Hangzhou, so we took one last walk to the lake for some Starbucks and fresh (okay, not fresh) air, grabbed an early nap, and headed to the airport. 

We survived the flight (and I do mean survived) to Guangzhou, and things are looking VERY, VERY up here! Hangzhou was great, but we absolutely LOVE our hotel and the weather here in Guangzhou! 

That's a wrap for now! I'll recap some of our Guangzhou adventures in a day or two! We are SOOOOO ready to hug our big kids and sleep in our own beds, but it's all part of the process. Have no fear, there will be GALLONS of queso consumed upon our arrival home. If anyone wants to throw us a little queso party at DFW next week, we wouldn't turn it down. ;) Happy weekend, friends! 

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