Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The end of a chapter . . .

This post is long overdue! Time and life has taken over!! But here is the last of my posts that closes out the end of our China journey as we begin the rest of our journey known as "life."

Our last day in Guangzhou was spent quietly watching the clock tick away. We met for a group picture and had a little gathering with the families. I am so thankful for this wonderful group I was able to share the time with. And also for all their offers of help. From grabbing something I dropped, to helping with the stroller or my carry on, or even making me my lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they were a fun and kind group of people that I look forward to keeping in touch with. In the late afternoon, our vans arrived to bring us to Hong Kong where Marlo and I spent our last night as the two of us. We were very lucky to join Mic and Carol's van on the three hour trip instead of taking one by myself. Not only did they feed me my PB & J that afternoon, Carol fed me dinner - a Snickers bar! In the hotel lobby that night we said goodbye to all the families as we were all going our separate ways in the morning.

I had been getting notifications from the airline that my flight from Hong Kong to Chicago was delayed by 4 hours. However, a couple that was taking the same flight with me was not receiving these notifications and walked over to the terminal to check the night before and were told that everything was on time. So by 8:30 Wednesday morning, Marlo and I, along with our cart of luggage made the quick 5 minute walk to the terminal to check in. The sight of a huge line of people was not what I was looking for, but that is exactly what I ran into. A flight canceled the day before was the reason for the mass amount of people. Our flight in fact was delayed by 4 hours, yet we took our spot in line to check in. We finally made it through and spent the next few hours discovering the Hong Kong airport. It is hands down the nicest aiport I've been in and time went by pretty quickly. Soon it was time to board and I was lucky enough to hit the jackpot and was placed in the bulkhead row with no other passengers. Marlo and I played on the floor, in our seats, had our "junk" spread out across the entire row and the 14 1/2 hours went very smoothly. I did have the cutest little Chinese "grandma" speak to me the majority of the flight in Chinese. I had no idea what she was saying, but I just smiled and nodded. I do know that she was definately telling me how to take care of Marlo. At one point she got out of her seat, took of Marlo's blanket, re-wrapped her and rubbed her arm and mine and gave me a thumbs up. She appeared to be traveling with her husband, daughter and granddaughter. It had started to get a little cool on the plane and I needed to get Marlo's sweater down from the overhead, so I asked a flight attendant to hold Marlo while I got it out. When I turned around, the little grandma had taken Marlo right out of flight attendants arms and was holding her. She and her husband, along with Marlo, had the biggest smiles on their faces. They talked, played, clapped hands and when she saw the sweater in my hand she grabbed it while her husband helped her put it on Marlo. Clearly, she had been telling me for hours to get her a sweater!

We landed in Chicago and had a long layover. We were able to clean up, change clothes and get something to eat just in time for another flight notification that my flight to Duluth was delayed by 30 minutes. I thought 30 minutes isn't so bad, but then another 45 minute delay led straight into a nasty thunderstorm which led straight into my flight home being canceled shortly after midnight or so. I had a choice to make at this point. I could either lose it and bust out crying, or I could just hang on until the morning and make the best of it. Somehow I found the strength to get through talking to John with a minimal amount of tears and made my way to the gate I would be flying out of early that morning. Marlo could not have handled it any better and we met a few new friends to pass the time with. This truly is how she was waiting. Smiles and all!

As it was, I hadn't showered for 2 days, only cleaned up in a family restroom (which I totally Clorox wiped down before doing so) and to say I was a hot mess by the time I got off the plane in Duluth is a total understatment. I held everything in for so long and as soon as I saw John, I knew I didn't have to be an "adult" anymore and I crumbled. I couldn't wait to see all of them and my tears started streaming as I made my way into the terminal. Those arms never felt so good! Although they were all ready to hold Marlo, I was in heaven holding them. Marlo was a trooper - hungry and all, but met her daddy, brothers and sister with open arms.

We haven't wasted any time and have jumped into Benson life literally the day after we got home. Marlo is doing great. She is adjusting well. The kids adore her as much as she adores them. We couldn't imagine life without her here. And she is a perfect fit for daddy's arms.

She has grown, tried some new foods, is getting a schedule down pretty good, gotten a couple shots and is making strides like crazy! She completes the Benson home. We adore her and love seeing her change each and every day. We want to thank everyone who followed along, supported us, sent us kind thoughts and loving words. Thank you all for every little thing you have said or done!

Below is a video that Marlo's Uncle Tom has put together. We absolutely love it - and I still cry everytime I watch it. It is a gift she will have forever and we can't thank him enough! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One step closer to home

Yesterday, we took an oath at the US Consulate, had our paperwork reviewed, which then closed out the last of my official duties to bring Marlo home. The United States will issue her a visa which I should receive this morning. And then at 4:30 I will hop on a van to Hong Kong where Marlo and I will spend our last night as just the two of us. Wednesday we will catch a plane that will travel for over 14 hours, log a total of almost 7,000 miles and will land in Chicago. The two of us will spend a few hours at O'Hare before taking the quick trip to Duluth to see our family and be home!! My suitcases are completely packed. I started packing last night as Marlo and I spent the evening together just in our room.

Yesterday after our US Consulate appointment, we visited a town square in Guangzhou that just ten years ago was fields. It is now filled with 40 story apartment buildings, the tallest TV tower, the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Guangzhou Opera Theater, and brand new construction still going up. I cannot lie, I wouldn't have minded staying at the Ritz Carlton. We then went to Shamain Island. This is where we stayed with Ilei. I loved staying on the island as there was so much to do and see. The streets were filled with people, vendors, and stores. You could find a little something for everyone. Families everywhere. We arrived and parked at the White Swan Hotel. Walking in all I could think was it is still the same almost 7 years later. However, the shop in the hotel that was filled with strollers, now only carries luggage. The bookstore that had a large selection of children's books and toys was replaced with standard hotel fare. The streets outside the hotel are quiet. Almost desolate. The street that seemed busiest 7 years ago, now was empty. We arrived on the island around 11:00 a.m. The first store I went to, the owner told me I was his first customer of the day. I saw no one doing granite etchings. There was no one outside hand painting. And the only adoptive families I ran into were those we were traveling with. Things have changed in the China adoption world. I heard two different reasons for the decrease in international adoption for China, which obviously has changed the island. I was told by two guides, two different reasons. It sounds like these babies in China are either being adopted out domestically or the families are keeping them, as the one child policy is not as harshly enforced as it once was. To me, either way, it sounds like a positive situation.

As home gets closer, I get more and more anxious to leave. Not too excited for the flight back, but it looks like I may have an entire row to myself! Well, me and Marlo. I welcome the extra space! And I am sure that no one would really want to sit next to a mom by herself and an infant! Keeping my fingers crossed that the seat assignments stay as is.

We had group pictures today and had a little meeting with the families afterward. It is a great group. I've enjoyed getting to know them as much as I did and I'm looking forward to Christmas cards for an update of these babies!

For now, my mind is switching gears. I'm ready to give up room service and laundry service to my own kitchen and laundry room. (I can't believe I actually want to cook and do laundry.) I'm excited to watch Ilei at skating on Friday. I cannot wait to watch Eli play baseball on Saturday in Carlton. As for Wyatt, I'm excited to not have to wake him up for baseball or basketball and have him drag himself upstairs by noon and ask if he can have pizza rolls for for breakfast, when it is actually lunchtime. I'm really looking forward to seeing John. As I have been here by myself and people have told me they cannot believe I'm doing this on my own, John has been holding down the fort at home. That is no easy task. Juggling work and the kids' schedules is something we balance out pretty good together. It takes two. And yes, my mom and dad or my sister have been at my house during the day and taking on those activities, he still comes home to kids' nighttime schedules, laundry, cooking, cleaning, bedtime routines and attempting to stay up late enough to see that Wyatt went downstairs for bed. By Wednesday night, we may both collapse. And what I cannot wait to do is hand him his newest little girl. She's a lucky little thing to be able to call him daddy. He'll do anything for her and already loves her more than you can imagine.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guangzhou, day 1

Yesterday we left Nanchang, Jiangxi, Marlo's home province. I was so excited to begin this last leg of this journey knowing that the next plane I will be on will be bringing us home. A home I've known for years, a new home for Marlo. I have bittersweet feelings. A part of my heart aches leaving Nanchang. Knowing that it's her birthplace, it is her entire heritage. This is all Marlo has known. It also leaves behind her parents. And yes, I know that they have no idea where she was brought after they left her at the provincial relief center, but they left her where she would be found, where she would be safe and taken care of. A little part of my heart will stay in the Jiangxi province. And if there were a way in the world for her parents to know how well Marlo is doing, please let it happen.

Here are some women in the hotel with Marlo. They were beautiful and played with her for a long time. I have no idea what they were saying, but they seemed very sweet and adorable.

YouTube Video

This is Marlo and our guide, Mary in Nanchang. She helped this past week in completing our adoption for China. She is a wonderful lady and taught me so much about China and Jiangxi.

We are now in Guangzhou with all the families we started this journey in Beijing with. Three other families went to Jiangxi with me. Mic and Carol, who have adorable Miss Lilly. Matt and Tamera and their precious Ava and then Jason and Kristi with beautiful Teagin. Three other families went to different parts of China when we went to Jiangxi and we met them and their adorable children in Guangzhou last night and today. It was so fun to meet up again and see their babies. If I must say, this travel group has some of the most precious babies I have laid my eyes on.

Our morning started off with the medical exam for the United States. The hearing test is a squeaky toy on each side of them head to see if they turn to see what's making the noise. They then take height, weight and temp. The last stop in the clinic is the physical exam. Marlo had the same doctor that Ilei had when we were here almost 7 years ago.

We then had the pictures for the visa taken and I cannot wait to compare it with Ilei's visa picture. I think they look a lot alike.

Guangzhou is exactly as I remember it. The buildings, the smells, it was like a breath of fresh air. Literally. Have you ever smelled stinky tofu? I cannot even explain the force of it's odor. It is good to be here. It's a little more westernized and easy to navigate. Or maybe it just feels good to be here because I know I'm pretty close to home. I miss my family! I cannot wait to see them. I cannot wait to be there to join in their activities and to be on a schedule. Oh how I love routine!! Soon, very soon and I will be jumping in my van and running like crazy and I cannot wait!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last night in Nanchang

Today is our last night in Nanchang. It's a very interesting city. Traffic is WILD! Oh my gosh, the lanes do not matter, the direction of traffic is up in the air and whoever gets there first has the right of way. And it's only a matter of inches, seriously, before the right of way is determined. Our guide said we just need to literally walk in front of traffic and they will stop and let us go. And if we stop and wait for traffic to pass, we will never get to where we are going. There are no crosswalks or traffic signals to help. I just decided to stay as close to our guides as possible when out and say "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh" over and over until I safely arrive across the street.

Today we visited People's Park. It was beautiful. A completely wooded area with winding paths and pavilions. Many people exercise in this park daily and we were fortunate to see some performing tai chi, a lady using a Chinese yo-yo and others with their families walking through the park. There was a pavilion of people playing Mahjong. And I even managed to get barked at by a gentleman playing who was not liking the fact I was taking pictures. There were badminton matches and little boys in split pants running all around with all their "glory" hanging out. The locals are eager to see us with the babies and are very kind and curious. A beautiful bride and groom were just coming to the park as we were leaving. It is this China that I love to experience.

We've now eaten at McDonald's twice this week and yes, it tastes just like home! However, they took our orders at our table and they come around selling happy meal toys!! Our dinners have been good, most of the time! We had probably my favorite Chinese meal yesterday. Different than home, yet so good!

Marlo is doing very well. She is sweet and loves to talk. She will giggle quietly and has the sweetest little smile when you give her kisses. And then when she wants you to do something and you are not doing it or not doing it fast enough, she will cry as loud as it takes for me to do what she wants. No tears, just noise. Noise that will stop as soon as she gets what she wants! She has a bit of attitude and I love it! She's a little like her sister that way and it is a characteristic that will serve her well in our crazy home.

Tomorrow we will be going to Guangzhou to complete the paperwork for the United States government. In China's eyes, Marlo became a Benson on Monday. We are in the home stretch! Let's just hope the paperwork that John completed (under my instructions) is done correctly!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All about a girl named Fu Ni

It is so amazing to me that I am half way way around the world holding this baby that was born sometime in December and we call her our daughter. She was found around a month old and spent the next 6 months of her life at the Jianxin Social Welfare Institute. They gave her the name Fu Ni and called her NiNi. It means beautiful, graceful girl.

On Monday morning, our flight into Nanchang, which is where we meet the babies, was early. We met our guide and learned on our way to the hotel that the babies would be there within a short amount of time. We had very little time to get in our room. I had packed my carry on with what I would need to get the baby. I was in my room when the rest of my luggage was being delivered and the phone rang to tell me to come to the lobby as the babies had arrived.

I grabbed what I needed and jumped on the elevator. As I came through to the lobby, there was NiNi. Wrapped in the arms of a a man who I believe is one of the orphanage directors. She was so tiny in his arms. Content and looking around. As they placed her in my arms, my heart melted. Actually my heart melted as I first saw her when I was walking off the elevator. We stared at each other, tears in my eyes. She studied and touched my face, and played with my name card.

She is now known as Marlo Fu Ni. She has adjusted pretty well. She had a lot of tears yesterday morning, but decided in the afternoon that it was much more fun to play, than to cry. She now responds to Marlo. She smiles the sweetest little smile and if she wants you to do something, she lets you know with a cry that lasts until she gets what she wants. Her features are petite. She loves to snuggle and likes to walk around. She will roll over as many times as space will allow. And she loves to talk. She will go on and on and ends with a grin that says she is so very proud of what she just said. She continues to come out of her shell and I am enjoying her letting me in to her heart.

Each evening and morning, I send video home to John so they can see her in action. We skype when both our schedules allow and I know it's so they can see Marlo, but I LOVE seeing them. Seeing their faces makes being this far away a little easier. A week from now, I will be somewhere over Russia on my way home and I cannot wait. I can't wait for my family to meet Marlo and I cannot wait until I can hug everyone. This first week has gone by fast and I know the second will also.

This is the only picture I have today!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 2 with Marlo

Not much time to update, but now we are settled in our room. We didn't have time to really even unload our suitcases, but I will explain that tomorrow a,ing with meeting Marlo details. For now, here is all I've got loaded to post!

(she did not like me wanting to get a pic for here daddy!)