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!)


Monday, July 18, 2011

Here she is!

It was worth every day of the long wait!!


Not enough words to describe today, but I will try to tomorrow. For tonight, I am taking a cue from Marlo and it's time for bed, We are both exhausted!!

Goodnight and good morning to you all!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today is the day!!

Yesterday we went to a church service, the jade market and the Great Wall. We ended the evening with an acrobat show. The Great Wall has been my favorite sight so far. Climbing it is hard yet amazing. It was a somewhat cool day temperature wise with a nice breeze which helped. Some of the steps are just inches apart, while others can be well over a foot high. They are worn, uneven and tricky in parts. We made it to Tower 6, I believe. My legs could definitely feel it and it would be fun to take an entire afternoon to see how far you could go. It is amazing. I promised Eli I would try and bring home piece of the wall and I was able to find some mortar (what is put between the two stones-not sure of the right term) for him. Not sure of I was supposed to do that, but I snuck the piece in my pocket to show the kids!!

My luggage is packed and was picked up at 10 o'clock last night. I have to be up in less than an hour and I cannot sleep. We take a three hour flight to Marlo's province and I will meet her in the afternoon. So sometime when you all back home are sleeping, I will become a mommy again and get to hold the newest little Benson!

(All my pics from yesterday are on the camera and I haven't downloaded any to post here. Here are a couple random pics from the weekend. Next post will be of Marlo!

YouTube Video


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beijing Tour

China is such an amazing place to watch everything around you. I woke to look out my window to a group of men getting their morning exercise playing basketball.
Beijing is a city of old meets new and any combination of the two. A broom made of twigs cleans the city sidewalks, while the sweeper is talking on a cell phone. The Chinese "old" way is to touch, shove and shout if you are in the way. No intentions of being rude, it's just easier for the cutest, tiniest 85 year old grandmother in the super market to yell at us in Chinese to get out of the way when we were grabbing a diet coke, followed up with a very clearly spoken English "I'm sorry, excuse me" from what appeared to be her grandson. And the bathrooms are also rated in a star system. We've been told 4 and 5 star are western style, complete with tissue. 3 star is still western style, somewhat questionable. 2 star is the squatty potty, given with a warning of use at your own risk and the 1 star is go in, hold your nose, don't breath or look squatty potty.

Our guide Sherry is hilarious and wonderful. Explaining to us that she lives with her husband and mother-in-law, but they would like to be a double income, no kids couple. She speaks to her mother every day on the phone and wears a jade bracelet that was once worn by her great grandmother, grandmother and mother. She also sports a mean Louis Vuitton bag and Armani sunglasses. Old and new...

This city is amazingly huge. There are over 100 universities, 3,500 middle schools, 5 million cars and it will have rush hour traffic for 10 hours a day. It can take 3 hours to go across the city. Our bus driver, Louie, is our driver for the weekend and he also owns a hospital. Most people will have a full time job and one or two other jobs on the side. Any concept of personal space is non existent. In fact, the government has hired "pushers" for the subway system. This persons job is is to literally push the people onto the subway car so the doors will close.

We've experienced Tiananman Square, The Forbidden City, Summer Palace and tomorrow will be The Great Wall, an acrobat show, and packing! I am getting closer to Marlo. It is the next day I will fly to Nanchang to hold her for the first time!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

And I'm off...

I have officially began the journey that will bring home the newest member of the Benson family. Yesterday was a whirlwind! I had been packed since Monday, but checking and double checking and checking again threw my day into high gear. Then add in the daily notes I wanted to write the kids and also the goodbyes, snuggling and sundaes-uggh, it was a late night. Did I mention the goodbyes? Those were the hardest and took the longest. I think they were hardest on me, but it looked like they were hardest on Ilei. It was a series of goodnights and I'm gonna miss you, with a lot of tears. A lot from her, followed by me running to my closet to shed enough tears of my own. The boys goodbyes were tear free for them, but I found myself holding it together only until they were out of my sight. Poor John, I cried right to his face saying goodbye. I had no where to hide and cry so he was lucky enough to have the whole show right in his face! I'm better now, the kids are fine. And when I landed in Chicago, I received this text from John: "already threw my wallet in the dumpster this a.m." It brought an instant smile to my face and still does. I cannot wait to hear the stories from home.

As I sit here and wait for our flight (that was just delayed and delayed and then delayed some more), I am excited beyond words to get our little Marlo!! I wonder about what she is doing, how she has changed since the most recent pictures we have received. Our little Marlo has no idea that her world is about to turn upside down. The only thing she has known will be taken away. We will be given a daughter, she will be given a family. Yet, it will be ever so hard for her. She will not understand why and how her world is changing. She will be scared. We will make it through and I see a lot of snuggles coming her way and my way too. And even though I am a stranger to her, she has been my daughter for a long time. She has been in my heart before she was even born and I cannot wait for us to find a spot in her heart.

Monday cannot come soon enough. It's the reason I'm traveling half way around the world. I cannot wait to hear the words "Here is your daughter, this is your mama."


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer So Far

It is now July and the weather has finally cooperated and it feels like summer. On Thursday, we made a trip to the Cities for Eli's soccer game and found the "warm weather" we've been waiting for. The boys playing soccer may have wished for the temperatures we had been having, but I was able to finally wear shorts to a game. Every baseball and soccer game so far this season, has had us in long pants, fleece jackets and sometimes blankets and umbrellas!! And have even a couple times, had gloves on!! Now, however, I think summer weather has arrived. Soccer with temps in the 90's wiped Eli out. This was how he and a friend rode all the way home (after a quick stop for ice cream).

Time is moving at a record pace. This is how we've spent our summer so far.

And now we've finally been in the pool without having to heat it to hot tub temps!

And my HUGE project of going through 7 years of Ilei's clothes went from this:

To this:

Thanks to my mom, we busted through all this one afternoon and it was such a relief to have these bags re-organized, labeled and put away. (I seriously am not a hoarder! These clothes were all packed in bags, just mixed sizes. The bags were emptied and we had sorted piles of clothes from 6 months to 6!)

Marlo's stuff for China is all ready to go into a suitcase. I have but a few items to get for the trip and and the next issue is figuring out just how I want to pack it. I can take 2 suitcases up to 50 pounds to and from China, However, in China I can only have 44 pounds checked. I know I will be paying for "extra weight" in China, and the charge is fairly reasonable. I'm fine with that. And I would love to take just one large suitcase, but if I go over the 50 pounds (even though it is only one suitcase) to and from China, it's $200-each way. So now I'm bouncing around the idea of two smaller suitcases and one carry-on, but we will see. I would just love to not have to pull more than I have to.

I leave in just 12 days. I am so ready to bring Marlo home! I think we all are!! It won't be too long and we will all be home together. But for now, we will head to my parents lake tomorrow. We plan on eating too much, doing some jet skiing and even a bit of fishing. Well, a couple of them may fish-just not me! I'll be the one eating too much, doing a little jet skiing (when the boys let me take a turn), and definitely enjoying the summer weather that is now here.