Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Medial Exam Day

March 26. This morning we met up with a new friend who is adopting the sweetest little 11 year old girl from Hepburn, using the same agency we are. They are great! Our new guide, Connie came and picked all of us up at the hotel and we went to the consulate medical center for the children’s medical exams and shots. It was packed with people when we got there. Connie said that the center opens every Saturday morning for children being adopted so everyone comes at one time. We meet so many amazing, kind, friendly families while we were waiting between stations it was great. I could have stayed there all day watching these families with their children and hearing all of their adoption stories. Cooper did wonderful and was so cooperative at every station. He didn’t even cry when he got his TB shot. It was so inspiring to see all of the good going on. One family that I particularly loved meeting was a mom and a dad who were here adopting two beautiful little children. They had two of their older children, one of whom was adopted from China 12 years ago with them. It was so sweet to see the relationship between all of them. I loved seeing how caring, responsive, respectful and vibrant their teenagers were and how excited they were about their two new little siblings. After watching CNN this morning and hearing all of the bad news about our presidential campaign this experience was so good and uplifting. After returning to the hotel I took Cooper out to the little playground and taught him how to swing. Once he got the hang of hanging on and sitting in the swing he loved it. He catches onto things so quickly it amazes me. He has the best little squeaky laugh that goes perfectly with his darling dimple. He is quick to make friends with his bossy bubbly personality. When we went back to our hotel room he found a pen and spent the rest of the evening drawing on every square inch of paper he could find. He also “blows his nose” as often as he can. Not because he has a cold, just because he has a thing for paper. Any kind of paper.

Tianjin to Guangzhou

March 25 This morning Brady was able to do quite a bit of work and take a nap (he still hasn’t adjusted to the time change and stays up almost all night) while Cooper and I went for a walk outside. This afternoon we packed everything up, picked up Coopers new Chinese passport and went to the airport to catch our flight to Guangzhou. It was a little sad to say good-bye to Cooper’s city since it’s been his only home up to this point. Tianjin has been good to him and to us as well, but the rest of our family is waiting on the other side of the ocean and we are dying to see them! We said good-bye to Vivian and made our way through the massive airport. We had some time to kill before our flight so Brady ordered us some food and played charades to negotiate one fork for all of us. Luckily I’m getting better at chopsticks and Cooper likes to use the soup ladle as a spoon! Cooper pulled the best faces during takeoff and then quickly feel asleep and slept for the rest of the 3 hour flight. It was dark when we started to make our decent above the neon lights of Guangzhou, the city glow was beautiful but it paled in comparison to the giant full moon staring across the horizon at the airplane. That has to be one of the rewards of working on an airplane, being up in the peaceful night sky like that. It was awesome watching the moon change shades as we descended through different layers of air. Guangzhou has a much different feel than Tianjin. On the ride to the hotel it reminded me of Hawaii meets Las Vegas. Palm trees, green vegetation everywhere, humidity and lots of neon lights and brightly lit buildings. Cooper is full of energy and bouncing off the beds, I think he knows we’re one step closer to home! It’s onward and upward we want to keep this process moving forward so we can get back to the rest of our babies!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tianjin Eye

March 24. Cooper woke up this morning with a lot of energy. His file had told us that he was “an active boy.” That was spot on. It also said that he didn’t talk. That was dead wrong. He never stops talking! Of course Brady and I don’t understand any of the words he’s saying but he has great hand gestures and facial expression so it’s not hard to figure out what he wants. Vivian can understand many of the words he says and I swear he understands everything we say. He’s getting comfortable in this little hotel routine we have. He likes to go to breakfast and have steamed breaded and spring rolls. He is overly independent just like Nash. He wants to do everything himself and he doesn’t want mom to wipe his face ever. I took him to the bathroom down the hall from the dining room once and now every time we go in there he thinks we need to hit the bathroom to just for fun. Brady has been teaching him how to run the elevator buttons so he likes to do that also. Every time a phone is pulled out he smiles and poses. Sometimes he smiles so big his whole face scrunches together and his eyes close. It’s hilarious. He has a super strong will and is already testing us to see what he can get away with. He loves having our full attention. Hopefully he’ll love the attention of his siblings too when we get home. He’s woke up smiling every morning so far and hasn’t even cried one time yet. It’s easy to love this squishy little boy.
After breakfast we met up with Vivian to go do some more sightseeing. The highlights were riding the Tianjin Eye and hanging out at the river. The Tianjin Eye is a giant farris wheel that is built right in the middle of two streets that span the Haihe river. It’s the biggest farris wheel I’ve ever seen and takes about 30 minutes to make one rotation. Today was a very clear day so we had great view of the city from the top. Buildings 360 degrees as far as the eye can see. Cooper was pretty nervous about it and didn’t want to move from my lap. By the end of the ride he was sleeping. After the ride we had fun walking down the river and learning about all the happenings at the river. We watched some guys with nets pulling turtles and fish from the river. We thought it was pretty amazing but Vivian told us not to be too impressed. A little further down the river and we found the spot where they were selling the animals to people to release in the river as part of their Buddhist beliefs. The animals can’t survive for long in the salty water so they fish them back out and take them up the river and sell them again. One guy at the selling station really liked Cooper and let him play with a turtle and catch some fish. He loved it. People have been very kind to us. Cooper just unpacked every single thing that was left in the suitcases so I better quite writing and go play with him. =)   

City Tour Day


March 23. Today we got to tour some of the city. Vivian has been such an excellent translator, guide and host. Her enthusiasm for China is contagious. We love hearing her insight and have been so impressed with her loyalty and devotion to her country. For example, we were asking her why they can’t use Facebook and Google. She told us that the government thought long and hard about this decision and that they did not feel it was right for their country, so if they want to honor the decision then they don’t use those things. She said it is easy to download a VPN and use them anyway, (now we feel guilty) but that most people don’t because they are respectful of the government’s decision. One thing that feels different here is the sense of community that people have. Little community parks are all over and they are always packed with people. The typical retirement age in China is 45, so in the morning the parks are full of retired people and kids who aren’t in school yet. They come out and dance/stretch/exercise to music together. I love watching it. Typically grandparents live with their child and his/her spouse. They take care of their grandchild when he/she is not in school while the parents who are working age work. Everyone goes home for lunch. Later in the afternoon everyone is back at the park. Groups of women talking and lots of men sitting around in groups playing a game that looks kind of like chess. Also around the outskirts of the parks there is a little trail so many people walk laps around the park. When the kids get done with school around 5:30 the parks are really hopping with people for another hour but then they all go home for dinner and things quiet down. At our hotel we are on the 22nd floor, I love looking out the window at 6:30 to watch all of the people streaming out of buildings and heading for home. Many walk but there are also thousands of bicycles and scooters and of course lots of cars too. Almost every bike is equipped with a basket and all of the scooters have built in gloves stuck on the handle bars, and a built in blanket to keep them warm during the cold season. We drove though some different parts of town. There is an Italian section and a European section. We ended up at an old Chinese market place around a Chinese temple. We had fun wandering through the market place trying Chinese candy, looking at carvings made out of Jade, picking out fans and souvenirs for the kids and of course people watching. Cooper seemed to have fun at the market place too, he liked looking at what everyone was selling and he especially liked it when we’d pass an animal. In the evening Cooper and I went over to the park. He love playing on the slide. A group of kids around Brynlee’s age kept come over and staring at me. They would say “hello” and then laugh and run away. Finally one of the boys got really brave, he said, “Hello, do you speak English?” I said yes. He said “How are you? Do you like my shirt?” I responded and he ran away but it broke the ice. The whole group started showing off their English for me. It was so cute. They told me their American name and they knew a lot of words and sentences about their clothes and the colors of their clothes. I don’t think they could understand much of what I said though. It was pretty funny. We were having a good time but it started getting pretty loud when they all started chanting a rhythm about a tall man and a short woman together. An older lady came over and said something to them in Chinese and they all stopped and ran off. No one really has biological cousins or aunts and uncles here, so many be that is another reason why the communities seem to be so connected. I don’t know but I like this place.

Paperwork Day

Tuesday March 22. We woke up early and were able to Facetime again with our sweet kids at home as they were getting ready for bed. They love seeing their new brother and are so excited for us to come home. Nash tells us, “bring my Cooper home”, Mason blows us kisses, Ridge teases his dad about not practicing baseball and Bryn gets us up to speed on all the other happenings at home. We miss them and wish they could be here but are glad Grandma is there to take care of them. The weather today is cool and overcast. At least it seems overcast. Sometimes it hard to tell the difference between cloud cover and smog. Our first stop is at the office of the notary, or the place where they keep “the family books.” Every person has their own page in their family book. Cooper’s page is in the book of abandoned persons. It has the record of the details of where and when they found him, the search for his parents and the newspaper clipping with his photo, the information from his finding and it asks for anyone to come forth with any information that can help him locate his family. After 60 days, no information was reported so there was another short paragraph from the newspaper saying that he now belongs to the Children’s Welfare Institute of Tianjin. Today the notary office takes our first official family photo. Brady and I with cute Cooper standing between us. We sign and fingerprint more papers. The director from the orphanage comes and signs more papers too. We wait and they move Coopers page (and change his name) from the book of abandoned persons to the book of adoptees. They give us a paper with our picture on it and an official seal. The adoption is now “final”and legal. Zhang Tong Jiang is now known as Cooper Michael Murray in the family books but our work isn’t done yet because now this cute little Chinese citizen with an American name and American parents needs to immigrate and become an American citizen too. We leave the notary office a gift. Then it’s off to the police station where we begin the process of obtaining Cooper’s passport. It’s a busy crowded place and I don’t understand anything anyone is saying but Cooper smiles for his picture and he makes friends with a cute little girl who shares her treats with him. The Grandma proudly tells our interpreter that the little girl is also American Chinese. We’ve been getting lot of stares and I’ve been wondering what people think. I like this lady a lot for being so kind and accepting. Our next stop is at another government type building. This place is also old and crowded and reeks of heavy thick cigarette smoke. They take us into a room with a giant wooden circular table covered in heavy clear plastic to protect it. We sit down at the grossly oversized table to look over paperwork and make sure all of the dates and spellings are correct and that all of the translations into English are cohesive and proper. They have copied parts of the adoption paperwork into 9 different booklets. We check them all and don’t find any mistakes. We sign more papers. I smile as I think of the hundreds of papers we’ve signed. Our adoption coordinator told us in the beginning that the Chinese love paperwork. She wasn’t exaggerating. Now our interpreter tells us it is time for the interview. The lady helping us with the paperwork asks us two questions, “why do you want to adopt?” and “are you aware of your son’s medical diagnosis?” We smile and answer. No smile in return this lady is strictly business but I guess we pass the test because they say we can present our gift and leave. I hand her the gift bag and she smiles. I think word is getting out that we brought Katie Bee honey for all of the officials and they are pumped! We climb back into our van taxi and slowly make our way back through the bustling streets to the orphanage where we met Cooper. It seems like we’ve been through a time warp since being there just over 24 hours ago. This time as the overcast sky is trying its hardest to let out a few drops of rain the building doesn’t look as bright and inviting. Cooper needs to use the restroom so they take us into part of the orphanage where the children are. We can hear them having a class. Cooper and I go into the restroom and Brady, Vivian and the director go into the class to wait for us. The restroom is cold and uncomfortable but Cooper doesn’t seem to mind. I look around at the tiny toilets and sinks, the wet clothes hanging to dry and it becomes apparent that as much as the nannies love the kids, they still don’t have the amenities of a home or family. Suddenly I am glad that we didn’t get a tour of the orphanage. I have a lump in my throat as we wash Cooper’s hands and met the others back in the hall. The classroom door is closed and I can’t see the kids but I hear them talking and laughing and I wish we were bringing them all home. We take the elevator up to the offices and make our donation to the orphanage and pay the announcement fee. We take the elevator back downstairs and walk out of a building with a few of the children and nannies who are leaving to go somewhere in a van. They are happy for Cooper and wish him well and say good bye. We climb back in our van, the smoky air is suffocating. I see a couple small drops of rain on the window. I want it to rain, I think please let it pour. Let it pour and wash this dusty city clean. It doesn’t. Vivian and our taxi driver are excited. Vivian was able to get the exact location of Cooper abandonment from the family books. It is close by and they are taking us there now. After making several wrong turns we pull up at the gate where he was found. It doesn’t look like a factory gate. It looks like a thousand other gates we have passed. I watch Cooper. He is happy to follow us around and smile for pictures. I try to imagine the scene in that spot 3 and ½ years before. There are too many what ifs and maybes. I really can’t imagine it. But as we get back in the van, I remember the starfish story and the hopelessness starts to leave. The sun comes back out and the van heats up. By the time we reach the hotel Cooper is sweating and sleeping peacefully on my shoulder.       

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meeting Cooper

On Monday March 21, 2016 we were finally able to meet our son Cooper. It also happened to be world Down syndrome day which was a fun coincidence. It was a pretty surreal experience but just for the record I’ll attempt to describe it. Brady and I had been anticipating this day so long we were really excited but felt unexpectedly calm and peaceful. We enjoyed watching all of the people and crazy traffic during the taxi ride to the orphanage. There is always so much going on in this colossal city its a little hard to soak it all in. Our van pulled up to the gates outside a brightly colored building and honked. The gates opened and in we went. We walked quickly through the cool crisp smoggy air into the bright old building. All the walls were white but not bare. They were covered with pictures of groups of smiling children in brightly colored frames. It made me happy to see all of the bright colors and the pride they took in displaying the pictures of the children. Inside the meeting room they had a nice welcome sign for us up on the big screen. We signed and fingerprinted more papers and then meet the director of the orphanage. He told us our son wasn’t there, his orphanage was actually 40 minutes away from there but they said he was on his way. We had thought we were going to his orphanage but apparently the meetings take place at the main orphanage which wasn’t where he was. The director told us that he knew our boy though, he said Cooper had participated in a dance at a recent festival they had and that now everyone knew him because he stole the show. We had only been sitting there for a few minutes when all of the sudden in walked our boy and his care taker. He was dressed up nicely in a couple layers of warm clothes and looked much older and bigger than I had expected. I bent down in front of him and he showed me his car while his nanny told him I was his mama and Brady his papa. He was sizing us up but he didn’t look afraid so I scoop him up and set him on my lap. He was anxious and willing to let me starting playing with his car with him. Brady tried to join in on the fun too but Cooper wasn’t so sure. It only took a minute of dad running the car up and down his arms and over the top of his head and Cooper thought he was okay too. We sat there and held him and played with the car while we asked questions to the nanny with the help of our wonderful translator. Again we were happy to hear how well the staff had cared for and loved our son. We exchanged gifts, took some pictures, and gave hugs to the caretaker and just like that she was gone. Cooper didn’t seem to mind but I saw some sadness in the caretaker’s eyes as she quickly left. The sadness was quickly gone through because as soon as she walked out another woman, the head director of all the orphanages and her assistant walked in. They were all smiles and cheerfulness. She greeted us graciously and told us what a star and a treasure our boy is. She presented us with a plate with a painting on it that represents a drop of the Haihe River which runs though and gives life to Tianjin. She said this is so he can always remember where his life started. She also presented us with a nice photo album that has all the pictures they have of Cooper in it. She wanted to open it and show us the picture of him in the dance at the festival. It’s darling! When Cooper saw the book and all the pictures of himself he got so excited! He took the book and looked at every page just pointing to himself and saying “me, me, me” in Chinese. He made sure everyone in the room saw his book and he was just eating up all of the praise and attention everyone was giving him. It was sweet to see his confidence and charisma. Again we exchanged gifts with the orphanage directors, took pictures and said good bye. Then we were off for our 24 hour “harmonious period.” First we had to stop at the bank to exchange some money. An hour into it and Cooper was sweating to death in his double layer of clothes but he was still just as happy as a clam. Finally we made it back to the hotel and into our room where it was just Brady, Cooper and I. We thought at some point he might realize how different this was and get scared or sad but the crazy thing is, its not really that different. We feel like we’ve know him forever. We are amazed how much he is like Nash and we can’t stop smiling about that. We had some pizza for lunch, he took a nap, we went to the park, and on a nice walk where he pointed out everything that he thought was interesting. At bedtime he went to sleep smiling and hugging his Idaho potato. We really couldn’t have asked for a better day! We want to sincerely thank everyone for their prayers. It’s been nothing short of a miracle!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Day 1 - Exploring China

China is incredible! We love it! Brady and I got up early this morning and walked down to the Forbidden City. At first there weren't many people out on the streets but as time went on the streets became more and more crowded. We went inside the gates to see the palace but the best part was just watching all of the people. So many people! Lots of old men sitting around smoking and enjoying the morning sun, women laughing and talking, young people with selfie sticks taking pictures, kids with giant headbands and brightly colored coats. It was fun walking through the old streets back to our hotel. Right now they are just coming out of their winter season and you can see buds starting to appear on all of the trees. In a few more weeks it will probably look different with all of the green out. Back at the hotel we met up with our guide. Her name is Vivian. She is from Beijing and works with our adoption agency. She has been so great to let us ask her questions about China all day long. It's nice having someone who can explain things to us in English. We drove through the city to the Great Wall on the out skirts of Beijing. It was amazing to see. We hiked up to the highest point of that section. The steps are steep and uneven so you really have to concentrate on where you're going. Our legs were shaking by the time we got back down. We had lunch a nice Chinese lunch of fried rice and chicken then went back into Beijing to the train station. It was the craziest train station we've ever been in and once again we were glad Vivian was there to help us. The train ride to Tianjin is a great way to see how the metropolitan area melts into the agricultural land. When you first leave the station you pass building after building of high rise apartments. One thing that I thought was funny about these apartment buildings were all of the wire cages that are popping out around the windows. Many of them were filled with junk. We asked Vivian about it and she said that is how they make their living space bigger. They put a chain link compartment out around their window and then they can store stuff out there. Once we got past all of the high rise buildings, the landscape was very flat and there were fields and ditches everywhere. Many of the fields had many people out working in them. It looked like they were planting something. Every once in awhile there would be a small village with about 100 or so little cinder block type homes. Vivian said this is where the peasants who work the fields live. It was fascinating to see how dramatically the lifestyle changes the further you get from the city centers. I thought the country side was beautiful and was glad we got to see a small glimpse of it before we pulled back into the robust city of Tianjin. Tianjin, what a place! There is a big river that runs though Tianjin so back in the day it was a harbor city with lots of colonial influence but now with the big population boom of the last few decades they have added tons of sky scrapers and modern buildings. The city has a unique mix of old and new, poverty and wealth. Such a fascinating place. The best part about it is that this is our son's city and in the morning we will get to meet him! We're so excited! Hopefully he likes us!