Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Photo time with Mommy

I always loved photographing children, but now having my own daughters, a lifetime dream, seems to bring new meaning to my passion. In fact I have forced myself to not edit, but instead capture their innocent and pure beauty!

Of course Shelby seems to like the camera and has developed her own little poses for the camera.  There's the head tilt, the "i have no idea what you are saying look" and "i'll do what my sister is doing" pose!

And for those that know Kira, she's sooooooo dislikes having her pic taken, I have to plead with her, which doesn't help the situation any:)) Then she too has recently developed her own photographic style which is very unique to her personality.

Kira has perfected "the princess pout and pose", the "cheeky smile so Mommy will let me chew gum"pose and the "I'm actually having fun" candid pose.  The later is my personal favorite of course.  These days I'll take anything from the girls since they are growing like weeds and I want to capture every precious moment.

Everyday I look at these beautiful faces and say to myself "I can't believe they are my daughters"!  When I see the joy in their eyes, I feel the excitement and joy of being their Momma.  I am so happy and thrilled that they are slowly beginning to acknowledge one another as sisters.  Kira calls her "sweetie" when she hurts and has offered up her favorite dolls.  And Shelby just continues to look up to Kira and follow her moves, even Kira's spicy "foot stomping" lol.  It's all good and all fun to observe!

My daughters sure know how to raise parents!!!

You girls are so loved.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fall Follies and more!

It's hard to believe that it has been a month since the first time we held little Shelby!  She continues to blossom as she explores her new world here, EVEN gaining 2 pounds, which has me tickled.  Shelby can eat like there's no end to her food pipeline.  I was laughing tonight as we finally ordered in some Chinese food since we got back from China and it's too bad I didn't take before and after photos, because the babe ate almost a pint of pork lomein, along with 2 yogurts!  Did I mention, the girl can eat???  I am normally not so food conscious since I finally realized after 4 yrs that kids will eat when they're hungry, but it's so important that we get some weight on her before her surgery.  In addition to her 3 meals/day I supplement with vanilla PediaSure shakes, cheese, whole grain bread and vanilla almond milk (yummy).  Even Kira seems to enjoy eating more these days.

Along with her fondness for food, she is also making great strides in communicating and her very first clear word, was the name of her Jie Jie, Kira!  I thought Kira would be amused but she seemed indifferent.  It wasn't until a few days ago when she started to look at pictures of Ariel and say "Ariel" when Kira sort of looked at her as if to say "hey that's my favorite Princess".  I explained before the yelling competition ensued that because Kira is constantly talking and drawing pics of Ariel, naturally little sis is following in her footsteps.  Guess I'm going to have to find her a fav. Princess of her own really quick:))

The girls delight and amuse me most of the day, but the transistion for Kira has been very difficult, even to the point where I just loose it and start to cry, holding her tightly and re-assuring her that I love with all my heart.  I am not sure what sets her off but she gets so defiant and acts out in ways I never thought she was capable of.  People tell me it's normal and this will eventually fade (not really, or perhaps when their 21, married with kids of their own), but it's so hard to see my baby girl get so upset.  For now we're giving her some extra TLC with little surprises here and there.  Honestly, the surprises don't effect her, but the extra hugs and kisses = magic!  And that's so easy to do.

Well, with little time to blog, email, talk, relax and so on, I still love to capture the beauty of my daughters (love saying that) through photography.  Shelby is a real little actress as you will see, and Kira, well she'd rather not be photographed, unless she's hanging in a tree.

Oh these big brown eyes!

My Hunan Princess!  How I adore you Kira.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guangzhou and the US Consulate

Finally we are on our way to Guangzhou, China.  This is the last leg of the adoption process and where we met up with many other adoptive families from all over the country and even the world.
It's very tropical and pretty here, but oh I am thrilled that we are in a Hotel with  air conditioning and a nearby Starbucks so Momma here can get her java fix.

We were reunited with our friends, The Gibsons and Kira's new family of friends.  It was wonderful to see  so many smiles from many other adoptive families, holding their new child or children.

Since some recent changes regarding China's adoption policies, qualifying families were now allowed to adopt two children at the same time.  So it was indeed exciting to see just how many adoptive parents were taking advantage of this opportunity.

Thus far Shelby has done nicely and appeared to bond the closest with Kira and myself.  There were no more sobs at night, however, occasionally she would just push me away and try to turn on her side and go to sleep.  I didn't know if that was her routine or some serious grieving, but realized it was the grieving for her foster family and so I would gently rock her to sleep.  I also realized this babe couldn't really turn on her side without some help because of her wide pelvic deformity, so once I realized this, she seemed to appreciate that Momma was there to make her comfortable too:))  Overall Shelby seemed to accept us but again I was preparing myself for another big transition when we got home.

Sweet Sisters!

Oh so happy to see Kira smiling again with her pals.  A wonderful family of seven who Kira connected to immediately.  

 Spencer and Jesse

Kaaren's newest Mei Mei Ellie, isnt' she cute!

My Pouting Princess before playing with the Theobald children.

Happy Girl with The Theobald kiddies!

"Oh do I have to take another photo???"

The Gibson Girls!
Precious Belle and Scarlett (little Scarlett was adopted from Hunan with Kira)

Belle and her new brother Chan.  What a handsome boy!

Of course she's happy because we found out that breakfast is her favorite meal of the day.  Kira even gave her an Ariel doll for the trip!  

So thankfully Shelby passed her medical exam and took the oath at the US Consulate in Guangzhou (November 8, 2011) making her a brand new US Citizen!  I was going to photograph the events but just wanted to get out of there and onto the streets of the pretty Island.  Our time was so limited this journey that I was shooting pics from inside the taxi to and from our hotel.  All went well and we finally got Shelby's passport and US Visa into the states!  

We are so ready to come home!

But first some pics from Guangzhou.

Words can really not express the emotions we have as we now begin our journey home.  We have nurtured some incredible friendships during the adoption process and hope that we can stay in contact with the new families we met as well.  China will always hold a special place in our hearts for allowing us to become the parents of two beautiful girls.  Our Journey to Shelby was filled with surprises and many ups and downs but no matter how frustrated we became or alone we felt, we were really part of one large family, the "Holt Family" and their exemplary staff who worked so hard to get their job done and also make us feel comfortable and right at home here in China. 

We are so grateful and blessed to have our children, but as we said our farewells I couldn't help but think of all the children that still needed the love of families.  I hope that some how this blog can be of some inspiration to any parent considering international adoption.  

Thanks for following our journey.  More photos and updates coming soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Taking Baby Steps, Langzhou continued

By the third day, Shelby was smiling, playing with Kira and in Mandarin, asking to be picked up by me!  Oh how good that felt.  Most importantly she seemed happy, started to cackle at our antics to make her laugh, and then it just clicked for all of us!  She played peek a boo, would imitate Kira's every move (which I think started to annoy little Kira) and started talking (again in Mandarin) very consistently and appropriately, according to Kaige.  We were told that she speaks excellent Mandarin and can say, pick me up, down, hungry, thirsty, no, yes.  We also found out that she is a big flirt and winks at adults (both men and female).  Where ever we went with both girls, especially to restaurants, we were surrounded by waitresses wanting to engage both girls in play or conversation.  It was so enjoyable to watch, but I must admit it got tiring when all we wanted to do was have a decent meal at the end of a busy day!

The time we spent in Langzhou was very busy, with Kaige doing the best she could trying to get the baby's passport ready in time for our trip to the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  One day we spent shopping to gather some necessities we didn't bring with us.  We were concerned about Shelby's low weight so since we were told she is still on formula, well, we bought formula, bottles and even more pacifiers.  What we were surprised to find is that this child drinks straight out of a water bottle, totally dislikes formula and will only eat normal food!  Yay for that.  Instead, baby bottles were used to irrigate her bladder and cups for bathing.  We donated the formula to the orphanage, along with any other supplies we didn't need.

There's about 3 eggs, pancakes and waffles on her plate and she two fisted it all in:))

 That day we headed out with Kaige to another part of the Lanzhou.  I found the architecture so beautiful and in stark contrast to the old buildings that seem to dwarf these modern high rises. 


Oh how I loved all the bronze sculptures in this garden!

Pretty Shelby, still a bit hesitant about what was happening and missing her foster family.
That night for the first time in three days, she sobbed herself quietly to sleep.  I would try to stroke her face or rub her back and she would push me away and turn her head away.  It was so awful to see this child of ours grieving so for the only family she knew.  We were confident with some time, she would come around and there would be more smiles on that pretty face!

Kaige was a huge help with Kira.  She often would just take her hand and make her feel comfortable when it seemed all attention was on Shelby.  Oh and Ariel had a big part too:))

Monday, October 31, 2011

Going To Gansu

Today is the day!  We meet Shelby upon arrival to our hotel in Lanzhou, Gansu.  We packed (again) the evening before, went to breakfast, and hit the road early to make sure we arrived at the airport in time.
That morning there was dense fog all over the city and it appeared once we got to the airport that our flight was still on time.  So we made ourselves a bit too comfortable when they announced that our flight would indeed be delayed due to fog.  Okay so what's an hour or two!  I kept telling myself that just because the fog seemed to hug the ground and wasn't dissipating.  So we waited and waited until about 4 1/2 hours later they boarded the plane.  I must say the airline was very accommodating and gave out food to all the passengers with bottled water.  Actually I didn't mind the wait, since I was now running on empty myself and felt like I needed a nap, but who could sleep!  I kept thinking about my little girl, will she run away, push me, smile.  Did she eat?  Was she changed?  Who was with her and did they know how to take care of her defect?  I knew we were not allowed to meet the foster family so the baby was coming to meet us at our hotel with some orphanage directors.  I was sure they would take good care, but again after traveling half way around the world, this minor delay started me on a roller coaster of emotions.  We also had no way of contacting anyone in Lanzhou, however I believe the travel agency did let them know about our delay.

Well finally we boarded and flew the 3 hour flight to Lanzhou.  We were met by a wonderful escort Kaige, in fact she had been with Holt a long time and ran the foster care program in Wu Wei County.  I could tell we would be in good hands with her kind, soft voice and reassuring answers to my many questions.

So here we go!  Off to the hotel to meet our baby girl.  This is the part where I have no photos of our first meeting because we took video this time around.  We entered the doors to the hotel and were met by a 32 inch smiling little girl, all dressed in pink!  She took one look at us and ran back to the officials sitting on the couches.  I smiled and we all sort of relieved to see her move so fast!

Everyone was exhausted, mainly the baby.  The ride from her Provincial city to Lanzhou was almost 6 hours so I could tell everyone wanted to sign the paperwork and get to bed.

This was the most difficult part of our journey.  The "hand off" literally took place in our hotel room, where the baby was handed to me, screaming for her "momma" or foster mother the entire time.  It was very hot in the room and Shelby was soaking wet from perspiration.  I proceeded to change her, thinking I was prepared to do it alone, but needed a second hand.  Dani was busy with officials and paperwork and then I started to sob myself.  I looked down at this tiny, thin toddler, with her bladder exposed outside her tummy and every time I touched her she yelled "ouch" and grabbed her ears.  She kept on screaming and yelling for her foster mother and all I kept thinking was, just get the medicated dressings on her and wrap her up.  The officials left the room and Kaige stayed to help calm her, but Shelby continued to sob, all the while, pushing me away and refusing to make eye contact.  This was absolutely heart wrenching to see a small child so upset, in pain and confused.  I knew the transition would be hard, but until you actually experience it, you have no idea how hard it was going to be.  Even Dani looked down, trying to console our new daughter, but she also pushed him away.  Both of us were almost in tears after three hours of sobbing.  Then eventually she cried herself to sleep.

Then I looked around the room and found Kira in the corner also sobbing to herself.  So I lost it again, bent down to pick her up and just held ever so tight.  Kira had no idea what was happening and when I asked her why she was crying, she wanted to know why she was crying for her "momma".  I guess she may have thought we were taking her away from her real biological parents and from a toddlers point of view that's so real.  I reassured her that she was crying for the lady who cared for her till we came.  I also told her that all older women are called "Momma" in China.  She seemed to understand and then we all climbed into bed and fell asleep, completely exhausted!

The next morning we met Kaige and went to the Civil Affairs Office where the official notarization of the many copies of adoption paperwork were completed.  Both Kira and Shelby seemed indifferent about the entire thing, but at least Shelby managed to calm down.  That second day was a flurry of activity so Shelby really didn't seem to mind being with us.  We hoped she was turning the corner here but again, realized she would continue to grieve for her foster family as long as it took.  It's hard to watch, but even harder knowing you simply have to give her time and even some space.

On October 31, 2011,  Miss Shelby Emmalin officially became our daughter!

And so we headed back to our Hotel, very happy that another orphan of China had found her way to her Forever Family!

We so love you Shelby and know that time will heal your little heart!

Even in this photo you can see the big difference a day makes:))

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bejing Day 2

Today was  a particularly moving day as we had made arrangements to meet up in Bejing with the young woman who was our escort for Kira's adoption in 2008.  Her name is Leah and she will always hold a special place in my heart for all the things she did for us during our journey to Kira.  I sort of tell people that during the adoption, your escort is analogous to a "midwife" helping you through the ups and downs of the transitional phase after the hand off.  Leah and I managed to email occasionally and when we told her we were coming back to China, well, we knew we would have to meet up again!

We went to lunch at a favorite local restaurant and then took the subway to the Bejing Zoo.

While at the Zoo, I told Leah I'd love to get some photos of her (guess I knew a photo op when I saw it).  She agreed and well as you can see she's beautiful and I was able to process this within minutes upon arriving to our hotel.

We had a wonderful time meeting again.  Just as I did 4 years ago when we parted at the airport, I got all teary eyed and then spent the rest of the trip looking for eligible bachlers for her lol.  Guess that's the Mom in me!

We love you Leah!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Destination Bejing

I had full intentions of blogging from China only to find out I had no access to google blogger.  It was some what of a blessing in a way to not be on the computer as this journey was mentally and physically exhausting for us all.  Since I decided to carry my camera, I thought I would let the photographs speak for themselves.

After a 13 hour flight from JFK and 6380 miles away from NJ, we arrived safely in Bejing.  It was so exciting to be back there and I felt the anticipation starting to gain momentum.  Although exhausted, we all couldn't really sleep and just took a quick nap and then went down to the breakfast buffet (the best meal of the day).  Our Hotel was downtown this time so you could feel the hustle and bustle of this huge city.  The only thing that really annoyed me was the constant beeping of car horns and for those of you who have been to any big city in China, you know what I mean.  I find it funny in some ways that that sound was also once a way of how Americans drove here in the states, especially on the highways and byways along the east coast.  I also found it somewhat interesting that when you were in a car, taxi or bus going anywhere in Bejing, if you opened the window, you could literally touch the vehicle next to you.  As Dani kept saying "these drivers go from 8 lanes to 2 and don't even seem to look".  That's probably why we stayed close to the sidewalks and avoided crossing the streets!

First object of the day, food!

We were elated to go back to China, especially since we found out we would be traveling with a family whom we met nearly four years ago when we adopted Kira.  I thought this would be a great time to share some of Kira's heritage with her as well as introduce her to other adopted children from her birth country.   I am not sure how much she will remember of this trip, but I am sure that bringing her along played a huge role in the bonding process between Shelby and her new family.

Bejing Day 1

The big climb up the Great Wall of China!  I was so excited to go on this trek, only thing, no one mentioned "don't wear clogs".  Who knew it wasn't the steep climb up but the hike down that would have me sliding forward in my shoes and hanging on to the railing (if I could get to one) for dear life.  I had to laugh at myself because I sat down and watched hundreds of people climbing, even running up and down the steep grade.  It was exhilarating to be at one of the Wonders of the World.  Our guide was a hoot and gave us a brief history lesson and then we were on our own.  We toured with another family, whom we came to adore and Kira just wouldn't leave them alone.  She was so happy to play with other children and I was so relieved to see her in her element of play.

There were thousands of people climbing the wall, including many locals and school children.

Kira and her new family of friends talking to some Military Students.  The students all wanted photos taken with this blonde haired family!  They were very friendly and seemed to enjoy engaging in  easy conversation.

Our Fabulous Tour Guide Arthur

Kira's new pal.  The real way to climb the Great Wall.

We were all hanging on here on this incline up the other side of the wall.

This sweet lady kept me company while I proceeded to sit down for an hour's break.  Then I thought wow, she has walked at least 2 miles straight up this wall and probably does it as a daily routine.  She didn't speak any english, nor did I speak any Chinese dialect, but we managed to share some laughs and a lot of head nodding!

After a very long hike and meeting some amazing people, our fine Chariot awaited to take us back to our hotel.  What fun this day had been.

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