Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hong Kong

We are here!  Sorry it has taken me so long to post, but we have had no time!

We left Charlotte as scheduled at 4 am Thursday morning.  Arrived in Chicago at 8:00 am and prepared for our 12:30 flight to China.  I won't bore you with the details, but we had a ton of delays and ended up spending the ENTIRE day in the airport waiting for our flight which FINALLY left the US at 9:00 PM.  All in all, the 15 1/2 hour flight was fine. Better than I had expected.  Our plane was really comfortable and we managed to sleep a little, watch some movies, and relax.  We landed in Hong Kong and arrived at our hotel at 3:30 am.  Then, we crashed.

We are staying at a really nice Hyatt hotel in Sha Tin in Hong Kong.  We woke up and enjoyed a delicious breakfast yesterday and then headed out to tour Hong Kong.  Hong Kong, like all of China, is enormous. Here are some of Rob and I's observations from our day:

-Hong Kong is beautiful.  It is a clean city that is set in a beautiful, natural setting.  Huge harbor, then the massive city with a backdrop of beautiful mountains.  (excuse the bad pictures...very cloudy day and I did not have my good lens):

-Hong Kong is packed is with huge buildings.  Everywhere you turn there are high rises.  Most are residential.  And hanging outside of most is laundry.  We learned on our tour that a typical room for a family of four is a one bedroom, 700 sq foot apartment.  No room for a washer/dryer so people have to hang their laundry out the window to dry.

-Hong Kong is also packed with people.  Long lines are everywhere (we waited in a 30 minute line for a cab from the airport at 2:30 am). The streets are full of cars and tons of buses and the sidewalks are lined with people.  Rob and I couldn't get over all the traffic. Driving here is a nightmare.  It seemed chaotic to Rob and I, but no one else seemed to notice.  Even the harbor is packed.  Here we are on our boat tour trying to navigate through the old fishing village:

Even the beaches are super crowded:

-Of all these crowds of people we saw all day, most of the people were Chinese.  We definitely stuck out.  It was interesting to be the minority for the day.  We learned from our guide that 96% of the residents of Hong Kong are Chinese; and over 70% of the tourists are from mainland China.  Tourism is actually the #1 industry in Hong Kong.

-Hong Kong operates as a separate entity from mainland China.  It has its own currency and legal system (i.e the One-Child policy does not apply to Hong Kong residents)

-Hong Kong has two official languages: Cantonese and English.  This has made communicating fairly easy for us.  All children in Hong Kong schools start to learn English in Kindergarten.

-Our last observation of note is that the people of Hong Kong are incredibly polite. Everyone has been very gracious and helpful to us.

All in all it was a good day and good way to try and be out and about adjusting our internal clocks to China time.  We are missing our kids, of course, but they seem to be doing fine.  They are with Rob's parents right now and having fun.  My brother and sister-in-law have dropped by for a visit and so they are getting to spend some time with their cousins which is great!  James, John and Kate:  WE MISS YOU AND WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!  Thanks to all of "Team Osborne" for taking such good care of our kids.

Today we will relax this morning (we are 12 hours ahead of US time) and get ready to take a flight to Nanning this afternoon.  Nanning is the capital city of Guangxi, which is Vivian's province.  We will arrive this evening and try to get some sleep (which has not been easy to come by so far) in preparation for Gotcha Day on Monday.

Hard to believe we are meeting Vivian tomorrow.  We don't have any details yet about what time that will happen, but we know we will be meeting her at the Civil Affairs Office in Nanning.  Hope to post again tonight with more info on what will happen Monday, but for now this will have to do!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Last post from the USA

I can't believe this is my last post before China!  I'm going to have to make it short as we are still working to get ready.  But, I did want to briefly say a few things.

First of all, I wanted to sincerely thank everyone who donated to Vivian's orphanage through our last post.  We greatly appreciate your generosity and we are excited about what we are going to be able to do for the children.  We will definitely post details and pictures of what we purchase for the orphanage.

Second, I wanted to give a brief breakdown of our agenda.  Bright and early at 4 am tomorrow morning we will leave for the airport.  We will travel ALL DAY and land at what would be 5:30 AM Friday morning US time, but what will be 5:30 PM in Hong Kong. Here is the rest of our itinerary:

-Saturday - tour Hong Kong
-Sunday - leave Hong Kong for Nanning (Nanning is the capital city of Guangxi, which is Vivian's province)
-Monday, 7/1 - Gotcha Day!!!  Meet Vivian at the Civil Affairs Office in Nanning
-Friday, 7/5 - leave Nanning and fly to Guangzhou
-Wednesday, 7/10 - leave Guangzhou and head back to Hong Kong
-Thursday, 7/11 - Depart Hong Kong for the USA!!!!!

It is going to be a very long two weeks!  In total we will take 6 flights and one train ride before we come home!

Amazingly, Rob and I have managed to fit all of our clothes, Vivian's clothes, snacks, toys and supplies for two weeks into 1 suitcase each.

it started like this

Lets put it this way, you are going to see us in A LOT of the same clothes over the next two weeks!!!  And I had to ditch the hair dryer and straightener.  But, we aren't there to look good, so it was fine.

now it looks like this

It is really hard to put into words the emotions we have right now.  Mix excitement, happiness, and anticipation with nerves, fear and dread and whatever that emotion is....that is what we are!

I am going to do my best to keep this blog updated while we are there.  It is just hard to know how our internet access will be.  If you  follow us by email, just be aware that when I update this blog, the email updates don't go out until several hours later.  In other words, if you want to know what is happening you might be better off just checking in on the web:

I can't close without saying thank you.  Thank you to all of our friends, near and far, old and new, who have supported us throughout this journey.  We have been so overwhelmed by your kindness.  Every email, text, and Facebook message have been read by Rob and I, and they have meant the world to us.  Thank you.

And of course thanks so much to both sets of grandparents.  They have their hands full with our three kids for the next two weeks!!!  We couldn't leave and focus on Vivian they way we need to if it weren't for you guys.  Our kids are a hand full and we know you will be working hard.  Thanks also to my awesome sister and sister-in-law, who have worked their summer schedules out to make sure that our kids will get to visit with their cousins while we are gone.  I know it will help the time go by for our kids and I am so grateful to both of you. (and my brother-in-law who will be stuck in a car for 5 1/2 hours with my kids!!!!  Bless him!)

OK, we'll check in from Hong Kong!!! (God willing)


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Orphanage Donations

It is hard to believe we are just about a week away from meeting Vivian.  Time is flying by as we run around trying to get everything ready to go.  We leave Thursday morning.  I will post more details of our schedule in my next post.

I get asked all the time by people, "what can I do to help you?"  We are so lucky to be surrounded by such a caring and supportive community of family, friends and neighbors.  So many people who want to do something for us, and we greatly appreciate it.  I haven't ever had a good answer to that question until now.

I contacted our adoption agency a few weeks ago asking if Rob and I could bring some donations (toys, medicine, etc) for Vivian's orphanage with us.  We have not been able to get a whole lot of information or pictures of Vivian's orphanage. I have found a few online and have been sent a few from families who have been there to adopt.

We believe Vivian lives on the 2nd or 3rd floor of this building
Another view

One of the rooms
Vivian in one of her referral pictures with some toys

Our agency explained to us that the orphanage would prefer, instead of us bringing items with us, that we bring money and purchase items for the orphanage in China.  Evidently our guide will be working with us to help us shop for their specific requests.

Rob and I would love to buy the orphanage every single thing it needs.  But, we can't do that on our own.  With some help, maybe we can manage to get a nice amount of supplies to donate to them.

If you are interested in donating, please click on our link below.

Rob and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  This money will go to help those who need it the most:  the children who are left behind.

Friday, June 21, 2013


"Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other"
Kate turned 6 a few days ago.  She had a great birthday and got some fun "typical" 6-year old presents (dress up outfit, La La Loopsy, etc).  But there was one present I was especially excited to give her.  One present I had been waiting over a year to give her.

In April of 2012, I entered and won a giveaway on my friend Kelly's blog!!!  One of the items I won was a charm necklace from  Jiayin Designs.  We were just beginning our adoption journey at the time and I immediately knew which charm I wanted.  The "Big Sister" charm.

She is so excited to be a big sister.

Not as excited as I am to watch her be a big sister.

I'm not sure there is a better thing in the world to be than a sister.

I'm not sure there is a better thing in the world to have than a sister.

I think that everyone should have a sister.

I am so lucky.  I have three sisters (and a brother).  I am a little sister, and I am a big sister.  I am #2 of 5 siblings (first 4 are girls).  And, I am a sister-in-law.

Those of you that know me well know that my sisters and I are incredibly close.  Except for one sister, we all live within a few miles of each other. We talk almost daily, we get together with our kids multiple times a week, and we just basically love each other to death.  We are practically inseparable.

I know it is not like this for all sisters. Sometimes people ask me how it is that we are so close. How it is that we never fought or never really competed with each other.  I don't really have the answer to that question, but I have some hunches.

I think it helped that we grew up watching my mom and my aunt model one of the most loving sister relationships you have ever seen.  My mom adores her sister.  My aunt adores my mom.  They cry every.single.time they see each other and they cry every.single.time. they leave each other.

I think it also helped that my sister, Kathleen, was born first.  She set the example for the rest of us.  She has taken care of me since the day I was born.  In every way you can imagine, she has always looked out for me....and she still does.  So in turn, that made me want to do the same for my younger sister, Amy, and she for our youngest sister, Megan, and Megan for John, our brother.

Because we all get along so well, I hear people say things to me a lot along the lines of "you have the perfect family".  Well, of course, that is NOT true.  NO family is perfect.  What I always say, is that we are not a "perfect" family, we are a "happy" family.  We are close because we work SO HARD at it.  My sisters and I put each other first EVERY DAY.  We put getting together with family above all else.  We communicate with each other.  We make time for each other.  We love each other.

And we accept each other.

When Rob and I decided way back when that we would consider adopting I had no idea what anyone would think.  Shortly after we decided to think about it, I was out with my sisters for one of our monthly "sisters nights out".  I had NEVER said anything about adoption to any of my sisters.  I remember saying to my sisters that night, "Ok guys, I have to tell you something, and it is going to sound crazy".  Before I could finish my older sister, Kathleen, interrupted me and said, "Oh my god you are going to adopt a Chinese baby".  I KID YOU NOT.  I said to her, "what in the world would make you say that?".  And she answered, "because you are always drooling over little Chinese girls".

See, a sister knows you better than you know yourself.

I do not know how I would have made it through this adoption without my sisters.

Actually, I do not know how I would have made it through my life without my sisters, and brother.

I would NOT be where I am today without them.  

And the day I married Rob I gained another sister.  My sister-in-law, Kim, has become like a sister to me.  I adore her.  She is quite possibly one of the kindest people you could ever meet.  I am so lucky to have her in my life.  

To all my sisters:  thank you.  Thank you for everything you do for  me every day.  Thank you for always being there.  Thank you for always loving me, and always supporting me.  Thank you for being there for me through this adoption journey.

And thank you for inspiring me to travel across the world to make sure that two more  little girls will know what it means to have one of the greatest blessings this life has to offer:  a sister.

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Travel Approval

After 26 very long days of waiting, I am happy to report that we have our Travel Approval! We will be able to travel to China before the consulate closes in July.  We got the call last night and we are now busy trying to book our flights and make final preparations for the kids.  Plans are not firm  yet, but we do know that we will be leaving sometime late next week.  More importantly, we know that on Monday, July 1st, we will meet Vivian.  I can't believe I am actually typing those words.  It has been a long time coming!!  I will be back with more soon, but just wanted to pass along the good news of our TA.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A little more about Vivian

I wish this post was to announce we have received our Travel Approval, but no such luck.  Unfortunately, as of Friday it didn't appear the computer problems had been resolved, so it is not looking good.  However, the CCCWA did work all weekend long, so maybe they got it figured out.  We will find out this week.

In the meantime, we continue to prepare for our travel.  This weekend, we checked another item off of our "to do" list --- we bought a blanket for Vivian.  Let me back up.

When we received our referral for Vivian, we were sent her "file".

He file includes the basic information about her health, her bloodwork, her immunizations, her physical development and some information on her daily life.

-she sleeps alone in her crib
-she takes two naps a day
-she has milk mixed with rice cereal in the morning and evening, meat porridge once a day, and mashed vegetable and porridge once a day.
-at 4-5 months she can laugh when teased
-at 6-8 months she can roll over, distinguish familiar people and strangers, and likes to sit on the baby walker
-at 9-12 months she can crawl, clap and feed herself her bottle
-she walked somewhere between 17-19 months old

Also included in the file are some small glimpses into her personality.  We cling to these little pieces of information, as they are gifts to us.  Some are funny, some are cute, and some are sad.  Here is some of what is said in her file (these are direct quotes):

-she likes to be cuddled
-she is afraid of strangers in particular
-she looks tiny and weak, but she is strong in heart
-she is strong and doesn't admit loss
-when it's time for sleeping she would cry, and adults come to her bed and ask her stop, she would stop crying, sometimes when adult leave, she would cry again.
-she is a clever child and is lovely

There was one thing in her file that really caught the kids' attention.  It was this:  "She likes to take a quilt in hand when sleep".  All 3 of my kids have "blankies".  They LOVE their blankets and we do not go ANYWHERE without them (my 10 year old will love me one day for this).

So they were thrilled to hear that it sounds like Vivian likes to sleep with a "blankie".  We have been talking about buying her a special blanket for weeks.

This weekend we set out to find a blankie for Vivi.  The kids were in agreement that she should have a purple one. They wanted it to have satin around the edges, like their own blankets.  We weren't sure what the store would have, but this is what the kids wanted.  Luckily, they found a  perfect, purple blanket.

  Everyone was happy with this choice (except maybe Daddy when he saw the price!).

On one hand we are happy and grateful to have this information on her from her file.  On the other hand we are heartbroken about some of the information on her from her file.  For example, the day she was abandoned.  The place she was abandoned.  The date she entered the orphanage.  Stuff like that.  Stuff that is really only for Vivian to see, and only for Vivian to share should she ever decide to, so I won't go into any more detail about it here.

We are also sad about is all that is NOT in that file.  Vivian has been alive for 2 1/2 years, and all that we know about those 2 1/2 years is wrapped up in  6 pages of information and 3 pictures.  I think of the baby books I have for my children that are pages and pages long, and the photo albums packed with pictures of their first years, and I feel so sad for all that we will never know about Vivian's beginnings, and more importantly, all that she will never know.  So many questions and so few answers.

That is why we do not want to lose ONE MORE DAY of time with her.  That is why it is driving me CRAZY that one little piece of paper is keeping me from getting on a plane.  We NEED to go get her.  We are hoping and praying that our TA arrives this week, so we can go get our girl.

Vivian, December 2012

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bumps in the road

I kind of thought, being we were on the LAST step of this adoption process, that we were past worrying about any "bumps in the road".  I was wrong.  We got some information yesterday that could potentially change our schedule dramatically.

As you all know, we are currently waiting on our Travel Approval (TA).  We were hoping for it possibly this week , and we were pretty sure if it did not come this week we would get it next week.  Then we would book our flights, pack our bags and GO!!!  Well, I found out early yesterday morning that the CCCWA was experiencing glitches in their new computer system and those glitches are prohibiting them from issuing any guessed it... TAs.   We do not know if the glitches have been worked out, and we do not know if TAs are being issued again.  On top of that, about an hour later, I also found out that the US Consulate in Guangzhou will be closing to move to a new location on June 15th.  They will suspend all operations from June 15-June 24 (all adoptive families must go through the consulate at the end of their adoption trip to  finalize their adoptions).  What this means is that if we can't get our Consulate Appointment (CA) by July 11, then we will have to wait to travel to China until sometime after July 24th.

As soon as I found this out, I called our agency to find out what all of this means for us. I was kind of hoping some of what I was hearing were "rumors".  This is what our agency responded with:

"Yes, you heard correctly about the Consulate closing.  We are hopeful that your TA will arrive with enough time to request your appointment and get your family to China before this closure but we are unsure at this time.  If your Travel Approval comes before June 17th then we should be able to request an appointment before the Consulate closure.  As you may know the CCCWA is updating to a new system so they are still working out the kinks with issuing Travel Approvals."

So, the bottom line is this:  WE NEED OUR TRAVEL APPROVAL BY THE END OF NEXT WEEK to have a chance of getting to China in June or July.  Normally, this wouldn't worry me, but there is the computer glitch thing, and ON TOP OF THAT (yes, there is more), there is another national holiday next week in China and all government offices will close on MONDAY, TUESDAY, and WEDNESDAY.  That does not leave us much time.

I remain hopeful that it will come, but I am also trying to prepare myself for the fact that I could spend the majority of my summer without my girl.  This is devastating for me.  But what is even more devastating is that she would have to spend the 3rd summer of her life in a hot orphanage due to computer glitches and office relocations. Sadly, Vivian is the one that will suffer the most if we are delayed.

I will keep everyone updated.  Praying that my next update is an update with our TA.

"When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because it is hard," but all that is garbage. You know what's hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will."
--Jen Hatmaker