Archive for January, 2013

Coming along

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Life in our house is moving right along. China feels like years ago, when it really was less than 2 weeks ago. I can’t believe how quickly things are changing in such a short time.  If you talk to me on the phone or in person, I’m sure you’ve heard me do plenty of complaining. There’s more than enough of tiredness and confusion to go around. But when we take even the smallest step back and look at where we are, it’s not too hard to see that things are going well….better than well…dare I say great? (Currently knocking rapidly on some wood)

Amara is sleeping better and often between us, instead of on us, a situation we’re happy to keep for quite awhile. She continues to eat voraciously…pretty much anything we put in front of her (but definitely not white rice with soy sauce or cottage cheese….she’s firmly against those). Although we can’t get over how much she eats, she doesn’t seem to be hoarding. She’ll definitely let us know when she’s full. Maybe just compared to the itty bitty eater that Bine has always been, Amara seems like she’s packing away so much!

Best of all, she’s getting very comfortable in our very raucous house. Anyone who has spent time here will agree that there isn’t any waking hour when things are calm. Kuja, our crazy dog, is a large part of this…though we certainly egg her on. The meeting of Amara and Kuja was of particular concern to me. Although it turned out that there were plenty of pet dogs in China, we still don’t have any idea how much exposure Amara had to dogs. We were worried Kuja would traumatize her. Little did we know….the day we arrived home Kuja came bounding (and I mean BOUNDING) out to meet us and Amara laughed and laughed and laughed. 9 days later, and the relationship is still great. Kuja seems to have accepted Amara as a new member of the family (the increased quantities of food on the floor hasn’t hurt) and Amara loves the big, black beast that lives with us. Though I wasn’t able to capture a smile, Amara pretty much always has a big grin on her face when Kuja is around.

Amara and Kuja

Amara and Kuja

Although we’re trying to learn how to have quiet evenings, we’re not so good at that. The sound of two sets of laughter is too good to pass up. We thought we loved listening to just Bine laugh….listening to the two of them laugh together and at each other is priceless. Amara is still very shy with anyone but us, so we thought we’d share a glimpse into the moments that we’re already treasuring!


Day 3 – Sleeping

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Well it’s been a little over 72 hours since we’ve come home and it’s both great to be home and hard to be home. When we were away I’d always think, “I can’t wait to get home, it’ll all be easier when we get home.” But of course that’s not exactly true. While it’s home to us it’s completely new to Amara. Unfortunately her sleep habits have regressed. She now will not let us put her down for naps or to sleep. So one of us has to either sit with her or go to bed with her.

Sleeping and Sitting

Sleeping and Sitting

Fortunately she still is a good sleeper and we can move around the house with her without her waking up if we need to, we just have to do things with one hand. Her “spidey sense” is pretty amazing, no matter how deep of sleep she’s in, if we put her down she instantly is awake. At night it’s getting better. Last night she was willing to sleep slightly off of me and even next to me in the bed for a bit, which gave me some time to sleep on my side (whewww).

We are still working on getting over our jet lag. Often she’ll be asleep but we’ll be wide awake. Thank goodness for our ipads wich give us something to do, otherwise we’d go crazy!

We keep telling ourselves that this is a good sign, that it’s a sign of attachment that she won’t let us go. But at 2 am I find myself frustrated that she was so easy at first, but now is so difficult. I just tell myself that she’s had so many traumatic events in her life that it’s ok if she has “velcro syndrome” for a while. Every night I think I see some signs that things will get better. I’m sure in 6 months this will seem like such a blip on our radar screens.  We look forward to our fist doctors appointment where we can hopefully get some advice as far as which methods (Ferber, Sears, Dobson, Weissbluth, movement, attachment, co-sleeping, cry-it-out, modified cry-it-out, etc.) are appropriate right now and which should be avoided.

Anyway, nobody said adoption was for sissies.


We’re home!!!

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Almost exactly 24 hours after we left hotel in Guangzhou we walked in the door in Seattle. It was a VERY long day, but went amazingly smoothly. Unfortunately Amara was sick and had a low fever. We still aren’t really sure if it was just teething or something else, but the upshot was that she slept a good part of the trip home.

First we flew 3 hours to Beijing, took forever to get ourselves to the next flight and then after a few hours of hanging out in the airport (complete with Baskin Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream for Bebeth!!) we took off again. The flight was 11 hours and wasn’t terrible. We were thrilled to get off the plane. Unfortunately the worst part of the trip was yet to come. Amara was traveling on a Chinese passport (she didn’t become a US Citizen until after customs), so we had to wait in the foreign nationals line to go through immigration. That was pretty quick…..BUT then we were ushered to the waiting area for “Immigrants and Parolees”. Here is where they check all the paperwork that we had brought. There was ONE immigration officer working and they served people in the order you arrived. Not so bad….EXCEPT they took all people in wheelchairs first. Now normally I wouldn’t be opposed to this, except the wheelchair line never empties. As fast as someone would get served out of that line, new people from another line would fill it up. So although there were only 5 of us when we arrived, it took us 2 hours to get through this room. It was painful and a bureaucratic nightmare. Although we’d been warned by others about this part, it was still insanely frustrating. As my mom would say, when Mark starts to get upset, you know things have gotten bad.

Fortunately we eventually made it out and found our way to the baggage area where we were greeted by a VERY happy Bine, my parents, and my favorite sister :) I was rewarded by the best and biggest hugs from Bine…the best present ever. We are beyond thrilled to be back!


All together again!

All together again!

Almost home….

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

It is our last night here and we are packed and ready to go. We leave very early tomorrow morning and have a long day of travel for us. Amara is asleep and the room is quiet and calm.

As I sit here reflecting on the trip I am filled with gratitude for all the blessings we have had.

I am thankful for the little girl who has become our daughter. It is almost hard to believe that 10 days ago she was a stranger to us. Today we feel like she was meant for our family.

I am thankful for the orphanage who clearly took such good care of her. She was very lucky to be in a tiny orphanage (only 8 children right now) with a very high nanny-to-child ratio. She shared a nanny with just one other child. Her chubby body and ease with food tell us she was loved there. For 14 months they were her family, and for that we will forever be grateful.

I am thankful for our experience here in China. Though it was rushed and sometimes touristy, it has given us many stories to share with Amara as she gets older. And the food…we are so thankful for the food…it will surprise no one that Mark and I have loved every morsel. This trip has whetted our appetite to visit the country again….I’m sure we’ll be back as soon as the kids are older to introduce them to China.

I am thankful for technology and the connection it kept with our amazing community at home. It brought us stories of adventures we were missing and visits with Sabine. It made the ocean seem just a little bit smaller.

I am most thankful tonight for my wonderful parents. They have given us so many gifts by living with Sabine while we are here. They have given me such peace of mind and serenity in knowing that Sabine has been totally happy and well taken care of while we are gone. In true mommy Schenk fashion (those of you who have received Lucy letters over the years will know what I’m talking about) she has sent us “Bine Machine Updates” daily that fill our hearts with joy (if you’re not sure what a Bine Machine is, ask Samuel). They have given us the gift of having almost 2 weeks to soak up Amara on our own. Although we missed Bine terribly, it has been wonderful to be able to spend so much time with Amara on her own. And finally, they gave their new granddaughter, Amara, the gift of her new parents all to herself for 2 weeks. Never again will she get so much undivided attention from us. Although I know getting to spend so much time with Sabine has been wonderful, and she certainly had a blast with them, no one will ever claim parenting a toddler (and Kuja!) is not exhausting. We can’t begin to imagine how to say thank you enough to them.

So, tonight I leave you with two final pictures….our family in two worlds. 18 hours after we get on the plane tomorrow we will finally be reunited!!





Monday, January 14th, 2013

Well we did it … we went and added ANOTHER member to our family .. this time it only has 2 strings. It’s called an Erhu. It’s a traditional Chinese instrument first documented around the 10th century. According to Wikipedia it’s sometimes called a spike fiddle. It’s a bowed instrument but the bow is “trapped” in between the two strings, so the bow is always attached.



It was a pretty fun experience. We had seen some street performers in Changsha and thought with our love of instruments it’d be a great souvenir to bring  home. Fortunately it’s not a typical item sold in tourist shops which meant we had to get off the beaten path to find an actual instrument shop. With the help of our guide Elsea, we jumped on a local bus and took it to a small instrument shop. Envisioning a store with loads of traditional Chinese instruments I was a little disappointed when we walked up and all I could see were guitars. We were greeted by this lady who at first looked a little confused as to why we were here let alone looking to by a erhu.

Instrument Lady

Instrument Lady

A quick conversation and we were pointed to a little corner in the store and there hung half a dozen erhus. Not having a clue how to play one (nor did the lady that sold it to us) it was sorta weird trying to figure out wich one to buy. I’m used to going into a instrument shop and being able to play the instrument, judge the feel of the fret board, listen to the tones, how much volume can the instrument make, so having zero clue was very weird to me. Feeling like I should at least sit down and make a show of trying to play them, I tried to mimic the street performers I had seen. It sounded pretty much like cat was being strangled. (Back in the hotel I figured out that none of the bows had any rosin on which meant that there was not enough friction, much like new violins) In the end we chose a more expensive one based on the beautiful inlay, if we can’t tell if it’s a decent instrument at least it’ll look good.



Once we picked one, the lady disappeared into one of the student rooms and returned with this old man. Attaching a digital tuner to the erhu he showed me how to tune the erhu. The two strings are referred to the inner (you press the bow towards your body to play that string) and the outer ( you push the bow away from your body) string. The inner is tuned to a D and the outer is tuned to an A.

Tuning the Erhu

Tuning the Erhu

So my next task is to see if I can use it in the band write  a song with it. Maybe I’ll title it: Guangzhou Breakdown.


Another day

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Another good day, but too tired to report much, so just leaving you with a few pictures. Tomorrow we head to the US consulate to have our visa interview. Our last step. Home is so close!!

Happy baby

Happy baby


Medical Day

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Well we are in Guangzhou right now staying in a very nice 5 star hotel. We have internet in the room again so it’s easier to write and upload pictures, which is nice.

Yesterday we had a touching experience while we were standing in line at the airport waiting to check in. There was a mother, who was caucasian, and a daughter that looked asian. When they saw we had Amara, the mom asked us if we were just adopting. We said that we were and they told us that the daughter was adopted 17 years ago from the same province as Amara. They were finishing up a short heritage tour. A heritage tour, if you’ve never heard of it, is basically when the adopted child  goes back and visits the country, province, orphanage that they were adopted from.

Today was medical examination day. It was part race, part family reunion, large part chaotic mess. Basically all adopted children need to run through a medical examine before getting their visas. So our guides had us get on the bus at 9:30am to try and beat all the other families that were also trying to get their medical examination done. When we got there things seemed fairly sane. Just a few other families besides our own.

Reception area

Reception area

As we were herded into the waiting area, we noticed some of the other families from our hotel in Changsha. It was great to see them. We even ran into the two families from our time in Beijing. Everyone seemed to be in great spirits. When we were called in they did just a cursory examination.

First Doctor

First Doctor


Second Doctor

Second Doctor

As time went on more and more families showed up at the medial center. Lots of families were being shuffled from one room to another, the guides running around trying to keep track of all their charges, kids running around, kids crying, at one point one of our guides started arguing with another guide that we needed to go before another family, we just looked apologetic and cut in. Despite all this pandemonium it was actually pretty fun to see all of these families in one spot. I’m not sure how we lucked out, but Amara seems to be cut from the same cloth as Sabine, easy going. She didn’t seem to mind the tests too much and once all of our tests were done, she happily went into the ergo and fell asleep.

Here’s a couple of photos to end the night.


More bath time

Fun before bed time


Friday, January 11th, 2013

We have arrived in Guangzhou, but it was with a bit of sadness that we left Changsha. Although we were ready to move on from the city, one of the unexpected blessings was staying in the same hotel as 5 other adoption families. We all shared the same Gotcha day and got to know each other as we passed at breakfast and met in the children’s playroom. Learning about each family, their new children and hearing each other’s stories was so wonderful.

Silas, an adorable and fiercely independent 5 year old boy with Downs Syndrome, was there with his new mom and dad. When they return home to Ohio, he will meet his 6 siblings, all adopted with special needs from around the world.

Levi, an albino boy with a smile that could kill, was welcomed into a large and loving family. He’s got three brothers, each with redder hair than the next, and a Chinese sister who’s been part of the family for 7 years. Although he will visit the USA soon, he will live with his family in China where they’ve been for the last few years.

Ciara, a quiet, but watchful child with a beautiful smile and mild Cerebral Palsy, was greeted by her single mom and her second oldest brother. At home in Ohio waiting for her is her oldest brother who is taking care of the two youngest kids. She will have 4 siblings to give her lots of attention and help her strengthen her muscles.

Maylie, a fast walking girl with a minor heart defect, will end up in Miami with a large spanish speaking family. There she will live in a house with her legal mother and father, as well as her second set of parents (her father’s twin and her mother’s sister) and their daughter. One huge, happy, and loving family.

Finally, there was Page, a beautiful little girl who was already fiercely attached to her new mother, was welcomed by her new parents and her 2.5 year old sister after a 6 year wait. When they fly home they will return to Baltimore together.

Unfortunately, we have all scattered to different hotels here in Guangzhou, so I’m not sure when or if we’ll see them again. But getting to know them while we were together in Changsha was wonderful.


The whole gang

The whole gang

Some pictures

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Things have been going a lot better. Knock on wood, we feel like were getting into a groove. Didn’t prepare much of a post tonight, but thought it would be fun to post some pictures. Tomorrow is our last day in Chengsha. We fly to Guangzhou tomorrow to do medical screening, passport pick-up and visas. More from Guangzhou…



A few of us that are adopting and staying in the hotel, there are actually at least 3 more families not pictured here.




Amara and Mommy


Amara playing in the hotel kid area

Settling in

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

First, I want to say thank you so much for all the emails we’ve been getting from friends and family at home. Although we may not respond immediately, it’s meant so much to us to wake up each morning to a new batch. Our first stop each morning is the lobby for wifi! We feel so lucky to have so much love and support! Baby Amara is already loved by so many…as are we!

Things here are going really well. Amara is transitioning smoothly (knock on wood) and we are all getting to know each other. It’s rather amazing how much you can learn in 48 hours, especially from someone that can’t communicate verbally with you. I think Mark and I both feel like we know here a bunch already. We can distinguish the various grunts and accurately predict what she’s going to want or need. We know there’s tons to learn still, but it’s also kind of amazing how quickly the familiarity came.

We’ve settled into a nice routine here in Changsha. We eat breakfast in the hotel to start the day. Its included, its a buffet, and its HUGE!! So we gorge ourselves and then usually skip lunch. At 10 we meet our fantastic guide Sarah and head out on a morning adventure. Today we went to an old Academy in the middle of the university here. Its hundreds of years old (parts are even thousands of years old) and was beautiful. Then a quick trip to Walmart for some clothes for Amara (yes, you read that right…Walmart :) and then back to the hotel. Amara usually sleeps through half the morning outing. The afternoon is spent napping (until today I seemed to be falling asleep in my tracks at random moments throughout the day) and playing in the children’s playroom in the hotel. Finally we meet Sarah again at 5:30 to go out to dinner. We’ve tried a new restaurant each night and the food has been fantastic!! I think Sarah likes that we have wanted nothing to do with Western food and have been thrilled with every dish she has ordered for us.

Best of all, we got to Skype with Bine this morning. Although my mom has been sending updates daily and I know Bine has been doing great, nothing compares with seeing her actual face and watching her jabber away from the comfort of my mom’s lap. It certainly warmed Mark’s and my hearts!
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