Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free Day 7/3/2013

Breakfast with a view.
We all woke up feeling much better on Wednesday morning. We slept in until 5:30! After a good breakfast at the buffet, we headed to the local department store for some water, ramen and snacks for the girls. We got there early, watched some girls march around in uniform for a bit (more on this later), then sat on the steps
Waiting for the store to open.
for a while until we realized they didn't open until 9 a.m. so we headed back to the hotel. We got back to the
Marching girls.
department store just before 9 and heard the sound of a marching band playing. Hmm....that's
different! The girls we had seen earlier were now playing instruments and played a song to open the store. Someone really needs to talk to Target corporate about this, I can really see it catching on in the states.

We bought some ramen for the girls to have for lunch and Margaret was very impressed that there is an entire aisle of the grocery store dedicated to just ramen. Ella is barely tolerating our shenanigans at
this point, haha! Welcome to the family my dear!

We went back to the hotel, had some lunch and then we took the girls swimming. Getting through the fitness center and into the pool is not easy here, it involved signing in, buying swim caps, going into the dressing room and walking through a shallow pool of water to clean our feet before entering the pool, but we got 'r done. Stay tuned for pictures of me looking hot in a swim cap. Sorry boys, this old lady is taken.

Testing the temp.

Ella is not sure she wants to get in.

Barely tolerating this.

Taking some time to get used to the water on her own terms.

Becoming more comfortable.

Hmmm....maybe this pool with mama thing isn't all that bad.

This might actually be fun!!

This trip to the pool was all part of my evil plan to get her to trust me, and I think it worked!!
See Ella! Mama didn't let you sink to the bottom! Are we good?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Daniella Ding's Adoption Day 7/2/13

I'm sorry that I haven't updated the blog since Monday, it's been tough to keep up with blogging and Facebooking and parenting. This adoption is so different from Margaret's. Maggie was so young and had no idea what was going on, she grieved hard for a few days, but then was better and we moved on. Not that it was easy, it was still hard and it took months to really settle her in, but it was a simpler process. Ella is a tougher nut to crack. She likes us (most of the time) and I think she knows that this is the best for her but she is old enough to realize everything she is losing too. She would prefer to turn on soap operas and lose herself in the TV or a game on the tablet. We have been letting her have the time to do that, I understand her need to disconnect, but I also feel she needs to be brought back into the fold. We have set limits on TV time and screen time, but they are still on them a lot. It is so stinking hot here, we don't go out much past 10 a.m. or so and we are running out of things to do in the room. Yesterday was 99 and windy, today will be 95 and windy, repeat repeat repeat.
So - let's start back where we left off. Tuesday morning we woke up around 4:30 and Ding came into our room not much after. She sat on the end of our bed, but wouldn't come closer. We hung out for a bit until Margaret woke up and they played and watched TV, I helped Ella and Margaret pick out their clothes and get dressed and then we all went to breakfast. I helped Ella get all her food and got her situated at the table. We've been trying to get her to stop being so independent and to say "mama help" when she needs my help. It's been slow, she just really wants to do things for herself and sometimes I'm not her favorite person, but we are going to keep on trying. I feed her, I dress her, I bathe her (whether she wants me to or not).

We met our guide down in the lobby at 9:00 and headed back to Civil Affairs to officially adopt Ella. The girls were doing well there, Ella was smiling as our guide put her hand print put on the adoption docs.
Margaret and Ella were playing with the other girls being adopted that day. One little cutie is also from Xiaoxian, but had been in care up by Beijing, the other girl was from Bengbu.
We visited the registrar down the hall and he asked us questions like "how long have you been married?", "do you have biological children?" and "why do you want to adopt a child from China?". That one was easy - I told him Anhui girls are the best, but Xiaoxian girls are even better. He asked us if we promised to always care for her and to never abandon her, and we of course said, "Yes! We promise!" We went back into the conference room and waited to meet with the notary. Ding was called over by the SWI Director and he said something to her that made her cry. She just stood there with big silent tears rolling down her face. I have no idea what he said, it could have been as innocuous as "you'll never see us again". We may never know. All I know is that my heart broke in two for our sweet girl right then and there. I pulled her to me and put her on my lap, wiped her tears and just poured as much love as I could onto her. She was stiff and still crying silently. It was so
She is officially ours!
hard. She cried for a few more minutes and we tried to distract her with the camera on Bryan's phone.  We then went to meet with the notary, she asked us the same questions and made sure all of our documents were signed and in order. We had to wait in the conference room for our official adoption documents to be given to us and then we were allowed to leave.

After we got back to the room, I was not feeling well at all so I had to lay down. Traveling to China with a gluten intolerance is a risk (heck eating anywhere outside of my house is a risk) and I must have eaten something I shouldn't have at breakfast. I was having only neuro problems from the gluten (bad mood, fatigue, dizziness, restless leg syndrome) and Ella bore the brunt of me not feeling well. She had grabbed my camera without asking (we're still working on this) and I took it from her and told her no. She then grabbed Bryan's camera instead and I yelled at her. She started crying again and I felt so bad for her. It was such an emotional day and I was not being the parent she needed. I apologized to her, but the damage was done, she did not like me for a long time after that. I went into the girl's room to sleep and Bryan hung out with the girls in our room for the rest of the afternoon. They played Twister and games on the tablets and watched Chinese soap operas. Bryan snapped this photo of Ella while I was sleeping, she liked him that day.

We hung out in the room the rest of the day and ordered in room service. I had a Kind bar and some fruit for dinner, the girls shared a bowl of spaghetti. We watched TV and put the girls to bed at 8:00.

Adoption - the hardest best thing we've ever done.

p.s. Margaret and I have been role-playing how to ask for things. She will point to the camera and say "mama please?" and I will say "OK" and give it to her. We then have Ding do it. This is helping.

Monday, July 1, 2013

We Have Our Girl!

Over 6 years ago, we were given a camera with pictures of Margaret at the XiaoXian orphanage with her guai guai next to her. Today we brought her guai guai Ding home, tomorrow she is ours forever.

We arrived early to the Civil Affairs office and were lead to a room on the 4th floor. The Orphanage Director and Deputy Director Wang were waiting for us with Ding. We have no pictures or video of the moment we met because we weren't expecting them to be there!

Pictures from the Civil Affairs office:

Ding with Deputy Director Wang
Sisters! Ding Dang and Mao Mao

Registration Photo for our Adoption Certificate tomorrow.

She is a little peanut of a thing, exactly the same size as Margaret even though she's 15 months older. She was really quiet at first, but blossomed over lunch at the Noodle Restaurant. If you were following our trip to Margaret 6 years ago, you'll remember that those noodles are magical. The noodle bowls were huge and she finished it! She ate more than her baba - I was impressed! (and also a little worried that she was going to be sick) She ate the first half of her noodles with her chopsticks, but switched to a fork to be like Margaret. She rambles on to us and tells us things in Chinese and I just look at her and say "I have no idea what you are saying sweet pea!" And she'll just keep talking and I heard her say "mama bu shuo zhong wen" (mama doesn't speak Chinese). Mama speaks enough Chinese to understand that - so there!

 Having Margaret here has really helped with her transition. She taught Ding how to play Temple Run on the tablet and we are already limiting screen time for both of them. They watched Chinese soap operas together, played Twister and Legos, played with hair clips and looked over Ding's English workbook. She knows "thank you", "WC", "you're welcome" and "banana". Now that she has been playing Temple Run with Margaret, she knows the word JUMP!! She willingly shares her things with Margaret and Margaret can't figure out why. I told her Ding's being a good sister to her, now take the toy and say xie xie!
TWISTER!! Fun in any language!
We ordered dinner from room service and found a nice grocery store behind the hotel. Ding had a bath and I was told she would need help shampooing her hair. I'm not sure what she's used to, but this mama does NOT have the magic. She got upset and cried a little bit when she got a bit of water on her face. I rubbed her back and told her she was doing a good job and when I toweled her off I kissed her on the head. She looked up at me like she was surprised.
Ding, you are a wonderful, sweet and beautiful girl. We are going to work hard so that you will never be surprised by affection again.

We put the girls to bed at 8:30. Gave them both hugs and kisses and told them wo ai ni. It's been a good day. She is so brave. They both are.

Monday, June 24, 2013

How You Can Help in Our Sprint to Our Girl

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, know that we were praying for 3 things to happen so we could beat the consulate closure in mid-July and not be delayed in getting our girl. 
We would need our Travel Approval to come by last Friday, we would need one of the few Consulate Appointments left for July 9th - 11th, and we would need the provincial government in Anhui to allow us to pick her up on July 1st. Since Friday, all of these things have happened!! We received an email this morning saying we need to be in Anhui on Sunday, to get Ella on Monday, July 1st. That means leaving Friday. Yes, THIS Friday!

We are so excited. And a little bit scared. And panicking just a tiny bit. But I would rather race to my girl with 4 days notice than be delayed 2 weeks or possibly even into August.

A few weeks ago, we were generously awarded a Brittany's Hope Foundation (BHF) grant and our webpage is now active. They will give us a grant of up to $5,000, we just need to raise $2,500. If we do not raise the full matching amount, they will award us whatever has been donated, and ALL of your donations will go to our family, but if we hit $2,500 BHF will double your money up to $5,000. This money will put a major dent in our airline fees and other travel expenses we are incurring in the next 2 weeks.

If you'd like to help us sprint to our girl, please click this link or click on the Brittany's Hope logo up there on the right. You can donate online or you can print out the form on the website. If you can't print the form, I will put the address at the bottom of this post. You just need to send a note that your donation is for The Mickelson Family and they will credit our account. Or you can always stop by Grandma Lois' house and throw some cash at her and we will get it to BHF. We are flexible like that. Brittany's Hope has given us an extension on our fundraising efforts since we are leaving so soon. Our page will be active while we are gone and we will continue to fundraise after we get home as needed.

All donations are tax-deductible and Brittany's Hope will send you a receipt.

Thank you for loving us and supporting us for the last year as we have worked to bring home our girl. Love you all and I cannot wait for you to meet our Ella.
Brittany's Hope Foundation
1160 North Market Street
 Elizabethtown, PA 17022
*please add a note that it is for the Mickelson family

Update 6/26/13: $860 in 24 hours, plus an employee match from Microsoft that hasn't arrived yet. Thank you family & friends! We are a third of the way there! Whoohoo!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gluten Free Travel in China

While not easy, being gluten free in China is definitely something that can be done. I spent 10 days in rural China in the fall of 2010 and ate very well. We ate breakfast buffets at the hotels every morning and traditional Chinese buffet lunches with SWI directors and Civil Affairs for every lunch and dinner. They were very accommodating and always had rice, lamb soup, steamed vegetables, steamed prawns and other simple dishes for me. I was very careful about what I ate and after every meal I took a GlutenEase pill and two probiotics.

I would recommend showing both of the attached cards to your guide and have them navigate for you for your first dinner out. Once you are comfortable in China and are a little more brave, you can venture out on your own.

This is the traditional card that you will find online. It has a very basic outline of what you can and cannot eat. I like how it says "my intestine would bleed", fear is a great motivator!

I also brought a printout of this note with me. I found it on someone's blog and I believe the translation is something like, "I will die a horrible death on your restaurant floor if you feed me gluten!" 
Edited 6/24 to add: It does say this! Confirmed by a friend in Hong Kong. Awesome!

Good luck. Have fun. Be adventurous...but not too much. You need to be well and able to navigate parenting your new child, travel, sightseeing and much more on your trip. I personally would rather go hungry and eat a Lara Bar back at the hotel room than risk being glutened and be sick for days.

I will do a follow-up post later on the food that I am planning to bring with for our next trip.

3/2/13 Edited to add this link: 

Backpacking, Biking, Briefcase & Travel Foods

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Perfect Quote

Brian Andreas put this on Twitter the other day:
I had a question about life today & the whole day is the perfect answer & I want to grab people & say 'Don't you just love when that happens?'

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Waiting for....Ella!

Our family is over the moon excited to announce that our next daughter will be ELLA!!! We received pre-approval from China to adopt our Ella. Why am I saying "our" Ella? Well, there's a story here, and it's long, 5 years long. But it's good, so very very good. Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable, do I have a tale for you.


Maggie and her guaiguai at the orphanage Jan. 2007
When our Maggie came to us in January of 2007, she carried with her the photo album and disposable camera we had sent and not much more. After we arrived home, we developed the film and noticed a little pixie of a girl in some of the pictures. Maggie would point and call her guaiguai (darling).

Ella, 2009
Two years passed and I came into contact with Jodi, who was the XiaoXian Foster Care Coordinator for Love Without Boundaries (LWB) at that time. She was in dire need of sponsors for her program and asked me to look at the website and see if I could sponsor a child. There, on the LWB website was my daughter's friend, her guaiguai, LWB called her Ella. We became her sponsor and have been supporting her in foster care ever since. 

About 3 months later, in September of 2009, I was going through some old files in our safe and came across Maggie's finding ad. This is what I wrote on our blog:

My heart shattered into a million pieces yesterday.

I found Maggie's "finding ad" that the orphanage placed in the newspaper. And right there next to her, was our sponsored foster kid. Among all the newborns was this toddler, a kid with special needs who was loved by a family for 17 months before they were unable to care for her anymore.
17 months.


That was the day I got into contact with LWB and volunteered my services. I started working as an assistant to the XiaoXian program and eventually took it over. 

You will hear me say that my Maggie is the inspiration for my work with LWB, but that is only half the story. The whole story is that she left her Ella behind and I took it as my duty to take care of her and the others who are still waiting.

As the years have gone by, Maggie would still ask me about "her Ella". She writes stories about her, paints pictures for her, and asks me why Ella's forever family hasn't come to get her yet. Bryan would look at her foster care reports and say, "why can't we just go pick her up? She would be the perfect sister for Maggie." I would look at her reports and send out a prayer to find this precious child a family.

Ella's adoption file was prepared last summer/fall and then it disappeared. She never made the shared list, and she wasn't on any agency lists here in the US. Then, the other kids from XiaoXian whose files were prepared at the same time started getting matched to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. No word on Ella. When her file hit the shared list in late May, I knew that her file had made the rounds of Europe, yet she remained unchosen. I was heartbroken for her. Who was going to step up for our Ella?

Bryan and I talked about adopting her, and decided that it was too difficult, too complicated. Rules that would have to be bent, Maggie would be displaced as the oldest and the one who gets to do things first. Too hard, not for us. 
(I know! I know! I'm the one who has drilled it into my daughter's head "you CAN do hard things!!")

I told my Mom that Ella was available for adoption and she said "Mary Margaret, if you love her, go and get her". I said, "Mom, it is NOT that easy. There's the birth order issue, and our agency would have to give us special approval, and she's 8 already, and and and....".

And then the very next day I read this article by Martha Osborne, where she says,
“I would never ask a family to take on more than they can handle, but I will always encourage families to stretch.  There are only so many 3 or 4 year olds out there and paper-ready to be adopted. There are far, far too many 7, 8, and 9 year olds who have been waiting for their entire lives for someone to see just how wonderful that they are.
Stretch. It's good for the body, the mind, and the soul. And it's good for your life (and the life of a waiting child).”

I had another talk with Bryan and I said, "This is going to sound crazy, but the universe has been sending me signs, and I don't think we can ignore them. Are we making this too complicated? Is my Mom right? If we love her, why don't we just go get her?"

He agreed with me, we needed to stop over-thinking. It was time to jump in, feet first, deep end. The REALLY deep end.

I then had a talk with Maggie. I asked her how she would feel if we adopted a child who was older than her. She told me flat out that she didn't want an older sibling. She told me she wanted to be first. She told me she deserved to be first. I asked how she would feel if it was Ella and she said "Oh Mommy, I would do it for Ella, but no one else!" I promised her that we would try. We would ask about Ella and no matter the outcome, whether Ella comes home to us, or goes home to another family, we will be happy for her because she has waited far too long.

Referral Picture, 2011
During all of this, and before we came to the decision to try to adopt Ella, I had been in touch with an advocate because I had been planning on finding a family for her. I read Ella’s file, and in there is another tiny bit of information that I almost overlooked. In June of 2005, the Director of the XiaoXian SWI bundled up two babies and sent them together to Bengbu for surgery. One of these was our daughter, Maggie, for her teratoma resection. The other was Ella for her cleft repair. They came home together in early August. I like to think that two babies from the same orphanage might have shared a room, maybe even a bed. Once again, her story has been woven into ours.

Referral Picture, 2011
In early June, I wrote this story down in letter form and pleaded with the Older Child Committee at our agency to allow us to adopt our Ella. We went before the committee twice before getting approval.  We were then given her referral, and we sent her file to the University of MN. They think she has a syndrome that is completely manageable and that her greatest need is for a family. We then had to write our Letter of Intent, get it translated and wait for China to give us pre-approval. We've been keeping this a secret since June and it's been killing me!! So, to all of you that knew I was being reticent when you asked me about our adoption, I'm sorry, but she wasn't ours yet, but now that she is I am ready to shout it from the rooftops!!
We are looking forward to traveling back to Hefei next summer to get our second XiaoXian daughter. We have known her and loved her as Ella for so long we have decided to keep her LWB name as part of her new American name, Daniella.

As I write this story down and look at it from above as a big picture, I can see all of our paths clearly, shining like bright gold. It is beautiful and has come together perfectly. I don't believe in luck, or coincidences. There's a higher power at work here and we are incredibly blessed.