Lenny's story

Iíve read about 100 of these stories, most titled for some reason with the babyís name. This story is about getting my daughter, Jessie, but I have a feeling her story would be quite different. A tale about the day aliens came and snatched her from her home. It would mostly include the endless food offered and the stupid games these aliens made her play. This long story is about a woman who finally decided she wanted a family. Then decided that this would be done, like almost every thing else she has done in her life, the hard, weird or unconventional way.

In the fall of 95, I had my usual "fall feelings" that I should have a family. It think these are the same hormones that make me pull out the knitting needles and try another scarf. Charlie, my significant other was OK with having a child. He has even said that adopting one was his idea. I really canít remember now. He had a son many years ago and he knew that a kid is a lot of work, but was willing to do it for me. I had seen him with kids in the past and knew he would be a great father. I thought about adopting a domestic sibling group. I began by looking at the blue book. Almost all of the kids were boys that needed medication to control their anger. I knew I wanted a girl and an older child with emotional problems would be too much for me to handle as a first time parent.

A couple that I work with adopted from China and I asked them about a Chinese baby. They told me the cost, and I thought that it was just too much money. I also considered having a baby the old fashioned way. Iíve never had the urge to get really fat and spend hours screaming. Plus at my age -then 36 - and my less than perfect genes. I felt getting a baby that had a medical exam - how ever cursory , was less risky than a home grown one. I also thought I could use some good karma and that this was a good thing to do. I knew that I would never be a stay at home mother and didnít feel I should make a baby just to drop her a day care all day. This baby would already be here and daycare is a million times better than an orphanage.

In Feb 1996, I started seeing the clips from the documentary the" Dying Room." It was filmed in an orphanage in China. It showed babies tied to potty chairs all day and some that were just left in rooms to die. I made up my mind that I could come up with the money to save just one of these babies. It might mean I have to drive my car a few more years than I had hoped, but I knew I could come up with the money. I have a feeling that a lot of people were motivated by this documentary. The amount of China Adoptions started to really pick up that spring. People involved in Chinese Adoption were afraid that the documentary might make the Chinese government close down adoptions. It seems now, in hindsight, to have helped the kids in the orphanages by making their situation known around the world and in China.

I sent letters, email or faxes to 30 adoption agencies. I screened them as they came in. If they sounded too religious , discriminatory, or costly - they were out. If they took more than two weeks to answer the request for information - they were out. I had it narrowed down to 3 choices. My first Choice was ASIA out of Oregon, but at that time they had not completed any adoptions - They have done many now. The next choice was PLAN. Unfortunately PLAN wouldnít use an independent social worker. Choice number 3, CCAI out of Colorado, was the one I picked. The references I checked gave them OK reviews No raves or horror stories - similar to what I would report today. They did what they said they would do.

Charlie and I needed to decide what to do. Should we get married before going forward with the adoption or wait until after and then get married? All agencies said that we should be married. When I looked further into what they were telling me it made no sense at all.

Charlie had a grown son - that made us special needs, Charlie's age- that made us eligible for a most likely a toddler. Then the tax break for adoptions has an income sealing. It works out fine for me adopting alone. It was definitely to our advantage to get married after the adoption.

I started getting the home study set up and the INS papers filled out in March. At that time they said the whole thing could be done in six months. I thought Iíd be in China well before the end of the year. The homestudy went fine but I found out that in NYS if you use a private social worker you have to petition the county court to get approval to adopte. The INS will not give you approval with out it. I got a lawyer that said he would petition my county for 200 dollars. It was a real bargain for what he went through. This independent method did slow down the process. I didnít get my approval until August and my INS approval until September.

My Dossier was sent to China in Oct. 1996, And the waiting began. That summer I begin studying Chinese (Mandarin) on tape. Little did I know that I should have been studying Cantonese. At that time they said it would be 8 weeks for a referral. It would be right around Christmas time.

We waited and waited and waited. I got the news on July 8th at a pay phone at the Holiday Inn in Schenectady. We had a daughter - a healthy girl! I rushed home to a fax of a big blob that looked a lot like Don King. We tried holding the picture up to the light to see if we could make out any features. For one day we knew she had two ears and standup hair.

She was in the Huazhou Children Welfare House, Guangdong province in South Central China.

The adoption agency FEDEXíd her picture along with a health report. The health report, at almost four months old, says she is normal in every category. On Jan 3rd she was 54cm or 21inches and 4.9kg or 10.7 lb. They said we would go in 4 -6 weeks. Those weeks were really crazy. I didnít get much sleep, there was way too much to do. A week or so later, I got updated information on her. They said that she was very healthy. She grew 5 inches and gained 4.5 pounds since January. I got a bad cold about two weeks before we traveled.

Before the trip, our agency had a voice conference call travel meeting. I'm not sure what I expected. I should have written down my questions. I never did find out where each of us in the travel group would meet along the way. Since I've been on the APC list for ever, I already knew all the things about tipping, not drinking the water and all that stuff. They did spend a lot of time telling us how great our agency was compared to other agencies. I'm not sure why they felt they needed to say that stuff. At that point we are all very committed.

They said we could buy T-shirts so we could find each other. I really didn't see the value of wearing a shirt that identifies me with a Chinese adoption agency in an airport. Why not wear a sign that says: I've have thousands of dollars on me please mug me. No one from our group had an agency shirt on. I guess I wasnít the only one that thought this was not a good idea.

(Diatribe about United Airlines)

We left for China on August 21, 1997. We decided to leave from Syracuse airport because it was a lot cheaper and only 30 minutes farther away. The travel agency did a good job getting our tickets, passports and visas. They were delivered in plenty of time (Although Iím still waiting 7 weeks now for a refund for her ticket from the travel agency). My cousin offered me a free ticket but it was with Delta, and they donít go to Hong Kong or China - I wish now that we had taken him up on the offer. United was just terrible. It started in Syracuse. We checked in a little late and the guy gave us the worst seats on each connection. We werenít even going to be seated together for the first leg and international leg of the trip. The plane would not be leaving LA for another six hours but there were no seats left together? We got right on the plane. We were just thankful that we made it. They said we should have been there an hour early because it was an international flight. We didnít think it was an international flight we were checking into. This plane was going to Chicago. We would take two planes before we go on an international flight. We sat in our non together seats - OK we were a little late. We would be OK not sitting together but that was just the beginning.

In Chicago they loaded us on the plane to wait 1.5 hours before takingoff. There was bad weather in L.A. Gee, couldn't they have told us before we rushed to get on with empty stomachs? This made us late for our international flight too. We rushed in LA to that plane where we waited 2.5 hours in the plane on the ground to be told that the plane needed engine repairs and couldnít take off. There we sat like sardines in the cattle car of the plane. It was just before Labor Day and the plane was loaded with kids - jumping all around. There were three girls about 8 years old in the three seats in front of us. They would press the flight attendantís button at least 20 times in the 2 hours we sat on the ground. Charlie, who doesnít fly well at all, had a real sense of impending doom. Iíve never seen him this bad on a plane trip. We have come to the conclusion that he might have sensed that there was a problem with the plane?

One good thing I can say about United, they put us up in a nice hotel. We had already had enough traveling for one day and we were glad to stay in LA. We started the day at 4:30AM EST and got to our LA hotel about 8pm EST. We had already had a full day of traveling without the trip to Hong Kong. I was lucky that I packed a change of clothes in my carry on luggage. They wouldn't let you get your check bags back. Unless you carried it on, it had to stay in the cargo hull of the plane. We were also lucky, we had not pre-paid our hotel reservation in Hong Kong, and we hoped that our agency rep would call ahead before going to pick us up at the air port. The next day, we were off to Hong Kong. To say the trip was long and the food was bad would be an understatement. They were always nice enough to ask you what you would like to eat before telling you that they were all out of that and here is what you are getting.

While waiting for the second time to board the plane in LA to Hong Kong, a woman from our adoption group found me. I knew that one of the guys from the group would be wearing a green shirt and a cap. I looked for him but never saw him. She pointed out and introduced a few of the people from our travel group and I went over and talked to a few of them. Charlie stayed behind. He is not at all a group kind of person. You know there are some people that canít imagine doing anything by themselves and then there are others that would be happy to do everything alone or with one other person. Charlie is the latter. I knew if we were going to make it two weeks in a travel group, I would have to make sure he only had to do the mandatory group things. When we got on the plane. Everyone in the group was up graded to business class - for free - except us! I went up to see how the other class lives. They were having a big party up there in Business Class. There was a lot of wine and room to stand around and chat. They handed me a bowl of nuts - Wow the best thing I had to eat all day. The flight attendants just hung out with them and looked at the referral pictures. I couldnít flag one down if I was choking to death in the back section.

We arrived at Hong Kong airport. We made it through the checks and customs.Charlie and I were both worried about him making it through these checks.He has long hair and it seems like whenever he deals with people with guns/authority they give him a hard time. Even going to our local police station and asking to be finger printed was cause for the police to harass him. No one at the Hong Kong border gave him a hard time. We both were very relieved.

The airport seemed really strange and I was very glad that we would be met by our agency representative. We waited near the door and I pulled out my itinerary from the agency. It said they would meet us at gate 6 or exit six. We didnít see any numbers. One of guys in the group went to see if he could find our guide and luckily he found him at gate number six. We all pulled our luggage about 1/8 of a mile to the bus. The guide, named Coco was very good. You could tell he was a real ham and loved showing people around. I think it was about 2pm when we got to the hotel. The group was supposed to go on a tour the whole day but since our flight was a day late, Coco wanted to get the tour going right way. Charlie and I had already decided weeks before the trip that we didnít want to get on a tour bus after a plane ride the entire day before. Getting on one now was just out of the question. I could feel my body swaying back and forth as if I had spent the day on a boat.

We took a short nap and decided to see some of Hong Kong by foot. We really enjoyed Hong Kong. It reminded me a lot of Toronto. Toronto has a lot of Asians too and is very clean. It seemed to be a fairly safe large city. We went to dinner at an Australian restaurant. The food (ribs and fries) was a little greasy but there were a lot of Australian people and I love listening to their accents. We drank a few Fosters and headed off to see what we could on foot. We went in to a very modern store. It turned out to be a five story record store. The first floor had a DJ and there were some very interesting people in the store. We walked around some more and saw this open air market restaurant. It looked like a garage with picnic tables. As I was telling Charlie we should have eaten with the locals, I saw a large rat running across the floor of the restaurant. I guess we were lucky we found the Australian place first. If I ever considered living in a large city, Hong Kong would be one to consider.

We were exhausted and finally went to bed 7pm their time 7:00am our time. I woke up about midnight and could have sworn it was morning. It was a very long night. I was in bed for 10 hours and only slept about 5 of those hours. I was worrying about all the things that still could go wrong.

The next day, we took a bus to Guangzhou. Coco warned us that if we forgot something at the hotel there is no going back. Once you are in China, you are there. We only had visa's good for one entry. Coco left us with our driver, who didnít speak any English. If something happened at the border, we were in trouble. Coco gave us directions: At the border we would have to get off the bus and take all of our luggage through customs. Then we would get back on the bus on the other side of the boarder. You had to fill out these cards with your passport number and flight or bus number at every customs check too. Charlie and I breathed another sigh of relief at this check. They just looked at the papers and waived him through. We made it to China!

The bus trip was supposed to be about 2 1/2 hours, but it dragged into about 3 ½ and I was starting to get a little bus sick. We pulled up to our hotel in Guangzhou - the Landmark Hotel and checked in. No one from our agency was there to meet us. We all checked in but we were not sure what to do next. We went up to our rooms. Luckily, some of the group waited in the lobby for our guide or we would have been lost. We knew we were going to register for the adoption the next day but we didnít know when or where to meet the agency rep.

Charlie and I decided to stop worrying and go for lunch. The hotel had several restaurants: Chinese and western. I always heard on the Internet that the western food was awful so we went to the Park View Chinese Restaurant. We were the only non-Asian people in the place and I wondered where the rest of our group was. We had some dim sum and it was very good. We also had something called, I think, diced chicken and vegetables. They were in a little crunchy corn shell. We went back a week later on our return trip for more of the diced chicken things.

On the map, the White Swan looked like it was only a few miles away. On foot it was quite a haul. We were sick of being in planes and buses so we walked the whole way to the White Swan. People starred at us where ever we went. It was very strange. I was glad we had walked the streets without a baby, I would have thought that is why they are looking at us. I guess we were a real novelty, Charlie with his long hair and beard and me. I guess I am considered to be very beautiful in China. Here in the USA, Iím an average looking, auburn haired woman. I had several beautiful Chinese women come up to me and tell me how beautiful I am. One woman told Charlie that I looked like a film star. Wow I like China!

After a while, I started to get tired of being a star. It was really hot and my butt became very itchy. I needed to scratch but I was always being watched. There was no time when I could sneak a scratch here or there. Oh how the rich and famous must suffer!

When we got to the White Swan, there were a lot of adopting families staying there. I saw about five babies in just the short time we were there. I guess our agency was the only one that was boycotting the White Swan. They said it was some dispute about the treatment of adopted families and the lack of a discount. I checked out a few shops in the White Swan. I tried to find the "shop on the stairs" out side but was unsuccessful. We were getting tired and we had a long walk back.

As we walked back we were watching out for the Nanfang Department store. It was about 1/3 of the way back our hotel. We decided while were there to see what they had to offer. Next week, when we had our baby, we would know if they had all the things we needed for her. They did have formula and clothes. It seemed like it would meet all of our needs when we came back with her. When we left the department store we came out the wrong door and walked for a long way before Charlie realized we had gone wrong. We were supposed to follow the river and we hadnít seen water in quiet some time. We turned around and now I was really tired but we kept walking. We made it back to the hotel and rested a little before dinner.

Again following the advice of the APC list, we went to the other Chinese restaurant: Food Street. We thought it kind of strange as we walked in that they tried to talk us out of eating there, but we really wanted to eat Chinese food. When we walked in, there was a show going on. At first, I thought it was a fashion show. There were absolutely gorgeous, model type, women doing a sort of synchronized posing kind of dance. They all had various leopard skin outfits on and would walk and pose and walk pose to music. Then, a few minutes later, they would come back out with various Zoro type outfits. I realized these were costumes and not clothes. This was just some kind of synchronized dancing. It was very nice to watch, they were very beautiful so I naturally wondered which one she would grow up to look like.

With our limited experience in China, we had a hard time trying to order any thing but beer. I had been studying Mandarin for a year, but in Guangzhou they speak Cantonese. It seemed that English was more widely understood than Mandarin. We managed to order a bottle of "Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon" it wasnít too bad.

The menu had English but it was the quantity and the order the food would be presented that was being questioned. Apparently, you are to eat a cold meat first then a main dish then some rice. We wanted a main dish with rice but couldnít get that across. We ordered the "Chicken in homemade soy sauce." How could that be bad? It was a whole chicken - I mean whole - head, beak and all, chopped up into about 8 pieces, all the bones , and barely cooked. We didnít know it was cold until we took a bite. It was hard to take a bite too. How do you eat something bony with chop sticks. I wasnít good at chop sticks yet. This was still early in the trip. We sat there tried to eat a little but it wasnít happening. All I could see was this cold dead bird staring at me. I worried that the bird wasnít cooked well enough too. We asked for our rice and pored some soy sauce on it. We realized that this would probably be our last nice dinner together alone for a long time to come. All was not lost, the entertainment and wine were good , plus Charlie had a running joke the whole trip that he still hadnít passed the beak yet. We ordered some fried noodles that were very good so we didnít starve to death.

The next day we went to the office that does the registration for foreigners adopting in Guangdong Province. It was right in Guangzhou. I was the first one to get interviewed and I was very nervous. I misplaced my passport for a few minutes and that got me even more nervous. They asked all the usual questions. "What is your profession?" "Were you ever married, divorced?" I was divorced and of course they wanted to know the dates. The wedding date was easy, but I had to guess on the divorce date. They asked, "was the baby Ji, Xioayun acceptable." I said "yes she is wonderful." "Why am I adopting?" I said that, "I want a family and to give a baby that needs a home, a home instead of creating a new baby." They asked, "What plans do you for her?" I said that "I will love her and make sure she is happy and has a good education." They asked "Will I mistreat her or abuse her?" I said, " I will never mistreat her or let her come to any harm."

I guess I answered all the questions correctly. They had me stick my finger in some red ink and place it next to my signature. The document had her red foot print. I thought we would get a copy of that or I would have gotten a picture of the document. I did get an adoption agreement and an adoption registration. All of the questions were translated by our new guide Alice. She and Mr. Gu would be with us for most of the trip.

One of the babies had an updated picture on the paperwork but her picture was the same photo we had gotten 6 weeks before. As I was waiting for the rest of the group to be interviewed, another couple came into the register's office. One of the people in our group started talking to them and the woman asked is one of you Lenny? I said thatís me! She and I had written each other through email just a few days before we left. They were going to Zhangjing too, but they were all alone with there guide. Their trip was 4 days shorter than our trip. Itís funny. We were envious of each other. We would have loved to have our own guide and they would have loved to have a big group. It might be that Iím just not a good traveler. Four days in Hawaii would be long enough for me. When you travel with a group you are always waiting for someone and you can never leave when you want to leave. Our trip would drag out even longer because we wouldnít get back to Guangzhou before the Labor Day holiday. Oh well, we would both have our babies soon, they would get their baby today, and we would get ours the next day. After the registration we were off to Zhangjing.

One of the women in our group left us at the registrar's office. She was getting her baby, 15months old girl, right in Gaungzhou. She really had a bad deal with the group thing. She could have gotten through the whole process in about 4 - 6 days, I estimated. Our agency had her scheduled to wait for us to come back from Zhanjing to finish up the paper work. The agency rep did get her in to the consulate before we returned but she didnít go back until we did, after labor day. I think she couldnít get her flight moved up. She went to Hong Kong to sight see a little before the return flight.

After the registration, we went to a Chinese restaurant. I didnít enjoy this restaurant. I had felt queasy since breakfast that morning. I worried that I had eaten or drank something bad. Later in the trip, I realized that I felt this way every time we had a big event coming up in our trip and learned to accept that I worry myself sick and to ignore it.

Our guides held all of our tickets for the China portion of our trip. They paid the airport tax for us and as we were going to the gate handed each of us our tickets. One person in our group lost his ticket and boarding pass in the short time between the ticket counter and the gate. He and our guides first went back to see if they could find the ticket, no luck. Then our guides sprung into action. Alice and Mr. Gu raced to buy a new ticket. As we were sitting there at the airport, all the flights were being announced in many languages and even the English version was hard to understand. We realized our flight was boarding and our guides and one group member were gone. We all got ready to board the second they returned. Luckily, they just made it and we were off to Zhangjing. The guy who lost his tickets had a sense of humor and offered many times on our trip to hold on to everyoneís tickets for other flights.

The Southern China Airlines flight was about 2.5 hours and there was a definite lack of air conditioning on this plane. The things they passed out were interesting to read. There was a towel that we saved as a souvenir. It listed all the things that you could sanitize with the towel and the reasons for doing it. The translations to English were always fun to read through out the trip. You would read it laugh and then try to figure out the word that they meant to put in that didnít quite have the same interpretation. Iím not trying to say I could do a good job translating English to Chinese. As you can tell from my writing, English is a challenging enough. Translating something to Chinese? Forget it! It did make for good reading when you were bored. The hotel directories were the best.

Zhanjing turned out to be a boring place to stay. The area of the Silver Sea hotel reminded me of an unfinished industrial park. There were modern buildings and a lot of construction - like all of China. This area if the city seemed to be missing the finishing touches like people, trees, restaurants, and stores. It was a very nice hotel, nicer than the Landmark and not as nice a the White Swan. Well, the lobby of the White Swan any way. I never saw the rooms. After our chicken with the head, we decided to eat in the western restaurant it was OK. We ate there the remainder of our stay.

Another Internet tip I wish I didnít listen to: "Only pack about 3 changes of clothes and have them laundered." What you should really do is figure out when you will be in a city long enough to have your laundry done. We didnít have that opportunity until about day 4. That meant getting clean clothes on day 5 or 6. The extra night in LA didnít help either. I was needing laundry so bad and was so spazzed out, that I called the front desk to get a laundry bag and list before my suite cases were even delivered to my room. I had a hard time explaining to them that I had no clothes yet to put in the laundry bag. There were several times I had to just give up trying to explain my self and this was one of them. I sort of had to shoo them out of the room. Iím sure they thought I was just another crazy American. They were right. I was picking up my daughter tomorrow and I was spazzing out. I also should have brought all of my shorts instead of going out an buying long shorts. There were plenty of people wearing shorts much shorter that mine. It is also next to impossible to buy shorts in August. You can buy mittens and Christmas ornaments.

That night before getting her was one of the longest nights of my life. There was a lot to do and worry about. I had to figure out how I would make a bottle for her on the road. I had to turn my carry on bag into a diaper bag with all the right things in it. I had to worry about what to pack. Did I forget something? Of course, I had to think about all the things that could go wrong. I did get a little sleep but the "late night towel check guy" ended that. It must have been a good sleep because when I woke up I didnít even know where I was or what day it was. Unfortunately, it turned out to still be the day before I would get her and only about 9:30pm. I tossed and turned all night.

We were to meet in the lobby at 7:00am. It was very strange out side the hotel that morning. It was very foggy, breezy and very warm. Charlie and I tried to go to breakfast about 6:30 but the restaurants didnít open until 7:30. So we waited out side the hotel. I went back up to the room to eat a granola bar and a coke for breakfast. Charlie was determined to get coffee. We waited and waited for the bus to show up. It was 7:30 and the restaurant opened. Charlie somehow managed to get mime that he wanted coffee to go. They understood the coffee part but the "to go" was a real trick. He was actually successful. When the bus still didnít show, we all went into the restaurant and got breakfast. We waited all these months for our babies what was a few more minutes. We ate and just as we were finishing the bus showed up. Some of our group tried to get coffee to go. Even with our guides interpreting, they just couldnít figure it out. It took so long that the coffee was all gone any way. We left about 8:30am, only 1.5 hours late. The orphanage was in Huazhou but we were not allowed to go there. We would meet our babies in the notaryís office in Maoming.

The trip to Maoming was a real third world experience. About 15 minutes into the trip our bus boarded a ferry across a bay, I think it was a bay. We got off the bus during the ferry ride and some kids with fruit let us try some. They gave us a few of these small green balls with a soft shell that you peal away but I didnít really like them. As we got back on the road, it had started to rain and the farther we went the more remote it got. The roads were very narrow some were dirt and sometimes just big mud holes. I thought about the taxes I paid in the USA. Yes, it is money well spent. I was experiencing what our roads would be like without them.

We tried to take a lot of pictures as we got near Maoming. We thought these pictures would mean the most to her. We werenít sure we how close we were to Huazhou, but I kept thinking that any of these people we were looking at could be her parents. It was really hard to take pictures out of a moving bus, and since it was raining most of the time we needed to keep the window shut. I really wanted to see Huazhou. Charlie and I talked about maybe arranging a trip there the next day or the day after. We realized that this was a real long trip. You couldnít just hop in a cab and say take me to Huazhou. There were several check points and tolls along the way. Would they even let us through alone? We didnít pursue that idea any further.

Along the way, there were a lot of garage type buildings. These were kind of similar to the garages available in the USA to rent for storage. There would be a row of them, each having a family hanging out in them. It looked like each one had a different type of business. It seemed like the family lived there too. One of the woman in our group pointed out that she didnít see any girls. I started to notice that too. That was not the case in the cities. The bus trip seemed to take forever. We were all anxious to see our daughters.

Mr. Gu had brought a gift from our agency, a package of formula, rice cereal (soon to be know as fish flakes) and some apple juice. He said we would be able to get hot water there.

As we pulled in front of the notary's office, someone said they saw a woman with a baby inside. We were late and they were waiting for us. As we entered, we saw a bunch of women with babies. We all scanned the room trying to find our babies. I heard one mother say "there she is that must be her." Others were recognizing their babies, but I didnít recognize her at all. There were a few that I knew were definitely not her. There were two that I recognized from their referral pictures. I started to think they didnít bring her and that they were going to try to pass off some other baby as her. Of course, I had worried since I got the referral that they would accidentally give her to someone else. I was also afraid to make up my mind which one was her. I would be heart broken if I picked one and it was the wrong one.

They told us to sit down and I sat down across from the one that I thought was most likely to be her. I pulled out her referral picture and showed it to the nanny pointing to the picture and then to her. I started to hope this baby across from me was she. She was cuter that the referral picture but looked smaller that at 4 months. The baby in the referral picture looked like trouble, this baby just sat there with a blank look and was very quiet.

Finally, they told us that each of the parents would go one at a time to the corner of the room and get their picture taken with the nanny holding the baby. Then the baby would be handed over to the new parent(s) and another picture would be taken. A few parents received their babies and I began to be more sure that this baby in front of me was she. My name and her name were called and we went to the corner

I was kind of numb as the Nanny handed her over to me. I remember smiling for the cameras but the rest is a blur. The next thing I knew I was back in my seat. I was kind of frozen there. I wasnít even sure how to hold her, it felt like she was so fragile she would break.

I watched as the other parents received their babies and then the paper work began. A lot of the babies started to cry but there was no sound from her. I guess she was just as afraid to move as I was. I was kind of leery about doing any thing that would make her cry. I didnít want frighten her. She was so small and quiet.

A few minutes after all the parents and babies were matched. The Nanny that was holding her and still sitting across from us, looked at her and me, waved good bye and said something very loud to her in Chinese and was gone. So much for asking any details about her care. Iím not sure the Nannies knew her very well any way. I would think it would be confusing to have everyoneís name with the same beginning.

"Who or what are you?"

I was really kind of leery to hand over her to Charlie. I didnít want them asking any questions about who he was. It was very hectic. I needed to pay the fee and sign the papers. I reluctantly gave her to Charlie for a few minutes.

As we all got to know our babies, it became apparent to us that every one of the babies had a bad cold. She had a really bad cough and you could her the crackling. A lot of the other babies had things that looked like bug bites and turned out to be scabies and some had big sores on the back of their heads. These were boils. We werenít sure how she escaped having scabies and boils but were not complaining. We had been warned by the families that went to this orphanage before us, that this orphanage is known to have a scabies problem, but the children seem to have been given good care. We notice that her legs were very bowed and that the back of her head was pretty flat with a big bald spot. It looked like she had spent a lot of time lying on her back. She was also small compared to the others. Most were eleven months like her, but were much bigger and fatter. She had two teeth on the bottom and two small white bumps on the top.

Luckily, one of the women in the group started asking questions. When was the last time they were fed? 6am (it was about noon) How often to they eat? I think they said every four hours. We also asked what were the amounts of formula, cereal, and water to make up a bottle. I wrote in my book 2 teaspoons of each. We couldnít get Mr. Gu to answer how much water you add to that. Of course the directions on the package were in Chinese.

We should have asked more questions but it was very noisy and confusing with all these people crammed in the notary office. We were all anxious to get some food in our babies. I asked our interpreter Alice, what kinds of things could we say to our babies that they would recognize. She didnít know. She knew Mandarin and Cantonese things to say, but they speak a totally different dialect in Moaming. Mandarin or Cantonese was not going to be understood by these babies. Our guides were communicating with the notary but it must have been either Mandarin of Cantonese.

Cary Tobias, a friend from the APC Internet list asked me to tell the orphanage director, Mrs. Peng, that her daughter, Xiaoni, adopted in June was doing very well. I asked Alice to give her that message.

We all headed down and across the street to a Restaurant. Donít ask me the name or what the food was like. It was the last thing on my mind. Our group sat in a back room by ourselves and we all started pulling out bottles and toys for our babies. I brought water in one bottle and had the playtex nurser too. We put in the 2 teaspoons of formula and 2 teaspoons of fish flakes. Fish flake are what we called this rice cereal with vegetables and fish - only available in China. Nutritionally it might be a great idea, but Wow does it smell bad in the formal. We started calling her fish breath.

I should have known when Alice kept asking if we put in the rice too that we had the wrong quantity. I think it should have been 2 tablespoons of each for 4 oz. she didnít have much luck drinking the watered down formula with the playtex nipple even after we made the hole much bigger. We switched the formula to the sippy cup and she drank a little.

After lunch, we got back on the bus to go back to our hotel in Zhangjing. We would be there for several more days. The bus ride back seemed even longer. Luckily, she does well in a moving vehicle, when she isnít strapped into a car seat. She slept most of the way home. Iíve heard many people say that it is good if your baby cries a lot. She still didnít laugh or cry she just had a blank stair most of the time. I was still kind of glad she wasnít crying.

The narrow roads were a lot more crowed on the trip home. There were lots of traffic jams and we got to see an example of Chinese "road rage." One truck driver was so angry at the other that he jumped up on the other guy's truck and started punching him through the window. He was kind of held back by the guy in the passenger seat waving a metal pipe. Our guide Mr. Gu jumped out of our bus. We all thought, Oh no Mr. Gu is going to get in the fight. Instead he directed our bus driver around the parked trucks so we could keep going.

To make any time at all on these dirt roads, you had to do some really treacherous passing. I must have thought we were going to die 30 times on that return trip. Our driver also had his own wife and child in the front seat of the bus. This didnít stop him from getting out at one of those garage shops and taking a big hit of a bong. We were in a traffic jam and stopped in front of this garage, Iím not sure if he new these people or if this was the service they were offering at this shop. We guessed this was a hit of opium but maybe it was just tobacco. His driving didnít seem to be impaired. It really took great skill to not get killed on these roads and Iíve lived in New Jersey.

The drivers in China are so crazy you just canít look out the windows. The city driving was bad too. We only saw two traffic lights in Guangzhou one of the largest cities in China. There was a lot of merging and traffic circles - again like New Jersey.

We got her back to our hotel room and decided the best thing to do would be to give her a bath and check her out. We took off her orphanage clothes. She was wearing a cute sailor knickers outfit. It was actually the nicest outfit she had at that point. I didnít want to buy new clothes and haul them all to china not knowing what size she wore. At twenty five cents a piece I had no problem tossing out garage sale clothes that were too small. As I took off her outfit, I saw a small red ring on her chest. I got out my rash pictures from the Texas kit and compared. It sure looked like ring worm to me. Charlie had had ring worm when he was young and he was also convinced that it was ring worm. He told me not to touch it or I would get ring worm too.

Not touching any part of your wiggling baby, when you have never given a baby a bath before, is next to impossible. I accidentally touched it about a half dozen times trying to give her a bath. Charlie thought it was pretty funny, so I made him show me how. Charlie has a grown son and he was very active in taking care of him. It was great to have someone with experience, even though he was getting a lot of laughs at my expense. We got her dressed in some nice "new to her" clothes and then tried to feed her again. This time we had the right kind of silicon nipple that she liked.

I passed around the Texas Medical kit rash pictures and treatment sheet to the other families so they could figure out what their babies had and how to treat it. That night we gave her some dimatap for her cold. We thought that must be why she is so quiet and still. She was sick and the dimatap was making her drowsy. She only woke up a few times that night and was easily comforted and put back to sleep.

The next day, the group went to the friendship store. Charlie stayed behind with her. She was still sick with a cold and sluggish. I bought more bottles with silicon nipples, bottled water, chips ahoy cookies and some beer. I was done in about 15 minutes. Stupidly, I didnít buy more of the formula, thinking I would be able to get it in Guangzhou. I still had plenty, just using 2 teaspoons per bottle. While I was waiting for the rest of the group, I had a chance to practice my Chinese on a few people. I didnít have my baby with me but people would still say hello. When I would say Ni hao, they would come right over. I noticed I had much better success in communicating in Zhangjing than I did in Guangzhou.

The next day, our group was scheduled to go to the beach. her cold was sounding even worse and there was no way we would take her to the beach. Instead we had a late breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It turned out to be great timing. The day before, we ran into a couple from a group that was adopting babies all diagnosed with heart murmurs. Their agency supplied a doctor for their group. We asked how her baby was doing. She said none of the babies turned out to have heart murmurs. They might have corrected since the first exam or maybe they never had them. She asked about her and we told her about her ringworm, cold, rickets, and her over all sluggishness. She said she would ask the doctor to stop over and see us.

When Doctor Yee came over to our table he looked at the ring worm first. He told us that it wasnít ring worm but a strawberry hematoma. This is where blood vessels make their way to the surface of the skin. It would go away in a few years and as long as it didnít get scratched (it could bleed a lot) it was nothing. He looked at her bowed legs and said they could straighten out when she starts putting weight on them. We told him how listless she was. She would sleep 2 hours and play for 15 minutes and then back to sleep for two hours all day long. He said he would come to our room later that day. We were already starting to feel better. We could stop worrying about getting ring worm and maybe he would know why she was so tired all the time.

We waited in the hotel room for hours. It was really hard to sit in the room for so long but we didnít want to miss the doctor. He had a lot of patients in the hotel and was squeezing us in the schedule. He examined her and said she seemed fine except for a cold. She didnít have a fever or an ear infection but he thought we should start the antibiotic as a precaution to make sure she didnít get any infections before our plane ride back home. I asked if it would be all right to start the antibiotic in two days when we got to Guangzhou. It required refrigeration and it would be much easier when we were at the next hotel. He happened to notice her bottle and that the formula looked very thin. He suggested that I get the instructions on the bag interpreted. He gave us some steroids for her but I never did give those to her. I couldnít remember what they were supposed to do for her, so I decided not to give them to her.

We tried to give Dr Yee 100 dollars but he wouldnít take it. He gave us such "piece of mind' that one hundred dollars was not even close to what his service was worth. He wouldnít take it. He was not being paid by his group either. Their agency had advertised on the Internet for a doctor to go to China. They only paid for his air fare and his room. He had family in China that he managed to see for a day or so, but what a great thing he did for so many families. He told us that he would be at the White Swan for several days, if we needed him. I told the other families that he would be there. We were leaving the next morning and they wouldnít have a chance to see him.

When he left, I made a very strong version of the formula. As soon as she finished the bottle, she gave me this great big smile. Mom, you finally got it right! I told the others in the group but they had already figured it out. She picked right up and was a very happy baby. Charlie was great at getting her to laugh and her progress after that was incredible.

It was late afternoon and whole group had to meet in the lobby. They didnít tell us why. We were going to take the traditional picture of all the babies together on a couch. We waited for ever for the hotel people to move the couch out of the sun. While we were waiting, one of the guys in the group organized a picture of our entire travel group.

There were 6 babies, 11 parents and 3 grandparents in our Zhangjing group. We left part of our group behind in Guangzhou: a mother, uncle and grandmother.

Next we all went up to a very fancy hotel room and the babies got their group shot.

The babies didnít like being left alone on the couch and of course when one starts crying it is all over.

Later that evening, I was very restless after waiting in the room all day for the doctor. I walked around the hotel and after I ran out of things to see, I sat in the lobby for a while. There were lots of men smoking cigarettes and talking on cell phones. I have never seen people use cell phones as much as those business men.

She and I sat in the lobby looking at a lot of beautiful women coming into the hotel in groups of two. They all had big purses but were not all dressed alike. Some were in nice pants, some in dresses, others in evening gowns. I thought there must be some kind of womenís group meeting at the hotel. They kept on coming, in always in twos, always nice looking women with large purses. I could see the balcony of the second floor that held the conference rooms. The women were not getting off the elevator on the 2nd floor. They were going right to the rooms. Then it occurred to me that someone on the Internet said that the Silver Sea was a brothel. It took a while to occur to me. When I think brothel, I think of a sleazy place. This was a nice hotel.

The next day, we headed back to Guangzhou. We were glad to leave Zhangjing. There wasnít much to do there. The hotel wasnít really near anything and it was too hot to walk more than a block or two. We just waited and waited for her passport to come. Charlie was convinced that this waiting was a scheme to get more tourist dollars into the economy.

As our travel group gathered in the lobby waiting for our bus to take us to the airport, Dr. Yee came by and asked how she was doing. We told him how she picked up once we made the formula stronger. As we thanked him again, the others in the group started asking him to look at their babies. He got a brief look at all the babies and told the parents that yes, those bug bites were scabies and they needed to medicate the babies and themselves. Almost all the babies had an ear infection or were border line for an ear infection. This was a scary thing to tell us as were headed for the airport. Oh boy a plane full of babies with ear infections. Luckily, it was a short flight. We must not have gotten to a high enough altitude, since none of the babies cried on that trip.

The next morning in Guangzhou, I woke up early to a feel a wet bed. I looked over and she had a very bad case of diarrhea. We had a crib, but didnít think it was safe. It was also very hard to put her down without waking her. We took turns sleeping with her. It wasnít easy. She was like an acrobat, flinging her arms back and forth and completely turning 180 degrees. We thought we could spoil her now and get her back in a crib when we got home. It was a real mess. I can see why a hotel would not be anxious to have people with sick babies staying in their rooms. I think it was the change in water that did it to her. I notice that the water in the shower in Zhanjing smelled and looked very clean. The water in Guangzhou, coming out of the shower, smelled a lot like the river- really bad. I decided that I would only use bottled water and heat the bottle with the boiled water they delivered to the room. After all, boiling water with pollution gets rid of the bacteria but not the pollution. She didnít have diarrhea again on the trip.

We had another guide now to replace Mr. Gu. Raymond our agencyís main guy in Guangzhou and Alice were now helping us out. Raymond asked us if we had any documents about which vaccinations our babies already had. Damn, another thing we forgot to ask! I have a feeling that there was no medical treatment available at her orphanage. Our agency sent a box of medical supplies for the orphanage, but it was given to another orphanage in Maoming. Huazhou had no medical personnel to understand what the medicine was for and the dosage to give. I guess the medicine directions were in English.

That morning, we were bused from our hotel to the White Swan Hotel. From there, we walked to the photo shop to get our visa pictures taken. As we were leaving, we saw a lot of very cute babies waiting to get into photo shop. Charlie said it looked like a meeting of the Democratic Party on the side walk out the Photo shop. I had to laugh. He was right. We were surrounded by middle aged, bleeding heart liberal, yuppies. We hate to be categorized but there we were with our China baby.

Next, we walked over to the clinic to get the health checks. The clinic was filled with screaming babies. I thought this would remind her of the orphanage and she would be scared that she was going back. She was very good. They wanted to lay her down to check her stomach and she started crying for a minute. Then of course in the immunization room she cried when they gave her two shots. The doctor asked if any babies had a fever or diarrhea. I said that she had diarrhea last night. This meant she didnít have to get the polio immunization. Another familyís baby had a fever and they had to come back Monday to get one of the shots. The doctor looked at her ears for a long time but didnít say anything was wrong with them.

We had some time to kill at the White Swan Hotel while we waited for the bus back to our hotel. We looked again at the shops and I bought some cough medicine for myself and some for her, too. We got a big kick out of watching all the Chinese families that came to the White Swan to get their picture taken. The big painting with the swans and the moonlight in the back was a big attraction for picture taking. She and I posed there ourselves. We noticed two things about the Chinese children. One, they got to do what ever they wanted. We saw many of them running free in public places. I guess that seems strange to me. In the USA, we are all so afraid of kidnappers and worse. The second thing we noticed was the children got along very well with their brothers and sisters. Not everyone in China has one child. The brothers and sister were always hugging each other. None of the "he touched me" or "sheís looking at me" stuff we see here.

Only two of the families in our group caught the bus back to the hotel. The rest stayed at the White Swan to eat at the great restaurants and check out the shops. One even found the "shop on the stairs" and gave us directions so we could find it too. They also said you could get pizza at the Swan. We were too tired for a lot of shopping and knew we had many more days to go back to the White Swan.

We had the bus driver stop for us at a department store to get more formula. The guys and Raymond went in and found what they thought was close to our formula. We wish we had stocked up at the Zhangjing Friendship store. I had a feeling it wasnít the same type of formula. It was a stage 3 type of formula. I did a taste test and it definitely wasnít as sweet and decided not to give it to her. The other family started to mix their new formula with the old and the baby got really constipated. I went to another store later and stood there looking at the formula so long that many passers bye decided I needed help. I reluctantly took the one they recommended, but tasted just like the original. It was really sweet and it seemed to work.

We had finished all the adoption work we could possibly do. Now, we had some major waiting. It was Friday and the consulate didnít open until Tuesday. We went shopping a lot. We went back to the Nanfang department store looking for a bottle warmer but instead found a rice steamer for about 4 dollars. This really nice old man came up to us and asked us about the adoption. He spoke English very well and he tried to talk us out of that steamer. When I explained to him that we only needed it to work until Wednesday, he said it would be fine. He had the sales person plug it in to see if it worked at all before we left the store. There was quite a crowed gathering around us in that store. I got uncomfortable and said lets get out of here.

The steamer worked until Tuesday, just one day short of our need. The pan and lid that came with the steamer were her favorite toys. It was four dollars well spent. The Zhanjing Hotel had a hot water machine in the room. You could make buckets of it. In our Guangzhou hotel, it was not easy to get enough hot water to heat a bottle and clean all the bottles and nipples. The hall monitor was rarely at her post and calling the front desk was always frustrating. You need hand signals and props to communicate. It was nice to be able to make my own hot water and place the bottle in the pot of boiling water.

The people we met in China were very friendly. We only had one bad experience in China, and that was at the Nanfang department store too. A young man was giving me these nasty looks. I thought it was kind of strange because everyone always smiled at us, especially with the baby. I ran into him several times as we looked around and then as we were checking out I noticed him trying to see how much money Charlie had. We had her at that point, so we were cash poor. The woman checking us out shooed him a way and he took off. Iíve never seen such an obvious thief. One other person in our travel group had a similar experience. She was also helped out by a local.

While we were shopping, I was looking for a T-shirt or any clothing that had Chinese writing. I wanted to be able to make up something funny every time someone asked what it said. I looked in many stores and never saw anything with Chinese Characters. There was plenty of writing but if was all in English. English is very in! We bought some clothes for her that had some strange interpretations on them. There was an embroidery of Mobie Dick on a sailor suit and it said Myobie. We also bought her a Christmas shirt with little elves that says the Merriling Christmas Group. I donít get it but it sure will be a conversion starter. Charlie did find a shirt with some Chinese characters and some dragons in a souvenir shop.

Another favorite toy of hers was the mirror. When we first got her, she didnít recognize her self. In a day or two, she was in love with her reflection. One of her favorite things to do was suck on a playtex nipple stuck to the mirror. It was a full length mirror that was well bolted to the wall so you could let her play there all day. It was very hard to remove the nipple from the mirror once she sucked the air out. She made a noise just like Maggie Simpson when she sucked on it.

We decided to go with our group and take a tour of some local Guangzhou sites. Our tour guide was Jack. He was a cool dude in his early twenties that didnít seem to know or care too much about the sites. It was a job. The first stop was for lunch. We went to a Chinese restaurant that must cater to tourists. Everyone in there was in a group. There was another group of adoptive families and a tourist group from some European country. I liked the food there better than any of the places we went to as a group. I like fried rice, but in these restaurants it would never come until the very end of the meal, after you have already eaten more than you wanted to eat. They really like to push food and beer on you.

The first site was the Six Banyan Pagoda and Temple. There were a bunch of monks at the temple. They were dressed in long black robes in the 90 degree weather. It was very interesting, but Jack didnít seem to know a whole lot about it or maybe he had a hard time explaining it to foreigners. A few people in our group climbed the steps to the top of the pagoda. I was already sweating just standing around. I didnít even want to think how hot it would be inside the pagoda. We thought for sure someone would keel over climbing up to the top. Amazingly, everyone made it back alive.

Our next stop was the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. It was OK. The building was a large old theater and there was a statue of the Dr. out front. They had a nice garden, but it wasnít as interesting as the temple.

The last stop was shopping. Jack took us the store that was designated for tourists. The plaque out in front said so. We all looked around, I inquired about getting chops made but the person wasnít there. I asked the others that had chops made at "the store on the stairs" how much they paid. This store was about twice as expensive. Everyone came to the conclusion that this place was too expensive and we were all done shopping in about 15 minutes. Jack seemed to really want us to shop. We figured he must get a percentage of the profits when he brings in some tourist.

While we were waiting for our Consulate appointment on Tuesday, we made a couple more trips to the White Swan. We bought some souvenirs at their shops and we found the "shop on the stairs. It definitely is the best place to get chops and traditional clothes. She had a hand held computer that could look up the names and the symbols of both her Chinese and English names. I canít remember how much the Chop cost, but it was much less expensive than the "designated tourist shop." It was also about 3 times bigger.

The woman at "the shop on the stairs" was very nice and gave her a jade bracelet and a souvenir with a yellow tassel. It had a picture of a guy that looked like a Chinese Elvis. We had her Chop made up with her name in English on top and her new American name in Chinese Characters. Some people in our group had chops made up for everyone in their family. They do make nice gifts. I think she will really like her chop in a few years.

Finally, it was our turn to go to American Conciliate. We had a 10:30 appointment and when we arrived there were already about 20 babies and 40 parents waiting. They must have over booked because of the holiday. I thought that the consulate closed at noon, so I didnít bring any formula. Luckily, one of the people in our group let me have some of her formula. I guess group travel has itís rewards too. We didnít get interviewed until about 12:30.

Two hours in a waiting room with a baby is a challenge. Of course I was worrying that something would go wrong and we wouldnít be able to leave. I had filed my taxes by phone this year and only had the work sheet form to go through the phone prompts. I thought for sure they would say this was unacceptable. All my worrying was for naught. They never even asked for the tax forms. Others in the group had brought sealed home studies. They never asked for those either. The interview lasted about 2 minutes. I donít think they even asked me any questions.

They said to pick up the visa after 3:00pm the next day. Our group had three volunteers pick up the visaís for the group. We figured they would be back about 4:30, at about 5:00p I wandered down the hall to see if any one else had heard anything. They were wondering what was happening too. I started worrying again. Oh no, we wonít be able to leave China tomorrow. I was convinced that the Consulate must be closed by now and we were visa-less. We were also getting very hungry. We usually would eat a large breakfast, have a snack and then an early dinner. At about 6:00 we gave up waiting and worrying and went out to eat. As we entered the hall, we saw one of the guys and Alice with the Visas. We were so glad to hear this would be our last night. We were dying to get home to our own beds and pizza.

Our checked bags needed to be in the hall at 11pm that night. We had some planning to do. We would get into our PJs and throw the dirty clothes in our luggage and put it in the hall. We wanted the minimal amount of carry on luggage for the very long trip home. One of the guys in our travel group got very sick the day we went to the Consulate. Charlie started to come down with the very same thing. He said it felt like the flu.

That morning, we flew to Hong Kong. Again we worried at every border that they would give Charlie a hard time. At the China to Hong Kong customs check, the guy did give Charlieís passport a real going over. He looked at it several times, and started shaking his head. There was something stamped on the wrong page or something. Miraculously he let him through any way.

Since the plane ride to Hong Kong from L.A. was such a delight that we decided we would pay any amount to get a Business Class seat. Our travel agent told us this could be done at the airport. It was a good thing that we had a few hours before our plane left. It took almost the whole time we had to get the tickets upgraded. They had a huge line of people waiting to check in for their flights and they made us stand a side for a long time. Then when I tried to charge the extra fair, my credit card was over the limit. We went from having 3 coach seats to 2 business class with a baby. It ONLY cost an additional 4,000 dollars. If we only knew, we could have paid 1,000 more and flew business class both ways. If we planed to fly BC on the way back only we could have saved 2,000 dollars. When we look back on all the money we have spent on her over the years this will be a drop in the bucket. I guess that upgrade was really for us any way.

The ride to LA seemed to be about 1/3 as long as the flight to Hong Kong. Business Class is soooooo nice. She slept most of the time, but when she was awake, there was room on the floor for the two of us to play. It is great to be able to get out of your seat without disturbing 2 other sleeping people. The only problem I had with her on the flight was trying to change her diaper on the flip down changing table in the bathroom. She didnít appreciate that at all. Of course the food was much better and you really got what you asked for. Itís amazing what a 3,000 dollars plane ticket can buy. (coach was 1,200 round trip) We got to LA late, as usual, and we rushed to customs and our connecting flight to Dullas. We were the first ones off the plane. The airport people yelled "visitors over here", and "US citizens over here." I asked "where do the aliens go?" They pointed to the last booth. There was no one there. We could have walked right on through. We did actually, but then realized that we shouldnít and came back. I guess it was a good thing we didnít. How would we get her pink/green card?

We walked up to our gate just as they started to board the passengers. As we were waiting to take off, another one of our travel families boarded our flight too. They were lucky, this was there last connection, we had one more to go. The plane was very empty, we were glad because since we changed to Business Class for the international part only, we canceled her own seat. If the plane was full, she would have to sit on my lap the whole flight. Our travel group members were seated right across the aisle from us. She was not as sleepy on this flight. Charlie, still feeling sick from the flu, went to the back of the plane to lie down across three seats. Dinner came while he was gone and it was a real challenge eating dinner on the plane with a squirming baby on your lap. She wasnít eating solids yet, so I couldnít feed her any of the food. In my struggle I spilled a 7up down my pants. Not that my pants were in good shape to start but now they were wet and cold and we still had a long way to go.

As we approached Dullas airport the other family (Dad and Grandma) dressed their baby in a pink dress and hat. She was about to meet her Mommy for the first time. I was hoping we would get to see this, but again we were running late for our connection. We de-planed before the other family, and there was a big group of people waiting for them to get off the flight. One of them spotted a baby from China and they all looked for a glimpse of her. I quickly introduced myself to the other mom as we were going passed and said "got to go . . we have a flight to catch. I looked back to see the big reunion.

We would not have a big crowd waiting for us. There isnít any one I know crazy enough to travel to Syracuse at 11:30pm. My Mom and Dad were at our house and could wait a few more hours to see their Granddaughter.

The flight from Dullas to Syracuse was in one of those planes where you can tap the pilot on the shoulder if you thought he was flying too fast. The pilot assured us that it would be a smooth landing because his beautiful fiancee was on board. The landing was smooth and we were finally almost home.

We finally got to Syracuse and into our car at about midnight. We got in my car and put her in her brand new car seat. She hated it. Donít tell anyone but we took her out of it. We thought she would be in more danger if she kept screaming. If that werenít enough, the car started making funny noises. It made a whooping noise. We ignored it and drove on. I found out later it was the tire going flat.

We stopped a Mc Donaldís, I thought it was funny because we never went to the Mc Donaldís in China even though it was close to our hotel. Charlie hadnít eaten in many hours and was desperate for food. We finally got home at about 1:30am

It had been about 30 hours since we left our hotel in Guangzhou. I got her out of the car seat (I got her back in a some point) and said to Grandma and Grandpa that I had brought them a great souvenir from China. I handed her over to my Mom and that was it. She was in love. My Mom spent the whole night rocking her to sleep. Iím not sure who needed it more, she or Mom. She waited a long time for her grandchild.

Charlie and I were so glad to be back home. Even though our sleep was interrupted occasionally by her crying. It was a good thing that Grandma was around to help with her because I got that flu too. I havenít been that sick in a long time. I was really run down from the adoption. I got sick two weeks before we left for China and had three colds in a row. Just as I thought I was better another cold would start. I think I was feeling bad for about 7 weeks.

In the year that we waited for China to match us with her, Charlie told me many times that a baby is a lot of work, but you canít know until you try it. Wow, it is all day and all night and your arms ache so much. Good thing she is only 16 pounds or Iíd really be in trouble. I also have a lot black and blue marks, and I donít even know how I got them. I think it was the second day in China that I came to the realization that I would probably never have a day off again. Well, not for a long time to come.

All this pain, hard work and tiredness is forgotten when she wakes up in the morning with a big smile and a hug for you. She has started patting me on the back now too, just like I do for her. She tilts her head to the side so you canít stay mad at her, even when she kicks you in the nose or throws something on the ground for the 300th time. She has attached to me too. She cries ever morning when I leave her at day care. I know she has a great time once Iím gone, but it is hard.

We have had her for three months now, and I canít imagine life without her. She started walking about two weeks after her first birthday. She loves to dance to any music. Even the beeps from the microwave can get her going. She says a few words now: "Up" and "Wilbur" . The Wilburs (our sheep) donít want anything to do with her yet. She is the center of our universe now. We are so glad we made the decision to adopt from China, and she seems to be very happy too.