Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We Will Walk

Gladdie Mae went 27 days in a row wearing her Gotcha outfit. We started kidding with each other...making bets for how long she’d hold out.

Then came Sunday. She didn’t change out of her pjs all day. Then Monday, the same. Then Tuesday, the same.

We Thought, HOPed, PRAYED that she was turning a corner in her trust and acceptance of us.
Could it finally be?

Then, that tiny sliver of sunlight was shut out when the window slammed down this morning.

She got dressed in her Gotcha outfit. Once again.

I’m not going to lie. I was upset. I melted down.

Partly from pride/jealousy. (Am I not enough for her? Why can’t she love me like she loves her foster mama?)

Partly from inconvenience. (Geez, now I’m going to have to wash this outfit every night again!)

But mostly from a broken heart...for my daughter.

Here she is, having just had the rug pulled out from under her. Her entire world topsy-turvy. 

She’s trying to make sense of it all by clinging for dear life to the only tangible thing she has from her old life. Probably hoping with every fiber of her being that she’ll get to go back to that old life.

My.Heart.Is.Breaking.

So I wept. And I let her see me weeping. I want her to know that she is not alone in this topsy-turvy mess. I weep for and with her.

I think she partly understood, because at one point, she handed me a tissue.

I'm grateful to a gracious God who forgives me my meltdowns. And a little girl, who does too.

So, what to do when your hope for your child has just been shattered into a million pieces?

You pick up your frustrated, weepy self by the scruff of the neck, and...you walk.

We live in a beautiful gulch that goes for a few miles up into the surrounding hills. I started walking up and down it a few months ago during some particularly stressful times in our adoption process. I found great comfort walking to a steady beat, listening to worship music, and praying as I walked.

So, I put the wee one in the stroller, in all her Gotcha-outfit-glory, and I pushed her for a couple miles.




I pushed until my legs burned and my heart was thumping out of my chest.

And I prayed the entire time. Sometimes my prayer was just “Jesus….”

Often, I can’t find the words to describe the pain...He knows. So I just say His name.

Walking is great therapy. It's good to get out in nature, to work your muscles, to be reminded of God's beauty and glory. To know that in this huge, vast universe, God cares for little Gladdie and her broken heart. God cares for us as we care for and love her. God knows.

I long for the day when she is at peace...with us.

But until then...we will walk.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Re-Entry

In the adoption community, the act of returning home after an international adoption, and all that ensues, is referred to as re-entry. It can be some of the HARDEST days of the process.

So far, our re-entry has been pretty smooth. But I digress. Let me start at the beginning of the end.

We last posted about our last day in China. We were pretty ready to get home. But, we were kind of dreading the trip. Just a LOT of logistics with a LOT of kids. LOL

We had a very early wake-up...3:45 for Simon and me and 4:30 for the Gs. We met our guide in the hotel lobby at 5 am. We couldn't believe how quiet the lobby was! Although we did see a few all night party-ers coming "home" at that time.


The ride to the airport was uneventful, but our guide told us a couple times that they have had "many problems" with similar flight schedules as ours was that day. So I was a bit apprehensive. If I had known what was coming, I would have high-tailed it right back to the hotel, called our travel agent, and re-scheduled our flights. Hindsight.

We were flying out of Guangzhou to Shanghai, and then to Seattle. The way China operates, we were not allowed to check our bags all the way through to Seattle. We were told we had to pick up our bags, re-check them, and then get on our international flight. Well, okay. As it was, we had a 2.5 hour layover before our Seattle flight. Plenty of time, right???

Wellllllllll, as we boarded our flight in Guangzhou (one of those get on a bus, ride out the the middle of the tarmac, climb some metal steps, and get on the plane kinds of boarding), we could tell something was wrong. There was NO AIR. It was STIFLING hot in that plane! Oh no! Could this hold us up and eat into all of the time we would need for our transfer in Shanghai? You better believe it!

The air conditioning was "broken...thank you for inconvenience." I think what the computer-generated translator meant was "sorry for the inconvenience." Uh, yeah! You better be sorry!

So, we sat on that tarmac for I-don't-know-how-long. All the while, I'm trying to swallow the lump of PANIC that has started to make its way up from the pit of my stomach. Please, God. PLEASE let us make our connection!!!

Finally, our flight is ready to go--with a fixed air-conditioner(!)--and I refuse to check the time. I don't want to see how late we are. I just keep praying the entire time.

Oh. I forgot to say that say that our seats on this flight were in 6 different rows...37C, 43C, 44C, 45C, 46C, and 47C. I was in 43C and Gladdie was 4 rows behind me in 47C. Really, Shanghai Airlines? REALLY?!?! So I not so patiently show the ticket numbers to an attendant, point to Gladdie, and she asks a gentleman next to me if he'd mind moving back. Whew!

So, we're in the air on our way to Shangahi, eating some sort of rice noodle breakfast, and things are looking up. I'm feeling pretty good about. The pilot announces our descent into Shanghai--"we will land at 10:10 am" (our connecting flight wasn't until 12:00 noon!)--all is right with the world!

Well, all WOULD HAVE been right with the world, if Shanghai Pudong Airport wasn't the BIGGEST AIRPORT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AND OUR PLANE HAD TO "PARK" A MILLION MILES AWAY FROM THE TERMINAL!!!!!

I am not kidding.

We landed at 10:10. You know how long it takes to disembark, right? All the pushing, shoving, etc. Women and children first? Connecting flights first? Don't be silly!

As a family of 6, we were LAST off the plane. Stuffed into a bus, and away we go to the terminal. Halfway there, the bus stops. And just sits there. It's 10:34. PANIC. Why have we stopped? Come on, people, let's go!!!! Oh, and Gladdie indicates she needs to use the bathroom. Of COURSE she does. Of course.

Turns out, we were stopped waiting for PLANES TO GO BY on their way to take-off. Seriously. That's how far away from the terminal we were.

And it's 10:34. And our connecting flight leaves at noon. And we still have to...well, you get the picture.

Finally, FINALLY, we arrive at the terminal. We rush to a restroom. We RUSH to the baggage claim. I RUSH to a Delta person. I show her our boarding pass for the Seattle flight and how it starts boarding at 11:25. She nods, says "wait here," and goes to look through the baggage claim door to see if any baggage is coming yet. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that she sensed the PANIC in my voice and was WILLING our luggage to get there ASAP.

But remember how far our plane was out on the tarmac? Well, our luggage had to come all.that.way.too.

Finally, FINALLY our bags come through on the conveyor belt. It is now 11:05.
NOT EVEN KIDDING.

We race to pile them onto 2 luggage carts, race to the "Transfer Desk," race to put them through an x-ray machine, race...

Wait. Why did you have to put them through an x-ray machine when they just came off a domestic flight, you may ask??????? Well, as my wise sister, who used to live in China, says: TIC. (This Is China) I think I remember Simon, at this point, yelling "I need you to stop throwing the luggage, Amy!"

Race to put our bags back onto the carts, race through the elastic maze to the transfer desk...
www.dreamstime.com
...and BEG the Delta people for help! A man comes up to us with a dot-matrix print out with passenger names on it. We point our names out, he puts a check mark next to them, and we think "Whew! We're going to be okay!"

And then we stand at the desk for what seems like HOURS!!! The time is now 11:20.

It looks as though people behind the desk are working on something, but what that something is??? We do not know because NOBODY is telling us ANYTHING!

I seriously thought about bursting into tears at that point. Maybe that would help our cause.

Finally, FINALLY, after hand writing the luggage routing numbers from stickers on each piece,  a woman indicates that we can start putting our bags on the conveyor belt (THEY HAD TO RE-TICKET EACH BAG!!!!), and before we get to our 2nd luggage cart, she brings our boarding passes to us, writes "25" on mine, and says "3rd floor." We then frantically leave our 6 pieces of luggage with total strangers, trusting they will load them and tag them correctly.

Gate 25, 3rd floor. Okay. We can do this. The time is now 11:25. Our flight is boarding. Now.

We race. And I mean RACE. Think Amazing Race style. Gracie and Gemma are ahead, I'm carrying a 35-lb backpack in the middle, and Simon is carrying a 50-lb backpack AND a 45-lb little Chinese girl. Said Chinese girl is absolute DEAD WEIGHT when it comes to being carried. Said Chinese girl is also yelling in Mandarin, taking Simon's glasses off, and slapping his head, almost playfully. Seriously.

We run, up 3 flights of escalators, looking for gate 25 arrows. Finally find a "Gates 16-29" sign and kick it in high gear.

Then, everything comes to a crashing halt. We have to go through immigration. You heard me correctly. To LEAVE China, you must pass through immigration.

AAAACCCKKKKK!!!

I find an employee directing foot traffic, show her that our flight is BOARDING NOW, and she rearranges the elastic maze for us to squeak ahead of lots of people. Yeah! It's now 11:35.

But wait!!! She asks us if we have our yellow cards filled out. Yellow cards? What yellow cards? Nobody said anything about yellow cards.

DOUBLE AAAACCCKKKKK!!!!!

We need to fill out a yellow card for EACH member of our family, including passport numbers, names, addresses, and flight details. ARE.YOU.KIDDING.ME.

I really just wanted to fall to the floor in a puddle, curl up in a ball, and transport myself to another dimension.

No way! We've come this far! We are NOT missing our flight!

Simon and I take 3 yellow cards each and start writing. I have no idea what I wrote. I'm sweating like crazy, the pen is slippery in my hands, my handwriting is unrecognizable. WHATEVER!

Finally, FINALLY we get our yellow cards filled out. I think people were steering clear of us #crazyAmericans because we walked right up to the immigrations officer with no one in line in front of us. I show him our boarding pass--that our flight is BOARDING NOW--and he kind of but not really rushes us through immigrations. We both had that Clark Griswold look in our eyes.

Whew! We're home-free! Just gotta find our gate. The time is 11:45.

But wait! We still have to go through security! That's right. SECURITY.

Do you know what a PAIN this is when it's just one person? Try multiplying that times 4 kids who have electronic devices that must be removed from backpacks. Add to it a wee Chinese girl who thinks everything is funny and a game, and a technology coordinator whose ENTIRE backpack must be emptied--- Every laptop, every battery pack, every tablet. #untimelyfirstworldproblems

TRIPLE AAAACCCKKKKK!!!!!

I about fainted at this point. But, this Mama was not about to be denied. No way, no how!!!

I yell--yes, yell (not my finest moment)--at the Gs to remove their iPads from their backpacks and get ready to go through security.

I gotta say, the 3 Gs were rockstars here. Somehow, I honestly don't know how, I and the 4 Gs are through security and ready to go. Poor Simon is getting practically cavity-searched at this point. I say to Gracie: "Gate 25...RUN!" The time is now 11:55.

She and Gem take off. I yell at Simon that we're going on, he yells back at me "I'll carry Gladdie...you go!" and we're off!

Imagine this, if you will...

1. Sweet Gracie leading the pack...rolling her carry-on behind her, sprinting like a champ. She's always been our map-reading, directional wizard. So far ahead of me that my mom instincts remind me about stranger danger and child abduction, but I just shake it off. No time to worry about that now!
2. Gemma right behind her. Running like crazy but having to hold her pants up with one hand because they're too big! (Telling me later that she plays soccer...she could keep running.)
3. Me, lumbering with my heavy backpack, sweat dripping--yes, dripping!--down my back and legs.
4. Gia, what a champ--alternating between running and walking fast, keeping up with me.
5. And Simon and Gladdie. He's carrying her and running with his backpack on. He's soaked through his t-shirt. She doesn't know how to wrap her legs around when being held, so his knees are hitting her legs with every step. And she's just having a grand old time laughing, hitting his head, yelling at him in Mandarin, blowing raspberries in his face, and taking his glasses on and off.... still.

I cannot make this stuff up.

I kid you not...Gate 25 was THE.ABSOLUTE.LAST.GATE.IN.THE.TERMINAL.

Of COURSE it was.

I see the gate before I'm actually there. I see the attendant holding her hand out to take my passports/boarding passes. I expect a "you made it!" from her. It seems like a mirage.

We all, except for Gladdie of course, are doubled over trying to catch our breath. There appears to be some kind of problem with one of our boarding passes. At that point, I don't care. They can't leave without us. We made it, right?

Much to my surprise, while we are waiting there, panting, several more passengers come to the gate...all looking surprisingly calm, cool, and collected compared to how I'm sure I appeared at that moment. I felt a slight triumph at not being last to reach the gate. Ha ha! Victory is mine! I shall not be denied!

They finally get us checked in, hand me all the passports, and we take the escalator down to the "hallway" to the plane. There, they check our boarding passes AGAIN. Apparently, there is STILL something wrong with one of them. I care not. I'm in a state of euphoria at this point, having made our flight just in the nick of time. Or maybe I was really that close to passing out from exertion. I'm not sure. I do know that my legs felt like jelly at that point.

Finally, FINALLY they let us through. Oh wait! One more bag check before you enter the plane. "Ma'am, do you have any bottled water in your bag?" "Sir, I just RAN through this ENTIRE airport in less than 20 minutes, including immigration AND security with 4 kids, one of whom doesn't understand a thing that's going on. When do you think I had time to purchase a bottle of water? And speaking of water, I'm absolutely parched. Do you have any?"

We get on the plane, find our seats, get the Gs situated...and for the next 12 hours, I don't care what happens.

WE.ARE.ON.OUR.WAY.HOME.


So, getting back to re-entry...

It's actually gone quite well. My folks, 2 sisters, nieces/nephews, in-laws, aunt/uncle, and cousins all greeted us at the airport.

What a sweet welcome for our newest American. BTW, Gladdie became an American citizen the second the plane touched down in Seattle. :)


We rode back to mom and dad's where we stayed for 3 days.

We left China Friday morning and returned to Seattle on...Friday morning. So we basically had to relive a day. Except for Gracie and me, all the Millers stayed up until 6/7 that evening. From that night until now, all the Gs have slept at least 8 hours (Gladdie, more) each night. Praise the Lord!

We drove back to Idaho on Monday. #swaggerwagon And the 3 Gs went back to school today.

I will stay home with Gladdie for the rest of the school year.

None of us got sick, like in 2014.

So far, it's been the smoothest re-entry of them all.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gladdie--Day 11--The Wonderful, Heartbreaking, Beautiful Story


The last full day of our China trips are always #bittersweet. We want to absorb as much of the culture that we can while not stressing ourselves out before our BIG day of travel. As Simon mentioned earlier, it's so #bittersweet.

If I think about it too much, I might start to weep. This is Gladdie's last full day in her birth country...the country she's lived in for 7 years. The language, food, people, and smells that she's used to. This is the last day she will experience all those. We are blessed that each of the other Gs have been able to re-visit the land of their birth. But who knows what the future holds? We have no idea if Gladdie will ever have the opportunity to return to her birth land again.






Thus, it's #bittersweet.

We awoke late and had a leisurely breakfast at the amazing hotel buffet.



We lingered and fed the koi both in the upper AND lower ponds.





We had some nice downtime in our apartment, starting to pack and trying to relax.







Mommy went out alone to purchase a new piece of luggage and do a *little* shopping at H & M across the street.

We sent daddy out for some Chinese McD's for lunch.





We took a walk to a new/different part of Guangzhou in search of last minute souvenirs/gifts.






We played some apartment living room basketball.




We watched some Chinese cartoons and whatever else looked interesting to a certain someone.





We went to the pool one last time (this was the hottest day since our arrival!).









We went to a familiar restaurant for our last dinner in GZ. They were even showing Star Wars on one of their TVs. It was meant to be.







And we got the girls 1 last faux ice cream cone from 7 Eleven on our walk back to our apartment.

Now, the girls are bathed and in bed; most of our bags are packed and ready; we have returned the stroller we borrowed to the concierge; we have ordered a luggage cart to be sent up at 4:45 am; we are pretty much ready to go.



But part of me doesn't want to go. I think part of that feeling might be due to the fact that the REAL work of adding Gladdie to our family really begins once we get home. But I think mostly, I'm nostalgic for her sake. Trying to take it all in so that I can tell her the wonderful, heartbreaking, beautiful story of how she entered our family.






I don't want to miss a thing!

So, please keep us in your prayers. We have a super early morning and 17+ hours of travel time PLUS jet lag to contend with once we arrive back in the states.

This #goingtogladdie journey is really just beginning. We covet your prayers for many more days, weeks, months to come. We will love sharing how Gladdie transitions into our family.

We will love sharing the wonderful, heartbreaking, beautiful story of the #Miller6Pack.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Gladdie--Day10--We've Come So Far...

After a "day off" according to the itinerary, we have had lots of time to reflect on our experience so far. There is only so much we can do in a 2 bedroom high rise apartment in the heart of Guangzhu China. But we've made the most of it, right?



What a journey this has been. From the decision to pursue another adoption, to the referral, to our travels to meet Gladys, the twists and turns have far surpassed anything we could have imagined... and then some. It is interesting, in hindsight, or at least so far, to see how each of our journeys to our daughters have been unique, and progressively challenging in a variety of ways. Of course, in addition to being unique, the challenges have been incrementally more challenging, or in other words, God has not given us more than we could handle. There have been a few moments where I have wondered and even doubted, but each and every time, ultimately, He has proven more than faithful.

This experience has not been an exception, not for one moment. I am remembering a little over a week ago, fresh off 15+ hours of flights, settling into our room at the Hefei Holiday Inn, the "luxurious" fragrance, the soft glow of city lights and smog, like only a China night can produce. In so many ways, like that first van ride from the Chongqing airport to our hotel, where each pedestrian and bicyclist made me grip my seat in fear, this ride felt similar, only I was somewhat relaxed. This time, we were anxiously calm. Heck, we had done this 3 times prior. I even thought to myself, "skip the small talk Michael (our guide), we know what to expect." But even then, we listened carefully, while sharing where each of our daughters were from, Gracie: Fuling City, Gemma: Zhongshan City, and Gia, Shijiazhuang. All three, so different, yet so very similar. We were veterans at this gig... confidently nervous.















I vividly remember how great the bed and pillow of that Holiday Inn felt, especially after 2 long flights, and wrangling 5 pieces of luggage multiple times, with airport staff who don't speak more than 2 or 3 words of English. Even with our experience, the trek, and the heat was enough to wear a person out. Oh, yeah, and I'm not 30 anymore, so there's that. Sleep took over almost the minute my head hit the pillow of my share of the "double" bed that we settled for, so we could have an adjacent joining room. Yes we had some "rest" the next day, but somehow, my mind and body hit the fast forward button for that day. That next night, it was time to go to sleep. Again, the travel had taken a toll, and I was ready. I was able to fall asleep quickly, but my biorhythm took over a few hours later, and I was awakened by the expectant beating of my heart. This one was different; I could feel it. I put my trust in God, and I also called upon our experiences, but I still couldn't escape the feeling of expectation. Thankfully, after a few prayers,  a podcast in my earbuds helped me go back to sleep.





The beautiful process of our relationship began that morning. And it has progressed steadily each day, even amidst the hurt, grieving, and frustrations. Starting that day... the van ride... the waiting, and then the moment we got to meet Gladys, all a beautiful patchwork of memories and life experiences, so thick with reality. She immediately displayed her bravery and confidence by taking out a yogurt from her backpack and piercing the top with a straw, with authority. Shortly after some paperwork formalities had commenced, she began to unpack her backpack and share each item with us, beaming with pride. It was as though God was giving us a glimpse of her beautiful personality. Mom and dad really need that.
















Then Gladdie came willingly with us, out of the civil affairs office, into the hallway, with a slight hesitation, and onto the elevator, after a little bit of Mandarin reassurance from our guide, Michael. Out of the building, through cars, pedestrians, and bicycles, we got into our van. It wasn't until a mile or so into the trip back to the hotel, that she showed us a glimpse of her fear and pain. It came in the form of subtle tears and sobs but we knew what it was. It was as though we hoped it didn't come, but knew that it would be a good sigh if it did. #Bittersweet.






When we got back to the hotel, the grief could not be suppressed. Gladys shared 5+ years of grief and sadness, in the form of pictures, memories, and mementos, over, and over and over. That day felt like 100 days for us, and probably 1000 days for Gladys. But it represented progress, even if it felt like regression. Because Gladys lived with a foster family for 5 years, this transition would be brutal. How does one even begin to explain or soothe this process? Nonetheless, we forged ahead. Brokenness, sadness, love, redemption... minute by minute.









From Hefei to Guangzhou, another transition, another change. But we made it together. Each minute and hour, we got to know one another a little bit better. Gladys has vacillated from bed to hallway, but each day we are making progress. We are so thankful for her grieving, as it gives us a glimpse into her soft and vulnerable heart.  Through each tantrum and fit, we can see insecurity and neediness. We are more than prepared to supplement those with love. These are welcome events and opportunities.









We still get the tantrums. We still struggle with the language barrier, but the connections and progress far outweigh the hurdles. Where still, Gladys is not willing to consider wearing anything but her "Gotcha" outfit, we see progress in so many other ways. Oh, we are so grateful for Strawberry Shortcake too, for she has been such a comfort these difficult days! Seriously, this movie gets MVP of the entire trip! But seriously, Gladys is making so much progress. Just the countenance in her eyes is exponentially better than just a short week prior. Even phrases in Mandarin have more meaning because of the non-verbal and tone of the message. It is amazing. Just a short week later.
















It has been a little over a week, Gladys Mae. But each hour of each day, we are getting to see and experience more and more of your heart. Heck, we think you were 5/8 of the way towards changing to a swim suit, so you could "youyong," but it was just not quite the time. We have a couple more significant legs of this initial journey, but it is going to be OK. Just you wait and see. We are ready to show you what forever family really means.



From backpacks, to pictures, to hallway bedrooms, to flights, to strollers, to medical exams, to language barriers, to trips on foot, to rainstorms, to living room basketball, to daytime Chinese TV, we've come so far, and yet have so far to go... together. We will go so very far together, one hour, one day at a time. #GoingToGladdie