Monthly Archives: January 2014

She’s incredible

3 days home and we’re overwhelmed with joy with how well things are going. I don’t even understand how one child can have so much strength and good in her heart to be able to be transitioning like this. She’s remarkable and we certainly do not deserve to be parents to such an incredible child.

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Yiyi is starting to figure out what she likes to do at home and where she likes to hang out at home. One of her absolute favorites is to put on my wedding veil and wedding dress petticoat and run around the house. Today it was just the veil, but it also required a dance party. Excuse the blurry photo, but when you are in a dance frenzy, you can’t stop to take a posed photo. And why would you want to?

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Yiyi also found a love for the hula hoop today. She is very good at it! I was super impressed. And Yiyi was super disappointed that mommy didn’t have the gift of the hula hoop as well. Please enjoy this video for your viewing pleasure.

She’s really incredible. We’re going to her first doctors appointment tomorrow, which I’m sure will be met with much distain but perhaps an ice cream after can help soften the blow. We thank you for continued prayers and support! We are feeling so very loved.

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Thank you!!!

And we’re home

Just a short update to let everyone know we arrived home safe and sound tonight. And if you can believe it…about 15 minutes early! Unheard of in air travel almost. Everything was on time and all was well. We were a little bit worried when the immigration officer in Minneapolis told us this was his first international adoption, but he quickly got some help and we were on our way. We were greeted by a small but joyous crowd at the airport at KCI. I was so happy to get to see my parents faces as they became grandparents for the first time. What a blessing! At home, my brother and his girlfriend came over to join for dinner and we had our first DeSimone family dinner of pizza and chicken. Yiyi loved the chicken, made by my sweet mom. Yiyi played with Barbies for awhile until shower and bed. I’m not sure how long she’s going to sleep so I’m going to take the time now to sleep while I can.

I am anticipating a full day tomorrow of Barbies and learning how to use the elevator on our (new for us) Barbie Dreamhouse. She’s been in the US nearly 6 hours and already has 6 Barbies. Oh my lands.

We cannot wait to start meeting each and every one of you. You will love her. And I know she will love it here, in time, after much rest and learning that yes, in fact, we do have potatoes and yogurt in Megwo.

Blessings to you all and thank you!!
Nikki

And today we led a parade

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While you were sleeping, we were leading a parade at DisneyLand. Perhaps you may be unclear as to how parades work, so let me share it with you. Without a Grand Marshall, there can be no parade. DisneyLand is no exception. And today, Brian, Nikki, and Yiyi, assembled separately from Kansas, Missouri, and Guizhou, China led the parade as the Pauls family at Hong Kong Disney.

Some of you may recall my professional first blog article when I referenced prioritizing funds for adoption, over, let’s say, a trip to Disney. It seemed a little surreal as I was walking my newly adopted child into Hong Kong Disney, just days after getting her. Brian reminded me too, so it was hard to forget. But there were many magical experiences today that really led me to be able to understand why and how people are enchanted by this amazing place. In addition to being the Grand Marshalls, we were also given special treatment at the shows by getting to sit in the front row and often were engaged with by cast members through High 5’s and Happy New Year greetings. Additionally, all the princesses knew Yiyi’s name and greeted her by name as she walked up. During the parade, Tinkerbell came up to us and said “I love you Yiyi.” Mickey and Minnie let her hug them as much as she wanted to. Seriously, way to go Disney!

This day would not have been possible if not for the incredible gifts from our new friend, Kristy. Kristy is a friend of a friend, who generously donated three tickets to get us in. Kristy was the one who helped us request the front row seats and I’m certain helped pull us some major strings with the Grand Marshall thing. And I’m 100% sure that Kristy told all her princess friends about Yiyi and ensured they knew her name and special need. We thought it was pretty amazing when Aurora greeted her by name, but even more incredible when she took Yiyi’s hand to feel her princess hat with one hand, and took Yiyi’s other hand to feel her own and said “Yiyi, we’re both princesses. They’re the same!” Kristy, I wish we could adequately thank you for your generosity of the tickets, preparation, and kindness you bestowed upon us. I only wish you could have seen Yiyi’s face today, about a 100 times. Perhaps some of these photos will convey to you how incredible Yiyi’s day was. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you a million times over.

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And then we had a lovely dinner tonight with a sweet friend, Mayu, who gave Yiyi a Barbie doll and the cutest shirts. Yiyi is now officially in love with Mayu and is disappointed that she lives here. I could see a future of Barbie playing with those two! Thank you Mayu! It was so good to see you!!!

And now we must say goodbye to China for good. We’re off early in the morning tomorrow, on a long journey home. I need to get our bags packed and somehow get this child on a shuttle at 5:40 a.m. Prayers for safe travels and on time flights are welcome. If all goes well, we should be landing in Kansas City right around 4:30 tomorrow afternoon.

Thank you to all the sweet blog followers who have joined us in this journey. We have loved your messages and well wishes. We truly couldn’t have done it without you all. We’re very blessed! And we’re looking forward to Yiyi meeting each and every one of you as she begins her new life in the USA. Thank you!!!

Brian, Nikki, and Yiyi

The girl loves her shopping

And in the right way to end another leg of our trip, the girl and I spent the morning shopping on Shaiman Island. First she wanted to stick with the other families (you know, her BFF’s the other two girls her age are here) but then she decided their shopping was just much too slow for her. So we were OFF! We walked the entire island, not neglecting even one shop.  We bought her a tradition Chinese dress that was selected by her (she dismissed the more regular type that momma liked, and insisted on the long sleeved version), a jump rope, and some chopsticks. She was happy and singing the whole way. We got to see a bridal photo shoot and Yiyi asked if she could see my wedding dress when we got home. Precious girl. We ended the morning with some lunch at the famous Lucy’s and now we’re back to the hotel, packing our bags for Hong Kong.

We’re staying in Hong Kong the next two nights completely free (thank you to Joe DeSimone and his Marriott points and the fact that I have absolutely no qualms walking in and owning that lobby as Mrs. DeSimone). We’ll be enjoying Hong Kong Disney tomorrow for free also, thanks to a generous donation of 3 tickets from a friend of our dear friend Lindsay Sakamoto! Thank you so much, new friend Kristy!!! We’ll end the day tomorrow with dinner with my roommate from the Sakamoto wedding in Hawaii and then we’ll head home bright and early on Friday.

There is something so sweet about leaving and being one step closer to home, but so sad to leave the mainland and the homeland of my beautiful baby. I’m confident we’ll be back sooner than later so she can visit her second home, sweet momma, and life for 5 years. But until then, we’ve got our sights set on home, school, eye appointments, surgeries, cousins, friends, Sunny, grandparents, and the kind of love that only a forever mom and dad can give.

We’ve been so blessed by this child and are so fortunate for these two weeks here. Wish us well as we get in a van for 3 hours to Hong Kong! Much love to you all! Now I’ll leave you with some photos from the morning.

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(I think I may have convinced her that all dogs are named Sunny)

She’s fitting right in

And as yesterday afternoon continued, we found a playground and our friends from the zoo and the girls had a great time playing. They ran around, used the play structures inappropriately (as the big kids so often do) and shouted with screams of delight as they shocked each other after static electricity build up on the slide. I was able to, for the first time, sit and watch my child play.

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I sat there on a bench and talked to other grown ups. We talked about our kids, compared notes, and saw which child took charge of being the leader and then the follower. The girls taught Yiyi how to play freeze tag. They then proceeded to run around up and down the steps, on and off the play structures, freezing in crazy poses, unfreezing each other, screaming, and having a great time. And I was watching this sweet child, this child I’ve been the mother of for just long of a week, playing and run and jump, I found it hard to remember two things:

1) She’s blind

2) She had over 10 years of life before I met her

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I wasn’t worried about her falling and cracking her head open. I wasn’t worried about kids being mean to her. I wasn’t worried about her not understanding all the rules to freeze tag. I was just watching my child play. And it was awesome.

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And then, as a little little boy came to the structure to get in on the fun, and my child was the one who started calling him “baby” (for which all the girls took with great hysterics to this insult for a 4-year-old) and then my child was the first one to apologize, I realized that I have my hands full and yet will be ok, all at the same time. I’ve got a child who has spirit and sass,  who wants to fit in and knows how, yet has a heart of gold and is more intuitive than a lot of grown ups I know.

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And then, this morning, she woke up in a funk. At first I couldn’t figure it out. But then, I realized this little girl, with all her intuition and smarts, knew exactly what was going to happen at our Consulate appointment set to take place at 9:30 this morning. She knew exactly what it meant, why we were going, and she knew exactly what we were doing there. She perked up as we arrived because it was interesting and she did great overall, but don’t tell me for one second that this child is anything short of supreme intelligence and awareness.

We decided to treat her with some McDonalds for lunch (with an ice cream cone for dessert) and we talk excitedly now about tomorrow, when we continue our journey home by way of Hong Kong. We’re planning our last dinner here in China at a traditional restaurant and look forward to tomorrow mornings shopping trip on Shaiman Island.

Thank you all for your prayers and support! We can feel them and are so grateful!

Yiyi’s wish came true

I cannot tell you enough how blessed we have been with this child. It all started with an awesome foster mom. Then an awesome orphanage who helped foster mom prepare her for adoption. Yiyi came to us with very favorable ideas about adoption and us in general. I think someone had told her that her mom and dad looked very nice and that we would be nice people. Yiyi loves small dogs and we have a small dog that she bonded with in photos. She loved the package we sent her a couple of months ago, etc. Everything was beyond wonderful and she was well prepared. But even with that awesome preparation comes a child who has some of her own ideas about the ways of the world. And one of her biggest fears was that American kids wouldn’t like her. She told our guide that she was afraid American kids would be mean to her (specifically because she couldn’t speak English and because of her eyes) and she was even concerned that they would want to fight her on the playground at her new school in America. Obviously we told the guide to tell her nobody would fight her on the playground but we couldn’t promise her that American kids won’t be mean to her because she can’t speak English and because of her eyes. We did promise her a slew of girl cousins who wouldn’t be mean to her, but apparently that wasn’t enough. She wanted to be able to make her own friends.

And today, my friends, Yiyi’s dream came true.

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We went to the zoo with our group. One of the families adopting a baby also brought their older children. Yiyi has been trying for days to get to know these girls. But all the group activities have been pretty segmented and we often had been splitting from the group because they have babies and differing interests to accommodate their babies (which makes perfect sense). But today, Yiyi decided, today at the zoo would be the day.

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And our girl was right. Today was the day. Through some sharing of Barbies, feeding of the giraffe and a mutual interests in snakes and monkeys, Yiyi made her first American friends.

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And we now are eagerly awaiting her first play date, scheduled to take place in 30 minutes, on the playground here at the hotel, where I can assure her once again that nobody will fight her. And I think its safe to say today that nobody is going to make fun of her for her eyes or the fact that she can’t speak English very well.

It’s just been over a week since we’ve had her and we’re more amazed every day at the amazing child that is in this tiny body. We’re blessed beyond measure. I cannot believe how or why we were chosen to be this amazing girl’s parents. Our time here is nearing an end and while we’re not sure how things will go once she’s home and out of her comfort zone, we can happily report that we’re completely in love with our daughter and can’t believe that she’s ours.

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Another lovely day!

Nothing too much to report today, but we have had another lovely day here in sunny Guangzhou! This morning we went to a wholesale bead market and to a type of old-world Chinese mansion. Brian likened it to the “Dallas” type estate (for those of you who remembered that show) of the Ching Dynasty. It was quite beautiful. We bought a small wall hanging for the house, as well as a pearl necklace to give to Yiyi on some important day in the future. We’re heading out in a few minutes to enjoy some street vendor cuisine with some of my clients who are here…should be interesting and fun!

We can’t believe we’ve had our girl for a week and 45 minutes now. It’s amazing to think that one week ago we didn’t have a child and now it feels like the most natural thing. We are absolutely loving her and getting to know her more each day. We can’t wait to get home and have people start to meet our little starfish. 

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Just playing around with Daddy’s glasses.

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Moving on – and up!

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore! I’m pretty sure Guiyang is the Kansas of China. Suffice it to say, we were quite happy and comfortable there in our little world. Well, we’ve moved on and up here in Guangzhou and we’re way out of our comfort zone here. Yiyi has taken her 3 pairs of pants off to reveal two tiny legs under her skirt, walked into the perfume infused lobby here of the fanciest 5 star hotel we’ll ever stay at, and has declared “Piao Lan de Guangzhou!” (translation: Guangzhou is beautiful!) She’s right. This place is amazing. I’m glad we can’t communicate more with her to tell her that this is absolutely not how our lives will normally be! But it’s fun to be spoiled every once and awhile.

Yiyi did great on her first plane ride. She loved it! We had given her some Dramamine (foster mom told us she gets motion sickness so we didn’t want to ruin her first ever plane ride) so she ended up sleeping through the landing, but she was awake long enough to get a blanket, water, a snack, go to the bathroom, and basically anything else you can possible do on an hour plane ride. We got to Guangzhou last night pretty late, so we just decided to do McDonalds for dinner. After dinner, Yiyi took her first ever bath and had the time of her life. It was after 11 p.m. and I finally had to let the water go and she insisted on staying in until the last drop went down the drain. And now here it is, 2:30 p.m. and she has already started planning her bath for tonight. She loved it and was absolutely the cutest thing ever. We’ll worry about water conservation when we get back home.

This morning we got up early and had some breakfast. She loved the Koi pond outside of the breakfast buffet. Some of my clients are here and we saw them at breakfast, so we’re looking forward to spending more time with them.

We had a 9 a.m. departure time for the medical exam. This was an interesting experience, but the girl was a trooper! We’re in a group of all baby adoptive families and of course, Yiyi was the only one to get blood drawn. But she did great and didn’t even cry. At the medical, we ran into some of my clients from the past as well, which was a nice treat. Yiyi is so sweet with the babies. She is very kind to them and loves playing with them. Three times during the medical exam she told me that when we get back to America, we should have a baby. How I wish you could see how she sign languaged that out to me! It was hilarious! Yiyi was very engaging with the doctors and nurses and was very cooperative with the eye exam. I’m not sure how thorough the exam was, but the prognosis from the doctor was “her left eye more bad” and that we need to take her to an eye doctor in the US. Sounds like a plan!

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We got out a little for lunch and found a great hole in the wall restaurant with rice that tasted just the same as our favorite Chinese restaurant at home! We’re taking a rest now and planning an afternoon of shoe shopping for Yiyi. She’s just got the one pair of boots and its quite warm here. The girl loves shopping so I think this will be a success.

Yiyi is just doing so great! She is wanting us to carry her more and often lets me hold her and rock her for minutes at a time. It’s beautiful. She tells me that I’m very beautiful and have a Barbie nose. She loves joking with Brian. She found out through “jump on Daddy time” that Daddy is super ticklish and she takes great joy in getting him to giggle like a school girl. She just called her foster mom and you could tell she was telling her all about how beautiful and warm it was here in Guangzhou. I love that she called her and wasn’t sad when she got off the phone. I hope she keeps up her Mandarin after we get home so these phone calls can continue.

We’re doing great and honestly couldn’t be doing any better. This is an amazing blessing and we feel so fortunate! Thank you all for your love, prayers, and well wishes! We’ll end the post with some photos of our last night in Yiyi’s hometown, Guiyang.

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Our sweet girl!

Rest and travel day

After the emotional day we had yesterday, we took it easy last night and so far today. Yiyi is doing great, beyond great really, but we have to take cues from her and take it easy when she needs. So we did.

Last night we just had a walk around the city and then dinner at a fun local restaurant. Earlier in the day her foster mom told her to eat more veggies and at dinner, Yiyi ate literally half the plate of broccoli! We were so proud of her.

We’re leaving Yiyi’s beautiful city in a few minutes. We have loved it here immensely. We’re happy to move on and be one step closer to home, but we have loved it here. Guiyang is a beautiful place that will always be special to us. I know we’ll be back to bring Yiyi back to her home.

So while we don’t have much to report, just enjoy these photos, because, let’s face it, this child is darling!

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with a big personality comes a lot of preferences. One of them is when she will and will not acquiesce to having her photo taken. This is one time when she didn’t. But it was too cute and shows her personality so well – I just had to post!

We got an amazing gift today

We got a gift today that very few adoptive parents will ever be able to get…we spent over an hour at Yiyi’s foster mom’s house. We got to see the bed our baby slept for 5 years. We got to see the living room where she laughed and danced and sang. We got to see the kitchen where the sweet woman cooked meals for our baby for 5 years. We got to hug her and love on her and cry with her today for over an hour. It was truly an amazing experience that I prayed for but never in a million years thought would ever be able to happen.

We took a cab to the neighborhood where Yiyi lived. Neither our guide nor the driver knew how to get there, but our 10-year-old child took us on a flawless drive through the city, right to the little street in front of her apartment. She told the driver that the actual street was too narrow for the cab to fit and that he needed to drop us off there and we could walk. So there we walked, three adult people led by this child. As we walked, she was greeted by friends and neighbors. First it was the little old lady who lived in the apartment above hers. Then it was a young woman coming back home after morning grocery shopping. Yiyi was clearly belle of the ball in this neighborhood immediately adjacent to the city jail.

When we arrived at foster mom’s apartment, rather than ringing the bell, Yiyi just stood outside and shouted “mama…MAMA” until the sweet woman came to the door. She opened it and we walked down a flight of stairs, into an unlit hallway. Inside the apartment we walked. Yiyi took off her shoes and coat, just as she had a hundred times. But today, she knew, this would be the last time.

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We were warmly greeted by mama and her space heater/coffee table. Mama tucked us underneath to ensure our warmth and then Yiyi began giving her the presents. First the beautiful coat, then the tofu snacks, and then the Chinese New Year cookie package we had also bought for her. We gave her a necklace that we had brought from the states for her. She was clearly touched and overwhelmed by the wonderful gifts. She said it was too much. How on earth could it have been too much? We owe this sweet woman the world.

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We then asked her some questions about childhood illnesses, what she likes to eat/drink when she’s sick, what she likes to eat, what she likes to do in school, etc. We asked her what Yiyi’s fears are. First she said “nothing!” But then changed her mind, “the only thing she is afraid of is my health. She always wants to be sure I’m healthy.” Foster mom is in excellent health, young and we have no reason to believe Yiyi should be concerned about her health. But after learning more, we discovered that foster mom is a widow, who has also lost her only child, so she has nobody to take care of her…except Yiyi. And Yiyi took that role very seriously.

It all makes sense now. The way that she makes Brian give me a cough drop when I cough. The way she holds my hands to warm them. The way she makes me put on my long sleeved shirt as soon as I get out of the shower, even if I’m quite warm. The way she always shares her first bite of food with us. And the way that as we were leaving mama’s house and Yiyi, mama and I were all crying, that Yiyi ensured that Brian took care of me to wipe my tears before she let me wipe hers.

We got to take one of Yiyi’s favorite coats, her favorite dress (the white one with the purple sash), two pairs of her favorite socks, her school uniform (much to her chagrin because Yiyi said it was ugly and she wanted to leave it behind), her Braille school book (also, an unloved item that she was not jazzed we bring back), her school name tag, and a whole bag of snacks from mama. All treasures. We got to see the photo book we made for her, which mama asked to keep so she could have memories of Yiyi’s life in America. We got to see the little Chinese/English flashcard book that Heather sent to her, safely tucked into her school bag. We got to meet friends who came to the apartment to say goodbye.

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We got to see Yiyi give her mama a massage. We got to see all around the apartment. We got to thank this woman for taking such good care of her for five years. We got to thank her for teaching her how to brush her teeth so well and for teaching her such good manners. Mama got to tell us that Yiyi would prefer not to eat fruits and veggies, but she made us promise that we would push her to eat them.

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And we got to promise mama one more thing. We got to promise her that we would raise Yiyi to always remember her, to love China, to never forget her life before us, and that no matter what, we would never be strangers. We promised that we would encourage Yiyi to come back to China when she is older and we promised that we would let her call mama anytime she wanted. We got to tell her how much we loved this child already and great her school and life would be in the USA. We told her the school is ready for her and knows about her eye problems and will teach her English.

I truly could have stayed all day. I could have stayed forever. If I could have my wish we could all just live together forever. Both mama’s who love this sweet girl could be with her always to raise this girl to the light. But it couldn’t be. It can’t be. So all I can do is uphold my promises that I made to this sweet mama today and start counting down the days until we be together again.

We parted, all three of us (Yiyi, mama, and I) hugging and crying on her front porch, the whole neighborhood watching as they walked by. I carried this sweet baby down the stairs and out onto the street. She shouted her goodbyes to the old woman in the apartment above and goodbye to some other neighbors we met on the street. We got back into the cab and took her away from her beautiful life, again.

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And as I type this and my sweet child sings the theme song to her favorite TV show and plays on her iPad, I know she’s going to be ok. I have no worries about her. She’s going to be fine. It’s me I worry about. I can only aspire to be half the mother to Yiyi as mama was. Yes, we can materially give Yiyi more than mama could, but we all know that’s not what’s important. This woman raised our child with more love than we could have ever prayed for. We are forever grateful and our hearts will be forever woven.

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