We shared several pics with updates on Facebook while we were gone but this blog is mainly to document the highlights as well as little details that we do not want to forget and keep it all in one organized place. I wrote this while we were in China but knew I would have to complete it once arriving home. I'm so glad that I did because its easy to get your days mixed up when you are gone for 19 days. Whew! Here we go!
Days 1 and 2 - March 26th & 27th
On Monday, March 26th, we left Dallas with so much excitement but also flooded with emotions of how much we will miss our babies while we are gone. The goodbyes at the airport were tough. I don’t think there was a dry eye. Aiden was staying home to be the "Man of the house."
Last picture as a family of 5. Libby is starting to feel a little uncertain about us going and her staying.
The flight was as good as expected, prolly better actually. About to leave on a 14 hour flight straight to Beijing...the longest flight I have ever been on.
I watched, the Good wife on Amazon prime almost the whole time. None of us slept on the plane. We landed and were greeted by the Sweetest guide ever, Julia. Julia is the one who had been doing all of our video chats with Willow, She is such a sweetheart. I was so excited to meet her in person.
She took us to our driver and went with us to our hotel, Hotel Kapok. The Hotel was great, it had an awesome location right down the street from the Forbidden City. It was nice and clean, not too big but not too small either. Check out the bath tub in our hotel room. Impressive, huh?
Because of the time change, we arrived to China around 2:15pm on April 27th, so by the time we got to the hotel and all checked in, it was time to eat.
We decided a nice welcome dinner would be pizza, french fries and fried rice. haha. This is the table we ate at both nights at this hotel. Yes, the floor lit up and it was in the perfect spot for people watching.
It was actually really good but later that night my stomach did not agree. I’m sure extra nerves didn’t help either but nonetheless I was beginning to worry I had a bug or something. I didn’t actually go to sleep until 2am and we woke up that morning at 6:30 am to start our day. The day we were going to meet our daughter.
Day 3 - March 28th
I was feeling much better this morning. Thank Goodness. Here we are, so excited and nervous at the same time.
We met Julia and headed over to see Tetamen Square. I spotted some huge Willow trees on the walk over. Aren't they Beautiful?
Here we are at Tetaman Square, not the best pic but the only one we had with Julia in it.
It wasn't busy at all which was nice. You really got a good view of everything.
Then we entered the Forbidden City. Wow! The history behind it all is incredible. These pictures don't do it justice at all.
Really all I could think about was meeting Willow so to say that I was completely into it would be a lie. I had my big backpack on as well containing my nice camera but I never got it out. That became a current theme on this trip.
The best entertainment was the flock of people running to Cooper and touchiing his hair, his face and asking for a picture. Who am I kidding, they didn’t ask. LOL! I think Cooper ate up the attention. Our guide said it was his red hair and fair skin that drew people in. Of course they noticed Tyler too, the big tall bald guy. lol.
We left the Forbidden City and went to have an authentic Chinese meal right by Alenah's home ()where Willow has been for the past year.) I ordered some noodles and beef, it looked fairly safe. Haha. I did try some of the other entrees that Julia ordered for us and most were actually really good.
After Lunch, we headed to Alenah's home and were waiting in a small room with a sofa for her to wake up from her nap. About 30 minutes later, I saw her standing in the playroom from where I was seated. The other children were still sleeping. This was my first glimpse of her.
We were given the okay to go meet her so I handed Julie my phone to take a video and we walked in. As soon as she saw us, she gave the cutest little wave as she stood there pretty still.
I got down on her level and approached her slowly. I opened my arms up and she crawled right on to my lap. I gave her a gentle hug and then looked at her, soaking her in.
I think this one might be my favorite!!!
Seeing her sweet little self in person was hard to even put into words. I wasn’t a crying basket case like I thought I might be. I was honestly just speechless. Cooper and Tyler were right there to greet her as well.
We were actually at Alenahs for awhile which I think was good for Willow to get a little used to us first. After we interacted with her for a good 30 minutes it was time for her to sit down at the table she had been accustomed to sitting at for all her meals and begin to drink her milk. The cutest milk mustache I ever saw. Look at her.
Oh my Heart <3
The other children were waking up too and couple of them were very drawn to us. I took some pictures of a couple of other children that are still waiting on families. A handful of children did not have files prepared for yet and might not ever. Its super sad and unfortunate to think that some of them do not even get the chance to have a family of their own. I have such a huge respect for Alenah's home and all the nannies there. We brought a suitcase full of medical supplies from Mission Regan that they were so appreciative of. We also brought some small gifts and a pretty heart necklace for Willow’s nanny. I knew Willow was a favorite there and a little joy in that place so my heart ached for those nannies and her friends that would miss her. I knew how much Willow would miss them too.
Here were are under the sign that says, Alenah's Home. Right behind us, is a room with all the beds in it where all the children slept. There is about 20 or so at Alenah's home and several nannies. Atleast 10 at one time. Most of the kids were still at school that day so that is where we headed next. Willow had been going to a nearby school for children with special needs (something that is very rare in China) but she was already back from school this day since we were coming to get her.
We left Alenahs home and she seemed okay with it. She didn't cry at all. I held her on my lap as we took a short car ride to her school to make a final goodbye to all her friends there and her teachers. We walked in as they were doing a cooking class. Everyone hugged and kissed Willow goodbye. One little girl, who I can’t share her picture (it has to remain private) kept kissing Willow on the cheek. Keyuan, the boy I was advocating for now has a family. Praise the Lord!!! You can see him in the back left of this photo.
Keyuan was like Willows big brother and always so kind to the other children. I've shared videos on Facebook of Keyuan, he will be such a blessing to his new family. I'm so happy for him. We brought a little airplane since they are his favorite.
So many thoughts and emotions were going through my head as this was her final farewell to everything she has ever known. My heart broke and was over joyed at the same time. Is this really it? Now we just take her with us and she is ours forever?
It was hard to grasp and it was all I could think about on our way back to the hotel. Both Alenahs home and her school made the sweetest albums for us to take with us that I will cherish so much. What a blessing they both were in her life. I’m so thankful for the life they gave her before we could get there. I’m so thankful for Willows mom whom I wish so badly I could thank for choosing life for Willow. For making sure she would be found in a public place. I’m certain that if she could of taken care of her, she would have.
She was fine in the car ride to the hotel. Eating lots of snacks that we brought with us. We arrived to the hotel room and put her up on the bed with toys. She was happy and content. She loved showing us her book that we had sent her a few months before. There were lots of smiles all around.
I really think she knew we were those faces in her book. I had been praying for a long time that she would feel comfortable and safe with us. That she would know we are her family when she saw us. After we played a bit, we gave her a bath and got ready for bed. I sang her a couple songs and laid her down and she went right to sleep at about 8:30.
Here she is sleeping like a little angel her first night with us.
Day 4 - March 29th
We all woke up the next morning about 7:00 am. Amen for a good nights rest. We played a little and I got to dress Willow up in her first ever Matilda Jane. Because that is a moment to remember, right? ;).
Here are couple of sweet videos of Willow and Cooper. P.S. Willow was quite fond of her light up shoes. They are actually too big (all the shoes I brought her are) but these still manage to stay on well since they have velcro.
We went downstairs for breakfast and then off to the airport for a flight to Xi’an which is the city all the adoption paperwork would need to be done in. Xi'an is in the Shaanxi province and that is the province Willow was found in at about 2 months old. I asked how big the city of Xi'an was and I was told, only 9 million people live in the city. What??? Only?? LOL
I won’t go into every detail because much of it ran together but this day was stressful. Mainly the airport security. They didn’t want to accept the copy of Willows passport that did not have a picture of her on it. How could we prove this piece of paper without a picture was Willow? And her being with Americans was another head scratcher. You just don't see that very often at all in China. We got lots of stares as people genuinely do not understand why a Chinese girl is with us.
Not to mention during security, Willow was unleashing this wilder side. Lol. And we did not have a stroller for her at this time. This was one of those very important items we had left at home. I had tried putting her in the carrier I brought, and she hated that. She also didn’t want to be held. We were able to distract her mainly with snacks but there was a point both Tyler and I were feeling physically sick from nerves during the security part.
Finally it was time to board and I swear we sat on the runway for over an hour before even moving. She was pretty wild and excited for awhile but I snapped a few pics while she was being somewhat still eating her snacks.
Eventually Willow laid down during her usual nap time which is about 12:30 each day (per the schedule Alenah's home gave us).
Right before her nap
And she sleeps. Do not move, do not wake her. LOL.
There was so many emotions going through my head at this point. Thankful? Yes absolutely. I still couldn't believe this dream was becoming a reality before my eyes. I found myself getting silent and flooded with so many different feelings at once. I was letting them get the best of me on this day. It was hard. While we loved Willow, it felt a bit like we were babysitting her which is totally a normal feeling. I want to be honest here and document my real feelings. It had not even been 24 hours at this point since she had been with us and already we were on a plane traveling in a country so so different than home. The culture shock was way more than I had mentally prepared for.
We were so relieved to get to our hotel in Xi’an and thank goodness it was nice and roomy. Although nothing around our hotel looked familiar at all besides a KFC that was right around the corner. We ordered burgers to our room and they were actually very good. Willow went to sleep seamlessly again. I can say now that looking back on this trip, this was by far the hardest day.
Day 5 - March 30th
After having a rough day the day before, I woke up feeling more refreshed. I didn't sleep that well mainly because I was still adjusting to the time change. Every time I woke up, I was praying my little heart out. I could also feel love and prayers from thousands of miles away which I am forever grateful for. God always brings so much comfort when I bring my worries, concerns, or anything to him for that matter.
We went to the Registrars office and finalized all the paperwork, did fingerprints and promised to always love her and never abandon her. Here is the video of her making a footprint and getting everything finalized.
Playing while Daddy was signing some paperwork.
Then it was mommy's turn for the paperwork.
Again, all of this was such a surreal moment. Here we are, it's official. Willow is forever a Richardson.
Then we went to the police station for her passport, the bank for the orphanage donation and finally the notary.
Willow and daddy while at the police station.
At this point, it was lunch time and Willow was getting really tired. During her nap, Tyler and Cooper went out to explore a bit. They came back with some funny and interested stories. We laid pretty low the rest of the day and ordered room service again. (just for ease of doing it). Aside from Chinese food (which is nothing like what we have at home by the way) the western restaurant at our hotel had a few options. A burger, a ham and cheese sandwich and chicken nuggets. Oh and French fries, they were darn good too. We all went to bed around 8ish which is when we layed Willow down each night.
Day 6 - March 31st
Good Morning Cooper Bear.
Miss Willow having her milk.
We went down for breakfast at our hotel buffet which is included each morning. At this point, this was probably our most favorite meal of the day. 1. Its free. 2. The assortment is amazing. Our favorites are the eggs, bacon, fried rice, bread and fruit. Oh and the fried dumplings. :) Willow at this point was eating everything we gave her. She sure does love food.
Back in our room after breakfast before it was time for some sightseeing.
Will somebody please put on some cartoons??? LOL.
This day we went to see the terra cotta soldiers and we were so excited about it. It was a nice scenic 45 minute drive there from our hotel. The weather was beautiful this day. The prior 2 days were raining and bit gloomy out so we needed this day. The walk to see the buildings that the soldiers were in was beautiful. Here is a little video of our walk there.
About to go inside...Oh Cooper. lol.
About to go inside...Oh Cooper. lol.
We were in Awe of it all. This was Pit 1. The largest pit. The soldiers are from 700 B.C. Hard to even wrap your mind around, right? They were discovered not that long ago in 1973 by a Farmer and then have had to be restored of course.
To see something in person from that long ago in history is mind boggling.
Look at the detail.
For fun. These weren't the real soldiers of course but a photo op they had so it looked like you were standing right next to them.
After we looked at all 3 pits, we headed back to the van and I found a Starbucks!!! Oh Happy Day! That was probably the biggest highlight of the day for me. Some of you will understand. ;)
We headed back to the hotel for Willows nap. Cooper was working on some homework and then decided to write a letter to Willow. It might of been the sweetest thing I had ever read. All on his own he wrote,
Another comment Cooper kept making was, I could stare at her pretty face all day. I mean, how sweet is that?
After her nap, I saw them sitting like this together.
Here is a video of Willow telling Cooper to be quiet. It's the cutest thing ever and it makes us all laugh.
About 3pm or so, we ventured out and found a KFC for a very late lunch/early dinner and then found a little shopping center where we scored a stroller. It was around $22 American dollars which was a deal and way better than the one we were renting from the hotel. Its wheels were always getting stuck and we were done trying to maneuver it around the city. We got the kids a couple small toys, and headed back to the hotel. At this point for me, I was nervous when we left the hotel without our guide. The stares were constant. I just was not used to it yet.
Random things I want to note about Willow at this point.
She drinks out of an open cup really well.
She blows her nose like a champ. My other kids can’t even do that. lol.
She coughs in her arm, Yes she does. Every time. Her manners are blowing us away.
She has already learned several signs which include, More, Eat, drink, Mama, Baba. She even repeated me a couple times saying Baba which means father in Chinese.
She still is not responding to her name.
She sucks her thumb when she is tired and will rest her head on your chest.
She sleeps every night about 11 hours and takes a 2 hour nap during the day.
She always sits down to eat or drink. Again, I wish my other kids would do that. lol.
She is 26lbs and 31 inches just to give you an exact idea on her size. Her foot is tiny. Only 1 pair of the shoes I brought, fit her so we want to find her another pair soon.
She doesn’t like to be dirty. She will wipe her face and hands like 100 times during a meal or snack.
She loves the bath. We are working on keeping her sitting down. She loves to stand and then drop down really fast to make a big splash.
When she has a poopy diaper, she will come to you waving her hand in front of her face. Its quite funny. This has also turned into a game. She likes you to smell a sock, shoe and just about anything and then wants you to say Shoe-weee and wave your hand in front of your nose. You have to make the hand motion or she will grab your hand to do it. LOL.
One of the funniest things is her telling Cooper to Shhhh. I posted the video above. She puts her hand over her mouth and makes the SHHH face to him. He laughs pretty hard each time but at least she knows what its means so when we are out and about and she gets really loud, we put our finger up to our mouth and she knows what it means.
So far, its been way easier than we thought to meet her needs and take care of her. She is so smart and keeps amazing us each day. God is so Good!
I will post days 7-12 next....stay tuned! P.S. I'm having trouble with the videos. If they didn't play for you, so sorry. Trying to get that figured out.