Our Spicy Pixie Dust dances in Peter Pan 2017

Yesterday was a day our family, especially Stella, has been preparing for all school-year. Buford School of Ballet presented Peter Pan this past weekend and Stella’s class danced in the last show as Pixie Dust. This was Stella’s first year dancing and she absolutely loved being in Ms. Katelyn’s class.

To pass the time while Stella and I stood in the “dancer check-in line” I decided to take capture a few photos. Stella–Miss Photogenic that loves to pose for a photo–had no issues with this plan!

Looking absolutely gorgeous, yet so much older than a 6 year old.

The large audience did not intimidate her one bit.  She felt beautiful and did a wonderful job on stage.

We were grateful to have Stella’s grandparents in town to come. I was sad to not have my mother in the seat next to me to witness Stella dance {she was sooooo looking forward to it} , but know she had the best seat in the house–watching from above and sharing the excitement that filled Stella’s heart.

Stella’s fans: GongGong, Baba & Mama, and Nana Brown & Papa Tony

We were all super excited to have Ms. Debbie join us for the show. Stella’s first evening away from us {10 months after becoming a family} was spent hanging with Ms. Debbie and ever since they have shared a special bond.

As you can see, they spend much of their time together laughing!

This may be my favorite photo of the night. It captures Stella so well.

One of Stella’s pre-K friends also dances at Buford School of Ballet. They will go to different elementary schools next year, but will get to continue their special friendship on Tuesday nights as they will be in the same ballet class.

Stella {Pixie Dust} & Naomi {Baby Fairy}

Owen came along to Stella’s Christmas recital. Though he did fairly well that night, we knew that he could not handle sitting for two hours through Peter Pan. Thankfully, dear friends, Debi-Debi and Alex, were able to come have a playdate with him. Look at the cool artwork that greeted us on the driveway!

 

 

Can you tell which part Owen colored….and which he did not?!

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Three days of being “Under the Sea”

When your princess dress-up clothes have been worn so much that new holes begin to appear in them in late September {they’ve already seen the sewing machine several times}, it should be no surprise what your parents buy you as a costume for Halloween! Add in the fact that your mother has quite the crazy hat collection and your little brother transforms into your side-kick.

Stella and Owen embraced every opportunity to dress up these last three days and had so much fun!

Fun at Trek-or-Treat at Suwanee Park {10/29/16}

Sebastian & Flounder

Sebastian & Flounder

Ariel

Ariel

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WOW! Everyone is looking at the camera 🙂

Thanks Nana Brown & Papa Tony for joining us on our “trek”!

Fall Festival at Calvary Baptist Church {10/29/16}

Aunt Laura painted a cool butterfly on Stella's hand!

Aunt Laura painted a cool butterfly on Stella’s hand!

Sunday {10/30/16} the kids in Waumba Land were able to dress up in a costume for church! Owen is still transitioning into a Waumba Land class, so I am staying with him during the service. It was so much fun to see all of the kids worshiping God–singing their little hearts out and doing the hand motions–dressed up in character! After church, Aunt Ashley joined our family for food trucks, fireworks, and fellowship on the front lawn! Love our Gwinnett Church community!!

Uncle Jake is a big cheese head and was in town to catch his favorite team play football, but before leaving for the game the kids snagged him for a photo op!

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Three kids with silly things on their heads!

The grand finale happened today…Trick-or-Treating {10/31/16}

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Both of the kids had a blast ringing door bells, calling out “trick-or-treat” and choosing their piece(s) of candy. Owen walked the entire time with a spring in his step, enjoying his first Halloween.

Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder

Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder

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Oh how mama loves these cuties!

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Owen decided the glow in the dark fangs fit better over his mouth & nose, rather than his teeth!

Halloween Side Note:  Shorts & a tank dress??? It was 85 degrees today, which is simply craziness for Halloween weather when I think back to my childhood days of trick-or-treating. We lived in Ohio and many years we were lucky if our costume could even be seen from under our winter coat because it was so cold out!

Pirate & Princess Day {10/24/16}

Pirate & Princess day at school =  the chance to wear her other new princess dress {Belle} to school. On the way to school she told me that Belle was one of her favorites because Belle likes books and so does she! {melt a mama’s heart….}  Owen and I wanted in on the fun, so I put on a tiara and he put on his pirate gear for car rider line.  The poor teacher that opened up our door to get Stella out of the car didn’t know what to think. {She probably nailed it though….”that mama is crazy & the little guy is stinkin’ cute!”}

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A special piece of mail

I’m officially official 🙂

Owen’s Certificate of Citizenship {CoC} came in the mail today! WHOOP! Though he became a U.S. Citizen on August 5, 2016 when he stepped foot on U.S. soil in Seattle, WA, receiving his CoC gives us the documentation to support it.

It also means that we can now go to the Social Security Office to get his name corrected on his social security card, then go through the readoption process in Georgia, and finally get his U.S. passport {you never know when you want to travel abroad, so best to have it….right?}

Looking beyond the additional paperwork that receiving his CoC brings, I cannot help but to smile when I compare the little boy in the passport sized photo and the one holding the certificate. His hair is so much thicker, his face & belly more plump, and the giggle that you cannot hear from behind the certificate is simply heart-warming.

The Shoes Fit

When we created this blog to chronicle our journey, we chose the banner image to be a photo of Nikole and me wearing Chucks alongside an empty pair of kids’ Chucks.

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In another photo that didn’t quite make the cut, we had a sign that said “Whichever shoe fits…”. Then, fast forward a little bit into the future, and those shoes actually do fit Owen! We recently did a quick family photo shoot at the same location where the empty Chucks were photographed, except this time Owen got to wear those shoes.

Owen in Chucks

He wears these shoes quite often these days, and they are just perfect. Maybe one day we will get a picture with Mama, Baba, and Owen all wearing our Chucks at the same time…

The Journey Home Begins

The first leg of our journey home is complete and it only took a shuttle bus, a big train, two subway trains, and another shuttle bus.

This morning, after breakfast, we checked out of the Garden Hotel and met up with Aron for her to arrange our train station shuttle. We are excited when she decided to join us and send us off at the train station, rather than the hotel lobby.

We took the bus to the train station, caught a train from Guangzhou to Kowloon (in Hong Kong, on the mainland), then took two MTR subway trains to a station near the hotel.

Navigating the train station in Kowloon

Navigating the train station in Kowloon

After an MTR train, and then a transfer to another MTR train, we arrived at the Tung Chung station and waited for the SkyCity Marriott shuttle.

We started this journey at about 9:15am, and when we arrived at SkyCity around 3:30, it was time for a celebratory lunch of Cup O’ Noodles!

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This new hotel is so refreshing, probably because we are looking at new walls and carpets that are quite colorful and simply….different. This will be our home for the night, and we continue the journey tomorrow with two flights.

US Consulate Day

Today was the day we finished up all of our official appointments. Now we just have to wait for Owen’s visa to get printed and picked up. We snuck a photo of the family in front of the building sign.

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While this photo may not look as crisp and clear as you may expected, you should know that we are basically outside in the outskirts of Typhoon Nida, which hit the shores of Hong Kong (a 2 hour train ride away) at 4am this morning. Owen has his hand on his head because every time a drop of water hit his head, he would touch his head and make a little sound and laugh, so this picture captures the day pretty well.

Everything in Guangzhou seemed so chill last night, like they weren’t concerned about the incoming typhoon. Back home in the States, people would be freaking out about any trace of a hurricane, so this was unexpected. However, we woke up to find that a lot of places were closed today. Plus, the Consulate was very short-staffed, so while they generally have visas delivered within 24 hours, it may take a bit longer for us to get Owen’s visa. We are hoping this isn’t a problem, since we have train tickets out of Guangzhou for Thursday morning.

Another little factoid about the typhoon. We read that a lot of flights (maybe all?) in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled today, and I’m getting the vibe that maybe by the end of tomorrow they will have the airport chaos straightened out. I’m still anticipating a little bit of extra crazy when we fly out of Hong Kong on Friday. To add to the mess, as of this morning we still didn’t have an assigned seat for Owen for the flight home. Fortunately, we were able to log into the Delta website and we were able to choose the seat. This was quite a relief, especially with the unknowns of the typhoon. I just have to sit back, though, and think about how all of this just makes our story more of an adventure. And it’s not over yet!

As an update to our medical post, prior to this consulate appointment, our guide picked up Owen’s medical report. His hemoglobin levels came out at a 9.3. This is 2.5 weeks after his last transfusion. He has had some pretty intense moments of grieving, but it also seems like he is getting a little more irritable and tired. This is normal for people with thalassemia as their hemoglobin levels drop, but we are just hoping and praying that he can hang in there for the long flights home.

An emotionally tough day, but we made it!

Yesterday, our scheduled sightseeing tour included the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, and Liwan Plaza (aka the pearl and jade market).

At least, that was the plan. What we experienced yesterday was simply more confirmation that a trip back to Owen’s orphanage may not have been a great idea. The morning was a little rough after breakfast, as Owen didn’t want anything to do with a fresh diaper after a diaper change. We got out the door, though, and he did great on the bus ride over to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall.

When we arrived, though, we immediately went into a little tourist shop to get Owen a name chop. This page shows a decent example of a name chop. These are very popular in the tourist areas and shops in China. We got one for Stella last year, and we wanted to get one for Owen too.

This place was pretty hot. Okay, every part of Guangzhou is hot right now… miserably hot. But this was not indoors, and it was crowded, and it was really noisy. Owen had been comfortably riding along in the carrier with Nikole, but I think the combination of the heat, crowd, and noise made him finally lose it and start an intense crying fit.

He was pretty much inconsolable, and fortunately I had finished “ordering” the name chop. It became evident that our best option was to bail on this place and get a taxi back to the hotel. Owen was stressed, Mama was stressed because everyone kept staring us down, and in those high emotions, Stella got emotional as well. We had even prepared to have a fun FOR Gwinnett picture taken, and in all of the miserable heat and high emotion, we only squeezed out this one picture:

Stella, wearing her Waumba Land shirt, at the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

Stella, wearing her Waumba Land shirt, at the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

Once we got in the taxi, Owen settled, and once we were in the hotel room, he did okay overall. We had a few more crying fits throughout the day, which left us all thinking that we probably made the right decision about not visiting the orphanage last week. Owen has had several moments that have seemed a lot like grieving. He’ll be really sad and cry, and there’s not much we can do. Who knows what an orphanage visit might have done to him emotionally. On the day we met him, he really struggled to be with us and see his orphanage staff. Returning to the orphanage itself (and possibly seeing the nAnnie’s again) might have regressed our relationship as his new family.

Every day is a new challenge (or many!) for us as we are in new territory. As always, we appreciate prayers from our friends and family. Specifically, we are praying that Owen will develop a trust in us, and that we will learn to really meet his needs. Oh, and that upcoming plane trip… That’s gonna be an adventure for sure.

Finally, speaking of the plane trip home… You may have seen in the news that there is a typhoon hitting Hong Kong right now. In Guangzhou, we are actually expected to get a good bit of rain from it tonight. But, we head back to Hong Kong on Thursday and fly out on Friday. Let’s all pray that they can actually get most/all of the postponed flights taken care of before our flight hits the runway. We are all ready to be back home in the USA to try to return to our new normal.