Medical Appointment Day

Under the circumstances, Stella has been doing quite well adjusting to life as a big sister that has to share her parents’ attention, her toys, and sometimes her snacks.

When Aron told us that only one parent officially needed to go to Owen’s medical appointment, we jumped at the opportunity for Stella to have some special time with Baba and GongGong.

So, Saturday 7/30 was Medical Appointment Day. Owen, myself, three other families in our travel group and at least 30 other families with other agencies were there. Stella’s medical day was rather calm. Not Owen’s. Each medical room was a revolving door–one child after another, getting one last check up before leaving their birth country. Most children Owen’s age {under 2} have 3 stations to visit, but our little man needed to visit all 4.

(1) The nurses measured his weight, height and temperature. To say that he was not happy to get these measurements taken was a complete understatement, especially having something stuck into his ear.

(2)  The ENT did a quick check and having something stuck in his ears got the same results–tears! oh, and screams! The ENT was a little old man and Owen’s screaming helped the doc decide that a super quick check up was best for all.

(3) When Aron took us to the GP, she shut the door behind her. Normal, right? A little privacy for us while we met with the doctor. Not even a minute later the doc asked for the door to be opened because as soon as it shut Owen began his screaming again. My boy has a set of lungs on him! Opening the door did not halt the screams, but it did make it a little easier on our ears. Haha! A quick once over and off to our last station.

(4) The last station was the TB blood draw. Children under 2 years old do not need to have this test completed. While Owen did not have the TB test done, we did have his blood drawn so that we could have his hemoglobin level tested. Owen’s last transfusion was July 14 and after the transfusion his hemoglobin level was 11.3, which is a good number. An updated reading will simply be a data point to help us feel more comfortable about taking him on a long plane ride home. We anxiously await this reading, which we will receive Tuesday morning.

A few of the rooms and the nurses station.

A few of the rooms and the nurses station.

He was brave and strong and absolutely deserved that lollipop!

He was brave and strong and absolutely deserved that lollipop!

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An unanswered prayer is exactly what our family needed

The itinerary given to us by our guide read: Orphanage visit or sightseeing (to be determined) for Thursday, July 28th.

I have prayed and prayed that we would be able to visit Owen’s orphanage.

We were ready to pay the additional money it would take for the journey to occur.

The day came for us to make the final decision on whether we would make the 10+ hour round trip journey to MaoNan SWI to see where Owen has spent most of his life. The only decision we could make–the right decision for Owen–was that we would have to pass on this opportunity.

Did I feel as though we made the best decision based on all of the circumstances known to us? Absolutely.

Was I disappointed? Of course.

But this journey is not about me, it’s about our son. The little boy that lived in a small orphanage, was well cared for by the nannies, and until 3 days earlier had rarely seen a stranger {outside of the medical staff that would give him his transfusion}.

So, we woke up Thursday morning and embraced the sightseeing adventures that Aron, our guide, agreed to take us on: the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Harley Davidson dealership!

Canton Tower

While in Guangzhou during Stella’s adoption {the US Consulate is in GZ, therefore every US family that is adopting a Chinese child must pass through GZ before leaving the country} we went on a dinner boat that rode up/down the Pearl River and one of the cool sights on the river bank was the Canton Tower.

From the lobby....the view up the tower!

From the lobby….the view up the tower!

The Jetson looking piano that was in the lobby of the Canton Tower. A company in GZ teamed up with a German company to create it.

The Jetson looking piano that was in the lobby of the Canton Tower.
A company in GZ teamed up with a German company to create it.

We bought tickets to go to the 108th floor, which would allow us to visit the observation deck, step into the glass bottom viewing deck, and finally ride the Bubble Tram. {The Bubble Tram is sometimes referred to as the world’s highest Ferris wheel, though the track is horizontal. The cars circle the top of the tower, 1,493 feet high.} It was a ton of fun and worth every penny we spent on the ticket and few souvenirs we purchased.

The elevator helped us to know how high we were along the way. Pretty cool :)

The elevator helped us to know how high we were along the way. Pretty cool 🙂

Papa's view from the glass bottom viewing deck. You can see the lower twist of the tower.

Papa’s view from the glass bottom viewing deck. You can see the bottom twist of the tower between his feet.

Aron, Stella, Owen and I...super high up! {The colors are off a bit because I had to take a photo of a photo...BOO! }

Aron, Stella, Owen and I…super high up!
{The colors are off a bit because I had to take a photo of a photo…BOO! }

Even though the sky was not perfectly clear, the view was amazing!

Even though the sky was not perfectly clear, the view was amazing!

The bubble tram, which is described as a horizontal ferris wheel.

The bubble tram, which is described as a horizontal ferris wheel.

Our family on the bubble tram.

Our family on the bubble tram.

Papa finally let us take a photo of him!

Papa finally let us take a photo of him!

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Stella on top of the world….450 meters up!

Harley Davidson: Guangzhou, China

As we discussed our sightseeing plans with Aron, she gave us an odd look when we asked if our driver could take us to the Harley Davidson dealership after the Canton Tower. {Some of you may also have an odd look on your face as you read that sentence…haha!} She chatted with the driver and although none of us truly knew where it was located, we had an address, it was within our allotted mileage, and we were all up for the unknown.

Why a Harley Davidson dealership? Papa rides motorcycles with his buddies and although he rides a BMW, the others ride Harleys. Apparently Harley Dealerships sell apparel and often people that ride Harleys will collect t-shirts that have the name of the city of a dealership they have visited. Papa wanted to get his neighbor and partner in crime a t-shirt that he would probably never be able to get for himself. Cool idea, right?! Bummer thing was that there were no shirts in Joe’s size {Aron even tried to convince an employee to sell us his work uniform shirt….haha!}, so Papa settled for Plan B–a pin which is still pretty neat.

Harley Davidson Dealership Guangzhou, China

Harley Davidson Dealership
Guangzhou, China

Back at The Garden Hotel!

Paul and Stella cooled off in the pool...

Paul and Stella cooled off in the pool…

...while Owen and I sat poolside and took selfies!

…while Owen and I sat poolside and took selfies!

We had such a fun day as a family {we count our guide, Aron, as part of our family}!

God knew that my prayer to visit the orphanage is not what our family was going to need on this day.

Interviews

It was hard to get a good picture of the building where the Civil Affairs office was. It seemed like some random side street. But, this was a picture of the sign right outside the door, and then a picture of the main lobby.

Interviews - Civil Affairs Building Entrance

Interviews - Civil Affairs Lobby Desk

The day after we met Owen, we went back to that same office. {A little China adoption insight: The first 24 hours after meeting your child is called “the harmonious period”. You have temporary custody of your child to begin to get to know each other, bond, etc. and make your final decision of whether you will complete the adoption.} Tuesday, 7/26, we returned to have our photo taken for Owen’s Adoption Decree, as well as our Civil Registration Interview. Then, we went upstairs for our Notary Interview.

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After our Adoption Decree photo

Civil Registration Interview

Civil Registration Interview

Owen was really getting into his cell phone toy (the same toy that we brought for Stella to play with last year – the one that taught her the numbers 1 through 10). He also really likes puffs, and was starting to share with one of the other kids, who will live in Sweden.

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Here are the signs just outside of the notary’s office. Much like the sign in the Civil Affairs area of the building, I just think the signs are cool.

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Interviews - Notary Office sign

On Wednesday, we went to the police station to work on Owen’s passport. Our guide told us at the end of this visit that the Chinese side of things was completely done! The next series of events will be the United States side of things.

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Owen on the floor at the police station

Meet Owen

Family Day has finally happened, and we are excited to introduce you to Owen. But first, let’s set the stage. We took a train from Hong Kong and arrived in Guangzhou on Sunday afternoon. We checked into the LN Garden hotel, which seems to be a very common place for adoptive families to stay as they are finishing out their adoptions. When we got to the room, they had set up a crib. Things were starting (more like continuing) to get real!

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Owen’s crib the morning we left for the Civil Affairs office

The hotel room

The hotel room

We got the room ready and headed down to the lobby to meet Aron, our guide. This is the last picture we will have as the “Brown Family of 3”, in the hotel lobby.

The last picture of the "Brown Family of 3"

The last picture of the “Brown Family of 3”

On the way over to the Civil Affairs office, Stella was all prim and proper, ready for the big moment.

A quick sidenote that is somewhat related to this picture: On the way over to the train station in Hong Kong, we took a taxi. When we got in, she looked up at us and said “they don’t have a carseat”. On each van ride we’ve taken  since, she has been sure to buckle up!

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We arrived at the building and went up the elevator, which let out into the room. The next picture gives you an idea of what this looks like. The room is filled with different families who are meeting their children for the first time! These families (at least the twelve families on this particular day) are families from a variety of agencies and countries, but we are all there for the same purpose.

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The main room where families wait to meet their children.

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Our guide, Aron, preparing things. I thought the big sign was cool too.

In the far corner of this room, there is a play room behind a colorful curtain. The kids that are about to meet their forever families play in this room until it is their turn.

As we were waiting, Aron told us that there were three children being adopted from Maonan Social Welfare Institute (Owen’s orphanage), and they were a little late. The journey for them was five hours long. Since they were a little late, we actually got a glimpse of Owen as he walked in, which I think almost melted Nikole’s heart right there on the spot. He was super calm and chilled out.

After a short wait, it was our turn! We went toward the curtain, and the deputy director of the Maonan SWI came out with little Shun Feng (Owen’s Chinese name)!

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Stella has been so excited about this day that she has hardly been able to contain herself. She loves stuffed animals, so before we left the States, she picked out two stuffed turtles. The first thing she did was walk up to him, extending his turtle (named Spot) to him. So adorable.

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Stella showing her love with a turtle stuffed animal

All seemed so calm at the very beginning. Oh, and he was the one kid with “squeaky shoes”, which was kind of hilarious because it squeaked through the entire room. Once his orphanage director and her assistants went back into the other room, another sound filled the large waiting room, and that was Owen crying his lungs out. It was becoming clear that he was *very* attached to his orphanage workers, and he didn’t want them out of his sight. He pushed us away and screamed his discontent into our ears (and everyone else’s). We also were told that his orphanage is very small {only about 40 children} and with the exception of seeing medical staff during a transfusion, he really never had seen strangers before this day. Poor little man was overwhelmed, scared, confused, etc. Here’s a picture to commemorate the moment:

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The unhappy Owen

I went into the play room to talk with Aron and the orphanage director while Nikole kept Owen and tried to calm him down. Water did not work, neither did a sucker, his turtle, Stella’s silly faces, or simply walking around. By the time we were done, this is what I came back out to.

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The happy sleepy Owen

By the time we left the building, he seemed content enough. We went shopping for some necessities at the amazing Aeon store (kinda like Super Walmart, but instead of being one floor, it is four floors), and then returned to the hotel.

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Stella is so excited

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Our little Owen

As the day progressed we began to see glimpses of Owen beginning to trust us a little bit. He took his own shoes off–no prompting on our part–shortly after the above photo was taken, which is a huge step for many adoptive children. He has no interest in trying on the shoes we brought for him and it’s not a subject we are going to push. Instead, we continue to velcro on his squeaker sandals and laugh at the fact that everyone knows he’s coming. Another positive sign of bonding & trust came when Nikole began to step out of the hotel room to drop something off next door and he began to reach out for her, as he shed crocodile tears.

All in all, the day was a success, albeit an interesting one. We had prepared our hearts for initial rejection. And you may remember from Stella’s adoption, her orphanage helpers pointed to Nikole and said “Mama” and Stella just looked at Nikole and shook her head “no”. Owen was a little (okay, a LOT) more dramatic than that, but we like to think that this means he was really well-loved by his orphanage’s staff.

Another final thought/observation: I hinted at it before, but I wanted to reiterate how amazing Stella was when we first met Owen. As he was struggling, she was ready to help in any way. She offered him his stuffed animal, she offered him a sucker, she wanted to be near him and comfort him. It was like I could just see her growing into her “big sister” role immediately.

Again, thank you for your prayers for us as we walk through this journey. It has just started, and we are adjusting to a new normal. Well, as normal as being in a huge Chinese city in a hotel can be.

Today we meet our son, Owen!

It’s Monday, July 25th in China and today is the day! We are meeting our guide at 2pm {that’s 2am at home} in the hotel lobby to head to the Civil Affairs Building to meet Owen. So many emotions, balled up inside each of us, but mostly sheer excitement.

A little background on our little man….

  • Owen is 23 months old and will turn 2 in August, so no more birthdays without his forever family.
  • He is from the Guangdong Province, which is in southeast China, therefore we will be in Guangzhou the entire time we are in China since this is where the US Consulate is as well. {Many have asked if Owen and Stella are from the same orphanage and/or province. No and no. Stella is from Guangxi, which is the province to the west of Guangdong, so though they are not from the same province, they are both southern babies!}

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    Stella’s and Owen’s Provinces
    Image source: http://www.chinadiscovery.com/china-maps/china-provincial-map.html

  • Owen was born with a genetic blood disorder called Thalassemia. In simple terms, his hemoglobin does not make the beta protein that is needed for his red blood cells to function properly. If you want a more detailed overall description, check out this link. One of my favorite blogs also did a series of articles to give insight into the family dynamics of having a child with Thalassemia. Have a moment? Read along here. We won’t know the exact details of his medical treatment until we meet with the Thalassemia specialist {we are fortunate to have a wonderful clinic in Atlanta with top rated specialists}, but know that monthly blood transfusions and a daily chelation medicine are in his future at some point and more than likely for the rest of his life.

Thank you for joining (or continuing) with us along this journey. We appreciate the support and prayers that everyone has given to us this far.

We’ll be back later once we’ve become a family of 4!

One week from today…

Owen TA

The last few days have been eventful, emotional, and conquered with my head spinning at the thought that next Wednesday {ONE WEEK FROM TODAY} we will head to China to be one step closer to our son.

So much for us to physically do to prepare to leave next week {I have to continue saying it to make it seem real}, as well as so much to catch you up on about our second adoption journey. The update may will not come until we are on the airplane….but it will come.

Right now, most people have one question: What does Stella think of all this? Holy cow, friends! She is so excited at the thought of having a baby {as she calls him} that we are praying the excitement does not fade once the thought is a reality! She is also very thrilled to be going back to “her China”!

Baba’s Day 2016

Such a wonderful morning celebrating Baba! Stella shared a Disney-Pixar story book for them to read together {which began as soon as he opened it} and Owen sent an updated picture of himself (notice he is holding a photo album of us)!

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During church, Stella made a tie that described me. I love her answers, and I love that she always makes things in my favorite color!

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Also, after church we took a little road trip to South Carolina and were able to celebrate my Aunt Willodean’s birthday! And see Nana Brown, too 🙂

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Being a dad is great. To revisit some of the good memories of some time spent with Stella this year, I scrolled through my photos and found these gems.

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Daddy-daughter getaway weekend in Greenville, SC

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Mystery Reader day. I like the way Nikole described this picture: “Aw, she’s in love!”