Friday, August 29, 2008

Proud to be an American

Merrilee says she is proud to be an American.

It became official when immigration here at the Detroit airport stamped her Chinese passport.

We are waiting to board our final flight from Detroit to Baltimore.

Merrilee says "See you soon!"

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Homeward Bound

All went well at the Consulate.

We are all packed and have a 4am wake up call.

Can't wait for all of you to meet our little Merrilee. By the way, she now knows that is her name!

And today she got out of bed...walked over to mommy...and gave her TWO big kisses!

Mark and Beth
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Packing for Home

We are in our room because Merrilee is napping.

In two and a half hours we make our last stop at the US Consulate and pick up Merrilee's visa and the paperwork to give to Customs that makes her a US citizen.

This has been an incredible trip. Because of China's new rules we will not be able to adopt again (Mark will be too old.)

We know there are thousands of US families still waiting for matches and we hope all of their dreams come true too.

We're done shopping. After the Consulate it's a quick dinner and then packing. Our bags get picked up at 5am and we head to the airport at 5:50am. It's almost 5 hours to Tokyo...almost 12 hours from Tokyo to Detroit and about an hour and 45 minutes from Detroit to BWI.

Merrilee is looking forward to meeting all of you...and of course, Bogart and Bacall.

And we are ALL looking forward to being back home.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paperwork AOK

We got a call from our reps that all of our paperwork is fine. So it should be smooth sailing tomorrow for Merrilee's visa.

We get lots of pictures taken in about four pics...and pics of the babies as a group. These are known as "red couch" pictures.

Merrilee had her second Haagen Dazs today -- vanilla. She absolutely loves it. This picture proves it...

Beth had a tailor here custom make her a silk dress and silk suit. She picks it up tomorrow. We are sure she will look very pretty in both.

By the way, across the street from our hotel is a restaurant, where you can walk in and pick your seafood fresh from a tank and they will prepare it for you. They have everything you can imagine: fish, tiger prawns, lobster, snake, eels, water beetles... The crabs looked a little familiar -- not blue crabs...but close. And take a look at the turtles...

A lot of the stuff was too disgusting for pictures. Now you understand why we can't wait to get back home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Waiting in the Room

We had another great breakfast at the buffet.

This morning Mark has to wait in the room in case there are any questions or issues with our paperwork. Our adoption agency reps actually deliver all the papers to the Consulate for us. If there is any problem they will call the room.

Beth is going to do some more shopping and may even have one of the fine Chinese tailors custom make a silk dress for her.

Last night there was a dinner cruise down the Pearl River. We skipped it and seems like that was a good call. Our friends who went say the food was "very Asian..." which means it wasn't very good and they didn't know what most of it was. Also by the time it ended about two-thirds of the babies had gotten very fussy.

Today is really our last day to veg. Tomorrow will be busy with our Consulate visit and packing for the long long trip home.

We miss home. We miss the microwave, ice cubes, American food and our own bed. Oh yeah...and more than four English channels on the cable TV.

The Pearl Market

Today's big adventure was a trip to the local pearl market. The prices there were unbelievable compared to the U.S. so mommy is coming home with some new pearls and some jade bracelets. We also bought some special gifts for Merrilee when she gets older. By the way, most of the time we still call her Na Na.

Another shop we visited today was "A Gift from China." All the proceeds from sales there go to orphanages. We spent more money there buying some mementos of this trip. One of the many gifts we've purchased is a beautiful red silk Chinese dress for Merrilee...

On Sunday while we walking around we went into one shop. The clerk reached into her blouse, pulled out a silver cross and asked "Christian?" We told her yes and she told us she was leaving the shop to go to church at 11. We bought some jade cross necklaces from her.

Merrilee is so stubborn and loves to be in charge. She likes to feed herself. Her favorite foods appear to be grilled cheese, watermelon, any kind of eggs, tater tots and Haagen Dazs. She loves ice cream. She loves her stroller and even fell asleep in it today.

She is a very generous child and loves to share her food and treats with us and everyone else.

Tomorrow our paperwork goes to the US Consulate and then we should get Merrilee's visa on Thursday. On Friday we leave for the airport at 5:50 am and then will spend about 18 and a half hours in the air on three different flights to get home.

We are SO ready to go back home and see our friends and get our puppies back. We miss them and we miss all of you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Doctor Visit

This morning, we walked to an office to have Merrilee's picture taken for her U.S. visa.

Then, we walked to another building where all the adopted children have to get an exit physical. It was quite the sight to see. The best description would be loud, minimally organized chaos.

While we were waiting in the hallway of the clinic, we couldn't help but notice one doctor who was sterilizing his instruments over the open flame of an alcohol lamp.

Fortunately, once we got into the examining area, we moved through the three checking stations without much trouble. The only thing we really remember is that Merrilee weighs 18.4 pounds.

Before leaving the hotel for the medical check, Merrilee got her first goose egg on her forehead. She was sitting on the bed reading a book with daddy and fell right over onto the floor. Fortunately, the beds are only about 12 inches high. It's almost like sleeping on the floor. She cried a little, shook it off, and handled it like a pro.

Last night we joined Jason, Darla, and their baby for dinner at "Lucy's" which is a somewhat popular bar and grill just down the street from the White Swan Hotel. The food was pretty good and much cheaper than room service at the hotel. Our entire meal at Lucy's cost less than one cheeseburger at the hotel. Mark says his grilled cheese and french fries tasted very good and mommy loved her baked potato and Mexican quesadilla.

This afternoon, we have to fill out more paperwork for our visit later this week to the US Consulate.

Our biggest concern right now is that all of our seats are together on the flights home. It wasn't that way coming over. We have emailed our travel agency and our adoption agency to see if they can guarantee our three seats are together. (We have seats for Mark, Beth, and a lap ticket for Pu Fu Na, on one confirmation number, and then an extra seat for Mark on a second confirmation number.) Because the travel agency booked the seats that way, it has created major confusion for NW airlines.

Sunday, August 24, 2008



Bonding milestone!

Mommy says she can't wait to get back home and take Merrilee to "mommy and me" class.

Angel and may soon be having company at your class. By the way guys, we're having dinner at "Lucy's" tonight.

Taking orders for souvenir genuine official Chinese chopsticks if anyone wants a pair.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Wonderful Morning at the Park

Hello everyone from Guangzhou!

Merrilee is so happy. She waves to everyone, and it doesn't take much to occupy her interest. She's been content to just use mommy and daddy's suitcases as toys. All the time...she keeps waving...

The cribs here at the White Swan Hotel are taller than at the other hotel and they have little balls built into the side. Merrilee finds them fascinating...

We had planned on going to visit a Buddhist temple today, but after breakfast, Beth wasn't feeling so well. So, we decided to skip the bus ride, and we took Merrilee to a nearby park instead. Here are some pictures from that visit...

It is amazing to see so many people, and OLDER people, out exercising, dancing, practicing tai chi... The people here appear to be so healthy and so active.

Last night, by the time we got to the hotel, we were exhausted. So we just had room service (a very expensive club sandwich, cheeseburger, and fruit plate) and hit the sack early. Merrilee slept pretty well, but woke up around 4 a.m. She crawled into bed with daddy and stayed there until 6 a.m.

The best news is that Merrilee and mommy have become friends. Not best friends, yet, but friends. Mommy can now feed her, hold her, and play with her, without the little one bursting into tears. She clearly knows we are a family.

Before we left Wuhan, we went to a park there, and had this picture taken by our friend, Jason...

Today...mommy discovered the fine art of shopping and bartering. We bought some surprises for people back at home, and we bought some gifts to remind Merrilee of her home country. We got her some new squeaky shoes (believe us...they get old fast) a spinning top that lights up, and a parasol to protect her from the sun. She loves it. It looks like a bear!

This area around the hotel is swarming with Americans who have adopted Chinese babies. It is very safe here and we can walk around more and explore more.

Last night at the deli, daddy got a Tsing Tsao beer that was just $1! The beer is the coldest thing we've had to drink this entire trip.

We are counting down the days, filling our time with more shopping, tours, and paperwork for the US government. We enjoy being with all of our new friends and babies, but we are really looking forward to seeing our old friends back at home!

Back In Guangzhou

We have arrived back in Guangzhou. It was an uneventful flight. The typhoon had no impact. Merrilee did very well on her first plane ride. It was a long day for the children though. The flight came right at nap time for most of the little ones. Here we are with our reps from Chinese Children Adoption International before we left the hotel for the airport. the lady in red is Joanna, the chief rep for the Hubei province. In one word, she is an angel!

Our room at the White Swan this time has a gorgeous river view. There are many beautiful lighted boats that cruise down the river at night.

We are waiting for our bags. We will take some laundry to get done and then we are going to dinner.

Every day we see how smart Merrilee is. They say Hubei girls are "spicy girls." She loves sharing her Cheerios, ball cakes and goldfish crackers with everyone.

Will try to post more pics of Merrilee and Beth since Bob Cecil is convinced they are the pretty ones.

We think we will buy more luggage for all of the shopping we will do this week.

Tomorrow we are going on a local tour that includes a visit to a Buddhist temple and a Buddhist blessing for Merrilee.

We are happy knowing a week from now we'll be going to sleep in our own beds again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Final Visit to the Registration Office

Well she is really ours!

This morning, Mark went to the registration office again. Today we got Pu Fu Na's adoption certificate, her Chinese passport, our "donation certificate" from the orphanage and all of our receipts. This is the end of the paperwork from the Chinese government. It was a semi-formal ceremony. This is a picture of the presentation:

And here are some of the official Chinese adoption certificates, receipts, and other paperwork:

Beth stayed at the hotel for some more bonding time with Merrilee. Yesterday was a better day for mommy and Merrilee. Our baby loves to share Cheerios and she has already learned to "high five" people. She also likes to play "ring around the rosie..."

Amazingly, this morning, she had a BM in the toilet! Mark held her over the toilet...grunted...and much to his surprise, out it came! That's how they potty train here. She's already pee-peed in the toilet four times!

Last night we had a group dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a fabulous dinner and cost just slightly more than the pizza the other night from Pizza Hut -- $16.95 per couple! Here are our friends Nikki and Billy and their little girl, Kassidy:

One of the specialities was a local fresh fish. It looked a little like a bloomin' onion from the Outback Steakhouse but it was very, very tasty:

While at the restaurant, Merrilee discovered the best seat in the house -- high atop daddy's shoulders. Or, she may have mistaken his bald head for a crystal ball and was just trying to look into her future:

Later we rode through a park on the Yangtze river. There were thousands of people out enjoying the breeze. The break from the heat during the evening feels so good.

Later this afternoon, we are having a celebration pizza party for our group here at the hotel.

Tomorrow afternoon we are due to fly south back to Guangzhou, which is just a little northwest of Hong Kong. If you've been watching the news, Hong Kong is about to be hit by a powerful typhoon. If the flight goes off as planned it should be some bumpy ride!

Finally, one more picture. Merrilee loves magazines and books, and we have been reading to her from some of the books that were given as gifts. She knows now that cows go "moo" and dogs go "woof." It is hard not to love such a sweet and innocent child who's already had a life that most of us can't even imagine!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Highway of Death -- All for Clean Laundry!

Well...Mark survived crossing the highway of death and walking the several blocks to reclaim our clean laundry.

The smells along the way were indescribable, except to say that pleasant isn't among the words you would use.

There was one woman along the way scrubbing a piece of meat in a pot. It looked a little like corned beef but smelled like something completely different. She was scrubbing it with a piece of steel wool.

There were groups of men all along the way playing cards and a game that looked like checkers. One woman was scrubbing her clothes in a big metal pot and hanging them above her on a clothes line using a long pole.

On the way back he stopped in a corner grocery and re-supplied us with more Chips Ahoy and Oreos.

The heat and humidity are oppressive. It's like a bad July day in Baltimore.

Today for lunch we ate in one of the restaurants at the hotel. We were joined by Billy, Nikki and their new daughter Kassidy. We had a private room and a great meal. Beth had BBQ ribs and said they were delicious. There was plenty of food and the tab for all of us was only $60.

Merrilee is really only going to Beth when Mark is not around. So right now Mark is at the bar having a "Snow" beer while Beth is in the room trying to get Merrilee down for a nap. Tonight many in our group are ordering out for pizza from Pizza Hut. Pizza Hit here doesn't deliver (but McDonald's does) so we are paying a cab to pick up our pizzas for us.

Merrilee saw the pediatrician again today. She has a bit of congestion and we are giving her Benydryl three times a day. The doc also saw her on Monday and says she is improving.

She is a delightful but very stubborn child. She puts her fingers in her nose to get a rise out of us. She knows when she is doing it that she is being bad. She has learned how to kiss her stuffed animal and play patty cake. She laughs a lot with a wide grin but she likes to push us to see what her limit is to be. She is drinking bottled water from the bottle and she loves lo mein noodles. She likes to feed herself. Cheerios are already a favorite snack.

Mark had to change TWO poopy diapers today. Our baby knows how to light up a room. It was like she unleashed some weapons of mass destruction designed to gag daddy to death. The two poops were just moments apart so the first cloud hadn't even had the chance to dissipate.

Will try to write more tomorrow as the adventure continues.

Please keep Beth in your thoughts. It is very hard on her that the baby is gravitating toward Mark. Again though, with most Chinese babies, they usually go to just one adoptive parent. Almost every couple in our group is having the same issue. Still it's hard to believe we've only had her two days. It already seems like longer...much longer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trip To The Park

Everywhere you go here, you see a crazy assortment of vehicles: bikes, scooters, buses, carts, homemade blows your mind. This was the sight on one of the main drags yesterday. It is not uncommon to see people pulling overloaded carts like this through the streets of Wuhan...

This morning, some of the couples in our group are going to visit a museum. We are tired of riding the bus, so we took an early morning trip to the park right outside our hotel. Every morning between 5am and 6am, you look out the window and see dozens of people dancing, exercising and doing tai chi in the park. Merrilee walked a good distance through the park, letting everyone enjoy the delightful tune from her squeaky shoes. She held hands all the way with daddy...

Right now, mommy is up in the room bonding a little more with Merrilee. This afternoon, while mommy and some friends take the little ones to the hotel play room, daddy is going to try and venture, on his own, to the local laundry to retrieve our clothes. If he doesn't come'll know he didn't make it!

A final thought for today. Every time someone finds out we are from America and from Baltimore, they say "Michael Phelps!" Every Chinese person who can speak English knows his name, and they tell us we should be proud of his eight gold medals. Our adoption agency guide told us yesterday there is a new phrase here in China. It's "You're so Phelps!" which means, "you're so hot," "you're so good," or "you're so golden." We are nowhere near Beijing, but this whole country is alive with the Olympic spirit, and Michael Phelps has made the world a smaller place.

More Photo Fun

On the hotel room floor, playing ball with mommy and daddy...

This rattle isn't edible, but she's trying. She already has 8 teeth with two more coming in. But she hardly whimpers. She does get a little fussy when she's tired, and contrary to what they told us, she doesn't seem to enjoy the whole "take a bath" concept.

Merrilee had to help the lady cleaning our room. It was funny to see her react when the lady spoke to her in Chinese. She clearly understood every word.

And the last photo was the first taken this morning. Sometimes it's hard being part of the Miller family!

More Pictures For You

Mommy and Merrilee inside the Wal Mart

Not sure what they were selling here...or if it was a good deal...

Merrilee is already trying to look studious by wearing daddy's glassses. This was taken at the registration office moments before we had our final Chinese adoption interview...

And this is our friend, Jason Brooks, from Nashville, and his little girl...

Jason and and his wife, Darla, have been fun to hang around with, as well as our friends Nikki and Billy.

Wal-Mart -- A Chinese Adventure

It was a near unanimous vote by our group -- "Take us to Wal-Mart!"

So yesterday, at 3pm, we boarded our bus for the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Wuhan. It was a half-hour bus ride. Traffic is so bad here, that to go anywhere takes 30 minutes to an hour. The Wal-Mart has several floors.
Inside, it was a mad dash to the baby section. We bought 120 huggies, which we are sharing with another couple. We also bought more toys, shoes, Chips Ahoy cookies for daddy, Pringles for mommy, and a bag of something called "ball cakes" for Merrilee. They look like puppy treats to us, but they taste more like an American butter cookie. Our baby LOVES them. We did not buy any of the pre-packaged smoked and dried fish though...

All the stuff we bought was about $50. There were no long checkout lines, like in the states, but they do check every bill an American hands them, be it a US dollar or a Chinese yuan. Then it was back outside to wait for our bus...

You can see, Merrilee is beginning to warm up nicely to mommy...

We are really enjoying the trip but it is very hot and humid. At 9am today, it was already 86 degrees and so humid you could cut the air with a chain saw.

The PC In China

By the way, there are computers and cell phones everywhere here.

The postings with the pictures are being done from the business office at the hotel, since we didn't lug a laptop with us on the trip. The others are being emailed in by my Blackberry.

It's pretty easy to use the computers here. The keyboards have dual markings -- English and Chinese.

The screen, however, is all Chinese. So you have to hope you remember which boxes are where and know what you are supposed to type in them.

Back From The Registration Office

What a busy morning. We all had a good breakfast, and Merrilee ate more fruit, yogurt, and congee. Then we went to the adoption registration office, which is an hour to 90-minutes away by bus. We were photographed as a family for our adoption certificate (all three of us) and then we were interviewed by an adoption official about why we wanted to adopt. We signed a bunch of papers, sealed each signature with a fingerprint, and then Merrilee got to leave her footprint on the documents.

On the way back, Merrilee fell asleep on both of our laps, and as Mark writes this, the baby is upstairs, in the room asleep on mommy's chest. She really is a smart, sweet, but stubborn child. She didn't like the tub bath...did better in the sink...knows how to pull the hair on Mark's chest...likes playing with a wrist watch...and is a MASTER of the remote control. She knew what it was, how it worked, and how to change channels. It could lead to the first real fight among all of us -- who will control the remote control for the TV. By the way, to answer one burning question -- yes, Mark has already changed his share of dirty diapers. And, some Chinese babies really do urinate on command when you hold them over a toilet and whistle. We're going to wait until we get back home to try that.

In about another hour and a half, we have a group shopping trip to Wal-Mart!!! We all need to get more diapers, and we're all pretty curious about what a Wal-Mart in China is like. For lunch, we had McDonald's (there's one right across the street from the hotel.) A Big Mac meal, Cheeseburger meals, and McNuggets were all less than $10. It is very hot and humid here -- about 95 degrees with high humidity.

The most amazing thing here is the traffic. It makes New York seem mild. There are 8.3 million people in Wuhan, and it seems like all of them are out on the road at the same time. There are no real lanes, no speed limits that you can determine...just total mass confusion. Interestingly enough though, in most places, it is against the law to beep your horn. The fine is 200 yuan, or about $29.

By the way, you have to excuse some of the typos when they occur. The keys on the Blackberry are very tiny and hard to see while typing in the dark when the baby is trying to sleep. We are checking email when we can, and we are reading all of your comments. Thank you all for being so kind and thinking of us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Its 5:25 in the morning here and we are already awake.

We had a fun but tough first day. Merrilee played a lot with us, but when it comes to being held or fed, she wants daddy to do it all. This is not uncommon for Chinese babies. They sometimes take to one parent first and it takes a few days to get to warm up to the second parent. That still makes it hard.

Merrilee has a good appetite. Yesterday she chowed down on a lot of fruit including watermelon and kiwi and she ate some steamed egg.

Today after breakfast we go back to the registration office for more paperwork. By the way Merrilee is walking all over the place. She is very stable on her feet.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

A Few More Pictures From Gotcha Day!

Sunday, August 17, 2008



We have Merrilee! And she is adorable...

We got her at 9:50 this morning. Mommy and daddy shed a few tears, but in just seconds everybody was smiling. There is no way we can ever explain what it was like to be in that room at that moment and share that special moment of joy with the 11 other couples in our group.

We were taken into a big room as group and the babies were brought into the room in small groups. We recognized our Merrilee as soon as we saw her and we waved to her from across the room. We were about the sixth or seventh couple from the group to get a baby. Merrilee cried a little but on the bus back to the hotel she drank a bottle of water, and as this picture shows, she fell asleep in her daddy's arms. A number of times she has turned and put out her arms for daddy to take her and hold her.

We keep learning new information about her time in foster care. One of the other babies adopted today was in the same foster home with her. Her foster parents were retired, and she had an older teenage brother and sister in her foster home. We think that is why she is so comfortable around both men and women. We also know from the type of formula she was drinking that she was being cared for be a fairly well-to-do family.

Everything we sent to her a few weeks ago arrived at her foster home and it was returned to us today. When they handed her to us she was holding a stuffed toy rabbit we had sent. You can see it in a couple of the pictures. We also got a photo album of her first year and all kinds of snacks for her from the orpahnage and foster family. She was wearing a red Canada Olympics t-shirt and black shorts.

Mark had to make a laundry run and go exchange some money for our meetings tomorrow with the orphanage officials and the government officials. While he was doing that, Merrilee was up in the room with mommy. She cried a little more but Beth wrapped her in a blanket (the one Aunt Brittany gave us -- we brought it to China with us..,) put a Chinese station on the TV, and within 10 minutes, our little Merrilee was sound asleep. She is still sleeping. In another hour, a pediatrician hired by the adoption agency will come by to check her out.

It looks like the burns on her thighs have healed, and the burn on her little foot is healing nicely as well. It is clear she was well cared for and loved in her foster home.

One of the nannies told us the thing she like to do most is ride on toys outside. Watch out Emma Sue!

Tomorrow, we go back to the registration office. We will go through an interview process and then sign more paperwork and have our photos taken for the adoption certificate.

We are so blessed. Clearly this little girl was meant to be with us and we can't wait for all of you to meet her!!!!