Friday, January 30, 2009

Kylie Grace's 1st Month

The blessings and joys that we have experienced with Kylie Grace over these past few weeks are almost indescribable. Each day we see new pieces of her lovable personality; each week brings amazing advances... such a great reminder of what a good dose of love and attention can accomplish!

We have survived a month of doctor's visits and lab work, medical consults and exams. We discovered that the medical information from the orphanage was not complete as Kylie's cleft palate was already repaired. Why we were not told is a mystery; but, it appears to have been done well and it saves us and her from having to deal with that surgery now. There will, of course, still be surgeries in the future and much speech therapy starting soon. But, we are grateful that the cleft palate repair is one less thing we have to worry about.

The video above is a slideshow of our first full month at home as a new family. We hope you enjoy it -- the pictures capture many of the hilarious Kylie faces that keep us in stitches most of the time. (Note: You will want to pause the background music when you watch the video because it has it's own soundtrack -- just scroll until you find the iPod image on the right side of the page, then click the pause button)

We are humbled and grateful that she is adapting so well. Thank you all for your prayers -- we have surely felt the covering of God's grace that so many were soliciting on our behalf.


Hank, Cheryl, Kelsey, Kennan & Kylie Grace

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that it has only been 12 days since we stepped onto American soil with our newest family member. So much has happened in that short period of time -- it feels as though we've been home for months. The flights went amazingly well, praise God, and we arrived safely, with all of our luggage intact, and all of our souvenirs unscathed.

Kylie took to her new home right away. Even the first night home, she wasted no time exploring all of the rooms she could find. With each passing day her comfort level has grown, both with her surroundings and with each of us. We are quite certain that she has danced, giggled, run and played outside more in the past 12 days than all of her previous three years combined. She is... we all are... having a ball getting to know each other!

The first week home was busy with doctor visits and other medical stuff. There will be more of those in the coming weeks as we plan for her cleft palate repair. That will be the first "major" procedure that she will have done, although it doesn't appear to be as extensive as we had thought. Otherwise, she seems to be doing very well from a medical perspective.

As we move forward through the next few months, communication will be our main focus. She has begun to attempt a few English words and phrases. We know she understands much more than what she can say. But, for the most part she is still "talking" to us in sign language (pointing) and grunts. It's cute to a point; but hopefully soon, words will begin to emerge from that adorable little face.

I could go on for quite awhile with some hilarious stories -- but it's bedtime. So for now, please enjoy some fun pictures posted below.

Oh and by the way... GO GATORS!!!!!


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Last Day In Guangzhou

Hi All,
It's about 10:15pm on New Year's Eve here in China and we are putting the final touches on our suitcase packing, getting ready to leave bright and early tomorrow morning. The last two days have been sort of a blur as we completed the final government requirements and also did a little bit of shopping and a lot of eating. Although we have had a wonderful time here, we are very ready to be home where we can blend back into our surroundings and begin our new lives as a slightly different family. The excitement of coming home brings with it a certain level of anxiety as we once again disrupt Kylie's "normal". We were talking about it today as she has become quite accustomed to riding the elevator up to and down from her "home", to eating out at a restaurant for every meal, to having an unlimited menu for breakfast, lunch & dinner, to having Kelsey, Kennan & Daddy around 24/7.... the list of abnormal things could go on. So, we are prepared for her reaction to the change in her little world once again; but, we are still nervous about the long trip home and just how she'll do with all of that. Please keep all of us in your prayers as we begin our journey home at 6am tomorrow morning -- it will be a long 27 hours.

Each day has brought us closer together. There's no doubt that she is growing more comfortable with all of us. We have discovered lots of good tickle spots, found out that she loves to play peek-a-boo, learned that she is a collector of stuff, that she can mimic pretty well when she's in the mood, that she doesn't play with dolls (at least not yet), and that she absolutely, positively loves to eat!

This will be our last post until we get home. Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement through the rough spots. It has been an amazing experience for all of us. We have been blessed beyond description. We can't wait to see everyone and introduce you to Miss Kylie Grace.

Love to all,

Hank, Cheryl, Kelsey, Kennan & Kylie

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Kelsey!

It's hard to believe that Kelsey's 19! It seems like it was just yesterday that we were walking her around in a stroller in the park... oh wait -- it was just yesterday except it wasn't Kelsey, it was Kylie! We walked across the street, actually under the street, to another park for a late morning stroll after breakfast. Yue Xiu Park is the largest in Guangzhou and has 90+ acres of walking trails, beautifully landscaped, that wind up a hill. At the top of the hill is a soccer stadium that we think may have been used for some of the Olympic competitions. Along the paths we saw people doing Tai Chi, a group of women performing some type of ballet dance, some very traditional Chinese music performers, a man training a cat -- it was such an interesting collection of people in the park.

This was the sign at the entrance of the park -- thought it was appropriate to have Kelsey's birthdate in Chinese lights. The park entrance was packed with people waiting in line to renew their annual pass. We had to wait for maybe 10 minutes just to buy tickets to get in!

Just a few of the sights along the way.

A bright-eyed smiley Kylie.

We celebrated Kelsey's birthday with a very nice dinner at Cafe Veranda. Kennan and Hank braved the dinner buffet again and struggled through the all-you-can-eat steak, fried shrimp, braised pork short ribs, duck breast, roasted chicken, steamed veggies, and ice cream. Kelsey loved her fettucini. Once we returned to the room, we sang Happy Birthday in Chinese and shared a mango cheesecake that was elaborately decorated and quite yummy!

Kylie sporting her new purse.

Another hilarious translation on a sign at the park.

We also went to Shamian Island to do a little shopping. It is an area that caters more to tourists and is the location of a number of foreign consulates. Many of the shop owners speak decent English and they have become very adept at their sales techniques. We spent a few hours there roaming the streets and going in and out of shops. Apparently the area is a great spot for wedding and fashion photography -- we saw at least three different brides having portrait photos taken in the gardens.

Kylie did not want to miss anything during her day -- she went strong all the way through dinner and then fell asleep before her head hit the pillow. It was a good day with her -- she is definitely feeling more comfortable with all of us and we are learning to read her better and better each day. Only 1 more full day for us here before we head home.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lots of pictures!

We hope you enjoy these pictures. We've had difficulty uploading for a couple of days so these should catch us up. The first ones are from the medical exam morning. Kylie did very well compared to some of the other kids that were in there with us.

These next pictures are from our excursion to the Guangzhou Folk Art Museum this morning. The museum once was the personal home and temple of a very wealthy family in this area. Much of the home has been preserved including some incredible teakwood carved wall panels that were beautiful. There were many rooms within the compound that now house a variety of examples of Chinese art: porcelain vases and plates, wood carvings, embroidery, paintings, etc. The courtyards displayed many different types of banzai trees. The weather was foggy and drizzly -- it would have been even more beautiful if the skies were blue, but we were glad we had a chance to see it.

Etched blue glass that was gorgeous when the sunlight glowed through.

We did have a breakthrough moment when Kylie actually turned to Mommy and asked to be held. It was a short-lived moment but we'll take them when they come.

After the museum we went to a Chinese Tea House to sample different varieties of Chinese tea. We tried 5 teas: Oolong, Jasmine, Ginseng, Rose, and White. It was amazing how different they tasted. We all agreed that the Oolong was our favorite. Kylie definitely agreed. She is quite accomplished with a tea cup.

These last two days she has begun to open up and her personality is emerging by the hour. We have had lots of giggles and even a couple of words, we think. Every moment is precious -- it is so much fun to watch her begin to trust us.

We are grateful for your prayers. We can't wait to get home and introduce you to the newest Miller!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Medical Exam & Friendship Store

Hi All,

For some reason, we are having trouble posting and have not been able to load our pictures from Saturday...we will keep trying! But, in the mean time, I will catch you up on what our Saturday was like.

We started our day with a wonderful breakfast in the hotel "Veranda Cafe". Kylie continues to be quite the eater. She loves her congee or oatmeal w/banana, chinese sausage, eggs and rolls. The rest of our travel group arrived in Guangzhou late last night. We met up with many of them at breakfast. There are quite a variety of ages of children...both boys and girls. Most of the little ones have some sort of special need. There are 12 families including ourselves. It is fun to hear everyone's experiences in the different provinces.

We left the hotel at 9:30am with our entire travel group to go to Shamian Island for the medical exam that is required by the US government. This is for any chinese citizen who wants to apply for a visa to go to the U.S. Again, this was a flurry of activity as we waited to go to three different stations...ENT, measurements, and physical exam. These we all very superficial and quite a matter of formality. Our guide, Liniker, prepared us for what to expect by saying not to count on this for a medical check-up. He laughingly said that if our doctor at home did an exam like this one, that we should be looking for a new doctor. Kylie sat and waited with us, just taking it all in . Hank and I went into each station...Kelsey and Kennan followed along documenting the entire experience with their cameras. The first station we went to was the ENT. She did fine with the ear check, but sure did not like having someone look into her mouth. She did seem quite secure in Daddy's lap and was easily consoled with a few cheerios. Next was the measurement station. The took her weight and a few measurements. There were two nurses or doctors there and it was difficult to see what the results were. At the last station they checked her body...she did just fine at that one as well.

After the exams, we went to a place called the Friendship Store. It was a seven story building with everything from what you would find at a very nice department store to groceries all in one location. We got a few grocery items and made a stop in the toddlers department for a new jacket for Kylie. It is really interesting how it works. In each department the sales clerk will write up a receipt for what you want to purchase. You go to the cashier on that floor to pay and then they bring all your items to you from the various departments on that floor. The grocery section you pay for your items there. Also, the Chinese government requires individuals to provide or purchase their own bags for grocery shopping...this is an attempt to "go green".

While we were walking around the Friendship Store, we experienced a first with Kylie Grace...we heard her giggle for the first time. Now, mind you, she has had plenty of smiles but this was the first out loud giggle!!!! It was so precious.

We returned to the hotel for a free afternoon for Hank and the kids. Mean while, I had a paperwork meeting with Liniker and Amy (our guides) and a parent from each of the other families. We spent about two hours filling out all the forms that would be necessary to submit to the US Consulate to obtain the visas for our children. I must say, I am glad that I had made a notebook and organized all the forms in it. It sure made the process a bit easier. Yeah!!!! It sure felt good to get that behind us. Our forms will be submitted to the US Consulate for us on Tuesday by our guides.

We had some fun and precious moments watching Kylie as she lets us see a little bit more of her personality. She has begun to show us her silly side. We continue to be amazed and are quite amused at her meticulous side...she will let you know if she has a crumb or a drip that needs to be wiped up, as well as push in any open drawers. She is also a very good "picker-upper" when it is time to clean up her toys when we are done playing. She is precious and I love her so very much.

Thank you to those of you who have left is such fun to hear from you. Also, I really appreciate your words of encouragement to "hang in there". I truly am grateful that Kylie feels comfortable with her Daddy and Kelsey and Kennan. I continue to stay right beside Hank as he does all the Daddy things...feeding, bathing, diapering, putting to bed. I help prepare things for her to eat and hand him at least I am right there. Kelsey and Kennan have fun with her when it is play time. I know that my turn will come. As Hank said...until then we will continue to wait with hope.

A grateful Mommy,

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Lazy Day After Christmas

First of all, a disclaimer... the picture below is not an accurate representation of the current state-of-affairs between Miss Kylie Grace and her Mama. This picture was taken a few days ago and is a reminder of the almost schizophrenic mood swings that these poor kids go through when their worlds are turned upside down. Three days ago Kylie was giving out big kisses like this one -- today, she literally pushed her food away (which up to this point has been unheard of) because Mama had the audacity to touch her fork. The rejection has even spilled over into bath time -- which had been the last bastion of intimacy between them. It is so hard to figure out what could possibly be going on in her little head that would cause her to treat Cheryl this way. And it is even harder to see the heartbroken look in Cheryl's eyes. I don't have words to describe the hurt my heart feels for her. But, she is trying to remain positive, look ahead, and expect miracles as Kylie learns that Mama's arms are, by far, the best place to be for safety and comfort. So, keep praying for all of us as we take one day at a time...

The beginning of our day was spent at the buddhist temple of the six banyan trees. It is an active place of worship and also a tourist attraction. It felt intrusive to be there taking pictures while people were lighting incense and bowing to the various buddha statues that dotted this temple. But.... I did it anyway. Our guide explained that this temple had been there for 1400 years. One thing I found interesting -- she told me that the temple is maintained in part, at least, with government funds. The department of religious affairs allocates money for the upkeep of this and other temples throughout the country. That fact seemed very strange to me. The grounds were very beautiful and the smell of incense filled the air -- we couldn't and didn't want to stay long.

Afterwards, we went shopping at one of the nicer "souvenir" shops. Our guide told us that this would be a much different experience that going to the markets. She was right. We were able to browse the aisles without getting hounded by aggressive salespeople and we had the place virtually to ourselves. It was a nice -- well, as nice as going shopping can be -- experience and Kylie enjoyed sitting by the indoor koi pond, pointing at the fish. Sorry, we took no pictures -- we were losers!
After a very American lunch (hamburgers & pizza), we relaxed in our rooms most of the afternoon. All in all, it was a good day for Kylie, a hard day for Cheryl, and a confusing day for the rest of us. We know this is normal and most families go through it in some manner. So we look forward to tomorrow because we know, with God's grace, that there will be baby steps in the right direction. And while we are waiting, we will celebrate His goodness, His mercy and His love for us.