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Team Odell, China Expedition, is finally together!

Team Odell, China Expedition, is finally together!

Holy. Cow. So many mixed emotions today. We’ve gone from feeling totally in love to completely overwhelmed with “what have we done?!” emotions minute by minute. It’s a good thing truth isn’t based on how we feel at the moment. We know we have done the right thing- this is our son- and we’re committed to loving him through the good and bad and difficult and sad and plain crazy times. The truth is, day 1 really couldn’t have gone much better, and we really should have lowered our expectations for adopting a 5 year old who has been institutionalized his entire life. I guess I was picturing scooping him up, putting him in the Ergo front pack for bonding, holding him while we read and I gave him his milk- similar to Charlotte. We were totally spoiled by our last experience with her- she was not a typical case, especially given the particular circumstances she came from. Carrigan wants nothing to do with being restrained in any way (Ergo), is uncomfortable with too much touch or being held too closely unless he asks to be picked up, and cuddling or sitting still is not on his agenda. To be frank, Carrigan has been like a wild animal let loose today.

Headed down the hall to meet his family!

Headed down the hall to meet his family!

His cage has been opened and he has been released, and it really shouldn’t be surprising to see him behave this way. At one point, Joey and I looked at each other and said, “gosh, he’s acting like a little orphan that has just been set free!” He could have come to us kicking and screaming and resisting us- we actually discussed that very real possibility. We have read in our books and trainings about the grieving process coming out as either a complete shut-down of emotion (more like Charlotte’s response), or an over-drive adrenaline response, and we are seeing the latter. The great news is that Carrigan came to us happily and readily and even with hugs and kisses. He is calling us “Mama” and “Baba” and has taken very quickly to his siblings, especially Grace. And, he’s not afraid of Joey…or anyone, for that matter. He is happy to be held when it is on his terms, plays and interacts and even repeats words we’ve tried to teach him. However, he resists holding hands when he doesn’t want to, has absolutely no social awareness or concept of self-control or appropriate behavior and acts like he’s never been told “no” in his life. He’s eaten everything and anything in sight, runs about like the Tasmanian Devil destroying all in his path, throws and hits (not maliciously, but he thinks everything is hilarious), taps and shoves on strangers to get their attention, waves things in your face, takes food off your plate, and has no attention span whatsoever. It’s a good thing he’s so darn cute. I cannot even begin to think about what a 16 hour flight with him will be like.

aaaaaand, I'm outta here.

aaaaaand, I’m outta here.


Hitting my new mom with this balloon seems like a good plan.


When we arrived at the Civil Affairs Office this morning, we expected to meet him right away, but instead spent a good hour and a half doing paperwork and waiting for the payment to be sent by our guide to complete the adoption before we were allowed to meet him. Finally, after all that waiting, no one warned us they were bringing him in, so it happened quite unexpectedly. The first thing that surprised us is how big he is! I was picturing a petite little guy, and mostly brought 3T clothes for him. He is much bigger than Charlotte and is taller, with bigger hands and feet than I thought possible for his age and situation (malnutrition). Part of it is that he was in three layers of clothing (the high is 60 today- comfortable- but again, remember the snow suits…every baby we’ve seen has been in one!!) so the bulkiness made him seem bigger than he really is. Anyway, he just walked right up to us, waved goodbye to the nannies without a tear (not so much a good thing) and with the enthusiasm and pace of the Energizer Bunny, moved on out. He’s laughed and giggled and as Grace said, “he’s having the best day of his entire life”. He’s seeing the world for the first time, and it’s precious, yet exhausting to see it through his eyes.

He's a happy kid!

He’s a happy kid!

The orphanage actually sent him with a bag of belongings (Charlotte came to us with the clothes on her back- the difference in their orphanages is like night and day) complete with baby formula and Pull-Ups. Thankfully he is fully potty trained, so I’m not sure why, but I think it is the standard bag o’stuff they send with each adopted child. The neat thing is that we also got a Snapfish type book of photos of him and his orphanage. There are a couple of pictures of him as a baby in it! That is rare and a blessing to an adoptive family. They also had a stamp made with his Chinese name on it, saved the receipts from the birthday cake we sent for memorabilia and included all of his things in a professionally made “Shanghai Children’s Center” shopping bag. ┬áThis orphanage is so large that it’s almost like a business.

Gotcha video

After leaving the Civil Affairs Office, we headed straight for the grocery store to get some snacks and foods he is used to eating. Here is a short video clip of that experience. I wish we would have realized right away how it would go because you should have seen him on the cookie aisle…

Carrigan shopping spree video

We quickly realized that we needed to go back to the room right away (no lunch in a restaurant of any kind!) and eat some noodle bowls we picked up at the store (that we should have bought for the train). After being in the room a good hour to play and get to know each other, he had spilled two bowls of ramen, smashed cookies on the bed and floor, did everything short of scaling the curtains (though we are sure that was coming next), we decided we needed to get out of the room a bit to burn some energy and walk around the hotel.

Warily checking each other out.

Warily checking each other out.

They decide the other is ok!

They decide the other is ok!

AlphaBees - the unifying toy of children the world over.

AlphaBees – the unifying toy of children the world over.


We checked out the pool and Executive Lounge (Happy Hour couldn’t come soon enough!) and decided since we are in Shanghai and he is clearly not going to nap today, we might as well see some of it. We took the subway to the People’s Square where we hopped on the “Big Bus Tour”- double decker open top bus with audio tour of the main highlights of Shanghai). Carrigan (we are calling him Ya Ning Carrigan for now) thought it was great, but he was more interested in plugging the headphones in and out of the jack repeatedly than looking at the sights.

He's kind of a big deal.  Except to Garrick.

He’s kind of a big deal. Except to Garrick.

We disturbed the dignity and repose of the Executive Lounge.  Twice, actually.

We disturbed the dignity and repose of the Executive Lounge. Twice, actually.

Big Bus Tour!  And yes, the unsecured stroller with the sleeping baby in it is perfectly safe.

Big Bus Tour! And yes, the unsecured stroller with the sleeping baby in it is perfectly safe.

Shanghai! We love this town.

Shanghai! We love this town.

After the tour we came back to the hotel and had dinner in the Executive Lounge since it is included in our reservation. After he had sufficiently sampled foods from everyone’s plates, I brought him back to the room with the other kids to put them to bed, which couldn’t have gone better! He wanted to sleep with numerous toys and he was in the portacrib next to our bed- he played happily and quietly (success!) there until he fell asleep, and he hasn’t made a peep since (it’s 4AM now). We were able to Skype with Grammy and the kids, and Gaige, too! I can’t wait for our whole family to be together again and start the process of teaching him what it’s like to be in a family. Right now he thinks we live at this hotel and that we are always on the move- little does he know that typically we stay at home, with weekend outings as a family, but that his life will be a lot less exciting than the pace we are living right now. He has everything to learn, and our job is to love him, encourage and praise any hint of good and right he does, and gently correct the glaring wrong for now, giving him time to bond with and trust us. Please pray that each day will get a little bit easier, for Charlotte as she struggles (she is from peace and perfect country, and is not amused with him taking her stuff and his rough play- her response soon after Carrigan’s arrival was to shut down and pretend to sleep) and for our family as we grow together.

Shanghai Subway?  Owned it.

Shanghai Subway? Owned it.

This cuteness is tough to beat.

This cuteness is tough to beat.

There's a good chance the big one knows where he is going.

There’s a good chance the big one knows where he is going.

“When Love Takes You In”
By Steven Curtis Chapman

I know you’ve heard the stories
But they all sound too good to be true
You’ve heard about a place called home
But there doesn’t seem to be one for you
So one more night you cry yourself to sleep
And drift off to a distant dreamWhere love takes you in and everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you inAnd somewhere while you’re sleeping
Someone else is dreaming too
Counting down the days until
They hold you close and say I love you
And like the rain that falls into the sea
In a moment what has been is lost in what will beWhen love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heartAnd this love will never let you go
There is nothing that could ever cause this love to lose its hold

When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in it takes you in for good
When love takes you in

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