Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We made it to China! The 18-hour flight went surprisingly well, thanks to Xanaax, Tylenol PM, Harry Potter and sitting in Business Class. We’ve discovered that the Guangzhou airport is pretty much dead at 6am, and morning television is as inane in Mandarin as it is in English.

After a short layover, we flew to our pre-trip destination, Beijing, the Chinese capital, in the northern half of the country (along the same latitude as Philadelphia for you cartographers). We will be here until Saturday afternoon.

Beijing is an amazing clash of the very modern and the very old; the bright and shiny and the very decrepit. To put it into Hollywood terms, Beijing is The Grapes of Wrath meets Wall Street. There are clearly no “zoning” laws of any kind, so shacks are found abutting steel and glass sky scrapers. And there is construction everywhere. Mark read in this weekend’s New York Times that there are about 8000 construction projects right now in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and we think we’ve seen about 2/3 of them. Evidence of poverty is everywhere. Whenever our group of 22 gets off the bus to see sights, we are mobbed by “vendors” offering everything from postcards and silk purses to “Rolex” watches; all are tenacious, some are aggressive. And the one who spoke the best English was a hooker who approached Mark.

The folks with whom we are traveling are great. Two other families will be with us when we go to Changsha, as their daughters are also in the Chenzhou orphanage.


Today, Wednesday, we toured the Hutong, visited the Summer Palace, and attended a performance of Chinese acrobats.

The Hutongs, (listed in the book 1000 Places To See Before You Die…I know, not the kind of list you want to blow through), are ancient narrow alleyways where only pedicabs can maneuver. Many were built during the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming(1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties. You don’t want to get lost in there because it’s a maze you’ll never get out of.

After lunch, ironically “Chinese,” we went to the Bang Fu Chun Pearl Store. (Write your own joke for Bang Fu and send them in). The Pearl Store gets its pearls from the Pearl River. This stop was basically a government run infomercial, with what seemed like hundreds of overly helpful girls trying to force you into buying pearls. (Nicki buckled under pressure).

Then it was off to the Summer Palace and the Marble Boat. (Right now we’re both too tired to think up anything clever or funny about either place).

After that we were whisked (okay maybe not whisked) to a Chinese Acrobat show. While not the top acrobat show in Beijing, it was still pretty damn impressive. (The microwaved popcorn, however, was not impressive at all).

Then it was off to dinner. Chinese again. But we did see McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, TGIFriday’s, Schlotzsky’s Deli, and the ever faithful Starbucks. (And China wonders why it’s facing an obesity problem).


Marty the Monkey, given to Michayla by Liz Carlock, has become our favorite stuffed animal. We don’t know if Michayla will like him but we can’t get enough of him. And Marty is trying to give the Traveling Gnome a run for his money.


Marty dreaming of a Marty Dynasty.


Marty dreaming of a Green Tea Frappucino from Starbucks.


Marty with our pedicab driver, Number 1. No really, Number 1.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

One Eyed Greenie

Some of our friends and family have expressed their concern that with all of our attention on Michayla we have neglected One Eyed Greenie. But fear not, OEG is doing quite well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


We received our THIRD CALL from US Asian Affairs on Monday, August 15, confirming that our group will be leaving LAX on Friday, September 2 for Guangzhou. However, as we’ve mentioned in previous postings and emails, we are taking a pre-trip vacation to Beijing, so we will be leaving one week earlier, on Sunday, August 28. We are scheduled to return to LAX on Sept. 16, China Southern flight #0327, arriving at 6:50pm.


Tuesday, August 16. An equally thrilling day for us, because in the mail we finally received the Development Update Report from the orphanage, giving us a bit more information about our little girl.

On May 26, 2005, Placement personnel at the Chenzhou City Child Welfare Institute wrote the following about Michayla (as translated by Sherry at USAA):

“CHEN, Chenxi, female, was abandoned at the gate of Beihu Park on January 24, 2005. Police officer received a call from a person and went to pick her up. She wore yellow suit and wrapped in orange coat without birth note. She was placed in our institute on that day because we couldn’t find her parents and relatives.

At the time of placement, her face, heart, lung and limb are normal: height 48cm, weight 3.7kg, head size 35cm, chest size 32cm, feet 7cm; the physician estimated her birthday based on her physical development to be January 17, 2005, and named her Chen, Chenxi. “Chen” is the first word of “Chenzhou City,” “Chenxi” means happy morning sun.

After placed in, she was well cared for by the caretakers and grandmas of “Half the Sky.” She has a regulated daily routine.

One month old – likes watching the light; seldom cries, except wet or hungry. (Just like her dad)

Two months old – can visually follow moving objects; can locate sounds by turning her head; loves us touching her face, holding her hands and talking to her.

Three months old – likes watching toys hanging on the bed; knows her name.

She is almost 4 months old now, has thick black hair; likes holding her hands; when sitting on a chair, she loves to kick her feet to move the chair; if you touch her face, she will smile to you; when close to her, she will wave her hands for a hug. She has a good appetizer and sleeps very well, she is a healthy, outgoing and active baby.

We added Vitamins to her food. Her immunization is updated.”


We did some research and, according to the Chenzhou City government website, “Beihu park covers an area of 474 mu, of which 206 mu water area. It has tourist attractions as Forking Fish Pavillion, Statue of Chinese Woman Volleyball Team, Beihu lake and moonlight, Outai Eden, etc.

Beihu lake and moonlight was one of Eight Sceneries in Chenzhou in Yuan Dynasty. Hangyu, the famous poet in Song Dynasty once came here and wrote Forking Fish Poem for Beihu Park. Forking Fish Pavillion and a statue of Hangyu was built in memory of Hangyu.”

I have been told I am not allowed to make a Forking Fish joke. –Mark

Beihu Park Pagoda

Beihu Park Pagoda
Originally uploaded by Little Monkey Brown.

Beihu Park

Beihu Park
Originally uploaded by Little Monkey Brown.


Once again -- being Mark and Nicki -- we went back to the Internet to do some research, and discovered the following information about the Half the Sky Foundation (, the not-for-profit charitable corporation that was created by American adoptive parents Jenny and Richard Bowen.

Half the Sky Foundation -- named for the Chinese adage, "Women hold up half the sky" – was established in 1998 to provide individual attention, love and nurturing for the many children in China who languish waiting for families -- or those who will never be adopted. All of the Half the Sky centers have been built by volunteers, and almost all of these centers have been funded by adoptive families and friends through individual donations. HTS’s purpose is to establish early childhood education, personalized learning and infant nurture programs in Chinese welfare institutions to provide the children stimulation, individual attention, and an active learning environment.

HTS designed its Baby Sisters Infant Nurture Program to provide the foundation for healthy development. Each HTS "Nanny" is assigned 3-5 babies. Her role is to provide responsive care to her infants, interact with them, talk to them, engage actively in their feeding, touch them and show physical affection, facilitating bonding and attachment. They watch over and guide the babies as they play and safely explore their world. (We’re going to see if we can adopt one of the nannies as well).

The infant center is also painted in soft complimentary colors. The floors are carpeted. Half the room is padded with gymnastics mats; half is furnished with rocking chairs. There are mirrors, pull-up bars, textured pathways and developmental toys everywhere.

The Chenzhou Child Welfare Institute was built in 2002. You can take a look at:

We are thrilled to know that our little Michayla has been engaged, nurtured and – most importantly -- loved the first seven months of her life. Now we’re ready for our turn!!

Monday, August 01, 2005


Michayla Passport
Originally uploaded by Little Monkey Brown.
Our little monkey!


Thursday morning, July 28 we got the Second Call! Photos of our little girl were ready! And much sought after information. So here goes:

Her Chinese name is Chenxi Chen (Chenxi means “Happy Morning”); she lives in an orphanage in Chenzhou, which is in the Hunan province; she’s healthy; is a moderate sleeper; likes music; and likes to be held.

The biggest, challenging, scary, fun, news is that while we expected that we would bring home a baby girl 12-14 months old, we were surprised and delighted to discover that Chenxi’s birthdate is JANUARY 17, 2005! She is only 6-1/2 months old now, and will be about 8 months old when we pick her up - nearly HALF the age of the baby we thought we’d get -- and we couldn’t be happier!!

On Friday, July 29, we made our way to the US Asian Affairs offices in the Monterey Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles, where we were handed a plain manila envelope with “Brown/Genovese” handwritten on the front. We took our deepest collective breath. Nicki opened the envelope ever-so-slightly to peek inside and then began to laugh with joy and emotion as she took out the photos.

We always said that if we had a biological baby, the one thing we knew for certain is that she would be hairy, because we’re both pretty hairy people. So when we looked at the photos, we knew that she was meant to be ours.

According to Chenxi’s Children Medical Examination Record and the State of Growth of Prospective Adoptive Child (0~1 year) forms (printed in Mandarin by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, and translated for us at USAA by a lovely girl named Sherry) all her medical tests were negative, including the HIV test. She wakes up at 6.30a, has a nap at 11.30a and goes to bed at 7.00p. (Just like her paternal grandfather) She drinks cow’s milk and formula several times a day (the formula is a combination of rice powder and bean powder), including a feeding at 10.30p. She enjoys steamed eggs at 8.00a and fruit juice and/or mashed fruit at 2.00p. (Who doesn’t?)

Chenxi (pronounced: chen-SEE) is, in fact, a “moderate” sleeper, who can locate the direction of a sound/voice, can visually follow moving toys with her eyes and can “hold blocks on each hand at the same time” (which is a good skill to have with her multi-tasking mother Nicki!). She “follows you with moving head from one side to the other,” and was described as having a personality that is both “active” and “restless.” We decided that when the staff at the Matching Room saw our photos of us running in races, and going to baseball games and black-tie events, they probably thought, here’s a couple that likes to get up early and pack a lot into a day, let’s give them the restless baby that hardly sleeps (which made Nicki very happy). The report said Chenxi likes to be held (which made Mark very happy) and her favourite toys are “colourful, musical” ones.

In ten days we will receive a Developmental Report that may provide information about where she was found; was there a note; how old was she when she was abandoned; etc.


Michayla Chenxi Griffith Brown

For the record, we never really intended to call our baby Boba, in fact we chose Michayla months ago. It honours the memory of Nicki’s paternal grandfather Michael, her maternal aunt Maureen, and Nicki’s maternal grandmother’s maiden name, which also began with the letter “M.” Chenxi is obviously in recognition of her Chinese name and heritage, and Griffith is a family name on Mark’s maternal side. The “G” in Griffith also honours “Genovese” and Nicki’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name, which begins with a “G.” The Brown was the easy part. We didn’t originally plan to include her Chinese name, however Chenxi was very pretty, and worked well with the other names. Her Hebrew name will also be Michayla.

Mark had never heard Michayla before, and in doing some research, we discovered that most people spell it “Michaela” or “Mikala” so the challenge for us was to come up with a spelling that would be uncommon and yet provide options for nicknames like Mickie, Kaylie, or Kayla. We figure with all the names we’ve given her, our daughter is sure to find one that suits her personality. And, as Mark points it, whatever she chooses, it will no doubt be preceded by “The Honorable”, making her the first Jewish-Irish-Chinese female justice to sit on the Supreme Court (no pressure there!). We are still getting used to saying her name out loud, and we both giggle every time we say “Michayla.”

Now that we’ve seen her adorable little punim, we are anxious to get our baby home as soon as possible. The earliest we will go is Sunday, August 21. The latest: Sunday, September 4.

We mentioned this in previous postings, but it bears repeating: the group will get two-weeks notice, but since we’re also traveling to Beijing for a little sightseeing, we’ll get one week’s notice! The total group consists of 38 families, which could total about 100 people when one factors in other family members like grandparents and children.

We’ll fly from Los Angeles to Guangzhou to Beijing to Guangzhou to Changsha (Where we’ll finally get Michayla. We’re not going to the orphanage. They’ll bring her to us) to Guangzhou to Los Angeles). Phew!

We spent the weekend indulging in our own brand of nesting: kvelling about how beautiful our baby is and cleaning the apartment, including Nicki laundering and ironing the drapes, and Mark hanging out of the 3rd floor window with a squeegee cleaning the outside of the glass. We figure we may never have the opportunity to do such a thorough job again. Next week the crib, high-chair, and shelves for Michayla’s toys and books arrive, which means more shuffling of furniture and probably more cleaning.

Knowing that soon our little baby will be crawling around our apartment kept us smiling all weekend; we’ve never been happier to scrub the floors in our entire lives.