Monday, August 31, 2009

A huge gift

While we were waiting to bring Max home, we sent him several care packages. In these care packages we included a couple of disposable cameras as well as a disposable video camera. When his foster family brought him to us, they gave these back to us, full of pictures and video. We finally got the developed photos and the dvd yesterday and had a chance to look through them last night. There are some cute photos of Max, but the best part is that we really got a chance to see what his life and foster family were like in China. Most importantly, on these photos and video you could see how much he was loved. His foster mother has given us such a gift by loving him and caring for him for two years. I can understand why his transition has gone so well after watching the video. He was given such a foundation in love and family that is irreplacable. I hope that she has some idea of what she's done for him and that she can find peace in her heart.

A good day (we needed one)




It was a rough weekend and we needed a good day. We got one. It was all around great. It started with a good night's sleep. This was followed by Ellie getting up in a fabulous mood. She usually drags in the morning. It's been hard to get her out the door in time for school. Today, there were no complaints. No reminders were needed to get her to eat her breakfast or brush her teeth. There were no arguments over her outfit (which is shocking since I picked pants to put under her dress which is a big no no in her world - probably in the fashion world too, but when its 60 degrees in the morning she's not wearing a summer dress alone.) She hopped out of school in a good mood. Max was also in a good mood. We came home and played in the tub, then he "helped me" with laundry and sweeping the floors. We then went for a walk around the plaza, did some children's book shopping, and had a mocha (yummy!) We got done just in time to pick Ellie up from school. Yes, she was still in a good mood. I made a crazy decision to try and squeeze in a Costco visit before lunch, knowing that she's crazy hungry after school. Once we got there, she sprung on me that they hadn't had a snack today either. Miraculously, she didn't complain once, we got through our shopping in less than 10 minutes, and I had just enough cash left to get the kids each a slice of pizza. I wasn't sure how Max would like it since he's not a big cheese fan (who doesn't like cheese?), but they both chowed. We got home and Max slept while Ellie and I had some quiet time reading. When Max got up, we went outside and played with our new t-ball set. After this, we had a pudding snack (check out the pictures). Then, Jason got home at a decent time and we actually cooked dinner. We grilled up some salmon burgers, had corn on the cob (you should see Max eat corn on the cob - he loves it), and had tomatoes and mozarella. Even though the weather feels like fall, it was a good summer meal. We cleaned up, took a walk around the neighborhood, gave Ellie a bath, and put the kids to bed with minimal complaint from them. Now I'm enjoying a glass of wine with my husband and my computer. I'm happy. Of course I'm happy that Max had such a great day, but honestly, I'm just as happy about Ellie's day. She's had a rough time since turning four, now we've added a sibling and jet lag, and we've also focused on being more strict since being home from China. It's been tough, but we're really starting to see it pay off. The best part is that she's so proud of her improvements. Keep your fingers crossed that this all continues.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I miss China

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be home, but things are much busier here. In China, all we had to do was spend time together as a family, do a little paperwork, and a little sightseeing. In China, I had my mom and my husband helping me. Here, it's been me with two kids for a whole week. We've started school for Ellie which means adjusting to that routine. I had to unpack and sort through everything that we brought home with us (not quite done with that part yet). I have to keep the house clean (kind of clean at least), get caught up on laundry, pay bill, grocery shop, perpare meals, run errands, and catch up with all of our friends and family (my favorite part). And, don't forget the really important part - continuing to bond with Max and foster his attachment with us (and ours to him), and spend time with big sister to make sure that she's not feeling left out. Also, don't forget daddy, we don't want him to feel left out either. Sometimes I think I've got it all under control. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning. This is harder than I thought it would be. But, it will get better, I know it will. These are just growing pains.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Max's Impromptu 2nd Birthday Party






































Yes, we were home two days and hosting a birthday party. No, this wasn't planned (at least not by me.) But, it was alot of fun. Max turned two while we were in China. We had originally planned to celebrate there, but the day of his birthday was a bit rough. I was sick, he was grumpy, and we were packing up in one city and flying to another. Ellie thought that not celebrating his birthday was unacceptable so we decided that we would celebrate it "when we got home." I was really thinking further down the road. She was so excited about it though, and her excitement rubbed of on me, Aunt Leigh, and Grandme Ne who graciously agreed to expand our Tuesday family dinner into a birthday party for Max. She picked Ellie up after lunch on Tuesday and they went party shopping, decorated, and baked the cake. They also picked out presents and wrapped them. All that you see is of Ellie's design (with guidance from Grandma Ne). Ellie's original party theme was pink, but she was redirected. I got off easy. I took a nap while Max napped, got him up and dressed, swung by the hardware store on the way over, and picked up the wagon I'd been wanting to get him as a gift. Max really enjoyed meeting the rest of the family. He had a great time with his cousins, although he still hasn't joined in the chaos 100%. He also loved being entertained by his grandpas (as do all of the grandkids). He wasn't sure what to think about having Happy Birthday sung to him, but he loved when everyone clapped for him. He loved his birthday dinner (especially corn on the cob - he ate three pieces), but was then too full for cake and ice cream. He didn't really understand the opening of gifts, but his cousins and sister were happy to help him out. He did really enjoy the toys that came out of the packages though. It's going to be interesting to have a boy. It's all movement and noise already. We have used the wagon several times already and we're loving it (mom too). It's great to cart the kids to the park or local stores and we'll definitely be taking it to the pumpkin patch this fall.







Ellie's first day of Pre-K




Ellie was so excited to be going back to school this week. She had a great summer with her friends at Pam's, but she definitely missed the routine and her friends at St. Paul's. She is also so proud that this year she is in Pre-K, not preschool. She knows next year is Kindergarden and for some reason being 5 years old and going to Kindergarden is the best thing in life that she can imagine.
Her first day was really just a meet and greet. It was so nice to be off so that I could go with her. Her teacher this year is Ms. Higdon. Mrs. Williams will be hard to top, but I hear Ms. Higdon is great and Ellie seems to like her so far. Ellie starts her day in the Zebra room and she has already learned to find her classroom herslef. On Tuesday, her first day without me, she jumped right out of the car and looked like such a big girl walking into school and finding her room all on her own. I certainly don't hear all of the details of her school day, she's pretty stingy with the info, but I have gotten a few tidbits. A couple of the girls who left her out some last year she now says are her best friends and like to play with her on the playground, yeah! Her favorite part of the day is storytime (I'm so glad she's going to be a reader). And, she is super excited to stay for lunch bunch and A-team tomorrow. (Regular school ends at 11:30, lunch bunch and A-team go until 3:30 and she only does this on Friday right now although I think I probably should add another day. She seems ready for more school and more structure.)
I also signed her up for ballet/tap this week. She'll start next Thursday. She had been doing gymnastics this spring and seemed to like it, but firmly requested dance for this fall. We'll see what spring brings. I'd love her to try tennis or music as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We're BAAAACK!


Yeah! We made it home. It was a long trip. About 30 hours from start to finish, but it went way better than it could have (as did most of the trip.) We started at our hotel with a wake up call at 0500 China time. Our porter came at 0615 to get our luggage and our van came at 0630. We had an interesting boxed breakfast in the van on the way to the airport. Thankfully our guide helped us check in. They had Ellie's name spelled wrong on her itinerary and we hadn't been able to confirm Max's seat on the flight, but it all worked out fine. Our travel scale had broken mid suitcase weighing, but they were all under limit. We then traveled through security with 8 carry-ons and two kids, took the train to our terminal and got there just a few minutes before boarding. Mom was the lucky one and got to sit by herself on the three hour flight to Beijing. Well, it was supposed to be three hours, but we sat on the runway for an hour prior to departing so it ended up as 4 hours. They sat Jason, Ellie, Max and I in the bulkhead row. They thought this was a gift with more leg room space, but I HATE the bulkhead row with kids. There is no under seat storage for your carry-ons so every time a kids wants something (every 5 minutes) you have to get up and get into the overhead bins. It went okay though. Both kids slept some and played happily the rest of the time. What more can you ask for. Beijing was difficult. We got off of our flight and had to recollect our bags (this means 13 total with carry-ons) and take these on a bus to a new terminal. You wouldn't believe how much luggage and people could fit on this bus. It was a definite clown car. We all piled off at Terminal C and found a lovely porter to cart our luggage and get us checked in. We tried to rearrange seats since not only were the ones we had crappy, but they had at least one of the kids sitting by himself. We got the kids with parents, but the seats were still crappy. We were all stuffed in the middle somewhere and Jason and I were separated by about 15 rows each with a kids (mom didn't get a kid, but she got the deepest sleeping person sitting in her aisle that made bathroom breaks a chore. It probably reminded her of waking me up as a teenager.) Because Jason and I were apart with the kids we had to rearrange 4 of our backpacks so that we each had what we needed. Also, both kids wanted to be with daddy which was a bit of an issue. Once we got settled in it was a good flight though. Max slept a good part of it (probably 8 hours). Ellie didn't fall asleep until 1 hour before we landed (she had been up for 24 hours at this point). Sleep was good, trying to get her through customs was not. She screamed at the top of her lungs, hit and bit. Thankfully, we were expedited through customs and immigration. I was a bit worried as my parenting skills were minimal that they might not let us bring Max home with us since we were clearly deficient in parenting Ellie, but they whisked us through and Max is now an American Citizen. This moment should have been met with cheers, but I think there were tears - at least on my part at how awful that hour had been. Thankfully, it was only 1 hour out of 30 and how much can you expect from a 4 year old. Ellie was SO GREAT for 95 % of this trip. I need to cut her more slack for a melt down after 24 hours of traveling on no sleep after meeting her new brother in a new country and desperately wanting to be home. She is an amazing, imaginative, strong-willed, loving, and tolerant kid. After customs and immigration we thought we only had a short while to get to our flight, but it ended up being about 3 hours delayed. We were all very ready to get home at this point (especially mom - I think she and dad were missing each other big time), but it was so nice to be in America. We had popcorn and cold drinks which lifted our spirits considerably. Max played in the airport and Ellie finally got her nap, then Max slept on the flight home and Ellie played. Both were so happy to see grandparents and Aunt Leigh at the airport (even though it was midnight.) We didn't have much time to visit, so we loaded up luggage and headed home. My awesome husband got us all Taco Bell (my favorite crave) which I enjoyed immensely and we played and showed Max his new house and new cat. He oohed and ahed over his new room, played with some of his new toys, tortured the cat a little (the love there is definitely one-sided thus far). I was worried they wouldn't sleep since they had slept so much on the plane, but with the help of melatonin they both went down about 3am. I took an Ambien and the four of slept until 2pm today. Yes, that's right 2pm. And, all in our own beds. I never would have thought it. We actually had to wake the kids up. Our awesome house sitter left us a breakfast casserole that we devoured, we unpacked a bit, then Grandma Ne, Grandpa Joe, and Aunt Leigh came over for a visit. We then took a two hour trip to the park (Max loves the slide and the sand) and came home filthy for our first double bath. We ate a simple dinner of sandwiches, fruit, and edamame that hit the spot and both kids were in bed by 11pm (progress). Ellie has a meet and greet at school at 10am so I'll try and get them up about 8am tomorrow with a goal of getting them back on there 8/8:30 to bed schedule within the next 48 hours. I'm hopefully. It was a great day. Home is wonderful. I'm so glad that Max seems to like it and feel comfortable here. It's hard to imagine that two and a half weeks ago he wasn't and now he's such an integral part of our lives. This is fun. Putting him to bed with his bottle in his own room with my family in the other room was one of the best moments in my life. I felt so calm and like everything was as it should be.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our last day in China

Today was our last full day in China. I'm ready to go home. I'm ready for my own home and my own bed. I'm ready to snuggle with my cat. I'm ready for Max to see his new home and meet all of our (his) wonderful family and friends. I'm ready to brush my teeth using water from the faucet. I'm ready for a giant salad. I'm ready for some chips and salsa. I'm ready for a diet coke with lots of ice, or maybe a diet mango limeade with sonic ice. Mmmmmm! But, I'm also going to miss China. It's been a wonderful trip and it's a wonderful country. Most of all, I'll miss the people. I think I'll even miss some things that I'm not sure I like. I think it will be an adjustment to not have constant noise, heat, and the feel of people all around you.

Today, we decided to go to a safari park near Guangzhou. It was a fun trip, but hot and tiring too. We hired a driver who picked us up at the hotel after breakfast. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the park which was actually in a neighboring town. The park was in a beautiful setting with lots of trees, plants, and a lake. We started out on the ride through safari. It was really neat. It was a motorized train that drove through natural settings with tons of animals. As you can see from the pictures we were very close. Also, they didn't just have one lion or one bear. There were probably at least 10-12 of every animal. After the ride through safari there was a whole other area that was more like a typical American zoo with lots of animals in natural settings. Very different from the zoo we had visited in Lanzhou. Interestingly people still through food and plastic wrappers to the animals here. I'm not sure why there is that cultural difference. We didn't make it very far in this area because it was so hot, so we decided to watch the monkey show. I'm not quite sure how to describe the monkey show. There were people dressed up in animal costumes (monkeys, pigs, snakes) and also an assortment of real animals, mostly monkeys. The entire show was in Chinese, so we're not really sure of the plot, but it did seem to have one. Even without hearing the jokes it was hilarious. I've never seen anything like it. Both kids were enthralled and giggling. It really seemed like Max understood the jokes because he would laugh when the rest of the audience would. Notice in the pictures of him how wet he is. No, we didn't just go to the water park. This kid sweats more than anyone I know other than Fieser. That was all we could take of the heat, so we got ice cream and headed back to the hotel to pack.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I finally captured the grin!

Max has this great mischievous grin that I haven't been able to capture on film . . . until now! Here it is! Imagine it combined with a wiggle and a jiggle and you'll have the whole picture.

The rest of our day

Our consulate appointment only took about two hours and we had the rest of the day free. Mom, Max and I walked back over to the island to finish our shopping. This just made us realize what great deals Ann had gotten us. Jason and Ellie swam some more. After our appointment we had another Chinese meal. It was another non-English speaking adventure. We ordered from the pictures, so we're really not sure what we had, but it was pretty good. I am craving a diet coke with ice and some Mexican food, but I'm trying not to think about it. So far, we have had some western food, but no KFC, Papa John's, McDonald's, etc. At this point, it's becoming tempting though. Tomorrow it's off to the safari park and then trying to stuff all of our purchases into our bags.
I'll try to update tomorrow night, but if not, I'll talk to you all back in the states!

It's over (almost)(finally)

Today was our last, official, in country adoption appointment. Yesterday the American Consulate reviewed all of our paperwork and found it fit to issue a Visa to Max to enter the country and become a US citizen. Today, we had to appear at the consulate to take an oath and swear that all of this information was true. Sorry, no pictures, there were no cameras allowed. Too bad since we all looked pretty spiffy (or as spiffy as we've looked throughout this trip). This sounds really dull, but it was actually an amazing experience. There were over thirty families there making this same oath with us. These are families most of whom we don't know personally. But, we've been seeing them all with their children throughout our week here. Even though the families and the children are all different, you can see the same look on their faces that you know is on yours. It's just this amazing feeling that your family is finally united. You almost can't believe that it's real. Before the oath they recognized the children with August birthdays, so Max got to be held up and everyone clapped for him. The little ham loved it. I'm sure everyone was jealous that we had the cutest kid in the room, but they held it in well. Then, we all stood and swore that we had told the truth in our paperwork. Not a very monumental oath, but just knowing that this was it, we had made it, Max is our son, we were all teary eyed. We then collected Max's Chinese passport and visa along with his "Brown envelope." These are the things that will make him a US citizen as soon as his passport is stamped in Newark, NJ. Wohoooo!!!!!

Rumor Queen Dinner

Wednesday night was the Rumor Queen Dinner Party. For those not immersed in the world of China adoptions, let me explain. Rumour Queen, or chinaadopttalk.com is the place to go for the latest information on adoptions in China. Along with a blog and the latest rumors, there is a chat forum where many, many adoptive parents (pre and post adoption) go to chat. This group of people has been a huge source of support during these last two year while we've been working on our adoption. I had never met anyone online before I started this process, and now I have made several lifelong friends of people I've met off of this website. One of the other adoptive mothers who frequents this website arranged for all of the families from this forum who were in Guangzhou this week to get together for dinner and pictures. It was such a fun evening to see all of these people in person and finally united with their children. We all went to the White Swan hotel to take our red couch photos, and then went back to the Italian restaurant for a relaxing dinner and visit. Thanks mdelu for arranging this fun evening!

Beautiful Guangzhou

We all slept in on Wednesday, but for some reason Ellie awoke in a funk. She was too grumpy to go out, so Jason stayed at the hotel with her where they relaxed in the room. Mom, Max and I went out with our guide Elvin for some sightseeing. We started at YunTai Gardens which was on the outskirts of Guangzhou. It was a beautiful garden. Interestingly, there were statues of various cartoon characters scattered throughout. I'm unclear as to why. I did take a picture of Nemo and Dory. This has been Ellie's favorite movie during this trip. We've watched it five times at least. While in the garden we hiked up a hill to a mountain top view. At the top we had a typical photo op with a Chinese family. Even here in Guangzhou where there are lots of Westerners and lots of adoptive families, there's always someone wanting to take your picture (usually Ellie's, this time ours). I can understand Ellie - she's beautiful. Us, I don't get it.
We were covered in sweat after our hike to the mountain top view, so when our guide told us our next stop was BaiYun Mountain, we cringed. Then he told us there was a cable car to take us to the top, so we recovered. It was a very modern cable car and Max really enjoyed the ride. At the top there was a wonderful view of all of Guangzhou. We were very hot by this point, so we took the cable car back down and headed back for another swim at the hotel pool and a nap for Max.

Free time is wonderful

On Tuesday we had no appointments. It was lovely. We have been going, going, going this whole trip and we were very glad to have some down time. We started our day as usual with the hotel buffet breakfast. My favorite part of breakfast is the music. For some reason, everywhere we've been in China, they pick the worst American music and make karaoke or elevator versions to play at breakfast. This has mainly consisted of Richard Marx, Christina Aguilera, and Mariah Carey. It's comical what you'll find yourself humming for the remainder of the day. After breakfast we played in the room for a couple of hours. Keep in mind that one week ago it wasn't possible for us to spend even a few minutes playing in the hotel. We are very much enjoying the fact that we can do this now. After this, we had lunch, nap, and then swimming. After swimming we walked over to the island and had Italian for dinner. Even though it was Italian, it was the most truly Western meal we'd had this far. There was real bread, pesto, olive tampenade, pizza, and pasta. Yummy! Our taste buds are certainly starting to crave our usual food. An altogether uneventful, wonderful day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Random comment from Ellie after picking her nose

I love burgers. Hamburgers and just boogers.
What a girl.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shopping with Ann

After our TB test yesterday we did a bit of swimming. Max is now allowed to get in the water with us since his test has been read. We then ate lunch and took naps (well, one of us did.) After naps we met Ann from Red Thread China in the lobby to do some shopping. For those of you who don't know, Ann's company is the company that we used to send care packages to Max and to get some updates on how he was doing during our long wait. She also offers personal shopping while you are in Guangzhou and we had arranged to spend this afternoon with her. It was a great experience. For anyone considering this I highly recommend it. Unfortunately I was so busy shopping I didn't get many pictures. Once we're home I'll try and upload and add some from mom's camera.

First, a little bit about Ann. Since we had only corresponded by email, I didn't know what to expect. She's great. She's tiny - under 5 feet tall for sure, but full of personality. Very sweet, but not afraid to tell you what she thinks. She has some great facial expressions too. Also, she's speedy. She outpaced all of us for sure. Granted, we were carting a two year old and a four year old with us.

We started by walking about 10 minutes to the jade market. We had been out exploring the area around our hotel, but she took us down paths and in buildings that we hadn't even noticed. We got some beautiful jade pendants and chains. We then went on to the pearl market where she helped us choose some lovely strands of pearls and pearl earrings. Part of her service is that she does all of the cost negotiation for you. I really appreciated this since bargaining is part of the culture here and I am not a skilled bargainer at all. Plus, I know nothing about what to look for in these things and what a good price is. She was great about helping with this too. (I guess she could have been telling us anything, but for the prices we paid even if it's costume jewelry I don't care!) We then went to the antique market and got some more jade and some wooden gifts. This area was remarkable. It was alleyway after alleyway, almost like a maze, but she knew exactly where to go and which vendors to use. Here, I told her that I would like a jade bangle bracelet. We went to her normal vendor who picked out his largest bangle for my wrist. They slipped a plastic bag over my hand and tried to force the bracelet over my wrist. It wouldn't budge. I'm not a big girl. I wear size small gloves at the hospital. But, I've never felt like such a giant. We then had to go to a second vendor who finally found one that would fit. But, this was only after taking me to a back alley and soaping up my hand, my wrist, and the bangle to get it on. (You should have seen me trying to get it off that night!) The kids were pooped after this so Jason took them and the packages back to the hotel and mom and I went to the clothing market to get some beautiful traditional Chinese outfits. The clothing "store" we went to was no bigger than a closet, but packed full of thousands of outfits. It was so hot and there was no air movement. But, after about an hour of digging through stacks of clothes we got all the outfits we wanted. We were then too hot and tired to continue so we returned to the hotel to relieve Jason. We had dinner, played in the room, and got another great night's rest.

Ellie swimming

videoOkay, this is my first attempt at a video upload. Let me know by email if it doesn't work since I can't check the blogsite.
This is Ellie showing off her new swimming skills!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The dreaded TB test

This morning after breakfast was the dreaded reading of the TB skin test. As you can see in the picture, I knew that Max had reacted some to his skin test. But, I didn't have anything to measure his reaction with so we were a bit unsure if he would measure as positive. He did. I had suspected this would happen since he had the BCG vaccine, but even so when it did I got a huge knot of nerves in my stomach.

For those not in the adoption community you may not understand why, so here is a brief explanation. Just this summer new rules have been put in place that all children over two years of age must have a TB skin test prior to entering the USA. If it is positive, it is followed by a chest x-ray. If this is negative, no problem. If there is any sign of active TB the child must remain in China for the entirety of the six months of treatment. At this point, Max has been adopted by us which means that one of us would need to stay here with him for six months. Clearly, this would be difficult to swing with a job and a mortgage and another child. Also, there is some uncertainty about who would pay for his treatment while he was here, but probably it would be us paying for six months of living expenses plus TB treatment out of our pockets.

Thankfully, they were able to do Max's chest x-ray right away and it was NEGATIVE!!!!! NO TB!!!!! You can bet I was in the other room scrutinizing it for any signs, but all was well. This should be the last big hurdle in this adoption. We have the rest of our paperwork and money ready to go to the American Consulate on Wednesday, but our guide doesn't expect any problems with that. We'll know for sure by 11:30am China time on Wednesday. Until then, it's more waiting. After that, it's more waiting. This is really kind of a slow week for us. That's okay, we can use some down time, but at this point we're all getting the itch to head home.

Fwd: Another day in Guangzhou

On Sunday we slept in late - until about 8:30am. Thankfully, sleep hasn't been an issue for either child. We enjoyed our breakfast buffet again and then met our guide and another family with our group in the lobby about 9:45. We drove the van over to the Chin Family Temple for a visit. It was a beautiful temple in and of itself and inside were several areas where Chinese crafts were displayed. There was an area for vases/ceramics, an area of bone carvings, an area of statues and gardens, a room with beautiful embroidery (see the picture of the fish - also Max's favorite animal and one of a few Mandarin words we understand), an area with craftsmen painting Mah Jong tiles, and an area where a man painted using only his hands (no brushes). We enjoyed wandering about, but it was getting very hot and all of the kids were getting grumpy. There was another bathroom incident that ended with a very old Chinese lady yelling at Ellie and I (in Chinese, so I have no idea about what), but needless to say we were ready to go after about an hour and a half. We came back to the hotel and had lunch here as well and then Jason put Max down for a nap while Ellie and I went swimming. Once Max was asleep grandma took over with him and Jason joined Ellie and I at the pool.

Ellie has made giant strides in her swimming this summer. At the beginning of the summer it was a huge achievement for her to put her face in the water. Now, she can jump in and go under, and she is even starting to swim some. Probably 5-10 feet, but definite swimming and keeping herself afloat. She even swims underwater holding her breath. And, we're seeing the beginnings of a back float. It's a pretty significant change.

After swimming, somebody was cranky. We knew she was tired, but it was only about 5pm and if she fell asleep then the night would be ugly. We rallied the troops and went out for a walk. We decided to try walking over to Shamian Island. This is a man made island in the Pearl River that is full of British colonial style buildings. It is very pretty and fairly Americanized. One of the other families said it reminded them of New Orleans and I think that is a pretty good analogy. New Orleans is stinkier though. It took us 15-20 minutes, but was no a bad walk. Once we were there we ate at a Western style restaurant which was pretty good. I always said when I came to China I would only eat Chinese food. I was wrong. I've been craving familiarity so this hit the spot. After dinner we watched the boats and the lights on the water for a bit and then came back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our first day in Guangzhou

After getting in so late Friday night, we were so pleased to sleep in this morning. Jason and I didn't get up until 8, and both kids slept until we opened the curtains at 8:30am. Jason, Mom and the kids went down to the breakfast which they reported was very nice. Food is very important in this family and so the made to order omelets and actual Western style bacon are important things to note. At 9:30 Jason, Max, and I met our guide Elvin to head to the medical exam for Max. Mom stayed with Ellie and gave her some undivided attention which was wonderful for her and for us. Before we made it to the medical exam we met up with two other families from our adoption agency who are staying at another hotel. It was so nice to see some other people in similar situations and to just chat about what we had been up to. Next, we went and got some more photos taken for Max's visa application. They're pitiful. He's crying and his face is all red. But, who did he reach for when he was upset? That's right, mama! We're getting there. We then went into the medical clinic. It was amazing. There were probably 40 other adoptive families in and out during the two and a half hours that we were there. I loved seeing the wide range of families and the wide range of kiddos that they were adopting. There are just so many kids out there with manageable needs just waiting for families. It was great to see these kids finding there forever homes. While we were at the appointment, Max had to be measured, weighed, and had a very basic physical and ENT exam. Nothing unexpected there. He also had his PPD (TB skin test) placed. We'll find out Monday if that is positive or not. If it is, which it very well may be since he's had the BCG vaccine, he'll need a CXR to determine if he has active disease. This is what counts. This has to be negative for us to bring him home. We have no reason to think he does have active TB, but there will be a nagging worry until this is done. While this was all going on, Max had to go to the restroom. I volunteered to take him (this is usually Jason's job). I quickly came to regret this decision. We went into the squatty potty and Max squatted right down to potty. But, he was turned the wrong way so his tush wasn't over the pot. This was fine until he made the last minute decision to take a dump which went all over the floor. I had to clean that up and then, I couldn't figure out how to flush. I feel sorry for the next person to use that restroom.
After we were done with the medical exam we came back to the hotel, had some lunch, and Jason put Max down for a nap while I took Ellie swimming. We had to check out the pool first to make sure there were no swimming caps required. Thankfully it was a good old fashioned western pool. No swim caps required. We swam for about 45 minutes and then Jason came up to swim with her for another hour and a half more while Mom watched Max nap. Our guide came to get me and we met up with one of the other families to do paperwork. We now have everything pretty much ready to submit for Max's visa once we get his medical report back on Monday. It feels so good to have that paperwork done. It's just one step closer to actually bringing him home. Once I got back from our paperwork marathon we got the kids dressed and went out exploring. Unfortunately I was lazy with the camera and didn't get any pictures today. Mom has some, but I can't upload them to the blog from her camera. We walked down the street from our hotel where there is a pet market. There were cats, dogs, fish, chipmunks, turtles, lizards, and birds for sale. The kids loved this. Then we walked over to the pedestrian shopping street and just looked around a bit. We ended up at a Cantonese restaurant next to our hotel where we had a really good meal. We had some fried pork with honey flavoring (yummy), some sauteed chicken with green vegetables (good except for the chicken head on the plate), some fried rice with shrimp and pork (good), and some egg rolls with probably chicken in them (very good). Both kids put away some serious food and were looking tired so we made our exit and came back to the hotel to play awhile and then hit the hay. Both of them fell asleep quickly giving mommy time to blog and daddy time for some extra snores. We're hoping every day in Guangzhou goes as smoothly as today was.

When your sliding into first with your pants about to burst

Yep, that's right, all of us grown ups have had it. Thank goodness the kids haven't. Mine started Thursday night. Jason went to a concert by the Central China Orchestra with Dr. Lu and mom and I stayed in and put the kids to bed. I woke up Friday feeling icky. Mom and Jason took the kids to breakfast and played in mom's room while I took some cipro, pepto, and got some sleep. Thankfully that seemed to take care of it and I felt much better by lunchtime (not that I ate). We then had to pack up and check out of our hotel.
Dr. Lu came by one last time to say goodbye (this man is amazing). His family also got our family some very thoughtful gifts. They got Max a statue of the horse from WuWei and they got both kids some traditional Chinese outfits. Ellie has already had hers on dancing around like a beautiful princess. The grown ups got some lovely silk scarves.
After we checked out we went to the Yellow River Park. Back in the day, goods were transported down the river using Sheepskin rafts. There is an area there today where they still make these. They basically skin a sheep whole, seal the skin with oil, dry it, and inflate it like a balloon. They then take lots of these inflated sheep skins and use them to float rafts down the river. What's amazing to me is that the skin still looks like a sheep. It's kind of creepy. You can take rides on these rafts down the river, but we declined. We also saw the statue of the Yellow River Mother which was very nice and then walked down the river to one of the old water wheels. Jason was fascinated of course. It was How It's Made in person. It was really neat. It was probably the coolest thing we had seen in Lanzhou. After this we had a light dinner and drove to the airport. Ellie was tired and ready to be on the plane, so she was a bit out of sorts. Thankfully, she held it together. She conked out shortly after we got on the plane. Max did really well also, especially considering it was his first plane flight and he doesn't like to be cooped up. He sat and played for about an hour, then ate some dinner (yes they serve full meals on in China flights), and then he fell asleep too. We thought we had that flight licked. Then, when we went to get the kids off of the plane we realized Ellie had pottied in the airplane seat. Awesome. Thankfully, the flight attendants were very understanding. I got her cleaned up while mom and Jason got the luggage and handled Max. Then we made the long drive into Guangzhou.
What we first noticed about Guangzhou was the driving. It was tame. Nothing like what we were used to in Beijing or Lanzhou. And, it was quiet. There was no honking. Our guide Elvin said that in Guangzhou they ticket people for honking too much! What a change. It took us about 45 minutes to get to our hotel. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Shifu which is not the traditional hotel for adoptive parents. It is quite nice, but in a more traditional busy part of Guangzhou right on a busy pedestrian shopping street. We were very pleased to check into our large, updated hotel rooms and crash for the night at about 12:30am.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I forgot pictures

Sorry, I forgot to attach the pictures to the last post and those are clearly the most important part of the blog. I'll try again.