Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adoption

Here's a recent note from our agency. If you've ever considered adoption (or haven't), this might be of interest to you.

************

Domestic adoption has changed drastically in the last year.

Layoffs and downsizing have caused a great loss in the birth parent job market – waitressing, factory jobs, laborers, fast-food workers. Many young women are finding themselves pregnant and desperate for a solution. More than ever, they are considering adoption. We are the busiest we’ve been in our history, not just with the sheer number of women calling us, but with the level of care each of them need. Some are homeless, turning to drugs and finding themselves in jail. More than 1/3 of our calls involve teenage birth mothers as young as 14. Many of their parents are in an economic crisis as well and unable to raise their grandchild--an option that might have been their first choice. It is a more desperate time. Families that never thought they’d consider adoption before are choosing it now. Our staff is always caring, patient and resourceful. Even more is being asked of them now as they scramble to help these women compete for housing, aid with utilities, OB waiting lists and even Medicaid. Adoptions like these are not simple, and colder weather will only cause more competition for social services.


So far, we have kept up with the demand, but we are getting nervous. The first half of the year is always filled with new, hopeful couples and most of our placements take place before July. This year is different. Monday, we had 44 couples – it’s Wednesday and five families have placements. Of the 39 left, 25 already have solid leads and a relationship with their birth mom (several couples even have multiple leads.) We presently have 41 birth moms – 25 of them are due before the end of the year. We have never in our history had more birthmothers than adoptive couples. But it is a desperate time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why Can't I Say That?

This afternoon I followed an SUV with a window sticker imploring me to "Feel Your Boobies." Obviously, this conjured up a number of mental images which nearly took me off the road. But more embarrassing was the fact that with age and recent weight gain, this was indeed a possibility for me.

I've seen other cars recently with stickers that say, "Save the Ta-Tas." All of these various stickers bear the little pink ribbon indicating an affiliation with breast cancer awareness. Therefore, I'm still not quite sure I understand the negative response I would receive if I were to use the same verbiage with my wife. Any reference to "boobies" or "ta-tas," and I'd be ducking a punch.

I guess this relates to the old Seinfeld episode where Tim Whatley converted to Judaism just for the jokes. By the same logic, if I were a lady (now THAT is ugly), I could talk about my "boobies" all day long. But as a man, it's a no go. Life is so complicated.

At least as a dude I can snicker when I order chicken nuggets or get mixed nuts on the plane. Erin cannot.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mommy is Losing Her Mind

First an update on our newest cousin/nephew. Drew Michael was moved to the intensive care unit of a different hospital, and he will probably need to stay about 10 days to let his lungs finish developing. He's doing great, otherwise, and he is very beautiful. Here's a picture of him the first time his mommy got to meet him!We look forward to visiting him in the coming days, but to be honest, I think Drew Michael is to blame for me losing my mind. No, really. I think when the call came that he was coming (very early), my mind flew out the window and has yet to return. I functioned for half a day thinking it was Friday instead of Thursday. I've lost (I mean LOST) things I just had in my hand. I forgot that today was Grant's first day of preschool (thankfully, Grant has yet to learn the days of the week, so when I told him on Monday that he was going to get to go to school on Thursday, I might as well--thanks to his ignorance--said December). I think that little 4 pound, 11 ounce wonder-boy named Drew Michael owes me an apology. If he weren't so cute and small, I probably would have not lost my mind, spilled salsa all over myself, and forgotten to bring wipes in the diaper bag (very bad news with Gracie-the-wonder-pooper... by the way, thank you, Cindy).

Grant, though, has not lost his mind, but rather, he has found it. He has returned to his normal, cuddly, kind and easy self. He still has his toddler moments, but he has stopped trying to kick Grace down the stairs, and instead, he really has started to help me and to enjoy her. I'm glad to know that the first week of terror was just a little transitional phase.

Grant and I did have a funny conversation on the way back from the zoo this morning (I forgot it was school, but at least we did something fun!). Here's the conversation:

Grant: Mommy, I want a yellow truck.
Me: Do you already have a yellow truck?
Grant: No, I want to buy one.
Me: Well, when you have enough money in your piggy bank, you can buy one.
Grant: But, I never get anything.
Me: Really? You don't have any toys or clothes?
Grant: No, I have toys and clothes. But, I just want everything.
Me: Well, that's not going to happen. Sometimes, what we want and what we get..
Grant: I know: are two different things.
Me: That's right.
Grant: Well, I want all the money. I want it all.

Whew.

Already the little greed monster has entered my son's head. He sees a toy in another kid's hand and wants--no "needs"--one just like it immediately. He is so tired of hearing my "what you want and what you get" speech that he usually stops me mid speech and tries to finish it with "are the same thing." He's got a rough road ahead of him.

But, his interest in "getting" money (let's call it saving money, as not to offend my sensibilities) does beg the question: when do I start to give him an allowance? I know he's too young now (right?), but after our discussion this morning, I'm starting to wonder. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Cousin

Grant and Grace scored a new cousin this morning. Bret's sister and brother-in-law welcomed Drew Michael into the world. Bret's sister, Rachel, had to have an emergency c-section, and Drew Michael came into the world a few weeks early. But, despite some small complications, he's a trooper. He's darling and sweet and brave. He's moving to a new hospital tonight, and we can't wait until he's unplugged from all that junk, so we can hold him close and tell him how much we love him.

A big congratulations to Troy and Rachel. Pics to follow soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Doc Visit

We took Grace to the doctor last week, and guess who is tall and skinny? That's right. Grace is in the 80th percentile for height and the 20th for weight. It makes pants a tricky, tricky task right now, but it least it makes it clear why the clothes we brought her in China did not fit!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

God Knows I Am Weak



When I was in fourth grade, we started going to a new church, and I have three key memories from the move. First (and foremost), my mother met the man she would later marry, the man I call my dad. Secondly, the church was located near Polly's Pies, a local Los Angeles pie chain, a fact that often meant church was followed by a piece of boysenberry pie. And finally, Sunday School came with homework. It's true. Every week, we were expected to march back into class having memorized a different verse of scripture. I am really good at memorizing, and the glow of the teacher, plus a piece of chocolate for having memorized yet another verse, soon put me in the fourth grade elite. At the time, I don't remember thinking these verses proved particularly useful, but there has been many a time, a now (ahem) 25 years later, where these little gems have been germane.

One such time is now. You see, one of the verses that I have always remembered from that class, comes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In it (chapter 10, verse 13 to be specific), Paul notes that because of God's faithfulness, we will never be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. Now, even in the fourth grade, I knew this verse stretched farther than just temptation. I knew then, and I do know, that God will not allow me to experience that which, with His help, I cannot endure. Now, without getting all theolozmical (yes, a new word) on me by saying that with God's help I could endure anything, I have a point.

God gave us Grace, the easiest child ever conceived, because He knew we would come home to a two-and-a-half-year-old who decided he was jealous, sick of being two, and always right. Grant can still be his tender, sweet, affectionate, funny self, but let me tell you something, he's taken to what others call the "terrible twos" with fervor. We're talking the emotional-out-of-control, screaming and crying bloody murder in public, throwing, kicking, falling on the floor kind of two-year-old. If I say the sky is blue; he says it's green. If he says he's done (and I remove his plate), he starts screaming and crying that he is--indeed--not done. And, if I'm not looking, he'll punch his sister just for fun.

Grace, on the other hand, cries about seven minutes a day, mostly around nap and bedtime. She has moved her two nap routine down to one (the same time as Grant's) without complaint. She sleeps soundly through the night. She eats anything (with a strong affinity for bananas, any green vegetable, and all things meat). She plays with others, by herself, in the pack and play or on the floor. She's a fast learner, super affectionate, smiles easily and adapts and attaches easily. She's a trooper.

She is clearly God saying in near-audible form: "You can barely handle the two-year-old, so I'm going to make sure this little Chinese girl is super, super easy."

Grant was the easiest child for a long time... well, until now. So, clearly, God is also telling me that Grace, while super easy now, is going to have a personality melt down around her 30 month of life.... just in time to add a third child to the mix, right?

I might not have understood a lot about the Bible when I was in fourth grade, but I understood one basic fact: God is always there for me. Thankfully, that truth comes in just as handy now, as I'm marching my screaming child away from the toy aisle at the local super market, as it did when I was in fourth grade.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Post-China Thoughts From Dad

Upon returning from our adoption adventure to China, I began compiling a short list of thoughts regarding our trip and new, additional eater. Here is the culmination of those musings.

1. I left Grant a 2 year old and returned to a 14 year old. Seriously. The kid weighs twice what he did in July. I think he spent the month carb loading. Not to mention the fact that he seems so much older to me. He asks me how my day at work was when I get home, and I'm pretty sure I caught him trying to buy cigarettes. It's ridiculous.

2. Erin and I should not take three week "vacations" together. We have a solid marriage, and in general we enjoy each other's company. But if there had been some sort of "hit your spouse with a hammer" booth in the Hong Kong airport, it might have gotten some use from one or both of us. A three week trip of any kind is hard in general, but the adoption trip is even more stressful. You're couped up with each other a lot of the time in hotel rooms, and suddenly, you begin noticing things that perhaps you would normally overlook. I was reminded of Erin's temptation to leave dirty diapers strewn all over our hotel room, and she was reminded of my inability (or complete non-inclination) to change a diaper at all.

3. Maybe we should go on vacation now. Since our trip to China was very "unvacation" like, I'm already trying to figure out where we can go this fall. After a month in China, very "uber American" things sound good. I'm not sure Erin could dupe me into Branson again, but if ever there was a time... Maybe we'll do a small getaway to Cincinnati or Chicago or something during her fall break. We'll see...

4. Having two is harder than one. Since we didn't have any food when we got home Friday night, we all got up at 4am and went to breakfast on Saturday morning. We went to our local coffee shop, The Elegance, and immediately things went haywire. Forks were being thrown. Two year olds were squirming uncontrollably. The Chinese kid was pushing over water glasses and making demands. It was chaos. I told Erin, "We need to start taking people up on those 'date nights,' otherwise we're never eating out again." Then somebody crawled under the table and dumped egg on my pants.

5. Four kids? Really? We've always said we wanted at least four kids, but I am hereby publicly declaring that that decision might need to go under review. I realize that we've only been home a few days, and we're already starting to develop a routine. But I'm not going to lie and say that those first couple of days didn't scare the crap out of me, at least a little bit. I told Erin at one point that we had officially reached the limit of our parenting. Toys were everywhere, I couldn't sit down to watch TV without someone screaming about something. Every time I went into the kitchen I stepped on a different human being. It was crazy. Luckily things are starting to even out already, so perhaps four is still an option.

5. Girls are different than boys. This became fairly clear to me late in high school (those health class videos were funny...and scary), and it's being reinforced again right now. Grace wears little bows in her hair and cries when you throw a football at her face. Grant laughs when he passes gas and tells me "Good one!" when I burp. Grace's shoes have little ladybugs (or maybe they're strawberries) on them. Number three will be a boy. I will not lose the power struggle.

I'll try to post more thoughts in the coming days. Grace still has the habit of smiling at me and then smacking me up side the head, so hopefully I'll be able to maintain conciousness long enough to remember them all. Erin scolds her when she hits me (I would, but I'm usually crying), but I'm also relatively certain that I saw them high fiving each other as well. The balance of power is already shifting...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Few Pics from Our Homecoming

Here I am leaving Bret and Grace in the dust. I spotted my little boy!


Grace receiving presents from Grant. She has her shy-overwhelemed-head-buried-in-my-daddy's-shoulder-stare. This look is the look we had for our first three days in China. She still does it if a stranger approaches too quickly.


Our very clean house was quickly turned into a toy store. Grace knew she was with the right family!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How the Other Half Lives--The Final Chapter Home



After we left Guangzhou (saying goodbye to all our travel buddies (shout out to my original email gals!), but most sadly, Andy and Madeline Zotti--we love you guys!), we headed to Hong Kong via train. This train was much better than our first China train experience... and shorter too, clocking in at two hours. We headed to the Intercontinental Hotel. It was unbelievable. It has the best possible view of Hong Kong island. The man checking us in was absolutely fascinated that we had adopted two children (he kept shaking Bret's hand and calling him a good person), so he upgraded us to the nicest room I have ever seen (we had our own freakin' butler). It was free (Bret scored some deal using hotel points from work trips). It had a restaurant with the best food I have ever tasted (it might just be that I hadn't had a raw piece of vegetable in a long, long time, so that cob salad was a winner). It was one step closer to home.

But, as we were eating dinner overlooking Hong Kong island (the best skyline ever), I really started to lose it. I looked at Grace and realized that it is going to be a long, long time before she steps back on Chinese soil, and she'll never again step on as a Chinese citizen. I know some people think Grace is the "lucky" one, as she's going to have opportunities in the United States that she'll most likely never have had in China. And while that is partly true, she also has already given up so much. She's given up parents and foster parents, her home and her town. And as I looked out over Hong Kong, I knew she was giving up a country. And no matter how hard we try to connect her to her Chinese roots, no matter how many Chinese New Years we celebrate, I knew--at that moment--that she was given up more than most 14-month-olds. I finally pulled it together, but I will remember that moment, that night, almost more than any other single memory in China (save the moment we received Grace), as the moment that summed it all up: all the juxtapositions I had felt about China and Grace, all the longing to be home and sadness to leave, all the years of waiting.

But, it didn't last long, as the food came. Bret ordered a 30 dollar cheeseburger and declared it "steak on a bun." Desserts came. The bill came (ouch), and we headed upstairs to our suite for a four hour sleep. Then, at 5 am, we headed out the door to the Hong Kong airport (which does have a Starbucks, thank you). We boarded our first of three flights, and we headed upstairs to first class. We had planned on flying coach with three seats home, but it was just a little more expensive (with all of Bret's frequent flyer miles) for us to fly first class with two seats home. First class=winner. I have flown first class once, and it was a short flight from Portland, Oregon to Sacramento, CA. So, I was not prepared for the filet mignon, the fully reclining and massaging seats or the personalized service. But let me tell you, it was a blessing beyond blessing. While I didn't sleep much, Grace slept for about 13 hours of our 16 hours of flying. It was amazing. I was so thankful that while I came home tired, I didn't come home frazzled.

Bedhead on the Plane

We came home to the best moment of my life: holding Grace and Grant together. There are no words to describe how much I missed that boy, and seeing him at the airport, holding those flowers for me, running to meet me... it was pure joy.

We came home to immediate family, handed out some presents, ate some Arby's and cake, and crashed. After one bad day, we're pretty much back in the swing of things. Grace has always slept through the night (hello, that's a winner!), and she's proving to be a champion sleeper at home. It's obvious she thinks she lives in a Toys R Us, as she crawls around at frantic pace picking up every toy in sight. She plays well on her own and well with adults. She's not too sure about Grant. He likes to be right in her face, so I think she feels pretty smothered. In addition, he says he loves her so much in one breath, but he yanks toys out of her grasp as quickly as possible the next second. He is having a very hard time (even waking up screaming at night). We are praying for wisdom, as we don't always know what to correct. We want to give him some slack, as this is a hard time, but we want him to obey as expected. I never had siblings in the house while growing up, so I don't really know what is "normal" sibling behavior to ignore and what needs to be changed. Yikes, I'm in trouble.

So, now, we're settling in and trying to find our new routine (yep, we're a scheduled family). Grant starts his "school" (one morning a week... does that count as school?) next week, which I think will be good. And, I'm home with Grace until October, so we'll get this all ironed out. If you have any advice on how to manage sibling rivalry, make sure you let me know.

Grace did, however, begin to dole out kisses all on her own, and Grant was her first recipient. So, that's a good sign, right?
Happy Girl

Mom of 2 and Dysentery

Without giving away too much information (which the following information will be anyway), I've been to the bathroom seven times this morning. You know what's not fun about going to the bathroom seven times in one morning? Having two squirmy, loud, and often fighting kids in the bathroom with you--that's what. There was a moment when Grant was trying to bang a hole in the fiberglass of our tub with some small plastic toy while Grace had, unbeknownst to me (because my head was buried in a towel), unrolled half of the toilet paper, all while screaming at the top of her lungs.

This is fun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Should...

I know I should blog. I should tell you all about our time in Hong Kong, our long flight home, our first few days as a family of four. I should tell you all about Grant's love for and jealousy of his new sister. I should tell you all about how Grace is transitioning. I should put up cute photos of Grant and Grace together in the tub... or in their footy pajamas sitting by the fireplace. I should, but I am tired. Tomorrow... promise.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Hong Kong

We'll post more once we get home, but we are now back in Hong Kong, waiting to take off tomorrow for the U.S. We have, literally, the finest hotel room I've ever stayed in, and we just had dinner overlooking the harbor here at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. It's been a beautiful end to the trip.

We can't wait to see everyone!!!

Our Final Day on the Mainland

Today at 2:45, we're heading to the U.S. Consulate to get Grace's visa and take an oath; then, we're off to the train station where we will hop a train to Hong Kong, crash for the night, only to get up at 4 am to leave for the airport. Somehow, by the grace of God, we will touch down in Indy on Friday night.

I don't know when I'll be back in China again, so there's part of me that feels sad about leaving Grace's homeland, but truth be told, I'm really ready to come home. I miss Grant so terribly, and after 18 days of hotels and restaurants, I'm ready to be home. We've enjoyed our time here, enjoyed the new friends we've met, and of course, beyond enjoyed adding Grace to our family. We hope to come back someday, and when we do, we hope to travel to little Tonguu, the village in the mountains. Grace will probably care more about her i-phone than China at that time, but we hope to instill in her a real love of the Chinese people and culture. Ultimately, she's a gift: a gift from China to us, but more importantly, a gfit from God. She's our precious daughter, and we love her so insatiably.

I'll leave a bunch of pictures from our trip (starting from the first night we received Grace), ones you have not yet seen. We don't know if we'll have internet access in Hong Kong, so if we don't, we'll catch you on the flip side.

Oh, and here's the rest of the advice:
Advice: Part III of III

17. Skype worked like a champ in Hong Kong, Nanchang and Guangzhou.

18. Don't fret about washing bottles and stuff. I boiled water in the hot pot, let the dirty stuff soak, and refilled. I brought dish soap and a bottle brush, and I haven't used them once. I figure if boiling water doesn't do the trick, we've got a bigger problem.

19. Buffets are buffets. If you're nervous about food in China, the morning buffets (which have been free everyday we've been here) are your friend… but not your best friend. You can get a good omelet, plenty of danishes (I lived off some great banana bread every day in Nanchang), cold and hot cereal, French toast or pancakes, all kinds of fruit, and some type of potato. Nothing is spectacular (except for the bread you toast at the Nanchang and the spicy noodles in Nanchang), but it'll get you through. There are plenty of other Chinese options, but like any buffet, it's a buffet. Don't expect greatness, but it's beyond adequate. The Victory Hotel buffet has been the hardest. I finally settled on the fact that it's toast and fruit at the Victory.


20. Don't stress the toys. Grace fiddled with the toys we brought (except the stacking cups which were a hit), but she can't get enough of the baby spoon, the empty Pringles can, or the pacifier she won't use.

21. Bring or buy when you get to China: shampoo and conditioner. The water is hard enough on your hair, and I was resolved to use the shampoo given to me, but I realize now that wasn't a good idea. First off, there is no conditioner, and I think the water is so hard that your hair needs the extra love. Then, the shampoo at the JinFeng smelled like marijuana. Nothing says, "I'm here to adopt a baby" like hash hair.


I continue to think fo more and more, but, I'll just leave it at this: if you have questions about China, Nanchang or Guangzhou, just ask...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last full day in Guangzhou

Today was our last full day in Guangzhou. Tomorrow we meet with the U.S. consulate, and by 6:15pm (China time), we'll be on the train to Hong Kong. I must say that I'm pretty excited to get home. I don't think I'll be able to eat an omelette or pork bun for breakfast for many months after we leave here. I have sucked the marrow from the Chinese hotel breakfast buffet, and there's nothing left for me to try.

We spent today lounging around our hotel, waiting for the call telling us that our paperwork was submitted successfully and the consulate was OK with everything. That came around 10:30am, at which point we made our way to a little local shop called A Gift From China. All proceeds go back into various orphanages in China, and their gifts were far nicer than the usual junk found around Shamian Island.

After shopping, we came back, took naps, and eventually headed out to dinner with some friends we've made on the trip. We had German food which was surprisingly edible. The only treacherous thing on the menu was "Detached Pig Knuckle." One of our companions noted that "at least it was detached." I suppose that's a good thing.

Tonight we zipped around the room, packing and organizing for the trip home. As I sit here typing, I'm listening to a Chinese TV broadcast from the next room. During our stay, we kept hearing conversations that seemed disturbingly close, and I kept peering out the window, trying to find a mystery balcony where people might be conversing or watching a TV. Eventually last night, Erin discovered that along the window behind our computer desk, we share a common ledge of sorts with the next room, and the wall doesn't meet the window. Therefore, there is a several inch gap leading into the next room. It was concealed by curtains, or we might have noticed it sooner. I immediately began considering how we might discard some of Grace's dirty diapers or sweaty socks into the gap in retaliation for the late night TV and loud conversations. Erin stopped me, as usual.

Grace continues to surprise us with her personality and physical abilities each day. Originally, she was this cute, snuggly little girl who let me hold her in my arms. Now she's a freaking ninja, smiling all the while. She will look at me, smile, and then rare back and smack the side of my head...giggling like crazy. If I hold her arms down, she cracks me with her foot. It's ridiculous. And she's so cute that I can't really get upset about the blood trickling from my ear. Perhaps she'll just outgrow it...

I'm about halfway through "The Kite Runner" now. I think I've finally got a handle on all the "blechs," but the book did take a rather disturbing turn, didn't it? Yikes...

Looking forward to getting home to Grant and introducing him to the ninja...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost Done

Pictures: our entire travel group (12 families) in the lobby of the White Swan; the 12 babies on the infamous Red Couch (Grace is in the top middle in a black traditional outfit. Grace is the oldest baby in our travel group).

It's strange to think that we have only two days left here in China, but it's stranger still to think that little Tong Min Wei has only been in our lives for nine days. We love her so much, and it's hard to think she's been with less than two weeks.

But, she's starting to show her 13-month-old-side. She's crazy. She's feisty. She's stubborn. She's squirmy. She was so scared those first few days that she sat in our arms in total silence. She might have smiled or played a little bit in the room, but we didn't have the slightest glimpse into the real Grace. As she feels more and more comfortable, she lets out the attitude. When we first met, the plane ride home seemed so easy. She was so mellow, so willing to sit and cuddle for hours. But, that scared little Grace is gone and crazy-girl Grace has replaced her. We're glad she's comfortable and out of her shell, but now I have nightmares about the travel home.

We were about as far from home as possible today when we ventured out to the Qing Ping market. We ventured down the spice market which was full of crazy spices like dried seahorses, dried starfish and dried scorpions. It all looked so exotic. We tried to get to the live pet market (which I am assured really is a pet market) or the live food market (which has the same things as the live pet market but with a different end result for the animals), but somehow, we ventured into a large pedestrian shopping center. After a stop for lunch (which included pineapple pie... yummy), we tried to head back through more of the Qing Ping marketplace, only to find us staring at our hotel, which in the end was a sight for sore eyes as we were completely soaked from the heat.

After a nap, we headed to the White Swan hotel for the customary Red Couch Photos. Anyone inside the China adoption community knows all about the White Swan and its famous couches, but for the rest of you: All American couples adopting from China used to end up at the White Swan hotel (and most still do) as the US Consulate was only yards away. And, so, a tradition was born. Now, the Consulate is a half hour away in good traffic, but the tradition remains.

After the pictures, we headed out as a group for a Pearl River Dinner cruise. China is very into neon outlining building and signs, so it was a very pretty cruise. The food was the worst in all of China, if not in all of Asia. If you are going to drop 25 dollars on the cruise, please know that, at best, you're going to score two free cokes and some pretty sites. You will need dinner before or after the cruise. Bret and I ducked into Lucy's where I ordered a PB and J with fries for three bucks. Best three bucks ever.

Tomorrow, we're planning on doing some final shopping (I just found out my favorite store takes AMEX), and we might even try to take Grace for another swim. We'll probably head out to dinner with a few of our travel companions for one last meal, as on Thursday, we'll be spending the night on our own in Hong Kong.

Again, like last night, I have an installment of advice for future adoptive parents, so if you don't fit the bill, your read concludes now.

Advice, Part II of III

9. Have someone else take video/pictures of Gotcha moment. Your baby deserves both of you to be present and ready. Someone else can capture the moment, and even if it's not captured perfectly, you'll never forget that moment anyway.

10. The rooms in China are on these strange switches, and at the JinFeng, it was all or nothing; we couldn't really find any dim lighting. I wish I had a small flashlight (I guess I could have bought one at Walmart). Also, we have yet to have a room that has a clock. If it weren't for watches, cell phones and laptops, we would never know the time. This is going to sound silly too, but the one thing I wish I had brought or purchased (now it's too late to deal with) is a solid pair of scissors. I brought a little Swiss army thingy, but we needed scissors constantly: cutting off laundry tags, opening any bag in China (like the formula bag; it's impossible). There have been so many times that a sturdy pair of scissors would have done the trick.

11. You can find most meds in China. The sick babies were given antibiotics almost immediately, and as far as adult meds go, you can find almost anything (Tylenol is called something like panadol), but there's no Aleve. Just an FYI. I packed some adult meds, have not used a one, and found most of it at any pharmacy (especially in the port city or Guangzhou).

12. The coffee in Hong Kong, Shenzen and Guangzhou is very tolerable, even good. It's more like an Americano from Starbucks, which I love, so coffee is no problem… except in Nanchang. There was NO solution I liked, so I had to drink a diet coke with breakfast to keep the caffeine headache at bay.

13. If you have a video Ipod, bring it full of shows and movies. It took me five nights to get through a movie, but it was kind of nice to have something to veg to for twenty minutes before bed.

14. I brought Grace one sweater. Mistake. I think you need several sweaters/sweatshirts, even in summer. There were several occasions where we sat right under an air conditioner, and she needed that sweater. Then, it would go to the laundry, and I'd be draping her in a blanket. An extra sweatshirt would have solved that problem. Again, why didn't I pick one up at Walmart?

15. At the JinFeng, you'll be in a room with a great bathroom, an adequate bed and desk space, and a little alcove for the closet. This alcove has a large counter space which worked like a champ for all the baby stuff, bottles, and diapers. We have a massive room now at the Victory, but I miss that large counter space to spread out all of Grace's stuff.

16. If you plan to blog, learn how to do an email post. In addition, you can't get to the rumor queen forums, so if you're planning on checking out things (like what to do in Guangzhou), you won't be able to find it in China. Print off any interesting stuff and bring it with you.

Travel Books

During my trips to China, I always try to throw a book in my bag and put a book "on tape" on my iPod. (I still don't like the word "audio book" for some reason. It feels like a term trying to describe itself, like "eye winker" or "nose smeller," two children's terms I also find ridiculous, for some reason.)

Prior to this trip, I had two hardback books from the library that I was working through (one, the latest from David Sedaris...always entertaining), and I didn't want to cart those big heavy books around. So Erin and I made a quick run to Half Price Books for some mindless reading material. Somehow I ended up, at Erin's selection, with "The Last Juror" by John Grisham. To be honest, I've only "seen" Grisham's material as movies. "The Last Juror" was relatively entertaining and made for good airplane reading.

On my iPod, I've had "The Kite Runner" for approximately 5 years. It's made multiple trips to China with me, and I always forget I have it around. I decided today to start listening to it, in part because since it is now a movie, someone is most assuredly going to ruin the entire plot for me by saying, "Did you like the part about 300 pages in when..." and I reply, "No, because I'm only 150 pages in. Thanks."

Anyway, I started listening to "The Kite Runner" today during a break, and I immediately fell victim to the problem I have with all books on my iPod -- I fell asleep. This is a pain on the iPod, because when I wake up, I have to search back to something I recognize, invariably leading to me listening to 30 minutes of something I already listened to.

After I finished the first hour, I immediately asked Erin about some of the major characters, since she's already read the book (literally "read" it...like in the old days with pages and stuff.) My problem thus far with "The Kite Runner" in audiobook form is that the author is reading the text, and in his native brogue, all of the names sound like some variant of "blech."

"Ali and his son Kallablech went out for a walk to the mountains. Along the way, they encountered Ali's friend Saliblech and his mother Malliblechihal. They all were great friends, and they all detested the evil nemesis, Blechilechilem."

After an hour of this, I was thoroughly confused with which blech was which. Luckily Erin was able to clear this situation up for me, and hopefully I'll be able to stay awake to avoid further confusion.

Monday, August 10, 2009

out of her shell

Today was Grace's medical exam, a necessary evil for her visa. She endured. Grace continues to make strides, and we feel like we are getting a good dose of personality that was missing in those early stoic days. She has a very bad habit of slapping you right in the face, and today, she hit me so hard that I had a headache immediately. We're trying to break her of the habit, but it's hard to do when she's been living with us for a week (compared to the 13 months she spent in the care of her foster parents). She continues to smile, play, and each day, she becomes a little less stranger crazed. This morning was the first morning that being helped into the highchair by the waitress didn't end in absolute hysteria.


One thing that I've noticed is that Grace does not have any concept of what a kiss is, which is not a bad reflection on her foster parents. She's obviously affectionate, but the kiss is a foreign concept. Grant at her age kissed anyone and everyone, including himself in the mirror. I, of course, have been kissing Grace like mad, and just today, I asked her to kiss Mommy, and she opened up her lips for a big kiss. I died. It was just too cute. She's also saying mama and dada, which melts our hearts.


We've also moved to using the stroller some here in Guangzhou. Grace did not nap well in the Ergo, but she naps like a champ in the stroller, which is a good thing. She starting to show some of her personality outside of the hotel room, babbling to others and smiling at them. She's coming out of her shell more and more each day.

Today, we did some shopping, and I did break down and purchased Grace a few pairs of squeaky shoes (they squeak when she walks) for 2 bucks at Jennifer's Place (she kept bringing them to me long after her clothes were off; I think she's going to be a shoe girl). I bought her some traditional clothes and some other trinkets. My favorite store, though, is A Gift From China. This store is not full of the junky clothes and souvenirs in which so many of the stores on Shamian Island specialize. The stuff in A Gift From China is pricier, but it's well crafted and beautiful. They have beautiful quilts, baby bags, and some of the cutest clothes ever. Plus, it's a non-profit store, with all of the proceeds heading back to kids in orphanages with special needs. It's the best store on the island, and I could put quite a dent in our Amex bill next month.

Tomorrow, we are skipping the tour to the pearl markets (already purchased pearls for Grace) mainly because the girl needs two normal naps. Instead, we're going to head out the QingPing market, one of the largest and most famous outdoor markets in the world (the sell every type of animal meat imaginable). Tomorrow, we also take our famous Red Couch photos (it's a China adopt thing) and then will take a dinner cruise on the Pearl River.

I love China, but I am tired of living in hotels and eating at restaurants. I'm a homebody, and I miss my son. Bret and I are so thankful that we've been able to experience this together; there are no words to describe how deeply we love our Wei Wei, but we're ready to bring her home.

The next part of this blog is part one in a three part series for future adoptive parents. If you're not a future adoptive parent, I'd stop reading right about n…o…w.

Advice, Part 1
Okay, so this post is really for adoptive parents. There are details in here that only make sense to those of us in the Chinese adoption community, so faithful readers who are not in the Chinese adoption community, you'll have a wait a bit for another post about the prettiest little girl ever!

I've thought about how to organize this post, and I've decided that the easiest and fastest way for me to get this all down is just to start listing my thoughts, potentially in random order, but it gets the job done. I'll start with a bit of a warning, though: these are just my thoughts and my opinions. My husband probably doesn't even agree, so don't get all angry with me if you don't agree. These are just my opinions. Take them or leave them.

1. Don't go on every tour. There is a hefty temptation to go on every tour for two main reasons: cabin fever in the hotel and a desire to see your child's country. Both are very legitimate reasons, but we found that by day two of touring, we had a very out of sorts baby. She tried to nap in the Ergo, but they were not the solid naps she took back in the room. We found that without that serious morning nap (1.5 to 2 hours) our little girl was regressing. We skipped several tours, and in the end, we were glad we did, as our little girl had a much better day. Don't be afraid, as hard as it might be on you (as you are cooped up in a hotel room ordering room service or eating noodle bowls), to stay put.

2. Chinese Pampers worked just fine. I hear lots of talk about bringing diapers, formula, etc, but our trip to Walmart confirmed what I thought: everything you could possibly need is in China. We purchased clothes for Grace. The night she came the nanny brought us 5 bags of her formula (every baby received five bags). We purchased wipes, a bottle (which she likes WAY better than the one I brought), and diapers. The Chinese Pampers are not the same, as there is no elastic in the tabs. I put them on the first night, and said, "these are never going to work," as the top doesn't stay tight around the baby, but we have had eight days of blowouts (and I mean blowouts), and the diapers have held up. So, pack enough diapers for a day, bring one thing of travel wipes, bring one bottle to get you through until you can shop. It's all in China.

3. Don't bring snack food. Bring a few snacks for the plane (the food was horrendous), but beyond the plane trip over, you will not need extra snack food. There are so many little markets with all types of snack food. The market right around the corner from our hotel had everything: Cokes (even Coke Zero), Oreos, Pringles. The Walmart had a whole aisle of sodas, crackers, even peanut butter. Plus, there are tons of snacks not to be found in the states. I purchased some of the best sesame crackers ever. Grace and I ate the whole box. Also, there were these noodle bowls (like ramen noodles) that are fabulous for a quick meal in the hotel. There were times when Grace was napping, and sitting down to lunch just wasn't going to happen. We had several of those noodle bowls around, and we finished them off. Plus, Grace loved the noodles, so it was a great snack or lunch for her too. The noodle bowls cost about 50 cents, and the roasted beef one
was my favorite.

4. Don't worry too much about walking shoes. I was so concerned about comfortable shoes, and I brought a pair of Crocs and a pair of Tevas. The longest walk we have taken was 20 minutes. I had much cuter shoes that could have lasted an easy twenty minutes, so I wish I would have traded in one pair of the comfortable-but-ugly shoes for cute-but-not-as-comfortable shoes.

5. Bring only two piece outfits (or dresses) for baby. We only brought eight outfits for Grace (plus two pjs), and half of it was too small. The pieces that we brought that were two pieces worked best. The pants we brought, though too short, were suddenly capris. The pjs we purchased, though too big, could be rolled up at the waist. Any romper or footed pj we brought that was one piece, didn't do the trick. Plus, even dresses that are too short work just fine if you put a pair of shorts or leggings under them, so bring tops and bottoms that can mix and match.

6. Pack light; do laundry. We will have spent about 100 dollars on laundry by the time we are done, and it was worth it to have only two checked bags the whole trip. In Nanchang, Evelyn brought laundry bags and order forms the first night, and in Guangzhou, you can walk your laundry to any of the souvenir shops. In Nanchang, we did three HUGE bags of laundry for about 70 bucks, and we'll spend about 30 bucks in Guangzhou.

7. ATMS work just fine in Guangzhou. We have used the ATMs multiple times here in Guangzhou with no problem. We could not use the ATM in Nanchang. Credit cards are accepted most places in Guangzhou.

8. Dinner in Nanchang was cheap, often running us 12 bucks total for a complete feast. In Guangzhou, you can expect to pay U.S. prices. We just had a great lunch at a local Italian restaurant that was about 40 bucks. Thai last night was about the same.


More to come in the coming days...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Three Days

Friday, August 7
We decided to skip the optional trip to the park with the rest of our group. On a side note to future adoptive parents, skipping tours is the biggest piece of advice I have. It's tempting to hit every one as you have a bit of cabin fever and you want to see as much as China as you can, but in the end, Grace was the one who suffered on those trips. She didn't get quality naps, and after a day or two of constant touring, we realized that Grace not only needed her sleep to be happy, but she needed her sleep to move forward with trusting us. By the second day of touring, we felt like Grace was regressing, and we made such progress on days when we just stayed in the hotel and took quality naps.

Okay, a bit off topic there for those of you not adopting. Between Grace's morning and afternoon nap, we ventured out to a local Buddhist temple grounds. It's right next to the hotel, and while the pagoda was under construction, we wandered around for a bit in the gardens, checked out the other buildings, and took pictures where we weren't allowed to take them (in my defense, I didn't see the sign until it was too late). It was nice to get out as a small family, but it was also nice to just stay out for a bit before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

We ate dinner (for the third time) at the Chinese restaurant to the right of the hotel. Our guide, Evelyn, called in the order for us, and I adored every dish. My favorites were the broccoli, the fried pumpkin, the potatoes, and the banana pancakes. I already miss that restaurant.

(Bret: I don't so much miss that restaurant. While good, it took me saying "BEER" a dozen different ways before they finally brought me something other than Coke and chicken necks. I understand the language barrier, but two hands drinking from something the size of a small barrel should internationally signal -- "man needs beer. now."

Saturday, August 8
We packed our bags, headed down for our last JinFeng hotel buffet breakfast and loaded up a bus for the airport. Grace's first plane ride was magically uneventful as she slept the entire time. She woke up as I stood up to exit the plane. I've got to hand it to the Chinese domestic carriers--they don't mess around with service on the plane. Our plane ride was 75 minutes, and those stewardesses squeezed in two beverage services and a meal. You'd be lucky to get a bag a pretzels on a domestic flight in the states.

(Bret: Erin seemed nonplussed by the site of what appeared to be a 15 year old Chinese video gamer situated behind the controls of our flight. In the end, the flight was very comfortable, but I'm fairly certain at one point I heard someone yell "Bonzai!!!!!!" from the cockpit. (Hmm...Is that a Japanese joke? Nevermind.))

We met our Guangzhou guides at the airport and headed to Shamian Island, the most western place in all of China. It was originally given to France and the UK in the 19th century, so the architecture is very European. Plus, everyone speaks English (with varied success), and you can find all kinds of western food; there's a Starbucks, for goodness sake.

(Bret: There's also an abundance of escargot and bad teeth. Go figure.)

We dropped off our laundry at Jordon's Place, and after days of
nothing but Chinese food, we headed to Lucy's, the local western
eatery. We each had cheeseburgers and fries, which tasted 80% like a
burger back home. But, after nothing but Chinese food, they tasted
great.

We checked into the Victory Hotel, as the rest of our group went to the adoption famous White Swan. Our first room was bordered by some construction that was still going strong at 10 pm, so I went downstairs to get a new room; after wheeling Grace's crib through the hallways, we ended up in a beautiful, non smoking (thank goodness) Japanese suite. We have two rooms, a soft bed, free internet and breakfast, and water we can drink right out of the spout. This hotel is not as poshly appointed as the White Swan, but for the same price, we've more than tripled our space, and at this point on the trip, we need a little more convenience than luxury.

(Bret: Erin is too polite. A pack of morons was pushing construction garbage from the 5th floor of the next building and then howling in laughter as various chunks of glass, concrete, and slate roofing crashed to the street below. When I went to the lobby at 9:30pm to complain, I was told that they would "stop before night." I replied, "It's 9:30pm and dark outside. What are you waiting for?" In the end, Erin successfully negotiated us a new room. I was too grumpy to further negotiate with the hotel staff.)

Sunday, August 9
We headed out for a city tour of Guangzhou which included another Buddhist temple, an amazing family museum (The Old Chen House), and a local arts and crafts store. In retrospect, we shouldn't have gone. It was just too much, pushed Grace too far, and left all of us hungry and tired. We did get to see some great sites, but it came with a high cost. We did visit the Buddhist temple on an important day--the birthday of one of the Buddhas. The temple was packed with people, incense and more people. As part of the celebration, there was an animal liberation ceremony, where eels, snakes, fish and turtles were turned back into the river. We saw so many people offering sacrifices of rice, money, bottles of water and apple juice. It was so different from anything I've experienced in the states, and so many of the images are ones I will carry with me for a lifetime.

(Bret: The Buddhist temple was hard on Erin. When we got back on the tour bus, she made everyone sing all of the verses of "Bringing In the Sheaves." She also kept singing "Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World" to Grace. Also, let it be noted that I'd hate to be an eel in an "animal liberation ceremony" if liberation involved me being dropped into the Pearl River late in the day. If I didn't dissolve in the caustic Pearl, I'd most likely be recaptured and sauteed by the end of the evening. Not good.)

After some shopping (we purchased a jade pendant for Grace and some pearl earrings), we headed back to the hotel for naps. We met up with most of our travel group later and headed for the Thai restaurant on the island (Cow and Bridge). Bret and I both love Thai food, and this restaurant did not disappoint. Grace continues to eat anything we give her, and Thai food is no exception.

Tomorrow, we head out to get a physical exam for Grace, a requirement of the U.S. government before we can enter the states. There will be plenty of crying pictures as Grace does not want anyone--except Mom and Dad--touching her.

(Bret: I told Erin tonight that at one point this afternoon I recalled the morning I left Indiana for China. I told her I think I was 24 and unmarried. It was so long ago. I have acquired a funny smell, a greasy complexion, and I now answer my cell phone, "Wei?" I need to get home.)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Goodbye, Nanchang

For the last seven days, Nanchang has been home. There are one-of-a-kind memories here: meeting Grace, getting to know her, and touring the capital city of her province. We've made room 915 of the JinFeng Hotel as close to home as we could, but as much as we have enjoyed getting to know "real" China, we are eager to get home to see Grant. So, today when we leave Nanchang for Guangzhou on a 2:15 flight on China Southern, we'll be beginning the final leg of our journey.

We've come to find that Nanchang has a beauty of its own: a working beauty. Carl Sandburg in his famous poem "Chicago" writes about early twentieth century Chicago as the city of "the big shoulders," and that's the image I have of Nanchang. It's gritty. It's dusty. It's crowded. It's in the second poorest province in China. But, the people are spectacular. They are kind and hard working and gracious. There are large burdens here, but this is a city that endures.

So, it's bittersweet to leave this morning. We hope to bring Grace back here at some point. But, even then, Nanchang is not the city she knows and misses. That little village, Tonguu, is nestled in the mountains several hours away from the bustle of Nanchang. Even though I've never been to Tonguu, I miss it already. It's where Grace grew up, where her foster parents live, and, most likely, where her birth parents live. In many ways, Nanchang means nothing to Grace, so really, I feel like we are saying goodbye to Tonguu, the village we never saw. They say around here that Tonguu girls are the prettiest, but we know that Tonguu gave Grace a great deal more than her beauty, and for all of those other wonderful things, we are grateful.

So, goodbye, Nanchang. But, really, goodbye, Tonguu.

The Village People

Well we're one step closer to our return to the States. This afternoon we received Grace's Chinese passport, so the only paperwork left to retrieve is her U.S. Visa next week in Guangzhou. There is a light...

Yesterday we took a quick trip out to a local village, just to get a glimpse of the life that our little girls have lived since birth. Having been to China many times, I had already seen similar villages, so perhaps I was more prepared than some of the other people in the group. In fact, Dapeng, which I visited a couple of weeks ago, was far more eye opening than the village we saw yesterday.

As you can see from the pictures, there is a great variance in the types of housing you see in these small towns. Some of the homes were simple cinder block structures, while others were newer, modern homes featuring luxuries like air conditioning (albeit still bolted to the side of the building, as is the Chinese style.)

Erin was a big hit with the local kids, as she passed out candy and treats. The kids were all yelling something repetitive, and I'm pretty sure it translated to "The giant lady has sweets! The giant lady has sweets!"

The people in the village seemed happy for us to be there, taking a peak into their lives. They were smiling, waving, and even posing for pictures. These people appeared to be happy, despite what many Americans would consider very meager circumstances. I have a little bit of a hard time with the concept that we're "rescuing" these girls from this life in China, when in reality, many, many people live quite happily with what they have here. If you gave them all the junk we accumulate in the U.S., they might not know what to do with it. It just goes to show that if you have other people or family around, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference how many TVs or cars you have...

Tonight we're having our final dinner here in Nanchang before flying to Guangzhou tomorrow, and in all honesty, I couldn't be happier. It feels like I've been in China forever. It is somewhat bittersweet to be leaving the area where Grace was born, and we've definitely enjoyed the experience. Guangzhou will be a bit more like Shenzhen in that it's got western restaurants, tree lined streets, and a Starbucks on every other corner. I must admit that it will be nice to be able to get some decent coffee, even at the expense of an "authentic" China experience. Bring on the Frappacinos...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Just some pics...

We'll do a longer post tomorrow about our experiences in a local village today... In the mean time, here are a few pics from the past 24 hours. The girl likes her french fries...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wednesday in Nanchang

Each day we get to see more and more of little Grace's
personality. She continues to be
patient, pensive, and she is very, very skittish around anyone but Bret and me,
but she also has started to smile outside of our hotel room, playing with us in
public. She was all smiles today, and we
get more and more excited as we see our little daughter blossom into a vibrant,
playful and funny 13 month old girl.

She still gets plenty of comments while we are out, even
pictures taken by strangers. Little Miss
Wei Wei (her nickname, and it's so cute that we'll be keeping it forever) has
two dimples, just like Grant, and we were told today that dimples are saved for
the rarest of beauties in China. I don't know about all that (don't get me
wrong, I think she's pretty hot stuff), but I just know that those dimples were
put there to make sure that she could easily sway her Daddy. She just has to flash them, and he'll give
in… in fact, he already does. She
actually preferred me at times today, but let's be clear: she is Daddy's
girl. He's the only one who can get her
to sleep, and he's the only one she really snuggles with when tired. So, combine all that business with the
dimples, and Daddy is in trouble.

Grace is pretty mobile, and I'm sure some time with Grant will
lead to her walking soon. She rolls
over, sits up, crawls and pulls herself up to standing. She's very patient and content, so she
doesn't feel the need to move often, but she can move if she chooses. She's pretty destructive with her toys, her
favorite toy being an empty Pringles can. She likes to bang it, crash it, or throw it. Grant's going to think she's just about the
greatest thing ever! She looks like a
pretty girl and plays like a crazy boy!

So, today we took our crazy girl and headed out as a group
to the Tengwang Pavilion (pictures of the gardens above; I'm too lazy to rotate
the picture of the actual pavillion), a tall pagoda structure with origins dating
back to 627. It was beautiful, and there
was a short show at the top of the pavilion that included dancing and
singing. I'm sure it was great, but I
was so fixated on how hot I was that I couldn't even concentrate. I have never been so hot. Ever. Bret
and I are resolved to wear or to carry Grace on this trip, all part of the
bonding process. She get's so sweaty, so
when you combine her little body heat plus the hundred degrees (plus 100
percent humidity) outside, it makes for a sweaty, sweaty morning. We had hoped that Grace would take her nap
in the Ergo carrier, but I think she was too hot to get comfortable.

After the pavilion, we had lunch with most of our group. Again, thanks to our guide, it was a fabulous
lunch. Grace ate everything again (she
never actually stops eating… we just kind of quit feeding her). She ate broccoli, tofu, steamed eggs. But, tonight, Grace had a completely new
experience: her first McDonald's happy meal. She fisted French fries in each hand; it was a real winner. Our guide had McDonald's deliver the food,
and while I thought that I would never succumb to such food while here in China, I gave
in to Bret's whimpering. I think I'm
having an allergic reaction to the MSG, as after each meal out with our group,
I develop a mind-splitting headache, so actually, I was a tad relieved to not
be eating Chinese food again.

Tomorrow, there is a scheduled tour to a countryside
village, and Bret and I are still unsure about whether we'll be going. I have this terrible headache; Grace would
probably miss her morning nap (again), and we did see about 12 hours of
countryside on our train trip.

On Friday, we'll get Grace's Chinese passport, a document,
by the way, that is good for about 9 days, and we fly out of Nanchang for Guangzhou on Saturday morning, where we'll
deal with trying to get Grace's U.S. visa.

Again, I have tons of thoughts for those of you adopting
from Nanchang (or adopting in general), but I am
going to finish up our time in Nanchang before posting that chapter.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Lazy Day

There's not much to report; today was a lazy, lazy day. Grace was super tired, sporting three naps today, so we didn't get out much. We had to wait around to visit the pediatrician here in the hotel, so we didn't venture out of the hotel doors until evening (minus a 5 minute trip to the pool) when we headed out with our travel group for a group dinner. We went to the restaurant to the right (when leaving the hotel) and had the best Chinese food I have ever had in my whole life!!! I'm sure it was a touch "westernized" as our guide, who has been hosting adoptive families from the states for years, ordered for us, but it was sensational. I'm going to be dreaming about that food for some time.

Grace is doing better each day. We were really worried this morning, as she seemed to step back a bit (showed no emotion, refused to make eye contact), but in the end, I just think she was really tired. She was a different kid after each nap. She's still pretty quiet in groups, and she's clingy to us when strangers are around (which is a good sign), but each day, she lets us in a little bit more. She's such a beautiful blessing, and we are so grateful to that she is finally in our lives.

She's just so cute; it's amazing how quickly love springs! She has the longest fingers and toes ever (her toes are like fingers), and she grunts when she laughs, which is just to die for cute. She likes to play rough, so I know there's a little boy at home who will think that's cool. We miss Grant so much; we get to skype with him daily, but it's still hard to think that we have over a week before we get to see him again.

Tomorrow, we are heading to the Tengwang Pavillion, the symbol of Nanchang. The weather here has been much cooler and breezier than expected (an answer to prayer... and I"m not joking!), so maybe tomorrow will be nice and cool. We're excited to see more of Nanchang, especially after our spell with cabin fever today.

Good night from Nanchang. More to come...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Officially Ours and Officially Happy

Today, we ventured to the registration office and notary, sealing the adoption and making Grace officially ours. She's not a U.S. citizen yet, but she's legally ours... she just can't come into the U.S. yet (that's next week's task). We've seen Grace grow so much this morning, and we have quite the happy child on our hands. All of this "official business" over here is very unceremonious. We had a quick (1 minute) interview with both the registration official and the notary, and aside from that one minute, you're just sitting around in slightly air-conditioned rooms with the rest of your travel group (ours is 12 families). Then, our guide (the absolutely indispensable, Evelyn), comes in and says, "let's go." We're done with all the stuff we have to do in Nanchang, so the next few days we'll be able to get out to see the city as we wait on the Chinese government to finish the job.

We did venture as a group to Wal-Mart today, which is, even in China, still a Wal-Mart. We picked up some diapers, wipes, a few clothes (this girl is LONG), and some snacks. Our guide told us that it's the largest tourist spot in Nanchang, which makes me sad.

Nanchang is an interesting city. I can see why some people call it grubby or dirty, but I think those monikers are incorrect. I think that Nanchang is gritty. It's a working man's city. It was never meant to be (nor does it want to be) a tourist city for western couples. Is there dirt? Yes. Smog? Yes. Noise? Yes. But, like our train ride, this is the glimpse of "real" China that we were never going to get in Hong Kong or even Shenzhen. I'm glad we are here.

Here's something I didn't expect: to feel so isolated by the food. I've read hundreds of blogs, and every time I read someone eating at KFC or ordering room service, I would think, "Come on! You're in China! Eat some Chinese food!" But, I get it now. First off, there are times because of the adoption time-line that room service is the only viable option. For example, the night Grace came, we took her back up to our room to try to get her to settle down a bit. Then, Bret had to go fill out paperwork for a while. Then, I did. Then, we wanted to call family and share the news. And by the end of all of that (much less trying to console a hysterical baby), there was no restaurant open. So, room service. And then, even the hotel lunch buffet is difficult. There are chicken claws, duck neck, and pigeon gizzards. I'm not that picky (please reference my "foot of pig" post), but I can't quite fill up on pigeon gizzards; I'll try them, but I'm not
going to make them a meal. Even the local restaurants will give you a picture menu, but when the pictures (and even subsequent English) all point to dishes that are not of the "fill up" variety, it's hard. So, I get it now.

Grace continues to amaze us. Here are some things we've noticed:
1. She's very patient. She's very content just sitting on our laps. She has not cried or fussed at all today: not when she's tired and not when she's hungry. She assumes you'll get around to feeding her or helping her sleep, and she's more than content to wait around until you give the green light. She became a little squirmy today in our arms, wanting to get down and play (or "walk" around), but on the whole, she just wants to snuggle in our arms.

2. She has started to smile (which is heart stopping) and giggling, which is this deep stomach laugh. I think the fact that she has started to really giggle show us that she trusts us more and more. Bret is the first person to get her to giggle, as she thinks Daddy is pretty funny. He also has a magic touch of getting her to sleep, for which Mommy is very grateful. Grace is a champion sleeper: she has slept through the night for the last two nights (not a peep) and takes long (three hour) afternoon naps. What a blessing!

3. Grace is also a champion eater, which is a very odd sensation as Grant has always been very picky. Grace has eaten everything we have given her: sausage, watermelon, french toast, noodles, chicken, fish, french fries, ice cream and prunes (worked a little too well), and I'm convinced she'll eat anything. We'll see how this list grows.

4. When she's tired, she pulls her shirt up and kind of sucks on it. She started doing this almost the minute we got her, and it seems to be a permanent habit. She doesn't necessarily even put the shirt in her mouth, but it is definitely her soothing mechanism.

5. She really is Daddy's girl, which Bret says is just payback for the fact that Grant is a mama's boy. She kind of endures me. She'll fall asleep in my arms or even play with me, and since she never really cries, it's not likes she's throwing a fit, but she always has to know where Bret is, and she cuddles with him. Just being in his arms leads to sleep. They have even developed their own game (a kind of flop yourself on the bed kind of thing), and when she sees him, she lights up and makes the sign for him to play. It's too cute.

6. Grace is very reserved. She is slow to smile. She's slow to get angry. We don't know if this is part of her personality... or if she is still a little shell shocked from the whole situation. We can be patient too, so we're in no rush for her to get it figured out!

I have lots of thoughts on Nanchang and the Jin Feng Hotel (plus bunches of stuff I wish I would have brought/not brought), but I'll have to get to that later. As for now, we are hopelessly in love with Grace. She's just so sweet and so beautiful. Everytime we meet with officials for this process, they comment on Grace's beauty. Evelyn, our guide, goes into a long explanation of how Grace is from Tonguu, at which point the officials shake their heads in agreement. Evelyn told us that the prettiest girls come grom Tonguu, and she told us that Grace has many of the features, especially her eyes, that the Chinese people consider beautiful. I knew Chinese people were smart.

On a final note, we miss Grant so very much, and we are so thankful to his grandparents (both sets) for making this time an easy (and FUN!) one for him. While we are enjoying China and don't want to wish away our time here in Grace's homeland, we can't wait to see Grant and be a family of four!

Quick movie

video

We don’t know whether this will make it to the blog successfully or not, but we took a little movie of Grace today.  What we have discovered is that for right now, Grace is a very serious little girl.  She does not laugh often, but when she does, it’s pretty great.  Today she started playing with Erin and was laughing quite a bit.  Enjoy…

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More on the Big Day

It was an uneventful start to what ended up being a life changing day. Bret and I packed, switched rooms, unpacked, ate breakfast, ate lunch, took a nap, and finally met our travel group in a conference room. There was part of me that still didn't think Grace was really coming; after four years of waiting, it almost felt like "I'll believe it when I see it."

But, then the first baby arrived, wide eyed, and I started crying. I had to excuse myself because I was so overcome with emotion. Several more happy babies arrived. Then a few more. And then, from out of the chaos, I heard: Tong Min Wei. And there she was sobbing her little head off. As it turns out, someone had just yanked a toy out of her hand (okay, a cigarette case... not a toy)j, and she was honked off. It didn't help matters when they plopped her in our hands. She was a sweaty hot mess.

After a few minutes, she calmed down (kind of), and we came upstairs to give her a bottle. She didn't want the bottle, and after some serious wailing, she fell asleep in my arms for about 30 minutes. She woke up a happier baby, but she was still a sweaty mess. So, I filled up the sink in the bathroom and dipped her feet into it. She kicked and splashed, and before you know it, she was a naked chica in the tub. She LOVES bathtime, and she screamed bloody murder when I took her out.

She ate some rice cereal and some prunes, and she has been a different kid since after the bath. She never fusses and just loves it when we hold her or play with her (all the toys are big hits). She's a bit of a Daddy's girl, as Bret seems to be the preferred playmate. She's just getting to sleep now, with only half a bottle down, but we'll try again tomorrow with the bottle.

She is longer and bigger than we expected, and we're not sure her recent measurements are correct. All of the pj sleepers I brought are too small, so I guess I'll just have to buy some here! She has started deep giggles and an occasional smile, and we look forward to even more of her personality peeking through in the coming days. She can sit up on her own, and we even evidenced some crawling, so we'll see if she's mobile soon. She seems to have very, very weak legs, but we're not worried.

Grant did get to skype with Grace, and he ran out of the room to go get his Peter Pan book to show her. She wasn't even looking, but he still tried to tell her about it. It was very sweet. We miss Grant so much, and we can't wait to bring Grace home to meet him.

We did find out a little bit of information today: Grace's nickname is Wei Wei, a name Bret an I have been calling her all night, and she's been living in foster care with two other babies. Her foster parents are pros--having fostered 31 babies before Grace. She's so affectionate, and we know she had a great start at life with two foster parents who paid attention to her. For that, we are grateful.

It's been an easy night. We expected hours and hours of crying, but after that first hour, it's been pretty smooth sailing... I'm going to wish I hadn't said that, huh?

In the end, she's just so darn sweet, a real cuddler. Tomorrow, we officially adopt her in the eyes of the People's Republic of China. We're living such a blessed life!

In our arms...

After four long years, it hardly seemed real when we got up this morning that by the end of the day, we would have a new daughter.  Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers as we’ve gone through this process.

 

Grace has a little cold, but otherwise, she’s doing just fine.  She’s leaving behind foster parents who also are caring for a couple of other kids, so she’s a bit upset this evening at being away from the only family she’s ever known.  But even as I type this, she’s calmed down enough to take a little nap in Erin’s arms.  The pictures above were taken just as she arrived at our hotel for the handoff.  It’s a pretty amazing moment for everyone…  We’ll be posting more details later.

 

You can see in the last picture above that she already takes after Grant in one respect.  And even though I’ve only been her dad for a few minutes, I’m pretty sure I have the best daughter ever…