Friday, January 25, 2008

Cousins playdate

Lillian went to visit her cousin Lauren today in Lee's Summit, Mo. Lauren is sharing a big box of the clothes she's outgrown with Lillian. Lillian also came away with a bunch of shoes just her size.
Lauren also shared her toys while Lillian visited. It's been a great day!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New couch

Lillian got a new couch today -- more specifically, a Dora flip-open slumber sofa. She loves sitting in it, unfolding and folding it, and even lying down on it to pretend-nap. We may have found the one thing that she will willingly sleep on other than a shoulder. She will also enjoy watching Sesame Street on it. It's the only TV program she watches with any interest, other than shows with live singers.
Lillian also enjoys wearing her sunglasses in the car. Following the advice of our doctor, we flipped the carseat around to rear-facing, at least for a few more months, until she grows a little more. We thought she'd hate it, especially as much as she initially resisted the carseat, but rear-facing seems OK with her. She tends to nod off fairly quickly in a carseat anyway.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Arrival and At-Home Photos

Some photos of our arrival at Kansas City International Airport and at home. Lillian enjoyed being an acrobat standing on Grandpa!

Friday, January 18, 2008

We're home!

We've been home for a day and a half now. Brent, Kari, and Lillian are all battling various issues related to the travel -- Brent is congested, Kari has had an upset stomach, and all of us are still a little messed up by jet lag. Lillian is napping right now -- right on schedule -- so maybe tonight will be smoother for her. Last night was a rough one for her; rougher even than the first night home. Thankfully, Grandpa and Grandma are here to help welcome us home and get us settled.
Now for mini-miracle news: Thanks in no small part to the prayers of many of you, Lillian was a trooper on the flight from Hong Kong to Chicago. She was not overly comfortable, but we were seated three rows from the very back, so there was space to walk around and exercise, particularly in the back galley hall, where ladies were gathering to play cards to kill the time. I would never recommend a 14-hour flight for a 2-year-old, but when it's necessary, divine intervention is surely appreciated. Lillian did not enjoy it, but of all the kids on the plane, she was one of the best-behaved.
She did much better than Kari, who through either a bug, stress, turbulance, or a combination of two or more of those factors, lost her lunch (and breakfast and dinner) twice, including once as the plane taxied to the gate in Chicago (embarrassing -- but at least I made it to the lavaratory both times!).
Lillian was very cranky in O'Hare, but calmed by the sight of some other Asian faces on the flight, she slept soundly on the final short jump to Kansas City. Thank God -- very literally!
We were welcomed at the airport by Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Adam and Aunt Victoria, and Aunt Megan, Uncle Rich, and cousin Lauren. We were home! (Pictures later....)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Leaving on an Airplane (or three)

We are finishing up packing tonight and will be leaving the hotel very early in the morning (6 a.m. here) to catch our flight from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. That flight is a short jaunt, and will prepare us for the 14-hour long haul from Hong Kong to Chicago. We've been told that it might take a couple hours to clear immigration and customs in O'Hare, so it looks like we'll be on the original flight scheduled from Chicago to KC. We'll be home soon!
Because of our early departure tomorrow, this should be our last blog posting until after we return home. Thanks to everyone who has been following our journey, praying for us, thinking of us, and leaving encouraging comments.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Buddhist Temple and the Red Couch

We've had a very active day today. This morning we went to the Six Bayan Buddhist Temple, and this afternoon all the kids in our group posed for a group photo on the White Swan Hotel's famous red couch. Afterwards, we had a family group photo, then had high tea (actually a sumptuous buffet) in the hotel.

Lillian slept on the bus ride to the temple, and for about the first 20 minutes after we arrived, for a nice half-hour power nap. We watched some of the other families participate in a blessing ceremony, and when she woke up she enjoyed walking around the grounds, particularly balancing along the carved stone path edge. She also enjoyed watching workers pick fallen leaves individually out of the flower beds (with tweezers!).

After a tasty lunch of noodles and an even shorter power nap, Lillian dressed up in a traditional outfit and went downstairs for the Red Couch photo. Lillian was not too excited about it. She loves watching the other kids, but seems to get intimidated being close to many of them, so she freaked out on the couch. Kari held her in place for a while, ducking behind the couch to avoid being in everyone else's photos, while Lillian yelled her protest. Lillian will have loads of fun when she is a teenager looking at those photos.

She recovered immediately, as usual, and was great in the bigger family group photo, and especially better when we changed back into her play clothes for tea. Afterwards, the three of us took another long walk around the island and stopped in a couple shops for mementos. We were on a mission to find crayons (we didn't bring any because we thought we'd find some here), but had no luck.

Tomorrow our only scheduled activity is the oath-taking ceremony at the US Consulate in the afternoon. It's the only place we can't take cameras.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jade and Pearl Markets

Yesterday afternoon we went with our group on a short bus ride to the Jade and Pearl markets on the mainland in Guangzhou. The jade market was two floors of individual booths in a department store-like building. The pearl market, which was a wholesale market, was five floors in a big shopping mall, but all the stores sold pearls or stones (lapis, jade, etc.). We bought a couple small things in the jade market from a booth run by two women, pictured in the photo. You are supposed to bargain in the jade market, but we probably didn't do very well negotiating. The trick is to offer 50% of the asking price, then settle on something in the middle, around 65 to 75%. Of course, we ended up knocking only 20% off, but it was worth it to get it done fast.
Lillian likes a certain kind of milk drink for kids that we bought at Wal-Mart in Nanjing. It's a bit more watery than regular milk, and has a fruity flavor. She was drinking them two-fisted yesterday after we got back from the jade and pearl markets (a tiring 3-hour excursion, including the short travel time). She loves this drink and hates when they are empty, so it's a mixed bag -- total joy while drinking, total frustration when she can't suck any more out.
She had fun on the trip, especially watching bigger kids play in the pearl market. She approaches bigger kids to play, but when they get closer to her, she gets a little intimidated and runs back to safety.
She had a short nap around mid-day, before the excursion, and then fell asleep very early -- 7 p.m.-- and slept until about 3:30 a.m. in the crib. She spent the next 20 minutes or so giggling and trying to wrestle around with Mommy on the bed before falling back asleep until 6 a.m. We've had breakfast and will leave in about an hour for a trip to a famous Buddhist temple. Later this afternoon, our group will take photos on the famous Red Couch. It'll be a big day!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Guangzhou

We are finally in Guangzhou, after quite the ordeal yesterday. Our flight ended up being delayed by about 6 hours, and by the time we got to the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, it was midnight. Lillian was a trooper on the 2-hour flight, absorbing a bunch of attention from the Chinese travelers who were very curious about her. She was uneasy -- she did not want her coat taken off, despite it being a bit warm on the plane -- but only cried twice, in short, 10-second bursts to communicate her frustration with how she was situated in cramped conditions.
She was wildly tired by the time we got to the hotel (she'd only taken a 45-minute nap on the bus ride from our hotel in Nanjing to the airport), and the more tired she is, the louder she protests being rocked, cradled, soothed, or encouraged to sleep in any way. When she's that tired, if left to her own devices, she gets ticked off at her books, her toys, the bedspread, etc. But with the kind of day we had, we really didn't expect anything else!
This morning was a good morning, and included a visa photograph appointment and a medical exam. She was great for both, and really enjoyed the walk from the hotel to both appointments. She was fascinated by locals playing a game similar to hackysack, but with a different kind of bag, decorated with feathers. We also watched a few of the many brides being photographed in the park. It is Saturday here in Guangzhou, and it's in the upper 70s, so today is a good outdoor day.
We are inside right now, as Lillian is napping (after another blowup, this time involving Mommy throwing away Cheerios Lillian had dumped on the bathroom floor, which is her strategy for quickly separating the preferred fruity cheerios from the plain ones). Her schedule is still off, especially after yesterday. We're also hoping that we are getting better at dealing with her tantrums (although the verdict is still out on that), which are confined at this point to when she is tired.
Later today we're going to do a little shopping in the small shops here on Shamian Island. We need to get a few more warmer-weather clothes for her to wear while we're here, plus mementos. We'll probably also check out the local park and the Mattel-sponsored play room in the White Swan. Tomorrow we will be able to attend the Christian church just a few minutes from the hotel, then in the afternoon our agency has organized a trip to the traditional jade and pearl markets.
Thanks to all for your comments and interest. We really enjoy hearing from you, as it makes home seem that much closer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fogged in

We have learned that our flight to Guangzhou has been delayed a few hours. We're able to stay in the hotel until 2 p.m. China time, but then we'll need to go to the airport to wait for the flight.
We are all packed and were ready to go -- it's a rainy, cool day here, and the warmer and cleaner air of Guangzhou is very appealing right now. We also don't want a long delay to mess with Lillian's schedule too much. We have no idea how she's going to take to air travel anyway. We hope it will be only a couple more hours until we can leave for Guangzhou.
Lillian likes getting out and about, even if that just means walking the hallway of our floor, the conference center level of the hotel, and the spa level. She is very quiet while she walks -- concentrating on moving fast and soaking in her surroundings. She is becoming a chatterbox in the room, but acts shy with others.

Confucius' Temple

Yesterday we went as a group to the Confucius Temple district of Nanjing. The area is in ancient downtown Nanjing and is primarily a pedestrian area with carved and cobblestone walkways and plazas. Confucius' Temple, built in 1034 as a shrine to the ancient philosopher Confucius, is the center of the district, along with a museum memorializing the history of Nanjing as a capital city. (Nanjing means "southern capital.")

The temple (more of a memorial than a religious site) is on the grounds of the Imperial Academy, first erected in the fourth century AD. For centuries, aspiring civil servants from all around China came to Nanjing to take the civil service examination. The examinations would take three days, and testtakers were confined to small cells for the duration. They had to bring in their own food and use a toilet in the cell, which was little larger than a phone booth. Because a good result on the exam would bring imperial employment and lifetime security, cheating was harshly punished (up to and including execution!). Still, the museum had many examples of cheat sheets -- palm-sized pieces of rice paper written on with whiskers dipped in ink.

The temple and old imperial buildings have been rebuilt several times, particularly in the aftermath of World War II, when the Japanese army devastated the city. This week, the area was in the process of being decorated for the Chinese New Year. The district has become a trendy shopping area too, and because there are so many pedestrians, there are very few bikes or vehicles. That may have been why the four guys in the photo were hauling rock manually. On the other hand, we have seen in Beijing and Nanjing that, even though there is construction going on everywhere, and heavy machinery abounds, much work is still done manually.

The last photo is an inside joke for those of you who knew Kari's Grandma Gracie. Lillian is a squatter too -- especially when she's eating Cheerios or studying something on the floor. She can move around swiftly in that position, just like her great-grandma!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wal-Mart run

We've had two "firsts" today -- our first trip to a big department store with Lillian, and her first blowup. Luckily they were not concurrent events!
Our group loaded up into the van to drive to the central business district of Nanjing to Wal-Mart. The other families bought extra luggage, one piece to replace a suitcase that was sliced open on our flight from Beijing, presumably by some mechanical luggage handling device. We bought some groceries and supplies. We were surprised to find pullup diapers in Nanjing, as we'd read that they are hard to find in China. They are Pampers brand but are a little different from the American version we brought along. We bought some, as we've gone through more than we anticipated. We also got a cheap training potty (for the equivalent of $2) because Lillian had been using one in her CWI to go potty in the mornings.
Lillian had a great time in Wal-Mart and, like the other families' girls, got lots of attention from the locals. A group of ladies stopped us and asked us about the scar on Lillian's eye and about her English name. We were able to answer those questions on our own, and then Lisa, our agency guide, came over to translate the rest of our conversation. The ladies were very impressed with Lillian's beautiful skin tone, how well-behaved she was, how much she seemed to like us, and how well she was dressed -- which mostly meant that we'd put sufficient layers on! They said she was lucky to have us, and we said we are luckier to have her. Awww.
Lillian liked pushing the cart around and trying to pick trash up off the floor (ick), and apparently that tired her out a bit. After we got back to the hotel and fed her some pineapple and Cheerios, she had a big blowup for no apparent reason, other than that she was clearly tired and resisting falling asleep. She cries every time we change her diaper, but immediately stops crying and starts laughing once the old one is off. She also lets out a few tears to tell us when she wants to be picked up or put down, but those also stop immediately. This time there was no easy way to stop the tears. She was ticked off, but eventually was OK with being held and rocked, as long as Kari did so standing up.
So now she is nearing the end of an 1 1/2-hour nap, which was part of her routine in the CWI. We'll see what her mood is like when she wakes up! (Usually she wakes up very easily -- basically shakes her head a couple times, then smiles and looks around for a drink of water.)
The other photo is from this morning. Lillian likes to wrestle around in the morning, and seems to be especially fond of flopping on Kari crosswise.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Adoption registered

This afternoon all three families from our agency went back to the Civil Affairs office to have the adoptions registered. We met again with the director and one of the staff of Lillian's CWI and covered our signatures from yesterday with red-inked thumbprints. After that, we had a short interview with a member of the Civil Affairs staff, then filled out a form for a notary. About 10 minutes later, we had the final adoption certificate in hand.
We intended to take more photos, especially of Lillian "signing" with her red-inked thumbprint, but it happened very quickly.
We have been eating local food and Cheerios all the time so far, but tonight all the families are going with our agency guide to -- guess where? Pizza Hut. Apparently Pizza Hut, Papa John's, KFC, and McDonald's are big favorites of the young people in Nanjing, because they are everywhere. Pizza Huts here are considered very nice restaurants, and in fact appear to be more upscale than their US counterparts, and have a broader menu of American style food. We'll see tonight.

Monday, January 7, 2008

More photos

Here are a few more photos. Lillian and Brent had about a 90-minute nap last evening, and when she woke up, she was ready to roll. She taught us a few new dance steps and took us for a power walk up and down the hallway. She crashed out again around 9 or 9:30, and slept until about 6 a.m.
In a couple hours we go back to the Civil Affairs office to register the adoption. The past day is considered a trial period. She seems pleased enough with us for the time being!

Here She Comes

Brent and Lillian are crashed out together, so Kari took a little side trip to the corner grocer near the Nanjing Central Hotel and is now typing up this entry. It's amazing they both can sleep with all the racket outside -- traffic and construction mostly. But it's been a big day, and I am feeling pretty bleary-eyed myself.

Brent and I woke up earlier than we needed to this morning to get around for the flight from Beijing to Nanjing. More precisely, Brent did not really need to wake up, because he really didn't sleep. (He probably got about an hour, so a nap should do him some good.)

The flight was fine -- very much like a US domestic flight. It arrived in time, but by the time the three families rounded up our luggage, got on the bus, took a 45-minute trip to our hotel, and checked in, we didn't have much more than 40 minutes to eat and get ready to go to the Civil Affairs office.

When we arrived at the office, there were several other families from other agencies already there with their children. In fact, the other two girls in our group were there already, just waiting for their new families to arrive. I think Brent and I teared up the most when we saw our new friends meet their daughters. We had time to get a little footage of them before the director of Lillian's CWI arrived with her.

She was very apprehensive at first, and sobbed when she was handed to Brent. But she took to us, especially after we broke out the Fruity Cheerios. Her first action with the Cheerios was to feed one to Brent. We had great fun for the rest of our time at the office feeding and being fed Cheerios.

We were able to ask a full slate of questions about Lillian's routines, likes and dislikes, and general environment, because both the director of the CWI and one of the staff members were there. They also presented us with a treasure -- a memory book kept by her foster grandmother through the Half the Sky Foundation. It included early photos of her -- from just after she was brought to the CWI, to more recent photos of her in the CWI toddler classroom. They also presented us with wooden combs for Lillian, as Changzhou is known for elaborately painted wooden combs.

When we got back to the hotel, she was very agitated about her diaper, even though it didn't appear to be wet or soiled, so we changed it. She still seemed agitated, like she was trying to tell us something, so we tried putting her on the toilet (because we were told she can use a training potty). When that didn't do the trick (she hated it), pullups and introducing a new toy seemed to satisfy her. I just hope she doesn't end up constipated because we don't know exactly what she's trying to tell us (that's a common issue with kids who haven't been in diapers before, but she has been in diapers since she first came to the CWI).

I'll post more photos later, but this is a start!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Updated Lillian photos

We received two new photos of Lillian today, along with an updated report on her size, eating habits, speech, etc. Haven't had time to process it all, but here are the photos for your enjoyment! (The little cut on her eyebrow came when she fell against her crib.)
More later...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hiking the Great Wall

Today we took an hourlong bus ride to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which was originally built around 550, then rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. The Mutianyu Great Wall connects Juyongguan Pass and Gubeikou Great Wall.

We took a cable car up from the parking area to the entrance to the wall, then we separated from our tour group to take the more challenging, steeper route up to the summit of the intact portion of the wall. It wasn't that tough until the final, steep, long set of stone stairs, which made even the walk back to the entrance tougher. Good cardio -- but our knees and shins may pay the price tomorrow!

Afterwards, our group enjoyed a family-style lunch at a restaurant attached to a Cloisonne enamelware factory, then toured the factory and met the artisans.

Tomorrow morning is our orientation meeting with Holt staff and other adopting families. The Holt staffer on the tour bus with us said the agency has received updated information about most of the children, so we may have a Lillian update tomorrow. Of course, we will meet her in person the day after that, when secondhand reports will no longer be necessary.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Top of the World

We have arrived in Beijing and have checked in for the night. It was nearing dusk when we arrived at the airport, so lack of daylight, combined with fog and smog, limited our view of the city as we rode to our hotel.
The photo attached is from our flight today. We were surprised to learn that our plane took the polar flight plan, essentially heading up and over the North Pole. The photo shows a graphic of our location roughly halfway through the 13 1/2 hour flight.
We are very tired so won't venture out tonight (it's almost 8 p.m. here). Instead, we're catching up on news from the Iowa caucuses. More tomorrow after our trip to the Great Wall...