Saturday, January 31, 2009
Also, last night our bed time routine went very well...bath, PJ's, reading and lullaby music and then she actually went into the crib awake with her blankie and was asleep within 15 minutes! It was late (about 10:30pm) because she napped late, but it was a drama free bedtime and I'll take that anytime. Eventually, we'll get her into bed earlier and earlier.
Oh, by the way, don't I look cute today in my panda outfit with the little panda face on my bum...
Also, for Rebecca...I saw her comment about having some questions, but I don't have your e-mail address. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org...looking forward to hearing from you!
Monday, January 26, 2009
China is an amazing country filled with such wonderful history and beautiful old buildings maintained for generations to enjoy. There were so many things that impressed me about China and I can't wait to take Lauren back there someday for a heritage tour. We feel she needs to experience her birthplace. A couple of the things that impressed me about the Chinese culture is that people seem to take a lot of pride in what they do and that families seem to be very close. Every evening when we would take walks in the park areas, there would be families out playing together...badminton, hacky-sack, etc. It was very heart-warming to see families having so much fun together.
For those of you still waiting, please know that everyone's experience is different based on the child's age, physical condition, personality, etc. There are no two families who have the exact same experience. I can also say that this journey is not for the faint of heart, but for those of us who are determined to bring our child home no matter what it takes. We had the added degree of difficultly with Lauren's age (21 months) and her deep attachment to her caregivers and life at the orphanage. That first week was harder than I had ever imagined. All the books, videos, seminars and stories from other families prepared me to know what to expect, but until you are actually in the situation you don't realize how hard it will be...both physically and mentally. Also, the fact that we are new parents who went from zero to toddler in disress in a blink of an eye didn't help matters.
I'm happy to report that Lauren's transition over the past 2.5 weeks is nothing short of amazing. She is a smart, happy, healthy little girl who seems to pick up on things very quickly and repeats lots of basic words that we say. So far I've heard her say "uh oh", "yeah", "doggie", "baba" and "mama" (although she doesn't direct those at us yet) "good", and "all gone". She eats like a champ and especially likes strawberry yogurt, scrambled eggs, mandarin oranges, watermelon and graham crackers...oh, and of course her rice crackers from China.
We went to the pediatrician for her well-baby visit this morning and the poor baby had to get six vacinnations, a TB skin test and lots of blood work. She was not a happy camper and I was close to tears watching her scream. The doctor said to give her Tylonel and watch her for a fever tonight. It was just too much trauma for one day!
I wanted to give those still waiting some tips on items we brought with us and didn't use and items we used daily. Also some info on how many of certain items we brought...so here it goes...
Items we took and didn't use:
- Small funnel for transfering the powdered formula from the travel dispenser to the bottle...worked fine without the funnel.
- Cherrios...Lauren didn't want anything to do with them.
- Disposable wash clothes...no need since we used hotel washcloth while in the room and diaper wipes when out and about.
- Disposable diaper changing pads...just used the real thing from our diaper bag.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste for Lauren...there was no way we were approaching that trauma on top of everything else.
- Disposable razor for me...time to shave...ha, what was I thinking.
- Jewelry...you can just use what you wear over there...this is no fashion show.
- Travel shopping bag...every shop owner we encountered gave us a bag. Even Carefour (the Walmart equivalent in Guangzhou) had cheap re-usable grocery bags to buy at the registers.
- Travel tiolet paper...the two times that there wasn't toilet paper, I left the darn travel roll outside with Joe in the diaper bag so I never got to use it anyway.
- Stuffed bunny rabbit toy for Lauren...she wouldn't even give it a second look.
- Instant soup, granola bars and beef jerky...there is plenty to eat in Guangzhou
- Since Lauren wasn't sick, we didn't even touch the well stocked bag of over the counter meds or antibiotic we brought for her.
Items we took that I couldn't live without:
- Scented diaper disposable bags for the poopie diapers.
- Plastic baby spoons in a cool travel container (thanks Kim & Scott)...Lauren used them at every meal.
- Gerber baby prunes...got the plumbing working right away.
- Travel formula dispenser.
- Playtex drop-in bottles...they were SOOO convenient and work like a charm.
- Diaper pins for cinching Lauren's waistbands on her pants (Nancy, thanks for the tip)...otherwise several outfits we brought would not have worked for her.
- Tights for her to wear with dresses and pants that rode up...kept the local clothing police away...God for bid a babies legs show in China! ;)
- Long johns if traveling to Beijing in the winter!
- Thermos for keeping hot water for baby bottles...used this daily.
- Stacking cups...Lauren loved them (tip...get the ones with little holes in the bottom so it can "rain" in the bathtub).
- Shoe box sized rubbermaid container for cleaning the bottles, nipples, sippy cups and plastic spoons every day in the room.
- Dish liquid and plastic tongs for doing the dishes.
- Travel packets of Tide detergent for cleaning clothes with stains you can't trust to the laundry. Lauren had sticky lollipop stains all over her coat a couple of times and Tide came to the rescue.
- Laptop computer and headset for making phone calls on Skype...this was my only connection to friends and family and I don't think I would have made it without this stuff. /li>
How many did we take?
- Playtex drop-in liners - 200. We used about 125 including the 40 or 50 we gave to another family who ran out. We used them for formula, water and juice bottles.
- Diapers - 20 Huggies Over-nights. We bought Pampers in China and they worked out fine for day-time use. We used the Huggies over-nights each night and saved about 6 for the flights home. We bought two packages of Pampers in China and brought about 10 home.
- Diaper wipes - 2 refill packs of Pampers Sensitive Skin wipes. By the time we got home we used every one of them, but we used them a lot as multi-purpose wipes when we ate out.
- Spending money - $4,500. We used about $2,500 on souveniers, Chinese outfits and shoes for Lauren, pearls, gifts, meals that weren't included and a couple of minor adoption expenses that popped up along the way.
Oh, and one more thing that I didn't realize before we went...they don't use napkins as we know them in restaurants in China. They have a tiny pop-up box of what we would consider to be tissues at the table...or sometimes they would have a couple of packets of what we would consider travel size Kleenex. When you are dealing with a messy baby, these are no help whatsoever. Plan on using diaper wipes or antibacterial wipes a lot while you are out eating. Only a few times did we encounter restaurants that actually give you a cloth napkin. Even Lucy's with it's westernized menu only gives you one tiny paper triangle shaped napkin per person.
Well, it's time to get dinner started, so that's all for now. If anyone still waiting has any questions about our trip, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. You can find an e-mail link on my Blogger profile.
Here's a few digital scrap pages I wanted to share and below is a little video snippet of Lauren's first meetings with Lucy (our furbaby)...
We spent the last day in China finishing up our packing and relaxing a bit before taking the oath at the U.S. Consulate. Here's a couple of my favorite pics from that day...
We got home on Friday at 4:30pm Phoenix time (1:30am China time) and had such a fantastic greeting from friends and family! After two weeks living out of a hotel room with a brand new toddler in a foreign country, I was NEVER so glad to be home!!
I promise to post much more later, but it's 2am and I finally got Lauren to sleep about a half hour ago. If I don't hit the sack now and get some sleep while she is out, I'll be S O L (so out of luck)!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Today one parent from each family had to go to the U.S. Consulate and re-do the vaccination affidavit form. It turns out that the consulate changed the form and didn't let the agencies know, so pretty much all families here in Guangzhou right now had to make a special trip to re-do the form. Joe went to the consulate early this morning with our group and Lauren and I had breakfast, shopped, and hung our on the Starbucks patio for a while. Thank goodness that everything is ok and we are still on track to take our swearing in oath tomorrow.
Looks like our girl likes Starbucks just like mama...
Once Joe got back from the consulate, we had lunch and then packed for our long journey back home. We had to buy a new suitcase and got a nice, big rolling one for about $25 at one of the shops. I didn't realize how much stuff I bought until I gathered everything up on the bed for packing. I stuffed all three big check-in bags and we'll have our carry-ons stuffed two. Luckily, one of the families has a digital luggage scale and we got to weigh our check-in items...we are under 44lbs on each one, so we should have no problems at the airport.
We had our last group dinner tonight and afterwards we had a birthday party for Isabella, who turned one year old today...
The cakes came in such beautiful boxes...
and were so pretty...
The cakes tasted a lot different than the sweet ones we have at home. They were more like sponge cake with whip cream instead of frosting...they were very good and Lauren ate a whole piece by herself...
Tomorrow we will spend the morning finishing our packing and then we'll be heading to the U.S. Consulate at 2:30pm for Lauren's swearing in ceremony and to get her Visa and passport. After that, we go onto the Guangzhou airport to fly back to Beijing at 8pm. We'll be spending the night in Beijing and then flying back to the U.S. at 1:40pm on Friday. We'll fly to San Francisco and then onto Phoenix arriving at 4:11pm on Friday. To us it will feel like 7am on Saturday morning, so it will be a BIG adjustment to get back on U.S. time...especially for Lauren.
I'm not sure if we'll be posting again from Beijing before we leave, so this may be our last post from China. Although we are SO very happy about coming home, it's going to be very sad to leave Lauren's birthplace. We have had such a positive experience here in China and have such a respect for this country and it's people.
I'll definitely post again as soon as we get home and get some sleep. Joe is battling a bad head cold and I'm at the tail end of it. There are quite a few of us in the group who have had upper respiratory problems on the trip and several of the guys were down for a day or so with the stomach flu.
We are concerned about entertaining Lauren for the LONG flight home...I guess tomorrow's shorter flight will be a test for what's to come on Friday. We got a seat for her all the way home on all three flights. Please say a prayer for things to go well and for us to get home safely. Good night all!
Not many photos today, but you have see them here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Here's Lauren in her cute little outfit. I had to distract her to get her hair clip in. If she knows it's there, then out it goes!
Lauren and Julia are the only two in our group from the same orphanage. Julia is the sweetest little baby...she's so laid back.
This picture is funny...all the babies are looking every which way, but Lauren is looking straight ahead ready for the picture.
This one cracks me up...Giorgia stole one of Lauren's stacking cups and she just won't give it up...she won't take her hand off of it. Eventually she just gives it up without a fight though.
Here's the baby paparazzi...it was quite a sight!
One of my favorite things to shop for has been shoes for Lauren. I got some really cute leather squeaky shoes at Sherry's Place and I also got some non-squeaky shoes for later on...some at Sherry's Place and some at a mall in Guangzhou. They have the most adorable kids shoes here.
I'm not a huge fan of brocade fabric and most of the Asian style outfits are made out of it. I did buy a few of them, but also managed to find a couple of cute cotton outfits as well...here's my favorite...
Well, I'm exhausted again today (hmmmm...I've said that every night now), so I'm heading off to get ready for bed. I'll leave you with this little video from earlier today...
You can see all our photos from the day here.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Lauren is learning to trust us and she's letting her guard down more and more each day. She is playing, smiling, laughing and showing us her true personality. She is such a sweet and good-natured little girl...and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. Here's a little video snippet from our walk this evening...
Tomorrow afternoon we are heading to the White Swan lobby for a big group photo and a red couch photo of the kids.
You can see our photos from the day here.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
After church we took a walk and then boarded the bus for the Guangzhou Zoo. This zoo is nothing special, although they do have lots of greenery and the grounds are pretty. The animals are in cement cages...nothing remotely close to a natural habitat. I would say that if you're heading to China soon and the zoo is optional you can easily skip it unless you are antsy to get out for a change of scenery.
After the zoo, it was a group dinner...my least favorite dinner so far, although it wasn't too bad. Our guide does a great job at ordering items off the menu that us westerners would eat. There's usually a sweet and sour chicken or pork, rice, broccoli, a couple of beef dishes, green beans, and a chicken dish...nothing strange or unusual. So far Lauren is partial to any green veggies and little pieces of beef. Oh, and she loves her congee.
After dinner we stopped at Starbucks for hot tea...we both have sore throats...and headed up to the room to get little Miss Lauren settled in for the night. We got her to sleep tonight with only a short meltdown, which is either luck or a big improvement. We think it was luck, but we'll see tomorrow.
She was SOOO good today and actually sat through the church service with no problem. The local family in front of us had stopped and picked up rolls for their kids and Lauren was watching them hand them out. The grandma broke off a piece and gave it to Lauren...it was very sweet.
She is such a trooper dealing with this crazy schedule and constantly running here and there. We got LOTS of smiles today and laughter too. Of course, it's hard to catch this stuff on video. I do have a clip here especially for Grandma so she can see Lauren's smile and hear her sweet voice...
You can see our photos from the day here.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Today we had Lauren's visa photo taken and her medical exam done. Last week our group was seven families, but now the families who traveled to other provinces have joined us and now we have twelve plus families in our group. It was pretty chaotic at the medical place, as you will see from my photos, and the exam is obviously just a formality. The hearing test cracks me up...if the doctor squeezes a squeaky toy and the baby turns her head, the hearing is good. All the staff there were very soft spoken and sweet with the babies and make things as easy as could be.
After the medical exam we were on our own until the group dinner, so off we went to Lucy's for some American comfort food. Grilled cheese and fries...
Lauren had some congee and mashed potatoes. Congee is basically super boiled down an mushy rice and they usually add chicken, beef or pork and sometimes corn or green onion. Lauren loves her congee...
Between lunch and dinner we walked around the island, had some tea at Starbucks and then back to the room for some play time. We got lots of smiles today and some giggles and laughter too. It was SO nice to see her opening up.
After our group dinner tonight, some of the guys got together for a pick-up hacky-sack game in front of one of the shops. They started this last night and I have a feeling there will be more to come. It's been a fun way to end the evening and lots of laughs...
Our biggest problem still is when she gets tired. This is the time when she starts to cry and then it turns into that inconsolable screaming and throwing her body down on the floor. This happened once today for about 15 minutes before she fell asleep for an hour nap and at bed time. She was all smiles and playing once we got back to the room after dinner, but as soon as she was tired for bed she went into a full blown inconsolable mode. I'll scoop her up and walk with her while holding her tight and she'll be screaming on top of her lungs and kicking and pushing me away with her arms. If I sit down with her (because my back is breaking), she will stiffen up her body until she slides down. Once she's on the floor, she will thrash around kicking and screaming and when I touch her or move in to pick her up she freaks out. We had two hours of this before we could get her down tonight and it's exhausting. Does anyone have any advice on how to handle this? It's heartbreaking to watch her go through this.
Today (Sunday) we go to a church here on the island for service and then to the Guangzhou Zoo.
Oh, here's a little video of the one baby wrecking crew in action...
You can check out all our photos from the day here.
Friday, January 16, 2009
We went out this evening with a couple of other families and had a great dinner and a nice walk along the water. I'll post more about our day later on. You can see our photos from the day here.
By the way, for OziMom, the weather here in Gaungzhou is GREAT. It's cold in the morning (coat and hat for the babies and a jacket for us) and by the afternoon it's perfect...mid 70's. I really don't think we could have picked a better time to come.
Chinese New Year starts on January 25th and the decorations have been going up all
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Today we visited the Family Chen's Temple, which is the oldest temple in Guangzhou, and it was amazing. The elaborate carvings all around the roof tops were so impressive. Here are a couple of my favorite photos...
After that, it was off to the Yuntai Botanical Garden. This place is absolutely beautiful. The flowers, gardens and perfectly pruned trees are set off by a backdrop of green rolling hills. We only had an hour there, but could have spent much longer just strolling the grounds...
Ok, I saved the best part for last...Lauren only had two major meltdowns today and they were shorter than they have been. Also, she actually walked about the hotel room today and played with toys AND let me play with her for about 15 minutes on the bed...
She also let us put her in the stroller for a walk around the gardens. This was the first time we could put her in the stroller while she was awake. The last time she was sleeping and only stayed in for a short time once she woke up. Most of the time Joe is carrying her in the Baby Hawk...she seems to have a preference to Baba (Daddy) right now and I'm playing assistant. We were so proud of ourselves today when we actually figured out what she wanted a few times...that's a BIG thing!
Here's a few things about our girl...
- She has beautiful eyes...they are piercingly dark with long eye lashes
- She has an adorable smile when she flashes it
- She doesn't like taking baths yet
- She likes to have her bottle immediately when she wakes up and she's not patient about it
- She spoon feeds herself and loves congee and green beans
- If she's tired she can be rocked to sleep quickly, but getting her down in the crib is another story!
- She sucks her thumb when she sleeps and isn't always quite about it
- She likes to be bundled up with a coat, blanket and hat
- She seems to have really good dexterity when she's playing with her toys
I want to thank everyone for all the sweet comments you all left for us. Last night we were both teetering on the edge and reading all your comments definitely made us feel a LOT better. Catherine, thank you for all the prayers...they mean the world to me. Jeanette, I found the round crackers like the ones you gave us from LeeLee at a little shop by the hotel. When I opened them up to give a package to Lauren she recognized them right away. They helped us quite a bit today when she was fussy...I'm so glad I knew that your daughter liked them and tried them here!
The food here has been great! We haven't tried anything unusual...when we go out as a group our guide pre-orders for everyone and she knows what us westerners like. I'm so glad that Joe and I learned to use chopsticks ahead of time so we can eat without asking for a fork. All the restaurants here on Shamain Island have forks, but I'd rather eat the local way with chopsticks.
Some random observations while here...
- I'm surprised how few Caucasians we see here. I guess I'm used to the USA being a melting pot of different cultures. It's not like that here.
- The local people like to stare and it's not just a glance or two it's full on staring for long periods of time and it's very uncomfortable. It's not only because we have a Chinese baby...we were getting stared at in Beijing before we had Lauren.
- The shop owners here on Shamain Island remember everyone's names. I'm not sure how they do it when they see so many people each day, but they do.
- The pollution problem in Guangzhou is pretty bad, but it's not as bad as I had imagined.
- The local people spend a lot of time outdoors in the park exercising, biking, skating, and playing games with friends like badminton & hackysack. It seems like they take time to relax and de-stress...we could definitely learn from this.
- Women friends walk arm in arm down the street while talking and laughing...it's very sweet.
- Restaurants don't give you napkins. If you're lucky, there is a little box on the table with what we would consider tissues.
Well, that's it for today...it's a little after 10pm on Thursday night and I'm REALLY tired. Good-night! You can see all our pics from today here.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Lauren is still having a really hard time. We had about 4 short spurts of time when she was awake and not in meltdown mode...the pictures today are from those times. The rest of the pics are from around Shamian Island...it is really pretty right around the Victory Hotel. Huge trees, cool old buildings, and a nice park area. There are also some pics of the Victory's breakfast room...for those of you who may be staying here soon.
Please keep us in your prayers as we try and get through these next couple of days. Even Joe, who has the patience of a saint, is getting VERY frustrated...I would definitely say that this is the hardest thing we've EVER done and blue skies don't look like they are in our immediate future.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Well, I know everyone always seems to say that each day gets a little easier, but today was worse than yesterday for SURE! I think it's really sinking in for Lauren that she may not be going back to the orphanage and everything she knows. This little girl is really giving us a run for the money and putting us through the ringer. We are holding our own and trying to do our very best, but it's been a VERY hard day.
Lauren slept well last night...from 9pm until we had to wake her to get dressed for our appointments this morning. We woke her up slowly and entertained her with some stacking cups, then she had her first meltdown, then into the bath, another meltdown, then we got her dressed and off we went for a super quick stop at the breakfast buffet and then onto the bus for our appointment. She was very upset most of the time at Civil Affairs Office and had a MAJOR meltdown right before we got ready to leave...screaming, kicking, pinching, arching her back...everything she could think of to get her frustration out. We finally got her downstairs and to the bus where she crashed from exhaustion.
She had a hard time most of the rest of the day too. The highlight was when Joe went out to run an errand...we were playing with the stacking cups one minute and the next minute she was kicking and convulsing her body so hard that she ended up on the floor arching her back and thrashing around while screaming on the top of her lungs for her "ayee" (phonetic spelling for nanny in Chinese). Nothing I did would console her, so all I could do was stop her from hurting herself on the furniture. It was SO hard to watch her go through this...I can't begin to describe how bad I felt. By the time Joe got back, she was doing a little better and I was able to sneak off for a meltdown of my own in the bathroom.
We did have a few sweet moments and smiles throughout the day and you can see those in the photos here. We are trying our absolute hardest to get through this, and we will. Thank goodness we have friends along on this trip and our guide, Alison, has been SO amazingly supportive.
Please say a little prayer for us tonight that things will start to turn around soon. As for me, Lauren and Joe are both sleeping and I seriously need to crash...good-night.
Oh, one more thing...I love this photo and wanted to post it. Don't mind the food around her mouth that we didn't get off in the bathtub. She was struggling and it looks like we didn't get the full job done!
Monday, January 12, 2009
Thank you all so much for all the wonderful comments...I read them all with tears rolling down my face. Your support means the world to me and gives me so much comfort in a place so very far from home.
Mom, these video snippets are just for you. This first one is in the room where we got her and I got the first little smiles...
This one is at the restaurant just shortly after we left the Civil Affairs Office. I brought some Gerber baby prune puree and she really like it. I wanted to get a jump start at clearing out that plumbing! ;)
Well, I'm going to try and get a little rest since our wake up call comes at 6am.
She loves her caregivers and wanted them so badly it broke my heart. We stuck with it and after a while (a long while) she calmed down and we actually had some smiles!
When we left the building to board the bus she had a major meltdown while I was carrying her out...it was quite the scene. We're in the middle of the busy Guangzhou street waiting for the bus and here I am, an American, holding a Chinese baby who is screaming on top of her lungs while kicking me and trying to push me away. I could barely keep hold of her...I just held on as tight as possible and finally the bus showed up. On the way back to the hotel, she feel asleep from sheer exhaustion.
Once at the hotel, we had just enough time to change her diaper before we had to go to dinner. She was screaming and kicking her legs uncontrollaby, which made the diaper change quite interesting. She had a great appetite at dinner and we got lots of smiles.
Once back in the room, she was quite upset again. She is just very confused and doesn't understand what's going on. She was brought to a strange building, handed off to strangers and everything she knew was gone in a flash. I can see her frustration when she's crying. She doesn't know what to do...she's both pushed me to get away, but when I put her down she's grabbing on. She's SO confused and upset...it's very hard to watch. You feel like someone is ripping your heart out because you can't just fix this for her.
Right now she is sleeping...she's been down for over an hour. She's just so peaceful and sucking her thumb.
You can check out all our pics here.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
We started out with a little breakfast at the buffet and then headed over to Starbucks for a little taste of home...
Joe, Karen and I sat on the patio and sipped on our drinks overlooking the little park area. It's so quiet and peaceful here on Shamian Island. Right across the very short bridge it's total chaos, but the Island is a little paradise with big weeping trees and parks. The locals are jogging, walking, biking and doing Thai-chi. We saw a women walking backwards and every so often she would glance behind her to make sure she wasn't running into anything...not sure what that was all about, but it was quite a sight. I think the Starbucks patio will be a regular morning hang-out for us.
Joe and I are now up in the room to get our diaper bag together and go through our money to see how much we need to exchange. We are going to shop around a little for a stroller if we have time before we leave to get Lauren. We are heading out for the Civil Affairs Office in three hours! I still feel like I'm walking around in a dream or something...hard to describe. I think when we get off the bus and up to Civil Affairs it's going to hit us hard that this is the day and the tears will be flowing. I can't wait to get that very first glance of Lauren...ok, I'm tearing up now!
Gotta go get ready!