Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oh yeah, where's my coffee?

Coffee pot chirps that a fresh pot is done. I walk into the kitchen, rinse out the mug I've been using to drink reheated yesterday's joe, and fill up with the new hot stuff. I shuffle over to the fridge, grab the milk, pour a glug or two into the mug and put the milk back in the fridge. Between putting the milk away and closing the fridge, (yes, I know a mere nanosecond) I seemed to have forgotten why I was in the kitchen in the first place. At this point I was near the cabinet where I keep medicines and other non-child friendly poisonous things and decided to take off the chippy, make me look like a whore, nail polish I've now been sporting for 3 weeks. With freshly cleaned nails I proceeded to pick up baby toys scattered all over the first floor since she is fast asleep for her morning nap. Half way through, I think to myself, oh yeah, where's my coffee? I walked back into the kitchen to find my mug and was psyched when I realized I had already milked it and just needed to add the sugar.

Ahhh, life with a baby again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

make-you-want-to-barf jet lag

I finally got mostly a full night's sleep last night- first since wednesday. This weekend was a mess, one I'd gladly never repeat. Trying to prep for a hurricane and get a 4th grader ready for her first day of school after traveling for over 26 hours straight, dealing with make-you-want-to-barf jet lag and a very needy 11month old is mind-bending. But miraculously, it all got done, we had no water in our basement, and we survived. We do have a HUGE tree limb, the size of an actual tree down in our back yard that we have to deal with but it fell on nothing but grass. It could have wiped out our swingset or destroyed planted gardens that edge our yard. But fortunately it had the grace to fall smack in the middle of the yard onto an already ailing patch of grass. This is when you really do believe that the universe does give you what you can handle and I am pretty sure the universe was down with the fact that property damage was NOT something this very tired set of parents could handle!

And there is nothing like adding a baby to the mix to make your other children look, big-ass BIG. And then they go and start 4th grade at a completely new school and handle the transition and change and massive chaos like champs. I am so proud of my big girl. She had a whirlwind summer complete with 2 weeks away at summer camp HERE in Minnesota which as you may know is not next door to us and then was home for only 4 days before we left for 2 weeks in China. Between all the travel and 5 extra days of school in June due to snow days, this poor flower of mine didn't have much time at home enjoying our little beachy town. But I think no matter how disappointed she may be in some of the little things about starting school 1 week earlier than her brother and missing the 4th grade ice cream social cuz we were flying home on Friday, she is so elated to have a sister that nothing else matters. SweetPea is a smart, energetic, social, girl who is great at being a leader and taking charge. She can handle nearly any situation I throw at her. Watching her love and cherish her new sister with such care and tenderness has made my heart melt. The baby has brought to my FULL attention how fast my other two are growing up and I just want to yell STOP! Hang on a minute. Let me just catch up for a second. But I know there is no stopping time and instead I am just going to remind myself to be fully present all the time to absorb these growing-up years.

So SweetPea, I wish you a brilliant 4th grade year - I hope you enjoy your new school and you soak in all that it has to offer- and show everyone there ALL that you have to offer. Your smile lights up my world.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

The China I expected

As the train pulled out of the Guangzhou station, jammed with what felt like 1000 Chinese people, 10 Italians and our little American family, it really hit me that we were taking Cici away from her place. The place where she was born. The place where she has who knows how many blood relatives. All week questions began to swirl in my head about her story. Was she really from Yangxi? Or was she taken there to be found because the orphanage takes good care of the babies and many of them are placed for international adoption. Did someone in her family know this and want a better life for her? As the highspeed train to Hong Kong began to pick up speed, I thought hard about the person who let her go and who I am sure has been wondering about her for the past 11 months. And so I began to whisper all my promises to this little girl, mostly into Cici's ear but really I wanted the words to escape into the universe for her other mother.

Watching the flashes of China pass by as we hurtled through small towns on our way to the southern coast of this country, I felt a pang of disappointment that I didn't connect as well with China as I had hoped I would. I had visions of photographing markets, beautiful architecture, and people with expressive faces. But none of that happened and it wasn't only because I was a mom of a baby again but because our location didn't offer much in the way of those scenes. I was sad I didn't find the China I expected. I was sad I didn't have the time to go find it.

The train took less than 2 hours to reach Hong Kong and 15 minutes after collecting our bags, we were pulling up to the Salisbury YMCA. Yup, you read that correctly. We stayed at a YMCA in Hong Kong. gasp. Why you ask? Well Nana left us for Croatia by way of Italy and without our third adult we found ourselves for the first time in our lives, outnumbered by children. Both China and Hong Kong have strict rules about how many people can stay in one room and most HK city hotels do not have rooms that sleep 4 and would require us to book 2 rooms but at the same time would be unable to guarantee that the rooms would be connecting. Lucky for us the adoption crowd is particularly chatty and loves to offer advice and one family I knew of who traveled recently with their large crew, stayed at the Salisbury YMCA because they had FAMILY rooms as well as regular guest rooms. But what really sold me was that they had HARBOR FRONT family rooms. After verifying with a few people that this place was not a flea bag hotel, I booked a family room for a very reasonable price and after we checked in, we were delighted to find a gorgeous view of a completely lit up harbor. So as strange as it felt to be checking into a Y.M.C.A, I was comforted by it being in a super cool neighborhood, right next to the Peninsula Hotel, and a 20 second walk to the Star Ferry which shuttles passengers every 8 minutes between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Our 2 days in Hong Kong proved to be just what I needed. We found our stride as a family of 5. We put Cici through the paces of what it is like to be a part of this crazy traveling family and she passed with flying colors. We rode a crazy long and super high tram across nearly 6km of Hong Kong's mountainous terrain, explored back alley food markets, and haggled with vendors at the kitchy Cat Street market which felt like a Chinese Brimfield Fair. In the end, I found my China and then we left with the best part.

Hong Kong cityscape from our hotel room!

HK Landscape - Lantau Island- from the tram on the way to see the big buddha

Playing with her reflection in the window of the tram

View of Buddha as we arrive at the mountain top

Inside the Buddha there were offerings to ancestors and what looked like these name plates.

Offerings usually include fruit and other foods.

Walking back to the tram from the Buddha through the park. Very pretty but with all this stone and very little shade, it felt hotter than the sun.

Food markets on Hong Kong Island

A worshiper at Man Ho Temple on Hong Kong Island. We watched locals come and go as they took the time during their busy work days to worship. Buddy was very interested in trying it so we bought some candles. We lit them and did the bowing.

PS For those about to plan their adoption trips, I wanted to offer this advice. getting around HK with a stroller is surprisingly easy. The metro is very clean, each station seems to have elevators, and the trains run very smoothly. Find the family/handicap entrance for a wider turnstile though. The people at the info booths we talked to had very good English. For the Star Ferry, ride on the less crowded but more expensive upper deck. Tickets for the decks are bought on the levels used for their entrances. So to buy an upper deck ticket go upstairs at the terminal. Have some coins ready, they were $2.5 HK (about $0.30US) for an adult and $1.5HK for children between 3-11. 

My next post, I will reveal some info on my Pearl shopping and where to go!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Hong Kong

We are in Hong Kong having a wonderful time. This city is so cool! We have limited Internet access while we are here so my full blog posts will have to wait. We are at a restaurant with free wifi so I'm emailing an update from my phone.

Cici is doing so well. She has blossomed even more since leaving mainland China. She loves traveling. She handles everything so well. She's a little tired of the stroller but when you let her loose to play on the floor she is such a riot. We are in heaven.

Sweetpea misses Nora and Gracie from GZ so if you girls are reading this, we will have to connect soon!

I miss so many of our travel mates. We had such a good group. Lucky lucky. Xo to you all!


Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbye Guangzhou

We leave Guangzhou this afternoon for Hong Kong. I am not quite sure how I feel about leaving. I think the strongest feeling I have is one of trepidation about traveling in Asia with my newly adopted baby, two older children and NO guide! Yikes! But in all seriousness, we are leaving the birthplace of my daughter and it has me a little turned around.

For those of you reading this blog, who are planning on coming to China soon for your own adoptions, I think I will take a few seconds to share some details about my stay here at the China Hotel.

1. Look into the executive level. There was a great hot breakfast served up there (but each room comes with breakfast for 2 people) but there was also a nice cocktail hour and non-alcoholic beverages all day. SJ was able to grab a few cans of beer to store in our fridge down in the room and we also grabbed some to take to the pool to watch the kids swim each afternoon. If you are putting more than 3 people in your room (aside from the baby) you will need to buy a breakfast ticket. We were able to use fewer of our breakfast tickets by eating in the executive lounge some mornings. And while there is no food service during the afternoon, there is a good selection of cookies and gummy candy which was a nice perk while Cici was napping. Case in point, my husband just brought me a cappuccino while I type this up. We did not buy a single Starbucks coffee from downstairs in our entire 10 day stay.  And the nicest thing was that we never ran out of bottled water. We'd each grab 2-4 bottles on our way out of the lounge each time so we never had to buy a case of water. I think if we added up what we would have spent on Starbucks, beer or wine, water, snacks etc, we'd net even on what we spent for the exec level. Just sayn'

2. Those of you traveling in larger groups interested in booking adjoining rooms, you may be told there are no adjoining rooms. Just to arm you with some very specific info, we are in room 1602 which is a 1 bedroom suite and it is connected to room 1604 which is a standard room. The suite has a living room, king size bed, 1.5 baths and a nice sized office area. The standard room has 2 double beds and 1 full bath. Our view is a nice on over the city and a little over the park across the street. Some of our friends on the 8th floor had not so nice views from their rooms.

3. Go to Prime (steakhouse) here at this hotel with a group of about 10 people in your group. Ask for the private room. Last night 3 families got together for a final dinner and we got a sweet private room at Prime  with a huge round table and wicked comfy arm chairs. It also has a private bathroom for changing babies should you need.

4. Bring plastic pants in addition to swim diapers for the baby. The pool here requires it but it is enforced without much regularity.

5. I figured this out WAY too late. There is a bakery on the first floor that sells bread. There is a convenience store on the first floor that sells PB and J. Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

6. IMO the McD across the street is horrendous. Fries are okay.

7. SJ thought the hamburger off the room service menu was good. Pizza wasn't bad. If you order the potato skins and don't want the glop of guac in the skin, ask for it on the side. We were told that the fried rice off the menu was good too.

8. There is an HSBC bank attached to this hotel with one of their ATM machines in the hotel. Front desk changes money easily. Friends of ours had massive trouble with travelers cheque.

9. We have been able to plug 2 prong electronics in without an adapter as they have outlets that take most of what the rest of the world uses. We almost brought our Apple TV but at the last minute SJ figured it wouldn't work. There are plugs by each TV that suggest it might be possible but who knows. The Apple TV is small enough that you might want to try it if you have one so you can watch netflix etc.

10. One night we decided Cici was to cranky for a restaurant and both Prime and Food Street said they would pack up a dinner for our room. The room service menu does not have items from those restaurants on it. One night we also took a cab to Shamian Island to pick up chops we had done for the kids and grabbed Cow and Bridge to go and ate in the exec lounge. (another reason we liked the executive level) Our guide suggested the Cow and Bridge was losing its luster but we ate their twice and loved it.

11. Join Marriott Rewards. Free internet and oh yeah, points.

Okay so that's my top 11 for now. Got to pack up a few last minute things, like this computer before we head out. Not sure if I will have access in HK so if not, I'll see you on the flip side.

Love to each of you who took the time to follow along with me on this amazing journey and I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your posts.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Consulate Appointment

Today we had our consulate appointment. Our CCAI group 1751 had a 10 am appointment at the US Consulate for the Swearing in Ceremony. We didn't really know what to expect. We got on the bus at 9:00 am, rode to the consulate where we presented our US Passports to get in and then rode the elevator to the 5th floor to gather in the waiting room for the oath. We went through security and then took a seat in a room with some chairs and teller windows. At 10:00 a woman appeared in the window and through the microphone asked us to raise our right hands and repeat after her. It was basically an oath swearing that we gave them truthful information. She said congratulations and that was that. It was sweet though and I cried. So did Debbie! After that, we had to pay for the visa and then submit the paperwork and Cici's Chinese passport.

I am exhausted today so I am going to keep it short. Here are a few pictures of Cici in her stars and stripes outfit for the US Consulate....

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thread Count

As soon as we received our referral we immediately joined our daughter's orphanage Yahoo Group. From there I was able to get lots of information on this particular SWI and also find links to videos of the facility and pictures of the surrounding area. I was also able to learn from these BTDT Yangxi parents that the babies are given a wash cloth to go to sleep with at night. Their version of a lovie. And since the girls slept on wooden planks, it won't surprise you to learn that Cici does not go to sleep without her lovie (now a giraffe blankie) under her face. She is a tummy sleeper which is why most of her hair is in good shape and not rubbed off. The first day we had her she got so upset and we could not console her...until I remembered that thing about the wash clothes. I grabbed on out of the bathroom and she grabbed it from me and stuck it in her mouth. She immediately calmed. It is her version of a paci. But over the past week we have found her grabbing and stealing hotel napkins and we are joking that she now has a taste for expensive linen. She will always be a girl fond of textiles but now that she has experienced 800 thread count, she's not going back to terry cloth!

Here is a picture of the group of moms and Cici sucking on her cloth. She is like a little treasure box, every day we find something new.

We wore these big and little t-shirts to the safari park on Friday. At one point a Chinese girl walked up to SweetPea, pointed to her shirt and said "Jei Jei." Which means "big sister" in Chinese.

Yangxi Girls on the Red Couch

Today we had a mostly free day. One parent is asked to be back at the hotel by 2:30 to fill out paperwork for the consulate appointment on Monday. SJ has agreed to do all the in-China paperwork so I can focus on the baby. This is a long one though, 90 minutes of filling out forms. OUCH.

All our CCAI friends who were with us in Hong Kong have returned from Nanchang and Changsha. We waited in the lobby for them after dinner last night and were able to greet the CCAI bus. That was lots of fun. I think arriving at the China Hotel in GZ after a week in another Province can be a relief to some. I met one guy who hated the city he had been in for his provincial work and while lounging in the pool here at the CH, said he felt like he was in Hawaii! The Nanchang people had travel delays due to thunder storms so I am sure they were thrilled to get to the hotel and climb into the comfy CH beds.

This morning we woke up before my mom and the big kids so we quietly slide out of the room to go up to the executive lounge for breakfast. They have a high chair up there and since Cici hates high chairs we figured it is better to try her out in them in the lounge where we have a relatively private back room to sit in versus having her scream downstairs at the big buffet and upset all the other babies. So today we ran up for breakfast very early -essentially in our PJs- so we could see if having the first bottle in the high chair was more acceptable to her. And it was. Well, it was the bottle and being put firmly in front of a TV with CNN International on. She quietly sipped her breakfast, did not fuss, and got up-to-speed on the situation in Libya. We were thrilled!

After breakfast we came back to the room and got ready for the day. The Nanchang and Changsha groups had their medical appointment today. Our Yangxi group decided to head over to Shamian Island for red couch photos which I keep inadvertantly calling red carpet photos. Either way I think is appropriate. We intended to meet up with the other two travel groups for a photo but it seems that their medical took a little longer than ours and they were not at the hotel by the time the Yangxi girls had had enough. Our photo shoot ended with lots of tears, dirty diapers, babies needing their 11:00 am bottle and many of them fast asleep.

So we left and walked shopped around Shamian Island until about 1:45 and then we grabbed a cab back from the White Swan to the China Hotel. It is really easy to go from hotel to hotel by cab. It takes about 10 minutes and costs about 18 RMB.

I have another post not yet ready to go about yesterday... we did the Guangzhou Safari Park which I have to say, rocked! We all loved it. It is a mostly open - free range- zoo which you can walk around from exhibit to exhibit but there is also a safari ride you can do which is loads of fun as well. I would highly recommend this to families traveling with older kids. Our guide arranged a van for us, there were 11 people (not including the babies) and it cost 900 RMB including tip for the ride. The entrance fees were 150 RMB for adults and 120 RMB for each of my kids ages 8 and 9. I have lots of photos but haven't sorted through them.

We have started calling Cici the Tigress. She is year of the Tiger and has a fantastic personality. I swear she is so full of charisma and character. She doesn't warm to people immediately but once she does she is ready to party. She studies things with her enormous eyes and is constantly looking around taking absolutely everything in. She is a lot more comfortable in her stroller now and she was totally fine in the cab both ways to Shamian Island. So that is a very nice improvement. She hasn't loved the carrier but I think that has more to do with the friggin heat than anything else. It is a sauna here.

Friday, August 19, 2011


A China adoption trip always includes a medical exam at a medical office on Shamian Island. Yesterday all the girls had an appointment at 9:30 am and it was the first time I had been to Shamian Island. We drove by it the other day and I could tell it was beautiful, but being there yesterday made me realize how relaxing it is. It is quiet there. Few cars, beautiful buildings, and clean surroundings. Oh how I wish we were staying there.

Before the medical appointment, we zipped in to the photo store  to have the girl's passport photos taken. The photo store was actually a children's clothing store with a stool in the back where the kids were placed for a quick digital photo. Being at the end of the alphabet, we are always the last called to get logistics done. By the time we were called for the photo, Cici was fast asleep. Grrr. We had to wake her and she was sooo not happy. We took about 7 shots all of which she was screaming bloody murder. And then for one brief moment, she closed her mouth and opened her eyes and we got this picture....

Here are the kids waiting outside for the photo shoot....


After we got the photos, we went over to the medical office to this room......

Where we had 3 exams, ENT, Height & Weight, Medical and Surgical. The latter was a respiratory and physical exam. The exams went really quickly but we waited a ton of time to just have the paperwork done. Everyone did well though including the very bored big kids. Cici is now 17.8 lbs and 28".

After that we were whisked off to the Pearl Market which I have to say was the cheesiest thing I've done in a long time. I bought Lily, Cici and I pearl stud earings and a few other non-pearl items but felt the quality was not that great. Stuff was relatively cheap but the whole thing seemed yucky to me. I'm going to go back to the place in HK for more pearls on the back end of the trip.

After we got home, SJ took the big kids to the pool while I stayed with a napping Cici. Once she was up we got her dressed in her killer red swim suit and matching hat and took her to the pool. She LOVES the water. Hates cars but LOVES water. Guess we're going to win some and lose some. I knew she loved her bath but she was so smitten with the pool too! Yay!

Here are some cute pictures from our afternoon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


 I will admit, we've seen a lot of this face. We know her cry well. She doesn't like to be put down. She does NOT like the bus. But to quote Dreyfus from The Inspector Clouseau movies, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."

Her improvement each day has been remarkable. She's crawling everywhere, pulled herself up to a stand today and babbles baby talk incessently. She is however only on a bottle which bugs me out. I want her to be putting real food past those 4 teeth she has but she won't stand for it.

We'll just wait for her to be ready. She isn't interested in what we are eating so that is a cue she's not ready for food.

So I will leave you for the day with a mountain of photos.


Yesterday morning we went to the park across the street. It was huge and beautiful with lots to do and see!

Julie, Debbie and Anne with their daughters. I am very thankful to have these wonderful women in my travel group! Friends for life!