Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Ahhh, life with a baby again.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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....
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.
|Julie, Debbie and Anne with their daughters. I am very thankful to have these wonderful women in my travel group! Friends for life!|