Saturday, January 8, 2011

Quotes from the Trip

Larry: "Abigail looks confused about something."
Erin, checking her over: "Oh. That's probably because we put her shoes on the wrong feet!"

Larry, upon observing Abigail and Erin wrestling too close to the edge of the bed while Elmo got flung to the floor as the baby crawled off
"Oh Jesus Erin! It's all fun and games until the baby cracks her head open."

"This girl is gonna' break me!"-- Larry on Abigail always reaching for or taking money to play with over all other toys within reach

Grace, CCAI guide: "Okay, now we are going to the Six Banyan Tree Temple. It was built in 537."
Larry: "So about the time my mom was a teenager."

Larry, watching Abigail try to tackle a roll at breakfast: "It is like watching an anaconda unhinge its jaw to swallow something half its size!"

Grace, CCAI guide, on traffic: "During the Asia Games it was nice. Only cars with the even or odd license plate number could drive on that day. Now, back to normal. Traffic jam."

How to tell when Abigail has finished eating:
Larry: "It is like watching Mt. Vesuvius erupt."

K, a 5-year-old Chinese girl who was adopted as a baby by a white family and E, a 9-year-old Chinese girl adopted by a different white family had the following conversation with each other:
K: "I'm adopted."
E: "Me too!!"
K: "Really?!? I was from China."
E: "Me too! Maybe we knew each other in our orphanages."
K: "Hey mom!! Did you know E was adopted too!?!?"

Grace, CCAI guide, on rubbing the Buddha's belly: "Each time you rub it, that means that you will have another baby. We don't rub it here. One point three billion enough!"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Last Blog from Guangzhou

We cannot believe that today was our last full day in Guangzhou! We have a lot to do tomorrow and we also will begin our trip back to America, which will include one bullet train and 2 airplanes.

Today we enjoyed another whole day with our child. Every day her personality comes through more and we are so proud of her and love her so much. Today was a break-through because today was the first day that she wanted to walk everywhere instead of be carried. We did this by allowing her to wear her squeaky shoes all day long and she loved them so much. One highlight for me was when she was waiting in the lobby with Larry for me and I walked in and she ran as fast as her legs could carry her across the lobby to me.

We also took our "red couch" photos and group photos. Attached you will see pics of our family, our entire travel group, playing with Abigail, and all of the kids on the red couch (Abigail in purple).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life with our Little Monster

It has been a day or two since we blogged, mostly because Larry wanted to write the next one but then didn't get around to it. Also, since the Little Monster is no longer sick, she naps only about half as much!

She sleeps through the night most nights, and wakes up giggling and ready to play! In the mornings, she likes to start the day by playing all of the games she has learned from us so far: the tongue game, the Indian noise game, the popping game, etc. and she giggles the whole time. She doesn't wake up from naps quite so easily, however, and likes to be held for awhile after she wakes up from naps.

She also will still breathe through her blanket and hold a toothbrush when she is stressed, but those times are few and far between lately. Additionally, it has been 4 days since stray tears of sadness ran silently down her cheeks.

Usually for breakfast, she sits in her high chair and eats a three course breakfast: scrambled eggs, followed by either bread or oatmeal, and then for dessert she has a banana. We cannot even let her see a banana before the first 2 courses are completed or she will refuse all food and go straight to banana.

She enjoys playing in the hotel play room, which is all carpeted and padded and full of toys and is sponsored by Matel. We like to take her there to tire her out before a nap. She goes down for naps easily, but she hates bedtime. Surprisingly to both of us, Larry is a better disciplinarian to her particularly regarding bedtime. She wrestles and fights and screams and wants to play her games and Larry will tell her no and keep rocking her. I can't help laughing. Last night I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt and Larry had to take her and get her to sleep. She was just so silly- squirming and yelling and trying to get me to play with her I couldn't help but laugh.

Despite our initial perception of Guangzhou as a tropical paradise, it has rained for the last 3 days and been cold (not Beijing-cold, but cooler that we would have planned for ourselves) so we have been stuck in-doors. Thank Matel for that playroom!

We have also done some shopping for Abigail and have selected some very nice gifts to give her throughout the coming years. We are quite pleased with ourselves and hope she will like the gifts. It was recommended that we get her some "special" Chinese things, and not because we can't find "made in China" things in the US, but to get her some precious things actually purchased on the adoption trip.

We could not be happier with this child in our lives. Adoption was our first choice for building a family because it just felt "right" to us and we were absolutely correct with this decision!!! She is such a bundle of joy and fun and love. She is intellectually curious. It is amazing that someone who can't even speak can be so funny. Every time I look at her, I feel like I am looking at her for the first and last time so I just want to soak her up.

Dinner Cruise on the Pearl

Guest writer Larry here again. Last night we went on a dinner cruise up and down the Pearl River here in Guangzhou. The Pearl River cuts right through the center of Guangzhou and is one of the major points of pride in this city. Guangzhou recently hosted the Asian Games where they had guests from 45 countries competing in all Olympic events. In an effort to welcome the guests the city of Guangzhou spent an inordinate amount of money lighting buildings and bridges all along the Pearl River. The beautiful lights were the main attraction of the dinner cruise, but we were also looking forward to the Chinese cuisine that was to be served buffet style. The weather was not very cooperative for this cruise as it was windy, rainy, and cold. Most of our pictures were taken from inside the boat. Erin was left hungry after the dinner because most of the food was very spicy and had to resort to eating Abigail's cookies. I on the other hand was most pleased with the meal. As you can see from the picture I tried just about everything that was available (when in Rome...) I went and found our agency reps and asked them about eating chicken feet. They asked what my experience was and I told them that I thought it was a lot of effort for a small amount of food. They laughed and told me that in Guangzhou most people only enjoy eating chicken feet when they are drinking hard liquor! I still found it interesting and it reminded me of when Jim (Erin's brother) and I polished off a plate of fried chicken knees in Japan. Good times. The buildings and the bridges were really beautiful despite the cold rain. Erin managed to get a great picture of one of the bridges with its lights reflecting off of the water. I got a decent picture of the Guangzhou Tower, which our guides claim is the 2nd highest building in the world (see reference here: Just as I thought the trip was complete, I was reminded of a famous saying: "What dinner cruise isn't complete without a clown?" The clown came out to a Russian polka that was only about 30 seconds long and repeated over and over for about 10 minutes. It was fun (sarcasm intended.) Our tour group got back on the bus humming and whistling the polka tune.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If I were to do this all over again, what would I do differently?

There are some things we would have done differently to prepare for our trip so I just want to put these ideas out there for other adoption travelers who may read this blog.

First, I would like to say we would go with CCAI as our agency all over again. They were clear and informative and prompt at every step in the process, but everyone always said that their in-country guides and social workers are the best. Really they are. We could not have had the smooth in-country experience that we have had (they do paperwork for us, run errands, go with us to take Abigail to the doctor, recommend food and restaurants, organize group outings, etc.). I would definitely go with a SN child again also. Abigail's personality is revealed to us a little more each day and she is such a sweetheart and she just soaks up everything we try to teach her.

Now, the stuff I would do differently.
I would like to preface this with the fact that we only brought 2 smallish suitcases that are 10in x 25 x 15 (approximately) that held stuff for all three of us and a backpack each. We didn't bring carry on luggage or an extra suitcase for Abigail. 2 small suitcases and 2 backpacks total. And I still think we brought too much stuff.

1. Packing. Larry and I were so obsessed with the below freezing temps we would be facing in Beijing that we completely over-packed for that leg of the trip. Even though we were there for parts of 4 days, it was only really 2 days doing stuff in Beijing, but we packed too many Under Armor undershirts and long underwear and 4 sweaters/sweatshirts each. We could have brought 2 sets of the base layers and worn the same outer layers both days and saved on 3 sets of heavy clothes each. There are heavy clothes that we never wore, but have to lug around. Also, we wore jeans on the flight over and we each packed 2 more. Packing only 1 more would have been sufficient. We did NOT pack enough short sleeve t-shirts. I didn't pack enough shirts that I don't care about a baby staining while on my shoulder. We didn't need all of the electricity converters we brought: all of our hotels had them to borrow.

2. CCAI said "Laundry facilities are at each hotel" and since Larry and I didn't know that meant "Laundry services that the hotel will take 24 hours to do and return and charge exorbitantly for doing so" we would have packed more socks and underwear. We thought 4 days' worth of underclothes would be good and we could take an hour, throw them in a machine, and be done with it. But the first 2 hotels charged per item. A woman we are traveling with thought it was free and had half a load done and it cost over $80. Laundry is cheap and easily accessible in Guangzhou.

3. Living on top of each other: we were not prepared for this. In total, we will be on a plane, in a hotel, or in transit home for 18 days. We are together 24-7 in a hotel room most of the time. When the baby sleeps, we both want to get stuff done: on the computer, organizing clean clothes from dirty, reading, napping, showers, etc and we are in this nice but TINY hotel room and have zero personal space or time apart. That is difficult for even the best couples to manage for 18 straight days. When we were DINKs on vacations, we would frequently spend a few hours apart exercising, seeing different shows, etc. This is not possible right now.

4. Blogging sites are blocked here. Either find a good proxy or have a good friend or family member back home to help you out. My wonderful brother Jim has been receiving my blogs as emails and posting them for me because I was aware that this might be a problem so we worked this out ahead of time. Other people in my group are using a proxy or are also emailing entries.

5. This one is more for 1st time parents: it is hard enough learning how to be a parent all of a sudden, but throw in the fact that you are learning in a different country with a vastly different language and living out of suitcases it is all the more challenging. Be sure to have the following items:
bibs (and remember to bring them with you at meal times!), a baby spoon, TWO bottles, pocket knife (been used a thousand times this week for various things), snacks ("baby treats" as Larry calls them- we wish we had brought more Gerber Graduates food like yogurt melts), a jumbo bottle of Advil (the meds you can buy here aren't the same and suddenly carrying around a 20 pound kid is taxing on us and we are already in shape!), about 300 baby wipes (we only brought about 100 and are going to fall short and the ones we bought here are thin).

Guess who has a boo-boo

Abigail wanted all of her people to know that she has a boo-boo, we don't know what type, and that-despite her screams- the doctor was only cleaning the wound, not amputating the finger.

(There was stuck-on cookie on her finger around the wound and the doctor found very puzzling. Larry kept telling our interpreter that it was cookie, but the doctor didn't believe it until after a formal investigation of the substance. Also, we don't know how the injury happened. She came with it, but it has been getting worse.)

Six Banyan Tree Temple and Chen Ancestral House

This morning we took a tour of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. It is a Buddhist temple that is 1500 years old.

Then we went to the Chen Ancestral House.

Both places were nice, but not interesting to a 1-year old child. We got some nice pictures though.

Abigail's personality is emerging more each day. She is such a happy and curious child. She is a sweetheart who is trying so much to learn from us. We don't have to hold her 24-7 anymore. She likes to be held after she wakes up, for about an hour, and she prefers to fal asleep that way, although last night she woke up and entertained herself for 45 minutes in her crib just babbling and trying all of the games and tricks we have been teaching her, as if she was practicing. Jim said she is studying like a good Chinese kid already! She plays hard now, likes to wrestle, likes games, enjoys repeating sounds we make and gestures we do. She crashes hard at nap-time and loves when we let her feed herself. She prefers French fries to steamed white rice, and she loves fruit. (She only had one Fry, btw, we aren't trying to make her fat already but she really did not want her rice after the fry was gone!)