Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday's update

Hi all! Still can't seem to rotate the photos in Paint, it appears that that functionality is disabled for some unknown reason. So, as Bro said in an earlier comment, you just have to get a little dizzy to follow along.

Today, a few of the families had the opportunity to visit their children's orphanage. A terrific chance for all. Sophie's orphanage is not open to the public, and it is at least a 4 hour drive from here on bad roads, so a trip even to that city was not possible. I do have pictures of the orphanage from an online site, and Sophie's caretakers were kind enough to fill up two disposable cameras with photos, so we are anxious to have those developed.

For the remaining families, both Rose (the national guide) and Shirley (the Nanchang guide) had arranged a trip to the countryside to see a typical farming village outside Nanchang. It was about a 30 minute drive and the roads got worse as we got away from the city. It was a pretty small village. My guess is that there might have been several hundred people who lived there. However, it wasn't countryside as we would typically think of it...the skyline to the city still loomed in the distance.

Anyway, this was such an amazing excursion. The people were so interested in us...just as we were curious about them. A few of them walked up to greet us as we departed the bus, and many followed us as we walked along the street through the village. These folks greeted us. You can see that the little boy is wearing split pants - no diapers for these little guys. They just squat and go wherever and whenever they need to!

In the rice field...

Sophie and I in front of some of the "farm equipment"...

These folks followed us around for a lot of the stroll. We must have looked like space aliens to them. They were all so pleasant and interested in why we were there. Shirley was a big help in communicating with them.

I took several shots of this woman...her face has such character.

Sophie enjoyed the stroll through the village too...

It was a priceless visit that I will remember for a long time. And I think EJ has a whole new appreciation and thankfulness for the life that she has.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a porcelain shop. In addition to being known for its agriculture, the Jiangxi province is known for its porcelain. We bought a small tea set and some porcelain chopsticks, and EJ picked out some jewelry.

We got back to the hotel around 1 and had some free time. Sophie napped for a while, and a few of us headed to the shopping district. K and EJ stayed with Sophie and then strolled her around the block a little later. I bought some adorable shoes for Sophie (about $2.25) and a cute outfit for EJ for about $10.

Speaking of outfits, the tailor (or is it -er?) delivered the custom dresses we had ordered. Aren't they beautiful? EJ tried hers on and looked like a princess.

Sophie modeled the hat that I ordered with her dress. They made it a little big so she can grow into it.

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow morning, we pack up again. K has about 90 minutes of paperwork to do for our trip to the American Consulate's office in Guangzhou. We have to have our bags packed and ready to go by 2. We leave the hotel at 3 to go to the airport. Our flight to Guangzhou is around 5:00 and shouldn't take more than 1:15. You probably won't hear from me again until Saturday. This weekend is free time, so we plan to do a lot of shopping in Guangzhou...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday's Update

Sophie is doing so incredibly well. She slept 11.5 hours again last night (of course, so did EJ!). Yesterday was a quiet day, as is today. We did the Walmart thing, had our clean laundry delivered (every item is individually tagged, and like items are all bagged together). It was about $40 to do all of the laundry thus far. At 2:30 yesterday, the tailor came to the hotel. I ordered matching dresses for EJ and Sophie. Sophie's will be her christening gown. EJ helped to pick the fabric - very beautiful gold with pale pink. I believe it has a dragon pattern,and is trimmed with gold brocade. I ordered EJ's to be long, and Sophie's for a little bigger than she is now. It should be about $50 for the two dresses, and a matching hat for Sophie.Wehad dinner at the hotel last night.

This morning, we met at 10 to go to a beautiful pavilion across the street from the hotel.  It was beautiful, but so humid that we didn'tstay long.  Sophie fell asleep and we were all dripping in sweat.  The guides offered to get everyone Pizza Hut for lunch (yummy)and then the pediatrician traveling with us came to examine Sophie.  We really aren't having any issues at all with her.  She is so sweet.  She is smiling and laughing a lot more today.  She has been through so much in the last few days and is adjusting nicely.

Oh well, back to the room for me.  Sophie's nap started at 1:30, so I'm sure she is awake.  EJ and two other girls on the trip are out at the playground wtih the guides and should be back soon too.

Summer Palace photos

Here are some pictures from our Summer Palace tour on Friday.

We also went to the Beijing zoo to see the pandas. This guy did a nice pose for me!

And more...

Here's a shot of EJ and some of the other kids on the trip at the entrance to the Summer Palace, where we toured on Friday.

More pics

Okay, here are some pics from a few days ago. The first is obviously from the Great Wall. This was as high as K and E made it. I went to that small platform between where we are in this photo and the next tower up. In this photo, we are standing on top of one of the guard towers. As you can see, EJ had her hair done into a traditional Chinese hairdo by the nice ladies at the jade factory.

Here we are in the rickshaw before the hutong tour. K's driver was so crazy in traffic that our guide yelled at him when we got off at the first stop and they fired him from our gig and got a replacement driver!

And yes, these are fighting crickets, raised by the hutong family where we had lunch. I don't think I ate any crickets there, but you can't be sure! Actually, the food we had there was the best meal so far!

And Uncle E, this one's for you. Here we are in Tiananmen Square with the entrance to the Forbidden City behind us.

By George, I think I've got it!!!! PHOTOS!!!!

I can't believe how difficult this photo thing has been, but I think I've got it. I was able to make copies of some of the pics and resize them to upload. I'm going to try to upload the important ones here in several posts.

The first is me holding Sophie right after she was handed to us! The man behind EJ is Mr. Guo. He is the director of Sophie's orphanage. We were lucky enough to get his email address so we can send photos and updates to the nannies.

Here is K right after I was done holding Sophie. Sorry, can't rotate photos, but I figured you'd be so happy to see them that you'd be willing to turn your head 90 degrees!

Here are Sophie and I at dinner last night.

And here she is yesterday before our outing to Walmart! That was a trip. And we even had KFC for lunch. Today, our guide ordered us Pizza Hut and it was the most delicious pizza I ever had!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Update from phone call

This AM CDT we received a call from China. It wasn't easy. It took three attempts to get the call to us. While phone cards and phones are available in China, it doesn't necessarily mean that the parts of the system work together as well as they could. Similarly, computers and their connection to the Internet may be ubiquitous but functionality is less so. Thus this update on the Chinese adventure is from phone and posted by the guest host.

They are in Nanchang and will be there until Friday when they depart for Guangzhou by plane. Though they didn't say so, it is likely that getting the entire group through the legal steps takes time but individuals will have some time for R&R and touring. Thus they went to the most Chinese of American enterprises, WalMart. K noted that everything there has a security tag on it, even the $1.00 pair of shoes they bought for Sophie. It isn't clear whether they have a high retail theft rate and need security tags or a low retail theft rate because they have security tags. When asked K said it really wasn't much like the WalMart in the US.

To avoid the hassle of the market place they shopped another way too. A seamstress came to the hotel and measured "the girls" for dresses. In attending to the time limits on the phone call we neglected to ask if 1) "girls" included Lisa and 2) if the dresses are matching. More on that matter when we hear from them next. That may not be until Friday when they get to Guangshou.

Sophie is unfazed by all of this activity. She cries little or not at all. Eats well and has shown a fondness for a new addition to her formula. Evidence? She slept 11 continuou hours. L & K haven't said so but we imagine that they hope Sophie will do the same on the return flight.

EJ has been getting her quota of swimming. She has made good use of the hotel pool which is located on the 4th floor. It has large glass windows overlooking the Gan River. Like just a few other in the world, it flows south to north. K and L both grew up in the vicinity of one of those few. K and L made the point with EJ as part of the educational component of this very joyful (though sometimes tiring) trip. The agenda changes for tomorrow though. The older girls are off to a "play day" while the adults tour. Evidently there is a building of interest just across the street from the hotel and that will be on the adult agenda.

They have taken many, many pictures but so far haven't been able to post them. If they can get them to us via email, we'll post them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sophie is here!!!!

We have her! She is so sweet and precious. Very quiet. And very curious. She has been so busy looking at everything in her new world that she doesn't recognize. But here's an update on everything we've done in the last two days, leading up to getting Sophie. Be patient - this is the first good Internet connection that I've had in a week, so I might even be brave and try to upload photos again tomorrow.

Yesterday morning, we went to Tiananmen Square and took a lot of cool pictures. Yes, Uncle E, we got a great shot of us with Chaiman Mao for you! Then, we visited the Forbidden City, which is the emperor's old palace. EJ was attacked by some other visitors who literally grabbed her to have her photo taken. She's handling it like a true rock star!

After that, we went to visit the hutong village. That is an old section of Beijing where the houses are in quadrangles and occupied by many generations of a family. We took a wild rickshaw ride and about had heart attacks merging into the city traffic with the buses (JG at work, I remember you telling me about this!), and then even had lunch with a local family at their residence in the hutong and learned all about their pets - fighting crickets! It was the meal that I was a little nervous about (since it wasn't in a restaurant and we weren't sure how everything was prepared), but it was by far the most delicious we've had so far. I really liked the garlic shoots and pork,

Then we made our way to the Bell Tower tea house and learned about brewing and tasting tea. And then it was off to the airport for our flight to Nanchang. We left about an hour later than scheduled and didn't get here until about 9:30 last night. EJ went to bed and then K and I packed the diaper bag for today.

We awoke around 5:30 and got ready for breakfast. At 9 AM Kevin went to our guide's room to handle the final paperwork and get the money ready to pay all the fees for the court system today. Around 9:30, Rose, the national guide, and Shirley, the local guide, took us down the street a few blocks to the local grocery store. It was very nice, and we bought drinking water, diapers, and some Coke! It was a very interesting store. A walk through the meat department allowed us to look at the tanks of live eels and turtles, and then we saw prepared frog. The butchers carve the meat right behind the counter, and the cuts are thrown into bins (unwrapped), where everyone can pick them up to inspect them - and even replace them if they don't buy them! EJ bought some pencils and a pen that she liked, and because these were in a separate department, the slip had to be hand-written, paid for, and then packaged and sealed. When we got to the checkout, they had to be stamped again...all for less than $1 worth of supplies! We can't wait to go again!

We returned to the hotel around 10:35 and were supposed to be back in the lobby at 11 to meet the babies. When we got to our room, Rose called and said she had good news that the babies arrived early and to come to the conference room. We walked in and many of our travelmates already had their babies. I looked for Sophie but didn't see her. Then, Rose called our name and a nanny lifted her up and there she was! Despite the referral photo, she actually has quite a bit of hair. She is a tiny thing, but was bursting out of the 6/9 month sleeper she was dressed in. She didn't cry at all. In fact, we've only heard one little wimper as K was prepping a bottle this evening. None of the babies really cried. We did a little paperwork and then had about 2 hours alone with her before we had to do three different official appointments this afternoon.

During the two hours, we wiped her off a little - it's very warm here. We'll attempt a bath in the morning. We also changed her into something cooler and gave her a bottle - an interesting mixture of 4 scoops of formula, 4 scoops of rice cereal, and 1/2 packet of milk mate powder. It's very thick. She was so good through all of the appointments (and EJ was too). We got another bottle in her around 5:15 and she fell right to sleep. She slept right through a diaper change a little bit ago and will probably wake sometime after midnight for another bottle.

As I said, she's very serious. EJ was able to make her laugh by just giggling at her. As soon as EJ laughs, she would laugh right back. And when we were wiping her off this afternoon, we found that her armpits are ticklish! The nannies said that she has always been this way and that they really had to work to get her to smile. Hopefully, we can get a few more of those in the next few days.

That's it for now. I wish I had the time to tell you every little detail and story of this trip. It has been fascinating thus far and I'm looking forward to experiencing this city a little more for the next few days. Tomorrow, we're going to Walmart! And then Wednesday, we'll do some touring. Thursday is a free day and Friday we depart for Guangzhou (only a 1:15 flight) to complete the final step in the process.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The best laid plans...

As you can see, I'm having trouble posting photos. And, I thought I could tuck them in to link to flickr, but today the blogger interface isn't in it's normal graphical layout - it's more form-based, so I can no longer rely on all the button locations that I had memorized. UGH! I'll contine to work on it, and if I can't figure it out, I'll try to email some to my father in law to post. Of course, the pics are all about 2MB and the internet connection is very slow, so last night, that idea timed out on me.

The Great Wall was awesome today - but unbelievably challenging. I did not go as high as I had expected to, but it was about 97 degrees, so that's my excuse.

I bought a beautiful jade bangle at the jade factory today to give to Sophie some day (on her 18th birthday is the tradition), but I'm supposed to wear it for 3-5 years to pass my energy to it first?!?!?! And I bought EJ a rabbit pendant, since she was born in the year of the rabbit.

Gotta run now - EJ is swimming in the pool and we need to be to dinner in 45 minutes, so I'll try to write more later. We have to be checked out of the hotel at 8 am tomorrow and then we fly to Nanchang in the evening. We get Sophie on Monday at 11 AM and then have court appointments all day, so we'll be busy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ni hao from Beijing

Thanks to coming a day early to Beijing, we were able to get in a full day of touring today. The day, however, started WAY too 3 AM, when we were all awake from the jet lag. We spent some time organizing our backpack for the day and then went to breakfast around 7:30. It was a buffet at the hotel that was very good.

Next we were off to the Summer Palace, the retreat for the royal family. It was a beautiful day - but a little hot, maybe 90? But there was a nice breeze at the lake, so it didn't seem so bad.

We then enjoyed some authentic Chinese food (not what you get at your local takeout!) and made our way to the zoo. We toured the panda exhibit first and got to see 3 or 4 pandas. They were much bigger than the ones I remembered seeing at Busch Gardens in the early 90s. They were all sitting in the shade near their lodging and munching on bamboo.

EJ had a good time hanging out with some of the other kids on the trip. They enjoyed ice cream and popsicles at the zoo (although EJ picked out a really bright lime green one that had a very strong peach flavor and was kind of jello-like?) And she shared some of her extra American Girl Grin Pins from her collection with a little boy (maybe 5 years old) at the zoo. It is interesting because we had heard that western kids, particularly those with lighter hair attract a lot of attention. I reminded her of that this morning, and luckily I did. A group of three middle-aged Chinese men and one woman came and asked if they could have her in their picture, so she obliged. Then, the little boy that she shared the pin with was practically stopped in his tracks by his mother to look at and chat with us. He was very sweet and practiced his English by saying Thank You to us.

Then we came back to the hotel and relaxed for a while. It wasn't incredibly relaxing, as we were fighting with our USB to USB transfer device to backup our photos. It looks as though we figured it out, but now we just have to make sure we can repeat the process. I'm having trouble uploading photos because they're so big in size. I'll try to get them up there soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

We made it!

As Dad H reported yesterday, we made it. It was a LONG flight, but at least smooth and safe, so we're thankful for that. We didn't get too much sleep last night again, maybe 5-6 hours total, spread between 6pm and 2:30am China time, but are feeling a little rested. We just had a delicious breakfast - waffles and pastries. EJ had cocoa puffs and reported they tasted exactly the same. We are going to take a quick walk this morning before meeting our group for the tour to the Summer Palace and the zoo.

I hope to get back online this evening and upload a few photos. I'll try that. I am on the 2nd (newest) computer in the business center at the hotel. I was told I'm the first client on it.

To Mr. R. M., EJ's computer teacher, she would like to report that the keyboards look exactly the same in English. However, the interface on this blogger site is all in Chinese, so her mom is lucky to remember where all of the buttons are!!! So, she wants an "A" on her assignment! And Internet use costs $1 for 10 minutes. Not bad. Better than lugging around a laptop.


Phone cards work! This AM CDT we got word that all arrived in Beijing as scheduled. EJ got little sleep on the flight and "just wanted to get off the plane" after about 10 hours. L did not report that she and K had the same thoughts but I'm thinking that could be the case. L did report that it was clearly not a stroll in the park.

After the two hours to clear customs they went to their hotel and checked in. That would be about 4:00 PM. (Incidentally for those trying to frame the time--it's 12 hours later than US EDT.) L made a short trip with their small group and the guide to buy some bottled water while the other two "crashed" for a few hours. EJ was exhausted.

Later they got some take-out, Chinese take-out (Even if it was a big Mac I think it would still be considered Chinese take-out.), and had a late dinner and are preparing for bed. Tomorrow includes a visit to the Summer Palace and a trip to see the Pandas at the zoo. L had no time to find the business center to make a posting so this is the guest poster.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Twas' the night before China...

...and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. HA!!! I wish I weren't stirring. I'm exhausted. Finished packing, cleaned the house (well, most of it), and am just generally ready to GET TO MY SOPHIE!!!

The airport van arrives at 3:45 AM, so I am off to bed as soon as I pay a few bills that I should have dealt with earlier this week. Oh well. I was busy then, too. The suitcases are finally zipped and locked. All weighed in with pounds to spare and lots of room to pack purchases (especially after we eat all those snacks out of there).

EJ wrapped up school today, and Mrs. D gave her some worksheets to keep her busy on the plane and a journal that she can then read back to the class when she returns. I made some up for her too, so she'll stay busy.

Pray for us to have a safe flight and for us all to be healthy. You won't see any posts from me before Thursday at noon east coast time, and at that, it will only be to let you all know that we've arrived. If you don't see that post, don't worry, I'm probably just jet-lagged and too tired to go to the business center. Check back soon!

Monday, May 21, 2007

T minus 2: Welcome to the USA!

Every year, we decorate the house in red, white, and blue from Memorial Day through the 4th of July. This year, we have an extra-special reason to decorate it - to welcome Sophie to the good ol' USA.

Today was my last day in the office before the big trip. It was filled with trying to wrap up a bunch of little things on my To Do list. My colleagues on the Development management team "popped" by my office after lunch (no, they didn't look suspicious at all lurking around the hallways...) and gave me a very generous gift card to Toys R Us, which EJ is already trying to claim as her own! They gave me a gift for her, a very nice travel journal. She was thrilled!

Also, many thanks to my co-worker/friend BZ, who took a few minutes today to translate a bunch of phrases from English to Chinese for me. If I get stuck and need to know where the ladies' room is, for example, I can just whip out my handy-dandy cheat sheet and point to the appropriate characters. Thanks!

I have a lot to do tomorrow - finish packing, clean the house, deliver cupcakes to EJ's class for her birthday, etc. I'll make one more post tomorrow night before we leave. Then, I'm not sure when you'll hear from me again. Hopefully, I'll have a few minutes on Thursday night or Friday morning (Beijing time - that'll be Thursday morning or Thursday night for you east coast folk) to at least let you know that we've arrived. Again, I'm not sure how easy it will be to post, but we'll give it a try!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

T minus 4: Diapers? Who needs diapers?

This photo is from another adoption blog called To Mia With Love (click here to link to this blog). Mia's soon-to-be new mom (Christy) and dad have discovered that they are international adoption superstars right now. They arrived in Beijing a few days ago and will get their precious Mia on Monday.

But before I explain why Christy and her husband are adoption superstars, let's talk about this photo. In China, the use of diapers doesn't seem to be a popular idea. Many babies are potty-trained by the time they are 12 months old. Babies are sat on little potties until they do their thing, then parents or caregivers blow a whistle. Pretty soon, the child can "do their thing" on command, whenever the whistle blows! In the meantime, they use these clothes, affectionately called split pants. Christy talked to these folks and they just explained that when the baby had to go, they just found "something to catch it in". Okay. Sure. Whatever. I'll stick with the Pampers to catch it all, thank you very much!

Christy and her husband are superstars because their LID (login date) in China was 10/18, which meant they should have received a match in the early March group. They were so excited to find out they were included within the range of dates, but they never got their call. So, after their agency did some reserach, it was discovered that their paperwork was sitting on a shelf somewhere in the review rooom, going completely unnoticed, while everyone else's paperwork with that agency and those dates moved on to the matching room. It took several weeks for them to get it all straightened out, but Christy was, deservingly so, one of the first people to get the call in early April. She posted updates on her story and the ongoing saga surrounding it on an incredibly popular adoption site, and she is now being recognized by other adoptive groups all over Beijing! Anyway, her blog has some really great photos thus far - The Great Wall, Forbidden City, a silk factory, etc. You might want to check out the photos (click on the different days of her trip on the left side of the blog). Fun to follow them...

As for us, we spent several hours today going through everything on the packing list (again) and sorting items into one of three suitcases or three backpacks. So far, we're doing really good - the weights of the suitcases are 35, 35, and 29 pounds, and the limit is 44 pounds each. Yes, we still have a few things to add, but we're feeling pretty good about it all, especially considering that two of the suitcases weight 15 pounds empty! Let's just say that y'all would be incredibly proud at the restraint I've shown on clothing and shoes (only two pair for the entire trip)!

Friday, May 18, 2007

T minus 5: One week from now...

One week from now (8 PM on Friday night), it will be 8 AM on Saturday morning in China. We'll be getting ready to visit the Great Wall. Hard to believe. And only 10 more days until we meet little Sophie!!!

The day started with more wildlife in the backyard. After I finished drying my hair, I glanced out the window in the powder room and saw something moving in the backyard. It was brown and rather large and, for a moment, I thought the deer from a few weeks ago had returned. Once I focused my eyes a little better, I realized it was a REALLY LARGE turkey! Now, this is a new one for us--we haven't seen any turkeys in the 11 years since we've been here. EJ thought it was cool and we tried to get pictures, but they didn't come out too well.

I had lunch today with a former co-worker, my friend BF. If you know B, you know that she is a fanatical (aren't we all?) Boston Red Sox fan. She said the gift was a little self-serving, in that she feels it's her responsibility to help groom new members of Red Sox Nation. Check it out:

Finally, how many kids do you know who do their homework, which isn't due until Thursday of the following week, on FRIDAY NIGHT?!?! That's how EJ's spending her time (while she's watching America's Funniest Home Videos, of course). Yeah, she's still wearing her dance clothes:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

T minus 6: The party photos

Here is a link to the photos from the baby shower my co-workers gave me. I've been playing around with slideshows on, so hopefully, this will work! Once you click the link above, hover your mouse over the first photo in the slideshow. The letter "i" will appear, and if you click on it, you'll get photo titles and comments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

T minus 8: It's party time!!!!

Today was party day! My co-workers threw a little shindig for me today in place of my normal staff meeting. There were TWO delicious cakes and presents and lots of people...and lots of FUN! A few people took some pictures, so as soon as I get them, I'll share them here.

Speaking of posting photos, I also tested out a few other ways to do posts today. I found that if I upload the photos through, I can create blog posts directly from there. I can also upload a bunch of photos and then provide a link for you to see them all in a slideshow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

T minus 9: Introducing Guest Host, WD

Today, you can see that we've been running all sorts of tests ro make sure that we can make posts from China. We are not taking a laptop with us, but plan to use internet cafes and business centers to keep in touch with you.

We know that some people report problems reaching the blogger site from China. If that's the case, I now know how to make posts via email, although posts made this way won't have any photos, which is what you'll really want to see.

I also know that some people have no problems creating blog posts but cannot view their blogs from China. If that's the case, you might still get photos, but you might have to tolerate a bit of weird formatting.

And my super-duper backup plan is to have my favorite father-in-law, the infamous WD, make posts for me. We have calling-cards that will allow us to check in with folks, and I'm hoping that WD will be able to forward the information and any photos I might be able to email him to the blog.

In summary, just ignore our silly test posts we made today.

As I'm typing, we have the last episode of King of Queens on TV. Ahhhh, the wonders of television. On last week's episode, Doug and Carrie decided to adopt a baby and it seemed like they had all the paperwork submitted to the agency in hours (it really takes 4-6 months), and then they commented "Now, we just have to sit back and wait for the call." Well, tonight, they got the call...and I don't think that 18 months of waiting has lapsed in the storyline.

They also got other facts think they'd do their research! They were referred a baby that was four days old. That just doesn't happen with adoption from takes about 6 months for the children to be legally cleared for adoption. And Carrie said she was going to call to make arrangements to get on the next plane to Beijing, when in reality, you'd have to wait 3-4 weeks for a travel authorization. If only it went that quickly....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

T minus 10: Happy Mothers Day!

Well, I feel a little better today - my throat is still swollen and I still ache all over, but not nearly as much, and I was still able to enjoy Mothers Day!

This morning, before crawling out of bed, I was showered with gifts. From K and EJ was a silver baby bootie charm with Sophie's birthstone in it. K bought me one when EJ was born, and although he was unable to find one that matches, Sophie's is also beautiful. I put them both on the same chain and wore them today in honor of my two little gems!

And despite my gift mantra "you can never go wrong with jewelry", hand-crafted Mothers Day gifts are simply the best. EJ gave me this lovely tea cup she made in art class, one of her "gem" rocks, and a cute MOM tag that hangs on the fridge and allows you to clip paperwork there...

After church, we went to my cousin's house for a delicious brunch with her family, including my aunt and uncle. I took a nice snooze on the way home, and was treated to a yummy steak dinner. Life is good.

So, Happy Mothers Day in honor of moms no longer with us, Mom (Grandma H), E (Mamaw S), Great Grandma K, all moms, everyone whose moms are already departed, everyone who wants to be a mom but isn't, and everyone who is waiting to become a mom.

EJ's Birthday Party photos

Here are the pictures from EJ's birthday party. I know I said I would post them last night, but I felt HORRIBLE for most of the day yesterday. The nurse at the travel clinic told me that some people getting the MMR booster have a reaction of swollen glands, achiness, and fever, and I had it all yesterday, combined with nausea last night too! I feel a little better today, but not much.
Anyway, EJ and her friends made necklaces and bracelets at a local bead shop and had a really great time. And K and I learned just how much noise four little giggly girls can make in the car! From left to right...E.B., J.G., K.M., and EJ.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

T minus 12: Got the itinerary!

Okay, I am cheating and writing Friday's post on Saturday morning, but I wasn't home yesterday between 7 A.M. and 10:30 P.M., so this will have to do.

Yesterday afternoon was our travel meeting and were able to meet most of the folks who will be traveling with us, which was so much fun. We got our plane tickets and our itinerary, which looks like this:
  • 5/23: Depart for Washington DC and connect to flight to Beijing.
  • 5/24: Arrive in Beijing. A guide will pick us up at the airport and get us to our hotel.
  • 5/25: Our bonus extra day. About 8 families of the 19 will be there early, so I'm sure we'll find something fun to do.
  • 5/26: Trip to the Great Wall.
  • 5/27: Tour the Foribdden City and Tian An Men Square. Fly to Nanchang.
  • 5/28: Meet Sophie!!!
  • 5/29: Notary appointment
  • 5/30: The doctor will examine the children and we'll get to do some sightseeing.
  • 5/31: More sightseeing
  • 6/1: Get Sophie's Chinese passport and depart for Guangzhou.
  • 6/2: Get Sophie's visa physical.
  • 6/3: Sightseeing
  • 6/4: Visa interview at the US Consulate's office
  • 6/5: Swearing in ceremony, receive Sophie's visa.
  • 6/6: Depart for Hong Kong. Depart Hong Kong for Chicago. We'll get to Chicago less than two hours later (plus the 12 hours difference), and then have a few hours to stretch our legs before we get on the last flight home that night.

Whew! We're going to be busy.

After the travel meeting, I met some of my pals for dinner and we had a great time. I was exhausted when I got home, but that didn't seem to prevent me from sleeping beyond 6 A.M. I have another long day today - EJ is going to a friend's party at noon and then we're taking her and three friends to her party later in the afternoon. Stay tuned for pictures tonight!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

T minus 13: Got the shots...

...but not all that we expected to. The nurse at the travel clinic was very helpful and said that we didn't need malaria, based on the fact that we will not be in rural areas. And she also said that typhoid wasn't required in our circumstance either, since we will most likely be eating at the hotel or other nice restaurants, not in people's homes or at roadside food vendors. So, we opted out of that one as well. K and I did both get a tetanus booster, and I also got a MMR booster. Poor EJ, she missed school today and didn't need any shots after all, since we've all already had Hep A/B.

Tomorrow is our travel meeting. I can't wait to meet all the families who will be traveling with us.

And finally, Sophie is 8 months old today. Gee, the last month has gone by so quickly! And we'll have her home with us before she reaches the 9 month milestone. I wonder about her progress over the last few months since the initial development report was compiled. Does she have teeth yet? Is she sitting up? Crawling? We'll know in a little more than two weeks!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

T minus 14: More Crazy Cakes!!

When EJ was born, I decided to start her a collection of signed children's books. I thought it would be something of great sentimental value that she could always keep and perhaps pass down to her children some day.

We've picked up some interesting additions to the collection over the years--books from Jan Brett, Tasha Tudor, Eric Carle... In fact, when we sent some books to Eric Carle and explained EJ's collection, he not only inscribed and signed them and sent them back, he also drew little sketches of the characters inside the covers! Then, a few weeks later, another package arrived from his studio, and when we opened it up, it was a copy his newest book (at the time), Dream Snow, that had been inscribed to her. It came with a letter from his publicist who said that each month, Carle picks a fan and sends them a book! It, too, was inscribed to her.

Anyway, one of our favorites is "I Love You Like Crazy Cakes" by Rose Lewis. From "Mother-love is profound, however a baby comes into a woman's life. For Rose Lewis, the journey to motherhood begins with a letter to Chinese officials, asking if she can adopt from the 'big room with lots of other babies.' The infants in that room in China are each missing a mother, but Lewis is missing something, too--a baby. She travels to China to meet her new little girl and falls head over heels in love. Taking her baby home to America, Lewis introduces her to all her family and friends, and they begin their life together."

I bought this signed book for EJ from a little local bookshop that, sadly, is no longer in business. I bought it on a whim one day, when I noticed it was signed by both the author (Lewis) and the illustrator (Jane Dyer, one of my favorites). EJ might have been 2 or 3 at the time, and we already had an interest in adoption from China. So, two years ago, when we told EJ that we were going to adopt a baby, she knew right away what that meant and how it worked.

Rose Lewis, an adoptive parent herself, now has a new book titled "Every Year on Your Birthday". She's going to be at a local bookshop to sign copies on Saturday afternoon. Since we already have EJ's early birthday celebration booked during that time, I called the bookshop and made arrangements to prepay for a copy tomorrow. The shop owner assured me that Rose would inscribe the book as we wished. I am SO excited to get this as the first book in Miss Sophie's book collection.

The Amazon description reads: "In I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, Rose Lewis and Jane Dyer told the heartfelt story of one woman's adoption a baby girl from China. These sentiments are brought to life again in this touching portrait of birthday celebrations and unforgettable moments between a mother and her little girl: from joyous hugs for a new puppy, to quiet nights gazing at the stars remembering a faraway family. Capturing the richness of both Chinese and American cultures, Every Year on Your Birthday is a poignant tribute to the growing bond of love only a parent and child can know."

I can't wait to read it!!! I can't wait to snuggle up with Sophie and read to her every night. It's my favorite time of day. In EJ's eight years, I don't think we've missed more than a dozen nights of bedtime reading. Even as a newborn, we made time for a few minutes each night to just flip through the pages of board books and point to objects and name them. It's one of the things I'm most proud of as a parent...the ability to help foster a love of books and reading for her. I hope Sophie enjoys reading as much as EJ does. And I just can't wait to introduce her to my old favorites that I haven't seen in a few years now. A few that come to mind immediately:
  • Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs! (Boynton)
  • Goodnight Gorilla (Rathmann)
  • Guess How Much I Love You (McBratney)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)
  • Red Berry Wool, Mabela the Clever (illustrated by local guy Tim Coffey)

And now, off to tackle chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

T minus 15: Making a list, checking it twice

Yes, still tweaking that packing list! It looks like we've bought most of the things that were needed, so now we're down to the finer points, like which clothes to take. Sophie's clothes were easy... EJ's clothes were pretty easy... Mine? Still working on it. Everyone says less is more and to only take a few days worth of clothes. I'm mentally trying to figure out when we will get laundry done.

Our big group travel meeting is Friday afternoon at the agency. It will be fun to meet all 20 families (well, most of them...some of them live in other states!). We should get a few itinerary at that meeting.

There is another CAWLI travel group in China now and they received their babies earlier today!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

T minus 17: Spring Fling

Today was spent finishing up the spring cleaning before we leave. More cleaning of window treatments, washing the bedding, scrubbing all of the baseboards and windows, and even wiping down some walls. I'm EXHAUSTED! Since I spent January through March organizing and cleaning closets, dresser drawers, cabinets, the entire attic (both the finished side and the storage space), this is about as clean as it's ever been. I claim no responsibility for most of the basement or the garage, so I figure I'm done.

We also went shopping (again) for more trip supplies. This time, it was a trip through the HBA department at Walmart to get all of the over the counter medications suggested for the trip. Let's just say that I now have enough small little bottles to open my own little pharmacy, and I have many of them in multiple varieties...Infant Tylenol, Children's Tylenol, our Tylenol, Tylenol PM, lots of different cold and cough meds, baby Orajel for teething...the list goes on and on. We also bought a few of those reusable vacuum packing bags.

This concludes the shopping portion of the packing phase...please stay tuned for the next episode, "Selecting my wardrobe for travel."

Saturday, May 5, 2007

T minus 18: Someone. Stop. Me. Now.

It was a morning of shopping...first to the grocery store, where I stocked up on extra snacks for the trip (granola bars, crackers, cheerios) and extra food for when we return. Then, it was off to Target and Babies R Us to look for more supplies for the trip. We were able to knock a lot of things off of the list. Tonight or tomorrow, we'll probably need another Walmart run to finish up the long list of over-the-counter meds we need to take. Here are some things we picked up along the way.

Cute sleepers with matching onesies:

Sophie's new bathing suit for the trip:

Finally, one of the things on the required packing list is a thermos so that we can keep water hot for Sophie's bottles. We already have large and small thermoses ( that how you pluralize thermos?), but we needed a 16 ounce one that will hold enough water for two bottles. We thought this shocking pink one was perfect:

But now the fun is over and I'm in the midst of finishing the spring cleaning...washing curtains. Oh joy.

Friday, May 4, 2007

T minus 19: We're leaving on a jet plane...

...on May 23rd! Woo hoo!!!! We have a confirmed travel date. And our passports with visas arrived back yesterday. The visa is actually a sticker that is almost the size of a passport page. It's pretty cool...has a drawing of the Great Wall on it. So, right now, as I type, it is 8:30 on Saturday morning in Beijing. In just three weeks, we will be on our way to the Great Wall! And only three weeks and 2 days until we get to pinch Sophie's precious chubby cheeks. Okay, I promise I won't pinch too hard and scare her right away!

Today, we did get the whole travel clinic fiasco settled. Of course, it means we're driving to a travel clinic that is about 70 miles from the house, but it saves me a lot of out-of-pocket expenses (at least $500) that were not covered by insurance at the closer clinic. Many thanks to co-worker G.P., who I happened to bump into this morning to ask where she had her kids vaccinated before travel. K called them and they were able to squeeze us in next week.

K had a busy morning...not only was he arranging travel clinic visits and getting prescriptions for all of EJ's and Sophie's meds, he also visited EJ's 2nd grade classroom to help out with a Top Secret Mother's Day Project. Hmmm...wonder what it is?

Now that we have confirmed travel dates, the grandparents were able to arrange their summer travels to New England. Pap Pap and Mamaw S from PA will arrive a day or two before we return from China to help "set up shop" (buy a few groceries, meet us at the airport, etc.) and then help us hold down the fort for a few days as we sleep off our jet lag. And Grandpap and Grandma H from AL will arrive the following week for a two week stay.

We now know that we will definitely be back in time for EJ to participate in her dance recital and her first-ever piano recital. We've been a little nervous about this one for some time, as we knew she would understand but still be disappointed. And she's such a beautiful dancer! Here are some pics from last year's dress rehearsal:

And, the travel schedule also allows EJ to have the biggest adventure ever for her 8th birthday, since that's the day we leave! We already gave her the new bike, so we'll have to have the cake and ice cream (and maybe another gift) a day early. We are taking her and a few of her friends to a bead shop to make jewelry for an early party next weekend.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

DAYS 23 & 24: Malaria, Tetanus, and Typhoid...Oh MY!

We are in the midst of figuring out what additional vaccines we will be getting before traveling. Malaria and Typhoid vaccines are recommended, but many people don't get them because they're not planning to be in a rural area. I think we'll probably ere on the side of caution (my father-in-law's motto: consider the cost of being wrong).

Now, if we can just find a travel clinic to give us the meds... When we started the Hep A/B injections two years ago, we went to the travel clinic at the local hospital. The hospital is on my top-of-the-line Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO plan. However, the travel clinic, WHICH IS PHYSICALLY LOCATED INSIDE THE HOSPITAL, does not take insurance. So, we paid for it and then submitted the expenses. The claim was denied and then I had to call and complain and say HOW COULD I POSSIBLY KNOW THAT A DIVISION OF A COVERED HOSPITAL WOULD NOT BE COVERED!!! Then, we went back for the 2nd and 3rd shots, which again were denied, and I called and complained and said YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD PAY FOR THE FIRST INJECTION AND NOT THE OTHER TWO?!?!?! Of the covered clinics in the area, the doctor is on vacation for the next three weeks at one and the other will not provide travel services for children. Is this insane or what?

While shopping for travel and baby supplies, I found the cutest little onesies with pink Red Sox logos all over them, so of course, Sophie HAD to have them. Now, if I could just find a mini pink cap to go with them...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

DAY 22: The TA arrived!

We received an email today that our travel authorization did indeed arrive. They still need to confirm the visa appointment, which may not happen for a few days since everything in China is closed for a holiday right now. As long as that is confirmed, we will travel between 5/23 and 6/7.

Today was focused on finalizing the packing list. Our agency offers a wonderful service called PTAG - the Parents Travel Advisory Group. They hold monthly meetings for those who are waiting so that a parent who has already been to China can fill you in on what to expect, what to pack, etc. Well, our travel group is lucky enough to have a PTAG volunteer mom in it! I emailed her all of my silly questions today and she responded with the much-needed answers!