March 28, 2012

Welcome to the World of Jet Lag

They (the jet lag experts) say it takes one day to make up for every hour of time difference between the location you came from and the one you're now in. So that means it will take us 13 days to get back to a normal sleep routine.  Steve is determined to disprove that theory by using large quantities of coffee (in the adults) and Angry Birds, DVDs, and any other form of entertainment to lure the kids away from sleep during the day.  I think we're actually getting worse though.

Here are the times each family member woke up in the last 13 hours (it's now 4:33 am):
Autumn: woke at 12:50 am
Josiah: woke at 4 pm (yesterday)
Sheehan: woke at 11:30 pm (yesterday)
Kate: woke at midnight
Steve: woke at 2 am by the entire family piling on top of him in the guest room bed, begging to go to Denny's for the third time in the past 36 hours (which we did end up doing)

Here are the locations we've slept/tried to sleep, at various times over the past 24 hours:
Each in their own bed, except Steve
Steve, Sheehan, or Josiah on a couch or love seat
Steve, Kate, or Autumn in guest room bed
Steve in Josiah's bed
Steve's head on Autumn's toddler bed, his butt on the floor
Kate, Autumn on floor in playroom (Autumn laying across train track)
Kate curled up on two kitchen chairs pushed together to form a bed

Lack of sleep causes you to do things you don't typically do. For example, allowing your six year old to babysit your newly adopted two year old while you sleep and pray that nobody will fall down the stairs (like she did on Day 1 back home), turn on the stove, or exit the house. He did a pretty good job because I never heard any screams (just a lot of bu yao's) and the CO and smoke detectors haven't gone off yet. Autumn crawled into bed with me around 8:30 pm.

At 11 pm, Josiah came into my room, where Autumn and I were sleeping (Autumn on a mound of blankets and pillows on the floor which broke her anticipated fall from the bed) and began talking to me at Superbowl Party level and shining a flashlight in Autumn's face.  Then he started running around the room like Tai Lung, the evil snow leopard from Kung Fu Panda (he imitates this character by running around on all fours with his shirt off).  I hissed at him to get out.  Then I heard him fumbling with his flashlight in the hall and I felt bad and I asked him to come back in.  I apologized for being so rough, then asked him to go downstairs to play.

An hour later, Steve walked into the dark room.  I said, "what's up?" as I was typing on the iPad.   He said in a frustrated tone, "I'm up.  That's what's up!  Everywhere I go, I can hear Josiah's voice." Immediately after Steve had moved from the guest room to the couch (which wasn't far enough away to tune Josiah out) to Josiah's bed, Sheehan and Josiah moved upstairs to their room to play. So, Steve moved back down to the guest room and then the boys proceeded to go back to the playroom (next to the guest room in the basement) to play.  Josiah may as well play his drums if he's going to talk because he's not capable of a whisper or remembering to whisper.  A little later, I heard Josiah in the kitchen eating fruit loops, discussing which puppets are indeed Muppets with Sheehan, but he was talking so loudly that it sounded like he was having a conversation with me.

And trying to get any sleep while a two year old is awake is nearly impossible. Here's what it looked like, the night before last, when I tried to sleep and watch Autumn at the same time: I laid down a couple of sofa blankets and a pillow to create a bed on the floor of the playroom. The carpet covered cement slab even felt good at that point. Autumn saw me laying down, which automatically meant, climb on top of Mama and begin bouncing up and down like on a horsey ride at Chuck E. Cheese. After I stopped laughing and distracted her off me with a toy, I closed my eyes, but in a few minutes sensed her near me. I looked up and she had a drum stick in her hand. She started playing the drums on my head and laughing! I put a stop to that, but then she decided to lay her 34 pound torso across the side of my face with her knee holding down my hair. I started laughing at the absurdity of it all, while trying not to suffocate. She was so heavy, that I couldn't lift her body to get her knee off my hair. We were both laughing hysterically. I could not get her off me and I could not stop laughing. Finally, she rolled off my head and onto my hip for another round of horsey rides. Is being a human jungle gym in that Attaching in Adoption book? Because I don't remember that section.

Other happenings from yesterday that aren't directly related to jet lag and sleep deprivation, but are worth mentioning: At about 8:45 am we decided to go to the playground to stay awake longer. We put Autumn on the swings for the first time (with us) and she laughed a very fun and contagious laugh while we pushed her. Then she moved onto the slides. One time she went down the slide and missed her footing, so she tripped and went down head first. She looked like Super Toddler with arms straight out in front of her. She did a face plant into the wood chips. I went over to console her crying (she wasn't really hurt), but I couldn't stop laughing because of how funny her slide looked. I almost peed my pants because I was laughing so hard and had just had a grande mocha, as part of Steve's anti-jet lag regiment. I should totally be nominated for worst mom of the year award for laughing at her nose-dive. But, it was just so funny-looking. Super Toddler.
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March 26, 2012

China Day 17 - Going Home

I don't know how many of you are stupid like us, I mean adventurous, enough to travel with all your kids to the other side of the world.  It's not something I would ever recommend, unless you have a DVD player, a tablet loaded with Angry Birds, and Valium.  And onDemand in the back of the headrests is a bonus (which we didn't have on the return flight) - and even then, I would only recommend it if absolutely necessary.

Within the first 65 minutes of our flight coming home, I looked at my watch three times to see how much time had passed.  By that time, Josiah had made a fast enemy of the man next to him, with his Beanie Baby dalmatian dog repeatedly crashing into his tray, with sound effects, and the hogging of their shared armrest.  Autumn had stood up on our armrest, fallen on the floor, and kicked the seat in front of us, 10 times each.  She had also pulled Atilla the Hun's (from the U.S. Women's Rugby team) hair, who was sitting in front of us.  Atilla jerked her head forward and gave Autumn a dirty look.  I apologized, then had a fight with Atilla in my head.  I was yelling obscenities at her for giving my daughter a dirty look, but then she punched me in the face with her big meat hook and siced the entire team on me, which were all on the plane - which of course made me think the plane was going to go down in flames, just for the purpose of irony.  But, then I realized I couldn't take care of the kids for 12 hours while nursing my broken nose, so I kept my obscenities to myself.  

I have let my not-so-nice side show on an airplane before.  We were on a flight from DC to Chicago once,  and I had reached the end of my rope with the boys.  I was dishing out McDonalds, while waiting for the plane to take off.  They had messed up our order.  Sheehan was crying on his McNuggets and Josiah was banging on his tray like a drum - rhythmically, yet annoyingly.  The older lady in front of him turned around and asked if I could quiet him down.  I told her to shut up and I hoped he banged and cried the entire flight - I knew I could take her because she was a grandma.  

About 30 minutes later, I felt really bad, plus I knew she was talking with her seat mates about the big B-word mom, who probably beats her children, behind her.   When she got up to use the lavatory, I swallowed my pride and apologized.  She was very gracious and understanding.  I doubt I would have been.  I probably would have held a grudge and then had to pray over my lack of forgiveness for two years.

After Autumn pulled Atilla's hair, I asked Steve to switch seats with us.  We had a row of three seats in front of two other seats.  So if Autumn stood up to pull hair, after the move, it would only be Steve's.  There was another adoptive family behind us, so they understood, and when their kids kicked my seat, I understood.  

Our seats were the coachiest of coach.  You couldn't get more coach, unless you put us on the wing or in the lavatory.  We were 2nd and 3rd from last row. I think every noise and vibration is magnified in the back of the plane.  Oh, first class, you felt a little blip? Well last seat in coach, take this - SLAM!

The bathroom is its own comedy show - trying to do your business when the plane is bouncing around.  I won't go into details because this blog is rated PG, but it's a challenge, nonetheless.  Then trying to change the diaper of an almost three-year old in that stinky capsule of an outhouse is the ultimate in doing big things in small places.  I strategically left that job to Steve.  

Every single time I use a plane lavatory I think of big guy Chris Farley changing his clothes in that scene in Tommy Boy.  His tie got sucked into the toilet when he flushed.  I always close the lid before flushing the toilets now.  RIP CF.

Then lunch came at the two hour mark, along with turbulence.  I was balancing two trays of food on the pull down tray, along with my water.  The food was hot, and the water was wet, so I wasn't going to let them go.  But Autumn kept grabbing things off the tray to eat, like the salt and pepper packets, while my hands were otherwise occupied.  Every time I lifted my hand away from the water, it started vibrating and sliding toward the edge.   The turbulence wasn't stopping.  What in the heck was I supposed to do?  I started saying that out loud, like I was a little crazy.  I prayed inside.  A few minutes later Autumn fell asleep, mid-chew.

Hour six of the trip was when I lost it.  Autumn knocked a full cup of water out of my hand.  It went all over my lap, my seat, and down into my socks.  I started crying.  I couldn't stop.  I knew we weren't even half way through the flight, and this was always the hardest part of the entire trip to China.  Steve consoled me and Autumn gave me her trademark bewildered look.  A flight attendant came over and pulled out my entire seat cushion and said he would take care of it.  He brought back a new seat cushion, blanket, pillow, and first class toiletry kit, including ear plugs, eye cover, and toothbrush.  So, if you ever want first class treatment without  paying first class prices, just spill something on yourself, stand up, and cry about it.

The adoptive mom behind us, Veronica, got up and gave me a hug.  She knew how I felt.  I ended up talking to her for an hour, while my pants dried, about our trips.  Autumn was surprisingly content, opening every single item in my first class kit, including the earplugs, which she thought were candy and began to eat.  But after hearing about Veronica's two weeks, I felt like a giant wuss for crying over spilt water.  She and her husband had adopted 10 and 13 year old girls.  They endured a 40 hour flight ordeal on the way to China, plus many struggles with their agency, guide, and hotels, and still had another 10 hours to go after landing in Chicago! That's when I taped the "cry baby" sign to my forehead.

Autumn slept for the last two to three hours of the flight.  I thought she would cry at the landing because we would have to wake her up to put her seatbelt on.  But she slept through it all.  The boys, on the other hand, woke up right at landing time and were so exhausted that they were both sobbing, which wasn't good at all because they were going to have to walk (not be carried off) the airplane with their backpacks.

We got in around noon on Sunday and went through immigration, so Autumn is officially, a US citizen.  Steve's dad picked us up.  I made it until about 4:30 pm, and started feeling vertigo because I was so tired.  I fell asleep until about 11 pm, when Autumn woke up.   The boys woke up at 12:30 and 1:30 am.  I made eggs and quesadillas.  Steve woke up at 3:45, with four hours of sleep, so I could take a break and try to get some sleep.  But here I lay propped up in my bed with the convenience of this stinking iPad keeping me awake.  I'm going to miss my sleep window, eventually Steve will want his turn sleeping.  I'm hoping the kids will fall asleep again while it's still dark.  Doubt it.  I think we'll go to Denny's instead - its a tradition.

By the way, I think we lost our camera.  The good news is that all the pics up till Hong Kong are stored on the IPad.  The bad news is that we lost the camera and don't have any pics of Hong Kong.

One more thing I wanted to mention: since about day 14 of our trip, Autumn has been giving me random kisses.  She holds her arms up, indicating she wants to be picked up, then when I do, she smashes her face into mine (rather roughly) and makes a sucking sound with her lips.  So cute.

Ok, one last thing.  When we got home I examined Autumn's coat that they brought her to us in, more closely.  I can't read all the words, but the ones I can read say, "killing nightmare death love" and there is a cute picture of Minnie Mouse next to it.

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March 24, 2012

China Day 15/16- Hong Kong

I said farewell to the Garden breakfast buffet with moistness in my eyes. We packed up and were ready to leave an hour and a half early, so we sat around in the hotel room and waited for 10:30 to come. 

Farewell buffet
Finally, the time came and we met Connie in the lobby.  We were a little concerned about having to get all of our luggage on and off the train and to our next hotel, along with the boys and Miss Run-in-the-opposite-direction-or-drop-to-the-floor-when-you-go-the-way-I-don't-want-you-to-go-Autumn, especially since we didn't have a stroller.

Connie took us to the waiting area for the train, then we said good-bye. We had decided that we would give Autumn some Benadryl as a test on the train to see if we should give her some when we fly on Sunday to get her good and tired.  It was recommended that we try it out to make sure it doesn't have the adverse effect.  Let's just say, she won't be getting any Benadryl on Sunday.  She was her typical, active self.  No real adverse effects, but didn't tire her at all either.   It takes all of one parent's attention, entertainment skills, and muscle strength to keep her either seated, or in close proximity to her seat, and not throwing water bottles over the seat, nor screaming (just because it's fun and gets a reaction out of mama and baba).

There weren't any major issues with the train.  Nobody stole our luggage.  We piled into one of the smart car cabs with our thousand pieces of luggage and drove to our hotel.  Our hotel is located on the south side of Hong Kong island.  The north side of HK island and Kowloon face each other on the harbor, which is where all the action is.  But, when we tried to get a hotel in the happenin' part of town, everything affordable was booked because of some huge rugby tournament.  So we're on the backside.  I would say its beautiful, if not for the construction.  I think the entire south side of the island, every street, is under construction.  

When we arrived at our hotel (L'Hotel South) there were throngs of teenage Hong Kong girls standing behind barricades with their cameras, apparently waiting for someone famous.  We assumed maybe it was a rugby player...or us. 

This hotel is ├╝ber posh and chic (their subtitle is "Chic South").  Our room looks like an Ikea catalogue.  There are a lot of perfect-looking, tan Europeans walking around in their ultra-cool fashions, that I would never be caught dead in because they're not functional enough.  No fanny packs anywhere, except on me.  Unfortunately, once you get past the chic, it's pretty standard Holiday Inn-ish.  Plus, the breakfast buffet was overpriced and about a quarter of the size of The Garden (cue the whining).  They did, however, have cocoa crispies on the buffet, I think to appeal to the 20-something crowd they serve.

After check-in, we took the free shuttle to the harbor.  We rode the Star Ferry across to Kowloon (where we stayed in 2008).  The boys enjoyed the ferry.  We didn't have a stroller for Autumn (we borrowed one from The Garden), so that was kind of a pain - actually a lot of pain, because she has a propensity for running away from us.  The building lights were just starting to light up, which is cool to see because they're all different colors and they dance and then perform to music.  

We walked the promenade along the harbor for a short time then set off to find dinner.  We ended up at Shakey's Pizza.  I can't believe I ate at Shakey's in Hong Kong, or that they even had one for that matter.  I used to celebrate my birthdays at Shakey's as a wee lass, and used to skip school as a teenager to go to Shakey's.  But now almost all of them are closed, except maybe in California.  So I was totally psyched, for nostalgia sake.  

By the time we were done eating, the kids were tired, so we couldn't go to Kowloon Park, which was our original destination.  We rode the ferry back and found the shuttle for our hotel.  

Autumn shared the bed with Steve and me. That was awful.  In the last two hotels, Sheehan either slept on the sofa or on the floor, in his sleeping bag, while I shared with Autumn, and Steve shared with Josiah, but this hotel is smaller, and the floors are parquet, not carpet.  We got a crib, but Autumn wouldn't stay in it.  Autumn kicked all night long.  The room was freezing, but apparently Autumn was hot because she kept kicking off the blankets and pushing the blankets down so her legs were out.  We got a little sleep in there at some point.

We woke up and realized that there is no place around to get food except the hotel, so we ate the buffet.  I already wrote about that, so I'll spare you of my complaints.

After breakfast, we went to Ocean Park, which is similar, I guess, to Sea World.  We watched a dolphin and sea lion show and rode a few kiddie rides.  The highlight was when we first arrived, we took a gondola ride up to the summit of the park where the rest of the park is located.  The ride was beautiful!  It was right along the ocean, overlooking a lagoon.  The ocean was dotted with small mountain islands.  We all loved that.  

The rest of the day was about the same as our entire trip.  The kids whined about being tired and hungry and hot.  We thought it was supposed to be a high of 63 today and it turned out to be 70 and sunny.  We were all dressed for 63.  Sheehan came back with a little sun burn.  Overall, it was fun.  We were glad the park wasn't terribly expensive.  We got back to the hotel around 8 pm.  

The boys are watching Toy Story 3 as I type.  Our flight is around 11 am tomorrow.  Thirteen to 14 hours later and we'll be home - noon-ish on Sunday.  Thanks for following our trip!  I'm exhausted.  Off to bed.
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March 22, 2012

More Pics from Qing Ping Market

Dried seahorses

Dried...frogs? I have no idea. Whatever it is, I probably wouldn't buy it.

Walking in the market
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More pics from previous days, that are worth sharing

One of, like, 20,000 bead stores at the Pearl Market. Every store looked like this, but might have had their green beads on the bottom shelves and their white beads hanging.

Albino frogs?
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When in Rome...

This is what 85% of the balconies look like in China. Print Friendly and PDF

China Day 14 - Ode to the Buffet and Getting Lost

On Shamian Island yesterday

Every morning since we've been here, I've sung the Folger's song (sing with me!): the BEST part of waking up, is...and then I'm stumped because its definitely not Folger's, but the 150 item breakfast buffet, and I can't think of anything that rhymes with up, and the coffee is so thick and sludgy, that it can't possibly be what's in my cup.

We'll be sad to say good-bye to the buffet tomorrow. I'll be sure to eat a plate full of Middle Eastern mutton - I should ask for the recipe. I think I've gained 10 pounds on this trip. Probably because I'm eating like the title of our blog. Can I get a side order of croissants with my bacon? Does having chocolate sauce and whipping cream on your waffles count as breakfast? Or does that count against my daily dessert limit?

Anyway, after the best part of waking up, we packed up most of our stuff to leave tomorrow, then walked over to the Friendship Store, the big mall across the street, which Steve said should more appropriately be called, The Hoighty-Toighty, Everyone Stare Condescendingly at You, Except the Toy Section Where They Demonstrate Every Overpriced Toy and Stick Them in Your Daughter's Hands, Thereby Causing Multiple Tantrums Store.

The Hoighty-Toighty Store

We only lasted about 10 minutes before accidentally exiting into the back alley that led to the Trust-mart. We headed in that direction instead of going back the way we came. I said, "oh, I'm sure this road just loops around back to our hotel." Forty-five minutes later, through Chinese backstreets, being stared at by men hunched over bowls of noodles, we emerged on a busy road. I turned around and said, "What an adventure! That was the REAL China." Steve was seething.

Typical apartments you might see in China anywhere,
or when getting lost.

Then we went to a Mexican restaurant called Tekila, across the street from our hotel. Surprisingly, it was really, really good. I don't know why I think only Americans can make good Mexican food.
Then we went back to the hotel and Steve and the boys played Angry Birds and I played with Autumn, and even sang some songs, out of sheer boredom. I realized that it's good for me to be bored sometimes. Because, a) it forces me to be creative (singing songs), and b) it makes me appreciate work. I actually looked forward to hand washing all our laundry because it gave me something to do. Even though I still played the martyr and sighed a lot for sympathy, and whined because the kids kept needing to wash their hands, I was glad to be productive.

Then at 4:15, we got Autumn's visa, then went for a walk in the hotel gardens, and took the kids to the mini hotel playground and the kiddie pool again, which was still the temperature of a recently melted Slurpee on a hot day, just not as sticky. Then we ate ramen in the room for the 2,768th time, and bathed - separately, well except for the kids.

Off to Hong Kong on a noontime train tomorrow, with sightseeing in the afternoon, hopefully. Print Friendly and PDF

March 21, 2012

China Day 13 - When Do We Get To Go Hommmmme?

I'm borrrrrrred. Can you carry meeeee? I'm tired of noodleeeeeees. I want my own beeeeeed. When is it MY turn on the iPad? I'd love to say that these were phrases from Sir Whine-a-lot, but all this went on in my head today, and Steve admitted these thoughts started for him on day 4.

I probably wouldn't bother posting about today, but I want to confirm that we're still alive and didn't die from inadvertently drinking the water or eating some uncooked animal tripe, as well as to document our experience for our children, who will probably one day say, "Why'd you record all that boring crap on those boring days? This is really boring stuff, mom. You probably filled up a lot of people's inboxes with this stuff and the poor people probably couldn't figure out how to unsubscribe. Gosh."
We had our US consulate appointment at 8:30 am, so when we get home, Autumn will immediately be a US citizen. We couldn't take a camera, so there are no pics of that.

Then I spent the rest of the morning hand washing our clothes for the next 4 days, so we don't have to pay $50 to have it done again. After laundry, we went to Shamian Island again, and had lunch at Lucy's again, and the kids played on the playground again. We spent about four hours there before taking a cab back.

At one point, Josiah said to me, "don't speak Chinese to me," because while he was dilly-dallying while the cab waited for us in the middle of a one lane road, I was screaming at him to "lai!" (come). I've said the words lai, ni hao (hello), xie xie (thank you), and bu yao (no) so many times in Chinese, that they now come out naturally to everyone around me.

The waterfall at our hotel
Josiah got cornered by a Chinese woman on the island who didn't speak any English. She kept going on and on in Chinese. I said, "tell her wo bu dong," which means I don't understand. He said it, but she wasn't convinced. She kept speaking to him in Chinese as we walked. He just gave her a weird look. She asked him his name and said a bunch of other stuff I didn't understand. I kept telling her he didn't understand. I was glad he didn't understand because sometimes they say stuff you don't want them to here. Telling them how lucky they are to have parents. I hate that. The whole family's lucky to have each other, not just the kids. Heck, it's not even luck, it's God's providence.

Tomorrow, we're going to walk the mall across the street. It's called The Friendship Store. We get Autumn's visa in the afternoon, then we take a train to HK on Friday, Ocean Park on Saturday, fly home on Sunday. The home stretch.

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I chose not to use this restroom.

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A few more pics

Our adoption group


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March 20, 2012

China Day 12 - Autumn Update and Zoo

I've been writing about our trip so much, that I've failed to update on Autumn, so here's an update:

- We mostly call her Yuying. She doesn't understand what Autumn means yet. We use the name Autumn about 5% of the time, at this point.
- By the time we got to Guangzhou, she allowed us to remove her coat, but she still loves her red, fur-lined boots she came in. She's getting used to her crocs that are much more suitable to 75F and humid.
- She is active.
- She is mischievous and a jokester and loves to have fun like Josiah, and thinks most things are a joke, even when you're serious.
- She likes to mimic her brothers.
- She loves to run...away from us in the lobby when everyone is watching me chase after her, and I feel like a dodo and can't control my laughter.
- She likes fruits and vegetables and ice cream and french fries.
- She's dramatic when trying to get something she wants - acting as if she will die without it.
- She's a good sleeper and napper (praise the Lord!!!)
- She has become pretty good at using a fork and can now drink out of a sippy cup, after only one week.

Steve's favorite thing to say to Autumn, in Chinese, is "do you have to poop?" Her response is always the same, in a whisper, "do you have to poop?"

She is VERY good about going potty and changing diaper time, as well as washing hands and brushing teeth, though she is to a big fan of toothpaste (she spits out mid-brushing).

Interaction with Josiah: He has been good at showing her how to do things. He refers to her as "Girl". "Hey Girl, come here," or "that girl is touching my things." He's pointing out the things she's doing wrong - like when she breaks something. He will say, "Girl will need to pay for that if she breaks it." Oh, the irony.

Interaction with Sheehan: Sheehan is the family police officer. He believes she "needs to learn a lesson." She just laughs at him - which means more lessons to learn. He is struggling with her touching his things and touching him. But he also likes to tickle her and play with her when she's in her high chair. He likes to lift her up too...because he can.

Day 12:
In the morning, we went to the Guangzhou zoo (different than Safari Park). Josiah was renamed Sir Whine-a-lot. He didn't want to be there, mostly because we couldn't see the animals he chose, but what the group wanted to see as a whole.

The highlight was the Giant Pandas. Steve had never seen them before. Growing up outside of DC, I saw them often at the National Zoo, but there's still something cool about seeing pandas in China. The other cool thing was when the lions started roaring. It was so loud. Eerie loud. I was a little scared, I'll admit. I was picturing those lions tearing through the cage and unleashing a bloody massacre on a group of loud westerners and their newly adopted children.

After the zoo, we had lunch at an Italian restaurant across the street. It was really good. I had lasagna. Then we had mochas at Starbucks - like I needed that.

You know you're running out of material and are getting bored with your stay in China, when you write things like this:
Favorite items on the breakfast buffet:
Autumn: hands-down, watermelon
Josiah: waffles w/ strawberry jam
Sheehan: bacon
Steve: it's a tie between fried eggs and pot stickers
Kate: middle eastern mutton

Tomorrow, we have our consulate appointment at 8:30 am and then are bored, I mean free, the rest of the day.

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March 19, 2012

China Day 11 - Qing Ping and Pearl Markets

At 10:30 am, I went back to the physical exam office to have Autumn's TB test read. She passed. That took 10 minutes to go through all the families, but the bus ride took over 1.5 hours. I made the mistake of sitting in the front row of the bus, so Autumn could see. OMG. That girl is crazy. There is no muscle in her body that sits still, unless she just woke up or was adopted within the last two days. I had to use all my muscles to contain her. I had brought the stroller because I knew I would need it for when we got out of the bus, but didn't consider how I would contain her on the bus. Connie, the guide, said I wouldn't need the stroller inside because it would be quick. Whatever. I've known this girl for a week - I needed the stroller inside.

After the test results we went back to the hotel and had ramen in the room. No time for her to take a nap before we re-boarded the bus for shopping at 2 pm. But we had the stroller, so we figured she'd sleep in it. We took the bus, with the group, to Shamian Island. This is where the famous White Swan hotel is, where we stayed when we adopted S and J, but is currently being refurbished. We reminisced.

We crossed over the highway, on foot, to the Qing Ping Market (gosh, I think that's what it's called, I'm too lazy to get out of bed right now to check). It was a long street of stores that poured out onto the sidewalk, selling all kinds of crazy items. We saw dried seahorses, dried snake skins, with the heads still attached, live bowls of scorpions, dried leg bones, with the paws still attached, and other fun things you never see in the US. There were also cats and kittens everywhere. Clearly they haven't watched The Price is Right, and heeded Bob Barker's advice, because the cats weren't spade or neutered.

live scorpions for sale

Your guess is as good as mine. Cobra heads?
Whatever they were, some were in glass cases

Bundles of centipedes

The next block was all pets. Pet food, aquarium things, fish, kittens, birds, puppies. They were so cute. I wouldn't let the kids touch any of them.

Then we walked down a pedestrian mall area that resembled Times Square with the giant lights and megatron tv, but with no cars - this is the only place in China with no cars. It was so crowded. I leaned over to a woman in our group and said, "I wonder what its like on a weekend."

Then we entered the Pearl Market. This was a mall about the size of Mall of America, that sold beads. For someone who doesn't really wear jewelry, I could not think of anything more boring. We all whined. We asked the guide if there were any toy stores and she said there were some in the next building. We headed out, but we only found more beads, and then some more beads. All I could see were beads on the horizon. This was equivalent to my mom taking me to the Williamsburg pottery factory when I was 8. I still have nightmares about that trip.

With no luck finding toys, we went back to the group and with a few other families, decided to walk back to the island and wait there, while the other families took the bus. There were some families having jewelry made and they were still on their first store. There was a birthday party planned for when we got back to the island, so Connie said we would meet at the island at 5 pm. We got back and waited... At 5:15 the kids had had enough (Steve is included in the kids here) and we opted to go to Lucy's, with another family, for dinner instead of waiting for the cake. I felt badly for ditching the party (it was for one of the little girls who was just adopted - she was turning 9), but my whole family was going Mr. Hyde on me (Paige, I stole that term from you). Plus, we really had no idea how long they would be. Well it turned out they arrived at 5:20. I'll let you know if we're shunned from the group, when we visit the zoo today.
We walked to Lucy's and enjoyed some good ol' American non-fast food. We sat outside under an umbrella and lights, with music playing in the background. There was a playground right behind the restaurant, so the kids were able to play before we ate. Someone joked, "This is great. I don't even feel like I'm in China."

After Lucy's, we did some shopping at Jordon's store. We bought a few trinkets. Sheehan bought a snake-like puzzle and Josiah bought a wooden sword with Chinese writing on it. I asked the woman what it said, and she said, "# 1 Kung fu boy."

Then our family of 5, piled into one of the Smart Car cabs, and went back to the hotel. We decided to have donuts as our treat for dinner. This will be a hard habit to break when we get home.

Today, we're off to the zoo.

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March 18, 2012

China Day 10 - Six Banyan Temple

Something that has surprised me on this trip, is the number of westerners that we have seen in China. When we came to adopt Josiah in 2008, there were four westerners in our hotel and even fewer outside the hotel. On this trip, there are westerners everywhere, and not just adoptive families, but also tourists and many business people. Breakfast is like the United Nations with different languages being spoken all around us.

Driving through Guangzhou the other night when we flew in, was a neat experience. The road we traveled was 20 - 50 feet above ground level the entire time. We were able to look down on the streets we passed as well as into people's apartments and small factories. We had a bird's eye view of a slice of China. I read a book a few months ago called Factory Girls about the women, and sometimes girls, that migrate to the cities from the countryside in China, to work in the many factories. As we drove through the city, we passed, what looked like, dorm after dorm, containing bunkbeds and hanging clothes that were reminiscent of the lives the women lived in that book. They work 6 days a week on assembly lines, making clothing, designer handbags, electronics, etc., and send money back home to their families. They live in dorms owned by the factories, housing something like 10 women at a time.

After breakfast, we walked around the hotel a little, checking things out. It's a beautiful hotel with gardens, waterfalls, elaborate art work, etc., all in the middle of a giant city. We also borrowed a stroller from our hotel to help control Little Miss Autumn, although I think a straight jacket might have worked better.

While the boys only know about three words in Chinese, they are fluent in Whinese. Since they were introduced to Angry Birds, just before leaving home, everything else pales in comparison, including the playground, swimming pool, and eating. I promised myself that I would never let them get addicted to video games like I was - too late.

After our self-guided hotel tour, we joined our group for a tour of the Six Banyan Temple, an active Buddhist temple, here, in Guangzhou. There was a nine-story pagoda in the center. In all my trips to China, this is the first one I've seen. I always loved those little pagoda fireworks that my dad would set off on fourth of July. They would spin around really fast and then the pagoda part would pop up at the end. This was just like that, but bigger and without the flames.
9-story pagoda

We got a little religion lesson on Buddhism from Connie, our guide. The first Buddha we saw was the smiling one with the big fat belly that most people are familiar with. They believe this Buddha eats up all the bad things in life and carries them in his belly and makes people happy. Connie told us that sometimes monks are brought to the monastery as children if they are weak. The parents believe the monastery is a better life for a weak child.

Worshipping at the temple

There were a lot of buildings housing Buddhas and many people burning incense and bowing down worshipping. We saw a few monks too - they didn't look weak. At one point Josiah asked loudly, "why are they worshipping false idols?"...Awkward.

Josiah's finger being bitten by a dragon

After the temple, we went to a market that had a bunch of overpriced stuff, so we just got back on the bus. Then we went to a Dim Sum restaurant, but there weren't any little carts, with little plates, like we're used to. It was family style, so maybe it wasn't dim sum, just Chinese, and I heard wrong. Whatever it was, we weren't prepared. Apparently, according to Connie, Guangzhou has a BYON (bring your own napkins) policy. And yet they only give you chopsticks, to eat the buttery, flaky, puff pastries and oily vegetables. We cleaned our hands on the tablecloth (don't tell them it was us). I left the restaurant with a ring of oil around my lips, like a clown smile. They also didn't have enough highchairs, so Autumn sat like a "big girl" resting her chin on the table to eat. I fell off the wagon and had my first coke since August. I just felt like I needed some extra acid to break down all that oil in my stomach - at least that's how I justified it in my head.

Canal near the restaurant

Then everyone went back to the hotel while I went to Trust-mart, which is somehow part of Wal-mart, but looks absolutely nothing like it, except they sell the Great Value brand. They had large tanks of fish that you could dig a net into and pull out the one you wanted to buy. That was right next to the turtle tank. I didn't have enough yuan to pay for everything, so Connie had to spot me. The guides here are great.

Then we walked back to the hotel with my arms loaded full of diapers, wipes, bottled water, and ramen noodles - my workout for the day. For dinner, we ate our 10th meal of ramen noodles (minus the sauce packets). Then we went to the playground and kiddie pool again. Autumn was thrilled with both. She really started to test us at the pool. She's a little like Josiah in that she thinks everything is a joke, but is also very mischievous. We told her, in our clumsiest Chinese, to not get out of the pool because the rocks were slippery when she was wet. She kept getting out and laughing. She thought it was great fun to defy us. We gave her a time-out and had to hold her in the chair because she kept trying to sneak out. She's a rascal.

Then we decided to get some ice cream. The Haagen Dazs sold downstairs was about $10 for a quarter of a pint (!), so Steve and Sheehan went to get some Magnums at the 7-11 across the street. We went against the guide's suggestion again and let Autumn have a little ice cream. She loved it. She woke up in the middle of the night with what seemed like a night terror. Not sure if it was triggered by the ice cream or the fact that she had fallen off the bed and was trapped under it. We got her out.

Today, we get Autumn's TB test results and then shopping in the afternoon. It's supposed to be close to 80 and humid today. We heard about the heat wave Chicago has been getting. We were jealous when we were in Nanjing.

Can I just say, our hotel room looks like Hurricane Katrina went through it - without the three feet of water. There are no dresser drawers here. Clothes and toys and food are everywhere. Print Friendly and PDF

March 17, 2012

China Day 9 - Physical Exam

It says pig, but it looks an awful lot like a rat to me.

Breakfast was great at The Garden as well, and even better is the scenery. There is a four story (man-made) waterfall and koi pond outside the dining area.

Then we went to get Autumn's physical exam, required by the US consulate. There were about 30 adoptive families, crowded like cattle, in an 80 degree waiting area with not enough chairs, screaming and crying babies, and whiny kids. We stood in line to see four different doctors, of which one was for Autumn to get a shot (TB test). We were there for about two hours. Sheehan, Autumn, and I were wearing shorts and t-shirts, but Steve and Josiah were wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts. The temperature rose as people crammed in line together. At one point I said to Steve, "I think this is what Hell might be like."

After the exam, we came back to the hotel so Steve and J-man could change before going to Pizza Hut for lunch. I couldn't stay the whole time because I had to be back by 2 pm to do paperwork with the guide. Steve had to finish the meal and get the kids safely back across the busy street (which is no easy task, if you've seen the way they drive in China) to our hotel. (Steve picks up writing the story here) By the grace of God, Steve survived feeding Autumn, keeping the boys entertained, paying the bill (not as easy as it sounds in China), getting the leftovers boxed and playing the human version of Frogger with our three children zig-zagging through a road choked with kamikaze taxi drivers, uncaring moped riders and a handful of bike riders while cheerleading Sheehan the entire way willing him to hold the leftovers, hold on to my pants while keeping his legs crossed so as not to pee his pants (thanks for mentioning that Sheehan on the way out!). Wow, getting into our room was a miracle.

After that, things went pretty well ... Autumn took a long nap, then we went to the pool for, most likely, Autumn's 1st swim (she had a blast), which included standing up to both brothers and splashing them back with the frigid pool water that they splashed her with ... Go girl ... Watching Autumn frolic on the playground with her brothers was a true pleasure ... She absolutely could not contain herself, she had so much fun. We finished up with the Chinese version of ramen noodles in our room and then called it a night. And so we say good night to everyone as well.
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China Day 8 - Purple Mountain, Yangtze River, & Flight to Guangzhou

Today, we went touring around Nanjing. Nanjing is supposedly a beautiful city, but few cities look pretty at the end of winter. Nanjing is said to be the only city in China with a mountain in it. We drove (along with the Calhouns, Dr. Barbara, and Michael, our guide) up to Purple Mountain. The road was lined with huge sycamore trees, so in the summer, when the leaves are on the trees, it looks like a tunnel.

It was foggy, so a little hard to see, but still beautiful. At the top of the mountain is a mausoleum for Dr. Sun Yat-sen, widely revered as the founder of modern China. This would have been torture for the boys had it not looked like the scene from Kung Fu Panda, where Po struggles to drag the noodle cart up the stairs. There were 392 steps to the top. It was beautiful. 

Josiah doing a Kung fu move in front of the steps

This is a popular tourist site in China, so we were celebrities again. Multiple people asked to have their picture taken with us. One group of women, each took turns having their picture taken with me in front of the steps. They asked where I was from and I told them America. I guess they're not used to seeing westerners, except maybe on tv. It was hilarious. We stopped once to have a group picture taken and at least a dozen people took our picture of us having our picture taken. 

I took a picture of some women staring at us.

Women staring at us. This is how close people stand to you and how 
obvious they are at staring - definitely a cultural difference. 
They smiled at me after they saw me take their picture.

After Purple Mountain, we went to the Yangtze River. We took pictures of what we could see. The boys were bored and there wasn't much to see because it was so foggy.

At 4 pm, we checked out of the hotel and went to the airport. This is where Autumn really broke out of her shell and the "active" description they gave her, shined. Oh my gosh. She is a nut case. She was dragging us around, jumping off chairs, falling on the floor - she was crazy. She was worse than Josiah when we first adopted him.

She did really well on the plane - laughed and seemed to have a great time. Josiah, Dr. Barbara, and I sat behind Steve, Autumn, and Sheehan. Autumn kept reaching between the seats to pretend to grab me.

We arrived in Guangzhou (pop. 9 million, Nanjing is 8 million, and the entire Chicagoland area is only 7 million, just to give you some perspective) around 9 pm. It turned out that most of our group, from our agency, were also arriving around that time. There are about seven families in the group. One family is from Morton, IL - I had chatted with them via email a few times before the trip.

We got on the giant bus, which led us to the first hotel, The Victory, on Shamian Island. This hotel is close to the White Swan, the hotel that most adoptive families stay in, but it's being refurbished. There are four families from our group staying at our hotel, The Garden. I'm not sure why we're at different hotels. I got the feeling that our agency wanted us at the Garden, but other families had experience or had heard about the Victory, and liked that it was on Shamian Island (a nice place to walk around with narrow, low-traffic streets), so they opted for that. The Garden is "the only platinum 5-star hotel in Guangzhou" - not sure what "platinum" means.

It took about 30-45 minutes for the families to check into the Victory before we could head to our hotel. We made it to bed around 11:30 or midnight - the boys fell asleep on the bus. Autumn had woken up and stayed awake for the entire bus ride.

The hotel is beautiful and the lobby is H-U-G-E. When we got to the hotel, Steve checked in, while the boys whined, and I chased Autumn around the lobby. That girl would just take off running, then when I caught her, she would fall on the floor laughing. It looked like a mom, who had absolutely no control over their rambunctious, disobedient child. Thinking about that made me start laughing. I was bent over to her level, arms stretched out, running after her. I started laughing and couldn't stop. I felt so ridiculous. I started crying, I was laughing so hard. I would pick her up and she would start bucking like a bronco, all while laughing, and then I would just laugh harder. I couldn't control myself. It was so late and it was so funny. Finally, Steve got checked in and we made it to our room. Autumn was disappointed because the elevator just led to another prison cell.

Sometime in the middle of the night, we were awoken by one of the boys, who had a...let's just say, internal explosion, all over the bed. We cleaned it up quickly and went back to bed. I'd hate to be the person cleaning our room.

Just another day in China.

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March 15, 2012

China Day 7 - Confucius Temple and Market

Today was our first rainy day, which was amazing because when I checked the weather before we left, it looked like it would be 17 straight days of rain.  after breakfast, we headed out to the Confucius Temple and market.  Autumn really enjoyed this because she was outside the prison walls of our hotel room.  Last night, she slept in her coat and jeans and today, she has had them on with her hood up and backpack on all day.  We made her take off her shoes to take a nap (she cried and cried), but she kept the backpack on and laid on top of Steve while she slept.

The temple was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  It was very touristy - my favorite kind of place - gimme the kitsch of the Dells, Pigeon Forge, or Myrtle Beach any day.  We walked around the market for a while - a bunch of shops selling a variety of things.  Sheehan bought a sandalwood fan for $3, that smells fragrant when you wave it and it has Phoenixes on it.  Josiah ate a tang hular (we read about them in the book Little Pear from our Son Light curriculum), which is fruit stacked on a stick and coated in hard candy syrup, like a red candy apple.  His was strawberries and cherries.  He loved it.  One vendor asked to take our picture - I guess we were an oddity - but I chose to think celebrity instead.  There were men pulling rickshaws on foot and there was a huge tree with fake gold leaves and red tags hanging from it - probably decorated for the New Year.  The streets were decorated with red and gold lanterns.

I carried Autumn in some kind of wrap, that Anne let me borrow, for about 20 minutes, but she was just too heavy.  Those last measurements I got of her where I whined and complained because she couldn't possibly be that huge, well, they were accurate.  She's probably a 3T, while I'm squeezing her into 18/24 month clothes, and she weighs 14.4kg.  The doctor said she's in the 97% for weight and 50th for height.  Shes a chunker.

After walking around, we decided to stop at KFC.  We're not too adventurous..  Autumn enjoyed the French fries.  There was a play area that Autumn and Josiah played in for a few minutes (Sheehan was too big).  A woman came up to us, asking us something in Chinese, and I just kept telling her over and over, in Chinese that I didn't understand.  Eventually, I figured out that she was asking if the kids were ours and I was able to tell her they were our children.  Hey, Rosetta did something right.

It had been raining throughout most of our walk, so we decided to head back to the hotel.   Autumn didn't have a meltdown when we approached the room this time, just when we had to change her diaper.  We sat in the hotel room the rest of the afternoon and I was bored out of my mind.  Steve decided we should splurge on dinner and eat in the hotel restaurant.  We thought Autumn would enjoy it too, since she loves going down there for breakfast every morning, and getting her to eat anywhere else has been a challenge.

We got down there a few minutes early and had to wait around with some business men at the hostess station.  Josiah and Sheehan decided to climb the walls - literally.  The walls were made out of jagged stones and they were both able to climb up to a 40" ledge to stand on - all very gauche, of course, but we have three kids now, so we don't care.  But, I asked the boys not to stand on the ledge (because it's a playground of jagged rocks just waiting for a tumble and a bloody lip).  Josiah kept "forgetting" he wasn't supposed to stand on it, so when he stood again, I brought him down.  Then the high-pitch wailing started and accusatory looks of what an unfair mother I am.  The Chinese men stared, then tried to console him, then Sheehan "accidentally" kicked him in the head (from his seat on the ledge).  So I brought him down, and thankfully the hostess came to seat us before his wailing could start.  She took us to our table and Autumn saw her high hair and refused to go in it - round 2.

She used all her cutest head tilts and puppy dog eyes to not get in that high hair, nor wear her bib, nor eat the food we picked out for her.  She sat on Steve's lap and ate watermelon, while it dripped down her furry coat, that she refused to remove - she wouldn't even let us take the hood off.

The buffet was great - all very gourmet-looking.  They had baby pigeon soup, pork ears and tongue, and lots of sushi.  The desserts were beautiful, but only the size of your thumb, so we had to eat five each.

After dinner, we tackled Autumn's bath.  We knew there would be a lot of screaming because she melts down when we remove any item of clothing, including her shoes/hood.  We tried to be strategic and had Josiah take a bath and play, and show her how fun it was.  She had fun watching him and filling the stacking cups with water at the tub edge.  After 20 minutes, we decided it was  her turn.  We prepped everything for a super fast bath, dry off and dressing.  She screamed and cried the loudest we'd heard her when we removed her clothes.  Then I put her in the tub and scrubbed her.  I gave her some bath toys to hold, but she just stood there paralyzed.  I rinsed her off and she suddenly calmed down.  Josiah continued to play and she bent down and began to play too.  She played and splashed and laughed in that tub for 30 minutes.  It was the most vocal we'd heard her.  It seemed she'd never really played in water before.  But when we washed her hair and dumped water on her head, she shook her head back and forth getting rid of all the water, like she had experienced that before.

 I imagine, after seeing the pictures of the feeding time in the orphanage, that much of the lives of these children is like an assembly line, with very little extra attention or activity out of the routine.  So when they get that extra attention from us holding them or playing with them, then it must feel really great.  Autumn is very independent and hasn't reacted to us too much, so it's been a challenge to engage her.  I look forward to getting home where we can cook and play with play-doh and go to the playground and run together.

Another cool thing about bath time last night, was how Josiah stepped up as the big brother.  He's mostly been ignoring her since Monday, not out of spite, but because he doesn't know how to interact with her, not to mention his illness.  She doesn't speak the language and Josiah's a talker, and he plays independently a lot too.  So when he was able to help her with bath time and show her how to have fun, that was a big brother booster for him.  After getting dressed for bed, he got into our bed, under the covers, and she followed.  Then he ran and got some books and showed them to her.  So sweet.

As far as the illnesses, we are doing much better.  Josiah's rash is clearing up, his energy level is back to normal (as demonstrated by his Kung fu moves and jumping from bed to bed last night), my throat is feeling much better too and I don't feel gross anymore.

We tour the city this morning and then have a 7 pm flight to Guangzhou.  That should be interesting, since we've all been going to bed before 9 pm every night.  It's a 2 hour flight.  So we may not be in our beds until 11 pm.  Dr. Barbara (the agency doctor who's been healing us), will be traveling with us, so we may have to enlist her to help us out.

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Funny Translation T-shirts

I was hoping to catch some funny translations on t-shirts, but it's not warm enough to go without a jacket. But, we went window shopping today and I found a few. 

fashion Sgirl beautiful -- that's me, especially with my sweet green fanny pack.

Movement was happy -- exactly what kind of movement, I'm not sure.

feel jeans FERRNESS inside of you -- aka "hot pants".

There was a 4th shirt that said, Geow up in the campus," but the pic is kind of crappy.

I still haven't seen the "Fart Sexy Style" shirt I really want, but if I see it, I'm totally buying it.

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