Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Settling In

We've been home 4 full days now and I can't believe how well things are going. Last night we all slept during the night time! The kids were asleep by 8:30-- Ryan fell asleep at the dinner table around 7:30!

I've also been amazed how how well Ryan seems to be fitting into a routine here.

Ryan and Jenna eating breakfast yesterday morning. We're still experimenting with American foods. It was determined that he really doesn't like toaster waffles but he does like fruit, cheerios and orange juice.

Emma and Ryan in their new car seats. They both got new car seats and look-- they match! I figured if I was getting 2 seats at the same time they might as well match. Why two? Didn't Emma have one? Yes, but it was an infant rear facing seat and she turned 12 months on our trip. Its obvious she meets the 20 pound rule so I got her a new seat too. Emma thought she was pretty hot stuff turned around like a big girl. One of her favorite parts? Seeing Momma when she turns around. She gives me a great big smile.

And how does Ryan like his car seat since he most likely never sat in one in his previous life? He loves it! He sees that Emma sits in one next to him and Jenna has a car seat/booster seat in the row behind him and he wants to be like his sisters. Yesterday afternoon I took them to the pool and I put him in first and then Emma because I was carrying both at the same time. He got upset with me because I hadn't buckled his seat yet. He said "Momma!" and then patted his straps at his chest. How funny, maybe he'll be the new Seat Belt Nazi.

Another reason to like the car seat is that he literally has a front row seat to the DVD player overhead. The current feature film is Alvin and the Chipmunks which he finds very funny. Maybe he'll give toaster waffles another try since the chipmunks like them so much.

Here we all are at the doctor's office. You're thinking "Wow that was fast getting him into the doctor after coming home!" The appointment wasn't for him. It was for Julia. She has been covered in hives since Monday and started getting joint pain and a fever on Tuesday morning. Today, Wednesday, she still has joint pain and a slight fever and still has hives although they lessened. The diagnosis was unclear, perhaps a virus in combination with an allergic reaction to ??? She was told to take Zyrtec and Benadryl twice a day which helped yesterday. Today we only took the Zyrtec since she was better but her hives started getting worse tonight. They did do a strep test which was negative.

Now Jenna isn't feeling well and is running a slight fever. We'll see if she gets hives too.

Riding in a shopping cart. They both were in one the day before at the grocery store but the cart was bigger so they both sat in the front seat with each one sticking one leg out and bending the other in the seat. He likes this too and wants to ride in them.

{We're at CVS pharmacy getting Julia's Zyrtec.}

For the time being both little ones, or The Babies as they are now being called, are sleeping in my bed so I put them both down together at nap time. Ryan seems to really like sleeping with Emma and will reach over and give her pats.

And another big accomplishment-- letting his big brothers hold him. Here he let Ross put his pajamas on him and really enjoyed it. He's just sleepy and not unhappy like he looks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jet Lag

Our flight from Guangzhou to Hong Kong departed at 9:30 on Saturday morning. There were several families leaving on flights around that time so our luggage had to be in the hall of our hotel at 6:00 am and we had to be in the lobbby by 6:30.

I got up at 5:15. We were all packed other than our pajamas and my cosmetics that I used that morning. But at 5:30 my door bell to the room rang and there was a bellman asking for my luggage. Not good. I assured him that I was not supposed to have my luggage out until 6:00. (There was another group leaving earlier that had to have their luggage out by 5:30) But then I was feeling a bit unnerved. I did have the right time, right? I double checked the paper with the time listed and the clock to make sure I wasn't screwing up. But it was just a omen of what was to come.

I woke the kids up at 5:45. I already knew that Ryan isn't a morning guy. He doesn't like to be woken up and this morning was no exception. He fussed and cried and wanted to be held.

Luggage was out by 6:00 and there was really nothing left to do in our room so we headed to the lobby to wait. Ryan was still fussy and crying and had a little bit of a cough and he felt a little warm. Grace and the bus showed up at 6:30 and Penny, Shannon and Norah and our family were ready to go. We then headed over to the White Swan to get the other families.

The other families were supposed to be ready to go at 6:30 also but one one family came out when we got there. The other families came out one at a time and it was finally around 7:15 before we left. In the meantime, Ryan had a coughing episode that caused him to gag. His shirt was soon decorated with the contents of his throat that was tinted a lovely shade of orange-- the color of the Motrin tablet I had given him 10 minutes earlier. This was getting even better. ;>)

We got to the airport and the computer scanner was down and I was checking in 6 people so it seemed to take forever when we finally reached the counter. Jenna had to go to the bathroom but there was just no time because then it was a mad dash through customs and immigration and to the gate. We arrived at 9:15 for a flight that was supposed to leave at 9:30. And of course we had no seats together. But the flight attendants fixed the seat issue and we waited in the plane for about 20 minutes until the plane finally left. This meant that we arrived in Hong Kong later than planned.

We arrived in Hong Kong and found a Starbucks before we made our way to the Cathay counter to check in. This is where we said goodbye to our new friends Penny, Shannon and Norah. They were spending the night in Hong Kong and leaving the next day.

After we finally got checked in we made our way to our terminal which took a while. When we go there they were beginning to board! This was a continual theme in all our flights. It was slight unnerving.

This was our long 13 and 1/2 hour flight. Thankfully, we got 4 seats in the center aisle for Julia, Ryan, Jenna and Emma and I. My mom was in the row in front of us. I have to say the kids all did extremely well. But at this point Ryan was running a full fledged fever of 101 and doses of Tylenol and Motrin didn't seem to be doing to bring it down. He basically just wanted to be held so I tried my best to accomodate him most of the flight. Part of the time I had him on one leg and Emma on the other leg and both were sleeping. Finallyhe was asleep enough that I could lay him in his seat to sleep and Emma slept across my lap. The kids all slept on this flight. I slept none. At the end of the flight Emma was getting pretty restless having to sit so long and not being able to crawl around. About an hour before we landed she grabbed a cup of juice I had gotten for Ryan and spilled it all over the sleeping Ryan. My poor baby boy was jarred awake and wasn't very happy about it, not that I could blame him

When we arrived 13 hours later in Los Angelos, we had to go through immigration with Ryan's paperwork. This was a terrible hassle. We ended up having to wait in a waiting area for someone to process the paperwork. We had to have waited AT LEAST a half an hour. Finally it was processed and they gave Ryan a green card and said we could work on his citizenship when we got home. I am almost positive this was all wrong. I am PRAYING that his Certificate of Citizenship comes to me in a few weeks. I sure don't want to pay $500+ to fix some Immigration Official's screw up.

We collected our luggage, went through a check point where we told them where we had been and for how long and then we dropped off our luggage again. Then it was off to the United domestic terminal. Which was a mile away. Of course, I can't be totally sure about that but I have to say it was a VERY long way. When we got there it wasn't very obvious where to go because the ticketed check in was in an attached building. So I wasted about 15 minutes calling United's help line at the self check in kiosk only to be told he couldn't help me. In the meantime, Ryan threw up all over the floor. Fun times. I really tried to get someones attention to clean up the mess but I couldn't and I really didn't want to miss our flight for it so I left it. I felt like a lowlife, but trust me, I could live with the feeling if it meant I made it home on time.

The ticket counter check in had a terribly long line that just wasn't moving at all. We waited there for about 10 minutes and I could see we only had about an hour and 10minutes until our plane left. We were never going to make it. So I went to a woman at the beginning of the line and asked what could I do? Apparently there was another line for international transfers. UGH!!! What a waste of time!!! But we still waited at least another 20 minutes before we could make our way to security. At that point we had about 30 minutes before our flight left. I had hungry kids who hadn't eaten in a few hours and I knew that the flight wouldn't have food and we had a very short connection in Denver. It was now or never.

We made it through security, although it wasn't pretty, and I had mom get Happy Meals at McDonald's by our gate while I tried to get seat assignments at the counter. They had already started boarding. We got food, we got appropriate seat assignments and we made it on the plane. But Ryan had had enough. We got on and he cried and cried. I know he felt terrible and I'm so sure he was tired of flying. We did get window seats and I finally distracted him with the planes and cars outside. On this flight the 3 little ones fell asleep and so did I. I got about an hour of sleep. Then we landed in Denver and it was a mad dash to the gate to get seat assignments there.

What a nightmare. I almost lost it there. There was only one guy and he was boarding people. We had no seat assignments. I went up to him and nicely asked him what were we supposed to do-- was he going to come give us seat assignments because we really had to make that flight. His answer "I hope you make it because I'm the only one here."

Are you kidding me??? Its a really, really good thing that another guy showed up to give us our seat assignments or you might have seen me on the news:

Crazy woman goes berserk at United Airlines counter in Denver-- tries to force herself on plane.

I thanked the second gentleman profusely. This was our last flight and I wanted to be HOME!

By this flight Ryan had really had enough. He had a window seat again but no planes outside could distract him this time. He wasn't throwing a fit but he was crying loudly. I can't say I could really blame him. He had no idea what was going on. He was sick, he was scared and he couldn't understand what I was telling him. Considering all these factors I'm amazed he did this well for so long into the trip. I admit that I was worried about what other passengers were thinking but I was more concerned about what the flight attendants were thinking. Headlines of toddlers thrown off planes for crying and temper tantrums went through my head. But thankfully the flight attendants were more concerned about what they could do to help us. They brought him some apple juice but he wanted none of that. Only my lap would do so soon after take off I unbuckled him and had both him and Emma straddling my lap and he quit crying. Only one hour to go.

At Saturday 9:10 p.m. our plane landed at MCI and soon we were off our plane and saw my two older boys, Trace and Ross, waiting outside the short walk out of security. I was so glad to be home!!! I missed my boys and I was ready for live to be normal.

{Anyone who knows me is laughing at this point. There really is no normal for me.}

Ryan and I were in bed around midnight but Emma was waking up and ready to go and so were Julia and Jenna. Thankfully, Ross and the girls took care of Emma so I could sleep. I was literally dozing off while trying to take care of her. Ryan and I slept until close to 8:00 and that was the most sleep and best sleep I had had in weeks, months actually. And Ryan felt better too; his fever was gone.

Now its early Tuesday morning and we are just now starting to get into a normal sleep schedule. Everyone is asleep with the exception of Emma who woke up around 4:00. But I figure we can work that out.

I want to thank everyone who has followed our journey. I have loved sharing it with you and want to thank you for your comments, support and encouragement. I invite you to continue following us if you like. While our adoption trip is now completed our life is far from boring!

In fact, yesterday I got news that I am invited to take part of new TV show that will film in August-- now you'll just have to stick around to find out what it is!!!

How's that for a teaser???

Waiting for a Visa

Friday afternoon was an afternoon at the American consulate in Guangzhou. The consulate used to be on Shamian Island, which is how all adopting families started staying there. Most families stayed at the White Swan and we walked to the consulate which was a few blocks away.

The old consulate is where we went for Jenna's adoption. If I remember correctly, we all went to the consulate and turned in our paperwork personally at a glass window with an officer behind the glass. We then waited in small, semi air conditioned room for everyone else to finish. Then we took an oath. We were in the back of the room and we couldn't hear what the officer was saying. I do remember raising my hand and saying "I do" or "yes" or something to the affirmative but who knows what I oathed to. The next day we received our visa from our guide and left Guangzhou that evening.

Apparently, things are different now.

Our consulate appointments were on Thursday morning but we didn't have to go. Grace, our guide, took all of our paperwork and we were sequestered in our rooms until we heard from her. We had to be there in case there were any questions but she said she would call us and tell us when she was done.

With Jenna's adoption I never questioned the visa process. It was assumed all would go through ok. But then I adopted from Vietnam. I have promised to tell my Vietnam adoption story, and I will soon. I decided that voicing my opinions about the Vietnam process might be something better done when I was finished with my China adoption. But while I was in Vietnam many people were denied visas, including one of my travel mates. So a visa for Ryan was not an assumption for me. I didn't expect any trouble or problems, but nevertheless, I wasn't assuming anything.

Grace called me Thursday morning about an hour into our time that we needed to stay in our rooms and told me "Good news! You were approved." This took me by surprise, not that I was approved, but that there might be any question about it. Even though I didn't assume anything, I still figured it wouldn't be a problem. I don't remember be congratulated that we got a visa with Jenna, but then there are lots of things I don't remember with Jenna's adoption.

So on Friday afternoon 3 CCAI travel groups hopped on 2 buses to drive to the consulate to get our visas. We went up several flights of escalators and entered into a large, nicely air conditioned waiting room. We then took copies of our passport photo page attached to a copy of our child's passport photo page where the officer looked at all of us to see if we resembled our photos. Then we waited again for everyone to finish. It was then time for "the oath."

I was very curious what the oath was. I know its surprising that I promised something 4 years ago without knowing what I was promising but I had my baby so I didn't care. But this time, especially after Vietnam which had no oath, I wondered what it was.

The officer came out with a microphone and asked us all to raise our right hands. This was it-- "the oath"-- what was she going to say?

"Do you promise that everything you have stated was true to the best of you knowledge?"



That was it. It was a little late to be saying you were untruthful. I wonder if they ever had anyone raise their hand and say " Well, now that you mention it..." I mean really, what's the point of the oath? I think we signed on our mountains of paperwork that we were being truthful.

In any case, next we received our children's Chinese passports with their coveted visas along with "The Brown Envelope." The Brown Envelope is what you hand to the immigration officials when you go through immigration upon returning to the US.

I have to admit that once that passport and visa were in my hands I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I really, really, REALLY wanted to go home. Right then. But that wasn't possible. We had to wait until Saturday morning to leave.

That's when the adventure began.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Night on the Town

I know I have been whining about being tired. And believe me, I really detest whining, so I apologize.

I think I have some legitimate excuses for being tired. I'm traveling. I'm handling 4 kids, 3 of which are 5 and younger. I'm dealing with the trauma that Ryan has gone through. All of those are good excuses to be tired but perhaps it really boils down to lack of sleeping area and the resulting lack of sleep.

This was our first night with Ryan and he slept at the foot of the bed because every time I tried to move him he got upset.

A couple of nights later. Notice they are all pretty compact at this point. However they have just gone to bed.

The next night/ morning. Can you believe this?

The next night. Yes I do sleep in this bed, I try to on the left side. Its obvious that my children need a refresher course on the rules of sleeping with mom.

I realized a few nights ago that sleeping 4 of us side by side was not working and that all 3 of the children were about 3 feet tall or shorter. The bed is long so I slept across the bottom. Notice my pillow at the bottom of the bed.

Julia joined us this night and we got a roll away bed-- there was just no way to put another body in that bed. I do realize that my motto is There's Always Room For One More, but I do have to draw the line somewhere. You will notice that Emma has made it down by me in the night.

And finally last night. Ryan is a spinner, in case you hadn't noticed in the photos above, and last night he was voted off the island, offered the roll away bed. Before you think he was really banished, he WANTED to be there and fussed when we went to move him so Julia said she would rather sleep in the bed anyway.

So if I have some circle's under my eyes in photos now you know why. But now back to the real topic of the post.

Yesterday, Thursday, was filled with more shopping on the island but that evening the Jiangxi group all decided to go back to the shopping mall area that we went to to when we went to the Pearl Market. It took 3 taxis to get us there. My group was first, Penny, Shannon, Norah and my mom were next and Jim, Shannon, and their girls were last. Jim still had the paper that told the taxi driver where to take us and showed each driver before they left the hotel.

The first 2 cars dropped us off at the Pearl Market. Jim and his family were dropped off at the opposite end, by the mall. When we first got out we really weren't sure where we were but after getting our bearings we figured it out. The problem we weren't sure where Jim and his family really were. This is when you really miss cell phones! We decided to watch for them as we started walking that way.

Soon we were all reunited and we decided to have dinner at McDonalds.

All McDonalds are not the same and the Chinese like things that are spicy. So chicken sandwiches are spicy. My cheeseburger had a spicy sauce. It might have been ok but they didn't have Coke Light, the Asian equivalent to Diet Coke, and the Sprite tasted like carbonated water. Because of the communication problem we orginally ended up with 8 drinks for 5 people! In the end we still had a couple of drinks too many but it wasn't worth the effort to solve the problem.

Julia enjoyed her chicken nuggets and french fries. The McDonalds counter is behind her.

The kids all got teddy bears with their Happy Meals so they were extra happy.

Emma enjoying her french fries and chicken nuggets. Ryan is chowing down on his hamburger. I wish I had gotten a Happy Meal myself.

Penny snapped this pic of Norah at McDonalds. There were several other photos and I love this one because it looks like she is holding up her hand and saying "enough with the photos!"

After we left McDonalds we headed out the back door and into the Chinese food court.

Here is the Chinese equivilant to a food court. It was a long alley with stalls on either side. But I promise you that you won't find some of these things at your local mall.

What in the world could that be? Some appear cooked and other parts raw...

Why that would be fried squid tentacles. Yum, yum. And on a stick. Everything tastes better on a stick. Just ask people who buy corn dogs at their local mall food court.

But wait, fried squid tentacles not your thing? Hold that thought---

What in the world is this? Could that be...?

Yes, that would be spicy, fried scorpions! With the stingers still attached. Ashley and Brooke actually bought one. I forgot to ask how much this delectable treasure cost.

How could she possibly eat that???? She didn't she was just pretending to. However, she did lick it hence the knowledge that it was spicy. I don't think this is something everyone eats though. After playing around with it they tried to give it away to the local Chinese but no one wanted it.

Here is our group standing outside the Women's and Children's Essential Store. We were about to enter when something caught our attention...

A man dressed in a chicken suit blowing an obnoxious horn. Brooke went up to him and he offered to let her blow his horn but she declined. He was selling something that he kept tucked inside his suit but we never did figure out what it was.

We went into the Essential Store and the other 2 families bought various baby items but we just watched. My Mega Stroller really caught some attention there and one couple had a baby and they brought her up to us to show her off. She was very cute. I wished I had thought to get some photos of them.

After a while we left the store and were soon on our way.

Here is a photo of the outside shopping mall area when we first got there.

And this is after. Sorry its blurry. The Chinese seem to really like colorful lights on their buildings.

Here is a picture of the big screen overhead. It was showing some kind of story about 2 babies but I couldn't figure out what it was about. Jim and his family's heads are at the bottom.

A photo of the corner where McDonald's is. It was on the 2nd floor.

Penny and her family and my family were tired so we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. The problem was that the Chinese don't believe in taking turns or standing in lines. You have to understand that I am a very patient person (most of the time) and I totally believe in fairness and taking your turn but after I had a few taxis snatched from me I wasn't going to let the next one get by.

So I grabbed a taxi, or Shannon did actually, and the Mega Stroller wouldn't fit in the trunk. I wasn't about to let that stop me!!! I think the driver wanted me to hit the road in someone else's taxi but I finally had one and I wasn't about to let him go! So I took it to the front seat and started to put it in. The sun shade/visor wouldn't quite fit and I'm sure the driver was feeling a bit smug trying to show me it wouldn't fit when I just reached over and smashed down the visor and pushed it in the car. The driver looked at me surprised, kind of laughed and shut the door.

Don't' try to tell ME that something won't work, even if its in another language.

More Shamian Island Photos

My earlier post with Shamian Island photos showed the pretty view of the island. The some of following photos show a less pretty side.

The signs in English are funny here, although I remember more funny signs last time, but maybe that was in Beijing. In any case, Julia really liked this one.

Down by the White Swan there are many restaurants. This one shows its food in the window.

Is that what I think it is???

Yep. The entire chicken because waste not, want not. You can watch them cook in the window. Maybe these chickens are for take out?

In the evening many people come out for entertainment. (I have pointed this out to my children several times!) Often they play badminton, but these middle aged gentlemen were playing hackey sack.

And they don't have shirts on. Its hot! ( Sorry its blurry...)

They look like they are working up a sweat there. That's good, be sure to hydrate!

Next to our hotel, the Victory, is a 7-11 where we buy our drinks. A can of soft drink in the hotel is 26 RMB. (Over $3) A bottle of soft drink at 7-11 is 3-4 RMB. (Under $1) You do the math.

The other day I went over to get drinks and saw this on the sidewalk next to the 7-11.

Wooden buckets of fish and shell fish. I like the fish tags on the buckets and baskets.

Buckets of crabs and shell fish. If you look closely you can see that the crabs claws are tied shut with thick husks or rope.

A bucket of...? I am guessing eels since the rest are sea foods? It does look a lot like that one dish on the cruise.

The 7-11 right next door. It turns out that there is a restaurant next door and the seafood was outside the restaurant. Maybe you can pick your own dinner.

A bunch of bikes lined up by the 7-11.

Shamian Island-- Waiting in Paradise?

Days ago I promised to show you Shamian Island and so far nothing. So to make up for my negligence yesterday I thought I would show you some of the photos I have taken of the island this week.

Shamian Island is so different from Nanchang. For one thing in Nanchang we couldn't even walk the streets. And in Nanchang we were busy everyday and did things with our group all the time.

Here on Shamian Island it's a more leisurely pace. We stroll the streets with little fear of being run over by a car. And its beautiful. I tell you, how could going to Starbucks be more perfect?

Have you ever seen a more beautiful setting to drink your coffee? Of course, I never sit out here because its too hot! But I do appreciate the beauty as I go inside.

This island is beautiful and I have included several other photos. I'm not going to include captions though because I think they just speak for themselves. Or I'm being lazy. Or tired. Or all three. I'll let you decide.