Sunday, October 14, 2012

Some Days

Our internet was screwy for a bit and I wasn't able to post this the other week when I wrote it, so let's try this again.  Written 9/28:

Some days are hard, some days are fabulous, and most days lie between the two.  Today was amazing. 

In a country with over 1.3 billion people, two little children, a boy and a girl, grew up together in an amazing group foster home.  They were both chosen from a bigger orphanage (a few hundred kids) to get excellent care with 6 other babies. 

Yes, only 8 babies of hundreds were in this home.  Others had preceded them and been matched with their forever families, and almost all of these 8 have now been taken home by their parents all over the world.  A couple stayed in China, the rest are scattered across the states, mostly on the East Coast.



These two little ones spent over a year playing, fighting, and growing up together. They were separated 7 months ago when the little girl was placed in our arms.  We were jealous of those families who lived close enough to drive a few hours to get the kids together, but figured that we could fly out and visit a few of Nora's old roomies occasionally.  A month ago that all changed.  The little boy's family came and brought him to his new home...which just happens to be about 10 miles from our home.

I'm not a math person.  I don't know the actual odds of such a thing happening, but I'm thinking I should go buy my lottery ticket tomorrow.  I can't even begin to fathom the likelihood of two little children from a province of over 94 million people ending up together, not once, but twice.

Today, Nora and John were able to play together once more.  I'd like to say that there was an instant recognition and they fell right into playing, but they were very cautious and not really interested in each other for about the first half hour.  Eventually they interacted with each other and had a fun time playing jumping games and eating dumplings.  They rough-housed and tickled each other and I couldn't help wondering how many times they had played the same way.



It may not seem like such a big thing to other people, but these 7 little children are the closest thing Nora currently has to siblings.  John was there for Nora's first steps, first words, and first birthday when we couldn't be.  They've known each other for far longer than their parents have known them and I can't help but stand back in wonder at the miracle of today when such a large piece of my daughter's history has been returned to her.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six Months: Onward and Upward

I always have to preface these with this declaration: you are now reading an

Official Kevin Post.

You have been given fair warning.


Six months! We've had Nora home for six months as of the 25th of August. It hardly seems real. Jen and I both admit to having these moments where we might be doing something else, then we'll see her playing for a moment and catch ourselves wondering when her parents are coming to pick her up.

Then the moments of sheer happiness when I pull into the driveway and she squeals "BABA!!" and Jen has to hold her tight so she doesn't dart over before I've stopped the car. We have video of that... I should get that on here. She jumps into my lap and helps me finish driving by yanking the wheel around and pushing any buttons she can find.

Here is what the time looks like: here she is on her 6-month referral anniversary, holding her referral picture that we saw for the very first time just over a year ago:


Our lives have changed more than I thought possible. Our little Eleanor is an extremely (and exhaustingly) energetic little girl, with a huge smile and a heart-melting giggle. She loves to play, loves her mom, and insists on helping around the house wherever she can (this is not necessarily a good thing; many dishes have met their end because she must help unload the dishwasher).

She talks... a lot. For some reason we still get people asking us if she's learning English, which is an interesting question because when we picked her up she didn't know Mandarin. Oh, I'm sure she knew the meaning of a few words that her aiyis used around her, but she is learning English incredibly fast. She picks up any word we say at an alarming rate, which means when I kick the rocking chair with my little toe at 2:00 a.m. while trying to get her back to sleep, a great number of words come to mind, but I must choose very carefully.

She also has picked up a love for books. She'll wake up somewhere between 5:45 and 6:30 a.m., and I usually take her downstairs so Jen can crash some more. I set Nora in front of her toys and attempt to go back to sleep on the couch, but she inevitably will climb up on the couch unassisted (where did she learn to do that?) get a book off the shelf, climb back down and gently set it in front of me, smiling with her big brown eyes and softly ask "Baba weedit?" and I positively melt. Of course I'll read Olivia ("piggy" book by name) or We're Going on a Bear Hunt for the fiftieth time this week.

All in all, Nora is adjusting extremely well and slipping easily into the role of life in America with awkward, bumbling lǎowài parents. She knows the home routine and as long as we keep reminding her that Baba is coming back when he leaves for work, then she gets it and is happy. As long as Jen tells her that she's just going into the kitchen and not leaving forever, she's content to hang out on the couch, playing with her farm animal puzzle or taking in MuLan or Wall-E (that one was my doing).

That's not to say we haven't had our challenges, though. I can count on two hands the number of solid, complete nights of sleep we've had... teething has been rough on this one and she doesn't ever seem to be 100% comfortable in her crib, or she wakes up at night just enough to see Jen and that triggers a sleepy, but somehow violent climb up Mount Sleeping Mom, sometimes followed by a flop into the Valley of the Snoring Dad, whereupon I might wake abruptly by Silent Toddler Ninja Kick to the throat. I know at that point that if she stays asleep between Jen and I, eventually I'm getting bullied clean off the side of bed.

I guess I could sum it up with the fact that while she's adjusting very well into being our daughter, the road into being her parents has not always been so smooth. We still have so much to learn as we struggle to decode the tantrums, her occasional night-time panic attacks, and the seemingly unaware yanking of Jen's hair and not letting go. There are rights earned through the passage of parenthood for those who could be there for the first cry, the first coo, the first touch and each subsequent milestone. Heavenly Father has given us this adorable little goober, but at the cost of having to skip the benefit of that early parenthood instruction manual.

That feels like the over-arching metaphor for this whole ride that started  back on February 13th: piloting through sometimes turbulent air, struggling through the highs and lows of figuring out this beautiful, giggly, at at times difficult little girl, writing our own handbook as we go.

 -- Kevin


P.S. Since we haven't updated since April, here are some

Random Scenes Since Then:



Shortly after the sealing, we went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to have some pictures taken among the beautiful gardens there.

 Nora (featuring lovely morning hair) decides to do the feeding for once.
My grandparents own a home at Bear Lake in Northern Utah, and it's one of my favorite places on earth. We try to go as often as we can during the year. This marks Nora's first trip, and first time in a lake.

Nora loves animals and annoys our dogs to no end with her hugs, and loves to pet horses and quack loudly at any ducks she happens to fine.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Forever Family

As most people reading this blog will already know, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka The Mormons). Part of our belief system is that families can be joined together for, not just this life, but the whole of eternity. This joining is called "sealing" and is one of the things done in our temples. Yesterday, three years to the day after finding out we were supposed to adopt a little girl from China, we were sealed as a family.

Everyone was gushing about how cute she looked




We love this little daughter of ours so very much! Thank you for letting us be your mama and baba, sweet girl.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One more thing

There have been many times I have been so glad we learned any Mandarin, like the time when Nora stood at the top of the stairs and I could say "sit down!" faster than I could get to her, or the time I made her laugh by calling her "little naughty". Today I have never been happier to be able to communicate, however little, with our daughter.

It wasn't until a few days ago that she learned that nodding meant yes (hence the previous nodding at doctors because it was fun). She is very happy to let us know she doesn't like something or doesn't agree. I was playing on the floor with her and she was being very cute, so I scooped her up and (in Mandarin) told her I loved her and that she was such a good baby. She laughed and I gave her a big kiss and hugs. Then I asked her if she loved mama. She smiled big, nodded, and hugged me.

Is it all worth it? Absolutely.

One month home: all about Nora

We are settling into a routine and finally getting a bit of a clue as to being parents. Sleep is still an issue, but the last two nights she has woken up at around 2:30 for a diaper change and again at 5 wanting to be held and rocked for a while. Considering where we were a couple weeks ago, I will gladly take it! Since she refused to sleep in her crib and our bed is a queen, we decided to try modifying our crib by removing the front, strapping it to the side of the bed and raising the mattress to be where ours is. Sidecar crib is a huge success since it allows her to have her kicky legs without them ending up in one of our necks/sides/backs/stomachs/faces and still makes for a quick soothing when she needs it.

There are many things I want to remember about this first month home and about our silly, sweet, naughty little girl. So in no particular order, here are the things that make me smile.

I showed Nora the diaper I finished, she immediately put it on her head

-Nora knew "byebye" from the Ayis, but didn't use it much until about week two. Then she learned it meant adventures or that Daddy was leaving, but would be back. Each morning after breakfast she will grab a pair of shoes, bring them to me and start saying "byebye."
-Her first English word that she learned here is "doggy", which for a week sounded like "daddy" which made some people a bit confused.
-She can spot a dog on the street, in a picture, or on the tv from a far distance. I find myself saying, "No, there's no d-- oh wait, you're right, there is one."
-Her first word each morning is usually a whispered "doggy?" wondering where our dogs are.
-She has a cute kiss game that she made up where she likes to point to where she wants to kiss you and wait for you to say ok.




-She is still as active as ever, with the addition of climbing. She is freakishly strong and can pull herself up onto just about everything.
-When she is trying to stay awake she gets very giggley and will do some yoga. Her preferred stance is an extreme "downward dog" where she will have her legs extended, bend forward, and put her head on the ground. She's a bendy one.
-She still calls Kevin "baba" and we don't really intend to change this anytime soon. It's pretty adorable, especially when he comes home from work and she walks to the stairs and starts shouting "BABA! BABA!"
-She loves her daddy, but mama is still who she wants late at night or when she isn't feeling well.
-She is a huge charmer. She will wave, smile and blow kisses at just about everyone.
-She appears to be a girlie girl. Each day she has to pick out a "pretty" for her hair, leans forward for me to put it in and then immediately must be taken to the mirror to see that she looks good. If she approves, she will kiss the pretty baby. Our mirrors are gross now.
-She also loves shoes. When we go in a store, few aisles are met with more reaching and wanting as the shoe aisle. Since I have like 4 pairs of shoes total, she can't have gotten this from me.
- Her hair is growing in and getting long in the back, but in kind of a rat-tail sort of fashion. It is cute and ridiculous at the same time.
- After singing itsy bitsy spider for her exactly one time with the hand motions, the next day she started putting her fingers together and asking for "ge" (song).
-She learned the sign for "more" in about 5 minutes, and when asked if she wants more, will make the sign while nodding and smiling very big, unless she doesn't want more, in which case she will smack whatever it is out of you hand.
-The only ones that get kisses with absolutely no hesitancy and only one request are the dogs.
- About two weeks ago while sitting on the ground with her, she gave me my first ever unsolicited hug. It was amazing.
- She is understanding quite a bit of English and responds to XiaoNora as readily as YinCi.
-She is a tough little nut who doesn't cry easily when she gets hurt, and recovers very quickly.
-Her favorite toy in the whole world is a ball. Any size, any kind. She will run around the house carrying one and saying "ba" over and over.
-She will also kick the ball and out of nowhere started making a "kuh" sound each time she kicked it.
- Words she says: mama (only rarely, little stinker), baba (daddy), mao (cat), doggy, ball, done, byebye, ge (song), gege (brother)
-She loves baths like crazy! Each night when the water is running she fussing at me for not getting her undressed and in the tub fast enough.
- She started playing Peek-A-Boo the other day. I have no idea who taught it to her, but she loves it.
-She is ticklish on her tummy, neck, and feet and will give a loud gurgley laugh each time we find the tickle spot.
- After giving a kiss she will kick her legs and breath all silly.
- She thinks tooth brushes are super cool, but doesn't quite get the "brushing" part.
- She, much like a cat, needs to cram herself into boxes that are too small for her, then act surprised when she falls out of them.
How she chose to watch her show the other day

- She loves dancing, which consists of taking her hands as she flails her head back and forth and shifts her weight from foot to foot. I will try to get video of her dance parties.
- She will put her head down and glare at you, but this actually means she wants to bonk foreheads with you, not that she thinks your opinions are without merit.
- She humors you by nodding to what you say. This was especially funny at her appointment with the cl/cp team where she nodded away as the doctor explained to me her prognosis over the next few years (which is pretty much nothing until she is 5-6).
- She loves having her toes counted, especially in Mandarin and will count along with you (though it sounds more like "ah, ee, ay"). Cuter still, she will go up to Tikka and begin counting doggy toes.

I'm sure there is more, but that's all I can think of right now. It hasn't been a perfect month and there have been lots of highs and lows, but we are slowly coming to understand each other and realize that this might turn out ok in the end.

We also had our 1 month visit with our social worker, who said that it seems like the attachment is progressing well and that we are doing the right things regarding her sleeping and the no holding rule. Based on her behaviors, she is not ready to be held by others just yet, but probably in a month or two.

For those who wonder, she did great at the doctor's and they feel that her repair is great, her speech is progressing fine, and she will only really need to come in for a bone graft surgery at 5-6 to repair her gum line. 5 separate doctors and specialists have now told me that we "couldn't ask for a better case scenario than this girl." We are extremely blessed, is all I can say. She is such a perfect addition to our family and is such a joy to be around. Of course, she is down for her nap right now, so I am a bit biased. Ask me again when she's up and throwing her shoes over the side of the stairs.

Sleeping babies are the best babies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Video!

I promised that I'd get some video on here, and so here you go!

As I type this, we've had our little Nora for a month now and looking back on the day we got her makes my heart jump just a tiny bit in the same way it did when the ayi walked into the room with her.  Here is the video that was shot on the adoption day itself.  We'd love to share this moment with you.

Many thanks to Lisa Duke who grabbed our camcorder to film this.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finally, an update!

SO many things to talk about, so little mental capacity to remember what they all are.

Today is our 6th anniversary. It's strange to think it's been six years. Sometimes it seems like we've been together for longer, other times it seems like just yesterday.

Last night was the first night I didn't wake up coughing in nearly a month! Thank goodness I am finally feeling healthy again! Thanks for all the prayers on my behalf, they were very needed.

We have now been a family of three for nearly 4 weeks. 4 weeks seems like a long time and it doesn't feel like we've had Nora for a long time. On the one hand, she still doesn't understand most of what we say unless it's in Mandarin. She still fights sleep every time it comes. We've been working on a routine and that seems to be helping. At the same time she has come so very far in just 4 weeks. She went from quietly clinging to me while avoiding eye contact and being afraid of Kevin to an easy smile, gurgley laugh, and shrieks of "Baba! Baba!" when Kevin gets home from work. She really is an amazing little girl.

She is learning English bit by bit. Her first English word was "bye bye" which we were told the Ayis had been teaching her before we came. Once home, she almost instantly started saying "doggie" which sounds more like doddy. The dogs have been great with her and she took all of about 3 hours to warm up to them. She still gets scared when they have a barking fit, but otherwise she will walk around giving soft pets and occasionally point out their noses (the nose and ear game was one she played long before we got to China).


She is not a picky eater and will stuff down a hard boiled egg in four bites, max. The only thing she has actually spit out was ice cream. I think it's the cold since she generally likes sweet things. She still prefers warm/hot water but will take room temp when she must. Noodles are superior to rice and she will kick her legs in excitement when she sees edamame coming her way. She is amazing at imitating sounds and tone, so we may have a little musician on our hands. She will only play with one thing at a time and if you hand her something new she will quickly decide whether to keep the old toy or trade up. If you have something she wants, she will bring things to trade for them. She is also smart enough to realize that trading a bouncy ball for an Ipod is a rip off. She has very strong ideas about how things are to be done and will shut any open door she walks past. I had to teach her how to safely go down stairs since she had never been around them and would try to walk down them like we did.

She doesn't really "get" tv yet, but that won't take much longer. I did have a little giggle while we sat on the couch together eating cheese nips and watching MST3K (Puma Man, for those who care. It's a good introductory episode, I find). Mostly she prefers to be out and about, though we are still nowhere near being ok with the car seat. Each morning after breakfast she will grab her shoes and start saying "bye bye". Mean mom that I am, I make her wait until we are both dressed before we go on adventures. She is adorable, and cute, and we are slowly getting better at communicating with each other

Now for the nitty gritty since we don't like to sugar coat things. It's easy to look at a few pictures and think that everything is rainbows and unicorns. We get lots of comments on how she is fitting right in and adjusting well and clearly loves us. I don't know if I would use the "L" word yet. I think she is ok with us and figures that since she has spent the last 4 weeks training us on the proper care and nurturing of a Nora, she should stick with us. That said, she still throws wicked tantrums and nights are still very tricky. She goes to bed easily each night, but wakes up several times, often refusing to sleep anywhere else than on top of me, or while being walked around the room, sometimes refusing flat-out to sleep. It's pretty exhausting.

I mentioned in a previous post about how we can't let other people hold her yet. Since we've had questions about it, I will try to explain. Currently, Nora will happily go to whoever puts their arms out to her. We were advised by other adoptive parents, social workers, and our agency that in order to teach her what it means to have parents we must be the only ones to hold, feed, and change her. Some agencies make you sign an agreement, though ours did not. The thing is, Nora has no real concept of what parents are. She went into the orphanage extremely underweight and in need of food and attention. The children learn that if they are cute and charming they are likely to get a bit more food or a bit more care from the Ayis. It's strictly about survival at that point. Other children have other survival methods, but it's pretty obvious that this was Nora's method. Especially in the bigger orphanages, there are so many children and so little staff that the most they can do is feed the kids and change their diapers occasionally. When they cry at night there is no one to comfort them, so they learn not to waste their strength on crying. They learn that the only person they can depend on is themselves and caretakers, while needed, won't stick around.

I had read about children who would start rejecting their parents once they were allowed to be held by other people. I had heard that the kids took it as a signal that they were on their own again and were in charge of picking their new caretaker. It's a totally different story seeing it happen with your own child. In China, Nora started lifting her hands up to be held by the two 12 year old girls in our group. After she had been held by them for only a few minutes, she would refuse to be held by me and her sleep would be sporadic and plagued by night terrors. It was intense. Since then, we've been very strict about the no-holding rule.

It's hard on our families and friends to not be able to hold her. It's hard on us to not be able to hand her off for a few minutes, but it's for the best. It's not that we are trying to instill in her a fear of others, or trying to hoard her affections. We are simply trying to teach her that there are levels of affection and that there is a difference between parents, family, friends, and strangers. It is only temporary and it will allow her to form stronger bonds with people eventually, but man it sucks trying to explain to people that there is a reason behind this and it's not some arbitrary thing that Kevin and I decided would be a laugh to try out.

Anyway, things are generally improving. Nora is generally happy and we are slowly finding our new normal. Tomorrow she has her evaluation with our CL/CP team, so hopefully we will have good things to report. Also, I will do a full list of things we miss/don't miss about China, but oh man am I craving a chocolate steam bun! Someone go to the 7-11 there for me and eat one (Shelah, I am looking at you).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three weeks

We are not dead, just dealing with attachment issues, sleep deprivation and trying to establish a new normal. I promise a real post and maybe even some video, but for now enjoy this cute picture of our cute little girl. Love her so much :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

T +3 Days... So Far, (Mostly) So Good

It's so weird to be home, like there was so much work, toil, tears, preparation, paperwork and more and then BAM WE'RE IN CHINA and now there's this little girl sleeping in my room and I can't get the little ABC theme song that her toy phone plays out of my head.

Home is a wonderful thing.  As Jen described, I would be more than happy living in a cardboard box full of eels after that plane ride from Hong Kong.  Nobody should be in a plane for that long, much less the tired and emotionally frayed parents of a toddler who has only just decided to like them.  I spent most of the flight holding her and standing back in the galley where the flight attendants prepare your drink carts and the line forms for the bathrooms.

But we're home!  Bags are mostly unpacked, life is mostly normal, though I have a creeping suspicion that the definition of normal has changed somewhat.

I like to think that the violent roller coaster that was getting Nora, adjusting, bonding, then travel kind of made me skip my "holy crap I'm becoming a Dad" mindset and go straight to this morning where I got her out of bed, gave her her favorite breakfast (sweet corn meal and bananas) and played with blocks before realizing what just happened.  I feel like I'm slipping into the Daddy role pretty well, due to the fact that Jen has been extremely sick and can't do much for Nora as she is, and the fact that Nora is actually pretty independent most of the time.

So yeah, Jen brought home what the doctor thinks is either bronchitis or some kind of walking pneumonia.  As of right now, this is the longest I've heard her sleep with out violent coughing fits.

We miss our travel group a lot, we miss China a lot, but it's nice to have family over to meet our fantastic little girl, though it breaks our hearts to have to tell everyone not to hold her just yet so we can continue to work on bonding and attachment, which seem to be going pretty well so far.  Some family has a harder time with it, but we try to explain about how a child who has lost a primary caregiver can have serious issues with bonding with a new one.  She needs to know that we are the mom and the dad.

I'm back to work on Thursday, and I hope Jen is feeling much better by then (we're both pretty well adjusted to the time difference now), but I'm going to miss being able to come hang out with the baobao all day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Home!

We made it! I always used to get annoyed when a family wouldn't blog as regularly once they got home, but now I get it.

The flight was ok. Nora did ok, save for a spot of turbulence which forced us to attach her little seat belt to ours which lead to a tantrum bad enough that a well-meaning stranger asked if I wanted her to hold her so I could have a "mental break" and a flight attendant asked what she could do, to which I may have lost it a bit. Hooray for breakdowns in front of strangers! As soon as the light went off, Kevin stood up with her and the screaming stopped. She hates being confined.

We're doing ok, but still fighting the jet lag. Nora wants to wake up at 12:30 every night to play for a while, but in a couple weeks she should be all adjusted. Kevin has been amazing in every way and is taking Nora and Tikka on a walk right now before dinnertime. I went to the doctor this afternoon and confirmed that I have some sort of weird chinesey form of bronchitis. Here's hoping that the antibiotics and narcotic cough syrup will result in the first night of sleep without coughing in over 2 weeks.

I'll write more tomorrow, probably, but for now I have a wonderful world of drugged sleep calling my name. Until then!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 16: Away We Go

Hey, friends... sorry I don't have any pictures for you right now.  I've been out grocery shopping while Jen has been doing all the packing and early tomorrow we get on a whole bunch of airplanes and hopefully our child won't scream and no one will want to murder us.

I admit that I'm a bit sad right now.  I'm sad to be leaving China.  I'm sad to leave our travel group... we've made such good friends here.  I'm sad to leave the protective bubble that is everyone we know all attempting to parent at the same time to children from somewhat similar backgrounds.  We meet every day in the playroom to share stories and Jen and I lap up the advice and the encouragement toward what we're doing.  I freely admit to needing a lot of that to keep going.

But HOME!  That is exciting indeed.  I'm a Dad now, and that is pretty awesome.  I have a little girl that is adorable and sweet and playful, and who needs a lot of care.  I have a wonderful wife whom I absolutely adore with all my heart and wouldn't want to do this without her.

We're coming home, everyone!  Please send your prayers and good vibes and all that so our flights go well with her.  Then, after some adjustment time, we'd love to have you all meet our wonderful little Nora YinCi.

Peace out, China... it's been amazing.  Thank you for every little thing.

 - Kevin

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 15: Guangzhou - Nearing the end

We are nearing the end of our trip and, like Kevin said, we are ready to be home. Don't get me wrong, I will miss China terribly. We love it here and plan on coming back when we can, but living out of a hotel while trying to understand your very active toddler is tricky on a good day, and those are few and far between. This post will be a bit random, but that's what you get at the end of a long day.

We've been lucky enough to make some good friends here and plan on staying in contact with as many of them as we can. Sean and Nora especially seem to have taken to each other and we'll be sad to say goodbye to their family. Tonight at dinner we met downstairs for another impromptu get together with our travel group and when we walked over to Sean and family they both lit up and started babbling to each other.

Things are improving so much with all the families, and Nora is no exception. Her tantrums, though still intense, seem to be fewer and we are doing better about dealing with them without letting her frustrations become our own. They mostly stem from a change to her routine, so we can avoid many by just staying on the ball. her smiles and giggles come more frequently and she checks in with us more and more while she plays, which is great progress. It was pointed out to us that even though Nora's tantrums are difficult to deal with, she is at least not hiding how she feels. The fact that she trusts us enough to show her emotions is actually a big deal and we are so grateful for that, no matter the headaches her screaming causes.

Today we had our consulate appointment at the US embassy. After everything it was rather anti-climactic. We stood and swore that the information we provided was true and complete, we got more papers to sign, we went down the many escalators to the ground floor and that was it. The final bit of adoption business to be conducted in China. After lunch and a nap, we went with Jim, Joslyn, and Sean to visit the smaller park in the area. Aside from the oppressive humidity, the need to carry the babies, and our poor decision to wear sweaters, it was a lovely time. I'm quite sure we were the only Americans there and we got many stares, as we typically do. I don't care for it, but I'm more used to it. We saw a man fishing from a small boat in the lake, the amazing performance of the "70's Experience" band, and older men with cages filled with birds in order to bring them to visit their bird friends outdoors. I loved it. Only in China.

Some more playing, followed by a meeting about our departures and dinner from a local Chinese place made for a full, but enjoyable evening. We will miss our little makeshift family here. The first-time parents (we affectionately call ourselves the noobs) getting great advice from the experienced folks. The kids of various ages running around and playing together. The common thread we all share that our decision to adopt from China happened simply because it felt "right". We know that we've been on the receiving end of so many miracles with this adoption, but I never thought that the group we went with would be part of the plan. We are so very blessed.

I was also thinking today that I never really got a chance to post my thoughts, etc. on Nora day. Here's what I remember. We were all very anxious to meet the babies and new they would be coming at any moment. We scrambled around trying to make sure that pictures and video of the moment we met would be taken care of. The first group of kids came in and I lost it a bit. How could this be real? How could it finally be happening? How could it get any better? Lisa and I (the mother of the 12 year old) stood together wiping away our tears and asking each other how we could be so lucky to be a part of something so beautiful as seeing families united.

After the first group, I think they said Nora was coming in the next one. I don't know if they really said that or I just new that she was next. I looked out the window and saw a van open it's door and saw our sweet girl in person for the first time. I remember wanting to be sure it was her, but I knew it was. She was wearing the same orange scarf and hat we had seen before and I recognized her Ayi. She was there. only separated from me by a door. That's it. I think I told Kevin a few times that she was here and I saw her. Then she was inside and they called her name, meaning we were to go up and meet her. I could hardly believe it, but amazingly I wasn't crying anymore. I think my brain decided it wasn't real, so I shouldn't get all worked up about it. I went to hold her, but with all the layers she had on and as tight as she was clinging to her Ayi, I couldn't get a good hold on her. Finally, I managed to get her in my arms and she looked at me with big scared eyes. She reached for her Ayi a couple times, and that's when the picture book we sent was pulled out so that Nora could see we were the same people. When she realized that the Ayi wasn't going to rescue her from the strange people she started to cry a bit, but a banana quickly remedied that problem.

We got to ask the Ayi a few questions about her routine (warm bottles, hold her to comfort her) and early information (first words were "mama" and "baba") while she made sure I took note of Nora's new shoes. All the while she clung to that banana and looked dazed and so scared. I managed to thank her Ayi and we both got a little teary as it came time to say goodbye. And that was it. We were suddenly parents of this amazing little person. I remember looking at her sweet face and thinking how beautiful she was. How perfect her eyelashes were. Why did my brain need to point out that detail to me? Her skin was as soft as I knew it would be, and she was heavier than I was prepared for.

For two solid days she clung so desperately to me and I felt so inadequate to heal her wounded heart. I had read that a child's play can offer insight into their emotions and she played by throwing her ducky to the floor with all her strength, knocking over towers, and ripping tissues to shreds. She never smiled while she played. She refused to eat bananas. It was an incredibly hard time and I am so glad we are through that rough patch. There are miles yet to travel with her attachment, but the foundation is being built and I love seeing her progress.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 14: Guangzhou, City Zoo, Group Dinner

Gonna keep this short.  I won't name names, but someone was a little stinker last night and decided to wake up every 30-45 minutes to remind us that she could cry really loudly.  She's out right now (thankfully) and it looks like she should sleep tonight, and so should I.

Today was another optional tour, so we got onto a bus and went to the Guangzhou city zoo.  We were actually both completely exhausted after a night of no sleep, and we didn't really decide to go until the last minute... we figured we'd be even more miserable staying back at the hotel room.

We're so glad we went, though, because we had a great time and Nora got to point at all the animals and make happy little noises.  For 10 yuan you could get a handful of branches with leaves and feed the giraffes, and I had Nora with me when we did.  We got a great video which I will post when we're home and video isn't a huge pain to work with.  I'll also spare you pictures of animals, because you know what animals look like, and taking pictures of animals at the zoo always sounds like a good idea at the time, but then you feel like a total tool for taking pictures of zoo animals, because who is going to want to look at those?  People who haven't heard of Google, that's who.

Our little group arrives.

Nora, being a year of the tiger baby, communes with her kindred spirit animals.
Um... we took this picture of what appears to be the life cycle of a zebra.  Apparently zebras get born, play, study hard, eat McDonalds, shoot some hoops, then sprout wings and soar?  My college zoology class is a bit distant now, but I think some steps are missing.

Nora took a big, fat nap after we got home (hooray), and apparently I curled up on the little lounge chair here in the room and totally crashed myself (hooray).  I don't even remember Nora getting up or Jen taking her down to the playroom so I could have some quiet.  Jen is a wonderful wife, that one.

This evening we had another group dinner and went to the Cantonese restaurant around the corner from us, and as always, the food was amazing.  What was more amazing was that we tried feeding Nora a regular dinner before we went, made sure to find quiet tables away from large bunches of people, and she completely behaved in my lap, as long as I kept some noodles or an occasional sesame-crusted cashew coming her way.


No one seemed to know if the restaurant had a name.  Everyone just called it "the Cantonese restaurant."
Being mainly a seafood restaurant, here is where you can have a little meet 'n' greet with your dinner before service.  This also serves as the neighborhood seafood market, and there were a lot more tanks than pictured here.
Alligator tail, anyone?
And finally... a new contender for the Award for Best English Mistranslation: Clothing Category.

Tomorrow's big plan is our visa appointment at the U.S. consulate... when that's done, we can officially leave for home.  Wow, home...

I love China, I love the people here, the culture, the food, the art, the history, but living out of a hotel room gets really, really old, even if it's a nice one.  I just want my own bed, my dogs, my own shower (okay, that's not true, the giant overhead rainfall shower here is joyous), and the joy of not worrying about where to go for food two meals a day.

I love China... but I'm ready to be home.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 13: Guangzhou, Part 2

So Jen just staggered up to where I was putting some things away and managed to communicate through some primitive grunts and gestures that her Robitussin had kicked and she would need me to finish her blog post.

Here are some pics from the morning's little photo gathering:

I'm aware of how corny this is to all dress up our Chinese kids in traditional Chinese dress, but dang if it wasn't the cutest thing ever.
Our little CCAI travel group.
Yuexiu Park!  It was enormous, full of green things, and immaculately maintained.

Seriously.  Your pretty will regret it for years to come.

We thought about taking a paddle boat ride, but then remembered we have two sometimes very squirmy kids with us.
The pictures were fun, the park was very beautiful and green and featured several little lakes, one of which had bajillions of koi, and another of which featured what I could only guess was a koi hatchery.  Bajillions of tiny koi in tanks everywhere.  You'll just have to trust me on how cool it looked... my camera battery died because I forgot to plug it in last night.

My take on the food here:  a couple that we've become friends with here actually spend two years in the Peace Corps teaching English to rural teachers.  The first night they were served a family banquet, there were brains and intestines and unidentifiable parts in many varieties.  I guess it's safe to say that I'm experiencing quote-unquote real Chinese food, but I'm experiencing the side of it that Westerners are more familiar with anyway.

That said, holy crap it's delicious, and no I couldn't get sick of it in the quantity we're eating it.  I cherish our big, giant, western-style breakfasts.  I'd probably be thinking differently if I were eating noodles for all three meals instead of my waffles and bacon at breakfast, but I really have loved about everything I've eaten here.

The really cool thing about ordering food in a big city is that it's apparently a Chinese thing to have pictures of all your dishes up on the walls to attract more customers, so even if you didn't speak any Mandarin you could just go in and point, then hold up a finger or two to represent quantity, then the order taker tallies your bill, types the total into a calculator and shows you the number so you know what you owe.  Often there is someone in the restaurant who can speak some English and will help through the ordering process.  My new favorite place in Guangzhou helped me out at lunch big time, so at dinner we came back and ordered twice the amount of food.  It's just really, really good.

So after lunch and the park we went down to the playroom to find that most of our travel group had spontaneously gathered at the outside playland to burn off all the excess energy before bedtime.

How many different ways could YOU play airplane baby using only this equipment?

Good day today.  Good food, good company, another bit of Skyping with some family.  I'm really starting to itch to come home, and I wish that the official paperwork parts of this trip weren't so far apart.  I love China and I'm going to miss it terribly when we're gone, but I just want to sleep in my own bed, eat food of my own making, and curl up with my ladies and my dogs and have a massive snuggle party.

Of course we'll be inside a couch-cushion fort.  What are we, barbarians??

Day 13: Guangzhou - Pictures, gardens, and playdates

It's starting to hit me that we will be headed home soon. I still find myself not believing that any of this is real. I wake up and look to my left to see the tiny little person still there and wonder when her parents are coming to get her. I suppose it takes time to get used to the idea of a permanent new person in your life.

As Kevin previously mentioned, I found Nora's sleep button and evenings are so very much easier now. We have a nice little routine. I have to quickly strip Nora of her clothes as the tub fills up before she can try to climb in the tub, she splashes around for 20 minutes or so, then it's dry-off time followed by a quick rubdown with lotion while Kevin heats her bottle. Even though she chugs down her formula in about 1 1/2 minutes she is asleep by the end of it. I rock her gently for a few minutes, carefully lay her on her back and it's night night for baby. Other than waking for a diaper change and the occasional night terror, she sleeps soundly in spite of my coughing.

I am feeling a bit better and finally got some cough syrup tonight. Apparently, you can get Robitussin in China. Of course, the instructions are all in Chinese, so I may have overdosed by accident...we'll see.

Today was blissfully underscheduled. We met in the lobby of the hotel for family pictures with the babies in traditional Chinese dress. I have to say, Nora in a red qipao with squeaky shoes and a little silver bracelet that our friends bought her was pretty adorable. She was in high spirits right until the cameras came out. Then she decided she was no one's performing monkey and immediately put on her serious face. No tears, though. After that it was time for a nap, then a quick lunch before a playdate with her little friend Shawn. The two of them are hilarious together and today was no exception. The 6 of us all have a good time together and opted to go to a nearby garden that had the best sign ever.

We enjoyed the nice weather, moderate humidity, and clean air while strolling though a beautiful garden and talking about what we are most excited to go home to and what we will miss most about China. The unanimous vote was not having to go out for every single meal. These kids seem to eat all the time and trying to come up with a place to eat 2-3 times a day is a bit taxing, particularly in this area where there aren't a ton of options.

By the end of the walk, the kids were pretty tired, so we gave them some snacks and rest time before Kevin and Jim ventured to a nearby takeout place for a very tasty dinner. A big thing of pork noodles and dumplings costs a whopping 30 rmb, or just under $5 US, so that is a bonus. We've had people ask us about food, so I will try to answer those questions. No, we are not sick of Chinese food. It is delicious and has so much variety that I don't think I could get bored after only 2 weeks. It probably helps that our breakfast buffet is huge and includes western options as well. My favorite things have been the sweet and sour chicken we had in Zhengzhou, steambuns in Beijing, and four season green beans in Zhengzhou. Basically anything we ate in Zhengzhou was amazingly good. We haven't eaten anything crazy, but we've eaten whatever someone puts in front of us. The food hasn't been terribly different than in the states. Less thick gloopy sauce and no neon pink colors. The taste is fresher and better, though.

After dinner we let the two littles run around together in the room. They decided today was the day they should form a band together. We discovered the other day that Nora is a pretty good imitator of noises and pitch. Shawn would make a little noise, then Nora would make the same noise, which set them both to giggling. It went on like this for a while and the "songs" became louder and higher. Then they set up their drum section in the bathroom, banging on the toilet lid until Nora decided to be a good friend and show Shawn how to open the lid and stick your hand in the water.

It's been great to be able to have a bit more of a routine and set some structure for Nora. I'm sure once we get home it will be even better. I was going to write more but my cough syrup is apparently a nighttime formula and has kicked in. Maybe I'll have Kevin finish up.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 12: Guangzhou

I shortened the title of my recurring entries.  Whoomp, there it is.

A prelude:  we've received a bunch of personal emails that have been amazing and have done wonders for our very souls.  Thank you to all of us that send personal messages over Facebook or by email.  They mean so much to us.

First, a short video interlude!  Sorry, I can only post video that I took on my mobile phone since our super new camcorder has out-supered the little Windows XP laptop that we brought that only ever otherwise ran the sound at my band's gigs.  It really can't handle the HD video... I'm working on it.

This is an intersection in Zhengzhou, across from where our hotel was.  Now imagine that those scooters are all cars, and you basically have a busy Beijing intersection.  The rules of a China intersection are that there are no rules.

video

Now imagine that those scooters are the neurons in my brain when I sit back and realize that there's this completely adorable little girl asleep next to my adorable wife on a bed in a hotel room in China.


Yesterday's Recap

Yesterday was one of the optional trips that we can take while here in Guangzhou, and of course we want to do all of them (except for the dinner cruise, but nobody went because it interfered with bedtime). Yesterday we did the Guangzhou city tour which included the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, which was amazing, featuring a large central pagoda that is unfortunately closed to enter because it leans a little bit to the side.  Apparently this is some sort of structural hazard.




This temple was extremely beautiful and Jen relates a moment that I missed:  while I was off somewhere else, one of the monks, in full robes, passed by Nora being goofy, took her face gently in his hands, and touched his forehead to hers.  Many adopting couples visit this temple while in Guangzhou and the monks are happy to leave their blessings on the children.

The next stop of the day was at the Chen Clan Academy, one of the oldest surviving family houses in China.  today it serves as a museum full of jade carvings, embroidery, and other art from that era.

I'll post some of mine and Jen's pictures...  I didn't get to go inside because it was my turn to walk around with the little baobao...  she was super tired and over stimulated and just wanted to be held and walked around, but was quickly reaching the Land of Unconsolable Spazzing when Jen came back, picked her up in the baby carrier, and she went right to sleep.







We finished our tour with a stop at (of course) a shopping center, where there was some nice jade and porcelain tea sets and lots of very pretty things.  I walked to the little market across the street and bought a Coke Zero.  There is no Diet Coke in this country from what I can see, and Pepsi Light (my preferred foreign diet beverage) is very difficult to find.  My life is an empty shell without my precious daily caffeine fix.  Hey, if I'm being forced to give it up cold turkey, I may as well stay off it.

The rest of the day was more daddy time so Jen can feel better and then we had a pizza party in Jason and Christie's room... three couples got together with the new kids and we actually ordered Papa John's.  It was pretty good.


Today

Bringing us to the present, I only had two goals for the day, and the first was going to visit a supposedly reputable pearl shop, but you can't help being kind of skeptical in a shopping center that was SIX FLOORS OF JEWELRY.  There was gigantic sea of pearl shops, agate, jade...  It was all very pretty, however, and we trust our guides to help us buy good quality stuff.

Hmm... am I hungry for pizza, chicken, or BRUCE LEE'S FIST???

Sneaky picture of some very armed guys who don't know the gun rule about not pointing your gun at things.

Yes, enough pearls to have the raw ones in giant bags on the floor, like almost all of the other jewelry shops.


This last photo is an example of why I eventually got nicknamed the "pack mule," carrying my man-bag with camera gear, full diaper bag, and baby carrier attached via carabiner, and sometimes baby.  I am learning to be PREPARED for things, should things occur.

My second goal of the day was to give Jen the afternoon off.  She's been working so hard with this little girl and is sick besides, so I took Nora for the last half of the day so Jen could sleep.  We went to the playroom, the outside play area, and then the Liu Hua Lake Park, which is a beautiful park where I also saw people practicing Tai Chi, playing table tennis (every court was full), badminton (same) or exercising in the outdoor exercise equipment.  I absolutely love that aspect of the Chinese people.  (shot these with the photo feature of our camcorder... didn't want to bring the Nikon as well)

Haven't you ever wanted to see the great scenery with the special feature?  I think this sign broke my brain.


I read this sign and had to immediately move Nora further back from the bank.

Liu Hua Lake and Guangzhou.

Lots of daddy time today, lots of great time with my girl.  Today is good... if only Jen would get better.