Friday, May 30, 2014

Keeping Up Appearances

Our close friends, group 2091, and close family know different parts of how difficult this week has been.
The ugly, the difficult, the frustrating, the lonely.

And most people want to hear about our wonderful experience or (in their view) how we "saved" a child from an orphanage.  Most people want to hear the good news.  And most people hear it.

But we aren't heros.
We are just two tired people, trying to get through the days.

Yet, the past two afternoons, as our kids played happily together, as Joseph giggled and branched out even more and Abigail didn't burst into sobs and accuse us of playing favorites where she was the losing party, we were 2 very happy parents.

*deep breath*

It is all going to be great.
But it is going to be a hell of a long summer.

2 sibs, playing in a box
We left them alone for about 20 minutes today behind closed doors.
We heard no screams so assumed everything was going well.
When we checked on them, Abigail said "I am such a good
big sister.  I watched him and played with him and I even
wiped his runny nose and put it [the tissue] in the garbage can."

Part of our challenges this week is that
the little guy is sick AND had a reaction to
his MMR vaccine he got last week.
He just couldn't get comfortable last night.
(5 hours of sleep for him, 3 for Larry as a result)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Weekend

On Saturday, my family got together at Jim and Steph's house.  It was Joseph's first outing longer than an hour since we have been home from China and he did super well.  When we got home after 8 hours away, he became a giddy, euphoric, hyper baby and it made us wonder if he was realizing and defining "home" in his brain, defining it as more permanent than hotel rooms and airports and most of the transient things he experienced with us while in China.  (Remember, we haven't had him yet at home as long as we had him in China!)

One wonderful thing about the day was that while most everyone worked on putting new siding on Jim's shed, Aunt Steph got to spend a lot of quality time with Abigail.  It was very sweet and I know Abigail felt loved and special.

Abigail also scored 2 really great naps: one in a hammock and another with her fur-cousin, Huxley.

Joseph enjoyed a quick dunk in a swimming pool that was just filled with a hose supplied with 55 degree well-water.  He found it invigorating and wanted more more more!  (He felt the same way about the pita chips too!)

I have no idea who this stink-eye is directed towards!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

4th Day Home

I have flown to Asia and back 3 times.  All 3 times, I was pretty good, if not perfect (sleep-wise) going there but in a week-long hang-over upon my return to the States.  This is no exception, although I blame the kids a lot for that.  Abigail is exhausted and falling asleep like a narcoleptic every evening hours before her bedtime.  This means after a full night of sleep, she is awake and ready to go at 3:30 each morning.  We are trying to push her back, but no luck yet.  She keeps falling asleep too early and is un-wakeable.

Joseph LOVES riding in the wagon

playing at home

Joseph was sleeping a healthy 10-11 hours through the night in China.  But now he doesn't know when night is.  He also is getting better, but isn't there yet.  It took Abigail a month to get on the right time zone when we adopted her and brought her home and I do think that Joseph is going to get adjusted faster than that.

We feel very fortunate that my parents are here for over a week to help us all adjust, do some cleaning, food prep, baby-sitting, and child-entertaining.  They are definitely earning their keep this week!  From watching Abigail riding on my mom's back (the horsie) as she crawled on the floor after Joseph, to my dad working through a to-do list we had for him, in addition to babysitting duties, they are going to be happy to go home I think!

The Grandparents brought gifts!

Abigail is over the moon for her new "Bone and Arrow"

Hangin' with Yinski

We got back Saturday at about 1 in the morning.
We slept and when we woke, I felt pretty rested.  I didn't think the jet lag was going to get me.
My brother Jim and his wife Steph came for a visit.  Then it hit me.  Those two really earned their Aunt and Uncle badges that day because I fell asleep and the kids were also trying to fall asleep at 4 pm, so they kept the kids awake and played with them.  I thought they were just coming for a nice visit and they ended up working their tails off.  We couldn't have been more appreciative!

Steph played with Joseph and Abigail.
Jim had to play Superheros with Abigail
for hours in the basement so I didn't get his picture.

On Sunday morning, my other brother Dean and his wife Kim came for a visit.  They were so sweet to Abigail, giving her that extra attention she is craving so much now.  They also brought our dog back, 2 pounds lighter, which is great because she is no longer a football-shaped min pin, but much more dog-shaped.  Kim apparently put her through doggie-boot-camp.

Uncle Dean with his new nephew.
(Kim was playing with the dog, who
tried to go home with her again!) 

Monday was a rough day; Joseph had his well-baby check up and was inoculated against 8 different diseases in 6 vaccines and was also given a TB test.  So, after getting stuck 7 times, he was not Happy Baby the rest of the day.  We can't blame him, but it made for a rough day.  Abigail returned to karate and my parents got to take her.  Dad said of the class, "Usually you have to pay for entertainment like that!"

A real life He-Man

Tuesday has seen the return of Happy Baby.  Joseph has been having so much fun playing today that I was loathe to put him down for a nap but knew that it was necessary in order to get him onto the right time schedule.  We also took the kids for our first jog together as a family of 4.  They enjoyed it and Larry is really going to get into shape pushing 50 pounds of kid and 37 pounds of stroller!!

Happy Baby is back!

Working on our dinner.
It is probably hard-boiled eggs: his favorite food!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Abigail's Mane Art

Abigail made these pictures a day or two before we traveled to China so I never had the chance to post them before we left.  The first is a picture of "a lion with its mane", she said.
The second is "a horse with a flowing mane."
She did these shortly before she turned 4 and a half, and, while I encourage her to use more color in her drawings, I like how she did two consecutive pictures around her own designated theme of "mane."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Almost Done

(Wednesday and Thursday in Guangzhou)
What a difference ten days make!
Joseph on adoption day (left) and 10 days later (right)

This week has mostly been about sitting around and waiting for papers to get finalized.  Since our wonderful, amazing, couldn't-do-this-without-them guides do all the leg-work for that, we mostly just wait for them to tell us to "sign here" and have hours and hours of free time.
Zonked out in his "cage" (as Abigail calls it)

Yesterday, Wednesday, was our Consulate Appointment (the CA, in adoption circles and around which the entire adoption trip is scheduled).  This is when we take The Oath.  Everyone makes it seem like a big deal, as if we are taking an Oath of pro-citizenship and anti-treason or something Yea America.  But it is just an oath that says we filled out Joseph's paperwork correctly to the best of our ability. 

This park made up for not staying on Shaiman
Island during this trip.  It is beautiful and we
only saw a fraction of it.

After that, we fed our hungry kids McDonalds for lunch (cheap and fast).  While I feel badly about feeding McDonalds to our kids 3 times while in China, I justify it to myself by (1) Abigail has only eaten McDonalds 1 other time ever and that was when we were looking at houses with our realtor and she bought it for Abigail, (2) we have exposed them to tons of Chinese food here, and (3) we are tired of blowing through our usual weekly food budget every 2 days here.

We finished the day with more swimming and dinner with some travel friends at the Coffee Cafe across the street from the hotel. 

Today, we had a leisurely breakfast and took the kids to the park again.  Larry really enjoyed watching the choir practice.  He concluded that their director is classically trained and he got one of the ladies to show him her music.  He was fascinated by the use of numbers in place of a staff with notes on it.  He wanted to watch longer, but Abigail was getting fussy and Joseph had melted like Olaf in summer, so we moved on.  Abigail did, however, like it when we happened across a woman singing to a few instruments in a more traditional Chinese style of song (which to me sounds like screeching cats).

After that, more swimming.  Joseph really loves putting his face in the water.  He even got several nose-fulls of water and he just kept doing it and giggling.

He ate 3 of these cups of noodles.
We don't know if it is healthy that he has added 1/3 of his
body weight in the past 10 days but we'll worry about that
with his pediatrician next week.
For lunch today, we gave the kids Ramen noodles in the hotel room, for a cost of about 85 cents and didn't feel bad about that either because they are Chinese noodles.  Abigail *loves* them (she first had them last week and wondered why we never have them at home)  and Joseph is a pro at eating long noodles, something he had in the orphanage and he ate more than Abigail.

Tomorrow we begin the 30 hour journey home.  Until we got our travel dates, Larry was planning on playing piano in the pit for our school's musical this week.  As Larry described it in reference to all one time zone, we will leave our hotel slightly before the curtain rises on

"Can we have Ramen when we get home to
Virginia, Mama?"
opening night  and get home well after the curtain closes on the second night's performance.  (And that is if everything goes smoothly and we don't get diverted to Inner Mongolia for hours like we did on our trip to China 2 weeks ago!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We have a Fish and some Fancy-Pants Outfits

(Tuesday in Guangzhou)
"Abigail, hold your brother for
a picture here."
The only thing we had scheduled for today was at 4:30 PM so we had a leisurely morning with the kids.  We had a long, slow breakfast and then played in the room.  Abigail didn't like any of her clean clothes that she has left, so she stole her brother's swimming trunks and wore them as shorts.  After that, we joined another family for a walk in the giant park and we explored yet another section than Abigail and I did yesterday.  (It didn't have as many tai-chi people, but it was still nice.)  While in the park, Larry made friends with an old Chinese man and did hackey-sack with him!!  I also heard one of my favorite quotes from the trip: "Chinese food is so much better in America.  I miss beef and broccoli."  - Joe, fellow group member.

"Seriously.  Abigail.
Hold him up."

"Mama!  He's ROLLING."

Larry said this was all about learning the culture first-hand

Larry's new friend.

After the 2 hours in the park, we were slightly hot (it was over 90, with 90% humidity that was so thick you could see it).  So we went to the outdoor pool at the hotel.  Joseph LOVED it, although we weren't surprised since he loves bath time.  What surprised me the most is that he kept putting his face in the water, ploop!, and then pulling his face out if the water and giggling like a mad-man and doing it again. Abigail is a good doggie-paddler, but she hates to put her face in the water.
Blowing kisses

She is independent in the water with her
floaties on her arms. 

This evening was the scheduled group pictures, family pictures, and baby group pictures.
Joseph got formal Chinese outfits with pants.
Abigail wanted some too.
(to hell with all the dresses we bought her on the last trip; if only we had known!)

We tried to get a good pic of both kids
together wearing their fancy Chinese
outfits, but it didn't work: one wasn't smiling
or the other wasn't looking or it looked forced.

So we tickled them instead.

We ended the evening with the whole group doing family-style dining at a local Portuguese/ Cantonese restaurant tonight. Larry and fellow group member Kerry have been joking for 2 days about this as a food fusion restaurant, but it was very good.  I think it had the best rice and best noodles of the trip.  (Joseph had 2 bowls of noodles, the second of which our guide Kathy expertly fed to him using chopsticks.  I wish I had a picture!)

Park, Medical Exam, River Cruise

(Monday in China)
Have I mentioned that we love Guangzhou? 

This morning, Larry took Joseph to his medical exam and I took Abigail to the "Central Park" of Guangzhou.  Abigail and I had a great time exploring the little trails and paths.  We saw small groups of people doing dance routines and tai chi -type stuff all over the park.  We also saw a 30 piece orchestra performing in a gazebo, a choir (singing Edelweiss in Chinese) practicing in another gazebo, a man smacking the back of his hand repeatedly on a rock (to toughen it?), a group of old women doing a line dance routine to "I like to Move it Move it", a Koi pond with paddle boats, bamboo gardens, a group of old men playing a type of Badminton using a birdie that was a hacky-sack, and the list  could go on.

This picture isn't just because I love Abigail.
I had her stand there so I could slyly take a picture
of the group of people doing some type of
exercise routine together (one of an infinite number of such groups).

The wind kept blowing my hair onto Abigail.
It cracked her up.

There were signs/ rules posted in the park.
I had Abigail translate some of them for me.
She said this one means "Do not forget your backpack."

And according to Abigail, this sign means
"You must be nice to old people."

At the medical exam, we found out that Joseph weighs 20 pounds now and is 27 inches long!
We can't believe how much he has grown in a week.  One week ago, he was our no-muscle-tone, limp Ramen noodle who easily fit his size 2 Pampers. Now, he needs size 3 Pampers, he can toddle and crawl enough to keep up with his sister in a confined space, his cheeks are chubby, and he is developing plenty of strong muscles.  We estimate that he has put on 4-5 pounds in a week and we don't know if that is healthy, even for undernourished kids, but it is hard to say no to him when it comes to food (and at most meals, he eats more than his sister).   In February, he was so far below the weight-for-age growth curve from the CDC that he couldn't even see the line.  This new measurement puts him at the 5th percentile!!  (His height is still below the curve, however.)

Welcome to the 5th percentile, son.
We hope you are 20 pounds, not 12 pounds
with an 8-pound tapeworm or something!

In the afternoon, we made another trip to the Island to buy souvenirs.  This is when Abigail got to pick out what she wanted to spend her own money on.  She choose an airplane toy and a Chinese fan.  That brings her souvenir total list to:  1 rubber snake (Great Wall), 1 bamboo sword (Shaolin Temple),  1 fuzzy alligator puppet (Wal Mart in Zhengzhou, a bribe for her walking there and back), 4 toy cars (another Wal Mart bribe in Zhengzhou and complete junk we never would have bought her at home), a Jie-Jie t-shirt, a Chinese fan, and an airplane.  We also bought Joseph 4 or 5 different silk/satin traditional outfits, of which Abigail has stolen one for herself and had a total meltdown when we told her she can't wear it all day.  (She has 10 traditional outfits at home, but are all dresses and she wants the pants outfits, so we may be making another trip back to the Island...)

She is very serious when she flies.
I personally don't like it when she plays "Plane Crash"

Hey, JieJie!  Wake up from nap!  I want to play!
Hanging out in the room for a few hours.

 In the evening, we took a dinner cruise on the Pearl River with about half of the families in our travel group.  We did this dinner cruise when we adopted Abigail, but it rained the whole time and the food on the boat (a buffet) was (as described by our guides) "disgusting, and we live here."  So, we all had pizzas delivered to the boat, had a pizza party on the bottom level and then spent the last hour or so on the top deck enjoying the great weather and beautiful city.

Joseph's first pizza.
He gave it two greasy, sauce-covered thumbs up

Nom nom nom.  My carrier tastes good.

My crazy, wonderful, lovable girl!
Such a beautiful night.

Family pics are even more challenging now
to get 2 kids looking at the same time

I love my family!
This child will not get full.