Sunday, January 31, 2010


Here is how you do adventurous eating here if you don't speak mandarin.
Learn a few phrases in mandarin, none of which include the name of foods.
After a very long nap, bundle up and head out the door.  We passed a Korean BBQ a couple days ago and we wanted to eat there.
Walk and walk and then realize you must not be on the right street.
Give up and head into a noodle house.
Get overwhelmed by the rude citizens and lack of any knowledge, give up and leave.
Decide to keep looking for the Korean BBQ.
Start walking back towards the hotel and realize you have walked a long way.
Head down embassy road because there it is bright with lights and looks very active.
Find bar after bar after bar and realize it's not exactly the best place for food- and a 7 year old.
See a Subway restaurant and squeal with glee.
Sit among many other westerners enjoying a roast beef sandwich and Lay's potato chips.
Yep, that's how we do it.
But, we did head down into the subway station with the map and figure out how to get to places we want to visit over the next few days.  We are having Peking duck, the specialty here and also going to the zoo. 
Here is a few more mandarin words and phrases we've learned.
boo-how: not nice
boo-sure: no
sure: yes
zigh-gee-en: good-bye
chung-jur: orange juice
wah-wah: baby
many colors
how hightz za: good girl
mama: mom
baba: dad
choc a lee: chocolate
There are quite a few others; we're learning fast.  Claire is learning several English words as well.  We kind of teach each other.  She loves to tell daddy to "open the door" when he locks the bathroom door.
She does not like us drinking Coke.  When we bought a couple more cokes at the store today she gave us quite the scolding in mandarin.  It's very hard not to laugh. 
Her phrase for today is "mama yo baba, baba yo mama"  I can't wait to find out what she's saying when we see our guide tomorrow.  We're fairly certain she told the lady at Subway tonight "this is my mama and baba."  The lady looked at us and then gave her a weird look.  Who knows, she could have said these people are crazy and think they are my mom and dad.
We start trying to get the adoption decree tomorrow at 10.  I'm not real thrilled with the international news right now dealing our country and this one.  We are seriously at their mercy right now.  I will let you all know tomorrow.


Finally, a day to rest.

We all needed this day to just hang out and do nothing. We were exhausted after the last 3 days so I can't imagine how tired Claire was. We slept in and talked with the kids at home over webcam for a long time before having a late breakfast.

We went to the shopping mall next door and bought Claire new shoes. They cost WAY too much being that we're in the country that most things are made in. But, the shoes that Claire came to us were worn out and I feel bad that we didn't get her new shoes before the last two days of touring. We didn't realize how little padding her shoes had in the bottom.  She told our guide over the phone later today that she likes her new shoes.  She said her old ones were too small and that is why her feet hurt but the new ones are bigger and feel better.  That makes the price totally worth it.

Today is the first day Claire has actually gotten a nap. It is normal in this culture to take a nap every day after lunch; they even base their business schedules around nap time. We noticed her getting tired around 12 so we grabbed some lunch from next door and then laid down. She has now been asleep for 2.5 hours. Part of me says she needs it so we need to let her sleep but the mom in me says her little feisty self is going to be up all night now.

Tid-bits from family day that I was too tired to write out.

I was surprised to hear we would be going to the orphanage to receive Claire because they have not allowed visitors for almost a year. I really thought we'd get here and learn that we weren't' actually able to go to the orphanage and receive her in our hotel instead but that didn't happen.

The ride to her orphanage was very eye-opening. We saw parts of the city that I wasn't expecting. I've seen pictures of the orphanage before our trip and it looked very nice so I guess I expected the area around it to be nice or OK but it wasn't. There was trash piled everywhere and the make-shift buildings that the people lived in was very humbling.

When we got to the orphanage the guard did not want to let us in. Our guide had to call the person inside the orphanage and then transfer the phone to the guard who then let us in. But before opening the gate he had to scan all of us for our temperature; thank goodness none of us were running a fever!

We only saw the lobby of the orphanage but it was huge, beautiful and spotless. We did not see or hear any other children. We gave the worker the big bag of mittens and hats and our guide explained what it was. The orphanage worker was very confused but I think she understood after a little bit.

Later that afternoon we went to the civil affairs office to formally adopt Claire and register the adoption. In most other provinces you get the adoption decree about 30 minutes but here they make you wait and won't tell you when it will be ready. We found out yesterday that the worker was quite rude with out guide and said he would call when it was ready. The passport needs to be applied for on Monday to be ready on Friday so the passport isn't what holds up the adoption in this city- it is the adoption decree being ready.

A few things we've learned about here:

Back in the 1940's the leaders thought the bigger the population, the more power a country had so they encouraged couples to have more children. The more children you had the more privileges you were given. But then the population exploded and in the late 70's they instituted the one child policy. It's been changed a bit since then but right now it is:
Live in the city you get 1 child.
Live in the rural area and your first child is a girl you can try again in 8 years. Even if the second child is a girl, you are done.
Farmers who have a girl first may try again in 5 years but still, two is all you get.
Minority group are allowed to have more children, I think it was up to 3 without any penalty.

Tomorrow (Monday) we are going back to the civil affairs office with our guide to pick up the adoption decree. We don't know if it is ready but our guide said we just need to go there in person and basically tell them we need it. Yea, I'm real comfortable with that. Hopefully it will be done and we can then go to the notary and apply for Claire's passport. I think we're going to ask our guide to take us to the zoo a day before we leave. We had a one guide the first two days we were here and then our newer guide took over. They have both been great but our newer guide is willing to do anything for us; even offered to take us to find cheaper shoes and drop off our laundry by her apartment. She will be with our group in Guangzhou as well so we really lucked out!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Summer Palace.jpg

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Day 4, Great Wall

I promise to write more tomorrow.  We were gone touring from 9am to 6:30pm.  To say we are exhausted is an understatement.  But tomorrow is a free day and we are planning on staying here at the hotel and basically doing nothing.  Claire held up the entire day but then got sick on the last bus ride.  She told our guide"I didn't take my medicine.  I don't like the medicine but I need it."  We won't skip the Dramamine again.
So, here was the abbreviated version of our day.
Leave hotel and visit:
1. A jade factory. It was awesome and I wish I had tons of money because I would have bought everyone a jade bangle bracelet.  I'm not a huge bangle bracelet fan but these were really nice.  Did you know jade came in many different colors including purple?
2. Visit the Great Wall. (chung chum) 
I am a wuss and crapped out only part way up to the first watch tower.  J continued up the wall to 3rd watch tower and took videos and pictures for all of you.  He's going to be so sore tomorrow that we'll have no option but to stay here at the hotel.
3. Eat at a traditional Chinese restaurant with our group (4 families).  This was actually a lot of fun.  We were at a big round table with a lazy susan in the middle.  They just kept bringing Chinese food and nobody knew what it was.  I'm fairly certain I ate octopus tentacles today; the flavor was great but none of us knew exactly what it was.  We did not ask; some things are better left unsaid. 
4. Visit a cloisonne factory.  These are the very bright, porcelain looking vases, plates, etc.  We learned these are actually copper.  Again, beautiful pieces but somewhat expensive and we don't know how to get them back without breaking.
5. Visit the Summer Palace.
Another amazing, huge place for the emperors of China.  This is where they spent their time in the summer when they left the Forbidden City.  The empress and the emperor's mother stayed here more during the summer.
6. McDonalds.  Adventurous lunch, not so much for dinner and, we were exhausted.
Claire is starting to really test some limits.  It's very hard to establish discipline when she doesn't understand us.  She is particularly feisty and downright not nice to daddy.  She thinks it's funny and we played along for the first day but we see trouble ahead so we learned the phrase today for "not nice"- boo how.  No is "boo shur" so we got in some good practice today with that.  She responds well to no but I know we will have our first confrontation soon.

Row Your Boat

This is Claire's version of Row, Row Your Boat in Chinese

Friday, January 29, 2010

Forbidden City

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Day 3, Forbidden City

Wow, one bit of advice for people coming to visit this country.
Actually start your diet and exercise your leg muscles- a lot.
Oh my goodness, one walk through the Forbidden City and one near face-plant saved by ringing myself around a tree and my legs feel like jello and I know they will feel 100 times worse tomorrow morning.  We are starting at 9 am tomorrow with a visit to the Great Wall and we joked on our way back that we'll step on the Great Wall, take lots of pictures and then get back in the bus.  We're definitely out of shape and feeling the effects of "fat America" syndrome.
The Forbidden City was impossible to imagine without actually visiting.  We looked at the satellite image on Google and commented on how big it looked but wow, it is amazingly huge.  And we were told that they did not use one nail in the entire thing because they were worried the nails would break in an earthquake.  YaYa knew exactly where we were when we drove in front of the gate.  She jumped up to the window and let out a long spiel in mandarin.  Our guide told us she knew what it was and read the mandarin on the front- Long live and prosper China.
We walked around Tiananmen Square and took Claire's picture with the national flag.  It is raised every day at sunrise and lowered at sunset.  It was her first time on daddy's shoulders and she did not like it--- at all. 
We learned that there were 24 emperors who lived in the Forbidden City, the last one in the very early 1900's, maybe 1904?  It was a lot of info in one day and exhaustion is making me lose some details.
After the Forbidden City we toured the Olympic village.  Claire loved looking at the stadiums and said she saw them on TV.  She particularly liked the Water Cube.
After all that we went to an acrobat show.  While it was amazing what the performers were able to do, I think we had mentally shut down and just wanted to go.  But, Claire loved it and watched very intently.
Other tid-bits from our day-
This little girl can eat.  I'm not sure where she puts it all but she eats more than I thought she would.
She may be tiny but she is deceptively heavy.  She wants to be carried often but she doesn't know to be carried.  Other children will straddle your hip, distributing their weight and making it easier to carry them.  She doesn't know how to do that; almost like she's never been carried.  So when you pick her up it is like carrying dead weight.
We took her swimming today before going on the tour.  She liked swimming and we were in awe with the amount of trust she placed in us.  She wanted to be carried around the pool and would just lay back in our arms and let us support her.
Learning mandarin at home was next to impossible but in two short days I have learned quite a few words and
wah I nee: I love you
lay: tired
now now ma: do you need to use the bathroom?
ty how la: wonderful
jum pow: wonderful/great
dway boo chee: I'm sorry/ excuse me
shay-a shay-a: thank you
boo yaw: I do not want (we used this a lot today with the street peddlers)
shway: water
Several others but that mental exhaustion thing is setting in again.
When I said wah I nee to her this morning she looked right at me, paused and said I love you.  Wow, just wow.
I'm uploading a sneak peak of the photos from today.  We took a ton; I think enough to fill the card. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Family Day

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The rest of family day

I was really questioning our decision earlier today when YaYa was so very upset.  She wanted nothing more than to go back to her foster grandmother and stay there.  I had to keep reminding myself that she would face this situation with some family; she couldn't stay with her foster grandmother forever.  Her status as an orphan in this country would not allow her the chance to prosper as an adult so in the big picture we were doing a good thing.  But, at the time?  I felt absolutely awful and helpless.
We came back to the hotel and ordered room service for lunch; I was simply not taking her somewhere for lunch when she was so upset.  We ordered her some egg fried rice and she ate very well.  But we learned she does not like water.  We had no idea at the time what she was asking for but later learned her favorite drink is orange juice.
After an hour or so she really started opening up.  She was still very quiet and reserved but had a wonderful time rummaging through her suitcase that was filled with goodies.  The favorite toys thus far are the baby doll (who has tried on every bit of doll clothing I brought) and the Leapster.  She told our guide later that the Leapster, "was fun."
We had to go the civil affairs office to officially register the adoption and swear that we would not abandon her.  After asking about why we wanted to adopted from here and how many other children we had we got an unexpected response.  He told us (well, translated through our guide) that he thinks families with lots of children are great and he was happy that our children were close in age because she will have someone to grow up with.  He particularly spoke about that Emily was only 2 years older than Claire.
We call her YaYa for now.  The orphanage director and our guide were telling her that we're naming her Claire while she was upset and we said "no, we'll call her YaYa for as long as she wants."  She told the guide that she'd picked her own name- it was Trace.  The guide had a good laugh about that.   Honestly, it's a bit weird to look at her and say Claire even though we've done just that for the last 6 months.  Maybe soon we'll start to combine the YaYa and Claire but for now we need to make sure she understands that she is safe with us. 
After the civil affairs office we came back to the room and had the best time.  She started talking to us in Mandarin and even though we haven't a clue what she was saying we knew she was having a good time.  She loves to conspire and do funny things when Dad is sleeping.  She put bows in his hair and her necklace on him.  She laughs and laughs when we do funny things.  The deep belly giggle was so refreshing to hear, especially since just a few hours before that she cried herself to sleep in the van.
We got bundled up (which, by the way, it isn't all THAT cold here) and took a walk.  YaYa loved running across the road dodging the cars while we were actually freaking out.  We took her to the place that speaks universal kid language- McDonalds.  We got the picture menu and asked what she wanted.   She immediately pointed to the french fries and then the ice cream.  We got chicken nuggets, french fries and of course, orange juice and the little peanut ate all of it.  We found a very small playground upstairs and let her play on it.  While crying earlier she kept asking to play at the playground so we knew we needed to let her play.  She was scared of the slide at first but then thought it was a lot of fun.  She tried to get me to go down the slide.
When walking back and crossing 6 lanes of insane drivers, Daddy picked her up and started running.  She giggled and giggled and then kissed him on the cheek.  Oh my word, how did we get so lucky?  We got back and she willingly took a bath, with bubbles of course.  We washed her hair and played with a few toys and then got into some warm pajamas.  After we were all done she got quiet and the crying started again.  She says she wants her foster nai nai (grandmother) and it just breaks my heart.  I held her on my lap on the floor and rocked her back and forth and let her cry for as long as she wanted to.  After 10-15 minutes she stopped, promptly stood up and got the Leapster.  She's now lying in bed playing the Leapster next to sleeping Daddy while I finish updating you all.
Oh yea- She's tiny.  We will see tomorrow if the clothes I brought fit her.  The pajamas she chose to wear tonight fit but they are much more snug than the clothes.  The shoes I bought are WAY too big.  I think they really did measure her foot with the shoe on.  I brought a size 13 and they are about 2 inches longer than the shoes she has.  I'm guessing she might wear a size 9.  She doesn't want the coat I bought her, only the one she came with which is fine, I totally understand.  She doesn't want a hat or gloves and stubbornness?  Emily, you have met your match.  Our guide said "she's stubborn and strong willed" after being with her for only an hour.  HA!  I told her not to worry; I have one at home whose just the same.  
Tomorrow we might try and take her swimming in the morning.  We showed her the pool tonight and her entire face lit up.  Our travel group arrived this evening and we are planned to tour the Forbidden City and then watch an acrobat show after that.  I think she would really like the acrobat show but we are waiting until tomorrow to decide if we're going to attempt the tour. 
Good night from China!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We have her!

We woke up early,had breakfast and then went to the orphanage to pick up Claire.  My mind bounced between excitement and worry about how she might react.  They had her waiting in the lobby area when we arrived so we didn't get the initial meeting on camera but we were completely in love with her the moment we saw her.  She was eager to use her English words that she's learned and loved everything we put in the backpack for her.  She really liked the doll and teddy grahams. 
But, while sitting on my lap she finished her teddy grahams and then got quiet, got down from my lap and sat by herself.  She then started crying and didn't stop for the next hour.  She was absolutely mad.  She repeated "I want my grandma" over and over.  She has lived with her foster grandma for years and she just wanted to see her.  She said she doesn't want to leave China.  When told she had new pink boots waiting for her she said she likes blue.  When looking at the pictures of her new bedroom she told the guide she doesn't like dogs.  I could not touch her or hold her hand; she only wanted our guide.
We had to go get our photo taken for the registration and she is mad as heck in the photo.  Every person we encountered just stared at us and it was an awful feeling.  I felt like we had just kidnapped her and I'm sure to other people it appeared that way as well.  We're holding a crying child in the back of a van who is speeding in and out of traffic; not exactly the idea of a happy moment.
She eventually fell asleep on daddy's lap and we ended up coming back to the hotel to get some lunch.  We ordered her favorite- egg fried rice and opened her suitcase to explore all the goodies.  We saw her smile reappear with bubbles and the beach ball.  I have a much better feeling now but I know the journey has just begun. 

Arrival Day

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Ni Hao!

Greetings from Beijing!

We left the house 24 hours ago and have finally arrived at our hotel in Beijing. Thanks to wonderfully smooth skies we had calm flights but to be completely honest; it sucked.

It sucked bad. We both catnapped a few times but total we slept maybe 3 hours of the 14 hour flight.  Ten hours in I thought we should be here and then realized we had 4 more to go. 

For someone who doesn't care for movies, can only watch a show on TV once and can't read while moving (car or air) being in an airplane while in a seated, upright position was about the closest thing to cruel and unusual treatment I hope to ever encounter. 40 channels on video entertainment and nothing on; you can only put the same Discovery show on 5 channels before I figure out that I'm not actually watching 5 different Discovery Shows. Worried you might miss the movie on channel 1 if you flip through looking for anything interesting to watch? Don't worry, you'll pass the same movie about 4 more times.
My brain has mentally blocked out the part that looks ahead to the future.  We aren't even thinking about the fact that we have to it all over again in 17 days and this time with a child whose never flown before.
Future PAPs flying on United-
Economy Plus is completely worth the money and the food was actually decent. It's been 15 hours since I ate the first meal they served and my digestive tract is still in tact so in addition to tasting decent I guess it was actually OK for me as well.
Also, I am usually cold but today I was hot everywhere. The planes were hot, the airports were roasting and our hotel room? Well, let's just say I am firm in my belief the Man upstairs. Why, you ask? Because we were put into a room that has opening windows. We just have to deal with the traffic.

Only 12 more hours until we leave to meet our newest daughter! The excitement, anxiety, nervousness and anticipation are just about enough to make me sick each time I think about it.

The plans have changed a bit- instead of going to the orphanage and getting her tomorrow and then finalizing the adoption Friday morning we will now do it all in one day. Our formal adoption date is 1/28/10.

Her nickname is pronounced yah-yah, somewhere between YaYa sisterhood and wha like whammy. She said if we say yaya like the sisterhood she will understand. She also told us the literal translation for ya-ya is "doll".

Oh- and her favorite food is egg fried rice; she will make friends with Matthew quickly. J
Hopefully we'll be able to hop on skype tomorrow morning, we have to leave the hotel at 8:30.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Packed and ready

The bags are packed and sitting for the very early wake-up call tomorrow morning. I've kissed the kids over and over and reassured them that they are going to have a good time. I already miss them and we've not even left; such a bittersweet trip. I hate leaving them for 18 days but yet I am so excited to meet our newest little girl.

The duffle bag is absolutely stuff FULL of donated winter clothing items that we will be delivering to the orphanage when we pick up Claire. In the bag is 68 pairs of gloves, 56 hats, 13 scarves, a few snow pants, infant shirts and snow suit. What a load to deliver!

Look at the perfect luggage tag my mom found for us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Pictures!

We received a wonderful email today containing new pictures of Claire! She has lost her two front teeth and in the one picture she is pointing to to North America on the globe! Hopefully that means she has been told what is about to happen. Only 5 days left until we leave and 7 days until I see her cute little face in person.

Monday, January 18, 2010

7 days and counting

Just thinking that this time next week our bags will be sitting by the door to leave very early the next morning gives me goosebumps! I've packed and re-packed Claire's suitcase about 8 times already and it is currently scattered all over the living room for another repacking.

I just heard about this documentary and I so wish we would have been able to see it before going to China. It looks amazing and I'm sure we are about to experience much of what is shown in the film. Go to this website and watch the trailer. Just the trailer was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

wo ai ni mommy
wah I nee (I love you) mommy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another early delivery

I have been incredibly blessed to have carried and delivered 3 healthy children.
My first baby, Jacob, was born early at 36 weeks.
My second baby, Emily, was stubborn and had to be coaxed out of her comfy resting place at 41 weeks.
My third baby, Matthew, was the only one to arrive on his own timing and was born at 39 weeks.

This baby, my 4th child, will be delivered to me at 37 weeks. From the day we saw her face for the very first time, May 14th, to the day we get to see her face in person, January 28th, will be exactly 37 weeks. I'm so relieved I don't have to go overdue again this time!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Travel is booked!

Airline tickets have been purchased.
Airplane seats have been upgraded. (5 more inches of leg room, oh yay)
Beijing hotel has been decided.
Hotel room has been upgraded. (Being in cold Beijing for 10 days made me think that a suite might be a good decision; we may spend a lot of time in our room.)

And now we wait.

Only 15 days until we leave and my list contains 13 things yet to do, and it is still growing. I taped a piece of paper above my desk and add the items as I think of them.

I have a whole house to clean; oh my, why did we buy a big house? Jeramie said "just hire Merry Maids to help you" and I told him no; that would be a waste of money that we need right now.

I'm putting together a list of things for the kids to do each day we are gone. If I'm really on my A-game, I'll take pictures and post on the blog what I've left for them each day. Let me add that to my list.

A note to other PAPs (that's potential adoptive parents for all you outside the loop). Our travel agency booked our tickets in the regular economy cabin; I think they have to. We took advantage of a "club" through the airlines that allows you to purchase an economy plus option good for an entire year for $425. After you purchase that, you and a companion fly free in economy plus for an entire year. I don't know if this is available on every airline but it was the airline we are flying. The individual price to upgrade would have been $600 for the both of us so that saved us $175. I purchased Claire's upgrade separately so she's sitting with us and not hanging out in economy by herself.

We aren't clear where Claire is living right now. According to every other child from her orphanage, children in foster care are moved back to the orphanage and then processed for adoption. We were told Claire was still in foster care in August. We're waiting on updated pictures right now and the delay is supposedly caused by the snow inhibiting the staff from getting the "countryside" to take a new picture. Hmmmm...
I actually really hope she is at the orphanage. My heart breaks at the reality that it was probably a traumatic move for her but if she stays with her foster family up until we arrive, it will be extremely difficult for her to accept us. We will be taking her away from her family, the only one she's ever known so it will make an already tough start, even tougher.

We did get new measurements. She is the same height but gained 4 lbs. Woo hoo! She is about the size of an average 5 year old here in the US but smaller than any of my children at age 5. So even though she and Matthew are only 8 months apart in age she will appear to be about 2 years younger than him. The update told us that she can count to 100, do simple calculation and tell a complete story. They have found her an English teacher, at our request, and said she knows a few basic words. I'm still very concerned with the cost of the tutor. We have not been informed of the cost and since the teacher is already performing services we are stuck paying whatever they request.

OK, after 2 snow days the kids are back in school so I really must scurry around to get all of this done.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter warm-up donation

Do you have gloves from 3 years ago that won't squeeze on your growing child's hands anymore? Hats that you don't even remember where they came from, some even have the tags on them still? Here is an opportunity to clean out!

To help the orphanage keep the many fingers and ears warm this winter, we will be carrying a bag to Beijing with us full of donated warm winter items. Will you help us fill the bag? If you would like to send along your gently used or newly purchased winter items, we would love to carry them to Beijing with us.

Email me at winterdonation (at) gmail (dot) com for the address to send them to.

Thank you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

I can't sit down,

I can't stop spinning in circles, I can't stop squealing, I can't stop jumping up and down, I simply can't calm down.

We are going to China!!

Our agency called a little while ago to let us know that our TA has arrived! Tentative travel dates right now are Jan. 26th through Feb. 12th. Once our consulate appointment is finalized we will be able to buy our plane tickets and finalize all our travel plans. Hopefully the consulate will get back to our agency quickly and we'll know tomorrow or Wednesday.

Three weeks until I hold my littlest girl!