Friday, February 26, 2010


Imagine having the same caregiver for over 6 years and then suddenly being taken from them, given to people who do not speak your language, being told you have a new mom and dad and then leaving your country with people who are basically strangers. I think it's safe to assume that none of us would be cool with the idea. Everything that has happened to Claire is equivalent to someone dying and that person would be like her mom; grief is sure to follow.

We only saw Claire get upset and ask for her nai nai (grandma) once, after that initial day, while we were in China. This was the afternoon of her vaccinations when she was tired and not feeling well. It didn't last long but it was a window into what we would probably see more of at home, and we have.

A few days ago Emily printed out a dot-to-dot for each of them to complete. Claire finished hers and I asked her if she wanted to color it; she told me no. I didn't push the issue and went upstairs to get ready. I came back down and the pictures were colored and I told her how great it looked. She was mad, very grumpy and pouty so I asked what was wrong. She didn't say anything and then went upstairs and sat on her bed crying. I followed her and held her on my lap. She eventually stopped crying but was still very withdrawn. Then Emily came upstairs and she was very upset as well. It seems that Claire got upset when Emily tried to show her what color the giraffe should be colored. I tried to tell Emily that it probably had nothing to do with her coloring on Claire's paper but something else. It could have been that she colored with her grandma or she saw giraffes at the zoo with her grandma and this brought back the memory, or it might have been as the oldest child in her foster family she was in charge and never had someone else show her how to do something. We will probably never know but I think it's safe to assume that it was definitely grief.

Today, Claire and I ran some errands. Our first stop was the school because Matthew forgot his lunch. On the way there I stopped rather quickly when a light changed red. I looked back at Claire and she gave me a very dirty look and was not happy with me. Then at the school I asked her if she wanted to go to school and she told me no. I stayed excited and told her she gets to go here in 20something days and again she said no.
After that we needed to run to Sams Club. Before leaving the house I fed her a banana because she told me she was hungry but after the school she told me she was hungry again. I found some goldfish in a baggy from a few days earlier and gave those to her. She didn't say anything or eat them before getting to Sams Club (she likes them because she has eaten before). When we got there and I opened the door she burst out in tears, just sobbing and uttered one word- nai nai.
I unbuckled her, held onto her and let her cry; there isn't really much you can say but I told her I loved her and "I know." She withdrew so much that she took off the crocheted hat that she had on. I gave it to her yesterday after Emily had one on and told her I made it. Yesterday her eyes lit up when she realized I made it for her but today she didn't want it on, at all. That was her way of putting up a wall, I think.

We perused around Sams Club; I got her a pretzel because she was hungry and she perked up a bit. Then, when almost home she started singing songs in Chinese. If she's happy when she's singing she enjoys entertaining people but if she starts singing when she's quiet and withdrawing it means she's about to start crying. I'm not sure if singing when she's sad brings China back to her or if she is trying to win our love or approval by singing because maybe she was told to? I don't know. Upon pulling into the driveway she started to get upset and I looked back to see the "I'm about to vomit" face. I hurriedly got her out of the van and she proceeded to vomit in the yard. I'm still not 100% convinced that her vomiting is motion sickness. We've given her medicine a few times since getting home but we've driven almost every day. She's only vomited twice in the car and today and both times were when she got quiet; today was worse though. I don't know if the vomiting is something she does when she's upset or if the stress brings on the motion sickness.

One thing I do know is that it will get better. This time she went 5 days in between grief episodes and from reading stories of other older adopted children the episodes should get spaced farther and farther apart the longer she is home. Right now when thinking about her grandma she gets sad and just like grieving the death of a loved one, eventually she will remember China and her grandma with a good feeling rather than a sad feeling.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Emily picked to wear her jie jie (big sister) shirt to school today so the outfit I had laid out for Claire was trumped because she needed to wear her mei mei (little sister) shirt as well.

Pictures are getting increasingly hard to get; she hides whenever she sees the camera next to our face. I think we'll have to bust out the telephoto zoom and start shooting wildlife style on her.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


She loves pizza and gets very excited when she sees it. She even calls it by the English name, although it sounds more like peesa when she says it.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Big, long update on the post before this one.

She plays with dolls much more than Emily did. Here is she is trying to keep her baby happy with toys and then strapping them onto her back; something she probably saw often in China. It is a very good sign that she knows how to play with dolls. This means she saw babies cared for in a loving way and was hopefully she was cared for in the same manner when she was a baby.

so, how is she doing?

Question of my life right now, but I understand because everyone does want to know how she is doing. So here is an update in random thought form to fill all of you in.

She slept with us while we were in China which we were supportive of and really hoped she's be open to because it helps promote attachment. The first night with us she crawled up in the middle of the bed, parked herself there and stayed there for the next two weeks. But, she's a bed hog and in a king size bed she took up over half of it. Before our trip I had planned to have her sleep with us at home as well and then transition her to a bed in our room before moving her to her shared room with Emily. After two weeks with Miss Bed Hog I began to rethink that idea. The first two nights at home she slept on an elevated twin mattress next to our bed and then the third night she wanted to sleep in her room with Emily so we moved the mattress in there. She slept on the mattress next to Emily's bed (the bottom bunk) for 4 nights and then last night she wanted to sleep on the top bunk. She slept there all night without any issues so I think we'll put the air mattress away today. I was a bit worried about bedtime at home because in China she got upset if we weren't both in bed with her to fall asleep. But, having the other kids with a set bedtime routine has helped and we haven't had any problems.

She eats all.the.time. I'm trying to figure out if she is truly hungry or just likes to snack all the time. I know they eat smaller meals more frequently in China so I'm trying to keep that in mind. I'm also trying to feed her snacks that are more protein instead of carbs so I know she's getting food that should hold her for a longer period of time.
She's an adventurous eater; much more so than I would be, or was in China. She will try anything we give her but if she doesn't like it she'll wave her hands in front of her plate and say "all done." She tried goulash and didn't like it but then last night ate an entire plate of mini ravioli and sauce which is basically the same thing. We have frozen fried rice and dumplings in the freezer as a back-up but we haven't had to use them all that much. I will still make her some egg fried rice at breakfast because that is her favorite.

Our school is year round so after every quarter they have a 3 week break. 9 weeks on, 3 weeks off and then a 6 week summer. The next cycle breaks starts in 2 weeks so it is silly for us to enroll her in school only to have a break right after starting. If there wasn't the cycle break coming up so soon I would rethink my 5-8 weeks of home time before enrolling in school. This would be very dependent on each child but for Claire I think school would be a very good thing. She is wearing me out with her eagerness to learn. It is wonderful and I'm really not complaining but she wants to do the home school stuff all day and I want to take it a bit slower so she actually processes what I'm teaching and doesn't get overwhelmed. I think the challenge of school and changing of activities will be good for her. If she sits too long she starts to get a grumpy attitude so I've found occasional trips to Target to be therapeutic, for me and her but probably more for me.
So far she's learned:
number recognition up to 25 (thank you dot-to-dot!) I'm also working on the word recognition of the numbers up to ten so she knows that 'one' is the number 1, etc.
counting up to 30
primary and secondary colors
ABC's- she can almost sing the whole song and we're working on letter recognition right now. She can recognize some of the letters but I want her to be able to recognize the letters before moving into phonics.
shapes- we started shapes today. She remembered a few them right away but it is something we'll continue to work on for immediate recognition. I'm working on the word for the shapes at the same time so she'll recognize 'circle' as the shape of a circle.
addition- She can add every thing in the 1's family (1+2, 1+3, etc.) and I even started on mixed numbers up to 10 (2+3. 5+2, etc.). She has to think about it but she usually gets them right.
names for the basic body parts

I'm not sure if she really comprehends the words she's using but she is using more and more English every day. She is like a parrot and repeats most of what we say. Once she's heard or said the word for an object a few times she remembers it and will usually call it by its English name after that. She understand a lot of what we say and what she doesn't we will show her or motion with our hands. She still talks in mandarin to us (but not as much as in China) and it's really not too difficult to figure out what she's talking about. We can pick out mandarin words from what she's saying and can piece it together with her hand motions. She'll answer questions with yes or no now but in conversation will still say "boo sure" which is no. The Memory game has been great for language because I say, and she repeats, the name of all the cards when we flip them over. She's come up to me several times today with a memory card and told me what it is in English.
A couple of days ago she was being funny so I said "You're a silly girl" and she said "no, Mommy's a silly girl." She thinks that is funny because we laugh so she now interchanges the name for whoever she's talking to. She later said "Daddy's a silly girl" so we then had a lesson on boy and girl. We used the mandarin for boy and girl (nahn-wren and new-wren) and then the English- boy and girl. She understood very quickly and now calls everyone by the correct gender in English.
She loves Skype and asks to call people. Yesterday and today she looked at me and said "Nana, telephone?" so we had to call Nana. J's mom graciously agreed to stay with us a couple days after we got home and Claire took right to her. She's asked for Meme several times since she left.

The dog-
She has come a long way from that first night home and introduction to Toby. She doesn't like to be startled by him and she's not real cool with him being right next to her but she's a lot better and doesn't want him in his crate all day. He's been so good with her too. It's like he knows she's scared and he treats her differently than every one else. He's never jumped up on her or gotten close to her without one of us right there. He won't go up or down the steps if she's on them (one thing she really doesn't like) and has never been hyper around her. She has pet him a few times while I hold him and she loves to throw his toys for him to fetch. I think she'll eventually grow to love him as much as the other kids but it is just going to take some time.

The other kids-
Just like bringing home a newborn, this is an adjustment. They have handled it with great love and patience (for the most part) and accepted her beautifully. They love to teach her words in English. I think they might be experiencing a little bit of attention overwhelmness (is that a word? spellcheck says no) like I have. You go from doing your own thing for the most part to someone needing/wanting your attention all the time and it's a bit of an adjustment.

Really, it is very much like bringing a newborn into the house. I know she's 7 and has different needs than a newborn but it is a very constant need for caring and attention. It is an adjustment for all; not necessarily in a bad way but just an adjustment. We'll get into a groove soon and just like with a newborn, we can't imagine our life without her now that she's here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

6 Days home

And she's already completing addition worksheets! I got some Fruit Loops out to use as manipulatives but she didn't need them much. She does have a hard time with 0 but J told me they don't use 0 in China so that makes sense that she seems very confused on that.

Monday, February 15, 2010


So far they are stuck together like glue.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally, Home!

Wow, the journey home was long. The flight from Beijing from Chicago went very well; Claire slept probably 10 hours of the 13 hour flight.

Her initial reaction to the kids was somewhat mixed. I didn't expect her to go running to them or anything but I know the kids were so excited so I was hoping they weren't too disappointed. Claire was very quiet last night, just taking everything in, I think. I can tell she is thoroughly confused and I wish I could explain to her that this is home. It is almost like the two weeks in China were the honeymoon and I know the real work starts here.

She hates the dog; she really wasn't kidding when she said she didn't like dogs. I'm torn on what to do about that. I don't want to scare her but yet the dog is part of the family and I don't want to crate him all day. We will work to keep Toby away from her when he's excited but the dog is so happy we are home that I'm not going to separate him from everyone either. It's just another thing to work through.

The next week or so is going to be a real transition. She's used to having us to herself, 24 hours a day and now we have to be mom and dad to all four kids; not just her.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Last post from China

It's 5:15 am here in China and we are up and ready to start our L.O.N.G journey home.  I wish I could snap my fingers and skip all the flying and sitting and waiting and flying and sitting but alas, that is the only way back to my own bed.
Only 30 more hours kids and you finally get to meet your new spunky, feisty sister.  I hope you're ready for her.

Red couch photos

Instead of making an album on shutterfly with several different picture topics, I made several separate posts with the pictures and explanations of them.  Keep scrolling down; I added 9 posts just now so you may even have to click on "older posts" at the bottom if you missed a day or two because I think it only keeps the 10 most recent posts.
Every adoption group takes the "red couch photos" with their family, kids being adopted and then one of all the families.  We had a big travel group of 7 families so our group couldn't crowd around the couch.  Instead, we took our picture in front of the waterfall in the hotel lobby.

We dressed Claire up in her traditional Chinese dress she picked out in Beijing along with some white shoes we found at a store here in Guangzhou.  She loved being dressed up and she is such a ham!
Today we are packing up all of our bags.  We hit a major snag earlier today when we were told that the 2 checked bags at 50 lbs each was incorrect.  We do get that allowance on the international flight but the flight from here to Beijing is considered domestic and the rules have changed.  They used to consider it as part of the international leg since you leave for an international flight within 24 hours but they no longer do.  All the goodies we've bought here in GZ and the extra suitcase to put them in became a major panic.  We took the suitcase back to the store we bought it at and then rearranged the other three bags.  One carry-on bag contains all the clothes from J's suitcase and weighs over 30 lbs!  But, they don't weigh the carry-ons, only the checked bags so we might squeak by OK.
Our trip home starts at 6am tomorrow morning which is 4pm central time on Thursday afternoon.  We finally land at home around 9pm Friday night so that is a full 29 hours of being in an airplane or airport.  I wish we could just skip all that and I especially wish I could skip starting out the trip in another fish market airplane right after breakfast. 


While walking around in the city (trying to get a taxi for 2 hours) we would find alley ways like this one in between the sky-rise buildings and apartments. 

Drama queen

Happy to the max
Tears flowing
Grumpy and grudge holding
Mad at the world
Claire is almost always happy, very happy but when she swings in any other direction she does not to it half-way.  It is all or nothing on each emotion for this girl.  She wasn't actually upset when this picture was taken but we still thinks it's very funny and shows a side of her that doesn't usually come out in photos.


The island here in Guangzhou has a nice playground for everyone.  They have one playground type structure and all the rest of it is actually exercise equipment that most of the citizens here use daily.  The kids think they are all just toys though and play on them.  Claire has liked this little playground and it is where we took her after the 4 shots to try and win her over again.


When we first got here and got to our room on the 17th floor we realized the nice looking buildings we had passed on the highway were actually a facade to hide what was really behind them- true China living.  The nice building fronts are just an illusion to hide what the city really looks like.
Then when looking out the window today we realized it was much, much clearer than the first few days we were here so we got another picture.  You can see the facade better and also realize how humid it was most of the time we were here.  It's still humid today, just not as much and with the sun out now it is very hot, like 85 degrees hot. 

Trees here in GZ

When driving up to the island the first time I had to pinch myself; it almost felt as if we might be in Savannah, GA.  The buildings are French style, the humidity was stifling and the trees had moss hanging from them.  Or so I thought.  Upon closer examination we realized it is so humid here that the roots grow out of the main part of the tree to soak up water from the air. 

Squatty Potty

Just for your viewing pleasure!
They have different toilet standards than we do in the US.  They think western style toilets are gross and use what we like to call a "squatty potty."  I knew this was the toilet standard when coming over and I really dreaded the first time I couldn't find a western style toilet.  But, I'm happy to say that they aren't near as bad as I thought they would be and even dare to say they are easy.  This picture is a clean squatty; I saw some pretty disgusting ones here as well. 

New Year decorations

February 14th is Chinese New Year, or what they call "Spring Festival" here.  The kids are off of school for a month and everyone is off of work the week of new year.  We are just getting out of here before the entire country goes on snooze.  The shops here on the island are already closing up for the festival.  We've watched the hotels and local areas get more and more decorated during our stay.  Two decorations that are everywhere are orange trees flanking the entrance of nearly every door and the customary red lanterns hanging in the trees.  The lanterns are really cool at night when they are lit up.
I thought all the orange bushes were fake at first.  They look like bushes that have oranges tied all over them but then I realized they are actually real oranges.  Our guide told us they eat the oranges after new year.  They had some of them on the breakfast buffet today and Claire knew just what to do with them.  We tried them and they taste a lot like mandarin oranges but there are some seeds in them.

Boo Boo

Here is a picture of Claire after calming down and getting a little rest following the zoo accident.  The band-aid does a great job at concealing her big bump.  Just to avoid any more ugly stares from locals we covered it up again today.  But, the bump is still swollen and turning a nice shade of purple.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The zoo

We went to the zoo today with our travel group.  Here is how the trip went:
*Keep Claire from throwing up on the bus.
*Check out the super loud, squawking swans.
*Check out the big cat family who are in tiny concrete cages pacing back and forth.  Ugh.
*Look at the hippo and get scolded by a Chinese lady who thinks I'm telling Claire to climb through the lower opening when I was actually telling her to look through it because she was too short to see over the rail.  Yea, because I'm into tossing my kids into the hippo cage and seeing who wins.
*Leave the old, mean lady and head for the peacock- Claire's favorite animal.
*Watch Claire run with excitement, trip and fall head first into the concrete.
*Run with a screaming 7 year old who's forehead is now double the size and purple to the first aid station.
*Find the first aid station which is behind a gate saying "No admittance".
*Dad goes berserk again and crosses the gate anyhow and we startle the ladies working in the office.  Unable to speak much mandarin we point to Claire's head and they understand what we need, sort of.
*A guard comes in to question why were inside the gate and this freaks Claire out.  I'm trying to tell him what is wrong.  Me not speaking mandarin and him not understanding English didn't get us very far.  They grab other people and finally I remember the mandarin word for ice- beeng.   So I start saying "BEENG!" and pointing to my head and her head.
*They finally understand and took us to a shop where they banged on the side of the ice cream freezer to get chunks of ice (they don't use ice machines here.)
*Get a taxi ride back to the hotel because the group doesn't leave the zoo for another hour.
*Go to the clinic inside the hotel and get told what we already know- watch for vomiting, dizziness, etc.
*Give Claire Tylenol and have her rest for an hour and then watch her come back to life.
By the end of the day she was running around (well, with us saying no running!), jumping and laughing like her normal self.  A Hello Kitty band-aid cleverly disguised the swollen bump but when we took it off tonight she still has quite a goose egg on her forehead.  It will probably be sore for quite awhile.
Tomorrow we pack up and get ready to leave.  We will try very hard to get some pictures uploaded as well.  I thought I could do that today but feisty girl here gave us alternative plans.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another day to rest

Again, after arriving in a new place and touring for a few days we were ready to have a day with nothing to do.  The only thing that was scheduled was our 'red couch pictures" with our travel group.  It is customary to take pictures of all the kids and families on the red couch in the White Swan before leaving.  After that we walked around the island a couple of times and this evening we hung out by the river and watched the boats covered in neon lights; they were really cool.
Our visa application and supporting documents were submitted to the consulate this morning and we didn't hear any bad news so that means everything was good.  Tomorrow morning we go on another tour and then in the afternoon we go to consulate to do our oath ceremony where we swear to never abandon her and all that other important stuff.  Then the consulate processes her visa and it will be ready to pick up Thursday afternoon.  THEN, after that we get to LEAVE!  We are so ready to go home and enjoy all the things we take for granted in America.  #1 on the list- my kids followed very closely by my bed.  I'm so homesick I might even put all my kids in my bed.
Today while shopping at a small shop on the island Claire wanted to play the toys while I browsed around.  She was out of my line of sight so every few seconds I called her name. Claire then told the lady that owned the shop "I know she's inside, my mom worries a lot."  HA!  She told the lady later that she has an American mom and dad.  Every one that talks to her tells us "she is so smart."  At another shop the owner asked her what color her shirt was (in mandarin) and Claire responded "pink."  The lady was shocked and then Claire told her "my mom taught me that."  Let's hope her smarts help her transition to English easier.
Speaking of that; I think we've entered a new phase with language.  When we first got her she talked to us all the time in mandarin.  We had no idea what she was saying but she definitely tried and we figured things out fairly well.  Now she's communicating with more grunts and points and some hand motions rather than talking in mandarin.  She's figured out that we don't understand much so I think she finds it useless to try.  We are trying to encourage her to talk, even if it's mandarin rather than point and grunt.  We tell her the words for everything and she has picked up so much.  She understand a lot of what we say to her.  We supplement with quite a bit of mandarin that we know (which grows by the day) and after saying the mandarin words we say the English word/phrase. 
We've been working on body part names and she has remembered most of them and we're also working on the last part of the
alphabet.  She likes to say J-K-L jumbled mess- O-P.  At this hotel we are on the 17th floor so that has opened up counting from 10-20 for us.  She has a little trouble from 13-15 but then goes up to twenty and keeps going to 30. 
For parents traveling soon-
Even though it is February, it is already warm enough on some days here in GZ to wear shorts and t-shirts.  The sun was out earlier today and it was very warm and the humidity is out of control.  Bring some hair gel if your hair is naturally wavy or curly but you usually like to wear it straight.  It won't be straight for 10 minutes after you walk out of your hotel room; even the lobby is humid.  Just pack the gel and embrace the frizz like every other woman here.  Don't bring nice shoes for GZ; the sidewalks are ripped up and the construction has made a nasty mess.  The rain and humidity make it even worse and it trashes your shoes.  Also, if you see something you like in Beijing or in the province- buy it.  Don't hold out for what you might find in GZ because I think a lot of the stuff here is much lower quality than other places.  We are kicking ourselves everyday that we didn't buy more stuff at the jade and cloisonne factories in Beijing. 
A couple things about the White Swan-
We stayed in a nice hotel in Beijing for 10 days so I can't compare the White Swan to hotels in the provinces.  But, compared to our hotel in Beijing I am less than impressed with the White Swan.  The rooms are tiny, they smell musty or kind of wet and the walls/floor are thin.  I'm paying a lot of money to listen to babies above me pounding on the floor or crying or even hearing someone else urinate in the toilet.  I heard a lot "the service is 5 star" and "they speak very good English".  I'm not finding that so much.  The housekeeping staff has been great, the front desk staff is half and half on friendliness and English and the dining room staff in that "oh so wonderful buffet"?  I have found they are pretty rude.  I can't compare this to the Victory because I haven't been there but I would probably choose that if we were ever to come back to China.  I don't need 150 things to choose from for breakfast because I'll choose the same 5 every day.  I would trade a bigger room with a soft bed any day.  But, I would choose to stay at the same place as my travel group again.  Being in the same place as all the other families is very nice and Claire enjoys seeing the other kids in our group each day at breakfast and throughout the day.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Click here to view this video

Guangzhou Art Museum

Click here to view these pictures larger

A day in Guangzhou

Today we went on a city tour and visited a cultural art museum and a buddhist temple. 
The art museum was amazing.  It was quiet, beautiful and clean.  We've seen beautiful things here in China but nothing that was quiet and clean so it was very refreshing.  They had very old antiques from some of the dynasties here and also had artist on site that would paint scrolls or carve stamps for you.  One big thing here is a stamp called a chop.  I have no idea why it's called a chop but it is hard like stone and has the animals of the chinese zodiac on the top.  Claire was born in the year of the horse so her chop has a horse on the top.  The artist then carves the bottom with the English name and Chinese name in the characters.
Unfortunately the painter wasn't there while we were but we looked through some paintings that were all done by hand, as in fingers, palm and fingernails.  They are amazing. 
After the art museum we visited a buddhist temple.  I thought it would just be one building but it was actually a compound of many small pagodas that they pray for certain things at each one.  Then there was the 17 floor main pagoda.  The monk there would do a blessing on your child if you wanted.  We went back and forth on if we wanted her blessed or not and then decided to do it.  It doesn't change my Christian beliefs at all or the fact that we will be raising her in Christianity.  We viewed it more as a chance to have her future blessed by a culture in her home country.  She recognized a lot of things around the temple so we think her grandmother might have been buddhist.  The monk did a long chant on a drum then sprinkled her with water that had flowers in it and then returned to his chant and drum.  It was very cool to see different cultures; even if I don't agree with their beliefs.  We have the whole thing on video so I think that will be cool for her to see in the future. 
After all that touring the bus dropped off anyone who wanted to go shopping at the Carre Four (like a overly chaotic Wal-Mart) and then we'd just take a taxi back to the hotel.  Almost our entire group got off the bus and we had lunch together at Papa Johns and then we went shopping.  This place was insane.  They had candy and decorations galore for the Spring Festival (what they call Chinese New Year.)  We got a few goodies to bring home and then tried to get a taxi.  Two hours and a lot of frustration later I cut off about 6 Chinese men waiting for a taxi and claimed it as my own.  J said they gave me quite the stare down but I didn't care; I'm taller than all of them.  We had walked so far back towards the hotel that our fare never climbed above the starting fare.  We were very tired when we made it back.
Claire is still doing well but I can see that our adjustment when we get home might be a bit rocky at times.  She doesn't like to be told no or not get her way and is just starting to realize that mom and dad have rules.  Last night the battle was she wanted dad in the bed with her and I to go to sleep.  Dad was in the room but not in the bed and when we told her no she huffed and pouted and refused to look or speak to us.  I think it is a glimpse into what we might face ahead. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shopping day

We went with our group today to do a shopping tour and visit the pearl market.  I kept thinking our guide was saying "market for the poor" but she was actually saying market for the pearl.  Ha, little bit lost in translation and accent I guess.
The pearl market was a 6 story building with over 100 stores selling all kinds of jewelry but many of them sold pearls.  You could hand-pick your pearls and have them strung or pick a string of pearls and they would put the clasp on it.  The store we were taken to ranged from $50 to $180 a strand (necklace size) depending on the quality.  They showed us how to determine real pearls from fake ones.  I lasted less than 5 minutes in the store before I told Jeramie to get me out.  I don't like pearls.   I know many people would love to be standing in a pearl store in China so I really tried to embrace it on behalf of everyone who can't be here but it just didn't work.  I obviously did not buy any pearls.
I did find some beaded necklaces and bracelets that were much more my style but after 4 shop owners refused to acknowledge me I got pissy and walked out.  Usually we are hounded to death to buy something but this time I stood there and they wouldn't even look at me.  So then we went over to the clothing market building but it was more like a shopping mall than a market so we didn't stay there long either.  I'm really sick of people interrogating Claire about us being her parents.  One person was asking her something about "mama" and then Claire stepped behind my legs so I got rude with the lady.  I asked her "what did you say to her?" and she acted like she didn't speak English.  Then I purposely ran her over when backing out of the store and said "sorry, Oh- dway boo chee" (I'm sorry/ excuse me in Chinese) and the two girls looked stunned that I spoke some Chinese.  I was so mad. 
I'm tired of the stares.
I'm tired of people talking to her.
I'm tired of not knowing what they are saying to her.
I'm just tired and ready to come home.
We ate lunch at the market and then took a taxi back to the hotel because we stayed later than the group.  This afternoon we browsed the shops in the hotel and then a few on the island as well.  I finally bought a few things but we are still disappointed that we didn't buy more in Beijing.  We didn't realize that some of that stuff was only available in Beijing when we passed it up.  We didn't want to buy a lot of stuff the first three days because we had a lot of time left on our trip to see things we liked even better.  Well, we're really kicking ourselves now.  We did get Claire two more Chinese dresses in bigger sizes so that she can have one every couple of years and I also found a tea set for her that I'm going to save for her 16th or 18th birthday. 
Claire's arms are very sore after her shots yesterday and she reminds us of it often.  She just bumped her arm a little bit ago and really cried so they must hurt pretty bad.  I've given her Tylenol around the clock and for the most part she is still her happy self but I do think she is running a low fever.
Tonight we are joining others in our group and going to a Chinese restaurant with our guide.  The people here are Cantonese and our guide joked that they eat everything that flies except the airplanes and everything in water except that boat.  They eat EVERYTHING.  This should be interesting.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Medical exam

So this morning our entire travel group (7 families) walked from the hotel to the medical examination place.  All the children must undergo a medical exam prior to getting their US visa.  We anticipated that the wait would be very long but it wasn't too bad; I think we were there 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  In the exam room they have three stations- height, weight & temperature; ENT, and then medical surgery.  We breezed through the rooms getting her weighed, eyes tested, checked out by the doctor and then the hard part came- vaccinations.  Being a Hague adoption case we must get Claire's vaccinations caught up to date according to her age.  That means if her orphanage did not vaccinate her on schedule she would need to get ALL those shots at one time before getting a visa.  It is absolutely ridiculous and needs to be fixed but more noise needs to be made in Congress for that to happen.
We lucked out, Claire only needed 4 vaccines.  Another little boy in our travel group who is just under 2 had to get seven, YES, 7 shots. 
We couldn't believe it; she didn't cry at all when getting her 4 shots.  Either she has a very high pain threshold or is one tough cookie.  She had a TB test a couple of weeks ago but our guide said she would need to get another one.  The nurses got all fishy when getting the TB test ready and were saying something about it being "different" so Daddy went all berserk on them and grabbed her arm to contaminate the cleaned area and got our guide.  They got the doctor and after a bunch of back in forth in mandarin later, we won.  Score one for the mom and dad team; Claire didn't have to repeat her TB test because the one from two weeks ago was negative.
After the medical exam we let her play at playground for a long time to try and make up for the shots.  We grabbed some lunch at a deli shop and then came back to the room.  Claire was looking very tired and after the long night/ early morning combined with the trauma of the medical exam we figured she should lay down and take a nap.  Only one problem- she didn't want to.  She told me no and I insisted on yes.  She did do what I said but then got in bed and started crying for her grandma.  We held her and then distracted her with TV but when we turned it off she went back to sniffling.  I think she felt very crummy and wanted the one person she's had for the last 6 years, her nai nai.  We gave her another dose of Tylenol and within half an hour she was back to her spunky self. 
In the afternoon I went to our guide's room with the rest of the parents and filled out our visa paperwork for Claire; one more step done.
Later this evening we ventured off the little island into the main city and finally found "food on a stick."  We've been waiting 11 days to find that.  We walked around and around and finally ventured back to the hotel.  We are dog tired; as in "can't get out of the chair" tired. 

Tomorrow I am going on a shopping tour with our group.  We're going to ask Claire if she wants to go but if she doesn't she's going to hang out at the hotel with Dad instead.  I can now get to shutterfly so hopefully we'll find the energy to put some videos online tomorrow.
The picture of the bamboo scaffolding and ladder couldn't be passed up.  The island is under construction because they need to make it look pretty for the Asian Games being held here in the winter.  It is a nasty, nasty mess; then it rains and never dries so you walk around in soupy muddy puddles all day.  Our shoes are trashed after just one day.

The airplane ride

We were at the airport about 1 1/2 hours early yesterday so after getting there we found something for lunch (another meal with chopsticks, go me!) and then found a children's play area to let Claire play while we waited for our boarding time.  She loved the little playground and we also watched her help a little boy was about 2 play on the playground too.  She is quite the little helper and caretaker.
She was very excited for our trip and asked our guide many questions before and after we boarded.  I'm glad she was excited because I was anything but that.  The airplane was loud and vibrated a lot and just plain freaked me out.  Then she needed to potty and wow, wow, wow.  US airlines take much better care of their airplane lavatories!  I nearly lost my lunch in there but held it together and got back to my seat only to start smelling something really gross.  Domestic flights here still serve a hot meal; would you like fish or pork?  Most of the plane chose fish which also had cabbage in it.  I thought I was stuck inside a porta-john at an overly ripe fish market.  I ate my roll just to try and calm my stomach and was so thankful when we landed.
Mid-way through our flight Claire wanted to quiz Catherine (our guide) so she asked her-
"What is colorful and looks like a bridge in the sky?"  A rainbow!
Then she said "Who snores when they sleep?"
Catherine guessed Claire- no, then she guessed mama and Claire replied "No, my OLD daddy!"  Our guide cracked up laughing for so long. 
She is such a funny and smart girl.
Shutterfly isn't working from Guangzhou; they must block different sites down here so I'll email the pictures with each post instead.  I'm also including a picture our hotel in Beijing and our view out the window.  It was never quiet there, the cars and busses were always honking at each other.

Friday, February 5, 2010

We in the fish bowl

After a trip that started 9 hours ago we are finally in our hotel room, and almost ready for bed, in Guangzhou.  The weather here is comparable to the Florida Keys or Puerto Rico.  It is so humid outside it is hazy and looks like a bathroom that someone forgot to turn off the hot shower.  The temperatures are in the 70's in January so I can't even imagine being here the summer time.
I didn't think it was possible to have a harder bed than we did in Beijing but now I do.  About 10 minutes after arriving in the room we called and asked for a quilted bed topper; hopefully that will make it better.
Oh, and the million dollar question- did Claire cover us in vomit on the airplane ride?
NO!  She was very excited about the airplane ride and told our guide that she wasn't going to take a nap because she wanted to watch out the window.  And that is exactly what she did.  When seeing the other planes landing while waiting for take-off she said she wanted to be a pilot.  She said many other funny things today that I'm going to try and remember to put on here tomorrow.
Until then- goodnight from the fish bowl.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Last full day

Our last full day in Beijing, finally.

We have 5 English speaking channels on TV here. They are CNN, Bloomberg, HBO, Cinemax and National Geographic. How do you know when you've been in one place too long? You know what channel HBO is without going through the entire channel line-up. Yes, it is definitely time to go.

In a way we are sad to leave Beijing; but that would be a very small way. We had big ambitions of seeing many things in the city and our time has now come to a close and we didn't get to see as many things as we would've liked. Some of that was due to exhaustion, some was due to not wanting to overwhelm Claire and a lot of it was due to needing a barf bag everywhere we went.

We walked to a nearby clothing market today and bought more than we did the other day. I know all of it is most likely knock-offs of real brand names but the kids in middle school don't know that. J took a $60 risk and bought an I-phone. Turns out it isn't an I-phone at all but rather a sciphone that looks exactly (and I mean exactly) like an I-phone. One key giveaway that he didn't notice before buying it; it was "Dasigned in the US." Yea, that would have been nice to see before buying it. He's laughing it off and has let Claire enjoy the games on it. I told him to clearly establish that she can play with Daddy's phone because Mommy's I-phone (if I ever join the ranks and get one) will be real and completely off limits to those under 13.

Claire has a couple of new nicknames:
Drama Queen Extreme and Miss Sassy Pants.
We had our first real confrontation today and it is has given us a glimpse into the battles we face ahead. She and Dad were laying on the bed watching TV and she wanted the remote; he told her no but she took it from him anyway. He took it away from her and said no. Oh my, she huffed, spewed some nasty sounding mandarin his way and stomped off to the living room. She pouted for about 5 minutes and then got the remote and watched her own TV in that room. She held a grudge for a good 1 ½ hours. I really don't think she's ever been told no or needed to behave within a set of rules. She was the oldest of her foster siblings and we can tell she is quite bossy; even trying to boss us around sometimes. This whole being the oldest to being the youngest thing isn't going to be too pretty; I don't think.

Tonight she entered her "I'm wired and deliriously-stupid-tired" phase and was bouncing around while walking home. She loves to be carried but we needed her to walk and burn off some energy and Dad is just plain worn out from packing around her heavy self. She kept running in front of him and stopping so finally I had to whip out the mom voice. I told her "Claire, NO, zow lu" (zow lu means walk). She stepped right beside me and held my hand.

She goes from being happy and giggly to mad or crying in the blink of an eye. She has no problem showing her emotions! But, she is also very caring and will always kiss your owies and say "Ima sorry" if she accidentally hurts you. She finished off the day with "Ba ba, I wove you." And how can you focus on the sassy attitude after that?

Tonight we walked and walked and finally decided to have dinner at the Korean BBQ a few blocks away. This was a challenge because they did not know any English. J told me to just pick something that looked like beef on the menu and actually, most of the pictures did look like sliced beef. I tried to say "English menu" any way I knew how and boy, I am SO glad I did! Did you know that many different, nasty things look just like sliced beef? We almost ordered things like stomach, ox tongue and many other things I'm still trying to block out. In the end, it was OK but nothing like the wonderful food we ate in Korea.

Tomorrow we have to get our bags ready by 12 noon and we leave the hotel at 12:30. Who are they kidding? We're so ready to leave we nearly have every thing packed tonight! We pick up Claire's passport first and then head to the airport and fly to Guangzhou. We'll be leaving the hotel around 10:30pm central time and arriving in Guangzhou around 4am Friday morning, central time. We'll be checking in to the White Swan hotel; the hotel famous for adoptive families. We'll also be meeting up with our travel group that we toured here in Beijing with and we are excited to meet all of their new children.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trip to the aquarium

We started out with a good breakfast and a dose of Dramamine so we could go to the Beijing Aquarium today.  Before visiting the aquarium we stopped at the place Claire was found as a baby and the police station she was taken to.  Recently parents have been able to get pictures that were taken when the children arrived at the police station but in 2002 they didn't take pictures of the children; that started only a couple of years ago.  That was a disappointment but we did get a picture of the station to add to Claire's life book.
After that we went to her finding location and I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I was emotional about the fact that our daughter was left in this spot when she was a baby and the mere thought of her being there alone was a lot to think about.  Then to think of a woman carrying her child for 9 months and then spending a few days with her before making the decision to leave her simply overwhelmed me.  I have carried 3 children and the thought of feeling forced to leave them behind is unthinkable to me.  I don't feel anger towards her but rather compassion and sympathy.  I know that must have been such an awful day for her and I know she probably thinks about her child every day and looks into the face of every girl around 7 years old wondering if that might be her child; hoping she has been given a better life.  I know many of you probably think her birth mother couldn't have loved her at all or she wouldn't have abandoned her.  But, this country is different than our own and has placed many pressures on women to produce a son.  Even though many (if not all) these women who have abandoned children would love to raise a little girl, they face punishment from their husband and family if they do just that. 
Abandoning a child here in China is illegal with the punishment being jail time but yet women go to great lengths to leave their children in very public places to ensure they are found quickly.  They usually wait away from the area but within sight to make sure their children are found quickly.  The area Claire was found was probably the busiest place we've been to, second to the subway so this tells us that her mother risked a lot, really her life to make sure she was found quickly.  This tells us that she most definitely loved her little girl so much that she risked her own life to give her daughter a better one.
Other things we learned today-
Our guide also said she thinks Claire is from a different area than Beijing.  She named the same place that the lady in the shop did.  She told us that people in Beijing rarely, if ever, abandon their children because they know they will have a good life in the city.  This tells us that her birth mother either traveled from far away to leave her in the city for a better life or she was a migrant worker who did not get the same benefits as permanent residents of the city.
The government has been trying to reduce the amount of children abandoned by extending health insurance to farmers in 2004 and life insurance in 2007.  This has made it so a farming family does not have to rely on their son to support them when they are older because they know the government will so they are now less likely to abandon girls.  Our guide also confirmed that this is around the time that the slow down in international adoption started so the two things are probably related.
Now the government has a new problem- children who have special needs being abandoned.  Of all the special needs children abandoned, only about 10% will qualify for adoption.  The other children are deemed as having "mental" problems making them less desirable by adoptive families (what they think) and the government takes care of them for life; they will most likely spend their entire life in the orphanage.  The reason for many of these special needs children are the result of women not obtaining care during pregnancy and not learning of any problems with the child during the pregnancy.  The government has now made it free to obtain care during pregnancy to try and reduce the amount of special needs children being abandoned.
After a heavy morning we arrived at the aquarium and had a nice time.  Claire liked looking at all the fish and they had a good dolphin and seal show as well. 
We've finally reached the half-way point of our trip.  I'm missing the kids at home tremendously and I can't wait to get back home to them.  Only 2 more breakfasts here in Beijing and then we fly to Guangzhou.  We've become such a regular at the hotel now we don't even have to give them our room number to get the breakfast for free; today she just looked at us and said "yes, come in."  We had a good laugh at that and said that was definitely a sign that it was time to go.
Claire is a pro at hair styling.  She spends a lot of her time in the room putting many ponytails into her hair and today I ended up with 7 ponytails and dad even had a headband.
In a way it feels like we are completely spoiling her because we do things for her that we don't do for the kids back home.  Things such as rubbing her down with lotion after her bath.  It is great skin to skin contact and we had to think of it as we did the same thing when the other kids were babies.  We are kind of going back to the baby stage with her and doing those things we didn't get to do back then.  We also sit and rock her in our arms and sing rock a bye baby and she just loves it. 
We are trying to find the fine line between making her happy because just one week ago we ripped her out of every thing she's every known but also not giving her every thing she asks for because that can't continue when we get home.  I think we've done fairly well so far but I think getting home and setting a routine with rules is going to be a very good thing.
We have established that she has to ask "please" before taking food when she wants to.  When she wants a snack she just holds her hand out and motions and I don't think that is a very good practice to start so our guide reinforced to her that she needs to ask please to get food.  She's done really well the rest of the day and asked please when she wanted a snack.  I think this is good because the pantry at home is fairly open territory because the kids know they need to ask before getting snacks so this will help establish that she can't graze all day without permission.
We've learned (the hard way) that she absolutely hates being scared or startled.  I did it to her when we were playing a couple of nights ago and she went from happy to crying and very mad at me in .2 seconds.  I had to rock her and tell her I was sorry many times and then she still had a grudge for awhile. 
I think we are going to walk to another silk market that isn't far from our hotel tomorrow.  We might go swimming one more time and then we get to pack up!  It is probably going to take awhile; it feels like we've completely moved in here.  I'm so ready to go though; one step closer to my kiddos back home.  We're still blocking out that 14 hour plane ride with a motion sick child.  We'll just pretend that isn't going to happen.

Hot Pot Restaurant

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Beijing Aquarium

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Finding Place and Aquarium

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Trip to Silk Street

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Trip to Silk Street

Today we grabbed our guide books and ventured out into Beijing alone.  We really weren't too nervous about getting around but more nervous about Claire's reaction to the subway and if her motion sickness reappeared.  We gave her the Dramamine just before leaving, which we have learned is not enough time, and she didn't handle the first ride very well.  She did the same thing she does in the car- gets very quiet, eyes closing and the overall "I'm about to barf on your shoes" look. 
We had to change subway lines one time and in during that transfer something made her start crying.  We're not sure if it was something that triggered her memories of her foster family or just the fact that she wanted to get out and we passed by what she thought was the elevator.  It's hard to pick out any mandarin words when she's crying but I think I may have heard 'nai nai' which is grandmother so we just stopped right there in the pedestrian tunnels, held onto her and told her we loved her.  Thankfully it only lasted a couple of minutes and then we were on our way.
We walked quite a distance after getting off the subway to visit a famous silk market here in Beijing.  It was completely overwhelming; every 5-10 feet we had people yelling "do you want to buy (insert object here), I give you good price."  We did buy a few things and I must proudly say I love to haggle.  The cards we brought say to offer 30% less than their first price.  In every case, I paid 50% less than their original price and one even less than the original price for 2 of them.  I still may have paid too much but I guess we'll only be here once.  It was 6 floors of tiny little flea market type booths selling every thing from Polo shirts to jade bracelets.  I'm fairly certain this jade was fake and mixed with glass so we didn't buy any there. 
We've only bought a few things, none of which have been for us.  While we want to bring home souvenirs for all, we most likely won't.  It isn't because your're not thought about or loved but simply because we have 5 pounds left on our luggage allowance and most things here that we could bring home are breakable.  We're even avoiding the things we'd like to get for our family because of those two reasons.  Our biggest commitment right now is to bring home things that will help Claire understand and appreciate her Chinese culture as she grows up.  This will be very important as she gets older and really questions her identity growing up in the US.
Other things about the day:
*We're working on the English words for colors and she's already got pink, white and yellow.  She gets those right every time now.
*She can count from 1-10 in English but skips 7 a lot of times; we think it's hard for her to say.
*She sings ALL the time and really has a beautiful voice.
*She told a lady at the market today "My mom speaks English" and "my dad speaks English" when we went into a shop.  She didn't even give us a chance to say ni hao (hello) before she told the lady.  The girl cracked up and then told us what she said.
*Two people today asked where Claire was from (as in where in China) and were surprised when we told them Beijing.  J has thought she looks more like western Chinese people and one girl said she looked and sounded like she was from somewhere else.  We've been trying to remember the place all day so we can look it up.
*When walking away from a booth today someone yelled "why do you have a Chinese daughter?"  We just kept walking but it really made us wonder how much of the general population here knows about international adoption. 
*We're fairly certain Claire thinks we live in this hotel.  We think she believes this is our home, or our apartment.  She knows which floor we're staying on and which room is ours.  We pack up and make the trip to Guangzhou this Friday and I think we'll probably encounter a break down when she realizes she really is leaving and we're not staying here.
We've looked up the dosage recommendation for children taking Dramamine and found we can give her more than we have been.  We're quite worried about the plane rides coming up and plan to ask for an abundant amount of barf bags.  I thought I'd read all I could to prepare on what we might face with older child adoption and I can honestly tell you that motion sickness was no where on the radar prior to getting here.  But, after being here it makes perfect sense.  For seven years she probably traveled by car very infrequently so she is simply not used to the motion of cars, or subways and definitely planes.  We plan on a trip to the doctor to get some prescription relief for her once we get home because we drive somewhere every day.
Tomorrow we're leaving the hotel fairly early and heading to the Beijing aquarium.  It's gotten a lot colder than the first few days we were here so the zoo would be fairly miserable after a short while.  We're also going to visit the place she was found so we can take pictures of that for her later. 
The weather forecast is calling for snow flurries on Friday and we need to pray hard that the snow doesn't come.  This city shuts down with any amount of snow and we are due to fly out that day.  Our schedule in Guangzhou hinges on our arrival on Friday. Every thing for her US visa starts on Saturday so we can't be late.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 5, more paperwork

We're official!

Our agency was finally able to get through to the civil affairs after calling for over an hour this morning. Our worry that the adoption decree wouldn't be ready today was relieved; they were told we could come pick it up.

We went to the civil affairs office and got the same gentleman that wasn't very nice to our guide last week. I was a bit nervous but he seemed friendly. Either he was having a better day or we just won him over with our good looks and charming personalities. HA! So the first thing he asked us was how it the bonding was going and we said great and then he asked Claire if she was having fun. Thankfully, she said yes!
So he typed up the decree, printed it and then stamped it. It wasn't a matter of the decree being ready, because it wasn't, it was a matter of them wanting to wait a certain amount of time for the bonding period. While finishing the decree he told us that her family name (in Chinese) is the same as his family name. Claire knew what he was saying and said some stuff about them being the same. His signature on our paperwork was very cool and we said it looked very hard. Our guide translated that for us and then he got up and went to a cabinet. He brought back a brochure type thing that had all of his writings with some pictures of him painting and a picture of him on the front. We told him see-ah see-ah (thank you) and then he took it back, signed the front and dated it. Wow, what a wonderful keepsake for Claire. See, I told you we charmed him!
Upon leaving the civil affairs office Claire got very quiet when it was time to get in the van. Before we made it out of the parking lot we were christened as new parents.
You know, usually you are christened as new parents shortly after the baby's first feeding. We like to be nice and call it spit-up but truly? Your child just emptied the content of his/her stomach all down your back. You are now christened and officially new parents.
Our christening took 5 days but believe me, we are officially her parents now. We have the decree and dirty clothes to prove it.

She absolutely hates the car. We were able to distract her on the other trips today but she tells us (through our guide) that she just wants to walk to food; she doesn't care if it takes hours. I'm not sure how the first few weeks at home are going to go. I'm thinking some of it is simply anxiety and it doesn't help that we were in the same van today as the day we picked her up and the same office we went to shortly after receiving her.

We learned from Catherine (our guide) that 'mama yo baba' and 'baba yo mama' is Claire's way of saying my mom and dad are a good couple and mom loves dad and dad loves mom. J She also said she keeps saying it because it makes us laugh.

We learned today that she had two younger brothers in her foster home; she said they were 6. While having lunch we had our guide ask her if she wasn't allowed to waste food at the foster home. We have noticed she will eat all food. At first we thought she just ate a ton but then we wondered if she was actually cleaning her plate so it wasn't wasted. She confirmed that the foster family told her not to waste food so 7 years of that teaching is going to be hard to break. We put the snacks away in the room because we noticed she will help herself to them whenever she wants. She still eats quite a bit for her size, especially at breakfast.

We were planning on going to the zoo but Claire told our guide that she'd already been there. It feels quite a bit cooler here today than past days so I think we're going to go to the aquarium instead. It is close to the place she was found as a baby so we are going to go there as well so we can get a picture of that for her later.

We finished the day by going to the notary after lunch followed by the passport office. The rule is passports applied for Monday morning will be ready on Friday morning but we didn't get there until Monday afternoon. The orphanage worker came to the passport office with more paperwork from them and sweet talked the director into having it ready on Friday morning. We will pick that up and then fly to Guangzhou that afternoon. And guess what? Our guide is flying with us! It isn't standard that the guide flies with you but she will be the guide for our entire group in Guangzhou so she has to fly there just like we do so she's going at the same time as us. I laughed and said, good another hand to help with the motion sickness.
One cute thing from today-
Claire is very funny; quite the little jokester.  She told our guide today that she loves to smile and be funny and when the younger kids or babies were upset she would do something funny to make them laugh because if you are always smiling there is love in the sky.  Wow, it's hard to imagine her any older than 4 or 5 based on her size but she definitely has the smarts and wit of a child much older than that.  That just melted my heart.
Keep reading, I took advantage of nap time today and posted several smaller posts with pictures.

Street vendors

Boo-yaw: I do not want. 
And when they are really up in your face you use your hands to shoo them away saying boo-yaw very meanly.  And then?  They will lower their price and come at you again.  That is when you give up and put the camera right up to their face and take their picture.
These crazy fools were all over the Summer Palace and drove us absolutely bonkers.


The smog here in Beijing is incredible.  When flying into the city it almost looked like a pretty orange sunset but we quickly realized we were actually looking at a huge layer of smog.  This view is looking out our hotel window; notice how the buildings fade away into a cloud of smog fairly quickly.  Beijing is ringed by mountains and you used to be able to see them all but once the city grew so large with no pollution restrictions in place it has turned into this.  All the cars look dirty; as if they have just been traveling on gravel or dirt country roads but it is actually the smog fall out that has coated them in a yellow layer of dust.  The yellow dust is on everything.

Our guide

I can't say enough good things about our guide; she is amazing. Even though we have nothing officially scheduled for the next three days she told us to call her anytime and she will take us out to eat. She is also going to get us some different medicine for Claire's motion sickness from a pharmacy close to her apartment. She even told us if we are at a restaurant and don't know how to order just call her and she'll tell the wait staff for us.
Our driver, Tim, scared the death out of us the first few times we rode with him.  But, after Claire really got sick all over his van today he turned into a softy and drove slow with his hazards on.  He always helps us in and out of the van and been great as well.
This picture is from our lunch today.  We had time to get lunch between the notary and passport office so we all ate together.


This how we do our laundry
do our laundry
do our laundry
This is how we do our laundry,
in the hotel.
The hotel's laundry service is outrageously expensive- over $8 per pair of pants.  Catherine found us a laundry shop within walking distance so we dropped off 4 pairs of pants and one shirt at that place for the same price but it will take 4 days.  So, to cut down on expense and not being able to send everything out or we'd have nothing to wear we did a bathtub load of laundry.