Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bundle of Love

There's really nothing new to report but I know family and friends would like more pictures so here is what we've been up to...nothing, and it's awesome!  I can't remember the last time I had nothing to do but eat, play and sleep! 

Here is Princess Petals getting lotioned up with Scabies cream head to toe.  She seemed to really enjoy the massage aspect of it and laid there almost falling asleep for part of it.  She is holding a photo album we sent in a care package back in early November.  On our Gotcha Day I pulled it out of the bag the orphanage staff gave us and she latched onto it.  She can open the pages by herself and spent a lot of time looking back and forth from the picture of me to my face.  It was so sweet.  After doing that for a little while she looked up and smiled at me.  When Jon came over she did the same with his picture.  We feel quite certain that they allowed her to have this photo book, or at the very least used it to distract her during the 6 hour car ride to bring her to Guangzhou.  Even with the toys we brought here for her that photo album is still her favorite possession and she keeps a tight grip on it.  First tears occurred when we pried it out of her little fingers so we could undress her.

Post medicating and album is back in her hand (behind her).

First bath the next morning...not a fan...  Although the orphanage staff said she wasn't talking, she was repeating the same thing over and over and over while she was crying.  To me it sounded very much like  "Ayi" which is what institutionalized children often call their nannies - it means "auntie."  She was inconsolable until a bottle was presented...she loves her bottles and being held while she eats.  For a child that has always fed herself alone in her crib (we were told this by the staff), she loves to be snuggled and stare into our eyes during bottles.  

We had to go back to Civil Affairs to sign the adoption paperwork and declare that YES, after spending time with her we do indeed still want to adopt her!!!  

Our ride back to the hotel after Civil Affairs...she took a power nap on my chest.  Pure awesomeness.

After lunch we went back to the room but the short power nap in the van that morning seemed to be enough for her...until late afternoon...  She didn't want to be in her crib so I laid down with her, just for a minute...that minute turned into three hours and my husband had to wake us up!

I didn't want to try another bath again right away since the first one was so upsetting.  SO, I brought her into the shower with me.  At first she whimpered a little but after a few minutes she laid her head on my chest and just relaxed against me.  It was pretty amazing.  After awhile I was able to wash her and before all was said and done she started smiling up at me and almost giggling.  After the shower she got a lotion massage (her skin is very dry) and I put her in the crib for a nap - she was out immediately.  We have to wake her up soon to go to the police station to apply for her Chinese passport so she can leave the country next week!  This is what she's doing right now while I blog...  

Until we arrived, Princess Petals' only food was formula mixed with rice cereal.  In the past few days she has had rice cereal, Cheerios, mashed bananas, congee and apple juice.  She wasn't sure about eating off a spoon at first but seems to be warming up to it.  She loves feeding herself Cheerios though.  Jon put a wet plate on her tray this morning because she wants to eat them with her right nubbin.  If she gets it wet the cereal sticks.  It appears she would very much like to be right handed.  She tries everything with her nubbin first and then defers to her left hand when it doesn't work out.  

Seriously can't imagine things going any better than they are!  We feel so very blessed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Life Is Beautiful

It is true.  When you listen to your heart and follow the path that you know is right, life is beautiful.  Pushing aside the doubts and fears that make me human, I trusted, and have been rewarded.  I can't believe that I almost let this opportunity slip by.  Princess Petals is beautiful.  She is sweet.  This day could not have been more perfect.  Jon threw together a very short video of our gotcha day.. 
It was an awesome, overwhelming and unforgettable day and we are so thankful to be experiencing the gift of adoption.  We are discovering how much love we can feel for a child we just met, and learning first hand about the life of an institutionalized orphan.  We are saddened that her diaper rash is so severe there are layers of skin either thickened to a callous in some areas or blistered and peeling away in others.  She has blood blisters on some fingers and toes from getting pinched between the crib and the piece of plywood she slept on.  We had our suspicions confirmed that she has a nasty case of Scabies which is the likely cause of the scarring and discoloration on her abdomen and scabs all over her body.  BUT, these skin issues have been treated and will heal and today this child has been cuddled and loved.
We asked our guide how to say "I love you" in Cantonese.  He told us, but also informed us that the word "love" is not a word she would probably be familiar with.  

That broke my heart.

Today she is loved.  Today she knows what love is.

Everything about today is beautiful.

Headed To Guangzhou Civil Affairs

We went to the bank this morning and exchanged our US Dollars for Chinese RMB to pay for the public announcement, notary, registration, passport, medical exam, visa photo and the mandatory orphanage "donation."  Everything is done in cash so we are looking forward to having this money out of our hotel room as when you add it all up it's around $6,670 US dollars.  

I just packed up her bag of everything we're bringing to her "gotcha day" or "family day."  We haven't decided what we're calling it but TODAY IS THE DAY we get Princess Petals!!!  I packed up a few toys, a coat and hat, an extra outfit just in case she is upset and vomits.  A bottle, formula, rice cereal, Cheerios, diapers and wipes, a sippy of water, book and a pacifier.
Our guide will be at our hotel soon to pick us up and then it's a 20 minute ride to civil affairs.  They start bringing the children out to the waiting families at 2:30 and we've been told to expect Princess Petals to be a little late because she is coming from so far away.  We plan to busy ourselves by helping other families with their pictures and video as they receive their children.  I can't believe the day is actually here!  My stomach is starting to knot up a little and I need to relax so I'm keeping this short...

Next time I blog there will be a little girl crawling around the room and one less orphan in China.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hong Kong Marathon & Chicken Feet in Guangzhou

Warning: This is going to be a long post with LOTS of pictures.  If you want to see larger pictures, just click on them.

Yesterday was exhausting.  I kid you not when I say we walked a marathon...okay maybe claiming 26.2 is an exaggeration but I swear it was at least half that much!  

We are finding it more difficult to adjust to the 13 hour time change than we'd expected.  So far we've averaged 3-4 hours of sleep per night since Thursday...  Mornings are fine but by late afternoon the fatigue is starting to take over and today Jon succumbed to a nap.  I will hopefully join him once I have this knocked out - I don't want to lose the details by waiting too long.

Yesterday in Hong Kong it was breezy and drizzling on and off.  We took the train from our hotel and walked around downtown Hong Kong and Kowloon from morning until dinnertime and were completely wiped out when we got back to our hotel.  We were tempted to skip dinner but were afraid we'd wake up at 2:00 AM with grumbling stomachs again so we forced ourselves to eat a pizza before collapsing.  We managed to sleep from 9:00 PM to 1:30 AM.  Here are some pictures from Hong Kong:
 This is downtown Hong Kong.  The paths are very narrow in some places and if you're by the where you step!  They drive crazy fast through the narrow streets and don't feel the need to slow down for pedestrians!  It's hard to capture in a picture just how steep this walking path was but my legs are feeling it today!
And here is a picture of a man in the alley behind a restaurant chopping hundreds of green onions.  I guess when real estate is at a premium, the back alley becomes the prep kitchen!
 Next we climbed around on the side of mountain to see the Botanical Gardens, reptiles and monkeys...
We had planned on taking a ride up to a park on top of a mountain to see the Big Budda but the ride was closed for maintenance and we learned the Big Budda statue is actually relatively new - not the historic site we were expecting - so we bought tickets for The Peak Tram.

This is how it is advertised and what you could see on a perfect day:
But because it was so overcast we could barely see the building only 20 feet in front of us!
Even though there was no view of the city (seriously I could barely make out my hand in front of my face) the tram ride itself was pretty interesting.  Words can't explain how steep the climb was...crazy, ridiculous, wicked steep.  Whatever you're thinking - it was steeper than that.  After riding the tram back down (facing backwards) we took a ferry over to Kowloon and explored that area. 

I didn't take pictures of a lot of the main downtown Hong Kong or Kowloon areas because they could have been any big downtown in the USA with the exception of the massive apartment buildings all over.  There was Prada, Tiffany's, Cartier, and every other big name super expensive upscale store you can think of...and people were lined up outside waiting to get in!  Hong Kong would be awesome if you wanted to shop, but if you're on an adoption trip and have depleted most your bank account to get to this day in Hong Kong is plenty.  Around 2:00 PM we realized that we had missed lunch so we walked into one of the many giant upscale shopping malls and found a little place for a late lunch.  When we sat down we realized just how hungry we were as a mixture of nausea, fatigue and dizziness set in.  We thought we'd over ordered but managed to put away every last bite.  We learned that you have to raise your hand to be waited on...if you sit there waiting for your server to ask what you want, you don't eat.
We ordered one of the dishes that the table next to us had because it looked so tasty (not pictured)...turns out it was pork ribs riddled with small bones.  We were trying to figure out how to eat it "politely."  It was bite sized but how do you get the bones out without a fork and knife???  We observed the other table and realized we were supposed to put the whole rib into our mouths, work the meat off, and spit the bones onto our plates!  It was really good but the bones and the spitting got old after awhile.  After lunch we wandered around a little more.  Here are a few shots of around town - I don't know if you can tell in the picture - but many of the windows have laundry hanging out to dry...

So this is Hong Kong...a city of tall buildings, expensive stores, mountains, loading docks with huge cranes and probably thousands of cargo boxes.

Here we are too tired to walk anymore...we couldn't get back the hotel quick enough.  BUT it was really awesome spending time together and getting to have a meal where we could eat whatever we wanted (didn't have to be kid friendly) with no interruptions.  Having the day to knock around together was pretty awesome.  I am no longer upset with Delta Airlines for the reservation snafu that required us to leave a day early.  We really needed this time alone together and it's probably the last opportunity we'll have for quite awhile!!!

NOW...On To Today!

We were staying at the Regal Hotel which is connected to the Hong Kong airport so we walked over and checked our bags before getting a second breakfast by the gate.  I swore I would avoid McDonalds while in China, but, it was that or a version of Ramen Noodles with 7:00 AM a sausage, egg and cheese Mcmuffin sounded more appealing.
Our flight boarded at 8:00 AM and we landed at 8:50 AM in Guangzhou, China.  It was a fast flight, only 27 minutes in the air but they showed about 15 minutes of "Suburgatory."  Apparently American TV shows are HUGE in China and the way many learn and/or practice their English. 

Our guide, John, met us at the airport and then showed us around Shameen Island in Guangzhou (where we are staying).  After our quick tour we took him to lunch and enjoyed his selections off of a Dim Sum menu.  While we were waiting for our table we looked around at the many tanks of fish and other sea creatures just waiting to be devoured...some were common like crabs and fish while other tanks had sea snakes, water beetles and other things that really grossed me out.  
When we were ordering, John (the guide) pointed out that most of the locals were enjoying Chicken's Feet for lunch so we told him to order whatever he recommended and we, meaning Jon, would give it a try.  So here is our guide, John, and my husband, Jon, eating chicken's feet...

The food was good and relatively inexpensive.  I'm glad we're both pretty good with chop sticks because that's really all that has been offered since we arrived in Asia.  One piece of Chinese culture I don't think I'd ever get used to is the spitting at meals.  Crab shells, bones and whatever part of their meal they aren't supposed to swallow is spit out on their plate.  We also learned that we're supposed to dish out the food into the bowl provided and that the plate is actually for the parts that get spit out!!!  I assumed soup was coming...nope!  Anyway - Jon said the feet had good flavor, but two was enough!  He was happy to watch our guide finish them off!  When we got back to the hotel we unpacked and got everything organized.  It's quite chilly outside but is supposed to get pretty hot here by the end of the week.  The climate is similar to Florida.  Unfortunately the only way we've been able to cool the room off is by keeping the windows open...once it warms up we may have to request a new room with working air conditioning...if anything like that is available that is...  Here are two last pictures that I thought were humorous (but it could just be exhaustion)...our room has face masks and a "Guide For Fire Evacuation In Hotels."  The comic below is inside the booklet. 

Okay - it's time for me to try to eyes are having trouble focusing on the computer and my stomach is starting to do flip flops.  We've avoided naps up to this point because we were afraid they would disturb our night time sleep, but I think we've gotten to the point where it's getting hard to function...

I can't believe that in 24 hours I will be sitting here with my daughter...  Today we learned from our guide that her first name means "happy" and "beautiful" and her last name is a "Tangerine."  Apparently the area where she is from is highly agricultural and known for their tangerines!  

Check back tomorrow to see our "happy and beautiful tangerine" - although she probably won't look so happy when they hand her over to us.  I wish this wasn't going to be so hard on her.  Please keep her in your prayers.  We know she will grieve the life she's losing and that we are complete strangers to her.   We hope that she is able to find peace quickly as she transitions into her new life with us.

...can't keep my eyes open any longer...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hong Kong

Before our flights today we had some tearful good-bye's with our boys and took our last picture as a family of four!  W (3) made it very difficult for me to go but we just Skyped and he's enjoying pancakes with Grandma and seemed pretty happy.  D (6) wasn't in the mood to talk so we only saw him very briefly.  Hopefully he'll be more agreeable tomorrow.  
Yes, my boys were still in their jammies at noon...but even with jammies and bed heads this is probably one of the best family pictures we've ever taken:
Here we are at the airport just before boarding...I couldn't even think about the boys without tearing up... 
And now we're safe in Hong Kong and enjoying one another's company and getting really excited to meet Princess Petals.  

When we arrived in Hong Kong we were instantly hit with how humid it is!  I think we both felt pretty gross within minutes of stepping off the plane.   After getting to our hotel we went downstairs to have a drink and relax a little.  I was not hungry but Jon decided to get a burger...he ordered it medium well but had to send it back twice because it was completely rare.  He probably would've eaten it but I insisted he send it back...I've read too many blogs about people who get food poisoning their first or second day in Asia...  Although I did bring an entire pharmacy with us I am hoping not to need any of it!  
We're looking forward to a great day of sightseeing tomorrow (even thought it's supposed to be raining).  Our goal is to see the Big Budda and Jackie Chan's hand prints in Hong Kong's version of Hollywood.  Thank you to everyone for all of the emails, encouragement and prayers!  It is so very appreciated!

If you want automatic updates from Blogger when we add stuff to the site there's a spot on the top-ish right of the blog to enter your email address.  Blogger will notify you when there's something new.  

I think we're 13 hours ahead of eastern US time and about to hit the hay (if we can).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ready Or Not...

Here we are with TA in hand, flights and hotels booked and bags (almost) packed.  Soon we will kiss our sweet boys good bye and pray that Skype works once we get set up in our hotel.  Beyond the excitement of the adoption, a big part of me is looking forward to this trip as an adventure with my husband.  Even though we'll only have a few days alone together before Princess Petals' "Gotcha Day," I'm hoping the jet lag doesn't keep us from enjoying our time together.  It's been about six years since we've gone on a trip just the two of us.  Leaving my boys will be the hardest thing I've ever done.  I have to admit that reading the blogs of so many families that have walked in these shoes before us has really prepared me.  Following their journey's to China and seeing them return home to their families safe and sound has helped me find peace at a time when I thought I'd be panicking.  But more comforting than the blogs is being told by so many people that they are praying for us - some of them I barely know - some are great friends.  The support we've received has allowed me to let go and give my fear to much as I can anyway...I am only human after all.    

I recently ordered an update from Princess Petals' orphanage so we have answers to some questions and new measurements but, unfortunately, no new pictures.  We were very disappointed not to get a quick peek at her before we travel but are completely at the mercy of the orphanage director and what he has time for.  Here is her updated information:

1. What and how much does she eat/drink each day?
She is eating formula mixed with rice cereal 5 times a day. 220ml each time.

2. What calms her when she's fussy?  Is there a special song or motion she likes?
When she is fussy, just pick her up and walk around or caress her face.

3. Do the nannies have a nickname for her?

4. Is she walking yet?
She is walking by holding onto crib.

5. Is she hearing and/or speaking Mandarin, Cantonese or a different dialect?
She is not speaking yet. She can understand Cantonese.

6. Who are her crib mates?  Have any crib mates been adopted?
She sleeps alone in her own crib. No child’s crib is changeless. So all the children are her neighbors. (I asked if she doesn’t have crib mate, how about children sleeping next to her crib. So the orphanage was saying the children’s crib changes, so there is no certain child sleeps next to her crib. )

7. What makes her sad or angry?  

Speak loud to her will make her upset.

8. How many nannies care for her?  Does she have a favorite (who?)?  There are 12 nannies take shift to take care of her. She is really close to a nurse at the orphanage whose name is Chen Qiao.

9. Are there any items and/or police report from her finding that we will be allowed to have?

10. Updated Measurements:  Height: 72cm (28"); Weight: 8.29kg (18 lbs); Head: 43cm (17"); Chest: 44cm (17"); Foot: 11cm (4"); Teeth: 8.

If all was done correctly, it would appear from the updated measurements that Princess Petals has grown very little over the past four months.  This could be from errors in measuring or lack of nutrition  as it appears she is still only on formula mixed with rice cereal at 14 months old.  There is some growth though and that is always good to hear.

So that's it.  The last bit of info about Princess Petals before we travel.  On her Gotcha Day we will take temporary custody of her and then go back to sign the official adoption paperwork 24 hours later.  After that she's ours and we'll have become a family of five!  Our week with her in China will consist of tours of Guangzhou, a medical appointment and a visit the US Embassy to swear an oath and pick up her visa.

We are already dreading the flights back home.  We fly from Guangzhou to Hong Kong at 10:00 PM which will put us arriving at our hotel a little after midnight and then we have to be back at the airport bright an early for an 8:00 AM flight just a few hours later to continue the journey home.  If we are lucky she will be so exhausted that she will sleep the entire trip...I don't want to even think about the other scenario.

So, for all of you that are praying for us, PLEASE keep it up!  All of the encouraging emails and Facebook and blog comments are more appreciated than you can ever imagine.  Hopefully there won't be any computer problems in China and we'll be able to have access to email and blogger so we can continue to share our experiences through this crazy maze of international adoption.

There's an old Chinese proverb that reads: "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance.  The thread may streatch or tangle, but it will never break."

For us the time has come to follow this red thread.  We look forward to finding the other end tied firmly around the heart of little Princess Petals.