Monday, March 29, 2010

Pictures!

Sorry for disappearing. We've been so busy with our family of four. Here are some pictures from the past few weeks. Things are going pretty well--Sophie is a happy girl and a great sleeper. Sam is adjusting more and more every day to the intrusion into his life! We've had fun showing her off to lots of friends.

 
She still loves to eat!


She loves to play in the toy kitchen.

 
 Taking a nap at my friend Kristin's.

Also happy in the bath, but hates having her hair washed.

 
Funny faces while eating.

Her first (unaided) steps were last Thursday while our friend Christian was visiting for dinner.

Playing under the dining room table.
Two nudie cuties in the tub.

 
With Auntie Amy for lunch in Aurora.

 
With Daddy at "Maple Syrup Day" at North Park. Friend Delia also braved the snow!

  
Thank God for the pack 'n' play.

My friend Lourdes visited back when the weather was so nice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Big brother

While getting ready for bed on Monday night (our second night home):

Sam: I love Mama.
Mama: Mama loves you. So does Daddy.
Sam: I love Daddy.
Mama: Do you love Sophie?
Pause.
Sam: I love Sophie.
Pause.
Sam: I think so! Maybe... Just a little bit.

On Tuesday, he bit her.
Here they are riding in our fancy, new-to-us stroller, compliments of our friends Karen and Jeff. Sam calls it "the roller coaster."

They're warming up to each other, though haven't had to spend too much time together since Sophie (and Mama) has still been on China time most of this week. So she's up when he's sleeping and vice versa. You can tell Sam is trying hard, but that the adjustment to no longer being the center of the universe is not fun. I am making a special effort to give him some one-on-one attention and snuggle time.

For her part, Sophie doesn't take too much gruff from him. Seems like she'll be able to stand up for herself!

One week down...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Family of 4


Our first family photo! We don't look too bad for having traveled 7,000 miles! Photos courtesy of Amy.

At the airport


I'll always remember this.

We're home!


Ed was lucky enough to have a 36-hour birthday this year--but he spent 20 of those hours on an airplane or in airports. We had a few bumps (figuratively) with our flight to Shanghai (thought we were in the wrong terminal; walked to another; turned around walked back to the first one; missing baby seat ticket, etc.). But Sophie was good for the 2.5 hour flight. She's a decent little traveler.
We had to collect our luggage and recheck in as an international flight in Shanghai, but that was OK, as we had 5 hours there. We met some Americans--one, ahem, older gentleman who was marrying a younger Chinese woman he had met in UAE and a guy from Oklahoma who had been visiting his Chinese fiancee, whom he met online. Interesting. We also met a nice businessman from China who was going to Evansville, Indiana, of all places. We had noodles with him in the airport restaurant as our last Chinese meal.

Big mistake. Ed and Sophie both got sick from them--Sophie in the diaper within an hour of takeoff (other passengers laugh when you carry a baby into the bathroom with wipes and a diaper and walk out with a naked, except for the new diaper, baby). Ed was sick and pasty white the first few hours of the flight, but felt marginally better later.

To be honest, the 13 hours from Shanghai to Chicago weren't as bad as I had expected. We had bulkhead seats, with a bassinette on the floor, an empty seat next to us (armrests don't go up though--argh) and a very nice Chinese couple on the other end of the empty seat who made goo-goo eyes at Sophie a lot. She slept about 11 of the 13 hours, though mostly in my lap and arms. Unfortunately she didnt' like that baby cot. Ed held her so I could go to the bathroom and take a few catnaps.
We arrived to O'Hare and speeded through immigration, customs and the procedure with the "brown envelope," then walked out through the double doors--to nothing! The Manions, my parents, Sam, balloons and signs were at the other exit! My eyes teared up when I saw the first sign: "My mama always comes back. --Sam." That is what we all have been telling him for months.

I couldn't believe how different he looks--he's taller, heavier and his face looks different. I think he might have more teeth, or bigger teeth, or something. I know part of it is that I'm used to looking at Sophie now, so he seems "unfamiliar." Ed and I had prepared ourselves for any reaction (including him clinging to Amy and not wanting to see us) but he ran into my arms right away. Man, we missed him so much. That was, hands down, the hardest part of this trip.

My sister, her husband, kids and my parents videotaped, took pictures, carried our bags, escorted us home, carried everything inside (where we were greeted with a warm house and a welcome sign from our neighbors), and brought three days' worth of meals--one of which they immediately cooked, served and cleaned up after. It even included birthday cake for Ed, who checked in with his side of the family by phone as soon as we got home. We are very blessed to have such supportive family.
Sophie clung to me most of the time, but smiled at everyone, especially my nephew Kevin. Sam gave lots of hugs. In the car on the way home, he talked about sharing toys, and once home he tried to give Sophie a bottle and a kiss. Both made her cry. I think he is going to be a wonderful big brother.
We are jet-lagging, of course. The downside to Sophie sleeping the whole flight is that she now thinks night is day. She took a 2-hour "nap" last night but was up at 3:30. Ed and Sam are still sleeping and she is having breakfast while I catch you all up.
We are already having offers from friends for help and meals. Today we may make an appearance at the neighborhood WiggleWorms. But for the most part, we'll be settling in, unpacking and sleeping--and enjoying being a family of four.
Thanks to everyone--friends, family and strangers--who followed us on this journey. It's so good to be done! Now, as my mom says, we just have to raise 'em!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

We leave tomorrow

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday. I've been coming down with a bad cold (Sophie is coughing now too) so rested rather than blogged. Yesterday was our consulate appointment, and everything went smoothly. They checked our paperwork and we signed a form. Then about 15 families took the oath, which was really just saying that the information in your visa application was true. Still, I cried. I can't believe we are almost at the end of the this journey.
 
We couldn't take pictures, but here's one of Sophie on the bus from the zoo trip. We are dreading the long plane rides, and our itinerary is especially wonky because of our Orbitz problem. So we fly out out of Guangzhou Saturday morning and have to stay overnight at an airport hotel in Beijing. Then we leave Bejing Sunday morning, fly through Shanghai and then straight to Chicago.
 
We finished most of our shopping this (Friday) morning, though we still need to run to the supermarket this afternoon (and buy another suitcase to fit everything in.) Otherwise today is completely free. We were supposed to pick our visas from our faciliator, but actually the consulate did them while we waited yesterday. Ed and Sophie are napping, and I'm going to join them. I pulled a muscle coughing last night (hello-old age!) and my back is killing me today. Can't wait for the 15-hour flight.
 
Sophie continues to do well. She is so happy and smiley, very outgoing to strangers. She and Ed have completely bonded, though she still cries if I'm around. She loves to go for walks with him though. Today we were walking in the park and she was charming all the ballroom dancers. She is the perfect daughter for us and we can't wait to introduce her to her brother--and vice versa. Amy is trying to prepare Sam for that on her end.

Pizza dinner

On Wednesday night our whole group got together for pizza at the Italian restaurant on the island. Ed had pizza, which was very good, and I had gnocci with spinach and gorgonzola cheese, which wasn't half bad. Sophie ate three whole pieces of bread and about five gnocci, plus quite a few mushrooms off the pizza.

Flowers at the zoo

Apparently if you turn the "macro" setting on on our camera, it takes pretty decent closeups. Some others in our group have really nice cameras, and know how to use them. A woman named Stephanie took some good ones of Sophie that I hope to use for her adoption announcement.

Sophie at the zoo

Quite honestly, she was too little for it, but enjoyed the day outside. Our visa appointment at the consulate was this morning, but our other rep went for us and called while we were at the zoo to say all our paperwork went through. Thursday we go and "take the oath," and then we're done. Whew.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

After the excessive touristy-ness of the Bejing group tours, we were sure we'd skip the ones in Guangzhou, but we ended up doing all of them, and they have been pretty good. On Wednesday morning, we went to the Guangzhou zoo, which does have one panda. Unfortunately he was taking a nap while we were there. But lots of the other animals were active, including these two bears that were either fighting or playing in the water. Later, a lion let out quite a roar. I don't have much a telephoto lens on our camera, so as you can tell, you can get pretty close to the animals.

Cruise Part II

The demonstration of life jackets right before dinner was not encouraging, but the views from the upper deck were awesome. Ed said all the lit-up buildings reminded him of Tokyo. Sophie fell asleep in the carrier with Ed, but that turned out just to be a very late nap. She was up past 11 that night.

Pearl River Cruise

We hemmed and hawed about whether or not to go on the optional Pearl River Cruise ($60 for all of us, includes dinner buffet) but we're so glad we did. The food was so-so, but the views of the city were amazing. It's awfully hot and muggy here during the day, but the evenings are cool and breezy, though still mosquito-filled.
 
Some more pictures of the cruise to come.

Shopping in Guangzhou

On Tuesday we did some more shopping, walking to the Pearl Market area again, this time with Kisha and her husband, Paul, and their daughter Chloe. I met Kisha online before our trip because we were both delivering walkers for Love Without Boundaries, a charity that helps children in orphanages in China. They are from Colorado and a really nice couple.
 
Here are bins of tea for sale, and pearls by the bagsful.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Red Couch photo

On Tuesday morning we met with our co-group for the famous "Red Couch photos" at the White Swam. We are a travel group in and of ourselves, separated from others who were matched when we were because of our status as a "Hague family"--that is, we had to start over with our immigration paperwork after the US signed the Hague treaty on adoption, so we have additional requirements. (And we started over because we used our original, pre-Hauge immigration paperwork for Vietnam.)
 
But we have been traveling part of the time with another CCAI group of seven families who have all adopted children with special needs. We were with them in Beijing, then they went off to another province to get their children, and we reunited here in Guangzhou. They are all staying at the White Swan, while we are at the Victory (free internet, cheaper, and away from the zoo of the White Swan), but we see them throughout the day and really have connected with several families. While I don't want to put parents of special needs kids on a pedestal, they are a deeper-than-average group of people. And their kids are really adorable.
 
Each family had their picture taken on this red velvet couch in the lobby, then they tried to get all the babies together. I had to laugh because I think Sophie was the only one NOT crying! Most people dress their kids up in Chinese outfits. I only have one, and it's white for her baptism, so I didn't want to ruin it. She's wearing a cute dress I got at Target for about $2 on clearance. And I'm pretty sure her shoes and tights are hand-me-downs from cousin Clare.
 
She was kind of cranky before it was our turn on the couch and I worried she would be wiggling because she really wanted to walk. But as soon as we sat down, she was mesmerized by the hoard of cameras (about a dozen people taking pix, like the paparazzi!) and just laughed and clapped and raised her arms. So cute.

Pearl Market

On Monday we went to the famous "Pearl Market," where they sell pearls and pretty much any othe gem or stone known to humankind. I did get a few things but it wasn't what I expected. I had hoped for more "made" jewelry; instead it was mostly plains stands of pearls that you could have made into necklaces or bracelets. I did find a few nice pieces, though: one for me, one for Sophie and a few gifts.
 
Monday was a nice, unplanned day. We took a long afternoon nap, then had to go to the White Swan to do some paperwork. Ed hung out with Sophie in the playroom there, while I took care of paperwork for our visa. Then we went out to "Lucy's" for American food with another couple from our group.
 
I also bought a carryon suitcase to take back all our breakable gifts. We may need another!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Sam report

Every day around 1 or 2 p.m. (that's midnight Central time), we start checking our email obsessively, looking for the daily "Sam Report" and photos. Not only is my sister taking care of Sam for almost three weeks, she writes an incredibly detailed report and sends photos every day. She includes how his sleep went, what he ate, any cute things he said or did, if he was naughty at all, and all the fun things they are doing. They have been to Chuck E. Cheese (aka "Hell" to Andy), skating (see photo) and various kids' activities. But his favorite, Amy says, has been the Aurora University basketball games, where he regales everyone with "Go Spartans" and his dancing with the pep band (see photo).
 
The call yesterday went pretty well. When I said, "It's Mama in China," he said, "I play marble maze." I said, "I'm coming back soon," and he said, "My mama always comes back." Then "I play marble maze" and he was gone. No crying. The kids started roughhousing with him and he was distracted. Amy says each kid has their things to do with Sam: Jack likes to read him books, Clare ("Cware") changes his diaper and helps with bath, Kevin snuggles during the evening viewing of the "Huckle" video.
 
We cannot express how grateful we are to my sister's family for taking care of the most important thing in the world to us--but we're trying to with various items from Chinese gift stores!