Thursday, January 31, 2013

More tidbits

It has been a quiet day today. We went to our Consulate appointment this morning and that went very smoothly. Evie will receive her U.S. visa tomorrow, so we need to get her on U.S. soil before the end of July so she can become a citizen before that visa expires. We are moving to Maryland in July, so that should not be a problem. Again, God orchestrates the perfect timing for everything. If we had traveled to China for Evie any sooner, we would have had to find a way to the States before our move, which would have been a huge hassle, expense, and inconvenience. He takes care of all the details and I still sit around, wring my hands, and doubt. This is probably why I love Mercy Me's song "You are I AM". I could've written that song.

After our appointment we spent about four hours doing nothing in the room. It has been so great to have a comfortable room where we don't mind just hanging out. Although Evie LOVES to be out and about, especially if the stroller is involved, our times in the room are really very nice. She tends to be a little show-offy when we are out, and I see more of her true personality when we're just having downtime.

We went back to Banana Leaf with travel friends (gosh, we are going to miss all these families SO much) and had another great lunner. We also explored the fish pond and garden behind the hotel. I can't believe we've been here all week and I just went out there! The kids fed the fish and Evie got over her initial fear of them (remember, she hates animals). She did not care for the fake deer in the back of the garden, though. She is lucky we are not going to our old house in TN, where the deer would literally walk up to the front porch.

I was going to buy ice cream in the hotel, and a bar of Haagen-Dazs was 80 yuan, which is about $13. Hhmmm, no thank you. Walked back out to 7 Eleven and bought $1 ice cream cones instead. Then we met our friend Sydney and her little guy Rune in the lobby to say good-bye. They were headed back to the States today. Well, Evie was very sweet and gave everyone hugs and kisses. When we started to walk away she started sobbing - a big, really sad cry. It is the second time in the last couple of days that she does this after saying good-bye to someone. She is having a really hard time with the whole good-bye thing. We have to say bye to more good friends tomorrow, and I 'm going to have to not make it obvious that it's a good-bye. These are the two families we have spent the most time with this week, and I think her little heart is going to break!!!! Luckily, she won't understand our words, so I think we can pull it off!!!

I am extremely excited to be on my way home tomorrow night. I miss everyone more than I imagined I could. Yet I am also sad to be saying farewell to people that have become so dear. We've been cheering each other on for months, sending each other presents, celebrating milestones together, and then were blessed enough to be here together and share our first days as new families. We got to hold each other babies and watch them learning to like and trust their new parents. All I can say is thank God for Facebook, that I will get my fill of keeping up with these sweet babies and see them grow up with their new families, and get the joy pf watching them (from afar) get to know about their Savior!!! My joy in adopting Evie and getting to be a part of her life is multiplied times each of these dear families. And, it will be fun to watch some of them come back in the coming years to add to their families again ( yeah, you know who you are. I'm telling you, you'll be back).

As for tomorrow, topping the agenda is sleeping in. We have an overnight flight to Tokyo tomorrow night, so I want us both well rested. We just need to make sure we make it to breakfast before it ends. I might go down in my jammies!

A few random pictures I hadn't posted:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Catch up on the last two days

The last two days have been pretty uneventful. Mainly a lot of downtime to help me get to know my little girl. Yesterday our guide took part of our group to do some shopping at the "pedestrian street". This turned out to be a bit disappointing as we were pressed for time and never hit the "pedestrian" part of the street at all. We shopped inside a mall that mostly sells pearls and jade. I bought all I need as far as jewelry last time I was here, so, I was not really interested. I did get a few cheap pairs of pants for Evie, since most of the ones I brought were falling right off her.

When we got back, we went across the street with another mom and her lil' guy to have lunch at Banana Leaf. This is a Thai restaurant and the food was delicious. We ordered so much food (because it was so cheap) that we had a pile leftover. There were these green beans that were to die for, and I don't typically like green beans (the other mom ordered them).

After that we came back to the room (it was around 3 pm) and stayed in for the rest of the day. We had some nice bonding time, doing watercolors and making candy necklaces, and just relaxing together. We hadn't had an extended time of just kicking back like that, and it was SO nice. I got Evie in the bath nice and early so that she would have plenty of time to play, since she loves it so much. I let her take one of her balls in there and she seemed shocked that she could do that. She bounced it around the whole time giggling like crazy.

Today there was nothing on our schedule. We started off by hitting the hotel's indoor playground after breakfast. It is just a little room with a bunch of Little Tykes toys, legos, and the like. It was just us and two of our friends so it was very quiet in there. Evie grabbed on to a little ride on toy they had, and did not get off it the.entire.time. I think she was afraid her little boyfriend would steal it. She even drove it into the Little Tykes castle with her!

This afternoon we ended up taking the subway back to Shamian island with three other families. Taking the train was definitely an adventure but a lot cheaper and easier than taking a cab. I was very grateful to have friends there to help carry the load, though. I definitely could not have made it with Evie and a stroller plus her backpack, purse, etc.... if I didn't have a little help from my friends...... We hung around the island for a bit (yes, Leila, I scored you that dress) and then had dinner at Cow and Bridge. Another Thai restaurant. Yes, I do really like Thai food. And it is just dirt cheap out here. We are eating restaurant meals for peanuts. I guess the fact that there is only two of us and one only weighs about 30 lbs. might have something to do with that...

Evie was a little sassy today. She is definitely starting to test her boundaries and try to push my buttons. It takes a lot of testing to wear down a mom of six. I have to admit it is difficult to be firm at a time when you really don't want to be butting heads; all you want to do is bond and have nice feelings towards each other. My heart finds it difficult, but my brain knows better. Evie really is a good girl, and she listens well (especially for a 3 year old who has a mom speaking to her in a completely different language). She does this pouty thing that really is cute but I have to tell her is NOT. Oh, and 3 out of the 4 moms today but their kids Pleasant Goat (a popular cartoon) phones that play the theme song over and over and may or may not accidentally get left behind in our hotel rooms.

Tomorrow we have to be up bright and early, because we need to get through breakfast and ready to go to our Consulate Appointment at 7:50. This is the final step to making Evie's adoption complete in the eyes of the U.S. After tomorrow, she will be able to become a citizen when she steps on U.S. soil.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Banyan Tree Temple and Shamian

Yesterday we started off the day with a trip to the Six Banyan Tree Temple. This is a Buddhist temple built in 537. It is kind of cool to see something that old, but we old know from my post last week how I feel about all these temples. The pagoda was pretty cool and we got some good pictures. The weather was also perfect for an outing, which made it fun just to be outside. I am loving the 70 + degree weather in January.

Later that afternoon we venture off with a couple of other families to visit Shamian Island. This is where I stayed when I was here for Abby's adoption in 2010. Several years back this island became a second home for adoptive families, because the U.S. Consulate used to be located there, as well as the medical exam clinic used for the adoption exams. So basically, you would park it in Shamian and be walking distance to all the places you had to be for official business. This attracted a lot of business centered around the adoption community, and there were dozens of little shops scattered about the island selling cheap souvenirs and baby / children's items.

By the time I was here in 2010, the Consulate had moved off the island. The clinic was still there, though, and parents as well as adoption agencies frequently opted to use the White Swan or the Victory, the two major hotels on the island, for their adoption trips. Everybody would dress up their child in the traditional Chinese silks (or fake silks) and take a picture on the famous red couch at the White Swan. It was just tradition.

Shamian island was a beautiful place to spend your first days of bonding as a new family. It is a quiet little retreat, and you feel like you are away from the rest of the world. There is very little traffic and there are beautiful old European style buildings everywhere (Shamian Island belonged to the British and the French back in the 1800's). You can spend all day just walking around and visiting little shops, playing at the various playgrounds, and enjoying the sunshine. Sadly, even the clinic has now moved off the island. The White Swan Hotel where most adoptive families used to stay is currently closed for renovations. With all these changes, most adoptive families are no longer staying at Shamian.

In 2010, I got to spend the entire adoption trip (outside of touring Beijing) on Shamian Island. You always have to travel to the capital of the province where your child is first, and this is where the actual adoption takes place. After that, every American adopting a Chinese child has to come to Guangzhou to take care of the U.S. side of the adoption and to obtain the child's U.S. visa. Because our kids are not officially U.S. citizens until they step on U.S. soil, they have to travel on their Chinese passport and require a visa to enter the U.S. (yes, this means Evie will not gain citizenship until we move to Maryland this summer. Luckily her visa will not have expired yet). Anyhow, Abby happened to be from Guangdong province, which Guangzhou is the capital of. So I got to come here to get her and the just got to stay put. Evie was in a different province (Zhejiang) somI had to travel there first and then come down to Guangzhou for the U.S. stuff.

Because I was on Shamian the entire time the last time I was here, it is no surprise that the island holds very special memories for me. I loved strolling through this time and reminiscing. It was very emotional for me and really made me miss Abby and James (who was with me last time). Although a lot has changed, a lot remains the same. I saw a lot of the same shop owners and little shops as last time, and ate at everyone's favorite restaurant on the island, Lucy's.

Hanging Out

FB is acting weird, so I guess I'll post these pics from today here instead. Pretty girl this morning, and now early night in just hanging out with mom.

Photos of West Lake, Hangzhou

A few pictures I hadn't uploaded from last week at West Lake.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Safari Zoo

Yesterday our adoption group (about 8 families from our agency) got to go to the Safari Zoo. I want to clarify, since someone asked me about this, that Evie and I are NOT on vacation. Although the adoption is finalized we have more requirements to fulfill from the U.S side in order to receive her U.S. visa. This takes a few days to complete, and the Consulate will only take a few appointments each day. We don't have our Consulate Appointment until January 31, which means we will not be able to travel until Feb.1. In between appointments and paperwork, yes, there is a lot of downtime. Which is nice when you are trying to get your brand new child. But trust me, the minute I can be on a plane back to all the rest of my crew I will be ON it. I miss everybody terribly!

The Safari park was amazing. It was a better Safari than Animal Kingdom. Who would've thought? The white tigers in particular were very impressive. They were huge, and there were SO MANY of them. We started the safari ride with lil Evie sitting right next to me, but she kept scooting closer and closer until finally I put her up on my lap. She wasn't saying much but look pretty concerned.

Next there was a large "regular" zoo that you could walk through. It started with a "dinosaur walk" that was a path with a bunch of fake dinosaurs sticking out from the bushes. I have to say it was pretty realistic. Well, apparently Evie thought so too. I innocently pointed out the first one we came up to, and she just about jumped out of her stroller in terror. I thought it was pretty funny at first, thinking she had just been taken by surprise. Then I felt horrible because, no, the childm was truly terrified. She went into a panic for the rest of the day whenever we went by any large animals. She just wouldn't have any of it!!! Even the smaller things like the koalas, while they did not freak her out, she turned her nose up at them. I'm thinking she had never seen a live animal. So, in true mom mode, I distracted her with snacks. Ice cream, popcorn, you name it. She ended up having a pretty good day and I don't think she will be traumatized for life. We also eventually found some rides, and I already knew she loved those. Sadly, it was almost time to go by then so she only got to do the carousel. It brought a huge smile to her face!

Later that evening, after picking up some clean laundry that our guide arranged to have done for us, and getting a bit of rest, some of our families met to go to dinner. We went to this noodle restaurant that served HUGE portions and was super cheap. It was great to share a meal with all our new friends. Evie is pretty cute because although she really can't use the chopsticks (and often that's all they have) she really likes to feed herself. So,last night I wound have to load her chopsticks and then hand them to her to eat.

After dinner we went to Walmart to stock up on supplies. Evie was so stinkin' excited about all the little snacks and drinks she is used to having. And I got to get Great Value brand! Her eyes were growing big at all the stuff I was throwing in the basket. In true me fashion, I got separated from my group in the store and thought I was going to have to brave the walk back by myself. They were very sweet and waited (and searched) for me, though, which i was grateful for. At this point it was down to one other couple with their baby girl and one other mom traveling slone with her lil' guy. This poor husband was so great about helping lug our strollers up and down the bridge we had to cross. He made three trips up and down carrying strollers (with kids inside). I told him he might want to reconsidering venturing out with the "single" moms for the rest of the trip.

Here are a few pictures of our day:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Medical Exam Day

Words cannot explain how awesome it is to see these many families grown by adoption. All U.S. families adopting from China have to come through Guangzhou to get a medical exam for their child as well as to process their child's U.S. visa. A ton of these families stay at our hotel, so just walking through the breakfast room this morning was a lot of fun. It was family after family with their new little additions. The families that brought their other kids along always make me want to cry because I miss my kids so much!! It is such a great atmosphere and everyone is so happy for everyone else. Everyone is asking "How old is your kid" and "What province is she from?". Or "First adoption?". It's a little like a big maternity ward.

Then it's even more multiplied at the clinic. There are dozens of families there at any given time waiting for their child's exam. It is really touching to see all of the different needs a lot of the kids have, and it warms your heart that God had this excellent idea of adoption. Don't ever tell any of these parents what a blessing they are being to their kids, either..... The joy and pride in their eyes shout out who the one truly being blessed is!! It really is an amazing sight and a very touching experience. Which is why that "first adoption?" question has become such a common one around here.

The exam went well, but I won't say it was a fun time. They drew some blood for a TB test (new regulation for the adopted children) and that was the toughest part. They wouldn't let parents in the room and Evie was in there for over 20 minutes. I was staring through the little glass on the door and trying to make out the silhouettes behind the curtain. Then they finally brought her out and her little face was bright red and tears just rolling everywhere and I wanted to cry. She also had band-aids in a couple of different places so I know they had a hard time getting a good vein. Luckily, she brushed it off pretty fast and returned to her usual, cheerful self.

We also had a couple of great Skype sessions with everyone at home. Evie is really opening up to them and showing off her personality. She loves to act goofy with her brothers.

Venturing out with a few of the other families tonight for dinner was a lot of fun. Even though the service at Tekila's, the Mexican restaurant our guide suggested, was excrutiatingly bad, the food and company were great. Evie loves to chat and giggle with one of the little boys, a sweet little 2 year old that is cute as can be. Who knows what in the world they are saying to each other! There is also another little guy who is exactly 2 weeks younger than Evie. It is cute watching them all trying out different foods and figuring out these adults that look and sound weird and don't understand a word they are saying. But seriously, if you are going to Guangzhou beware of Tekila's. Several of the things our group ordered never even made it to the table, Evie's meal included. Boo!

Tomorrow's agenda: Safari park. With the whole group. Expect lots of pictures of LOTS of cute kids!

Evie pouting waiting for a meal that never came:

Loving her new nightgown:

Her 2 yr old buddy: