My Little Sweeties

My Little Sweeties

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Life has been soooo busy, I have not had time to post these past few days, but I think more has happened in this past week than any other week in my life.  So, lots to share, but I will keep things short and to the point because I am tired :)

Hong Kong - wow.  What a spectacular place.  If we are able to go back to China one day, that is for sure a place I would go again.  It is stunningly beautiful, people speak English, and I felt safe driving around :)  It was also the cleanest city we had been to.

Entering Hong Kong required a long drive (about three hours) and then going through customs since it is it's own entity and not really China.  We stayed at a lovely hotel that was very close to the airport.  Our decision to go was the right one.  It saved us about six hours of travel on our travel day (we would have had one flight to Hong Kong and then a layover of about four hours).  We were at this hotel for two nights, a total of about 36 hours.  We went swimming at the pool, enjoyed two breakfasts, and two "free" dinners.

Adam and I did take Peng Peng to "The Peak".  We took a taxi about 30 minutes from our hotel and then a tram up a super steep hill.  At the top was the peak.  It was basically a large shopping mall at the top of this super tall peak, but the view was beautiful.  As part of our pass we were able to go to the very top of the mall and get to look over all of Hong Kong.  We got little ear pieces that we were able to listen to the history and background of different buildings and land marks.

Traveling was brutal, but it actually went very well.  Our son still has something wrong going on with his tummy, so he has diarrhea about ten times a day.  Being on an airplane for 12 1/2 & 3 hours with this component was not fun.  Peng Peng slept twice about two hours at a time, on the first flight, and almost the entire second flight.  He was a true trooper with all this travel.  Adam and I got about four hours of restless sleep over this 30 hour travel window.  When we finally landed in California I could have kissed the ground.  When we went through immigration, the officer opened up his sealed document we had gotten at the Consulate in China and stamped his visa on his passport.  This moment is when he officially became a US citizen.  I could have cried, but I was too tired to do so :)

Seeing the kids at the MS Airport was unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  They ran up to us for a quick hug on their way to hug and greet their brother.  He had such a sparkle in his eyes.  I think he recognized them from the skyping we did, almost twice a day daily.  They were soooo excited to see him and talk with him and try to make him laugh, and he was in all his glory being doted on by these two amazing children.  They had made a big sign and held it with pride as we walked up to them.  We laughed, hugged, and played while Adam and my dad got the luggage.  We had asked for others to not join us for this moment for two reasons:  1) We wanted to keep this special for our children 2) we didn't want to overwhelm Peng Peng.  I am glad we kept this small and intimate.  It truly was a very special moment for our family.  In hindsight, I really think he would have been okay having more people there because he loves a crowd, but without knowing his personality that well yet, we didn't want to push him over the edge.

On the way home Peng Peng was not happy about the car seat.  He had never been in a car seat before and didn't like being constricted like that.  Fortunately, we were home in about thirty minutes.  There was so much to do when we got home, plus Peng Peng was terrified of our two noisy & excited dogs, so the chaos level was a bit much.  We were all exhausted, but excited.  My parents stayed at a hotel and everyone crashed by 10:00 (I actually fell asleep after around 1:00 after running around the house trying to put some things away).  Sunday we stayed in and just enjoyed being with one another.  My parents and sister helped with some projects and final touches, then that afternoon the kids, Adam, and I took a trip to a local Asian market.  The kids were so glad to have us home, as were we.  As much as I am eternally thankful for our time in China and having the opportunity for Adam and I to bond with Peng Peng, that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do - stay away from AJ & Abby for three weeks.  I missed them so much.  I was constantly thinking about/ worrying about possible problems we might have in China, with our travels, with Christian's medical needs, or with the kids back home.  Things went so smoothly though, thankfully those concerns were unnecessary.

Monday Peng Peng and I had fun walking the kids to the bus stop.  We had an eventful day while they were at school - met Abby for lunch and got to show Peng Peng off to a lot of coworkers and students, well-being check up at the doctor's office, picked up probiotics at the store, finished putting away things in our suitcase, etc.  Monday night was a bit rough - I think AJ finally was able to release some of his emotions he held in with us being gone.  As hard as it was, I am glad he worked through it.  He was such a good sport with us leaving and having so many changes at the start of his school year, but I am sure it was hard on him.  I have tried really hard to make this as smooth of a transition for everyone, but I knew there would be some bumps along the road.  Abby has actually handled the transition exceptionally well.  Her teacher today shared that if she wasn't told ahead of time, she never would have guessed Abby's parents were out of the country.  She has done amazingly well.  She did share that Abby had some tears yesterday though when we left school after lunch - Abby was missing me and wanted to see me again.  It breaks my heart to cause them stress and emotions, but I hope that in the long run all that I have put them through will only make them stronger and better people for it.

Today was very low key and productive.  I got the house mostly back to where I want it to be.  We had a busy morning - it was picture day, which is always a difficult morning (baths, nice clothes, hair brushed nice, pack lunches that have no red foods, etc.).  I goofed up many times - couldn't get Abby's hair right, couldn't find Christian's socks, made AJ wear pants he didn't like after trying on about six pairs that didn't fit, etc... but once we got through the morning everything went very well.  Peng Peng and I ate lunch with AJ, then he asked if we wanted to watch him play soccer at recess.  Recess was a blast.  We watched AJ a little while, but Peng Peng had quite the following.  There were about thirty kids following him around and he ate up the attention.  AJ stopped playing to hang out with his little brother.  He amazed me with his patience and his protectiveness.  He allowed people to hand balls to Peng Peng and for him to throw them, but made sure he had enough space and was having fun.  He was so gentle and kind with him, I couldn't have been prouder.  Tonight we really did get to watch him play soccer at his actual game, which he did awesome at.  Abby had fun rolling down the hills and Peng Peng kept trying to shout, "Go AJ!" while watching him play.  The librarian at school had signed out a few books for us to borrow about China, so tonight instead of our regular chapter books we enjoyed reading of adventures in China about about a family who adopted two girls.  It was so wonderful to snuggle with them and give them some special attention while their brother peacefully slept next door.

I have been so overwhelmed by our friends and family who have poured out their love and affections towards us in this process.  Walking into school these past two days and seeing friends and coworkers offer hugs and smiles means the world to me.  It was also a blast getting to show our completed family at soccer practice tonight.  As tired as I still am and with all I still need to do to get things back to a normal level of cleanliness, I couldn't be happier.  I think it has been about nine years of waiting to feel like our family is complete, and now I can honestly say, "Our family is complete".  I do wonder what God has in store for us.  I feel like more facets of adoption might be in our future - probably more distant than near, but who knows.  I know we are done having children, but I would love to find ways to stay involved in adoption.  Only God knows right now what that might be.  I do look forward to these next 2 1/2 months off, but I also look forward to going back to work knowing that my mom will be watching Christian for the rest of this year and all of his needs will be met.

Life is good.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 15: Stopping to Smell the Roses

This morning was spent packing and organizing for our final travels of our trip.  We left the hotel at 3:00, picked up Christian’s visa, and then drove for four hours to Hong Kong.  I tried to pack things in a way so we don’t have to unpack anything other than one suitcase for these final two days in our journey.  Hopefully that works for us, because I am a bit tired of unpacking and packing J 

I was nervous about getting our visa because about a month ago there was a group of families who had to re-arrange all of their final travels and stay in China five extra days because there was a computer glitch.  In the past few weeks I have heard others have also had complications, so this was a major deciding factor in us delaying our trip by two days (that and we are able to save six hours of travel on an already long way home by skipping the first layover, which was going to be Hong Kong).  As far as the visa, I wanted to have one extra day for a cushion in case there was a delay.  But, fortunately, no delay for us!  We had to wait ten minutes once the office opened at 3:30, then we were off to Hong Kong. 

The drive was long – Christian was not too happy about the car ride.  It was well worth it though.  This is by far THE most beautiful place I have ever seen, and that is just from what I have seen from the interstate.  We have all of tomorrow free with nothing to do other than what we want to do.  We decided to go and see “The Peak”.  I am also working on Adam to go on a river cruise, which I heard is $2/ person and well worth the time. 

I miss AJ & Abby so much and I can’t wait to start what is going to be our new routine.  We have so enjoyed this time with Christian and as much as I miss the kids, I know this was the right thing for our family to do.  Not only have the kids started school and had this time in their classrooms, but we have just connected so much – not only with Peng Peng, but with each other.  It has been like a second honeymoon in a way.  Adam has worked sooo hard this past year helping save up for this trip and I have been so busy with the kids, school, applying for grants, fundraising, and adoption paperwork, that we have barely seen each other.  Adam told me I have used up all our dates for the next ten years, but I am thinking this might be the beginning of stopping to smell the roses a little bit more and to make time to be together.  I don’t think he or I have ever had hours to just kill and relax.  It is kind of nice!

Day 14: Oath & Safari Park

Today started out very early.  We left the hotel at 7:00 and went to the consulate.  This was the big event that our entire trip was based around.  We filled out some paperwork with two other families and then swore (not bad words, but promised) to raise Christian as a US citizen.  I honestly don’t even remember what I promised because he was a little wiggly, but I have the papers to prove that it happened J  The waiting area had a few play toys, and Peng Peng had fun playing.  There were two children, around the ages of AJ and Abby, and he just adored them.  He kept smiling and trying to impress them with his silliness.  At one point he ran up to the boy and hugged him.  I couldn’t help but think about how great he is going to get along with his big brother and sister when we get home. 

After we finished at the consulate’s we went to a safari park.  I would go so far to say that it was even better than the Animal Kingdom at Disneyworld that we went to last year.  We saw an elephant show, Pandas (the giant ones and red ones, both of which are endangered), koalas, Adam fed a giraffe, and so much more.  It was magical to see Christian so excited with so many things.  He really really loves animals and I think he is especially going to love the fish tanks.  His whole body gets rigid in excitement when he sees animals or fish.  We also went on a safari ride on a car/ train type of thing.  We saw hippos, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, and more.  We spent six hours there and were all exhausted when we left.  The rest of our evening was spent washing final laundry and packing for our adventures tomorrow.

Day 13: Medical Exam, Old Chen House, and Temple

Today was a very big day.  We started off the day by leaving early for Christian’s medical exam.  I was anticipating this visit for several reasons.  I was a little worried that the doctors would find something to be concerned about since Christian has been so sick this week.  I was also worried that this could result in our having travels home being delayed – which would most likely happen if he had a fever.  I didn’t know how my little man would handle the appointment either.  I have heard of kids having major aversions to doctors after having already had a surgery for his lip and not knowing what those experiences were like for him in the past.

 When we got to the clinic we were able to get in a really short line specific for people who are adopting.  While the other line had dozens of people sitting and waiting, we had less than two minutes of a wait time.  We did meet two other families waiting with their adoptive children.  One lady from Pennsylvania chatted with us for a while – and was here finalizing her fifth adoption!

After our appointment we went on a little sight seeing.  We first saw a Temple.  Unfortunately, my camera died, so I have no pictures, but it was just stunning.  The details were amazing, the trees were hundreds of years old, and the temple was built 1500 years ago!  People were there praying and worshipping, which was sad to see for me since I believe the only one to pray to is God, but at the same time it was inspiring to see people there on a week day so dedicated to their faith.  Monks were chanting and incense was burning.  I learned that the purpose of incense is to send your prayers up to Heaven.  People had brought food for offerings.  Different foods and items were requests for different things (I just remember that peanuts are for boys).

Next we went to the Old Chen House.  Jackie Chen is related to the family who owned this property.  It was so beautiful.  They had carved ivory (which you can’t make any more, but you can sell with certain paperwork documenting it was made before it was illegal), amazing needlework that looked like paintings, and other artwork. We had a painting made for Christian with both his Chinese and American name for one of his seventeen gifts.  Christian was hitting the wall, so we skipped a third tour option of a crafters market and went back to the hotel room just after noon for some rest.  When he woke up we were able to go swimming at the beautiful pool at the hotel.  It was a nice and relaxing night in.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 12: Mid-Autumn Festival

Today was a really fun day.  Peng Peng seemed to feel much better, so we decided to go on some adventures.  We have really missed having other families to connect with, but with him being so sick, it really was a blessing.  We can go at our own pace and our guide is great. 

This morning we slept in, ate a feast, I mean breakfast, and then went to the Pearl Market.  This is a big shopping mall filled with expensive jewels and pearls.  Kathy brought us to the place she thought was best priced and we bought a necklace/ earring set for Abby (real ones, just not great quality) and Adam bought me my first pair of pearls (necklace and earrings).  We bought Christian a blue gem that we will have my mom help us make into a necklace for one of his gotcha year's celebrations.  We then went to Shaolmin Island.  It is beautiful there.  It was an Island controlled by the British until after world war two (even the local Chinese were refused access there).  The buildings look European and even the ground is covered in cobblestones.  We shopped for a few hours and bought several gifts for Christian and a gift each for AJ and Abby.  There were several professional photographers and models walking around - our guide shared that magazines often go there for photo shoots.  We were approached by three teenagers who needed to practice their Engish for a five minute conversation - it was fun talking with them!

We came home and rested for a while and then at night we got to go on the Pearl River Cruise.  We ate dinner (buffet China-style where we were pushed and shoved to get food).  The food was good and we enjoyed a clown for entertainment.  Christian even got to spin a ball on his fingertip as part of the show.  I couldn't help but shed a tear - I can't get over that it has only been one week that we have been together.  Just over that he had only left the confines of his orphanage for one field trip and otherwise had known nothing else.  I can see how overwhelming things are for him at times, but he just soaks it in like a sponge.

While on the cruise we got to go outside and look at the sites.  There was a beautiful tower that lights up in all kinds of colors, and we looked at the moon.  Today is a big holiday in China.  It is called the Mid-Autumn Festival and it celebrates family and being together.  Moon cakes are a common dessert (made with beans and fruit) and people look at the moon and release lanterns into the sky symbolizing we all look at the same moon and are all connected.  I thought about my kids back home, who I miss so incredibly much right now, about our friends and family who have supported and encouraged us throughout this journey, and about our son's birth mom, who is most likely looking up at the same moon wondering where he is and what his life will become.

When we came home, we were tired, but needed to give Peng Peng his three medicines.  We spaced them out as best as we could and he played like a crazy child (in a good way) in between.  Once snuggles were happening in bed with his bedtime bottle he ended up all of a sudden throwing everything up.  I feel so bad giving him all this medicine, but I must say he is starting to feel better - Praise the Lord!  I am optimistic that come our big travels home he will feel up to it all :)

Peng Peng is now consistently signing "more" "help" "fish/ water (he uses the same sign for both things) and is now learning "shoes" "up" and "all done".  We learned, "Mayola" which means "no more" and Ienee (rhymes with Heini) which means "I love you".  We use those two phrases a lot :)

Day 11: Sick Boy

Today we had plans to go on a big tour of a few local sites in Guanzhou, but our little guy was up most of the night sick and when he woke up he was a bit of a mess.  So sick that by the time we rushed through breakfast we decided he was not up for anything short of hanging out at the hotel and resting.  So, we called our guide and said we were going to stay in.

Peng Peng was not up to much playing, and usually once he played a few minutes he would come and give one of us a hug and just lay there for a while.  We did a few baths, which he really enjoyed and seemed to loosen up the gunk in his chest a bit.  He also took a three hour nap on my chest (laying flat woke him up coughing and he had a hard time going to bed afterwards.  We took a few walks with him in his stroller around the hotel.  We also played chase in the room a few times, which moved things along in his tummy.  I stopped counting the number of times he had the Big D after his tenth or so diaper, but my guess is we easily went through twenty diapers yesterday. 

We ate snacks in the hotel room for lunch and for dinner we did a free lunch in the executive lounge.  Peng Peng likes to eat, even when he shouldn't be hungry, so Adam and I took shifts eating upstairs while the other stayed here and played with him.  I brought my book and enjoyed some peace and quiet and Adam ended up sitting with a lady from Michigan who was here buying jewelry and bringing it home to resell as her business. 

One thing that was very exciting tonight was when we put tv on at night and Frozen came on.  Peng Peng sat up and was very very excited.  He must have seen this show before because he was anticipating some of the things and loved Sven, the reindeer.  I thought I would show him how cool of a mom I am by singing along, since I know every word of every song, but he immediately gave me a dirty look and waved his hands at me and barked some orders telling me to stop.  We will have to work on him getting used to me singing a lot :) 

He cried a little tonight going to bed, but fell asleep within a few minutes.  Praying for all these medicines to start kicking in!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Day 9: Hidden Treasures in our own backyard

Today was a lovely day.  We slept in, had breakfast, and walked to the park that is less than ten minutes away.  I thought it was "just a park" but boy was I wrong.  This place was magical.  It was huge - maybe 100+ acres?  There were flowers, weeping willows, coi ponds, statues, musicians, lots of children, and even an amusement park in the back corner.  Adam felt it was a bit too over-stimulating for him, but I loved it.  The musicians were using instruments I have never seen before.  I kept trying to talk him into asking one of the musicians singing if we could try a song and to sing "I'll fly away," which we have sung a few times at church together, but he said no :(

We noticed a lot of grandparents walking with their grandchild.  It is very common in China for retired parents to move in with their child and to watch the grandchildren while the parents work.  School runs from Monday-Saturday at five hours a day, but the grandparents had little ones with them.  It was very sweet.  They were very gentle and kind to the children.  There was lots of love and tenderness today.  Adam and I chose to wear our badges that we were given to show people if they stare or seem curious that states we are adoptive parents and that this is our child.  It felt good to have a way to show people who tried to strike up conversations. 

One lady tried to see if Christian would go to her by putting out her arms.  It was very uncomfortable to me and I told Adam it really made me upset.  Doesn't she know that my child has only been mine a few days and how confusing it is to test him and see if he would go to her or not?  Fortunately he wanted to stay with me and I politely ran away from her (walked very quickly).   I was a bit surprised to see the mama bear come out with a grammy wanting to smile to my adorable child, but it did.  I can handle the stares because I know people are curious and we are very visibly different than what people are used to seeing here, but to mess with my kid right now just doesn't sit right.

We spent the morning at the park.  We let Christian walk and walk and run and climb and when he couldn't go anymore we would give him a snack or drink and then go for more.  He has an endless supply of energy, and we were happy to see him have so much fun without constantly telling him, "no" or "be careful".  I think his favorite thing at the park was the coi fish in the huge pond.  He learned how to sign "fish" today and used the word many many times to get to go down by the water to see the fish.  Peng Peng is so smart.  I can't get over how fast he is understanding our English and picking up on sign language.  You can just see the excitement and joy in his eyes when you understand what he is trying to say.

Once he was consistently rubbing his eyes we went back to the hotel room.  I started cleaning/ packing for our travels tomorrow and Adam walked the mile to Walmart to get some more water and snacks while Peng Peng napped.  We then hung out and played in the hotel for about an hour before we went back to the park.  Peng Peng has not been feeling very good and I think the morning might have been a bit too much fun.  He mostly wanted to be carried, so we walked around the water a few times, had some snacks, and went on one amusement ride.  It was like a little roller coaster that you can go on very very slowly.  Each car gets to hold a net and try to catch the balls blowing out of the fish in the middle.  I caught the balls, then Peng Peng took them out of the net and threw them back.  He had more fun throwing than anything.  I think he is going to love baseball and sports in general!  Tonight we also let Peng Peng pick out a toy from a little vendor.  I wish I could have captured his smile and the twinkle in his eyes when he got to help pick out and buy what might be his very own first toy that he picked, but I was too busy enjoying the moment in person.  He hugged that little plastic truck for over half an hour. 

We finally found the turtle restaurant.  The food was good, but maybe a bit too adventurous for my liking.  The shrimp still had eyes on them, the tea was loose in my water, the chicken might have been joints, and the rice was called "rice with stupid egg".  :)  I toyed with eating turtle just for the experience, but when I turned to the page with the pictures of turtles on it, I couldn't do it!  In high school I had a pet turtle, Rosie, and I just kept picturing poor Rosie eating out of my hand.  So, stupid egg and chicken joints it was.  Peng Peng's cough was pretty bad tonight - it sounds like the beginning of croup maybe.  He is also very congested, so I am worried about bronchitis.  I wouldn't be so worried if we were back home, but we are in a bit of a tricky position to get medical help here at this point.  He is a trooper though and other than his coughing, runny nose, and almost throwing up when he gets too congested, you would never guess he is sick.  His nose has been bleeding ever since we met him as well - very faintly, but visible every once and again - so I put an email out to the U of M craniofacial team who we have our scheduled appointment with on October 1st to see if I can bump up the appointment to the week we return. 

After dinner we came back to the hotel.  We met Vivian to get Christian's very own passport.  She video taped herself saying a few words so we could practice them without feeling like fools.  We also just sat and talked for a little while as Christian practiced pitching by throwing blocks across the room.  The kid has a good arm!  We talked about how blessed we are.  Vivian said everything has gone exceptionally well for us and how she has been really amazed with how easy everything has been.  Adam shared with her how many people are praying for and supporting us from back home and how we believe in the power of prayer.  It was a great conversation and a good reminder of how all our friends and family are actively helping us from across the world. 

We ended our night with his favorite activity - bath time!  He splashed and splashed and splashed some more.  We are still working on sitting in the tub, so after two warnings we ended bath time a little early for his next favorite activity - eating :)  We actually had a warm bottle of formula for him and he took turns snuggling in our arms.  He had a little harder time falling asleep, I think because of how he is feeling, but a few bedtime songs did the trick and now he is picture perfect adorable sleeping in his fireman pajamas :)

I am so glad we went to the park today.  I was initially disappointed that we couldn't go on a big adventure - I had researched a few ideas ahead of time.  With Christian not feeling well and another big day of traveling ahead tomorrow, it really was the best thing for us to do.  Christian loved it and we got to be outdoors without worrying about getting run over.  Plus, it was just beautiful.  Off to bed and then to pack early in the morning.