Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Between jet lag and the virus the Littles shared with me I don't have much energy, but I wanted to post that we made it home safely and are settling into our new normal.
The journey was looooong but uneventful. After picking up Sprout's visa on Thursday afternoon we said our goodbyes to Guangzhou and headed to the the train station. We took the early evening train to Hong Kong which was actually quite nice. We were seated with several other adoptive families so the two hours passed quickly. The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed to the airport. Anxiety started to quick in as we made it to our terminal. Sprout is a happy little girl and pretty easy to please, but she is in a constant state of motion. Even when she is sleeping her body is moving non-stop. So the thought of trying to keep her calm and happy on a 14 hour flight started to make my heart race. I was relieved to see three other adoptive families were on our flight. It helps just a little bit to know that there would be others that would understand what we were going through. Stu, Sprout and I had the three seats in the middle and Chipmunk had the entire three seats in the aisle across from us. Lucky boy! As we were waiting to push from the gate I was feeling pretty confident that it would be okay. We were in the back with lots of empty seats around us and Sprout was tired so surely she would sleep for some of the flight. Within minutes she started throwing her Cheerios and when I told her no, she started whining. Immediately the old guy in seated in front of us stands up and very loudly says, "Oh God! It's starting already. I can't believe I have to sit through this for the entire plane ride...." He ranted for a full minute but I was in shock to hear much of what he said. Stu and I sat there with our mouths wide open. I mean I know it's not idea for anybody to have a toddler on a 14-hour flight, but it's not like we had any choice. I don't even remember what I said to him. I think it was something like "I'm sorry but we have to get her home and this is the only option." What I really wanted to tell him wouldn't be appropriate for Chipmunk's ears. I could feel my blood boiling as the guy stalked away. Thankfully, the guy sitting behind us jumped up and was incredulous about what the old man said. The girl sitting across from us also said not to worry about it. This was going to be a long flight.
Chipmunk quickly zoned out, watching movies on tv in his seat. He could choose from about 50 movies and he took full advantage of that. He watched movies nonstop for 12 hours; didn't even sleep until the last hour of the flight.
Sprout wasn't so easy. She actually did remarkably well but would not sleep. At all. We could tell she was getting tired about four hours in but she fought it with every ounce of her body. We tried to lay her down in the middle seat and she would have none of that. We walked the aisles a lot. She had an embarrassing amount of suckers. The flight attendants fell in love with her and brought her crackers and bread. A young Chinese woman came and picked her up out of my arms and took her to her seat several rows back (while I'm used to the fact that random people off the street would pick up my child, I was a little freaked out to watch this woman and her husband play with my child like she was theirs - I made Stu go rescue her after a few minutes). We let her destroy most of the magazines in her seat. My favorite game was to let her "accidentally" kick old man's seat in front of us (yes, I am that evil). She finally slept for the last three hours of the flight.
The minutes ticked by slowly but looking back on it she did really good. Only cried maybe 20 minutes total of the flight. And many of the people around us actually complimented her on their way out.
By the time we landed in Detroit, we were all exhausted and wanted to be home. By the time we passed through customs and immigration we only had a couple of hours to wait for our final flight. Stu and Chipmunk made lots of laps with Sprout in her stroller while I caught a little catnap.
The next flight was only about 50 minutes and was a piece of cake. I wanted to cry tears of joy when we arrived and were greeted by so many of our friends and family. Monkey, HD and Pudding ran and almost tackled me to the ground. It was such a relief to finally have all five of my children in my arms! Sprout immediately showed off her goofball personality and was soon laughing and running with all of the kiddos. I'm sure we looked like a three-ring circus but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
The car ride home wasn't fun as Sprout was not a fan of the carseat and screamed for most of the 45 minutes home - to which HD proclaimed, "She is NOT my sister." Ha!
Everyone seems to be settling into our new roles. Sprout and HD managed to overcome jetlag within a day. It is taking Stu and me a bit longer. Monkey is in love with his new sister; HD is indifferent; Pudding seems to be having the most trouble, which I expected. He is my shadow and is always in my lap, holding my hand, etc. He is trying to share me with Sprout but it's hard. Sprout is doing great. She thinks her new siblings are hilarious and is slowly warming up to her dad. I thought she would be rather clingy to me for the first few days but she is pretty independent and has explored most of the house. We are still working on some sleep issues and right now she is sleeping in bed with me. It is also going to take her awhile to get used to the way the kiddos "share" their food (as in, the second your head is turned, they grab whatever is available off your plate). Honestly though, this has been the easiest transition so far. I'm sure we will have many more bumps to cross but so far, so good. As I was snuggling with all of my children on the couch tonight, I just kept thinking that I might just be the luckiest mom in the world.

One last snack

My little packing helper

Saying goodbye to our guide/friend, Aron

Ready to jump on the plane

A very tired mommy and Sprout

Happy to be home!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy Days

Not much to say, instead I will fill this post with pictures. We are enjoying these last few relaxing days in Guangzhou. Yesterday we went back to Shamian Island to check Sprout's TB test (she had a reaction but it was under the limit thank goodness). Then we took advantage of our time on the island and went shopping! I bought small gifts for people back home and stocked up on traditional silk dresses for Sprout and HotDog. Sprout definitely enjoyed the beautiful day. She loves being pushed in the stroller by Chipmunk and had fun playing amongst the statutes. The rest of the day was spent lounging around the hotel.
Today it was rainy so we stayed close to the hotel. Stu and kiddos visited a local temple while I stayed back at the hotel with a sinus headache. Tonight we enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. Sprout devoured corn on the cob and Chipmunk had a great time looking at the lights on the shore.
Tomorrow is our consulate appointment where we will apply for Sprout's visa. That should be issued on Thursday afternoon and we will take the train to Hong Kong right after that. Friday morning we head home! We have so enjoyed our time in China but are more than ready to come home. Skyping with the kids at home tonight was fantastic but made us realize how much we miss our whole family being together. I can't wait to snuggle with all five of my children together.

A few random notes:
-I have been waking up much earlier than everyone else. I am up by 5:30 (while everybody else sleeps until 8:30ish). I have found that I love to slip over to Starbucks and grab a coffee and then walk the streets of Guangzhou by myself. It is so quiet (relatively speaking) at that time while the city is waking up. The shopkeepers are just opening their doors, schoolchildren are walking to school, older people practicing tai chi in the park. It is such a peaceful way to begin my day.
-Many people have commented on Sprout smiling in every picture. I am telling the truth when I say she is absolutely joyous. She reminds us so much of Pudding in that she always has a smile on her face. As a matter of fact, she said her first unprompted word tonight..."Happy!"
-Little girl also loves to dance. The instant she hears music, she starts shaking her booty. It's absolutely adorable.
-She is becoming quite vocal. Last night she sang cute little tunes for 30 minutes. Tonight she was speaking many Chinese words to our guide Aron.
-Her laugh is hilarious. I'm going to have to post some video of it. It sounds like the Cowardly Lion's laugh in Wizard of Oz. This hoarse, breathy kind of laugh, followed by snorting.
-Chipmunk has amazed me on this trip. I always knew he was a fantastic big brother but he has gone above and beyond during the past week and a half. He is constantly entertaining Sprout, walking the hallways with her, basically being her slave. Whatever she wants he is there to provide in a second. She adores him. He's also been great about our daily scheduleand has really rolled with the punches. He has eaten anything placed in front of him and has willingly tried so many new foods. I seriously couldn't be any prouder of him.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Safari Park

Today we spent the morning at Safari Park, on the outskirts of Guangzhou. It was fantastic. Initially we planned this excursion as a fun treat for Chipmunk. As it turned out, I think Stu and I had as much fun as him! We were able to take a tram ride through a big section of the park where many varieties of animals are allowed to roam free. We were within feet of giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). Ostrich walked right up to us on the tram. We were able to see hippos fighting in water that was about 10 feet away. Crazy!
Sprout was a bit unsure at first but she soon got into the spirit of the park and was shouting Meow! at every animal we saw. Evidently the only animal she has ever been exposed to before is cats. She was quite entertaining.
After that we were able to walk along a pedestrian trail where we were up close and personal with the animals. This is one of the biggest breeding centers for tigers in the world so we were able to see many different varieties of tigers: Bengal, Siberian, South China tigers, white tigers. They had more than fifty tigers on display. For 10 yuan (about $1.50), Chipmunk was able to purchase a bag full of raw meat and feed the white tigers...an experience that I don't think he will ever forget.
There was a big exhibit of various monkeys. Chipmunk wasn't as fascinated with this, as our local zoo has a good gorilla exhibit that we visit quite often. There was one baby orangutan that they had dressed in baby clothes and a diaper. He seemed fascinated by Chipmunk and mimicked every move he made. He didn't take his eyes of of him the entire time Chipmunk stood there.
Another highlight of the day was the giraffe area. So many giraffe wandering around. Chipmunk purchased a giant limb full of leaves for 15 yuan (about $2.50) and was able to feed a couple of giraffes. He stood by the wall and shook the branch and they walked right over to us. Sprout and I were able to rub the giraffe's nose while Chipmunk was feeding them which she thought was hilarious!
Of course, the highlight of the trip was a visit to the panda bear sanctuary. They had more than twenty pandas on view in a variety of different habitats. They only have a plastic divider about four feet high so we were able to get within feet of many of the baby pandas. They were so cute! We didn't spend much time with them though because Sprout was scared of them (as was Pudding last year).
Even though it was almost 90 degrees today we ended up spending almost 5 hours wandering around the park. It was seriously an experience we will never forget.
The only downside was the fact that I left my memory card for my camera in the laptop at our hotel room. I didn't think this would be a big problem as Chipmunk always has his camera with him. Not today! I almost cried when I realized I wouldn't be able to take any pictures of our special day. However our trusty guide Aron I(have I mentioned how much we love her!!) came to our rescue and was able to take many pictures for us on her phone. I'll post the pictures as soon as she sends them. We were able to get many good ones. And I did remember to bring our video camera so we should have lots of good footage to watch.
Chipmunk went swimming again in the pool this afternoon while Sprout was "trying" to take a nap. It's been so nice to have an activity for him to do each afternoon so we can keep our hotel room nice and quiet for our sleeping beauty.
Tonight for dinner we went to an awesome restaurant with authentic Chinese food. Many of the restaurants around this area cater to foreigners and make their food to suit a more international palate. We have been craving good authentic Chinese food since we arrived so we asked Aron to give us a few suggestions. We went to a restaurant a block or so from our hotel. We knew we were in the right place when we walked in and the place with packed with Chinese families. We were the only Caucasian faces in the entire place. The menu didn't have any English so we pointed to a few dishes and crossed our fingers. We ended up with barbecue pork, shrimp and vegetables, sweet and sour pork, and chicken feet. Every single dish was delicious. I will admit while I liked the flavor of the chicken feet, I couldn't get over the texture or shape of them in my mouth. You could feel every single little joint of the foot in your mouth. Yuck. Sprout loved every dish and even started to use chopsticks. While she needed a little bit of help picking the food up she managed to get most of it into her mouth. And Chipmunk is an expert at chopsticks now. I have to say that he is even better than Stu and me!
I need to add that I think we are over the worst (for now) with Sprout. She is completely blossoming each day and is full of joy. She wakes up with a smile on her face and it stays there all day. She is attached to me like velcro and adores her big brother. Daddy...not so much. We even received our first kisses from her tonight. So sweet!
Such a fun day full of making memories. Tomorrow we head back to Shamian Island to get Sprout's TB test results and to do a little shopping. I've held back on shopping so far but tomorrow all bets are off!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Switching Cities

Yesterday was a long day. We started out by doing most of our packing in preparation for our flight at 6:30. We then took a taxi to the Bazaar to do some souvenir shopping. Sitting in front of a taxi in Shanghai is like a ride at Disney World......you think your going to crash or run into a pedestrian about every three seconds only to swerve at the last moment. Very thrilling.
As soon as we got to the Bazaar we ran into a couple from Washington DC who were adopting their second daughter. We discovered they they actually know one of the couples we traveled with to adopt our daughter 3 years ago that live in the DC area. Amazingly small world sometimes.
We picked up our final paperwork and headed for the airport. Due to the timing Sprout skipped her nap. On the plane ride she was very good. Toward the end the lack of a nap kicked in and she got slap happy. Much better than the potential opposite reaction. We got a very pleasant surprise on our way to GZ. We found out our guide this week is the same one we had last year when we adopted Pudding. It is certainly nice having somebody you already know and trust during this adventure.
We also met three of the other families we'll be spending time with this week. Its always fun comparing stories and meeting the other kids.
This morning we all slept until after 8:00! Of course, it is also the morning that we have to meet our guide promptly at 9:00 so we made a mad dash through breakfast. Sprout was not too pleased that we didn't have the usual hour to make our way through the entire breakfast buffet, especially when she discovered they had shrimp dumplings.
We met up with the rest of our group and made our way to Shamian Island for the standard medical exam for the children. We stayed on the island last year so it was nice to go back for a visit. It is so relaxed and laid back (not to mention a great place to shop). When we arrived, the waiting room was empty so we were quickly escorted back to each of the areas (general checkup, ENT, cardiology). It's a good thing too because soon after we got there the waiting room filled with more thirty other families. It was a madhouse full of newly adopted children and their families. One funny tidbit: The doctor doing Sprout's checkup kept looking at her and looking at her chart. He even asked for the Chinese version of her medical files we have. He took them and made copies and studies them intently. I was beginning to worry when our translator came to the room and he quickly asked her a question. He was concerned because her lips were so blue and she doesn't have a heart condition that would do that. Ummm, guess who gave her a blue sucker right before we walked into the appointment?!?! Thank goodness he found that to be funny and we were quickly on our way.
The rest of the day was open so Stu and Sawyer went to the pool while I stayed in the room with Sprout who took a great nap! After that we went exploring in the area around our hotel and bought a new stroller. Sprout does NOT like the baby carrier I brought for her and loves, loves, loves to be in a stroller. I think she would sit in their all day if we let her. Stu is a master bargainer and was able to get a pretty good deal on a nice stroller so we have one happy little girl.
It's amazing how much Sprout is continuing to come out of her shell. We have had a few more brief spells of grief but for the most part she is a very happy little girl. She laughs constantly and finds the most random things absolutely hysterical. She is really starting to mimic words we say and is using "mama" and "papa" regularly. We've started using sign language with her and she has already picked up the signs for "more" and "all finished". I'm quite sure that "food" and "drink" aren't too far behind. We are seeing a lot of typical 2-year-old behavior and a few temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way, but this is reassuring as she feels comfortable enough with to show us her true colors.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grins and Grief

Sorry for the lack of blogging yesterday. We made a brief trip to the Shanghai museum and then were stuck inside our tiny hotel room for the rest of the day as it was raining outside. While we weren't very active yesterday, Sprout's personality definitely started to emerge. She woke with a big smile on her face and it stayed there for most of the day. However, as the hours go by we are starting to see quite a bit of "naughty" behavior from her. (I use the term "naughty" as that is how the orphanage described some of her behavior.) It started with her throwing various toys across the hotel room and then laughing hysterically. While we didn't want to encourage that, it was hard to tell her to stop because she was enjoying it so much. Then came the screaming at the top of her lungs for no reason other than it was funny. It's one thing to do that at home, quite another to do it in the middle of a museum. Then came the pinching and pushing of her big brother. Again, she thought it was hilarious and it was hard to convince Chipmunk not to allow her to do that. He was willing to take one for the team if it would make her happy. The final straw came when she was once again screaming in the museum and a security guard came up and tried to tell her to be quiet. She slapped his hand away and then tried to slap his face. I removed her from the situation and tried to apologize but am having a hard time trying to discipline her at this point. In China, I think they allow their toddlers to get away with most anything. You should see the looks I get from many of the older Chinese people when I try to tell her not to do something she so obviously wants to do. Ugh. Not fun.
Other than that, the day was great. She is such a happy girl and seems equally attached to Chipmunk and me (with Stu coming in a close third). Her favorite activity is being pushed in the hallway by her brother. I think she would sit in the stroller for hours if we let her. Looks like we will definitely be purchasing a triple stroller in the near future.
Today has been a much harder day. She woke up early this morning at 6:00 a.m. and was happy through breakfast. On our way to the Jade Buddha Temple she started to get cranky and it went downhill from there. We couldn't bring the stroller in and she didn't want to be held but we couldn't let her walk because there was such a big crowd. She fought with us the through the whole tour. After a brief visit to the French Quarter (where we randomly ran into a group of people from our small college...what a small world!!) we decided to go to the Shanghai Aquarium. Chipmunk has been such a trooper through many of the activities that we wanted to do an activity that he would love. Sprout had a complete and total meltdown while we were standing in line because I wouldn't give her a third sucker (this girl loves her candy). She screamed and wailed and kicked and fought. We had quite the crowd of concerned adults around us, all giving me dirty looks for not giving in to what she wanted. We made it into the aquarium (which was absolutely fantastic...probably the highlight of Chipmunk's trip) but Sprout just seemed really out of sorts. I know she was tired but it was more than that. We arrived back at the hotel and the boys went out for some sight-seeing while I tried to put her down for a nap. All of a sudden the tears just started pouring down her face. Poor girl was grieving hard. She just sobbed non-stop for about 10 minutes. It breaks my heart to see her like this and know there isn't much I can do to make it better. She did let me rock her and give her a bottle but you could just see the sadness in her eyes. Quite the reminder that adoption isn't always the happily-ever-after fairy tale that it might seem. Adoption is hard and it requires work. We took this little girl away from the only world she has ever known and while she seems to be adjusting and bonding with us, she is still missing the life she had. I so wish I could do more for her. Sigh...
She did wake up in a better mood after a short nap and we are starting to hear a few giggles again. Hoping tonight is a little easier for her. Tomorrow evening we are heading to Guangzhou for our last leg of the trip and I'm a little nervous how Sprout is going to do on the flight.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day Two

We had a long night last night so Allison is already in bed and left the nightly blogging to her wonderful husband.

So last night we found out Sprout has a bit of a sensitive stomach. I guess we may have overdone it a bit with the first couple meals as she had an upset belly all night so we took turns walking, rocking and changing diapers. She finally passed out and got a couple hours sleep. But she woke up very happy this morning and was in a great mood all day so no harm done.

Luckily today was pretty light on official duties as we took about 2 hours this morning to finalize some documents and get everything notarized and some photos taken. We then came back to the hotel had a quick lunch and then my favorite time of every trip....Family nap time. It was awesome. We made up for the bad night by taking a three hour nap. Well everyone did except Sawyer who did homework and played on the computer while he listened to the three of us snore.

After our nap we took a long walk down to the pedestrian street. It was packed with people and full of energy. We walked down to the Bund to take in the skyline at nighttime (see photo below). We ended up with a late dinner at the noodle restaurant across from our hotel. It is much more of a locals place and needless to say we don't exactly fit in. But I still wasn't expecting the cook to come out and sit down with us. They were all very impressed with Chipmunk's chopstick ability and watching us with Sprout. We were very careful with what we feed her tonight so hopefully we won't have a repeat of last night.

Overall we had a great day with Sprout. She is certainly feeling more comfortable around us. I think I'm starting to regret bringing Chipmunk with us. I am coming in as the third favorite behind Allison and him. They play great together and he certainly is a natural with her. Tomorrow is a sightseeing day so it should be nice and relaxed.