Monday, December 29, 2008

My 100th Post

I have been hesitating to post until some inspiration hit me for my 100th post. I would like to have had some creative writing neuron in my brain spark and produce a genius idea for what should be a banner blog post.

Instead all the neurons in my brain are too busy trying to recover from jet lag, the Christmas rush, and the demands of a new baby. There has been no moment of inspiration, no sparks of genius, and if I wait there may never be a 100th blog entry. So I am left to post about the same old stuff--my girls.

Today Banana (8) was asking Bophie (2 1/2) if she remembered how to speak "baby talk"? And if so would she teach it to her. There are a few things Banana would like to talk to Juliana about, but she doesn't know how to make her understand.

This has been only one of the really great moments we have had since being home. There are a lot of benefits to adopting an older infant I had not considered. The girls love being able to carry this little one around. While she is exceptionally tiny (she weighed 13 lbs today and she is over 10 months old), she is able to sit up and has great head and body control. She also loves to interact with the girls. They bring her toys and she reaches for them and throws them down when she is ready for a new one. She also smiles and laughs at them. I love watching them act like clowns to get her to smile (I wonder where they learned that).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Home For The Holidays

I didn't mean to leave everyone wondering how the trip ended, it's just that between Christmas and jet lag I am running on fumes. Yesterday I put the milk in the cupboard, a Splenda packet (wrapper still on) in my tea, and fell asleep sitting up.

Before leaving China, Juliana had been running a high fever and we had a scare at security in the Guangzhou airport, but managed to run to the gate and make it on the flight. We arrived home Christmas Eve. It was a trip of a lifetime, but I am so glad to be home.

The girls are enjoying loving on their new sister and Juliana is enjoying the attention. She has been sleeping quite a bit, but in good spirits when awake. She enjoys watching all the activity and listening to all the chatter. In this house of girls there is endless chatter. The girls all looked so much bigger. It's amazing how much they grow in two weeks. It felt so good to wrap my arms around them.

We went to Mass together on Christmas morning it was truly the highlight of this whole adoption process. It was wonderful to be back celebrating the sacraments with our whole family reunited -- what amazing Christmas blessings our family has received. There were some older Chinese women on our long flight home who kept telling us how lucky Juliana was to be adopted. Standing in Mass on Christmas I knew it was us who were not lucky -- but blessed to have her. She has already brought untold joy to us. We are fortunate to have been chosen to spend our lives with her. We are blessed to have a God who came to earth so that we might be adopted into His family.

Thank you to all our family, friends, and cyber-friends for all the prayers and words of encouragement as we travelled to pick up Juliana. There were many times your kind sentiments and prayers inspired me and kept my spirits up when I was homesick or worried. We are blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. May you all have a very blessed Christmas season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Red Couch Pictures

No adoption in China can truly be finalized until the famous Red Couch Pictures have been taken. For those less familiar with China adoptions, The White Swan Hotel (where we are staying in Guangzhou) has housed many adoptive families since foreign adoptions were allowed in China. The U.S. Consulate used to be next door so it was the most convenient hotel. In The White Swan there are red couches in the lobby where families and groups would take pictures. After awhile Red Couch Pictures became a staple of American families adopting in China.

Here are our Red Couch Photos. First up is a shot of the four girls in our travel group. All of these girls were in the same orphanage and are about a month apart in age.

Next is a family shot. David was unprepared to get his picture taken so feel free to give him a hard time about his ratty t-shirt!

Finally, here are all of the adoptive families in our Guangzhou travel group. We were joined here with two families who adopted older boys in other provinces. They are both about 6 years old and just darling little boys.

Friday, December 19, 2008

First Day in Guangzhou

We arrived pretty late last night into Guangzhou. It was too late to really get a feel for the area. We have an amazing view of the Pearl River from our hotel room
Guangzhou is the final stop for all Americans adopting from China so there are lots of families here with little ones. It is so inspiring to see all the new families being forged here. It is also nice to have a breakfast that is not spicy.

We spent our first morning here getting an examination for Juliana. All of the children were measured, weighed, and given a quick once over. After the exam we had all the necessary documentation to apply for Juliana's visa. David spent the rest of the morning filling out even more paperwork. Now we wait for the application to be processed and we take an oath on Tuesday which will make her an American citizen once she steps on American soil.
After a morning of paperwork, we were ready to venture off the island we are staying on. We went to the QingPing Market-- it is the local pharmaceutical shop. The Chinese use various herbs, bugs and reptiles for medicinal purposes. They boil them and make a "wine" out of them. The wine is sure to kill whatever ails you. A quick warning, the following video is not for the faint of heart.

The open air market was fascinating to some (David wants to go back and see the areas we missed), I will be better off scrubbing out most of what we saw there. I am content to stay on this little island and do some shopping. There are lots of little baby stores catering to the adoptive families. And there is this...

More Babies

There were four families that travelled together to Chongqing to pick up their babies. All of the girls are about the same age, only a month apart. It has been fun to get to know these other families and to have at least a few other people who speak English. I double checked yesterday and no one is in the witness protection program so I am free to post their pictures.
Here are the babies. It was too hard to get them all to look. I hope we will have an easier time when we try to take the famous red couch pictures.
This is Juliana and Kate. They are only three days apart in age.

This is all of the moms with the babies in the new jackets the orphanage bought for them. From left to right you see Juliana, Kathryn, Taylor, and Zoe.

Last Days in Chongqing

I only have a moment to post about our last days in Juliana's home province. She is napping, but we will have to wake her to catch our plane to Guangzhou.
Remember I said the Christmas decorations here just weren't the same. Here is Juliana's first picture with Santa Clause. She didn't know what to make of the skinny guy with the beard... neither did I.

These girls are selling something in the lobby of our hotel room. David has threatened to buy me one of these outfits just to help me get in the holiday spirit.

We also went to tour Old Town Chongqing. It was a nice place and I enjoyed seeing something other than the mall that surrounds us. Chongqing built up around this little village and it is amazing how it has grown.

Another picture of Old Town. Did you notice how bundled little Juliana is? It was over 60 degrees and she was making me warm. Even like this, we still get harangued by the local grandmas.

While the rest of our group decided to go to Pizza Hut for dinner (they were tired of Chinese food), we decided to be brave and stick with the local fare. I am not sure this was such a good idea. We started with octopus tentacles on a stick. While it looks and sounds awful, they dredge the things in so much spice you can't actually taste anything after the first bite.

Then we went to a little restaurant we had seen a few days ago. It looked like a nice place and there were lots of pictures so we could point to what we wanted. It was decent until David decided to try his chicken soup. This is what he found.

We stopped by McDonalds on the way back to the hotel.
Off to Guangzhou, more to come.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Days in Chongqing

I am sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have been busy getting to know this little one. She has a beautiful smile and makes the room light up when she giggles. We still haven't figured out a good bedtime routine, and nap time can be a little rough too. On the whole, though, it is amazing how well she is doing considering her whole world has changed.

This is a picture of us outside our hotel in Chongqing. There are Christmas decorations everywhere, but somehow it isn't the same as home. The Santa does help us locate our hotel when we are out and about.

After spending a few days in the hotel to finish paperwork and bonding with the baby, we ventured out to do some sightseeing. This is The People's Hall in Chongqing. We also went to the zoo to see the panda bears. We were able to see 6 or 7 of them. The pandas are local to the region Juliana was born in.

I couldn't resist this picture of Juliana in her new hat. The babies here are bundled -- really bundled. If we take the girls out with any skin exposed it is only a matter of minutes before natives start clucking. It is 60 degrees, but you would think it was freezing by the way the children are dressed. After too many comments, I broke down and bought a hat to fend off some of the hens. The bonus is how cute she looks in it....

I have really enjoyed our time in China, but I am quickly getting very homesick. I miss the girls, I miss my own bed, I miss coffee and breakfast of something besides fried noodles and vegetables. Thankfully we leave soon for Guangzhou which is our last stop in China. More later, I need a nap....

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Official

Juliana is officially a member of our family. She was a looong time ago, but it is nice to have the signed document.

Yesterday we went to the Chongqing Adoption Registration Office. It is conveniently located next door to our hotel.
After taking a family picture, we signed some documents, took an oath and sealed it with our fingerprints. Juliana was then declared officially adopted.
We now wait for her Chinese passport which will be ready on Friday. Then we fly to Guangzhou to start the process of making her an American citizen.

She is already a rock star! Every time we are out and about we get all kinds of strange looks. Thankfully our guide made a name tag for us explaining in Chinese we are here adopting. After reading this, we always get the thumbs up.

We went as a group for a celebratory dinner at the seafood restaurant downstairs. I have a few food posts about food in the works. It is too busy now to do them justice! I will say I was quite proud of the fact that at dinner I was holding a baby and eating with chopsticks at the same time. It was quite a feat.

It was of course one of those rare moments when Juliana was not grabbing everything in sight. She is so curious about all the new things she is seeing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Gift of Life

I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.

The Moment We Have All Been Waiting For!

Here she is... our beautiful Juliana Therese

We left Beijing yesterday at 5:30 AM and flew to Chongqing. When we arrived in the Chongqing airport we were more than a little surprised to hear Immaculate Mary playing on the radio. We took that as a little sign our Lady is still guiding this adoption. We then settled into our hotel room. It is absolutely amazing. I think it is the biggest hotel room I have ever stayed in. We then went to get lunch and did a little exploring. We were told to wait in our rooms for a call to come see our baby. We got that call at about 3:30PM.

We went to the 30th floor of our hotel, but no one was there. We started to worry that we were in the wrong place when the elevator opened and the workers came in with our little ones. There are 4 families in our group. I was amazed at how calm the girls were. The nannies plopped them onto chairs and there were no tears. I thought I would know for sure which one was Juliana, but they all looked more similar than I expected. I did guess which one was her, and I was right. I was unsure of what I was supposed to do but I longed to hold her.

I didn't have to wait long. Our guide called names one by one and we were first. Juliana was placed in my arms and though I cried, she remained remarkably calm. We have had her for 12 hours now, and she still has been very quiet.

After the other families were introduced to their girls, we returned to our hotel room. We gave this little one a bath, although she was very, very clean. She had new clothes and a new diaper. She was dressed in many layers and seemed very warm to me. This is typical of how the Chinese dress their babies, they really bundle them up. She looks very healthy and very clean. There were no rashes or other major concerns. She is small, but we hope to have her nice and plump soon enough.

She has had a few bottles and she is still sleeping as I write this post. She fell asleep around 8 PM and was up at 3:30 AM. We didn't mind her being up too much as she was in such a good mood. She laughed at her Dad tickling her belly and smiled when I laid next to her. We are so incredibly blessed to finally be holding this beautiful dear child.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Great Wall-- Our Last Day in Beijing

I only have a few more minutes of Internet connection so I am not sure I will be able to get too many pictures posted, but I will do my best.

We started the day at our hotel's breakfast buffet. David had decided he was going to try these:

As you might expect, they were terrible. It took spicy cabbage, some tea, and a few rolls to wipe out the taste!

We then drove to a Jade Factory. As part of our tour, we are required to walk through a few of these factory stores. The jade was beautiful and it was amazing to see all the work that went onto the carvings.

We then made our way to the Great Wall. I was absolutely amazed at how big it was. It was also quite cold. We had also been warned that you don't walk along the Great Wall, you climb it. That is certainly very true. It was incredibly steep. We were also told going up was easy, coming down would be more tricky because of the ice. I thought coming down was much harder because I was forced to look at how far up I was and because it was quite slick. I had visions of slipping and knocking the others in front of me down like bowling pins. I made it to the third tower, but David decided to make it to the top.

I am quickly running out of time, I will have to add a few pictures and write more tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for, little Juliana will be given to us in the afternoon. As much fun as we have been having, I am beyond excited for tomorrow to come!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beijing Day Two

It's only 7:30 PM and I'm soooo tired I considered not blogging tonight. I was up at 3:00AM this morning and couldn't get back to sleep -- jet lag is a horrible thing. I'm determined to stay up a little later tonight, however, so I can get a better night's sleep. Tomorrow, we head to the Great Wall and that's the one site we are most looking forward to seeing.

Today, we met the other families travelling with our agency. It's nice to put a face to an email. We then went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Afterwards we had lunch at a nice restaurant, went to a silk factory, and then toured a small village in Hutong. It was cold, but we enjoyed seeing more of Beijing.
I would like to post more details, but I'm simply unable to keep my eyes open. I'll have to post more later. Let's hope that it isn't at 3 AM. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Day in Beijing

After sitting on a plane for more than 24 hours, today we decided to walk. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. My rear end still hurts from all the sitting, and now my feet from all the walking. We meet the other couples with our travel group tomorrow. After talking to our guide and the hearing the list of sites we will hit in the next two days, I don't think my feet are going to get a break. I am surprised how much Beijing reminds me of other big cities we have visited. Everywhere we turn there are familiar brand names, stores, and restaurants-- McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Nike, there is even a Sizzler on the corner. This isn't to say there aren't remarkable differences. My first trip to the bathroom was the first reminder I was not in America.
I have enjoyed the food more than I expected, and no we have not eaten any fast food. We cheated a little and had breakfast at the hotel, but even that was largely Chinese fare. We had lunch at a steamed bun restaurant which was excellent. David swore he would try scorpion on a stick, but when given the opportunity to eat these goodies, he declined.
We both really enjoyed our first day. David is remembering more Chinese. He really enjoyed browsing a Chinese bookstore. I enjoyed looking in many of the little shops and strolling through the park with David. It has been a while since we have had so much time to talk.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This is a test post to see how convenient (or inconvenient) it would be to post from dh's blackberry. We are in Detroit and crammed like sardines on a plane bound for Tokyo.

It was a crazy morning getting out, I will have lots to blog about when I get the laptop online. We are both hoping to catch a nap. I am so excited to be one step closer to our precious daughter. The girls are playing with friends. I miss them terribly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Bear

Six years ago our family was blessed with a beautiful baby girl. I remember so well how you cried and cried. Then Daddy brought you to me, put your cheek next to mine, and I began to sing your baby song. Instantly you stopped crying and our eyes met. You stole my heart. It is hard to believe that was already six years ago.

Now you are my bouncy, cheery, snuggly girl. I love your big smile, your simple piety, and your enthusiasm for goodness. I am grateful for your big hugs, your silly comments, and your beautiful prayers.

You were due the Feast of The Miraculous Medal and born on this beautiful Feast of The Immaculate Conception and I know Our Blessed Mother watches over you. Today, I entrust you again to her care.

Happy Birthday my dear, sweet Bear!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thank You

Words seem terribly inadequate to express how thankful I am to have been blessed by such wonderful friends and family. I have been completely overwhelmed by the kind sentiments, prayers, and beautiful gifts of so many wonderful people as we bring Juliana home. The kindness shown me, Juliana, and our entire family is incredible and humbling. We are incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to bring Juliana into our family. We are also incredibly blessed and extremely grateful to have such wonderful friends and family to share this amazing journey. Thank you all!

Friday, December 5, 2008

St. Nicholas Day

I have said it before, but it's worth repeating -- we have a great parish. Each year they have a St. Nicholas Day Party. There are so many crafts for the kids, goodie bags, and one of the priests comes dressed as St. Nicholas. This year they made foam ornaments, beaded candy canes, bells out of foam cups and tin foil, and more. It is so nice to have the crafts for the day prepared for me.

At home, we have a tradition of leaving out your shoes. St. Nicholas carefully puts those shoes away and leaves a new pair of slippers filled with goodies. This year Mrs. Clause is really excited about the slippers. She found them after Christmas last year-- Stride Rite slippers for all three girls and the total for all of them was under $5! If you are wondering what is in the slippers, it is my girls' new favorite toys. They are Only Hearts Club animals. They come with a little clip and my girls love them. They make a nice little reward for chores well done and good behaviors.

The girls also write letters to St. Nicholas the week leading up to the feast. They tell him about the things they have done this year. Banana received her first communion and learned to write in cursive. Bear started First Grade Math and likes to pray the rosary daily. They add a sentence at the end telling St. Nicholas what one thing they would like for Christmas. This year they asked for two, but one of them was baby Juliana home safe and sound.

St. Nicholas writes them a letter back. He tells them little tales and such about the others in heaven with him. The girls write their letters mostly because they anticipate getting his letter in the mail. This year I believe St. Nicholas will use a 13 hour flight to write the letters and enlist some help in getting them mailed. He'll need something to occupy the time on that long, crowded flight!