Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 6 - Beijing Zoo & Aquarium

Day 6 - Beijing Zoo & Aquarium (short version)
~Van to Aquarium
~Touched dolphin
~Played with starfish
~Lots of ramen
~Park or zoo?
~Awesome zebras
~Saw pandas
~Fun day

Day 6 - Beijing Zoo & Aquarium (long version)
Early on when we were making our travel plans, we were trying to decide what we wanted to do and visit while here in Beijing. We wanted to include things that were not only cultural and educational for us, but also fun and entertaining for the Ladybug. We chose many of the typical tours, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Summer Palace to name a few, but we also decided on a place that we knew the Ladybug would love to visit, the Beijing Zoo and Aquarium. Because we live in a rather small town/city, one where we do not have a zoo, the Bug has never been to one. So we figured, why not make her first experience at a zoo be in China… seriously, how many American kids can make that claim!

Our guide picked us up around 9:00 a.m., we piled into a small van, and were driven to the Aquarium part of the Zoo. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised when we walked in the door. The Aquarium is set up with different sections; a rain forest, a beach area where you can touch starfish, an amazing coral reef, and a whale & dolphin discovery and mammal pavilion. Each section seemed to place you right inside the area, making it seem like you were really there. We loved the atmosphere of the Aquarium and thoroughly enjoyed wandering around from place to place. The Ladybug especially enjoyed holding the starfish and feeding the fish.

The best part of the day for her was the dolphin and sea lion show. She loved watching the tricks the dolphins were able to do, jumping out of the water and doing flips. At the end of the show she was able to go up front and touch a dolphin’s nose. Quite a special memory for a little girl, especially for a girl who has never been to a zoo or aquarium.

Before making our way to the zoo part of the park we decided to eat some lunch. Each of us chose a nice Chinese meal. The Ladybug and I chose a ramen dish with noodles and broth. Little did we know that when we ordered, one bowl would be enough to feed everyone in the family. The Bug was totally surprised, but loved the fact that she had a huge bowl all to herself (honestly, the Bug and I totally could have shared a bowl, with some to spare... but, at only $3.30 American, not bad at all).

After spending a few hours at the Aquarium, we made our way to the Zoo. On one of the China adoption blogs that I frequent I asked other people who had visited the Zoo and Aquarium what they thought and if both were worth visiting. We were told, hands down, to visit the Aquarium, but that the Zoo was just average and if we didn’t have a lot of time that we could skip it. So, with this recommendation and a few descriptions from some people, I imagined the Zoo to be very small with tiny enclosures, and very few trees and greenery. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Zoo itself looks more like a park with lush grass and bushes throughout, tall canopy trees that help shade everywhere, and a nice stream that winds its way through the park. I imagined the animals sitting in stark, grey enclosures, but instead they were playing in lush areas with waterfalls and numerous things on which to jump and play. The Ladybug loved all of the different animals, her favorite being the zebras, who walked right up to the fence to let you pet them. They were so gentle and seemed to love the attention they received from the patrons. Eventually we made our way to the Giant Pandas who were beautiful, but slow and quiet. However, it was very special to see them while in China.

Following our wonderful yet tiring trip to the Beijing Zoo and Aquarium, we settled into our hotel room, popped open a nice cold beer (the Ladybug drank a Sprite), and ordered up a delicious pizza. Below I have included some miscelaneous photos from our adventure today.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 5 – Rest & Naked-Tushy Boy

Rest & Naked-Tushy Boy (short version)
~Practice letters and numbers
~Cab ride
~Bar Street???
~People watching
~Naked-tushy boy

Rest & Naked-Tushy Boy (long version)
With the heat exhaustion from yesterday and the various upcoming tours… and of course the exhaustion that will come when we finally get the baby Butterfly, we opted to take it easy today and stay at the hotel during the day. After breakfast we went back to our rooms. I worked on photos from yesterday and updated the blog while the Ladybug practiced her letters and numbers with a nice book that Nana gave her. The Bug loves writing and is so excited that she can write her letters now.

Eventually, the rest of the family napped (truth be told, I did put my head down for about 10 minutes, but then the Bug came in the room and wanted to go swimming). What I find a bit funny is that while at home, my husband never, ever naps during the day. He would rather be tired than take a nap. However, here that is totally not the case. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out cold. As a matter of fact, he ended up napping about twice as long as the Ladybug and Nana F. That should give you an idea about how tired he was. Unfortunately, he now feels like he wasted a precious day, but I do not share that same sentiment. I feel that if your body is exhausted, it will tell you and you should listen. I am just happy that he actually napped.

As I mentioned, the Ladybug came in the room and woke me up from my tiny ten minute nap. She and Nana wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool. With the extremely hot weather outside, a nice cool dip in the pool sounded great! The three of us made our way down to the beautiful, serene, indoor pool and got in. It was so refreshing. Just what we all needed to reenergize ourselves after the jet lag and exhaustion from yesterday. We played and swam for over an hour, and then headed back to our rooms to get ready for dinner.

When we arrived in Beijing our guide told us about a nice place to visit called “Bar Street.” We heard from some fellow travelers that at night with all of the lights over the river that it was a beautiful site to see. So, we decided that we would make our way there, enjoy some dinner, and stroll around enjoying the scenery. We hailed a taxi who took us to a place called “San Li Tun Bar Street” and dropped us off. We started strolling the area and, to be honest, we are still not sure that this was the same place that we wanted to visit (we could not see a river anywhere). But, we wandered around the area anyway and enjoyed the sites. We eventually found a nice place to eat dinner, enjoying some Chinese-prepared American food. It was delicious.

The restaurant was situated in a huge outdoor, 5 story-tall mall. When we arrived at the mall, there seemed to be very few people in the area. But by dusk, the place was a-hopping with people of all ages. The mall seems to be the place where locals go in the evenings to cool off and enjoy the company of others. It was fascinating to see the children running around riding bikes, young adults playing a hacky-sack type of game, and people of all ages doing tai chi. It was so neat to see the people thoroughly enjoying themselves. I gather that the Chinese people love to be outdoors, but with the extreme heat during the day, they prefer to go out and “play” in the evenings.

After our meal and a bit of people watching, we decided to stop at McDonald’s for a nice cool ice cream sundae. Just what we needed at the end of a hot day in China. As we were at the counter getting ready to order our desserts, a little boy ran by us, and we all just stopped and starred (not intentionally mind you, but we were just so shocked). Apparently the heat was really getting to this little boy because all that he was wearing was a red apron that hung in front, thus his tiny, little, naked-tushy was quite visible from the back. I scanned the room quickly at this point and noticed that nobody was even paying attention to the little naked-tushy boy… nobody but us. He was so carefree and just seemed to love the fact that he could let it all hang out. Ohhhh, the innocence of children. That little boy made it so that our mistake-of-an-evening in the wrong place was absolutely perfect. What a site to see, but one that even now brings a smile to our faces. Another great day.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 4 - Forbidden City

Forbidden city (short version)
~Great Breakfast
~Walked to Forbidden City
~Hot and humid!
~The Ladybug performed songs on stage
~Walked back to hotel, passed out from heat
~Ate amazing Chinese food for dinner
~Toured snack-street, bought something on a stick
~Exhausted, sleep

Forbidden City (long version)
We all slept wonderfully last night. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out, and slept soundly until morning! We awoke this morning at around 7 a.m. and made our way to a wonderful buffet breakfast. There were numerous choices for us, from typical American cuisine to Chinese breakfast cuisine. We filled up on a little of both then decided that we wanted to venture out and enjoy a nice walking tour.

The hotel is located less than one mile away from the Forbidden City, which was once the Chinese imperial palace during the Ming Dynasty, so we opted to put on our walking shoes and make our way there. The walk was nice and easy, except for when we had to cross the streets and dodge cars that, I swear, would have loved to use us as target practice. Fortunately nobody got hurt and we arrived at the City unscathed.

Two things so far in this trip surprised me because they are different than I expected. The first is that it is WAY hotter in Beijing than I thought it would be. I was told by many people to expect hot weather in China, but I was under the impression that they were primarily referring to provinces and cities much farther south than Beijing. Places like Guangzhou and Guiyang, both of which we will be going to after we leave Beijing. Well, I was completely wrong. It is just hot and muggy here. Add to that all of the walking that we are doing and… well, let’s just say that it was a good thing that we had so much water because we were sweating like crazy. The second thing that surprised me is there are so many more people in the tourist destinations than I expected. Last time we were here it was November, and although we did see lots of people, after all Beijing is huge, the touristy places were not jam packed with people. So, when we walked up to the gates of the Forbidden City today, I was completely shocked. The place was crawling with people just about everywhere. However, despite these two “drawbacks,” we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (BTW, we also had a few fans to help cool us off [one even squirts wateron you, see below for a pic of the Bug cooling hersefl off], as well as an umbrella to give us some shade... apparently the umbrellas [parasols] are huge over here).

The Forbidden City is vast and gorgeous. Words do not do it justice. But, as we were walking around the palace I remembered what my father said when he traveled with us to pick up the Ladybug almost four years ago. He walked over to one of the many railings, looked out over the courtyard and said, “This looks like a fine place for a rodeo.” We all laughed at the comment, thinking about how silly it would be to see a rodeo in the middle of the Forbidden City. Cowboys and Terra Cotta warriors just do not mix.

To beat the heat we took our time by meandering our way through the many shaded corridors and entry ways to keep cool and out of the sun. At one of the stops, the Ladybug found a “stage” and decided that it was the perfect place to entertain us with some songs. She marched right up on stage and started giving us her rendition of some of her Abba favorites. At the end of the first song she started to bow just as two Chinese people stood up and gave her a round of applause. She loved it, and that just encouraged her to continue… which she did.

While the ladybug was performing, what I noticed was that although people were watching her, they also seemed to be watching us as a family as well. As it turns out, we seem to be one of the very few multi-cultural families, and I am guessing that many of these people do not often see cute little Chinese girls with American parents (I am not by any means saying that we are the only blended family, but there definitely are not many here that I have seen). We are an anomaly here in Beijing and that leads to many questions and interesting looks. A few times some elderly women slowly walked up toward her and tried to talk to her. She in turn looked at them questioningly, turned toward us and started speaking perfect English. Each time, the women seemed quite shocked, but also smiled as they watched her walk up to us and give us big hugs.

We made our way from one end of the palace to the other, enjoying the sites and sounds along the way, as well as meandering into a few shops on the palace grounds. Apparently we had been there just a little too long for the little Ladybug because at one point the she proclaimed that she was, “done shopping and didn’t want to do that anymore!” We chuckled… sorry little girl but you have a Nana and a mother who are going to veto your proclamation. She also stated that she was done with pictures for the day because we had taken enough of her. I think the little girl is still dealing with some jet lag because she usually loves getting her picture taken. It won’t matter anyway since, again, her Nana and mother will be vetoing that request as well. We are doing what we can to preserve as many memories as we can for her… and us (you can see in the first photo below... she is a little grumpy about getting her photo taken, again).

We finally made it from one end of the Forbidden City to the other and eventually walked back to the hotel. The heat definitely got to all of us. Red-cheeked by the sun and heat, we were all totally drained at the end of this little jaunt to the Forbidden City. By the time we returned, the Bug was sound asleep again. We all napped for about two hours then went out for some Chinese dinner. Wow, it was absolutely amazing! The tastes, textures, and flavors are extraordinary and just so beyond what we encounter in America. It was an incredible dinner, and we cannot wait for more to come. We hope to try a “hot pot” dinner tomorrow.

After dinner we walked through the downtown are and visited snack-street. It was so fun! The ladybug has heard about this place by her daddy who has teased her about eating a bug. So, as soon as she heard that we were on our way to where “people eat bugs,” she got al little nervous. Don’t worry, we didn’t make her eat a bug, as a matter of fact, none of ate any bugs. The only thing that was purchased was a nice dessert of fruit-on-a-stick for daddy. None the less, we did get an eyeful of a huge assortment of bugs, seafood, poultry, and innards for sale. This is not a place for people with fragile stomachs, but it surely is a site to see. We had a wonderful time meandering through the various venders. It was definitely a fun site to see.

We are now back in our rooms ready for bed. Onto another adventure soon!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Days 1 - 3, We Are In China!!!

Friday, June 25 - Sunday, June 27
We are here (short version)!
~Left South Dakota
~Got to Los Angeles on time
~Met with Nana F. at LAX
~Got on our 15 hour flight to Guangzhou, China
~Diverted to Haikou, China because of bad weather
~Sat on the tarmac for 2+ hours
~Finally made it Guangzhou
~Missed our connecting flight to Beijing
~Booked onto a later flight
~Finally made it to Beijing
~Arrived at our nice hotel
~Walked around outdoor market area
~Ladybug fell asleep during our walk
~Ladybug lost a shoe
~Daddy walk back to find shoe
~Daddy got picked up be 2 hookers
~Enjoyed a little dinner
~Went to bed

We are here (long version)!
We are in China! After nearly 48 hours of travel from our home in South Dakota, we finally made it to our destination of Beijing. There were a few stumbles along the way, but we are here now with smiles on our faces. Wow, it feels so amazing to be here, again.

We started our journey on Friday morning. A dear friend, Stacy, was kind enough to drive us to the airport. Once there we were told that because our domestic and international tickets were not purchased on the same ticket but instead purchased separately, once we arrived in Los Angeles we would have to go to baggage claim, get our bags, take them to the ticket agent and then go back through security. Last time we were able to check our bags straight through to Beijing, so this little extra jaunt was not something I was looking forward to on this journey (especially when you compare our little airport and its tiny security line with that of LAX… yuck!). But, there was nothing we could do so we forged forward.

Our two flights to LAX were uneventful. The Ladybug and I sat together on both flights while daddy sat elsewhere on the plane. Apparently getting three seats together was just not in the cards for us. When we arrived in LAX, we grabbed our bags and walked over to the international terminal where my mother, (Nana F.) was eagerly awaiting our arrival. It was so good to see her again since it had been a year since we had last been together. She immediately scooped up the Bug and gave her tons of hugs and kisses, as only Nana’s can do.

Our flight to China was scheduled to leave LAX at 11:30 p.m., which is a wonderful flight to take because it gives us the opportunity to sleep through much of the flight. However, our flight from Salt Lake City arrived in LAX at around 4:30 p.m. so that meant that we had about 6 hours to kill until the plane started boarding. We found a nice place at the airport to eat dinner, then eventually checked in and made our way through security… again. Unfortunately, our thoughts of meandering through little shops here and there in the terminal to kill a little time were quickly dashed right after walking through the security checkpoint. As soon as we rounded the corner all we saw was a long corridor with gate numbers and seats. Nothing else, nada! Well, except for a few vending machines that is. Pretty darned boring, especially compared with the rest of LAX which hosts several shops and restaurants of varying cuisine in each terminal. So, a note to anyone planning to fly through LAX, if you are going to use the international terminal, make sure to enjoy a nice meal and enjoy the shops before you go through security, otherwise you are in for a very boring time.

We did eventually make it onto the plane and into our seats. The Ladybug was so excited to find the “purse” that she received in her seat pocket, filled with perfect “pursey” items: a comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion, lip moisturizer, ear plugs, and an eye cover to allow you to sleep in complete darkness. There items as well as a pair of slippers are given to the passengers to make their flight a bit more enjoyable. The little girl squealed with excitement upon finding these wonderful little treasures. As far as she was concerned, this was already starting off as the best trip in the world, apparently it doesn’t take much to please a four year old.

The flight to Guangzhou was perfectly uneventful… that is, until we were almost to our destination. About 30 minutes before we were to land, the stewardess came over the PA and announced that due to some severe weather in Guangzhou we would have to circle the city for a little while to wait for permission to land. We did just that for about 45 minutes when the stewardess again came over the PA and announced that the weather had not changed so our plane was being diverted further south to Haikou “International” Airport to refuel and wait for further instructions. Now, I put the international part of the airport’s name in quotes because I have always thought an international airport to be a vast area that is great hub of excitement. I also thought that once there, if the weather in Guangzhou did not change, that we possibly might hop on another plane which would take us to our destination of Beijing. So, as we flew into Haikou and I saw that the airport was smaller than our dinky airport in Rapid City, and I knew that all of my previous ideas of international, jet-setting airports, as well as taking another plane to our destination were quickly squashed.

The airplane was refueled, quite quickly I might add, but because of the lingering terrible weather in Guangzhou we continued to sit, and sit, and sit. The ladybug didn’t care in the least about the wait since she found a friend about her age whose parents were also adopting a second child from China. The pair of girls became instant friends and were inseparable as they giggled their way around the cabin. Finally, after about two hours of waiting the captain received the go-ahead from the tower that we could return to Guangzhou and land. Looking back on this moment we do find it rather funny that the first hours of the Ladybug’s return to her homeland were spent in a tin can further south in China than we had ever expected to go. We couldn’t even get off the plane, but all is well!

We finally made it to Guangzhou, but because of our three hour delay we missed our connecting flight to Beijing. We were given seats on a later flight, rushed through the transfer station at the airport and then to our departing flight. Fortunately, the last leg of the trip to Beijing was completely uneventful, so we made it safely to our first destination city. So, after 42+ hours of travel I can finally say that we are in Beijing, China!!!

Our guide took us to the hotel where we have two adjoining rooms. The Ladybug acted like she had just arrived at Disneyland. She squealed with excitement at every nook and cranny in our rooms. The bathrooms, the couch, the beds, and even the closet. At one point she opened the closet and exclaimed, “Look, they even gave us dresses!!!” She happened to be referring to the robes that were given to us to use while staying at the hotel, but I do love the bug’s idea that they are “dresses” that the hotel “gave” to us.

We are staying at a very nice hotel that is walking distance to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, as well as a wonderful outdoor shopping area called Wang Fu Shopping Street. To help ourselves acclimate to the time change we decided to wander down to the shopping street and wander around a little bit and find a bite to eat for dinner. We wandered in and out of a few shops during our stroll, but the Ladybug by that point was just tuckered out, and understandably so… we had been going (off and on) for about 48 hours. So, we opted to forgo eating out on our first night and instead order in some food and eat in our jammies.

On the walk back to the hotel the Bug fell asleep in Daddy’s arms. All was well until we realized that the Ladybug had lost one of her flip-flops on the walk home, and since she was asleep she didn’t realize that it had slipped off her foot. As we waited patiently in our rooms, Daddy tracked our path back to the shoe. On his way, two over-zealous women walked up to him and started talking. They asked him where he was from and if he was here on vacation. He mentioned that he was here to adopt a baby girl, just hoping that information would be enough to make them realize that he wasn’t interested. Didn’t work. They asked if he wanted to join them for drinks and dancing. He answered no, he was looking for a shoe that his other daughter had just lost on our way back to the hotel (again hoping they would get the hint). Nope! They eagerly offered to help him search for the missing shoe, and looped their arms around his and forged forward. He immediately un-looped his arms, feeling dumb-founded that this was even happening to him while on an innocent mission to search for a lost shoe. He brushed them off and “kindly” told the ladies that his wife and daughter were waiting at the hotel and he needed to go. The pair finally took the hint and let him go, whereupon he immediately found the shoe and returned to the hotel. The day ended with some room-service pizza and an amazing shower to wash off 2 days worth of grime.

Not a bad start to our journey to the Far East:
Too many flights, a few delays, new friends, a nice hotel, and an interesting conversation with a couple of local “ladies.” Cool! Cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store for us!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Countdown ~ 1!!!!!

One day... we are now down to one tiny, little day!!! I cannot believe that we are finally at the point where we will travel. This journey has been so long and frustrating, but tomorrow all of that will be forgotten. We will be on a plane on our way to China.

We leave the house about 10:00 a.m. with a flight around 12:30 p.m on Friday, June 25. We will fly through Salt Lake City and then will be on our way to Los Angeles. Once at LAX we will have to wait about 7 hours before our flight to China will leave... at 11:30 p.m. Fortunately, my mother will meet us at LAX. We will enjoy a little dinner and eventually the four of us will make our way to the flight.

The flight itself is about 15 hours long. Fortunately, most of it is in the middle of the night so we will sleep through a good chunk of it. The plane will land in Guangzhou in the morning of Sunday, June 27, so somewhere in there we end up losing a day. Oh well, at least we will be in China! After making our way through customs, we will get on our connecting flight to Beijing. We should arrive in Beijing sometime around noon and then go to the hotel.

I am still in a bit of shock that we will actually be leaving tomorrow. The Ladybug just walked up to me, put her arms around me and said, "I am so excited!!! I cannot believe that we are leaving for China tomorrow, I just can't believe it" Neither can I little girl, neither can I.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Countdown ~ 3, 2...

Down to just two more days now. We still have numerous things to finish before we leave, but we were able to accomplish much today. The packing is almost complete, just a few loose ends to throw in the bags before we leave. I need to run to the store today to pick up a nice gift for the Ladybug's foster mother. We want to get her a nice necklace engraved with Chinese characters. We still need to pull together all of our paperwork that for the adoption. We have it all, just not in one localized place. That won't take long though so I am not worried. Other than that, we just need to pick up the house a little bit... it looked a bit like a tornado came through while we were packing.

Speaking of tidying up, the Ladybug suddenly has a unique fascination for cleaning the house. She started earning money from daddy by helping him with the yard work which lead to cleaning the bathrooms, helping to vacuum, and other little extra chores around the house that she can do well. After said chore is completed, she is rewarded with hard earned cash, usually a crisp dollar bill. Funny thing is, her favorite chore right now is cleaning the toilets and scrubbing the tub, which happen to be two of my least favorite chores. So, as long as she is willing and isn't exposed to any nasty chemicals in the process, I am all for it. What do you think?

So, with a little bit of tidying up still left to do and a little girl who is more than willing to help, I think that we will make it to our departure day on Friday pretty stress-free... that is unless some more things around here decide to break down in the mean time. More on that tomorrow!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Miss you Daddy

One year ago today I received a heart-wrenching phone call at 5 a.m. It was my sister calling to tell me that my father had just passed away. He had been suffering for a few years with a degenerative disease called Lewy Body Dementia. Watching him deteriorate was difficult for everyone, all of his friends and especially his family. We watched him go from being a very athletic, intelligent, funny, artistic man to a shell of what he once used to be.

(The photo below is of my parents in China 3.5 years ago when we went to bring the Ladybug home.)

But, I am not writing today to dwell on the loss of this amazing man. Instead I am writing to remember him and keep him alive in the memory of others. He brought such joy and laughter to everybody he met, and that is what I want to remember and keep alive. He was so talented in everything he did... he was a pilot, an artist, a singer, a dancer, a gymnast, a comedian, a husband, a grandfather, and my daddy.

At his memorial, I was asked to share my memories of my father. One year ago I posted the eulogy that I gave, and I wish to post it again today. For his memorial I created a movie of his life. During the first part, I provide the background song of Blue Skies. The rest of the music is by Isreal Iz Kamakawiwo'ole. Below are parts one and two of his movie. Included in the movie are scenes from our visit to China to bring home our little Ladybug.

For all of my blogger friends out there who never had the opportunity to meet my father, I hope that you will take the time to "meet" him today. His life, positive attitude, and outgoing personality blessed so many people whom he encountered throughout his life, and that is why I am honoring today.

It is a difficult thing for a daughter to eulogize her father, especially when I feel that his life was cut far too short by a disease that robbed him of so many beautiful memories yet to be made. And yet, as I have spent the last week looking through numerous photo albums and memories from his life, I am left with one realization… Jerry was a man wealthy in adventure, and the love of family and friends. He was a man whom people adored, whom they felt honored to call a friend.

One day while he was in the home, I paid him a surprise visit with “treats” in tow. I felt like a teenager, sneaking out of my parents’ home to go drink some beer with friends (by the way mom, I never did that). Hi face lit up excitedly as soon as I walked into his room with the hoppy libations slightly hidden in a brown bag, under my arm. I felt so naughty to be bringing him the beer. He eagerly sat down in his lounge chair awaiting that Bavarian beverage, something he had not had the pleasure of enjoying since he entered the home. As we tasted our first sip, he licked his lips and breathed a sigh of relief… just the taste he needed to quench his thirst.

While enjoying the beer, we talked about the brewing process (he informed me of a lot of things that he recalled from many years ago). He also recalled a story about the fact that he wasn’t sure if he liked this particular beer. He pondered this for a moment and then concluded with, “I guess I do like this…now I know.”

As I look back on this conversation, I keep hearing those words resonating in my mind. Now he knows. Now he knows. There is so much that many of us ask about what will happen to us after our lives are finished here on earth. We here believe in the glories of heaven that await us all. Yet now, I can hear him again saying from the heavens above, “Now I know.” I am very comforted by this fact… now he does know.

During this special visit, I asked dad some questions, sort of like James Lipton on his show, In the Actor’s Studio. Below are some of his funny and heartarming responses.

Favorite food is Mexican food.
Least favorite food = “Liver and bubblegum.”
His favorite activity was singing.
His favorite job (career) was singing at Disneyland.
“If you could say anything to mom right now, what would you tell her?” “I love you.”
“If you could say anything to Heidi right now, what would you tell her?” “I love you.”
“If you could say anything to Kristin right now, what would you tell her?” “I love you.”
Favorite thing to hear is “I Love You.”

Dad did have his funny side, as many of you know. As my husband commented recently, “Jerry was a prankster with a sharp wit and a straight face. One popular Jerryism goes,
If’n you ain’t out by sundown, it’ll be curtains fer you. And if’n it weren’t for Venetian blinds, it’d be curtains fer all of us.
You could never really tell if he was joking until the joke was clearly on you, and even then, you could never be 100% sure the joke was over.” As I was putting together the memory video for my father, I came across so many wonderful memories. One, a video was taken in the Forbidden City in China (from where we brought home our beautiful daughter). This vast imperial palace is located in the middle of Beijing and served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as being the ceremonial and political center of Chinese Government. The complex covers 867,000 square yards with vast interior spaces. While viewing the open courtyards, Jerry gazed from one side slowly to the other and finally he said, “I think this would be a great place for a rodeo.” Ever the jokester, he always had a way to make us laugh.

Last night I was speaking with my daughter.
I asked her, “You miss Papa Franz?”
She replied, “Yes, I miss him very much. Momma, well where is Papa Franz… he not here anymore?”
“No honey, he isn’t.”
“Well, what happened to him, did he fall down? I think he fell down,” she pondered a little more.
“Papa is in heaven. He is there with the angels and with God. We won’t see him again until we go to heaven,” I said.
Her reply was this, “God lives up in the sky, so if God lives up in the sky, then Papa Franz went up to the sky to be with God. That’s nice.”

He did go up to the sky, into heaven to be with God. I can see him now, flying around freely… singing once again with an amazing barbershop quartet. That is what always made him happy.

This vision reminds me of a song that was very dear to the two of us… Blue skies, smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see.

I hear him in heaven now singing these beautiful words. That is all he has now is gorgeous blue skies.

I would like to conclude with a poem that dad had hanging in his den. I looked at it often, yet never really read it until last night.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds… and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of… wheeled, and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence.
Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, buring blue
I’ve topped the wind swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew…
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John G. Magee, Jr.

I Love You Daddy…
Enjoy those blue skies and
Keep on singing and flying.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing


Monday, June 21, 2010

Countdown ~ 5, 4...

Hard to believe, but we are now down to leaving in less than a week. Wow!!! We leave this Friday, just 4 days away.

Things seem to be moving so quickly right now, and we still have so much to do. The Ladybug and I will be doing a ton of packing today. Time to take all of those loose ends around the house and finally get them into the suitcases.

The Bug is thoroughly excited to be and the end stages of waiting to travel. Each night she crosses off another day on the calendar. This ritual has really helped with her understanding of when we are leaving, and has saved me from the daily question of, "Mom, when are we leaving for China? Are we leaving yet, are we leaving yet???" Part of the reason that this calendar has helped is that the concept of time is one that the Ladybug has struggled with for a little while. To give you an idea, here is an excerpt from my husband's blog about the Bug and time:

You’re still confused about the term yesterday, which you still take to mean “sometime in the recent past.” However, I should point out that while your temporal vocabulary remains pretty limited, your temporal understanding is improving. For example, you’ve taken to using days of the week as modifiers for “yesterday” as in “Yesterday Monday I did X” or “Yesterday Wednesday I went to Y.” I am always impressed by the cleverness of your solutions to linguistic problems.

Over the course of the month, however, I’ve discovered that while your cognitive understanding of past is detailed and multi-layered, your vocabulary for it is somewhat more limited, consisting of exactly two* phrases, namely:
When I was a baby, which refers to those things that happened to you between your birth and, say, the time you started getting teeth, and
Yesterday, which pretty much means everything else.
That latter term can be a bit confusing, especially when applied to sentences such as “Yesterday when we went to Mount Rushmore I had a hot dog, and then yesterday at school I also had a hot dog, just like I did yesterday,” in which the first yesterday might more accurately mean last month; the second yesterday might literally be yesterday, and the third yesterday might, in fact, refer to ten minutes ago. I’ve occasionally tried to broaden your temporal lexicon from time to time, though each attempt usually ends in the same failure. A typical exchange might be:
You: Hey! Dad! Remember yesterday when I got my floss from the dentist?
Me: I do remember when you got you floss, but actually, yesterday you went to school with your friends. You went to the dentist last week.
You: I didn’t go to the dentist yesterday?
Me: No. Yesterday was just one day ago. You went to the dentist… nine days ago now.
You: Oh…
You: …
You: Hey! Dad! Remember when I was a baby and I got my floss from the dentist?
Chronological conversations with you might be accurately described as “acutely dependent on context and shared memory,’ although “confusing as hell” is equally correct.

As you can tell, the Bug has struggled a bit over the last couple years with the comprehension of time in the past, so you can image how difficult the idea of things in the future are for this little girl. After many failed conversations with her trying to explain how many days will still have left to wait until we leave, the calendar has been a life-saver. Now, to get back to packing...

Yup, just four more days to cross off, then we leave!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Travel Dates

Well, the count down has started. We officially have our travel dates and will be leaving for China on... June 25, less than one week from today. Woohoo!!!

Here are the official travel dates that we received from our agency:

Beijing arrival: 27 June
Holt orientation: 3 July
Date to Province: 4 July
Baby Butterfly Day!: 5 July
Guangzhou Arrival: 9 July
U.S. Consulate appointment: 13 July
Visa issued: 15 July
Leave China: 16 July

Beijing: 27 June - 4 July
Guiyang: 4 July - 9 July
Guangzhou: 9 July - 16 July

Although the agency orientation is not until July 3, we chose to arrive a few days early to do some sightseeing with the Ladybug. Since this is her home country, we want to experience some of China with her before we get the Baby Butterfly. We also want to make the last week as a family of three very special to our little girl. And, though we are leaving on Friday, June 25, we actually won't make it to China until Sunday, June 27. That gives us six good days of sightseeing and relaxing in Beijing before our orientation.

The really exciting news is that we spoke with the Ladybug's foster mother a few days ago (through an interpreter), and she knows when we will be in China and is looking forward to seeing us again. We cannot wait to see her again, and the Ladybug is very excited to give lots of hugs to the lady that took care of her for the first 7 months of her life. This wonderful woman is very special to our family. She loved and cared for the Bug so much during those first 7 months.

It was very difficult for the Bug's foster mother to hand over our little one to us, a moment that I will never forget. We were all in tears, tears for different reasons. Tears of joy and tears of sadness. Our family was so happy to finally have the Bug in our arms, but at the very same moment the foster mother's heart was breaking as she said good bye to the Ladybug. I saw her heart ache at that moment when she started to hand the Bug to me. Because of this anguish that I saw in her, I didn't immediately take the Ladybug from her. Instead, I pushed the two of them together closer for one last hug, one last moment together.

A few minutes after the Ladybug was handed to us, I had the opportunity to sit down with her foster mother to ask some questions. One question I asked was what she wished for the Ladybug's future. Her foster mother's response was that she live a wonderful life in America, and when she is older, if she could come back and visit.

When we started this second adoption, we never thought that we would be returning to the same province that the Ladybug was born. It seems that so few children who are placed for international adoption are actually from Guizhou province. We are so blessed to have one "spicy Guizhou girl," I never imagined that we would be blessed with two. But, when the referral information for the Butterfly arrived, I was amazed to see that she was from the same province. It was at that moment that I started thinking about making the foster mother's last wish come true.

We have kept in contact with her over the past few years. Letters have been sent back and forth. We have shared photos of the Bug growing up and doing well in her new home. The Bug knows about her foster mother. We have spoken, with much love, about her from day one. We have looked at photos and watched home videos to keep those memories alive in our daughter, memories that mean a lot to all of us. So now, to be returning to the Ladybug's birth country and province is almost surreal. We feel so blessed that we are being guided back to Guizhou. Guided back to the same place where we became a family. Guided back to making a foster mother's dream (and our dream) come true.

Dreams really do come true and prayers are answered.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Time!!!

Yes, you got that right, we finally received our...

That is Travel Approval for those who are unfamiliar with the adoption acronyms. It is a grand day here at our house! I will let you know about our exact travel dates when we get things firmed up in the near future.