Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 20 - Oath Ceremony & River Boat Cruise

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 20 –Oath Ceremony & River Boat cruise (short version)
~Long bus ride
~Waiting room
~Pearl River boat ride
~Papa John's!
~Fun with friends

Day 20 –Oath Ceremony & River Boat cruise (long version)
We are nearing the end of our journey… today is the day of our Oath Ceremony at the U.S. Consulate. The oath was scheduled for the afternoon, so the morning was spent organizing some of our belongings and starting the packing process for us to leave in a couple days.

Everyone in our group met in the lobby of the hotel and were then bussed to the Consulate. The ride there took close to an hour, a rather long drive with many new babies and children in tow. Especially considering the Consulate used to be located right next to the White Swan Hotel, within walking distance. Oh how I wish they would never have moved. Sigh… The Consulate itself is very private and secure, and is located in a rather non-descript building in the city. We were told not to bring any belongings other than a small baby bag with a bottle and a couple toys. We were not allowed to take cameras, phones, or any other digital devices in with us. So, with the bare minimum supplies we made our way up to the fourth floor and found a seat in the lobby area of the Consulate office.

The lobby was filled with many other families, not only from our agency, but from at least six other agencies as well. We all waited patiently (we had nothing else to do) and chatted with each other about the ups and downs of the first week together as a family. It was so neat to see all of the children and to share in so much joy. Eventually, each family was called up to a window, one-by-one, and asked to verify information in the official adoption paperwork. The time at the window was minimal, just about a minute or two, then we returned to our seats and continued chatting with the other families. After about an hour or so, after all of the families had gone to the window, a lady came out to talk with us. She shared some details about the adoption process, the number of children adopted, and the number of consulate appointments they tend to do during the summer months (many!). Finally, she had all of us stand and raise our right hands for the oath. It was short, sweet, and honestly with all of the paperwork that we had completed, just a formality.

Following the oath, we piled back onto the bus and made our way back to the hotel for a bit of rest before a fun evening out with the rest of the families. The plan for the evening was to take a nice boat ride on the Pearl River. Last time we were here we were served dinner on board, and I do remember that the dinner left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, the Holt guides learned this fact over the last few years, so they gave us another option. We put in an order for Papa John’s Pizza… in China! Who knew?!?!? Once we arrived at the boat, our pizzas were delivered and we boarded the boat. The pizza was just like what we would get back home and tasted delicious (and the glass of beer was just what we needed after a hot day!). On a funny note, the “Engrish” that we see throughout China does make us laugh. The “No Somking” sign was another funny reminder that some things are really lost in translation.

The boat ride was beautiful. We made our way up the river and eventually passed the White Swan Hotel. The lights on the buildings surrounding the river were gorgeous, mirrored in the river, glistening as we rode by. We thoroughly enjoyed our time mingling with the other families on the boat, some with whom we have become good friends. I loved talking again with the families and learning about how well most of our little ones are growing more and more comfortable with their new families. This process is just amazing, and the resiliency of the children is absolutely amazing. After about a two-hour ride, the boat docked and we were taken back to the hotel. With the heat of the day, some of us met in the pool for a refreshing evening dip. About four families met at the pool, a perfect ending to a nice day.

(The Ladybug enjoying the boat ride)
(Some of our Holt friends)

(The Ladybug hanging with her friends)

Our time in China is winding down. We only have two more days until we leave. I do know that tomorrow will be spent packing and last minute shopping. Wow, I cannot believe that we are almost to the end of this journey. The baby Butterfly is blessing us every day with more smiles and giggles. I am so happy and thankful that we chose to bring this bay girl into our lives. I am so in love with her and truly cannot believe how much she has enriched our lives already. Thank you Lord, for blessing us with our little Butterfly.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 19 - Around the hotel, Crawling

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 19 – Around the hotel, Crawling (short version)
~Kicked back
~Sushi chips?!?!?
~Ice cream & cake

Day 19 - Around the hotel, Crawling (long version)
Today, many of the Holt families chose to go to a safari zoo in Guangzhou. However, we chose to stay behind for two reasons, the extreme heat, and because we did already have a chance to visit a nice zoo and aquarium in Beijing. That being said, if the weather would have been a bit cooler, I am sure that we would have visited the safari and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but a day of rest and a little shopping was just up our alley.

Mom and I went out and about on the island again for some more shopping, wandering, and taking in the sights. After a little while out were decided to stop at Subway Sandwich Shop (yes, they even have one of those on the island) for a bite to eat. We were warned not to get anything with mayonnaise on it, so we steered clear. We each chose a nice turkey sandwich, which for the most part was very similar to what you would get here in the U.S., however, in China they are rather stingy with their meat, cheese, and toppings. Not to worry, it was a nice taste of home… away from home. We did laugh at the chips we could get. The safest seemed to be the “Classic American Flavor,” so much better than the “Beijing Duck,” “Sushi,” “Five-Spice Fish,” and “Cool Cucumber.” See… the classic flavor is sounding mighty good now, isn’t it!

Upon our return to the room we met up with Daddy, the Ladybug, and the baby Butterfly. Because the Butterfly has been really struggling with crawling (she has pretty much been inch-worming up to this point), Daddy worked with her today hoping to strengthen her legs and get her into a real crawl. Success! Shortly after we returned to the room, the baby Bug was on the floor crawling back and forth between me and Daddy. We were all so excited because this event was such a momentous occasion for her, and a great bonding moment for our family. Hard to believe that a 15-month old little girl crawling could bring about so much joy and excitement to us, but it did. We know that this is the first of many momentous occasions that we will experience with the Butterfly. Very exciting!

Not much else happened today. One of the young boys in our group celebrated his birthday with his family, new sister, and several of the other families in our group. He was kind enough to share some of his cake with us, which the Butterfly thought was the greatest treat ever. She dove into the slice with lightening speed and nommed her way through, smiling and giggling along the way. In the evening we all enjoyed a nice ice cream cone, which we of course had to share with the Butterfly. So, apparently our new baby girl loves cake and ice cream. Seems like she is ready to help celebrate a birthday party in the near future (though we don’t have one coming soon that I can think of, so we will just have to make due).

Tomorrow is the Oath Ceremony, and we also have an evening riverboat cruise scheduled. Cannot wait!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 18 – Red Couch photo, Dinner at Lucy’s

We are home!!! We arrived last Saturday, and have been hibernating for a while. We all got sick as soon as we arrived in the U.S., and are now on antibiotics (all of us including the baby). We are doing better now, but needed a week to get settled and feeling better. I will update the rest of our days in China soon. Thanks for the calls and concern.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 18 – Red Couch photo, Dinner at Lucy’s (short version)
~Shopped for Red Couch photo dresses
~Matching sisters
~Terrified kids
~Crying babies
~Family photos
~Dinner with friends

Day 18 – Red Couch photo, Dinner at Lucy’s (long version)
When I first became a member of the adoption community over five years ago, I heard about a special photo that many adoptive families were eager to get while in China. It is called the “Red Couch Photo,” and is “the photo” to get for those who stay at the White Swan Hotel. I remember the day almost four years ago when we gathered all of the little Holt babies and placed them on one of the red couches in the lobby of the hotel and all of the parents took photos as the children started crying. Watching this happen in like watching Chinese drivers trying to make their way around a round-about… you swear it isn’t going to happen, but by the grace of God it actually does. It is absolute pandemonium; parents are trying to keep their children occupied and tear-free, the children honestly don’t know what is going on, and the photographers (often the other parent who does not have child duty at that particular moment) try in vain to get one good shot of all of the children where most of them look somewhat okay.

Nana and I knew about the upcoming photo and we wanted to make sure that the girls were dressed appropriately so we headed out (once again) to one of the little shops on the island to find the perfect dresses. We finally found our way to a great little place just up the street where we found not only traditional silk dresses, but beautiful cotton dresses as well. I had never seen the cotton dresses before, so I was very excited to see this new style, and decided that it was the perfect dress for the infamous photo. We purchased a few different dress colors for both girls and were on our way.

The Ladybug was so excited to see our purchase, especially since we brought back matching dresses for the girls. Now that the Bug has a baby sister, her favorite thing is to dress alike (as some of you noted in a previous post). We arrived in China with a few matching outfits that the girls could wear, much to the excitement of the Ladybug. However, today’s purchased completely trumped those other outfits… these were Chinese matching outfits. What more could a girl want?

After the girls dressed and primped, we made our way downstairs to meet with the other families for the photo. While we were still waiting for some of the other families to arrive, I took the opportunity to take some special photos of the Ladybug and the Butterfly together on one of the red couches. We had explained to the Bug that four years ago we had taken some similar photos of her with and some friends. With that information, the Bug was totally excited to be back at the red couches, ready for a photo-op a second time. I was able to get some adorable photos of the two girls together, the bug happy and smiling, the baby very unsure of what was going on.

Eventually all of the families arrived at the couches so the chaos could start. I moved the baby into position toward the center of the couch, and gave daddy the camera. Soon babies were being placed all over the couch. Some were crying while others seemed to be in complete shock. The Butterfly was still in shock mode when we started, but as more children were placed on the couch, many of them crying, she started feeling a bit uneasy. Eventually she followed the majority and stared fussing and then crying, all while cameras and flashes were going off, capturing every moment. Just as quickly as it started, it ended, and the children were taken off the couch. We captured a few good photos of the crazy event, but I am so happy that it is over.

Following the photo session we took some family photos in front of the beautiful waterfall in the hotel, then headed downstairs for an “English High Tea.” Now, what I remember about high tea is little finger sandwiches and various flavors of tea. However, the Chinese take this event to another level. With our tea we were given free roam of another buffet, this one offering cold cuts, pizza, French fries, chicken, egg rolls, a salad bar, rice, noodles, and many, many, other food selections. For dessert we were offered ice cream, amazing cakes and pies, fruit, and a chocolate fudge fountain that you could dip fruit or breads. Needless to say, we really enjoyed the Chinese version of “English High Tea.”

We had a few errands to run in the afternoon, then met up with our good friends from Guizhou Province for dinner, Mindy, Allen, and Karis. We went to dinner to a tourist favorite on the island, Lucy’s. We all enjoyed dinner which included some burgers and fries (yup, we have been away quite a while… sometimes you just want some comfort food) and some refreshing cold drinks. But, much more than the food, we thoroughly enjoyed the company. We shared stories about our families and the adoption process, but most of all we shared stories about our little girls. We marveled in amazement that in one week’s time how these precious little girls have started to bond with their families and come out of their shells. We are both seeing many more smiles and giggles as each day passes. It was such a joy to visit with this family again and see first-hand how their daughter has started to blossom.

Following dinner, we took a few more photos and then said our goodbyes. We are now back in the room and getting ready for bed. Tomorrow is a free day for us so we have nothing special planned. Coming up on Wednesday though is the Oath Ceremony. More to come…


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 17 - Baby in a Bathtub, Pearl & Jade Market, Swimming

Day 17 - Baby in a Bathtub, Pearl & Jade Market, Swimming (short version)
~Fun bath
~Horrible bath!
~Out on the town
~Jade & Pearl shopping
~Water baby

Day 17 - Baby in a Bathtub, Pearl & Jade Market, Swimming (long version)
After a very stressful day yesterday we slept in a bit today, and boy did it feel good. The day was pretty casual, so I don’t have a lot of photos from today. However, two things did happen, one I took photos of, and the other you are going to be so happy I didn’t.

WARNING: the following information is not for the faint of heart. Yucky things will be mentioned below.

Before going out we all washed up, which included the two girls taking a bath together. The baby loves the water, and bathing is a great place for her to play and splash around. The two girls have a few toys that they play with in the tub, mostly little plastic animals and the stacking cups. Both offer hours of enjoyment. While they were in the tub together playing I was at the sink watching them through the mirror, when all of a sudden the Ladybug started screaming. “Mommy, mommy, come quick!!! The baby just pooped in the tub!” I ran over, looked in and low and behold, the baby actually did do her business in the tub.

After grabbing both girls and getting them out, daddy and nana worked on clean-up. I was laughing so hard at this point because this little event took me back to when I was a little girl, bathing with my younger sister. I will never forget the day that my sister did the same thing and a little poop started floating by me while in the tub. I did the exact same thing as the Ladybug and yelled for my mother. So, as this was now happening to my two daughters, I was also reliving my past. Ahhhhh, old memories.

During the clean-up, daddy was holding the baby in front of the tub on the towel that lays on the floor. Just as the clean-up was complete, he exclaimed, “Oh man, now this towel is wet… from the baby tinkling on it while we were cleaning-up. Seriously little girl, you can stop now!” So, in the span of two short little minutes, the baby pooped in the tub and tinkled on the towel in front of the tub. Not bad for being awake for just about 30 minutes. By the way, we made sure that house-cleaning gave us new towels! And no… I did not take photos of this even, and you are welcome.

Eventually the girls did get cleaned up and dressed for the day. Mommy and nana had some things to do, so daddy and the Ladybug headed out to see the surrounding area. They came upon many things on their outing. A married couple who were very excited to pose for daddy’s camera. Laundry, because everyone else dries their clothes this way. Bamboo scaffolding, because bamboo is so readily available (gotta say this looks a bit scary). And of course, a little girl who just loves hanging with her daddy.

After they returned, we met several of the other families in the lobby and headed out to the Pearl and Jade Markets. Honestly, words cannot properly describe the two venues because they are so huge. Room after room and floor after floor of jade jewelry and carvings in one building, and room after room and floor after floor of pearls and gemstones in another. Looking at all of the stores, most carrying many of the same items, it makes you wonder how any of them can honestly stay in business. But, they do.

We were given 45 minutes in each market, where I was able to purchase some items that I regretted not getting last time I was there; some jade bangle bracelets, a “peanut” necklace for the Ladybug (my affectionate name for her is my peanut), and some other little treasures. At the pearl market I purchased a beautiful pearl necklace to give to the Butterfly on her 16th birthday, while my mother bought her a string of pearls and bracelets for when she gets married some day.

We eventually made it out of the markets, much to my husband’s approval, and came back to the hotel. Following another great dinner at the Cow & Bridge Restaurant (yes, we like it so much we went there two nights in a row), we walked back to our rooms and on the way we commented on how warm it was. We decided that the perfect place to visit tonight was the White Swan Hotel pool. The Ladybug thought it was a great idea, especially since we had matching swimming suits for the girls. We were not sure how the Butterfly would take to the huge pool, but we were hopeful since she really does love her baths. While we were in her province we picked up a little floating ring with leg holes in the center, just perfect for our baby girl.

When we arrived at the pool she was very hesitant and wasn’t sure what was going on. I walked into the pool with her very carefully, holding onto her making sure not to scare her. I eased in a little bit more, getting more and more of her body wet, just waiting for a reaction. None. Finally, because she seemed to be doing just fine I placed her into the inflatable ring and pushed her around. That is what did it for her, she loved it! She started splashing around, giggling and laughing each time her hands hit the water. She is definitely a water baby. The water temperature was perfect and just the thing we needed after a hot day out and about. We ended up staying there about one hour, and she loved every minute.

Tomorrow we have the famous “Red Couch photo,” but now it is time for bed.