Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas to All

Okay, so we are a few days late, but the sentiment is still there. Nina had a great first Christmas with us. She was overwhelmed with all of the gifts (thank you to everyone for thinking of her) and we had to open them in shifts, but she enjoyed everything she got and has played with all of it. I think next year will be even more fun for her, as she will understand Santa a little more and hopefully the whole meaning of the holiday.

After a couple weeks of being home we are all doing well. The jet lag wasn't too bad. Nina slept a LOT for a couple of days and after a week seemed to be adjusted to the new time zone. She is very curious, energetic and bright, all that we could as for in a 2 year old. It's been an amazing year for all of us and next year can only be better.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Home At Last

We finally made it home after travelling for 36 hours. Nina did very well on all of the plane rides (all 4 of them) and slept a little during each of them. It was difficult on all of us and we were all pretty cranky, but the flights all went well with the exception of the last plane, which was delayed half an hour for de-icing (it's always the last plane, when you just want to get home). We didn't get home until around midnight on Thursday and got to bed around 2 am after unpacking some things and getting situated. One of our pieces of luggage was lost. It was supposed to arrive in Los Angeles on a flight from San Francisco but never showed up. Who knows where it is. It had most of our souveniers and gifts, so we are upset about that. Hopefully it will turn up.

Nina seems to be adjusting well. She has been very tired, understandably, and has slept for a long time at night. Nine hours the first night and 16 last night. We have been preventing her from taking naps for now until she gets back on schedule. Hopefully it will only be a few days for her. She LOVES the animals and enjoys petting and talking to them. They have been very good with her. Pixie has allowed her to pet her quite a bit and Thunder has been very gentle. Phoebe has been her usual aloof self, but does show up from time to time. I think she doesn't quite know what the think of her.

It will probably be at least a couple more weeks before Nina feels totally comfortable with us and realizes we are her mommy and daddy, but I think she is doing well, especially considering the circumstances.

We have more pictures, but haven't had time to download yet, but will have something up in the next few days. Thanks to everyone for following our journey to China. Hope you stay around for the next one!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Free Day

We didn't have any official business planned for today, so it was a free day for us. It was nice not to have to get up early and have to be on the bus by 9:00 pr earlier. Nina has been a little more fussy than usual, as she has a slight cold with cough and stuffy nose. But she is still active and good for a little girl who isn't feeling well. We decided not to do too much today, but still like to get out and enjoy the warm 75 degree weather. We know that won't last long! We went to the supermarket in the morning to buy some water, diapers and a few other things. That is an adventure itself. The supermarket is located in a 7 story shopping mall. It's on the 4th floor, way in the back. It took us a while to find it the first time. It's across the street from the hotel, and the get there you have to walk down the street to a tunnel and then back up the other side. All of this for bottled water!

We ate a little lunch in our room and then went back to Shaimen Island. Momma did some shopping (just a little) while Daddy went for a run. We had borrowed a stroller from the hotel and Nina fell asleepjust before we met up again. We walked around a little so she could nap and then came back to the hotel and had a play date with one of the other little girls, about 6 months younger than Nina. Nina was so cute showing her the toys and how to work them. After dinner in the hotel it was a bath and bedtime.

Tomorrow we have our American Consulate appointment for the entire group in the afternoon. Due to security reeasons we cannot bring our cameras in. Then we will be all set to return home on Friday, after LOTS of packing!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Medical Exam Day

checking ears

relaxing with Dad while Momma shops

Getting new shoes

Family photo

Red couch photo

Strolling with Panda

Today was our medical examination appointment for the babies visas. All of the babies were there at once. There was quite a bit of crying going on but Nina did very well. They checked her height, weight, temperature, ears, nose, throat, heart and abdomen. She didn't cry at all but did look a bit concerned a couple of times. We are glad that the doctor's appointment went well as she will have a few more of those in the near future.

After the exams we were able to walk around the island a bit and do some shopping. There are many shops and it is very "touristy." There were also many brides and grooms in the parks getting their photos taken. Our guide explained to us that this is done on a different day than the wedding. At noon we all met at the White Swan Hotel and had the babies pictures taken on the famous red couch. It is tradition for adopted babies to have their photos on this couch. Our group was fairly large so we had to do it in 2 groups. Many of the babies were crying. It was chaos!

The group had lunch together at a local restaurant and then some left to come back to the hotel. Nina was ready for her nap, so Tim brought her back and I stayed behind with some other to continue shopping. It felt odd to be without her even for a couple of hours.

Our bathtime went very well tonight. Nina would still not sit down, but did not cry when we put her in and we brought in some cups for her to play with. She was hesitant at first but then caught on and had a good time. We had a hard time getting her out!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shaimen Island

The Garden Hotel Lobby

Shopping Mall

Ready to shop

Pushing one of the babies

New dress

Notice the fashion statement shoes. They light up!!

Today we went to Shaimen Island for visa passports for the babies and shopping (yeah). There was a large group of us as all of the families went together. Shaimen Island is part of Guangzhou, but is seperated by a canal and a river. It is a popular place for shopping and many American families go there.

After the photos, we went to the mall that houses the jade and pearl market (and thousands of other gemstones) and clothing. I have never seen so many beads of jewels in my life. Strands and strands of them at every booth. We (I should say I) did buy a few clothes for Nina, including a couple of traditional chinese outfits, and a few other things. We will return to Shaimen Island tomorrow to shop in a different part of town. We do have a medical examination for all of the babies in the morning, which is required of all US immigrants, and will all have lunch at a restaurant nearby, but will also have a few hours to shop on our own. It will be a long day, especially for the children.

We took a few photos of Nina in her new outfit when we got back. We will also take a group photo of all the babies tomorrow, but we couldn't wait!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Arrival in Guangzhou

Guangzhou at night. Our hotel is in the background

fun in the hotel


a star is born

listening to tunes on the plane

I have a plane to catch

We arrived in Guangzhou at about 3:00 this afternoon. It was a short flight, just about an hour and a half. Nina did pretty well, considering she had to stay in one place for 2 hours! We were hoping she would sleep, but no such luck.

We are staying at the Garden Hotel and have a suite. It is very nice and there are a lot of other Americans here with adopted children. The rest of our group is here but we have not seen many of them yet. We will meet up tomorrow for a visit to Shaimen Island and shopping (yeah!). We arrived at the hotel and had to go to the supermarket right away to get diapers and some other things. It was in a 7 story mall with many other departments and was quite confusing. There is a lot of shopping here and many restaurants inside and outside the hotel. It seems as though this area is more prosperous than Chongqing. Seems hard to believe we will be in China for only a few more days.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Last Day in Chongqing

Tibetan bear

Hippo with baby

Family photo

Giant Panda in action

Breakfast time

Today (12/7) we went to the Chongqing zoo. We only saw a portion of it, but of course we visited the panda exhibit. There were red pandas, which are quite a bit smaller and have long tails, and giant pandas. The pandas were active while we were there, eating bamboo leaves. Many of them were very close. Nina enjoyed looking at the animals.

Later we went the Three Gorges Museum, which tells the story of a dam being built on the 2 rivers in Chongqing. It is set to be completed in 2009 and is being built to control flooding, and will also generate 15% of the electricity used in Chongqing. It will flood many of the cities along the river and 1.2 million people will have to find new homes! It is quite an undertaking but was very interesting to see. There was a huge mural painting on the wall about 200 feet long and 7 feet high depicting the cities and the new water levels, but we were not allowed to take pictures. There was also a gift shop that had many paintings, some by the artist who did the mural. There was also a painter there who lost his arms in an electricity accident at age 4 who was painting with his teeth, “paintings” done of embroidery, and many beautiful jade pieces.

This afternoon we completed more paperwork for the American Consulate in Guangzhou and got Nina’s passport. Tomorrow it is off to Guangzhou, the final leg in our China journey, and then the long ride home.

Nina continues to do well. She usually enjoys being held by one of us and likes to ride on the bus. She is pretty good about sitting in one of our laps. She is a good sleeper and eater. She likes to play with her food a little bit, but still eats it. We have not had any issues with her cleft palate. She can eat okay and most of the time we forget about it! Each day continues to get better and better.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Da Da Da Da Da, I'm Lovin' It! McDonald's

Happy at the play area

Walking with Daddy

First McDonald's meal...yum!

Christmas in China

Street scene in Chongqing

Chongqing Metropolitan Center at night

Today was a “free day,” nothing planned, so we went to the Metropolitan Center, a 7 story shopping mall and city square. We had gone last night with one of the other couples, just to get away from the hotel and the same restaurant we have been eating at.

After walking around the mall today we went to McDonald’s. Not our favorite place to eat and we certainly don’t want to encourage Nina to eat there all the time, but at least it was familiar and we knew what we were eating. She enjoyed the chicken and corn and apple juice and after lunch we played in the play area, which she LOVED. She liked sliding with Daddy and crawling in the tunnel. We took a taxi back to the hotel and she was asleep before we got back (a successful trip!).

One note about the traffic in Chongqing. There are many cars and busses, but that is not the most interesting part. There are lanes in the street but no one uses them. They just drive anywhere and weave in and out of traffic until they get through. Pedestrians just walk whenever they get a chance and will wait in the middle of the street if they need to. We thought there would be an accident a few times while we were in the taxi, but we made it back safely. Thank God we don’t have to drive here ourselves!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dianjiang Orphanage

Colorful walls at the orphanage

Just visiting!

with Director Dai

Dianjiang city

Nannies in the baby room

Today (Wednesday) we visited Nina's former orphanage. It is 2 hours aways from the city. We met with the director, Dai, and Li, whom we saw on Sunday. Nina was not interested in going back to them and would not even let them hold her! We saw the room that she stayed in when she was first there. There are currently 17 children at the orphanage, all babies, and 39 more in foster care. It seemed as though the nannies cared for the children well, given the primitive conditions. There was no heat in the building. They just bundle up the children very well. There is a play area that the children use with lots of colorful toys.

Dai and Li took us out to lunch at a local restaurant and then said goodbye to Nina. From her reaction, she seemed very content to leave with us.

Chongqing Sightseeing

Tea ceremony

Chongqing City

Chongqing City

Ancient Town

Ancient Town

Ancient Town

Eling Park

On Tuesday we had a sightseeing tour of Chongqing. It is the 4th largest city in China - 31 million people. The main industries are automotive, tobacco and silk. It is built on a mountain, so there are many hilly, winding streets. The streets are so narrow and dangerous that they do not permit bicycle riding in the city. We went to Ci Qi Kou Ancient Town, which is basically a shopping district. They had just about everything to buy. Each vendor had a small stall which was very colorful. After that we went to Eling Park, which was actually quiet. Everything is very green here because it has been raining or misting since we got here. The park was very hilly but the flowers and statues were pretty. There is a tea house in the park and we went there for a demonstration of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and tasting. The teas were all very good and I had a good time purchasing some!

Nina had a big nap in the afternoon and then we went out to eat with the other couples for hotpot, which is the local cuisine. It is best described as a sort of fondue, but all of the ingredients go into a pot of broth and oil and cook and then you fish them out and eat it. Typically this is a spicy dish with plenty of chili peppers, but we got the mild version. All of the food we have eaten has been very good and is similar to American Chinese food, but they have a little bit different ingredients (I won't go into the types of meat. We have been eating beef and chicken) and a LOT spicier. I am amazed that they can eat food that spicy.

We had another good night with Nina aside from the bathtime. She seems to be attaching to us very well so far and is always laughing and playing.

Officially a family

Signing Papers

Official Paperwork

Getting ready for bed

Looking good!

It's official as of Monday, December 3. We are Nina Mei's parents! We had an appointment at the Adoption Registration in the morning. We each had to put our fingerprints on a piece of paper and had our first official family photo taken. Nina is crying in it because she just woke from a nap.

In the afternoon we went to Walmart. That was interesting. We got some baby formula (Nina still drinks that, not whole milk yet) and an outfit, a few small toys, including a panda that she loves, and a few souveniers. All of the stores and the streets are very loud. There is always music playing and people milling about. We're just not used to it in Montana!

The second night was better as Nina did not cry. She has a bottle before going to bed and then we usually have to hold her and rock her to get to sleep. A difficlut job, but someone has to do it! She has really been very good and is generally not fussy. She is always on the go and is independent. She like to get her way, but is usually easily distracted. She is a good eater. It has been a little difficult being confined to a hotel room keeping her from getting bored, but we are managing and have trips planned for every day. She is a wonderful little girl!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Getting Acquainted

The first night with our daughter went well. After we got her we spent some time in the room and she explored her new surroundings. Then we ventured out in the hall and eventually down to the lobby. It was crowded as the hotel had a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony last night. She did hold our hand and let us both pick her up and hold her. We climbed the stairs and walked around and around the lobby. She is very active, just like they said and like to walk and run. We did get her to smile and laugh fairly quickly as she love to have both of us hold her hand and swing her. We met the other couples in the lobby and about 2 hours after our first meeting had our first meal together in the hotel dining room. We had pizza and sandwhiches, and while the food we have had so far has been good, it was nice to have something different. Nina is a good eater and likes everything. We did get her some rice as they said that is what she eats most often along with vegetable, eggs and meat.

Around 8:00 we made our way back to the hotel room, and tried to get her ready for bed. Then the waterworks began when it was bath time. She wouldn't sit in the tub and hated the whole experience. So it was a short bath.

She kept walking to the door and we could see that she was expecting to leave and was confused. She cried a little and we held her and walked with her in the hallway. She seems to enjoy being held and walked. I was beat and went in to bed around 10:30, but she would have none of it, so Tim took over. He did a great job of wearing her out and she finally fell asleep around 11:00. We kept her in the bed with us and she didn't cry during the night, but thrashed around quite a bit. She woke up aorund 7:45 this morning.

All in all I would say she is doing quite well for being out of her comfort zone and being with "strangers."

Now, what you have all been waiting for, PICTURES!

Gotcha Day!

We have our daughter! There were some anxious moments as Elsie said the babies would arrive at 2:30 and we heard nothing. We are with 2 other families in Chongqing who are both from Kansas. The Lees are adopting a little boy, Matthew, 18 months and the Duttons are adopting Laura, 13 months. Anyway, they were both called to Elsie's room to receive their children and we heard nothing. We were starting to wonder if we would get Nina on Sunday as the time just ticked away. Finally, around 4:15 Tim called Elsie's room, which is actually right next door to ours. She said they had gotten a late start and would be arriving in 10-15 minutes. Just after 4:30 Elsie knocked on the door and said they are here! We gathered up some snacks, the bear and photobook that we had brought and gift for the director and nannies and headed next door. We knocked and went in and there she stood with 2 administrators from the orphanage, the director, a videographer, and Elsie. She was so beautiful! It was clear that she was a little confused, but she did not cry. They showed her the picture book and tried to get her to understand that we were mama and daddy and we were able to give her some cookies. We had a list of questions that we gave to Elsie to translate and get answers. They gave us some formula and rice cereal and some instructions on when she eats and sleeps and we signed some papers to agree to be her legal guardian for the night. The official adoption comes Monday at 11:00. Then we came back to our room and started to become a family.