Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 18 - Boat Cruise

We had a really relaxing morning today. We didn't have anything on the agenda for most of the day, so we took our time enjoying breakfast (as much as we can - it's still a lot trying to maneuver a breakfast buffet with 3 kids). 

Mini-Lu was in a bit of a fussy mood today; I think she has a bit of a cold. Still, compared to our older girls, her fits are not nearly as loud or dramatic or long-lasting. 

We took some pictures at the "garden" of the Garden Hotel. It certainly lives up to its name; it started raining so I wasn't able to take as many as I wanted. 


We just snacked for lunch (that's what we've been doing mostly - since we had a late, big breakfast). While Mini-Lu was napping and the older girls were watching a show, Daddy and Mommy enjoyed some coffee/cake time. The pastries are really delicious here. 

Mini-Lu continues to be a very busy bug when we're inside the hotel room. I do need to remember that she's 2 - it would be hard to keep any toddler locked inside a hotel room for hours! I'm also learning that it's hard to keep her from messing with her older sisters' things. They have a lot of things that she's not quite ready for, but she's old enough to want everything that they have. 

Finally it was time for the dinner boat cruise. We were pretty hungry by this time, but in hindsight, we should have eaten beforehand. They served us Chinese buffet...which didn't go over well with most of us. 
Before we left the hotel for the cruise, we took a group picture of all the adoptive families that are sharing the same bus/tour guide. All the families are from our agency, except for one. 
We tried to also take a family pic but LB was not in the mood.
Here when we were waiting for our boat, she was in a better mood.

It was a beautiful, relaxing evening on the boat cruise. The breeze was a welcomed change from the humidity, and the views were breathtaking. Everyone was in a happy mood.
Oh, by the way, as you can see in this picture below, Peanut lost her first tooth today.
Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/jhIgY_kifyY



Allan went nuts with the panoramic setting 
Our hotel lobby

From the boat

From the boat (night view)

I know I've expressed this a few different times...I've really enjoyed getting to know the other adoptive families here. They all inspire me in so many ways. I wish we had more time to chat, but as most of you know, it's hard to keep adult conversations going for a long time with little kids around. Two families will depart to Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow is FINALLY our Consulate appointment...the whole reason why we're in Guangzhou :) 

Allan is soooo ready to go home. I am ready to get out of hotel living and out of China, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to do this without him. It's been great having so much family time, 24-7. 

As challenging as it was at times to bring our children with us (especially LB), we don't regret bringing them one bit. Mini-Lu has blended in so smoothly with our family, and I believe that we owe so much of that to our girls. I'm so glad we had these 2 weeks for all four of us to welcome her into our family. It just feels like the right beginning for our family of 5. 

God is Gracious,
Maria

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 17 - Shamian Island

If you are not following our blog everyday (or even if you are), you're probably wondering..."Why are you still in China, when your adopted child has already joined you?"

When you adopt from China, every family is required to stay here for roughly two weeks. We arrived in China on Thursday, July 18th...but that was by choice. We didn't have to be in China (in Siana's province Inner Mongolia) until Sunday, July 21st (a day before our original Gotcha Day). As with most families, we arrived in China a few days early to do some sightseeing in Beijing. We then headed to Inner Mongolia on the 21st. Gotcha Day was supposed to be Monday July 22nd, but we had a one-day delay due to the schedule of the international adoption lady (Mrs. Xue) at Siana's orphanage. We had to stay in the capital city of her province (Hohhot) until Friday, because that's when we were able to pick up her Chinese passport. We then flew to Guangzhou on Friday and Siana had her medical checkup on Saturday (one of the requirements for her visa to be issued by the U.S. Consulate). After that, it's pretty much just wait time until the U.S. Consulate appointment (this date was given to us before we booked our travels to China). Some families are able to have their appointment on Tuesday or Wednesday, and they're allowed to leave China the day after (we receive our adopted child's visa the day after the Consulate appointment). Our appointment is on Thursday, so that's why we're still here...and we'll be able to leave on Friday after we receive her visa. We take the van to Hong Kong Friday evening, and we fly out of Hong Kong back to the U.S. on Saturday morning. After tonight, we only have two more nights at this hotel (and one night at an airport hotel in Hong Kong).

Today was much calmer than yesterday. Nobody got sick, so that's a very good thing. So far this week, our group meeting time (to go somewhere) has been 9:15 or 9:30. We had to rush every morning to get everyone ready and fed by our meeting time. But today, our meeting time was 10:30. What a difference an hour in the morning makes! We had a much more relaxing morning getting ready and enjoying breakfast. We then headed to Shamian Island here in Guangzhou. Just from looking at Wikipedia just now (haha), I learned that it's a territory that was given to France and United Kingdom in the 19th century. There are historic European style buildings there...now used as souvenir shops and restaurants (and Starbucks, of course). 
The main goal of visiting Shamian Island was supposed to be for shopping, but we're not big shoppers (plus we have three little ones to manage). We just walked around and took pictures instead. We also found a small playground that helped to kill time. It was another humid day, but that didn't stop the girls from having some outdoor fun. 

These men were playing hacky sack type of game in the square. 
This is apparently a popular photo spot for many tourists. Mini-Lu didn't really want to go near the statues, so this was the best we could do.
They had beautiful walkways throughout the island. 
Random photo shoots were happening everywhere here...apparently this is the premiere photo spot. Miko said most people are taking photos to post on online catalogs (she said online shopping is getting huge in China). 
Having fun at the playground...
Sweaty girl
Mini-Lu waves at everyone who walks by. So very cute!
Not sure what this girl's costume was all about... Oh, and you may have noticed from my pics in Japan too - Asian people use umbrellas to stay in the shade. It's the opposite of U.S. They prefer pale skin over tanned skin. They do NOT want to get a tan. 
LB loving on Mini-Lu. It's funny though - I think Mini-Lu thinks LB is smaller than her. She always tries to look after LB (bringing her toys/shoes). It's different from the way she interacts with Peanut. 
The tricky part was eating the ice cream before they melted.
This girl asked if she can have a picture taken with our 3 girls. Our girls continue to receive much attention (people seem to love their curly hair...it's been extra curly with this humidity). 
Courtesy of this girl (above), we were able to get another successful family photo.
Wedding photos were being taken everywhere. Can you spot THREE brides who are in this picture?
Found the Shamian Island Starbucks - the biggest Starbucks I've ever been to. It had two stories (the one in front of our hotel has two stories too).
Random strangers taking pics of our girls. 
This was what we saw at the entrance of our hotel. The way people drive in China, we're surprised that this was the first accident we witnessed. Drivers DO NOT yield to one another. 

We had a relaxing afternoon back in the hotel while Mini-Lu napped. We grabbed a quick dinner across the street from the hotel, and we spent rest of the evening at the pool. Mini-Lu enjoyed this immensely. She is so independent. She didn't like it when Allan or I tried to hold her hand in the pool. She wants to be a "big girl" like her sisters. 
This one (above) is a classic picture of our three girls taking off in different directions. Oh boy.

Panoramic view from the hotel pool. 

We see some similarities in LB and Mini-Lu. They both don't like any type of mess on them. They want to do everything themselves (they don't like to be helped). They both try to shove their plates/cups away from them when they're done eating. They like to throw mini-fits when they don't get their way, but they're not nearly as persistent and strong-willed as Peanut. They are both mini-actresses - they get dramatic but you see them peaking over to see how you react. They are both affectionate. 
I also continue to sense that Mini-Lu is very smart like Peanut. She figures things out so quickly. 

Tomorrow will be another relaxing day. We don't have any group activities planned until the dinner boat cruise in the evening.

God is Gracious,
Maria

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 16 - Zoo Day (in so many ways)

I think I kind of reached my breaking point today.

This morning, I thought we were on track. We had everyone up and ready for breakfast on time. We went down to the dining room and when I picked Mini-Lu up to place her in her highchair, I felt something wet. She had a diaper explosion. So I left Allan with the older girls. I took her upstairs to get changed (since she needed a new pair of pants also - and it was not even 9am yet!)...only to find out that my key didn't work for some reason. Our room is on the 14th floor. I went back down to the lobby with her, and went back upstairs with a new key. 

I mentioned that the breakfast buffet has natto (Japanese fermented beans). It's a traditional breakfast item in Japan. Normally we mix the sticky beans with rice. It grosses out anyone from another culture. The smell is quite awful too (to others). So the girls and I brushed our teeth in the bathroom by the buffet as soon as we were done with breakfast. 

We headed to the zoo. Guangzhou is HUMID. We thought we knew humidity - we live in Florida. Here, the sun is not too strong, but anytime you're outside your whole body gets instantly covered in sweat (not the dripping kind, but the sticky kind). After an hour at the zoo, we were ready to go (minus Allan, he wanted to see more). I think our guide is surprised (and probably glad) that this week's group of families want to spend shorter time at every location than what she had planned for. 

Here is a rare family picture we were able to take (courtesy of another mom in our group). It's also rare to see Mini-Lu looking at the camera. This was in front of the panda exhibit. 

Some other pics from the zoo...
Video of our older girls feeding the giraffes  http://youtu.be/cFSIZ3Oi96o
I thought this top picture was so gross...
This zoo has an amusement park and a "sea world" type of exhibit/show all in one place (but you need a separate ticket for those areas). There is also a safari park about 30-40 min from here. It's not included in our package with our agency, and our plan was to go on our own (because we had heard how amazing it was - animals come very close to you). After talking to our guide here, we quickly figured that working out the logistics will be too difficult. Plus she told us it gets crowded during this season (we already know from the Summer Palace experience that a big crowd trumps the awe of the place, no matter how amazing it is). We decided to skip it this time. We're so glad that we did - after seeing the crowd at the zoo and also experiencing the humidity today. 

We continue to enjoy our time with other families. They are all such heroes in my eyes. I love seeing how happy all the adopted children are. Despite the language/age/culture barrier, despite their special needs, I can really see that love is a universal language that can be understood by all...instantly. I especially love watching all the siblings love on one another. I hope we can all stay in touch. 

This has been our routine for the last three days...we go out as a group in the morning, the 5 of us have a simple lunch at the hotel, put Mini-Lu down for a nap (she naps for good 2-3 hrs), hang out in the hotel room until around 5pm, and head out to dinner. Today Allan took the older girls to the pool during Mini-Lu's nap time (it's been rainy the last couple of days). They really enjoyed that. 
We need to really motivate ourselves to wake Mini-Lu up from her nap. As soon as she's up, she's into everything in our hotel room. Allan and I joked that P is our non-stop explorer outside, and now ML (Mini-Lu) is our non-stop explorer inside...between the two of them (added to LB's fits), we are busy every moment that we're awake. It's quite an adjustment having a toddler again. Although LB is only three, she matured out of the toddler stage so much faster than P, so it's been a while since we've had to deal with diapers and keeping things out of a child's reach. 
Today ML expressed interest in getting on the bed with the other girls to see what they were watching. This lasted only a few min before she went on to explore other things, but I thought this was cute.


As we were getting ready to head out to dinner, I quickly noticed that something's not right with Peanut. She wasn't acting her usual energetic self. I immediately knew what that meant - she's sick. Today ML's tummy was feeling better (we stopped giving her yogurt), LB seemed to be all better, and my blisters and rashes seemed to be quickly going away. But now it was P's turn. 

I decided to venture out with LB and ML to find dinner...without a stroller, because I knew that I will need to go through lots of stairs. This was quite the ordeal. LB did GREAT. It ended up being a lot more walking than I thought (through busy crowds), but she didn't complain once, except when she stepped in mud (she's OCD so this bothers her more than anything). ML is wanting to be carried more and more (during the first few days of having her she was more of a walker). After walking through the busy streets of Guangzhou carrying a 2-yr-old and not trying to lose a 3-yr-old (up & down the escalators, passing through a subway station - this was the way to get to the other side of a big busy street), I was pretty grumpy when I returned to the hotel. My right arm was shaking from carrying ML. Once we were close enough to the hotel though, I made her walk. She would plump down to express that she doesn't want to. I kept pulling her arm up to signal that she needs to walk. We repeated this about 5 times, and with some whining noise, she gave in and walked without squatting down. I praised her like crazy. The orphanage told us that she's strong-willed. What the orphanage didn't know is that when it comes to parenting a strong-willed child, I'm in no minor league. So far from my observation, she doesn't even come close to our firstborn. 

We came back into our hotel room. Allan said P hasn't been able to keep anything down. Poor thing. But since then, she's been back to her normal self and was able to keep food down for rest of the night. I'm so thankful that our illnesses have been very quick and minor. 

As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty grumpy when I came back into the hotel room. I felt like I just went through such an ordeal, going out with my 3- and 2-yr-olds. Looking back on it (now a few hrs later), I don't really remember what the big deal was. I think my patience is just running low and I'm more irritable. My husband does not seem to have that problem. He's being our rock through and through. He takes care of pretty much everything...bathing, feeding, carrying, cleaning room, brushing teeth, etc. I'm looking forward to going home, but I also get anxious thinking about what it will be like without him (he will jump right into a very crazy season at work). I'm just so thankful to have such an amazing, loving, strong leader in our family. Without a doubt, this is his main calling in life...and he excels at it. 

After dinner we went out for an evening stroll. We stopped by a cafe for some cake and cappuccino. We then walked around the neighborhood. We realized that behind the main street (where our hotel is located at), the atmosphere was more similar to other parts of China (Beijing and Hohhot)...not as clean and modern as the hotel street. More of a local China feel. They had lots of family-owned markets/shops. Kids were roller-blading in a common square. 
We bought some fruit at this shop.

Our nightly routine now consists of the following:
Bathing each child one at a time (Allan)
Drying, lotioning, and dressing each child one at a time (me - although older girls can dress themselves) 
Brushing teeth (Allan)
Combing hair (me)
Milk for ML (Allan)
Prayer time
Lights out

I realized tonight (when I was reading another family's blog) that I haven't had my quiet time (Bible reading time) at all. Every day has been so full and busy. It really shows (especially with my irritability) when I don't take the time to feed myself spiritually. I need Jesus...every hour, every minute of my day. When I don't make conscious effort to stay close to and feed from my source, my peace and joy quickly start to run low. 

So here is the passage that I'm pondering on today. This is the theme verse I had found for Siana months ago. I believe that it not only applies to her but also to me...especially on a day like today.

Yet the Lord longs to be GRACIOUS to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How GRACIOUS he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. (Isaiah 30:18, 19 NIV)

I also want to end tonight by dwelling on God's goodness.

I am so thankful to Him for...
SLEEP. Mini-Lu is sleeping well every night, along with our other two girls. I've been having my best sleep of our travels here in GZ. I think the humidity really helps with my rhinitis to where I don't wake up in the middle of the night with allergy issues. 
HEALTH. Each of us had minor issues...but very short and manageable. So thankful that Mini-Lu has not been sick. Her tummy is doing much better today.
FRIENDS. We love the new friends we're making here...and we're thankful for all the friends/family who are following our blog. I know I write a lot...I'm thankful that you are all following along on our journey!
FAMILY. Tonight, as Allan was finishing up P's bath, this was what I heard him say to her: "Peanut, did you grow? I told you to stop growing! You're supposed to not grow so you'll stay with Daddy forever." I got teared up, thinking of a day when she will grow up and she will leave our home. Having 3 kids (5 and under) has been no easy task so far...but I know that this season will not last forever. And someday I will miss this...well, maybe not LB's fits or diaper explosions, but most of this :) I am a very blessed woman. 

Good night from GZ.
God is Gracious...all the time.
Maria

PS. One more pic...a view of the sunset from our hotel room. More adventures ahead tomorrow, I'm sure.