Thursday, May 26, 2011

Palate Surgery- waiting

We are at the hospital waiting for Ella to have her cleft palates corrected. As hospital generally are, doesn't look like her surgery will start on time so we all wait. Ella is looking cute in her pink animal hospital gown, more to follow later

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

what a week!

We started Sunday with visits from my sis and her family (and my parents again too), it was fun to see the cousins play!
Then Monday, it was off to our regular pediatrician.  All in all, Ella screamed pretty much the whole visit once they gave her a finger prick for an anemia test at the beginning all the way through the 5 (yes, 5)  immunizations that came at the end.  Good news, Dr gave her a bill of good health.
Moving onto today (wed), we had our initial appointment at the UCD Cleft center which is luckily only about 20 minutes from our house.  I had booked the appt way back in Jan so it just happened to be so soon after returning home.  We had to leave at 7am (which required a friend to come watch the boys and drop them off at preschool at 8:30) and was basically an entire morning of German, Ella & I sitting in an exam room as none less then 10 different practitioners (some in groups) came in to see us and take a look at Ella.  They gave us a list of specialties and names and overall except for one guy (whose name was nowhere and who knows who he was but seemed to know what he was talking about)  then meet after to give recommendations and write up a comprehensive treatment pan.  This is the coolest idea, they I (being efficient by nature, I guess) could have found ways to improve on the process, maybe too much Intel in me :)  But overall, Ella was amazing, of course she cried when people wanted to examine her, but she didn't kick and flail, and even did an age appropriate hearing test in a sound proof room (with Dad of course).  She even gave the cleft program director (who is also going to be her palate surgeon) some crayons and her cup of snacks (she knows who to suck up to and the cool thing was he thought it was cute and went with it).  We were at the clinic from 8-1, and all 3 survived!!!
So, important thing is the palate surgery scheduled for 6/21, German will be on leave, my parents will come the night before so we can both take her to the surgery and see her after she gets out.  We haven't gotten the final recommendation report, but all the folks seemed to think she was very bright and would recover and do well with speech therapy after (she said bye and wave to everyone, I think partly because she truly was happy for them to leave).
I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing little girl in my life, she amazes me more everyday, though of course still has her moments, but I can't imagine her not being part of our family :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Birthday Fun

April 6 was Ella's 2nd brithday (as well as German's 40th birthday) and we celebrated by having our good friends (and next door neighbors0 over to celebrate.  Ella had a great time playing with her new brothers and friends, eating pizza, opening presents, being sung happy birthday to and eating her cupcake!  Overall it was the perfect celebration considering we had been home less then a week.

As for German's 40th, we plan to have a more elaborate celebration in a few months once we are more settled and he is on leave from work (May 16-Sep 26) :)

First Trip to the Mall

The boys are at school this morning so Ella and I headed to the mall.  I have to say, single strollers rock!  After years of having to deal with monster double stroller I feel so much lighter and more mobile using a single stroller :)
All is all things are going well but tiring!  On Tues & Thu when I have all 3 kids all day are a killer!  I have decided to juts not to expect to get anything done but making sure they are fed and happy (which is hard for me since I like things neat and in control).  Just getting laundry done and put away yesterday seemed like a HUGE accomplishment!  On M/W/F when I just have her things have been great and we have had a lot of fun.  For those twin moms out there, yes, having just 1 is easier!!!
Ella is still eating up a storm, sleep has been good but she is upset if she makes up and one of us is not in the room so several naps have been cut short or she has gotten up earlier than she should of, but overall not nearly as bad as it could be :)  Yesterday she had a little separation anxiety and I basically had to hold her all morning.  I took a shower with her standing half way in with me.  Today I was successful at showering while she watched Baby Einstein on the iPad, in the bathroom, sitting on German's cheesehead (which she seems to love).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 facts about China we didn't know

After being in the comfort of our house for a few days and more importantly the safeguard of being on US soil - thought we'd share the unique bits and pieces of China that we observed.  Enjoy...

2.      1.       Language: There are multiple misconception about the chinese language – sure there's Mandarin and Cantonese, but there's also other dialects as well.  We typically think of dialects as basically the same language where we use contextual phrases – think of English as the baseline with a [enter your state here]or deep south or british euphamisms.  In general we can understand each other.  But in China – dialect pretty much means a different language.  The only unifying bit is their written language.  While it may be possible that 2 people may not be able to verbally communicate with each other, they could communicate with each other using written chinese characters - strange and cool.
2.       Population: China's has ~20% of the world population.  The largest city in China is not Beijing or Shanghai  – its Chongqing – population 30million – that's more than the top 15 cities of the US combined.
3.       Capital: Beijing is the capital of China, but it hasn't always been, its flip flopped between Beijing and Nanjing.  Nanjing (where we went) was the capital of China during a few notable periods - the Ming Dynasty (1368-1421) and when Dr Sun Yat Sen turned China into a republic (1912-1949).  In 1949, the Communists captured Beijing and made it their capital, which it has remained to this day.
4.       Traffic: Some of you may have heard about one of the longest traffic jams in China last year – 60 miles, 9 days long (Beijing to inner Mongolia).  Beijing is averaging ~2000 new cars added each day – explains the smog and congestion.
5.       Pets: Most families don't have dogs as they are expensive to keep.  But if you are fortunate enough to have one, you need a to get approval from the government to get a dog – and it cannot be over 12" tall.  Most dogs we saw looked about the same – "standard issue" we called them.  On our trip we saw maybe 10 dogs and only 1 cat. 
6.       Social networking: The internet is filtered…  No access to facebook, twitter, blogspot from China.  You either have to use a VPN service or use a anonymous proxy like to get access.  Certain google searches are restricted - we didn't want to see what happens if we googled "protest" or "flash mob".
7.       Television programming: Besides the MTV Asia and BBC, flipping thru the TV channels mostly landed us on 2 types of shows – Kung Fu drama (apparently inappropriate for Ella) and some form of military based drama (think of it as a serious version of MASH).  Its not like the history channel or even the military channel – more like expectation setting.
8.       Temperature – heating isn't offered everywhere – but if is offered its regulated by the government – the heat shuts off Mar 15 – no matter where you are in the country.  We didn't ask what the thermostat was set to.
9.       Food: As our travel guide educated us…  Rice flour is abundant in northern china (likely because the weather isn't conductive to farming) and therefore the staple for northerners are mostly noodles and dumplings.  For southern china, the staple is rice.  The foods also lend towards different body types – broader/bulkier builds in the north and more smaller/slender builds in the south.  McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC are widely available throughout China these days – watch out!
10.   Wifi access – We luckily brought our computer with us to allow for a hard LAN line connection to it to check our emails, check the weather and Skype with our family.  But our wifi enabled smartphones and tablets were pretty useless without access to wifi.  Wifi access was available but only for ChinaMobile users – no one offered free public wifi.  I managed to find a rogue router in my walks to the local stores (where I loitered for a bit) to occasionally download my email on my smartphone.  Even at the Beijing airport, the wifi wasn't open – then I found a kiosk that gave you a code to access the wifi signal.  Oddly enough it didn't ask for money for pre-paid access, but instead it asked you to swipe your passport.  Not only is the internet filtered in China – its access is traceable back to an individual – no thanks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Settling In At Home

We are finally starting to feel somewhat settled in at home.  After returning Sat afternoon, tackling mountains of laundry, finishing our tax return, and catching up on mail and bill paying, I finally feel like I can breath (and blog).
So far Ella is doing great!  She had no issues getting strapped into her car seat (something non-existent in China).  Once home our fears were confirmed and she screamed when she saw our cat Piper (we came across a cat at a shop in Guangzhou and she was quite freaked out by it).  So poor Piper spent some time locked in the laundry room.  Ella LOVES her brothers and they love playing with her.  They also love all the 2 year old toys we have for her (Noah especially).  It is actually nice to have them around to entertain her and very cute to watch them be such proud big brothers :)
Sleep has also gone way better than expected.  She doesn't like to be put in her crib and will fuss and cry a bit, but German has stayed in the room with her and she is usually out within 10 minutes.  Sometimes she refuses to lay down and has fallen asleep sitting up several times. I had envisioned her seeping in our bed forever so this has been quite nice.  One of us has gone and slept in the room with her (on a twin bed in there), and she has woken up once each night, the first night crying and fussy for about an hour but the next 2 nights her wake up has been much shorter and she has gone back down much easier.
She is eating well and I am actually having fun spoon feeding her (something I hated with the boys since it was always stressful to have to feed them both at the same time).
The boys went to school today (though German had the day off).  Ella and I ventured to Target and she was a trooper sitting in the cart.  I also took her on a quick run, the good news is she was fine with the stroller, the bad news is that after 3 weeks of no running I was feeling WAY out of shape.  Not sure if it is due to the time off or the extra ~50lbs I was pushing, I think I will go with the extra weight :)
She is such a cutie and has been so much fun to play and hangout with!
Tomorrow German goes back to work and I am on my own with all 3 all day, that will be the really test!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Home sweet home

After just about the longest day of traveling ever, we finally made our return back to US soil. We made it through immigration without any problems and Ella got her US citizenship stamp on her chinese passport - our final step in the international adoption process, yeah!

We met up with our boys (accompanied by grandma and grandpa) just outside arrivals and wondered how the kids would react to each other.   Looks like were going to get along just fine :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thu, 3/31: Bittersweet end to our trip

Our bags are packed  and we are ready to leave for the airport bright and early Fri morning.  We spent our last evening in Guangzhou going out to dinner with 3 families we have met on the trip.  It is amazing how quickly you bond with folks during highly emotional times like this trip was.  We are SO ready to come home but it is also so hard to say goodbye to all the new friends you have become accustomed to seeing everyday and with who we have a common shared experience.  Most folks are back east but luckily 2 families are in south Florida and we hope to get together with them over Thanksgiving week when we plan to be in Miami visiting German's family.
Tomorrow we have a 3 hour flight to Beijing, 5 hour layover, then a 12 hour flight to SFO (should arrive about 1:00pm local CA time).
Wish us luck.....  next post will be from home (or at least the US, we plan on staying at my parents in San Jose Fri night and then driving home Sat.
Night, night

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wed, 3/30: US Consulate Appointment

Today was finally the day  we have come to Guangzhou for, our appt at the US Consulate to submit paperwork to get Ella's visa and documentaion that will make her a citizen when we enter the US.  We had to leave the hotel at 7:10am, which meant getting to breakfast by 6:30am which was much earlier than we have been getting up (but good practice for Fri when we will be leaving the hotel at 5:30am to catch our flight to start our journey home).   The consulate is located in a large non-descript office building, us and several other families from our agency went up to the 4th floor to wait in line for a passport check to make sure we had appts.  Then up to the 5th floor, through a metal detector (no food, drinks, cameras, cell phones allowed, which is the same way the Chinese Consulate in SF was).  We got to go wait in the American Citizens area which was much calmer and less crowded then the non-citizen area which gets about 300-400 Chinese folks requesting visas to come to the US a day.
While we waited to find out what happened next, Ella decided to poop just as a women came out to explain things to us.  She told us an oath would be taken in unison (parents taking for the little ones not able to) and then each family would be called to a window to submit our paperwork.  I didn't want to miss our turn at the window so rushed to changed Ella's diaper and came back to have the oath already completed, so German is responsible for taking it for her :)  Our turn at the window went with no issues and our group was back to the hotel by about 10am (in time for us to have a quick Skype with the boys, being that it was 7pm their time).
Tomorrow we will get Ella's Chinese passport back with a visa to enter the US plus a sealed brown envelope (that we are not to open) to give to immigration when we reach SFO.  At that time, they will look at the paperwork and stamped her passport that she is a citizen (some acronym that I can't remember).  Luckily, it sounds like we can go to either the US Citizen or Non citizen line at immigration, whichever is shorter :)
We had a great group dinner with most of the agency families tonight and a few of us have decided to go back to the same restaurant tomorrow (our last night here!)  It has been an amazing trip but we are so ready to be home.  Most of tomorrow will likely be spent get everything packed and ready to go for our early departure Fri morning.
I am getting nervous how Ella will be once we get her home.  She has been great here and tons of fun but has also had 2 parents undivided attention including sleeping in the bed with us.  Poor baby girl will have some adjustments once she finally gets to her forever home!  German and I have been talking out some transition ideas, mainly around getting her to sleep in her crib (likely with one of us in the bed in the same room, but sat least not getting kicked all night!)
Almost there.......

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tues, 3/29: Red Couch Picture & Dragon Boat River Cruise

This evening we did the adoption tradition of dressing the little ones up in Chinese attire and having them sit on a red couch for pictures.  Ella was actually ok putting on the outfit we bought for her and looked adorable, we called her "Ella Wei, warrior princess."  We did this with our agency group of 9 families, as you can imagine getting 9 new adoptees ranging from 14 months to 8 years to sit in one place while all the parents and other siblings are gathered around was more than a little chaotic.
Then almost right after that we headed off for a 70 minute long cruise along the Pearl River.  our agency had us pre-order Papa John's pizza which was delivered to the ferry dock and was quite yummy!  The cruise was amazing!  The  boat was a dragon boat and on on the upper deck there were lights and lighted lanterns, very pretty!  Guangzhou has something like 10 bridges over the river (many of them quite impressive).  We passed under several of them which were all lighted up at night.  A lot of the larger buildings were also lighted up.  It was fun to socialize with the other families and watch all the kids play.  Ella had a great time playing and looking at all the lights, we thought she would be out like a light when we got back to our room at about 8:45pm, but no, she must have been wound up from the event, she didn't cry but didn't actually shut her eyes until close to 10:00pm, suck since we have to be up at 6am to get to our US Consulate appointment.

Monday, March 28, 2011

One more pic...



Mon, 3/28: Safari Park In Guangzhou

What a long day we had!  The group of us from our agency took a bus and spent the day at  place called Safari Park.  It was a US zoo on steroids.  First we went on the "safari on wheels" where we boarded an open air train type vehicle that drove us through different types of animal habitats.  We saw everything from giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, ostriches (one was in the middle of the road and I think her was about 3 feet away as we drove by) and quite a few other animals a quick jump over a small mote and wall to get to us.  Oh, and all the tour guide narration was in Chinese (and not Cantonese) so we were a bit on our own.
We then went to the "walking safari, " thankfully Ella was into our borrowed stroller today because we walked quite a bit and her walking would have slowed down the whole group.  We fed giraffes with big branches we bought, and unlike Miami Metro Zoo, they just gave you a branch and you stood along the fence to the giraffes waving one over to eat it.  I held Ella as I fed one and she wasn't so sure.
We moved onto koalas, which they have a ton of, including the only known set of twin koalas, weird since they don't come from anywhere near China, but still cool.   
Then onto the white tiger show which I could write pages on.  This show was such an accident waiting to happen and puts Siegfried & Roy to shame.  At one time (and for at least 15 minutes) there were 14 (yes 14) white tigers in the caged stage area with 2 men, and some of the tigers were a bit non-compliant.  Anyway, no one was hurt (human or animal) but I definitely don't think it is anything one would see in the states especially at basically a zoo show that was free with admission.
Then onto the pandas. And I mean pandas, 12 to be exact.  Very cool and Ella loved them.  At zoos I have been to there is normally 1 and you can never really seem him, here they were up close and personal and playing and taking bamboo fro each other.  Most were young, but there were a couple elders including Ming Ming who was born in 1974.
All in all a great but very long day, Ella napped about an hour in the early afternoon and was out after 2 minutes once in bed tonight :)
We are starting to come up with transition plans since we will be home soon (yeah!) but really want to get her to sleep in her own room versus in bed with us as she has been (mainly because then the boys will want to sleep with us too and then no one would sleep).
Tomorrow is free day for us until 5pm when we do a red couch picture (all our agencies little ones dressed in traditional garb on a red couch) followed by a Pearl River cruise complete with Papa John's Pizza.  German is feeling a bit like he has a cold type bug so it will likely be me and Ella at the playroom and out shopping tomorrow morning.  Hopefully she will be good with the stroller and if not, it is much easier to carry 1 than 2 and I can fully understand and appreciate that now :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sun 3/27: relaxing & shopping on Shamian Island

Shamian Island in Guangzhou, where our hotel, the White Swan, is located, is the "capital" of all things Chinese adoption due to the fact that all American's, regardless of what province their new child is from, have to go through here since the US Consulate is in Gunagzhou.  The Island is small (you can walk around it) and a place so unique that is not really fully describable (those that have been here to adopt or with someone who has know what I mean).  The locals have definitley made a business out of catering to the new American parents, there are tons of small shops around selling everything from diapers, toys, baby clothes, souviners as well as most do laundry.  You can also borrow a stroller from most of them for the duration of your stay (free of charge, we have one) and all the store have ramps installed to make them stroller accessable.  Our hotel, which is the hotel most often stayed at by new familes, has a large playroom on the first floor that is capreted and has various toys to play with (it is sponsored by Mattel, so guess who makes all the toys).  The room is a great place to let Ella play around without getting into everything she shouldn't in our room and also a great place to socialize with other parents.  I have  already been able to hand on some stuff we haven't needed (and few bibs and some too small jammies to one family and an extra sippy cup to another).  Mattel also provides all the new chilodren with there very own "Going Home Barbie," which is a blond Barbie holding an Asian baby (I know, very politically incorrect, but still special).  All in all this is definitley our favorite city of the trip and has been such a fun and unique experience!

Sat 3/26: Medical Exam and Paperwork

Today we got a chance to meet up with the 8 sets of adoptive parents we initially met in Beijing a week ago, but now along side them were their little ones.  Its truly a bonding experience as we traded stories of the initial meeting, who the child bonds to more (in some cases its the siblings more than the adoptive parents), impressions of the provinces we all went out to, and how resilient the children are given how much change they've undergone in just 4 days.
This morning entailed the group walking to the local gift store (that of course doubles as a photo store that takes Visa photos) and then a trip to the local medical examiner (catered to foreign adoptions) for a basic checkup.  Ella - did well for the most part with the only crying coming when entering the room with the masked man with the cold stethoscope - yeah I'd be unconfortable with that too.  Official weigh in comes at 26.1 lbs.  No vaccinations needed, but heard some kids could get as many as 7 shots depending on their age and lack of prior approvals - ouch.
Then in the afternoon - we had a document prep meeting - making sure that we had all the document and photographs ready for submittal to the US consulate later this week.  After a moment of panic when we couldn't find one of the documents from the Nanjing province and the worst fears rushing through our heads - we managed to locate it and get it to our coordinator - disaster avoided, phew.
The rest of the time seems to be mostly waiting for our consulate appointment (Wednesday).  But the time seems to be moving along so hopefully it won't be much longer. 
Here's a picture of Ella at the ENT station at the medical examiner (not shown - to check her hearing, the Dr has a casio keyboard set up to play a standard recording of some tones at its highest volume level, then as Ella looks at the keyboard, the Dr takes a squeaky toy by her other ear and squeezes it to see if she acknowledges it and turns - hilarious)  

Fri 3/25 Flying to Guangzhou

After a morning spent packing up we were off the airport for Ella's first flight!  It was weird to check her in with her very own Chinese passport!  She is really ours!  She wasn't too happy to be confined to our laps on the flight (luckily is was only 2 hours) and did not nap at all.  However, she did love the airplane food and ate just about a whole meal of chicken and rice.  Once we got to the hotel Ella was out a few minutes after laying down.
We love Guangzhou so far, much more quaint then the other big cities and lots within walking distance. It is also much more westernized which is refeshing.  German is happy since most people speech Cantonese and was excited to be able to chat with the lady at 7-11.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Made it to Ghangzhou

Can't type because it is so dark, German & are Ella asleep and I am going back to hide out  in the bathroom with light, something to read and some (pleasingly good) wine, better update tomorrow, dark sucks, back to my refuge in the bathroom (no wireless, so know computer there).
Until tomorrow... I'll include a pic of fun

Thursday, March 24, 2011

one more pics

Blogspot doesn't allow much so I'll send in seperate emails :)

Thur 3/24: Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausaoleum & Ming Tomb in Nanjing

Sorry for the late post (it is Fri noon here now), I normally post after Ella goes to sleep at night but I fell asleep with her at 8:30pm last night :)
Thurs was a busy day sightseeing for the 3 of us.  We went to seer where Dr. Sun Yat-sen was buried which is at the Purple Mountain a beautiful area.  In order to get to his grave site you have to climb 392 steps.  Our "I do it myself" little girl seriously climb we guess about 375 herself with us holding her hands.  If we tried to pick her up to carry her she would start screaming.  All the Chinese people there were either amused or appalled by the fact that we were actually allowing her to try to climb herself.  Every other small child we saw were carried the whole time.
She made it back down about 1/4 off the way before just sitting on a step to rest and refusing to move on either by herself of with one of us carrying her, so we did what any good American would, pick her up screaming and made a run for it (again with appalled looks by the locals, apparently Chinese  babies never cry :))
She fell asleep in the ergo with Daddy (still not about ergo with Mommy) and slept for 3 hours.  We took a walk to the Ming Tombs which had the most beautiful gardens.  There is a plum blossom festival there annually.  There was a "Sacred Walk" that led to the tomb which had all sorts of carved stone animals and people along it.  I thought it was really cool and was a bit sad Ella slept through it all, though I took pictures of her and German next to each of the animals.
She woke up just in time to catch a cab back to the hotel.  She ate ton for dinner, actually willingly walked to the bath and has fun playing in it, and fell asleep on the bed with us next to her no tears after a bottle and episode of Baby Einstein, as I stated earlier I stayed asleep as well.  The emotional drain is becoming much less as she adjusts to us but I forgot how tiring 2 year olds are and she is a very ACTIVE 2 year old, we have already started making a list of what needs to be baby proofed at home, I think she will be into things a lot more than Lucas and Noah were.
We leave for a flight to Guangzhou in a few hours and I am nervous how her first flight will go and how she will adjust to a new hotel and what emotions that change will trigger.
Last stop before we head home, one week from now we'll be on a plane on our LONG journey home.
Love and miss everyone, especially our Bubbas who we are so glad we are able to see every morning via Skype :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wed 3/23 Day at Xuanwu Lake Park in Nanjing

Our guide took us and the other family from our agency to a huge park today.  It was very nice to get out of the hotel and city congestion that surrounds it and have some fresh air and walking space, and bot did Ella walk!  Our little one has blossomed into a toddler overnight (literally).  I told German at breakfast on Tues how weird it was to have a 2 year old at a restaurant that was so calm, that lasted 1 day.  This morning Ella was grabbing at everything, wanting to do everything herself and started toddler behaviors like throwing when she is mad that I wouldn't have dreamed she would do 24 hours prior.  The change is truly amazing!  At the park she wanted to walk everywhere and was up and down tons of steps (with our help).  She was getting pooped about noon and I tried to get her to sleep in the ergo carrier, she was so close but then would start screaming again, after going through this for awhile I handed her to German and she promptly fell asleep (of course), we were able to get her in the ergo without her waking and she slept for 2 hours.
This afternoon back at the room was pure craziness.  As those of you with small children know, a 2 year old trapped in a hotel room can be quite trying on your sanity, combine that with the fact that you're in the middle of a foreign country with nothing close to walking distance that is remotely kid friendly (and there is no way you want you child walking along the streets as there are no really traffic rules followed by cars, motorbikes or bikes) and it gets that much worse.  Oh, and of course the 2 year old with you is a basically a stranger who was taken from everything she knows two days ago and placed in your care, hopefully you get the picture.  There have been some tense moments but I'd say all in all the 3 of us are doing pretty good and I am proud to say Ella is asleep in the bed for the night without one tear shed, quite an accomplishment! 
Adopting a toddler so far has been quite an experience, now that she is comfortable she is into EVERTHING, wants to go wherever she wants to go and for the most part do it herself.  At least with a newborn you get a chance to adjust to each other and have a non-mobile child for a bit, this is chasing, and watching constantly from day 1.
Plus, we are really starting to miss our other 2 bubbas and can't wait to get home and give them lots of hugs and kisses!  We have already started planning what we want to do with them the weekend we get back (which is still ~10 days away)  Today at the park we saw a little turtle and I was so sad because all I wanted to do was show my Lucas because I know he would have loved it and Noah would love the weird automatic car parking garage that we can watch out our hotel window here in Nanjing.  A huge thank you to my parents for watching them and friends for stepping into help (thanks Kirsten & Katrina!)
All in all, I think German & I are both emotionally and physically exhausted (carrying a 25lber around almost constantly is quite tiring, she is not as little as we had thought), but seeing the transformation of our beautiful daughter even in the short time we have had her is such a priceless gift and experience that it makes it all worth it and I wouldn't trade it :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tues 3/22: Good day, Hard Evening

Ella's personality has really started to come out.  She has gotten much chattier, though for the most part she says mama (for many things like go get that, hold this), the orphanage staff told us yesterday her speech seems delayed likely due to her cleft palate.  As far as physically, she seems to be in perfect shape, though developmentally behind where us American's would expect a 2 year old too be (which we expected being she has been institutionalized her whole life).  She walks, though not steadily and prefers to hold a hand.  All the sudden today we realized we weren't sure if she could stand up from the floor and sit down to the floor or crawl to reach an object.  If something she wanted got out of arms reach should would point and say mama and we would hand it to her.  Not sure if she was working us or not but German started a little "baby boot camp" of sorts and would spread items well behind her reach and when she asked he would say no, Ella go get.  At first she scooted on her bottom and we thought, maybe she never did crawl, but after several round of the game she was crawling over to the objects.  She also starting pushing herself backwards from a sitting position to stand up and fell down quite a few times leading us to believe this was likely  a new skill or more use of a skill not used often.  It is amazing to watch how different toddlers can be in just 24 hours!
Nap went ok, she fell asleep on our bed lying against me and woke up once and fell asleep on me for the rest (she slept about 3 hours total).  She sucks on her 2 middle fingers of her left hand but so far only after she is asleep not to help sooth her during stressfuel time or to get to sleep
Bonding seems to be going great, no issues with eye contact, she comes to us with smiles, etc, but with this comes grieving for the loss of her old life and that hit hard at bedtime tonight.  I held her for quite awhile while she cried (screaming at times) but she never pushed me away and was grasping my hand the whole time.  Absolutely heart breaking to no there is nothing you can do but ride it through (I was soon crying with her).  German took her for awhile and she is now asleep in our bed.  We'll see how tomorrow night goes but I figure it is likely to be about the same for awhile since we go to Guangzhou (and a different room and environment) starting Fri night, then to my parents for a night and then finally home on 4/2.  I have a feeling it may be some time until she is back in a crib  of her own.
We're trying to keep a good outlook of enjoying the good times during the day and surviving 1 night at a time, we'll see how that goes :)  Our next 2 days in Nanjing are free days while we wait for Ella's Chinese passport.  Luckily the rain seems to have stopped and temps are rising to highs in the 50s versus 40s as they have been so we are hoping for some outdoor sightseeing time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Adoption is now official!

Went back to the regional office today to finalize our paperwork - most organized process we've seen considering the potential for bureaucracy.  After 15 minutes, some verification of personal information and a few thumbprints (Ella's included), a few gift offerings, and a few more photos, we're now officially a family of 5.
After having Ella with us last night, just reconfirms to us how well she's adapting.  Slept thru most of the night - took her bottle of milk this morning (once we figured out that we needed to upgrade the speed regulated nipple on it).  Got her dressed in quite an array of pinks and headed down to the safe haven that is the hotel breakfast buffet.  Ella is a great eater - just about likes anything we feed her - which means that we need to keep her on this diet for as long as we can before the nugget, corn dog, pop tart eating brothers of her corrupt her.  It wont last.... :)
The next 2 days for us are free days - free to explore the city on our own.  We'll see how much fun we can get into ourselves.

We have Ella and she is amazing!

I'll write more detail about everything once I have a bit more time.  Overall she has been awesome!  Very mellow, no tears through us getting her, going a shopping trip, was happy playing in our room for awhile and ate dinner as well as snacks at the store.
She cried when we changed her diaper and each time we slowly removed her 3 layers of clothes (pants and shirts).  We opted not to attempt a bath tonight but did get her into jammies and after about an hour of on and off crying and both of us taking turns holding her she finally felt comfortable enough to actually put her head down followed by closing her eyes and going to sleep.  She is now comfy in the middle of our bed.  Must say and better transition than I expeted, though it is still day 1 :(
All in all an AMAZING day!  Lots more pics to follow, these are just a few of us at the store (from my phone, haven't downloaded the camera yet)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Almost there....

We meet our guide to go get Ella in 30 minutes.  I have to admit I have been quite calmn and patient all day (it's 1:20pm here) and as those of you who know me well know that is unusual :)
Now that we are almost there I am NERVOUS and excited and very imapatiently ready to go!!!!!!!!!!


All I can say is we are really in China now.  Luckily we had a guide help us check into the hotel and showed us where a small grocery store and some various noodle type restaurants are.  For the most part nothing is in English but the one noodle shop guy told her he would remember us and only charge us 2rmb (about 20 cents) more for carryout since this is probably the type of thing we will want once Ella joins us tomorrow.
Many people have commented how great it is that German speaks Chinese and therefore can converse with Ella (as ever rudimentary as her language is).  I tell them he speaks Cantonese is used to Mandarin and the 2 are nothing alike.  Today I learned something new, not only are those 2 languages nothing alike, there are a ton of "dialects" that are nothing alike and according to our guide at the Nantong orphanage where Ella has spent her whole life they speak Nantong dialect which she even having grown up a few hours away from there can't understand.  Needless to say, besides those in government or having had attended universities it seems very few Chinese can actually speak to very few other Chinese tough though all have the same written language.  For a country with so many people so densely populating the urban areas this baffles my mind.
The hotel, let me just say 1960s.  It is big and has a sort of mini kitchen (look like a wet bar) but has a microwave which is great!!!  It seems pretty clean but older and the carpet a bit stained making me nervous to have a 2 year old all over it but she is hopefully also much more used to the various germs here, we'll see.  The walls have a rather putrid green wallpaper on them and the crib is made of wood and something I can never ever imagine passing any kind of safety standards in the states (though I am assuming the same thing she has been using since birth).  When in Rome...
As far as Nanjing, it may just be where the hotel is at but it seems much dirtier than where we were in Beijing and much more like I remember Hong Kong with the garbage and smells.  And definitely much less westernized, English speakers and signs are quite hard to come by.  We'll see if that changes once we see more of the city.
So for our last dinner before Ella joining us German and I (I guess really more I) wanted  to go to a nice sit down dinner, ended up being much harder than we thought.  We looked at the menu of one of the 2 restaurants in the hotel and it was really expensive and nothing sounded good.  There really didn't seem to be any sit down type restaurants around the hotel so feeling defeated we returned to the room for another night of ramen bowls.  German was determined to find something and went wandering the hotel and came back trying to sell me on a Chinese restaurant in the hotel.  He said they had braised tofu with scallions and that sounded like something I would eat so off we went.  Needless to say all the food we had there (minus the tofu which was blue on the edges, had no scallions, and big black things that we think were mushrooms, pic below) was wonderful and the service great.  We keep having good laughs over the gross slimy tofu especially because that is what German used to get me to go there. When we left we asked (which too them going finding 3 different women until they got one to understand us) if later in the week we could come get stuff to go to bring up to our room since we will have Ella with us.  They said yes, just call room service.  We thanked them and headed back to our room.  About 10 minutes later there was a knock on the door and it was the women from the restaurant coming to tell us that they had looked at the room service menu and not everything was on there so if we wanted it in our room to come to the restaurant to order and they would bring it up.  Wow, that is service!  She would have had to look at our bill that we charged to the room to get our room # and then walked to the other side of the hotel to tell us personally.  I think we will be getting lots of food there this week :)
Next post will be with ella, we nmeet her in about 5 hours!!!!  I am so excited and also remarkably calmn.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Orientation, Forbidden City, Tinanmen Square (aka one LONG day)

We started the day off with another yummy buffet breakfast (definitely the best meal of the day) and then attended our adoption agency's orientation.  The best part of this is we got new pics of Ella and some more info including her schedule (she seems to sleep a lot, we'll see how that changes), she is not potty trained and wears diapers, she is spoon fed by her caregivers and she is scared of fireworks (I guess in China with fireworks so frequent this is important info, for us it was more of a non duh, what young toddler isn't??)  The most interesting bit of info is that Ella's birth parents left a note with her when they abandoned her at about 1 day old and we will get a copy of that.  I am very curious to learn what it says (our guide should be able to translate it) and am happy to give her something originating from her birth family.
After orientation we had a group lunch and headed to the Forbidden City.  The buildings were beautiful but I don't know if it jet lag kicking in or if I just want to get to Nanjing to get my girl, but it seemed more like the never ending city of a bunch of buildings that all looked the same.  Also, lots of stairs and my legs are a bit tired from yesterday's Great Wall marathon.  At the end of the Forbidden City you come right out into Tinanmen Square.  That was very cool mainly because it is just so BIG!  Though the wind was also kicking up and it was getting chilly so I was happy to get back on the bus.
Then it was on to a Silk Factory (it is nearly 4pm by this time).  It was interesting but having a preschool teacher Mom who used to bring home silk worms that we fed mulberry leaves to and watch grow learning about the process was all that exciting.
After that, we finally were back at the hotel at about 5:00 and made photocopies we need for the province and walked down to a nearby mall to figure dinner out.  For whatever reason, I am just not into the food hear (maybe seeing the skewers of bugs???) So we happened upon a grocery store and bought PBJ supplies and decided to get some ramen bowls (noodle soup is sounding good).  People say the US is overwhelming in their choices, I now know what they mean in being faced with an aisle of ramen bowls all labeled in chinese and trying to figure out which to get.  We finally just picked 2, German is eating his now and says it is ok (though spicy) I have a feeling I may be PBJing it tonight!
Tomorrow we have nothing until 11:00am (yeah!) but have to be packed and checked out as that is the time we meet our transportation to the airport to head to Nanjing (the head of Ella's province Jiangsu).  We are traveling with one other family who is adopting an almost 2 year old son there and have their 3 older children with them.
Only 2 more nights until I meet my cutie!!!!  My mind has started thinking about her and if she even knows that these are her last 2 nights in the only home she knows.
Thanks for all the comments people have made on facebook, I get emails of those and look forward to reading them so keep them coming :)
Until tomorrow...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Snack Alley

We went to a place called snack alley in Beijing this evening.  Think small, crowded, dirty alley where everyone is eating things on wood skewers.  It is already scary enough to manever through the crowds while most are carrying sharp sticks and even scarier when you look at what is on the sticks (hopefully the pic comes through ok)

Great Wall

German and I both actually slept quite well last night and were ready to conquer the Great Wall.  We met up with 5 other families from our adoption agency and took a bus there.  The guide said that there were 2 ways to go onto the wall and that one was steeper then the other and that he would be heading to the less steep side.  We thought we were headed with him but got ahead and it became clear pretty quick we were on the steep side.  Stairs and stairs and stairs and stairs, needless to say, I think my legs will be a bit sore tomorrow (German pooped out earlier so I continued on my own and actually managed to take pictures of myself with me phone).  The Great Wall was amazing and I am sooo glad we came a day early to see it.
We then had lunch and went on a rickshaw ride through an older part of Beijing.  We also drove by the Olympic Village and saw the Bird's Nest and Aquatic Cube which were really cool.
Beijing is interesting in that it has ~14 million people but it is very spread out so doesn't have nearly the feeling of dense humanity that Hong Kong does.  It is also very smoggy and doesn't really have much color, in a word the whole city is "greige."
Overall a very busy day.  But it kept us going.  Tomorrow we have an orientation with our agency and will get newer pics of Ella!!  Then more sightseeing and Sunday we fly out to Nanjinj and Monday meet Ella!!
I can only update our blog (which in turn goes to Facebook) through email because we can't access either Facebook or Blogspot from here (Chinese govt controls).  So hopefully the pics come across!
Until tomorrow...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Made it to Beijing!!!

After a rather uneventful but long flight we made it to Beijing and are at our hotel (it is 7:40pm).  Gonna grab some food and maybe a St Pattie's day beer before getting some sleep since we meet our guide for our Great Wall Tour at 8:30am tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Packed and Ready to Go!!!!

We are all packed and ready to head to my parents in San Jose for the night and then we fly out of SFO tomorrow and get our little girl on Mon 3/21!!!!!!!

Feeling excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Getting ready to travel to China for Ella

I know I haven't posted since on this blog since 9/09 (not sure where 2010 went), but I am going to try to get in the habit again to be able to document the arrival of our beautiful daughter who we are adopting from China!

For those that don't know, her name will be Ella Wei Ham. She was born on 4/6/09 and abandoned at birth. She has been living in an orphanage in Nantong in the province of Jiangsu in China. She was born with a cleft lip and palate. the lip was repaired surgically when she was 8 months old and we will have the palate surgery once she is home.

We began the adoption process by submitting our application on 5/15/10, received our referral on 9/27/10 and will be leaving for China next week on 3/17/11 and will receive our little one on Mon, 3/21!!!!!! All in all a 10 month process (much shorter than the 12-18 months the agency quoted us at time of application).

Lucas and Noah are very excited to meet their little sister. They will be staying with my parents and not traveling with us. It will be hard to be away from them for 2 1/2 weeks (the longest we have ever been away from them is 2 nights!) But I know they will be in good hands with Grandma & Grandpa :)

I will do my best to keep posting, I am not sure if I will be able to post from China (not sure what you can access on the Internet there). If I can't, I'll send my sister posts & pics so hopefully she can post (thanks Lynn, I haven't asked yet if she will do it)

Here are some pics of Ella taken on 12/31/10.