Saturday, June 30, 2007

Welcome to Parenthood!

The family spent its first Saturday afternoon in America hanging out in our local emergency room.

Wynn had a cough on and off while we were in China, and we'd given her Triaminic, which worked quite well. She was doing better, so we didn't give it much thought. Then last night a about 3 AM she woke up and made this "I can't breathe" sound and proceeded to throw up in the bed. She slept most of the morning, and by the time afternoon rolled around, she was getting feverish and couldn't even keep down a couple teaspoons of water. She didn't act like she felt bad at all, but we decided to risk being labeled as the first time parents who over-react every time their child sniffles. We took her to the ER and are so glad we did.

After being looked over by two nurses and the doctor and enduring a throat culture and a couple x-rays, Wynn was diagnosed with pneumonia. She took the whole medical exam thing in stride, but refused to open her mouth for the throat culture. We have this game we play with her where I say the Chinese word for nose and she points to hers. Then I say the word for tongue, and she sticks hers out. We tried to get her to play this to help the doctor look in her mouth, but Wynn was totally on to the fact that we were trying to trick her. She gave me this look like "No dice, Mama" and kept her mouth closed.

The doctor gave her a shot of antibiotics and a prescription for more to take for the next seven days. Two hours after she got the shot, she was up and active as ever - and BEGGING for food. We were supposed to start her slowly with clear fluids, but, again, no dice. She would not stop until she was presented with a bowl of extremely watered-down Cream of Wheat that I'd kindly stirred some strawberry syrup into. When that was gone, she wanted more, so we moved on to banana.

We coaxed her away from the food long enough to give her a bath and brush her teeth to get the vomit smell out of her mouth. Then she stood pointing at the kitchen and CRIED until I ponied up with some more Cream of Wheat.

She slept most of the day, so what are the odds that she'll sleep at all tonight?


As you mull over the night we're going to have with our newly-energized toddler, enjoy the lovely pictures of Renmin Park, Nanning, China. (It was about a block from our hotel.)

On the Red Couch

Now that we're home, we can actually take some time and post pictures and more details about some of the things that we did while we were in China.

One of the big adoption moments in China is the group photo of the kids, taken on the red couch at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. I'd never heard of it until we got into the process, but, apparently, this is the big tradition - a moment that so many families who've adopted a child from China have in common.

Typically, the parents get their child a traditional Chinese style outfit (We got ours at Cute Baby, a shop on the north end of Shamian.), and all the kids get their picture taken together on one of these big velvet couches on the second floor of the hotel.

The day the pictures were taken, we were pleasently surprised at how well the kids reacted to having 20+ adults with cameras snapping photos of them. Getting a group of toddlers to sit still together on a sofa is hard enough, but add the chaos of all those flash bulbs and things could get dicey. Anyhow, the kids were all reasonably calm throughout.

This was the day that Wynn showed us how empathetic and kind she is by feeding her friend Jenna some Cheerios. Jenna was NOT digging the flashbulbs and chaos, so her mom put some Cheerios in front of her. Jenna kept crying, so Wynn picked up the cereal piece by piece and gently fed them to her. I was shocked that at no point did Wynn try to eat the cereal herself; we all know what an enthusiastic little eater she is. (Jenna and Wynn were the two kids adopted from Guangxi Provence; the other kids all came from farther north. They'd been together for over a week at this point, so they'd formed kind of special bond.)

Wynn's the one in the navy blue outfit who actually cooperated and kept her shoes on for the entire picture taking session. Good girl! ;-)


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Home at Last




We'll tell you about the flight home and post more pictures when our brains start functioning again.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Final Day in Guangzhou

It is 11:00 in the morning presently - our bus leaves for the US Consulate at 2:45, at which time Wynn's papers are reviewed one last time and the oath of citizenship is administered.

Our alarm is set for 4:15 am - bags out in the hall at 5:00 and the bus for the airport leaves at 5:30. Again, precious little time to scope out the airport hunting, alas...

We took the group photos yesterday at lunchtime (the famous "red couch" here at the White Swan) and Wynn stole the show through her show of kindness to one of the other children -- Jenna was having a hard time, so Wynn fed her Cheerios and patted her on the hand.

Last night we took a Pearl River dinner cruise - the food was what you'd get at a local Chinese buffet, nothing remarkable; but what they have done with the riverfront is truly breathtaking. Wynn was very well behaved and the three of us had a great time. Ann called it "one of the best nights in my entire life."

We know we will be back - not if, but when.

It appears this computer (hotel @ 40 yuan per 15 minutes!!) will NOT allow us to load photos... Next posting will be back in the States, with many many pictures! See you soon!


Monday, June 25, 2007

Photo Special Edition!

Smog in Beijing

Beijing Traffic

Us at the Airport in Beijing

The Bus We Rode to the Tarmac

The Highway into Nanning

View of Nanning from our Hotel Window

When They Handed Wynn to Ann

The Part They Warned Us About

First Time Wynn Sat on Mom's Lap with No Tears

The Whole Family by a Rice Paddy Outside Nanning

The Scenery in Guangxi is Amazing!

The View from The White Swan in Guangzhou

Wynn Flapping her Arms for More Tomatoes

Favorite Jelly Flavor: Strawberry

Reading with Baba

She LOVES the Remote

Life is Good on Shamian Island

Yes! We finally got our hands on a computer again, so here we are checking in from Shamian Island, Guangzhou, China ...

Wynn's first plane ride was a breeze. She took all the checking in and waiting in lines completely in stride and slept through the entire flight. When the wheels touched down as we landed, she didn't even open her eyes. We realize that she's not going to sleep all the way from Guangzhou to Tokyo to Minneapolis, but we were relieved to learn that air travel doesn't turn her into a howling beast.

Scott had a couple rough days as we left Nanning. Whatever attacked his stomach was quickly killed by the antibiotics we brought with. Both Wynn and I escaped unscathed. He's back on track now and enjoying every minute of the breakfast buffet - they have tater tots! :-)

Wynn is showing more and more personality every day. She's very outgoing - waving bye-bye to the doorman when we leave and charming the girls who work at the elevator bay on our floor. Though she's warm and friendly to others, she shakes her head NO whenever they want to pick her up or touch her face. We take this as a very good sign, because she's figured out that we're her family and has bonded herself to us.

We had her medical exam today. She has only gained one pound since the last update we got in March; at 17 months, she only weighs 18 pounds. She is, however, strong and vigorous. The way we describe her is as "underfed" rather than "malnourished". She is passionate about eating, and we've figured out a system for getting the whole family through a restaurant meal. We order something for Wynn (congee, oatmeal, noodles, a soft scrambled egg, etc.) and feed it to her. When she's polished her food off, we give her a small plate of her own; that's for what she can beg off our plates. (I can't think of ANYTHING she's said no to; today she insisted on eating all the tomatoes off my sandwich at Starbuck's.) She feeds herself what we give her on the "begging plate" while we eat. Tonight at dinner we noticed that she's made a leap in her trust of us: instead of shoving every morsel of food we give her into her mouth immediately, she let food pile up on her plate and ate at a more leisurely pace. She trusts that when we give her food, it's hers - we're not going to take it away. That's a big deal.

I don't know where to begin in describing her personality. She's a bit of a clown and has the most amazing giggle, which she unleashed on us as she and Scott played slow-speed "chase" around the hotel room. She figured out that she can cruise from one end of our room to the other, so she stands inside the door and stamps her feet (like she's revving up her engine) and then todddles the full length of the room with this enormous grin on her face. She still LOVES to take things out of boxes and put them back in, and she figured out that it was easier to get her sorting blocks off their pegs by turning the whole toy upsidedown rather than lifting the blocks off one by one.

The one thing we've found that she hates is wearing shoes. She kicks her feet and fights us when we try to put them on her. We'll catch her later taking them off in her stroller. She even went so far as to ditch one of them in front of the 7-11 this afternoon; luckily, another family from our group recognized the shoe and brought it back to us. What she does love about shoes is bringing ours to us. She'll carry my slippers across the room and hand them to me; then she'll go get Scott's and bring them to him. What amazes us is that she KNOWS which shoes belong to whom. How'd she figure that out so fast?

Tomorrow we're going to have our group picture taken on the world famous red couch here at the White Swan. In the evening our whole group in going to go on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. It should be cool to see the view from the river; the parks along the banks are lit up different colors, and a few of the hotels have laser light shows in the sky every night. (On our walk last night we discovered that they also play patriotic anthems and "The Beer Barrel Polka" over a PA system outside. I can actually hear it outside our window right now.)

I'm not sure if we'll be able to post again before we leave, but that's just a few days away anyway. :-) We've had a great time, and we especially love how accessible things are here on Shamian, but we're homesick. We miss our house, family, friends, dog, and COOL AIR. Please arrange for highs in the mid-70's for the first week we're home; we're cookin' over here.

See you soon!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Monkey off my back...

Ann has been doing most of the posting since we hooked up with Wynn. It is difficult to type with a toddler hanging to you.

(It's also difficult when you're sick and on the toilet and your screaming, tearful daughter busts open the bathroom door and demands you pick her up and hold her on your lap.)

She didn't have a nap this afternoon, so she passed out on the bed about 19:15. Ah, finally some time to have a grown-up conversation with Ann, read the blog postings, and just relax.

Some random observations:

* Traffic. Lane markings are merely suggestions. Turning around in the middle of the street with oncoming traffic is just fine. Turn signals are rarely used. There are plenty of police, but I never see them doing anything. The bicycles have no reflectors or headlights. Yet there is a fluid grace to how everything moves here, as if the drivers, bike riders, and pedestrians have a sixth sense. The thought of "a school of fish" came to me this morning as we went for a 9 am stroller expedition. I have seen only one accident, and that was a mere fender bender in Beijing. It is terrifying and fascinating at the same time to ride through these streets, yet these drivers must be among the best in the world...

* Music in public spaces. I suspect there is a regulation that all hotels, lobbies, public transport stations, etc. must play "Smooth Jazz Rendition of Western Popular" radio channel. Same stuff everywhere we go. I understand Kenny G has the kind of popularity here that David Hasselhof has in Germany. While eating breakfast, we hear really bad smooth jazz renditions of "Dixie", "Auld Lang Syne", "Jingle Bells", "Greensleeves", some kind of medley of "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and Michael Bolton, one Russian military anthem, and such. (Nothing like hearing fond recollections of slavery in mellow tones while you have your fried noodles and melon slices in the morning.) We hear people whistling Christmas carols all the time.

* How beauty is portrayed. The representations we see on TV here of "idealized" Chinese men and women emphasize:
- Intelligence, both academic and street-smarts
- Modest, conservative fashion -- we're talking Gap / Target / Nordstrom kind of styles. Clean, simple patterns for Western clothing, and of course traditional dress is admired.
- The "bad boy" image never fails to help a lady in need and is clean-cut in his own way; the "girl next door" is modest yet sharp, and always melts the men's hearts.
- Much too thin based on what we Westerners could manage, given our lifestyle and genetic heritage. You do see, however, many ads for diet pills (which look like uppers to us), fat melt-away shoes, body-slimming underwear, all sorts of dietary supplements, "keep your hair jet black" formula, etc. If you want to sell your snake oil, cast an American guy in a lab coat; also, flash lots of English words on the screen (doesn't matter if they relate to what is being sold.) Play the ad incessantly, 4 or 5 times in the same commercial break. (There is a pill reportedly made from Green Apple Extract [grown in South Carolina USA] which binds to body fat and flushes it away, apparently instantly and with bolts of electricity. There is a 15-second cut of the ad, a 30-second, 1-minute, and 2-minute. Tuesday night I watched all the versions cycle through nonstop for 10 minutes on one of the Nanning local stations before I had to change the channel ... like a train wreck, you can't help yourself from watching it. I want to get it on DVD to play for everyone back home...)

* Integration of the military into everyday life. Perhaps to be expected. But at Renmin Park here in Nanning, the kids can play shoot 'em up in MiG-15s with pretend machine guns. The lake has a section with floating mines, and kids can pedal out in little destroyers and attack submarines. Yes, we took pictures... Oh, did we mention you could buy surplus military uniforms / helmets / other gear at our Beijing supermarket?

* One of the local Nanning stations, instead of running TV programs, devotes itself to running text messages called in by viewers (for a fee of course.) In the afternoons they run a bowling video game (use your cellphone to text in direction and power)and also a knights-and-dragons qwest type video game. Winners get valuable prizes -- cash, small electronics. Gambling yes, but an interesting use of the available tech that we don't do in the States.

* No "Weather Channel" here. They could really use it. As a Minnesotan, I want 15-minute explanations of how this cold front is going to interact with that low-pressure system, etc. It's good background noise too. Though, "Shanghai Idol aka the Sprite Show" is growing on me...

Ah, my brain feels much better now for getting all that out.


Last Day in Nanning

We were glad to have very little that had to be done today since both of us are feeling a little under the weather. We don't know if it was something we ate yesterday or the cumulative effect of ten days of buffet breakfasts, extreme heat, and a whole bunch of stress. Scott's borne the brunt of the sickness so far, but my turn may still come.

Hannah took us to a street market in Nanning this morning. It was kind of like a permanent flea market, but most of the stalls were selling fresh flowers and plants (lots of bamboo, lots of beautiful orchids). The other stalls sold small trinkets and knick knacks - wood carvings, tea pots, five foot tall statues of Chairman Mao (which would be kinda cool to have out in the front yard ...). We only made one purchase: a pair of lucky fish to hang up at our house.

Wynn is getting even more relaxed and playful around us. She still has her moments, but things are going so much more smoothly than they were two days ago. Scott has noticed that she's interested in ALL of her toys now instead of focusing on just one. She's also playing much more independently; she can entertain herself longer knowing that we're nearby. (She used to need to be touching one of us ALL the time.)

I know, everyone thinks their own child is brilliant, but we truly are surprised to see how quickly she catches on to things and how much she remembers from one day to the next. She was very good this morning at breakfast about complying when we told her that she couldn't have any more bun with jelly until she sat down in the highchair - no standing allowed. When I told her to give her puppy toy a kiss, she brought him up to her face and planted a big smooch on him. Then she laughed. As she saw us starting to pack this afternoon, she put all her blocks in a gift bag and carried them over to me; she set the bag inside my suitcase and looked at me as if to say, "We're going to want to take these along."

Wynn has figured out that we're "hers". She gives Hannah and other people that same skeptical look she used to give us. When someone comes over at breakfast to tell her how beautiful she is, she leans over closer to us. She also doesn't like to have other people - even Hannah - touch her face. She gently puts her hand up and brushes them aside. Sometimes she tightens up her mouth and gives them a quick shake of the head that is a definite "no". We take these as good signs that she is starting to bond to us and that we're not going to have the issue of her being indiscriminately affectionate - wanting complete strangers to pick her up and hug her. Scott and I would both decribe ourselves as being slightly aloof when we first meet people, but we form strong bonds with the people we choose to ally oursleves with; it appears that Wynn's very much like us.

We had sent a set of questions to the orphanage before we left, and today Hannah translated their answers for us. Much of what they said we'd already figured out by spending a few days with her (she cries a lot before she falls asleep, taking her outside to play cheers her up, etc.). What we didn't know is that for her to drink, she needs to be given her formula in a spoon. Well, no wonder we couldn't get her to drink the darn formula! We were giving it to her the wrong way! They also wrote that she loves music, which we had figured out from the way she started dancing to the Mandopop musak in the department store and how she started rocking and tapping to "Shanghai Idol", which is on TV every night. They also told us that she loves the Teletubbies, so I guess we'll need to get her some DVD's at Target so she can watch something familiar when we get back to Minnesota.

We're off to Guangzhou tomorrow, where we SHOULD have the ability to download pictures again, so you can all see such classic images as "smearing her jelly-covered fingers on mama's lap" and "running around the hotel room with her hands in the air making airplane noises". It's a good show.


Best Oddball English T-Shirt

Spotted in a shop by our hotel yesterday:

It has a cartoon dog with an afro. He's saying "Celery is the most popular vegetable. It is available everywhere."


Thursday, June 21, 2007


Wynn really opened up to me tonight. After our walk in the park we put her on the bed in just her diaper. While I was in the tub, she and Scott were watching Shanghai Idol on TV (hilarious!), tapping their feet to the Chinese pop music. I came out and started fixing a snack, which meant I had her attention. She motioned to me from across the room that she'd like some, and I delivered. Pretty soon I was sitting on the bed with her, sharing my graham crackers.

She loves how the smooth, cool bedsheets feel against her skin, and she keeps rubbing herself around on the covers. It looks like she's swimming around on the comforter, kicking her feet, stretching out her arms, rolling over again and again. I got on the bed with her and Scott, and soon the whole family was tickling her belly and giggling with her. She's particularly fond of having me take the bottom of her foot and go ZZZBBPPFF! on it. We feel like she's relaxing around us, and that what we've seen from her tonight is probably more of what her personality is really like.

Don't know what tomorrow will be like, but tonight has been so nice.

Also ... several people came up to us in the park to practice their English. The conversation always starts the same, "Hello. I'm glad to meet you. Where are you from?" One older couple were quite good at speaking English; they explained that their daughter lives in St. Louis and they've visited her there. They asked about which city Wynn was from, her name, etc. Then the woman looked at Wynn and said, "She's lucky." I replied by telling her that we were the lucky ones to be her parents. Maybe Wynn heard me.


For Barb and Ken

Got your message about the bank.
Thanks for taking caring of that (us!).

Ann and Scott
(Hug Ranger for us!)

Out and About

Last night after dinner we went for a walk in nearby Renmin Park with the other CHSFS family. The park's only a couple blocks from our hotel, and it's absolutely lovely: lots of shade trees, a lake, all kinds of exotic plants and flowers. We both said that it was like walking in the Como Park Conservatory - without the glass dome. The people of Nanning go to this park to relax and escape the traffic and crowds. There were young couples sitting together in the pavillion, families out for a stroll, and some older folks practicing their tai chi. We tried putting Wynn in the baby carrier for the first time - success! She rode along cooperatively, and Scott's arms got a much needed break.

We got back from our walk at about 7:15 last night, and Wynn promptly passed out on the bed. She slept straight through until 5 AM. Scott changed her diaper around 10 o'clock, and she slept right through it. Ahh.

Since she has no interest in the crib and is a heavy duty "roller" in the bed, we finally came up with a system where we can ALL relax and sleep through the night. It involves all three of us sleeping in a twin bed together, but it works! Scott sleeps in the normal position, my pillow and head go down by his feet, and Wynn is tucked safely in the "nest" between us. (We're REALLY hoping the hotel in Guangzhou has bigger beds.)

Hannah took us on a tour of the countryside today. It was like nothing we've ever seen. Lush green farmlands are punctuated with massive slices of mountain that suddenly shoot up from the ground. (We keep saying, "I feel like I'm on location for a James Bond movie," to each other.) When we got to Guangzhou we should be able to download pictures again, so check back to see them.

Hannah took us to a small farming village. She knew the villagers there and took us on a walking tour so we could take pictures of the people, their homes, their farms, and the scenery that surrounds them. Everyone there was friendly and smiling at us, cooing at the little girls being carried around by their big American fathers. It was definitely exotic, but strangely familiar since, even though we're city folks, we've spent enough time near farmlands at home to be able to tell the difference between the pig barn and the cow barn based on smell alone. The temperature today was ninety-eight degrees with a dewpoint around eighty, and we Westerners were certainly feeling it. Hannah looked at our beet red faces and innocently asked, "Oh, is it too hot?" (We have discovered that, even though she comes from the tropics, Wynn is a Minnesotan at heart. She's happiest when we're riding in the van with the air conditioning cranked, and she kicks all the covers off of her at night. This girl likes to be COOL - just like Mama.)

Wynn has decided that riding in her stroller is okay by her - another break for Daddy's arms. :-)

We can't get her to drink the formula the orphanage sent with her, but she'll definitely have a bite of whatever we're having. She ate an ENORMOUS bowl of congee at noon today. We were both amazed that such a tiny person could pack away so much food. She's also figured out that I'm the one who's packing snacks, so we're doing a lot of our initial bonding by her asking me for food and me giving it to her. She still wants to sit on Scott's lap when she's eating, but she figured out that I'm the one holding the spoon.

Tomorrow we're going with Hannah to buy some souvenirs of Guangxi in the morning; then we'll just relax for the afternoon. We're getting tired of hotel food - there's no grocery store or Western food near our hotel - so we're looking forward to moving on to life on Shamian Island in Guangzhou starting Saturday. Word on the street is they have a place where you can get real burgers and fries. :-)

One week from today we'll be home.
With a fridge full of food.
And a queen-sized bed.
And tap water we can drink.
And our friends and family around us.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wal-Mart, Chinese Style

Our trek for the day was to the Wal-Mart and a department store in downtown Nanning. We were happy to have Hannah with as our guide to explain the shopping procedure to us: you pick what you like, give it to the clerk, the clerk writes up a ticket for the item, you take all your tickets to the cashier and pay, then you go back to the department where you found each item and give them the slip to say you've paid. Only then are you given the merchandise. Pretty cumbersome system, but that's how they do it.

We picked up a pair of squeaky shoes for her at the department store, along with a couple little outfits and some LEGO's.

The Wal-Mart has several floors, escalators, and even its own parking ramp underneath it. This is where we bought a stroller - which she, so far, refuses to ride in - and stocked up on some diapers, bottled water, etc. Sometimes kids regress a bit after the trauma of being placed with their family, and Wynn has lost a bit of her toilet training. She's peed on the floor of our hotel room twice and pooped once. At least it was solid. And not on the marble floor in the lobby.

Wynn is still clinging to Scott; I am generally tolerated, but not who she wants to be with. Hannah explained that it is normal for the child to bond with one parent first; bonding with two at once would be too much for her. It's hard on me to not have my affection for her returned, and Scott's getting worn down by being constantly needed. He finally managed to get a bit of a nap this afternoon, "With twenty pounds of toddler on me," he says. She will take food from me and will let me join in playing with her toys. She also spent about an hour in the tub with me yesterday afternoon. She was pitching a fit, and I needed a bath anyway. I got in, and then Scott brought her in to "visit". I lured her in with some tub toys we'd brought. She and I got to spend some time together, and we got her cleaned up too.

We've noticed that she is very clever at figuring out how things go together. As we were stuggling to figure out how to connect the handles to her sippy cup, she reached out and took it, showing us how to put it together with this look on her face that said, "It goes like THIS." Her favorite games involve putting things together and taking them apart again. When she doesn't want a toy or is done playing with it, she puts the pieces back in the box and puts it aside.

We're still getting some crying out of her - not the blind rage that we had at first - but still quite a bit. It's a comfort to us to be on the ninth floor of the hotel; they put ALL the new adoptive families here together. Their reasoning is that it's the non-smoking floor, but it has the unintentional bonus of letting us hear everybody else's precious new child screaming their heads off, and we get to see the other drool-encrusted, exhausted-looking parents walking the halls in a daze. We're missing our families and friends at home SO much, but there is a sort of Band of Brothers thing going on here.

I have noticed that sometimes her crying is intentional. Last night she had a couple picture books she was flipping through rather nicely; then, she quietly closed both of them back to the front covers and set them beside her gently. She even nudged them away from her like, "I don't want those getting in my way." Sure enough, she started bellowing. Didn't want to get any tears on those books, I guess.

Hannah has arranged for a van to take us on a tour to see some of the countryside of Guangxi tomorrow. She figured out that we Americans wither in the heat and humidity pretty quickly, so she's promised that we can mostly just ride in the air conditioned van, getting out at a few sites to take pictures of the mountains and scenery. Sounds perfect to us.

We bought our airline tickets for our trip to Guangzhou. We fly out of Nanning on Saturday afternoon at 12:45. It's only an hour from here, so our first attempt at flying with a toddler will be brief. Our SECOND flight with her will be a little over 7,ooo miles, though. At least we'll be home at the end of it. :-)

Wynn just polished off her second bowl of congee for the day. They really should just keep a tureen of the stuff by the elevator bay on the ninth floor; ALL the babies are fanatical about it. Hopefully, a full belly and another day of getting used to us will translate to a more peaceful evening and a good night's sleep.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Officially ours!

Wynn slept through the night, thankfully. The first few hours were on my chest, then, I was able to get her onto the bed where she was able to sleep on her back. I stayed awake, tucked around her, until about 4:00, when Ann woke up and switched places with me.

Wynn woke up about 6:00, and began crying again; this time the "I'm in an unfamiliar place with those strange people from last night" cry. She kept that up for a good forty-five minutes while we tried to get cleaned up, and stayed finicky as we got our showers and dressed. We finally got down to breakfast about 8:15 -- I was totally strung out from no sleep -- but Wynn didn't cry too much as we got seated.

Wynn is a messy eater, we can tell you. Ann grabbed a bowl of congee (rice porridge which is actually quite tasty) right away for Wynn, and about a quarter of that is still dried onto my pants and shirt. However, she was enthusiastic about eating -- she wanted some of everything: my noodles and fruit salad, Ann's eggs and biscuit with jam. We had a small plastic cup which Wynn was able to sort-of drink water from; again, about half that went onto my pants.

Time was running as short as we had to be in the lobby at 8:50 to head out for official business. Ann ran over to the gift shop and found a better sippy cup while I went back up to the room to clean us up and start getting our stuff together. Somehow we assembled everything we needed in five minutes, and we left our room at 8:50. That's when the elevators decided to stage a work slowdown. Instead of taking us down from the ninth floor, we went up to twelve, and then back down to one, stopping at every floor along the way. (all the elevators are doing this now, it wasn't just "us")

Our van took us back to the same building where we got Wynn yesterday. Our group of two couples, and a larger group from Pennsylvania using a different agency, were there to complete the Chinese government paperwork, and be interviewed by the Ministry. The head of Wynn's orphanage was also present. Ann, Wynn, and I were promptly ushered into a conference room with a big, black table (and Chinese and Soviet flags) and asked a series of questions and told to sign and put our red-inked fingerprints (and Wynn's footprint) on a bunch of documents. Then the official proclaimed that the adoption process was complete - and that Wynn is now and forever our daughter.

We could ask questions of the orphanage director, and in the process found out that Wynn had been living with her foster mother for about a year. That explains why she's SO upset at finding herself with us now. It's hard to listen to her rage and cry, but we're taking it as an indication that she loves deeply and will eventually have those feelings for us too.

Wynn was the calmest we've seen her during the government proceedings; she actually relaxed a bit and watched as all the other kids and grown ups milled around the (stifling hot!) waiting room. She was great in the van back to the hotel too.

She's done a couple more rage-filled cries this afternoon - getting progressively shorter each time, and usually right before and after she sleeps. We have no appointments or business to attend to until we fly to Guangzhou on Saturday, so we have a few days to just hang out at the hotel and get used to each other. And get some sleep.

All the clothes we brought are ridiculously huge on her, so Hannah is taking us on a little shopping trip tomorrow morning to get some new clothes and some shoes for Wynn.

Random Stuff: Wynn is toilet trained. We hold her up over the toilet; she puts her feet on the seat and sqauts to go.

She is fasciniated with Scott's chest hair and likes to pet his belly.

Cheerios are the greatest thing ever invented. They're a food. They're a game. Put 'em in a plastic container, and they're a rattle. Awesome.

Also - The orphanage gave us a bag with the clothes Wynn was wearing when she was found abandoned. They have also given us the note her birth mother left with her; Hannah is translating it for us today, so we'll get to see it tomorrow. As we're traveling this rough road with her now, we keep reminding ourselves that her path to us wasn't easy either.

We Got Our Girl

The actual handover process was brief and surreal. Tomorrow we go to the Registry Office and do the "real" paperwork.

She appears to like to hang back and observe what's going on around her and make up her mind before jumping in. She didn't start to cry until we were leaving the floor of the hotel where we picked her up. She cried off and on in the van on the way to our hotel, but seemed to be calmed with distractions - a couple Cheerios, a stuffed animal, etc.

When we got back to the hotel room, she started to warm up to us a bit. She even kissed Scott right on the lips after about ten minutes of being held by him. After helping us eat Pizza Hut for dinner - which she LOVED - she started playing and interacting with us more. She points at things (i.e., a bowl of Cheerios) that she wants and enjoys playing I Hand This to You and Then You Hand It Back. She even figured out that she could make us laugh by holding Scott's wristwatch up to her forehead, so she did it over and over, smiling when she saw that she was affecting us.

Then it happened.
Pure Toddler Rage.

We think she heard another baby crying in the hall (There are 30 new adoptees on the ninth floor of the Xindu this week!), and she just lost it. This was the angry cry we'd been warned about. She raged for about an hour, looking at the door and holding out her hand like "I'm supposed to go back to my foster mom, and she's out THERE somewhere." She screamed and cried, but all the while clung to Scott and buried her face in his chest. She never pushed either of us away; it more like she sensed we were nice people who cared about her so it was okay to tell us how mad and hurt she was. At one point she could tell that we were upset too, and she took one of the cloths we had on her and proceeded to wipe away tears from Scott's face. She was so hurt and upset, but it was as if she could tell we were hurting for her too and wanted to help her daddy out.

Rage eventually gave way to exhaustion, and Wynn's been passed out on Scott for about forty-five minutes or so. He's popped a few Advil, and I managed to sneak out to the gift shop to get him some peanut butter Oreos.

A rough evening, but we're so glad we got some smiles out of her first.


2 Hours to Toddler

We met with our facilitator, Hannah, at 10:30 this morning to work on Chinese adoption documents. There is one other family from CHSFS here with us (also from the Twin Cities!) so the paperwork was completed in just half an hour. Hannah answered our questions and spelled out the schedule for the next several days, and then we went to lunch.

At our paperwork meeting this morning, we got to see new pictures of Wynn - taken just a few days ago. She has quite a bit more hair now, and, for the first time we've seen, has kind of a skeptical look on her face. The picture will be her passport photo, so we're going with the story that her expression is more about the fact that she was being posed in such a particular way by a stranger rather than an indication that they gave her the news that WE'RE going to be her parents. :-)

We also got to hear a bit from her updated file - some notes about her personality, feeding and sleeping schedules, etc. They describe her as being a bit stubborn and say that she cries for a long time when she's mad. (Ann's mom is smiling right now, because that's pretty much a word for word description of Ann as a toddler.) Apparently, sometimes you do get a child who's "just like you."

It is now 1:45 in the afternoon. We will leave the hotel to get Wynn at 3:20. Ann is trying to get some rest; I am too nervous.

We're glad to have the computer here, but trying to download photos last night crashed the darned thing. We'll keep trying, but you may have to be satisfied with narrative rather than pictures until we get to Guangzhou.

Wish us luck!
(and patience)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

And now, to Nanning

This morning was the first time on our trip where we did not need to be at the hotel lobby at 8:30 to get on a tour bus. Instead, today was Checkout Day for Beijing ... suitcases in the hallway at 11:00 and checkout at 11:30.

We are definitely glad to have come to China several days early so as to get used to the time zone, just be tourists, and get the general hang of how to take care of yourself and get things done here.

We now know that food you buy at the grocery store is incredibly inexpensive (to our standards.) We've gotten bottled water for 2 to 5 yuan (so around 25-75 cents US) and a can of Coke is 5 yuan. A McDonald's double cheeseburger is just 6 yuan, and it is very good. Nestle makes little containers of ice cream here - about a pint (one of those Ben & Jerry's) - and it is also just 6 yuan. And what we would recognize as "juice boxes" of milk go for just 2 yuan. There's always a corner store or supermarket nearby, and you just watch the cash register to figure out how much to pay. Plus, it's a whole lot of fun to see how people shop!

Most of the other families in our group came in a day behind us, and a few only arrived last night! The folks who landed in Beijing last night were given the fast tour of Tiananmen and the Forbidden City (leave at 8, back by 11), which seems crazy to us now that we have experienced Beijing traffic (takes no weekend breaks) and know firsthand just how long it takes simply to walk straight through, stopping for nothing. And then to head straight out to the airport? They are really going to be dragging tomorrow...

The smog in Beijing has steadily worsened since we arrived. This morning was really awful -- leaden gray sky with a glowing red sun. Yesterday, we couldn't see the mountains from several kilometers out during our Great Wall trip. Today, it was difficult to see to the end of the block. Even now - 9 pm - my throat is still achy, and all I did outside was to walk to McD's to get some Chicken McNuggets for Ann's lunch, plus get on and off the bus to the airport, and take the bus to the airplane.

Our flight (Shenzhen Airlines) was scheduled to leave Beijing at 1:50 pm, but when we checked in, we found out they were pulling the departure time forward! So from check-in we had only 30 minutes before boarding. We hustled out to the gate (lower level) and waited just a short while before a (not air conditioned) bus pulled up and over 100 people piled on board. We drove several miles, crossing one main runway and tunneling under another, before pulling up to our bird, parked the furthest out on the tarmac. We scrambled out of the bus and climbed aboard, and waited. About 15 minutes later another bus pulled up, and several dozen more people climbed the stairs into our aircraft. In all, we didn't get off the ground until about 1:40.

Our flight took 3 hours. We climbed up above the smog after about 20 minutes, but it was easily another 75 minutes before we reached the edge of the smog... it seems to be trapped over Northern China for now, but next week you folks in America may have some interesting weather... We dodged thunderstorms for a while before landing in our new base of operations for the next week, Nanning.

Coming through the clouds over Guangxi Province (where we are now) and seeing forests, lush farm fields, and wide-open space was an amazing shift from the dry, urban landscape we had gotten used to. The drive from the airport into the city was traffic-free, and both the airport and city of Nanning are CLEAN - meticulously groomed, polished, and unlittered.

Looking out our 9th-floor window, we have a panorama view of the skyline. Seeing blue sky - and even some of the sunset - was a pleasant switch from the week so far! The hotel seems very nice, and they even have a computer here in the room we can use, unlimited, for just 20 yuan per day (so our concerns about not being able to post frequently are now relieved.)

Tomorrow morning at 10:30 we sit down with our coordinator here to fill out paperwork, and at 3:00 we are scheduled to get our little girl! Even though we are exhausted (in fact we haven't been up this late since we landed in Beijing), we wonder just how much sleep we are actually going to achieve tonight.

Everything changes tomorrow. We will have a lot to talk about!


Saturday, June 16, 2007

I fought the Wall, and the Wall won...

As you can see from the pictures, today we visited one gigantic, iconic piece of construction from China's past ... and one for its future.

First we took the tour bus out to Badaling (Think Tony Soprano when you say it - badabing!) to see the Great Wall. The traffic was INSANE on the expressway; as far as I can tell, the Chinese have replaced all the functions of a turn signal with the HORN. No "signal, mirror, blind spot, move" as we learned in drivers ed. We rode along for over an hour, still surrounded by big buildings, lots of traffic, and LOTS of smog. Suddenly, I realized that there was a curved horizontal line across the sky ahead of us, and the smog was slightly darker below it. I squinted at it for a few seconds and thean realized, um, those are mountains.

Soon we were driving up a curving road through the mountains. We were fortunate enough to be on the tour where the bus takes you all the way to the parking lot. We passed many people who had parked a mile or more down the hillside who were walking all that way before even getting to the Wall. Our guide dropped us off, explaining that there were two ways we could go: up the extremely crowded side with a smoother incline OR up the not-so-crowded but (in his words) "slightly steeper" side. Yep, we ended up on the steep side. Here we learned that you do not walk on the Wall, you climb. First up some steps of varying heights (a 6" step, a 24" step, an 8" step, etc.) then come the inclines. We learned that just as your muscles adjusted to walking on one type of surface, they'd switch it up and change the terrain on you. It was hard to feel like we ever got a rhythm to our climb, and we were thankful for the handrails and for the fact that we had trained for this by hiking at the nature center for the last month or two. In the pictures you can see how high we went and get a sense how steep it was; though, we both agree that it FELT steeper than it looks in the pictures. (You can see some buses in the parking lot; that's where we started.)

Eventually, we turned around, thinking that the way down would be a breeze. Nope. Again, you had to shift the muscles you were using, and now you got a sense of the height because you could see the valleys in front of you. There were a lot of us with "jelly legs" walking back down. I'd compare it to that strange feeling you get after you've been on ice skates for awhile and then start walking around - like you're just not using your feet right and can't feel the ground. Adding to this strange sensation was the fact that at times your body was actually leaning back at about a sixty degree angle.

On the way back from Badaling, we stopped at a cloisonne factory and "Friendship" store. It's a government run shop that sells all kinds of knick knacks and souvenirs in what looks like an abandoned JCPenny's attached to a factory. We didn't buy anything, but enjoyed the family-style Chinese lunch we got to share with the other CHSFS families at the restaurant upstairs. (Did I mention that the factory/JCPenny's had a restaurant upstairs?)

When we got to Beijing, the bus pullled over on the side of the highway so we could take some pictures of the Olympic stadiums that are under construction. The scale of the main stadium is impossible to comprehend from the pictures, but you get some idea if you look closely and see the workers climbing around on top. (Also, think about whether or not your job is REALLY all that bad as you see them up there working in the ninety-five degree heat.)

Then we went to an official Olympic merchandise store so that we could be the first kids on our block to have t-shirts with those ridiculously cute mascots on them. (This is where we made our first non-grocery purchases of the entire trip.)

It was a long and tiring day, but we had a lot of fun and appreciated getting to see so much more of the area around Beijing. Tomorrow afternoon we'll fly to Nanning and get Wynn on Monday morning. Obviously, we are incredibly excited to go, but at the same time are a little sad to leave Beijing; we really like it here and would love to stick around and see more. I'm sure we'll come back again with Wynn when she's a little older.

We appear to be the only family going to Nanning from CHSFS, so we have no idea if we'll be able to get at a computer until we get to Guangzhou next weekend. We're hopeful that we'll find a net cafe or another family there to help us out, because we know there are a bunch of expectant grandparents and other concerned parties who are anxiously awaiting photos and news of Wynn. We'll do out best to keep you satisfied in that regard. :-)


And now a shout out to my husband: Scott diligently "studied" for this trip - maps, websites, language lessons, etc. Being here with him and his quickly-acquired wealth of knowledge has made this trip so much easier on me. I can relax and enjoy the trip knowing that Scott's the guy who knows how to ask if the store accepts credit cards, understands how to manuever our way through an airport, and is willing to taste any dish set before us and warn my more timid palate as to whether or not it's spicy. :-) (Of course, he lacks the instant street cred of my "teacher voice".)

Friday, June 15, 2007


We are getting really amazing photos of our travels so far. Here are a few.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we head out at 8:30 for a full-day trip to see the Great Wall at the town of Badaling. We will also be heading through the Olympic Stadium district; so I plan on bringing an extra memory card and a fully-charged backup battery!


Time Travel

In an earlier post, I had mentioned my wish to experience each moment of this trip, be aware and not let it go by in a blur.

Maybe that wasn't such a good wish to have, what with the not getting any sleep on the flight over and waking up at 2 am...

We've befriended some fellow adoption trip travelers from CHSFS, and they're nice enough to let us use their computer, so here's our update on life in Beijing:

The city itself is fascinating - so huge, so crowded, so alive all hours of the day (and night). We're finding that some of our best entertainment is coming from simply watching the people as they go about their daily routines. From our hotel window we can see kids on their way to school, older folks doing their morning tai chi, and even some choirs rehearsing for (we assume) a competition of some sort yesterday.

Our first morning we were taken on a tour of a hutong district nearby. We rode in a rickshaw and everything. (Nothing screams "tourist" like a couple of big Americans in a rickshaw!) Our group got to visit a public elementary school and see a 4th grade classroom; they practiced their English on us a bit. It was fun to be in a classroom, and I could spot kids right away and think, "Oh, I've had HIM in my class before." Since it was our first day and we'd gotten about three hours of sleep between us, the daytrip was rather exhausting, so we bailed out early and took a taxi back to the hotel. (I decided I'd had enough when our guide said, "Now we'll climb the tower.")

Today went much more smoothly. I won the best sleeper award with a total of nine hours last night. Down at 9, up at 6. Scott woke up at 1:45 and never got back to sleep. He said it made him happy to hear me snoring, though. :-)

Our daytrip today was to the Forbidden City. Learning from yesterday's near heatstroke, I made the very wise and very Chinese purchase of a UV umbrella to carry in the sun. There are no trees in the Forbidden City; the Emperor was paranoid that his enemies would hide in them and jump out to attack him. So, if you want any shade, you've got to bring your own. Best 55 Yuan I've ever spent. (about $7)

Though it was in the 90's with hazy sun, and we were sweating profusely the whole time, we really enjoyed our tour today. The architecture is amazing, and just the sense of tradition and history and yourself standing the center of it is overwhelming. Scott took a lot of great pictures, which we'll TRY to download.

We're adjusting gradually to the time and cultural differences, and we're starting to get our own little pattern of daily life going here. We've found the grocery store and the McDonald's up the street, and we're finding that noodles for dinner is actually quite delicious and filling.

While Beijing is obviously "foreign" to us, we're finding that we see things that are universal and somehow familiar to us. The grocery store reminds us both of shopping at an old Kresge's or Woolworth's as a kid, and watching the middle school aged boys push each other around playfully as they walk by is SO familiar that it's oddly comforting.

One odd fact: It has become evident that I posess a quality that is much coveted and appreciated by our fellow American travelers - the "teacher voice", as Scott calls it. I am the one who has set the standard for telling the agressive street vendors that we're not interested in buying those Mao watches / calligraphy brushes / picture postcards / silk purses ,etc. Apparently, my job has trained me well for saying no in a tone of voice that says, "Don't bother asking me again, 'cause I mean it."

We don't know when we'll be able to get our mitts on a computer again, but please keep checking on our progress.

Two and a half days 'til parenthood! :-)


Monday, June 11, 2007


A question for all you parents out there:

Approximately how long does it take before you are successfully programmed to remember that there are child safety latches on your cupboards? Ours have been up and running for twenty-four hours now, and so far every attempt to throw something in the kitchen trash has been accompanied by a loud clunking noise quickly followed by a Homer Simpson-esque "D'oh!"


Ready to go.

Credit cards have been notified, the trash is out at the curb, the suitcases are packed. Ranger got a thorough brushing and a bath. Checked in with the office one last time.

I installed door latches in the kitchen last night - Ann made a chicken stir-fry and successfully used chopsticks!

The three of us sat on the dock for a while this afternoon, soaked up the sun, and watched the waterskiiers go by. I think they're taking a nap upstairs right now... (Ann and Ranger, that is - not the waterskiiers.)

We drop Ranger off with Ann's folks tonight, and then try to sleep. Shuttle picks us up at 11:00 tomorrow.

And we are on our way.

Friday, June 8, 2007

School's out!

Ann is now officially on Summer Vacation. The timing of Wynn's adoption could NOT have been better!

For me, this is the most vacation I've taken ... ever. Well, as a working adult, of course.

The past couple weeks have gone by in such a blur, it's difficult to recall what I did on which day. Except for the baby gate saga.

I hope the next several weeks stretch out so they can be savored and appreciated in the moment.

Monday we think we will stretch out on our neighbor's dock and just be still for a while, before everything changes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

One Week to Travel

The push through these last few days has been quite draining. Neither of us has been getting much sleep, and our productivity during the day is beginning to flag. Now, the timing for Ann couldn't be better, since this is happens to be the last week of school and Friday is the last staff day. However, at my office, just because teachers are our customers, doesn't mean we take the summer off.

Both at work and at the house, the realization is dawning: not everything is going to be finished by the time we head out.

I just spent two hours tonight working on the safety gate at the top of the stairs. The side of the staircase where the latches go is a built-in bookcase, and even though it's hardwood, the panel isn't deep enough to accept the screws to hold the latches in place. I knew that last week, so Sunday I cut, stained, and varnished some 1x2s to fit into the end of the bookcase as reinforcements. Tonight I glued the 1x2s into the bookcase, drilled pilot holes, and successfully drove wood screws to bring it all together.

The side of the staircase where the hinges go is --- just ---- this off from a wall stud. So I had to drive sheetrock anchors in to attach the hinge plates to.

If the plastic hinge dealies for top and bottom were identical, I could have saved the next 15 minutes of re-reading the directions and calling Ann in for a consultation. (Kidco: your "Safeway G20" is sturdy and made of highly durable material. But your documentation is extremely confusing. Ann has an MA in English and I write sales copy, and we're both confused!)

Got the hinges up (in what we think is the correct orientation.) At least the gate sits nicely. As I line up the latch pieces on the bookcase side, I notice that there's no vertical "give" to the gate at all. You (the adult) are supposed to press on the latch, lift the gate up a little, and it is supposed to ease over the plastic thingy and swing open. No way the gate was going to lift over the plastic thingy.

No springs. The gate uses springs to hop up over the latch. I have a very nice new section of "wall".

Just went to the Kidco website - yes, I can buy replacement springs for $1 each (need 2) plus $5 shipping & handling. Maybe they have spare parts at Babies 'R' Us or Burlington Coat Factory... so there's another unplanned lunch hour trip.

I still haven't done my thank-you cards yet either.

Yeah, yeah, "this is just what it's like being a parent"...

OK, not to give you, dear reader, the wrong impression, because we are ecstatically happy and IT'S JUST ONE WEEK TO GO! We're just fried, that's all.

We'll get some sleep on the plane.