Yesterday in Guangzhou

It’s felt like it’s been a pretty busy few days here in Guangzhou.

Monday evening we went on a river cruise, which was beautiful, but I wasn’t feeling great so didn’t manage to snap any pictures. Matt has a few here.

Then Tuesday morning, Matt ventured out on his own to see some art in Guangzhou, and my mom and I took the girls to the zoo with some other families from our travel group. We had a really good time. CaiQun enjoyed the stroller more than she’s liked the Ergo (sad for this mama, but we will try to work on that…and we have some good stroller options for when we return home), and she did pretty well walking around the zoo, though I’m not sure she understood what the appeal of most of the animals really was. Her favorite area was actually a petting zoo…we didn’t pet any of the animals, but we were able to get close enough that she could really see them.

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Note my mother distributing MnM’s to Miranda. This occurred throughout our visit to the zoo and probably had a significant effect on it going so well!

My mom and Miranda and I enjoyed seeing all the animals – bears, tigers, and a hippo…

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…elephants, zebras, and a rhino…

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…and of course a panda!

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And while I love having these pictures of the animals from our zoo experience, I know you’re really here for pictures of the kiddos 🙂 Here they are feeding leaves to giraffes.

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And here is the beautiful Miranda with her zodiac sign, the tiger.

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And here are the 4 of us together at the zoo and then Miranda with my mom!

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After the zoo it was back to the hotel (well, with a stop at a souvenier shop a few doors down to pick up some traditional Chinese outfits for the girls) for lunch and a nap. Then we met up with the other families in our travel group in the lobby that evening to take family photos and some group photos.

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We attempted a group photo of the babies…and it went…well, how would you imagine a photo shoot of 8 newly adopted toddlers plopped onto a couch together would go? Something like this:

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And those, my friends, are the good shots.

We wrapped that one up quickly and headed out to a local restaurant for dinner with the group – a nice, pretty relaxing evening connecting with others 🙂 Then it was back here to the hotel, where we hung out and played in the room until the girls needed to get to bed – all in all, a fun, if very full, day.

I had intended to tell you more about today, too, but since this post is already long, and I’m due at a meeting about departure travel arrangements in 20 minutes, I think I need to wrap this one up. Perhaps I’ll write more this evening 🙂

Suffice it to say, we are doing pretty well in Guangzhou. We are very much looking forward to getting home, though – mostly to be living at home in our house instead of a hotel room and to see all of you wonderful friends, but also for the small things we take for granted, like having access to a washer and dryer, potable tap water, and lunches that consist of more than ramen, oatmeal, and peanut butter on crackers. Just a few more days, and we’ll be on our way.

Guangzhou – Days 1 and 2

Guangzhou is a breath of fresh air – literally and figuratively – after Zhengzhou. It has its downsides, too (i.e. the prostitutes outside our hotel at night, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by everything being so much bigger), but the air is much cleaner, the weather is much nicer, and we’re that much closer to home.

Yesterday was a free day. A lot of the families traveling with us went shopping, my mom went with a couple other families from our agency’s group on the optional tour of the city, and Matt and I and the girls took a cab over to Shamian Island to attend a Mandarin and English worship service at Christ Church.

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My primary take-away from that experience was that I need to adjust my expectations a bit regarding my life as mom to two kiddos under the age of 3. I was envisioning this deep, powerful experience of worship in my daughter’s birth country, our first time at church together as a family of four. However…Miranda did not want to be there, did not appreciate people gawking at and talking to her (as an adorable little white girl, she’s treated like something of a celebrity here – virtually everywhere we go, random people want to take her picture, have their picture taken with her, stroke her face, and pick her up), and was rather vocal about her desire to be otherwise entertained and have drinks, snacks, etc.

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Matt took her outside for a little while before the service started, and she was calmer when she came back in, but then CaiQun decided that the opening time during which the pastor shared the Gospel and offered free Bibles to people attending the service would be an optimal time to practice her screeching and squealing. She wasn’t upset, just enjoys yelling, and we haven’t quite reached the point in our language development to explain to her which times might be most appropriate (or not) for that and expect her to understand and obey. So…we almost left, but Matt discovered an overflow room that was much less crowded, had more small children, and seemed to be much more our speed, so we spent the rest of the service there. We were glad we went, even if it didn’t go quite as expected 🙂

We walked around Shamian Island for a bit after that and then caught a cab and headed back to our hotel. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful – oatmeal and China’s equivalent of ramen noodles in our room for lunch, a good nap for the girls, completing some paperwork with the rest of our group in preparation for CaiQun’s medical exam today and our consulate appointment later in the week, doing some more laundry in the afternoon, and then Papa John’s delivery for dinner. We’re loving the Chinese food here, but we’re also trying to live on a budget, and since we’ll have some bigger dinners out the next few nights, we figured we could handle one evening of Papa John’s.

This morning Miranda and my mom had a Grandma-and-Miranda date at the hotel while Matt and I took CaiQun for her medical exam. CaiQun had a great time while we were waiting – she’d run the length of the waiting area while I chased her and then scooped her up at the end, and then I’d turn her around and say, “Where’s Baba? Go find Baba!” and she’d take off running back toward Matt, weave her way through the rest of the people in our group until she found him, and then squeal with delight as he tickled her.

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She was not a huge fan of the medical exam itself. Most of it was fine – the ENT check-up took about 2 minutes, the nurse’s station to get her height, weight, and temperature was similar. The general exam where they looked at her referral paperwork and asked us some questions and wanted to examine her with her clothes off was not something she was particularly interested in, but the blood draw for the TB test was the worst – they take her into a room (without us – we’re not allowed in), and she screams while they take some blood, and then they return her with a tear-streaked face. We’re glad to have that behind us. And assuming that test comes back negative (we’ll know tomorrow), we’re all set with medical stuff.

My mom and Miranda seem to have had a much more fun time here at the hotel. They went to the play area in the hotel for a while and had a good time playing store here, too.

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Looking at that picture…my precious little Miranda girl looks so grown up now in comparison to little CaiQun. Wow. She’s such a blessing. She and CaiQun really are doing great together. They each want to know where the other is, they keep track of and return each others’ drinks and snack cups, and they’re generally doing well sharing toys together. Miranda has had a few behavioral hiccups – not directed toward CaiQun specifically, but I expect somewhat related to the fact that we’ve brought her halfway around the world and added a new sister to the family and totally thrown off her schedule…plus the fact that she is a sinner in need of grace. Please pray that we can shepherd her through all of this! For the most part she has been very sweet, though, and she really is doing so well with CaiQun and sharing us with her!

And CaiQun continues to grow daily. We are seeing many smiles and much laughter. She clearly understands more and more of what we say. She seems to know at some level that we are now “her people,” though I’m sure she doesn’t understand what that really means. We’re growing together and looking forward to more time and more growth 🙂

made it to Guangzhou

We finally made it to Guangzhou. Phew.

We met in the lobby of our Zhengzhou hotel at 10:00 a.m. and made it to the airport before 11:00 a.m. for our 12:50 p.m. flight to Guangzhou, which was to be about 2 hours long – doesn’t sound bad, right?

Well…our flight was delayed for about 4 hours…meaning our group of 8 families with 8 new babies and toddlers (plus 3 other kiddos) spent some LONG hours in the airport.

Here I am being mommy-to-two.

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We played at the indoor playground for a little while…it didn’t look like it had been cleaned all that well any time recently, but we decided to go with it…until another mom noticed that one of the slides had some messy brown streaks down it…seemingly the result of many small children in split pants playing there. Then we wiped little hands and walked back to our gate.

There was sufficient time for Miranda to develop quite the elaborate story line about her baby, Lily, pictured here still in her belly.

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Lily is going to be born “30 years ago.” She has 6 brothers and sisters, 5 of which are girls and 5 of which are boys. Her mommy Miranda will give birth to her, but then she will adopt her from China. Baby Lily had a scrape, but fortunately Miranda was able to put some “ointabiotic” (her abbreviation for “antibiotic ointment”) and a bandaid on it while baby Lily was still in her belly. Miranda also talked with my mother about baby Lily “throw-uping” some and about how she would be pretty dirty when she was born. Baby Lily’s birth was actually fairly anti-climactic, though – she emerged very quickly on the airplane when it became clear that Matt would not be able to buckle the CARES harness airplane seatbelt around her. (Can you tell what it is that Miranda made into her baby Lily? My girl is creative!)

CaiQun handled the flight okay – she was not pleased to be getting on the plane at all but calmed down after a bottle and then proceeded to go through about 10 little lollipops during take-off and landing to keep her swallowing and try to keep her ears clear, but she was generally fairly quiet. She made faces at Matt and Miranda (and half the time strained to get back to their row to be with them), she snacked, and she stuck stickers on the faces of various people in ads in the in-flight magazine. You’re welcome, next occupant of seat 50K.

She and Miranda each had their own meltdowns between getting off the plane and arriving in our hotel room, though. I think that’s understandable given our 11 hours of travel between our Zhengzhou hotel and our Guangzhou hotel. Neither got great naps today, they didn’t get great meals, and they were both exhausted. I tucked them into bed tonight, Miranda half naked, and CaiQun wearing what I had packed in my backpack as a spare outfit for her, because they were both asleep before our luggage even arrived up at our room. And I think the rest of us are headed that way soon. My mom is going to do our agency’s city tour tomorrow morning, but Matt and the girls and I will pass – too much too early in the morning after a very long day today. We may try to go to the Christian church on Shamian Island, though – I’ve heard it’s a great experience…but we’ll just have to guage how we’re all doing tomorrow!

wrapping up in Zhengzhou

This is our last night in Zhengzhou, the capital city of the province in which my daughter was born – our last night in which we are probably within comfortable driving distance of her birth mother, the woman who gave her life, and comfortable driving distance of the orphanage in which she has spent the majority of her life. We’ll be moving on to Guangzhou – a much more western city, supposedly more comfortable and familiar to those of us from America (also warmer and less smoggy), but farther away and increasingly different from the life my little CaiQun is used to. I’m ambivalent about that. I want her to have ties to her past, but I am also so enjoying her presence in our family and am looking forward to our life together.

These last couple days have been a blessing. Yesterday was another low-key day at the hotel. My mom and I took the girls swimming in the morning; the girls napped in the afternoon, so my mom and I did more laundry, and I got some one-on-one play time with Miranda when she woke up about an hour before CaiQun did; and in the evening we all went out to the yummy noodle place in the hotel next door.

Today we went with another family and one of the dads from our group (plus a guide) to the Shaolin Temple. The drive took us 2 hours in a slightly different direction than the one we traveled to go to CaiQun’s hometown on Tuesday, so we enjoyed seeing more of this area around Zhengzhou. At the temple, we saw the Pagoda Forest…

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…walked around the temple buildings themselves…

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and enjoyed a good lunch (in a building that was not heated and thus was colder than the outside air…brrrr!) and then took in a kung fu show. It was a fun outing in the midst of our waiting for paperwork to be processed! It was rather exhausting, though, carrying both girls and all their supplies – I have re-entered the days of needing to carry a diaper bag, and it’s not my favorite part of being mommy to two! – around all the grounds. The girls were worn out too!

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Other than our trip to the temple, we’ve been continuing to build relationships and get to know each other, and I really think things are going quite well 🙂 Miranda seems to really enjoy CaiQun – she shares better with her than she does with any of her friends in Missouri and proudly announces several times a day that she is the jie jie (big sister) and is a good big sister to CaiQun. And these past couple days, CaiQun has really started to seem to care for Miranda. Yesterday morning while we were swimming, she kept wanting to be near Miranda, and she had a great time last night learning how to throw a ball and then throwing it back and forth with Miranda. She starts yelling and pointing any time Miranda walks away and gets very excited when Miranda returns. Here’s another matching sisters picture 🙂

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I was super excited this evening that CaiQun seems to have learned the sign for “more,” AND I think I may have gotten an intentional “mama” from her! These are huge developments.

Do you know that there are about 600 kids living in CaiQun’s orphanage? And do you know what it sounds like when you walk in? SILENCE. I mentioned in an earlier post that babies in an orphanage who express their needs are often met with no response at all…so they simply stop expressing their needs. Orphanages are generally eerily quiet places. Babies there have learned that crying does them no good, so they do not cry. And the silence of the babies turns into the silence of the toddlers.

We’re not really sure how many words CaiQun can say in Mandarin. We have some reports from the orphanage, but while she’s been increasingly verbal every day, we don’t speak enough Mandarin to distinguish words from baby babbling, and she doesn’t respond to our guides’ questions and generally does not speak much at all around them.

Communication really has not been a big issue – for big picture things, yes, it would be wonderful to be able to communicate clearly with her what is going on…but she’s too young to grasp much of that, anyway, even if we did speak the same language. And in terms of day-to-day functioning, nonverbal communication plays such a huge role in all communication with toddlers that there really has not been any difficulty at all. Pointing and guesturing have served us well 🙂 But if she is increasingly understanding us, able to pick up on some signs, and even able to use some words, that would be amazing 🙂

Our relationships also seem to be growing more and more. We are getting to know her more – her routines, her facial expressions, what she likes (Cheerios and being tickled) and dislikes (vegetables and unfortunately, so far, the Ergo…we’re going to work on that, though!). Instead of preferring only Matt or me for a full day, she’s willing to go between us more easily and seems more comfortable with both of us. She laughs and smiles and generally engages with us much more than she did just a couple days ago. Tonight, as I lay between her and Miranda as they were dozing off to sleep, she actually reached for my hand to hold onto my finger as she fell asleep!

These first few steps in the dance of building relationships and attachment really seem to be going well. We will, I’m sure, hit some roadblocks and make some missteps, but for now we are rejoicing at how well things are going!

Please pray for our travels as we fly to Guangzhou tomorrow – our in-country flight to get here was one of the roughest flights I’ve ever been on, and it was not fun. We’re all hoping tomorrow’s flight is smoother (and not delayed for 3 hours like our last flight was). Please pray for all the new kiddos in our group…8 little ones about to be on an airplane and restrained while traveling (there aren’t carseats or often even seatbelts in China) for the first time…there are a lot of things that could go wrong in that scenario! And please pray for our time in Guangzhou, that we’d be able to get out and about and enjoy warmer weather and that CaiQun (and Miranda) would not be too thrown off by our move to another place and that all of our official appointments would go well there. We’ll keep you informed as we’re able 🙂

Thank you to everyone who has e-mailed or sent us Facebook messages or comments or posted comments here or on Matt’s blog to encourage us on this journey and celebrate with us. We’ve read them all and have been so blessed by them! We’ll try to respond to everyone, but please be patient with us, as we’re prioritizing our family time and are dealing with slow and inconsistent internet access here.

And now I better try to finish up more of this packing I have left to do!

a good day

Today has been our first day without an agenda packed full of various trips and appointments, and we soaked it up. We slept in…until 7:30! Maybe all I needed to become a morning person was a trip around the world with a 14-hour time change 🙂

After breakfast, Matt took some time out to reflect in our room, and the girls and my mom and I played in her room while my mom also washed some of our laundry in the sink. We may break down and send some of it out to be washed in Guangzhou, but as much as we can get by with doing it ourselves (and not paying for it), we’re trying to do that!

Here’s a picture of my girls starting the day in matching outfits 🙂 Of course, being small children, both required clothing changes fairly quickly, so the matching outfits didn’t last long, but I enjoyed them while we had them!

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CaiQun very much preferred to be with Matt most of the day yesterday, so he mostly kept her with him while we ran around to everywhere we needed to go. This morning she let me carry her down to breakfast, though, and feed her, and she laughed and played with me a bit during the meal. When Matt walked out of my mom’s room this morning to go next door, she cried momentarily – sweet and sad but also good! – but then seemed happy enough to sit on my lap and color a picture. We want to honor her desires – particularly when they involve being with one of us – but we also want to encourage her to begin to build a relationship with me, as I’ll be caring for her much more during the days when Matt goes back to work right after we return home.

Today seems to have been a good day for that 🙂 We took some walks up and down the hallway – mama, jie jie (big sister), and mei mei (little sister). CaiQun would walk part of the time and reach her arms up to me to be carried when she was tired of walking. When we got to the end of the hall, the girls would sit on some nice covered chairs and snack a bit, and then we’d head back toward our rooms. It was so nice not to have to be anywhere this morning and to have time to do those simple playtime things – taking walks, coloring pictures, playing with the baby doll and stacking cups, things like that. CaiQun began to voluntarily come over and park her little butt in my lap while we were playing and snacking – so sweet 🙂 Miranda found the bubbles I’d packed, so we got those out and opened them up – you should have seen the look on CaiQun’s face the first time a stream of bubbles went floating by! It was priceless 🙂

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The girls really are doing well together. Most of their interactions are initiated by Miranda – CaiQun is generally content to play on her own or be with Matt or me, but if Miranda comes over to her, she’s amenable to that. Here they are napping together this afternoon 🙂 Miranda sleeps somewhat like a helicopter…legs going every direction throughout the night. Matt and I both scooted her around several times in the night last night, so we opted to put a pillow between the girls for naptime to keep Miranda’s legs away from CaiQun while they slept 🙂

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We’ve been really blessed by my mom’s presence with us on this trip. We were pretty confident we could handle the trip and both girls on our own if we needed to but figured it would be nice if my mom were able to come with us. Truthfully, I’m not sure we’d be doing anywhere near as well if she weren’t here! She and Miranda have had a lot of fun playing together, and she’s just generally helpful with anything and everything going on.

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CaiQun is letting out more and more smiles and laughter and revealing more and more of her personality. None of the referral or update pictures we have of her show her smile, so we are especially encouraged to be seeing it now! And our little girl seems to be a bit mischievous! Tonight at dinner she whipped one of her stacking cups across the table (and into Matt’s bowl of soup) and was incredibly pleased with herself. She also likes everything to be orderly – caps back on markers, markers lined up in the container, etc. She was not so thrilled about bath time, but we’ll see if she warms up to the idea over time. We’re so looking forward to seeing how she continues to emerge from her shell, getting to know the real little CaiQun in there!

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And of course we’re enjoying our Miranda girl at the same time 🙂 She looks very serious in this photo, but I promise, she really is having a good time here, for the most part!

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And we’re so thankful that CaiQun is letting us in more and more each day. Last night she did not want me anywhere near her as she was falling asleep, though she snuggled up with Matt in the night, but tonight she let me lie between her and Miranda and hold her hand until she fell asleep.

Good stuff, my friends 🙂 Tomorrow should be another low key day, so we’ll be continuing to have fun and build relationships. We’re blessed and thankful!