Beautiful Life





Hey child up and go; A big world is out there waiting for us to live in every day. Outside you will find, there is love all around you; Takes you, makes you wanna' say; That it's a beautiful life and it's a beautiful world and it's a beautiful time to be here, to be here, to be here. -Fisher

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Take me out to the ball game!

Parker catching

Noah pitching

Noah

Yes, it is baseball season and unfortuately we missed a lot of it! The boys have played since they were 4 years old and Paul has been their coach for all but one season. We love going to the games. Claire even had her first (that we know of) boiled peanuts at this weeks game! The season will end soon and we're onto swim team for the summer. Never a dull moment around here!



video

Parker's slide home!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Brother's are nice too!

With Noah


and Parker


So are Uncles!

And Great Uncles and Aunts!


video



And some people (Aunt Amy) just make me LAUGH!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sisters!





When Isabel was born I wondered what she would think when she was older and realized that she was not a twin like the boys. I actually felt bad for her because the boys always had each other and there she was, in her crib all alone! Well, she apparently felt the same way because from the time she could talk she wanted to know where her sister was. She would cry at night because the boys had each other to share a room with and "I have nobody with me" she would tell me. She promised that she really, really wanted to share everything, except her beloved blankie, with a sister! When we told her we were going to adopt a baby girl she could not have been happier. We started this process 2 years ago and she has waited, not so patiently sometimes, for the day we would bring her sister home to her!

Friday, May 23, 2008

About those flights!

Getting home involved three flights. The first leg began in Guangzhou and ended in Beijing. We left our hotel at 6:30 for a 9:00 flight and just barely made it! That would be because the airline did not have me listed as having a ticket! WHAT? That's right, even though I had an e-ticket and a confirmation number, China Southern said I didn't have one! It wasn't just me either. It happened exactly the same for the other couple in our travel group that were supposed to be on that flight. Thank goodness Elsie, our CHI coordinator was there. I have no idea what she said, but hopefully it was something along the lines of "This man is not leaving his wife in China, this mother is not letting her child and husband leave without her, I don't care what your computer says, now get her on that plane or we will ALL make a horrible scene!" Whatever it was, it worked! Twenty minutes into the flight, Claire helped me spill a cup of orange juice in my lap and we had to be moved to dry seats. Of course, I couldn't be moved to dry pants though! They were in my checked baggage!



Noodles will also keep me occupied on long flights!

By 12 noon we were in Beijing for our four hour layover before our flight to Newark, NJ. Thank goodness we had 4 hours or we never would have made it to our international flight! After disembarking the plane we had to pick up all our checked bags from the other flight, take them through security, again, re-check them for our international flight, go to another terminal, check-in for our international flight, fill out a form, go through immigration and go through security AGAIN! Of course, it couldn't go off without a hitch. This time the computer told us and the other couple that our flights had already departed! HELLO, what is up with this? Do they just not want you to leave China! So, we stood in another line to have someone fix that. Thankfully, they were able to and we had just enough time to eat a quick bite before boarding our 3:45 plane to Newark, NJ. Mind you, we have now been in transit for 9 hours and Claire slept through most of the layover. So, she had a melt down as soon as we got on the Continental airlines flight. I guess another flight was not what she had in mind! This leg of the journey lasted 13 hours. Claire managed to sit and play for the first 3 hours, sleep for 4-5 and alternate fussing and napping for the rest. She was not interested in walking the plane but did enjoy the edited version of 27 Dresses! Actually, she just liked wearing the headphones and didn't pay much attention to the picture.

23 hours after beginning the trek home we landed safely on U.S. soil and Claire became an American Citizen! We dragged our behinds off the plane, got through customs and headed straight for immigration where we turned in our super-secret-sealed-brown-envelope given to us at the American Consulate in Guangzhou. This envelope must make it into the immigration officer's hands unopened. Then we had to go get our checked bags....again, and recheck them for the next flight! Boy, did we get tired of hauling those bags around. We made it to the terminal in time to find out, that our flight was delayed! At 9:15 we boarded our last flight. Claire passed out 10 minutes before boarding and slept until we touched down in Charleston! Not a peep out of her until then.



Both sets of grandparents and the children were there to greet us. It was so nice to see their faces and get hugs! WE'RE HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The car seat was an experience, just as we knew it would be. But she quieted down after a few minutes. When we got to the house she just looked around at everyone, kind of in shock I think! My friend, Michelle and her baby, Casey were there too, so it was a full house. When Isabel came to sit beside us, she pushed her away but fortunately, Isabel did not take it personally. Then she opened a few presents, got a snack and a bath and CRASHED from 3AM until 10:30. She was not overly crazy about the crib but actually stopped crying faster than when she was on the roll aways in China.



Walking with Papa!


Today, we took Claire to the doctor to have her checked since I had put her on the antibiotics in China. She still has a full blown ear infection so we put her on stronger antibiotics. She did not even flinch when then nurse pricked her finger. This evening we took her to Moe's for dinner and out to the boy's baseball game. She did wonderfully and even fell asleep in Papa Stroud's arms. Overall, I would say she has had a good first day at home. And, she let Isabel play with her, push her in the cart at Walmart, brush her hair and sit beside her in the car. Isabel is quite the little mama! The boys just try to make her smile and disappear if she needs a diaper change!



Love my new push car!





My first baseball game with my Papa!




Flirting with one of the players!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

That's all folks!

Practicing my strut!

Well, at least for China. Today was our last day here! Like I said, I am a little sad to be leaving Claire's country. You never know if you will get back this way one day or not, so it is kind of sad to leave it behind. We have also made some great friends in our travel group and we will miss them. But, we are excited to get this girl on U.S. soil! We want to see our children and sleep in our bed and get Claire on a SCHEDULE!

We really didn't have anything we had to do today until our appointment to pick up Claire's visa in the afternoon, so we did some last minute shopping. First, we headed off the island into a local market just for kicks! We weren't sure what to have for lunch.....


SNAKE or

SCORPION!
YUMMY! Of course our choices didn't stop there. Oh, no! There was eel, turtle, and gigantic (like bigger than your head) mushrooms! But in the end, we decided to race over to Lucy's for hamburgers and fries! Then we headed out to the little shops around the hotel.

Since this is a small Island, we have been in most of the stores and haggled our way into some pretty good deals on a few things. We have even gotten to know some of the local shop owners and workers and have cut up quite a bit with them. So, we revisited our favorites today for a few last minute deals and laughs! I don't know who has more fun haggling, Paul or the shop keepers!

Paul with Angel in one of our favorite shops



A happy girl!

In the afternoon, we took a bus ride over to the American Consulate so we could pick up the visa's for the children to get into the U.S. We were taken into a large room filled with adoptive families and asked to take an oath that everything in our adoption documents was truthful to the best of our knowledge and then we were handed the visa's! That's it, so we got back on the bus and went back to the Island. We decided to celebrate by eating at the Italian restaurant on the Island with our travel buddies. We got a table for 18! The restaurant was the cleanest and prettiest I'd been in in China and it had good air conditioning! However, the service was awful! Some people in our group never even got their food! We did and the food was very good. But, still, I wouldn't recommend it. Turns out, our Chinese girl LOVES Italian food. She ate gobs of my spinach ravioli with ricotta cheese and tomato sauce.

Well, the bags are packed, again! Luggage pickup is at 5:45AM so I better get to bed! Please pray for us because the next two days are not going to be the most pleasant. We will spend the next 30 hours in transit! Sounds like a fun time! The next time you hear from me, Claire will officially be a citizen of the United States of America!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

THE RED COUCH

Today we got to see something new..................Claire's temper! She has finally gotten comfortable enough with us to show it when she doesn't get her way. I guess that's a good thing?!


We also took the famous "Red Couch" pictures. The Red Couch is....a red couch at the White Swan hotel that has been used for adoption photo shoots for years. The custom is for the parents to come to Guangzhou, buy a traditional Chinese dress or outfit, sit their newly bonding children on the couch and run away so the photographer can snap shots of the cherubs! I don't know who's idea this was, but this is our shot!





Then we got this shot!


There's our happy girl!


CRASH!


Daddy's girl!

This evening we went to our Farewell dinner. This was at a Cantonese restaurant across from our hotel. After last night's dinner, I was a little concerned that we would have to order pizza again....but, it turned out alright. This restaurant, like many here in China, served numerous dishes on a lazy Susan. The dishes were all new to us, except for the rice, and were very edible. Okay, most were! Anyway, we did not go hungry!



After dinner, Claire had her bath, which she has grown to enjoy....as long as Daddy is in the tub with her! She does not enjoy bedtime though. She has a hard time settling down. We give her a bath and put lotion on and Daddy reads books and sings softly. But, when we first turn down the lights and put her on the bed she screams. Then she will crawl around on her bed and try to get on ours. When that doesn't work, she will do all sorts of cute things to try to get our attention hoping we will let her out of her bed. I have been doing the "Super Nanny" on her! I put her down and walk away. When she crawls out I put her back and walk away. Of course we are still right there in the room, there isn't anyplace else we could go! After about the 20th time of crawling off the roll-away onto our bed she will give up and go to sleep! Once she is asleep she stays on the roll-away but she still cries out in her sleep off and on. This, I think, is part of the grieving process. She still misses her foster family and probably will for quite some time.

The good news of the day is that our CHI coordinator told all the families that their paperwork passed the review by the American Consulate! I had stayed in my room from 10am until 11am in case there were any questions that needed to be answered, while Elsie, the coordinator, was presenting our paperwork for Claire's visa. We have also confirmed our flights home so, barring some unforeseen catastrophe, tomorrow is our last day in Guangzhou! I'm a little sad, but mostly ready to get home to my other children and all the family waiting for us on the other side of the world. Oh, and my soft bed...................as much as I enjoy sleeping on a concrete slab, I'm ready for my mattress and pillows!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Medical





Today was the famous medical day for the babies. All the children must have a cursory medical exam in order to get their visas. We walked down the street to a clinic here on Shamian Island for this. As you can see in this picture, Claire LOVED it!

And that sums up how all the children and parents felt about it!


The exam itself involved three stations. All the parents we taken into a central room, given the paperwork for their child and told to get into each line and then turn in the paperwork when you were done. Claire lost it the minute the nurse put her on the scale at the first station. This picture is of the dreaded height measurement! Then we went onto the ENT room where she had her hearing checked-a squeaky toy was squeezed behind her and she turned her head, hearing check over! Then they looked in her ears and down her throat. I guess we passed. We were given our paperwork and sent to the next station. The last station tripped us up. By the time we got to the doctor she had fallen asleep in my arms so I laid her on the table and he checked her heart and then began to undress her. It was good that she was asleep for this because this child will freak out when you undress her! The first thing he did was take her shoes and socks off. He took one look at her feet and stopped. He checked her records and looked at her feet again, checked her records and back to the feet. Then he moved on and did a quick check of the rest of the body and back to her feet. I knew what the problem was, her diagnosis doesn't say "club feet" it just says post operative spinal meningocele (spina bifida). Club feet are typical with the type of spina bifida she has but her feet are only mentioned once in her entire record and it was by the doctor that discharged her after her spina bifida surgery. At this point our translator happened to walk in the room and the doctor spoke to him for a minute. Then Simon, the translator, looked at me and said, "the doctor says her feet are deformed"......DUH! Well, apparently the doctor didn't think we knew that because it was not in the record. I assured him that we knew that and that it was not a problem. Simon spoke to the doctor and the then told us the doctor just has to update her medical before he sends it to the Consulate. Finally, we were released! I was so relieved!

After our fabulous morning at the clinic, a group of us mosied over to Lucy's. Lucy's is a restaurant right outside the hotel that serves American style food! Although we have had some very good local food during our China experience, it was nice to have something familiar! We spent the afternoon wandering around the shops and parks of Shamian Island.

Our guides scheduled a Pearl River dinner cruise for the evening. The boat was nice and the company was good. We were with all but one couple from our travel group. But we ordered Papa John's when we got back and that is all I will say about the food on the cruise!





On the Pearl River

Eating my noodles!

Our travel group


Claire's little personality is really starting to show now! She spent the first five days with us just sitting in the middle of the bed. She would not move, just play with her toys right where you put her and she would scream if you put her on the floor. Now she is crawling all over the floor. If you put her on the bed she will scoot to the end and slide off backwards to get down so she can either cruise along beside the bed or crawl all over the room! She also yammers to herself the whole time! We have no idea what, if anything, she is saying but it is so cute! And, today was the first day that she would come to me if I held my arms out for her. Usually she just pushes me away and wants Paul but today either of us would do! Another milestone is that today was the first day that she did not cry all the way through the bath. She actually sat in the tub and played for a few minutes! She still doesn't got down for the night without a fight but once she is out she has been sleeping much better.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

WE'RE BACK!

Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day! Claire woke up with a fever...the same one she went to bed with, and was CRANKY! She absolutely did not want to have anything to do with me. We left our hotel at 10AM and went to the Tianjin airport with Jessie. She guided us all the way up to the security check point, which by the way was delightful! Especially when they tried to get me to put down the child THAT CAN NOT STAND ON HER OWN so they could frisk her! I got them to understand that her legs didn't work and they frisked us together. GREAT!



Eating her lunch on the plane like a big girl!




Snoozing!

The plane ride turned out to be the highlight of the day. Claire loved sitting in her own seat between me and Paul and she loved eating her lunch on the tray table. But, she fell asleep at the end of the flight and we had to wake her up, which did not make her day! Of course, she wanted Paul and of course, he needed to get the luggage so she was not a happy camper. We had a late flight so we were just getting checked into the hotel when we needed to meet up with the travel group for our group dinner. It was great to be back with our friends from Beijing and so wonderful to see all the new additions to each family. Claire was in a terrible mood and refused to eat anything at dinner. But the meal was a delicious Thai dinner. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and went straight to bed! Like I said, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day! At least she has been sleeping better!



A miserable girl at the end of our horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day!


Today she woke up with fever again so we went ahead and started her on antibiotics. Three days of fever is long enough! She has been miserable. After our breakfast bar, we headed out with our group to a museum/park for the morning. I loved being around all the other families and getting to see all the personalities of the new children! Claire was still not feeling well but she wasn't as fussy as yesterday and she even got excited about being outside. The only nap she got was in a carrier that we borrowed and Paul wore. After the museum/park, our group went to the Pearl and Jade market and then back the hotel. About 4:00 we had a new baby on our hands! Same Claire, different personality! She suddenly perked up. She smiled, laughed, began doing simple signs and pointing to let us know what she wanted and best of all, let me play with her and hold her without a tantrum! Just when we thought it couldn't get better, she surprised us again...she started walking!! She pulled up on the side of the bed and cruised right around it! Poor thing, she is standing on the top of her right foot but she CAN stand and she CAN walk, and that is so amazing!




Group photo: Londa with Katie, Karla with Mia and Me with Claire!



WALKING!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Last day in Tianjin


Here we are, hanging out at the Pizza Hut


Today was our last day in Tianjin. There was nothing planned and it was a good thing because Claire ran a temperature. She does not have any congestion so I can only guess that she has picked up a virus. Hopefully it will pass soon and she will not need medical attention. I had a headache all day too. I think it is the pollution. There is even more air pollution here than in Beijing. We have had mostly sunny days since arriving, but we have yet to see the sun through the haze over the city!

Our coordinator, Jessie, went to the passport office to pick up Claire's passport and brought it to the hotel. Then she assisted me in filling out our paperwork for the American Consulate in Guangzhou. We tried to keep Claire in the hotel room most of the day but this upset her. She prefers to go some place each day. She would whine and point to the door! So, we took her for another walk and then rode the subway to the Carrefour (like a Wal-Mart) to get more diapers. There is a nice Pizza Hut outside the Carrefour so we ended up having dinner there. She enjoyed the pizza.....sort of. We got the veggie pizza and she would spit out the toppings after chewing up the pizza. Oh well!





THINGS WE KNOW ABOUT CLAIRE:




  1. She hates to take a bath!


  2. She smells all her food before she eats it!


  3. Just because she ate something yesterday, does not mean she will ever eat it again!


  4. She loves her shoes, her jacket, her socks.


  5. She does not like to be undressed or even to have any skin showing.


  6. She prefers to have her hair in her eyes and if you brush it away, she will pull it back.


  7. She does not like messy hands.


  8. She Loves to color.


  9. She LOVES to be outside.


  10. She is most definitely DADDY'S GIRL!

Not feeling too great

Tomorrow we leave Tianjin to go to Guangzhou. Our flight leaves at 12:45 and we arrive about 3 hours later. This will be our dress rehearsal to see how Claire does on a plane. Of course it doesn't matter, we still have to put on one for 13 hours to get her home, like it or not! So far, she does great in a taxi and on the subway. One of the other children from Tianjin got car sick when her family would go to the appointments. The child was four and had probably never been in a moving vehicle.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ancient Culture Street



Daddy's girl, ready to go



This morning our guide took us to the Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin. This is basically a series of streets built in typical Tianjin style with the Tianhougong (Heavenly Empress) Temple nearby. The shops on the street sell a variety of traditional Chinese handicrafts and antiques. While we walked the street, we were approached by a man asking our guide about us. He said that he was a foster parent and that his daughter had left on Monday with her new family. He insisted that we take his picture with Claire and thanked us for taking her to America. He said he wished good fortune on us for caring for her. This is the first time we have encountered this kind of good will in Tianjin. For the most part, the people here look at us as if we might have stolen her! Almost all of the 700-900 children in Tianjin's orphanage are special needs children so there are not an abundance of adoptions taking place in this city and they simply are not accustomed to seeing Caucasian people with Chinese children. We get lots of stares when we walk the streets!




This man is painting on the INSIDE of this crystal ball with a tiny, bent paint brush. He hand paints them and then he added the Chinese character's for Claire's Chinese name. We paid 35 yuan, which is about $5 for this and it is beautiful!





The one handicraft that Tianjin is known for are small statues of children. Most of these are lovely, simple little figurines. However, as it is very popular for children in China to wear split pants with no diapers or underpants, many of the figurines are, shall we say....immodest! When Paul went to the orphanage to pay our "donation" fee, we were given two gifts for Claire. One was a commemorative flag from the orphanage and the other was one of these figurines of a boy in split pants with his you-know-what, showing! So, we decided to buy a few of the more modest little girl figures for Claire to have.





The good news is that she slept a little better last night, the bad news is that today was a big grieving day for little Claire. The poor thing is missing her foster family and she is just so sad. We have been able to distract her sometimes but other times she just cries and there is nothing we can do. When our guide picked us up this morning she brought with her a small diary that the orphanage had given her. First the nannies and then Claire's foster mom kept this diary and Jessie translated it for us. It is obvious that her foster family loved her very much. In the diary, the mom talks about how happy Tong was when her Dad came home each night and that she learned to call her dad before her mom! Essentially, she has always been a Daddy's girl!


There is a neighborhood across from our hotel with sidewalks and nice tree lined streets. It is cleaner and quieter than the busy street the hotel is on so to distract her this afternoon, we took her there for a walk. All along the street are bronze statues and little gardens. We have no idea what they are for, but they give the neighborhood a pleasant feel. Even though we got many stares, we enjoyed this walk.




Notice that in many of the pictures we take, Claire is wearing her jacket. This is not because it is cold here but because she insists on having it on at all times and zipped all the way up. It is a good thing we brought leggings for her because she also wants something on her legs at all times or she will try to cover them with a blanket and she cries if you take her socks off. Actually, she cries if you take her shoes off but will stop once you put them away where she can't see them. She won't stop if you take her socks off! She will whine and try to cover her feet with something! I know that Chinese mothers cover their children in layers and keep them bundled year round, so she may be so accustomed to being covered that she feels cold even when it is not...or, it is just ingrained in her that she must be covered. The other day, in the restaurant, she was sweating but she would not let me take her jacket off.

Oh, I forgot, another thing that Robert shared with us yesterday, is that we are mispronouncing Claire's Chinese name! Oops! The Kang part is not pronounced like kangaroo but like Kong. So, Wei Kang Tong sounds like "Way Kong Tong". How sad would it be for her to grow up mispronouncing her own name! Thank you, Robert for correcting us!!