Thursday, May 31, 2012

Paging Cole Hopwood

There is a new fashion mall that opened across the street from our hotel, and though most of the stores are still under construction, they've got the coolest displays out in front.  The first person we thought of as we drove by was Cole!  So we took some photos to share with everyone, but especially for Cole. Some of them are over 7 feet tall, others are not over 3 feet. Check 'em out...
After checking out the Transformers, we went to a very nice park adjacent to the hotel.  It was hot and muggy today, so we were only out for about an hour, but it was still nice to see a pretty park.

On our way, we were walking in the midst of a big crowd on the sidewalk, I was in front of Jenn and Henry, and a girl a few people ahead of me turned her head and noticed that we were Westerners holding a Chinese child. It was as if a sea had parted, as the crowd of girls and ladies in front stopped walking, stepped aside, and allowed me to pass them so they could see Jenn and Henry.  Kind of funny.

Henry helped me dry some laundry this afternoon.
Henry is in a hair-pulling phase, and it's driving Jenn crazy.  And there is almost no such thing as discipline on an adoption trip.  When Jenn looks him in the eye and gives him a stern, "NO!" he just smiles at her.  A preview of what's to come... we'll see.

We've enjoyed a steady stream of reports from Cuyahoga Falls keeping us updated on Lincoln and Lydia.  They're sleeping longer than usual, and hopefully that will continue.  Also, it is our understanding that Lincoln is telling everyone who will listen why when it is daytime at home it must be nighttime in China because the sun can't shine on both sides of the world at the same time.  We'd expect nothing less of him!  And Lydia is still getting stares and compliments on her beautiful eyes, and is no less of a chatterbox.  We're unmeasurably grateful for each of our parents for caring for them in our absence.  We're not sure how Henry would be part of our family without good family at home to care for L&L.

And Grandma Gates is back in NE Ohio after wintering in Charlotte, and just in time to catch Ella through town, and to spend some bonus time with L&L, and to see Henry soon after our arrival.  We're looking forward to seeing her again.

On our final evening in China, we enjoyed a Chinese dinner with three of our friends, the families from Minnesota, Kansas and Illinois.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we've all got a neat connection now, and because we're all bloggers, it'll be neat to watch each of our Asian Additions grow up.  They all left kids at home, as well, and we're all itching to see our other kids soon.

US Consulate & New Links

I noticed last night that May of 2012 was my biggest blogging month ever. Wow! That's what you all get when I'm stuck in a hotel room with a sleeping kid, lots of photos and stories, and no television. Now, on to the reason you clicked onto this blog...

At 8:30 this morning we were at the US Consulate's office to submit our visa packet, and it ought to be delivered tomorrow around 3:30pm.  He will officially become a US citizen when US Immigration opens his packet and processes his information at the airport in Chicago.  We were told no fewer than a done times to "not open the brown envelope" before we get to Immigration.  I think it's kind of a big deal.
On another subject, Mr. Minnesota and I were talking about funny stuff, and I asked him if he'd ever seen The Dad Life.  He hadn't.  And then he asked if I'd seen the Toyota minivan commercial, and I hadn't, so I looked it up when I got back to the room.  Check it out...
And if you've never seen The Dad Life, here you go...

Today Henry let me carry him from the Consulate's office to the ground floor... 5 stories!  Then, he asked me to pick him up in the room several times.  Not wanting to press my luck, I set him down before he got fussy, but most times he asked to get picked back up.  This is all coming at a good time, because if he's cool with me holding him, the Day Of Travel on Saturday could be a lot easier on Jenn.

We're going to try to check out some of the markets around the hotel this evening if the kids' schedules cooperate.  Yes, there is a lot of downtime now, but this end to the week has seemed as though it's approaching quickly.

All of the families on our trip have been very, very nice, and there are a couple of families with whom we've particularly enjoyed spending our time and sharing these experiences.  I'm not sure any one family knew another before mid-May, but now we've all got a special connection.  I've included the blogs  represented by this bunch that don't require passwords in our blog roll on the right.  For you prospective adopters cruising our blog, check out Soli Deo Gloria (Minnesota), Road To Yin (Kansas), Dutter Family (Indiana), and 4craneys (Illinois) for additional perspectives.  Each of has had many similar experiences, but we've all had our unique situations, as well.  The kids featured on those blogs, Lucy, Ethan, Ethan and Nicholas, have been neat to watch over the last week-and-a-half as they've come out of their shells, much as Henry has done.

I'm sure I'll have more to post before we jet out of Hong Kong.  And prospective adopters, Jenn and I are working on a list of things you'll want to have in order before your trip.  Notice I didn't say a packing list... there are plenty of those out in the blogosphere.  Instead, we're going to put a unique spin on what you need to have ready before you come to pick up the next addition to your family.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Little Developments

There are two things in particular that Henry does that are interesting to us, one that is very curious.  First, he is very good about having his teeth brushed.  We were dreading a wrestling match, especially when we saw his initial bath behavior, his diaper changing behavior, and his lack of cooperation when getting dressed.  But he actually likes having his teeth brushed, and sometimes he laughs as though the brush is tickling his gums.

The second item is a behavior that seems beyond his developmental age, and one that Lydia has not shown us in her 19 months.  If a behavioral psychologist happens across this blog, I'd like to think they might have an explanation for it.  He carries around a bag wedged between his right harm and his body, approaches both Jenn and me, reaches into the bag with his left hand, and then it is as if he's pretending to pull out an item and hand it to us.  This goes on for long periods of time and he gets a big smile on his face when we "take" the object and say, "Thank you!"  Perhaps the behavior can now be chalked up to positive re-enforcement, but he still showed the behavior before he saw us respond positively the first time.  It's very interesting for us to observe and participate in his pretending behavior.
I'm not sure why we brought any toys for him beyond the stacking cups.  He wants nothing to do with stuffed animals.  And along with the cups, he's busying himself with empty water bottles, his Tupperware dish, paper, the hotel slippers, and occasionally a balloon.  Prospective adoptive parents: don't be afraid to pack light in the toy department.

Our morale, as well as that of our new friends, has improved considerably this week.  I believe the reason for this is three-fold.  First, we're starting to understand our kids and they're starting to understand us.  Secondly, our accommodations, and everything that goes with them are significantly more pleasant in Guangzhou as compared with Zhengzhou.  Thirdly, home is on the horizon.  Also, Shamian Island is a ¥20 ($3.35) taxi ride away, so enjoyable shopping, good Western food, and a nice place to walk is very convenient and affordable.  In fact, Jenn went over to the Island with Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Illinois to get massages.  They paid less than $20 for a foot massage that turned into a near-full body massage, and Jenn loved it.

Henry continues to both open up overall and to get more comfortable with me.  Jenn was gone when he woke up from his nap, so after we Skyped with Aunt Beth & Uncle Mark, we spent some time playing in new ways: I tossed him up in the air a few times, and then I swung him around a few times.  On each occasion, after I set him down (trying to be careful to not over-do it with him) he leaned into me with his arms raised asking to do it again.  And then Jenn returned, so she and I took care of some odds and ends around the room while Henry motored around as though he were hard at work.  He really works up a sweat when he's "working." Then this evening, he started resting on me a bit during our playtime as he has done with Jenn over the last eight days.  Little bits at a time.

And speaking of sweat, Henry's Wednesday dinner consisted of noodles that were quite spicy.  The kid doesn't complain an ounce... he can tolerate way more spice than his dad.  After a few minutes I looked closely at his hair to find that he was starting to sweat.  He wasn't sweating before dinner; it was the spicy noodles!  As each minute passed, he was getting more and more sweaty, so Jenn got a wet, cool cloth and cooled him off.

Plane, Train or Van?

This morning we Skyped with Grandma Laura & Grandpa Dave and The Great-Grandparents Mullen.  Henry played along for the most part, but he was kind of busy during that time, so for part of the time he was all over the place. Also, Henry took a bath this morning without screaming. Sure, there was a little bit of fussing and crying, but nothing like what we've seen from him over the previous week.
The only thing on the agenda at the beginning of the day was a trip to the Pearl Market.  It's really a giant mall with lots of jewelry stores that mostly deal in bulk: pearls, jade, amythest, amber, etc.  And a reputation for pick-pockets.  Henry rode with me while Jenn shopped, and he did okay.  He was tired from being pretty restless last night, and then not taking his morning nap like he'd been indicating that he needed.  We came back to the hotel for a quick lunch, and he's down for his nap now.
Jenn and a few of the other ladies are going back to Shamian Island for massages.  I'm going to chill in the hotel as I've been doing around this time for the last two weeks.
On to some logistical info that may be helpful for the prospective adopting parents out there.  When we were making our travel plans in The States, our options for the Guangzhou to Hong Kong leg of the journey were three:
  1. plane - most costly, shortr trip but more time spent in airports, so not quicker in the grand scheme
  2. van - longest transit, mid-cost, but didn't sound as cool as a...
  3. train - least costly, we thought it would be cool to add a train to our China travel experience
But what we didn't know was that we'd have to go to the train station almost as early as we'd have to get to the airport, and we'd have to wait potentially several hours for the next train out.  We knew we'd be in charge of our luggage for the entire train trip, but we didn't know we'd have to lug it up four flights of stairs to purchase our tickets and the lug it back down to the platform.  Our guides told us that if we hired a van, the van would pick us up right after our US Consulate appointment and take us straight to Hong Kong.  On top of that, we'd be able to split the fee with our friends, the Indiana family.  So all things considered, we settled on the van over the plane and the train. And I can't finish the above discussion without at least sharing one clip from the classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trip to Shamian Island

Yesterday afternoon, we went to the play room, and while we were there, we met some other adoptive families from other agencies.  One, in particular, was with a 2 year old little girl who proceeded to throw a temper tantrum the likes of which I have never personally witnessed.  After about ten minutes, she calmed down, and was actually a very sweet little girl, her performance notwithstanding.

She was a bit on the extreme end, but something nevertheless that Jenn and I have witnessed to one degree or another with nearly all of the adopted kids we've seen, including Henry (and we'd say all of the kids around whom we've spent more than an hour).  In fact, while we're not yet adoptive parenting experts (tune in next week... har!), we can certainly understand how adopted kids can grow into spoiled brats if their parents aren't very consciously staying on top of things.  It's as though they leave the orphanage and become exposed to new people that want to shower them with love and attention, and they don't know how to respond.  It takes them very little time to display a sense of entitlement, and then it's just a short leap to very manipulative behavior.  We've seen it in our own hotel room.  We're not sure if the shower of love they experience in such a short time is overwhelming for them, or if their little neuropathways aren't hardwired to deal with the new emotions that they're feeling, but we've personally witnessed this entitlement-mentality and manipulative behavior on so many occasions that it's our current working theory.

Again, if you've been keeping up with this little blog, you won't be surprised to see me draw an analogy to our own lives.  How soon after we acknowledge that there is a God (who loves us whether we acknowledge that aspect of His character or not) do we start placing irrational or tedious demands upon Him rather than simply slowing down and experiencing His love?  Even the God-deniers do this.  Like these kids, we often think we know what our Father's love ought to look like, and when our circumstances don't meet our preconceived expectations, or when we hear Him say, "No," we freak out, or pout, or question His love for us.

In just eight days, there have been times when we've had to say, "No," to Henry or do something for/to him (such as give him a bath or change his diaper) and watch him fuss and whine and cry because of his lack of full knowlege of the depth of our love for him... and I imagine our Father has experienced this feeling a time or two throughout human history.  But as Henry gets to know us, and as we get to know our Father, those seemingly uncomfortable or tough times will be seen less as a lack of love and more as a true manifestation of love in the big picture.  Another lesson from adoption...
After Henry took a 3.5 hr nap, Jenn decided to go on the Pearl River dinner cruise, and while Henry made an embarrassing display of begging behavior throughout dinner, and then gave us a total meltdown of crying when his Mommy needed a few minutes to herself, Jenn and I actually enjoyed ourselves.  A few years back, the government spent a bunch of money cleaning up and dressing up the banks of the Pearl River, the fourth-largest river in China.  For the average American, not much, if any, is known about Guangzhou, but it's a huge city and there are a number of areas that look really cool from the water.  For instance Haixinsha Stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Asian Olympics, and Canton Tower is the tallest building in Guangzhou and changes colors by the seconds.

After the cruise, I went to the 7-11 right beside our hotel for some junk food, and it turned out to be nearly fruitless. They didn't even have any Coca-Cola.  Instead, the high-light of my short walk was being approached by what can only be described as a Chinese hooker asking me if I wanted a "pretty lady massage," and then being approached by another hooker-looking "lady" who handed me a business card that read, "Have China Young and beautiful little girl.  Massage Russian Girls.  Si: Beautiful women Sparetime Model.  Young and beautiful young lady..."  You get the drift, and then there was some contact info.  It turned my stomach.

This morning after breakfast, most of our families took some taxis over to Shamian Island.  That's where the White Swan hotel is with the Red Couch (Google it and see how many hits you get), but it's closed until 2014 for total renovation.  That's why we're at The China Hotel.  And while this hotel is very nice, and the staff has been nothing short of friendly and tolerant, we wish we were at the White Swan because Shamian Island is beautiful and a very nice place around which to take a stroll.
I heard another in our tour describe it as "beautiful" yesterday, and I thought to myself, "Could any place in Guangzhou really be described as 'beautiful'?"  But it is.  There is definitely an 1800's to early 1900's Euro feel to the area, it is very clean, and it's clear that they're catering to Western tourists and adoptive families.  And it's also clear that the shop keepers and restaurateurs are very disappointed that the White Swan is closed, and that it's impacting business big-time.
We did some shopping, ate a good Western lunch at Lucy's, and hitched a cab-ride back.  At first, the cabbie appeared to get testy with the amount of people we put in the car (3 Gates & 4 of Kentucky's family), but I had little patience with an Asian telling us we had too many people in a vehicle.  I've seen too many cabs, buses and bicycles over capacity in my 2.5 weeks here to fall for that.  So after a few minutes of the driver rambling in Mandarin, and Mr. Kentucky saying something to him about, "This is how we got here... in a taxi," and my saying something about, "We're going to pay," as I showed him my money, he took off.  Then he pointed to Henry and Littlest Miss Kentucky in the backseat (while he was driving in Guangzhou traffic), and rambled some more, and Mr. Kentucky made sounds that to the untrained ear might have sounded like Mandarin but were, in fact, simply babbling sounds.  At that point, the cabbie said, "I speak English."  We all had a big laugh, and the we asked him some questions only to learn that his vocabulary was limited to, "I speak English." Ah, the humor of a cabbie.
Henry has been Mr. Pleasant today, and we all needed that after last evening.  He let me pick him up out of the crib and hold him for a few minutes first thing this morning, he ate breakfast on my lap and even let me carry him to get more yogurt (which he eats very well with a straw... whooda thunk?) with only minimal fussing, he sat on my lap for about a half-hour while Jenn was in and out of shops (no food was involved!), and he's getting even more playful with both of us.  And the more he interacts with me, the less Jenn feels like his baby sitter and the more she feels like his Mommy... who couldn't understand this?  As time has passed, he's shown more of an interest in playing a little bit more physically, such as mild wrestling behavior and inviting us to tickle him more.  Initially he was ticklish, but he had a short limit on the amount of time he wanted to engage.  Now, he often sets himself up and wants to continue the ticklish play even after we're tired of it.

There's more paperwork on tap today as we prep for the Consulate appointment on Thursday.  I think I'm now going to try and nap.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Henry's Physical

Today I saw Socialized Medicine in all its glory.  The line at the hospital to be seen by a doctor was enormous.  No joke, probably more than 100 people in one section of one floor of one hospital in a city of 15 million.  Where there is no such thing as a doctor's office.  Where if you want/need a prescription, you go to the hospital... and wait.
Fortunately, the Adoptive Family section of the Travel Hospital wasn't too busy, and our group was in and out in under 2 hours.  And it was a good thing, because the kids were spent.  One by one, they could be seen hitting the wall, and it was everybody's hope that their child would make it back to the hotel without either a meltdown, or without falling asleep (so they'd take a good nap back at the hotel).  I started feeding Henry Cheerios to keep him awake, and he dozed off mid-chew.  So we moved him to my lap so he'd stay awake.  After a lunch of applesauce and noodles, and the stinkiest diaper you've ever smelled, he went down for his nap.
But back to his physical.  It was quite cursory.  They took his picture, made sure that he did, in fact, have ears, a nose and a throat.  They measured and weighed him, temped him, listened to his heart through his crying (not sure how they pick up murmurs that way, or if they'd tell us if they did), and had us sign some forms promising that we'd have him vaccinated 30 days after we return home.  The kids over 2 years of age had to get TB tested, and they didn't like that one bit.

Henry didn't sleep as well last night, looked like he was ready for a nap at 8:30am but didn't sleep, and was generally cranky on the way to the hospital.  So after being upset for multiple stages of his exam, he was worn out, hence the near napping mid-snack.
I'm going on a Pearl River cruise this evening.  Jenn is going to get Henry to bed on time tonight.  Hopefully he'll get caught up and I'll get some good photos.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Catching Up w/ The Great Wall

Not much new since my last post, but I remembered that I'd not posted any of out Great Wall photos and other fun stops in the Beijing area.  So here's some catch-up.

You may recall my saying that we hooked up with a local, English speaking guide and a French couple and ate at a farmer's house and hiked an unrestored portion of the Great Wall with very, very few other tourists around.

When we finished our hike on a restored portion of the wall, there was a gauntlet of vendors selling all sorts of stuff.  Such as...
Now compare the photo above of Jenn on the wall with this photo of a restored portion.
After our big hike on the wall, and our wonderful dinner from Mr. Shui's Dumplings, we changed hotels to hook up with George, our CCAI Beijing guide, and we hit some of the Beijing hot-spots.

Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City

We ate pretty good along the way.
Some local at The Forbidden City had his girlfriend take his photo with Jenn.  I couldn't let the opportunity pass, so I snapped one myself.
One evening we went to an Acrobat Show that was kind of like a circus without animals.  It was pretty cool.
And at the end of a day, we did some laundry in our room because the hotel wanted our firstborn for their laundry service.
That does it for this little detour.  I promise I'll report about our hospital visit in my next post.