Friday, April 28, 2006

Bao Bao Hao

Many of the shops near the White Swan Hotel will loan strollers out to all the adopting families. We put Lily in one, and she seemed to enjoy chilling out as we walked around Shamian Island. I asked one of the shopkeepers what "Bao Bao Hao" means (written on the back of the seat above Lily's head). It means "Good Baby."

I'm in the process of posting pictures of our trip to my Flickr account. If you want to view what I have posted so far, click here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Welcoming Party

Here's a shot of the welcoming party at SeaTac airport yesterday morning. That's Grandpa Marvin on the left and Grandma Marilyn on the right. Uncle John is taking the picture.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lily's Home

Lily and I arrived in the US this morning around 8:40 am. I can't speak for Lily, but I know that I am definitely feeling the effects of jet lag. I would bet, however, that she is, too. She has cried more than she did while we had her back in China.

It's so good to be back home. No more hotel rooms. No more brushing your teeth in bottled water. No more long waits in line (at least for the time being). No more rush rush rush around every day without any decent down time.

Now it's all about getting used to her new digs. Now we can drink straight from the tap again. Most importantly, it's all about getting to know mommy. She's doing okay so far, considering what she's just gone through (Lily, that is...not mommy, although mommy's doing okay, too). Lily still is a little cautious with Julie, but she has let her hold her for brief times. And she even let her kiss her (as you can see) without her pulling away. And I think Julie got more initial smiles than I did with Lily back in China. Hopefully that's a good sign.

I will continue to post in the days to come if you wish to keep on following along. I still plan to post more pictures of our trip. Lily's baptism is scheduled for Sunday, so I'm sure we'll have pictures of that, too. Since Lily isn't yet too keen on baths, we thought about trying a dry run (can you have a "dry run" of a baptism?), getting her used to water on her head so we don't have a meltdown at the font.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Inching Closer to Home

I wrote the following last night, but Blogger wasn't working properly. I still wanted you to read it, so I saved the message and decided to post it today. Here it is...

Tonight (Monday at 9:50 pm) is our last night at the White Swan. We check out tomorrow, board a bus, and head to the U.S. Consulate to get visas for our babies. After that, the bus will take us to Hong Kong,where we will spend the night and then head home on Wednesday. God willing, we will arrive in Seattle early Wednesday morning after crossing back over the international dateline.

I am so relaxed right now I can barely type. I just had a massage here at the White Swan Health Centre. It was just what the doctor ordered for my aching back. I'm not used to carrying around a 17 pound blob of squirming flesh. And unlike other new parents, I didn't get the chance to work up to it, starting with an 8 pound newborn. Lily was delivered to us in all of her 17 pound glory.

I don't know what the email and internet situation will be like at the Hong Kong hotel. That means that this might be my last post before we get home. And even if it is available, I still think I'll hold off until I get home since we will pull in to Hong Kong late and have to get up so early on Wednesday. That being the case, I'll see some of you when we get home to Washington. Those of you who are coming for an Onken-Toulouse-Hepola birthday celebration in June, I'll see you then. I'll see some of you when we travel to SoCal in August. And hopefully all of you can meet our lovely daughter sometime in the near future. Thanks for all your wonderful, encouraging comments.

Keep checking the blog, though. When I get home, I plan to post more pictures of our trip (when I'm not paying for internet time!), and I will post some pictures of Lily adapting to her new home in Marysville.

The red thread is getting pretty short.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another Smile from the Pretty Girl

Better close this blogging session...but I couldn't leave you without one more smile from the Pinger.

View from the White Swan

In contrast to our view in Nanchang, here's a view from our hotel in Guangzhou. The hotel sits on a little island called Shamian Island. Guangzhou (or Canton, as it used to be called) clearly has a European influence, and you can notice it in the architecture. Jan, Lily, and I strolled around the town today after the red couch photo. We have another free day tomorrow to continue shopping. It's fun haggling with the shop owners. They will punch in the price, show it to you on a calculator, then you name your price, they come down a few dollars, and their reasoning is always, "This is my best price" or "I will give you this price for friendship." More than once I've heard Jan mumble, "Why, yes, of course that's your best price. Yeah, right." Even so, there's a part of you that feels bad haggling when you realize that in American dollars you are haggling over $1.25 instead of $1.50. The Chinese Yuan is about 8 to a US dollar.

View from the Gloria Plaza Hotel

A view from our hotel room back in Nanchang where we received Lily. Nanchang is a big city, but much poorer than Beijing. You can see the dirty buildings and the laundry hanging out the balconies. As much as the economy in China is booming, it is still very much a developing country, and this was quite evident in Nanchang. And I cannot wait until I get home and can drink water right out of the tap.

Street Scene in Nanchang

This is a scene right behind our hotel in Nanchang.

Lily's First Passport

Here's another flashback, this time to Nanchang. This is a picture of Lily right after she got her first passport. I didn't get mine until I was 25, and she's not even a year old yet.

Red Couch Photo

Our babies had the famous "Red Couch" photo taken today, Sunday, April 22, at 10;15 am. This is a tradition at the White Swan Hotel. The babies in this picture are all from the Ningdu orphanage, so they probably knew each other and played with each other there. This is only half of the babies in our group. There was another group of Bethany families with girls from another orphanage as well, for a total of 21 babies from our traveling group. Can you spot Lily?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Smile from the Pinger

Finally, I caught Lily Ping (otherwise known as "the Pinger"...nickname courtesy of the Jan Johnson family...I kinda like it) with a smile on her face. There have been even better ones, but you'll have to wait to see those when you meet her in person.

Dust Storm in Beijing

Sweeping up after the dust storm in Beijing. This is the day we went to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Spring time, from what I understand, is the time for dust storms in Beijing, and this was the worst one of the year. We woke to find everything coated with a fine, light brown dust. Many people were wearing surgical masks to help keep from breathing it all in. The weather there was quite a contrast to where we are now (Guangzhou). It's very tropical here. Warm and sticky (but not unbearable...I hate to think what it would have been like had we been here in July or August). Jan was commenting on how all the plants you see growing are strictly houseplants back in the Northwest.

I'll post some more pictures of our trip when I get the chance. Right now, of course, we are focused on the kid.

Forbidden City

At the south entrance to the Forbidden City (again..."B.L."...Before Lily) in Beijing.

Jan at the Great Wall

This was earlier in our trip...B.L. (Before Lily).

Pics After All

I can post pics after all here in the business center. Here's one of Lily standing up (with Baba's help).

Another Busy Day

Today is Saturday, April 22. It's now almost 9:30 pm. Today was another busy day. These parents and kids over here are kept moving. This morning we had to get Visa pictures taken. Then a quick breakfast (and the buffet at the White Swan is out of this French Toast I've ever had) and the infamous medical exam. It takes place in a local clinic in a little room in back for adoption groups. All 21 of us families were crammed in, waiting to have our babies weighed, measured, listened to, poked, and prodded. Needless to say, the babies weren't too happy about it. As much of a trooper Lily has proven herself to be, even this was too much for her. She squirmed and cried and squealed and whimpered and stiffened up and threw her head back. It was good to get back to the hotel (about a 10 minute walk) and borrow a stroller from one of the local shops (a service they provide to adopting families). My arms were absolutely killing me trying to hold Lily the whole time (we were told that for space limitations only one parent should come, so Jan stayed at the hotel), not to mention that it is quite humid here and I was sweating like a race horse.

But I'm not complaining. I am totally digging this father-daughter thing. I never expected to turn into a complete ball of mush just looking at her.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Last Stop...Guangzhou

Finally, we're here at the famous White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. It's almost 10 pm on April 21. I know the date, but I don't even know what day of the week it is. Ever since we left Beijing, we've been swept along by this adoption thing. Our guides have directed us along the way, thank goodness. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to arrange things for us and to make things go as smooth as possible with the Chinese adoption authorities, provincial officials, and hotel arrangements. It will be nice to be pampered a bit here in Guangzhou. The White Swan is the nicest of all the hotels we have stayed in so far.

Today was Lily's first plane ride, and she was a trooper. She fell asleep the moment the plane lifted off the ground, and didn't wake up until after the plane landed in Guangzhou.

Prior to leaving Nanchang, we got Lily's passport. I'm not sure when the picture was taken. She is wearing the same clothes as the ones when we received her, plus her little ID tag is around her neck, so I'm assuming it was taken the same day. She has this poor little forlorn look on her face, like in the other pictures you've seen. I'll tell you what...she is not the same kid as when we first got her. She smiles often and giggles. She loves to snuggle with her dad, and is fond of Jan, too. She likes it when I hold her and rub her back as she rubs her eyes and plops her head onto my shoulder before I lay her in her crib. Her world has suddenly grown so big, and those big beautiful eyes are wide open when she's awake, taking everything in...her head moves back and forth as if she's afraid she's going to miss something.

I will try to post some more pictures before we leave for home. Here in the business center they charge extra for posting pictures, so I'm going to wait and see if I can borrow the laptop of one of our fellow travelers. I have some really cool pictures that I'd like to share with you all, too...the Great Wall, the Teng Wang Pagoda in Nanchang, and other pictures of Lily, of course.

Also, today is the first day I've been able to see the blog. I've been posting, but I haven't been able to see the finished product. Here in Guangzhou I can access it, so that means I finally have read all of your comments. Thanks so much to all of you who have posted comments. It means so much to me and Julie that you have been following along with us on our journey.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Creating a Fan

It's never too early to start teaching your daughter to enjoy the game of baseball. Here I am teaching Lily the intricacies of the infield fly rule.

Smiles and Laughter

It's 9:15 here in Nanchang. Lily's fast asleep in her crib in the room. We got back after dinner and fed her half a bottle. Laid her down to sleep and she started to cry a bit. Jan suggested I try burping her, which we hadn't done yet. I picked her up, patted her air, but she laid her head down on my shoulder and was out. Guess she just needed a bit more "daddy-time." That's okay with me. She seems to be attaching to me quite well. She will go to Jan, but will whimper at first if I'm not in her line of sight, and is okay after a short time.

We also had a nice surprise at dinner tonight. Lily was in a high chair, and she seemed to be okay with that. That was a first with us. Then came another first in our time with Lily...she gave us smiles and laughter. Her little giggle was totally cute, especially with her two little bottom front teeth showing. I'll try to catch her at the right time and snap a picture and post it. You'll love it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's Official!

We went to the Jiangxi provincial notary this morning, and it's far as China is concerned, Lily is officially our daughter. Today was a cakewalk compared to yesterday. Just a few questions, basically that I would promise to take care of Lily and love her and educate her properly.

After that we went to WalMart. Yes, you read that right...WalMart. The bus dropped us off for an hour of shopping. We bought some more drinking water, some pop, and a box of Cheerios for "you-know-who." It was quite an experience in there...the deli cases didn't have their familiar lunch meat, cheeses, salads, etc. Rather, they were full of pig snouts, birds feet of all sizes and varieties, and other assorted unidentifiable items. Outside waiting for the bus we were all quite the attraction. People would come up to us and ask "How old is she?" and "Where are you from?" A young man who spoke a little English outside translated for seems as though fewer people speak English here than in Beijing. Most people give us a smile. Others give some suspicious stares.

We returned to the hotel to rest and bond some more. I'm going to keep trying to get a smile out of that girl!

Figuring Out Her New Life

Sorry about this...I'll try to fix it when I get home. In the meantime, you'll have to cock your head sideways to see this one. But just look at that irresistable face. Still haven't gotten a smile out of her, but she is bright eyed and trying to figure out her new life with these strange people.

Warming Up to Dad

Lily taking her first bottle from me. I should think it won't take her long to warm up to me as soon as she realizes, "Hey, this guy pays attention to me and gives me food." She also has been eating some rice cereal as well.

End of a Long Day

After Lily cried for a while, she went down for a nap yesterday afternoon. The babies were all dealing with fear and confusion, as well as exhaustion...they didn't get their usual naps and were hauled around four hours from Ningdu to Nanchang to meet their new parents.

New Dad and His Daughter

Here's me and Lily moments after she was placed in my arms.


Today, Tuesday, April 18, around 2:30 pm, Ning Kang Ping...otherwise known as Lily...was placed into my arms at the Gloria Plaza Hotel in Nanchang. It was a whirlwind day. A half hour after we arrived at the hotel from the airport, we received our daughters. Lily screamed as I received her, and continued to cry a mournful cry for quite a while afterwards. But after a nap and some rice cereal, she warmed up to Jan and I a bit. She is still a confused little baby, but she is making eye contact with us and grabbing for toys and snacks that we give to her. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent with our babies and filling out more paperwork. The good thing about that is that tomorrow will be a less hectic day and we can focus on our babies and getting to know them.

Two more things before I sign out...

1) I changed my first diaper ever today! And it reeked! But I didn't gag. That was a big step for me. Jan was right there beside me coaching me along the way.

2) I will be able to post pictures here in Nanchang. The business center at the Gloria Plaza is set up so that we can upload from memory cards. So tomorrow when I have a bit more time, I will post some pictures for you.

I can't wait for you all to see her. You will recognize those big, bright, beautiful eyes as soon as you see her. And I can't wait to get home for her to meet her mommy, too. I love you, Julie.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Beijing Tour

This morning we left the hotel around 8 am and noticed all the dust that had settled over the city. Workers sweeping everywhere. Seemed like a pointless job, as dusty as it was.

The bus took us to Tiananmen Square where we walked around for a bit. It's the largest public square in the world. Following that, we toured the Forbidden City, where the emperors of China once lived. The south gate of the Forbidden City faces Tiananmen Square. You may have seen famous images of has a large picture of Mao Tse Tung right in the middle. When I get back to the states, I will post some pictures.

Next, we rode in rickshaws through a "hutong," a traditional Beijing neighborhood. The entire hutong is walled-in with small homes facing an open courtyard. The rickshaws took us down long, narrow alleyways with doors to the homes and shops along the way. While in the hutong, we visited the home of a Mr. Liu (sp?). He was the consummate host, serving us jasmine tea, rose flower snacks, dried Chinese crabapple, and seasoned peanuts. He also shared with us his pet crickets and grasshoppers. Apparently he is a well-known "cricket fighter"...which is now illegal in China. It wasn't clear to us if Mr. Liu has gone straight. Nevertheless, he was quite a character, a warm and funny man. In fact, one of his crickets was named "Little Jerry Seinfeld." (Actually, that's not true...just an inside joke for you Seinfeld fans)

Had a two hour break for a late lunch/early dinner, followed by a Chinese acrobat show at a local theatre. Saw some amazing feats there.

Even with all the action today, it was hard not to keep thinking about the big event tomorrow. Finally, we all get our babies. You could almost see the anticipation on everyone's faces. We leave for Nanchang tomorrow at 10:45 am. After we check in to the hotel, we get our babies sometime in the afternoon. The details are sketchy about when and where. I'm assuming it's at the hotel.

Wherever it will be, I can't wait!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter in Beijing

It's around 7:30 pm here, and our "Easter celebration" is almost over, although it didn't seem like Easter here. Nothing at all to suggest the Christian content of the day, although the hotel restaurant did have a display with colored eggs. I'll tell you more about how Jan and I celebrated the day in a moment.

The bus left the hotel around 8 am this morning for the Great Wall. It was about an hour and a half drive to a portion of the wall called the Badaling Great Wall. A gondola took us almost to the top where you could then get out and climb or descend as much as you like. Jan and I climbed a bit, but it's quite steep in spots and wore us out quickly. On the way down in the gondola, we finally got to celebrate the holy day that it was today. In the privacy of our car overlooking the scrubby brush of the rocky foothills of the Gobi Desert we sang "Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia!"

After our stay at the Great Wall, we drove back to Beijing and toured a cloisonne factory. Saw some very beautiful work. Our tour guide was a real hoot. Like many Chinese, he has taken an English first name. His name was "Herbie." "You know," he explained, "like the Love Bug." He also referred to himself in the first person, such as "Please follow Herbie now...Excuse me, Herbie must pass through here."

Sorry no pictures yet. I'm taking a good share of pictures and video. However, the computers here are not set up to upload images. Hopefully I can do so in Nanchang or Guangzhou. If not, I will have to wait until I get home and share them with you.

Jan and I are both feeling well so far. No "Mao's Revenge" if you know what I mean. Jan has forgotten twice and rinsed her toothbrush in the tap water, which you are not supposed to drink. Even the locals don't. Everyone drinks bottled or boiled water. Me, too...although I did have a Tsingtao Beer for dinner tonight.

Time to turn in. I'll try and post tomorrow again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

We're in China!

We're here! We're in China! It's 8:15 Saturday morning the 15th, sunny and hazy outside. After a flight from SeaTac to Tokyo/Narita, we immediately boarded a plane to Beijing. We met up with our travelling Bethany companions at the airport in Beijing. We all recognize one another by our "ladybug bandanas" tied to our luggage. By the time we got to the hotel last night, it was close to midnight. Both Jan and I are exhausted. We were probably up 28 hours straight, with just a few catnaps on the plane. We have separate rooms here in Beijing, but once we get the baby on the 18th we'll be in the same room. (I need coaching, you know.) Today is a day to kick back and relax and get refreshed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Zai Jian

Well, it's 10 pm here in Marysville, and I should be in bed. Julie and I have been packing and running last minute errands today. Like leaving for any trip, it seems like we're forgetting something. But we've been making our lists and checking them twice...and thrice...and then some. Everything should be in the bags and ready to go. All our paperwork should be in order. Now, it's just a matter of making it to the airport tomorrow morning and meeting up with Jan at the check-in counter. This will be my last post on this side of the pond until I return. I'll try to get online in Beijing. So long...or should I say "Zai jian," which means "Goodbye!"

Monday, April 10, 2006

"We're Too Excited to Sleep!"

Well, it's Monday morning, and just like the kids in the commercial for Disneyland, "we're too excited to sleep!" Kurt leaves in just 3 days to go and get our precious little Lily. The last 5 days have been a blur, a mixture of excitement, sleep deprivation, and panic. I hear that is what impending parenthood can do to a person. I think once Kurt gets on the plane, I'll be able to relax a bit (he doesn't stress me out, but the packing has stressed me out), and then I'll be counting the days until they return home.

Kurt is going to try to update the blog daily from China so that you all can read about his adventures in Beijing and then when he gets Lily on the 18th. Hopefully he will be able to send pictures too.

Please keep us in your prayers, especially for safe travel for Kurt, Jan, and Lily. I'll be here so if you want to drop an email or comment, I'd love to hear from you.