Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last Day in China

Today is our last day in China. It's hard to imagine that we may never see this place ever again. We've talked about doing a "heritage tour" someday. But that's many years in the future. And who knows what tomorrow will bring? It's quite possible that circumstances won't allow another journey like we took these last two weeks.

But this one was wonderful, exhausting, joyful, frustrating, exhilarating, and emotional all at the same time. I remember feeling the same things when we traveled to receive Lily.

This morning Aidan and I went to the Guangzhou Zoo with the Newell family. Jan didn't go since she wasn't feeling well. That's the crew below among the crowd of school children gathered to see the aquatics show. You'd have thought we were celebrities, with all the school children's eyes brightening while waving and shouting, "Hello! Hello!"

We didn't have much time to see the whole zoo, but we did make sure to visit the Panda exhibit. Below is a red panda. There were several walking around in their pen. We were disappointed, however, with the other panda exhibit. As you can see, he was lying down behind bars, looking rather forlorn.

The elephants, on the other hand, were out in full force. I managed to get a nice shot of this beast.

Aidan fell asleep on the way out. He seemed to enjoy seeing all the animals. He sat very still at the aquatics show. But this trip, I'm sure, has been exhausting for him, too.

After lunch, we had our famous "red couch" photos at the White Swan. All the adopting families and travel groups have their pictures taken here before they go to the consulate to receive the visas for their children.

And we kept our custom of dressing our child in overalls. Back when we adopted Lily, no one told us it was a custom to dress your child in traditional Chinese garb. So, we dressed Lily in overalls. It's become a running joke in our family about poor "Farmer Lily." We certainly couldn't break tradition and dress Aidan in something else.

Therefore, I present to you "Farmer Aidan."
Here is a shot of me, Aidan, and Shiyan Zeng, our facilitator for Bethany in China.

And here is a picture of all the families who eventually arrived in Guangzhou from all the various provinces.

Not long after this, we headed to the US consulate, received our child's visas, and had them sworn in as US citizens (except for those of us who came without our spouse...until we "re-adopt" them in the states, our children are considered "resident aliens"). It's quite an emotional moment when you walk in and see the American flag. It's hard to hold back the tears. It's even harder when you realize the magnitude of the moment...that your child is finally coming home and your life will never be the same.
I need to go to bed. It's approaching 10 pm on Tuesday night and we have to be on the bus and ready roll at 6 am. We'll see you all on the other side of the pond. Keep checking back. We'll continue to update you on Aidan's progress, our family adjustments, and his surgeries when they happen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aidan's First Date

Aidan went on his first date yesterday. He's quite the lady's man, you know. He waves bye-bye to all the shopkeepers and blows kisses their way. They all say he's so cute, but I think he knows exactly what he's doing. That's Leah Newell, his new pal, new daughter of our best friends in China (click here to read their blog, if you missed the link in an earlier post).

Aidan was overheard saying, "The lady will have congee, but I'll have to have finger foods, since I'm not as good with a spoon as she is. And if you don't have any finger foods, that hairy goon taking the picture will just feed me."

This shot was taken at Lucy's cafe, an American's best friend here in China. So far, I've had their cheeseburgers, fries, fish and chips, and chicken quesadilla. They also have a decent sweet and sour chicken. Tonight, however, we went with the Bethany families to the excellent Cantonese restaurant across from our hotel.

Aidan is sleeping on the bed right now. Bedtime was much easier than the last few nights. He has refused to go to sleep unless he is on my shoulder with me walking around the room. If I lay him on the bed or in the crib, he goes berzerk. He kicks and hollers and rolls himself off the bed. He thrashes and rams his head into the side of the crib. I couldn't let him hurt himself, so I had to pick him up. Last night I had to call in the relief pitcher, also known as Jan. She came in and tried to get him to sleep (to no avail, by the way) while I took a walk and de-stressed. My back had just about had enough, so I decided to try a different tactic tonight. This time I sat quietly with him on the bed, watching some cartoons (in Chinese...not even sure if they were for kids...could have been the Chinese version of "South Park" for all I know, but it settled him down). After a bit, I made a bottle for him. He slurped it down and we went back to the bed for more cartoons. He was leaning against my chest, and I could see his head starting to bob and weave, so I laid him down on his back on the bed and laid down next to him. He didn't protest. Not a single whine nor whimper. He rubbed his eyes, scratched his chin, and closed his eyes, and that was all she wrote.

Now, I'm sure this won't be our usual routine when we get home. But I had to do something about my aching back which turns 44 in just a few days.

Tomorrow we will visit the Guangzhou Zoo with the Newells. In the afternoon we have the famous "Red Couch" photos and go to the US consulate for the final steps before we leave China and head home.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I know I'm cute. You don't have to keep telling me.

Sunday, March 29, 10:13 pm

Here's Aidan visiting the play room again in our hotel.

Today we met with Shiyan, our Bethany liaison, and went through all the paperwork for the US consulate, checking and rechecking to make sure all our paperwork is in order. I complimented our guide Jack in an earlier post, but I need to compliment Shiyan, too. This process is very stressful, as you can well imagine. Shiyan is the right person for the job. She is always so calm and she has a very soothing voice that puts you at ease. I don't know all the details of her job, but I'm sure that it is tireless, coordinating all the adoptions in each of the provinces, meeting with the families and answering all sorts of questions, and poring over the paperwork we hand her to make sure that everything is just as it should be before she takes it to the consulate. I'm sure all the Bethany families would agree with me that we are so grateful for the efforts she makes to help us bring our children home.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Visa Pictures and Medical Exam

Saturday, March 28, 10 pm

Yesterday the rest of the Bethany families arrived. I'm still not sure how many there are ... seven or eight, I think. This morning we all walked across the street from our hotel to get our children's visa pictures taken. Following that, we proceeded to walk to the north side of the island to the medical examination facility.

Here are Aidan and me walking into the room where the adopted children are examined. The information gathered here is then written on a form which is submitted to the US consulate. By the way, is my hair really thinning that much in the back? Guess that's what parenthood does to a guy. Or is it just old age?

Aidan is thinking, "I have a sneaking suspicion that something really bad is about to happen. Why is this idiot holding me smiling?"

And here he is screaming bloody murder. Even Aidan's best friend (as of today), the green plastic spoon, could not console him. Good thing you can't see his face here. It was not a pretty sight. We have the whole scene on video, too, to embarass him in front of all his future girlfriends.

This evening, the Bethany families were scheduled to walk over to Lucy's and have dinner together. We all gathered in the lobby of the White Swan, but it was pouring down rain. And not just pouring. It was like someone was in the clouds dumping buckets of water. Thunder. Lightning. Blowing wind. The doorman was talking to someone in Chinese, holding up four fingers on his hand. Jeff Newell said, "I think he's telling her that a category 4 storm is approaching." We waited for a while to see if it would let up. It did a little, and so the hearty souls who waited it out tried to go. Didn't last long for us. Jan had an umbrella covering her and Aidan, but the streets had turned into a flood zone. Me? I was completely drenched in less than 30 seconds. Needless to say, we headed back to our room and ordered in Papa John's pizza. I felt sorry for the poor delivery guy, though, riding up on his little scooter in the rain squall.
It's hard to believe that we only have three more days here. When we first arrived, it seemed like an eternity was ahead of us. Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Can't wait to get home and start working on bonding as a family and introducing all of you back home to this new little guy. He is indeed quite a character as you will see.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Enjoying the Neighborhood

We took a stroll around the neighborhood this morning. Here are some of the sights we saw. First, some dried seahorses...

dried frogs...
dried snake skins...
hooves of an animal whose species I could not determine...
and live scorpions.
These are shots of our trip to the Qing Ping Market just north of Shamian Island. It is an open air market in an older neighborhood in Guangzhou. It has blocks and blocks of stalls where all kinds of "delicacies" for eating and for traditional Chinese medicine are sold. Here we are with the Newell's in front of the entrance to a more modern portion of the market.
And below are some additional pictures of some of the activity we observed.

When we finally got back to Shamian Island, we decided to stop at a familiar establishment for some refreshments. Notice Aidan in his stroller saying, "Finally...a place where I can get a decent cup of coffee and a scone or two!"

Aidan is napping right now (it's Friday at 2:30pm). He had a rough night last night. Lots of tossing and turning. He's had a bit of a cold, which I think sounds worse because of his cleft palate. However, at 2 am last night he woke up crying. I felt his head and knew he had a fever. Took his temp and it was 101, so out came the kid's tylenol. He finally got back to sleep but it continued to be a restless night. This morning he seemed to be back to his old self, albeit a little tired, but he was smiling and active, climbing all over me, running around. It wasn't cold outside so we figured it was okay for him to go on our little excursion. Besides, it gets a little tiring just sitting around in your hotel room all day.
Today was the last day we will see "Uncle/Shu Shu Jack." He came by and gave us some of the final paperwork that he has been in charge of procuring along with their translations. I thanked him and gave him one of the gifts we brought as tokens of appreciation. We are sorry to see him go and will miss him. Jack was so incredibly friendly, helpful, entertaining, knowledgeable, and compassionate. You can really tell he loves what he does, helping families bring home these beautiful children and giving them moms and dads who will love them and care for them.
Shiyan, our Bethany liaison, arrives later today and will be with us the rest of our stay here. A number of other Bethany families should also be arriving today from various other provinces, so our group suddenly will grow from two families to a whole bunch...I don't know exactly how many.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Morning History and Culture Lessons

Thursday, March 26, 2:15 pm
This morning we received our own personal history and culture lessons from Jack as he took us to Dr. Sun Yatsen's Memorial Hall and the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. Here we are in the picture above in front of Dr. Sun. Below you can see me and Aidan in front of the folk art museum.
We had the chance to sit down and have some delicious Pu-Er tea in one of the gift shops. I didn't know how much preparing and serving the tea was such an art form in and of itself.

Here's an example of some of the intricate stone carving on the facade of the museum. It once was the property of a wealthy family clan.

On the way out of the museum grounds you can see the contrast between the old and the new.

Here's Aidan in his new stroller. He got that big grin on his face when "Uncle" (or "Shu Shu" in Cantonese) Jack and I would pick up the stroller and carry him up and down the stairs. He also crashed out in the van on the way back to the hotel. I laid him down on his back in the crib about an hour ago and he hasn't moved since.

I thought these places were called "Information Booths."

Whatever, dude. This trip has been "way out."

I almost popped a local right in the nose

Wednesday, March 25

At first, she made me get teary-eyed when I recognized what she was trying to say. A split-second later, I was furious. I almost popped the old woman in the nose. But I kept my passions in check and refrained from creating an international incident.

What happened?

During our excursion through the department store earlier today, a woman looked at Aidan in the shopping cart and pointed to his lip. Then, with a look of disgust on her face, she looked at me and made a gesture as if to say, "This one's no good." Jack saw it, too, and said, "Some people!"

That was the first time I'd seen anything other than approval of adopting a child here whom others may see as less than perfect. But what really is "perfect" after all? We live in a broken world and things don't always work, or in Aidan's case, develop the way they are supposed to. But that doesn't lessen his value as a human being. And the more time I spend with him, the more I realize what a precious gift from God he is.

But there's a part of me that still wants to pop that lady in the nose. God forgive me.

More Business, then Shopping

Wednesday, March 25

This afternoon we went to the Public Security Bureau to receive our Adoption Registration Certificate. It was a brief in and out appointment in downtown Guangzhou. After that, Jack took us and the Newell's to a large department store to do some shopping. We stocked up on diapers ... which somehow are not staying on Aidan's tiny bum but have been working their way down his pants leg. I have yet to figure out how that's happening. I'm not that out of practice putting on diapers, am I? We also bought a small stroller, which we thought would come in handy in the airport on the way home. The little shops on Shamian Island loan adoptive families strollers, so we had been using one up to that point, but we found a nice, simple, affordable model in the department store.

Here's a shot of Jack fumbling with a display that somebody knocked over. Nobody claimed responsibility. That's Anne Marie Newell in the foreground at the right.

Below is the famous "jerky" fruit, as we thought it was called for several years after our first trip to China. Later we discovered that it is called dragon fruit. Ask me or Jan someday to describe for you our experience with jerky/dragon fruit when we got Lily in '06.

Aidan and Auntie Jan posing amidst the produce.

Here are our best friends in China, the Newell family, and our guide Jack.

I can't speak highly enough of Jack, or "Uncle Jack" as we have begun calling him. He has been a great help for us and is wonderful with the kids, too. On our way to the checkout stand, he offered to push our cart, saying, "It's okay. I have a license to drive one of these in China."

The Swan Room

Wednesday, March 25

This morning after breakfast we took Aidan to the Swan Room. This is a big room on the first floor of the White Swan Hotel specifically for all the adoptive kids. Aidan had fun there, with Dad chasing him around. He seems to be relaxing more (Aidan, not Dad, although I am relaxed to a certain degree) and acts more energetic. We are also hearing more sweet little sounds, coos and chirps and other indistinguishable syllables. And I can't wait to have you all hear his sweet little laugh. If I remember correctly, the original paperwork said that he is "quick to smile" or something like that. They sure got that right.

This last one is one of my favorites so far. It's a little out of focus because I was the one taking it from close range. Aidan can't seem to get too far from me, although he's not afraid to go to Auntie Jan. He shadows me when I'm walking around the hotel room. This morning in the Swan Room, I grabbed one of those bumpy little balls and went and sat on the sofa. A few seconds later, Aidan did the same, climbed up and sat next to me copy-cat style. It was a heart-warming moment that I couldn't let pass by without a picture, and I just happened to catch his infectious grin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Quote From Jack

Our guide Jack is a super nice guy. I really like him. His English is superb. He actually works for a different agency, but helps our liaison Shiyan since she can't be in so many provinces all at once. This experience has been quite different. Last time we were in a group of 21 families. This time it's only two. We get a lot more personal attention. Although having said that, even in the big group Shiyan was always available and was so kind and helpful. Shiyan joins us on Friday. She has already called us several times to check in and ask how things are going.

So here's the quote from Jack, who is Chinese and lives in Guangzhou. On our drive back from the civil affairs office yesterday, we all got to talking about Chinese food. Guangzhou is also known as Canton, hence the term "Cantonese" cuisine. Jack said,
The Cantonese have a saying: "We eat anything that flies, except airplanes ... we eat anything with four legs, except table and chairs ... and we eat anything that swims, except boats."

Bedtime #2

Wednesday, March 25, 5:00 am

No, that's not a reference to anything I may have found in Aidan's diaper. Last night was his second night with us. He didn't go down as easily as the previous night. I had to hold him like Jan did at naptime yesterday. But he laid down against me in a chair and he settled down nicely. After about 10 minutes he was sound asleep. I made my move to the crib, crossing my proverbial fingers. He stirred and opened his eyes when I laid him down, but he quickly settled back down again and went right back to sleep.

Aidan slept the night through. We think he has a cold. He as a pretty good little cough, no fever, no drainage from his nose (do cleft kids have nasal drainage?)...but none of this really seems to phase him. He doesn't whine or complain. He sleeps soundly. He woke me up several times coughing last night, but he goes right back to sleep. We're going to keep an eye out and determine whether we need to make a visit to a doctor. Right now we're playing it by ear. Too many idioms, I know..."keep an eye out," "play it by ear," I'll try to cut right to the chase next time. There I go again.

This afternoon we return to the civil affairs office to pick up the completed paperwork, then Jack, our guide, is going to take us to a shopping mall.

As far as China is concerned, he's ours now

Tuesday, March 24, 3:45 pm

Technically, until today we were only temporary guardians. Now, as far as China is concerned, we are Aidan's parents. We completed the paperwork and fees this morning at the Guangzhou Civil Affairs Department. All adopting parents must be interviewed twice, explaining why you want to adopt and promising that you will not abandon or abuse your child, but will care for him and provide the best possible educational opportunities for him.

Jan took pictures for me at the office, but I left the memory card in the computer back at the hotel room. The shots instead are stored on the camera's internal memory, but I can't upload them without the cord, and that's in Marysville in a little Rubbermaid container in the hall closet. I'll have to share those later.

After our return to the island, we walked with the Newell's over to Starbuck's, then took our kids over to the play area in the center promenade. Aidan and Leah had the chance to walk around a bit and stretch their legs, but they mainly just looked around and watched what everyone was doing. Then, we went back to the hotel for lunch and naptime.

Naptime didn't go so well. Aidan did not like getting put in the crib for a nap. That was the first time we heard him cry other than the first few moments when he was placed in my arms. I rocked him and held him on my chest ... he was quiet, but his eyes were wide open. He sure showed signs of being tired, but I think he's also getting used to his new temporary digs and wasn't sure of what was going on. I tried to put him back in the crib twice, but each time I started to lay him down, he would jerk, wake up, and start crying again. Finally, I called Jan to come rescue me (she had gone back to her room and I had to go potty), and she managed to get Aidan back to sleep. That's where he is now as I type this post.

Here are a few more shots of our day thus far, minus the pictures from the civil affairs office.

Check out Aidan's new baseball cap. Can't start too early creating a fan. (Julie's going to see this post and say, "Hey, that's not the outfit that goes with that hat!" She's right...he has a cool baseball outfit ready for another day.)

And here's Aidan on the playground, not quite sure what to do.

And finally, from a storefront window on the way back to the hotel ... Who needs Barbie when instead you can have "Betty" and "Bertha"?!?!