Monday, December 10, 2007

Time is flying by!

This picture was just taken a few days ago. I love it. Kai wakes up starving. So we give him a bowl of dry cereal to eat in the morning so I get a chance to wake up and drink a half a cup of coffee. His is Kai wanting a refill and bringing all of it to me to get it! He had a little tumble down the stairs the day before. You'll notice the little bump on his head.
We made a trip downtown to the circle in Indy to put the letters to Santa in his special mailbox. Elizabeth is so full of magic this year!
Here they are in Kai's first experience with the sprinkler. He actually had a good time, although it is hard to tell by his face!
This smile was captured while we were visiting an old neighbor of ours. She was throwing his "Teddy" up the slide and Kai waited to catch him at the bottom. He thought this game was great!

I wanted to just put a couple of pictures on here for those of you that still sometimes check the blog. I had such good intentions to update it more, but just could not find the time. Before opening this post to work on it, I re-read the last post. I am truly amazed and just floored by how much Kai has changed.

He has grown so much and changed my life in so many huge ways. It is really too much and too emotional for me to really post here. I can say that I have never in my life felt so incredibly blessed and grateful. It feels so good to say this, because you know, if you have read the other posts that I promised to be honest and not sugar coat our experiences.

Let me just share a quick list of things that I think are just amazing:

1. We did take Kai to the International Adoption Clinic and had an appointment with the Pediatric Developmental Specialist there. I was so nervous for this appointment. Would he need therapies? Would she find other problems? The end result of our 2 hour appointment was that she and the woman from First Steps (government provided services for developmental therapies to children under 3), said that he is one of the best kiddos they have ever seen coming out of China and in an orphanage for 2 and a half years. There were a few question marks on Kai's initial referral that we had to take a leap of faith on. One being an issue with his ears. Most likely it was nothing the reviewing doctor had told us, but we had to be prepared for a possibility of hearing loss, a degree of deafness, etc. Do you know what it was? Ear wax. He has a lot of ear wax! There were a few other question marks that were resolved as well. I flew out of the office that day.

2. All of his blood work that had to be redone came back great. No vaccinations needed to be redone. He just needed the ones that China never gave him.

3. We had to consider the condition of his teeth. 2 and a half years in an orphanage with only rice and occasional fruit and egg can leave teeth soft. Many kiddos need a lot of expensive work on their teeth when they get to the United States. Kai's teeth are fine! Not only are they fine, but he has no cavities either. When we accepted Kai's referral we had no dental insurance. We knew that it could be a really big expense but we just said we'd make it work. Upon our returning home, Josh received a job offer which has great benefits, one being dental insurance!

4. Kai and Elizabeth-This relationship has been sort of rocky for the two of them. Elizabeth was working her little heart out, but still just found it so frustrating. Kai is trying to learn a new language, be a part of family, and learn all these new rules of our home. He was getting frustrated as well. I was worried and exhausted. Would my kids get along? I wanted so much for them to enjoy being together. I took a deep breath, regrouped and made a new plan. The last 2 or 3 weeks something in both of them and maybe myself as well, clicked. They are playing together and finding ways to resolve problems. Just this morning Elizabeth asked if she could sing a song to Kai before his nap and tell him a story. Kai has to have a hug and a kiss from Elizabeth before he can ever go to sleep. I am so proud of both of them. They still have their little fights, but there has been such a change.

5. Kai is sleeping through the night. He used to get up 2 sometimes 4 times a night and walk into our room. We would just pick him up and put him back to bed. He would fall right back asleep. We wondered if maybe he just needed to check and see if we were still here. In the last week, this has also stopped. He will get up around 4am now. I put him back down and he'll sleep until 5, then we get up together.

6. He is totally and completely our son. I share this because I am not the personality that immediately falls in love with anyone. Anyone I ever dated a tried NOT to first. I can remember people asking me when I was pregnant with Elizabeth "Oh, aren't you so in love already?" No, I wasn't. It was interesting, certainly a new experience, amazing and I was excited, but I didn't feel in love yet. I felt guilty about that and sort of worried. Was that wrong? I felt the same way with Kai. I was scared to death that first day with him. Would I love him as much as I loved Elizabeth? I do. It grows and I am there. I have been there for awhile. But I share this because I believe too many times we put others expectations on our shoulders. Others may fall in love immediately. It is ok to take a little bit more time.

7. He fits into our family beautifully. I prayed each night that he would transition well. I wondered what he would be like. We are a pretty affectionate family. Elizabeth loves to snuggle. I had read that many times it takes awhile for some children in orphanages to handle physical affection. It is so funny that I was concerned with that, as Kai loves hugs and kisses, giving raspberries and being held.

8. This is much longer than I meant it to be. One last comment. Last year at Christmas time I felt such a heaviness that we may have to wait another 12-18 months for our child. I wanted was another child so badly. This year I am so incredibly grateful for Kai the entire adoption experience. I could go on for pages and pages about the many blessings this experience has brought to our family. But maybe another time as I am already too long-winded!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dorothy says it so well, even if it is over-done...

I am sure that there are a million quotes about home, being home, no place like home, home being the core of who you are, etc. All I can think of is Dorothy clicking her heals with the “There’s no place like home.” Which is pretty trite and basic, but there you are.

We have been home for now over a week. It feels like a month. I will try to catch you up on the highlights of the last week. When I say highlights, I really mean sort of the extremes of the last week, the good, the great, the bad, the ugly. When I say ugly, I am thinking about 9:30 on Monday night when I called my mom hysterical, sleep deprived (4 hours in the last 48 and it looking like it would soon be 4 hours in 72) and ready to ship this little kiddo off just to get some sleep and to know that the heck we were doing. Ugly is me, with no sleep, having a hard time eating anything outside of bread, crackers and chicken noodle soup, telling Josh, “I just don’t know what else to do!”, listening to Kai scream in a scary, animal-like way, thinking, “Oh my gosh, what have we done.” We will get to that though.

When I say great, it is Kai, laughing while he lays in bed listening to me singing, “The Rocking Chair Song” part of it goes like this,

“Let’s go rocking in the rocking chair,
We’ll go rocking in the rocking chair,
We’re not really going anywhere, we’re just sitting here rocking in the rocking chair.”

Ok so here is the part he likes…

“We’ll rock high, high, high, just as high as the sky.
We’ll rock low, low, low, just as low as you go.”

(When I sing this part I sort of wrinkle my forehead and pucker up my lips to sing in a really exaggerated low voice. He thinks this is hilarious. And he laughs with his thumb loosely planted in his mouth as he watches intently. I can almost read his thoughts. I imagine something like, “Boy this lady is crazy. Who sings like that? Seriously? And she does it every night…oh well, it’s funny anyway. I’ll just sort of suck my thumb here and see what she does).

Great is realizing that he will fall asleep if we sit in the rocking chair by his bed and that he will still fall asleep if we move it about 2 more feet away each night. Great is him falling asleep for his nap today with the rocking chair just outside the doorway. Great is waking up at 7am and realizing he only woke up once during the night and your fabulous husband got up to sit in the rocking chair, so you slept through the night!

Good is the fact that we see changes in him each day. Good is watching people meet him and witnessing their delighted reactions. Our neighbors have loved Elizabeth since the first day we moved into our home. We live in an older neighborhood and many of our neighbors have grown children who no longer live with them. Elizabeth is very social and loves to run over and chat up the neighbors as they rake their lawns or plant their flowers. When we returned home, all of our neighbors came out to meet Kai as soon as we ventured outside to play. Lucky for us, Kai is also a very social kiddo, and loves to chat with people outside too. Does it matter that he doesn’t really speak English yet? Apparently not!

Good is how wonderful our families are. I will not get too cheesy and gushy here. But honestly, Josh’s parents were so wonderful with Elizabeth for the 2 weeks that we were gone You know people who do things for you and then have to point out all that they did for you? Well, our parents are so kind and generous in such a understated way. My in laws did so much for Elizabeth, got her all kinds of treats and clothes, etc. I wouldn’t have known this, I just keep on finding things that “Gran and Papa got me.” Ann and Harry had a great dinner waiting for us when we got home from the airport as well.

Then my sister drove here to be with us that first weekend, dropped off the perfect age appropriate and high interest gifts for the kids and kept her “big- sister- eye” on me. Just having my sister here was so nice. I know that I cannot hide much from my sister or my mom. If there was a problem, I wouldn’t be able to hide it. My reinforcements would be there to talk it through, make me some food and allow me to get some rest, all the while finding some good laughs in there too.

And my mom…I have said over and over again, that my mom is a hard one to live up to. She made us a week’s worth of meals, took Elizabeth for us so we could sleep, and came over at night to help with what she could when Josh and I were are our wit’s end with Kai and trying to get him to sleep. There are people who complain about the bad parenting of their parents. Me, well, as a mother, I have a pretty high standard to live up to if I plan to follow in my mom’s footsteps. Each year I learn and appreciate how much our mom did for us in how she raised us and the loving patience which seems endless.

Harry, my father in law, kept Kai laughing on the way home from the airport. This is big deal as Kai was violently opposed to any kind of seat belt, so imagine a 5 point harness in a car seat? And my Dad was my wonderful Dad, laughing, telling stories, playing with Kai, giving me big hugs and letting me know how much we were missed, running errands and picking up things for me that I suddenly found I needed.

I do not know how people do this on their own without family close by. I am so glad that we didn’t have to find out. I imagine there would be much more items in my “ugly” category.

Ok, enough gushing. You want to hear about the plane ride don’t you? Oh, people love the gory stuff. As with most things in life, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Kai did scream for about 15 minutes, during which he proceeded to kick the seat in front of him. As hard and I tried I could not keep that kiddo’s legs down or keep myself from obsessively watching the man’s head whip back in a surely exaggerated movement, each and every time his foot even touched the back of that seat. The man did quite a bit of rubber-necking and eventually found another seat, upon which time Kai promptly stopped screaming and was just fine until it was time to land. The man moved back to him seat, and Kai, as if perfectly timed, began to scream and once again kick the seat. Poor guy!

And I have a confession to make as well. While we were in China we tried our best to try new foods. When I say we tried our best, it really means that we chickened out. We played it pretty safe. I was not a huge fan of the food there. Outside of the Thai restaurant with the green curry there, which was like one of the best things I have ever had, we didn’t experiment too much. So, flying home we had a layover in Tokyo. We needed to grab lunch and I spotted a McDonald’s sign. Oh, I wanted that McDonald’s so bad. All of the reading on healthy eating, watching, “Super Size Me” and feeling that I would never put that stuff into my body, aren’t I so aware and healthy attitude went so totally out the window. I wanted a burger and fries so badly that I was totally willing to throw out all good eating intentions. As I was thinking this Josh said, “So, where do you want to get lunch.” I came clean, “Josh, this is so bad, but I really want Mc Donald’s”

“Good,” he said, “because that is exactly what I want too.”

As we ate our horribly good junk food, we both commented that it was the best McDonald’s we had ever had, and that it tasting so good was pitiful, but we didn’t care! Kai was happy to lick ketchup off of the french fries, but didn’t seem to keen on eating them. I was actually trying to get him to eat french fries!

Over all, Kai slept most of the plane ride and did as well as could be expected.
I haven’t taken any pictures myself since we have been home, although our families have. I will be sure to post more pictures here and also try to update the blog a few more times as Kai grows and changes. We have his appointment at the International Adoption clinic this Friday. I hope that all goes well. I feel like I will breathe easier once he is cleared through the American doctors.

This is a monster-ly long post, so I will close. Ironically, I am actually once again at Starbucks doing this update. This time I am here in Carmel. I am so thankful to be home and the United States is wonderful, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that I do miss many things about China. To any of you who have taken the time to follow us through this whole journey. Thanks. This is sort of my therapy, my way to make it real and think through all that is going on, and all that has already happened. No one has to read it, it works just to get the words out for me to see them and sort them out. But hearing that people take time to read and are wishing us well, is just really neat. (Ok, so “neat” is lacking, but that’s all I’ve got right now.) Time for my “alone” time to end and head back home to Josh and “the kids”. I love saying that, “the kids”.

Day at the orphanage

Us with all the caretakers, in front of the orphanage.

This is Kai with the caretaker that often took him home. He is in this sign for the orphange.

“The caretaker tell him to show you his bed. He misunderstand. He thinks he staying.”-Our guide explaining to us why Kai suddenly started crying hard.

Today was the orphanage visit day. Josh said that today was the best day for him. I am not sure I share that view, just because it was sort of emotional, but still very good. It was nice for us to see where he has been living these past two years.

We started at the grocery store. Judy helped us pick out little treats for Kai to pass out to the kids once we arrived. Judy explained to Kai that we were going back to the orphanage just to visit, not to stay. He said, “Ok.” I wanted to climb into his head and see just what was going on there. We also bought many diapers to donate to the orphanage. Our guide said that diapers were really the only thing that they needed. Again, this orphanage is in a wealthy part of town and I guess they have things pretty good there.

When we arrived everyone came out to greet us. Kai immediately asked if his “favorite” caretaker was there. We found out that he calls her “Mama”. This is the same caretaker that took him home often. This felt so bitter sweet to me. He obviously loves this woman, but I cannot wait until he calls me “mama” and have it to really mean something. It was a blessing to meet her and to express our gratitude to her in person. Oh, also, I should mention that this orphanage is also different in that they allowed us to video tape and photograph anywhere that we wanted to go. Again, this was such a blessing for us, as we wanted to document everything that we could of Kai’s life before we met him.

We went into his little room first. This is when the caretaker showed him his bed. I guess they had just laid the children down to rest for a nap. Kai thought he was going to have to stay and take a nap. We were being shown around by the director and all of a sudden Kai was crying very hard. Both Josh and I were surprised, as the only time Kai really cries is right when we lay him down for bed. Even then, he only cries until I start singing, “The Rocking Chair” song. He seems to like that song as well and stops. At first, when our guide explained to us what happened, we misunderstood her. “He think he staying here.” We thought the caretaker had told him he had to leave and he wanted to stay. But then after a few more questions she explained that he wanted to leave with us, he thought he was going to have to go back to the orphanage.

After that, Josh held him the whole time. He did not even want to pass out his candy treats. Our guide did this and Kai sort of just watched. After seeing his room and bed, we headed upstairs to the baby area. I knew that another family in our agency had committed to child at this orphanage. I found him and was able to take several pictures of him. He is so sweet and happy too, like Kai. I am excited to send these to the family. I know that I would have been so relieved and happy if I could have seen pictures of Kai in action before we came to get him. The caretakers took this little boy out of his walker and he smiled while they played with him.

I looked in the baby room. There were probably about 20 babies in there. Judy said that most of them are “heart” babies. I was able to touch them and walk around that room. It took a bit for me to keep the tears back. Judy told me that all of these babies would get adopted though. They all qualify for international adoption. At this orphanage, only children with special needs are able to be adopted internationally. Many of you know that Kai is considered special needs in China. He has a very minor medical condition that is easily correctable here in the United States. Kai’s condition was so minor that he was actually held back for domestic adoption. In China now, many orphanages are saving healthy children for domestic adoptions. I suspected this because of his age and his condition being so minor. So, after he was not adopted out domestically, he had to go through all the paperwork to be internationally adopted. Our guide was able to tell us this, and a police officer, that actually remembers the day Kai was found also told us about that as well.

After we left the orphanage we set off to find his “finding spot.” We were unable to find it, so Judy called the police station for help. The police officers remembered the day Kai was found. Can you believe that? Two and half years ago and they remember. Judy said abandonment is so unusual in this area, that they often are able to remember and tell you more. So we stopped by the police station. The officer hopped in our van and took us to Kai’s finding spot. It is basically a big field right now. It used to have a big restaurant next to the road. He was found right on the corner next to the restaurant that is no longer there. I appreciated the police officer taking the time to take us there. He told Kai that he was a lucky boy. He also told Judy that Kai is “so cute and smart.” I guess the police officers go there and help out, sort of volunteer there often and he knew Kai. I have been amazed by the community support of this orphanage. It does not seem like these children are tucked away and ignored.

The drive was about an hour long there and another hour back. The ride back home was pretty rough. Kai was past his naptime. When he gets tired he basically gets into everything and is very wound up. Oh man! Plus, throw a visit back to his orphanage in there, mix in the fact that he is a two year old, and it wasn’t much fun on the way home. Prayers for the plane ride please! Judy laughed when we said, “Oh 20 hours on the place with Kai should be a piece of cake.” “Oh my,” is all Judy could say.

Kai is sleeping now. Then we have to wake him up for our oath at the Chinese Consulate. Then our Wednesday will be over, which means just one more day here and we are flying home!

Monday, September 3, 2007

The truth about lobsters...

The monks leaving the ceremony.
Our blessing.

Our guide shared with us that Chinese legend or tradition says that if you can remove the ball from the lion's mouth, then the building is yours. So of course I had to try, it was prime real estate there! (No luck though)
Our boy in the tub. We had trouble with him not trying to drink the water. The poor guy had some tummy troubles that night. We think it was the water.
Kai wants to see the camera if you get too close.

(Josh in a whisper, across the bus aisle to me) “Kate, pearls don’t come from lobsters do they?”

Laughter just totally erupted from me. I could not stop laughing.

“Shhh, Kate, no wait, they don’t do they? Wait, don’t laugh at me, its not me, listen to why I ask.”

“All I can say is I have my quote for tomorrow’s blog!” I said.

“No, don’t use that as the quote, look at you laughing. You are so mean. Listen to why I ask that.”

Yesterday we did some shopping. One of the places we went to was the pearl market. Let me just say, that it was a mall type of place 5 stories high and it was packed with store after tiny store of jewelry. The mall was laid out in a basic circle, but then tiny hallways fingered out from the main circle. Seriously, for me, it was like a nightmare. Completely overwhelming and so packed with stuff. In the hallways between the stores you could barely fit a small stroller through. You can feel the population here in China so easily when you go out shopping. Places don’t have little corners for you to stand or go to, all the space is utilized. So when Kai leaked through his pull-up we had no where to change him. Actually, I found a bathroom, but the floor was wet with urine and puddles of water and they had the squatty potties and there was no space for me to stand him to change him. The smell was more than I could handle and people kept coming in, pushing forward in line. I had to get out of there. I was starting to feel sick. We ended up changing him out of the open pretty much, while a few people stood and starred at us.

We had 40 minutes in this mall, but Josh and I needed to get out, so we went to wait out on the street. We found that the rest of the group felt the same way, they were all waiting there. I guess, a woman in our group told Josh that she thought, “Stealing pearls from lobsters is a sin.” Now, she may have been joking, but Josh wanted to be sure he had it right, that pearls did not in fact come from lobsters. Regardless, it is a great quote for the day huh?

Before we went to the pearl market we went to another store. At this store, Kai charmed all of the attendants. Literally, they swarmed him and played and talked with him while we shopped. Very nice! The store was fancy and full with breakables, so it was nice that they spent so much time with him. Josh and I have talked about this issue, the attention he gets. We wonder if he gets so much attention because he is a boy, or because he talks so much, or just because we are friendly and open to stopping and talking to people too. The rest of our group didn’t have this in the store. Kai was loving it! It has really been interesting to watch though. A few times I have to remember that there are cultural differences with boundaries with children. Many of time the hotel attendants have taken him out to hold him and talk to him and they will walk away with him, or give him things without asking us, etc. It can be sort of strange to see him get whisked away like that sometimes!

Yesterday when we walked into the playroom the parents in there shouted, “It’s Kai!” We just laughed. People here have gotten to know him for sure! The other dads seem to like playing with him since many of the kids are girls and smaller than Kai. Kai will run around the laugh and talk to everyone.

We are going to the orphanage tomorrow. Judy is taking us. I am really looking forward to that, but I have mixed emotions. I hope Kai is not upset about going back, although I was told he knows that kids come back with their new parents. Hopefully he knows he isn’t going back there to live. We have the guide to help talk to him about all of that.

After tomorrow we have just one more day here until we fly home. I am so looking forward to coming home. Josh and I are both missing Elizabeth so much. We cannot wait to see everyone!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Buddhist Temple

“Many American adopt the ugly baby, you have handsome boy.”-Man on the street that stops each day to talk to me to practice his English. “James”

People say the darnedest things huh? I had to laugh at this comment! I apologize for no pictures today, I cannot get our camera to download them to the computer. We'll have to try it later.

Ok, so I will be the first to admit that I am a goal-oriented person with unrealistic expectations at times. But this trip I think I am doing pretty well. Before leaving for China, I really stopped to think about how I wanted to approach this trip mentally. Not some big daydream of me being this hard core, low maintenance traveler with unending flexibility and patience, but something I could really attain. In a previous blog entry I talked about how I wanted to genuinely love China. I envisioned myself flying into China with arms open wide, ready to take it all in. I think today I felt more of a true love for China. Today we visited a Buddhist Temple. On the way there our guide explained that most of the children that are adopted would have come from practicing Buddhist families. So they like the families to see a little bit about it.

Before I go into more detail about the temple though, let me say a few words about the other families in our group. It has been absolutely delightful to see the changes in everyone since getting their children. We all have chunky kids! One family is here getting their very first child. They are both now just literally glowing and so full of love. I cannot help but feel such a swell of gratitude each time I look over at them and their little girl. It has been a privilege to witness the transformation. You don’t really see it in yourself, but watching it in others is a pretty neat experience. There are so many moments on this trip where I find myself just thinking, “Thank you God.” Sometimes that is all there is to say.

I also met a woman today with so much courage that I find I cannot stop thinking about her. She is here with her teenage daughter. I started talking to her because they also have a 2 year old boy. We chatted at breakfast one morning. Today I ran into them again in the White Swan Playroom. This room has been a godsend for us! There, Kai can run and yell all he wants. This woman, I did not get her name, but she is the mother of 8, 4 biological and 4 adopted from China. She is here adopting the little 2 year old boy, Adam. Adam has a deformity with one of his legs. It stops pretty much after the knee. She shared a bit with me about Adam. After they accepted their referral of Adam, she met a woman in his province via the internet. Anyway, after this woman went to check up on Adam at the orphanage. He was only 17 pounds. This friend living in China took Adam into her home to be his foster mom. Anyway, she took him in until they could come and get him.

We have met so many amazing people. For me, this trip has been all about people. At the Temple I stayed right by our guide Judy and asked her many questions. While kneeling in front of the monk for our blessing, it just hit me so hard, that we are here, getting a blessing from this monk, with our son, in China, and I just felt such on overwhelming feeling of full happiness. Also, it was so cute, when we were blessed with the water, Kai shock it off his head and looked at the monk like, "Hey, what are you doing buddy?" I learned that at the temple, apples signify health, (an apple a day…)peanuts, safety (could this be why the serve peanuts on planes?), oranges equal wealth, and flowers are for beautiful and healthy children. Pretty neat. The temple was filled with incense, which reminded me of Josh in college always wanting to burn incense and me hating it, but not wanting to tell him that! We laughed about that.

You know on tours there is always a person who stays right by the guide and asks them a million questions, well that was me. I learned so much. We actually were lucky enough to be there on a special ceremony day, that only happens a few times a year! So we were able to see all the monks and hear and watch some of the chanting, Amazing.

The other moment of significance came later that afternoon, as we met Judy in a hotel room to go over paperwork. She pretty much told us exactly what to put where. It was such a relief to not have to study the forms by yourself and try to figure it out as I have done with all other forms. I so appreciated that! It hit me again in a new way, all that we have done to get to this point. All the paper, the tears, the long talks with family and friends regarding this adoption, and what a sweet, bright and beautiful boy we have, so full of life and just delightful. And soon, just a few days, we get to bring him home. Again, such gratitude filled my heart for all the people who have helped bring this little boy into our lives. We may be here in China picking him up, but it is our family, our friends, our church community at Orchard Park and all of those that I am not even aware of that have prayed for Kai and our family, those are the people that are truly bringing our sweet boy home. There is no way we could have done any of this without all of that support and all of those prayers.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sometimes things are worse in the morning Mom!

Can you guess what these are? They are dried sea horses! They were thrown out on the sidewalk to dry after they had been scrubbed.

One of my favorite pictures at the market. Isn't this beautiful?

Live chickens for sale. One woman bought a chicken, they bound it's legs and she put it in her bike basket to take home! What a fresh meal huh? They also had ducks, rabbits and pigeons in those cages.

A rare moment that I actually "catch" his smile with the camera! He is so quick!
Men at the market, just thought they were interesting.
Bins of something, I think mushrooms at the market.

“It is not a good sign to be this frustrated at 6:45 in the morning.”-Kate

Today started out with the realization that our digital camera and the gifts we bought yesterday were gone. I assumed they were in our room, but after tearing it apart, we realized they were gone. Our guide has been very clear about being careful about pick-pocketers and to not carry much money, passports or anything of value with us too far. We tried to think about the last time we had them, but all the days here seem to blend together. I did remember that one time when I reached for the backpack that the zipper was part-way open. I thought it was weird and closed it. Ok, so you would think I would check to make sure everything was in tact. But I do possess the ability to put myself in a pleasant land of denial when I want to!

So, after we couldn’t find them, and the front desk said that nothing was turned in, we came to the sickening conclusion that they had been stolen while out on one of our many walks around the city. Luckily, we download all the pictures each day, so we didn’t lose any pictures, but I felt sick about losing the gifts we bought. I could go out and get more, but augh…more shopping. Oh, man! That idea just about sent me over the edge. Now, Josh and I have been really good this whole time as far as being patient, having a sense of humor, etc. But this morning we both were feeling a bit cranky and snappy. We were trying so hard to look at the bright side. “Well, if this is the worst thing that happens on our trip we are pretty lucky. We can always buy another camera, it’s just money, at least we aren’t sick, Kai is doing so well, etc.” But even though all those things are true, sometimes you are just cranky. Josh and I both said we want to keep our perspective on this trip and appreciate each day and moment. So this was a test for us. “Ok, let’s complain for 5 minutes to vent and then we’re done.” That was my deal. So, while walking back to our room we used up our complaining minutes.

When we stepped off the elevator the floor manager told us that housekeeping had found a camera and that they were going to call us about it. Anyway, housekeeping called asked us some questions and told us they would being the camera to our room to see if it was ours. Luckily, the camera still had our pictures on there, so we could prove that it was ours, as we were on there with Kai. I cried when we got the stuff back. I just felt so relieved. We had left it in the hotel playroom. Also knowing that we hadn’t been pick-pocketed was reassuring too.

Ok, back to China though. I have been trying to think about how to describe the sights and smells of China, the people, the air, the surroundings. While on a walk yesterday I asked Josh how he might describe the way China smells. He had a suggestion that I didn’t agree with, so you’ll have to take it from me. Ok, so when you walk out of the hotel, you are surrounded by a warm, somewhat heavy blanket of heat. Very tropical. The smell, sort of musty-sweet-greenhouse-meets-rainstorm-meets river-water-meets-something cooking-smell. That is the best I can do. I like the smell of China. I don’t know that it is a pleasant or unpleasant smell, it just is, I like it. A smell I do not like is what we encountered in the mall, and yesterday while passing new construction. There is some kind of factory, toxic fume smell that was pouring out of this door at the mall, which led to a dark basement of something. The same smell was coming out of the new hotel construction. It literally burned my nostrils. I worry about people getting very sick from the fumes there. I cannot imagine working in that environment. The smell shocked both Josh and I. I actually ran about half a block to get away from the smell.

Feeling energized with our camera and gifts returned and a nice conversation with my sister. (You are the best Jenny.) I usually talk to my sister about every other day. So not talking to her for very long has been hard. With today starting out with so much frustration, I told Josh. “I just need to talk to my sister.” Ok, now feeling better, Josh and I decided to cross the bridge and go over to the main area of the city, off Shaiman Island. Our guide told us about a genuine Chinese market we could go to. She told us to be careful and not take anything of value. I strapped our backpack on the front of me and we set off.

This Chinese market was amazing. Unlike the island which is solely geared to adopting families, the market was away from all of that. The most interesting thing that we saw I did not take a picture of, as I was unsure if what they were doing was legal and if they would be very angry if we tried to take a picture of them. Most people don’t mind, but earlier on our trip, we tried to take a picture of a man walking down the street with live turtles hanging from a string. He had tied a string around their shells to they were right side up with legs treading through the air. They looked like turtle puppets. Josh went to take a picture and he shouted, “NO! NO!” to him. Yikes!

Ok, are you ready?...A person was selling tiger paws. Real tiger paws,actually more like the lower limb or the tiger. The tendons were dried up and then they left the fur and claws on the paw. I felt such a sense of sadness when I saw this. I faintly remember some stories on NPR regarding tigers and how they are hunted for these things. The man showed Josh a tiger tooth for sale as well. Josh and I thought it could not be legal, but on our way back, a police car stopped to talk to them and they did not pack up and leave. Could this be legal in China? Most of the people in this market paid absolutely no attention to us, which was really refreshing at this point. We were able to look freely without following a guide around, or being approached by sales people from the shops for adopting parents.

The rest of our group gets here later today. Tomorrow we go to a Buddist Temple and somewhere else, which I forget. Should be a good day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Nobody there!"-Kai

Kai reading to himself.

The city area where we shopped.
Just thought the signs were cool.

The women writing up the receipts for our stuff.

Day #2 with Kai. We were able to capture a smile. He is so busy, it can be hard to catch him for pictures!
Kai after his first trip to the pool. He sure loved it. Thought Josh was hilarious!

A view from the street where we were shopping.

“Nobody there!”-Kai (thrust out arm with open hand to the sky in a “Ta-Da” gesture.)

While waiting to apply for Kai’s Visa the other day, Kai got a little antsy. He wanted to go over to the other end of the waiting area and look at a door with an exit sign over it. As we approached the other side and he realized that there wasn’t much to see, I put my arm out and sang, “Nobody’s there!” He immediately repeated me, “Nobody there!” Except add a huge smile with a dimpled check on the right side! All of the families in the waiting room thought this to be very humorous. He has already been assumed as American as he sings out “Hello” and “Bye Bye” and “Thank you” to those we pass, at the appropriate times too! (Are we officially parents to this boy yet? We think he is the most charming and smart kiddo around!)

Yesterday was a really good day. It seemed that Kai opens up more and more each day. I am finding this whole process very interesting as far as how you feel about things and how your mind, or at least my mind, has changed. For example, when I first arrived here, the whole White Swan swarming with adoptive families sort of almost freaked me out. Can you imagine such a thing in a big city in the US? Before we received Kai, I felt that they must all have it so easy, all comfy and cozy in their new families, while Josh and I anxiously waited to see just what our son would be like. Certainly no one else felt so scared?

Now, after having Kai for a few days, I appreciate having other families here so much. It is nice to go down to the White Swan play room and find out where children are from, how they are doing, what different triumphs and challenges have already occurred. It also doesn’t hurt that most families are delighted with Kai. “What a cool little boy.” Were the words of one woman. I find it amazing now, how vulnerable we all chose to be in order to have a child. Some of the kiddos are tiny for their age, have different skin rashes, are not eating, are crying and grieving, love playing with their shoes, enjoy taking walks, are laughing are giving first hugs and kisses, it is just amazing to see.

Today at breakfast I noticed another couple next to our table watching us with Kai. We started talking to them, and they too are in the last phase of waiting, the last couple of days before they get their daughter, in their case a 5 year old. They noticed us using signs with Kai and asked us about them. We taught them a few of the signs. They are such a nice couple. Everyone that we have met and talked to so far has been so nice and kind. We all feel that everyone’s child is beautiful and wonderful.

Kai has the sign for “eat” and “more” down. This kid loves to eat. So, at meals you can see him tapping his palm with his pointer finger for another bite. He can also say, “more please”. Oh, but we did find something he doesn’t like to eat, yogurt. Uncle August, if you are reading this, I thought of you. If I remember right you hate yogurt for a number of reasons…

Anyway, I could see Josh and I in the faces of this couple,their body language, and general interactions. It seems that Josh and I, and Kai have all come very far already. It is almost like different stages of labor, expect both parents share in the contractions before the child comes!

Ok, back to yesterday. We were supposed to do a lot of shopping that day. We went to one mall and bought Kai some new clothes. Judy, our guide sort of laughed at us because we had a list, got that stuff and then, we were ready to go. She asked if we wanted to shop anywhere else and we said “No thanks.” That was the best decision. We were then able to just come home and hang out with Kai. If you think about it, here you are, in China, adopting a child, but also realizing that you are IN CHINA. You want to see and do all that you can, but also, you need to be able to not climb in and out of a van all day long to just BE with each other. So that is just what we did.

I so appreciate this time to just be with Kai before we go home. The rest of the group will meet up with us on Sunday. We will do more sight seeing that day. I look forward to seeing just how all of the families are doing.