Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer of Fun part two

Okay... more about our summer...
Last weekend my brother and his family came up from out of state. That was great to see them. My niece is taller than I am now! She's 13 and gorgeous. My nephew is still as cute as ever. Is was great to talk to Them. My sister-in-law is so awesome because she is keeping some of our family traditions alive. I don't know if she understands how cool that is to us? :-) They recently went to Germany and it was neat to hear stories about my grandmother's village and all of the places we grew up at. It was also neat to see the photos from their trip... it made me homesick for Germany. I'd love to be able to take my children there some day. And again, it was so great to them. They gave the kids a game for our Wii... I have a confession though, after the kids go to sleep Kevin and I have been playing the game hahahaha! We're getting good at it:-) Oh come on... the Wii is fun, admit it:-)
Yesterday we spent the entire day (and I mean entire day) at the Lake. We try to go every year. This year was extra fun because it was both T and C's first time going. We also brought the dogs for the first time. We loaded up the car in the morning and off we went. I can't believe how well all of the kids (and dogs) did during the long drive up. C doesn't seem to be getting motion sick anymore... that's good. We found a great spot with no one around. It was wonderful. For R's last birthday Grandma gave him a remote control surfer. It was the first time he got to really play with it. All of the kids took turns with it. They had a blast with it. The lake is soooo cold! But that's never stopped us from swimming:-) C kept putting her face in the water and everything! She's going to be a fish! The biggest surprise was how well the dogs did. At first we had them tied up but then it go to be a pain because they kept getting tangled up. So we just took them off to see how they would do. There wasn't anyone else around anyway. They were great! And to our biggest surprise, Jakob rarely got out of the water! He loved being in the water with the kids. Once he got too deep though and had to swim- that really scared him but it was only for a second and he never went that far again. Charlie played in the water a lot too and swam more than Jakob but didn't seem to be having as much fun as Jakob. I think he mostly stayed in the water to be close to us. At one point Kevin was walking in the water (only about up to his knees) Charlie had been following him everywhere. Then we realized that Charlie couldn't touch bottom and he was swimming all that time! We were worried about him so Kevin carried him back out of the water. Silly dogs. C was so excited to have the dogs there. She just thought that was the coolest thing ever. She kept splashing Jakob trying to play with him hahaha:-) R and I had a swimming race and he was floored that I beat him:-) He was so sure that he was going to beat me by a mile hahahaha! We had lunch and dinner (and snacks) up there and brought the food with us, so we had a couple of picnics and that was fun too. Unfortunately we all spent so much time in the water we only took a couple of photos. I know, what's the world coming to when we don't take very many photos!?! I wish we had more photos of the dogs in the water. I don't think we got any of Charlie in the water... By the time we got home it was 11pm. Everyone, including the dogs, slept on the car ride home. Today everyone is still talking about how much fun we had. Well, the summer isn't over yet... :-)

Summer of Fun part one

I have not been keeping up with our blog much since coming home from China. So I decided to update all of you on our activities and how we are all doing:-) We have been enjoying our summer very much. Of course the first part of our summer was all about our trip to China and bringing C home. After coming home and getting over jetlag we decided we better get some use out of summer break before school starts again! One of the first things we did was go hiking. We found a great trail the last time we went, right before going to China, so we wanted to go back there. C has obviously spent very little time outdoors, at least off of the pavement:-) She was very unsteady on her feet. But she had a great time. We all did. There were large plants with giant seed heads that looked like a Dandilion on steroids. The kids, and C especially, loved blowing the seeds.We also came across a snake during our hike and that was very exciting for all of the kids. R and T were jumping and running all over the place- you would've thought they were on fire hahahahaha! It was just a tiny little garden snake though.

Earlier this week our good friends Bryant and Betsy invited us to their condo for the day. They have a timeshare. We had so much fun! We all rode the Alpine slide. The Alpine slide is an enormous slide. You take a ski lift up the side of the mountain. They you get on these little carts back down on a giant slide, with dips and turns... it's a lot of fun. The kids were all terrified to go!:-) Well, they were excited, wanted to do it, but shaking in their shoes at the same time:-) C went with me and everyone else had their own cart. It was a blast. C does this cute thing whenever she's really happy about something. When she likes something a lot she rubs my arm and jumps up and down. After the slide she rubbed my arm and kissed it all over! hahaha. She loved it! All of the kids did. They can't wait to do it again. Bryant and Betsy are so awesome for taking us!

After the Alpine Slide we went back to their condo and swam in the pool. Again, the kids had a great time. It was C's first time in a pool! She was terrified at first. Kevin could not let go of her, even on the steps. But slowly he was able to get deeper and deeper- but only if he was holding her tightly:-) But by the end of the day she was splashing and even got down on her own in the shallow end. She LOVED it!! I mean LOVED it. That's all she talks about now...swimming! Our two families also BBQed together after swimming. We had a great day! Thanks guys for the great day- you are awesome!
And speaking of swimming. We signed T up for swimming lessons. She feels a little embarrassed because all of the other children in her class are really young and of course she's 14. But she's having fun. Plus, we're such a "water family" that she really does need to know how to swim for safety reasons. She's on her second week of lessons and doing great! I don't think we'll sign up C yet, we'll wait until her English is better. I've got more to talk about but will do it in another post...

C with Blondie and Violet

As requested:-) ...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

my little girl...

I have been saving some of my treasures from when I was a little girl. I gave some of my stuffed animals, an awesome Star Wars poster and a few other things to the boys. The stuffed animals ended up on a shelf and of course the poster was hung on the wall. When we got T I also gave her some stuffed animals and some knickknacks that were mine. These also ended up a shelf in her room. Being a teenager she doesn’t have much interest in toys. I was so happy to give my children the things I have been saving. And they thought it was cool to have something of mine although I think T was more impressed by how “old” everything was and that I still had them:-) I still had two dolls named Blondie and Violet. I got Blondie when I was about 4 or 5 years old and Violet when I was around 6 or 7. I loved those dolls. I have a little bunkbed and wardrobe closet for them as well…. Some of the treasures I have been saving for the time when I would have a little girl of my own. When Kevin and I put in our adoption papers for a little girl in China I went to my parents’ house and pulled the boxes out of “storage” in their garage. I brought my treasures home. I couldn’t help but smile as Blondie and Violet came out of their storage box. They were wearing the same clothes I put on them the last time I played with them. I cleaned them and put them in their freshly washed beds and smiled some more. Have you ever seen “Toy Story” -a cartoon about toys that are alive and the love that they have for the children that play with them? Toy Story 2 was about how a doll was rejected by the child that loved her because the child (a little girl) grew up and didn’t want her anymore. It wasn’t until Jessie (the doll) met Woody and the other toys that she realized she could be loved again by another child- another generation. I felt a little like that when I passed on my childhood treasures to my children, even though they ended up on a shelf. This morning Kevin was doing Neuro program with the boys and T was listening to music. I cleaned up the kitchen and went to check up on what C was doing. When I walked into her bedroom I nearly cried. Blondie and Violet had their first outfit change in over 30 years. They had their hair brushed. Violet was napping in her bed while Blondie was being fed a bottle. C smiled at me and put her finger to her lips “Shhh!” She pointed to the sleeping Violet. I have a little girl of my own. And my treasures are being loved again. The sight made me so happy I nearly cried. I know I’m a sentimental blubberer, but I can’t help it:-) I think Blondie and Violet would feel like “Jessie” if they could- happy to be loved by another little girl. And I am so happy to have a little girl to love them:-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

New family photo!

It's awesome when your husband is a professional photographer and when his camera has a self-timer:-) Here's our complete family!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

group email from July 4

Hello everyone! We're home!! YEA!!! I've got jetlag big time..augh!:-) Okay, first of all- C was amazing on the flight home! She was so great. She was so excited and I was thrilled that she truly DID understand the flight Itinerary that I made for her. When we landed in Tokyo and found our next gate- she turned to me and said plane number two- America! And when our plane arrived she pointed at it and said it again! Hurray! And I kept her heavily drugged on Dramimine(sp?) for motion sickness and that worked out great as well. When we got to the airport at home my family was there (they brought the kids for us) with a big banner that my sister helped the kids make. C was so shy. When we pulled up to the house she obviously recognized it from the photos in the album we brought for her. She got really excited then! She practically burst through the door. The dogs were there and super excited to see us... I held my breath and SURPRISE she wasn't afraid of them at all!!!! She knew their names (again from the album) and pet them (tried to ride Jakob!) and it was great. We showed her her room and then all of the rooms in the house. She was so happy. She took out the album from her backpack and compared the photos to the actual rooms- it was so cute. She flipped out over her toys and gave us lot's of hugs:-) She's already played with her dolls. Then she and the boys somehow ended up in a game of tag all through the house LOL!:-) Today they've been playing with her all day. Right now they are teaching her a racing game on the Wii. She's been playing with them and whenever she sees me she runs up and gives me a hug as if she's saying,"these guys are my best present ever!:-)" And again, I can't get over how perfectly comfortable she is with the dogs. Outside she was literally sticking her face in Charlie's face so he would lick her:-) I'm just so amazed and relieved. She was so terrified of that little dog that was barking at us on the Island, but as Kevin pointed out, that dog may have been tiny but it was acting aggressively and Jakob and Charlie may be big, but they are sweet hearts. So anyway, we are happy to be home and so happy that things are off to such a good start! Our family feels good- is that a weird thing to say? I don't know how else to describe it.
Here's photos from our second week in China
Love, Anita

group email from July 2

Hello everyone! I haven’t been doing daily updates because we’ve been keeping it simple lately. Tonight is our last night in China. We leave tomorrow morning! I’m excited to get back home. We have had a great time here though. C is doing really well. Taking it easy these last few days has been the right thing to do. She is starting to listen really well and isn’t nearly as naughty:-) She is also much more affectionate. She cuddles us now and will even come to us for comfort when she needs it. So it’s really good. She’s also gone from being terrified of leaving to being really excited to go. Today we packed and she was so excited to help us. She loved getting her backpack all ready for the plane. She was walking around the hotel room with it on:-) We also made an Itinerary for her, so she’ll understand what’s going on with all of the plane changes. It was really funny because we sat together with her and using the dictionary and the flash cards that we have we explained the layovers and where they were etc. I then drew a picture of the three of us getting on the plane and stopping at our layovers and changing planes etc. And then I attempted to write out some simple things under each picture to help her remember. I would write “Airport- Japan.” She saw what I was writing, took the pencil from me, scratched it out- shaking her head- and then rewrote it! Hahaha! Apparently my Chinese characters were bad hahaha! Well, this was only my second attempt at writing in Chinese:-) Hey I consider it a compliment that she at least knew what I was writing! She also told us today that she is happy to see T, J and R but that she doesn’t want Jakob and Charlie!:-) I told her that they were nice and that she didn’t need to be afraid but she doesn’t care. She wants nothing to do with them! Ha! Well, too bad missy:-) I’m not too worried about it. J and R were terrified of the dogs at first too. They got over it and she will too. We love our poochies- they are sweeties: -) She likes the puppies at the pet market (Jakob and Charlie are a bit bigger hahaha!) but I think it shows that she has it in her to like the dogs once she realizes they aren’t going to eat her:-)
Well, today being our last day we decided to go out. When our guide found out about everything that we’ve been doing (when we had our embassy appointment) he seemed surprised (I wonder if most families stay put more?) and asked if we would like him to take us anywhere. He then offered to take us to “the mountain.” Baiyun (white cloud) Mountain is outside of the city. We very enthusiastically took him up on his offer. I have really been wanting to get out of the city! So he picked us up this morning. It was so great! I loved getting out of the city! We were surprised to see that Guangzhou is surrounded by mountains. From the top of Biayun you could see a lot of the city (not all of it because the city is HUGE!) It was of course very hazy around the city. The city just goes on and on. Kevin took a bunch of shots, we hope to put them all together in photoshop the way I put together the photos of Manhattan that Kevin took when we went to NY. On the way up the mountain there were HUGE spiderwebs between trees with yellow and black spiders on them at least 3 inches wide! I laughed and said it was a good thing R wasn’t there:-) But my favorite part was I got see some of those giant Bamboo trees! I told Kevin that we needed to start running along the tops of them like they do in “Crouching tiger hidden dragon.” ;-) Whenever we see the bamboo scaffolding I keep saying how I would love to see those trees- so I was so happy that we got to see them before we went home! Also at the top of the mountain was an aviary- sort of a bird zoo. That was really neat as well. You walk through a series of doors and then into a part of the forest that has huge nets all over the top- acres covered in this netting that stretches out above the tree tops. It allows the birds to fly freely but also allows you to walk among them. They aren’t at all afraid of people either. We saw workers feeding them so they are obviously used to people. C loved it. Swans and cranes etc just walk right past you like it’s no big deal. Birds fly over you and land on branches inches from you. It was really cool. We saw some beautiful and very colorful birds. There was also a bird show that truthfully was kind of lame and even C could’ve cared less about it. It was more fun to walk around and see the birds. I even caught a glimpse of the famous Chinese cranes -the white ones with the red on their heads. They were in an area that had bars in their way and signs that said restricted area so we couldn’t get close- we could just barely see them through the trees. I know these birds are very endangered and have read about efforts to try to repopulate them in China, so maybe that’s why they were separated. It was neat to at least see them from a distance. I’ve seen them in so many Chinese paintings- we even have a big one at home. So again, that was fun for me and something I’m glad I got see before leaving China.
After coming back from the mountain we packed and are getting ready to leave in the morning. C knows which presents are for J and R and T. It’s very cute. I hope she stays excited about the airplane… I’m also worried about how she will do on the long flight home. Well, she’s got a backpack full of activities and I’ve got a bottle of motion-sick pills for her! So hopefully, she’ll be okay! This is my last email from China! We will see you back home!!!!
Love, Anita

group email from June 29

Well hello...:-) It's Tuesday in China! We come home in three days. I'm starting to feel pretty homesick. Two weeks without the rest of my family is really tough. We've been taking it pretty easy these last few days. I think we overloaded C when we first got her so we've been hanging out and bonding more...playing lot's of Candyland! Yesterday she had her visa medical appointment. She did well until she found out that she had to get some shots. She was so scared then. She gets naughty when she's scared. But then when we turned the corner to the room where they give the shots she plastered herself against me! She did NOT want to sit on that stool! That's one thing that's nice- she does not like strangers and when it comes right down to it she would hands down rather be with us (people that she knows) than with anyone else- even if they are speaking to her in Chinese. That's something we did not have with our previous experience. The absence of indiscriminate affection is such a relief and it does make things so much easier. She did really well though considering. But when we got back to the hotel room she broke down and cried. It's the second time she's cried since we've had her. It is soooooo heartbreaking. It is hard on this mama. But we are able to comfort her. She loves it when we run our fingers through her hair. She also likes to have the palms of her hands rubbed. Both times she's cried we've held her across both of our laps (because she's a big girl) and just loved on her. She's unresponsive at first but then settles into the cuddle. I think it does her a lot of good. Honestly since she's had these two breakdowns she's been doing a lot better. Sometimes you just need to cry! And being comforted is great medicine for a hurting heart. We've decided that we need to cuddle her more often. She loves to wrestle around and be tickled. We've been doing that a lot but now we're trying to get some cuddles in also- even when she's not upset. Last night for example, I went to bed with her and just ran my fingers through her hair until she fell asleep. When we first got her she was too scared when we were affectionate with her so we have been easing her into it. But now we're just picking her up and plopping her on our laps etc and basically not letting her decide when she gets affection- we're giving her affection on our terms instead of hers. And it's obviously the right thing to do because you can tell that her stress level is much better. Now she'll even talk about going on the airplane and knows what outfit she'll wear on the plane etc. Before any mention of it terrified her. She seems really excited to see J, R, and T. Yesterday when we were playing Candyland she would say now it was R's turn, then J's, then T's... it was very cute. So over all I think she's doing really well! And I think everything that we are experiencing with her we expected and I think is normal given the situation. And she really is doing well. It is still my opinion that she does NOT have RAD. It just doesn't seem the same. Her reactions seem very healthy to me. She's afraid, but what child (or adult!) wouldn't be given her situation. She was "dumped" on total strangers that don't even speak her language. I fully expect there to be some more "fallout" after we get home but again, I think that's perfectly reasonable. She is also very smart and the school system here seems to be a good one. She reads really well. And we know she's not faking it because we have a children's Chinese/English dictionary that we use with her all of the time to communicate more complicated things and she gets it. And she loves her little math workbook that we bought her and she follows the instructions and does the problems correctly. So that's awesome! She's also understanding more and more of what we tell in English. We can tell her to use the bathroom, brush her teeth, come here etc etc... and she understands. Depending on what sort of "fallout" we have after we get home, we think we're going to put her in public school. But of course we'll play things by ear and see how it goes. If we need to we may wait until the next term. As for us... we are doing well. China is amazing. We've enjoyed our time here. Last night at dinner Kevin had prawns (with their heads still on) and baby squid for dinner! He said the squid had the same texture as a mushroom but didn't have a strong flavor. I'll take his word on that:-) We got a big bag of Lichi(sp?) fruit from our coordinator, Mr. Li. He gave it to us after the medical appointment. I guess they are in season now. They are pretty good and Kevin swears he saw some at Harmons- that would be cool if we had them at home. C LOVES french fries and ketchup. Actually she loves ketchup. She'll put ketchup on everything. She's put ketchup on fries, corn, lichi(sp?) fruit, ice cream, crackers, parsley.... if she has ketchup, it goes on everything and yes, she eats it! She'll even dip her finger in it and just eat it plain. HAHAHA! Kevin and I joke about it. We've heard from other parents of Chinese children that their children don't like American food and all they will eat is rice or noodles. We show her the menus when we go out to eat (on the Island they have them written in Chinese and English.) We can NOT get her to eat rice. Sometimes she'll eat noodles. BUT she wants chicken, french fries, American cereal at breakfast, bread, sunkist soda... hahaha! And anytime she sees French fries on the menu she gets very excited- points at it and gives us an enthusiastic "Hi!" Not as in "hello" but "yes" in Chinese. "hi" means "yes." So I think for our first meal at home we should have something with french fries and ketchup!:-) The skirts my sister and I made have been great and C LOVES them. She is such a girlie girl:-) We are on the home stretch now! Tomorrow is our US embassy appointment.
Love, Anita

group email from June 27

Hi everyone! We've been gone a week. Our trip is half over, I can't believe it. Sorry I haven't written again. Friday we had a super busy day. We had our day trip that day. We met with our tour guide at 9am. I can't remember his name... I think he said his name was Mark (we've noticed that people give themselves a "western" name a lot of the time.) First we went to the 6 Banyan Tree Buddhist Temple. This temple is 1500 years old!! It was amazing. So gorgeous. We saw the main worship hall and it had three gigantic Buddha statues. They were bronze with gold leaf. The three Buddhas represented the past, present and future. The first Buddha (of the past) had his hands palms up on top of eachother on his lap. The left hand represents forgetting. Any troubles or mistakes in past should be left in the past- they are forgotten. The other hand is on top of this hand and it represents forgiveness- Buddha forgives all past wrong doing. The middle Buddha, the present, has the left hand still palm up on his lap. People still worry about their past, so this is a reminder to live in the present and forget the troubles of the past. The right hand is on his knee. Bad spirits influence people to do wrong, so Buddha is ready to grab those spirits away from you. The last Buddha, the future Buddha, has the forgetting hand still on his lap. And his right hand palm out on his knee. This is symbolic of the problems of the present, even if you have current troubles, don't worry about them because the other hand palm out shows us that the future is still there for us and we have a new life a head of us, so don't worry about your current problems, look forward to the future. Isn't that great? Kevin and I were very moved by these statues and their meaning. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to photograph them. I would have loved to have a photo of them. We so often have discussions about this very thing with our children. And as a Christian I find this philosophy very much in harmony with my own beliefs. Like I said, it was very moving. After the Banyan temple we visited the tomb of Nanyue. This tomb is 2200 years old!!!! It was built on the top of a hill. The entire hill is surrounded by the museum that houses the tomb and all of the artifacts found in it. What does this mean?... it means STAIRS!! Oh my gosh. There were A LOT of stairs up and down..up and down. I think we almost killed C. I think I almost killed myself. But it was worth it:-) It was so amazing! There were these gorgeous elaborate carvings out of solid jade. There was also a lot of iron work which I guess caused the rewriting of all the Chinese history books because until this tomb was found they didn't believe iron work existed that early, because most artifacts (swords etc) from that era were made of wood. After Nanyue's tomb we went to a public park (all public parks require a fee to enter- it keeps the homeless out- that's what we were told) to see the symbol of Guangzhou- the statue of the five rams. Okay, here's the story. Hundreds of years ago the pearl river used to flood every summer and many people died. Then in the winter, people would starve. So times were extremely hard and the people suffered terribly. Then five men came with five rams. These men taught the people how to plant and grow rice. Because they could now grow rice, no one starved in the winter. When the men left, they left behind the five rams for the people. And ever sense then the Pearl river has never flooded the area. Today Guangzhou is known as the city of the five rams. In the statue (the symbol of Guangzhou) the largest "father" ram has rice in his mouth. The park was gorgeous and would have been worth the visit even without the statues. There were a lot of butterflies (huge butterflies!) and C loved seeing them (she could've cared less about the statue:-) ) After that we had lunch at a Chinese buffet. Sorry dad, there wasn't any Orange chicken, or fried rice... or anything that we think of as "Chinese Food" which I'm pretty sure is all fake Chinese food that Americans came up with. However, there WERE steamed beetles, fried pigeon, shrimp with their heads and legs still on, fruit I've never seen before, and every other thing you could imagine:-) C wanted some beetles....she got her first taste of having American parents that day because there was no way I was letting her eat those hahaha- I'm pretty sure I would've "lost my lunch" if I saw her eating that. However, we DID have some pigeon. It was pretty good actually. We also had some fruit that was called Dragon eyes. It was about the size and shape of an eyeball. You peeled the shell off and inside the fruit looked like a peeled grape with a black pit in the center... and it looked very much like an eyeball. It tasted like a cross between a grape and a plum. We also had another fruit that had a dark purple shell. You peeled off the shell and inside it looked like a white peeled orange. It was a little slimy but tasted good. I was so proud of Kevin, he tried (and ate) both kinds of fruit! If you know Kevin's dislike of fruit in general and to have something like this- that was amazing:-) He even agreed that it wasn't bad! So we have to go to China for Kevin to eat fruit apparently...:-) After lunch we went to the Chen family academy. It was actually an ancient family compound (for the Chen family.) Centuries ago the two Chen brothers became very famous architects and were responsible for many of the buildings in the area (in ancient times.) Later they ran a school of architecture. The school continued after their death and taught their style. Again, this was centuries ago. The original compound still exists and all of the buildings are preserved. It was really neat to walk through them. All of the wood was so intricately carved with so much detail! The buildings were undergoing a renovation and many of the painted surfaces were being restored, so you'll see in the photos that some of the painting is really bright while chipped and weathered looking in other places. Many of the buildings are also used as museums and showcase ancient and even modern Chinese Art. There was a building full of ancient ivory and bone carvings that were amazing and so detailed you wouldn't believe it! Lastly we went to another Buddhist Temple- the Hua Lin Temple. This was the temple that Kevin and I found while wandering around several days ago. This temple is dedicated to 500 Buddhist saints. They were the first 500 missionaries that taught Buddhism in China. Buddhism originated in India. They had 500 wooden statues covered in gold leaf that represented each saint. We were allowed to take photos inside of this temple. It was also gorgeous. This temple was around 1000 years old. I can't even comprehend the ages of the things we saw that day. There was another part of the temple that we were told was "new"- it was only 500 years old:-) In another part of the temple they had the three statues of the three Buddhas I mentioned from the Banyan Temple- but they weren't as large but they were more ornate. I really wish we could've photographed those first ones that we saw! It was a full day! We saw so much and it was SOOOO worth it!!! Today we've been hanging out at the hotel. Mostly because I was deathly ill this morning...I think pigeon and dragon eyes don't agree with me:-) But I'm feeling much better now. We also found out some interesting things about Shamain Island during our tour. It was built by the British about 150 years ago. All of the buildings are old European style buildings, which explains a lot. There are two very old Catholic churches on the island and that surprised me, but it makes sense now. Later, the French owned about a third of the Island. The first western restaurant in China was on Shamain Island- it was a french restaurant (today it is an Italian restaurant.) Later some Italians and Germans came to the island as well (which also explains the German restaurant and the now Italian restaurant) In 1949 when the communist party took over, the British were kicked out and it became a part of China again. The oldest Banyan trees in all of Guangzhou are on the Island and they are over 200 years old. Kevin photographed one of them. Again, we learned a lot from our tour and are so glad that we took it! C is doing great. She's already starting to learn a few English words. Her favorite, and most often used, word is "tickle." She runs up to Kevin and says, "tickle!" and runs away and Kevin has to chase her and tickle her:-) It is very cute. She also tickles him. Today she told him to "tickle mama." hahaha! She is also saying: toilet, no, eat, wash hands, and color (for coloring book.) We also found out today that she knows half of her ABC's and the days of the week in English! We did not teach that to her! We were told when we picked her up that she has been being prepared to be adopted... I wonder if that's what they meant. We bought her a fan yesterday. Today she was doing a "fan dance" for us. It is obviously a real dance and so cute. I know for holidays and celebrations at the orphanage kids perform, so this must be one of the dances she knows. I kept trying to get in on video but she would get too embarrassed. She is obviously very smart. She understands a lot of what we are trying to explain to her. We use the few phrases we know, the recordings of the phrases that my mom's neighbor made for us, the children's Chinese/English dictionary that we brought, and flash cards that we brought. With a combination of all of these things, we can pretty much get everything across that we need to. She even uses them on us! At first she would show us flashcards but has decided it's just easier to say what she needs/wants... and we are figuring out what some of what SHE is saying means. That is one of the things that is soo awesome about adopting an older child- they can communicate so much more! We've been exchanging money at the hotel but decided to try the bank to see if they had a better exchange rate. When Kevin got there he said it was a mad house with tons of people waiting. They were handing out numbers and then calling them out... except that we don't know the numbers in Chinese! BUT C does and she knows that we don't. She took the ticket and when a number would get called she'd shake her head. Then when ours was called she said "okay!" (oh, that's another word she says...) Then she took Kevin by the hand and took him to the correct counter! How cool is that? What a smart kid she is! She is doing really well. She has started to test us. She will be pretty naughty and then see what we do. It got pretty bad LOL! She was one naughty girl! So we had to start putting her in Time-out...though technically they call what we were doing a "time-in." That's where you put them away from something but sit there with them. She threw some mini tantrums at first. But all of this is expected and still normal. And much milder than our previous experiences... this had been going on the last couple of days but today... she is being a good girl. She'll still do something that she knows she's not supposed to sometimes but she's getting much better. We needed to go out shopping this afternoon (she had been being pretty wild in the stores lately, I think it's a combination of over stimulation, tiredness, and testing...she also gets naughtier the more tired she gets) we had a good talk about her being well behaved and not grabbing things or running off in the store (again we use all of the above mentioned things to talk to her and she totally understands.) When we got there she was being so good!! She even kept her arms folded. Towards the end she started to lose it again a little bit but it's obviously over stimulation. But she did so well and tried so hard!!! I was so proud of her!! I think it says A LOT about her. She is a good girl, she is just going through a lot right now, but she DOES know how to try to behave and think about her actions- and implement the things we talked about...and again, keep in mind how smart she is that she's understanding all the the things we are saying to her with all of the crazy ways we are having to communicate because we don't speak Cantonese!! It really is amazing. Anyway, we have way too many photos again, so Kevin made another mini website. It's a website of our first week here. Some of the earlier photos you've seen plus there's some you haven't seen from our first few days and of course there are all of the new ones too. And of course even all of those still don't come close to how many photos Kevin has actually taken:-) And of course... just kidding, I thought I'd say that again because I said it so many times:-) Anyway, here's the website:
I think we're going to take it easy tomorrow too. I think we've been over loading C too much...another reason for her having a tougher time. So we're taking it easier on our good girl. Monday we have her medical exam for her US visa... I wonder how that will go...

group email from June 24

I didn't do an update yesterday- sorry! I got chewed out by a couple of you:-) So here's what we've been up to- so no more chewing me out:-) We had a busy day yesterday! When C woke up yesterday she was a little shy again, but I think we've seen the last of the freezing up (at least for now, I'm sure once we get to the US there will be another relapse, at least that's been our experience with our other's scary to start a new life in a completely new place!) Anyway... she was a little shy at first but got over it quickly. It poured again in the morning but cleared up by the time we finished breakfast. Kevin went out early to buy more bottled water while C and I were getting dressed and found a local school exercising in the park. He took lot's of photos. A Chinese man came up to him and asked if he could practice his English on Kevin, Kev said sure. They ended up talking about Basketball. The NBA really is popular here. After the guy went on his way, Kevin came back. Then we went in search of the pearl and jade markets. And Success! We found them this time! Off of the island (or as I like to call it Americatown) the people don't speak English but you can still haggle with them using a calculator (numbers are the same.) We bought a necklace and bracelet for Yue Yu now, and some for when she's older. And wow- Jade really is a girl's best friend:-) She was so excited. We put them on her after we bought them and she felt like hot stuff. We also got lot's and lot's of hugs of appreciation:-) In walking around the side streets looking at all of the jade vendors we almost literally stumbled across a Buddhist temple tucked in between some massive buildings. We never would have seen it if we didn't happen to stop for a moment. There's was a giant cart of incense in the middle of the courtyard of the temple. It was this beautiful and obviously ancient place in the middle of the city-surrounded by high-rises and street vendors. As most of you know, I took some Chinese art history classes in college and that's what I've been looking for! Kevin took a few photos but people were obviously worshiping there so we didn't want to stay long or be obnoxious tourists. It made me very happy to see it though! So it was a happy day for me:-) later we walked through that walking/shopping district that I mentioned in another email. We found a book store. There were tons of children's books with what looked like Chinese fairytales. We kept asking C if she wanted some and she would literally wrinkle her nose up at them. Then she saw a book with sleeping beauty and Cinderella...THOSE she wanted! hahaha! We said she could have it and again we got some big hugs of appreciation- she's our girlie girl:-) In the center of the room there were school workbooks and she got very excited about a couple of them and obviously recognized them. We asked if she wanted those and she said yes, so we got those too. I am going to go back and get those Chinese fairytales. We should've gotten them when we were there. She may not want them now but she will someday! I really like getting off of the Island! Yesterday afternoon we had to go to the police station with Mr. Li. That's where we applied for her passport. We got to see our official adoption decree! That was cool! After that we spent the evening in out hotel room. We brought some dvds with us. When the boys didn't speak English they had their favorite movies- ones that you didn't need to speak any particular language to understand what was going on. So we watched some of those- "Chip and Dale" for example... that was a huge hit. She was laughing and laughing! We also brought Candyland with us. We didn't pack the box, but we brought the board and cards/gamepieces. She learned quickly how to play and she LOVES Candyland. We've played many games of Candyland now:-) Later we went back out to the herb market and bought some small starfish for each of the kids. I wonder if airport customs will let us bring those back with us? I guess we'll find out...
Today we've just been hanging out. She wasn't shy at all this morning. In fact I got a big hug. We don't have any appointments and it's been pouring rain all day. We've been hanging out playing Candyland and just playing. She seems completely out of her shell now. She jabbers on and on all the time. She also rolls her eyes at us because we don't know what she's saying hahahaha! She was reading Sleeping Beauty outloud to us- so cute! She obviously can read well because she was making voices and everything. She also worked on one of that math workbooks we bought for her at the bookstore and she can add and subtract. She's been really affectionate today. We've been getting hugs without having to ask. When we went down to breakfast our waiter was trying to talk to her (In Cantonese) and she just hid behind my back the whole time- she does not like strangers! Kevin was sitting on the bed putting his shoes on and she just climbed onto his shoulders:-) We are on our way out the door. We found out about some great local tours that you can take. There's a tour that includes two temples, a tomb museum, and I can't remember what all... we're booking that for this weekend. It's an all day tour. We're hoping to do that either Friday or Saturday. Hopefully the weather will clear up for our tour this weekend!
Love, Anita

group email from June 23

Hello! Today was our first full day with C. We had a great day. She is so adorable and such a silly, funny girl. This morning when she woke up she was pretty freaked out again. Yesterday she had gotten pretty comfortable with us. But this morning she was "frozen" again. She woke up and just laid in the bed. I went to say good morning but she wouldn't look at me or even acknowledge that I was there. She was doing that frozen with fear thing that she was doing at the CCAA. But having the boys has taught us a lot. For one thing, a picture really is worth a 1000 words! I went and got the camera (digital cameras are so awesome!) and just started showing her the photos that we took yesterday. We've learned that you can't always tell a child that they are safe and that things are good. You have to show them. And there's nothing that works better than when a child SEES himself/herself laughing and having fun with their new family in a photograph. After a few photos she started making tiny smiles, then she started making eye contact. By the time she got to the photos where she was making Kevin pose with her barbies, she was laughing! After we finished looking at the photos she bounced out of bed and was herself again! She has such a funny personality! After she was dressed I painted her toe nails and finger nails with the pink nailpolish that we brought for her. She LOVED that! She saw me putting on make-up and wanted me to put mascara on her- I just pretended to put some on her. We had to go back to the CCAA to finish signing some papers and I didn't want her to be our "painted lady":-) At breakfast she was really funny. She obviously has no idea what to do with silverware. We gave her chopsticks but she wanted to do what we were doing. She could use the fork pretty good but still struggled at little. At one point she gave up and used the chopsticks but then went back to the silverware:-) When we got to the CCAA she seemed a little scared again. I had Mr. Li (our guide) explain to her why we were there. We also brought the gameboy again to entertain her while we sat there waiting. She also LOVES to take pictures with our point and shoot digital camera. Our meeting was pretty short and we were back at the hotel around 10am. We played for a little while. She really opened up. She loves to be tickled! It's so funny! She and Kevin also had several pillow fights:-) It was pouring rain all morning. By early afternoon it had stopped so we decided to go out. We found the Chinese Medicine market. That was really cool. Kev of course took tons of photos. I love the dried starfish. I wonder if I can just buy a couple of them to take home? The dried seahorses are neat too but I feel too guilty buying those because I saw a documentary a few years ago about how endangered they are and China's traditional medicine market was mostly to blame.... if it weren't for that I'd want some of those too... but like I said, I feel too guilty. It was still really cool to see everything from snake skins and lizards to dried flowers and roots. We kept walking and found the pet market. The dogs and cats made me very sad! But the turtles and frogs were really cool. C loved the pet market! She was really excited about the puppies which makes me hopeful that she won't be too freaked over our dogs! Eventually we came to a really modern part of the city. It was a huge walking district full of modern buildings/shops/department stores etc. It reminded me of some of the parts of downtown Frankfurt, except on a larger scale. We came across a McDonalds (actually we saw FOUR of them during the course of the day.) C was tired from all of the walking so we decided to stop there for lunch. In this part of the city it's not all that close to Shamain Island which means I don't think as many Americans come around. We were certainly stared at a lot. On Shamain Island there are so many Americans and all with adopted Chinese children, so we're nothing new. But we got stared at A LOT in this area. I told Kevin it's like this is the zoo and we are the animals:-) The McDonalds was above a store, so we had to take an escalator. C had obviously never been on one before. She yelped a little when she stepped onto it and it was moving. Then she laughed and thought it was a lot of fun. She also LOVES McDonalds french fries and ketchup. (there's a cartoon on TV right now that she obviously knows, she's singing along with the theme song- it is sooooo cute!!!!) As we were walking back you could tell she was just beat. It was a lot of walking. So Kevin gave her a piggy-back ride back to the Hotel. We've been hanging out and playing together since then. She is really being herself and she's starting to be affectionate now too. It's so great to see how she behaves around other people. She is so shy. With all of the walking around the city and going into the shops etc she stuck right by us. Sometimes shop workers would try to talk to her and she would just back into me and take my hand. Even on the elevator up to our room, a man got in on one floor and when he stepped in, she backed right into me and took my hand. She's got the whole stranger-danger thing down. AND she definitely DOESN'T have issues with indiscriminate affection- that is such a relief. Even with Mr. Li who can speak to her and everything, she clams up and doesn't want anything to do with him. Her paperwork said she was really shy around strangers but that once she gets to know you she talks a lot... that's true! hahaha! She's a chatterbox and quite the actress:-) She loves to play and be silly. And like I said, by this evening she was letting us hug her and be affectionate and she enjoyed it instead of being afraid of it. She even hugged me once on her own! So things are going really well. We had so many photos that we wanted to email today that Kevin just made a quick little website of all of them:
We heard about some pearl and jade markets somewhere not too far off of the island. We hope to find them in the next day or two. I'm also hoping to buy some Jade for Yue Yu to have as she grows up because in China, Jade is a girl's bestfriend:-)

group email from June 22

We have her, we have her, we have her!!! She is sitting on the bed behind me watching TV with Kevin right now! So Mr. Li came to pick us up at 2pm. We went to the CCAA with another family that is also adopting a little girl. When we got there is was chaos! There were so many other families, it was so loud and so crazy. Our little girls weren't there yet. So we had to wait for a long time. Finally she arrived. I recognized her at once. We saw her come in from across the lobby with the orphanage director. I started to tear up at once- you know me, I'm a big cry baby! But I managed to get it under control before meeting her. When they brought her over she was so terrified. She was shaking and just looked straight ahead. The orphanage director sat her down right next to me and she was just frozen. I told her not to be afraid in Cantonese. The orphanage director was impressed but C just sat there as frozen as ever. We gave her the Sleeping Beauty barbie that we brought. When you push a button her dress lights up and changes from pink to blue (like the cartoon.) She liked it but was still just terrified. It was so awful because it was so loud and there were so many people. She went pale and vomited all over herself!!! The poor little girl!! It just broke my heart. But we had to be there while officials did I don't know what. I pulled out my Ipod and had her listen to Keane (I didn't know what else to have her listen to...) That seemed to perk her up a bit. She at least seemed more interested. Then Kevin remembered that he has his gameboy in his camera bag. Hello, PacMan was a huge hit! And we got a tiny smile out of her! Kevin and I showed her how to play and she was obviously loving it but still very shy. But it definitely broke the ice. We started showing her the photos that we took of her with the digital camera. She thought that was cool too and we got another tiny smile. (Oh my gosh, Kevin is tickling her right now and she's giggling so cute!!!.. but back to my story...) Then it was time to get into Mr. Li's car. She had to sit on my lap because there wasn't room. She seemed a little freaked by that. Kevin took photos and then showed her how to. She loved that! She turned around to take a photo of me and I stuck my tongue out. I got a real live smile then! WOW- her smile is adorable!! After that, she started smiling a lot. She took some self portraits with the camera and thought those were pretty funny too. When we finally got to the hotel she needed a shower (there isn't a bathtub) because she was still filthy from when she had thrown-up. (Oh my gosh- she's trying to tickle Kevin now...holy cow she's cute!!! but back to my story...) The Cantonese phrases that my mother's friend recorded for us are awesome!! We used them to tell her she needed a bath. She was really good about that and after that we showed her clothes and let her pick out an outfit. Then we showed her her toys. WOW, we got some more smiles then! She loved the stuffed cat and ran and put it next to her pillow. Then she saw the other barbies and played with them a minute and put them by her pillow too. She colored a picture in one of her coloring books and we got lot's of smiles and giggles then. (Oh my gosh she's literally rolling around on the floor laughing right now while she plays with Kevin!) Kevin ran nextdoor to Subway to get sandwiches for dinner. We were going to go to McDonalds but we thought we better stay at the hotel tonight. Kevin also got some ice cream bars and her eye lit up when she saw those! During dinner she opened up and started talking to us... we of course have no idea what she's saying but she was obviously having a good time. She's super smart to because she knows we don't speak Cantonese so she mimes things for us. She points and acts things out. So far we are "communicating" really well. She is having a lot of fun playing with us and is completely over her fear now. She even danced to my Ipod for a minute. She adores Kevin! You should see them playing right now!!!!! She's making him pose so she can take pictures of him with the camera hahahaha! She is so cute. She is so much cuter in person than in her photos, if you can believe that. (she's making Kevin pose with her barbies right now!hahahah!) She is so tiny too! Most of the clothes we brought for her are too big. She's teeny tiny. I can't believe we have her. She is doing really well and having lot's of fun. We are so happy to finally have her!

group email from June 21

Hello everyone! Just a quick update. We just heard from Mr. Li. He is meeting us at 2pm on Monday to go pick up C!!!!!!!!!! That is midnight on Sunday (technically 12am on Monday)  If anyone is awake then, think about us!!!
We're still doing really well. We went out again and found a small gallery/museum with some modern and ancient Chinese art. That was really neat. I loved the silk embroidery and carvings the most. Then we had dinner and now we're at the hotel. We're watching "National Treasure" on cable TV. Tomorrow morning we're going to go out and buy some candy to give C! I'm so excited!
Love, Anita

Email from the next morning:
Okay, in a few hours we get our little C!!! We're trying not to go crazy. We hung out for a while at the breakfast buffet at the hotel this morning. We experimented with the fruit buffet. There was this fruit that looked a little bit like a white strawberry that tasted really good. Then there was another fruit, a melon, that was light pink and tasted a lot like honeydew melon- very yummy. Then there was the other one we tried... it looked good, another melon of some sort I think. But it tasted a lot like feet. hahaha. Mmmm feet fruit, my favorite:-) hahaha. Right now we're just hanging out in our hotel room. We didn't want to go out before our appointment- we didn't want to get all sweaty and ick before we leave. We get C in a few hours. How am I not supposed to go crazy before then?! According to her paperwork, McDonalds is her favorite food. So, we may go to McDonalds for dinner tonight. It's really funny because we NEVER eat at McDonalds at home but we're going to McDonalds in China hahahaha! OH my gosh, I can not imagine how scared our C will be. We've learned how to say "don't be scared" in Cantonese. It's sounds a little like "M, SAI pa" Other than going to Mcdonalds I think we're going to take it easy tonight and just hang out in the hotel and try to play with C. Oh I hope she'll be okay!! Anyway... I'll let you know how it goes!
Love, Anita

group email from June 21

HI! Guess what? We're still in China! So we don't seem to have jet lag... not so far anyway. We didn't get to our hotel room until around midnight. We didn't sleep at all on the plane-which was torture but seems to have helped us out. We were so tired we fell asleep instantly. We woke up this morning around 9:30am (Guangzhou time.) We got dressed and ate breakfast. Then we hit the streets:-) We walked the entire island. Our hotel (and many other hotels, restaurants, AND the US Embassy) are all a part of Guangzhou that's called Shamain Island. It's an "island" because this part of the city is surrounded by the Pearl river. It's a lot smaller than I imagined it. We spent the morning exploring the island. We have sunny weather! And I sweat like a tourist! Wow, it's hot. There was a guy actually swimming in the river- yuck. But I briefly considered joining him to cool off:-) In my last email I mentioned how there are really modern buildings right next to buildings that look like they're going to fall down. We photographed a building like that right around the corner from our hotel. We also had to photograph some of that bamboo scaffolding that I mentioned. I would love to see those bamboo trees alive!! That is huge bamboo! The streets are all full of vendors obviously geared towards tourists. But it's still neat to see. There was a guy making ink paintings just using his hands and fingers. Kevin asked to take some photos of him doing it (he's my brave husband, I'm too chicken to do that) but we also bought some of his paintings. The funniest part was when we found a German restaurant! See Mom and Dad, you Germans are everywhere:-) We might eat dinner there tonight. It's too funny, and seeing as how my family is German we have to eat there once. The Chinese restaurants are cheaper so we'll probably mostly stick to those while we're here- after all- we're in CHINA. We finished walking the entire Island by 2pm. Like I said, it's a lot smaller than I thought and it's all hotels, restaurants, and tourist shops. We're trying to figure out how we can take some tours off of the island. The island is interesting but I want to see some history! Right now we're chilling in our hotel room- literally chilling- we've got the air-conditioner cranked up:-) We're supposed to get C tomorrow. We haven't heard anything from our guide... I guess he's just supposed to find us at our hotel room at some point and time? Hopefully he does. Oh, we found a 7-Eleven! We bought bottled water there... at 7-Eleven in China hahahaha! There's also a StarBucks and a Subway next to our hotel! See, we really need to get off of the Island! I think because this is where the US Embassy is, the Island is really geared towards Americans. Oh and everyone spoke English in all of the shops we went inside of. I can see how this place would be an Oasis to some Americans. And it'll probably be really nice for us too as the days go by. But I really do hope we can get off of the island and see CHINA. Its' like going to "Chinatown" in New York, except this is "Americatown." Well, tomorrow is a big day for us!!! I'm sure we'll have photos and lot's to say after we get C! here's hoping Mr. Li finds us...

group email from June 20

Here we are, Pizmo beach and all the clams we can eat! (that's a Bugs Bunny quote for those of you that don't know:-) ) We are in China! Can you believe it?! We are so tired we may fall over dead at any moment, but we're here! All of our flights went smoothly- no delays or anything. I thought I was going to lose my mind though during the last leg of our trip from Tokyo to Guangzhou. My legs were killing me and I didn't sleep at all the entire time- Kevin didn't either. But I have to tell you, when our plane pulled up to the airport in Guangzhou and I saw that big Chinese flag blowing in the breeze, it made my heart thump like crazy. We are really here. We are getting C. It is really happening! It's after midnight now. So we couldn't see much driving in the dark to the hotel. You can tell that there is a lot of smog. You can even smell it. The city is huge. We drove for 40 minutes and there was no end to it in sight. We saw a huge billboard for the NBA. There's nothing like going to the other side of the world and seeing a giant photo of Colby Bryant... too funny. All of the buildings are high rises. There are really modern looking high rises right next to another one that looks like it's about to collapse. And yet both are equally full of people. I saw another high rise with giant bamboo scaffolding on the outside. Such enormous "logs" of bamboo that they can be used to make scaffolding for such a large building. The traffic wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but it's really late at night too. The heat.... oh my gosh- I can't even describe it. It gets really hot in the summers back home. But and then the feels like you're trying to walk around in boiling soup (and have to breath it at the same time.) And again- it's after midnight... I can't imagine what it'll be like during the day! We'll probably find out tomorrow though:-) Well, we need to get some sleep! By the way, did I mention that we are in China?:-)
Love, Anita (and Kevin who is already in bed...)
ps it doesn't look like we'll be able to blog while we're here- so it'll be group emails...