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Lilypie Kids birthday Ticker
Monday, April 30, 2007
Updated (because I forgot a first)

Some firsts I haven't noted yet.

Here's Sera's first step on U.S. land. She became a citizen when we landed.

Friday night, Sera had her first meal ordered off the children's menu. Okay, she just licked the spoon. She liked the cheese, but wasn't wild about the macaroni. On the other hand, she loved the orange segment that garnished my strawberry daiquiri. So make that her first orange slice.

On Saturday, she had her first bites of hot dog. Jim grilled up some Hebrew National (the best!) hot dogs for our lunch. Sera was having a scrambled egg. I cut a little bit of hot dog into tiny pieces. She loved it.

She acted off all day Saturday. I thought it might have still been a reaction from her shots and the blood draw on Friday, but it turned into a sneezing, coughing, snotty cold.

Sunday, first time being sick. Sera is very active. She likes to go, go, go all the time. Very different from the clingy girl we met on 4/2. On Sunday, she just wanted to stay on our laps. Jim and I traded off holding her. Her appetite wasn't affected so our day went like this.

Feed Sera
Hold Sera while she kicked and cooed
Hold Sera while she slept
Feed Sera
and so on

You get the idea. As bad as I felt for how sick she felt, I loved being able to just hold and cuddle her so much.

Today's first? She's been quietly playing in her Pack 'n Play for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I'm just sitting here on the couch next to her, watching her and blogging. I think this is actually just because she's still not 100%. I'm going to let her go as long as she wants. I figure there's no sense in disturbing her if she's happy, and she is happy. She's playing, and cooing, and giggling away. She's also lying down alot which is not like her. She usually likes to get some floor time in so she can crawl in frenzied circles. Maybe tomorrow.

Finally, I just wanted to let the rest of my October LID friends know that I am so excited about today's rumors. It looks like referrals are on their way, and they'll finally finish the month of October. A special shout out to Colleen!

The forgotten first? One that shouldn't have happened yet, I don't think. I need to research it, but it doesn't matter 'cause it happened. Jim's favorite snack is vanilla ice cream with a spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate syrup. I was upstairs doing laundry Saturday when he came upstairs announcing he'd created a monster. He told me to look at Sera's face. There was nothing to see, but her hand covering most of her face as she sucked her thumb. I tried to move her hand, but she held tight. All his evidence was gone. Jim then told me what happened. He had made a bowl of ice cream and was playing with Sera. Before he knew what was happening, she'd grabbed a handful of peanut butter and chocolate syrup and shoved it in her mouth. I think at this point I gasped and said, "You gave her peanut butter?" He told me it had been smeared all over her face. She loved it so much that she literally wiped it off her own face and was sucking it off her thumb. Luckily, it appears we can rule out peanut allergies. We haven't given her any more though.


Saturday, April 28, 2007
Who Knew
That I would ever be too busy to get on the computer. That's either too busy or too exhausted, but also too happy.

I do apologize for not posting every day though. Jim is the first one to let me know that I'm slacking. He relies on my morning posts to get a peak at what's going on at home. On Thursday, I fell asleep with Sera during her morning nap. That's usually my blogging and showering time. I had to wait until he got home to get that shower becasue of my nap.

I also spent part of Thursday looking for a new doctor for Sera. We're not happy with our family doctor's treatment of Sera. When we talked to him during the pre-adoption phase, we asked him for a reference for a pediatrician. He assured us that he was experienced with international adoption and could easily handle her care when we got home. She is seemingly healthy, but I still wanted all the standard adoption screening tests run as I don't trust the medical records we received. He felt they weren't necessary. He gave her two booster shots and said he'd see us in three months.

The next weekend, I learned that one of the girls who had been adopted from Sera's orphanage had tested positive for exposure to TB. This is not unusual and simply means she'll be taking medication for 9 months. First thing Monday morning, I called our doctor's office and explained what I had learned. Several hours later, I received a call from his nurse telling me that if I was concerned about TB that I needed to contact the health department. I was furious. I do not think Sera has TB. The other child does not have TB, but she has been exposed to it. This is extremely common in international adoption. Any doctor who is familiar with IA would know this. This added to the fact that he didn't run the tests I wanted led me to my local Yahoo group. I posted asking for some local doctor's names who were experienced. Within 24 hours I had six names.

I wrote down their names and numbers and started to go down the list. The first doctor I called was recommended by two friends. Both have daughters from China, and one just came home in December. I spoke to the receptionist and she listed the tests they suggested. The list matched the one I had, and even better, they had a cancellation for Friday afternoon. Since it was late Thursday afternoon when I spoke to them, I jumped on that appointment.

Jim made arrangements to come home at lunch to go with us to the doctor. I am so glad he did. I would not have wanted to go through this alone. Though it was really poor Sera who went through it. She does not like doctors. She is so friendly and open with everyone, but any time someone in a uniform comes to her, she starts to cry. She was sobbing during her examination. I was holding her and the doctor was just listening to her heart and checking her eyes, mouth, and ears and checking her organs. Nothing painful. As soon as the doctor stopped and I turned her around, the tears stopped. At first, she wasn't going to get any more shots. The doctor was concerned about the boosters she had been given. They were supposed to be given after her first birthday. They were given the day before, plus there's the question about the accuracy of her birthdate. The new doctor would have preferred to wait a little longer to be on the safe side. It won't hurt Sera, but when she begins school, they may require her to get them again. She did end up getting three more shots: Hep A, pneumococcal something, and Hipb influenza something. Obviously, I don't remember their exact names and I'm too lazy to go find the paper that lists them.

The doctor gave us a bag with gloves, two tubes, and some wooden sticks. Yep, a stool specimen sampling kit. Fun Times! And we left. Sera must have thought she was off the hook and we were done, but no. We then headed to the lab where they apparently needed to gather 3 gallons of blood. There was a whole tray full of tubes. It was the worst thing we've gone through with Sera. The first tech couldn't find a vein in either arm. The second tech thought she felt a small one in her right arm. I held her on my lap while Jim held her arm our straight. The tech dug around a bit, but couldn't find the vein. She got a third tech. They said something about only being able to get enough blood from finger sticks to do two of the tests, so that's what I thought they were going to do. I suggested bringing her back on Monday immediately following a bottle and maybe we'd have better luck. They then asked me if I wanted to stop. I told them I'd rather get it over with. The third tech tried the other arm and found a vein. By now, I had to hold her. Jim had her legs. The second tech was holding her arm, and the third tech was drawing the blood. They were able to get a full vial. I got the impression that would be enough to run all the tests. I have never heard Sera scream and cry like she did during this. It truly sounded like we were killing her. My sister asked me if I cried. No, I didn't. I was so focused on trying to hold her still to get it over with and with trying to calm her down. I just kept telling her it was going to be okay. As soon as they bandaged her arm, she practically leapt off my lap and into Jim's arms. He cuddled her for a few minutes and then she reached for me. She was sobbing so hard that she was hiccuping. When we left the room, you could see everyone turning to stare at us. People were whispering that she was the crying baby. I got her in her carseat and she fell instantly asleep. She was still hiccuping in her sleep. When we got home, I carried her into the living room, sat down, reclined my seat and held her as she fell back asleep and for the next two and a half hours. I didn't have the heart to put her down after her ordeal.

When she woke up, she was very groggy and cranky. Jim made her favorite scrambled eggs, which she devoured, plus her sweet potatoes & rice cereal, and a bottle, and our sweet, playful Sera came back.

She woke up just in time for a visitor. Our good friend, Ann, came by to meet her and bring her two lovely outfits and the cutest sleeper. Ann walked in wearing a long blue coat, very much like the lab techs (it was cold and rainy here), and Sera wanted nothing to do with her. Jim suggested she take off the coat and Sera gave her a big smile and started playing. I think lab coats remind her of the orphanage. In the photos I've seen, the nannies wear something very similar.

We had planned to go out to dinner as I was supposed to do a mystery shop. I didn't think we'd be able to go, but since she'd bounced back so well, we decided to give it a shot. We ran into one of the moms who'd recommended the doctor. Sera and her daughter got to meet, and we got to meet each other's husbands. We had a lovely dinner with Ann and headed home.

I gave Sera some Tylenol and some Orajel. Yep, she's cutting a big tooth on top of everything else and Jim got her settled for the night. She was out like a light and slept almost twelve hours. She'd had a hard day.

After such a long and emotionally exhausting day, I finally got on the computer and read Melissa's message. Thank you, Melissa. I am honored that you thought of me. Melissa's blog is one that has made me laugh and made me cry. Your Ava is going to be one happy little girl to find a family as great as yours. That you thought of me for this award makes it even more special.

Now it's my turn to pay it forward. Here are five blogs that I love and make me think. I'm also going to try and make sure they haven't already been tagged.

1) Alyson's Three P's in a Pod immediately comes to mind. Alyson is always researching the history or meaning behind something and posting to let us all know about it. She's an invaluable resource and a great friend who has recently received her referral. I can't wait to follow her to China.

2) Antique Mommy. This is a blogger I don't know personally. I can't remember how I found her. I lurk a lot on her site and comment occasionally. Though she's not part of the adoption world, I loved her insight on becoming a first-time mom in her mid-forties. Kind of struck home, ya know?! She is also one of the funniest writers in the blogosphere. Honestly, I can't believe she wasn't already nominated. I just doublechecked her archives, but couldn't find a post.

3) Kate at Because I Said So is another. I enjoy reading Kate. She's fun and spunky and you know she'd be a blast over a grande mocha.

4) Chicago Mama also makes me think. She has very definite opinions on a myriad of subjects. I find I agree with her more often than not, plus I admire her ability to clearly state her thoughts. She's another I'd love to share a coffee with.

5) And finally, Wendi at My Heart is Always Home. Wendi is the person I want to be. She's much more organized with her baking and crafts. She posts projects she's completed that I'd look at and say I'd like to do someday. Wendi was also with my travel group to China, though we were only together for the first and last part as her daughter came from a different province.

There are so many great blogs out there that I read and that I haven't found yet. Many, many of them had already been nominated so I looked for the ones in my Bloglines that haven't been and deserved to be. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Ladies, here's your info!

Congratulations, you won a Thinking Blogger Award!

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Don't really have a theme today, more a hodgepodge of things to say.

We went on our first playdate yesterday. We have a local Yahoo group of families that have adopted from China. I've been going to the mom's night out dinners for a few months. Every Tuesday morning, they have a playdate for the kids. When the weather gets, and stays, warmer, it will be at a local park. For now, it's McDonalds.

Sera had a wonderful time. She didn't really play with the other kids. Most of them are older and were climbing around in whatever that thing is called. She had fun doing her crawl from one end to another. We stayed two hours, and that was too long. It was only a 10 minute ride home, but she slept those 10 minutes and then wouldn't go back down for her afternoon nap. It was all I could do to keep her awake then until bedtime. I gave up and fed her dinner at 5pm. By 5:30, she was out. This wasn't respecting the schedule, and it came back to haunt me. She woke up at 7:30 and again around 8:30. Then she woke up at 2am. She wouldn't go back to sleep, she was too playful. She wouldn't play, she was too sleepy. See the problem? I took her into the guest bedroom, but she flopped around so much I was afraid I'd fall asleep and she'd fall off the bed. We went back to her room and I sat in the rocker. She slept fine across my lap. I lightly dozed because I kept thinking she'd roll off my lap. At 6am, I heard Jim start his shower. Sera and I then crawled into our bed and slept until 7:15.

Today, we followed the schedule. This required some conniving on my part. My friends and fellow teachers, Patti & Donna, hosted a baby shower/welcome home party for Sera and me this afternoon after school. To make sure Sera was up for it, I put her in the car around 1:45 and drove around so she'd sleep. I learned my way around different parts of the area, and she slept until 3:15. I then pulled into a parking lot and fed her. By the time we got to Patti's she was well rested, recently fed, and ready for a party. It was a lovely party. Sera had a wonderful time and got lots of attention. She also got a lot of very nice gifts. She has plenty of clothes to get her through the summer, plus we're now set in the bath towel area as well. The car will appreciate the seat protector for underneath the carseat, and Sera got some fun new toys as well. One of the most special gifts came from Terri. She's an avid quilter and knows that I never did anything with all those quilt squares I collected. She is going to piece together the quilt for Sera. I am so grateful and thrilled. Formal thanks will be going out, but I just wanted to thank all of the ladies who treated us today.

I had the camera with me, but didn't take any pictures. Patti was snapping away, so I'm hoping to get some copies from her.

One tip I keep forgetting to mention for those who are travelling to China is Bloglines! Many blogs, especially Blogger blogs, are blocked in Beijing and elsewhere. We could only get them half the time in Beijing and Chongqing. I was able to keep reading them though because the Blogline feeds still came through. If you want to read blogs while you are in China, make sure you sign up for Bloglines and subscribe to the blogs you follow.

Months ago, I linked to a post by Antique Mommy because it was one of the funniest things I'd read. She's done it again.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007
It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

Sera is napping right now, so I have a chance to write a little bit. We have an exciting day planned as we're going on our first playdate. A local group of moms, who've adopted from China, meet every Tuesday morning. When it's warmer, we'll meet at a park. Today, it's McDonald's, Sera's first trip there.

This is a picture I took on Friday. She likes to sit with her legs that way. She was crying because she didn't want to nap when she just fell forward and was sound asleep. This is my proof that we'll need to save up for gymnastic lessons. As uncomfortable as it looks, I have to assume it's not for her as she does this all the time.
The rest of the weekend after the lacrosse match was pretty low-key. We stayed at home and got back on the schedule. As further proof of the importance of the schedule, on Friday her nap was late and bedtime was really late. She woke up at 4:30 am. On Saturday, naps were extremely short and bedtime was normal. She woke up at 1:30 am. On Sunday and Monday, back to normal nap and bedtime. She slept through the night on Sunday and Monday. Once again, RESPECT THE SCHEDULE. Lesson learned. Just because she's going full steam and seems to be having fun, don't let her stay up later.

Last week was Jim's first week back at work, and my first week at home with Sera. She became even more clingy with me and was slow to warm up to Jim when he came home. He takes over when he comes home and gives me a break for an hour or two. We spent a lot of time on Saturday morning lying in bed and playing, all three of us, and he spent the majority of the weekend holding her and playing with her. It paid off. There is a huge difference this weekend. She lit up with the biggest smile when he came home yesterday and is much happier when he holds her. She still reaches for me, but it's no longer immediate. She reaches for him now, too. She especially likes to play what we call Hot Potato Baby. She reaches for one of us and when we take her, she turns and reaches for the other. Yesterday, while playing this game, we made a Sera Sandwich, where we held her between us. She loved this. I think she's still enjoying having two people at her beck and call.


Sunday, April 22, 2007
Respect the Schedule!

Jim came home from work on Friday ready for the weekend. He was in some serious Sera-withdrawal. She had ended up napping late in the day, and it was beautiful outside, so we decided to test out a baseball game.

First, I should backtrack. Jim called me during his prep time on Thursday to let me know that he had to stay after school and officiate at the girls' track meet. It was sunny and warmer than it had been since we got home, so he suggested I bring Sera out. She loved it. She loved watching the activity and being outside.

Since she handled the track meet so well, we decided to test out the local single-A baseball team, the South Bend Silverhawks. We love to go to their games. We planned to go and stay as long as she was happy. She had the best time. She was playing and giggling the whole time. We sat behind the dugout on the third base line. During the national anthem, I held her in front of me while she stood on the dugout. I'm sure the players really appreciated her squeaky shoe accompaniment to the anthem. We weren't concerned about annoying other spectators as there were maybe 20 people around us and no one sitting next to us or behind us.

We ran into our old stadium friends. They always sit across the aisle from us, and we caught up. We also remembered that our friends, Doug & Laura, were planning to attend the game in one of the suites. We saw them on the balcony, but they didn't hear Jim call them, so he tried the phone instead. It worked much better than yelling. They came down and sat with us for a little while with their sons. Sera was much more awake than the last time they saw her, so it was a nice visit.

They made some great improvements to the stadium and its offerings this year. The place looked extra clean and shiny. They've also expanded and improved their menu offerings. For dinner, Jim went up to the concession stand and bought a couple of the new menu items for us to try out. Sera seemed particularly interested in the chili cheese fries. Since she just started eating rice cereal mixed with baby food this week, we thought we'd hold off another week or two on the chili cheese fries.

Sera had a great time and didn't start getting fussy until the 7th inning stretch. We left right after Take Me Out To The Ballgame. She loved that part. The team has one of those giant mascots. She enjoyed watching him from a distance, but wasn't happy at all when he came over and waved to her.

You would think that with a late night, she would have slept in. Wrong-o. She woke up at 4:30 in the morning. We played for awhile in bed after the morning bottle. Jim got a banana and shared it with Sera. She LOVES bananas. She would use her four little teeth and chomp down on that sucker. After an hour and a half or so of play, she fell asleep and Jim and I joined her in the nap.

After we woke up, Sera got her scrambled eggs, rice cereal with applesauce, and refused her bottle. She ate more egg and cereal than usual, so I think she was full. We had promised Doug & Laura's son that we'd go to his lacrosse game, so we packed up the good stroller, the diaper bag, and a cooler of drinks and headed out. It truly is amazing the amount of stuff we're lugging around these days. Oh yeah, the camera, too.

We all had a great time at the game. Laura was there with their daughter. She is three years old and wants to play with Sera so badly. They're going to be great friends. Though his team lost, DJ played really well and scored his first goal. Not bad for a freshman player. Jim got a picture of the play.

DJ running downfield

The game ran really long and delayed Sera's afternoon nap time. She slept in the car on the way home, but it was only a thirty minute drive. I hoped she'd fall right back asleep when we got home as she was so tired. No go. She had refused her bottle again at the game, so I tried another. Wouldn't drink it. I made it hotter. No. Cooler. No. Finally, I remade it with the previous days mixture and added the rice cereal back. I've been transitioning her off the Chinese formula and on to Enfamil. She guzzled that bottle down, but she was just fussy. She didn't want to be held, but she screamed if you put her down. She was overtired, but she'd fight her way back just as she was about to sleep. She had a little too much sun and was just too tired. We gave her a bath in a Johnson & Johnson Bedtime bath and rubbed that lotion all over her. She loves to have lotion rubbed on her skin. Jim then rocked her, sang to her, and put her to bed. She fussed, but finally went out. We crawled into bed and watched the two episodes of Lost I had taped and fell asleep ourselves. We had set Lost to tape on the VCR while we were gone, but it didn't. We missed three episodes, but they repeated the last one before airing Wednesday's episode. Now, we've only missed two. Where did the Others go?

Jim took a lot of pictures yesterday, but has the camera and cable in the basement. I'll look for good pictures to post later. I'm on the second floor doing laundry and posting. Jim has Sera downstairs in the living room. She was napping while he held her in the recliner. I don't want to disturb them as Sera missed Daddy-time during the week. They're making up for it over the weekend. And we learned to respect the schedule. Delayed bed times and naps equals unhappy Sera which means unhappy mom and dad.

By the way, DJ took the above photo at the baseball game. Didn't he do a great job!

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Friday, April 20, 2007
Settling In
It's definitely happening. We've had three nights in a row where Sera slept through the night. It's still taking about an hour to get her to sleep though. She fights it like you would not believe. When she's about to drift off, she'll start swinging her leg, scratching her sheet, or pounding her mattress. Some sort of repetitive movement to stave off sleep. She gets so tired. She cries and screams. It's definitely I'm mad and I don't want to sleep scream until she finally falls asleep exhausted and tear-stained. When she wakes she makes unhappy noises until you pick her up and then it's all giggles and smiles. I just wish she'd go down a little easier. It's so hard to watch her get so upset and not cave. I just stroke her back and talk quietly. I tell her we love her, and we'll be there when she wakes up. I know she doesn't know the words, but I hope the tone gets through. Daddy is much better at getting her to sleep than me. Here's why.

Her new Pack 'n Play arrived, and I set it up yesterday. She seems to enjoy it. It's larger than the usual ones. It's geared more to toddlers, kind of like an old-fashioned playpen. The standard ones seem geared to newborns more with their changing tables, mobiles, and massage features. Massage features?

I like it because I can put her in a safe place when I do the dishes, eat my lunch, go to the bathroom. It also gives both her and Shadow a break from each other. When she's on the floor, I have to watch her every second. She's fast. I was even able to get a good start on thank you cards while she played yesterday. As long as I'm in sight, she's content.

Breakfast is Egg-cellent!

She may be a girl, but she's still Daddy's little Tiger.

Who is that beautiful girl in the mirror?

I saw Sera playing with one of her birthday presents and grabbed the camera. Thank you, Granddaddy and Grandma Nora! At first, she liked throwing the little balls. Yesterday she figured out that pounding them in the drum made the monkey sing.

Thursday, April 19, 2007
Is That A Corner On The Horizon?
If so, I think we're turning it.

Sera went down for the night at 7:30 pm. She woke up this morning at 6:15 am. Yes, two nights in a row!

Our morning routine in China was for her to wake up, get a bottle, new diaper, and cuddle time. Not necessarily in that order. We'd then go to breakfast. After breakfast, we'd either return to the room for her morning nap, or get on a tour bus where she'd nap.

Both yesterday and this morning, she never fully woke up. She's a quiet morning person. She likes to eat, cuddle, and play a little, but not too much. She'll then start the head and eye rubbing, and she's ready for a nap within an hour and a half of waking up. It's almost like she's just getting up for a quick bite and cuddle.

When she wakes from her morning nap, she's ravenous. Yesterday, she ate half a scrambled egg, two scoops of rice cereal mixed with 2 big spoonfuls of sweet potatoes, and an 8 oz bottle of formula. She protested when the bottle ran dry, then it's play time. She plays hard in the afternoon. She's on the floor with the dog and she doesn't stop. So far, she's taken her afternoon naps in the car. Today, I don't have any errands planned, so we'll try nap time in her new Pack 'n Play. It arrived yesterday, and I set it up this morning. I'm hoping she really likes it. It's bigger than the usual ones. I'm hoping it can "contain" her downstairs so I can do some things, like dishes, while she plays.

I'm going to try for more pics during today's play time.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Ahhhh, Sleep
Sera ended her birthday by being very cranky. It was extremely difficult to get her to sleep. Just ask daddy as he was the one doing the work. Everytime he had her asleep, the phone would ring, or the dog would bark. We finally unplugged the phone. Still haven't figured out how to unplug the dog.

She finally crashed about 8:00. That doesn't sound late, but keep in mind that she started acting sleepy and doing her sleep signs: one thumb in mouth, the other rubbing her forehead, around 6:00.

Around midnight, she squawked. It's not a pretty way to describe it, but that's what it sounded like. About 10 seconds later, she gave a smaller squawk, and then, nothing. She slept until 5:00 this morning. I woke up at 4:00 and realized she was still asleep. How wonderful. She slept 9 hours and I slept 7 1/2. It's the most either of us have slept since we got home. Still short of her regular 10-11 hour night, but not by much.

Today, we visited my school. We crashed the end of B lunch and then visited my department chair's class for a few minutes, by request. Afterwards, we stopped in guidance and then the main office. Sera was quite the hit. She does so well when she's meeting new people. I am amazed at how well she's adapting. She's friendly and waves and smiles to people, yet she still shows a strong preference for me. That's important because it shows she's attaching to me. Children raised in orphanages will often go to anyone. What might be considered "friendly" behavior can actually be a sign of an attachment issue.

Today's afternoon nap was way too short. She slept for 40 minutes in the car, but wouldn't sleep once we got home. I was willing to sit in the car and read my book while she slept, but she woke up when I turned off the engine. She didn't sleep once we got inside, but she was content to sit with me and relax. Just when she'd start falling asleep, she'd start playing with her feet or my face to wake herself up. She needs sleep so badly, but doesn't want to go to sleep. I don't know if it's because she's overstimulated or fearful of changes when she wakes. She and Jim are out on a Sam's run right now getting some daddy/daughter time and giving mom a little break. I've got dinner on the stove and the washer and dryer going. I'd better get some pictures up, and get back to work. This stay-at-home-mom stuff is hard work!

Did you know it's impossible to get a one-year-old and a dog to pose? Here are some attempts to get a picture of them playing. Sera kept looking away just as I clicked. I missed the best shot. Sera straddled Shadow's tail and sat down leaning against his butt. He looked back, saw it was her, and went back to his chew while calmly flicking the end of his tail. They've become fast buddies. She believes Puffs should be shared and sends at least every other one down to the floor and watches him eat it.

It's birthday cake time!

Just as we're about to light the candle, some friends drop in. Perfect timing!

What am I supposed to do with this thing?

Okay, I stuck my hand in it. Now what?

Shadow is far more interesting than this stuff on my fingers.

Cake, be gone!

I'll stick to my Puffs.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Happy Birthday, Sera!
Though it's not starting out as her happiest day. We've had a bit of a rough morning. By morning, I mean starting at 12:30 am. She's finally taking a little nap. We're supposed to go on a playdate at 10:30 am. Local moms who've adopted from China meet at a Mickey D's on Tuesdays to let their kids play together. When the weather is warmer, they switch to the park.

I want to take Sera because she loves to watch other children. It's also her birthday today, and we don't have a "celebration" planned. It was just too soon.

I plan to take some pictures today. Sorry they've been lacking. I plan to post more often soon, too. It seems that my time has become very scarce lately. I know it will be fine once we can get her completely adjusted sleep wise.

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Monday, April 16, 2007
'Cause It's All About The Poo
As anyone who has read anything about China adoption knows, you anxiously wait for that first poopy diaper. They told us to make sure Sera did not go more than 48 hours between poopy diapers even if we had to resort to drastic measures. When we first received Sera, we were right up on the deadline when we decided to use the suppository. She was obviously miserable, and the prune juice wasn't doing a thing.

After that, I set mental deadlines. No poopy diaper by such-and-such time and she'd have to have another suppository. She always went to the limit, but would have one just in time. She was averaging every other day.

Yesterday marked the third day in a row where we had a daily poopy diaper. Woo Hoo! Now to totally embarrass her when she reads this some day, I have to say that I love the face she makes when she's taking care of business. She scrunches up her eyes and nose and her entire face turns red. She then gives a little grunt and smiles. It's hysterical.

If you read my last post before Jim came in and edited, I apologize. I usually proofread myself, but time was short and sleep was shorter. When Jim saw what I mess I had written, he cleaned it up for me.

We've turned a corner, and today is starting out wonderfully. Jim and I didn't really feel jet lagged as we were more than willing to sleep on the US schedule. Sera, on the other hand, was all discombobulated. It peaked on Saturday. Friday had been a beautiful day so we were able to get out and about all day in the sun. Saturday was gray, cold, rainy, and snowy. We spent far too much of the day napping and lazing around. We had been invited over to our friends', Doug and Laura, house for dinner. It was great to get out of the house and have a home cooked meal. Sera had a great time playing with, or watching, their children and fell asleep around 7. We left at 9 because it wasn't as cute when I started falling asleep on their sofa. By the time we got home, gave Sera her last bottle, and got her to bed it was 11 pm. We went to bed at 11:05. At 2 AM, she woke up. Jim tried to get her back to sleep for 30 minutes. Then I tried. After an hour, I got her asleep and 10 minutes later she was crying. We gave up. She wanted to get up.

Around 6ish, we headed out. We knew she needed more sleep and she'd sleep in the car. We hoped she'd fall asleep and we'd get some breakfast and then find a 24-hour store because they'd be open at dawn o'clock on a Sunday morning. The plan worked, except for the sleep part.

At 9:30, we decided that a long drive might do the trick. We wanted her to get a long nap in early in the day. We decided to drive up into Michigan to look for Tigers stuff. The drive would be about 40 minutes each way. On our way, we decided just to head up to Kalamazoo. She slept for about two hours. We got to Kalamazoo and went to Meijer's, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Babies R Us. Yes, all of these stores are in our home town, too. We then headed back home. She slept for another hour on the way home.

Once home, Jim and I played with her on the floor of her nursery. We kept her playing hard. We were all fading. She was ready for sleep, Jim was operating on 3 hours sleep, and I had one more hour because I fell asleep on the way home from Kalamazoo, too.

We decided we needed to leave the house again. We went out to a neighborhood restaurant we like. Chinese food, can you believe it??? We got home at 5:50. I heard Jim snoring in our room by 6pm. Sera was down by 6:15, and I was asleep by 6:30. She slept until midnight. Her longest single stretch since we've gotten home. I tried to get her back to bed, but she wouldn't go back into a deep sleep and kept crying. I took her into the guest room and we slept until 4 am. TEN HOURS!!!! What a wonderful morning. Jim played with her while I got to shower, start some laundry, plan her clothes for the day, and just have a minute to myself. Then I took over play duty while he got ready for work.

At 6:30, she went down for her morning nap. I was able to eat breakfast, fold a load of clothes, fill the washer and dryer again, get the paperwork ready for her doctor's visit today, and write this. I'm letting her sleep as long as she wants as we have a busy afternoon planned and she won't get a long afternoon nap today.

It really is about the basics right now, eating, pooping, and sleeping...and not necessarily in that order.

If you tried calling or emailing me this weekend, I apologize for not getting back to you. If we were home, we were probably asleep.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007
I Just Flew In From China, and Boy Are My Arms Tired!
Wow, it seems like forever since I last posted. A lot has gone on since then. Let me start with our last days in China.

I believe I left off just before we left for the U.S. Consulate. That was some experience. Wouldn't you think a U.S. government building, even in another country, would be ADA compliant? Well, no. A huge flight of stairs and then five floors of escalators with a stroller. Good times.

Once there, we were escorted into a large room filled with chairs. In the middle was an Ikea children's table, chairs, and some toys. The vast majority of the children being adopted were too young for these, but they sure came in handy for the big sisters and brothers. The room was standing room only as we learned that there were 55 families there waiting to be sworn in and receive their visas. There were around 20 or so with my agency as the rest had their appointments scheduled for the next day. We waited for about 15 minutes before getting in line. When we reached the front, the attendant verified that the child we held matched the photo on the passport and visa application. We then returned to our seats.

After another 20-30 minutes, an official came out. Before beginning the swearing in ceremony, he made an announcement saying that he had bad news. A computer glitch in Washington D.C was preventing the approved visas from printing. All 55 waiting families had been approved, but only 8 visas had printed. The problem had started the previous Monday and was affecting U.S. Consulates around the world, not just in China. He explained a few more details and then performed the swearing in ceremony.

He asked us all to raise our right hands and repeat what he said. Sera had just learned within the day or two prior to wave to people. When she saw a room full of people raise their hands, she did too. How cute is that!!

After we were sworn in, the family sitting with us told us that Tracy had just told him that "you two are fine, your visas came in." He took that to mean his family and ours. Jim was more cautious and thought she might have meant John and his wife, Jen. We hunted her down to confirm and learned that we did have our visa. She handed the brown envelope to us that we'd have to turn in to Immigration in Chicago. She was visibly upset because she hadn't been warned at all. Her cell phone number was on every one of our applications. If she'd known in advance, she could have prepared our group. This was devastating news as you can't leave China without that visa. Tracy and a couple of parents stayed behind while the rest of us returned to the hotel. The other coordinators were frantically working to change everyone's travel plans as most were scheduled to leave Guangzhou before 8 the following morning. 8:00 AM was the time the official gave us as most likely to receive the rest of the visas.

Jim and I felt so bad for our fellow travellers. Many of them had children waiting at home. When you're at the end of a long trip, the last thing you want to hear is that you can't go home. There were tears and the Consulate official definitely had his ear turned by a few parents.

I had finished the majority of our packing before we left for the consulate. Our plan after returning to the hotel was to get an early dinner, finish up our shopping, buy a suitcase, and finish packing. The families who were flying to Beijing or Tokyo had to have their luggage packed and ready that night for pick up. The two families, including us, flying to Shanghai had to have our bags packed and ready by 6:30 AM.

On our way out to eat, we ran into many of the families who had not received their visas. We felt so bad that we knew we were heading home when they were still unsure. I know they didn't blame us, but it still felt awkward.

The Cow and Bridge was our favorite restaurant on Shamian Island, so we returned there for our final meal. We then went to Jordon's and bought some final gifts and a suitcase. Sera was getting cranky so Jim took her back to the hotel while I went and picked up a gift we had made and to spend the rest of our yuan.

When I got back to the hotel room, Jim headed to Tracy's room to pick up our paperwork. It was probably around 8:30 by this point. Tracy and the other coordinators were there. She had just received the call that all the visas had come through. Jim said the room was filled with people waiting to hear and that they just started cheering. We were so happy to hear they'd all be going home. The only problem now was they hadn't packed and luggage pick up was scheduled in one hour! I'm sure they were given an extension. We were especially pleased because we had travelled with one particular family for the entire trip. We met in Chicago and had been together the whole time. We now knew we'd travel back to Chicago with them.

Since we were flying to Shanghai again, we were still limited to the one checked bag of 44 pounds per person. We knew we weren't going to make it. We were supposed to have a seat on the flight for Sera, but our travel agency had only gotten us a lap ticket. We weren't concerned because it was a two hour flight, but really needed the extra suitcase her ticket would give us. Between the group pictures and the consulate visit, Jim and Tracy took a taxi to China Southern and bought Sera a seat ticket. It was a great experience for Jim to see a little more of the real Guangzhou.

We didn't have enough to fill a third suitcase, but having it allowed me to spread things out a bit more. After I packed all our bags, Jim weighed them on the bathroom scale, and we were actually underweight on each bag. If there is a luggage packing competition, I want in.

Our travel day started very smoothly. We were driven to the airport with two other families. One would stay with us, while the other was catching a flight to Hong Kong. We arrived in Shanghai and headed towards American Airlines. We had to wait in line for almost two hours before they finally started checking us in. We got to the counter, and I pulled our tickets from my passport holder and Sera's ticket was missing. Jim's and my tickets were e-tickets, and we had the confirmation number on the itinerary. Sera's ticket had been paper. The guy checking us in was obviously new and struggled with our problem. It took two supervisors and over 40 minutes before they had us checked in. They wouldn't, however, give us the boarding passes until we went to the ticket counter and filed for a lost ticket. Jim waiting at the check in as they finished up. Sera and I headed to the ticket counter. There we ended up with two people working on it as they couldn't find her ticket in the computer. They suggested I contact my travel agency when I explained that my agency was in San Francisco where it was then around midnight.

By this time, Jim had joined us. He started digging through the adoption paperwork because he remembered that he'd pulled all the used boarding passes from our holders and put them in the portfolio in case I wanted to scrapbook them. Sure enough, there was Sera's ticket. By this time, I was tired, hot, dehydrated, and starving. I was so happy to see that ticket, I almost cried. The agents looked at the ticket and remarked how funny it was they couldn't find it. They then handed it back to me and said we could return to check in as we didn't need them now.

We grabbed our boarding passes and headed towards security. When we finally made it to our gate, we met up with the other family and a new one we'd met on the flight from Guangzhou. They had twin girls around 11 they'd adopted from Russia and their new 3-year-old daughter. I got Sera, who was also starving, fed and changed while Jim went on a food hunt for us. He brought back these club like sandwiches that under other circumstances might have disgusted me. I thought they were the best thing I'd ever eaten. Hunger truly is the best seasoning.

When they finally started boarding our flight, I heard those words I'd longed to hear during our trip. Families with small children may now board. It is sooooo much easier to settle in on a plane when you're on early then when you're being pushed and shoved by everyone else. I had Sera in the carrier and she actually fell asleep as we went through the boarding procedure. I had to take her out of the carrier as we started to taxi, but she still slept through it. She would have probably slept a couple of hours, but the PA announcements went on forever and woke her up. She was a little tired and clingy for about half an hour and then went into full play mode. By putting the backpack on the floor of the seat between Jim and me, we were able to create a level surface from the back of our seat to the back of the seat in front of us. We used the airline's blankets and pillows to create a baby-safe area in that seat. She played and laughed and giggled for several hours. When she went to sleep, we lay her there and she was able to stretch out and sleep. She slept for 8 hours and woke up about an hour before we landed. She was a trooper, and we couldn't have asked for an easier flight with her. Jim and I slept very little, Jim less than I. I did, on the other hand, watch three complete movies: Charlotte's Web, Miss Potter, and The Pursuit of Happyness.

It took about an hour to get through Immigration and Customs. When we finally got to the end we hugged our friends goodbye. They went in one direction to re-check their luggage, and we went another to meet our friend, Eric. We were soooo happy to be home. We stopped at one of the travel oases on the toll road and got a large Mountain Dew and a large Dr. Pepper with lots of ice and two Subway sandwiches filled with lettuce and other fresh veggies.

We got home around 9:30. Sera and Shadow are adjusting to each other. We think they'll end up best of friends. Sera is having some small sleep issues while adjusting, but relatively minor. Her normal 2-3 hour afternoon nap yesterday was more like 6 hours. We got up and out early to try and start adjusting. We ate breakfast out, went to the grocery store, and came home to try for a morning nap. It wasn't happening, so we went to Jim's school and made the introductions. She feel asleep in the car within 5 minutes on our way home. We decided to run errands to let her sleep. By the time we got to Target, she'd been asleep for an hour. We thought it would be safe to transfer her to her stroller if we reclined it. She barely woke up. We wandered around Target, letting her sleep while we shopped and window shopped.

When we put her back in her car seat, she went right back to sleep. We made a few more stops where I waited in the car with her. When we got home, we wanted to try and wake her up so we got a bottle ready. Nothing doing. This girl was down for her full night's sleep. I ended up falling asleep with her on the reclining sofa. I slept two hours; she ended up sleeping six.

My sisters had sent a wonderful barbecue pork dinner through Honeybaked Hams. I heated that up for dinner, and we had Sera back down for the night by 9 PM. She slept until 1 AM. Jim tried to get her back to sleep for almost an hour. At 2 AM, I took her in the guest room and surrounded us with pillows. She slept fitfully and played with my face and hands while I pretended to sleep until 6 AM.

It's now 9 AM, and she's crying as she fights a nap. She sounds so exhausted. Our poor baby needs some sleep, but she's handled the rest of the adjustments to her new home beautifully.

Oh, and regarding this post's title: My arms really are tired, but it's from holding Sera for all those hours on the plane!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Keeping My Promise
Here are the photos from yesterday and this morning as promised. We leave in about an hour for our consulate appointment. Then we'll finish our shopping, packing, and have our final dinner in China.

What do you do when you're stuck in your hotel room on a rainy day? Why play with an abacus,

or cheese for daddy,

or sing with daddy,

or play with daddy.

The entrance to the Chen Family Temple.
An embroidered screen.
Our entire group. There should be 33 families in there. We're in the middle. Our friend, Kevin, is on Jim's right.

The Chongqing Six. Sera's on the far right.

Our coordinator, Tracy, with all six babies, plus two older sisters.

Family red couch photo

Kevin swooped in and picked up Tracy for a red couch shot.

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I know, I know. What good is a post without pictures?

We did take pictures yesterday, but it's 3:30 in the morning here. I don't want to turn on the lights to find the camera and download them.

Let me start by wishing my sister a happy birthday. Even though it's the 11th here, it's the 10th back home, so today is her day. I also want to send a birthday shout out to Colleen. You will see your Hannah's face, soon.

Yesterday was a long morning and fun afternoon and evening. We woke up to rain, lots of rain, steady soak you to your bones rain. We went down to breakfast hoping it would let up as our plan was to walk the streets, take pictures, and shop. It never let up, so after breakfast it was back to our room. When Sera went down for her morning nap, I snuck out and did a little shopping. Jim and I brought jackets that we bought on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. They're reversible with fabric on one side and rain gear material on the other. I like the fabric side out better, but never wear it that way as I can't stand on that plasticy rain gear side feels. Anyway, no matter how you wear it, it's hot. It may have been raining, but it wasn't really that cold outside. With that jacket zipped up and the hood up, it was super hot.

I managed to find some things and headed back to the hotel after an hour. Just in time as Sera woke up about 5 minutes later. Now Jim is more than capable of taking care of her, but she is showing the slightest preference for me. It's easier if she sees me in the room, too. I have to say that Jim has turned out to be an amazing dad, not that I ever doubted it. I don't feel like I'm parenting Sera, and he is helping. I feel like we are parenting Sera. Granted, I've changed more diapers, but he's changed some. He spends every afternoon mixing up her formula and cereal mixture in this neat container he bought in Chongqing. It holds up to 4 bottles worth in a segmented bowl. You twist the top, remove the cap, and pour the contents into your bottle. Add hot water, and you have a bottle. He's also washing and sterilizing the bottles and nipples daily, and he's sherpa dad. He lugs around the cameras, diaper bag, and shopping bags and always keeps an eye out to help me when I'm carrying Sera. Buying that stroller in Chongqing was one of our best decisions. it's a great place to stash a lot of this stuff. She didn't care for it too much at first, but now enjoys it. I think it will help her adjust to the long ride home in a carseat, too. He also puts her to sleep so much better than I do. Jim has a good singing voice, and Sera loves music. He'll start singing to her and she is just mesmerized. She also joins in. It may not sound like singing to anyone else, but we know it is. I hope she has a good singing voice because it's already obvious that she loves it. We've been very lucky as she's bonding to both of us beautifully. I know we have a long way to go, but we're off to a good start so far. Knock on wood.

We played with Sera for a while before cabin fever hit Daddy, and he took his turn shopping. Okay, he really spent his time preparing for me to shop some more by going to the bank and changing money. He also picked up a snack at the deli for us.

After another nap, a shortened version of her afternoon nap, we met our group in the lobby for our last day of tours. We visited the Chen Family Temple. It was built at the end of the Qing Dynasty around 1890. It was not built as a place of worship, but rather for education. Chen is one of the largest family names and had around 70 families in the Guangdong Province with that name. They all donated money to build this temple, which was used to educate their children.

When the revolution happened and the government took over the building, it was turned into an art museum. The grounds and architecture as well as the art work itself are just breath taking. I hope the pictures do it justice.

While riding on the bus, our guide, Tracy, was catching us up on today's itinerary. She let us know that everyone's visa applications had been approved, except for Kevin and Jim's families because the consulate had heard about the April Fool's joke they had played on her. When Kevin's wife and I threatened to leave them with her, she promised to make sure their paperwork sailed through without problem. Tracy has been great. She's put up with the teasing and dished it right back.

Afterwards, we headed for the pearl market. This was an experience. It's a mall with about five stories. Virtually every store in the mall sells pearls or jewelry. Our guides took us to a particular kiosk where they vouch for the quality and ethics of the store. They were definitely used to getting large groups of adoptive parents. They pulled out all these little stools and a couple of cases of water. They lined the stools up just outside the door for the dads and babies, and then handed them water. The moms swarmed the store. You literally had to step over bags of pearls. Their quality varied, but even the least expensive were real pearls with natural color. They just weren't as perfectly round or had tiny discoloration marks or pits. Barely noticeable. I bought a few small gifts and an 18-inch strand of pearls that we'll give to Sera some day. They strung and knotted in between each pearl as I watched. I also picked out a silver clasp with the Chinese symbol for long life and happiness. I came out of the store quite pleased with my purchase when Jim had me return and pick out something for myself. He wanted me to get a necklace for myself, and I almost did. I then thought about the fact that I rarely wear necklaces and would actually prefer earrings. I found a lovely pair of blush tear drop earrings with a Chinese symbol on the post part. They symbol is actually for Chinese New Year. I would have preferred something more general, but it will be our secret when I wear them any time of the year. They give us wholesale prices, so we did amazingly well on pricing. I'm sure all agencies have a similar arrangment with stores as I've read many accounts of people going to the pearl market. I do kind of wish now that I had bought a few more things there though.

While we were waiting for the bus, one of our fellow Chongqing families suggested we do a hallway pizza party night. On the ride back, they borrowed our guide's phone and ordered pizza. Papa John's recently opened a few locations in the Guangzhou area. The pizza was great. I honestly couldn't tell a difference between it and the one at home. Food-wise, I would probably have preferred another night at the Thai restaurant, but companionship-wise, it couldn't be beat. We've made some wonderful friends, especially with the Chongqing part of our group. We have a special bond as our six girls all spent the first 9-12 months together. Our girls were all born within three months of each other. Towards the end of the evening, one of the dads went around the room asking everyone to describe their most memorable moment. Last night is now one of mine.

Today, we meet at 10:30 am for our red couch and group pictures. We then meet again at 2:40 pm for our consulate appointment. After breakfast, we plan to do the packing that didn't happen last night. Inbetween our appointments, I plan to spend the rest of our money. I'm buying Asian style outfits for several years worth of Chinese New Year celebrations, plus I have to load up on the squeaky shoes. They are just adorable, and you can't beat $3 a pair. At some point, we'll be buying another suitcase to lug our loot home. Our guide will be taking Jim by taxi to the airline office to try and upgrade Sera's ticket. If not, we'll be spending the amount of a plane ticket on overweight fees for our luggage without the luxury of the extra room on the flight.

My plan is at some point this afternoon to load up some more pictures, hopefully including the red couch ones. I doubt we'll have time to post another entry before we return home.

China has been an amazing experience, a rare few bad moments with a tremendous amount of good moments, and several that were just life-altering. We're ready to come home, but we'll always have fond memories of our trip to China.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
One thing to keep in mind when adopting in China is the pace. Just about every minute seems to be scheduled. It doesn't look like that when you see the itinerary, but when you factor in two naps the day is filled. Yesterday, we had Sera's physical at 9:30 am, and then nothing was scheduled until 3:00 pm today when we tour the Chen Family Temple and the Pearl Market. What a relief to have over 24 hours with nothing planned.

For the first time since our first night in Beijing, Jim and I actually ate three meals yesterday. We'd been returning from morning tours with one hungry and tired baby, so we'd skip lunch. In Beijing, lunch was part of our tours, but we ended up missing dinner. One night because Jim was so tired he fell asleep that early and the other was the night I wasn't feeling my best. I think that was our jetlag.

We finally got to do a little shopping on Shamian Island. The prices are amazing. We're a little worried because even though we had requested a seat for Sera on each plane ride, our travel agent made arrangements for a lap ticket from Guangzhou to Shanghai. The domestic limit is one check in bag of 44 pounds per passenger. We get about an extra 20 pounds with the lap ticket. Our guide thought we'd be okay because most airlines are somewhat forgiving if it's part of an international leg. Unfortunately, we've learned ours isn't. They are very strict about the luggage limit and will charge us about $3.00 per kilo that we go over. We're looking now into changing her ticket into a regular child's ticket. We may have to taxi to the airlines office today to do this. The only concern seems to be whether or not our ticket is changeable. It doesn't say it isn't. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Last night for dinner, we went over to the Cow and Bridge Restaurant. It is Thai-style food, and it was delicious. I heartily recommend it.

A few more tips for those heading this way:

I have mastered the White Swan bed and actually had a good night's sleep. Overlap your two pillows and push them up the headboard. By sleeping on a slight incline and having a pillow underneath my shoulders, I was cushioned more. It was wonderful.

Sunkist! On our first night when we ate at Lucy's we saw they had orange soda. Eager for something different, Jim and I both ordered it. It's nothing like Sunkist Orange at home. This version is made in China. If I could, I'd buy cases and send it home. It tastes more like Orangina, but better. It's actual fruit juice with slight carbonation. The grapefruit flavor is even better.

We didn't get new pictures yesterday. I promise we'll have more tomorrow. In the meantime, let me dig through what we've taken and see if there are any good ones I haven't posted yet.

UPDATE: I should read a little before I post. Congratulations to the new families who received referrals yesterday, especially Alyson, Kristi, and Erin. To all of you still waiting, I can't believe only two days made it into this batch. My thoughts are with you all as we hope for another quick batch, especially you, Colleen!

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Monday, April 09, 2007
The Hardest Part Is The Bed
Our first night at the White Swan. How exciting to know that we were following in the footsteps of so many other adoptive families. We got back to our room, got Sera settled in bed, which wasn't easy as she was overtired, and got ready for bed ourselves. Lay back and...OUCH...a cement bench would be more comfortable. Now all the beds we've experienced in China have been much, much firmer than we're used to, but this is an all-time high for hard. Honestly, this truly is the hardest part of the trip. They keep us busy each day with tours and paperwork, plus taking care of Sera is very time-consuming, wonderful, but time-consuming. I'm experiencing aches in parts of my body that have never ached before. Climbing into a comfortable bed at night would be wonderful. Alas, it's not an option. It's also why I got up at 4:30 this morning to read and blog. It was too painful lying in bed. I'd rather be tired.

Anyway, enough whining because I'm really having a wonderful time.

We experienced the White Swan breakfast buffet yesterday morning, and it is everything you've heard it to be. A large loud baby filled room with every kind of food imaginable. Jim and I ate. Sera threw cheerios and spoons on the floor, and we ran off to the lobby for what we thought was going to be a quick meeting to get our itinerary for the week. We got there and learned that there had been a miscommunication and we were actually about to leave on a tour. We, of course, had no diaper bag, no stroller, and no mid-morning bottle with us. Jim and Sera stayed there while I ran back to the room to get our stuff.

We ended up going to the jade market. It's a mall-type building. We were taken to the second floor into a room filled with kiosks selling artwork, cloisonne, embroidery, carvings, tea sets, a ton of other things, and, of course, jade. I spent way too much money there but we got a lot of gifts, including a bone china tea set that we'll give to Sera one day.

Then it was back on the bus. We were the last ones one the bus, I think we won in the who-has-the-most-shopping-bags contest. From the market, we headed to the Banyan Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple. At the temple, we, and most of the other families, had our babies blessed by the monk.

Jim held Sera for the blessing while I tried to take pictures. The lighting was a bit dark, so you'll have to excuse my photography. He had to remove his shoes before entering the area. After the crowd faded away, there remained one tiny pair of shoes. Jim, sounding slightly panicked, started asking where his shoes were. I looked around and couldn't see them either. Then we heard a voice call Jim's name and we turned around. Erin, one of the Chongqing moms, had slipped her feet into Jim's shoes. She actually has her shoes on already in there.

We had a good laugh over it. When she apologized for scaring him, Jim admitted that his first thought was where was he going to find a pair of size 15 shoes in China?

We walked back outside, lit some incense, and chatted with our local guide about the differences between Mandarin and Cantonese. During the bus ride, she shared a saying with us, the people of Guangzhou will eat anything that flies, except airplanes, and anything that runs, except cars. The history of the area includes some difficult times when food was scarce and they ate anything to survive. They enjoyed these foods and still prepare them to this day. The foods include monkey, mice, snakes, cats, etc... I'll pass, thank you.

Sera started getting cranky because she was hungry, so we got on the bus early and fed her. Then it was back to the hotel where she went down for a 2 1/2 hour nap. After her nap, I tortured her by giving her a bath and putting on her Easter dress, which I immediately covered with her sweater since it's freezing! Jim delivered the last of our paperwork and fees to our coordinator and then we met for visa pictures.

After that, it was off to Lucy's for a beer and appetizer with the Chongqing group and then we met up with several families from the Guangdong group for dinner at the Station House, a restaurant inside train cars. It was a laughter filled evening. We have some great travel buddies.

We stayed a little too late and Sera started getting anxious for bed. Jim and I had finished eating, so we asked for our check to take her back to the hotel. There was some computer problem, so we ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes. During that time, Sera fell asleep in my arms. When it was time to go, we put her in the stroller. She fussed until we got moving and fell back asleep.

The restaurant is on the opposite end of the island, so we strolled down a road that's closed to traffic. It's for pedestrians and bicyclists only. There is a park in the median that was empty when we passed it earlier. It was now filled with local people. There was a playground and excercise equipment. Each was filled with someone working out or playing. I saw a lot of young people. It seemed like a place they hung out and visited in the evenings. It was just getting to be 9:00 pm, so it wasn't super late. When we got to the street where we needed to turn towards the hotel. Jim and I stopped to sit on the bench and watch the people for a few minutes. It was such a lovely night.

We got up and walked just a few steps when we saw a young child on the sidewalk. Jim had just mentioned that he wondered where her parents were when she headed towards the street. We were too far away to stop her. We then saw her parents across the street. It was such a blur, it happened so quickly. The child, about 3 or 4 years old, started to cross to her parents. They gestured wildly and were screaming in Chinese. We could hear a car racing down the street. Jim bellowed STOP in his loudest teacher voice and that child froze. The car sped past and the parents ran across the street to get her. They were the shopowners for one of the shops right there. I think they had left her inside and hadn't realized she had wandered out. Jim's yell scared Sera and woke her up. The couple came over and thanked Jim over and over and kept apologizing to me for waking Sera. We calmed Sera down and told them we were just happy that their child was safe. They invited us to come visit them today at their shop and promised us a "good deal." Jim and I were both shaking as we walked away. That was just too close.

Anyway, back to the room and another night ends. This morning we take Sera to get her physical and then we have nothing scheduled the rest of the day. Sounds like time to do some more shopping.

Sera in her too big and falling off Easter dress and a very tired Daddy.

Hazy 7:00 am view from our window.

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A Sack Full of Puppies
A few last words about Chongqing. I can't remember if I've mentioned this already, and I'm too lazy to go reread my posts. Chongqing is an amazing city. The sidewalks are quite literally made out of marble. It makes San Francisco look slightly hilly. To cross the street, you either climb two flights of stairs up to a bridge or down to an underground area. The citizens don't need to buy a stairmaster. They just need to cross the street. This is a large city, and we only saw a small portion of it, but it definitely has character. The park outside our hotel lit up like Times Square at night with flashing lights. The fountains and buildings all had light shows and music played. I'm guessing it all stopped around midnight, but I never stayed up long enough to see.

Saturday morning, we all met in the lobby, once again, at 8:40 to head to the airport. While a little sad to leave Sera's home place that was tempered with the idea that she had actually spent less time in Chongqing than we had. The area she is from is about three hours to the north. Let me tell you...this is the way to travel. We are being so spoiled.

We had to have our checked bags packed and outside our room door by 9:30 pm on Friday night. When we left Saturday, we just had our carry ons. The man who took our luggage the night before headed to the airport about an hour before we did. He checked our bags, checked us in, and got our boarding passes. When we arrived at the airport, we just had to walk through security and on to our waiting area.

Now Sera has really blossomed the last few days, but I was worried that a big transition like this would throw her for a loop. We climbed aboard our plane and settled in for our 1 1/2 hour flight, which included lunch and two rounds of beverage service. For a 1 1/2 hour flight!!!

Anyway, Jim made her bottle after we boarded so it was ready to give to her during takeoff to help pressurize her ears. It was also time for her to eat. After her bottle, she played, giggled, performed her backbends, and giggled with Nora and Nora's mom across the aisle whom, by the way, I neglected to give photojournalist's credit for the hot pot pictures.

Which brings up another memory, so excuse me as I go off on a tangent. Sera is one of six babies from the Liangping orphanage. We found out when talking to the nannies that the other five babies in our group had all slept in the same nursery, but Sera had been in a different room. They did spend time together in the playroom. The first few days we had her, Sera didn't really want much to do with the other babies. That changed at the group dinner on our last night. We sat next to Samantha and her family. Samantha's mom was holding her while I held Sera. Next thing you know those two started reaching for each other and giggling. They'd get quiet for a minute and then one would giggle. That would set the other off. It was just precious. Then, to top it all off, they reached for each other and shared a big hug. I will confess that whole incident made me tear up.

Anyway, Sera did great on the flight though by the end I did compare to holding her when she's playful like that to trying to hold a sack full of puppies.

We arrived in Guangzhou to discover that the weather here is also gray, wet, and chilly. What happened to the tropical weather I had planned and packed for? On the other hand, I'm just happy it's not July.

The drive from the airport to the White Swan was quite sobering. We passed what seemed like hundreds, but probably dozens of immense highrise buildings jammed up together like dominos. The buildings all look old and in need of maintenace. Jim compared them to Cabrini Green (old projects in Chicago). Unfortunately, he's right. The level of poverty is just mind-boggling. The average income for many of the people here is less than we'd spend on good pair of shoes. Sobering.

Finally, we arrive on Samian Island at the White Swan Hotel. Rumors have it that it will be closing temporarily for renovations. The lobby doesn't need it, but the rooms are starting to look a bit tired. I recognize the fabric used to cover the headboard and bedspread as being popular in the 80's. The lobby area though...WOW! We'll have to get some pictures to share with you.

We had about an hour after arriving to regroup before meeting our guides in the lobby for a quick (10 minute) tour of the island. They told us you could walk completely around the island in 25 minutes.

After our tour we joined some fellow travellers for dinner at Lucy's. It started to rain, so we had to wait for a table inside. It was mainly filled with adoptive families, but there were three men smoking up a storm. We chose to wait a little longer to go to the non-smoking section. This caused our group to have to split. We ended up eating too late, but had a very enjoyable dinner.

One of them any buildings we saw on on way to the White Swan. They all looked about like this.

Here's a shot with bamboo scaffolding. Just amazing.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007
Where To Begin?
Here are the pictures from the hot pot restaurant. The restaurant was actually out of shrimp so they sent someone to the market to buy them for our dinner.

The next morning was the bus tour to the rivers and museum trip I already mentioned. If you want, I can add some pictures of the rivers and museum, but this one was my favorite from the day.

Our last full day in Chongqing didn't have any tours planned. We had a morning meeting to complete the consulate paperwork and then we had to be in our room that afternoon to receive Sera's passport. Inbetween, we went for a walk in the park in front of the hotel. It is literaly steps away. You don't even cross the street.

At the top of these stairs is the market. We didn't think we could bring in the stroller, so I sat outside while Jim went in. We wanted to load up on formula before leaving Chongqing. Within seconds of sitting down, I was swarmed by about 50 people. We had about three waves go through before Jim returned.
Here's Sera in the seconds before we were swarmed.
We had gotten away from the crowd and were almost back at the hotel when I saw these women walking really fast. They were trying to catch up to Jim to sneak a peek.
Here I am standing in front of the hotel. This is the Civil Affairs office where we received Sera.

The office is on the 14th floor, about two levels above the square.

Here's our attempt at a sofa picture of the Chongqing group. Sera is on the right end.

Here she's decided she's had enough.

And the group photo of the Chongqing crowd.

And at our group dinner afterwards.

The next morning, yesterday, we left for Guangzhou. More details to follow

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