Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nap Time Schmap Time
Gracie has decided that she should not, could not, would not take a nap in her bed, on the couch, in her room or with a mouse. She'll take a very short nap in the morning around 10 a.m. Then, when she should be taking an afternoon nap, she does everything in her little tiny girl power to delay her nap. And some of you may be thinking "maybe she doesn't need a stinkin' nap". But if she doesn't get her nap then she's ready for bed at 5:30 and before you know it, she's back on China time. And believe me, we're not going back any time soon!

Grace went out for her first luncheon today and guess where we went? The Ritz. Only the best for my girl. She had some crab and lobster penne with steak au poivre and garlic mashed potatoes (she didn't really eat the steak). She especially liked the fresh cantaloupe and cheesecake. Actually, Steve's boss treated us to a delicious lunch. The Ritz isn't really one of our usual hangouts - at least now that we have Grace. LOL

Our little angel has slept through the last two nights from 7:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. Of course I'm not getting any sleep because I keep waking up wondering why she's not waking up. I usually have to get up and verify that all her body functions are still in working order.

I promise to post more pictures soon. We're keeping so busy I keep forgetting to download the camera.

Shout out to Tiffany who got a SUPER DEE DUPER report card! What a great example to set for your little sister! Grace is sure lucky to have a sweet AND smart big sis.

Thanks for all the comments. I read them all and really appreciate them.

Monday, November 13, 2006

We're home!
And life is good. Grace is still sleeping and it's 8 a.m. I actually watched part of the Today Show this morning which was a big treat.

We've settled in and although the house looks like a tornado hit, all is well. Grace is adjusting better than I expected. She fell asleep at about 8:15 last night. Woke up once for about an hour and is still sleeping now. She likes her crib which is a good thing since she likes to flail around quite a bit when she's falling asleep.

We've had family over every day since we've been home and Grace just goes with the flow. She developed a little bit of a cold on our way home, but it doesn't seem to get her down. Last night I went to check on her and I had to touch her because I couldn't hear her breathing. I guess it's that typical new Mom fear. She was fine and rolled over just to prove she was OK.

We had my brother and his family, including 18-month-old twins over Saturday night. I got the twins squeaky shoes from China and they loved them. They walked all over the house making their shoes squeak. It's going to be a challenge for Grace to keep up with those two! They are high energy.

The flight home was interesting. We were lucky enough to get bulk head seats but we had the middle and window seats. Steve sat by the window with Grace and held her almost the whole 13 hours. The guy sitting next to me only got up once the whole 13 hours. I think he was part camel. Dude, can't you get up at least a couple times?? I had to crawl over him each time I needed to change Grace, then when I needed water for her bottle, and when I needed juice for the sippy cup and yes, I am not a camel so I had to get water for myself, which led to the need to use the bathroom. Needless to say he didn't say a word the whole time. I'm sure he was thinking to himself "why did I have to get stuck with the screaming baby sitting right next to me?" To bad Dude, you're a camel, so does it really matter? Grace didn't really scream that much. Maybe a couple of times for about 10 or 15 minutes. She was an angel and continues to be.

Our reception at the airport was so much fun. My Mom, Dad and Sister greeted us along with Jeff, Tracy and the kids and our friends Lisa and Duane and their kids including Sarah who was adopted from China last year, only 5 days before Grace's Gotcha Day (big, long, run-on sentence). The kids were all excited to see Grace and so were her Grandma and Grandpa Olson! As usual, she just took it all in with her somber look and a few yawns here and there. Once she got in the car, we saw a few more of her smiles.

She did excellent in her carseat and only complained after the trip started to get too long. Welcome to St. Louis traffic at rush hour. I felt like I was back in Beijing, minus the bicycles and mopeds. It took us a good hour to get home and she was getting restless about 10 minutes before we arrived. When we got to our house another great reception was waiting - her brothers and sister and Aunt Peggy, Uncle Kurt, Ally and Colin. Ally was so excited to see her. It's so fun to see how much she nurtures Grace. She's going to be a great babysitter in a few years.

When we landed in Chicago I was so tempted to stand up in the airport and sing "God Bless America". But Steve rationalized with me and said with the dry air in the airplane my voice was liable to crack. I figured he was right and refrained from my solo. But man was I glad to be home. And man was I glad to drink a diet coke over ice. And was it ever the best to be out of a little hotel room and be able to wash Grace's bottles in the sink or dishwasher. God bless America.

We're home, we're happy and together we're the parents of a beautiful little girl. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Bittersweet Ending to a Happy New Beginning
Leaving China tomorrow will be bittersweet. We will miss the friends we've made and the people of China who have been so helpful. We will miss our guides who made this trip so easy for us. We'll miss the sites and sounds that are familiar to Grace. And we'll be taking Grace so far from her homeland.

But as our trip comes to an end, a new beginning is in store for us. Grace will have a whole new life with a family that wants her, needs her and loves her. We will be blessed with another daughter to fill our lives with joy. We'll become full-time parents who'll enjoy all the wonderful moments that children bring to our lives. We can't wait. And though we're sad to leave our friends, we know that we'll see most of them again at a reunion or maybe on vacation. Whatever happens, we'll keep in touch and share stories of the girls as they grow.

And we look forward to seeing all of our family and our old friends who have been with us during this whole journey. We look forward to introducing Grace to the people and places we love. We look forward to the upcoming holidays and the difference Grace will make in our lives.

Tonight we spent our last night with Lori and Scott from Detroit and Glen and Rhonda. We ate at our favorite spot again - the riverside barbeque. As usual we enjoyed the conversation and fellowship with our new friends. We will truly miss them.

This experience has been nothing short of amazing. If any of you who read this have considered adopting, I say go for it. It will change your lives and give you experiences you've never imagined.

On a lighter note, I have to tell you about the shopowners in Guangzhou. They literally track you down and drag you (not really phyically, but mentally) into their stores. Then they follow you around and watch your every move and say "how about this or how about that". It's really funny. And they even learn your name and call it out every day they see you. We met a girl name Lucy who runs Lucy's. Every time we walked by she would say "Hey Steve! How are you?!" It was really funny. And I had a great time bargaining with them. The only thing we didn't like is that almost every single one of them felt the need to touch Grace's cheeks. Stop touching my baby!

Today we went to the American Consulate to get Grace's Visa to get into the US. We were there with about 50 other families. We all stood and said an oath that we promised that all the information we put down was true to the best of our knowledge. It was interesting.

Last night we had a group dinner with all the CHI families. We ate Dim Sum but it was kind of the American version. It was very good and we had a great time. We ate with Cindy, Jim and Abby who are from Warrenton. We plan on staying in touch and planning some outings with the girls. Abby and Grace are from the same city - YunMeng.

Can't wait to get home!!

One more picture from the red couch - this group is the five girls from Yunmeng.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mollie, Grace & Lily

Red Couch Attempt - Grace is in front with her head turned.

Hubei Families

The dress is almost to small for my neck, but boy do I look cute!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Barbeque by the Pearl River

OK - this is the second time I typed this post. I accidentally pushed some button and it all disappeard. So, hopefully I can recreate it - it was really funny and entertaining, believe me.

Last night we spent a wonderful evening by the river eating scrumptious food. The restaurant is part of this hotel and is bordered on one side by the pearl river and the other by lush tropical trees and plants. We had great company - Rhonda and Glen from California and Connie and Joe from Oklahoma - not to mention our three beautiful daughters who seemed to enjoy the evening just as much.

They had beef tenderloin, sirloin steaks, chicken, pork, lamb, shrimp and all kinds of fish that you picked out, had the Chef grill and bring it to your table. It was the best meal we've eaten. We also had a perfect view of the laser light show that happens every night on the river. The restaurant even prepared steamed eggs and congee for the girls. They devoured the steamed eggs that looked like custard without the sugar.

We found out that Connie and Joe's daughter, Mollie, was in the same foster home as Gracie. So they share a special bond. When we were at pizza hut in Wuhan, Mollie was looking at Grace and said Gei Gei, which means sister. We're going to keep in touch and hopefully make a point to get the girls together periodically as they grow up.

We also just discovered that the couple staying next to us are from St. Louis and are the couple I met in the parking lot of CHI on referral day and also are the kids of one of Marlene's (Steve's Mom) grade school friends. What a small world! We're half a world away in China and end up next door to people we know! They just got their daughter yesterday. Their travel approval came about a week later than ours.

This morning we have to stay in our room from 9 - 12 in case the American Consulate has any questions for us. If we don't get a phone call then all the paperwork is done. Tonight we have the famous red couch picture and a group dinner. I'll post the picture as soon as possible. It's the picture where we put all 14 girls on the red couch and take a picture. It should be really fun.

Grace is busy occupying her Daddy - playing with his toes, sticking her finger in his ear, pinching his nose - he's like a giant toy. I think he's getting a little sore from all the poking and prodding!

Still having a great time here but looking forward to getting home and out of a hotel room! See you all soon!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yellow Crane Tower

I love baths!

It's official! She's our daughter.
Two People in Love

That would be Steve and I. We are totally in love with this little girl who is currently sleeping in the crib across the room. Every day she amazes us with her smiles. Tonight she fell asleep next to me while we were resting on the bed. Right before she fell asleep she got up, crawled down and put her lips on my mouth. I think she was giving me a kiss goodnight. I couldn't believe it. But she crawled right back up to the pillow and was out in minutes. I can't wait to tell Steve!

Steve is out with the boys getting a massage. It's been his dream to go to the Chinese massage parlor!! But really, you can get an hour long massage for like 10 bucks! I'm sure he'll be nice and relaxed when he gets back.

This morning we went to church right down the street from our hotel. Steve and I really felt the need to be closer to God and thank him for the precious gift he's given us. Grace was a champ and was quiet for the entire 1 1/2 hour service. She is such a good girl no matter what we do. Later this afternoon we went shopping at the big market where you can find wholesale pearls, jade and other precious gem stones. It was pretty cool. We need to go back because it was so overwelming. There are hundreds of bead stores all selling the exact same thing. I don't know how they all stay in business. We bought Grace a little jade rooster charm because she was born the year of the rooster.

Grace attracts a lot of attention because she has a lot of hair and it's relatively long compared to the other girls. Many have had their heads shaved, but not Grace. As you can see from a previous picture I posted, her hair hangs down in her face. Every morning I put barettes in but she pulls them out so her hair is constantly in her face. I always wanted nice thick hair - God gave it to me on my daughter.

My daughter .I love typing that. She is beyond belief. She is amazing Grace. We are so in love.

P.S. Eric, Greg and Tiffany - if any of you are reading this, we think of you often and can't wait for Grace to meet you. I know she is going to love you all. We miss you and wish you were here! Love, Dad and Chris

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Las Vegas in China

I think I've died and gone to Las Vegas. Oh wait, it's just Shamian Island in Guangzhou, China. This place is really cool. We are staying at the White Swan hotel- a 5-star hotel. This place is beautiful. And we have a gorgeous view of the Pearl River that is lit up on both sides with tons of neon. There are also a lot of neon tour boats going up and down the river. It's quite a sight. It reminds me so much of Vegas.

We arrived around 4:00 and waited for our luggage to be delivered to our room. We then met three other couples and went to dinner at Lucy's Bar and Grill - a wester-style restaurant. We dined outside in the beautiful 80 degree weather. It was perfect.

Our flight from Wuhan to Guangzhou went great. Grace was an angel the whole way. As long as she's well fed, she's happy as a lark. And believe me, the girl eats like a HORSE! Tonight for dinner she ate a whole jar of carrots, a bowl of rice cereal with mashed bananas and almost a whole bowl of scrambled eggs. The girl can really put it away. We can only hope that the 16 hour flight home will go as well. Please pray for us to have a good flight.

We did a little "window" shopping tonight. This place is dangerous. There are tons of stores right around our hotel and they have some really great stuff. We went with another couple from Northern California - Rhonda and Glen. Glen is quite the bargain shopper - he's the perfect person to have with us. In Guangzhou you're expected to bargain. You never pay full price. It's kind of fun. Tonight I bought an outfit that started at $60 yuan and got it down to $35 yuan (that's about $4 vs. $7.50). Stuff is so cheap here, but you still don't pay full price.

This Island is really beautiful. I think we're going to enjoy it much more than Wuhan. It's not near as packed with people. The hotel itself is filled with families who are adopting. I think most agencies have their families stay here. I'm looking forward to the breakfast buffet which should be filled with families and their adopted babies.

The hotel has a beautiful waterfall with koi fish in its pond. When we came home from shopping we found that the housekeeping service had turned down our beds and left chocolates on the night stand. Talk about good service!

Grace continues to blossom. She loves her Daddy since he is the one who carries her the most. But she loves me too because I feed her. We are so blessed.

There's a 7-11 across from our hotel, too. It makes us feel right at home. Tomorrow we're going to a shopping mall. And now, I'm going to bed! Adios!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Random Thoughts from China

It's really fun to see school-age children in china. They love to practice their English and will always say "hello".

Most people are very friendly and smile when they see Steve carrying Grace in the baby sling. Many people want to stop and talk to her. A lot of adults with children will point us out to their child. I have seen very few negative looks.

Steve is annoying me as I write this. (Yes - he knows I just wrote that.)

There are a lot of neon signs in the big cities. We have a bunch of them right outside our hotel room window.

Kentucky Fried Chicken in China is not very good. McDonalds is good, except for the split pants incident.

The main form of transportation in China is public buses. We've seen many buses that are completely packed with people.

Chinese people dress very warm no matter how warm it is outside. You don't see anyone in shorts or short sleeves. Most men wear jackets and women dress in sweaters. And of course their babies are bundled from head to toe, sometimes in wool. I sweat just looking at them.

Washing dishes in a 9x9 tupperware container is the pits.

Tonight we saw a lady walking a little black poodle. It made me miss Bear.

Grace has the cutest little song she sings when she's playing. There are no words, but she sort of hums the same sweet tune over and over again. I could listen to it forever.

There's a cell phone store that we pass by on our way to the store and it's always buzzing with tons of people. I mean it's like crazy packed every night. And there's not just one cell phone store, it seems like every other store front is a cell phone store.

Last night we went to the cake store. It's a tiny little bakery. Even at 7:00 at night they were decorating cakes and wrapping them up in pretty ribbon.

Our first night in Wuhan our guide pointed out the Comb Store. Can a guy really make a living selling combs? I guess it's serious business in Wuhan. We just thought it was funny that the only store she pointed out was the comb store.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Someone needs a haircut.
Hut Hut to the Pizza Hut
Last night our group ventured out to Pizza Hut for a birthday party. Some of the girls just turned 1 or are turning 1 in the next few days, so we celebrated their birthdays. We also have two Moms who celebrated birthdays this week. Shout out to Suzie P - Happy Birthday (a few days late). Pizza Hut was very similar to the stuff we get in the US. Not quite as good and even greasier, but it was a little taste of home.

Today we got Gracie's passport. After filling out a bunch more paperwork (about 2 hours worth) we had a small ceremony and everyone received their baby's passports. I'll try to post a picture later.

The rest of the day is pretty relaxed - nothing planned. We have to pack up for our flight to Guangzhou tomorrow. In Guangzhou Grace will have a medical exam and receive her Visa to get in the US. We will also be able to shop til we drop. We haven't had much opportunity to shop here in Wuhan so I've got a lot of catching up to do in Guangzhou.

Grace has been very talkative. Right now she's saying mamamamamamama and dadadadada. She's very good when it's time to go to bed at night. I think we're doing a good job of wearing her out. I finally figured out the right combination of formula and cereal, so once she has a full tummy she's ready to hit the hay. She sleeps in her crib all through the night from about 7:30 until 6:30 or 7 in the morning. My baby loves to sleep!

She also loves to eat. So far the only thing she hasn't liked is mashed broccoli from the restaurant. She loves peas, carrots, noodles, bread, watermelon, pears, bananas, pizza crust, cake etc. She has quite the appetite. Apparently they match families with babies according to how much they eat. She fits right in.

Her favorite thing to do is walk while holding our hands. She would like to be constantly on the go, but bending over and walking around is hard on the back.

My next post will be from southern China where it's a cool 80 degrees and up. I'm in a constant state of sweating. Did I mention that before? I'm actually looking forward to getting home to cool weather.

That's all for now. We're trying to get our little turkey down for a nap and she's not cooperating!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Water Buffalo made of flowers in park across from hotel - Wuhan.

I get messy when Daddy feeds me prunes!

Gracie and Daddy at the provincial museum in Wuhan.
Homesickness, Fred Flintstone and the Poop & Run
I'm starting to get a little homesick. The feeling is exacerbated by the fact that we're stuck in a jail-cell sized room with a baby who likes to scream from about 6:00-7:00 at night, while the neighbors crank up their music to drown out the sound. OK - the room is actually a regular size hotel room, it just feels small when Grace is unhappy. Luckily she is very happy today. Her teething pain is not bothering her and neither is gas. So all is well in Wuhan.

Now on to Fred Flintstone. I've come to the conclusion that all the beds in China were carefully mined from the same quarry where Fred Flintstone worked. They are hard. Bedrock hard. And sleeping on bedrock is a challenge. I'm feeling a little sleep deprived. I have to revert back and say that I did not feel any real effects of jet lag, so that's good. But sleeping on bedrock is another story.

And lastly, the Poop & Run. Shortly after I posted yesterday, a funky smell came over our hotel room. The prunes did the job! Grace pooped and Daddy ran! Thus, we now affectionately refer to her first major milestone as the Poop & Run.

Grace is just a delight. She is very playful and is easily entertained. She's not used to Mommy's jokes yet, but we're working on that. She's also getting tired of my singing. She mostly wants to stand in her crib or next to the bed and pull herself up and down. She also has taken a few steps while I hold her hands. I have a feeling she'll be walking in no time, once we get home.

She makes a lot of noise and will obviously be a talker. She has already said mama and dada - repeating it after us. Right now she's reading a book about animals. She really is a joy and we feel so blessed.

Today we went to the Yellow Crane tower - a major attraction in Wuhan. It was very pretty. We took lots of pictures. Tonight the whole group is going to Pizza Hut. I can't wait! Pizza!!!

I miss home, but this really is an adventure. And I couldn't be happier spending time with our precious daughter.

Signing off and having a yabadabadoo time in China!