Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Guarding the Empress

A few days have passed and the dogs have taken on their official roles as Jemma's protectors. It's funny to see how quickly things have developed. Jemma loves sitting outside on the porch and observing the nature - she watches the butterflies, she loves the fountain, the big avocado tree, the cool breezes. It's very clear Jemma likes her new home and feels very comfortable in it. She loves it so much she never wants to go to sleep!

Schweet... Potatoes

Jemma has been eating for two since she's been home. She gets 5 bottles a day, including her midnight feeding. Plus, we've added baby food into the diet and she just loves it. Today she ate two full jars: veggie/turkey dinner and sweet potatoes, though to be fair, about a third of the jar stayed on her face. Mommy needs to get better with her eye-hand coordination...

Friends For Life

Well Rua came around and now she LOVES Jemma and can't get enough of her. In fact, both Ollie and Rua follow her around all day. They've learned that where she is, food is nearby. Also, she gives them much more attention than we ever did. That bug isn't afraid of the dogs at all! She lets them lick her feet and hands, and even her face. Our dear friend Cheryl, an expert with dogs (and sore backs and politics - and creamy carrot soup - thank you, Cheryl!) reassured us that Ollie and Rua would just love Jemma and not to worry at all. But would Jemma love the dogs? Yes!

Hat Trick

Jemma has found yet another game - this time with Daddy's hat. A taste and then a peek-a-boo, a taste and then a peek-a-boo, a taste and then a peek-a-boo... and on and on.


On Sunday we picked up Rua, our Labradoodle, from our third cousins (by marriage), Dean and Angela, and boy, was that hard. Rua had the time of her life - playing endlessly with their dogs, Maggie and Lucy, as well as with their children, Sam, Joe and Greta. A real grass lawn (not the artsy red fescue we have) and a white picket fence, not to mention ball chasing all day long inside and out. Camp Gordon was a real treat and now that Rua's home, she seems a little... well... depressed. Or could it be fatigue?

The Eagle Has Landed

We finally made it home by 5pm and waiting on our porch was a big "Welcome Home!" sign, and inside more signs, "It's a Girl!" and helium balloons. That Carla and Oscar - even though they don't have kids, they sure act like them (by the way, watch Oscar on "The Office" on NBC). Then, our other dear friends, Tina and Adam, delivered the most delicious Thai food to us - we were craving Asian, can you believe? And Carla and Oscar delivered our Bichon, Ollie, (number one son) around 8pm and he just loved his new little sister right off the bat. Sidling up beside her every chance he got. Jemma had never seen a dog before, except for the photos we showed her, so she was tickled, too, and not a bit scared. Woof!

The Long Ride Home

Well, we traveled for 26 hours straight and it was no fun at all. Up at 4:30 am to catch a 6:00 am bus to the airport then to an 8:25 am flight from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. All was smooth until we were on our 11:44 am flight from Hong Kong to San Fran - on the runway and then, "Excuse me folks, this is your captain speaking..." Oy. Mechanical difficulties left us on the runway for 2.5 hours with almost no air flow (except in first class - how do they do that?) Finally, we took off for a mere 11.5 hour flight. Jemma was an ace the entire time - hardly a peep out of her, but definitely a poop... or two. We sat next to the nicest businessman (he makes the plastic pumpkins you see everywhere) and right off the bat he said to Jemma, "I can tell we're gonna be good friends." What a relief. We're gonna carve that man's face in our pumpkins this year.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Party All Night

The China team got us all going after the big meal with karoke, dancing and a conga line, led by Ellen (and then Norman took over - you can't upstage the leader!) We snaked alll around the restaurant and then back to the dance floor where everyone took turns singing. Glow sticks, stuffed animals and musical lanterns were passed out as gifts to us from the China team - it was loud, but we stuck it out and had a great time.

Rosie, Daisy and Astro Boy

Here's Rosie, Daisy's new little sister from Guangdong. Rosie is very selective with her smiles but Uncle Johnny got her going - or was it the rice whiskey? Daisy was a big party girl and danced with everyone. It was Daisy's 4th birthday on September 13 so we bought her an Astro Boy doll - even Astro Boy is powerless in the face of rice whiskey.

The Last Supper

Geo (gooey) duck and turtle are delicacies in Asian cuisine, but to us they are just cute. The restaurant where we had our final dinner together had quite the fresh fish selection. We had a delicious meal - mostly of seafood and duck, and of course, the ever potent rice whisky! The China team likes to knock 'em back.

Say Grace

Grace Chen was our guide and facilitator for the Jiangsu group. Grace is a terrific tour guide, possibly because she worked as a tour guide for a Chinese travel agency. She's one of the few Chinese lucky enough to travel to America, and 6 years ago she lead a tour of 17 Chinese people on an extensive tour of the states. It's extremely hard to get a visa to travel to the US, and each traveler must deposit 50,000 yuan, about an average year's salary. Unfortunately, Grace lost that job because on the trip, eight people defected. As she put it, "Every morning I would do a head count, and would be missing another one or two people. They would sneak out in the middle of the night and I had no control over it!" Ah, Grace, she's powerless against the strong pull of freedom. No Americans have defected to China on her watch.

The Whole Mishpucha (Family, for you Goyim)

Here's the whole group posed in front of Deng Xio Ping in one of his lighter moments. The humidity was oppressive, much like Deng Xio Ping. Ping, the former hardline chairman who gave the order to run over the students in Tian Anmen Square, was not quite the sentiment we were hoping for in a group photo, but Norman said he chooses it to prove we are really in China. That and the fact that it's right next door to the restaurant.

US Citizens - Almost!

Here we are outside of the US Consulate. They have brand new, super secure offices and we were not allowed to take any photos - not even of the building. Ancui (Jemma) and Anwei (Norah) are two of the three measle babies who made it through the red tape in spite of their recent illnesses. We all swore in as a big group with the Vice Consul of China, who by the way, sports a very hipster goatee, that all of our adoption information was true. We had to promise not to open the brown envelope of papers which will be given to us with her visa. This envelope is given to immigration upon our arrival in the US where Jemma immediately becomes a citizen. Ellen tried to steam open the envelope over a hot bowl of congee.

Feet, Butt and Head

Jemma has figured out a way to get her bottle at just the right angle - by using her foot! Clever girl.
If you look closely at her butt, you can see the bruise-like coloring around her lower back. When we first got Jemma we saw bruises on her arm as well as the bruised butt and we thought she had been roughed up in the orphanage. Then we learned that this is a characteristic of most Asian babies called "Mongolian Spots" and they'll fade by the time she is 4 years old or so. Whew!
Most of the Chinese people will ask you if your baby is a boy or girl. Jemma was in a pink flowery outfit, and still, they asked. Norman said this is really just an ice-breaker for the Chinese people, that they know deep down. We decided to put a giant pink bow in her hair just to make sure.

The Last Shop

We did a final shop for baby stuff on Shamian Island - the home of the White Swan hotel where all the other adoption agencies house their familes. Norman keeps us away from the throngs of other adopting families and closer to the heart of Guangzhou, which he refers to as the Union Square area. All the shops on Shamian Island are geared for the adopting parents. Baby shoes are plentiful, as well as chochkees, like hand painted bottles. A red guard keeps a watchful eye here - John had to sneak the photo through a shop window as they do not like to be photographed at all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sleepy Doo!

Finally, Jemma had 8 hours of sleep (and so did we!) She wakes up every night at least twice, once for a feeding and once for a changing. Two nights ago we had a major meltdown when Jemma went to bed at 8:30, woke up at 11:30 for her feeding and then again at 12:30 and basically wouldn't go back to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. Her screams were terrifying and piercing - luckily we have a group of monks in the room next to us. We couldn't figure out what was up, other than the fact that we overstimulated her during dinner by taking her to a Thai restaurant filled with about a thousand customers and entertainment at your table - kind of like a big Thai Bar-Mitzvah! We just wanted something other than Chinese food, is that so wrong? Also, Jemma is really teething now, she's cutting her two front teeth so that only added to the sleepless night. But last night - we were determined to get some sleep, we so sang lots of songs before bed and pulled her crib next to ours and a few other things they say to do in the book, and voila! In bed by 9:30, up once for a feeding at 2:20 and then she slept all through the night till 6:40am and woke with a big smile on her face.

Chinese U-Hauls

Everywhere you go, men and sometimes women, use three-wheeled bicycles to haul around everything - from cardboard boxes to propane tanks to garbage cans filled with fish heads (restaurant slop for pigs). It's an entirely different kind of pollution.


We received official word from Norman that we have been cleared by the U.S. Consulate and will be allowed to take Jemma home. The three measle families were on pins and needles, as there was a snag with one of the babies - not Jemma, thank goodness. However, the Consulate demanded the one questionable baby take a blood test to prove she had the antibodies for the measles. She passed with flying colors as we knew she would. On Thursday we will take our oaths and receive our visas - hurray, we're almost home!

Pearl River Cruise

The thunder and lightening and the hovering monsoon subsided Wednesday night and gave us clear skies for our long awaited Pearl River boat cruise. It was a very humid evening but the sights on the upper deck were beautiful. Down below, however, the the buffet left us all a bit hungry - and not for chicken.

Fabric Market

Ellen went nuts at the fabric market - the prices were great and the selections endless. Silk duvet covers for the crib, pashmina shawls, shoes, aprons... it's endless! We need another suitcase just to lug all this crap back home - too bad they didn't sell suitcases there.

Electronics Market

Wednesday morning we had to wait in our either our hotel room or the breakfast cafe until 11:30am in case there was a glitch with paperwork for the Consulate (oy, again with the Consulate). In the afternoon we were taken shopping to two markets, the electronics market and the fabric market. The boys went you know where and went nuts on dvd's and other toys with plugs. John almost bought a wide angle lens, but thought better of it since it cost about two months worth of day care for Jemma.

Hat's Off!

In the afternoon, we all had to meet with the China team to review and proof the paperwork for the Consulate. Then, we had to do a second interview with Norman to double and triple check every detail. You can imagine how important this final round of paperwork is - in fact it could make or break the departure date. We had perfect papers, no mistakes, and Jemma gave us a big high five for getting through yet another piece of red tape.

Spoiled Again!

While mommy filled out forms, daddy took Jemma shopping for a new toy. Daddy has always wanted a piano, so now he's finally gotten one!

Paper Trail

The first 3 hours of Tuesday morning was spent filling out paperwork for the US Consulate in order to obtain Jemma's visa. One parent from each family was needed to dot the i's and cross the t's while the other parent stayed back with the baby. Ellen labored through the forms while John watched Jemma. Norman took us through every line, step by step and reassured us over and over again to trust him regarding some of the answers. For example, if you check "yes" then you have to explain, and it's better not to explain, so just check "no"!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Shamian Island Life

Here are a few images we caught as we strolled through the streets. Shamian Island is mostly European architecture - but with laundry hanging in every window. It reminded us of Montmartre in the 19th century.

Cross Examination

The three families from Gaoyou had to stay behind and answer a battery of questions regarding the measles. Apparantly, the last group from Gaoyou that came through a few weeks ago didn't pass the medical exams. There was no way we were staying any longer in Chinatown, Jake. Ellen put on the charm and reassured the doctors that Jemma was fully recovered (which she is) and that our whole family was immune from getting the measles (which we are.) Then we all had to write little reports about everything we knew about our daughters' measles. This was kind of a bummer 'cause while we were doing this, all the other parents were out shopping for chochkees and clothes. Not to worry, we were given the opportunity to shop afterwards - which we did - with wreckless abandon.

Turning A Blind Eye

The one-eyed "vision" doctor - say no more.

The Outer Dimensions

Here Jemma is getting weighed and measured. Being stretched on the table was pure Chinese torture for her. Here's her mommy trying to lighten the trauma (not just get in every picture.)