Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 11- August 28, 2011

Is it time to come back home yet???  WE ARE READY FOR SURE!  We are all kindof tired of being in a foreign place, not being able to speak to anyone and not knowing what we are eating and where we are going either.  I guess we have to stick it out another couple of days and then we are homebound.
Today we just had a fun day.  We went to an art museum where local artists are there doing paintings and writings and such.  It was pretty neat to see it all.  We were able to pick up a few souveniors along the way.  The boys were pretty bored with it too but found them some neat things for buying.  AvaGrace, well, she loves her stroller and squeaky shoes that we bought here for $5. 
Next we went to an amusement park.  There they had rides and cotton candy and lots of children.  Here it is Sunday, so everyone was off for the weekend.  I have not seen any difference here as far as Sunday being their religious day or anything.  The park was mainly for smaller kids and Jace and Collin weren’t that into it.  They did like the section that had some exercise pieces.  Lots of places here have little stations to stretch your body and get you to move a little more.  It is not that strenuous for you but more of massages and stretches for your body.  It is neat.
 Chen Clan Temple (now art museum)

Jace getting a glass with his name painted in the inside.

Next we ate lunch and got a ham and cheese sandwich, chicken wings, and spaghetti.  It was all pretty good- they said it was a Chinese and western- style restaurant.   It filled an empty spot. 
AvaGrace is taking to the boys much better now.  She has been going to them and teasing them some and they are eating it up.  We are really glad to see that now.  She has learned to walk on her own since we got her.  The first few days we walked her around by the hand, but now she walks where she wants in the room.  The boys have been playing legos, playing on computer games, and catching some movies while we have been letting AvaGrace walk around the place.   

Finally in Guangzhou!!

Oh we are so happy to be on our last leg of our 3 city journey in China.  We took our 1st airplane flight with Ava last night, and she did good.  She slept in Joey's arms, so his arms fell asleep, though!  Guangzhou is just beautiful!  Very tropical weather, lots of green, and best of all, sunshine!  We have had fog, rain, and hazy days until now.  We traveled to Shamian Island this am for her medical exam, and saw lots of other adoptive familes there!  And we have several families staying in The Garden Hotel with us, so we don't feel so isolated anymore.  The island is a very pretty place, we shopped and ate lunch at I Love Lucy's, a popular diner that serves Americal style lunches.  I had a grilled cheese and, Oh, how it tasted so good!  We met a family from Raleigh here to adopt a 3 yr old daughter, what a small world :) 
 Yay!  Food we recognize  :)

 Outside The Garden Hotel

Jace and Collin braved this meal, and ate their shrimp whole!!


Ava Grace likes to sit in her stroller now, thank goodness!  She feels comfortable and will even fall asleep in it if she's tired.  She cried the 1st several times we tried to put her in it.  The boys will have more free time here in Guangzhou, and they are thankful for that.  We have an outdoor pool we plan to take them all to, are going to a small amusement park tomorrow, and to a safari Monday after her consulate appointment where we take our oath.


Day 10- August 27, 2011
We have arrived in Guangzhou and it is nicer place than the other two places but it is hot here.  This place seems less crowded and people are not as pushy here- a little more civil all around.  We are all really tired and today we had an easy relaxing day.  We had to take AvaGrace for her medical exam and that was it.  There is one place to get these exams done for adoption children.  Little did we know that everyone else had beat us there.  When we walked in the waiting room was overflowing with American families all with adopted Chinese children. It was pretty cool.  That is the nice thing about where we are staying right now too.  We see families just like us at breakfast and in the hallways here at the hotel and we are able to talk with them and share experiences.  From those conversations we have the best story- or maybe we are just a little biased!  HaHa!  Either way, it is pretty different than where we have been before. 
Our facilitator here is named Jack and he knows his stuff.  He has everything lined up for us here already.  At the medical clinic we were the last family to get there, but somehow Jack got us to be the next one to start the medical visit- that was awesome!  She checked out ok and then we had to kill about 2.5 hours for the clinic to complete the paperwork so Jack could pick it up before we left.  We walked along the streets and did some shopping and then went to the park so the boys could play on the playground. We ate lunch at a little restaurant there and Mandy got a grilled cheese and said it was great.  We got cheeseburgers, looking for something like home here, but they tasted really strange.  Jack picked up the paperwork and then picked us up and we went back to the room for some freetime.  We played in the room all afternoon.  The boys enjoyed a little time playing with their Chinese legos that we bought in Shanghai just before we left to come here.  We took a nap and then went out for a stroll beside the hotel.  We found a convenient store and bought some drinks and snacks for the room and then stopped by to get a bite at the McDonalds.  It was just like home!  It was great! We miss home some kindof bad and are really dreading the long flight home.  On the flight to Guangzhou, daddy had to hold AvaGrace as she slept the whole time and it was tough to do on that small plane.  We are ready to get back for sure.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pictures

What a sweet laugh!!


This is a comfortable ride

A quick medical visit for a "favor", but Ava was not sick :)

This is a tall building, huh, Collin?
A happy group

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 7- August 25, 2011

The Buddhist Temple
Where our sweet girl was found at 1 month of age.

Out Cold!!  long day?

Miss Personality


Mommy & me



Today was a rainy day and filled with a couple of tours.  We told the boys that and they were over it before we started.  They have been very patient but “they just wanna have fun!”  Truth is, we are kindof that way also.  Oh well, they sucked it up and went with the flow like we did.  Today we were off to tour a famous Buddist temple here in Shanghai.  On the way, we had a great moment to share what Buddists believe and how it is different than Christians.  We had a good conversation between our family.  We also shared how it is important that we understand where little AvaGrace is coming from and her culture history.  The temple was very elaborate and our guide explained how everything they believe relates back to nature.  AvaGrace was not feeling it today.  She was cranky and didn’t know who she wanted.  I think in the end she wanted mommy the most and today was officially a very good mommy day for her.  Of course, everyone wants mommy when they are not feeling great and that was great to see.  Mommy just has a hard time carrying her everywhere and it can be a bit much for her. 
We went to another silk factory (same as our department stores back home) before lunch.  Here we ended buying mommy a little piece of China (pocketbook) and a set of placemats with matching chopsticks for our future Chinese dinners at home. 
Next we headed off to lunch.  Lunch was great today.  Everything was recognizable and good.  Sweet and sour chicken, soup, rice, fried chicken, fried fish, grilled pork with bamboo shoots and zucchini, and of course watermelon for dessert- that is always the dessert but it is not as sweet as ours back home. 
After lunch we went to the Shanghai museum.  It was located on one side of the People’s square.  There was some amazing bronze, pottery, calligraphy (what they call their writing here), paintings, and furniture in there.  It showcases their long history and how talented these people are.  Some pieces are more that 4000 years old and still preserved very well.  It makes me think about our American history and really how short lived we have been. 
We thought we were done for the day after the tour- and Lord knows we were spent after looking at pottery and such for more than 2 hours- but we had a special treat along the way.  We were headed to the place where our little AvaGrace was found when she was a month old.  The place was at a huge hospital in Shanghai.  We realized just how this mommy cared for her.  We feel like she left her here at this particular hospital because this hospital specializes in dental work according to our guide- and the mommy knew she needed that type of care.  Our guide asked everyone along the way to find the exact place she was found so we could go there with her.  We found it and were able to take some pictures there with her now. That was very special for us and we got a little emotional seeing it and thinking about it.
After that, we headed back home for a little free time, packing up, and PIZZ HUT PIZZA!!!  Mandy was determined to have pizza tonight.  She was one the phone for about 30 minutes and came back in to say it will be delivered in an hour with a Coke!  Were we in paradise or what?  To make it even sweeter, it was cheap too, only 90 RMB which translates to about $15 (large pizza, 1.25 liter of Coke, 2 slices of pie, and delivery by bicycle).  We are headed out tomorrow to pickup our notarized paperwork that we paid for and filled out last Monday and then to the airport to fly to another place called Guangzhou (said as “GuangJoe”).  We will leave there next Wednesday to come back home. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 5 & 6- August 23 & 24, 2011


Day 5 - August 23, 2011
Today started out as a test of our patience and sort of like the honeymoon was over for little Ava Grace.  She woke up and did not want any of us.  It’s like the vacation was over for her.  After about 30 minutes she realized we weren’t leaving and then she was all ‘lovey’ again.  She was so much more relaxed than the first day we got her.  She has been a real trooper.  Our first activity today was to go to Adoption office and then to the Notary office.  At the adoption office, we had to go through the interview process and explain why we were adopting.  It was a little intimidating but was quick.  There was a lot of waiting and the kids did great occupying themselves.  We then had to go and take a picture of mom, dad, and Ava Grace.  We found out that this picture was used on the official adoption certificate.  We met up with our friends from Wisconsin again.  It is funny because neither one of us know where we are going or what the next steps are.  We just see each other along the way.  It’s very funny.  We left the adoption office and went to the notary office.  Here the notary is much more important than in US.  Here they are the official recorders and the only ones that do that.  So we met up with our friends again at the notary office.  Here we took the oath, which was basically an agreement that we would not abandon or abuse our little girl.  She basically read the requirement to all of us together and we had to shake our head or indicate yes.  We were presented Ava Grace’s passport that had only her Chinese name on it.  It was a cute picture there that was taken weeks ago and she is showing off her 2 front teeth.  She did great being patient the whole time and the boys are continuously playing with her and trying to entertain her.  Today she was reaching for them and playing games with them.  That was a welcomed site because the first day she wanted nothing to do with them.  She is mimicking them with funny faces and sounds.  She picks up quickly and is very smart. 
After the notary office, we went to lunch at the Bunder (I think that’s right but it’s a boardwalk that showcases the river and beautiful buildings all around central Shanghai).  Lunch was great!  We had fried chicken, spicy bamboo shoots with chicken, rice, cabbage, soup, and fried pork (seemed a lot like chicken fried steak though).  The boys ate great and have been great at trying new stuff at each meal.  We fed Ava Grace some rice with soups mixed together to make it a little easier going down.  She is a good eater and will tell you when she’s had enough.  So far she has taken almost 2x as much formula at each feeding and eater much more from the table than we were told she was eating.  I think she has gained a pound already.  Right after lunch we took a tour down the boardwalk.  We asked the guide if it was going to be a long tour and he said no justa short ways.  So we didn’t take a stroller or carrier.  Of course, Ava Grace fell asleepas soon as we got going and the short tour lasted more than an hour!  Daddy’s arms and back were give out but by the end of that and couldn’t wait til we got into the van again.  From there we took a stroll through the French Quarter here and it was composed of many small stores and galleries down narrow, run-down alleys.  It was nothing fancy but was a very neat atmosphere.  That was another 30 minute tour, but this time we had her in the stroller.  There were some beautiful pictures there.  The thing that really sticks out in our minds is how artistically talented these people are.  They can create some fabulous works of art here. By this time we were give out and ready to just relax in the room and let the boys play with their little sis.  We asked our facilitator how they usually treat sick people here and he took it as we thought Ava Grace was sick.  He made a call and said that he arranged for us to stop by the hospital to get her checked out since the van drivers wife was a nurse there and it wouldn’t cost us anything.  We insisted several times that she was ok and it wasn’t necessary but he wasn’t hearing that.  So we played along made it another opportunity to see a hospital up close.  The nurses and doctors there were fabulous and had a big heart.  We finally made it back to the room after another long day and the boys finally got to play with little sissy.  They did great and didn’t overwhelm her.  She is getting much more used to them now and now reaches out to touch them and interact with them more.  They are lapping it up.     




Day #6 Aug 24, 2011

Jace braved the challenge of this fine dining


Today was a little more relaxing than any of the previous ones.  No paperwork, no appointments, just tour of TV tower and Pearl factory.  So we started out around 9:30 this morning.  We went to the TV tower which is about 1500 feet tall from the best we can interpret.  It had about 250 floors- that is the highest we could go anyway.  It has a skywalk to walk out on and glass floor so you can see under your feet.  It was incredibly high and gave the very best views of the beautiful city here.  It was AWESOME!  We took it all in for quote a while.  Then we went down a ways and to an arcade that the boys really enjoyed.  It was great for them- they have been so patient the whole time and I was glad they had a little while in there to play some games.  We finished at the TV tower by walking through the museum there.  It was huge with many models of what times were like in the older days and explained the history here.  It was nice but way too much for us to take it all in. 
Next we went for lunch.  Everyday before today we have had the very best food you can find here.  Today we went to a very formal place and got the meal we had been worried about getting.  There were many items there that we couldn’t figure out what they were.  Mandy liked some soup that we had.  It seemed to have some eggs stuffed with some kind of meat and some clear chewy things that she said was dumplings.  When our facilitator came back to get us after lunch she asked what was in some of the dishes- BIG MISTAKE!  The dumplings that she liked were tendons and the meat was some kind of mixture of meat.  I could see her getting sick by minute-haha!  There was a chicken foot on one of the plates, no other chicken parts that I could recognize.  They brought us fish and yes that was easy to recognize because it was the entire fish- eyes and all just on a plate.  That was actually pretty decent if you could get past him staring at you while you ate him.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat very much for lunch.  We ate our rice which is always a safe bet here. 
We toured a pearl factory and while Mandy shopped the boys and Ava Grace stole the show.  They have many young girls working in the factories (same as our department stores) to sale items to people.  They love children here and kept telling us that we have a great family.  Of course we agree.  Everywhere we go they say Jace looks like Harry Potter and they just pull Collin with them to show off his blue eyes to all of their friends.  At the pearl factory we bought Ava Grace a pearl bracelet and necklace to give her when she gets older.  The ladies there couldn’t get over how much she was attached to her parents after only a couple of days.  They kept saying we were very lucky and we realize it is not luck but God’s grace that helped us in this union.
Since we didn’t have much lunch today we decided to go out to eat for dinner.  We decided to walk out on the streets around the hotel and came across a KFC.  We were happy to finally get another taste of home, but after we got our food, we found out it was not the same.  The chicken was not the same chicken we have at home.  I don’t know how it was different, but it was very.  None of us could eat our sandwich, so we got a sundae and headed home for the night. 
When we got back we tried to keep Ava Grace up a while to see if anyone would Skype us.  She started playing hard and was talking up a storm.  She is really coming out of her shell now.  Tonight we were able to put her in the boys laps and she was just touching their hair and faces and loving on them. We even got her to kiss them on the cheek for bedtime.  She is warming up to them pretty good now.  She doesn’t see them as a threat but more as friends and playmates now.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meeting Ava Grace

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:20:41 -0700 (PDT)

Gotcha Day!!
What a day today! We went to get our sweet little girl today. It was an awesome experience. We felt so blessed just by her acceptance of us from the first minute. We had been waiting for this moment for a year and here it was all at once it seemed. The setting was not special at all- we were sitting in a conference room and as soon as we signed the last piece of paperwork, they said something to each other in Mandarin and then a lady walks in with our little AvaGrace. She came right to us almost immediately. It was an answer to many prayers!!! Her caregiver got emotional when she saw it and said it was a sign from God and that the last 2 weeks she had started preparing for us and she saw that. It seemed almost perfect the way she received us at once. We were so relieved. We asked the caregivers some questions, they gave us a great photo album of her and her days growing up to now. We were shocked by how much they really cared for her and had taken care of her. Our facilitator did a great job translating for us and he even video taped the whole meeting her. After we met her, we came back to the hotel for about 45 minutes and then were scheduled for a tour of Chinatown in Shanghai. It was at the same time she was supposed to nap, so we trekked out with her and she caught a little nap on our shoulder. We saw some more fabulous temples and ate at the best place we have been so far- Chinese food that is. The absolute best meal we had was yesterday when we ate at Pizza Hut- that was much needed to keep us going here. The good Chinese place today only served dumplings and it was so crowded, we just stood over people eating until they left their table and we jumped at their seats. That is the way it is everywhere here- driving, walking down the street, buying something, anything. After Chinatown we stopped by the Walmart to get some formula, snacks, and some Coke! That stuff holds us together here. Hot tea and warm water just donĂ¢€™t cut it. Then we came back to the hotel for the night and tried to relax for the evening and get to know our newest family member a little more. We have found that she loves formula, has to have something in each hand all the time, and has some personality! It has been an incredible day. Tomorrow we have to sign more paperwork and sit in on interviews.




An immediate attraction to each other
Me and my brothers



Day 2
We had another full day of sightseeing.  Today we went to the Great Wall, then to a Jade factory, next to a copper factory and to get some lunch, to a pearl factory, then to get a quick glimpse of the Olympic Venue for 2008 in Beijing, then to tour Summer Palace and end up with an Acrobatic show. 

Today was a long day.  We left the hotel at 8:30am and didn’t return until 7pm.  We went non-stop and gained a wealth of knowledge of the culture here. 

The Great Wall was definitely one of the wonders of the world.  It was incredibly massive.  We only went out on one small part of it but it was unbelievable.  It was amazing that anyone could build something so huge!  The steps were very uneven and definitely not up to code.  One step would be 4” high and the next 12”.  The climb was straight up it seemed.  Of course there were so many people climbing there that you couldn’t move without being touched and rubbed against and bumped into the whole time.  Collin and I climbed up a long way to the top of the section we were at.  Mommy and Jace decided to go back a little early because of the crowded steps and the fact that when you get halfway up it seemed like you were hanging off a 10-story building- get that dizziness from that height.  They thing that really strikes us as surprising is the uncleanliness of everything we have seen and how trash is just thrown on the ground most places and poor people are rummaging through the trash cans all the time. 

The Jade Factory was very cool.  These people have an amazing artistic ability.  They could carve most anything in that Jade.  We learned the different grades and colors of Jade and how to tell if they are valuable or not.  Of course the boys both had to get a piece and so they each got a necklace with their zodiac sign on it.  Jace’s is a snake and Collin’s is a goat. 

Next we were able to see how they make the elaborate copper vases.  It is still amazing what they do with their artistic abilities.  We had a good lunch that was served family style.  Chris, our facilitator here, got us some chicken and bamboo shoots, some sweet and sour chicken, then we had rice, cabbage, some spicy soup but who knows what was in that, and they gave us some American comfort food of french fries- although not like the ones at home.  After lunch we stopped by to buy an ornament. 

We had some extra time to kill so we stopped by a pearl factory and learned how they make the freshwater pearls and the different grades and types of them.  Mandy really wanted to get some so that one day we could pass them along to our little AvaGrace when she gets older.  So we bought a nice necklace of black pearls.  While Mandy was shopping, Collin and I were getting talked about in Mandarin by the other girls and manager there.  They all liked to hear us speak English and theirs was not that great.  They couldn’t understand where we were from- had never heard of North Carolina.

The Olympic venue tour was a drive by.  Chris asked if we wanted to stop by there to take some pictures and we said sure.  They pulled off on the side of the road and told us to go take some pictures- not exactly what we were expecting but it was ok since we were wiped out already. 

They sped down the road a ways further and dropped us off at the Acrobat show.  It was pretty good and lasted about an hour.  We got a couple of Cokes and a bag of microwave popcorn for RMB 30.  That was about $5.  Chris told us our flights were at 10am the next morning and they would pick us up at 7:30. 

We are so shocked by how dirty everything is here- trash everywhere and places where people got sick right there where everyone is walking.  The housing is little shacks everywhere- we were not expecting that.  To me they have a major issue with the population and it is evident everywhere here.  Chris confirmed the one child policy that was started back in the 80s and said that the rich people just pay the fine like $200k and have as many as they want here.  He also said that some families would have 2 children if both parents are in the one child policy ruling.

Driving is total chaos here.  We were laughing that we would never be able to get around here if we had rented a car and tried to drive ourselves.  There are really no lanes, no turn signals, and no rules.  Our van driver uses on foot on gas and one hand on the horn.  It seems that if you stick your nose out in front of someone, you have the right-of-way.  I am amazed we haven’t had a wreck or killed anyone walking or on a bike yet.  In fact one time today, we were behind a line of cars and the driver just started driving on the other side of the road. It is wild.  The people here walk that way too.  No personal space issues for them, just us.  It has been nice to see their culture and their ways from a first hand experience though.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

We arrived in China




We had a big day.  We are finally here!!  We were trying to get adjusted from jetlag but we also had a few tours to do.  Mandy and Collin couldn't sleep on the plane but about 3 hrs :( We started out at 10:30 am after arriving at out hotel room at 2am, and we all felt pretty good. We toured the Tienamen Square and were able to see all the huge important govt buildings.  Then we walked to one side through the Imperial Wall and went into the Forbidden City.  We were amazed at how huge the place was and it kept going and going. We walked for 3 hours and we were dead by the time we got to the end.  We found out that the people here don't have any "personal space' rules and they will just walk up to you and right in front of you.  People stared at us like celebreties and pointed and took out picture, some even walked to us and touched Collin gently and smiled.  The driving is insane!! Look out if you are trying to cross the street.  I was amazed that no one got hit by our driver!  He was relentless and used his horn more that the brake!!!  They then took us to a REAL chinese restaurant- I knew it was that cause Mandy asked for an eggroll and they just looked at her funny- they had no clue about that here.  The bathrooms were not very welcoming either with just a hole in the ground.  We were able to ride a rickshaw for a Hutong tour of the ordinary peoples housing- it was pretty poor living.  Then we went shopping at the silk factory and then to see the Kung Fu show here and that was amazing!!!  That was really cool.  We are up this morning at 4:15am here- we were all out last night at 7pm (that was the time we finally got home from all the touring).  This morning we are off to tour at 8:30am and hopefully a little better prepared for all the sightseeing.  We are still amazed that we are Beijing, the Capital of China!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Title: We’re Almost There Sweet Girl!!

My Dear Ava Grace,
            We are packed for our journey across this earth to meet you baby girl!  And we have a whole bag of lil clothes, socks, shoes, hairbands, stuffed animals, snacks, bottles, sippy cups and books for just YOU!!  We have prayed so long to finally meet you, for the Lord to keep you safe, and here we are about to leave in 24 hours on this wonderful journey to hold you for the first time!  We are praying for you, that you will be prepared to meet your forever family.  It won't be much longer, sweetie.  We love you so much ……Mommy
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ava Grace, You are So Loved!!

And that is as FACT!!  Our family and friends "showered us" with their blessings this past Sunday, and it was an adoption celebration to remember!!!  We feel so very blessed by the outpouring of love and support for our sweet girl.  We got EVERYTHING we needed, plus some more!    Folks who came ate some authentic Chinese cuisine, practiced with chopsticks, and could learn to write their name in Mandarin if they wanted.  Michelle, Donna, Kristie, Heather, Sue, Sloan, Tammy, Janie, Ben, Mom ...... a HUGE thank you from our whole family for putting all this together and making it so wonderful!!  We love you all :)

Countdown to seeing our girl is ON!!! 

8 days til we leave for China
13 days to see Ava Grace and squeeze her so tight!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CA

We got the email yesterday letting us know our official Consulate Appointment is set for 8/29.  We were VERY disappointed that 8/22 was not available :(  So ..... this means we officially leave 8/17 for China!!!  YAY!  We are booking flights today!  This is our non-descript itinerary, details will be filled in soon of each day.

Wed.  8/17  Flight to Beijing
Thurs.  8/18  Arrive in Beijing (sightseeing)
Sun.  8/21  Travel to Shanghai
Mon 8/22  GOTCHA Ava Grace!!!
Friday 8/26  Travel to Guangzhou
Sat-Sun  Medical Exams
Monday 8/29  CA (Visa issued for her)
Wed 8/31  Return Home!!!