Great Wall

Great Wall

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 12: US Consulate, Miss Mila Gets Sick

This is a tough one to write today because we are currently waiting to take Mila to a western dr to be seen at 9:30 which can't get here fast enough!  We had suspected a few days ago that maybe a tooth or something in her mouth was bothering her because she cried a couple of times and grabbed her jaw.  We debated about whether to take her then but Holt recommended that we watch her to see how things went.  And honestly, the next day see seemed ok, hardly cried at all, and never grabbed her jaw.  The only other sign  something was up is that she basically ate nothing the whole day.  Really she only had liquids the entire day.  But with kids, especially newly adopted ones, we had no idea why she wasn't eating.  It wasn't until yesterday afternoon when we noticed that her cheek was swollen up and then she really did start to cried and hold her jaw.  We gave her children's ibuprofen and that helped her out a lot.  The swelling went down and she started acting ok.  Another trip to the Holt office and they said to watch her during that evening and see how she did.  So we had a river cruse scheduled and we decided to go ahead and stick to that plan.  Unfortunately, the medication must have worn off on the boat because Mila started feeling poorly again and this time her cheek swelling got worse.  We told Holt right away that we wanted to see the dr.  Unfortunately, he's not going to be in until 9:30 so we knew we were in for a long, painful night as we held Mila in our arms and tried to give her comfort.  Poor little thing!  And we HATE not being able to talk to her and tell her what's going on.  Luckily, we did have our tour guide explain to her last night that Mama and Baba knew that her mouth hurt and that we were going to make it better in the morning.  That seemed to help her some.

Other then this health news, yesterday morning we had our US Consulate appointment to apply for Mila's visa and participate in the oath taking ceremony.  We were a little worried about this because we were told security at the consulate was extremely tight and we would only be able to bring in a diaper and some treats for Mila.  But it ended up being fine.  We went with some of the other Holt families and there were families from other agencies there as well.  It was kind of like going to the DMV where you take a number and then talk to someone through a thick piece of glass.  Luckily, there was a small children's play area that kept the kids occupied while we waited.  The oath taking was pretty cool.  We just all stood and raised our hands and repeated words in behalf of Mila that said she would be a good citizen.  It was really cute because Mama was holding Mila during it and when she saw us raise our hands, she raised her hand too.  She was the only kid that did that.  We both commented that we liked going to the consulate.  It was nice to see "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" written in big letter on the side of the building.

Thank you so much for all your prayers.  We know that the difficulties were are facing are but a short time and ultimately they are making us stronger as a family.  It will just be so nice to get home and be able to tackle these things in familiarity instead of out of a hotel room in a foreign country.

No pics today because they are hard for us to look at because of Mila's swollen jaw.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 11: Day Off - Liu Hua Park

Today was an off day for us.  It is a day built into the schedule incase any results from back from the TB test that they give the kids that need further assessment.  They basically told us no news is good news so we had the day to do whatever we wanted.  We were running low on supplies for Mila, so after breakfast we took a taxi to a huge french owned supermarket kind of like Walmart downtown.  It was a really cool store because it was all underground and what sort of this winding labyrinth of hallways with product on either side.  What was cool was they had these moving walkways that were ascending or descending in elevation.  We had Mila in a shopping cart and when we got to the first belt we were like, how does this work.  Baba was just going to push the cart onto the belt and hope for the best.  Turns out there was some sort of magnet system in the belt that very firmly held the cart in place until we reached the end of the belt.  We were able to find the supplies she needed and headed back to the hotel.

After her nap, we walked next door to the local park Liu Hua which was very beautiful.  There were many winding walkways and really pretty palm trees lining everything.  We saw more fan dancers and there was even an amusement park in the middle where Mila got to ride a few rides.

After the park, we ate dinner at the Coffee Table again and then played some at the hotel kids play area (very nice the hotel has this).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Some Comments on Wuhan (In Province)

From what we have heard, the provinces can be quite a bit different from each other depending on how much the local governments have put into their infrastructure.  These are comments on the province we went to, Hubei, and some things may or may not apply to other provinces.

We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel (Marriot).  The hotel was very nice and offered a great breakfast bar buffet included in the price of the room.  We found the room nice but you could not control the temperature and in the winter time in province, we found the room to be warm for our liking.  The hotel had a nice indoor pool but no hot tub.  There was also a gym but we didn't use it.

The area of the city we stayed in did not have a lot of easy to access places around the hotel for us to go to that we could tell.  This left us eating a late big breakfast, skipping lunch, and then going out on adventure for dinner.  We did not get any taxi's while in Wuhan.  Fortunately, there was a nice shopping mall and walmart about a 15 minute walk from the hotel that we could frequent.

We found a weird feeling in the city.  It just did not have a good vibe.  It seemed that the people were a little less friendly and the pollution was bad.  Our guide was excellent though.  She arranged great optional tours and one day spent the whole day with us.  We heard from some other parents that their guides weren't so great (different agencies from us).

We were surprised at some of the information provided to us on our child.  We have found the food that she supposedly liked to be hit or miss.  Some of the things the paperwork said she liked we couldn't even get her to touch.  Other parents in our group reported that their kids ate anything and everything.  We found the opposite and that it was difficult to find even Chinese foods she would eat.  Luckily the hotel buffet had a good assortment so we could try different things.  We brought a lot of American kids snack foods with us which she rejected almost all of.

We were also surprised that we were not given any info on the state of her teeth which are very bad.  From what we hear, this is somewhat common for adopted kids to have but we were just surprised because we didn't know until we got her.

The internet was frustrating to use in province.  That was partially because of poor wifi in the room and the Pandapow vpn service we used to access Facebook.  Seemed we were always having to mess around with it to get it to connect.

We were surprised at how many times we needed to run to the store to get things for our daughter which we weren't expecting.  Luckily we had a walmart close.  Mostly diapers, wipes and soft chinese snacks and a few toys.

We had a hard time eating in province.  We are both pretty adventurous but with a new kid, we were just leery of going to a restaurant we knew nothing about where no one spoke english.  So we ate at McDonalds, KFC, and a pizza place in the mall.  Funny thing is that we hadn't eaten Mcdonalds for over a year before coming to China.

If it is possible, ask your guide if they can take you to your childs finding spot.  Totally worth it.  We did not find a lot of places to souvenir shop in province but there are places in GZ.  Being in the airports in province is kind of scary because no one speaks english.

Day 10: Shamian Island

Today was an off day for us (nothing scheduled) so Holt recommended for families to take a taxi to Shamian Island.  The Zhujiang River flows through the city of Guangzhou and creates many water ways through the city.  One area of town, kind of like a park/shops/historic area, boarders the river and has small water causeways that surround it making it like an island in the middle of the city.  After breakfast, we loaded up in a cab and headed for the island.  Luckily, Holt provided us with a paper in Chinese that said "Take us to Shamian Island" so we could hand it to the taxi driver because they do not speak English at all.  The island was beautiful and kind of reminded Bobby of New Orleans with a Chinese flair.  There is a famous hotel on one corner of the island called the "White Swan" where adopting families usually stay but it is being renovated now which is why we are at a different hotel.  However, because of this there a several Chinese souvenir giftshops that have been set up to cater to all of the international families coming to the area.  So, we got to do some sweet gift shopping and we picked up some gifts for Mila that we want to give her in the future as a reminder of her country.  The island boarders a river, so after shopping we walked up through a park that is along the river.  It was a beautiful day with the sun out and the smell of the water made us homesick for Delaware.  There was more elderly Chinese people dancing in formation in the park and some were doing a dance with fans.  Mila just loved sitting and watching them.  Then there was a nice kids play area right next to the dancers just perfect for Mila to play on.  And boy did she ever!  She just giggled with joy as she got to run around with the other children and slide down the slide.  We can tell from watching her that she is very intelligent and figures things out quickly.  She also seems to have a bit of a daredevil streak and she is pretty tough to taking bonks to the head.  After the playground, we ate lunch at Lucy's (named after I Love Lucy) that served western food.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for Milas nap and some rest time for Mama and Baba.  Having a new toddler wears new parents out!  After her nap, we headed down to the Holzmeisters room to visit with them before dinner and let Mila play with their kids.  Their son Austin is so cute!  For dinner, a lady we had met on Facebook organized for a large group of us to go out to dinner to a mexican restaurant.  It was very good!  And it was nice to talk to other families going through the same things we are.

Mila had a very good day today.  No meltdowns and she really started playing with Baba and even coming to him for hugs and kisses so a big improvement today!  We are starting to get worried about her teeth.  They are in an awful state.  Poor thing can only eat soft foods and then she has to bite into everything on the side of her mouth using her molars.  And unfortunately today she cried a couple of times while holding the side of her jaw and we are concerned she is having pain in one of her teeth. We gave he children's tylonol before bed and we think that helped her some, but we are debating about whether to have her seen by a western doctor while we are here.  It is troubling for us to see her in pain and not be able to know why.  It could be something simple though like maybe she scraped her gum with a cracker.  We are hoping it is ok.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 9: Visa Appointment

The last leg of our journey is in Goungzhou where the US Consulate is because we have to apply for a visa to get Mila back to the USA.  It takes about 4 days to get so we will be here till Thursday and then take a train to Hong Kong and fly home on Friday.  Whew!  Friday can't come fast enough.  But we think this week will be pretty fun because there are a TON of other families staying in our hotel with us going through the same thing.  Every where we go we see other couples like us who are adopting and it helps out tremendously to be able to talk to them and compare notes.  The breakfast buffet at the hotel is huge and they stick all of the adopting families in one corner of the room.  You can look around at the parents faces and just immediately know what they are going through.  Most of the kids are young like Mila but a few are older like this sweet little girl who is 8.  She is really having a rough time because she is not taking to her parents and keeps thinking they are taking her back to the orphanage.  Ouch!  We are happy to report that Mila had a better day today (no traveling!)
After breakfast, we had to report to the lobby to meet the other Holt families in our group because we all took a bus to the consulate together.  This was the first time we got the see the wonderful Holzmeister family again we were with in Beijing.  It did the heart good to see Julie and Tom and the kids and meet their new little son Austin.  He is so adorable and about the same age as Mila.  The Holzmeister kids, Madison and Dillion, really took to Mila right away and just wanted to smother her with attention.

We were a little nervous about the visa appointment because it involved a medical check.  We had seen this part on the show, "The Little Couple" and we knew if could be quite traumatic.  Mila was a little fussy when we got there but was mostly ok through the various rooms we had to go to.  All the drs. could talk to her in Chinese which seemed to calm her down some.  One lady was laughing when she pulled down Mila's pants and saw her chunky little legs.  We knew the last room would be the worst because that is where they check for TB and so they take her in by herself without the parents and give her a shot.  We had planned before hand for this event and Baba was waiting outside of the from with a bottle for her.  Luckily, this tactic worked because she did come out crying but she let Baba soothe her to sleep.  It was really nice because then she slept for 3 more hours.

During her nap, Baba went out around the hotel and checked the 7-11 and the McDonalds.  This is a very nice hotel with many things close by to do.  That will help this week to pass.  At 3:00 baba had to report to a meeting with Holt to go over paperwork for Mila's visa application.  At this meeting, Holt walked everyone through the plans for the week and it sounds like we are in for some fun complete with a trip to a safari zoo and a river boat cruz.

For dinner, we went across the street to a restaurant called the Coffee Table which has an American menu.  It was very good.  After dinner we went to Starbucks for a hot chocolate and played in the room for a long time.

As we have already written about, Mila has had a hard time bonding with Baba and also with wanting to have meltdowns whenever she doesn't get her way.  At first, both of these were really hard to deal with.  However, today is the first day we decided to deal with these head on.  Whenever Mila started to cry, both Mama and Baba would stop paying attention to her.  Then as soon as she stopped, we would go back to playing with her.  She seemed to get it that crying to get her way wasn't going to cut it.  Also, Mama and Baba made an extra effort to be affectionate with each other and hug a lot as Mila watched.  We think this helped her to see Baba wasn't so bad.  By the end of the night, she was laughing and playing with Baba all over the room and wanted to bring him things to check out with her.  This parenting thing is tough!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 8: Leaving Wuhan, Heading to Guangzhou

Not going to was REALLY tough.  It was our last day in Wuhan and we had to travel to Guangzhou for the last leg of our journey.  Why was the day tough?  Well it started off well enough with our typical trip to the breakfast buffet where all of Miss Mila's adoring fans had to say goodbye to her one last time.  She is so cute because she happily waves to everyone she sees and says "HI!" or "GOODBYE!"  After breakfast, we headed out to start our day and said goodbye to the Renaissance Hotel, our first home as a family.  Lily, our guide, planned a lunch for us and the Bieker family at a very upscale restaurant called "Prince".  I think she wanted to show the adults a good time in the city but it maybe was not the best choice of a place to go with young toddlers.  It was fancy dining but luckily they contained some of the chaos by putting us in our own room.  It was all traditional Chinese food and luckily the menu had big pictures of the food so we could se what we were getting. We ordered many dishes so that we could all taste test everything.  This is where the stress level cranked up a notch.  This is the first day we were out when it was Mila's nap time.  So first, she got extremely giggly and wanted to run around EVERYWHERE in the room.  As new parents of a toddler, it was tough for us to figure out how not to disturb everyone.  Soon after, Miss Mila decided it was time to let us know she was tired by having a nuclear meltdown and proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs.  Luckily, the Beikers took it in stride because they have young kids too but it definitely made a stressful situation.  Mama and Baba we just kind of frantically trying to figure out what to give her so she would stop crying.  Luckily, she calmed down but mom and dad were pretty frazzled.

After lunch, we had to go to the notary public and get Mila's paperwork finalized in order to apply for her visa in GZ (our guide told us that they are building a US consulate in Wuhan so in the future parents adopting from there won't have to travel to GZ to get the visa).  We've been getting driven everywhere in a huge van so that we could stay with the Beikers for everything.  So we headed into some part of the city where just Michael and Bobby got out to go into the office to finish the paperwork.  Unfortunately, this was also stressful because the lady we were suppose to meet went home ill right before our appointment so the other workers in her office we scrambling to cover her work so it took twice as long to finish there.  Poor Mama and Allizon were stuck in the van with 4 kids for over an hour.  Baba was very nervous getting through the appointment because he was worried that Mama was having to deal with a nightmare in the car.  Luckily it wasn't too bad but we were glad to get out of there.

After the appointment, we headed to the airport.  A LONG 1.5 hour drive out of Wuhan.  We took pics of the city as we left.  Some very bad parts of town.  The traffic was very bad and the driver had a very jerky driving tendency.  So needless to say, we were so glad when we finally got to the airport.  Unfortunately, we had a very late flight scheduled from 6:55-8:00.  But once our guide got us security and we said goodbye to her, we learned that out plane was delayed until 8:10.  What made it worse was that the gate changed 5 times while were were sitting in the terminal.  So here we were in an airport where no one spoke English for like 4 hours trying desperately to keep the kids happy while we waited for our stupid plane to take off.

Once we finally boarded, of course Miss Mila had had enough and decided it was time for another full meltdown.  Poor mama had to bare the brunt of it as Mila kicked and writhed on her lap.  All the while everyone was staring at us.  We will never look down on other parents who have kids crying again!  Luckily, Mila did fall asleep on the plane and we made it to the hotel in GZ at 12:30 at night.  What a LONG day!!!

But our new hotel is very nice and there are a lot of other adoptive parents here.  We will be here for a week before we head home.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 7: Day Off in Wuhan

Today was our last full day in Wuhan and also an unstructured day where we didn't have any appointments.  So we decided to sleep in the morning and try out the hotel pool.  We were all glad that Mila got to sleep in till 8:00 and wake up more naturally.  Despite this though, she like her Mama is not a morning person and was a bit cranky getting out of bed.  We have found that she likes to snuggle with Mama during this wakeup time and lets out little whines and moans to let us know she is there.  We did another breakfast in the hotel.  The staff have really taken to Mila and they all look forward to when we come in.  All of the Chinese girls run over to her to ask how her day is and they immediately go into action and get her highchair, frog plate, and sippy cup with warm milk.  One girl who Mila proclaimed as her Sister, gave Mila a stuffed teddy bear today and swooned all over her.

After breakfast, we went back to the room and decided to go to the pool.  We were really nervous how that would go since bath time is so traumatic.  We are happy to report that it went pretty well.  After some initial crying getting her swimsuit on, Mila got right into the water with her mama and let us play with some cups and glow stick necklaces with her on the edge of the pool.  She is still trying to figure out how she feels about her Baba.  Throughout the day, she was a bit hesitant to have fun when she knew Baba was near by or touching her.  But we have kept showing her what fun Baba can be and he spent the day sitting on the floor with her playing games and being the only one to hand her food.  Turns out that this technique helped because by the end of the day she was laughing and playing with both of us and bringing things for Baba to see.

After Mila's 3 hour post pool nap, we headed out on the town for another trip to Walmart and the mall.  It was nice out today, sunny and a bit warmer.  But the pollution has already started to roll back in.  On the way to walmart, we really tried to take in the sights along the way and take a lot of pictures of the street vendors and shops.  We are finally starting to feel a bit more comfortable here.  At the mall (which is 5 stories BTW) we found out the the entire 4th floor is all for kids with lots of clothing and toy shops.  There was even a kids play place with rides and games and this big tank of gold fish that kids could scoop up with nets and dump into buckets (seemed weird to us but Mila really wanted to play).  Unfortunately, we could not communicate with the lady well enough to understand how to pay so we ended up just walking away.  Just around the corner though, we were able to get one of our shopping items knocked off our shoes for Mila! (the ones she came with were pretty beat up and tight on her)  We had no idea what size she was but she really liked us and the sales ladies trying different shoes on her feet and we finally decided on little grey velcro ones with lace bows on the sides.  She LOVED them!  She immediately wanted out of the stroller to try them out.  She was so happy walking around with her new shoes on and just laughed and giggled the whole rest of the time in the mall.  Larkin said she was surprised but Bobby knew that all girls love to get new shoes.

After shoe shopping, we headed back down to Walmart to pick up a few of Mila's favorite snacks (rice milk, seaweed sheets, and rice cake like biscuits).  We also scored a new find when Mama decided to try her luck and buy her a package of mini waffles.  Mila loves those!  We also stopped by the toy aisle and scoped the toys with her.  This turned out to be a bit hairy because Mila wanted to grab every toy we passed and rip open the packaging.  We ended up settling on a small plastic toy that can launch tops and small flying disks.  We thought this would be good to let Baba play with her in the hotel room.

After walmart, we wanted to eat at Pizza Hut but when we went in it was like super upscale, WAY nicer than any Pizza Hut at home.  It looked very trendy and there were a ton of people waiting to sit down so we took off and went to KFC again.  It was right next door and we had already been there once so we kind of knew what to do.

Back in the room, night time was really fun.  Mila was laughing and playing with both her Mama and Baba.  We colored pictures on the bed, played with her new top toy, and found out she enjoys acting like the toy is a gun and laughs when Baba plays like he is getting stunned and falls to the ground shaking.  The only bad part was trying to get her to brush her teeth.  The first night, she tried it but did not like the taste of the toothpaste.  We just got new stuff tonight but we weren't able to get her to try it at all because she probably still thinks its the old stuff.  We tried everything we could think of including putting a small dab on our finger to see if she would just try a taste.  No luck.  We guess that is a fight we will have to try and win another day.  Oh well, small successes and it was a good day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 6: Finding Spot, Yellow Crane Tower, Lantern Lights

Day 6 down and we are 1 day away from our hump day!  In some ways we are very ready to get home already and get our normal routine started with Mila but we know how special this time is in Mila's home country and we are trying to take as much in as we can while we are here.  Today was no exception.  Due to a light snow yesterday, the pollution really cleared out and the sun was actually out most of the day today which made it very pleasant to sightsee around Wuhan.  Our first stop was something that we were praying we could do because it is so important to Mila's story but we weren't for sure we could pull off and that was to visit Mila's finding spot, or the spot where she was found.  So we were extremely happy when our guide arranged a tour today which included going to her finding spot.  We really had mixed emotions before going there.  We really wanted to see it but were fully expecting it to be depressing to see the place where someone had to leave this precious girl.  Fortunately, it turned out to be just the opposite.  She was found in a very nice park (the oldest in the city) right next to a Japanese watch tower facility.  We know all this because a flier was written after she was found about the deals of her finding spot.  So after our guide consulted with the park officials, she was able to direct to us to the right spot.  It was almost a spiritual/reverent atmosphere as we approached the pavilion.  The park was very beautiful with winding paths and lots of water with boats tied up used in the summer.  There was Chinese music being played and some elderly people dancing together next to the pavilion.  There were also people practicing writing calligraphy on the walkway pavers using large paintbrushes dipped in water.  It left a very beautiful effect with all of the Chinese writing on the ground.  Baba, Mama, and Didi had some alone time to walk around the pavilion and just think about the circumstances that led he into our lives.  We got some great pictures and videos so that we can show her when she gets older and starts questioning us about her past.  We had also brought with us the note penned by her mother which was with her when she was found.  We had the guide translate it for us and found out that it told us what her birthday was (we had always assumed this was the case before the orphanage knew what day she was born.  Very sad that she was abandoned when she was 1 year old.  We can only image the horrible torment it must have been for the parent that had to leave her there and hope that she would be found, taken in and cared for.  We only wish that someday they will find out that she is in good hands.  We left the park with a very positive feelings and were really glad we got to go.

After the park, our guided stopped us at the Yangtse River to look at the oldest bridge in the city being used.  The river reminded us of the Ohio River running by Kentucky.  After the river, we visited the Yellow Crane Tower.  We learned that it was first built in 223 AD as a look out for a fork but it has been burned and rebuilt many times.  There is a legend associated with the tower about a great warrior which flew from the tower on a great yellow crane.  It was a very pretty place to visit and provided us with a nice expedition that we could spend time with Mila separated from the rest of the group a bit.

After the tower, we were all a bit tired and decided to go back to the hotel for a nap and some dinner. That was very needed and Mila managed to sock in a solid 3 hour nap!  It was nice for Mama and Baba to have a bit to decompress and relax a bit.  After the nap, we headed back out with our guide and the Bieker family to take a boat ride on the 2nd biggest lake in Wuhan and visited a lighted display depicting various scenes from Chinese history.  All added up to a very nice day.  We are so grateful that we got to have a tour day like this because up to this point, we did not have a very good opinion of Wuhan.  Because of the pollution and area that our hotel is located, we were feeling like Wuhan didn't have a very uplifting spirit to it.  But that was all changed once we had this nice day today.

On the bonding front, things went pretty well today.  Mila still prefers mom over dad most of the time, but there were a few precious moments today when Baba got to hold Mila at her finding spot and when she said Baba once to him.  Also on the boat ride, there was some very excellent family time in which we got Mila to play a lot with both of us.  So things are looking good.  Bath time was a bit traumatic again but we got her through it and Baba got to comfort her when it was over.

We just love hearing all of the Mandarin our little girl speaks.   She is constantly talking and sometimes even sings.  It is so precious.  People on the streets and in the hotel are very interactive with her.  And she is able to hold a conversation with them.  Sometimes we worry because we can't understand what she is say but occasionally we are lucky and the person she is talking to knows English and can translate for us.  At breakfast this morning, Mila was very personal with a young waitress serving us.  The waitress kept talking to Mila and then finally told us that Mila kept calling her sister.  We have also learned that Mila is very aware anytime someone is crying.  That includes mama when during one tense moment, Mila saw Mama cry and then told our guide about it the next day.  I guess these little kids are pretty smart.  Anyways, we are really looking forward to when she is speaking to us in English.  She already says "hi" to people she meets and she also said her name "Mila" today which we got on video!  We will post some in a bit.  Thank you all for your kind words and support and being with us on this journey.