Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Monday, March 31, 2008

DAY 6: Part 2 (first night with Toñito)

Click for Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Forecast
Yesterday was amazing!!! Our little guy is such a trooper, he was smiling almost the whole day except one time on the bus when it was his naptime. He just started this almost silent crying and we had the interpreter ask him if he had to go potty (which by the way, he is the expert at squatty-potties!), ask him if he was hungry, thirsty, but he was saying nai-nai (I think), which is grandma. This must be what he called his foster mom. Poor baby:(. So Toño put him on his lap and he fell asleep. Of course, in 5 minutes we got to the next office and we had to carry him in! But apparently the power nap paid off because he was running around laughing hysterically with the other kids. They all had these helium balloons that they would release to the15 ft. ceiling and then try to jump 3 inches off the ground to reach the strings:), falling over laughing the whole time. Our little scientists were obviously experimenting with the density of helium vs. Urumqi air!:) Or was it a psychological test to see how often their new parents would happily grab the string to them? The answer was forever and ever.

What is so nice, is that these kids all know each other, and look to each other for comfort. If one of them is crying, the others are very concerned and want to go over and see what's wrong. Last night before Drew went to bed he wanted to check-in on Toñito! So even though Toñito was already sleeping, we let him come on and see him sleeping, and show him that he was OK. CUTE!!
I want to make sure we keep in touch so they can stay friends:).

For dinner, we had gone one of the hotel restaurants, and he loved playing with the chopsticks (although we don't think he quite knows how to use them? He grabbed the fork and spoon to eat). He told Toño when he had to go potty, and he asked for more water. He REALLY likes water- he drank almost 3 bottles full today, plus hot water with his medicine. He is on some kind-of antibiotics for a cold we think. (I am so glad he is ON antibiotics already because our pediatrician wouldn't give us any to bring with, and we would have needed some for him!) Vivi has been sharing so much with him, and I've been saying "xie xie mei mei" when she gives him something (thank you little sister). After a couple of times of hearing it he repeated me:). He also was looking for Vivi and he calls her Vivi!!!

Because he drank so much water, I brought the pull-ups and I am so glad I did for the night. Once he went to sleep, which was too easy, he woke up every 2 hours crying quietly. Actually, I don't think he ever woke up- I think he was crying in his sleep because once we talked to him and rocked him he would calm down as he woke up. He has to be so tired!! I am, although I didn't really sleep well last night because I wanted to make sure I woke up for him if he needed something.

So today our plan is to buy umber strollers (carrying the dead weight of sleeping 3 year olds convinced us!) and walk around Urumqi. There is NO WAY 4T's are going to fit Toñito!! So we will also go buy some warmer and smaller clothes for him, hopefully som kids books and music, and maybe even some toys:).

Here are some pictures from yesterday:
Vivi in our hotel lobby in the morning, by the fish tank in the first one...

Tai chi in the plaza across the street from our hotel. Morning group exercise is very popular, and there is music piped in over public speakers. I am going to bring the video camera today to tape some scenes. The next pictures is Vivi in front of our hotel. Blogger is actually censored in China, so I can't view my blog (or anyone's) except when I am posting the message. So I am not sure if the formatting is right, etc.. but anway.

On the way to the Adoption Center (offices)...

The outside of the office:
Paperwork- look at the top application (you can see our pictures!) That is Elsie, our guide, on the left, and the orphanage representative in the middle.

The view from one of the windows in the adoption center offices:

Us with the orphanage representative (and Vivi with her silly new smile):


Click for Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Forecast
Wow. Today was full of excitement, emotions and paperwork!
For the first time, Vivi slept through the entire night (yay!) and we all woke up around 5am. The breakfast buffet opened up at 7am, so we had two hours to take showers, get ready, and pack, re-pack, and pack again the backpack with our passports, toys, snacks and camera/ videocamera. My stomach was flip-flopping and I couldn't imagine how the first meeting would be!! We thoroughly convinced ourselves that Toñito would be screaming and crying and terrified of us the entire day, until he was exhausted. However quite the opposite happened!!:)

Our busy day started when we boarded the bus and rode to the adoption center (?), which is basically a sterile office building the different children welfare institutes (CWI is how the Chinese government refers to orphanages) use to present the children who are to be adopted, to their parents. The 4 adoptive families could not all fit into an elevator, so 3 families went up and we waited with our coordinator for the second one to come. We were told that we would be waiting in a room and they would call our names one by one and present us with our children-- however we are learning that chaos and surprises are the standard and the unexpected is what is anticipated!

Needless to say, we entered into a room of little kids running around from toy-filled backpack to sugar-filled snacks, Chinese being translated by our national guide Elsie, our local guide Wendy, the orphanage representative, and another woman who was filling out papers, and smiling parents trying to engage their kids while proudly flashing cameras. We saw Toñito right away- he first got some candy and was hugging Dianna (Gillian's mom). We called him over, but obviously still cannot pronounce his name exactly, because he kept bouncing around looking for toys. His nickname is "Zhu-zhu," which sounds like either Tsu-tsu or Jew-Jew depending on the Chinese accent, and we just keep alternating and throwing in Toñito every now and then.

We took out his little matchbox cars, which were a huge hit, and Vivi gave him a sucker (the first of a LOT of sugary snacks today), and we just sat on the ground playing with him. Someone translated to him that we were his mama and baba (daddy) and literally within the first half an hour he was calling Toño "baba" and grabbing his hand to show him things!!! This little boy is VERY smiley and friendly. He giggles and smiles with everyone and has such an easy-going temperament. Soon after we met him, he slipped on one of his cars and hit his chin on the table corner and either bit his lip or tongue, which started to bleed. He cried and reached up for Toño to comfort him!! It was adorable (well, not my poor baby's lip!). He calmed down right away, and then just moved from toy to toy and candy bar to chocolate bar. All of the different families had brought snacks to "melt the ice" and he just charmed his way through oreos, kit-kats, cheese crackers, etc. Vivi was a doll- we had prepared her that he would be really sad and scared today, and that we needed to be very nice and share, etc to make him feel comfortable. When he fell, she gave him a big kiss, and continued to share things with him the whole day! I'm sure the honeymoon will end at some point, but today she was an amazing "little" (by 3 months) sister.

He had to go to the bathroom twice, and both times he said baba and then the word for potty (which I forgot now, but sounds like niao?).We played for a while- maybe an hour?- until we were told to board the bus and go to get their passport pictures taken. He loved the bus and was very curious about everything from looking out the window at the tall buildings to playing with his new balloon that Drew's grandparents gave all the kids.

We went to various different offices to fill in forms for the kids' passports as well as the adoption. In each room the kids became more and more active, playing with beach balls, coloring in books, running around the tables, and then having periods of looking bewildered and overwhelmed. There are 4 kids who came along to China to meet their new siblings, and then 4 kids being adopted and joining their new families- so that is 8 kids in various moods and levels of sleep. There were some meltdowns, but for the most part everyone did a great job today for being so scared and having gone through such a dramatic change in environment and losing everything they know and everyone they love.
Tonito's spoonfuls at lunch of curry chicken and rice assuaged our fears of a picky eater- he even ate some strawberry-applesauce for dessert!
After lunch we had more papers to sign, and a couple of more offices to visit. You could tell he was overwhelmed and just trying to be a good boy- but at the same time he was charming everyone, he was also scared. His helium balloon perked up his mood as well as his coloring pages and pen to "write."
We finally made our way to sign all of the papers, bring all of the gifts to the right people, and avoid a tantrum. Once we got back to the hotel we went to one of the hotel restaurants where he ate fried rice, a dumpling and some steamed veggies. He also tried and loved Vivi's black beans and rice! We played playdough, cars, and colored until it was time for a bath. Tonio gave him a bath, which he loved, and then we put on his warm, clean pajamas. I can't believe how good he is! Tonito is a beautiful little boy, with an adorable smile, who has been through the trauma of saying good-bye to his foster mom 3 1/2 years (who really is the only mom he has known)and through it all he is playing nicely and calling us both mama and baba. We are the luckiest parents in the world!!! This truly was a match made in heaven and we are SO thrilled to be the mommy and papi to our sweet and compassionate Vivi, our curious and charming Tonito, and our precious little baby Maya.
As I write this, Tonito is finally settling down. We put him to bed and in less than 2 minutes he was out like a light. However he cried in his sleep several times now- my heart breaks because I know how scared he must be! He is trying to hold it all in, poor baby. I better go and get some rest:). Tomorrow we wake up a family of 5!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

DAY 5: Travel to Urumqi!

Click for Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Forecast

Today we met at 6am to go to the airport, for our flight to Urumqi. The 4 hour flight from Beijing to Urumqi seemed really short after crossing the ocean.. The majestic snow-capped Tian Shan mountains out the window were breathtaking!
After landing we met our guide, Wendy, and took the bus to our hotel. Vivi, Lily (the 4 year old), Stephanie (the 6 year old) and Brian are becoming good little buddies. In the plane Vivi and Lily watched videos together, colored, played with playdough- and then they all sat in the back of the bus together squealing and giggling at something the way to the hotel.

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (the official name of the province) is the largest province in China. At 1.66 million square km it is 7 times the size of France. With a population of over 19 million, Xinjiang is home to 47 ethnic groups including the Uygur (pronounced WEE-gur, sometimes spelled Uighur), the major ethnic group in Xinjiang. Most of the signs are in Chinese and Uighur, which is a turkic language that to me looks like Arabic.
The driest, hottest, and coldest places in China are in Xinjiang and the greatest desert is here as well. China's longest inland river (the Tarim), the second lowest point on Earth next to the Dead Sea (the Turpan Basin), and the second highest mountain on Earth is in Xinjiang (Mount Qogir, 8,611 meters above sea level). Although China spans over 5 time zones, the entire country officially goes by Beijing time. Looking on a map, Urumqi is in the middle of nowhere. We expected a small town, and were totally surprised at such a large city. This is a really big city- they said there are more than 1.5 million people here.

Here are some pictures we took out of the bus window on our way to the hotel:
Just in front of our hotel is a large city plaza where there were tons of kids rollerblading and flying kites:
Here is the view from our hotel room (which doesn't face the square):
Towards the end of the day, Vivi was really getting tired (poor little girl!!). Every day around 5 she just can't keep her eyes open anymore. She usually falls asleep between 5-6pm and there is NOTHING we can do to wake her up and get her to eat. So the problem is she misses dinner and then wakes up from 1am-3am to eat, go to the bathroom, etc. You would think we could just try to feed her dinner earlier, but ti never works out with the touring, or today signing paperwork, etc. She is SO tired, poor baby, and she hasn't been eating very well because she won't try any of the food (except the rice!). She has been surviving on fruit, some veggies, and rice. Today we bought some yogurt, fruit, and chocolate milk at a supermarket across the plaza from the hotel, but she was too zonked out to eat. Hopefully tomorrow we can load her up! She is such a trooper though, even though she is hungry and exhausted. What a sweetie-pie!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

DAY 4: The Great Wall and Beijing sights

Today was fantastic- a lot of cultural sightseeing with the ultimate highlight: the Great Wall!!!

We started with another delicious breakfast buffet (sans the preserved egg), and then headed on the bus to TianAnMen Square. This square is 110 acres, and can fit one million people standing shoulder to shoulder. It is made of cement squares that can fit about 2 people each (see my picture above of our feet). On October 1st every year 1 million people fill the square holding strategically different color flowers, which viewed from above spell our Chinese characters such as "peace" and "Long Live the Chinese Communist Party.'' There were SO MANY people everywhere- countless tour groups swarming around guides holding red flags. The line that was quickly moving to view Chairman Mao's body was fed by an endless stream of people. Where were they all coming from?? Everywhere we go it is crowded with tours and people rushing around.

Most of the structures in Tiananmen Square are from this century. The exception is the Tianenmen Tower, which was built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This tower is at the north of the square, opposite the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall on the south. The east is the National Museum of China across from the Great Hall of the People in the west. In the middle of this plaza (claimed to be the largest city public sqare in the world) is the Monument to the People's Heroes, of martyrs who devoted their lives to the Chinese people.
We continued walking north until we reached "The Forbidden City," aka Gu Gong in Mandarin. The name is because this imperial palace (used during Ming and Qing dynasties) was only for royal family members. The emperors lived here and no workers or common people could enter. This holds another superlative title, being the world's "largest palace complex."

The Forbidden City is divided into two parts: Outer Court (in the south) was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation and held many ceremonies, and the Inner Court (north) where he lived with his royal family and held his daily activities. There used to be 9999 1/2 rooms in the Forbidden Palace, because the emperor believed he was the son of heaven, and heaven had 10,000 rooms, and he wouldn't have more rooms than heaven. 14 Ming emperors and 10 Qing emperors reigned here until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court. They say it took over 1 million workers 14 years to build it- from 1406 to 1420. There is a great movie called "Curse of the Golden Flower" that has many scenes filmed here. I think it is by the same director of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
Walking through the foggy Forbidden City, the red and gold buildings were never-ending. There were a lot of decorative gold-leaf dragons and lions, and so many tourists (99% were Chinese) we got separated from the group frequently. Vivi was a doll, and apparently the Chinese think so too. Women come up and either take her from our arms (literally) and take a picture with her, or if she is walking they will grab her hand and then hug her for a picture. We are thinking that maybe they have seen American adults, but kids are more of a rarity? You wouldn't believe how many times she had her picture taken today by this paparazzi (as well as the other little girl in our group, Stephanie, who is 6). Most of the time Vivi tolerates it and smiles for their cameras, and I wonder why she isn't a little bit freaked out?

After we toured the Forbidden City, we took the bus to lunch to have the famous Peking Duck- the 300 year old recipe of roasted duck, served with thin pancakes (like tortillas), soy bean paste, and sliced cucumbers and spring onions. Vivi ate a huge bowl of the cucumbers and another of rice- she kept saying "no me gustan los patitos" (I don't like duckies).

After lunch, we walked across the street to the CHI Beijing Office and watched a touching powerpoint about our trip to China, how it will be to receive our kids, what other humanitarian work the CHI foundation has been doing. Everyone was getting very excited about meeting our kids (some are meeting them tomorrow, others on Monday).

Soon we headed tot he bus again, to make our way to the Great Wall. The Great Wall, (aka Wan-Li Qang-Qeng) is over 2000 years old. The Chinese name means 10,000 Li Long Wall, where 10,000 Li= 5000 km. It was built (actually part of it was built but just to connect several old walls) during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) under the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Although that sounds old, the truth is there were older walls in the north of China from 700 BC (2500 years ago!) that this emperor connected and expanded. Armies lived on these walls to defend against those darn Huns (the invading nomads who in the 400's BC fought under Attila the Hun).
It is constructed of masonry, rocks and packed-earth. Its thickness ranged from about 4.5 to 9 meters (15 to 30 feet) and was up to 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall was enlarged to 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) and renovated over a 200 year period, with watch-towers and cannons added. The towers could observe the enemy, and below they would store grain and military equipment. Every 400 meters or so is a watchtower, from which they would send smoke signals to warn of attacks. Our visit was to the Juyongguan/ Juyon Pass, which was a very important pass due to its strategic location leading to Inner Mongolia and northwen Beijing.

It was a very cold and foggy day, and the steps were covered with ice and snow. Nonetheless, we hiked up very far with Vivi. This was only possible with the help of our friend Scott Miller (see his blog on the left: "Drew Us to Him"), who held one of her hands and Tonio the other and just kind-of half walked and half pulled Vivi up mountain. Seriously, we would not have been able to climb up otherwise- it was so slippery and the stairs were very steep. Some were up to Vivi's waist, others were no higher than 2 inches. The ice was so slippery!!! But really I think going down was more dangerous. You could see the faint shadows of the mountains surrounding us, but the fog was so thick it blurred our vision. The sight from the top was breathless (because of its beauty and because we were out of breath from the hike). I still can't believe Vivi made it up!!?? AND back down again in one piece!? I'm pretty sure the hundreds of people around us were saying "Why are those crazy Americans walking up the Great Wall with their 3 year old!!??" Whatever, it was worth it!!!! (thank you Scott!!!)