Thursday, December 21, 2006

Meeting the grandparents

My parents were waiting for us at our house when we returned. Ting Ting was a bit overwhelmed at first, but she quickly warmed up to them.She also settled in to life at home.

That jet lag is a killer.
Aunt Kay brought us cookies! Yum!
I gave her a toy cell phone I had bought her. It didn't take her any time to learn to answer it. Now when we say, "hello?" she holds whatever is in her hand up to her forehead.
Very happy to be home.

Scenes from O'Hare

My sister Kay surprised us by being at O'Hare to videotape our arrival. She actually flew in from Nashville, shot video, then flew home. Those will be priceless videos for us.

Still, if I had known she would be there, I would have done hair and makeup:
This is such a cute photo of Ting Ting that I had to post it anyway. Rather than putting in my contact lenses or combing my hair, I spent the last few minutes of the flight changing Ting Ting and getting her dressed in this cute little outfit I bought in China. I'm sure you'll agree it was worth it.While Kay waited, she had a blast visiting with the family of our travelmates Chuck and Lynette, who brought home their daughter, Dani. Here is father and daughter:
Kay had been reading their blog, too, so she felt like she knew them. And I'm pleased to report that Dani came through this flight just fine (Chuck was quite relieved, too).

Ting Ting did great on the flight as well. She slept quite a bit, and she flirted with all the people sitting around us.

We are so grateful that Kay was at the airport to fill in this gap in our video coverage. When I saw the big crowd greeting Chuck and Lynette, I was a little sad that we didn't have anyone at the airport for us -- but, surprise! We did!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Final photos from China

Better late than never, right?

Tuesday morning, Bob and Bill went to the U.S. Consulate with our paperwork to apply for our babies' visas. One member of each family had to stay in the hotel room for an hour just in case there were any questions, but there weren't -- Bob told us later that we were all heading home on Thursday.

Tuesday afternoon, we took a walk across the bridge off Shamian Island into a different part of Guangzhou.Ting Ting is asleep in her carrier here as we walked through an area where people sold mostly medicinal herbs and other items.

We also saw a lot of animals for sale.

First it was live scorpions or other bugs. Then we started seeing pets like kittens or puppies and these nice lizards.

Then we rounded a corner and saw a huge marketplace.
We kept going and ended up in an area that sold a lot of jade and jewelry.

Some of us waiting near the jade market attracted the attention of some Chinese folks wanting to ask about our babies. I had a brief conversation with this woman, and she answered my questions, so she must have understood my Mandarin. Woo hoo!

Later we crossed a busy street and went into what was billed as a pearl market. It actually was a huge shopping mall full of little shops that sold pearl jewelry. It was too much -- you couldn't even look at it all.

Lance and I and some others were ready to head back, so Bill helped us catch a taxi.

Lance and Ting Ting and I shared a taxi with Chad and Frances and their daughter Chloe.

Final cost for a 15-minute ride back to our hotel for four adults and two babies? 10 yuan, about $1.20.

Another discovery we made in Guangzhou was that Ting Ting loves noodles. I made her the Chinese version of cup o' noodles and she had a grand time.

She left a bit of a mess!

Wednesday morning, most of us met in the lobby and walked to the famous White Swan Hotel for the breakfast buffet and photos. Young Tabitha was a bit under the weather, so she and her parents stayed at the hotel, but all the other babies were there.

First, here are the moms with the babies.
A couple of moms weren't there, so we doubled up. So, from left on the top row, we have Alex with one twin (sorry, girls, but I can't tell you apart yet), Lynette with another twin and her daughter Dani, Jennifer with Leanna, Judy with Gina's daughter Karma and her own daughter Bella, and Frances with Chloe. Bottom row, from left, are Kim with Shelbi, Kate with Maggie, Tamara with Linnea and Susan with Ting Ting.
Then the dads had their turn. We have Erik with Leanna, Alex with Ava (or Ana), Chuck with Ana (or Ava) and Dani, Bob with Maggie and his daughter Karma, Lance with Ting Ting, Chad with Chloe. Front row: Jeff with Bella, Kim's mom Connie with Shelbi, and Tamara's mom Barb with empty arms because Linnea decided she'd rather be with her mother (it's only fair -- she did the same thing to Tamara in some of the mom photos).

Linnea liked the red couch photos better, though. Here she is holding court (fourth from left on couch). This is some of the chaos from the setup. On the couch we have Dani, Maggie, Bella, Linnea and twins; on the floor we have Shelbi, Karma and Chloe.
Here are Linnea, Ava and Ana, and Ting Ting.

A good number of adoptive parents stay at the White Swan, and the red couches are the scene of many group shots. We stayed at the Victory, but that didn't stop us from using the White Swan's sofas or their Christmas trees and waterfall:
It's a beautiful hotel, and we enjoyed the breakfast. I'm glad we stayed at the Victory, though. It was a bit more intimate experience, and our room was great.

Plus, they spurt mosquito medicament every Wednesday:

Ting Ting was quite casual most of the week, but I did put her in a dress and tights for her U.S. Consulate appointment. She was wearing her new squeaky shoes for the first time, and you should have seen her dance when she found out they made noise!

Most parents in our group bought squeakers for their daughters. I bought three colors in three different sizes so Ting Ting can wear them for awhile. They squeak with each step, so they help the kids learn to walk.

At the consulate on Wednesday, we got Ting Ting's U.S. visa and we all swore that we had filled out the forms truthfully. Our daughters became American citizens when we landed at O'Hare.

Here's our daughter with travelmate Judy on the bus to the consulate:
How big is Ting Ting? SOOOOOO big!

Shortly after we returned from the consulate, we had our final travel meeting. Bob passed out documents and discussed details of the early morning flight to Hong Kong, followed by the trip home to Chicago.

Then we had a pizza party.

We did some last-minute shopping, then packed -- we had to have our suitcases outside our door at 5 a.m. Thursday!

Friday, December 15, 2006

We're home!

Hi everyone -- I have many more photos to post, but for now I just wanted to say we got home from China safely. Ting Ting did great on the plane, and she slept for much of the trip. I'm hoping we'll have a quick transition to the new time zone (although I was up at 1 a.m. playing ball with her, then again at 5 a.m. feeding her noodles. But she conked out again about half an hour ago and is sleeping soundly in her crib).

Many, many thanks to my crazy sister Kay, who took the day off work and flew to Chicago just to shoot video of our arrival and get a quick glimpse of her new niece before she had to catch her return flight. You could have knocked me over with a feather when Lance called out to me that she was there. I had stopped to chat with the extended family of travelmates Chuck and Lynette, who were there in force with signs to welcome little Dani. Kay had already met all of them, of course, and most of my other travel mates, too, I found out. We couldn't convince her to stay -- she had to get home because her son would be home from school soon. But now we have priceless video of our triumphant return, and we can't thank her enough for this wonderful surprise.

Meanwhile, my mother and father had flown in for a few days (they flew to Midway and took a cab to our house while Kay was jetting off to O'Hare). Lance and I took a limo home from O'Hare and arrived just a few minutes after Mom and Dad had brought in their luggage and changed into their "Lao Lao" (grandma) and "Lao ye" (grandpa) sweatshirts. Little Ting Ting had slept during the limo ride and so was a bit overwhelmed when she came into the and was greeted by strangers. But it only took a few minutes before she had warmed up to her grandparents and was charming them with her smile and little giggles.

I have wonderful photos and will post them as soon as I can -- plus I have some more photos of our trip to share.

Thank you all for all the support while we were away. Lance would check the blog each morning and read aloud the comments posted overnight. It was really fun for us to share it all with you.

Now, on with real life!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More scenes from Guangzhou

Ting Ting had a fit for this panda in the store, so of course I had to buy it. She would laugh and laugh when I held it up to her.

It's not all fun and games in Guangzhou.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ting Ting's checkup

Don't you just want to eat her up?

Monday morning the babies all had the medical exam required for them to leave China.

The clinic was just a couple of blocks from the hotel, so we walked over in a group. Here are Ting Ting and I with Bill (Tamara and her mother Barbara and daughter Linnea behind us).

Here's a better shot of them.

And here are Kim (with Shelbi) and Erik (with Leanna).

And Dr. Kate and lovely Maggie.

The medical exam was pretty simple. At one station, doctors weighed the babies and checked their height. Another doctor looked them over for signs of illnesses (like chicken pox or measles, I suspect) and measured their head circumference. Another checked their ears . . . oops.

The doctor looked into Ting Ting's right ear, then her left and said, "oh, she has an infection in this ear." She said she needed medication immediately, and I tried to explain that we had given her the full course of antibiotics already. But I was worried that her ear didn't look any better -- I thought it might even keep us in China a little longer.

Bill came in and helped me talk with the doctor, and Lance went out and consulted our travel mate, Dr. Kate, who had checked out Ting Ting earlier. She said this antibiotic will stay in Ting Ting's system for 10 days or so and that we can tell it's working because Ting Ting feels so much better. She said the "changes to the ear drum" might not be apparent for two weeks or so. Meanwhile, I asked Bill to tell the doctor that Ting Ting already was being treated for an ear infection. He did, then he told me the doctor said she also had a bad cold and needed medicine for that.

OK, so I'm just getting started at this mommy thing.

We came back to the room and I gave her a bottle, then she took a reallllllyyyy long nap. After that she had a huge lunch, then she was a very happy girl.

Meanwhile, Lance was having lunch with Judy and Jeff and the very cool Bella.

Every day we can see Ting Ting feeling better and getting happier. She is a little imp with a delicious smile and a delightful sense of humor. We can't wait for you all to meet her.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying beautiful Guangzhou.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hooray for Guangzhou

I've already posted a bit about our delight in our accommodations (and internet service) in Guangzhou, and we still are enjoying all of it. Our hotel is on Shamian Island, an area that technically IS an island because it's surrounded by water, but it's not really because much of that water is simply a moat! At one point in China's long history, the island was created so that all foreigners could be required to live here. Because of that interesting twist, the architecture here is more European than traditional Chinese.
The view from our window.

The moat.

After we checked in the first night and got settled a bit, Lance and I took Ting Ting to the neighboring Thai restaurant (yes, we ate Thai food in China). It's called the Cow and Bridge, and it's excellent. When we walked in, we saw Bill and Bob having dinner, and they waved us over to join them. Lance and I had a great meal, and Ting Ting ate nearly an entire plate of fried rice on her own. (She ate more of her meal than I did, because I was feeding her and couldn't slow down!).

Ting Squared is having a great time here, meeting the local folks and charming everyone with that grin. Here she is with Lucy, a local shopkeeper with whom Lance is involved in a battle of wits.
Lucy did our laundry, sold Lance a bunch of items while wailing about how he she was not making any money from him, and is preparing a special gift for us that I can't describe here. We think she's great.

(Now don't give me a hard time about how a local shopkeeper can hold your granddaughter/niece/cousin/beloved baby and you can't-- you'll all get your turn very soon.)

Ting Ting also has started spending most of the night in her crib rather than on Lance's chest. And she will entertain herself (and us) in there during the day if need be.

She also has started taking regular naps! She didn't nap at all in Changsha, so this is a welcome change.

And she has decided her Mama is pretty cool, too.

In other words, we're all getting more sleep at night (especially Lance), and we're getting some free time during the day to catch up on our blogging! And our daughter is an absolute delight. I sit for hours every day just playing with her and being silly. It is amazingly fun.

Speaking of delightful daughters, Anne and Alex have rejoined our group, and we're all getting to know their twins, Ava and Ana. They are the only babies in our travel group not from Hunan; they were adopted in Fujian province, so Anne and Alex were going through their adoption process in the same time but in a different place. We're thrilled to have them -- and their girls -- with us.

Lance, Ting Ting and I slept in Sunday morning, which we enjoyed. That afternoon, we joined our group and all walked down to a photo shop to get our babies' visa photos taken. Ting Ting has a Chinese passport; she will travel to the US with an American visa. She becomes a U.S. citizen as soon as we land in Chicago.

Following that, Bob and Bill hosted a paperwork meeting. Again, I was the one who got to go. We thought the Chinese paperwork meeting was a long one, so you can imagine how long it took us to fill out all the paperwork to get the adoption recognized, get her visa and have her citizenship established. Bleary eyed, we then all reconvened at a group dinner -- at the Cow and Bridge.

If you look closely, you'll see I am holding a bottle for Ting Ting, who doesn't care one whit about posing for the photo.

Lance and I didn't at all mind eating there two nights in a row, because it was delicious. Everyone enjoyed it, although we were all a bit confused when we ordered ice cream sundaes and banana splits and discovered they contained what appeared to be kidney beans.

The dinner was a good chance to welcome the twins to our group and to enjoy the company of our travel mates. For example, this is Jeff, father to Isabella.

Jeff and his wife Judy adopted a little boy from China through Sunny Ridge a few years ago.

Here is Jeff with Judy and Bella.
Like Ting Ting, Bella was more interested in eating dinner than posing, at least at first.

Here are Mickey and his daughter Tabitha:

Once little Bella had finished her dinner, she provided us with some evening cuteness.

Rachel Shu-Ting was not to be outdone.