Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We landed in Chicago about 5:30 on Friday, 6/18 after a one hour plane delay circling at 36k feet waiting for huge storms to pass through Chicago. We then drove home in a yet another terrific thunderstorm (some of the craziest lightning we've ever seen!) and arrived at our house around 11:30pm Friday night 6/18.

It's been a crazy week getting our schedules turned around and taking care of the kids and household. Vivian was a bit under the weather for a day after getting here, but she's good now. Ken and the boys made it to Marty (Ken's brother) and Paula's wedding on the 19th. Looks like it was beautiful, and I'm sorry to have missed it, but it was right when Vivian was not well so she and I stayed home. This week we hit the ground running with 4 medical appts., taekwondo and swimming lessons for Jaret and even mowed the lawn once. Ken is back to long days at work. However, we have been so blessed with much help from friends taking care of the boys this week and Grandma's help and a yummy casserole! Thank you all so much!

Things are getting better slowly but surely with jetlag recovery. At first we were like zombies by 6:00 in the evening, but we're getting to where we can last longer than the kids' bedtimes.

The boys are adjusting fine to Vivian...Jaret wants to help, and Isaac wants a little more attention himself. Vivian has just finished an antibiotic and will see the pediatrician again next week. She needs some vaccines that aren't done in China. She will also start physical therapy July 19th. The cardiologist (Dr. Zittergruen) is arranging for Vivian to have an angiogram done in Iowa City at the hospital and then her surgury can be discussed. Her "China diagnosis" was tetrology of Fallot, but Dr. Z says it looks to be more a "truncus arteriosus" case. These are similar but with different emphases. There is a large hole between her lower ventricles which needs repaired and an overriding aorta valve, but the mystery in Vivian's case is how the blood is flowing to the lungs (could not be determined in the echo cardiogram, hence the angiogram).

She will have the angiogram in the next few weeks and from there they will talk to us about what and when she needs done surgically.

The photos show Vivian in her carseat for the first time, our three munchkins (wow, we have 3 kids!) playing, and lastly eating with chopsticks...Jaret chose the stab method for meat and the scoop method for rice, and Isaac used a dangling mid-air method....basically, the boys had us in stitches laughing so hard. Yes, we got Chinese food...I was actually missing it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16th ... Chinese Holiday Dragon Boat Festival

Hi everyone,

This will be our last post until we get home and get our bodies turned around again. Please ignore the posting times shown because I'm writing in the evenings, not the crazy times showing on the posts. Six of the eight families in the Bethany groupo left early this morning. We, along with one other family, are required to stay a day longer due to a TB test that the other families die not have to do. Unfortunately - because of the dragon boat festival - the government offices are closed today, so that delays us even another day. Tomorrow we have our final paperwork signing and swearing in at the U.S. Consulate. We plan to give Vivian a bath tomorrow then head to the Consulate, then a final dinner and back to the hotel for final packing up. We leave the hotel at 6 am Friday morning for the airport. They will collect all but one bag of ours tomorrow night. Kind of weird, but they load them in the bus the night before because of the early start. We leave Guangzhou about 8 am and arrive in Shanghai around 10 am. Six hour layover and then the final flight to Chicago, leaving at 3:55 Friday afternoon and arriving at 4:40 Friday afternoon. A 45 minute flight, pretty sweet! Well, actually it's 13 hours and 45 minutes, with a 13 hour time gain as we fly.

We are very much ready to come home, but I can see why it is going to be hard! We have had a lot of down time here, so it'll be a shock to the system to return to house and yard work and cooking.

Oh, we attempted the red couch pictures, but they did not work the best. The oldest adoptee Lynn was a good sport about it. She is sort of holding Vivian. There were two five year old in our group and the rest are little ones. All kids in our group are in the special needs category.

Vivian is doing great and still just as cute as ever. We've taught her to press the elevator button, and she reaches out on her own to do that. Two other moms in our group have remarked how Vivan has really livened up and brightened up since she has been with us. It's amazing what lots of attention in just over one week has done.

Thank you all for your continued prayers for us. Jaret and Isaac, we'll see you soon. Love you all lots!

Ken, Keri, and Vivan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Touring ... June 13

At 9:30 am our whole group met, and we toured a Chinese Folk Art Museum. I think of museums as indoor places with air conditioning, but not here. It was all outdoors and very pretty, but also much smaller than I expected. One exception ... two gift shops that were air conditioned (hardly a coincidence ... but definitely good marketing). We had recently purchased squeaky shoes for Vivian, and she loves them!! See photos of her taking a few steps at the museum with Ken's help. She smiles and giggles and bounces. She has very low muscle tone right now, however Ken and I see a bright future for her. In just the few days she haqs been with us she has "brightened up" and her giggling and laughing is to die for - it's so cute. She is responding to us and looks around the room for us if one steps away for a second. Another family has their boys here, and we were all in the playroom together. She laughed and laughed at them tossing the balls around, and I can't wait for her to meet Jaret and Isaac.

We enjoyed dinner out with several families and Shi'yan. I'm getting used to chopsticks now. It was kind of funny when they offered forks and knives for everyone around our table and we all refused them. It got a laugh out of us anyway. Vivian was sitting on a bench that attaches to the chair to form a booster seat. She is getting more assertive in expressing her wants for food. I learned we can feed Vivian with chopsticks too! How fun!

p.s. - Sorry for inconsistency with blog updates. It's been busy since we left Changsha, and no free internet in the room here in Guangzhou.

Appointments and Paperwork ... June 12

All the children's passport pictures were taken this morning in a little shop near the hotel. Then Shi'yan, our guide in Guangzhou, led our whole group down to the Physical Examination office for medical exams. It was a short walk (Photo 1 - room 1 checking ears and throat; Photo 2 - room 2 listen to heart, check muscle tone, etc.; no photo of room 3 for height/weight check; Photo 3 - room 4 TB skin test)

At 2 pm we met with Shi'yan to check over our final round of paperwork in preparation for U.S. Consulate appointment, and gave her the final fee for the visa to enter the U.S. That took about an hour and a half, but finally done with all the fees and paperwork!! Yea! Shi'yan represents all the families at the U.S. Consulate appointment (ours is Tuesday) so we don't attend that meeting (photo is all the papers laid out along with $400 for visa).

White Swan Hotel ... Guangzhou, China ... June 12

We've reached the mother ship ... the famous White Swan hotel. What an amazing place (except for the spotty internet service). It sits right on the Pearl River and is truly a luxury resort. We eat at the biggest breakfast buffet I've ever seen and from any table you look to one side and see a huge indoor waterfall and on the other side a panoramic view of the Pearl River. Good thing this hotel is our last place of residence before heading back to our little "dot on the map" in Iowa. Many people here speak English, tons of shopping, great little shops, and it's fun to walk down the narrow streets. There is a lot of construction on the island in preparation for the Asia Games in November 2010. There are lots of restaurants on the island. The photo shows Vivan sitting on a couch in a lounge next to the lobby of the White Swan.

Travel Day June 11

This was a long day, even though the flight was short. Vivian did all right on her first flight. I'm just tired of having to dump all my water before security and not knowing when we can next find drinking water. At these two airports (Changsha and Guangzhou) there were no drinking fountatins. Of course, we could pay the ridiculous prices at the airport for bottled water, but I'm trying not to. After arriving in Guangzhou airport everybody was tired and hungry, but we still had a 40 minute bus ride to the White Swan hotel. Ken found a little snack for us and we fell into bed about 10:30 pm. I'd say this was the hardest day of our trip so far.

Bangs and Toes

I love my baths because I splash a lot. There was even a baby bathtub in the hotel room in Changsha special for me! Aren't my little "feetsies" cute?

Guess what...technical difficulties with internet. I have a bunch of posts and photos for you all but can't get them up here...lousy connection speed and they charge by the hour. We are safe and sound at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou and will fly on the 18th to Shanghai. Six hour layover before the long flight back to Chicago. After the shuttle back to our car, we'll then determine if we have the stamina for the 4 hour drive to Cedar Rapids.

If we can get better access, then we'll post more. Love to you all, Ken and Keri and Vivian

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time in Changsha...

(pictures show us doing the final paperwork to finalized the adoption on Tuesday; Keri and Vivian at the park in Changsha on Wednesday; Ken, Vivian, and our guide Vicki at the Yuelu Academy on Thursday; and Keri and Vivian by a statue of Confucius at the Yuelu Academy)
We've had Vivian now for 3.5 days and have enjoyed every moment! She enjoys attention from us and is certainly getting lots of kisses which makes her smile. We'll have to teach her how to give kisses and hugs and wave hi and bye. Vivian is quite active actually and very curious, just looking at everything around her.

We've done a little touring here...Changsha is not a big tourist city though. Most people speak only the local dialect. While Mandarin is the national language, there is basically a different dialect for many cities. Vicky speaks Mandarin, English, and the Changsha dialect since she has lived here for about 13 years now. Anyway, we've gone to a silk embroidery factory/museum. The tour guide spoke and Vicky translated for us. It was interesting. The two-sided embroidery is completely amazing. As a sewing and needlework enthusiast, I'd love to learn more about that.

Then we walked through part of a huge park. It was very nice with all the trees and plants. Vivian really liked that too. There are 5 gate entrances and the park spans the length of the city, just about.

Today we visited Yuelu Academy, an ancient school, and walked around the grounds. It is the earliest of 4 main academies in ancient China that taught Confucianism. Then we asked Vicky to take us to lunch so we could have a break from eating in the hotel. We had a nice meal: fried rice, a kind of egg-tofu soup (my favorite--delicious!), a pork dish so spicy that Ken and Vicky enjoyed that without me, noodles, and cooked cabbage (this was really good too). They use a lot of peanut oil, and the cabbage was definitely cooked with that. Again, the waitress commented that Vivian is very pretty. I am especially warmed by the compliments from local people about her.

We had a great conversation with Vicky about cooking. She remarked how easy it is to cook in the USA compared to here. Pouring ready-made things like noodles from a box, sauce from jar, decent-cuts of meat already packaged--she can't believe how easy. They make steamed rice here almost daily, and often make fried rice with left-over rice the next day. When shopping, Vicky buys a live chicken from the market, but she does pay extra to have it killed and plucked. Here the entire chicken is eaten. It is all cooked together. I am feeling a little convicted about taking some cooking conveniences for granted at home.

Tomorrow we will once again repack all our bags and meet Vicky to leave for the airport at 3pm. Our flight to Guangzhou leaves at 5pm and arrives about 6:10pm. This will be the "family reunion" where our travel group reunites, everyone now with their children at the famous White Swan Hotel--famous because about 95% of adoptive families stay there and of course do the "red couch" photos. Guangzhou is the longest stay of the trip. After that our flight is next Friday to Shanghai and connecting to our final flight to Chicago.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Official! As of 10:00am this morning June 8th (this would be 9pm June 7th in the States) Vivian is our daughter! We are so thrilled--it's hard to write down to capture the emotions.

Yesterday afternoon our guide Vicky picked us up at the Dolton Hotel where we are staying and we drove to the Civil Affairs Office about 15 minutes away. There is a large waiting room where we waited maybe 5 minutes before Vivian's caregiver and the orphanage director walked in carrying Vivian (Hua Hua is her nickname). Just a little angel--breathtaking to see Vivian!! And to top it off, she was dressed so very adorably!! I did not expect that at all. They showed us how she likes to clap and how she can stand with support under her arms. Then they check our passports and her photo on the TA--travel authorization and then we were allowed to hold her. They handed Vivian to Ken which was a good thing because I so wanted to show happy expressions for this moment. I held Vivian a few minutes later which kept me from brimming over with tears. However, I was teary-eyed when they surprised me with a small photo album of photos of Vivian. I mean, can you imagine, photos for a gift for Keri?

After visiting a little bit and getting instructions on what and when her next meals were, we left and went to a little baby shop for a second baby bottle and to the supermarket. The two supermarkets we've been inside have escalators. And this store in Changsha had two very long ramps so you could push your grocery cart from one floor to another! Anyway, we needed Chinese baby formula and water. We constantly buy and budget our water. We need enough to last us during our stays but can't go through airport security with it. So each city we start over again with a new stockpile. And now there is Vivian to account for too!

Vivian has been a very happy girl. She did not cry when first given to us and has not done so yet. She has turned her mouth into a frown different times when unsure about something, and I know a couple Mandarin phrases for reassurance which helped her.

Now we are just hanging out in our hotel room being a family. It is storming and raining outside currently. I think the rain may be helping me because the secondhand cigarette smoke and pollution is really aggravating my throat and sinuses.

It's so hard to describe everything here. The two comments we've heard most are: "Wow, you guys packed light!" and regarding Vivian, many people have said, "She is very beautiful."

She was very loved at her orphange. There are 300 children in her orphanage and there were 7 girls in the room with Vivian. Each child has their own crib.

Last night in bed my conversation with God was bursting with gratitude and wonderment for giving us such a beautiful baby and walking alongside us through this process. We can't wait to get home to Iowa for Jaret and Isaac and everyone else to meet Vivian!

Tomorrow we have more touring if the weather is good. A park and an embroidery factory. We are the only family with our guide here, so it is fun. Blessings to you all back home and we appreciate your continued prayers for us!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Night Before....

Well, it's very close to the big day, besides waiting 4 years, it was a dream born in my heart 26 years ago, so it's a tingly kind of excitement to have a dream come true!

Tomorrow morning we leave for the airport at 6:10am. Our flight is 8:10 to 10:35am, and we do covet your prayers for continued safe travel on airplane #2. After we land in Changsha we go to our hotel (I don't know how far away that is yet). Then in the afternoon we will meet somewhere and receive our daughter. I do not know the location on that, but it could possibly be in a conference room at the Dolton Hotel where we are staying.

I did inquire today that it is a considerable distance from the orphanage to Changsha...the caregiver will accompany our daughter. We covet your prayers for this portion of travel too. We are prepared for a possibly tired, cranky, hungry and possibly sick (motion) baby to be put in our arms. It's hard to imagine Vivian does not even know it is her last night in what is a normal life for her. It's hard to imagine what will be going through her mind as her usual schedule disappears abruptly, along with the only home she knows, be physically placed in arms of strangers who look different, possibly smell funny to her, speak unintelligibly, and to watch her "Momma" caregiver walk away forever.

And, we are the polar opposite in our excitement and anticipation in receiving Vivian. I am not sure when we will have an opportunity to post again. With any luck there will be wireless access from our hotel room. Here we have to come to the first four floors--we're on the ninth. Anyway, we've watched the Krols' with their new daughter, and she's been soo easy-going. So, we're prepared and hoping and praying for as smooth as transition as possible! Better sign off and go pack! It's 8:41pm here! Goodnight and God Bless!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Today is Sunday June 6. We have been in Beijing for almost 3 days now. We arrived Thursday and met two other families in our travel group who were on the same flight. Beijing is huge - it is not like American cities with a main downtown, but just goes on and on. We ventured out with one of the couples, Adam and Cori, to find a restaurant a few blocks from our hotel and were all feeling proud of ourselves.

Friday we toured a Cloisonne factory and then went to the Great Wall. Saturday we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (this is where the emperors of China lived during the final two Chinese dynasties that preceded communist China) and then went on a rickshaw ride in the Hutong district (this is a district that is older and more traditional). Our tour guide in Beijing has been a Bethany employee named Joy, who has been sharing a lot about the culture of China as well as showing us around.

Today four of the six families that we met in Beijing headed off to the provinces where they will get their new children. One of the families got their daughter in Beijing, and actually had her before we arrived. Later in the afternoon we will be going with that family (they also brought their three boys with them to China) to an acrobatic show. We will be leaving for the city of Changsha early on Monday morning (that would be Sunday evening for everybody in America) and will receive our daughter Vivian in the afternoon. We are so excited to meet her!

A special thanks to Peter Krol (who is 12 years old) for helping us get through the "Great Fire Wall of China" so we could actually get onto the blog site!

The pictures show Ken and Keri at dinner with Adam and Cori, the entire group of six families at the Great Wall, and Ken and Keri with our guide Joy in our hotel lobby.