Sunday, December 23, 2007

We are home safe and sound!

Hello from home! We arrived last Friday at 2am and went straight to bed! The next days were a blur as we tried to shift our schedules. Our days were our nights and nights were our days. Until two nights ago Lilly and I were going to bed at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and sleeping until 7 or 8 the next morning. She would wake for a bottle but that was it. I have never been so tired in my entire life. It was so easy to shift into the change when we got to China and not easy at all when coming home. I have heard many people say that it is harder when you gain time flying "backwards" through time. It was very surreal to leave Beijing at 7pm and arrive in Washington DC at 7 pm. How is that possible? A total mind boggle. We are finally feeling human. It is hard to believe Christmas is tomorrow. We are keeping it very simple this year and I am glad. After you visit an orphanage and you see true needs for just the basics in life it seems so crazy that Christmas has turned into a buying frenzy instead of a time to connect with people and keep the old fashioned traditions alive. Heidi's friend Alexa has been here for the last couple of days. She is a wise one for someone so young and I always enjoy having her here. Last night as we were all snuggled up in my room and Alexa was laying next to me as I fed Lilly her bedtime bottle she made the most simple yet profound statement. She was watching Lilly cuddle up to me and wrap her tiny fingers around mine and she said "Lilly just loves being loved." So simple yet so profound. And don't we all love being loved??? It was such a beautiful thing to say. Lilly does love being loved and we love loving her. I sometimes wonder if our need for love surpasses our need for food or sleep. If we did not give or recieve love I think the world would come to a screaching halt. Loving Lilly is so easy and she is such a sponge for all the affection that is offered to her. I cannot even describe the powerful spirit that this child has and how she is touching hearts wherever we go. I will keep this blog up until people stop reading it or I get sick of doing it - whichever comes first. I have a feeling it will be a long while before I get tired of taking pictures of Lilly or talking about how fascinated I am with every little thing she does. It has really shown me how much I love to write and take photos and document experiences. I just love to tell a story. I have really enjoyed hearing that people have followed this blog and have looked forward to reading it everyday. One of my mother-in-laws friend's even called it her "Lilly fix". A pretty healthy addiction I would say!! Lilly is doing great and there is no doubt that we are deeply bonded. Everyone is so in love with her. These photos are of Dennis and Lilly. We are really missing him and wish he could be here with us. He really feels like family. I am missing China and all the other families. They are so deeply in my heart forever. The bonding that took place is beyond anything that I could have imagined. What a blessing. I feel like my already big family just got bigger. I am looking forward to a car trip and the opportunity to see everyone again. I want to wish each of you a peaceful holiday and I will try to post every few days and let everyone know what Lilly is doing and share photos of her as well.
Merry Christmas and God Bless,

We LOVE our Uncle Dennis the Menace!!!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Leaving in 45 minutes for the airport!

Hi everyone,
This is the last entry from China. The next time you hear from me we will be tucked in safe and sound at home. We had a beautiful morning enjoying the cool morning air and a light breakfast. The first three pictures are the breakfast area - as you can see it is not too hard to make it down to breakfast each morning. They attend to every detail and we have been so grateful to start our morning this way for almost a week. Dennis and Simon came down to breakfast while we were eating. Dennis is flying to Beijing with us to meet another group of families from the US. He had a chance to take an earlier flight but said no he would go with his family - meaning us. Could he get any sweeter? We will leave for the airport soon and take a three hour flight to Beijing. We will then have a 5 hour layover. Dennis will be with us some of that time so we can prolong the goodbye. Our total trip included seven flights - four down - three to go. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we journey home. We thank you for all of your love and support during this extraordinary time.

Almost Ready to Go!

We are on our way down for breakfast. Here are some more sweet pictures of Lilly. She was sleeping so sound and I couldn't resist. She takes her bath in the sink and she really likes it. It is the perfect size. A little slippery but we make it work. We will be on our way soon.

Before and After

The first two photos are of Lilly the first night we had her. The second two are in the last couple of days. She has come alive and blossomed in such a beautiful way. We just can't get enough of this baby and once we get home we are going to have to share her with a lot more people. She looks so different to us. I am not sure if it comes through in the photos. She can really smile and laugh and even giggle but often her pictures make her look serious. She does have a serious side and will sometimes make you work for a laugh. That is why Dennis calls her serious girl. She is sound asleep now and it is time for me to do the same. I want to get some good photos of the beautiful grounds around the hotel before we leave in the morning. Notice the belly on that girl in the last photo. She eats like a pig! She only weighs 14 pounds and weighed 12 in July and we are pretty sure that she gained at least one of those in this past week. So far she loves everything we have given her. This morning she ate scrambled eggs, watermelon and toast. I can't wait to get her home and feed her chicken and dumplings. Make sure you scroll down because I put two posts up in a row tonight. I will try to do one more in the morning and then we will be on our way home. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers for a smooth and safe return to our home.

More pictures of our home in Guangzhou

The first two pictures are of the lobby. It is so beautiful. That gold you see on the wall is so pretty and spans at least 200 ft. The lobby is huge and it really is stunning. There is no way to show it in the pictures and do it justice. The Toshiba building is what I am looking at right now. The windows are a bit cleaner in this hotel than they were in Nanchang. Scroll down to remind yourself of how gross the windows were there and how dismal the view was. The picture of the bathtub shows the glass wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. You can see a shade on the upper part of the photo. That would be the remote control shade so you can have more privacy if you desire or you can leave it up and watch the flat screen tv while you soak in the tub. You can even control the volume from the bathroom. It is really rough here but we are trying to make it through. When we first got here on Saturday they escorted us into a private bar area and served us these delicious fruit drinks and checked us in seperately from the other guests. We came into our room and were just thrilled to see such a clean floor where we could put Lilly down and not be afraid to sit. After about 10 minutes someone knocked on the door and it was room service with a complimentary plate of fresh fruit. It tasted so good - it is amazing the gratitude level we feel for such simple things. It gives our lives at home a whole new perspective. And of course......what blog entry would be complete without a picture of the Empress. After we took our oath at the American Consulate today we came back and went to dinner with most of our group. It was nice to be together one last time. We had some tears and lots of promises to keep in touch. We have thoroughly enjoyed every family. We are now calling ourselves the special group. Dennis said so. I am ready to come home now. I never like the night before leaving on a big trip. The anxiety is too much. I just want to get on the plane now. We won't actually leave China until 7pm tomorrow night. We fly with Dennis to Beijing tomorrow at noon and then have a five hour layover. We leave Beijing and go to DC where we make a connection to Syracuse. We will arrive in Syracuse around 11pm on Thursday night. Our bodies will already think it is lunchtime on Friday because that is what it will be in China. We lose time going back which is kind of weird. I am getting very sleepy which is good. I need to get really tired in order to not think about long airplanes with a tiny baby.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Our Home in Guangzhou

The photos are of our living room, the fountains we see from our room, the lobby with the beautiful Christmas tree, part of our bathroom and the bedroom. There are more but that is a taste for now - we are headed out to enjoy our last day in China. A little shopping on Shaiman Island and then to the American Consulate. I will post more photos when we get back.

Our "Home" in Nanchang last week

The above photos are of our hotel in Nanchang. Just your basic hotel. It was clean and we were not unhappy with it at all. Do not try to wash your screen that was the view out the windows. A bit dirty you might say. The view was not great so it wasn't too bothersome. The weather was very gray and dismal the whole time we were there. It made upstate New York in winter look sunshiney and bright. It will always be special in our minds because it was our first home with Lilly. The other photo is obvious - another adorable picture of Lilly with her new hat. We had to confirm our flights today and we could not figure out the phone at all so Dennis had to come help us. He stayed in our room quite a while and we gave him the Ithaca is Gorges t-shirt - he is trying to collect t-shirts from all 50 states. He put it on right over his clothes and we took pictures of him and Lilly. We got video of him playing with her. He is the sweetest man. He calls Lilly serioius girl and he keeps asking us if he could keep her. Now that he has spent more time with her he is calling her serious, gorgeous, smart girl. He thinks she should get a PhD in eating because she is such a little piggy. He heard us say we had to go to the store and asked us if we wanted to go with him. Thank God he led the way because it was farther then we thought and not easy to find. We bought some snacks for the plane, some baby wipes and also some formula and bottled water. It was really fun and I got some great video of the store. We also went to the pharmacy and bought some baby tylenol. The pharmacy is so small that we were in there with Dennis and when another customer came in Sharlyn and I had to step outside so she could come in. It was HOT here today. When we got back from the store we went out to dinner to a yummy Italian restaurant - not compared to home but yummy for here. We even had bread with olive oil. You would have thought we died and went to heaven. Our new friend Chris went with us - his in-laws stayed with his new daughter Emmie. His wife is home with their son and her parents came along to help. Their names are Frank and Jane. Frank tries to speak Mandarin but Chris wishes he wouldn't. They are both close to 80 and they go out on their own and explore everything. Frank especially will take off for hours and check out the city. They are both very sweet. Grandparents of the year is what we call them. Dennis told us tonight that this was a very different group than most. He said the babies will often cry for days on end as they grieve for their foster home or their orphanage. Not these babies. They have had their moments but for the most part they are all so happy and we just feel like we are on vacation. Going shopping, out to dinner - we are having a blast. Dennis said he has never seen this before and we are special but weird. He is so funny - a very dry humor. We laughed hard at dinner and really enjoyed ourselves. We are going back to Shaiman Island tomorrow for one last hurrah and then we go to the American Consulate in the afternoon to pick up the baby's visas for their trip home. We hope to go out to dinner as a group tomorrow. I am going to be very sad to leave this place and these people. It will be very bitter sweet. Lilly is fussing and needs to go to bed. I will post photos of the hotel we are staying at either later tonight or in the morning. Get ready to be jealous.
Love to all,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lilly's Clothes

This might make everyone sad but I want you to see the clothing Lilly was wearing when she came to us last Sunday. The first picture is all the clothes she had on. They layer the babies a lot and they can barely move in their cribs. They don't have central heat in a lot of buildings in China and they believe that you get sick from being cold - not sure where germs come into the picture. Anyway.....they bundle these babies and put several layers on and then wrap them in blankets. Lilly's hair is rubbed off on the back of her head where she has turned her head back and forth over and over. When she gets overtired now she will do the same thing with her head. I imagine this is a self soothing thing. It was the only movement she could do on her own. The clothes are pretty ratty as you can see. The red outfit was what they put over her outfit to present her to us. This is not what the babies ever wear in orphanages but it was a nice gesture and the babies looked so sweet all bundled up with their Aunties. Each of the babies had their nametags on their jacket and they check your passports and check the babies nametag and another piece of paper and hand you your sweet baby. The last photo is of the dress that we had handmade for Lilly before we left Nanchang. We stepped into this tiny little shop on Saturday night and the young girl spoke excellent English and said they could make a dress that evening while we were at dinner and then deliver it to the room. I was quick enough to think and not pay for the dress until they delivered it but sure enough they brought as promised. Lilly looks so beautiful in her dress and she seems quite at home in the five star hotel now - in fact we sat her on the bed the moment we get here and she just grinned ear to ear. She had a very smug look on her face as if to say - what took you so long Mom and Dad and Aunt Sharlyn. We have been calling her the Empress and she seems to know it. God, we love this baby. Thank you thank you thank you whoever sat with our paperwork all the way from Dryden, New York and matched us with this exact child. God, perhaps???? Each and every child looks so well suited to their family, both in looks and personality. It is almost eerie. How do Chinese babies look like their American parents? I am not sure but it is true. Today we have a free day and that is going to be so fun for us. We have had a lot of juggling for the last few days. It feels good to linger in the room this morning. Later I will post photos of this hotel and you will wish you were here.

The Red Couch Photo better know as the Crying Baby photo!

A quick rundown of the photos. Of course the first one is Lilly and Mommy. The next one is our friend Molly with Chloe and Grandma Claire. Chloe is the one that has been so sick. She is doing much better now. She and Lilly have a special bond. The next photo is all of the babies from the Yichun orphanage. From left to right: Jennifer with Kaitlin, Kelly with Evie but you can only see the top of Evie's head, Molly with Chloe, Lisa with Shelby, Michelle with Coee and then I am sitting on the floor with Lilly Grace. The next photo is the freak out on the red couch. Lilly is 2nd from the right on the floor. She is looking at Shelby(better known as Lu Lu) and they seem to be conferring as to what they should do about Chloe and Coee who are not quite as calm. The older girl is Madison. She is Shelby's big sister and was adopted from China 4 years ago. She is so sweet and has been an absolute delight to travel with. The last photo may not be an actual bride. We aren't sure - it is possible that it is part of a fashion show but either way it is cool. This is my second post today so make sure and scroll down so you don't miss anything! It means so much to me to hear about all the people who are supporting us at home by following this blog. It makes us feel connected. Scott is home safe and sound now and we leave on Thursday morning. Airport to airport will be almost 24 hours. That makes me want to go straight to bed right now - I think I will.
More tomorrow when the adventure continues -
Here is a little side note that is kind of funny. Almost every baby from the families that we traveled to Jiangxi with has named their daughters with a name that ends with an e sound - either with an e, i or y. They are: Lilly, Chloe, Coee, Shelby, Lexi, Krissy, Emmie and Evie.
The exceptions are Kaitlin, Adeline and Bella. We just thought that was interesting. We love these families so much and are already talking about a yearly gathering so we can watch these powerful girls grow up.

Lilly goes to the Doctor

Greetings from Guangzhou,
Today was a long. long day. We had to be on the bus at 8:30 for all the babies to get their medical exams. We got up around 6 and were in the dining room by 7:45 eating our breakfast. They have a great buffet here in the morning that is included with the room. The exams were fairly quick but imagine 20 babies in one tiny room, all of going to the different stations, doing paperwork and juggling babies and bags and cameras. Thank God for my nanny Sharlyn! After the exam we were set free to explore Shaiman Island on our own. There are lots of shops and even a Starbucks which we felt the need to visit twice. It is so balmy here in Guangzhou and we love it. I was born for this kind of weather. We got some nice things for Lilly and a few gifts for our friends and family. We went to the White Swan for the photo on the famous red couch with the girls. It was pretty chaotic. A flurry of parents putting the babies into traditional outfits and then putting them on a couch for a group photo. LOTS of crying. Lilly was calm and was patting one of her little friends Coee on the back. It was pretty sweet. Lilly was so good all day. We went into one store and asked if they had strollers for sale. They didn't but they made a call to another store and one of the women walked there and brought us back a stroller to borrow. No charge, no form to fill out. Just kindness. I am still so impressed with the generosity of people here. We ended up finding one to buy and took the borrowed one back to the store. After the red couch photo all the families went for a farewell lunch and we had some delicious Chinese food. We did not take the group bus back to the hotel. We wandered around some more shops and took a taxi home just as it got dark. We immediately got into our jammies and ordered room service. I may do another post tonight so you can see some of the group photos and the crying babies. I did not really like that part but in a way it was sweet to see how attached these babies already are to their parents as they were reaching for them and crying to be picked up again. They already know where they belong. Lilly is up again after a brief cat nap so time to get her tucked in for the night. She has been sleeping through the night since we got here on Saturday. That is a beautiful thing.
Bye for now,

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Nighty Night

Well.......little Miss Lilly has just had her dinner and the photos are of her getting ready for bed. She had potatoes, baked salmon, broccoli and fresh bread. She washed it all down with a little Evian water. Not bad for a baby. She loved it all and so far has loved all food we have given her. We went to a restaurant in the hotel tonight. We had the best meal. We paid more money for it than we paid for all of our meals combined in Nanchang. We could eat for three people and only pay $7. But.......finally tonight a meal that belongs in our bellies. It was delicious. We are still missing Scott and wish he could have stayed here in this city and experience everything with us. Molly's baby is doing much better. She ended up staying in the hospital in Nanchang for two days. Pretty scary for Molly and her mother. Hospitals in China are a little behind what we are used to. She had a really bad blister on her thumb that turned out to be an infection and she had been sucking on her thumb and the toxins went in pretty quickly. She wound up with the red line up her arm. They put her on IV antibiotics and she is now here with us in Guangzhou. She lost some skin on her thumb to the point where she may need a little surgery to repair it. Out of everyone we have met Molly and her mother Claire will be friends for life. Chloe and Lilly were in the same orphanage and they have very similar personalities and spirits. They are sisters of the heart and we already call Claire Grandma. You can't have too many of those. Molly lives in Nashville and Claire lives in Texas. I am sure their will be many plane rides and car trips for all of us in the future. It seems like they may have had their cribs next to each other as they seem to have a very deep bond. Tomorrow we will have the medical exams for all the babies and then shopping on Shamian Island. After that there will be a traditional photo at the White Swan Hotel with all the babies. Normally families stay at that hotel but it is under some renovations so we are here instead. When I post pictures of this place you will understand why we are fine with the change. This place is so beautiful and we are treated so well. Lilly has fallen asleep on the floor while I am typing this. That is a first. She is cozy in her jammies and she was playing on her blanket on the floor. Falling asleep as been kind of hard for her so this is a big deal. I can't wait for each of you to meet Lilly. She has a special kind of magic. She cracks us up all the time. I have never been around such a funny baby. She is totally impressed with every new thing she does and makes this sort of hmmmph sound as if to see .....there, I mastered that now what else can I do. She has gone from barely being able to sit up 7 days ago to sitting up like a pro. She couldn't roll over and now she rolls over and over and over. She even tries to sit up from a lying down position. She eats everything we feed her and actually seems chubby compared to a week ago. She was beautiful the moment we saw her but there is a sparkle in her eye that was not there before. We are on the verge of joyous tears all the time. What a blessing.
We are in total bliss.
Good night and sleep tight,

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A quick hello from Guangzhou

We got up this morning and got ready for the day. We had to pack Scott's suitcases and we sent him home with everything that we did not need. You can see from the pictures that he was pretty sad. We thought we had about thirty minutes together to have breakfast and say our goodbyes but when we got downstairs it was time for us to leave. The goodbye was quick but very tearful. Sharlyn and I cried like we would never see Scott again. We had to get right on a bus with our local guide Simon and have the pictures taken for the visas for the passports so the babies can enter the US. A visa is like a second step in the passport and is not required for all countries. We did have to get one in order to come to China. It is a big stamp on one page of the passport. Lilly is a few steps ahead of her brothers and her sister. Already an international traveler at 11 months old! Soaking up another culture has given us even more of a travel bug than we already had. It is just so fun! Yes.......even with a brand new baby and all the gear. I will actually be sad to leave China. The people are amazing. After the visa pictures we went to a mall area that inside shops and also an outdoor area with more shops and places to eat. We did not feel like shopping too much so we went outside for a latte for Sharlyn and a cool iced drink for me. While we were sitting up there on this crowded street filled with strangers I looked up and there was Dennis. Someone I know! He had left to take Scott to the airport and we had wandered away from the group and he just happened to be coming up the same street. We were more interested in people watching then in shopping so Dennis sat with us and we had a really nice chat. We haven't had a chance to talk with him alone as you can imagine. He is coordinating everything for so many families. One of the pictures is of a man holding Lilly - that is not Dennis. That is a complete stranger sitting next to me at the cafe'. He was with 5 or 6 men and 1 woman. He wanted to hold the baby and now I am so used to strangers holding my baby that I just start undoing her carrier and handed her to him. The other pictures are of Simon - our new guide who is so sweet and teaching us a lot about Chinese history. The others are obvious. In one of them Lilly is sharing her cookie with Daddy. Time for lunch now - Lilly is getting very used to grown up food and lets us know if we have forgotten meal time. She is letting us know right this minute.
Bye for now.
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