Monday, June 30, 2014

China Last Week - The Bright Lights and Big City of Guangzhou

Becoming a new Mom again, this time to a 2 year old, hasn't left a lot of time for anything but caring for our children and home. We've hunkered down, cut out the excess and focused on the simple things in being a family. There's been adjustments and learning, crying and laughing. Two year olds - easily distracted, little bundles of energy who keep you entertained on one hand and a little crazy on the other. One second they want this but then they really wanted that! But so happy to celebrate today our 3 months gotcha day with our little sweetie! 

It's been interesting lately to look back at our time in China adopting Stella. Seems like such a long time ago yet I often find myself still talking about our time in China. And seeing how far Stella has come since that time just a few months ago. Her language took off at an amazing speed. What a little sponge! She now understands pretty much everything we say to her. Just amazing! I remember those moments in China where I just wished she could understand me. Like the meltdown at the Aeon grocery store late one evening....ahem. Thinking about that makes me take a deep breath! Nothing like being a foreigner with a Chinese toddler screaming on the floor (because I wouldn't let her be in charge and push the cart in the super busy store). Goodness...the looks we got made me want to find that invisible cloak you can put on and disappear! Oh Gaungzhou... Our time there was very memorable.

We arrived in Guangzhou, China for the second week of our adoption trip. This is where all American adoptions are finalized as the US Consulate is located here.  The goal of this part of the trip is to get your child's Visa to enter the US (they become an American Citizen once arriving home in the US).  It's also a place to meet up with everyone else from the US adopting as we all spent a week in many different provinces but all end up here together! Our large travel group was such fun and we are so thankful to have met so many wonderful families.  Guangzhou is huge - big city huge!  14 million people live here huge. Bright lights.  Fancy signs and stores.  International flare. Walking on the street is like walking in New York city (but bigger!) and you encounter nationalities from every nation.  Close by there is Mexican food (Mr. Pancho's & Tekilas - yes, with a "k" Texas folks), Starbucks (thank you very much), McDonald's, Subway, lots of Chinese restaurants (wings, noodles, soups, rice and all the authentic fare), a bakery (Surprise Me with yummy treats), and our favorite was a bit of a walk but the handmade noodle shop should be experienced by everyone.  We were careful not to drink the water or ice and we avoided raw veggies like lettuce - no one got sick! yay! I found lining up food and where to eat challenging at first here, but we found the places we liked, were affordable and frequented them.  MickeyDs ice cream sure was comfort food!

Saturday was our medical appointment day.  The travel clinic is the first step to leaving China.  Stella did really well in the crowded clinic, and was so brave during her blood draw (for children over 2 they test for TB).  Parents are not allowed to go into the room so it's "stand by the door with a lollipop ready for comfort" kind of waiting.

  Bring snacks and prepare to wait! 

 I can't read this infamous blood draw door but found the Christmas decorations (in April) amusing!

First dip in the pool! Chilly! 

Sunday, it was raining and we visited a presidential memorial hall. Very interesting - especially for the history buffs in our group.  We also went to the Pearl and Jade Market. It was amazing! Floors and floors of pearls and jade.  Here you can buy at wholesale prices and often the guides are able to negotiate even lower prices.  I loved watching the young ladies string the pearls  - they work very fast! I ended up with a jade bracelet that will be for Stella one day.  Our guide told us it was traditional for the mother to wear it (on the left wrist since it's closest to the heart) then give it to the daughter when she turned 16.  I also purchased some pearls for wedding gifts and had them strung into bracelets for all my girls and Brett's wife to be one day.

Monday our group went to the Chen Family Academy/Temple which is like a folk art museum. Here you can get ink paintings (the artist uses only his hand and they are beautiful), calligraphy, chops (a stamp with your child's name), and there's a gift shop with little red thread bracelets we thought were adorable (and not very expensive).

 Tuesday we headed to the Guangzhou Zoo and tried to get a glimpse of some China pandas. They were eating and didn't want to come out to play... The red panda was neat to see though! Lots and lots of walking. Stella enjoyed the lions and playing peek a boo ("mer") with us! We ate dinner again at the handmade noodle shop that had quickly become our favorite place to eat.

Beef noodle soup (we could split this and share with Stella), a sandwich and cucumbers.  Yum!

 Laundry  - hotel style.  Fun watching Mama do the laundry in the tub!

The consulate appointment took place our last day, Wednesday. As a wife traveling without her husband, I found this part to just be more paperwork, but also so happy to have it behind us. It was the last step to going home! So many Chinese waited outside of the consulate hoping to get in. It seems really hard to get a visa to come to the US and to see so many (crowds we had to push through) waiting and hoping to get in, just makes you appreciate the freedom we have as US Citizens.

We also visited Shamian Island! Just beautiful. A quiet place to walk and enjoy the scenery away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It reminded me of Savannah, Georgia. We took a cab (just have the concierge help with this and pick up a cab back where they leave you out) here one day and then came back with our group another day. Jenny's Place - a must visit. A Christian woman runs the shop and she is just so sweet. Lots of trinkets and of course the squeaky shoes. We found Stella's cotton traditional dress at the China Doll shop and an inexpensive extra suitcase for all our goodies at Michaels. There's a nice Starbucks on the island and somewhere there is a tea room (which we missed somehow but sounded lovely).

More "Mer" - aka peekaboo!

This night we ventured out on the pearl river cruise. The entertainment was the highlight - just very interesting but held Stella's attention! Picture a Chinese woman juggling knives while Ricky Martin played in the background...Oh yeah...she was fascinated! She enjoyed her first ice cream snack (in the shape of a fish!) on the way back to our hotel that night. 

Thursday, was our last full day in Guangzhou.  A day to take it easy, pack up and gather some of our favorite snacks for the plane ride home.  We had to wait until late afternoon to receive Stella's VISA so this day we just spent blowing bubbles, relaxing in the garden of our hotel.  We walked to the Trustmart (China's version of Walmart), picked up Subway for lunch and walked to the farewell dinner with our group to a traditional Chinese restaurant.  

See her little gray sandals??? They used to be white... ahem.  It's a little dirty in the big city! But she wouldn't let us change her shoes for days and it was huge progress when she finally wanted to try on her new shoes.

Not a very good picture...but it represents something so important (besides the fact we had just landed in the US and were all exhausted!).  Stella became a US citizen when our plane touched ground in Dallas, TX! Welcome to America - welcome HOME sweet girl! The trip is busy, exhausting and full. We enjoyed our time in China, but were SO happy to be home!

Celebrating 3 months with her today!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Time... There is never enough of it in a day and yet it goes by way too fast. It takes time to trust. Time to heal.  Time brings happiness. Time makes children grow. 

In two months time we've watched a little girl from a small town in China, leave everything she's ever known and open her heart to a family she can call her own. Mine. Mine. Mine. She is two after all! 

This sweetie came to us timid yet silly. She pushes the limits all the time to make sure someone is still in control. She now cuddles. She sings! It hasn't been easy and there's a long way to go but time will fix that. 

Bringing home Stella Claire has brought a whole new meaning to parenting children. Adoption is not natural. There's so much loss and learning what a family is all about. What a Mama is about. Imagine not knowing what a mother is? But as we work to graft this little one into our family, we praise God for all he's done to heal her heart. We will keep working, with time on our side. Helping her to grow...watching her sing.  For it's a happy child that sings!