Friday, January 29, 2010

We are safely back in the USA!

Here are some photos from our final day in China! There are a lot of details I could post, but I am not sure I'm up for it right now! I have bronchitis. I feel pretty awful, but I am heavily medicated, so I will be recovered shortly, hopefully. I have to be in that wedding tomorrow!

We left our hotel at 7:30am on Thursday (which was 5:30 pm eastern time on Wednesday). Flew to Beijing, checked in and went through security again, had lunch, and got on our plane for Chicago. This was the most challenging leg of the trip. Sophia was fussy the entire time and fought sleep very effectively for all of the trip. She would doze for 15 minutes and then wake herself up. I walked with her for about 6 of the 12 hours to keep her from crying. I have never been so glad to get off of a plane in my life. I'm sure the people sitting around us felt the same way. Lauren and Marcus did fine. Both of them slept a lot.

We then went through customs and then immigration. Sophia became an American! That was very sweet. Walking out of immigration into Chicago airport felt very good, even though we were all feeling pretty bad, especially me.

In Chicago, we went through the worlds longest security line. We made our early flight in time though and victory was in sight! We all did great on this 1 hour flight. We actually arrived early in Minneapolis, so we beat our welcoming party! My parents and my sister Traci arrived shortly with balloons and then David's parents too. The balloons were a hit with Sophia! We finally arrived at Jenny and John's at 10ish central time. Almost 30 hours of travel.

We were exhausted. I felt awful. We slept for most of the night (not so much from 2-4), and woke up relatively normally. After a trip to the doctor, a dose of zythromax, and a shower, I'm beginning to feel better. Sophia is having a really normal day! We are glad for that. What a trooper. She's met so many new people and she's been mostly happy about it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today we swore we told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Oh, I can't wait to be home!! We are really itching to have life back to normal a little. It will really be quite some time yet, with the wedding this weekend, but even landing in Chicago will feel good. All those people who speak English! I will really appreciate that when ordering food at a restaurant. I have enjoyed the cultural experience though. It makes my view of the world that much more accurate, I guess. The Chinese people people are very warm even though they push and shove a lot and don't say excuse me. I suppose that comes with having more people than your average country.

OK, so today was pretty average for us. No one got hit by a car or anything extraordinary. We skyped our community group during their weekly meeting to start our day. That was fun. It made us long for home a little more. Dave stayed in the room for Sophia's morning nap while Lauren, Marcus, and I headed to a park about 3 blocks away with our travel group. The Chinese people do parks very well. We've been told that they have such grand parks because their homes (apartments) are so tiny. They spend time outside instead of in. The park we went to today is huge, has a lake, paths, an exercise park, a toddler park, an amusement park, gardens, dancers, a couple of restaurants, food stands (to us, they are mostly ice cream vendors) and that was only the part we went through in an hour.

Another interesting cultural thing we've found out is that professional wedding photos are not taken on the day of the wedding. They could be weeks or months or even a year apart. They could come before the wedding or after. Also, the parents of the couple set the date. They don't necessarily pick Saturdays of even weekends either. They pick a day depending on it's luckiness. I am not sure what determines luckiness, but apparently, that's the key. Anyway, we keep seeing brides and grooms in various parks we go to. The brides are always breathtakingly beautiful. And there is always a photographer handy. Today we saw two of them at this particular park.

After lunch, we had a very important appointment at the US consulate. We, along with about 40 other adoptive parents and their children had to sign an important immigration paper today and then take an oath. We swore that we, as our child's representative, have told the truth. I guess we have to do that so that the US government can trust these tiny immigrants. I could solemnly swear that Sophia is just immigrating to be my little girl, and that she isn't going to be a terrorist or anything like that.

Tomorrow is visa day. We will pick up Sophia's Chinese passport with a single entry US visa in it! We will also get some very important documentation that will make her a US citizen as soon as we touch down in Chicago! Soon and very soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lauren almost died today. She didn't though.

Yes, it's true! I briefly feared for her life. Actually she got hit by car, but she's fine. Very resilient child! The whole story I'll get to in a bit.

First, and most importantly, we got to watch the second half of the Colts win over the Jets. Go Colts! Very exciting stuff. It's a little weird watching NFL at 5:45am on Monday, but it was great! Superbowl, here we come. The Vikes were a different story of course. We're very sad, although with that many turnovers, they don't really deserve to be in the Superbowl. Oh well, we are mostly happy at the Roux house.

After 4-5 hours of NFL interspersed with breakfast and showers and making the kids do some homework, we finally started our day. Skyping with the Zellman clan was a highlight. Sophia got to meet Grandpa, Aunt Traci, Aunt Liz, and Uncle Bevan. It will be no time at all and we will get to see them for real! Thursday's coming quick.

We have also fed Sohpia her first successful spoonfuls of rice cereal. She likes it! Now, if she can just figure out what to do with her tongue! It's a little messy, but I'm thinking she's never seen a spoon in her life!

David, Sohpia, and Marcus stayed in all day. Marcus is fighting a cold, Sohpia needed to actually get 2 naps at their proper times for a change, and David is polishing up that wedding message. All was well at home as Lauren and I ventured out for some more shopping with the rest of our group. When I asked her what she wanted to do today, her only request was that she wanted to do whatever Annabelle was doing. Very sweet. Oh, we will miss them!

We went to Shamain Island today--Home of the White Swan Hotel and many shops catering almost entirely to adoptive parents. Here we saw lots of touristy trinkets and Chinese babies with non-Chinese parents. Well, not lots, but more than anywhere else. The unfortunate part of this visit was that the whole place is being renovated currently. It's dusty and dirty and quite a mess! Because of this, there are places that sidewalks are somewhat unavailable. Most of the roads don't have a lot of cars, because they're narrow and can't support a lot of traffic.

Well, Lauren thought that the road was clear, but low and behold, it was not. A very shiny black car came flying down this tiny little street past the bus we were just going to go around. It's mirror caught her shoulder and spun her around. The mirror was one of those collapsable ones, so it gave way and claims it didn't hurt at all. I screamed very loudly as any mama would and Lauren looked shocked. After a couple of seconds, she cried, we all cried, but thankfully not from pain, but from fear and relief. Wow, that could have been bad. She is kind of proud of her near death experience at this point and will gladly tell you all the details. Our friends the speedsters were extremely apologetic, but we don't think they spoke much English (besides "I sorry" bow, bow). We just told them, "Slow down." I wanted to yell at them. It's probably good I don't know Cantonese.

After we got home, we ordered Papa John's (really--it tastes the same; they even have the garlic butter sauce and peppercinnis) and played with Sophia who was quite the entertainer tonight. She comes alive in the evenings, it would seem. That will be mornings on the east coast, so that should work out! She and Marcus and Lauren were having a blast rolling and laughing and jumping (not Sophia so much) right here in the hotel room.

I need to go to bed. I've been up forever. The sacrifices we make for football...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Folk Art and Tea Ceremony

Sunday morning brought another sightseeing opportunity. We headed to the Guangzhou Folk Art Museum for a look around. It was lovely. The building that it is held in used to be the Chen Family's Temple (apparently there have been a lot of Chens in Guangzhou). This is where this particular family used to worship their ancestors. Weird. Anyway, it's now just a very beautiful open air museum. We were wishing that last week's 70 degrees would have been here, but thankfully, I had a little baby to snuggle with. There were so many pretty sculptures and paintings and gardens. Most of the photos are from there.

Then we went to a Tea Ceremony where we learned about different kinds of tea and tasted a bunch of them. We decided that Jasmine tea is our favorite. Then we came home for noodles in our room! That is the kids' favorite lunch option besides McDonald's. Sophia got to eat her yummy bottle and her horrendously awful (or at least in her opinion) medicine. Seriously, we have started a countdown. 5 doses down, 10 to go. She is napping happily now!

Speaking of food, last night we had the tastiest food since arriving. We ate at a little Japanese steakhouse. They cooked our food in front of us and this lovely giant prawn was ordered by the Subletts. Doesn't that look delicious! Actually, I heard that it was quite wonderful.

We are looking forward to watching some great football starting at 4am Monday morning! Go Colts (and Vikings!). If we get our way, we will have a blue and purple Superbowl and we will be happy kids--either way!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Doctor Day

It's Saturday afternoon here. It's rainy, dreary, and only 55 degrees, but I guess it's better than winter.

Yesterday was a free day, which was very nice for us. We did lots of laundry, which is mostly still wet and hanging all over the hotel rooms. We skyped, so Grandma and Grandpa Roux and Grandma Zellman and Michael's family got to meet Sophia. That was very fun! We also did some shopping. We are looking for 17 little Chinese gifts to give Sophia every year until she turns 18 on "Gotcha Day." It's actually really fun to shop, as that sort of stuff is very inexpensive and we can bargain with the shop keepers. Here is a picture of Lauren displaying some of Sophia's future gifts. The cool thing is that this dress, shoes, and fan cost about $8 total. It is kind of like garage sales, only in a different language, with new (albeit cheaply made) stuff.

Last night we slept a little more, but Sophia has still been bothered by a cough adn a lot of congestion. This makes her a little fussy but mostly just affects her sleeping. She has trouble staying asleep, it seems.

This morning, it was off for the offical medical check. China requires this for her to leave, and the USA requires it for her to get a USA visa. And she needs that to get in on Thursday! Because we started this adoption eons ago, we are a pre-Hague case. That mean, we have fewer requirements and a bit less paperwork to do. Because of that, Sophia didn't have any vaccination requirements today. Some of the kids in our group had to get 6, 7, or 8 shots! These were 1-3 year olds! So glad we didn't have to do that, especially since she's feeling kind of icky anyway. We were at the Travel Medical Clinic for over 2 hours and there was quite a bit of standing around. Sophia was very good, took some little mama's-arms-naps, and screamed for the doctors. Thankfully we were only with the doctors for about 3 minutes! The doctor was concerned about Pneumonia. Oh no. She recommended to our translator that we take her to an international clinic. I don't know why she couldn't prescribe something, but off we went in a taxi, this time just the 3 of us as Lauren and Marcus wenet with the Subletts to the department store with the rest of our group. Have I mentioned how much we love Uncle Stacy and Aunt Kim Sublett? They are God's gift to us!

At the clinic, a very nice English speaking doctor from Singapore checked her out. He didn't think it was pneumonia or even bronchitis, but probably a sinus infection. She has a lot of colorful snot (I know, TMI, but all you moms out there were wondering. Oh, her ears are clear too.) and this hacking cough. No fever either. So, he prescribed Augmentin and some sort of baby cold medicine to dry her up and keep things moving so she doesn't cough so much. Anyway, that is the whole of the Doctor part of our day. She's doing fine really. It's just like my other two babies when they would get a cold. You can pray that she'd be a little more tolerant of the medicines. She hates them. Screams like she's in horrible pain.

She really doesn't like to eat anything besides her formula and rice mixture. She's doing better at eating more of that, but she isn't interested in anything that might come delivered to her mouth via a spoon--we've tried bananas, rice cereal, yogurt, oatmeal. She also doesn't like cheerios, bits of bread, or french fries. I am assuming she just hasn't been exposed and all that will come in time. Lauren and Marcus wer eating ground up meat and potatoes at this age! It kind of feels like I got a younger baby this way, which is totally fine! She's very snuggly, loves to look me in the eyes, and enjoys imitating.

She also likes her older siblings quite a bit. The 5 of us were playing right before bed last night on Marcus' bed. She was laughing at them and copying them and waving her arms and legs and wiggling and rolling like crazy. We were all in stitches. Wished we could have gotten that on video, but we knew if we got the camera out, the fun would surely stop so we just lived in the moment.

After McDonalds for lunch, and traumatic medicine administration, naps for Dad and Sophia and in process. The kids are working on homework and I'm doing this! I'm so glad to report that the Roux's are doing well! 5 days till we fly home!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today we went to the zoo.

Yes, we are hitting up tourist stops in Guangzhou. A week down, a week to go. I was just saying to David tonight...1 week from right now, we will be almost to the north pole.

At the zoo we saw monkeys like crazy, a very anxious or hungry growling tiger, a cheetah, some leopards, and a panda bear. The giraffes were nice too. Lauren and Marcus and Annabelle loved the zoo. Sophia didn't care so much about it, but that's ok! She crawled today. We were told that she crawled a lot at the orphanage, but we hadn't seen it yet. It was cute, but she didn't get very far...just trying it out! She had a pretty good day today. Still adjusting, but seems to be enjoying us more each day. Lauren had quite a good time playing with her during breakfast and Sophia was into it as well.

Why do we have to stay this long, you might be wondering. Well, it's not because we are longing to take in all the sights. Every step takes time to develop. Yesterday we applied for a chinese passport, which takes at least two days. We pick those up tomorrow afternoon. We need those in order to go to the US consulate on Monday to apply for a visa for Sophia to put in her passport. Saturday is the medical examination which is also required for the consulate date. Then the visa takes two days, so we cannot leave until Wednesday night. We will actually leave Guangzhou Thursday morning and Beijing Thursday late afternoon and Chicago Thursday late afternoon as well. It will be the day that never ends. Like 40 hours or so. Anyway, that is the deal with staying over this long! But we are half way there. We are looking forward to being home.

Tomorrow is laundry day. In the tub, by hand. Doesn't that sound like fun? We were told we could do it over here, but it's kind of pricey, so we are going to see what we can do on our own! Should be interesting. I'm falling asleep at the computer, time for bed! night.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Praise the Lord for super-mega naps and bowel movements!

Today was great due to these two things. I know, too much info.
Sophia seems to be settling in to her forever family.
She seems to grasp that being snuggled is way more fun than sitting in a crib by yourself.
She laughed at her brother and her mother today.
She saw me give a high five to one of our new friends, Stacy, and she tried to give me one also.
She likes to imitate hand motions and wave her fingers.
She likes to suck her left thumb.

She fell asleep snuggled up to her daddy in a Snuggly with her hand on a Diet Coke. She is her mother's child already. I like both the daddy and the Diet Coke so much! Diet Coke in China doesn't taste the same. I will enjoy a yummy American Diet Coke as soon as possible.
She was much easier to make happy today. We didn't have to be in constant motion!

We went to the park, we applied for her Chinese passport, we went shopping, and we went to Pizza Hut. Today she got her official papers. According to China, we can take her home. Now we just have to get that same approval from the USA. Next week!

As for the rest of us, we feel more rested, more comfortable in China, and Lauren is having fun connecting with the 9 year old adoptee from down the hall. They played Trouble, Uno, and watched Mulan in Chinese with English subtitles. That was kind of funny. Marcus lost a tooth while we were at the Pizza Hut. That was kind of crazy, and the pizza was very yummy. Anyway, we are well. Hope you are too!

We've plunged back into parenting an infant!

At 9:20 yesterday morning, we officially became parents of Sophia. She's ours. We had to promise we love Chinese people and that we would never mistreat or abandon her (really, who would actually admit to that..."well, maybe it depends!"). She is beautiful and we are in love.

We aren't sure that she likes us as much as we like her, though. She's been a little fussy. In the past 12 hours however, she's eaten better and slept better. She's been sleeping almost 5 hours now. Even though it's technically not night time, we're letting her go, cause she's got to be dealing with the stress of her transition and probably needs sleep pretty badly.

Yesterday we went to a Chinese department store that had a grocery section. That was different. Dave and the kids took in a park with our new friends the Subletts. They have done every step of this with us. That has been an extra special gift-Stacy and Kim adopted a 9 year old girl adn we've taken to them all very well. He is a youth pastor from PA and they've got 3 kids waiting for them at home. Very fun people. The park was massive and beautiful and provided a very necessary time to Marcus and Lauren to run around (mostly Marcus).

Today we have to go to the police station at 3 to sign up for Sophia's passport and then we get Pizza Hut! Very fun. Our children will thoroughly enjoy that. They're pretty done with the Chinese food.

Pray for our little girl to have a little happier day today. I think she's teething and she has a cold, so all of that could be hard as well as the shock of her life. Bless you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gotcha Day: Sophia is ours!

Today we started early--4:15am. Actually, we couldn't sleep, either because the Vikings were on at 2am or because we were so excited to meet Sophia, depending on who you ask. We left for the Beijing airport at 5:30 and flew out at 8. After a 3 hour flight, we landed in Guangzhou to 65 degree temps and about 2 hours before we would meet our little princess. We had our first McDonalds over here, unpacked, and gathered our stuff for baby day--diaper bag, cameras, passports, paperwork, and of course, money.

Upon arrival at the Civil Affair4s office, our hearts were pumping fast and our stomachs were full of knots and butterflies. It was surreal. We got our temperatures taken (odd!), filled out some paperwork, and waited on some couches for a nanny to come in with our baby...then we thought we saw her! As we have never officially met, it was hard to be sure from across the room, but she was littler than we expected, so that threw us off a bit. We were right, though--it was her! About 5 minutes later, they brought her out and it was so wonderful. She came right to me and didn't cry at all at first. She definitely was overwhelmed though as she looked all around at the other babies and new parents and her own siblings. It's weird to think that she's probably never left the orphanage and gone to a big city or even ridden in a car. She had to travel 2-3 hours to get to Guangzhou from her orphanage, so she was probably in shock before she even saw us!

She did pretty well for the 45 minutes we were at the office. She was held by the whole family at one time or another and OK with it all. She wasn't crying like some of the neighboring children. She fell asleep in my arms as we were getting ready to leave. That lasted through some of the bus ride home, but unfortunately for her own schedule, she really didn't get a nap.

Back at the hotel, she wasn't so keen on eating, but we think that was just the shock of all she was experiencing. The kids tried so hard to engage with her, but she seemed to enjoy quiet a little more. I'm sure that will come soon, once she gets used to us. She tolerated her bath pretty well and smelled quite a bit better when she was done. She's a little tiny girl around with kind of long legs, toes, arms, and fingers. She has adorable eyes and really long eyelashes. And they did not shave her head! Very happy about that. She's sleeping now and David and the kids are out grabbing dinner. Tomorrow there is more paperwork and she becomes officially ours. The rest of the week, there will be more of the same, some sightseeing, some shopping, and a doctor's appt.

Please pray for us as we adjust to each other. Pray for her eating and for Marcus and Lauren's adjustment as well. I think they thought it would be pretty easy, and it will take a couple days before she feels comfortable around all of us. We are all so very happy! The waiting is finally done.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sophia, are you ready? Here we come!

After a rough night of sleeping like dead people and then lying completely awake from 2-4am, we awoke to a sick Marcus! We think it was just traveler's adjustment as after about 3 hours he was up and going as usual. We got to take in the Great Wall this afternoon! It was "Amazingly huge" (Lauren), "Steep" (David), "Breathtaking" (me), and "Gigantic" (Marcus). This was a huge highlight for all of us. It is mind-boggling to imagine 4500 miles of this stone wall, built in mountains by hand. Truly a marvel.

Tonight we have an acrobatic show which all 4 of us are nearly too tired to stay awake for. Mostly, though, my stomach is all jumpy and weird. I don't think it's the Chinese food either. Tomorrow afternoon we get to meet our daughter. Tonight is the last night she will not have a family. Tomorrow, all the waiting will be done. I imagine I won't sleep much tonight.

We have a 5:30am call time. We have a flight from Beijing to Guangzhou and then we go to the hotel and then we get Sophia. Pray it all goes as it should.

Oh, we are so happy the Colts won today!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another Day Closer to Sophia

Today we spent time touring in Beijing. It was cold and we spent a couple hours outside, so that was a little rough, but we made it. We started at Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Then we checked out a pearl factory and a silk factory. Interesting stuff. We also went to the Summer Palace, the Water Cube, and the Bird's Nest (2008 Olympics), and ate Chinese food twice. We are tired and not hungry (the kids each found things they liked!) and can't wait to get Sophia. It is Saturday night and we have until Monday. Currently we are all ready to collapse in our rooms, but we are trying to hold out until 9pm.

We have enjoyed getting to know the other families we are travelling about with. We all have different stories and different kidswe are going to get, but we all can't wait til Monday! Well, we all can't wait until bedtime though too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Could I have a side of drama with my drama please?

We got to the front of the line at the Minneapolis ticket counter to check in on Thursday morning and we encountered a major snag! Back in August when we ordered visas to go to China to get Meilynn in September, Lauren and Marcus got 6 month visas--lasting until February 25, 2010. Back then, when we checked visa expiration dates we didn't check them all, as we assumed they were all the same and the ones we did check were the kids'. Unfortunately, David's and mine expired at the end of September!

There was a period of time where panic/freak out was the name of the game. Then David told me to get a hold of myself, we'd still get Sophia...sometime. Well, you can't go to China without a visa, so we started thinking. One of the few places in the USA where there is a Chinese consulate is in Chicago. We have a 3 1/2 hour layover in Chicago before we need to be on the 12:43pm flight to Beijing. Maybe, just maybe, they can rush a visa and we could at least get out only one day late! So, we got on our first flight to Chicago.

Once there, Dave and the kids picked up bags and I sprinted to the taxis. There was no traffic in Chicago (minor miracle), and I was in a short line (another minor miracle) to talk to the visa people by 9:55. After telling this nice Chinese lady as much of my sob story as I could cram into my 3 minutes, she looked at me with sympathy and said she didn't think they could get anything done before 10:30. By this time, those were 25 minute visas and I almost fainted with relief! That was a major miracle! We were told that visas handed in by 11 could be picked up at 2pm, so this was a huge favor from the Chinese government and we weren't even here yet!

Needless to say, we made it! We are in Beijing. David is snoring behind me (it's only 9:30, so I'm afraid he'll be up at 4!) and the kids did great. We're all very tired, but so so glad to be here! We are 14 hours ahead of Central time and 13 hours ahead of Eastern time. We flew over the Hudson Bay, the North Pole, and Mongolia to get here (weird). Tomorrow and Sunday we see the sights of Beijing and Monday we get another daughter.

Thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The time is upon us

We leave for Minnesota tomorrow. Last night at community group, our lovely friends surprised us with a baby shower. It was so very special. We have the most amazing friends. Chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake, yummy pink drinks with Asian umbrellas, signs, balloons, tiny adorable little girl things, and the most amazing Vera Bradley diaper bag stuffed with all sorts of goodies - it was a night to remember. And then they prayed for us. Amy even made little conversation heart magnets that say Sophia on them to remind everyone to pray. All in all, David and I felt overwhelmingly loved. Thank you friends.

Today has been filled with packing and organizing and packing and laundry and packing. We are almost done! Then, my friend Heidi brought us a lasagna! Again, we have the very most amazing friends. Another accomplishment was getting Sophia Meilynn's name sign hung in her room. Here it is, hanging over her crib.