Saturday, December 15, 2012

What's the Best Part?

We have been home for about three weeks now, and in some ways it seems like we just got here and in other ways it's like we've had Leo forever.  We've been very busy adjusting, trying new things, bonding, playing, and meeting all kinds of people. 

Today we had a nice lunch date with our friends, Johny and Alyson from Laramie.  As we were visiting, Johny asked a question that has had me thinking this afternoon:  "What has been the best part of having Leo?"

So much comes to mind in answer to that question.  I think what I said at the time was "seeing the world through his eyes."  Which is pretty true - being a toddler and being new to America, it seems that so much of the world is new to him.  Things I would never expect him to notice fascinate him and peak his curiostiy.  It's fun to watch him study things or to see what amuses him.

I guess that answer was okay, but as I started thinking about all the other aspects of being a mommy and raising a child, I realized that there are so many bests.  How can you possibly pick just one?

Some of my favorite things about having Leo have been the typical happy-go-lucky, daily-routine-type stuff.  Like watching him eat when he gets food all over the place and does a happy dance when he really likes something.  Or waking him up from his nap and cuddling with him for those few moments between sleepy and playful.  Reading to him before bed at night when he will point to the book and pretend to read with me.  Holding his hand and walking anywhere and everywhere - seeing that big grin on his face because he loves to walk so much.  Giving him his bath.  Putting on his shoes.  Hearing him try new words or giggling or just plain babbling.

But in addition to all of that, more of my favorite things have been in the hard times.  The times when he is crying and I am frustrated because I don't know why.  I always learn something about him after these moments.  Or the times when he has really needed me - like a major diaper blowout or the day he got sick and kept throwing up.  Sure these times are challenging, but I feel so close to him when I'm able to help him through his struggles.  I feel like I'm doing important work, taking care of him.  These days have been some of the longest, hardest work days I have ever faced, but they have also been the most rewarding.  There is really no best part to raising my son.  I love it all.  He's the best part.  Of everything.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

2 weeks home/1 month a family

I have been meaning to get online and post an update about Leo's transition home, but I have to say that finding the time to do that has been such a challenge!  I will admit that having a toddler is more work than I ever imagined it could be!  This little guy is demanding and busy and into everything and always "helping," it wears a girl out - especially this pregnant one!  But little Leo is also so much joy and so sweet and so fun.  So much more than I ever imagined, in every possible way.  Here are some categorical highlights about his transition home:

The Flight Home:
Leo was amazing!  He was so much better on the flights coming home than I could have ever hoped he would be.  He slept most of the flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis, and when he was awake, he spent his time on his daddy's lap, watching movies (Tinkerbell was his favorite movie on the plane and continues to be his favorite at home), playing with the plastic water cups they gave us, and stacking/unstacking the flight magazines.  Of course he wanted nothing to do with the actual toys we brought for him to play with.  We did have one screaming fit toward the end of the flight.  He was tired and Caolon needed a break from holding him, so I took over.  Leo did not like this one bit, so he responded with a major tantrum that we just kind of let happen.  I held him and let him cry it out and he finally fell asleep.  Other than that, our day of travel couldn't have been better.

This is another area that I am pleasantly surprised about.  Leo has really bonded and attached so well.  Of course, in China he was going great with that with Caolon, but since coming home, he has also attached to me.  He calls us mama and dada (though, sometimes he gets confused as to which of us is which) and he will go to either of us for his needs and wants.  He plays with both of us and likes to be held and cuddled.  Which works very well for me as I could just hold and cuddle him all day! :)

Our House:
Our first night home started a little rough, as we arrived at about 7:30 p.m. and found that our furnace had gone out at some point during our trip.  It was a nice, Wyomingy 48 degrees inside.  Nothing like a warm welcome home.  Fortunately, Caolon is a handy, problem solving type, so he was able to troubleshoot and fix the problem.  We got it up and running and then spent an hour touring Leo around the house pointing out things.  He was so cute when we showed him his room.  He was walking with me, holding my hand and I took him into his room and said, "This is Leo's room."  He looked up at me with his sweet wide eyes and gave me the biggest grin.  I have no clue if he really understood or not, but I can say that over time he has definitely taken to his room.  He likes to play in there.  He will go to his door, tell me "bye-bye", wave and blow a kiss and then close himself in his room.  This is pretty funny until he realizes that he is too short to reach the knob, so I have to come rescue him.

Kisa is our sweet, cute little Maltese doggie, and I had been worried as to how Leo might take to her.  My fears were justified, as he was definitely not a fan at first.  Actually, the word terrified might sum it up a little better.  Every time Kisa would come into the room (which is basically always, as she follows me around loyally), Leo would squeeze his eyes closed, hide his face, and often cry.  It took quite a few days of us reassuring him, telling him that she was "Leo's doggie", and holding her while he was on our laps so he could get a closer look.  Eventually, he started to calm down a little and now he has developed a small interest in her.  He will often come take my hand and indicate that he wants me to help him pet her (I won't let him pet her on his own yet, as she is not exactly the most patient pet there ever was) and he says her name and feeds her snacks.  I think she has decided the situation is tolerable, particularly during mealtimes.

I have probably not done the best job of limiting visitors/visits out of our home for Leo.  He actually started meeting family and friends as soon as we got off the plane in Denver and he has had social interactions with people every day since.  He tends to meet new people with a tentative nature.  He gets quiet and will cling to Caolon or me until he feels that the stranger is interesting or safe.  He has gotten a little more used to meeting new people and it seems lately, the time it takes for him to open up when new people are around has become less and less.  He is still picky about who he will play with or let hold him, much to the dismay of his Poppa and Buddy, but we are definitely seeing progress there as well.  Some of the family and friends he has particularly opened up to include:  Grammie (which makes sense as she was with us in China - he has liked her since then), Pops, Aunt Holly and Aunt Heather (who both must have some kind of magic touch with babies, as he opened up to them right away), Uncle Shawn, my friend Shannon at work (who I am convinced had baby crack in her pocket because he went to her immediately - with no looking back at me at all!), his cousin Regan, and lately his Poppa.  He has a slew of other fans dying to scoop him up to kiss on his cute little cheeks, but he is taking things slowly.  I know he will warm up to everyone else soon!

Leo's cousin, Belle, is (as a family friend put it) 2 going on 3 going on 13!  She likes to remind us that she is "the only princess" and I am pretty sure we all believe her.  I had been nervous about how she might take to Leo and vice versa.  The first night he met her, she came over, swooped into our house, pulled out each and every one of Leo's toys and just completely overwhelmed him.  He stared at her with huge eyes, not entirely sure what to make of this crazy person.  The next time, we were at Godfather's to meet my family for pizza and Belle had her hands full of pop and candy.  She gave Leo a sip of her soda and from then on he has been quite taken with her.  They still haven't quite worked out how to play together, but Leo watches her every move and takes his cues from her.  She has done so well with him and I'm proud of them both for being patient as they get to know each other.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with how things are going.  Leo has just really been a trooper with adjusting and a joy in our lives.  I can't wait to see how the next month will unfold.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Almost Home

Only two more nights in China and then we get to come home!  I’ve enjoyed the past couple of days here, but am getting tired.  Again – being pregnant might not be the best condition for a trip like this.

We have had a busy day today and afternoon yesterday.  After yesterday’s nap, we went out with our group to sightsee a bit around Guangzhou.  They took us first to a park (which probably has a name, but I’m not sure what that is) and we spent about an hour walking around there.  At first it seemed like a typical park – walking around a lake, beautiful trees and flowers, lots of people.  But the more we walked, the more interesting it became.  We discovered that it was kind of like a combination of massive park, playground, carnival, craft bizarre and music venue.  Several bands and other musicians were out providing entertainment, older Chinese people were gathered together to play cards or hacky sack (apparently quite the popular pastime for elderly women here - lol), grandparents and grandchildren sat at tables and did crafts together, and people of all ages played on the many playground and carnival rides available (including personal motorized go carts decorated with carpet to look like animals). 

We stopped at the playground area to let the kids in our group play.  The playground equipment here is much different than what we have at home.  I think a lawyer would love it here as many of the toys didn’t seem very safe.  Children were having a grand old time though, including those from our group, with the exception of Leo, of course.  We tried putting him on the slide and he screamed.  Then we tried the little merry-go-ground elephant ride and he cried on it, too.  In the end, we decided he was just happy to watch and walk around; no playground playing for him yet.  My mom would probably laugh as I was a scaredy cat as a kid, too (still am!).

After the park, we were taken to a museum that used to be an academy that used to be a private temple for the Chen family (which is apparently a huge family in this part of China).  The architecture here was beautiful and the exhibits showcased folk art.  It was interesting to see, though again, I’m not sure that sightseeing is all that effective when toting around a toddler who is mostly interested in eating his puff snacks, splashing his sippy cup, and walking around aimlessly.  Mostly it was nice to be out and about and seeing something outside of the hotel.

When we came back to the hotel, it was dinnertime, so we joined up with a couple of families from our group to try out an Irish pub in the neighborhood.  I was a bit apprehensive, as eating Western food in China is sometimes not the same as what we’d get at home, but this turned out to be the tastiest meal of the trip.  Caolon got the shepherd’s pie, which he shared with a very happy Leo, and I had the fish and chips.  It was so good that I ate too much and made myself sick.  Apparently I’ve gotten unaccustomed to greasy food here, so my stomach wasn’t able to handle it very well.  Anyway, it was nice to have dinner with the other families and just talk about our kids and our experiences here. 

We settled into the hotel room a little early so that Leo could have some time to play and unwind.  He really loves to just have time to play on his own in the room.  He keeps himself busy and seems happiest when we have times like those.  He doesn’t mind being on the go, either, but I don’t think it’s always his preference.

While Leo was playing and Grammie and I watching him, Caolon went out to track down some ice cream, which I was craving.  He reported back that 8:30 p.m. and after is apparently not the time for a white boy to be walking down the street near our hotel.  He said he was propositioned over and over by men trying to sell him everything from black market goods, to drugs, to prostitutes.  He did find the ice cream though (at a McDonald’s!), so that was something!

This morning was an early one, as we had to go to the American Consulate for an appointment to get Leo’s visa.  This is to help him immigrate into the United States.  Once he has his visa, he will be set up to become an American citizen as soon as we arrive to the Minneapolis airport (where we have our connection).  I had been nervous for this appointment, as it’s the one where they check all of our paperwork to this point to make sure it’s all in order.  I guess I was worried they would find something amiss.  I wasn’t the only mama stressing – I think the other gals in our group were also ready to get this one over with.  We all had to go in a big group where we sat together and waited in a dullsville waiting room, like the one at the DMV.  Then they called us up one by one to look at our papers and get our signatures.  It ended up being completely boring and totally not something I should have worried about.  Still, I was glad to get that over with.  Now we just wait until tomorrow when our guide will go pick up the visas and bring them to us.  That is the last thing we need before we can leave China.

Leo did so well in the waiting room this morning – and actually throughout all of today.  Where yesterday he had several total melt downs and temper tantrums, today he has been agreeable and go with the flow.  I guess he is just like the rest of us and has good days and bad days.

After the consulate appointment, we met the rest of our group in the hotel lobby to get a group shot of all of the families.  (I wasn’t paying attention and forgot to give the guide my camera, so I don’t have a copy of this yet.  I’m planning to get one emailed to me from one of the other mothers.)  Then we had a short break before being taken out for more sightseeing. 

Today the sightseeing was done on Shaiman Island.  We were dropped off there near the Pearl River and given a few hours to explore the area on our own.  Shaiman Island is the former location of the western embassies and consulates, so it is very European looking in the architecture, art, layout, etc.  It is also very tranquil and unlike the other areas we have seen in China.  We enjoyed a quiet afternoon walking up and down the streets and in the beautiful courtyard area.  We also did some shopping.  My mom would have been disappointed in my bartering skills.  I did barter a little, but in general the prices seemed reasonable, so I know I ended up paying more than I should have.  Oh well.  I got a few souvenirs for friends back home and a couple small things for Leo.  While we were shopping, all of the Chinese people nearby kept stopping us to compliment us on our handsome son.  He has caught the attention of many people and they all seem to like him.  So do we!


We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant called Cow and Bridge.  It was pretty good – I had lettuce wraps, which I think are hard to do wrong.  Leo ate like a little piglet here, and I was happy to see him get some protein for a change (the past couple of days have been all about the starches and carbs).

Walking around Shaiman Island was also neat because we saw so many young couples getting their wedding photos taken.  Apparently, wedding photos in China are typically done a few weeks before the wedding.  This gives the bride and groom a chance to put together a photo album that they can show their guests at the wedding.  I think we saw five or six couples having their photos taken today.  I tried to sneak pictures so I can show Heather when I get home! 

We enjoyed Shaiman Island very much and are thinking of getting a taxi to go there again tomorrow.  We have absolutely nothing planned all day tomorrow until 4:00 p.m. when we will check out of the hotel and take a van to Hong Kong.  We will be staying the night in the hotel in the Hong Kong airport and then flying home Wednesday at 8:00 a.m.

I feel that this post lacks luster, but I am really tired today.  My baby belly has expanded the past week or so and I am feeling stretched out and sore everywhere.  It doesn’t help that we have been fairly active, are sleeping on hard beds, and I keep carrying/holding Leo longer than I really should.  I think I might go have a little rest now while the boys are napping.  Seems like they are on to a good idea!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guangzhou Day 2

Well, I am happy to say that Leo is feeling much better and we are back to seeing his little personality blossom.  This is both fun and challenging as he is every bit a 2-year-old, and all the good and bad that comes with being one.  He will go from playing happily and giggling over nothing to laying on the floor throwing an outright temper tantrum complete with screaming and kicking.  We are trying very hard to distinguish between when he is crying and needs us to comfort him and when he is throwing a fit and needs to be left alone.  His fits usually follow boundaries – like whenever we say no or take away an object he’s not allowed to play with.  We don’t coddle him during these fits as we want him to understand the boundaries.  But this is a challenge, as we are also trying to bond and attach, so we don’t want him to feel as though we aren’t responding to his needs.  I’m sure all parents struggle with something similar, but it seems very gray in the adoption realm.  I feel like I’m constantly second guessing my intuition, but just trying to trust what I think is best. 
We had some fun times around the hotel yesterday afternoon and evening.  Leo is very funny to watch as he becomes more familiar with us and the hotel room.  He started to open up and bit and play on his own.  His favorite game consists of carrying all of his toys (which include 3 empty water bottles and some other garbage he has managed to hoard – forget about the actual toys we had purchased and lugged all the way to China) to a surface and lining them up, then taking them down one at a time and lining them up on a different surface elsewhere in the room.  He occupies himself with this for quite a while.  He knows how to say, “Yeah!” and he will grin and say this when he stands up the water bottles successfully.  It is very cute.

 He also learned about the TV remote, though he’s not quite sure exactly how it works.  He will carry it around and hold it up to the TV like a magic wand.  We were in stitches laughing at him doing this yesterday.
The hotel has also presented some opportunities for us to set boundaries – like not playing with certain items including the electrical outlets.  He responds to “No!” very well most of the time, though he gets a little mischievous glisten in his eyes like he is saying to us, “Or else what?”  His favorite game with Grammie right now is to go stand by the electrical outlet near her and put his hand on the wall nearby.  He just stares at her with that little impish grin like, “What?  I’m not doing anything…”  It cracks me up.  He is definitely going to be a handful.
I had my first big fail as a mommy yesterday when looking for his shoes (who knew that keeping track of shoes and THE sippy cup was going to become such a major deal?).  I had Leo sitting on the bed – yeah, you know where this is going – and I was digging around the covers trying to find where the missing shoe had gotten off to.  Leo was also helping me look, and he got too close to the edge of the bed and just rolled right off.  Good thing he has a hard head and is a natural tumbler.  He did a nice tuck and roll and he was okay, but it sure scared me.  Caolon has been having a fantastic time holding this over my head. 
Yesterday afternoon and evening, we explored the rest of the hotel a bit, as well as the surrounding area.  The hotel is beautiful with a grand lobby and expensive boutique shops.  It also has a beautiful, large garden with several waterfalls and koi ponds.  Leo enjoyed walking around out there and looking at the fishies.  There was a very posh wedding here last night, and my sister Heather would have been in heaven seeing that.  I tried to sneak a picture of the bride for her as she loves all things wedding.

We decided to opt out of the group dinner last night as they were going to eat Cantonese food and we wanted to try something different that we hadn’t had before.  We ended up at a Vietnamese restaurant, where we provided the entertainment (ah – the Americans with the Chinese baby!) and they provided the food.  It was delicious.  I had a curry chicken which was amazing (minus the chicken – why don’t they ever remove the fat or bones here?) and Caolon had the Pho, which is a soup with vermicelli noodles, beef, and shrimp.  I thought Leo would share my rice, but he had none of that.  What he LOVED was the Pho.  He slurped down about half of the broth from that and was so content. 

This morning has been quiet – well, not really as there have been several temper tantrums from the boy -  what I mean is that we haven’t done much.  I had to go to a conference room in the hotel for about an hour to complete paperwork to get ready for our consulate appointment on Monday.  We were supposed to sightsee this morning and do paperwork later, but there was a marathon happening in town today, so all of the roads have been closed to traffic for that.  Now we are scheduled to sightsee this afternoon instead.  I think they are going to take us to a park and then a museum.  I’m ready to go do something besides hang out in the hotel.  Though, I think the time just to sit and play in our room has been really good for Leo.  Also, we washed all of Leo’s clothes last night and nothing is dry yet, so he is wearing this hilariously small outfit that barely covers his rump or belly.  I’m hoping something else will be dry before we venture out again!
This is the visa picture they took yesterday – such a sad little face.  We’ve seen this look quite a bit today, too!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


We made it to Guangzhou, and I am feeling much, much happier here.  This is the China that I saw when I came here with my mom in 2009.  Southern China is different than northern, I think.  It’s more humid, with more trees and mountains, and it just feels more comfortable to me.  It doesn’t hurt that our hotel here is top notch, 5-star, made-for-movie-stars quality and located in a very westernized neighborhood with several Starbucks stores, a McDonalds, a Subway, a Pizza Hut, and lots of other names I recognize.  I’m kind of a hypocrite, because normally my belief is that if you travel somewhere you should eat what is unique to the area and not what you can get at home.  But normally when I travel, I’m not pregnant, and also, after, Shanghai where finding normal food was difficult, I just feel a lot more comfortable here where I recognize some things.
Yesterday was pretty uneventful and filled with travel, which is why I didn’t post.  We spent the morning in the hotel packing and having breakfast and then met Sophie at 11:30 to go to the airport.  She was very helpful there and made sure we got through the right lines and the security checkpoints.  I thought she was a good guide (other than her punctuality, which was abysmal) and it was kind of sad to say goodbye.  She told Leo, in Chinese, that he would be travelling in the belly of a big bird to Guangzhou where he would spend a few days playing before going home with mommy and daddy.  It was funny to watch him while she told him this – he looked very confused.  I’m not sure how much he understood, but if I were a 2-year-old, I don’t know that I would feel very stoked to go fly around in the belly of a bird. 

Leo did very well with the travelling.  He was still not feeling all that well, so he clung to Caolon all day, but he didn’t cry very much, despite the fact that I know he was nervous.  We did discover a little problem at the airport:  they had a Disney store there, and in true style with our timid little guy, he was pretty much terrified of Mickey Mouse.  This is going to be something we will have to work on him with.  Starting as soon as we get home, we will have to do some Disney therapy to make sure our guy is ready for life in our family!  A fear of Disney is just not going to work out for long!  J (The store was a really good one, by the way – Dani would have gone nuts shopping there as mostly what they carried was boutique style apparel and handbags – I wish I would have bought some things, but we didn’t really have time). 

The flight was short and Leo slept through most of it.  His Grammie is a smart one and suggested we bring a bottle for him to help him pop his ears during take-off and landing.  This seemed to help a lot, so we will do it again for our coming home flights next week.
We have two guides helping us in Guangzhou, Sara and Elsie.  They both seem very nice and helpful.  We have also been joined by a group of about six other families who are also adopting through our same adoption agency.  A few weeks ago, when I found out that we’d be joining these other families, I was not looking forward to it.  I’m not a big social butterfly, and I didn’t really think it sounded fun to be on a tour group where the only thing I had in common with people was adoption.  Now that I’m here in reality, I am grateful for them.  It has been nice to sit and compare stories with people who are feeling the same things I am.  One family in particular has been really nice and we have clicked with them a little.  Their little guy is about Leo’s age and last night he showed Leo that the stroller is not so bad.  I’m so thankful about that, as it’s nice to be able to push him in his stroller instead of toting him around everywhere!
This morning, we had a huge, delicious, amazing, most wonderful breakfast.  Did I emphasize the beauty of this enough?  They had waffles and donuts!  And crispy bacon!  And delicious southern China style noodles.  I was so happy.  This was the first meal I have truly enjoyed since being here.  Leo didn’t eat very well, though we did find that he’s partial to donuts, like I am.  He’s got a sweet tooth.  That will make it easy for his Buddy and Poppa to win over – they always have sweets!
After breakfast, we joined the other families in our group to take our babies for medical examinations so they can get their visas to come home to America.  I had been nervous about this appointment as I thought it would be scary for Leo.  I think it was a little, but I think I was more worried than he was.  He didn’t like getting his picture taken for his visa photo – once again, the photographer tried to use a toy with a face, which of course made our boy cry.  His picture is pretty hilarious actually.  I should have taken a picture of it to post here for everyone to see – a big pouty lip and crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks.  I’m a mean mama because sometimes his sad little face cracks me up. 

The doctors at the medical exam were very nice and efficient.  They did a routine physical, checked his ears, nose, and throat, weighed and measured him, and reviewed his previous medical history reports.  Since he is under two, he didn’t have to have the TB check.  I’m thankful for that as I didn’t particularly enjoy the TB check when we had to do it last year around this time.  We also waived the option to have him get his vaccination shots here.  I would rather wait and do it at home at the Children’s Clinic as I’ve read that it is a better experience for kids to get these at home than getting all the shots here in China.  Leo was very brave throughout all the exams, though, and we found out that he no longer has a temperature and his ears look good (we were worried he might have an ear infection, so this was nice to find out). 
This afternoon has been low key and dull.  Leo was tired, so we came back to the room for a little nap.  I think later we might go explore our hotel (which is huge and has a mall and several gardens) and take some pictures.  Some of the other families are going out for a group dinner tonight, but I’m not sure yet if we will join them or not.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 3

Didn’t have a chance to post this blog yesterday - we have a sick baby on our hands, so my focus was on helping him.  Here’s what I wrote, though:

It must be the middle of the trip, because we have all run out of steam.  I think Susan is coming down with something, Leo is definitely in full-swing with a little cold, and Caolon and I are just plain tired.  Touring a foreign country while becoming first time parents is a LOT of work.  And I’m doing this while pregnant, which just makes for all the more fun.

Leo came out of his shell a bit more today.  He started to speak a little this morning.  He calls me “mama” and Caolon “baba” and also refers to his favorite toy, “ball.”  Actually, he was quite verbal throughout the day.  Right now he and Caolon are looking at a book together and whatever word Caolon says, Leo repeats.  I think he’s a smart little cookie, as he picks up on things quickly.  He has been waving to everyone all day (thanks, Holly!) and I showed him how to blow kisses, too.  He likes to push the elevator buttons, roar with his daddy, and sing this funny little song (nonsense words) to entertain himself.  He still loves to walk everywhere and he enjoys feeding me his snacks from his “cheerio catcher.”  You guys would be proud of me.  I am definitely getting over the baby drool/baby boogier/germ issue I thought I’d have.  There is just no way to turn down a 2-year-old holding out his slobbery puff snack for you to eat from his fingers.  One look in those big brown eyes, and I am munching away, slobber and all.
This is the typical activity of Caolon and Leo.  Walk, walk, walking.
Along with all this good and cute, Leo was also a bit more two-year-old-ish today.  We had an outright tantrum this morning after he had his bath and I was trying to put pants on him.  I honestly think this had to do with the fact that we are still dressing him in the Chinese-method of multiple layers.  I’m trying to comply with this system, as our guide lectures me that he is not dressed warmly enough (even when he is wearing 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and it’s 60 degrees outside).  The poor kid sweats ALL THE TIME, so I gave him a break this morning and let him sit in his diaper and just one shirt while we hung around the hotel.  I think he might have liked this, because when I went to put pants on him, it was disastrous.  He was screaming so loudly, the man in the room next to us started banging on the wall to complain.  LOL.  I would feel worse for that man, except that he woke all of us up last night when he came in late banging around his room.  The walls in this hotel are a little thin.

Then as the day went on, we experienced several more tantrums.  A couple were brought on by boredom, one because Caolon left to go with Sophie to sign some papers and Leo was left with me by himself (yes, he is still more attached to Caolon), and then one this afternoon that was more of just a melt-down because he didn’t feel well.

Overall, he’s still happy and adjusting well.  Sophie commented today that she was so pleased with how happy and comfortable he is with us.  We are also very grateful for how smoothly things have gone.  We know that things aren’t always this easy, so we are just so thankful.

After breakfast (our favorite meal of the day as it’s the only one we don’t have to problem solve to get), and then Skyping back home (Leo got to meet his aunt Heather!) we did a little more sightseeing around Shanghai.  We started by going to a suburb of Shanghai, called Songjiang, to visit the hospital where Leo was found as a 5-day-old baby. 

Songjiang is a very different kind of city than anything I’ve seen in China before.  There was nothing old about it.  The city itself is only 6-years-old, so all of the structures are very new and very western looking.  If not for all of the neon, Chinese knick-knack decorations on the buildings, and Chinese letters, I might have thought we were in the USA somewhere.  In fact, it looked similar to some places we have seen in Orlando.  Sophie said it is a university town where many college students live.  This got Susan and I wondering whether Leo’s mom was a university student who was not ready to have a baby…however, Sophie said that while it is hard to guess anything about his birth family, usually the parents are not from the town where they leave their babies.  It is illegal to abandon a baby, and they don’t want to be found.  The hospital where his birth mother left him was a very nice, top of the line facility with a lot of people.  Sophie said the birth mother probably hoped Leo would be discovered quickly and then taken care of as he was left with a medical condition that needed immediate treatment.  It was interesting to see this piece of Leo’s history and we got pictures to show him someday when he is older.  We also took some dirt from here, as it is a Chinese custom for people who leave their birthplace to take dirt from there with them to wherever else they may go. 

Caolon, Sophie, and Leo pointing to the 5th floor – Leo’s finding spot.

Standing on the floor where he was found.  I have no clue how someone could possible sneak a baby up here and get away with leaving him unseen.  The place was crawling with nurses.
The outside of the hospital.
Gathering dirt for Leo.
Us in front of the hospital.
After this visit, we drove back to Shanghai (about a 40 minute drive) and then visited the Shanghai museum.  This was a beautiful place featuring Chinese history and art.  There were five levels with 3 rooms/exhibits on each level.  I did not see much of any of this, however, as I became completely exhausted early into the tour and had to find a bench to sit and wait.  I think I may be pushing myself too hard and I reached the breaking point today.  I need to remind myself that I have another baby I am taking care of and remember to give myself breaks so I don’t get too worn out.  I don’t know that Caolon saw much of the museum, either, as he was entertaining Leo most of the time. 

Following the museum, we made a quick stop at the notary office where Caolon and Sophie went in to sign some more paperwork.  This is where I sat in the van with Leo and let him cry big crocodile tears because his baba had left him.  Poor kid.  Our bus driver, who is such a funny and kind man, tried to help by entertaining Leo – with a lighter!  Like with fire!  Then he tried to give Leo the lighter to play with!!  It was crazy!!!  Sometimes the Chinese crack me up.  They lecture at me for giving my baby Tylenol (Sophie said medicine is very bad for babies, and I should treat his cold by feeding him warm water) and not dressing him in enough layers (seriously – he had on 4 shirts, people!), and then they give him lighters to play with.  We live in two different worlds.  It is just funny.

We were all wiped out after the notary, so we came back to the hotel for some rest – naps all around.  We thought we might venture out this evening to see the Bund at night (it’s supposed to be beautiful), but when we woke up from napping, Leo was burning up with a fever.  We gave him some Tylenol, then Caolon went downstairs to research this online, while I held the crying kiddo and tried to get him to drink some water.  Poor Caolon – he was so worried.  I think he was ready to call the ambulance to come get us all, but after about 30 minutes, the temperature came down.  I think a lot of the problem was that when Leo woke up, he started crying and got himself worked up.  This probably elevated his temperature a bit. 

We decided that he might be getting hungry, but didn’t want to go out in case his fever came back, so we ended up eating at the hotel restaurant.  It is usually very good for breakfast, but dinner was not great.  What was great, was the service.  We wanted to give Leo some congee (rice cereal), as we thought it would be comfort food for him.  It was hard to communicate that this is what we wanted, as congee was not on the menu and the Chinese word for it is (we later found out) something like “joe.”  The nice waiter finally got it figured out and brought it out.  Leo was, of course, not even remotely interested in eating it.  The waiter, bless his heart, brought out some flavoring to try to make it more appealing for Leo, but that didn’t work either.  Our boy must be ready to be an American, as he filled himself up on bread and butter and left the healthy food on his plate (and on the floor).  We ended up taking our food to go as Leo got restless.  Caolon left me to pay, and I think I may have overtipped because when I told the waiter to keep the change, he practically hugged me.  I am okay with overtipping him though, as he really took care of us well and was sweet to try to help find something Leo would eat.  J

We are back in the hotel now, resting and getting ready for bed.  Tomorrow, we leave the hotel at 11:30 a.m. to go to the airport to fly to Guangzhou.  I’m glad we are to this point in the trip, as I’m really ready to just come home.  As much as I love travelling and especially China, it’s hard to be in a foreign country, trying to take care of a sick boy.  I’m ready to get home where I know how to procure food and call the doctor.  Where I don’t have to live out of a suitcase that gets more unorganized every day.  Where I am not pushing myself to see the sights of a new place, while also trying to get to know my new son.  Where I can just be myself and parent Leo the way my intuition tells me, instead of having to comply with the tips of every stranger I meet, who seems to be studying and critiquing my every decision with him.  Where we can just start falling into the normal routine of our new life.  Let’s hurry up and get home!   
Look Mom - A Hidden Mickey!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 2

Today was a good, good day!  We officially became Leo’s parents!  I didn’t really need anyone to tell us that he was really ours, as I’ve known it in my heart since I saw him, but it’s nice that it’s official!
We couldn’t be happier with how things are going.  Leo is really adjusting well, it seems.  Yesterday after his nap with Caolon, we took him to the park across the street from our hotel and he started to smile and come out of his shell a little.  Since then, we’ve gotten lots of smiles and giggles from him.  Turns out he is ticklish, so I’ve been having a little too much fun with that knowledge! He has been eating really well, sleeping according to his orphanage schedule, and pooping (which is something to monitor and a good sign here in adoption land!)
I think he is bonding with both Caolon and I.  Maybe he likes Caolon a little more still, though he smiles for me and likes for me to hold him when he is upset.  Or maybe I just naturally grab him up when he is upset…but he doesn’t mind that I do!
Today started out with a visit to the “international marriage and adoption sign up and make things official building.”  (Okay, so that might not actually be the name for it...)  We all had to sign some documents (even Leo had to give his thumbprint, which he was NOT at all happy about) and then we had to have our family photograph taken for the documents.  During the family photo, the photographer wanted to place Leo just right and get him to look at her and smile.  To do this, she came over and started pulling on him and speaking loudly right in his face.  I haven’t known the kid very long, but I can tell you that this is not the way to get him to comply.  He was terrified and started crying.  The lady tried to help by bringing out a large, red stuffed bunny and yelling some more.  This made things worse, as he is freaked out by any toy with eyeballs (as we have discovered).  Finally, we managed to get the lady to back off and we gave him his sippy cup, which is his new favorite possession. He calmed down a little.  Poor kid.  It’s hard when neither he nor his mama can communicate what he needs because neither of us speak enough Chinese!

After the photograph, we went to a room to wait for a bit and while there, we met up with the two other families who had also adopted children from Leo’s orphanage (we’d seen them yesterday when we all got our children, but hadn’t had a chance to talk).  One of the mothers came over to introduce herself and we chatted for a little while.  She was so nice and I am going to have to track her down on facebook when we get home.
Our conversation was interrupted so that we could go into another room where they make the adoption official.  It looked kind of like a mini-wedding chapel.  We had to go up on a stage (though there was no one in the “audience” except Susan and our guide, Sophie) and a man gave us our official certificate of adoption and said, “Now you are finished.”  Then we had to pose for some photographs and give everyone the gifts we had brought (as a token of our gratitude).  That was it – Leo is ours!

Sophie then took us to the official notary public of Shanghai where we had to answer a few interview questions.  Haha – the first one was, “Do you know your son’s Chinese name?”  Which was totally not one I was expecting (and to be honest, I’m still having trouble pronouncing it…) so I kind of got flustered there.  Good thing Caolon’s got the Chinese pronunciation down.  He smoothly said, “Jiang Sheng Shi,” and we were set.
The notary gave us some documents for us to keep for Leo’s file including his passport (which is so adorable), his vaccination history, and the finding ad that was placed in the newspaper after he was orphaned.  These will be nice for him to have someday for piecing together his life before us.  Incidentally, yesterday we also got some things from the orphanage that will help him remember his first year and a half.  They gave us a book of photos they had taken of him from the time he was admitted to the orphanage until now.  It is precious and I am so happy we have some baby pictures of him.  That was very unexpected.  They also gave us a gift for him – a little ink and stamp kit and on the stamp, it has a rabbit to represent the year of the rabbit (which is when he was born) and also his name in Chinese characters.  This way if he wants to put his Chinese name on anything, he can do so without having to learn how to write it!  Or maybe he can use the stamp to learn how to write it someday.  In any case, it was so nice of the orphanage to do this for him.
After the notary, we were finished with our official business for the day.  Our guide drove us back to the hotel and we have been here letting Leo get a nap ever since.  He has a little cough, so I gave him a small bit of Tylenol and we are letting him rest so that it might clear up sooner.
Tomorrow and Thursday we are going to do some sightseeing.  One of the days we will take a city tour to explore the various parts of Shanghai.  And the other day, Sophie is going to try to take us to the location where Leo was found.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of Shanghai.  I thought I had seen big cities before, but I have never seen anything like this.  We passed an apartment complex/group today that Caolon estimated could hold the entire town of Laramie!  It’s just buildings and people everywhere as far as the eye can see.  My students at home just finished studying a unit on the urban setting – this place would fit the bill and then some!  When we told Sophie that Wyoming has 600,000 people she was completely amazed in the same way that we are about here.  It’s two different worlds.  Today she was telling us about how the government regulates traffic by limiting the number of people who are allowed to drive each day.  She said in Beijing the way they do it is by license plate number – if you have an odd numbered plate, you can drive only on certain days of the week, and if you have an even number, you drive on the alternate days.  I hadn’t considered that this would be necessary, but it makes sense.  Even with the regulations, the roads are congested most of the time. 
Being in China and becoming a mother is making me miss my mother terribly.  She would have been so, so happy about Leo.  But I know she is with me in spirit.  I can actually hear her words in my heart and I know just how she would react in situations.  There have been so many moments of this experience where she and I would have had hysterical giggle fits.  My brother and I always joke about her words to me before she left, “I will be proud of you.”  (In her morphine haze some of what she said was not always exactly how she meant to say it.)  Shawn is always teasing me, saying, after anything I ever do, “well, maybe she’s proud of you now.”  I know in this case, she definitely is.  This would have made her prouder than probably anything else I’ve ever done.  And she would have love, love, loved her little grandson.  I sure do.