Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Blessings

So much has happened in this past week;  definitely time for an update! Our little girl experienced many "firsts" this past week:  doctor's appointments, church, Target, Christmas, "rolling" over, meeting family….  Now maybe I am biased, but I really think she did incredibly well all things considering.

One of the big "firsts" is Lucy is sleeping through the night. Yes, after a difficulty first week of her being on China's time zone, I think we finally have her adjusted. It took waking her up out of deep sleeps during the day, and staying up with her for 3+ hours in the middle of the night, but now she is out for a good 9-10 hours every night.  Praise God!  She also has become much more comfortable being on her stomach and has rolled over several times on her own.   Brian estimates that she will be crawling within a few weeks. 

We spent a good 3 hours in the doctor's office on the first visit… and hardly a peep out of our girl.  She watched the other kids play, ate cheerios and waited patiently.  The doctor spent about 30 minutes with us; she was impressed with Lucy's alertness and curiosity.  She is not too concerned about how small Lucy is saying one of her own daughters (from China) only weighed 18 pounds at 17 months. The one heartbreaking moment was when Lucy had to get 4 different shots.  I am sure for all parents who have had this experience, you understand how hard it is to watch your child go through this.  I hadn't heard Lucy cry like this since those first few hours that she came into our lives.  She calmed down after some consoling, but was wiped out for the rest of the day. The doctor put her on antibiotics for her cold (which had worsened) and wants some other testing done (routine practice for adopted children out of China) just to check for any other potential problems.  But as far as I am concerned, out little girl seems just fine.

We have had many other outings.  I took Lucy out for her first trip with just MaMa.  We went to Target!  (Alleluia, no more Wal-Mart or crowded China stores!) Initially she didn't like the cart, but once we started moving she was just perfect.  Just like in China, she loves to watch people and all the activity.  We also have gone to church several times.  She loves the organ and music!  She claps her hands together and laughs and talks. Brian and I crack up. When she gets fussy I give her some Cheerios (possibly her favorite food next to bananas) and she is content as a peach.  At Christmas Eve mass the family behind us had been blessed through adoption as well; their daughter was three.  The mom came up to me afterwards and shared that she had teared up several times during mass thinking about the joy in our lives for Lucy's arrival.  It was very touching.

We went home to Indy for Christmas.  After initially taking some time to get acclimated to all her cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncle, she (again!) was just perfect.  She laughed and played and loved all the activity.  I think after this Christmas, Lucy may go down as the best dressed child….she got spoiled with so many nice clothes and toys from the family.  (Notice in one of the pictures her "skinny" jeans--thanks to my sister-in-law Jessica's family for this great Baby Gap addition.)

Life is good here in the Barnes's household.  We are getting ready to celebrate our daughter's first birthday this Wednesday!  As we celebrate this, along with the birth of our Savior, I can't help but feel incredible gratitude for all we have been blessed with this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas to all! 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

more photos: arrival, family and friends

more photos: arrival, family and friends

more photos: arrival, family and friends

We Are Home!!!

We made it!!!! It was quite the adventure, but we are home!!! And we couldn’t be happier! So, a little recap of the trip and then some updates on how Lucy is doing….

As I mentioned in the last post, our day started off at 5am on Thursday morning (4pm Weds night here); we finally arrived at Cincinnati airport on Thursday night around 10:30. I must say, Lucy did remarkably well considering she was traveling for over 28 hours with 20 of them being in a plane. It could have been much worse (and it was for some of the parents on the plane). She did wonderfully the first 3 hour leg (from Guangzhou to Beijing) with hardly a peep out of her.

The second 14 hour leg (from Beijing to Newark) was a bit more challenging. Remember when I asked how do you possibly change a diaper in those small airplane bathrooms? Well, I found out very quickly. Within the first hour of the trip, our girl had what I will just call a “blow out.” Since she has not had any problems like this yet, I was ill prepared. I thought that she was just going to have to travel without any pants or socks for the next 16 hours (yes, it was this messy…and dealing with all of this in the airplane bathroom!) …but one of the mom’s that we were traveling with came to the rescue and let me borrow an extra pair of pants that she had for her little girl. (On a side note, I am not sure what the cause of this problem was---change in formula?---as we are still having it. I will talk to the Dr. about it on Monday.) Other than the explosion, Lucy did great. We got a 3rd seat for her, which was well worth the money (yes, even Brian agrees) so she was able to sleep for a good part of the trip. I have to say that being in a confined space like this for so long is very difficult for me, and at times I thought I may go crazy. But we all made it to the third and final leg…

When we arrived in NJ it was so nice to be greeted by my brother and sister-in-law, Ray and Jessica (they live just 15 minutes from the airport.) How refreshing to see family after being so far from home for so long. They were the first family to meet Lucy and the first to see her after she became a US citizen! We had just a quick visit before having to board for the last leg home. Lucy had a little trouble the last hour of this flight, as she was very fussy and inconsolable. Who can blame her, right? I was fussy too, and ready to be done with planes. We were all tired, hungry and ready to sleep (in our own beds)!

When we arrived at Cincinnati airport it was so wonderful to see more family and friends. My parents and niece Lindsay traveled from Indianapolis. Lindsay said she couldn’t have missed it! Then my friends from Cincinnati, Shelley and Tim and Julia, were also there to surprise us. Lucy took it all in; she was a bit pensive and shy. Plus she was tired, hungry and in need of a bath…so not a surprise that she wasn’t her normal happy self. We visited for a bit and everyone got to know Lucy a little. Then we headed home…. But not before spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to adjust the straps on the car seat! Lots of learning curves with this new parenting thing… Mom, Dad and Lindsay came over the next morning for a bit more of a visit with our girl. She showed them a smile a few times and we all laughed.

Since we have been home Lucy has adjusted fantastically. She was a bit unsure and scared at first. But now that she has acclimated to our house, I really think she is very happy. She smiles and laughs all the time. She has started to get a bit fussy when one of us leaves the room, which is probably a good sign that she is attaching. She still hates baths and screams and screams. We have tried everything. (If anyone has any tips, we are open to suggestions!) She loves her high chair and has started trying all kinds of new foods. (So far sweet potatoes and carrots win for favorites!) All of our sleep schedules are still way off. Poor little Lucy doesn’t know when to sleep and when to be awake. Last night she slept until 12:30 and then woke up at 3:30 and 5:30. (As I am typing this, you will see the one picture of Brian and Lucy…both conked out!) I am confident that once she adjusts to our time zone she will go back to sleeping 9+ hours a night.

Tonight we took Lucy out for the first time since home. We went to church… she slept the entire time. We then went to Target, which just like in China, she loved looking around and watching all the people. She is just such a delight.

On Monday Brian goes back to work. I think we are all a bit sad about this pending change. It has been so nice to spend all this time together as a family. I think Lucy will miss her da da. And I know that a new learning curve is in store for me, since I won’t have the extra help. We will all soon adjust and I am happy about this. Being a very routine oriented person, I am anxious to get into my new routine with our little girl.

Many of you have inquired about if I will continue to post now that we are back from China. The answer is yes, but not daily as I was doing. I know that many of you have developed a place in your heart for Lucy, and we are happy to continue to share her with all of you. Thank you again for all your love, prayer and support. We look forward to all of you being able to meet Lucy soon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 14

Well, our final day here in Guangzhou, China is officially coming to a close.  It is 9:00pm here, 8:00am for many of you there.  Brian is putting Lucy to sleep, and then our big adventure home begins tomorrow.  But before I jump ahead of myself, a little recap of today's events…

Lucy woke up much happier today, as she got her full 10 hours of sleep last night.  Brian and I continue to be amazed at how she sleeps all the way through the night, considering she still has a cold and that there have been so many changes for her recently.  I do have to say, however, that getting her to sleep has become more and more challenging.  She wants to play and talk, and has no interest in going to bed.  We know she is tired, but she fights going to bed.  I hope that once we get home and get into a regular routine it will get better.  For now, we don't force it too much as any schedule we get into here will only be changing once we get home. 

After breakfast at our hotel's lovely buffet, we all filed on the bus for an outing to a Buddhist temple.  It was very beautiful and full of worshipers, as you can see from the pictures.  In Buddhism they believe in past, present and future lives.  So in the picture of the 3 Buddha's you see that each of them has their hands opened differently.  The hands on the left Buddha represent the past; they are closed symbolizing the past is done and there is no need to look to it.  The one in the middle-- one hand holding the knee—represents the present and holding onto it (being in the present).  The one on the far right represents the future; you can see his hand is opened and waiting for what may come.  I thought that this was all very interesting and wise.  We were told that these Buddha's are made out of bronze and that each of them weighs 10 tons.  Our guide asked one of the chanting monks in the temple if he would do a traditional blessing for our children.  We felt very grateful to have this blessing done; our guide told us that he prayed for long and happy lives for our children.

Next we went to a folk art museum.  There was a porcelain exhibit with a theme of tigers, since next year is the year of the Tiger in China.  There was also an embroidery exhibit with the most amazing artwork.  This framed art looked like photography, but was actually embroidery!  You couldn't believe it unless you saw it.  Our guide told us that it takes the artists up to 3 years to complete one piece. 

Throughout all of this, Lucy was a gem!  She talked, laughed, slept and observed…Her smile will melt your heart.  We can't wait for you all to experience this.

Tonight our guide brought us Lucy's visa and the "sealed brown envelope."  We now have everything we need to complete the final stage of our trip.  We have been packing and getting ready for the big flight home.  I just have one question:  how do you change a baby's diaper in those tiny plane bathrooms?  I don't see how it is possible.  I guess like everything else with being a first time parent, we will figure it out as we go.

Tomorrow is a very long day, consisting of three different flights for our little peanut.  I imagine it is going to be trying for her.  We start at 7am, flying to the Beijing airport at 10am.  From there we have a 4 hour layover; we leave at 5pm (4am Thursday morning for you all) for our 14 hour flight to Newark.  We are due to arrive in Cincinnati at 10:30 Thursday night.  All in all, it is going to be about 28 hours of traveling.  Please keep all of us in your prayers, particularly that Lucy will adjust okay to all these changes that are about to occur.

Since this is our last post in China (I will be sure to post when we get  home, to let you know how everything went), I just want to thank all of you for your kind thoughts, words and prayers during this time that we have been here.  We have heard from so many of you (either on the blog or through email), and I must say that your support and prayers have been felt and treasured.  Being so far from home has been difficult, but communicating with you through this blog has helped us feel connected and loved.  I know that years down the road when I am able to show this to Lucy, she will feel the same way.   Thank you so very much!

So, after a 4 year "pregnancy" and a 2 week "delivery" we are finally bringing our daughter home!  See you in the states!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

just a few more... Day 13

more photos Day 13

the Pet Market....

Day 13

Our morning didn't exactly start off the way we would have hoped it to.   First off, Lucy did not get her typical 10-11hours of sleep last night.  She woke up after only eight hours, which I think caused her to feel a bit tired and fussy.  It will happen… I know.  And I am not complaining, as waking up every day with our Lucy, in and of itself, is enough.  But, suffice it to say she was not interested or happy in her big "photo shoot" on the red couch.  The dress we got her was very difficult to get on.  She doesn't like getting dressed anyway, so this got her upset.  When we finally got her to the red couch she was not a happy girl.  I wanted to include one photo for you to see, but really, none of them turned out.  That is okay… we have plenty of other great ones.  We finally did calm her down.  So the family photo I got in the lobby of our hotel is nice, but Lucy is sleeping.

After the photo shoot, our guide took us to the famous outdoor "pet market" of Guangzhou.  We were able to walk there from out hotel; on any of the other days it would have been a pleasant walk.  But today has been rainy.  Brian and I were happy to have experienced the pet market, but it was very difficult and frustrating navigating our way through these crowded streets with Lucy and an umbrella.  We saw lots of interesting things:  scorpions, snakes, alligators, eels, worms, chickens...  I think the pictures will speak for themselves.  This was really something to see.

After a very quick nap, we all loaded up on the bus to head downtown to the US Consulate for a very important and special meeting.  After about a 45 minute bus ride (there is no easy or quick way to get anywhere in this country) we entered the building where our "official business" would finally come to its conclusion.  (Unfortunately, they don't let you take cameras in, so no pictures of this event.) There were probably about 50 families that all filtered into this big room and had a seat.  As we waited (nothing run by the government is ever quick) it was like a reunion for all of us.  Many families that we have met along the way were there.  We talked and checked in about how everyone's kids were doing.  I met another mom from Georgia whose daughter is also from Yifeng Social Welfare Institute.  It was so nice to chat and discuss our girls. 

Next, each families' girl's name was called and we had to go up to a window for them to look at our paperwork and passports and make sure the child we had matched the photo in her passport.   After all the families concluded this process, a nice American woman came out and addressed us for about 15 minutes.  She explained what the US Consulate of Guangzhou does for US citizens, as well as what Consulates all over the world do.  She then announced that there were many families who had children celebrating December birthdays. Since Lucy's birthday is December 30, her name was announced and everyone applauded….Lucy's first birthday recognition!  It was very sweet.  The woman next explained the process of getting the "sealed brown envelope" that cannot be opened until we get to the US.  This is all the official paperwork from China that can only be opened by immigration officials in our port of entry.  Once this paperwork is opened (which will happen for us in Newark, NJ) Lucy is officially a US citizen!

Finally…we raised our right hands and took our oath!  This is basically where the parents affirm that they have not in any way fabricated or mislead the government about their intentions.  We also stated that we will care for our child and never do any harm.  Afterwards, all the moms were crying and hugging. As I write this, I don't think my description of this process is really capturing the moment.  It was all very moving… but maybe I am just a sucker for ritual and commitment.    The entire event was symbolic of an official close to a very long process for all of us.

One more day….one more blog from China….then we are on our way home!

Monday, December 14, 2009

one more photo Day 12

We discovered this catholic church tonight... a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  We are so sad we did not find it earlier in the week.  Isn't it beautiful? 
Our Lady of Lourdes, 1892

Day 12

We just returned home not too long ago from a long and productive day of…!!!  Christmas is right around the corner…right?  If you have noticed in some of the pictures, we always will carry Lucy in her wrap.  She absolutely loves it.  We can carry her in this for hours at a time and we never hear the slightest cry from her.  She just watches and observes and listens;  sometimes she will fall asleep.  And this is what she did all day with us.  From the "government store" to the pearl market to all the shops around our hotel, she was her typical, playful, smiling self.   In all actuality, she laughs more than just smiling now.  It is too cute!

Our guide took us to all these various places to assure that we were getting quality goods and not knock-offs.  The government store is just as it sounds; it has all of the best quality items from around China for a good price.  From jade to porcelain to silk to tea….there were lots of great things for great prices.  We got Lucy a jade stone shaped in a circle that represents family and union.  In China, jade is popular and worn in the same way as diamonds are in the states.  Good quality jade becomes more beautiful and shiny in its green shade and luster the longer it is worn.  In the traditional style of China, I will wear it until she turns 18 and then give it to her.  We also got Lucy some pearls for when she is older… you cannot imagine how cheap pearls are here!  The entire experience at the pearl market was impressive.  You pick out the pearls you want, and then they hand string them for you in about three minutes, putting a knot in between each bead. 

Tonight we did more shopping around our hotel. Unlike the government store and the pearl market, you can bargain with the local shop owners.   For those of you who know Brian well, you can imagine what an ordeal this is.  He, of course, has to get the best deal.  If you combine this with his difficulty in being assertive, well….you have a long evening of shopping and dealing to contend with.  Now don't get me wrong, I was on my shopper's high all day; but by the end of it I was ready to get home.  To end the day of shopping, we got Lucy a traditional Chinese dress which we will put her in tomorrow for the "red couch" photo (for those of you who don't know what this is, stay tuned tomorrow).  The dress we picked is red with the Chinese symbol for longevity on it; it is our every wish that Lucy have a long and happy life.

In between all of this, we managed to get naps etc…as well as "belly time" with Lucy.  This is when we will play with Lucy on her stomach.  Since she is delayed in much of her development, we put her on her stomach to help develop her neck muscles.  The first day we did this she would not tolerate it at all and cried.  Now we are up to a good 10-15 minutes of belly time with little discomfort from her.  Speaking of development, Brian and I continue to question her age or if she was born premature.  She is just so little.  Whenever we are out, we get many comments from the Chinese as well as other adoptive families who cannot believe she is almost a year old.   One worker in a store at our hotel kept saying to me "too small, too small."  I don't worry about it as I see that Lucy is just perfect as she is.  But it is curious to me.  We will talk to the pediatrician about it when we get home.

As we are nearing the end of our stay in China (we leave on Thursday at 7am), I have mixed emotions.  Brian and I are definitely tired of living out of suitcases, wearing the same clothes (don't worry, we have been using local laundry services), dealing with the horrible pollution, and not being able to drink water out of the faucet.  Oh, and how could I forget the squatty potties?  Mostly, we miss all of you and can't wait for you to meet our sweet girl. Yet there is another side of me that is sad about this time coming to an end.   As I have mentioned before, I have developed a great fondness for China.  And there is a part of me that is sad for Lucy that we will be taking her away from her birthplace.  I have been thinking about her birth parents a lot.   We will all, always be connected. I know that they have given us the greatest gift in the world and we will eternally be grateful. Knowing the great distance that will be between us and them is sad to me and I imagine will one day be sad for Lucy.  For these reasons, it is difficult to say good bye to China.