Saturday, June 21, 2014

Home and Loving It

We've been home for 3 weeks.  There were so many times while we were in China that I said to myself, this will all be fine once we get home.  We won't be stuck in a tiny hotel room, in a hot and humid city, with a very loud and energetic child.  We will have our toys and our freedom to run wild on a farm.  I've never been more right in my life.  We came home and Ava just joined right into the family.  This isn't typical.  I know that.  I thank God and count my blessings every single day.  We have spent the last 3 weeks enjoying each other.  Ava is truly amazing.  She sleeps well.  She lets me hug and kiss her and she requests hugs and kisses back.  She runs to me for comfort.  She finally, willingly, calls me mama.  My husband treats her exactly the same as our other kids, which means he teases her profusely.  She glares at him and lectures him in Chinese....and then she giggles.  She is loved by our big, crazy family and she loves us back.  It's perfection.
So what have we learned about sweet Ava?  Plenty.  She is incredibly smart.  She comprehends what you are showing her and she is able to repeat it.  She is incredibly independent in everything she does.  If she's thirsty, she gets herself a glass of milk.  If she wants to color, she gets everything out and colors.  I just follow her lead.  Ava firmly believes that you MUST take your shoes off at the door and she will hunt you down if you don't.  Yesterday, she came up to me and pointed at my shoes.  I took them off and she brought me my slippers.  Score!  Is my newly adopted child really supposed to be easier than my biological children?  I've learned that she loves to help with daily chores.  If she sees me with the broom, she will grab the mop and mop up my kitchen and living room.  Yes, it may be somewhat of a flood when she's done, but she's helping.  Ava also loves to just have fun.  She spends a lot of time on the trampoline and she is quite good at playing ping pong.  I was being sarcastic and made the comment that she had to be good at ping pong because she's Chinese.  And then she served the ball.  My jaw hit the floor.  She never really hits the ball back to me, but she serves it and I hit it to her and then she laughs hysterically.  I think she could spend the whole day playing ping pong.
Here's her Forest Gump ping pong picture....she's's all just a blur....
So how does she get along with her siblings?  Exceptionally well.  They all seem to take turns hanging out and playing with her.  She is a little princess with Sophia and acts like a teenager when they're together.  Sophia gives her makeovers and paints her nails.  And then Ava plays with Brady and she's a pure tomboy.  He loves playing with her because she wrestles and plays cars.  She then moves on to Molly and they dance to Frozen and listen to music.  When she gets tired, she cuddles next to Lily and watches tv.  She's just easy to have around and I feel like she's been here forever. 
Water balloon fight anyone?
Throw in some cookie baking with Grandma....
And her first campfire meal....
A little bit of gopher shooting....
Oh come on!  What do you expect?  She lives in Montana!!! 

Some people have asked how we are communicating.  Let me start by saying...I have played charades with Molly for 9 years.  You don't need words to know what they are saying or what their needs are.  Ava is exactly the same.  She will go on a long Chinese lecture and we just smile and nod.  She'll pause, smile, and that's when we know to respond with a laugh or clap.  And then she continues.  When she wants something, we play a little charades or she shows me.  When she gets annoyed at us, she whips out her imaginary cell phone and tells someone all about it.  But it's also trial and error.  We went to Dairy Queen and I ordered her an M&M mistake (she whipped out her cell phone on that one too).  She doesn't like little candy chunks in her ice cream.  I knew for the next time to get her plain ice cream.  It's as simple as that.  Trial...error...smiles....hugs....and lots of love.  Love is kind of the key here.  It's the universal language. 

Our next week will be our biggest challenge - we are going to attempt church (loud girl in a quiet service) and we have the county fair.  She doesn't listen much when she's out in public so we will see if it's all fun and games a week from now.  If you come to the fair and see my 5 kids locked up inside the pig'll know why.......

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hong Kong Phooey!

I don't know why I have to say "Hong Kong Phooey" every time I think of where I'm at....must be the immature child in me.  I've never really thought much of Hong Kong, but I will have to say, plain and simply, this place is breathtaking. 

Now, go back a few hours to the point where we headed out of Guangzhou via a van and it may have been the scariest 3 hours of my life.  My hubby knows that I can't stand other people driving, but I've been pretty laid back up until this point.  I honestly prayed for 3 hours straight.  God hears from me often, but not for that amount of time and with that amount of anguish.  PLEASE GOD!  AT LEAST SAVE THE CHILDREN!!!!  The driver whipped around 3 lanes of traffic going speeds that I didn't dare even look at.  He would fly up on someone's tail and then whip over and swerve and you know what I'm talking about.  Pure hell.  When we finally made it, the driver got out and Sophia quietly says "Our driver is really nice."  I turned around, with the look of death in my eyes and responded "He's a psychopath!"  But he got us to where we needed to be.  At a random pier in Hong Kong.  Our next leg of the trip was to take a ferry to Mui Wo, a tiny village on Lantau Island where our hotel was located.  But let me first just say, Hong Kong is amazing at night.  I don't know what it looks like during the day, but the lights were just a spectacle in themselves.  We hopped onto the ferry to our island and just slowly gawked as we left Hong Kong and it's majestic skyline.
One thing I've learned about my little Ava girl, is she gets motion sickness really quickly.  In vehicles, she always puts herself to sleep right away, but the ferry was too different.  She was fascinated by the water and lights and unfortunately had a nice big barf fest.  Poor little thing.  But we made it and our hotel was right next to the pier.  Score! 

Now, several people advised me not to hang out longer than we needed to.  The adoption training also told me that Ava's world needed to be teeny tiny so just pick her up and head home.  But I'm kind of bad about listening to good advice AND my airline tickets were going to be considerably less if we waited two days.  So instead of heading straight home, we went to a remote little beach resort on an island off of Hong Kong.  We also decided to go to Hong Kong Disney!  It was right down the road...
The first hour was pretty bad.  I knew Ava was bossy, but bossy and a 10 minute wait to get on a ride didn't mix.  She kept trying to shove people out of the way to get to the front of the line.  Plus, the heat and humidity were almost unbearable.  But after that first hour, we realized that Ava has a lazy streak in her....she was perfectly happy just hanging out in the stroller while we pushed her around.  So we took turns going on rides and walked into the shops for quick air conditioner reprieves.  I'm pretty sure if Walt Disney was still alive, he'd be patting himself on the back for putting a Disneyland in the hottest place on earth.  People hang out in the stores and buy souvenirs that way.  Genius. 
Today, we've spent almost all our time hanging on the beach and relaxing.  Ava has loved every second of it.  And the view....goodness....the view is just amazing.

And my favorite....Ava and her grandma....
What's interesting is that we've used our umbrellas constantly here.  It is so unbearably hot that when the sun shines, it's just painful.  So everyone walks around with umbrellas for shade. 

We are pretty much wrapping up our trip now.  Our flight leaves at 7:30 in the morning, which means we're leaving our hotel at 4:30 AM.  Sophia just gave Ava a make-over, acting like a great big sister should.  Now, I have to go wipe it all off (Ava looks like a Chinese hooker) so we can go for a walk and grab supper.  It's been a great little adventure.  When we first arrived to pick up Ava, I hated the thought that I was taking this little girl away from her foster mom.  But on our last day in Guangzhou, our guide randomly just hugged me and said "thank you".  She said that Ava would have went back to her orphanage at age 14 to live for the rest of her sweet little life.  I hope our little farm and her annoying siblings make her happy.  We love that she's joining our family - bossiness and all.  Each day, we are seeing her change.  She hated the sight of me the first few days.  She wouldn't go near a bath tub without screaming.  Now, she holds my hand (most of the time), hugs and kisses us, and sings while giving herself a bath.  She's amazing. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What We've Been Up To and a Few Cold Hard Facts....

I will start by saying, I'm sorry to my sweet hubby.  He lectured me on my restaurant choices a few days ago and I swore we were going to venture out and eat the Chinese food.  We tried....we really did.  But gosh darn it!!  When the menus have whole ducks with the heads still on, along with squid on a stick, we just couldn't do it!  We sure did enjoy the Chinese version of Pizza Hut and McDonalds however.  Pretty darn close to the American versions, except they offer lots of seafood alternatives.  Here you go, sweet hubby.  Shake your head in disappointment.....
A few days ago, we organized a shopping trip with a lady named Ann.  She is very popular in the adoption world because you give her a list of what you want and she takes you to her connections in the wholesale markets.  You end up spending next to nothing and get a whole lot.  Two items you can get here in China for really cheap are jade and pearls.  We started by meeting up with our jade dealer.  This is his store....
 I know, right?  It's a street corner.  Lower overhead that way..... he brought a few boxes filled with different jade necklaces, bracelets, etc and we just paid him on the street corner.  They swear it's real jade, and the adoption community who have bought in the past have sworn it's real jade, but you better believe I'm going to get it checked out once we are back in the states.  It was cheaper than buying an ice cream cone!  You should have seen my step mom....she had so much jade draped around her neck and wrists, we've dubbed her the Crazy Jade Lady.  Here's Ann, our shopper, with the headless Jade dealer.  I did it this way (no identification) so he wouldn't get knocked off by the Chinese police for his street corner dealings.  Americans everywhere thank you Jade man.
Next, we went to the Pearl Market.  Real pearls are also very inexpensive here so I bought pearl bracelets for my kids when they get married (someday far far away when they're 40).  Each bracelet was $16.  That's $16 for real pearls, people!  Unfortunately, I only had enough money for 4 bracelets though.  That means one of my kids is going to have to stay single.....
 We bought all the kids a traditional Chinese dress (only cost $2.50 each) and my step-mom decided she wanted to buy one for herself.  Ann, our shopping lady, looked at her and said "You have HUGE breasts"!!!  It is true....if you ever want to feel good about your upper body proportions, go to China.  The women are beautiful, but they are flat as pancakes.  Even I feel well-endowed.  They did manage to find her a dress, however, and we were all very happy.  The funny thing least two other women during our shopping commented on my step-mom's upper body.  Several other people have commented on how well she's aging.  I think she's getting a big's Sophia in her dress.  I won't post a pic of my step-mom in her dress....wouldn't want everyone to drool over her large endowments, know what I mean?
 After the dresses, we ended up getting some great toys for the kids and some fancy tea sets for the grandparents ($7 each set.....boom!).  All in all, great day. 
Oh....and we got these for my sisters.....they'll go great with the pig necklaces.
The next day, we walked through the herbal market.  It's right outside our hotel, past the pet food street.  As most of you probably know, herbs are a big deal in China.  I'm not sure what they do with some of this stuff, however.  This is a big spread of tiny, dried seahorses.  Where do they even find this many seahorses?  
 Not a clue what these were.  But I saw a lot of them.  Big tubes of dried something.
 Here's what a lot of the stores looked like.  Just big bags of various herbs and stuff.  Every time we walked through it, my step mom broke out in a sneezing fit.  She's allergic to something on that street.
So past the pet food street and through the herbal market lies a wonderful little place called Shamian Island.  It's very popular amongst the adoption community.  It used to be a bustling place until adoptions slowed down considerably a few years back.  Now, it's a place where lots of Chinese grandparents go to play.  I haven't researched the history of it yet, but it's very European in looks and has a great park along the Pearl River.  Ava loved all the statues.
Let's not pretend....Sophia loved the statues too.
There was one set of statues that is a MUST for adoption portraits.  All the parents take a sweet photo of their child next to this statue (there's a good reason....I just can't remember it).  I tried hard, but little Miss Obstinate felt otherwise.  So here's what I got instead....little turd monkey.
Now, take this photo and expand it.  See the Chinese people in the background laughing?  I'm pretty sure they were laughing at the tall white woman chasing little Miss Obstinate around trying to get her to pose.  And I'm pretty sure they were saying in Chinese....stupid American..... That's ok!  We're cool.  I'm used to the crazy looks by this point.

What was really interesting about this place was the people.  There were several groups of fine folks playing hacky-sack.  And they were AMAZING!!!  Seriously...imagine your grandparents playing hacky-sack and being really good at it.  There were other groups ballroom dancing and singing.  There was even a group learning a cheerleading style dance.  I didn't get any great shots of all that because I didn't want to offend them.  But I did manage to turn quickly and take a picture of this woman with her long sword doing exercises.  Yes...I said sword...
Here, you can see how tropical and lush it is....

Now....a few facts about my little diva. 
#1:  When I talked with the nanny from the orphanage, she commented that Ava has a "healthy appetite".  That was a polite way of saying "Ava eats like a 500 pound fat man".  This morning, at the hotel breakfast, she at 2 plates of fried rice, ham, baked beans, and 4 bowls of congee (rice-type cereal).  All day long she asks for food.  All. Day. Long.  And she doesn't just take it and hide it (typical adoption behavior).  She eats every last bite of anything you put near her.  But she is stick thin! 
#2:  She is either sleeping or she's bouncing off walls.  Her nanny also commented that "She needs to be outdoors". she can run a marathon!!! 
#3:  She's smart as a whip.  She has a routine and she does exactly what she is supposed to with her day to day routine.  She meticulously brushes her teeth, gives herself a bath, dresses herself, etc etc.  I could probably put her out on the street and she would survive on her own and do well.  When we are at a restaurant and we're done eating, she jumps up and yells at the waitress.  Or if someone walks in her path, better watch out.
#4:  The kid doesn't shut up.  Does that sound bad?  I know...I'm sorry.  But really...she talks CONSTANTLY.  Even when you talk to her...she talks over you.  I have been getting yelled at by a Chinese diva for 6 days straight!  I've only broke down and wept in the bath tub once so far though....not bad.  Not bad at all....
#5:  The last 6 days have been rough, but I can totally see complete awesomeness once we are out of our tiny hotel.  She's pretty cool.  Loud, but cool.  REALLY loud and slightly crazy, but cool.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Many "firsts"...

The last two days in Guangzhou have been interesting.  We've been rained in most of the time, which means we have to find our own ways to entertain ourselves.  Here are a few of our adventures, which I will title "firsts".....
First time walking through the streets of China.  We got brave and started venturing through some side streets.  From what we've noticed, it seems there are certain streets that have themes.  This street turned out to be "pet" related.  Lots of stores selling fish, turtles, cats, puppies, and all of their supplies.  I'd say we lucked out on this one - total entertainment for the kids.

First Chinese Coke.  It tasted exactly the same as an American Coke, but by golly, it had a kickin' can. 

First attempt at a bath.  Happy girl aint so happy anymore.  We started out with looks of panic.  Then, we had tears.  After a while, we figured out how to communicate by playing Charades.  Apparently the "shower" that the nanny told me she takes is really a wet washcloth version of a sponge bath.  This will be a slow battle....... here's Ava afterwards giving me the look of death.

This will be a first for me...allowing my child in a racing car without a car seat or seatbelt.  Seems to be the norm here....which is just crazy to me.  This was after Ava's medical appointment and it totally wiped her out.  Poor thing. 

First time ever seeing a necklace with a huge gold pig on it.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy these for Christmas presents.  My guide informed me this is a customary necklace for wedding ceremonies.  Seriously.  Something about fat pigs symbolizing prosperity and many children?  I'm pretty sure my sisters and in-laws would love to unwrap this doozy.....

First time wearing swim caps.  I was told that you need to wear swim caps into the pools here, so Sophia, who has the thickest hair ever, crammed her locks up into a swim cap yesterday.  It didn't work very well.  Her puffy locks just pushed that swim cap right back off her little head.  Oh well - at least we tried.

First time seeing a squatty potty.  Ava had to go potty while we were at the Police Station today applying for her passport.  It's no wonder she has rock hard abs and thighs.  She performed a master squat like I have never seen.  I would have taken a pic of it, but being we were at a Police Station, and that might look indecent, I chose to take a pic of her flushing instead.  You're welcome.

First time to willingly eat this crap.  Apparently this is a normal food option here.  After finding out how much my hotel dinners were costing (I was calculating the exchange rate wrong for 2 nights), I decided it was time to eat like the locals eat.  Ava was so happy she could barely contain herself. 
Unfortunately, that's about all we've done for the last two days.  We had a few short adoption related trips, such as running to the notary, registering her paperwork, medical appointments, and passport applications, but otherwise, it's been a lot of hanging out in the hotel room while it rains.  Ava is really becoming attached to Sophia because they're kids and they are having lots of fun.  She only wants to hang out with me when Sophia is nowhere to be seen.  But that will all come with time.  This girl is so darn sassy too.  When the notary asked her how old she was, she yelled "Check the paperwork!"  I'm thinking it's going to be an interesting journey ahead.......

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meeting Ava

After an exhaustingly long flight, we made it into Guangzhou with no problems.  Our awesome guide, Grace, met us at our gate and helped us check into the hotel.  The drive to our hotel was really pretty....tropical and lush.  Also very humid!!  Since we tried staying awake for the whole flight, we were exhausted.  So we passed out as soon as we checked into the hotel.

This morning, we all woke up around 5am.  So far, there's been no real jet lag.  After breakfast and a little paperwork, our guide showed us around the shopping street next to our hotel.  It was very very loud!  Lots of random noise and shop owners trying to draw people's attention.  Sophia loved it.  I tolerated it....but I also go shopping maybe once a year.

After relaxing a little bit, we headed out to meet our girl.  I was so nervous to meet her foster mom.  I didn't want to meet her because I knew it would be painful for her to say goodbye.  I was relieved to find out that she was moved back to the orphanage about a month ago to prepare for the transition.  The orphanage director and nanny brought her instead.  We had arrived early and were just hanging out when, all of a sudden, this little ball of energy popped out of the elevator.  And when I say ball of energy, I really mean BALL OF ENERGY!  Maybe it was the 2 hour car ride she had just taken, but this girl was bouncing around something crazy.  But we immediately noticed her sense of humor.  Ava and Sophia bonded immediately.  But enough talk, here's some pics.....
This is Ava and her nanny while at the orphanage.
 Trying to get this little sprite to stand still for the picture was a task in itself....
 After talking with the nanny a bunch, we all left and hopped in the van to go back to the hotel.  She sat quietly in the van for about 10 seconds while she waved goodbye to the people driving by. 
And then she sat back like she owned the place...happy as a clam. 
 When we got back to the hotel, she finally stopped bouncing around when I handed her the Kindle to play with....... Ava and Molly are going to get along really well.....
 I think it's going to be a pretty good adjustment.  Believe me when I say, she fits right in.