“For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho
Born January 17, 2007 Guangdong Province, The People's Republic of China Forever Ours April 12, 2010
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Donovan Works At IBM for the Morning





Thursday was Bring Your Kid to Work Day at IBM. Rupert brought Donovan for a little over an hour. Donovan was thrilled! He packed his backpack with important items, got all dressed up, had photos taken, and headed to IBM (while Aaron and I waved goodbye). We received two phone calls from Donovan at work, informing us of what he was up to - typing,
He is looking forward to going back to IBM again!

The Kindness of Friends




Today a colleague of mine came to visit the boys with her two beautiful daughters. They arrived with homemade playdough, cupcakes to decorate, and the most beautiful handmade quilt (made by the mom, pictured at top of today's post). Certainly the airplanes are quite fitting for Aaron as he made his journey to his new life on several airplanes. In fact, when I recently ordered him a piggy bank, I had airplanes painted on it, again symbolizing his journey to his new life in our family. Today the girls played with Donovan and Aaron, with the playdough, board games, and even in the "sand pit" and with ride-on toys. The boys both were thrilled with this attention. As they drove away (and Aaron was crying), Donovan asked, "Mommy, I really like those girls. Can they come back tomorrow and play." I assured him that this summer, over school vacation, we will invite them to come over. This was such a special visit, and we are all admiring the quilt!!

In addition to the special visit and gifts today, our boys were thrilled when several packages arrived in the past couple of days for them, from the Savage family. (Karen was my college roommate, bridesmaid in my wedding, is a best friend of mine.) First a delivery of flowers and balloons from the family. Then, yesterday afternoon, a delivery by Fed Ex of a wonderful Little Tikes Easel for Two, and two large pads of Melissa and Doug Easel Paper. Then, just after dinner, the UPS man arrived, bringing two boxes (perfect for two boys to carry inside!). Inside we found art supplies to be used on the easel - nontoxic dry erase crayons (who knew such a thing existed!) with special hand mitt eraser, multicultural colors of chalk, and an eraser. The boys will have so many special times with the easel and art supplies.
We continue to be so grateful for the kindness of our friends!
THANK YOU!

Some Funny Moments

* The other day, Aaron and I walked in the house from a doctor appointment, and he LOUDLY and EXCITEDLY was telling Donovan something. I assumed it was, "Big Brother Donovan, Big Brother Donovan, I'm home!" Nope. Rupert translated. Aaron was shouting, "Big Brother Donovan, Big Brother Donovan, I didn't puke in the car!" This comment continues every time we return from a car ride. Aaron encountered severe motion sickness in China, especially on our 2 1/2 hour drive to his orphanage, and on our flight to Hong Kong from Guangzhou, which was supposed to be an hour but took two as we circled around Hong Kong for an hour unable to land due to rain and heavy clouds above Hong Kong. For our big flight from HK to JFK, we gave Aaron Benadryl every 6 hours. (We had not thought to bring Dramamine, as I hadn't even thought about motion sickness, and hadn't known it could be given to a 3 year old. We were told by several parents of kids who have motion sickness that Benadryl may be used with similar results, so we tried it.) Suffice to say we will be buying stock in Dramamine and ginger products. Luckily a 4 hour trip to the coast of Maine or Cape Cod, a 3 hour trip to Santa's Village, or a 2 1/2 hour trip to Albany, NY is the extent of our travels at this point in our family's life! For local car rides, we are training Aaron to look out the windows, and certainly the new experience of riding UP HIGH in a CARSEAT helps a bit with that. (I must say riding in vehicles in China where carseats are not used made me a bit nervous!!)

* A few nights ago we ordered food from my student's family's Chinese Restaurant, which we love. As I walked in the house with the food, Donovan announced, "Mommy got that food IN CHINA!" Rupert and I giggled, confirming it as CHINESE food. Probably Customs wouldn't have allowed that, right!

* Several neighbors have jokingly commented about our two boys and their tendency to both pee in the front yard together. (We have yet to have a peeing "war," but have had some hysterical moments.) Last summer I always had Donovan's potty in the garage/driveway for him to use. I had totally forgotten this, and while enjoying our wonderful weather this past weekend (prior to the snowstorm), when Aaron had to pee, he simply did so outside. (This is the way it is done in China for young children, with or without split pants. We would be walking along the sidewalk or pedestrian streets, and children from 1-4 would be squatting down peeing or having a BM on the street or sidewalk. Not quite what you would see on Church Street [in Burlington, VT], or any other U.S. street. But apparently my front yard is fair game for three year old boys who need to pee.) (Luckily they do at least face the house, with just bare bums showing to the neighbors...We'll remember the potties once we have consistent summerlike weather.)

* The two brothers playing Doctor, fixing me up. Just hysterical and definitely need to get it on video.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Aaron's First Snow





After several days of gorgeous spring weather, we awoke this morning to...snow. Figures in Vermont over spring break there would be snow, right! Aaron knew the word in Mandarin for snow, but living in southern China, had of course never seen it before. Donovan of course wanted to go right out in play. I told them after lunch. I suddenly realized I had never anticipated this weather, and needing winter clothing for two three year old boys at once! Both boys have haircuts and doctor visits in the next two days and will both need winter gear to wear at the same time! I quickly called a woman down the street who has a little boy Donovan's age and she offered a winter jacket, which Rupert went over to get. With the jacket I was all set for the upcoming appointments, but was looking for a snowsuit for playing outside. I then called a very kind and generous colleague of mine who has always shared her son's outgrown clothing with Donovan, including gorgeous snowsuits last year and this year. Within minutes of calling her, the doorbell rang (while the boys were eating lunch), and she arrived with the snowsuit, a hat, and mittens. (We were already set for boots.) And, at that same time a woman called whose son is in my team at school, and whose husband was working at my neighbor's house and heard my phone message (about needing a jacket) and she was calling to find out what size and did I need anything else...What a lucky boy Aaron is to have so many people willing to help out like this! We are so fortunate!
So...after lunch we bundled up - Aaron thought it was HYSTERICAL! Then we headed out. Aaron kept trying to wipe the snow off his snowsuit. Then took his mittens off to try to wipe off his boots - and realized how wet and cold it was! Meanwhile, Donovan has the two sleds out, and is making tracks for us. The boys were great about taking turns having me pull them in the sled. We got a few smiles and laughs from Aaron. But, suffice to say, he's not so sure right now that he likes the snow. The boys played on the climbing/sliding structure for a while. When we headed in, both boys were happy!
We've actually had a GREAT day. Donovan is thrilled that today Aaron is taking a nap in his real bed in the bedroom they will share. (Of course Aaron was asleep for nap in 10 minutes (exhausted from that snow) and Donovan took 45 minutes to fall asleep, (while ironically telling me he needs a lot of sleep, water, and nasal spray for his sinus infection - and then proceeded to take forever to fall asleep).
And, not that anyone else cares (except me), but I'm ALMOST all unpacked (except for the gifts we bought for Aaron and Donovan to give them in the years to come - those are going to be in a suitcase for some time I think)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brothers - Bubbles and Happiness are the same in any language


I LOVE THIS PHOTO! I'm so glad I thought to take my camera outside with us. A huge thank you to Kristen, Patrick, Parker, and Taber who left our car at the airport for us the night we came home AND left us a basket of gifts for the boys (along with welcome home decorations and signs from my students hanging on the back of the front seats).
This afternoon, after both boys were up from naps, we went outside with the huge bubble wands. They LOVED them. Loved it when I blew them and they chased after them, trying to catch the bubbles. Though we have our moments when the language barrier is very, very evident, our times spent outside each day are our best times. The boys love to ride their vehicles, dig in the "sand pit" (though Aaron at first wasn't sure he liked the feeling of sand on his hands - much like Donovan's experience at the beach at age 1 1/2 when he spent more time washing his hands and feet than having fun in the sand - Aaron was fine with digging in the sand today though. We are going to have a great summer, and by the time the winter rolls around, the language barrier will be less and less of an issue.
Love the photo! By the way, not sure what happened with the angle of the photo, but it looks like Donovan towers above Aaron; in reality Donovan is maybe an inch or inch and a half taller, and they weigh about the same.

Aaron's First Bike


As I mentioned in a post on Saturday, we were quite amazed at how well Aaron rode Donovan's tricycle. In fact, Rupert went to Toys R Us with Aaron to test out two wheel bikes with training wheels, as I did with Donovan just before Easter. They came home with a biek for Aaron. (We already had the helmet as my mom picked it up for us while we were gone.) Aaron is thrilled with his bike, but finds it is much more difficult than the tricycle and so he only goes short distances. I do think he'll experience more success once we get to Kids Town to get his feet measured and get him some good sneakers. The ones the orphanage sent him in are poorly made and hardly have any soles/tread to them, so they tend to slip right off the pedals. Again, we are just amazed that a child who spent 3 years in an orphanage in China, now a few days after being home is able to ride a bicycle!!
Aaron contines to amaze us in how much he knows. Today we had several appointments and he kept wanting me to write the ABC's and to practice counting to 10 in English (which he learned in one day). Then he writes his own version of the ABCs, with quite excellent fine motor skills for a 3 year old! He has learned quite a few of our household routines very quickly. Last night I showed him where to put his dirty clothes, and tonight while the bathtub was filling, I told him to take off his clothes, which he did and then he promptly went to the laundry basket and put them in there, smiling with pride knowing he had done what I expected.
This morning after I got home with Aaron, I needed to take Donovan to the pediatrician (he has had a sinus infection that has not cleared after one round of antibiotics, the only other time he had a sinus infection, 18 months ago, we had this exact situation). As I left I waved goodbye to Daddy and Aaron and Aaron began screaming and crying for "Mommy." I immediately was reminded of all those times when I could hardly leave the room without Donovan doing exactly the same thing -all those times that separation anxiety peaked. A sign of Aaron's bond with me that is beginning to form.
We continue to be tired. It's very similar to having a newborn when their days/nights are reversed. Aaron slept 8-4, but then could not go back to sleep )nor could we) but at naptime, he slept 1-4 and when we woke him up, he was NOT HAPPY. However, unlike when you have an infant, there is no "down" time - we are literally chasing after these two sons of ours when we are outside. It's exhausting, but we know it will get better once we are back to 100% strength when the jet lag wears off, and when Aaron understands just a little more English.
The boys are doing well most of the time - waiting for each other to put on shoes/coats to go outside, sharing some toys (okay just a few at this point), encouraging each other and comforting the other when sad.
Love,
Nicole

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Home at Last!




Here are three photos. One is Aaron and our luggage after our LONG 30 hours of traveling from Hong Kong to U.S. (including the 8 hour layover at a very HOT Delta terminal at JFK - not to be attempted ever again in my life, but we really had no choice - it was the only flight we could get tickets on - Jet Blue was sold out :( )

Another is Donovan after he woke up at 7:15 and got to see Aaron while he was still asleep. Aaron was up a little before 9 (fell asleep at 2 am, which is A LOT LESS sleep than this boy is used to - he often sleeps 12 hours!!). And, a close up of Donovan's Big Brother shirt which he was thrilled with.

Enjoy!

Wonderful 1st Day with BOTH Our Boys!!






We had a wonderful day today - wonderful weather - great day with our two sons.

We got a lot accomplished today. My mom stayed over last night, and had already cut the veggies and gotten the meat for a beef stew in the Crock pot for dinner tonight, so that was perfect. In addition to just having a wonderful day playing with Aaron and Donovan, I got a lot done during the boys' naptime (while Rupert took a nap too). All of our trip laundry is done (four loads!!), Aaron's adoption paperwork has been filed away with our important documents, and a few other things. Tomorrow I plan to finish unpacking the luggage during naptime.

The weather was great so the boys played outside quite a bit - in the sand with their construction vehicles, and with the Cozy Coupe, bikes, etc. At bedtime Rupert asked Aaron if he had had a fun day, and the response was yes. However, there was one noticeable disappointment today for Aaron - when Donovan hopped on his 2 wheel bike and raced off with Rupert chasing after him, I put Aaron on a tricycle with a push handle and we followed, Aaron was screaming in Mandarin, "Daddy, Big Brother, wait for me!" and then became very upset that his tricycle would not go as fast as Donovan's. He stopped the tricycle and did cry a tiny bit in frustration. WE HAD NO IDEA THIS CHILD WHO LIVED IN AN ORPHANAGE FOR THREE YEARS WOULD BE READY TO RIDE A 2 WHEEL BIKE!!! In fact, we laughed that I had inquired a few months ago about an Early Intervention Assessment (specifically for gross and fine motor skills), something commonly done to assess kids who have lived in an orphanage. This son of ours continues to amaze us! He rides the tricycle with no assistance to the end of our road and back - much better than Donovan was able to in the weeks leading up to us purchasing his 2 wheel bike. Let's just say Rupert is taking him tomorrow to buy a 2 wheel bike for him!!

Needless to say after just having Donovan, and then only having Aaron in China, we have many routines that we need to fine tune now that we are home! I have no idea how I am going to do naptime on Monday when Rupert goes to work - Aaron sings LOUDLY to himself while falling asleep!! Bathtime we did separately tonight; I gave Aaron his bath while Donovan and Rupert spent some special time together for the "big" brother. Then, I got Aaron ready for bed while Rupert bathed Donovan, and finally I got Donovan ready for bed and read his books, while Rupert stayed with Aaron while he fell asleep. We've explained to Donovan that while Aaron will soon share his bedroom, as planned, Aaron needs some time on the mattress in mommy and daddy's bedroom floor to get used to falling asleep in a home vs. orphanage. We are already seeing progress.

Aaron sleeps very well. He napped 1-5 and went to bed at 8:30. He tends to sleep until someone wakes him (probably from the way it was at the orphanage). He eats well, and certainly coming home to different foods is an adjustment (one I can sympathize with after eating different foods for 18 days in China).

The boys are doing great. Obviously verbal communication is a challenge for all of us (although Rupert knows enough Mandarin to get by). Today Aaron learned "all done," after he and Donovan both drank glasses of milk at the same time. When Aaron wanted Donovan he would go and get him and take his arm and bring him to what he wanted to show him. Aaron put his sneakers on before we got Donovan's on and he waited to go outside with Donovan. Donovan was upset about something and Aaron brought several toy cars to Donovan to cheer him up. Donovan did a great job of sharing his toys and his parents' attention today with his new sibling.

This coming week Donovan is home from childcare. Rupert returns to work. I WILL BE TIRED!!
Enjoy the photos!
Nicole

We are HOME!

We are HOME!! We arrived home around 11:00 pm last night (Friday).
Just wanted everyone to know that we made it home, Aaron did very well on the flights, and We we are EXHAUSTED…

Landed at JFK at 12:40 pm Friday, had an EIGHT HOUR LAYOVER, before flying to Burlington.

I’ll plan to update the blog in a few days.

Love,
Nicole

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Flag Flies...





On Friday, April 23, 2010 the flag will fly over the United States Capitol to welcome our country’s newest U.S. Citizen, Aaron Donald Walsh Ho.

The moment our plane touches down on U.S. soil on the runway at JFK airport, Aaron becomes a U.S. citizen!

A special thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders's staff for arranging this for us. (Though there are not many aspects of politics that I agree with Senator Sanders on, I am very grateful that his office was able to arrange this for us.) The flag will be flown in Aaron's honor, and then in a few weeks we will receive that flag along with a certificate. What a special keepsake for Aaron!

Goodbye to New Friends and a Homeland





Tonight we went to the wonderful hot pot restaurant for the final time. (It's new and often we are the only family there around 5:00, so we have gotten to know the staff well, and they have been intrigued by our story of adopting Aaron.) The main worker (who has befriended us over the weeks) tonight gave Aaron "lai see" (red pocket money/lucky money) and then gave us one to bring home to Donovan. We got back to the hotel room after dinner and discovered she had given each of our son's 100 yuan - that is about $20 each! We are speechless! The top photo is of Aaron and me with this very special woman.
I am also including a photo with our guide, Wensi and our driver, Dave.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to China. We have certainly enjoyed our time here in Guangzhou, the sites we have seen, the opportunity to visit Aaron's orphanage, and getting to know Aaron here in his homeland. Now, we are very much looking forward to our trip to America, and the next part of our life together. Many adoptive parents talk about feeling so bittersweet - saying goodbye to their child's homeland. For us perhaps, the feelings are just a bit different, because we know that as an orphan in China, Aaron has no future here. His future lies ahead, in America, with his Forever Family. And we are so thrilled to be his parents, and so eager for him to meet his brother, Donovan.

Love,
Nicole

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oath at U.S. Consulate


This afternoon, around 4:00, we and about 25 other families from the U.S. who have now completed the adoption of their children born in China, went to the U.S. Consulate and filled out one final paper and took the oath.  Aaron had a really hard time in the waiting room with so many other people.  He cried, and later told us he had been scared when he saw so many people and children.  In his own mind, I bet he wondered if we were taking him back/giving him back...  Luckily, he was able to be distracted by a spring water machine, and proceeded to pour (and then drink) four cups of water for himself.
When we stood for the oath, with the other families, and raised our right hands to swear the oath, Aaron also raised his hand.  As we began to repeat the words of the oath, Aaron began to say some of his own words right along with us.  It was VERY SWEET!
We just enjoyed a wonderful thai meal at the Cow and Bridge Restaurant on Shamian (our THIRD dinner there in a row).  Almost time for bath and bed. 
Tomorrow is our final day here. We need to finish packing, and plan to go to the Hot Pot restaurant for dinner.
Love,
Nicole

Monday, April 19, 2010

Things I hope I will ALWAYS REMEMBER about our China trip

 

  1. the wet market, the pet market, the dry good market, the Chinese Medicine markets – what we saw and the smells

11.    the people in the shops who were so friendly towards us, especially when they realized we had adopted Aaron (keep in mind at first glance, people saw a Chinese man with an American wife and assumed this was our biological child…it was only in shops that cater to adoptive families that when we would share with shopkeepers that we had just adopted our son – then especially they were so happy for us and for Aaron and really got to know us)

 

10. riding in a taxi here in Guangzhou, and seeing how drivers continuously cut each other off, but it's never taken personally and you rarely hear horns honking

 

9.  squatty potties (I was always scouting out the handicapped bathrooms if available, as they usually had a Western toilet, but even so, I found myself using several squatty potties, which I will never forget!) and the shortage/expense of paperproducts (no napkins in restaurants, no toilet paper in public restrooms) - I will never again complain about public restrooms in America!

 

  1.  Asian women all dressed up in high heel shoes, HIKING (not average Chinese women – mainly Asian tourists visiting places like White Cloud Mountain, Xiangjiang Safari, and Lianhua Mountain)  I was wearing SNEAKERS of course!
  1. the spectacular sites we saw (Lotus/Lianhua Mountain, White Cloud Mountain, Xiangjiang Safari Park, Dr. Sun Lee Sat Memorial, LiuRong Temple)

6. the polite and helpful bellboys at Holiday Inn Shifu – I never carried the stroller down the stairs myself – they went out of their way to help us.  Whenever I said, "Thank you," they said, "It is my pleasure."

 

5. seeing bamboo scaffolding on skyscrapers – amazing

 

4.  what it feels like to walk down a street in this part of Guangzhou – the people around us, the bicycles, the traffic, the smells, the sights – all of it, and what life is like for the average person here

 

3. Our incredible driver, Dave, and the story of his life, and all he shared with us, and the picnic lunch he provided us with, at Aaron's Finding Spot (after he visited the orphanage with us, and learned more about Aaron)

 

2.  What it has felt like as a Caucasian, American, fluent English speaker amongst Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese speakers – having seen VERY, VERY few (like less than 10) people who look like me in two weeks – for I know this is about to be my son's experience in America, surrounded by people who do not look, smell, sound like he is used to.  It was a VERY important experience for me, a very necessary one – and I'm so glad we chose a hotel situated within the average Chinese community

 

1.  The beautiful children in Aaron's orphanage, children who all deserve families of their own…and my strong desire and determination to return one day for at least one more child born in China….

 

And then, above all else, I know I will always remember what it felt like to see my son for the first time, and to hold him…

 


Sunday, April 18, 2010

bracelet - lost and now found...

My online friends on RQ all know this story/situation, but I believe I have neglected thus far to tell about it on our blog.
Aaron came to us wearing a red rope bracelet with four jade pieces/beads on it.  The first and second nights we bathed him with it on.  The third day, after noticing that he had been able to remove it himself while falling asleep for his nap, I chose to take the bracelet off for his bath, as I was worried it might slip off in the soapy water.  I BELIEVE I placed it on our bed's comforter.  The truth is, I did not think about it again until we were at the orphanage the next day and I wanted to ask who had given it to him.  As I reached down for his wrist to point to it, I realized it was not there, and quickly recalled I had removed it for his bath the night before.  That evening when we returned to the hotel, exhausted, I looked through the bed sheets/comforter, and on the dresser, nightstands, etc.  I could not locate it and was devastated! This was something one of his special caregivers had given him.  He has so little to remember his life at the orphanage with as he grows older; I was so upset that i had lost this special keepsake! The next morning we asked the front desk if anyone from housekeeping had reported finding it.  They had not.  We went out for some shopping, and returned a few hours later to find that someone had THOROUGHLY looked in our room for it, had located it and placed it on the bedside table.  We were so relieved! It is now back on Aaron's wrist, and when I remove it at bathtime, I make sure to put it in a SAFE place, and put right back on after bath!
Nicole 

Leaving on Thursday

Nothing hugely new to report.  We took a taxi to the Garden Hotel today.  Okay, the hotel lobby is PHENOMENAL - probably the fanciest I have ever seen; I was overwhelmed walking around there!  We went to the Friendship Store, which I knew tends to have much higher prices than other shops.  However, we had not been able to find a Chinese version of the Disney Pixar Cars movie (which Donovan LOVES, and Aaron is about to be immersed into upon arriving at his new house, including the bedding on his new bed) and some Thomas the Train or Tigger & Pooh dvds.  We were able to find the Cars movie and bought two Tigger & Pooh dvds.  Actually the prices on those were the same as some Chinese history and folktales and a DingDong movie Rupert bought a few days ago. 
We got back, ate lunch, and went out for a walk on the pedestrian shopping street, while our room was being cleaned.  Then, came back and Aaron is down for a nap. 
Tomorrow our guide goes to the American Consulate for us, Tuesday we take our Oath at the American Consulate, and Wednesday at 4 pm Aaron's American Visa is ready.  We fly out of Guangzhou around 11 am on Thursday, then stay one night in Hong Kong (at the Regal Hotel) and fly out on Friday morning for home.  Think good thoughts for us on the long flight home, and that Aaron does alright.
This evening we may walk back to Shamian for a couple more gifts and dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants there, which we have not yet tried.
I've had several people comment that I need to post more photos.  I CAN'T post them from China for some reason.  I had emailed some to a good friend at home (Thank you Kristen!), but now I'm not even able to email them to her.  Once I am home I'll publish all the comments and I'll add photos.  We do plan to keep updating the blog once we are home.
Love,
Nicole

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep the comments coming!

I am enjoying reading all of the comments people are leaving on my blog! They come to my Yahoo email and so I am able to read them in China, but due to Internet issues cannot actually publish the comments.  (I think I should set aside an entire naptime of the boys once we are home, to publish the comments one by one!)
Anyways, we are really enjoying reading the comments.  After following so many other people's blogs over the years, and occassionally leaving comments, it's now wonderful to be on the receiving end!
 
I want to respond to a few of the questions/comments we've been getting:
People have commented on being impressed with how much we are doing and how we are doing keeping up with blogging.
* With regards to the blogging - Aaron takes a 2 hour nap each afternoon and at night is sleeping about 7:30 - 7am, so after he is asleep, so when he first goes to bed at night, or during his nap, I can blog easily. 
* With regards to how much we are doing, let me first say I am not an adventurous person, at all.  I did a lot of research before the trip and made lists of what I absolutely wanted to do (Lotus Mountain, Six Banyan Temple, Xiangjiang Safari) and then some optional tings.  Also, we are not in a group, so unless it is a day with a required adoption appointment, we are on our own and can either arrange it with our driver ahead of time, or have our hotel get us a taxi.  And, everything is easier if one's husband is Chinese and speaks Cantonese and a tiny bit of Mandarin :)
* Also, remember that we are in Guangzhou the entire trip and we got here with three full days before receiving Aaron.  One day was spent acclimating ourselves to the area, buying a stroller, and just getting the room organized.  Second day we did the White Cloud Mountain (in the pouring rain!) and then the third day we did the Lotus Mountain/Lianhua Mountain, which was a HUGE trip for us.  I would not have done it with a child this young. Our guide said of all the families she has had over the years, no one has ever asked to go there.  She also said not many families go to the Xiangjiang Safari as they think it is expensive.  Some go to the Guangzhou Zoo instead (which we have heard AWFUL things about).  I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Safari!! Best thing we have done as a family while here.
 
Our Hotel
Yes, we LOVE it.  The walk to Shamian is easy for us and much easier than navigating through the construction zone on Shamian! I know a lot of you who have asked about the hotel are soon to travel and members of RQ. I've put a ton on there about the hotel and why it is perfect for us.  Next time (!) I will absolutely stay here again! Anyone considering staying here, please email me with any questions you have!
 
How I am Doing
GREAT! Best I've felt in my life! Close friends (and those on RQ) know I have always had major GI problems, and those worsened the past year - and I'd been realy worried about the trip to China, especially when we have not yet found a med. to solve the issues.  Well, I packed enough Immodium for about 10 average people, and I've not needed much of it at all.  Ironically, a medicine my regular doctor prescribed for the trip for some severe headaches I've been having (muscle relaxant, and told me to take it to prevent these dehibilitating headaches) seem to actually be helping the GI issues.  The first week here I felt 100% fine (for the first time in a long time).  Of course, I'm having no dairy while here, very little gluten, so who knows...maybe those food sensitivities play into things more than I think.  In any case, all my worrying about food poisoning (based on several quite horrific experiences in my life), etc. has caused me to be very, very cautious here, and so far (knock on wood), I've been fine!  Anyhow, I'm fine and thrilled to be feeling so great!
 
Was there really a microwave in our room?
Several online friends from RQ have asked this, some poking fun at me and all my questions I posted while packing.  Yes, I did bring three bags of microwavable popcorn, and no our suite does not have a microwave, although still on the Shifu room info. it does same some suites have microwaves!
 
Packing - Anything I wished I had brought? Anything I brought but don't need?
Again, in reference to my thousands of packing questions on RQ in the past months.  Honestly, I don't think there is a thing I brought that I wouldn't bring again!
What I wished I had brought
- more LONG pants, warmer clothing - it's been cold here!
- more pjs without feet for Aaron - he won't wear the feet ones!
- scissors and tape
And mostly I wish my darn LL Bean raincoat had not disappeared from my carryon somewhere between JFK airport and China...Not pleasant to be in Guangzhou this time of year with no raincoat! Rupert and Aaron are fine, as they have theirs, and I'm using the umbrella.
You all know I brought basically a suitcase full of snacks (instant oatmeal, protein bars, instant soup, pb, bread, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc).  I'd still bring it all! I'm tending to eat lunch in the room, and Rupert gets a takeout of a rice dish or noodle dish for him and Aaron.  We have a wonderful breakfast here at the Shifu, a small lunch, and then a dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant.  I'm doing fine with the food, but glad I brought the snacks.  Aaron loves the Vanilla Wafers (Mini Nilla Wafers), so I wish I brought more of those.  The Gatorade powder is great because water does get boring after so long...
 
Most of all, just thanks for all the great comments on the blog.  Thank you for all your support during this time in China.  We are looking forward to coming home on Friday, but of course, sad to say goodbye to Aaron's homeland. 
Think that's about it for now!

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial and 6 Banyan Tree Temple




This morning Aaron woke at 5 am (now that would be like Donovan to do!),but luckily went back to sleep (until 8!).  After breakfast, we took a taxi (so easy to do here) to go to visit two special places.
 
The first was Dr. Sun Yan-Sen Memorial Hall.  He was the "George Washington of China" it seems.  The grounds were beautiful - lots of flowers, garden areas, and we enjoyed walking around taking photos.  The memorial hall is phenomenal architecture and we took many photos.  We paid a few yuans to go inside the Memorial Hall.  It was interesting for us to read the information about Dr. Sun Yan-Sen and walk through the museum.  There is a large theatre in the middle which is absolutely beautiful. 
 
It seemed it would be a quick walk to the next site we wished to visit, The Six Banyan Tree Temple/ LiuRong Temple.  It was about a 10 minute walk.  I must say, I was NOT impressed with the temple.  Perhaps this is after being to Lotus Mountain/Lianhua Mountain and visiting the incredible temples there.  The Six Banyan Tree Temple is VERY SMALL, very touristy (restaurant inside, LOTs of tour groups - maybe due to Trade Fair).  We walked around for a few minutes, took some photos, and then at the main temple, asked about having Aaron blessed by the monks - which I have heard other families have been able to do.  It took quite a lot of work on Rupert's part to locate a monk.  Finally, we removed our shoes, and went into the inner part of the temple, beneath a beautiful statue of Buddha, and the monk began his blessing.  There was another family - Chinese with their child, also in that inner section during the blessing.  I'm not sure if Aaron became scared, or really had to go to the bathroom, but he began saying he had to use the bathroom and began crying.  Luckily, the monk finished his blessing, used Holy Water on Aaron, and we were able to quickly leave and get Aaron to the bathroom.
 
When we were walking TO the Six Banyan Temple along LiuRong Road, we saw all the stores selling statues of Buddha and Guan Yin, incense, and other religious items - just as had been the case when we had driven to Lianhua Mountain.  Unlike our visit to Lianhua Mountain, on the street leading to the LiuRong Temple, there were quite a few people (maybe 15-20) begging.  These people all had physical deformities/birth defects; people missing limbs (and no prosthetics available here to the average person), people who were blind, people with severe birth marks, adults with cleft lips and others with club feet (never corrected as children - such a routine surgery/treatment in U.S. but again, unavailable to the average person here in China).  I found this very difficult - not that people were begging - but seeing the people with birth defects (where you see no where else here in China except the orphanages).  I wondered very much if these adults had lived their childhood years in orphanages, turned out of the orphanages onto the street at age 14 - which is the practice in China - the orphanages can only care for them until age 14.  Maybe they were not former orphanage residents...but in any case, the deformities/birth defects I saw could have been easily fixed in the U.S. and these people could have led such a different life in the U.S.  And most of all, that here in China, a person's physical disability/birth defect defines them (no access to schooling, no chance at marriage, no one to hire them....)  It was just very emotional for me, thinking how different their lives could have been in a different country like the U.S. with access to medical care and laws that protect those with physical disabilities from discrimination...
 
We easily took a taxi back to the hotel, where we are about to have lunch and put Aaron down for a nap.  This afternoon we have some errands to run - photos to pick up, laundry to pick up, and just  LITTLE more shopping...
Love,
Nicole

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's the Same Feeling...

Yes, It's the Same Feeling

 

For anyone who wonders, or isn't sure...yes, it's the same feeling...

 

From someone who has one son by birth and now one son by adoption, I can honestly say it is the exact same feeling...I think everyone (including me) may have wondered if it really is the same...and now I know, 100%, yes, it's the same feeling.

 

For those who have given birth, you know the feelings you experience at the moment you deliver and the moment your child is handed to you and you hold him/her for the first time.  I can now say, it is exactly the same feeling when your meet your child for the first time.  Whether carrying your child in your body for 9 months, or carrying your child in your heart for 5 months, when you meet your child for the first time, the feelings are the same...

 

It's the feelings all mothers have for their children - love, anticipation, hope, wonder, a sense of a new beginning...

 

We are so blessed to have both Aaron and Donovan as our sons. 


Medical Exam completed


After our long day yesterday, today is a relaxing day, as should be both days this weekend.  We enjoyed the buffet breakfast and walked to Shamian this morning.  (For those of you soon to travel, the walk from Shifu to Shamian is EASY.  It took us 5-8 minutes before our son, and about 12-15 with him in a stroller.  We just take him out of the stroller, have him walk the stairs on the overpass, and the other person carries the stroller.  No big deal.  And also, contrary to what others have said YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WALK THROUGH THE WET MARKET.  We walk through the pet market and then a dry goods market, and to the overpass.  Furthermore, the walk is a lot easier than navigating around Shamian with the tremendous construction there.)
 
Once on Shamian, we went back to the medical examination center to have Aaron's TB test read.  It was fine, which we already knew, as there was no reaction on his skin whatsoever from the tb test.  They also translated his immunizations, not that it makes much of a difference for us, as our pediatrician will run titers once Aaron is home. 
 
We went to the White Swan and walked around.  It is so fancy and exquisite inside.  We will go back one more time with our camera to get some photos of Aaron near the fish pond and spectacular water fall (when we go to drop off/pick up laundry at A Gift From China).  Then we spent the next hour shopping.  Rupert says we ARE DONE SHOPPING NOW.  We will see! We bought seven traditional Chinese silk outfits for Aaron and Donovan today, in sizes 6-12, for the future.  GORGEOUS outfits - for between 40 and 80 yuan, so less than 30 USD - incredible prices that we just can't pass up.  We went into a store (Andy's Shop, right next to Victory Hotel) and as soon as we walked in I thought it would be so expensive...nope, some of the BEST prices we've encounterd so far.  We bought a LOT - two silk outfits for Aaron and Donovan, silk scarves, a silk purse, etc. etc.  Then we came back near Shifu to buy snacks for Aaron, and to drop off the two disposable cameras the orphanage had given us, which have photos of Aaron on them.  It did take some time to find the shop that develops film, but finally did and they will be back tomorrow.
 
We met a lovely family from Michigan who was here with their four children on a Homeland Tour.  They have one biological son, two daughters adopted from China, and one son adopted from China.  They children born in China looked to be about 14, 12, and 8.  All three were from different provinces.  The family had toured Beijing, then spent several days in each child's province and was able to go visit each child's SWI.  They said it was incredible - such a warm welcome with firecrackers, etc.  I am sure the SWI staff members were so thrilled to see these children come back for a visit and to see how well they are doing and how loved they are.  Then, the family was in Guangzhou for a few days and last stop would be Hong Kong, which would include a trip to Disney.  We had a lovely talk with them.  Like us, they have one biological child and then went on to a child, and then another child, and then another child.  We talked about what a wonderful experience adopting from China is, and the trip, etc. 
 
Aaron is sleeping now for his nap.  He takes about a 2 hour nap, though the SWI said only one hour.  Either it is the increased activity and new surroundings, or perhaps they specifically woke the children up after an hour.
 
We have no appointments this weekend.  Monday our guide goes to the American Consulate with all our paperwork, for us.  Tuesday we go to the American Consulate at 3:30 to take our Oath. Then Wednesday our guide picks up Aaron's passport and visa at 4 pm adn on Thursday morning we fly to Hong Kong, where we will stay overnight before our big Cathay Pacific flight.
We are enjoying Aaron so much!
Love,
Nicole

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Finding Spot and a Picnic

I have known Aaron's finding location, since the day I read through his original paperwork.  I knew I wanted to see it when we went to Shenzhen.  We asked at the SWI, and they confirmed the spot, and that when Aaron was found, there was no note with him (there sometimes is a note left with abandoned babies in China, sometimes giving a  birthdate).  Our driver and guide were able to locate the place (with a lot of stopping and asking for directions).  Of course we do not know the exact spot, but the general location.  For example, for a child found in a train station, the family may know he was found there, but not the exact bench.  And so, I found myself at the general location Aaron was discovered at.  

 

When I had first read the report of where Aaron was found, it said he was found beside a riverbank.  This seemed quite unusual to me, because I was used to reading so many stories of babies abandoned in China at very busy areas such as bus stations, train stations, shopping areas, or outside a hospital – (all areas where the child would soon be discovered).  As our car approached, I felt some relief – the shopping area, is along a river's edge.  Our guide confirmed it was the Chinese to English translation that caused the confusion for me – the shopping area is along a riverbank, not that HE was found along a riverbank…

 

Rupert stayed with Aaron in the car.  I felt strongly I would not take Aaron back to the spot where as a baby he was left alone, where no one he knew came when he cried.  I am the mother who will comfort him and always be there for him.  And so, our guide and I,  got out of the car.  We walked through the market – farmers selling beautiful produce and people selling other items.  I am so glad that we were able to locate this spot.  There were signs that they are starting construction to make this into a more modern shopping area and in fact construction equipment was at work along the river's edge.  A year from now, it will look very different…it is good we could find it today.

 

I did take a few photos, for Aaron to have when he is older.  I took photos of the market and of the homes.  It seemed to be a very poor area.  I knelt down and said a prayer.  I wish somehow, his birth family could know that the child they abandoned has now found a new family, a family who will love and cherish him for always.  I wish they could know that he is going to America and he will receive an education, medical care, a loving home and family, and everything he deserves.

 

And I know that as much as I am tempted to, I cannot pass judgment on what happened in those early months.  For it is part of my new son's story; it is part of how he has come to be my son.  And, I do know the reality is that it is highly likely it was NOT his birth mother who abandoned him; in many, many cases it is NOT the birth mother, but instead is the mother-in-law (the birth father's mother) who abandons the child (a girl, when the family wanted a boy; a child with a birth defect; a 2nd son in a country where the stiff penalties for having a 2nd child are steep - too much for most families in China; or a child who is sick, in a family unable to afford medical care).

 

The specific details of Aaron's finding are private information which we will share with Aaron when he is older.  (As we read the details in the report, we were filled with quite a few questions, which we will never have the answers to, and always wonder about.) 

 

I do know that just as our orphanage visit, the images will be in my mind forever.  I don't mean they will haunt me.  Rather they will reinforce to me every day of my life that we are so lucky to have Aaron in our life.

 

When we returned to the car, our guide Dave had left the car, to use a restroom we assumed.  Wensi had bought some Bao'an bananas which we all enjoyed (very sweet!) and then we filled out paperwork for the American Consulate.  Rupert got out and walked along the marketplace.  Soon, Dave came back…with HIS SISTER…she teaches math for grades 8-12 at a secondary school just one kilometer from Aaron's finding spot.  He had called her, and she has lunchbreak from 12-2:20 (!, but teaches until 5:40) and the two of them had gotten us lunch.  So, we sat in the car (raining hard out) and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  Aaron devoured a chicken wing, and ate some congee.  This was so thoughtful of Dave, who Aaron now calls Big Brother in Chinese.  I cannot imagine many other families adopting from China have had picnic lunches right near their child's finding spot!

 

It was a wonderful day.  Tomorrow we must go back to the Medical Exam Center to have Aaron's TB test read (it looks fine). 

Off to bed now!

Love,

Nicole


Visit to Bao'an Social Welfare Institute (SWI)





As I'm sure you can imagine, we are physically and emotionally exhausted from our long trip to Aaron's former orphanage. We left at 8 am and returned at 7:30 pm. Aaron gets very carsick, which certainly made the long trip even more unpleasant for him while in the car!

Even though it was a long day, I do not have not a single regret about going. We would not have missed this opportunity. For Aaron, it gave him a sense of closure. For us, it was a chance to thank the people who have cared for him for three years, while he was waiting for a family of his own. It was our chance to ask questions about his life at the SWI; his likes, dislikes, personality, etc. It was our chance to see where he lived. Even when we come back to China in the future, there is no guarantee we would be able to go back to his SWI, and so we know this is in all likelihood our only chance to visit and we did not want to miss it.

This orphanage currently has 380 children. We met the director, and many staff members. We saw several groups of beautiful children ages 2-4 walking from lunch to their sleeping rooms for naps. We saw the activity room (Aaron immediately ran over to the art center, as he loves to draw), the medical section, playground, and went upstairs to see his sleeping room. There were about 40 beds set up against each other. All the 3 year olds were in their beds getting ready for naps. The staff showed us Aaron's bed. We wanted a photo of Aaron by his bed. He started crying ...it was quite clear he did not want to stay in that room. He told them he wanted to go with his Mommy and Daddy.

Oh, my initial thoughts (I'll share more about our visit in the days to come…)

I wish China allowed you to adopt two children at once...

I wish every person undergoing fertility treatments could have the opportunity to walk through an orphanage in China. I wish they could see the hundreds of healthy babies lying in their cribs, waiting, just waiting for a family, and toddlers walking around, needing families. And, more than anything, I wish the process to adopt a baby or child from China moved more quickly. For I know for many, the prospect of waiting several years for a child born in China, after several years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, just seems too long... I know adoption is not for everyone, but looking at those hundreds of beautiful children today, I don't know how anyone could see what we saw and walk away without taking one child (a child already here on this earth who so desperately needs a home and family) home to be their own – to give them a family – to be a mom/dad to that child who needs one – and deserves one.

For me, I leave not only with some knowledge of Aaron's early life, but with the knowledge deep inside that we will return to China in the future to adopt another child in need of a family, and the with the determination to do so...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Photos from Safari Park

Here are a few more photos from the Xiangjiang Safari Park

Safari Xiangjiang (More Photos of our Visit)





Here are a few more photos of our wonderful day at Xiangjiang Safari Park.

Incredible Day at Xiangjiang Safari Park





One of the nice parts of traveling ourselves, and not with a group, is that we have the freedom to plan our own itinerary (around the required adoption events that is). White Cloud Mountain, Lianhua Mountain, and today's visit to the Xiangjiang Safari Park are all things we wanted to do while here.

Xiangjiang Safari Park is THE LARGEST Safari Park in China (in fact, largest in all of Asia!) and is China's leading zoo. It is home to over 20,000 animals including Giant Pandas, Polar Bears and Koalas. It is the only zoo in mainland China to display Koalas and is the only zoo in the world to currently have koala twins, an extremely rare occurance. The zoo also has over 100 white-tigers, half of the worlds population. (For those of you soon to travel, this is NOT the Guangzhou Zoo! This one is about 45 min to an hour from Shamian and is PHENOMENAL. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.)

Dave (our WONDERFUL driver), picked us up at 8:30 this morning. We arrived at the safari park by 9:15, bought our tickets, had a snack, used restrooms, and were the second family in line for the Safari on Wheels when it made its first run at 10. This is a "train" that takes you through the part of the park you can only drive though. Aaron LOVED it. He was pointing to the animals and knew many of their names in Mandarin. This lasted about 45 minutes, and then we began our tour on foot of the other section of the park. The white tigers were an incredible sight, as were the koalas, and the Pandas just amazing! Rupert fed elephants (bananas) and giraffes. We ate our lunches and then went to an elephant show. It was a WONDERFUL day.

I was quite a celebrity today! There were thousands of schoolchildren at the safari today, in their uniforms. When they saw me (usually while in line with their teachers), they would shout, "Hello!" and I would say "Hello," and wave. Some brave ones (boys mostly) would run up to me and say, "Hello," and when I would reply, "Hello, how are you?" They would giggle and run off, not knowing how to respond. I had fun with one boy by answering, "Ni hao," when he came up to me saying "Hello." When we went to the elephant show, we walked in and there were about 2,000 schoolchildren seated there, eating their lunches, and they were all waving and shouting "Hello!" to me - and again, when we walked out as they sat with their teachers receiving directions after the show, they all waved and yelled, "Goodbye." It was quite something.

Of course we get many stares. I am chuckling thinking that people are probably thinking, oh look you can marry an American woman and your child will look fully Chinese. Oh if they only knew...and if they saw Donovan, now that would really throw them for a loop, since he has very little Asian characteristics.

When we are out and about in Guangzhou, and I see young children (not school age yet), I think the ratio between genders is pretty even. However, today at the park, with kids 8-12 it was about 4 boys for every 1 girl.

We spoke a bit with Dave today about the One Child Policy. He has two older siblings (born in the 1970s before the One Child Policy began). He mentioned there are MANY parts of the law. For example, if two people marry and both the bride and groom are only children, then they are allowed to have two babies. Farmers in his province of Hubei are allowed to try for a second child if the first is a girl...(of course, we very well know what happens to many of those second girls...so the family can try again for a boy...). He also mentioned a minimum age for women to have children EVEN if they are already married...He said there are so many rules that are part of the One Child Policy, and that fines for violating the rules are pretty much impossible for people from his farming area to pay...and so again, we certainly know the consequence of that for the children...

Tonight we at yet another dinner at our favorite hot pot restaurant. Aaron ate noodles (TONS), shrimp, beef, broccoli and is a GREAT eater.

At 7 pm Aaron told us it was time to turn out the lights and go to bed. He's asleep now, and we are soon to turn in, as Dave and our guide, Wenzi are picking us up at 8 tomorrow morning to go to visit the orphanage. It will be an emotional and important day for us!

If I don't post tomorrow night, it is from sheer exhaustion of our long trip.

Love,

Nicole

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lunchtime with Noodle Boy





As you can see from the photos, Aaron loves noodles!