Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31

Unfortunately, Maya's best smile during her red couch photo session, was when she was kicking her orphanage buddy, Summer. Trying to get all 9 kids from our group onto 1 couch for a picture was pretty hopeless. I hope in the future we can at least get Christmas cards from all of these families. I would love to see their children grow and progress.

Did you notice the red hair clip? It was with great effort that I accomplished this hairstyle.

Today was a special day, not just because it was the one week mark since we added Maya to our family, it's special because 14 years ago today Lyle and I were married! If someone had told me then that 14 years later we'd be in China adopting a daughter, I certainly would have been surprised, but I wouldn't have thought it was out of the realm of possibility. I always knew Lyle was up for an adventure.

I'm so glad we brought the two big kids. They have been so good on this trip and have actually been truly helpful with the baby. They're old enough that they'll always remember this special trip and can share their memories with Maya.
I actually love in the above picture how she's not looking at the camera. She's smiling and looking at her brother and sister. She's lucky to have them and they're lucky to have her.

Do you see the impish grin that I'm seeing? This girl has really opened up this week, and let me tell you, she's going to give us a run for our money! We need to do some serious babyproofing when we get home!

Maya on our Pearl River DInner Cruise. Only one more full day in China. Tomorrow we do her swearing in and get her visa so she can enter the U.S. When the plane touches down on U.S. soil she'll be our country's newest citizen.
We love you and miss you Abby! Be good for Granny. We're coming home soon!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 30

Our pretty girl all dolled up for her first Sunday at church. I remember buying this outfit at the beginning of our adoption process and thinking how Maya would wear it on our first Sunday together. I know we sound like a broken record, but we're so thrilled that she's finally here with us.

This is where the Guangzhou branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets. It's on the 7th floor in what looks to be a large conference room. Apparently there is an English speaking service and then a Chinese service afterward. During the summer, their numbers are pretty sparse, so they just had a sacrament service and then Sunday School. We met people from England, Nigeria, different parts of China, and of course, Lyle's hometown of Idaho Falls! You can't get away from those Idahoans! The speakers today focused on the topic of patience. I couldn't help thinking, if you want to learn patience, adopt from China!

This picture is for my primary kids. Isn't it fun to see that the kids in China are studying the exact same things you are in America? Madeline was the whole primary today! Her teacher said that when all the families come back after their summer vacations, they usually have about 20-30 kids.

I once read something that said, "If you want to know what it feels like to be reborn, take a child out of an orphanage." It has been so fun witnessing so many Maya "firsts"! This picture cracks me up--her first ride! Lyle wants me to mention that the music on the ride was a bit unusual--"Oh Christmas Tree".

Sometimes things don't translate well! Lyle and Madeline are livin' on the edge! All I know is, we're about out of yuan, so they're going to have to work off their fine!

Don't let her petite appearance fool you. This gal can put away the food! She loves rice and noodles, but her favorite by far is congee. It's kind of a soupy rice porridge that gets mixed with meat and other mystery items. Lyle thinks anything leftover gets thrown in the congee pot.

Guangzhou is really quite lovely at night with the red lanterns shining through the branches of the beautiful old trees. Kind of romantic. Someone told me that an adoption trip is one of the most romantic things you can do together as a couple. I think it could be romantic if we didn't have all these darn kids with us; but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of the trip now wouldn't it?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

July 29

Sorry we didn't post yesterday. Our flight was delayed and we didn't make it to our hotel in Guangzhou until after 11 PM. I'm amazed at the size of the cities here! Guangzhou has over 14 million people! Ever heard of it? Yeah, I doubt anybody else in the U.S. has either! Actually, our hotel, the famous White Swan, is on Shamian Island, which has a small town feel in the huge city.
All U.S. citizens adopting from China have to go through Guangzhou since the U.S. Consulate is here. The breakfast room was amazing this morning. Everywhere you look, Americans with Chinese babies and children. I've been especially impressed with the older kids who are being adopted. They seem to be doing really well and are embracing their new lives and trying so hard. In our room, we found our "Going Home Barbie", an item made by Mattel just for adopting families at the White Swan. I never pegged Barbie as the adopting type, but I guess you never know!

This morning Maya had her required medical exam. She weighs 18.2 pounds and looks to be in good health. The last couple of days she's been a little more clingy, which I think is a good sign. Last night, for the first time since we met, she woke up in the middle of the night and really sobbed. I think it was a combination of being hungry, waking up in a new location, and probably grieving over all that's changed in her life. Still, overall, she's doing amazingly well and we can't wait to bring her home.

This probably looks familiar to anyone who was in the Silverdale 6th Ward when Abby was little--Lyle's famous baby-carrying technique. None of the kids have objected so far!

If you think Lyle's hair looks especially nice, you can thank the hair salon at our hotel in Nanning. Lyle was so totally spoiled! They first shampooed his hair, then he got a MASSAGE, then they cut his hair, reshampooed his hair, and then got him all blow-dried and styled. All for about 12 dollars. They told him he looked like "that sports star..what's his name?...Oh yes, David Beckham!" They all whole-heartedly agreed. I guess that makes me Posh Spice. No wonder we get so many stares! It all makes sense now.

Shamian Island has a very park-like setting and everything is walking distance from our hotel. How do you like the American adoptive family statue? Apparently this is how the Chinese see us--the fat mom and old dad with a video camera!

Can you tell we're roughing it here in China? The White Swan really is amazing. I wanted the big kids to come to China to see a different, harder life than in the U.S. Instead, they're being treated like a little emperor and empress. Oh well! Tomorrow we'll head to a branch of church here in Guangzhou. I've been really looking forward to it. We miss you Abby! Just as few more nights in China!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

July 27 Pictures

At the bamboo bridge built by the Dong people.
It's hard work for the gardener's here at the park.

This is one of the most peaceful parks we've ever seen.

Maya got a blessing from a Buddhist monk. She wasn't thrilled with the red dot on her forehead, but I think she found the water sprinkling refreshing.
We feel strong in our faith, but we're willing to accept blessings from all!

Look who can stand up! We've known so many people who adopted their daughters when they were well over a year and they couldn't do this. They all catch up, but we feel incredibly blessed that she's doing so well.

She is such a pretty girl. I hope that she grows up proud of her heritage and is confident enough in who she is that she doesn't mind standing out a bit in an American crowd.

Maya loves the pool. When Lyle sits her on the edge of the pool, she does the cutest little rear scoot to the end and then puts out her arms and falls out to Lyle. She may look mad, but trust me, she's having a ball!

July 27 Journal

I'm still having some issues with margins, so I hope you don't mind if I do a journal page and separate picture page. I'm not a big journal writer, but I feel compelled to write about our trip so that we can share our meager knowledge of Maya's homeland with her someday. Feel free to skip to the pictures!
I just had to include the picture above of our favorite waitress, Xia Yongping. She works at the Chinese restaurant on the 1st floor of our hotel. With the exception of KFC one day and a lunch in our hotel's western restaurant (4 times more expensive than the Chinese), we've only had Chinese food and have totally loved it. The hotel restaurant has more choices than I have ever seen. They have two rows of pictures which go all the way around the large restaurant showing each dish. David told us on our first day how to order. First, we sit down and they give us a ticket, then, we get up and peruse the choices and tell a waitress what we want. She writes it all down and then we go back to our table. As I said, all the dishes are pictured, but the writing is in Chinese. Hence the need for Xia Yongping. She has the most adorable little voice and cute accent. She tries so hard to find things that we'd like to eat. A typical ordering session goes something like this.
Lyle: We'd like noodles tonight.
Yongping: O.K. You want a noodles. You want a egg noodle, a rice noodle?
Lyle: How about an egg noodle.
Yongping: O.K. You want a flat noodle or a round noodle?
Lyle: I guess a flat noodle.
Yongping: O.K. You want a long noodle, a short noodle, a long cut-up noodle?
Lyle: I suppose a long noodle.
Yongping: O.K. You want it a stir-fry or boiled?
Lyle: stir-fried.
Yongping: O.K. You want it taste sweet, a sour, or pungent?
Lyle: I'm not sure what pungent tastes like, so how about sweet and sour?
Yongping: O.K. We have a sweet and we have a sour. You want two noodles?
Lyle: No, just one. Sweet and sour.
Yongping: I so sorry. I don't know what you mean.
Lyle: That's fine. This dish in the picture here looks good. Maybe we'll just have this.
Yongping: O.K. That a frog. You like a frog? You want it with noodles? You want egg noodle or rice noodle....?
Really, ordering has been such an adventure! We have had very few things we haven't loved. We even got a whole fish today and even though I'm normally not a fish eater, I loved it! She said it was a vinegar fish famous in this region. I believe it! I love the family style way the Chinese have of eating. Lily said it's frustrating for her in the U.S. to see something tasty-looking on someone else's plate and not be able to share. Why don't we do that? I think it makes so much more sense. An interesting thing here in China is that the wait staff is not tipped. On our last day, even if it's not typically done, we want to try to give Xia Yongping a tip. If anyone has ever deserved one, its certainly her!
Another reason I wanted to include Xia Yongping's picture is that her willingness to help us has been typical of all the Chinese people we've met. I don't think in the U.S. we treat foreigners with the same amount of courtesy that we enjoy here. If you don't speak English in the U.S. and know our customs, we tend to be easily annoyed. Here, we've felt like complete idiots so many times and have only met with kindess, O.K., maybe a little laughter, but definitely kindness. When I was waiting for our group outside of Wal-Mart the other day, a sweet woman walked up to me and said with such concern, "You look lost. I help you?" Of course I just said, "No thank you, I'm fine." What I really wanted to say was, "Yes, I was walking in America, when I guess I made a wrong turn and wouldn't you know it, I wound up in CHINA! Can you point me in the right direction?" Lyle lost Adam in a crowd a couple of days ago, and with no words needed, a woman grabbed Lyle by the elbow, pulled him down the road a bit and then pointed to Adam in the distance. Even Lyle knows how to say "thank you" in Mandarin, and trust me, we've used it a lot!
We feel like little children here. David and Lily watch out for us every step of the way. When we wanted to leave an excursion early the other day and head back to the hotel, Lily wrote us a note to give to our cab driver and David checked on us right when he got back, just to make sure we made it. So many things are different here. Just shopping, for example, I still can't totally figure out. Sometimes we leave our purchases somewhere and pick them up someplace else, sometimes instead of our merchandise, we're given tickets. We get confused and try to explain in English that we want our stuff, and David always comes to the rescue and explains to the shopkeepers that we're clueless Americans and don't know how things are done and that it's his job to babysit us. He hands us our bag of stuff later. I still don't get how that all works.
Now that Maya is with us we get some interesting stares. People always do a double-take. They look at us, they look at her, they look at us again, they keep looking at us even after they pass. One older woman at the crosswalk bent down and was talking to Qiu Ju in her stroller. I don't know very much Mandarin, but I know she said "Chinese child." It must have been something to the effect of, "I don't want to alarm you, but you look American, and from a practiced eye, I'd say your baby's Chinese." As we walked away Lyle said, "Well, there was that Chinese postman."
One resource that China certainly has going for it is manpower--and let me tell you, they use it! People work so hard here! We've been amazed that the same night staff is here in the morning too. Here in Nanning, everything is so well manicured and of course to keep it that way takes work. With tools much less sophisticated than what we use in the U.S. every space has beautiful sculpted hedges and decorative, intricate rockwork along the sidewalks. Our group visited a park today, and let me tell you, the Chinese know how to make cool parks! There were beautiful pagodas, koi swimming in the lakes, and gorgeous scenery everywhere we looked. We walked through this incredibly long bamboo covered bridge built by the Dong minority group. They built the whole thing just with mortise and tenon joints, not a single nail. Lyle was very impressed.
The Guangxi province really isn't even a province at all. The official name is the "Zhuang Autonomous Region," because there is such a high population of this certain minority group. Apparently the Zhuang people have a characteristic look, and I asked David if he thought Maya was Zhuang and he quickly said, "Oh no, definitely not Zhuang. She is Han, original Chinese." Who knows, he may be right, all I know is that he says he is Han, and I have a feeling if I asked someone who is Dong, they'd say she was Dong, or Miao and they'd say of course she's Miao. Still, regardless of her ethnicity, it's been interesting to learn about the minority group that is so prominent in her region. We bought a "loving ball" to put in her China box. The Zhuang women each make their own loving ball and in the year of their 18th birthday there is a huge festival where the people gather and all of the eligible women get together on some sort of outdoor stage. The eligible men stand around the stage and when the woman sees the man she loves, she throws him the ball. If he catches it, he is saying that he loves her too. He will then go work for the woman's family for two years without any pay and at the end of the two years the girl's family will decide if he's worthy. David said that for that reason alone, he won't date any Zhuang women!
At the park the kids went on the bumper cars. The money we paid was equivalent to only 50 cents U.S. money and I swear they rode those things for a good 10 minutes. Fifty cents in the U.S. will get you about 30 seconds on the mechanical horse at Toys R Us. The kids are having a blast on the trip, but we all are really missing Abby. Tomorrow we get Maya's passport and then our group flies to Guangzhou at 8 PM and will have our consulate appointments on July 31st.
We would love to hear from all of you. Leave messages in the Guest Book section. We especially want to hear from Granny and Grandpa and get a report on how Abby's doing. I hope the family reunion is going well! Maya's already asleep for the night, so we'd better do the same!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Orphanage Visit

We made the long drive to Guiping today. Obviously the purpose was to see the orphanage where Maya spent most of her life, but we also greatly enjoyed the drive there. The countryside is amazing, with dramatic mountains jutting out of the valley and the most red, fertile soil I've ever seen. Every inch of space is being used to grow crops. The setting may be beautiful, but the people here live very primative, hard lives. Lily said, "Your daughter's life would have been very different here. She would work all day in the fields, not be educated and would most likely marry in her early teens."

We saw water buffalos pull ploughs through fields and whole families wade through the rice paddies in their wide straw hats. We saw pigs being carted to market and a man carrying an unbelievable load of chickens. Lily said, "This is the real China, not what you see back at your 5 star hotel." We also saw a man walking down the road completely naked as a jay bird. Poor Madeline turned 10 shades of red. Lily said, "THAT'S not the real China, that's just a crazy man!" Maya was great on the long bus ride. I hope she likes long plane rides too!

This was taken either when the bus broke down, when the bus ran out of gas, or maybe when we got lost. We wondered if we'd ever make it to Guiping! The bus driver also got lost on the way home. His wife was in the front seat with him and they seemed to be having a heated discussion. I'm pretty sure she said, "I told you we should have stopped and asked for directions!"

To the Davis family: We saw your beautiful daughter, Xia Lu today! The orphanage director called her foster mother and she was waiting for us when we got there. Xia Lu was understandably shy with all of the Americans taking pictures, but I can assure you, you will have no trouble falling in love with this little girl! She is so precious, looks healthy, and her foster mother seems wonderful. I'll e-mail you later!

Maya Qiu Ju sitting at the front gate of the orphanage where she was abandoned as a newborn. She was so tiny, only 4.9 pounds and was found by a local family early in the morning and taken to the police station. Lily said she's certain she was abandoned simply because she's a girl. Apparently abortions are very easy to get here and are encouraged in cases of unwanted pregnancies. That is why giving a child up for adoption is illegal. The government feels it's unnecessary because a mother should have taken care of the matter early on. In the countryside they are now allowed to have two, but second daughters are not wanted. Lily said in this area young boys outnumber girls 7:1.

This is a view of the front gate from the road. I can't imagine the thoughts of whoever it was that left her here. I couldn't help but look around and wonder if they hid beside a neighboring building and waited until someone found her, or if they just walked away and didn't look back. I do know that they have missed out on a precious gift. I can't understand their life anymore than they can understand mine. I wish they could know how much their daughter will be loved.

The man in the photo is Mr. Gan, the director of the whole Social Welfare Institute (there's a senior citizen's home across the courtyard from the orphanage), and he is the one who named Qiu Ju. The woman is Mrs. Wei, the director of the orphanage part of the SWI. While we were there, she carried Qiu Ju, but when I walked by, Qiu Ju reached out for me to hold her. As she handed Qiu Ju to me, Mrs. Wei smiled, patted me on the back and said to Qiu Ju, "Mama". We were asked to not take any pictures inside the orphange, but I can tell you that it was especially difficult to see the tiny newborns laying on the hard boards in their cribs. The nannies seem kind and hard-working, but there aren't enough hands to go around. Maya's only been with us 3 days, but we already can't imagine her vibrant personality in this dismal setting. One thing we have noticed about her, which is heart-breaking, is that when she's upset, she doesn't wait for someone to comfort her. She comforts herself almost immediately with the quick thumb in her mouth. Her referral information, at age 6 months, said, "She is a very obedient baby and will not cry to affect adult's work." You can't teach a 6 month old obedience. She just learned that when she cried no one was coming to comfort her. I'm amazed that through it all--her tiny birth weight, her abandonment, her life in an institution, with all those knocks against her, somehow she managed to thrive. This little girl is a survivor and we're so proud of her.

The directors took us out to eat at a local restaurant. There's a little more to this chicken then we typically see. We also had "pig tail soup". Madeline has a bit of a tummy ache tonight. Still, I thought the luncheon, which they insisted on paying for, was a very kind gesture by the directors. Mrs. Wei especially seems to know these babies so well. She was so happy to see that Qiu Ju will have a big brother and sister. I showed her Abby's picture and she said she's very beautiful. When we got on the bus, Mrs. Wei stood outside and waved until we were out of sight. It was a long day, and we're all exhausted. Tomorrow we go to a local museum. Just two more days until our flight to Guangzhou.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Adoption Day!

Last night we took Qiu Ju to the hotel pool. She'd only been with us for a few hours, but she seemed game, so off we went. It was certainly her first time and at first she looked very tentative. I think her first splash was accidental, but she decided she liked it and after that she really went to town.

When Qiu Ju woke up this morning, she stood in her crib and I saw her little chin start to quiver. As soon as she saw us, she smiled and has been great all day. We gave her a bottle and went downstairs to breakfast. It was fun to see all of the other families and hear how their nights went. We are an extremely fortunate group because everyone is doing well. David said we're too easy!

We all met in the lobby of the 14th floor for the official family adoption photo and to get Jin Qiu Ju's little footprint.

Qiu Ju's seal of approval. With older children, they have to sign their name saying they're happy with their new family and want to be adopted. I hope that if Qiu Ju had a choice in the matter, she'd say yes!

The kids are so in love with this little girl. They have been very helpful and she obviously is eating up all of the attention.

Abby picked out the cozy flannel for this quilt and Adam and Madeline tied it right before we left for our trip. Little Qiu Ju loves it. I don't think she's had many soft things in her life, because she rubs the fabric with her hand and just seems to appreciate it so much. It's going to be hard not to spoil this girl!
Today was the official adoption day. We are now legally Jin Qiu Ju's parents. We all first took the bus to the notary's office for some signatures and then back to the Civil Affairs Office for more signatures and the adoption interview. They asked us, "Are you satisfied with this baby?" We both choked up a little said, "absolutely yes." After the interview, we were able to ask questions of the orphanage director. Lily translated for us. When we walked up, the director, a woman, started to laugh and told Lily, "This one is SO active! She wants to be a big girl, not a baby. Don't feed her many bottles. Just one at night, maybe one more time in the morning. You can't feed her solids fast enough." She also said that QIu Ju understands both Mandarin and Cantonese (bilingual at not even 11 months, yes, we're very proud!) and that she loves to try and sing along with songs from the TV and radio. Just what this family needs, another entertainer!
The big question we wanted to ask was about her foster care situation. The director said that she's only spent a few weeks in foster care and that she was returned to the orphanage the last week before we came "to help her attach to you." She said that there was a big brother in the foster family which helps us understand her attachment to Adam. This family, apparently, is a very experienced foster family who have had 5 different babies with them and already have a new one in residence. This really helped me to feel better. I didn't like the thought of a family grieving over a daughter who'd been with them for months. Although, I'm sure they miss her, she was with them for a short time, and they're accustomed to babies coming and going.
The director then presented us and the Corbetts with beautiful embroidered handbags. Inside was the best gift of all--about 50 pictures! Half of them are general photos of scenes around Guiping, and the other half are just of Qiu Ju. they are all dated and her earliest photo was taken at 2 months. I'm not sure it the director's info about foster care was entirely correct because I saw one picture, obviously in the orphanage, with the date of June 30th and the rest were in a foster home with dates up until just three days before we met. At any rate, we know that she has spent the great majority of her young life in the orphanage. This makes me even more amazed at her great development. I really think she'll be walking before she turns one in September. That's incredible for an orphanage baby. She is such an absolute joy. Tomorrow will be a long and emotional day as we go visit the orphanage. It's a long bus ride and I know there are mixed opinions on if it's healthy to bring them back, but I think someday she'll appreciate seeing pictures of her abandonment site and photos of the nannies who have given her such loving care. Lily did warn us that sometimes the foster family will be there waiting for us and that can be pretty emotional. Again, even if it's difficult, I think we'd like to meet and thank these people had tell them in person that we will love and care for Qiu Ju. I hear Qiu Ju waking up from her nap, so signing off from China!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Maya Day Photos

This is sweet little Grace, the first baby to be united with her new family. Her mother, Lisa, made us all laugh when she told us that she learned to say in Mandarin, "Come with me and I'll give you candy." Notice the lollipop in her hand.

Next came Julia, who wins the best hairstyle contest with her 3 bouncy pigtails. She has three brothers, one just a few months younger than her. They'll be in the same grade in school. Instant twins!

And the girl we've all be waiting for--Jin Qiu Ju! She has since gone to all of us, but she just wanted Dad at the Civil Affairs Office.

Barb and Rick's daughter, sweet Qiu was next. She has a sister, Min, just a year older and also adopted from the Guangxi province.

Here we are with the Corrbetts and "Summer Fun". She just turned one year old and is also from Guiping.

Back at the hotel, Maya explored her new surroundings and checked out these strange new Americans. She is a delightful baby.

How can you not love this smile? We never expected such a social baby on our very first day. We are all smitten.

Abby you will absolutely love your new sister.

Adam waited a long time for this girl and they took to each other right away. I'll be curious to know if there was a brother in her foster family. She seems to prefer the boys. Madeline and I are trying hard not to take it personally. We owe her foster family a debt we can never repay. This baby was obviously loved and was ready for her forever family.
We felt that there was a baby girl in China who needed us, but I think we needed her too. So many prayers have been answered today. Goodnight from a very happy family.