Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My Emma

It was actually today that Emma had more meltdowns than Tian did! It's hard to get frustrated with Em when she has also had her whole world turned upside down. She went from the #1 Princess to now sharing her role. I'm sure right now, she's wishing we could send Tian back to China!

I don't think Emma really understood that Tian was going to be the same size as her. She knew Tian was coming and would tell us how she planned on sharing her toys with Tian and that she loved her. I honestly think that Emma thought Tian would be a baby though! Whenever "A Baby Story" would be on T.V., Emma would watch it and say "Aww, baby cry, like Esther!" I think she was quite shocked when we came home and brought her a friend. At first, it was fun, but after awhile, sharing your toys with a stranger isn't so fun anymore!!

Part of it is that Emma has been sick the past few days with a nasty cold, and a neverending runny nose! So her appetite isn't very good and she's a bit crabby from the medicine. She was usually the one who would have to give up the toy she wants to Tian, because we'd do anything not to initiate a meltdown! Now that Tian has been home a week, she's starting to learn the ropes and that she can't have everything she wants! Tian's usually the brute towards Emma, but Emma can give it right back! She did her fair share of hitting and pushing today.

This evening Mom was talking to Emma about how "bad" her day was and that if she kept this up, we would have to send her back to China. (JOKING of course!!) Emma replied, "You can't send me back, because I'm too cute!" I about died laughing. That's my Emma. She's smart, witty and hilarious. Emma and I are very close. Next to Mom, I'm her other #1 person.

Think They'll Notice?

Emma demonstrates my great new idea of how to bring home more kiddos's from China! Go get one, and bring home a few more in your suitcase!! We'll promise to love them too!

The Meatball

When Mom first met Tian she said, "Well she sure is a meatball!" The name has kinda stuck with Tian since she is such a big girl! Emma & Tian are 3 inches and 3 pounds apart in size, but there's a huge difference when you pick them up. Emma's got a tiny body build and is much more like a little bird. Tian, however, is much mightier, so that's why we call her the Meatball! I think Tian will be more sportier, but she doesn't have as much energy as Emma.

The last week has gone much smoother than I expected it. Sure, we've had PLENTY of meltdowns to last us a lifetime, but compared to other families stories, we're doing well. I think it's harder for Emma & Tian because they are both so strong willed and usually end up hitting each other when they don't get their way. However, within five minutes of a meltdown, they're back to both being their usual happy selves. Almost everyone has been sick this week, so we've all been a little crabby at one point or another!

On Thursday, Tian had her first doctor's appointment. (I don't really call the medical exam in Guangzhou, a doctor's appointment!) Our pediatrician was very impressed with how healthy Tian is and how well she is doing. She's very friendly towards others and wanted to be held by him as he entered the room. As we were leaving, the nurse told us they needed to run a T.B. test on her, which would include a shot! She had done so well during the exam, and now I knew we would be in for it! Mom and I held her down as the nurse prepared the syringe, and I was ready for the screaming! But.. Tian didn't shed a tear. I tell you this child has a HIGH tolerance for pain!!! I was so proud of her that she didn't cry at all and did so well! We still have some more tests to run through, including having her vision and hearing evaluated and then being referred to the Cleft Team. The Cleft Team is a group of doctors consisting of a Plastic Surgeon, Ear, Nose & Throat Doc, Orthodontist and probably someone else, but I can't remember! They will evaluate Tian and follow up with her as she grows to plan any surgeries she will need in the future. For now, she seems to be doing really well!!

I think Tian understands about 50% of what we say to her, just we can't understand what she is saying! Sometimes it gets a little frustrating, but she usually makes her point across by pointing and grunting! I've heard her call to Baba, Mama & Emma, and she calls me "Sa" (which is what Emma calls me) and Jia Jia (Big Sister). The one word I've heard her say repeatedly and quite clear is "I'm hungry." Boy can this kid eat too!! Her first time eating spagetti, she had four helpings! She usually has two servings of what we're eating and then eat's whatever Emma doesn't eat. And we thought Emma was a big eater!

The sleeping has gotten a little better, but she refuses to fall asleep anywhere but the couch downstairs. Emma's in bed between 8-8:30, so usually around then she'll sit on the couch with Mom and fall asleep. Then Elena transfers Tian to her room and she usually sleeps 'til about 8 am. She's & Elena are sharing a room. As far as nap's go, she usually takes a 20-30 minute power nap on the couch and that's all. For now, we're not pushing the nap thing and letting her settle in.

I've noticed that Tian is quite a brute!! On Sunday, I got the girls ready for church and dresses them all pretty and did their hair. When I brought them downstairs Mom came over and said to both girls how beautiful they looked. Well, I heard Tian say something to the degree of "Emma, Bu Hao piao liang...." but I knew she was saying "Emma is not pretty!" Mom had to tell Tian that BOTH of her girls were beautiful!! Geez.. can't wait when they're 12!

Ian turned eight on Saturday, so Dad took him and eight of his friends to a local amusement park for the afternoon. They came back afterwords and had cake and opened presents. Of course, the cake was a hit with Tian!

This week Tian has gotten to meet a lot of new friends including her new "Aunties" Nanette & Irma, "cousins," new friends Evan, Lowery & Brooke, and many other friends of our family. She is very friendly and at church on Sunday, she wanted to be held by a bunch of people who came over to meet her. Good thing she's not very shy!

The sweetest thing is when she sees Baba come home- she runs over to him screaming "Baba, Baba!!" =)

We've been home 10 days now, but it feels like we've been home for much longer than that!! Her transition has gone much smoother than I expected it to go, so hopefully it will continue to be that way. Adding #6 to the family hasn't changed too much.. just the grocery bill has gone up more, the workload has increased, there's more clothes and shoes to be bought, and the messes are more! Not to mention, there's another little one to be watching every minute! And yet.. we still want to do it again- adopt another one that is, maybe in the next year or so. (Shh! Don't tell my Dad!) But for now.. six is a good number to get used too.. for now at least!

Til next time,

The Meatball's big sister

Monday, March 20, 2006

Home Sweet Home!!

We have been home for two days now and all I can say is, I am SO glad to be home!! It hit me when we were in the Chicago airport waiting to head to Orlando that I was just REALLY sick of the airplane flights and just wanted to be HOME!! Tian did great on all of the flights. She cried a little on each one, but we were blessed to have VERY nice flight attendants on two of the flights who helped tremendously. She slept about 8 of the 12 1/2 hour flight from Beijing-Chicago. It is always hard getting her to go to sleep, but once she is down, she is down!! A few times along the way home, I was ready to leave her and fly home myself. It was very stressful on the way back, but we are home and things are going well!!

When we landed in Orlando, I told Tian that we were going to see Mama, and she kept repeating "go see Mama!" I think she was a little overwhelmed when she first met everyone, but an hour later, she and Emma were running around the house in their matching nightgowns, care bears and squeaky shoes screaming and squealing. We were all up until around 3 am, but it was nice to be together as a WHOLE family and catch up. The happiness came to an end when Tian got mad that I was holding Emma. She threw a huge fit, including spitting at Emma, which scared Emma and so she was crying also!

On Sunday, my parents woke us up around 11, so we wouldn't sleep too much and recover from the jet lag. The kids showed Tian around the house and outside. She got to swing on the swingset and tried out the trampoline, but wasn't too crazy about it. In the afternoon, we headed over to our friend's house where we had a gathering of families from our church. Everyone was so excited to meet Tian and she did great! There were probably 50 people there and she went to almost everyone who would take her. She even fell asleep in my best friend Catie's lap! We were amazed at how well she did with everyone- she is quite friendly!

Today, has been much better. I saw at least one meltdown and heard about a few others, but I was at school when they occured. (Yes... they made me go to class today! I only went for 1/2 a day, so it wasn't too bad) Once I came home, the girls were outside playing together and doing well. At dinner time, Tian & Emma sat next to each other and ate noodles and watermelon. (Tian wasn't excited about the ribs & mashed potatoes) After dinner, I took them upstairs for a bath and that was a load of fun! The girls played as if they had known each other their whole lives! Tian would mimic Emma and they would squeal and laugh at each other. It was so cute to see them laughing and having fun, instead of the fighting and meltdowns I had pictured earlier!!

Tian is doing better. When Emma accidentally splashed water in her eyes, I thought Tian would go nuts.. but she was alright. A few days ago, she would have flipped out, but she's doing much better. She & Emma are learning to share, but it will be a slow and gradual process. I feel bad for Emma who has had to give up a lot of HER things! This morning when Tian got mad at Emma, she came up to me and said, "Sera, Esther scare me!!" Poor thing! But, when asked, she does say she is glad Tian is here to play with her and she loves her. Tonight, Emma & Tian were constantly looking for each other and wanted to be together the entire time.

After bath time, we had a very sweet friend from Taiwan come over. Crystal speaks Mandarin so she is going to be helping us communicate with Tian and also form a relationship with her, so hopefully she will continue to speak some Mandarin and maybe Emma too. Tian was more interested in playing with all the new toys, but I think she was glad Crystal was here so she could talk to her.

Overall, things are going really well!! Much better than I had anticipated! On the first night, when both girls were crying, I was overwhelmed and thinking "what have we done!!" Its been a roller coaster of emotions, but I am optimistic things will work out. Watching them play together tonight really showed me that they they will be best of friends, and at times fighting like sisters normally would.

I am very glad we are home and that she is home. It's different having two of them now.. a whole lot more work! After this China trip.. I don't think I'll ever want to have kids!! =0

Having all six kids together and realizing that poor Ian is alone in girl land, makes us realize that we really need to add a brother to the family!! Dad hasn't said no (yet), but it probably won't be for awhile! But we'll see.. it would be nice to add a brother to the mix. =)

Our trip was wonderful. It was difficult at times, but I would probably do it all over again in a heartbeat! I think next time I would want my Mom to be with us because when things got tough, Dad and I didn't know what to do.. and you really needed a Mom to be there!! Tian is bonding well with Mom though, which is a good thing.

Well, I'm outta here. The jet lag hasn't been too bad, and we are starting to adjust back to our regular schedule. I'll continue updating because the journey hasn't ended yet. Now we're on a journey through life with Emma & Tian for the next 15+ years! Oh what fun!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Operation, Executed!!

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven."

Eclesiastes 1: 9 (?? they don't have bibles for reference here in China)

Well, it's time to wrap things up here in Guangzhou, China and get ready to head home. We spent today shopping for souveniers, cute chinese dresses, shoes, etc. Rebecca had arranged a tour of the toy factory for today.. but we missed the bus thinking the meeting time would be at 11:00. It was actually an hour earlier! But we spent the time taking in our last sights of the island and doing lots of shopping. Dad did well with the shopping. Those of you who know him know that Mom does all the shopping, and Dad just makes the money! But he was a good boy and did very well in this "new" territory for him. He actually found some really nice things that I think Mom will like. =)

We ate lunch at Lucy's, Tian took a short nap, we played in the playroom and then ate dinner with Rebecca for the last time. Rebecca has been OUTSTANDING!! She is THE best guide and has always been on top of things. We ran into some trouble with the paperwork, but Rebecca took care of it. I just remember when we were at the Civil Affairs Office adopting the girls, Rebecca had two cell phones both ringing at the same time and talking to two different people. She was wonderful with Tian and they have a special relationship. I will really miss Rebecca and her funny personality. Our guides have all been absolutely superb. Whenever Tian got upset, they were always there to comfort her. Lily would read Tian books, David and Rebecca would stop eating themselves and spoon feed Tian. Our trip has been more like a vacation, thanks to them!

I will definitely miss the people of Guangzhou. They have all been so kind and friendly. If there was a place I could move to, I would settle in Guangzhou. At lunch, we sat outside and watched girls playing badmittion, guys kicking around a hacky sack, older folks doing tai chi, children playing in the park. It's something I'll miss watching all of these people interact. It's really a sense of community here on Shamian Island.

I will miss the White Swan too!! When we arrived on Sunday, the lobby greeted us like it was saying "Welcome back!" The hotel is really wonderful and the people are so nice. Each floor has floor attendants who go and push the elevator button for you when they see you coming and clean your rooms. Everytime Tian sees the floor attendanta, she starts singing "Mama Hao" and they all sing it with her!

I will miss the people in the shops. There are tons of shops located around the White Swan and they are all so sweet. A little pushy at times, but very nice. If you're going to Guangzhou soon, be sure to stop at the Chinese Life & Laundry store. (The first shop on the left) Lisa, the shopkeeper, and her friends are so sweet and will always give you a good price! The stores all sell pretty much the same things, but we bought mostly from Lisa because she was so nice. She remembered our names so everytime we passed by, she would say "Hello Claudio & Sera!!" Lisa & her friends always sit outside their store and watch DVD's.

I will also miss the other adoptive families and seeing the babies! There's nothing more heartwarming than watching parents meet the child they have desired for so long and orphaned babies become part of a forever family. You really feel like a large "family" here. Everyone has been so nice and we can all relate since we've been through the same process, emotions, etc!!

We ALL will miss our travel buddies, Charlie, Britt & Delaney. We met them on Gotcha Day and connected instantly since the girls are inseperable. Delaney & Tian are somethin' else!! Our travel group has been wonderful. I think our first travel group was a little better since we were all so close by the time we left and did everything together. We mostly hung with Delaney's family and everyone else did their own stuff. But nonetheless, they were all really nice and we have news friends!

Of course.. things I won't miss about Guangzhou:

The smog!! We haven't seen the sun once since being here. You can't see very far which is different from when we were here in August.

The smells! Yah, I won't miss the smells!

The Animals!! I don't mind the chickens hanging in the window, but the dead cats on the streets, I do!

The hard beds! The White Swan would be so much better if the beds were at least a bit softer!

And.. the spitting! After awhile, it gets a little old!

But these are the things that make Guangzhou!

Oh, and one other thing I'll miss are the "Is she your daughter?" comments I have gotten all week. Yes, they think Dad is the "Baba" and I am the "Mama"!!

Well, I could write more, but we have a 5:00 am wake-up call!! I finally convinced Dad that everything was not going to fit into three suitcases, so he (finally!) agreed and we bought another suitcase. Even with the extra suitcase, we are still jam-packed!

But we're ready to come home. Please be praying that Tian does well on the flight... preferably sleeps a lot and has no meltdowns!! And also, that we make our connecting flight in Chicago. We only have a two hour layover to get through customs and re-check for our flight back home.

Well, our operation was to get Tian and bring smiles to her face. And we have accomplished that operation! Now, it's time to complete the operation and get her home, so we can start a new Mission: Life with Emma & Tian!!!

Signing off from Guangzhou,

Sera, Claudio & Tian

P.S. Forgot the Picture Captions!!
1) Tian in the White Swan playroom
2) This is Tian and a little boy "FuFu" from her orphanage. They were in the same room together and seemed to know each other pretty well. They talked constantly and liked playing together. =)
3) The shopkeepers all loved Tian!
4) Inside one of the shops in Guangzhou (It is called the Arts & Crafts store and is on the left side, across from Jennifers & Sherry's. Great shop and one of our favorites!)
5) The next few are all views of Shamian Island
6) Dad & Tian
7) Me & Tian eating lunch at Lucy's
8) Coca Cola-Chinese version!
9 & 10) I shot these outside during lunch at Lucy's. We ate outside and watched people playing badmittion and tai chi during lunch.
11) Tian loves lettuce!
12) Me & Tian in front of the Pearl River
13) Dad & Tian in front of a statue in the Shamian Park. The statue is of a American parents with their newly adopted child.
14) Some of the local children playing on the statues
15) Just a FEW of the chinese silk outfits we bought for the girls!!
16) Tian trying on Dad's shoes
17) Tian & bear in front of the White Swan waterfall
18) Dinner! (I preferred not to touch the animals staring at me!)
19) Miss Delaney!!
20) Tian eating some cake! She shoved the whole piece in her mouth!
21) Tian & "Auntie" Rebecca
22) The girls and I in front of the waterfall.. kinda blurry!
23 & 24) Red couch photos of Delaney & Tian
25) Delaney & Tian made up an obstacle course in the Swan Room
26) With the shopkeepers from the Chinese Life/Laundry store
27) Artist working on a Granite Etching
28) Laney & Tian holding hands for the last time in Guangzhou
29) Dads & their daughters!
30) Britt & I with our new sisters

Whew! Think that was enough pictures??!!