Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We're Home!

We are home safe and sound and happy - hooray!

WanYing is adapting extraordinarily smoothly to her new home (it helps that we keep her well-supplied with bananas) and has shown a special fondness for the art nook, so maybe we have two budding artists in the family.

The only things that she doesn't like about home so far are sleeping and the dog. The dog thing is no surprise since she's probably never seen an animal live and in person and we expected some early nervousness - Sash was the same way with Nesbitt when she first got home. So that'll just take some time.

Sleeping is also an expected struggle and both girls' internal clocks are way off right now. Last night Sasha walked downstairs at 9:30 pm fully clothed right down to her Minnie Mouse shoes and announced that she was ready for breakfast. Needless to say, she was not pleasant when informed that she had only been asleep for 2 hours and needed to go back to bed.

WanYing slept in a crib at the SWI (Social Welfare Institute) (orphanage)
so she is adjusting to the big girl bed and time change all at once. Poor kiddo. During waking hours she's a happy, smiley girl, but both girls have been up from about 3-5 am for the past two nights and not very pleased about it (nor are Mom and Dad, for that matter).

So please pray for sleep (at night!) for our family
and for WanYing's continued comfort in our home. She's doing so well, what an amazing, resilient kid.

Oh, and I went to the doctor today about the hernia and we're going to wait and see for 2 weeks and then do a CT scan if everything doesn't resolve itself by then. Ugh. I'm feeling so much better already, and I'm praying that my body stays on the "take care of itself" track.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 20 - Welcome the Newest Little US Citizen

We're on US soil once again, joined by the newest little citizen of these United States! She bears her Pringles before the flag with pride.

Everybody was a total champ on the first two legs of our journey - thanks for everybody's prayers and suggestions and don't let up till we land in good ol' SLC at 11:30 mountain time.

Immigration was a total nightmare and Steve and I have developed a quiet, seething loathing for anybody with a uniform and badge, but we got through all of the security and passport control lines with sanity (comparatively) in tact.
In 5 more hours, we are going to be one happy, grateful, at home family!

Day 19 - China in Review

We are enroute to the U.S. now - please pray for a smooth and boring return home!

With the magic of the international date line, WanYing will leave China for the first time, fly 22 hours, and become a U.S. Citizen, all on Monday, March 28th! It's a banner day, indeed :)

Over the past couple of days we've made a list of our favorite and not-so-favorite things about China. Of course, the best thing about China was meeting WanYing, the hardest thing is when she's upset (Ben volunteered that one and he's completely right), and the best thing about returning home will be starting real life with WanYing! But other than the WanYing stuff, here's our list of what we love and struggle with in China...

Stuff we're going to miss about China:
  • The food (Steve)
  • Panda bears (Sasha)
  • Staying in classy hotels (Ben, and Jamie seconds that!)
  • Amusement rides in the parks (Sam and Ben)
  • Feeling really tall (Steve)
  • Eating noodles at least once per day (Sasha and Ben)
  • Watching people hang out in the parks singing, doing tai chi, playing hackey, playing cards, etc (Steve and Jamie)
  • The Great Wall (Sam)
  • The way the money looks really unique (Ben)
  • How cheap the electronics were (Sam)
Stuff we're not going to miss:
  • The food (Sam and Ben)
  • The way the food interacts with my stomach (Steve)
  • Strangers mobbing my children and trying to pick them up and take photos with them (Jamie)
  • Smells of the street sewers (Steve)
  • Strangers on the street openly staring, pointing, and discussing my family (Jamie)
  • Not knowing how much money I was spending, cause I didn't know if I was spending like $3 on a stinkin' Coke can (Ben)
  • Squatting potties - I think they're hugely practical, I'm grateful that they're there, but I won't miss them (Jamie). Seconding that, Sam says he will not miss the public bathrooms.
  • Filtered internet (Give us Facebook and Blogger or give us death!) (Steve and Jamie)
What we're looking forward to the most at home:
  • The food (Sam and Ben)
  • Reading books (Sasha)
  • Video games (Sam and Ben)
  • Getting Chorney from the doggie hotel because she wants to lick me (Sasha)
  • 3 bedrooms, 5 beds, 3 bathrooms, and a washer and dryer (Jamie)
  • Going to school with my friends (Ben - yes, he actually said this!)
  • One more day of skiing this year (Sam)
  • Seeing our friends again! (Everybody!)

We've had an amazing time here on the other side of the world - and we can't wait to see y'all when we get home!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 18: Seeing the Big Buddha

By Steve

So after two days of Disney excitement, we decided to explore as much of Hong Kong as the kids could stand. We had grand plans of going to a few of the different islands and exploring the cool parts of the city, but the kids have had enough of foreign cities for a while. Instead, we went to an area very close to where we already are. On the island of Lantau there is a giant bronze Buddha. It's 23 meters tall and is the largest outdoor sitting Buddha in the world.

We took the subway from Disney to a cable car that took us to the base of a little village right at the feet of the big guy. The cable car had special cars with glass bottoms that allowed you to see directly below your car. While paying an extra five bucks for such a privilege may sound like a ripoff, it also boosted us to a different shorter line that was way nice considering we had some fussy kids at that point. The glass bottom car was actually way cooler than I gave it credit for. One of Ben's favorite things to do was to lie flat on his belly and pretend that he was falling to the ground. WanYing was really uneasy about the floor being see-through at first, but soon she was able to walk from one side of the car to the other without quaking.

When we got off the cable car, we walked on the path that led up to the Buddha. There was a long stone path with shops on either side (Starbucks, Subway, 7-11) and then we got to the steps that led up to him. Sasha walked up the 200 steps all on her own. Inside his big bronzeness, there was a little museum. And more shops. This guy must have been all about people buying stuff. I think I remember some teaching of his about stuff being linked to happiness some how. After all the romping around his sitting largeness, we headed back to the hotel.

So after some quality naps, we spent the afternoon in the pool and hot tub. Being a Disney hotel the pool has a unique theme to it. This one is shaped like a baby grand piano and the music playing on the speakers is all oldies from the sixties. The kids liked going down the slide and playing in all the bubbles in the hot tub.

Now it's time to pack up all our stuff, and get back to Utah. Next time we hit U.S. soil, we'll have one more U.S. citizen with us.

Prayer requests: As one might expect, we are particularly nervous about taking WanYing on a plane for 14 hours. Prayers for an easy flight and easy to calm down little girl would be super.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 16 and 17: Adventures in Disneyland

By: Steve

I know some of you have said to us how wonderful it is that we took everyone with us on this grand adventure to China and for most of the trip I have to whole heartedly agree that having everyone together from the start has been great. BUT, every once in a while, we have had moments where someone has short circuited from too little sleep or too much sugar and we've had to dig deep into our parenting tool bag to find the most effective way to deal with short term emotional trauma. So any time we've heard the whining and complaining start, we've switched to the time honored parenting trick of saying "If you stop now and are real good, we'll take you to Disneyland." I think next time they may wait until they know just which Disneyland we are going to first. They may hold out for the ones that mainly speak English.

Hong Kong Disneyland has been lots of fun for the past two days. Which is kind of surprising when you consider how small it is. It's not bad small, it's more like quaint small. Walking from one side of the park to the other takes all of seven minutes. There are really only four places to go-- Main Street USA, Adventure Land, Fantasy Land, and Tomorrow Land.

Many of attractions are direct copies of rides or shows that we've been to at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando (Winnie the Pooh, Philharmagic, Dumbo) but there is some stuff here that is new to us. We went to one show called Stitch Encounter that was super fun. It was an interactive show with Stitch. Sam and Ben talked to him both times we saw the show. The actor playing the voice of Stitch even recognized the boys the second time he saw them.

Many of the rides we are familiar with are here with some subtle changes. Space Mountain was thrilling, but not too scary. Jungle Cruise was funny, but not hilarious. Buzz Lightyear was challenging, but not taxing. And It's a Small World was annoying, but not nauseating. Seriously, we rode on Small World 3 times. I think its a new family favorite. It might have something to do with how much WanYing liked it though.

You'll also be happy to hear that we've all eaten our weight in Mickey Head ice cream bars. And why can't DisneyWorld in Orlando have cornonthecob on a stick? It's great stuff.

Our third trip to a Disney property in the past calendar year (and first with four children!) was a total success. Tomorrow we explore a little of the island and then Monday we fly home - and thanks to a 32 hour day, we arrive home on the same day as we depart Hong Kong.

Please pray for our return flight. We can't bribe the kids with trips to Disney for good behavior, so we'll have to rely on the fact that they're amazing kids. Pray that the amazingness lasts for 22 hours of travel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 15 - A Quiet Last Day in Guangzhou

We spent our final day in Guangzhou enjoying a quiet day around the hotel. We fed the koi in the Garden Hotel's garden while Steve and I planned the creation of our own backyard koi pond (because we totally need another project!). Then we had naps, played a few games of chess, headed to the grocery store to stock up for Hong Kong (or "honk honk" as Sasha likes to call it), and gorged on the Discovery Channel (not having TV at home makes us extremely susceptible to hotel TV).

Part of the reason for our quiet day is that I seem to have developed a little umbilical hernia. At least that's my diagnosis because it looks like the hernias that Ben and Sasha used to have. I spent the morning worrying that my intestines were poking out of my abdominal wall, but after some delightfully disconcerting internet research and the counsel of a good friend (thank you!) I've decided that I am not in any immediate danger of going septic and I can probably wait until I get home for medical intervention. I found some "make you look skinny" underwear at the grocery store that are helping to keep everything together and those are helping a ton with the pain. For now, I'm trying not to do any heavy lifting (so easy with 2 girls under 4) and we'll just see how it all goes. Needless to say, this is a total drag, but we press on.

In the afternoon we headed to the park by our hotel and rented a paddleboat! Sam steered, much to our collective concern, but we managed to successfully navigate under 4 bridges without a single person falling overboard. Ben was a magnificent paddler and singlehandedly (double-footedly?) propelled all 6 of us for half of our trip - we've finally found a way to work off that kid's energy!

We also enjoyed several delightful "blood sacrifice" pavilions in the park. We *think* they are memorials to fallen heroes, not actual sites of blood sacrifices, but to be honest we're not too sure. Either way, they may want to work on the translation...

Oh, and today we got WanYing's Chinese passport, complete with U.S. visa - hooray! We're starting to collect quite the rainbow of passports between WanYing's red passport and Sasha's turquoise one.

WanYing continues to do well and every day we see new facets of her personality and our fledgeling relationship shining through. She still insists on interjecting herself if she sees Steve or me holding Sasha, but Sasha is dealing with WanYing's jealousy with such compassion and we all know that eventually WanYing will realize that there's more than enough love in our family to go around. Until then, we'll continue to make sure she is completely secure that there's more than enough love for her.

WanYing has been mimicking our words more and more and definitely understands a lot of what we're saying (especially the important words like kiss and cracker and tickle). She can clearly say Mama, Baba (that's Chinese for Daddy), Sam, Ben, Sasha, wawa (doll in Chinese), and ball, so she has a fully-functional two-year-old vocabulary already in my book. I think we got so used to the delays that came with Sasha's cleft palate that we forgot that your average two-year-old actually has a lot to say! She hasn't latched onto signs yet and she may just skip signs and go straight to spoken language. We'll continue on with both and see what works best for her.

Tomorrow (Friday) morning we leave mainland China for a few days in Hong Kong and then we head home. Our next post will be from Disneyland Hong Kong :)

Today's prayer request:
Please join us in (furtive) prayer that my little hernia stays little and doesn't require any medical intervention while we're overseas. Pray that I can avoid lifting up the girls without causing stress to them or to Steve.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 14 - U.S. Consulate Appointment and Pearl River Dinner Cruise

Our day started bright and early with the swearing in of the youngest (future) Morningstar family U.S. citizen and our U.S. Consulate appointment. The appointment was simple and smooth - we and about 15 other adoptive families agreed on behalf of our children to uphold the laws and ideals of the United States and then they called us up the window and looked through WanYing's paperwork and it was done. Tomorrow we'll pick up WanYing's Chinese passport with her U.S. visa and then she's ready to enter the U.S. Hooray!

Here's one interesting tidbit that the consulate officer shared with us: In 2010 about 63% of U.S. adoptions from China were special needs adoptions. So far in 2011 it looks like that percentage will rise to 75%. I guess that's not that surprising given the drastic slowdown of regular-program referrals from China, but I'm still impressed that such a high percentage of adoptions are of waiting kiddos.

Then we headed to a park to romp out some energy and then back to the hotel for lunch an naps before our big dinner cruise down the Pearl River.

We had a blast out on the high seas (read: languid river). The boys spent the majority of their time cramming as many cookies into their mouths as possible and then scurrying up to the upper decks to watch the city lights passing by without the distraction of windows. Sasha spent her time trying to talk us into taking her up to the upper deck with varying success and plenty of tears. WanYing just ate noodles and greens - she is getting so good at feeding herself!

Today's prayer request:
Time away from home is definitely starting to wear on Sasha. She's doing so well, but so much travel, all the "foreign" experiences, and adjusting to a new family member is a lot to ask an almost-four-year-old to absorb.

Please pray with us that we will be able to express to Sasha the two things that will never, ever change in her life: she is loved irrevocably and she is not in charge. Pray that her heart will always be open to these truths and that she'll feel them with a special certainty right now at the tail end of our amazing trip to China.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 13 - The Safari Park

Well, I think we've now done just about everything we came to China to do. New daughter? Check. Family photos on the Great Wall? Check. Panda sightings? Check!

Today we went to the "Safari Park" in Guangzhou. I don't know what I expected, but the Safari Park by far exceeded all of my expectations. It was clean with really nice enclosures for the animals and, most importantly, we saw panda bears!

Highlights were:
  • buying bags of raw meet to throw to the tigers
  • feeding giraffes leaves from our hands
  • the tiger and elephant shows (two different shows, not tigers and elephants together... although now that I think about it, that would be an entertaining show)
  • seeing 12 pandas!
Today's prayer request:
Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning is our U.S. Consulate appointment. This is last hurdle in WanYing's adoption process and after tomorrow's appointment she should be all-clear to receive a U.S. visa in her Chinese passport and come home a U.S. citizen! All of our paperwork has gone so smoothly so far - please join us in prayer that this last bit all falls into place and that we'll be clear to bring our precious girl home in less than a week!


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