Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Christmas_20091211_0015_2009 Today we got to celebrate Christmas together as a new family!  I already received the best Christmas present ever- I was able to have Kai home by Christmas.  It was so fun to see him tearing the wrapping off of the packages and playing with his new toys, and we loved being able to share that with part of the family through the web cam. It was exciting to see him try monkey bread for the first time (cinnamon pull apart bread that is a tradition in the Harkness family).  Of course he loved it and kept asking for more.  It was a blast getting Christmas Eve pictures by the tree (will post later). He loved looking up at the lights from below the tree!  He also liked crawling back and forth to daddy in between shots.  He would just sit in Ray’s lap and giggle, then crawl back to the tree for another picture.  Everything about this Christmas has been new and exciting!

Every day is an adventure with this little guy!  In the 3 weeks that we have been home, we have already been to 2 pediatrician appointments, the oral surgeon that will do his palate surgery, gotten the palate surgery scheduled for January 13th, and been evaluated by Sooner Start for services (the Oklahoma services for kiddos with delays to get them caught up for school). Never a boring or empty day here!

We are starting to get some resemblance of a routine started which has been a big help.  At least I know when the relief of nap time is coming ;)  Don’t get me wrong- he still has a great temperament, but I am EXHAUSTED.  My ever expanding belly reminds me that baby #2 will be making a debut before too long and she keeps me tired all of the time anyway.  Add to the equation a toddler that has endless energy and you get one tired mommy!

Kai has started to feel comfortable in his new surroundings.  We can tell by the fact that he is testing boundaries and entering into power struggles (not wanting to go to bed at bedtime).  Even with this new found spunk ;) I still wouldn’t give up one second with him.  Going back to work is going to be incredibly difficult when that time rolls around.  There is nothing like being able to just stare at him when he is cuddling in my arms at nap time or belly laughing at his daddy when he plays with him.

I truly do have the best Christmas presents ever!  I have the most wonderful family!  Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope that your Christmas is full of wonder and awe too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kai’s Progress with Walking

Well, after a couple days, Kai made big progress walking.  I didn’t get to capture it on my High Definition video camera but was able to on my Canon PowerShot S70 point & shoot so the resolution is fairly poor.  But, it’s enough to see how much he’s progressed.

First, I captured him walking from his push toy to Nancy then I went and sat next to his push toy and captured him walking back to me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kai's First Trip to Target

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kai’s First Steps

I captured this video of Kai taking his first steps as he was playing with Nancy’s and her dad.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 12 (Consulate Appointment)

OK.  It was another night hitting the rack after 1AM.  The usual routine was had in the morning so I’m going to skip ahead to where things are different from normal.

Today is our Consulate Appointment.  At first, when I was given the schedule for the week I thought we were going to have to be driven down to the US Consulate and be interviewed by someone.  That was because we were told that the purpose of the appointment was for Kai’s visa application interview.

Last night we were told that all that we have to do is stay in our room until 10AM and wait for one of two calls: a call saying there was a problem or a call saying everything was fine.

While we waited for the call we played with Kai and goofed off on the computer.  Skype has been a godsend on this trip.  It’s amazing how well you can keep in touch with people back home with such tools available.

We received the call from Grace at around 9:50AM telling us that there were absolutely no issues with the paperwork and we were free to leave our room.

In fact, today was the day we are scheduled to go to the Pearl Market.  We are told it’s a great place to find pearls and other jewelry.

With Nancy still not feeling well, it took a bit for us to get ready after receiving our phone call releasing us from our sequestered state in the room.  So much so, that Grace had to call to see if we were still going on the excursion.

We finally made it down to the rendezvous location (the 2nd floor of the hotel next to the jade boat) and everyone was already on the bus so we ran out to the parking lot.

It turns out that there were more people wanting to go to the Pearl Market than there was room on the hotel shuttle so there were still a couple families waiting for a van to load the overflow into.  So, we weren’t holding anything up.

The van was pulling up about the same time as we arrived so we all piled in along with Maggie (Grace’s assistant) and we were on our way to the Pearl Market.

TChina_20091130_1892_Day12 he ride to the Pearl Market was pretty quick and we got there way before the larger bus full of the rest of the group.  Apparently, there was more than just our CCAI group going.

Once we got to where we were to be dropped off and everyone from both busses had arrived, we were given a brief lowdown on the lay of the land.

Where we were was a huge shopping center but it wasn’t the Pearl Market.  We had to do some walking to get there and cut through China_20091130_1893_Day12 some other shopping center buildings.

Once we got into the Pearl Market, it was a 5 story shopping center where every floor had something to do with jewelry.  We were told that the top floor typically had the best deals and that is where we went.

By the time we got to the top, my sciatica was really acting up but China_20091130_1903_Day12 we immediately went to a pearl store.  Nancy liked walking the aisles of the small store looking at all the pretty stuff.  The difficult part was that nothing was priced.  Negotiating wasn’t allowed because price is fixed but you had to ask someone for the price and some wouldn’t really tell you what it was unless you told them you wanted to buy it.

After prying a few prices out of the sales people it was easy to see China_20091130_1921_Day12 that nothing in this place was in a price range we felt comfortable with.  Everything we looked at appeared to be above the US$100 range.  Since Nancy isn’t a pearl necklace/earring type of lady, that wasn’t an option either.

Apparently, Americans like to buy pearls for their daughters when they are born and since most people adopt girls from China, that is why pearl shopping is so important for them.

China_20091130_1933_Day12 After leaving this store, we decided to check Kai’s diaper since he was being fussy.  Sure enough, it was wet so we changed it on a bench outside the store.  Then we wandered through a few more stores until we realized there really wasn’t anything in this entire place that looked like it was something we couldn’t get in the United States so we left.

We were pretty much told we were on our own anyway so we didn’t feel bad going our own way.

China_20091130_1957_Day12 Once we managed to navigate ourselves back to where we were originally dropped off Nancy let me know she was hungry and we decided that we were going to try and get something there.  One of the many shopping center buildings was touting a Papa John’s Pizza so we thought we’d go check it out.  Worst case scenario would be that we’d be taking a pizza back to the hotel with us in the taxi.

The Papa John’s was on the 3rd floor of this place and we had to go through a giant electronics store to get from floor 2 to floor 3

China_20091130_1964_Day12 When we finally got to Papa John’s we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a sit down establishment.  I think in the United States Papa John’s is all delivery.

We were the only people in the place and it still took forever to get anyone to take our order.  We are starting to detect this as a trend here in China.  We thought it was because the menus were open, but even after closing them and trying to get someone’s attention, we still couldn’t get speedy service.

Nancy just wanted breadsticks and I ordered a 9” pizza with China_20091130_1961_Day12 mushrooms.  For drinks we ordered a Coke and a Sprite.

The pizza was just as good as home but I don’t think we’ve ever done breadsticks from Papa Johns since Nancy doesn’t care for their pizza.  So, we aren’t really sure if the breadsticks are the same as home or not.

Nancy tried giving Kai some of her breadsticks but I don’t think he liked the hard crust on them and at one point, I think he got a piece of it stuck in his cleft palate because he started freaking out like one does when they get a piece of popcorn caught in their teeth.

China_20091130_1969_Day12 After enjoying the pizza, we attempted to make our way back to the first floor.  I wasn’t listening to Nancy so I kept taking us to the wrong place to locate the down escalator.  Plus, we kept getting attention from the various purveyors wanting us to look at their cell phones, electronics and clothing goods.

We finally got out of the building and made our way to where we originally were dropped off.  We had no problem locating a cab. 

Communicating with the cab drivers is often difficult due to the language barrier and without an address written in mandarin you may not be able to get where you are needing to go. Fortunately, many of the nicer hotels have printed their room keys such that you just need to show it to the driver and they know where to take you.

It took about the same amount of time to get back to the hotel as it did to arrive.  I was a bit concerned that we’d get the ole “give the tourists the scenic drive to wrack of the fare”, but that didn’t happen.  The final fare was 8RMB which was inclusive of the 1RMB fuel surcharge (~US$1.19). I’m sorry but good luck finding a taxi ride that cheap in the united states.  Heck it costs something like US$25 to just get from one resort hotel to another at Walt Disney World.

China_20091130_1971_Day12 When we got back to the room, we gave Kai a fresh bottle and tried to get him to lay down for a nap.  But, because he caught some z’s while being carried around in the ERGObaby carrier, it was not in the cards.  He was chock full of energy and was all over the bed. 

We put him on the floor and tried to play with him, but the room here is tiny and quickly became difficult for me to do it comfortably. 

Nancy was trying to write a blog post of her own that has already been posted and can be found here.  Kai’s fussiness and unwillingness to allow me to play with him was making it hard for Nancy to do what she wanted to do.  So, I was presented with a crossroads.  Do I just let Kai win again and Nancy doesn’t get to do what she wants (write her post and relax) or do I bite the bullet and see what happens if I take him to the play room.

So, I snuck up behind him and scooped him up in my arms.  I grabbed the backpack/diaper bag and told Nancy that I’m going to the playroom.  I didn’t take the camera or put shoes on his feet.  I just left.

Nancy asked me if I was sure, and I told her, “Why not?”.  I told her  if it went bad, I’d just come back but felt the playroom may be just enough distraction to make it tolerable.

Kai started crying as soon as he realized that he was going one way and mommy was staying put.  He cried all the way to the elevator, but once we got in the elevator it stopped.  He does this sound that we really like that sounds like he’s making a question.  An upswing in his “voice” and he looks at you like he’s saying, “OK, I like what you are doing”. 

He also seems to get great enjoyment out of seeing his reflection in the mirror.  I have been able to console him a few times by just taking him to a mirror where he can touch his reflection with his hand.

The elevators have mirrors in them so I let him look at his reflection and down we went to the first floor.

When we got off the elevator I saw one of the other dads and pointed out to him that I had Kai and Nancy was nowhere to be seen.  He knew about our problems with Kai rejecting me and gave me the thumbs up.

We quickly made our way to the playroom and when we got inside there was another dad and their daughter already in there.  I put Kai on the floor and let him crawl around a bit as I took my shoes off and stashed the diaper bag (they want you to take your shoes off).

China_20091130_1977_Day12After I was ready to play, I took Kai to the rocking horse and put him on it.  He got really bored with the horse real quick and then moved onto some other toys.  He eventually found a few that kept his attention for awhile. 

While I interacted with Kai, I also talked to the other dad.  He was Chinese but lived in Michigan and was also adopting from China using CCAI as his agency. He was really nice and Kai seemed to find him interesting as he talked to my son in Mandarin.  He helped me with my pronunciations of Kai’s middle name and the province and city in which he was born (Luohe, Henan)

Eventually more families showed up and there were a few more kids in the room.  Kai seems really tolerant of other kids but at times China_20091130_1979_Day12doesn’t really like when they want what he wants. 

I did locate the toy that lets him walk behind it and set it up for him.  This one toy was the major point of Kai’s interest.  This time, instead of letting him walk in one direction until he ran into a wall or some other obstacle that would stop him, then turn him around to do the same thing, I walked beside him and gently guided the toy so that he could continuously walk.

I was able to keep him going for a really long time without a break. I need to get those little legs of his nice and strong so he can get back on track for his age.  I know I’ll regret it when it happens, but we need him walking.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fun, I caught the telltale whiff of something in his pants.  We all remember how much fun I had the last time I tried to change his poopy diaper and the carpet was a bit nice in here and I really didn’t have a bathroom to run to if I tossed my cookies again.

Plus, I have only changed one diaper thus far and I really only got as far as cleaning the kid up and Nancy put the new diaper on.  So, I really was embarrassed and didn’t want the other dads (and mom) in the room critiquing my technique.

I started giving serious consideration to taking him back to the room where Nancy could help me if I got into a bind.  But I quickly dismissed that idea because I knew if I did, there was no way Kai would ever be cooperative if he saw mom.

Granted, he may not be cooperative with me down in the playroom either, but it was more assured he wouldn’t let me do it if I went back to the room.

So, my new plan was to wait until everyone left and then change the diaper.  It took awhile for that to happen and the entire time I was just sure everyone could smell his diaper and were asking themselves how I couldn’t smell it and want to change it.

Eventually everyone left.  Then I waited a few more minutes to  make sure they were really gone.  There is a blind corner in the playroom where I took Kai, the new diaper and the package of baby wipes.

I knew I had to be quick before another family came in the room.    I first checked for signs of blowout before putting him on the carpet.  I needed to know if there was going to be a need for some kind of protective layer.  Then, I whipped off his pants and unsnapped his onsey.  Kai, made a quick attempt at being fussy and then seemed to start laughing.

I pulled the onset up to his arm pits and then popped open the diaper.  The smell was nowhere near as bad as the last one I tried but I was warned by Jason about this kind of diaper.  The “stuff” was baked onto Kai’s little butt.  I had a to use a few wipes to just scrub him clean. 

I remembered that the character on the diaper’s waistband was supposed to go on the front and I positioned Kai over the diaper.  He made a reach for the dirty diaper and I went to move it out of his reach and then he was up on his knees and gone like a shot.  I quickly grabbed him, but it was funny seeing how much fun he seemed to think crawling around naked was (well half-naked).

I got him repositioned on the diaper and strapped up.  For some reason it didn’t look like it was on correctly, but I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong.  So, I left it as it was.  I figured if it was not going to fall off then I could have Nancy double-check my handiwork when I saw her again.

After I got Kai dressed and he had an opportunity to play a bit more, we saw Nancy come into the playroom.  I don’t know how long we were down there but she basically came looking for us.  I think she said we were down there for close to 30-45 minutes.

Nancy was armed with a camera and took a few pictures of us and I told her of my success with the diaper.

We didn’t stay long in the playroom before going back to the room.  Nancy wanted to go to shopping therefore I needed to go get my camera and we needed to get shoes and socks on Kai.

The first place Nancy want to go was back to the store next to Subway where she saw a diaper bag she was interested in. 

I took one look at the inside of the diaper bag and told her that I didn’t like it.  Currently, we are not liking the use of a backpack as a diaper bag because it’s a giant sink hole for everything that is put inside it.  It because a great chore to find anything especially if that object had any kind of weight to it because it all sinks to the bottom.

China_20091130_1980_Day12We decided to walk down Sha Mian Street to see what stores we ca me across that we hadn’t already seen.  We came across a store (I think it was Helen’s Place) and they had a really nice selection of leather squeaky shoes.  Squeaky shoes are exactly what their name says they are. They squeak and people have claimed they help promote walking.  Nancy is wanting shoes for Kai but his feet are so darn small.  The shoes he came to us in are a US size 4 but you can easily pull them off his feet even when tied tightly.

The shopkeeper told us that the smallest size she had was a size 2 and it was too large for Kai, but she knew that Jenny’s Place had shoes in smaller sizes.  We had a hard time understanding her English and couldn’t figure out where she was telling us to go.  So, she walked us over to the store which was down the opposite way along the same street.  If you were coming China_20091130_1986_Day12 from the White Swan you’d make a left on Sha Mian Street (the road with Starbucks on it) instead of a right.

The construction along this area is intense.  In fact, when we got  to Sherrry’s Place the sidewalk in front of her store was completely ripped out and there was muddy soil running all in front of the shops. 

There as a plywood bridge for us to walk across in order to get into the store.  Later we were told that another American dad put that there to make it easier for people to get into her shop.

China_20091130_1999_Day12I am amazed that many of these stores are staying open with all this construction.  There are many that are completely obscured by the construction walls, scaffolding and construction netting (this green mesh that is wrapped around all the faces of the buildings being worked on).

Inside Sherry’s Place was a nice selection of kids squeaky shoes China_20091130_1991_Day12 and  they did indeed have a size 1 which is what we were thinking would fit Kai.  They let us put the shoe on Kai to be absolutely sure before purchasing.  In addition to the one pair of size 1, we also bought 2 more pairs in the next size up for Kai plus one pair for Kylee.  Those 4 pairs of shoes cost of 145RMB (~US$21.50).  That’s not bad for 4 pairs of kids shoes (US$5/shoe).

China_20091130_1997_Day12 As we were shopping here another one of the families from our group came in and was shopping as well.  After paying out we went across the hall to another shop and saw even more people from our group.  This shop was tiny and we didn’t stay long because it was a bit cramped with all the Americans inside.

As we left, we decided to stop in a few more stores.  One store was one who donates a good portion of their proceeds to China’s orphanages.  We also looked inside a store that sold art and they had some hand stitched quilts Nancy was interested in.  I vetoed the quilts because despite their uniqueness they weren’t really very Asian in design and the fabrics were pretty plain.China_20091130_2014_Day12

It was starting to get dark and we still needed to eat dinner, so we  began our trek back to the hotel.  On the way back home we stopped in the Tailor Shop because we were going to get one of the little traditional silk outfits tailored to fit Kai.  Well, when the tailor saw the top and sized it up against Kai she told the shopkeeper to ask us to put it on him because it looked like it would fit him.

Well, sure enough, Kai has some broad shoulders and the shirt fit just fine. So,we didn’t have to pay extra for the tailoring.  Then we picked Kai up another one in cotton so he could wear it more.  In addition to Kai’s 2 outfits, we got Kylee two outfits and our niece Regan an dress.

This cost us 380RMB (~US$56.30) which isn’t too bad for 5 outfits four of which were silk.

China_20091130_2017_Day12 On our way out, we were called into an art store that is adjacent to the Tailor Shop but in the same building. It turns out the owner was also a teacher who helped establish schools at the orphanages.  In particular, the Lily Orphan Care Center in Luohe, Henan where Kai was officially cared for (he was really in New Hope, but officially he was from Luohe).  He talked to us for a bit and explained his mission to build schools and showed us pictures of his students.

Next we went to 7-Eleven to pick up a couple more big bottles of China_20091130_2018_Day12 water and headed back to the hotel.

We dropped our purchases off at the room and then decided we were going to try the Italian restaurant for dinner.  I called Jason and Robyn’s room to see if they wanted to go as well, but there wasn’t an answer.

Looking at the crude map drawn for us to reference, if we hang a right on Sha Mian Street (basically make a right at Starbucks) we’d run right into the restaurant.

As we were about to leave the hotel, Nancy realized it was a bit chilly outside and asked me to go back to the room to get her and Kai’s coats.

China_20091130_2025_Day12 I ran back up to the room and retrieved the coats and came back down to the first floor to find Kai and Nancy standing by the water looking at the waterfall and Koi in the giant water feature near the restaurant we ate breakfast at every morning.

We decided to attempt to go the Italian restaurant the way we saw on the map which was to make a right on Sha MIan Street and keep walking.

China_20091130_2026_Day12 After we passed all the construction, we eventually ended up in territory that was distinctly different than where we started.  The shops and stores catering to the adoptive families were now gone and it looked like very local-friendly hotels and apartments.

We passed a playground that was chock full of local families at play even though it was dark out and not very well illuminated.

Eventually, we ended up at the Italian Restaurant and from the outside it wasn’t fitting my expectations.  One of Nancy’s friends from the Freshwater Group mentioned that they ate here all the time during their last adoption trip and for some reason I had in my mind the type of Italian restaurant with the red and white checkered table clothes and tomato-sauce based pasta dishes on the menu. 

Well, the entrance was a bit posh in appearance and they had a menu on display outside where a hostess was standing at a podium. I was immediately concerned about the price and whether or not I’d find something I’d like to eat.  For you see there is many different kinds of Italian food and I know that I’m not a big fan of Northern Italian cuisine and that is what I thought this would be.

China_20091130_2028_Day12 Well, we get inside and immediately see Robyn, Jason and Ying. They told us they looked for us in the playroom and then called our room before heading out, but assumed (correctly) that we must be out shopping.

It’s times like this that I really missed being at home.  If we were in the US, they could’ve just texted me (or called my cell) and asked what we were doing for dinner.  Instead, we are stuck living like it was the early 90’s where you called someone on a home phone (in this case hotel) and if you didn’t get them, you were out of luck.

China_20091130_2031_Day12 Jason immediately warned me about how expensive the beer was.  It didn’t really impact me because I’m not that big of a beer drinker and when I do, it’s usually a Guinness Stout and I wouldn’t consider buying one of those in China.

I did find that there were different kinds of pasta dishes on the menu and opted for the spaghetti with meat sauce.  I don’t recall the exact price in RMB but it roughly converted to US$8 and I thought that was a really good deal.

We continued to to talk to Robyn and Jason during our meal.  One interesting thing was that when we got our drinks (once again brought to us in extremely tiny glasses), our Coke and Sprite came with crazy bendy straws.  The straws definitely didn’t fit with the rest of the restaurant’s atmosphere.

It was also interesting to note that the chef at this restaurant was an actual Italian. 

China_20091130_2033_Day12 The food was nothing to write home about.  I’ve definitely had better spaghetti at Olive Garden and Johnny Carino’s back home, but it was palatable.  We also used this opportunity to let Kai try some spaghetti. We cut it up into tiny parts so that he could eat it without choking on it.  We sure will be glad when his teeth come in like Robyn and Jason’s daughter Ying because she was easily chomping down on steamed vegetables.  Kai is no way capable of doing anything like that yet.

Robyn and Jason left when we were halfway through our meal.  We opted to not get any dessert and paid for our meal.  I was a bit taken aback by the price because at US$8 per plate I wasn’t expecting a US$30-something price tag.  Well, it turns out that sodas were almost as expensive as the spaghetti. This is constantly frustrating me.  The fact that there is no potable drinking water means that every restaurant knows they have you backed into a corner.  If you want to drink, you are going to have to buy it.  There is no free option unless you really enjoy extreme intestinal discomfort and have a sick love affair with porcelain gods/goddesses.

The walk back to the hotel seemed to go a bit quicker than the trip to the restaurant. 

When we got back to the room, we gave Kai his bath and I started working on this post.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get finished as I was very tired and went to bed thinking that I’d get it done the next night.  Well, that didn’t happen either (as can be told by the fact this is being posted after I got home).

The next day was our “Oath Day”, we were really excited about it since it’s the last step of the legal portion of this journey.

Until Tomorrow…..