Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last Hotel Sleep and Photo Out-takes

Tonight is our last sleep in a hotel. It's Thursday night here and we leave for the airport tomorrow night at 9. I'm so ready to get back home and see Emma. I'm ready to create a new normal for our family. I'm ready to celebrate holidays and enjoy family time. I'm ready to sleep in my bed and eat familiar food. But going home means leaving everything he's ever known. There's guilt and sadness in that for me. This country is his first home. His language was developed here. The food is familiar here (although he loves pizza and hamburgers). The smell, language, and people are all he's ever known. As we leave his birth country tomorrow, we are leaving part of ourselves. We've made some wonderful memories these passed two weeks. I hope his last memories of his birth country are good ones.

Here are some photos that didn't make the blog but are too fun not to share.
This boy is all business when it comes to helping us get in and out of our room and up and down the elevator. He is the keeper of the key. We need it to get up the elevator and Brody makes sure we are going to the floor we need to go to! Those glasses are usually worn in the hotel and the subway, lol!

There are no words... Squatty potty makes me cring!

This dumpling place is located close to our hotel and is very colorful with lots of choices on the menu. The egg and tomato dumplings were one of my favorite. This is our second visit during the week. Brody got lamb skewers and ate them all! He's definitely a meat eater! Anytime there is meat mixed in rice or noodles, he always eats the meat first.

If you look closely, you'll see pig feet and whole chickens! We didn't try them but plenty of people there did!

Taking advantage of snuggles. He can be a cuddly kid. Making up for lost time!

Super Brody. He brought his blanket to me and asked me to tie it around him. Then he jumped from the floor to the bed. :)

Teeth brushing time can be very interesting. His brushing skills are great. We are still working on rinsing skills. :)

This kiddo can eat. He ate this dish about 4 times while in Guangzhou (at the same noodle shop) close to our hotel. There are 25 on the plate when it comes out. Yep, he eats them all most of the time and sometimes a few bites from our plate too!

Sending love to our friends and family from China. I think my next blog will be our trip home, blogging from America! Prayers for safe travel and for Brody's transition when we return home would be greatly appreciated!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Consulate Appointment

Today means so much more than an oath that families take together. It's so much more than leaving our fingerprints on the electronic scanner. It's more than Brody's visa that we will receive tomorrow.

It's the official day that Brody belongs to a family, our family, not only for China but in the US as well. It's the last part of the technical process of "adopting" and the first part of being our son. It's an answer to a plea left in note by Brody's birthparents when he was found, a plea to care for him and give him a "second life." The magnitude of that decision made by birthparents who weren't able to provide the medical care that he needed at that time is not forgotten by us. As a mother, I can't imagine the extreme amount of sacrifice and selflessness it took to make such a decision so that he could live. So today is about redemption. Today was about a promise we made to Brody and to his birth family. My prayer is they know he is safe, loved, and cherished. And today made official what we've felt in our hearts for several months.

Brody wanted to spend the afternoon in the pool and that's exactly what we did to celebrate him and our commitment to him now and forever. This sweet boy is full of energy, joy, and personality. Although there are certainly things we are working on and will continue to work through for some time to come, today we celebrate and cherish him for who he is and how much he means to our family!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shopping, Visiting a Buddhist Temple, and the Arcade

We met our guide in the lobby at 10 this morning to do some shopping, sightseeing, and to do something fun. John took us to what he called "Shopping Street" with lots of outdoor shops. The paper lanterns are beautiful.

This is part of the original street of the Ming Dynasty. They paved over most of the street and built a glass floor to view some of the remains.

Maeli scored some more Chinese books. We actually gifted Fault in Our Stars to someone at the airport when Maeli left her book behind when we arrived in Guangzhou. She was thankful to find another copy so she can finish reading the book.

We also found some more DVDs for Brody. For other adoptive mommas of older children, buying them in China is very cheap compared to buying from Amazon in the US. We purchased an all regions DVD player from Amazon for about $30 when we brought Maeli home and found that she loved watching them in Chinese at first and then watching in English once her language developed more. Watching in Chinese is also helpful in retaining their native language.

John took us to a really great Cantonese fast food place for lunch. It was even better than yesterday. Below are some of photos of journey today. One thing I've really noticed about China is the many smells that seem to appear randomly. From Chinese food to drainage, there's no shortage of smells. It can literally leave you sick at your stomach or craving food! We walked by a store today and I commented on how terrible the smell was. John said that Chinese women actually love receiving them as gifts. We had a good laugh about it.

After lunch we went to a nearby Buddhist temple. I wasn't sure what to expect since we didn't have the chance to visit one last year with Maeli. We wanted to make sure to go this time to get a sense of the primary spiritual presence in China. There were people selling incense, flowers, and fruit to offer as gifts to the statues. As you enter the temple area, you are cross over a raised threshold into the temple area. Brody, not having an understanding of the culture and etiquette of the temple, stood on top of the threshold rather than stepping over. John explained that to the Buddhist people and the "statues" (I'm sure I'm not being politically correct here) that is actually very disgraceful and is like stepping on the face of someone. I expected someone to come over and ask us to leave. Although we'd never to disrespectful on purpose, there are so many culture cues that we aren't aware of...

Gifts of fruit, peanuts, and flowers

You can see the large stone incense area just in front of the temple.

This is the middle statue that sits inside the temple. It's hard to tell just how big it is but I'd say about 30 feet tall.

Since you're not allowed to photograph inside the temple itself, I took this photo to get a sense of how massive it is. There are two more statues, one on each side of this one. You can see the person standing to the right of the statue in the photograph. Once inside, people kneel and worship the statues on small cushion alters. They also place their "offerings" on the tables in front of the statues. When we walked into the temple, I couldn't help but close my eyes and pray to the God who will last long after the statues are gone. I prayed for the hearts of the people in the temple at that moment. I prayed for their salvation and that fellow Chinese Christians would introduce them to the One who truly gives peace. I thanked God for my own salvation and the freedom to worship openly in America. And I thanked Him for being a living God that doesn't require rituals and gifts, but asks for a relationship and pours out His abundance of grace on us. May the people see God for who He truly is and the statues for what they truly are.

We went for ice cream after walking around the temple. China McDonalds are very nicely decorated. It's funny how we've been to McDonald's several times in China but not once in the past year in America. ;)

Thank you Ronald McDonald for the ice cream! :)

John took us to what used to be the largest shopping center in the world. There are many many floors and the mall is complete with an arcade, indoor ice skating rink, aquarium, and lots of shops.

There were hundreds of these fish swimming in a tank outside the wall.

We spent an hour or so at the arcade for the kiddos to play and take a break from walking. It was the first time Brody had been to an arcade and he loved it. He followed Chase around the arcade playing whatever game Chase played. It was adorable to watch him want to do what Chase was doing.

This is his I have to reach the checkpoint face.

There are two American luxuries that I have really missed here. The first being Sonic cherry limeades. Yes, I have a problem... I can't wait for happy hour at Sonic when we go home! The other is Dairy Queen. You just can't beat an Oreo Blizzard! So today, I decided to take a risk and try a blizzard. I told John I was very apprehensive but I had heard that other families were able to eat McDonald's ice cream with no issues, so I gave it a try. It was delicious, cheaper than America (except I couldn't use my discount card :) and so far my digestive system has been fine.

When we got back to the room, we played Uno (for the gazillionth time) and Brody and Ryan put together one of his Lego cars.

We went to dinner at the family style (everyone eats off the same plates in the middle of the table) restaurant and had lots of good Chinese food. It seems dumplings are well liked by all four of our kiddos.

We meet our guide tomorrow morning at 9 to go to our Consulate Appointment. In less than 24 hours our sweet boy's adoption will be final and official in the eyes of China and the US government. It's a moment that we have been praying and waiting for for over 6 months. Our adoption journey has been taking a different turn. From paper chasing and waiting to bonding and healing. This new adventure will surely prove to be challenging and rewarding. Seeing life through the eyes of a child who hasn't experienced family before is heartbreaking and joyful. Watching him begin to acknowledge us as his family is redeeming. Helping him work through emotions and adaptations from being in an orphanage can be exhausting. He is teaching me to slow down, take a breath, celebrate the little things, let go of perfection, smile and praise more, have fun, live, love BIG, and enjoy the journey for the journey is where true Joy can be found.

Guangzhou Zoo

Our guide is awesome. I'm not sure if it's because he's single or what, but he has made himself available to us all day each day we are here as little or as much as we would like for him to be! He's very knowledgable of the area and speaks wonderful English with a sense of humor too! We decided to check out the Guangzhou zoo this morning since the temperature is warm today.

These 4 chimpanzees were gifts from the Beijing government a few years ago. They put on quite a show for us while we were there, swinging and chasing each other around and even "bouncing" off the glass where we watched. John said the weather was too warm for them to go outside and they typically stay indoors where it is cooler.

This poor girl was in a cage isolated from the other four. She was actually quite pitiful and John joked that she was depressed and alone. Many of the animals are not in areas that depict their natural habitats but rather in metal cages.

Brody really liked the brown bear. He followed us around to see if we would give him anything to eat.

The lion cages

Here's our Brody boy with the elephant.

The giraffes up close and personal. For about $3, you can feed them.

Brody said he wasn't a baby so he asked Maeli to get in the "pouch" :)

Brody kept asking to see the panda bears. They aren't native to this area of China so the zoo only had two. They stayed indoors so they were a little hard to see. John says the zoo has to import the bamboo because they only eat the bamboo native to their area.

The zoo also has an amusement park area. The kids liked the bumper cars.

He loved riding the rides here. I hope that means he's a roller coaster fan!

Maeli, year of the dragon.

Chase, year of the snake.

Brody, year of the dog.

After the zoo, John took us to a Cantonese restuarant. We actually went to a traditional Cantonese restaurant last year and left pretty hungry since they served an entire duck and fish. Not very appealing to the taste buds. John promised that although they do serve those dishes, that there were others things we'd really like. He was right! He ordered barbecue pork, sweet and sour pork and pickled beef. It was really good. My view of Cantonese food has changed. :)

Brody asked to go back to the pool to swim this afternoon. Since the weather was great, we spent about an hour at the pool. We played cards again tonight (which he loves) and went to the noodle shop again that is close to the hotel. I think before we leave we will have tried every item on the menu, lol. As we left tonight, they said "see you tomorrow!" :)

We don't have any appointments scheduled for tomorrow so we are going out to do some shopping for Chinese books for Maeli and visit a traditional Buddhist temple.

We are pleased with Brody's progress and hope the next few days will give us even more time to bond with him before we head home to school and work schedules and the "fast" pace of life.