Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer's Last Trip

Well folks, I'm sort of sad to report that school starts NEXT WEEK for my 3 big kiddos. Yes... already! The summer has flown by and the 10 short weeks they have off for R & R are almost up and it'll be time to go to bed early, get up even earlier and hit the books! So today we're hitting the road for one last summer getaway. Wait... it's also our first summer getaway. Our summers are usually jammed packed with camping trips galore but because of one super-huge trip to China to bring home a new baby, we've spent this summer close to home adjusting. Even our usual beach trip got axed. This one though is continuing as planned and we'll see how Little Miss Dreamgirl likes camping! I'll give you a little peak into our digs:

Big Daddy T pitches a fit if I don't buy bargain brand toilet paper but by golly we gotta have a mack-daddy camper... men! I won't complain because I paid my dues in tents & pop-ups before upgrading to our current 5th wheel, and I'm a much happier camper here. I'm a good mix of My Firstborn, who could happily sleep under the stars like a pioneer cowgirl and Pretty Kitty, who's roughin' it at The Hampton Inn. I like camping but it's probably because I have a orderly, neat (much neater than my real home) camper with A/C and a bathroom.

Well lookie here... while all the other kiddos are out playing, riding bikes & swimming, Pretty Kitty's got her little self inside drawing. That is (not) shocking! I can whip up some pretty delish meals thanks to my modern kitchen... works better than a camp stove... I just need a dishwasher to make clean up easier. They have those you know... we love going to the RV & Camper Shows each year and my goodness... campers with washers & dryers... fireplaces... ceiling fans... dishwashers... makes ours look quite shabby. But I use the dishes as an excuse to sneak inside and watch "Grey's Anatomy" or "TMZ" at night. We'll be back soon!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

China Trip Tuesdays: GUIDES
When I first started researching adopting from China one of my biggest concerns was the 2 week trip required to complete the adoption & bring the baby home. I had never traveled out of the country before and taking the plunge by heading overseas to a country where I didn't speak the language, didn't know how to get help, didn't know the customs gave me the hibbee-gibbees! So it was critical for me to find an agency that would "hold my hand" from the moment I stepped off the plane until the minute I left for the States. Adoption agencies, as well as many businesses, use "guides" to help their clients manuever easily and smoothly throughout their stay in a foreign land. We had heard wonderful things about the guides our agency used... their stellar reputations preceeded them, and they exceeded our expectations. Our travel group had a total of 3 guides. Would you like to meet them? Great... here we go!

First, meet Chen Chen, our National Guide. Chen (her first name is Chen) Chen (her last name is also Chen... so it's like calling her Jane Doe) can be described as:
  • hardworking
  • fearless
  • brave
  • troubleshooter
  • problemsolver
  • tireless
  • thorough
  • smart
  • funny
  • bold
  • did I say she was a hardworker?
Chen Chen was waiting for us when we got off our United flight in Beijing. She had a car waiting for us and rode with us to our hotel & got us settled in. Before returning to the airport for another group of families, she walked us to a nearby grocery store so we could buy drinks & snacks for our room and showed us local restaurants with Western menus. We would get to know Chen very well over the next 2 weeks.

Our purpose in Beijing was basically to sightsee and get a small taste of our daughters' homeland. Our group spent a lot of time on our tour bus traveling to and from meals, shopping centers and tourist attractions. Chen Chen was always on the microphone giving us detailed information about the things we were seeing out our window, the history of China & Beijing, explanations of Chinese culture & traditions, answering questions and sharing small stories about her life growing up in China.

Anytime we were off the bus Chen carried her tall red flag so we would not lose her in the crowd.

Chen Chen does not work specifically for our agency but for a company called China Travel Service. Many agencies in many different countries use their guides to help clients with their adoption trip.

Chen was a wonderful tour guide. No telling how many groups she has taken on the same tours over the years... The Great Wall, the jade factory, The Forbidden City... practice makes perfect... she did a great job! Here she explains an area we are in in The Forbidden City.

I caught Chen Chen yawning! No wonder she's tired... because Chen Chen worked around the clock for the entire 2 week trip covering each and every detail of our trip and finalizing our adoption. After our 3 days stay in Beijing we fly with Chen Chen to Jiangxi Province where our daughters are waiting and where we meet....

Maggie! Maggie was a Local Guide specific to Nanchang in Jiangxi Province. Born and raised in Nanchang she knew the city like the back of her hand and was able to meet needs including:

  • Getting our laundry done quickly and cheap
  • Ordering us Pizza Hut when we couldn't down one more bite of rice
  • Having ladies come to our hotel to sew hand made dresses for our daughters in 1 day
  • Find good, local doctors for babies needing bloodwork or medical tests
  • Taking us shopping for all the needs our new babies had
  • Helping us bargain with shop owners for good deals on porcelin and other goods
  • Recommending local restaurants

Chen Chen, though kind, was all business. She had 18 families she was responsible for and she was gettin' the job done. Maggie was more of a free spirit. The night we met her it was late. We were tired and anxious about getting settled before meeting our babies the next day. As we drowsily settled into the bus on the way to the hotel Maggie gets on the microphone and starts singing saying she wanted to be on "American Idol." She too, like Chen Chen, could handle any problem thrown her way and working together they were a dynamic duo!

The biggest job of these two while in Jiangxi was getting our babies and making sure they were ours! The morning of "Gotcha Day" they had 14 babies to unite with their Mamas & Daddies and that meant dealing with the orphanages & their teams of directors and nannies. That also meant PAPERWORK! Lots of paperwork. Paperwork that you don't want to mess up! Here Chen & Maggie are getting ready to call names and "deliver" baby girls to their estatic parents!

Here Maggie goes over the referral paperwork with a family making sure they have been given the baby assigned to them.

Here Chen Chen speaks with Director Lu... the Director of our baby's orphanage. You see me in the background preparing to hold My Dreamgirl for the first time!

Big Daddy T gives Maggie all our paperwork... neatly organized in a clear plastic envelope as directed... these girls have the process down to a science! Thank God for them... literally! How could we ever do this without them???

Director Lu and the nannies do not speak English and so Maggie translate for me so that I can ask questions about her schedule, her routine, her likes & dislikes, trying to retrieve as much basic information about her first 9 months as fast as I can.

The days following "Gotcha Day" were even more crucial as we went to Provincial government offices to complete the adoption and to apply for Dreamgirl's passport. Again, our guides assistance was totally necessary. They handled EVERYTHING! We showed up... paid the money... answered the questions they translated for us and signed where they showed us. Every detail was handled by Chen Chen & Maggie... they were priceless! Here we're in the notary's office and Chen Chen translates for us & the notary.

Chen finishes up the paperwork... double checking that all T's are crossed and I's dotted.

As the time came to leave Nanchang for our last stop in Guangzhou that meant we had to say goodbye to Maggie. Those coming behind us will be in good hands! I sure liked her!

Our local guide in Guangzhou was Connie. For as free spirited as Maggie was and as efficient as Chen Chen was... Connie was one fancy lady. This gal was always dressed to the nines... sporting stilletos on her pedicured feet and false eyelashes on her perfectly eyeshadowed eyes.

Let's compare the two.

  • Chen Chen wears shorts & a t-shirt while Connie wears a silky blue dress
  • Chen Chen wear Tevas while Connie spent her check on some Jimmy Choos (I don't really know that but I wouldn't be surprised.)
  • Chen Chen carries a plain, black backpack while Connie carries a big, leather pocketbook
  • Chen Chen has practical, no fuss hair while Connie's is colored & permed

The two were night and day.

Here they had taken us to get the babies physicals for their visas. Upon being examined, the Chinese doctor was concerned about a suspect rash on Dreamgirl's side. I did my best to explain what I knew about the rash... I'd only been her Mother for 5 days... to which the doctor said "Go get your guide." I ran into the waiting room calling for Chen Chen who quickly came to my rescue in the exam room. After about 20 seconds of fast, loud Chinese back-n-forth Chen Chen looked at me and said "O.K... no problem." Whew... Chen is "da man"... even though she's a woman... you know what I mean!

Here Connie guides our group through a Buddist temple. We had to stay in Guangzhou for two days longer than our group (long story) and I will say Connie dropped us like a hot potato once the big group left (including our beloved Chen Chen) and passed Big Daddy T and I off on another local guide named Michael... who was kind and was VERY accomodating... he took better care of our needs in two days than Connie did in 6. But, she got the job done and our baby got her Visa... which Michael helped us pick up and got us to the airport... which was the best part of all!

Monday, July 28, 2008

You Might Be a Redneck If...

You keep your baby's sippie cup in a tool coozie. We just might be... I'm just keepin' it real!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Well... what do ya think? I started blogging almost 2 years ago as a way to update family & friends about our adoption saga. The wait had grown extensive and unpredictable and I kept sending massive emails month after month saying basically... "we're still waiting!" I decided to blog... it was theraputic to write out all my frustrations with the adoption wait and I had fun journaling the experiences of raising 3 wild yungin's. It was a great way to pass the time and help keep my sanity... kinda like an online, public diary. So many people supported our adoption and the blog was a great resource for keeping them informed. Now that Lilly's been home for almost 2 months I felt like I no longer needed a blog directly focused on her adoption... but one that chronicled her as a member of our family. So now it's just a blog about my adventures... I'm glad you're here... hope you'll mark this as a new "favorite" and come back!
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