Thursday, December 1, 2011

a few of my favorite things

Ok, I couldn't resist starting out with this adorable family couch photo. It's our first good family picture since Hope joined us. Every time I look at this I think there is just too much cuteness to handle. Really? Do I not have the cutest kids ever? I mean, other than your own, that is.

Now, on to my point. I just read this post and it inspired me to join in on the fun. Check out the blog Nesting Place for lots of great gift ideas. I've always wanted to do a link-up party. So here it goes.

Hope and family updates to follow but for now...

Here are a (whole lot of a) few of my favorite things:

1. This is my bedroom. I like it but wanna guess what I'm madly in love with? Hint...the fireplace is "fake". It's really just a mantel with black cardboard covering the opening.See it now?! {Ignore the cord, it's on my list to "hide" this week}
It's this electric fireplace/heater:

Be still my heart. I just bought this last week and am still crazy-giddy about it. I've always loved my "fake fireplace" but this cheap little "fake fireplace/heater" has just upped the fake-ness and loveliness of it all. I saw a similar one on QVC for about twice the cost. I had been thinking about how cute it may look but couldn't justify the price. Plus, I knew it would either look wonderful or just silly. I found this particular unit at Home Depot last weekend. At just under $55, I had to try it. And it is so worth every penny. The fake fire is nice and makes me think I have a real fireplace. And the heating element is actually surprisingly effective for as small and cheap as it is. Our ceilings are vaulted and it still manages to heat the room up in a just a few minutes. It even has a remote. So I turn it on at night when I get in bed and after about 20 minutes of Andy telling me that it's too blazing hot, I turn it off with my remote. He doesn't exactly love the heating part of it. I do. I'm telling you, I love this thing so much I'm picturing one in the basement too. How fun would that be? Watching tv in the basement by fake-firelight? Call me crazy, but I love the idea of it. Does that make me a redneck?

2. Don't make fun of my next item. It really does make me happy. And it is on my top 5 favorite things of all times. For real.

A cheap Scotchbrite mop and an industrial-style spray bottle of vinegar and water. I'll keep this short or I'll really prove myself to be OCD and looney. The short story is that I spent years using those expensive Swiffer Wet Jet pads to clean my laminate wood floors and could not justify spending so much $$ on them. Enter my good friend Angie to save my head from spinning trying to find a solution for clean floors with no streaks. I now clean my floors with a spray bottle in one hand and this mop in another. The floor is dry almost as soon as you mop it so no more waiting around for it to dry. Never any streaks. Cheap as cheap can get. And a little tip if you try this...add a few drops of lavender oil to take away the strong vinegar smell.

3. And one more favorite cleaning thing. I have five kids. I spend a lot of time cleaning. Things like this really do make me happy.

The Shark rechargeable vacuum for carpet and wood/laminate/tile. I don't even know the real name of this but it's the cheapest kind they make. Shark changes the colors and features every few years and usually increases the $$ as well. I use mine at least three times a day in the kitchen all year long. They tend to last about 2-2 1/2 years before the battery goes bad. I have no use for a broom in my kitchen because this does the job of sweeping in less than 1/2 the time and with way less effort. Can not live without this. Any mom would love this. I keep mine charged at all times right next to the trashcan.

4. Next is a coupon-find, well, sort of.

I had coupons for a different brand and loved them. They're basically baby wipes to clean your face. It makes me far less likely to not clean my face at night than if I had to use a washcloth/soap. Call me lazy, but sometimes that can seem too difficult by the time I make it up to my bedroom for the evening. This particular brand of wipes is at The Christmas Tree Shop for just $1.99 for a 60 sheets. The brands in regular stores like Target, Walgreens, etc are more than twice that for just 30 sheets.

5. The next item is a magnetic storage tin. Who couldn't use one of these? Or ten.

Perfect for things like, well, for anything really. I bought a few of these at Bed Bath & Beyond but later discovered that Meijer carries them for cheaper. I fill mine with loose leaf tea and flowers (for my tea). You could put spices in them or office supplies or all kinds of fun things. Super fun organizational tool for any age. My daughter has a few of these in a bigger size for craft stuff and hair accessories.

6. Speaking of tea...

This a clever teapot from Teavana. You put loose leaf tea in it, add hot water, steep and then set the bottom of the pot directly on top of your cup or mug or pitcher. The tea comes out of the bottom of the pot and the tea leaves stay behind in the pot. I use this every week to make a big pitcher of sweet green tea.

7. And one more favorite tea thing

Tea tumblers for those that love loose leaf tea. You put leaves directly in the tumbler and add hot water. There is a mesh "strainer" on top so when you drink it the leaves stay in the tumbler. I love that you can see all the pretty tea leaves floating around. Any tea lover will LOVE this. The one on the left is glass and is from Starbucks and the one on the right is plastic and is from Teas Etc.

8. Ordinary things-turned pretty make great gifts for anyone. $6 or less and it's the perfect gift.

This is much prettier in person. It's a painted glass nightlight from Kirkland's. I could have bought 10 of these and put them in the bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. One can never have too many accent lights, right?

9. Suave Spray Shine

I had a coupon for this Suave Spray Shine. I was hoping I could use this instead of the more expensive one I was using at the time. Not only did I make the change to this Suave brand, I actually like it better than the one that cost more. It makes my fly away hair stay put and makes my color look better. I go through this like water. Love, love, love it!

10. Ok, this very well could be my all time favorite, for real, it's #1 on my list of favorite things

Personalized Coasters {all lined up on my kitchen counter}

I'm not a genius. But I do have rare occasions of genius-ness. Most of my brilliant ideas come from others but not this one. I claim it all as my own. If I had more genius-ness in me I could probably find a way to become a millionaire by selling these to every mom in America. But I'll settle for the pure bliss I get from using them in my own home. I made everyone their own coaster and it is the only place, I'm talking in my mean-mom-you-better-believe-I'm-not-kidding-voice, THE ONLY PLACE that anyone puts a cup other than in front of their plate while eating. With a family of seven, you can imagine how many cups we could go through a day if I allowed everyone to use one and put it in the sink or "lose" it around the house. I made these from cheap tiles from HomeDepot. I ordered everyone's name from Uppercase Living and put the vinyl decals on the tile. That's it. You have to buy the tiles in packs of 12 but even then, I think it was only about $5 for a dozen. The vinyl lettering cost $1 per letter. I get comments on these all the time. Every mom thinks it's the best idea. It is. If I do say so myself.

11. Back to tea. Clearly, if I were really a genius, I'd know how to rearrange these photos into a better order.

I recently discovered Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Chai and was spending way too much on a cup here and there and here and there and. You get the $$ picture. My mom told me about this boxed chai and I now treat myself to a cup of it every morning. Just add milk and it is as yummy as Starbucks. And way less $$. You can find it at Target, Meijer, Kroger, and probably all the grocery stores in the tea aisle. Great cheap gift for just about anyone.

12. Another new find for 2011 is this...

I guess these are called "Hercules Hooks" but I just bought the generic version of them and they work great. I am forever changing furniture around which, in turn, ends up causing a domino effect that ends up leaving me moving around all my wall hangings/pictures. These clever hooks allow you to hang super heavy things without having to use a hammer. Again, call my lazy but to find a hammer AND a nail that is the right size is difficult.

13. Kirkland's Cherry Blossom Light ($39.99 from Kirklands)
I don't know. Maybe this looks silly to some of you but it is seriously one of my newest favorite things. It's an LED lit cherry blossom light and gives off so much light/glow that I use it in my entry way instead of the stark overhead chandelier. I love unexpected lighting and this is just a fun way to add some decorative light. Kirklands now has a red and yellow version too. I'd love the yellow one for my bedroom. (Yes, that is an empty frame. And I'm a bit embarrassed to say it's not the only empty frame I have around the house. At least this one doesn't have random fake-families in it).

14. Framed Menu Board

Can't claim this one as my own idea. I stole it from a friend. All you need is a frame. I bought this black one from Goodwill but had I been smarter I would have used one of the two dozen frames I have sitting around and spray painted it black. A trip to Goodwill seemed easier at the time. You design your own "template" on the computer and print a copy. Just pick a nice font and center "Menu" at the top and the days of the week down the left side. Frame the copy and use a dry-erase marker to write on the glass. So simple. So cute. And {when I keep up to date on using it} it saves me a million and one questions about what's for dinner.

15. Country Blossom's Lip Balm of the Month Club

Lip Balm. I'm addicted to it. For real. I've used the same Blistex Silk & Shine for years. Until now. I recently discovered Country Blossom's Pumpkin Cheesecake lip balm. Homemade lip balm sold on Too many flavors to choose from? Yes, definitely. Solution? Lip Balm of the Month Club (click here). Seriously, how great is that?!!! I thought it was just the perfect gift for someone who loves lip balm. And I could think of no one who would appreciate it more So I signed myself up for the club. Merry Christmas to myself. Some things are just too good to give away. Did I just say that out loud?

16. Young Living's Thieves Spray

This is a great alternative to hand sanitizer which I have always detested. For some reason my hands always feel dirtier after I use that. This, on the otherhand, has a great scent and is the perfect size to keep in your purse or car.

And that, my friends, is my list of favorite things.

Monday, September 5, 2011

there's no place like home

And we made it home. It wasn't a pretty trip {that's the understatement of the decade} but we made it. Shall I even go into the ugly details? Sure. It may very well be the last flight from China we ever take.

We only slept about five hours the night before we left. Not a good start. Should have known then. We drove about 45 minutes to the airport. We checked in. All good. Except it was raining. And so like every single flight that we've ever had in China, the flight was "delayed" which in Chinese can be translated to "You're in for a long wait so get comfy." But to make the wait even longer, let's get you on the plane first and then tell you it's delayed. {Cue memories from two years ago when we sat on the Beijing tarmac for 3 or 4 hours before our 13 hour flight to Chicago.} So this time we end up sitting on the plane for an hour and half or two hours. And thus began my migraine headache. We fly to Hong Kong and barely make our connecting flight to Chicago. We actually had to run to the gate, no bathroom stop, no time to eat lunch or get snacks for the plane or breathe really. I had to carry Hope and run through the airport b/c she decided she didn't want to walk. I arrived to the gate sweating and completely out of breath. Not a great way to begin an 11 and 1/2 hour flight. Not good at all.

We were actually a bit happy when we boarded the plane to Chicago b/c it had individual screens to watch movies. Our flight to China didn't have that and it made the long flight seem 10 times longer. But this time we had a good plane and thought it would make the flight a bit more bearable. Hope, however, thought the screen looked like a toy and began playing with it before Andy and I even sat down. Thus began the 11 and 1/2 hour battle of the tv screen.

I realized after about 20 minutes that my seat was broken. Every time I sat back it shifted into reclining position and every time I moved a bit it would shift back up. It was the window seat which was the one place we wanted to avoid having Hope sit b/c it caused so many problems on our other flights w/her. But there was no choice but to have her sit there. Thus began the battle of the window shade. Up. Down. Up. Down.

We thought we'd plug Hope into the headphones and have her listen to a Chinese Disney movie. Hope broke the headphones within about 1 minute. We pretended it didn't matter and hoped she wouldn't notice. We tried to get the Chinese language to come up on the screen only to find out it was only subtitle which would definitely not keep Hope's attention. Then it was on to "let's mess with the tv screen" time for Hope which ended in her completely messing up the screen/almost breaking it. And we were only 30 minutes into the flight.

By then my migraine was almost unbearable which left Andy on Hope Duty for about five hours. I owe him big time. But time off from Hope and the fact that the plane dimmed all the lights helped my migraine and finally I didn't feel like I was going to throw up. It was about 7pm China time which meant Hope had been awake for over 13 hours with no nap. She didn't end up falling asleep until after 9pm. But not before she pooped in her diaper 6 times and spilled a whole glass of water all over Andy. By then Andy had a major headache and we still had 5 hours left. I never ended up watching any movies b/c of my migraine so the "we got a great plane with movie screens" excitement never turned out to matter. Andy tried to watch one or two but was always distracted by Hope. The flight was one continuous "keep your seat belt fastened due to turbulence" flight. It was bumpy almost the whole time.

We arrived in Chicago and were told by an airport security officer to make sure we let the immigration officer know that we were an adoptive family. He told us that we should be able to skip the long line b/c Hope's papers just needed a quick stamp as opposed to a longer process that everyone else in that line would need. I thought, "Really? A short line?! Could this be real?" No, it wasn't. The immigration officer looked at us like we were begging to cut in line and placed Hope's paperwork behind a long line of other more complicated cases. So we sat there for an hour. Hope was running on about 4 hours of sleep. We were +20 hours into our trip so 4 hours of sleep was bad for her. Really bad.

We had a 6 hour layover in Chicago so we tried to get an earlier flight home. Turns out that we needed to try and fly stand-by which costs an extra $75 per person to do. Since when did flying stand-by cost extra? I said, "But if we get on a flight we're taking a seat that is empty anyway. Why the extra cost?" Uhm, dumb question to ask b/c there is no answer other than, "Because it just costs extra." At that point we really didn't care what it cost. So we rushed to a gate for a 5:00 flight. We missed it by 3 people. Then it was off to get the next flight which happened to be on the complete opposite side of the airport. As in a totally different terminal. Love. ly. So we almost run to get there and when we get to the new gate it is obvious that there are some major air-conditioning problems. It was hot. Just one more thing to add to the drama of it all. And it didn't help that Andy had changed into sweat pants when the spilling-the-cup-of-water episode happened. So I'm hot, Andy is sweating and trying to dig out his shorts from his backpack to see if they have dried, and we're waiting to hear if we make the flight which would get us home two hours earlier. We find out that we can get on the flight at the very last second. Then we are told to quick get on the plane b/c it is waiting on us. Uhm, nothing "quick" happens with us when we're trying to navigate an airport. And sure enough, the plane is so tiny that we have to walk outside to get to the plane. Down an elevator. Across the runway. And up some metal steps to the plane. By the time we get on the plane Hope has one last freak out moment and then takes off her pants and falls asleep. For a 30 minute flight. Not good. We have to wake her up when we land and she flips out about putting her pants on and is all out of sorts. She literally falls asleep as we have her standing up trying to get her pants on.

There was a group of friends and family gathered at the airport to greet us. Hope didn't exactly appreciate it. She starts sobbing. But does manage to fully wake up just by the time we get home, are completely exhausted and ready for bed. She is in hyper-mode and doesn't go to sleep until 1:00am. Ahh, sleep after about 32 hours of basically no sleep. Ya, right. In. My. Dreams. She wakes up every hour until 5:00am so no real sleep that night. In fact, we've been home 4 nights now and Nathan and Caleb are the only ones in the house who have slept more than a few hours at a time. Between jet lag and Hope waking up from fear and from being disoriented as to where she is we haven't slept much.

But we're home. In our own beds. I'm sitting on my comfy couch. Hope has toys and siblings to play with and a yard to run around in. It's good to be home. No matter how crazy it is here.

Click here for pictures of Hope at home. {Hope fell down the stairs the first morning home, thus the major rug burn bruises/scabs all over her face. Welcome to the crazy house, Hope. Welcome.}

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

day 18

Today was really day 20 out of 21! We made it. There were days we didn't think we would. Strangely, our time here in Guangzhou has been so easy and enjoyable that it flew by and I could probably survive another week here. But I'm glad I don't have to. Too bad we didn't get one week in Beijing and two here.

This will need to be a quick post because we leave tomorrow at 6:45 and I never sleep well the night before we travel anywhere, let alone across the world. If we arrive home on our scheduled flight we will be traveling by car, plane or sitting in an airport for nearly 28 straight hours. Pray for all three of us, please! It is an exhausting trip.

This morning we took Hope swimming and she hated it at first. It took her a long while to stop screaming but she eventually enjoyed herself. We took photos at the White Swan hotel lobby which is traditionally where all adoptive families take photos of their child. She loved wearing her new Chinese dress and was all smiles and poses until we had to leave and by then her swimming had caught up with her and she was exhausted and threw a massive fit in her stroller all the way back to the hotel. She ended up sleeping for 3 hours. We had one last dinner with friends and celebrated her 4th birthday with a tiny cheesecake that was as close to a b-day cake as I could find here. I think she had no clue that it was her birthday. She definitely had no clue about blowing out the candles on the cake but she had a blast doing it once Andy showed her. She giggled and smiled and loved having us all sing Happy Birthday to her. She pretty much loves being the center of any one's attention.

And so now our hotel room looks like a tornado went through it as I'm about 3/4 of the way done packing but still have tons of things in piles and corners all set to be packed.

We are scheduled to arrive home at 10:30pm on Sept 1st but are hoping to get an earlier flight from Chicago. We have about a six hour layover there as of now. Some of you have asked about coming to the airport and you are welcome to do that if you are up for a late night! You can email our home address or call our home phone and be put on the list to call if we do get an earlier flight. The kids have a "airport welcome home party" list of people to call if our flight changes.

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for us during this whole process. This is not a journey one wants to take alone. There are so many of you who have had a part in us being able to be here to get Hope. You know who you are and we are grateful for you.

Almost a year ago we quietly and a bit fearfully started this adoption process. At the time we we didn't even know who we would be adopting. But God had a little girl in His mind half way across the world named Liu Jiajia. Our journey to her has at times been a breeze. At other times it's been difficult. It's always consisted of small faith steps along the way. We haven't mastered the art of being faithful. We have complained. We have had fear. We have been tired. We have been overwhelmed. But God has provided for us exactly what we have needed at every step. So although Liu Jiajia will now be our Hope Jia Schmidt, she is, in a way, a part of many of your families too. She is here with us because others have come alongside us.

There are so many blessings you see when you walk the road of adoption. God's redeeming love and grace have at times seemed almost tangible to us during this journey. I hope it has been to you too. Because the story of little Liu Jiajia is really the story of all of us. We're all lost. We all long to belong. We all are made to be loved. And we are all broken. We all need a savior. And like Liu Jiajia experienced on August 14, 2011, there is a God who comes to us in our weakness. Who loves us despite our brokenness. Who delights in us even before we can ever do anything for Him. We are all Liu Jiajia. I am. Andy is. We've been given a new name. A new life. A secure future and an eternal hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's the reason we're sitting here in a somewhat icky hotel room in China this evening. Because He loved us, we will love others in the same way. And loving like Jesus isn't easy. It costs us our time, our energy, our comfort, our money, our life. And sometimes it costs us three weeks in a country on the other side of the world. We counted the cost and chose to pay it. I'm so glad we did. Because God has taken what we have handed Him, what seemed like a sacrifice at the time, and given us a blessing in one sweet little girl named Hope. She may seem like the one with all the new blessings in life. But, actually, we are.

Thanks for being part of our miracle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

day 17

Today was August 30th, our Consulate Appointment Day. It's a pretty big day in the adoption process. It's basically the end of it. We left our hotel at 7:30 this morning to get to the U.S Consulate for our 8:30 appointment. We took an oath with about a dozen families to care for our children and promised that all of the info on our paperwork was true. I kind of smiled at that point because the paperwork had been checked by the U.S and Chinese government ten million times over the last 10 months. It better be true.

While eating lunch at Subway, we met a family that lives in the Indpls area and just adopted their son from the same orphanage Caleb was in. Such a small world. Then Andy spent an hour and half standing in line at the bank to exchange money while I started packing for our trip home and Hope watched some Chinese shows on t.v. Then it was naptime and dinner. We had dinner at our new favorite Chinese restaurant here. I still don't know the name of it. It's referred to as "the restaurant above Jorden's store". And anyone who adopts from China knows who Jorden is and where his store is so I guess it doesn't really need a name. There were 10 of us that ate dinner together (our Madison friends and our new Indy friends) so we were able to eat in our own little private room that had a large round table. We are appreciating getting to know some new families here. Two weeks of semi-solitude will make you very grateful for things you usually take for granted. Like social interaction. And sharing life together with other Christians. Life just isn't as good if you live it alone.

Our adoption guide goes back to the U.S. Consulate for us tomorrow to pick up Hope's visa and then we're done. Like really done.

And how fitting is this...Hope's 4th birthday is tomorrow. August 31st. Our last day in China. We're going to get a traditional Chinese cake from a local bakery and celebrate with our new friends at dinner tomorrow night. Dinner at "the restaurant above Jorden's", of course. And thus will end our three week stay in China.

And our new life as a family of seven will begin.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 16

It's Monday evening here. Day 16. But technically it's day 18 of our trip. A few days got lost in the shuffle at the beginning of my blogging. So we only have 2 full days here left and one travel day. I can honestly say that that the last two weeks have gone by quicker than the first 3 days in China. It is odd because on one hand it feels like we've been here forever. But on the other it feels like it was just yesterday that we arrived in Beijing. So it's gone fast and dragged on forever at the same time.

Today was another great day. I checked to see how hot it was here because I knew it was 100+ degrees. Well, it was actually 99 degrees. But you know how the weather people always factor in the humidity and extra stuff and tell you it really feels a whole lot hotter. That is so true here. Even Andy was sweating profusely today. His arms were dripping in sweat from just standing outside. It is awful. I'm not pouring concrete but it is hotter than concrete weather (for my Mexico mission friends!). Anyway, point is: It's hot. And we were outside for most of the day today at the Safari Park. My kids would be shocked. I was at the zoo. And it was blazing hot. And mommy didn't cry. Or melt.

We went to the most amazing zoo. I took way too many pictures of animals but I was trying to show how incredibly close we were to them all. We took a train through a safari area and saw all kinds of animals that were literally just a few feet from us. It was actually a bit scary for me. I don't know much about animals but I do know that tigers and lions and cheetahs can jump and the small ditch that separated us didn't seem too safe. But I hid behind my camera lense and all was well.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant after the safari park. Other than the fact that they didn't serve chips and salsa for free, it was a nearly perfect Mexican meal. In China. Weird. But there is only so long a girl can go without having Mexican food. 18 days. I think that was a record for me.

For some reason our taxi driver thought we needed to get to our hotel in record time so he drove as if he were competing in the Indy 500. Andy and I both closed one eye and said that he'd be great if we were competing in The Amazing Race but we weren't and we kind of wanted to live for another few days. We've become used to crazy driving but not so much fast driving. In Beijing the traffic is so bad that you never really end up driving very fast. It's mostly stop and go or go and stop. Guangzhou is different b/c the drivers can actually go fast and that is not good. Yikes-a-rama we were scared.

Then it was another evening of walking around the island here and talking to some local shop owners. And now we're all tired and ready for bed. G-night from Guangzhou.

Click here for photos from today

day 15

Day 15. Sunday. Another pretty great day. If the weather were about 20 or 30 degrees cooler, it would qualify as a perfect day.

We went to church on a the island. It's the same church we went to two years ago when we were here so we knew what to expect. Besides the family that is with us now, we were the only white Americans there but it was a Chinese/English service so we were able to understand most of it. We had to leave early just into the sermon b/c Hope had reached her limit of sitting still. Actually, she had reached her limit before we even sat down but we bribed her with snacks and that bought us about 40 minutes worth of church. Sometimes you just do what you need to do. You know?

We met our guide at noon and went together with the other family to a shopping area in town. We stopped at McDonald's first and enjoyed it more than one really should ever enjoy any of their food. And we had a coke with ice. It's the small things that make us happy here. We walked around the shopping area and I restrained myself and bought just a few things. One thing I bought was a fancy umbrella. The women all carry umbrellas in China not to keep out of the rain but to keep out of the sun. While we aim for darker, suntanned skin, they all desire light skin and try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. The umbrellas they use are all fancy and sparkly and shimmery. So if you happen to see a tourquoise-ish umbrella blinding your eyes one rainy day, it will be mine. It is gawdy and lacey and sequined and I love it. And if I attract some odd stares from people it will bring me back to my days in China and I'll smile.

The shopping area we were in was crazy busy and pretty much put us all in sensory overload. I had a headache when we got "home." There was a whole street full of traditional Chinese medicine stores. There were stores and stores selling things like live scorpions to cook (apparently they are "good medicine" for some ailment I don't remember) and dried leaves and berries. It was like walking back into time a few hundred years. There was also a whole street full of stores selling animals and pet supplies. Hope loved seeing the dogs and cats and rabbits and chickens and fish and squirrels and turtles and birds.

We got back in time for Hope to take a nap and then went out for dinner to a very small local Chinese restaurant. It was on the fifth floor of a building and the only way up was to walk. Walking up five flights of stairs when it's 100 degress is not an easy walk. But it ended up being the best Chinese food ever. It may, just may tie with my dumpling restaurant as the best restaurant in the world. And it only cost us $10. We had a chicken and peanut dish, a fried noodles, potatoes, fried but not really fried, more like sauteed green beans, and rice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I took pictures. And I will dream about dumplings and this meal for years to come.

Click here

and here to see photos from today

Sunday, August 28, 2011

day 14

Ahh, Day 14. Such a good day. Although just about anything would qualify as "such a good day" compared to the day before.

Yesterday's highlight was that we met up with another Madison Adoption Associates family here in Guangzhou. They are staying at our hotel and I can not tell you what a difference it makes to be able to have another family here with us. You kind of take for granted how nice it is to be able to interact and just talk with people. Don't get me wrong, Andy and I have loved spending time together but two weeks is a long time to talk to basically no one but each other. It is so nice to be able to share things here with another family. It makes the hard things more bearable and the nice things much more fun.

Our day looked like this yesterday...

Breakfast. Not nearly as grand or as good as our last hotel which is rather disappointing but probably a good thing. I know I've gained weight since we've been gone and that is pretty unusual. Most people lose weight while here. Too many dumplings for me. You'd think that as much as I've walked and sweat during the last two weeks that I'd be skinnier. Oh well, the dumplings were worth it. Totally worth it.

After breakfast, we met Leslee and Matthew and their daughter and newly adopted son and went to the Guangzhou Medical Clinic. Part of the final adoption process is for Hope to have a medical exam here. It is a stretch to even call it a medical exam as the "ENT exam" involves squeezing a rubber duck and then checking a box indicating that child's hearing is ok if he/she turns his head toward the sound. Not the most accurate way to check a child's hearing. Most of the pictures from the day were from this clinic. It was nice for us to be able to see and talk to other American families that have adopted children. Really, it is hard to explain how wonderful it is to not be the only white, American, English speaking family with a Chinese child. Ending our trip here with other families like us is so refreshing.

We ate Subway for lunch and we pretty much forced Hope to take a nap. After that, we walked around the area with our new friends, had lunch at Lucy's, and had the kids play on a playground.

We're on a rather quaint "island" of sorts. It is really just considered an island b/c a bridge separates it from the next street. It is not a typical island but it is a beautiful area that is free from traffic, stop lights, and crowds. After having spent two weeks in the middle of Beijing, it seems like heaven. It is so charming here that it is a prime location for fashion photo sessions as well as wedding photos. Traditionally, the Chinese bride has her photos taken well before the wedding (like days or weeks before). So the random pictures of beautiful Chinese women that are all dressed up are brides having their pictures taken. Keep in mind that it is probably over a hundred degrees here with as much humidity as is possible. You stand outside and literally just start dripping in sweat. And these brides are all glammed up and smiling and acting as if they have no idea it's a million degrees outside.

Speaking of heat and humidity. I would normally be locking myself in an air-conditioned room in weather like this. But after spending a week in Mexico last month on a mission trip, I can honestly say I'm not so much of a wimp anymore. I don't love the weather here. At. All. And I still gravitate toward air conditioning. And I can't eat outside here b/c I don't like sitting in puddles of sweat. And when I think I've reached my limit with the heat, I find myself thinking, "At least you're not shoveling rock and making concrete in Mexico." And I somehow feel cooler. And I survive another day in miserable weather with a few less complaints than normal.

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