Posted by: mae12 | October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween ’08!

Good weather, a Friday night and lots of candy and trick-or-treaters added up to a fun Halloween. Linnea has been excited all week but Alyssa didn’t know anything special was going on until we put her ducky costume on her after dinner. As soon as it started getting dark the girls and I headed out for some trick-or-treating while Dave stayed home to pass out candy. Alyssa caught on to the process very quickly.The first house that we went to (next door) gave her a packaged rice krispie bar. She held on to that piece of candy for the next half hour as we went to other houses but kept an open hand to accept more candy to put into her plastic pumpkin that I was carrying. She usually waved to say thank you after she got each treat.

Our neighborhood was swarming with kids, many with accompanying parents, all evening. We estimate that we had close to 200 ghouls, witches, fairies, cheer leaders, aliens etc. etc. come to our door. We usually give each one a couple of pieces of candy and we went through almost four large bags of treats. The weather was beautiful and we have a good neighborhood for trick-or-treating with houses close together so luckily we anticipated large numbers.

Happy Halloween to all!

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Posted by: mae12 | October 26, 2008

October Update

The weeks have been going by rather quickly and we are getting some hints of winter on the way with cooler weather and even some snow flurries recently! We’ve all been doing well and I’m pleased to report that Linnea and Alyssa have been playing very well together. There is still some jealousy (on both sides!) but they are far more likely to play together on their own than a few weeks ago. It’s a joy to watch them dance around the living room with Alyssa imitating whatever actions her big sister does, including twirling, hopping, rolling around on the floor and waving her arms around.

So far this fall we have all remained healthy (knock wood!!!), with no more than a few sniffles here and there. Alyssa has come into contact with a lot of other people at church, playgroup, school, etc. so it’s rather amazing that she hasn’t picked up anything of consequence. The only fever that she has had since we met her was a short duration one following a barrage of shots that she had at an early doctor’s appointment. I hope I’m not jinxing us by writing this. 🙂

My parents came for a visit last weekend and we all had a great time. They got in a lot of play time with the girls and we had a couple of meals out at Chinese restaurants. We have also seen Dave’s Mom several times recently and the girls have been enjoying being doted on by all their grandparents.

I know that everyone is wondering what new things Alyssa is doing…….

– She likes to walk up and down stairs all on her own! She still crawls or holds our hand at times when we insist but mostly just puts her hand on the wall and walks by herself. She also tries to hold on to the handrail which is, of course, almost always too high for her. Did I mention that she likes to imitate what others do?! We are back to having to monitor her on the steps closely again after going through a brief period where it seemed that she was navigating them safely.

– She just started motioning with her hand for us to come with her. She used to just come and take us by the hand and drag us where she wanted us to go but has learned that she can save a few steps by gesturing to us. It’s very cute. She turns her hand up and then opens and shuts her hand.

– She is adding new words to her vocabulary and can now say apple (“appa”) and quack (“wock”) when prompted. She also says “uh uh” and “uh huh” for no and yes.

– She is officially an independent toddler who wants to try doing everything herself. We still feed her a bit but she gets mad if we don’t let her use the spoon or fork on her own. Admittedly, she has gotten very good at using utensils and gets almost every biteful to her mouth without much spilling. She is also quite good at drinking out of a cup, as long as we don’t fill it too much. She doesn’t like to use sippy cups. I’m assuming that it is because none of the rest of us use them and she wants to imitate us, although she will still drink from a baby bottle and prefers it at times.

– She throws things on the floor quite regularly. This can include utensils, plates, cups, etc. when she’s not interested in eating so we have to keep a close eye on her at mealtimes so that she doesn’t create too big a mess.

– Did I mention that she is strong-willed? She likes to get her way and will throw tantrums if something she wants is taken away from her. This is sometimes necessary for safety reasons or to prevent her from breaking something so this is a fairly frequent occurrence. Luckily, she is generally very quickly distracted by showing her something else or by tickling her or giving her some other attention.

– We bought a Halloween decoration (a small skeleton in a cage) that rattles and says funny phrases when a button is pressed (and can also be motion activated). Alyssa likes to push the button and then run away from it. She always seems surprised even though she has done this over and over.

– If you ask Alyssa where something is she’ll lift up her hands, palms up, and look quickly around with a surprised look on her face as if to say “Where could it possibly be?” She seems to understand that this is a game and she loves the reaction that she gets.

– Alyssa is very expressive (just like Linnea!) and it’s fun to watch her face change quickly. It’s very hard to capture her many expressions with the camera since they are often rather fleeting so we need to get out the video camera more often or use the video option on our “still” camera.

– She gives the sweetest kisses. From the start we worked with her on “being gentle,” instead of hitting, pinching, etc. to get attention. If she does strike out we remind her to “be gentle” and she will lightly touch the location of the hit, often my face or arm, and then give a soft kiss. When I’m holding her she will also sometimes lightly hold my face in her hands and stare at me and then give me a kiss on the cheek or the lips. It’s enough to melt your heart! She gives loud smacky kisses on the cheek to family members when she says goodbye or goodnight.

– After some trials and tribulations surrounding getting Alyssa to sleep at night I’ve come up with a fairly reliable routine (at least it’s worked for the past four nights!). Dave or I change her into her pajamas and have her brush her teeth. Then I bring her into our bedroom and she gets to pick out one or two books from her small pile of favorites that are in there. We sit on the rocking chair and I read to her, repeating each book twice, while she drinks water from a (baby) bottle. After the book(s), we turn off the light and I continue to rock her while I sing a few songs, such as the “dinosaur song”, Children of the Heavenly Father, Kumbaya, Lullaby and Jesus L0ves Me. After a few songs I just quietly rock her and she drifts off to sleep. After she is soundly asleep I put her in the crib next to our bed and cover her with her soft blanket. She has been falling asleep within about ten minutes of the end of the singing as opposed to up to an hour of tossing and turning when I previously laid her down on the bed (and lay down next to her) after the songs. I’m hoping that this continues to work for her, especially once I head back to work and will have prep work or grading to do after she gets to sleep.

Here are some pictures taken since my last post. Several of the pictures are showing off new outfits that Alyssa received as gifts from various friends. This morning I put the brown dress on Alyssa and Linnea picked an outfit to match her. I threw on my brown sweater so that “the girls” would be nicely coordinated. I thought that warranted a photo session. Thanks Dave for being patient with all of us!

Posted by: mae12 | October 9, 2008

More Recent Pictures…

Linnea and I made apple crisp from some of the apples that we picked at the orchard. She was proud of the result and happy to be able to share with Uncle Tim and Aunt Julie when they stopped by for a visit. We all enjoyed the apple treat and then had fun playing together for a while. Alyssa loves to grab hands and walk back and forth, sort of swaying back and forth with her feet on the ground.

A local garden store had a pumpkin patch party recently and Alyssa and I took a “field trip” there on a recent sunny day. She enjoyed bowling with small pumpkins, doing the bean bag toss and throwing velcro balls at a target. She has quite an arm on her and, although she seems more right-handed, she enjoys throwing with either hand.  They also gave away balloons, popcorn and cider. I was able to get a few good pictures of her at several “photo stops” that they had set up around the area. I’m not sure why she had her mouth open so wide on one of the pictures below but I thought it was cute.

Posted by: mae12 | October 9, 2008

Apple Orchard Visit

Once again it has been a while since my last post. It has gotten harder to get time on the computer lately as Alyssa wants to hit the keyboard or screen any time I use the computer when she is around. It’s challenging just to keep up with my email much less find “extra” time to post to this blog. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I often fall asleep when she goes to bed since I lay down with her to help her drift off. I figure that I’d better take advantage of this while I can since I’ll be going back to work before too long and I won’t have the option of going to sleep as I’ll likely have work to complete after the girls are in bed.

On to the actual post! 🙂

We’ve been enjoying the fall weather and the changing colors of the season. Last week we visited an apple orchard with our playgroup and the kids had a blast picking apples, running up and down the rows of trees, sampling apples, playing on the haystack and seeing the assorted animals (goats, turkeys, a miniature horse, etc.). I took a lot of pictures, especially of Alyssa since she doesn’t readily smile for pictures on demand so I have to try to catch her expressions as they naturally happen. Linnea did a great job of showing Alyssa how to pick apples. We split a bag of apples with the other families in the group so that each of the kids (there were 9 there that night) could pick a few apples to bring home. They also each got to eat an apple while we were at the orchard. Alyssa nibbled at her apple for about an hour and wouldn’t let me take the core away from her when she had eaten most of the “good” part of the apple. When she was done all that was left was the stem, which she handed to me. Some of the kids were rather concerned that she had eaten the seeds but I figured that they just added to the roughage. 🙂

Alyssa continues to take everything in stride. She has had a lot of new experiences and we try not to overwhelm her but she seems up for just about anything. This week our playgroup went to an indoor playground and she loved running around, climbing up the stairs and going down the slides. There were quite a few kids in a rather small area but she completely held her own and ignored the little bumps that she got throughout the evening. I was very pleased to see that she would check in with me occasionally, sometimes just giving a glance and smile my way and sometimes running over to me. I feel that the attachment/bonding process is still going well but I’m guessing that there will be some challenges when I go back to work and she starts daycare.

Posted by: mae12 | September 24, 2008

What Has Alyssa Been Up To Lately?

When I look back at referral pictures and photos of Alyssa from the first few days after we met her I can tell how much she has changed in such a short time. I’ve read a lot of blogs that talk about how a child seems so right for the particular family that they were matched with and we certainly feel this with Alyssa. I’m not sure what led the CCAA to match her with our family but it seems like a perfect fit. We love her to bits!

Her personality has really come out and our outgoing little girl is doing more and more every day. She continues to babble quite a bit, especially when we are at home. She says the following words/phrases: mama, mom, baba, dada, uh oh, wow, jie jie, nana, yeah.

Things she currently loves to do:

– Go up and down stairs/hills/slides/ladders- She will do this for as long as we let her. I’m usually ready to move on after only two or three times up and down stairs or a hill. She went up and down a slide at the park this past weekend at least forty times! She is fairly fearless so we have to watch out to make sure that she doesn’t climb too high.

-Swing!- She would also be happy to swing for what seems like forever. She smiles and giggles quite a bit at the start and then can look quite serious or even dazed. Several times I’ve made the mistake of thinking she looked like she was ready to stop but got screamed at when I tried to take her out of the swing. She will sometimes make the “more” sign when she is already swinging. This indicates that she wants me to stop her and then start her swinging again. She seems to like it when I pull the swing forward and count before releasing her to swing again….lots of giggles!

-Reprimand her sister- Several times when we have been out somewhere I’ve called over to Linnea to let her know that we will be leaving soon (or giving her some other information). Alyssa will then run over near Linnea and emphatically babble off a long string of “words” that sound like “ba ba ba ba ba ba mom ba ba ba ba” to me. It can go on for a while and it seems clear that she is telling Linnea to listen to me or to do something that I’ve told her to do.

-Play with blocks or anything that she can stack, connect or put in and out of containers- She is good at playing with du-plo blocks and can put them together or take them apart fairly easily. She has a long attention span and can play with one thing for quite a while. Putting things in and out of containers can be tons of fun for her and she is good at helping to put things away when it’s time to clean up.

-Eat like a “big kid”- She wants to use her spoon, fork or pair of chopsticks all by herself even though it is hard for her to get the food to stay put on the way to her mouth. We continue to help her eat by using another spoon, fork or pair of chopsticks that is under our control. She wants to drink from a regular cup although she just slams down whatever is in the cup. This usually results in most of the contents going down the front of her. I’ve compromised by letting her us a cup sometimes but I only pour a small mouthful in at a time. I even got her to drink some whole white milk today by letting her drink it herself with a cup!

-Wave and give “high fives” or “fist bumps”- Alyssa is very social and will wave at just about anyone. She will sometimes continue to wave until they see her and wave back. If she is comfortable she will give friends “high fives” which delights Linnea’s friends and others that she meets. One of my friends taught her how to bump fists last week so that is her latest interaction. After her first few attempts we taught her that it isn’t actually hitting the other person with your fist but just gently touching your fist to theirs. [Linnea was also a big “greeter” at this age!]

-Hug her new puppy- This is somewhat of a breakthrough as she didn’t give hugs to stuffed animals or dolls until fairly recently. We helped to teach her how to hug and kiss instead of throwing the toys to the ground. When her Nana gave her a new stuffed puppy last week she immediately cradled it, kissed it and carried it around for a while (before throwing it to the ground 🙂 ). She seems to be growing more attached to the puppy and holds it now for longer amounts of time. We are hoping that she will use it (or something similar) as a comfort item when she goes to daycare.

Posted by: mae12 | September 23, 2008

What Has Linnea Been Up To Lately?

Well, to start with, Linnea now has three fewer teeth than she had a couple of weeks ago. The Tooth Fairy may need to take out a loan if she keeps losing them at this rate 🙂

She lost her first tooth several months ago and one of her top front teeth had been wobbly/wiggly since then so we thought that would be the next tooth to go. We were surprised when she came home from school one day and she had lost another of her bottom front teeth. A couple of days later she came home with a big gap in the top of her smile and a large tooth in a plastic tooth necklace. The wiggly tooth kept getting in her way so she finally fiddled with it enough that it was almost out and she gave it one extra yank. Two days later she started wiggling her other top front tooth and yanked that one out as well. We suspect that it would have taken a couple of weeks for it to fall out on its own but once she felt that it was a bit wiggly it was hard for her to leave it alone. In the midst of all of this she had her school picture taken so it will truly commemorate a short window in time when she was missing only one of her top front teeth.

School is going well for Linnea and she seems very happy. It’s hard to get many details from her at the end of the day but we do know that she loves music, art, library visits and the time that is set aside almost every day for the students to draw or write as they create their own books. She is also having success as she spells and reads simple words.

Linnea is quite creative and loves music. She enjoys playing our electronic keyboard and it’s fun to hear her making up songs, sometimes with lyrics to go along with the melody. She doesn’t take piano lessons but she is able to pick out simple songs by ear and has a sense of what sounds good as she is playing. She enjoys the freedom of using the keyboard as her musical playground. Her violin lessons are going well but she sometimes feels restricted by the structure of having to play a particular way. She has an excellent teacher who is good at encouraging her and keeping her moving forward.

Her other main love right now is horses. She, of course, wishes that she could have her own real horse like the girls next door but she has to settle for a growing stable of stuffed and plastic horses that live in her bedroom and around the house. We had a scare last week when she left her two favorite stuffed horses in her backpack at school overnight and we couldn’t locate it right away in the morning. Luckily, someone had moved the backpack to a secure area and her horses were safe and sound. They’ll be staying home for a while until they get over the trauma of being away from Linnea for the night 🙂

Linnea has had a bit of a rough time getting used to being a big sister and having to share time with Mom and Dad. Every week things get a little better as we all adjust to being a family of four. The girls do enjoy being with each other (most of the time!) and it’s fun to see them playing and giggling. Linnea has had to do more things on her own as well as help out at times with Alyssa which has been good for her, although she may not always agree with me on that.  🙂

Posted by: mae12 | September 23, 2008

Things Continue to Go Well!

It’s been a long time since my last post! My intention is to post at least once a week but the days just seem to slip by. I feel as if we have settled into a pretty good routine and Alyssa continues to be healthy, happy and energetic. She doesn’t like to sit still for very long and continues to love to get outside and go places. Linnea is fully in the swing of things at school so her days are very full. I often fall asleep when lay down with Alyssa at night to help her fall asleep.

We recently joined our local FCC (Families with Children from China) group and have had a chance to meet other members at several recent events including a garage sale, a party at a farm and an informal playgroup at a nearby park. The group has already been supportive in welcoming Alyssa and our entire family to the local adoptive family community and several members gave suggestions regarding daycare for Alyssa for when I return to work in a couple of months.

Posted by: mae12 | September 6, 2008

One Month!

I can’t believe that it has been one month since we met our dear new daughter in person! The actual “anniversary” was Sept. 4th but I haven’t had time to get on the computer and post a message until now. Our days are very full and I’ve been falling asleep when Alyssa (finally!) falls asleep at about 10:00.

We celebrated by getting take-out chinese food and then just hanging out together as a family for the evening. Linnea has spurts of creativity (daily!) and decided to start working on a “book.” She headed up to her room and started drawing picture after picture on a pad of paper. The rest of us joined her and we gave Alyssa a separate small pad of paper so that she would keep away from Linnea’s drawings. Alyssa promptly picked up two pencils, one in each hand, and proceeded to scribble on the pages. She then handed me one of the pencils and I drew with her for a little while until she snatched it back from my hand and gave it to Dave. She went back and forth between us, sometimes just letting us draw for a few seconds, for about half an hour. There were a lot of giggles and just a general fun time for all. Later, when the girls were both dressed for bed, Linnea was being goofy and laying on the floor. Alyssa lay down next to her and copied everything she did…. spinning, raising hands, etc. They are starting to have more fun interactions which is greatly helping Linnea’s adjustment to this change in her life.

We’re having a great time together as a family and Alyssa seems to be adjusting very well. We feel blessed!

Posted by: mae12 | August 31, 2008

Milestones

The end of this past week went well with several milestones reached:

– Linnea started Kindergarten and was thrilled to see her friends from last year and meet some new ones that joined the class this year. She is excited about more trips out of the classroom to go to the specialists in art, music, etc.

– Dave took Linnea’s training wheels off her bike this morning and she is bursting with pride that she was able to balance and ride on her own pretty much right away…. she was really ready for this! She still needs practice on starting and stopping completely on her own but made tremendous progress for her first day. [no pictures of this yet… we did shoot some video but don’t have it downloaded onto the computer yet]

– We took Alyssa to a nearby park for the first time and she loved swinging in one of the “baby” swings. This was her first time in a swing with us and possibly the first time ever as we aren’t sure if they had a swing that she went on  at the orphanage. She loved it and stayed in for quite a while. I tried to catch a variety of her expressions on camera as she was swinging. There were several times that I thought she looked as if she was done but she resisted getting out when I tried to lift her out. She seemed to be concentrating on the new sensations.

– Alyssa has learned to wave hello/good-bye and, when she is in the mood, will wave to friends as well as to random people passing by as we are out for walks. This always earns her a smile from them.

– Dave’s mother gave the girls a kids music CD tonight that we played in the car on our way home from dinner. Alyssa instantly started swaying in time to the music, rhythmically tapped her hand on her seat, clapped along with the music with Linnea and me and also tried to sing along. We’ve played music for her before but never got this major response. She really loved it!

Posted by: mae12 | August 27, 2008

Finally Another Post!

I can’t believe that it’s been over a week since my last post. The time has flown by and we’ve been plenty busy. [I’ve also started keeping a personal journal of our days which has taken priority over this blog.] Things continue to go well. I’ve mostly been using the computer after the girls are in bed which, for Alyssa, has been rather unpredictable. She still seems to be adjusting to the time change in spite of my efforts to get her to bed earlier. Most nights I’ve fallen asleep at about the same time as her since I usually lay down in bed next to her to encourage her to sleep. It works for me but not always for her!

Just a quick update on what has progressed in the past week:

– Linnea starts Kindergarten this week so we’ve been getting ready for that including a group gathering and a visit to her classroom. She is excited to see friends from last year and I’m sure she will like to get back into the routine of school.

– Linnea was inspired to paint watercolor pictures in our backyard on two separate evenings and then had “free art sales” in our front yard where she “sold” the paintings to anyone lucky enough to wander by. She is quite the salesperson but will need to understand that not everybody wants to buy something, even if it’s free, if she wants to be a real artist. 🙂

– Alyssa went to church for the first time last Sunday. She got to meet my aunt and uncle there as well as others who have been following our progress over the months and years. It is wonderful to have our supportive church community.

– Alyssa endured two big doctor visits… one with her regular pediatrician and one with an adoption specialist. She was poked and prodded, weighed and measured at both visits which she didn’t like at all. She also got four vaccinations, blood drawn (they couldn’t access the vein on her right arm so needed to try again on her left arm) and two more needles for a TB skin test. She ended up with very sore legs from the shots as well as a fever for part of a day. It was hard to see her feeling so uncomfortable but she seemed to recover fairly quickly. So far the tests have indicated that she is healthy and developmentally on track. There are more doctor visits to schedule for the months ahead to get an even more full picture. Sorry Alyssa!

– Alyssa hugged and kissed stuffed animals and dolls for the first time since we’ve known her. Previously she just hit them and we suspect that they didn’t have them in her orphanage (possibly because of the difficulty of keeping them clean). She seems very familiar with plastic toys such as stacking cups so we feel that she did have some toys to play with but either did not have or did not prefer dolls/stuffed animals. Dave showed her how to hold and kiss the animals and she copied him. She does like to imitate what others do and really watches all the time.

Posted by: mae12 | August 19, 2008

First “Swim” in the Backyard

Things continue to go quite well and we are almost all adjusted to the time change. Last night all of us slept through the night (only waking briefly before falling back to sleep) and felt pretty good during the day.

Linnea went “swimming” in a small inflatable pool in our backyard today and Alyssa thought it looked like fun and wanted to join her. I also put on my suit to cool off in the water and keep everyone safe. The girls had great fun playing with plastic stacking cups and a plastic tea set. Linnea and I even did some small science experiments with the stacking cups that each have a small drain hole in the bottom. We made small bubbles, big bubbles and fountains by holding the cups underwater different ways. Dave came out and took a few pictures just before we got out. Alyssa was getting cold by that time and does not yet have the automatic instinct to smile when a camera comes out. Linnea on the other hand hammed it up.

After dinner tonight we looked at a “lift the flap” book for the first time and for just a few minutes. The book has pictures of little kids and one page, for instance, has a child with boots on and says “Under my boots I have….. (lift the flap)….toes.” About half an hour after looking briefly at the book, Alyssa was playing with her shoes and brought them to me to put them on her (she hands them to me and promptly sits down and lifts up her right foot). I put her shoes on and she walked right into the living room and returned with the book. She sat down in front of me and handed me the book. We started looking at it and when I read the line about the toes she lifted up her foot and indicated that she wanted me to remove her shoe. We looked at her toes that had been hidden by the shoe and then I put the shoe back on. She then lifted her other foot and had me remove that shoe and “find” her toes. This went back and forth until we had looked inside each shoe at least four times. She amazes us every day with the new things she is showing us that she understands.

Posted by: mae12 | August 18, 2008

Adjusting to the Time Change

The night we got home we all slept through the night and woke up at about 7:00 a.m.. Since then, Linnea has fallen asleep (really conked out!) at somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. and slept through the night but someone forgot to tell Alyssa that she is supposed to be awake when it is light out and asleep when it is dark 🙂

On Friday night Alyssa fell asleep at about 9:00 p.m. and then woke up at 3:30 a.m. ready for a new day. I got her back to bed at about 7:30 a.m. and she slept until about 11:00. She took a long nap that day from about 3:30 p.m. until we woke her up at 5:00. On Saturday night she fell asleep at 9:30 p.m. and was up from 12:30 a.m. until 6:00 a.m., which happened to be when Linnea woke up. Aaargh! My schedule is totally thrown off now so I was pretty tired today. I made an effort to keep Alyssa up more during the day (after she woke up at about 1:30 p.m. :-).

Other than keeping crazy hours, Alyssa seems to be adjusting well to being home. We have just had a few visitors and, although she is initially very quiet and timid around people new to her, she has opened up to several extended family members. We are actively working on the attachment process so Dave, Linnea and I (mostly Dave and I!) have been the only ones to hold or feed Alyssa although she is free to otherwise interact with visitors as she wants to. She will play little games with others as long as one of her support team is right there with her. She ventured close to Dave’s mom today but, the first several times, she kept a strong grip on one of my fingers.

Alyssa is becoming quite good at letting us know what she wants. She grips me by the finger and leads me to where she wants to go. One favorite place is the stairs. We’ve been teaching her how to safely go up and down the stairs by crawling on her knees. It will still be a long time before she is left to do this solo but she caught on very quickly and hasn’t had to be saved from falling very often at all. Another favorite location is the kitchen. She will drag me to the kitchen and when we get there she throws up her arms to indicate she wants to be picked up. Then she will push my arm toward the counter several times until I “catch on” and get her a snack. She can be quite insistent. She sometimes does this shortly after she has already eaten what seems to be a full meal so we have to figure out whether she does this because she wants something to do or whether she is truly hungry. So far we have at least given her a small snack when she does this since we don’t want her to feel that we are denying her food. We don’t know exactly what the situation was like in her orphanage. Some children will hoard food or just insist on knowing that food is always available because they had times when they went hungry.

A note on one of the following pictures: Alyssa took her first bath at home on Saturday night. Linnea thought it was hilarious that she peed as soon as we took her diaper off in the bathroom. Then she and Linnea got into the bathtub and played for about ten minutes until we noticed that Alyssa also felt the freedom of being without a diaper made it easier for her to p**p in the tub. This led to a quick evacuation of the tub and cleaning the tub out with diluted bleach. In the meantime we let Alyssa go without a diaper and she peed two more times. Thank goodness for hardwood floors! 🙂 Once the tub was fully clean the girls hopped back in and finished their bath. All in all a memorable first bath.

Posted by: mae12 | August 15, 2008

We made it home!

We’re home now and I’ve regained control of my blog! 🙂

Alyssa is taking a nap so I have a little time to write about our journey home.

After only about 29 hours of travel, door to door, we made it home last night by about 9:30 pm. The flights went okay although Alyssa had a few crying fits along the way. Our flight from Guangzhou to Tokyo was fine and it was nice to start with a relatively short flight. Then we had our longest flight from Tokyo to Seattle. We hit some mild turbulence along the way which complicated things since the “fasten seat belts” sign was on for almost the entire time. Alyssa wasn’t happy being confined to our seats so I tried to walk around with her once in a while. I feel that she would have slept more if I could have just walked with her for about ten minutes in a row but every time I was up with her one of the flight attendants would warn of impending turbulence and recommend that I sit back down. Of course, once I sat down the ride would be quite smooth for at least half an hour. She did sleep off and on which was good. Linnea didn’t sleep at all on the first two flights. She watched movies on the iPod on the way to Tokyo and then our plane to Seattle had personal video systems in each seat so she watched movies for that entire flight. This is way more TV/movies than she gets to watch at home so it kept her happy and occupied and allowed us to attend to Alyssa’s needs.

In Seattle we went through immigration for Dave, Linnea and I. We then had to go through a different process for Alyssa. At the US Consulate in Guangzhou we were given a sealed “brown envelope” covered by clear plastic that we had to carry unopened to our entry point into the USA. Alyssa traveled to Seattle under her Chinese passport and then officially became a US citizen on reaching the US and having her papers approved by the customs official. Two other families from our adoption agency also entered the US at Seattle on a slightly later flight than ours so we were able to see them as we waited for our turn to meet with the customs agent. [Unfortunately, one of the families had a sick, crying child for most of the trip to Seattle so they were looking exhausted already and still had another flight to make it all the way home.] The immigration process didn’t take too long so we were soon on our way through customs and a short layover to give us time to see my sister and her family who live in Seattle. They brought snacks to share so we found a seating area and had a couple of hours to chat. Linnea loved having a chance to play with her two older cousins. The time went quickly and we were soon on our way through security again (for at least the fourth time yesterday) and on to our final flight. Linnea sat with my Mom and she was asleep within moments of sitting down. She didn’t wake up until we landed and even then needed to be forced awake. Alyssa had managed some naps on the earlier flights so she didn’t sleep for very long but she was clearly not happy about being on yet another airplane. A few crying fits later…. we landed and were greeted at the airport by a Dave’s mom, sister, sister’s daughter and a friend who were happy to finally get a chance to see Alyssa in person. She even managed a few smiles for them. The last step in getting home was the car ride. My brother and his wife came with two cars to transport us and our luggage back to our house which is, thankfully, not that far from the airport. We had to quickly load the car and Alyssa got put into her car seat rather abruptly. This was her first time in a car seat so it was traumatic for her. She screamed the entire trip home but calmed quickly once we got there and I could hold her. We got moved into the house and then my parents went home with my brother to give us time to get settled. Alyssa spent a little time exploring once we got in the house and then, following a small meal for her, we all got to bed. Somewhat surprisingly, we all slept well and woke up at about 7:00 this morning.

So far Alyssa seems to be making a smooth adjustment to being at our house. We’ll be sticking close to home for several days and limiting visitors so she doesn’t get overwhelmed. We also will be spending some time doing more toddler-proofing! She loves exploring and Linnea is already finding that her favorite toys that she doesn’t want Alyssa to handle (basically anything that is “hers”) needs to be kept up high or behind a closed door.

Posted by: mae12 | August 13, 2008

Day 14 (8/13): Last Post From China!

We had a leisurely morning on this bright, sunny day in Guangzhou. We enjoyed our last trip to the breakfast buffet and then packed up most of our belongings so that we wouldnít be frantically doing that tonight. We also needed to find out if we needed to purchase another bag to check due to gift purchases. Luckily we didnít have to do that since most gifts we bought were quite small and we are using a sturdy shopping bag as an extra carry-on bag for all of our food supplies for the trip. Alyssa has mostly been eating table food but we need to be sure to have snacks that she can eat easily and, in a pinch, she can survive the trip on rice cereal, formula, dried apples and Cheerios.

Linnea, Dave and my Dad went for one last swim in the beautiful pool. They had fun although Dave discovered later that he got sunburned on his shoulders. We haven’t had to be diligent about putting sunscreen on here since we have not often been outside for long periods of time and when we have been out it has usually been quite cloudy and/or shady. Shamian Island, where the White Swan Hotel is located, has a lot of trees so you don’t have to be out in the direct sun very often. Of course, as Dave discovered, the pool is not very shaded.

While they were enjoying the pool, my Mom, Alyssa and I took one last opportunity to do a little shopping. I had a chinese-style jacket made so we went to pick it up at ‘Susan’s Place.’ I may have already mentioned this but Dong, Susan’s husband, is from Wuchuan, Alyssa’s orphanage city. He is very friendly and remembers everyone’s names. He invited us to sit and have tea before we got down to business. The procedure for preparing tea here can be rather elaborate so it was interesting to sit and watch and chat while we waited for the tea to be ready. The jacket was made to fit and they did a good job so now I have something dressy to wear when my two girls wear their silk dresses. I also bought Alyssa a couple of pairs of dressy shoes to match her growing collection of chinese outfits. Yes, she is being spoiled already 🙂

Dave, Linnea and I had lunch at Lucy’s where we ran into a couple of other families with newly adopted children. This is a very common occurrence here on the island since so many families stay at the White Swan. We also started chatting with three women at the table next to us and found out that one of them worked for (actually was the founder, I believe) of a charity called the Good Rock Foundation based in the UK and Hong Kong that helps orphanages in Xinjiang province which is in northwest China. She was happy to hear that I had been to the store ‘A Gift From China’ that is located here on the island and had liked (and purchased) some of the products there. The proceeds from the store go to orphanages in Xinjiang. The store has many beautiful handmade items including quilts, blankets, padded jackets for children and an assortment of clothing for American Girl dolls along with many other things. She was also happy to hear that I had heard of the store before coming here by reading about it on China adoption forums and blogs and that I felt they had a positive reputation from others who have been here.

This afternoon we all loaded onto a bus and traveled across town to the US Consulate (which used to be located within a couple of blocks from the hotel here on the island). Once we got there it took less than half an hour for our relatively small group of about twelve families to go through the final process required here in China. We each had to present copies of our passport and our child’s passport to prove that the right parents each had the right child. There was then a very brief oath ceremony where we each had to raise our right hand and simply affirm that all of the information in the documents submitted was true. The ceremony was brief but emotional for many of us. The consulate official then made a special point of going around and speaking to each of the families individually. She said that this consulate “duty” was one of the favorite things for them to do. We now have a sealed packet of documents that we need to present to customs officials when we reach the United States. Alyssa also got a US visa in her Chinese passport so that she is approved to enter the US. In fact, once she crosses the border she will officially be a US citizen.

I’ve just included three pictures with this post to highlight the changes that we have seen in Alyssa since we met her. She continues to feel more comfortable with all of us and shows more exuberance all the time. It is hard for me to take a picture of her standing still since she runs toward me whenever I take the camera out. This is similar to what Linnea used to do when she was this age. It is wonderful to hear the giggles as the girls run around together. Alyssa is definitely starting to enjoy playing with her big sister (most of the time) and will often chase after her as we leave the room to head for the elevator. The picture of the three of us girls was taken shortly before leaving for the US consulate.

We have to be up and out of the room before 5:30 in the morning to get to the airport in time for our flight. Almost all of the families from our adoption agency are on the same flight with us so we won’t be the only ones with a baby. Based on what I know about her, I think that Alyssa will do alright on the flights as long as we can get up and walk around once in a while and we keep her well supplied with snacks. She often falls asleep when we are on the bus or she is being carried around so I think that she will sleep quite a bit on the flights…..at least I hope so!

For those of you waiting for us back at home… we look forward to seeing you all soon!

[I’d like to say a special thank you to my friend, Lynne, for posting all of my messages and photos on this blog while we have been in China. She readily agreed to help but I really didn’t think that I would be totally blocked from accessing WordPress while here. XIE XIE!!!]

This was another day without much scheduled time. Our adoption agency representative went to the US Consulate this morning on our behalf to present all of our adoption paperwork. Everyone in our group will go the consulate tomorrow (Wednesday) to complete the process and have an oath ceremony for the babies. They will get US visas in their Chinese passports but, I believe, will not be considered US citizens until they enter the United States.

We had a leisurely breakfast… we are going to miss the elaborate buffet breakfast they have here… then went back up to the room for a short time. Dave needed to stick around the room for a while in case any questions came up during the reps time at the consulate so Linnea, Alyssa and I headed out for a short shopping trip to pick up some more gifts for the girls and family/friends back home. There are lots of shops around here that cater to the adopting families. It is easy to find children’s clothes (both traditional and modern), artwork, jewelry, etc. etc. We finally made it to a store called ‘A Gift From China’ that I had heard about. It donates all of its profits to orphanages so it is a popular place for adopting families to shop. Their selection isn’t huge but they have some beautiful handmade items.

Back at the room I fed Alyssa some lunch (baby-food prunes and rice cereal with some formula mixed in) and tried to get her to take a nap. She was much more interested in playing than in sleeping so I put her in the hip carrier and took her for a walk… a sure-fire way to get her to nod off to sleep. It was fairly warm today and extremely humid so I was happy when it started to rain a bit although it didn’t last long. After the walk (and some more shopping ) it was back to the room for a while before getting everyone ready for pictures and then a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. The girls both had on their traditional red chinese dresses for the occasion. It is a tradition to take pictures of the adopted babies on some red couches that are here at the White Swan Hotel. Most of the babies were quite fussy as they haven’t been out of their parents’ arms for much of this first week with their new families. They also have to put up with the paparazzi parents all swarming in front of them trying to get a good picture. Alyssa did fine as long as we kept her distracted by handing her toddler puffed cereal bits.

We also took pictures of each individual family and then the entire group in an atrium with a waterfall right in our hotel.

After that we headed out for the dinner cruise. We can see the lit up tour boats going past our hotel every night so it was fun to try it out for ourselves. The boat wasn’t too crowded which was good because there was a big swarm for the food when it was put out and I don’t think we would have had much of anything for ourselves if the boat was full. The food was served buffet style. Chinese people do not always wait patiently in line so it was really every person out for themselves and you had to be quick if you wanted to get something that was popular. This was very evident at the end of the serving time when they brought out a rather small amount of watermelon considering the number of people present. It was gone within about one minute. Dave did manage to secure one small wedge by being assertive and making his way through the crowd. The top of the boat was open and it was nice to go outside after the meal to enjoy the many lit up buildings along the river.

Alyssa has made many changes over the past few days. She is now babbling quite a lot. When I was putting her to bed tonight her ‘talking’ was keeping Linnea from falling asleep herself. This is a big change from the little girl who didn’t utter a peep other than crying or laughing during the first six days that she spent with us. It is such a joy to see her become more comfortable with us and to see more of her personality emerging.

Here are some other things that are new in the past couple of days:

She can blow kisses.

She gets quite active at bedtime and it takes a while to get her to calm down. She tosses and turns now before getting comfortable to sleep.

Getting her to eat is not much of a problem. She seems to love almost anything we have her try.

If she doesn’t want a food we are putting to her mouth she will firmly turn her head away.

If we want her to eat congee (rice gruel) at breakfast we have to give that to her first before getting her any eggs, otherwise she will refuse to eat the congee.

She continues to have a temper if something she wants is taken from her.

Both Linnea and I have been bit by her in the past few days. In my case she was just waking up so I don’t think it was an intentional bite. In Linnea’s case she was pushing Alyssaís boundaries and patience a bit too much and Alyssa bit the front of her shirt and happened to also catch some skin. Painful! We’re working on helping her understand that this is not okay.

She loves playing games where we imitate each other. Today she was blinking hard for several seconds and then laughed hysterically when I did the same. This was, of course, repeated multiple times.

Only one more full day before we leave China! It will be nice to get back home but weíll miss this concentrated time with Alyssa and the camaraderie of being around so many other adoptive families.

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