Slow Return to Normal

Life is slowly returning to normal — a new normal dominated by the rhythm of life with little girl — here.

Life is in fact slowly returning to something that is beginning to feel like normal. A new and different normal, to be sure, but normal none the less.

Ian is back in school, spring soccer has started up and we have our first league match this evening, most of the snow is now gone (aside from the shaded places in our back yard and garden where we had some pretty impressive drifts pile up over the winter), and we are gradually getting caught up on things around the house. I’m still at home these days, and will continue to be for at least a couple more weeks. I can’t imagine having to go back to work at this point and realize how blessed I am to be in a position of being able to have this time with family.

Li as her smiling, happy selfOur new normal is of course dominated (dictated?) at this point by the rhythm of life with an almost-15-month old little girl. Li, for the most part, is adjusting extraordinarily well: she’s healthy, happy (most of the time), active, curious, learning, babbling away, and definitely eating well. Bedtime and naptime are still tough, but bedtime is in actually getting a little easier, and she’s sleeping better. We’ve finally gotten 6 and 7 hours, respectively, of uninterrupted sleep the past two nights which makes a huge difference for her and for us (although I think Deb and I will need a few more of those to begin to feel like we are not sleep-deprived). She’s eating well, loves to be read to (which Deb and I both find exciting and surprising, because we don’t believe she has been exposed to books before), and yesterday we started seeing her stand on her own for a few seconds at a time.

She’s pretty cautious and shy at first around other people, particularly at first, which is both understandable and a good thing as she continues to bond with us. We’re taking it pretty slowly in terms of exposing her to friends and even to family.

To those of you who have offered your help and your prayers, we say a huge “Thank You!”. You have no idea how much those have helped and have meant (and continue to mean!) to us these past weeks.


Jetlag, a baby girl not sleeping well, parents not sleeping well…

Jetlagged. Baby girl not sleeping well. Parents not sleeping well. Today is supposed to be the first sort of semi-normal day again, with Ian starting back to school and soccer practice this afternoon. Not a good sign…

Home again…

Home again, despite our heads, stomachs, watches, and our little girl all being in various timezones between here and China.

… home again, jiggedy-jig.

The past couple of days are basically a blur. My head, my stomach, my watch, and my little girl are all still operating on different timezones, which is resulting in a weird dizzy sort of feeling.

The last day in Guangzhou was some shopping and a little exploring off Shamian Island on our own in the morning, and then the big event where we took the visa oath on behalf of Li so that she could travel with us. Thursday was a 31-hour day, starting with a 4:30am wakeup to get going for the airport and the first of four legs of plane travel to make it home. The flights themselves were pretty uneventful; we were a little late getting out of Hong Kong, but we still had plenty of time in LA between connections. Li is teething — it looks like the first little molar is trying to poke through — so she was pretty fussy at times on the planes. The first four hours or so on the Hong Kong to LA flight were pretty tough, but after that she conked out and slept until we were landing in LA.

Li is down napping for a bit right now, which is probably a good thing, as last night by the time we made it home she was exhausted but her clock was still on mid-day in China so the last thing she wanted was to go to bed and sleep. She was up until about 3am before sleeping a few hours. I’m sure it is going to take all of us a few days to get back into any sort of routine and to get our bodies back on Mountain time.

Thank you to all of you for your thoughts and prayers these past two weeks. You have no idea how much they have meant to us and how much they have helped.

In addition to our little girl, we brought back lots of pictures and even more memories. Over the next few days, I hope to pull some of those together in a couple more posts to try to share some of our experiences with all of you…

Guangzhou: A City of Firsts

Sorry for the delay between posts; we’ve been too busy and too tired. Guangzhou has been a city of firsts for Li, but we’re ready to be home.

Ian and Li in the Nanchong airportSorry for the delay between posts. Between being busy and being exhausted by the time evening rolls around, it has been hard to find both time and and energy to even think about writing. The good news is that we are all surviving and adjusting and growing and adapting. And there is no bad news…

On Saturday, we flew from Nanchang to Guangzhou. We’ve finished all of the paperwork, and have just one appointment left here in Guangzhou — at the US Consulate tomorrow afternoon — to get Li’s travel visa so that she can enter the US with us. We finished the paperwork on Sunday, and then had a bit of a sightseeing tour and another checkup as part of the adoption process on Monday. Officially, Li is 23.4 pounds — making her the heaviest baby in the group by more than a pound, 30 inches tall, and has a head circumference of 18 inches (and from everything we’ve seen so far, that head is packed with brains!). We took it easy this morning, and then went to the pearl market here in Guangzhou this afternoon, which is near Li Wan plaza, sort of a combination of a huge mall, a huge pedestrian shopping district, and hundreds of jewelry and pearl stores. It has to be seen to be believed.

Red Couch PhotoSunday afternoon, we also did the traditional “red couch” photo of all of the girls in the adoption group. What a riot! Li is third from right, in the back row, staring intently at the photographer. About 3 seconds after this was taken, all 13 girls were screaming at the tops of the lungs.

Guangzhou has definitely been a city of firsts for Li:

  • Li’s first airplane flight brought her here from Nanchang, and her first flight delay had us an hour late leaving Nanchang. They held the plane on the runway for almost an hour once we had boarded. Despite the delay, she did just fine.
  • Li’s first ice cream was mango ice cream with lunch on Sunday. Every bite brought a scrunched up face and then a request (demand?) for more.  She has also tried green tea and taro flavors and loved them.
  • Li’s first stroller rideLi’s first stroller ride was Monday afternoon, and started as a white-knuckle sort of affair (probably until she decided I wasn’t going to dump her out going around corners) and ended up pretty relaxed, as you can see.
  • Li got her first pair of “squeaky” shoes this afternoon. These have to be seen (and heard) to be believed: they have little squeakers in the soles under the heels to get kids to plant their heels as they are learning to walk. Every step results in a squeak. They’re a hoot, but I don’t think she’ll be wearing them on our plane rides home.
  • Li’s first bedtime without screaming was Monday evening, but tonight the screaming was back, but not for as long. Some progress there, at least.

Guangzhou is an interesting city, but the area where our hotel is located (Shamian Island) is way too touristy for our tastes. The hotel is great aside from the beds (I’ve slept on softer sidewalks), but it is so large that our group is all spread out and it feels a little impersonal compared to our hotel in Nanchang. We are ready to be home; it hit Deb and me today and it hit Ian a day or two ago. This has been an incredible experience, but we are ready to be home.

We travel home on Thursday, which will be a very long day between the early start, all of the flights (Guangzhou to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to LA, LA to Salt Lake, and finally Salt Lake to Idaho Falls), and the time change. All together, it will work out to something like a 28 hour day by the time we make it home. We can definitely use your prayers as we head home, and we are grateful for all of them these past two weeks.

Chinese Weightlifting Team

We are now official members of the Chinese weightlifting team, being the smallest parents and having the heaviest of the children. But having said that, this is indeed a match made in heaven.

Li Zhong, NanchangDeb and I have decided that we are now official members of the Chinese weightlifting team. We seem to be competing in the flyweight division. We find it interesting that as the smallest people in this adoption group, we were matched with the heaviest of the children. By the end of each day, we are exhausted and every muscle in our arms, shoulders, and backs is incredibly sore. I’m still trying to figure out how to say “ibuprofen” in Mandarin… but having said that, I look at her and I see God’s hand in this match between her and us in so many ways. She’s beautiful and she’s perfect and we are so blessed to have her as part of our family. This is indeed a match made in heaven.

Evenings are still very hard on Li (and therefore on us). There clearly are some areas there where we hope things will smooth out over time. Other than that, we are all adjusting well. Li is eating, pooping, drinking well. She is much more active and extroverted now — her smile and her laugh just light up a room. (Those cheeks are so big, she has about 4 dimples on each side when she smiles!) She got a waiter in a restaurant in trouble yesterday at lunch because she was smiling and laughing at him so much that he just stopped and was playing with her until one of the older “aunties” working there came over and scolded him to get back to work. She’s cruising the furniture around the room now, too, which brings a whole new set of challenges since it is really hard to kid-proof a hotel room you are trying to live in.

Tang Weng Pavilion, NanchangWe visited Tang Weng pavilion yesterday morning and spent several hours just wandering the grounds and exploring the pavilion before sitting in on a musical performance with traditional Chinese dance, singing, and music. Li was enthralled, particularly by the dance. The pavilion dates back more than 1,400 year and it is amazing. The grounds are beautiful and Li seemed to particularly like the ponds and plants on the grounds surrounding the pavilion itself.

This morning involved a trip to Porcelain Street (the Jiangxi province is known for its porcelain) and a Chinese book store for a bit of shopping. It was pouring down rain this morning — something we haven’t seen since Monday — so we didn’t get to spend much time outside and it showed in Li’s demeanor this afternoon. She did take a bit of a nap early this afternoon which made for a much more pleasant dinner for all of us. As soon as we were back in the hotel room, she went into scream mode again until she just plain wore herself out, at which point she simply collapsed asleep in my arms.

Li Zhong and Deb, NanchangTomorrow morning, we leave Nanchang for Guangzhou, which makes me sad. Nanchang is an amazing city and it will always be a special place for all of us as this is where we got Li Zhong. It is a city of extremes: extreme poverty, extreme traffic, extremely bad air, extraordinary beauty, incredible history, incredible food, and the people here have been more open and friendly and curious and supportive that we would have thought possible. The looks on their faces when they find out why we have these girls is such a blend of excitement and joy. We will leave here with an incredible gift and with fond memories of this city and a strong resolve that we will come back to show Li this place that is now such a special place for all of us.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers; please keep them coming. We’ve got lots of travel ahead of us, more appointments with the governments on both sides of this particular equation, and we are all still definitely working through this process.