15 January 2009

Loveable, Huggable Squeezable, Unbelievable

These are our last remarks from China. We arrived on Christmas Day (12/25/08) and visited our friends Sage, Jialing, Bonnee, and Echo in Suzhou for a few days. On 12/29/08, we were blessed with the arrival (in our arms) of Willow Noelle "Chun Qi" Stein. Willow has been part of our lives for almost 3 weeks now, and we're actually having a hard time remembering what it was like before our special gift arrived.
Can't claim the words for today's blog title (a great Country Western song), but I love singing it to Willow because that's what she is.....
Today was a day of "relaxation" (e.g., above photo). After spending some time packing, and playing, we went for one of our last strolls around Shamian Island. Willow got a small backpack today ... a very tiny one with a panda on the back. She will "carry on" her own snacks and bottle-gear (and a few toys for the flight). Most of the rest of the day was spent back in the hotel room "packing." We're leaving China with a few more things than we arrived with ... including one very special thing ... The Little One!
She actually doesn't like wearing the pack, despite the fact that it is filled with Cherrios. Her little hands are up at her shoulders, trying to take it off (which we did, right after this picture was snapped).
Some of you have asked whether we will continue this blog when we get back to the states. That's undetermined at this point, but, one thing is for sure, if we do, it will be on a much reduced pace...maybe once a week or so? We thank all of you who have sent us such encouraging comments during the beginning of our new journey together. Willow will one day see this blog and all of your comments (including e-mails we have received from many of you). Thank you for being such great family and friends. She's ours!!!!!! As such, she is part of you'all as well.

While packing, Willow ran behind the curtain for an impromptu game of peek-a-boo behind the lace curtains (above and below).

Survival tool: Cheerios (with a little honey). She doesn't like the little hearts (which are sweeter and don't taste as oat-ey).

Spending a few minutes in the hall by the elevator ... just to get out of the room :) We are meeting our friends for dinner: a cheeseburger in paradise (at Lucy's, down the street).

Art project: installation.

Art project: admiration!

First (magna-doodle) drawing ... obviously a butterflly that's just come out of its chrysallis.

Somebody learned how to drink from a sippy cup a few days ago.

Somebody is also very happy (most of the time!).

And Somebody is kind, generous, and loving. We will be home soon, and look forward to you all meeting Willow, in person.

"The End" (The End of Chapter 2, that is).

14 January 2009

"Red Couch" Day

Time out for peach nectar mixed with warm water :) I've been dressing Willow in pants ... so thought I'd try out a corduroy dress. As a proper tomboy, she sported some fuzzy shoes and leggings.
Today was "Red Couch" day for Willow. It is a long-standing tradition for parents to take a photo of their adopted child on a red couch at the White Swan Hotel (two blocks from where we are staying at the Victory Hotel -- west annex). Although we chose not to stay at the White Swan Hotel, we still wanted to take a photo of the wee one on one of the couches. The last time Chris was through Guangzhou, he did stay at the White Swan and took a photo of an empty couch knowing that "one day" we would return and have a child to pose on that couch before we left China. The "empty couch" photo is very symbolic to us because now it is filled with (mommy quote) "the cutest little thing in the whole wide world." Daddy agrees.
To prepare Willow for her debut photo on the red couch, we, of course, had to have a special outfit made for her. Oh, what a dilemna. What color to choose? What fabric to choose? Should it be a dress? or pants? So many decisions in life! To reiterate last night's blog, we selected a solid gold color because we wanted Willow to wear the old style (late Qing Dynasty) hat that we bought for her several days ago. This hat has many colors in it and the gold would complement the hat very nicely. Grace, from the shop where we bought the fabric, has an auntie who is a seamstress. The auntie turns these outfits around in just one day. The fabric has Chinese characters on it from a very famous Tang Dynasty poem called "In The Quiet Night" by poet Li Bai. The characters basically mean "love your family, love your home." This is the first poem virtually all Chinese children learn (before school). The poem reads as follows (although there are several different translations):

In the Quiet Night
So bright a gleam on the foot of my bed
Could there have been a frost already?
Lifting my head to look,
I found that it was moonlight.
Sinking back again, I thought suddenly of home.

Auntie Sara knows Mommy so well; they are "sames". Thus ... after one more romp (for mommy and the other WACAP family) through the wholesale children's market (where a whole lot of "yuan" exchanged hands, i.e., left daddy's and went to someone else's (of course, with the favorable exchange rate and the profoundly inexpensive price of wholesale clothes, that's really only a few dollars), we returned to the Victory and dressed-up the precious one for her photo. We strolled over to the White Swan and selected a couple of different red couches (there are many) to take a few photos on (some of the results are posted below). Our skwirmy one did not want to keep her hat on for long. Perhaps when she is older, she will appreciate it's great historical significance? (fingers crossed).
After the photo shoot, we dropped by Grace's shop to show her Willow dressed-up in the outfit her auntie made, and, of course, we had to shop some more (Grandma Nardia, you will be very happy with the small gift that Willow got for you). Then, back to the room to let Willow run around unencumbered by most of her clothing (she just loves her new necklace and black and white striped leggings). Tonight, it's pizza time again...that 4-cheese pie was just too good to only eat once! Off to friends in Room 8405 to have a pizza party....Until tomorrow (which will be our last night in Guangzhou), goodnight
Teddy Girl borrowed a dragon shirt from Willow ... the sun was high and The Pearl River (outside the window) was sparkling. Contrary to The Little One, Teddy was happy to pose.

This is not the special hat, but the one that Teddy Girl was wearing.

Okay, a little bit better :)

Now it's Teddy Girl's turn to wear the old hat. Those are cheerios all over the couch (the best way to keep her occupied for a moment--or two--at best). Typically, the only place Mommy can actually put her down is in our hotel room; otherwise, she almost always needsto be held at all times to feel secure. With time, this need will lessen; but for now, she is VERY attached (which is a good thing). However, she also wanted to walk by herself a little (i.e., in public, that is).

Time to take a stroll out of the White Swan and start to head home.

Almost at the door, leading to the BIG world outside. The doorman held the door open for her, and she giggled with glee as the liberated wind blew her hair (brisk day!) Once out the door, Willow's arms are immediately held high: "time to pick me up and hold me close!"

Ginger ice cream ... (especially delicious after a hard day's work on a red couch).

Grace, in her store, whose Ayi (auntie) made the red-couch outfit.

Waiting outside Starbucks, for Daddy's latte.

Gee it's great to be home and out of those clothes. I am playing with the drum that Ayi Echo purchased for me in Suzhou (at the Humble Administrator's Garden shop). Behind me, Mommy has begun to pack for the trip home.

Here I am !!! A few hours later, I was very sad ... not sure why, but life is overwhelming sometimes. A lot of love and a good night's sleep will make it all better in the morning. Goodnight!

13 January 2009

U.S. Consulate Today: Oath, Willow's Passport, and Visa to Enter U.S.

This is how last night's pizza was delivered :) And, the chef is Italian. The crust was brick-oven, and the pizza itself was fantastic (haven't really had great pizza like this since we left NY). The sauce was homemade, too.
We just played around the hotel today, and took a walk ... I stopped at my favorite little store: I picked out some fabric and am getting two little wrap tunics (with ties) made for Willow, out of silk. Our last BIG official appointment was today, at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. There, we took an oath (to swear everything on our adoption paperwork was correct, etc.), and then received Willow's passport and visa. We think we'll keep her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, without further delay, here she is:

Yeah! She slept through the night, from 8 pm until 7 am (translation: Mommy and Daddy slept); she awoke happy (eating some cheerios and "pretend" drinking orange juice from the bottle). She is modeling some Oilily floral corduroy pants (with velvet trim on the cuffs) which I scored on eBay; underneath are pink leggings with tiny hearts (it's a little chilly today).

Here is a picture of our new friends: Paul, Kimberly, and their daughter JingJing (who is 3). Their little girl is so lovely and demure. We have all gone to the "play room" (sponsored by Mattel) at the White Swan hotel, down the street.

Willow rode on a plastic zebra for a minute or two, but soon asked to be taken off and held.
She clung to me the entire time; Willow shut down for the first time in many, many days (we think it reminded her of the orphange: large room, lots of colorful plastic toys, and many children screaming). Needless to say, we left immediately and went to find some peace watching the fish in the koi pond. To be honest, it broke my heart and we won't bring her there any more.

And a few more ... ..

There is one person following our blog who will smile as soon as she sees this image: she recently adopted her little girl Faith (who was in the same orphanage as Willow); almost every day she wrote a blog post about how much she loved these tiny little oranges. Well, now we understand. They are outrageously delicious (every section is screaming and bursting with flavor and sweetness). Willow eats about 3 or 4 each day, sometimes more. They range in diameter from a quarter to a half-dollar. They are not Mandarin oranges, but some specialty of a particular province (I can't remember which one).

We were showing Willow pictures of Chloe and Gus on the laptop ... when, all of a sudden, Willow leapt at the keyboard at the same moment I was advancing the pictures. I don't know what happened, but the screen went from horizontal to VERTICAL (and the mouse subsequently moved the cursor in the opposite direction to how you wanted it to go). Paul (and JingJing) to the rescue: Paul's a computer programmer (and physics professor). Anyway, I thought this image told the story: Paul is holding his head horizontally, so he can read the screen (zoom in). Had Paul not fixed it, you wouldn't be reading this blog :)
I wanted to share an image of some items that are very special. These are "chops" that our guide (and FRIEND) Sara made for us. They are unique in that the symbols she used to depict our names are a very old style of writing (which I love and covetted for my chops). They are very unusual and we treaure them (you ususally cannot find anyone who really knows or carves this style character). Chops are used to stamp the "signature" images many painters use on their artwork. Starting from the upper left: The large square image says Chun Qi (and the chop itself has a pig, i.e., is onlyl for people born during the Year of The Pig); moving clockwise, the second image is Meryl (Mei Rou ... which has a very nice translation); the third is also Mei Rou (this one I wanted large enough to handle oil or acrylic paint); the fourth is Yang Liu (which means Willow tree). Also pictured is a container of red ink, and two of the boxes that hold these precious items. Chris' chop is also fabulous (but he's already packed it!!! Boo hoo, do we have to get ready to come home?)

More from today ....

The koi are well kept (fat and happy).
Good vibes (negative ions) from the waterfall and koi in the White Swan lobby attract many families to this viewing area. I am speaking with a family that just adopted a 14 year old girl--they previously adopted a 12 year old (who is now 15), and a 2 year old (who is now five)(both at the same time)! Wow.
Chris stopped off at Starbucks for lattes. This is an image from one of their signs (featuring, who else, an Ox ... everyone is getting ready for the Chinese New Year, which begins the Year of The Ox). Willow is a pig, Meryl is a dog, and Chris is a horse: what are you?

Willow and Mom went straight home to relax, before invoking "naptime." Willow is so very passionate: she is now playing with complete joy and abandon (and she cries with complete sorrow, as if the world is ending). We love her without reservation, and do our best to envelop her in love and security during her many ups and occasional downs.

Napping before the Consulate appointment .... She is so cute that it is hard not to kiss and hug her when she is sleeping (but we don't want to wake her). Unfortunately, we had to break the golden rule and wake her up, so we wouldn't be late for our appointment (that did not make her happy). Unfortunately, we do not have pictures of the Consulate visit, as cameras and other electronics (or liquids) are not allowed.

12 January 2009

Willow's Excellent Adventure

Weeeeeeeee! Off we go, to start Willow's excellent adventure.
Today's posts will be a hodgepodge of our day spent Willowing (and poking around Shamian Island stores, looking for a traditional Chinese outfit for Willow's "red couch" photo). This search is a little tricky, as we purchased a very old silk hat for the photo-shoot ... and thus we must find something that is complementary to the hat, but doesn't overwhelm it). Well, the hat is multi-colored, and the silk base is an unusual, time-weathered shade of red). Anyway, none of the outfits we saw matched; they were all "too bright" or "too complex" (i.e., composed of too many colors that didn't match the hat). There are a few shops with tailors (specifically elderly Chinese seamstresses), so we picked out simple fabric with poems (symbols) embroidered on it (the buttons--called frogs--will be the only other color). You'll get to see it on a later blog.
Willow did not nap successfully today, so she was a mix of hysterical fun and hysterical crying. She's outrageously interesting and full of surprises. She made quite a few random runs at Chris today, screaming with glee and begging to be picked up and swooped into the air. Over and over again. BUT, today she only wanted me to hold her (and my hip was really hurting again). This basically grounded us at the hotel room. That said, she often wants to be running around by herself in the room, but is FREQUENTLY running back for a security-hug or to be picked up for a quick kiss. Then it's a request to be put down on the floor again, for another run, giggle, and spin around the room. She's delightful, even during her overtired meltdowns. We try to keep her on a schedule, which is gentle and slow (i.e., not get her overstimulated, compared to life in the orphanage), but she's also coming into her own and wants to explore and have fun (so we are walking a tightrope, trying to hit the sweet spot in the middle, to achieve maxium security, love, and exploration).
Enough of my blathering. Here are today's photos :)
Sitting inside the large lobby of the White Swan hotel (down the street), at the Koi area. If you double-click, you can see Willow making the sign for "fish" (I am doing the same). She loves animals and being outside (and breaks down crying when I try to take her into any store; that is, unless we provide a teething biscuit or some other yummy).

Waving to Daddy!

More Excellent Adventure Photos ....

I purchased a gift for future "adoption day" celebrations, i.e., every December 29th (this one is for when Willow is older). But, she was very interested and seemed to know what it was for so I let her hold the bracelet to see what she did. In the second photo you will see she is very proud of her accomplishment! By the way, we spend countless hours like this: Willow is perched on her "happy" spot (my stomach), where she clambers to every time I get onto the bed.

Scratching and scratching ... Uh oh. Off with the shirt to have a look. Another outbreak of scabies (the eggs can stay ... occasionally necessitating a second treatment). But first ... a bath.

Not too happy about getting the permethrin lotion (scabies treatment) put all over me, from scalp to between toes.

All is well again (now that it's dinner time). Willow now insists on feeding herself (broccoli + chicken baby food, on this occasion). China parents are so practical and ingenious: we purchased this bib, which covers the arms and wraps halfway around the back (and the front is lined with plastic). This one is inscribed: Little Pups Sometimes Make Big Messes.

One spoon isn't enough: let me try double-dipping, by shoving both loaded spoons into my mouth in quick succession.

After dinner is is time to get into pajamas and relax on the potty while watching the Signing Times video. Here, Willow is making the sign for "more"

Now it is time for bed.... One or two tear fall (crocodile tears) and she's out for the count. It isn't all complete bliss: I was up three times last night, awoken by crying and tears. Twice a warm bottle was all she needed, but the third time it was time to get up... and jump on my Mom's stomach to start the day. Goodnight!