Saturday, December 15, 2012

Baba's Birthday

The most wonderful Ben Utter turned 33 yesterday. The last tendrils of jet lag fog had yet to lift but we summoned energy and Ben was treated to his once yearly non healthy breakfast. He typically goes for the kale/protein powder smoothie but on this very special day his body goes into shock after I whip up french toast. It wasn't too terribly indulgent as I made it with Ezekiel Bread which didn't exactly soak up the butter and syrup the way proper French toast should.

S is into French toast. No big shock there. Not so much turkey bacon.

We even through a simple cocktail and pie party for Ben in the evening, twas a really great time. I was nervous about watching S and being a decent host but it turned out to be easy as the little has shown her stripes and they are extroverted! She became more and more animated each time the door bell rang and waddled from room to room, unfazed by the crowd.

I didn't have time to take pictures before or during so decided to take a few after-party shots. I always forget about that part.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 11

Many good things since arriving home:

S goes to sleep in her crib and will sleep until we wake her up!

She loves guacamole! At least for now...

She continues to respond to and love on both of us!

She wasn't scared of the snow or beagles.

She tolerates the car seat pretty well, all things considered.

Ben and I have had good sleep but continue to pass out when she does and rise early early, which is really okay with me.

we have been loved upon by our friends and family with such good food and gifts and support!

She said "please" and is grunting for things less and less.


In other news:

she has quite the whine (but what toddler doesn't?)

she seems to love all things grown - up and not too much into any actual toy. She did love Leggos so Ben is out this very moment fetching a box or two.

she sees the dogs as more of beings-that-might-take-my-food rather than friends. I don't really blame her. They do beg and beg.

(and this is my very own ridiculous issue) she doesn't seem to be taken in by natural beauty; she stares blankly at the snow and has barely noticed the Christmas tree. Now, I fully understand that 1. she is used to lots of bright lights in Guangzhou and 2. more importantly, we took her 7000 miles from everything she knows, so this is my own very petty disappointment. I will survive :)

I carried her in the Ergo once since coming home and she was very happy but for the most part, she is way more interested in being independent. She has practiced (with us) going up and down the stairs over and over; I suspect to be able to master it on her own. Certainly part of this is natural toddler curiosity but could some of it be a self-protective instinct? I'm not sure.


She wanted to hold the ax and cut down the tree! Oh, my. Hands so very full. And hearts as well.



Ramona goes in with me to wake her every morning and both seem eager to love on her. Who knows what their beagle brains are processing!


Friday, December 07, 2012


We made it home all in one piece, er, three pieces. I was prepared for TOTAL DISASTER but had some ammunition on hand : magna doodle, special markers that don't mark on anything other than their special paper, a slinky, plenty of crackers/cheerios, and if all else were to fail, the ipad followed by *gasp* suckers.

I didn't think much about the multiple long lines/security checks/more security checks/sitting on the runway, however. We had gone through our first two lines of defense just sitting on the runway in Guangzhou. (Mental note - don't fly out of Guangzhou next time; we could have been in Hong Kong long before the plane actually took off). She actually did okay once the first flight got underway. We played with the seat belt and the old ash trays (apparently attempting to squish Ben's finger in the tray was hilarious). Unfortunately, the delay on the ground led to a mighty close connection time and we sprinted through the Hong Kong airport just in time for the 14 hour flight. She did AMAZINGLY well on the flight. She didn't sleep much, which would prove to be disastrous for the folks on the way from Chicago to Minneapolis. We were that family. None of my lines of defense could conquer a tired, confused 2 year old. Fortunately, it was short and upon landing we were greeted by a small throng of Serena admirers. Once she was handed balloons and loved on a bit more, she was golden.

And has been since then. 17 hours of sleep helped. We played and she ate some of "our" food instead of the series of processed white flour she is accustomed too. This proved to be a mistake later and I don't have to tell you that introducing avocados and quinoa into a digestive tract accustomed to steamed buns with sesame paste is not the greatest idea. Shudder. We played all day. Our attachment is going well. I almost hate to say it, but I remind myself that she has a long way to go - 2 steps forward, 1 step back. We took a brief venture out in the snow and she is now sleeping away, hopefully for the night. I should do that, too.

A family photo the night before departure:


Note: no family members consumed any part of the chicken head.




Girl vs photo shoot

It is a Chinese adoption ritual to take a photo of your new daughter or son in the traditional dress on the day before departure. I'm not sure how far back this goes but for the longest time, it involved sitting on a red couch at the White Swan Hotel. I really like this tradition. Well, unfortunately, the hotel currently looks like this:


So the next best (and superior in my mind) option was to take her photo on Shamian Island, which really is peaceful and well-kept:


However, a combination of rain and napping prevented us from getting any nice light, so we opted for backdrops from the Victory Hotel. Serena is every bit a toddler which, as you likely know, only 0.001% of the photos are NOT blurry. There is absolutely no standing still in toddler-land, especially if your parents really want you to. So this is what we have:










Some day she will think I'm a dork for that shoe choice. What can I say? I was too cheap to buy matching shoes?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Rain rain; seriously- go away

We had planned to go out today, maybe to the safari park or an amusement park but I think we'll stay in, warm and dry. We hung out in the hotel room yesterday for a good bit and S was so relaxed; we played and played. She had a superb nap and then we played some more before heading out to a dinner cruise on the not so pearly Pearl River.












Today is our last day here! We head out in the early am on Thursday. See you all on the other side!


Monday, December 03, 2012

One week in

I cannot believe we are wrapping up this trip; as each milestone is reached we are one step closer to stepping off the plane and introducing the US to its newest citizen. I will miss having a daily breakfast buffet, fresh towels, and someone making my bed every day but I will survive :) Now we move our thoughts toward introducing S to the sights, sounds, and food of St Paul. It may be a little less exciting, but way more cozy! Sure, I wish we were coming home in June with 80 degree days but the long stretch of winter is made much more exciting by Advent and Christmas. We have also been so blessed with a membership to the local Children's museum and will be getting in plenty of quality time there.

But back to yesterday - S passed her TB test and so we set out to wander through the medicine and pet markets. They were interspersed only with a row of recently slain pigs set out for purchase. We saw scorpions and turtles and yak body parts galore! I think the St Paul farmer's market might be a touch boring for this girl from Guangzhou! We ended the excursion with a little Cantonese food. I can't express enough how wonderful it is to have a Mandarin-speaking husband. He has had many delightful conversations but maybe even more importantly, can order all the right food.




S and I had a delightful playtime last night. She seems to be distant in the afternoons, which is also when she had the most difficult time the first few days. She is fine during and after dinner. She did go to Ben to carry her around today but I've had a few hugs and smiles. It has been so encouraging to hear from those who've had similar experiences. We have been told that children from foster homes can reject their new Mama, especially if there were close to the foster Mother. I am holding on to that and taking it one day at a time.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunday in the Park with BaBa

Ben: Our zoo visit was called on account of rain, which kind of relieved me; if Guangzhou's zoo is anything like Beijing's was when I visited a decade ago--taxidermy and plastic machine guns for sale in the gift shop, and a collection of ill-kept animals pleading with their eyes to be either released or put down--then it's no place for animals or people who like them.

Brandy: So we took to wandering the streets of the city and came upon a park festooned with chrysanthemums and elaborate bonsai and Angry Bird statues, of course. S got to see her first (as far as we know) dragon show and run around a bit, which she has come to prefer. This girl has sensed independence and is not turning back! She likes to help with putting on her shoes, eating, directing the elevator, and has no further patience with the stroller or Ergo. It was nice while it lasted. She definitely prefers Baba for now and while this is seriously breaking my heart as I have so longed to hold her, I will be patient and hope.