Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home - and about town

Well, I must admit, I was pretty proud of Susanna on her first two plane trips. While she was not particularly impressed (or even remotely observant) of take offs and landings she did a fine job of entertaining herself in flight.This may not be a big deal for a 40 minute trip from Gangzhou to Hong Kong, but 15 hours from HK to Newark is something else again! She slept for the first two hours, and the last three, and for the middle ten, she ate, "read, " watched Curious George and Fantasia, and did hours upon hours of "Lets see how many ways we can roll around in one chair." My personal favorite was lying down on the seat, turning round in a full circle (with her back on the seat_ and then raising her legs up against the back of the chair and doing a chair version of "snow angels." I decided it was basically chair aerobics. No crying, or demanding to get out; and I did take her for an occasional bathroom trip and cabin walk. She did have a problem with her ears on the descent, and looked truly unhappy, and as soon as the wheels landed- she got sick,(Yes, boy; you know exactly what I mean!) So Susanna entered the US in dirty clothes and a little worse for wear (mom too, based on Susanna's landing!) but all is well. She and I had to wait in the non U.S. citizen's line for immigration, but it was painless, and after I handed in her papers, she became a US citizen (For the 24 hours from Consulate to Airport, she was a legal immigrant.) I should receive her papers in 45 days.
She seems very happy with her new digs, but was fairly horrified with her two feline siblings. (OK, to be specific, she saw them and started shrieking in mortal terror...) but she has recovered She now looks both ways before entering a room, and runs past the gingerly if she sees them. If she and I are reading and one comes too close for some petting, she glares at them and begins to yell at them in Cantonese. Fun times.

She and I basically basically slept through the night, except the cats kept waking us both up. (Yes, she went to bed in her own bedroom without any problems, but the cats kept pushing her door open, she would cry, I would get up to comfort her, shoo them away, close the door (but not shut it) and the whole thing would start again two hours later.) The cats usually sleep with me, but for the next few nights, they will have to hang out in the rest of the apartment and be banned from sleeping quarters until they get the concept.
This morning we were out and about doing errands and getting a visit from her grandparents. She enjoyed the cold weather (for her winter is usually 75 degrees!) and was quite sociable in all neighborhood stores. We even bumped into a Lower School student! Some neighbors visited last night,and we are visiting a friend across the street later today.

So all is well, and this will most likely be our last post. A final thanks that will never be big enough to Nan who truly saw me at my worst a few times on this trip. ( becoming a mom was easy; becoming a mom while dealing with a different land and culture occasionally proved- um-- stressful to t this goal oriented individual!) Mom and daughter are both well and happy and ready to begin (resume) a normal life here in the states- and we are well on our way.

Oh,and one final thing: for the LS boys w ho tried to guess-- the first US state we passed over was Alaska. We flew north to Tokyo, up by the Aleutian Islands, over Alaska, across Montana,and the Dakotas, down toward Michigan and and and then down to NYC flying south from Buffalo. The trip was about 9300 miles.
And for those who wondered, as we passed over Alaska, I definitely made a point of checking- but no, I could not see Russia from my window.......)

Home in America at Last!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some Photos for the Boys!

Susanna's Chinese Passport

one more Guangzhou photo!

Photos of Guangzhou

A Note or Two from "Auntie Nan" !!!

     As a very lucky witness to this amazing journey, it seems fitting that I add a note or two to all of Laurie's wonderful entries. It has been an experience of a lifetime and I feel so fortunate to have been along for the ride. Susanna is one lucky little girl to have such a marvelous Mom. And, in true "Auntie" form, I have to say that Laurie has herself one gorgeous, smart, sweet, and enchanting daughter. I have found it hard to take my eyes off her. So, New York, be on your toes 'cause here comes Susanna! 
     Laurie has already uploaded some of the shots of Susanna that seem to capture her well. I am going to upload some additional shots of Guangzhou so that you all might get a sense of the city. It is a city of contrasts. It has made me want to revisit China and see more of it sometime. If I do return, however, that experience can never come close to this one. It has really been something!
     The photos include the lobby of our hotel (with waterfall!), a night shot from the Pearl River cruise, Shamian Island where our hotel is located (itself an interesting mix of 19C. colonial European architecture), shots from around Guangzhou including a visit to the amazing Qingping market, a large pedestrian shopping mall, and - Browning boys take note - some local high school boys in jackets and ties! 

Our Final Day in China

Well, the actual oath taking was pretty anticlimactic. Lots of children playing, babies crying, and a man in front droning on and on. Lots of moving from this line to that line to get her visa and passport. But on the way the way back, we drove around the city, watched the sun slowly set, and Susie seemed to be quietly waving "bye bye" to her first home. She had her hand up at the window,and was looking at absolutely everything. It made me more than a little wistful.

This morning, we went to a Chinese market, and saw snakes, scorpions, cats, dogs (I did NOT do well with the latter two...) chickens. you name it. Susie was fascinated by it. Mom wanted O-U-T! (She cannot take seeing cats and dogs on cages!) For the boys- I will eventually upload the pictures of scorpions and snakes for you-!

Wish us well on our long journey home. This entry is short, as I need to pack, but I will update you on our first weekend home. And that will be that for this journey! And this blog.

(PS: I have started packing and it has made Susie VERY upset and scared, She does not understand we are going somewhere TOGETEHR! Tomorrow  may be  a LONG day!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Last night, Nan took a night cruise around Guangzhou. She reports that what we thought of as Guangzhou, our tiny, picturesque, Shamian Island filled with cobblestones and palm trees, is nothing whatsoever what Guangzhou is really like, It is a huge, bustling brightly lit city that is so beautifully lit up at night, and is so major a metropolis with so many new skyscrapers and condominiums, it took her breath away and she can't wait to come back. And this is a woman who has travelled all over! WOW! The pictures did not really come out, but it is an extraordinary city! To say where we are staying is Guangzhou is like saying Little Italy is NYC. There is just SO MUCH MORE!

The boy who helped me understand my video camera!

One of the two birthday girls

Birthays Books, and paperwork

Dear Browning LS Boys
OK, Boys, just a quick word about the importance of following directions. When you want to adopt a child, there is lots and lots and lots of paperwork involved. Sort of like a thousand worksheets or homework pages. It can be a little confusing, and when you go to get your child, you have to make sure it is all correct- NO MISTAKES! Your guide helps you double check everything and will help you with corrections, just like a teacher will when you go over a test.
Well guess what?? Out of all the families in our group- only TWO families managed to have NO MISTAKES on their paperwork- and everything was in order for the US Consulate. One other family-and YOUR LOWER SCHOOL HEAD! See?! Your teachers are right w en they make you check and double check your work over and over again! (By was I impressed with myself!!)

Tomorrow we go to the US Consulate to pick up the children's visas and passports and take the oath of citizenship (for them) You see Susie is absolutely my daughter in the eyes of the Chinese government (as of last week) but until we get through our visit at the Consulate, she is not a citizen or my daughter (YET) in the eyes of the US government, That is what happens tomorrow. This should be pretty cool. Her citizenship actually becomes official when we land in NYC.

Now, that birthday party I told you about? Kind of a bust for Susie. I forgot she is still terribly unsure of anything new, big, loud, etc. And well- that is sort of what a birthday party is. And if you think about it- she has never been to a birthday party in her whole life! So this first one was kind of overwhelming. She refused to get out of her stroller, did not want to put on a crown, was afraid of the balloons-- but boy oh boy did she manage to overcome her fears a when it came to birthday cake! She wolfed that thing down! She will find each birthday party she attends easier and easier. Good thing because her mother LOVES birthdays!!!

Actually, Susanna has been out of sorts all day. She has been pulling her stroller lid down so I will not look at her, she has been refusing to do things she usually agrees to easily, and she has just been plain cranky. But guess what? I am VERY HAPPY about this! This means she is beginning to become more comfortable and relaxed and show me what she likes and does not like. For a three year old, she has been acting like a six month old for about a week- today she was acting like a two year old- so she is almost acting her age! And guess what? She has started to say some words in English today! I was showing her pictures and pointing to things and saying their words, and she is now trying to repeat the words and point to the, Now, she has created some of her own words, but that is just fine. She can (sort of ) say crib, "Boom boom" (for drum) and meow (for cat) She can say "cup" and "cheese". She also points to the pictures and says their names in Chinese. Between you and me, she is doing a much better job of picking up the English words, than I am at picking up the Cantonese words! For those adults who know the play, The Miracle Worker: "Mrs Keller! SHE KNOWS!"

Right now, Susie is sitting in her crib, not wanting to got to sleep, because she is busy looking at her "word book." It is OK by if she wants to read in bed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This and that

I have decided for now, it is too self indulgent (and too long!) to publish additional videos of our daily life in China, i,e naps revsited, fun with food etc. Here are two additional shots of Susie and Mom, but enough! Tmorrow, we have a birthday party for two in our group- one big sister turns five, and one new daughter turns one. I supplied balloons! ( brought from NYC, but I couldn't tie them!)
We have one problem. You know how I said Sidou has taught herself to use a fork by watching Nan and me? Now she sees us using chopsticks and is trying to imitate that too with VERY LITTLE SUCCESS! But she is refusing to a) let me help, or b) give them up. Could prove interesting!!

Blocks anyone?


Just your basic party dress----

What on earth???

Susie's absolute favorite place to eat---

Before we know it----

Dear Browning Boys,
It is hard to believe it is just a little over two days and we will be on our way home. It makes me a little sad to think of Susanna leaving the place where she was born and where her history is, but I am also excited for her to come to America and New York City. I will be very busy following all of your good advice!
Now- more challenges:

1)When we leave Guangzhou, we will take a quick 40 minute flight to Hong Kong. Can you find Hong Kong and see how close it is to Mainland China? We will leave for Hong Kong around 7:30 Thursday evening, your time.

2) Next, we will take a 15 hour flight from Hong Kong to Newark. We will leave around 10:00 at night on Thursday, NYC time. Do you recall the odd way I traveled to get from NYC to China? Looking at a map, what way do you THINK we will travel to get home? What US state will we go over first?

3) Do you think we will spend more time over the Pacific Ocean or more time traveling across the country? Can you figure out how many miles there are from China to NYC? Does that help? What do you need to do to figure this out?

4) We will arrive in NYC around 2:00 on Friday afternoon. If NYC is 13 hours behind China, what time is it in China when we land?


Ms G

Chaos on the Red Couch-- and this is barely half the group!

For those who love Irony---

Whenever we go to have a meal, Nan and I ask for chopsticks. Susanna "asks" for a fork.

What is wrong with this picture??!!

More pics and videos to come---

At the doctor's

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Day of UTTER indignities! (SSG reporting..)

1) Mom thought it would be fun to see if I like to play in the pool. She put me in a bathing suit, brought me to the pool, and slowly introduced me to the water. It was TRES COLD! She was chatting with another mom, and smiled when she heard me shriek with delight. It took her awhile to notice it was actually shrieks of terror! It will be a while before I try that wading pool thing again.

2) Mom had me in Nan’s room so she could check her email. I had to use toilet. Mom was chatting with Aunt Nan and hadn’t truly focused on the fact that she had not brought the seat that I like to use. It took mom a sect to realize that I was using my arms to hold myself up so I would not fall in, and that my eyes were filled with tears. Score two for mom!

3) Today we all had to go to the medical clinic to get a clean o bill of health before traveling to the USA. Something about communicable diseases and the US government not liking them- I dunno; well- it DID NOT GO WELL. First they needed to weigh me. I had to stand on scale. ALONE. Without Mom. She trued to comfort me, but I was scared. VERY scared. Next, Some lady called an ENT needed to test my hearing- I did NOT LIKE THAT one bit. But the next thing was worse. She needed to look inside my mouth. I held my mouth tight as hard as I could, but she forced it open with some wooden stick, and I SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS! I HATED THIS! I could not stop crying, and then- as Mom was trying to assure me it was all right I heard her whisper to Nan- “ This is about to get much worse.. the next room is where they are going to take her clothes off and give her an exam. I knew this HAD TO BE BAD, so I started screaming louder right then and there just to get ready. Mom was getting lots of looks of pity from the other adoptive families, which did not really thrill her. That last room was pretty bad. I also heard Mom whisper to Aunt Nan- “ I don’t like the looks of this doctor- she looks mean.” What Mom keeps forgetting is that while I do not speak English, I am perfectly capable of knowing what she says and how she feels, so I took her cue and just started crying louder and longer. Mom got me out of there as fast as she could, but I pretty much ACTIVELY ignored her for the rest of the afternoon. At dinner, I refused to let her feed me, (S he kept dropping food on me anyway, she was so rattled by that stupid clinic…what rookie!) I kept giving her "the look", and at one point when she tried to kiss me, I sat up straight, glared at her, and absolutely turned my back on her. You know what really stinks? When I did this, I swear I heard her and Nan laugh. This was a bad, bad, bad day. At bedtime, I let her read to me and give me a bath, but I kept up the glares for good measure, before bed, she started tickling me, which made me laugh A LOT- which now has me angrier EVEN MORE! HARUMPH!

Tomorrow is BIG right of passage for adoptive families. It is The RED COUCH DAY. The whole group gathers us kids on a big red couch for a picture. Everyone who comes here does it. Many families put their kids in traditional dress. Mom decided not to do red (she remembered I came in a traditional red outfit and recalled how I felt about seeing the sneaker a few day go, so she thought it would upset me) but also will not do pink, cuz she says it is something called a cliché, so she got me a gorgeous green silk Chinese dress. I Look stunning in it—but I am not sure if I will cooperate or not—I may still hold a bit of a grudge on principle; we shall see how I feel.

Never met a muffin she didn't like! First Starbucks visit.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The first "documented" smile! (Thanks, Nan!)

The Zoo--

While, we did feed the monkeys, and Miss Bean was NOT sure about THAT at first... Mom was utterly devastated when she saw dogs all chained up in in the petting zoo-- but boy did she go pet them! Miss Bean did not want to pet the Oxen, but surprised herself when she was down in the monkey pit. Sounds scary, but many kids did it.
What a zoo!

How could I forget the Great Wall??!!!

Dear Browning Boys: Several of you asked for pictures- how could I forget?

Here are some questions for you. I do not know the answers, but perhaps you can tell me when I see you.
A) When was it built?
B) How long is it?
C) Can you really see it from space? (I know the answer to this one!)

They say, it was built to protect China from attack by enemies. Honestly,between you and me, why anyone would climb up this high and then want to attack anyone, is beyond me. Also, they say the emperor insisted that it was at least "ten horses wide." I am not at all convinced it is that wide in spaces. I guess they sort if fudged it, thinking "Who would really know?" (Don't try this with your teachers- they ALWAYS know.)

SO-- here you go!

Ms G

A good, quiet Sunday

I had asked Veronica to call the orphanage to get more information for me. For example, was Sidou chatty there? There original paperwork describes her both as very shy and quiet, as well as outgoing and extroverted. Before she could get back to me, I figured some of it out- and Veronica confirmed it. She is enormously outgoing and extroverted- but only once she is very comfortable. Otherwise, she is sort of hypervigilant and shy. Last night, she decided she would watch CNN with me, rhather than go to bed too early When I suggested otherwise, she giggled, tossed several stuffed animals my way, and tried to do a somersault in her crib. Many times. She put her hands on eitehr side of it, climbed the head board and tried to keep going, Um...OK.
Yet, she is terrified of going into Nan's room, and is much more reserved with her. For those of you who know Nan- how absurd is THAT!
Nan, by the way, is the unsung hero of this trip. No matter how cranky I get, she remains teh center of calm, and contineues to keep a back seat, never asking to hold or play with Sidou, unless she seems ready for it. She has absolutely allowed thetwo of us to connect- no easy task, when clearly she would love to see what I am seeing- and deseves to. But Susie seemed to be able to connect to me from the start- even when we saw her Nannies in the lobby of the Civil Affairs Office after they left her, she just clung to me. Very sweet- and a but odd!
Today, as Nan has a cold, and Susie needed quiet, we hung out here. She has chosen to alert me of several things today. A) She is perfectly capable of putting her OWN shoes on, thank you very much. B0 She has now figured out how to use a fork. (must be form watching Nan and I- I certainly never tried teaching her!) I had started out by feeding her,then putting finger food in front of her so she could eat it herself, but as of last night, she just picked up an a ult sized western fork, the proper way, no less, and now will only use a fork when eating. Now mind you, this includes food that is not really meant to be eaten with a fork. Her preferred method is to pick up all food, quite delicately, place it on the fork, and then bring the fork politely to her mouth- and then shoveling the whole thing in before anyone takes it away.

More pics later this evening.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

All sorts of interesting progress!

Hopefully, the videos work. Watching them I can see how far Susanna has come in less than a week. She is starting to really "wake up." She is, among the last of the children to rally and come out of her shell, but she has had more reason than most to stay in a bit of a cocoon.
Everywhere she goes, she is accompanied by the large stuffed caterpillar that she had with her in the video when we first met. She is also a little horder. If she gets it in her hands- she will not let go. This has resulted, in at times, at least three or f our things being clutched to her for dear life- a sippy cup, a stuffed animal, a toy, and a cracker-- etc. She is also a neat freak! (YAY! Anyone who knows me will understand this!) She gets distressed if her hands are messy or if food spills on her outfit, and she will gingerly try to clean it up before I see it. If there is mess in front of her where she is eating, she will surreptitiously try to make it disappear- quickly -and check to see if I have noticed.. I have a hunch, they were less than tolerant of mess at her former place of residence.

In any case, I am learning more and more about her. Small things will certainly upset her, but she tries to hide it. Yesterday was very poignant. Se was quite chipper when she awoke- just a little before me, She played in her crib, and then we read, played ball, banged drums, you name it. She was giggling and smiling and then I got her dressed. I put on the Yankees outfit, and then put on the sneakers that she wore when we met. In a nanosecond, she went from Miss Smile to Very Quiet, She was looking at the sneakers, and her eyes filled with tears. Needless to say they came off super quick and will not re appear.

I also received a small album of photos from her nannies and a disposable camera which I had developed. It gave me a much better sense of her life before we met, and I will certainly share them with her one day.

But progress is progress, When I fist got her stroller, she cried and did not want to go in it. Now, she marches over to it and waits, staring at me impatiently. "Home, Charles!"
I also heard her voice for the first time today, No words yest, but lots of laughter, sounds, and giggles. She now also eats with a fork or chopsticks- sort of. I have been feeding her, but tonight, she got bored and took matters into her own hands, While Nan and I chatted, we noticed Miss Bean pick up a Western fork and try (without touching the food!) to get the food onto the fork and then bend down and suck it off the fork. It was pretty funny.

We went to the Zoo, and I thought it would be pretty cool. But she still shuts down in front of anyone but me. And lots of activity in large group is just too overly stimulating for her right now. Too much to take in from where her life was less than a week ago. So, tomorrow, I have decided we will skip the group tour, and she and I will just hang out by the pool and in the room for a day. She does so well when there are no distractions- I do not want to force her.

Now- one last things, You know how this place is adoption Central? I have been waiting for it- and it arrived- A Barbie. A Tall, Blond, Barbie holding a Chinese baby. Tomorrow, during our down time, I will have a serious Chat with Miss Bean and explain that Anything Barbie is like Anything Pink and MUST BE BANNED FROM HUMANITY. And maybe then we will break Barbie's head off.

The Video(s) -- Maybe??

Try this: copy this link, and view them in ASCENDING order... Let me know if THIS works!