Monday, November 24, 2008

OK, so I'm finally getting to this. We're learning about time (or lack of it) with two kids. Here's a couple of photos from home, followed by some videos from the trip.

Uncle Mike/Bill - she's already about grown out of your alumni sweatshirt...

We're settling in pretty well. Days are really good - she laughs and smiles most of the day. Nights have been more of a coin flip. She's had really good ones with plenty of sleep and others where she basically screamed most of the night. Besides changing her entire world she's also battling a little bit of an earache and a whole bunch of teeth are popping through. But she's been out playing in the yard and is adapting to her new life. We're making good progress on letting me in. She laughs a lot with me (or maybe at me) and occasionally lets her guard down and let's me hold her. Gotta go...videos below.
Welcome to China

First book for Audrey.

Wrestling on the boat.

Wacky ride!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hey all - we're back in Portland. Dropped 30 degrees in temperature. Nothing much to report about the flight, which is the kind of flight we were hoping for. Really nice to get home. Neighbors/friends had food and welcome home balloons for us.

We crashed pretty hard. Often when I come back from a big Asia trip I wake up in the middle of the night but I slept through it. Everyone slept pretty well but Janie won the prize for sleeping nearly seventeen hours.

Audrey is transitioning well with lots of laughs. I've never seen a kid think that falling down is so funny. She's fearless and pretty much any time she falls she laughs about it.

No pictures tonight. I'm going to crash but if things go well tomorrow I'll get things transferred over from the laptop to the home computer and get a few more up.

- J

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Last night in GZ. We have a 4 AM wake up call and still have a little packing to do. Our route home is GZ to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Portland. We'll take off here Wednesday morning and land in Portland early Wednesday morning. Best trip ever, but we're ready to get back.

Fantastic day...Audrey turned a big corner today. She spent practically the entire day in great spirits. Heard her laugh a lot and we had hardly any of the mourning cries that we have been hearing. She even played some with me (John) so we're making some progress there.

Quick rewind...yesterday (Monday) was pretty light which was good because it was Janie's turn to get a quick stomach bug. She lost it, with it being breakfast in a store late morning yesterday. After a nap and a movie in the room she was totally fine. The rest of the day was shopping and hanging out at the park. We then had a big group dinner with all the families from our agency. I think there were eleven families. Nothing too crazy at dinner, just a little pigeon.

Janie woke up today at 5 AM so the two of us went walking until breakfast at seven. There were tons of people, or all ages, out exercising. Today was a combo of a museum, the Six Banyan Temple, the park, shopping, the outdoor market, and dinner with some friends from the group. Plus, the most important part, the swearing in ceremony at the US Consulate Office. Here we received Audrey's passport and visa. There were 52 families going through the ceremony that day. Audrey will become a US citizen when we touch down in Portland.

That's about it. We'll catch this up once we catch up at home. Thanks for following along.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I know we posted about the medical appointment a couple of days ago but I thought it deserved some photos. It was extremely busy and crazy. Another family who had adopted before said their first experience was nothing like this. We were in this packed/hot/noising medical clinic with lots of screaming babies. Actually, Audrey seemed to be screaming the loudest so I have know idea if other babies were screaming because she was drowning everyone else out. Other interesting observation, I thought the clinic was just for adopting families but there were also Chinese patients there. So these poor sick patients had to be put in line with all of us too Audrey is feeling much better today and we learn new things about her every day. For example, she loves to feed herself. She'll let me feed her a little bit but she wants to do it all. Tonight at dinner she used a spoon, and she did it quite well. Also, she was going to bed easily and now it's a little bit more of a challenge but we'll get through it. She loves playing in the hotel room and taking stroller walks. I was carrying her every where but we tried the stroller one day and she really liked it.

And yes, Janie is a great big sister. Janie is having a great time on this journey and she has had to make a lot of changes and done it very well. John bought this hat for her in Beijing and Janie loves to wear it. It's sort of goofy hat too, it has ear flaps that come down and she looks like she should be traveling some where cold, not southern China.

On Sunday, we went to the Chinese Botanical Gardens. Very beautiful and both girls had fun.

We have seen so many awesome things in China but I often think what makes a country our its people. And there are some very gracious and kind people in China. People are always smiling at us and always offering assitance when needed. And trust me, we have needed it a couple of times.

Well, it's Monday night in Beijing and I can't believe we leave Wednesday morning. This has been a great journey but I think we are all ready to get home. We leave the hotel at 5 am on Wednesday morning so we are in for a long day. I hope this flight goes better. We'll try to post tomorrow night but it might be when we get home. If you saw all the stuff we had to pack -- OMG. This evening we bought another suitcase. Yes, we've bought a few things but for some reason it never goes in as neat when you're on your way home. Why is that? Alright I'd better be signing off --D

PS Thanks for all of your comments. It's been awesome reading them and we appreciate it so much.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hi all - a lot has happened since our last post. Each day until today brought progress with Audrey. We hit the point where Mom was able to actually leave and go the restroom in a restaurant and Audrey wouldn't lose it. Audrey spent a few minutes on my lap and I was able to tickle her and make her (and me) laugh. She had a great day Thursday and Friday until Friday night.

Things went a different direction Friday night and today but the encouraging thing is that we know that things can and will go in the right direction. Friday night was our flight from Nanning to Guangzhou. Didn't turn out so well. Poor Deb, she's been a rock, but has had a very challenging 24 hours or so. So Deb was feeding Audrey a bottle on the plane before it took off. Well Audrey basically threw it back up all over Deb. Then she lost it seven more times (but who is counting) over the course of the flight. Since then, and all throughout today, she's been really lethargic and it feels sort of like day one again. She's thrown a few times today but hopefully it is all behind her. It is strange, after all the medical fun we've had with Janie (for those that don't know Janie was born three months early and was under two pounds at birth, but is all good now) we've had about zero stomach sickness with her. So this is a bit new to us.

This morning in Guangzhou (GZ) was the medical appointment day. This was sort of like slightly controlled chaos. The GREAT NEWS though was that they didn't hear any heart murmur for Audrey - her special need is that she has VSD (a little hole in her heart). When Audrey was a little baby they found a whole in her heart and one of the signs of VSD is a heart murmur. The specialist that listened to her didn't hear it. We're optimistic that he was correct, but still have her lined up with specialists in Portland when we get back.

Overall things are great. Our guide (Kathy) has been super and we're in our final city. The last 24 hours have been tough, but hopefully she'll sleep well tonight and rally tomorrow. Below are some photos from the last couple of days.

She's already working it.

Probably my favorite photo of the trip.

This one is pretty good too.

This is Elephant Hill up in Guilin. We hiked around this place.

Here we are in Ludiyan Cave (also called Reed Flute Cave). Amazing place.

The cave was full of these incredible shots.

Their first sister kiss on a river boat cruise. We took a bus from Nanning to Guilin. Then spent the rest of that day at Elephant Hill and the Caves. Stayed overnight in Guilin and then the next morning we did the Li Jiang river cruise through the most incredible scenary. The cruise was about 4 hours and ended in Yangshuo. We then took another bus back to Nanning.

Here's bubba with her friend Allison (from another family that adopted) on the boat.

Here was the "kitchen" on the boat. We skipped the food.

But I did try the snake wine.

Endless views like these.

Followed by some even better views...

Janie has good friends in Portland (Sammy and Lizzie) that are twins and thought it was funny that they also have twins in China.

The twins and the bear are at the People's Park in Nanning a couple of hours before we flew out.

One last shot of the happy girl. Hopefully she'll be feeling better tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tried to post this last (Wednesday) night here but couldn't get through. It is now Thursday morning and I'm still having lots of difficulties with getting this sent. I wanted a lot more photos but I'm going to send now to make sure this gets out.

Hi, sorry so slow getting back, but we're pretty exhausted. First thing I want to say is THANK YOU for the comments that you sent. Really appreciate it. A special thanks to those that described similar experiences with their daughter and then said that it will get better. So it's Wednesday night and it has been 36 hours or so since I last wrote. At Nike we have a Maxim that reads "Do the Right Thing" - and after being with her over the last couple of days I know we are, but it has also been really tough. Over this period of time I've probably been able to hold her for a total of 10 minutes in little short bursts before she cries/screams. We have been able to play a little together but only if Deb is within sight. So it has been tough for me, but there have also been times when she's let her guard down and her personality has come out. Those times are just outstanding to watch (from a distance). She's said MaMa, Elmo and Bye-Bye so far. Unfortunately for me, Bye-Bye came when I left the hotel room for a bit. She turned to Deb and Janie and said Bye-Bye in a perfectly clear voice. I'm truly extremely happy that we have her and everything is now official, I'm just ready to join the fun. So again, for those that have been through it, thanks for the good words, thanks for listening to me ramble and thanks to everyone that has been following.
Now on to the good news...she's absolutely attached to Deb...extremely attached. Poor Deb can't get two seconds to herself and I'm not sure I'm exaggerating. The good news though is that it shows Audrey can and will attach. Deb has been fantastic and it is wonderful to see the two of them connect so well. Janie has been a trooper and every day amazes me. She's great with Audrey, great at trying all kinds of new foods in the restaurants and even a great sport at the non-Western toilets. She's very adaptable and get comfortable quickly in different environments.

I'm a little fuzzy and tired but here's what's happened since last post. We left Tuesday morning to go back to the Civil Affairs office. There we waited with a bunch of other adoptive parents and went through ceremonies to make things official. We then went to the governmental notary office for more questions and at that point everything was official. One great thing is that we received a little gift from the orphanage and in it contained a packet of photos of Audrey over the last 16 months. An unexpected treasure.

Tuesday afternoon was a big nap for Audrey and Deb. Janie and I went back to Wal Mart. I probably haven't been in a Wal Mart twice in the last 10 years but now I'm on back to back days. I also hit a Nike store and a Converse store so now I can expense the whole trip (just kidding Nancy if you're out there reading). Then Janie and I went swimming, sort of, because the pool was outdoors and the water temp was in the 60s Fahrenheit. We got mostly in but there were some guys a lot tougher than I am that were swimming laps. That night we had a celebration dinner and then tried a shower (didn't go well but the bath tonight didn't either).

We were up really early this morning and took a bus from Nanning to Guilin. It was about a 4.5 hour bus ride but I think it was worth it. We wanted to experience more of the country than just the large cities and the scenery was amazing. We then all went to Elephant Hill and then we dropped off one family at the orphanage and we went on to the Reed Flute Cave. We've been traveling with another family from Portland and their daughter is from the orphanage at Guilin. We chose ahead of time not to go to the orphanage and I think we made the right choice. It sounds like they had a good experience but I think it would have set Audrey back even more. Elephant Hill was great scenery and after that much time on the bus it was good to hike around. I've never seen anything like the cave. I'll just leave a couple of pictures below to show it off.
Tomorrow we're on a river cruise and we'll eventually end up in Nanning. We then leave Friday for Guangzhou. I should sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We got her - gotcha day! Here's the first photo of Audrey Min Ann Howes. She's beautiful, healthy and feisty. What a day/night! Overall it went incredibly well. Like her big sister, she's a tough, brave girl. Here's how it all went down. After a morning shopping (at a Chinese Wal Mart) for supplies for us and for our donation to the orphanage we hopped on a bus at 2:30 to go t0 Civil Affairs to meet her. We were the third of about a dozen couples that were called. After our name was called Audrey was brought in. After that I don't remember much except a bunch of photos. Audrey did ok for a while and then it got a little too much. Then the tears came and we got to hear the power of her voice. This lasted until the bus got moving to the hotel. After that she chilled out and really, for the most part, she hasn't cried that much. Janie has helped a lot and Deb has been incredible. I haven't been able to hold her yet, hopefully today. It brings back some memories of Janie and not being able to hold her right away. Overall, an amazing day. Even better than I expected...and I had big expectations. Did I mention she's gorgeous and smart. OK, I need to run. We have to report downstairs in 90 minutes for a day of paperwork and meetings. Enjoy the pictures below. First sisters photo - these are at the Civil Affairs office.

Here's her early look towards us. Actually, it is still the look I'm receiving.

Toys helped a ton. She has fantastic motor skills and you can tell she's really quick. She spent a good hour plus on the bed playing with these toys and her big sister. Since the beginning Janie has had a buddy named Suzy that she's played with. Audrey now has hers and Janie helped name her Lilly. She is very curious and played/explored everything.

Hmmm...maybe these guys are going to be ok...

First dinner in the room. When we get more time we'll post the schedule that Audrey is supposed to be on for food and sleep. Here she did a great job eating and was more interested in trying what Janie was eating than eating hers.

Eventually, we got to hear her sweet voice and her laugh.

At Wal Mart I was giving Janie and her new friend Ally cart spinning rides and Janie looked up at me and said that when she was dizzy it was the first time all day that she wasn't thinking of baby sister. She's a proud big sister and had a very happy day.

Two "people" brought out the Audrey smile. Big sis Janie and Elmo on a box of snacks. Both made her kick her feet and laugh at different times.

She arrived dressed in three layers. The purple top you see here, some green pants and red shoes. All looked brad new. We saw one child arrived with a backpack full of her things, but Audrey just came with the clothes on her back. In some previous pictures she was holding a doll and we were hoping that would come with her but it didn't. One heartbreaker (of many) last night was when she climbed down off the bed walked over to the door (yes, she's walking well), picked up her shoes, brought them to us, and gave us a look that said why aren't these on my feet and why am I not going home. That was a bit of a tough moment.

But then the smile makes it all worth it.

So here's current state. The little one is sleeping peacefully. The big one is rolling, kicking and snoring. Here's she's almost off the bed and sleeping on the table.

Time to get ready. Hate to wake them up, but we have to. Really pleased with the amount they both slept though. Hope you enjoyed the show.