Saturday, March 31, 2007

Before and After
To increase Jess's fine motor and self-care skills, I made some chocolate pudding, stripped her down to her onesie, and set her up in her high chair with a bowl of pudding and a spoon. She didn't do too badly with the pudding, so I gave her some pureed peas. You can see the results of that below. She looked mighty pleased with herself.

Jess took a nice long bath and got all of the food out of her hair. She loves the tub and happily played for quite a while in there. After the bath, I put her back in a onesie with her robe and slippers. The robe and slippers were from Sharon, another mom we traveled with. She had bought them for her daughter but they didn't fit. Jess looks so cute in them!!

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Dress/New Word/Favorite TV Shows

I looked everywhere for a Christening dress - every store that I came across that sold children's clothing and many, many online stores as well. Because Jess is not an infant, I didn't want a gown that would impede her walking or crawling. I was looking for something cottony, simple with a little bit of eyelet, and summery - we're probably doing the Christening at the end of June. Yesterday I was picking up some other things and found the perfect dress. It's exactly what I want and the price was amazing! I bought it and tried it on her when we got home - fits perfectly. I got 18 months instead of 12 because I want it a little longer than a regular dress without being a gown. I'm going to buy some shoes for Easter and she can wear them for the Christening as well.

When I put her on the floor, her dress floated all out around her.

She doesn't usually smile for the camera unless someone is tickling her.

After enlisting Jason's aid in making her laugh.

The other day, Jess started saying "up" when she holds her arms up to be picked up. It's her first English word!! The way she babbles, I'm sure she's going to have a lot to say once she starts talking. She frequently will babble and then stop and look at me like "Don't you understand what I'm saying?"

I'm trying not to let her watch too much tv but we do watch the Wiggles, Higgleytown Heroes, and Sesame Street. Much to Jason's dismay, she's not interested in the teletubbies. She loves anything with music. She occasionally watches an episode of Good Eats or Unwrapped with me and Mike.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Magic Kingdom - Hong Kong Style (Our Journey - part 7/Final)

While we were waiting for admittance to Disneyland, some castmembers approached us and asked if we'd like to be the first guests of the day. What this means is that when they were ready to open, we went through the gates first, had our pictures taken with the castmembers, got a certificate and some stickers and, right before the gates opened, yelled 3...2...1... Disneyland Hong Kong is OPEN!!! and jumped up and down. It was fun and Jason was thrilled with the attention.

After we were through the gates and the pics were done, we sped over to Space Mountain. During the time we were in Disneyland, Jason managed to go on Space Mountain 7 times between me and Mike. Because it wasn't high season, there was very little waiting and we usually walked right on rides. Mike was surprised that I went on this ride but I was able to handle it because there are no big drops. When I was sitting next to Jason the first time on, my hands were already sweaty and I was wondering what I'd gotten myself into. I had a good time on it even though I am definitely not a roller coaster person. On our last ride, I actually got the nerve to let go of the seat and raise my arms when the flash went off. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the picture because some teens that were sitting in front of us made obscene gestures a the camera so the picture was "lost in space."

Our first glimpse of the castle.

Meeting the characters.

Jess didn't like the characters so I tried to position myself between her and them so she wouldn't be crying.


Buzz Lightyear


Mickey & Minnie

Marie from Aristocats

Winnie the Pooh (I was sad not to see Eeyore)

Mu Shu from Mulan


Chip and Dale After we had our pic taken as a group and started walking away, they grabbed Jason back for another shot.

Donald and Daisy Daisy playing with Jason's hair while Donald signs his book. Lots
of people/characters were interested in his long hair. Some
people thought he was a girl. He loved the attention so he didn't seem to really mind.

This trashcan moves and talks! In WDW, it's called Push; I don't know if it is here. What made me mad was that some child (around 6-7 years old or so) kept running and kicking it. A castmember came out of a store and told him to stop. The dad just laughed - no wonder the kid's acting like a brat!

These aer the Jamminators. They played some good beats on their upturned pails. One of the guys came out in front of the pails to clap and get the audience going and that same child came up and tried to hit him. Again, the dad seemed amused!

We ate at the Corner Cafe for lunch twice which offered Mickey waffles on the children's menu at every meal (on the adult menu only at breakfast). This was Jessica's plate. Jason's had ice cream instead of fruit. I had a pasta salad that was very, very good.

We watched the fireworks both nights. Some people lined the streets an hour before they started but there was no way I was going to try to keep Jess that contained for an hour so we were back aways but still had a good view. Songs from different movies played while clips were projected onto the castle.

Character Breakfast

On our last morning in Hong Kong, we went to the character breakfast at the Enchanted Garden. Jess has finally let me start getting my own food without having to take her with me as long as no one tried to touch her. She was not happy about all the large ducks, dogs and mice that kept coming up and touching her. When I came back from the buffet, I found her voluntarily in Mike's lap which was a first. He said she found him more tolerable than the characters. It was a breakthrough although she's still a mama's girl. Jason was excited because when Daisy came over and had her picture taken, she touched her eye, head and pointed at Jason which he took to mean "I (eye) know you." He thinks she was the same one who was playing with his hair the day before. I'm very thankful that the characters paid Jason so much attention; it made it easier for him when the baby got a lot.

Mike got a massage from Pluto.

Homeward Bound

After breakfast, we packed up the room and headed to the airport. We had to wait until 12:30 for the ticket counter to open. Once we got our luggage checked, we found a children's area with Kids Next Door cartoons playing.

I had my last Coke Light at the airport. It's a little different tasting than Diet Coke but I got used to it. Jason ate chicken fingers at Burger King and Mike and I ate at Wildfire Grill which was very good.

And we're off.

It was a very long flight. Thankfully Jess slept most of the way but with Jess and Jason both trying to lay on me, I didn't get much if any sleep. When we landed in Chicago, we thought it was an hour earlier than it was because the screen in the front of the cabin said it was 5:30. With daylight savings time taking effect that weekend, it was actually 6:30. It took nearly an hour for our luggage to come down the carousel. We had to get our luggage, go through customs, recheck the luggage and then go through immigration where we handed over the sealed envelope. After that, we had to go through security again. I happened to see the time on a monitor when I was checking for our gate and saw that we had only minutes to get to our plane! We ran through the terminal and just made it; we were the next to last people on the plane. The flight attendants were very nice and at the end, the pilot came back and gave Jason some cards about the plane we were on. During the flight, the girl in front of me put her seat back. Since I had Jess on my lap, this gave us very little rom. I couldn't even have my drink on my tray because there was no room. Normally, I wouldn't let a child push at a seat in front of her but since Jess couldn't even put her legs out without hitting the seatback, I didn't worry about it. The girl kept giving these heavy sighs. All she had to do was move her seat a little and Jess would have had the couple inches she needed. She'd caught me off guard when she put her seat back or I would have blocked it a little with my leg - selfish I know but it's ridiculous when I can't even use my tray to put a drink on.

We landed around midnight and got our luggage. We'd arranged with Amy to stay at the airport Hyatt since we were getting in so late. We called the hotel to have their van pick us up and went out to wait. It went right by us! We were in the right spot so I don't know why he didn't stop. Mike went back in and called again and it came back. We had a great room with an awesome view. The next morning we had a fantastic breakfast buffet (the warm cinnamon buns were just like Cinnabon - mmmm). We'd been given late check out so we checked out the pool before heading to Mike's parents to get our car. We visited with them for a short time and then went home. The car ride home was very difficult. Jess has never been in a carseat before and was not at all pleased at being strapped in. She screamed nonstop the entire way. Jason was beside himself sitting next to her.

Final Thoughts

It was an absolutely awesome trip and I am so glad we did the trip as a family; Jason will have these memories for a lifetime. My favorite part of the adoption portion was Jinan. The people were so friendly and welcoming. While the White Swan was not what I expected, I am glad we went there since I would have been disappointed if we hadn't given all the hype it gets. I know some people say not to try to do everything that is set up as for sightseeing. I think it depends on the child. Jess was did great - she slept in the bus and stroller when she was tired, blew kisses at people, and showed she loved anything that had music by giving a smile that lit up her face. I think it gave her the opportunity to see that we were going to be there with her no matter where we went.

Coke Light takes some getting used to. The hard beds take a little getting used to; I don't know how they make a mattress quite that hard. I tried new foods; Jason tried new foods which is amazing. The hawking of goods in Guangzhou got a little tiresome but I got some good buys. I found I'm not a haggler but that walking away does work also. I brought way too much stuff with me. It depends on where you're going but with our itinerary, I could have brought a lot less. I took about 1500 pictures between my regular camera and my digital - always take more than you think you'll need. These pictures will help Jess learn about where she comes from. The clothing police are real - they are indoors and outdoors. I just covered her up and dealt with it. Squatty potties are, in my opinion, nasty but you do what you have to do and just carry both toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you at all times. When we go back when Jess is older for a homeland tour, we will go business class. If I found the flight difficult now, I can just imagine how I'll feel about it in 10 or so years. God truly had a plan...Jess is perfect for our family. She handled all the travel to tourist sites and Disney like a trouper, she loves music, she loves to laugh, she is definitely my little girl.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Journey (Part 6)

Jess is starting to hold the bottle on her own.

Across the street from our hotel in Jinan, was the Shandong Science and Technology Museum. We visited it one morning and had a great time. It cost $5.00 for the 3 of us to go (Jess was free). One of Jason's favorite parts was a ride he and Mike took in a shuttle replica.

This is a statue of a man, Wan Hu, who tried to fly by attaching 47 rockets to an armchair at the end of the 14th century. He hoped to fly to the moon but was obviously unsuccessful. Mike and Jason had heard about him on Mythbusters.

The world's first earthquake predictor. It was designed by Zhang Heng of the Eastern Han Dynasty in AD 132. When an earthquake occurs, the tremor would trigger a heavy pendulum inside the urn so that it presses on the jaw of the dragon facing the epicenter and causes it to drop the ball from its mouth into the mouth of the toad sitting below. This would indicate that an earthquake had taken place and the direction of its source.

There were models of some very strange fish. This is a mola which can grow to 3 meters.

There was a slanted house in the museum that was the oddest feeling. You felt like you'd fall while walking through it. The metal ball by Jason was rolling upward.

Our last night in Jinan, the Goulds and we took our guide, John, out for dinner. He asked the hotel manager for a recommendation and we went to a place that was nearby. We ordered 5 plates of food, 2 sprites, 3 bottles of beer, and several bowls of rice and noodles and it came to $30! Jason tried fried leaves and shrimp. He didn't like either. I tried fried leaves and some sort of candied sweet potato. I liked the fried leaves but wasn't too thrilled with the sweet potato.

This is the hotel nearby that Jason liked to watch the colors change on at night. The purple was his favorite. It was hard to catch the colors because they are constantly moving.

It was sad leaving Jinan. I really enjoyed this area. When I'd looked for it on the internet, there wasn't much to be found. There really is much more to do in the area than is advertised. I am so happy that we got to experience it.

Jess's first airplane ride! We didn't buy her a seat since she's under 2. You can see Jason's Gameboy in his hand. He ended up dropping it or forgetting it somehow which made for some long nights at the end of the trip. We got off and met our new guide, Daniel. Sharon and Dan weren't there yet so we went on the van and another guide met us at the hotel to help us check in. Our room wasn't ready yet so we had to go to the bar and wait. I was a bit irked but we got a couple of free drinks.

We finally got to our room which was nice. It's a lot smaller than the suite we had in Jinan, of course, but still nice. Our room looks out onto the street with all of the shops. I saw Sharon and Dan with their daughter Keira - so cute!! Jess was in a whiny mood so I hung in our room for a while.

My favorite statue. It shows the female progression from ancient times to traditional to modern. It's located at the top of the street near Lucy's.

Daniel took us sightseeing and we saw finger and palm pictures being made. The artist makes amazing pictures using his fingers, palms and sides of his hands - no brushes. It reminded me a little of the graffiti artist we saw in Vegas.

This man can write with both hands simultaneously. He can also paint with his feet. He composed a couplet using Jess and Jason's names.

This is where we ate most of our meals. The first night we ate at the hotel buffet and spent over $100. That was a bit much, especially considering Jason eats so little. At Lucy's, we ate American friend chicken (what we would call Chinese restaurant style chicken fingers), sweet and sour chicken, vietnamese style egg rolls, and satay. Jason got 2 orders of rolls each time and some corn. The inside is decorated with American movie stars. There's a park right before it where women exercise in the morning and kids play in the afternoon. We saw some young adults playing hackysack.

My favorite picture at the White Swan. I loved the waterfall. I tried to get some pictures of Jess near it but we must have been taking too long, because one of the lobby guards came over and told me we couldn't stay there (sitting near edge of wall). I have to say that I find the atmosphere much more stuffy and cold than either Beijing or Jinan - rather disappointing. If we come back to China with Jess later and come back to Guangzhou, I think we may try out the Victory.

The Red Couch Picture - most adoptive families take a pic on the famous red couch. The kids were all dressed in traditional clothing. Jess was upset because I hadn't brought her anything to eat and the others had crackers. She attempted to steal Keira's right out of her hand!

There was another park nearby with the swings that Jason likes. I tried them out - they're harder than they look!!

We visited the Guanzhou Zoo. I enjoyed watching the bears. There were two cubs who were playing with each other and were so adorable!

This sign was outside several of the animals' cages. Amazing that people need to be told to stay out of a lion's cage.

Couldn't resist a cute picture of my "joeys".

Our last day in Guangzhou we went to the consulate for a swearing in ceremony. We were quite thrilled to find western toilets upstairs (squatty potties were on the first floor). We waited in line for one last look-over by government workers and then all stood together to swear that we would take care of our children. Afterward, everyone else in our group went to the airport with Daniel. We went back to the White Swan. Daniel seemed very stressed over the fact that we were returning on our own and would be catching the shuttle to the train the next day. We assured him we'd be fine and we were. How hard it is to watch for a van that says "White Swan" on it?

And We're Off

The next morning, we ate breakfast and packed. We caught the 9:30 shuttle to the train station with no problem. Our train seats were great. We had 4 facing each other in 2's and no one was in the 4th seat. There were some delays due to construction but we still made good time.

When we got to the train station in Hong Kong, we took a van to the hotel. When the driver told Mike he could sit up front, Mike went to get in on the right side of the car - wrong!! In Hong Kong, the driver sits on the right. You can see the Mickey head on the highway sign in this pic.

Our room wasn't ready so we walked around the hotel for a bit. It's very nice with an art deco style.

While walking around the building, we discovered the pool. It was a bit cool outside, but the water was very warm. We decided to go swimming. The pool has a piano theme with a keyboard tiled bottom. Jason loved the waterslide. Jess thought it was a giant bathtub and loved it after her first few seconds.

If the clothing police could see us now!!!

Castmembers were sketching chalk outlines of characters. Later they invited the kids to fill them in with colored chalk.

We took a walk to the other hotel along Magic Road. Appropriate name for the area*S* After getting to the hotel, we continued on towards the park. The path has Disney music piped in and was enjoyable to walk down.

Here's a picture of the other hotel- Hong Kong Disneyland. This is the back view. There's a hedge maze in the back that Jason and Mike went through. Jess was sleeping in the stroller so we didn't go through because the stroller wouldn't have fit.

Some of the plantlife along Magic Road.

Before we turned back from our walk, we came to a fountain near the entrance to the park. At 7, there's a light and water show which was great to watch. Jess was entranced.

When we got back to our room, we checked out the amenities. The little washcloth penguin was adorable!
Our first night, we gave Jason the choice of eating at the buffet with us (which we knew he most likely wouldn't like) or staying in the room and watching his dvd player while we went to the buffet. He chose staying in the room so we got him some cereal and sprite from the coffee shop and left strict instructions not to open the door for anyone. The buffet was very good but we were right that there was little Jason would have found appetizing. I tried different foods and we saw the fireworks in the park through the dining room window. The dessert buffet was awesome! I ate mango pudding, creme brulee and fruit dipped in the chocolate fountain.