chachkies and leather spines

apparently, our hotel is sitting on a giant mirage...because only a few blocks away, we found real china again. in fact, we found an epicenter of movement and life and color. there is so much chatter and noise and people moving in every direction, you feel awake and alive. i'm not sure what it is about neon signs and shirts for 3rmb (50cents) but it makes me feel like walking the streets. staying out late and bargaining for some little chachkies.

spark plug wanted nothing to do with sleeping on my shoulder. oh no. this girl loves the nightlife. the action. we called it a night at around 9pm, and although it's later than i would ever want to keep a newly adopted child out on the town, it's hard to up and leave when you are the guests. our friends took us to one of those restaurants that you have to know about to find. you know the kind that doesn't really have a sign, and it's on a main street but the entry isn't especially noticeable? yea, it was one of those. it was mostly a seafood joint. i ate something that had leathery spines, a shrimp with its head and legs and feelers still attached, spicy beef that nearly knocked my socks off, several varieties of tofu and some sort of meat/fish on the bone that didn't really look edible. but i ate it. and i smiled. and we clanked glasses. jack and shirley invited their cousin, his wife, his 3 best friends, and shirley's best friend as well as her daughter. our friend jones came as well with his uncle. it was quite a table-full, and there was SOOO much food. i took this photo towards the beginning of the meal. by the end, all of this food was finished and there was an entirely new spread of food that had replaced it. 

all of these people came to greet and celebrate with us. they don't know us at all, but they took care of us as family. really and truly, the people of china are some of the sweetest and most generous people i've ever met.
if you come to china to visit, or adopt, or on business, find a way to make friends with someone from the city you are staying in. ask them for suggestions of places to go that aren't made for tourists. see the real china. outside of the hotel, outside of the souvenir shops. the china that makes you stand out like a sore thumb because you are the only foreigner. but then again, you might just make some real and true friends. true friends that make you feel like family so far from home.

3 minutes of amnesia

during which she let us take a few shots with a headband on...

and then she remembered.

but for 3 glorious minutes, headband perfection :)


day 1 in guangzhou

we have one exhausted, but happy little babe today. after the medical exam this morning (quite traumatic because the nurses and doctors had to hold her for measurements, etc) she promptly fell right asleep. i'm not sure what last night was all about, but she went right to sleep for her nap, so we're chalking it up to experience and being over tired.

there are adoptive families EVERYWHERE! it's an incredible experience to be surrounded by so many beautiful and amazing families! we've met a bunch of people already and i love hearing their stories and seeing such love and beauty beaming out all over the place!

guangzhou is like a mirage...and it doesn't feel much like china. i'm excited to take some pics of the beautiful buildings and uniqueness. for a china loving girl, it's fun to see such an anomaly, but i must say, if i'm gonna be in china, i want the real china :)

oh, and i spilled powdered formula all over my camera, case and the inside of our backpack. apparently chinese formula is closely related to super glue :) i'm off to do some glue removal before our friends arrive. our dear jack and shirley are on the way to the hotel...so excited to see them!hopefully my extra sticky camera will will be able to capture our time together :)

guangzhou and the longest night ever.

we arrived in guangzhou last night. the night brings a flood of neon here...every building has some sort of fantastic neon signage. they all sparkle and create such unique movement everywhere you look. somehow, it's even color coordinated and all of the buildings, though each has different architecture, look like they belong together. it's really something amazing.
it's morning now, and we are hiding in our room with the lights off so jing liu doesn't wake up. we had the LONGEST night ever. maybe the most challenging in my entire experience of motherhood. the airplane was a piece of cake compared to when we got to the hotel. 1st. miss into-every-thing decided a nap wasn't in the cards yesterday. ok, no problem, i'm sure she'll go to sleep early on the plane. 2nd. miss i-don't-want-to-miss-a-thing was soooo excited to be somewhere new she was quite pleasant on the plane, and especially loved looking out the window. 3rd. miss exhaustion fell asleep in the bus to the hotel at 10pm. 4th miss i-love-to-sleep-while-you-are-holding-me didn't like it when i tried to put her in the crib. at ALL. i tried picking her back up and putting her to sleep and then making the transition. i tried that at least 5 times. we have single beds at this hotel, so there is no way miss scootchie-night-sleeper could ever sleep next to one of us. the crib is a must. oh, and i also can't sleep walk and hold you, fyi sweetie pie.  i decided i would wait her out. since she's been with us, she's stopped needing to put herself to sleep. and when i say "put herself to sleep" i mean claw at her ears and scalp until they bleed, and scissor saw her mouth and feet with her nails with all of her teenie-hulk-like strength. it's excruciating to watch, let alone what she must feel. so i waited her out, with my hands gently stroking the sides of her head (so she couldn't claw them open) and talking softly to her. i let her have her feet, which she gladly scratched and gnawed at. oh and did i mention this entire time, she is SCREAMING louder and more fiercely than any child i have ever encountered????????? i was in tears. i gave in a few times and picked her up. and you know what??? she instantly feel asleep. ok. that's it.girl, you can sleep if you want to. i love you. but i really can't hold you all night. back into the crib you go. all of the above ensues. i'm guessing it was at least 2 hours long. me crouching by her crib, her clawing and screaming and thrashing. i have no idea if i was doing the right thing. honestly. i kept asking myself what someone else would tell me to do at that moment, because i was out of ideas. i've never seen her like this. i kept my hands near her, but didn't hold her down. i wanted her to know i would stick by her, even when she was so upset with me. i know she wanted me to hold her, and i know she wanted me to know she usually has to do this on her own. so as soon as she started her normal sucking sound with her blanket, i pulled my hands back gently so she knew i would let her fall asleep on her own when she stopped trying to hurt herself. after 10 false alarms, she stopped thrashing for good. she's been asleep ever since.
so yes. lights out. we didn't even unpack last night, so i carried all of our suitcases into the (small) bathroom to find clothes and toiletries this morning. it was quite a sight.
we have to meet at 9:30am for her physical and then go over all of her paperwork in preperation for monday. after that, it will be lunch and our friends are all coming to visit us. we hope to spend the rest of the weekend with them, and then we have an early 7am meet up to head to the us consulate at 8 am on monday morning. out guide said "prepare to wait around". not sure what that means, but as long as miss thrasher doesn't come along, i think we'll be fine :)
lets hope last night was the worst, and it can only go up from here :)


so little time, so much to say

there is oh so much to say, but we are on the move today...it's our last day in nanchang and we are waiting on jing liu's passport so we can catch our flight to guangzhou tonight. if i know anything about china, i have a feeling it will be a mad dash to the airport tonight :)

i have so much to write about jing liu's birth city...and i will have to go back and write a post about it because i won't be able to do it justice in the 10 min i have at the moment. but i will say it was surprisingly emotional. we drove about 1 1/2 to get to fuzou (in a REALLY nice WV - leather and ac, wow, it was awesome!) and little spark plug snuggled with daddy the whole way...oh, melt me!

this is what he does when i try to take a family picture. nice clint, nice. :)
i laughed hysterically when i came home and found these!

we drove through miles of rice patties and all of the sudden, there was her town, in the middle of nowhere. i was snapping pictures, and taking it all in. it took a while to find the orphanage as well as each of the finding spots...even with a gps we had to get out and ask directions many times (and by "we" i mean the driver and our guide :)

fuzou social welfare institute (orphanage) where jing liu (emery) and jing gui (brooklyn) were taken when they were found. it was a surprisingly fancy building! it looked brand new from the outside. we decided not to pay to go inside because our girls weren't there for very long, since they were with foster families.

when my feet hit the ground at her finding spot (which is the exact documented place where an abandoned baby was found), somehow i burst into tears. i tried to hold it together for some pictures:

but most of them look like this:

it was a huge government building across the street from a hospital. i think it was so emotional because i could put a visual on her beginning. if she's tiny now, she must have been even smaller then. it's hard to picture. i know in my heart of hearts she was loved. her birth mom probably felt like she didn't have the ability to care for her...but who am i to say. we will never know the reason. whatever it was, though i feel deep sorrow, i am ever grateful for a mom who gave up a child so that she could be ours. jing liu's humble beginnings play a roll in her life, but they do not define her. she is not abandoned anymore. she is not adopted anymore. those words are now past tense. that was her past. being a part of her family is her present. she's not my adopted daughter...she's my daughter.
and she's incredible. so so incredible.

one of my goals of our trip to her finding spot was to put up a finding poster. it has her basic information like when and where she was found, and it talks about us adopting her and our desire to find her birth parents and foster parents so we can send then photos and updates as she grows. it has our contact information, including an email address that i made that will only be used for communication with anyone who sees the poster. my real hope is to have a relationship with them, or as much as jing liu desires, so she can have answers to her past. in reality, i know the chances are slim of ever finding them. but hey, we serve a big God. if He wills it to happen, it will happen. i want jing liu to know i made every effort in my ability.

we talked to the local shop owners, and the one right next door to her finding spot was nothing short of a miracle. right away, he understood what we were talking about. he tried to remember back to a year ago, but couldn't recall a baby being abandoned at that time. he was very happy to hang our poster, and even got a chair so he could hang it up high. he was very afraid that someone would take it. he promised to guard it everyday against thieves. it was really sweet to see how protective he was of just a little poster. i can see how God orchestrated him being in that spot on that day. it was beautiful to see how much he cared about jing liu and how happy he was that we were her parents. he said over and over again "lucky baby, lucky baby."

we also found brooklyn's finding spot (my dear friend nicole's daughter...i have blogged a lot about our amazing connection...don't have the time now to find the posts to link, but at the bottom of my blog look for the "chryst family".)  it was emotional for me to be there, as well. it's such a strange feeling to know you are on the same ground as our daughter's birth mom. somehow it's sacred, or special, or something i can't really describe.

the town itself is very stark and industrial. cement buildings and apartments, rows and rows of backhoes and bulldozers, and farmers and hard working city folk are everywhere. it feels very different from nanchang, and ever removed from our beloved city of guilin.
foster and rowan, this one is for you, boys! check out what this big dude is carrying!!!

these lamps are everywhere throughout the town

there are LOTS of buildings being built all over

well, i'm out of time now. we have fun things planned today, and our dear friends jack and shirley are flying into guangzhou to see us tonight! we will all arive around 9pm or so. i'm hoping the little lady will sleep in the mai tai carrier so we can spend time with them tonight. soo excited!
our friend jones lives in guangzhou and we are going to his hometown on sunday to meet his family, wife and daughter. it will be an incredible experience.

i have no idea when i'll have time to blog again. maybe monday? i've been so exhausted at night from waking up at 3 am every morning, i can hardly make it under the covers before i am comatose.

i can't tell you enough how much all of the comments and sweet emails and kind comments on facebook mean to us. i read every one, even if i don't have time to respond, and it has been amazing to know and feel such love from so many people. we are having the time of our life here with jing liu, and it is a pleasure sharing it with you!

ps. i'm hating my camera this week. like really really loathing it. it's all wacky and my photos are coming out all sorts of off balance. i cringe to post them unedited, but hey, such is life.


sweetie pie

the longest post in history {rubbernecking awesome}

we had some internet issues last night....internet issues combined with extreme exhaustion = no blogging :). we came back to the hotel after a long and incredible day, and as i was feeding jing liu her bottle, i kept falling asleep in a split second and dropping her bottle because i had fallen into such a deep slumber in only a few seconds! it was quite hilarious (according to clint :) and for the first time, he was able to take her from my comatose self and rock her to sleep! it was a HUGE milestone! actually, the whole day was a huge milestone in their friendship! there were so many times throughout the day that she allowed him to hold her...and each time, it was like i was witnessing love blooming! he has so many daddy tricks up his sleeve. he knows the patented, tried and true, "i'm your daddy and i'm awesome...you can trust me" maneuvers. he plays. one of the best bonding moments...play. he lifts her high in the air (she squeals with delight) and slowly sends her backwards and down close to the ground...when she comes back up, shes giggling and jumping and trying to motion "again, again!" the rocking to sleep at the end of the day was like icing on the cake. oh so beautiful!
as i sit her writing, i can hear a constant movement on the street. even from our 14th floor hotel at 4 am, i can hear so much movement outside. beeping and huge trucks and brakes squealing and engines bouncing...oh and extreemly loud fireworks that just went off as i was typing a moment ago. even at 9 pm last night while on our way home from davie's adorable 1 room apartment, we made our way through a grocery store (a shortcut to the main street from the alley that apparently an entire community uses as a cut through to the street) everywhere we walked was alive with action. it was pitch black in the alley and even the main street was ill lit, but we could see shadows everywhere...babies on scooters, ladies dancing to music over a loud speaker, old met playing some kind of betting game, children laughing and chasing...it was 9pm, scortching hot, and no sign of calling it a night...if you turned the lights on, it would look the same as it does during the day...there is always life blooming here. truly a country that seems to never sleep.
we spend the day causing some serious rubber necking. we are quite the spectacle. not only are we americans, but somehow we managed to snag a chinese baby :) most people we encounter are very curious. our friends and translator say that most chinese don't know about the concept of adoption, so they don't understand how we have a chinese baby. when they see us, we get the usual "oh look, a foreigner" glance - which we know all about from our previous experience here. so we smile and say hello when we are in close proximity. but the 150 ppl on the other side of the street that are giving us the same look...well, a spectacle is made for sure. then the attention turns to jing liu, and the rubber necking insues. it's as if they do a double take when they realize the baby were are carrying is chinese. for the most part, we are met with smiles and good wishes. they all comment on how tiny she is. one woman came up to us and said she adopted a baby girl 20 years ago...she was loving seeing our baby girl and gave us such a sweet smile and kindness. it was really neat to meet a chinese woman who shared our love of adoption! it was a special moment to connect with her, even without words. sometimes i feel frustrated for jing liu and the attention she is getting, but clint keeps reminding me to keep it in perspective...it's more of a curiosity than anything else...this isn't a tourist town...there aren't tons of foreigners walking the back alley markets toting babies...let alone adorable chinese babies :) so we do our best to be polite...and leave the rest alone.
this morning, we went shopping for tiny baby clothes with our dear friend davie. we found a backalley shopping mecca. we only made it to the 2nd floor of the 6 story building because it was just too ginormous. we bought a few adorable outfits for jing liu when she is older and some funny tshirts for the boys, but apparently, they don't sell tiny baby clothes. not sure what newborns wear in china, but we could only find 2 outfits that were remotely her size.

and again, we were a spectacle. we said hello to each shop owner, and greeted the small children who stared wide eyed and then they would giggle and practice their english "hellooo!". crowds would gather as we bargained. davie was so sweet and would explain that jing liu is our daughter. we were scolded that she was too hot in our carrier. we were scolded that her legs were too bare. we were offered chairs and hospitality. having a language barrier brings out the simple things. a smile. hand motions. laughter. it's often a very powerful way to communcate.
everywhere we walk on the streets, there are so many smells and sights and a buzzing all around. it's a lot to take in. the moment we hit the streets, it's china. everywhere you look. you can't describe the smell. it's not horrible...it's just how china smells. food and dust and people cooking and cutting metal and carrying chickens and selling all types of wares.

 lots of frogs and turtles for sale on the street. not for pets though...uhg.

 we reallly want to try some street food! we used to eat on the street everyday when we lived in china. but this trip, we are playing it safe. haven't had to use our immodium yet...trying to keep it that way :)

sidewalks are actually parking lots and more closely related to minuature roads. at any time, you will see vehicals of all types parked on the sidewalk, or a moped zipping past you as you walk along.

apparently our hotel is in the home depot district. there are blocks of carpet vendors. they all sell the same things. shop after shop after shop. the next block is pvc piping, the next is sheet metal, and the next is heating and cooling. we met an entire block of used remote controls and floor fans, among other randomocity. it's so funny to see piles and piles of old and broken remotes piled high and set out for sale. many are covered in dust and have wires sticking out. buttons missing. but apparently there is a market for nearly crushed remote controls. an entire block devoted to such treasures.

as we walk, there is constant rainfall. it's smouldering hot here. picture the hottest and most humid day you can ever remember. then add 20 degrees and fine dust granules floating at all times. but there is also a constant dripping/misting from above. sometimes, it's more like a downpour. we assume it's venting from AC units from the apartment buildings above. or perhaps someone is dumping old water? a flower vase perhaps? laundry drying? it's not rain, and we're not really sure what it is, but we walk and dodge falling showers.
the grocery store is another awesome adventure. it's so colorful and vibrant. there is so much to look at, but you aren't really sure what you are seeing. we tried to find snacks but with shrimp flavored bugles and tomato rice pringles, it was laughable to figure out what kind to try. there are so many things we have no idea what they are. some even have brand names like "herrs" or "toll house" but the product is unrecognizable. i love trying out new things and getting a taste of what chinese like to eat.
 (can you tell how much he *loves* having his picture taken!!)

again, not sold as pets. don't tell foster and rowan they sell these in the grocery store. i'd never leave without a new "pet" if they did this in the usa!!
without a doubt, many chinese love KFC. we stopped in to get a drink and have a cool place to sit and feed jing liu a bottle. we didn't try the food (been there done that a few years back = major stomach attack) i'd much rather have chinese food than kfc, mcdonalds, pizza hut etc, but i know many chinese like these classic american restaurants and they are very common to see in a lot of chinese cities.
as we sat, we were shocked at how busy it was. we were one block away from the back alley shopping mecca, but now it looked very big city. the family next to us touted at least 10 bags of toys for their two little kids. the mom was dressed to the nines with sparkling high heels and a gucci bag. they had 2 kids, a boy and a girl. we asked davie how some families are allowed to have 2 kids and others can only have 1. davie said if you are very wealthy, you can pay to have another child...or if you are from the country, you can have 2 or even 3 children. davie and his wife are from the country so he was very excited to tell us that they are allowed to have more than one child. he's going to be such a sweet daddy someday!!
i have so many awesome photos...but i sooo need lightroom, or some kind of tweaking. i'm having all sorts of white balance issues (LINDS! i need help! can you zip on over here and fix my camera like you always do?? :) and it's quite difficult to wear a baby, use a fan, inconspicuously shoot photos, and carry some assortment of puffs or water or a bag of lyche fruit.
oh and my husband? he's amazing. did i mention that already? remember me saying it's meltingly hot here? well it's even hotter with a backpack on and lugging bags of groceries for 7 blocks. he's so sweet and silly and fun. we are having so much fun together. how often do you get to pal around in another country with your spouse and a tiny tote along baby?? i'd say almost never. well, except for right now :)
my amazing girl.
oh how i love this photo. this is how she looks at me all day long. those eyes!!! incredible!!
 she really came alive tonight at dinner. it was like trying to hold onto the wind. attempting to catch a cloud and pin it down...she was the wiggliest and silliest and squirmiest kid i've ever seen! she is so interested in everything! we got a kick out of her amazing strength and her ability to grab and knock over just about anything with her super long arms and enormous determination. she is a sassy one, and i love it!!
and yet, she sleeps so soundly. this was her first nap in the crib this afternoon. it's a very small crib, but wow, she still looks teenie.
i will now say goodnight to the longest post in history! i have a million more things to say, though. later this morning we will go to fuzhou....jing liu's birth city (2 hours away) to put up finding posters and see if we can find her birth or foster parents. the orphanage director decided he would not give us her foster parents address. hopefully we will find them with our sign. we are going to document her finding spot as well as our dear sweet brooklyn's finding spot. i feel emotional already about witnessing these precious places where our girls once were. there is something sacred to me about being in the same place and jing liu and her birth mom. maybe it is a mix of frustration and love and incomprehensible emotions. i feel grief and pain for what jing liu might experience later in life looking back...but i will pray continuously that God will bring healing through these photographs somehow. being able to see her starting place and embrace her past. embrace a nation we love so much, even when there are things we don't understand, like mystery rain fall. :)
oh and our friend davie? everyone should meet him. he would inspire the world to do a great many things. he lives his life moment by moment...he travels a lot for work and seeks out underground churches everywhere he goes. he had picture after picture of the groups and friends he has found. with every breath, he says "thanks be to God" - it feels as though we are in the presence of someone who has been chosen to change a nation. i get goosebumps when he speaks...when we heard him pray at the restaurant...his generosity...he gives to each beggar on the street...buys flower necklaces from the little lady vendor...shows compassion and love to each person he encounters. oh, and he LOVES jing liu. he keeps saying "thanks be to God...your daughter...thanks be to God you are her mom and dad!"


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