Thursday, August 13, 2009

Home...jetlagged...back to work...and life

We've been home almost a week now. I am on a regular schedule, but the kids are still adjusting. I have to remind myself it is getting better. Last night it was 11:30 before they finally went to sleep...that's way better than 3:00 or 4:00 a.m....but still after trying for 2 hours, it is a little frustrating...

Already I am back to maternity leave for you when you are self employed. Three weeks in China is more than I could spend not working. I've been blessed that business has survived and that my kids are so happy to be at grandma and grandpa's house...of course, knowing grandma and grandpa, who wouldn't love it! Its a constant party there.

RJ has adjusted beautifully (so far). He gets along with all the family and other than being a little shy around new people, seems to enjoy the attention and all the fun that each new experience brings. We have lots of things to take care of ... doctors, dentists, etc. etc. But all that will come with time. For now I am counting each moment and experience (except the ones at 2 a.m.) as a blessing to treasure!

Here's a few pictures of life at home:

With grandma in my garden, picking tomatoes (even though the garden is at my house, my mom has done it all...and I get to enjoy the fruits - or more accurately, veggies - of her labors)

RJ loves the swings and slide in the backyard!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And the pictures of my almost American boy!


At about 4:00 this afternoon I was handed an immigrant visa for my son Robert Joseph Ping Broberg, so that he can enter the United States and become a citizen!  After all the worry, panic, tears, frustrations, headaches and heartaches, all the paperwork has been finalized and all that there is left to do is travel home.  I am so very grateful.
So one final stretch...we will begin our journey home tomorrow, August 6, at about 11:00 in China.  One bus ride, three planes, two shuttles, 16 hours and 45 minutes of flying, 7 hours of layovers, 7760 miles and approximately 27 hours later we will arrive home. I can't wait.  OK, that might have been a tad bit sarcastic, but actually I truly can't wait.  I am so ready to go home.  Three weeks is really too long to travel.  Emma has been an amazing little traveler...willing to eat whatever, sleep wherever, and so on.  I am very impressed by her.  And of course, Mr. Smiles...he is just willing to go with the flow...except if you try to hold him to any seat (high chair, seat belt, on your lap)...he doesn't do, that will make for a very interesting flight. 
No matter what, exhausted, brusied, a little broken, injured and incoherent....we will be home!  I will start counting my blessings help me survive the journey ahead.
Well, off to do a final rearrangement of stuff in the bags...then try to get some rest since I know it is going to be a very long road ahead of me.
Thanks to all of those who have followed along, prayed for us and shared this wonderful journey with us.  Your love and support has been felt many times and appreciated constantly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Aug 4

We are truly on the countdown now!
Today was the consulate appointment for the adoption agency rep to take our documents to the consulate and get everything ready for our 'oath swearing ceremony' and visa issuance, scheduled for tomorrow.  A par for the course there was a potential problem issue with my of the adoption papers from Lanzhou had my old California address on it and the consulate would generally not allow any mistake.  But on Monday the adoption agency rep said that she had worked it out, but ended that assurance with: "lets hope they don't change their mind tomorrow."  What???!!  Anyway, I haven't heard anything for sure still, but it is 4:30, the appointment was this morning, and I think if there was a problem, she would have contacted me by least I would hope so!
Today we went to a Buddhist Temple...the Six Banyan Tree temple.  It is the only tourist type outing planned for Guangzhou so I decided we would go.  It was pretty nice to do...just the weather as our only enemy.  There is a little 'ceremony' performed by a monk where they bless the babies.  I think culturally it is a nice event to do.
After we got back we went to lunch with Monica, Eric, Spencer and Sabrina (our friends from New York that we met earlier in Beijing).  We decided to try the Cantonese restaurant.  Overall since being here on Shamian Island we've just eaten American food, room service or ramen noodles in the room.  I thought it might be nice to have a Cantonese meal..however most of the menu was not particularly appetizing.  We ended up with one good dish, one acceptable dish, one edible dish and one slimy inedible choice.  Not too bad, I guess.  The most daring thing we tried...swan.  It was o.k.  Not something I'd choose again, but sounds impressive to have tried.
Since lunch we've just been at the room...trying to rest.  And, I learned that tomorrow I have to switch rooms...for just my last night.  What a pain.  There is some kind of maintenance thing they are going to do and there will be no air conditioning in this part of the building.  It will be worth moving for that!  Actually, it might be good, because I can basically get packed up tonight and tomorrow and then have the morning on Thursday to do any last minute shopping.  And then we will be heading home!!! Even though I dread the plane rides....I am sooooooo ready and so is Emma.  RJ is just going with the flow...but only because he doesn't know how much fun it is going to be to be home with grandma and grandpa and aunt Jan, Austen, the girls, the Campbells and everyone else who is going to just adore him like we do!

Swimming: Round 2

Red Couch pictures

My cute kids!

August 3

What a busy day we had today.  First on the docket was our only adoption/visa related thing:  the medical check for the visa papers.  They first checked RJ's tb test to make sure he hadn't had a reaction...nope, all clear.  The medical check really doesn't consist of much:  An eyes, ears and nose check.  How do they check his hearing?  By pounding on a little toy instrument while he is looking somewhere else to see if he turns his head.  Check.  Then he was weighed and measured...25 lbs and 34 inches, according to their scales and so on.  Then I had to answer some questions about his general health and his cleft palate.  They measured his head (can't remember that one) and checked out his heart, lets, arms, private parts, etc.....and that was that!
As we walked back, I thought that maybe since we were already out and about, we would try crossing the bridge and going off our little island for a walk down the pedestrian shopping street, which was supposedly about a 10 minute walk.  Maybe if you are an adult, without two kids and a stroller and it isn't a thousand degrees with 95% humidity, its a ten minute walk...but for us it took like 30 minutes, felt like an eternity and I was dripping with sweat by .  But of course by that time, I wasn't going to just turn around. So, we walked down the street and found the McDonalds (which I though would be a nice cool rest from the blasted heat) up the stairs to the 2nd floor (it seems like all the restaurants are always up a flight of stairs).  It was terribly crowded, and I didn't notice at first because of the general state of heat stroke I was feeling...but the air conditioning wasn't working.  After getting the food, finding a table and sitting dawned on me that I was still dripping with sweat.  Of course about that time RJ woke up (he had fallen asleep, probably due to the temperature) and immediately made the sign to go potty...and before I could even stand up to go find a bathroom (which there wasn't one in the McDonalds anyway)...while standing on a chair at the table, he squatted and TADA!  There is was again. we are in a dilemna...aren't we.  So, back into the stroller...with soaking wet pants.  I go to find someone to tell them that our 'drink' had spilled and we try to 'enjoy' the experience of McDonalds.  Emma of course, who really wanted to go there, didn't have a single bit of her hamburger and my chicken sandwhich was disgusting.  Hows that for a positive attitude?  But we did enjoy the sprite, WITH ICE!  That was the highlight.  Then we started back down the street for the return trip.  We did stop and shop a little.  I bought the kids some Chinese looking outfits and each a pair of sandals.  Then it was back up over the thousand stairs...across the bridge over the the bridge over the water and back to the hotel.  How happy I will be to have a car again!
The kids immediately got into the tub, but because it took us so long, we had to hurry and get ready for the famous 'red couch' photo.  There is a couch in one of the other hotels nearby where most adoptive families will go to take pictures of the babies of the group and so on.  It is always quite an experience, and usually unsuccessful, to get 10 or 12 babies to sit together for a picture without crying, moving, etc.  We had no real luck either.  RJ sat pretty still, but was distracted by the baby who was screaming sitting next to him.  It was really quite funny.
One of the other families who I met in Beijing (and whom I had met via the internet before coming) had a five year old boy.  He and Emma had become fast friends in Beijing and were happy to see each other again.  His family invited us to come back to the hotel to swim with them.  Even though we were tired, Emma really wanted to and it did sound like a nice relief from the heat.  We ended up swimming for like three hours.  I wasn't sure that RJ would like it, after our first swimming experience.  But, he loved it.  It was a big outdoor pool, beautiful with a waterfall, warm and a little kiddie pool, that RJ could stand up
in.  Once he got his arm floaties on...he was unstoppable.  We even went to the deep part and he wasn't afraid to swim out with me holding him.  It was a success.  Emma of course loves the water and she had a great time.  There were a bunch of different adoptive families there with their little ones, and it was nice to get to know some of them and swap some stories.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2

The kids are in the bathtub for the second time today.  RJ loves the water and Emma thinks it is fun too.  They played for over an hour today and RJ just stripped and took of his clothes a moment ago and went and got in by himself.  He loves to turn the water on full blast and just let it run. I have to take the plug out, so it can drain quick enough to allow for him running it full blast.  I'm sure we are going to make the hotel go broke for all the water we are using...not very environmentally friendly of us...but, it keeps them entertained for a few hours.  And that is pretty great.
We've mostly just stayed in today.  It is just too hot...and all there is to do outside is shop or go eat.  We did play at the little playground again today, but it was soooo hot, we were all dripping in sweat after about 2 minutes.  But Emma has made a little friend and that is nice.  So, other than all that, we are just hanging out at the hotel...playing, bathing and trying to survive.  Since the pool is much warmer here, I think we will try it again with RJ.  I think we will love it under the right conditions.
We had to go out today to get RJ's visa picture taken, but other than that, no adoption work today....just waiting mostly to various paperwork to run its course.  The adoption people continue to tell me that there will be no problem with my paperwork from Lanzhou...but it is the weekend and they won't really be able to check with the consulate until tomorrow.  Yikes.
 .,j n lklklkl lk  (that was typed by RJ...brilliant, huh?)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another bathtub shot

Here's a shot of my kids...loving the bath...and bubbles!

An ankle comparison

I know...just what you wanted to see...but don't you feel sorry for me now?  This is a side by side of my ankles....Can you guess which one is the one I sprained (or whatever I did to it...just bruised it maybe).  Go ahead, feel sympathy for me.  Just kidding!

August 1

The only real event of the day was that RJ had to go to get his TB test for his visa.  Even though he has already been tested by the orphanage, the US consulate is now requiring another TB test prior to it issuing a visa.  Whatever.  Anyway, we walked over with another family who is staying in the same hotel.  They have adopted a 9 year old boy.  None speak Chinese, and he doesn't speak English.  How impressed I am with people's goodness and abilities to open their hearts to children in all circumstances.  It was nice to meet them, they told us all about the pool on the roof and said it was just great, warm and fun.  We might take another stab at swimming.  We'll see.

Anyway, we walked down to the clinic and RJ got his arm injected with the TB test to see if there is a reaction.  I was sure that, given his history, he would seem stressed out about being in a hospital setting, but he seemed just fine.  Not only that but he didn't even make a sound when they pulled out the needle or injected him!  I couldn't believe it.

On the way back from the clinic, we stopped at a little exercise park.  It is full of equipment, mostly sized for adults to do various types of exercises.  However, Emma found plenty to keep her busy and then, once we found the little slide/climbing set, there was something exciting for RJ to try.  At first he wasn't sure, but it took only once and he was hooked on the slide experience!  It was a joy to see him slide, laugh and then immediately run for the stairs again.  He had such a good time.  It is very hot and very humid here and his little cheeks got so red…but he just kept on going.  I also met a woman who owns one of the shops that are nearby.  Her five year old daughter was playing on the slides as well.   She was absolutely amazed that I could speak Chinese.  She said that in the five years that she had owned the little shop here that specializes in Chinese tourist type goods and adoption related trinkets, that she had met hundreds of adoptive families, but I was the first ever to speak Chinese. I don't know if that is true…but she really wanted to talk and talk.  I was so hot and thirsty…but the kids were happy to play with her daughter and it was nice to visit. 

We finally came back to the room and little RJ was so tired, he laid down and immediately fell asleep.  Emma played some computer games and I tried to get a little organized.  I then started on some laundry and while I was doing it RJ woke up and started playing with the water in the tub.  It soon turned into a few hours of water and bubbles for both he and Emma while I did laundry.  Again it was a joy to see them having so much fun.  They get along great at those times, and just like all siblings, fight equally as often.  RJ does not like Emma to touch his head and try to take him places or keep him from things that he isn't supposed to do.  He has no trouble screaming at her and trying to shoo her away.  She also doesn't have much patience with him when he acts that way and will fight right back.  I guess that is healthy.  I hope overall they are going to be good friends though.

We went through my paperwork this afternoon with the representative from Holt …no one is too sure whether it is all in order or not because in Lanzhou they used my California address on the adoption registration.  I told them that it wasn't my current address like 5 times, but they kept assuring me that is was the one I was supposed to use.  But I  was not convinced…and the girl today that was reviewing it with me seemed to agree that it probably was wrong. And they would have to send it back to Lanzhou to get it right.  Aaargh!  She assured me that it wasn't going to hold anything up…but I feel like I can't trust anyone or anything…its been just sooo many problems with my paperwork.  Until I am on that plane with my boy, I will be worried!

I guess there isn't much I can do right now.  This is when I have to have faith that someone will do the right thing and it will all happen as planned.  I sure hope so!


July 31

We started out the day as early as we could get through breakfast so we could shop up at the flea market at the old Buddhist temple.  We didn't have much time because we were leaving for the airport at 1:00 and we wanted to go get noodles (in the opposite direction) one more time. The main purpose of the flea market was to get chops for some of the Campbells who didn't have chance while in Beijing.  But, upon walking around the market, Karen saw an antique xylophone, with a dragon design.  I saw that look in her eyes and knew that she would find a way to get it home…and she did.  It was very cool.

Anyway, they did find a few other things, but then it was time to get back and get everything packed up and on our way.  We had a quiet ride out to the airport, as both kids slept.  I was glad to get to watch the countryside of the area where my son has spent his first two years.  The hour or so to the airport was filled with small pockets of crumbling homes and neighborhoods, some farm areas and some industrial type plants.  The countryside was quite dusty, with brown mountains close behind.  Very rural, no indication of modern conveniences, cars, stores, etc.  I thought how difficult life must be, even just for survival, just these few miles from the very busy and modern city of Lanzhou.

The Lanzhou airport is rather small, and happily Karen & Matt's gate was the same as our's (they left about 40 minutes before us).  So, we got to see them off as they left for Beijing to begin their very long journey home.  It was hard to see them go.  It has been absolutely wonderful to have them with us.  They have helped in so many ways and RJ has grown quite attached to them both.  He happily waved bye bye to them as they departed through the door to head to the plane.  Just after all the passengers of that flight had boarded, he kept taking my hand, so that we could follow them through the door. He would point to the door and make his little grunts…like, lets go!  When he realized that we weren't going to go with Uncle Matt and Aunt Karen, he got a very pained look on his face and cried.  It broke my heart.  I have shown him lots of pictures since and tried to continue to assure him that we will see them soon.  It is sad to see that little face feeling so sad.  But we got out the crackers and the toy cars and that helped to dry the tears and pass the time.

I was happy to get onto our flight, which I learned for the first time that it was not a direct flight, but would stop over in Xian.  That didn't make me too happy…I didn't need the travel time to be any longer than absolutely necessary.  Anyway, the flight to Xian was only about an hour.  Low and behold, not only did we stop there, but I had to get off the plane are re-board.  That almost put me over the edge…come on!  Trying to gather all our gear and get off, then back on…what a pain.  Anyway, soon we were on our way to Guangzhou.  I learned very quickly that RJ does NOT like being buckled up, in any way, shape or form.  Training him to sit in a car seat is going to be a real challenge.  Mostly he was o.k. on my lap, but did insist on walking up and down the aisle a couple of times.  Emma slept through a good portion of the flight, which was great.  Our biggest incident was when dinner came, but RJ wouldn't sit at his own seat, but only on my lap.  So trying to manage the food and drinks and my son must have been such a sight.  Unfortunately, RJ loves to drink!  I didn't use my best judgment and had the flight attendant leave another cup full of orange drink for us.  Soon, the entire cup of juice ended up on my and RJ's laps.  A lot of it also spilled directly onto my shoes, which were off…nice and squishy and sticky when I put them back on.  I just prayed for the next two hours that my pants would dry enough that I didn't look like I had an accident…especially because there was really no where to go, so I had to just keep sitting in the wet seat.  Lovely.  It was a true initiation to traveling with my two kids. I hope I learned a few lessons for the big day of travel ahead.

We got into our hotel in Guangzhou at about 9:30 p.m. and were so happy to see such a lovely room in the 'original' section of the hotel (which has been renovated and is really nice)…a huge king size bed and a little separate seating area.  I really like the Victory Hotel.  This is the same place that we stayed when we were here for Emma's adoption.  Most families stay at the White Swan, but this hotel is half the price, has soft beds (unlike the White Swan, as well as most of the rest of China's hotels) and are much bigger in size.  Other than apparently the lovely breakfast buffet at the White Swan, this is a much better choice…and the breakfast here isn't too bad anyway.    So, here I am in the middle of this huge bed with my two precious children sleeping soundly on either side of me.  Aaaah, heaven.

At the park


Sorry that this picture is sideways...I have a few posting issues from China and can't seem to fix it right now. I'll try again later.

July 30

Today was a free day to do as we pleased…not really any different from any other day, but Kaige wasn't going to check in with me until about 5:00, at which time she would bring RJ's Chinese Passport and all the adoption documents.  Karen was sick with a bit of a flu or cold or something, so she needed some rest and some peace and quiet.  I decided that I wanted to venture out and find a famous Lanzhou park/Buddhist temple/Zoo.  I figured that now was as good a time as any to see how I could handle two kids on my own.  So, with my increasingly swollen ankle, stroller and kids in tow…we climbed into a taxi to take us to WuChuan park.  The taxi (which cost only 7 yuan – about a dollar) dropped us off off in front of a big plaza that looked like many shops, but not much like a park…but I figured I could go check it out.  Emma had the first turn in the stroller, but mostly had to be out, because there was like a million stairs.  I kept climbing stairs thinking "there better be a park up here after all this sweat and trouble."  At the first landing were a bunch of individual 'stands' of people setting up pyramids of cans for someone to throw a ball at….like at the fair or something.  I tried to navigate around, but RJ still managed to knock down a tower of cans before I could catch him.  We crossed a bridge, again where there were lots of people selling trinkets and junk, mostly…although Emma and RJ were both fascinated by the little tiny turtles…I guess on sale as pets.  I don't know for sure.

Finally we reached the park entrance.  The park was humongous.  Really lovely and seemed like a wonderful place if you just wanted to stroll and relax.  But we were looking for the zoo…which there didn't seem to be any signs for …and I couldn't remember how to say zoo in Chinese. So, I picked a path and up we went and around…into the Buddhist temple, got stuck in there, and back down.  I was beginning to think we would never find it…but we did eventually get on the right path.  Of course I was exhausted by that point, but I am glad we found it.  It was the kind of zoo that makes adults sad, but the kids didn't seem to mind…the kind of small empty cages, cement floors with the animals pacing back and forth…the kind we used to see when we were kids.  Anyway, the most amazing thing about this zoo is the lack of restriction.  There is definitely no ' Don't Feed the Bears' policy…for the bears or any of the other animals.  The bears were obviously used to people feeding them, as they would look up from their pit and wait for food from the crowd.  Even the animals in the cages, if you could reach over the little barrier and get food through the cage wire, they would just wait for it.  I couldn't believe a kid of about 9 or so leaning over the little railing and putting crackers on to the tongue of a small bear.  Emma and RJ loved feeding the deer and goats. 

Overall, the zoo was a success.  Only one melt down from RJ when Emma got into the stroller and I guess he had decided that it was all his turn.  Boy was he mad at her!  The boy definitely has some fire and strong will in him.    

When we got back to the hotel, it was about 2:30, I was hungry and so was Matt.  Karen still wasn't feeling well, so she said I could leave the kids to nap while Matt and I walked back to the yummy noodle place.   That sounded good…so we headed off…only to find that it was closed.  I guess it is just open for lunch!  Darn.  So we went back to the hotel for a bowl of noodles.  Not quite as yummy, but still good. 

We all then walked up to the pedestrian shopping street a few blocks up from the hotel.  Mostly just 'regular' shops – clothes, cosmetics, etc., but kind of in the middle is an old Buddhist temple that is now a flea market, mostly chops, calligraphy and antiques. We got there a little late and most of the vendors were gone, but we knew that there was enough stuff we were interested in that we would come back in the morning before we had to leave for the airport.

Our final stop was at a favorite restaurant that we have found here in Lanzhou called Pizza Mira.  Yep, pizza in China…and it isn't half bad!  The best part?  It's the only place that I've ever found in China with all you can drink fountain drinks with ICE!  Of course, no diet coke…but still cold drinks…as much as we want! Pretty amazing.

We then went back to the hotel to pack our bags.  It was a disaster for me.  I was trying to consolidate into just one bag, but I have way too much stuff, even with Karen and Matt taking a good chunk of my stuff…I couldn't put it all into one bag and still be under the per person weight limit for a domestic flight in China. RJ was totally wired.  I couldn't get him to settle down, even way after Emma fell to sleep…he figured out how to climb out of his crib and then he would run around, pulling stuff out of my luggage, or pushing the buttons on the safe, or playing with the toilet handle, or turning the t.v. on and off, or picking up the phone and pushing buttons…etc. etc.   It was after midnight when I finally gave up and just laid down next to him so that he would go to sleep!   He is one BUSY boy!  He is happy, sweet and doesn't say much…but he is so curious and so into everything!  I hope my house will be miraculously child proofed when I get home.  Ha Ha!