Home To My Mountains

Laura’s grandpa, Max, used to say “home to my mountains” whenever he wanted to head back home. Fitting then, that during yesterday’s very long (over 31 hours from hotel to home) journey we uttered this phrase a few times. The trip was long but we ended up on schedule pretty much everywhere and made it home safely. We had a wired four-year-old and a bewildered one-year-old, so bedtime didn’t happen until way too late/early. We first got to sleep around 1:45, the woke up about 2:00. At first, we tried to have a family campout in mommy’s and daddy’s room, but divide and conquer turned out to be best. I spent the first night on the top bunk in Noah’s room and Laura and Max slept in our room. I think we got between 6 and 7 hours of sleep, but after getting only one-and-a-half hours of sleep in well over a day, it felt good. Still, we’re slow and zombie-like a bit today. We’ll do a better post later, but we just wanted to let everyone know we made it home safely with our little boy!

Goodbye China

Inside the gates at the zoo. Max's first zoo experience if you don't count the meat department at the supermarket!

It’s 8:30pm China time. We’re pretty much packed and ready to go first thing in the morning. Boy is it going to be a long day, but at the end of it we get the best reward ever! We’ll be AT HOME with BOTH of our boys. I think that’s just about the only thing worth traveling for 30 hours to 4 different airports while being stuck 35,000 feet up in the air on 3 different flights with a one year old. It’ll all be worth it. I’d be fibbing though if I didn’t say I was a bit nervous about the whole ordeal. It’s the number one thing I’ve been worried about, other than my son, for the past year and a half. So please pray for us! We leave 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon Utah time and get in 10:30pm Thursday Utah time.

Today was a great day. We both feel bittersweet leaving China. We’ve had a whole bunch of ups and a few downs on this trip and I’m so glad to end on a happy note because I feel like we’ll be coming back to do this again in a few years. This has been a precious, priceless, life changing experience for us. Incredible. Not many people get to become parents again and have a major cultural experience to go with it. What an adventure we have had! It has truly been the biggest adventure of my life and during it I experienced one of my life’s biggest miracles. Thanks for sharing this time with us. Thanks for your support, your comments, your prayers, your thoughts…we have felt so loved throughout all of this. We are so glad to be coming home and we’re bringing the best souvenir God ever made in China: Max.

So, here’s the last recap. (I’m kinda tired, so this won’t be brilliant but you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, right?) After breakfast we joined the rest of our group to go to the zoo. It was like a small amusement park, Sea World, zoo, and park all combined into one and done a Chinese way. It struck us after the first couple of exhibits that all of the things we’d seen so far were things we had also seen on menus at restaurants! We joked about wondering if people who go to the zoo look at the animals and then think it sounds good to have that for lunch. Is that impolite? Seriously, it was true though. Ducks in the pond. Fried duck. Crocodile behind glass. Crocodile claw with abalone sauce. Turtles crawling in and out of ponds. Live turtles being sold in the local supermarket. Weird. We finally got to the bigger animals that we didn’t see on any menus while here: Tigers, Elephants, Giraffes, and yes, Pandas. Max slept in his stroller through most of it, but that’s ok because he will have many visits to the zoo.

After coming back to our hotel from the zoo we headed out for lunch. We strolled to the nice Italian restaurant we found yesterday and had lunch there again. Max has had so many french fries already that he now thinks anything you can hold in your hand can be dipped into some kind of sauce. He insisted on dipping his breadstick into the oil and pesto dippy they had and then later into my marinara sauce. Yes! A kid who loves dippy. Another one on my team. Sorry Chris.

My sweet husband has wanted to get me something special this trip and I finally decided today that I wanted a really nice jade pendant necklace. I knew that was the right thing when we wandered into a shop on the way back from lunch, saw one and I cried. When we adopted Noah we bought his birthmom a “mommy” necklace that represents her, us, and Noah. Chris surprised me at Noah’s placement and got me one too. Well, this is my mommy necklace for Max. Jade is really precious here and the real stuff is pretty expensive and comes in different grades like a diamond. A few days ago our guide took us to a government owned souvenir shop where you can trust that you are buying “real” things instead of knockoffs. We got her to write the address for this place on a card for us, got a taxi and headed back there. Explaining it that way is a huge over simplification of the process it took us to get there though. It was actually one of our biggest adventures that we’ve had yet this trip. We didn’t bring our camera because we thought it would be pretty straightforward and boring to have pictures of and I’m sorry about that! First of all, it took our concierge about 3 different tries to convince a cabbie to take us. Either they don’t like Americans or they didn’t want to go there or something. I think they pretty much tricked the cabbie into taking us. Anyway, the cabbie said he would get us pretty close to the store but we’d have to walk the rest of the way because with Chinese New Year coming in a few days the streets were blocked off near where we wanted to go. So, we got dropped off in the middle of a completely Chinese only, no tourists around kind of neighborhood. It turned out that it was 6 winding blocks away from the store and there was a main street between where we were going that was closed to everything but foot traffic so they could set up New Year’s decorations and a fresh flower market. So, we got a really fun experience of walking through neighborhoods with laundry hanging from every window, stores selling everything imaginable crammed into the bottom floors of every building, and Chinese people staring at us while we stared back at them. We had to stop several times for Chris to use his limited Chinese to ask locals which direction we needed to go to find our store. I loved every second of it. We finally made it there, so huge pat on the back to us! I found the perfect necklace that I love already. It’s a circle of jade hanging from a silver setting and it has in silver the Chinese character for “love” inside of it. Perfect. I love it. I think it’s the perfect thing to represent our family, my perfect little son, and they way he came to me. The lady at the store was really nice and helped talk a cabbie into taking us back to our hotel so we didn’t have nearly the ordeal getting back as we did getting there.

Tonight we finished doing some shopping. Let’s just put it this way. It’s going to be Christmas at our home! We had such a great time shopping and just couldn’t help ourselves. I guess it’s fitting because the weekend we get home is Chinese New Year and it’s a lot like Christmas where you buy all of your family presents, so we’ll just pretend we’re celebrating that! One Chinese New Year tradition is that new babies get money in red envelopes, hint, hint! Just kidding!

So, we’ll be home soon. We’d love for anyone who wants to stop by our house and meet our newest little family member. We’re going to post updates when we get home on this site and our regular blog for a little while but pretty soon we’ll just be using our squarespace site again. The address for that is: www.chrisandlaura.squarespace.com and you need a password so leave a comment here or email us and we will send you the login and password.

Well, I guess that’s it folks!

Parkers out!

This was the BEST part of the zoo! So different here. They had a children's section where kids and their parents could play in these ponds and terrorize the goldfish. After they were done doing that, they got to keep whatever they could scoop up.

One of the things I love about our little Max is the mischief he gets into. Every day housekeeping fills up these little orange containers with chocolates and it's gotten so that when we come back to our room they are the first things he goes to find.

Last Day in China

Well, today is IT! We have just about made it through our trip. Today will be a nice day. Breakfast, we’re going to a zoo, lunch, naptime, our guide will give us Max’s passport with his Visa in it, buy a new suitcase for all our souvenirs, finish up buying a couple things, dinner, and pack!

We will post one more time later tonight with pictures from our day and then we will see you on the flip side! Tomorrow morning we have to wake up early, have breakfast and leave for the airport at 6:40am. We will be traveling for about 30 hours and then we will be HOME! (We’ll be completely exhausted, but we will be home!)

PS Isn’t it cute that Laura said “flip side?”

Consulate Day

Today was the big day when we headed to the U.S. Consulate to take our oath so they can issue Max’s visa. We also had picture day with our group in the White Swan’s famous red couches. Okay, so they’re mostly famous among adoptive families. Most folks who adopt from China pass through the White Swan Hotel, where we’re staying. There are a bunch of red couches throughout the lobby area that have taken on a life of their own (figuratively, of course). The tradition is that the adopted kids have their picture taken on the red couches, preferably in Chinese clothes. Not sure why, but they’re cute and it’s tradition, so we did it too.

On the red couch

Our whole group in front of a really cool, blossoming tree they've brought in for the holiday.

After taking pictures, which was a bit frustrating because it was time for Max’s morning nap, we headed out for a bit to stroll around the island. We wandered to an Italian restaurant for lunch. La Dolce Vita. I swear every city in the world must have an Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita. We’ve eaten at several through the years. This one was very good. We had yummy lasagna. Max loved the bread. The only real downside was that everybody felt compelled to stare at us. They were all very nice, but it is a bit odd to eat a meal at a fancy restaurant while being watched the whole time. If this is how celebrities feel, they can keep fame. I’ll pass.  (Laura’s comment:  Not only did the waitresses stand behind my chair the whole time but they occasionally would step right up to Max, pick up his sippy cup, and feed it to him.  More than a little annoying, except that they were so friendly and didn’t think they were overstepping their bounds so it was hard to tell them to back off.)

Outside Guangzhou's La Dolce Vita. It's in a cool old colonial building from the time when many countries' consulates were on the island.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our consulate trip. We strolled back along the river, which isn’t super nice right now with all the construction, but it was a new view.

After lunch and our stroll back, we headed off to the consulate. They don’t allow cameras, which is fine. You wouldn’t really want a picture. The consulate is located in an office building now, instead of on Shamian Island. It’s about like any federal government office where you might have to go to get a Social Security card or some other sedate and boring business. After taking off our shoes, belts, etc (okay, no etc, taking off more would be against the law), we headed into a waiting room with about 80 Chinese waiting for visas and another 30 or so adoptive families. After a half hour or so of waiting, one of the foreign service officers came out to give a little speech about the foreign service and the consulate’s role, she administered the oath. Even stripped of all sentiment as our federal government is so good at, there was something moving for Laura and me about taking the oath that will get our Max one step closer to citizenship. We choked up and finished up and headed out.

Once back to the hotel we headed out for a little more shopping and dinner. Now, it’s past bedtime for Max, but he’s happily playing with his sweet Mama. She’s such a good mother. There is no more devoted, kind, and caring mother in the world. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend forever with than her. And I’m glad I have two little boys to share forever with too!

Some more pics from the last few days:

One view from our room. Today we saw more of Guangzhou's skyline, including the Guangzhou TV Tower. Google it, it's seriously stellar.