Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fa Choy! Happy year of the OX!

Home for just over a month, safe, sound and happy

Hi there,
We are finally feeling a bit settled and comfortable in our new lives. Lyla (Xia) is doing extremely well. Mara is also adapting to life with a little sister. Also we are finally ALL getting some sleep. We hope you are all doing as well and can't wait to visit, chat and catch up. Here are a few pics of Christmas and beyond, enjoy....

Monday, December 15, 2008

So much to be thankful for!

Hello Canada,

Well we had a chance to Skype with Mara and the crew this morning (god the 13 hrs time change is challenging!) and we were totally thrilled. She seemed so happy and excited. Made us want to jump on a plane right away. We miss her terribly. The right decision for her to stay home, but 2 weeks feels like forever. 3 more sleeps for us.

We had an amazing, relaxing, breakthrough day with our little Lyla. It really is incredible how much you learn with your first child. Lesley and I have been patient and responsive to Lyla as she works through some of her grieving and it is paying off. Lyla is really starting to show her true colours. Her little smile (with about 8ish teeth) melts our hearts. She is laughing and interacting more by the hour. Pre bedtime tonight was awesome. She was down to a diaper and running around the room saying Momma and Tata and giggling and playing peek-a-boo and kissing her reflection in the mirror – so much progress in 7 days. She loves to be nearly naked – so cute. Dad and Lyla had a big breakthrough. I got to hold her for about an hour while we visited the Temple of Heaven. This huge 257 ha park in the city is spectacular and was so quiet and calm. Lyla snuggled me and she laughed and we played kissy and spinning around games. So wonderful! She is pretty shy around new people but again this is becoming less so everyday. Lyla has a definite temper and let’s us know physically and vocally when she doesn’t wish to do or eat something (yup, she will fit right in!) This kid has a fantastic appetite. She will eat pretty much anything and will eat substantial quantities (just like her dad). We have had a great time with the family from Saskatchewan and are so glad that have been sharing our time in Beijing with them. Their daughter is a wonderful little girl. Another family that our red thread path has connected us to. We are so grateful.

We visited a silk factory today and were completely amazed at this process and the products. Lesley bought silk pillowcases – very beautiful.

For those that haven’t traveled to China through this process, the guides often arrange for a tailor to come and offer custom tailored men’s suits, women’s jackets and shirts, and traditional kid dresses. We didn’t take advantage of this in 2006 but did this time. This is a fantastic deal on beautiful clothing. Hopefully we will see it all tomorrow. The guide also arranges for custom chops (stone stamps) of the children/family’s names, and beautiful scrolls with the kids names and birth dates and we also purchased these. Mara has a set of both and we love them. We have done some shopping but the price of things is very high. Not that we are shopping in the high-end mall (great window shopping though) but a pair of leather boots in a boutique Timberland store is $500 CDN – crazy!. We didn’t dare look at other items. Back to the small street shops to get some special things to bring home - the prices generally are higher with less negotiating room – damn Olympics ;)

Anyway, should try to get to sleep. Hope everyone is doing well and that the rain has stopped. Thanks for all of your comments – they mean so much to us and we are so anxious to check for them when we get back to the room. I have tried to reply to some messages on Facebook but some of the functionality is not working properly from the China end – very interesting – thanks for those notes and messages as well – so great to hear from you all.

Goodnight (goodmorning)!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, The Great Wall and Well Just Randon Shots of Lyla :)

Hi everyone,
We have been busy busy submitting paperwork and taking care of adoption business here in Beijing. Also we did manage to get in a visit to the Great Wall, Tianamen Square, and The Forbidden City.

Things are progressing well with Lyla, she is really starting to warm up to us, even Lee although she still will not let him hold her. She will let him feed her and hand her toys as long as she is on my lap. Or if we have been in the room for some time she will interact with him but not allow him to pick her up. She is sleeping extremely well now, I can easily put her down on the bed and she will sleep there until morning. When she wakes, looks around, sees me and then closes her eyes shakes her head "no" wimpers and then goes back to sleep for a while. This activity happens every morning for about one half hour until she accepts that yes, she is indeed still with the crazy white couple somewhere in some far off hotel room. And by the way, who asked her anyhow???? Buy I am feeling the love in little ways. The way she wants me and only me to hold her hand while she walks in the halls and shopping plazas, how she curls her fingers around mine when I feed her a bottle and she strokes my arms. She is SOOOO adorable. I cannot express how sweet this child is. She is shy and timid yet bright and alert at the same time. She smiles infrequently but when she does it melts your heart. She has a very mischevious manner about her.

We are missing Mara like crazy, tonight we looked at photos just to get our fix of the bug. It made me miss her even more. We really appreciated the notes from home telling us that she is doing well. Thanks so much everyone. Only 4 more sleeps until we are home. How exciting!!!!!

I've included some pics of our sight seeing adventures including a terrific photo of our new friend Shao di (di di). We are loving spending time with her. She is a fantastic little girl.

We hope you are doing well, we miss everyone so so much and can't wait to see you on Thursday.
Mara, we love you and are thinking of you every minute.

P.S. Glenn and Laura if you are home Sunday night, log on to Skype so that we can talk. Maybe you can arrange to have the gang including Mara visit so that we can see her and she can see Lyla. It's easy with little delay. We will log on when we wake up just in case you happen to be online as well.

Miss you, love you,
hugs... Les

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jiangyin SWI

Hi Everyone,

As I had alluded to, it has been a good - but challenging 48 hours. Lyla is wonderful and we have had some very touching moments. She is definitely grieving and needs to be with Lesley nearly all the time – sleeping and waking. She definitely can walk and is starting to spend short spurts of time exploring our hotel room on her own – the half of the room that I am not in! Lyla will not come to me and in fact closes her eyes tightly when I interact with her. If she is having a hard time she sometimes shakes her head “no” and closes her eyes. We had expected some kind of response to the stress and grief and this is manageable so far – if not very demanding on Lesley. We already see signs of improvement on this. It will just take time for her to relax and trust her new life. In the meantime she is really bonding closely with Les and has provided us with some very special moments.

We traveled to Lyla’s orphanage in Jiangyin today. It is about 2.5 hrs away from Nanjing, east towards Shanghai. We visited with the family from California, whose daughter, Sophie is a crib mate of Lyla. We are so lucky to have shared this experience with them. They have 2 teenaged children, 18 and 15 who are traveling with them and they have been great help with the baby and great company for us. The orphanage was amazing. The director, vice-director, and all of the nannies are wonderful caring people who provide a very loving environment for about 60 children. The facility itself is very modern and amazing. There is a large vegetable garden in the back yard that the older children take care of, and many separate rooms for the different activities that the children take part in. We were able to visit the nursery rooms and Lyla’s actual crib and cupboard that still had her name and details on it – it was very emotional. We were also able to spend some time with some of the older children. They interacted with our two kids like siblings. One particular teenager was so special. She was very bright, spoke many words in English and was very excited to see us and the babies. It was very hard for us to say goodbye. The nannies held Lyla and Sophie and we could tell they were very connected with the girls. It was a very emotional goodbye for all. We were able to visit Lyla’s finding spot and we have a photo of Lyla when she was found and what she was found with. This is so important for us to have as this is part of her life story. We took some photos with the director and then had an amazing lunch at a restaurant close by. The food was the best we have had so far, and the service was excellent.

We headed back to Nanjing and on the way stopped to see where the Yangzee River and the ocean meet. I have to tell you that I have never seen such a busy waterway in my life. You can’t imagine the level and density of industrial activity in this area. As a consequence the air and water quality were very poor. It is really hard to believe that people live so close to very heavy industry – they essentially share the same neighborhoods.

We are very anxious to get home and we miss Mara a ton. Please give her tons of hugs and kisses.

Hope all of you are braving the cold and have your Christmas shopping done.
We will post more soon.


Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a GIRL!

Wow, what a day!

Pretty safe to say that it’s not everyday that you wake up thousands of kms from home, have a breakfast buffet that you can only positively identify half of the items, spend the morning taking a leisurely stroll through a beautiful urban park, and at 2:00 pm…HAVE A BABY!

Lesley, Mara, and I are very pleased to announce that Lyla Xia Ying has joined our family.

What an experience. So we get to the hotel lobby a little early. We had noticed a number of other families gathering into a couple of different groups and wondered who would be joining us. We then meet a wonderful family from California just before we board the van that takes us to the Adoption Affairs office here in Nanjing. As it turns out, all of the families from our hotel, and more, had gathered at the office at the same time. I am not exactly sure how many, but around 10 families, mostly Americans, but at least one family from BC. The scene was pretty much chaos. The children were all waiting in the office with a person or two from their respective orphanages. The office was one large room, with a small room off to the sided - used to take our family pictures. We walked in the door and they handed us our little Xia pretty much right away…and she absolutely balled…no I mean she was literally heaving and sobbing. A really difficult transition for this little 16 month old. Our hearts broke for her as it was clear that she was quite afraid.

Meanwhile, all around us families are being united with their beautiful children and the tears are flying. Lots of wailing. Some playing. The children that were adopted today ranged in age from 6 months to 3 years old and they were all so beautiful. Crying children really tend to set one another off in what is a game of wailing-tag. After about 30-40 minutes Lyla had pretty much cried herself out (we were really trying to console her – not really much we could do) and she settled into Lesley’s shoulder and fell asleep. We were able to transfer her to daddy for a little snuggle and she was quite content to dig in and fall asleep again. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Some Q&A’s for the orphanage representative. Then we have our family picture taken and Lyla was not happy about having to pose for this picture (see picture below!) We gathered our things and headed out to the van. We planned a quick stop at the bank to convert our Travelers cheques or US cash to Chinese RMB and then a quick stop at the local WalMart for some stuff. Best laid plans…after an hour and a half in line at the bank, and then signing all of my travelers cheques in front of the teller – she notifies me that she can’t exchange the full amount - as I have exceeded my daily limit, unless of course I have this “purchase receipt” that I clearly do not have - UGH! Thankfully I have enough RMB for what is needed tomorrow – hopefully I will be able to cash the signed, unused cheques tomorrow! The bank takes too long but thankfully Lesley and Lyla are playing and bonding away in the van – Lyla is having fun with Cheerios and is getting to know her Momma…Walmart will have to wait until tomorrow. We head back to the hotel to figure out some dinner arrangements. After some getting use to the hotel room, ok - indifference is more accurate - Lyla fell asleep and we were reluctant to wake her to go out - so I go on the hunt for Congee (sp?) and some Burger King (yes I admit it – it’s in the lobby of our hotel – first time I swear!). Lyla and momma are definitely bonding and Lyla has become quite shy with daddy. This is all to be expected and we acknowledge that the sleep we have had over the last few days will probably come in handy. Lyla eats pretty well, and struggles through her first L&L tag team diaper change, but we finally managed to get the outer layer of clothing (this super cute yellow suit) off which is really challenging as she won’t let us put her down. God this is hard for the little ones - what a big change, with almost zero warning – we really feel for her. A boatload of patience is just what the doctor ordered, as this will be a challenging couple of days.

She is beautiful, attentive, curious, shy with new faces, and has a good set of lungs. Lyla has fine facial features, is of good weight (about 20-ish lbs), has a full head of hair that was recently cut, and she apparently walks. So much to discover…so very happy.

We are a very fortunate family. We are so grateful for the support of our friends and family – it means everything to us.

Mara - momma and daddy miss you more than you will every know and we can’t wait to get home with Lyla so that she can join our forever family – we love you with all our hearts. 10 more sleeps until we are home…and 17 more sleeps until Santa comes.

Love to everyone…goodnight!

Lee, Lesley, and Lyla

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nanjing - Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and Linggu Pagoda

Tomorrow afternoon we meet Lyla. :)

Today we visited the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and Linggu Pagoda. Both sites are on the periphery of town. Both have expansive walkways up the mountain and boast incredible views from the top. The grounds are spectacularly decorated with archways, bridges, sculptures and pagodas. As we walked from one site to the other we also visited an open-air theatre and Buddhist temple. In the temple they were burning incents and delicate little candles in the color and shape of lotus flowers. Here are some photos...

I don't know if you can tell from the photos but there are few Caucasians in Nanjing. We stand out and have on occasion been mocked. For the most part people are very pleasant. The people here also do not speak English other than in the hotels and major tourist attractions. Today it took Lee and I an hour to find the city bus stop. Ordering in restaurants has been hilarious.

Hope you are all doing well, we miss you terribly.
Mara, Mommy and Daddy think of you every second of the day.
Hugs, Les