Sorry that we haven't sent a post in a few days.....its been a bit busy, a bit crazy and just plain fun! First off, Happy Mother's Day to our amazing mom and mom-in-law, our sis and sis-in-laws, and all our mommy friends! Hope you all have an amazing day!
We had the medical exam on Friday & it went pretty smoothly. Leah definitely does not like doctors, however, and made it very clear she was not about to have any part of the whole tb test. She is a very strong little girl and it took 3 of us to hold her arm so they could poke her....poor little thing. Luckily, a sucker from daddy made it all better. She got her visa pic taken before the medical so at least they could try to get a half-smile out of her.
Yesterday we went to the park near the hotel & it was beautiful. The lotus flowers are blooming and they are so pretty, they almost look fake. The park was filled with people, families out exercising, playing ping pong, walking....we're getting pretty good at communicating with people. There's lots of smiling, nodding our heads, using hand signals and saying what few words we know in Mandarin.....amazingly, we can usually figure out what people are saying and vice versa. They are very friendly and will touch the kids' heads sweetly, ask to take pictures have their kids play with our kids. Its always an adventure, though & can be very difficult when you know that someone is talking about you and they ask you a question and you have no idea what they are saying. A gentleman at the playground asked something about our kids and I'm guessing it was something about them not looking like us, but I couldn't figure it out. They are all very nice about it, but we do get lots of curious looks and stares here. It was uncomfortable at first, but we get used to it. I always remember times like these when I encounter someone at home that looks out of place, doesn't speak English or needs help finding their way around.
Breakfast at the buffet that morning was great.....the three other families that we were with in Beijing flew in the night before so we got to see them and meet their little ones. It was so good to see them and their kids are doing great.
Ralph went to the paperwork meeting and, whew!, we had everything we need to get all of Leah's stuff processed. They talked about some group activities and mentioned a Mexican restaurant nearby....WHAT?! We had to try that, we've been missing Miguel's! It was called Tekila & was a 15 minute taxi ride away. We travel around as a group on a nice comfortable bus that sits high, so you don't really get a feel for the traffic as much as in a taxi. The taxi we took to Shamian Island a few days before was not too bad.....but on a Saturday evening, when they know they can make a lot more by getting people from one place to another really quickly....oh....my....word! It beats skydiving for an adrenaline rush any day! Never again will I tease about Chinese drivers at home....let me tell you, these people KNOW how to drive....they've got it down. They anticipate each other's moves with such precision, its incredible. We flew across lanes, we merged with 8 different cars in a split second, we flew to within a foot of the car in front of us at 50 mph & stopped on a dime. No seatbelts, no car seats for the kids. The kids love it, they take it in stride & play with the little video screen in the back seat.....its us adults that let out whimpers and screams as the bicycle that flies by misses the side mirror by centimeters and when the tires brush the pantlegs of pedestrians who are calmly crossing the street.
We made it in one piece to the restaurant & it was delicious! Ok, not quite Miguel's, but it was really good. The kids had chicken nuggets that were coated in what looked like Panko breadcrumbs & they didn't love those so much. After dinner, we thought we'd walk around because we were told that there was some good shopping in the area. As we wandered, we started to realize that perhaps we weren't in the best part of town.....you know how you just get a feeling? It was a little of that, and a few things that we saw that were a bit disturbing that prompted us to head back to where we could catch a taxi. We were never in fear, just not entirely comfortable. The taxi ride back was a bit less stressful. Thankfully, we take a hotel card with us that shows where we want to go....when we are headed somewhere, one of our guides writes out where we want to go. We just have to trust we'll end up where we want to go :) Always an adventure!!
We have made friends with a very sweet family from PA who are here adopting their fifth child, third from China & we see them several times throughout the day coming and going. They mentioned they were going to church on Sunday, so we asked about where they were going and what time service was starting. They were so kind, they asked their guide if we could join them, so us and another Holt family rode over to Shamian Island for church this morning. It was really cool to be going to church on Mother's Day, in China, with my family.....the perfect start to a day! It soon fell apart, however, but that's ok. Makena was not feeling well at breakfast, but she wanted to try church, so off we went. The church is a beautiful little building right next to the White Swan & it had an English/Mandarin service that started at 11am. Apparently it is a government-run church.....not sure what that means, perhaps it is limited on what it can preach, or perhaps they just keep an eye on their outreach & keep it to a minimum. It was warm inside and I'm sure that didn't help Makena's tummy...Ralph ended up taking her back to the hotel. I stayed with Leah, Josh & the girls and everything was wonderful until I decided to exert my mommy authority by taking away the lip gloss Leah was playing with. She was not happy....at all.....so I decided to take her out of the church. She had been sitting on Aimee's lap & I think it may have brought back terrors of being taken away from somewhere she was comfortable.....or it may have been a plain old temper tantrum, but oh......my....word. For the next half hour, she screamed, she cried, she hit, she kicked, she squirmed and wriggled and was just darned mad at me. It was really, really hard to have this little person who has been clinging to me for the past 5 days suddenly not want to have anything to do with me. I ended up peeking my head back in to get A & A and they came out.....it was chaos, all of us trying to comfort Leah, Josh getting in the stroller and pushing himself around with his feet....it ended up that Leah wanted to go back to Ashley. I gave up & gave in and when I tried to take her back once she had calmed down, she pushed me away. All I could think of was, oh...my...word, we've lost that connection and we have to start from square one again. It was really hard thinking that, she already didn't want much to do with Ralph, now she doesn't want me, what are we going to do?!? It ended up with me, A & A all crying and Leah and Josh looking at us like we were crazy. I pulled out some magic...a bag of m&m's....and I was mama again, thank God.
Once we were finished with our meltdown, we sat outside and listened to the service. It was on the book of John & was a little hard to follow, as they would speak in Chinese, then translate to English. They handed us little bibles, one book for one book of the bible.....I'm looking forward to comparing the translation to our bibles. At the end of the service, they had a man give his testimony....it was a bit difficult to hear everything that was being said with the kids running around, but words that struck me were how difficult his life had been, but when he came to know the Lord, his life became much richer.....I thought, wow....he's not saying his life became easier, just richer....what an awesome way to describe his relationship with God!
We thought we would do a little walking around before heading back to the hotel & it was nice out, but the wind shifted and the sky got really dark & thank goodness we brought our umbrellas.....it started POURING! Literally, we stopped and stood underneath a tiny little ledge just to save us a few drops per second that were soaking us. It let up enough for us to take a taxi ride...yes, another fun one, back to the hotel, long enough to drop our bags, get changed & head out with the group to the jade and pearl markets. The jade market was an open air market with rows upon rows of vendors selling jade jewelry of all kinds. We made a few purchases & found a cool temple in the middle of it all where people were doing their daily worship. After that, we headed to the pearl market, a seven or so story building filled with shops that sell pearls, crystals, jewelry of all kinds. We took a family picture in the same spot as a pic that we have of Ralph & Makena when we were there in 2005.....we're kinda quirky that way. We made a few more purchases....pearl earrings for Leah to wear on her wedding day and for Josh to give to his bride. Now the trick will be to make sure I can find them in about 20 years :)
Back to the hotel & we thought we'd try a cantonese restaurant suggested by our guides. We got there & there was a two hour wait, so back to Shamian Island we go....another crazy taxi drive, but we ended up at the Thai food restaurant we had the other day. We were with the Kyle family from AL, their kids & our kids are having a fun time together, so it was a nice, relaxing dinner. We have discovered that Leah LOVES vegetables.....broccoli, tomatoes, bok choy, she goes nuts over it! Yay!!! She's really opening up and daddy even got a few smiles out of her tonight. Between that, the beautiful card that Makena made for me at dinner and Josh telling me, "Happy Mother's Day, Mama", right before he fell asleep, it turned out to be...oh....my....word....the best day ever!
I'll try to post again in the morning...got a few prayer requests for ya'. A family is having some paperwork issues and is a little concerned, a family that was met with their daughter having a more serious medical condition than they had thought, us going to visit the orphanage and how Leah will do with that. Know that we're praying for everyone back home!
Sending some more random pictures to post.....the man in the park was playing a saw - he played Jingle Bells for the kids; the policecar - one officer asleep in the front, one asleep in the back (that was just too funny to pass up); the kids at the playground; I think you can guess most of the others....