Wednesday, May 29, 2013

China Day Sixteen - Small Miracles

We had a free day today and we have another one tomorrow.  We met in the morning and went to a local park.  It was beautiful.  There was a small lake full of goldfish and you could feed the fish for 5 yuan –about 80 cents – and watch the fish clamor all over eachother like wal-mart shoppers the day after Thanksgivng.  Then we took a walk to the top of a hill where there was an observation tower.  It was eight flights of stairs to the top—a spiral staircase.  I should have skipped this, because looking back, it was really stressful   The stairs would have been fine, but ZiXuan would not let me put her down and she is still too afraid of men to let Bill or Matt hold her without causing trauma.  She also has a perplexing habit of putting her short arm down the front of my shirt so I’m usually reaching in to take it out, which is a little awkward in public. 

The top of the tower was an observation room, about 12 feet in diameter.  It was already filled with Chinese when we got up there and our family of eight added in made it a little tight.  I was holding ZiXuan, repeatedly taking her arm out of my shirt, monitoring QingBei, who was so excited, she was hopping all over and dangerously near the spiral stairway, plus monitoring my other kids, so I didn’t get a chance to look out of too many windows.  In fact, I was just edging over to one, when Bill got my attention and said, “take QingBei over to the left.”  I had no idea what this was about, but I grabbed her hand and went left, still hoping to get a glance out the window. But then, Bill immediately said, “now, go to the right,”  which seemed a little odd, until I finally looked up and saw that 80% of the cameras in the room (including video cameras) were pointed at QingBei. 

That was enough.  I said, “Ok, we’re leaving,” and took her right down the stairs.  I know I am becoming obsessive about this but I wanted to scream, “What the Hell is Wrong with you people?” Reilly came down after me with a completely bewildered look on her face and said, “It’s like they think QingBei is part of the exhibits!”  I realized as I was spiraling down that there is no way I am going to win this little war of mine.  There are 1.3 billion Chinese here against my family of eight.  I’m a little out-numbered. 

The miracle here is that QingBei is completely unaware that there is anything wrong with her face.  Thank you God!!  She bounces all over the place and she is actually very curious about people who stare at her.  I suspect she thinks they are being friendly.  She has never shown even a hint of embarrassment.  It might be easier if she was a little shy because then we wouldn’t be chasing her all over, trying to shield her from the paparazzi, but I know it is better that she is oblivious.  I don’t necessarily mind the staring, but I MIND the picture taking.  She is a little girl.    What are these people thinking??

Unfortunately, ZiXuan, who is two year younger than QingBei is a little more aware of her particular "special need."  I made the connection later that day that she is putting her short arm in my shirt in order to hide it.  I don’t know why I took so long to realize this, but she only puts her hand down my shirt when we are in public.  They told me that she was shy about her hand and I noticed she will sit with her good hand covering over her small one in public, and, when I pick her up in public, the hand goes right into my shirt.  It’s a shame, because I love that little hand.  If her hand was perfect, she would be stuck here and I would have to live my life without her.

The rest of the day was full of other small miracles.  During that walk to the tower, QingBei actually ran over to me and held my hand and held it off and on for the rest of the morning.  We went swimming at the hotel pool and QingBei went INTO the pool and played in the water.  Bill stayed in the room while ZiXuan slept and actually got to hold her after she woke up.  I came back from swimming and they were as cozy as Chinese on a city bus.  All my kids took showers/baths, including QingBei, who seems to be over the water aversion.  We also found a nice restaurant in the less-finer shopping mall that served both spaghetti and pizza for the price of an ice cream in the states.  ZiXuan sat by herself at dinner, instead of on my lap, and Paul, who drank a full glass of tap water without thinking is NOT running to the toilet every ten minutes in a total panic. 
 
Miracles never cease!

China Day FIfteen - Paperwork and Napping (We're Living Large!)

I think all the hotel employees who are on the American holiday schedule are back to work. Today, two hotel people came to visit us at breakfast and there was a handwritten note and teddy bear from guest services in our room when we came back from breakfast.  Plus, the breakfast staff were also all over us this morning.  There are at least ten staff manning the buffet and each one must have offered to help me ten times.  When the main breakfast man asked me, “How are you this morning?” for the 100th time, I finally answered truthfully, “Well, I’m holding a $25 bowl of bran flakes.  I’m not really sure.”

We met this morning at 9am to drive back to the same building where we got ZiXuan and process the paperwork.  We had to answer a few questions, sign about ten pieces of paper, hand over the $5,500 “donation,” and about another $1,000 in other fees (notary, birth certificate, and I can’t remember what else, which is pitiful, since I’ve done it twice now) and now she is ours.  All that is left is to wait for the passport.  And so we wait….

The same two women who handed ZiXuan off to me were in the lobby.  I was a little worried when we saw them, that she might start to cry and tug me over thinking they were the ticket back to her foster mother, but she didn’t  (phew!).   There were five other families who adopted that day and we had to wait almost an hour until it was our turn.  It was oppressively hot inside the building, so we finally went outside to wait.  The administration building is also a senior citizen’s center so there was a really nice garden/courtyard where the kids could play.   This was the first time ZiXuan let me put her down since we got her.  She actually walked next to me and held my hand.  She also walked up to some of the other kids to watch them play.  She is still terrified of the boys, but they were able to get pretty close to her by subtle perseverance. 
 
 

The only way to get two children out of China is to adopt special needs kids.  This was fine with us. We prefer special needs children, knowing that they will have the more difficult end in their native country.  ZiXuan’s “special need” is that she has only one hand.  Her right forearm is only a few inches long and she has about half a hand.  I consider this to be fantastically minor.  I lived practically one-handed during my many baby-holding years and I’m back there right now, since ZiXuan is such a Cling-on.  It can be done!

Anyway, we got back to the hotel about lunch time and we all slept the whole afternoon.  No one really moved until 5:00, when we finally went to the finer mall (four stories, with a movie theater and ice skating rink) for dinner.  We hit a Korean restaurant again and they gave us a private room.  These are so nice!  I wish American restaurants would pick up this trend.   After that, Bill took three of the older kids ice skating.   The entire perimeter of the rink was lined with observant Chinese.  I don't know how he does it.  All that staring would have driven me nuts.
 
I was going to stay and watch too, but it was hard to get QingBei to sit still while the others were skating and ZiXuan was falling asleep.  Plus, it is a pain to be always scanning for photographers.  I don’t mind them photographing me, but they have no business taking pictures of QingBei.  I just don’t like it.  So, Matt and I took the girls back to the room.  Matt (my 15 yo) was great about this.  He wanted to go ice skating, but he knew I would have a hard time walking/carrying both of the little ones back.  It’s about a 1/3 mile walk back to our hotel and there are electric mopeds everywhere.  Plus, QingBei is just a walking electron.  She is all over the place, all the time.  I thought everyone would be up late, but we all fell asleep right away.   

Monday, May 27, 2013

China Day Fourteen - We Get ZiXuan and Everyone is Smitten

Bill woke me at 5am to exercise with him in the fancy workout room.   Then he took me running along a local river.  It would have been glorious.  The weather was balmy, the city was just waking up so the traffic was minimal and the landscaping along the river was gorgeous, but oh the smell….it was like running along a steaming sewer.  --In fact, I was running along a steaming sewer.  It was horrible. 

I got back to the room in time to see Reilly (my 12 year old) taking QingBei to the potty.  Reilly had carried her to the bathroom and was about to take her pants down when I told her that QingBei needs to walk on her own and get her own pants down.  She is nearly four years old.  So, Reilly pointed to her underwear and told her to take them down herself.  QingBei knew exactly what Reilly was asking, but she was so mad about it that she threw a fit, took up her dress and peed on the floor.  Normally, I would send Reilly out of the room and take care of this myself, but considering our bonding issues, I had Reilly tell her, “No!’ and Reilly make QingBei clean up the pee and tell her to get undressed.  There was pee all over her clothes and shoes.  QingBei still wouldn’t undress herself, so I told Reilly to count to three and then we both left the room.  When we came back a minute later, QingBei had undressed herself.  So, we cleaned her up and changed her clothes and hoped this was a one-time test. 

Before we went down to breakfast, I checked at the front desk about the $25 breakfasts.  They said we have no extra charges to our room and that the travel agent was paying for the breakfast.   In other words, somewhere in the depths of the travel fees we sent to our adoption agency last month there were six family breakfasts per day at $25 each. …Nice.  On the first morning, I filled up my plate with every odd, unknown breakfast food item on the buffet.  At the end of my taste testing, I told the kids the reason that most of these unusual food items are not found in America is this:  They taste bad.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the stuff was awesome, but some of it was remarkably bad.  

We spent the rest of the meal discussing a standard problem that we have here—how much per dare?  For example, my eldest son, who tends to bargain rather high,  offered to eat the steamed chicken feet (one whole foot of our choosing, excluding the bones) for $50, and wanted $25 for the pickled fish heads (one whole head, excluding bones but including the eyes and brain, if we can find it).  I felt that was too high and countered with $15 for the chicken foot and $10 for the fish heads, plus a possible $10 bonus if they can do it without grimacing.  By the end of the week, Bill and I hope to have a completed price list.  This morning, I plan to hit the juice bar and sample the “Bitter #$%&# Root Juice” and see what it’s worth exactly.  You just can’t just let such golden opportunities to torment your children go to waste. 

About 10 am, we met another couple from West Virginia who are here to adopt a little boy and we all went to the bank to exchange our dollars for yuan.  China does not sell children, of course, but there is a $5,500 “donation” that we give to the orphanage per child.  …more on this later.

We got back to the hotel about 11:30 for lunch and nap time and after nap, we had our second pee incident.  The same exact thing happened.  Reilly told QingBei to pull her own pants down and instead, QingBei lifted up her dress and peed on the floor.  We told her “No!” again, made her clean up the pee again, made her take off her own clothes again (had to count to three and leave the room again) but this time, since she had gotten it all over, we put her in the shower and used the hand held shower nozzle to spray her down with warm water.   My hope was that this might be traumatic enough to nip this little nugget in the bud.

At 3:00, we met the group to get our children.  We drove to a local Senior Citizen’s Center.  As we walked into the lobby, we could see all the children at a small table to the left of the door, but we couldn’t go near them.  We had to wait 20 torturous minutes for the local officials to come witness the “ceremony”  (I asked our interpreter why any reasonable woman would want to witness five terrorized, screaming infants get passed into the arms of perfect strangers, but he couldn’t explain this.)   When they arrived, they lugged the five Chinese children and five foreign families into a small room to do the baby transfer.  Again, I can’t think of any way the Chinese could make this harder on everyone involved.  All the kids were screaming.  Two kindhearted Chinese women tried three times to pass ZiXuan off to me and of course, she was terrified.  I kept telling them, “No, wait,” in my best Chinese but they kept trying to give her to me.  I could see this was not going to end well and the room was deafening so in a fit of angst, I scooped her up and walked out of the room and into the hallway.  They told me that ZiXuan had a cold and I could tell she was feverish.  She cried for about 30 seconds, then she looked at me and saw that I was also crying (it’s impossible not to be heartbroken for these kids, good grief) and she stopped.  So, we walked around the inside of the building and she listened carefully while I explained to her all the flaws in the Chinese adoption system until our interpreter found us and said it was time to go. 

That was pretty much our day.  Back at the hotel, ZiXuan wouldn’t let me put her down (we adopted the Yang and then the Yin of bonding babies).  This was unfortunate, because all the kids were dying to be near her.  QingBei was so excited, she could hardly sit still.  She kept running over to us and trying to give ZiXuan things.  It was really cute.  QingBei also went into the bathroom, took down her own underwear without being told, and asked nicely to be put on the potty.  It was an all-out banner day!
 
Bill finally took the kids to the local mall (while I rocked ZiXuan) and came back with take-out Pizza.  She was especially afraid of the boys, so Bill took them to a movie (Oblivion, with Chinese subtitles) hoping ZiXuan could relax. --It worked.  The girls and I fell asleep.  She is used to a family bed, so it was nice and cozy.   As I said, she has a slight fever, and I don’t want to scare her by taking her picture, but goodness, she is scrumptious.  Here is a picture of her sleeping, after I was finally able to slide out.

 

Sometimes when I look at her, I just want to weep for the people of China. Can you imagine giving that little one away? And her mother--she will miss so much! All for a paltry $5,500 to a government that no longer even needs the money. The entire country is selling their birthright for a pathetic bowl of porridge. They have No Idea what they are giving away.  ...But I do.
 
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;

...and in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful...
Lullaby, W.H. Auden

Sunday, May 26, 2013

China Day Thirteen - Don't Get Too Comfortable

Have I mentioned that we are in a five star hotel?  This morning, I got to take a shower under one of those shower heads that fall down from the ceiling.   I’ve wanted to try out one of these since the first time I saw BATHTASTIC on DIY.  …It’s actually not that great.  With a wall spicket, you can soap up while the hot water hits your back, but with the water falling from the ceiling, you have to move outside the flow quite a bit to wash.  Thank you Marriott, for saving me from all that envy. 

We also had breakfast at the largest, fanciest, uppity-est breakfast buffet EVER.  They actually had ten different counters and five manned stations including a pancake/waffle bar, a select your own omelet fillings bar,  a noodle bar and a juice bar (novel, but if you are going for taste, get a coke).  AND, just to impress on you what a high-class joint this is, the chocolate doughnuts were actually covered in real, gourmet, melted chocolate-- not the chocolate food product with suggesting influences of plastic and Big Lots, but real, dark, bittersweet, thick, creamy, melted chocolate, with a hint of salted butter, just to keep it soft enough to spread.  Beware my loved ones, Momma’s moving in on your doughnuts. 

Everything was wonderful until we got the bill.  We were told breakfast was included with our room, but apparently not THAT many breakfasts.  They charged us for four buffets ($100 or $25 each—that is US Dollars, not yuan….oopsie!)  The front desk promised us that this was a mistake and we won’t be charged, but I’m not going back into that place until we are sure.  It was a yummy doughnut, but not $25 worth of yum…. Well, maybe not.

We spent the morning moving rooms.  They had given us two rooms half-a-hotel away.   The kids were too far off, so we got adjoining rooms for the first time since we came here.  This is SO NICE.  Logistically, it’s just MUCH easier to have the other kids adjoining us.  We were so happy to be together, we spent the morning just hanging out and playing.

About noon, we were planning to take a walk to a local mall, but just as we got all the kids shoes on and the computers locked in the safe, QingBei tugged Matt over to her crib and asked to be put inside.  It was her nap time.  I had totally forgot.  She laid down for a minute, but as soon as the other kids left the room, she threw a royal fit and started to scream and stomp her feet.  I hate to reward that kind of behavior, so I thought I’d call them back in as soon as she calmed down, but she never did calm down.  I finally asked Bill to come and he stayed with her until she fell asleep.  –Good Man.

After that, we all went swimming in the hotel pool, which was wonderful.  There are two 25 meter lap lanes, a cold pool and a hot tub.  There is a marble/mahogany locker room with a sauna, steam bath and two whirlpool tubs, one hot and one cold, and there is a fully equipped exercise/weight room.  Bill has two triathlons coming up the Saturday and Sunday after we get back home—as in, we land on Friday and the races are Saturday and Sunday, so he has been training steadily, but all he could do up to this point was run.  Now he can swim and bike as well.  When he saw the whole health club set up, Bill's eyes lit up like his favorite fast food sign. He was as happy as I’ve seen him since we arrived.

We spent the evening at a local mall.  It was so nice to be there that I got too comfortable.  While we were walking, I noticed a woman facing us and pretending to text.  I could tell she was taking our picture.  I was in front and I walked right past her.  We almost touched shoulders.  I looked back and saw that she had taken a picture of me.  There was my face, right in her phone screen.  As I was thinking to myself, “Really?” I noticed her zoom in on QingBei who was walking behind me, holding Bill’s hand and she took a picture of QingBei’s face as well.  By the time I realized what was happening, it was all over and Bill was herding me forward.  I walked on, realizing too late, that she took my baby’s picture so she can show it to her friends and discuss the freak child she saw in the mall.   

I know I have to forgive this woman, but all I could think of at the moment was that MY baby’s face was on her cell phone and I wanted it off.  I considered grabbing her hair and smashing the phone into her face, but I realized that would be too violent.  It would not be good to make Nanning News at Nine the day before I get my second baby.  Then I thought about taking her phone and smashing it on the ground, but I figured that might attract the police as well.  My options were limited, since she probably didn’t speak English.  I finally settled on fuming.  I was so mad, I was shaking.  The only reason I didn’t turn around and engage her in a little incomprehensible chat was because Bill kept driving me onward.

One of my parenting mantra's is: "Lose the Battle, but Win the War."  After that, I was back on my toes.  I stationed all the family around QingBei so that all she saw of the rest of the mall was my kids tiny butts.  Then I took up the rear and scanned both sides of the aisles the rest of the evening, looking for people holding cell phones pointed my way.  Twice I noticed women standing up to take our picture, so I gave them my livid-mamma look and they both sat right back down.  I also put my hand in front of her face a few times as I saw people trying to take her picture from far away and derived great pleasure giving them the same look as well.  Bill kept telling me to let it go and not to stay mad at that woman for the entire evening, but I’m certain I won’t.  I’ll be mad at her for at least a month.   

Saturday, May 25, 2013

China Day Twelve - Blue Skies and Baby's Screams

We left the hotel this morning at 9:30 to catch a flight to Nanning City.  We made it to the airport in good time.   Tipped the bellboy, tipped the interpreter, tipped the driver etc. etc.  Got our tickets and got through customs, all without incident. 

We had about two hours to wait so we settled in and prepared for the stares. 



Bill took the kids to get candy while I stayed back with Paul and QingBei.  When he returned, I figured it was my turn to explore by myself.  Lo and Behold, I saw a coffee house.  I love coffee.  It has been about two weeks since my last cup and I have been doing fine with tea, but oh, I miss coffee.  I went in and saw "American Coffee" on the menu.  It was 68 yuan--about $11.00.  For that price, it had to be good.  Right?  After all, I was in an international airport.  I took the plunge and ordered a cup to go.  I knew I was in trouble when the lady at the counter handed me a packet of sugar and some Creamora.  I hate Creamora.  It was horrible.  I wasted $11.00 on coffee paste and Creamora.  ...call this foreshadowing for the day. 

Our plane boarded at 12:30.  Once we were all buckled in, there was an announcement in Chinese and  suddenly all the passengers started moaning --Not a good sign.  The English translation came a few minutes later.  We couldn't take off for another two hours-- at 2:30.   By the time we landed at 4:30, we were good and ready to be done with that plane.  Just before the plane landed, I noticed that they were saying a whole lot in Chinese and unfortunately, I could only understand about 2% of the “English” interpretation—just enough to know that they were speaking in English and if I could make it out, we might hear something important.

….Yeah.  What we would have heard was that the plane was not in Nanning City, as we thought.  This was just a layover.  As we walked down the chute, we saw two signs, one for #%$&%@# and the other for Nanning City.  We took the proper chute, and a nice Chinese lady in uniform gave us seven blue tickets, which I took.  We asked what they were for.  She didn’t speak English.  At the end of the chute, instead of the baggage claim signs that we were hoping for, we found a crowded gate.  We asked the nice Chinese lady in uniform at the desk if she could tell us where we were.   She didn’t speak English.  She just kept pointing to the floor and saying, “Nanning City” (smile) ”Nanning City.”  Hmmm….. does that mean we are IN Nanning City?  Or this is how to GET TO Nanning City?  I never did find out what city we were in, but we did clue in that this was a layover and we had just lugged ourselves, our carry-ons and our five kids off the plane for nothing. 

We finally landed in Nanning City about 6:30, got our luggage, found our interpreter and drove to the hotel.  Thank you God, we looked up and saw BLUE SKIES!  Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize how oppressive that smog in Beijing and Datong City was until I had my first glimpse of BLUE.  It’s so nice to see BLUE skies and breathe clean (…er) air!!  I just couldn’t get over how BLUE the sky is. 

We are in South China.  Nanning City is about a 90 minute drive to the coast.  I drilled our interpreter with questions and he was (thankfully) very informed.  There is a huge river running through the city, so they use hydroelectric power rather than coal-generated power.  It’s still dirty, don’t get me wrong, but it is nice to see blue skies.  There were four million people in Taiyuan City (that we just left), there are three million here and another three million in the surrounding countryside.  The thing that you notice about this city is all the new construction.  We got on Google Earth to find some running routes and the picture of where we are is from 2002.  It’s all barren land.  I just looked out my hotel window and counted fourteen high rises (30 to 40 stories tall) and they have all been built since 2002.  –No wonder China is financing so much US Debt. 

It doesn’t seem as opulent, at first glance, but on second glance, you realize….it’s here.  We are staying at the nicest hotel I have ever set foot into.  It’s the Nanning City Marriott.  The bathroom is like a whole separate hotel room.  It is all ceramic tile.  There is a glassed in walk in shower and a separate soaking tub.  There is a remote control unit for the blinds.  The furniture in here probably cost more than all the furniture in my entire house, and, oh the BED.  It’s so nice to sleep on a good mattress!!

So, we are here for a week and I’d say things were perfect except for one teeny tiny little detail.  QingBei really can’t stand me.  She has bonded great with all the kids, but she doesn’t like Bill very much and she won’t come near me.  She has been doing so great with the kids,  but for the past few days, she has been avoiding me as much as she can.  I didn’t really realize it was such a problem until we got to the hotel room here.  Bill took the older kids exploring and left me with QingBei in the hotel room.  As soon as she realized they had gone, she hid in a corner and screamed at the top of her lungs again for thirty minutes.  ….Nice.  

I’m not really sure what to do about this.  I promise I have NOT beat the child.  I think the two contributing factors are that first off, my kids are just really fun and have great instincts with her.  They love her and play with her constantly and she loves to be with them.  The second problem is that the not-as-fun-mom-tasks fell to me, and she has been really, really spoiled.  She is flat out used to having her way and the bottom line is that she is not going to get it anymore.  So, for example, she has to be carried when we cross the street, she can’t live on sugar water and cookies, she can’t hit people when she doesn’t get her way and she has to be buckled into her seat on a bus or plane. Etc. etc.  I have taken out all the negotiables I can think of to give her some sense of control, but she resents every lost battle.  

I have been coached by countless sources not to let her bond with the kids instead of me, but I’m not sure what to do about this.  It’s just never been a problem before.  I tried making the kids do some of the nasty tasks, but it didn’t make much difference.  We also asked them to back off a little and they readily complied, but that just traumatized her and I can’t see adding trauma to her life just now.   We tried getting her to play with me and Bill so we could be associated with some of the more fun things, but she is still basically horrified or indifferent to us.   It’s frustrating because I don’t know what to do and God is often annoyingly slow when it comes to answering prayer.   So, in the absence of any better ideas, I suspect we will schlepp along, living out the immortal definition of insanity: doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result.  …but at least I’ll be doing this while looking at blue skies and sleeping on a comfy mattress. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

China Day Eleven - My Binary Baby

We had a nice breakthrough this morning.  Today was a free day, so we went to the hotel pool after breakfast, just to check it out.  QingBei saw another family in the pool, playing with their newly adopted Chinese boy.   She didn’t respond, but once we got back to the hotel room, she walked into the bathroom where I had some laundry soaking in the bathtub and she touched the water in the tub.  Then, she started splashing in the water with her hand.  This is huge.   Not only did she play in the water, she gave me eye contact and SMILED, for the first time ever.  She also helped me wash the clothes and hang them out to dry.  After we got the laundry done, she ran over to one of the beds, hit it playfully and started jumping next to it.  This resulted in a massive pillow fight, involving me, QingBei and all the kids, which, miraculously, did not end in tears.  I was just amazed at how gentle the kids were with QingBei and eachother.  QingBei loved it. 

Unfortunately, after that, we decided to go swimming.  She wouldn’t put on her bathing suit, which was fine, so we brought it along with us.  All the kids got in the pool and started playing, but she just stood about three feet back, watching and whimpering.  I finally took her back to the hotel room.  I tried to give her some strawberry yogurt milk, which she really loves, but it didn’t go well.  As I said before, she drools when she eats and we had gone through all her clothes—they were all hanging up to dry.  What she was wearing was all we had left.  So, I tried to put a towel around her shoulders for a bib.  That was a mistake.  I’m not sure what the block was, but all the progress we had made so far seemed to be wiped out once I tried to put that towel under her chin.  She hid in a corner for five minutes and would not come near me for the rest of the day. 

My kids wiped themselves out at the pool and didn’t want to go anywhere for the rest of the day.  Bill found a really nice park about three blocks West and so I ran to it and ran by the lake.  Matt would not come with me, so I had to go alone, but it was easy to find.  It would have been really lovely; the landscaping is phenomenal, the lake was huge and there were tons of old men out flying kites—beautiful kites, if only you could see them through the smog.  If the air was clear, I would have been after the kids to walk with me to the park, as it was, going outside is sort of a downer.  This place is so smoggy all the time, it’s like living in a cloud—not a cumulonimbus or anything, but at least a cirrus.  I have seen a blue sky a few times, but usually it’s grey and anything farther than two blocks away looks cloudy, like you are viewing everything though a dirty camera lens.  I can’t wait to get back to blue skies!!

We had lunch and dinner in the hotel room and I spent much of the afternoon trying to get onto a VPN—Virtual Private Network—so that I could post my blog and get on Facebook again.  I would have preferred to play with QingBei, but she is not having anything to do with me at the moment. 

The beat goes on. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

China Day Ten - Peking Duck, Duck, Goose

Things are going relatively well.  QingBei is still traumatized and hoping desperately to get back to her old family. 

We had our first battle of wills this morning.  It’s so hard to know what to tolerate, because she is SO despairing over the loss of her Chinese family, that I hardly want to start getting into discipline issues now.  However, since we are not bonding anyway and her behavior is so bad, I finally decided I had nothing to lose.  She has hit me a few times and on these occasions, I hold her hand and say, “no!”  This has been enough to make her stop so far, but she still throws far too many tantrums.  Yesterday, she went over to our food pile, took a banana and started to eat it, which was wonderful.  But, then she got mad at something about half way through the banana and threw it on the floor and tried to stomp on it.  I gave it to her and motioned for her to finish it, but she started screming and stomping her foot again.  So, I scooped her up,  put her in time out, put the banana on the window sill next to her and told her she had to eat it before she could get down.  She understood exactly what I meant and oh, was she mad.  She tried to get off the chair twice without eating it, but I just put her back on the chair.  After about half an hour (during which I was second guessing myself the whole time), she finally ate the banana and scooted off the chair. 

Of course, she really hated me after that, but she has been such a tyrant, I am certain it was the right thing to do.  That was the only behavior issue we had until bed time, which is saying a lot. 

Thursday and Friday are free days.  Thursday, we went to a museum here in Taiyuan City.  It was truly amazing and I would have loved it, unfortunately, QingBei sobbed through the whole tour.  She broke out into shrieking a few times, but mostly she just quietly cried and chanted things in Chinese like, “I want to go home, I want my mom, I want my sister, I want to go home.”  Etc. etc.  She was completely inconsolable.  I would never have taken her, but it was part of the tour and I hate to deprive these guides of their livelihood.

She spent the rest of the day playing a sort of Chinese version of tag.  Bill and I used to joke when our kids were toddlers about being “The Parent of the Hour.”   Qing Bei, is in the habit of choosing  “The Member of the Moment.”   She roams in and out of every family member here, randomly deciding which of us will be the Golden Goose and who is going to dwell with me among the other Untouchables.   There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, but the beauty was that everyone got a turn, even Matt (15) and Paul (14).  They were wonderful with her.  Considering that they are teenage boys, they were fantastically gentle and attentive.  Even so, their moment of glory only lasted a short while before she had moved on. 
 
 

As for the rest of us, the novelty is wearing off here and I’m afraid we are getting a little bored…and hungry. 

I am amazed at how little I eat when I really am not interested in the taste of my food.  Overall, the food here is much, much better taste and quality than it was in Ukraine, but after a week and a half, I am getting weary of that peculiar, Chinese taste that seems to come through.  It’s almost like a smoky flavor in everything salty and lots of grease/air in the things that are sweet.  We have been eating the hotel breakfasts, which are truly wonderful, but we’ve been eating lunch and dinner in our hotel room.  You can get noodle bowls here for a few dollars each—three bowls plus fruit/snacks will feed the six of us.  We also have PBJ, which is good for all occasions.  However, after a few days of PBJ and noodles, we are ready for a real meal, so we went to Pizza Hut last night.  It’s a gorgeous restaurant and they have elevated it to the level of fine dining here.  It was so good to eat because I liked what I was eating rather than to simply fill my empty spaces!

Pizza Hut was about a half mile walk and after a brief struggle, QingBei let me carry her on the way home.  She cried quietly until she fell asleep on my shoulder.  Even Untouchables have their moments. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

China Day Nine - Just Call Me Dragon Mother

My baby’s face is worse than I expected.  It’s really bad.  When we first found her, I sent her photo and paperwork to a local doctor to get an idea of what we were facing medically.  He wrote back that it looked like she had Amniotic Band Syndrome.  Apparently, when the amniotic sac ruptures, its fibrous tissue can surround and constrict parts of the developing baby’s body.  In Qing Bei’s case, the band went across her face.  You can see a circular line where the band was.  On her right side, there is an indentation—really an open hole, going up from her mouth, across her cheek and into her eye.  She has no eye, but she has eyelashes and a working tear duct.  I can’t tell if she has a cheek bone,  and I’m certainly not going to scare her by pressing on that cheek, but I don’t think it is there.  The worst part cosmetically is that there is an open hole in her cheek that opens into her nasal cavity, and her upper gum/jaw bone is totally mal-formed.  Her teeth are slanting upward toward her nose.  It looks bad, but the other side is actually more problematic.  On her left side, the band cut into her cheek so that her mouth is extra-long.  This is a problem because she can never close her mouth so she can’t always hold food or drink.  I was worried that during eating the food would get into her nasal cavity, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.  The problem is the stuff falling out all the time.  She really tries to keep it in, but there is just no way.

Every time I look at her, I worry about her surgery.  I am sure they will have to wire her jaw shut.  Plus, that upper jaw bone is going to have to be cut, or she will have teeth growing into her upper cheek.  She is in for so much pain and discomfort.  I’m normally not prone to worrying, but I worry about this.  I'm having a hard time accepting it.

 

Another thing I am having a hard time grasping is how she can be such a terror, but has also worked her way into our hearts irrevocably.  My kids adore her and she hates their guts. They constantly comment on how cute/adorable she is and the only reason they don’t clamor for her attention is because they know it would scare her.  Bill is fantastically patient with her, even though I know her non-stop whining is driving him crazy.  As for me, I wanted her from the moment I first saw her picture.  People keep asking us why/how we adopt like this, but the real question is why/how we could not??  We are completely under compulsion.  I couldn’t leave this child any more than I could cut off my own arm.  Plus, that fierce protection thing kicked in as soon as she walked into the room, shrieking.  If anyone tried to take her or hurt her, I would tear them to pieces with my bare hands.  You’ve heard of Tiger Mothers?  I’m a Dragon Mother.  This, even though my little dragon is sitting in a corner of our hotel room as I write this, screaming inconsolably and the only thing she desires in all the world is to be far away from me.   

….Anyway, Wednesday was a better day.  She ate some watermelon at breakfast and by lunch/dinner she was eating normally.  She is still picky, but at least she is getting proper food down.  We also gave her a bath.  She didn’t particularly enjoy this, but she did let us do it.  It was so, so nice to get that smoke smell out of her skin and hair!  Then, I cut her some bangs.  Her hair was constantly in her face and we thought about leaving it, but I hate to teach her that her face should be covered up.  I know that people take cues from eachother.  If she is ashamed of her face, it will make other people embarrassed about it too.  …It’s much better now.

We stayed in the hotel for most of the day and she seems to hate us less.  She spends most of the day chanting, "I want to go home” in Chinese.  I can block this out, but I know it is driving the rest of the family nuts.  Bill took her for a walk around the block and they both enjoyed it.  However, we went to the Chinese Wal Mart here about 3pm and she was a terror.  She had a huge melt down in the middle of the store, screaming, stomping her feet, etc etc.  Once we got home, she was better and actually didn’t cry all evening.  Bill made the connection that she does not like to be around crowds.  This is a shame, because there is just no way to avoid them here, unless we stay in the room all day long. 

She started screaming again at bedtime and I thought we were in for it, but she only lasted about five minutes and then she laid down and went to sleep.  She will barely let me touch her, but she does let me take care of the essentials (feed, dress her etc.) and she follows me everywhere.  Progress.  Slow but Sure.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

China Day Eight - Tunnel Vision

It’s 2am here.  My child has been screaming at the top, tippy, tippy TOP of her lungs for about half an hour now.  Ruslan’s record was 90 minutes, but somehow, I think Qing Bei is going to beat his record. 

The people from her orphanage keep coming up to our interpreter and chatting with her in Chinese.  Then our interpreter turns to us to tell us what they said.  This often comes with a charming story –  “They are worried about you because Qing Bei is so stubborn.”  “Her foster family spoil her.”  “She was so angry when they go to pick her up. She had tantrum and threw herself on the floor.  She not walk.  So, they pick her up and carry her out.”  “Her foster family give her sugar water in morning instead of plain water, this is why she refuse drink.” “She throw a tantrum when she is angry and stomp her feet and try to destroy things.” 

We found a nasty scar on her arm and part of her hand and when we asked about it, the caregiver just nodded her head in disgust and started off.  The translation was, “She was angry and she wave her arm to destroy some teacups just filled with tea.  She knock over cups and burn her arm.”

Ok ….This is a far cry from the words, “quiet” and “shy” that they used to describe her personality in my paperwork for her.  I know the word, “sucker” is emblazoned on my forehead, what I’m wondering is, “in how many languages?”   Plus, I do admit to feeling a small pang of jealousy over the other families with their adorable little Chinese children who were in the room.  None of THEIR kids were screaming on the “gotcha day.”  We keep passing them in the hotel or in different government buildings and their kids look so cute and …you know…not shrieking. 

This morning, Qing Bei woke up about 5am and finally ate.  She had a banana and some yogurt, but she wouldn’t eat anything at breakfast at 8am, and really she had nothing else substantial for the rest of the day. 

We met a van at about 10 am this morning and drove back to the wedding/adoption room to give the “donation” to the orphanage.  This is when most of the stories came out about Qing Bei.  I think, when she saw the orphanage workers, Qing Bei had some hope that she might be going back home.  She sat quietly in my lap while we signed a bunch of papers and the caregivers couldn’t get over how well she was doing.  She kept her cool until we got back into the van and then I think she realized that she was stuck with us. 

We had to drive to her birth city (Datong City) today to apply for her passport.  This is what I mean about the Chinese making the transition as hard as possible for all parties involved.  Qing Bei had to ride four hours yesterday to get here to meet us in the wedding/adoption room and now, today, we all had to drive four hours back to her birth city to apply for a passport and another four hours back home.  It was a long day. 

She cried off and on during the ride to the city.  When we got there, she was a little more clingy.  No wonder!  Let me tell you, I would not let my DOG live in that city.  It was horrific.  It was easily the worst, most disgusting city I have ever been in, and I say that having traveled in Africa, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They have the same problem with dust and pollution, which gives a brown haze all over everything, but the real problem was the trash, everywhere, and the people, who apparently have no sense of order nor cleanliness.  The street vendors were crammed haphazardly all along the sidewalks, which is common enough, but their stuff was filthy.  The buildings were constructed poorly and most were falling apart.  Everything smelled. It was crowded and the beggars were laying on the street, not against the wall so they wouldn’t be stepped on, but laying in the middle of the sidewalks for some reason and surrounded by filth. They were so dirty, their hands and faces were black with bits of brown skin showing through under the muck.  There was trash everywhere.  And, here is the kicker, we were in the nice part of town, between the police station, where we applied for the passport, and a shopping mall, with advertisements for Tommy Hilfiger and a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), just like you’d see in the states.  These were garish spots of cleanliness amidst tons of dirt and…putrescence. 

Qing Bei had to use the restroom at the police station.  OH MY GOODNESS.  It was squatty potties, which is bad enough, but they were filthy and apparently, they couldn’t flush because all the units had piles of half-dried human excrement in the bottom of the toilet area.  There is no water in the bottom of squatty potties to cover the smell, this was all open to the air and there was a LOT.  Qing Bei had to go, so I just straddled the poo and held her over it until she was done.  I understand about the toilets being broken, but that restroom had not been cleaned in months, if ever. 

We had dinner at the KFC (Qing Bei ate nothing).  I must have washed my hands and the kids hands 100 times over before we sat down to eat.  I still feel crusty. Then we headed to the van for the four hour ride back to our hotel in Taiyuan.  This is where Qing Bei really started to scream.  She cried off and on for most of the ride.  She wouldn’t let me hold her or even touch her, so we just sat next to each other while she looked out the window and cried.  I left her alone unless she started to pull her own hair or scratch her own face.  Then I just held her hands and said, “No,” and she stopped.  She hadn’t eaten anything all day, so we tried to get her to eat.  All she would take was cookies, so we gave her some, just to keep her blood sugar up, but I can see many food fights in our future. 

She went to bed right away, about 8pm, but she woke up at 1am, screaming and here we are.  She wouldn’t let me touch her, so I let her walk around the room for a few minutes, but then she put her shoes on and I realized she thought I was going to take her home.  It didn’t seem fair to make her think this, so I took the shoes off and put her in her crib.  She sat and wailed/shrieked/screamed non stop.  In the van, there were a few times that she cried with tears and I know she was genuinely sad, but this time, she was just flat out angry.  She wouldn’t let me touch her.  She just sat in the crib and shrieked.

I would have a hard time being compassionate, but I know she is walking an almost unbearable road.  Her old life is gone.  Her foster mother is gone.  I’m sure it’s grief as if her  mother had died.  I know what this is like.  Today is the anniversary of the death of our good friend, Bruce West.  I wrote about this in May/June 2011.  I well remember my grief turning into anger and disbelief that God would allow something like this to happen.  The anger is very real and a legitimate part of her mourning. 
  
The irony is that this time, I can see what is happing with Qing Bei.  The city where she lived held NO future for her.  Those people would have eaten her alive. It was Lord of the Flies with a KFC thrown in for color.  She could not stay with her foster mother, even if she went back.  Our translator told me that eventually she would have to go back to the orphanage and there is no hope that she would ever have any surgery in China.  The translator said, "The doctors will not touch her."  With her face, she would have ended up as a beggar on those filthy streets, and here she is crying over THAT loss. 

I know the parallel exists.  I kick and scream in the same way against many parts of God’s undeniable will, especially when it seems so completely insane, like the death of Bruce, or a baby girl with a face that is so horrific, I cannot muster the courage to post a picture.  I see the parallel.  I know that I have tunnel vision. 

She finally stopped after 45 minutes.  (Ruslan still holds the record.)  She is now sleeping peacefully, but this is just a break. It’s not over yet. 

You cry all you want precious little one.  I’ve been there.  I got this. 


Monday, May 20, 2013

China Day Seven - We Get Qing Bei - and She is NOT Happy About This.

So, today we got Qing Bei (pronounced “ching-bay”).  I told the kids we would call her by her Chinese name until we got to the states.  She has lost so much here, I really can’t handle taking her name away just yet.  Overall, it went fine, but she is well traumatized.  No wonder there, since I don’t think the Chinese government could have made the whole transition any more difficult on all parties involved. 

We went to get her about 2:00.  We were in the second floor of a government office building.  The room was about the size of a small classroom and is clearly used for weddings and adoptions.  I guess in the absence of a church, the second floor of an office building is as good a place as any for a wedding.  Anyway, we were the first family to arrive, but there were actually five other families getting matched that day, at that time, in that room.  It was chaos, mostly because our daughter was such an emotional wreck. 

We thought we would meet her foster parents, but they could not come.  So, she had just been taken from her home this morning and then was in a car for four hours with the five other orphans and some caregivers from the orphanage.  The translator told us that she was “stubborn” and had refused to eat or drink anything all day.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that was more due to trauma than stubbornness, but I also admit that she had some of that foot stomping down pretty well. 

The caregivers kept trying to herd her our way, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with us.  She just kept wandering in circles, clinging to some hair bows and wailing.  Paul and Reilly finally got her interested in some bubbles while I was filling out paperwork.  After about fifteen minutes in that room, it was time to go –plus it was filling up with other families and kids, so Bill picked up Qing Bei—causing more trauma—and we left.  We had to get a photo of me, Bill and Qing Bei for the adoption papers.  This, I cannot wait to see.  She was just screaming the whole time and Bill and I were doing all we could to keep her still for the photo without hurting her.  It was great for bonding 

Qing Bei finally decided Reilly was the safest freak in the circus and sat in her lap on the way home.  She was inconsolable until I started to sing to her.  She quieted right down and was really ok, unless I paused for breath.  That was pretty much the rest of our day.  We took her back to the hotel and kept her in the room and I sang every song I know to that little girl until she finally quieted down and went to sleep.  She still hasn’t eaten, but she is allowing herself to be comforted by me, so that is a start. 




Sunday, May 19, 2013

China Day Six - City of Gold and Dust

We left this morning at 7am for the airport to fly to Taiyuan in Shanxi province.  We arrived at the airport in good time and things went smoothly until we checked our bags.  The kids have been accosted by street vendors at every turn, so I finally bought each of them ONE item (call me a tyrant).  Reilly got a red parasol and Sharon got a fan,  both indicative of Chinese culture and beauty, while Matt and Paul were curiously determined to buy metal, gun shaped key chains---I think they were in the shape of miniature AK-47s. These have absolutely nothing to do with China, but they were under $5 each, so I didn’t complain.  The boys put the guns in their checked luggage which set off the scanners before we even got our tickets.  After the woman dug through our luggage we got a chance to explain to her that we are really loving people, and very safe to have on any plane, it’s just that we have a thing for weaponry. 

The flight was fine (just an hour) and thankfully unremarkable, but the city is amazing.  We were told that there was wealth here, because it is a center of coal and energy, but I didn’t expect this.  There is construction all over and the landscape is flat, so you can see really far.  They are building massive high rise apartment complexes with apartment buildings that are at least fifty stories tall with floor to ceiling bay windows, balconies and penthouses. Each complex has roughly 10 to 15 buildings.  The whole place is just massive, new and wildly opulent.  The streets are wide (this is wonderful after Beijing, which can give you a closed in feeling) and there are lanes for bikes and wide sidewalks on both sides of the roads, separated by rows of ornamental trees.  There is extensive landscaping everywhere and the cars are all high end.  It’s almost like being on a Hollywood movie set of futuristic America. 

The only drawback is the air pollution.  It’s horrible.  I’ve been in China for a week now and I have yet to see the sun, or white clouds against a blue sky.  It is just grey overcast all day and the sun is a shimmering, undefined glow against a grey background.  All the cars have a thick layer of dust on them and there is a grey/brown haze everywhere.  In Beijing, it was pollution and fog, but here it is pollution and dust. The wind blows all the time and you can feel stuff hitting against your skin.  It’s almost like I would imagine Kansas during the dust bowl.   Nick and Brenda, who came to visit us on Thursday, said that most Americans only last a few years here and then they go back to the states for health reasons.  I can well believe this.  As nice as the city is to be in, few American’s would ever last long here because of the muck in the air.

We checked into our hotel and went for a walk to find lunch.  The guide had warned us that people would stare more here than they did in Beijing.  Wow.  We definitely attract attention.  Bill made the comment that if we don’t do something about Reilly’s hair, she is going to cause an accident.   I think he is right.  They glance in our direction and zero right in on that blonde hair of hers.  The heads turn and stay looking at us as the cars/mopeds/bikes keep sailing past. 

We had directions to a pizza hut, but the line was so long, we didn’t even bother.   There was a KFC next door and it was also jam packed with people but at least we could get into the door.  This KFC had two floors of tables and a play place, but alas, the glorious influence of the modern world has still not reached Chinese plumbers.  All the bathrooms were squatty pottys.  I hate those things. 

Across the street from KFC, there was a massive stone wall and waterfall that was about four stories high.  We went to check it out after lunch and found a huge park.  There was a winding path that went uphill to what I call a Textle (this is a temple, filled with teens, all texting), then led back behind the stone waterfall to a zoo and a park next to a lake.  We could see some rides from an amusement park in the distance. 

The kids were tired, and Reilly was starting to lose her cool from all the gaping stares so we finally turned around, found a grocery store and headed back to the hotel.  Bill and I slept, but the kids turned on the TV for the first time since we came to China. 

Tomorrow we get Qing Bei and I am worried.  I thought she was in an orphanage, but the guide told me that she has a foster family and they really love her.  This is good for the long term, because she will have experience bonding and trusting people, but it will be horrible for the short term.  I can’t imagine being in a family and then being picked up and moved to another family, just like that.  Then I think of the poor foster mom, handing off a baby to a perfect stranger…. 

Pray for me.  I’m about to go traumatize some kindly Chinese. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

China Day Five—Despite a Full Day of Touring, Bill and I Remain Happily Married

 So, this morning, we met four other families in this group who are also adopting.  Two of us had been trying to get special needs kids from the beginning, but the other three couples all mentioned that they had been waiting four years (or more) for healthy babies and finally decided to switch to special needs kids.  Once they did, they were all matched right away.  It’s a bizarre sign that China is catching on about what a bad idea it is to get rid of all their girls.  We see a LOT of boy babies/toddlers.  We see girls also, but not as many.  It’s just hard to get over the blatant irony of a whole country, so enamored with men that they kill their daughters to the point that their sons don‘t have anyone to marry.    ...talk about twisted love!

Anyway, today was a day of tours with the adoption agency.  We all got on a bus at 8am and headed for the Great Wall.  It was amazing, but very, very crowded.  Honestly, the first half of the walk was just wall to wall people.   Luckily, our family is in decent shape, so we could climb past the crowds to get to the less crowded places.  The stairs are steep and uneven and worn from years and years of walking.  It’s neat to step on stone stairs that are worn down from use. There is not a lot to see (It is, after all, a WALL), but it is big and impressive because of its age and vast size (more than, say, high quality or details in construction).  So, most of the morning, for me, was spent counting my kids heads and fighting with Bill. 

Let me just say before I go into this that my husband is a marvelous man with many, many wonderful, endearing qualities.  However, there are situations in which he just loses his head and has undeniable blind spots.  For example, I’ve written about “The Travelling A” before (see The Wife Olympics from November 2010).  He also hits what I call “Speed Mode.”  Whenever there is both empty space before him and an opportunity to move forward, he forgets everything else and just zooms off like a bumble bee headed for God knows what.  Bill certainly doesn’t know.  He just becomes possessed with a desire to move forward quickly and he CAN NOT be stopped.  To make matters worse, his idea of waiting is to remain still until the slower faction is within about a ten feet radius and then zoom off again, yelling behind his back, “What? I waited!” while we finally sit down to rest.  This would be fine, if he only would acknowledge it and stop convincing himself that “daddy running off” is somehow a form of family bonding.   

The result on this day was that Bill zoomed off with our two teenage boys (aged 14 and 15), leaving me fighting the crowds while herding Reilly and Sharon (aged 9 and 12) who kept on trudging along at their 9 year old girl pace, watching their father get smaller and smaller with the distance and asking why daddy didn’t wait for them.  How does one answer this? 

In the section that we were walking, the Great Wall is about twenty feet off the ground with high sides, like you see in the pictures, and steps that vary in height from three inches to about eighteen inches.   On the steep parts, poor Sharon was practically climbing.   There are square, stone houses about 1/8 of a mile apart all along the wall and 80% of the crowd was just walking to the first stone house and turning around.  Just past this first house,  I finally yelled loudly enough for Bill to catch on that his life was in danger.  He stopped and when we finally caught up to him he looked at me like I was a corrupt race official and asked what the problem was?  Rather than explain it,  I just nodded to Paul and Matt, who actually had some idea about what was going on, and declared that Daddy was going to walk with Sharon and Reilly now and Mommy was going to go ahead with the boys.    We zoomed off together before Bill could get two words out.

I have to say, this was really fun.  On occasions like this, Daddy is the safe parent, so Reilly and Sharon were more than happy to be with Bill and I was free to run off.  The boys and I are more evenly matched speed wise so we hung together and I had a really nice time glancing back and watching Bill patiently herding the girls up the stairs.  Of course, we waited for them at each of the stone houses and zoomed off toward the next one once Daddy reached the required ten foot radius.   This was purposeful, deliberate revenge on my part and I fully stand behind all my actions on this occasion.  I’d say it was a highlight of the trip for me. 

After a while, the girls had enough climbing so we stopped, took a family picture and then Bill and I debated who was going to go ahead with the boys and who would go back with the girls.  While we were discussing this (as well as Bill’s completely unjustified comment about throwing me over the wall), the kids went off into a corner and came back declaring that Daddy was going ahead and I was going back.  Reilly had flipped a coin and it was decided, best out of three. 



A few other dads from our tour group had caught up to us and asked if they could join Bill and the boys.  Matt, who demonstrated a remarkable amount of situational awareness actually waited for them to gather their things while Bill zoomed off with Paul.  Matt looked at me and asked, “Why doesn’t he just wait?”  I told him it was a birth defect and I was proud of him for overcoming his gene pool and waiting for the group. 

We gathered back at the bus and then drove to a restaurant where we had lunch, a short sales pitch at a jade factory and then we headed back to Beijing for Tianenmen square and the Forbidden City.   Like the first section of the Great Wall, these were so crowded, it was impossible to do anything more than simply count children.  We both went into Protection Mode. Luckily, Bill was back to his wonderful, normal self and stayed behind the group the entire time.  I don’t think he lost sight of any of us even once. 

Rather than go back to the room with the tour, Bill suggested we go to a few temples/parks that he had found on his morning runs.  The kids weren’t too happy about this, but man, it was lovely.  There are a few huge lakes in the middle of the city and they have done a tremendous job with landscaping around them.  There were these really cool round boats you could rent (almost like the huge inner tubes you ride at amusement parks) with tent like roofs and tables in the middle for snacks or cards that seemed to be just floating along.  There was a beautiful columned walkway all along the edge of the lake and temples and benches everywhere. 

Unfortunately, the subway was much farther off than we realized and we didn’t get back to the hotel until sunset.  We all collapsed for a while and then Bill left and came back with McDonalds for all of us.  This is what I mean about Bill’s wonderful, normal self.  What other husband would even KNOW about those parks, let alone revel in walking through them with the kids, get us back to the hotel through a foreign subway system and then, after a morning run and another ten hours of walking, run and get us dinner?   I would have easily let my kids starve until morning without hesitation or remorse. 

So, that was pretty much our day.  We spent most of it counting our children’s heads  –that, and watching them get their pictures taken with complete strangers.  We tried to make a game out of this and give the kids a quarter for each photo op, but there were so many, we eventually lost track.  I’ll never understand what is up with that, but let me just say, despite what Obama thinks, American’s are pretty darn popular.