Monday, April 27, 2009

Surprise Picture of Carmon

I got this email the other day:

"Hi Abby,

Oh, what a coincidence!! today I read your blog and saw everything. and guess what??? I met your daughter March 24th when we visited the orphanage. She was given to you in the lobby by our son's nanny (I saw that in one of your films on your blog), and your daughter's nanny was in the babyroom when we visited Yugan SWI. I actually posted a picture of your daughter tugged in a basket a week ago, just check the pictures and you will find her, we also have a couple of seconds of footage of your daughter in the basket rocking happily :o)

Hanneke from Holland"

WHAT A SWEET TREAT! She saw our daughter not even a week before us. This is the picture she was talking about:

We are in the process of trying to figure out how to get the video. She wasn't able to email it and if she puts it on a DVD in Holland, it won't be readable here in the States b/c their format is different than ours.

In a subsequent email, she wrote this:

"In the very end of the film (appr.12 seconds before the end, you can hear our guide say: "Sunday, she will go" You can't see our guide on the film, but our she was pointing at your daughter when she said that, that's how I know she was adopted on the 29th (right?)"

Cool, huh?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Carmon's Dedication

This is Tom, and there is more to the story about getting Abby and Carmon home, and I have video of their arrival and subsequent greeting by friends and family…but I am on Family Leave this week, and work of any kind – including video editing - seems to be escaping me.

While she was in China, Abby arranged for Carmon to be dedicated at our church (Westwood Church in Orlando) on Easter Sunday. Since Abby got home and into bed Friday morning around 2:30 AM, we spent her last waking hours Friday night getting the video and pictures together – we had picked the song long ago. As usual, our church did an outstanding job with the dedication video and the dedication itself, and I wanted to share it with anyone who wants to watch it. This is as close as I can get with the software I have, I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

They're on their way home!

Abby sent me this picture of my girls this evening, showing me what they are wearing so I will recognize them at the airport. Their plane leaves at 11:00 PM Wednesday night (EDT) and they arrive at 12:05 AM Friday. I can not WAIT to have them home!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

She's DEFINITELY a Chitty

There are so many ways that Carmon is already showing she's a Chitty:
  • She stopped taking a bottle already. Our other 3 also stopped drinking from bottles around 9 or 10 months and started drinking straight from a glass.
  • She is a GREAT sleeper, just like Madeleine and her mommy.
  • She's satisfied by simple things like Jack is. She is entertained by a single toy for about as long as Jack is entertained by an airplane simulation game on the computer.
  • A diaper wipe lasts a long time in her hands...as it does in Price's.
  • Her eyes are very happy, just like her daddy's.
  • And, like all the Chittys, she loves being outside.

She was made to be "one of us".

This is Tom, with one more video. While were driving back from the Yugan SWI, Carmon and I were playing with a wipe. (Remember what I said about Price and wipes - well, TWO of our kids love playing with them now!) and she started laughing. Abby got out the camera, and you get to see it!

Afternoon Ritual

Every afternoon, Carmon and I carry out a ritual. We go here:

And she does this:

Monday, April 6, 2009

More charming today than yesterday

This girl gets sunnier every day.

In case you're wondering, it's NOT chilly enough for the hat AND hoodie, but the "clothing police" hinted that I should add the hat. The temperature is probably around 65 or 70.

Sitting by the phone

Today is the day of our consulate appointment. From 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Bob will be incommunicado at the Consulate Office on our behalf and I have to wait by the phone for his call. Many of you know the specifics of our paperwork trouble. I don't claim to have the market cornered on issues, but these are MY issues and we need prayer. Please pray with us that all the idiosyncracies will be ironed out and that we will receive our visa without any complications. That's the only thing we're waiting on. After that is issued, it goes into her Chinese passport and we are sworn in Wednesday afternoon for our flight home Thursday. It feels so close now, but I also still have 2 more whole days here which feels like a long time, too.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blessing our daughter

Today, Xi Xi (pronounced shee-shee) took me to a temple where people come to bless their children. Don't worry, I didn't let any Buddhist monks pray a blessing over her. I did that myself. We are so thankful that the Lord allowed Carmon to join our family. I offered up this incense as an offering of praise for our sweet daughter.

The sun is shining

Carmon has come out of her shell. It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but she's smiling...BIG! She's a real ray of sunshine now.

Notes from the home front

Hello, all - this is Tom. Price and I made it safely home, and I finally have gotten around to putting together a couple of videos that I would like to post. Also, I have some pictures from my time over in China that I wanted to post, along with my comments about them. I just finished emailing with Abby around 1:00 PM, which is 1:00 AM Monday her time. So, I want to get this posted before she wakes up and updates the blog herself.

Here we go!

This first picture shows Price asleep in the seat of the van we were riding in. In his right hand? A wipe! He will often ask for a wipe as a plaything while we're changing him. It's nice having kids who appreciate the simple things in life...

This next picture shows our Nanchang guide, Mary, explaining paperwork to Abby. Mary was very sweet, and very helpful the whole time we were in Nanchang.

This third photograph is of Price and Carmon on our bed in Nanchang. Price was being sweet to her, laying on her, patting her, and she started to smile at him, so out came the camera!

This next picture is of Price sitting in front of a lion statue (female, in case you're wondering - check the baby lion under her paw) at the Pavilion we toured. Price would all but shout "LION!" when he saw one in China...and there are plenty to see!

This picture is of a vehicle of some kind that we saw on the way to Yugan to tour the orphanage. The variety of vehicles on the road was stunning - only cars, buses and mopeds/bicycles looked familiar. We saw vehicles carrying everything; beds, rebar, sticks, people, bricks, huge bundles of something. I think the loading rule is, if the vehicle isn't overloaded, put more on!

This photo is of two young girls at the orphanage, who were enchanted with us, and Price in particular. One of them, the older one, is 11, and just showed up at the orphanage one day. The story on her was that her father beat her because 'he was crazy in the head' (the orphanage director's words) and they couldn't locate her mother. Yet, she was so happy - she laughed and smiled the whole time - and now she lives in the orphanage and helps out. Abby and I both thought there is so much need - just at this orphanage - and it is a shame we couldn't take a few more kids home with us...

This picture is of Carmon's nanny with Abby. We had a request for a still picture of the nanny, as some of the video was not viewable by some folks. Anyway, it was so sweet and touching to see how much this lady cared for Carmon. She replaced the original nanny in Dec, 2008, do she'd only had Carmon in her care for about 4 months - yet she still cried when we left with Carmon.

Now, for the first video. I had been taking video in small sections, so that we'd be able to upload it. The blog uploader limits you to 100MB in a single video, and some of the sections I took were too big. Now that I am home with the video editing software, I combined the video and created a format that makes the total upload smaller than 100MB. :) Now, I am sure that the above explanation is TMI for some, much the same as Abby's quest to get a razor and remove the stubble from her stubbly areas was for some. So, explanation over, here are the videos.

The first video is all the good footage from when we got Carmon in the hotel lobby. There are four sections to this video. The first is when we first see her and Abby is handed Carmon. Carmon doesn't appear to cry until after the nanny wipes her face / nose. Carmon doesn't really seem to enjoy having her face wiped with a cloth of any kind. Hopefully, that will get resolved. In the second section, Abby attempts to calm her with a bottle, but that doesn't work, so in the third section, the nanny hands Carmon a kleenex package. Carmon often likes to hold things, so it was no surprise that she took it. When that still doesn't calm Carmon, the nanny takes her - I guess she thought she'd be able to calm her. This is the section where I asked Abby why they took her away, and she said because "I couldn't calm her". In the last section, you can hear the associate director ordering (at least the tone suggests that to me!) the nanny to give Carmon back to Abby. Watch Abby's hands make a couple of small lunges for Carmon before she actually gets her back!

The last video is of our tour of the orphanage. There are seven sections to it. The first is a short view of the outside. My taping was interrupted when Abby asked me to go back to the van and get pictures she had brought to have identified. We got these pictures from Yugan visitors and we thought some of them might show Carmon, but we wanted the orphanage staff to confirm that. The second section is me walking into the orphanage, and shows the kitchen where they were cooking our lunch. The third portion is a quick look at the ladies room at the orphanage. I DID ask to use the men's room, but it was broken and the door chained, so I was directed to the ladies room. For those who don't know, they have 'squat potties' in some locations in China, and this was one of them. Being a guy, it didn't matter to me, though... :) Fourth, the ladies are looking at our pictures during lunch to see if Carmon is in some of them. She was in a couple, but not all of them. Then, the two girls who followed us around show up at the end of that section of video. Fifth is a view of the downstairs of the orphanage. Lots of floor space, but nothing in it! The sixth section is us walking down the upstairs hallway to Baby Room Two - where Carmon lived. Last, I panned around Carmon's old room, it is what the rooms typically look like. The bathroom / washroom is to the right of the desk as I pan around.


I'm sure you've experienced face-ache in your lifetime at least once; we all have. It happens when you are trying to get pictures taken and you stand there with a cheese-y smile pasted on your face for what feels like an infinite period of time. It also happens when you are an American on any kind of trip overseas. In my case, that means I am experiencing face-ache every time I step out of my hotel room. I am met by so many well-wishing and curious people that I walk around with a smile constantly pasted on my face. It would really tickle all the Chinese people if Carmon would do the same, but she still really only smiles for me, Tom, and Price.

That brings me to the real joy I experienced today. I wrote the other day about a 28 year old Christian Chinese girl I met named Judy. At the time, I was a bit skeptical if she was genuine or if she was just claiming to be a Christian because she thought that's what Americans want to hear. She invited me to join her this morning, so I went with her to Shamian Christ Church and had face-ache from real joy. Sitting in the Mandarin/English service was glorious. I hate that word, but there is no other word to describe how I felt. I was able to imagine a taste of what heaven will be like when ALL nations will raise their voices in worship! What a blessing!

Here are the three of us in the chapel. And, for the record, I think that's a smile on Carmon's face, too.

Wedding Photos

Remember when I told you about the brides all over Shamian Island taking wedding photos and how they wear pants under their dresses?

They are beautiful!

But, the jeans are hilarious!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What you're really interested in

It seems that the most requested thing is video of Carmon. So, as requested, here's the star of the show:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yesterday's exploration and today's visit to the Guandong Folk Arts Museum

Carmon and I had an awesome afternoon yesterday exploring. We crisscrossed the island for almost 4 hours and saw many interesting things WITHOUT MY CAMERA. We saw some uniformed military officials in a public courtyard practicing what appeared to be karate moves. While I was watching some primary school children in their school's private courtyard practice for a perfomance, I met a 28 year old Chinese woman named Judy who is a Christian. She came up to me to chat and asked me straightforwardly if I was a Christian. I teared up when she told me that she had been one for 4 years. Someone shopping in her store gave her a Bible to read. She said her first two years as a Christian were not so good, but now she goes to a Mandarin/English church at the White Swan hotel and stays afterwards for the Bible study. We saw about 10 brides and grooms in a park having their wedding photos taken. The brides all wear pants underneath their dresses because they sit on the dirty ground for pictures and then hike the dress way up when they walk around. They were really beautiful! I even took some time to sit at Starbucks to have a cup of coffee and share a muffin with my girl. It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

Our guide wasn't meeting us until 11:00 this morning, so Carmon and I headed out for some more island exploration, just me and my girl. She always has this cheery expression :). Recognize that outfit, Jackie Sue?

Bob met us in the hotel lobby at 11:00 to take us to tour the Guandong Folk Arts Museum. The structure was amazing enough in itself.

The courtyard was also exquisite, very lush.

There was a hand painter there. All of his paintings are made just using his hand, no paintbrushes. He had paintings of the Great Wall, panda bears, mountain landscapes, and bamboo trees, to name a few. All of the pictures were done using the heel of his hand, his fingernails, and his fingertips after brushing them in the plate of ink by his side.

Turn your heads sideways

I'm not kidding; turn your head sideways. If my computer geek, ahem, I mean, my hot computer guy was here, he could show me how to turn this video the right way. The Help Desk must be sleeping :). So, in the meantime, you'll have to lay down to watch this. It's a short one though. These ladies are um...exercising? There's a park on Shamian Island, where my hotel is, that has exercise machines and playground equipment for adults and children to use. Our guide told us that only old people do formal exercise though because young people are too busy.

Tom and Price make it home

This will be a short update from Tom. Price and I left Nanchang around 10:00 Thursday morning local time, and got home and into bed at 2:00 AM Friday, for a total travel time of 28 hours. Price slept GREAT and was GREAT when he was awake. He gave one last performance for the Chinese in the Beijing airport, and (as usual) they loved him. Now that I am home, I will go through the pictures and post some in a blog.

Abby and I have emailed some today, and she and our daughter are doing fine. I am fairly confident she'll find time to blog some when her day starts in a couple of hours.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The gardens were BEAUTIFUL!

This is a single Bougainvillea tree. Amazing, right?

This is taken in the Orchid Garden in the greenhouse. Doesn't Carmon look comfortable?

In the background you can see the greenhouse mentioned above and a botanical clock on the hillside.

Consulate paperwork done

Bob came to our hotel this morning and we got all of our consulate paperwork completed and compiled. Man, there's alot of paperwork for this baby! Here's the funny (?) part. We probably can't take care of correcting Carmon's TA today even though the CCAA is open because...drum roll, please...all the CCAA employees were told to go outside today and plant trees. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? I really don't mean to be derogatory, but COME ON!! Sorry, just venting a little bit.

Anyway, my sweet girl slept through my meeting with Bob. He's going to meet me in the lobby at noon so that Carmon can finish her nap. Then, we're going to go on a tour of a botanical garden. It's sorta cloudy out, but rain may be in the forecast soon, so I wanted to go ahead and get this tour in.

I'll post some pictures of the garden later if I can. Now, I'm going to try to get a tiny nap before Carmon wakes up. I usually finally let myself get out of bed a little before 5 in the morning. It's all I can do to make myself stay in bed that long. I must look at my watch 30 times in the night...from 10-ish p.m. to 5-ish a.m. That's a lotta watching-looking!

We made it

Carmon and I made it safely to Guangzhou. She fell asleep right before I got on the plane and didn't wake up until we were almost at the hotel. I think she's sleeping to escape life right now. I don't blame her; this must be SO much for her little system to process.

Shee-Shee introduced me to Cassie at the airport who helped us check into the Guandong Victory hotel. Our room is VERY nice...too chic for my thrifty self! Last night I went out for dinner, and, when I got back, they had remade my bed, set out slippers for me beside the bed, put on soft lighting, refolded the toilet paper and tissues into a "V", and replenished the tea bag that I had used. But I'm jumping ahead myself in the days events.

This is Carmon with a BEAUTIFUL flowering tree outside the window of our hotel room. I could stare at that tree and the swallows that rest in it for a long time.

"Bob", my guide here, came to my room at 3:00 to take me to Carmon's medical appointment.
We were the only ones in the waiting room and, when we got there, all the lights were turned off. Tom and I have been impressed with a simple measure the Chinese take to preserve electricity. When you are in your hotel room, you have to leave your room key in a slot to have any power in your room. That way, when you leave your room and have to take your key out of the slot to take it with you, all power in the room is turned off since you won't be needing any. It was for this reason, I believe, that all the lights were turned off in the Adopted Child examination rooms as well. Here Carmon visited 4 different rooms. The first was a check of her ears and throat. Nothing the matter there. Then we moved on to weight and height. I didn't notice the height, but she weighed 8.88kg (19.56 pounds). In the third room, the doctor measured her head circumference and looked over her entire body. Another thing we noticed earlier on our trip is that there are SO many employees wherever we go. It was explained to us by our guide that this is because labor is SO cheap. It applied at the examination office as well. For those 3 "minimal" tasks, we went to a different room with a different doctor. Then, when we left each room, the light was turned off, and that doctor diappeared.

This is Carmon in the waiting room of the Adopted Child examination area. In the background is room number 3, with the lights off, as you can see. Do you remember reading Tom's post about how the supermarket in Nanchang played the Happy Birthday song in a loop the entire time of our visit? Well, the floor covering in here was like a kind of laminate, and the decoration on it said, you guessed it, "Happy Birthday"! Made me chuckle...and wish Tom was still here with me to see it.

The final room we went to was for her shots. She ended up only needing 2 shots and they gave her one in each leg. Wanna guess how much she liked that? She CAN NOT STAND even having her nose wiped, as you can tell from the video from Gotcha Day when she about did a "Poltergeist" to keep one of the nannies from wiping her nose. She LOVED getting shots. I had to squeeze her feet between my legs and hug her whole body to me. Then I had to switch her to the other side and do it all over again so they could reach the other leg...'cause it's SO hard to reach both legs while she's sitting on my lap, right? Oh well, as soon as I picked her up, she stopped crying. We had to wait 30 minutes after her shots were taken to make sure she didn't have an adverse reaction to the immunizations, but she fell asleep.

After our appointment, we took a quick walk around Shamian Island (where the Victory Hotel is located) so that Bob could show me some restaurants that Westerners tend to like and that have English picture menus. Nice!

Then, we headed back to the hotel to discuss ongoing paperwork issues. There still seems to be a problem with some of our paperwork. Apparently, there is a disrcepancy between the spelling of Carmon's name on the Travel Authorization issued by the CCAA (Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs) and the immigration paperwork for the U.S. So, today at 10:00, Bob and I will to try to straighten it out. It appears that we will need to request a new TA (Travel Authorization) from the CCAA. It doesn't seem like that's a HUGE deal, but just something that needs to be taken care of. I have also been told by Bob that our appointment with the U.S. Consular is not in jeopardy. So this appears to be strictly a formality.

After taking care of our paperwork, I am going to tour the city some with Bob. I'm not sure yet what that means, but I am happy to have a plan to not be in the hotel. I have a feeling that I will spend a lot of time discovering what is on Shamian Island on my own. I have to admit that I am feeling intimidated and lonely. I don't feel like I am in any sort of danger, so I feel free to be out and about, thankfully.

Please pray for me that I will be able to take advantage of this sweet time alone with Carmon. The first few days she looked at my face with the saddest expression. Just to think of it still tears me up. I have never seen that look on my children's faces. I've seen anger, and hurt, and hunger, and tiredness, but never sadness at the sight of my face. She deserves to be sad for what she has lost already, but I am so thankful that, already, she is smiling at the sight of me, talking to me, smiling at me, and laughing when I am silly. She is still quite congested and has a bit of a clear, runny nose, but the doctors yesterday didn't seem to be concerned. So you can also pray that she won't feel so crummy as she fights this bug.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Health Update

So, I said Carmon had a little chest congestion, but now it's worse. Her nose is running a little more; it's still clear, but she's been coughed a lot in the night.

And Price, he's in our bed...with a fever. He kept calling Tom's name out in the night. Well, he was actually calling "Daddy, not "Tom". :) Anyway, he would settle back down immediately after finding a pacifier. Then, one time we got up to check on him and he was on fire. We uncovered him for 20 minutes first to see if he would cool off, but he didn't. So we gave him some ibuprofen and put him in our bed. His fever came right down.

This morning at 8:00, our guide comes to take us all to the airport. I have a 10:00 flight to Guangzhou for the last leg of my trip, and Tom leaves at 11:00 to fly home to Florida with Price.

Tom, understandably, is worried about this BIG trip with a 2 year old who has a fever. Hopefully, it will make Price lethargic. I hate the thought of him being sick in any way, but we are praying there will be a bright side to whatever he has. Please pray for Price and Tom today. They arrive home in Orlando at 5 minutes after midnight in the night on Thursday (technically Friday morning).

Once I arrive in Guangzhou this afternoon, I have the first of two medical appointments for Carmon today. Over the next 2 days she has to get five immunizations as part of the requirements for a Hague Convention adoption. At home, if your kids are sick like she is, they won't give them an immunization. So I am concerned about either the toll immunizations will take on a sick baby or if they will do them on a sick baby here. We are in a bit of a time crunch, so I'm not sure if they have the liberty of waiting until she gets better. I am hoping, though, that they might be able to tell me what's causing her chest congestion.

And, for those of you who are wondering, I will still be blogging once Tom goes home. There is a computer in my room in Guanzhou so I'll do my best to keep up. Unfortunately, my Help Desk is going home, but I will try to limp along unassisted.

Buses and Kisses

Price apparently gets REALLY excited about buses. Oh, and he likes his new sister, too. Check out this sweet boy! We are watching out the window of our hotel from the 17th floor at night.

Going to Carmon's finding spot

Tom took this video as we were approaching the spot where Carmon was discovered on June 9th, the day after she as born. She was left outside the "gate" of an old orphanage. This building is no longer used as an orphanage, but there are some people still living in the building. The orphanage Carmon was raised in was opened in 2001.

Buying food from a street vendor

We have been strongly cautioned not to eat food from street vendors, but following rules has never been my strong suit. So, here I am purchasing some kind of dumpling. I bought one two days ago, and it was filled with mystery meat. This day, it was filled with cooked, sliced mushrooms.

Get our your tissues ladies

This video is sure to bring on the tears. This was taken of Carmon's caregiver. She was crying as soon as she saw Carmon. Carmon had a different nanny until December of 2008. Sometime during December, the first nanny left and the one you see in the video took over Carmon's care.

When I asked her if there was anything she could tell me about Carmon, she told me "She's smart.".

Special Treat from the Orphanage

Our visit to the orphanage was quite an experience. I will blog in more complete detail if I can later tonight, but I wanted to show you the gift we were given. Can you tell what this is?

The photos, that probably appear VERY tiny, were taken of Carmon the day she was found outside the orphanage gate. If you can see, she is wearing a blue jacket over a white shirt. When we went to the orphanage today, those clothes were given to us as a gift. What an unexpected surprise!