Saturday, July 12, 2014

Journey's 4th birthday

Since I was in Hong Kong meeting Jubilee on Journey's birthday and then we were jet lagged and adjusting to life, so we didn't end up celebrating her March 12th birthday until April 1st. We went to the zoo with her bff, and her cousin Elo.

Then we went home for presents. We've discovered that having 4 kids means that you already have a zillion toys and it becomes hard to find gifts. Thank you, Pinterest, for creative gift ideas! We ended up making a pvc pipe puppet theater and giving her a box full of puppets.

 Eric showed her how it worked with a birthday themed skit :)
 All the kids trying it out!
 Peanut butter pie for dessert

She had a great belated birthday that ended with finally getting to watch Frozen, while wearing her new purple shoes and sparkly headband. I can't believe she's 4!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

March Randoms

The past few months have been really busy and crazy as we adjusted to having 4 kids, and as Jubilee adjusted to having a family and a home. Here are some pictures from her first few weeks home-mostly getting into things, as toddlers do :)

Bedtime stories on her first night home

First walk as a family of 6-I can't believe how much snow we still had in the middle of March!

 Before I went to bed one night, I peeked into the girls' room to check on them and Vivi wasn't in her bed. Just as I was about to go looking for her, I noticed 2 little hair caps in Journey's bed :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014


We were greeted at the airport by both of our families, and my best friend. Jubilee was overwhelmed by all of the adults, but enjoyed meeting her siblings and cousins. I was so exhausted that the whole day was a big blur-good thing we got pictures to remind me! We aren't able to post pictures of her face until we finalize, hopefully in September, so until then you'll have to enjoy these pictures of the back of her head :)

Our adventure home!

I had accepted my jet lagged schedule of going to bed at 8pm and waking up at 2am as a blessing, because we had to leave for the airport at 5am and I was worried all week that we would miss it. I put Jubilee to bed, did some packing, then went to bed. I got up around 2, took a shower, and packed up the last of our things. When Jubilee woke up about an hour later, we didn't have much else to do, so I figured we'd just leave to make sure we were there on time. I called down to the desk and asked for the bellhop to come get our things and checked out of the hotel while the bellhop hailed a taxi and loaded our bags into it. Janice had wanted us to take a bus to an airport check-in location where I could get rid of the bags before having to go to the airport, but the bus station didn't open until too close to our flight leaving and I didn't want to risk it. My crazy plan was to rely on the kindness of strangers-in a country where strangers don't help other strangers, no matter how pathetic they look.

The ride to the airport was dark and boring until I absentmindedly started reading the fare charts and realized there were a bunch of extra fees for a taxi to the airport-baggage fees, extra mileage, etc. I started pulling out my cash and counting it-the amount I had been told was either lost in translation, or someone forgot to add the baggage fees. I spent the rest of the trip staring at the meter and recounting my money.

When we got to the airport, it was still dark and looked pretty deserted. I had a baby, a stroller, a diaper bag, and 2 giant suitcases. The taxi driver pulled all of my things out, looked at me, and ran over to grab a cart. He used hand motions to ask if I was going to get into the building by myself-I don't think he was able to walk away from the cab to help me and we weren't able to pull right up to the doors like you can at home. I said I'd figure it out, thanked him, and ever so slowly started to make my way toward the door. The luggage cart was not made to be pushed with one hand, and neither was the umbrella stroller, so my weight was going back and forth between straightening the path of the cart, and then straightening the stroller. About halfway there, 2 men from India (thank you world travelers!) were bringing their bags in and one man left his suitcase to come and help me. He even asked his friend to hold his suitcase while he helped me find my check in counter, a 5 minute walk from his. He spoke English, so we made small talk, and when we got to my check in, he asked if I was sure I could take it from there. There were already other people hanging out there, so I assured him I'd figure it out or ask for help from someone here. He pointed out a bench I could sit on and as he was parking the luggage cart nearby, the man I sat next to was asked where he was from and he said "Michigan". What are the odds?! He also had a toddler daughter at home, and he made sure I got my bags checked and put the cart away for me. 

Now that we were there on time and checked in, I was able to relax, laugh a little at all the crazy situations of the past 12 hours, and we went to McDonalds for breakfast. They had a very different menu, especially for breakfast!-pasta, fish sandwich, burger. I went with the breakfast platter-pancakes, eggs, and sausage to share. 

Soon it was time to get on the plane. Jubilee was excited to have her own seat and start playing with the buckle, the magazines in the seat pocket, and opening and slamming the tray table, but when it came time to take off, she got a little nervous. Luckily she had been up for a few hours at that point so she fell asleep.

And when she woke up they had passed out snacks and headphones to watch movies

We were kept well fed! We had a choice of American food or Japanese food on the flight to Japan, I got one of each, figuring that way I'd definitely find food for Jubilee to eat.

We landed in Japan and went through the loong line at customs. Japan has strict rules about liquids, they won't even let you buy a Starbucks inside the airport and take your cup on the plane (that happened to the lady behind me). I pulled out all the baby food I thought I had in the diaper bag, but I had packed as many snacks as I could in every corner of the diaper bag, so got pulled aside and they kept having to run my bag through and hand it back, telling me there was more liquid somewhere. They ended up emptying the entire bag and were very friendly and understanding about it, but when they were satisfied that my only liquids were baby food, they moved on to the next person and left me there with a pile of stuff to repack. 

I have no idea what all of this was in the airport bathroom!

The trip from Japan to the US was long, but not too bad. Jubilee slept through quite a bit of it. As the plane was landing, the man who was sitting in our row complimented Jubilee's behavior on the plane and asked if she had flown a lot. I explained that this was her first trip and that I had just adopted her and was bringing her home. He was shocked, he said we seemed so in sync and so connected, he couldn't believe we had only known each other for a few days <3 He wished us the best and pretty soon we were heading off the plane, with just one more stop at immigration before getting to see the rest of our family!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our adventure back from Disneyland

Heading back from Disneyland, we were both tired, but Jubilee had the leisure of napping on the subway. As confident as I was at having gotten to Disney by myself, now I had to follow the map backwards. Maps and directions are not my strong suit, I still use my gps to get to my sister's house 45 minutes away. We made it back with very few issues-at one stop the elevator was out so I had to take Jubilee out of her stroller and try not to fall down the escalator with her, the stroller, the diaper bag, and her giant Minnie Mouse. A major cultural difference in Hong Kong is that everyone minds their own business, nobody holds doors or helps moms with their hands full. 

We finally got to our final stop, but for some reason I couldn't find the way we had come in. After walking back and forth a couple of times, I ended up just taking the exit I kept finding. We came out onto the street, I looked around, and realized I had no idea where I was. Not wanting to look like a tourist, I confidently headed down the sidewalk, casually looking around to see if I recognized anything. Eventually, I noticed a building not too far away that I recognized (thank you random colored squares on the building!) and headed in that direction. Pretty soon after that I noticed the hotel's logo at the top of our hotel! I had made it!

I was tired, hot, and starving, but Jubilee was asleep in the stroller and every store and restaurant in Hong Kong seems to require either a step up or down into the building-nothing is handicap accessible there. Finally I picked a restaurant that had steps but that I had wanted to try, took Jubilee out of her stroller, and carried her, the stroller, and all of our bags up into the restaurant. I ordered food to go-I was exhausted-and then carried everything plus a bag of food and cup of Hong Kong milk tea back down the stairs. I got Jubilee back into her stroller and hefted everything across the street. When I got to the hotel, a lobby full of businessmen stood and stared at me through the glass doors as I struggled to get the heavy door open and all of our stuff through. Sheesh!

Here's another dinner picture-roast pork with a yummy sauce! I had survived the trip, and now it was time to pack for home!

Hong Kong Disneyland

There isn't much to tell about our day at Hong Kong Disneyland. She was very excited to see Mickey and Minnie, so we got in line, but when we got up close, she was not a fan. We collected some character stickers from various employees, bought a stuffed Minnie Mouse with the year and name of the park on it, and wandered around looking at the sights. 

By the time we got to It's a Small World, she had fallen asleep, but I enjoyed the ride. When she woke up, we stopped for lunch-I got roast duck leg with rice and Chinese vegetable (that's what they called it, I don't know what it was).  

 Then we wandered into Toy Story Land since we don't have that here. We went on the Slinky Dog ride, which went faster than I thought it would and she hated it :( I thought since she loves music, she would enjoy the Small World Ride while awake, but after one scary ride, she was done. It was still a great day though, everything was clean and the people were friendly, I didn't have to worry about fending for myself in the big city.
 These guys were so fun!
 The view from the subway station on Lantau island on the way back

Unsupervised and off to Hong Kong Disney!

After a long night, the bright morning sun came early, but it was welcome. We got dressed and headed down to the restaurant. My usual breakfast, plus some congee (rice porridge) and a chocolate muffin for Jubilee. She started to really come out of her shell, giggling and playing and showing her sense of humor. She started using her limited speech and hand movements to tell me what everyone around us was doing. Anytime someone stood up, she would yell and sign 'all done!'. She yelled "ah!" and signed 'phone' any time someone pulled out their phone. And as people got up from their tables to walk away, she would yell "bye bye!" 

We went back to the room after breakfast and started to get ready for Disneyland. We got Eric on Skype and Jubilee was showing off her toys and babbling to him when Janice came to give us the final paperwork and escort us to the subway station. As soon as she walked into the room, Jubilee clammed up. She didn't want to talk to Janice, stopped playing and making jokes. She had always been happy and playful around Janice-she may have thought Janice had come to take her back. 

We went over the paperwork, I signed a few things, was warned NOT to open the brown envelope for immigration, and we received yet a few more gifts from the orphanage. Some adoption related books, a book about Hong Kong, and a scrapbook they made of Jubilee's time there. Finally it was time to head out to the subway station. I was so excited to finally be free from the constant supervision and check-ins from orphanage staff-they were very kind, but it's nice to just be a parent and not feel like a babysitter. I was even more excited about getting to go to Hong Kong Disneyland. But I was also so nervous to be on my own in Hong Kong, trying to navigate the subway by myself, surrounded by people with whom I couldn't communicate. Yikes! Janice got a map from the information desk and used a pen to circle the stops I needed. I had to take 4 different subways to get to Disney, so I had to pay careful attention to when and where to get off one train and on the next. We said our final goodbye to Janice, and, armed with my baby and my map, we walked through the gates and headed to find our first train.

I spent the entire time on the subway staring at the little map and straining my ears to make sure I heard the announcement on the speaker to make sure I got my stop. We got there with no problem at all. And when we got to the stop for the final train to Disneyland, it was so exciting! It was all families with excited little kids, and Disney themes started appearing.

 My ticket

More in the next post, I took lots of pictures :)

Hong Kong, day 4

After leaving the orphanage, we took the taxi back to the hotel, unloaded all of Jubilee's things in the hotel room, and then walked to a dim sum restaurant down the street. When Janice the social worker asked me what things I wanted to do in Hong Kong, I said I was open to anything, but I did want to eat dim sum and ride in a double decker bus (hey, I'm a small town girl!). 

The dim sum was amazing! I let Janice order for us since I was willing to try anything. I think she chose dishes that she knew an American would like though, because I know they also served chicken feet and other foods that we tend to not eat at home.

After lunch we took a bus down to the harbor to see some historic sites. This tower is what is left of the old train station, more than 100 years ago.

 A crabbing boat! While we watched, the woman pulled the box up out of the water and dumped a bunch of crabs onto the floor of the boat.
 We walked the avenue of the stars, similar to what we have in Hollywood.
 Then we hopped on a double decker bus to go to a shopping district for some final souvenirs. The buses are flat fronted, and we were able to sit on the 2nd floor, right up in front. It didn't seem to be that big of a deal to anyone else ;)

 Look at how close we got to the bus in front of us!!

A street market near the hotel

Finally we got back to the hotel and said goodbye to Janice for the night. She would return in the morning with the final paperwork and to take us to a subway station I hadn't been to before to point us in the direction of Disneyland.

Jubilee was tired, but I was starving, so I put her in the sling and we walked down to 7-11. I got a bowl of noodles, and even though I had baby food in the hotel for Jubilee, I wanted to get her something else too. I ended up picking a little egg tart from the bakery section. Here in the US it would be the clear box with doors that has shelves of bagels and donuts. In Hong Kong it was breads filled with meat or fruit, and egg tarts. I picked it because it looked easy to mash up for her, but when we got back to the hotel I looked it up to see what I was feeding her (the fun of eating in another country!) and it turns out it is Hong Kong's version of a British egg custard pastry. Sweet and mild. I also got an ice cream for each of us-it was a celebratory evening after all, my first night with my daughter!

We played for a few minutes after eating, and then it was time for bed. Jubilee fell asleep right away because she was tired, but then woke up and had a bit of a rough night. It was her first night away from what she knew as home. It was a long night, but luckily, morning was coming and we were going to have a great day!