Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Two Weeks

Two weeks and two days… I can't believe it's only been that long. Oh how our world has changed in the last month! Although I can't account for all our time, somehow we are exhausted at the end of every day. So many of our friends have reached out to help us, and we are so very thankful for how they have helped us have the space to connect and learn to be a family.

Speaking of learning, that's the biggest theme of our lives right now. (Maybe that's why we're exhausted!)

Samuel has new words every day; he's riding a bike now. He loves accessorizing, he's trying and loving new foods, and he's trusting that family may leave but they come home.
Isaac's first day of 3rd grade!

Getting on the bus

Samuel was devastated for his brother to leave. 

Together again! Also, sunglasses on head.

Sam loves going places in the car and pushes me to go somewhere (anywhere!) ALL DAY. So I'm trying to spread out our errands to accommodate a daily outing.
 
This is his excited face when I tell him we are going out. Notice the "necklace".
I'm learning how to be a mother to Samuel. He's a happy guy and fun to play with- and that is so helpful to me as I learn again how to be constantly available. He likes to check every minute or so that Mama is still nearby.

Isaac meanwhile is loving 3rd grade. He still loves dancing and art. We just signed him up for hip hop lessons in September. I can't wait to see what he learns!
Isaac's most recent portrait of me. My mom says it captures my spirit. Lol.


The boys are learning to share- their parents, their toys, and their space. It's not easy, but I am so proud of how well they have both moved into the "brother" roles. They truly adore each other.
Their shirts say "older brother" and "younger brother". Samuel's preferred name is Di di and he will only call Isaac Ge ge. And the lanyard.

The big bike rider- complete with sunglasses, bracelet, anf minions fruit snacks. 

Discovering cherries. And sunglasses on head.

He concentrates on his chores by sticking his tongue out. He had found these toy tools and was fixing things for me.

At the playground. This day's accessory, along with a bracelet, was a chip clip on the sleeve. He wore it ALL DAY.

Right now Samuel is watching his favorite show, "Super Why". I hear him yelling, "Super Why, to the rescue!" He mimics well although he doesn't yet know what the words are. Since he doesn't do much TV I use every opportunity he gives me to get something done. So today's only accomplishment outside of "Samuel time" is this blog. You're welcome. And now we'll chi fan. (Eat lunch.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Home

Hello all!
First, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Katie for managing my social media and writing wonderful blog posts while we were gone. She has such an amazing way with words, and I know you were able to feel like you were part of our adventure because of it. Thanks, Katie!!

Now we are home and getting settled. Jet lag is home with us, too. Two kids on not enough sleep is no joke, but overall we're adjusting really well. Samuel is fitting right in, not shy about joining in with us and happy to go along with whatever is happening. He's a cuddle bug. In the morning when he sees me he does a happy dance, exclaims, "Mama!" and runs to give me a hug. A mother couldn't imagine anything better than that! Isaac is a great helper and he is learning to share his space and his toys. It's a big adjustment for him, too, and he is navigating it with more grace than I'd expect of an eight-year-old. My heart is full; we are so blessed.

I haven't taken any pictures this week, but I will soon. Meanwhile, I want to share with you my favorite pictures from our trip.
I know this isn't the usual "best of" vacation photo, but who hasn't been here? Adults enjoying the sights, kids limp with boredom and fatigue. What makes this more fun to me is that this was taken on the FIRST DAY, about 30 minutes after leaving our hotel in the morning! Lol. It was very hot out, and Isaac really was a trooper on this whole trip.

Our first night together. I brought matching pjs for the boys. They say "Coolest Brother Ever".
It was a fun time goofing around. 

Samuel signing his adoption paperwork with a red-ink handprint.

At the office, waiting for our turn. Mick and Samuel were looking out the window together and talking. 

This is a favorite for obvious reasons I think. ;-) Look at those faces!
That bear was what we gave Samuel when we met him. I think we left it on the airplane home. It's from Target, so if you happen to see one there, please let me know! I've checked the ones around here already.


Isaac is such a fun kid. This pose was all his idea.
Brothers being silly. These statues are all around Shaiman Island in Guangzhou.



Those of you who have been to China know what these are. Chicken feet. Our Holt guide in Guangzhou (best ever, by the way!) took our group out a couple of nights for authentic meals. I tried to be adventurous, but I could not eat these.

Mick did, though. He not only tried it, he polished it off. 

On the way home via Hong Kong, we wanted to givethe boys a magical day so we spent Friday at Disney. Mick, Isaac and I love rides and of course we had no idea what Samuel would think of them. We started slow but he was all into it so we rode bigger and faster. We never found his limit. He LOVES rides!
The parade we watched by accident. It was actually one of my favorite things of the day! The boys waved wildly at every character. Samuel looks sad in this photo for some reason, but he was having so much fun.

Isaac actually followed the parade as it passed. He couldn't let it be over.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Almost Home

(Katie)
***

I just have one more update for you-- they're coming home tomorrow!!!


They explored Hong Kong Friday and Saturday, and then they got up Sunday morning and wrapped up their time in China: one last hotel breakfast, one last repacking of suitcases. Their flight leaves at 2:30 pm (1:30 am US Central time), and they are scheduled to land in St. Louis late tomorrow night. During their Dallas layover, the Schaefers will go through an Immigration process, and Samuel will officially become a US citizen. 💗

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Short Update

(Katie)
***

I don't have a whole lot to update on, and I have no pictures to add :( but I did want to catch you all up on where they are.

Wait! I do have a picture! It's a little creepy because I blurred out the other families' faces just in case there's some privacy issue I don't know about. This photo was taken at the American Consulate, while they were getting entry visas and US citizenship for their new children. What a weighty moment! Everyone was smiling.

At the American Consulate on Tuesday
Wednesday was a quiet day, and they stuck close to the hotel in Guangzhou. 

On Thursday morning they went shopping with another family, and they trouped through Guangzhou on the subways (Dad: "The subways were smooth, fast, and refreshingly cool!").

After a quick lunch, they checked out of their rooms and got in a van around 1:45 to head for Hong Kong. Dad: "The whole 3 1/2 hour ride was through one large, continuous metro area with skyscrapers for mile after mile. We went through immigration and customs at both sides of the Hong Kong border with China.  Mick and David had to walk through the Chinese side because of a limit of 4 passengers in a car."

So they are in Hong Kong for Friday and Saturday, and then they fly home Sunday!

Hopefully they'll send some pictures of their adventures in Hong Kong. I'll share them if they do!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Small (Big?) Hiccup

(Katie)
***
Guangzhou: the city population is 14 million and the urban area is 20.1 million.  It is the 3rd largest city in China and 7th in the world.
Hi! Would you like a heart attack? Then read this email from Mom:
We were waiting in the lobby for the other families who were going with us on the subway to Shamian Island when John, the Holt representative, said he could not go with us. He had to take one family to the medical clinic.  Someone did not pass the TB test.  If he did not pass the x-ray test that day, then he would go to the clinic for three days of sputum tests.  If he failed those, he would not get a visa and could not go to the U.S. until he finished eight weeks of treatment.  We were all worried for this family.
It was Samuel.
They went to the clinic while we went on to Shamian Island to meet up later.  It was hard to not know what was happening. Allie was brave.
 One of our group has cell service so she got the call.  Samuel passed.
We joined up, ate lunch together, walked around, and shopped.  A taxi home and you are now up to date.
The day was beautiful. No rain. Drinks in an hour.  
We may be able to leave Guangzhou Thursday afternoon so can have an extra day in Hong Kong. I am working on it.

AHHHHHHH!!!!

I'll leave you on a less stressful note from Dad. I received this one BEFORE Mom's email, and it includes some notes on what in the world Shamian Island is:

The other Holt families are terrific people, very enjoyable and outgoing.  A fun group to be with, as we experienced the last time.  They are the kind of people you want to be friends with, or live next door to. Several have adopted multiple children, so this is not their first rodeo although for several it is their first time to China.  Watching them learning how to take care of their beautiful children is touching.  What a privilege to get to tag along in this personal, intimate experience. 
 
After a swim, we went to the mall, which was packed. We shopped around a bit and needed to get back to the hotel for dinner.  While it had been raining pretty good when we arrived, by now it was monsoon-like as the remnants of the typhoon passed over.  Hailing a cab was challenging.  I finally stood outside in the sheeting rain and got one.   
Later this morning, we are going to Shamian Island.  Shamian Island is in the Pearl River but separated from the shore by a very narrow water course.  It is where the original Western settlements were located beginning in the 1700s (I think) when Canton (Guangzhou's other name) was the place where trading with China was centered.  It continued being the nexus for Western countries until into the 20th century, and there is an old US consulate there, among others.  It is a quiet, shady, very green area.  
Well. I didn't think I would have any updates for awhile... I was wrong! Anyway, I am SO GLAD all is well now. Hopefully there will be no more curveballs and they will be able to arrive home on time next Sunday night. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Over the Weekend

(Katie)
***

There isn't a whole lot to update on.

Dad says it's really hot there-- his exact words are "it feels like one is stuck inside a dishwasher set on the pot scrubber cycle." LOL. And apparently, there is no cold water to be had, either. Again, Dad: "When Isaac gets his glass of water at the restaurant and touches it, he whips his head around to the closest adult with a look of incredulity on his face.  'This is hot!! What am I supposed to do with this? I can't be expected to drink this!'  Unspoken is the follow-up message that you can read on his face:  'Who are these people and why is everything so HOT?' Isaac now refuses to do any activity that involves being outside.  He has truly become an air - conditioned American."

Allie has a little update too: "It seems the bloom is off the rose about having a brother. Ha ha. Isaac and Samuel still really enjoy each other though, and Isaac always wants to sit next to him. Samuel loves Isaac's Leap Frog and watching Super Why! over and over. He can actually almost sing the song now. It's so cute! He's still a big mimic, and he now calls pizza, pizza. He says 'hey buddy' all the time. He may be speaking English by the time we get home the way he's seeming to pick it up so fast."

Friday is the day they all flew to Guangzhou. Allie said Samuel was so excited to get on an airplane and had been talking about it all week. (I'm not sure how he knew he was going to ride on an airplane, or how he talked about it.) Samuel squealed when they started going fast and then took off. She said it was fun to watch him!

They got to their new hotel late, so they all just went straight to bed. Allie said their hotel room is larger there, and that they're grateful for it since they'll be there a week.

First thing Saturday morning, Mick and Allie took Samuel with the other Holt families to the medical check up. This is for American immigration. They checked his ears, nose and throat; eyesight; height and weight; and did a full body check. Samuel had to have an extra eye test because it turns out he can't see! Allie doesn't know what his prescription will be, but he definitely needs glasses. Allie said: "I'll be so glad to get him fixed up when we get home. How delighted he will be! He probably doesn't know he can't see." And I, for one, can't wait to see him in glasses!

All done with the check-up!
After the checkup, they went back to the hotel for lunch. They ordered pizza in their hotel room since Samuel has been asking for it all week. He was really excited for it!

Sunday
I have no idea what they did on Sunday during the day, but I know the evening was taken up by an event with the whole Holt group: they all went out for a Cantonese dinner. 

I really don't think there will be a  lot happening this week, but I will keep updating the blog as I receive updates from them!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pingyao

(Katie)
***

Thursday, everyone loaded up into a hired car and drove an hour to Pingyao, an ancient city with 30 foot walls still intact. It's on the world heritage list, which is a thing I didn't even know existed.

Mom emailed what their day was like:
It was smoking hot so we walked with umbrellas to provide shade like the Chinese do.  

We ditched our umbrellas after a few minutes.  It was hard to enjoy the sights for worrying about poking people in the face. 

The stalls were attractive, some with adorable items for sale. There were several vinegar shops since this region is known for its vinegar. There are beautiful urns to store the vinegar too.  And vinegar running in fountains like chocolate runs at wedding receptions.

We ate at a small restaurant. This was an old home with a courtyard turned into a hotel and restaurant. The noodles and dumplings were homemade. The best we have had. A family style meal for 7 (we invited our driver) was $30.  

Our driver Mr. Wu does not speak English. But he came prepared with a phone app to translate back and forth. It was an adventure.

The purchase of a stroller was a back saver. Samuel likes to be carried.  He has some difficulty remaining upright, especially if he has a backpack on. Isaac, of course, loves to push the stroller. The boys are adorable together. 

Brothers! in the car on the way there
exploring Pingyao
part of the huge wall
So it sounds like the excursion was much, much better than being cooped up in the hotel. However, when I downloaded the photos they took, the highlight of the day for me was "watching" them put together this new stroller. Behold:





They did finally get it put together.

still in the hotel lobby 
in Pingyao
Also of note, months ago, Mick and Allie were told that Samuel really likes fish burgers. They determined they would find out what that was and buy one for Samuel while they were in China. And they did!
He looks dubious. The look on his face had me nervous, but Allie said he was just tired and hungry in the picture. (Also, looking at the clothes, it appears this picture was taken Wednesday. It is REALLY hard to keep the days straight!)

Friday, they pack up and fly to Guangzhou for the American side of paperwork. The Chinese paperwork will be finished before their flight. It doesn't sound like there's much left for them, other than American paperwork, a medical exam, and a few other small things, but I'll update the blog when I hear anything.