At the age of 37, I have finally decided what to be when I grow up. As a mother to two fabulous and complex boys who struggle with diagnoses like Asperger syndrome, sensory processing disorder, and dyspraxia we are used to daily routines that involve therapy, patience, and compromise. When we decided to add another child to our family, our hearts led us to Winnie, and she just happens to have Down syndrome. Follow our journey as we continue to learn and work through these needs. Sometimes we live one day at a time and sometimes we live hour to hour. Welcome!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Taking Joy in Our Kids (Daddy blogs)


It’s been a big year, with a lot of highs and lows having to do with all three kids.  But over the last few days, I’ve had occasion to take notice of some of the amazing things about our kids, and I thought I should preserve these things for posterity.

Winnie

Everybody sees enough of Winnie on Facebook to know what a beautiful, joyful little person she is, so there’s no need to belabor that point.  But I’ll add one anecdote from last night.

Winnie is a pretty bossy playmate.  She generally tells me where to stand and what to do while we are playing.  Last night, as we are getting ready for bed, she (literally, grunting, pointing, moving my feet and hands) puts me in this very specific pose, turned to the side with my hand out, as if I were fencing (without the rapier).  She then mirrors this pose from a few feet away and runs toward me.  OK, we figured out that she was dancing, like ballroom style. 

But then, she places me facing her with my feet spread apart and my hands out toward her.  Next, she sprints toward me and tells me to lift her in the air and squeals with delight.  Stephanie and I instantly make the connection that this is the climactic dance scene from Dirty Dancing (which I truthfully have never seen, but the dance is so culturally iconic even I am familiar with it – Stephanie has seen it 977 times).  She’s hilarious.  For some reason it’s the American stuff that she was exposed to in China (pop music, for instance, which she LOVES) that I always find so endearing and funny.  We repeated the dance (clumsily, in my case) several more times.

Pearson

This weekend, I took Pearson and Henry to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  This was Pearson’s idea, not mine.  In fact, I’ve taken the boys to several conventions and trade shows, in Nashville and other cities.  It’s just a fact of life for me.  I (generally) enjoy it myself, but I don’t think much about it. 

But when I tell other people what we did last weekend, they are all like “Wait, what?  You went to Detroit to go to an auto show? What a neat idea.”  I tell them it wasn’t my idea, it was Pearson’s, and no one can believe it.  I forget how unusual he is, and how outside the box he thinks.  For instance, here is his Christmas list (e-mailed, of course):

Subject: Christmaaaaas!
Razer Naga 2014 edition [this is a mouse or keyboard, can’t remember]
Razer Kraken Headset
Xbox One
A ride in a Lamborghini Gallarado or Aventador (no murcielago) or any performance/production car!
A ticket to Mineroma 2014 and The Detroit Auto show
And surprises!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


And of course he built (and has on several occasions fixed or upgraded) his own computer when he was 9. 

While we were in Detroit, Pearson spotted a technology Youtuber he watches (Lew from Unbox Therapy) at our hotel breakfast.  After confirming with me that I agreed that was who it was, he went up and talked to Lew.  They got a picture together and Lew asked for Pearson’s twitter handle (which of course he has), and gave him a shoutout on Twitter.  Pearson was soooo excited. 

Pearson is so 21st century, so plugged in and hungry for information, he’s invigorating (and tiring) to be around. 

Henry

Sweet Henry was a middle child before we had a younger child.  He can be passive, has low resiliency and struggles with depression.  Combined with his fine motor skill delays and other learning differences I don’t think we understand even today, this makes much of school really tough for him, despite his wit, great reading skills and ginormous vocabulary.  This year has been particularly tough, and especially this month. 

So lately, I’ve been really trying to spend some real time with him.  What we do is watch movies (usually science fiction).  Sometimes Winnie and Pearson watch with us, sometimes not. 

Last night, we didn’t really have a full 90-120 minutes for a movie, so I suggested a tv show.  We ultimately settled on Doctor Who, the British sci-fi classic in its 60th year, which I watched when I was a kid. It’s a go to for us both.  It focuses on time travel. 

He was flipping through the NetFlix options, and most of the ones from the last 7 years (the modern iteration of the show) he has seen. 

Finally he found one from a few years ago that he had seen before, but said he loved, and wanted me to see it.

In this episode, the Dr. and his companion Amy go back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh.

What a wonderful piece of television.  It focused on art, genius, different ways of looking at the world, depression, manic states, love, lost opportunities, self-doubt, loneliness, (off camera, a year after the episode takes place) Van Gogh’s suicide and there was also one (sad, lonely) monster.  It was beautifully filmed in Provence, or someplace that looked like Provence. 

Literally, the episode almost brought me to tears.  Afterward, we talked about how for some people (VVG in this episode) depression is physically painful and debilitating illness, but now we can treat it more effectively than we could in the 19th century.  We talked about how the manic episodes VVG had were just another side of his depression. We talked about art.  And we talked about how VVG’s suicide was such a tragedy, how people really did love him, and how he cost the world so much by taking his own life (one of the explicit themes of the episode). 

Henry is such an old soul.  I congratulated him on his fabulous taste, discerning eye and unique perspective.  I told him we loved him and were so proud of him. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pay it forward


Three and a half weeks.  

We have been home three and a half weeks and it feels like Winnie has been ours forever.  FOREVER.  She will be ours forever, but I cannot imagine her not being here before. What was that even like?  

We have learned so much about Winnie over the past few weeks, and she is learning about us too.  What we know is that she is our daughter and always has been.  She has biological parents and foster parents who have played enormous roles in her life and always will.  We will always remember the sacrifices they made and the gift of life they gave to our girl.  Because of crappy policies and complicated politics, we know that Winnie would not have been valued in China, but she is a treasure now and we hope to instill that into her little soul every single day.  

People we have never met all over the country have been touched by "what we have done."  They have donated to our adoption fund and sent Winnie and our family gifts like you would not believe.  People that I have never met "in real life"  have donated thousands of dollars to Winnie's fund.  Mamas on a Matilda Jane clothing group where we buy and sell adorable pieces of MJ clothing sent Winnie a box full of the most coveted Christmas Matilda Jane numbered vintage finds.  Another sweet online mama sent Winnie a handmade wonderful Waldorf doll with gorgeous pastel rainbow hair.  Nearly every day it seems that Winnie gets mail from a stranger/new friend.   This is not to mention the gifts and meals and love we have received from our local peeps.  (Thank you notes are on their way!)  We are speechless, numb, chilled and awed by your kindness and generosity.  We have never met most of these folks in real life, but they feel compelled to do something for Winnie and for us because our story has moved them.  We feel especially touched because we don't really consider ourselves to be a family "in need." We are just a family who found our daughter in an unconventional way. Winnie was destined to be with our family.  She just was.  We love Winnie as if she has always been here, and couldn't imagine growing our family in any other way. Once we saw her little photo, we were determined to go to China to bring her home. Period. She is simply our daughter. So the fact that you all feel moved by what we have done is really just the cherry on top of the gift that is Winnie. 

The best part is that I know that people who have followed our story will think about people with Down syndrome (and Autism like my oldest boy) in a different way now. I know that you all will give an extra smile to mamas like me when you see them at the grocery store or the ballpark. I know that you all will continue to pay it forward by helping those mamas in little ways whenever you can.  Just offer a smile and a hand when you see a mama struggling in the parking lot or check out line.  That is the beginning of a big change, and to me, that is really the coolest part. 

Chris and I want to thank every for their amazing kindness and generosity.  We will forever be touched and grateful for what all of you have done for Winnie and for our little family.  Bringing Winnie home was awesome enough, but this whole process continues to show us that there are a lot of really cool people in this world.  That in itself has been a gift.  

We'd like to use the opportunity to pay it forward.  There is a little girl who is still living in China, and she is a lot like Winnie.  Her name is Genevieve and she is 7 years old and has Down syndrome too.  Genevieve needs a family to call her own, and the lucky folks that get to be her mom and dad are going to be blown away.  I have seen her file and her photos and videos, and Genevieve is a rockstar.  She has a lively spirit like our Winnie and she will bring so much joy to her forever family.  Chris and I have committed to raise $1000 for Genevieve this Holiday Season to help her family find her and bring her home.  If you have been touched by Winnie's story, consider being a part of Genevieve's and make a tax deductible donation to her fund on Reece's Rainbow.  The link will be posted below.   Share this link on your Facebook wall and tell others about her.  She is a treasure and it breaks my heart to think of her spending another day living in an orphanage.  Please help us find her family.  
















Finally, I will leave you with some Winnie fabulosity.  She REALLY likes to sing and dance.  BTW (Genevieve does too!) Merry Christmas everyone. 

video

Friday, November 15, 2013

Home


We have been home one week, but Chris and I have been with Winnie for three weeks.  Getting to know her has been a joy and a pleasure.  I think that we were both scared and nervous travelling to China to meet the child we would welcome into our home and  into our hearts.  We thought it might take a while to learn to love her.  She’s already a person after all.  She is walking and talking.  She has a big personality with likes and dislikes.  She has more than needs…she has wants too.  She was abandoned and has lived at an orphanage and with a foster family.  Her care has been mostly good but inconsistent.  She has had a lot of trauma and grief in her little life.  The transition of adopting an older child can be very hard, and we were prepared for the worst.  Several of our friends (and even one of my doctors) assumed that our life was over, that we were bringing trauma and destruction and a child with RAD that would never be cured into our already complex family.  I am so happy to say that they were all wrong!  

Wiki Stix on the plane

Meeting family at the airport


Miss Winnie Sunshine is delightful, and both Chris and I felt love at first sight and we know now that Winnie loves us too.  She is a joy to parent, and she fits into our family as if she has been here all along.  I am so sad for the 5 years of her life that I have missed, but I know that those years (even though they were very difficult at times) have made her into the wonderful little being that she is today.  I can tell you that my whole family will treasure every moment we have with her.  She is a supernaturally special little girl, and I am not sure why we got chosen to win the kiddo lottery, but I’ll take it.  She is a rock star and we adore her. 

We have learned a lot about her over the last three weeks, and each day we continue to learn more.  What follows are the highlights, along with the photos that you really want to see. 

What we have learned about Winnie in 3 weeks time:

·      She’s a busy busy busy bee.  We had not planned to send Winnie to school until the Fall of 2014, but she will be starting a half day preschool in January and we know she will love the socialization.  I think it will certainly help prepare her for Kindergarten too. We decided this just two hours after meeting her.  She is certainly ready.

·      She LOVES fried rice, but she will also eat spaghetti, black bean and chicken tacos and Grab the Gold bars!

·      She likes to go places in the car…. especially the grocery store.  I can’t wait to take her to the Chinese market.   She thinks that it is a total riot that I can drive, and she likes her music cheesy and LOUD.

·      She sleeps like a champ.  She lets me rock her to sleep and then she sleeps all night long cozied up with her Nena made blankets and pillows in her own big girl bed.   Have I mentioned that the boys still sleep in our room?  Yeah, she sleeps in her own bed.  Wow.

·      She is the World’s Biggest Fan of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.  She knows how to cue it up in the iPad all by herself.   The rest of us are tortured by the theme song stuck in our heads all the time, but she loves it and so we endure. 

·      She gets her point across.  This morning first thing she came to me and said “Mama! GoGo (then made a chomping motion) GeGe (pointing at her feet.) The Chinglish sign language translation means that our dog Annie was walking around with Pearson’s shoe in her mouth.  And she totally was.  Winnie got that shoe and took it all the way across the house to put it in the cubbies where it belongs. J
 
·      She sill likes me better than Chris.  Duh. We are working on it though. 

·      She has seen a dentist and three specialists at Vandy.  She’s very healthy (YAY!!!,) but her teeth are rotten.  Like all of them.  New teeth via General anesthesia coming soon.

·      She’s seriously used to being bundled.  She likes Hello Kitty house shoes, gloves, a sweater, and a beret when lounging in the house.

·      Except she doesn’t really ever “lounge.”  She is either asleep or running at full force coloring, driving her car, playing with her dolls, working on sign language, playing with Pearson, bossing us and the animals around, cleaning up after us, eating, entertaining her visitors, working on puzzles, and “being a mischief” as her adoption file mentioned.

·      Speaking of her file, it also mentioned “Winnie scares dogs.”  She is very forceful and quite bossy, but I don’t think that most dogs would really find her to be scary.  We decided they must mean that Winnie was scared of dogs.  She WAS scared of dogs, because Annie our Golden Retirever came home from the Kennel three days after Winnie arrived, and after one blood-curdling scream, Winnie is now hugging Annie and kissing her on the lips. 

·      She likes to eat.  When she is hungry she will sign “eat” to me, get a spoon and go stand by the microwave.  It turns out that Trader Joe’s makes really great fried rice, wonton soup, chow mein, and lo mein…. I think I have mentioned before how much I love Trader Joe’s.  I love it even more now.  She also loves my nemesis: hard-boiled eggs.  (GAG)  Yes, we have chickens in our backyard, but I prefer my eggs cooked any other way but hard-boiled.  Chris is trying to win Winnie over by making these for her and it might just be working.  She LOVES them…and she peels them ALL BY HERSELF.  Hello amazing fine motor skills!

·      She brings out the best on all of us, especially her brothers.  They love her to bits and will get down on the floor with her to play legos and push her car and help her with the iPad.  They just grin from ear to ear when they see her and interact with her.  They are nurturing, and I am not sure I have ever seen this side of them before.  It is pretty awesome. 


Most of all, she is ours.  “Meant to be” like for real.  She is funny and joyful and bright and delicious and just down right delightful.  We are all so much better with her here, and just feel like she’s always been part of our family. 

The journey has been a long one, and it is not over by any stretch, but all in all we have done quite well and we truly couldn’t imagine a better scenario.  Don’t tell me how lucky SHE is to be with us…because it is SO TOTALLY the other way around.   WE are the LUCKY ONES.  And thankful.  SO Thankful.  Just in time for Thanksgiving too. 


Loungewear

Car!

Multitasking

Sweet baby

THE eggs

Sweet Henry

Winnie scares dogs?


Reading to her stuffed animals

Sweet Pearson 

Legos! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Homesick


This trip is hard. I have traveled the world and even lived abroad for a year, but this 2 week trip is hands-down the most difficult time I have ever had being away from home.  

So many things contribute to this hard-ness.  I miss my boys profoundly.  I have never been away from them for this long.  Chris and I go to the beach for 5 days at a time each year, and I am always so ready to be home with them by the 5th day.  Today marks the 10th day that we have been away and I cannot wait to see their stinky little faces and have one sided "conversations" with them about Minecraft, classic cars and cute puppies.  We do get to Skype with them each day, but Winnie really hates Skype and that makes it difficult at best.  I can totally understand why it freaks her out.  It freaks me out too.  It is both unbelievable and amazing that we are able to dial them up and see them and talk to them in real time every morning.  Winnie has never seen anything like us before….and seeing more big white people jabbering at her through the computer screen is incredibly unnerving for her.  Pair that with the fact that we have to Skype first thing in the morning, and she pretty much just hates it.  Besides, it's not that comforting for me either.  I love seeing them, but nothing is as good as the real thing.  Short of time travel, I am not sure what would sate my need to be with all of my children at the same time during these tough two weeks.  However, I am so glad that we decided to have the boys stay at home…. (go back to the first sentence of this post.) 

On another level though, this trip is so hard because it is about being homesick.  All of us….Me and Chris and Winnie.  We are all feeling homesick for the things that make us feel safe and comfortable and happy.  It is pretty easy for me and Chris to see and understand that we miss our kids and our house and our cars and our dog and our favorite foods and our tempurpedic and our routines.  But we can also see that our sweet girl is so homesick too.  I had planned to blog every single day on this trip, but the truth is that our girl has needed me in a way that I did not expect.  She has experienced so much loss in the last 10 days that I cannot even begin to fathom what homesick must feel like for her.  She has certainly had her ups and downs during the short time that we have known her.  At her core, Winnie is filed with so much happiness and joy that it spills over into everything that she does.  She is whip-smart in a way that I really did not expect.  (I didn't know what to expect really…I did not even know if she was able to communicate verbally.)  She is much more like a typical 5 year old girl than we ever dreamed, and her abilities mean that she is also able to truly understand and grieve her losses.  She has moments of quiet grief where we realize that she is silently sobbing and missing something that we never knew she had.  She will almost always silently cry herself to sleep after softly singing a song from her recent "past." We have tried to start to create new memories for her by singing a new song, but she doesn't understand and I also know that she needs to grieve.  I know this in my mind, but it breaks my heart to know she is hurting and missing those who loved her before we could.  I am grateful that she is attaching to me and she does let me hold and comfort her.  She trusts Chris, and she lets him carry her and bathe her and dress her.   But when it comes to feeling safe and secure, she needs to be able to see me at all times, and it is only me that can comfort her or be affectionate towards her.  

Homesickness is about missing our creature comforts, and so much of that is linked to food.  In Wuhan, we had such a hard time finding familiar food that we felt sick and hungry most of the time we were there.  Now that we are in Guangzhou, we are able to find things that better suit our Western palettes.  Tonight we even had decent Mexican food and margaritas.  We have noticed that Winnie is a picky eater, and we don't know if this is about what she likes or how she is feeling.  She will always eat two things : bananas and fried rice.  She will sometimes eat chicken.  Over the last two days we have noticed that she only wants to eat in the room…. or more specifically in the bed.  Winnie has thankfully always had enough to eat, and she will always offer bites and sips to us, but she does have some sensory issues about where she feels safe to eat.  I think that she has seen and done so many more different things in the past week than she has in her entire life, and she just prefers to eat in peace, and in the safety of a quiet hotel room with some Pleasant Goat on the iPad or TV.  I get it.  We all love some breakfast in bed… or breakfast lunch and dinner in her case.  

Here's the deal though.  For the next little while, Winnie gets to make her own rules.  We want her to know that she can trust us for all of her needs, and that we will deliver however she sees fit.  Nobody hates crumbs in the bed more than Chris Phillips (he's got some sensory issues too :)) but for this girl he knows he can deal with it.  We will feed her rice in bed and sing her to sleep and hold her for as long as she needs to cry, because we know that she is going to come through this and we are too.  Winnie is our daughter and we love her fiercely.  I know that bringing her home to Nashville is going to mean that she will continue to be homesick for a long time, but I have had a small taste of that on this trip and I plan to be there every step of the way for her.  If she needs to eat bananas and rice in bed for a while we can make that happen.  (We will just stock up on the Miralax at Costco.)  

We know that our girl is going to come through this and make it to the other side.  She is going to love life in Nashville, and I know Nashville is going to love her back.  We have gotten little tastes of Winnie's electric personality, and I cannot wait to see her meet her potential with lots of love, good nutrition, wonderful teachers and skilled doctors.  This child is such a valuable gift to us, and her life is worth so much more than all of the homesickness we could imagine.  I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for her.  We are so fortunate that we get to be a part of what happens next.  











Saturday, November 2, 2013

Where Dad guest blogs and shares Dad thoughts and Winnie pics (and boring Dad pics)


The world hungers for news of Winnie.  This is known.  In addition, many of you have wondered, does Chris exist?  Is he literate?  If not, could he perhaps hire someone in China to take dictation of his blog post so that all the burden of blogging does not fall upon Stephanie, whom Winnie does not let out of her sight?  




The answers to these questions is as follows: (i) yes, I exist (!), I'm nearly sure of it; (ii) I like to think I'm literate, but I'm intimidated by the quality of Stephanie's blogging and Winnie's cuteness (can I live up to these standards?); and (iii) in Guangzhou, I'm sure I could find some random person on the street to take English dictation, in Wuhan, er, prolly not.  

So, let's get going with some random Dad-style observations, and I'll sprinkle in the only thing y'all really care about, which is liberal Winnie pics and anecdotes.  



First, let me say, that 15.5 hours (Chicago to Hong Kong) is a heck of a long flight.  I did not envy the people connecting to Brisbane.  I watched an entire season of a TV show.  I watched a movie.  I finished one book and started Donna Tartt's superb (really) new one, The Goldfinch.  I slept some.  We'll see how all these things work out with Winnie.  Something to look forward to.

We stayed overnight in HK (super breakfast buffet - breakfast is apparently the thing in China).  We took a reasonable size plane from HK to Wuhan.  This involved getting on a bus totally packed to the gills with Chinese travelers (actually I think many of them were Americans returning home to visit, though that's just from looking at their passports and my later observations about how the citizens of Wuhan dress, which was more formal than these people).  One thing:  Chinese travelers seem to be wild about switching seats.  Once it became clear that the flight wasn't full, there was a very complicated reshuffling of people on the plane that went on for no less than 10 minutes.  Several people moved more than once.  Perhaps there was some sort of cool kids group that everyone wanted to be with that kept shifting.  I am not sure.  




From the beginning, Wuhan looked, uh, a bit bleak.  Soviet-style airport.  Unsmiling uniformed guards. Low, sooty sky.  No commercial presence in the airport at all.  

Our guide wasn't there (we laser learned that she lives in Hunan - the bridge was out(!) on the train tracks between there and Wuhan), but we were met by our driver.  Nice guy.  Never made out his name.  Spoke not a lick of English.  He drove a "JAC" van.  China appears to have the widest automobile variety in the world.  All the US, Euro, Japanese and Korean brands, many, many other (Chinese?) brands I've never seen.  We drove to Wuhan in silence (at least 45 minutes to the hotel).  

In addition to the building projects I expected, there are some huge landscaping projects in China.  This hedgerow went on for, say, 10 miles.  I take it there was some unscenic stuff behind the rows.  



Driving in Wuhan itself was hella stressful on me, and I wasn't actually driving.  Absolute cacophony of horns. Pedestrians darting about, scooters everywhere, cars stopped in the road, cars cutting across lanes. [Here are the rules for scooters in Wuhan (___________).]   I do like the timers on the lights.  



I ended up walking around in Wuhan a fair amount.  I learned to cross the street, at some ongoing peril.  I saw no Westerners anywhere on the street or in any store (saw several at a Western restaurant across town and two at our hotel).  That said, the residents of Wuhan did not react with interest to our presence (I was the largest human in Wuhan based on my observation - Stephanie was the tallest woman and the only blonde person).  No one met our gaze or took obvious note of us, prior to getting Winnie (or in my case, being on the streets without her - being without Winnie is not an option for Stephanie).





Once we got Winnie, we did get some more looks in the street and in the store.  Some of these were pleasant, some a bit sneery. I'll not speculate on why our presence with Winnie might make people unhappy, but she, like both of her wai pos (grandmothers) has the gift for meeting and talking to random people.  Anyone who will meet her gaze is a target for her nuclear-level cuteness.  We had a lovely afternoon at East Lake Park (best experience we had in Wuhan), and she made friends with two random old guys.  Winnie pushed the stroller the ENTIRE time (almost 2 hours), and at one point, one of these dudes jokingly suggested that Winnie should run into his friend with her stroller.  









Our hotel in Wuhan (Poly Hotel) was nice, as were the staff, but, as Stephanie has described in her stir-fry pizza post, we had continuing difficulty getting our point across.  We ended up taking some pictures of items on the breakfast buffet for later room service ordering, though (i) neither item, when it came, was the same as what was served at breakfast, and, (ii) in the case of the noodles, it was never the same thing twice.  




Winnie really liked the fried rice, which was pretty close to its US analog, except for some mystery ham-ish thing that was included only in the non-breakfast version.  In truth, I may never be able to eat fried rice again.  We really struggled with the food.  In the US, we don't go near MacDo.  Here, it was a welcome oasis, 5-6 hard trafficky blocks from our hotel.  They saw me coming and took out the picture menu.  It worked out.  Except it turns out that, irony of ironies, MacDonald's is what made me sick both times I ate there (figured it out the second time).  That's what I get, I guess, but honestly, the restaurant scene in Wuhan isn't super welcoming for shy Westerners.  I ate a lot of PB&J from Carrefour, the French department store a few blocks from our hotel.  Without them, I think I would have been very, very hungry (I'd say started, but I have some reserves).  

Anyhow, Wuhan was big, sprawling (it turns out to be three historical cities now clumped together into one).  When we asked our cab driver to go to Aloha Cafe or Grill or whatever, he freaked out.  It was a long way.  The cab fare was like $6 US.  Cabs and groceries are cheap in Wuhan, though hotel food not so much.  

The scale of construction is beyond anything I had ever seen.  30+ story buildings going up in identical clumps of 15.  At any given time, there were 20+ cranes in our field of vision.  It's a big city, Chicago-sized (which is good for about 10th largest in China), but both the density and the sprawl have no American analog.  





All of the adoption and orphanage officials we met were very pleasant and helpful.  We visited the "Civil Affairs Office" three times.  It was a nondescript building, with a nondescript interior (somewhat poorly lit), but with a children's play area and an inexplicable big screen TV and set of couches in the waiting area.  There are a lot of government offices in Wuhan, and some of them are really nice from the outside, but it definitely seemed to me that commerce was turning the wheels in Wuhan, not the state.  

While we were in Wuhan, it rained a few days and other days there was a pretty heavy haze, blurring into overcast.  The sun was vaguely visible through the clouds only on a couple of occasions.  People in Wuhan dressed pretty formally, completely Western.  Lots of blazers and wool.  It was 60-70 Farenheit while we were there.  I was the only person in a short-sleeved shirt.  Our guide was worried about me catching cold.  

So, if you can't tell, we were pretty glad to get out of Wuhan.  Much to our surprise, after a 90 minute drive (traffic), we pulled up to what must have been a completely different airport terminal (Stephanie was convinced it was a completely different airport).  Super nice and modern.  I've heard that China Southern is a government airline (And Dragonair, which we flew from Hong Kong, certainly is not), so maybe that's why they get the nice terminal gates.  Dunno, but it was already a relief not to go back to the Great Leap Forward Era terminal we had flown into.  




We were concerned that Winnie might have a problem with the plane (and I'm pretty sure she understands exactly what is going on, and that she is leaving everything she's ever known behind), but other than being super-hyper (no nap, sensory overload), pushing every button 100 times, making me open and shut the shade until we made her stop, she seemed to enjoy it.  On both our flight from HK to Wuhan and Wuhan to Guangzhou (each about 90 minutes), they served hot food, by the way.  Mama got up to go to the bathroom and Winnie freaked out a bit, but other than Winnie making friends with the rows in the front, back and side of ours, everything else was pretty uneventful.    

Our guide picked us up in his Cadillac sedan, playing American music (Winnie, we learned on the trip, is a big fan of Gangnam Style and Lady Gaga - she knows the Psi dance, and seems to have made up her own dance for the Gaga songs). Together with this level of Americanness, Guangzhou looks like, well, America. There's a certain Vegas element to our hotel and the surrounding area, but in general, people just seem much more laid back here.  There is very little horn honking.  It is warmer in GZ for sure, but there are a lot more T-shirts, jeans, young people.  Also, the actual sun shines here, which is a relief.  

We do not have a lot of appointments in GZ.  We had her medical exam this morning, and our consulate appointment is Tuesday.  Other than that, we are on our own.  At the medical exam, she did great, very professional (the staff there is really good), though she still acts like her arm has been permanently damaged by the blood draw.  Prior to that, no lie, staff from the clinic rushed to get their camera to take pictures of her for their brochure.  This will be in addition to the pictures of her that are plastered all over the orphanage.  We are so lucky to have this sweet, smart little girl.  She is just electric.