Sunday, September 30, 2007

At the cottage

We decided to take Alexia on her first trip to the cottage. Why wait we say? We go up North lots so she might as well get to know the place ASAP! She didn't mind her new surroundings too much. Alexia and Cara-Li sleep in the same room at the cottage and that was just great. Cara-Li insisted on going to bed at the same time as Alexia and tried to console her when she started to cry. In the mornings, Cara-Li would announce to us that Alexia was awake as she likes to just sit in her crib for a little bit before crying to get out.

Saturday was a beautiful day and we went for a walk around the lake. The leaves are changing colours and it always surprises me how much I enjoy this time of year. It is so quiet with very few people around and being surrounded by such beauty... it is truly a breath of fresh air!

Bye for now cottage but we'll be back soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

11 months old today

My little Alexia is 11 months old today. Happy Birthday sweetiepie! It is hard to believe that it has been already a month since we started our journey to China. Time flies when you are having fun! I better hurry up and start planning the 1st birthday party...

We are off to the cottage tomorrow for the weekend, Alexia's first. I do hope that she likes her room up there. Wait till she finds out she has to share with Cara-Li. Cara-Li is extremely excited to be sleeping in the same room as her as in town they have their own bedrooms. We'll see how that goes!

This past weekend, Cara-Li joined up with her soccer team for a final few games of the season. Most of her friends/team mates are off to other schools so she was very excited to see them again.

Alexia also got to meet her baby cousin Bianca who is 8 months old. They are basically the same size in every way. They were so cute together! My parents, brothers and sister-in-laws also got to spend some time with Alexia. They only got to see her upon our arrival for a little bit before we went into our cocoon for a week. We are now out and doing the rounds!

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's not easy!

I am jetlagged, tired, walking around aimlessly in a zombie-like state with emotions running on high. It is not easy being an adoptive mom. As I rock my little Alexia to sleep, I cannot help but think about what she has been doing all the time before she became part of our family. 10 months. Did someone rock her to sleep at night or answer to her cries? Did anyone love her like we do? I think about her biological mother and what she must have been thinking and feeling when she left her newborn daughter just outside the Civil Affairs office. Did she hide nearby and wait to make sure her baby was found? These thoughts are too difficult to think about at times. I thought I had a handle on these emotions after having had an extremely hard time after Cara-Li's arrival. I wish there was a way that I could tell her biological mother that her baby is fine, is very much loved and will be taken care of for the rest of her life. I wish I could tell her that she has a wonderful jiejie (big sister) that thinks she is the best. I wish I could thank her for this most wonderful gift she has given us despite it being the most difficult day of her life...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dream vs. Reality

I almost forgot that today is my 40th birthday! When I was asked a few years ago what I wanted for my 40th, my answer was a trip to Paris with my girlfriends. That's the DREAM. The REALITY is that I just got back from China with my darling husband and wonderful daughter #1 after having picked up yet another wonderful daughter to complete our family of four. The dream could not be any further than the reality, but you know what? I couldn't think of a better way to spend this momentous landmark year!

We're Back!

We've been back since Saturday night but let's just that jetlag has got the best of all of us! We don't know when to eat or sleep. The girls sleep whenever they're tired eventhough it might be daytime. We, the adults, are not sleeping at all. Food... we haven't really seen much of that either! Can't wait for this to be over. It is actually painful!

On our last day in Beijing, we went shopping just around the corner of the hotel. There is a wonderful street that the locals call the Champs Elysée of Beijing. And just down an alley from there, there is a little market that sells all sorts of Chinese merchandise. In this market, there is a food court and here they serve all sorts of stuff... I believe I mentionned this to you in an earlier post. This time I had a camera. Here are some photos. Yummy!
After this last bit of Beijing, it was time for us to check out and head off to the airport. All went well and just a short time later (13 hours to be exact!), we landed in Canada. Alexia became a landed immigrant in Toronto and then we were off to Montreal where we were greeted by family and friends. We were glad to be home!
Much of Sunday was spent in a daze. We did manage to get to our neighborhood park where they were having Harvest Day. We saw some of our neighbors and Cara-Li got to see her little friend, Ella, whom she missed so much!
Today was Cara-Li's first day at Kindergarten. It meant so much to her to be dropped off by her baby sister as she wanted everyone to see her. Too cute!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Our last day in China :(

Actually posted on Friday, September 14th at 11:30PM

It was our last complete day in China today and we are all very sad that this incredible trip is coming to an end. We are, however, happy to return to our home, to our country and to our families and friends. Three weeks is a long time to be away from home so far, far away!

We started our day with one last shopping spree at the Yashow Market. This place is crazy. There is much stuff under one roof. We still didn't get to visit every vendor. We did, however, buy 2 more suitcases to cart home all the stuff we managed to purchase in this wonderful country. It's a good thing that we were busy with the children, busy touring and completing documents. If we had more free time, we'd need a container to get everything home. It is all so cheap!

We returned back to the hotel to say goodbye to our group that left today. We managed to take pictures of every family as well as a photo of the babies. Aren't they cute?!? Seconds after the photo shoot which lasted a minute or so, they were all in tears!

Once they were gone, we had a quick lunch and then it was dodos for little Alexia and downtime for Cara-Li while we started packing. We are trying to keep each bag under the weight limits as they are now very strict about such things.

We had a very special dinner tonight as it was our last night in China but also because I will be turning 40 years old on Monday the 17th. Yep... the big 4-0! After the most fabulous dinner in the Chinese restaurant in the hotel, we went for tea at the Tea House. It is always such a lovely ceremony!

We will be arriving in Montreal via Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 15th at 9:15PM if anyone wants to come meet us. Well, actually to meet Alexia. You'll see... she is such a sweetheart and a charmer. You'll love her instantly! See you at home in a day or so.

Bye for now!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rained out

Actually posted on Thursday, September 13th at 10:55PM

We were supposed to go to visit the 'hutong' today in rickshaws. These are old villages in Beijing that are slowly being destroyed in order to build more highrises. Did you know that most of the cranes available in the world are here in China? There is construction everywhere and I'm talking major, major projects. Anyway, we didn't get to visit these villages as it raoned most of the day. As a last minute change, our guide took us to Yashow Market. It is an indoor 5 floor shopping mall that sells everything from traditional Chinese items to knock offs. Of course, time ran out before we could finish and we had to rush to catch the bus. That has become our famous parting words to any vendor we are trying to negociate with. We make it sound like we have no time and start walking away saying that our bus is leaving. This usually works and we get the price we want.

Our next stop was Peking Duck for lunch. Mmmm good! I have been waiting for this since our last trip to China. And the restaurant was just beautiful. Most restaurants that are fancier have many different private rooms for different number of people. The room we were in was just exquisite in its decor. A great way to enjoy a fabulous meal.

Once back at the hotel, daddy put Alexia down for a nap while Cara-Li watched a movie. Laure and I went for a walk in search of a tiny alley that leads to some sort of market. We found it and what an experience. The merchandise was the same but we found some sort of outdoor food court where people were eating all sorts of different kinds of meats on skewers. You had the usual fare... beef, chicken, fish. But upon closer inspection, they were starfish, seahorse, grasshoppers, larvae and live scorpions on skewers ready to be grilled. OMG!!! The scorpions were wriggling on the sticks. Yuck!

Funny story. Did you ever think you can have your Crocs shined by a shoe shiner trying to sell you the shoe shining cream? Yes, you can! Our Crocs are spotless and the fellow even took the time to go around all the little holes in the shoes. What a funny experience!

We had our final happy hour tonight as the group leaves for home tomorrow. We are staying one extra day. We are still trying to decide what to do with our day. I sense that shopping is at the top of our list. It is so much fun walking around the city, especially through the markets and dealing with the locals. Maybe we'll even try the scorpion shishkabob!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Girls

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Summer Palace

Actually posted on Wednesday, September 12th at 11:15PM

Today we visited the Summer Palace. This is where the Emperor spent his summers. It was his cottage! It is beautiful with its lush greenery and is located on a wonderful lake. We walked along lakeside until we reached the marble boat. This is a boat made of marble (does not float of course) that was used for summer parties overlooking the lake. It must have been extravagant! We took a dragonboat from this point back to the entrance where we were whisked away to a wonderful lunch once again. I don't understand how I lost 10 lbs. on our last trip here. The food is stupendous. I guess I am a lot less stressed having already had a child before. Nothing is a surprise anymore!

After lunch, we visited the House of Silk. Here, we were explained how silk is made starting from the silkworm to the final product. Very interesting! We were, once again, lead through the different sections of the store selling everything from silk blankets, dresses, shoes, purses etc. Everything was exquisite and it was very hard not to buy everything in sight!

After a short rest back at the hotel, we were off once again, this time a smaller group, to see the Chinese Acrobatics Show. We took the Beijing Subway to and from the theater. The show was fantastic and Cara-Li and Alexia had a blast! Everyone is now asleep as it was another extremely long day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Great Wall of China

Actually posted on Tuesday, September 11th at 10:45PM

Wow! What a day! We left fairly early this AM and our first stop was the pearl factory. Here they show you how a fresh water pearl is harvested and of course, you are lead through the massive gift shop. All necessary pearls were purchased hastily... thank goodness I had a list. I never would have made the bus otherwise!

Next stop, the Great Wall of China. Cara-Li has been talking about this for quite some time most especially since she has watched Mulan a thousand times. She kept asking us if the Huns were coming! It is amazing to see this wall that is app. 6000 km long and can be seen from space. We all thought that Cara-Li would have to be carried up (she sometimes doesn't know she has feet!) so I carried Alexia up in my baby sling. Now remember, it is extremely hot at high noon, the smog was incredible (so much so we couldn't really see all that much), the steps are extremely uneven and Alexia weighs 17 lbs. All was going well until we reached the point where certicates can be purchased (this is where I wanted to stop), I sat down to catch my breath and ooops.... I almost passed out. I really had to struggle to keep my wits about me. Baby was removed from my chest and water poured on my head and within 5 minutes, I was back. Problem now is we had to make our way down. Cara-Li did such a fabulous job climbing the wall... Mommy well, not so bad!
After this grueling climb, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant followed by a shopping spree in a cloisonnée factory. While mommy was shopping with auntie Loula, Cara-Li made sure that her little sister was getting her lunch. She really enjoys being mommy's little helper!
Remember how Cara-Li was missing her Barbies? Well, we had to go to the mall to get her a new Barbie to tide her over. This, of course, is exactly what I wanted to do after an 9-hour day and almost passing out at the Great Wall!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Doctor's visit & Tea House

Actually posted September 1oth at 11:30PM

Today was doctor visit day. All the children had to be measured, weighed and seen by an International doctor. Not much was learned except that Alexia is considered to be below average in weight. Puhlease! By whose standards?!? I think that she is chunky compared to Cara-Li who was super tiny. So much so their new nicknames are Dumpling (Alexia who is short and chubby) and Spring Roll (Cara-Li who is tall and slim). Gordie decided to stay back with Cara-Li as we knew this day would be long and boring. They had a daddy-daughter day and they had a blast! Auntie Loula came with me thank goodness as her help is most indispensable!

After the doctor visit, we went to a tea house where we took part in a tea ceremony complete with explanations and tastings. Of course, at the end of the demonstration, we were lead through their gift shop. You must go through the shop to find the exit... very much like Disney. One of my big purchases was made today... a complete tea set for my little Alexia. It is gorgeous and let me tell you... very, very expensive! You'd think tea would be cheap in China but quite the opposite, it's very costly.

Here's a funny story for the day. Since we have been in China, we have eaten mostly at Chinese restaurants. It may seem obvious to you all, but in these big hotels, there are many types of restaurants serving all sorts of foods. We have tried to order ''safe'' things such as chicken, beef or shrimp but there always seems to be some surprises such as chicken feet in the chicken dish and shrimp that have not be shelled at all and are intended to be eaten that way. So tonight Gord decided to ask the waitress if the shrimp were shelled. Well she looked at us like a deer caught in headlights. Their limited English does not allow them to converse freely. So Gord proceeded to ask her if the shrimp had eyes. She again looked stunned and answered, ''yes, they have two.'' We, of course, could not hold back our laughter! She points to another item on the menu and indicated that this had no 'eyes'. Once the dish was presented, we noticed that it was not shrimp but rather some sort of white fish. When Gord brought it to her attention that this was not shrimp, she responded, '' This not shrimp. Fish no eyes!'' In the end, it was most delicious!

PS: Cara-Li wants to go home... she misses her Barbies!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

We are in Beijing!

Actually posted Sunday, September 9th, 10:35PM

Hi again! Sorry we didn't post yesterday but it was a travel day. Our flight was actually at 5:50PM but the day started early with gathering things up and packing. Our flight was uneventful. Alexia was very good. I ended up sitting with Cara-Li and Alexia while Gord and Laure sat together enjoying themselves it seemed. I managed to keep everything under control but things got a little rough when the meals were served. Tending to a 5 year old while eating yourself with a 10 month old on your lap can be quite a feat. It's a wonder that all the trays didn't go flying! The Chinese fellow sitting next to us seemed to be unimpressed although he did show some interest in Cara-Li's drawings (she can draw!). Upon landing, we collected our baggage...

Oooops! How did Cara-Li get in there! Heehee! We checked into the Capital Hotel at around 10:00PM and everyone was cranky, hot and extremely tired. The girls fell asleep within seconds while Gordie and I unpacked and rearranged the room to our liking.

Today we had a late start with a departure of 10AM. We walked over to Tian'anmen Square which is about a 20 minute walk away (our hotel is in the heart of things). If you have never seen it, it is massive and there are hoards and hoards of people!
Good thing that our family was all dressed in our Canadian garb. We were easy to spot!
Once you go through the Palace Museum, you enter the Forbidden City. This was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties that was built in the early 1400's and is almost 1 km. in length. It is a long walk with a bunch of babies in toe and with the sun blazing down on you. But it was great none the less.

Once back at the hotel, our papers were verified to be sure we had everything for the embassy tomorrow. I am missing a document that I never received from the government, hopefully this will not be a big issue. I am not panicing yet!

We had dinner at a great Italian restaurant this evening on the 20th floor of our hotel and it had a great view of Beijing and the sites we had visited earlier today.
Alexia is such a great little girl. She eats, sleeps and is smiley all the time. She is quite the charmer and has everyone smiling when gives them the gummy, toothless smile. She is too cute! And Cara-Li... well, she is the best big sister. She tends to her, plays with her and gets her smiling, giggling and her favorite, clapping her hands. They are having a grand old time together. What a great thing this is!

Well... they are not particularily thrilled in this shot, but I promise, they are having lots of fun!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Nanchang Zoo

Actually posted Friday, September 7th at 10:45PM

We went to visit the Nanchang Zoo today in hopes of seeing the resident Giant Panda. Our guide found out that there is one in this zoo. We roamed and roamed until we came upon the panda pen and it was empty! Goodness... our guide shuffled around only to discover he was just around the corner being aired out.

You'd think he'd get up for us. Not a chance! Not today. What you're from Canada... that's too bad!

Here we are as we wait for the seal show to begin. The MC is babbling on and on about god knows what until finally the seal appears, does a 2 minute stint and shuffles off. MC babbles some more and according to our guide, she is saying that the seal is not cooperating and does not want to perform today. Disney World this is not! Too funny!

We had a fabulous lunch once again thanks to our guide and her dish ordering skills. Just when you thought you already had the cheapest meal possible the other night (just $15 for 4 people for dinner), we had an even cheaper meal today at $10 for 4 people! And you should have seen how fancy this restaurant was!

After nap time, the girls went for a swim at the hotel pool with baba while mama had a group meeting in preparation for the Canadian Embassy and discussed all the activities for next week in Beijing. Wow... it will be a action-packed week!

We ended our day with another fabulous dinner at a local restaurant. Here I thought I would lose weight in China like I did the last time (10 lbs.) but not with all this wonderful Chinese food flowing around me. I'd probably gain weight if I didn't have to eat quickly as Alexia is not a big fan of the high chair. It's not so easy to eat with a baby sitting on your lap and grabbing everything in sight.

I'd like to show you two sides of China.

Complete serentity and utter beauty

Complete chaos

These two worlds are right next to each other... but when you are in one, you'd never know the other one existed. I love China!

I leave you with a look at my two beauties during bathtime... I missed this due to the very long meeting :(