Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year, from our crib to yours!

EDIT by Kevin: I rejected some comments by accident! If you made a comment within the last few hours and you don't see it please repost if you would like. Daddy doesn't seem to know how to moderate properly. :)

P.S. Miss Hannah slept through the fireworks without stirring a bit. She had just had her 9PM bottle and was very sleepy. For people paying attention to the audio, you may note that I start counting down about 5 seconds too late... The "Live" TV broadcast that we were watching must have been delayed!


AIT was very apologetic

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This morning we got up, had a bottle and spit back most of the rice cereal made just with water (bad idea, Daddy), and videoed with the grandparents. "Ni Hao, Nana!"

Caution, poop story ahead. Don't worry, no photos of it!

Then Mama and Daddy took turns having breakfast while little girl snuggled and looked out the window at Taipei. Later in the morning she was really fussy. She had a bottle and that helped, but something just wasn't quite right. Mommy decided that it was about time Hannah pooped, as she didn't want to have to sand blast it out tomorrow. The pear juice in the morning and 2/3 a container of prunes yesterday just weren't cuttin' the mustard. While she screamed and cried big crocodile tears, Mama took care of the liquid glycerine suppository business. After about three minutes, a huge pile of clay like stinky tofu managed it's way out. Hannah turned back into a happy smiley baby about five minutes later. So, off with the Hello Kitty poopy clothes, hose her down, and she's a clean baby again. Ahhh. That's much better.

So, after the poop business we had to hurry up and get ready to take the taxi to AIT. Mama and Daddy took ALL of the copies of our documents, just in case. When we arrived, the man that interviewed us yesterday apologized to us several times for "dropping the ball." They found our packet on an employee's desk after we left yesterday. She left for vacation and didn't include it in our file. Oops. They understand that it was very stressful for me to have to leave, go to the hotel, and run back to take care of business. Wow, a government office that says they're sorry. Who woulda thunk it? Happy with the visa documents in hand, Daddy shed a few tears. So happy that we have everything we need so we can go home in a few days.

We went back to the hotel and played with the happy baby a little bit.

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One of the Hyatt managers told me yesterday that the Chinese say that a baby with a dimple is a sign that she will be very popular. I think she's already pretty popular! She's so loved!

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Then Daddy fed her some cod baby food that he purchased at the grocery store in the bottom of Taipei 101. Notice that you can see Taipei 101 out the window of this photo. Can we even buy COD BABY FOOD in the US? We smelled and tasted it... smells like tuna, but doesn't taste as strong. Fish was on a list of foods that came with Hannah, so we knew that it was okay for her to eat because she's had it before. Hannah didn't think so much of cod for lunch. That's okay, baby girl. Mama didn't think it smelled that great either.

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Daddy and Hannah are having their afternoon naps now. Mommy thinks she needs one too. Someone woke her up four times last night with little "I'm in a strange place" whimpers, and needed her back patted a few times to go back to sleep.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

AIT grumble grumble grumble...

This morning when we arrived at AIT for our visa interview, they had all of our documents ahead of time. We paid $50 to UPS AIT our I-864, DS-230, I-600, and last year's tax returns and W2s. When we arrived they asked me for our documents. I'm like... uh... you have those already. I UPSed them to you. The woman went through our file again and didn't see them. I even had the UPS tracking number and receipt to show them that they received them. I went through my big pink binder as I had backup copies of everything, or so I thought. I didn't make copies of the immigration forms, but I brought the tax records. I guess I didn't make copies because I knew they already had them. The woman left the window for about 10-15 minutes and came back with a supervisor. They could not find our mailing. Well, I had the files saved on my laptop back at the hotel. I left Kevin and Squirmy at AIT while I took a taxi by myself (Yes, by myself! I'm feeling like quite a city girl hailing my first cab. We don't have cabs in the cornfields where I come from.) back to the hotel, e-mailed the documents to AIT, and went to the business center at the hotel to print the documents out. I had a staffer help me save the documents on a USB thumb drive and then she could print them out for me. Well, wouldn't you know it... one of the PDF files wouldn't open on 3 of her computers, but it opened just fine on mine. After 20 minutes of trying to get this to work over and over, we decided to try another computer lab. We went to the one on the first floor and were able to open the file and print no problem. I was so stressed at this point! ACK!!!!!!! Anyway, I now had all of my documents, grabbed a cab back to AIT, went through security, checked my laptop at the door (can't bring it in... I might be a terrorist after all), walked back up to the third floor, and they saw me right away and motioned for us to come over. The supervisor got my e-mail, had printed everything out, had us resign all of our documents, and then we waited for our appointment. All were were asked was what we did for a living (uh, it's in the paperwork, dude) and how our daughter is doing. We had fun unzipping her jacket to show of her white tank top with red sparkling letters that says, "I love the USA." Aw... that got a chuckle out of the guy. He said that this is the best part of our job. AND... we're getting an IR-3, so Miss Hannah will become a US citizen when we land in Detroit. YAY! Anyway... lesson learned. Don't trust government offices. Even if you gave them everything they need, something will get screwed up and you'll need to provide it to them again while standing on one leg, rubbing you belly, and patting your head.

Hannah Claire photo extravaganza

I know... I know... I've been slow to post photos. Been busy figuring out how to change a diaper with Miss Squirmy, how to give a baby a bath (she loved playing in the ducky tub and splashing with some stacking cups), how to make a bottle REALLY fast when she's screaming a the top of her lungs today, and freaking out thinking I broke her when she has the hiccups from crying.

I learned a valuable lesson today. When air drying your baby's bottom after a really wet diaper, don't leave her on a hotel bed. I had Miss Hannah laying on her changing mat while sleeping and letting things air dry for a few minutes, when all of a sudden there was a huge fountain spurting into the air. It went all over her, down the changing mat, onto the nice swanky (our new favorite word from KB) Hyatt linens, and even soaked into the feather top mattress pad before Mommy could soak everything up with a towel. Mommy was all by herself and so upset, and Daddy returned shortly (thank, GOD!) helped the embarrassed Mommy call housekeeping to come save the day. I think the Hyatt will be ready for the dumb Hoosiers with a baby to go home in a few days.

Okay, okay, on to the photos!

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Meeting our friend Amanda back at the hotel before leaving Tainan.

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Aw... so sweet!

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All prettied up for the train ride back to Taipei.

Thank you to the Flecks for the sweet comfortable outfit!

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Mmmmm. I love keys. Can I borrow the car, Daddy?

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When I want a bottle, I want it now.

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Mmmmm. I love my bottles.

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Daddy's ready to tell Hannah all about Taipei.

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"Look there, Hannah. Taipei 101 is the largest building in the world... for now."

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Hannah thinks the lights look pretty cool out her window.

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"And they brought me to this nice hotel with such fresh sheets. I'd love to pee on these. I think I'll save that trick for Mommy tomorrow when Daddy's gone doing laundry. That will really freak her out."

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"Yes, the camera loves me."

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"Do you guys happen to have any rice crackers around here?"

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"What? The baby nursery sent some Hello Kitty rice crackers with you? Sweet! Let's break them out."

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Meet Miss Hannah

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.---1 Samuel 1:27

Kevin and I couldn't be happier. We had a wonderful day today, and we're parents to a happy, smiley, outgoing, snuggly, and inquisitive baby we could ever had imagined. We're still a little clumsy at the bottle making and diaper changing, but she's sucking down our bottles like a champ and hasn't cried one tear. She was very curious on the train, wanting to look at everyone, looking at her reflection in the window, pressing buttons, REALLY wanting to get a hold of anything that's metal and shiny or that makes a crinkling sound. She babbles, can pull herself to a stand, and crawls like a champ on carpet. She REALLY likes Daddy's silly faces and when Mama kisses her toes and blows raspberries on her belly. We keep waiting for some "stinky tofu" to appear in the diaper, but that hasn't happened yet. The nursery says that she doesn't have a history of constipation, but I'll feel much better once I start seeing some evidence.

We're back at the Grand Hyatt now. We can see all of Taipei 101 from our room when we turn our head sideways, and it's going to be just fine to watch some awesome fireworks on New Year's Eve.

We videoed with both sets of our parents tonight, and there were lots of happy tears on the other side of the computer monitor.

Oh, and she really likes these keys. She's been playing with them all afternoon, chewing on them, and drooling a little bit. We're been listening to a lot of "dadada mamama uhuhuhuhuh ahahahaha." I'm looking in my travel book for a Mandarin translation... but can't seem to find it. (hahaha)

Enjoy a few pics... more later. Every moment with Hannah is precious right now, and we're got to get ourselves organized here in the hotel. We are to be at AIT for our visa appointment early tomorrow morning.









Sunday, December 28, 2008

THE DAY - Psalms 118:24

This is THE DAY that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalms 118:24

Oooh boy. I'm switching back and forth between periods of extreme nervousness and then for awhile it feels so surreal. This is it? Am I dreaming? We were so tired after days of travel (saw lots of bananas, pineapple, betelnut growing yesterday! ) that we slept well after packing last night. I think Kevin literally fell asleep about two minutes after his head hit the pillow. I most likely only took five minutes. I woke up about 6am this morning and instantly knew this was THE DAY... and that there was NO way I would be falling back asleep.

I felt like a really bad mommy last night because I didn't bring a blanket with me for her to Tainan. She has a coat, and we have my coat so she'll be plenty warm... no worries there, but I should have brought a blanket. There are two in our suitcase storied in Taipei. No time to run out to Carrefour on a taxi for one. I know we'll be okay... I just feel a little inadequate, but know that's normal right now. I couldn't find Snow formula at Carrefour either. Hummm. If you bought Snow formula on an adoption trip in Taipei recently, let me know where you bought yours as a comment on this post. Grandmas, no worries... the nursery will give us some formula. I just want to buy more so we can transition her to a new formula more slowly once we're at home. Oh yeah, I've never mixed formula for a bottle before, either. This will be interesting!

Prayer request: Prayers for Hannah Claire that she won't be really frightened of us today. Prayers for me that I won't be a crying emotional mess. Kevin? He's my rock. I know he'll be just fine.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

quick note

It is Sunday morning... only one more sleep until THE day, the day that we've prayed for for so long!

Running around Tainan yesterday might just be one of the most interesting and fun days I've had in my life. We are so thankful for Amanda and Lawrence to show us around Tainan, as these experiences are an experience of a lifetime, ones which we will always have to share with our daughter. We explored temples, Banyan tree house, shopping on "old street," eating lot of "little eats" including stinky tofu... which smells like old sweaty gym socks but doesn't taste that bad at all. We uploaded our photos into our flickr account, but no time to work with them and organize them for a post. When you've had a go-go-go day... sleep and showers are valuable back at the hotel, so no time to blog.

We did talk to our families on the phone last night... and I think we woke up our friend Amy, Sedona's babydog sitter. Sedona's doing great, has had an exciting week with so many little kids' laps to sit on! I think she'll come home to us and think we're boring, wanting to go back to the house with all of the fun kids to play with.

Here's the link to our flickr account if you want to peek at photos: I can see that we're getting lots of hits, and from the town names on the hits I know that we're blessed to have so many of our friends, real life and adoptive families, following along.

Gotta get showered and get some breakfast here at the hotel before heading out on today's adventure. Bye!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Video: Riding the MRT

This video is a little long, but we wanted to show others that don't have lots of experience with mass transit how easy and NICE it is to ride the MRT subway system in Taipei. Everything is in Mandarin and English. Just look at the map, follow the signs, and you'll get to where you need to go quickly, easily, and very inexpensively.

Video: Din Tai Fung Dumplings

Here's a little video from our dumpling quest on Monday night. Enjoy!

Day 5: High Speed Rail trip to Tainan and meeting Amanda

This morning we slept in after our night market adventure that kept us out past midnight last night. It took a long time to organize our belongings and decide what stays in storage and what needs to go with us on the high speed train to Tainan. We took a taxi to the main train station, as it would be a pain to walk to the subway line with all our luggage. We had already purchased HSR tickets yesterday and went ahead to our gate to make sure that we could find it alright. They wouldn't let us into the gate area because we were too early. Only those with trains leaving in the next 30 minutes could enter the gated area. I found a spot to sit with all of our stuff while Kevin went up to level two and found us some lunch. He chose Burger King, as it's kinda hard for us to eat noodles with chop sticks and a spoon when we need to hurry up and get on a train. When entering the gated area, you put your ticket through a ticket reader, a lot like the ones at Walt Disney World. When the called for bording, we easily found car 4 and our reserved seats. One could purchase snacks and drinks on the HSR, and an attendant came by several times to collect our trash. Taking the train is so easy and you don't hare to worry about getting through security. I'd take a train like this instead of an airplane anyday! Kevin had his Garmin GPS out, and learned that we were travelings at speeds up to 180 miles per hour. Zoom! Once we arrived at the Tainan HSR station we followed the signs to the Taxi cab station. I handed a taxi card (piece of paper with the name and address of the hotel written in Mandarin Chinese that I had the front tesk staff made at our last stop) and we were on our way. I figure that it took 15-20 minutes to get to our hotel, the Tayih Landis.

We met up tonight Amanda, with a blogger that lives in Tainan. I'll post more later this weekend about that. When we were out and about tonight we went to Carrefour, which is some kind of a blend between Target and Wal-Mart. I really liked the sign in the first photo here, and took some photos with Kevin. We bought diapers, books in Mandarin and English for young children, and some snacks including our first taste of Taiwanese pineapple Yum!

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Man... I wish we had some "stop crying toys" back at home in the US! (joke)

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Here's Kevin with his prized Keyboard that has characters on it. He's been pumped about getting one of these for several weeks.

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Ahhh... here's a stop crying toy, for real.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 4: Handicraft Mart and Shinlin Night Market

We spent Christmas morning relaxing and videoing via Microsoft Instant Messenger with our families. I took another bubble bath in the huge tub in our beautiful bathroom that has lots of marble. My feet were so dirty from all of the walking around on the tour in my clogs with no socks. My ankles were gray from all of it. Ew! Kevin went out and found some breakfast for us while I uploaded photos to our Flickr site and came back with “egg burger” (aka Egg McMuffin) meals with OJ from McDonalds at Taipei 101. Surprisingly, the McDonalds there wasn’t expensive at all. We figured that our meals totaled about $4.50 for both of us. We organized our belongings, had some snacks in the room, and set out for the day’s adventure.

Our goal for the day was to do some shopping at the Taiwan Handicraft Market. We walked several blocks to our MRT subway station, Taipei City Hall Station. We took the blue line to the main station, and then the red line to the National Taiwan University Hospital station. It was only about a two block walk to the Taiwan Handicraft Market and was very easy to get to. The Taiwan Handicraft Market is a store that has four floors of shopping. Rule of thumb would be to start in the basement and work your way up, as it gets more expensive as you go up. They do have shopping baskets, but the women working on each floor will want to hold your items for you until you are ready to pay. They don’t want you walking up and down and transporting merchandise from floor to floor. In the basement I found several cute things to share with our daughter as she grows older. I found a wooden puzzle of Taiwan on the left side when you go down the stairs. It looks like the pieces to the puzzle are the counties of Taiwan. It looks a lot like the state map puzzles that you can find here in the US. We also found marionettes of Chinese New Year dragons that were only about $15 and they’re pretty cute. There were several little things down here that one could turn into Christmas tree decorations. On the first floor, right when you come in to the left, there is a jewelry counter. To the back of the jewelry counter there is a section for having a chop made. There are several stones to choose from. We brought with us our daughter’s characters, and are having a chop made for her out of jade. You also choose font style for the stamp, and remember to buy some red ink for your chop stamp as well. The ladies working had great English skills, and were very happy to help us shop for the chop. They were a little confused why we wanted this name for the chop. They showed us a photo on a mug with a woman in Taiwanese history that has a very similar name. We explained that the shop was for someone else, a baby, and I guess that made sense to them now and we weren’t questioned any more about the name on our chop. It takes a few days to have the chop made, and they will have it delivered to your hotel. I’m really glad that my friend KB tipped us off to going early in our trip to have the chop made, so there would be plenty of time to have it completed before we head home. We did the bulk of our Christmas shopping here. There’s lots of jewelry to choose from in jade and Taiwanese coral, a great selection of tea sets, and artwork as well. Once again, this is a great place to shop BEFORE you meet your child. I wouldn’t want to be shopping for tea sets with a baby strapped to me or with a toddler that wants to run around and touch things. One of our favorite items was in the postcard area. There are postcards that open up like pop-up books on a spinner rack that are really cute.

With heavy bags in our hands, we walked to the Taipei main station as it wasn’t much further than the stop we originally got off on. We were in search of some good eats at the Breeze Food Court. The food court is on the second floor of the train station and is in a circle shape. It really reminds me of a food court in the mall back home in the US. I found a place to sit with our shopping bags while Kevin went in search of some good eats. He placed his order, and then they have an electronic sign board that calls out your number to let you know that your food is ready. He returned back with meals, both containing a kind of soup with noodles, beef, and a large vegetable, a side dish, and some kind of strange sweet juice. I didn’t care for the flavor of the soup with the huge chunks of beef, so Kevin let me trade him for the soup he had with the meat balls. It wasn’t expensive, maybe the equivalent of $10 US for the both of us to eat. We were sitting near an ice cream shop, and picked out some ice cream for dessert. Kevin picked out a scoop of green apple and a second scoop of Rum Raisin. Mmmm. After dinner we walked around the food court to see what else we could find. Lots of coffee places for sure. When I saw a Mr. Donut, I told Kevin that we just had to have some, as Sherry said that they were really good. I picked out four doughnuts to bring back to the hotel room for us. We enjoyed them later while organizing photos and working on blog posts, and called them our Christmas cakes. We really liked the chocolate darker doughnut filled with strawberry fluff. Mmmmm.

While we were at the train station, we bought our tickets to take the high speed train from Taipei to Tainan tomorrow. The ticket machines are very easy to use and clearly marked in English. We had a problem with one machine because it wouldn’t take our credit card. We went to another machine and it took cash just fine. I’m really surprised how inexpensive the high speed train is. Our tickets were $1145 NTD, which is about $37 US. This would be a really really really long way by car. Our drive from Taipei to TaiChung was about four hours on the highway, and I’m sure that a car ride to Tainan would take an hour or two more. The high speed train will get us to Tainan in one hour and forty five minutes. Amazing!

After taking our shopping bags back to the hotel room, we rested, called family members to wish them Merry Christmas, and then headed out in search of a night market. We decided to go to the Shilin Night Market instead of Snake Alley because it was closer to a subway station and our feet were pretty tired.

I’m sorry to say that going to this night market wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be. I think we were there at a really busy time, between 10pm until 11:30pm, and maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. It was crowded and hard to walk town the little streets with vendors having goods in the middle of the street. We didn’t take a copy of the Google Map of the market that we had online, and I wished we had that with us. I think we spent most of our time walking in the “fashion” area with lots of clothes, accessories, and shoes for sale. As it is winter time… there were lots scarves and little thin sweaters for sale. I had really hoped to find some things for Hannah here, but I didn’t find anything I wanted for her. I was looking for decorative traditional clothing and didn’t find much… and I liked things I found online and in Chicago’s Chinatown much better. There was much more and much cuter clothing for little dogs than for small children. The signs for the food vendors weren’t in English, so it was hard to figure out what the foods were. I had hoped to hop in a long time, assuming that the vendors with the longer lines had better food. Unfortunately, most food vendors didn’t have any line at all, so I couldn’t tell if what they had was good or not from the line. We did find a bit of a line at a place that has everything on a stick. You choose what you want, put it in a little basket, and then they cook it for you. The cooks were backed up, so we might have waited 20 minutes for our snack to cook. I chose four items: mushrooms, corn on the cob, green onions wrapped in bacon, and tofu. A woman at the next stall spoke English and helped us translate whether we’d like sesame seeds on the food, and how hot we’d like it. They fried the items, put a barbeque like sauce on them, and sprinkled them with the sesame seeds. I liked everything except the tofu was so-so. The bacon wrapped green onions were my favorite. The four items only cost us about $1.25 US. We also found some candied strawberries on a stick that were a lot like a candy apple that we’d find at a fair back home. I also bought a drink that was a lot like a lemon shake up, but made from cranberries instead. I think we might have smelled stinky tofu. There was a horrible smell coming from one of the vendor’s carts. It was pretty bad, for sure. I peeked at the cart but didn’t recognize it, so we didn’t stop. I couldn’t force myself to buy food when we had no idea what it was just because it smelled the worst.

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This is one of my favorite photos. Seems like about a third of the people on the street wear face masks because of pollution. If I rode around on a moped all day long sniffing exhaust, I might want to wear one too. Miss Hannah already has a smog mask, thanks to Judy and her mom. Hannah's is yellow with a little bunny on it.

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Once we arrived back at the hotel, it was after midnight. We were so tired from all the walking, and hit the sack right away. It’s Friday morning now. I’m writing this post while Kevin gets in a little more of his beauty sleep. We need to organize our things today to decide what goes to Tainan with us and what stays. We don’t need to bring too many baby items with us, as we’re be taking the train back to Taipei Monday after we pick up Hannah.

Wow… hard to believe that in just three days we’ll be leaving out hotel in Tainan, leaving to go meet our daughter. Can we just fast forward to that part???