Observations on bathrooms

Okay, I just have to do this post as this has been on my mind.  You see, I have been trying to get things away that we brought home from China.  One of the things that we had bought were a pair of split pants.  Elspeth would have been wearing split pants in her orphange.  If you have never seen split pants you can look at the photo below.  Basically, when a kid needs to go they crouch and go.  When we were in Nanchang you would often see kids go right there on the street.  Their parent or caregiver would stop, wait for them to finish and then clean it up.  In Beijing, you would see parents holding their child over the garbage can so that they could do there business.  Now if you have ever potty trained a child you know how frustrating it can be when they have to go and you don’t know where the toilets are.  From toilet training Katrine I learned where the bathrooms were in grocery stores, drugstores, heck even the teacher’s store.  If you have a boy you can walk them to a bush and it is socially acceptable, well tolerated, for them to pee and then go back to playing.  Maybe all of us who have to toilet train girls have something to learn from these pants.

Imagine a little bare bum hanging out of the opening.























Anyways, then I got to thinking about all of the different types of bathrooms and signage that we’ve seen.  Totally not Canadian.  Once you get the hang of squats they are not too bad…if you pretend that any liquid on the ground is simply water from the floor being washed.  I think our most interesting visit to a squat on this trip was when the ducks who were eating beside the path to the squat tried to follow us inside.  Have you ever tried to shoo away a duck while needing to pee at the same time?  I hadn’t until this trip.  I also particularly liked the small pot the hotel gave us when we asked for a potty (just in case). Now granted, the hotel actually had a potty where here it is definetely BYOP. But really, can you imagine trying to sit or even squat over that thing…especially when you are Elspeth’s size?

I love that it is rated. What would you rate some of the public toilets near you?
Loved the splash guard on this version.

This is more hygenic...the lack of toilet paper in the stalls, less so.











And August draws to a close

Okay, I know that you are all really reading this to find out what is up with the kids but I need to start by saying “I’m not going back to school!!”  Okay, I love to teach and see kids master new skills but this year I get to do just that here at home.  Katrine is getting excitted about going back and seeing her friends again which is good.

What have we been up to?  Well, I will let the photos speak for themselves.  If you look carefully, you will catch a glimpse of that rare creature – the Elspeth smile!


Home a Week

Tonight marks the end of our first week home…its been a long week but productive week.

We were greeted at the airport by some of our China family and it was a really nice way to ease back into reality.  Katrine was thrilled to have a chance to run around and blow off steam with her “sisters”.  The fact that cupcakes were brought in addition to friends made it that much more special.  Then it was time to introduce Elspeth to a Canadian automotive tradition: the car seat.  She was not impressed.  A five point harness is quite different than complete freedom in chinese taxis.  Good thing was that she didn’t last long before falling asleep.  When she woke up it was to her new home and some family waiting on the doorstep.  Introductions were given as she clung to Glenn’s shirt.  Eventually she was coaxed off and began to explore what we are affectionately refering to as Toyapalooza.  She was particularly enamored with the kitchen.  Guests shown to the door, a warm bottle and all four of us were in bed.(well, Glenn and I ordered some late night pizza first.  I mean, keeping the McD’s french fry industry in business leaves one decidely hungry after three weeks)

The next day we got both Elspeth’s SIN and Health Card in her proper Canadian name.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that her permanent resident card also comes that way so that there will be no issues with her citizenship.  We have also gone to visit the doctor, got her parasite tests and TB tests done and I have applied for EI.  Oh and did I mention that poor Glenn woke up the day after we landed with a horrible head cold?  It hit him really hard. Katrine and I have just been battling jet lag while Elspeth is adjusting.  Amongst all of the jobs that have had to get done we have had some fun.  Katrine went to skating classes with daddy twice this week so that she would have a little something that was just for her.  We also introduced Elspeth to the joys of our local parks and splash pads.  As you can see from the photos, she is still adjusting.  She had more fun splashing in one of the puddles left from a rain shower than in the puddles at the splash pad!

She is also adjusting to our house, routine and food.  She is starting to smile more readily as the week has gone on.  She is also starting to be less clingy to me.  Yes, that’s right.  The girl who clung to her Baba for dear life in China, became a Mama’s girl upon arriving in Canada.  So much so that she would want me to hold her while trying to cook and if I put her down or into her booster would throw a fit.  Now though she is seeking out Baba more again which shows that she is beginning to claim her new environment as her own.  She is also making progress in terms of the number of foods she will eat.  Breakfast is by far her most favourite meal.  She will eat a whole clementine, small glass of milk, a scrambled egg and then bowl of oatmeal in one sitting.  Then when I sit down to eat will make little bird noises to indicate her indignation that I am eating and not feeding her.  Of course, she won’t eat my GF toast and bacon but she insists that I offer it to her.  We still have a long road until she is at a more reasonable weight for her age, until she can use speak to indicate what she wants, until she truly feels safe and secure and a part of our family but we are off to a good start.


And we are done!

The fourth, and last, of the missing blog updates from when our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 18th

The title says it all. Originally we had thought to tire the kids out by visiting the zoo tomorrow. Nope, we will be sleeping in and then taking a taxi to Tiannamen Square before walking back here. Today was fun but high UV and HOT. Katrine told us in no uncertain terms that she wants to go home. China is awesome but she wants to go home. The heat sent Elspeth into a fit this morning and she has begun trying to exert her independence around feeding herself. Tantrums are just easier when you are not dealing with them on buses, tourist attractions and hotel lobbies. I think that if Katrine had been an easy baby dealing with Elspeth’s rants would be emotionally exhausting. Now you just wait them out and remind her not to head butt or scratch. When we visited the orphanage they bragged about how independent she was. Great in a regular two year old but we have to regress her so that she learns that she can depend on us for the necessities as a baby does from birth. Unfortunately tonight’s tantrum resulted in her refusing to eat much for dinner because she was not allowed to just feed herself. The plus side is that she is now comfortable enough with us that she can just let it go. Down side, a 13 hour flight tomorrow.

Now onto the good part of the day. This morning we visited the Temple of Heaven. Once again the grounds were beautiful. Spent a lot of time wanting to just let Elspeth lose on the lush green lawns but they are lush and green for a reason…no one is allow on them. We got to watch a variety of groups of senior citizens engaged in morning exercises (once you reach 60 you get free entrance to the grounds and there really are no other gathering places). We saw grandparents teaching their grandsons how to play mahjong, various taichi and dancing groups. One guy just made me laugh, he was standing off to the side of a dance group very elegantly doing the movements with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Doesn’t the smoke negate the benefits of the exercise?

The Temple itself was gorgeous. Just like in the photos we’d seen. At the same time much more extensive. You see, the emperors never did anything small. Summer Palace – grand. Forbidden City – grand. Temple of Heaven – surprise…grand. Also laid out in a symbolic manner. First the Temple of Earth, followed by the area for ancestor worship, then where the emperor got changed into the clothes of a regular guy because one does not approach heaven with lofty duds on and then the actual Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was certainly the prettiest portion but the circular lay-out of the Temple of Earth was more visually pleasing to me.

After a much needed rest we went to visit the cathedral on Wangfujing. It was rebuild in 1980 and is quite pretty. It is one of the few state sanctioned Catholic churches in Beijing. Then it was back to the hotel to rest, swim and pack (oh ya, and to have the “you can’t make me eat” tantrum).

The Forbidden City (紫禁城)

This is the third missing post from when our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 17th

Well this morning dawned with our big miss feeling much better. Plus they were serving chicken congee so little miss and myself got to eat some really delicious congee this morning. Yesterday they switched to preserved pork and egg congee. Little miss spit out every piece of egg and pork. In other words, she ate watery rice. Very nutritious for someone who is under weight.

After breakfast we walked as a group over to the Forbidden City. On the way, we passed the building where they actually matched us with our babies. That was pretty cool. I mean, it is really just a plain building to look at from the outside but the inside happenings are what is special.

The Forbidden City was a lot warmer this go round but also a lot more crowded. Elspeth seemed to be fascinated with the buildings. She spent much of the visit pointing here and there making a vocalization which we have come to interprete as “What’s that?”. Katrine was also fascinated. You can tell because she spent the visit taking photos, reading signs and actually looking at things. I know, she wasn’t constantly in motion?? Yep, she looked and learned. I think that Glenn and I enjoyed seeing the Imperial Gardens the most. They were barren in February but now were a wash with green. I think that the most dynamic aspects of the garden were still the rock formations arranged at various spots around the garden.

We headed out after nap time for some shopping therapy. Didn’t buy much though. We did find a few more really cute statues on the side streets. My favourite was of a group of kids playing around with grown-up shoes. If you look closely, you can see that one little fellow is wearing split pants.

This evening our group gathered in the lobby before heading out for tea tasting and the Olympic Village. I was surprised by how interested in the tea tasting Katrine was. She and the other older sister in our group did a great job of watching what the girls were doing as they made each type of tea. Plus, both girls tasted each tea sample. They were however, even more excited to walk around the gift shop after the tasting critiquing which tea sets were the prettiest. As with last time, we ended up buying tea, a new tea set (it has dragons that change colour when hot liquids are poured in) and a peeing boy. We got two boxes of our favourite pu-er type of tea, a nice jasmine tea with a beautiful fragrance, a litchi tea that I can’t wait to try and make into iced tea and then a fruit tea which actually has bits of dried fruit floating in it. I can see that one getting good use for Katrine’s tea parties. Now for the peeing boy. He is really just a little boy made out of clay with a strategically placed hole. When cold water is poured over him – nothing. BUT, if the water is hot enough to make good tea watch out because the boy has a good trajectory. Katrine can attest to that because when the girls demonstrated the boy she got hit in the face.

After we left the tea shop we drove to the Olympic Village. We had driven by it a few times this week during the day and the stadiums are impressive to look at then. Quite grand, doing justice to the fact that they were host to the best athletes in the world for that year. At night though, they are lit up and truly come into their own. The bird’s nest is lit with red and yellow. The lights highlight the crisscross of beams supporting the structure. The water cube however steals the show. During the day the walls look like they are made of silvery pebbles. At night, you can see each blue bubble. The lights really highlight the texture of the walls. Gorgeous. I was also really excited to be able to buy a mug with all of the Fuwas on it. I think that they are among the cutest mascots ever. I use to have a sweatshirt with them all on it, which I adored and in true Heather fashion managed to destroy in a kitchen accident.
We are having a nice time here and finding time each day to work on building our family. We are figuring out how to give Katrine one on one time through both little and larger things. She is getting more use to the fact that she now shares us with another kidlet. Elspeth is accepting me and trusting me more although Glenn is still her centre of security. She is also learning that we do not give in to temper tantrums. Figure that there will be even more of them to come. We are by no means at the end of our learning curve but at least we are moving along as opposed to standing still.

The Summer Palace (颐和园) and Puke!

The second missing blog post from when our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 16th

You don’t usually hear those two in the same sentence but that sums up the day. Katrine woke up this morning saying that her tummy hurt and she didn’t want to eat breakfast. We didn’t push the issue but she wanted to see the Summer Palace as long as she could sit with Baba on the bus. No problem, Elspeth is liking me more so she rode with me. Poor Glenn. About half way there, puke. Get that cleaned up and off the bus. She is saying that she is feeling better and there are really no taxis there. Okay, in we go. Lily takes the other families to look at the residence, marble boat and then to take a dragon boat ride across Kunming Lake. We walk the gardens beside the lake slowly.

Katrine is not her usual bubbly, energetic self but she is enjoying the scenery – giant water lilies or lotus flowers (one or the other not sure which), minnow darting her and there in the water, pagodas, boats, bridges and buildings on the far shores. She says she is getting hungry so we find some shade. While Glenn gets the girls popsicles we find our third Chinese mushroom which is a big deal to Katrine, my little mushroom girl. Peach popsicle stays down!!! No more complaining of our tummy.

I actually enjoyed just walking beside the lake. It feels peaceful. The shiny lake with a backdrop of rolling green hills. An impressive palatial residence set in one hillside overlooking the lake; what views they must have. A variety of bridges over masses of flowers leading to small islands with quaint pavilions. Chirping birds and whirring insects as nature’s music. I am sure that the palace, furniture and marble boat (which is actually wood painted to look like marble) are beautiful, but so are the grounds.

Thought that perhaps we should head back to the hotel. While asking about the taxis, they were amazingly overpriced, and Katrine said that she was feeling better. Back onto the bus we go and she falls asleep in the cool of the AC. Lily has arranged for our group to have Peking Duck at lunch when the kids will eat the most. She has also got Katrine her own can of Sprite to help her feel better. Takes a few small sips of Sprite while sitting in mom’s lap – PUKE! All over mom and the restaurant chair. Now it helps to have a sick child in a restaurant over here because they will go out of their way to get you a taxi and haggle over the price just to get rid of you before there is more puke.

Glenn and Elspeth stayed behind and enjoyed a variety of delicious dishes while Katrine and I journeyed through Beijing to our hotel without further puke. A bath and some medicine later, they joined us. I think that we all had the nap to end all naps – four hours in the middle of the afternoon (unheard of isn’t it?). Katrine woke up feeling great back to her old self. She ate some dinner and is keeping her fingers crossed that she will feel even better tomorrow morning because we are heading to the Forbidden City in the morning and then the Olympic stadiums in the evening and she REALLY wants to be there.

Surprise! Baby is underweight.

This in the first of the blog entries we could not post while our computer was blocked in Beijing
August 15th, 2011

This morning we got up early and headed out to have Elspeth’s immigration medical done. Our guide took us to the exact same clinic where Katrine’s was done 6 years ago. It went well over all. We discovered that little Elspeth has actually grown since June and has reached the height of 80 cm which puts her in about the 10th percentile for her height. She also has an upper respiratory infection which explains her cough but is viral so nothing to do but wait it out. The biggest surprise (not) was that she is horribly underweight. She is not even on the growth charts which begin at the 3rd percentile. We figure that she is actually around the 1st percentile for weight and we might even be being a bit generous there. Can you guess the medical advice? Feed her more protein. So, being dutiful parents, we went for dumplings last night and fed her two whole dumplings and the meat filling from another 6.

With the medical done, the last part of our adoption journey is done aside from waiting for her immigration papers to be picked up so that we can come home and then have them processed at Pearson. Now we fill the time with sightseeing.

Katrine had a very long morning of waiting so Glenn and I had planned something special for her. Our idea was that while Elspeth had her afternoon nap, Katrine and I would get a cab and go ice skating. She loves to skate and how cool to be able to say that she had skated in China. Went to the front desk and asked them to write out the name of the ice rink we’d found online in characters for the cabbie. Well, they did write something and the cabby took us somewhere but the ice rink no where to be seen. Maybe we just weren’t looking in the right place, let’s have lunch and then we will keep looking. I mean, how hard can it be to find an ice rink if we are at the right place (the ad online said that it was big).

Katrine chooses a Chinese fastfood restaurant and we ordered fried rice that turns out to be bacon pizza flavour. Yes, you read that right. It was rice, bacon, pizza sauce and cheese all mixed together. It actually was quite tasty. Now, we are back on the search….nothing….go to information and draw a picture of skating….get weird look…keep going…show new person picture while pantomiming skating…they ask a friend who shakes her head…keep going…repeat pattern about four more times. We give up because we’ve found Starbucks, Gap, the movie theatre (would’ve taken her but the Smurf movie was in English so what was the point) and sit down on some steps that look like piano keys to enjoy a popsicle. It was the most expensive way to get a lunch and popsicle. When we got back to the hotel Glenn made it up to her by taking her and Elspeth swimming. I was the official photographer so I got to stay dry.

After our dumpling dinner we tried to walk to Tiannamen Square but we got distracted before we arrived by a very loud insect that we are calling “Bird Cricket” on account of the fact that we debated whether it was a bird or cricket. In the process of investigating the sound we discovered a lovely little parklet beside a small river. At one end of the river there was an ancient lock originating from the Ming or Ching dynasties. It consisted of a heavy wooden beam with a iron dragon’s head on either side. Not sure how it worked but it was nice to look at.

I am going to share some sad news now. Two pieces really. As you may have guessed by our lack of updates, our computer was deemed “not compatible with the internet in Beijing” today by the hotel. They wanted to reformat the whole of Glenn’s computer which was not happening so we are posting these updates once we’ve got home. The second piece is of a personal nature. By the time you read this we will be home and telling Katrine so it is now safe to tell you all. My grandmother in Scotland passed away the previous Wednesday. Her funeral was last Thursday. I am heart broken that we will not be able to attend her funeral but it can’t be helped. Babies always arrive on their own schedule and adoption is no different. Grandma would’ve understood but it is hard not to be there to say goodbye. If you are wondering why my parents are not here to welcome us home it is because they really needed to be there. They won’t be meeting Elspeth until the beginning of September when they come home. That is how life unfolds and it can’t be helped so just send some extra hugs our way.

On the Great Wall of China

tl;dr: Great bonding with Mom and Elspeth, and the Great Wall is busy on weekends in the summer (suprise)

Some of the photos are from our last day in Nanchang. In the morning we visited Bayi Park which was named after the August 1st (Ba is 8th month & Yi is 1st) rebellion which is an important day in chinese communist history that you can google if you are really interested. After the park we went to the Youmin temple. Also really cool. There are photos of both as well as some photos from our first day in Beijing that we posted about yesterday.

Today we visited the Great Wall. I was really excited because I am breathing well enough that I was actually able to climb with Glenn and Katrine, while carrying Elspeth, up to the third checkpoint in about 20 minutes without dying!!!! Much better than last time around. Katrine was enthralled by the views and was really proud of having gotten up as far as we did. Elspeth also liked the views and tried the same manoeuvre as at the Teng Wang Pavilion where she leaned right over and tried to lean right over the edge and see what was down below. Good thing mommy is strong.

If you’ve noticed more mention of mom in connection with Elspeth in this post than you would be correct. Today was a banner day for bonding all around. She fed each of us gluteny cheerios in turn (she better realize how much I must love her to have willingly eaten gluten for her). Blew kisses at us. She also let me carry her more frequently and actually seemed to enjoy it!!! I think that my favourite bonding moment was when she was playing open and close with the empty ashtray on the bus. Every so often she would get her fingers caught or pinched and after the first time one of us kissed it better she would rub it and then present it to us for a kiss. Pretty quick.

Tomorrow morning is our immigration medical and then if all goes well, Katrine and I are heading to do so ice skating while the other two bond over naps. Don’t know if there will be much, if any update tomorrow. However, the next day we are supposed to head to the Forbidden City so check back on Tuesday for sure.

Transition to Beijing

We arrived in Beijing late last night and were met (after some waiting) by our guide Lily. The interesting thing is that this Lily is the same guide as we had for our adoption trip for Katrine. It was really nice when she met us at the airport and remembered Katrine. It made Katrine feel so special. To top it off, Lily let our tired big girl wave her tour guide flag as we walked to the waiting bus. That was the cherry on top.

Today started off with us getting photos taken for immigration. Then after a brief trip to the local supermarket for water and supplies (we discovered that little Elspeth likes banana applesauce….anyone knowing where we can find that please let us know so gotta have that), I got down to filling in immigration paperwork while Glenn fed the kids lunch of instant noodles, crackers and things readily available in squishy packs. Squishy packs seem to be a big thing here. You get juice in them, jelly, yogurt, banana applesauce, weird pickled vegetable things. You twist off the lid and suck it back. Both kids seem to like them and its getting food into them so who can complain.

After nap, we headed back out to Wangfujiang for some more shopping. We were looking for shorts for Elspeth (size 12 – 18 months are too wide and fall down; learned that on the visit to the orphanage by making a great impression on the foster parents…can’t even dress the kid in proper fitting clothes), chinese barbies, chinese baby doll, souvenirs. Had a nice list going. Got the shorts after much pantomiming with the sales staff. I mean, the kid is right infront of you should I really need to tell you that the first pair of HUGE shorts are too big. Really? They were about the equivalent of our size 3s. Anyways, got it straightened out. Downstairs we go to toys (its a big kids shop with multiple levels). We are in China so they should have dollss that look asian right? Not a single asian doll of any type (Elspeth is fascinated by Katrine’s asian Cabbage Patch doll.) Sigh. On to the Barbie section which is large. White and blond, white and blond, oh look chinese!!!!! Crap, they now carry a new brand of chinese fashion doll not the one we bought. Okay, keep moving. Silk kites. Okay, getting somewhere. Chose a nice pink butterfly for Elspeth’s wall. It’s on display so they have it right? Nope. Do we want the giant angry looking dragon or the bright orange insect. Time to keep moving. We had luck with the souvenirs and ended up getting most of the stuff on our list. Plus, we discovered a nice dumpling show and ended up bringing pork and vegetable dumplings back to the room.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. We are heading to the Great Wall. Katrine was dancing around smiling when she heard. Just keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain. We will still be going but it would be more fun if it did not rain. Kids are in bed asleep and we are heading there shortly so you will need to wait until tomorrow for photos.

Nightcap at Bayi Square (八一广场)

Busy doing nothing on our free day in Nanchang. First I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to my mom, aka Grandma Attwood, kisses and hugs from all.

We started on a quest to get stamps and postcards. Then we got a cute pair of squeaky flip-flops for Elspeth and a new “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” sun umbrella for Katrine. Then we hopped in a taxi for a quick ride to the Nanchang People’s Park (pretty much every big city in China has a People’s Park). We walked around, had some snacks, fed the bubbling fish (again, but in Jiangxi not Guangxi this time) and found a place (thanks to an American family) where we could buy some popsicles and headed back for a quick lunch and a nap.

During Elspeth’s nap, Katrine got some much needed time to herself with Mom and went for a swim at the pool. Then Katrine, Elspeth, and I went on another quest for the “correct” ice lolly (the morning one being not quite right) and just as we opened the wrappers, rain… and I do mean rain. We ducked under a store front and waited the worst of it out and then hurried back to the hotel. Later we went for dinner with our friends at the restaurant we called “Golden Dragon” that is just down the street from the hotel we are at. The food was great, the service excellent, the orders come quick and the bill was very low compared to the hotel buffet.

Finally we regrouped back at the hotel and took a taxi to Bayi Square to take in the musical fountains which were quite impressive. Both Katrine and Elspeth were fascinated and the show lasted about 30 minutes, definitely worth the cab far. “Fast and Furious Taxi Driver (TM)” got us back to the hotel in record time for bedtime. Tomorrow we are going to try to go to Bayi Park and a Taoist temple in the morning, and then we fly to Beijing in the early evening so there will probably not be an update till the 13th. Enjoy the pictures.