Friday, April 24, 2009

Safe at home

We're safe at home, and have just finished a pancake breakfast made by yours truly after a better than expected first night at home. We all slept better than I would have expected given jet-lag, but we'll see how the rest of the adjustment goes. More later...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homeward Bound

We meant to post more from Guangzhou, but the days have gone quickly and we're just eager to get home at this point. We leave in about half an hour for the airport, and about 24 hours from now we'll be landing. Just after 4pm, Dallas time, actually. We'll post more once we're settled back in at home, because we have so much more to say about our trip, but it will have to wait.

As a side note, if anyone is wanting to meet us at the airport, please call one of our parents for flight details. We will also call the parents from San Francisco to let them know if there have been any complications or if we are still on the same flight to DFW, so checking with them between noon and 4pm on Thursday would be a good thing to do.

Until then!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

PS - United Airlines, it's the 21st century...

Can I just say, only making electrical outlets of any kind available to business and first class passengers on 10-14 hour flights is... just wrong. Wake up, United! It's not that hard, American Airlines does it! What am I supposed to do for 14 hours to Beijing on your shiny new 777 if you can't be bothered to put in a power port at least every few seats? My daughter isn't old enough to watch most of the movies playing endlessly on that little video screen...

(Insert loud raspberry here...)

Safe in Guangzhou

We got up early this morning to get on the road to the airport for flight #4 of 7 on this journey. At the end of the day, we were housed safely at the White Swan hotel in Guangzhou for the night. Along the way, we experienced the joy of trying to get an infant to take a nap on an airplane (yummy goodness... or not...) and leaving a warm and humid city for a hot and humid city. However, this hotel has air conditioning, and we are one step closer to home. In addition, the Chinese airline seats are not as small as I remember them. Maybe I'm shrinking. They also insist on feeding you, even on a 1-1/2 hour flight. Remember those days in the States? Me neither...

The next time we get on an airplane, it will be to fly to Tokyo, catch a connection to San Francisco, and then on back home to DFW. And yes, that will involve much more of the aforementioned joy with infants and airplanes. I'm about to call United to see if they can get us bulkhead seats and possibly a baby bassinet like we had with Sydney coming home four years ago. The bassinet didn't make much difference then, because Sydney screamed and wailed any time she was put down, but Kate is doing much better with bed time and nap time, so hopefully we'll actually get some relief out of it, if I can manage to reserve those seats.

I'm still a bit under the weather, but nothing like the trip four years ago. Something about China and my colitis don't mix well. Amy said if we ever come back again, she'll insist that I start on a steroid treatment ahead of time to prevent this kind of flare. Ah, the joys of imperfect bodies in a fallen world.

Anyway, that's about all for now. Tomorrow we'll take Kate for her physical and fill out all the remaining paperwork for the U.S. Consulate. We'll have our appointment at the Consulate on Wednesday and will get her visa at that point. Mixed in there will be trips to see some of the sights of Guangzhou, and I hope to post photos of the hotel and the surrounding area, as it is quite a treat.

Thanks for hanging in there with us!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kate's Passport

I should have mentioned in my previous post that the reason we are still here in Chongqing is that we were waiting for Kate's Chinese passport, without which we can't (well, we can, but she can't...) leave Chongqing. It takes five days from the time everything is registered to get that, and we got it today. It is under her Chinese name, given by the orphanage, and she will be traveling back to the U.S. under that name, once the U.S. Consulate issues her a visa to enter the U.S. She will travel as a Chinese citizen, but will be granted U.S. citizenship as soon as we land on U.S. soil, which will be in San Francisco on Thursday, April 23rd.

Just FYI...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Almost done in Chongqing

We've been here in Chongqing now for 6 days, and we'll leave tomorrow morning for Guangzhou, where we will complete the process with the U.S. Consulate so we can come home. In the meantime, we spent the last two days taking tours to spots in Chongqing as well as just chilling out with Kate and Sydney. On Thursday, we went to the old part of Chongqing, where there is a street (more of a large sidewalk, really) lined with shops. We bought a few things to give Kate in years to come, and enjoyed the scenery. There are photos below.

First, the entrance to the market street:

Amy and Sydney enjoying the atmosphere:

Mmmmm, peppers.....

We saw this in Nanchang four years ago as well. This is a candy made with hot, melted syrup of some kind that is painted onto a smooth cutting board in various shapes and designs. A stick is embedded in it, and when it cools, the whole thing can be picked up and eaten like a lollipop, albeit a very elaborate one:

Because Chongqing is built on a river and is very hilly, the mode of transportation used in most other parts of China (the bicycle) is not as popular here. Here, people mostly move on foot, and if you have a need to transport something bulky or heavy, you hire one of these stick-men to load it in their baskets and move it for you. We saw four of these guys carrying a load of reinforcing steel for concrete through a square near our hotel, so they can and will move just about anything:

Here are Sydney and one of the other girls in our group. They became fast friends right away.

Back at the hotel, we sat in the lounge area for a while just to get out of our room. Kate does not like to sit up much, but she can be convinced for short periods of time.

On Friday, we got back on the bus and went to the square below. At one end was the Three Gorges Dam Museum (see how the front of the building is designed to look like a dam with water in front?).

At the other end of the square is the Hall of the People. The building was built in the 50's, but was designed to replicate ancient Chinese architecture. The people of Chongqing are quite proud that it has won awards and is regarded as an architectural masterpiece. It is the "symbol" of Chongqing, and appears on quite a few souvenirs, etc.

My three favorite girls in the whole world....

There were a number of school groups here when we got here, and Sydney was busting at the seams to go join in the games they were playing in their little circles. She had no idea what they were doing, but she sure had fun!

Here is our group posing with a group of school children who wanted to have us in their picture (and vice versa). They were quite excited to practice their English on us and show us all their antics.

Here's another little nugget being carried in a traditional Chinese baby carrier. I like the Snuggli better...

Here's a model of the Three Gorges Dam as it will look when completed in 2012. I hadn't realized it was not done yet, but the museum we saw is an ongoing attempt to preserve the history and heritage of thousands of years that will be submerged under a massive lake once the project is done.

And here is a very tired Kate, taking her afternoon nap after we got back from the tour.

Meanwhile, Sydney and her buddy, "Miss Marti" watched Mary Poppins upstairs in a lounge area.

And finally, and attempt to let Kate walk around the room.

Well, that's about all we've done since our last post. Today (Saturday) is a free day that we will spend packing and getting ready to leave for Guangzhou. I will be taking it easy, because I have not been feeling well for the last day or two. My colitis is flaring, and that always makes things harder for everyone, so it is a blessing to have a down day to get ready for tomorrow. Amy is doing some home-schooling with Sydney while Kate takes a morning nap. I may convince Amy to post later today, as I know many of you will be wanting a "Mommy's view" of things.

Until then, we appreciate your prayers for health and safe travel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A day out at the zoo

Another day down, and both kiddos are asleep! The day's chief activity was a trip to the zoo, which was mainly an event because it was several hours away from the hotel with all the kiddos. Chongqing is apparently relatively close to the native habitat of the giant panda, so this zoo had seven of them to look at. Other photos are shown below, chiefly for Peter's enjoyment as we told him we were going to the zoo and he wants to see the animals too!

We're going to veg (vedge?) and watch a movie, so this post will be short, but it was a good day, with more time for Kate to get used to us and come out of her shell. She graced us with a couple good cries today when she was tired or hungry, and managed to let us stretch her schedule a bit to get her to go to bed at 8 and (hopefully) not get up again. She's been down for over an hour now, and she should sleep through the night.

The first photo below is of the three older girls in the group, who have a blast together. The last photo is of Sydney playing in a kids area. The basement of our hotel (where the restaurant is) connects to an underground system of tunnels that go in all directions and house restaurants, grocery stores, a spa, a swimming pool, and many many shops. Part of that is a little place where kids can play, and Amy stopped on the way back from dinner with Sydney to play for a bit while I bee-lined back with Kate to let her get out of the Snuggli and unwind before the last bottle and bedtime.

Thank you all for your prayers and kind words. We are doing well, and will post more later.

Here is Anita, our agency representative, presenting a cake to the group at dinner to celebrate the adoptions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First Day with Kate

So, we promised another post on our first impressions of and interactions with Kate, but were so exhausted last night that we collapsed after Kate went to bed.

Of the four babies adopted from Kate's orphanage, none reacted by crying or being visibly upset, which surprised us as it was not the normal response for children being taken from the nannies and other babies with whom they are familiar and given to families they have never seen (or smelled) before. We may be wrong, but several of the families have reached the conclusion that the babies never had a chance to bond and attach to any of the caregivers in the orphanage, and they show more developmental delays than the group of babies we saw when we adopted Sydney. Sydney and her group were about 6 weeks older, but there is more than six weeks of difference between these babies and those. I won't speculate as to the cause of the differences.

Kate smiles for us when we go to pick her up, but most of the time is pretty stoic. Amy keeps saying "there is a baby in there that needs to wake up and get out!" Kate adores Sydney, and smiles and laughs when she does some of her antics like flopping onto the bed where Kate is sitting or having tummy-time. She takes a bottle reasonably well, though she has to be coaxed to get it started. Once she starts, though, she'll drink to the last drop (as long as she doesn't forget to come up for air and release the vacuum in the bottle...)

Despite reports from the orphanage that she was regularly eating rice congee (a rice soup or porridge) and some noodles, etc, it is pretty clear to us that she has no idea what to do with solid foods. Her bottles are a mixture of formula and rice cereal, so we'll just stick with those and slowly introduce some other baby foods to see how she does.

She is able to roll from her tummy to her back and vice versa, though we have to give her a pretty compelling reason (i.e.- a fun toy) or she won't bother. She had a great hour and a half of tummy time, today, though, in which she showed a lot of what you look for in a baby to see if they are responding and getting comfortable. She loved the toys, and loved being played with. She was able to push up for long periods of time, so her muscles are fine, even if they need some encouragement to catch up with where babies "should be" for this age. She seems to enjoy being carried in the snuggli, and spends most of her time looking up at the face of the person carrying her. We were told she wakes up at 7 and goes to bed at 9:30pm, with just one hour-and-a-half nap in between, but she has fallen asleep several times for 45-minute naps after bottles for us (in addition to a mid-day nap), so that may not have been completely accurate. We're still working to figure out what her schedule is at this time so we know how to help her get the sleep and nutrition she needs.

All in all, she is a sweet little girl, and our hearts break thinking about the fact that she may not have ever bonded with anyone before now. We pray that she adjusts and bonds with us over the next days and weeks and does not show any long-term detriment. We are glad we got to adopt her now, at this age, and pour out the love and affection that she needs to grow and thrive.

It is a joy to be part of this travel group. There are five other families, two of whose babies were from another orphanage in this municipality. Two of the families have older adopted girls traveling with them, and Sydney has loved spending time with the 6 year-old and the 7 year-old. The couple next door to our room are missionaries in Peru whose three older children are with family in Tennessee during this trip, and it has been great to get to know them and encourage each other. Sydney loves "Miss Marti", and would drag her along on every excursion for food, etc, if she could. On the other side of us is the family with the 7 year-old.

Our part of the paperwork is now done until we get to Guangzhou, we just have to wait for the various agencies to do their part and get our documents back to us before we can leave the city and fly to Guangzhou. As a result, we'll be taking a few little tours and trips, starting with a journey to the Chongqing zoo tomorrow to see a panda. That's about all I know at the moment, but I'm sure we'll get more information and lots of pictures tomorrow.

A doctor just left, having examined Kate to make sure there are no obvious problems. This was set up by our agency, and was obviously unnecessary for us, our good doctor having already examined Kate for 24 hours now.

Here are a few more photos from our first 24 hours with Kate:

First, just let me say... "Skype ROCKS!" We've talked to Peter three or four times already, and it is priceless to hear him tell us about his days with his grandmother and all the fun things they are doing!

Live long and prosper. Sorry, couldn't resist...

Cool toys, guys!

First back zerbert EVER!

Kate listens and smiles while Daddy reviews Sydney's Catechism questions. Hope Peter is not getting rusty on his first three questions while we're in China... :-)

Girl talk...

Monday, April 13, 2009


At 3pm we gathered in the lobby of our hotel, having eaten lunch, had a little down time, and spent some time praying as a family and with the family next door. We walked to the building next door (literally) and went to the fourteenth floor to the marriage and adoption registration office, and were told to wait for a few minutes until they were ready for us. Then we spotted the babies in an adjoining room, through a glass wall that was mostly transparent, and within a few minute, Anita, our agency's representative here in Chongqing, told us to get ready and listen for our names...

Ours was the first name called, and we walked over and were handed Yang Fu Ya, now known as Katherine Elizabeth Bredenberg! Pictures will say more than I can, so here they are, from Gotcha to the first bottle, followed immediately by the first nap!

More details will come once the girls are asleep for the night!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just a few hours now...

It's now Noon in Chongqing, and we meet in the lobby at 3pm today to walk to the Registration office and receive our baby Kate!

It's getting really really real. 'Cause before it was just really real. And before that it was artificially real. But now it's the real deal!

Off to get lunch with the family next door, who are also adopting a child and are missionaries to Peru. Our next post will be post-Gotcha, and will (if we are able) include photos and first impressions of our little one! We filled out paperwork this morning that, surprisingly to us, included a more recent photo of Kate than any other we had received. The whole group just melted when we got to that page and all saw photos of our little ones. It's still hard to visualize what she will look like in person, but we'll know in just a few hours.

Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Peter!

Happy second birthday, Peter!

Sorry we're on the other side of the world from you. We miss you, and can't wait to see you!

If anyone sees Peter today (grandma Raley) give him lots of hugs and kisses for us!

Happy Easter from Chongqing!

Sorry about the shortage of posts for the last few days. Between a lightning tour of Beijing, trying to get rested, and Sydney having a hard time with jet-lag, we haven't had much time to sit and process, let alone compose and post updates.

After a two-day tour of Beijing that included the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Olympic Village, and a performance of Chinese acrobatics, we left Beijing early this morning for Chongqing. We were met by our agency rep in Chongqing, Anita, and found that we were in good hands. We have arrived at our hotel, and have about an hour before we need to meet our group again to get an orientation of the surrounding area so we can be self-sufficient for the next week when Anita is not around. We've unpacked into a wonderful hotel room. The one flaw seems to be insufficient storage, so some part of our stuff will have to stay in suitcases. The room itself, though, is very nice, and leaps and bounds beyond the hotel room we spent a week in four years ago when adopting Sydney. Hopefully the internet connectivity and power situation will be more conducive to more frequent posts than the hotel in Beijing. Let's just say it makes it tricky when the only way to turn off the lights in a room and get it dark for Sydney to sleep also shuts off all power to the electrical outlets...

But anyway, I'll post a few photos below and you can see an overview of our time in Beijing.

We anticipate getting Kate tomorrow afternoon, and we'll be posting here as soon as possible afterwards to let everyone know. Between now and then we'll be trying to get more sleep, fill out paperwork, and get all the monetary transactions lined up that have to happen to the various agencies and officials that are part of this process. Passport office, notary fees, orphanage donation, registration fees, etc, etc, etc.

If you are able, please pray for the following:

  • Sleep! We need more of it, with fewer interruptions at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, etc. Every night...
  • Health. I would love to stay healthy this time around, and I know that is entirely in God's hands.
  • Amy's lip. She is currently having an issue where her lower lip is sore and bleeding off and on. That makes a number of things difficult, including talking, eating, interacting socially, and kissing on the kiddos. It has happened a few times in the past, but there is no way of predicting when it will end. Prayer truly seems to be the most effective medicine, as it behaves quite erratically no matter the care she takes of it.

We covet your prayers!

A few photos:

First, Amy and Sydney in front of "the bird's nest" easily recognizable from last year's Olympics.

Next, part of our group standing in front of some large obstruction we happened upon in the countryside...

Taking a riksha ride through a part of Beijing...

Spring-time in a green part of the Forbidden City:

A not-so-green part of the city. This is in Tiananmen Square, looking at the entrance to the Forbidden City and of course, Mao.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Being Begins in Beijing

Ok, not really, but when you're as tired as we are, those words all look alike anyway...

We are here, safe in Beijing. The only casualty so far has been Sydney's little backpack, which was empty, and I'll be calling United tomorrow to see if we can get that back somehow...

It's 8pm here. We're fed, we're clean, and we're tired. Sydney is asleep already, and we won't be far behind. We're praying that we can sleep through the night (since we've only slept about 3 hours since waking up at 4:15 am in Dallas yesterday), but jet-lag is a funny thing.

The one news-worthy piece of information (other than the fact that we are safe) is that we will not be seeing Kate on Easter Sunday. For some reason that changed and we will now not get her until Monday the 13th.

We have a few pictures of our chuckle-worthy dinner, straight off the shelves of the "Food Market" (which took us an agonizing 20 minutes to locate in a building not big enough to warrant that long a search), but that will have to wait until we are rested.

Over and out...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Great Circle Route

For anyone interested, here is the great-circle route we will fly over the next 16 days. The actual flight paths may not completely follow this, but this is the shortest route between the cities involved:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting ready to leave

I can say this: Our preparations to go get Kate are very very different from our trip to get Sydney!

Getting two kiddos packed up, one to go with us, and one to stay with Grandma for two weeks, in the middle of all the other work and family logistics, is very different from just getting the two of us ready (with no children) four years ago.

We are about 36 hours from leaving for the airport, and while we are packed for the most part, I'm not sure I can say we're ready to leave! Having to say goodbye to Peter early Wednesday morning is going to be tough, even though I know he will have a great time with his grandmother, and we're leaving little gifts and recordings for him to open while we are gone.

I'm a little... worried?... about how Sydney will do on the long flight and the adjustment to being 11 hours off of our local time. We are following a program that we have used before to reduce the effects of jet-lag, but 11 hours is still 11 hours, and she is still not at the stage where she can just decide to be still and quiet for more than 5 minutes if she's not tired. Trying to get her to "act like it's night-time" when her body doesn't feel like it's night-time might be a challenge.

Add to that the last-minute prep that always goes with a trip like this and the added inflexibility of having two children with pretty regular schedules, and it's just... DIFFERENT!

I keep stopping and remembering that we have a daughter over there, and that in less than a week she will be a part of our family! This little girl, of whom we only have three pictures, will be in our arms and crying and sleeping and eating and smiling and real and alive! No longer just a still photo that leaves you wondering what her personality is like, but a real child! It's wild, let me tell you.

If you're reading this, hopefully you know us and will be praying for us. We need your prayers, to be sure! We are so excited about this adoption, despite all the logistics and details and minutiae and stress. In a few days time, we will be in China! A few days after that, we will have Kate in our arms!

God is good! We just have to keep reminding ourselves to see beyond the urgent and relish that truth.