Saturday, March 22, 2008

Home one week and doing GREAT

This trip was SO much smoother than our first. We were all over jetlag in 2-3 days, Madison is sleeping through the night, everything is great. It's been a fabulous first week!

Yesterday, we spent a couple hours at the park. Dylan played on the playground with Daddy and Madison played in her pack 'n play while I knitted her some shorts.

We went to the zoo today for EggstravaganZoo. Dylan did an egg hunt and had a blast. Madison seemed to enjoy strolling around the zoo. We only stayed 2-3 hours, as it was naptime/lunchtime and the kids were falling asleep. They both slept all the way home, plus some.

Dylan is going back to school Monday. Daddy will be home another week, then he goes back. Maddie and mommy have another 2 weeks after that for bonding before she goes to school and I go to work. We may do a couple half days at school during that time to get her used to it.

She's SUCH a happy baby. Always laughing and smiling. Well, not ALWAYS. I mean, she does cry sometimes, but when she's not crying, she laughing. All you have to do is smile at her and she laughs. It's so cute. See? I just tested it out and she laughed!

Anyway, the adjustment seems to be going almost TOO well, but I'm not complaining. She's happy, we're happy, Dylan's happy. It's all good! Here are some new pictures.

Oh, and I don't know why the right side of all my pictures is cut off. If anyone can tell me how to fix that, I'd appreciate it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's NOT scabies

We went to the International Adoption Clinic at Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital today. Madison has acropustulosis. It's not contagious, but it is recurrent and very itchy. She also has a bacterial infection on her scalp and face, making it worse. She's on antibiotics for the infection, steroid cream for the acropustulosis and benedryl for the itching. Her skin should clear up in a week or so. Her face is almost raw and feels like sandpaper. It's horrible. We feel so bad for her!

They also drew 10 vials of blood (that was a nightmare) and did a chest x-ray for TB. She's in the 55th %tile for weight and 66th for height on American charts!

We are almost back to normal sleep times. We've been waking up at 4am, but that's not too far off schedule. Madison only wakes up once a night for a bottle, and sleeps 10 hours. Nana babysat most of the day while we took Maddie to the doctor, then she watched both kids while we picked up our new washer (YAY!!) and finished putting up the laundry from the trip. We're now completely unpacked and almost back to normal! We're looking forward to some down time to bond and play with the kids.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There's no place like HOME!

It's SOOOO good to be home again. I've missed my house so much. After living in hotel rooms for over 2 weeks, my house looked huge! Dylan immediately ran in to his playroom and started playing with his favorite toys. We're already halfway unpacked and I plan to finish before I go to bed. Maybe. Madison is already asleep, so I probably need to sleep while she sleeps. But Dylan is up. We'll see.

Have i mentioned how great it feels to be HOME?!?

Friday, March 14, 2008

In the US!

We made it to LA. We're in a hotel now, as we have a long layover here. There's apparently only one flight a day from LA to Nashville and we got in a couple hours too late for it.

We got here a few hours early. Instead of 8 hours in Taipei and 12 in LA, we have 20 in LA. That works better, since we got a hotel room. The only way to get on the earlier flight was to upgrade to business class, but the upgrade was half the price at the gate than it was at the airline office a few days ago! And let me tell you, I LOVE business class. We got to recline all the way, had fillet, smoked salmon, fresh fruit, etc. It was NICE. It made the flight fly by. Dylan was a real trooper and was a perfect little traveler (except he wanted to sleep in the aisle). Madison only cried a couple times, and not for very long. It was 1000x easier than our last trip (coming home with Dylan).

We have about 15 more hours before we have to head back to the airport and fly home! We're so excited to be back in the US, especially after our little scare at customs in Vietnam. They normally spend 30 seconds looking at the passports and visas and usher you on through. This time, the customs guy gave Madison's passport/visa to the guy sitting next to him. He looked at it and they were talking back and forth (in Vietnamese, of course). Then they called what I assume was a manager, who came, took her passport, and left with it. I was trying not to freak out. After about 15 minutes, they asked us to go through and wait (to get out of the way). We were just sitting there in the floor in the middle of security, with no passports, no boarding passes, no visas (they took them all), wondering if we were going to be one of those freak cases where they arrest a foreigner for no reason and it's a nightmare to get out. At least that's what was going through MY mind. After about half an hour, they come back with our passports, no explanation of what was happening, and tell us we're ok. I wasn't going to argue.

Then, as we're in the line for security, we hear our names paged to the boarding gate. Great. I was hoping maybe they were upgrading us or something (they paged me in Nashville on the way out to tell us they had moved us to another row so we had an empty seat for Dylan). Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. They said they needed Dylan's ticket. We told them we already checked in and got his boarding pass, but they wanted a paper ticket. Apparently, our travel agency booked the tickets as paper tickets, but told us they were electronic. This already caused confusion in Nashville 2 weeks ago, but we got through it. It's a little harder when you're in Vietnam, trying to explain your travel agent screwed up the booking and you have no tickets, even though their system says you do. They had a manager come over and say she had to have a ticket for Dylan. We said numerous times that we had NO ticket, there was nothing else we could do, but we had boarding passes. Apparently, that's not enough to get on a plane. About 15 minutes later, they come over and say everything is ok. Again, no explanation of what was going on, but it was fixed.

So after a very frustrating start, the trip went really really well. Shockingly well. I'm not sure how the next couple weeks will go, but so far so good! And we can't wait to get home!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We're coming home!

We got the visa (after Chris visited the embassy personally to see what the hold-up was) around 3pm today (Thursday). Our flight leaves at noon Friday (18 hours). We have to pack and sleep and eat breakfast, then we're out of here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I shouldn't have counted my chickens before they hatched. We were supposed to have Madison's visa today. There was a problem with their 'printer' and we didn't get it. But our travel partner got her baby's visa (which is good since they're leaving tomorrow). Luckily, we have one more day to pray for her visa to come. If we don't get it tomorrow, looks like we'll be staying in Hanoi a little longer. They say the delay has nothing to do with her paperwork and it's just the printer. But why can one visa be printed and not another? Needless to say, we're worried.

We did enjoy our day, though. We took a cab to the lake and walked around the mall. That area of town is definitely for tourists. The mall is 4 stories. The lake area is beautiful. There was a light breeze that felt SO good.

On a happy note, my washing machine that stopped working the day before we left for Vietnam has been replaced! We ordered a new one through my work discount program (saved $450!!!) and dad is going to pick it up, install it, and remove the old one for us. It will be nice coming home to a new washing machine, rather than a broken one!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A wise woman once said...

"Babies can't always tell the difference between hunger pains and gas pains. Feeding them may make things worse." So before bed, we gave Madison some gas drops. Guess who slept through the night. Yep, Madison (and mommy and daddy and Dylan). We all slept 12 hours!! We really needed that sleep! Thanks Mom, for the advice! I'm so glad I packed those gas drops.

We're excited about coming home. We decided not to upgrade to business class. It's just too expensive. Because of where we're sitting (bulkhead, which is reserved for families with infants for the bassinet), there may be extra seats around us. Chris and I will only be one seat and an aisle apart, so it won't be too bad. And if there are extra seats, Dylan could have his own, which would be nice. 48 more hours until our flight leaves Vietnam!

We want to go see the water puppets tomorrow. We've heard they are a must-see while in Hanoi. We missed them last time, so we want to catch them this time.

(no new pictures-we haven't really done anything since the last post)

Done! (Tuesday, 3/11)

We had our visa interview today. All that means is we signed some papers and promised everything was correct. We should get Madison's visa and Vietnam passport tomorrow afternoon. There were no flights going home Thursday, so we kept our original flights leaving Friday. We're still on schedule to get home at 6pm Saturday.

The weather in Hanoi is much better. Not so hot and a little overcast.

Madison has been having some trouble at night. She'll wake up crying and inconsolable. It lasts 30-60 minutes, then she'll sleep some more. Usually after rice cereal (but a bottle won't work). We think she has acid reflux. She throws up a little after every meal. But her skin has almost completely cleared up. She laughs and it's the cutest thing ever.

This hotel has a small (tiny) play area for the kids. We have pictures of Dylan in the same ball pit Madison played in. There was a rocking horse that Dylan loved. The traffic here is even worse. In fact, they keep an electronic billboard with the number of traffic accidents and deaths.

Oh, and apparently they celebrate Easter here?! Vietnamese checkers! Lunch in Hanoi (not the cats!). Random pics. Oh, and they dress the babies really warm in this freezing 70-degree weather.

Oh, and here's some pictures of the setting sun over Saigon. This was in Saigon, too. Dylan was playing nice in Maddie's crib. This was on the way to the pool. And jumping into the pool.

This ain't Grassmere (Sunday, 3/9)

Guess what we did? Yep, we went to the zoo! It was a blast. It definitely wasn't as nice as Grassmere (our local zoo, for my out-of-town friends). Or as safe. You could reach over the rail and touch the elephants' trunks. At the giraffe exhibit, you could climb up on a platform to pet the giraffe.

We saw something very cool, though. We had just missed a birth in the petting zoo, but they were trying to train the baby sheep to nurse. They ended up milking the mama and feeding the baby from a cup. But they did all this right out in the open. We were standing 5 feet away (taking pictures, of course). I wish we had seen the birth. That would've been a great experience for Dylan.

The zoo also had a little kiddie carnival. Dylan had a blast. We went with our travel partners, Linda, her 8-year-old daughter Jasmine, and their new baby daughter/sister Giang. Dylan has become quite fond of Jasmine and asks every day to go play with 'Jaz.' They play in the pool together and hang out together everywhere we go. She acts like a protective older sister and he acts like the tag-a-long little brother. It's so cute to watch them together.

We rode on the 'choo-choo' through the zoo, which amazed Dylan. He loves trains, so he was so excited to ride on the train. He also rode in a bumper car with Jasmine. She was just going around in circles (not bumping into anything), so we let him ride. He had a blast doing that! They also went 'fishing' in a little play pool. There was a little ball pit that he loved playing in as well.

For our enjoyment, the zoo had a banzai garden. It was amazing seeing all the banzai trees.

While we were at the zoo, we heard thunder rumbling, so we headed back to the hotel. It was several miles away, so we took a cab. As soon as we got in the cab, it started pouring. By the time we got to the hotel, the water was several inches deep on the road. And it was rush hour. It was quite the sight! Have I mentioned how crazy the traffic is here?? You should see it in the rain. There were whole families under tarps riding down the flooded roads on motorbikes.

Oh, and here's our view from our room. And Madison crawling. (here's a random pic of Maddie)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Just some random pictures

Lots of pictures, just playing in the hotel room.

Friday, March 07, 2008

March 7, 2008 Having the time of our lives!

I got in trouble with some people after the last email for not including any pictures. We're just having too much fun to take the time to upload pictures! Plus, I have a few videos and they take about an hour each to upload (they're only 1-2 minutes long). I really wanted to share those. That's why I haven't sent an email in a couple days.This trip is going SO well. It's been an awesome vacation. Last time was so hard. We didn't know what we were doing (with the baby), I was sick half the trip, we were both homesick, and we just wanted to go home. Now we can't believe our trip is over halfway over! We're really having a blast. Dylan is really warming up to her, and has started giving her kisses without our prompting.We had Madison's visa medical exam. Basically, they look at her, ask us if we've noticed anything unusual, listen to her heart/lungs, weigh her and send us on our way. No looking in the ears, down the throat, in her eyes, etc. It's not a medical exam for her, it's just to make sure she's not going to bring some crazy disease into the US. She's 18.5 pounds (75th %tile) and 27.5 inches long (75th %tile). I don't know if I mentioned it before, but she has 4 teeth. The 2 front bottom ones and one of the front top ones and the one beside it. She's cutting her other front top tooth.We're thinking about taking Maddie to the international hospital. (If you have a weak stomach or are eating, don't read the next part.) She has oozing sores on the crown of her head. She scratches them and they bleed (we had to put socks over her hands), but every half hour or so, we blot her head with a napkin and get a lot of yellow pus. I don't know what it is. This is not scabies. She had that on her face and arms and it was treated. It got better pretty quick. It is probably some sort of infection. I don't know if antibiotics are needed (we have some, just in case). We're going to call our pediatrician when they open in a couple hours. If he thinks we need to take her to the hospital, we will. She's been running a low-grade fever off and on since we got her, but never over 100. She's cutting a couple teeth, so that could be causing the fever.I also think she may have ringworm on her back. She has a couple raised red circles about the size of a silver dollar on her back. And it looks like she has eczema on her chin. It doesn't look like the scabies. We have hydrocortisone ointment that we're using, but you can only use it once a day on babies (we had to use it on Dylan's eczema). So we're definitely dealing with some medical issues, but all are minor and can be fixed. We already have an appointment at the Vanderbilt Int'l Adoption Clinic for the Monday after we get home. The next (and LAST) step is the visa interview in Hanoi. This has to be scheduled, so we can't just fly up there and walk in to the embassy. Our appointment is scheduled for Tuesday. We'll fly up to Hanoi Monday at noon (Sunday night at 11pm your time). For now, we're just enjoying Saigon (despite the heat). The pool here is fabulous (pic is from our room window). The kids love it (and so do mommy and daddy!). Everyone is relatively healthy and happy. Everyone is sleeping great (in fact, all 4 of us took a 2-hour nap at lunchtime, which felt wonderful). Madison does wake up once or twice in the night to feed, but then goes right back to sleep. And her crying does not wake Dylan up. He sleeps like a rock.Most of you remember from last time, I'm sure, about the traffic over here. It's pretty insane. 90% of the people drive mopeds (tiny motorcycles). There are no 'lanes' in the road. It's like a game to see how close you can get to the person next to you. On a road the width of 2 lanes in the states, you'll see 5-6 bikes across. We saw a baby about Dylan's age sandwiched between two adults on a bike yesterday. The adults had helmets, but the baby did not! Anyway, I got a couple videos of us crossing the street, just to better show the 'experience.' Unfortunately, I've left this email waiting all day for the videos to upload and they still haven't, so you'll have to wait for the next installment for the video of us crossing the street! (it's really not as boring as it sounds!)So why did we cross the street, you ask? To get diet pepsi! The grocery store is right across the street. And how I wish I could've taken pictures there!! They didn't allow cameras, but it was wild. It was a grocery store, like walmart or kroger. But in the fresh meat section there were whole baby suckling pigs. And chickens with their heads still attached. In the seafood section, there was just a big case of ice with raw fish laying on top. You just walk over and bag up whatever you want. Oh, and they had eel, snakes, all kinds of fish (with heads still attached, of course). There were some things we couldn't figure out and probably didn't want to. We also went to the local mall. We bought several bigger ao dais (traditional VNese dresses) for Maddie and lots of toys for Dylan. We lost a couple of his Thomas trains along the way somewhere, so we got him a few toys to make up for it. And to wrap up for the flight home. We're looking into upgrading to business class, since there are 4 of us in 2 seats, but we'll have to see how much it will cost. It sure would make the trip home easier!! Oh, and this is Quoc, our facilitator and translator. He's been incredible. He takes us through all the steps we need, books our hotels and flights, and even gave us a cell phone to call him if we need.Here are some videos that I finally got uploaded. Dylan LOVED playing in the ocean at the Sandy Beach.Here is the video from my first meeting with Madison.Here is the one where they were getting her dressed for the G&R before handing her over to me.
Below are links to all the pictures of videos in this email.Videos: hope this satisfies you picture hounds! I'm uploading 50+ more from today, plus the video of the street, so I'll get another email out when I get those ready. And if the hundreds of pictures I've sent so far aren't enough, just browse around the album. I've got over 500 in there. I'll be sorting them out into sub-folders to keep them a little more organized.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

March 5, 2008 Hello from HCMC!

We're here! The flight was great-neither baby cried. They both sat on MY lap the whole flight (1.5 hours) and did great. I think Dylan's starting to realize Madison is staying with us. He's getting more clingy and starting to regress a little (wanting his own bottle, which he hasn't had in a year!). We were expecting this, though. It's not a big deal. Overall, he's doing really well. Madison is incredibly clingy. We can't put her down for 2 seconds without her screaming. That's ok, too, though. She needs us and we have to show her that we'll always be there, which means answering EVERY cry right now. There's no such thing as spoiling a baby.Our hotel here is AWESOME! We're right across the street from a huge store for our grocery needs (milk for Dylan, formula, diapers, chocolate for me, you know-the essentials). We have a super nice room on the 9th floor and can see the city from our room. One whole wall is windows. A couple of the higher windows open a tad bit, but it's way too hot for open windows! It's probably around 90 with 200% humidity. Luckily, the room has a nice AC!We're off to go swimming in the pool!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4, 2008 Heading to HCMC

We're packing up and heading out to HCMC in a couple hours. We've enjoyed Danang and our tropical paradise, but it's time for the next step of our journey. Maddie has been awesome and is sleeping great. She woke up once last night, drank 2 bottles of formula and half a bottle of breastmilk, then went back to sleep until her big brother woke her up. He's doing really well, too. We all slept in the bed together last night and it felt perfect!We're working on the breastfeeding. It's just not as fast-flow as her bottle, so she gets frustrated quickly. But I think with some work, we'll get it going. And if not, that's ok, too. I have enough frozen at home to last until she's past 12 months.Some fun facts: She's a thumb-sucker. She loves a blanket we brought for her, and will stick the corner of it in her mouth with her thumb.
She loves being held. She'll cry if we put her down, so we're holding her 24/7 right now!She learned how to splash in the tub last night. She thought it was the funniest thing ever.Her face is clearing up nicely. The medicine worked great!She loves just staring at me, like she's memorizing my face. Here are the picture links for those having trouble with the embedded links:

Monday, March 03, 2008

March 3, 2008 She's ours!!

We have our baby girl! The ceremony was quick and painless. Dylan was anxious to get out of the building, but he was a really good boy. Leaving the orphanage was really sad. One of the nannies took her from me and started crying, which made me cry. I could tell she was really loved, just like Dylan was when he was there. We can't wait to bring her home. She's so sweet and is always smiling and laughing. She really laughs at her daddy. She can hold onto the edge of the table and stand. She can also roll really fast. She has some pretty nasty scratches on her face where she scratched herself because of the scabies. The first thing we did was clip her nails. The next thing we'll do is give her a bath, then put the scabies medicine on her. We just went on a walk on the beach and she fell asleep. Then Dylan started getting tired and wanted Mommy. LOL. My arms are sore now!We're both just so happy. She's so incredible and perfect. She seems to be warming up to us, but that may change once she realizes we're not taking her back to her 'home' for the past 8 months!


Sunday, March 02, 2008

March 2, 2008

We had a fun-filled, exhausting day today. There are TONS of pictures, so just take a look around the photo album. I'll try to add titles so you'll know what's what! We saw a couple cool things-a HUGE snail that Dylan was scared of, and a snake skin, which we stopped to inspect and then saw the snake it belonged to. It quickly slithered away, so the pic is just the skin.This morning, after breakfast, we took a stroll down to marble mountain. Those familiar with our last trip know about it, but it's a huge slab of a mountain made from marble right down the road in Danang. They mine the mountain and make BEAUTIFUL marble and jade carvings and ship them all over the world. Think of those huge lion statues you see at the front steps of a mansion, or the marble fountains in the lobbies of nice buildings. They have tons of marble and jade items all along this street we dubbed 'marble alley' (it's more of an alley than a street!).You also can climb partly up the mountain to a beautiful pagoda. It's a steep climb of uneven rock steps (think flashbacks of my last adventure on steep, rocky steps and hyper-extending my knee). But it was worth the climb. The view was beautiful and the pagoda was awesome. There was also an enormous buddha carving. I saw a bunch of locals rub the big buddha then rub their kids' heads, so I gave that a shot. I'm assuming it's for good luck. I think it was the good luck buddha. When we got back down the mountain, we went in one of the marble shops. We got a solid jade, hand carved buddha, dog and pig (Dylan was born in the Year of the Dog and Maddie is the Year of the Pig). On the walk back (about a mile), Dylan fell asleep in his sling, which was perfect for nap time. Unfortunately, as soon as I got him out of the sling and onto the bed, he woke up. So, no nap.After lunch, we went down to the beach. I rolled up my pants legs and walked in with him. He was dying to get down, so I stripped off his pants (he was wearing a shorts onesie underneath) and set him down. I figured he would freak out the first time the water touched him. But he LOVED it. He giggled and stomped his feet in the sand, even when the tide came in and the water was coming up over his shorts. We had to drag him back to the room to get cleaned up. It was only in the 60's at the time and the water was COLD. But he was ecstatic. It makes us so happy to see him so happy.The afternoon adventure was Hoi An, an ancient town about 30 minutes away (by hotel shuttle). They have a bunch of silk factories there. We saw silk worm eggs, baby worms, adult worms, cocoons with larvae (the locals eat the larvae) and moths. We saw how they take the silk from the cocoon and spin 10-20 strands together to make one strand of silk. We then saw them use a machine (moved by hand) to weave the strands into fabric, then saw the finished products of shirts and dresses. We also saw them hand-weaving silk rugs. They were gorgeous. We got a picture of one that took 3 workers, working full work days, a month and a half to make. It was $500. For 6 weeks of labor for 3 people. Amazing. Oh, and on the way there, Dylan fell asleep and stayed asleep for over an hour in his sling. Seven more hours until we get Maddie!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

March 1, 2008

Hi all. I'm having a friend post this for me. I haven't been able to access the blog since we got to Danang. Here are the updates and a few pictures.I sent this upon arriving in Danang:That's where we are RIGHT NOW. We're at the Sandy Beach Resort in Danang. It's breezy, around 65 degrees, and oh, we have our own private bungalow. Yeah! It's amazing. The bungalow is actually a bit smaller than our room last time, but it has a private entrance, private patio, and we're on the BEACH. That would be China Beach. It couldn't get better than this! Oh, but it does. We're meeting our daughter in 16 hours!! We'll get to spend a couple hours with her tomorrow morning, then get her for good on Monday afternoon. So let me back up to the beginning (this is going to be long). The flight to LA wasn't too bad. We only slept 30 minutes each, but it was only a 4-hour flight. Of course, after an hour in the international terminal (which is in HORRIBLE condition-exposed insulation, no ceiling tiles, etc.), Dylan had his first meltdown. It was completely expected, since it was around midnight our time and he hadn't been to sleep. So he laid in the floor, screamed as loud as he could and nothing could calm him. I held him and sang to him and he finally calmed down, though. The LONG leg (14 hours) from LA to Taipei was great. He didn't cry one time. He slept 8 hours (4 hours at a time) and was just a happy little boy the rest of the time. He watched movies, played with his new favorite car (a blue Lightening McQueen from grandma) and looked out the window. He loves looking out the window. The layover in Taipei was short and they had an awesome playground. I won't be too upset if we have to stay longer on the way back, since there's something to keep them entertained. It's also the most beautiful airport I've ever seen. Tons of live plant scenes. I'll share pictures later, but I got a ton at that airport!The last leg (Taipei to Hanoi) was easy. Dylan slept in my arms the entire 3 hours. In Hanoi, we met our travel partner (a single mom and her 8-year-old daughter, adopted from China). Our facilitator met us at the airport and flew with us to Danang. We had first class tickets and I don't know if I can ever go back to economy! Ok, I can't afford first class all the time, but wow-it's incredible. Fully-reclining seats, tons of leg room, wider seats. Too bad the flight was only an hour!Once in Danang, we came straight to the Sandy Beach and settled in. I haven't gotten the pics off my camera yet, so I'll probably be sending another email in an hour or two. I'll upload ALL pics to photobucket, and link in the good ones. But they'll all be there if anyone wants to check them out. I'll send the link once I've set it up.I hope everyone has a wonderful leap day and I can't wait to share pictures of my first meeting with my daughter tomorrow!
This one is from right after meeting Madison.We finally met Maddie! She's so sweet, and laughs a LOT. It's easy to make her smile and laugh. We were a little shocked when we saw her, honestly. With Dylan, he was perfect-clear skin, developmentally ahead, etc. Maddie has a raging case of scabies, so she has scabs all over her scalp, bald spots, flat spots on her head from laying in the crib, no trunk control (sitting up), not crawling yet, etc. But those are all things we can deal with. No big deal. We have medicine for the scabies. We can work with her on her motor skills. She's our daughter and she's perfect for us! I didn't want to leave, but we had to. They fed her and I rocked her and sang her to sleep, then put her in her crib and said goodbye. It was a great meeting.The pictures are in an album on photobucket here: is danangEnjoy! Stephanie