Thursday, May 31, 2012

and from left field, Plan C succeeds!

Plan A: From the beginning this one was the least desirable. It involved an airplane taking off on Monday, June 11 with Xian and Krista while Sage and I hung out together at home. Then, whenever Sage's passport + visa came through, we would hope to find a plane and join them in the States.

Plan B: Try to sneak Sage into AIT (US not-an-embassy in Taiwan) with Xian and beg for a 2-for-1 special on visas. AIT has lots of guards outside that require appointment papers to get in.

Last night at 8:00 Plan B was our best option though Plan A was more probable even though Sage's passport had been processed in record time. $30 (US) put her passport in the express lane and it was returned to us in 24-hours.
Passport Photo
The US visa system in Taiwan is a money making machine. Every 15 minutes, there are 150 possible appointments. Do the math if each visa is a bit more than $150...An appointment system constantly shows available slots. After racing home with Sage's freshly printed passport, we logged on to the system and snagged the soonest possible date: June 6. The anticipated wait time for a visa was posted as nine business days. Plan A here we come.

A bit disappointed, we schemed the possibilities of Plan B while constantly checking the appointment system. Suddenly, it popped up. An appointment for tomorrow morning! Click, click click and the slot was ours - 8:00 in the morning. Xian's appointment was scheduled for 9:00 am, which gave us enough time to take the high speed train to Taipei from Taichung. The first train gets into Taipei at 7:30 so the 8:00 appointment was just too close. We had to drive.

The buzzer at 3:00 am seemed to come a bit early this morning and Audrey looked especially disgruntled on her short walk. We packed the sleeping girls into the Freeca and after a few groans peaceful slumber resumed. The drive north was uneventful and quite quick. We arrived with plenty of time for a walk and some breakfast before joining the queue in front of AIT.

Tucking Xian's appointment behind Sage's, we got both girls into the building and through the multiple paperwork checks. Once inside, AIT representatives were quite friendly and often pulled us up through the line. A bit nervous, we finally approached the interview window. Would we be told that our June 11 flight was a dream? Krista had done an amazing job getting all of our paperwork in order and we were soon being told that the courier service would have the girls' passports returned (with visas!) by next week.
Woohoo! We're heading home!!!

In other exciting, but unrelated news, Xian is working on her teeth. They are already quite sharp!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sage's Saga Sags

Quite a ridiculous, nonsense title to go with a ridiculous, nonsense process. First the good news!

Sage's adoption is final!

We are super excited the adoption is legal. Our two girls are "officially" part of the family that they have been such an important part of over the last (almost) eight months. Last year at this time we were packing bags for an adventure in Europe and discussing how different our lives could be in a year. We didn't have a clue...but are loving it!

With the final decree of Sage's adoption in our hands, we raced to the passport office. Maybe, just maybe, we could expedite her passport in time to sneak her into Xian's upcoming visa appointment. Getting to the passport office a little before closing time, we passed the adoption papers, photographs and application form over to the lady behind the counter. She quickly flips through the papers and asks where is the house registry document. (The paper we drove all over Taiwan with a few weeks ago for Xian.) Unfortunately, we do not have Sage's document and tried to explain that as foreigner we don't have the paper. Well, if you are foreigners, give us Sage's alien resident card. Um, she's Taiwanese and doesn't have one.

Confusion reigned supreme. The number of people at the counter quickly multiplied but the only word I could make out was a negative (likely reference to our lack of the document). Phone calls were made, people from the back office ventured out, lights began to be turned off and our hopes followed the setting sun. No document. No passport. We've been told that a certified copy is heading our way from Sage's birth-family but who knows when it will arrive. Tomorrow, we try to work with the Office of Household Registration to get something for the passport keepers. 

But the good news still keeps our spirits high. Here's the lil' monster...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Water loss

I woke up today with one simple thought in my mind - take a shower. Definitely a start-my-day-with-a-shower kind of person and today I wanted one. Maybe it was the fact that Sage got me up at 4:30 on a Sunday morning and I needed an additional wake-up call to the brewing coffee. Who knows, but the faucet provided the reminder of last night's announcement.

Our development has a subway station-esque announcement system. A sound cuts through the alleys as if a train were pulling into station. This gets followed by an announcement in Chinese; none too helpful for the non-Chinese speakers of the area (that's us). Fortunately some friends translate and send a text regarding the message. Last night's message informed us that the water main was damaged and that the water would be turned off. Yippee!

No shower early this morning. No mid-morning shower. We headed out and went on some errands. No shower when we returned. In fact, no water all day. This evening, both girls were in quite a state and the typical bottle-bath-bed routine was tampered by the broken water main. Attempting to keep the motions as close to normal as possible, we fed the girls and then gave them a baby-wipe bath. The idea (brilliant if you ask me) to give the baby-wipe bath in the tub was vetoed. The babies finally got to bed but...still no shower.

Closing the circle: We woke up Monday morning to the sound of air in the faucets. Blah! Getting out of the house was a bit dysfunctional but we made it. Fortunately, the water was back on by the time we got home from work. I've lived without running water before and it did not seem that big of a deal at the time. With the two little ones it's a different story. I'm quite thankful of the running water and my thoughts go out to the many families who do not have it on a daily basis.

Speaking of water. Oh so ready to head home - photos from Eagle Creek, Columbia River Gorge

Fly by weekend

The girls are getting more and more active. Nap times are crash times. Xian is in the phase of trying many different actions in one play session: crawling, pulling herself back into a sitting position, standing, moving forward from sitting to all fours. When put in her crib for a nap, she cannot stop moving but eventually passes out for a few hours. Sage continues to be a motion machine. She makes a lot of noise and her legs are a constant go. However, on Saturday, the girls were on opposite schedules so while the naps were good as one went to sleep the other woke up. A few snapshots:

Sage is trying her best to sit-up by herself. She's got a fair amount of balance and is starting to figure out a way to slow down her feet. It's really hard to sit when one's legs are moving all over the place.

No place is safe from Xian's wanderings. She's not quite crawling but has several methods of locomotion that seem to work for her. There is the roll which she uses to quickly move from one area to another (bonus points if Sage is in the way to steamroll). There is also the foot push. This is the closest to crawling yet. With her hands at her sides, she packs the power into her legs, pushes off with her feet and zooms forwards.

Sage is starting to love looking at books. Evening reading times are a fav for her. She will often stay in a cobra-type pose for a book or two, following each page back and forth.

Friend Ella came over for a visit. Yep, a toddler, a 4.5 and a 7.5 monther. Lots of activity...

Woohoo! Who would have known that a plastic bottle filled with beans, rice and pasta could be so much fun but Xian loved this new toy!

Sage simply passed out on Mom

only to be recharged moments later.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A bit of disappointment

All in all, the adoption process of Xian and Sage has been a process without many bumps. Maybe it is because we compiled lots of information before starting or maybe time was on our side for most of the year. But, time is running out. Over the past week and a half, we have been told that Sage's paperwork will show in in two days, one more week, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, maybe next week. The silver lining is that it seems as if her adoption has been finalized but we've learned to not count those chickens before they show up in front of us. So, another week has passed and our plane leaves two weeks from Monday. We're slightly disappointed... 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Walking the dog (Taiwanese Style)

The following recipe finally gave me the long awaited excuse to take Audrey for a walk in proper Taiwanese fashion:

  • Emergency - The last of Xian's precious bananas had been eaten. 
  • Rapidly approaching dusk
  • A dog in desperate need of exercise.
  • Our scooter that needs to be used from time to time.
We have often laughed as scooters zip by with dogs trailing afterwards as fast as they run. One person who lives near us takes his five, white ankle biters out for a scooter walk. He drives; they yip and run. I gave it a try. At first, Audrey was hesitant and did not want to leave. Usually we tell her to avoid scooters but now I was asking her to chase one. With some coaxing she followed and we took off down the street. She soon found a large stick and thought we might play scooter fetch but that didn't happen. Taking a small back-road we made it to the banana seller and back home without incident. She got a great run and I enjoyed a rare scooter ride. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Future World Traveler #1

She's packed and ready to go!

Our marathon trip last week to complete Xian's paperwork ended at a big, government building where passports are processed. We were both anxious and excited as we handed over the paperwork, paid our money and were told to return on Tuesday (today!). Could it really be that simple?

This afternoon we picked the girls up and returned to the passport office. While I sat in the car with a snoozing Sage, Krista and Xian raced inside. Moments later they returned full of smiles with Xian's first passport.

Next hurdle: get Sage's final paperwork (any day now...), race her to the passport office and then hope there is enough time to get to the American Institute of Taiwan to get the girls visas to enter the U.S. Our plane leaves in less than three weeks. Yikes!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The mosquito fight continues

These zebra-striped mosquitoes are fast and dangerous. With vampire-like speed, they swoop in and jab their proboscis into poor little Xian. They are gone before we can find them. Her reactions are horrible; her skins turns a bright red, she swells and can also scab. Last week, we upped the artillery against these blood suckers. Xian doesn't leave the house without being covered in mosquito repellent and we found a noise-making device that mimics the sound of a male mosquito. Theoretically, the blood hungry females avoid the sound. The device is attached near a rear window in the Freeca. The noise also drives us crazy and the bumpy Taiwanese roads often jar it enough to turn on the high pitched squeal. 

Our latest outing was to purchase a mosquito net to cover Xian's crib. After picking the girls up from school, we headed to the Taiwanese-style Home Depot. The girls loved cruising through the store in their double-long stroller. The best display was the one created by the lighting department. Eyes were wide and both Xian and Sage stared in complete silence.

At home, we installed the net above Xian's crib. It's quite princess-like.

Our weekend

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Xian's Hurdles (getting closer)

Ok, ok, we were a bit premature with The Girl is Ours... post. We cheered. We toasted. And then, we found out that the process was just inching forward. Just over a month ago, Xian's initial decree of adoption was issued and we were told that it was the final. The "initial" is a ruling from the Court that moves the adoption forward but gives a bit more time for birth families to reconsider (yep, we were still chewing on our nails for a bit longer). Finally, the time period passed and Xian's legal adoption process was complete! Yay!

Still loving books
We received the final paper on Saturday. It was a one page document with five lines of writing.It seemed a bit insignificant but who are we to say what the characters mean. On Monday, we raced out of work to the local office of household registration to continue the paperwork. Let me digress a bit here in an attempt to explain this system (I may be completely wrong.) Each Taiwanese person is registered to a household. Foreigners are not part of this system but Xian is since she is of Taiwanese birth. Unfortunately, since we are outside of the system, Xian cannot get transferred to our household. We have been told that we could get a Taiwanese friend to register Xian under their house... It's complicated.

So, our goal was to get a note put into the system that Xian was legally adopted by us and to obtain her ID number (like a social security number?). At the household registration office we found out that we were missing pages from Xian's adoption - remember the initial decree? Yep, those pages were needed so we raced to the lawyer's office to pick up those papers and returned just before the office closed. Here's one of the tricky parts. Even though the documentation is electronic, the original office of Xian's registration has to be involved. They happened to be closed on Monday afternoon.

Hanging with Mom
We decided to take most of Wednesday off from work to chase down all the requirements. We needed the time! After teaching first period we headed south and into the mountains. There, the people in the household registration office were extremely nice. There level of English was low and our Chinese was lower but lots of smiles and laughter (at one point five people were trying to help us) kept us going. It turned out that they could change the registration but not her name. Off we were again to another district and another office of household registration. Success! The next step....getting Xian's passport but that's for another day.

So, Xian is officially official! She's eagerly waiting for her sister's process to also be finished.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A beautiful gift for two

The orchid is an amazing plant that we see quite often in Taiwan. It has the ability to hold fast to trees and beautiful flowers grow outwards at amazing angles. Street-side flower markets jump with color when a variety or orchids are placed together. A friend recently gifted us with a double orchid for the two girls.

Watermelon Time!

Where oh where are they all coming from? Fruit stands are bursting at the seams with massive quantities of these summer fruit. Trucks are loaded down and vendors all over have halved these bowling ball sized treats to make colorful displays of red and yellow. I'm only used to the red insides so the yellow always throws me for a loop.

Over the past weekend, Xian was able to taste watermelon for the first time. We did a few size comparisons first.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Mother's Day (and an amazing one you are)

For me, the last seven months were a wonderful experience. I have often chuckled at the comment that one of my trips were the "trip of a lifetime". How many trips of a lifetime does one get anyways? If there is to be one major trip, I'm now on it.  As with any great adventure, it's not just the places one visits but the companions along the way. For the trip that I am steadily cruising along on, I could not have dreamed of a better partner; Krista is simply an amazing mom. Each day I smile as she talks with the girls, makes one giggle while she soothes the other, dances across the room to make Xian flap her arms in enjoyment and Sage watch in awe, or laughs a beautiful, joyous laugh as one of the girls tries something new.

We are both extremely lucky to have Xian and Sage in our lives but I think that they are also lucky to have such a wonderful mom. On her first official Mother's Day, we all want to say, "Thanks for being such a wonderful mom. We love you!"
 Frank, Xian & Sage

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Food Festival

This weekend is the Compass Magazine Food Festival in Taichung. We missed it last year but grabbed the girls and headed out to see what it was all about. It takes place on a few city blocks along the Art Museum Greenway. We have visited that area countless times and found a parking space to only begin searching for the festival. Where were the people? The booths of food? The bands? We were generally in the right area but needed a 15 minute walk to get to the actual festival. Our school had a booth and we stopped by as we arrived. Xian was on hand to counsel those interested in education.

The atmosphere was great - lots of people, music and food, food, food. The girls packed their own goat milk and as we took a bottle break, a Taiwanese couple walked by. We noticed them looking at the girls and a few moments later they returned asking if they could take a photo with Xian. We agreed - it was just too funny. Did they want a photo of the American baby? By capturing Xian's upset face? (She is beginning to enter the stranger-danger phase!)

The girls later got their faces painted for the first time. We started small this time...
Xian received a small heart

The girls were great! They seemed to love being outside and we kept them well away from the loud music. They listened from a distance while hanging out in the backpack carriers. After a few hours, they were tired and ready to head home. Oh yeah, the car was parked a short walk away. Sage, after gumming the backpack for most of the afternoon,

was passed out by the time we reached the Freeca.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

to the pool, to the pool, to the pool we go!

On May 1, the swimming pool in our housing area was magically filled with water and posted signs shouted, "Game on!" The pool was finally open. Our first walk of the past weekend left us quite warm and our eyes gravitated towards the blue glow the pool. Xian was the saltwater guinea pig so we decided to give Sage first dibs this time.

Sage appeared curious and we planned to return later on for a full session.

Dad has lots to learn about taking the girls swimming. The first step is the swim suit trial.

Then, we have to spend some time on the side of the pool posing for photos.

Sage reaches out to Xian to tell her not to worry. She's tested the waters and all is good. Finally, the girls get into the water.

All in all, it was a good first experience. Sage seemed quite content getting in the water and enjoyed being dipped in. Xian was barely OK but leaning towards the positive side. The water was still a bit cool so a few more days of warm weather should heat it up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another sign that summer is around the corner

It's starting to get hot. Our air conditioners are becoming well used as both temperatures and humidity increase. At school, kids are getting anxious and conversations often revolve around summer plans and plane tickets.

This year, regular down pours are helping to bring in the season and the creeks rapidly fill with water.

Audrey also heralds the change in season by shedding at an uncontrollable rate. Even after vacuuming, her hairs collect in the middle of rooms. Our two little ones are keeping us sufficiently busy so we have been unable to find the time to shave her as  in the past. Well, Krista has not found the time and I am not allowed to bring the clippers near darling Audrey. I'm sure that my job would at least be adequate...With Audrey's shedded hair multiplying and beginning to develop personality, we finally took her to a doggie groomer near our local grocery store. A few hours later, a somewhat distressed Audrey was returned to us minus several pounds of hair.

Dogs are seen around with intricate patterns carved into their fur but we went for a simple look. Audrey now sports a mane as the hair from her neck to her nose remained untouched. She also has a duster for a tail.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bites & Bumps heading into month #8

The last week around here was a wacky one for Xian as she put a final stamp on her 7th month. First, there was First Blood and then we arrived at Paradise to pick her up from school with a huge surprise. Huge in that her hand had puffed up past the point of her rubber band wrists being cute. Swollen and red, as if burned with scalding water, her teachers and the principal gathered round to show us. Xian was a trooper as she was poked and prodded. A random parent even stepped in to offer her 50 cents (in Chinese). The general consensus was that the egg monster had pulled Xian into allergy land and she was in the midst of a reaction.

Fortunately, the emergency room is on the way home so we raced to the hospital, which happened to be quite empty. Their curiosity piqued, security guards and other staff wandered over to let us know what was wrong. This time the consensus was that we must have poured boiling water over her hands! Seriously...

A nurse quickly checked us in and soon Xian was being seen by a doctor. Xian was awesome! Glowing smiles instantly won over the nurses and she giggled throughout the doctor's check-up.

sorry for the poor photo quality

Close inspection and the doctor's keen eye saw through Xian's swollen hand to the final culprit - mosquitoes. As it turns out, Xian is quite allergic to the blood suckers and had not, in fact, been doused with scalding water. She also did not have a reaction to eating egg - she only eats the yolk which is not reported to carry the allergens in the egg whites. 

Otherwise, all is great. Xian joined her sister for the monthly check-up and laughed as Sage received her latest immunization. She's grown a bit, putting on one pound (up to 17 lbs) and getting close to 25".

From the end of February to the beginning of May - still enjoying the window seat!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lil' miss spit-up is 4 months old

Silence was followed by a red and contorted face. Her open mouth screamed of a shriek that waited and waited before filling the doctor's office. Tonight was shot night!

The doctor continues to be a little concerned about Sage's love of vomit. She literally gushes after most feedings. She's downing Gripe Water (Xian's miracle cure) by the teaspoon full without much effect. The doctor has recommended stomach rubs which help a bit. Tonight, Sage was prodded and poked as a full "gut-exam" was given. In the end, she was somewhat cleared. No permanent blockages were found and we left with the common refrain that she will eventually grow out of this period.
Milk on the chin

Current Stats:
5.4 kg (12 lbs)
58 cm (22 in)

When she is not spitting up or eating (Sage rarely sleeps during the day), Sage continues to be a motion machine. She tumbles here, rolls there and constantly makes noise. At times, it seems as if she is in a race to be the house's first crawler.

And of course, Sage spends a lot of time loving her mommy.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Eggs, Blueberries & Crackers

Xian's explorations of food continue...

Her current ranking of foods:
1. Banana - still seems to be holding strong though blueberries almost gave 'em a bounce
2. Blueberries
3. Sweet Potatoes
4. Eggs
5. Avocado (a rediscovery may move avocado up the list)
6. Oats 

Egg on the face

The blueberry monster

Eating crackers - she loves to feed herself. This is one of the first time as she slowly figures out the cracker (watch only if a true Xian fan...)

First Blood

“Krista, quick, I’m going to need you in here. . .fast!” Confusion set in, but I jumped up and ran into the living room where Frank was playing with the girls just moments before. As my foot hit the first stair, the wailing began. Xian was hurt. Into my arms she was placed as I pulled her back to try and figure out what was wrong, blood was already seeping (I say seep, Frank says I’m being way too dramatic--Okay FINE, but there was blood and it was her first injury!)  from a cut across the bridge of her nose. First blood had  been drawn and Xian was not too happy about it.

For the past few weeks, Xian has become more and more mobile, no more can I refer to her as my little sloth. She turns and rotates her body around, lunges for toys, and even hops up onto her knees before face planting as she attempts to move forward. 

This instance, XO was sitting playing with her new favorite toy, a collection of nesting cups. She was so excited that she lunged forward, clocking herself square in the nose on a pile of the colorful cups. 

The crying quickly ceased and XO was all smiles again.

This morning as we were dropping XO off at school, Frank commented on how she had gotten bit on her eye by a mosquito. Upon closer inspection, the bite turned out to be swelling with a nice blue patch forming. Her other eye had a thin blue stripe all the way across-80’s make up throw back? Nope, another bruise. . .

So, it’s official, we have our first injury on our hands and although it appears to be a small one, time stood still and afterwards, XO was smothered in hugs and kisses.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sage's Sneak Attack

This is truly an instant where I wish that I could wind back time for a better viewing of the show. Krista and I spend a lot of time juggling. Babies, that is. We currently joke that together, we do quite a lot of things separately. So even though we were both sitting on our couch, I entertained Xian as Krista played elevator with Sage. In the elevator, Sage is slowly raised up by Krista. At the top of Krista's arm length, she pauses so that Sage can admire the world map puzzle on the wall. Then the elevator comes racing back down. Sage loves it!

The elevator must have been at its apex when I hear Krista's scream. Quickly turning, I see that our spit-up queen had struck. The top of the ride was the perfect place for Sage to let loose a stomach full of curdled goat's milk on to Krista's head!

Who me? I didn't do anything.
"Help me! Help me!" 

Yesterday, Sage had tired me out with the constant flow of vomit so I thought the situation painfully funny. As if racing on tiny goat legs, the curdled milk quickly spread all over. By this time, Krista was shaking and I got a bit worried. Was she laughing uncontrollably or was she really upset?

I grabbed Sage out of her hands. 

Krista was paralyzed in place though still shaking. "Clean it up!"

"No way, go hop into the shower," I replied. The burp cloth that could clean her hair after that performance has not yet been invented.