Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why We Love Skype

Skype was an incredible tool for us when we were in Taiwan. For those of you not understanding what it is, I'll try and explain. Skype is a free program that you download on your computer. You choose a user name. Then your friend or family member also downloads it to their computer and chooses a user name. Make sure you exchange user names with each other. If you have a web cam on your computer you can video talk to each other for free. We used it daily while in Taiwan to communicate with the boys. They really enjoyed being able to talk with us face to face and it was especially fun once we got the baby for the boys to see her.

Another very valuable tool through Skype is Skype phone calling. Before we left for Taiwan they offered a special rate of $2.95 per month. We could call any U.S. number through our computer (not video calling, but voice calling) for just the $2.95 a month fee. I can't tell you how valuable this was to be able to call some family members that don't have access to Skype videos. Also, in Taiwan we decided to change our flights and were able to call the airlines through the computer, thus saving lots of time and money on phone calls. Now that we are home, we have cancelled the monthly charge as we don't need it any longer.

Before I went to Taiwan, I called my cell phone service - Verizon to see what it would cost to make phone calls in Taiwan. They don't have any International plans for Taiwan so the price is $2 per minute whether you call or someone calls you. At that rate, I decided to forgo the cell phone and just use the Skype calling.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Got Milk?

This outfit is pretty special to us as it was given to us in Taiwan. We think Lacey looks adorable in it and had to share!

Overall we are adjusting wonderfully, other than a bit sleep deprived. The boys adore Lacey and we've had to put them on a rotating basis of who is next to hold her. She loves them! Today we even journeyed out to Target and must say that she is more even tempered than any of our kids. She didn't fuss at all. We are so incredibly happy and in love!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Trip Home

Lacey is on Taiwan time, which means she slept most of the flight home from Taiwan to LAX. We really enjoyed our flights in EVA airways. The service was excellent. We upgraded to Elite class, so we could have more leg room and were also able to get a bulkhead seat for the way home. In front of the seat, a bassinet was able to attach to the wall so that Lacey could sleep in it the majority of the flight.
Once to LAX, we had to process her through Immigration. We were given a mysterious set of papers that we had to give Immigration. These papers were sealed in an envelope and we were commanded to not open them at all. Once we gave them the papers, we were told to wait in the waiting area with around 50 other people from countries all around the world.
Judging from how slowly things were moving, I estimated it was going to be around a 3 hour wait for our turn. After 15 minutes, we were called forward. I think maybe they process adoptions first, but am not sure. They told me how to apply for a social security card and that some items (I think a green card) will be mailed to me. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what they said, it's all a blur, so if anyone knows the next steps I need to take to get her name changed etc., please fill me in. Then they handed me her Taiwanese passport and congratulated us on having the newest American immigrant.
We walked through customs without any problems and up to the area where people were waiting for the arriving Immigrants. Several people had American flags and it really hit me that Lacey's life has just changed in a big way. I got a bit teary eyed to think she is the newest American. Several workers at the airport told us "she is one lucky girl." We feel that way, but also feel that we are the lucky ones.
We are overnighting in LA, as there were not any later connecting flights. We have the first flight home this morning. Lacey has been up since 2 am, and I've given up on getting her back to sleep. It could be tricky to get her days and nights switched around. Plus, she's a little social bug and is afraid she will miss something. The orphanage workers told us that she catnaps at night and likes to play during the night and sleep during the day.
The boys are so excited to see their sister. We have been using Skype the entire time while in Taiwan and it has helped them to feel connected. They will be getting out of school early today to meet us!
My plan is to updated a little more about the trip and some tips for other adoptive parents in a few days as time allows.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Our Way Home

We had our appointment this morning with AIT (American Institute in Taiwan). This is where all adoption papers are checked and processed so we can get Miss Lacey's visa and passport. Everything went very smoothly. They are able to get it done today, so we have changed our flights and are coming home 2 days early.
We loved our time here in Taiwan, but are ready to head home to our boys. So we've been doing the whirlwind packing job and are heading out in less than an hour. All flights are changed and we're ready to go home.

Introducing Our Baby

We picked up our baby girl today and now we can finally show you her picture. We have decided to name her Lacey. We love her so much already.
Our time at St Lucy's orphanage was wonderful. We went over her schedule, had a nice visit and toured the facility. So far Lacey is so easy. She has been smiling at us and giving us kisses all day. She seems very even tempered and we hope it lasts. She's smaller than we pictured. We were also given a CD with over 300 pictures from the time she was a newborn until today including the pictures they took of us today. Those pictures are priceless! The nannies in the facility love her greatly and I'm thankful they took such good care of her.
After we picked her up at the orphanage we took the high speed train back to Taipei. We found diapers at one store, but they didn't sell baby food. So, we had to take a taxi to Carefour to get baby food and purchase a stroller.
She has just taken her bottle and is asleep, so it's time for us to sleep too!
We feel so blessed and honored to be her parents!
By the way Happy Birthday Jeremiah! Not everyone gets a baby sister for their birthday! We miss you boys and can't wait to get home to you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tainan Part 2

If you have not read the previous post - Indiana Jones - please read it first and then return to read this part of our day.
Gerry was able to rest most of the day and slowly began to feel better and regain his strength. He had been very pale and quite weak. Around 4 pm, we decided it was time to check out this city.

With the exchange rate, we can get around very cheaply in a taxi. We told our English speaking friends at the front desk to "hire a taxi for us. Tell them that we would like to see the main highlights of the city. We need the taxi driver to drive carefully and not crazy. "
We ended up with an older gentleman as our driver. He was so great. He drove extremely cautiously and did exactly as we desired. He'd pull up to the front gate of a building, let us out and wait for us while we walked around the sites. Some sites we spent 10 minutes looking at, others only a few minutes. It was perfect! We didn't read everything in great depth, but took pictures of the main points and it was nice to see the actual city!
Our impressions:
  • Tainan is much different than Taipei. The buildings aren't as high as Taipei, there are more kids, it's cloudier here, people seem to be more relaxed and very social with each other.
  • Tainan is less Americanized - less foreigners. However, we see many American businessmen - perhaps working contracts with the factories here.
  • The little kids and even adults love to look into my blue eyes.
  • The pace of the city, seems to move a tad bit slower here, and traffic is less congested.

Here are a few highlights of our taxi tour.

Just 10 hours until we meet our daughter!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Indiana Jones Has Nothing Over Us

Disclaimer, Please Read:
I want to make it clear that the following post could contain some sensitive info. and that I am in no way demeaning the people, or country here. They have been nothing but overly kind and helpful throughout our experience! Also, everyone involved is fine now.

In the middle of the night, Gerry experienced a nose bleed, not just your every day nose bleed, but a slowly flowing river that would not stop. This was the 3rd nose bleed this week. Now, it's not terribly unusual for him, as he has suffered from sinus problems his entire life and has had 3 sinus surgeries.
However, this nose bleed wasn't to the stage of needing a transfusion, but we became concerned and decided it was time to go to the hospital. After all, how was I supposed to move him if he passed out? So, we went to our hotel lobby and the employees of our hotel were so nice. We got a cab and thought we were headed to one hospital, the one our adoption agency recommended, but were taken to a closer hospital about 3 blocks away. When we arrived, they determined we needed to transfer to the hospital that we originally thought we were headed to, as they have an E.N.T. doctor and would be better able to serve Gerry.
Thus, begins our wild ride - literally. We had the Indiana Jones taxi driver of all times. The guy was seriously panicked. Thankfully it was the middle of the night and there wasn't many people driving. He ran at least 10 red lights. He would just honk as he sped through the light. He swerved between a scooter and a taxi driver narrowly missing them. Then the real fun began when he turned through a neighborhood with very narrow streets. He went full blast and just kept blaring his horn at every intersection, twisting and turning as we raced to the hospital. Gerry saw all of this with one eye, as he had his ice pack and towel over his other eye area. We screeched to a halt at the front door of the hospital.
Once inside, we had to pay $700NT which is roughly about $21 US. Then we were taken to the emergency room and he was placed on a bed and they started an IV. There were about 20 other patients in this room. Gerry was given a shot of something - not sure what to stop the bleeding. I asked if it was a vitamin K shot - and it was not, but that it does something similar. The attending Dr. was very kind.
After about 20 minutes his nose stopped bleeding. He was taken for a head x-ray and then transferred to the observation room. Now we had 30 people in beds, with no curtains, all suffering together. We were concerned we might become ill ourselves. I felt so bad for some of the people. The hospital was obviously understaffed and underfunded. There are not many regular Dr. offices here, so everyone comes to the hospital for everything - including us for nose bleeds!
Just a side note, this is most likely the hospital where our baby was born. We did hear a newborn cry in the next room, sounded like it was just born. Kind of a special and emotional moment for me.
The plan was for us to wait until the morning for the ENT Dr. to come in and they would examine him. This would be another 2-3 hours. After waiting another hour and observing conditions, we decided to leave the hospital and see if we would be fine.
We sort of checked ourselves out of the hospital. The Dr. told us he would prefer to us to wait to see the ENT, and I told him. "I respect you and you have been very kind. I believe he is fine, so therefore we would like to leave and we will come back again if he has problems." He told us by law he can't keep us there and he reluctantly let us go. We paid another $1300NT when we checked out for the x-ray and already filled prescriptions. All together the ER visit costs us $63 US.
The cab ride back to the hotel took about 5 minutes and was relatively calm, but he drove pretty fast. The ride to the hospital only took 2-3 minutes - just to put it all in perspective.
In the hotel room - 20 minutes later Gerry's nose started bleeding all over again. Now what do we do? We prayed and kept icing it, etc. as well as made a call to Gerry's mom to see if our Dr. at home could give us some advice. We also decided to call some missionaries from our church to come and pray with us. They arrived and offered a beautiful prayer in our behalf. We had an overwhelming feeling of God's love for us as well as for all of his children all over the world. One of the missionaries is from Florida and the other from Nevada. They are truly wise for their ages and I appreciate their 2 year sacrifice to serve the people here in Taiwan. We feel at peace that this problem will be o.k, until we can at least get back to Taipei tomorrow afternoon or possibly until we arrive home!
We cancelled our tour of this area that he had planned for today, which was a huge disappointment. We came down here a day early specifically to tour this area and take pictures as this is the area our baby's family is from. We are spending the rest of the day in the room taking it easy and Gerry is trying to not move his head very much. We wanted to get as much of the cultural aspects of this area as possible. In a very real way, we actually have. We got to observe the every day people in the hospitals and the staff here. We've seen some very tender moments that are priceless! The Taiwanese people are soft spoken, caring and overly helpful!
Here's our tour of Tainan from our hotel room window.
Tomorrow is the big day! Can't wait to get our baby! If you don't mind, say a little prayer for us that Gerry's nose will not continue to have problems and that the baby will adjust easily to us and bond with us quickly. Thank you.

Headed South

Around noon today, we took the high speed train to Tainan. Taipei is in the northern part of the island and Tainan is in the south. The train was easy to use, and the seats were spacious and offered lots of leg room. The entire trip took just under 2 hours.
Most of the ride was above ground and included many passes through tunnels in the hills. We enjoyed seeing the different views of Taiwan. We made several brief stops at some large cities. Outside of the cities, there are lots of rice patty fields and farms . It's hard to describe some of the scenery. The houses varied from apartment buildings, to little shacks, to USA style farm homes. There was no rhyme or reason. There were also many factories along the way.
Once here in Tainan, it appears to have more factories. It's still a large city, but the high rises are not as high as Taipei. We are seeing more families here and perhaps the people have less money than in Taipei. People are very fashion conscious and "name brand fashions" are very popular. We are finding very friendly people, and I have had many little girls become very fascinated with me. Maybe it's because I'm so tall. I'm not sure, but I've had a few come close to listen to me speak. They get embarrassed when I look at them.

It's kind of strange, but we are having a bit of cultural shock here. I think it's that Taipei is a bit more International and here we feel like a bit of a novelty. We decided to call it a night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 1 in Taipei

We had a great flight to Taipei. Eva Air is the best! I've used to be a travel agent, and have flown on many airlines, but they were the best airline I've ever flown on. The service and food were excellent. However, the 13 hour flight seemed to last forever. Anyway, we arrived safely and were relieved to find our driver waiting to take us to our hotel. We arrived at our hotel around midnight.
We got up really early and were ready to go. After breakfast and a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood, we were ready for some sightseeing.
First off, we stopped at the Taiwan National Museum. We were able to view incredible artifacts and learn much about Taiwan culture. Anyone that comes here must come on Friday as a Taiwan English speaking tour guide that calls himself "Michael", was excellent. Friday is the only day he works. We had fun visiting with a group of 5 from Wyoming - that we also ended up running into later in the day.

For lunch, we headed to Taipei 101. This is the 2nd tallest building in the world. We thought we would splurge on a nice meal before we pick up the baby. So, we ate lunch in the 85th floor Chinese restaurant. It was a 7 course meal and cost $ 1700 each. Well, don't faint it's $ 1700 NRT which equals about $ 60 each. That will definitely be our most expensive meal, but the views were priceless. It also took about 2 hours to eat the meal. Gerry is not one to try foreign or unknown foods, but he was determined to try it all and he did eat it all. I actually had a harder time with some of the foods. Here are the visuals of what we ate:
Course 1 - Quartet of cold appetizers:
Chilled Hokkaido scallop, poached fresh squid, baby abalone and crispy king oyster mushroom.

Course 2-Double boiled frish maw with eight treasures.

Course 3 - Fillet of round cod with sweet and sour sauce.

Course 4 - Braised pork knuckle with oyster sauce and broccoli.

Course 5 - Sauteed mustard leaf with bait herring fish. (The mini fish were whole with eyes.)

Course 6 - Beef fried rice

Course 7 - Seasonal fresh fruits and sweets

After Taipei 101, we headed to the Taiwan Handicraft Market for some shopping. Everything in there is made in Taiwan and they sell traditional items. Gerry was so happy as I promised him I would do most of my shopping here and we really found some cool things such as jade necklaces, coral necklaces, traditional toys and items our daughter will love as she gets older. It's a bit more expensive that the night markets, but he's not too crazy about crowds, so it was worth it.

Our first impressions about Taiwan is that we are finding it very modern and much cleaner than we imagined. The Taiwanese people are extremely nice and helpful. The hotel people have gone out of their way to help us and offer suggestions to save us money. Although we are both very tall, we don't feel made fun of or out of place. Scooters and taxis are the main forms of transportation. We will do most of our traveling by taxis and we've had some scary rides today including a driver that ran a red light and one that almost ran over someone. The scooters are everywhere and dash in and out of traffic like crazy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brought to You by Hertz & Avis

We are on our way to Taiwan! Yippee! We've had two great flights. Currently we are at LAX. We love the show "The Amazing Race" and are thinking of this journey as our amazing race. The first task on this leg of the journey was to get thank-you cards done from our baby shower. I wrote the thank-you cards on the flight to L.A., while Gerry addressed and stamped them. It took us the entire flight to get them done. The plan was to drop them off at the LAX airport.
Well, we hit a road-block. Apparently, since 9/11, all airport mail pick-up is gone. So, how were we to mail these thank-you cards? We asked airport info for the nearest mail drop box. Since we have a 5 hour layover, she suggested we ride the Hertz rental bus to Hertz and the post office is located across the street. So, we inconspicuously hopped on the Hertz rental bus. When we arrived, we couldn't get out of the lot as their is a tall chain-link fence surrounding it. So, we wandered around the lot until we found an exit - opposite of the post office. We walked down the road, through a construction zone and finally arrived at the post office. See picture below!

After we got the cards mailed, we noticed that Avis was also next door to the post-office, but that they were less-fortified and easier to enter into the lot. So, we casually strolled up to the Avis bus and jumped on and road it back to LAX. Total cost = FREE!
Aren't we easily entertained?

Awesome Baby Shower

On April Fool's Day - my wonderful friends and family gave me a "good wishes" baby shower with a Chinese theme.

I was completely overwhelmed with the support we received. We are going to have the best dressed baby girl around!
The picture above is after I brought all the unwrapped gifts home and laid them out in the living room. It looked like Christmas.
Another cool thing about the shower is that most everyone brought some clothing to donate to the orphanage and we ended up with a full suitcase full of clothes, bibs, burp cloths and baby socks!