Jade Shamrocks

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Can someone tell Lily we're in San Francisco

Hello all -

We made it - we are HOME!! Ok – so it is 4 am in SF and this beautiful little girl still thinks we are in China where it is 7 pm – she has been up since midnight and unfortunately Maryellen, Sheila and I did not sleep as well on the plane as her (she had this cool basinet – it did look like we shoved her in a size 6 shoe box and she was a 6 1/2 shoe - But it worked and she slept a lot) – We looked like we were in a size 9 shoe box and were are clearly a size 13 - so we did not sleep as well – so we are a bit tired!!

It is an odd sensation when you leave one place – travel for over 11 hours and end up in another three hours before you left! You might say that Friday was the longest day of the trip!

We got up at 6 am in Hong Kong - Maryellen wanted to sleep in a bit and handed her a toy to play with – a Tom-Tom - we got up shortly there after! We then had breakfast and went swimming – we got on a plane at 4 PM and landed in SF at 1PM the same day.

As I sit here at 4 am with a breath strip on my nose – I snore and Sheila needed a break – I just got her back to sleep as we watched Mulan – Trying to keep the theme going (and she too loved the entire Donny Osmond song!) I realized this beautiful little girl is in for a very exciting adventure – we already met a few new friends and as Diana so perfectly put it - she met a new love today!

I am so blessed that I got to be here for the beginning of her fantastic journey - I can not wait for all of you too meet her!!

Love to all from honorable number 2 Yee-Yee!! Geraldine

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

We have arrived (in Guangzhou)

I have arrived - Yup - I have been here twelve days and YESTERDAY I found beers for 7 RMB – again – 10 RMB’s = $1.25 – so I am thinking this is home!!!

We are at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou – we are on the last leg of this incredible journey. We have seen so much here.

Yesterday we went to the zoo – We saw lions and tigers and bears (oh my) we saw a panda -kinda dull after all the hype -actually a bit of a let down, he looked all hot and bothered just like all the people looking at him! We saw vultures, ostriches and hippos and elephants. They had bumper cars that of course I was swindled into playing on - with my new friend Julian (he is 8 and a new big brother) Not only did we go once but twice - and these things were old school - not the new once that meet "safety regulations" or anything silly like that!! My neck may never be the same again - It looks like I might have to find time in the schedule for a spa trip - Hey if it must be done - it must be done.

It was nice for a change to have people check out the animals in the zoo and not be staring at Sheila and me. Sheila's even been asked to be in someone's wedding photos - WE STAND OUT! But like I said for the afternoon - we blended. That ended quickly when I went to KFC for sodas – it took 2 seconds to order a coke – My friend Julian was in the taxi waiting for me (at 6 cents a mile you can have them wait while you go get sodas) - it took like 6 people and 4 minutes to order a Sprite – after MUCH negotiations – Julian ended up with a Coke too!

Yesterday we flew here - Lily did great on the flight - we walked the row for a bit and then we sat with some very cute little old Chinaman - (He looked oddly like dad) and Lily loved him - he entertained us for a long time - We feel all brave now after our one hour flight that our 11 hour flight is going to be a breeze - No worries - we still have the Valium for emergencies. :)

We are doing great I have taught Lily her first song and dance - It's called the "i wanna be like Ger" dance - she really digs it - She is now the hippest baby in the hotel! :) Sheila hasn't learned all the steps yet! BUT I'M TRYING! :)


Sunday in Nanchang, Jiangxi

Weather is sunny and muggy here today. We were
supposed to go to a museum this morning, but one guy
(great guy) kept hinting at a park instead of a
museum. Good suggestion. It was a nice Sunday stroll. We get asked to be in pictures a lot, even without the baby
people will stare and talk about us. Sheila
was in someone's wedding pictures this morning.
People are very friendly and like to touch the babies'
faces. The people of China have been very friendly and gracious to us.

Yesterday we went to a 1000 year old village. Sheila's taking 100's of pics – they will tell a better story. It made quite an impression on all of us. Dad, you would have loved it. Mom, not so much. This is likely what the place Lily would have lived in is like. The children in our group of 8 families traveling together are all hardy little country girls raised in foster care out near Fuzhou, in Jiangxi province. The village was very simple. Stone buildings with dirt floors and stone pathways with drainage underneath. There was electricity – as we saw a TV in one home - but clothes are still washed in springs by beating it with a stick and scrubbing it clean. Quite mind blowing as we walked through with our little ones in fancy carriers with cute new outfits and bottles and toys for the one hour bus ride out of the city. (If Sheila’s pictures aren’t in this posting, we’ll add them soon.) We’re very glad to have had this experience. It reminded us of some of the villages we saw in Ireland in the 70’s, but the fields surrounding the village were rice fields not pastures.

What a full trip. I have to say that in my opinion this is pretty advanced parenting for me. We have had Lily for 5 days and have been to meals in restaurants about 7 times, on 3 tours on buses, and have made 20 plus bottles
without a kitchen (but those electronic tea pots are quicker than microwaves.)I'm going to go out on a limb
and say that I would barely have left the house for 5
days if I received her at home - even if she was 9
months old.

Helpful things include: someone else doing my laundry (sewing little paper tags in my underwear is just a cute
bonus), not one dirty dish to wash, two nannies (aunties) in residence, calling people to bring us more clean
towels and ice (and being a hero for tipping them 40 cents). OK, It's a tough call on whether this is the
way to go or not – but I'm feeling the 11+ hour flight might tip the scales. We'll see.

We also had amazing chinese clothes made in Nanchang, Jiangxi. We have met the ultimate entrepreneur – Tiffany. She has a TINY shop just across from the hotel we are in here. The clothes are the kind for celebrations. We kept pinching ourselved if we had any doubts as to whether to get them. They take your measurements, you pick out the fabrics, and in 24 hours they produce the custom made the items. I bought myself a beautiful jacket for future Chinese celebrations for about $40!! The price of a boring work sweater. I had two outfits made for Lily too, for about $28 each.

It's hard to grasp. You find cute shoes and buy them. Then you get back to the hotel and figure out that they are your favorite thing in the world, and they cost about $2.20. Augh!! Wish you bought a dozen!!! They whole world should indeed have our problems!. Then you get a crummy meal in a hotel and realize you paid $50! Augh. So much calculating to do. Same with "no tipping" or negotiating down prices. You stress about it and suddenly realize that you are hot, tired, and standing in China ~ not speaking a word of Chinese, spending time debating a $4 decision like it was your last.

Nanchang has been good to us. Lots of “real” China and Chinese people to experience. We are all now comfortable in stores and have each ridden in a cab, and survived. No small feat. I received Lily's Chinese passport today, so we're all set here. Off to Guangzhou tomorrow to start the process to get us from China back to the US.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday - and I'm already babysitting!

Hello All -

Yup - we have made it through so far!! Check out our Miss Lily

But it is only day 4 and I am already babysitting so that Maryellen and Sheila could run to Walmart - Yup WALMART - They sell frogs and turtles there - Gives a whole new meaning to "Clean up in aisle 6"! Sorry I missed the adventure - But i made about 7 RMB for babysitting for 2 hours - it's the going rate - it equals about... lets just say 10 RMB is $1.25! You do the math! :) Maryellen can only afford babysitters here so she might start taking advantage of it!

So today were did some sightseeing in this cool Pagoda - It was built for entertainment - My kinda of place - then while there Maryellen and Lily were used as backdrops for many family photos - You think we look funny at home - you should see the crowd we draw here! We decided to get into the spirit of things and try blending - As you can see by the pictures - That didn't happen - Besides the fact that I look like a Abbott and Costello extra - We AGAIN drew quite a crowd!

There is a river outside our hotel - and there are many boats on it - working ones and house boats - They are something from a film set - they look so cool - When we went passed the Marina the other day it was cool to see all the boats docked with their China flags hanging on then - Just cool - - Again - this is a very different life style then at home - Today the local farmer brought his water buffalo up the river to graze on the grass in the river outside our hotel window - This was pretty wild to watch as we order in Pizza Hut Pizza to be delivered!! There are so many things to see that your brain can not take it all in - after a while you just kinda of shrug it off like "oh yeah - there's a monkey on a string doing flips outside the Walmart" and just go on with your day.

Tonight we went to dinner with 3 other familes - all very great families - Some so tired they couldn't tell you the day of the week. We went here tonight as we had tried it yesterday and liked it - Once you find something that you can identify and enjoy - you do it again and again - We had to bring a piece of paper with us and show it to the waitress - Our guide had to write down what we wanted - so just came in and handed over the list!! Can you imagine doing that at home - Just walk into your local restaurant and when they offer you a menu - You just hand them a list of what you want - and they do ity - HAPPILY?

Makes life very easy - (Yesterday it took Sheila and I six waiters to order a beer - We ended up showing them the table tent that had a beer logo on the bottom - they pointed to it on the menu - in Chinese and we said yes - I had no idea what it said - but we all nodded and ended up with a beer after some time and lots of smiles)- So dinner tonight was served on a lazy-susan - it had 6 or so entrees on it AND rice, soup, noodles and veggies. You spin it around and help yourself - we had soda and beer too - it was a big night out. When the bill came we split it by family - There were 4 of us and it was 50 RMB per family!! Yup - again $6.00 per FAMILY WITH TIP!!!!! If I keep up my babysitting - I can eat out quite often!

We have been blessed with Lily - she is such a good baby - THANK GOD!! Everyone thinks it's so great that we all get a long so well - But that is because we have a GOOD baby - if she was sick or a cryer - we'd have killed each other by now! So after Maryellen had to testify that she was "satisfied" with her daughter the other day - it looks like she is a keeper and as you can see by the picture she has picked me as her favorite Aunt

Sorry for the brief notes - But this baby thing wipes you out!! We'll write again soome - Hope you like the pictures!!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What day is it?

Greetings from Nanchang, in the province of Jiangxi. It's official, I have a happy baby. She has just been great. Thank goodness, as it makes the trip a whole lot easier. We are all finished with the paperwork for the adoption. We signed the official paperwork. No refund, no return : ) Same for her - She signed with a footprint - seen in the attached picture. The next few days are literally hanging around waiting for her Chinese passport. It takes months to get one regularly for people, so we'll hang in for 5 days and play with Lily. She's really amazing. She liked swimming in the chilly indoor pool here at the hotel and a enjoys a bath too. We went straight from one to the other to test that theory. She's going solo now. What a
Seems like we've always had her. I can't wait for her to meet everyone at home.

The picture on the phone is our call to Grandma and Grandpa.

All has been going really well. The tour guides are great. They hooked us up with Pizza Hut last night, and walked us to a very good Chinese place tonight. The food has been fine, you just get a little tired of picking through weird stuff to find something you can eat at the buffets.

We went to a grocery / department store yesterday. We were very happy souls to get our hands on soda and pringles. We get lots of attention on the street. People really are very nice, just curious. I wish I knew one word to answer them.
Tomorrow we went to visit an orphanage to see some of Holt's programs in process. Although I'm not thrilled to be in this city for 6 days, it really is fascinating to see bits and pieces of the culture. People here are either rich for poor. Very little middle class. For example, when you go in to ANY store, there are so many people working! How do they pay them all? is what comes to mind. We learned today that a common monthly salary for them would be about 600 RMB per month. That's about $75. We spent 300 RMB on 5 bags of groceries and sundry items at the same store. To us, $38 was a bargain, to them we spent half a months salary on "stuff"! Today we went to a book store. Music CD's cost about $2.20. We didn't find any we were interested in, but we found Elvis, Alicia Keys and Aaron Carter. There was quite a large Yanni section as well.
(Side note - The current American Idol is playing here.)

Okay, she's sleeping, so I need to be too. She's sleeping through the night, but is my little typewriter. I keep placing her on her back on one end of the crib, and she squaks when she hits the slats on the other end. Her feet are going all night. I was up 10+ times last night, moving her to the other end. Very cute - for a day or two : ) But, so happy she's sleeping from 9:00pm to 5:00am, happy to give her a hand. All the babies are doing really well. None of them crawl on their stomachs. Not considered important here. We wonder if it is because of sanitary conditions in villages - wouldn't want your baby crawling on a dirt floor for example. None of them feed themselves either. Maybe the same reason. Just a guess though.

Tomorrow a visit to a beautiful local pagoda (I may include a night shot of it). Just good to get out of the hotel a bit.

Love, Maryellen

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Day 2

Hello All!!

We (Sheila and I) have made it through day one!! Yae-ha!! As you have seen from previous pictures - Our baby is the cutest! Come on!! she is beautiful and right now she is sleeping - that makes her even cuter.

Recap from earlier in the week:

We went on yet another plane heading to Nanchang – This is where I became a YEE YEE!! I was a mess on the plane – But I was trying to hold it together! But it was just out of control!! These other parents were so excited – they haven’t slept or eaten correctly in 3 days – It has made them a VERY easy audience! They thought I was hysterical – and we haven’t even gone out for a drink yet!

Monday we went to the Forbidden City – Holy Moly it is HUGE – something like 70 hectors – and a Hector is 100 square acres (or so I’ve been told) All I know it is Bigger then South Fork from “Dallas”! It was so cool – I felt like Mulan – I did a bit of the Donny Osmond song from the Disney movie for some locals but I think it was lost on them. But heck, I made 100 yen!

Then we finish the tour in TIAN AN MEN SQUARE!! Again – it was mind blowing!! I could not believe I was there. I had a look of shock and childhood wonder on my face – HENCE the reason I was FLOCKED by peddlers – No joke like 8 of them – I was the weakest one in the herd (It was worse than being attacked by a 100 fish at one time) – Sheila blew right through and saved herself – Maryellen was just oblivious to it all, I was left to my own demise – I fought them off bravely – I ended up buying only a waving Mao watch – something for my next Republican Ladies Luncheon.

As we sat there on the plane in the crazy shamrock shirts - Yup the Briscoe Girls blending in China – I realized my next entry –I would be an AUNT!! Just 4 hours to go!! Then she’s all ours – FOREVER!!! No deposit – no return!

Gotcha Day was overwhelming - There were 8 families in one room all waiting for their little girls and then they just came in - It was wild - There was screaming and crying and maddness - and that was just the Briscoes - One baby was cuter then the next - Then they handed them over and then you got to take her to your room - Yup - all in about 6 minutes - It was just overwhelming!! I THINK I got it on video - But I have no idea -

Our little princess was the only one that didn't cry -= She just checked us all out and then smiled!! She is really happy - Man - if she only knew what was in store for her - she'd never stop smiling!! Maryellen is a great Mom already - she was sleeping and Lily started to cry and I unfortunatly was in the path between her and the crib - lets just say that won't happen again! :)

Well like I said - we now have her - and she is great - Both her and Maryellen are sleeping at the moment - Sheila and I are chillin' as the world's greatest Aunts! We might head on down to the spa next where there is a hour treatment for $8.00! Rock On!

- It is unreal how poor some of the people are here - this trip has made my condo look like a palace - Not just the size - But what is in it and the fact that it is just ME! Here a family of 5 could live there and be really happy - we really are a world away.

We will update soon - Love from all Briscoes!

Meet Lillian Mae Xiaoshuang Briscoe

Hi all - We did it! Everything went just has it should and Lillian (whom I'll be calling Lily) is all mine! Still hard to believe, but wonderful. Hopefully the pictures made it into this post. I can post, but I can't see the blog still.
She's great. She didn't cry at all during the chaos of the exchange with the other 7 babies, she just took it all in. Neither did I, actually. I see it coming for both of us. Right now we're just trying to get used to each other. Going well. I kept waiting for her to wake up for a bottle - for 3 hours. She went to sleep at 9pm, and it's 5:15am and she still sleeping! Making other moms jealous already. But, she had a BIG day. Love to all, Maryellen

Monday, May 15, 2006

Today's the day

Dashing to the airport. Now Tuesday AM in Beijing - Monday eve in US. Hopefully our internet service will be as good in Jiangxi. 8 hours and counting. Will connect again asap.
xoxo, m

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sheila and Ger HIT THE WALL!!

Hello ALL!!
Sheila and I hit the WALL - Yes the GREAT Wall! It was amazing! It truly is one of the 7 Wonders of the World -
1 - Wondering how the heck you're gonna walk up it - No Joke parts are like at a 85 degree angle
2 - Wondering how the heck you're going to get down.
3 - Wondering if it's considered a Black Diamond or Blue Square if it was a skiing hill.
4 - Wondering how the toddler is passing both Sheila and I on the climb up!
5 - Wondering how much it will hurt when I slip and fall - Because you know I'm gonna!
6 - Wondering how they built this when I can't put my IKEA coffee table together!
7 - Wondering why Maryellen is at the Spa having a 90 minute massage while we take the "pictures"!

We did tons of touring and saw so much. We got to go potty over a hole in the floor - God bless college years when we had to pratice this skill. We got to ride in in a rickshaw - where the true strength of the Chinaman was shown! Yup - we were lapped more then once by others. We tipped our lucky driver well - $2.50 vs $1.25 recommendation. He showed all his friends, as he bent over, gasping.

Green Eggs and Ham

We made it to China! So surreal and wonderful. So far so good. The flight is l o n g but we were able to switch with people and all sit together at least. We all agree that the coach seats we had on Air China were bigger than the seats we get on United from Newark to SFO. The food was even good.

This morning, after small, random doses of sleep over the past day or two, we hit the breakfast buffet. And there were about 5 kinds of eggs, including, no lie, green eggs. What is usually the white part was a clear dark green. Really. There was ham too. Luckily there were also pancakes, French toast and other non-delicacies. We all ate well, and experimented a bit. I had the best bowl of wonton soup imaginable - at 6:30am. When in China . . .

The room is terrific. We have determined that if we had Sleep number beds I would be a 100 (assuming that’s the hard end of the scale), Geraldine a 20 and Sheila a 10. This was realized when I woke up and proclaimed the bed was great. We agreed only on the nice sheets. So, aside from my waking up sobbing with a (lost paperwork) nightmare - literally (the poor girls – it took me some time to realize it was 3:30am here), and somebody’s snoring, all is good. I just can’t wait until Tuesday night, when we have her with us. Then we won’t care anymore about hotel trivia.

I relaxed today, and went to church. I thought it fitting as I’m impressed that China is willing to let these girls travel around the world, becoming citizens of different countries and practicing different religions. The mass was familiar. English and some Latin. Notably, 3 times during the Mothers’ Day homily th priest mentioned that mothers should serve their husbands. No kudos or references to the strength of mothers coming from the pulpit of St. Mary’s, Beijing. So, similar but different is how we’ll leave that.

After church I went to a spa. 2 hours for 178RMB = $21.87! Happy Mother’s Day to Me, ha-ha. And a Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Moms out there that have been such inspiring role models for me. Thank you.

“The girls” went to the Great Wall today, so I’ll let them write the next entry. The computer hook up is sketchy, so hang in there with us, and know we’re doing well. 2 days and hyperventalating. xoxo, Maryellen

Monday, May 08, 2006

The final count down . . .

As I sit here on my last evening alone in my home - surrounded by 20 incomplete projects, I opened an email from my brother. Once again I am reminded I am the luckiest woman in the world. Just when I can barely contain my joy in the events of the next week and the love and support I've received from so many, I get these pictures in the my email. . .

Ok - you can't make that up, people! I love this family!!! I sure hope she has the same sense of humor. We're off to a good start as the character for her name Xiao means "to laugh"!!

The tears of joy and laughter have officially begun! After all this time, I love being able to answer "Friday" to the "when do you leave for China" question. Sheila and Ger board their flight to San Francisco in 5 hours, and the games begin.

Let's see . . .

Sheila's suitcase looks like she's going on a relief effort mission with Doctors Without Borders. She's the "I have it" girl. (including peanut butter. . . I keep trying to tell her we have supermarkets in SF . . .) She will undoubtedly be praised often on the trip.

Ger pulled her suitcases out at 4:30pm tonight. She had no need to worry, because Sheila will have it. She did a GREAT job with gathering gifts for the orphanage and foster family. Thanks out to her lunch bunch for the generous assist. Ger's mission - 1 niece, all home. We're not even going to think about the deportation from England or the warrant in Mexico. Really.

After my friend Di thought to look in my washing machine for my missing cell phone, and was right . . . I spent the day running errands on the to do list she made for me - interrupted periodically with a very loud gangsta rap ring-tone on my new phone that I can't seem to get rid of. (all my numbers - although clean and fresh smelling - are no more. So when I return, not only will I be busy, but "couldn't find your number" will be true.)

So - all is right in the world. I've refused offers for the Briscoe Adoption Reality Show. A sit-com may be a worth discussion, however.

A little more packing, a little fun in SF, and we're off to China on Friday.

Thanks for the email, Brendan. xoxo