Friday, December 30, 2005

The Chinese Hospital Story

Traveling to China for the sole purpose of becoming first time parents proved for us, to be the single most awe inspiring event of our lives.  We visited three Chinese cities in 15 days on our quest to meet our first daughter Ava, born in Yueyang, Hunan.  As you read this story enjoy the comforts of your local Minute Clinic, an American $15 co-pay and instant health gratification when faced with a minor health ailment.

Settting the Scene

It is September 2002, Changsha, Hunan China.  The Main Muffin Man (my comfort loving and sometimes intense husband) and I have very recently become the proud albeit scared to death parents of one high maintenance little girl. She is the end result in a long and arduous journey to parenthood.  I'd eat caterpillar fungus to please her. It is exactly one day after meeting my new 8 month old and I am only requiring an occasional Tylenol PM and Eastern style deep breathing techniques to survive the first few days of parenthood and a wicked case of jet lag.

I settle in to our Five Star Hong Hong style hotel room listening to my new baby scream bloody murder  because she does not want to lie down and go to sleep. The Muffin Man valiantly paces with her on his shoulder in an attempt to lull her to sleep until the carpet in our room is almost threadbare.

All Is Not Well In The Land of Nod

Two am arrives. I wake. Baby is sleeping, Muffin Man is snoring. I'm having a dream that I am at the beach and there is sand in my eyes. Wait, there really is sand in my eyes. They are sticky. Really sticky. I slowly make my way to the bathroom, careful to tiptoe as not to wake anyone. I flip the light switch and EEEKK, I see red eyes. It looks like a flaming case of pink eye, it is it is not. I am not sick in China and I will not get pink eye because it is the ONE medicine that I did not bring in the 87 lb. suitcase. I go back to bed and will myself though psychic powers to be completely healthy by seven am.

It is seven am.  The Main Muffin Man skips the am kiss and looks me in the eye and says, "Wow, you look horrible." Is that????? "Yes dear, it appears that I have contracted a vigilant and painful case of conjunctivitis from these 5 star hotel sheets. Take the baby to breakfast and I will quickly visit the hotel doctor."

Chinese Medicine Light

My dear but brash talking husband advises me to skip the doc in the box and head to the hospital. "For pink eye?"I ask.  Please...drama boy.  I am the one who has been reading incessantly for 19 months about China. Everyone knows you don't go to a Chinese hospital unless...well you absolutely have to.

I head to the hotel clinic. The Dr. looks at me and only flinches only a little.  She grabs her Purell bottle and quickly prescribes an eyedrop. It looks a little like the bottle I've had in the States, but the writing is Mandarin so who can be sure? Cost $.50. I obsessively squirt the drops in my eyes as directed and go about our day.

Drama Boy Was Right

Unfortunately, sometimes you get what you pay for in this world. My conjunctivitis begins to worsen.  Despite being uber careful, my husband wakes up with it the next morning. He is shall we say, less than pleased. We are scared to death we will give it to the baby.  A panicked call to my nurse practitioner sister in law back in Arizona ensues. She gives me the reality check about giving it to Ava. Perrin, she says, "This child has been living in a Chinese orphanage for 8 months, imagine what she's been exposed to.") What about our travel mates, I ask? We figure there is no quicker way to lose a new friend than sharing a communicable disease. The Muffin Man begs me to call the guide and ask to go to the hospital for better drugs. I refuse. "Buck up and borrow my meds." I tell him. Americans don't go to Chinese hospitals unless they need a leg amputated.

The next morning I sheepishly call our guide. My eyes are starting to swell shut. I am worried that the welt over my cheek will do something gross, like burst. Our guide Tina, says uuhhh, "You really want to go to the hospital?" I tell her,  "No Tina, not my first choice, really the univeristy tour sounds more interesting but my face is swelling and my dear husband is feeling snarkier than normal."

My head starts to feel funny as I visit our bathroom. I now have huge welts that are threatening to swell and close my left eye. My forehead is squishy with water retention. I think a lymph node that is supposed to be in my neck had floated to ear level. The Muffin Man has a scared look on his face, he begs me call a cab headed for the hospital, guide or no guide.

Changsha City Hospital, Chinese Medicine Heavy

I concede, and this begins our trip to a Chinese hospital. It turns out our guide is secretly pregnant and has been instructed...Don't Visit A Chinese Hospital.

Pregnant guide sends Novice guide to complete the task. She seems pensive in the hotel lobby but nonetheless willing. I have Ava in my arms. She looks at me and says, "Baby must stay here, no go."  "I've had this kid about 30 hours and you want me to leave her with someone I met at O'Hare airport five days ago?" I ask.

Novice Guide: Yes.
Me: Ok. (I quickly call a travel mate, who is most accomodating.)

We hop in a cab. Because we are riding at about 90 miles an hour though HEAVY city traffic I begin to wonder if I will die in the cab. I wonder if the internet last will and testament we wrote will hold up in court back in America. Will my mother really raise a Chinese baby that I only knew for 30 hours?

The cab dumps us off at a large dirty white building, we have to cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to the building. I am now one-eyed...but I've been good at Frogger since 1984.

Novice guide ushers us into the building which is semi-open aired. I think that this is so strange, what do they do when it rains? Do patients have to wait in the rain to be treated at the hospital? We hop on a stainless steel huge elevator. She pushes the number 9, it is written in English. There is urine in the corner and someone has upchucked recently. I start to cry. Muffin Man softens and touches my shoulder.

Ding, floor nine. Novice guide says, "This is the Op-TO-Mow-Oh-Jee wing. Lots of people but good Doctor. Grab my shirt and follow me. " She says.  What?, I look at my husband.  Muffin Man says she means ophthomolgy. Oh, right. We circulate among children and adults in what looks like a long wait in a big sterile waiting room. Novice guide turns to me and says, "You brought lots of cash money right?" Ugh huh. Yeah, as I wonder what "lots" means. My mind spins. I know my parents in Detroit will wire us a few thousand if necessary. The Muffin Man has distant relatives that have some money, so in a pinch...

Novice guide grabs a ticket of some sort from a lady behind a counter. She pushes and shoves us to the front of a long line. I yell at her, "No, this is not right, we will wait like the others." She gives me the EYE. Follow me or no help! I back down, as now my ear starts to throb with pain. We wait only 10 minutes and I know we were pushed to the front because we were American.  We wait behind a man with small infant who appears to be only 3-4 months old. She has a lazy eye, and looks so much like Ava, I openly gasp. He whistles and she pees on a rag through her Chinese split pants. I offer him a Western diaper out of my bag, but he refuses not willing to look me in the eye.

The doctor looks at us for about 10 seconds and says "Bad Case" in English. He hands the guide a slip of paper. We literally run off the floor into the pee stained elevator. Novice guide says, "You sick, 4 medicines each. We fill prescriptions on first floor, that is where you pay up." I am expecting the call to Detroit here, 2nd mortgage on my parents home? We get off the elevator and step up to another window. Again, we don't wait as the locals do. Novice guide shouts and spits a bit. I wait trying not to think of Ava scared, being passed off to yet another set of new parents.

Novice guide turns to me and explains how to use the 4 medicines each. Then she says, $34.30 US Dollars right now! Muffin man starts to laugh, big guttural guffaws.  I am completely speechless and make her repeat herself. Really, that's all? She explains that communist countries have subsidized medical.  I simply nod, as if this makes all kinds of sense.  (At this moment I choose not to go into the whole "Ok, why the scary you bring money speech?")  I chalk it up to cultural differences.

I breathe in---breathe out----breathe in----breathe out. The Novice guide again tells me I will have to pay for the cab ride....No problem, I say in a Zen like happy moment.  I fork over $2.25 for the cab ride and thank her profusely for her trouble getting us medical attention. She sits up proudly, "Chinese medicine good, helps you." Yes, I humbly bow with my hands together in gratitude. Xie Xie, Xie Xie.

Back At The Ranch

The Muffin man and I feel tired and sore. But we rush to the hotel breakfast bar. It appears we have been gone less than 2 hours.  Ava is a happy camper strapped into her new stroller looking at her other baby friends. The Changsha University tour is on despite the rumors of a "very sick" family.  The Muffin Man professes that he needs to rest and heads for the refuge of the room.

Sporting a second wind, Ava and I head for the tour bus as scheduled. We sit at the back I am still contagious but, happy. I am tired, clearly beyond what I have ever known tired to be but I have my baby in my arms and nothing else matters. It has been an amazing journey that has brought me to a foreign country to meet the most beautiful child I have ever seen.  Ava brings the surreal moment back to the grittiness of reality as she sits on my lap and starts to giggle staring at my swollen heinous face.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

7 Things

Hey, I got tagged to do the 7 things thing. Here's the deal. I have broken practically every chain thing ever sent to me. You'd think I'd be a walking black cloud of bad luck by now. Hey, I even broke my dear friend's 4 year old daughter's sticker collection chain letter deal. (Yeah yeah, you were supposed to copy some letter and send 10 sheets of stickers and receive 100. My kid would have liked that.) Is 7 things the cyber equivalent of chain letters? Perhaps I am totally missing the boat. Nothing new.

But alas, Main Muffin Man is entertaining Miss Ava Jing because even HE suspects that the Backyardagains Marathon on Nick Jr. is too many hours of tv for an almost 4 year old. So, that leaves momma with a glass o' chard, a leaking ear (ear infection) and my beloved computer.

What the hell....I'm a player.

Seven Things I Want To Do Before I Die
1. Become a mom again.
2. Find my passion.
3. Work in a creative/artistic field, beyond the normal crafty gal stuff
3. Walk the Santiago De Compostela in Northern Spain
4. Travel to India, I feel almost as spiritually drawn there as China
5. Read the bible word for word...just because history interests me, I'm not terribly religious
6. Live in an old home, which I will help to restore back to its grandness
7. Live to see my girls become amazingly happy well adjusted women

Seven Things I Cannot/Will Not Do
1. Love football with the passion my husband does
2. Tell my children that they cannot be something
3. Have a cancer relapse
4. Give up my pedicures in the spring and summer
5. Say no if someone were to offer me domestic help
6. Wear high heel stilettos, a mini skirt and tight shirt with push up bra...I'd look heinous.
7. Say never, it bites me in the ass every time.

Seven Things That Attracted Me To My Husband
1. His self confidence
2. He can be quite funny
3. His big wide chest makes me feel small, and I'm over 6 feet so that's cool
4. He takes care of himself
5. He is super smart
6. He is amazingly gifted with tools...self taught and handy!
7. After 14 1/2 years of marriage I still find him studly.

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. I love you, Evita (Ava's pet name)
2. Has anyone taken this dog out?
3. Ugh, we gotta take it easy on the checking account Babe.
4. What do you want for dinner? Always followed by the obligatory, Ugh, I don't know What do you want? from him.
5. I'm going to Target...need anything? (Which leads back to #3 in this section.)
6. Will you watch her for an hour? I need some tub time.
7. So, what do you think about Rene Decartes theory of... I think therefore I am? Ha ha, please.

Seven Books I Love
1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
2. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
3. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
4. Lolita, Nabokov
5. In Cold Blood, T. Capote
6. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
7. I Know This Much Is True, Wally Lamb

Seven Movies/Series I Watch Over And Over
1. Pride and Prejudice
2. When Harry Met Sally
3. Steel Magnolias
4. The Wizard of Oz
5. Law and Order (Muffin Man thinks I need a 12 step program to quit)
6. Sopranos
7. Citizen Kane

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The First Time I Ever Saw That Face

The other day someone said to me, "We bet you cannot wait until that moment when you meet your new baby for the first time, how precious."

Precious, hmmm. I have been thinking about that moment when we first met Ava and precious is not the first word that comes to my mind.

I am not proud to admit this but the first word that comes to mind is terror. Not hers, MINE. When it actually happened and they handed me the most beautiful child I had ever seen, I was almost paralyzed with terror. I could not speak, I thought that I would drop her for sure and they would take her back. I wanted to run from the crowd that lingered in the conference room and hallway. But there was no where to run. I was begging her silently not to scream for fear that I would be unable to calm her enough to eventually stop. I was not so silently begging my husband to stop the camcorder for fear that it would scare the baby and forever remind me of my inadequacies. The moment in which we had waited over 19 months for was for me filled with fear and panic.

Here is what the inside of the conference room looked like. This is where families stood and waited looking out into a hotel elevator lobby area.

The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. I know, stupid cliche but really it was. See the lady wringing her hands? She did this over and over waiting for her baby. I could not stop myself from fixating on her hands. I had to grab the camera and take pictures just to break the energy. I was sure that if I didn't I might start crying and not be able to stop.

Here is what we were looking at.

It was a hallway of mass confusion. Ten families waiting for babies. Five guides communicating with at least a dozen orphanage employees from two separate orphanages. One from far northern Hunan. One from southern Hunan. The northern group traveled 6 hours by bus. The southern group had also spent several hours on an unairconditioned bus, that had experienced engine trouble. Each bus load had 5 precious little ones who had not eaten or taken naps. It was about 3pm China time and we had been in Changsha no more than 2 hours.

The other group of orphanage babies arrived first. We were able to witness 5 families receiving babies without the stress of thinking we were next at each second. Some babies seemed like they might have been shot with a stun gun, still and haunted their eyes frozen wide open. One baby cried so hard she couldn't catch her breath. Her mother was calm though. Her 7 year old son clutched his game boy, white knuckled. Her husband started to pass around pink candy cigars. They were old pro's, you could tell.

Then it was our turn. Five chubby cheeked dirty but healthy, looking babies were escorted off the elevator. I think we were in the middle when the five families were called. But honestly I am not sure. A tiny orphanage nanny handed Ava to me telling her "mama mama mama". I hesitated, scared that I would upset the baby. Her skin was so tan that I immediately thought she could not have been in an orphanage 23 hours a day, as the paperwork suggested. The nanny thrust the baby into my arms. I heard cries of congratulation from our new travel mate friends. Quickly, I realized that I was physically in the way of the next baby presentation. I whisked Ava to the back of the conference room. The lady I stood next to held a screaming infant. Ava was calm until she saw the new baby named Faith. Her face twisted and she started to shake. She took a deep breath and howled a scream of fear. It was more than I could take. I held her wet sweaty head, and ran for the open doorway. Brian followed filming every blood curdling yell. I snapped at him, "turn that thing off, it will scare her even more." I slowly bounced and paced up and down the hotel hallway. Miraculously she looked up at Brian and stopped screaming. I think that they reached for each other. I had to remember to tell myself to breathe in--and--breathe out so I would not pass out.

(For some odd reason at that moment I remembered a story that my mother told me about passing out in her kitchen with me in her arms as an infant. My father was not home and she was scared that I would be hurt when she fell. She plopped me in the kitchen sink for safety and proceeded to faint. My father arrived shortly after and my mother was revived. I had cold cucumber peels stuck to my legs but was otherwise unharmed.)

A guide started yelling for families to line up for individual photos with the orphanage director. He did not smile. I pulled a guide to translate. I semi-bowed and thanked him for our gift. He looked at his cell phone. I asked him if he knew anything special about Jing Tang, her likes or dislikes. He snorted that nannies care for the children, he had no contact with babies. The guide gave me a nonverbal que to shut up and pose for the photo. We looked over and smiled, someone had our camera.

This was the picture that appeared in my camera. Sort of normal looking, baby is not screaming in fear and I managed to slap on a smile. Main Muffin Man remained remarkably cool and collected. (Could this be the same man who once threw a temper tantrum in an airport because he received the wrong kind of sandwich at Burger King?)

I think that we ran for the egress quickly heading for our hotel room after this picture was taken. We fed Ava and watched in disbelief as she slurped down an entire 8 oz. bottle in under 30 seconds. We plopped her down on the bed to look at her. My God, she was the most beautiful child we had ever seen. Perfect chubby legs, 3 rolls before the knee to be exact. She even had little fat rolls under her chin. Her ears were perfectly symmetrical and would easily squish when touched. Her face was darling, perfect little almond shaped eyes and an almost non existent nose. She had long dexterous fingers. Her eyes were luxuriously brown, although one eye tilted in a bit. I later came to understand this happens when she is overly tired and stressed.

I quickly knew even as a completely neurotic first time mother that someone out there had tended to this child with care. She proceeded to howl again....huge healthy lungs. Letting us know that setting her on the bed to gaze at her was not going to fly. She stopped screaming when we opened the door and started to pace the hotel hallways. She was alert to to point of being unable to relax. And so this was the routine for the next several days. Hotel room, bad. Sightseeing tours filled with people and exotic sights and smells, good. Strap her in the baby bjorn, but only facing outward. Stroller, even better. Rolling through streets of Changsha and Guangzhou finally coaxed her to relax a bit.

As for took a few more weeks to relax. My type A'ness sort of got the better of me those early weeks and months. For the next "precious first time ever I saw your face" moment, I am going to try to roll with it a little more. Not be so freakish. Aahhh, I suppose easier said than done. I am counting on a little experience under my belt to take the edge off.

I'll report back in a few months with "it was precious", or Muffin Man had to pull me down off the ceiling.

Monday, December 26, 2005

It Must Have Been The Reindeer Dust

Christmas Eve we decided that Santa's reindeer might need a snack. By the time they would arrive here at our house they might be a little hungry. How did we know this? We watched the Santa Cam travel from Asia to Europe and then onto the America's of course. Amazing! My brother and I decided that we could hardly believe that we grew up not being able to track Santa's progress on the internet. Oh, the days where we had to go to bed dreaming of sugar plums dancing rather than the bird's eye view of Santa's sleigh as it spanned the doppler 8 radar.

Ava was all for making reindeer food. She carefully measured oats and colored sugar mixed with a dash of that Santa would be dazzled enough to visit us first when he approached our Millbrook neighborhood. She donned her favorite princess outfit for spreading reindeer food throughout the front yard. (Please do not ask me why my child feels the need to dress in old Halloween costumes for all of our Christmas photos. see this.)

Ava also decided to test the reindeer food. You know, to be a good hostess and all. Someone has to teach this child manners. Would Emily Post be proud or horrified?

Notice she has the gold and white full length gown working with the gold
tones faux fur lined jacket. Apparently my girl likes the bling. I am almost
afraid to admit she's also sporting the red glitter shoes. And, she's worried
Santa's reindeer might miss her?

Funny thing about this...just between you and is the same oatmeal that I absolutely cannot get her to eat for breakfast.

The reindeer food must have done the trick. Christmas Day was delightful. All family members opened presents, ate massive amounts of scrambled eggs and then loafed in front of the television watching Heidi re-runs, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life...etc... Of course everyone had to take the obligatory turn learning how to play a new game listed as 2-4 players and For Ages 5 and Up. It at times got a little dicey as we were trying to explain multiple rules to our 3 year old. God, knows this family loves a productive day.

We hope you all had a Merry Merry One, spent with the ones you love. Peace.

Friday, December 23, 2005

7 bucks and he's a happy christmas camper

I send muffin man to the grocery for last minute holiday stuff....apparently I forgot the extra package of frozen spinach for my friend's famous spinach ball recipe that I am going to make for the family. Last time I made this recipe I completely embarassed myself so I am attempting to redeem. But that is another story.

He comes home with this.

Yes, this is Santa on a Harley. Apparently it was 50% off in case you were wondering.

It gets better...he wiggles and sings.

Boy, it is a good thing he came home with that spinach. And night time TheraFlu, since I seem to have caught the 3rd preschool cold this season.

Ava asked me today why women marry only men and not other women. I swear I don't know where she gets this stuff. I carefully said that not all women choose to marry men, sometimes they don't marry at all and sometimes they choose to marry other women, but our state does not officially recognize that union, even though they should. She looked at me with the "oh, you'll probably tell me the whole truth and this is going to take a while" look. She quickly moved on to why Snow White's shoes don't fit Mikayla barbie.

So, here is my question. If I had married a woman would I now be the proud co-owner of Santa on a Harley that wiggles and sings? I think not.

I am going to go take a hot shower and re-dose myself with day time Thera Flu.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm going to stop...ok, now I'm going to stop

Usually I am the voice of reason around here. Main muffin man simply loves to indulge everything that moves in this household. Pooch has way too many toys, he never questions me about spending especially if it is frivolous, and our babe has a wide variety of all things material courtesy of Daddy. My ill fated attempts to discuss the evils of serious materialism and the effects on our American society fall deaf on his ears. It is probably because the plasma tv is turned up too loud.

I admit I'm the one who is usually sort of scroogie, since we are in the season and all. Oh yes, and I have to deal with the little annoyance in life called the bank account, and its lack of girth.

So what is my deal? I can't stop myself from visiting every toy store this side of the Mississippi. Is she getting jammies and socks for Christmas, oh heck no. We walked out of Toys R Us a few weeks ago on our annual Christmas pilgrimage. Main muffin man just shook his head and said, "Impressive show babe." Toys, baby! I need a program or something. I've even been questioning my parent friends to see if I'm going overboard. (Which I already know the answer to, just want to see how overboard.) By the turns out my friends are either enabling me or they have their own issues.

So yesterday Ava says: Mommy, my friend has this Pachyderm game. It shoots butterflies out the nose and if you collect them all you WIN. I sure hope I get Pachyderm from Santa.

Yes, Ava uses the word pachyderm rather than elephant, she says it is much funnier. She is right, say it... pachyderm. It is hilarious, you've got to give her that. Seeing her laugh whenever she uses it is priceless.

So, moral dilemma Thursday has set in. Do I run out and grab just one more toy to add to the already exploding closet of all things that would please an almost 4 year old? Or, do I take the moral high ground stick with the existing loot and hope she forgets about pachyderms?

I must----stop----shopping. I----must.

Thank goodness for safety nets. Her birthday is in a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hunan Reminds Me Of A Mother's Ache

After reading this I must admit that I've been in a little bit of a tail spin the last few days. But as always I try my hardest to do a little self talk in situations like this. I try to think clearly with my rational mind and then blend that with my spiritual and intuitive self. Especially when it is an issue where I know that I have absolutely no control. I cannot do anything about the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) and how they handle the implications of improper baby trafficking for monetary gain in my daughter's home province of Hunan.

So this is how it has been for the last few days...worry about baby trafficking and children and birthparents who might have been involved...then calm down, it is rumor. Worry that my beloved child might not have been relinquished by parents who chose that avenue...calm down, there is no way to ever know and worrying about it only puts negative energy out there. Rev up again and worry that any scandal will delay or worse our pending second adoption...push the negative aside and choose not to worry because I just can't do anything about it.

It is kind of my own little personal roller coaster ride, filled with drama and strife.

Honestly though it has given me a little light bulb moment. I was in the Gap this morning as I was supposed to be shopping for others and I was debating a little To Me From Me gift, the best kind in my book. Then I ditched the pink sweater and felt pulled to the little girls section. I looked at little hats and mittens in tiny little sizes and felt the same ache that I felt when I was waiting for Ava. It almost made me cry right there in the Gap. I realized how much I want this new baby, not just as a sibling for Ava, not just as a daughter for my husband because he wants another child so much, but because I was a mother aching for her baby, one that is born just not home yet.

When we were waiting for Ava I felt like this all the time. I knew what it felt like to yearn for a child, smell her even though she lived continents away, feel her skin, smooth her spiky black hair with my thumb. But with this new child we are waiting for I sometimes feel guiltily selfish. I know now it won't be all sunshine and roses. I know the exhaustion that motherhood can bring. I question sometimes whether I should tip the delicate balance of us as three. Will I be able to listen to Ava any more when I am pulled in different directions, I know she needs so much listening to.

But, through my worry about the China program and Hunan baby selling and all of the rumors I now feel like I am longing for the baby as much as I ached for Ava. And that is a gift, regardless of what happens in the world that is out of my control.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quick Techno Update

I amaze myself with my willingness to jump through a hoop for something free. Sorry the ole' blog has been lookin' a little dicey. As in chopped up. It has been sort of freakin' recently, and I've been in well...denial. I sat down with the code and tinkered away. Hopefully things will be looking a little purrtier now.

Cross your >/li< /@>< fingers.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I Believe In Signs

One of my favorite blogs suggested that hearing about stories of signs about the journey can help with the wait for a baby. I agree. For me, signs are like little knocks on the head that you are not in this situation alone, a higher being...whoever that is in your faith or creed is right along there with you. Signs can be confirmation that your path is the right one for the right time. A little nudge saying, keep trying, don't quit.

Signs led me to my daughter, no doubt.

By the fall of 2000 I was feeling like I had lived far more than the 9 months that the calendar showed on the wall. In that time I had endured a very painful IVF, gotten pregnant and then quickly lost the baby in an unexplained miscarriage. My husband and I were devastated since we were "the perfect candidates" for IVF. We endured years of unexplained infertility, I was only 30 and he was 34, we were both very healthy, or so we thought. I was disillusioned with my corporate job, I felt as if we were on a treadmill that was truly going nowhere.

Just as I was gearing up for another fertility treatment 3 months after the miscarriage a lump was discovered in my breast. It was not nothing as I was told by my doctor. Eight weeks after my 31st birthday I would not be having another go around at pregnancy. I would be deciding which chemotherapy would be best, save the breast or not, radiation now or later.

At this particularily low moment in our lives the 2000 Summer Olympics came to our living room. Every night as I laid on ice bags to soothe the repaired muscle under my right arm we watched the athletes. It was ironic, being obsessed that year with the human athlete's body in its top physical form from a couch nursing my failed ovaries and now gone breast, while contemplating what I'd look like without hair.

Then there was a sign. It was the Chinese women's (although they looked like little girls) gymnastics team. To us, they were no less than completely captivating. We watched them in awe. They were graceful, beautiful, disciplined. My husband looked at me and said, "Don't they have a lot of little girls in China who need homes?" I answered yes, wouldn't it be amazing if they would one day let us adopt a little girl. But then I snapped myself back to reality...cancer, chemo, surgeries, radiation. My husband just said, "Well, you know when all of this is over and you are better...maybe....

That was it. I knew that when I got better we would indeed adopt a baby from China. I knew she was out there we just had to wait out the sickness stuff and then go get her. I would think of her as I laid on a CAT scan table for endless amounts of time. I would think of her as a needle was tapped coming from my chest feeding red liquid into my body to kill cancer cells.

Several months later I was driving down the road listening to the radio. The man announced that there would be a free meeting for anyone interested in international adoption at the church my husband and I sometimes attended. Another sign.

When I told my husband about it he said "Do you want to do that this soon, already?" Oh yeah. I'm ready, let's get on with life and start living!

I pulled on the wig, attended the meeting, signed the application contract and sent in a check all within 24 hours. We were on our way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Is She Really Going To Let Him Adopt Her Kids?

Let me preface this post by saying I ordinarily couldn't care less about what the stars are doing on a daily basis. Most of them seem so narcissistic and ego driven that it is just a little to "out there" for my midwestern self. Some of my friends think I am just weird in that I don't even like to watch the Emmy's. Back to that narcissistic thing...we do a job and then we need to throw a huge party and give ourselves golden awards several times a year? Hmmm....when will the great teachers in our community get an all night party, what about the nurses...where is their gold statue? How about the people who pick up my yucky trash every week, when do they get a free Armani suit?

But then again, I do admit to scoping out the People magazine when I visit my hair stylist. It is a guilty pleasure, the smell of Aveda shampoo, lots of free hand lotion samples, and gossipy smut from People magazine. Yeah, I'm obviously not that high and mightly...I sneak a peak now and then.

Yesterday I thought I might have to see Nicole Ritchie waste away to 26lbs. or see the ever intelligent Britney shamelessly flaunt her post partum boobies at some Hollywood pool party; while claiming to be the best mother in all of fantasy land.

But no...apparently Angelina is letting Brad adopt her children. And if it is mentioned in People, well then it must be true right? Obviously this is obscenely ridiculous for so many reasons. So I won't bore you by naming them all. But I have to admit this one sort of got me riled up. Got my panties in a twist. What the hell? Why would she do this? Why do I even care?

Here's why. I just had this sick "adoption is a circus" feeling while looking at the magazine. And it is not. It is absolutely normal...and good. There are people who hurt in the process, there are people who's wildest dreams come true in this process. It is human, and real with all of its greatness and flaws. It is not trivial Hollywood fare! It has nothing to do with who is wearing who's red dress, and which ingenue alledgedly slept with Paris' ex-boyfriend.

Fine, Angelina adopts children. I'm thrilled for her. I'm not even convinced she's a Mommy Dearest or anything, she might even be a pretty good person. I know this is terribly judgemental but allowing the glad rags to photograph her and her boyfriend du jour and her children while openly discussing how he gets to adopt these kids leaves me with the heebie jeebies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Being Outnumbered

I am truly thinking about this outnumbered know the one where there are two little people versus one large person on a 17hr a day regular schedule. Obviously I had the pleasure of being outnumbered today, thus my "holy crap what am I in for" thoughts. Ava's best bud spent the day with us. Here is why I am stressing.

Little friend is 4 years old and could be considered somewhat laid back compared to my darling, and yet I am beyond tired. I am having "I chase a 16 month old for a living" flashbacks, its that level of tired.

Little friend keeps Ava busy by occupying her with the Hampster Dance, climbing everything, and nose picking. Which Ava finds absolutely hilarious. I responded with over 1000 gentle reprimands.

Little friend, although 2 months into age 4 must be watched viligantly for pee pee accidents. We visited no less than 5 women's restrooms in a 5 hour time span. Granted, we were on the move with tap dancing recital and children's museum visit. But golly, I was seriously wanting to beg a strange lady in the restroom for one of her extra diapers and call it "Auntie Perrin's little secret." Can you spare a square?

We had two, yes two, come to Jesus meetings. The first one took place in the car 1/2 hour after the gals met in the morning.

Me: Ladies, this is not how our day is going to play out. There are two of you and one of me. It is my job to bring you both home alive. (Your mother will kill me if you are damaged in any way, I say to little friend.) Here are a list of rules:

1. No biting, no hitting, no pushing, no shoving. (Ok, that is an oldie but a goodie for my babe. It is outdated but I can't start the Come to Jesus meeting without it and she knows it.)

2. No, loud fighting. Ava's mommy is driving in the sleet and refer back to #1 and the whole keeping you alive goal.

3. All little people must be able to see me at all times. No straying- you both have black hair and I have blond streaky hair so strangers don't automatically put us together. (Little friend is Chinese too, adopted on the same fateful day in Changsha in 2002.)

4. Parking lots mean you must be holding my hand. No exceptions, no skipping, no hampster dancing.

5. You all may have fun as long as long as you are not freaking out and disobeying rules #1-4.

ok. breathe. rumour has it that some parents have even more than two on a daily basis. three, four, five???? shit, old lady in the shoe next door regularly deals with her six and no one has died...yet. Think Zen, think Muhatma Gandhi, think non-violence....

Come to Jesus # 2 meeting. (5 hours after meeting #1)

Me: Here is the deal. Look at me, both of you! You two are freaking out running willy nilly around this place. There will be no lunch until THE RULES are reviewed and followed.

Them and Hungry: Ok, we want pizza.

So, the rest of our day was c'est la vie. Maybe they found their groove. Maybe I took a proverbial pill. (I assure you I did not take a literal pill, again refer back to the bring them home alive rule.)

However, I am now chillin' with the glass o' chard. While Main Muffin Man takes a turn with Ava. Little friend left at 5:30pm. Mommy to little friend showed up at door with chocolates, bonus.

Ahhh, how many more months until referral?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I've had two dreams in the last few months that our new baby is in Fujian Province. The first time I had a dream I woke up thinking, How do you spell that? It's not a province that I have heard mentioned many times for Chinese adoptions. I've seen Hunan, Guangzhou, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hubei, Guangxi and Chongqing mentioned most for the people using our agency.

Honestly, I was sort of haunted by the thought and went to the internet to see if there was a province called Fujian. There is, it is located between Jiangxi and the island of Taiwan on the far eastern shore. The capitol is Fuzhou and indeed there are families who have received referrals from Fujian. Ok, weird but ok.

Then Ava and I were in the car this week and I could swear she said Fujian. I don't even remember what it was in reference to. I stopped and asked her what she said and she just laughed and would not repeat what she said. I'd officially call that an un-official Fujian family siting. It could have been a discussion forming around food for all I know. FUjian -- FOOd??

Mother's premonition or silly guessing game? I guess we will have to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more. I absolutely hate it when my mind starts to obsess about stuff like this and I can't "shake" it. It's like that song that just won't leave your head. Except it is Chinese provinces.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chinese School

At the beginning of this school semester I enrolled Ava in Chinese school. We are fortunate enough in my town to have a school that teaches Mandarin to children and adults on Sunday afternoons. In the past it has been a school taught by the Chinese community for the Chinese community. All of the parents speak either Mandarin, Canton, or other Chinese dialect in the home. Until this semester. Some English speaking (mostly adoptive parents) were invited to participate in a pilot program where in essence we could take "Chinese Light".

What is "Chinese Light?" Well, it is not an immersion program, like the other classes in the school. Our teacher, Ying speakes mostly English while trying to teach 3-6 year olds. It is also "light" because the style of teaching. I have learned recently that traditional Chinese classrooms are shall we say...very traditional. Children as young at 3 are required to sit still in a chair with their hands behind their backs and repeat phrases and look at flash cards with characters and tones. There is no singing or dancing, or play time as we might expect to see in a preschool environment here. The class length is 2 hours.

"Chinese Light" has songs and the kids can move around the room a bit. However, my 3 year old was required to memorize a song in Chinese and perform it alone in front of the class. She is supposed to do homework everyday, we are sort of lax about this. She is expected to write Chinese characters over and over in little grid boxes. She is also asked to read flash cards and know the letters with Mandarin pronounciation. She's three folks, and up until about 4 weeks ago could not read letters in English...never mind pinyin pronounciation.

So, it is all about perception really. Their Chinese Light can at times feel like the Sino Pressure Pit to us. And yet, I am still completely and whole heartedly committed to this Chinese school venture. Why you might ask if it has some "issues"and cultural differences that make us have to stretch a little. Well here is why...

1. Ava loves it. She likes to go and since I don't pressure her to practice she happily skips into class.

2. When the school bell rings and all the little kids come running out of their rooms into the is a sea of silky black heads and asian faces. Yes, she is different from most of the kids at the school because her mom towers over mostly everyone there and has blond highlights but while she is there...she is majority! She is not the different one.

3. She sees a smart, eloquent, and capable mentor in her teacher each week. Ava is respectful of her and thinks that she is brilliant.

4. We are slowly building personal relationships with some of the Chinese families. It is slow, since most of the kids in her class are adopted and we already knew them. But before and after classes she seems to find a few kids to run around with in the hallways who are from the other classes, she is learning their names. Perhaps if we hang around long enough we will feel comfortable enough to penetrate the social bubble, incorporating some of their culture into ours. We are willing to be in this pilot group, breaking down cultural and racial barriers.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with a father of a little boy in the class. He is third generation Japanese who is married to a Taiwanese woman. He grew up here as one of two families of color in the whole public school high school. His wife has been here 15 years but was raised in Singapore after her family escaped Mao and eventually settled in Singapore. They send their children to this school because one, they want the kids learn Mandarin and two, he feels this is a place where they can "fit in". He told me he grew up happy in most ways but hating the Asian part of himself. It was not until college, moving to a huge city that he found his Asian"ness" and was able to feel comfortable with it.

He said he does not want his children to have to wait until college to love their Asian"ness".

Ooh, light bulb moment. This is why I am doubly committed to hanging out at Chinese school on Sunday afternoons.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reading Code and Shoveling

Hmmm...I've practically had no time today to sit down and compose my thoughts as I have been sorting through eblogger code to fix my ummm....aesthetic blogger problem. I have also spent a decent amount of time and physical energy shoveling out of massive amounts of snow.

First, my eblogger problem. I guessed and figured it out, ok, it took me over an hour, and I'm being generous. Amazing for a state university communications and policical science major. My first thought was I would just convert to typepad and fix the problemo but then I downloaded the 83 page manual explaining how to move your existing worthless thoughts to the new and more expensive format. Hm...then again this girl is always up for a challenge. (I used to hang with some great quality assurance personnel.) I'm up for any task that does not include difusing a three year old temper tantrum right now. This ex-big blue employee needs a mind challenge. Thank you John for the help.

Second, the physical challenge of my day. Apparently the weather man/woman in my state who is ALWAYS wrong was infact right this time. My state's unofficial motto is "don't like the weather, just stay for 30 minutes". They were duly warning me on the news and I poo poo'd them. Surely we won't really get gobs of white stuff. No need to panic. I can get peanut butter and hotdogs at any time of the day I like....Don't threaten me. Well, they were right and I was wrong. I had to pay the piper and feed my kid the last hot dog this morning for breakfast. Please don't call child protective services.

Sorry, back to the physical part. Main muffin man has been out of town all week selling stuff to evil management at Walmart in Arkansas. I felt sort of bad that he might have to come home to 8 inches of snow on the suburban driveway at 11pm. So, in a moment of weakness and feminist power I decided "I can do this shoveling thing." Let's just say I my right hand is still sort of shaky and my lumbar #c4 is not happy. But we have a plowed driveway. Main Muffin Man is supremely happy and a little physical labor reminds me that I live a pretty cushy life...overall....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis The Season To Get All Crafty

Want to see what we've been working on? My girl is turning out to be quite the little crafty queen, think Martha Stewart but without the rap sheet and learning to be a little nicer to her people.

Courtesy of the local parks and recreation department Ava had a delightful time making a "real" gingerbread house. That is until she fell off the stool washing her hands at the end. The helpful employee got quite the earful when he tried to help her recover...yikes she has wicked lungs. Among the practical preschool set these days gingerbread has been replaced with graham crackers and the house is built around a little milk carton for stability...cheating or experienced realism, you can be the judge.

See the off scale marshmallow chimney? Her idea. See the fruit loop smoke coming out of the top? My idea. We did better with the gumdrop/pretzel lightpost. We copied that from someone else at the table. I wanted to try to make a chubby little elf out of left over M&M's but my idea was nix'd.

Now here is what I've been up to.

I am hoping preschool teachers will be happy with homemade book/tote bags. It's all about the fringe. The pink one is a tap dancing bag for one of Ava's friends who has a birthday this month. Like the Asian flair material? Me too, except it is a chore to work with. Give me the corduroy and chenilles any day.

So who is going to clean up all this decorating and my sewing room after Christmas is what I want to know?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Let's Pretend

My baby and I were snuggled up on the couch the other night to settle in for an evening of Christmas time tv. You know..Grinch, Santa's Comin' to Town, Charlie Brown etc... It seems like with the ridiculous number of cable channels we receive we can watch something cartoony and Chirstmasy each night in the month of December if we wanted.

I guess that is why our little conversation that followed sort of surprised me. I was expecting mindless jingle bell tunes followed by brush the teeth and off to bed.

She was snuggled in beside me and started to pat my stomach. "Hey Mommy, I know I did not come from there (pointing to my stomach) but can I just pretend that I did?" Wow, gulp. "Sure, you can pretend that if you'd like.", I say. She went on to say, "I know I have a birthmother but I just want to pretend that I came from you instead."

Oh, stab to my heart of hearts.

"Do you think you will ever have a baby that comes from there (again pointing to my stomach)?" "Well, I am pretty sure that I won't. All my babies come from China.", I say.
"Oh.", she says sort of softly. "You know I love you more than anything right babe, and it is ok that you came through your birthmother right?", I say to her. "Yeah, I know.", she says.

So, was she simply trying to tell me in a special way that she loves me? Was she trying to be close to me? Is she starting to emotionally process her adoption story and her loss? Was she trying to verbalize an unsettledness about being adopted? Up until now most of her adoption understanding has seemed methodical and more cognitive. She is just so darned sure of herself and strong most of the time. Her sentimental side can throw me off kilter.

I suppose I am lucky if this is the first of these little conversations. Its got to be more healthy if she comes to us with these thoughts rather than stuffing them inside for the next 18 or so years. Oh, the joys of the big therapy bill. I guess we will just have to see what the future brings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No Toast

Actual conversation in the family truckster this afternoon:

Ava(To her friend Alyssa): So, I can have little bottles of chocolate milk as long as there is no toast in there.

Alyssa: Oh, yeah I hate toast too. I like Rice Crispy cereal, but my mom gives me white milk.

Ava: I can't have any white milk, it doesn't have toast.

Me: Ava, milk has no has Lactose. We buy you the kind without Lactose so your belly won't hurt.

Ava: Ok, so when can I have Rice Crispy cereal?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dressing the Tree

So what would the most self respecting almost 4 year old wear to the annual family tree trimming event?

Why, last year's Halloween kitty costume of course. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's done.

I set that puppy to "no email".

And then I hopped on over to my agency email yahoo group and turned it back on to "daily digest".

I just can't help myself......

I am coming back as a laid back hermit in my next life.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Would I Dare?

How bold would I be to change my national June China Adoption DTC yahoo group setting to "No Mail"? Oh, let's be honest I wouldn't dream of silently withdrawing or God Forbid...making a public announcement saying something like...

"Gosh you people are rumour mongers and I know you are nice people and all but, just a little stressed about getting your babies. Gosh, I woke up at 3am last night worrying that the CCAA would only process 2 weeks at a time for the next 150 months and that will make my referral SHIT...April of 2047 and I just can't take it anymore."

So, I've thought about it off and on all day. Honestly I've had a really nice day where I took my cutie pie to a fabulous lunch downtown, saw Santa where she could ask for this for the 100th time, and rode the darling Winter Express Train. I know, I know...pathethic. Go "no, email" or not? Trust my agency to simply call me when out child has been matched with us? I am comtemplating it! Notice I am not even willing to consider taking myself off the list...why then how could I be ultimately in control of knowing EVERYTHING about where our dossier is at all times? So, I had this great day and I am thinking about the stupid email lists. Double pathethic.

In my defense, at our lunch I did have to field no less than 3 well wisher questions "Oh, I was driving down today thinking you might have your referral in a few weeks." "Oh, don't worry it's in God's hands." and "You know if you got your referral today it might not be the RIGHT child." Phelh. Plelh. (She does in her best yiddish accent..and I was raised sort of Catholic, but that is another story, and do I get points for a college education with lots of Jewish city kids?)

So, I am still thinking about going "no email" on my national connection to the China adoption daily rumour mill. Haven't decided. It would take a true act of surrender.

Can she follow Buddha and surrender, think about what Ghandi had to release? Remember I was raised sort of Catholic...with a New Age twist. Stay tuned. I promise to be honest.