Thursday, August 31, 2006

Us and the Family Chen

Neck need a workout? Tilt a bit to the left to see us at the Chen Family Academy in Guangzhou.

For all the bonding with children experts out there in the world I had every intention of carrying this child in the Baby Bjorn 24x7 for the first 6 weeks. Well, that lasted a little less than 72 hours since I need my chiropractor and unfortunately she is cracking backs in the midwest as we speak. It is beastly hot and I wimped. She rides the bjorn in the aircon and the stroller while touring. It was a little easier with Ava since she LOVED the stroller as a baby. Little Olivia would rather snuggle up with her white washcloth under her neck, thumb in mouth and our arms around her. Alas, I am not complaining one iota, this little babe could be described in some camps as a dream baby. Easy going and she sleeps. Did you hear me? She sleeps. My 4 year old still rarely sleeps. Although she has many other redeeming qualities which shall be named later.

Check out jie jie and mei mei. Are they a pair forever or what?

Day 4 In Guangzhou

It is our third day with the darling Miss Olivia. She is seriously studying us a little less and casually flows from one family member's arms to another. She is quicker to smile at the adults, of course Ava gets a small giggle each time she does a dance and claps her hands and says "Olivia" in her sing song voice. Olivia's big eyes get enormous when she is looking at what her sister is doing. Ava is doing very well with sharing the attention but then there are three adults sharing responsibility for making sure she gets ice cream and daily trips to the fabulous resort pool. Unlimited Chinese cartoons and Guangzhou's version of American Idol is helping too. A little sibling rivalry will probably set in more solidly when Daddy goes back to work, Grandpa goes home and Mommy is doing laundry and changing diapers full time. Ahhh, the glamorous life.

We took a trip to a fancy shopping center today. I can now not even remember what it is like to look at a price tag and not to have to divide by eight. I've given up since we all know I was never the mathmatical wizard in any group. We have several more days here and I am scared that we might need an extra suitcase to bring home loot. The Muffin Man is a powerful shopper, it is his only girlie feature. I simply don't have the energy to state my case as to why the den in our house does not truly need Ultra Man displayed on a shelf, sad. So, we continue to buy out Shaiman Island...and it is only day four here. In more exciting shopping news Olivia is the proud owner of 5 pairs of squeaky shoes already. I'm hunting them down little leather mary janes in Ava's size to match.

The Chen Family Academy was also on the docket this morning. It was as lovely as it was four years ago when we were there the first time. Ava was a little unimpressed since they did not have ice cream as I sort illuded to before we got off the bus, a totally novice parenting move on my part. She pouted in 4 year old fashion and I walked the old building in awe of its grandeur.

Thank goodness the agency is holding our hand through the adoption proceedings since I don't even know what day of the week it is. More paperwork tomorrow afternoon as we work towards Olivia's Chinese passport and visa.

Many thanks for the bloggy comments they mean the world to us! More pictures in a flash assuming I can get them uploaded. Zaijian.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The little ladies are all tuckered out. Both girls are napping, yes you heard that right, BOTH girls. Those of you who know us know that Ava thinks napping is for weenies. But after spiking a 103 fever last night and rebounding with only a chest cold she is out for a while. Olivia says napping is not for weenies and is pooped after applying for a passport and visiting the Chinese grocery store.  Posted by Picasa

It's official, Guangdong Province says we are a great match. We are officially Olivia Xi GeGe's parents.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Olivia Day

I apologize for the choppy"ness" of the blog and photos, Blogger is somewhat touchy with uploading photos but we will do our best.

Olivia day was all we could have ever hoped for and more. It is worth every maddening waiting moment of waiting over a year and a half. It is worth the jet lag slump that seems to linger beyond what you think your body should tolerate. It is worth the sleepless anxiety immediately before you meet the baby. Over the past few days I couldn't decide if should have passed on the pork dim sum in Beijing or if the nerves were getting to me. It was the nerves, I am now downing leftover pizza in the room as luck would have it. So much for the stress induced China Adoption diet weight loss plan. Breakfast was french toast while Olivia was passed from family member to family member and Ava showed her how to do a little dance and "move it, move it" as she says.

Olivia is a champ. She is tired and seems to be happiest when she is with Ava. She seems to retreat into our chests when we are in large crowds at the civil affairs bureau. It scares me too, poor little thing. But when she is with her family we are seeing signs of opening up with an irrestible little grin.

Life is good in Guangzhou. More photos later...Miss Liv seems to be stirring from her nap.

Here we are as a new family of 4! Olivia is absolutely perfect in every way. More to come.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ava climbed The Wall. Posted by Picasa

One Big Trip

All is well in The Middle Kingdom. After over 24 hours of traveling Beijing greeted us with 100% humidity, gray skies and its lovely who cares about the weather. My God, it is easy to remember why I love this place of my children's birth so much. It is bustling yet comfortable, it is hot but refreshing to the soul, it is confusing but still with a sense of humor. It is a complex place. When I am here I feel Chinese on the inside. So much so that I find myself surprised when my family and I gather stares from passers by.

If you are at all thinking about bringing your little one to China on an upcoming trip just do it. Our 4 year old jet setter did beautifully. She took the on airplane long lags like champ. She conquered the people movers in Newark like no other before her. I might add that the Muffin man and my father logged in a few miles on the people mover as well. Of course when the highlight of a trip is a .20 piece of fabric used to tie bags together over and over and riding a people mover until you are dizzy, you know you are truly seeing international travel through the eyes of a child.

Beijing is different than it was in 2002. Here, folks it is all about Beijing 2008 Olympics baby! No expense will be spared, no person will be worked too hard, and no shred of bamboo will be left untouched in all of China since it is all standing as scaffolding for building venues for the upcoming games!

Today was in essence a blur. But when you are jet lagged and then attempt Tiannamen Square, The Forbidden City, lunch and shopping at a Friendship store and then The Great Wall how could you expect anything else?

I will leave you with our great trek up the wall. (Scroll Up to see photo.) Last time I visited Jujongyang Pass I was teary eyed with reverence for its physical immensity and the metaphorical immensity of how our lives would change in the next 24-48 hours. This time I was equally mesmerized by the Great Wall...but admittedly distracted by Ava's interest and propensity for absolute involvement in life's immediate task at hand, which happened to be climbing that wall. Wonder if this is a metaphor for things to come as well.

We are off to Guangzhou tomorrow to settle into the White Swan and prepare for Olivia Day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Last Post Stateside

T minus a bunch of hours and counting. Tomorrow we are off to Beijing via the Newark route. Our goal is to post when we safely reach Beijing and get cozy at the Kuntai does that sound swanky or what? Kuntai Royale. I'm envisioning large swinging palm trees under white mosquito netting and elephant rides for the kids.

Ahhh, what a nice change from sucking up brightly colored hair barrettes from the far reaches of the living room carpet with the Hoover. Yes, that's been pleasant this morning. I've also come dangerously close to giving birth to a kitten as I test the limits of the blood vessels in my forehead while trying to fit 16lbs of toiletries into miniscule corner of a suitcase. But damn it, I've had it in my head that the three of us will be only needing two suitcases and I'm sticking too it even if my poor husband has to file for divorce while I place my big butt on his baseball hat to squish for more room.

Bon voyage, so long ya'all and zaijian until we meet again in Beijing.

P.S. Don't worry I will be taking pictures of all the exciting things along the way. My dinner on the plane, Ava's first atomic meltdown, and bomb sniffing airport dogs should we encounter them.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Leave the Kitchen Sink?

We leave for China in exactly 4 days. How the heck did that happen? Why in over 1 1/2 years could I not have found the time to re-paint the crown moulding in the living room? We leave in 4 days to meet our daughter, why the hell am I obsessing about dirty crown moulding?

Here is the big suitcase. As of this morning it weighs 45lbs. The limit is 44lbs. Hmmm...gonna have to trust that they will give us an adoption trip pass on this one folks. I am NOT repacking big red.

Here is another bone of contention between the beloved Muffin Man and myself. He thinks that it is ok to pack the kitchen sink if he thinks it will be of comfort to him in Guangzhou. I on the other hand have told him numerous times that in Guangzhou you can purchase Western style kitchen sinks, for a few measly pennies in fact. Ultimately he is a person comforted by things, stuff, dare I suggest junk? I on the other hand am a person comforted by simplicity...the less things, the more likely I am to be in control of said things.

You see the psychological dilemma? If you are in the China adoption process right now you might want to work through these issues with a professional with your spouse in your spare time. It could mean less xanax for you 4 days before leaving for China.

Now here is something where I must say that I agree with my spouse. Let's go get new clothes for China. I know this all sounds highly counterintuitive and all since packing for this trip should be akin to packing for a camping trip. Dressing up is not necessary and your new child will probably barf all over whatever you are wearing anyway. It's a fact, look it up. However, we have been inexplicably drawn to the new underwear aisles of our favorite Kohls. We have new tee-shirts, and new walking shorts. It is crazy. Maybe this is an unspoken thing in international adoption, all parties adopting orphaned children with absolutely no material possessions to their name must present well with new tee shirt from Target.

This whole process at times seems a little like we are living in the world of close encounters of the third kind. And I hope the Chinese laundress in Guangzhou appreciates the fact that our family has new underwear.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

At The Water Park

Video Hosting - Upload Video - Video Sharing
Yesterday's water park adventure. Obviously I need a few NYU film school tips. But she was having fun. As far as mastering the technical aspect of loading video to blogger...reading the directions on was most helpful. Don't know why I didn't think of that a few days ago.

Adult Conversation

This weekend the Muffin Man and I had a rare opportunity to share a meal and a beer at a restaurant. A real restaurant, as in dining like I used to frequent and take for granted. I admittedly sometimes refer to our kitchen as a restaurant since some like to eat at 5:30 some like to eat at 8:00 some like their chicken in little clumps some like it underneath cacatiore. But no this was the real deal. No chicken allowed, adult conversation only.

Adult topics of conversation only:

1. New government regulations on liquid as carry on items in the cabin. With the help of some friends I have learned that I can purchase benedryl in little solid strips, so my panic attack is over. Muffin Man contributed that since he wears contacts he is sure they will just let him on with big ole' bottle of saline. Ugh, no. Not if you read . To which he thought he would solve the problem by putting the bottle in his pocket and sneak in on. Ugh, huh. This brought up the opportunity for our adoption pre-flight "Come To Jesus" meeting to go over the rules and regulations which will help to keep Daddy out of jail and Mommy sane.

a. When they do not have hamburgers, smile and say thanks for the rice.
b. When the ticket lady at the counter says no I'm not switching you to the seat with more leg room closer to the free granola bars, you say "Have a nice day ma'am." And slowly back away from the yellow line.
c. When the tour you really want to visit is not available, you say "Ok, yes seeing the dead preserved Mao seems facinatingly interesting, sign us up."
d. If a flight is missed, you jovially joke with travel mates about how more time with our delightfully quiet and well trained daughter will make them better people in the long run. Possibly lining them up for canonization in the distant future.

How did Muffin Man take all of this? Quite well. But he was on the second Boddingtons and I was wearing lip gloss and a low cut blouse.

Then adult conversation moved on:

2. Just how many hours can one spend learning a camcorder, camcorder software, video upload share ware, and possible video uploading to blog? Let's just say A LOT. And, I still can't get blogger to upload the video from Dropshots. Is anyone out there a wiz at this, oh great internets? I've done the hard part I just can't get it to upload to blogger. Grrrr.... I'm very open to switching to You Tube if it would be easier. I think it might be user error, ha, or blogger, double ha.

3. Don't ask my why this came up but then I thought it would be a good time for me to discuss how hard it theoretically would be for an ex-business woman turned full time mommy to re-enter the business world when my littlest bird flies the nest to Kindergarten. Aren't there books written about this? Shouldn't I perhaps focus on getting us to China in one piece to first get the littlest bird? No, I am feeling the need to discuss possible future

The Muffin Man suggested that I would be very good as the Costco checkout person who greets you at the egress. He mentioned this since I have perfected the fine art of drawing smiley faces in my current career. Yeah, can we all say resume builder?

And that concluded our evening out. It is Wednesday and I'm still no closer to uploading video to the blog......

Saturday, August 12, 2006

9 Months Ago

9 Months Ago Today...

A beautiful heathy baby was born in Southern China.
Her parent(s) knew they could not raise her.
They or someone helping them placed her to be found.
And walked away.

It might have been 9 months they carried this decision secretly in their minds.

A world away an American family had been waiting 9 months for a new baby.
They thought they'd hear of this child soon.
It was not to be since she was just being born and not ready.

Now it is 9 months later. Just the right time to bring a baby home.
Or so the addages of time tell us.

Nine months...Happy Nine Months Baby Girl.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Dear Terrorist

Dear Terrorists,

I know you probably weren't thinking about my personal need for liquid Benedryl on our forthcoming trip to China when you chose to unsuccessfully sneak deadly sparklers in hydrated bottle on a flight from London, you schmucks.

You see it was for my 4 year old who is accompanying us on the long ass international trip. Ok, she is not exactly doomed with smallish sinus cavities or anything it is just that an occasional small dosage of Benedryl for a non-sleeping cranky and somewhat vocal 4 year old can save a well intentioned parent from overdosing on illegally obtained vicodan in cases of extreme distress. An example of extreme distress would be up to and including all travel mates falling asleep and 4 year old daughter deciding it is time to throw the mother of all hissy fits complete with attempts to stab mother with a pencil while oudly schrieking the expletive she learned from Daddy last weekend.

If this RED alert travel thing you set into place is not lifted in less than 13 days I will readdress you using your given name complete with middle name extension.

Seat 23E

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Got the Money, Honey?

Picture This:

One adoptive mom wants to somewhat discreetly go to bank to pick up truckload of cash "stuck in 1973" agency requires to be carried on person to China for 2 week adoption trip. Has no one heard of a little thing called wire transfer they invented about the same time the second James Bond movie came out? Yes, that was a Sean Connery flick by the way. Miss Moneypenny, ironically enough, was wearing pointy a tits bra, it was that long ago. Did I ever mention that my husband is the sole person on earth who truly thinks pointy tits bras were a fashion statement worthy of re-thinking? He loves them, I think this is hilarious in a twisted sort of way. Sorry, I digress.

One adoptive mom has no other choice but to drag less than discreet 4 year old along for high powered finanacial transaction. Muffin man is gallavanting again at some work related golf outing in Chicago. Work related, right. The only bonus to this is he promises me he is going to win the corvette they are giving away and give to to me. How sweet is that in a hit her over the head and drag her by the hair back to the cave sort of way? Corvette, it in and buy me business class tickets to China buddy. Better ME and upgade and keep the 4 year old in cattle class. See you in Beijing. So, he's gone I gotta take Ava to the bank with me to count out clean hundred dollar bills.

Can you see where this might go wrong?

She marches into the bank lobby and sets up shop at the coffee table with crayons and bank logo paper. I approach the window, calmly and quietly. (I was about to withdraw mucho dinero after all.) The teller knows us. She immediately starts whipping out wads of 100's. I frown and ask for a back room. She calmly states there is no back room, there is a coffee table but that is already being used by another bank customer. Turns out in a strange turn of events the other bank customer is my four year old drawing rainbows while singing the Wonder Pet's Theme Song at the top of her lungs. She breaks only to ask if she can see all the money and where is her root beer sucker? I quickly flash her the evil eye and say, "No root beer sucker if you are talking about money. I will show you the money at home. " Icksnay on the oneymay, I try in pig latin with her. She starts giggling uncontrollably, I mean big belly laughs which result in her falling on the floor and writhing in humor. Now the loan lady's interest is peaked and she wants to get all chatty about the ins and outs of a Chinese adoption. "Oh, are you going back?", she bellows. I bury my head acting all confused and flustered with that much green in my greasy palms. Go-away-people. If I get robbed I'm blaming Ava, I'm not above it.

In between me multitasking flicking 50's around and tossing Ava that sucker I realize that most of this money is not super new. China likes super new money. I asked for super new money. The teller states that her supervisor stated this would be fine. Really? Has the supervisor ever been reamed in a Changsha hotel for trying to pass a 100 dollar bill with one little dog ear bend? I think probably not. My patience is wearing thin, but if I want to get out of there to go home and stash the cash under my mattess for the next two weeks I better quit complaining and start scooping up rainbow pictures off the floor before Ava asks for tape to "decorate" the lobby.

Ultimately we left with 6 new rainbow pictures and a possible cavity. Oh yes, and heavy purse full of the green stuff. It is buried under the airconditioning unit in case you see fit to stop by the cul-de-sac late tonight. It worked for Tony can work for us.

And, yes I did let Ava sniff it when we got home. Just for a few more shits and giggles.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Blood, Thick or Thin?

Olivia Xi GeGe - Yangxi, Guangdong

Ava Jing Tang - Yueyang, Hunan

The picture on the left is Liv on July 15, 2006 at Yangxi County SWI , Guangdong. She just turned 8 months old . The picture on the right is Ava August of 2002. In the photo she is about 7 months old. I have the picture on the left only by the grace of another adoptive family who visited Yangxi last month and took the time to photgraph as many babies in the room as possible. That is the work of adoption angels, no not freaky red thread garbage, just people who obviously care about someone other than themselves. People who know what it is like to have a baby, but not be able to see her or touch her for 8 weeks after you meet her on paper.

Here is the thing that is sort of freaking me out. Have you read about how the CCAA really reads the homestudies and looks at the pictures looking for a connection while matching? My girls were born in 2 different provinces almost 4 years apart. Ava, in Yueyang which is far north in Hunan. Liv in Guangdong and Southern Guangdong at that. But I gotta say they look a bit alike as babies.

It is almost like comparing Muffin Man's awesome thick head of Irish red curls and my um, propensity to see the good in folks? Fine, I have long legs but believe me they are nothing to write home about. Oh wait, but that would only be right if we had procreated using the old-fashioned method. These girlies are sisters of circumstance not dna. (They can thank us for that little detail later in life.)

Riding the couch last night I sat and reveled in my girls' loveliness. How sweet in spirit they seem in these photos. How much they seem willing to take on the world. My main man was quick to point out that they are NOT blood related, dare I suggest otherwise. I know I told him, that honestly never crossed my mind. It is just well, weird. Meant to be. I just want them to feel some sort of connection with each other that binds them for life. I want this bad, really bad. Who cares about blood? It is a soul connection that matters. Looking at them I see this, they look similar. They belong together.

Just gotta go get her.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Magic Touch Of Doom

Everything I touched today fizzled out, spontaneously combusted or slowly lost power dying a slow and painful electronic death. Of course I was toting my less than agreeable 4 year old along while speaking with the cable company and the router gal and the jelly beans for brains young'un at Best Buy. It was ever so delightful. "Mom, this is sooo boring." I heard for the 60th time on our journey to better home electronics before I swear my head spun a scary 180 degrees to ask her how old she was, 16? And a surly 16 at that.

My girl is not all that interested in why a mini dvd RAM should be ever so much more fabulous than a mini dvd -r for our trip to China in a few weeks. She is not appreciating that I am working very hard to insure that she and her sister have a homemade (but professional looking) movie complete with IZ's version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow music and tactful sub-captions detailing their mystical journey together. Should I call it Sisters, The Beginning? Or wait for something even more pretentious to come to me? (She says dreamily.) When I'm dust, these two sisters better be tearfully watching this stupid movie I'm going to make for them each family day anniversary. If they don't I'm hopping out of the grave...and don't think I won't either.

I'm back up and running. The router is fixed, the tv has cable again, and the phone is ringing. Ahhhh, the sound of chaos. I still don't have the coveted mini dvd rams but I suppose there is tomorrow for that. I'm getting up early tomorrow to drag poor little miss "how boring" to Circuit City.

We will be outfitted electronically in China, even if I have to blow a gasket trying.

Don't think that I will heed the words of my sage-like mother who heard this today and said, "Oh gosh, don't you think this all seems a little complicated? Why not make it easy on yourself in China?"

Oh no, let's not do that.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fire Up The Engines We Have Dates!

It is true. My friends it does really happen sooner or later in this China adoption game. Fine, I will concede to later, it is only fair to those of us waiting longer than 12 BIG months.

Here's the skinny...

We leave August 24th, 2006.

We fly Continental. Fabulous, the Muffin Man has about 6 frequent flyer points with them so it is all about that AMEX card. But, who cares since Yangxi, GeGe awaits. And, can I take the mulah to the grave? I think not.

We fly home Sept. 8, 2006 from Guangzhou to Beijing and then onto Newark and then home to our favorite Midwestern state. Then, its onward and upwards with life.

More details later, since I had to ask the travel agency about 64 questions earlier this evening and my head is swimming in un-chlorinated water.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

1600 Brain Cells Down

This winter I read a lot of adoption blogs. Seven extra pounds on my ass worth to be exact. I would sit and become enthralled with the family as they proceeded through referral and then the blessed TA only to finally obtain the holy grail...plane tickets with firm travel dates to China. In my been there done that smuglyness, I would scoff when the packing discussion started as rocky road ice cream dripped down my chin and onto the keyboard.

Packing a coffee maker?..ha, don't they know that China now has Starbucks? Packing 150 diapers?...ha, don't they know about the dreaded evil corporate Wally is invading a Chinese city near you? Trash bags...they know about 'em and you can get 'em. Duct Tape by the supersize rolls? I never did exactly figure out what that was for.

Then the uber ridiculousness would start. Parents would explain that they weren't sleeping because of stress, general anxiousness or morose malaise caused by the fact that junior was a world away and they were Wisconsin. Not sleeping, are you insane people? Don't you know that in about 4 weeks your sleeping life as you know it will be caught up in a world of 17lbs. of schreeking 3am madness spewing from one adorable black spiky headed spawn? For the love of God people, sleep whilst you can. Sleep in, go to bed early, do the horizontal hokey pokey with your spouse and then sleep it off, take a nap, doze off in the car...just SLEEP.

Here I am at the 11th hour. NOT SLEEPING. I've become one of them. One of the stupdido internets NOT SLEEPING BEFORE the adoption of bambina! At 1am I remembered to pack little packets of sugar in case Olivia doesn't like us and needs a sugar high to cope. (It's ok baby, any gal's gal needs a little "suga" to cope now and again, momma understands.) At 2am I remembered that we need a list of people to buy gifts for in Guangzhou. At 3am I remembered that we still haven't received an updated I 171-h after the whole re-fingerprinting party earlier in July, on my birthday no doubt! Holy shit, is that a burecratic problem I need to address?

I might have to tuck my "I have it all together" self under an ego sofa cushion and call the Dr. for a little Ambien or something. Man, I am NOT pleased.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

TA and that means Terrific Already!

It is hard for me to believe that last time we completed an adoption I didn't even know what Travel Approval was or when we got it. We just received a call about 4 weeks after our referral telling me to call some lady at a travel agency, have a credit card in hand and be ready to book the tickets. Ugh, ok. I completed the whole transaction at work where I was consulting at the time in a lonely little cubicle. I think that I called the Muffin Man afterwards to explain that I booked us on a flight leaving the States Friday the 13th of Sept. 2002. Which was 2 days after the 1 year anniversary of 9/11/01. No one but me wanted to travel on the 11th. Come on folks, don't you think that would be the safest day to travel? Wouldn't every policeman and their mother be expecting something weird? Alas, I lost and we traveled Friday the 13th, voodoo day. To this day I still don't unstand how that was better.

But this time the land of milk and honey comes with more complications, trials and tribulations. Are the TA's in with the new referral batch? Will they be here within 3-5 weeks of referral? Is Guangdong really giong to make us stay on Shaiman Island for 3 weeks? Does this mean we won't get to see Beijing with the 1/2 of our group that has babies waiting for them in Jiangxi? Will I get another mouth ulcer from stress? Will I pull a fistful of hair out of my head?

It is all for not. TA's made their way to my agency this morning without fanfare. The gang at the agency is busily applying for American Consulate appointments as I write this. I might get a call telling me to grab for the American Express card and call 1-800 We Ship You To China Travel Agency before the end of the week.

And how is Ava taking in all of the excitement of packing and visas and travel approvals?

"What's all the trouble for, Mon? Let's do the Pegasus movie in 3D. No worries."

(Yes, that is a peace, love and alligators tee shirt.)