My Little Sweeties

My Little Sweeties

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 2 - Orphanage Visit

What a blessing today was.  Adam and I were able to line up a private guide to take us to our son's orphanage.  We learned about this option through a friend who has recently traveled for their own adoption, and I am so thankful for this opportunity!  Our guide's name was Jasmine.  She was so incredibly nice and we learned so much about the Chinese culture, rules, and people.  We also got to ride the subway with her.  There is no way I could have navigated the subway without her, let alone the streets walking there.  She also served as an interpreter between ourselves and the caregivers.

Angel Home is amazing. It breaks my heart and fills it with love all at the same time.  These little children, dozens of them, all over, waiting for their families and hoping to one day have a family.  The ladies and gentlemen who work there seem so kind, patient, and loving.  There were so many smiles everywhere - I could just feel the excitement they shared with us over adding Christian to our family and bringing him to America.

The orphanage looks like it once was a beautiful mansion.  It is clean, but you can tell the wear dozens of children at once can make on the place.  We were able to see where Christian eats, where he sleeps, where he plays, meet his friends, and his caregivers.  We watched the kids eat their food and play outside.  Some of the babies and younger children seem really healthy, but the needs vary greatly there.  Some children seem like they have CP and there are twins who were recently conjoined and separated.  Rooms upstairs are lined with cribs - 4-6 in a room.  I have had enough difficulties getting my own kids to bed when I have one little one, I can only imagine what it would be like to try and get several babies to sleep in a room at a time!  This experience was deeply meaningful for our family, and I am so thankful that we were able to go.

After visiting at the orphanage a few hours we took the subway back to our hotel.  While many people ride bikes and walk, the subway is also full and the streets are a cacophony of horns honking.  Adam and I try to look like we belong here, but beyond obvious reasons of why we look like foreigners, we can't seem to keep our mouths closed as we gape and gasp in amazement watching the hundreds of people passing us by in the streets, the tall skyscrapers as far as the eyes can see, the dozens of bikes lining the street.  Jasmine explained to us that there are "rings" for the city.  The Forbidden City is the center of Beijing.  That is the first ring.  This was the original meeting place for government officials for hundreds of years.  There are 16 million residents of Beijing.  4 million people commute into the city to work.  On any given work day there are 20 million people.  I don't know how many people live in NYC or even all of Minnesota, but for the space we are talking about, that is a lot.

After about an hour's rest we met our CCAI guide, George.  George is a great guy and he was very informative.  He took us to the Forbidden City.  To be honest, I was still overwhelmed from our subway ride and visiting the orphanage, so I am sure I didn't fully appreciate all that it had to offer.  The structures were so incredibly beautiful.  Everything in China seems to have meaning.  Red means wealth and power, as does the number 8.  There were many carvings in all types of materials and the details were everywhere.  It was built in the early 1400's.  There are 9,999 1/2 rooms at the forbidden city.  The half room was actually a full room but half of it was left empty because the emperor who built it wanted to be considered equal with/ next to the Gods... and it was said the Gods had 10,000 rooms in Heaven and the emperor's father was in Heaven, so he didn't want to have that exact number, but as close as he could.  They believe about a million people worked on building the forbidden city and it took about fifteen years to make.  While we were at the Forbidden City we noticed a few dozen people taking pictures of us throughout the day.  Two people approached us and asked for us to have our picture taken with them.  This was fun with a little girl about eight, but a bit weird with a guy in his thirties.  Both pictures happened during the five minutes we were left unattended by George to get our tickets.  When he came back he said some people from villages and small cities come to Beijing to visit and these might be the only times they encounter a Caucasian person.  Very different from the Great American Melting Pot.

When we left the forbidden city George and our driver brought us to "Old Beijing".  We learned about how quickly Beijing has grown and how many people who live there cannot get around easily because the streets are so narrow.  The houses used to be several small buildings connected by an outer wall with an inner courtyard.  Grandparents, parents, children, etc. all shared this communal living space.  When Beijing began to grow they left these houses and then there wasn't enough room to build new buildings and streets.  George told us to get on a rickshaw we parked next to.  I was mortified.  As cool as I think it is to experience something like this, I am also aware that Adam and I are not small people, so the thought of one person pulling both of us up and down the street was a bit mortifying... but you can't say no to George, right?  I didn't want to insult anybody, but I also didn't want to give them a heart attack in the process of pulling us along.  SO, we both giggled and hopped in.  The driver did fine, but didn't look too happy about pulling us when we got off (I think we might have been his consequence because an older guy told him to pull us).  We got out at a couple's home.  It was very tiny and modest.  It reminded me of small apartments in NYC or Boston, just a house.  Things were sparce and run down looking, but this was a very respected family.  They wanted to show us what a real house in Beijing is like.  They cooked us dinner, which was amazing.  The husband is the chef for a Military General in Beijing and cooked for the military for many years.  George told us afterwards that the government will soon offer to buy out his small house for the space to make some newer structures and will most likely give him 5-6 MILLION dollars for that space.  We passed a space a few blocks away that they were doing construction at.  They were digging deep into the ground - probably 3-4 stories deep.  The government does not want buildings to go too tall there to maintain Old Beijing, but they can go below.

Adam and I were both exhausted so when we were dropped off at our hotel we took a few hours nap (keep in mind, this was the day after a full 27 hours of traveling and the time change is 13 hours ahead of home) and then walked the streets by the hotel to experience the night life.  We saw many street vendors who were selling all kinds of food on sticks - octopus, scorpions, crayfish, and local fruits cut into shapes and drizzled with a sugary syrup.  There were two places where a bunch of middle aged people were dancing to loud music playing on a boombox.  It was fun watching them dance.  We didn't want to be too adventurous with our foods because we have been warned many times about getting sick, so we stuck with some ice cream in a cone. I had a green tea ice cream, which seemed to be the most popular and it was good :) It was so much fun watching everyone interact with one another.  I think what stands out to me most about the people here is how respectful they are with one another.  There are sooooo many people, yet it never is loud or uncomfortable (other than physically when we are smooched together in a small space).  It is funny though - people are very aggressive when walking and driving.  Even trying to get into our out of an elevator in a large group can be tricky because respectfully somebody will most likely shove you out of the way so they can get a good spot.  Many people here speak some English, so fortunately we are able to communicate with others.  We use our hands a lot for gestures too, which isn't a problem for me :)

Finally, we came home and crashed.  I think we got about nine hours of sleep on this night :)

Day 1 - What a ride!

Wow. What a ride that was - literally and figuratively! I posted a picture of Adam and I at the airport yesterday and since then have slept almost three hours (on the plane). We traveled to Chicago, waited three hours, then had an almost 14 hour flight to China. Once we arrived here it took over an hour to get our luggage and go through customs. Then we took a car with our CCAI rep to our hotel, which was at least another hours drive. The ride was smooth, but my goodness, that is a long time to sit still! It was fine with us, but I need to start breathing out of a paper bag when I think about our flight home with a little one sitting on my lap! One day at a time, right?
Thank goodness for texts. I can send and receive texts (no pictures) for only a few cents but can't use any data... but II can use wifi at most of our hotels. We stay in Beijing for three nights total. The next two days are sight seeing and visits and then the next day is another day of flying to the province where they found Christian and where he started his life. Sunday we travel and Monday sometime Christian becomes ours! Please continue to pray that he adjusts well with us and the transition is smooth  We get to stay there for six nights, then off to another two cities!
Adam and I were really thirsty tonight and a little hungry, so after checking into our hotel we went for a little stroll down the streets of Beijing. We only passed one other Caucasian family, and they were speaking in french. What a good learning experience, especially as our little one will soon be the minority. We ate at a real Chinese food restaurant. Most of the food was similar to what we have seen at the US. A few things were NOT (picture a whole fish with it's head propped up vertically and pig knuckles). Fortunately, the menu had pictures for each item, so we could just point to what we wanted in the menu. The waitress showed us our bill on her ipad, which was good because as much as I wanted to learn Chinese this summer, that didn't happen. We then stopped at a little shop to buy two bottles of water. In our exhausted state we almost paid the man his asking price of 90 yuan...until Adam caught the conversion in his head and said we are not paying 15 dollars for bottled water, even if it is the good stuff. We walked a few more blocks and stopped at a convenience store and bought four bottles that were a little smaller for 2.50 total 
Thank you all for your continued prayers, thoughts, and sharing in our exciting journey! It meant so much to me to open up my facebook account and to be flooded with love. We are so blessed to have you all in our lives. AJ & Abby are doing well with mom. She has been such a blessing. I shared her post on here about how the kids did today. I didn't know what to do for them to help them understand and adjust with us gone for so long. The paper links REALLY seemed to help. They rotated days taking off the chains and that visual has seemed to make this pretty concrete for them. I have seen some parents share that they gave their kids one present each for every day they were gone. That sounds like fun, but all I can see is dollar signs. Plus, I really wanted them to appreciate this process for what it is... we are growing as a family and there is a whole lot of love involved. I didn't want this to turn into them wanting selfishly for toys that would eventually end up in a dumpster. SO, my small token of a gift to them was little cassette tapes. One to each of them with a special message and song, then the other two I read some of our favorite books out loud so they could read with me whenever they want. I am glad they liked them!
I can't even figure out how many hours I have been awake at this point, but I think other than the few short naps it has been a straight 27 hours. I am off to bed, but hope to post some updates and pictures tomorrow  (it is a 13 hour time difference, so right now it is 7:51 pm here). Good night!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hip-hip-horrayyyy!!! Give me an A!

My life is filled with "A's" lately :)  TA & CA are the most recent A's that are music to my ears.  Yesterday we received our Travel Approval, which means we have the go-ahead to make travel plans for China.  We were given two choices for travel - the 20th (in nine days) and the 27th (in 16 days).  I would have loved to leave on the 20th, but with Adam's work, preparing my classroom for my long-term sub, and final preparations over the summer to get the kids ready for school, we requested the later date as our first pick. 

This morning we received our CA - our consulate appointment.  We were approved for the later travel date.  On September 1st we will get to meet, hold, hug, and play with our son.  I have so many fears about this day.  Google "Gotcha Day" and you will understand why.  It usually does not go well.  Kids don't usually like strangers, and as much as Adam and I already love our son, he does not know who we are.  We smell different, we look different, we dress different, we eat different... get the picture?  I know I will have to use all my powers to restrain myself from just kissing the daylights out of him too.  I love this kid.  Not like, "oh, he is so cute I just love him," but like, "I love you.  Deep down to the root of your soul, I love you".  But as much as I feel this I realize I have to be careful about not coming on too strong and scaring him away from me. 

I have heard that kids in these situations tend to take to one parent and not the other at all.  I have seen this with many families I have met online going through the same process as us in the past few months.  So, as much as I love Adam and want these two boys to bond, I am going to hoard the backpack we have ready, which is stuffed with bubbles, balloons, books, markers, spinning tops, and more so I can offer bribes and incentives to come to mama.  I want so desperately for my baby to love me, but love is a deep emotion and it can take time.  I love him so much I will respect that and will be patient for this love to grow. 

I am so so terribly saddened that I will miss the kid's first day of school.  I had a friend ask the other day how I felt about that and how I will probably never live that moment down.  Sadly enough, I think that friend is right.  I think as a parent we are constantly forced to choose.  We have to choose which crying child to go to first, which to feed first, who to hug first or last, and in this scenario, we had to choose:  do we wait on China for our son for potentially up to another month, or do we just go for it knowing that AJ and Abby will be loved and well taken care of.  China has a holiday taking place the first week in September, so if we didn't leave now most likely we would have had to wait an additional three weeks until we could travel.  We chose to bring Christian home and to trust that AJ and Abby will not be deprived of any crucial life experience.  I know my mom will do a wonderful job with the kids and I am already starting detailed notes outlining her days (sorry mom :)).

So, we are now down to about fifteen days until travel.  Tonight we booked our tickets.  To save on costs we are going to have a "lap seat" for Christian - meaning we will hold him in our laps for over 16 hours of airplane time.  Yikes!  It saved us about a thousand dollars though and there is a good chance that on an airplane he wouldn't want his own seat anyway.  We decided to extend our trip by one day and spend a little time in Hong Kong.  This will spread out some of our travels as initially when we looked at our itinerary we were going to need two layovers with about four hours at each airport.  This meant a crazy amount of consecutive travel time, so we added the night in Hong Kong.  This will mean about four hours of travel to the hotel there and then about five hours less travel (including the layover wait time) on the return home.  We have heard wonderful things about Hong Kong, so for that we are excited.  We have also heard that at that point we are just going to want to go home, be with our kids here, and to start what will be the new normal for our lives.  Hopefully we made the right decision, but there is no going back at this point, so we might as well embrace it, right?

These next two weeks are already busy.  Adam is working very hard to wrap up some small jobs and get some big jobs going so his team can keep busy and be productive while he is away.  His dad is also going to help out with some of his duties.  My parents and sister are moving TOMORROW from their home to an apartment, so they are busy.  I have four days left of tutoring this summer, one day of work where I am going to meet with my long-term sub and help get my classroom schedule/ dates/ room set up so there is some rhyme and reason to everything, clothes shopping for the kids, and final cleaning/ nesting projects.  The rest of our time will be spent together - I need every hug and kiss I can get from my precious two.  I already miss them.  I decided to use my personal days during workshop week so I can be home with the kiddos for our final days together and so I can finish my book/ notes for my mom in our absence.  In addition to taking on the two kids, she will be watching our crazy dogs, three fish tanks, grocery shopping, and cooking/ house duties.  Thank goodness for my mom!

Christian's suitcase is already packed.  I have his clothes washed and folded, ready for our trip.  I just need to run through our list a few more times to get a few final pieces and then we are ready to take off!  Somewhere in there I need to actually learn some Chinese.  I was really hoping to acquire pieces of the language, but I still only know about three words.  I do need to brush up on my sign language a little though - thankfully I used to know quite a bit.  As far as I understand, Christian is not able to produce sounds because of his cleft palate, so I plan on teaching him sign language to help him with communicating until he has corrective surgeries and speech therapy.  Good thing we have 24 hours of travel - I should be able to pick up a language and review signs in that time period, right? :)

I just want to end this note tonight with a big thank you to all of you who continue to share in our joy and excitement.  I was teaching a class today for CPI to staff and we had a few minutes left over at the end of our training before the next presenter.  A friend asked for me to share a little about the adoption and I joked, but not really, that I could talk all day about our little guy and our journey.  I am so so blessed and am so thankful for many reasons.  God bless!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From 2.5 to 7

Mathematically speaking, 2.5 to 7 is not a big difference, that is unless you are comparing 2 1/2 to 7 weeks until we travel to bring our son home.  Our Article 5 was picked up yesterday,Tuesday, August 5th.  According to recent trends I have been following on adoptive groups on facebook 2 1/2 weeks is very realistic.  According to our adoption agency, which continues to err on the side of caution, we are looking at 4-6 weeks, 7 at most. 

This is leaving me in a bit of a panic.  I have a classroom to get ready and a long-term sub to meet, two kids to get ready for school (including a kindergartener, who I will most likely miss on her first day of school, sniffle sniffle), packing to do, shopping for final necessary items for a son who I have no idea what size clothes he is, what he eats, or what will entertain him on our 22 hour flight home, and of course there are the nesting projects that I slightly regret (repainted two rooms recently and currently am working on making curtains for Christian's room, which will be shared with Abby and dustruffles for his crib.  In addition to all that craziness, my poor kids have been dragged around with me doing errand after errand in preparation for this all.  I have been trying super hard to be intentional with my time with them and we have really had a great summer, but there is that constant layer of mommy guilt that I should do more with them and for them.  My plan is still to tutor through the end of summer and to attend workshop week late August, but that might change if I get "the email" in the next week. 

The kids got their hair cuts today and my oh my do they look cute.  They have been helping me sew and paint and really seem comfortable and at peace with Adam and I leaving the country for three weeks.  Thank goodness for my family - my mom will be living at our house and watching the dogs and taking care of AJ and Abby.  They have been making projects and gifts for us to bring to China to give to Christian so he can immediately experience the love of his brother and sister. 

Today I also got an email from the orphanage that Christian is living at.  They shared that he is scheduled to have his first palate surgery in September, but with us coming so soon wanted to know if we wanted them to cancel it.  I am so grateful that they would ask us that and let us as his parents make that decision.  As we already have our first appointment scheduled for October 1st, I asked for them to cancel the appointment and let us have his surgeries here at home.  

So, we are now 1 day into our 18-49 day wait until we board our plane and experience our newest blessing.  Any predictions on what the final number will be?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Showered with love

Tonight we were showered with love at a baby shower for Christian.

This was just another demonstration of the blessings we have in our lives.  It was a fun night of sharing our story of what has led us to this moment in time, a very powerful devotional about parenthood and motherhood using scripture beginning with each letter in the word "adopt," sharing pictures of our son, opening presents, and visiting (and eating) with friends.  Many of the ladies who were there tonight shared in Abby & AJ's showers when I was pregnant with them as well.

We now have some brand new clothes for Christian in what I hope is his right size, a stroller that we can take with us to China, some children's medications to bring with us (we were told to bring anything and everything because if we buy meds in China we might not be able to find what we are looking for and even if we do we might not be able to read the language or convert the weight/ amounts), and so much more.

Marilyn Miller, who made cakes for both AJ and Abby's showers, made a beautiful cake for Christian. 
The letters are actually like puzzle pieces.  The uppercase and lowercase letters fit together.  Isn't that just perfect!?!?

Abby was able to join me tonight, and I think she might have felt like the princess I know she is.  I gave her a little pedicure today (complete with jets/ suds and any grown-up nailpolish she wanted!), plus she wore some glittery make-up AND got a few sprays of my perfume :)  She had fun sharing in the festivities, and it melted my heart to see her so excited to talk about her little brother and to say how excited she is for him to be home with us.  I know she has had some hesitations - about being the middle child, us leaving for so long, and sharing her room, but every day she seems to get more and more excited about having a little brother.  I know she is going to be such a great big sister - she loves playing with little kids and has such a wonderful personality - I can't wait to see how it shines with her little brother!

 This picture kind of shows a necklace one of my coworkers and friends MADE me.  She said the two birds symbolizes AJ and Abby.  The empty nest they are looking at represents them waiting for their brother to come home.  I shared this story and its symbolism the day Cathy gave me the necklace at work with both kids, and they loved hearing how they are a part of this charm and asked for me to repeatedly tell them about it.  Well, today, when I put it on, Abby pointed to one of the birds and said, "Look!  It's me.  I am waiting for Christian!"
AJ and Adam stayed home and did guy things - ordered pizza, played a star wars boardgame, and watched tv :)  AJ has truly amazed me with his deep understanding and support with what we are doing.  Last night we were getting ready for bed and he walked into my room with two dollar bills and about one dollar in coins in his hands.  He handed the money to me and said, "here mom".  I asked him what the money was for, and he said, "For the adoption fees".  (we have been really careful to say that the money we are raising and paying is not to buy his brother, but for the expenses of adoption like paying the people who are helping us, airfare, etc.).  I asked him why he wanted to give us that money, and his answer just flooded my eyes with tears.  He said, "Because I love my brother and I want to help bring him home really fast".  Wow.  I hate to take money from my kids - I make them work hard for their money and we seldom buy them toys because we like for them to understand the value of a dollar and to be a better judge on what they should and shouldn't spend their precious money on, but I felt like I needed to accept this money.  He knew.  AJ weighed whether or not he wanted to give his money, and he chose a very selfless act - one that I am amazed a seven year old did so spontaneously (we hadn't even been talking about adoption stuff last night).  Gosh I love this kid.

Here are a few more pictures from tonight's shower...










Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three more steps...

Of the hundreds of steps we have walked during this adoption process, we are down to three final pieces.  Today I submitted our DS260, which is immigration approval for Christian to be a US citizen.  In about two weeks we will get something called an Article 5 (no idea what this is or it's function yet - one step at a time :)).  Two more weeks and we get TA (travel approval).  I believe this will assign us a day at the Chinese Consulate, which is "THE BIG" appointment.  All travel in China is centered around this appointment.  Two more weeks and we are on a plane.  So, if my math is right, in about six weeks we will be boarding an airplane and traveling approximately 22 hours to China.  The time difference is about twelve hours, so we will have a few days to acclimate and adjust from our jet lag and then we will be meeting our son and holding him in our arms!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Updates

Today we received an email from CCAI providing us with updates on Christian.  Here is the letter summarizing his physical and emotional development along with two pictures :



Liang Yun Peng’s Development Report

            Liang Yun Peng’s personality is extremely cheerful and lively. He usually listens very well to the nannies and is also very thoughtful! He has post-operational cleft lip and palate, Liang Yun Peng’s condition is very good.
            Standing skills: he does not use the handrail to help him stand up on his own, moreover his balance and coordination abilities are also very good. When he assists himself with one hand, he is able to balance on one foot, or if he holds up his hands he is able to maintain balance. Presently Liang Yun Peng can walk very steadily by himself, and he rarely falls. He can also lean to a side and walk, and when he walks both of his arms sway at the same time. Every day he goes up and down the stairs by himself.
            He has good hand eye coordination. When one hand grabs a container, the other hand can take an object and place it inside the container. Additionally, he has the consciousness to be able to take the container with the object inside it and is able to place the container upside down to get it the object out. Liang Yun Peng often likes to draw. Frequently, he draws with crayons and sometimes he will draw outside.
            Liang Yun Peng is now able to take care of himself and is also able to use both hands to hold a water cup and drink water; he does not need any help. Every day, when he gets his clothes put on, he will take the initiative to extend his hands and legs appropriately to cooperate. He will take off his clothes, socks, shoes, and clothes that have a front zipper by himself.
            Liang Yun Peng will respond to some verbal commands. For example, “sit down, stand up,” “come here,” “throw away trash,” “…look at me,” “put the blocks in the box” … Liang Yun Peng is able to understand the meanings of things by combining gestures and sounds. For example: if you point at a shelf, he will take a toy and place it there; if you point at a trash can, he will throw away the trash in the trash can, and so on.
            Liang Yun Peng really likes to play with other children. If he sees them moving about he will be very interested in them. He will immediately go and join them, and imitate their actions. He will explore the surrounding environment, and every so often he will return to the nannies’ side.
            Currently, every aspect of Liang Yun Peng is very good.  



Medical/Development:
His current health is good.


Personality:
He can walk, run, go up/down stairs.
He likes balls and playing with sliding and children swing bike.
They call him Peng Peng.
He is extroverted and outgoing.
He is closest to the nannies who care him.


General:
He is in the foster care.
He use special bottle for cleft lip/palate.
He can eat solid foods.
He likes fruits, yoghurt.
He sleeps in a crib.  He goes to sleep easily.  He does not need to sleep with a specific toy or blanket. When sleeping, the light needs to be off and no sounds.

Medical/Development:
His current health is good.


Personality:
He can walk, run, go up/down stairs.
He likes balls and playing with sliding and children swing bike.
They call him Peng Peng.
He is extroverted and outgoing.
He is closest to the nannies who care him.


General:
He is in the foster care.
He use special bottle for cleft lip/palate.
He can eat solid foods.
He likes fruits, yoghurt.
He sleeps in a crib.  He goes to sleep easily.  He does not need to sleep with a specific toy or blanket. When sleeping, the light needs to be off and no sounds.