Saturday, September 25, 2010

Smooch


Rachel loves to pass out kisses and she has the most outstanding pucker I have ever seen.  She gets her lips ready from across the room and comes running to give you a big smooch.  On the lips.  If you try to avoid her lips, she puts her hands on the sides of your face and redirects your mouth.  We were celebrating Granny's birthday today and got pictures of the kissy face.  Smooch!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One last One Year Ago Today

   On September 23, 2009 we flew home from China.  It was literally the longest day of our lives!  China is a fabulous place and we loved visiting but getting there and back is an ordeal.  Here is what the Day That Never Ends was like:
   Got up early to get the girls dressed and fed and finish packing.  (We had, of course, bought another suitcase to haul home our new purchases.)  All three families in our group crammed our luggage and our selves onto the mini bus for the long drive to the Guangzhou airport.  Our guide waved us off and we were on our own.  I played kid wrangler while Steve and Dad negotiated tickets and baggage checks.  Went through security.  Walked to our terminal and went through security again.  I had Rachel, but they wouldn't let me carry her through.  Argued in English with the Cantonese speaking worker.  The worker insisted that Rae walk through on her own.  She did and promptly took off running.  Thankfully Granny had already passed through and was able to catch her.  We found our gate and settled in.  Spent two hours chasing Rachel around the terminal - thank goodness for those fascinating moving sidewalks and a toy store with lots of push-the-button type toys!  Boarded the first flight of the day.   Rachel fell asleep before we wer even off the runway and slept most of the flight.  Woohoo!  Katherine happily swallowed some Dramamine and slept, too.  Landed in Beijing.  Went through security.  Walked across the huge airport to the international terminal.  Steve and Dad went in search for something for lunch and came back empty handed.  Apparently there is no food in the international terminal.  The waiting area was fairly empty, so we let Rachel run.  Bought water for the flight.  Heard our flight called and headed for the gate.  Had to go through security again and they made us dump the water we'd purchased 30 feet away.  Settled in for a 13 hour flight.  Miraculously, both girls slept through most of the flight.  (I still can't believe Rachel, Miss I Hate to Sleep did that!)  Landed in Chicago.  Went through security.  Waited in the immigration line for 45 minutes - fascinating people watching.  Handed over Rachel's immigration documents.  Stood in line again.  Had our papers checked.  Waited a few minutes more.  An immigration official waved us over and congratulated Rachel on becoming a citizen of the United States.  Went through security.  Collected our luggage.  The luggage area was under construction and it was a madhouse - easily the craziest scene I've been in at an airport!  Went through security.  Walked perhaps fifty feet and went through security again.  The worker insisted that I remove Rachel's shoes in case we were hiding a bomb in them.  I was NOT happy or patient by this point! Hauled our immense pile of luggage onto a train and rode to the domestic terminal.  Walked the entire length of the terminal to find our gate at the far end (all while carrying Rachel and lugging my share of the suitcases).  Found a McDonalds for supper- yeah, food we reconize.  Spent two hours trying to corral Rachel, who was in a manic mood, in the crowded waiting area.  Boarded the fourth  and last flight of the day.  Both girls again slept most of the way to Wichita.  We were in a small plane and had to climb down the portable stairs and on to the tarmac to get inside the terminal.  Went through security one last time.  Katherine announced "I hat security!"  Ditto.  Met up with Steve's parents and my sister.  Collected our piles of luggage.  Climbed into the van and let someone else drive us home.  Rachel screamed the entire hour-long journey.  Arrived home at 11:30 at night.  We'd been up for over 36 hours and it was STILL September 23rd!  By then jetlag had kicked in, so we ate supper again and let the girls play until 2 AM.  Was I ever glad to be done with the day!
   And now I can't believe that it's been a whole year since then...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me

   Today is the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival in China.  People visit their families and honor their ancestors and think about their loved ones on this day.  They also eat beautiful pastries called mooncakes, which are filled with nuts, seeds, red bean paste (my favorite), egg yolks, and assorted stranger ingredients.  Some years we properly celebrate the Moon Festival, but it kind of snuck up on us this year.  I didn't have time to make mooncakes (our Americanized version has apricot jam, raisins, and nuts for filling).  But we did go outside and look at the moon.  And it was huge and beautiful.
   I have always imagined that my girls' birth parents might think of them on the Moon Festival.  It IS a holiday to honor loved ones far away.  I figure it's as good a time as any honor the people who created my children.  I wish I could tell them how grateful I am to them and how much I love their daughters.  At least I know that we all look at the same moon. 
   So this evening I took the girls out in their pajamas, all clean and sweet from their baths.  We looked at the moon and wondered if their birth families and Katherine's nannies and Rachel's foster family were thinking of them.  Katherine waved at the moon and said "Hi, China Mommy".  Rachel blew kisses.  Then we said "Zaijian" [goodbye] and went inside. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bluegrass




We spent part of the weekend at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival.  It's a fabulous event!  10,000 people come to the fairgrounds in Winfield, Kansas to hear bluegrass, "old time", cowboy, folk, and Irish music from dozens of bands.  There are four stages playing music constantly, as well as craft vendors, fair food, and lots and lots of tie-dye.  Rachel just referred to it as "Big Music".  It was a challenge to be there with both girls (Katherine was not in a good mood and Rachel has no boundaries and just roams out into the crowd) but we did enjoy the music.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Losing Teeth

Katherine lost a tooth today.  She was eating watermelon at school, which tells you how loose the tooth was.  She was quite pleased.
Almost exactly a year ago Katherine lost another tooth.  In China.  She lost her first tooth a few days before we travelled and the tooth next to it was so loose that it sort of migrated to the middle of the gap.  It was pretty strange looking. After a week it was hanging by a thread and just needed to come out.  So I threatened to take her to this guy.
She let me pull the tooth that afternoon! 

Katherine eagerly told our guide that the Tooth Fairy was going to come.  He looked at us and asked incredulously "Tooth Fairy?"  We explained the concept and he laughed and laughed.  "Children actually believe this?" he asked.  Well, yeah.  He thought the idea of a little flying fairy digging under children's pillows to collect teeth and leave cash in compensation was about the silliest thing he'd ever heard.  So we asked what kids in China did with their baby teeth.  He said, "They throw them on the roof for good luck, of course."  (And children believe that?)  Katherine pointed out that we were staying on the 27th floor of a hotel so the roof was not too accessible.  Besides, she wanted money.  So that night the Tooth Fairy came.  But she left the cash in Chinese RMB.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One Year Ago (A day late)

   I was going to write this post yesterday, but a nasty strom rolled into town during bedtime stories.  The tornado sirens went off, we spent 45 minutes sitting in the basement, the power went out and didn't return for many hours, and Steve spent part of the evening hauling the neighbors' downed limbs/trees to the curb.  We had leaves plastered to the side of the house, but no damage at all.  Most of our town wasn't so lucky - fences blown over, roofs torn off, and lots and lots of trees damaged or destroyed.  So, with all the excitement and no power, I didn't blog.
   One year ago yesterday was the first anniversay of Rachel's Adoption Day.  In China, families are given a day's temporary custody of their new child to determine if this is REALLY the child they want to adopt.  (When we received Katherine, they actually handed us a business card that read "If you are not satisfied with this child call this number."!!!!!)  So, the day after Rachel's traumatic introduction to her new family we had to go back to the Civil Affairs office to sign the paperwork.
   Rachel bounced out of bed that morning and I knew we were in for it.  This kid is soooo ornery!
   At the Civil Affairs office, Rae showed no fear.  In fact, she was a little tornado.  She ran and screeched and touched every item in the room.  She was crazy!  My mom was in charge of chasing her while Steve and I signed umpteen papers and stamped with red-inked thumbprints.  Mom was mighty tired by the time we finished.  There was another family there who had seen Rachel in her grief the day before.  When Rachel danced into the room that day they stared open-mouthed and asked if she was the same baby we'd been given yesterday.  The transformation WAS amazing!
   Have I mentioned how ornery Rachel was?
   After the paperwork we drove back to the hotel.  Do you remember the sad photo of Rachel on my lap in the car on Gotcha Day?  The one where she was searching for her foster mother and sobbing?  This was what she looked like less than 24 hours later.  And pretty much how she was been ever since.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gotcha Day

   One year ago today we met our Rachel Fu Shen.  After a wait of 3 years, 9 months, and 14 days we finally became a family of four.  This was our first glimpse of Chen Fu Shen in her foster mother's arms.  She looked just like her pictures, but so much more beautiful in real life.

   When her foster mother handed her to me, Rachel's terror was so deep it almost seemed a tangible presence in the room.  She was so, so scared.  She also fought me with incredible strength.  I knew immediately that she was strong and passionate about life and not afraid to let people know what she wanted.
   By the time we left the Civil Affairs office, Rachel had calmed a little.  It was then that I learned how brave she was.  She sat on my lap in the van (it was China - carseats are unknown!) and looked out the window searching for her foster mother.  Then she would look at me and stare into my eyes with such intensity that it was difficult to maintain my gaze.  It seemed like this baby was trying to stare into my soul.  After a few moments Rachel would begin to sob again.  And then she's start all over. 

   Back at the hotel Rachel stopped crying and studied us all.  She seemed to understand that her world had suddenly changed and that we were now the people in charge.  She accepted her fate and set out to make the best of it.  Within hours she was smiling, laughing, and showing off.  I began to see what a happy, funny girl my Rachel was.  By bedtime Rachel was calling me "Mama" and cuddling in my lap.  And I had fallen in love with her.  Totally, madly in love.  It would take time for the rest of the family to make her theirs, but I already loved her with a fierceness  that amazed me. 

   And now a whole year has past.  An incredible, amazing year.  It's hard to believe one little girl could change so much in just one year!  Rachel is still strong and passionate and brave and funny.  She is our Sunshine Girl and she has filled the empty spots in my life in ways I never dreamed.  Rachel's Chinese name, Fu Shen, translates into something like "never-ending happiness" and that is certainly what she is.  Happy Gotcha Day Rachel Fu Shen!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Remembering 6 Years Ago Today

   On September 13, 2004 we first learned of Katherine and saw her sweet little face.  At that time the adoption process in China moved quickly and predictably, so we knew that referrals were coming and that we were next.  Even so, the call that made us a family was breathtaking. 
   Steve and I got The Call at our schools.  Our social worker said that we had been matched with a beautiful, 7 1/2 month old baby girl named Yang Guo Dan.  At this point, I was jumping up and down.  I had wanted a little baby so much.  Then the social worker mentioned that the baby had a special need.  Steve and I were both teaching special education at the time and had seen some serious special needs.  Both of us mentally ran through the list - seizures, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and on and on.  The social worker then explained that Yang Guo Dan had an extra finger on one hand.  I laughed with relief - that was an interesting quirk, not a special need!  [Katherine had surgery to remove the extra thumb when she was 11 months old.]  We then heard Yang Guo Dan's information:  she had been born on January 31st, she lived in an orphanage in the city of Yangjiang in the southern province of Guangdong, the was impossibly tiny, she was described as happy and a good eater.  We had to wait until we were home to see pictures, but our social worker assured us that our baby was beautiful.
   I spent the rest of the afternoon floating on air and watching the minutes tick by.  The instant my students were out the door, I jumped in the car and raced home.  Steve pulled into the driveway at the same time I did.  We literally ran down the stair to the computer and danced around impatiently until the e-mail with our new daughter's picture opened.  When that little face popped on to the screen, I cried.  She was gorgeous.  Referral pictures at that time usually showed babies wearing so many layers of clothing that it was difficult to see anything more than their faces.  But our baby's pictures showed her barefoot and dressed in a short-sleeved outfit.  We could SEE her!  And she was perfect.
   Steve and I quickly agreed that Yang Guo Dan would be Katherine Guo Dan.  We called our parents and our siblings and started printing off copies of Katherine's picture.  In the next few days we showed those pictures to pretty much everyone we knew and some we didn't.  It would be six weeks before we could hold her in our arms, but we had a baby!
  

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Pictures





State Fair

   We went to the State Fair today.  It was so much fun!  The weather was gorgeous, although that also meant that the crowds were huge.  Granny, Poppy, and Robie came with us and we checked out the whole fair.  The girls went through a cool petting zoo, visited horses, cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and pigeons, went on a pony ride, and shared cotton candy - all the usual State Fair adventures.  Katherine fell in love with a team of draft horses pulling a wagon, toured all the campers and motor homes for sale, steered an electric boat around a pond, and watched a cow in labor (and was completely fascinated by it).  Rachel tried sour cream raisin pie (our traditional fair food), watched newborn piglets, took a nap in her stroller, and made the connection that chickens lay eggs.  It was a great day!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The first of of One Year Ago Todays

One year ago today we flew to China to get Rachel.  There are going to be several One Year Ago Today posts in the next few weeks because everyoen at my house is having fun re-living memories of that trip.  Well, the memories of September 9th aren't at all fun, but it was an adventure!  I'll explain. 
   Getting to China involved leaving our house at 4:30 AM to drive to the airport, checking in and going through security, killing time for an hour, getting on a small plane and flying for two hours, landing in Chicago and going through security, killing three hours or so, going through security, getting on a big plane and flying for 13 hours, landing in Beijing, going through security one last time, collecting our mounds of luggage, and driving 45 minutes to our hotel.  It was a looooong day.  Oh, and on top of it all, Katherine was sick. 
   It was the height of the Swine Flu frenzy and China was quarantining anyone who came in to the country with a fever or flu symptoms.  Katherine had a fever, diarrhea, a stomachache, and just didn't feel good.  But we had to Plan B for travel, so we got on the plane anyway and hoped for the best.  We were pretty certain she did not have H1N1, but she was air sick and in high anxiety mode and probably had some sort of non-flu bug.  We spent the overseas flight trying to keep her calm and convince her to sleep and surrupticiously dosing her with Advil and Tylenol every couple of hours.  Steve and I didn't sleep because we kept seeing images of Chinese officials in hazmat suits climbing aboard the plane with temperature probes (and that actually happened up until a week or so before we left!).  We tried very hard NOT to think about how a week's quarantine would impact our travel and adoption plans.  When we had to fill out customs forms, we lied and reported that no one in our party was ill.  It was a miserable flight.
   As we were descending into Beijing, Katherine gulped down a bunch of water to try and get her ears to pop.  It didn't work and she was in pain until we landed.  As soon as we got inside the terminal, I took Katherine to the bathroom.  On the way out she puked all over the floor.  It was just the water she'd guzzled, but still!  We were perhaps 30 yards from customs and security, she'd just vomited, and she was still radiating heat from a fever.  I cleaned Katherine up and we marched on.  In security, Steve set off the alarms, I had to unload my carry-on, and Katherine got pulled to the side to wait.  No one seemed to notice that she was flushed, glassy-eyed, and buring up.  We were waved on.  The last hurdle was a giant temperature scanner.  It was mounted about 3 foot off the floor and positioned so that everyone had to walk past it.  I took Katherine's hand and we walked through as quickly as possible.  No buzz!  No lights!  We did it!  We climbed on a train to the luggage area weak with relief.  We'd done it.  We'd sneaked a sick child into China.
   Katherine ended up being fine.  By the next morning she was climbing the Great Wall with a big smile on her face. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1st Day of 1st Grade

It was the first day of school!  Finally!  Katherine finished kindergarten on May 6th and had a full four months off for summer break.  Today she FINALLY started 1st grade.  She was so happy to be back in school.  She had a wonderful day and can't wait to go back tomorrow.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stranger Encounters

   When we first started the adoption process, our agency had us take an on-line class called The Conspicuous Family to help us prepare for becoming a transracial family.  We knew, of course, that our new family wouldn't "match" but it really didn't seem like a big deal.  I had no idea that the differences in race between parents and children in our family would affect nearly every public encounter.  And then I started buying milk and ordering pizza with an Asian child in tow.  I realized that I had always been annonymous, just a nameless, faceless woman in a crowd.  And that I kind of liked that.  But once we adopted our annonymous days were over.  In some ways it has been one of the hardest, and most unexpected, changes of life with kids.
   Unlike many families, we have never heard rude comments from people and rarely endure uncomfortable stares.  Oh, we get the occasional really dumb question (my favorites being "Is she the 'A' word?" and "Does she know she's adopted?" both from the same woman!), but people are almost always just curious.  What we do get is LOTS of attention.  Every single trip to Wal-mart or the grocery store results in someone, usually a complete stranger, telling us how adorable the girls are.  If I had a dollar for every time someone told me Katherine and Rachel were "cute"  I could afford to buy a new car and maybe remodel the bathroom.  It gets annoying.  I know my girls are cute, but so are lots of other kids. Do we get these comments because people think Asian children are more attractive than blonde kids?  Because they think we're some kind of saints for "saving" poor Chinese girls?  Because they're trying to be supportive of an obviously adoptive family? 
   But every now and then we have encounters with other adoptive families, people who "get it".  Sometimes it's someone with an Asian child in their cart.  Once it was an elderly woman who told us about her Korean grandson and how happy they were the day some 20 odd years ago when he came home.  Yesterday, we had another such episode and it was so sweet.
   Rachel and I were killing time in Hobby Lobby.  Rae had discovered the mirror aisle and was happily dancing in front of the mirrors and admiring her reflection.  She was attracting attention and we'd heard several "cute" comments, which I had ignored.  Then a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I used to have one just like her.  And she grew up to be beautiful."  She gestured behind her and I looked to see a 20-something Asian woman smiling at us.  Here were a mother and daughter who understood.  I thought of them all afternoon, two women who give me hope for the future.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters

Sisters

Sisters
Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way