Friday, May 22, 2009

A day in the life...

In case you were curious, here's a documentary I put together of life in the Knipper household, starring Zach and Caleb. By way of explanation, Caleb has a giant stuffed Nemo that he loves, and gooden gooden is a cloth diaper that Zach has carried around since he was a baby.

Before you watch, make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page and turn off the music.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pictures, maybe



testing

So, I'm updating the blog from my phone. I feel like I've finally entered the new century. Steve got me a new phone for Mother's Day so now I have no excuse not to update the blog. As soon as I figure out how to post pictures I'll have some new ones.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bullies in kindergarten

So everyone's back in school (YAY!) and I finally have some computer time! No bad Chinese soap opera's for me, although I am becoming partial to one staring the "Snake Lady." It's set in old China and the main villain is a woman who, you guessed it, turns into a giant green snake.

Anyway, now that school is back in session, we're also dealing with the issues that accompany it, and one of those is teasing. Zach came home on Monday and told us that the other boys were making fun of him because he painted some pink flowers in art and one of the stickers he picked was "girly." He also told us that one of the older boys on the bus punched him in the crotch on PJ day. I don't know if this kid singled Zach out or if he was punching all of the little kids. Sigh. It is so frustrating to encounter this so early.

We have worked hard to just let Zach be Zach. For him, that involves chasing butterflies, planting gardens, building ramps out of mulch bags, collecting rocks, and playing a mean game of Uno. No, he's not into cars and guns, he's more interested in figuring out why things work the way they do. For example, if he was into cars, he'd want to know why gas makes the engine go. How big is the small spark the spark plugs make, and can it make the car explode? Or why does pushing the gas pedal make the car go faster?

He's a great little guy and the best thing about him is that he's original. He doesn't follow what everyone else says, he just does his own thing. I don't want to squash that. But how do I help him get through school without being the kid that everyone else shoves into lockers? We handled the sticker incident by talking to his teacher (who is wonderful!) and she talked with the boys who were teasing him and made them apologize, then she talked with the entire class about teasing and why it was wrong.

As for the bus, we'll be talking to the bus driver and then making a trip to the kid's house and talking with his parents. This isn't the first time one of the older kids has acted like this and let me tell you, having Steve show up at their house and talk to their parents worked wonders.

Zach came home feeling great, and isn't really worried about it right now. But I still am. Right now he loves school. I don't want that to change. I want him to be able to pick the pink sticker if he wants to. Why is that such a big issue? With both Zach and Caleb, we've let them play with whatever toys they want without regard to gender. If they want a pink princess sticker, that's fine. If they want a sticker with a bulldozer on it, that's fine too. Sometimes they pick the pink sticker, sometimes it's the bulldozer. Neither of them had the notion that boys shouldn't pick "girly" stuff. That is until now, when they started hearing it from other kids.

So I'm conflicted. I don't want my wonderful, unique son to change to fit in with everyone else, but I don't want him to suffer through school either. Maybe I'm making too big of an issue about it, but I'm looking ahead to Middle School & High School, and it worries me.

There just really doesn't seem to be any good options when it comes to stuff like this. Send him to private school? Great if you have the money, but from everyone I've talked to who went to a private school, the bullying is just as bad, if not worse (especially at the all boys schools.) Home School? What about socializing with other kids (I mean kids who don't care what kind of stickers he picks.)

Everything is okay now, and Zach is fine. It's later I'm concerned about. When a talk from the teacher won't stop things.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Break with four kids

NOT FUN!!! I am ready to vote for year round school. And while we're at it, why not throw in Saturdays and Sundays. After all, we have to catch up with the 37 billion countries that are outscoring our kids in Math and Science (forget English, Literature and any other art. Who needs those loser subjects anyway?)

It wouldn't be so bad except Sarah doesn't want to do anything except watch bad (and I mean BAD) Chinese soap operas on the computer and chat with all 1 billion Chinese nationals on QQ (kind of like facebook but Chinese.) Aside from the fact that spending 18 hours a day staring at a computer screen might fry her retinas and her brain at the same time, there's the little matter of the viruses from the site that hosed our computer. Steve was up until 3 in the morning trying to fix it. Luckily, he understood the importance of Math and Science and didn't waste his time on that English junk, so he was able to remove the viruses, and now our computer is in lockdown mode.

With the new computer hiatus, Sarah has been forced to interact with the rest of us, and that means going outside. Not one of her favorite things (unlike calling people "toilet heads" which is one of her favorite things.) So she's been a little sulky, the boys have been fighting because they want to go outside, and Grace, well, she's Grace.

All in all, I say bring on year round school!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Update




So again I have disappeared from blogdom and I have been told that I'm disappointing my loyal followers. Rich, my apologies! But integrating a 12 year old into the family has been...interesting. :-) (In addition to all of the normal Knipper chaos - for example, I had to interrupt this update to watch Zach lose his first baby tooth!)




Anyway, since my last post we've had a birthday - Zach's sixth, Sarah started school, Grace ruptured an ear drum and had another seizure, and Caleb, well, he's Caleb. Oh, plus we've found a buyer for my mom's house which is the last step in the probate. YAY!

So, updates:
Sarah and School. It's going well. Better than I expected actually. Her English is still limited, but she's a trooper. She gets up every morning without a struggle and gets on the bus. She brings home a lot of math homework - Algebra in the sixth grade, a real challenge for my math-phobic brain! She is overall a very happy child, but it's still weird that I have a child who's old enough to stay home by herself when I take Grace to therapy and can wear my clothes. Very weird! Plus, I've found that a Mother/Daughter viewing of Twilight can facilitate bonding. Hmm, I guess hot vampires cross all cultures. Who knew?



Hmm, "V" for victory over the Americans? Is this our contribution to the world?


Zach grows up. He's six now. Almost impossible for me to believe. He's reading now, and as we expected from the beginning, takes after my dad with an aptitude for math and science. I'm surrounded by science geeks! AGGGHHH! Caleb is my last hope. Anyway, for his birthday he got a big boy bike, a wobble board, and stilts. Yes. Stilts. We officially have the Weird Child. (I can say that because I held the title when I was a child. Anyone who turns their ballet leotard into a life-size puppet for Dungeons and Dragons plus makes them for all of her friends, qualifies as weird.) His current interest, a hold over from last year, is butterflies. There's an exhibit coming up at the Krohn Conservatory so guess where we'll be headed in a few weeks.


Why yes, that is a short-sleeved silk Chinese outfit he's wearing outside in thirty-degree weather. Also, note the ribbons on the handle bars of the bike. Two deflated yellow and black balloons have now been added to the decorations. We're not allowed to remove anything.

Grace takes us on another ride. Last week with Grace was full of ups and downs. Monday started with a ruptured ear drum and Steve got a taste of my daily life as he had to take all four kids to her doctor appointment because I had a Crohn's checkup. Fun was had by all. NOT! She followed up that little episode with a fifteen minute seizure on Thursday that we had to treat with rectal Valium. YAY! Always fun to hold your seizing five year old and shove meds up her rear. She slept most of the day after that and woke on Friday with a bad fever. More fun! At least we can say Grace keeps life interesting. Hmm, maybe there's a correlation between the gritty reality of being Grace's mom and the reason I've started to write fantasy? Who knows.



That's right, Grace. Smile and wave. Smile and wave.


Caleb keeps on trucking. His speech has been really improving. Up until recently, Zach and I were the only ones who could understand him. Now about 2 or 3 other people can get what he's saying about 20 percent of the time! He's back to having a few melt downs, crying and temper tantrums and such (sort of like lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) but I think it's a reaction to a new family member, especially since she's older and Chinese. He still has a lot of fear about all things Chinese, and yesterday we went to a Chinese grocery store. Well, he was clinging onto me for dear life. Seriously, on a normal trip to Walmart he's running down the aisle with me yelling after him, "Caleb, come here!" but this time he was right next to me (or Steve) clutching my hand. While it was a little hard to walk with a four-year-old Chinese boy clinging to my leg, it was better than chasing him down the aisles of Walmart. Hmm, maybe I should shop there more often?



Don't let the smile fool you. Evil lurks beneath that cute exterior.


So this is what's been happening at casa de Knipper, and maybe now that things are approaching normal, (for us anyway) I'll be able to write more. Or maybe not, since it's taken me over an hour just to write this post! (It has been written in between teeth pulling, Chinese interpretation, downloading pictures and dressing a wiggling autistic girl.) AGGH.

Rich, I hope this lengthy post makes up for the withdrawal you've been experiencing and I'll do my best not to let it happen again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The big news of the day

Is that Sarah (yes, we're calling her Sarah now - her choice) starts school on Thursday! Gulp! I think I'm as nervous as she is. Nah, just kidding, I'm ready to do cartwheels at the thought of having everyone in school! Actually, the truth is probably somewhere in between. Isn't that always the case?

Today we went to Walmart and got her school supplies and I couldn't help being a little jealous. I loved that time of the year when school started again. Of course, I wasn't starting in the middle of the semester, not even speaking the language, but even so, I loved buying new pencils, notebooks, all of the stuff for school. She picked out all kinds of cute folders and pencils with sparkly erasers. So she's got all the stuff, now she just has to get through that first day. We visited the school on Monday and talked with the principal and director of the ESL program. They were both wonderful and I think she'll have a really good experience there once she gets past the nerves.

As for how she's adjusting, now that we're past the jet lag, I have to say she's doing a great job. The food is still difficult and she has nightmares at times, but overall, she's doing so much better than I thought. We've had a few times where she was testing the boundaries, but nothing more than I expected. Our biggest problem right now is the language and I think being in school, around kids her age, will really help motivate her to study. Right now I try to point out things and say the English word, sometimes she'll repeat it, sometimes she shrugs and walks off (in what must be the universal teen-speak for "I am so over you.")

So tomorrow is her last day of sleeping in late and watching Tom and Jerry all day. Stay tuned for the Thursday update!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Totally random thoughts






Since I'm still in jet lag mode and half the things I say right now don't make sense, I thought I'd post some completely unconnected random thoughts about this adoption and anything else that pops into my head! You've been warned!

**Juhua gets motion sick. Even from a short 10 minute car ride on relatively straight roads. Don't know how we're going to manage this one as we're always going somewhere. Today I took Grace to speech, only 10 minutes away, and I didn't give Juhua her motion sickness medicine because it knocks her out. Well that was the wrong decision. She threw up as soon as we got to therapy & as soon as we got home. Hmm, guess it's time to research motion sickness. Throwing up on the school bus every morning won't work...

**I forgot how LOUD Caleb and Zach are when they get together. OMG! Pass the Tylenol someone. Thank God Juhua is a girl. I don't think I could handle the noise of another boy.

**There was a Thunder Storm last night and I had Juhua and Zach in bed with me. I got 0 sleep. Sigh, maybe tonight...someone pass the Ambien along with the Tylenol.

**Grace seems to have regressed some while we were gone. No ones fault, just a change in her surroundings. Lots of pinching and head banging going on (and not the kind I grew up with in the 80s.)

**As usual I brought some books to read while we were traveling and was disappointed in both. I'll post some random thoughts on that on my writing site a little later.

**We've figured out the phone cards so Juhua can call the SWI. YAY!! She was a very happy girl last night when she was able to call.

**Surprisingly, we're mostly unpacked. Last time we had suitcases in our front room for 3 weeks.

**So far, things are going better than I expected. We have some normal teenage moodiness--Steve HATES that! Yesterday she was crying and Steve got me. I believe his exact words were, "She's crying and stuff in there and I don't know what the h*#l to do." Ah, the power of estrogen to strike terror in a man's heart. Just wait till Gracie gets all hormonal...

**Next to the flight home after adopting Grace, the flight from Korea to Chicago was the worst one I've been on. Turbulence the whole way. I don't think the fasten seat belt light was off once. I dug little half-moon fingernail circles into my palms every time the plane shuddered or jolted.

**And finally, there truly is no place like home.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home

Just a quick update. We're home. Very jet lagged & Steve & I are sick, but we're safe and working on establishing a new normal, part of which involves unplugging Juhua from 24/7 technology!

I'll update with pictures a little later.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leaving in 2.5 hours!!

Just a quick note, we leave the hotel at 10:00 AM and our flight leaves for Seoul, Korea at 12:50 PM. We should be home at 11:16 PM Wednesday night, and we are more than ready!

And everything went well at the consulate. Juhua was a trooper even though she was scared. So we are officially cleared to bring her home!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Almost home

Tomorrow is our last full day and I think we're all ready for it or at least Steve, Zach and I are, I'm not so sure about Juhua. I expect lots of tears and some shutting down from her, but everything will be so much easier to deal with once we get on familiar ground. Guangzhou is great but home is better. Besides, I'm missing Grace and Caleb so much that I tear up every time I think of them. It's been especially rough because the phone cards we bought don't work and we've only been able to call home twice. Right now I just want to be home.

It's been a good trip, especially when I think of how hard it could have been. Both of our guides told us horror stories about families who adopted older kids. So I was braced for the worst, but Juhua has been wonderful. We've had typical teen behavior, grieving, and culture clashes (she only eats noodles, and I mean ONLY noodles) but nothing major. I think what has helped the most is that she's been able to stay in contact with her SWI friends. We really haven't placed any limits on the number of calls she makes to the orphanage and it's helped. In a way, it feels like a joint effort with the orphanage workers to get her to the U.S. I really don't think she could have been with people who loved her more. It's such a difference from the cold indifference we experienced with the workers at Grace's orphanage and even Caleb's. You could tell he was loved and taken care of, but it's not the same as Juhua's experience. The people at the orphanage were truly her family.

Tomorrow is the swearing in at the consulate and hopefully all will go well. Connie told us that a consulate official is going to take Juhua off for some "private questions" because she was abandoned at age 6. From what we understand, they want to make sure that she's not trying to "sneak" into the U.S. by being adopted. Makes no sense at all to us. Please say a prayer that all goes well and there aren't any snags. She calls the orphanage directory Baba, Mandarin for Daddy, and we don't want there to be any confusion.

Stephanie

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shades of Grace

Yesterday we had the medical appointment. Now every time I go into this building it brings back memories of the horrible experience we had there with Grace so I'm always holding my breath, praying against bad news when we go in. Normally they take the adoptive parents to a separate room in the back where they do a very cursory medical exam. Of course with Grace nothing is ever easy so when we took her we were pounced on by 4 or 5 doctors who proceeded to tell us she was "retarded". Turns out they were right, but it's never the sort of thing you like to hear.

Fast forward to yesterday. We are in the same building, but this time it's teaming with people. We were packed like sardines. At the first station, one doctor measured Juhua's (Sarah's Chinese name) head and did an external exam. After a minute, she ran out of the room and grabbed another doctor. From experience, I knew there was only one doctor to a station so this was a bad development. The doctors were talking back and forth to each other and my stomach dropped. Steve and I looked at each other, and all I could think of was, "Oh no, not again." Adoption always holds surprises, and we've had our share of them. With Grace it was the autism, developmental delays, seizures, etc.. With Caleb it was extensive dental work (really, he has the price of a Hyundai in his mouth.)

So we grabbed Connie, our guide, and asked what the doctors were saying. She told us they thought she had a heart murmur and they wanted to do an ECG. We spent the past week together and I hadn't seen any signs of heart problems (no blue lips, no fatigue, no shortness of breath) but I was still nervous. So off we went to do the test. Juhua was nervous, I was nervous....They took her behind this blue curtain and in just a minute she was out again. "Everything is normal," Connie told us and I started to breathe again.

The only surprise we had was that she needs glasses which we already figured out by the way she sits 2 inches from whatever she's looking at.

I wouldn't trade Grace for the world, but I'm so glad that it doesn't look like we're dealing with any serious problems (unless you count her addiction to technology, seriously, I can't get the girl away from the television or computer, and she has her cell phone glued to her ear...ah, she's an American already.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

In the final stretch...

We made it to Guangzhou!!!! Today we have the medical appointment then the rest of the day is free. We can't wait to eat lunch at Lucy' and visit some friends we met last time, Dong, Emmie...we're making a list of shops to stop by. Of course I'll have to buy something to promote international Good Will. Wouldn't want to offend anyone...

Sarah did a great job on the flight. It was her first and the take off was a little bumpy. She squeezed my hand and buried her head in my shoulder. After she called a bit, she fell asleep with her head in my lap. She was on one side, Zach on the other. All I needed was Caleb and Grace and then I would have felt like one of those mother lions with cubs piled all over them. (Not that I minded at all!)

We're at the Victory this time and the rooms are huge. We haven't tried the breakfast buffet yet, but so far I prefer it to the White Swan.

Thanks again for all of the prayers and comments. They keep us going.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Steve is now a Shaolin Master

Today is our last full day in Zhengzhou and we went to a Shaolin Temple where we saw a kung fu demonstration. We were in the front row and when they asked for volunteers, guess who hopped up and went on stage? Of course, Steve. We were the only Westerners there and everyone thought he was a really good sport to get up there. (Little do they know that he didn't need much convincing!) Anyway, there were 3 audience members on stage and they were put through the paces! Steve had to do some kind of flying frog leap. It was hysterical, and I think we have our first indication of how Zach will act as a teenager. As soon as Steve got up there, Zach yelled out, "Bu ya, Daddy! Bu ya!" It means "Don't like!" Then he mumbled, "Oh, he's not going to be any good at this." Ah, the power we wield to embarass our kids! Meanwhile, Sarah thought it was great. She laughed and pointed the whole time. It was really a lot of fun.

This is our last full day in Zhengzhou and while I'm ready (more than ready) to leave, I hate to think of how hard this will be for Sarah tomorrow. It's going to be rough. Not to mention that's she's never been on a plane before and gets motion sick. And we found out that our flight has already been delayed 2 hours. That's right, it's not even the day of the trip and already we're running late. It'll be fun all around! Ah well, we'll survive.

I probably won't have a chance to post tomorrow because we'll get to Guangzhou around 10 PM, but oh, I'll be so glad to be there. Guangzhou is one of my favorite places in China.

Love to you all,
Stephanie

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SWI visit






Today we went to the SWI (orphanage) where Sarah spent the past 6 years. It's about 2 hours outside of Zhengzhou in an area that doesn't see many Westerners and let me tell you, we got plenty of stares when we stopped at a store to buy gifts for Sarah's friends. Zach and I were the only blonds in a sea of black hair. Everywhere we went people would stare and point. Not in a mean way, more like they just saw a unicorn or some other mythological creature step into China's version of K-mart! We'd walk by and mouths would drop open.

Anyway, we picked up some gifts and then drove to the SWI where Sarah proudly showed us around. It was a new building that they just moved into a month ago. Very clean and large, but still, not somewhere you'd imagine children living. There were several rooms with cribs jammed side by side and up against walls. Babies and toddlers filled the beds but didn't make a sound. We couldn't go into the rooms but could stand outside of windows and waive. It was all I could do not to break down in tears at the sight of so many kids without families. It is a great orphanage but there's only so much they can do. In a room full of 20 cribs there might be 3 workers.

And then there were the special needs kids. Kids like Grace who were well taken care of, but with little chance of getting a family. It was one of the hardest things I've ever seen.

After we took a tour, the staff made an enormous meal for us. Everything was wonderful and we had just started eating when someone else came into the room. It was Sarah's "older brother", a boy she was especially good friends with. He was 17 and had to be at school at 2:00 but had come to see Sarah before she left. He was so nice and you could see they really had a brother and sister relationship. He was working on his English and practiced with us while we were eating. If it was possible, I would have brought him home with us.

When we finished, we got into the van and drove to a spot on the side of the road where we pulled over so that Sarah could meet the Orphanage Director. They were especially close and he was so sad at her leaving that he couldn't eat lunch with us. Sarah huddled on the side of the road with the Director, several other ladies, and her "older brother". There was a lot of crying and hugging. As she got back in the van and we pulled away, she opened the window and stuck her head out, looking back at them until we couldn't see them any more. To say it was hard doesn't even do it justice. Please say a prayer that her heart is eased. I'm so glad she was loved but she's having a really hard time right now and I don't think she feels like she has anyone to turn to. She's not acting out, not even really crying a lot, but she's sitting on the bed with the covers over her head and every now and then I'll hear some sniffles. I know it's a path she just has to walk through, but it's really hard for her right now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pictures!






I found a way to post pictures from the hotel computer.

Enjoy!

We have her!

It's the end of a very, very long day, and I have to say, it couldn't have gone better. Sarah is absolutely wonderful. She and Zach have hit it off (of course-just add another member to Zach's Chinese fan club) and they giggle non-stop. In fact, when I left to come down to the business center they were in the middle of a pillow fight.

Gotcha was wonderful. She came straight to me and hugged me. There were tears all around! It was a chaotic mess with 5 families crowded into a 10x10 room and everyone was talking at once, but she was great. The only hard part (and it was extremely hard) was when we had to leave. The orphanage director and another woman were there with her and all three of them were crying. The orphanage director was an older man and when I saw the tears in his eyes I couldn't stop from crying myself. It's so hard taking her from people who obviously love her. I'm glad she was loved but it is so hard for everyone. It feels like the death of someone you love. Even though they'll be able to talk on the phone and email, it's just not the same. They sent her to us with a suitcase full of gifts (including a cell phone & I-pod!) and tonight we sat on the bed together and she pulled everything out and showed it all to us. She was very proud.

We're visiting the orphanage on Wednesday and I know that will be another hard day. She's a very brave girl.

Hopefully things will continue to go well. This has been the best transition we've had in 3 adoptions and I know there are bound to be some bumps up ahead, but we'll handle them when we get there. Right now I'm just glad to have her and I'm missing Caleb and Grace.

Thanks everyone for all of the good thoughts and prayers. Keep em coming, it's working!

Stephanie

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Almost time...

Just a quick update to say that we leave the hotel in 90 minutes to go meet Sarah. We're excited and nervous at the same time (well, I am, nothing much bothers Steve & Zach!)

I'll post more when we get back.

Stephanie

Gotcha day is tomorrow!

Well, we made it to Zhengzhou in one piece. And are about to go to bed. Just wanted to do a quick post saying that tomorrow we meet Sarah! We meet her at 10 AM which I think is 9 PM on the 15th at home.

We're all doing well, Zach is back to celebrity status. I'll post more later (too tired now) but suffice it to say that China is going to his head! We went to the Temple of Heaven and he joined in with a group of local people who were dancing with flags. He was mobbed and loving it! Everywhere we go people rub his head or reach out and pick him up. He grins and says, "Ni hao!" and everyone laughs. Then people stop him and want to take their picture with him. I've lost count of the number of people who've asked him to pose for a picture. Now he sighs and half grins as if to say, "Come on, get it over with." I don't know what he'll do when we get home and it's back to anonimity.(sp? I'm too sleep deprived to spell correctly!)

Beijing was wonderful. I think we could have spent 2 weeks there and still we wouldn't have seen everything. I was particularly proud of myself yesterday. We went to the Great Wall and I took a chair lift to the top. Now, I'm white knuckled afraid of heights and we were at least 300 feet up in the air. Zach was wiggling around in the chair next to me asking me questions, "Why don't you like the chair. Are you afraid you'll crash?" To which I replied, "Stop talking and don't move! Mommy's scared." To his credit, he stopped talking (the first time on the entire trip!) and was still until we got to the top. We walked the wall for an hour and then took a tobagan ride down. It was a lot of fun despite my fear of heights! Also, on a "you know you're in China when" note, we were waiting at the bottom of the wall when right past us walks....(wait for it...) A CAMEL! That's right. A double humped camel! Not your everyday site!

Anyway, all in all it's been a great trip. I'll post tomorrow after we meet Sarah, but everyone please pray hard. It's going to be a rough transition for her 9(and us.)

Love you all,
Stephanie

P.S. - so much for a short post!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gracie's Birthday and Winter at the Summer Palace

Today we toured the Summer Palace and it was beautiful! I'll post pictures when we get home, but there's no way they will do it justice. I felt like I was back in time 600 years. It was so easy to image the place buseling with activity. Makes me long for a Pearl S. Buck novel right now!

We are all still fine, but jet lagged and my Crohn's is rearing its ugly head as usual. It will clear up with sleep but it's such a pain dealing with it. Anyway, enough complaining. On to the good stuff.

Now for the most important part of today's short post. It's Gracie's birthday!! She's five today and I can't believe I'm not there with her. I know that Mimi & Papaw will make it a great day for her, but it's tough being away from her on this day. Five is such a big birthday, one that I've looked forward to for so long. When we first got Grace and discovered all of her problems, I'd tell myself, "when she's five she'll talk (or walk, or feed herself, or be potty trained, etc.)" Now she is five, and she still has a looong way to go. Still not talking, potty training seems like the unreachable dream, and she's still not able to handle a fork by herself.

But, she's a hundred times better than she was last year. She understands me now, which is such a gift. She's going up and down stairs (not such a gift!) And my favorite of all, she goes around saying, "Mom, mom, mom, mom." I LOVE it! It's been a long, hard road with her. One that I never thought I'd be strong enough to make, but I'm so glad I did. Being Gracie's mom is hard work, but it's worth it.

We love you Gracie. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We're here!

We are in Beijing (finally!) and have already been to Pizza Hut (nothing like immersing yourself in the local culture immediately!) We met Angela (our guide) and love her! She is a sweetheart.

Zach is snoozing in the room, despite our best efforts to keep him awake. And he's already started picking up girls again! He met a little girl (actually she's 7, so an older woman) from Korea on our flight from Cincinnati to Seoul. They hit it off despite the language barrier, and have exchanged email addresses. Apparently, we have a Cassanova on our hands.

Tomorrow we are off to see the Summer Palace and hopefully, being outside will help with the jet lag. We're all exhausted, but happy to be here and to finally see some of Beijing.

I'll try to write more tomorrow. I won't have any pictures until we get home since I'm doing all of my updating from the hotel business center.

Stephanie

Monday, February 9, 2009

Our Itinerary

Well, the big day is tomorrow. We leave at 6:48 PM. I'm so glad we still have the morning to finish everything up (like her room! that's right, it's still not finished.) But we are packed and just have some odds and ends to do tomorrow. It's after midnight and I've been working all day so without further ado, here's our itinerary:

Leave Cincinnati on United 6476 at 6:48 PM
Arrive Chicago at 7:14 PM

Leave Chicago on Asiana Airlines flight 0235 at 1:00 AM (That'll be fun with Zach - NOT!)
Arrive Seoul, Korea at 6:00 AM Wednesday, February 11.

Leave Seoul, Korea on Asiana Airlines flight 0333 at 9:50 AM
Arrive Beijing, China at 10:55 AM

Transfer to Park Plaza Hotel where we will pass out from fatigue!!

We are in Beijing until February 15, then we fly to Zhengzhou, Henan to get Sarah. Gotcha day is February 16.

We are in Zhengzhou until February 20th, when we fly to Guangzhou to complete the paperwork. We stay in Guangzhou until February 25.

Please keep us in your prayers for safe travels and an easy transition for Sarah. Also, that Caleb & Grace aren't too scared. Caleb has already been sobbing, saying, "I miss you! I no happy." It's breaking my heart. This is the first time in three years that I've been away from Grace, and the first time in almost two years that I've been away from Caleb. It's going to be rough for all of us (maybe most of all for me!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finally!!

It's here! We have our Consulate Appointment and we leave on Monday! That's right, less than a week from today! We got the news yesterday and I spent most of the day trying to arrange flights, hotels, tour guides, etc. All of that's taken care of now and all we have to do is get there. We leave Monday 2/9 night at 6:48 and return on 2/25 at 11:16 pm. I'll post more as we get closer but right now I've got so much to do and it's been a rough couple of days. So this post is just a short update.

But I do have to leave you with this story. I should have known something was up yesterday when we were getting ready to take Caleb to speech. I dropped Zach off at the neighbor's. I walked Zach to their door while Caleb waited in the running car. Well, when I got back, all of the car doors were locked and the car was running. With Caleb inside. Zach accidentally locked the door as he was getting out. Now, Caleb's four so you'd think he could get himself out of his car seat and unlock the door to let me in. No such luck.

To make a very long story short, 45 minutes later the police got there and unlocked the car. Caleb was fine and is now very impressed with police officers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No CA yet

Well, we don't have any confirmation of our Consulate Appointment yet because the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou is closed for the Chinese New Year. So, that means if we get the 2/23 date, we'll have just a little over a week to make travel arrangements. This is driving me crazy! I'm trying to be productive and get as much as possible finished (as in her room!), but we've been hit by a huge snowstorm here and the kids have been off school since Monday! I'm beginning to think it's a conspiracy. As you can imagine, with the terrible three around, I'm not getting much done. Oh well, I suppose it can't be worse than Zach's birth. He arrived ten weeks early and we didn't have his room finished or any clothes or a pediatrician, really we didn't have anything, and it all worked out all right. I keep reminding myself this will work out also, but it's not really helping right now...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Karma, or whatever you call it

So I knew this would happen. After my long winded, whiny post yesterday, we just got an email from our adoption agency & we have our Travel Approval!!! No dates yet. We're applying to the US consulate for our consulate date (CA) and hoping for the earliest one - 2/23. The CA is the last step in the adoption process, so if we get the 2/23 CA, we'd probably leave somewhere around 2/10. That gives us 3 weekends to get everything ready (wanna place bets on when I'll have a nervous breakdown?)

Stay tuned for breaking news...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Still waiting...

Another week has passed and still no Travel Approval. I'm starting to get ancy. Steve and I were talking at lunch yesterday (or at least trying to talk around the boys' constant interruptions!) and we both feel like the wait for Sarah is not only longer, but harder. Not only do we have the normal worries about bringing a child into the family, but she knows we're coming and every day we wait, is another day she's waiting. It's extremely frustrating.

Also, there are little things we have to figure out. How do we tell her her new name? Will she even like it? Her Chinese name is JuHua (which I think is beautiful!) so maybe we'll stick with that for a while. It will really be up to her. Then there's school. Should we keep her home with us for a while, at least until she starts to adjust or start school as soon as possible? There are benefits both ways. And of course, my biggest worry, will she like us? We're not talking about a toddler or an infant here, she's twelve. She has her own ideas, own likes and dislikes, maybe we won't be the parents she hoped for (well, I'm sure we won't, no one lives up to someone else's imagination, but I'd sure like to come close.) I know parenting isn't a popularity contest, but liking the people you live with makes it so much easier! So much to think about.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned anything about language. That's on the list of worries of course, but not our biggest concern. It's an issue, but one that can be overcome. Having a child like Grace teaches you exactly how much of communication is non-verbal. We'll make due with the language.

My biggest hope is that when she's grown (and even before then) we will have the type of relationship I had with my mom. Growing up, I knew she was in my corner, no matter what. When I moved out and got married, we transitioned from Mother/daughter to friends and the bond just strengthened when I became a mother. We went to movies with each other that no one else wanted to see. We read the same books, even ones we were supposedly "to old" to like any more. We took care of the kids together. Went to our favorite garden stores every spring. She knew how devastated I was when Grace turned out to have so many problems. When Zach was born and I was on a respirator and couldn't talk, she was the only one who understood what I was trying to say. She knew how much I missed my dad. She loved my kids the same way I did, and understood how hard being a mother is. She was so excited about Sarah, and it hurts to know they will not meet in this world. Obviously, I miss my mom a lot.

Hopefully, this week we'll get our Travel Approval. Until then, it's just more anxiety, more waiting...

Monday, January 12, 2009

No new news...

I am sooo glad last week is over! Between getting the kids settled in school, dealing with snow days & hour delays, plus all of the appointments, I thought I was going to loose my mind (any time your week involves a trip to the Dept. of Family Services, you know it's going to be a bad one!)

So everyone's in school & now it's my turn. My classes start up again tonight. I feel like a major slacker because I'm only taking one class this semester, but with bringing Sarah home and all of the adjustments there, I really didn't think I could handle more than one class. Guess we know who will be in summer school. That's right, me!

News on the China front is that we are still waiting. We got our visas on Friday so all we need now is the official okay from the Chinese government and we're all set to travel. Well, not really all set as we still have to get Sarah's room together, but hey, that's something we can whip up in a weekend, right? We did get started on it. We spent this entire weekend cleaning out closets and throwing away a TON of stuff. Since Sarah's room was our guest room, it had been a dumping ground for anything we didn't have a place for. I'm proud to say that after this weekend, we have most of her room cleared out and should be on to painting this weekend. We also cleaned out every other closet in the house except for the kids, which shouldn't take too long. Am I nesting? I'm guessing the answer is yes!

Hopefully we'll have our Travel Approval (TA) some time this week or next week and then we'll have some exact dates.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

General craziness...

Well, the kids are all back in school - YAY, sort of. Everyone's settling back into the school routine except me. While I am glad that at some point during the day I have at least an hour when the kids are all in school at the same time (yes, it really is only one hour), now that the holidays are over it means that life starts again. For me that means endless rounds of therapy for Grace & Caleb, school appointments, doctor's visits, homework for Zach...it goes on and on.

Here's this week's schedule:
Meet with Grace's home health care case manager,
Take Caleb to speech therapy,
Attend an ARC meeting to go over Grace's IEP (special ed. plan),
Take boys to swim lessons,
Schedule meeting with attorney to finalize Mom's estate
Go to Medicaide office to re-certify Grace's coverage (yes, she is still autistic, no, they haven't yet developed a miracle cure for developmental delays.)
Take Grace to Speech therapy (thanksfully she doesn't have Occ. Therapy this week)

And then of course there are the minor issues of work, getting myself ready to go back to school on Monday, and getting everything ready to travel to China sometime in the next month.

Yikes! It seemed so much more managable before I typed it all out. Maybe I should just delete this post...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2009 is everyone's best year yet! Let's face it, with the economy in the tank for most of 2008, it can't be much worse.

I've looked over my last few posts and noticed that they were mostly about Caleb, so I wanted to update everyone on Zach & Grace.

Zach has been enjoying all of the gifts that Santa brought & hitting up everyone who walks through our door for a donation to Love Without Boundaries. Before Christmas, his class collected money for some needy families and he decided to keep on with the tradition. This was all on his own. So I told him about Love Without Boundaries and the charity work they do for China's orphans and he started collecting money to donate to them. So far I think he has $12. Pretty good for a 5 year old. And, yes, I'm so proud of my sweet little guy I could bust. He's also helping me with my novel. He thought up some names for the bad guys. After much thought, he came up with Meanie & Mrs. Meanie. Stay tuned to see if the names make it to the final version!

As for Grace, she's in a really good spot right now. Even though she still can't talk, she understands most of what we say and actually does what we tell her to about 50% of the time. For her, that's huge! I took her shopping with me today for a little Mommy & daughter time and she carried one of the bags for me (of course she had her hand stuck in the bag feeling the tissue paper the whole time, but hey, it's still progress), and she opened the car door with the key for me. We had a great time. She didn't pull anything off the racks or pinch anyone who walked past her (okay, she tried a few times but I was too fast for her!) You can just tell she wants to do more, but her just gets in the way.

I wish everyone a wonderful year and thanks for following along on our crazy journey!