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.