Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family Day!!!!

Tuesday the 29th was the first anniversary of "Family Day" - the day we met Brooke in China!!!! Lots of people in the adoption world call it "Gotcha Day", but I've decided that sounds too much like Brooke is an object instead of a person. I'd say "gotcha" if I'd earned a fancy degree or got a zippy little sports car, not a child. So, we have decided to call it Family Day because it is the day we first met Brooke and she became a member of her new family, our family.

Unfortunately there was no celebrating (or blogging) yesterday because... Brooke was SICK. She caught her sister's bug and crashed big time. I knew we were in trouble when she woke up with a fever. When I gave her 1 teaspoon of liquid ibuprophen and she puked it right back up (on an empty stomach) I knew it was gonna be a bad day. But she did ok, surviving on popsicles, her most favorite food in the world. It was quite exciting when her fever hit 105 in the evening and she, again, could not keep the fever reducing meds down. She went into a tub of lukewarm water and I got on the phone to the doctor. She pulled thru and seems to be almost her old self today, thank heavens.

The little green bowl is for when her tummy got "upset". This is the first time she's been sick since we brought her home and we found out that she HATES being dirty with any kind of sweat or icky stuff. So, she kept her bowl with her at all times.

Even when she's sick she's so beautiful!

I'll catch up the blog with my memories of Family Day. This will probably be the last "recap" posting since it was all Chinese and US paperwork after this. We stayed in Zhengzhou for a week doing the Chinese stuff. It was HOT. I think almost everybody just stayed in the hotel the whole time because it was so hot outside. Boring. It was all heavy traffic and office buildings around us. I don't have bad memories of Zhengzhou, I was just way too hot and bored stiff. I was happy to leave. Sorry, Zhengzhou. We flew to Guangzhou the next week to complete the US visa paperwork and then we finally headed home. We really liked Guangzhou. It wasn't as hot, was very pedestrian friendly and there were lots of neat shops to look at. Plus, there was a place, Lucy's, that served plain old American food like hamburgers. Thank the Lord for Lucy's!!!!

So, Family Day had arrived!!! After 15 months of applications, paperwork, waiting, traveling, it had come down to THE DAY. Olivia woke up happy and fit, so we made the decision that all 3 of us would go to meet Brooke (Ke Xin). We hopped on the bus with 7 other nervous families and headed for the big event.

We pulled in at a very newish office building and filied in. I was just setting down my purse, paperwork, gifts for the orphanage workers and gifts for Brooke when I heard her name called. At first it took me a second to realize she was alreday standing right there, because we had barely stepped into the building and didn't expect the kids yet. I just dropped all my stuff and whirled around. And there she was. This little tiny thing, standing there with her head down and her eyes peeking up. Her face was expressionless and she was silent. Very stoic. I know it sounds dumb, but I almost couldn't believe it. This little person I'd gotten used to just seeing in photos was real and standing right there in front of me. I knelt down in front of her and smiled. I knew better than to try and grab her. Our guide, Yisha, and the other office women kept pointing at me and saying "mama! mama!" and some other things in Chinese (I don't know whether they spoke Mandarin or Cantonese), like that was going to make a difference to Brooke. She looked about as happy as a prisoner of war. I turned to walk her over to our table and realized partly why she was so silent and stiff - she was the first child to be brought out and all the other waiting families had jumped in back of me and were taking pictures like paparzzi. The other children began to come out and we were left to ourselves. Debbi had really been on her toes and was able to grab the camera without any warning and snap our first pictures together. Yisha is the lady with the pink bag, closest to Brooke. The headless guy in the brown t-shirt standing in the picture was the orphanage worker who drove her to the office. It was a 3 hour car ride from her orphanage. She never looked at him a single time. He never offered her any comfort. So, it was obvious she'd just been pulled from the orphanage (we think she was pulled from her foster home and sent back to the orphanage for a time before the adoption), stuck in a car with a guy she didn't know, for a 3 hour drive, to be handed off to more strangers in a place she'd never been before. I can't blame her for being unhappy and stiff. I think she was actually doing great.

I gave her a super-soft stuffed horse to hang onto and a Kai Lan purse full of small toys, candy, jewelry and pictures of her and her foster brother with their foster parents.

She really liked seeing the pictures of her foster parents. Bringing those pictures really helped to break the ice with her. She got very animated pointing at them and smiling. We still have framed pictures of them around the house and in her bedroom. She always smiles when she look at them.

These are a few of the other families meeting their new kids that morning. Jenny and her daughter were from New Jersey.

Heather and Eric are from a town just north of us.

This family was from Michigan.

And this family was from Florida.

We hung out at the registry office for about an hour with the kids, just getting to know them and letting them adjust a little before we hit the road to start the Chinese paperwork. There were some tears from the other kids, but not a single one from Brooke.

Brooke was already comfortable with the play cell phone. As time went by, we found she was comfortable with lots of things we didn't expect - western silverware, eating at a sit down restaurant, using a western toilet, the TV, the phone, etc. I think her foster family was fairly well-to-do by Chinese standards. The man standing in the picture below was a lawyer from California. He wasn't going to be able to meet his new daughter until later that afternoon, so he'd come along to help get pictures of everyone else. He took my two favorite pictures of Brooke that morning (sorry Debbi!). He was obvioulsy an experienced photographer. They are posted farther below.

We had to hop on a bus and go get our pictures taken. Brooke sat next to me like a sack of potatoes. The bus actually stopped near the hotel because the California family couldn't have their pictures taken yet. They hopped off and went to get ready to meet their little one at the hotel. Debbi (the smart one) asked me if she should take Olivia and get off also. I (the dumb one) said, no - you can come along. It's not supposed to take long. WHY didn't I listen to Debbi????????? The bus took off again and we drove, and drove. (uh-oh.) All of a sudden, Yisha starts yelling at the bus driver. No one could understand what was going on, but it was obvious that neither one of them was happy! It turned out the bus driver had shot right past the photo studio by about 2 city blocks. Did he go back??? Nope!! We had to get off and hoof it back. By the time we got there, we were soaked in sweat - and Olivia was starting to wilt again. The "photo studio" was just an open shop with a cash register and a space in back with a camera - no air conditioning. We tried to stay in the shade of the store front, packed in like sardines. We finally got the pictures done and then had to walk all the way back to the hotel. It was not pleasant. It was horrible hot. There were crowds on the sidewalks, and there were mopeds on the sidewalks running at full speed going the opposite direction. It was like playing chicken!!!! It got to where we just kept our heads down and walked as quickly as we possibly could, trying to get back to the hotel as fast as possible. Debbi was lugging Brooke, who never made a sound and never sweat a drop. I was lugging Olivia who, by the time we got to the hotel, had basically passed out. We were both so sweaty I had a hard time keeping ahold of her. I was so furious with myself for not letting Debbi take her off the bus earlier, but I had no idea we'd be in for an experience like that. Yisha had said the photo place was "just around the corner" from the hotel. HA! What an understatement!! It was at least a 1/2 mile! Olivia had finally gotten better from her horrible flight and heat-exhaustion, and here I'd gone and ruined every bit of progress we'd made with her. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was get out of Zhengzhou.

After getting back into our air conditioned room, we all laid down and cooled off. We offered Brooke fresh clothes, but let her decide to put them on in case she was attached to the ones she had on (some kids go banans if you take their clothes away). She had absolutely no emotional connection to her clothes and stripped them off without any hesitation. She pulled on a fresh diaper and her new comfy shirt and shorts without any help. She put her sandals back on without any help, either.

After skyping with Mark so that he could see his new daughter, we all took a much needed nap.

We mostly lived off room service in Zhengzhou. It had familiar food for Olivia, Debbi and me (like club sandwiches) and it had food familiar to Brooke. It wasn't any more expensive than going out into the restaurants, so we took it easy and had the food brought to us. Brooke loved the congee (chicken and rice soup). This was her first meal with us. Belive it or not, she ate almost the entire bowl!!!! We thought she'd burst!

Olivia bounced back after her nap and we spent the rest of the day just getting to know Brooke. She immediately took to Olivia and Debbi. She made it clear she had absolutely NO use for me. Oh well - I was prepared. It happens sometimes. I didn't push her and figured she'd come around eventually. It took about a week, but she finally accepted me. Actually it worked out in a strange sort of way - Olivia got wayyyyy cranky and wayyyyyyy clingy/jealous, so I had to spend alot more time with her than I had expected. Brooke was very happy just to hang with Debbi and not bother with me. Again - thank heavens for Debbi.

And she finally cracked a smile, and then LAUGHED!!

Here are my favorite two pictures taken at the registry office:

And here she is at the Renaissance Festival a few weeks ago. What a difference!!

I hope Brooke will consider Family Day a good day in her life. She'd already been through so much - she lost her birth family (and we will likely never know the details of that). Then she lost her foster family and foster brother, then she was pulled from the orphanage, losing her nannies, and handed off again to complete strangers, us, the likes of which she'd never seen before. We lugged her from hotel to hotel and finally brought her "home", another totally strange place. But, she seems to be very resilient. She has embraced us and become part of the family as if she's always been with us. She knows she's "adopted", but I doubt she really understands what that means yet. We read children's story books about adoption and I have mentioned her birth parents in passing a few times, but she doesn't seem to have any interest in that matter yet. Time will tell. All I know is, she had a tough time before we ever came into the picture. Hopefully, she will look at June 29, 2009, as the day she began a new chapter in her life - a chapter which brought stability and permanence and love.

I expect her to wonder about her birth parents and I hate that we won't be able to give her answers. She was estimated to be about a month old when she was abandoned. Someone took excellent care of her for that month. They didn't let the fluid-filled sac on her neck burst. That could not have been easy. And they risked their freedom to leave her in a place she would quickly be found. I choose to believe they are good people who cared for her very much. There's always the possibility that maybe they would have liked to keep her, but they couldn't afford the medical care she needed. So, they abandoned her into the orphanage system to get her surgery. When she does get curious, I will never have anything negative to say about her birth parents. I never want her to feel that the people who gave her life didn't care, or threw her away. Those sorts of feelings can eat at your soul. Right now she seems as happy as she can be, so we'll roll with that. She's one tough little munchkin!

Here are some new pictures from the present: Olivia's self portrait.

Olivia watering her tomato crop while Brooke was zonked on the sofa with her fever. She has two tomatos under construction.

The sprinkler is a good way to keep cool. Brooke is NOT a big sprinker fan, so I knew she wouldn't mind if Olivia did this without her.

Olivia made this by tracing her's and Brooke's hands. What she wrote phonetically says, "Little hands can make a big difference." What a great outlook!!!!!

Brooke was better today, by the way. Maybe we'll be able to celebrate Family Day this weekend, with the 4th. (Last year on the 4th of July, we were at the medical clinic in Guangzhou getting a physical exam, 6 stupid vaccinations and a TB skin test. ARGH!!!!!!)

Monday, June 28, 2010

China recap - Flight to Zhengzhou...

Hmmm... what can I say about the day we flew to Zhengzhou? It was horrible!! Yeah! After a fine beginning, it all went to h&%# on the airplane.

But let me start at the beginning. By now, it was Sunday (we'd flown out of Atlanta on Wednesday). We were psyched because we were finally getting to the purpose of all the work for the last year - Brooke (Qian Ke Xin).
We woke up and were ready right on time, despite the over-long day we'd had before. Everyone seemed fine. Below is a picture of Olivia and Lilly waiting for all of us to pay our hotel charges. All the kids played and had a good time that morning. Breakfast was wonderful. We got checked-out and headed for the Beijing airport. I don't think I mentioned before that there were eight families in our travel group. One family was going to meet us in Zhengzhou, so at this point there were probably about 23 of us all together, adults and kids. The guide probably thought she was herding cats.

Here's a picture of some of our baggage lined up to be weighed. Luggage weight is VERY important these days. All of us watched and held our breath as our bags went on the scale. If we were overweight, heavy fine$ would ensue.

Everyone's bags went thru without much trouble and we headed for security. That's where the trouble began. The guards took one look at my "sit 'n stand" stroller (holds 2 kids) and were NOT happy. They were scanning people like they were in a race, and they knew this was going to slow them down. Plus, I don't think they were very nice people to start with. After lots of hand waving and yelling, they told us (people) to walk thru the scanner - they'd deal with the stroller in a minute. We were all bunched up, and in a hurry, and they were rushing us, so I tried to gently push Olivia thru the scanner. But, she became afraid and balked - stopping and crying. The security guys had NO sympathy for that and started yelling, really yelling, at us. Sheez! Debbi pushed me ahead, so I went thru the scanner and then called to Olivia to follow me. She came, bawling and really scared. After they wanded the stoller about 50 times, they decided we weren't going to blow anything up and finally let us go. As usual, we were the last of our group to get to the gate. (I love that stoller, but it was a HASSLE at every airport.)

I just thought this was a cute airport restaurant sign. How appropriate, since Brooke LOVES noodles.

It's fun to see familiar things in an unfamiliar setting.

By the time we got to the gate, Olivia was like this (below), hot and sleepy. Very uncharacteristic. Not good. Hmmm....

And it all went downhill from there. The flight to Zhengzhou, the capitol of Brooke's province, Henan, was about 1 1/2 hours. The plane was warm. The flight was bumpy. What more could you ask for????? Olivia fell asleep before we took off, so I was hoping she wouldn't notice the less than favorable conditions. I kept feeling her forehead every 2 minutes. She would get hotter and hotter, than cool down. Then get hotter and hotter, then cool down... You get the picture. I was so stressed I was about to come out of my skin. Why??? Remember the Swine Flu????? How they scan you before they let you off the plane? How they take you away if you have a fever? Oh Yeah! That!!! By the time we were approaching Zhengzhou, I was resigned to the fact that we were going to be taken away, we were going miss Gotcha Day, and since they'd all been exposed - maybe the entire travel group would be taken away and we'd ALL get to miss Gotcha Day!!! That's all! That's why I was stressed!
As they announced that we were beginning the descent to Zhengzhou, Olivia woke up. I will never forget how she turned to me and stated quite calmly and quite clearly, "Mommy, I'm going to throw up." And then did so, in a split second. All over herself, and all over the seat and floor. There went that wonderful breakfast! I froze for about a second and then flew into damage-control mode. Luckily I had another outfit with me, plus a plastic bag. I have never moved so fast in my life. The other adoptive parents were throwing wet wipes at me and I had that child wiped off and in clean clothes in about 60 seconds flat. It was like dressing a doll. Then I did my best to clean up the area. Olivia was in a trance. I'd done all I could, and waited for the Temperature Police to take us away. But they didn't come!!!!! No scanners, nothing. Everybody got up and left, just like normal. I grabbed Olivia, and Debbi and I almost ran off the plane. We waited for the stoller for just a few seconds and then just ran (literally, with a semi-conscious kid in my arms and Debbi LUGGING all our carry-on stuff) to catch up to the others. We were willing to leave the stroller behind, just to get out of the airport. By the time we found Baggage, Eric and Tiffany (wonderful fellow Georgians in our travel group) had already grabbed our bags and the stoller (surprise! That's where it was, not like in the States where you get it back at the gate so you don't have to lug your kids through the halls). We zoomed out of baggage and found our new guide and ran to the bus. I was SO relieved when that bus pulled out and headed for the hotel!!! But we knew we weren't totally safe. There were cases where the Swine Flu Police showed up at people's hotels and took them away. Sheez. (At this point, Debbi was probably fantasizing about hopping back onto the airplane and heading HOME.) We're in a strange country. My kid is sick. If we have to get a doctor, we could be thrown into quarrantine. Does she have swine flu? Does she have a stomach bug? What's gonna happen??? And we're going to add a new, frightened child into the mix tomorrow morning??? What???
We got to the hotel and all I wanted was for Olivia to feel better. She was listless and very unhappy. She said she had chills, so I pulled the blanket up on her. She got thirsty and gulped down some water before we could stop her, of course puking it all back up. We had to call for the bed to be changed and the staff did NOT (NOT!!) appreciate that. I was so disappointed. We were supposed to be having the adventure of a life-time, supposed to be excited and concentrating on this new, little child we would meet tomorrow. Instead, we were totally consumed with Olivia and worrying about getting a knock on the door from people who might take us away. Tiffany came to check on Olivia and brought Heather into the picture. Heather was Lilly's mother and is a nurse. Yeah!!!! First, she made me take the covers off Olivia, since she had a fever. (Duh. She must have thought I was an idiot.) Then she got some liquid ibuprophen into her to bring the fever down. After asking questions, she decided that Olivia had plain old heat exhaustion (thanks to two endless days of touring in the heat of Beijing, plus a warm, bumpy flight). She needed sleep and cool air. She couldn't gulp anything or she'd keep puking. So, she sucked on ice. Heather provided me with some peace of mind for which I will always be grateful!! And as the hours passed, Olivia did improve. We ordered room service and finally relaxed. Maybe tomorrow wouldn't be a disaster after all. We looked around the room and realized how pretty it was. We got the computer up and running for the first time since we left home. They brought the crib and set it up. We finally got to start thinking about Brooke/Ke Xin. I got the gifts ready for the orphanage workers and went across the street for the money exchange (banks are open in China on Sunday!). I got all the paperwork in order. Maybe this was really gonna happen! Maybe it was really going to work!
So, that was the day we flew to Zhengzhou. What fun!!
The picture below shows Olivia in bed, sleeping, and Debbi checking her emails. The weird thing at ALL the hotels we stayed in: no top sheets. When you got into bed, the only thing to pull over yourself was the duvet/comforter. What's up with that? Of course, you have to run the AC like crazy, since it's summer and you're sleeping under a comforter. Huh?

Tomorrow: we meet Brooke!!!!! (Happy Anniversary, baby!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

China, Day 3 Recap

The second full day in Beijing, we toured again. If I remember, we left at 8am and arrived back at the hotel after 7pm that evening. Ridiculous! If I'd known it beforehand, I think we would have opted out. Well, hindsight is always 20/20.
We had a great breakfast to start off, and that was the best thing that happened that day. Then we boarded the bus and stopped at a jade factory. I thought the bull looked like the Merill Lynch bull, so I had Olivia pose for Grandpa Howard. We bought nothing. It was like being in any tourist store in America.

Then we headed for the Great Wall of China. Did I ention yet that it was hot????? And we could not stay on or go back to the bus, since they park them, turn them off and lock them? The scenery was beautiful - China is a beautiful country - but neither Debbi nor I had any desire to actually walk the Wall. It was a steep climb to the next watchtower, the steps are horribly uneven and - it was really HOT!!! Plus, we had Olivia with us.

And this was where I had my first inkling that maybe my "perfect little traveler" maybe wasn't so perfect. All of a sudden, she started crying and begging for popsicles. Ok - easy enough - we just need to walk back down the slope to the little store and get some. But Olivia got all turned around and INSISTED, screaming & crying, that we had to go the opposite direction - up to the next watchtower - to get the popsicles. She basically went bananas and started to attract A LOT of attention. I had to pick her up and lug her, screaming and flailing, back down the slope to the little store. Blessedly, the tiny little store was air conditioned. Olivia was able to cool down somewhat and regain her composure. My fair skinned, light haired little girl simply could not take the heat.
Here she is eating her life-saving popsicle with two other little girls from our travel group (they'd already been adopted on previous trips). After this, Debbi was able to find a spot of shade, on the grass, that actually had a nice breeze. We didn't budge from that spot until they started the bus. So much for the Great Wall. As I said before, I want to go back to China - when the girls are older, and it's cooler, and we aren't being driven around like cattle.

We were bussed to lunch, and afterwards got to visit the Cloissone Factory on the ground floor. Lots of pretty stuff. Olivia's favorite was the peacock display. I bought nothing.

Then we hit the Olympic Stadium - The Bird's Nest. But we couldn't go in. By this time, several of us wanted to simply sit and rest. But no - they have to park the bus, shut it off and lock it. So we were forcibly marched to the Bird's Nest even tho we didn't want to go and several of the kids were about at the end of their ropes and in need of naps. We were quite a grumbly group.

This is Maggie, our guide in Beijing. Very sweet lady.

Then we had to go to a tea-tasting "display" - actually just a tourist spot where they sell you bunches of tea. But it was actually interesting and educational and the tea was really good. And it turned out to be a good nap spot for the kids. Both Debbi and I bought tea.

Lilly, also from Georgia, takes a quick nap.

On the bus, hopefully to head back to the hotel. What? No such luck! Now it's time for the acrobat show! Noooooooooo......!

Debbi clutching her precious water and saying "what the H@&%$ have I gotten myself into????"

The acrobat show was good, but it was just too late and we were too tired to really appreciate it. They wouldn't let us take pictures because they hawked their DVD at the end of the show. We finally limped back to the hotel, hot, tired and hungry. I remember being very cranky that they simply dropped us at the door and basically said,"find your own food, see you early tomorrow!" We must have eaten room service? Because then we had to pack, get to bed and be perky enough to fly to our province the next day. Sheez! Little did we know, we were in for QUITE a week.

In present time, we stayed at home all day, since Olivia was still sickly from yesterday. Only now her tummy has stabilized, but her throat is all bubbly. Looks like we might call the Dr. tomorrow morning... Also, Daddy found a dog at the front of the suddivision on his way home from Home Depot. He was a really neat dog! He looked to be about 5-7 years old, and resembled a cross between a corgi and maybe a shepherd or chow. He had a long, low, muscle-y body, with big pointy ears and thick back fur. He was so gentle and calm, we just loved him. He got along great with the kids, cats and Bostons. I took his picture and quick posted it on the message board at the front of the subdivision and at the big local grocery store. And his family called shortly thereafter. He just lives down the street, his name is Buddy and he's 15! No wonder he was so calm. They still didn't know how he'd slipped out, but were very thankful we'd found him. Hot weather like this is not kind to old dogs with thick fur. So, Mark did his good deed for the day and didn't live to regret it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Current Update

Father's Day was an excellent excuse to go out to eat! And that's about all we did. We enjoyed the Chinese buffet, as always. Dumplings!! But then Daddy had to go to bed because he was due into work for the midnight shift. We did stop and buy something, and you'll see that below.

And here is what we bought!!! At the thrift store, no less! A real brass, canopy, twin bed for Brooke!! We got a new box spring and used the mattress from Brooke's old bed, the daybed. (Mark swears it's the best mattress in the house.) She is SO proud of her bed!! Olivia was a little jealous, but she got over it very quickly (thank heavens). Just a couple days before, we had moved Brooke's old bed into Olivia's room at both their requests. They like sleeping in their own beds, but they want to be close to each other. So now they share one room. They love it! Because the brass bed is so tall, it needed to be on the far wall from the doorway, where Olivia's bed originally was. Olivia still has to move her artwork from the wall in back of Brooke. Brooke has new artwork of her own to go up in it's place. Olivia's bed is across from Brooke's. The bed is tall enough that we have little doggie stairs for Brooke to use to get on the bed. brooke's old room has become... the "Library". All of Olivia's bookcases and books got moved in there, along with her writing desk. If we refer to it as the "playroom" we get reprimanded!

We spent all last week at Vacation Bible School. The girls had a blast. I was a "crew leader" and had 5 little ones to herd from one activity to the next. They were great kids and were well behaved for the most part. But I was worn out by Friday. The kids are all invited to sing at church tomorrow, but I don't think we'll be there, since Olivia had a fever and was puking all day today. She is very disappointed and I know she'll be fighting about it tomorrow.

Here's Brooke playing dress up.

Brooke is officially registered for pre-school starting in August. She will be in the "young 4's" class, held Monday-Wednesday-Friday, from 9-1. The really nice thing is that the school is within walking distance, so maybe I will get some exercise? Right! (Get real, huh?) This is the same preschool Olivia attended and they are great folks.

And, finally, here is a butterfly that came to visit today. I was struck by how pretty he was. He stayed for a long time. One of our home-grown special needs butterflies has passed away, but the other fellow is fat and happy, living in his private butterfly house and dining on oranges.