Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It’s a Brand New Day!

Today we drove to Kate's orphanage, on the outskirts of town. There were definite similarities to Mexico on the drive out there. Changchun is home to large auto manufacturing plants, and we drove past a huge fleet of cars on the way. We found it intersting that here in China, the very nice buildings sit right next to very run-down and poor places…oftentimes not separated by miles, but rather feet.

I’m not quite sure what I expected the SWI to be like, but it was different. When you walk in, it just kind of felt like a little bit older building in the states, that was used for a daycare. It was actually a pretty cheerful, sunny place. But you go in the baby’s room and it is crib after crib after crib, all with a baby in it, some of which looked to have a special need. Super cute little babies. Kevin was lucky we only walked out of there with Kate. I wanted to scoop up about 5 of them, load ‘em up in the van, and tell the driver to 'hit it'! There was no way the handful of people working there could hold all those babies enough time, even if they wanted to. They did look like they truly cared for them and were very kindly towards them, talking in a loving voice. They felt protective towards them and did not want pictures taken of the other babies, (after I had already taken 3 or 4) because it was their right to have privacy, even if they were only babies.

They all gathered around Kate, and basically were trying to show her off, like proud aunties. See? She can walk. (Kate was not amused) and she like the horse…they all put her on the horse to show us how fast she likes to ride it, and describe how she’s a wild and crazy girl on it. Then, they put her back in her normal crib, and Kate has this look on her face, as if thinking, “Would someone please tell me what the heck is going on here?! Because I certainly don’t know.” Someone hands her a pretzel stick. I really wanted to scoop her up, but before I had a chance, the auntie, who was very evidently close to her did, and I realized this was really her last time to say goodbye to QiuLu. I saw her hug and nuzzle Kate numerous times. She held her most of the time we were there.

May wrote down her feeding and napping schedule, and said if you want to make her happy, give her some food. Yes, Daddy already discovered that. Did I have any other questions? I asked how she came to stay at the orphanage, and what she was wearing, or was wrapped in when she came. They didn’t remember, and they usually dress the babies when they arrive, and get rid of whatever they came in. I guess I was hoping they had it stored in a Ziploc bag somewhere, even though I knew they didn’t. That would have been an incredible little piece of history for Kate. I also asked about the meltdown…

Well, well, well. They almost looked offended as they tell me through a translator (May) that she has never had those behaviors here. She is always very quiet, she mostly like to walk and play on horse, or stay in her own crib, but not an angry child. Very lovely. (And I’m thinking, listen lady, I’m not making this stuff up…but decide to be diplomatic about it…) Just as I try to say, I think she’s stressed and frustrated/confused and she’s angry, Kate takes matters in to her own hands and hits the lady who had been holding her with her fist (not very hard)…then does it again. I try to hide my smile, and they all three look horrified…”LuLu!” (her nickname - I understood that in Chinese! :)

Five minutes before, Liqing told us that we must be patient with her. Everything is new for her. She has never left orphanage before. New smells, new language, new food. She is also used to being around other children all the time, so now she is confused and very scared of many things. That’s why she want to be held so much. Okay…now she let’s us know that maybe she grows a bad temper and we need to let her know this is not o.k. She needs discipline or she will become spoiled and difficult. You have to show her you are angry and say to her, ‘you cannot do that!’ Make your face fall and let her know you are not happy with her. She is very clever girl. She understand what you are saying and must learn to be good girl. Do not hold her all the time.’ May laughs…you are treating her too good, that is why she wants you to hold her all the time. (I think I’m getting a headache). As a mother of now 5, I’m trying to decide if this new information is helpful, or amusing…okay, I let them know, we’ll give that a shot.

We left some donations of clothes, a few sippy cups, and four boxes of baby toothbrushes that our pediatric dentist was kind enough to donate, along with a handful of small gifts for the people who cared for Kate, and we all walk outside. I had the feeling, if they lived in San Diego, we would be friends. They were very cheerful, funny, kind women, and I was sorry to say goodbye. We thank them again for caring for Kate…well, Kevin mostly did. I, of course, was holding back tears, contemplating how this was an important moment in Kate’s life. We all hug, smile, and wave as we drive away from the orphanage, and Kate is in my arms and lays her head on my chest.

I promised myself this would be a short post. :)

Why do people watch us?

Today was easier than yesterday, in that we did not have any appointments to go to…well, actually we did, but our coordinator May was able to do this one on her own, and did not need us to come. (Thank you!)

We went to a shopping mall with May a bit later, and Kate was in the front pack. She does pretty well in it, and actually fell asleep for quite a while as we walked. It is almost comical how much attention we draw. I started laughing to Kevin as we were headed for the escalator, because each person we walked past would stop what they were doing and look at us, even before they saw Kate, then they would stare even more. It seemed kind of funny, that we were that interesting.

I asked May why people stare at me (they stare at Kevin, but not as much) and she said “It is because you are so beautiful” I roll my eyes and Kevin is cracking up, with a ‘good answer’ remark. “Okay, let’s try this again…May, why do people find me so interesting and stare at me?” You are very tall and slender and do not look like a Chinese woman. I think they have question in their mind about you. I later asked her what they thought when they see Kevin and I, an American couple, with a special-needs Chinese baby. She answered, “Many people do not know about adoption, or surgery for baby. They wonder when they see you…do you live here? Why do you have Chinese baby? Most people do not know about international adoption.” While in the police station, someone had quietly asked Liqing (the orphanage asst. director) about us and she told them “They are adopting the baby and will take her back to America and bring her up. There, they will get the surgery for her.” She said the person replied,”That is good for baby. She is very lucky, because America is developed country and medical care and surgery is very good there.” It surprises me to know that most people here do not know about International adoption, and that we would be such an anomaly.

Kate did better today. Still some unexplained crying, and mild…anger, I guess you would call it (like how kids get testy when they need a nap) but she slept in the pack on my chest for quite a while, and took a good nap later in the day. The only thing that is hard is that she wants to be held chest to chest with her head on your right shoulder only…so by the end of the day, you’re kind of bent to one side, and she is discontented if you put her down on the floor or bed. Just pick me up and hold me close…that’s all. I know she was not held constantly in the orphanage, so I have some questions!

Tomorrow we will take a cab to her SWI (social welfare institute), and I hope to find out more about her and her schedule. I’m a little bit nervous about bringing her, and how she will be…it may be a short visit! :) I would like to have some information to give her when she is older, though.

Last night we went to the mall here, which is attached to the hotel, and I had Subway! (Aaahh…a plain sandwich with nothing interesting on it…I loved every bite :) Kevin’s dinner was a bit more “ethnic”. As we left, Kevin held Kate, ya know, on the right shoulder, and I was walking behind her and got the best smiles. She looked comfortable and happy.

Oh, and two discoveries about Kate – they told me she drinks bottles of milk, and has warm cereal, and maybe some fruit. The question should have been, what doesn’t she eat. She will eat anything you put in front of her. The challenge is to not give her too many things in case she has an allergy, or something doesn’t agree with her…Kate’s not worried though…if it’s edible or in a crinkly bag, she would like some please. And Cheerios? Love, love, love ‘em!!

The other is that she does have a Mongolian spot. I wondered about that. (Mongolian spots are birthmarks of bluish color that are extremely common on children of color. Something like 95% of Black and Asian children have them…they may be the size of the head of a pin, or very large and can look somewhat like bruises.) It’s happened that people have temporarily had their children removed from their care because they can be mistaken for bruises, and are usually located on the lower back and rear end. They are typically faded by 2 yrs. of age. Kate’s are very faint, but cover a large part of her back. It kind of looks like if you get ink or bluish paint on your hand and a couple days later can still see it.

Thank you to those of you who emailed us with support after Kate’s tough day. It meant a lot and was very helpful. We really appreciated it. Kevin and I are lucky to have such good friends.
P.S. Don't forget if you double-click on a picture, it will enlarge it. Then you can just hit the 'back' arrow. :)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Gamut of Emotions

Let me begin by saying this is long. I could not “paint a picture” and condense it. So if you’re interested, read on…

The first night Kevin thought Kate did not wake up all night, but she did. She just didn’t cry. I was on the computer while they were both asleep and turned to find Kate watching me through sleepy eyes…no tears, just…watching. She turned her head a moment later and fell back asleep. She did it a couple more times before I fell asleep next to her. In the morning, she was cheerful and played with her stacking cups. We waited until 8:30 to feed her cereal (she did have a small bottle at 6:30) but she let us know that was too late for breakfast.

We pretty much hung around the hotel room in the morning time and she seemed to be getting a bit fussy or sad. I had a feeling she normally napped more than the two 15 minute naps she had taken since yesterday, but she was not about to close those eyes. She also let us know, as the day progressed, that she preferred to be held by Heather, which is fine, until the mom person has to go to the bathroom or brush her teeth and shower. Kevin, however, was an acceptable choice, if he were taking her on a walk in the hotel halls. Otherwise it had to be the mom person, and she was not negotiating.

At 1:00, we met our coordinator downstairs to go to the passport picture place to have her picture taken. She has to be in a dark color outfit, so back up we go to change into the only thing close, a dark pink with hearts turtle neck shirt and little jeans from her Aunt Cathy. (She did look kinda cute though!) So off we go, only this time, she is tired and not in the mood to be photographed. Kevin and I both tried to hold her, as well as the orphanage director who was with us, to no avail. She would only cry (unless we were holding her close, and they didn’t want us in the picture). So the guy who prints out the pictures takes her dark outfit from today, and puts them on her pleasant face from yesterday, and that’s her passport picture! I thought he was quite clever, actually!

We’re then off to the notary to pick up her adoption certificate (I think that’s what it was)…I’m more distracted by Kate, who is quickly losing her good humor. Then it’s off to the (what I didn’t realize was) the police station. At this point, Kate (and mommy) are growing tired and weary. There must have been 150 people there, about half were sitting in chairs facing, you guessed it, us. People have stared at us since we have been in China, not sure if it’s just because we’re Caucasian, or tall, I’ve had a couple people comment on my “special” hair…okay now add a little Chinese girl to the mix…with a cleft lip… who is now crying…loudly…did I mention there were 75-100 people staring at us? I think I’m sweating. It’s 35 degrees outside, and I’m sweating. She did not want the food or bottle we had. The only thing I can think of is to walk off to the side of the room a bit, and start singing to her, walking back and forth, while we wait for Liqing and May to work on our behalf for her passport. So I softly sing Baby Mine to her and hold her close and she stops crying.

We come back to the hotel room, and I see an email from my friend Tamara, who I met because she also adopted a little girl from the same orphanage a little over a year ago. She is writing me to give me a heads-up that often times, day 2 and 3 are the hardest, because the children begin to grieve, but to take heart, it will get better soon…and that the good news is, this means that she can attach…good news for the parents of an adopted child. Incredible timing. Kevin and I had just been discussing that, but I don’t think either of us were prepared for how quickly she would progress through the grief stages.

Kate’s mood quickly disintegrated. Kevin worried that it was something we fed her, I thought it was everything…she was having a bit different diet, she hadn’t napped (or pooped), she was grieving and was probably confused, and she’s starting to get mad. Her soft cries of ‘I’m tired’ and ‘I’m sad’ turned in to cries of anger…and the meltdown begins. I mean MELT-DOWN! We went through the usual list…maybe she’s hungry – feed her, maybe she’s wet – change her, maybe her stomach is sick, but she doesn’t look as if she’s in pain, or pulling her knees up….Kevin, she’s mad…really mad. So I set her on the bed and she’s furious. Flings herself backward and is kicking her legs, kicking the comforter on the bed, pulling at my shirt, then punches the pillow that fell against her cheek. If she could have, she would have been screaming at me in Chinese. Nothing we tried seemed to make a difference, and I had been holding her for hours on end. It felt like she just needed some space to be mad for a little bit, but I wanted her to know I’m here if she wanted me. I lay on the bed about 12 inches from her, propped up on one elbow. Absolutely in a rage, she is thrashing around on the bed and crying this almost animalistic cry. It reminded me of a little tiny lion learning to roar. There was so much pain and anger in her cry. (it’s really warm in here and she’s sweating so I peel off her flannel p.j.s) She is sitting on the bed in only a diaper, screaming, and I kid you not, she holds her fists up in the air above her forehead, as if railing at the heavens.

After time goes by, her angry cry begins to turn to one of despair. Kate is sitting inches from me, and finally flings her little body towards me and we latch on to each other, both of us with tears streaming down our cheeks, and neither of us let go. Her face is bright red, her hair wet with sweat, and her lashes wet with tears. I know what loss feels like, and this is a kid who was suffering. It’s very hard to watch someone go through pain…….I don’t know how long all of it lasted, but Kate literally fell asleep sitting up on the bed hugging my neck and shoulders. Even when she was asleep, she held up the weight of her own arm, holding firmly to my shoulder. I waited until she was asleep-asleep before I tried to lie her down. But she immediately cried…okay, not asleep-asleep. I picked her back up and cradled her. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and fell asleep again. My heart ached for her. She was so tired, she was practically unconscious…but every few minutes, she would pull herself awake, her little red eyes quickly fluttering open, look me right in the eyes and search my face, and she would softly drift off to sleep again. “It’s Okay baby, I’m here. Wo ai ni, little one. I love you. It’s okay.”

Please pray that Jesus wraps his arms around Kate and holds her close. She needs an extra prayer.

Baby mine, don’t you cry Baby mine, dry your eyes
Lay your head close to my heart, never to part,
Baby of mine

From your head, to your toes You’re so sweet, goodness knows
You are so precious to me, cute as can be
Baby of mine

Little one, when you play Don’t you mind what they say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine, Never a tear
Baby of mine…oh, baby mine.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Day 1 Ends And Day 2 Begins

We ended our first day with Kate the same way it started - Kate was asleep on my chest. If the end of day two is any indicator of things to come Kate falling asleep on Kevin's chest may be just something we look back on only - more on all that later. Actually maybe even another day since the subject is a little touchy right about now.

The start of day two was Kate's introduction to new toys for her and old stand-bys for us. She played for a long time with the 'stacking cups' and put them in, put them out, put them in, . . you get the picture. She was having too much fun. Then she discovered it was even more fun to throw the cups on the floor and watch them get picked up and given back to her. Throw the cups on the floor, Daddy picks them up, throw the cups on the floor, Mommy picks them up, ah . . . you get the picture. I wonder what she was thinking. Maybe something like, 'oh, I see what parental types can do, I'm gonna love this!'

We found that playing with the channel changer is definately one of the funnest 'toys' to play with. We also found that the channel changer has international appeal. There just has to be some Mattel or Hasbrow executives scratching their heads about that. No matter though, as far as Kate was concerned, the channel changer was another little thing that brought joy into her life.

Next was our first breakfast. Mom was sure she had something that Kate would love. Warm rice baby cereal with apple apple sauce mixed in. It's been a favorite among babies at our house for years. And after whipping up a batch, guess what happened, Kate thought it was great and finished off a whole bowl. All three of us then went to get breakfast for mom and dad. Kate was quite interested and decided that warm baby rice cereal with apple sauce was not enough. She decided to have some watermelon then eggs and thought they were very good. There were other things she would have loved to try as well but mom and dad decided it would be better to keep the menu to a small number of items in case something eaten didn't quite agree. We believe that this was Kate's first experience to the 'downside' of parents. Not too much disagreement this time since her belly was already full. But there will be other things and other issues we're sure she won't give in so easily on. Things that will give brothers and sisters a common bond, something to laugh, cry, and joke about. Somthing that will make us all a family.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


WE HAVE KATE! WE HAVE KATE! About 15 minutes after we arrived at the Civil Affairs office this morning, the asst. orphanage director walked in to the upstairs hallway (someone had gone to get the keys to open the office door) and she smiled at us. My confidence immediately flew out the window and, yes, in answer to your question, I started crying, as it registered without anyone saying a word, that this was my baby. The asst. director, Liqing, looked touched and smiled very kindly at me.
The little one she was holding was smaller than I had pictured. She said to Kate, 'Mama, Baba" and some other words in Chinese. Kate turned and looked at me as I touched her back, looked completely disinterested, turned her head and lay it back down. Kevin, however, walked up to her a moment later and said something quietly to her and she turned with arms out and went to him. It was very sweet. She just lay her head on his shoulder, like they'd been buddies forever.
We went in to the office and talked with our coordinator/translator, May, the asst. dir. Liqing, and the young woman filling out the official paperwork. It was very calm, and happy, and I think they truly shared in our joy. It was a nice time. We had to sign a lot of papers that were written in Chinese, and asked why we wish to adopt a Chinese child. I wrote a paper saying that we will raise her as our own, take care of her special-need medical care, educate her, and promise to never abandon her...."Do you promise never to abandon her?" eyes fill with tears as I nod, and they all laugh kindly and smile. Kate, at this point, is sound asleep on Kevin's chest. They woke her up (not intentionally) to put her delicate little baby hand in red ink, and press it onto one of many official papers. She kept looking at it later, like, 'why on earth did you paint my hand red?'
Kevin and I both held her, and there were no tears. She just sort of looked like, "well, you both seem okay, and as long as you hold me, I guess I could come with you." This little girl is a cuddler, and very calm. She only cried once for a moment, a very soft, tired little cry. I stood up and walked, "It's O.K. baby girl" and she just stopped.
The day has been a whirlwind since then. We have been to the notary, CROSSED THE STREET!!!! (which took an enormous amount of courage!) went to Walmart for water and a few items, (this is not like Walmart in America) and had passport & certificate pictures taken for Kate and the three of us together. Oh, and I'm pretty sure she had her very first bath in the tub. She started crying for a second, then I lowered her in the really warm water, dad brought a toy, and she relaxed, "well, okay, alright, this might not be so bad...feels kinda good actually." Then I had to go and blow it by washing her hair. I swear I was being really gentle, but she wasn't having any of it...BABA! Daddy came in a scooped her into a towel and she held onto his shoulders. She fit into her little 18 mo. pajamas (they're super cute pink flannel with little flowers :) and only wanted to be held...not on the hip, but chest to chest. That's understandable. She's been through a lot in one day. She's been through more in 20 months than any little person should have to deal with. But she'll be home soon...with her forever family.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

News of Baby-Kate

Hi! It's about 11:30pm, and I'm SO TIRED, but before I fell asleep, I wanted to let you know that we have an appt. to go the Civil Affairs office tomorrow at 9:30 to get our new little one! The only issue is that our coordinator, May, was unable to confirm the appt. due to Chinese New Year festival this week, so she will call first thing in the morning and make sure that we are still on 'go'. She thinks it will be fine, but wants to confirm it. Now you know as much as I do! :) and my bed is calling me... Sweet dreams my baby-Kate.

Goodbye Beijing, Hello Changchun!

I’m writing this on the plane as we fly into Kate’s province of Jilin. We left Beijing about 45 minutes ago. I was almost sad to leave, there were so many more things I would like to have seen, but Changchun holds even more excitement for us. Oh, I now have the pronunciation down…she lives in the capital city of ‘chong-choon’ in the province of ‘jee-leen’
Right now two little tiny Chinese girls are running up the aisle past us. It’s hard to believe we are this close to getting our little Qiu Lu. We are so excited to be in her city and this close to actually picking her up!
Our last bit of time before we flew out today was spent walking down to Tiananmen Square, and outside of the Forbidden City. (Not enough time to go on the 2 hour tour, which we liked to have done) Again, the “vendors” see Kevin and I coming a mile away as if we have a big target on our chest. I don’t think we have passed any Americans…a handful of Caucasians, but the few we talked to were British, Swiss or German.
It’s pretty amazing standing in such a historical place…surreal. I have seen the picture of Chairman Mao Zedong so many times, and now I’m standing in front of it. (Mao Zedong was a leader from 1966-76, and was the founder of the People’s Republic of China.) You have to cross the street to get from the Forbidden City to Tiananmen Square and it is literally 8 or 10 lanes across the street. So you go underground in this big tunnel to go from one side to the other, and you can also get the subway there. There are guards everywhere here in Beijing, with fur hats and wool trench coats, including in the tunnel. (They all look about 19 or 20 years old. Not sure if they are local police or military.) The square was named for its Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) and it holds the monument of the heroes of the revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the museum of history and revolution, and the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall…yet another place we liked to have had time to explore (with an English-speaking guide! :)
It’s a short flight and we will be there soon. The stewardess asked to turn off all electronic devices (at least I think that’s what she said!)

The Great Wall!

Well, I rolled out of bed at 2:45am…boy, you don’t say that everyday! Tried to go back to sleep, but it was a no-go. So I just got up and “did stuff”. By 6:30am I had done everything I could think of including reading the book on hotel services and restaurants! You’ll notice I said I. Kevin, on the other hand was having very little trouble sleeping. After emerging from his slumber, we had the best breakfast ever, and made plans to go see the Great Wall of China! (Yet another sentence you don’t say everyday!)
Turns out there are 3 different entrance points to the Great Wall when you are in Beijing…all are at least an hour away. We went to the “middle” one, an hour and 15 min. away, called Bandaling. We took a cab from the hotel and drove through Beijing, staring out the windows, like kids, at everything passing by. Beijing is a really BIG city! The downtown area has HUGE, TALL buildings and apartment complexes, but when you get into the smaller communities here, it has the same feel as a cross between Tijuana, and a beach community, with many people walking or on bikes.(photo below)
The Great Wall was amazing, and much steeper to walk than I would have thought…and we weren’t even on the really steep part! I just kept saying, “Oh my gosh Kevin, we are standing on the Great Wall of China!” We were surprised by the incredible number of people who also were walking the wall, (99.9% Chinese) and also by the number of (very assertive) vendors, I guess you would call them who try to sell you things…even on the actual wall itself. Kevin referred to it as “walking the gauntlet” on some parts. The steps are small half-steps, which I did not appreciate the wisdom of, until my way back down. Aaahhh. That’s why. You bet I was holding onto that railing on the way down! Then as we are heading up, this man says, “You get in picture, yes? O.K?” “Uh, O.K.” and so Kevin and I are in this picture, with I think, his parents, and I’m cracking up, saying, “Kevin, we’re props…we’re American props” THEN I hand the guy our camera so we can have a picture too, which just made me laugh even more. His parents (I’m assuming) just smiled and nodded. (The picture is below) There is also a picture of a Mongolian camel (smirking) that you could sit on and have your picture taken. He was much bigger standing next to him than I would have ever thought, as were his feet! They were huge! He looked like a gigantic stuffed animal! I put my hand on his haunches and his fur went up to my knuckles and was so thick, I literally could not feel his skin underneath…like a sheep’s wool, only softer.
We learned a lot of things today…carry small bills, and keep them separate from your larger bills (in another pocket), and other than a few ones, have Kevin carry the money (I’m an easier vendor target :), do not walk in front of a taxi…they’ll just honk and keep-a-comin’, and lastly, if you try and speak Chinese to say ‘thank you’ or some other phrase, they will be very gracious and try to hide their amusement at your pronunciation, appreciative of your effort. Oh, and people don’t lock up their bikes here. Really! Hundreds of bikes being ridden and parked, not a lock in sight.