Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Normal craziness--One week before travel

I know that I already blogged today, but it was just one of those days. So, forgive me for venting here.  First of all, the boys' bus was late this morning, and that late start made me late to my appointment to have our dogs groomed. That, in turn, made it too late for me to meet my workout partner this morning, since she had to cut it short today. Then, I dropped my cell phone on the driveway, and completely shattered the touch screen. I spent 45 minutes in the Verizon store, and then had to go back again and spend another 45 minutes back at the store in the afternoon. Grrrr. The upside of the day is that my new cell phone has a really cool app. If anyone whistles, the phone whistles back a fun little tune! It's supposed to be a locator app, for the times we can't find the phone. The boys are having a riot whistling at random times. Then, while the boys were at taekwondo lessons, David and I went over to our cottage to inspect the premises because our tenant moved out on Monday. We topped off our evening with our weekly dinner out. During our dinner, we received an email from our adoption agency. The orphanage director of the Jinan orphanage wants to have dinner with us when we are there. Holy Moly! I'm already lecturing the boys on NOT passing gas during dinner, and I need to work on my chopstick skills. According to the adoption agency, they are "not sure exactly why (this is a pretty unusual request) but guesses that maybe he (our child) is a special child to the orphanage director.  SSIT said that the orphanage has called twice to be sure that you know you are invited to dinner and they’re sure that you’re meant to be the guests." One week until we travel, and I'm still NOT 100% packed, and now I need to learn how to eat with chopsticks. John has already told us that he will NOT translate for us. Great. This, in my opinion, is great news, but it makes me way behind schedule! I still can't believe that we leave in a week and I'm not even completely packed yet.

It's all what you're used to

People regularly ask me, "How on Earth do you do it all?" Honestly, I think for most things, it's all what you're used to doing that makes things easy. I used to train for marathons, and in 2009 (before my knees gave out) running 10-15 miles was super easy. Now, I can't run 3 miles without a break. I'm in as good of  shape physically, since I still work-out 2-3 hours a day, but I simply am not used to running anymore. When you only have a 10x10 apartment, you are used to living in a 10 x 10 space. See
People also ask me if our adopted sons are extremely grateful to us. I try to explain that, No, our adopted children are not any more grateful than our bio children, nor would I expect them to be. They were used to living in an orphanage. We took that away from them. Then, we forced them to get used to living in a family in America. It wasn't a perfect life in China, and our sons were severely malnutritioned, but it was what they were used to. In the past two years, our adopted sons have gotten used to walking up to the enormous refrigerator (or the double door pantry) and complaining that there's nothing good to eat. Obviously, they are now used to living in the land of plenty. I'm used to a houseful of many, noisy, rambunctious, flatulent, boys. I make great big pots of food everyday, because that is what I am used to doing. I do laundry everyday, and I drive boys to sports everyday. There's no secret answer to the question of how do I do it all. Adding two more boys to our family won't change what I do everyday, because I am used to a chaotic, busy household. I pray that our new little guys will adjust quickly. I pray that they get used to us, and that they are healthy. But, if they are not, I'll get used to that too. We are now used to giving Ben his various daily medications, while watching his every breath. Humans are amazingly adaptable, and we can rise to every challenge if given enough time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting close now

We've had a super busy weekend, as I try to pack in as much stuff before our trip as humanely possible. Friday night we had a bunch of friends (and their children and dogs!) over for dinner and a bonfire. A sort of "last hooray" before we travel and grow our family. The weather has been unseasonably warm, so David cooked steaks on the grill and we had a big bonfire in our back yard and made S'mores. The 9 dogs and dozen kids ran and played on the new athletic field that was rolled on Wednesday, and it was great fun for all. Saturday, we spent the day at taekwondo lessons. One of our last tournaments before the Jr. Olympics (we'll miss one when we are in China) is in New York City (6 hour drive, each way) on March 31st.  Although I know it's crazy, we are jamming that event in our schedule just before we leave for China. I've also been spending unbelievable hours managing our new raffle. In a flash of  what I hope is brilliance, and not stupidity, I decided to sell $25 raffle tickets--with the prize being a week at our cottage on Conesus Lake!! The drawing is April 1st, so if you want to participate, quickly make a donation on our fundraising page

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Travel Call

Last night our agency representative called to make certain that I have compiled all the documents that I need to take with me to China. We have a stack, literally, 3 feet high of papers, and sometimes it is difficult to know what papers are significant. I save everything, of course, just in case. I found that I had everything I need to carry at my finger-tips, except the passport photos. Our passports are off in Washington DC right now, hopefully getting a visa stamp. In the meantime, I am filling up the days working out, packing, cleaning, and cooking. Yesterday, I helped cook and serve a lenten luncheon at church for 40 senior citizens. I made three big crockpots of soup (chicken-taco, 5 bean and sausage, and beef-vegetable) and an enormous platter of chicken-salad sandwiches. I also hired and supervised a crew to roll out our 3 acre front field. The addition of two more boys inspired me to convert our previously unused land into a soccer/lacrosse/football/baseball field.  Two nice farmers spent 5 hours on a 10 ton roller truck and we now have a relatively flat sports field. Next up--planting a vegetable garden!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Normal family dysfunction

David and I had our strictly scheduled 2 hour date night tonight, and during our "date" we received the email update for Sam. Yes, I check my emails on my smart phone during date night, and yes, I know, I am a bad, bad wife. Give me a break; David was watching March madness too. So, during our date-night, we received a photo of Sam raising his hand at his desk (which is bright pink!), while standing up (and everyone else is seated). He looked like Horschack (spelling?) from Welcome Back Kotter. Ooo, Ooo, Ooo, Pick me!! So DARN CUTE. I wish that I could post the photos of our boys, but I signed a contract with our agency that I won't post their photos until they are legally our sons. Although virtually every other adoption blog has photos of waiting children, I signed the agreement to keep our sons' identities private, and I stick to my word. After looking at the new photos of Sam, we began to talk about our 6 sons, our aspirations for them, our dreams and hopes, and of course our own misspent youth. Yes, our dates are DEEP. Ha. Ha. Anyway, David's earliest traumatic memory is when he was in Kindergarten (or maybe first grade), and he brought a knife to the after-school program to cut the ropes on the tree fort they were building. He was accused of bringing a "weapon" and all that entailed (which was considerably less fuss 35 years ago, I'm sure).  David remembers being irate that someone would misunderstand his intent and accuse him of wrong doing. This small tale makes me appreciate even more how our sons must feel, when they are first adopted from China. We CONSTANTLY misunderstand them. They have different cultural norms, and when I flip out because they are spitting (I take it as the biggest insult ever!), or slurping their food, they get irate because I just don't understand them. Hmmm. Food for thought anyway.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Update on Austin--and on Sam too!

Not too much to report yet. Austin went to the Dr. and now he has to see a neurologist and get an MRI. Austin has to miss school for the next week (at least) and rest completely. On the upside, I'll get to spend quality time with Austin before we add more boys to our family. I also received an update on Sam. He is 111cm tall, and weighs 18kg!!! He is almost the same size as Leo, the little brother!Leo is 109 cm and 16kg because he is from northern China, almost to Mongolia. The people of that area of China are known to be large. In fact, Harbin is sometimes called the Russian Chinese city!
  Luckily, Ben is still a little bit bigger than both of them. I know Ben is going to be mad when they get taller than him, which they probably will eventually. Ben was tiny when we adopted him, and I don't think he'll be very big ever. This reminds me that exactly two years ago today we first met our sons. The adoption wasn't finalized for a few days, but we took them into our arms and into our hearts on this day in 2010. How cool is that?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Power of Attorney

Remember how annoyed I was ,that I was spending a ton of money (over $700) to have power of attorney forms authenticated and notarized (by four levels of government) Just In Case one of us couldn't travel for some reason? Well, I'm feeling much better about all that now. Austin, our bio 16 year old, had a head injury (missed the mats in track practice) exactly a month ago, and he's finally (after I saw his horrific 5 week report card) admitting that he's having major memory losses and "blanking out" episodes. So, tomorrow, back to the Doctors offices, and I'm assuming he will under-go a bunch more tests. Austin has been faking it and lying to the Dr. and us, as best as he can for a month now, simply because he didn't want to be grounded from sports. He's supposed to attend the Olympic training center (for running) over April break, and stay with his best friend Mike (who is the team captain) while we are gone. And June 19th Austin is supposed to travel to Burma for 2 weeks, then Thailand for one week, and then China for 5 weeks!! He didn't want to admit that he was really affected by his latest concussion.Austin is as smart as they come, and he knows if he is having memory losses he won't be able to participate in these activities. This is his second concussion in 3 years, and he knows the drill.  However, Austin's grades dropped from a 92 average to a 63 average in 4 weeks! And he is still studying for 3-4 hours a night, just not remembering any of the material the next day. So....stay tuned my faithful 3 followers!

Preparing for the worst! Hoping for the Best.

Lately, my friends have been asking me to commit to activities that are in the future. There's a muddy obstacle course run in September that promises to be a blast, and a bunch of my friends are racing it. Normally, I LOVE, LOVE to plan in advance. I used to sign up for 26 mile marathons a year in advance, and then I trained accordingly. This lack of "a plan" is one of the reasons adoption is a big challenge for me. I am stepping out of my box. Until our new sons are all settled, healthy and happy,  I can't  plan anything. I keep telling people that I have to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. I've told my morning work-out partner that I won't be joining her for our 7:30-9:30 cardio "after China." I'll try to workout in our home gym or on the rowing machine while the boys play, but I may have to take a break for awhile. I'm already scouting Craigslist for a double jogging stroller, just in case I need to revert back to running (oy, my aching knees).  I recently told my afternoon kickboxing friends that I won't be at our 12-1pm class "after China."  I MIGHT be able to attend my three times a week taekwondo class, IF the boys are happy watching cartoons in the playroom while I train. I won't know that for a month or so. Our date night yoga class is definitely a thing of the past. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I'm just realistic. Our foster children (ages 2, 3, 5 & 8) were extremely needy, and I had to focus on their needs first. I'm fortunate that our children "get it" and they do not seem to resent the sacrifices we will all need to make. This weekend, at a taekwondo tournament in Connecticut, I told the other parents of the competition team that our sons won't be going to the Junior Olympics (in Dallas) in June, and the other parents seemed shocked. Yes, our sons are the most talented athletes on the team, and they easily qualified for Nationals. However, I can't leave two newly adopted children to schelp off to Dallas for a week. Sorry to let the team down and everything, but our new little ones need their mommy (and new siblings) home with them. Maybe, just maybe, maybe, the little guys will be easy going and well-adjusted. Just maybe we could all go to Dallas for the Jr. Olympics. But really, we won't have the extra cash either. So, as we get excited to travel to China, we also prepare for our lives to become a bit more complex.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Finally, a little bit of news. I finally, after weeks of headache, I finally mailed off our applications for our Chinese visas. They normally take 4-5 days to process, and we leave in just over three weeks. For the four of us, the visas cost $770.00 to process!! I also sent the Power of Attorney forms to be couriered to Washington DC for authentication. The Power of Attorney is JUST IN CASE one of us ends up not going to China for some reason. With four children in our family, we have to be ready to change our plans on a dime. This last processing (authentication) of the POA is $230.00. Often, I get frustrated on how much these forms cost to process. Frankly, adoption is expensive, and the children are NOT the ones who benefit from all the fees. I know lots of people who would joyfully adopt children if it wasn't so darned expensive. And I haven't even begun to tally up the cost of the trip to China. I received an email from our agency stating that the internal flights (Beijing to Jinan, Jinan to Harbin, Harbin to Guangzhou) total $2500 per person. Times six. We are closing on our home equity loan tomorrow (on the cottage) so that we will have enough to cover the costs. I'm confident that it will be worth every cent; I just get a bit overwhelmed when I add up the fees. This too shall pass. I have the three boys (Ben, Sam and Leo) all packed now, and I just need to focus on the positive side of adoption. There will be two fewer orphans in the world. Two children will have the love and care of a big, loud, chaotic, loving family.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Visa paperwork---STILL

In March 2010, I had no trouble at all applying for our visa to visit China. This time, however, it's been a big pain in the you know what. The application is a pdf file, and the answers MUST be typed on the form in capital letters. For some reason, I can pull up the form on my computer, but I cannot type in the fields and I keep receiving a message that I need to download simplified Chinese, even though I already downloaded the font package a dozen times. So, I tried on two more laptops, all with different versions of Adobe Reader, with no success. David found that he could type on the pdf form from his computer, but the file will not allow him to print the documents. For weeks I've been working on this issue. I even took my computer to the computer fix-it shop, to see if they could help me. They said that the security settings on the pdf file do not allow editing. I asked the Visa service (Caring Hands) if they would type the information on the form for me, and they will if I handwrite out the forms, scan them in and send them to them, and pay an extra $75! Thanks, but no thanks. Finally, after trying and trying to fill out the visa application, I stopped at my friend's house and tried it on her computer. She has Adobe Pro, and she's a computer geek. Sure enough, I was able to finally complete and print the forms! Hooray! Of course, since I was at a friend's house and in a hurry, I made a few mistakes and I have to go back and retype them tomorrow. But at least I know now that I can complete the visa applications finally.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Church, Visa photos and packing

We've spent most of the day getting ready for the arrival of Sam and Leo! At church today, we were interviewed by Father John for the JSC Foundation grant that we applied for a few months ago. The foundation sent him a list of questions to ask us, and it was wonderful talking about our adoptions without feeling like we were being put on the defensive. If we're very, very lucky, the JSC Foundation might help us with some of the travel expenses. In the meantime, we will be closing on our home equity loan to pay the rest of the adoption costs. Truth be told, adopting these two children is frightfully expensive! But they are so worth every penny, and we'll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Then, we went to Wal-Mart to have our visa/passport photos taken. David and I need 5 passport type photos for the adoptions and the visa application, and Ben and John need one photo for the visa applications. While at the store, I shopped for summer clothes for Ben, Sam and Leo. As much as people complain about Wal-Mart's business practices, I do appreciate the fact that I can buy an entire summer wardrobe (it'll be HOT, HOT, HOT in Gaungzhou in April) for three little boys for less than $100! When we finally got home, I washed and packed the clothes in the suitcases. This means that three boys are half packed for the trip already. Ben bounded around the house, thrilled with his new summer clothes, counting his bounty in Chinese. Interestingly enough, both Ben and John are trying to re-learn their Chinese prior to the trip, and they are super nervous and excited! Only four and a half weeks left until we travel. Boys...hold on...Mommy's coming!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Packing already!

I just packed our first suitcase for China! Only five more weeks until we travel, and I will be completely ready well before the end of March. That's just my way. The first suitcase contains nine novelty flash-drives that I bought for gifts, two make-up kits (again for gifts), three digital cameras for the boys to use, two packages of pull-up diapers (just in case--and they take up a TON of suitcase room), the electric converter box, two boxes of Whales (like goldfish crackers, but better), Cliff bars (like granola bars, but healthier), two super-soft fleece blankets, three packages of balloons and the air pump (the type of balloons that can be made into animals), lice shampoo (just in case), scabies cream (just in case) and a few other little toys for the boys. We will only bring carry-on size suitcases, because I'm a firm believer in traveling light, and I'm hoping we can ditch the diapers and fill the space in with more toys/books/games for the kids once we are there in China. If we need things that I didn't pack, hey, there is a Walmart in Harbin! I also spoke with Elizabeth Rose last night, and she filled me in on our hotel itinerary. We will be in four different cities, Beijing, Harbin, Jinan and Guangzhou, so we have four different hotels booked. Oh My! That's a lot of travel in two weeks!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shopping! And governments making adoption even more difficult--grr

I'll start this post by being upbeat. I prefer to look on the bright side of things, so I'll blog about the things I'm doing to get ready to go get our boys! Last week, just before we left on vacation, I bought another car seat. Ben is over the age of 8, so he can legally wear a regular seatbelt now. We'll let Sam take over Ben's carseat next month We still needed a carseat for Leo though. After much research and hours of shopping, I finally made the all important purchase. Then, upon reflection, I ended up returning it. Why, you ask? Because I realized that if the two boys don't have the EXACT SAME carseat, there will be trouble. I've come to accept that siblings fight, constantly, over the dumbest things. I don't want to have one boy decide that the other carseat is the better one of the two. Yes, it's ridiculous, but I have to anticipate the feelings of inequity and head them off at the pass. I also bought three of the exact same cameras for Ben, Sam, and Leo. I remember that Ben was thrilled to have a camera in China, and he took thousands of digital pictures when we adopted him. Now, all three boys can capture photos of their adoption trip. If they take enough photos, the odds are good that a few of them will be worth printing! When we were in Florida last week, I purchased three sets of water wings for the boys. Ben loved the pool from the minute he joined our family, but he couldn't swim of course. I'm happy that we are going to Guangzhou a little later in the year this time, so that the swimming pool there should be open. I was looking at bathing suits for Sam and Leo, but I'm waiting for an update on Sam's weight before buying them. Then I bought gifts for the guides etc. I read that they like to receive cosmetics and cigarettes, but both of those items are so NOT ME. I found, instead, what I think is the perfect gift for anyone. Novelty flash drives! I bought a few that looked like Tweety bird, Wiley Coyote, Star Wars guys, and three of the "Angy Bird" ones. Our exchange students all told me that electronics are more expensive in China than here, which is weird, since they are made in China. But I believe them. Xiao took home a suitcase of electronics when he returned to China. So, small, easy to pack, cute, flash drives will be the gifts. All these preparations make me sad for those parents who wish to adopt, but are stopped by the barriers governments put into place. Now, the CCCWA (the entity that controls adoptions in China) is going to change the rules and make it more difficult for families to bring home waiting children. There are so very many special needs children waiting, but the "Special Focus" category is only going to be offered to boys in the future, who have significant special needs. Statistically, quite a few more girls are adopted than boys, and supposedly China is trying to bring the numbers in balance. However, there are also more girls abandoned because of the one child policy. Also, the CCCWA is going to stop letting adoptive parents re-use their dossier, and limit adoptions to a single child. If you recall, we decided to pursue our adoptions in December of 2010, because we were allowed to reuse our dossier. It made the adoptions more affordable and we had to do less paperwork. We also believe adopting two children at once is much more practical than adopting one this year, and another the following year. Honestly, I think these changes that are being implemented only add to the costs for adoptive parents, and many folks won't be able to add to their families through adoption. The list of waiting children will grow, and the children will suffer. It's just sad. It does make me appreciate that we put in our application when we did though!! I am, once again, very happy that we didn't let others influence our decision to adopt. If we waited several years, we would have found that we wouldn't qualify anymore. God is good.