Monday, February 27, 2012

Imitation of Life Through Play

Jie Jie's play is certainly a very accuate portrayal of her life!
Sad, but true, her mama dolls are often busy with " more papers."
Happily, they then go to China to get a new daughter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fox Pee Rules!

Getting the hot tub was just like issuing an invitation to every rat in the neighborhood to use the top of it as a dining room and bathroom. The hot tub sits under my orange tree. Guess what the rats eat? Oranges! And they chew the peel into tiny, tiny pieces that are scattered all over and even hollow out an entire orange so that green fuzzy mold grows inside almost over night.

I cleaned the yard and hot tub area last Sunday afternoon. That night I went out to see if any rats had already dined. It was 11pm and while I stood there I saw 4 rats race down from the tree and heard more scampering than that. I grabbed my new bottle of fox pee and started sprinkling. Man that stuff smells strong and bad!!! But, it's working!!! I'm so happy that there have not been any signs of the rats coming back. I wish I had more faith in this stuff sooner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Calling Dr. Mom

As I try to unbury myself from the pile of paperwork, mail, administrative duties, homeschooling, etc... I asked my assistant if this is what my new life is going to be like, running 12 step behind. She said that all I needed was a schedule. I laughed and told her that in daycare, it's impossible. I sent Jie Jie outside to play and went into my office.

Three minutes later, my assistant comes in and says, "Your daughter fell into the bark and I think her knee is full of splinters." My play structure has redwood bark under it - for safety!

I didn't hear any crying so I wasn't unduly concerned, but when I unveiled the knee, I started laughing again at my assistant's words and reminded her of them. I was about to embark on an hour of "mom-done surgery" to remove all the splinters in Jie Jie's knee. Any work that had been about to be done, was now put aside.

All of these splinters were in poor Jie Jie's knee!

Jie Jie got very nervous when I told her I'd have to take them out, but in the end, once she saw how it was going to happen (I showed her to tweezers and told her it was me or the doctor's office) and realized I was very skilled at splinter removal, she became very interested and cheered me on each time I removed one! It was pretty funny. She had the death clutch on my assistant's hand the whole time because I needed both of mine, and I had to keep telling Jie Jie to put her head back because she was blocking the light I needed. If you make the photo larger, you can see what is probably another splinter very deeply embedded right in the center of the red patch on her knee. I didn't dare dig that deeply. It should work itself out as the layers of skin replace themselves.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Parenting 202: A Mixed Bag of Tricks

As I'm sure you can tell from the pictures, Jie Jie is growing! As fast as I can get used to one thing, something else comes up. Now I understand that all parents face this, but with the older adopted child, it happens at warp speed. I mean, that within a week, my child matures as fast as a birth child in a normal, happy home would in several months. This is "catching up" and it's happening at a very fast rate right now.

Jie Jie has outgrown my daycare. At first, it was perfect for her to be playing with 2-3 year olds. She fit right in size-wise, too. Now, she is bored and with with that comes mischief, though quite unintentional. For example, she wants to organize the play into games more appropriate for her age, not realizing that the kids are way too young, so she gets impatient with the ones that can't cooperate. She wants to build a lego city, while they want to put just a few pieces together.

She is ready for more school work and loves arts and crafts. But now we are reaching another level of school work that hits another level of knowing English and culture. This means that each little workbook exercise that most preschoolers or kindergardners can do on their own becomes a social studies, culture, or English lesson. This is all good,...but, I this means Jie Jie and I are together all the time. Sounds great, right? What about when the 8 year-old gets tired of mama's teaching and correcting?

I've given a lot of thought to this dilemma and will have a new plan. It starts tomorrow (uh oh, it's midnight, so it starts today!). Jie Jie will only join the daycare for circle time and one or two limited play times during the day. She will do art (mostly cutting and pasting since she needs the practice), workbook pages, reading lesson with mama, and, perhaps, a "recess" of playing alone upstairs with her own things on her own. Remember, her workbook lessons open new avenues for other subjects and daycare circle time offers a lot, too. Then there is Chinese school. Yes, it's definitely time, but finding the right program is tricky. I want more than recreational Chinese, I want Jie Jie to read, write and speak Mandarin, so it looks like real Chinese school, at the kindergarten level might be best. This week will be Research Week!

I'm also thinking that it's time for piano lessons. I never thought I'd go with the Suzuki method, but it might be best because of where Jie Jie is at when it comes to English and reading and writing. Any thoughts from you moms out there?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reactions: Young vs. Teen Adoptions

I want to thank all my readers/commenters and my dad for their VERY supportive responses to my pending adoption of Sissy. It was very hard to keep it off the blog until now, but I needed to have CCCWA pre-approval for my own peace of mind first. It's been exciting to read your comments and receive your well-wishes. Those of you in the online adoption community who have blogged your journeys have been an inspiration to me and a valuable resource. It made it very easy to go ahead with what my heart has been telling me for the past two years.

While no one has overtly come right out and said anything negative, it's glaringly apparent how many people that I know feel about teen adoption. Their words of congratulations end with warning tones in their voices. It's far different than how it was with Jie Jie. Also, admittedly, Jie Jie's pictures showed a SUPER CUTE little girl. I loved how everyone, especially grown men, did a double-take when they saw the pictures for the first time. Funny, this time no one has even asked to see pictures once they know Sissy is 13. And, when I do show them, though cute, darling even, Sissy doesn't have that "cuteness" that makes you go, "awww." People who see the video seem very taken aback because she looks so happy. I think they expect Sissy to look like a ragamuffin, with a long, whistful face, pining away for a mother.

In Sissy's video, she's introducing herself by name, then reciting some kind of song/poem about how solidarity is best and makes China strong. Then she does a little exercise routine to music. About five seconds into the video she smiles. That smile got me the very first time I saw it. I saw a pretty girl, innocent, happy, fun and more, but it's her smile that I loved so much. I am looking forward to getting to know her, falling in love with her, finding out what makes her tick, what makes her happy, sad, excited and more. I want to know her favorite color, is she a morning person or a night owl. Will she like Mexican food? I've got a real fear about her education. Will I be able to spark her interest in learning? Will she strive to reach her potential? I've been researching this a lot and it looks like homeschool is the best, which I planned to do for the first few months, but I was also open to public school after that and now I'm less open to it.

Surprisingly, I don't have any fear around Jie Jie and Sissy developing a good relationship. Jie Jie is a very reasonable child with a very even temperment. If she feels needy or jealous, she will be easy to satisfy. Sissy will know that she is coming into a family that has a sister already. Since she's never had one on one, and her SWI is huge, a family of three is going to feel very intimate and I hope she'll feel very special.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Birthday Party 101: Success!

I feel like I passed Mothering 101 today! Jie Jie passed Having My First Birthday Party 101, too. There were 6 little girls in dresses, at my request, for a TRADITIONAL party. No inflatable jumper, no bowling alley, no commercial anything. I made the cake and frosted it from scratch and it's my best so far, though I can't ever seem to achieve the colors I really want. The games were Pin the Tail on the Donkey and my daughter won both times! Yes, we played it twice because it was so much fun. Then there was several rounds of musical chairs and decorating star wands with bling and stickers. Cake, ice cream and presents and a riot of girls bopping balloons - the sound was deafening and I've got the video to prove it - coming soon.

Jie Jie's favorite part was the rainbow cake, which she has looked forward to for months. Please notice it's also a rainbow inside, which she thought was marvelous, and the wand making. My little girl is a serious crafter.

Normally, in my religion, children are baptized at 8 years of age, but Jie Jie doesn't quite understand how Jesus is our Savior yet, so I'll be waiting until she understands that further.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Temple or Temper?

I cut and pasted the update in the previous post directly from what I received in the email. Do you think they meant temper or temple?

Update on Sissy

I asked my agency to varify that Sissy is willing to be adopted since children who are 10 years old and over have to consent to their adoption and this is what I received:

"...she is studying in Grade five in a primary school. She is healthy and she obeys the rules well in the orphanage, sometimes she would have a little temple. She wants to be adopted very much. Children at her age were adopted one by one and she often asks the office people in the orphanage when she will be adopted. She is quite anxious to be adopted."

This is going to be a hard wait!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Logged In 58 Months

Among the birthday celebration and pre-approval celebration, I forgot to mention that yesterday also marked month 58 of my original dossier being logged in! I can hardly believe it. That dossier represents my third and final child, not just a nearly five year old stack of papers sitting on a shelf somewhere in China. It's the same stack I copied to bring my first daughter home, too. Yes, those are some amazing papers!!!

Did I ever mention that I had a HUGE fear that the plane carrying my dossier to China would crash over the ocean? It was my only chance to get my dossier in before singles were excluded from the program so I felt a lot of pressure, knowing if anything went wrong, I'd miss out.

Here I am, nearly five months later, singles now allowed to adopt again, though through a much more restricted program, and I'm puttin together another dossier!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our Family is Growing!

Introducing Sissy! No, that's not her real name, it's her blog name. This is beautiful young lady will soon be my second daughter! My agency called this morning to let me know that CCCWA has granted me pre-approval.

I knew before I travelled for Jie Jie that there was someone older just waiting and waiting for me, now I found her. Sissy is 13 years-old and will turn 14 in November. I have to travel in September or sooner in order to avoid the trade shows in Guangzhou and keep ahead of her 14th birthday. I must sign the adoption decree by her 14th birthday or she will "age out" and no longer be allowed to be adopted.

Sissy attends public school outside the SWI and is an "average" student. She loves to help with the young babies, especially the ill babies. This is one of the things that really drew me to her. I am also a nurturer. I have video of Sissy from someone who knows her and was told, "She is a very good girl." This "someone" is an American woman who lived in China and volunteered at Sissy's SWI twice a week. She advocated for Sissy and someone who knew I had a place in my heart and home for a teenage girl connected us.

For those interested, I am submitting a new dossier for Sissy under the new singles rules. I still have my original dossier in the non-special needs line. I will also be using my grandfathered I600A status. This is my ONLY window to adopt a third child, but reserve the right to stop at two if I feel my family is complete, continue waiting in the non-special needs line if I don't, or find another waiting child. The reason this is my only window to adopt is because, under the singles rules, CCCWA doesn't allow a single woman to adopt if the youngest child at home is under 6 years old. I also want to give Sissy the time and attention she deserves for her adjustment to family life before bringing another child home. Therefore, she will be coming home soon!

I was more nervous about this adoption because it's not only my life at stake, but also Jie Jie's, but I've lost that feeling and know that I'm as ready as possible and so is Jie Jie. Jie Jie is VERY excited and I know she will benefit from having an older sister as much as Sissy will benefit from having a younger sister.

Please celebrate with Jie Jie and me as we embark on this marvelous journey to Sissy!

First Birthday Celebration - Ever!

Jie Jie turned 8 years old today!
This was the first time her birthday was ever celebrated.

Mama made special, fun cupcakes so Jie Jie could celebrate with the daycare kids. They were very happy for Jie Jie.

2 presents today...

Rollerskates and a Barbie Car!

The birthday girl is Queen for the Day and got to pick her favorite place to eat.

The ladies who worked here, love Jie Jie and speak Mandarin to her.

Jie Jie ate ALL of this and dessert
(jello, ice cream, sesame ball and two orange slices).

Some basic updates:
Jie Jie is 42.25" tall and weighed 37 pounds in January. She probably weighs a tiny bit more now. She continues to eat, sleep, socialize, play, learn, etc... very well. We are connecting with more specialists and another hospital later this month. It's not my first choice, but it's a step in the right direction. I will be applying to Shriner's for her back and feet. I hope they accept us and can help Jie Jie's foot. I hear they perform miracles. We don't need quite a miracle, but being able to improve it would be great.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Somewhere, One Mother Remembers

Today in China a mother, probably living somewhere in Jiangxi, remembered her daughter, born 8 years ago. She probably remember carrying her in her body, feeling each kick and roll. She probably remembered what is was like to feel the first sign of labor; and she probably was excited to meet her little baby when she finally arrived with one final push.

She probably felt soul-deep fear when she learned her baby hadn't been born with a perfectly healthy body, but for the next 7 1/2 months she did all she could to nurture her daughter as she desperately tried to find a doctor who could help her poor little baby. All the while, she nursed her baby, sustaining her life as best she could, and loved her baby, giving her a sense of safety and security despite her growing desperation and hopelessness. Her husband probably wept beside her as they watched their baby grow weaker and weaker. Finally, when it was apparent that what they had to offer wasn't enough, they brought their baby to the gate of the Social Welfare Institute and left her there.

How I wish I could somehow let them know that what they did worked. Their baby lived! What they gave her in those precious 7 1/2 months has helped her be one of the happiest children one can find.

In this case, their sacrifice gave their baby life.

I probably won't ever know the exact details of this time of my daughter's life, but I can see by my daughter's behavior and the note they left how much they loved her. I am so glad to know this with such certainty.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chinese New Year Celebrations

We had a fun-packed weekend full of Chinese New Year celebrations. It began on Saturday with the FCC (Families with Children from China) Between Two New Year's party. It was a great privilege to meet Amy Eldridge, Executive Director of Love Without Boundaries. I found Jie Jie on the LWB community blog and Amy and some of her team helped me get Jie Jie's file and prayed like crazy for us to be together as a family.

We also met Gao Zhansheng, Consul General of the People's Republic of China here in San Francisco. It was truly a great honor. This man was so sincere! He took Jie Jie onto his lap and melted. He said to me something like this, "I have a son. One son. I wish I also had a daughter." He asked me many questions, does she remember her Chinese language, what is her special need, and he kept saying how beautiful she is. You should have seen the way he held her. This man has a huge heart! I hope to have a picture soon...

After the FCC party, we drove back across the Bay, parked at the BART station and headed into San Franciso for the big Chinese New Year Parade. It was packed, but we ran into a friend who had found a good location. Jie Jie loved it and the lion dancers were so fun, coming right up to the kids. Finally, at the end, the big dragon came through. I know the pictures are that good, but the memories are priceless!

Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries

Making crafts at the FCC party.

Chinese New Year Parade San Francisco

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Last Original Kitty

My cat, Sunshine, died tonight. She was 18 1/2 years old. Sunshine was the last of my original kitties. I started with White and Meow. Sunshine was Meow's daughter. They are laid to rest about a foot from each other. Now my oldest is Rose, who is only 12 years old. She had some type of oral cancer and could no longer eat and was in pain, but was otherwise in perfect health.

My vet came over at 10pm, long after Jie Jie was sound asleep, and gently euthanized Sunshine while she lay curled up in my arms. It was a perfect passing for this kitty. The method used was not abrupt, but allowed a few minutes for Sunshine to relax and gently slip away. It felt like she said good-bye and thank you for the release. I just finished burying her under the new year's moon and beautiful stars, while Orion glistened brightly in the night sky and a pure breeze blew and the leaves rustled in the trees overhead and the scent of freshly turned up earth mingled with the freshness of the breeze. I love experiences like this where so many elements of nature come together, filling my senses, filling me with wonderment of God's creations and joy in such a moment of loss and sadness.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Zoo Girl

Is she starting to look like an 8 year old? Her birthday is next week! This outfit is a size 4 and the pants are a perfect fit, but the top is too small tore when I put it on her. No matter, she's been so eager to wear this, but, until now, the pants simply would not have stayed up at all. Please notice the matching purse. It's the purse and the sparkly top that made her love this outfit.

It's hard to tell, but she's balancing, or about to balance, on one foot, on a fake lilly pad in water. You cannot imagine how significant this is. It took months and months and months just to get her to be able to lift one foot off the ground for one second. Now look at her! What brought this on was when I showed her that I could do a spiral on ice skates, which is basically this same move, but on ice and gliding forward.

Jie Jie did end up getting meds at Kaiser tonight and starting a head cold today. Though I think I caught this infection much earlier than the last one, within two days it was obviously ramping up and starting to really knock her down and cause her pain, hence the susceptibility to the cold. When I see these pictures of her, it's hard to believe how severe her special need is.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Things We Do

I never thought I'd consider an 8pm run to Kaiser relaxing, but that's exactly what it felt like tonight! Right at bedtime I decided I needed to have my little darling donate a specimen to the lab, just in case, so off we went. We'll get the results tomorrow!

Yep, I was relaxing in the driver's seat singing along with Amy Gr_ant, which I hadn't listened to in YEARS, but threw in the van the other day.

Once there, the lab was closed, but the lady let us in, thankfully, since we did not needed a tech for any help. She was actually interested in adoption and asked if my daughter was Japanese. The lady was Philippina herself. She started going on and on about how not being blood related doesn't matter, but, of course, I already know that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Skating in the Rain With...

...Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano!

It was the only night of rain during the entire season, the very night Brian Boitano was due to come and perform. Well, what I didn't know, was that the public was invited to skate for FREE, too. I raced home as fast as possible and got our skating gear then raced back. There was 2" of water on the ice, some wind, and a steady drizzle that increased at the night wore on, but we had a BLAST! It was so fun we could have skated all night long.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

First Ever Ice Skating

There was a little outdoor ice rink a few blocks away, just for the holidays, and they had double-bladed skates that fit over a child's shoes and little plastic seals for the children to hold onto. When they got tired of skating, or just wanted some fun, they sat on the seals and could be pushed. I hadn't been on the ice since buying my home over 2.5 years ago so I took Jie Jie and we had a blast! She took to it right away, didn't mind falling, partly because she's the type to get up and try and try again, and partly because I dressed her in a super thick padded snowsuit. By the end of the hour, she was letting go of the seal and trying to do tricks on her own. I took tons of video, but she'd act a little silly and fall right down.

Jie Jie's first experience ice skating. This was about 10 minutes after she first got on the ice.

About 30 minutes later she was starting to experiment and try some fancy stuff.

About 45 minutes later after stepping onto the ice for the very first time in her life! The amazing part of this is that this child has atophied lower legs and club feet. It doesn't stop her at all. Her zest for life overcomes everything!

Misc. Holiday Pics

Ice cream with Gong Gong!

Henry decided he likes the Barbie house.
He's just not sure which bed is most comfortable!

New Year's Eve 2011

I had always wanted to go to Beni Hana restaurant so that was my choice for my special birthday dinner. The good was great, I ate what everyone else ate, but upon arriving home my stomach, and other parts of me, revolted and my lovely birthday dinner made a second appearance.