Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Henry Cuteness



Henry is still the ultimate sweetest cat. His talent and mission in life is to give love. I am so glad I struggled to save him. He's definitely worth it and now that he's gained so much weight, he's much more stable than ever before.

Pictures...Finally!


I didn't take many pictures this last month or two, and with the usb cable lost, I had no way to get the few that I took onto the computer. Tonight I scrounged through my boxes that the cameras came in and found one, so here are the most recent pictures of Jie Jie and I...


The outfit that sent me shopping for a new summer wardrobe for Jie Jie!
Needless to say, she stayed in the backyard in this.


Yes, she loves all veggies, even mushrooms and leaks.


Poor Jie Jie had quite a cold for these pictures! She helped me assemble Sissy's dresser. She's very interested in everything I do and always wants to help. Next week, the bunkbed raising party!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Translation Limits


I received two more emails from Sissy today. I used an online translator, as always, but got very confused when, once again, she asked if I was her mother or knew her mother. I had a Chinese friend come over and do real translation.

What had happened was that when I sent Sissy my last email, I used the word sister and the translator automatically translated that as big sister. In Chinese, there are different words for big and little sister. So, Sissy wasn't sure it was me since I'd already sent her a picture of a younger sister. There were many other strange things in the automatic translation, too.

What I did learn, however, is that Sissy's favorite colors are green and pink. She does not like pets or dolls. She may not like swimming or may have been trying to say she can't swim. She finds homework boring. She likes English class and rollerskating and playing with her friends.

She misses and loves me and wishes me and her sister well and is looking forward to living happily with us. She thanked me for her new clothes and my friend who translated said she seems very polite for her age by the way she wrote it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Email from Sissy



I have such eager anticipation each time I open my email now because there is always the possibility of an email from Sissy. Today I received two! One was short and one was her longest so far. I'm not going to post the entire content, since these are private, but I will share the highlights:

She wrote, "I want you, I love you."

Garage Sale Success


I am one step closer to my financial goals, but still have a way to go. I held a garage sale today, selling my own things and things that friends brought over. I raised just over $700!!! Another bonus is that my garage is now less cluttered. Jie Jie liked to help and play and thought is was very fun. I maintained a good level of energy until dropping off the last of the unsold things at the thrift store at 4:30, then could barely keep going.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sissy's First Email


She asked two things:

Are you my mother?

Will you be coming in July or August?

I'm happy and sad at the same time. I'm happy that she emailed, and sad that I can't go and get her sooner, or even tell her when I am coming. It won't be too long now, though, thank heavens.

QQ Contact!




It's like Christmas right now. I cannot wait to wake up each morning and see what is in my inbox. Today, it looks like my daughter is trying to contact me via email using her QQ account. Apparently, the children at my daughter's SWI are pretty tech-savvy. Unfortunately, the Chinese text is getting scrambled and coming through as gibberish letters and symbols. I've called tech support about it and they are going to look into it. I hope they solve it because Jie Jie's SWI also emailed me last week and the same thing happened.

Meanwhile, what did come through is this pictures of Sissy. I'm relieved to see that she wears shorts! I can't tell if her hair has all been cut or if it's in a ponytail in the back.

What Do We See?


As parents adopting from China, I know we cherish each and every picture of the part of our child's life that happened before they became ours. Each one is a little snippet of information pertaining to the great mystery of our child's past. We yearn to find that golden baby picture or one that shows a caregiver clearly loving our child, any sign that our child will be able to be happy with us and attach to us. No matter how many pictures, though, we still meet a stranger on adoption day and must get to know and love our child for who they are, not what we read into a picture. That said, I have some opinions on the following pictures...


Sissy looks very contemplative to me, but what stands out the most is that she has her hand around the social worker's arm. For an institutionally raised child, this is wonderful! First, it's human contact, it's attachment, it's seeking something, perhaps reassurance, because by the time this photo was taken, Sissy most likely knew she was being adopted.


Here is another picture where Sissy has reached out. Is she needing reassurance? Is she showing affection? Is she merely posing for the camera?


Of course, we want to know that our child is happy! Sissy looks happy in almost all of the pictures I have of her.

I spoke today with another mom who adopted a daughter from the same SWI in February. I learned some interesting things. This SWI has a lot of technology. The kids are computer savvy and are hooked up on QQ, sort of a Chinese Facebook. 5th grade in China seems to be US third grade level. There are social workers, the young women standing near my daughter in the first photo above, who counsel the children and prepare them for adoption. Unfortunately, it seems that some are told that in the US they will have anything and everything they want and get presents all the time. The girls are also taught about menstuation through a video. The girls my daughter's age live three to a room, as do the boys, and the mattress is a piece of wood with a thin blanket over it, and then they have a pillow and thick comforter. Here is a picture:


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Exquisite Baby Doll



Jie Jie loves her Bao Bao so much! She dresses and feeds her and tucks her into bed and tonight I saw her lean down and kiss the doll good-night and tell her she loved her. I love seeing this because I know it's a reflection of the mother I am to Jie Jie and to see her act it out on her doll tells me that when it's her turn to be a mother, she will be a great one. BTW, we both attended a baby shower last Saturday and Jie Jie and I both won the doll diapering contest, a cloth diaper, in each of our categories. I was soooo proud of her, but I knew she'd win after the number of diaper changes Bao Bao has been through. Yes, I'm a super proud mama about this. Silly, isn't it?

I have a generic Amer!can Girl Doll from the local department store for Sissy that actually looks like her and a slightly different smaller girl doll for Jie Jie. They will be waiting on the girls' beds at home for them. But today I wondered if Sissy would also like a baby doll. My friend is going to give me a pretty white moses basket that was full of gifts at the shower that she doesn't need and I thought Sissy should have it for her doll since Jie Jie already has furniture for her doll. Then I realized it was a baby doll bed and started looking online. I found THIS!

I found it a bit less expensive on the every famous auction site that starts with E, but it's still a hefty price tag for a baby doll. I decided to wait until Sissy is home and get to know what she likes, etc... then if it seems that a baby doll is needed, I'll seriously consider this one. After Bao Bao isn't played with any more, I'll still keep her for Jie Jie and perhaps present it to her on her wedding day or the day she becomes a mother. If Sissy needs a baby doll, I'll do the same for her.

Peek Into Sissy's SWI


I found a blog today of another family's adoption jouney to their son, who they adopted three days before he aged out! He lived at the same SWI as Sissy and she is in several of their pictures. I've asked for permission to put copies of the pictures here, but until I hear back from this family, I will give you a link to their blog posts that have many pictures from Sissy's SWI and some of her. They were taken this past March.

I was very interested on the looks of everyone faces, especially the look on Sissy's face in the picture as her friend drove away with his new family. What do you think?

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Comparisons



An unfortunate thing has already begun. As I show Sissy's picture to people, many feel compelled to make comparisons between my two girls. The most unfortunate so far, has come from a Chinese person at our favorite restaurant, comparing the girls' looks. She felt compelled to say that one girl was more beautiful than the other and also how jealous Jie Jie is going to be when she has a sister. I didn't get riled up, having now realized that comments of this nature are inevitable, but I did say that whenever a sibling is born into a family, the existing siblings always experience some kind jealousy and that it's perfectly normal.

I also get a LOT of comments about how I'll now have a "helper," a "babysitter," "what, a TEEN, uh oh!"

I wish that when people saw Sissy's picture, they could seee what I do, which is a beautiful young girl who is about to get what every child should always have, a loving family. I wish they could see into my heart, open so wide and ready to love her, eager to get to know her and everything there is to know about her, to receive into my life another precious daughter.

Yes, in my heart of hearts, I did have a place of fear when I thought she could be my height already, because I wasn't sure how easy it would be to see her as the child she still is if she was my size, or if she could see me as her mother. But I was ready to do whatever it took, no matter what. Now that I know she is exactly as I expected, I feel peace inside me that I will do a great job, even through the normal hard stuff that will come up.

I look back on my year with Jie Jie and realize that it's been exactly as I've felt - simply wonderful and so much easier than I could have ever imagined. The only hard part has been outside our home - Kaiser. It's been VERY, VERY, VERY stressful dealing wtih them and fighting constantly with them for my child's well-being. But my love has given me strength to keep up the fight, for if I don't, her entire quality of life will be compromised.

I trust that the information, tools, and support I have will carry me through the first year with my teenager as easily as it did with Jie Jie. If anything, I'm actually more prepared this time, having already realized where my support truly is.

I'm not looking for a helper or a babysitter. I'm about to have my second child. I will fully take care of her, as if she was a new baby, as a good mother should, and as she is ready, she will be given appropriate responsibilities, according to her abilities, so that she can develop all the good things that comes with this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5 years and 1 Month and 1 Day


The wait continues for Apple, that very first dossier of mine still waiting in the long non-special needs line on a shelf somewhere in China. I feel her very near now. I haven't felt her for awhile since I've been relishing my time with Jie Jie and anticipating Sissy's arrival, but she's definitely close. I still don't know if I'll continue to wait or find her on the waiting child list, but that list of children is ALWAYS on my mind! I've found my two daughters on that list!

Monday, May 14, 2012

I am SO IN LOVE!



I woke up to this in my inbox today!!! I cried, once again humbled that I have to opportunity to be a mother again, and to such a beautiful young girl. She is such a blessing to my family. I can hardly stop myself from jumping on a plane right now.

Here are the stats I also got from Ann at Red Thread China:

height:145cm head:54cm chest:67cm foot:21cm weight:33.5kg

All the clothes I bought should fit okay with some growing room, including the winter stuff. For those who've never been to San Francisco in the summer, we have a saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco." Her dresser is assembled and clothes neatly organized. I took pictures of getting it ready so she can see how I prepared for her arrival, just like I did for Jie Jie's arrival. Speaking of which, it's been good for Jie Jie to see me go through these steps so I can tell her that I did all of this and felt so happy when I got ready to bring her home.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Early Mother's Day to Me


There is a family in China now who visited the SWI where Sissy is and they sent me this update:

"She was walking in the hallway and they insisted she join us and come and see her presents. They told us she is very excited to travel to America. The staff love her very much and they showed it when they went through the bag with her and especially as they flipped through the photo album. She speaks some English and has wonderful manners as she kept saying thank you.

Even though your daughter is in an orphanage she is still thriving. She is adored and being well taken care of. Our guide says it is one of the nicest one's. It is a clean orphanage with lots of room for the children to play. The people there love our children very, very much and want the best for them.

She was tall. I am 5'5" and she was almost as tall as me. She is tall & lean"

This is such exciting news! I'm thrilled that Sissy has some English words already and good manners and is excited to come to the US. I can't wait to see the pictures and video this family have of her to see just how close to 5'5" she is. She might not fit ANY of the clothes I've already bought. I kept every single receipt, though, and can always take them back. It was also fun shopping for her. I expected her to be just shy of 5 feet tall. This might look tall to an American mom adopting a small child, so I hope that she considers about 5 feet tall to be "almost as tall as me."

I finished putting Sissy's dresser together a few minutes ago and will go up and put her clothes inside it. Then, I'm going to go through Jie Jie's clothes and take out all the ones that don't fit her. It's crunch time in the scheme of things. Two months 'til travel goes by in a jiffy and I want the house to be ready. This means the garage sale is coming up in about two weeks or bust!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Here We Go Again


I'm at peace today with my choice of which dresser I finally bought - the affordable IKEA one. My friend is going to help me move the furniture around today and tonight I'll assemble it. Good thing I cleared my mind about this because...

...I got a letter from Kaiser. Of course, they denied coverage of Jie Jie's ankle-foot orthotics! Apparently, one must buy an extra plan in case they ever need a prosthetic or orthotic. They tell me this AFTER the ortho team has already spent time and resources casting my child's legs and making forms for the moulds, spending time and money doing so AND putting my child through this. For the amount of money they've wasted on her by ineptitude and mistakes I caught that saved them thousands, like not repeating MRIs that she'd just done that they wanted us to come in for, we could have been to the Center of Excellence and back twice!

So, after making my third formal complaint in about a week, I hope they begin to figure out that BEFORE telling the patient they will get SMOs and putting them through the motions of casting and moulding, etc... the practitioner should call member services and see if the member's plan covers them!

The only saving grace, is that Jie Jie qualified for a county or state program that I think covers them. If they do, it means getting casted again, which she didn't mind, thankfully, but still costs time and money to whoever pays, and then going through the fittings.

I'm truly ready to leave the country and move to a place that offers real insurance, the kind that covers the entire body, eyes and teeth, too, and medications, and any possible medical equipment one may need. So, where should I move after my last adoption? France?

Nesting, Nesting, Nesting!


After a lot of agony, I finally bought Sissy a dresser. The agony is knowing what I wanted, trying to compromise, then completely using my brain and getting something inexpensive from IKEA. What I really wanted was THIS and now I'm really in agony because when I when to the website to get the link to show you, I see that in the few hours I was at IKEA, it's now on sale. I tell myself to think about living within my means, not adding to debt, how expensive airline tickets are right now and how much that orphanage donation fee is, but honestly, Jie Jie and Sissy's room is the ONLY room in my home that I've decorated to my liking in my entire HOUSE, with furniture that is actually mostly real wood, in the three years since I bought it, and I'd love to put this dresser in there because it matches the other pieces so well.

When I find my camera cable, I'll do a home tour to show you what I mean, but here's a brief description:

UPSTAIRS Livingroom: small 2nd hand piano, sofa from thrift shop
Diningroom: small fold-out table and chairs from my apartment (over 22 years old)
Jie Jie's room: 2nd hand dresser and free shelf refinished by me (SEE IT HERE), Costco bunkbed, real curtains on the windows that I chose and put there (the only room I've done this to).
My bedroom: used IKEA dresser from craigslist, tiny dresser (unfinished) from unknown 2nd hand source, mattress/box on metal frame, Sissy's upper bunk mattress with air mattress on top for Jie Jie's bed, 2nd hand white IKEA shelves, wardrobe from scratch-dent section of IKEA.
Tiny TV room: free TV from curbside (huge kind, not flat), $8 futon loveseat from yard sale, cupboard from cat supplies from curbside.
In the formal dining room is Jie Jie's dollhouse and my 2nd hand rocking chair and 2nd hand accent table and whicker shelf.

DOWNSTAIRS Daycare stuff in playroom - 90% 2nd hand
Family room: free TV (huge, not flat), 2nd hand sofabed rebuilt and reupholstered by me, IKEA bookcase.
Sewing room: land of the lost - the final frontier - enter at your own risk - self-built stuff from misc. IKEA parts and kits and a few nice IKEA office pieces, still not fully finished because the floor tilts and makes me crazy!

I feel a bit dumb about this, too, since it is only, after all, a piece of furniture, when people's lives are at stake all over the world. Perhaps I feel like I need one real treat since I've been fighting tooth and nail for the right health care for my daughter (made another formal complaint with Kaiser today and a month of no activity and a doctor who may not have followed proper Kaiser protocol for referring patients to in-Kaiser specialists). Or is this super intense nesting since in as little as two months I could be adopting my second child and want her room to be as perfect as I can make it for her! Will she notice the difference between her sister's hand-painted dresser with butterfly knobs and her own plain dresser?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good Day


The FCC playgroup was a good peek at where Jie Jie stands socially. She's ready for being with 7-8 years olds, but they don't wait for her. Her English is still accented and she's tiny, so she can't quite keep up with their physical pace. The older girls also have well-established friendships that are hard for a newcomer to join. If I arrange a play date, one on one, she does fine. Jie Jie plays well with younger kids, but only to a point, then she's bored, unless there is a lot of things to do. She gets on very well with adults. She is continuing the social pattern that she had in her orphanage.

So, at the park today, which was beautiful, with a lake and woods and summer weather, she ended up finding some dogs to play with. First, a dog playing frisby that was with another group than our own, then the dog of a family within our group.

I'm really feeling sorry for her right now and not knowing what to do to help her. She's super happy if I play with her, but the main point of these gatherings is for her to make friends among her peers group. Luckily, I found out that this group meets once a month on the first Sunday. I think it's in Jie Jie's best interest to miss church on these days and be with this group. I think it's even more crucial once Sissy is home. Jie Jie is going to learn a lot having an older sister and I hope Sissy will get as much from her relationship with Jie Jie.

Last Friday was a milestone day. A friend of mine picked Jie Jie up and drove her to a birthday party, along with her own daughter. When I told Jie Jie earlier in the week that this friend would drive her to the party, she got such a look on her face. She didn't know that could happen since I've always taken her places. She was nervous, but didn't admit it, but did just fine. At the party she had a great time, they did crafts and decorated cupcakes, but said she played by herself. I believe her, unfortunately. Again, the social dilemma we're facing right now. I know that it will sort itself out as long as I continue to present appropriate social situations, but my mama's heart cracked a bit when she told me.

If you've been missing pictures it's because I can't find my camera cable. It's here somewhere...

I'm starting to hit that panic mode when one has waited and waited and waited, then all-of-a-sudden, it's nearly time to go to China and time runs out and the house isn't what it's supposed to be and the projects are undone and, oh well, too bad, a new child is so much more important. But... I really need to get this house sorted out and have my garage sale so that I can manage it all once I am the mother of two.

In the car tonight, Jie Jie counted to 20 all by herself and then kept going. I helped her a tiny bit with the tens because we've not gotten to them yet, but she made it to 100 for the first time! She's completely got the concept of how to count, just not the language.

I need to start a list of all the words that sound the same to Jie Jie as she learned English, just as many of the words in Mandarin sound the same to me. Today's words were ache and egg. She said that her head hurt and I told her that it's called a headache. She looked at me funny and said, "Head eggs?" She also had a hard time hearing the difference between thirty and thirteen and the other tens that sound like teens.

Jie Jie is a puzzle whiz. She whips out 100 piece puzzles in about 20-30 minutes. This is good. I've read that this helps use the part of the brain that involves math. It looks like science is her favorite school subject. If that continues, then she needs very strong math skills so that she can enter any field of science she may desire.

I'm looking forward to our trip to China so that I can focus on my girls, completely, no work or daily grind, just being with them as my sole focus.

Oh, I had to shop this weekend for Jie Jie. Now that summer is here, I've discovered that she's outgrown all of her summer shirts and she never really had summer pants because nothing stays up on her and she's outgrown almost all of her summer dresses, too! She's changed a lot and it's challenging to find things that fit. She wears three different sizes of shirts, all Gymboree. She's a 5 if it's longsleeved, 6 if it's short, 7 if it's sleeveless! I'm pretty sure that she's going to have a hard time finding clothes that fit right her entire life. I hope she's interested in learning to really sew.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Last Classes Down


My agency had me redo all the adoption classes, 10 hours worth. Today was the last chunk, 4 hours worth, and they were great classes. It was on integrating your child's culture into your family and all that goes with that, and building your village. Jie Jie came with me and played. My agency has a great play area full of toys and books.

One of the most interesting things about taking these classes is seeing people again who I've not seen in a long time because they adopted their child long ago. For example, today, one of the panel speakers was a woman who was in the orientation class with me, over five years ago. She and her husband started with the Guatamala program and were at the head of the line when it closed. They switched to Taiwan and that child is now in school.

Poor Jie Jie has hayfever and a cold. I can tell it's a cold because she's got a slight fever on and off. She behaved perfectly today during the classes. I'm so proud of her. When we got home, we did something we've never done before so she could take it easy, put on two movies in a row. I put on the Princess Diaries, but I think she didn't understand a lot of the first one. She kept asking where the princess was and, at the end when the actress finally looks like a princess, Jie Jie didn't understand why it ended there. She wanted to know what the princess was going to do. She liked the second one, though, because of the little bit of dancing and the big slide.

There's an FCC play date tomorrow that we're going to, just for two hours, outdoors. It means missing church, but with Jie Jie's cold, it'd be terrible for her to be in a small classroom sneezing her germs all over the other kids. When Jie Jie gets a cold, she gets a ton of nasal congestion and her nose runs and runs and runs like I've never seen in other kids. It stays clear, which is good, but it's copious and she gets tired. With the allergies, she's also sneezing often and that's tiring, too.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I Have Begun


An anonymous comment, a little click here, a little click there. One little piece of interesting information that I stil. need to varify, but I have learned something interesting.

There is a five-year statute of limitations on China's abandonment law. My daughter is 8.

Yes, I am very serious about following my instinct to find Jie Jie's birth family. From the moment I read her file over two years ago, I had the strongest impression that I had to let them know that she is okay. Honestly, sometimes I swear I can feel their emotions in some deeply spiritual way.

I am now living a life I never imagined when I started my adoption journey over 5 years ago. I have my first child, an older child. Soon, I'll have my second child, even older. Next year, my third child, my little one. And a presence of two parents felt strongly from afar. I wonder if I'll have a similar feeling about the birth families of my next two children.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The First Little Snip


Last week, I felt the first little snip of the umbellical cord being cut when I asked Jie Jie if she is interested in knowing more about her birth family and she lit up and gave me an emphatic YES. I asked her what she'd like to know and she said she wanted to know if she has any brothers or sisters. I told her that I wanted to know what they named her. This really lit her up and she told me that when she's in bed, but not yet asleep, she thinks about this, too.

I didn't know that she had such a good understanding of family relations to wonder if she has siblings. I didn't realize she already had such a highly developed life apart from me.

A couple weekends ago, I attended a class at my adoption agency presented by two women who were adopted in China. One was a junior in college, and the other was a year out of college. They spoke on what adoption was like for them, as the children of adoption. They were very candid. Afterwards, as I was talking to another adoptive mom, we started talking about birth family searches. I'd like nothing more than to let Jie Jie's birth parents know that she is safe and well.

While in China, I'd like to get a copy of my daughter's orphanage record, the police report, if there is one, of her finding, and just put out a general feeler. I couldn't imagine wanting to keep my child with all my heart, yet knowing if I didn't give her up she'd surely die.