Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Be it ever so sickly/jetlagged/messy/overwhelming, there's no place like home

Well, I figured I might as well blog, since I can't talk.  Just another facet of my usual post-China trip illness...laryngitis.  TOTAL laryngitis.  Yes, I'm trying to bond/communicate with my new daughter using hand gestures only.  I suppose it would be funny if I wasn't living it.

So, to back up a bit, we got out of China.  It was a little touch-and-go for a moment when I came down with a smoking high fever in the wee hours of the morning before we were to leave for Hong Kong.  See, last adoption trip, I came down with the same miserable fever but I was already on the plane, bound for the US. It made for a horrible plane ride, but there was no stopping my return home at that point.  This time, I got the fever BEFORE we headed to Hong Kong, and for those of you who haven't crossed the border between China and Hong Kong, I'll tell you that they use this laser thingie to take your temperature before letting you cross.  They are pretty serious about this, and if you go on their immigration web site, you'll see it says they can detain and quarantine people with fevers.  So, to say I was terrified getting on that van is the understatement of the century.  I was so jacked up on motrin and tylenol, blasting the A/C, holding bottles of ice water in my hands.  When it came time to take my temp, I turned my head away from the scanner.  We made it through.  The girls puked on me 3 times in the van, but that was nothing compared to what could have happened if they detected my fever, so I'm OK with that.

A moment of relative peace on the plane.
The plane ride was, well, exactly what you think it was.  11.5 hours Hong Kong to San Francisco.  We had a tight layover in SFO, and the computers were down so they could not process immigrants as they usually do.  They had to do it all using paper.  That reminds me, I better check that everything was eventually entered correctly.  I don't want to find out a year from now that R was not processed properly at immigration.  What a hoot that would be, huh?  Then we had a 5.5 hour flight to Boston, where we were greeted by my family.  Just like last time, I stumbled off the plane, feverish and sick, sort of only half aware of what was going on around me, but happy to see the people I missed the most.

Since then, we've been trying to take it easy, get better from all of these stupid illnesses, and just hang out as a family.  Jet lag took 2 days to set in.  The first day home, I was like, "Booyah!  We beat you, Jet Lag!"  On day two, I was pretty much on the floor in a puddle, praying to the Jet Lag gods to leave this family alone.  R seems the healthiest right now...P is still recovering from whatever awful thing he had in China, E has some sort of respiratory thing, and I have an awful illness that seems to be getting worse before it gets better.

Girls' first breakfast together.  Goofing around already.
R had her first labs done on Monday.  Miraculously (or a lab error), her hemoglobin was 12.9.  So, no transfusion for her.  In the oddest twist of events yet, I took R's slot today in the infusion unit, and got transfused myself (my hgb was a pathetic 7, which in concert with the illness was kicking my a$$) while E was getting her transfusion.  The coveted mother/daughter transfusion day.  Good times.  R was along for the ride, and I think it was probably good for her to see her big sis and mama getting blood and having a generally OK day at the hospital.  Everyone at the hospital was so happy to see E back, and super excited to meet their newest patient, R.

R checking things out during E and Mama's transfusion day.

That's some mother-daughter bonding, huh?
So, nothing super exciting to report right now.  We're just living that sort of blurry first week home, trying to figure out the new normal, trying to get well, and trying to stay awake.

Sucking down every last noodle of Nana's chicken soup.

Really getting into her soup.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

You made some noise

I hardly think it's a coincidence that as soon as you all starting make some noise--and I mean some LOUD noise--that things starting looking up for the 80ish families stuck in China.  It seems like once we all started being real pains in the ass, things got moving.  I think you all had something to do with it, and we could never thank you enough.

You prayed, you wrote senators, you Facebooked and tweeted.  Parents here were up all hours of the night, emailing the President while their un-visa-ed children slept.  P and I wrote immigration officials and alerted the media.  It just seemed crazy that so many Americans were stuck, and no one was covering it.  If there's one thing that seems to work in America, it's the media.  Social media, TV media, any media.  And, just to be real clear, not ONE single family who was stuck wanted or expected people to walk into a building that was dangerous or contaminated.  All we wanted was a back-up plan, a contingency plan.  Move the interviews to another site.  Get another consulate to print up the visas.  Please, don't be so silly as to think we wanted ANYONE in harms way.  We all just wanted a way home.

The Consulate opened Thursday at 3:30pm for the visa interviews.  At first there was no info on the Monday people who had already done the interview and were just waiting on the visa.  The silence was pretty nervewracking.  Then, later today, we finally got the word that our visas would be ready late afternoon on Friday. Just. One. More. Day.

So, thousands of dollars and several days later, on Saturday we'll finally check out of the Holiday Inn Shifu and head to Hong Kong to fly home.

To the people who think the extra expense and extra days away from home are nothing to get worked up about, you definitely were not here living this.  And, you definitely have never been on an adoption trip when all you want by the end is to go home.  To get your baby home.  To get your family home.  To see the family you left behind.  To start bonding in your REAL home, not some hotel.  To get your new child to see their physician...their surgeon, their cardiologist, their pediatrician, their hematologist.  You want to clear up that rash they have, get prescription meds for that horrible cough, get them the blood they likely need.

So, again, thank you to everyone.  I've never seen such an amazing outpouring of love and support.  Of course, my family for being incredible through this even though they are a nervous wreck about the girls.  And a special, heartfelt, shout-out to the moms in the thal community.  You all know who you are.  For people I have never even met, the amount of concern and genuine care you have sent our way is just astounding.

Let's get packing!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I now interrupt our regularly scheduled terrorist attack...

OK.  So enough about the frigging white powder.  Nothing this Mama can do about that right now.  Let me tell you about Rosie.  That's why we came here, right?  Way back when....before we got stuck, right?

1.  Those dimples...yes, they are REAL.  OMG they are just adorable.  She has to be REALLY happy to see them, but they are there.
2.  She's terrified of statues.  Hence no pic of her with the statues on Shamian.
3.  She is a WISEGUY.  OH, my stars.  She'll pretend to feed me something, then snatch it away, laughing.  She LOVES bopping us on the head with the balloons (that are slowly deflating, but that's just because we've been here way to friggin' long...)
4.  She is TERRIFIED of brushes.  My large round hairbrush sent her screaming.  Makeup is OK--WITH FINGERTIPS ONLY.  Bring out the blush brush and she cries.
5.  The girl eats.  Bless her poor heart, she has such a hard time chewing and swallowing.  It's clear that ALL of her food was pureed.  She only knows how to swallow stuff whole.  But she TRIES and she seems to like just about everything we let her try.  Smash a scrambled egg into some congee and she's in heaven.  Me, too.  That's become one of my favorite breakfast dishes!
6.  Just like her jie jie, she LOVES being out one the bustling pedestrian street.  She sits perched in her stroller just taking it all in.
7.  She sings!  OK, so we don't know what she's singing, but it's super adorable anyways!  Does it really matter what she's singing?
8.  She loves the pool!  We got her in today, splashing, playing, and just having fun.
9.  She's tiny.  No one seems to believe me, but the girl is 9 kg and every piece of clothing you see her in the pics is pinned in about 7 places or else it would be falling off.  She fell out of bed twice (she refuses the crib) and it's like a feather hitting the ground.
10.  We love her.  More than anything in the world, except for Emmie.  She's kinda grumpy on us, but we love her to the moon and back a thousand times.  Even when we get the "Rosie Headshake."

Yay!  Post-CA.  Before the sh*t hit the fan.

My girls.  Melts my heart.

Checking out the menu at pretty much our only non-Chinese meal
at Pizza Hut.  Won't make that mistake again...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Tonight I went over to the Executive Lounge and made myself a very special Chinese drink.  It's called RUM.  Only because they had no vodka.  Oy, things are tough here.

To be fair, things were going fairly well, or at least fairly well in the realm of trying to care for and bond with an extremely traumatized child.  The good news is that R has lots of happy moments, smiling, playing, being friendly with us.  She accepts affection from both of us sometimes, and has even returned the occasional kiss.  Last night, she literally covered E with kisses.  Her belly, her legs, her face, her arms.  At other times, she is very, very, very, very, very, sad/mad/scared.  She puts her pointer finger of her left hand in her mouth and will scream for hours.  She won't accept being held or bribed with candy or even looked at during these moments.  She just gives us the "Rosie Headshake."  It's hard.

But the headline right now is that we are stuck.  Literally STUCK.  For anyone who hasn't heard yet, the US Embassy is closed due to an "incident."  By now, it's hitting the news, so you can read about it rather than hear it from me, as I was told by our agency director not to repeat anything I heard.

So, the truth is, we're stuck in China and want to come home.  E is throwing up her brains from God know's what.  R is throwing herself on the floor, screaming, sad and grieving.  We're running out of new toys to introduce, stickers, snacks, and clothes.  My Lord, it's 150% humidity here and I really don't want to recycle any more clothes.  (yes, practical people, I know we can do laundry.)  We want to get home, get into our "normal" life and routines.  I actually want to COOK AND CLEAN.  YES, I WANT TO CLEAN MY OWN TOILET.  I don't want the gorgeous breakfast buffet anymore.  I don't want amazing dim sum.  I don't want to ride an elevator to go to my bed.  I don't want to see the beautiful Shamian Island, that I love so much.  I want to go home.  See my family.  See my MOTHER who I missed so terribly on Mother's Day.  The first EVER ever didn't see her.  I want to see my dad and my sister.  I want E to dry heave in her own toilet.  I want R to grieve and cry herself to sleep in her own bed.  I want to fall asleep in MY own bed.

China isn't a vacation.  I've said it a million times.  But, you set yourself up for a certain number of days of this non-vacation.  Then, you take a horrible plane ride and are greeted by the faces whom you love the most.  The people you miss so badly and lift you up during this crazy time.  The hard times end, and yet they begin.  But not now.  Not tomorrow.  Who knows when.  Stuck.  Stuck.  Stuck....

I want to send my HEARTFELT thanks to everyone who has prayed for us, thought about us, pulled for us. To my family, who stopped their lives when they heard the news about the consulate just to sit by their Skype--CONSTANTLY.  To the people I have NEVER met in the adoption community and thalassemia community who have tagged me 500 times on Facebook just to say they are thinking about us.  To Expedia, for cancelling an un-cancellable  reservation because of the situation. To the Shifu for being so amazingly accommodating and extending our stay--when I'm SURE they wanted us gone.  To our agency's in-China staff for standing by us during this time.  To my girls.  For just BEING-sad, happy, puking, crying, whatever.  To P, for being amazing even though he's sick with R's cold.

We're stuck, yes.  Tired, sick, sweaty, sad, homesick.  Scared that E is due for a transfusion NEXT WEDNESDAY.  Scared that R is due for a transfusion...well, who knows when.  But, we're still happy.  Happy to be a family.  Growing, struggling, experiencing life in whatever way that it's thrown at us.  Thank you for holding us up, all of you.

Here's what you want...

Hung over from jumping on the bed until after midnight.

E and Mama. 


E is airborne here!


More pics to follow from our Consulate day, but my internet is running VEEEEEEEEEEEEEERY slowly now...

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I got an early Mother's Day present.  Well, it went on until past midnight, so I guess I got it on Mother's Day, too.  My girls, smiling, laughing, squealing, bouncing on the bed, calling out "MAMA!", playing together, one speaking in English, the other in Cantonese but communicating nonetheless.  Done.  Happy.  I can call it a day now.  Keep your presents and don't take me to brunch.  I got what I wanted.

Overall, Saturday was a great day.  R had her moments, but they seemed less frequent and severe.

It was absolutely sweltering out, but we headed to Shamian island to shop for squeaky shoes and to visit the playground.  The girls were very well behaved while we shopped, and I only feared they were going to break things about 35 times.  The girls had fun at the playground.  At one point, a boy came over to apparently show R his karate moves.  He got really close, and then actually grabbed her in a bear hug!  I started screaming "NO" to him and the adults with him, R got scared and grabbed for me.  It was a terrible moment, but I guess good in that R knew to reach for me.

P and the girls had a late lunch of McD's back in the room.  R is really into playing with me and feeding me.  I wasn't hungry or in the mood for McD's, but you better believe I ate every single french fry she put in my mouth with a smile!  We tried for a nap, and unfortunately R cried herself to sleep again.

Tonight was when the real fun began.  We headed out to meet our guide from E's adoption, Helen, for dinner at Tau Tau Ju.  Helen is the kindest, sweetest, most sincere woman.  She saw us through some very hard times last year, and I could just tell that she was genuinely so happy to see us and especially E now.  She kept saying, "It's so nice to see you as a happy family."  She noted that E is so friendly and social, and she said that she had no idea what kind of personality she was going to have because, well, E didn't really show one when we were in China last time.  I don't think Helen-or any of us-stopped smiling the entire night.  The food was delicious, the company was perfect.

After dinner we strolled around with Helen, she put on her "guide hat" and answered a few questions for us, she helped me order a delicious milk tea, P got his McFlurry (the lady there recognizes him now and knows his order!), and we came back to the hotel room to chat for awhile.  This is when things get interesting.  R went into the other room, crying, and literally hiding in the corner from all of us.  Not only did she shake off us, but she also shook off Helen.  When Helen tried to talk to her, she shook her head and cried.  Helen thought that maybe R saw her as a threat.  And, as it turns out, it seems that's exactly what it was.  As soon as Helen left, R came out of hiding and starting playing and smiling and fact she seemed the happiest she's been this entire trip.

The girls had a fun bath, got their first dual pedicures, brushed their teeth, and we tucked them in.  P and I came into the other room and within a few minutes we heard this thud.  Then another, then another all accompanied by lots of laughing and squealing.  We peeked in and that's when I saw them bouncing on the bed, laughing themselves silly.  Happy, unbridled sisterly fun.  So much fun that it went on for hours, so we'll have to work on that.  Still, I'm not complaining, I'm rejoicing.

Spice market.  Look at that grumpy face R puts on when we pull
out the camera.

Starbucks on Shamian.  All in decked out in our Sox gear!

Laughing with my girls.

She LOVES the McD's french fries.  As with E, she better get over that
fast as it's just part of our ploy to get her to like us.


With our dear friend Helen.  What a wonderful woman.

First pedicure!

Admiring her piggies.

E's turn.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hanging out

The day after our visit to the CWI was sort of a take it easy/get a few things done day.  We took the girls to the pool, which is unheated.  E wanted right in, but it took Baba awhile to warm up to the idea.  "Get IN, Baba!  What you DOING, Baba?  Get in, get in, GET IN!" she yelled while Baba tried to acclimate himself.  Eventually, the two of them were in, doing their pool thing and having a blast.  R wasn't too sure of it, so she'd sit on my lap and dunk her feet in, get up, put her shoes back on.  Shoes off, back on my lap, dunk feet in, get up and put shoes back on.  Repeat.  She seemed happy enough with that, so I went with it.

We had some noodles in the room, and we were delighted to see that R let E feed her some noodles.  Much like with E, we've done a lot of the "feeding each other" game, and that has started to work.  The girls colored and then we headed out for some shopping.  Even our guide is surprised at the stuff we do on our own, but we feel like with the experience we got last trip, we can do pretty well ourselves.  We went to the same pearl store where we got E her beautiful pearls and had them string an equally beautiful pair for R.

Dinner was quite an experience.  We went to a restaurant in Liwan Plaza that had been recommended by both our guides and the pearl store ladies.  Outside, there's a big sign touting how it's a specially approved Guangzhou restaurant for tourists.  We figured this would be an easier meal than most.  Of course we walk in and the petting and snapping photos of E begins.  I can't tell you how many iphones in Guangzhou have pics of E on them now.  The meal was delicious, but to say it was a labor is an understatement.  No one spoke one single word of English, which we normally expect but were surprised to experience at a place "approved" for tourists!  We did a lot of pointing at the food at the next table.  We asked for 4 forks (by drawing a picture on E's Doodle), and when the waitress came back with 2 we indicated we needed 2 more.  She literally threw her hands in the air and rolled her eyes at us.  Tourist friendly, indeed.

We discovered a great coffee place in Liwan plaza adjacent to a McDonalds, so I sipped a mocha while P had a McFlurry.  R was pretty terrified of the McFlurry, but liked it when it got melty.  It was a lot of fun just hanging out like a regular family.

R is still strongly preferring her Baba, calling him by name frequently.  E and I still get the "Rosie Headshake" quite a bit.  I call it the "Rosie Headshake" because it's a very distinctive "no" headshake, at about 10x speed so that her little bowl cut goes flying everywhere.  Bedtime is really hard for R, with a lot of crying.  Part of me wonders if she just doesn't want to go to bed, but when I look at her face, it looks very scared to me.  We feel terrible for her, but we know in time it will get better.

Impossible to get them both looking at the same time.

Add caption

Yay!  Letting big sister feed her!


Hanging out at a cafe.  One of E's favorite things at home,
and here, too!

Baba with his girls.

This cracks me up.  She's not actually mad here, just being a punk.
For some reason, sometimes when we take out the camera she makes this face
and then laughs.  Wiseguy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A word about E...

While we were planning this second adoption trip, some of the people I told that we were bringing our 3 year old along for the ride gave us some very strange looks.  Would she help or hinder...did we really want to take an impatient kid on a very long flight...wouldn't it be harder to tote two of them around the crazy streets of China.  But, not for a minute did we consider leaving E home.  First off, she *is* our connection to China (well, *was*) and we wanted her to experience it again.  She's a great traveler, I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my bestie for almost 2 weeks, and it seemed like it would be extremely hard on her for us to be gone and then come home with a shiny new baby.

There's no doubt that this trip to China is about R.  E already had her near-two weeks of misery all to herself.  But E has been an integral, irreplaceable part of this trip, too.

At times when things have been hard, E has made us laugh with her little "E-isms."  Even though she's been somewhat rejected by her little sister, she tries and tries and tries to be kind to her.  When we meet someone new, E proudly exclaims, "Dat Roe-rie!  She my little sister!  I'm big sister!"

After the potty debacle when I tried to put R on the potty, we made E go on the potty in front of R to show her it was OK and wouldn't swallow her whole.  "Look at me!  I love the potty!  I looooove going poo-poo!" she screamed, unscripted.

E tries and tries again to give things to R, share things with her, feed her, and generally be sweet to her.  When E gets swatted away, she'll just look at me innocently and say, "I don't think Roe-rie want that right now."

During our first adoption trip, during times of heavy grieving, we couldn't leave the hotel room, couldn't stop to eat, couldn't do anything fun.  But that was OK...we were the adults and we signed on for that.  This time, we've had a few very hard moments like that.  One night, we promised E we would go out to a "big restaurant", but dinner became ramen and Cheeze-its in our room when R was screaming uncontrollably.  E's first try at the pool was postponed because R was too miserable to leave the room.  That's a lot to ask of a 3 year old, but E has taken it mostly in stride, saying, "Why she sad?  Why Roe-rie cry again?"  I am always proud of my first daughter, but now more than ever.

To say that E hasn't had her moments, too, wouldn't be fair.  It's really hard for her to see her BFF (me) trying to show affection and bond with R.  She's thrown herself on the floor in a fit that looks like she's in actual pain more than once when I've picked R up.  Consequently, I've done a lot of picking up, holding, feeding, cuddling, and loving on E, too.  If she needs that from me now, that's OK.  She's my baby, too, and I'd do anything to make it easier for her.

So, if I had to do it again, I'd definitely bring E with us.  Seeing her in the place where she came from, and having her be a part of the growth of our family has been very important for all of us, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The ever-excited E, with little sister looking on.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Orphanage Visit

Things got a little rougher between R and Mama (and E), so we were feeling very nervous about sticking with our planned visit to Foshan Shunde CWI.  We finally decided to go through with it, and I'm happy we did.  Things were already touch-and-go between us, and I don't think the visit made it any better or worse.

On our ride in to the area where the CWI is located, P and I noticed right away how absolutely gorgeous the area is.  It just *looks* rich.  It reminded me of Boca Raton, or some fancy inland area of Florida.  Perfectly manicured, new and beautiful buildings, fancy shopping areas.  Our guide, Rebecca, told us that this area not only looks rich, it *is* rich.  The people there are wealthy.  So, it was very, very upsetting to see how sparse and old and sad looking the CWI is.  Even Rebecca said it made her very mad, knowing that such a rich area has such a seemingly poor CWI.  Still, she also noted that Shunde would be considered a "medium level" CWI...there are others much nicer, and much worse.

We were welcomed by some very friendly CWI workers.  Rebecca warned me to hold on to R for dear life, but it became readily apparent that this was not going to be an easy task.  The caretakers swarmed our little R as if she was a celebrity.  They showed us their iphones full of pictures they had taken over time of R.  They obviously loved her very much.  They wanted to hold her and kiss her and take pictures of her and generally love on her.  While R wasn't clamoring to jump into anyone else's arms, I think she would have been happy to go to anyone as long as they weren't me.  At one point, they asked us to put her down to take pictures, and before we knew it (and before Rebecca could tell them NO), someone had scooped her up.  Getting R back into my arms was a little tough.  After that, Rebecca said to not let her go again, and she was much more stern with the staff about staying back.

We left our gifts to the CWI, and were given a tour of the building.  Neither P nor I will ever forget the things that we saw on this day.  Sure, the facility was pretty sad, and it's hard to imagine our child living there for two years of her life, but it was the children we saw that really left an impression.  There were many, many faces that I will never, ever forget.

Toys were sparse, beds were just a slat of wood, some of the children were walking outside on the hot concrete with no shoes.  Still, you could see that the caretakers were proud of the care they gave to the children.  R was clearly a favorite there.  Everyone quickly became quite enamored of E, too.  

We won't soon forget the things we saw today.  We'd love to empty the entire orphanage.  But since we can't, we'll just hold our daughters a little tighter, love them a little harder, and hope that R opens her heart to our love the way E has.

Getting ready to go back to her old home.

Foshan Shunde CWI

Lots and lots of loving and attention for one of their favorites.

Kitchen where R's meals were prepared.

Toddler room where R slept.  Hers is the empty crib.

R was bathed here every day.  She would sit in the pink tub, and get
sprayed with the shower.

This darling little boy has thalassemia major.

This guy befriended P.  He loved seeing the photos we took of him.
He'd be happy to know he made the blog.

Lots of thoughts going through her mind.
E taking it all in.

Friends saying goodbye.
The little girl in the striped shirt was in the crib next to R, and was her best friend.