Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy 1st Father's Day!

I swear, now that the computer and the camera are finally talking to each other again, there will be a proper update with lots of baby candy very, very soon. Rest assured, all is well.

Meanwhile, I wanted to wish my adorable husband a happy 1st Father's Day. Annabelle has a great dad who loves her more than she could possibly know.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day Whatever - Coming Home

Everything's fine, I've just completely lost track of the date and time. In many ways it feels like we've been in China much longer than we have (in a good way) and in many other ways it feels like we're totally ready to be home. Since we won't have another chance to come to China for a very long time and because we've loved so much about Annabelle's homeland it seems a shame to waste any of our precious time here wanting to be elsewhere. But home, sucky weather and all, is starting to sound pretty damn good. Aside from the comforts found in not living out of suitcases on the road, we want everyone we love to meet this girl we adore.

Bonding and attachment continue to progress. We've had a few more episodes of deep grieving where she just refuses to let me comfort her. She cries out for mama and I'm obviously not the mama she's looking for when that happens, which since Annabelle was in foster care for most of her life, is perfectly understandable. Greg has been a rock star dadddy, especially in these instances. He walks her, holds her and talks softly to her until she calms. I'm so grateful their relationship has grown so that she allows it.
Most of the time, she is absolutely a joy to be around. She's bright, clever and funnier than I knew babies could be. Her newest game is "Where's Annabelle", our version of Peek-a-Boo. She started playing it with Greg a few days ago, right out of the blue. I sat around the corner and watched them laugh like loons at each other and my heart just melted. Now, everyone she meets is fair game for a session of "Where's Annabelle". She's completely charming.

We've also discovered that the CCAA wasn't kidding when they checked that "Sometimes Obstinate" box on her referral information. Grandma is a goner.

Now for the part you've been waiting for - a few last bites of baby candy before we pack it in. The first is courtosy of Aunt Marilyn, who gave her the much loved bunny lovey.

The next three were taken at the TengWeng Pavilion in Nanchang. It was beautiful and peaceful. We could have happily stayed there all day.

Here is Annabelle doing her baby bird impression. Girlfriend loves her some noodles and is a champion noodle slurper.

A (most of the) group picture from our visit to the Six Banyan Tree Temple. We didn't get to do the blessing which I was very much looking forward to, but the temple was lovely.
The next three are from today's infamous red couch photo session. It was chaotic and funny, as I'm sure it usually is. And, as you usually see, there were a couple of girls trying to make their escape. Our girls are (back L-R), Meilee, Lisette, Cora, Eva, Vivian, (front, L-R) Meilinn, Annabelle, Sarah and Olivia. Going just by the names you would think we adopted a bunch of little old ladies.

Finally, gratuitous, random cute kid pic.

Those will have to hold you until we're home, which barring natural disaster or international incident, will be Thursday afternoon. See you then!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 4 - The Legend of Day 3

While waiting for our adoption to finally happen, I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard parents say that the first couple of days with their new child were really, really tough...but day three seemed to be a turning point. The kids seem to accept their new normal and begin the processes of bonding and attaching.

Let me tell you, when your in the trenches of their grief, the magical Day 3 seems like nothing more than a mean-spirited urban myth, repeated over and over again just to tease you. It's hard to believe that a baby who is grieving that intensly can make that kind of turn around in such a short time.
While day three wasn't a magically cure-all for what ails us, definite progress was obviously being made. Annabelle woke up happy, and after a bottle and some breakfast we decided to visit the hotel playroom where she discovered that going full tilt boogie - backwards - in the exersaucer was much fun indeed. In fact, we got to witness some baby belly laughs, and let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter.
That went so well that after lunch we decided to brave the local Walmart. We were certainly the center of attention in every department we visited, but the staff and other customers were very patient with us and helped us find the girl some new shoes and clothing. Annabelle started to get fussy in her stroller and so I put her in the mei tai and she immediately fell asleep in the cab on the way home. Unfortunately, the cab ride was only about 20 minutes and everything went downhill from there. No afternoon nap = extremely cranky girl and a frazzled momma. After a long protest, she finally went to sleep about 9pm and Greg stood watch while I headed downstairs for a much needed rum and coke and to decompress. Tip # whatever (this one's for the dads): if you are not the one baby is clinging to, do pretty much everything else (lug, wash, pack, etc.) You're wife will consider you a hero and even though I know it is hard to not be able to lavish all your love on this new baby, know that you are enabling your wife to lay the foundation that will make it possible for you both later.
The biggest improvement of the day was the Greg was finally able to look at her (and hold her once while she was asleep!) and I was even allowed to leave her immediate line of sight without bringing out her inner howler monkey.

She's been a good eater and sleeper since the first, and remarkably, has been very brave with her eye contact from the beginning. If all of that continues and the rest continues to improve, we might even have a happy baby on our hands in a few more days. I don't believe for even a second that everything will now be rainbows and kittens, but it does seem we've turned an important corner together.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 2 - The Myth of Rainbows and Kittens

Those of you who've already been here probably have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to be writing about today. Those of you waiting may not enjoy reading this, but you should, even though I'm not sure it will help all that much should you find yourself where we are right now. If you're family or friends who are cheering us on, we appreciate it more than you know and we need all the support we can get right now.

We're having a really hard day today. Annabelle's grieving. Really deeply grieving. I'm pretty sure she was recently removed from her foster home and the loss of that family, whoever they are, is hitting her hard. And there is nothing we can do to ease her hurt except meet her basic physical needs, babble to her in our very limited Mandarin and a language she doesn't understand, hold her close and pat her, and try to get her through this period.

The kicker to all of this is that we were prepared for it (we thought.) We read all the books, talked with a hugely supportive no sugarcoating type of BTDT crowd, and made a plan as to how we were going to help her should she be upset. I even hoped she would grieve as that it is a very good sign that the babies have learned to form attachments before and can learn to do it again. Pffft. We've walked, we've rocked, we've strollered, we've fed, we've changed, we've had skin to skin contact, we've sang, we've played Chinese lullabies, we've given oragel and Motrin and done every damn thing we can do. The one thing she wants most right now is the one thing we are unable to do anything about for her. It's absolutely breaking my heart to hear her scream for her mama for hours and to know that she is only reluctantly accepting my comforting because she is exhausted and I am all that is available. Intellectually, I knew it would be hard, but my heart had no idea how much pain her pain would cause.

We'll get through this, most likely in a day or two and the girl I know is in there will emerge. I know she's there because once every couple of hours we have had a smiling, laughing baby for about 10 minutes when she forgets to be sad. Then she remembers and the inconsolable crying starts again. But those few moments have been little pockets of joy and I know there are many many more of them in our futures.

I want to end this by saying that I don't think we're having a much rougher of a time than most new families and I don't think Annabelle's feelings right now are especially different than most babies in her situation. It just not a part of adoption that most people (in and out of the adoption community) want to know about. I guess my point is that no matter how well you plan and prepare, they may times that the emotional stuff is going to hit you like a ton of bricks and it's going to hurt more than you imagined. I just thought you should know.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Annabelle Has Arrived.

We started off like this:

Within a couple of hours, we got this.
And now we have this:

We are absolutely in love.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Countdown is On!

4 1/2 hours to go. Bring on the babies!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Travelling to Beijing and Day One of Touring

Hi everyone! Being in Beijing has been a blast so far, but getting to Beijing -- not so much fun. Nothing went wrong but 30 or so hours of travel makes for a couple of very tired, cranky parents to be. We arrived at the airport in St. Louis for our 5pm flight to LA and arrived there at 7:15pm. Imagine my surprise to hear someone yelling my name as we walked into the international terminal there. It was M., a mom-to-be in our travel group and her husband H. They live in California and were just starting their trip. We were pretty much instant friends and we travelled the rest of the way to Beijing together. They are funny and warm so darn cute I just want to tuck them in a pocket and bring them home with me. We left LA at midnight and arrived in Guangzhou almost 16 hours later. There's no way to sugar coat it, that was one long, tough plane ride. Even in the "good seats." If we had travelled in economy seating, I'm pretty sure there would have been bloodshed. For those waiting to travel, here's tip #1 - Spring for premium economy if at all possible. It made the ride bearable, just barely. Tip #2 - do whatever it takes to sleep through most of the trip. Make friends with Mr. Xanax or Benedryl. We arrived in Guangzhou about 6:30am local time and had although we had to scurry to catch our connecting flight to Beijing, we made it. Our guide Elsie was waiting for us at the airport and shuffled us off the to hotel right away.

We were determined not to sleep right away so as to try and adjust to the time change, so we freshened up a bit and headed off to the local Carrefours (think Super Mega Walmart on steroids) and browsed their overwhelming array of everything. We picked up some potables and snacks before heading to the hotel health club for a full body massage. Tip #3- do this. Being pummeled into bonelessness for 45 minutes was just what we needed to relieve the travel knots and went a long way towards making us feel human again. After a quick drink in the hotel bar, we joined M. and H. for a lovely meal and then headed up to our rooms...

Where I promptly freaked out because I realized I hadn't packed a two dollar piece of plastic that was supposed to allow me to connect to the rest of the world during this trip. Once that problem was solved (the plastic bit turned out not to even be necessary) I made a couple of quick calls home, and we fell into bed, utterly exhausted, but excited about the days to come.

I have no idea why we woke up at 4:30, but I popped out of bed bright-eyed and raring to go. For those of you who know me personally, try to pick your jaws up off the floor. After a nice breakfast with M. and H. we met with our local guide, Cindy and one other family, D. and D., and headed out into the big city (17M people). Tip #4 - Beijing traffic is every bit as crazy as everyone says it is. See example A below which was taken just outside our hotel, on a not typically busy intersection.

We headed straight for the Temple of Heaven, which is located in a large park full of folks dancing, practicing tai chi and sidewalk calligraphy. The temple and surrounding buildings had some of the most beautiful architecture and porcelain tiles I've ever seen. The colors were especially vibrant as this area was recently restored in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics.

After the temple, our guide Cindy, took us to a restaurant for a delicious lunch. It was served family style on a lazy susan and the staff just kept bringing dish after tasty dish. Everything was good and I even ate and enjoyed the fish! After lunch it was off the the bell tower, which apparently is the training ground for the Great Wall. Then a new guide and a brave rickshaw driver took us on a tour of a local neighborhood called a hutong. We learned about this type of traditional community, visited with a family, and pet their sweet dogs. (Hi Ollie and Greta. We miss you!) Next, we visited a local kindergarten and played with the kids, who were mostly a little shy because they had just woken up from a nap. After dinner (Tip #5 - skip the KFC), we ended the evening with the Chinese Acrobats show. It was loud, colorful and amazing. I had no ideas bodies could bend those ways.

Blogger is giving me trouble uploading photos but you should be able to see the whole day's worth here.

More later tonight!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We've Arrived!

We've made it to Beijing safe and sound. We will post more details after we get some sleep.

posted by guest blogger Amy

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And Away We Go!

Sorry for the complete radio silence. These last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity around here and they've left me with little energy for anything but the basic necessities. On the good side, there have been lovely baby showers thrown by both my friends at work and our families, shopping, decorating, planning and dreaming. On the down side, my mom had some fairly major surgery (from which she is recovering nicely, but still) and the powers that be at my job realized I really was going to leave and take over 2 months off so they decided to try and kill me first with several huge projects and many very long days. Oh, and there were also about 3 million projects at home to finish up. You know, the ones we just hadn't had time to squeeze in during the last 3 1/2 years. Yeah, those.

But all craziness aside, the day has finally come to head off into the wide blue yonder to meet our daughter. We leave today. We meet Annabelle on March 22, less than a week from this moment. Surreal doesn't begin to cover it.

Here's our schedule:

03/17 - Leave St. Louis
03/19 - Arrive Beijing
03/20-3/21 - Tour Beijing
03/22 - Fly to Nanchang, meet Annabelle
03/23 - Complete adoption
03/24-03/26 - Sightseeing in Nanchang
03/27 - pick up passport, do paperwork
03/28 - Fly to Guangzhou
03/29 - Free day
03/30 - Medical appointment
03/31 - Consulate appointment
04/01 - Pick up Visa, leave Guangzhou
04/02 - Arrive St. Louis

We are both a huge tangled knot of excitement and nerves. I feel like we are as prepared as we can be, and yet I know we can't possibly anticipate what's to come.

I can't wait to find out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Love Child

Digiscraping elements from the "Someone to Love" collection by Amber LaBau at Stolen Moments Designs.