Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A year ago - now and then photos

As fitting for the one year anniversary of meeting Aurora – I have thought many times about that day, especially today. I don’t have the zillion things I wanted to have done such as her adoption story put together….but I will still get that done.

So the ‘fitting’ thing I did today was to visit the Social Security office in downtown St. Paul. Not planned…just wrong turns on my part and little to no explanation on our agency’s part.

So SS#….we did have a few options – I wasn’t sure which one was the best route – still don’t, just trusting the man who told me what was best at the office today. In a nutshell I waited with two toddlers for about 1 ½ hours to file her papers. Actually was impressed at the office. The fingerprinting office wasn’t so nice - those people – not an ounce of friendliness. These people are much nicer and deal with a lot of stuff - as I witnessed when the security officer had to deal with a rather outspoken angry man repeatedly….

So the lovely iPod that I occasionally listen to has come in handy once again…I downloaded Nick Jr. cartoons on it like Ni Hao, Kai Lan and Go Diego Go – so Jonah and Aurora shared the earpieces and watched cartoons while we waited. So not bad really. The part I wasn’t shocked by either was her information was not accepted by immigration. Which makes getting a number longer – now everything has to go through immigration. When I asked the man who I was trusting – pretty much looking to anyone who can tell me anything as the one who would know everything – he said most likely because her name does not match – her passport and her US Resident card. For whatever reason, our government broke up her name. Instead of Mengxue as her first name, they have her first name being Meng, middle name being Xue.

So in about 6 weeks I will get her SS# as a non-resident and we need to go back to down to refile when we get her Certificate of Citizenship….Now I need to find out how and if and when I can file an extension on taxes….have no clue on the steps involved there.

But looking back on today – kind of funny that I spent the day in a government office – one year ago today I was waiting in a Chinese Government office. The weather was cool, it was in the afternoon. Mom and I were still a bit groggy – after spending our first two days on our feet hiking all over Beijing, only to be told on that the last day there a few last minute things to do- ….We were arriving back at our hotel. It was super time. We had spent the afternoon at the Great Wall….which despite it being a tourist stop – was amazing. To wander the hillsides would have been wonderful. We were only there for a couple of hours, but wonderful. On our way back we saw the site of the Olympics.

So supper time, Beijing. Coming back from another extremely long day of history lessons…our guide from our agency while in Beijing, tells us that we need to have our bags packed and outside our rooms at 10 pm that night due to our flight times the next morning. Oh and due to heightened security – no liquids of any size in our carry-ons. We are to meet down in the lobby around 5 in the morning…if I remember right. Oh and by the way have all your money exchanged for the orphanage….no big deal as the office to exchange closes in about 1 hour of us returning….banks are closed. No other options. Guide disappears. We are left with 30 some families trying to exchange a massive amount of money and the office starts to reject people after about 5 families….Needless to say I didn’t feel like tipping our guide at the end of my stay in Beijing. Long story short, I got my money exchanged through the help of one other couple. However, the panic the guide put us through was for nothing – we had plenty of time to do it when we got to Xi’an.

So this is my last night in Beijing. Head cloudy, panicked about money, money solved after a crazy hour or so, rethinking my packing, mom coming up with smart idea of leaving toothpaste on our toothbrush for the morning. (Trying to feel human on some level). Waiting around for the man to come and get our luggage…sorry just don’t feel that safe leaving my luggage in the hall at 10 pm. Ready to fall over onto the floor by the time he comes. Fall asleep only to wake up at the routine time of about 2 pm wide awake. Probably sleep on and off until time to get up and go downstairs. Now once we are at the airport….we are on our own. Us and the three families traveling onto Xi’an. We were all together for Beijing as a group, but from there we go to the capital of the province we are adopting from. In our case, Xi’an. So I knew one couple via email prior to coming to China. I made a point to meet the other two while in Beijing. Our new guide will meet us in Xi’an – once we are on the other side of security in the airport.

I believe we arrived in Xi’an around 8 in the morning…something like that. Xi’an was not how I pictured it – however that was because we were lucky. While most of the year it is smog covered and dismal, we have arrived during a beautiful spring. The fields as we go by are green and colorful. The sky is blue and the weather is very nice. We get to our hotel and have plenty of time to organize and stretch. Michelle is now our guide and she is wonderful. She tells us when we need to come down to the lobby and what papers to bring with. Today we will get the children and tomorrow we will go back to sign papers.

Michelle – as we learn quickly – is very organized and likes getting to places early. She gets us to the government building early. Although we are peering around the building – wondering if the children are kept out of sight – we learn they will arrive via car. Two girls coming from Xi’an orphanage – about 1 hour away. Then the girls coming from Yulin – about a 7 hour car ride. So we are waiting.

I found myself wishing Aurora could have more time being explained what is about to happen to her. Thinking of Jonah and knowing how devastated he would have been to just be taken from us and put into the hands of someone who doesn’t speak the same language, eat the same foods, live in the same country. So as happy as I am that day to be waiting for her on those steps – I feel immense sadness for what her world is about to feel like – wishing I could make the transition easier and feeling powerless that there is nothing I can do.

The first van pulls up – upon seeing Paige – the little girl who is four – I know that it is from Xi’an orphanage. Now she is older and knows today she is meeting her mother and father. Every one of us could try to explain the look of sheer joy on her face when she saw them. I could try – but you had to be there. To see her look at them with this open mouth grin – was beauty at its best.

So Jamie (the other Yulin mom) and I are waiting on the steps. Waiting. Knowing the next vehicle that parks itself on the sidewalk is ours. Waiting. Finally two cars pull up. The children are taken from the floor of the back of the car. Melody is easily spotted as well as Aurora. We wait on the steps for the staff and kids to come forward. I watch Aurora – no expression on her face. She is pulling at her t-shirt. She is tall – although I knew this before seeing her – I doubted the records. She is so tall for her age.

They are brought inside and we wait until we are called. I kneel down to talk to her. Again – wishing I had more time – not wanting to invade her space. She looks everywhere else but at my eyes. If I touch her arms or her shoulders – she is limp and unresponsive. Michelle is busy doing stuff I am not sure what – but she is everywhere. That night we have a picture taken. Most kids are crying. Aurora is unresponsive still. It shows by the expressionless picture we have on every document from China.

After each family has a picture taken, we sign a release form saying we are responsible for the child. Remember it isn’t until the following day we sign papers. Thus we sign some paper of responsibility. Like all papers I sign – it is in Chinese and I blindly agree and sign. We then load the bus.

Now while we are getting all this done, I am handed an envelope with a quick explanation from Michelle – this is her with her foster mother. ??????

This family is no mystery now. But back then I had repeatedly asked about whether she had a foster family. The orphanage she comes from – if the children are healthy – they are generally put with foster families. There is a pretty decent network of foster families there. Anyway, I had asked, and asked and been told no,no, no. So this had my attention.

We get on the bus to go back. Before getting on the bus mom took the picture of Aurora and me outside the bus. Our first picture (minus the ones being taken in the government building). Once back at our room – although I had wanted to listen to the advice – don’t be so quick to clean them up and clothe them like Americans….I couldn’t resist giving her a bath in the sink. Not that she fit in the sink that well – it seemed less traumatizing than the bath tub. But this little girl who was pulling at her shirt had been car sick the entire time traveling. She was soaked in her own vomit. As much as I didn’t want to put her through one more stress it needed to happen.

So that night she got her first bath. Her pjs were tight on her – most of her clothes just right – 24 month clothing. The other girls – the 2 year olds – were swimming in 18 month. Length was a big issue for Aurora!

So we went to bed clean. I let her lay down with me in my bed. She wasn’t thrilled about the crib. I knew that it helped immensely with bonding so I was more than happy to let her sleep with me. She went to bed like clock work. Still not a sound. Not a cry.

We would spend the 24th of March signing papers at the same office. Her part would be to put her footprint on papers. The only question that I was sort of asked was why I was adopting – seeing as I had biological children. This baffled most people. When the woman was about to ask me – if I promised to love her as my other children….or something as to that affect. She took a look at me and smiled and answered it herself. For whatever reason – she moved along. She was quite satisfied in seeing how I was sitting there with Aurora on my lap. Aurora content to sit with me. Happy no one was trying to take her foot and stamp it to a piece of paper anymore.

We then went to Wal-mart that day. Sad but true. Wal-mart is alive and well in China. Not a bad place to get a lot of stuff as well. One thing being shoes for Aurora. Although I have kept her shoes – which are cute – they were dirty to say the least, just won’t go there – we wanted a second pair while the old ones dried out. We had washed them in the sink the night before. So shoes were on my list. Any item is hard to find in China. So Wal-mart with its slim pickings – was a joy. We got food and snacks and a stash of water bottles. Everyday preparations included how much water we would need for the day. From drinking to rinsing your teeth when you brushed.

Anyway, my long answer…I have spent many minutes today thinking of that first day. From the tired state we were in to the grungy government building to the waiting for the car…all the way up to seeing her the first time. To the following 24 hours of waiting for a reaction from her. Any. When we got back that second night – I expressed to Michelle my concerns. She came to our room. She sat with Aurora on her lap, talked very gently with her and she started to cry. I was so relieved to see her react. Michelle sat for awhile and when she got up to go I asked what she had said. She just said that I was her mom and I was going to love her forever. Aurora was fine and wanted to come to me. Whatever the reason – those words opened up her emotions and she got better from there. That night she would wake me up saying something playful in Chinese and turn away laughing. Now that I have talked to her foster family – I think I might know what she might have been saying. I had asked Michelle but she either didn’t understand me – or I didn’t say it right – or she was being polite.

It is hard to believe it has been a year. It went so fast and she is such an amazing person. I have never regretted us not all being together in China (as a family), this day a year ago I had wished we were all there. Most of the time I was glad the have the capability to give Aurora almost all of my attention. With the boys there – that just would not have happened. Much of my time in Beijing I wished Aidan was there – there were a handful of kids his age and he would have had a blast. I love Jonah – but the kid who is upset about a chair being moved in our house and complains about wanting to go home when we are at the grocery store….nothing about that made me want to travel with him on a plane for 24 hours and be in a hotel where I couldn’t express the easiest question you could think of in Chinese. I did miss Jonah when we watched the ducks – he was fascinated with ducks when I left and I always thought of him when I saw the ducks at our hotel. I love the boys and missed them a lot….it just was the easiest route for all of us – traveling the way we did.

Peter, of course, - I wished he could have been there. He is more outgoing than me and I think I would have been more adventurous if he had been there. But for all the times I wished they were there – it was comforting to know they were back at home, routines were the same and hopefully when we all were back together again, things would go okay. Which they did for the most part. There was the screaming little girl who didn’t like Copper. That lasted for a week. Poor Copper. Poor Aurora. Then there was my first day with the kids alone – was supposed to be all of us but something came up and Peter had to work. I remember sitting on Jonah’s floor. He is crying. Aurora is crying. Both of them wanting the other person to disappear so they could have mom to themselves….not a fun morning. But we lived. You wouldn’t think we started there to see them play like they did today. Going from book reading, to playing trains, to watching a show on a small screen, to playing dolls and finally choosing books for bedtime after they ran around with their backpacks on claiming they were off for school…. all in a day’s work!

But it started – quite a few years ago if you want to be technical about the research and paperwork part. But today I have thought about how we started being her family as I waited on the steps of a government building in China.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A year ago today...

Happy anniversary!! One year ago today we received our call about having a little girl many miles away. As the day would leave us full of joy, excitement and amazement; we would have a hard time turning off the computer that night. I stared at her picture for long time that night before I was able to turn it off. Our only link to our little girl at the time was a call and an email with attachments.

The strongest feeling I repeatedly felt that day (and still do) is she is perfect. An absolute definition of perfection. Would not change a single thing about her. We are a very lucky family. I love remembering this day - our first real link to her and her past was started on this day one year ago.

Smiles all around. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cold but still loving winter

Well it is about time for me to update my blog. Sorry this has taken so long to get to. We had a wonderful time in North Carolina. The drive there and back was long but rewarding. Driving through the mountains made me long for Washington. We have been home for almost two weeks and trying to get back into a routine. Aidan won't start up Spanish and swimming lessons until next month. I am looking into preschools for Aurora and Jonah for next fall. Seeing Aidan's old teachers this last week was fun but the time seemed to go too fast....everyone felt Jonah should still be in an infant seat, not a next year preschooler. Aurora celebrated turning 3 by having 3 cakes with different family members. First cake and party with her little cousin, Katelyn. The second cake with an older second cousin, Julianne. She had stayed up the night before helping her mom make a cake for Aurora! Then the last cake was with her other little cousin, Miriam. Kind of exciting to have so many girl birthdays together!

Enjoy the new pictures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What a mix

What a mixture of emotions and roller coaster of ups and downs. At a time of year when most people are happy to be with family and taking in the sights of all around us, I find myself a little withdrawn.

We are expecting our forth child in April. I have a 1/150 chance of having a baby with downs syndrome. This has not been easy news and we have decided to not go through with the amnio test due to risk factors and complications. But it is hard not to worry and blame yourself as a mother.

Two weeks ago we had to put our loving dog down. Most of the time we are so busy I don't have the time to dwell on her absence. But it is in the quiet hours - our time we had with just her I find tears falling. I wake up to think I heard her breathing only to realize one of our kids have snuck into our bed. I found her old tennis ball by the foot of our couch and didn't have the will to pick it up yet. One of my errands yesterday was to pick up her ashes from the vets. What an odd time to have to pick up ashes, during the holiday season.

My uncle passed away Tuesday. He was a wonderful man. I did not know him as well as I would have liked, their family lived in FL. I grew up in WI. He battled with Lou Gehrig's disease for a few years. His funeral will be December 27 - the same day was have plans to celebrate Aurora's birthday with her cousin Katelyn.

Then there is Aurora's birthday. Her third birthday. My first with her. I am excited but also sad. I missed her first two. As I have watched and rejoiced in family and friends celebrating their daughter's first birthdays - I now find myself envious and sad. I don't know what those days were like for her. I don't know how to celebrate them from here - when I missed the first two.

Anyway, like I said we have been on the roller coaster ride for awhile. While most of the time we are excited for the holiday time to be upon us, their are also times where we are having to explain the circle of life to our oldest. He comes across Copper's things as well and we have discussions about her death. He has handled it very well.

Then I think of my cousin's children, the same age as our boys. They have lost a loving grandpa. What a hard time of year this is.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November and warm weather

I will take it! Warm weather in November...no problem. Halloween night was very enjoyable. I stood outside by a nice fire pit and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. Copper would have tried to knock over the door each time so it was easier on her for me to be outside. I enjoyed having a nice night out before it gets colder.

We have been having family discussions for the last few nights - grabbing questions out of a container that was given to me at Aidan's school's open house before school started. Anyway, one question was what do you want to be when you grow up. Aidan (as of late) responded he wants to be a cop. (For the last year it has been a Marine Biologist). When we asked Jonah and Aurora - their response was a monkey. Yep my kids have great aspirations of growing up to be monkeys. I guess I shouldn't complain, at least no one wants to be a car!!

Also, we had a wonderful time this last week meeting up with some families in the Twin Cities area. One family was celebrating their anniversary of their Gotcha Day! It was special to share in their day and their memories. The kids had fun - we went to an indoor inflatable jumping place. Note to self, Aurora seems to get bloody noses easily. I think it took her about 5 minutes and some how she bonked her nose and got a bloody nose jumping around. Did not phase her - however I sat close by to make sure it didn't happen again. :)

We now have two days noted on our chalkboard - one for when Heather comes for a visit and the other when we leave to go to Nanna and Pappa's!

For those who have known about Copper, she is doing much better. Our dog was very very sick and may still be sick, but she miraculously took a turn for the better and we are taking it day by day right now.

Happy Fall thoughts to everyone....who will get the first snow?? It doesn't count until it sticks on the ground. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall 2008

I can not believe how quickly time flies. Where is the year going? The kids continue to grow and learn. Aurora and Jonah enjoy everything - playing in the leaves, eating apples, checking out the pumpkins. Aidan loves playing with school kids and learning new things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We finalized our adoption today!

Sorry it has been so long since I have written anything. We have been busy. Our biggest excitement has been to finalize our adoption today. Legally changing Aurora’s name and getting birth records established here for her. Still have a few more steps, but this was a big one to get out of the way. The picture above is of us outside the courtroom. Kind of a happy atmosphere that lingers around here – other families in completing the same step. A kind person walked by and offered to take our picture. Glad she did because the ones from the court room turned out pretty blurry.

Aurora is getting better on letting me try to put her hair in a pony tail or a barrette. But Jonah would still volunteer to get his hair done before she would. She just continually fits in – willful, bossy, ….
I have heard from her foster family. I now know that there was the mom, dad, older sister (who I communicate with) and brother. So she was kind of used to a big family before she came to us. Our contact in Yulin has offered to take a picture of her foster family for us before she leaves China so I am excited to see that.

Aidan starts 1st grade next Tuesday. Can’t believe how that has sneaked up on us. He is excited. His teacher this year is Mr. Bates.

All of the kids did really well with their little cousin Miriam. We saw her earlier this month. Jonah and Aurora liked getting her toys or taking them from her too. Aidan always wanted to hold her. I think Miriam thought the circus came to live with her for the week so she was thrilled to have us. Mesmerized by the chaos.