Miss Gioia

Monday, December 1, 2008

Much To Be Thankful For

Gioia's twelve month post-placement report is due to the China Center for Adoption Affairs very soon. We needed a picture to send of all three of us together, so we used our Thanksgiving event as an excuse to get dressed up and pose. My friend's young son took the photo. I think he did an excellent job.

We had a lovely dinner. The pecan pie was a big hit. I used this recipe out of necessity, as it was the only one I could find which did not call for processed corn syrup (which was MIA from Taipei supermarkets). But I liked the pie better than a Karo pecan pie, actually. This one just may become a holiday staple in our house.

Gioia was adorable in her brown velveteen dress and bloomers. Little girls. So much fun to dress.

November is over, which means that NaBloPoMo is finished and I no longer am trying to post everyday. Yet here I am, still posting on December 1. The exercise of posting daily was a challenge, but in truth, it wasn't as difficult as I feared. My hardest days actually came just this past week, when I had a billion things to do and my body shut down with illness. I am pleased that I made it through the month. Like anything, one becomes a better writer (blogger?) only through practice.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Parting Gift

The director of Gioia's orphanage (technically - social welfare institute, or SWI) is retiring. Fuling Kids International, the organization for children who were formerly adopted from this institution, is going to present her with a farewell gift: a digital photo frame loaded with pictures of former Fulingers. This picture was the one we sent in as Gioia's contribution.

The Chinese characters in the picture represent Gioia's original Chinese name, Fu Le Xin, which was given by her ayis at the SWI. We have kept most of her Chinese name, changing only the first character to match Chris' surname character: Bei. But for this picture, she remains a Fu, just like her brothers and sisters* who will appear with her on this retirement gift.

I hope that when the director sees the pictures of all of the happy, healthy kids, she is reminded of the special role she played in their lives. All of our children were blessed to receive such good care while they were waiting in China. Even though each child's story invariably has dark, sad elements, there are some wonderful parts too which are worth celebrating.

*Mei Mei, Jie Jie, Ge Ge, Di Di - Chinese culture has a wonderful inclusiveness of language which links little children together in a community through naming conventions. All little boys in the neighborhood are big or little brothers to Gioia; all little girls are big or little sisters. In this case, Gioia's Fuling brothers and sisters are probably closer to true brothers and sisters, beyond just the standard community language, as they all share a common heritage in a single institutional experience.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lifebook (version 1.0)

One of the things that social workers encourage you to do for your child is to create a lifebook, a book to help tell the story of her early life. Research has shown that is good to encourage open and honest communication about a child's adoption, about her story, even from a very young age. Little ones will spend quite a while just listening to you, but one day they will start to ask questions and have a real discussion about some pretty deep issues. It is our job as parents to help our kids learn about their story and to feel safe in asking all the questions they need to ask.

Adopted children have some pretty big holes in the story of their life. We cannot answer all questions, not even most questions. We only can try to tell her what is known. How much she was and is loved: by us, her parents, by the ayis at the social welfare institute who bathed her and fed her, by the person who placed her near the gate to be found instead of killing her.

I have been meaning to make Gioia's first lifebook for quite a while. This is hopefully the first of many, as she will need a deeper and richer story as she gets older. Perhaps one day she can help assemble her own lifebook.

For now, we started with the basics: a blank board book, some pictures from her time at the social welfare institute, and a simple narrative of her life from birth to the day she officially joined our family. A book to foster a conversation about who she is, where she came from and how much she was loved and cared for, by God and by man, even in the bleakest of times.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Cakes

One of the foundational books in the Chinese Adoption cannon is I Love You Like Crazy Cakes. Written by a lady who went through the China adoption experience, this book focuses on a single mom's trip to China and back again to adopt her daughter. Before we got Miss G, I thought it was a sweet little book. I still think it is sweet, but probably will not read it to her again.

Tonight, as Gioia and I read Crazy Cakes together before bed, I was struck at how personal the story was. It is written in a direct, clear voice - "Your nannies brought you and your friends from the countryside to the city to meet us." "On the long trip home, you stood up in your seat and smiled at the man behind us."

A nice story, yes, but not our story. First of all, there is no Daddy. If there is one thing which is fundamental to our family's adoption story, it is the fact that Chris and I were both 100% participants in the process. He and I shared everything about that trip, from the day we received Baby G's first photos to the three and a half weeks of traveling to bring her home to Taiwan. We fought over carrying her in the mei tai, and traded off rocking her back to sleep when she filled her diaper at 3 a.m. Single parenting is fine, of course, but not our story.

As I read through the book, the small details that were not quite right kept leaping out at me. Baby G, you slept in a pack and play that we carted from hotel to hotel so we could establish consistency in your bedtime routine. You did not sleep with linens from America, but in a sleep sack that your mommy made and a little elephant from Bangkok.

When we finally made it home, we opened the door to our apartment in Taipei and collapsed in a pile of suitcases. We did not have a welcome committee of family and friends that first day, but they all came to see you over the next four months - one by one, flying 24 hours just to meet you, hug you and say hello.

This was your adoption day story, not the one in the Crazy Cakes book. I was perhaps so bothered by it all because little Gioia seemed to be listening so seriously to the story. Here I was, saying things like - and then we dressed you up in crazy hats and took funny pictures. But we didn't. And I don't want to tell you a story that is not yours.

Maybe when you are much, much older Baby G. But for now, I will put this book away and instead tell you your story.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

More Things That Worked

Two more things - one prompted by my husband and one by Bes' comment.

12) Sleep sack - So no blankets in the crib means that baby needs another way to stay warm, especially in Chongqing in January. I brought one of the two sleep sacks that I made from an Ottobre pattern last year. It was great. Loved the sleep sack. Both are made from a waterproof fleece, which has proven quite handy now that we are home and using cloth diapers. Big fan of the sleep sacks. Do they make them in a 168 cm size?*

13) Hot shower trick - Gioia came to us with a pretty nasty cold. By the fourth day, she was waking up in the middle of the night with a persistent, hacking cough. Chris decided to run a hot shower and rock her near the open shower door. The steam build-up helped clear her airways and the white noise soothed her back to sleep. It was brilliant.

*That is a European sizing joke. Perhaps not so funny for those of you who haven't spent the last year trying to figure out if a size 74 cm is a 9 month, 12 month, or 18 month size.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Things That Worked

Before we left for our China adoption trip, we read lots of lists from people who have gone before on what to take and what not to bring. Well, most of that advice was useful, and is widely available if anyone is interested. So no need to rehash thoughts like *bring a thermos* and *lots of ziplock bags*.

Instead, I thought it may be helpful for us to share some of the more unusual things that worked for us on the trip.

1) Bedtime music routine - We preloaded her ipod* with a BeddyBye playlist that we would start right before we put her down. The list contains 15-20 sleepy time songs, mostly from this collection. Within a week, we had basically conditioned her to go into sleep mode if the songs started playing. Often, she would start to yawn about 30 seconds into the first song. If she woke up in the middle of the night and had difficulties settling back down, we just started the list again. It is important to play the songs consistently at the same time and in the same order every night. Also, we didn't play those particular songs during the day. Now that we are home, she falls asleep almost instantly after we put her down in the crib. I think the bedtime music is a big reason for that. This trick helped her to get over jet lag too.

2) Pack n' play - We knew we were going to be in three cities and three different hotels before we could fly home. We also were going to be traveling with her for a LONG time (about a month), so we wanted to establish as much consistency as possible during the trip. As part of the plan, we brought along a pack n' play given to us by one of our good friends in Beijing. Although the website says this product is not to be used in place of a crib, it worked really well. It was a pain in the butt to lug through airports, but it made her transition from hotel to hotel and finally to home much easier.

3) Carseat - There is much debate about whether one should bring a car seat on the trip or not. Chinese people really do not use car seats at all, so it is a bit of an oddity. Nonetheless, bringing a car seat was a great decision for us. She rode in it in every car we took (except for one - and that was a BAD experience). If a taxi did not have seatbelts in the back, then we waited for the next one. We also had a private guide take us to the orphanage, so were lucky to have had use of a regular car for much of the journeys. In the hotel, she took some her naps in the car seat for two reasons. First, her head was a little flat in the back from lying on her back for so much time. We wanted to give her every opportunity to stay off of her head. Second, she was getting used to being in the carseat. After six days, she would calmly sit there for thirty minutes or so. We also brought wheels that attach to the seat so it can be wheeled through airports.

Our only problem was that Air China forbade us from using the seat on the plane from Chongqing to Guangzhou. We even went to the airport the Saturday before the flight to show them the seat and try to convince them to let us buy an extra ticket (my husband speaks Chinese pretty well). We waited for an hour and a half while they called Beijing. The final response was no - not on 737s or 738s. Hmmm, China.

FYI, the rationale for using the seat on the plane has to do with turbulence, not crashes. Babies have flown out of people's arms and crashed into the ceilings of planes. I fly transpacific quite regularly, and I cannot remember the last time I was on a flight to/ from the US that did not have serious, scary turbulence for a period. For me and my family, taking a car seat was the only decision.

To balance that, however, we asked our guide in Chongqing how many other people he had seen with car seats in his ten years of doing adoption tours. He said - only you.

4) Mei tai carrier - This thing was fabulous for fostering attachment. She really relaxed once one of us had her strapped to our chest. We used a Babyhawk Mei Tai that is AWESOME. We also brought a Snuggli, but it sucks. Too much strain on the back. When she was fussy during the day, we just plopped her in the Mei Tai and walked around. It worked like a charm. In fact, now that we are home, she much prefers the carrier over the stroller.

5) Soft dolly for self-soothing - The orphanage rooms did not have heat, and all of the babies were swaddled up to sleep in large sleeping bag contraptions, tightly wrapped up in layer after layer of fleece. We think that Gioia learned to suck on the lip of the blanket as she went to sleep. Sucking was her automatic self soothing mechanism whenever she was stressed. So when we put her down in the crib to sleep, she needed something to suck on so she could settle down. We couldn't put a blanket in the crib, for fears that she would smother herself. I brought one of the simple velour doll babies along, and it worked perfectly.

6) Putting powder in all of the bottles - We had a veritable assembly line going in the bathroom in the morning. All powder for the bottles ( at that time, it was still cereal and formula together) was put into the bottles before she woke up. Then when a bottle was needed, we added room temperature water and then 50 ml of hot water from the kettle. A quick shake and we were ready to go.

7) Emergency food - We kept a few scoops of dry rice cereal powder in small bowls in the diaper bag at all times. If she needed a snack, we just added hot water and we were good to go. We also brought several jars of baby food with us because I was sure we wouldn't find organic where we were going in China. We did find lotus paste baby food though. She liked it.

8) Bath strategy - The first time we tried giving her a bath she screamed bloody murder and made us scramble for a fluffy towel. The secret lay in getting in the tub *with* her and her favorite toy. Which leads me to...

9) Stacking cups - Best invention EVER. The version we brought were bath toys too, so they were doubly great. Beyond that, no expensive toys were needed. We wandered into a toy store one day and bought a fancy rattle. That was not money well spent. She MUCH preferred to shake the tube of gum that we bought for one tenth the price.

10) Gerber stars - Baby crack. Awesome.

11) Casio point n' shoot camera - This little, inexpensive camera was excellent for taking quick little movies that could be quickly uploaded to the web. Our immediate and extended family all live in the United States, and they still have not met her in person yet. So movies are a really important way for everyone to share the Gioia experience. We have a big video camera too, but we barely used it on the trip. Actually we only used it one day: on the day we picked her up in Fuling.

*Yes, our infant daughter has her own ipod. To be fair, it is a hand-me-down. And we use it for play music, wakeup music, bedtime music.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Going Home

We are booked on a 7:15 am flight to Taipei tomorrow, all because of some recent good news.

1) We got Miss G's Certificate of Citizenship yesterday morning and marched it straight over to the passport office.

2) Today, we picked up her passport, which not only affirms her US citizenship but also makes her a lady going places.

3) We were told by the Taiwan Consulate (my bad, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office because we cannot call it a REAL consulate) that they would not issue her a tourist visa without an authenticated birth certificate. So we have to bring her in on a landing visa instead. This means we have to take her back out of the country again in 30 days. The tourist visa would have given us 60-90 days, with possibilities of extension for up to 6 months. But this also means that we don't have to wait around in Honolulu for a tourist visa. Hopefully in 30 days we will have all of her papers authenticated (please, oh please) so that this next trip out to HK can be a residence visa trip and not just another landing visa trip.*

So home we go, on an 11 hour direct flight, to our own little apartment with non-restaurant food and cloth diapers and my own bed and immeasurable other joys. We have been traveling now for 3.5 weeks doing Gioia's paperwork, and we are DONE.

Now off to get some sleep before our wake-up call at oh-God-thirty tomorrow morning. See y'all in Taiwan.

*The residence visa requires a lots of paperwork to be authenticated by the Taiwan Straits foundation, and it takes a looooong time. So no hopes of applying for a residence visa until all that jazz gets sorted.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


The trip to Hawaii kicked all of our butts. We have taken nearly two days to recover. A mere five hours after we landed, we got Gioia's citizenship application into the Immigration office. I swear to goodness, it almost killed me. Chris did the prep work while I napped with the baby, then he took napping duties while I dragged my sorry tush across town. Of course I got the fee wrong, the money order amount wrong, and did not bring all sorts of necessary info (Crap! What is the hotel address!?). But in the end, the paper was filed.

Five hours after that process, we got a call saying her appointment was Tuesday morning at 8 am, right after President's Day. We did not think it was possible to be delayed by every holiday on both sides of the Pacific, but we were wrong. Oh, and be sure to bring evidence with you that you both have lived in the United States for five years. Like high school records, or something. WHAT!? Oh $#*!.

What to do? Oh, I know. Let's go stand in line at the Social Security Administration so they can give us a copy of our statements. That should only take 20 minutes, right? Nope. Three hours. That's why I pay the 7.65% of my salary every year. So they can under-staff the field offices.

Now the day is done, though, and Mexican food cheered everyone up this evening. As evidence, witness a much happier Miss G.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Halfway There

We wore our fancy dress today to celebrate the fact that Miss G now has a US Visa. Woo hoo! In just over 24 hours, she will be sitting pretty in Hawaii as a citizen. For those of you playing along at home, this means that we are halfway to our goal of getting back to Taipei. All we need now is a US passport and a Taiwan visa.

It has been a rough couple of days. We all have been pretty sick with colds, and Gioia has been a whiny cranky pants as a result. As soon as she feels better, she is back to her smiling, giggling self. But when she feels bad, she looks more like this.

In other news, we got upgrades for the Tokyo-Hawaii leg* of our journey tomorrow. And that means we get to sit in the United lounge in the Narita airport during the layover,** which is GREAT because that is the most boring airport in Asia. Seriously. The shopping sucks.

Here are a billion more pictures of Miss G in her pretty dress, which are really only for the grandparents. Everyone else will probably be bored to tears.

See y'all on the other side.

* Why not upgrades for the whole trip, you ask? Well, even though this website says that Star Alliance miles can be used for upgrades between ANA and United, it is a BIG FAT LIE. Grumble grumble.

** Why is it when you stop in one airport and catch a plane for another destination it is called a 'layover,' but when you disembark for the night and continue the next day it is called a 'stopover'? Seems to me in the first instance you are just stopping for a while and in the second you are 'lying' down. So why aren't the names reversed? When I rule the world, that will change. Heh.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Serious Question

When we picked up Gioia from the orphanage, we were handed a new packet of Nestle Nestogen 2 and a new bag of rice cereal. The feeding instructions were as follows: six 200 ml bottles a day (about 36 oz), each made with six scoops of formula and three scoops of rice cereal. Baby likes it hot and thick. Yes, she does.

Now here is our problem. The books say that she should be getting 24-32 oz of formula a day and simultaneously learning how to eat solids. So now she is drinking too much formula (I think - this is the essence of the question) and needs to spend more time with big girl mushy food. If we cut her down from 6 bottles a day to 5 (by eliminating the night bottle), then she is getting 800 ml a day, or 32 oz. She seems to eat really well at breakfast - rice cereal, baby food, small sweet potato puffs, so I think she could succeed with the less formula more food route.

I really don't want to blindly cut back too much on the formula though. Here is the essence of the problem: we have no idea how many scoops should normally go into a 200 ml bottle. That is because the bag instructions are in Chinese. When I google "Nestle Nestogen instructions," all I get are angry websites talking about a boycott. Because breast is best. OK, fine, I get that, but I am not able to breastfeed her. She has way too many teeth and a habit of testing them out on everything she sticks in her mouth. So no.

Now that we have established that I am not going to breast feed, can somebody please help me find some Nestogen instructions in English? Pretty please?


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

In Guangzhou

We made it to Guanzhou and to our medical exam. Now all we have to do is wait for our US Consulate appointment on Tuesday. YAY.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Change of Plans

We got Gioia's Chinese passport today, which was earlier than anticipated. This means we can fly to Guangzhou tomorrow morning and try to make our medical appointment tomorrow afternoon. If the plane is delayed due to weather and we miss that appointment, it will set us back at least two business days next week. BUT - chances are good if the weather holds through the morning.

So we do not have to hang out here any longer waiting for the paperwork, and we can skip Chengdu. I do want to come back someday to see the pandas, but if we do not have to wait around here now then GREAT. Because this is what we see outside of our window everyday in Chongqing.

The city is cold, grey and wet. Not a nice combination. We have been venturing outside as much as possible so we do not go crazy in the hotel room, but the weather forces us back in really quickly.

Off to Guangzhou! Hopefully I have good news about making the medical exam to report tomorrow evening.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Ones Left Behind

When we leave China in two weeks, we will leave with one baby girl. But we will be leaving so many behind. I was surprised that I did not cry at the social welfare institute when we picked up Gioia. As she was brought in the room, I just felt overwhelmingly peaceful and thankful. But when we took a little tour, I walked through two rooms filled with cribs. And those cribs held babies all bundled in blankets as protection against the cold. Then, I cried. For all the babies who have not yet found their families. For the babies who never will.

I am not sure if you have been following the news of China, but the southern half of this country has been hit by some record winter storms. In certain areas, power is down, water is not running, and food and coal prices have doubled or tripled, as no new supplies can get through on trains. This is very bad for China, but it is incredibly bad for China's orphaned children.

This afternoon, I read an email from Jenny Bowen, who runs a charity to benefit orphans in China. Her email (which you can read here) contains reports from orphanages across China in the aftermath of these storms. Many institutes are fine, but others are struggling with no water and no heat. Some places are asking for funds to help buy food, as prices have increased so dramatically in the past week. Some say "help other places first," and then go on to say, "but if you have 200 warm blankets for children, please send those."

I don't usually post about charities or causes to support, as we feel that giving is very personal. But today, as I watch my new daughter nap in her warm hotel room, I thought it was appropriate to remember those thousands (millions?) left behind.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

It is Official

Now Gioia has officially been adopted into our family. Yesterday, we drove to the Chongqing city center for marriages and adoptions. We took a family picture, signed a paper saying that we would never abandon her, and then put our thumb prints all over the adoption decree. Even little baby G's finger prints were placed near her pictures, perhaps to signify her participation in the process.

The officials were ever so sweet. Everyone wanted to say hello and make sure she was warmly dressed. Gioia seems to elicit great interest wherever she goes. On Wednesday, we went to the grocery store for some vittles. As we walked in, the greeter lady started her typical welcome: Huan Ying Guang Lin. But she only made it halfway through the "Guang" before she stopped and stared at us, open mouthed. There are not many lao wai (foreigners) here in Chongqing. And certainly not many with a baby strapped to their chest.

Once they discover she is Chinese, they are quite taken aback. Most stare and smile. Some come lay their cheeks close to hers. Only a few have made rude comments about foreigners buying babies. Chris says that they are not being rude; they just don't know how to say adoption. But I am not quite so sure about that. It is a good thing my Chinese is not good enough to respond.

We had a little trauma at bathtime yesterday. Other than that, things have been pretty smooth. She is smiling and giggling now, and we are much better at distracting her during diaper changes. She is displaying some institutional behaviors that are interesting. She is an expert self soother, for example. When we toured the orphanage, we saw that every baby was snuggly bundled in a tight pile of blankets in the crib. There seemed to be no (or not much) heat in the nursery, so all babies were tightly wrapped up. As a result (we think), she learned to suck on the softest thing close to her mouth when she was upset. Which probably was the lip of the blanket. Whenever she is fussed, she immediately turns to something soft and sucks (her coat, her hat, a washcloth).

She also rocks herself back and forth sometimes, which to us non-experts (i.e., googlers) seems to be pretty common for institutionalized children. She also sucks down her bottle at the speed of light. And if you let your finger linger in her mouth while giving her some bites of food, she will chomp down hard with her four little teeth. Very hard.

All in all, she has a very sweet disposition. So far, no one can make her laugh like her daddy can. She LOVES his silliness. She also loves to be in the carrier. We can take her anywhere - dinner, Walmart, walking around - and she doesn't make a peep. She just watches the world with her big serious eyes.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Introducing Little Miss Gioia

And now we are three. Gioia is very serious and contemplative. She LOVES to be held. Thank goodness for the Mei Tai. She is absolutely beautiful. Chris and I spent the whole day just staring at her. And she stared back.

The formal adoption process is tomorrow. This is technically an "adjustment period." Adjustment period or no, she is our baby now. Forever and always. Until she becomes a teenager, until she gets a family of her own, until we all pass away. Family.

I am sitting here typing this with a Bobby McFerrin lullaby playing on the laptop. She sleeps close to me in a sleep sack in her pack and play. We are parents now for sure.

Chris has posted pictures and movies, if you have the patience to dig through it all.

Peace to you all tonight.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One More Day

Such drama. Our travel approval letter was stuck in Guangzhou over the weekend with all the weather troubles, so it did not arrive Monday afternoon. After much freaking out, I discovered where it was and phone numbers of people handling it. After much sweet talking through intermediaries, I managed to get the EVA courier people to allow me to come straight to their handling facility at 7 a.m. to retrieve the package.

Letter in hand, I jumped on a plane to Hong Kong and then another to Chongqing. And I am here! Chris and I just spent 30 minutes packing our stuff for the trip to Fuling tomorrow. It is a 2 hour car ride, and I swear we are taking enough stuff to enable a baby to survive a nuclear holocaust.

So, a little baby will be here tomorrow. Whooooooo!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Travel News!

Beijing says that the travel approval was mailed yesterday and should arrive this weekend. Yay! Now travel plans kick into high gear. We are going to be traveling for 4-5 weeks, all total, so I have to figure out ways to be VERY frugal. Here is the plan.

1) Fly to Chongqing on Monday, January 28 despite mysterious BLAS guide guy who says we cannot come until Tuesday. There were no frequent flyer flights on Tuesday, so Monday it is (using points for three of four legs = savings of US$976).

2) Stay in the JW Marriott in Chongqing from Monday to Tuesday, Feb 5. During that time, we will stay three nights for free using points (savings = US$310). Detailed Chongqing schedule:

- Tuesday, January 29 - Silly guide says it is too early to get Gioia. Pace hotel. Worry.
- Wednesday, January 30 - Gioia day! Drive to Fuling and pick her up. Drive back.
- Thursday, January 31 - Formal adoption proceedings. Become parents. For reals.
- Friday, February 1 - Sit and stare at her. Play games. Make mistakes. Hold her while she cries. Make more mistakes. Love her.
- Saturday, February 2 - Repeat
- Sunday, February 3 - Repeat
- Monday, February 4 - Repeat
- Tuesday, February 5 - Pick up her (expedited) passport. SEE Y'ALL LATER - off to Chengdu, by hook or by crook. As it is only two days before CNY, it may actually be on the back of a donkey.

3) Tuesday, February 5 to Sunday, February 10 (Chinese New Year, for those of you keeping track) - Hang out in Chengdu at the Sheraton. For free. Because we can use points (savings = US$445). See pandas. And other touristy things. Unless Gioia is sad or sick, in which case we stay home and just love on her some more.

4) Sunday, February 10 - Fly to Guangzhou for US visa stuff at the US consulate. Stay at the Westin for only $40 a night plus Starwood points (assuming 7 nights, savings = US$545)

5) Somewhere between February 15 and 17, fly to Honolulu (Depending on visa appointment date, availability of flights to Hawaii) Try to use United miles to upgrade to three seats in business class for the 15 hour trip (oh please, oh please).

6) Hang out in Hawaii for 10 - 14 days. Stay at the Hyatt for six free nights using Gold Passport points (savings = US$1,836 = JACKPOT). Get Gioia's passport, certificate of citizenship, and Taiwan visa).

7) Somewhere around February 29, fly home to Taipei.


Total hotel and airfare freebies = US$4,112.*

So I have officially proven two things with this post. 1) We travel way too much and have accumulated way too many miles and points. 2) I am a big dork planner person.

Five more days until we see Gioia! Isn't that great!?

*Not counting the possible upgrade to business class from China to Hawaii. Which we are going to get. Positive thoughts.. positive thoughts.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Passing Time

No news yet on the travel approval. We are hoping we get to pick up our daughter before Chinese New Year. Nothing came this week though. So we wait.

In the meantime, we are trying to keep busy and get everything together. Today, we bought "Taiwanese" gifts for the orphanage director and nannies. We searched again for child proofing supplies without much luck (toilet security latches still needed: 2).

On a positive note, I discovered today that the hot stone massage at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei is one of the best spa experiences ever. I was beginning to lose hope of ever finding a good massage place here. The whole treatment took one hour and 45 minutes. It started with a private 15 minute steam sauna, which was followed by a foot bath and massage. The actual hot stone massage (one hour) was luxurious: slow, warm and relaxing. The therapist drew me a hot bath with rose petals at the end of the session, and then presented me with a ginger tea, little sandwich, and bitty chocolate cake. Travel approval? What travel approval?

Projects are being completed. Miss G's nursery is - I think - done. The curtains have been sewn and hung, and Chris installed the blackout shade. Chris' family's Dutch embroidery piece is hanging above the crib. All that work, and she will probably wind up sleeping in our room until she gets adjusted. Har.

Off now to circle the house once more.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Care Package for the Fuling SWI

We are sending a package to little Fu Le Xin at the Fuling SWI - so she knows we are coming, so she knows we love her.

Using the Google translate page, we wrote this little note for her caretakers. We think her name is right, but the rest may say something like - please use camera adopt love blargh blah blah. Well, we are hoping it says - Tell Fu Le Xin that we are her parents-to-be and we will be there soon. Please take lots of pictures.



The package only has a few items: a baby kitty made from a weewonderfuls pattern, a cotton chenille blanket knit from Melanie Falick's Knitting for Baby book, and two disposable cameras.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

So it Begins...

Thank you guys for all of the wonderful words of congratulations and encouragement! We are so very tickled by all of this. The only downside is that we have to wait for travel approval from China before we can go to pick her up, which means about three more weeks of waiting. In the meantime, I have been running around the house trying to get everything ready.

First, I took little Fu Le Xin's paperwork to be translated and to a medical professional for review. Besides being surprised by the fact that she was given a meningitis shot and was allowed to eat eggs at 4 months old, the doctor said she seems to be healthy. Which was wonderful news. I was quite the oddity at the Taipei Adventist Hospital where I went for the consultation. When they called my number, the nurse said: Have you been to the weighing station? I said: Well, I have no baby yet. That elicited a couple of blinks and a puzzled look. She was not quite sure what to make of me.

Since I now have an approximate idea of how big she is, I was able to go through all of the clothes we have acquired and select those that may fit (and pack the suitcase - is that too eager?). She was tracking close to the normal range in US weight and height charts (up until 4 months anyway), I am guessing she will fit into 6-9 month clothes at 8 months old when we see her. So I am taking mostly that size, with some 6 month and 9 month sizes thrown in. BTW - what is the deal with having 6 month, 6-9 month, and 9 month sizes? So confusing. And European sizes - phew. I keep having to look those up, even though they should be more intuitive.

So this was monster wash weekend, as all of the baby clothes were officially released into use and could be washed. I bought a super size of Dreft at Costco, and basically went bonkers. Besides the clothes, all of the cloth diapers had to be washed as well. Those puppies apparently must be pre-washed at least three times until they get to their full absorbency. It is making a difference for sure. All of the diapers are now quite fluffy and cozy.

Speaking of diapers, I am trying to decide if we should start with cloth on the trip or just wait until we get back home. Probably we can find a laundromat in Honolulu, but I am not quite sure how we would manage in China. For sure there will be lots of people willing to do laundry, but dirty cloth diapers may be a bit much to ask of a launderer. If anyone has actually used cloth diapers while traveling in China, would you please let me know? In the meantime, I am studying up on the basics so I know what to do when we do start using them.

Speaking of Costco, I somehow felt the urge to buy a tremendous amount of staples for the pantry yesterday. I kept thinking "better now than when she comes." We now have ziploc bags (two sizes), pasta, diced tomatoes, Pledge, bathroom cleaner, and toilet paper to last us until we leave Taiwan. So if you need any of that, just pop my our place.

T minus three weeks, y'all. Isn't it fun?

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Our Referral - Finally!

Rejoice! After flying 20+ hours to get home to Taipei, I found the most amazing package at our door. Our 13 months of waiting has finally ended: the referral has arrived. Little Fu Le Xin is seven months old and is waiting at the Fuling Social Welfare Institute in Chongqing. At four months (in September), she weighed 6.5 kg and had FAT CHUBBY CHEEKS!!! Apparently, she is fond of listening to music and playing with toys.

Hopefully we will be able to travel to get her very soon. Happy New Year baby girl! We are coming as soon as we can.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In the Matching Room

I sent an email to Bridge of Love last week, which is the adoption service in Beijing that assists with expats living in China. I wanted to know where I should send a copy of my updated homestudy, which documented our move to Taiwan.

The response was this:

I think your dossier now is in the matching room, which means you
don't need to send your updated home study, if CCAA didn't ask for.

Our dossier is in the matching room, y'all.

Trying not to cry at work.


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Family Way

During my crazy layover in Hong Kong Monday, I picked up this book - a killing time in the airport book, a 'life's too hard for non-fiction right now' book. This chick lit was all about babies - getting pregnant, not getting pregnant. It was light enjoyable reading, until I got to nearly the end. One of the couples in the book (who were having troubles conceiving) took a buisness trip to Hong Kong and decided to "go visit China" on a lark. Once there, they somewhow made their way to an orphanage where they spied a little girl, whom they decided to adopt. But they had to stay in China for two extra months to get all of the paperwork done, and it was oh so cumbersome, with all of those "security checks" and everything.

As the Brits say, bollucks.

What kind of crappy ass research did this author do before he plunged headfirst into the world of international adoption? We have friends considering adoption who are British citizens. From what they say, it it even harder and takes longer to get approved for international adoption in Great Britain than in the United States, and it certainly could not be done while touring China. And what is this picking out your baby business? Ridiculous.

The reality is one full year of paperwork: home studies, and police clearances, financial records, testimonies from everyone you have ever known, personal statements, birth certificates, marriage certificates, fingerprints, child abuse clearances... Then when you finally submit your application, it is another 13 months (if you are expedited, MUCH longer if not) of waiting for a match made for you by the China Center for Adoption Affairs.

As you wait for your referral, you gather all of the books and supplies, you buy a crib and decorate the nursery. You child-proof your house so she will be safe. You get it all ready (but never truly ready). Even after all that is done, she is still not here. And your husband gets anxious and says, wow, this is crazy. And your family stops even asking when she is coming because it is too long of a time to sustain the anticipation. Your friend comes over for dinner and says - this is too big of a house for only two of you. And your husband says - soon it will be four of us though, when Gioia and Frankie arrive! And your heart leaps a bit at that, but then constricts with worry as you think about how long until then, how much we must get through until then.

The one year anniversary of our log in date is tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving to Taiwan

Yep, Chris, Frankie and I are moving to Taiwan. I was offered a great opportunity there in my existing firm, and we jumped at the idea of a new city. Because, truthfully, Beijing is a hard place to be. The pollution is unbearable, the crimes and rules against dogs are inhumane, and the commute to downtown is soul sucking.

So we are pulling up roots again (twice in two years) and starting over in Taipei. I am quite excited about living in Taiwan. First, it is not Beijing (did I mention that already?!). Second, it is very tropical with blue skies and beautiful natural scenery - mountains, lakes, and cliffs. Third, the people are incredibly friendly and maintain all of the traditional Chinese traditions which are sadly lost in modern China. Fourth, the food is outstanding.

The only major downside that I can see is that everything is twice as expensive as in China. You don't believe me? The same IKEA couch costs roughly US$400 to 500 in China (depending on the cover) and US$1,000 in Taiwan (see pgs 36-37, upper right corner). Purchasing power parity, my ass. Looks like Chris and I need to do some serious furniture shopping in China in the next month before the movers come.

OK, another downside is that dogs cannot be imported directly from China to Taiwan. That means that Frankie has to go back to the United States for six months before he can come to Taipei. Then he has three weeks of quarantine before he can and join us. What am I going to do without my sweet puppy for six months? The thought alone makes me tear up.

And what about the adoption, you ask? Well, we can move to Taiwan without jeopardizing our expedited status, but we do have to update our homestudy. Which means a new social worker visit, more paperwork, new police clearances in Taiwan, etc. Our LID is November 24, so that means we will probably get our referral in mid-Dec or early January. We move in mid-October, so we have just enough time to update everything and pick her up. Just.

So pray for us - or think of us, if that works better for you - as we go through all of this change in the next few months. Frankie, Gioia, Chris and I will need all of the support we can get.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Story - Part II

Last year, I was at a wedding in Shanghai. My colleague (and fellow US expat friend) and I were talking about our upcoming adoption. Another colleague of mine (Chinese) overheard, and she seemed quite shocked that we were adopting. She blinked for a second and then said "Well, in China people think that if you adopt, you must be sick." I think she meant sick as in "infertile," but it sounded pretty harsh nonetheless. Now I really love this particular colleague, so I know that she in no way meant to be mean or rude. She is Chinese, however, and that is a normal response here to the idea of adoption.

For the record, Chris and I are not infertile (that we know of anyway). If we are, then we have spent a lot of wasted time and effort on avoiding pregnancy to date. For us, adoption is a choice, one that I have felt sure of for many years - since I was a teenager at least. There are so many kids in the world needing families. We have a warm home, loving family and enough resources to feed and educate. It seems - to me anyway - an obvious choice.

Now that I am older, I know that it is not nearly as simple as that. I have read books on the difficulties inherent in trans-racial adoption. I listen to people raising children in China and in the United States, and I hear of their struggles with racism and insensitivity in their community. Life is not easy. But even after knowing more about the potential challenges to come, I still feel that this is the right path for our family at this time.

What has surprised me most about this process is the vast numbers of people - American, Chinese, others - who seem genuinely disturbed by our choice. I cannot tell you how many times we have been at a dinner where the subject has turned to adoption and the person across the table has leaned in and said - "but you know, you really should have one of your 'own' too." Chris will tell you that there is just about nothing else in this world that will get me more incensed than that comment. Because I do not believe that our child will be any less our "own" than one that happened to pop out of my uterus. Because I believe that nurture and environment can work wonders in the life of a child. Because our child will be fabulous, not in any way deficient because she doesn't have my eyes.

We may decide to have a genetic child too. We may not. But our soon to be adopted child - who is in this world somewhere as we speak - is our daughter. And she has been wanted and loved for an incredibly long time. May God keep her safe as we wait for each other.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Once upon a time, there was a little Lilo girl. She was waiting in a box of discarded stuffed animals. A nice couple came looking for treasures and saw that she was looking for a new family. So they paid 10 kuai and took her home.

She got a soapy bath and then rested in the warm sun. Her momma made her a new dress,

with a pink and purple zebra patch,

and her hair was braided and topped with a bow.

She waits, all ready, for her baby to come home.

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Monday, May 21, 2007


We have some friends here in Beijing who are helping to start a foster home. Their new home is for children who wait for adoption after surgery. It opened just this week with six children. Today after church, I asked if they needed anything. The response was: actually we need paintings for our bare walls.

Which was really weird because I had been feeling like I needed to paint something all week. On Saturday, I broke out the brushes and started on a picture FOR THEM. And it turned out it was just what they needed. I have a witness, too, because I told Chris on Saturday that it was for L&B.

The painting is not done yet, but here is a small peek.

Freaky, huh?

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Dogs Don't Like Hugs

Around two years ago, Chris and I saw an article that stated pretty unequivocally that dogs do not like hugs (not the same article, but similar). We looked at each other almost simultaneously and said... Mmmm really?

We adopted Frankie from the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society in December 2003, three days after we bought a new house and one month before we got married. Frankie came into our lives like a tornado. He looked like Gollum – ribs sticking out everywhere because he was 20 pounds lighter than his normal weight of 65. He was anxious and scared. We thought he was deaf for almost a week because he would not focus on our words at all, too frightened to respond to audible cues.

In the first six months of the Frankie-era, things were difficult. He tore up our house when we were not home. When confined, he pushed the crate from one side of a room to another. Once we came home to find the crate (and him) perched precariously at the top of the stairs. I got several calls at work from my husband saying “Guess what your &%$@ dog just did!? I knew it must have been bad, whatever it was, because Chris hardly ever swears.

In this early time, Frankie really didn't like hugs. Here is a picture of me trying to hug him in the first week; clearly he was not really enjoying it.

But you know what? It got better. Slowly, almost without us knowing it, everyone relaxed. Frankie grew to trust us, grew into us, and now he is so unbelievably lovable. Last week, I reached down from the couch to hug him, and he snuggled right up to me, leaning into my side. If you stay with us, he will sneak into your bedroom and silently beg you to let him come snuggle. He is a bit of a slut, our puppy, wanting to sleep with everyone.

I have been thinking about Frankie's journey towards feeling secure a lot this week, primarily because I have also been reading about another family's journey to pick up their newly adopted child here in China. The first few days seem to have been very hard. The child is mourning the loss of her only known existence, her ayis, her home. We all know this is normal. During our homestudy visit last spring, the social worker warned us about how hard the transition will be. But does knowing it is normal help you to get through more easily?

Am I comparing our adoption-to-be to my dog's homecoming? Well, yes and no. Now don't get your knickers in a twist; I do know that the first few months with our daughter will be infinitely different – both harder and more wonderful – than the Frankie transition. But I think that our experience with Frankie can maybe offer some hope that things will get easier, better and we will become a family. We will all just need some time. And that is OK.

For the record, Frankie does indeed like hugs.

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