Friday, November 30, 2012

And it was a very good day

We are pinching ourselves; yesterday brought many smiles and much normal toddler behavior. I know that there will be ups and downs, so for now I am cherishing this very good day.

The day's major activity was touring a museum of ancient Chinese relics. S was very interested in the beeping/blinking security lights but not so much the jade and silk burial armor. We toured the tombs which included a display of concubine ashes/remains and a mixture of animal and servant ashes. You see, when the emperor died his staff was killed in order to travel with him, to care for him in his next life.

S was not so moved by this. She was moved by the mushrooms and jiaozi at lunch, however.




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Out and About

I really like Guangzhou; yes, it is noisy and bustling and filled to the brim with tiny shops stacked one on top of another and traffic out of one's worst nightmares, but the busy intersections are interrupted with gardens and they have taken care to plant flowers along the way. The men out on two wheels are carrying the loads of a small semi and there is a sense of community. We ventured out to a large Buddhist temple followed by a little shopping yesterday, pushing the limits of toddler happiness toward the end. I don't know what part of her post-nap sorrow was grief and what was fatigue. Probably a nice mixture of the two. Nothing that her intuitive Baba couldn't eventually help her leave behind. She had her first father-daughter airplane ride yesterday and was brave enough to make it down the (indoor) slide. Yes, it is still raining. We feel so fortunate that at this point, she feels comfortable coming to both of us, though she tends to favor Ben. I don't blame her :).


Above, the Pearl Market


S, watching her necklace being made.



She quickly found the shop Vespa. Of course we had to go for a ride.


Shopping is pure exhaustion.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Strangers with Candy

Ben here, finally taking my turn at trying to capture and narrate a few vignettes from our fast-moving drama. I see that Brandy, dutiful as always, has tried to keep you, gentle reader, sated with timely updates, and has already supplied her reflections on "Day 3." I'd like to return for a few moments to Day 1, and the brightly-lit room where family after family plays out the surreal scene of sudden expansion after seemingly interminable months of waiting.

It's an extraordinary place, that room, host to dozens of simultaneous human dramas as the emotions of the various parties collide: the Big People's quiet, anxious joy competing with the Little People's enormous terrified grief--all of it mediated by officious nationals who've seen it all before: nannies, notaries, guides, translators, bureaucrats of indeterminate function. To anyone who has been in that room, those scenes seem to demand documentation in some form, as the mushroom fields of the adoption blogosphere attest (and try running a YouTube search for "gotcha day" and you'll see further evidence of what I mean).

Plainly, Brandy and I are not immune to that documentarian impulse ourselves. The trick is to answer it with sweetness, light, and restraint. So I'll spare you the tedium of either a play-by-play (YouTube performs that service rather nicely, I think, and we'll provide those videos once we're home and no longer scribbling under the tyrannous shadow of the so-called "Great Firewall," whose sentries make uploading of such footage a real pain), or (gods of writerly decorum forbid!) of an overwrought stream-of-consciosness narrative, and instead attempt to sketch, as I said at the outset, just a few vignettes:

1. The Worst Toy

Somewhere between blowing the second and third stream of bubbles through a purple plastic bubble wand and into the small space between my face and Serena's, it occurred to me that this was a terrible idea. We had gotten the idea somewhere that bubbles were a great toy for "gotcha day": cheap, simple, portable, quick, and almost guaranteed to distract the frightened adoptee from her fear and perhaps even fill her with a sense of appreciative wonder for the marvelous abilities of her new captors.

That is not what happened. The bubbles startled her into momentary silence, yes, and snapped her eyes from distant dismay into focus as they drifted gently toward her, and even, for a half-moment, began to relax her little features from a tight, snot-smeared grimace into--well, I'll never know, because then the bubbles began to vanish. "Ephemerality," I reflected, as her howls redoubled, "is perhaps not the quality that this child needs to see exemplified just now."

2. Closing date.

I grant you that my only experience of hospital delivery rooms is what I've seen of them from tv and films and documentaries, but that said, I've seen quite of them, and never once was the proud father tapped on the shoulder and asked to sign something in triplicate. One of the many ways in which adopting a child is less like producing one the ol' fashioned way, and more like securing a home mortgage.

Not that we weren't expecting paperwork. We're pros at paperwork. We've come to take for granted the governmental confidence that the ineffable and unquantifiable can be guaranteed if only enough notaries stand witness. Get the bea And some paperwork duties are special, even fun, as when we were asked to "officially" write Serena's new name. We'd already "officially" verified her new name about six times, of course, but no matter; this gave us and the other trembling parents-to-be something useful to do while counting down our final few minutes before the invasion of the kiddos.

All very well and good. But then, after her entrance, when we were both consumed with comforting her and each other, reeling in the extraordinary moment for which we had been for months preparing . . .
. . . we had to attend to this:


I handed Serena back to Brandy, took the proffered pen, and, with Molly, our agency representative and facilitator hovering over me, gamely waded in. Need our personal info. again? Fine. Passport numbers? Of course! How could we have been so thoughtless as not to have provided them on any of the other documents up to this point, save for the twenty or so with our passport numbers? Annual salary, for the umpteenth time? Naturally; we don't let anyone making less than six figures have children, after all, and we can't have adoptive parents thinking they're above the law. Oh, and all of this is in triplicate, so I need to do it again, AGAIN? Well, no, there's no problem--sure, that's my little girl over there wondering what the devil is going on, and maybe my wife could use a hand trying to reassure her, but hey, I'm a perfectionist, and if the t's need crossing, I'm your man! (Particularly because I've become an expert at forging Brandy's signature, which really sped things up once Molly left for a moment to confer with a colleague about something.)

That done, there came the last document of the day, and the best of the bunch by far: "Application to Adopt a Child." Well gee, if only we'd gotten this one right away, we could have saved ourselves about a year and a half, and over a hundred dollars in postage alone! If it seems in bad taste to allude, however ironically, to the costs associated with one's child, I would submit to you that it is in even worse taste to present new parents at a moment such as the one I am describing with a form requiring a short essay (I'm not joking) explaining why we wanted to adopt a child, how we planned to care for her, and how we could guarantee we would neither abuse nor neglect her--all worthwhile considerations, mind you, which is why we had addressed them (as you may have gathered by now) A LONG TIME AGO in hour after hour of discussion with our social worker, and page after page after page of forms for the reading pleasure of all governments, departments, and agencies concerned.

But no matter. It wasn't that much messier than cutting an umbilical cord, and there was certainly no ambivalence over whether or not we wanted to keep any of it.


Brandy, who is ready to wake our gorgeous sleeping child and see whether her new Beatles t-shirt (thanks, Janice!) fits before we all head down to our third breakfast as a family together, wants to know just what kind of a manifesto I think I'm writing that is taking so long. She is wise, my wife. TTFN, gentle reader.


Day three in Guangzhou

We're a little less jet lagged around here so perhaps this post will include, ahem, better grammar. I read over the previous one and felt a leetle embarrassed to be an English major's wife :)

Today was "visit the police station and get a document to take to the Consulate appointment Day." But that didn't happen until the afternoon so we had all morning to have good times together. S woke with a little sorrow but I quickly gave her a bottle, which she took some of and welcomed the cuddle. We dressed and walked down to the breakfast buffet, which is awesome, by the way, and tried to figure out a few of her likes/dislikes. She will eat congee but doesn't go crazy over it. She does like most fruits that we send her way. She began to feed herself a little that morning, which was good to see. She is not so in shock anymore. She LOVED the steamed bun with bean paste. She actually just took out the bean paste. Hmm...will have to work on my Dim Sum skillz once we are back home.

We are calling her a variety of things; Sihong, Hong Hong (her nickname), and then will add the Serena. She kind of answers to us when she is feeling like it :) As we see her personality come through, we are seeing a sweet but mischievous little spirit. She is very curious and just yesterday wanted to walk on her own, explore the room, and take on the hotel playroom. She got right into the stroller we borrowed from the hotel and we took a turn on the island, stopping briefly for a little squeaky shoe shopping. Walking around the island was so peaceful and she just took it all in. If only the rain would stop long enough to dry out the playgrounds, it would be even more delightful.

The afternoon brought on intense sadness; we're not sure if it was the van ride (a reminder of previous caregiver exchange)? post nap blues? feeling the loss of her foster family? We are not sure. On the return trip she seemed better and the van slowed ever so briefly so that I could take photos of the area where she was found. It is actually an incredibly busy intersection, so we were not able to stop.

Five O'clock came and S turned into a normal toddler! (Similar to the night before). Laughs came easily and freely and she welcomed our kisses. We felt confident enough to try FIRST DINING OUT experience. It was awesome. There was rice on the floor in less than 30 seconds after our food was brought as S decided to show us that she can feed herself (not quite yet) but was determined to do so without our help. She is so delicate with eating, her pincer grasp so precise, and becomes VERY worried with food that escapes to the floor or to her bib pocket. We have to go after each morsel and then I have to explain to her that we can't really eat food that dropped on the floor. Not sure I've convinced her quite yet.

We had a bit more rousing fun in the playroom following dinner where she discovered just how fun her Baba (dad) can be, a little bath, prayers, and sleep. She watches us while we pray together and I wonder what she's thinking - what are these strange white people doing now?

Well, it is 4 am and perhaps I should try a bit more sleep as today's agenda includes some serious shopping.

A few pictures before I retire (again):






Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dancing with the Crying Spaghetti Monster

The final few seconds of this helped balance out a day of pretty intense mourning (and noodle eating, obviously):

Monday, November 26, 2012

The day that will lead to all the days hereafter

also known as gotcha day

going in, we were so nervous; it felt like pre - race jitters and the usual question of "can I really do this?" our guide, Molly took us shopping for diapers and formula about an hour before which was great as we were just twiddling our thumbs in the hotel room. we did have a sweet time of prayer together before heading out and I will always remember it as one of the most favorite times in our marriage.

It was pouring rain, appropriately. if you were at our wedding you will know that heavy rain is a prerequisite for all of our major life events.

we arrived at the civil affairs office; one I've seen many times from you tube and with only a little waiting, Chen Sihong's name was called and we made our way to the middle of the room to be quickly handed a sorrowful, crying little girl. there was much crying over the next four hours, interrupted only with puffs. she loved them and they were soothing.

she is very confused, made worse by the fact that she left her foster home 1 week ago to stay in the orphanage before meeting us; so, for all she knows, we are another temporary home.

she has said very little so far. we were rewarded with smiles and deep laughs briefly last night but today has been a little more sorrowful. she does like being carried in the Ergo but any change, even from standing to sitting, is scary. it is so hard to see her so sad. she does seem to like Ben, which is wonderful. she has intermittent bouts of not liking me but i hold her close and stroke her hair and she is soothed, for now.







And Serena makes three

Together at last! She is grieving intensely but did stop to eat and eat and...well she pretty much ate on and off for four hours! We were rewarded with smiles and a laugh or two even with the help of a beach ball. She is bright; she looks directly into my eyes with ferocity and I wish I could communicate all that is going on. We covet your prayers.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jet lag? Us? Noooo!



So thankful for an uneventful journey, nice hotel digs in the more serene Shamian Island, Thai food around the corner, and so many things to look forward to!
Below, view from the hotel balcony:

Thursday, November 22, 2012