Things that make him happy: Chinese crackers, chasing Jie Jie, being thrown up in the air, and we have quite the water baby on our hands! I'm pretty sure that a few more sessions in the pool and he'll be swimming independently! He loves it and yesterday began jumping off the side into my arms. He began singing twinkle twinkle little star in his sweet little voice and each night echoes back "wo ai nee," which is I love you.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Means we are one step closer to finishing this marathon. After leaving the consulate our way out was even marked by those metal barricades used at races, so the metaphor was quite fitting. Ben and I raised our right hands to promise to care for our son, did a 5 minute interview, and whoop, we are done with all the official part of our stay. We celebrated with Cantonese lunch surrounded by smoke and aquariums of turtles, snakes, and swordfish for our choosing. We did not but perhaps should have as the beef was mostly fat. Lesson learned. Thomas has been, for lack of a better term, cranky. I'm not sure if he is grieving. He doesn't seem scared at all, apart from the ride to the consulate reminding him of the clinic. In many ways, he very much seems younger than 2, in ways we didn't experience with Serena. He cries when hungry, is content to rock in my arms to sleep, and coos when happy. Mix that with characteristics of a typical 2 year old - keeps us well on our toes! He is not content yet with Ben (reversal of Serena), won't even let him push the stroller, but they have had good moments and it will get better.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The days are swiftly moving by in a flurry of touristing, eating, picking noodles off our clothes. Yesterday we visited a Buddhist temple; we were meaning to return to the same temple we visited with S last time but something was lost in translation or perhaps the cab driver thought we'd like this one more, I'm not sure. In any case the visit alternated between peaceful strolling and "don't touch that," so typical parenting adventures. We stopped for dim sum on Shamian island and *i think* it was delicious - there was much toddler angst. He's from Chengdu, they don't do dim sum there. Like his mama, though, he went for the sweet pork buns and we both enjoyed the cuddle fish. We revisited old haunts from Serena's time and I welled up with tears in front of our old hotel; at that time I had no idea whether she would ever accept me as mama. Oh, how our stories can change for the good!
We ended the day in a boat with all the other families on the Pearl River cruise, eschewing the remarkably bad food remembered from last, this time for pizza instead. The night air was perfect and little T raised his hand to feel the wind. Serena wanted to dance or play "dragons." If you are curious about "dragons," dear reader, just ask her. :)
It is nearly impossible to upload photos from this app, so I think I will create a private fb album for those interested. If you've commented or I know you're reading, I'll make it visible to you. Xoxo
Sunday, August 28, 2016
We were desperately trying to get here after all the plane delays and today, (Sunday), the three are four. This day in Guangzhou was for touring around. We had breakfast and took off to a large family shrine. The Chen family (Serena's given family name) established this shrine in the 19th century. It was peaceful and full of truly amazing carvings. Serena was most excited about the tiger scroll she found and I was attempting to find serenity for Thomas who, as it turns out, was hungry from the moment he woke. We fed him crackers until we ran out. He was momentarily distracted by the animals and creatures at the medicine market we went to afterwards but his mind was never far from food. There were smiles of glee as I threw him up in the air at the shrine, his little hands reaching for the tree leaves, but he grieved yesterday, and we held him through it.
There was a cool breeze tonight as we walked the streets of Guangzhou, taking in a tea shop or two and buying a little street food (fruit). He opened up and resched for kisses near the end and my heart may have burst.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Today, Saturday, began as no proper Saturday should, with our final trip for the nasopharyngeal swab and ended somewhere right about perfect. T woke up hungry, which was awful because had to be fasting for the test. He rummaged through my bag looking for food which was heartbreaking. Both Ben and our guide explained to him that we would be feeding him and so he seemed to calm, at least until we reached the clinic which of course he recognized. Fortunately, once we reached the clinic the actual test was over quickly. After a better-than-the-day before breakfast (he is 2 in every sense and yells "boo Yao" if we approach with a less than desired food offering, we set out tour a nearby museum that we actually also visited with Serena. Walking through, all I could remember was feeling trepidation; I was carrying her in the Ergo and kept waiting for her to protest and reach for Ben. In mighty contrast, I pushed T in the stroller and we kissed at each other and played peekaboo the whole way through. Both times, Ben geeked out on the Chinese relics and completely missed out on any attachment drama :) after naps and lunch we headed to the pool which is really lovely; I snuck in a few laps before the rest of the family joined and T made big strides! He sat on the edge for a long while, splashing with his feet, and with the help of a bath toy from another adoptive family, he made his way to splashing around in my arms. Joy!
Tonight we strolled through a local park and enjoyed the night life energy. We had dinner at a surreal little place right on a lake. We'll have to tell you about it in person. It was wonderful to enjoy good food outside while the kids scarfed their noodles/soup. T demands to feed himself (and we let him- may be the only thing he can control right now) so it takes ages and we take advantage. There was even a cool breeze in the air and we encountered street karaoke on the walk back to our Guangzhou home, surrounded by others out walking, bicycles rushing by. I'll try to upload pictures but blogger is very very slow here.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Today was Thomas's second birthday. We celebrated in style by taking him again to the clinic for the induced sputum testing. And you thought your last birthday was lame.
Our thoughtful guide brought a chocolate treat to give once the testing was done - a treat that he noted, might have been outlawed in the US due to the toy that accompanies it (yikes!) fortunately he concentrated on the chocolate and could care less about the toy.
Today brought several smiles and less self-soothing. He has given me luxuries that I have not experienced before- falling asleep in my arms- so lovely - and the luxury of getting drenched with bottled water in the hot Guangzhou air because his favorite thing continues to be dumping it over his head and thus anyone close by.
We confirmed that he and S are definitely related as they both did a little dance for the same beloved Chinese crackers.
On that note, she had a much better day; still with frustrations but she made a few breakthroughs and seemed more herself.
For his birthday celebration our hotel delivered a cute little lemon cake which S loved and T mostly fed to me (great attachment progress!) and we played with bubbles under a gentle rain. The siblings then took turns jabbing each other accidentally with the ends of fuzball table rods (handles missing on most of them),
At 2 years of age Thomas:
Has many words but prefers "bu Yao." He sweetly says "Jie Jie" to acknowledge his sister. He also has the sweetest little baby gibberish.
Is determined to feed himself and often the most difficult way- prefers real silverware over the kid friendly spoons I brought
Seems to love to run and chase and slam doors :)
He can stack blocks like a champ but seems to prefer to put toys away:)
We can't really tell what he likes to eat so far- has been variable and not quite what we were told . He seems to like watermelon and noodles.
Tomorrow is the last day of sputum testing. We are grateful. It is so hard as he wakes up hungry and we can't feed him until the test is over (doesn't help to build trust at all!)
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Upon arriving in Guangzhou on Wednesday, I think, we crashed hard into our hotel. It is unfortunate that we spent only one night in an airy modern studio with storage space aplenty and Malin and Goetz toiletries only to drop suitcases in a much smaller space that is ensconced in dark tones. Fortunately, the hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and while it is very humid, it isn't intolerable so we are able to get out. We spent the next morning in the medical clinic. Because of his special need (he was diagnosed with HIV but later tests were negative, we are told), he has to undergo three days of "sputum testing," which actually involved sticking a tube down his nose to retrieve. Add to that a little blood work and various other pokes and prods, and it's no wonder he is scared and remarkable to me that we get little glimmers of his personality. They are brief but intense. He spent much of yesterday shut down but he is reaching for me (Brandy) and calms easily if upset. We have 2 more days of sputum testing but no more blood.
Serena is having a difficult time as big sister. We think she used up all of her reserves on the long trip here and is regressing such that I even carried her in the ergo this morning. We are hoping that with a little extra nuture, she will feel reassured.
We received pictures of him outside but it seemed obvious yesterday that he has never been on a playground. He loves water so I was super excited about taking him to the pool but he was quite terrified of it- maybe the temp?
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
*apologies for sloppy writing - am falling asleep as I type :) Typically with adoptions outside of Guangzhou, families spend several days in their child's home city, to tour and "do paperwork," but our flight schedule set us back that we spent only 24 hours in T's city, which is very sad as it is quite beautiful l. In the center there is large breeding center of pandas and so, with limited time, we jumped at an opportunity to spend the morning there. It was hot, as in don't leave your bone at all costs summer in Arkansas kind of hot, but we trudged through the thick forest of bamboo despite the sweating. T alternately shut down and became interactive, playful and smiling. He does not seem to be favoring one of us *relief*. We are fairly certain he was rarely told "no."
We spend the afternoon doing paperwork, more on that later, and then took T on his first plane trip to Guangzhpu. He did quite well! Settled down and zipped/unzipped his backpack repeatedly and played with stacking blocks. We landed late this evening and now everyone is sweetly snoring away.
Pictorial tour of the day:
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
We didn't have enough time to be nervous this time around, especially with S chatting at me the entire 45 min trip from airport to meeting place. He has shown a couple of signs of fear but playing with us helped him to open up, laugh, and be silly- he poured a bottle of water over his head and thought it hilarious! He loves the bath. Our first meal together was rice and jiaozi, which was splendidly messy.
This will be the shortest of posts but, after three days of travel due to airline delays, we made it at last and in sharp contrast to Serena, for whom we had everything laid out and ready, we were taken straight to the airport to a hotel where T was strollered in without warning. Pictures will speak for now, more complete story later. We suddenly went from this:
Thursday, August 18, 2016
“I didn’t give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn’t give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.”
It is August and in the South, that means back - to - school. For Serena, this means kindergarten (!) and for Ben, full time teaching.
We were sad to learn that Serena's school had to close this summer. She loved her teacher and we all loved seeing how she learned through the Montessori method. All worked out well, as things tend to do, when we learned that there was an opening at the school where Ben would begin teaching. They get to commute together. And while she will miss out on the age old experience of riding a school bus every day, which she will gain by being at this school is significantly more. Here's to a successful year for both!
|exploring a bit around school|
|Mom I'm too distracted by the bus to smile|
|Daddy makes it better|
I have determined that every Sunday afternoon available should be spent eating dessert surrounded by one's community. This was inspired after The Most Wonderful Kim and Steve threw us a shower for Thomas. This was not the most traditional shower - there were kids and men around (they supported one another) and it was great. We chatted and dreamed together and drank coffee and devoured home made banana pudding and locally acquired petit fours. We are blessed. We are thankful.
|We may or may not have known each other for, gulp, 18 years- freshman year, ya'll.|
Yeah! Flights are booked, suitcases under the weight limit, and our spirits are high. We are preparing to help him through this very hard change; we pray that we are ready to hold him through his grief, his loss, and are thankful to the Ayis who have brought him to this place. Serena grieved hard and rejected me for 12 of the 14 days of our trip but she slept, ate, and traveled well. We can only hope for such a scenario the second time around.
Of course, she'll be around to show him the Utter ropes :)
Back to the rhythm of paper chase, which keeps changing. Once we received I800 approval, our next step was to apply for a visa for Thomas. This is done *thankfully* online but the catch is that you have to log on when the site isn't busy, otherwise you can't get through. It took two tries and I was timed out once but we did it, then printed out the application (of course) and sent to our agency. At the same time, once our I800 was approved, it was sent to the National Visa Center. My task for this was to email the NVC every day until I receive a "GUZ" number, which is our number logged into the immigration system. I was instructed to begin this process 5 days after I800 approval. With me, yet? Once we have a "GUZ" number, I can email to ask for an "RTF" which is a letter stating that our information has been forwarded to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. That didn't take long and once the RTF was mailed to our agency, they forward it to their courier in Guangzhou who takes the information along with the rest of our dossier to the CCCWA to drop off. It takes 2 weeks between drop off of this information and pick up.
So during these two weeks we carried on with life, soaking up of the end of summer with pool days, late summer evening walks, and visits to Nai Nai's house.
I've been trying to soak up the ease with which we function as a family of three. I am ready for the disruption but not before appreciating the quiet chance to do things like this:
Next step: Article 5 pick up and wait for travel approval!
Thankfully, the 3 week wait for I-800 approval was the longest wait left. In order to find out our approval status, we are instructed to call the USCIS on a daily basis to inquire. If we are lucky, we are put in touch with our "officer" whose job is to approve the application or request more information (shudder). On this side of adoption, we do not know what the officer's responsibilities include or how busy they are. It seems, perhaps, cumbersome (and annoying?) to call someone, theoretically interrupting their work, to see if your part of their work is done. Combine this with my complete intolerance for phone calls = UGH. However, it is not surprising that the motivation to get to China outweighed my intolerance. So I called. and then chickened out and emailed. Eventually, the form was approved without any need for further information (=delay)! The next step is to wait (yes) for a GUZ number. And so, while waiting, Serena and I hopped in Subaru no 2 and hit 1-30 W to Texas, where friends from long ago waited to reunite.
Kristen, Joanna, and I got to know one another quite well during our mutual quest to conquer general chemistry in college. We were equally determined and passionate about this conquest. And it bound us together as these things tend to do. 15 or so years later we find ourselves same same, but different, as the book title goes. All that to say, it was glorious to get together and catch up on our lives and introduce our children. We stayed up entirely too late and there was wine and we talked of children, of books, of work, of spirituality, all the things that compose our lives.
Also, Joanna runs a small farm, which is awesome:
We explored Dallas Museum of Art where Serena and I saw our first Frida Kahlo (not pictured):
|The kiddos experienced the museum while sketching as we went along|
The heat was real but not a deterrent! Downtown Dallas allowed us to take it on with splash pads and shaved ice.
We anticipated walking off lunch a bit at our next stop - Thorncrown Chapel. It was as beautiful as advertised but only the quickest of walks winding in to it. I expected to feel a rush of peace and tranquility sitting in such architecture that melds in with the surrounding hills (a la churches in the UK) but the forbidding signs of "don't walk here" and "sit, no walking inside the chapel," along with a volunteer to make sure we didn't break any rules kind of prevented that possibility.
After settling into our little cottage for the night,
We ended the day with dinner at Local Flavor, which we also highly recommend!
The next morning we set out for a quick hike around a local lake,
Off then to explore a little of the Buffalo River, which did bring the peace and tranquility as mentioned above: