Friday, November 30, 2007

ni hAO? from Beijing

Well, we made it! Our guide and translator, Sabrina Zhou, met us after we got through customs. For all who have been following our blog, Mark's nightmare did not come true; there was only one Starbucks and only one KFC (though it sells something called Nine Lives juice; as cat lovers we definitely do NOT want more details on that one) and sure enough, Sabrina was waiting there with her sign. She spotted our buttons and identified us at once. We waited as one more family came through to join us.

Gene and Lisa are from Nashville, so I get to speak East Tennessee-ese with them. They've been through this before and have returned with their daughter Madison, who was born in Nanjing, to meet and bring home their new daughter, who is seven months old (also in Nanjing). Sabrina got us all into a van cab (like an Israeli sherut). So here we all are at the SAS Radisson.

Tomorrow morning we will meet Sabrina in the lobby at 8:30am and go directly to meet our daughter! Sabrina saw Xiao-Ling this week and reports that our daughter is thrilled with our pictures and cannot wait to meet us! Our little girl showed Sabrina the photo album we sent her and said, "This is my mommy and daddy!"

Well, we were just about to die right then and there. We didn't things could possibly get any more exciting until tomorrow, when Sabrina handed us the following written description of our little girl. Brace yourself:

About Long Xiao-Ling

Xiao-Ling is very smart and cute. She loves to tidy things up and is very careful about self sanitation. She loves music, watching TV, drawing pictures and playing toys by herself. When she is in [a] good mood, she is willing to perform singing songs for others.

She can count from 1 to 20 and she wants to do whatever is beyond her ability;p for example, dressing herself (doesn't know how to button), making bed, washing faces, brushing teeth. She is always ready to help younger ones.d

She understands things so well. We explained to her that for her own benefit, she needs to do exercises with her left limbs. She will use right hand to open left hand to practice.

She is easy-going too. She is open to volunteers and gets everyone's attention and love. We all love her very much. She needs physical therapy and practice for her left limbs.

At that point we were ready to defy gravity. Gene and Lisa understood. Lisa said, "Tomorrow you're gonna be tore up from the floor up!"

We already are.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

At the Airport

Mark: Well, here we are at the Presidents Club at Newark Airport, blogging via a wireless Internet connection.

Jacquie: Where are all the presidents?

Mark: I think they're all wheeling and dealing on their laptops.

Jacquie (singing): I'm a-leavin' on a jet plane...

Mark (shooting her a very dirty look, and continuing in the same tune): Oh, please don't sing that song again!

Jacquie: Stay tuned!

A Very Small Jew in the Lotus

OK, so we're officially in labor now! Still so much to do, to pack, to check and recheck. Lots of folks at work ask, "you're back already?" I say, "I haven't left yet; you just saw me yesterday!" Oh well...

This little girl of ours has brought so many people together, and she's not even in our arms yet. We've received so many calls and emails as a result of my posting the news of our impending departure to my professional listserv - and that was just today! Getting ready for her has been like peeling back the petals of a very big lotus. Just when you think you're at the center, there are more layers to get through. And amid all the hubbub, there she waits - the dewdrop in the middle of the lotus. Is she calm? Is she impatient? The answer, my friends, is thirteen hours ahead of New Jersey time.

One Day Left

Well, our bags are 99% packed; we just have to fit in some toys for Xiao-Ling and we'll be ready to go. Our flights are confirmed, our passports are accessible, our iPods are charged and filled with music. Yes, after a very long process, it's all coming down to this. We fly to China tomorrow morning and, G-d willing, everything will go smoothly. Harry misses us and we miss him, but he's having a terrific time and we'll be back before he knows it.

More blogging tomorrow from the airport!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heeeeere's Mommy!

Good morning everyone. It's quite unlike me to refrain from putting in a good word but I'm not as computer-savvy as my worthy spouse, so this is my first blog posting ever. Shehechiyanu...

Can't decide what's more chaotic: the rushing-around prior to departure or the rushing-around we've been doing for more than two years to make this dream come true. I've threatened to re-name our daughter "Jumbo" because she's taken almost as long as an elephant to get here. Actually, her suitcase isn't quite fully packed. It's full of lovely warm clothes from her grandma in Seattle, but we realized within the past week that she'll need summery things too, for our time in Hainan. Believe it or not, I managed to find her a couple of bathing suits in the store yesterday, along with a cute little cover-up.

People are always saying that we're doing a really good thing, but I'm rather uncomfortable with that assessment. We're just trying to become parents for the second time, and this is the path to parenthood for us. Personally, I've always felt that parenthood is a potentially selfish road to travel; after all, kids don't ask to be born. They don't ask to become your child. Harry was just four and a half months old when he came to us so he could acclimate quickly. Xiao-Ling has been alive for nearly half a decade and is accustomed to the people, places and things she knows. And so the thing I'm most nervous about is this: I hope she likes us. I hope we don't scare her just by the fact of our existence. I hope, I hope, I hope...


Harry is safely ensconced at his aunt and uncle's house and having the time of his life. He is already having burping contests with his cousin Jake and will start playing the drums (probably very loudly) after school. We miss him terribly and can't wait to be back with him again. Then again, when we called him this morning he was already watching SpongeBob SquarePants, so he might not be too eager to come home... :-)

The day after Thanksgiving, I made him dinner consisting of leftover turkey, potatoes and steamed broccoli - his favorite vegetable, which he calls "trees." He devoured the broccoli, ate a bit of the potatoes, picked at his turkey and then asked for dessert. I was thus in the utterly surreal position of telling him that he could not eat only broccoli while leaving the turkey alone, after which he finished off the turkey while shooting me a couple of dirty looks. That's our boy!

With three days to go, all the paperwork is securely tucked in an accordion file, our flights are confirmed, and we have nothing more to do other than pack for ourselves - Xiao-Ling's suitcase is ready to go.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Must Be Anxious

With just five days to go until we leave for China (well, four and a half, since it's Saturday evening) people are now asking whether I'm feeling anxious about all this. Considering I had my first travel-related dream a a few days ago, I'd say the answer is "yes."

Our agency gave us lapel buttons so our travel coordinator can recognize us, and said she will meet us at the Starbucks in the Beijing airport terminal. (Yes, I know, they're everywhere.) In my dream, we got off the plane and walked into the terminal area, only to see that every store in the terminal was a Starbucks. We ran around in a total panic just in time for me to wake up.

I don't have to be Freud to figure this one out - this is a huge event, and I am naturally concerned that everything go smoothly. Of course, the people at our agency have been handling Chinese adoptions for years and are old hands at this by now, so they've seen pretty much anything that can possibly happen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

getting harry's room ready too!

while mum and da are trotting 'round china...harry will be staying with his big cousin jake and his aj & uj....we are scurrying to get his room ready...big boy bed! books! stuff! and a welcome sign!!!

we have several "classes" lined up for mr.h during the week (with kids his own age) and we are also trying to clean out the basement for the ping pong table that jake built in anticipation of prince harry's arrival!

while it ain't china, we in cortlandt manor are also looking forward to a certain person's arrival...and we will bribe him with whatever we can so he feels like the special guy he is!!! like being grandparents - you can do these things and then the boy goes home and the parents have to deal with the consequences!!

i must confess that it is in my own family's often told stories how i "acted out" when i was dropped off at my grandmother's during the birth of my sister!!!

we promise to treat the "big brother" with all the rights and privileges that come with the territory...


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Eight Days to Go

Eight days to go until we leave for China and still no home-study addendum. I called the social-worker agency and informed them in no uncertain terms that if the addendum isn't in our hands by the 29th, "we're screwed." They will FedEx it overnight, so I'm hoping we'll get it Friday morning.

Well, it wouldn't be a blessed important event without some last-minute scrambling, would it? Hopefully, this is it.

UPDATE: The addendum finally arrived today - a full week after it was sent Priority Mail. (Well, that's the post office for you.) We now have every piece of paper in place and we're good to go.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Room Readiness, More Developments, and Random Thoughts

After a lot of work, our daughter's room is finally 100% ready! All the boxes of books have been removed and shelved, her dresser is getting some clothes in it, she has nice warm flannel sheets on her bed, and her bookshelves are filled with fun books from I Love You Like Crazy Cakes to Walter the Farting Dog.

With nine days to go, we have still not received our home-study addendum specifically clearing us to adopt Xiao-Ling. We talked with the social-work agency yesterday and was told it was sent out priority mail a week ago - and that we are the fourth family to have this same problem. (It seems they're having some issues with their mail service.) If needed, the social worker who did our home-study will FedEx the documents to us directly.

We're also reading Our Own, a book about adopting and parenting older children. It's something of a harrowing read, as it details the many problems that can result when raising institutionalized kids. We know a lot of it does not apply to us since Xiao-Ling is not institutionalized in the accepted sense of the word (she currently lives in CHI's Beijing foster-care center) but it still makes an impact. It will certainly be different than raising Harry, who arrived when he was just 4½ months old - after all, our daughter will have her 5th birthday just two weeks after we get home.

I'm also wondering what will happen when Christmas comes around and she sees no tree and no decorations. I'm putting in a call to CHI to see if they celebrate Christmas at the foster-care center and how we can manage her expectations. We will be celebrating Chanukah with her in China, as it runs from December 4-12 this year. Hopefully, she'll enjoy it.

UPDATE: CHI says China does not celebrate Christmas (or indeed any Western holidays) the way it's celebrated here in the US, so Xiao-Ling won't look up at the roof and ask where Santa will park his sleigh.

Fingerprints Cleared!

USCIS has sent our (re)fingerprints to the American Consulate in Guangzhou and received confirmation of same, so that's done. The only item we're waiting for is the updated home study specifically approving us to adopt Xiao-Ling, and we hope that will arrive in today's mail.

On the technological front, we won't have to buy any voltage converters, as both our laptop and my sleep-apnea machine can run off the 220-volt power supply used in China with no problems. All we have to get are a couple of adapters to make the American plugs fit into the Chinese sockets.

Ten days to go...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Scheduling and More Papers

We received the final travel packet from CHI with an updated checklist of papers to take with us, tipping guide and important paperwork.

A possible snag, though, is that we have not yet received written confirmation from USCIS that our fingerprints were updated and cleared by the FBI. The travel coordinator at CHI told me over the phone that written confirmation is not needed, but the checklist says it is. So, just in case, we called our Congressional representative's office yesterday afternoon and they will lean on USCIS to get us that paper.

We have already scheduled Xiao-Ling's formal conversion to Judaism at a mikvah (a Jewish ritual bath) in Teaneck for December 17, the Monday after we get home. We have also scheduled her public naming at our temple for Sunday, January 20, the day before Martin Luther King's birthday.

13 days to go...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A New Desk - and Our Itinerary!

Xiao-Ling's room is 99% complete - she now has a desk, a wonderful gift from her foster family when she was in Los Angeles for medical treatment 2 1/2 years ago. All that's left to take out are a few boxes of books, and those will go on an (as yet unbuilt) bookshelf.

But we now have our itinerary for when we go to China! Beijing to Haikou to Sanya to Guangzhou to Beijing and from there back home. We've also done some Googling and found a synagogue in Beijing - Kehillat Beijing - for Shabbat services on 11/30 and 12/14.

18 days to go...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fingerprints Redux

USCIS says our (re)fingerprints were cleared by the FBI and a cable to this effect is on its way to the American Consulate in Guangzhou. Only 21 days to go...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Photo Albums and Phirst Class

With less than four weeks to go until we go get our daughter, we put together a photo album with pictures of us, Harry, the cats, and our house so she knows what we look like. (Hopefully, she won't go "eeew!") Jacquie wrote loving captions for the photos and we sent it off to CHI for translation into Chinese and forwarding to Beijing. We made another copy of the album sans translation to bring with us to China.

And speaking of going to China, we are now officially in First Class (seats 5A and 5B, to be exact) for the Newark-to-Beijing flight. So not only do we get to enjoy creature comforts (and the food!) during the flight, but we get to hang out in the Presidents Club lounge before both flights!