Thursday, September 28, 2006

If A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words . . .

Then what are these worth?

This is Marcie after pulling herself up in her pack n play. She does this pretty regularly now-- and see what a good mood she's in after napping?

This is a picture of one of Casey's brand new light-up fire truck stride right shoes. Darnit if these aren't more expensive than the shoes I buy, but he has such a wide foot and he needs the "toddler tech" element of these shoes. When we started the summer, Casey wore a size 8.5. Now he's in a size 10!!!

I like to call this photo: Boy and His Dog. Okay, it's not really his dog. Pugasus is really Jason's dog. But I'm just so impressed with how well Casey is getting along with him. He used to think playing with Pugasus was synonymous with pulling the dog's tail-- but look at them together now!

Casey has been asking to play with Marcie a lot lately. And even with her in her crib. She doesn't actually sleep in her crib yet (she's still in our room in the pack n play). We have been napping her in her crib though as part of the transition to her own room. (If you are wondering why we are letting a 10-month-old sleep in our room, consider that A. she has never slept alone in a room before in her life-- she has only recently begun sleeping in her own bed and B. we have only had Marcie for about 6 weeks. We had Casey in our room for 8 weeks, so I feel like we owe Marcie something close to that.) Anyway, aren't they cute?

This next series of photos features Marcie in her cool French tank top with a fish on it (thanks for bringing that back from France for her, Ann!). It says, "Par le marseilles." Anyone know what that means? It also features this very cool light-up duck we received in the mail yesterday as part of a way-too-generous gift package from my Aunt Joanne and Uncle Bruno (and fam)-- thanks guys-- as you can see, Marcie loves it!

Turning the Corner

I'm going to post two entries today. Here is the first:

I realize that lately this blog has been as much (if not more) about Casey than Marcie. What can you do? I write it as I see it. . . He does seem to have turned a corner, though. He isn't perfect, mind you, but the day after I wrote "Scream-Free Morning," Casey seemed to have a bit of a melt-down. We were on our way out the door to speech therapy, where (until today) we haven't managed to arrive on time. When Casey got in the car, he found some cars Jason and I brought him home from China and he had to have them. I buckled him in, but he dropped one of the cars on the floor. I picked it up and gave it to him, but he insisted there was still one on the floor. I told him there was nothing on the floor-- he insisted there was. Then he reached over and started smacking the side arm of Marcie's car seat repeatedly while screaming, "I want car! Car on floor!"

Now, there are two kinds of yelling parents. I actually did not grow up in a yelling family. I honestly cannot remember a single time my parents actually raised their voices. I mean, they must have, right? But I don't remember it. Anyway, I figure there are two types of yellers-- those who yell at you because they are angry, and those who yell for you to get your attention because you are not listening. I admit that every once in a while I get frustrated and find myself in that first category, but it's pretty rare. But with Casey, I've begun falling into the second category. Sometimes he is just so focused on what he wants, I think he really cannot hear me.

So I raised my voice, "Casey, stop hitting Marcie. CASEY, stop hitting Marcie. CASEY, I need you to listen. CASEY, STOP hitting Marcie. CASEY, STOP HITTING." Casey looked right at me and said, "No yelling Casey, Mommy." I stopped yelling and said, "Mommy is not yelling now. I need you to stop hitting Marcie so we can go see Miss Karen (the speech therapist)." I don't think he even heard me. He started screaming, "NO YELLING CASEY, MOMMY!" And then he began hitting Marcie again.

At that point, I was so mad. Now this all occurred in mere moments, but it was clearly escalating. I unbuckled him and carried Casey, literally kicking and screaming, bucking his body back and forth against me, back into the house where I plopped him on the floor of his bedroom. I said, very calmly, "That is not acceptable behavior. You do not hit Marcie. You do not yell at Mommy. When you are ready to behave, we'll go back out to the car and look for your toy car together. But we are not going until you are calm." I repeated this at least three times-- after each time he yelled. Then, miraculously, he became calm. "Ready," he said. And we went to the car. There was no toy on the floor. He told Marcie he was sorry, and off we went.

I turned on my auto-pilot and headed off onto the freeway to work of all places. I had to back-track, and I tried calling to say we were late, but they said they couldn't forward me to the number and blah blah blah. Anyway, we were 30 minutes late. And I didn't feel badly about it. You know, if he misses therapy because he is not behaving, so be it. We can't live our lives at Casey's crazy anger binges and whims. (I say that like it's always a problem, but it's not-- so that was probably a bit overstated.) A part of me realizes that I've been so permissive because it is easier than being firm, especially when your time with your child is limited. But we will get along better if we play be the same rules-- and hitting is a definite "Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200" offense.

Anyway, since our little incident, and my decision not to put up with it, things seem to better. I was thinking that Casey has really turned a corner, and there is some truth to that-- but I think I have turned a corner, too. When I interviewed at a very prestigious law firm last fall, one of the partners was telling me about his 5-year-old (he had older children, too). I asked him what he was doing differently this time, and he said, "I've decided I will not compromise." I thought that was weird, but now I get it. That doesn't mean being inflexible. But it means being strong. Being structured. Being disciplined. And I think Casey will love me for it in the end. At least I hope so.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Scream-Free Morning

I don't want to spend a lot of time blogging, but I want to write about this before I forget. Casey had an exceptional morning this morning. He woke up Marcie (and me) at 6:24am. Then we went and played in the family room, where we have moved the train set his birth family so generously purchased him while we were visiting them in May. He has the plastic Thomas train track going around the beautiful wooden track. While he played, Marcie bounced away in her jumperoo.

When it was time to eat, he ate. When Marcie crawled around, Casey admittedly scrambled to snatch up his toys, and occasionally chattered, "No, Marcie. That's Casey's toy." But he didn't get in her facet and scream. And he didn't push. And he didn't hit or kick. The absence of any one of these would be progress, and he managed to eliminate them all!

When it was time to get dressed, Casey got dressed. When Casey was ready to go potty, he went on his own. And when it was time to brush his teeth and comb his hair, he brushed his teeth while I combed his hair (to look like Mr. Incredible, just like he likes). He played some more. Marcie played some more nearby. While I made Casey's lunch, Casey played with the dog-- gently. He hugged him, and wrapped his arm around Pugasus like they were old pals.

When it was time to go to occupational therapy, Casey climbed into the car without complaint. And when he got out of the car, he stayed right by Marcie's stroller instead of charging out into parking lot traffic. He even held on the stroller handle while we walked through the elementary school campus.

When I dropped off Casey at school after occupational therapy, he sat in the chair I pulled out for him and listened to his teacher reading. His friend Jacob kept trying to distract him, but I could tell Casey was honestly trying to listen. He kissed me good bye and told me he loved me. No clinginess. No tears.

I can't honestly remember the last time I spent 4 hours with Casey that I didn't even put him in time-out once . . . that makes today a banner day. . . I hope it lasts!

I DO have photos of Casey's new light-up fire truck shoes (size 10!-- and he was wearing size 8.5 in May!) and of Casey with the dog and of Marcie pulling herself up. So check back later for an update!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

First American Cold

So Marcie has her first American cold. Casey brought something home (probably from school), which he kindly passed to me. And now Marcie has it, too. She is awfully good natured for a sick child (except when we suck the snot out of her nose; she hates that). But she is not a good sleeper. Even with a cool mist humidifier and a nice dose of Benadryl. For the last three days/nights in a row, she has been up at least at midnight (last night she was also up at 1:30am and 2:30am and 3:15am), and she has woken up for the day at 5:00am. Wait. Maybe the 5:00am thing is just yesterday and today; I'm not totally sure. . . but it pretty much blows. . . though at least it's been on the weekend and I could get up with her then "trade" with Jason and go back to bed around 7:00am for an hour or two. Which is nice since I have a cold, too, and Marcie's nap schedule doesn't really leave me enough time to nap with her. And neither does the paper I've been working on for the past two weeks which was due on Friday, then Saturday morning, and (thankfully) now Monday. Very nice of them to extend the deadline for me. I've never had to ask for an extension before (and this is to a student editor not a professor, luckily), so I feel weird about it.

The cold isn't that bad, but it sure does produce a lot of snot. I don't think I've ever seen so much snot come out of such a tiny nose. When she sneezes, long strings of thick, yellow pasty snot dangle from her nose down to her knees. She looks so surprised and immediately begins trying to suck it back up again because she hates having her nose wiped. It's admittedly pretty gross, but really, what can you do? And her cough never actually went away. She was at the tail end of a cold when we met her on the 21st, and now another cold and she still has that cough. . .

Did I mention this is my third cold in four weeks? I haven't been sick this frequently since my first year of teaching. At least they have been mild so far. . . And now I'm off to school. I'm leaving Jason with both kids, who are, at the moment playing in Marcie's crib together. . . wish I could find my camera to capture that on film. It'll be great ammunition against Casey some day. . .

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Pee-pee King

I know. It's not a very nice title for a blog entry. It's not a very nice title for a person. But it's how I've begun to think of Casey lately. Did I mention that he has been having trouble sleeping? He has. He lays awake for long periods of time, tossing and turning and struggling to fall asleep. I wonder what is going through that little head of his. It's obvious to me and to Jason that he has very complicated emotions, and because he is speech and language delayed he struggles to express his feelings. And that's a generous description.

Last night Casey came to me while I was working on a paper and told me, "Mommy, I want swimming." What he means when he says this at night is not that he really wants to go swimming, but instead that he wants to take a bath. I don't understand why he doesn't just ask for a bath-- he asks for a shower. But nonetheless this is the metaphor he uses. So I say to him, "Go tell Dadddy, 'Daddy, I want to take a bath please.'" I heard Casey pad down the hall and say to Jason, "Daddy, I want bath." And I heard Jason tell him he could take a bath instead of a shower, and that he could finish watching his Thomas (the Tank Engine) show first.

The next thing I heard was Jason: "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?" Uh oh. That's never a good question. Particularly to a child who probably doesn't even understand why he did whatever he did-- I really think he just can't help whatever it is sometimes. I race down the hallway to catch Jason pulling the cushions off the couch and saying to Casey, "We don't pee on the couch. We pee in the potty. Big boys pee in the potty." Casey started to wail, and I escorted him first to the bathroom and then to the bedroom.

Last night was the second night in a row that Casey urinated in places where he shouldn't (and yesterday was the third day in a row he pooped in his overnight diaper before letting me know he was awake). The night before he apparently dropped his pants and just peed right on the family room carpet (which, thankfully, is an area rug). Just this week my mom mused how surprised she was Casey wasn't acting out more-- when I came home from the hospital, my older brother (also three years older than me, just like Casey is three years older than Marcie) took a permanent marker to the wall. I think she jinxed us. (Not really, but you know what I mean.) I don't know which is easier to get rid of-- permanent marker on a white wall or urine all over a leather sofa. I'm hoping not to find out. . .

You see, Casey's language skills make it difficult (at best) to get a complete story. For instance, earlier this week Casey was trying to tell us something that happened at school with Jacob. We know there was pushing. We know there was crying. But we couldn't tell who pushed whom. And when we ask Casey questions, he just repeats what we've said (it's no wonder to me that children in molestation cases can be so easily manipulated by interrogators investigating allegations). Or yesterday. When I went to pick up Casey from preschool, he had a huge lump on his head between his eyes. I asked if he fell down. He said, "fell down." Then he pointed to the concrete. But then to the bar/railing that lines the ramp. He hadn't cried, so his teacher didn't know what had happened. Though I suspect he head-butted a kid in his class because later Casey told me "push" and "Nir" (the name of another little boy). Then when a friend stopped by last evening for a brief visit to meet Marcie with her 3 year old Ben, Casey head-butted him. I was quite embarrassed. I know it was Casey's doing because Ben cried and Casey did not. Anyway, my point is that I can't figure out what Casey did or didn't do, what he needs or doesn't need, or what he wants (though he is awfully clear about what he does NOT want) a lot of the time. He just doesn't put words together. . . and this is very frustrating as a parent.

Is he peeing in odd places because negative attention is better than no attention (this is what Super Nanny Jo Frost suggests may be the culprit in her book, which I LOVE)? And if so, what is the appropriate reaction? Calmly removing him and putting him in his room for the evening? Yelling? Time out/punishment? It seems that if we spend time with him talking about what he did and why that he is getting the attention he craves, and that might encourage him to do other things (like draw with permanent marker on the wall!). But I don't think ignoring it is appropriate either. When Casey plays rough with Marcie or gets in her face and yells at her, it's an automatic time-out-- no warnings, no negotiation. Just not acceptable. It doesn't keep him from pushing her, though, so even that doesn't seem to be helping him with the transition. And it's not that he doesn't get any one-on-one time with either of us, because he does. In the mornings I spend time with Casey helping him brush his teeth, comb his hair, and get dressed. And in the evenings Jason spends probably 30 minutes reading him bedtime stories.

I wish he could talk about how he was feeling. I wonder if he'd get frustrated less easily. If he would rage less frequently. I wonder if he'd feel more comfortable about his place in the world if he could just express himself. I wonder how he processes concepts and ideas if not with words. It's all so foreign to me. . .

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Mirror in the Car

So I have one of those mirrors that sits on the back seat so I can see rear-facing Marcie while I'm driving around town. I am super paranoid about her choking or passing out or something, so it gives me peace of mind. (Yes, I know my paranoia is ridiculous when I haven't given her anything to eat-- that's why it's paranoia; it's unfounded.)

Anyway, the mirror thing actually sits between Casey and Marcie, and every time I put Marcie in the car after driving the two of them, I find myself needing to readjust it. But now I know why-- you see, Casey is rather vain. When he is crying, he likes to watch himself in the mirror (even a TV set or a sliding glass window will do). He likes to watch himself dance, brush his teeth-- anything. He just likes watching himself (perhaps he will be a great actor some day after studying his expressions in the mirror). Well, apparently he is no different in the car. The other day I turned around to catch Casey making faces in the mirror, which he had turned to face him. I couldn't help but laugh. Sometimes he just cracks me up!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Life of a Stay-at-Home-Mom

Hmm. It's been a banner five days since I last posted. I'm now so impressed by those people who are able to post with extreme regularity when they are home with children. I could always find time to post at work during lunch, but the kids don't seem receptive to losing Mommy to the computer (and I don't really blame them).

So the big news is that this morning Marcie pulled herself up to standing in her crib. I wish I'd snapped a photo, but she was mad and wanted to be picked up and it wouldn't have been pretty. So I didn't. Yesterday she was almost there, and today-- viola! Today she also has a rash. It's little tiny red bumps on her arms and legs. Not the tops of her arms, just the bottom. The only dietary item I introduced today was vanilla custard, so I guess that's off the list for a while at least, which is too bad because she actually seemed to really like it. (As a side note, for thsoe of you without time to follow the news, spinach is out of our diet for a while, too. Ecoli. Scary stuff.)

Also quite interesting was Casey's behavior this morning. He got up at 6:15am, but Marcie was still sleeping. So we wandered out to the family room, where we played with his Thomas trains and ate breakfast (cocoa krispies-- oh-so-nutritious). When I woke up Marcie at 7:30 so I could give her a bottle before we had to leave, there was a definite shift in Casey's behavior. One time out (for hitting me) and one time out in his bedroom (for yelling at me and refusing to go to regular time out) later, Casey was in good spirits, and off we went to school. It helps that he loves walking to school (and by walking I mean that he loves having ME walk and push THEM in the stroller). Plus he's not sleeping as well as he could be. It took him an hour and fifteen minutes to fall asleep Saturday for his nap. It took him over an hour to fall asleep at bedtime Saturday night. And it took him a while to fall asleep last night. But it's not that he's getting too much sleep because he seemed tired on the soccer field Saturday morning. So I think he's struggling. Interestingly, he has never once told Marcie to go away (though he tells me to go away all the time). And he's never called her a name or told us to take her back, or anything. . . So my guess is that he feels really torn. He loves his sister but he misses being an only child.

So speaking of strollers, as you can tell from the photo above, we bought one. Jason wanted a duo-glider (Graco), which is a tandem. I was leaning toward the sit n'stand, which is what most parents with kids three years apart in age seem to have. But after learning the duo glider only holds up to 40 pounds in each seat, we decided to explore the McClaren Techno Twin. We have a single McClaren, which we absolutely love and which was well worth the ridiculous price. I liked the sit-n-stand, but it didn't seem very comfortable. The front seat doesn't recline very far, and there is no back rest to the back seat. And no sun cover. Plus I'm so short, it just didn't work for me to have Casey standing up in front of me. Then we saw the most amazing stroller I have ever test-driven. The B.O.B. It's a jogger stroller, but it glides. It's like pushing a single stroller. It was amazing. But I just couldn't justify spending $539 so I could walk the kids to school and glide while doing it. So the McClaren won. If Casey were a walker, it probably wouldn't be a good option, but he still prefers his stroller when we're at the Wild Animal Park and such, and so I'm happy with it. (And special thanks to Keely and Grace for helping work through what we wanted!)

Speaking of Keely and Grace-- they are these two fabulous women I used to work with/for. I say "used to" only because Keely left in June to have a beautiful daughter (Katelyn). I say work with/for because Grace started out as a co-worker and has since become my boss. She has a son (Lucas) who is a year older than Katelyn. This is cool because it makes Marcie the "bridge" child, as she is almost exactly half-way between Lucas and Katelyn's ages. So when Grace was expecting Lucas, Keely and I purchased a Jumperoo for her to use with him. It was Keely's idea, and it's a great contraption. Well, on Saturday, Grace and her husband and son stopped by for a visit (they didn't really "stop by" because we aren't really on the way to anything-- really, they went way far out of their way to come to the house to see Marcie and bring us toys). They brought a car, a leap pad table, and the jumperoo for Marcie. What fun, what joy! She loves the new toys, and the jumperoo is excellent exercise for her legs! Yippee! You can tell she likes it from the photos, don't you think?

So I've been trying to capture a great photo of Marcie and Casey to use on the adoption/birth announcements we're sending out for Marcie (some time next week, in theory). This has not been an easy task. But Sunday morning I was able to snap some cute shots-- here are just a couple:

I think that's about all in stay-at-home-land. I really thought I'd be more bored than I've been. Between driving Casey to speech and walking the kids to school (which is how I'm getting in my exercise), and feeding Marcie, there isn't much free time in the day. Sure, I get the dishes done most days and vaccuum a couple times a week-- and even throw in a load of laundry here and there, but I still wonder where the time goes. On Saturday Jason worked all day after taking Casey to soccer in the morning. By the time he got home, I'd been with the kids all day and wanted some grown up conversation and companionship, but I had promised to go to a birthday party. Jason had just walked in the door, and he really wanted to unwind. Now, you'd think I would totally understand this. I'm all about unwinding at the end of the day-- not interacting with more people. But I was so crazed, I just wanted his attention. . .

I hope that some day in the near future when I work all day and Jason is home all day with the kids (there will likely be three of them by then), that I remember how I felt on Saturday-- how desperate I was for adult interaction. Even though Grace and Matt had come by. And even though I loved spending time with the kids. So I'm recording it as a reminder of how I felt for me to read years from now.

Oh, one more cute thing. Marcie, if she is tired, will sleep anywhere (not so much if she's not tired). Check out where she fell asleep while Jason was in the shower:

Well, this was a long post. I hope not to wait so long between posts next time. We are slowly adjusting into our routine, and I'm getting back into the swing of law school. We'll probably just get things figured out and it'll be time to go back to work! But that's how life is sometimes-- just when you get used to something, there is a slight shift to adjust to . . .

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Advice for those traveling to Chongqing

I've noticed that several families will be traveling to Chongqing in the near future and have asked for advice for those of us who have been there and done that. So ignore this post if you aren't going to Chongqing. Also, I traveled with our agency, CCAI, and the choices our agency made (about where we'd stay, for example) may have influenced my advice.

1. As soon as you get your referral, order uncirculated $100 bills. Take $6,000 with you. I did not do this. We didn't really have an extra $6,000 lying around until close to travel time, so it wasn't like I could just collect it far in advance the way some families did. By the time I got around to it, my bank didn't have time to order it for me. They were willing to order it because it was for an international adoption (I explained this to them). They offered to expedite at a $70 charge, and I balked. In retrospect, the reduction of anxiety would have been well worth the $70 fee attached. Instead, my mom drove all around to different banks to collect the best $100 bills she could find. We brought $3,000 in very clean bills. But the $3,000 is just the orphanage fee-- there was another $800-and-something in other fees, and I didn't have clean $100 bills for that, so I used traveler's checks. I would not recommend this. They were new to the bank, which didn't want to take them initially. It took years off my life. Ultimately they took the travelers checks, but money would have been easier. Also, uncirculated is better because the bank won't reject the money. One person in our group at $800 worth of bills rejected. Fortunately there were people in our group who had extra money and could "trade" the bills (the hotels are less picky, but they don't exchange thousands of dollars worth at one time).

2. Bring an umbrella. It generally rains daily in Chongqing. We were there in August, and it was freaking hot. I actually used the umbrella for shade once. (We actually didn't get any rain because there was a drought.)

3. If you are with CCAI, they have switched to the Golden Resources hotel from the Hilton. This is because of its location. There is much to walk to from the hotel, and an underground 24-hour Vegas-style area. If you are staying at the Golden Resources hotel, bring a sheet or a tablecloth because even though the hotel was recently renovated, the carpeting is gross. We used the tablecloth on the floor of the hotel so we could play with our daughter.

4. Bring DVDs of some kind to watch on your lap top or DVD player. The hotels have HBO, CNN, and BBC (there are more channels in Guangzhou). And the American channels go out with some frequency.

5. Bring a baby carrier. I personally am against strollers if you can get away with the carrier for attachment reasons. Your guide will recommend against using a stroller or facing the baby outward in a carrier for at least the first couple days. That said, our child was a big girl (over 20 pounds when we received her), and I literally couldn't carry her around on me all the time in the heat-- it was just too much (she is almost 20% of my body weight). If you are going to buy a stroller, buy them at the grocery store. It's less expensive than the department stores. The grocery store under the Golden Resources hotel has them for the lowest price.

6. Bring a "milk compact" and a thermos with you. You will need both. Also, bring nipples with x's cut in them because the fast flow nipple holes are not big enough to fit the formula mixture, which gets stuck and frustrates the babies. We didn't use our bottle brush or our tongs because we sterilized it all with boiling water after rinsing it. We had three nipples and three bottles, so we weren't sterilizing immediately before use-- we waited for the water to cool off before touching any of the stuff.

7. Bring a fitted crib sheet to use in the crib, and a blanket. The hotel stuff is okay, but you'll be glad you have the fitted sheet (at least I was).

8. You don't need a lot of toys-- a few simple ones will suffice, and they take up a lot of space. You will be mostly interacting directly with your child for play anyway. The department stores all carry sassy toys and the like, so you can always take the baby there to see what she likes. Just be aware the department stores don't take credit cards (I think maybe one does, but only Visa).

9. Buy enough formula to get you back to the U.S. to transition. They do have baby formula in Guangzhou, but the selection is very limited.

10. At least half the babies in our group got constipated. Bring baby prunes, pears, and peaches. Bring glycerine suppositories. Bring mucinex (for a stool softener).

11. You can buy diapers and baby wipes. We brought 12 diapers and only used 6. We only used them to travel. They sell pampers and huggies, but we used sealers and they worked just fine.

12. If your child is in yunyang chenxiang SWI, they will take pictures on your disposable camera and return it to you. You can get the photos developed in Chongqing (and should) inexpensively. If you wait, they might be hurt going through the x-ray machine. If you send a sassy photo album with your pictures, the orphanage will share it with your daughter. I think this really helped her transition.

13. Be prepared to see the nannies and orphanage director the day after they place the child with you. They came to say good-bye to the girls at the adoption registration center. I thought it was good for the girls to see their nannies happy for them to be with us, but I think it upset some other parents, so you should be aware of it.

14. Some people used flashlights to read and such while their children were sleeping. We didn't have much of a problem with this-- Marcie had no trouble sleeping with the TV on, so we opted to just leave a light on in the hotel hallway instead.

15. The fruit and ice cubes at the hotel (Golden Resources) are safe. No one got sick from ice in their drinks at Pizza Hut, McDonalds, or KFC, either. Oh. Or from Starbucks. In fact, no one got sick from ice anywhere, as far as I know-- I think everywhere boils before freezing. Jason even ate squid on a stick twice and was no worse for the wear.

16. If you are blonde, be prepared to be touched a lot. People will ask to have a photo with you and want to touch you. If you are traveling with your American children, be prepared to be swarmed more than otherwise. Apparently it's considered good luck to touch American children, particularly boys. Prepare your kids for this (it's not unfriendly, just surprising).

17. If you stay at the Golden Resources, there is loud music three times a day (once in the morning and twice in the evening, I think). This is for the qigong exercises and also for the fountain show. None of the babies who were on that side of the hotel had problems with this.

18. You'll get a list of specific information about your child before meeting her. Read it closely and see if you have other questions. Our daughter had a cough-- another parent asked if it was the beginning or end of a cold and learned it was the beginning, which was good info. I wish I had asked when her last bowel movement was and what it meant that they were "regular" (three times a day, once every three days-- what?).

19. When you are in markets or taxis, especially in Guangzhou, remember to check the money to see if it is real before you walk away. Someone in our group was given a fake 50 RMB.

20. If you want to buy a cute Asian-doll, they have knitted ones at the Charity Store in Guangzhou. There are maps of the shops in the area. And Jennifers has all sorts of "free stuff" (like medicine and baby prunes) if you find yourself needing some in Guangzhou. I thought that was a really cool service.

21. Remember to bring cold medicine for yourself. My whole family caught a cold. Also, if you have bangs, consider bringing a headband of some kind. I know that sounds whacky but something about the water made my bangs not curl like they usually do when I dry them, and I had to use a headband just to keep them out of my face most of the trip.

22. Don't forget to bring a hat for the baby. And sunscreen for you and the baby.

23. If you have allergies, like hay fever, bring claritin for yourself. I got sinus headaches from all the smog (and I live in Southern California, so you'd think I'd be used to it!).

24. Our packing list told us to bring 4-5 baby outfits. I wish we'd brought more like 8. The updates on size they sent were really accurate, though, so use them as a guideline confidently. (And you can buy clothes there if necessary.)

25. A word on the laundry. The hotel's service is ridiculously expensive. The woman we sent our clothes to did a decent job, but she didn't get sweat stains out of some clothes, the clothes were pretty stretched out, and everything was stiff. We ended up buying tide soap bars in the grocery store and washing clothes in the hotel bathtub, then hanging them in the room in sun to dry (usually dried in 24 hours). This also allowed us to wash new baby clothes before putting them on Marcie. My mom bought some quick-dry clothes and her stuff dried over night. I know they make underwear like that. Just in case you are interested.

26. The hotels will provide you with converters for the power outlets, but we found they weren't actually necessary-- we just needed the plug converter, not the power one (I hope that made sense).

27. If you are going to rent a cell phone, I recommend Lotus Travel's Panda phone over JC travel's. The customer service is better and more clear. I was really glad to have it in China because we were 15 hours ahead and left a 3 1/2 year old at home. When it was a good time to talk to him (evening, before bed), we were usually out and about. Having the cell phone made it so we could reach him easily. We found phone cards easily in Beijing and Guangzhou, but didn't find any in Chongqing (though I'm sure our guide would have given us one if we needed it).

28. Have a second set of eyes go through all your paperwork to make sure you haven't forgotten anything you need (like the affidavit of traveling parent regarding immunizations, which you'll need for the U.S. visa).

Ok. Those were obviously in no particular order. I'm sure I will think of more odds and ends, but that's a good start. . .

Monday, September 11, 2006

So How is the Rest of the Family Adjusting?

This is an excellent question. And I'm not totally sure. I mean, Casey and Pugasus both seem to be doing really well. But I don't know what's normal. On Saturday, Casey and Marcie and I were at a birthday party for one of Casey's classmates. It was at the local park, and Casey had a blast. They took the kids on a train ride around the park; had a clown who did magic, painted a fire-breathing dragon on his am, and made balloon hat; had activities, including a water balloon toss (which was hilarious because, of course, none of the kids can catch!); and even had horse rides (Casey sat on the horse, but he refused to let it move while he was sitting on it). It might sound pretentious-- I mean I certainly counldnt afford that combination of activites-- but it really wasn't. The boy's parents were really friendly, the kids were just kids from the preschool and family friends-- it actually wasn't showy at all. It was just fun. And it was an opportunity for me to meet some of Casey's classmates' parents, which I haven't had much of a chance to do. This was a long introduction to Ryan's mom, who was really nice. She has three kids-- Robby, Ryan, and Reese. And Reese just turned one. So I asked how long it took Ryan to adjust to having a baby sister. And she told me that only one child gets "dethrowned," so Ryan's transition was fine. And because Ryan was never an only child, he didn't know any different anyway. I thought that was fascinating. Perhaps that explains why Pugasus is transitioning so well. I mean, he though he was our baby, until Casey came along-- and then it was pretty clear Pugasus wasn't our baby. But Casey never really had to compete with Pugasus, and now he kind of does have to with Marcie.

Marcie loves her big brother. She smiles for him when he comes into the room. And they have their own "special" language, which consists primarily of squawking loudly back and forth at/to each other. It's kind of endearing. At least to me and Jason. But probably not to other people, come to think of it. When Casey wakes up before Marcie, or when Marcie is napping, Casey is constantly asking where she is and when she'll be awake so he can play. And when we need to make Marcie's bottle, if we leave her in the saucer and ask Casey to play gently with her for us, like a good big brother, he does. Really, what more can you ask for-- he's only had her in his life for about a week?

But we have the expected bumps in the road, too. Casey loves having Marcie around but he tries to play with her like he would with any friend. Which is fun to him, but probably terrifying to her. He's a pretty rough-and-tumble kid, and she's, well, a baby. The only time there's really been an issue is when Casey was being punished in the car on Sunday (I took away a book). He was so mad, he tried to hit Marcie. Fortunately, she was passed out in her car seat beyond his reach, and all he got was a hand slap of plastic. He was in much better spirits after his nap. All in all, though, Casey has been pretty impressive. And he is cutest around other kids-- he is very protective of Marcie at school when we drop him off. And he insists on kissing Marcie good-bye. It's very cute.

Marcie, for her own part, also seems to be adjusting to life in America pretty well. She has stopped screaching in her car seat. We actually decided to trade cars because Jason's car had tinted windows, and I was having trouble blocking the sun effectively. When I go back to work in late November, we'll trade back because he'll have the kids more. But for now, this is a good trade (he, of course, may totally disagree).

Marcie is totally curious about everything-- carpet fibers, my watch, her hands, but especially Pugasus. Here are some photos of Marcie and Pugasus getting to know one another:

Friday, September 08, 2006

China: The Aftermath

So here it is, a week from the day we departed China.
Marcie is sleeping in the pack n play in our bedroom.
Casey is (in theory) napping at school.
Jason is at work, "bringing home the bacon."
And I'm supposed to be studying, but am unable to resist the temptation to blog.

I've begun wondering if I can get away with blogging Marcie's first few years instead of actually making her a baby book. Is that awful of me? It's just that I don't want to lose fragmented information, which I fear will be unintentionally flushed from my brain periodically. Like, for instance, the fact that she is the best eater ever. Today she ate room temperature baby food macaroni and cheese. And she liked it. I don't even think I'd eat that warmed up. And I know Casey wouldn't. So today it was mac n' cheese, pears, and prunes for lunch. Yesterday it was peas and chicken noodle and pruns for lunch. The day before that was pears and prunes and green beans. And she loves sweet potatoes (which I eliminated to help ensure she'd continue to poop).

Which brings me to the topic of poop. If you are faint-hearted-- or you just don't want to know anything more about Marcie's bowel movements-- skip this paragraph. She is pooping twice a day now. And she isn't straining anymore. I think this is because she is getting prunes and other foods which help-- like peas and peaches. But her baby poop is the most grown-up baby poop I've ever seen. It's what I expected Casey's poop to look like when he was 18 months old-- and didn't look like until after he was 3 (of course that could just be because it took him that to toilet train and when he was going in his diaper it was getting mashed by the weight of his body-- yes, I know, gross). Anyway, it's soft enough. But not at all runny. This makes cleaning her up incredibly easy, so I'm not complaining. And for all I know, Casey was the unusual one. So there you have it.

Anyway, here we are, a week back home. This week was ridiculously hectic for me. Casey started a new school schedule and a new speech therapy schedule. On top of adjusting to a new sister and re-adjusting to his life at home with us (instead of his fun grandparents). Plus, I was going back to school, two weeks into the school year and two weeks behind in the reading for two of my three classes. And then there was Marcie adjusting to the new schedule we were imposing on her. And of course, Marcie, Jason and I were adjusting to the fifteen-hour time difference. So that's a lot to handle in one week's time!

I'm proud to report, though, that Jason has Casey back on his regular bedtime routine; Marcie, Jason and I are all adjusted to Pacific Time; we have figured out Casey's speech and school schedule (and next week we add in the occupational therapy!); and I was able to catch up in my classes. So all is relatively right in the world. That's not to say I'm running on full steam. I'm exhausted. But I imagine I will feel exhausted for, oh, the next 18 years or so.

On Wednesday Marcie visited the doctor. I do have a photo of her in his office, with the lab slip for her blood work and urine sample. But it's on my camera, and darnit if Sprint won't let me e-mail it to myself without paying for their dumb Sprint vision for $5 a month. I hesitate to sign up and try to cancel because my customer service experience with Sprint has left much to be desired (read: I've not had a single positive customer service interaction with them since switching to Sprint from Verizon and wish I had not done so). That's an issue for another post. So you'll just have to imagine how cute Marcie looked.

The good news is that Marcie checks out with a clean bill of health! She is enormous-- 29.5 inches long (that's the 95th percentile), 21 lbs and 5 ounces (that's the 80th percentile), and her head is in the 75th percentile. And that's on the American charts-- she's off the charts in China! In fact, she is around 2/3 of Casey's weight, and less than 10 inches shorter, even though she's three years younger. I imagine she'll thin out as she crawls more and learns to walk.

They did a TB test, which I'm taking her back to have read today. And they sent us to Pomerado Hospital for her lab work (where they draw the blood and send it to Children's Hospital). Before leaving the pediatrician's office, they also "bagged her." That means they cleaned her privates with iodine and stuck (literally stuck-- with an adhesive) a bag to cover the area so that she'd pee into it so they could run a urine sample. I have no idea what all the urine test is testing, or what the blood work is testing. We asked them to check for lead because we'd noticed peeling paint in the orphanage photos (which I plan to scan and post at some point in time in the near future, right after I write thank yous). Anyway, they were amazing at Pomerado-- it was a totally different experience from when Casey was 10 months old and so sick and we had to have blood drawn. And Marcie, though she cried, handled it like a real champ. I'm glad it was the lab techs who removed the adhesive bag, though.

We also don't know which immunization Marcie is missing. They didn't translate the immunization record for us in China, but our agency said if we fax it to them, they will have the translation department look at it, so that's good news.

I also ran into glitches because they said we have to pay out of pocket for Marcie since she's not a newborn and not yet on our insurance. This is odd because our insurance company claims to cover post-placement pre-adoptive children, and they give us 30 days after placement to report the adoption. So I don't understand how they can claim we have an uncovered child-- particularly because we can prove we only received her a couple weeks ago. And I ran into this issue not just with our pediatrician's office, but also with the lab at Children's Hospital, which actually called me at home because they wanted to know who was going to pay for this lab work the doctor had ordered. How crazy is that? The US government won't let you adopt a child unless you promise to medically care for them, but no one wants to touch the child because they don't want to get stuck with the bill either. So dumb. It's a child. Just take care of her and worry about the financial details later. . .

So that was the big excitement for the week. The doctor's visit, I mean-- not the pooping.
I'm hopeful that next week will go even more smoothly, now that we are settled into a routine. I have been getting exercise (for those of you who dared challenge me to figure out how!). Marcie and I walk for 45-50 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays while Casey is at speech. And Mondays and Fridays, I'm walking Casey to school in the mornings. What I need to figure out now (for the walk to school) is what to do with Casey. It's too far for him to walk the whole way. And Marcie is about 20% of my body weight, and carrying her on my stomach is a bit much for me up the hills. It was fine for this morning, but as she gets heavier, it won't be a good long-term approach. Jason is a fan of the tandem strollers, but I'm not sold on that idea. Still, Marcie is a little too slouchy to be in an umbrella stroller that doesn't have a bar on it (the McClaren's don't have the bar). If a side-by-side umbrella had a bar, at least she could hold herself up/forward. Or maybe the solution is a side-by-side (ridiculously expensive) jogger. But how do any of these maneuver in stores? Any thoughts?

Oh, and by the way, I don't really plan to blog instead of a baby book. But given the time constraints on my life, for now, at least I'm recording the details so I can put them into the book later on. . . it's a start.

P.S. While I'm at it, so I don't forget, everyone has had a different nickname for Casey. Jason's mom calls him chow-choo-pay (that's the pronunciation). Jason't dad calls him sour pickle. Jason calls him monkey. I call him boo and bubba. I just don't want to forget that detail as the nicknames subside. And for the record, I've taken to calling Marcie pumpkin pie. No idea why, it's just what comes out of my mouth.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Things I Liked About China

It has come to my attention that I perhaps over-emphasized the difficulties of our trip without sharing much about what I liked. Now that I've been home a couple days, in the comfort of my home (and language), I can already say it was well worth it and I'd do it again. My feelings on the trip were absolutely colored by two major emotional pushes/pulls: being sick for almost a week and missing Casey terribly. You probably could have taken bets on either of these things happening, and though I was relatively prepared for the fomer, the latter caught me completely off-guard. I love Casey, but I've never been weepy when I've been away from him-- at least not before this trip. I can't say we were wrong to leave him behind. The trip would have been really hard on him, particularly because he is such a picky eater and he is a little ball of energy. It would have necessarily divided our attention between Casey and his sister, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was nice to give Marcie some relatively undivided attention, which she certainly craved after 9 months in an orphanage. I also can't say we were right to leave him behind. The families who brought their children-- even the 3 and half year old-- absolutely made sacrifices when it came to tour schedules and what-not. But they had the tremendous joy and pleasure of experiencing the addition to their family as in-tact families, and there is definitely something to be said for that, at least emotionally speaking.

Anyway, to dispell the sense that I didn't enjoy the trip, you should know that I'm the kind of person who experiences something once and, as a general rule, likes to move on to try something new. But I'd still consider going back to China and doing it all again. (I'd just be sure to order the money and have someone else check to make sure I hadn't forgotten any documents before we left!) Here are some reasons why I would do it again in China:

1. The people were generally warm. They tried hard to communicate with us in English, even though we were visitors in their country and really made little attempt to speak Mandarin (except to say we didn't want something or we didn't want something to be spicy).

2. The food service was impeccable. At first, I was a little freaked out that they (literally) stood over us at restaurants and waited for us to order. Then I realized it was because they wanted to put in our food orders immediately.

3. Nobody rushes anywhere, really. Sometimes in the U.S. I feel like I will never be on time to anything again. Even if I get going really early, that will be the day Casey (our 3-year-old) will pitch a fit and refuse to do anything, making me at least 15 minutes late to wherever I am supposed to be. In China, no one ever rushed us. Even in the restaurants, where it would be considered "camping" to sit around and talk for a long time after dinner, the servers left us alone. For a long time, we couldn't figure out why it took so long to get the bill. Then we realized we just needed to ask for one and they'd bring it right away.

4. The food was actually pretty good. My favorite was the peking duck (in Peking, of course). But I thought the Canotense food I had everywhere was pretty good. I know I complained about not having breakfast options, but really it's because I'm not big on breakfast foods and didn't feel like eating eggs (which they prepared to your liking, at your request, on the spot). Once I discovered the cereal, I was good to go.

5. There are lots of opportunities to shop. Enough said.

6. People don't care if you cut in line. Okay-- not sure that's a good thing, but I definitely didn't find the behavior to be rude. When you've got 12 billion people in a city (like Chongqing), how can you avoid a little pushing and shoving? And I admit I was irritated when I was standing at the front of the line and handing the clerk my credit card when the woman literally ignored the line (of Americans, of course) behind me and stuck her room key over the top of my credit card, saying something in Mandarin, which resulted in the clerk providing her immediate service. But you know the saying- When in Rome-- so once we figured out that it's not rude to shove to the front, we just joined in the fun (particularly on airplanes).

7. Bottled water is very inexpensive. Good thing, too, because the water is "not potable." I think that means you aren't supposed to drink it. I never did.

8. Being an American with a small child in China is like being a rock star or celebrity. Everyone wants to touch the baby, touch you, tell you how beautiful your child is, tell you how lucky the baby is (when I know it's really me who is the lucky one). Walking down the street in a group of Americans-- even a group of, say, 3 people-- means having people pay attention. Another nice thing about this happening in China is that it only lasts while you are there and you get to return to your anonymous life back in the U.S.

9. In the department stores, people actually help you. In every department there is someone to help you find the size or the color or whatever you want! You just have to remember to get them to fill out a receipt and then go pay for it-- you can't take it with you. But after you pay, when you go back to retrieve it, it's all wrapped up and ready for you.

10. People remember your face. Seriously. They are so gracious and helpful, they remember you individually. They remember what clothes or items you were looking at or what you ate or whatever. At Starbucks, they'd even say, "see you tomorrow," or "It's nice to see you again today!" I am particularly impressed by this because I thought for certain that to Chinese people, all white people would look alike. That may not be politically correct, but who knows the difference between Italian and Greek and Irish and whatever anymore-- but the people in China really did remember us as individuals. Quite impressive.

11. I felt very safe in China. I remember traveling in Italy and even living in Spain for a while when I was in college or just out of school. I remember carrying my passport on my body at all times. Wearing a money belt around my waist to avoid pick-pockets. Feeling concerned at all times someone was trying to rip me off. China was not at all like that. That's not to say you should flaunt your wallet or anything, but I didn't feel quite so paranoid about having money on me, and I felt safe leaving my passport in the safe, along with my computer and our video camera, throughout our stay in the various cities. Perhaps it was a false sense of security-- I did get sort-of scammed, and one of our friends was given fake money in Guangzhou. But there are people like that everywhere in the world, and for the most part China seems to be a safe place to go. I wouldn't hesitate to walk the streets of Guanzhou or Chongqing after dark on my own (not that I did-- but my lack of exercise had more to do with laziness than security concerns).

12. The domestic airline service was amazing. Food on every flight. Beverages (even if Pepsi and Coke Light weren't available). Seats were basically the same size as in the U.S., too. What more can a girl ask for?

So there you have it-- 12 good things about traveling to China.
We definitely plan to go back, if not to adopt our third child then at least to visit Marcie's home land when she gets older. It's the least we can do for her- don't you think?

Sorry about the lack of photos on such a long post. But not sorry enough to locate any to put here. The beauty of my words will just have to suffice. Ha ha.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Friday, September 1, 2006: Depart Guangzhou, Arrive San Diego

I didn't make it online like I thought I would-- though I was up and awake in the middle of the night, as anticipated. . . Our final day in China flew by. We needed to pick up a few things from the little shops near the White Swan, so after breakfast, we troddled off to do just that. We found a soft Chinese Doll at the Charity Shop, and we told Kyndra and Larry we'd pick up one for Cassidy, so that's where we started out. Because so many people had left Guangzhou early in the day, it was really quiet on the streets, and there was a lot of high pressure sales, which isn't really my thing. But we survived it.

We stopped for lunch at Blenz (a Canadian coffee company) before returning to the hotel. The food there was significantly less expensive than at the hotel. Then Marcie napped while Jason and my mom went across the bridge hunting for some toys for Casey. You'd think, with all the stuff made in China these days, we'd be able to find toys easily, but it wasn't so simple. In one shop, the owner wrapped up a toy her son was playing with and tried to sell it to us! Jason told her he didn't want it that way-- no reason to teach her child to hate Americans (even through such subtle measures)! It was also interesting that we really didn't see any boys' clothes-- just clothes for girls.

We finished packing by 4:30pm and set out our bags for the hotel to pick up. Then we gave Marcie a bath. She screamed the entire time. I don't know if she was mad in general, or if she was weirded out by not saying anyone from her orphanage all day, then watching us pack, then getting a bath and a change of clothes. I think I'd have been pretty freaked out if I were her! We went downstairs to catch our ride to the airport at 5:00 and Raymond and Kathy were waiting for us. It was quite a relief to learn that Kathy was going to accompany us all the way to security, making sure we checked in okay (and we did).

While waiting for our plane, we stopped at a local restaurant in the airport to use of the remaining yuan. It was even more expensive there than the White Swan, but we knew it'd be hours before we ate a solid meal again. One of the employees tried to pick up Casey, and Jason told her, "no." I don't know if she was put off by that, but with all the change Marcie was experiencing, she really needed to be our priority.

The flight was a little bumpy at times, but impressively uneventful. There were five families in Premium Economy with newly adopted children from China, and at least one in economy. It was pretty full of businessmen, though. All the babies did very well. Marcie slept on me for about 6 hours, at which time I handed her off to Jason because my neck and back were aching. Then Jason held her for another hour or two, and then my mom played with her for a little bit. By the time they served breakfast, there was only about an hour left in the flight. Marcie didn't cry at all on the plane. We were very proud of her.

As we landed in Los Angeles and were taxing down the runway, people from the Economy section of the plane literally started to line up in the rows next to us. It was unbelievable! The flight attendant stood up and made one of the woman go back and sit down, but once we approached the gate, it was impossible to hold everyone back. Luckily, we were near the front of the plane and able to disembark quickly. I say it was lucky because the lines at customs were long. We were told at the consulate to get in the visitors line, but once we were at the airport, they told us to get in the citizens line, so we did. We were the third family processed through, and when the woman (whose last name was Schneider) stamped Marcie's visa, we could finally breathe easy-- it's official-- Marcie is a U.S. citizen.

Even though our bags were checked through all the way to San Diego, we had to exit the international terminal and get back in line at United's domestic ticketing area. We waited in line for over an hour, while only two agents checked in at least 6 flights' worth of people-- well, more than that, because two flights to San Diego departed just while we were in line. Also in line with us was a family making a red eye flight to Washington, D.C., and another family heading home back to Portland, Oregon. They had both been to Hunan Province for their daughters. Finally we made it through the ticketing line, and then we went on to security, where they threw out the bottle of water for Marcie's bottle (great. . .).

After security, we headed off to our gate, and as luck would have it CPK and Starbucks were closed. I bought a bottle of water at Roadhouse (a bar) and asked them to boil some water for me. We made Marcie's bottle, but she really didn't like it, and she threw up all over herself and all over my arm. After we got her cleaned up and changed and I went off to the bathroom to wash my arm, she threw up again, all over Jason. Lovely. But we were so close to home, we almost didn't care. . .

As the minutes ticked by-- first our boarding time passed, then our departure time passed, then we noticed the kiosk said our flight was "closed"-- we started wondering if it would have been a better idea to just rent a car and drive home. We could've been home by the time our plane finally boarded. There was an outgoing flight at our gate, and our plane couldn't park there until that plane departed-- hence the delay (though United never actually called it a delay). While we were waiting, they called up passengers to collect our paper tickets to speed up the process. When they called "Cheng," no one appeared. Any of the four times they called him. Then, when we got on the plane, we had to move seats because there weren't enough oxygen masks on our side of the plane. Then, they couldn't get the on-board number to match the checked-in number, and they went row-by-row, checking names to see who was missing. Of course, Cheng was missing. When our flight attendant got to our row, we asked if Cheng's bags were on the plane-- and said if they were, we wanted off. The flight attendant laughed, and I told her we weren't kidding. We'd just traveled to the U.S. from China, and I had a nine-month-old on my lap and a three-and-half year old at home. I wasn't about to stay on the plane with bags from a passenger who wasn't also on-board. I probably sounded like a lunatic, but bear in mind that at this point in time, I had been traveling for over 16 hours to get home (I can only imagine how people feel after The Amazing Race). She assured us his bags were not on the plane. I guess they figured out the numbers, because we took off shortly thereafter.

Back in San Diego, Jason's dad, my dad, and Jason's sister Tiffany were waiting to greet us at the commuter terminal. We piled into the two cars and headed back to Poway. Marcie, who has probably never experienced a car seat, was less-than-pleased. By the time we got to our freeway exit, she was screaming and sobbing. By the time we got to our driveway, she was nearly inconsolable. She'd traveled so well up to that point, it never dawned on me she wouldn't like the car-- or more specifically, the car seat. In the driveway, Jason's mom and Casey were waiting to greet us. By now, it was after midnight, and the whole neighborhood was dark. I picked up Casey on my right him to give him a great big hug, and he looked over at my left him and said, "It's Marcie!" like he couldn't believe it was her in person. He was really happy to see her.

Inside, Casey wanted to hold Marcie on his lap, he shared his toys with her, and he gave her hugs and kisses. He was genuinely happy to see her. We finally fell into bed around 3am, and Marcie woke up from 4-5am. Then I got up again with Marcie and Casey at 9am. Transitioning back to Pacific Time will certainly be a challenge with Marcie, but we sure are happy to be home. . . and I'm so proud of how Casey is doing as a big brother. Of course, we'll see how long that lasts!