Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Little of Everything in a Whole Lotta Words

I have taken a lot of pictures lately. And Casey has, too. Some quite artistic. But I won't be sharing any in this post because I'm afraid to download them to this computer. I've actually used up all the space on the C drive. I've never had that happen before. I didn't even know it was possible. But apparently it is, and I've done it. So this week Jason is helping me transfer everything over to a better computer with more capacity, and then I'll be able to add some photos.

The Bus
Casey started riding the bus. He takes it two mornings a week from the elementary school where he has speech therapy to the preschool he attends. He loves it. They walk him from his class out to the waiting bus, strap him into his seat belt, and then deliver him to his preschool teachers. Jason followed him the first day and took pictures, so I can't wait to upload them when I have more computer memory. I'm just happy he's so happy about taking the bus.

Marcie's Sleeping
I have written about Marcie's sleep issues more times than I care to count. Maybe even as often as I was writing about her bowel movements back during Poop Watch 2006. And the good news is that we appear to have trained her.

I wrote before that the crying was whittling down. Well as of around the 24th (maybe even before that, actually), there were no more tears at bedtime. She puts herself right to sleep. When she asks me to lay down with her, I tell her no very gently and remind her that I love her. She rolls over, sucks on her blanket, and puts herself to sleep. Every once in a while, she does still wake up in the middle of the night crying. Sometimes she wants me. Sometimes she wants Jason. Usually we just need to rub her back and let her know we're still there. We tell her to put herself back to sleep, and she does. Last night I heard her cry once, and then it stopped immediately. So she's definitely getting the routine.

I'm sure it helps some that she's so busy at school all day and so tired by the time we get home. I know I'm in a better mood. I can't believe I didn't suck it up and sleep train her sooner! I mean a girl could get used to sleeping more than 3 or 4 continuous hours of sleep a night!

Marcie and her Preschool
I continue to be impressed with Marcie's preschool teachers. She loved going the first couple days, but then the honeymoon ended. The first morning she told me, "No school," I tried to get her to tell me why (yup, that's me, trying to have a rational conversation with a 22-month-old). She didn't like my approach and went to Jason. He reminded her of all the fun things she gets to do at school, and she stopped fussing.

For a few days, she whined and cried as we pulled into the school parking lot. One morning she cried so hard, I'm sure I made it worse by sitting with her on the playground until she calmed down. When I finally left, she was really unhappy. But her teacher told me she stopped crying less than five minutes later and didn't complain the rest of the day.

I know she's still adjusting. It's been less than two weeks, and they say it takes 4-6 weeks for a two-year-old to adjust to being away from home, regardless of the number of days each week they attend. But she is definitely learning new things. And Casey's preschool teachers take him to visit her some days during lunch or play time. He stops by and gives her a hug and a kiss and says hi. And they play together in the afternoons. So that's all good.

She sure does come home dirty, though. One day I made the mistake of just putting a barrette in her hair, no rubber bands. She wore a white shirt, khaki skirt, and white tights. When I arrived to pick her up at the end of the day, she had dirt smudges and a little bit of juice stained around her mouth. She'd spilled juice and I-don't-know-what-else on the once-white shirt; the tights were no longer a white, but a shade of beige from the sandbox I presume; and the backside of her skirt looked like she'd been rolling around on the ground (and she probably had). Plus, her bangs were hanging down, obscuring the top half of her eyes. She looked like one of those children they feature in the ads where they want you to sponsor a child in a developing country by giving food money each month-- except Marcie, of course, doesn't look like she needs to eat. I wish I'd had my camera that day! Suffice it to say she is now in rubber bands always, and we're moving away from white clothes (what was I thinking?!? Casey hated getting even the littlest bit dirty at Marcie's age, so I guess I just thought all kids were like that. . . what a dummy).

Casey's entering his sixth week of swimming lessons, and he's been doing-- well, swimmingly. He's mastered any fear of dunking his face. He knows how to make giant scoops with his arms, and he even tries kicking simultaneously. He does it for as long as he can hold his breath, then he stands up, waves to me, and does it again. He's also been working on his elementary back stroke, which cracks me up because I can hear him doing the motions. They've taught the kids that they should make arms like a chicken, then an airplane, then shoot their harms down against their sides like a rocket. So I can hear Casey going "Bock! Bock! Zoooooom! Kerpow!" over and over again as he makes the motions. He can't quite do anything on his own yet, but he's made definite improvements!

Marcie started music class this week. As part of the class, we get a book and a CD of the music. Which the kids both love. If Casey's Sports of all Sorts (soccer, baseball, and basketball) didn't conflict, I'd enroll him, too! Their favorite song is about a duck. But earlier today I heard Casey singing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Except instead of "little lamb" he was singing, "Mary had a little man, little man, little man . . . and everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went; everywhere that Mary went, the man was sure to go." It brings new meaning to the word stalker. Anyway, I have some great pictures a friend took of Marcie in music class, but alas, they will have to wait until I can download on the new computer.

The Car
I did get my car back. The repair place did a great job. But part of the bumper appears to be coming loose, so we'll be taking it back in this week. I'm hopeful it's a one-day fixer so that we don't have to worry about renting again. But really, who knows.

Oddly, my one of my sisters-in-law had her car broken into the week before last and another sister--in-law was hit by a crazy driver who decided to make a left turn right into the front of her beautiful car. She's uninjured but the car may be totalled. We all have the same insurance company, so they must think the S. family is quite a risk to have on the books these days!

The New Job
And last is that I start my new job tomorrow. I don't really know what to expect. I mean, I interned there last summer, so I kind of know what to expect. But I'm quite certain that it'll be different from the summer experience, too. Check in tomorrow, and I'll try to remember to post how things went. (I've been scattered in posting because I finally went to the doctor and it turns out that the pain in my neck is not psychosomatic; I have had a month-long-muscle spasm. I was prescribed a muscle relaxant, but I can't stay awake on the stuff, so I take it when I put the kids to bed, and then I'm out like a light within the hour. . .)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charmed Life

Last weekend I went away with a friend of mine to Big Bear to scrapbook Casey's Story and Marcie's Story. The books are an explanation of each my children's beginnings-- not your typical scrapbook. They tell how each of them came to become part of our family, and they share a little bit about the world from whence they came. They're written for Casey and Marcie to understand now, as a toddler and a preschooler. The scrapbooking weekend is a topic for another post in itself, but the road trip portion of it was interesting, and it's what motivates me to write this entry.

I was explaining to my friend (who rode with me) that sometimes I look around and see how other people lead what appear to me to be charmed lives. It's not that I'm ungrateful for the life I lead. I'm actually very happy with my life. But it's work, too. For example, I said, we got a $500 refund check from Marcie's adoption in the mail the same week that I was in the car accident and needed to pay the $500 deductible. I mean, it could be worse-- at least we had the money.

She inquired as to how I was defining charmed life. And that caused me great pause. Because I was thinking that people who live charmed lives are people to whom life seems to happen. They just always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Things work out for them. They never really seem to struggle. And my friend pointed out that my $500 check example could be seen as pretty charmed, then, couldn't it? And, of course, she's right.

So I decided to look up the definition of a charmed life. What I found was that defines it as "a life that seems to have been protected by a charm or spell." And explains it's a life that is protected by or invulnerable because of "spells, charms, or supernatural influences."

Now, I certainly do not believe any spell or charm or supernatural influence is keeping me or my family safe. But I suppose that leading a charmed life is as much about perspective as it is about anything. And perhaps I had the wrong perspective.

I mean, the $500 check is one example. But I can think of plenty of others, too. For instance, if we hadn't struggled with fertility issues, Casey probably wouldn't be our son. That's not to say we wouldn't have adopted children; I think we would have considered it eventually, regardless. But at that point in our lives, at the exact time that Casey was born, we wouldn't have been adopting. I wouldn't have left teaching, probably. I probably wouldn't have gone to law school, or run the Disneyworld marathon. I wouldn't have met some people whom I now consider to be my closest friends. Sure, I would have done other stuff, and I would have made other friends. But the point is that what felt like this horrible thing happening to me was such blessing in so many other ways.

Another example is the car accident. It could have been so much worse. I mean, like I wrote about before, the kids could have been with me. Or I could have totalled the car. Or someone could have really been hurt. This really hit home for me early this week when we learned that one of Casey's classmates lost his 36-year-old mother in a car accident. I mean, there I was talking to her on the playground last week. And this week she's gone. And her two-year-old probably will not have any actual memories of her mother. And her four-year-old's memories will be limited at best. No warning. No good-byes. Just there in the morning when the kids woke up and gone that evening when they were tucked in bed. And here I am irritated because I had to drive a crappy rental car for a month. I mean, if you're going to be in a car accident, one where there are no substantial injuries and no children present is the kind of accident to be involved in. So my point is that leading a charmed life isn't about never having struggles-- it's about how you face those challenges and how you choose to handle them.

So here I sit. My children tucked quietly in bed for the night. And I am ever-so-grateful for the life I lead. I work hard at it. But it doesn't make it any less charmed . . .

Monday, September 24, 2007

B.S. # 3 Now Entering Critical Review

I just got an e-mail from CCAI (our adoption agency):
Congratulations! Your dossier has arrived at our office!
So that means we have moved on to the (hopefully) final stages of our dossier review process before mailing everything to China! Critical Review, where our paperwork is reviewed multiple times, translated, and bound, usually takes 9-11 days.

We'll keep you posted!

Eat at Chilis Restaurant Today- Sept. 24th!

I meant to post this last week and lost track of time.

Today, September 24, 2007, Chili's Restaurants are donating all their profits to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This is a great cause-- one of my favorites. And while Chili's isn't donating all money they take in, I'm still pretty impressed that they are donating all their profits. Most places will only agree to donate a percentage-- so 100% of the profits is a terrific contribution.

If you're wondering what St. Jude's is about, they focus on research and treatment of childhood cancer. Once patients are accepted for treatment at St. Jude's, the cost of the treatment is fully covered, so no one is ever turned away for having no insurance or because their insurance won't cover it. Not only are they an amazing place for treating children, but their research has made more survival possible than ever. When St. Jude's opened its doors in 1962, the survival rate for ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, cancer of the blood) was around 4%. Today it's 94%. Their research has contributed to improved 5-year survival rates in a variety of types of cancer.

Of course you can just donate money directly to St. Jude's. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't help grow the contribution from Chili's either! After all, everyone's gotta eat. I know our office is ordering in from Chili's today-- so if you work someplace where eating from a restaurant is possible, grab some co-workers and head over to a participating Chili's near you. And if you don't work in a place that allows you to make it to a Chili's on your lunch hour, I hope you'll consider taking your family there for dinner!

Happy eating!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

One Step Closer to BS #3

Our dossier, along with our final agency payment, our photos, and a photocopy of all the documentation, is going in the mail tomorrow. It's set to arrive at our agency Monday morning.

I remember feeling no anxiety about this stage of it all last time. For some reason, though, this time I feel some pangs of anxiety. Last time, the wait was only 6 months long. So if something needed to be fixed or redone, the one- or two-week delay was no big deal. This time, four days could mean the difference between a 24 month wait and a 25 month wait. So mistakes are a very big deal.

Theoretically, our dossier should be reviewed and off to China by the beginning of the second week in October. That is, of course, barring any mistakes or problems with our paperwork. The date it's mailed is called our DTC (Date To China). Then we'll hear from China, who will verify they received our documentation, with a LID (Log In Date). That date is our official place in line. We aren't out of the woods, though. A year or so from now (maybe much longer, maybe much shorter), the Review Room in China will comb through our documentation to make sure everything looks good and they don't have any questions.

Still, once we have our LID, we'll officially be paper pregnant, and our insanely long wait will finally begin. I know our child will be well worth wait. But I also know I'm incredibly impatient about these things, and the wait will be hard.

One step at a time, though. So let's just get our paperwork off to China first, shall we?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


In a treat to myself more than anything, back in April I planned a Disneyland trip. It was really just a mental plan because we didn't have the time off to go. Until now.

As a general rule, we decided three is appropriate age to bring your child to Disneyland for the first time. Sure, they're free before their third birthday. But really, there's not much for them to enjoy. And they definitely aren't going to remember or appreciate it. Plus, they tend to be freaked out by all the Disney characters, which must look a bit like giant bobble-heads to preschoolers. In any case, we dutifully waited until Casey's third birthday to go. That was January of 2006.

And now that Casey's older, we thought he'd appreciate it even more. Sure, we could have left Marcie behind to hold steadfast to our three-year-old rule. But how do you explain that to your almost-two-year-old? We didn't even try. We just decided to go as a family. And we dragged along some family friends, too.

Lucas, who you will see featured in some photos below, is 6 months older than Marcie-- two and a half years younger than Casey. But the boys get along famously. So off we went to Disneyland on a one-day park hopper.

We promised Casey he could meet Princess Ariel (known in our home as the Little Mermaid) and hug her. So we made reservations at the over-priced Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure. And even though the cost of a three course meal might make you choke, it was like a ride unto itself. Not only did Casey get to hug Ariel and take pictures with her, but we were greeted by and received autographs from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), and Cinderella. The boys were giddy with joy. Plus, because princesses are people and not costumed with giant heads, they weren't intimidating in the least.

Even though we only rode maybe 6 rides (and not because there were long lines-- there weren't lines for anything but the new Nemo ride, which we skipped because we didn't want to waste 2 hours standing in it), it was worth the money. The thing about Disneyland, particularly through a small child's eyes, is that it really is one of the most Magical Places on Earth.

(Click the collage to see larger version)

Marcie's Preschool Extravaganza

Marcie started preschool today. In many ways, I think the first day of school is much harder on us parents than on our kids.

Marcie has been asking to go to "schoo" for at least a couple weeks now. She is usually with us or Grandma S. when one of us drops off Casey at school. She likes to visit Casey’s classroom and say hello to the class turtle. She likes to follow after Casey and give him a kiss good-bye. She likes to give Casey’s teacher a hug. She feels safe and comfortable at the school.

Last week, in preparation for her transition to preschool, we went to visit. Casey and I dropped off his lunch and signed in. Then Casey led Marcie by the hand all over the big kids’ playground, introducing Marcie to his friends and teachers. He stopped off at every group of children and said, “This is my baby sister, Marcie. She is coming to _____ School now.” He walked us over to the little kids’ playground, where he stood at the gate and watched her. When one of his best friends Kaitlyn came to say hello, he told her he was busy with his baby sister. And once he saw that she was going to be okay, he called to Marcie to come give him kisses, and she did so through the gate.

Marcie hung out on the playground for almost an hour. Her new teacher introduced her to some new friends. She discovered the slide, which entertained her for quite a while. She poured sand over the top of her head. She climbed in the little police car and onto the tricycle and pedaled herself around.

And when it was time to start class, she lined up just like the other children and followed them into the room. She wandered over to the carpeted area and sang along during the morning song. When they held up her name card, she eagerly jumped up to take it and put it up on the chart with the other names.

During arts and crafts, she dutifully painted glue onto the page with the paint brush, then washed her hands thoroughly at the sink. She sang and danced and shook a maraca during music time, and she sat on the toilet and giggled during potty time.

When her teacher scooped out cheese sauce and pretzel sticks, she said, “please” and “thank you.” And she guzzled down grape juice like it was candy (or at least the part of the cup that she didn’t dribble all down the front of her shirt).

After the time for our visit came to an end, she gave each teacher a high five and a hug, and she waved good bye to her friends, calling out “good bye” and “see you later.”

At the end of the morning, I was so proud of my big girl. She had such a good time playing with the other children and loved being part of the group. And when I asked if she wanted to go back to school, she nodded her head yes vigorously.

But that was just a classroom visit. Today was her first day of school. Her first full day of school. And she did fantastically well. She cried a little at nap time. Which, really, isn't that different from home! But then she took a nap! She ate her lunch. She played. And when I went to pick her up, she and Casey came running, screaming at me: "MOMMY! MOMMY!" and ran directly into my arms. Scooping up my kids to bear hug them simultaneously as they chant my name in sheer joy-- that's one of my all-time favorite feelings.

Anyway, here's Marcie visiting school (click the collage to see a larger version and view the photos more clearly):

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wow! Already?

In the adoption world-- both domestic and international, from my experience-- there is a lot of hurrying up and waiting. You pay the rush fees because, with China referring only a handful of days' worth of matches each month, a week-- or even a day-- can make a big difference.

I wrote last week that we over-nighted everything to Red Tape Solution to courier our dossier documents through the Los Angeles Consulate. We know she received our stuff on Friday morning before 10am, because we are signed up for handy-dandy Fed Ex notifications when our stuff arrives. We paid the extra charges to have our paperwork "rushed," which means returned the next business day. We were hoping that meant we'd see our documents this Thursday or Friday. But, thanks to that same hand-dandy Fed Ex notification system, we know that something is in the mail to us from Red Tape Solution, and it's due to arrive before 10am tomorrow.

Our guess? Our dossier documents have all been authenticated!

That puts the ball back in our court. We'd planned to get our passport photos and pick out our family photos this week-- figuring whatever additional pictures we needed to take, we'd be able to do so all week long. But if our documents will be here tomorrow, well, we'd better hurry up to get it all ready to send to CCAI so we can wait for it to make its way through critical review and translation (then off it all goes to China)!

This is terrific news. And what great motivation to shuffle through all the photos we took today at Disneyland today to see if they meet any of our needs (Disneyland is a story for another post)!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Turning Away a Boy

Today's Rumor Queen post discussed (again) an apparently new phenomenon with the China adoption process: people who have requested healthy children with no known medical conditions have recently been referred children with repaired medical conditions. So, if a child is born with an extra digit, and that extra digit has been removed, the child is no longer considered a child with special needs, and she may be referred to a family requesting a healthy child. Some families have opted to decline these referrals, and it appears that they received a new referral-- for a healthier child-- in the next batch.

Of course, I have an opinion about this, but that's not what I'm going to write about today. What caught my eye was this one line in Rumor Queen's post:

Also, the families who turned down boy referrals have been given a referral
for a girl.

What this sentence tells me is that there were families who requested girls and were referred boys who declined the referral. Now, it's true that I don't know the individual circumstances-- like perhaps it was that they requested a healthy girl and were matched with a boy with a repaired special need. But, taking the sentence at its face, I am . . . well . . . appalled.

Here we have a situation in which a government has created a predominantly one-child-only rule (though if both parents are only children, they are permitted to have two children without paying a penalty for the second child). And that rule has led to the abandonment of thousands of girls for social and cultural reasons. The desire to have a boy is so strong in China, that people were, at one point, opting for sonograms to determine gender and then terminating the pregnancy if it was a girl. I remember reading back in 2005 that China was no longer permitting ultrasound technicians to reveal the gender of a child for that very reason.

So along come Americans, and people from other countries, too, who are interested in building their families through adoptions from China. And we all go into the process recognizing that there is an abundance of girls and thinking that we will probably be adding a girl to our families through this process. The thing is, though, that the one-child rule doesn't just apply to parents who have no children. It applies to everyone. So if a family has a boy or a girl who they decide to raise, and then discover they are pregnant again, it's quite plausible that child will end up in an orphanage regardless of the gender. That means there are boys in China's orphanages, not just girls.

And so it leaves me to wonder how we can on the one hand cluck our tongues in disapproval at the abandonment of girls, and more specifically at the cultural preference for one gender over another, only to later demonstrate the same preference. I just don't get it. It seems incredibly hypocritical; and more than that, it seems wrong.

I mean, say you were pregnant and really, really wanted a girl. And you discovered you were going to be having a boy, would you seriously decide to terminate the pregnancy? Place the child for adoption? I've never even heard of such a thing happening in the U.S. But, by analogy, isn't that what families who turn down a referral for a gender other than the one they requested are doing?

Yeah. I'm being judgmental. But boy or girl, all children need loving homes. And if you only have a heart for one gender or another, I can't help but question the motives. And yes, I realize some families opt to adopt from China because they have three boys at home and would like a little girl. But, you know what? Too bad. That's just the crap shoot you take, I say. I think it's wrong to decline a referral because of gender. And I don't think anything would convince me otherwise. Shame on those families. Shame on us for thinking it's okay to have that attitude with adoption when we would never condone it for biological children.

That said, of course I would much prefer those families decline the perfectly healthy boy to wait for a girl than adopt a child who they will never really love. But it's so sad that they don't have unconditional love to offer in the first place. . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dossier Compilation Continues

So it's 10:34pm, and I just walked in the door. I left home around 9:15pm to make photocopies, after spending around 45 minutes to an hour preparing paperwork for our final step-- authentication by the Chinese Consular General in Los Angeles.

Our agency, CCAI, now offers a dossier certification/authentication service. Basically, you send them all the paperwork once you've gathered it and they notarize it, get it certified by the County Clerk and the Secretary of State, then get it authenticated by the Chinese Consulate. I don't know if it includes "rush" or "walk-in" service (though I imagine it does just because of the volume of clients they have). It's $1200, and though they claimed they don't recoup any cost, I was skeptical. Well, I am a skeptic no more. When all is said and done, all the notarizing, certifying, and authenticating-- not to mention shipment costs-- will have cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 anyway. And that means we saved around $200 doing it ourselves. You have to ask yourself if the time you spend collecting signatures is worth $200. I know, for me, it probably wasn't. Just the number of hours I spent-- around 4 or 5-- collecting the signatures and making copies probably wasn't worth $200 in the end. But, of course, how could I have known that? Plus, this allowed me to retain control over the process, something I would have had to let go of had I let CCAI take care of the documentation for me. Long story short, it's probably worth the $1200 in the end.

Oddly, although I now have sent all our documents off to a courier that specializes in getting documents authenticated, I feel more anxious instead of less worried. Last time, I mailed it all to the Consulate myself, and it took about a month to get it all back. This time, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it can be taken care of in a week by using Red Tape Solution (the courier). But the thought of turning over all that personal information to someone to walk it through the consulate makes me awfully nervous. Of course, that's what the big agencies do with it-- they send it to a courier, too. But still. It's birth certificates and passport photos and financial information and criminal clearances-- all the makings for stealing a person's identity. And now that I've thought that through a bit more, I have to stop writing about this because it makes me even more anxious. . .

Anyway, the FedEx package is scheduled for pick up at 4:30pm and guaranteed arrival in its destination (a mere hour and a half away by car, mind you) by 10:00am the next morning.

So please keep your fingers crossed and send your good vibes our way that the courier will get the package, deliver it to the Los Angeles P.R. China Consulate, get the stuff back authenticated, and return it to us without a hitch. And without borrowing our personal information . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Super Eater, Super Sleeper

It dawns on me as I write this that perhaps I should not compare our kids. Hmm. I don't mean it like we are creating expectations for one based on the other. Just that it's interesting to see how they handle things differently.

For instance, Marcie is a super eater. She'll try anything. I'm not exaggerating here. Admittedly, she doesn't like everything, but just about. She always turns away lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, for example. But if she sees anyone eating something, she wants it, too. This is so nice. Last night for dinner, I made Marcie and Casey pizza, and Jason and I had flounder. Marcie asked me for some of my flounder (by grunting at me) and then gobbled it up and asked for more. What not-even-two-year-old eats fish? Casey, on the other hand, is not adventurous with food. It's a battle just to get him to smell something new. Forget about tasting it. Of course, on the flip side of this, Casey doesn't eat constantly, isn't really a big fan of sweets (including cake), and we don't worry that he'll eat himself silly.

On the flip side of things, Casey is a super sleeper. He lays down at bed time (or nap time) and sings to himself or counts sheep or whatever. We just kiss him good-night, shut off the light, and walk about the door. He naps, even 4 1/2 for at least an hour a day. And lately, his nighttime sleep has been extending (I actually wake him up at 6:45am many mornings now, when he used to wake me up at 6:00am). Marcie, on the other hand, is not so good with the sleeping. She cat naps for like 30 minutes at a time. If we're lucky, she might nap for a solid hour in the afternoon. She screams when we put her down at bed, and she wakes up anywhere between once and four times during the night (and wakes us up right along with her). Then she's up between 5:45am and 6:15am for the day.

Last week -- or the week before-- I decided enough was enough-- it was time for Marcie to learn to put herself to sleep. So on Thursday night (I think it was Thursday), when I put her in bed, I told her she needed to put herself to sleep. That I loved her. That I was right outside her door. And that I'd be there in the morning. And good-night. I turn off the light, and I put up the gate in the doorway. And she began to cry. And cry. And scream. And cry. It started out with the loud wails. Then progressed into, "MOMMY! PO- PO!" (Po-po is essentially hold me in Cantonese.) Then she started yelling, "ALL DONE!" and finally began clapping her hands in between screams.

This all in the first five minutes after I put her down. After five minutes I walked into her bedroom, picked her up, put her in bed, told her I loved her, I would be there when she woke up, and covered her back up. Left the room and put the gate up. And repeated the scenario. I did this every 5 minutes for the first 1/2 hour. Then every 10 minutes for the next half hour. Then every 15 minutes (where I planned to hold it until she fell asleep). Thankfully, after the first 15 minutes of screaming and carrying on, she finally fell asleep.

The next night, it was the same. Except instead of taking an hour and a half, it only took maybe 45 minutes. And the next night we were out for the night. She cried and cried in the babysitter's arms for about an hour, until she fell asleep. (I guess we got our money's worth that evening!) Sunday, it was more like 20 minutes, and then for the past week, it's been between 10 and 15 minutes of crying. Over the weekend, the crying (whimpering, really) started when it was time to brush teeth now. Then, a couple nights ago, when I put her down I told her to put herself to sleep, and that I'd check on her in 10 minutes. Eight minutes later, she began crying out for me to hold her. At 10 minutes, I put her back in bed and told her I loved her. She asked me to lay down, and I told her no because she needed to learn to put herself to sleep. And when I checked on her 10 minutes later, she'd put herself to sleep! (As a side note to all of this, Casey actually has been able to sleep through all of Marcie's carrying on-- he really is a super sleeper.) And last night and tonight she went down with no tears at all. I'm banking on the theory that three nights in a row is a pattern. Yippee!

Now, I have very mixed feelings about this sleep-training. Some people call it Ferberizing, and I think I've written about it before. Others call it controlled crying because you don't leave the child in distress to cry for hours on end. I call it heart-wrenching and pretty sucky. And if I could survive on bouts of 3 hours of sleep for years on end and was confident I'd be home at bedtime to lay down with each child to help him or her fall asleep, I might consider not sleep-training. But the truth is that we all know how important sleep is. And I'd be doing a disservice to Marcie if I didn't help her learn how to put herself to sleep. I mean, if she wanted to eat chocolate kisses and only chocolate kisses, and she screamed and cried and carried on if I told her she had to eat something else, I surely wouldn't give in. Because it's bad for her teeth and bad for her growth. I think sleep is kind of like that.

On the other hand, I must admit, I've really been putting off this sleep training in many respects (though I've toyed with doing it off and on for a while) because she's adopted. If you haven't adopted a child who was older than newborn, this probably sounds crazy to you. But if you have adopted a child who's older than just-born, you probably know exactly what I mean. It's all connected to the issue of attachment. And in this sense, I may have fallen prey to the very thing I never want my kids to feel (though I imagine some day they might)-- that they behave in a particular way or feel a certain way simply because they are adopted. I don't want how they joined their family, our family, to be an excuse. For anything. And yet here I am, using it as an excuse myself.

Because a part of me worries that Marcie doesn't like sleeping alone at night (or any time, actually) because it's foreign to her. She feels safer surrounded by others-- just how it was when she lived in China. I know it's irrational because she probably doesn't even remember China anymore. But aren't fears irrational? Maybe she doesn't know why being alone in her bedroom causes her anxiety but it's because of this childhood experience she doesn't remember. Is that possible? As much as I cling to this fear, though, I also know deep in my gut and just as deeply in my heart that Marcie knows she is part of our family and always has been, since the day she was born. She has shown no difficulties with attachment, really. She seems to feel safe and secure and really appears to love being part of this little family of ours. I have no reason to believe the bedtime blues are anything but typical toddler behavior (except the Internet reading I've done on the subject of attachment, or lack thereof, which can display in just one area of a child's life sometimes).

In the end, though, I know she needs to sleep. I need to sleep. And Marcie understands when we tell her we love her, and we'll be there when she wakes up in the morning. So it'll be okay, right?

I-171H **Updated**

For those of you unfamiliar with the I-171H, it's a treasured document in the international adoption process-- at least the Chinese international adoption process. It's Immigration's stamp of approval, so to speak. It's the document that verifies that, indeed, the U.S. is aware that you are going to adopt and will permit you to bring the child into our country, allowing them to become a U.S. citizen. It's the document you need to get a visa for your child to return home with you. And it's typically the last document you need to complete the dossier you mail to China.

Today, I walked in our homestudy to our local USCIS office so I could hand-carry out our coveted I-171H. The walk-in hours are 8am to noon every Tuesday here in San Diego. I got there around 7:45am this morning. There were already two people ahead of me (one who'd signed in at 7:10am and the other at 7:35am). At 8:00am, the officer called the first name, a woman by herself. He had her sit and wait, then disappeared for 30 minutes, then returned with her form. By now, there were three more people or couples after me. He called us each up, took our homestudies, and disappeared again. For around 40 minutes. Then he called the couple ahead of me, who went back inside the office area (behind the counter). Then, about 10 minutes later, he called me.

As I stepped into his cubicle, he explained there was a problem. "A problem?" I asked, my heart beating a little faster. He pulled out our I600A (the application for the I-171H) and explained that my co-petitioner (that would be Jason) didn't sign the form. It's true, Jason's signature is missing. I have no idea how that happened. I mean, I was in the midst of studying for the bar exam and a little flighty in late May. But, hmm. How did we miss that?

He didn't say anything else about it, just went on checking the rest of the file. I let my eyes explore the walls of his cubicle, and they landed on the small bulletin board of photos. And there, before me, was Marcie, smiling. A friend of ours had left our adoption announcement there last spring, and so her picture was on the wall, a welcoming beacon. I pointed her out to the officer. He said she was very cute. I agreed.

In the end, he asked me to call Jason and have him come down to the office before 4pm today to sign the form. Jason will be able to hand-carry out our I-171H after he does. I'm relieved. Yeah, it's a total pain for Jason to drive downtown and do it. But at least it'll be done. And I'm so glad we decided to do the I-171H in person, because if we hadn't, we might wait weeks to learn our file was incomplete, and we'd still have to go in and sign the form to get our I-171H. So at least we've saved a little bit of time. Hopefully. I'll let you know once we actually have the form, though.

On a separate note, one thing that's kind of neat about sitting in the USCIS office is watching all the people go in for their immigration interviews and receive their appointments to take their citizenship oath. Being born in the U.S., I probably take my citizenship a bit for granted. But there's nothing quite like watching six or seven people gleefully leave the interview room, to rush and hug their waiting family or friends and tell them, "I did it!" while holding out their citizenship oath appointment letters. And I think it's fitting that I could observe such obvious gratitude and joy for being-- or becoming-- and American today of all days. Because today is September 11th.

Jason did go in and sign our I600A form, and the officer did, true to his word, hand Jason our I-171H to take home (and Jason did). So, barring the theft or burning of the car in which the document likely sits at the moment (I hesitate to write that for fear for jinxing us), we'll have the form safe and sound at home tonight. Yippee!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I hope it's a tiny, tiny setback. But a setback it is nonetheless. I found what I thought was an error in our homestudy, so it didn't make it to USCIS last week. Which means nothing was notarized or certified or authenticated. It means nothing was sent in the mail to the Chinese Consulate. It means we're still waiting.

It turned out there was an error in the homestudy describing the "child we desire," but it wasn't critical because China looks at our Adoption Petition for that information and not the homestudy at all.

We still asked that it be updated. And, hopefully, we'll be following the previously described process next week instead. Hopefully.

What's the big deal of one week? Well, consider that China just made referrals for four days' worth of paperwork this month. The week-delay could, quite literally, cost us several months in the end. That is to say, we may end up waiting even longer because of it.

It's all part of the process, we realize. But it's still a bummer.

Monday, September 03, 2007


When I was in the classroom, I always, always, always explained to students why. When I asked them to do something, I gave them a reason. I didn't actually do this consciously. But I did it. And I realized I was doing it a couple years into teaching when one student who I'd had multiple times commented that one thing she loved about me was that I always gave a reason. She said it made her feel like I was treating them like adults, not making demanding orders so much as requesting they do something, and for good reason.

Apparently, though, I am not so good at this with toddlers and preschoolers. Maybe I feel more a sense of entitlement given that I'm their mother. Or maybe it's that I think little kids can only hold so much information in their heads, and giving a reason is just that little bit too much. And probably it's because I don't want to treat my almost-2-year-old and 4 1/2 year old like they are young adults. Because, duh, they aren't.

But that sure doesn't stop them from asking why. It's a relatively new phenomenon in our house. But it's not just Casey. Oh, no. Marcie does it, too. A lot. Is that normal for a 21 month old? I honestly can't tell if she even understands what she's asking. But she always uses the word correctly and in context. And usually, after I actually do tell her why, she says, "Okay, Mommy." And that's the end of it. Unless my reason is either "Because I said so" or "Because I'm the mommy." Then she just looks at me funny. And, really, I don't blame her.