Friday, June 29, 2007
I'm sitting here in the library, taking a very short break in between writing out practice essay exams (each essay takes an hour to complete, more or less). And I have been contemplating lately how lazy I feel this summer. Not because I haven't been mentally busy-- oh my, I have. My brain is so full, I'm seriously surprised I remember my own name. But I've been feeling antsy for exercise lately.
When Marcie first came home, I had a lot of time with her, and she and I walked at least 3 days a week, around 45 minutes up and around the hills of our area each time. I'm sure it wasn't as cardiovascularly challenging as all the running I'd been doing prior to meeting Marcie in person, but it was exercise-- and that, for me, is the key to keeping the stress low and the weight off. So when I went back to work and stopped exercising with Marcie, I just completely stopped exercising. Not good. Not good at all. I'm not back in my "fat clothes" or anything, but I'm not in my fun clothes for the time being either.
So I'm getting back on the exercise horse. It's hard with kids. Marcie weighs around 30 pounds and pushing her in a stroller is work on a flat surface, forget the hills in my neighborhood! Add Casey's 37 pounds to the double stroller and the 13 pounds of the stroller itself and I'm pushing almost 80% of my own total weight. This is just too difficult. So I'm going to have to be creative. But darnit if I can't fit into my "fun" clothes when I return to work in August after the bar.
Anyway, to help me on my goal of exercise-- which I believe is good for the body and for the mind-- I'm going to hoof it to China. Seriously.
I looked it up. From San Diego to Guangzhou is 7,348 miles (direct). I don't know where we'll find BS in China, but I know we'll eventually land in Guangzhou for the visa, so I figure that's a safe place to aim for as a goal. And even though 7,348 miles is pretty far, I've probably got at least 3 years in which to do it. That distance over three years works out roughly to 204 miles each month. Hmm. That's 51 miles a week. Maybe I need to re-think this. . . that's probably not a particularly realistic goal. (Good thing we'll actually be flying there and not walking!) But maybe you can help. Maybe if I can get some people to walk with me (figuratively, mind you), we can collectively make it to China-- heck, maybe we can make it to China and BACK. And let's say we won't just count distance we walk or run-- but let's throw in biking and stairmastering and crosstraining, too. Think we can do it?
Anyone up for the challenge?
With Marcie, her adoption was technically final in China. But we've opted to re-adopt her so we she can have a California birth certificate.
So yesterday I went by the courthouse to drop off the paperwork. But I left her Chinese certificate of abandonment, birth certificate, and adoption registration stuff at home. So today I returned with proper documentation.
We are scheduled to finalize our adoption under California law on Thursday, July 19th.
That's exactly 3 1/2 years after Casey's adoption was finalized. Which is a little weird because Casey was also 3 1/2 years old when we brought Marcie home. Maybe that's not weird. I don't know. . .
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I still remember what I was wearing when I got the call-- gray pants, a purple sweater and black heels. I was settling in to my office, trying to figure out where I'd set up the video camera when my cell phone rang. It wasn't even 8:30am yet, and our agency was calling to tell us all about Yang Fu Ji.
I remember the Recruitment Coordinator Chali kindly printing color copies of Marcie's picture on photo paper for me so I could put up her photo next to Casey's in my office.
I remember racing through the firm, stopping in each office doorway to share the picture of my new daughter. (In retrospect, I must have seemed a little crazed to these people who hadn't even known me for a month yet.)
Marcie didn't have an American name yet. And we didn't name her June 27th, either. We narrowed it down to two choices a year ago today. (Obviously Marcie was one of them.)
A year ago today, I worried about how much air fare would cost. If we would get to see the Great Wall. How much Marcie would weigh by the time we met her.
Yeah. I remember what a big deal June 27, 2006 was to me. But in some ways I feel like I remember it from outside myself. Like I was watching it all happen to me . . . because I barely remember what life was like before Marcie joined our family.
And, my, look what a difference a year has made to her. Below left is Marcie's referral photo. Below right was taken almost exactly a year later. Yeah. A year makes a BIG difference . . .
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
1. Why China?
We kicked it around quite a bit back in May, as you know if you read regularly. I really struggled with it. I felt kind of strongly that I wanted to return to Asia because I want to be able to maintain some sort of connection to my children's roots. We already have two continents covered, and adding a third seemed a bit daunting to me (though truth be told, if things don't work out with China for us, we'll be making a bee-line to Ethiopia!).
Here's what it came down to for us. I did a boatload of research on Taiwan adoptions. They are private adoptions. We'd hire a US agency to coordinate with a nursery in Taiwan. We did select an agency-- the one agency we received so much positive feedback about, I felt very comfortable with them. I received a lot of unsolicited recommendations, and that's always a good sign. Their Taiwan program coordinator was amazingly patient, personable, and responsive. If you're contemplating Taiwan, you might look into FCA. They work with Cathwel in Taiwan. The thing is that the wait was going to be 18 months (average) until match-- and stretching. Plus another 6 months or so while the paperwork moved through the courts. And that's in addition to the homestudy. So basically we're looking at about 2 years from time of turning in paperwork. I was okay with the wait (there are several other agencies that have shorter waits, but many are new or I got very mixed reviews or they were terrible at follow-up). But then I started thinking-- if we're going to wait 2 years anyway, why not go back to China? With an agency I love, love, love? Plus, Taiwan was looking like it was going to cost substantially more (I estimated in the $10,000 range more), and with that extra money, we could bring the kids with us to China-- which might be nice (depending on their ages and temperaments at the time we travel). Given the risks involved in the Taiwan adoptions, the length of the wait, the additional costs, and the unknowns, we opted for China again.
2. What about the new restrictions? Do you qualify?
Yeah. We qualify. If something weird happens when we're in the review room, we'll have a valid international homestudy, we'll eat the agency cost, and we'll head for Ethiopia. Seriously.
3. Who are you using for the adoption?
We've returned to CCAI as our agency and Adoption Options as our homestudy agency. One of the reasons I was leaning against a California-based Taiwan agency is because they didn't work with Adoption Options, and I have had such a positive experience with them that I just didn't want to start a whole new homestudy process. Returning to agencies that have worked with us means they have a lot of our information and paperwork on file already, which makes our lives a lot easier.
4. Why now? Don't you think you should wait until after the Bar Exam?
Actually, making a decision is a huge relief. And perhaps we should wait until after July to start the paperwork, but with estimates placing the wait for a child from China estimated to stretch to 3 years, we know that getting paperwork done sooner rather than later makes sense. So we're taking it slowly, step by step, piece by piece. And when all the paperwork is together, we'll mail it in.
5. When do you think you'll be finished with "the paperchase"? What is the "paperchase" anyway?
Paperchasing is adoption lingo for gathering all the paperwork you need in your dossier. The dossier is the document that gets translated and sent to the China Center for Adoption Affairs, where they comb through your information and approve you as a prospective adoptive family. It includes birth certificates, marriage certificate, criminal clearance letters, proof of employment, proof of medical insurance, medial reports, a homestudy (which has a whole additional host of documents), a financial statement, and an adoption petition-- that's the brunt of it. To complete the dossier, though, not only do we have to collect all the right forms, but the forms have to go through a series of notarizations, certifications, and authentications to prove we haven't forged them or obtained them fraudulently. In addition to these documents, the homestudy is sent to USCIS (US Center for Immigration Services? I have no idea what it stands for; I'm totally making it up)-- anyway, they review the homestudy to approve us to bring home an orphan from a foreign country and they essentially pre-approve a visa for the child. This form/permission is the coveted 1-171H. And once that's in your hands, you can send everything off for certifications and authentications.
We are hoping to have our homestudy finished in August. We are hoping to have our paperwork all completed in September for shipment to our agency in October. Some of that will depend on whether we do all the notarizing, certifying, and authenticating ourselves, or if we have our agency do it for us. This process involves getting each document notarized. Then having our County Clerk certify the notary signature. Then having the Secretary of State in the local office certify the County Clerk signature (which is certifying the notary signature). Then we send all of that to the appropriate Chinese Consulate, which authenticates the Secretary of State signature (which is certifying the county clerk signature, which is certifying the notary signature). As you might imagine, that's rather time consuming.
6. Do you want a boy or a girl?
Yes. We want a boy or a girl. Or maybe we'll be brave and even request twins (which we'd never get, seeing as how we already have two kiddos). We go back and forth on this. We may request a boy. But even if we do, we'll make it clear we would be happy with a girl, too. We did not request a gender last time; we just requested a child "as young as possible." In the end, gender just isn't that important to us. On the one hand, I'd love to have another boy. On the other hand, I'd love to have another girl. Especially because Marcie is the only girl out of 7 grandkids. (Anyone else in the H. or S. families want to work on that for us? You know, ensure Marcie have a female playmate. . . we'd be cool with that!)
7. How old will the baby be?
We don't know. We qualify for a child ages 0-12 months old. And so that's what we will request.
8. Will the baby be from the same orphanage as Marcie?
Again, we don't know. We will be requesting a child from Yunyang Chengxiang Social Welfare Institute, which is where Marcie is from. We will be requesting a child from Chongqing Municipality, also where Marcie is from. We don't mind getting a child from anywhere in China, though. Going somewhere new would be a nice adventure. Returning to Chongqing would be nice, too-- we'd know what to expect, and it makes "returning to roots" much easier. But we're not that picky. We'll request these things, but I'm confident we'll end up with the child who is meant to be ours, no matter what part of China the child is from.
9. When will you meet the baby?
As I explained before, we're expecting the wait to stretch to two or three years. That puts us in China some time in 2010 or 2011. That's still awfully far away, which is why we're starting the process now. Marcie will be at least 5 by then. Casey will be 8. That's a bigger age spread than I'd ever planned. On the other hand, Jason will be home full time by then, and it's just more time to pay off debts and put away money. With five of us in our home, we'll be considering a home addition by the time 2011 rolls around, I think. If we can afford it. (Ah, to dream!)
10. Will this be "it"?
I don't know. We always planned to have at least three children. I can't say we'll close our hearts to additional family members after that. I can't say we'll seek another adoption actively, either. Let's see how things go with BS #3 and we can move forward from there.
11. What's your timeline so far?
I am keeping track of a timeline, which I'll be adding to the right margin eventually. Like I said, we're on schedule for now!
Have a question I didn't answer? E-mail me and I'll give you a response!
A year ago today I was running between 14 and 18 miles a week. I was in the midst of training for the America's Finest City Half Marathon (which I didn't end up running).
A year ago today I was spending my days researching interesting legal issues, learning about "big firm life," and commuting to a high rise in downtown San Diego.
A year ago today my dog died. I can't believe it's been a whole year. Casey still asks about him-- seeks confirmation that Chuffy really died. He did.
A year ago today I still had another year of law school left to complete.
Today, I will spend between 6 and 8 hours in the law school library, cramming as much information about California law as I can in preparation for the bar exam.
Today I ate lunch with my sister, who is getting married in a year. I haven't seen her since Christmas time when she got engaged.
Today I woke up at 3am and again at 6:09am. The first time I was in my own bed. The second time I was in Marcie's bed. Marcie didn't even have a bed in our house a year ago.
Today Casey told me he didn't want to put on socks because he was playing Thomas and that if he couldn't watch TV this morning, he wanted his big brother and big sister and Uncle Jason and Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Tram (who is really Aunt Tram) and Uncle Bryan and Other Grandma. . . anyone but Mommy. He also told me he was mad at me, and later that he wasn't mad at me anymore. He couldn't say any of those things a year ago.
Today Marcie picked out what shoes she wanted to wear, told me what she wanted for breakfast, blew Jason kisses bye-bye, and gave Grandma a great big hug when we got to her house. A year ago, there were no sweet kisses and no warm hugs. Just a photo of Marcie sitting in a pile of papers with her Chinese name attached.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
And I should confess that I don't have a lot of fancy, trendy, cool shoes. I have lots and lots of practical casual and work shoes. Truly. I have three pairs of black heels. One pair of black flats. Two pairs of black slides. Two pairs of black sling-backs (one is totally impractical and purchased on a whim two summers ago). And four pairs of black sandals. Oh. plus a pair of black mary janes and two pairs of black oxford-style lace-ups. That's just the black shoes. Not the tennis shoes, the red shoes (I actually have three pairs of red shoes), or the brown shoes. And that doesn't include flip flops.
I actually have really flat feet. And bunions. So I can't wear high heels without pain for any extended period of time, which means for longer than about an hour (which is too bad because I'm only five feet tall). But I still love shoes. I love them because no matter how tall you are (or how short), no matter how fat you are (or how thin), no matter what color your skin is-- shoes look good on everyone. They are fantastic to shop for. You rarely have to get all angry and depressed because "nothing fits." You can always find something to fit!
Well, all my shoe-wearing has really rubbed off on the kids. I've written before about how much Casey loves shoes. He has quite a shoe collection. And not be sexist, but I think it surprises me because he's a boy. He has two pairs of Lightning McQueen shoes, some Spiderman shoes, some Buzz Lightyear shoes, some Thomas shoes, and Spiderman sandals. He loves shopping for shoes. And wearing mine around the house.
Lately, I've been finding shoes all over the place. And not because of Casey, actually. Marcie has taken a shine to shoe-modeling, too. This morning I found a black flat under her highchair. I haven't worn it since April. She dug it out of my closet and clomped around the house with it, then discarded it when she got distracted by some other toy. The other day, I couldn't go to the gym because I couldn't find one of my running shoes. It was in her bedroom, next to her bed.
I can't say I'm displeased about this. I'm not. A little irritated maybe, but not unhappy. But this weekend, there has been a new interest in my flip flops. They are very comfortable flip flops-- I'm kind of picky about the piece that goes between the two toes, and this one is very soft. Marcie's been wearing them around my bedroom without putting her toes in them for a while. But Casey's interest is kind of new. Last night, Casey insisted on wearing them during story time. And this morning, Marcie and Casey got in a big fight over who could wear them. Which was really a shame because I wanted to wear them, much to their dismay.
So I took Casey to the store to see if we could find him some flip flops in his own size. And we did! I was surprised to discover three styles in his size. He picked some out, slid them on, and out the door we went. He's a little stiff walking in them still, but very excited about them. I'll post a picture of them a little later on . . .
Oh, and don't worry-- Marcie got some new shoes, too. I certainly wouldn't want to walk away empty-handed for her. She's wearing her new sandals (black with pink) as I type . . .
Friday, June 22, 2007
So the big news this week is that Marcie has learned to jump. She is a riot with it. After the Little Gym class last week, she decided to try on her own. During class, she always bends her knees and lets me lift her, but this past weekend she decided to jump on her own. And, my, she is very proud of herself. And so darn cute doing it. She has also begun to run. Not speed walk (I am always so surprised and impressed at how quickly toddlers move!), but run. This morning, she ran from the car to her grandmother's front door. She paused before the stoop step and stepped up it carefully, then stretched up on her tippy toes to ring the doorbell. All. By. her. self. It's crazy how fast she's growing up.
As pleased as I am with her motor development (and her language skills, which never cease to impress me-- this morning she said thank you unprompted!), I am really displeased with her sleep habits. I vaguely remember Casey going through this phase of waking in the middle of the night and wanting a milk cup/bottle-- or was it chicken? There was also a phase during which he'd wake up at 1am and ask for chicken to eat. And I remember talking to someone (my mom? Jason? friends?) about how it was bad for his teeth and I needed to break him of it. But I was so tired, that it was just so hard not to just give him the drink and let him put himself back to sleep. For the life of me, I cannot remember what we did to resolve the issue. Or if it cleared on its own. I think it might have gone away on its own, and we chalked it up to a growth spurt. Oh, but if only it were so easy with Marcie. After going to bed last night, she got up twice-- once around midnight and the other time around 5am. I guess that's 5 hours of sleep in a row. But the night before-- goodness almighty-- I was up with her four times. Each time she asked me for milk, and each time I said no. Until 4am. When I finally gave in and gave her some water. I probably just totally ruined things doing that, huh? I probably almost had her trained to believe I wouldn't get her middle-of-the-night beverages and blew it when she asked the fourth time. Anyway, it's getting old.
And I can't help but wonder my eternal question-- are Marcie's sleep issues just regular kid issues or adoption issues? Is she just not used to sleeping alone? She's been home with us in her own bed now since November, so around 7 1/2 months. Is it that she is frightened by the dark? (We leave a hall light on now.) Is it that she wants to make sure I'm still around? Or am I just making too much of it all? It's so hard to know-- and as I have explained to all those people around me who roll their eyes at me when I talk about it-- I don't want to be one of those people who blames everything on adoption. But I also don't want to ignore the fact that Marcie may have issues that we need to give more time to than we would if she were with us from birth. And for me, sleeping is just one of those things. I go back and forth on it. Sometimes I think, "Enough is enough already!" But then the next day I think, "Geez, Karen, give it some time, already!"
Anyway, in other news, Casey plays in his first real soccer game this Saturday! Hopefully we'll get some photos or video of that. More importantly, hopefully he won't just lay down on the field and ignore the ball. And the real big news of last week was the arrival of my nephew, Ethan Xavier H. He is the seventh grandchild to my parents, the sixth boy. (Poor Marcie!)He was 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches. He had a full head of hair (almost as much as Marcie!!!), and eyebrows already. I'd post a picture of me and Jason with him, but I stupidly forgot my camera when we went to visit him in the hospital, and I've been staying away ever since (because I developed a viral throat infection on Sunday-- good times, but at least I can breathe, so I'm grateful for that!).
I DO have more to tell- I think I left everyone hanging with our adoption decision. And we did make one. And we are paper-chasing for BS #3. But I'll have to save that for another post, when I have a bit more time to write.
Oh. And for those of you still reading this blog. Thank you.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera. But I just now remembered that I actually did have it with me in my bag. I'm feeling even more stupid for having it and not using it than I felt when I just thought I didn't have it. Such is life. Her new class starts next weekend-- so I'll just have to be sure to get some photos of her then.
What I know about Dad
My Dad's name is Daddy.
He weighs 123 pounds.
He is 12 feet tall.
His hair is black.
He buys a size 1 pants.
He likes to wear shirts.
On his birthday he has 7 candles on his cake.
Dad's favorite color is red.
His favorite sport is baseball and soccer.
He watches baseball on TV.
His favorite restaurant is Red Robin.
He loves to cook corn.
When he shops he loves to buy Food-- peanut butter and jelly.
My dad is special because I love Daddy.
On Father's Day, I want to buy my dad a firefighter.
I must admit, I thought the restaurant and food shopping were the funniest-- because those are what Casey likes. But the height and weight had me in stitches, too. And corn? Has Jason ever even cooked corn? Jason's actually a great cook, and he cooks for the kids all the time-- but never corn! Though Casey was right about one thing-- Jason DOES have 7 candles on his birthday cake each year. Of course, he has a few more in addition to that, too! Hee hee. I love it!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I was really looking forward to this morning because it's been a full week since I've had more than 2 hours in a row to play with them. . .
This morning, while we were outside adjusting the bubble machine, I noticed a lizard on the back fence. "Casey," I whispered loudly. "Look at that lizard." I pointed to it just as the lizard rose up on what I imagine to be its tippy toes, and scurried a bit.
"Come on, Mommy," he whispered loudly back. But I didn't have my shoes on, and I feared if I went inside to find some (wherever Marcie had hidden them), I wouldn't make it back in time to get an up-close view of our lizard friend.
"No, Casey. You go. Before it runs away."
He hesitated. Then looked back and forth between me and the lizard, and finally he grabbed Marcie's hand and whispered loudly to her, "Come on, Marcie. Let's go see the wizard." She held his hand tightly as they slowly stepped across the dead patches of what used to be grass in our backyard. And they came to a stop about a foot and a half from the fence. I could still hear Casey, though, as he whispered to Marcie, "We have to be very quiet and very slow so we don't scare the wizard." (yeah, sometimes his Ls are a lot like his Ws)
I actually got choked up. I'm sure that has nothing to do with being over-tired. But seriously, how cute is that! To see my 4 year old taking such good care of my 18-month-old. To see him behave in such a gentle way. To see him teach her something he'd learned.
I am so grateful I got to steal that moment with the kids. . .
Monday, June 04, 2007
It's me. I'm the one coming apart at the seams. My week-long wait between posts has not been because I have nothing to say (that's a rarity few people have experienced!). I've just been swamped. This studying for the bar stuff--- let's just say I feel like I fell into the deep end of the pool, and although I know how to tread water and I used to know how to swim, I still don't have the confidence to just start swimming. . . I still leave my house between 7:15am and 7:30am, and I still roll home some time around 10pm most nights. But now I spend all those intervening hours cramming 12-15 legal subjects (depending on how you divide it up) into my tiny brain. It's exhausting.
But that's not what's done me in. What's done me in is . . .
STREP THROAT. AGAIN.
So in the month of May, I had the joy of strep throat, a few days of health, followed by a bad head cold, and then another bout of strep throat. Good times. I must say, I am seriously wonder if Casey and Marcie are carriers who just keep giving it back to me. I mean, I have to be contracting it from somewhere. And strep throat, untreated, can lead to rheumatic fever. Which can damage your heart. So if the kids do have it and are demonstrating absolutely no symptoms (as is the case here), what is a parent to do? Yes, I called the pediatrician. They told us not to bother if there are not symptoms. Despite the fact that a month ago when they had no symptoms, they both had strep throat.
Anyway, I'm feeling better today-- I started antibiotics on Friday. Spent the weekend in the library (shocking). And I'm in the library now. Taking a very short break in between completing practice essay outlines on Evidence and starting to compile my Criminal Law outline.
Noteworthy, I think, is the new vocabulary that has crept into our home:
CASEY now says things like, "Mommy go to library to study?" And understands (at least seems to) that I have "big test" coming up. He's also figured out that "Mommy goes to school" even when "school is closed." I like to think I'm just setting him up for a future life of academia-- right? I mean, if Mommy always studies, that must be what people do. . . Yep. I'm role-modeling.
He's also taken up baseball, and darned if he isn't actually good at it! He loves swinging the bat (right-handed-- even though he's mainly a lefty). And he is pretty on-target with hitting the ball off the tee, too. Turns out you have to be 5 to play Little League around here-- so I hope his interest lasts!
MARCIE doesn't understand that I'm studying. She has developed quite an affinity for Jason in the mornings, though. This morning, she crept into our bedroom while I was putting on shoes, put her pointer finger over her mouth and said, "SHHH!" while she pointed to Jason, asleep. She has also added the word "train" and "Thomas" and even "Peep! Peep!" to her list of words and phrases.
That's all that's really been going on. Thanks for all your congratulatory thoughts-- especially Ruth if you're reading this. I was shocked that, with all you have going on, you popped in to see my little old blog. Shocked isn't the right word. Touched is. And if you don't know about Ruth, and you're interested, you can check out her blog. She's a fighter!