Sign of the times

I like seeing this sticker that's on my bathroom mirror for the week, because it's a sign that we're about to set out on an adventure.

This is a good time for me, and I think for Mike, too...he is always coming into my studio to tell me that he can't think about anything but Flynn these days. This morning, he lay in bed for ten extra minutes, imagining taking her on her first walk around the neighborhood.

For me, this is a sweet time, a honeyed time, a time of drifting and dreaming. As I've mentioned, January, February and March were a bit rough for me. That stage was the worst of the wait, when the unknowns and the unknowables really started to wear on my nerves. But, as tends to be true in life, there was a payoff, and this is it.
Our referral was the beginning of a phase of peace for me, and these weeks before leaving are the best of times. In spite of that rather stressful (if amusing) dream I had the other night, I am at my most relaxed these days. I sleep soundly and wake feeling happy and light. My head is clear, and I'm able to work with clarity and ease. My soul is happy.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the trauma of adoption, both as it affects children and parents. I think it's a good thing that this subject should come to light. I think that post-traumatic stress in adoptive children is a subject in which all prospective adoptive parents should educate themselves thoroughly. I also think that all adoption agencies should provide resources, reading lists, classes, post-adoptive intervention for those who need it. Like it or not, it is a reality. I think the effects of trauma on adoptive parents are less well-publicized than its effects on children, and less understood. I hope that more people will write about it as time goes on, and that the resources will grow.

We were lucky in that our state requires numerous class-hours of study on adoption issues prior to the adoption itself, and our agency here in Denver provides some excellent classes on subjects like attachment, trauma, grief and loss. While not comprehensive, the classes were an excellent foundation, and we were able to use them as a springboard for our self-education. We went on to read some wonderful books like Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents (Deborah D. Gray) and Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft (Mary Hopkins-Best), which do a terrific job of explaining the effects of loss, institutionalization, and adoption, and the best ways of repairing the damage that is done. I was most fascinated to learn about the physiological effects of institutionalization on the brain of a child, which shows in very concrete terms why children react the way they do post-adoption, and how the atrophied pathways in their brains can, in fact, be repaired.

While it helps to know these things on an intellectual level, I doubt that any amount of book-learning can prepare a parent entirely for the reality of those first weeks with their terrified, traumatized or numb child. I am additionally very grateful for the shared experience of many fellow adoptive parents who have offered me their personal experiences and their emotional journey, and helped fill in some of the gaps. I know that we really will know nothing until we meet our child in person, and I know that we will struggle along with her, learn along with her, and find our way together.

I think that we are as prepared as we can be, intellectually. And, at this point, I'm not feeling afraid. What bigger adventure, what greater learning experience could there be in life than what we are about to experience? I don't feel that I have a preconception of who QiuQiu will be. She is, at the moment, a great mystery to me. I have no doubt that she will surprise me. I am honored to have the chance to get to know her, to learn from her, and to let her tell me who she is. I feel lucky to have this opportunity. I'm ready to close my eyes and go off the high-dive, cold as the water may be. I can't wait to begin this incredible learning experience, even if it is a trial by fire.


My subconscious has its say

Well, since we were able to push our travel back to July 23-ish, a great calm and serenity has come over me. I know now that I can get everything done that needs to be done before we leave, both work-related and baby-related. We're going to be fine.
This is, in fact, pretty much the ideal timeframe - we don't have to scramble, and we'll still have her home before her first birthday. It's been such a joy to be able to relax and actually enjoy this part of the process!! I mean, lets face it, it's fun buying travel essentials, packing diaper rash paste and travel alarms and laundry soap. Even taking the typhoid pills is kinda exciting (although I never thought I'd see the day that I could enjoy ingesting live salmonella).
Putting sheets on the crib...it's awesome!

HOWEVER...apparently my subconscious has decided to go on amber alert.
Last night I had a very exhausting dream. I dreamed that, in the midst of all of the adoption paperwork, we had forgotten to get married. Realizing that, for practical reasons, we really ought to be married before this child came home, I told M. we needed to get that taken care of. He said (as he always does) no problem, we'll make it happen! I figured we didn't have time to book a venue, rehearse anything, we'd have to do it on the spot. So I picked an outdoor parkland with a beautiful view, and we called M.'s family pastor for an impromptu appearance, and I sent out hand-written invitations.
Then, I realized....the food! How were we going to arrange food for that many people on a few hours notice? And a dress! I didn't even have a dress.
So I delegated Mike to call Steve's Snappin' Dogs on Colefax and order a carload of meals-in-a-bag. Hot dogs, chips and limeade would have to do!! (when I woke up and told Mike, he thought the hot dogs were an inspired idea and wanted to know why we hadn't done it for our actual nuptials). I went through my closet and found a dress that would work in a pinch, and off we went, the whole family piled into the car (it was, for some reason, one of those old Woody station wagons).
Halfway to the park, I realized that I hadn't changed, done my hair, or put on makeup. So I had Mike drop me off at a roadside rest stop with a couple of girlfriends to help. And that's when things really got crazy...
First, I put the dress on over my jeans, and four inch heels over my socks (I never wear heels, much less 4" ones). As we were racing down the sidewalk, one of my girlfriends pointed out to me that I still had my jeans on, so I had to sit down on the pavement, pull the heels and socks off, and try to get the jeans out from under the dress. Not so easy, since they were those skinny-leg jeans (which I loath, btw) and the dress was heavy and beaded with lots of under-layers.
That eventually accomplished, I set off running again, only to realize that I had actually left my nightgown on over my jeans, and that it was now under the wedding dress, and you could see about six inches of it below the hem... and it was bright orange satin. So it was back to the restrooms, where I discovered that I had STILL not done my makeup and fixed my bedhead....I had rings of mascara around my eyes and my hair was matted and pushed up to one side by the clip I'd been wearing the night before.

Well, you get the idea. I woke up tense and exhausted - although it did make for a funny story to tell M. first thing in the morning!

I guess the message here is that while my conscious mind is feeling calm and in control, my subconscious is telling me: "Look, honey, with your organizational skills, it ain't like you're likely to win any mom-of-the-year awards. Maybe it's time you started thinking about that, huh?"



A new life in our world

Today, we got the email from our agency's travel department, letting us know we have TA (travel approval) to go to China. We picked our dates to be in China, and the travel department will now request our consulate appointment from China. They have told us to expect our consulate appointment maybe Monday or Tuesday, and then we can book our flights!
We've chosen to travel around the 23rd or 24th of July, returning around the 8th of August.

Well, a lot of people have asked, so I'll tell you that when I first got this picture I didn't want to put it up. It felt private somehow, because it's so intimate. But M. convinced me that it was selfish not to share it. In his mind, there is no more perfect picture to describe what we are feeling.
This photo was taken just a few days ago and sent to our agency with her measurements. In this picture, the nanny is holding the photo album we sent in her first care package for her to look at. The album has pictures of the whole extended family, but in this photo she's looking at mine. It's an amazing thing to see this tiny girl who, so far, we have only known in pictures, halfway 'round the world, looking at "us" for the first time. It's a bit mind-boggling.

On an entirely different note - here's something I was thinking today as I drove around running errands in preparation for our travel. As I listened to the grim stock market numbers, I thought the following: I am not entirely unhappy at the idea of our daughter coming into her new life here in the US during this economic sea-change.
Sure, it's nice to have a strong economy, and none of us enjoy the uneasiness in the pit of our stomach that comes with uncertain times like these. We have to tighten our belts, worry more, watch where every penny goes. But in all honesty, I think we are coming out of a very long phase of vast and really unconscionable overindulgence in our nation. I think we have learned to spend too freely, acquire too obsessively, and live to easily on money that we don't have.
I think that the consumer mentality that has gripped much of our nation for a long time now has become rather appalling. I think this change has been a long time coming, and I hope this downturn in the economy will stimulate some massive changes in our national psyche, our lifestyle, and our attitudes. I have to say that I feared for children coming into a world that could produce that Super Sweet 16 show, and others like it. I feared for what sort of adults those children would grow up to be.
On balance, I would rather see our daughter grow up in a climate where we have to learn how to save and think about what we spend, where we have respect for our environment, where we do not live outside our means for the sake of vanity and acquisition. I would rather she grow up in a world where the imagination reigns supreme throughout childhood, and where the sheer number of toys and gadgets are no longer the benchmark.
This is my hope for her. I don't know how much this economic downturn will change our national psyche, but I hope it will bring us back down to earth. I am willing to tighten my belt, drive less, budget better, be more frugal, live through some lean times. It is after all a small price to pay if it means that our daughter grows up with a healthy and balanced attitude toward the world and her place in it.


We are SO ready to go to China!!

So, the crib arrived yesterday, and none too soon! It was even better in person than it looked online, and the color is perfect for Flynn's room. I could hardly wait for M. to get home so we could get busy putting it together!

Meanwhile, M. was at his parent's house, picking up car seats! One of the many benefits of having a family with a lot of kiddos...hand-me-downs!! This will save us a bundle. Sam, of course, needed to inspect the new arrivals, and there were even some cracker crumbs left over from a previous occupant...our niece Isacah!

M. putting together the crib!

This is Sam's "nervous yawn". He's not sure exactly what's going on, but he knows something's afoot, and Sam isn't a fan of change. He likes his world to be stable and predictable. He is, after all, an orphanage dog himself and has already experienced one abandonment in his lifetime. He's a fairly secure (and extremely pampered) dog at this point in his life, but has never gotten over his dislike of change or upheaval.

Imagining Flynn...

Me with the bouncy chair that my mum bought for Flynn...can you tell I can't wait to see her in it??

And, ta-da!! Our passports, complete with brand-spankin'-new Visas for China!! I am already imagining touching down in Hong Kong...


Vail for a day

A few photos from our very quick trip to the mountains...

Ah, the splendor of the Rockies in early summer!

The dogs swim for sticks.

Sitting down for a picnic by the lake.

Mum and me in our element.

These pack llamas are used on backcountry tours by a local guide company. We like to go visit their paddock, because they are fascinated (and more than a little puzzled) by our dogs. Particularly Sam. They can't seem to decide exactly what sort of species he might be.
Have you ever seen a puzzled llama?
It's a sight to behold.

Mum feeding the most adventurous llama.

I love their ears. I also love their noses. But most especially I love their blasé eyes with the huge, long, thick lashes. Eyes that make me think of Oscar Wilde, for some reason.

M. and Sam.

Mum photographing larkspur.

We had just seen a fox, ambling up the path.

Columbine, the Colorado state flower.

It was the perfect peak of columbine season, and we found some spectacular specemines.

I love the buds as well - so alien and graceful!

Turning around, in order to beat a storm that was closing in.

Returning home under lowering skies, content and loaded down with photos.

Quick update

Well, we tried to head up to Vail with my mum for a couple of days, but had to race back down the first morning after receiving (wouldn't you know it!) our fingerprinting invitation. We had to get the fingerprints done ASAP otherwise we won't get our consulate appointment in time. The weather was gorgeous in the mountains - sun and clouds, cool at night and warm in the afternoon, tons of wildflowers. Too bad the trip had to be so brief! We got a hike in, a picnic on Lake Dillon, and a good dinner with mum, and then she headed for Western Colorado in her painting van, and we headed back down to the front range to move forward with our paperwork.
The good news is that our visas came while we were gone, and we got our fingerprints done without much fuss. This afternoon we got a call from the travel department to discuss our itinerary! We still can't book flights until we get our TA and our consulate appointment, but at the moment they're guesstimating that we might travel by July 17th, returning at the end of the month! Since we will most likely be the only family traveling to Jiangsu province, we have some flexibility in our arrangements, and we are thinking about flying in to Hong Kong. I have always wanted to see Hong Kong, and honestly I'd almost be more excited about that than about flying into Beijing, what with the Olympics approaching quickly. I am not that big a fan of the hustle and bustle that goes with large tourist events.
Oh, and we got updated measurements on our QiuQiu! If the measurements are correct, she is only 14 lbs...tiny! So we'll be packing only the smallest of our baby clothes. They also sent us a photo of her looking at a picture of me in the photo album we sent! This is really quite amazing, since she's barely 10 months, and I didn't expect she'd even really focus on a photo. But she is gazing at it intently. That will be one for the lifebook, for sure!
I guess that's all the news! Life is quite a whirlwind at the moment. I'll post Vail photos when I have a chance!


Sweet times with LaoLao

If I've been quiet for a couple of days, it's because my mum has been here with us, and we've been happily occupied in finishing nursery projects, enjoying eachother's company, and doing the last of the baby shopping. I may have mentioned before that we had all of the impractical things, and none of the necessities. Well, mum has been helping us to fill that gap. Thermometers, diapers for the trip, soft spoons and snack containers have been on their way in the door. But the big present, the one we can't keep our hands off of, is Flynn's Chariot Cougar 1, with a jogging kit and a biking kit. It's a beauty!

Here, my mum and me are figuring out the rain flap and flyscreen.

Mum and M., attaching the jogging wheel.


The new dad, trying out his stroller.

M. trying to con Sam into hopping in... (Sam considers it, but decides against. )

...and chasing Max around the lawn.

With the necessities out of the way, it was off to adventure-golf for some R&R.

M. keeping score.

Me lining up a put...

...and taking aim.

M. and mum take on the toughest hole on the course.

Ooooooo...that sucks.

After working up an appetite on the links, we took mum for some real Korean barbecue. This place is amazing. You grill your own meats (in this case shrimp, our first course, followed by paper-thin ribeye and then by short ribs) on a grill in the center of the granite table. The grill is surrounded by dipping sauces and condiments, including nearly a dozen different spicy and savory pickled vegetables, candied yam and lotus root, sliced daikon, and other delicacies. Delicious!!

M. looks after the grilling.

On the way home from dinner, we could see an amazing sky over the mountains in the rearview mirror.

We decided to stop at Inspiration Point to watch the last of the sunset.

...in front of Long's Peak.

There just is nothing like a Colorado sky!

My mum, enjoying the view.