Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ugly AND Venomous = Dragons and Long Waits

As of tomorrow, we'll have been waiting on LOA (China says, "yes!") for 70 days. This is actually below average but the averages vary and change and do rollercoaster loop-de-loos while we all try desperatly to figure out how long something's going to take that depends on people and circuamstances WAAAAAY out of our control. In fact, we are behind. China needed some stuff notorarized and it took me about two weeks to get everything back to them so we're really about two weeks behind. We think. Nobody really seems to know. It's a "best guess" nightmare.

I LOVE this picture. So sweet.

I'm losing my mind waiting.

I actually dreamed that my whole family went to China...and came home with two tiny black and white kittens (pandas?) In the dream I was exhausted from the trip and panicked...I looked at the "kitties", looked at my husband, and begged, "They are cute and all...but we ARE going back for Lyric. Right? RIGHT???"

It seems like every song on the radio makes my heart beat harder, from Van Morrison's, "Brown-Eyed Girl" to John Mellencamp's, "China Girl,"  even Cyndi Lauper's, "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)."

And none of them are even REMOTELY about Chinese adoption.


Things I've heard, recently:

<to a lady in the hallway at school> "I'm gonna have a Chinese sister!" -Middle Child

<to me>"I want to play with my sister, where is she? It's taking too long! She's so cute!" -Middle Child

"Me too! I want to play with my sister. (Q-Boo) is taking too long!" - Wild Child (he can't say "Lyric," it comes out, "Wyrwic" :) )

Even the boys have about had it.

This isn't something that I push, "Your sister is coming!" Because, let's face it, it's a LONG wait time for an adult, it's just about ridiculous for a small child. So, it's not constantly in their faces, like it is in mine. But even they are begining to feel it.

You know how, in a pregnancy, there's a due date? A time that "this will be over," give or take a few weeks? It's not like that in international adoption. <shakes head> When we first accepted her referral we were told that we'd probably be traveling to go get her "in March," that seemed like FOREVER from July. 8 months. FOREVER. (That's 8 months from the date of the referral, we've been doing this whole thing for over a year, now.)  C'mon! She has a face and a name, I'm in love! She should be here already and every day that she's not is a day that I miss of her life and a day that we don't get to bond. ARGH!!!

Well, it's late March (finally!) and I haven't bought airplane tickets to China, yet. In fact, last I heard, the adoption has been pushed off to June. I'm doing the math and wondering if it won't be July or August. (I've told myself repeatedly that "she'll celebrate her second birthday WITH US! Yippee!"  Now, that may not happen.)

<sigh, again sigh>

At this point, I could have given birth to ( I was going to say " to an elephant" but according to, an elephant's gestation is 22 months. Egads.) a Komodo Dragon  (oh, the things that you can discover on the internet!)  I don't want a Komodo Dragon, I want a tiny, gorgeous, brown-eyed, girl who needs her mommy! And, her mommy needs her!  One of my children is across the world and I can't get to her. I can't reach her. I can't give her little kisses on her sweet nose. I can't tell her goodnight. 

(Well, I do, every night I tell her pictures "goodnight." My husband once asked me if we were going to try to learn some Chinese to help with her transition. I'd laughed and replied, "We're southern. We murder OUR language. If she spoke standard English, we'd have to learn that to communicate with her."

I was only 1/2 joking. 

We ARE trying, so every night I kiss my fingers, place them on her little face in the pictures, add a southern twist to my REALLY bad Chinese, and say, "晚安 親愛的"  which is supposed to sound like "why-un  chee-nigh-da"  and is supposed to mean "Goodnight, sweetheart." Then, I top it off with "我爱你" or "why-I-nee," meaning "I love you."

I'm probably, in reality, comparing a skinny ugly cow to someone's grandmother. I know this, so I will be very slow to speak any Chinese in China.  I told my hubby that the only thing I really need to learn in Chinese is, "Quick, somebody find my interpreter!" )

Since, I can't DO anything, I shop. I'm not a shopper. Not really. But, "pink!" calls me across stores like two dogs in heat (yeah, that's the southern in me, slippin' out - we say that, "two dogs in heat," yeesh. :) ) I can even hear it in my vehicle while I'm driving down the highway and suddenly, without even thinking about it, I've pulled into the parking lot. I try to keep it down to a dull roar, I shop sales (do boutique sales count as sales?) and consignment stores and "cheap"
places  (ha! I've spent more on her than all three boys combined!)  but her closet is PACKED. I have 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, even a few 3T. When I get to missing her, I go into her room and play dress up. I pair little tights with dresses and hats and bows. Those little bitty baby shoes are my absolute weakness. I don't even know what size her feet are, I can guess, but she won't be the same size when we finally get to her. Ai Yi Yi! 

Is there a ten step program for adoptive moms? Maybe, I'll start one.

I've been following an adoption blog called,  "Five of My Own,"  (well, soon it'll be Six)
and, after many months of  listening to that adoptive mom's whining about how it was NEVER gonna happen, they are now in China. So, it does happen. 

It just doesn't happen NEARLY fast enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


(continued from last blog post)

But they hadn't found Princess T. My heart fell. They'd found another little girl with Bladder Exstrophy and would we like to look at her referral?  A referral is magic- fairy dust and marshmellows and moonlight all wrapped up into one email attachment - it's the whole reason that an adoptive parent goes through this mess. It is the tangible proof that somewhere there is an end, there is a child. <cue music>

Okay, actually what a referral is, is information. It is all the information released by the Chinese government about the child...with PICTURES! The pictures are the frosting but the info is the cake. You may fall in love with the pictures but you pour over the information, trying to read between the lines, trying to figure it all out. You get everything that they've got - the original Chinese documents (so that you can have them translated if you want to) and the tranlasted English documents. And then, you get about two weeks to decide if you want to proceed with the adoption. Two weeks to make a decision, with not a lot to go on, that will affect the lives of eveyone that you love.

Pressure? What pressure?

I've got to admit to you that I only agreed to look at this new referral because I was planning on looking, waiting a few days, and then emailing back, "No, thank-you." I mean, seriously, I was really trying. You want to feel like a great big piece of mean, guilty, nasty, human? Look at the videos, pictures, and info of an ORPHAN and then say, "No."   Boy, is that hard! We'd already turned down two referrals (in non-special needs and minor special needs, you get matched to a child that fits your criteria but in more moderate/major special needs you get to see the referrals and chose whether or not to accept the child- I told ya, this is COMPLICATED) and I was NOT looking forward to turning down a third. But, I was trying to keep an open mind - trying not to get tunnel-visioned- all the while not wanting to give up on my hope that they'd find Princess T.

So, in early July, Q-Boo's little face came scrolling SLOWLY across my computer. It took up my whole computer screen and my heart started beating harder as I scrolled down to look at her. It was love at first sight. You hear stories, in adoption, about someone seeing a picture and KNOWING that that is their kid. Skeptical, does not even begin to cover it. You can not understand it until it happens to you. Honestly, I still don't understand it, I just feel it.

Everything in me, all the way down inside the deepest part of my bones was screaming, "Oh, yes!!" I could literally hear the words, crashing like cymbals, inside of my head, "OH, YES!"

The "Oh, yes!" picure. This one is framed all over my house.

There were five more, of varying ages, and we've had to guesstimate how old she was in each one:

6 months?
3 or 4 months old?
This was a tiny wallet size picture on her hospital intake forms
so she was about 24-36 hours old, best guess.

9 months?

I really wondered if I should post these last two photos.
I decided that it's the truth, these were part of the referral,
and I couldn't put in the referral photos without them.
This is not all Disney World and magic,
we're talking about here. This is real life.
 We had these two photos and some info from a hospital stay to
decide if her needs were too big for us to handle.
Talking to the specialists in the States was invaluable-
they told us that her needs are NOT NEARLY what they could be.

We'd found her. After 20 years of waiting, there it was, my daughter's face.

But wait, there was research to be done. We have other kids, their sister has to be a sibling not a burden and eventually, her care, if she needs it, will fall to them. Thankfully, my husband and I are a good balance. So, while my heart was screaming, "She's my daughter, just tell me what needs to be done!" My husband was asking, "What are her needs? Can we do this? Is she a good fit for our family?" You need both. When you're making a decision with ramifications like this you need heart and mind - emotion and logic. So, we called an International Adoption Doctor, we spoke with the world leaders in Bladder Exstrophy, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and our local specialists, Scottish Rite of Atlanta. We talked and talked and TALKED.

In the end, we decided what my heart already knew, "Yes." Seriously, I could have sung an entire opera by myself right then. I know I danced around like I was in one.

But, I was confused. My gut told me that Q-Boo was THE ONE but it seemed like we had been led straight to Princess T. What about Princess T? What about all those people who'd I'd contacted and said, "We want to find her, how do we do it?" AND, I was scared. I knew that if we accepted Q-Boo's referral we would really lose all hope of finding Princesss T. Saying "yes" to Q-Boo was saying "no" to Princess T, no matter how far out the prospect. I know that God does produce crazier miracles. I pulled both of their pictures up on the computer and looked at them together. I was astounded that everything in me really did say, "It's Q-Boo. Q-Boo is my daughter." I couldn't believe it- not Princess T? No, not Princess T. (I found out later that, right around this SAME time, Princess T's family was receiveing the news that they'd been praying for for MONTHS-Princess T would be their daughter.)

There were two things that bugged me about this adoption: K names and a first birthday.

The family name in our family is "Kenneth" (hence, calling my hubby K-Man) and many of the men have variations of this name. In fact, both of my younger kids have K names. I wanted to name Q-Boo, "Lyric" because she, obviously, is the words to this song that has played for so long in my heart. Would she be upset because she didn't have a K name? Would she feel different? Would it matter to her? Q-Boo's Chinese last name is "Qin." (In China surnames come first so, to American ears, it sounds like her first name.)  I was prouncing it like "Quin" in English in my head and it wasn't until I heard the translation that I realized that it really sounds like "Ken."   Q-Boo had a K name, already. (In fact, she HAS her grandfather's name.)

I LOVE first birthdays, they are special. I love the mess and the fun and the milestone. I WANT first birthday pictures of my kids but with an adopted little girl, odds were that her first birthday would pass by, completley uneventful in my life. Pictures were not even on the radar. But......according to her referral, Q-Boo's first birthday was the next week!

So, on July 8th, 2011, on Q-Boo's FIRST birthday, we accepted her referral. On Q-Boo's first birthday she got a family and we got a little girl. As soon as I got off of the phone with my agency, I RACED off to the bakery and bought Q-Boo her first birthday cake. I'd mentioned to my agency that I wanted a picture of Q-Boo and her foster mom and, a few days later, one arrived in my email. It had a digital tag date of 7-8-11. I have a picture of Q-Boo on her first birthday. Um, wow.

Happy Birthday, Q-Boo!
Q-Boo, in her foster mother's arms, ON her first birthday!

I am so excited. I am also so excited that Princess T is a permanent piece of our adoption experience and must be included in the story of how we found Q-Boo. Without Princess T, I would never have known that I was open to Bladder Exstrophy and I'd never have alerted my agency to that fact- they'd never have offered us the chance to look at Q-Boo's referral. In fact, I would have been completely scared of Bladder Exstrophy but I'd spent almost 5 months watching Princess T's progress and falling in love with this beautiful little fighter. Then, amazingly, she became the bridge to my daughter. I still shake my head. I can't wait to tell Q-Boo all about Princess T and how God often directs you in one way to get you back to something totally different, but better, for you. Yes, when God directs it, the ends get all tied together.

(Right after this, we were sitting at a restaurant and K-Man said to me, in A-Girl-paraphrase, "You seem so content, aren't you going crazy to get your hands on her?" I thought about it and then I answered, "You know, don't misunderstand me, I WANT her...but, for 20 years she's been a thought in my head, a maybe, a wish...I've always wondered about her. And, now? Now, she has a face, she has a name and a history. I know who she IS. I'm just sorta marveling in that right now." It was true. I'm waaaaay past that phase, now. hahahaha Now, I just WANT her! But it was amazing when it happened.)

In a totally unexpected and SO COOL twist. I recieved a friend request from Princess T's adoptive mom on Facebook. Yeah, I know! Take a deep breath and THINK about that!

She'd heard about me from some of the other women in the "We love Princess T Club," and she contacted me. She has a blog, we email! (The story of how Princess T came to be their daughter is WOW!) Which means that I've gotten to keep a tiny piece of Princess T -FOR COOL! I got to "watch" as her mom and dad went to China to pick her up, I've seen pics of her in her new home with her brothers - I get to watch her grow up! How wonderful is that???

Princess T at home in the States with her daddy and her mommy.

(A-Girl sidenote: Her mom has an etsy store, WildPoppyShoppe , which I LOVE. Her stuff looks exactly like stuff that I'd make which means that Princess T will grow up with an artsy mom, a dad that adores her and two big brothers in the house, just like Q-Boo!!!!)

OH! AND, I found her! I found Lyric, she's being fostered through Grace and Hope for Children  (she's known as "Naomi" through them) and I've already spoken with people there. As soon as the adoption is official, they can give me pictures and pages of information that span the entire time she's been in foster care -since about 11 days after she was born.  Oh, yeah!

<deep sigh>

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Princess T

So, let's talk about Princess T. I love this part. This is a part of the story that just makes me shake my head in wonder... it's a part that I can NOT wait to share with Q-Boo (also to be known as "Lyric,"  I nickname everybody, get used to it.  :) )  This part of the story will probably be too long to tell in one week but that's okay, we'll get there.

Love Without Boundaries is an organization that provides help for orphans in China, they are not an adoption agency but many of their kids end up on the adoption list, also known as "the Shared List" (this list is put out by the orphanages through the Chinese government and is the official list of kids who are available for adoption- the adoption agencies have access to the Shared List and try to match their families to the kids.  It's all so confusing that I get bumfuzzled about it.)

 "We provide humanitarian aid in the following areas – Education, Foster Care, Healing Homes, Medical, and Orphanage Assistance – enabling children to receive families through adoption or to become self-sustaining members of their communities." - Love without Boundaries

They also have a Facebook page, LWB , where they keep running posts of their kids and updates on their progress. These pictures, for someone caught in the middle of the adoption process (and therefore totally out of control, :) ) are like heavy duty drugs. hahahahahaha  I couldn't stay away from them, especially in the beginning.

So, I'd sent  in our adoption paperwork and there was nothing else to do but wait (waiting and paperwork - the twin themes of adoption.)   I was scrolling through LWB's posts, My baby girl could be one of these kids.  It made me feel like I was doing SOMETHING to speed the process.

The brutal honest truth? I gotta tell you that I couldn't do this at first, there were picture after picture of kids who needed homes...I felt like I was at the dog pound, only these were CHILDREN (Ai Yi Yi!) - especially the "special needs" kids, some of those pictures were hard to look at. There were row after row of cribs, groups of kids, kids with cleft lips, kids missing arms and legs, hungry kids - the need was overwhelming.

How do you say, "no," when the need is so great?

How do you say, "yes,"  when you feel so overwhelmed?

(With China adoptions, you can do it one of two ways:  You can go the standard way to get a child who is young and healthy. This takes SIX years. OR, you can go the "special needs" route which greatly expedites the process  - 12 -18 months, on average.

I gotta tell you that I never saw myself as a "special needs" type of person. Nope, that was for saints and people with some depth of compassion that I did not possess.  Oh, no.

But, when you're fairly certain that you just HAVE to go down a certain path, you look for ways to succeed. I began to educate myself and found out that "special needs" did not, necessarily, mean what I'd envisioned. "Special needs"  just means "not 100%  perfectly healthy." In other words, webbed toes would be "special needs," as would minor heart problems which often repair themselves, as well as cleft lip/palate  -and many other surgically alterable needs. In fact, so many girls are wanted internationally in Chinese adoptions that being a boy can equal "special needs" and any child over the age of 1 is considered "special needs." According to this standard, my perfectly healthy biological kids could be considered "special needs." )

Picture after picture went by on my computer and I was thinking to myself, I feel so overwhelmed! and Where is she?  How do I find her in this big complicated mess? and, honestly,  These kids are cute but none of them feel like 'mine,' they all feel like strangers. How will I know WHEN I find her?

I was literally "point and clicking" my way quickly through the pictures when one picture caught my eye.   I stopped on it and scanned down to the name at the bottom, "Princess T." ( No, of course, that's not her real name but China will not allow real names to be released through a public website so she had an Americanized name and I A-Girl -ized it for this blog.)  There was something about her that spoke to me,

 Well, she's pretty!

Here she is, Princess T in all her glory - this is the actual picture that was on LWB's Facebook page (in fact, all pictures of her on this blog were first published on the LWB  site) :

I went back to flipping through the pictures and didn't think much else about it.

My 40th birthday arrived and I was SICK SICK SICK.  I lied in bed on what should have been the day of my 40th surprise party and felt sorry for myself.  I did my usual Facebook stuff and email stuff and then what? I was needy for news about the adoption and not liable to get any for a while.  So, I was camped out on my bed, once again looking through LWB's photos. One of the most recent posts was of Princess T in Hong Kong preparing for a 10 hour surgery THAT DAY. If it weren't for the name under the picture, I'm not sure I would have known that it was her, she'd grown quite a bit.  A 10 hour surgery?  This was one of the pictures:

It said this, next to her picture:  "Princess T has bladder exstrophy. Her bladder is outside her body. She also has other internal and orthopaedic issues. This little girl faces multiple challenges but has the chance of a forever family with our love and prayers helping her thru. Please pray for her."

Suddenly, I didn't feel so sick anymore- well, I felt guilty for thinking that the flu was "sick" when this beautiful little girl was fighting for her life, 1/2 way across the world.

I started researching "Bladder Exstrophy."

I'm not gonna lie, it is scary.

You can  check it out at  Wikipedia.

But, I was intrigued.

Eventually, I got up the nerve to Facebook message one of the LWB ladies who seemed to know something about Princess T's situation -she was WITH Princess T in Hong Kong the very first time that I spoke with her.  So, I started gathering info and I called my agency about finding Princess T on the adoption list if and when she should come out. I spent quite a while researching and emailing people and trying to figure out when it would be that she would come out and hoping beyond hope that our paperwork would be ready when she was. Meanwhile, I watched Princess T, through LWB, go through her surgery and heal and progress and I totally lost all fear of Bladder Exstrophy.

Here she is, post surgery: (I mean, really, could she BE cuter????? I don't think so!)

In fact, Princess T kept me going. Whenever, in the early days, that the process just seemed to be too much, I'd think of Princess T and then I could put a face with the process, there was a "someone" at the end of the process, not just a "maybe" and an "if." Incredibly, I also found a community of women, all experienced in International Adoption and all connected by our love of Princess T and other babies with Bladder Exstrophy.

The weeks passed, then the months - about 5 in all. I got my husband in on the deal.  I spoke to the head of my agency's China team about finding Princess T. We spent a while on the phone, several times. I'd been able to find out that Princess T's adoption papers were being released, they were getting closer and closer and closer to being on the list but we weren't sure where they were. My agency could do nothing until the papers were released to the Shared List and then my agency had to find her (out of about 1500 kids) and get to her file before another agency did. It was a long shot, at best, but one that I was really attached to. They were looking, I was waiting, but nothing.

Then, I got a phone call, my contact from our agency left me a message and I just KNEW from the sound of her voice,

"She's found my daughter!"

(to be continued)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

So, Here's What Happened

I spent 20 years making excuses - most of them were very valid.  My past has been no picnic and I pretty much managed to convince myself that I really wouldn't make a very good mommy for a little girl.  I was swimming in testosterone - a husband and three sons, even the cat and the horse were guys. I knew how to live there, I was comfortable.

So, I'd sort of put this idea of adoption on the back-burner.

 "Let's just see where life takes me."

If it was meant to be, I think that I really expected some cute little girl to crawl up into my lap and say, "Hi! I need a mommy!"

The short version is that after three sons and working REALLY hard to become emotionally fit,(see old blog, 6 Months and Counting Down (Up) to Forty )  my 40th birthday was coming up fast.

40 is an awesome year, it's "the middle."  It's the point at which you can say, "OK, I've lived some life, I have some life left to live.  I still have time to do some stuff. What will I regret not doing?"  So, I upped the volume of that old adoption tune and allowed it to move to the forefront of my mind.  It had been playing there for years as background music but now was the time to decide. I wanted to either do it or quit thinking about doing it.

OK A,  You have to either do this or decide not to -commit yourself to doing it or let it go, grieve it and move on.

I was about to turn 40, I had a 15 yo son, a 5 yo son and a 3 yo son, and I tried to imagine myself at the end of my life without that daughter.  Suddenly, the idea crescendo-ed inside my heart. Yes, I want to do this!  It literally hurt to think of coming to the end of my life and not having her.

I was instantly totally and completely terrified.

When, as one social worker put it, "your past has been...complicated,"  you do NOT want to have other people picking through it.  And for international adoption, they PICK and pick and pick. Each country formulates their own rules and regulations about age of parents, finances, kids allowed in the home, history of parents, etc, etc, etc. But first, you have to get through your state's guidelines (and we moved in the middle of the process, so I've had to make TWO states happy.)

I've, literally, been fingerprinted four or five times, I can't keep track.

To have someone come peek into my past, come into my  home and witness the way that we live, interview my kids and my husband about our relationships, look into the corners of my house which I KNOW are sticky and dusty...  SHEESH!! It feels like a nightmare. It feels like JUDGEMENT.  If they decide that we're not good enough, will I be okay with that?  Will it color the way that I feel about myself for the rest of my life?

Then, I decided that it didn't matter.  This was where I felt like the path of my life was taking me and I WOULD go there. If it didn't happen, it wouldn't be because of me. THEY would have to take it away. If I tried and failed, I could live with that. I could not live with refusing to try.

But this decision wasn't only mine, I also had a husband who had JUST had a vasectomy and was pretty sure that I'd lost my mind.....THAT was an interesting set of conversations.  :)

He'd finally smiled and said, "Well, my life has certainly been full of adventure since I've met you."

I'd giggled and then I'd emailed the paperwork and the fee to the agency - within DAYS of my 40th birthday.

And, we were on our way -I was biting my fingernails and stressed out, but we were on our way!