Monday, March 31, 2008

China, here we come!!!

Like cold water to a weary soul,
so is good news from a distant land.
-Proverbs 25:25

That's right -- we have Travel Permission!!!!!!!! Wooohoooo!!! We are tentatively scheduled to pick up our son, Jesse Yong, on May 5 in Zhengzhou! Can you believe it?!?! We are a little overwhelmed and totally excited! Something that felt so tenuous and vague, so ethereal, has taken form and become oh-so-very REAL! We are going to board a plane in less than 4 weeks and head to CHINA to pick up our 4-year-old! Does he even know we exist? Does he have any idea we are coming? Your guess is as good as mine.

Jason and I have a LOT to discuss in the next 48 hours before we start booking flights -- we have to figure out where we want to tour before we head to Henan province. We're thinking Beijing and X'ian (but stay tuned for details...), which means we will probably be heading out to China sometime in the last week of April.

Question: Can you enjoy -- really enjoy -- 5 or 6 days of tourism knowing how amped up you'll be waiting for your first in-person glimpse of your newest family member? We're sure praying we can! :)

We will spend the week of May 5 with Jesse Yong mostly in Zhengzhou, getting his Visa to travel and multifarious other paperwork. But the three of us will also be doing fun day trips with our guide Sarah!

We will probably also spend a day in Nanyang to view the orphanage and get as much information as we can from the orphanage caregivers and director about his life history. And, of course, we will give treats and toys to the children there and take LOTS of photos (and video, if we're allowed) of the other kids waiting for their parents. There are several HOPE families that have children waiting, so we'll try to get as much as we can for them!!!

Depending on how Jesse Yong is doing with his adjustment, Jason may go solo to Nanyang (this is highly likely). We don't want Jesse Yong to be traumatized any more than necessary. Going back to the orphanage may not be the best option for him. We'll have to see how things go.

Then we'll head to Guangzhou to finalize the legal end of the adoption at the Consulate. Guangzhou is the swanky westernized city that's pretty luxurious and vacation-y. I guess once you're there you don't want to leave. So if you don't see us after a while, you should probably check there first. Lots of good shopping, good food, lots of things to do. There's even a huge playroom in the hotel just for adopted kids!!! It's to encourage the families to stay and play with other new adoptees.

We'll arrive in Guangzhou the weekend of May 9 and do all the legal stuff May 12 & 13. Then we'll fly back to the good ole U.S. of A. either Tuesday after we swear in (to become his legal parents) or first thing Wednesday morning.

So it looks like our trip will be just over 2 weeks. Do you know what this means? Mother's Day weekend we'll be finalizing our adoption on Chinese soil. How cool is that?!?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

That Hateful Law and My Distractionary Measures

If life is but a dream,
you should be coming
to the merrily, merrily
downstream part of it
any day now…

There’s this scientific or mathematical term (I consider myself neither a scientist nor a mathematician…shudder) called the law of averages. It’s a pretty innocuous concept overall, but with adoption this expression takes on an insidious and diabolical Dr. Jekyll meaning. It threatens to plunge the sanest of individuals into stark raving insanity because for those of us waiting for, say, a Letter of Acceptance or Travel Permission, we unintentionally lock on to that “average” never to return (i.e., our agent innocently says, “Well, on average, people have been getting their LOA in 90-120 days” or “On average, Travel Permission has been coming about 3 weeks from when China receives your LOA”).

So naturally those of us formerly rational individuals who hear the numerical figure, lock onto that number, white knuckled, like a fighter jet pilot with missiles on target.

Tomorrow is officially 3 weeks since China received our Letter of Acceptance back. So, yes, we’ve hit that magical mark. After we reach this point we crumble into less-than-sentient beings whose neurological systems are completely SHOT. We jump at any jangling phone, we stare absentmindedly and zone to the point we sometimes drool. We get twitchy like our miniature canine counterparts.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Jason and I have a good friend Connie who has been dutifully sending us cards in the mail ever since we've started hiting these pivotal points that I like to call “you think you're almost there, you poor, poor soul.” Maybe she has some internalized sixth sense and can intuit the fragility of our emotional life force or something.

On the front of her most recent card is a picture of a drowned rat with the quote “Hang in there.” Or maybe it was supposed to be a dog. If it’s a dog, it was a shivering little Mexican twitchy thing like what my folks own. You know, one of those Taco Bell doppelgangers. On the inside was that Row, Row, Row Your Boat allusion I opened with. I think Connie realizes just how awful it is to be on pins and needles the way we are right now and is desperately trying to slow our descent into madness.

So because I can’t concentrate on any of the bigger household projects that languish, I am procrastinating and writing about waiting and how hard it is. Which totally does not make any sense, because whenever we actually do get the call from Aisha, whether it be tomorrow or sometime next week, we will go into demolition derby overdrive trying to book flights, make travel plans, figure out for sure where we want to go tour ahead of time, start organize packing lists, cry, freak out, forget to sleep or eat, etc, etc.

So I really should be doing all the other things around the house that I could be doing, but I’m not.

I’m making a book for Jesse Yong. My blogger friend Amy just adopted a 6-year-old from China, so it really was her idea, but I thought it made total sense. I’m working on a miniature scrapbook called “Jesse Yong’s Big Trip!” So I figured if I’m going to slack, I’m going all-out, in style, and I’m going to show you what I've been up to.

Inside it tells – pictorially – the stages of his adoption: it shows the first picture we saw of him; some pictures of him at the orphanage; pictures of us; a map of China and a map of the U.S. with a plane flying from the one to the other. It shows a caricature of a Dad, Mom and boy holding hands and getting on a plane, then a car and driving to our house. Then there are pictures of the inside of the house, pictures of Ronin, etc.

The last page is a collage of emoticons, lots of different smiley faces except each one shows a different emotion – crying, scared, happy, sad, angry, nervous, etc. I figure this will help him realize that he has “permission” to feel these emotions, that we sort of expect it from him. I’m hoping it will help him feel freedom to express his grief, his anxiety, etc., and not try to hide his emotions from us out of fear that if he’s angry or sad we will send him back to the orphanage.

So that's what I've been doing instead of doing things like clear out my kitchen or organize the spare room or any number of other productive things. Oh well. Yo Quiero, Taco Bell!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Just to show you how humble I am, I will let you know that I have discovered something about myself that many of you probably don’t know. At least I hope you don’t know this about me. (Or maybe it’s totally obvious to everyone but me, which is entirely more likely the case…)

I am what people would call behind the times. Ack. I said it. I admit it. I didn’t know just how out of synch I apparently am.

I had NO IDEA how much it cost to buy a dresser.

Back when we started getting Jesse Yong’s room ready, I envisioned dropping maybe $100 on a dresser, maybe $150. And this would be for something shiny and new. Obviously I’m rather obtuse, or living in the wrong year, because here I am still reeling from sticker shock. Next they’re gonna tell me that spandex, socks-over-pantlegs, and big hair are no longer in.

For a while I was trying to figure out how to avoid the $400 (gasp!) that the rest of you people “in the know” knew it would cost. So, in desperation I sent my hunter-gatherer on the scent of Craig’s List and Uncle Henry’s to sniff us out a bargain. This is a task that can take many hours and much obsession but normally it’s something he can pull off, generally astonishingly well.

Unfortunately, either nobody’s in the mood to sell or they are keeping all their leftover dressers to store their spandex and Aquanet, because nobody had ANY dressers up for sale locally. So after several weeks of scouring the web – yes, weeks – we finally acquiesced and decided that there’s no time like any time before Jesse starts thinking the floor constitutes "putting away his clothes," and started searching all the unfinished furniture stores. (That was when I started to give way to bitterness of spirit after said sticker shock.)

In an act of stubbornness that would rival my niece, I crossed my arms and stalwartly declared that I was going to hold out for a miracle bargain dresser – and for the day mint green and gold eye shadow would make a sparkly and glorious comeback. So after much prayer and further scrutiny, Jason found a new post on Craig’s List Friday night for a bureau in Wells (very near us!) for the low, low price of…drumroll…$50!!!! I whooped a proper good whoop, pumped my jelly braceleted fist in the air, and off we went Saturday morning to pick it up.

The woman even dragged the dresser downstairs into the great outdoors so it would be ready for us (or so I thought was the reason). The dresser is awesome! Even better than in the picture. It definitely has a few small points of…shall we say, character. But it looks perfect in our home, which is also full of…character (although substantially fewer amounts of “character” than before we started remodeling).

It’s perfect for Jesse’s room and we are very stoked about it.

One excellent selling point that I will note to all of you who, like me, grew up with sticky dresser drawer syndrome from antique monoliths that outweighed me by 300 pounds: these drawers SLIDE out nicely. Not the wrenching wrestling match that used to occur when I would pull the drawer and half of it would come out, then I’d have to yank to get the other half to squeak out, and when that doesn’t work shove the drawer back in – partways – and then start again, a little more gingerly this time, desperately trying to avoid 1) pulling out my shoulder, 2) scraping my hand inside the iron rings that constitute drawer handles (which, because they are old and no longer properly affixed, spin and gouge my hand), or 3) pinch my fingers and/or hand inexplicably somehow in the process, adding another blood blister to my collection.

So if you are looking at the picture, you might be wondering, why are there still mountains of clothes on the dresser top, on the bookshelf beside the dresser, and on his bed?

Well, apparently the woman who sold us the dresser and brought it down for us was not just being friendly but practical as well. It was not until we dragged/shoved/pushed that dresser upstairs and into his room that we realized it REEKS of cigarette smoke. I mean SERIOUSLY bad. Like in the 1950s movies where everyone woke up with a cigarette and chain smoked all day long.

It was so bad I even pulled open the drawers and put baking soda in them to try to absorb the smell and left it overnight. When I went back into the room yesterday, the dresser no longer smelled like smoke. But that’s only because by osmosis the whole room now tasted like an ashtray. Obviously the previous owners must still smoke like it’s going out of style.

Oh wait…

It’s good to know I’m not the only one a little behind the times.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Orphans and Easter

Well, Spring has sprung and the reason I know this is that the Lion of March has been roaring outside my windows these last few nights with magnificently powerful gusts of winds "like the sounds of rushing waters," as Revelation would apocalyptically say.

Tomorrow is Easter, and I was sooo hoping to have been in China. Would seem utterly appropriate - new life, new birth, new hope...

It's OK though. This year Easter has taken on a whole new dimension for me. It's still Easter but I have a new spin on it, because in a very big way I am starting to understand just how big adoption is in the scheme of Easter. Sounds strange at first, I know. But adoption is the motivation behind what Easter is all about. It's the impetus, the driving force of the message of Easter. Why?

Because adoption is the vessel of grace and Easter is the path to it. Adoption is the epitome of God's expression of love to us. It is the way He chose to show us how we are folded and enveloped into a family -- and a kingly family at that.

Adoption is bigger than the universe. It was conceived and put into action by God before the foundation of the world as the means of demonstrating His massive love for -- and grace to -- the world. It is what God destined us to, before the universe ever was. It is the quintessential act expressing: "I choose you. You don't even know Me yet, but I love you..."

"He chose us in Him, before the creation of the world...In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of His glorious grace...In Him we were also chosen..." (Eph 1:4) Adoption is the tangible expression of God's grace and love, Him seeking us before we ever saught Him. It's why He came; it's one of the best new perspectives on Easter. And here I am only just coming around to this awesomeness. Easter is redemption and hope and us finally having the option of adoption out of a life of spiritual poverty.

In the same way Jason and I pray that Jesse Yong's heart will be soft and open to receiving our love, I realize I also need my heart opened to what God's trying to show me. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know that hope to which He has called you....and His incomparably great power, like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead." (Eph 1:18) See what I mean about it being so tightly wound with the essence of Easter?!?!

From the doors of an orphanage
To the house of the King,
No longer an outcast
A new song I sing.
From rags unto riches
From the weak to the strong,
I'm not worthy to be here,
But praise God I belong!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

More pictures!!!

Well, as they had promised, our friends in China were able to forward more pictures of Jesse Yong with his friends at the orphanage!!! It is wild just how excited I was to get these pictures and updates! I actually got up early this morning to log on to the computer to see if she'd posted anything new on her blog since yesterday. Ridiculous.....

But there is a 12-hour delay (China is ahead) so I figured I had a good chance at 6 a.m. our time of hearing something. At the time we only had the one we have several more! YEA!!! So I thought I'd share them with you.

Interestingly, when Keith (the dad over there adopting right now, the one in the pictures) went to the orphanage, he pointed to one of the little boys there and asked the director, "Dang Yong?" The director said, "No, not Dang Yong." He said, "Could you please bring him in, so he gets a toy and a treat?" They agreed. I'm so very thankful to Keith for being brave and direct enough to ask them to bring him into the room so he could enjoy a treat, too. We don't know why he wasn't included initially. It would have been very sad for Jason and I if Keith never got to see Jesse Yong and give him some time and love.

Also, the director told Keith and his guide that there were "12 children" at the orphanage. We had heard more like 150 children. Weird.

And I can't figure out why these small rooms don't look quite the same as the other room we had seen pictures of back in December. I'll have to compare more closely later, but it seems different, but maybe it's just the angles.

Keith's baby girl did not come with the blankets and things they had mailed to her. How very disappointing to them to have lovingly sent items to their little girl and realize she never received them. The guide got the impression that the children at Nanyang SWI do not get the gifts their parents send them. :( She suspects the gifts go home with the caregivers/orphanage directors.

So we don't know if Jesse Yong received all of his gifts, or if he was given some of them for the pictures and then they were taken away. I guess we'll find out when we pick him up and see whether he arrives with any of the stuff we sent.

Here is a picture of one of the other small rooms that serves as their food area:

All these things make me realize how much we have to be greatful for here in America! And how happy we are that -- no matter what is happening over there right now -- soon we will be with our little one and he will be with us forever. All the questions may not get answered, but I guess all in all it doesn't really matter.

Yes, you are ours!

I’ve heard that in many foreign countries, people LOVE things that are American. They’ll wear anything with English words on it, even if they have no idea what it means. In many cases, the clothing has misspelled English words or nonsensical phrases. Doesn’t matter. If it has letters of the English alphabet strung together, it’s hip.

Most of the time when you see a photograph of an American brand name poorly reproduced, it can be kinda funny. But sometimes it can be just plain ironic.

Another HOPE for Children family is in Henan, China right now picking up their little girl from Nanyang Social Welfare Institute. The dad went to the orphanage yesterday to take pictures and video of her life there. He also dropped off a suitcase full of clothes, socks, shoes, toys, blankets and candy. While he was there he took some pictures of the children who are waiting to be placed with their forever families.

They’ll be e-mailing us more pictures later, but here’s the one we saw with Jesse Yong…

Of course he’s absolutely adorable (even though we can’t see his face in this one). Once again, he looks smaller and younger in this picture than he does in what we’ve dubbed the “computer picture” (that's the B&W on the upper righthand of our blog -- we cropped out the computer). It’s amazing to us how different he can look depending on the angle.

In just a month’s time he’ll finally be with us, starting his new life with a family. Amazing!

Ours? Yes, most definitely.

But when you see the writing on his sweatshirt, you have to snicker at the irony of it all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Running scared

My brother Seth spent a (chilly) summer in Barrow, Alaska, working with at-risk kids a couple years ago. That’s pretty much the northernmost point you can get before hitting the Arctic Pole. He did what he likes most: surf (kidding), eat whale blubber, see 24 hours of continual sunlight, try to solve a mysterious murder, and learn respect for the polar bear. Polar bears are the only mammal that will actively hunt human beings. Where most mammals will avoid confrontation and human contact at all costs, these bad boys will literally track a human mile after frozen mile across vast tundra nothingness for weeks on end, refusing to give up their Sunday snack. They WILL find you. Gotta respect that kind of icy tenacity.

So when I saw this picture on my friend’s blog I proceeded --- with my hardened conscience sitting mutely by --- to steal it because I can so relate, and figured you might too. I think some days I’m that polar bear, happy and contented but with eyes honed in on China, totally unsuspecting of the cacophony of chaos about to be unleashed.

And then there are other days when I’m definitely the penguin poised to bring about said unleashing.

Last night I had another nervous episode. A downright petrified, freeze-me-in-my-penguin-snowtracks moment. For a few slow-moving minutes I felt the huge weightiness of what we were undertaking and thought it might not be such a bad idea to pound pavement before we awaken the giant human-hunter. Even my heart started pounding.

The thought crossed my mind: Fight or flight? Psychologists have long said you’ve got one or the other reaction in times of deadly peril. Historians of World War I added a third option: posturing. That's basically when you puff yourself up and paint your face scary colors and scream and holler a lot to scare your opponent like a warring Visigoth with testosterone sluicing down his veins, when you really should be running like all heck.

I read the story of a woman who just returned from China 6 months ago with her little 3-year-old boy. She said the other day they were out getting haircuts, and one of the chatty hairdressers (is there any other kind?) came over and hugged and kissed her little boy. She'd grown up in a Korean orphanage. All her life she had seen foreigners coming into the orphanage and she would wave at them and say, "Pick me! Pick me!" But no one ever did and she never understood why.

Most of us know why – a lot of people want to adopt a baby. Initially Jason and I thought we’d adopt an infant or young toddler, too. A wee bald stranger would be – on the whole – very non-threatening. For many people it seems “safer” and more predictable (though it really isn’t). But we delude ourselves into thinking it's less traumatic for all involved. Less of life’s harshness imprinted on a wee one. No language barrier. Just plain... well... easier.

Except for the diapers. Jason has an unreasonable fear of diaper-changing. And, actually, now that I consider it, he’s not a big fan of littleness overall. Afraid he’ll break it or make it cry. He covered church nursery the other week, which would lead one to the false deduction he’s comfortable with the miniature ones, except for one minor detail. We don’t have any children in nursery under the age of six. He figured he was safe. Hee hee hee...

Lo and behold but if a visiting family didn’t descend with a 14-month-old that week. Legend has it that Jason stood --- trembling, but not visibly --- and stared down at her, eyeball to eyeball, knowing she could smell his fear. (This is a form of "posturing.") And she sat on her little diapered tush and stared up at him. For about 18 minutes they assessed each other, mutually intrigued. Then again, maybe she was just working on a poop...

Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah.... Sometimes life decisions are not about us or about easiness (or our ability to sleep comfortably in our beds at night, unassailed by fear of the unknown venture awaiting). Sometimes it’s about Someone calling us to someone. Sometimes it’s making a choice to love. Sometimes we’re supposed to do something outside our comfort zone. Something we would never have dreamed, maybe not even as much as a year and a half ago when the journey first started.

Yes, we’ve heard a few horror stories of older child adoption. (Note to gentle reader: If you have a ghastly story we haven't yet heard, please kindly allow us to proceed in ignorance, just this once.) But we’ve also heard the happy stories. I find most days are a mix of both anyway, child or no child. When we first read about Jesse Yong and saw those sad eyes looking out at us, we knew. It’s hard to describe that feeling, but it comes with such a certainty it leaves no wiggle room.

We aren’t meant to go it alone. There's enough pain and misery out there without having to slog through it solo. Children shouldn’t be left to themselves with no one to love them. My mom is convinced that if every child had one person committed to him or her – just ONE person – that kiddo has a chance.

When you know you are loved, that counts for something. It really does. None of us are perfect, no family is a perfect family. And no child is a perfect child. We all have issues. We all suffer fear and sickness and pain and frailty. And we all need love. There’s not so much love in the world that you can afford to turn your back on a chance to give some. It may save someone’s day, maybe more.

The other day a salty old-timer came up to me with a rather bemused look on his face. Not critical per se, just trying to wrap his mind around a new concept. He looked at me quizzically. “Why are you adopting a little boy from China?”

Some days it’s confusing and hard to explain. But at that moment it came out in its simplicity: Because he needs a family who loves him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jesse Yong's room!

I can't tell you how excited we are to have finally completed Jesse Yong's bedroom!!! For those of you who haven't heard, that's our little boy's new name, and here is his new room...ready just in time!

I think it's funny: my cousin-in-law is 5 months pregnant with her baby girl and last week she told me her baby's room is completely done. Already. As in they have everything they need already bought and assembled. Even the stuffed animals are sitting in the crib staring back at them with their glossy eyeballs....

For those of you who know me, that should totally be me!!! You know that whatever the opposite of "procrastinator" is, I'm it. In college I had my term papers done weeks before they were due. I organize church parties months in advance. I'm asking Jason what he wants to do for dinner before I've had lunch. (yeah, it's bad)

And yet here we are: still in need of a dresser for Jesse's clothes, a glider/rocker, shelves installed in the bedroom closet...the list goes on.

Funny what God does, because here we are barely a month away from bringing home our son and we're just squeaking all these (major!) things in. Normally this would totally stress me out, but the fact is, I'm getting better with trusting and walking day-to-day, knowing that God is the perfect time-keeper and He's got it all under control. (Talk to me tomorrow; it may be a different story...)

Jason asked me the other day, "Emily, honestly now. What would you DO if we had several more months to go? You'd go crazy with nothing to do." Truer words were never spoken.

For those who have visited the upstairs of chez Hendrickson, a word of warning in advance. We decided that orange and brown stripes just weren't our thing, so we waved a cheery goodbye to the old remnant, and the carpet guy came and installed a new blue thing Thursday.

The rest of the week/weekend we finished all the retouch and the trim paint. This stuff seriously takes forever. Thoroughly sick of painting, mudding, trim work, repaint, and final touchups, we both agree the longer it is until we see a fresh gallon of paint the happier we both will be. And, as with every other room in this old New Englander, it took a lot of work to get it up to snuff. Thanks to Jason for his painstaking mudding and patching...
We also picked out some new sheets, a bedside lamp, a curtain, and some ABC wall decals. Hopefully he'll like it. If not, I'll sleep there, cuz I think it's a pretty sweet room.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday, Yong!!!

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

-Chinese Proverb

On Saturday, Yong turns 4!

We can't be there with him :( so we did the next best thing. We e-mailed Ann at Red Thread China to send him a small gift. Since he isn't used to getting gifts and we've sent him two care packages thus far, her feeling was that we should only send a little book and a letter to him, and a package of candies for the caregivers.

So...what do you say to a 4-year-old who has been getting gifts from "a family in America" but even today may not know that we are going to be his new parents? Words fail.

But you have to give it a shot. So here's what we said:

Dear Dang Yong,
Hello! How are you doing? We hope you are having fun today with your friends!

We saw pictures of you having cake on Christmas. You were wearing a yellow crown on your head, just like you were King for that day! You looked very handsome. You new mama and dada sent you the cake for a special treat to share with your friends. Was it a yummy cake? It looked very yummy!

Is it still cold in China? It is cold in America, too. There is lots of snow on the ground! Is there a lot of snow where you are, too?

We are very happy to come and see you soon! We love you very much and canʼt wait to meet you. It must be scary for you to think about coming to live with your new mama and dada in America. Itʼs all right to be scared. When something new happens it is scary, even if it is a good thing.

You new mama and dada love you very, very much. We are good people, and we will take good care of you always. Even if you are scared or sad, we will always love you. Everything will be all right.

We wanted to send you some more treats because on March 8 it is your birthday. That means you turn 4 years old! We hope you have a happy day. We love you very much!

-Mama and Dada

The Perfect Storm

As I sit here typing on yet another rainy/snowy/sleety day here in Maine (yes, that's the roof of the doghouse in the 4 feet of snow in our front yard, and yes, that's after it rained all day today and melted in yesterday's 40 degree temps), I’m sipping a nice hot cuppa, as our friends from over The Pond would say. It’s called “Tea for Tension,” touted as being “good for the occasional strain and nervous tension.” One can hope…

See, I thought I'd be so wound up and excited right now about how close we really are... I can hardly believe that in seven weeks we’ll be there, walking the Great Wall, looking over the vast mountains that border Mongolia, and meeting our new son.

Yesterday the FedEx gal dropped off the LOA, learned what was in the envelope and gave a HUGE grin and congratulations. All she got in return was a appallingly truncated story of Dang Yong, because I could barely keep from ripping that envelope open while she stood before me. After she left (barely), I tore open the envelope, signed and dated that long-awaited letter, and immediately put it back in a new FedEx envelope.

And e-mailed FedEx to come right back. (They really are overworked, these poor FedEx people.)

With a decisive “DONE!” I slapped the envelope on the counter, danced a little gig and headed out for my piano lessons. On my way, I was telling my story to the kids’ mom. I said, “Isn’t it weird? On the LOA, they actually have a box you have to check saying you will accept the adoptee…” And then it suddenly hit me.

No, not "Holy Cow! I'm going to be a Mom in a few short weeks!" No, it hit me that I’d done everything except check that all-important “YES” box.

So I beat it back to work and barely beat the FedEx gal who was winding her way around the block and doubling back. All was well.

So, back to tea drinking…

Despite the excitement of this upcoming adventure, I’m a bundle of nerves and a ball of stress lately. I’m anxious about foreign travel (even though I love it!), the extensive flight, whether we should just travel coach or spring for the upgraded first class with more leg room and comfortable seats whose springs don’t jab you in the pancreas the whole flight.

I’m worried about sleep deprivation and jet lag. (I hate to be tired.) I’m nervous about our son freaking out at this groundswell of change. I imagine him pointing his little finger in our direction and shrieking horrible, incomprehensible Chinese words at these new people who are responsible for it all. I’m thinking about which shirts to pack and which luggage to use.

I feel like I’m standing at the shoreline watching The Perfect Storm making a bee line straight toward me. At least that’s how I’ve heard most 4-year-olds described. (Just kidding...I’m talking about the impending trip, really. Well, mostly…) My stomach hurts and I feel lousy. Maybe it’s just nerves. Maybe it was the meatball sandwich. Maybe it’s the flu.

So then of course I feel badly that I can’t get my emotional act together and just rejoice! I repeat that awesome verse from Isaiah: “They will go out with JOY and be led force in PEACE!” What is there to fear? God’s put me on this trip to begin with; He wouldn’t leave me stranded now. Why should I feel so negative instead of happy and excited and pulling out suitcases? Is this normal? Why am I not tripping the light fantastic?

As we snuggled up to watch our Travel Orientation video last night, all the realities started crowding in. We really are on our way. This really is happening. I have to remember not to drink the water over there. I have to learn to use the squatties. I have to get Dang Yong’s room ready. I have to be stared at, questioned, and cajoled into buying street wares. I really will be eating Spicy Pigeon and staring back at chicken heads eyeballing me from my dinner plate.

My head wants to explode spectacularly.

So I sip my tension taming tea and practice breathing – in through my nose, out through my mouth – just like I teach the 4-year-olds in our Little Samurai class. Slowly. Peacefully and prayerfully. I try to calm my roiling tummy and really listen when Jason lovingly reminds me that this is an AWESOME time for us.

Because it really is! I may be very nervous and feel very inadequate for the adventure that lies ahead. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not for all the tea in China.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Il Postino

Hallelujah, our letter has arrived!

Aisha, our adoption coordinator at HOPE, called today to say she got our LOA (letter of acceptance) from China.

And there was great rejoicing!

Once we sign and send it back to her, it heads to China, and we begin our wait for Travel Approval from the Consulate in Guangzhou. Lately travel approval has taken about 3 weeks.

Special note: There is a worldwide Trade Show in Guangzhou from April 15-30. Travel into or out of that city to finalize adoptions at the Consulate would be impossible. Therefore, Jason and I would not be able to get into Guangzhou until that first weekend in May.

So this is theoretically how things MIGHT go (please keep in mind this is dependent on travel permission being granted in 3 or 4 weeks):

  • Week of April 20th – head to Beijing to sightsee for several days. See the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, etc. Eat lots of spicy noodles. If we can swing it, we’ll also visit the city of X’ian, where the Terracotta Warriors were found. Amazing historical site.

  • Week of April 27th – We’d head to Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province. Zhengzhou is 2½ hours from Dang Yong’s orphanage in Nanyang. We would meet Yong at the Civil Affairs office, and he would stay with us from then on in!!! Sometime during that week, we would (hopefully) be allowed to visit his orphanage, collect stories and pictures of his life there.

  • Week of May 4th – From Zhengzhou we’d head to Guangzhou, the capital city of China, and where the Consulate is located. We could theoretically have our Consulate Appointment on May 5 and our swearing in as Yong’s parents on May 6.

Then we’d head home to begin Phase II of our great adventure…

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Akira the retarded cat April 2001-February 2008

Well, for all of you who may not know yet, the title probably says it all. Two days ago, fed up, Emily and I decided to bring Akira to our vet to have her looked at about her "delicate" condition; and by "delicate", I mean her propensity to pee all over everything we own, sometimes right in front of us. She had been doing this before, as we were tearing the bedroom and living room apart, calling the demolishing process 'remodeling'. We figured she was pretty freaked out that everything was changing and was letting us know in the only way she knew how: making everything in the house smell like ammonia and cat food mixed together. Back then we told our vet about it and he suggested that it was simply a case of anxiety. From almost any other animal, I'd snort in disagreement, but with this cat: definitely. Talk about anxiety, if I were sitting in my chair, legs outstretched, and she'd happen to walk by and for 'some reason' (giggle) I'd twitch my legs, that cat would jump straight up. She probably had about a three-foot vertical takeoff. Putting that in our terms, it would be like Michael Jordan being able to jump about 25 feet straight up in the air as he was about to dunk a basketball. Yeah, our cat was twitchy.

Anyway, the last time our vet put Akira on anti anxiety medication, which is another fancy name for kitty Prozac. It worked out OK. The fire-hose dropped to a minor, occasional trickle, something we could manage. This time, however, the prognosis was different.

The Vet visit started out pretty typical:

Dr Mike: "How's Akira doing?"

Me: "Well you know, peeing all over everything."

Dr Mike: "So, the usual then."

Me: "Yup."

Dr Mike: "Any other issues?"

Me: "Well yeah, she has this drinking problem."

Dr Mike: "Oh man, I hate it when I see these things. How did it start?"

Me: "You know, the usual way: wine coolers while hanging out with her friends, but then beer as she was feeling more daring, even though she didn't like the taste; she had to fit in. Pretty soon it was on the the harder stuff, and now, she doesn't get up until noon and soon thereafter she hitting the sauce again."

Dr Mike: "Time for an intervention."

Me: "Maybe, but I'm not sure it's not too late by now. It's been going on for a while now..."

Dr Mike: "At this stage, there could be liver damage...."

Ironically, a day and a blood test later, that's exactly what Akira had: liver damage. It seems that there was something wrong with her liver that caused some of it to stop working and the rest of the liver was being overtaxed. It was only a matter of time before complete liver failure. If Akira was a person, she would have gone on an organ transplant list. As she's not, and only a cat, there is no such thing; not even on the black market in Southeast Asia.
Dr. Mike was great as we talked on the phone when he gave me the results of the blood test. He said the only other thing that they could do was run an ultrasound to look at the liver, but all that would do would be to confirm what we already knew. He said she'd probably only last another four to six months, and things would get worse. Akira wasn't in pain then, but towards the end, she would be.

We had no real choice.

Later on that afternoon, I brought her in to be put down. I didn't stay in the room and pet her and tell her everything was going to be all right, mostly because I could not sit in a room where an animal was about to die and watch it happen. I don't think I could have prevented myself from snatching her back up again and taking off. I'm a coward like that. So I dropped her off at the office, and after exchanging some niceties with the two girls at the desk, drove off.

Well, she's gone now and Emily and I are busying ourselves with getting the house ready for our newest Chinese import later this spring.

The problem is this: every couple of hours I wonder why I'm not grieving. Why am I taking this so well? Em cried a bit last night and still today every now and again, I notice she has this sad, faraway look in her eyes. Why can't I even shed a tear?

All right, here's where I get a bit philosophical on this issue, so some of this may be a bit off. Come to think of it, if I had graduated college, it probably have been with a B.S. in B.S., but here we go nonetheless. Just remember, take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt, or, if it suits you, a whole rim full.

When Em and I first laid eyes on Akira in the Spring of 2001, a tiny, malnourished ugly little rat-like creature, I didn't fall in love, I fell in pity. I felt bad for her and so it was with that feeling that I went into the seven year relationship with the greatest nimrod of the feline species. I am very happy that we could provide a life for her that lasted seven years longer than it would have otherwise. I am proud that we gave her a good home to pee in. She was comfortable and happy; well, in her own retarded way. She had soft, warm spots to sleep, plenty of food, water and love, and the house was her litter box for number one. What more could a cat want?

Unlike Emily, I wasn't fond of that cat, in the traditional sense. I enjoyed seeing her comfortable and pampered. I had fun watching her try to meow, and in general, impersonate a normal cat. In short, Akira was a source of entertainment for me. She wasn't so much a member of the family to me as she was like a cute little screensaver on my computer that I had fun watching once in a while. A cute little white fuzzy leaky screensaver. I guess I won't mourn her so much as I'll miss the fun I had, admittedly sometimes at her expense (see the Michael Jordan comment). I'll probably find other ways to amuse myself from time to time.

Another way I can look at all of this is simply seeing this all as having worked out for the best. I mean, Akira was not by any stretch of the definition socially graceful. Can you imagine her reaction to a child in the home? I mean, when she wanted to hide, she could with the two of us, but little boys can go places that only a weasel coated in Crisco could go. There would be no safe place in the house for that cat. Talk about anxiety: with her stress coping abilities, or should I say lack thereof, she would probably spontaneously combust within a week of our son coming home, leaving the three of us shocked, confused, covered in cat hair and pee, wondering how we were ever going to be able to clean up and deodorize such a mess. Yup, Akira is better off not facing that kind of end.

All in all, it was a good life for Akira, and I can say I have no regrets about what has happened.

Before I go over and hug my dog, I'm going to give one last tribute to our small retarded cat: I'm going to go pee in the one place Akira never went: the right place. Man, I need to lay off the coffee.

Goodbye, Akira.