Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I have the beginnings of three posts written; just can't seem to find the time to finish and post them (gee, I wonder why?!?!).
Quick catch up: Guangzhou was wonderful. Had a fantastic travel group with some amazing kids. Beautiful weather, lots of swimming/eating/sight-seeing.
Flight home was actually reall great too, other than the fact that our multi-hour layover at each stop (in Seoul and Atlanta) turned into us running through the terminal to catch our next plane. Roo was awesome...I pulled out a new Ultraman figure during our first flight and that kept him occupied for the first 3-4 hours. He slept for about 9 hours of our 14 hour flight and then played quietly for the rest of the time. Monkey also ended up sleeping for most of the flights. It was seriously a piece of cake. Easiest transatlantic flights ever (and that includes the many times it was just Stu and me traveling without kids).
One of my favorite moments is when we are walking off the plane on our final leg. The relief at knowing the 24+ hours of non-stop travel is over, plus the knowledge that our family is waiting for us, is THE best feeling in the world. It was almost midnight when we landed so I was a little unsure of how our children would react. But when we walked out of the secured area, we were literally tackled by children. I'm not sure who was happier...them or us! Hugs and kisses and laughter and giggles. Pudding kept rubbing my face as if he couldn't believe I was actually there. So sweet! After catching up for a few minutes, Stu headed off to file a baggage claim, as none of our bags made the trip with us. Between being up late, the excitement of seeing us again, and some sugary treats, our children were running around like a bunch of hooligans. At this point, Roo completely shut down; he wanted to be held and buried his face in my shoulder. Very unlike him. Poor thing was completely overwhelmed. There is no telling what he thought was happening; I'm sure he was completely terrified of this new place with all of this strange new people. Heck, even I was a little overwhelmed by all of my wild things! It was after 1:00 a.m. by the time we arrived home so I was hoping everybody would settle down quickly and go to bed. No such luck. Roo explored the house with all of his new siblings anxious to show him every single item in the entire house. Finally, around 2:00, we were able to get everyone tucked away. We have a toddler bed next to ours in our bedroom and Roo climbed right into it and was quickly asleep.
The next week passed in a blur as we all settled into our new family dynamics. Roo had no problems with jet lag (other than waking up several times each night to go to the restroom); Monkey, Stu and I were another story. Actually, it was just Monkey that had an issue. Unfortunately he continued to wake up every morning at 3:00 a.m., thereby waking us up in the process (and, in many cases, his other brothers and sisters too). Other than that, the transition has been fairly easy. Roo seems to like his new siblings but still plays independently. The other three Littles spend most of the day playing imaginary games so it's hard for him to join in with them. He is still obsessed with Ultraman - thank goodness there is a big supply of new episodes on the internet. His gregarious personality hasn't quite emerged since we've been home either. He was wild and crazy in China; here he is quiet and tends to follow the rest of the kids. I'm sure his gregarious personality will come out eventually and I will be longing for these quiet days:) Poor thing is completely overwhelmed anytime we go anywhere outside of the house. I can't even imagine what must be going through his head; I'm sure he is terrified of what other changes we are going to spring on him. I so wish I could talk to him and reassure him that he is staying with us forever; this is the only time the communication barrier has been an issue at all. Poor little guy. We've been hibernating with him at home since we've returned and will continue to do so for at least a few more weeks until he feels more settled. Pudding and HD seem to be the most uninterested in the new addition. Sprout and Roo have forged quite the friendship though. I think Sprout is happy to have someone that will play with her (Pudding and HD tend to leave her out of their "twin" world they inhabit); Roo likes to be the boss and Sprout will go along with whatever he wants to do. I find it amazing that since Roo has joined our family, Sprout has started using Chinese words again. She dropped her Chinese quickly once she came home 10 months ago; now she is saying the Chinese words for all kinds of things. I know that Sprout and Roo were together at the same orphanage when they were younger but I'm sure they don't recognize each other; she probably finds the familiar words comforting. Chipmunk, of course, is an awesome big brother and works so hard to get Roo to like him. I thought Monkey and Roo might share a really close connection (like Chipmunk and Sprout do) since they were together for two weeks in China but it doesn't look like that is going to happen. Monkey is my kid that is most likely to be found playing by himself in his room and tends to get irritated when any of the little kids bother him.
I'm still trying to get used to our new normal. I felt like I was just really starting to truly bond with Roo when we arrived home and now I've taken a few steps backwards. I do honestly love him, but I find myself overwhelmed that he is my constant shadow and always one step behind me. We had such a good dynamic in our family prior to leaving and the three Littles played so well together, enabling me to get some laundry/cooking/cleaning accomplished during the day. With Roo needing constant attention, I have virtually no down-time during my day. When I'm not busy with Roo, I have five other children that are begging for my attention. It is exhausting. Stu is doing his best to help out: doing the bedtime routine with all of the kiddos, letting me escape to my friends' houses for a drink (or five). I had just forgotten how incredibly hard these first few months with a new child can be. I know this too shall pass and in a few months I'll be remembering these early days as "no big deal." Now, onto the ugly... When we picked Roo up, we were thrilled that his special need was a non-issue, as it had already been surgically corrected. Yay! He had his first pediatrician's appointment a few days after arriving home and was given a clean bill of health. Another yay! A few days later he started letting us know that one of his back teeth was hurting. I wasn't surprised as when we had picked him up we found that his back molars were completely rotted. Poor guy had never even had his teeth brushed. I took him to a pediatric dentist, figuring they would have to sedate him to work on his poor mouth. She took one look at him and said there was no way she was touching him; he had an absess in the back of his mouth that was threatening to infect his jaw bone. The bottom two molars are the worst she has ever seen and just about every other tooth in his mouth has a cavity. Sigh... So poor Roo will have to go to the hospital for dental surgery in mid-October where we can hopefully take care of all of his mouth issues at one time while he's asleep. Looks like he'll have to get a couple of implants along with a couple of root canals and crowns, not to mention all of the fillings. Thank goodness for dental insurance! In the meantime his eardrum has ruptured and both ears look horrible. A heavy-duty antibiotic is helping that but it looks like an appointment with the ENT is in his near future. He is such the trooper though. Still has his bright smile all day and is constantly giggling and being silly. I can't imagine how much better he will feel will when we get all of these problems taken care of. So, that's our first two weeks home. Can't wait to see what the next two weeks hold. Hard to believe that it has almost been one month since we first held him in our arms. It seems like so long ago but also feels like just yesterday.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

(A quick shout out of thanks to Stu for doing the quick blog post once we landed in Guangzhou. I know most of you figured out that it was his eloquent writing voicing the last post.)
When I last posted, I was still having a bit of a struggle with my attachment to Kangaroo. In the two days since then, it seems as though a cloud has lifted. While we were dreading the two hour flight from Shanghai to GZ with him, he was a total rock star. Our guide in Shanghai had given us a DVD of a popular Chinese children's program (Pleasant Goat) right before we left and that was a lifesaver. He watched the entire DVD on the flight and didn't make a peep. Between the sunshine in GZ, being surrounded with an amazing travel group of other adoptive families, and just finding our groove with each other, my mood has completely changed; I am finding myself more and more head-over-heels in love with our little boy. He continues to be so happy and friendly. At first I was a little worried about his indiscriminate affection (often a big red flag for possible attachment issues); as time has passed I am realizing that is just his personality. He definitely recognizes Stu and me as Mama and Baba and is just really enthusiastic about meeting new people. He loves to snuggle and give us hugs and kisses. I even got my first "wo ai ni" (I love you in Mandarin) at bedtime last about turning my heart into a big ole gushy pile of mush! He is still throwing a few fits when he doesn't get his way but even those don't last as long now that he realizes we aren't going to give in. His personality is emerging more and more each day too. He is quite the charmer and loves to wink at pretty girls. He has even picked up his first English phrase, "One minute, otay?"
We've been having lots of fun in Guangzhou. It is so nice to be at a hotel filled with other adoptive families. To be surrounded by so many other families that are going through the same struggles as us has been a lifesaver. We all help one another as much as possible and nobody pass judgment if a child has a fit in the middle of the lobby or lobs a piece of food at their head (sorry to the families sitting nearby at breakfast yesterday!). The support has been amazing. We've had lots of fun activities too. From swimming on the rooftop pool at the hotel (which Roo loved!) to visiting Safari Park, we've rarely had any time to be stuck in the hotel. I'm sure big adjustments are in store as we travel back home on Thursday and introduce Roo to all of his brothers and sisters. For now we are making the most of our time with our newest little love.

Friday, August 24, 2012


So just a quick post tonight to let everyone know we've landed in GZ and everybody is doing fine. Its going to be an early night tonight as we were all up at 6am.

The trip through the airports went very smooth. Roo did very well on the flight. It was only 2 hours but he handled it great. He spent half of the time watching a dvd that our guide gave us.

The Monkey fell asleep tonight half way through his 2nd piece of pizza tonight. He put it down and said "I'll be right back". He then walked to his bed and was asleep instantly.

Tomorrow is the medical exams which can always be eventful. Hopefully it will just be a formality but you never know.

By the way, I have the greatest husband ever. I had a craving for pizza and he went out and actually found good pizza. It hit the spot perfectly.

See ya tomorrow.....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Better Day

Thank you all so much for the kind words. Things are going great but I want to be honest about some of the realities that we are experiencing. Adoption is a wonderful thing but it's not all rainbows and unicorns. It is hard work. Things might be a little bit rough right now but they get better every single day. Today it seemed like we all had new attitudes. Maybe it's because I let go of all of my expectations and decided to just enjoy being with our new little boy. Maybe it's because we are finally starting to feel comfortable with each and got a good night's sleep. Maybe it's because we borrowed a stroller from the hotel and Roo couldn't run off in a different direction. I have no idea what it was, but we had a really good day.

It started off with a visit to Roo's orphanage (which is also Sprout's former orphanage). I was a little hesitant taking him back here so soon but I couldn't pass up a chance to get a small glimpse into his life before us. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the whole idea of a giant compound of buildings housing over 600 special needs children that are waiting for families. Without going into too many details, it gives a nice image but behind the pretty facade it is still an orphanage, not much different than the Russian and Kyrgyz orphanages we have also visited. We were allowed to see the rooms where Roo spent the past two weeks (prior to that he was with a foster family) and he was even able to say goodbye to a few friends. We didn't stay long as Roo seemed a little anxious and held Stu's hand the whole time. He was quite excited to leave and yelled "Bye bye!!" to everyone we passed. I'm glad we were able to visit and I'm glad we will never have to go back there.

Later this afternoon we visited Yuyuan Garden and the Old Shanghai area for awhile. It was rainy and it was so crowded with people. I'm so glad we visited though; it was Monkey's first view into China's amazing history. He couldn't even wrap his head around the fact that some of the sights were so old (but then again, neither can I). Monkey said he felt like a celebrity because so many people were coming up to take pictures with him. The younger people don't seem to pay any attention to us at all. The older people, however, have no problem walking right up to us and just staring/touching/grabbing. We just smile and try to talk with them and I'm so proud of Monkey for being such a good sport about it. Many people seem so confused as to how we can have a Chinese child. Adoption is relatively unheard of in this area...especially the adoption of a young boy. We've had several people that have seemed angry we are taking one of their treasures, but most people think it is wonderful and tell Roo what a lucky little boy he is. I think they are wrong though...we are the lucky ones!

Time to say goodnight on our last night in Shanghai. Tomorrow we leave for the last leg of our trip in Guangzhou. I like Shanghai but am looking forward to meeting up with so many other adoptive families in GZ. To have support from families that are in the exact same situation really helps us power through the last week of our trip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reality Hits

Roo remains the happy little boy that we met a mere two days ago. He is full of smiles and is starting to give spontaneous kisses and hugs. Yesterday was spent finalizing the adoption; in the eyes of China, he is officially a member of our family! Today we visited the Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai Aquarium.

Both days were full of fun but Roo is out of control the second we step out of our hotel room. He takes off in the opposite direction and Stu and I are spending the majority of our time trying to catch him or carry/drag him to where we need to be. I'm sure it is a variety of factors. He is very overstimulated, going from a rather-sheltered life to being constantly in and out of vans/offices/meetings. We can see that he has never experienced many ordinary aspects of life so he is experiencing many "firsts" with us. We are seeing that he was very spoiled by his foster family; I'm not sure if I shared that he was living with a foster family for the past two years. Such a blessing in that he was obviously adored by them and learned what it is like to live in a family; however, we can easily tell that he was given most anything that he wanted and expects us to follow the same. I am beyond thrilled that he was fostered... he had the warmth of a family life and loves to snuggle. However, trying to establish boundaries where there have been none is challenging, to say the least. He laughs in our face if we tell him "no" and will not allow us to redirect him to a new activity. We saw our first temper tantrum today (all 30 seconds of it) and he lashed out at Monkey a few times over sharing toys. We know this is completely healthy and a great step forward that he is letting down his walls and figuring out that we will be here for him no matter what. But it is hard to deal with this when we are stuck in a small hotel room for hours. And we can't attempt too much discipline at this point as all eyes are on us the second we walk out of this room. I know this is just the beginning and things will get easier once we get home but for now it's hard on him and us.
On the other side of this story is our adjustment to Roo. It goes without saying that we adore him and think he is one of the cutest kids ever. When he looks at us with his big smile and dimples our hearts completely melt. Hearing his big belly laugh is like music to our ears. But the reality is that he is a five-year-old little boy. He is a preschooler that has a fully formed personality and is full of opinions of what he likes and doesn't like. We can't expect a child to erase the first five years of his life and come to us with a blank slate. We just need to figure out a way to incorporate those first five years into the new relationship he is building with us. At this point we are still more like strangers than family and we are all struggling to figure out what to expect from each other. I suppose right now it seems like we are babysitting for a really cute kid. I know that in time the deep feelings of love and bonding will come but right now we have are slowly getting to know each other and are having a good time. And that's enough for now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We Have Our Kangaroo!

We arrived in Shanghai late Saturday night. We had a lazy day on Sunday, wandering Nanjing Road and up to the Bund. We didn't stay out long as it was HOT! We are used to hot and humid but this was a completely different level. It probably didn't help that we were surrounded by thousands of Chinese people who don't believe in personal space or cold bottles of water.

We spent the rest of the night getting settled and getting prepared to meet Roo. After going through this five previous times, I was surprised at how nervous I was feeling. So many thoughts were racing through my head: how to deal with the language barrier, if he would still be grieving for his foster family (with whom he spent two years), how a 5-year-old would deal with such a major transition. Even Stu, who had been the driving force in this adoption, was beginning to feel overwhelmed. I'm pretty sure he hadn't even thought about the fact that this little guy would be speaking fluent Mandarin. We actually slept great and grabbed a quick breakfast before we headed to the Children's Welfare Office to meet Roo. We were greeted by the same woman we met last year during Sprout's adoption; she was quite surprised to see us again. After catching up with her, we began signing the endless pieces of paper necessary to begin the adoption proceedings. In the meantime our translator MingMing was able to sneak a peek at Roo, who was waiting in the next room. She said he was very friendly and was eating chips. A few minutes later, Roo walked into the room. He was a bit hesitant but walked right up to us and said, "Baba (daddy in Chinese). Mama." He then proceeded to empty a backpack full of toys that we had previously sent him. He was quite proud of the pictures of himself that were given to us. We could tell he was still a little bit nervous but Monkey pulled out a sucker for him and we were rewarded with our first smile! We saw his big dimples and his eyes perked up. That was all it took. He led Monkey over to a nearby table and they proceeded to play with some plastic soldiers while I finished up the paperwork.

Maybe ten minutes after meeting him it was time to leave. We loaded up his backpack of "treasures" and decided to hit the grocery store before returning to our hotel. We wanted to let Roo pick out a few foods so we knew we had something he would eat. He grabbed cookies, chips, candy, noodles...we ended up with a cart full of junk food. Our translator dropped us off at the front of our hotel and we were on our own. I'm always so surprised at how different the China adoption process is from the Russian/Kyrgyz programs which include a week of bonding before transfer. Within an hour of meeting us, Roo was left with virtual strangers that didn't even speak his language. I'm sure he was scared but he didn't show it. Monkey and he immediately emptied the suitcase of toys we brought and quickly began to have a swordfight. Looks like this boy will be a perfect fit for our wild crew at home. After a Nerf gun shootout, he fed Roo a quick lunch of instant noodles and tried to lay him down for a nap (per his schedule we received from the orphanage). That was a big failure, though he did manage to rest for awhile watching our Tom and Jerry DVD.

He laughed and giggled his way through the afternoon and jabbered non-stop in Mandarin. It didn't seem to bother him at all that we couldn't understand each other. I even got my first hug and quick kiss! We decided to grab dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel - not brave enough to wander out with him yet. He liked the noodles and broccoli we ordered and was an expert with chopsticks. He went crazy when they brought out watermelon and cherry tomatoes for dessert. I'm pretty sure that between Roo and Pudding, we will be going through a watermelon a day when we get back home.
Back at the room, we gave Roo a quick bath. He is not a fan of that, though I'm sure that will change when we get home. His schedule indicated that bedtime was usually at 8:00. Not quite. He was so wound up and ready to play. We finally managed to get him to lay down at 10:00 and he quickly went to sleep...and slept through the night!!

Stu and I could not have envisioned a more picture perfect first day with Kangaroo. I'm sure we will have more challenges as the days pass, but if today was any indication, we just added one more ray of sunshine to our family!

Friday, August 17, 2012

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe...

...she has so many children, she didn't know what to do.
So she decided to adopt another child. While we were initially hesitant to share this news with our family and friends, most of them were not the least bit surprised to hear that we would be adding to our family. Honestly, I think Stu and I were probably more shocked than everyone else. Even Sprout's adoption caught as by surprise, as much as is possible with adoption. So the idea that we would add a sixth child, so soon after Sprout's adoption, was utterly ridiculous. Our plates were full, our calendars were full, our energy pushed beyond its bounds, as was our patience. But one look at the sweet face of a special little boy changed that in an instant. To be honest, this all began prior to Sprout's adoption. While perusing a yahoo group for families adopting from Shanghai, I saw that someone was advocating for a little boy in Sprout's orphanage. Of course, I had to look and the picture completely took my breath away. I have no idea what it was about it but it felt so familiar, like I had known him forever. I pushed the thoughts aside, as we were knee-deep in Sprout's adoption and looking at any more children Needing families was more than my heart could bear. A few days later I was unable to get his face out of my mind and showed stu the picture. He agreed he was cute and there was something special about him. He was also quick to add that our family was full. I agreed and that was that. Unable to stop thinking about him, I asked an agency if they could get updated information about him so maybe I could advocate for him. We didn't hear anything but Stu and I kept bringing him up. It was completely the opposite of what our family needed: another boy, a mere 7 months older than Pudding, while another adoption was going on. Bit no matter what our heads thought, our hearts told us he was our son. We were thrown for a huge loop; we had always pursued an adoption because we wanted to add a child to our family. We had never felt pulled to adopt a specific child. But as much as we tried to fight it, the pull to this dimple-cheeked little boy was irresistible. One day while checking the shared list I found that he was gone. That could only mean one thing: that he had found a family. While I was thrilled for that little boy would have parents to love him, I was heartbroken that it wouldn't be us. A few nights later, Stu and I took the kids out to a baseball game. Stu asked about adopting another little boy and I told him that I had NO desire to adopt child unless it was that certain little boy. I had also finally started to feel at peace that our family would be complete when Sprout got home and we could begin to plan our future without worrying about adoption travel, etc. it was literally less than 20 minutes later when I checked my email and found a message from the agency with an update and new pictures of the little guy. I was flabbergasted. I asked about him being off of the shared list and found out that whatever family had pulled his file had returned it and he was still available. Tha was all we needed to hear. We contacted our social worker the next day to get a homestudy update and get the paperwork started. We also had to apply for a waiver from China to allow us to begin a new adoption before our current one was complete. Once we got that approval, we sent in our LOI (asking china to allow us to adopt him) and received PA (preapproval) on August 16, 2012. Around this time, things started to progress with Sprout's adoption. Things were absolute chaos for the rest of August and September as we prepared to travel for Sprout and put together out dossier for our little Kangaroo. As we began to get closer to travel for Sprout, I began to have serious questions about whether we were doing the right thing with adding two new children to our family, so close in age to our preschoolers at home. My doubts grew heavier and heavier until right before travel I had pretty much made up my mind that I didn't want to pursue the second adoption. I was completely overwhelmed by the very thought of it. Stu made me keep an open mind as we traveled to Shanghai for Sprout. And I will admit that it was really hard to be in the same city as the little guy and not be able to check in on him. After arriving home, having 5 children that were all trying to deal with the multiple transitions going on within our home, breaking my foot during the holiday season, not to mention adjusting to Sprout's gregarious behavior and her inability to sleep...I was done. I was in over my head and didn't know if I would ever be able to come up for breath. There was no way I could handle another child. So we made the difficult decision to pull our dossier and stop the adoption. It was so very hard to do but brought me immediate relief. Our family slowly adjusted to our new normal and we survived the holidays. My guilt about Kangaroo's adoption was still strong so I decided to try to find a family for him. I was able to find two different families that were interested in pursuing him, but for a variety of reasons China turned them both down. At the end of January, when our little Roo was celebrating his 5th birthday, I woke up one morning with a horrible feeling that we were making the wrong decision. I sat with this for a few days, hoping it would go away, but the feeling grew. On a whim, I contacted our agency and asked if China Would ever let us resubmit our dossier for Roo. She said she would check but she wasnt sure. She called me later and asked if I was serious. I said I needed to talk to Stu but I needed to know if it was even a possibility before I approached him with this. As it turns out, they had never pulled our dossier!!! So as far as China was concerned we were still in process for him. I honestly couldn't believe it. Stu and I discussed it and then discussed it some more and then prayed and then prayed some more. We finally decided to go out for dinner and make a final decision. By the end of the night, we still couldn't decide. As we were leaving, we mentioned to our waitress that we had 5 kids at home and she proceeded to ell us that she was the youngest of 6 kids and she loved growing up in a house full of siblings. Stu and I looked at each other and we knew we had made our decision. We were going to bring Kangaroo home. Everything went full steam ahead which has led us to where we are today...sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting to board our plane to Seoul and eventually Shanghai. In just 2.5 more days, we will finally be united with our Roo!!!
It has been quite the journey to our little boy but I can't wait for the adventure to begin. We bright Monkey wit us this time and if you are interested, you can follow along on his personal blog too: