Monday, January 6, 2014

one year home and dogs

One of the really jarring moments for me in China was when we went next door our hotel to the McDonalds.  A vendor was on the sidewalk selling dog skins. There were dozens of them.  I had to practically step over the head of a Saint Bernard.  If you know me in real life, you know how horrifying this was for me.  I have spent a good bit of time and resources supporting animal rescue.  I served on the board of a local rescue before the kids.  I can trap a feral cat, get it fixed, have it's ear tipped, and release it with minimal fuss. That assumes that I don't actually trap a raccoon or armadillo.  Both of which I have done.  They were unharmed.

Anyway, after my horror, I also had a little moment of guilt that my two fat fur girls live better than lots of orphans.  They always get immediate medical attention, even if the concern is minor.  They have a climate controlled area and always have plenty of food and water.  I have spent thousands of dollars on Izzy's hips and thyroid and skin.  I spend hundreds, if not thousands, every year on heart worm preventative, flea treatments, shots, pain killers, vitamins, supplements, thyroid medicines, and blood work.   I love these dogs.

When Sammy came home one year ago today, he was terrified of Izzy and Addy.  He was only slightly less scared of them than the cats, Lola and GemGem.  My how times have changed.

Yes, he was covering them up like babies.  Yes, they are slightly insulted, but they were good sports.  He and John Hinton both smelled like dogs when I put them to bed.  Too bad the girls didn't smell like freshly bathed little boys.

Happy Family Day!!! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Video of CAB

I really can't do her justice but here is some video that JR took.  We are on the tour bus with our two other families and their children on our way to get the children's medical exams.  I had to cut the video, but at the end, I start trying to clarify whether Sam needed a TB test.  She kept saying children over two needed a TB test.  Sam was the only child in our group who was two.  So I asked if children who were two had to get the test. She kept repeating children over two had be tested.  Umm, the correct answer was children two and over have to have a TB test.  I can't imagine why there so much confusion and this whole trip seemed like such a cluster.  Can you?

I should also mention that this was the first day back with the other families after being away for a week.  I was ecstatic to see them.  That really doesn't do it justice.  JR said he didn't know if he had ever seen me that happy.  I'm pretty sure that I tackled Brandi and Angela when I saw them.  Given that our interactions up to this point had been very brief, I'm sure this was a little off putting for them, but I hadn't talked to anyone but JR in a week. I was super excited to see familiar faces.

I want to keep updating on our time in China so I don't forget, but as we approach one year at home, I want to record some of favorite things about Sammy right now.  First, this kid has the best smile.  Seriously, for a child labeled deformed because of his mouth, he has great dimples and an infectious laugh.  When we first came home, Sam didn't have any fat.  I even asked the pediatrician about the large boney protrusions on his forehead.  Now there is a nice thick layer of fat on his forehead and you can't even see the knots.  He lets me rock him to sleep every night now.  I rock him long after he is asleep and just feel the weight of his body and head on my chest.  I smell his hair and rub his cheeks.  His hair is fabulous.  When he first got home, John Hinton said that Sam's hair hurt him.  Now, it is luxurious.  I could not have asked for more out of John Hinton in this last year.  He is such a great big brother.  They fight and love.  They are brothers.  John Hinton cries when Sammy gets in trouble for pinching or scratching.

No lie, they wear me out, but I have no regrets. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's all about the money. Oh, and the baby.

So, one guide picked us up from the airport in Guangzhou.  She was very nice, but she explained that our guide would be Becky, a.k.a. CAB.  She said CAB couldn't pick us up from the airport but that she would be calling that evening with details about meeting to pick Sammy up in the morning.  JR and I stayed up as late as we could and right as we were falling asleep CAB called.  I could barely understand what she was saying and she was talking so fast that I could not keep up.  Well, apparently when I wrote down the amount of Yuan we would need the next day, I was off.  Like I really needed to bring 36,000 Yuan and I wrote down 3,600 Yuan.  I mean I was exhausted and nervous and English was her second language. OK?  You would think someone could have put it in writing for me.

The next morning JR and I bebop down to some sort money changer and get our 4,000 Yuan so we have a little extra. 

CAB and a driver pick us up and we all to go pick up Sam from a government office.  At some point during the drive, I realize that I am way off on the money.  I go ahead and confess that we don't have the money and that it is back in the hotel. CAB goes seven shades of crazy.  I start to apologize profusely and tear up, cause you know, I am fixing to meet my baby that have I waited three years for. CAB and JR eventually work out some sort of deal where we will wire the money the next day. 

We arrive at the government office.  We are there with dozens of other families that are waiting to meet their children.  You meet your child in a big open room with all the other families watching.  It is really awkward.  Poor Sam took a five hour bus ride to get to us, he was not accustomed to riding and threw up multiple times from motion sickness on the trip and had not had lunch or a nap.  Then they just handed him off to me.  Here is a picture of us.  I have a very emotional video but it seems a little too personal to share here. 

One thing that I will say about Sammy is that he may not have known that he needed a family but he knew from the moment that we saw each other that he wanted a mama.

You can't tell from this picture but was wearing a ridiculous amount of clothes. There were five layers of fleeces and sweaters and then this coat.  We headed over to the Chinese version of a Wal-Mart to buy him formula and a stroller.  Then we went back to the hotel so CAB could help us sort out our money situation.

When we got our money out, we had a little over $9,000 in case in crisp $100 bills because that is what we were told to bring.  The Chinese were very clear that old money would not do.  Money with creases would not do.  Only crisp new money.  Whatever.  Well, once you took our
"donation" away, we would have had about $3,000 left.  CAB goes bat crap crazy about how this will never be enough money for the rest of our stay that we must call home and have family western union us more money immediately.  She kept talking about souvenirs.  Damn, CAB. We don't need souvenirs, we have a baby!!!   I finally I had to tell her that the only person we could call would be my mother or father.  Neither of which had ever been to a western union to my knowledge and I had no intention of making them go now.  And besides, we were all out of money.  That was the sum of our liquidated assets laying on that Marriott bed. That was it.  Short of a loan, there was no more money to send. We would just have to eat a lot at the free breakfast and no one would get souvenirs. They would get over it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sammy Eve

Ok, so I will tell a couple of stories on myself. 

We were in a travel group with a family who brought their two precious well behaved children with them to adopt a toddler.  Their son was two or three and their daughter was four or five.  We were all riding in a very tiny van discussing what brought us to adoption when they made the statement that their other two children were so easy that they thought this would be a good time to adopt.  I about fell out of the seat and the bus because I was laughing so hard.

Those of you who know me (and I can't imagine why you come here if you don't really know us) know that I have been madly in love with John Hinton since the moment he was plucked from me via C-section.  That little detail becomes important later.  However, loving him is the only thing about this kid that has ever been easy.  Here is a little laundry list of things that were less than easy with him: breast feeding, formula, reflux, all formulas, all cereals, extra fluid on the frontal lobes of his brain (this requires multiple specialists), RSV, breathing treatments (multiple times a day, every day for years since he was six months old) (this requires a specialist), ear infections (this requires a specialist), tubes by five months (this requires a specialist), tubes again (this requires a specialist), Kawasaki's disease and hospitalization (this requires a specialist and multiple echocardiograms), horribly rotten teeth (this requires a specialist), allergies and asthma (this requires multiple specialists), allergy shots every week for over a year, one pupil is bigger than the other (this requires a specialist),  the croup which because of the asthma, requires an ER visit, the staph infection that required surgery and a hospital stay, adult doses of asthma medicines and steroids that make him crazy, not to mention his generally depressed immunoglobulin numbers which require multiple blood draws, and a double dose of sassy from his mama.  Oh, and he has always woken up for the day between 4:30 and 5:30.  I don't know why.

So, while loving him has been easy, keeping him alive and raising him have been a real challenge.  Seriously, everyday I pray for God to give me strength (to stay and not hurt anyone or myself), patience (not to snap), and understanding (so maybe I can be better at this).

If anything, I thought maybe we would get one with some immunity and a laid back disposition if we adopted. I was wrong, but it worked out. 

And he is mischievous on top of it all... 

So back to China.  We had to fly from Beijing to Guangzhou to get Sam.  Here comes the C-section story.  After you have a C-section you have pudge of fat.  Much like a beer gut.  It just is what it is.  So we are going through the security line to fly and I'm wearing tights and a dress.  Well, apparently the Chinese version of TSA is convinced that I am smuggling something in my left over belly fat and continues for what seems like forever to poke it, prod it, and rub it.  If you want to tick a woman off, draw attention to her pudge then ask her about it in a language that she does not understand.  When she cannot respond, start yelling at her to draw more attention.  My mood was sour.   As you can tell, my hopes and dreams of loving China and taking family vacations back to discover Sam's roots may have been dashed.  I don't like people touching the pudge. Period.

You don't want to miss tomorrow's blog.  It is about our guide who I affectionately will call Crazy Ass Becky or CAB.  I added the CA but she really did go by Becky.  I may even let JR guest blog it because it all involves me being off by a magnitude of ten when it came to time to make our orphanage "donation" when they handed Sam to us.  They don't like when you only bring 10% of the money.  Donation makes it seem optional but it is not optional.

While this post is meant to be light hearted and poke fun at myself, this was the night that Sammy laid his head down for the last time in the Shantou Welfare Institute in his steel crib, the only place that he had ever known as home with the only friends and caretakers that he ever had.  He didn't know that he would get up before the sun and travel by bus for five hours to meet strangers who would take him from everything familiar.  What a terrifying experience to lose everything and have no control over it.

On the other hand, it was the last time he would go to sleep without a kiss from someone who hopelessly loves him.  From that point on, he will sleep with his favorite blankets in his bed and in PJs that are his.  He will always wake up knowing who will be there.  There is no schedule for meals. There is always more.  I will always have expensive organic cream for the dry patches of his very sensitive skin.  His hair will be conditioned and soft.  He smells like lavender.  He bathes and brushes his teeth.  He knows that the bath tub is fun and not something to be terrified of. He knows that bobos are meant to be kissed, it's important to tell someone when you are bleeding, that you don't have to make friends or be nice to strangers to get food, and that you don't have eat everything because there is plenty.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Well, hello there.

Hello, Blog. It's been a while. 

What can say?  Life is happening and I'm holding on for dear life.

I'm mentally reliving every moment in China in chronological order as each day of our trip passes again.  The drive to NOLA, the delays to Denver, the layover and flight to Seattle, meeting the Goffs, the flight to Beijing, meeting the Leggs and Davises, Tiananmen Square, freezing temperatures, the great wall, the Peking duck (it was by far the best thing I ate while we were there).  All of this was pre-Sammy. 

Today I went through Sam's files from the orphanage.  I feel melancholy and a little pissy.  It's not a culture that I will ever understand.  I'm angry about every tear I didn't wipe, every moment that I missed, every hug and kiss that I didn't give.  I'm mad that anyone ever called him too naughty or unhealthy for foster care.  I'm mad that babies anywhere at anytime are raised like litters of animals.  When I think back to people staring and pointing at us and actually coming up to him and pointing out his lips, I'm madder now than I was then.

But I'm struggling to understand my own culture and fit in.  If I read one more post about Duck Dynasty, I'm going to scream.  I don't even know what was said because I don't really care.  Here is my take, I believe in the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost, I believe in the Bible, I believe that I am sinner, I believe that two people of the same sex can love each other just as deeply and sincerely as two people of the opposite sex.  Outside of that, I figure God will sort us all out.  Seriously, I'm all about some righteous indignation but instead having twitter and facebook wars about what a guy with a reality show said about the Bible in an interview, be the hands and feet of Jesus and show his love by example or just shut up on both sides.

Here is a picture of one of many moments that I missed.    You can come back later for funnier posts. I do have some.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

two moms

This is probably all over the place, but that is how I feel this week.  I am overjoyed to celebrate Sam's third birthday (and first with his family) starting tomorrow at preschool, Saturday (his actual birthday) and his party with family on Sunday. On the other hand, I am so grief stricken for his other family that I can hardly breath.

I love talking about Sam and adoption. I welcome your questions when they come from a place of love.  One of the most common comments and questions we get: what do we know about Sam's other family or the reason he was available for adoption.  I don't say given up or abandoned or placed for adoption because none of those fit in my mind.

I have been very protective of Sam's story because I felt it was his to share when he was ready, but I feel that educating my friends and loved ones is more important.  It is a story Sam needs to know and appreciate too.

Sam was found at the gates of his orphanage on October 27th.

Based upon the condition of his umbilical cord he was estimated to be one day old.  There is no legal way to relinquish a child in China.  So, when your child is born with a cleft palate, cleft lip, and lower lip deformity, if you are not wealthy enough to get cleft bottles, then your baby will not survive unless you take drastic action.  For many in China, this is the choice they are faced with, will they keep their child knowing that they cannot provide the nutrition this child needs to survive much less afford the laundry list of surgeries this child will need to be able to eat and speak or will they let them go in hopes that the government or an adoptive family will meet their needs?

Back to my precious baby waiting at the gate, as close as he could possibly get to the much needed salvation.  There was an extensive police search to find and punish his parents, but they were not found.   People often ask about his other parents in a way that implies they did not love or want him.  Even though I don't know them, I know that you don't risk your own life and liberty for someone that you don't love.  They placed Sammy as close to his lifeline and help as they could.  I wonder if they waited around the corner, hiding the in shadows so they could watch over him.

Sometimes the decision to let something or someone go is the most loving and brave thing you can do.  So, if you ask me about his other parents, please ask with respect and love or do not ask at all.

If I could, I would wrap my arms around their necks and kiss their cheeks and thank them.  I would tell them that his palate and lips are repaired.  Their boy is such a fine boy.  A helper.  Mischievous. A total mama's boy.  His dimples are the first thing everyone notices.  He a ladies man.  His eyes are so dark and gorgeous.  You can't tell where the pupil ends and iris begins.  He loves to sing. He is night owl and not a morning person.  He loves ice cream and string cheese.  He will be superman for halloween.  He loves the beach.  He carries around little giraffe blankets like Linus.

There is so much I want them to know.

We are so very thankful that they were brave and loving enough to chose life and hope for Sammy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

four years, really?

Tonight, I kissed a three year old good night.

In the morning, I will kiss a four year old good morning. 

Where has the time gone?  How can I make it slow down?

Me: How did you get so big?
Him: Because I wanted to.
Me: But I want you to always stay my baby.
Him: I'll always be your baby. 

Be still my heart and time.