Friday, February 29, 2008

And They're Off!

Tomorrow morning, we'll begin the long trek to Taiwan to pick up our precious baby. Our car will come to take us to the Philadelphia airport at 5:30 a.m.

It's hard to believe that the day has finally come. I'm still shaking my head at how surreal the whole adoption experience has been thus far. One thing I do know: God has blessed us in so many ways throughout this wild and crazy ride. For that, I am thankful.

I am also amazed that we managed to cram everything into two suitcases. It is worth pointing out that Craig's and my belongings only comprise half of one of the suitcases. The rest is divided among William's gear and gifts for the St. Lucy's staff, birthmother, and other individuals. Unless we bring home a hippopotomous, our return baggage should be very light.


Please keep the two of us and William in your prayers. Please also pray for Andrew; we are really going to miss our little monkey while we're gone.

Wonderchild, here we come.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ahgon and Ahma Move On

Today is a big day for my parents. After over 35 years of hard work, my father officially hangs up his white coat and stethoscope and walks out of his medical practice for the last time. My mother walks out the door with him, having served as his office manager/bookkeeper/receptionist/point person for just as long. Any post about our adoption would be remiss if I didn't tell you a bit about their story.

My father is one of 7 children born to a farmer and his wife from Kaoshiung, Taiwan. When my sisters and I were growing up and getting lax in our attitudes towards school, he would often tell us stories of having to hide out in a shed just so that he could do his homework instead of working the fields. His diligence certainly paid off. He was able to earn scholarships that would carry him all the way through medical school.

While in training, he met my mother, a nursing student from Pingdong. She declined proposals from other dashing young men with promise and chose to wed the farmer's son whose picture was often featured in the local newspaper for his scholarly achievements. The two were married and within months were expectant with their first child, my sister, Even.

They immigrated to America from Taiwan in the early 1970s. My father was one of many foreign-trained physicians who had been granted citizenship in the States during an era in which American medical practitioners were scarce. With limited English skills and no family or friends on whom they could depend, they rented a roach-infested apartment in a 5-floor walkup building in New York City. They lived on a meager budget that occasionally allowed them a piece of fruit for dessert. Within three years, they had three young daughters and a green light to practice medicine in the United States.

They later moved to Virginia, where my youngest sister, Jenny was born. Eventually, they set up an obstetrics/gynecology practice in Petersburg, a historic town with an economically disadvantaged population. Over the course of the next three decades, the practice developed and my father's repuation as a physician who was knowledgeable, skilled, and honest grew. He eventually delivered enough babies to populate a small town of 7,000+ people.

To this day, my father's commitment to the Petersburg community is reflected in the annual scholarships he set up for students in the local high school, as well in the local nursing school. His largesse also extends to the area Taiwanese community, for which he has established a college scholarship for the student with the highest academic average.

When they finally hand over the keys of their office this afternoon, my parents will be leaving behind an inspiring example. Through their hard work, commitment to family and community, and many sacrifices, they've proven that success against the odds is possible. I know my sisters and I have certainly learned much from them. And, thankfully, both Andrew and William will get to grow up in their company and perhaps learn a thing or two from them, too.

So, for their 35 years of labor, gong xi, Ahma and Ahgon!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ISO 7 MO DS 4 FURN 1 BR

Ladies and gentlemen, two days before take-off, I present to you pictures of William's 99% completed nursery. There are still a few more things I'm considering hanging on the walls, but those can wait.



And here's some video, just in case you absolutely, positively, necessarily must see more:


video


The following individuals are hereby inducted into the William's Nursery Hall of Fame: Tim C., who gave up an entire Saturday to help with the room detailing; Auntie Kaity, whose prowess with a paintbrush never fails to amaze; Uncle Kevin, who painstakingly painted all the molding on a Saturday night; Nana and Pa, whose picture hanging skills are second-to-none. You are all rock stars in our book.

Thanks, too, to the many others who offered to help. We're blessed to know that our little boy will be entering into his new world surrounded by so much love.

Gotcha!

Not the baby (yet) - the Interstate Compact Approval letter. We have officially been cleared by an obscure and cumbersome Pennsylvania law allowing us to bring our son into the United States.

The letter arrived via fax late yesterday afternoon. Two out of the three parties crucial for the final completion of that document chose to ignore my written instructions and send their portions of the paperwork directly to us, instead of to the correct party. Thus, the process was delayed considerably. However, I am just thankful that we have the letter prior to traveling this Friday morning. God be praised!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

She's Gonna Blow!

Tonight, while making a return at Babies 'R Us, I made what some people would consider to be a brash move: I parked in the "Expectant Parent" parking spot.

The store was due to close in 15 mintues, so I figured the likelihood of a pregnant woman vying with me for that parking spot were slim. And, if anyone challenged me, I would tell them quite matter-of-factly, yes, I am an expectant mother.

I am expecting to travel to pick up my baby in 3 days. I am bursting at the seams with a last-minute to-do list that has a miraculous tendency to expand, rather than contract. Adoptive child or not, my nesting horomones are very real and present and raging. I am on an unstoppable quest to make sure every detail of my baby's nursery is in order, every bottle, every pacifier, every sock and onesie purchased and in place for my child's arrival. My goal: to deliver my child home safely and to settle him as comfortably as I can into his new home. I am a woman on a mission. Expectant mother? You bet.

Do Not Try to Stop Me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Itinerary 9.0

As I wrote before, our in-country itinerary changes every few days. So, here we go yet again with another revision, 4 days prior to travel:

March 2nd - We are now going to prey upon the good graces of my aunt's friend and stay at her house in Pingdong with my parents for one night. You may recall that we were originally planning to stay at The Tayih Landis Hotel in Tainan the night before picking up William at St. Lucy's.

However, we have since been forewarned by several of my Taiwanese relatives that the hotel is well-known by the locals to be haunted by ghosts. Apparently, when the Japanese occupied Taiwan in the earlier part of the 1900's, many Taiwanese people were killed by the Japanese within the building. Nowadays, my mother tells me the hotel is loud during daytime and eerily noisy at night. I personally don't put much stock in ghosts, but I also don't have any desire to stay in a hotel that lays claim to such a gruesome past.

The next morning, my uncle will graciously drive us all up to St. Lucy's from Pingdong. He has offered to make a practice run there today with his wife because word has it that it is very difficult to find. Uncle has generously agreed to lend his skills as a professional photographer to capture our pickup day on film. Having his help behind the lens will really free us up to make sure our first moments with William are truly memorable.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Labor Pains and All the Rest

In case anyone is wondering, here are some miscellaneous things that have been happening over the last few days:

  • Craig celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday. With the assistance of his siblings, he had to cook his own birthday dinner and frost his own cake. Poor guy. I was knocked out in bed with some sort of vicious stomach affliction, in addition to the nasty cold I already had. Thankfully it has passed but my energy has been sapped. Craig also experienced tremors of the same stomach issue, but happily, they were only fleeting. I guess these are our "labor pains." Looking back on my labor experience with Andrew, Craig also underwent a similar Couvade syndrome, leaving work early the morning I gave birth because he was feeling some sharp abdominal pains. What can I say? His empathy runs deep.

  • We still haven't received our Interstate Compact approval letter. Our case worker was out one day last week, so this may have slowed her down. I will call her tomorrow, wheezing into the phone, to ask for an update.

  • Craig's parents fly into Philadelphia tonight. They'll be watching Andrew when we leave this Friday. Andrew is revving up for their arrival. He told me recently, "Mommy, when you and Daddy are in Taiwan, don't worry. Pa and Nana will be here and we will play the funnest game of all - COYOTE!" Pa and Nana - I hope you're ready.


Thanks to Auntie Christine, Uncle Dave, and Cousin Isaac for the Absolutely Fa-bu-lous Baby Einstein jumper. It has a weight limit of 25 pounds, so it looks like chunky William's jumping days will be thrilling but limited. The best part is that it folds flat for storage so that we can fool ourselves into believing that our lives haven't been overrun by baby paraphrenlia. Very cool.

  • The nursery is 90% completed; I have been scouring every store to find just the right picture frames for some vintage car posters I purchased off eBay. Nothing yet. Blog photos will ensue once I succeed.

  • A very big congratulations to Ann and Jon, who have been waiting for the referral of their child for 23 months. 23 months, people! The adoption community sent up a loud hurrah as they posted news of their baby girl this past week. You can check out their blog at http://taiwantreasure.blogspot.com/
  • More jump-for-joy news: Rebecca, who designed our blog so beautifully, accepted the referral of a 2 year-old boy from China. See http://blessingsfromchina.blogspot.com/
  • This week will be all about packing, packing, and more packing. The hardest challenge will be to cram a day of William's necessities, the orphanage gifts, and our own overnight basics into a small suitcase. Even Houdini would be stumped on this one.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Speaking of the Elephant in the Room,

The more we speak about our adoption with others, the more I realize how delicate a subject it can be. Most people generally mean well, but there are always a few who don't know how to convey their support in appropriate ways. Consider the well-meaning woman who asked me a recently, "So, what does your husband think of the adoption? I mean, you're still so very young. Does he feel as strongly as you do about it?"

Prior to beginning our adoptive process, I know I was certainly one of those well-intended ones whose foot had a disturbing tendency to get stuck in my mouth. So, with the hopes of keeping other people's two feet firmly planted on the ground, I offer up the following considerations when conversing with families who have adopted or are planning to do so:

1) "Is he yours?" People will sometimes ask parents if their adopted child is "theirs" or (cringe) ask if they couldn't have "one of their own." In our household, both Andrew and William have equal standing; we love one just as much as the other. They both have the same rights and will appear side by side on our will once we get our legal act together. They are both "ours."

2) "Poor thing. He's 'lucky' to be adopted by you." Few adoptive parents proceed to adopt with the intention of playing savior to the needy orphan. They are just building their families the way they feel is right. As parents and children, we are blessed to have one another as much as any other family in the world, adoptive or not.

3) "So what's the deal with his mom?" Who, me? I am his mom. It is quite true that our child also has another mother and father in his birthcountry. However, please do not be offended if we choose not to share details about his birthfamily with you. There are adopted children whose birth histories contain information that their parents have not yet divulged to them due to their sensitive nature and the child's age. Even if they have, it is the child's information to know and to share if and when she or he desires.

4) "Excuse me, is your child adopted?" Like any others, adoptive families just want to buy their milk and eggs and dash out of the store before their child has a meltdown in aisle 6. They appreciate your positive affirmation of their adoption, but they would rather be given their privacy when out in public. Moreover, many adopted kids soon begin to tire of the unusual attention given to them by strangers and may begin to wonder if something is amiss with them. Deep down, they just want to be treated in the same way as any other child.

As a side note, I'm guessing I won't get asked this question as much simply because both William and I are of Taiwanese descent (and after all, don't all Asians look alike?) When out with both bi-racial Andrew and Taiwanese William, I anticipate a lot of, "He [William] looks more like you," despite the fact that Andrew and I are dead ringers for one another in our 4 year-old portraits. It is unfortunately my poor Caucasian husband who will bear the brunt of this unwanted attention. God be with him.

5) "Your adopted son is soooo cute. Look at him!" Yes, I agree. And look - here's my other cute son. If you must insist on lavishing praise on adopted children, please remember to do so equally upon the biological children where applicable. They are just as special and prone to feeling the imbalance of attention even if they don't say so.

6) "How much did he cost?" It goes without saying that you cannot put a price on a human life. However, outside of the presence of our child (who probably understands more than he can let on), I'd be willing to tell you how much we paid various parties to assist with the facilitation of the adoption.

7) "I'm so sorry that you couldn't... well, you know." It is true that many couples who decide to adopt have chosen to do so after experiencing infertility. What many people don't know is that the adoption community is also widely populated by families who have chosen to adopt for other reasons. The motivations are insignificant in the end; what matters ultimately is that the children who need parents and the parents who seek those children are united as a family.

I'm sure there are many more considerations I've left out - adoptive families out there in cybersapce, please feel free to chime in. But I think you get the idea. Adoptive families consist of normal people who just want to be treated as such.

Now in 10 days, when we finally have our son in our arms, we'll really get to find this out for ourselves.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Testing, Testing, 1,2,3"

In early December, we sent St. Lucy's a list of additional medical tests our adoption pediatrician recommended be run on William. We received the results to some of the tests late last night, along with the results to others that had been run just weeks after his birth.

One of the tests our doctor had requested was a hearing screening, part of standardized well-child care in the United States but apparently not routinely performed on the babies at St. Lucy's. The test was never executed, but here was St. Lucy's response:

"According to the baby’s daily life, he is good appetite, active, loves to laugh and smile all the time, he loves to interact with others and loves to listen someone talked to him, so the caregiver does not think he has any concern on hearing."

This reminds me of a dream I had of William two nights ago. I had put him into our Ergo baby carrier, demonstrated in the rear-carrying position in the rather disturbing picture to the left. He started to fuss loudly. Based upon the caregiver's description above, I must have been dreaming about a different baby. While all babies are prone to fuss, it sounds like William is overall a really sweet-tempered, happy child. I can't wait to find out for myself in just 11 days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Itinerary 8.0

It seems like every couple of days, our in-country itinerary changes. At this point, I think - but don't quote me on this - we've got a winner.

Our last plan called for us to stay in three different hotels over 7 days, dragging our luggage all over the island of Taiwan on every mode of transportation except an oxcart. The current plan has us staying in one, possibly two, hotels, with the majority of our luggage remaining in Taipei.

Here's the game plan:

Friday, February 29th - 7:40 a.m. Fly out of Philadelphia to Taipei via San Francisco

Saturday, March 1st - Check into The Agora Hotel in Taipei (photo in the upper left) around 11:30 p.m., Taiwan time

Sunday, March 2nd - Check out of The Agora, leave most of our suitcases in their storage unit. Board the high speed rail (photo way down at the bottom) with a small suitcase and head to the last stop, Zuoying. Hop a ride to my grandfather's house in Pingdong. Stay overnight at his house or at The Tayih Landis hotel in Tainan (photo below), an hour away from Pingdong.

Monday, March 3rd - Go to St. Lucy's in Tainan to pick up William (yay!). Visit and tour for a few hours, then get back on the high speed rail and return to The Agora in Taipei. Reunite with our luggage.

Tuesday, March 4th - 8 a.m. Go to AIT in Taipei to apply for William's visa.

Wednesday, March 5th - Return to AIT to pick up his visa. Hopefully no problems will ensue.

Thursday, March 6th - Say goodbye to my parents, who will remain in Taipei for another week. Board a taxi for the airport and around 11 p.m., Taiwan time, climb back on to the plane with William and make the long journey home.

Friday, March 7th - 6:09 a.m. - Arrive in Philadelphia, drive for 45 minutes until we get to our house, and stumble through the door.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

13 Days Away

Yesterday, I took Andrew to the local Chinese Association's Chinese New Year Celebration. The event featured some fairly high-caliber performances and a welcome representation of people who were not either Chinese or Taiwanese in descent.

Some of the highlights of the afternoon included a professional Chinese opera performer who frightened Andrew with her (his?) dramatic makeup and unchanging smiley face. There was also a lyrical kung fu presentation by a gentleman whose graceful technique promptly dismissed the notion that Asian men can't dance.


There were several folk dances performed by young girls in lovely costumes. Judging by their last names in the Chinese School flyer, I'm guessing quite a few were adopted.


The most memorable number was the lion dance. As with the Chinese opera artist, Andrew was both paralyzed with fear and compelled with fascination. The look on his face in the picture below says it all.







Later on that evening, we were joined once again by fellow Taiwanese adoptive family, Paul and Heather. They brought along their adorable 4 year-old niece, Maudee. Juding by the squeals of delight ringing from the playroom, she and Andrew had a fun time together.

As if their company wasn't enough, they showered us with a tasty apple pie, a Chinese New Year card with a hong bao for Andrew and another for William, a giant tub of dinosaurs for Andrew to play with while we are gone in Taiwan, and a dazzling quilt for William, which Heather made herself.

The woman can quilt, bake, re-tile her own bathroom, rip up her basement, and raise three furry cats, all the while serving as a top-tier manager in a big company. What can I say? Parenthood will be no sweat.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hey There, Sleepyhead

Psst... William. It's 1:09 p.m. in America. Mommy's thinking of you. I hope you're dreaming sweet dreams right now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Please Sir, May I Have My Letter?

I'm happy to announce that our Criminal Records Check and Child Abuse Clearance applications are now out of our hands. I'm hopeful that we should receive our ICPC approval letter sometime in the next 7 days, leaving us about one more week before we're due to fly out.

Thankfully, the Child Abuse Clearance office is located in the same building as the Pennsylvania Interstate Compact office, so delivery time should be quick. Once received, turnaround time to receive our letter of compliance should just be a few days.

Getting our Criminal Records Checks proved to be a hair-pulling experience initially. The representative at the office with whom I spoke was dubious that she could send us our updates in under three weeks and her supervisor was not answering his phone. I was ready to pack up Andrew and head down to our local congresswoman's office to entreat her assistance. I kid you not.

However, I'm glad to report a happy ending: after much confusion, I was able to apply for our updated checks online and received the results within minutes. I faxed the results to ICPC earlier today. Don't you love it when things resolve in such surprisingly easy ways?

While we still don't have the final clearance letter in our hands, I'm grateful for how relatively easy it was to dispatch the necessary paperwork. Pessimist that I tend to be, I was envisioning a much more difficult struggle. I know some of you out there have been praying and expressing concern on our behalves, so, to you and to the God who hears, a wholehearted thank you.

Secret Asian Man and Yours Truly Go on Their Last Date

Several years ago, I was browsing the aisles at Gristede's grocery store in New York City when I first heard Johnny Rivers' song, "Secret Agent Man" playing softly through the speakers. My first reaction was to recoil in disbelief that someone would actually write a song whose chorus revolved around the words, "Secret Asian Man." Only after hearing the song piped through a few more retail loudspeakers did it occur to me that my ears were at fault, not the lyricists.

Tonight while out on a date at Ristorante San Marco, a local Italian restaurant, Craig and I were talking about what Pickup Day might be like. From what I've heard from other families who have returned from Taiwan, many of the babies tend to be uneasy around Caucasians, particularly Caucasian men. We decided that Craig should don a skin-tight Asian man mask and rip it off once William grew accustomed to him (think of the Scooby Doo reveal scene). Secret Asian Man indeed.

Following dinner, we hit up CVS for trial-sized toiletries to bring onto the airplane, Benadryl to help us cheat on sleep, and 60 watt lightbulbs simply because we needed them.

This may very well be our last date night for a long time. Until we're assured that William can generally sleep through the night without waking, we probably won't leave him with a babysitter. If it's true that all adoptions are borne from loss (ref. Sherrie Eldridge, author of Twenty Things Adopted Children Wish their Adoptive Parents Knew), we don't want to reinforce this notion should he wake up prematurely one night and discover our teenaged babysitter peering anxiously over the rail of his crib. Right now, our top priority is to encourage his bonding with us and to assure him in whatever way possible that, as his new family, we are here to stay.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In light of our last-minute ICPC crisis, here's the good news: FEC (For Every Child, the new name of our agency formerly known as FFC) has all of the paperwork needed to send to Harrisburg. The only document they don't have, the Final Decree paper, is not mandatory. James at FEC tells me he will send out the paperwork by the end of this week. Our homestudy agency has already sent a copy of our homestudy to Harrisburg.

Here's the bad news: We were reassigned to another ICPC case worker, who immediately emailed me to inform us that our Pennsylvania Criminal Background Clearance and Child Abuse History Clearance were expired - by one week!!! Apparently, they're only good for one year. If we did not have to satisfy ICPC regulations, we would not have needed to renew them.

Here's the ugly: We've now got to scramble to fill out the relevant applications, purchase the concomitant money orders, write cover letters begging for expedited processing, and overnight all of these things to the two offices. In the best case scenario, they'll process our forms quickly and get them to our contact in Harrisburg, who will then promptly issue a compliance letter on our behalves and send said letter to us prior to our travel in 15 days. I don't even want to think about the worst case scenario.

To top all that off, we just learned today that Craig's distant uncle, Walter, suffered several seizures last night and passed away in a hospital in New Mexico. Our thoughts are with his dear wife, Fran, and their children.

All in all, it has not been the best of Valentine's Days. Still, God is faithful to remind me of his goodness through the kindness of others: my Prince Charming, Craig, sent me two dozen roses to celebrate the day. After almost 10 years of marriage, he's still got it.

In addition, my eldest sister, Even/Diane, continues to be relentless in her gift-giving. Today, we received a box full of gifts including Mustela baby products, an Avent steam sterilizer for bottles, a bottle warmer, and a Taggies soft-cover baby book. She also sent us a Phil and Ted's Metro backpack baby carrier, which is by far the coolest and most comfortable thing I've ever come across. I can't wait to pop William in it and go for a walk, chuckling in retrospect at all the silly flaming hoops we had to jump through just to bring him home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We Now Interrupt this Adoption for an Inconvenient Piece of Legislation

Get this: with 17 days left before we fly to Taiwan, we found that there is a chance we may not be able to take William out of the country if we don't meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Interstate Compact.

Apparently, Pennsylvania and a few other states have a law that applies to adoptive families who haven't seen their child prior to the finalization of the adoption. The family's adoption agency must send in copies of several documents to the Interstate Compact office in Harrisburg, PA. Among them are a copy of the homestudy, the adoption decree, the original birth certificate, and the final birth certificate listing us as the parents.

You may ask yourself why we are finding out about this at such a late point. Good question. We are wondering the same thing ourselves. (Can you tell I'm just a little upset about this?) We had heard about some Interstate Compact thing from our friends at church, Rob and Mary, who are traveling to India in the next few weeks to pick up their son. They have been working on satisfying its requirements for their adoption over the past few weeks. However, we had naively assumed that because neither our homestudy agency nor our adoption agency had notified us about this that we were out of the clear. By divine intervention, I had contacted our homestudy agency to inquire about re-adoption procedures in Pennsylvania when the director asked me, "Oh, by the way, did you..."

So what does this mean for our family? Both our adoption agency and our homestudy agency representatives were painfully ambiguous in their responses to this question. (Hint: that is not the right answer for a family expecting to bring their child home in 17 days.) I decided to call the IC office in Harrisburg to find out for myself. Thankfully, the woman handling our case was both very friendly and knowledgeable. She explained that if our adoption agency pulls together all the paperwork and sends it to her office in time, she will send us a letter officially clearing us to bring William home. We would then take this letter with us to the AIT office in Taipei when we go to apply for his via to exit the country. Without it, we could be stuck in Taipei until the necessary paperwork comes together.

Our adoption agency has much of the paperwork on hand and ready to send, but there are a few documents that I've been warned we may have to get ourselves while at St. Lucy's. This is a chance I don't want to take. What if something goes awry and we don't get the papers while there?

Now it could be that the officer at AIT in Taipei has never heard of the Interstate Compact and won't even know to ask for our letter. After all, most families adopting from Taiwan have never had to abide by it. But I don't want to test out the scenario and find out the hard way.

I know that God has his hand in our adoption. This has been evidently clear to us in all the strange twists and turns our journey has taken. Perhaps this is a lesson in trusting him to see things through in the best possible way. However, trust is a tricky thing to render when our travel plans hinge upon other parties and their ability to push papers across state lines. But with our only recourse being to breathe down the necks of those parties to ensure they're following through, trust in God's power is the only worthwhile option. And in the end, isn't it the best?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hi-Ya!

Here's a random thought that occurred to me while driving home earlier today: one of the advantages to our boys' being of Asian descent is that the annoying stereotype that all Asians are martial artists can work in their favor.


Consider this: when I was in fourth grade, a boy in my class approached me during recess and started making quasi-martial arts noises (you know, "chung chicka chung chicka chung chang chung chong!"). He then asked me if I knew karate. I took in his question as calmly as I could, all the time wanting to smash his face in.

"Yes," I replied coolly (ahem, I mean, lied).

You should have seen the reverence on his face. Shoot, if I told him I could fly a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he probably would've believed that, too. You never know what lethal powers and ancient secrets lurk beneath that Asian mystique. Either way, it was a certainty that he would never mess with me again.

In reality, I am considering sending our boys to martial arts' school when they're older simply because I think self-defense skills are useful to have in such a dangerous world as ours. If they reinforce the Asian martial artist stereotype, well, so be it. At least they'll have a fighting chance of walking away from a potential confrontation in one piece.

Heeeeee-ya! Wa-chee! Hi-ya!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New York, New York

This past weekend, we drove up to visit my sister, Sherry. Smart lady that she is, she just bought an apartment in New York City, the best place in the world.

It has been 7 years since we moved away, but every time we come back, it feels as good as slipping into a pair of loose sweatpants after eating too much dinner. Even the smog smelled good. Ahhhh...

Sherry, Craig, Andrew, and I hit up some of our favorite haunts in the East Village and Union Square. We grabbed omelettes at a diner, loaded up on pastries at Veniero's, bought way too much smoked kielbasa from J. Bacynsky's butcher shop (location of the world's best kielbasa this side of Poland), and troubleshot a flat tire, which we discovered right before we were set to drive back to Pennsylvania.

Sherry also blessed Andrew with some truly knockout Chinese New Year gifts: a dragon marionette, a traditional Chinese drum toy, a hong bao with - what? only a weird piece of green paper in it?! - and a mandarin hat with a long braid on it, too small for Andrew's large noggin but just the right size for William's. I can't wait to try it out on him. The two-foot braid will balance out his baldy baby head with charming effect.

Xin nian kaui le!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Not-So-Feathered Nest

If William were to come home today, here's what he'd find in his nursery:


Tonight, we finished painting the cut-ins. Tomorrow night, we roll. Then, all that's left is to do is to paint the trim, move in the furniture, and accessorize. We hope you like it, little guy.

Warm and Well-Fed

My oldest sister, Diane (a.k.a., "Eben") is the runaway winner of the best present-giver award in our family. Take a look at what we received for William yesterday. If I had to pick a theme for all the items she sent, it would definitely be "Warm and Well-Fed."



Warm: Those black and white Robeez-type shoes make me want to bust out a trombone and holler, "Oi!"

Well-Fed I've said it before and I'll say it again: the inventor of the Baby Bjorn bib should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Having this bib around when Andrew was a younger, sloppier eater certainly helped keep the peace in our household.

Thanks, Eben!

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Thief in My Own Home

Twenty-five days until our departure, amidst all our travel preparations, I find that my mind is constantly returning to William's birthmother. While this time is largely full of excitement and anticipation for us, I have to imagine the birthmother is passing these days in sorrow and dread, counting down the time until her child is taken one very wide ocean and a continent away from her.

If I knew that in twenty-five days, I would no longer have access to Andrew, I can tell you that I would be a broken, disconsolate shell of a woman. That is putting it quite mildly. Yes, it is true that the birthmother made the difficult choice to place William for adoption, believing it to be in his best interest. Certainly, we will be able to provide for William in ways that she could not. And yes, it is also true that if we didn't adopt him, another family would have.

Still, a part of me can't help but feel like a thief, like I'm stealing another woman's child. That same part of me feels guilty for usurping her ability to savor her child's first steps, to delight in his first words, to rejoice during each of his birthdays. Mother's Day will forever be bittersweet because I know that halfway around the world, there's a young woman with a broken heart and that, in some convoluted way, I bear some responsibility for it. That the birthmother has visited William several times while he has been at St. Lucy's is a scenario better than any I could have hoped for. But at the same time, it is one more thing that makes it harder for me to bring him out of the country without feeling a little guilty.

I don't know if we'll get to meet William's birthmother in Taiwan - I really hope we can. In either event, we bought her two gifts, a photo album for the pictures we'll send on each of his birthdays and a Tiffany's heart pendant. When she wears the necklace, pehaps she'll think of her sweet Szu-Chuan and remember not the heartache that comes from making the hard sacrifices that love sometimes demands, but the joy in knowing that her child is safe and well-loved by not one, but two families.

Stick It to Me

Yours truly just returned from the doctor's office, where for half an hour I became a human voodoo doll.

In preparation for our travel to Taiwan, I received Hepatits A and tetanus shots and had two vials of blood drawn as part of my routine checkup.

All together now: "Ai-eeeeee!!!"

Friday, February 1, 2008

Chubbalicious!

Hooray! We received the latest update photos of William today. If the date stamp on the bottom of the pictures is correct, they were taken just two days ago.

This is the first time we've ever seen full-length pictures of him. Upon reviewing them, all I have to say is, "Hoo-whee!" At 6 1/2 months old, he is 19.6 pounds of lovable chub. He measures 28.3 inches and has a head circumference of 16.5 inches. His height and weight put him somewhere the 95th percentile on the Chinese boy growth charts and not much further behind on the Western child charts.


Happy baby = happy mommy.

"Mommy, you should have sent me matching socks in my last care package."

"But at least you're coming to get me soon."


William's big brother, Andrew, was also a tall baby, but he was and still is all lean, mean muscle. In light of that, I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to having a pudgy baby with squishy thighs.

Ooh! And all that the extra baby bulk might just mean I have an excuse to go out and buy some different clothes for William! Shh... don't tell Craig.

Offering an Adoption Option

While hitting the stores over these past few days, I have been consistently reminded that the American marketplace is not quite yet an adoption-friendly realm.

Consider this: I was browsing the greeting card aisles looking for cards that would welcome three adopted children I know into their new families. Two of the kids are around the 1 year-old stage and one is approaching 2 years old. All of the cards I found made reference to "babies" and "bundles of joy" and came illustrated with bottles, prams, and booties - you know, newborn stuff.

On my quest for the right formula for William, I have begun registering on formula company websites in order to get substantial coupons to use towards their products. This morning, on the Carnation/Nestle Good Start website, I was asked all sorts of questions such as whether I planned to work outside of the home during my baby's first year to the name of the local hospital in which he was born.

While browsing online for photo announcement cards with which to herald William's adoption, I hit a similar roadblock. My usual photo product standby website, kodakgallery.com turned up zilch, though there were some blank card options that were tweakable.

Just as I was beginning to despair of finding adoption-sensitive retailers, the tide began to turn. Tonight, as I was filling out the Similac website's questionnaire, I noticed a field in which parents could indicate that their child is adopted. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to learn from a friend that Babies 'R Us has now added an option to their registries that asks if the child is adopted. And of course, there are the wonderfully gifted adoptive parents, such as Sarah W. and others who harness their talents to create products that meet the special needs of adoptive families.

So, I suppose the American marketplace is slowly creeping towards becoming adoption-friendly. Perhaps in a generation from now, it will be commonplace for companies to offer adoption options in their products and services where necessary and appropriate. With the adoptive population in America generally surging forward, they would be wise to do so.