Friday, October 31, 2008

A new blog template

I thought the blog needed jazzing up a bit, so I found this template. I thought the timing was especially appropriate, because Suzanne and Wilda will be visiting the Great Wall of China in a few hours.

A lazy morning

I have lots of papers to grade, a house to babyproof, a cottage to finish babyproofing, baby gates to install, and it's nearly noon and I'm still slouching around the house in my pajamas. I talked to Suzanne this morning, and they sound fine. Their first day's tour of Beijing included the Panda House at the zoo, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, and they seemed to enjoy it. Wilda spent 32 yuan on a Coca Cola, which roughly translates into $5--but they found a grocery store where they could stock up on that sort of thing so she won't get gouged again. Lots of people, people everywhere--they got mobbed by street vendors, everyone in Beijing stops and stares at red-headed Ariel from the Journey to Kavanna family because she looks like Hollywood, they bought a calling card, but haven't had much luck using it. They ate quail eggs for breakfast and said they weren't bad at all. They were a bit tired, and had decided to eat in their rooms instead of going out, because they wanted to preserve their energy. That's the extent of it. I expect they will be crashing before long, and then they have another day of touring Beijing tomorrow, before they fly to Nanning on Sunday, and then get Frances on Monday. Suzanne did not bring a laptop, but is going to try to email me some pictures from the digital camera, on one of the computer terminals in the hotel. If she does, I'll post them.
Tonight my big plans include going to Dog Story Theatre, which is run by Becki, who is one of the students in my American Lit class, and watching their performance of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which is being shown tonight at midnight. It turns out that one of my English profs from Aquinas College is one of the actors in the play. Becki, my student, was talking to him about her American Lit class (and how I'm offering extra credit to any student who goes to this live production) and he asked who her teacher was, and she said me, and he did a double take, because I was his student. It will surely be interesting. Then I am off to the cottage tonight, to install baby gates on the staircase.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Safe Arrival

I spoke with Suzanne and Wilda, it was just after midnight in Beijing. They arrived safely, had no problems connecting in Tokyo, and were met by their guide from GWCA, and were able to ride to the hotel with an American lawyer who gave them his card in case they had any trouble. They were taking baths and getting ready for bed, and were fine. Gotta go teach a class.

Funky but fine...

I didn't get any calls in the middle of the night from Tokyo, so I assume they arrived and made their connecting flight to Beijing... which, by my calculations, is slated to land in about an hour.

Nina--who is traveling with her husband and daughter to adopt Kavanna from the same orphanage as Frances--arrived yesterday and posted some impressions of the Poly Plaza Hotel, which are worth looking at. "Funky but fine" is how she describes it. The food sounds... well... interesting. You can follow Nina's blog at Journey to Kavanna.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is where they are staying.

I did some internet searching. THIS is the hotel where Suzanne and Wilda will be spending their first three nights in China. It looks very nice from the add--but then, all hotels look very nice in their add. I remember staying at a Wellesley Inn in NJ which looked beautiful on expedia, but was godawful in actuality. Anyway, I hope its nice, and I hope they aren't too jetlagged to enjoy the experience.


That word sums it up.
This morning, it was all about getting them to Detroit on time. For those of you who aren't familiar with Michigan geography, Detroit is on the OTHER side of Michigan. We live in Grand Rapids, and have our cottage at Gun Lake. Detroit is about 2 1/2 hours' drive from our locale.
We drove down to Gun Lake, where Wilda was situated, last night. This morning, we got up. Its been a long time since I've actually driven to Detroit Metro Airport, so I was a bit nervous about what the drive would be like. Everyone says its much easier to drive to Detroit Metro than Chicago OHare. Thats not saying much, because getting to Chicago OHare, from west Michigan, is a royal pain in the neck because you have to drive AROUND Lake Michigan and thru Chicago to get there. Anyway. We left the cottage at 7:35. Just as we were about to merge onto US131, Wilda remembered that she'd forgotten the pillow Sara made for her, so I turned around and got it. At 8:00 we were on US 131. To make a long drive short, we got to the airport 3 1/2 hours early. I was worried there would be construction or traffic or long lines. There were none of those things. The line at check-in was maybe fifteen minutes. After their luggage was checked in and their boarding passes were double checked, we sat around for about ten minutes, and then figured we might as well get on with things, so they went through security, and I waved goodbye, and then, that was it. I was standing in Detroit Airport, with a day off work, 3 hours away from home. (Oh, in the excitement of getting everything out of the car, Wilda forgot the pillow Sara made for her a second time--she left it in my car. I offered to go back and get it for her, but she said I'd better not. She knows she'll see it again if its in my car, if she looses it in China, she won't see it again...)
I decided to do some shopping. I wasn't ready to face a long drive home to an empty house. I went to the Ikea in Canton to buy storage containers and a few other little things, but that didn't take long. Then I decided, since I was on the east side of the state, I might as well go up to Birch Run and check out the outlet stores, and maybe do my Christmas shopping before all hell breaks loose in the malls. I didn't realize how far Birch Run is from Detroit-- but I got there. The outlet stores were a disappointment. I bought some underwear at the Jockey outlet. I don't suppose you needed to know that. I was expecting grand sales and major discounts, but there weren't any spectacular deals to be found. I almost bought some jeans, but then I remembered that I'd been able to find perfectly good, comfortable jeans for $10 at WalMart, so why spend $25 on them at the outlet? Oh, I bought thank-you notes for $4. I promised Suzanne I would write the thank-you notes for the shower gifts before she got back, and she used up all the thank-you notes after the baby shower her friends at work threw for her. (And she's mad at herself--she was going to hand them out on her last day at work, but on Tuesday she left the houe without them, so they are still sitting on the coffee table)
I then went to Bronner's in Frankenmuth--Bronners is a gargantuan Christmas store that is open year round. I was feeling kind of depressed, which seemed very strange to me, but its hard to be depressed in Bronners. I bought some Christmas ornaments and had them put Frances' name on them. That cheered me up a bit. This is going to be the first Christmas in a long time, where we won't have to grit our teeth and wear masks at church while they sing "What Child is This?" and "Away in a Manger" and while we listen to all those scripture verses about the barren wombs rejoicing and babies, babies, babies.
So I am home, and am not sure what to do with myself. There are no more forms to fill out, no more meetings with social workers, no documents to wait for... its all done... I have to teach at GV tomorrow, and then Friday I am off, and then there's the weekend, and its a strange feeling. It dawned on me, that for the last fourteen years, since I started going out with Suzanne, whenever we've been apart, she's always been waiting for me. But now I am waiting for her, and I am so off her radar. I'm not used to it. Whenever I am out in the evenings, I always have, in the back of my mind, that Suzanne is home (or wherever) waiting for me. But today, I could fall into Lake Michigan tonight, and days would go by before she even thought to worry about me. She's on an airplane, flying to another hemisphere. Its a strange feeling.
As I watched Suzanne walk through security in Detroit today, I felt like this was a momentous moment--I liken it to walking down the aisle at our wedding. A grand, momentous change has taken place. Life will never be the same. But this time there was no organ music, no holy water (or not for a while yet), no guests, no photographer... its an odd thing.
Anyway. I have PLENTY to do before Suzanne gets here with a baby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The authenticated power of attorney paperwork from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago arrived. Well, after a fashion, it arrived. I got home from the bank and saw a slip from the mail carrier saying they had attempted to deliver it, and I could pick it up tomorrow at the post office.
Being that Suzanne leaves tomorrow, I didn't want to have to mess with the post office on top of getting her to Detroit, so I chased down the mail carrier. Its a lucky thing she didn't go for her mace or her taser, seeing a 6'5" tall guy yelling and running towards her like a madman.

Authenticated paperwork from the Chinese Consulate--check!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Itinerary...

OK, here's the itinerary...

Weds, Oct 29: Suzanne and Wilda leave Detroit in the afternoon
Thurs, Oct 30: after a layover in Tokyo, they fly to Beijing, where they will arrive late at night. A GWCA guide will meet them in the airport and take them to their hotel.
Fri, Oct 31: Tour Beijing area
Sat, Nov 1: More touring Beijing area
Sun, Nov 2: Suzanne and Wilda along with the seven other families in our group, fly to Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Province, where Frances (aka Shi Tong) lives in Yulin City.
Mon, Nov 3: Suzanne and Wilda GET FRANCES!!
Tues, Nov 4: Adoption finalized in Nanning.
Weds, Nov 5: Shopping for baby
Thurs, Nov 6: Sightseeing trip to the Wen Wu Yuan.
Fri, Nov 7: Get passport for Frances
Sat, Nov 8: Fly to Guangzhou
Sun, Nov 9: Sightseeing trip to Chen Family Temple
Mon, Nov 10: Visa photograph and medical exams
Tues, Nov 11: Sightseeing tour to Yuntai Park
Weds, Nov 12: Paperwork
Thurs, Nov 13: Consulate appointment, pick up Visa for Frances
Fri, Nov 14: FLY HOME--leave Guangzhou, fly to Tokyo and then to Detroit. YAYY!

Lighting the fuses, counting to three...


Current I-171H approval notice--check!
Older, now expired, I-171H approval notices--check!
Original notarized home study dated April, 2005--check!
Updated notarized home study dated May, 2007--check!
Updated notarized home study dated November, 2008--check!
I-864, filled out--check!
I-864A, filled out--check!
Notarized income tax returns--check!
Notarized employment letters--check!
I-600, signed by me but not filled out--check!
DS230, printed but not filled out--check!
I-604, printed but not filled out--check!
Passports with Chinese Visas--check!
Notarized Power of Attorney Forms--check!
Authenticated Power of Attorney Forms--NO CHECK, STILL WAITING FOR THE PACKAGE FROM THE CONSULATE. They put it in the mail on Saturday...
Medical Forms, to be filled out by the orphan doctor in Guangzhou--check!
Credit cards--check!
Flights confirmed--check!
Hotels reserved--check!
Warm winter clothes for Beijing--check!
Spring clothes for Nanning and Guangzhou--check!
Protein bars, triscuits, peanut butter, cup a soup, cocoa--check!
Malaria pills for Suzanne--check!
Malaria pills for Wilda--check!
Elimite, Zithromax, Nystatin and Tobrex for the baby, in case she's sick--check!

I am just going to jot down some feelings, I am not sure what to do with all this--my ADHD brain is moving a mile a minute and can't focus.

I want Suzanne back in Michigan with the baby. I feel like once we get Suzanne and the baby in Michigan, we can handle anything that comes up. Michigan and Grand Rapids bureaucracy I can deal with--its Communist China and USCIS that I have no experience navigating.

I will feel tangible relief when I put Suzanne and her fourteen pound folder of paperwork (the carryon limit on the in-China flights is 10 lbs--I don't know how that's going to work out) on that airplane. I have done everything I can do, and given her blank signed forms in case I didn't fill something out correctly. I need to just let the desire to have everything perfect go... she will be fine. She will be with our agency which as lots of experience. We are legal US citizens, we pay our taxes every year, we have jobs, we are above poverty level... that's what we're trying to prove. It will be fine. I think there will be a lawyer in one of the families in our travel group... it will be fine.

I worry that the US dollar is going to tank and the money Suzanne is carrying with her won't be sufficient to pay the fees when she gets there. She will be there DURING the election. The stock market always does weird things around the election. I know that its unlikely that the US dollar is going to go down to being worthless... but I have very little confidence in the current administration.

I worry about Suzanne and Wilda finding their way around airports where the signs aren't written in English (are the signs in English in Tokyo and Beijing? I don't know...) I worry about DVT. I worry about them getting food poisoning. I worry about them drinking bad water. I worry about them getting jet lagged. I worry about them missing a bus and getting lost. I need to just trust that they are adults, and that they can take care of themselves. Neither of these women are fools.

A thousand concerns--this has been such a long process. I just want to emerge on the other side of the adoption--I am ready for that part. These are just "labor pains." Sixteen days of labor... sheesh...thats enough to make anyone a little stressed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pink Christmas in October

This weekend was a bit of a blur. We were down at Gun Lake on Friday night, where we spent Saturday cleaning the house for Wilda's arrival, and assembling the second crib. The crib assembly was a comedy of errors. We absolutely love the crib my father brought in from Virginia this summer--it is totally vintage, from the forties--hard wood with a little lamb decal. It came from my father's antique store. Putting it together was challenging to figure out--but mission accomplished.

My stepmother Wilda arrived this morning, just in time to attend the shower that my cousins and Aunt Marilyn threw for Suzanne. It was at the St. Adalbert's Casino Aid Society Hall over on the west side. The generosity was overwhelming--and so much baby stuff. It was like a pink Christmas. I think little girls are more fun to shop for than are little boys. Here are some of the pictures Wilda took.
This is Suzanne with her mother
(holding her niece, Rita) and sister Catherine.

Suzanne's mother (holding niece Rita), Suzanne,
her sister Catherine, and sister-in-law Angela.
Suzanne, after opening gifts for an hour, with the spoils.
I came back after 2 hours of grading papers, and the shower
was still going, and Wilda was still taking pictures.
This is our friend Martha, with her daughters Maggie and Anna.
Showing off our pictures of Frances.
Here is Suzanne, opening presents. We are absolutely in awe at the
generosity shown to us by our friends and family.
Here we are again, surveying the loot... I am wondering
how I am going to get all this stuff home.

Me, with my Aunt Marilyn and cousins.
And with a few more cousins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Package from Grandma and Grandpa

Packages are so much fun. Suzanne's Grandparents, who live way up north in a place called Indian River, sent their newest Great Granddaughter a package, and here is Suzanne opening it. Packages are such fun, and we love handmade items, they have so much more significance than the newest stuff from stores. Although speaking of stuff from stores, I shot this video using one of those new flip video cameras which I bought in a store.

(and yes, I think my voice sounds silly on video.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Grand Haven

Today was a beautiful crisp fall day in west Michigan. This is my favorite time of year. The leaves are beginning to change color (next weekend will be gorgeous in terms of color) and the weather is crisp, and its just a wonderful time to be outside. A colleague of Suzanne's got married today in Grand Haven, so we headed out there and had some time to walk down the pier out to the lighthouse, before we had to go to the wedding. We also met up with Michael and Leslie, who I knew many years ago when I was a child, back in the early 1980's. Our families went to the same church, and my parents were in a small-group Bible study with Leslie's parents, and she would usually get stuck babysitting for me. I remember watching Leslie make her wedding dress, and I remember going to her wedding in 1983 when I was eight. Now, 25 years later, her husband Michael and I teach at the same university, and since I moved back to west Michigan in 1994, it has always been in the back of my mind to look them up, but I never did, until I started teaching at GV in 2005. Then, I shot Michael an email, and he responded, but it took these three years before we managed to seek each other out. (Michael teaches Biology, I teach English, we don't cross paths) Anyway, Michael and Leslie live in Grand Haven, and we got together for lunch and talked about old times. I was also able to meet their daughter Madeline, who is in her junior year at U of M. (I remember Leslie's mother talking about Madeline being born, but I don't think I ever met her) It was wonderful to reconnect with them again. There are so few connections left back from those days when we lived in central New Jersey (we moved to northern NJ when I was in sixth grade)so finding someone who knew me way back then is interesting. Leslie said she would have known me anywhere. We talked about was life in west Michigan compared to life in Jersey, and we unanimously agreed that although we enjoy going back to NJ to visit, we wouldn't want to move back there. It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch, and I look forward to spending more time with them. Of course, we showed them Frances' pictures, and they politely listened as we talked nonstop about the adoption.

(As for the wedding, we went to the wedding ceremony, but couldn't manage to find the banquet hall where the reception was held, so we eventually gave up and went home. But, even though we couldn't make the reception, it was still an enjoyable day.)

Here are some of the pictures we took when on the pier at Grand Haven, by the lighthouse.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another care package

Frances's grandmother Wilda wanted to send her a care package, so we've had Ann at red thread china do up another one. Here are pictures. Baby stuff is so cute!

Look at the pants--they are lined in pink. I keep thinking she might get cold, with winter coming. But I need to keep in mind that I live in Michigan, and its cold here. Frances is in Yulin City, in the far south tropics of China. The average high temperature in Guangxi Province during the month of November, when we get her, is in the high seventies! Imagine that. The poor thing--coming from tropical China to Michigan in the midst of winter, and with a shaved head. Oh well, her great great Aunt Mae is knitting warm caps for her as I write this.

The little white shoes are squeaky ladybug shoes (I hope they can produce socks for her...Ann didn't sell any that I saw) and there is a ladybug sweater there for her too. She might not get much use of that in tropical China, but she'll need it when she gets off the plane in Detroit. There are two bags of chrysanthemum tea for her foster mother, and an interesting looking stuffed creature (a centipede?) and some family pictures. Also, another digital camera. We mailed our own package to the orphanage several weeks ago (it cost $60 to mail a small shoebox sized package to China--can you believe it? Yikes! And I'm not sure I filled out the customs declaration correctly. That alone makes Ann's service such a great deal... )and that package contained two disposable cameras--and the earlier package we sent through red thread also had a disposable camera. I hope the foster mother doesn't get fed up with having to be photographer. If we get one completed camera, we will be happy. We just weren't sure that the package we sent on our own will get to her, so we're pushing our luck a bit.
Alright--thats it for now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A wonderful surprise

Ann at Red Thread China is a generous, amazing woman. Aside from her very reasonably priced care packages, she was able to obtain more pictures of our daughter for us, from her orphanage director. These arrived in my email box at 1:00 on a Thursday, while I was giving my Nature Writing class a pop quiz. Like a fool, I opened the email and then found my desire to lecture about transcendentalism greatly diminished. Go figure. They turned my brain to mush. All I want to do is gaze at this precious, precocious-looking child.

Ann was also able to get the following updated measurements on her:

7.9 kg! Wow! She seems to be healthy.

Here are the pictures:

Look at this. That's pretty good for a seven month old baby, don't you think? Sure, she's propped up, and holding on to that tree, but still...
I like this picture--she has another handfull of nature, just like she did in her referral photo. She will love the Gun Lake at spring...
Look at the pretty pink outfit--awww. And look at those big eyes. They melt my heart.
It looks like we've got an inquisitive one on our hands. Good! She'll fit in well.
This is a picture of her with her foster mother, somewhere in Yulin City. It looks like they are outside a pharmacy, and that she's snatched a packet of pills to examine. LOL.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Care Package!

Using Red Thread China, we sent Frances a care package at her orphanage in early September. Here is a picture of the care package. The tea and candy is for the foster family, obviously.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Meet Frances Bernadette Tong-Shi

At long last, we received our referral on September 2, 2008. It was a tremendous blessing for us that we both had the day off the day the referral arrived, and were together when we got it, because we would have gotten nothing done at our respective jobs that day.
Her Chinese name is Lin Shi Tong. Our agency says it means "red poem." A name dictionary says it means "fragrant persimmon" and when I took out a fiestaware plate that is "persimmon" and the color matches the top she's wearing in these pictures. They call her "Tong-Tong." Lin is her surname, which is given to all the orphans in her orphanage--the Yulin Social Welfare Institute in Yulin City. Yulin City is in the Guangxi Province,which is in southwest China, bordering Vietnam. She was born February 2, 2008, and was seven months old at referral.

I absolutely love this picture, and that fistfull of grass in those tiny hands. It shows she is inquisitive and goes after what she wants. She will get on well in this household!

Poor little thing, she looks frightened. This is probably her orphanage "mug shot" or passport photo. She looks like she's fed up with having this person flashing a camera in her face. Hang in there, sweetie. Hang in there.