Sunday, 29 April 2012

China Trip Itinerary ~ Steph

We've been receiving lots of questions about our trip so we'll give a brief itinerary.

We fly out Wednesday, May 2 at 1:30pm.
We arrive in Shanghai Thursday, May 3 at 3:30pm (China time) Yeah! 14 hour flight!
We will visit Shanghai and surroundings until Sunday, May 6.
We are taking the train (high speed, though not super high speed) from Shanghai to Wuhan sometime Sunday afternoon.
May 7, in Wuhan, is our Gotcha Day!  Li Lin will be place in our care.  smiles... tears... more smiles... more tears...
May 8 is the formal adoption day and paperwork day.
We will visit Wuhan and surroundings May 9 and 10.
We will fly to Beijing sometime Friday, May 11.
From Saturday May 12 (Happy Birthday to me!) through May 13 (Happy Mother's Day to Sara and the 17 other new adoptive mothers) until May 16 we will be touring around Beijing with our adoption agency group.  There is more paperwork involved somewhere in there.  Li Lin will become a Canadian Citizen in China.
We fly out from Beijing Thursday, May 17 at 6:00pm
We arrive back in TO on Thursday, May 17 at 6:30pm (Toronto time) and will be picked up by a very excited Grandmaman.

We will fill you in on details, and hopefully pictures, as the trip proceeds.
Zai jian!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Surprises at work~ Sara

Today I worked my second last shift before my much anticipated parental leave.  Although I don't expect to miss working, I will miss the wonderful colleagues I work with.  I can honestly say I work with a great group of people.  Besides being competent at their job and showing a true genuine care for their patients, many of them have great senses of humour and warm personalities.  The group I was on with today sure went out of their way to make my last weekend at work memorable.  I walked into the department and the first thing I saw on the nearest white board was this:

Then I saw this...

 and this...

I, of course appreciated their thoughtfulness.   It didn't end with just the decor though... there was a veggie tray, nachos, delicious dips, cheesecake, and It's a girl! candies.  Not to mention we ordered in lunch... something we do every six weeks when we work this particular weekend together.  So  yeah, we ate plentifully!  So plentifully that we had to save the cheesecake for tomorrow!  I definitely look forward to a slice.   It was all a very pleasant surprise and further reminded me that I really am going to miss these great people for whom I am blessed to call both colleagues and friends. 

So, Cindy, Linda, Lisa H, Lisa J, and Michelle thanks for today... much appreciated! Hugs to all of you!  Linda, photo creds to you for taking the above photos for me on the only day I have shown up to work all year without my cell!

Attachment, Bonding and Cuddling ~ Steph

Attachment happens naturally with a bio child.  They are helpless at birth.  They are completely dependent on others to feed them, bathe them, change them, carry them, comfort them etc…  I think God designed babies to come out as little, tiny and helpless bundles so that the family bond would form naturally.  It happens to a large degree by default.  Of course, we should consciously and intentionally spend time to nurture this bond, to cherish our children and help them to mature and grow in positive ways.

Sara and I are to some degree, experienced parents.  While we have yet to reach the teen years, (6 months left!) we do have a 12 year old, 10 year old and 6 year old.  All three of these children are clearly bonded to us.  They are very accepting of their extended families, church family and our large group of friends, but all three definitely know who their family members are, and who is there to care for, comfort and guide them. 

What Sara and I do NOT have experience at is something that we will be doing within the next week, and that is fostering attachment and bonding in a child that has spent the first few months and years in an orphanage and/or foster care.  For children in an orphanage, attachment no longer happens by default.  Their world has been completely turned upside down.  They do not understand the concept of family.  They have had a rotation of caregivers and they don’t know who to turn to when they are hurting, hungry or sad.

If a child has been in foster care (as Li Lin has) she may have formed attachments.  We hope that Li Lin has.  As she was lovingly cared for, fed, bathed and clothed by her foster-family, she would have learned to some extent what a family is and how to bond.  This is a large positive.  However, just think how she will feel when all that she has known will be taken from her.  The person or people she has come to depend on and to trust will be gone.  Instead, she will be placed in the arms of two people that look different, speak a different language, eat different foods, etc…  Her whole world will be taken from her.  She will need to learn once again to trust.  She will need to re-establish who are her primary caregivers, who are the people who will feed her, comfort her, nurse her wounds and help to heal her broken heart.

Throughout our adoption journey thus far, we have been very touched by the very positive responses, the care and interest shown, the many prayers and well-wishes.  Many of you are excited and looking forward to seeing, meeting and interacting with the newest little member of our family.  We know that many of you can’t wait to take her in your arms and snuggle her and tickle her and smother her with kisses.  We appreciate all of you and your interest in her.  The thing is, during our first little while home, Sara and I will be just another set of people to Li Lin; easily replaced by yet another pair of arms with a hug or hands with some food.  She will need to learn who mama and baba are.  She will need to learn who to turn to when she is hurt, when she is sad, when she is hungry, etc.  This is the process of bonding and forming attachments.  This process does not happen in hours or days, but takes weeks and months (and years).

During the initial time home, we will have a small circle for Li Lin.  Sara and I will be providing the care for her.  We will bathe, feed, clothe, comfort, put her to bed and just be there for her.  We will be the ones to pick her up, to carry her, to cuddle with her.  Helping to establish that firm attachment to mom and dad as primary caregiver will enable her to form strong bonds and attachments to others later on in life.  As she develops that firm grasp of who her nuclear family is, we will expand her circle and introduce her to our wonderful friends and family.   We hope that you understand that you may have to wait a bit longer than you would like to be introduced to our little darling.  And we ask that when you do meet her, to let her initiate the interactions.  An infant grows up with family and friends around and as they start to notice and recognize faces, those special people are already familiar to them.  To a toddler, everyone is a stranger.  They must be introduced to the special people in our lives little by little.  While you might want to pick her up in your arms, this might only serve to scare her or make her wonder if this is yet another person come to take her away from what she knows.

We look forward to this journey, though we do recognize that there are likely to be challenges.  We hope that you understand our position and while you may not agree with our actions and decisions, we are doing what is best for Li Lin, both now and in the long term.  We are not experts.  We haven’t done this before.  However, we are relying on the information of experts, what we have learned from courses, books and other parents who have BTDT (been there done that).  There is no ‘absolute way’ and we know that every child is different, but there are principles to follow to help Li Lin in her attachment and adjustment to our family.  We value your continued prayers and support.

Here are links to two other blog posts that may help you understand more about attachment. 

The first blog post presents an interesting perspective.  This lady is a psychologist with a therapy practice who also happens to be an adoptive ‘aunt’ – so she knows firsthand the excitement and anticipation of meeting a little one for the first time, but having to hold back on showing affection.

The second blog post first is from an adoptive mother.  It is an open letter to family and friends about their son and how they will be interacting with him when they first get home.  While not all of this would be applicable to our situation, the vast majority would be.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Are 'we' done packing? ~ Steph

Are we done packing yet?

The great thing about marriage is that it’s all about ‘we’ and not all about me.  We’ve all heard the expression “There’s no ‘I’ in team”.  Some reply and say, “Yeah, but there’s an ‘m’ and an ‘e’ to spell me!”  Well, there is an ‘I’ in marriage but maybe there shouldn’t be.  Marrage.  Sounds bad.  If we take out the ‘me’ to make a ‘we’ we get…  Warrage!  That’s worse!  DOES NOT WORK!  That sounds too much like what I’m trying to advocate against! :-)

When it’s about we, there should be support, love, understanding.  Not belittling, arguing and dishonouring.  People are often so quick to try to place blame.  I’m confused when someone looks in and sees dishwasher full of clean plates and asks “Who forgot to empty the dishwasher?”  Obviously, ‘we’ ALL did!  Why don’t we just pitch in and get the job done?

The ‘we’ thing works great.  Like on a weekday night, Sara will look in the cupboard and notice there are no juice boxes for lunches.  “Steph, there are no juice boxes left.  We really should get some”.  I gamely take my keys and head out the door.  I come back 15 minutes later.  “Look hon, ‘we’ went and got some juice boxes!”

One of the best pieces of marital wisdom I ever heard was about a decade ago from my then single 20 year old cousin.  He said, “The problem with a lot of marriages is that too many couples forget that they are on the same team”.  My cousin is since happily married and the proud papa of a beautiful little boy through adoption.

So, are ‘we’ done packing?  Nearly!  Now don’t get specific and ask how much packing each of us has done!  I did bring some things into Li Lin’s room hoping they would find their way into a suitcase.  There are several full suitcases in the main hallway, waiting to be carried out to the car in a few days.  I’m not exactly sure how they all got there, but somehow, ‘we’ are nearly completely packed.  Let’s hope that ‘we’ did not forget to pack our toothbrushes!

Anyways, I’d better go.  ‘We’ need to do the dishes!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Guess how many days til departure?


So today was another memorable day.  Our official travel approval documents came in as did all of our itinerary info.  This one page certificate looking thingy is called TA in China adoptspeak.  It is basically our ticket to pick-up Li Lin.  As our agency plainly stated, no TA no kid.

But no pressure, there are only a bunch of other forms that if lost will create havoc for: leaving China with Li Lin, entering Canada, and applying for citizenship.  Considering the unbelievable amount of things I have lost in the past couple of weeks, prayer would be appreciated!  I call it adoption brain...

The good news is that we are only seven days away now.  Two of these days will be spent at work.  I  have great colleagues at the hospital but I can honestly say I cannot wait to have a 30 week break from my job.  Steph is taking five weeks of the parental leave concurrently with me.  Why you ask?  It's a numbers game.  He either takes five weeks with full pay or two weeks with no pay.  Being a math teacher, it was a bit of a no-brainer for him!  I am looking forward to having him home with Li Lin and I for the first three weeks we are back in Canada.  The other three kids will be back at school so it should be a great time for the two of us to bond with her and spend quality time together! 

Gotta close off now as it is 11:42pm... if I don't post now it will be six days and my cute little number seven will be a thing of the past.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Steph's first post:Why did we choose to adopt?

Seeing as I am listed as a co-contributor to the blog, I thought I should get at least one blog written before we leave for China!  I’ll start off easy (ha ha) and tackle the question “Why did you choose to adopt?”

 Good question!  This is a very common question that both Sara and I get asked.  How do we answer this, and explain something that we feel so deeply is right and exactly what we want to do and exactly what we should be doing?

Did we want to make a difference in the life of a little girl from the other side of the world?  Sure we did!  But equally, we wanted a little girl from the other side of the world to make a difference in our lives!

People sometimes say that Li Lin is lucky to be joining our family.  We agree that she is blessed to be joining our loving, if somewhat crazy family (after all, we are part of this family and we feel it’s a pretty great family to be part of, warts and all!); however we definitely feel more blessed to be having a new little addition to our family.  We know very little about Li Lin right now, but she has firmly and solidly and completely wormed her way into our hearts!  We cannot wait to have another set of little feet pitter-pattering around the house.  We are so excited to have another set of arms open up for a hug from us and to see the twinkle in her eyes as she teases her siblings.  We are looking forward to having another voice trying to squeeze into those very infrequent moments of silence in our home.  We anticipate another round of the most common phrase in our household, “Dad/Mom, I have a question!”, and being able to explore the world once again through the eyes of a little child, where every moment is magical. 

Our adoption journey has allowed us to experience God as our loving and caring Father in a way different than we have before.  We are by no means experts in figuring out the will of God, but we have seen His guidance in many ways during this process.  As Sara mentioned in the first blog, we have received guidance from the Bible, our heart’s desire, and circumstances.
One verse that has spoken directly and deeply to our hearts is James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

One thing that really spoke to me during our search for the will of God concerning adoption might seem like coincidence to others, but was a direct message from God to me.  The Friday afternoon we were seriously considering pursuing adoption, I turned on the radio to Life 100.3 [I rarely listen to this station… usually to a sports station instead.  Mea culpa!] and playing was Mikeschair “Keep Changing the World”.  Click on the link below to go to their official Youtube channel and listen to the song. .  The first sentence is “Something here is wrong, there are children without homes”!

All the meanwhile, God was working on our hearts.  Both Sara and I had a longing and desire to add to our family through adoption for a while.  We felt our family had love to share.  This yearning kept growing until we had to act on it.

Speaking about the title of this blog; when Sara was expecting Hudson, Logan was concerned about how the two of us parents would be able to love all of our children (Hudson is the third).  Sara told Logan – “love doesn’t divide, it multiplies!”  A short while into the adoption process, Logan was looking a little down.  Sara asked him if he was concerned that with us adding another child to the family, we wouldn’t have as much time and energy for him.  Logan looked up at Sara and said “Mom, remember, Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies!”  Logan was just discouraged by the long wait to get his little sister.  So far, we’ve enjoyed multiplication by 1, by 2 and by 3, and are looking forward to our multiplication by 4!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Today is Rykauna's final touring day

Since Tuesday, Rykauna has been away on a class trip to our neighbouring country's capitol.  As far as I know, she wasn't able to fit in a visit with the president and his family... she's much too busy!  She plans to take time to visit several museums though.    Just a little plug to those who like cheap vacationing places:  All of the federally owned museums in the DC area are free.

I am thrilled to say her class is planning to return tomorrow morning at seven am.  I will be praying her bus driver sleeps well today and drives safely tonight.  Sleeping all night on a coach might not be the most comfortable but since tomorrow is Saturday she should be able to catch up if needed.  Missing her! 

Just in case some of you are wondering what crazy parents would allow their kids to go on a big school trip then a second international trip eleven days later... apparently we do.  When we signed forms allowing her to go on the school trip we did not know when we would be receive our adoption referral.  We figured that if we hadn't been matched by April with a little girl the trip would be a great diversion for Rykauna.  She was already pining for the referral way back in the fall.  As is turns out it, the trip is still providing a good diversion.  The week before she left and this week she hasn't had much time to think about her little 'mei mei'. 

Her mother and father have been thinking about little 'mei mei' often though.  In fact yesterday a thought crossed my mind that has always crossed my mind every time I've welcomed a new little one into my life, "I just wish mom could meet this new little grandchild."   One thing I do know though, is that mom prayed for her future grandchildren.  For that, I am thankful.  I am also grateful for the time I had with her.  Hope this post doesn't sound too depressing.  Sorry if it makes a few of you tear up.  I think I digressed a bit too much today.  Well I better sign off now and catch a few zzz.  The bus driver is not the only one working night shift tonight! 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Countdown is on!

Well it is only 13 days now til we board the plane for China!  As the day gets closer I realize that although I have packed some things there is still much packing to do.  One thing that is ready: Li Lin's suitcase is packed!  It feels a bit surreal packing for an adoption trip to China but there are a few things that help me to come back to reality and believe that this is not a dream.  Strangely enough when I packed a little pair of pink shoes and a beautiful pair of flower laden black patent dress shoes I thought, "Wow, I'm actually adopting a girl!" 

I can't wait to hold her in my arms and tell her from the bottom of my heart, "Wo ai ni!" (I love you)  

 Hopefully she will understand my very heavily English accented attempt at Mandarin.  As one of my dear Chinese friends told me, "She may have difficulty for the first few days until she learns your accent, after that she should understand anything you say to her."  LOL!

That is assuming she speaks and understands Mandarin.  We are pretty sure she speaks a local dialect and are hoping she also speaks Mandarin.  Since her file reads that she loves watching cartoons, and the cartoons would be in Mandarin, we are pretty confident that she at least understands Mandarin.

I will probably sound pretty pathetic speaking "Chinglish" to her.  Since my Mandarin is very limited, I will use as many Mandarin words as I can in a sentence, fill in with English words when necessary, and use lots of sign language.  No doubt the locals will have a few laughs listening to me! :)  The kids know only a few sentences each in Chinese so they will teach her "English immersion".  Steph has had very little formal Mandarin lessons but what little he has learned, he remembers well.  I am sure he will try out a little Chinese whenever he can.
Hopefully she will be able to express her needs to us and we will be able to communicate with her.  After all, love is a universal language that makes its way around traditional cultural and language barriers!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

When the little blue gown won't do...

What should I wear when I meet little Li Lin for the first time?  This silly question along with much more important ones, pops into my head now and again.  When I "met" the other three kids I was wearing the popular choix du jour of the delivery suites.  Yeah, you all know what I mean,  in fact it is such a craze in hospitals everywhere that no matter whether you are having a baby in Anchorage or Miami, Vancouver or Saint John's the outfit is pretty much the same.  Some shade of light blue or maybe green, short sleeves, white ties, no back, and cool crisp cotton.

Obviously though, the little blue gown is out for our first meeting with Li Lin.  So then what to do?  Should we all dress up?  Or will that scare her and make us appear unapproachable?  Should we go middle of  the road?  I'm thinking that is the best bet, however, the pictures taken during this occasion are going to be important ones.  We don't want to seem like we took the adoption process casually... IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to all of us!  I just cannot decide.. most likely we will decide on the day of, by looking into our suitcase and finding the outfits that are the least wrinkled.   

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Chinese visa pick-up day

Well today was visa pick-up day and members of my immediate family suggested I should blog about this.  I sort of frowned and said, "I don't want to blog about something so boring."  Famous last words.  The visa day was anything but boring.  Frustrating? Yes.  But boring it was not.  The day started relatively normal until I dropped Hudson off to school.  As we got out of the car to walk him to the school yard, he asked me if I had put the "fake money" he had cut out and coloured into his school bag.  Sadly, I did not even know it was needed for math class so I detoured back home and brought his paper coins to school.  A few streets away from the school I nearly hit another parent driving her van.  If I would have, it would most definitely have been my fault.  It was her right-of-way.  I was a bit frazzled as I drove to the local mall.  I planned to park my vehicle, take the subway downtown and back, pick up and return a few things at the mall, then be home for my 1:00pm Mandarin lesson.

I got stopped by security at the entrance to the mall parking lot and asked where I was going.  I told the security guard, then he told me I couldn't park at the mall.  I must park at the subway station parking lot.  I  turned my van around and headed to the subway lot.  I couldn't find it, so I parked in a pay parking lot across the street from the subway entrance.  I headed to the automated pay station with five bucks in my pocket only to see a sign that said credit card and coins only. So, I trudged back to the van, grabbed my credit card and walked back to the pay station.  I tried inserting my card and the machine spat my card out again.  Just then a live attendant showed up out of nowhere and said, "You cannot park here this lot is private.  It is a YMCA parking lot on Monday to Friday."

Frustrated, I hopped back in the van and drove another way around the mall and got to Walmart.  You see, the rest of the mall was still closed and barricaded at what was 9:40am by now, but good ol' Walmart was open.  I decided then and there that I may as well  hang out in Walmart for the 20 minutes it was going to take to open the main doors to the mall then walk through the mall to the mall subway station.  By this time I was parked  far enough from the other subway stop that it would have taken me 20 mins to get there anyway.  Inside Walmart I did a little retail therapy until 10am then walked through the mall to the subway station.  I managed to get downtown in reasonable time and arrived at the China Visa Application Centre by shortly after 11.  I waited about 15 mins to pick-up my visa then was able to be on my way.  By this time, I was nauseated from neglecting to eat breakfast so I grabbed a water bottle and date square on the run and quickly headed back to the subway.  The subway ride was going well until I got off at my interchange station where I needed to change trains.  I heard the dreaded words that all trains east of my station were out of service for an ongoing investigation.  Shuttle buses were being provided.  Groan.  I followed the masses to this very small bus waiting area and waited with a whole lot of confused people.  I quickly realized with the subway closure and the shuttle service there was no way I would be making it back home in time for my much needed Mandarin lesson.  I called my tutor and explained that I needed to cancel because I was stuck downtown.  I then hung up with her and headed to a different area of the station because someone told us we were waiting in the wrong place. When I got down the stairs another we heard another announcement:  "All trains are returned to regular scheduling".

I was happy to hear this, but decided not to chance rescheduling my class seeing as how the day was going.  Once on the train, it was so packed I couldn't find a pole to hold onto so I fell into some guy when the train started up.  Thankfully there was no domino effect because his back was against a wall!  By the time I got to the mall again, I was in need of lunch and a little relaxation.  I walked into the food court and passed some lady eating what looked to be a delicious Korean meal complete with yummy looking kimchi.  I walked up to the counter and saw a sign that said, "CASH ONLY".  Guess who was out of  money? Yeah you guessed it.  The Chinese take-out was good but nothing like the Korean food I was craving.

I got home picked up the boys from school and headed to a little community mall near our place with the kids as they needed a few things.  It was pretty warm by this point so I took off my coat.  I found what I thought had been a few quarters in my pocket, took a closer look and realized I had a couple of toonies in my pocket. Next, I opened my wallet to put away the coins and saw a five dollar bill that had been hidden behind some receipts.  I could have had my Korean meal after all!  To quote a book that my Aunt Deb and Uncle Al gave me as a child, "Some days are like that, even in Australia!"