Wednesday, April 30, 2008

See ya on the flip side....

Friday AM we board a plane to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. We've had this trip planned for about 6 months or so and kept it quiet until recently to Miss Grace, that we would be visiting this place where Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, the Princesses who she so adores and many assorted characters reside. 3 years ago we were there (the trip was free) and Grace had a great time. This time she's 5 and a half which is maybe the perfect age for this kind of vacation. We are staying on the property which is a first for us. Excited isn't an adequate word to describe how Grace feels about going on this trip. So we are off to the happiest place on earth for some R and R, sun to warm our Midwestern bodies, some time to laugh, smile and for Dan and I to be kids again too...because we really like this place almost as much as Grace. Take care, dh's laptop is accompanying us as it seems to go everywhere, so I can keep in touch...;)

Blushing bride

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just One Child at a Time

Please hop on over to Daleea's blog, One Child at a Time to bid on donated items to raise funds for Amanda's Starfish Foster Home. The funds will be able to provide surgery to babies that have some medical special needs and once they have the surgery the babies can be adopted and go home to their forever families. I have donated 2 hand knit dolls from the store, A Gift from China in Guangzhou. They are made by local women in Shaanxi Province and both have bright cotton floral traditional Chinese outfits on (pants and top). They are about 13 inches in length and one of them has braids, the other has her hair up in a bun. They also have black mary jane shoes on. :) Miss Grace has one of these dolls and it's one of her favorites to play with and just be a mommy to. I really appreciate anything handmade and I like toys that don't always have loud sounds, are not made of plastic, and encourage Grace to use her imagination a bit. :)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

17 months

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Well it's been 17 months now, this year has been flying by for some reason for me. Last week I felt a bit down about it all, but I'm feeling better today. Sometimes I feel like I'm riding the waves of the ocean with this whole thing...I ride the wave...up...and down...and it repeats over and over. No speculating on my part as to how long it could be. The wait is what it is for me right now. Instead of fighting my sadness at times, I go with it and know that it will pass because it always does. We are getting ready to go on a really fun trip soon with Miss Grace, and my mind is on that. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Favorite Foto Friday

This has been a busy week, don't really know why I said that because all weeks are busy around here. Between preschool, swimming lessons and gymnastics and miscellaneous other things that pop up we've also been outside as much as we possibly can and it's been just heavenly. These pics are from our days outside this week enjoying the beautiful Spring weather. When I look at them I see a little girl growing up so fast. The time sure flies doesn't it? Thursday, Dan and I attended a meeting at her school about Kindergarten. Grace will start full time Kindergarten in the Fall. I recently had a friend comment to me about Grace beginning that milestone of "real school." My friend asked me if I was going to cry on her first day of school. I didn't lie and pretend to be all stoic and strong. I answered, "Yes, I'll be crying. I'll try to contain myself but I know it's pretty inevitable." I'm a crier and I'm fine with it. Though I have loved this time being home with her for the last 4-5 yrs, a new season of our lives is starting. Grace is ready to start school and I'm so proud of her for that. Happy Friday, hope your Friday and weekend is great wherever you may be. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Little girl and her dog

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forever friends

I met my dear friend Michelle almost 5 years ago at the first meeting our travel group had together at our agency. We were all a bunch of kind of nervous parents getting ready to travel together to go on an amazing journey to China for our children. 11 families who had received referrals for 9 girls and 2 boys. SARS had shut down the China program for a while and we were the first group to get referrals once China opened up the program again, so we were all quite anxious to meet our children and bring them home. I got to know Michelle a bit better at O'Hare as we waited for our plane that would take us from Chicago to Shanghai. She was a first time mom, me a second time mom with some experience under my belt with a 17 yr. old son at home. We bonded instantly having many things in common including our 2 little Grace and her little Julia sharing the same birthday and coming from the same SWI. We all experienced a range of emotions there in China... from elation and joy, to sadness and humility. It is hard to explain and quite complex and once you experience this journey you will understand what I mean. I think of the time of receiving our children in our arms as being in one shared birthing room together. Michelle and her husband Mark were first time parents and when their daughter Julia developed a fever and an ear infection, I showed them how to take her temperature, how to draw up oral antibiotics in a syringe and to give them to an upset, crying baby. After coming home Michelle and I bonded at Gymboree class with the girls, play dates and weekly lunches together. Grace and Julia became fast friends just as their mommas had. When Michelle went to China for a second time to adopt their daughter Emily, I supported her in anyway that I could. I consider Michelle my sister and a true gift in this miracle of adoption. I love her daughters as much as my own. I know that just like our daughters, we will be life long friends. Adoption is so much more than bringing a child into your home and hearts, it's as Steffie said in a comment to me about meeting with our travel group friends, "there is always something quite magical when you are with people that you went on your amazing journey with!" Steffie couldn't have expressed it better because I know she feels the same way about her travel group, or as I call travel family. :)

We can help

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Ya Xing Kai

Amanda at the Starfish Foster Home in China does amazing things by caring for medically fragile children in a foster care setting, and she needs help raising money for surgery for several infants and 3 older children. Any amount you donate will help. No amount is too small. We are participating in a neighborhood yard sale and donating the proceeds and Dan and I will be adding some extra to that amount. If you'd like to help please click on the link above or the one in my right hand side sidebar. :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Favorite Foto(s) Friday

Look momma, a bird!

Digging in a pot.

Kissy face for mommy. :)

I think next to Fall, Spring is my second favorite season. There's just something about all the trees and plants coming back to life again after a long cold Winter that is wonderful to me. I am a gardener and every Spring I look forward to seeing what survived the Winter and plan on what I want to plant. My perennial beds are always changing and I like that just fine. Grace has always been an outdoor girl and it's one of her favorite places to be...digging, help plant, and watering. She's been my garden helper for quite a long time. These 3 pics are favorite ones of mine taken (believe it or not!) 4 years ago in the Springtime when she a little bitty thing of 21 months, almost 2. Gosh the time has gone so fast!

Enjoy the upcoming weekend, may you have a relaxing one. We will be with dear friends from Grace's travel group. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A nutty Wednesday

You Are a Walnut

You are down to earth and genuine.

Responsible and practical, you are a grown up in all aspects of your life.

You probably eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise.

And while you're not wild, you're not boring either. You're actually very deep and interesting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some outside time

Spring is here ( I think) and we've been spending lots of time outside. Today we got some flower pots ready for planting,and even though it's too cold to plant, the pots are ready. (with the assistance of Miss Grace)

My helper sweeping the patio...she loves to sweep.

Of course we make time for playtime with Grace's friend Lydia. Hoping Spring is here to stay! :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A little addendum to my last post

I obviously am an advocate for early screening of children adopted and particularly adopted internationally. No one has any idea as far as what birth parent's health histories were, or circumstances of what the child's orphanages were like or conditions as far as foster care if they were in it. One of the best books I can recommend is called: Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections, by Jean MacLeod & Sheena Macrae.

It came out quite a while after Grace came into our lives. The book has been a great resource and help to me and I recommend it highly. I like it because it's not so clinical of a read, and doesn't sound preachy. I have pretty much read every adoption related book I can get my hands on, but if anyone has one they recommend I would welcome that.

I have never been angry about the issues that Grace faced. We all are dealt a certain set of cards in this life. I don't blame God, not CCAA, not China or her orphanage and her caregivers. When you travel to China you will see that China does the best with what it has and in the very poor rural area where Grace came from they don't have much. China has given Dan and I the gift of our little girl Grace. I am no expert in the field of attachment nor developmental delays, I personally know children who have had extremely easy transitions to their new families and one's that have had very difficult ones too. I'm a mom who noticed some things that just didn't seem right. Go with your gut feelings, they are almost always correct. I believe it's highly likely your child will have a fairly easy transition and will do quite well. Out of Grace's travel group of 10 other families, she was the only one to have sensory and significant speech issues. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

This girl has come so very far...

Grace in China, age 12 months.

Grace has been home with us for about 4 years and 7 months, the time has gone fast in many ways. It hasn't always been sunshine and roses. She has come so far in many ways and so have we as her parents. I've thought about this post for a long time and what I wanted to say and how to say it, because I don't want to scare any first time waiting parents. I believe knowledge is important and powerful. What scares ME about these extremely long wait times to a referral are that parents tend to "romanticize" and "idealize" this child that you are waiting for. I encourage waiting Moms and Dads to read as much as they can about adoption issues and developmental delays. Some of it is scary stuff and I remember when we waited for Grace's arrival that I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. The scary stuff like attachment issues and grieving was helpful to me and sometimes hard to relate to. Sometimes I found it overwhelming to read, so I'd take breaks of course. Now I occasionally find blogs or a comment on an adoption board how their adopted child attached almost immediately and there was no grieving period. I hope I don't offend anyone ...but that's just a bunch of bull. And if those people truly believe that, most likely they are in denial. Attachment is a process that takes a very long time and every child is different. We were fortunate with Grace's adoption that the agency we used put a high priority on education about pretty much everything that can and does happen after you are home with your child. We were given the worst case scenarios which might sound negative, but now I'm happy in a way that that's how they handled it. I distinctly remember our SW telling us that on the day we received Grace...that was the happiest day of our (Dan's and my life) and also the saddest of Grace's. At the time I thought her comment was kind of dramatic and mean. In hindsight, it was the honest and brutal truth. Everything that Grace had ever known in her short life of 12 months was taken away and changed forever. I have always kept in mind the losses she has had in her life. Those losses don't define her, but they are a part of who she is.

I call the time period post "gotcha day" or "forever family day" the honeymoon period. And it's a period of time that at least for us probably lasted about a year maybe. Dan and I were absolutely giddy with joy. We couldn't believe this girl and what a wonderful little girl she was. In between the wonderful times were also sad times and grieving times for Grace. She had sleep issues intermittently that would wax and wane. Some night terrors, and phases where she would wake up frequently at night. We tried co-sleeping...she would have nothing of that business. So what worked for us was that she slept in her crib in her room and sometimes I slept on the floor. I was up a lot with her rocking her, holding her and consoling her. If I had a blog at that time it would have been pretty wild to read through my chronic sleep deprived it was I called some of my friends the wrong name a few times, had some short term memory issues and was tired a lot. What helped me tremendously was my little group of travel group moms that became my support group, don't know what I'd do without Michelle, Kris and Stephanie. We all helped each other and shared our own stories about what was happening with our children now that we were home, helped problem solve and just listened. And that's what I did, if something didn't seem to work, I'd try something else and find something that would. Grace was screened at age 18 months through the state just to see where she was developmentally and she was right where she was supposed to be. She didn't speak much at all. She babbled and made noises, but very little that we could understand. We had taught her some sign language and that helped but her expressive speech was pretty much nil. It didn't concern me that much because Nick spoke very early and well and I knew that all kids were different. What Grace excelled at was gross and fine motor skills (and that continues today).

The 2's were difficult for Grace, she threw many heavy duty temper tantrums, more like rages that would last anywhere from half an hour to 50 minutes, many times 3 and 4 times a day. In between those times she was a happy girl, I could tell her speech was delayed and that wasn't helping much with her communication with us. She would get frustrated very easily and so was I. I had her re-screened through the state's birth to 3 program and fortunately she qualified! I remember being very relieved. Grace started Speech and Occupational Therapy at age 2 and 4 mos. She had some mild sensory integration issues which I had sensed myself for a while. Grace was what I called "a hopper," and "a hanger." When she was tired or upset or even bored, she'd hop up and down a fair amount and sometimes hang off the kitchen counter, later on I found out she was trying to get vestibular and proprioceptive input (parts of your brain that control balance and movement), because that was something that was lacking in her brain development. Grace lived in her orphanage for the first 12 months of life. Her sensory issues are pretty much completely resolved, they appear now and then rarely and usually if she's tired or overwhelmed by a new situation. We've been taught by her OT techniques how to deal with them. As for Speech, Grace has come so far in the last 3 years...she has gone from her speech being around 25% intelligibility to now about 98-99%. She has been in a traditional preschool for 2 years, and I waited a year for her to start Kindergarten in the Fall. Her birthday is in August. At her last IEP for speech, she is ready to graduate from the program, but they will continue minimal speech services to start her out in Kindergarten next year. Grace is now a happy, securely attached little girl, her pragmatic speech and articulation has come so far, she loves her school and is starting to read. My advice after telling this long story, is to be patient, don't give up and ...please, please, please get your children screened after you are home with them. If you are not happy with the results, go somewhere else and get the answers and help you need. Unfortunately I know many folks who haven't done this and their kids need some help. We all are guides, teachers and mentors for our children and we want them to be the best people in this life that they can be. I always keep in mind when I see my daughter and how happy she is because she has come so far and hopefully will continue to... :)
Edited to say: When you meet me in real life, I don't sugar coat things. I believe and know we are here to help one another as best as we all can. I continue to learn so much from Grace and about myself on this journey. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Favorite Foto Friday

Love this pic of Miss Grace...I took it a couple of weeks ago when she was "posing" for me with her Samantha doll. I think I like it so much because I love the look in her eyes and the dimple in her cheek. When you meet Grace in person you see her beautiful eyes ( photos don't quite capture them) that show so much of her personality... sparkling, joyful, mischievous sometimes, and very funny. Grace and I have similar shaped faces and that same dimple in our left cheek. I obviously didn't give her those physical traits, and I love that we share them. It is a gift to me.

Not too much new going on around here, April showers are most certainly here. Hoping they bring May flowers. I'm itching to get my hands in the dirt and do some planting and gardening and spending lots of time outside which we enjoy so much. Take care and have a great weekend! :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday...

Monday, April 7, 2008

So...what do you do on an early Spring day?

Saturday Spring had finally sprung here, the sun was out, the birds were singing and we spent most of the day outside. Grace rode her bike, jumped, ran, danced, flew a kite with the neighbors, went for a walk and blew bubbles (or tried on a windy day). After this very long, endless Winter it felt so great to be in 60 degree weather. Now today it seems that Winter has come back for a little bit...but I know that Spring will be back soon...:)

Thank you Secret Pal!

We love everything you sent for the Good Night/Sleep Tight theme. The pink jammies are so soft and adorable as is the bunny. Dan has claimed the dark chocolate, me the chocolate covered raisins (my favorite!) and Miss Grace the gummi bears (her favorite too). And you are correct I can never have too much candy can you? We always look forward to opening your package when it arrives. Thank you also for your positive note...we are getting closer. :)

Gail, Dan and Gracie

Saturday, April 5, 2008

3 Word Sunday - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Favorite Foto Friday

Some photos I took last week of Grace on a playground having fun. For some reason I like the one of her hair in her face with her features peeking out.

As for my prior "crazy talk" post, thanks for all the kind comments. Now and then I lose it somewhat regarding this wait time. I almost feel like I should delete that entire post but won't. It was honest and how I felt that day, when I re-read the post I think I was a bit dramatic. I can be quite emotional about it all at times, I am a woman and a perimenopausal one at know how that can be. Hope your weekend is a relaxing one and take care. :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crazy talk

There's a lot of talk going on in the China adoption world that has my head spinning. And there's plenty I'd like to say about it all and address. Instead of all of those thoughts spinning around in my head, I think there's no better place to put it than my blog. The place to find out information seems to be this person called the "Rumor Queen." Rumor Queen is a mysterious woman who stays anonymous for personal reasons, she reports rumors that come in related to China adoption and the China adoption community. She has quite a large following of people and I can tend to get "sucked into the vortex of insanity" as I call it sometimes. When things are good they are amazing and positive and supportive. When they are not so good, they are downright bad, mean spirited and negative. Sometimes you feel like you a "swirling in the toilet bowl" as I put it. 5 years ago when we went through this process to adopt there was no Rumor Queen. We just went on faith. And it was faith that got us through it all. Thankfully. What is happening right now is that there has been a couple of months of a very mild speed up in referrals coming each month. Those months were approximately 8 days of referrals. This month's (April) referrals are due any day. It will be a very small batch this month. Folks who post and comment on RQ (certainly not all, but some) are freaking out. Turning on each other, saying mean and hateful things and also speculating things that most likely are not true. There are days (not too many now) that I don't know how I can possibly wait any longer for my child in China. I ask God everyday to help me get through this and He does. Last night I was feeling a bit low about it all and when putting Grace to bed, Dan came in the room to say goodnight. I made a comment to him regarding the wait and how it could potentially be another 2-3 years longer. He said, "Gail, we will wait for as long as it takes." In retrospect with all my infertility issues and the time we waited for Grace to arrive, it took 10 years to meet her. Do I think we will wait 10 years, no. The only way I know how to be with all of this, is to be positive and supportive to other people. We are moving forward, slowly but moving. I distinctly remember in the Summer of 2006, sitting in our SW's office and talking about adoption in general. I told our SW that adoption (whether it's domestic or international) is NOT for the faint of heart. It's a roller coaster, the highs can be just amazing and the lows so we wait and I take a break from the crazy talk...

Wordless Wednesday...just a little joy

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