Archive for September, 2007

Blog in jeopardy!

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

No, not this one, but I got your attention, didn’t I?  My other half is threatening to discontinue his blog if he doesn’t receive at least 2 comments on his most recent post requesting that he expand upon one or more of the topics he has suggested.  Now, I know these topics are likely of minimal interest to most of you, so you might query why we should even encourage the continuation of his efforts.  Those of you who know him will appreciate the fact that maintaining some contact with the outside world would probably be a good thing for him, so please, write in with a comment or two!

His family, for the purpose of social advancement, thanks you! 

Dinosaur!

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

lobster.jpg  A couple of weeks ago, we were shopping for groceries in a Walmart Supercenter a few miles away from our house.  There were several tanks of lobsters of various sizes and varieties in the meat department, all milling about with their claws rubber-banded shut.  I wasn’t sure what Anna would think of these pre-historic large water bugs that many people seem to think are acceptable for human consumption, but I thought she should take a look at them.  We wandered over slowly to the tanks, and I pointed them out to her, squatting down beside her and holding her closely so she wouldn’t be afraid.  (Perhaps that was more for me; I’m pretty afraid of the ugly beasts myself.)  She stood quietly, studied them carefully for a moment, and then turned to me and pronounced, “Mama!  Dinosaur!”

Pretty smart kid, huh?

Mid-September and all is well

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

We’re beavering away at getting Will’s room ready, although our motto is “never do today what you can put off until tomorrow!”  We still have 4+ weeks; it’ll be ready.  Anna talks about going to China almost every day.  She’s excited, although I’m sure she doesn’t really understand what she’s in for.  She has asserted several times lately, “Anna Chinese. Mama Chinese.  Baba not Chinese.”  I don’t know what she thinks Baba is, but he is NOT Chinese.  Perhaps Martian?  All we know is he is renouncing his Penn State alumnancy after today’s loss to Michigan, so he is no longer a Nittany Lion. 

I’ve been collecting pictures, so I’m going to put up a few.  I’ve purchased a new little point-and-shoot camera for our upcoming trip.  I struggle with my big Sony hanging around my neck while I’m trying to carry Anna, and with the suspicion that I will likely be carrying either Anna or Will most of the time we’re in China, I decided to hunt for a camera that I could stick in my pocket, or in the front pouch of the Ergo carrier.  Something I could grab easily when I want to take a picture, but that won’t be swinging around, banging into me while I’m trying to climb the Great Wall.   I researched the issue exhaustively, in stores and on line, and finally decided on the Fuji FinePix F20.  I chose it based on numerous reviews from professional photographers who have opted to carry this camera for their quick snapshots.  It has two characteristics that I find very desireable: it has a minimal shutter lag time (that’s the time between pressing the shutter and the actual exposure – all digital cameras have more of a delay than SLR’s, but my Sony is ridiculous – Anna is almost always out of the frame by the time the camera has decided to shoot!), and it has a very large light sensor, which allows it to produce much better shots in low-light situations, without necessarily using the flash.  Naturally, Fuji is no longer making this camera, but they discontinued it recently enough that there are still stores out there with new ones on the shelf.  I searched e-Bay and Amazon.com’s marketplace, and after bidding unsuccessfully on a few on e-Bay, I ended up buying one from PhotoWorld for a good price.  I’ve been playing with it the last 2 or 3 weeks, and am basically pleased with it.  The size is wonderful.  Truly about the size of a deck of cards.  I charged the battery initially, and have not had to recharge it yet.  It also shoots video clips, just like my Sony.  I may not even lug my big Sony overseas with me.  By the way, anyone interested in researching cameras should check out Digital Photography Reviews.  Excellent web site.

Anna loves to visit the horses that live a few doors down from us.  We walked there a week or so ago, and she refused to leave.  I had to drag her kicking and screaming on the rest of our walk.  I can hardly wait until she’s old enough to start asking for a pony for every occasion.  I’ll put a saddle on Siri first.

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We traveled to Boston to Joe’s brother and sister-in-law’s home to watch Penn State play Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago.  (This was before Joe tore up his undergraduate diploma and severed all ties to Penn State.)  We got to meet the new baby, Colin.  Anna’s has got “baby” and “cousin” figured out, but “Colin” seemed to escape her.  She’s been talking about Jon and “Een” quite a bit, though, along with “baby cousin.”  Grammy and Nono were there, too, so she had a nice visit with the Casciari clan.  I’m afraid that Jon and Eileen will have to have at least one more child, otherwise poor Colin will be confused about his ethnicity when he’s with his Casciari cousins; he’ll be wondering why HE’S not Chinese, too!

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JUST this past week, Anna has begun to show interest in some of the approximately 2,465 stuffed animals in her crib.  Her very first love interest is a little Bernese Mountain Dog puppy that was a gift from some very wonderful clients of mine.  She started carrying it around a week ago Friday, and even had to take it to church with her last Sunday.  I’m so excited!  It went well with her sailor dress, so I had to take some pictures, of course.  You can tell she’s getting the “cheese” face down while posing for photos. 

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We’ve been struggling with bedtime this week.  We haven’t made any major routine changes, so I don’t know what’s going on with her.  The kid can be falling asleep on her feet, but when she gets into bed, she suddenly reverts to energizer bunny mode, and lays there kicking her feet and squirming for hours.  It was after midnight 2 nights ago before she finally went to sleep.  Spending three hours trying to get your kid to sleep does not make for a happy mama or baba.  If we leave the room, she screams, and believe me, she can scream longer than either of us can stand it.  Tonight went a little more smoothly; I gave her a bit of ibuprofen before bed because I’ve been wondering if all the kicking is related to some soreness in her legs.  She is growing now, and growth hormone levels are much higher at night; perhaps she’s experiencing some growing pains?  Anyway, it only took about an hour tonight.  I found her some Elmo slippers at Target this week, so she’s having a good time with those.  Looking at the pictures, you don’t suppose any of the difficulty falling asleep is directly related to Anna and Baba’s pre-bedtime trampoline activities, do you?

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Today was the annual fall art show in Littleton, so we made the rounds.  It was a beautiful day, sunny, about 80 degrees (much nicer than most of our summer!)  We didn’t find any “art” to buy, but Baba found a lovely pair of earrings for the Mama, and we got to spend some nice outdoor time.  Anna enjoyed the new pedestrian bridge across the Ammonoosic River.  Pooh has been accompanying Anna on most of her adventures this week, and today was no exception.  I had to hang on to him while she was climbing up to look over the bridge railing; he was getting entirely too adventuresome for his own good, and I was afraid he might make the plunge into the river!

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Travel dates confirmed

Friday, September 14th, 2007

We bought the airline tickets today , so I think things are pretty much set in stone.  Here’s the almost-finalized itinerary:

October 24 – Leave Manchester, fly to Beijing via Newark on Continental, arrive October 25

October 26-27 – Tour Beijing, hike the Great Wall, etc.

October 28 – Fly to Yinchuan, Ningxia

October 29 – Gotcha Day!

November 3 – Fly to Guangzhou

November 5 – Will’s medical exam for US visa

November 6 – Consulate appointment to have visa application approved

November 7 – The Oath-Taking Ceremony, where we swear that all the information we gave them about Will is correct

November 9 – Fly back to Beijing, then on to Newark and Manchester, arriving on November 9, only 40 minutes after we leave Beijing!  Ah, the wonders of the international date line!

We got our TA for Will! (Day 92)

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

It is with somewhat mixed emotions that I announce we received our Travel Approval for Will today.  I am thrilled that everything is finally approved, set in stone, and they can’t turn us down anymore.  I’m sad because I had been hoping against hope that it would come soon enough for us to be able to travel the last two weeks in September.  While that was technically possible (and other families that received their TAs today are trying to do just that), we searched our souls and decided that trying to coordinate a trip of this magnitude with a toddler and an auntie just wasn’t going to be possible for us in 7-8 days.  I know we were able to pull it together last fall, with 10 days notice for Anna, but it was only the two of us, and we were running on pure adrenaline and excitement to go get our first child. 

We are very excited to have Will join our family as well, and we are so ready to see him, work at winning his affections, and fall in love with him as we have done with Anna.  Reality has reared its ugly head, and forced us to delay our trip a bit.  At almost any other time of year, we could easily delay travel by just a week or two.  It is routine for families to travel 2-4 weeks after they receive their TAs.  But, October is unique.  There is a national holiday from the 1st through the 7th, and the entire government shuts down.  So, there can be no adoption business conducted either in the province or Guangzhou at that time.  Then, from October 15-30, there is a HUGE trade fair in GZ (3rd in size in the world, I understand).  There is no reason that families cannot travel at that time, and some families will choose to do so, but hotel rooms are difficult to find, and most rates are quadrupled from their normal values.  For instance, the White Swan, where we stayed last fall and hope to stay again, is normally about $100/night.  During the trade fair, it’s $400/night.  If we stayed 6 nights and require 2 rooms, that’s a difference of $3600 in our total adoption travel costs.  All so that we could pick Will up AT MOST 3 weeks earlier.  Since he’s 3-1/2 now, and will still be 3-1/2 when we go get him in 7 weeks, that three week difference won’t be that important in the long run.

Dear Will, someday in the future when you’re reading this early history of our life together, please understand that we want to come get you as soon as we can, and we are going to love you more than any other family ever could.  We would spend any amount of money to get you home with us – but that extra money that would have to be spent on travel will be so much more useful to you in your college fund than it will in the pockets of the owners of a fancy hotel in China.  We love you, and in less than 2 months, we’ll be with you, enjoying playing with you and surviving your tantrums as you realize your life is changing forever, and slowly teaching you the joy and comfort of living in a family with a mama and a baba and a mei-mei, and that you don’t have to share us with anyone!

Our mini-vacation to the ocean

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Now that we’ve been back for a week and a half, I thought perhaps it was time to post some photos from our little trip to the Maine coast 2 weekends ago. Somehow, even though it has been summer for about 3 months, we found that we had a grand total of 2 weekends during which Mama was not on call, and Baba didn’t have to teach Monday classes. We decided to take advantage of one of those weekends, and planned a little trip away. I wanted to go to Prince Edward Island, and visit the “Land of Anne”, but the foibles of Chinese adoption foiled me. We knew we were due to receive our Letter of Acceptance for Will, and there was a good chance it might arrive while we were away. If we left the US, it would have been difficult for FedEx to get that letter to us by overnight delivery, and since timing is so critical, we decided we had better not flee the country. We decided to visit a couple of places on the coast of Maine, carefully searching out the nearest FedEx offices, should we need to pick up and sign the above-mentioned letter. You can guess, of course, that all of my careful preparations ensured that our letter did not arrive until after our return. Naturally. We’ll just have to do PEI another time. Perhaps a little boy won’t be too terribly bored by Anne of Green Gables.

We left on a Thursday morning, and headed to Wells, Maine, which is only a few miles north of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and just south of Kennebunkport. It’s quite the tourist location with a very busy boardwalk area. So busy, in fact, that I saw not one, but two of my clients while we were there. We stayed at a very lovely apartment hotel called the Elmwood Resort. We had a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and a king-sized bed. One of my friends in the adoption community who lives in Maine suggested that we visit the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm. After a short walk, about half a mile down a gentle grade, we reached a stretch of beach in front of expensive vacation homes, with virtually no people. What a treat! Anna had a blast! She wanted to wade until her little feet turned to prunes, and then cried like a banshee when we had to go away. I believe we have a little water baby on our hands.

Our walk through the Reserve to the beach.  The mosquitos got very active part way down, so the banana had to wear her jacket for awhile.

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Adventures in wading

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After 2 days in Wells, we traveled up the coast to Bar Harbor.  We passed through Freeport, and had to stop to spend a short time at Mecca.  (That would be the L.L. Bean flagship store, for the uninitiated.)  Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert Island, just off the coast of Maine.  There are several fishing villages on the island – Bar Harbor is the largest and most touristy.  MDI is the home of Acadia National Park – the only national park in New England.  You could tell by the number of people there on a Sunday morning that most of the East Coast residents have no where else to go to observe nature.  We are so fortunate to live in a much more unspoiled area.  From my perspective, Acadia seemed a bit like the Disneyland of national parks.  It is a beautiful place, but we were unable to stop at many of the sites, because parking often extended for a mile or more away from the attraction.  Not really do-able with a 2 year old!

At the playground of our motel in Bar Harbor

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From the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia – the highest elevation on the Eastern seaboard until Rio de Janeiro

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The highlight of our visit to Acadia was the carriage ride around Day Mountain.  Acadia is riddled with hand-crafted carriage roads and stone bridges that are not accessible to motor vehicles, but are open to bicycles, hikers and horses.  Day Mountain is the location of the Rockefeller estate, and was the last portion of the park to be opened to the public.  We went on a 1 hour carriage ride around a loop of the mountain, and were treated to views of the Schoodic Peninsula and the Cranberry Isles.  Anna really enjoyed the horsies.

8-31-07-14.jpg Picnic lunch while waiting for our ride

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8-31-07-16.jpg Tom and Jerry, the Percherons who carried us around, and driver Brandon from Kentucky