Archive for November, 2007

Some Thanksgiving reflections

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

On November 9, 2006, Joe and I left the Manchester airport on the biggest adventure of our lives to date.  We were on our way to China to meet our daughter, Anna.  She was a beautiful, frightened, angry little girl, and it was a real challenge to learn to like her and for her to learn to like me, but after almost a year, we won each other over, and we are now inseparable. 

Exactly one year later, November 9, 2007, we arrived again on US soil in Newark, NJ, with our son, Will.  He’s a much different child, older, more outgoing, more cheerful.  He hides his fright and grief behind a cheerful, defensive facade, and we only see the sadness in him at night.  It will take time for him to integrate fully into our family, but he has made a fine start.

Anna and Will get along well at this point, and I have high hopes that they will be close siblings throughout their lives.  I know there will be fights and tears, anger and estrangements along the way, but as the children of older parents, it will be so wonderful for them to have each other in the future, when Joe and I are gone. 

Joe and I are so blessed to have been allowed to become a family of 4 within a year’s time, and to have 2 beautiful, healthy, smart, good-natured children.  We never could have expected to have achieved that all by ourselves.  We made choices early in our married life together to pursue careers rather than family, and had no right to be so lucky to have these two after we became middle-aged fogeys.  They are a gift to us, and we have to thank the good Lord, our friends and family, our social worker and our agency, and the People’s Republic of China for being so gracious as to allow us to bring two of their most precious children home with us so we could become a family.  I hope that someday they will be able to see how their children have thrived in our care, and how their unselfishness in sharing their children with us has enriched at least 2 continents.

Now, for some more entertaining reflections (I couldn’t be serious for more than a couple of paragraphs!)  I think, after 43 years, I am finally aquiring a bit of wisdom.  My early mentor here in the north country, Dr. Craig, was a philosopher savant of sorts, and I gleaned a number of helpful hints from him that I have put to use in my home life as well as my professional life.  I will always remember his comment when presented with a proposal from some non-local vets for performing a larger number of low-cost spays and neuters in a day by using corner-cutting techniques and inferior materials.  Craig was incredulous that someone could even think of doing something like that, for many reasons, but the first thing that burst from his mouth was, “Why in the world would I want to work harder to make less money?”  A very good question.  This version of “work smarter, not harder” has infiltrated my life in many ways, but I have to share one manifestation of that I have just discovered. 

For years, I have avoided many of the “pre-made” dishes available at the grocery store, reasoning that they were much more expensive than making things from scratch, and that they were cheating, in a way, since I am perfectly capable of making them without all that help.  These things are, of course, true, but I have finally realized that if I only intend to make one batch of cookies, and the leftover ingredients may well have to be discarded before I decide to bake again, the unit cost of a tub of pre-prepared cookie dough is much cheaper than purchasing all the ingredients. 

So, I got smart this week.  I bought a tub of Nestle Toll House cookie dough for roughly $5, and I made 60 fresh, hot, delicious cookies this morning.  I had no left-over ingredients, and for dirty dishes, I only created a teaspoon and 2 cookie sheets that must be washed.  Incredible!  Bakery cookies at the store are usually about $3 per dozen, so it’s still cheaper than that.   I also bought a SaraLee pumpkin pie for $2, and we baked that this morning.  I couldn’t even begin to buy all the ingredients needed for a pie for that kind of money.  I also discovered that our local grocery store has quite an assortment of side dishes from Boston Market.  All you have to do is put them in the microwave!  Last night we had creamed spinach, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, cream of broccoli soup and chicken tortilla soup, all hot and fresh.  Much cheaper than eating out, and very little work on our part.  I can’t imagine why I didn’t discover all of this sooner.  It would only be easier if someone would deliver the food directly to my house, and stick it in the microwave for me. 

We’re getting ready to see if Pizza Hut is open so we can order our Thanksgiving dinner.  I know, it’s not turkey, but I don’t like turkey anyway.  And the joy of being able to lounge around my house all day in my pajamas certainly beats cooking and entertaining all day.  We’ve still only been in our house 10 nights since we got home from China, and it’s a real treat to have a whole day to ourselves. 

I hope everyone reading this is having just as pleasant a Thanksgiving Day as we are!!!

My little cheeseballs

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Grandma Winter sent both kids vests from Macy’s to help keep them warm indoors in our frigid house.  They were both quite enchanted with them, and they had a good time modeling them.  After a year of training, I think Anna has finally mastered the “cheese” face, so that she only looks a little bit fake.  Will seems to have it down already.  I just have to keep his hands occupied during photos so he isn’t sticking them up in front of his face making the “peace” sign, or “V for victory”, or whatever it is all the kids seem to do in China.

11-22-07-14.jpg 11-22-07-15.jpg

Videos from the coast

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

The Maine coast

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Last weekend, we traveled to a rented house on the Maine coast as part of Kay and Raoul Casciari’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  It was the first opportunity for Aunt Renee and Uncle Jon, Aunt Eileen and cousin Colin to meet our young Will.   I was having serious second, third and fourth thoughts about going as we crawled through Franconia Notch in near blizzard-like conditions to get there, but it warmed up as we headed south, and by Saturday morning, the weather in York was just beautiful, as you can see from the photos.  Cold, but lovely.  The house was beautiful, with plenty of room for all of us in separate sections, so we didn’t keep each other awake.  Anna and I were in one room, and Joe and Will in the other, and both kids slept through the night for the first time since arriving home from China.  The house, and the views from the front porch, are shown below.

11-22-07-1.jpg 11-22-07-2.jpg 11-22-07-3.jpg 11-22-07-4.jpg 

11-22-07-5.jpg Cousin Colin in his jumpy chair

We were only a short walk from “Short Beach”, which had a lovely playground attached, so we spent an hour or so playing in the afternoon.  Most of Anna’s time was spent trying to keep her hat on (yes, Mama forgot to bring her hood, although I did have gloves for both kids.)  Somehow, winter caught me by surprise.  Winter has been so late in arriving here the last couple of years (not until January!) that coming home from the 80 degree weather in Guangzhou to find winter in full swing was a bit of a shock.  I was scrambling to find winter coats, and I haven’t located all the mittens and hats yet.  Trying to get out the door Friday night in a timely fashion after a full day of work was quite a challenge.  Thank heavens Natalie, our housesitter for the weekend, was already at the house, and was willing to put in an hour of baby sitting so Joe and I could do our last minute packing and load up the car.  Thanks, Natalie!  Let me know if you ever feel the need to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours with 2 rowdy children!

Pictures from the beach:

11-22-07-6.jpg 11-22-07-7.jpg 11-22-07-8.jpg 11-22-07-9.jpg 11-22-07-10.jpg 11-22-07-11.jpg 11-22-07-12.jpg 11-22-07-13.jpg

Grammy was able to walk down to the playground with us, and I think she had a really good time playing with her new grandchildren.  Will did very well most of the weekend; he’s very outgoing and quite the charmer.  He still does his best to win everyone over with his cuteness, as a prelude to misbehaving while grinning at us cheesily.  It doesn’t work with Mama and Baba, of course, but it does with everyone else, so he tends to gravitate to other people when he has the chance.  He’s done well this week, though, and is even approaching us for spontaneous hugs on occasion, so I think we’re making progress! 

Finally, some sleep

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

I have to apologize to my loyal reader(s) for my lack of posting since we’ve been home.  Everything is absolutely fine; we’re just tired.  Days have been OK, but nighttimes have been horrid.  The kids have been going to bed OK, but waking up at about 2 AM and not going back to sleep until 4 AM or after.   I typically do my blogging, etc., after I’ve gotten Anna to bed, but I wasn’t getting any sleep in before she was awake again, so I finally resorted to going to bed with her so I could at least get a few hours of sleep before we had to wake up for our nightly “bounce around the bed and giggle” session.  I was really getting enough sleep, but it was broken into 2 segments.  Finally, last night, I was on-call so I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM, but I was able to fall blissfully asleep and ignore the giggling toddler in my bed.  I slept until 10 AM.  What a treat!  I have to work tomorrow, so I’ll have to try to get to bed a bit earlier tonight, but I actually felt human for much of today.

I believe I deserve a medal of honor for today.  Joe had to teach most of the day, so it was really my first day home alone all day with the kids (Joe’s was yesterday.)  We had a nice day, and after lunch, I was even brave enough to pack both the kids in the car and venture out to the grocery store.  That went well enough that we headed over to Walmart to get Will some boots for our upcoming weekend on the Maine coast.  Naturally, since I was wearing baggy sweats and had greasy hair and looked like I’d been run over by a truck, I must have run into approximately 97% of my acquaintances in one or both stores.  Sigh.  At least it was 38 degrees and raining, so I had some excuse for my bedraggledness.  Other than just being a lazy slob.

Really, things are going better than I could have hoped.  Will is settling in, and aside from being sad and grieving some at night, he’s very cheerful.  We’re working on some behavior issues, and trying to get it across to him that grinning and mugging at us while misbehaving is not going to make us say, “oh, how cute” and let him get away with it.  He lost his chicken leg 3 times tonight for waving it around in the air instead of eating it (it was his second one; he was too hungry the first time to play games with it.)  He tends to do this with his fork, etc., and often drops things on the floor while he’s waving them around.  The first two times he was just not being careful, and when I took it away, I only kept it for a minute or so before getting him to agree to keep it close to his plate while eating.  The third time, he was almost done, and clearly teasing as he grinned at me while waving it around.  He lost it for good that time.  Don’t worry, I’m not starving the child; he had 2 chicken legs, corn, chocolate pudding, and orange, and cookies for dinner.  I think he’ll live.

We had quite the saga choosing some boots at Walmart.  I really just wanted rain boots for Will, but of course it’s too late in the season for that.  They only have those apre’ ski-type boots now.  I hope they’re relatively waterproof.  We studied them all, and finally chose some cute Thomas the Tank Engine boots for Will.  I wasn’t going to get Anna any because she has SEVERAL pairs of boots already, but she was getting a bit put out about it, so we picked out some Dora boots for her.  As we were leaving the boot aisle, Will spied a big display of … Spiderman boots!  I never saw a little boy’s eyes light up so fast!  I held out the Spiderman boots and the Thomas boots for him to choose, but it was no contest.  But don’t feel sorry for Thomas, because as soon as Will abandoned him, Anna wanted him instead.  She clearly chose Thomas over Dora, and I didn’t complain because the Thomas boots are blue, instead of the requisite “girl pink” that all of her other boots are.  Here are some shots of them modeling their boots at home:

11-15-07-6.jpg 11-15-07-5.jpg

Some other random shots from this first week at home:

11-15-07-3.jpg Ringing Nonno’s clock shortly after we landed in Manchester EARLY Saturday morning

11-15-07-4.jpg Opening their lovely books from “Charlie’s Mom”

11-15-07-1.jpg 11-15-07-2.jpg What could be better – sittin’ on your wheels watchin’ a football game! 

Home, at last

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

It was a long, hard, 32 hours straight of travel, door to door, but at least we’re finally here, all in one piece. 

I’ll try to post more tomorrow, but for now, just wanted to let everyone know we’re home. 

Leaving soon

Friday, November 9th, 2007

This will be my last post from China. I have some nice photos of the kids playing today, but it got too late with all our frantic packing to put a post together, so it will have to wait. We leave the hotel at 6:50 AM tomorrow, and arrive in Manchester about 29 hours later. Ugh. Lots of long layovers to get through.

We did some playing in the White Swan playroom, hunted for McDonalds only to learn that the close one just off the island was closed for renovations, ended up at Lucy’s yet again for lunch, got some last minute shopping in, bought an extra suitcase, ordered in Papa John’s pizza, and packed. And packed. And packed. Finally, we have 4 suitcases, all under the 44 pound in-China flight limit, so we shouldn’t have to pay any extra fees. Yahoo, yahoo yippee! (More Backyardigans!)

You probably won’t hear from us for a couple of days, so don’t panic. “Don’t panic!” as Anna says when baba is getting upset. “It’s alright!” She’s a sweet kid. Will is coming around. He did have a couple of time-outs in the playroom over possessiveness of toys that were most certainly not his, but he had an OK afternoon and evening. I’m just wearing out my shusher trying to keep him civilized in the hotel room. I’ll be so glad when we’re home and he can go outside and become the 4th dog if he wants to. Howl at the moon, little man!

See you soon!

Swearing an oath

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

After the zoo, we went over to Lucy’s for lunch, and then Anna and Auntie Nicki stayed in to watch movies while mama and baba and Will headed over to the US Consulate to swear the infamous oath and get his visa to enter the USA as a legal immigrant. I have no pictures because you’re not allowed to take in cameras. You might be tempted to post photos of what a ridiculous farcical formality this cattle call is if they let you bring in your camera. All we swear is that all the information we provided during the adoption process was correct to the best of our knowlege. Woo hoo! After the oath, we get the child’s immigration packet, sealed in a plastic sheath, which we are not allowed to open. It will be given to the immigration officer in our port city in the US. There is a cover sheet on the front with all the critical information which we are to check over.

Of course, Will’s new name is listed incorrectly there as “Winter, Casciari William Joseph.” How idiotic. I have no idea is this is just on the cover sheet they made up for our envelope, or if he is officially in the USCIS computer system that way, and his Certificate of Citizenship will be issued like that. I immediately approached Jason about it, and he swears it will be OK, but that I have to make sure the immigration officer in Newark knows it’s wrong. Apparently they can’t fix it here in GZ. ???!!!!???!??!**!*%%&&##?!?! They are the ones that messed it up, but they can’t fix it?!?!?! I sat on my butt on the floor in a poorly lit hotel room for over an hour painstakingly filling out 1000 forms CORRECTLY, and this is what they do with them? I will not be paying anyone to legally change my son’s name if they do this wrong. Fur will be flying at home.

So now, not only do I have to be responsible for getting my family with 2 toddlers, a cranky husband and 18,635 pieces of luggage weighing approximately 3 tons all the way through the Beijing airport, claiming our luggage, rechecking it, rechecking ourselves in, waiting 5 hours in Beijing, then flying for another 13 hours, but I have to maintain enough alertness after a solid 24 hours of travel to remember to badger an immigration officer into making necessary changes in my child’s paperwork. Good thing they don’t let you carry shotguns on planes. It probably won’t faze the immigration people. They probably have to deal with hundreds of irate mama bears with no sleep every single day. Grrrrrrr.

To finish the day, we got back to the hotel. Anna met us at the door crying. Nicki swears she just started 2 minutes before we got back, but we really think she was torturing Anna for the entire time we were gone. Just wait until that child can talk! Anna fell asleep almost immediately in my lap, and she’s still asleep now 6 hours later. Baba had gotten motion sick on the ride to and from the consulate, so he wasn’t interested in dinner. Nicki and Will and I headed back over to Lucy’s to eat with the Krys and the Berters, since Teresa and her family are flying out early tomorrow. Will did really well overall, but he did have to spend a few minutes in time out on a bench outside the eating area (I was with him) because he kept clamboring that the spoon and fork were his after I took them away from him (the big silverware from the restaurant) because he was preparing to use them as drumsticks on the glass-topped table. He says something like “wa ca” or “wa ta” which means “mine”. I don’t like that possessive behavior, because frankly, it’s all MINE! He just wouldn’t quit yammering about it, even after I shushed him several times, so we had a little time out. We just went off to the side and sat for 2 minutes, then I explained to him that he was not to say that anymore this evening. He didn’t. Good boy! He ate quite well, and didn’t even melt down when he dropped one of his corn cobs on the ground and I had to throw it away.

I think we’ll be OK once we get home. Tomorrow is just a shopping and packing day for us, thank heavens. No more field trips. I leave you tonight with a photo of my son’s attempt to put his own shoes on. He normally does much better than this, but he must have been in a hurry.


Wrong feet, tongue pushed up, what more could a boy want?

Teacher let the monkeys out

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Today, we went to the Guangzhou Zoo.  It’s not the San Diego Zoo by any means, but the animals appear to be well-cared for, and it was something the kids really enjoyed.  Anna has never been to a zoo, and I doubt Will has, either.  OK, I have to confess, I like zoos, too. 

I have to back up for a minute.  Will did not start the day out well.  He woke up, refused to give me a hug, and lost his favorite truck.  He continued to refuse to give me hugs as we were getting ready for breakfast (you don’t refuse the mama hugs around here! Ask the baba!) and lost more and more toy privileges.  He wasn’t just refusing to give me a hug, he was sticking an arm out behind him and squalling.   This, after I had snuggled him to sleep last night.  Hmph.  So, we were annoyed with each other, and we didn’t have a good breakfast, either.  He did manage to produce an acceptable hug after breakfast, and earned his beloved truck back.  Yes, I know I’m a mean mama.  Requiring a hug from my child.  How terrible.

We got out to the bus, and traveled to the zoo.  Kathy herded us around all morning.  We had about 2 hours to spend there, and we booked around, looking at all the animals.  We saw monkeys, tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, a panda, other bears, and various other large cats.

11-7-07-1.jpg The chimpanzee house – we didn’t actually see any chimps

11-07-07-2.jpg 11-07-07-3.jpg Some other monkeys

11-07-07-4.jpg Yet another monkey, looking at a bear

11-07-07-5.jpg Anna and Baba shortly after they had fed the bear their zoo map

11-07-07-6.jpg Yet more monkeys – the place was crawling with them!

11-07-07-7.jpg Is that the hippo or the mama?

11-07-07-8.jpg Oh, wait, maybe that’s the mama!

11-07-07-9.jpg There’s the mama, and she belongs in the zoo!  She matches!

There was a cute kangaroo statue with a pocket that a kid could stand in and pretend to be the joey.  Isabella would have none of that! 11-07-07-10.jpg

Of course, my little ham bone had no problem with it!

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11-07-07-15.jpg The lone panda seemed a little sad

11-07-07-16.jpg Anna was worried about him

11-07-07-17.jpg But she got over it when we got to Monkey Hill!

For the amazingly low price of only 10 yuan per adult, you could go in with the monkeys and feed them.  Joe and Nicki beat me to it, so I had to stay up top and take pictures of the festivities.  Nicki tried to get them to keep Will, but the handler told her that would cost WAY more than a lousy 10 yuan.

11-07-07-18.jpg Recovering from the monkey adventure with Kevin and Carson, and Trish and Isabella

11-07-07-19.jpg 11-07-07-20.jpg There was a beautiful tiger, and we were very careful not to upset him by “striding over”

This was the cutest thing at the zoo.  There were several groups of preschool aged children visiting, and they were all lined up so neatly, and all holding on to each other’s shirts, and there was no pushing or shoving or yelling.  I can’t imagine a group of American kids of any age behaving that well.

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11-07-07-23.jpg I included this picture, not because I thought the water rats were cute, but to remind me that this is the precise point at which Will announced he needed to niao niao, pulled down his pants right next to me, and thought he was going to pee.  I know they let little ones do that here in China, but we DO NOT do that in Vermont or New Hampshire, and we’re going to get out of that habit ASAP.  I scolded, yanked his pants back up (which started the squalling again, of course) and called over the baba.  He helped find a more secluded spot for Will to relieve himself. 

11-07-07-24.jpg And yet, immediately after this incident, here’s the baba allowing both his children to stomp and splash around in a small puddle on the pavement.  It didn’t rain last night or this morning.  Hmmm….

The Consulate Appointment

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

I quit. This is my third try at posting this today, and I’m too irritated to do it again. Our consulate appointment was today, and everything went fine. We swear an oath that we didn’t lie on our son’s visa application tomorrow.

We went to the pearl market today, and got some excellent DVDs as well. Nothing photo-worthy happened, but tomorrow we go to the zoo, so I’m hoping that will yield something more interesting.

Sorry for the brevity, but I’ve written the same post twice, and due to 2 different computer vagaries, I’ve lost both of them. I have lost patience with it. I can only be funny so many times!

Oh, and I suppose I should mention that we’re all doing well. Will continues to pick up bits of English, and he and Anna got along well, I thought. They play some when they’re not arguing over whose bit of paper this is, or whose book that is.