Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Some disappointing news

After a weekend of packing and preparations, I received an e-mail Monday from our agency's China director about the status of our travel approval. Unfortunately, it was not good news. She said our agency's staff person in China had checked on our paperwork and reported to her that it could be another two weeks before it is mailed to us. Based on that new timeline, she told us she estimated we would not travel until after Thanksgiving -- possibly not until early December.

This was disheartening news, and not just because I wanted Peking Duck for Thanksgiving! Every day we are delayed means Rachel is a day older and has spent another day without her family.

We can't do anything about it at this point, though -- we just have to wait. Fortunately, that's a skill we've had plenty of opportunities to develop over the last two years. And we know that once we DO receive travel approval, things will move quickly.

I hope we're ready!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Let the packing begin!

You can probably imagine the preparation involved in taking a plane trip with a 10-month-old. Add to that a two-week stay with her in a country you've never visited -- what should you take?

OK, now pretend it's a baby you've never met . . . I think you have a good idea why I started my packing in earnest this weekend.

What kind of bottle is she accustomed to? Will I be able to buy enough formula there to ease her transition, or should I just go ahead and take enough American formula to see us through? What size clothes does she wear? How many outfits do I need to take for her? Should I put this bag of medications for her in my carry-on luggage (as I had planned) and just declare it all and let the screeners paw through it at O'Hare, or is it safe in my unlocked suitcase in the belly of the plane? Does she like dolls? Balls? Books? Music?

Fortunately, our agency has prepared us well, giving us lists of things we need, that we don't need and that we can buy in China, and answering hours worth of questions from nervous parents-to-be. I have read dozens of China adoption trip stories, and I have saved pages worth of suggested travel lists. Some folks not only post their packing list but then go back after the trip and say whether each item was useful (really! And you thought I was a list fiend!) Folks from our July DTC yahoo! group who have just returned are answering questions or offering tips. I have kept up-to-date on the new carry-on restrictions. So my packing list has been in the works for months.

Over those months, as I bought things we'd need for our trip, I have tossed them in a big box in Rachel's closet. Saturday I dumped it all out on the floor of her room and began taking stock.
Some things I just put away because I've decided we don't need them (the little barrettes are cute, but they'll have to wait until we get home -- and she actually has hair). Other things I pulled out of their packages and decided how much I should take and put that in Ziplock bags (you can squeeze the air out of them and pack things flatter, plus you don't have all the extra packaging). I put things in piles and started to see what would fit in suitcases. When we travel in-China, we can each check only one bag weighing 44 pounds or less, so I'll need to pack, weigh, remove items, redistribute, weigh . . . .

I looked at the baby clothes, baby supplies, gifts for Chinese officials, medical kits . . . I think it's going to work! It should fit with room to spare.

Then I remembered that Lance and I are traveling, too. Yikes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Rachel's latest stats

We have some updated information on Ting Ting.

More recent measurements show her weighing 17.6 pounds at approximately 9 months -- that's a pound LESS than she weighed at 6 months. That doesn't alarm me, though; in fact, I kind of expected it. The babies are weighed with their clothes on and not under the best conditions; in all my reading, I have never seen anyone say that they got to China and found the baby was bigger than they expected.

Rachel Shu-Ting has grown a couple of inches, to about 27 inches long. Her new measurements all put her between the 50th and 75th percentile on the Asian growth charts. Her 6-month measurements showed her at the top of the charts for weight and the bottom for height, which is another reason I felt the weight was inaccurate. I would have expected her to look a lot chunkier in this photo if that were the case. The new numbers appear to confirm my estimate that she'll be wearing size 9-months clothing when we pick her up.

Of course, maybe it's THIS measurement that's off -- if so, we might have a BIG surprise when we get to China!

Lance and I spent last evening at our adoption agency for a travel meeting. We still don't have our travel dates, but we should know them soon. We got a lot of good information to prepare us for the trip, and we're all getting very excited! I'll post information as soon as I can.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The cookie said so

This was in my fortune cookie Tuesday.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Got wisdom?

I've been preparing for this adoption for a long time. I've learned some Mandarin, studied Chinese culture, armed myself to face attachment issues. I've typed my packing lists and devoured other people's trip blogs. I can tell you what the weather is right now in Yueyang.

There's just one problem: I don't know nothin' 'bout raising no babies.

For example -- the burping thing. I know you do that with little bitty babies after you feed them, but at what point do they not need it anymore? I won't have to do that, right? And how am I going to get her to lie still so I can put those adorable red-shoed tights on her? And at what age does she start getting teeth?

I have bought a couple of baby books that I hope will get me through the rough patches, but I need your help with those little things that folks just instinctively know, or things you have discovered through trial and error.

For example, when we were enjoying my baby shower cake at work the other day, I asked each person to share a favorite parenting tip. Here's some of what they came up with:

-- It doesn't matter how recently you fed her, if she wants to eat, feed her again.

-- Desitin. Plenty of Desitin.

-- Get yourself a big stack of onesies unless you want to do laundry every day (or was that every hour?)

-- Never give a toddler salmon

-- She'll be 10 months old? Take everything off the coffee table.

Now it's your turn! What advice do you have for a 46-year-old woman who's about to become a mother for the first time? Help me out by posting a comment.

Meanwhile, I'm off to research the stock prices of whatever company makes Desitin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Get ready to ooh and aah!

The wonderful folks at work gave me a semi - surprise shower Friday. I say "semi" surprise because they did clue me in just a few days in advance. They were buying me lunch as part of the event, so they decided they needed to be sure I was going to be available that day (oh, yes, I certainly was!)

At lunch they gave me some lovely gifts for Rachel. Look at this beautiful Christmas dress complete with hat and tights. The red shoes with bows are actually part of the tights, so we don't even have to strap on shoes to have her dressed head to toe in seasonal finery!

I can't wait to get her first Christmas photos taken in this adorable outfit. It won't matter if she doesn't have any hair if she's wearing that sweet hat, will it?

For more casual gatherings, Miss Rachel Shu-Ting will be a vision of loveliness in this sweet top with embroidered snowflakes.
She also received two nice books. -- a collection of readings for 1-year-olds, and her very own copy of "Goodnight, Moon." Each person had written a little note to Rachel in the front of "Goodnight, Moon," which will make it that much more special for me in the years to come as we read it over . . . and over . . . and over.

And I can't wait to see her in these bright red corduroy pants. According to the label, they are "boot cut." Don't you love the litle hearts along the bottom and on the back pockets? The details don't show up as well as I'd like in the photos, but trust me, she will be stylin' in these cords.

And at the end of the day, when she's ready to go to sleep, little Ting Ting will still be able to make a statement with these lovely jammies.

I'm blessed to work with such a wonderful group of people. The uncertainty of the past year has been tough on me, and that made the situation difficult for them as well. But they were as excited as anyone when I got that call. They even conspired to get me out of my office that afternoon for just a few minutes so they could string up, "It's a girl" banners, tie pink balloons to my chair and hang up some festive garlands.

I can't wait to bring Rachel by to meet them one day soon -- you know she'll be well-dressed for the occasion!

Monday, October 16, 2006

More progress

We received an exciting bit of news from our agency today. The e-mail message began like this:

"Congratulations are in order for the newest set of parents of some of the most beautiful little girls! It was with great pleasure that we sent the acceptances of your referrals to the China Center of Adoption Affairs on Friday, October 13, 2006. We hope to receive the travel approvals in 2-3 weeks, after which time we can request the United States Consulate appointment and appointments with the local provincial officials in China."

This is a key step in the process: We have to have our travel approval before we can request that important consulate appointment, and the timing of our consulate appointment determines the timing of our trip. So once we get our travel approval, things should move very quickly.

That brings me to my second bit of good news: Travel approvals began arriving today for people who received referrals the same week we did. Those folks sent off their acceptances almost immediately and waited about 2 1/2 weeks for TA. That's pretty quick, but it's even more remarkable when you realize that the CCAA was closed one of those weeks for a national holiday.

So our paperwork is in the mail; this step of the process has begun. And while we've become experienced at waiting, we're hoping we won't need to call on that experience this time. Keep good thoughts for us that we'll have news very soon!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Let me check the calendar again

While I was out for my morning run on Thursday, I began to see white things floating in the air around me. No, it wasn't the aftereffects of my eye injury, it was snow.

On October 12.

The flurries flew like crazy for about 20 minutes after I got back, sticking to our deck and a few bushes, but all the snow had melted by the time I left for work. The white stuff accumulated in other parts of the city, though, making it the Chicago area's earliest measurable snowfall.

I don't suppose Ting Ting has ever seen snow, because the winters in Hunan are quite mild. Sure enough, I checked the Yueyang weather report (look on the right side of the page, near the bottom) and found Thursday was another 70-degree day in her part of the world.

I wondered how she would deal with our infamous winters.

But then I realized that in just a few weeks, our little girl will be taken away from the people who raised her and everything that looks, sounds, tastes and smells familiar. She'll have to learn to trust us, then to love us -- and to let us love her. It'll require an amazing amount of courage and strength from such a tiny baby.

After she deals with that -- and the long flight home -- I suspect it'll take more than a few snowflakes to faze her.

P.S. Happy first birthday to Olivia, another spicy Hunan girl. Her mommy and daddy will be holding her in just a few days! Safe travels to Michelle and Eric.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Princess Ting Ting

Thanks to the commenter who let me know that Disney's Mulan 2 movie features a princess named Ting Ting! I saw the first Mulan movie years ago and loved it, but I haven't seen the sequel. Actress Sandra Oh is the voice of Ting Ting. I'm looking forward to getting a copy for our own little princess.

Yesterday, our agency's update featured news of our group's referrals and also a little info about Yueyang. We have 11 families in our group.

Lance and I have officially accepted our referral of Rachel Shu-Ting. The agency should be returning those acceptances to the CCAA by the end of the week. Our next step is to await travel approval; that should take about a month. But once we receive that, things move very quickly for our trip.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yes, sir, that's my baby

Here's your opportunity to directly compare Rachel's "finding ad" photo (left) with her referral photo. She was just a few weeks old in the first photo, and she was bundled for the cooler weather, but you can recognize the infant's features in the six-month-old Rachel (right). She is 8 1/2 months old now, and when we bring her home she'll be 10 or 11 months old. I wonder what changes we'll see in her appearance then?

I'm sure Rachel's first days with us will be well-documented -- her daddy's new video camera arrived Friday! -- but the three referral photos and the finding ad photo are likely to be all we'll see of her first few months. We hope her foster family has taken some photos they'll share, but that's very unlikely. Because she wasn't in the orphanage at all, there were no opportunities for visitors to take a shot of her, as sometimes happens. She doesn't even have the opportunity to blog about her daily life. So we'll always wonder about those early days.

From what we know, though, she's happy and healthy and well cared for right now. We feel very fortunate that she is young enough that we can celebrate her first birthday with her here at home -- that's a rare blessing. Overall, we feel humbled and honored that we were chosen to receive this very special gift.

Friday night Lance and I talked with the pediatrician who reviewed Rachel's file for us. He said he saw nothing that concerned him in the medical report, and that she appeared to be on track physically as well as developmentally. Of course, we understand that he has to base that assessment on somewhat sketchy information.

"This is really a leap of faith," he told us. But it's a leap he has taken four times himself.

Now look at this picture of us viewing Rachel's referral photos for the first time in our meeting Friday morning. Do you see any worries or doubts on our faces?

Of course not. We've had our share of worries in the last two years, of course, and we'll face plenty more in the future. But, right this minute, we're getting ready to leap.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pic of the week!

Guess who is the subject of the "Pic of the Week" on the July Dragonflies home page? We're so proud!

While you're there, be sure to click on the "referrals" link to see all the other beautiful babies.

And for more sweet faces, you can check out some of our travel mates' blogs:
* Chuck and Lynette (baby Dani)
* Jacquie and Mickey

Friday, October 06, 2006

Here she is!

Meet Ba Shu Ting, soon to be known as Rachel Shu-Ting (or "Ting Ting").

These photos were taken in July, when Rachel was about six months old. At that time she weighed 18.7 pounds and was 24.82 inches long.

Ting Ting has been in foster care since she was one day old. The referral report describes her as healthy, and it's no wonder -- we are told she eats six times a day. Mostly she drinks milk "with glucose, bone-strengthening powder and cod-liver oil as supplements," but she also sometimes eats steamed egg or fruit paste. At six months, she's described
as "very lovely and active."

The report says, "she is a sensible child, not crying frequently unless she is hungry or has a wet diaper." That does seem sensible, doesn't it? It says she "loves to play with kids older than herself" (whew!). "When seeing little kids dancing she will also learn to do so," it says, so Brandon is getting ready to teach her some of his moves. When she is happy "she will clap her hands and kick her feet." It says she is trying to stand. "She loves to move around in the walking-assisting-cart," we learned.

And she's already taking after her Daddy: "With toys in her hand, she will try to observe them carefully as though doing some research." (Watch out, Uncle Jerry! She's going to be in your garage looking for help with some broken-down piece of electronics held together with Band-aids).

This is their translation of her name: "Ba is the first character of the ancient name (Ba Ling) of her birth place -- Yueyang County. Shu Ting means to hope that she will have a comfortable environment and a beautiful mind when she grows up."

We won't know our exact travel dates for a few weeks, but we're hoping to spend Thanksgiving in China. Just think how thankful we'll be to pinch those chubby cheecks!

Meanwhile, I'll be at Costco stocking up on bone-strenghening powder and fruit paste.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

At last!

We have an appointment at Sunny Ridge this Friday to get Rachel's translated file and her official referral photos! I'm hoping to be able to post the pictures by mid-afternoon. Let's make some guesses on what she looks like: Hair or no hair? Teeny tiny or butterball? Will her referral outfit match her shoes? Will she be smiling in any of the photos, or will they look like they've been shot at the local police station? I can't wait to see!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's in a name?

We've known for some time that we were going to call our daughter Rachel, but we have been stumped on a middle name. My last name is different from Lance's, so one of the leading contenders was "Rachel (my surname) (Lance's surname)."

But I was hoping to find a way to preserve her Chinese name, if possible -- after all, that's about the only thing she'll bring with her when she joins our family. We were waiting to see what her name was before making a final decision.

Meanwhile, I guess I'm a little superstitious, so I generally referred to her as "The Baby" rather than "Rachel" at first. But more than a year ago, Lance started referring to our future daughter as "Zing Zing." I tried to stop it because it sounded to me like we were making fun of Chinese names. I also was afraid that if "Zing" actually was a Chinese word, it might mean something awful! But Lance persisted, and I couldn't find any words like that in my Mandarin dictionaries, so before too long it became our shorthand. After all, "Zing Zing" had much more personality than "The Baby."

Last week, we were referred a beautiful baby girl named Ba Shu Ting. Ba is the surname given to all the children at Yueyang County Social Welfare Institute. Shu is her "generational" name, and Ting is her individual name. In a traditional Chinese family, all the daughters would have the same generational name -- in this case, it appears that the orphanage used Shu as the generational name for all children who arrived there in 2006. It also is customary in China to double up on the individual name to get a child's nickname, so our daughter likely is already called "Ting Ting."

When Lance and I first looked at the name "Shu Ting," we pronounced it as many of you probably did: "Shoe Ting." We didn't really like the sound, and we almost talked ourselves out of using it, figuring the name had been assigned to her by an orphanage worker and so perhaps didn't have any special meeting. We decided we could use Ting Ting as a nickname even if it wasn't part of her formal name.

But we took the characters to some Mandarin speakers, and guess what? This character for "Shu," meaning "easygoing," is actually pronounced "Sue." The character for Ting means "tall and slender," and it signifies her later transition to womanhood. When Lance and I were talking about it, he reminded me how he asked a different Chinese friend months ago whether there was a Chinese name that sounded like "Zing Zing" -- only Lance spelled it "Tsing Tsing." The friend told him that the closest name to that in Chinese would be -- you guessed it -- Ting Ting. His friend's sister is named Ting Ting, and he said it is a beautiful name for a little girl because it signifies growing into a graceful woman. When a different coworker told Lance the meaning of "Ting" last week, he remembered what his other friend had told him months ago -- likely before our baby was even born.

I'm telling you all this so you will recognize the significance: We were referred a baby girl named "Shu," which sounds like it could be short for "Susan," and "Ting," which we were told months ago is the closest thing to what her daddy already called her.

And so, after much thought and research and marveling at the coincidences, we've decided to name our daughter Rachel Shu-Ting (with Lance's surname). We hope it makes her proud some day -- assuming she doesn't automatically despise it when she turns 12.


I apologize for not updating the last few days; I know you're all eager for news. However, I injured my eye over the weekend and couldn't spend much time at a computer screen until today. The good news is that the eye appears to be healing just fine, and I shouldn't have any long-term effects from the injury. And, no, I really don't want to explain again how it happened!


We're still waiting for an appointment to get Rachel's translated files and more recent photos. Meanwhile, I put Rachel's "finding ad" photo on this entry again because of its sheer beauty.

I'm also attaching a photo of a lovely gift we received from my friend Michelle in Washington in celebration of our referral. It's a T-shirt with a beautiful pro-adoption message in rhinestones.

I call it Ting Ting's Bling.