Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ni hao!

Greetings from Beijing! We arrived safely late this afternoon and, after crawling through rush-hour traffic, checked in to our hotel. We're off to bed early tonight because we're leaving at 8 a.m. sharp tomorrow for the Great Wall!

Here is our travel group (minus two couples) Wednesday morning:

(kneeling in front, l to r: Chad, Frances, Lynette, Chuck. Standing, l to r: Alex, Anne, Mickey, Jacquie, Jennifer, Tamara, Erik, Barbara, Bob, Regina, Jeff, Judy, Lance, Susan)

That photo was taken BEFORE the 13 1/2-hour flight (which, incidentally, was delayed on the ground 90 minutes, although we arrived less than half an hour later than originally scheduled). We touched down in Beijing late afternoon Thursday. Would you like me to tell you how Thursday turns out?

Here's the same group on the bus from the airport:

We still look pretty good, don't you think?

Here's techno-geek Lance on the plane:

In this photo he's watching a movie stored on his iPod on the bigger-screen DVD player. And they're both hooked up to special batteries. And he has his noise-canceling headphones ready.

And here's the photo of our plane, which Lance insisted I include (and since he downloaded the photos for me, I didn't have much choice):

Well, that's enough practice for today. The technology appears to be working, so we're all set for Rachel day -- stay tuned.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Day after tomorrow!

We're past the point of counting down the days now, we're leaving the day after tomorrow!

My apologies to people who tried to post comments last night and couldn't; I think it's fixed now.

I have to go pack -- did I mention we're leaving the day after tomorrow?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Enough about us, already

Lance and I have been waiting a long time to travel to China to meet our daughter. We have to remember, though, that little Ba Shu Ting hasn't been waiting for us at all.

This 10-month-old girl spends her days playing in her walking assisting cart, eating steamed eggs and fruit paste, and examining her toys intently. She claps her hands and kicks her feet when she's happy and likes to imitate the older kids. She has no way of knowing that in just a week all of that -- and the only family she has ever known -- will be gone. She'll be handed to two funny-looking people who speak gibberish and flash lights in her face and feed her awful food and dress her in unfamiliar clothes. They'll have some toys for her, but they aren't the toys she is used to, and although these strangers will be nice to her and try to comfort her, she'll just want her mama -- and her mama is not that woman who's squeezing her so tightly.

As one of our social workers once said, the best day of our lives could be the worst day of hers.

When she's placed in our arms, little Ting Ting might scream in terror. She might arch her back or push us away in a fury. Or she might do just the opposite and sit placidly, not making eye contact, and maybe sleeping for hours at a time to just tune us out. She might refuse to eat. She could prefer one of us over the other and get agitated when that parent leaves her sight for any reason. Or she might seem to be a really happy baby the first few weeks only to experience night terrors after we get home.

Any of those reactions would be normal. And, as strange as this might sound, we'd welcome any of them, because they are signs that she had "attached" to her foster family and is grieving their loss. That also means that she should be able to form an attachment with us, too, in time.

Attachment is essential. A baby who doesn't form proper attachments will grow up feeling the world is not a safe place and will not learn to trust people. She might have difficulty learning because certain parts of her brain are underdeveloped. Her social and emotional development will be impaired. She won't be able to form lasting relationships as an adult.

(You can read more about attachment at these sites: and

I'm sharing this information now so you will understand why we'll be doing some things that might seem to you to be overprotective when we first get home. Rachel will probably be taking a bottle for months longer than you think she should. We will avoid crowds and keep her home with just us for awhile. If she cries at night, one of us will immediately be at her side. We will limit visitors, and we might not let anyone else even hold her for a month or two after we get home.

I can see you all rolling your eyes right now. Some of you are even saying, "Oh, please -- you'd think nobody ever had a baby before!"

But the fact is that Rachel Shu-Ting might need for us to treat her more like an infant at first so she can regress a bit and build a healthy attachment. We're fortunate that she's so young and that she spent her first months in a foster home rather than in an institution; both those factors will help the process. But at first, Lance or I will be providing all of her day-to-day care: feeding, bathing, diapering, comforting.

We'll take our cues from Ting Ting, and you'll need to trust us to know when she's ready to face the world at large. In the meantime, please feel welcome to visit us, but only in small groups. You can play with her while one of us holds her or sits behind her. You can tickle her and talk silly to her and hand her toys. You could run an errand or two for us if you want to help.

But you're not changing a single diaper, no matter how much you beg.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Five days away!

We leave in just a few days . . . let me see, how many is it? Oh, yes! Five! In exactly five days at this time we'll be on our way to O'Hare.

Today is my last day to work before taking my 16-week leave. I've never taken more than a couple weeks off at a time in my entire working life, so it's exciting as well as terrifying! Fortunately, I have wonderful support from all the folks there and don't have to worry about anything . . . except motherhood!

Lance is off today for the holiday, but he is working one more day as well. He goes in Monday to tie up some loose ends.

Tomorrow we'll get the kids' help putting up our tree and other Christmas decorations so that it'll all be ready when we get home with Ting Ting.

Monday and Tuesday I'll be running a few errands and putting everything in suitcases. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving (6 more days)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! We have much to be thankful for this year, but today I want to send a special shout-out to my friend Nancy and all my coworkers in Oak Brook. I am working tomorow, but most of my coworkers are not, so we had a congratulations and goodbye cake yesterday afternoon.

This is not a group to miss an opportunity for cake, of course, but they have been extra nice to me the last couple of months, decorating my office and throwing a lunchtime baby shower. Nancy made a strawberry cake so it would be pink. It was also delicious.

That's Nancy with me in the photo.

Six more days until we leave -- I am just a little excited.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One more week

A week from today we leave for China! Yesterday we got our complete itinerary for the two weeks we'll be there:

NOV. 29: Depart O'Hare for Beijing midday.

NOV. 30: Arrive in Beijing late in the afternoon.

DEC. 1-2:
Tour Beijing and visit sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. Try to adjust to a 14-hour time difference.

DEC. 3:
Fly to Changsha, capitol of Hunan.

DEC. 4: RACHEL DAY. Our daughter is placed in our arms for the first time and we begin adoption paperwork.

DEC. 5:
No activities planned -- a day to get to know Ting Ting.

DEC. 6-8:
We take tours, go sightseeing, do some shopping in Changsha. We hope to take a ride up to Yueyang, where Rachel spent the first 10 1/2 months of her life. On the 8th, we will get Rachel's passport and other paperwork.

DEC. 9:
Fly to Guangzhou -- Ting Ting's first airplane ride.

DEC. 10:
Free morning, consulate paperwork meeting in the afternoon.

DEC. 11-13:
Mostly shopping, touring, but also some necessary steps such as Rachel's medical exam on Monday, our consulate appointment on Tuesday, picking up her visa and getting her sworn in at the American consulate.

DEC. 14:
Begin the long trip home by flying to Hong Kong, then direct from there to Chicago.

As you can see by the clock on this page, China is 14 hours ahead of Chicago. That means that when you wake up in the morning, we're trying to get that little baby to sleep!

My plan is to update the blog at night so you can see new photos and reports each morning. I know from my year or more of devouring adoption blogs, though, that it's not always easy to adhere to that plan. We will be fighting jet lag, adjusting to parenthood (first time for me!), trying to get to know a little girl who likely will be upset and frightened, and relying on what could be spotty internet service or other technical glitches. I also know from months of reading, though, how frustrating it is to have no updates when you're following along at home. So I will assure you that I will do my best to post photos of that baby every day -- I don't flatter myself by thinking that you care one whit about what Lance and I are doing :-)

You can encourage us and bolster our spirits by posting comments to the daily posts or e-mailing one of us privately. Think of how wonderful it will be for us to feel your support. And years from now, we can share those comments with our daughter to show her how much she was loved and wanted before we even knew who she was.

We're so grateful for the interest you've all shown in our journey so far. Now we're getting close to meeting our daughter, and we need your good thoughts and prayers even more. Please remember Rachel in your prayers -- she will not understand why she is being taken from the only family she has ever known and handed to these weird-looking people who talk funny and don't know how she likes her cereal. And please remember the foster family who has cared for her for the last 10 months as they send her on her way. They will have to say goodbye to this precious little one so she can become part of our family.

They have given us a very special gift. And it is with that knowledge that we will celebrate a very special Thanksgiving this year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shower photos

I wanted to share some photos Lance took at Rachel's shower on Nov. 12 (yes, I DO think we'll download photos more quickly in China -- I know you all won't stand for waiting 9 days to see the little one!)

You can see we all had a great time. And the photos are really nice, so you WILL get good photos of Rachel while we're in China.

Here I am with my sister-in-law, Chris, who served as stenographer as I opened gifts.

My stepdaughter, Lauren, served as videographer (she's holding Lance's long-awaited and much-prized new video camera).

My mother came to town for the weekend. Here she is with Aunt Viv.

Rachel received some adorable outfits.

The beautiful cake.

Our friend Debbie, who threw the shower for us, really put her heart into the entire afternoon. It was a beautiful event from start to finish.

And here are my sisters- in-law, Chris and Gloria. No, Cyrus didn't attend the shower -- Lance was practicing his photoshop skills!

We leave for China in EIGHT DAYS!!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Our life by the numbers

12: Number of days until we leave for China.

44: Pounds allowed per suitcase for in-China flights (and we're limited to one suitcase each).

5 1/2:
Number of hours' sleep I got last night (it was a good night for me!)

Number of squares collected for our One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt so far.

16 (or 17):
Number of days until we hold Rachel Shu-Ting for the first time.

Number of days still to work before we leave.

Number of staff evaluations I have to complete before I can go.

Number of weeks I'm taking off work as family leave.

Number of quilt squares shy of 100 we are (If you haven't contributed, please do! If you
need help, e-mail me).

13 1/2:
Hours it'll take us to fly to Beijing.

Number of electronic devices Lance is taking on the plane for entertainment or comfort (that's not counting the camera and camcorder).

Number of days before Cyrus goes to Aunt Gloria's house.

Number of days before Gloria gives him back.

Number of days until Rachel's 10-month birthday (Happy birthday, Ting Ting!).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book 'em, Lance-O

I know that's a terrible headline, but I'm feeling a bit punchy. We have booked our flights! We are leaving around lunchtime on Nov. 29 and arrive in Beijing in the late afternoon of the next day.

Our return flight arrives at O'Hare 8 minutes after we leave Hong Kong.

That jet lag is really going to mess with our heads! Of course, our heads will be swimming anyway. And just imagine what a whirlwind it's going to be for an almost-11-month-old girl on the other side of the world.


We got word this morning that our consulate appointment is set, and we are leaving for China on Nov. 29! That's the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, just two weeks from tomorrow (oh my gosh, two weeks from tomorrow!!!). We'll get info this afternoon on the exact flights and times, and we will book our travel (oh my gosh, we are making plane reservations!!!!!!).

I'll try to update tonight or in the morning with more information. In the meantime, I have to get to work -- all of a sudden I have a lot to do!

Ting Ting will be home with her family in time for Christmas -- what a glorious holiday it will be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Showered with blessings

Thanks to our friend Debbie, members of Lance's family and members of their church for throwing us a wonderful baby shower on Sunday afternoon! They gave Rachel too many wonderful gifts to list here, but more importantly they all shared in our excitement and joy. I think they're almost as excited as we are, if that is possible! My mother was here for the weekend, so she got to be there with us, and she just loved it. It was a fun afternoon, talking about Rachel and China and our trip and getting excited all over again. I hope to be able to post photos soon of Rachel wearing some of the cute outfits or reading the delightful books or playing with the sweet toys. Thank you so much for being so excited for us!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Travel approval!

We received word today that our travel approval has arrived from China! Now our agency will be making an appointment for us at the American consulate in Guangzhou. Once we receive our consulate appointment date, we'll know when we're leaving.

We hope to have firm travel dates by the middle of next week! Woo hoo!

In our hearts

Lance and I went to a pumpkin farm a couple weeks ago with his Sunday School kids. Ting Ting wasn't able to go with us this year, but we carry her in our hearts.

Monday, November 06, 2006

We're not far

Rachel might be half a world away right now, but we won't have to wait too much longer to go to meet her. Our agency sent word this morning that our travel approval is on its way and should arrive this week. I'll spare you all the timeline mumbo-jumbo and get to the point -- the best guess right now is that we'll leave for China on Nov. 29 or Dec. 6.

We hope to have our plans firmed up by the middle of next week, then it won't be long before we're on our way.

I had a feeling we might get news today; maybe it was because of yesterday's sermon. In honor of All Saints Day, Rev. Babler talked about how good it feels to be close to a goal. He reminded us how good it felt when we were a child on a long car trip to hear that "we're not far" from our destination. He spoke of his son, who was running a marathon that very morning after months of training, and how it must feel wonderful to know he's not far from the finish line.

My friend Debi is visiting, and she and Lance were in church with me to hear these words. Debi and I had run into the pastor at the holiday bazaar on Saturday, and I had showed him the latest photos of Rachel and talked about our upcoming trip. So when we left the church, he congratulated Lance on our good news and said, "you're not far!"

After two years of paperwork and seminars and waiting, our goal is within reach. Our daughter is half a world away, but right around the corner.

Rachel, here we come!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More babies!

Congratulations to the latest sets of new parents! Referrals arrived Thursday and Friday for parents whose dossiers were logged in to the CCAA by Aug. 25.

You will be able to see some photos by going here and clicking on "referrals."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Introducing . . .

Isn't this cool?

A co-worker of Lance's was kind enough to translate an introduction letter that we can print onto cards to take to China. We're told that the Chinese people are very friendly to visitors and will want to know something about us and our baby. I hope to use a few of my (very) basic Mandarin skills to have some rudimentary conversations, but let's face it -- I'm going to run out of topics pretty quickly! This card will get our point across much better.

This is what it says:


We are Lance and Susan from the United States. We live near the city of Chicago. We are here in your beautiful country to adopt Ba Shu Ting as our daughter. She was born in Hunan, and her name will be Rachel Shu-Ting.

We want her to learn as much as she can about China and its rich history and culture so that she will always be proud that she is Chinese.

We promise to love Rachel Shu-Ting always. Her older brother, older sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are all eagerly waiting to welcome her into our family.

Thank you for the kindness you have shown us.

Lance and Susan

(Xie Xie -- thank you -- to Bor-Jenq for doing us this favor).