Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I reject your terms . . .

A couple of weeks ago, Ting Ting had cold symptoms and a fever. I was worried that she might have an ear infection (turns out she didn't), so I took her in to see the doctor.

The doctor, quite sensibly, wanted to look at her ears. Ting Ting was quite determined not to let her. After a couple of attempts to get a look as I tried in vain to hold that wiggling, screaming toddler still, the doctor had an idea.

"Do you want a sticker?" she asked Ting Ting. She pulled a stack out of her pocked and rifled through them, pulling out one with a familiar red face. "How about Elmo? Do you like Elmo?"

A big grin lit up Ting Ting's face, and the crying stopped immediately.

"Elmo!" she shrieked happily, gazing at her prize. She looked up at me and pointed happily to the sticker.

"Elmo! Elmo! ELMO!"

So the doctor made another attempt at the ear.

Screaming. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth.

"Do you like the sticker?" the doctor asked. "You need to be still so I can look in your ear."

Then she upped the ante.

"I tell you what -- if you let me look in the other ear, too, I'll give you another one. How about that? Two ears, two stickers!"

Ting Ting looked at the Elmo sticker. Then she looked at the instrument the doctor was trying to use on her ear. She looked at the sticker again.

Then she handed the Elmo sticker back to the doctor.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How 'bout them Dores?

My family hosts a tailgate party before every home Vanderbilt football game. Ting Ting had a new outfit to wear (of course) when we were there in September.

Papa wants to start me out right.

This is my cousin Nick (not to be confused with my cousin Nik).

With my cousin Chad.

Aunt Kay provided a bubble gun, so my big brother was happy to entertain me.

Mom let me have a treat -- a swig of Sprite. (And, no, she was NOT happy with that hair cut -- it looked a little better in a couple of weeks.)

In the meantime, Brandon and Lauren helped her Go Gold.

You can put the lobster over there.

With Uncle Bud and Aunt Beth.

My goofy sister Lauren.

A shot of the crowd.

(And now, a note from Mom: I'm sorry to report that Lance's camera suffered a fatal blow shortly after these photos were taken. We had the video camera, which could take stills, for the rest of the weekend, but it wasn't the same. I've been trying to keep up with my own camera, but let's face it, Lance is a better photographer. I'll keep trying.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pre-flight entertainment

The five of us flew to Nashville in September to visit my family. We were at the airport bright and early, so Ting Ting put on a show for the folks gathered there.

Yes, I'm very cute. Smart, too.

Wooo, don't chase me, bro!

Is this what they mean by "Monsters of the Midway?"

A nice lady gave us finger puppets!

Mom says I'm a carryon child until I'm 2.

Translation, please

I tried to learn Mandarin and didn't get very far, but I'm learning to speak fluent Ting Ting. She's learning new words and phrases every day, and many of them she says quite distinctly (my favorite being -- of course -- Mama!).

In addition to "Mama" and "Daddy," she can say hi, bye bye, no, yeah, cat, baby, bubbles, more (ok, that still sounds more like "moe"), shoe, outside, nose, eye, up, home and the names of most of the kids in her day care class. She comes pretty close on a few other things, such as "ah duh" (all done) when she is finished eating (it also is a warning that you have exactly 2.3 seconds to remove the food from her tray before it starts landing on the floor). She can also say "ah gah" (all gone) when she runs out of a food item, although that's usually promptly followed with a request for "moe."

She's starting to say a two-syllable phrase when you do something that should prompt a "thank you." (Come to think of it, what she says sounds a lot like the Mandarin -- "xie xie.")

She has her own names for things, too. Lauren is "Alla" -- I think that's because Lauren always greets her with "Hola!" Brandon is "Baby." At first, I thought she was pronouncing it in a slightly different way in an attempt to say "Brandon," but it's quite clearly the same word she uses for an infant or to refer to her favorite doll. We think she might call him that because we have a portrait in our bedroom of Lauren and Brandon when they were much younger, and we kept pointing to the baby and telling her it was Brandon. So, you see, she is grasping the concept.

Cyrus is "Sigh-zhah," It's really cute the way she says it, too. That's a big improvement from the days when she just called him "Sssssssssss."

One of her first phrases was "Oh no!" She says it often, usually accompanied by putting both hands over her open mouth as if in shock. I'm trying to teach her that "oh no!" is not appropriate for everything, such as when she throws a plastic toy into the toilet.

She loves to sing. Her favorite song is still "Wheels on the Bus," and she will request it by shouting "Bus! Bus!" and furiously moving her hands in a circle. She knows that it's the second song on the Veggie Tales CD we often play on the way to day care, and she starts shouting excitedly near the end of the first song. Often she says "moe" just as it finishes, and I'll play that track again. She requests, "If You're Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands" by saying "clap, clap." She asks for a song that begins "Ha-la-la-la-la-la-la-le-lu-jah" by saying "lalalalalalalala" in kind of a gargling tone.

One night we were singing songs and she put her arms up above her head and opened and closed her hands while saying "Ubba Bubba." Finally I figured out that she wanted to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" ("Up above the . . ."). She apparently learned that one at day care. She sings along loudly at the "Ubba Bubba" part. The end of that song is the same as the beginning, so every time I sing the last phrase, she throws her hands up and loudly sings "Ubba Bubba." I'll go through that part and the ending again, sometimes as many as half a dozen times.

In other words, she has her own play list of songs she wants to hear, and Mama is sort of a human iPod.


She watches "Dora the Explorer" in the mornings while I'm getting ready. She loves "Dodda" (Dora) and "Boo" (Boots the monkey) and often ends one episode with a plaintive request for "Moe Boo!" Fortunately, her doting daddy has recorded dozens of episodes in case of just such an emergency.

She puts things together quickly. Sunday afternoon, I asked, "Do you want to go outside?" "OUTSIDE!" she shrieked happily, then added, "shoes." Yes, we had to put those on first.

She says "rrrrrrr" whenever she sees a picture of a tiger or a lion, and she can also makes noises for a snake, duck and monkey. A cow says, "ooooohhhhhh." And for some reason, a sheep says, "Lalalalalalalalalalalalalala."

Cute story alert: The other night after her bath I got out some new footie pajamas, and she got excited when I started putting them on her. "Shoes!" she said, pointing to the feet. Then she examined the design on the chest. "See," I said, "it has a sheep on it." She looked at me with a huge grin and said, "Lalalalalalalalalalalalalala."

Now Lance and I are working on getting her to say, "I love you." That one seems beyond her right now, but whenever I walk in the room and she holds out her arms to me and says, "Mama!" I know exactly what she's saying.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

End -of-Summer photo extravaganza

Now that the weather has (finally) cooled off, I decided it was time to treat you to some random never-seen-on-this-blog photos that will give you a taste of what Ting Ting did this summer.

With cousin Candace after church.

We went to the children's garden at the Morton Arboretum.

Lots of interesting things to explore there.

The tunnel was a lot of fun.

Dancing along with the TV

The headband didn't even survive the ride to day care.

All ready for "Crazy Hair Day" at day care.

Here's a closeup -- I just started putting in random pony tails and kept going as long as she stayed still.

She loved hanging out with her favorite doll so much that she wouldn't even put her down to eat.

The doll's name seems to be "Baby."

We went to the zoo, but we spent some of the time playing with toys indoors.

Then we went to the petting zoo and enjoyed meeting the goats.

Getting braver and braver.

So long!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lovin' Luke

One of the girls in our travel group has an older brother, Luke, who seems smitten with Ting Ting.

Every time we get together, those two spend some some special time with each other.

Truth be told, she thinks he's pretty great, too.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Picnic redux

Last summer, about a year after our dossiers had been sent to China, our travel group had a picnic. Most of us had met at an adoption preparation seminar months earlier and exchanged email addresses, and we decided it would be a good idea to get to know each other a little bit better before we embarked on this life-altering journey together.

This August, we had another picnic:

(That's Linnea sitting on the stool and Ting Ting standing facing her. Seated behind them are Linnea's grandmother, Barb, and mother, Tamara, and our travel-mate Regina, mother to Karma).

If it doesn't look much like a picnic, that's because it poured rain all weekend. Although we had reserved a picnic shelter in a local park, we couldn't use it. At the last minute, our travel-mates Jacquie and Mickey graciously opened their home to us, so we picnic-ed indoors.

(Now we have Jacquie and Mickey's daughter Tabitha on the stool and Linnea facing her).

Some other things made this picnic different from last year's, too. For one thing, it was a lot noisier! And while last year we calmly posed for photographs, this year we were all chasing toddlers and could grab only a few photos of whoever was standing relatively still.

(Dani with her big sister, Alexa. To the right of them, Jacquie holds Tabitha).



We weren't able to get photos of everyone who was there, unfortunately. And a certain someone seems to show up in most of the photos, too

(You can almost see Karma in this one)

(Mickey and Tabitha. Who's that sitting next to Mickey on the couch?)

(Of course)

In other words, it was a bit chaotic -- in a good way, of course. We hope to make the picnic an annual event, so next year I'm going to insist we line every everybody up for a big reunion photo. It'll be easier, then, right? I mean the girls will all be about 2 1/2 . . .

Referral time!

This is the best time of the month -- referrals have started arriving at agencies. Rumor Queen has a listing of blogs that have referral photos, if you'd like to see some beautiful babies.

During our long wait, I explained how this works, but here's a brief recap: Families who have completed home studies and gathered piles of documents (all certified and stamped and sealed) turn in those dossiers to their adoption agency. The agency sends them in batches to the China Center of Adoption Affairs in Beijing; those families will be matched at the same time, most likely with babies from the same social welfare institute, and will form a travel group. The CCAA logs in each batch, and each group is told their Log In Date, or LID. The matches are then made in order according to LID.

I tell you all that to explain why referral time is always bittersweet. Matched families are out of their minds with happiness, while those who just missed out know they have to wait another month for the next batch. And everyone else in line anxiously examines how many LIDs were included in each batch and tries to figure out how much longer they'll have to wait.

When Lance and I turned in our dossier, families were waiting six to seven months for referrals. The CCAA matched about a month's worth of LIDs each month, so that wait was pretty steady and predictable. However, a few months into our wait, the CCAA began matching smaller numbers of LIDs each month. We waited 14 months from our July 25, 2005, LID until our referral on Sept. 25, 2006.

Our referral batch covered families logged in through Aug. 9, 2005. The official cutoff date for this month's batch has not yet been posted, but it appears to go through the end of November, 2005.

That means that in a year's time, a little less than four months' worth of LIDs were matched. And that's why agencies are telling their clients the wait could reach three years.

Many families are opting to adopt from other countries beause of the wait. And the CCAA on May 1 toughtened restrictions on who can adopt, which also will reduce the number of families in line.

Meanwhile, our hearts go out to those still waiting. When families submitted their dossiers in December 2005, the wait was just beginning to lenghten, ever so slightly. Now many of those families who expected to see their children's faces in 7 or 8 months will wait two years or more. It's gut-wrenching.

So enjoy the photos, and rejoice with all the new families who have waited so long. But don't forget all the ones still in line.