Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We're Here!

Woohoo! This will be a short post as we're only in the room to shower (ahhh...fabulous water pressure) and then we're meeting M and P to get some lunch and explore (the less time spent in the room, the less temptation to fall asleep!)

But, we have arrived! And so far it's going great. The Cathay Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong was freakishly empty, and for the first time in my life I got an entire row of four seats to stretch out in, happily doped up on Ambien and snuggled under some blankets that had come hermetically sealed in plastic, to my great satisfaction. Bizaarely, 15 and a half hours passed very quickly, since we were probably sleeping for more than half of it, and the rest of the time I flipped channels on our individual seat tellies and read trashy mags. Oh, I had a bit of culture: I finally read the Annie Proulx novella "Brokeback Mountain," something I've wanted to do since seeing the amazing movie. And then David and I watched "March of the Penguins" on his laptop, and I call this culture because it was made by two Frenchmen with very cute accents and they lived a full year of lonely privation in order to film these "enchanting" birds.

Hong Kong seems to be an almost scarily polite city. Everyone from the Airport Visitor information gal to the the free shuttle driver to the hotel bell hop can't do enough for us, or in a shorter amount of time. There also seem to be an amazingly large number of uniformed personnel just standing around in various stations for the sole purpose of waving a welcoming hand towards confused tourists. And this would be more understandable if we'd been someplace that actually seemed to have tourists: we have seen the airport, the train, the train station, the shuttle and the hotel lobby, and we seem to be the only ones here. So much for giving up our personal space in China! I guess that will come later. In the mean time, this is clearly a cosmopolitan, chic city with a lot to look at, and look we will this afternoon, with a smidge of shopping thrown in now that we know our baggage is not overweight!

Oh, one last note: I'm feeling really proud of myself for suggesting we take public transportation from the airport to the hotel--we saved the cab fare and it went without a hitch!

Next Entry

Monday, January 30, 2006

It Is Nigh

I can't believe that in a scant few hours we'll be on our way. I actually feel strangely peaceful today, or as peaceful as anyone can feel when they're packing. That's right, we're still packing--got something to say? :) Those of you who have known me a long time won't be surprised. When I went to live in England for a year I packed a few hours before. Packing is not my strong suit. (Hey! Strong suit! Get it?) I think it's because it's so hard for me to commit. Which under the current circumstances is kind of ironic. I can commit to motherhood, but not to which color velour sweatpants I'd prefer.

Though my jaw is relaxed and I don't seem to be clenching my buns, I decided to forego the gym for a pleasant, sunny hike in Mission Trails this afternoon. I figured the fresh air would do me good, and I like to get the circulation going before I sit on a plane. At first it was lovely. The birds were chirping, the grasses were blowing, and I was the only one on the trail. Then, after a few minutes of walking away from the direction of civilization, it hit me: I was the only one on the trail. Suddenly my steps seemed very loud, and what was that unnecessary rustling to the left? The right? Behind me? ACK! I started walking faster, my heart pounding, and it occurred to me that this was the first time in my life I've hiked by myself. Wait, calm down, I've WALKED by myself many times, often every day, sometimes long-ish distances. But always in the city with other people around, and without a lot of freakish NATURE getting all spooky on my ass. Nature is so unpredictable--birds fly at you suddenly, lizards run across your path, branches crack...it's an unruly mess.

Anyway, I survived. If a crazy man had accosted me, I had a speech planned about how I was about to adopt a defenseless child. If a crazy bear had accosted me...well, even I was able to rationalize that we don't have bears around here. And as I couldn't really picture myself reasoning with a coyote or a bobcat, I crowded that scenario right out of my mind. In the end, the only beasts I saw were a young man on a mountain bike, and an old man hauling himself up the hill with the aid of two walking sticks. Neither threatened me, and the latter bid me a polite good afternoon.

Now I must shower and get back to packing. My diaper bag (aka "carry on") is jam-packed with snack foods and magazines. I'm (almost) ready for action!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Monday, Monday

Some folks have been asking so I thought I'd make it official: WE LEAVE MONDAY! That's right, January 30. As in THIS Monday. First stop, Hong Kong, for a few days of pretending to be an ordinary tourist. I woke in the middle of the night with my heart pounding in terror. This is really going to happen. Eek.

I just sorted through our adoption file (it's actually a suitcase) and a year's worth of memories came flooding back: trying to convince a Bank of America teller through bullet-proof glass to write a letter about my fiduciary prospects for parenthood, striking up relationships with notaries and Fed-Ex clerks (and then annoying said clerks by saying "This packet is irreplaceable. Can I just stand here and guard it until the truck comes?"), noisy sighs from the fingerprint people when my pinkie wouldn't cooperate, stating every institutional request with slow enunciation but still getting that intractable shake of the head after the first five words. After a while I just steeled myself for that maddening shake and launched the second line of defense, which was "Please listen carefully to my complete request before saying no, because, frankly, I'm not leaving here until I achieve satisfaction." (Translation: "You are going to help me get this baby if it's the last thing you do!")

This is going to be a mighty weird weekend. We are going to gather those piles all over the house and place them in Ziploc bags and then into as many suitcases as we're allowed. We're going to stuff formula packets and diapers and extra underwear into every nook and cranny of our carry-ons. We're going to the movies, raising a martini glass and sleeping in. We're going to stop the paper and the mail and water the plants and clean out the fridge and take out the trash. And then you know what we're going to do? We're going to get on a plane to China.

And on the way home, our family is going to fill up an entire row of the plane for the first time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Last Hurrahs

It's been a few days, hasn't it? David and I went to Big Bear for the weekend to celebrate our couplehood. It was starting to seem like folly to go away one week before "the big trip," but once we arrived it was oh so right. We were making our second visit to a bed and breakfast called "Apples," and you guessed it, it's all about the apples there. ;) We stayed in the "Yellow Delicious" room, complete with in-room jacuzzi, twin Laz-y-Boys, crackling faux-fire, and an entertainment center for viewing selections from their massive movie library. This is the kind of place that not only porks you up at breakfast (Dutch Babies with pecan syrup, mmm!) but lays out a "hot, homemade" dessert every evening and a cheese spread in between. You could basically just lie around in your room all weekend and friends, that's practically what we did.

We did have a couple little adventures -- there was the aforementioned "Snow Tubing," a winter sport in which you are almost guaranteed not to break your legs, since they are only inches above the ground as you belly your way down a hill on a big, black innertube. There hasn't been much snow recently, but the park was well-groomed and packed with families. Once you are barreling headfirst you can't stop or steer for love or money, which is how we had our one bizzare mishap--a man yelled at me for "hitting his kid." I was so confused that I didn't know what to say but whatever it was, it was somehow not adequate to convey "I didn't get anywhere near your kid, you petty a**hole, but if I had, let it be a valuable lesson not to let him wander drooling in the path of hurtling toboggans." For reasons that were not at all clear to me at the time and only slightly more illuminated now, *I* ended up turning into the 4-year-old, petulantly dragging my tube towards the fence and whining over my shoulder to David, "I'm going home!" Then I dropped the tube to the ground, my butt onto the tube, my head into my hands, and sobbed with abandon. For several minutes David sat patiently by me whispering, "What are you feeling?" (Isn't he a love?) Well, shucks if I know. I think mostly I was overcome with the twanging, tentative tension of this kooky time, clocking each remaining day until I fly off to China to bring my daughter home. I had a good cry, really needed it, and felt silly about later just the same. You'll be happy to know I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and got in several more "wheeeees!" before we departed.

Our other adventure involved a hike up a trail described as difficult due to a 500 foot ascent in just over a mile, but there was no word on the "difficult" including "slick with black ice" and "offers no discernible trail markers, or, in fact, anything resembling a trail." Since the area was thick with trees, snows from previous storms still clung icily to the terrain, and as we scrambled we couldn't help noticing a pool of fresh blood seeping into the white. We couldn't help noticing the second one, either. Or the third. David cheerfully supposed that someone had bloodied their nose. Hmmm. When we reached the top of a ridge, we had no clue where the trail might go from there. While we were standing around mulling it over, I noticed some large paw prints in the snow. "Are those bear tracks?" I snapped. David peered at them. "Why, I believe they are. Shall I take a picture?" My only response was "AAAAAHHHH!" as I took off at a clip not at all mindful of a steep slope covered in ice. I ended up making much of the descent in a sort of frog position, sliding my legs out and pushing off with my (thankfully) gloved hands. I have never been so happy to see a busy road. Later we realized that the tracks were, in all likelihood, not bear but mountain lion or bob cat, which wasn't all that reassuring. When questioned at breakfast the next morning, our innkeeper took great delight in regaling us with tales of bears who stroll right through town for a morning dip in the lake, so it's not like my fears were unfounded.

We returned home early Monday afternoon, just in time for our group conference call with Josh, the head of CCAI, who turns out to be quite the card. He made lots of jokes that helped to put us at ease (or me, anyway) and there was a sobering moment only once, when he reminded us that "Gotcha Day," the day we meet our baby, "may be the best one in your life, but for your daughter, it is probably the worst one in hers." He went over everything she has probably been through up to this point, as a way to put in perspective why she might not be jumping for joy to be handed over to two hairy, strange-smelling people who most definitely are not her nannies. I had tears in my eyes when he said "Do your job: feed her, change her, keep her warm, play with her. Very soon she's going to realize you're the best nannies she's ever had." Most of the call was more upbeat, and though there were ostensibly eight couples on the line, none of us said very much. I remembered to ask why the Chongqing Welfare Institute is allowing us to meet our babies at the orphanage, and he responded the way I had hoped--the orphanage is very proud of its facilities and the care the children receive. He did say that in 1993 when he visited the same orphanage, it was hell. He actually used that word. Shudder.

The past two days I've also had a lovely visit with my friend Liz from D.C. (Hi Liz!) She's moving to Switzerland soon, so she flew out to visit various California friends before they go, and got in just under the wire for me! We had a fancy dinner last night, and today she and I had tandem spa packages at a place I love, followed by the most scrumptious, decadent lunch of savory and sweet crepes. All too soon, it was time for her to go. Now I feel inexplicably, dementedly exhausted.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


About an hour ago, we received the Final Travel Packet. It is chock full o' news, including our complete itinerary, our travel companions, and a helpful section--I am waiting for David before I read it--called something like "You Are Actually Going to Be Parenting a Real Child Soon." Well, why didn't you say so before? There's so much I would have done differently! :)

I got pretty choked up when I read the part about meeting Jarrah at 8:00 a.m. on February 6. Wow. From that moment forth, she will be with us. The rest of the itinerary assumes a party of three (or six, with Mary, Paul and Joy!) I can't even imagine what it will feel like, or be like. But it certainly is overwhelming to think about.

Of course, because I am in complete denial, the next thing I wanted to know is where we are staying. (This despite the part in block letters that reminds us "This is an adoption trip, not a tour." Oh.) I am happy to report that we will experience the famed White Swan in Guangzhou, about which there are legends and children's books. So that is cool. In Chongqing, we are staying in a hotel called The Golden Resources, which I suspect is destined to be renamed shortly by us, and possibly more than once. :) When I Googled it, it had no website, but some kind of Chinese "Metal Conference" bunked there and it certainly sounds intriguing, with its "secret underground city." Hello? At any rate, it seems on the new-ish side, usually not a bad thing in hotels.

This afternoon I did something I've been avoiding for a long time. When we first moved into our house last April, I fulfilled a life-long dream of owning rose bushes. There are four of them along our driveway, red, white, yellow and lavender (the gorgeous Sterlings, my favorite.) All summer and into the fall they've been blooming away at various rates, some doing better than others, but I've never had to wait long for another bud. Our neighbor, who is 80-ish and something of a gardening maven, had been warning me for some time that I needed to chop them back for the winter. Wha? This seemed so counterintuitive to me. Something is growing and blooming, and I'm supposed to lop it off? But everyone keeps telling me that this is the only way to nourish the roots, to give the bush strength to come back blazing in the spring, with even better leaves and huge, fragrant flowers the size of cabbages.

Please forgive me if the symbolism is not abundantly clear. It was hard for me to accept this rule of roses. It was hard for me to believe that the roses would ever come back. And so I've looked the other way, even as rose bushes all over the neighborhood have been hacked to sticky stumps. Today I felt I could wait no longer. I will be leaving for China and then I won't be thinking about what needs to be done for the greater good of roses. I hesitated over the first branch, tentatively snaking the clippers between the leaves, and I bit down. Slice. The branch fell to the ground, and a swathe of tight winter buds along with it. I bit down again. And again. The bush began to look terribly sad, with its finery at its feet. I kept going, and it did get easier. My neighbor came out to check on me. She stood over me and pointed with an imperious finger: "This one. Shorter. That one. Take the whole thing." It took a long time, but eventually all four bushes were denuded. My neighbor, who has the best flowers in the neighborhood, was thrilled. "They are beautiful!" she sang in her Romanian accent. "They are perfect!"

Beautiful? Perfect? They look like they've been through a fire. They look dead. They are bare and forlorn. But she knows from flowers, and she says they are perfect. I guess when you've been gardening for years you have faith in the flowers, absolute faith. She can see what I can't. In her mind, it is the height of summer, and there are a hundred roses on each bush. And me, bless my urban soul, I can't see them. Right now I just have to believe.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Readers Rush to My Rescue

...and I thank them for that! ;) Much gratitude to everyone who wrote posts or sent e-mails shoring me up from the body blow of parental criticism. ;) It's so nice to know you're there!

I was a total wreck last night. I was, in point of fact, very tired, but that didn't keep me from being a blinky blinkster in front of my iMac at 4:00 a.m., checking the weather in Chongqing (the Itsy Bitsy Spider won't get far up the garden spout in the next ten days!) and comparing hotels in Hong Kong. Which I kind of wish I didn't because we will NOT be staying in the enchantingly named Shangri-La that Lynette told me about yesterday when we went to visit her and Ava (Hi Ava! You're adorable!) We'll be staying in the Regal Kowloon, which has 3 1/2 stars instead of 5. Bah. It is located near some sort of ferry stop and I like the sound of that--I even read that we can take a one-hour ferry to the island nation of Macau (can you tell I'm feeling some resistance to settling down??)

The trip is finally coming together, and that's so weird, after hearing about these final steps in almost legendary proportion for over a year. We had our conference call with the travel agent yesterday (none too successfully, as the "conference" part seemed to elude us) and had another call from CCAI confirming our final requests for our In-China flights and hotels. We were told that we'll receive our Final Travel Packet (notice that first word!) on Thursday with a full break-down of the itinerary and all our traveling companions (at last!) And this coming Monday, the reknowned "group conference call with Josh and Lily" at precisely 2:00. I am so curious about what happens in the reknowned group conference call! Do Josh and Lily (the married couple who founded CCAI) psych us up like a football team? How wonderfully strange.

In the mean time, I'm panicking. Total panic here, people. This is the last two weeks of my life as I know it. Can I say that again? No, I can't, because I might trigger a fainting spell. I've been reading my book on "Toddler Adoption" and it cheerfully reminds me that "the parents most satisfied with their toddler adoption are the ones realistically prepared for the unique joys and challenges of the toddler stage of development." Um, am I realistically prepared? How the hell would I know???

And because I can't control any of that scary and abstract something-ness, I am instead obsessing over hotels in Hong Kong. And the seat pitch on Cathay Pacific Airlines. And photos of their meals. No joke. There are websites for everything. Very useful at 4:00 a.m.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

And Grandma's Keeping Busy

The weekend felt eerily calm after the frantic action of the past couple. We hardly did any baby-related stuff at all. I washed a few loads of blankies and onesies and hung some things in her closet. I finally tossed the massive bag of gift-related rubbish that had been taking up space in her room. And today we picked up some Rx for China--including some sleeping pills so that hopefully I can be blissfully unaware of at least a portion of the 15.5 hour flight to Hong Kong.

Today I taught Family NIA at the new Toby Wells YMCA, and it was kind of weird. I was initially pleased to see a big turn-out of moms (and one dad) and their kids, most of them at danceable age, but as the class progressed the whole business started to seem surreal. Here I was leaping and prancing about, making noises like a cat or a chicken, and the kids either imitating me or sulking in the corner (they get tired and then cranky.) And the moms gamely waved their arms and kicked their legs, trying to keep up with me. But that's what moms do; they do stuff like act like a chicken with their kids. What's my excuse?? I was just the crazy lady acting like a chicken all by myself. And I don't even have the credentials to act like a chicken--I'm not really a dance teacher, and I have no experience with children's recreation or education. No, I'm just someone who enjoys acting like a chicken at a particularly advanced age for chicken-type antics. What does that make me?? A chicken impersonator???

Harumph. Later in the day David and I went to see "The Producers," having been unable to snag tickets at the cost of many hundreds of dollars when we were in New York. Turns out we needn't have bothered, though the movie was intermittently fun. I was impressed with Matthew Broderick's singing and dancing, and the cast in general, but it felt a little long for the premise.

Yesterday David and I drove to the OC to visit with my parents, Lindsey and Karl, Carrie and the girls, who were visiting for the weekend. It turned out to be a really fun day, beginning with a lively lunch at Pacific Whey, where Carrie told me that she and Ruo-Ruo have the same birthday (!) and Stella wanted one of R-R's photos for her own. It was raining, so next we headed to the Science Museum, which was like a mini-version of the Exploratorium, and had some really cool hands-on exhibits like a Laser Harp and a bed of nails you could lie on and another you could press your whole body into and make an impression. The best time was the Green-Screen Virtual Volleyball, where you watch a ball on a screen above you and try to whack it over the video net with your head or arm. I was laughing so hard and flailing so much I actually worked up a sweat!

My mom made a yummy dinner and some great desserts and it was great to just hang at the table and chat with Dad, Lindsey and Karl, which is something that doesn't happen a lot. But I haven't felt like writing in here as much since my chat with my mother while she was making split pea soup. She mentioned reading certain blogs everyday and when I said "And is mine among them?" she said, with a withering absence of delicacy, "Oh, your blog. It's like a Christmas letter." "A Christmas letter?" I repeated, wounded to the core. "It's so filled with detail. I really just like the main points."

Wow. Hard stuff from one's own mother, who more than anyone you'd think would want the details. I thought about all the Christmas letters I've read, which invariably have a brittle, cheery surface and a droning progression of events and accomplishments. Like class notes in the alumnae magazine, people rarely report anything "real," aka upsetting, embarrassing or just plain pathetic. It's true that I don't say every single thing that pops into my head; I am conscious of having an audience. When I first started the blog, it felt like a journal, but it doesn't anymore. It feels natural to use the second person from time to time. But I hope I am not entirely glib. That would really depress me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Just a Plan C Girl, Livin' in a Plan C World

Hot off the morning's e-mail presses:

To: David & Samantha
Group: 906


Great news! Today we received Consulate appointment confirmations for G906!

Your group’s Consulate appointment is confirmed for: 2/14/2006. We are sorry that you were unable to travel before Chinese New Year, but we are very glad to have finally received a confirmed appointment for you.

Based on this Consulate appointment date, CCAI requires that you arrive in Hong Kong on, or before, 2/3/2006. You can depart Hong Kong after 11:30am on 2/16/2006 (or depart directly from Guangzhou after 9:00pm on 2/15/2006).

So, it's official, folks! We are actually going to Hong Kong! In three weeks! Of course that is two months after our match date (!) and eons away from what we'd anticipated, hence our frantic behavior in the past couple weeks. But that frenzy now pays off, as we might be able to relax and enjoy a bit before we leave--catch up on movies, eat in fancy restaurants, learn to sky dive.

And I'm not the least surprised that the window for Plan A and Plan B both closed with a definitive bang. As you might imagine, I'm pretty scrappy with the making of fresh plans. ;)

Hang in there, Ruo-Ruo! We're coming for you!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

'90s Songs

I know I've had a bit of an '80s tune fetish on this blog but it's two songs from the early '90s that keep coming back to me now. One of them is the B-52s "Roam:"

Fly the great big sky
See the great big sea
Kick through continents
Bustin' boundaries
Take it hip to hip
Rocket through the wilderness

Around the world
The trip begins with a kiss

Something about the trip beginning with a kiss speaks to me. I never even knew they were saying "bustin' boundaries" until I Googled it. Nice. When I sing the song in the car, I often get choked up at the part where we roam "without anything but the love we feel." Maybe some day Jarrah and I will sing it together in the car. It's a lively song--it doesn't have marshmallow soup, mind you, but I think it would appeal to kids. They like to roam.

The other song is a little more heartfelt for me. It's a song that suggests that things are going to be okay, even when they currently suck. That there's a future and that pain makes joy even sweeter. That whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Don't think I don't know that's a total cliche but there it is. I really believe it. Sometimes I like to listen to it on my headphones as I walk on the treadmill, timing the pound of my white sneakers to the beat. It's not flying, but it's going somewhere, even if just metaphorically (and hey, I'm a sucker for a metaphor.) The song is "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty:

Well, I started out
down a dirty road
started out all alone
and the sun went down
as I crossed the hill
the town lit up
and the world got still

I’m learning to fly
but I ain’t got wings
Coming down
is the hardest thing

Well, the good old days
may not return
and the rocks might melt
and the sea may burn

I’m learning to fly
but I ain’t got wings
coming down
is the hardest thing

Well, some say life
will beat you down
break your heart
steal your crown

So I started out
for God knows where
I guess I’ll know
when I get there

I’m learning to fly
around the clouds
what goes up
must come down

I’m learning to fly
but I ain’t got wings
coming down
is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly
around the clouds
what goes up
must come down

If you've never heard the song, there's a pragmatic, what-the-hell quality to his delivery, a tone of acceptance: something is gone, but something is coming. You can have a goal and not be sure what it is. Taking the first step is as strange and new as flying.

So, readers, if you're out there: what about you? Care to join me in my adolescent fixation on song lyrics? I'd love to hear what songs mean something to you. It's awfully easy to find those lyrics on the web these days, so you can avoid any "'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy" kind of faux pas incidents. :)

My own husband claims he rarely even hears the lyrics of songs. But for me, lyrics are a "make or break" criterion for listening enjoyment. If a song's lyrics are stupid, I tend to careen past it on the dial, shuddering, no matter how catchy the beat. But lyrics that are perfectly timed and placed in the notation not only enhance a song for me, they are elevated in artistic merit through the WAY they are sung. Am I alone? :)

Scenes From a Mall

At the new-and-improved "Grownup" Gap:

They appear in the corner of my eye and I doubt my vision. I look again. But soft! They are not a mirage. BUTTON TAB SHIRTS. I have no idea if that's what they're really called. But that's what I called them, at age 11, when I fell asleep each night fantasizing about owning one in every pastel shade, to tuck into size 1 Chemin de Fer jeans, which would drape over leather-laced Sperry Topsiders, in my fantasy world where I could cram my already capacious hips into cute, stick-figure clothes and I was the queen of my junior high. People, I have seen fads come and go, with varying degrees of incredulity. I was there for the return of mini-skirts and bell-bottoms, and was not amazed. I watched as grown women sported thigh-length kilts and knee socks, and did not blink. I stood by in the '90s as everyone began swishing about in the leopard print faux-fur and rhinestone sunglasses that I like to think I wore first. But readers! Button tab shirts! Cotton, pastel, front-placketed, with sleeves that shout "Long or short? Only you will know for sure!" The entire statement resting on a one-inch strip of fabric that flips up from under the sleeve and fastens to a button about three inches higher! And, Lord love them, I am still sorely tempted, after all these years. I never got my button tabs in sixth grade. People, this could be my big moment.

At Gymboree:

I am flipping through a sale rack of ponchos at bargain prices (but what were they thinking with the ponchos anyway?) when it begins to seep into my consciousness. The song. Oh, the pain of it.

We're gonna have marshmallow soup
Hooray! Hooray!
We're gonna have marshmallow soup
Oh gee! Oh yay!
Marhmallow soup for dinner
Marshmallow soup every day...

A little girl in a pint-sized chair is rocking dementedly from side to side. The chorus builds to a crescendo and fades out briefly as the dueting man and woman suggest additional menu items.

We're gonna have butterscotch sundaes
Hooray! Hooray!
We're gonna have liver and spinach
Hooray! Hooray!

I can't stop myself. I'm doing a little jig and maniacally swinging velour jackets on their hangers. I dosey-do to an imaginary partner. HELP! I flee from the store, but the song follows. It blossoms in my brain as I try to banish it with severe wood furnishings and scented candles. Alas, it is no use. We're gonna have marshmallow soup for dinner.

Hooray, hooray.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

They're Here!

Our Travel Notices arrived at CCAI this morning! I say this as an exclamation but I really don't know what it means yet! :) There is talk of us leaving by this weekend, or at least if "Plan B" (the one where we get the February 2 consulate appt.) is actualized. If not, I guess we are still looking at early February because of the holiday. But this weekend! That is terrifying! The news made me want to drive directly to Ben and Jerry's for some reason. I didn't go, but the urge was powerful. I don't know if that's a bad sign or what. Where I did go was Target--I am starting to re-think these Size 3 Pampers Cruisers. She looks pretty dimpled in the latest photos--what if they are too small? So I got some "4s," too.

I had my flu shot this morning. I've never had one before and I resented it mightily. Not the shot itself--Lord knows I could have those and Irish step-dance at the same time by now--but the mysterious side effects experienced by a small segment of the population, side effects that are suspiciously akin to...having the flu! So I ask you...what is the point? Anyway, everyone kept saying don't go to China without one, and now I've had one, and am of course convinced that I'll be languishing on my fainting couch by this evening. The jury's still out.

Did I mention we installed our car seat? It's very stylish and matches the upholstery of my car so closely that I keep forgetting it's there. Then I'll be getting out of the car and see that my back seat has grown a 3-D hologram appendage and just as I'm wondering "What the hell is that?" I go "Ohhhhh, right. I have a car seat. For the baby to ride in. I'll be able to see her in the rear view mirror. She's probably going to mash Veggie Puffs into every nook and cranny of my car. I hope I love her anyway."

Today at the bank the teller said "Samantha! That's my baby's name." And, after agreeing that it's a lovely name, I asked "How old is your baby?"

"She just turned one on December 20."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, and ventured, "My baby just turned one on December 28."

"Is she trying to walk?" I was stumped at that one. I considered lying wildly, telling her that she's already training for a 5K and has mastered three languages. But I couldn't do it.

"Actually, I don't know, because I haven't met her yet." That got her attention. Even I had to laugh a little. "She's still in China." Beat. "Wanna see her picture?" She did, and was thrillingly thrilled when I showed her. "So...what can I expect from a one-year-old?"

"She'll be into everything."

"Check. We are babyproofing like crazy."

"Good. And she'll be trying lots of foods. And loving Cheerios. And putting everything in her mouth. You'll want to vacuum a lot."

Vacuuming! I hadn't thought about that.

Friday, January 06, 2006

How Soon Is Now?

Mood: Smiths song, circa 1988.

You shut your mouth, how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does.

And you say it's gonna happen now?
Well, when exactly do you mean?
See, I've already waited too long
And all my hope is gone.

Sometimes I miss the parts of my teenage years when I would go to my room and blast the radio, lying face down on the floor, beating my fists into the carpet. And then I'd study myself in the sliding glass door (at night it was like a giant full-length mirror) and arrange my expression, so that when I considered my face it had a haunted quality, and everything from the wisps of hair around my face to the tilt of my neck to the precise bend of my knees and pointing toes in the background, had been art-directed into a pose befitting a dust jacket or an album cover. I was never smiling on those album covers. My watchword was moodiness. I was way too complicated to smile. Only then would I be reassured that the outside matched the inside, the tortured, ambivalent, ambiguous inside. Oh, I was a deep one.

Anyway, I'm crabby today and don't have a sliding glass door anymore. We got an e-mail from the Travel Department (their caps, not mine) this afternoon that confirmed a window had closed that I hadn't really realized had been open. It actually said that we were moving on to "Plan B" and possibly "Plan C" now. "Plan A" (I had to go back and find an older e-mail to figure out what the hell "Plan A" was) was nullified by the end of business today. Apparently it had to do with receiving our Travel Notice by today, which would have meant we could travel by next week and be snugly home before Chinese New Year.

What I hadn't realized was the tenuous thread upon which "Plan B" dangles. It involves a long period of time when both CCAA and the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou will be closed for the holiday, but for some reason mysteriously opening only on February 2. Which would mean that we'd travel around January 17 and return February 4, with a few days for dithering in Guangzhou, ordering pizza from Danny's Bagel, visiting the McDonald's on Shamian Island (for which the Consulate folk have helpfully provided a map along with our other paperwork) and possibly shopping for shoes. But it would mean we could leave soon-ish.

"Plan C" is a distant rumble of discontent. It involves leaving on February 4 and returning some time in mid-February. That's right, FEBRUARY 4. The plan that would mean 8 weeks would pass between finding out that Ruo-Ruo is ours and actually going to her. Two months in which she is getting older and we are looking at her picture but not meeting her. I really don't care for "Plan C," and I have very little faith that "Plan B" could even happen.

Anyway, I remember someone saying that "expenses will always rise to meet the available funds" and I can see a parallel between this idea and "the list of things to do before China (and baby) will continue to expand with each additional day we are here." Which, in a way, is not a terrible thing. I might get my hair cut, for instance. Get a massage. Maybe we'll go out for a fancy dinner. If we don't leave until February, we might even go intertubing in the snow.

But it still makes me want to be all artfully moody. Maybe I should have David take my photo. But it won't be the same without the sliding glass door.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I'll Tumble 4 Ya

Here's another in the list of reasons why my life is weirder than other people's:

Yesterday when we received our new digital pics of Ruo-Ruo, David sent them to Ritz Camera in Hillcrest so we could get copies. While he was at it, he sent all the pictures we have (an astounding total of five) because we've been meaning to do this since December 9.

It started like any other "picking up my photos" experience. The shop reeked of chemicals, there was a sound of copy machines, and an assortment of pale salespeople milled around in a state of sluggishness. I walked up to the counter, handed over my receipt, and in the typical bored "I've been doing this all day" tone of a photo shop employee, she asked for my last name. I told her.

"Congratulations!" she shouted, so vigorously that my hair blew back.

"Thank you!" I shouted just as vigorously, more out of recent precedent than any kind of logic. There was a short pause as I began to wonder what we were so excited about. Had she seen my pictures and drawn some conclusions?

"You know, my sister is adopted," she continued. "And it worked out great for her. Also she's mulatto." (Mulatto? Is this word still in use in 2006?)

"Oh!" I shouted again. "Great!"

"Your daughter is beautiful," she went on. "And you know what? Statistics show that people very frequently get pregnant as soon as they adopt."

(A short aside. Apart from the stunning cheek of a total stranger offering up this nugget this wisdom, there's the issue of actual statistics: the documented percentage of infertile couples achieving pregnancy after adopting is eight. That's right: 8 percent. And here's the most important part: this percentage is *exactly the same* as the percentage of infertile couples who achieve pregnancy on their own *without* adopting.)

Out of shock and a general aspect of good tidings toward my fellow humans these days, I replied, "That is amazing! Really? Thank you for telling me that!"

"You're welcome! And by the way...we do announcements here, if you're interested." She whipped out a brochure and pointed. "This is the one I recommend: 'A Baby Girl Has Arrived.' Something to think about."

"Something indeed. Thanks again."

"No problem. When do you leave?"

"Within two weeks, we're thinking."

"Well, please bring her by when you get home. We'd all love to meet her."

So, Ruo-Ruo, how about that? You already have a gang of pals at your local Ritz Camera. They can't wait to meet you. So let's hurry up and get you here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

You Oughta Be In Pictures

I opened my e-mail this morning to discover a surprise: a message from the CCAI Match Department! I was thrilled because I assumed it had something to do with our Travel Notices. But it was more information about Ruo-Ruo!

Eek! First it gave some new numbers, taken in mid-December (our last info was from September 27) including her new height and weight--she is an inch taller but five pounds heavier than she was three months ago! She is a major butterball now. It said she is standing and talking (!) and walking if you hold her hand. She had chicken pox six weeks ago "but is fine now." She has eight teeth!

I was showing David these stats when we realized there were two digital photos attached to the bottom and we yelped and started scrolling down. And there she was, on her hobby horse, in all her puffy-suited glory!

Her hair is growing in and now forms a pointy mohawk on top of her head. The mark on her forehead (Dr. Dern called it!) was obviously just a bruise because it's gone now. She's still not smiling, and once again she seems to be reaching for the camera with a gesture like, "All right, hand that over. I'm going to have scads of these things where I'm going so I might as well start practicing now."

And she's still totally, utterly gorgeous.

It's a trifle upsetting to see these photos. I'm having trouble articulating my distress. I guess because we've had such incredibly limited parameters for bonding with her--one mug shot and two crawling shots from the same day--I've spent a lot of time visualizing myself with her at a particular age that had passed even when I was seeing it for the first time. In those first photos, she is nearly bald and on her knees, and though the information at the time did indicate that she was already standing with help and the baldness wasn't natural, I could imagine her as a "baby-baby," one who would snuggle in my lap and be carted around on my hip. I would cradle her at bottle time and feed her mashed bananas with a tiny spoon. But that was actually a fantasy for which I've missed the train again. This baby will be pressing buttons and opening drawers and devising various ways to kill herself in the spots we've somehow dropped the ball on babyproofing. She'll be galloping from room to room with me in hot pursuit. She'll be gnawing on bagels and eating those teeny-tiny squares of meat and veg I've cut up on her high chair tray. She'll be telling me things in Mandarin and I'll say, "Sorry? Could you repeat that? I didn't quite catch it the first time."

I know she will be adorable and fun at this stage, and no doubt at many stages to come. But I was having trouble accepting I'd already missed so many stages in her life, and now I have to work on accepting another one that I actually imagined I'd be there for. Everything she's done so far is like "The Legend of Jarrah," recorded for posterity but unseen by the naked human Sam and David eye. The next time I proudly tell someone about her measurements, her accomplishments and her vast array of teeth, I want to speak from experience.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Storing and Soaring

You should see our living room. It's out of control. There are new shelves and bookcases and baby gates and a Pack n' Play leaning against the walls. Boxes of rice cereal and cans of formula and snack cups, scented diaper bags, a space heater, a squishy potty seat and giant rubbery letters and numbers for sticking to the bathtub walls in bags and piles everywhere else. The bedroom has several bags and piles of medications, baby and adult, filling a corner. The office has a pile of babyproofing products and an entire bin of bottles, nipples, liners and other sipping paraphenalia, left over from a New Year's Eve demonstration.

David and I spent a couple hours organizing the garage this afternoon. I actually love organizing things, but David can't quite see the point. He wanted to know why I needed all the tools and parts in separate containers when he knows where everything is by seeing it spread out on the work bench. Hmmm. He's hard to argue with, but the clutter was making me crazy. Also I keep hearing the echo of our friend Lisa's words in my head: "Get rid of everything. Babies and their stuff take up the most astounding amount of space." It's very odd that there is now an entire shelf in our garage filled with boxes of diapers, wipes and formula cans. I still can't always chase away the thought that we are pretending to have a baby when we don't.

On the other hand, I'm entering another freaked-out phase again. Tonight I was contemplating stopping our mail for the trip, musing with slight chagrin that I would miss a couple of Entertainment Weeklys while we are away, but how lovely it would be to return home and lie on the couch for several hours, drinking General Foods International French Vanilla and catching up on the celebrity goss. And then a little voice in my head went "Wait. There won't be any of that. You'll be chasing after a toddler and changing her diapers with a wicked jet lag hangover. You'll be able to catch up on your mags in, oh, maybe 2015?"

EEEK! That is a long time to go without lazing around reading magazines. And then of course I have to wonder how bizaarely contrary can I be, wishing and hoping for a baby for years, only to worry when that baby arrives that she will cut into the most base and frivolous expressions of my free time? And yet I do worry, so go figure. It's not that I worry that I won't love being a mom. It's more that I wonder if I'll think wistfully of my former lazy, independent, selfish life on more than a--let's say--monthly basis. What if I miss it every day? Does that mean I should have left well enough alone rather than luring an innocent child all the way from Chongqing to feel my resentment? Could I truly resent someone with that face? Who knows how these things work? I know, I know: many of you do. But I've sailed off the high dive here, and in that second looking down it's hard to have faith that the water's just fine.