Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Crazy weather out there! It's been pouring all afternoon. I'm glad I waited until today to water the plants!

Now that a working draft of our packing list is in place, we headed out to fill in the gaps. My mind reels at the idea of forgetting some essential item that would have made Ruo-Ruo happier or more comfortable. Or hell, make her like us more. ;)

But the human condition dictates that I will sweat over that packing list until the cows come home and still have a moment at 2 a.m. where David and I are wringing our hands, Ruo-Ruo is crying, and I am despairing, "If only I had more Benadryl/softer washcloths/goldfish dyed funky colors with food coloring!" David says I should just accept this certainty going in, and be Zen about it. Unfortunately that goes against every fiber of my being, accepting things. ;)

Oh, and our visas arrived! They are like very cool stickers in our passports, with a lovely drawing of the Great Wall of China superimposed behind all the numbers and names and dates and things. And we bought some suitcases today! I'm not sure why, but having visas and suitcases makes it real for the first time that we are going to China. The fact that our daughter happens to be there was somehow not compelling enough evidence for me. ;)

Happy New Year, dear ones! May it be filled with joy.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

So last night's mini-birthday party for Jarrah and Joy was an unqualified success. Big shout-out to Mary for coming over early and helping me make soup and grate a whole mess of potatoes for the latkes. The brisket had been merrily simmering away since early morning. David facilitated the festive atmosphere by hooking up my Ipod to some speakers in the living room, creating what I called the "Smoke-Free Dance Party," a joke that was a lot funnier in the '80s. ;) By the time the Fortune Cookies started arriving at 6:00, the wine was chilled, the tunes were pumping, and the latkes were sizzling on the grill. Paul played an important role by taping pictures of the girls to the tops of rhinestone crowns that proclaimed "Princess for the Day," which Mary and I wore later in the evening. Highlights were a rousing game of dreidl, frequently punctuated by shouts of "Ante up!" and a disco interlude that included me, Beth, Grace and Julianna (who's six) breaking in Jarrah's new tricycle. :) Melissa and Bill brought amazing jelly donuts and Grace baked a scrumptious lemon cake, but the piece de resistance was the fluffy, pink birthday cake that Mary brought, topped with two candles, one for each of our daughter's first year. I did get a bit of a lump in my throat when we sang "Happy Birthday," but only because I was happy. It was so wonderful to have all that love in one house, and while I can't tell you what I wished for, I think you could guess.

Today I braved BRU with Mary and Jennifer, intending to get every last item on my list, including disposable fast-flow nipples, a folding potty seat, a Pack N' Play, and more. It was quite satisfying except the part where I was supposed to be triumphantly bagging our Grace Metrolite stroller at last, and on sale to boot, only to be told they were discontinued and replaced with something called the Graco Lindsey, all pink and ruffled, and which, despite his highly-evolved masculinity, I can't imagine David pushing around. I found another stroller I liked, a Peg Perego, but at $400 (ack!) the parking brake is definitely ON. Time to do some on-line searching.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading in my toddler books (weird that I'm somehow able to flip cavalierly (word?) past everything that says "0-12 months") and absorbing a lot (get it? diaper humor! :)) about potty training, fussy eating, tantrums and intellectual stimulation. While I am a researcher by nature, I do have a whisper of doubt that any of this stuff will apply to Jarrah, or, if it does, that I'll be able to implement the advice successfully. I think I just need to work on flexibility--there's that word again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Birthday, Ruo-Ruo!

Tomorrow is Ruo-Ruo's first birthday. We were planning to have a little get-together anyway, to give me an excuse to make brisket and latkes, but then the day obviously took on more meaning once we received our match. At first I thought it was just cute, the idea of singing happy birthday to her. But now I'm fairly certain I'm going to shed a tear or two, celebrating my daughter's birthday when I haven't even met her yet. It's like the parenting train is chugging into the station, but slows down only long enough for me to see it's there, and then speeds up again...wait! I want to hop on! I guess we can make up for it next year.

David and I have been busy bees at the house. He's drilling straps into the walls so our bookshelves don't fall over when climbed, and making our outlets safer (I always forget he's an electrical engineer!) He also hung some stuff on the walls for me, out of reach of curious little hands. I am cleaning and sorting and organizing, washing baby clothes, checking and re-checking my packing list, assembling little things I need like teething gel and soapy dishcloths and tiny gingham barrettes (hey, she might have hair by then!) It feels good to be in motion since otherwise my mind races. Still so much to do, and we are in the breath-holding stage where Travel Notices could come in any day.

And David cooked me dinner last night! It really does warrant an exclamation point because aside from the times he prepares something that I've already laid out and left him instructions for, this might be a first! He was off work yesterday, but I wasn't, so I laid down the gauntlet. He chose the menu, did the shopping, and made me an amazing meal--Rosemary Chicken with an Orange-Dijon Sauce and Wild Rice, and for dessert--wow!--Baked Apples with Apricot Compote Stuffing. I yummed up every morsel and was mightily proud of him, too. I said, "You're in for it now, my friend. My devilish plan has paid off."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Not a Creature Was Stirring

We're in a little bit of a holiday lull, for those of you keeping score at home. With all our paperwork complete and our visa applications being processed, we haven't heard a peep from CCAI in the past few days. We don't yet know for sure if we're on track to travel in 2-3 weeks. Mostly we've been indulging in good cheer and what promises to be our last few opportunities to sleep in and go out to restaurants.

This morning I'm teaching at a NIA jam with Kellie and hoping for a good turn-out. Tonight we're spending Christmas Eve with Mary's brother's family. David and I initiated what I'm calling The Fudge Project last night...I want to bring a decorative holiday basket of homemade fudge to the festivities. So far it's going surprisingly looks glossy and rich, and David scored the pan into perfect squares. Hopefully today we can get it out of the pan and arranged in the basket without incident. What's up with me and my Happy Homemaker tendencies these days? First gingerbread and now fudge. Next I'll be placing wicker baskets of potpourri all around the house. :)

Happy Holidays, one and all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Have a Nice Day

Because I sure did. None of it was baby-related. Except maybe the part where I kept showing everyone Ruo-Ruo's picture. And talking about her constantly. :)

I had a rousing NIA class this morning--the room was packed despite the proximity to Christmas, what a nice surprise! I felt like I was back in a big way from my recent malaise. Grace came and brought her sister-in-law, who was taking her first class and had a great time. Afterwards Grace gave me a pendant with the Chinese character for "Love" on it and brought tears to my eyes. Then they invited me to lunch with the rest of their families, and I got to talk about Ruo-Ruo some more. And get lots of hugs from two adorable six-year-old girls.

From there I drove to La Jolla to meet Jane at her parents' house. The sun was glinting off the world in that perfect Winter Solstice way. I love hanging at Jane's house. For one thing, the snacks rock--today, satsumas, toast with English cheddar and homemade guava jelly. And great coffee, always. I get to chat with Jane and her parents at their big kitchen table and it's so relaxing. I met Jane on my first day at UCSD because we were sharing an office at Muir Writing. I admired her shoes and she told me that the strap kept breaking and what should she do? I adored her instantly, and we've been pals ever since. She only lived in San Diego that first year, but I have visited her in San Francisco and New York several times. And lucky for me, she always flies back to the nest here. Now she's a dermatologist and I'm very lucky that she can fix my face, should it ever need fixing. ;) And she's just damn good company.

We took a walk on La Jolla Shores beach, where the waves were pounding up and down like the North Shore of Oahu. It was so cool. We walked and got caught up on each other's lives, but that never really happens because we end up getting diverted into five conversations at once. Later, we got changed into what David would call "finery" and met him downtown at a new place I've been wanting to try called Confidential, so confidential that it seems to have no sign. It had all kinds of light displays inside and white, white furniture. The menu is tapas and we had these yummy little burgers called "sliders." The food was tiny but delicious, and the drinks were slurp-licious.

It was a nice, nice day. I hope I can sleep after the espresso granita I had for dessert.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Three Scenes

Last night at work:

I was showing (with glee) my photos of Ruo-Ruo to the two gals I work with, one of whom is 80-something years old and said "She looks just like you. And David." Sweet! The other, who prefers dogs to children, was neutral, but wore an expression of "Better her than me." A third gal, in a holiday sweater, was subbing and we hadn't met before. After I explained that the photo was of my new daughter, she whiplashed back, "Where are her parents?" I felt my temples tighten, but smiled. "You're lookin' at one of 'em." "But where are her parents?" (Ping-ponging.) "I don't know," I admitted. "Somewhere in China." "But where?" (Teflon-like.) "She was abandoned." "Why?" "I don't know." I admitted again, and it reverberated in my head. "Why? Why was she abandoned?" Good question. Who abandoned my daughter? I figured my "Congratulations!" and "She's beautiful!" were not forthcoming. Got that right. It's very depressing to show off photos of your own kid and hear only "Where are her parents?" in response. It feels incredibly bizaare. That's not where my head's at right now. This one is finally mine--why is someone questioning that? One of those inconvenient adoption scenarios I'd forgotten about.

This morning at the pediatrician's office:

It's weird to sit in a pediatrician's office without a kid. It's even weirder when the nurse comes in calling your name and continues straight through to the next room when she sees only you and your husband sitting there. She returned anon, looking puzzled. "That's me!" I said brightly. She knit her brow. She knit once and then purled twice. "Um." she said, flipping through the papers on her clipboard. (This clinic specializes in international adoption!) "I look pretty old, don't I?" I asked. "Um." she said again, still flipping. "You're wondering where the baby is, aren't you?" Now I had her attention. She smiled. "Yeah." "She's still in China." (beat) "OHHHH! Come with me!" She took us to a little room and proceeded to ask my age and some other stuff before she congratulated us and left. David whispered that maybe she was going to get one of those little rubber hammers to bonk me on the head and knees with. But our actual consult with Dr. Dern was delightful. She gave us some prescriptions, some free samples, and some peace of mind. She also suggested that the mark on Ruo-Ruo's forehead in her photos was actually a bruise (aka temporary) and not a birthmark like we've been thinking, especially since she spends her time in a playroom that has hardwood floors and walls. All in all, a satisfying visit.

This afternoon, at Long's Drugs:

Woman, not unsympathetically, surveying my voluminous cache of stomach and cold meds parading by on the conveyer belt: "Oh, someone's not feeling good." I smiled. "Actually, I'm feeling fine, but I'm going to China, and think I might not be feeling fine there." "China! How exciting!" She seemed so thrilled that I couldn't resist adding, "And I'm going there to adopt a baby." "WOW!" She was bowled over. "That is so wonderful!" Suddenly I heard the checker saying, "My nephew is in China right now, adopting a baby! He and his wife are picking up a little girl!" "They're in the travel group right before me!" I practically yelled. "Do you have a picture?" the checker asked, "I haven't seen a picture of my niece yet." "Well, I just happen to have some right here..." I pulled out one of the Ruo-Ruo business cards that David made me. "OHHHH!" chorused the checker and the woman in line. "She's precious!" Now this was more like it. "It's almost her birthday." I announced, warming to my subject. "You must not know what to do with yourself, waiting for her!" the woman in line burst out. You know, that's pretty close to being slap on the nose of what I feel. "Yes," I gushed. "Every minute I keep thinking things like, 'I have to get her some Baby Tylenol!' That's why I'm here." Everyone laughed with delight. At this point, a small crowd had formed, and by the time I left the pharmacy, I had the well-wishes and have-a-good-holidays of a bunch of really, really nice strangers. That was awesome.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sleigh Ride, Silver Bells

Just returned from a long and satisfying day in Encinitas, precipitated by a need to hold Mary and Paul's hands throughout each step of our adoption paperwork. :) Mary and I were both pretty wretched yesterday (she with a cold, I with some sort of condition in which all my organs seemed rented) so we chose today to complete and mail our next round of documents from the latest Travel Packet, much of which was marked TIME SENSITIVE, and even more so with the impending holiday break.

The first order of business was notarizing a series of papers that can pretty much be summed up as "We agree to hold our agency harmless if our hotel does not provide hypoallergenic down pillows" and "We agree to hold our agency harmless if our child does not get into Harvard." Because of it being Sunday, Mary and Paul had hired a traveling notary to come to their house, which was pricey but very convenient. His name was Ash, he wore a baseball cap, appeared to be 14 years old and was carrying what looked like a delivery pizza when he arrived, but he was not only friendly and professional, but well-versed in the peculiarities of notarizing for Chinese adoption--a real plus. That was a fun interlude, following by a little less fun block-lettering the prescribed responses into our visa applications, but these were also dispatched with few impediments.

At this juncture my blood sugar was dipping dangerously, so we took a short break at The Original Pancake House (yum, Swedish pancakes with lingonberries!) and then continued on to Fed-Ex/Kinkos (our favorite hang-out) for more copying and more--you guessed it--Fed-Exing, with some documents departing for Denver and CCAI, and others headed to San Francisco and the travel agent that will arrange our visas and, ultimately, our flights and hotels.

After that we drove to REI for travel-type items like money belts, fanny packs, luggage locks and other funsy items that made it feel like we were going camping instead of to pick up a couple of babies. And then there was a brief sojourn to Office Depot for red envelopes (the customary delivery method for monetary gifts to orphanage directors, nannies and the like) and plastic document envelopes (one each for travel documents and U.S. Consulate paperwork.) It was pretty funny when we drove exactly two parking lanes to get to Target, but that's where our heads were. Target was overflowing with adoption travel deliciousness--we went there for our non-monetary gifts for the girls' caretakers in Chongqing, but discovered so much more: single-serving formula packets, re-sealable baby food containers, sippy cups, fleece baby slippers, and--my fruit-loving cup runneth over--toddler t-shirts festooned with pears and strawberries. Whee!

The gift shopping was pretty fascinating (David and Paul, if they were looking over my shoulder, would respond "NOT!") because each province has a list of pre-approved gifts, and they are weirdly specific. One list (I forget which province) asks for nothing but fish-oil capsules. That's right, it's Omega-3 fatty acids or nothing, baby. Our list had such disparate items as electric shavers and anti-bacterial hand wash. And--bien sur--everything must be "Made In America." Or at least not China. We ended up with Maglight flashlights (they have an American flag right on the package!) Swiss Army knives, boxes of eau de toilette (that stuff scares me, but I guess someone likes it) and will be adding some boxes of chocolate from various local sources as soon as we can figure out which ones won't disintegrate during the trip and don't weigh more than our entire baggage allowance.

And then we were done! We picked up some yummy chicken dinners and brought them back to M and P's, after which there was a viewing of some great photos Mary found on the internet of the orphanage in Chongqing, some featuring eight or more babies playing in the same space our photos of Jarrah and Joy were taken. We looked for them, of course, but the photos are small and all the little shaved heads were far away. Still, it was amazing to think of them playing there with dozens of other little girls, along with the young and smiling nannies we could see holding them, and to imagine ourselves there, too, also taking pictures, and then taking two of those girls far, far away to live with us.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Care Package

I sent Ru0-Ruo a care package today. The label, provided by CCAI, was mostly in Chinese, but clearly stated "Chongqing Children's Welfare Institute" at the top. Weird. We had also been provided with a letter--first in English, then translated into Chinese--that was addressed to the "nannies," asking them to snap photos of our baby with a disposable camera (enclosed) so we can have a memento of her stay. The rest was up to us, but we were instructed (warned, rather) to limit the package to the size of a shoe box. I bought a really fancy blanket and David and I slept with it for a couple nights, from whence it would emerge in the morning a squashed ball of fuzz and satin. We picked out a fleece sleeper with ladybugs all over it and washed that to include. Because we had been told she likes toys that make noise, I bought her a Sassy television remote control with buttons (we've been told that once she gets here, only the real thing will do. :)) And, of course, the ubiquitous Sassy cushy, waterproof "Who Loves Baby?" photo album, with room for six photos of Mommy and Daddy and friends and family. All of this fit quite nicely into the shoe-box-sized receptacle, some of it swaddled in bubble wrap, most of it sealed in Zip-Loc bags (because what if the box gets wet?)

At the P.O., I felt inexplicably nervous and shy, coupled with a sense of urgency that now that this box was ready I needed it to be in Chongqing yesterday. In fact, I suddenly wondered what had taken me so long since the idea of her touching items that we've touched (or slept with :)) is so tantalizing! Anyway, the postal clerk was in no mood for my ignorance about customs. She seemed deep into a Christmas spirit snit from having to deal with long lines of people holding boxes they can't see over all day. When I said I was mailing to China, she pointed at a far wall without comment, and no matter what I asked, she just kept pointing. When I wondered aloud where I should write "0" (part of CCAI's instructions were to call the package a "gift" and "write 0," which I realize now must be for the value) she rolled her eyes aggressively and sighed, "I don't have the faintest idea." (Which of us works for the U.S. Postal Service in this scenario?) I could see I wasn't getting any love from her, which made me even more nervous, and I started filling in the boxes as quickly as possible so I hope I didn't do something stupid that prevents Ruo-Ruo from getting her package of care.

I wonder if it would have made a difference if I'd told that postal lady that this box headed for China will be my first contact with my daughter, who lives in an orphanage. That it's going to be her first birthday soon, but I won't get to spend it with her. I wonder if she would have been a little more enthusiastic then. But I didn't let her dampen my spirits for long.

Little Mysteries

I've been confusing myself the last few days. Some of my feelings seem appropriate; for instance, my stomach hurts sometimes, and my appetite is not as hearty as usual. I fall asleep easily but often wake with my heart pounding. That seems like typical anxiety stuff.

Other feelings don't seem as predictable. For one thing, my concentration is totally, utterly non-existent. It's like I suddenly have the attention span of my soon-to-be 1-year-old child. Yesterday at the gym, I wandered around hopelessly for 10 minutes, asking people if they'd seen my purse, which I was convinced was stolen. When I finally found it, guess where it was? Locked in the locker, right where I'd put it when I first arrived. But since I'd forgotten I had a locker, see, that made it difficult to trace the chain of events. ;) I routinely drive away from the house having forgotten all the things I need for that particular journey. I dial the phone and forget who I'm calling. I walk from one room to another and spin wanly in circles, trying to determine why I've walked there. People keep saying, "Oh, that's just what happens to moms!" But I feel a bit sheepish being this way without an actual baby to pull my focus!

My emotions puzzle me. The other day I was driving to BRU in a perfectly happy mood and suddenly found myself crying when I realized that if I crashed the car, I couldn't be Ruo-Ruo's mom, and who would be her mom? A little abstract, but there it is. I find myself having the most inanely sentimental fantasies, like when I woke up this morning and I imagined that someday soon David might open the door holding the baby, and put her in bed with me, where we could play peek-a-boo with the down comforter and she would laugh and I would make noises on her belly. (You moms out there are probably laughing delightedly at the idea of me snoozing like a princess while my husband gets up and tends to the baby. It's a fantasy, all right? :))

The thing that freaks me out the most is that not only do I think she gets cuter and cuter every time I look at her photo, but I get more and more attached to her, to the point where I feel all these painful tuggings on my heart and start imagining myself hoisting trucks into the air with one hand. Although that seems very sweet and all, it's bizaare to me. For what reason should I feel attached to a photo? I didn't give birth to her. I haven't spent many an amusing hour showing her the baby pandas at the zoo. I haven't snuggled her and smelled her head. I've never even met her. And yet I am bonding with her photo? Is there a name for this phenomenon? Am I exhibiting some classic psychological complex? Am I a statistic in someone's graduate research? I don't like being a cliche. I don't want to be typical or ordinary. On the other hand, I don't want to be freaky, either. I guess the real problem is I don't know which one I am. :) It seems to be starting already. You know what I mean? The eternal question:

Will I be a good mom?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


For some reason (for some reason?? Am I on crack? :)) all I want to do is write "woohoo!" in my e-mails, and say it to everyone, too.

Today's "woohoo!" (aside from the obvious "woohoo!" of everyday in which I'm woohoo-ing because I get to meet Ruo-Ruo soon!) is because we just got an e-mail saying our Travel Packet will be ready to download this evening! This is serious stuff, people! We get to apply for a Visa and send back our initial requests for flight and hotel arrangements. There's also a bunch of stuff for us to read so we can be prepared for the trip of a lifetime!

They had told us it would be a week and possibly more before this information was available, so the fact that it's ready early seems to suggest that we are on track to travel before Chinese New Year!

I need to say "woohoo" again. Woohoo! Okay, that's better.

Also, my brother, sister-in-law and two nieces just sent a huge package that turned out to be some sort of life-sized building blocks with the message "Happy Birthday, Ruo-Ruo!" That was incredible. I just stared at it, stunned. People are sending gifts to the house for a little person who will also live here! The third member of our household! Coming soon to an Allied Gardens near you! Also the fact that it's my brother is very special to me. I don't hear from him much, and it makes me feel really good that he's paying attention.

I also learned today that the kind of parents they have in mind in "Parenting" magazine are more like Martha Stewart than I am. I have undertaken a holiday cookie project that is quickly becoming totally unmanageable. More on the results of this little homemaking enterprise soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tiny Bubbles

I am really run down but happy. And David seems over the moon. Every time he talks about Ruo-Ruo he gets this huge, dopey smile on his face, and I often catch him staring at her pictures. I can't wait to see him with the real thing.

This morning Mary and I took a NIA class with Marguerite, who is giving a White Belt in Encinitas. Today's routine was "Miracle," which seemed uncannily appropriate for the occasion. (For you NIA virgins, there are nearly 50 routines.) The last song of "Miracle" is a meditation/free dance in which everyone places an object of importance to them in the center of the room. Of course I had to put Ruo-Ruo's photo up there. I had underestimated, though, how intense it would be to see everyone in the class dancing around her. I was holding back tears a couple times. The song is "Thank You" by Sinead O'Connor:

Thank you for breaking my heart
Thank you for tearing me apart
Now I'm a strong, strong heart
Thank you for breaking my heart

Afterwards a new student complimented my photo and shared that her daughter, who's 2, is also adopted. We started talking and it turns out she has recently moved here and is very interested in Fortune Cookies. And she likes NIA! :)

Mary and I spent a happy afternoon going out to lunch and doing some shopping, and then picked up Paul for his 40th birthday dinner at Karl Strauss! I wonder if I will ever tire of passing Ruo-Ruo's pictures around and hearing lots of people ooh and ahh over her. Already, I couldn't agree with them more when they say she seems just perfect. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More of Matching Weekend

I'm incredibly tired and need to wake up early (no doubt both those states will become themes) but wanted to touch on another groundbreaking day. From the moment we awoke, we started tracking our match envelope through the FedEx website, and I was actually on the phone with Mary when theirs arrived, which was really cool. Ours followed hard upon, around 10:00 a.m.

When I saw the FedEx truck across the street I ran to the door in my pajamas and held it open while the driver, who looked like an extra from "The Sound of Music," took his sweet time getting to the door. "This is a very special envelope!" I announced, and he murmured "Oh, I'm sure it is," averting his eyes from my pink-striped flannel finery, which for the second time in as many days was being thoroughly captured on video. We were so excited when we pulled out the new photos of Ruo-Ruo, both taken in a wooden playroom, which uncharacteristically for referral photos contained no walkers, chairs or other propping devices, simply an adorable, plump girl in a yellow dress trimmed in bunny rabbits sitting with some toys. In one, she looks like she's playing a plastic keyboard, so we've been calling her musically gifted. ;)

We took the photos (a copy anyway) to the Families with Children from China Holiday Party (fine timing!) where we attracted a huge amount of attention just by waving around a color copy with a couple of baby heads on it. It was so fun telling other parents, including some who had recently returned from China, that we'd just received these photos this morning. A couple of the girls pointed to the pictures and said "baby!" We even coincidentally struck up a conversation with the one member in San Diego who has also adopted from Chongqing, and we got to meet her 2-year-old, Roxy, who is a beauty. She told us that she really enjoyed the city and the people were very warm. Hooray!

After that we went to FedEx-Kinkos with Paul and Mary and videotaped the hell out of signing our acceptance letters and mailing them back to CCAI. That made everything official; when CCAI receives these letters, they will forward them to CCAA, who will begin working on our travel arrangements. We're hoping travel approval will be issued in around four weeks, putting us in Chongqing well before Chinese New Year (January 29 this year.) This is going to be one Christmas season where more than visions of sugar plums will be dancing in my head.

I just have to say that every time I look at Ruo-Ruo's pictures, she looks more and more lovely, and more and more like one of us.

Friday, December 09, 2005


What a day. What an amazing day. We are delirious with tiredness, having thrashed for a few scant hours last night, waiting for the sun to come up. We knew that calls would start coming at 10:00 Colorado time, and that meant 8:00 for us. Well, we heard nothing until 9:45 and I was fairly passing out by then! When the phone rang, David had seen to it that a special recording set-up (that he described as "low-tech) would capture the whole conversation for posterity, and we put it on speaker phone, too. A gal named Jen identified herself as an employee of CCAI, and then asked, "Is this a good time?" We were laughing and crying simultaneously, totally overwhelmed by the surreal quality of the moment, the moment in which we would become parents in an instant, over the phone. The first thing she said was something like "You have a beautiful daughter!" and I just lost it. I'm so glad this no doubt charming display was also being video-taped, especially since I was still in my pajamas. :)

She gave us the information that many of you have already read on e-mail--her name, her age, her province and a few details about her most recent medical exam, nothing that excited any particular attention. She sounded plump from her stats, and she has a little birthmark on the side of her head. I don't remember much of what David and I said or asked, though I do remember asking, when I learned her name was Yu Mei Ruo and that she knows her name, what she is actually called. That's where we got Ruo-Ruo, and it just stuck! All day long I'd pull up her picture again and be unable to restrain myself from proclaiming "Ruo-Ruo!" in a high-pitched baby voice.

For the first few minutes, I know I was in a state of shock, first because many months ago I had a vivid dream that our baby was going to come from Jiangxi, and instead she was from Chongqing, and because I'd kind of imagined her at six months and she is going to be a year old in a couple weeks. Then we had some sort of technical difficulties accessing our picture (they send the first one over e-mail) and it was the longest 15 minutes of my life while we pressed "check mail" hundreds of times and I became more and more hysterical. We finally resorted to calling CCAI and shouting into the speaker phone, "Our picture didn't come through!" and I guess we were sufficiently urgent-sounding because then we received it about five times. :)

I had some really complicated feelings when I saw her picture. I remember thinking all along that the people who said "I took one look at her picture and fell in love with her" just didn't sound like me. I am a "glass half-full" type of girl; it's how I'm able to tell jokes. :) I was shocked at her shaved head (extremely common for girls in Chinese orphanages) and her relaxed stance and expression, as if already jaded by the prospect of the thousands of photos her dad will take of her. ;) But within a few minutes, all the details began to snap into place in my head, like the moment when you find that certain piece of the puzzle that makes the placement of all the subsequent pieces really obvious. Of course she was relaxed--think about who her father is, after all! Of course she laughs really loud and sleeps really late--she's her mother's daughter! And hey, doesn't she look a little like my dad?

The happiness of the moment was capped by a phone call back from Mary and Paul, who confirmed that their J girl is also in Chongqing and practically the same age as ours! It was like a dream coming true--we've thought about being able to travel with them for so long, and now it is really going to happen!

The rest of the day has been a blur--sending out an e-mail to our "blast" list with her little photo and receiving a wonderfully prodigious number of responses from loved ones, many of whom said they cried when they first saw her face. Lots of really sweet phone calls, too, and a lot of love gathered for a little girl in spicy southwestern China at the mouth of the Yangtse River, ready and waiting for her to come and collect it all.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Matches Are In!

The latest:

Dear David & Sam,

The CCAA posted on their website that the April matches were mailed and included log in dates (LID) from April 1st through April 14th. Click on the English button on the CCAA website and you will find the announcements on the right hand side of that page.

Again, matches were mailed from China on Tuesday so we are anticipating the packet to any day and it will most likely have your match in it. We will be in touch soon!

Judy O'Connor, MSW
Child Placement Supervisor

I just read this over and realized it still sounds hopelessly vague. But here's the real news:

THE PACKAGE ARRIVED IN DENVER THIS MORNING. Now it's just a matter of waiting for that phone call!

Tummy hurts. And now I'm crying a little bit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Seasons of Love

I'm ready to crawl out of my skin! I'm not sure what is up but my organs feel all sloshy and I'm light-headed and have the short-term memory of a goldfish. Is this what motherhood feels like? I'm distracted and anxious and yet I'm still deeply in you realize that according to all sources, "the stork" will be arriving at CCAI by midday tomorrow, which means that they have to call us within 24 hours of that arrival, which means we could (will!?!) get "the call" by Friday afternoon? I simply can't process this.

Oh my stars. I don't really know what to think. Anyone out there who can confirm that I'm not just having some kind of psychotic break? Shouldn't I be floating on clouds? Instead I'm ripping out chunks of my hair. (I do that anyway, but now it's really pronounced; I will have to resort to hats.)

And I have this strange desire to eat nothing but ice cream. Resisting so far, but the Ice Cream Force is strong with me. Also I'm snappish and impatient. This is sounding a lot more like PMS than impending parenthood. Hey, maybe it is PMS. Well, there's some irony for you.

Saw "Rent" this afternoon. I had never seen the musical in the theater, and as an unrepentent high school drama queen I've always wanted to. Also, the one song I knew, "Seasons of Love," tears me into little pieces every time. The way all that stuff happens in 525,600 minutes. The movie is like a period piece of lower Manhattan in 1989, and that part is fine. But why won't these people pay their rent, and why are they so angry that people keep asking them for rent? Why is it always so cold, yet the characters gallivant around in mini-skirts in the snow? Why don't the people who actually have jobs pay their friends' heating bills and maybe spring for a pizza? And why are all the songs so forgettable except the aforementioned?

Mind you, the cast are incredible singers, and credible dancers. And the way they are all living with AIDS is heart-rending. But I grew weary of them leaping onto tables and singing every few seconds. Occasionally I felt a bit embarrassed for them, which is not a familiar feeling for me, who loves "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and has been known to burst into tears at the line "Way, way back many centuries ago/Not long after the Bible began..." I just had trouble grasping why these seemingly nice folks seem to have such a penchant for squalor and smack.

A great big shout-out to Aunt Cheryl in Wellington Mills, Western Australia, an amazing cook and a good friend to garden gnomes. ;) Your post surprised and delighted us! Keep those posts coming, everyone. I love knowing that you're out there!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


This just in:

We have learned that the CCAA has mailed matches. CCAI hopes to receive these matches within 2 to 4 business days. At this time, we cannot verify how many families have been matched for the month of April LIDs. We will update this site as soon as more information becomes available.

The April families who receive their matches this month will be on an 8 month timeline. The remaining April families who will be matched in January will be 9 months from LID.

For the foreseeable future, it appears that the referral timeline might be in the range of 9 ˆ 10 months from LID (log in date) to child match. We will keep our CCAI families posted as soon as we are able to confirm any timelines changes or receive official notice from the CCAA (

Wow! For those of you who have never understood a word I've said about LIDs and DTCs and the crucial difference between CCAI and CCAA, here's all you need to know right now:

Our LID is April 12.

That would be the April 12 that's in the FIRST HALF of the month of April. The half that may already be matched with information about our daughter chugging towards Denver (and CCAI) as I write!

Okay, that is exciting, and now I'm even more freaked out. Because that means that (gulp) there's a picture of Jarrah in that package. And we might see that picture by the end of this week!

I realize I'm a bit incoherent here. I'm trembling. I think I need some retail therapy. More later.

Much more later.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Loveliness (Sigh)

What a nice weekend. I hope I am doing a good job appreciating them. On Saturday morning David and I drove to LA because he was giving a talk at some HD film festival. I'll let him tell you about that. :) We stopped in the OC for my favorite-ever egg salad sandwich (really it needs some other category because its elements are discrete instead of mush) and then continued on to the Geffen Contemporary Museum in Little Tokyo (once charmingly known as the "Temporary Contemporary," but I guess they finally faced the fact that they weren't going anywhere.) This museum, an auxillary of MOCA Los Angeles, is a cavernous warehouse that specializes in installations, the kind that invite frolicking in their capacious innards. The current exhibit, "Ecstasy: Altered States" was so much fun. One room is entirely filled with giant twirling red mushrooms hanging from the ceiling. Another room was entirely dark except for pinpoints of light arranged in a grid pattern. All of the rooms had the effect of disturbing your equilibrium in a pleasurable way.

Afterwards we met Lindsey at a mall called "The Grove" for a bit of shopping and a wander through the Farmer's Market. It was lovely with all the holiday lights and stars, but incredibly crowded. The wind whipped around all day, leaving the sky so clear that the falling darkness looked velvety. And we saw Matthew Perry! He was just ambling through the mall on his own, kickin' it LA-style.

Speaking of which, what is the deal with distance in LA? Is that city 50 freakin' miles across? Any time we had to go anywhere, it took a half-hour. I felt like I was in the car forever. From the Grove, David went to Burbank for his event (another amazingly long drive, and I was not a good enough wife to keep him company) and Lindsey and I went to give Zooey her dinner and then out for tapas with Thomas. (Tapas With Thomas! Possible children's book? Chewable?) The first choice of restaurant involved eating out on the sidewalk, where the tablecloths were literally lifting off from the wind. I said, "I'm going to promise not to complain if we can just eat anywhere that's not outside." We ended up at another tapas place, where Lindsey doesn't like the ambience as much ("Indoors is good ambience for me," I said.) It was fun, though we had a good laugh when they brought the dessert, supposedly Spanish-style churros with chocolate dipping sauce. "What does that remind me of?" I asked when the waitress had walked away. "Chicken fingers?" Thomas asked, and I said "Exactly!" And then they TASTED like chicken fingers, which was altogether disconcerting.

We stayed at my parents' house because it was so late by the time David was done (the event started at least an hour late) and had a leisurely morning, including breakfast out, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do on a Sunday. And the food was perfect. After that we took a meandering two-hour walk on Balboa Island, including a detour on the auto ferry to the Peninsula, where we stood on the pier and watched some guys sail off on the world's largest kayak-type boat. Once again, the day was dazzlingly clear and sunny, and Balboa was blissfully empty of crowds, reminding me for the millionth time how delicious it is to be local.

Friday, December 02, 2005


December Nights was sorta-kinda fun. Do you know there are people who stand around in there all night with signs, picketing the fact that it's no longer called Christmas on the Prado? Don't they have anything better to do? It makes me sad.

Anyway, I am the weirdest, most controlling person in the world and I printed out a list of what all the International Cottages were serving, so we got to zero in on the stuff we wanted: stew from Ireland, naan and chicken tikka from India, crepes from Hungary. And, of course, hot apple cider, which is mandatory for each celebrant.

It took us a long time to walk from our parking place through the thronging hordes to get to the stage where the San Diego Men's Chorus was performing; I really wanted to see them. We arrived in time for about three songs, which is better than we did last year! They really are very good; it's a shame that some sort of Zipper midway ride was situated right next to the stage and the lovely harmonies were punctuated with rising gales of scream.

I finally got to see the San Diego Floral Association, but there was some serious crapcake in there; all kinds of trees and tchotchkes festooned with dying flowers, and signs proclaiming that some ladies organization or other was responsible for the carnage. And they had advertised gingerbread, which was not in attendance. Luckily on the way out we happened on the San Diego Civic Dance Company, and got to see a dozen or so Santa-attired little girls in tap shoes doing the most fabulous Rockette-style kick line to an Ethel Merman-esque song called "I Need A Little Christmas." That alone made the whole evening worth it.

Still no news, by the way, if you were wondering.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Bah humbug. It's December and I'm crabby today. Scrooge-like. And I've always suspected Scrooge was Jewish, haven't you?

But first....shout-outs to Amy, Caroline, Marlene and Teresa! Woohoo! I've always wanted to have a reason to do shout-outs, like they do on "Television Without Pity" (awesome website, if you've never checked it out.) And to all you perfectly sane people who confessed to attending Howard Jones concerts--I am in good company!

So why am I all crabby today? Well, it's December Nights this weekend. This is an event that's better in the imagining than the execution. Most years David and I have dutifully trudged up the hill from our old place to Balboa Park and fashioned a make-shift dinner out of tiny, expensive bites of greasy goodness hailing from countries around the world. Grudgingly admitting, hours later, that we are full, even though we're fairly certain we haven't eaten more than a quarter-cup of food washed down by some indeterminate holiday glog. I like the acapella singers but David is virulently opposed to the greedy, grabbing crowds and kvetches mightily when I insist on going and even more so when we're actually there. It's a kvetching paradise for a man who otherwise does not kvetch.

But why am I crabby? Well, I think this is the time of year when I start sensing that everyone is gathered in homes with fireplaces wearing snowman stick pins on their turtlenecks and singing carols with their loved ones and I want in! I don't want to be left outside, pressing my nose to the frosty glass and peering around an evergreen garland. Wah wah wah.

Also someone posted an e-mail from Judy this morning where she, in her maddeningly cheerful and conservative way, estimated it could be two weeks before referrals are even MAILED from Beijing, because I guess those donuts are just too tasty for those CCAA folks to stay focused on their objective, which is to find me a baby! :) Of course she could be wrong, and of course I'm living the enlightened life now, where I don't wish for time to pass, but ARGH! Mostly I feel a bit like an sheepish idiot for announcing to people that we are being matched.

And why else am I crabby? Let me count the ways. :) Oh, David has a work event in Burbank this weekend...on Saturday night. Saturday night! Is that even legal? We were supposed to go to a fancy holiday party and now we can't.

Okay, I'm done with the crabby portion of our broadcast. I do want to say that I had the most wonderful time at the San Diego Zoo on Tuesday with Caroline and her beautiful boys who were both willing to hold my hand. :) We strolled around the blissfully empty "weekday afternoon in winter" zoo and even got an audience with the pandas, totally uninterrupted by haranguings to keep the line moving. Those pandas are awfully cute even just sitting there eating bamboo. I am so looking forward to more afternoons like this with Caroline and perhaps my own little one in a stroller!