Wednesday, April 29, 2009

White Star Forest

Lín Xuán Bái.

That's my name, directly translated from the meanings of my legal English/Italian/Portuguese name. My legal name means "White Star Forest." I put it in reverse order, though: Lín means forest, Xuán (a name I LOVE) means star, and Bái is white.

If you click on the name parts in the blue square, you can hear what the syllables sound like.

I was inspired to look my name up after reading Lola's latest post in her blog Raising Devils, in which she discusses how easily Chinese people collect and switch between names compared to us stodgy, permanence-oriented Americans. I'm more of a name-switcher myself - I've had three legal names, plus a handful of variations on them, plus 3 or 4 significant internet nicknames, plus a pseudonym or two.

I thought I'd go ahead and give myself another name while I was at it. Besides, my son will have a Chinese name and an American name; why shouldn't his parents? It's something the whole family can do!

My source is this Chinese-English dictionary. Note that you need to learn the meanings of your name before plugging them in - it doesn't translate "Mary" or "Bob." You have to type "bitter" or "fame" accordingly.

Here's a nice website for looking up name meanings.

My husband's is
Lín Shí Quán

Which means Authority Rock Forest. Sweet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lori gave me an award!

[Image here]

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

(The rassafrassin' image won't show up. Oh well, I can't magically make it appear and I'd rather go to bed than keep trying and trying. But this award game isn't nearly as fun without the image.)

My friend Lori, of the intriguingly-titled blog Reflections and Ramblings of a Not-So-Super Woman, awarded my blog for being charming. That's very sweet!And just imagine - I've been so insular lately, doing my own lil thing and hardly paying attention to anyone else...

That's not entirely true. I read the blogs on my list voraciously. I just haven't commented much lately.

Now I must pass it on. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of readers that I'm aware of. Four people 'follow' me, and one's Lori, and then there are a few people who have left comments. Let's see if I can dig up 8 worthy bloggers for my award.

1) Mary Ellen - she hasn't posted in a very long time, but I read her archives and they're full of cute kid stories. More stories please!

2) Shelley Smith - she just brought Kevin home from China, and he's a super-cutie. Blinded by cute!

3) Peggy - hard at work adopting Theo, and just a step or two ahead of me in the process. Maybe we'll travel together.

4) Lori again - yeah, well, she's entertaining and informative, and I'm trying to list eight blogs here.

5) Misty - a woman who is all heart. Seriously, she's like one big heart. But with arms for giving hugs.

6) Lola Granola - she's witty, funny, poignant, insightful, and always entertaining, and she's getting ready to adopt Rebecca.

Okay, I found 6 good ones. I could post more, but I have a full-blown case of swine flu and I'm feeling quite miserable right now. It hurts my eyes to look at the monitor, and that's my mildest symptom. So I think I'll go rest. May the 6 of you find and enjoy your awards, and remember that I'm grateful for all the posting you do. It reminds me that we're all in this together - life, parenthood, in some cases adoption...

...all righty, getting sappy. And sniffly. Bleah. G'night!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Waiting is not so bad

Most other families seem to be waiting with gritted teeth and high anxiety. Not us. This actually isn't so bad.

Yes, I wish Yun Gui would get to us before he gets any older. Yes, I want him home just so that he can be home. I want to get to know every little detail about him. I want a million uncertainties to end. I want my family together in one place.

But I know it will happen. I know everyone has to wait like we're waiting.

I know he's thriving in the orphanage. It's not an ideal place to grow up, but it's not a hellhole either. His caregivers are doing their best. He has warm clothes and colorful toys and attentive nurses who make sure he's fed and watch his progress.

I'm worried about his health, but I'll get him the medical care he needs when I have him. There's no point in panicking before that.

I wish the renovations were done so I could start assembling his bedroom, but they're not so I can't. I'm not panicking over that, either. I go upstairs and talk to the foreman every day that he's here, so he knows exactly what's on my mind. He knows all about Yun Gui.

Besides, Yun Gui will probably sleep in our room - maybe even our bed, if he has initial trouble sleeping alone - whether his bedroom is ready or not.

I'm not done getting the poison ivy out of the yard. It needs to be completely gone before he comes home. Unfortunately I need to wait for it to sprout before I can see what's dead and gone, and what's still alive.

It's squirrel season at Cape Wildlife Center. I'm doing 3 shifts per week, plus I'm now on call. It's hard to be on call with a baby. Maybe even impossible.

Also, I'm just not an anxious person. I can manage a good state of anxiety for a week or two, but then I get resistant. Things will come when they come. I'm not idle; I have a lot of little things to do. I've waited 7 or 8 years for parenthood; another month or two won't kill me.

Tomorrow Yun Gui will be 13 months old. In another 31 days, he'll be 14 months. I probably won't have him by then, but I might have him by 15 months, or 16 months, or at the very worst, 17 months. (18 months brings us into September, something I'm firmly hoping to avoid.)

Okay, so, not so bad.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

White Swan Hotel renovations

There's a rumor going around that the White Swan hotel will close for renovations this summer. I Googled it and found one site,, with several articles about it. The White Swan hotel in Guangzhou is a great tradition among Americans adopting in China, as well as being popular with various celebrity visitors from the West. I've mentioned the children's book written about it, which we've bought. Additionally, it has a red sofa where families traditionally have their pictures taken.

Apparently, the White Swan announced 2 years ago that their renovations would start in December, 2007. Some minor renovations were made, but the major changes were delayed. The plan was to combine the rooms in pairs so that they would have half the number of rooms as before, but each room would be twice as big. Having 843 rooms to start with, the White Swan will soon have considerably fewer rooms.

Okay, it doesn't specify that the number of rooms will be 'cut in half', but only that it will be 'decreased'.

Here's a quote from one article:

A representative from White Swan Hotel said that their renovation planning is underway, and unlike the other old five-star hotels, they would change their hotel into something like Xintiandi Shanghai — but better. The person said that they would change Shamian South Street on which the hotel lies into the most luxurious pedestrian street in Guangzhou and bring top international brands such as Louis Vuitton to the street. In addition, they will set up a unique conference center and featured restaurants. The work is expected to commence in the middle of 2009 and be completed in 2010.

It says elsewhere that the reduction in rooms will probably make it harder to get a reservation. If it's completely closed when we go this summer, of course, Husband'o'Mine and I won't have to worry about that at all.

The good news is that several other hotels in Guangzhou are also getting renovated. We should try to find one that's been done already. We enjoy roughing it... sometimes.... but maybe not while trying to bond with our toddler. I'm a bit worried about cleanliness, too. One of us will probably catch something while we're in China - just getting there will be stressful enough to compromise the ol' immune system. We don't need to tempt fate any more than we have to in a run-down hotel.

Besides, I was illin' for practically the entire trip to AZ last Christmas. I healed up in time to drive home, but it's no fun seeing the snow-covered Grand Canyon when you don't feel much like getting out of the car.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Construction frustration

I hope everyone had a happy Easter. We sure did! And I brought lots of eggplant parmigiana and fettuccine home for a lunch of leftovers.

The builder hasn't shown up yet. I was hoping he'd be rarin' to go on Monday morning, but it's noon and there's been no sign of him.

I have lots of things to do, but I'd worry a lot less if I could hear him banging about upstairs. He keeps reassuring me it'll be done before we leave for China. But I worry.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spinning my wheels

Things are getting resolved. Our dossier has gotten to China. We have a referral, we're utterly in love with him, and we're committed to adopting him. The pediatric specialist is happy with the information we sent him and has given Yun Gui a thumb's up. We're wrapping up all those 'childless couple' activities so they won't die a sudden, violent death or disappoint the other people involved. We've told everyone we're adopting.

There's still lots of prep to do. The house is getting renovated, and until it's done, we have no second bedroom. There's travel - we've never made a trip like this before! So many things to take into account.

There's Customs - we have to pack so that airport security won't have a problem with us.

There's the language barrier - our attempts to learn Mandarin are laughable at best.

There's culture shock - although I don't think it'll be so bad. We've been eating a ton of Chinese food, and we're used to staying in cheap hotel rooms and cramped temporary quarters.

There's the time difference - 13 hours! Night becomes day and day becomes night! My husband plans to become a night owl before we leave. I can't because of my job, but maybe I can become polyphasic (sleeping shorter periods throughout the day).

There's, oh, PARENTHOOD coming up. Most people reading this are already parents. I am about to join you. (I've been prepping for that for years'n'years'n'years and now I'm just waiting for the actual parenthood part to set in.)

Parenthood will beset us in China. How weird is that? So far from the comfort of our own home... but also far from the comfort of Yun Gui's home. What a way to start off a life together - hotel-hopping! It's the way we chose, though, and we're preparing in every way we can think of. Well, almost every way. I can think of lots of little things to do that I haven't started to do yet, and probably never will. Lots of little things will get forgotten. As long as we get our baby home, I won't sweat it. It would be nice to have a photo book, or some souvenirs... it would be nice to visit his finding spot... it would be nice to learn a few more words in Chinese.

We won't be idle in the next few months, but we have to prioritize. I wish I had a guidebook, a checklist, a clear idea of the musts and shoulds versus the noncrucial novelties. I'd like to focus on the novelties. Okay, maybe I'll indulge in just a few.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not my comfort zone

I'm feeling the stress. It's not only the adoption; it's also the home renovations, which are going slowly and behind schedule. The contractor told me a little too much behind-the-scenes information, and now I'm worried. I realize he just needed to vent, but I'm his client, not his drinking buddy, and his staffing problems are directly affecting my house.

At work I've had trouble concentrating, and it shows in a big way. I have to concentrate on lots of little numbers, and if there are any inconsistencies, I need to notice and correct them. I'm in no state of mind to do so.

My new comic book deadline is the 16th. This is my absolute last possible deadline. If I miss this, my comic book company will suffer. I don't necessarily see this as the end of the world, but my husband cares a great deal.

The wildlife rehab facility where I volunteer has a lot of animals all of a sudden. I'm putting in 2-3 shifts per week. Stress stress!

I'm not a great doer of things. I mean well, but when my to-do list gets too long, I start seeking out quiet time and letting some of my responsibilities slip by... especially the ones that don't give me any sense of instant gratification, or that force me to deal with people in difficult ways. (That means wildlife rehab is safe.)

I wish we had our baby already, and were back from China with our house completed and the bedroom all furnished and ready. Then I could claim lots of quiet time. Admittedly, it would be quiet time with a toddler running around and settling bumpily into his new life. But that's the perfect excuse to drop the ball on some of my less appealing obligations.

"Sorry, I can't! I'm busy parenting. Nyeah!"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Passport photo redo

Apparently I need to redo the scans of our passport photos.

I'm not sure exactly what to do to them. I ran them through Photoshop and tried to brighten them up a bit, but their biggest problem is that they're a bit blurry and Photoshop can't help with that. These are not the actual photos in our actual passports, though. Scanning those is possible, but they're stamped over with all sorts of fraud-proof marks. Maybe that's what i'm supposed to do?

Oh dear. I'm very confused.

Five waiting families got their LOSCs today. We are not among them. If we don't have any further redos, maybe we'll be in the next batch. Or the next.

In other news, I'm finding the medical system intimidating to navigate, but my sister-in-law has offered to help. She's a nurse. I'll welcome her help with big, wide, open arms.

She said, "May I accompany you on the appointments? I can listen to what the doctor says and help you understand it. That's my specialty."

She is made of awesome!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Birth mother

I've been reading "Adoption Nation" by Adam Pertman. It's a sociology book, but it's very interesting to me now, mostly because he's discussing social issues that have been on my mind on a daily basis. I'm going to try to convince my parents to borrow it after I'm done. It's not a must-read, but it presents a nice overview of the changing attitudes in our society. Changing attitudes are relevant to everyone, whether or not they are or know someone involved in an adoption. Everyone has attitudes.

Last month Husband'o'Mine and i attended a "waiting families" meeting in which the two other families were engaged in private domestic adoptions. One woman already had her baby, and the other had started to get referrals of birth mothers.

These two things have gotten me thinking deeply about Yun Gui's birth mother.

Many adoptive families wish to avoid having to deal too closely with the birth mother, at least initially. I am not a people person, so this makes sense to me. When becoming a parent means allowing an unpredictable stranger into your life, it can be intimidating. What if she pushes too hard and forces you to set limits? What if the child becomes confused, and maybe even fails to bond with you? What if she sues to regain her parental rights? What the adoptive family fears is disruption.

This was one of our lines of thinking. It wasn't my strongest prejudice, ironically. My strongest prejudice was money - I thought an international adoption was beyond our means. (It was, but it isn't anymore, thanks to some changes in our financial situation.) I was tentatively willing to take the risk. We were assured that we could say no to any child who came with family ties greater than what we'd want to handle. I thought that if we were selective, we could navigate the state foster/adoption system until we got the child we wanted.

But we ended up adopting from China instead. The program was there, it felt right for us, and, as mentioned before, we found we could afford it. In China, nearly 100% of the children are abandoned anonymously. Finding, meeting, or interacting with the birth family becomes irrelevant; it is impossible.

Closed adoptions (in which little or no identifying information is shared between the birth family and the adoptive family, and contact is prevented and discouraged) are appealing to the adoptive family, initially. But, according to "Adoption Nation," many families change their minds. Even if the parents never change their minds, often the adoptee wishes to reestablish contact with his/her birth mother. But often enough, the adoptive parents do too. They want their children's family's medical history, or they want closure, or they think it's best for the child, or they just want to know.

Sometimes the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s) establish a comfortable relationship. They appreciate each other and they stay in touch. I can understand all of this, too.

The several chapters in "Adoption Nation" about sealed birth certificates, searching services, and corresponding or reuniting with biological relatives fail to apply to us. And that's essentially impossible to change, even if we want to make contact with Yun Gui's birth family at a later date. There's nothing we can do. We can't get his family medical history, either. We can't send letters and photos to his mom, no matter how badly we may want to. We will never be able to tell her that her son is doing fine.

When Yun Gui asks about his birth family and the circumstances of his adoption, there's only one thing we can do. That's talk. We can tell him stories, explain the culture and politics that contributed, and reassure him with lots of words that it's okay for him to question his identity, and he still belongs with us.

And he probably will continue to wonder who his parents were and why they abandoned him. I wonder already. Fortunately, I have some advantageous tools at my disposal.

For one, I can comprehend people doing things that, at first glance, seem horrible, but that can be supported with good intentions and other human frailties if one digs deeper. I can claim a firsthand perspective - my parents acted with the utmost love and concern for me as they forced me into a long series of difficult and harmful situations. Having survived that, I now strongly believe that there is no such thing as right or wrong. Everything is both right and wrong. Therefore I don't jump to an overly simplistic opinion that Yun Gui's birth parents deserve my reproach, or even that they'd made a mistake or were inferior to me in any way. Maybe they are warm, wonderful people. Maybe they did everything right and made the absolutely best decisions, and this just happened to be the result. I won't say "I'm grateful to them because they provided me with my child," either. How Yun Gui went from their care to the Wuxi orphanage and then, very soon, into our household is merely a series of random occurrences plus conscious decisions by many different people. They made their decisions, and we made our decisions, and all those decisions fell into place amidst a much bigger dynamic.

I have distance. Distance is a gift. Even though I'm right in the middle of this adoption, I'm still able to step back and take educated guesses without being blinded by emotion.

And third, I'm a storyteller by trade.

Yun Gui was a second child. It's conceivable! The One-Child policy has shaken Chinese culture up a great deal, but we Westerners have a poor understanding of the day-to-day effects it has on any given family struggling to deal with it. We say, "They throw away their girls." Yet many families keep their daughters, love them and raise them, teach them and encourage them. We can latch onto this idea of a specific gender being treated poorly, but that idea won't explain away every family's experience.

How many different ways can you imagine the One-Child policy complicating a family's life? Just that one way? Or can you imagine other kinds of decisions being made for other reasons?

Yun Gui was a second child. His sibling - brother or sister, either one works - was healthy and thriving under all that love and attention. The family was rural and not rich, but they got by. Maybe they were farmers. Maybe they practiced a trade. Maybe they were employees of the state. They didn't mean to get pregnant again, and they didn't mean to let the pregnancy go on so long, but these things happen. When you secretly want a big family, it's hard to prevent these things from happening.

Yun Gui was born big and healthy-looking. His birth posed a horrible dilemma for his parents. They toyed with the idea of keeping him surreptitiously. Maybe it would be a year or two before they were caught and forced to pay the fines. They could hide him at his aunt's house in the daytime and in their own back room at night.

He ate well, but soon it was apparent that something was wrong. He was ill somehow. His parents paid a local nurse under the table to look at him, but all she said was that it was serious and he needed to be examined by trained doctors. His parents knew they couldn't do that if they hoped to keep him. They couldn't afford the punishment for having a second child. It would ruin them all.

Meanwhile, the baby got sicker and sicker. It was ten days before, in desperation, his parents wrapped him up in warm clothes and blankets and stole out into the night to place him near the town bridge, where someone would surely see him in the morning.

One or both of the parents made some excuse to head that way again the next morning. When they got to the bridge, the baby was gone. He had been found and brought to the hospital, where he'd been given some lifesaving surgery and some TLC and admitted into the state orphanage of the nearest city. But they had no way of knowing that. They had no way to know whether his ailment was fatal or treatable. They just knew he was gone, and the risks they'd been willing to take for his sake were gone too.

I've heard people say, "They abandon their girls so they can try again for a boy." Once or twice I've heard people say, "They abandon their sick and disabled children so they can try again for a healthy one." That may be true, but it's an overly simplistic explanation. They must also, at times, abandon the second child (or the third) for no reason at all. And who can say whether any child abandoned anonymously was or wasn't a second child?

Well, we can't know. But we can say anything we want.

This is just the beginning, too. We haven't even gotten our child yet. We have a whole lifetime of not knowing ahead of us. But we're not the only ones on that front.

Still... this is the age of the internet. The online crossover between American and Chinese internet is not great, and there's that language barrier. But maybe things will change over time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We have translations

Good news! The untranslated medical document is now being translated. I unexpectedly found a friend-of-a-friend who did it for $40, and I'll be getting it back tonight. The friend-of-a-friend who was originally going to do it is taking a long time, and in fact I was just going to contact that friend and see if maybe I should give up and find some other venue.

It is unusual to get untranslated documents from the orphanages - normally, the agency arranges for translations of everything before giving them to you. This is a slightly irregular situation, I guess.

I also want to give a shout-out to the girls from the gym. Welcome to my adoption blog! There will be more pics later, I promise! As soon as I find something to take pictures of, I'll post it. We don't have the bedroom ready yet or anything.

Addendum: I found a photo of my husband and me with a friend. I'm on the left, hubby is in the middle, and friend is on the right. I just realized this is the first time most of the other adoptive families have seen what we look like. Here we are!

I've also never posted any pictures of the cats.

Do you want to see the cats?

They're really intelligent cats. Want to see them?

Told you they're intelligent. Melody, the tortie, has cerebellar hypoplasia. That's kind of like cerebral palsy for cats. She has poor muscle control and can't run or jump. She's studying to be a physicist.

Trixie, the calico, was our first special needs rescue. She was born feral and only recently, and with much patience, has come around to being a proper house cat. She's very good at it now - she even tolerates overeager toddlers. Her preferred field is chemistry, and she also enjoys reading.

That's our family so far. I think it's missing something, don't you? I think it could really use a little boy.