Any milestone will do

At 7:18 tonight, the last brush stroke of paint went on the trim of Alex’s room.

I’m calling up the cable company to insist they delete HGTV from the channel lineup.  Henceforth, there will be no viewing of home improvement shows in the Kendall household.

Next up is assembly of the crib.  Assembly First aid tips will be accepted with gratitude.

Test driving the Hip Hammock

It’s important to carry your baby safely (or so they’ve told me).  So we’ve decided to get the Hip Hammock, a high-tech kiddy-toting sling.  The fact that it comes with an 8-page manual worries me.  The fact that I can’t put it on without help, even when the test subject is a 2-pound stuffed bear, worries me more.

At any rate, here’s a photo from our first dry run.  “Look, Alex, there’s our tour bus!  Leaving without us!  I really have to learn to put this thing on faster!”

(Notice the terror-stricken expression on the bear.  I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing that a lot.  Notice the vaguely confused expression on me.  I have a feeling everyone else is going to be seeing that a lot.)

To Alexandra, on her first birthday

Today, you’re a year old.  Actually, daytime here is your night; your birthday is almost over. You’re twelve hours ahead of us; in a way, you’re in the future.  In another way, you ARE the future.

I hope the nannies did something special for you today.  I know they’re overworked, but people have told me that they are passionate about caring for you and your friends.  I wonder if they know that their time with you is drawing to a close.  Soon you will go to meet your forever family, leaving behind the only caretakers you have known.  I know that you will miss them; I think they will miss you, too.

You won’t be leaving EVERYONE you know behind.  The girl you know as Sheng Fu Zhu will be travelling to Connecticut with you, and her name will be Olivia.  She’ll be living only 40 minutes away.  Isn’t it amazing that, in all of China, our daughter and our friends’ daughter have been together for the past year?  Olivia’s mom just found out that Olivia can walk and climb; please don’t learn any trouble-making techniques from her.

And your friend Sheng Xuan Xuan?  She’s in Connecticut now, too!  Her mom brought her to her new home in March.

Soon you’ll have a friend named Katelyn.  Her parents, Pam and Jerry, are also new friends of ours.  They’ll be travelling to Jiangxi soon to bring her home.

Since we first saw your picture, people have been helping us fill in details about your life.  Cindy sent me an email after seeing your picture–that outfit you’re wearing is one she donated to the orphanage.  It’s a small world, isn’t it?  Maybe not, from your perspective.

We know that in July a group of missionaries came to Desheng to help take care of you and the other children.  One nice lady has written us, telling us that she thinks she recognizes you from your picture.  She says that you have more hair now than you did in the pictures we’ve seen.  She also said you love to be on the move and are an enthusiastic thumbsucker, so they couldn’t get many pictures of your face.

She told us that the nannies are kind and patient.  They feed you large bowls of congee for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; snacks include applesauce, apple slices, bananas, and crackers.  We can handle the snacks with no problem, but I think I’ll have to track down a congee recipe.  Your medical records say that you also like ground meat and vegetables.

We found out that you had chicken pox in February, and so did a lot of the other kids.  I didn’t get them until I was 17.  Believe me, you’re lucky to have it out of the way early.

We’ll be coming to get you soon, but not soon enough.  Your mom is working her way down her list of people to be angry at because of the delay.  Let’s just say that she’s eager to travel, and whoever holds things up will be sorry if your mom figures out who they are.  I don’t blame her; I want you to come home soon.  But I believe that things will happen at the time they’re supposed to.  There’s a reason that we were selected to be your forever parents, and that you were destined to become our daughter.  There was a plan that caused you and us to come together at just the right time to become a family.  We may never know what that reason was, or whose hand set out that plan.  As we have trusted in them so far, we will continue to have faith in them, knowing that we will be together when the time is appropriate.

Go to sleep, now.  Dream of a new home, with a yard to play in, dogs to tease, and a family that is yours forever.

Happy birthday.

We’re back

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a week since referral day.  Time for an update, I guess.

We were in Pennsylvania for our travel meeting this past weekend.  We drove to Conshohocken on Friday, the meeting was in Wynnewood on Saturday afternoon, and we drove back on Sunday.

Since January, the agency has been deflecting all questions regarding travel, responding, “Don’t worry about that.  You’ll get all that information at the travel meeting.”  On Saturday, they made good on that promise.  In four hours, they covered the tentative itinerary, travel arrangements, customs in China, medical issues, and more.

The only information they couldn’t provide was a firm travel date.  Adoptions From The Heart received nearly 50 referrals in this last batch, covering five different provinces.  That means as many as five different groups will be travelling.  Travel dates will be anywhere from mid-September to the beginning of November.  The specific date for a group will depend on how soon CCAA processes the paperwork.  We do know that groups will be travelling in October, regardless of the national holiday and the Guangzhou trade expo.

We had a chance to meet most of the eleven families that we’ll be travelling with and exchanged email addresses with them.  We were lucky enough to have dinner at the Olive Garden with several of the families bound for Guangxi, as well as folks headed to An Hui and Sichuan.  It’s an extremely diverse group, brought together by this common goal.  One of the most amazing things I’ve discovered is the immediate bonding and sense of community shared by people adopting internationally.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by Bernadette’s 2 1/2 year old daughter, Gracie.  Gracie demonstrated a flair for improvisational comedy, using two drinking straws as walrus tusks and horns, then using them as chopsticks to eat her tossed salad.  Waiters from all over will come to respect her, as she commands them to bring “CHEESE!”  Gracie is also handy with a fork, as Elise discovered when Gracie decided to share Elise’s dessert.

As we were all leaving the restaurant, Gracie made the rounds, distributing hugs and kisses.  “Gracie,” Lauri asked, “am I going to get a nice baby like you?”

Gracie raised one eyebrow and put a finger on her chin.  She pondered for a moment, smiled broadly, and said, “SURE!”

“Referral Day” – the Director’s Cut

Sunday night, neither Lauri nor I were tired, so we delayed going to bed.  We wound up watching television, specifically the “Airline” marathon, which follows the trials and tribulations of Southwest Airline employees and passengers.  We kept saying we’d watch “just one more episode.”  The 2:00 am installment showed a couple travelling from Arizona to China to bring their new daughter home.  We figured that was a good omen, and a sign that it was time to go to bed.

We figured that the FedEx delivery was likely to come some time after 11 am on Monday, so we began the day at a fairly low level of anxiety.  Just before nine, Lauri was ready to take the dogs downstairs to let them out.  I asked her if she wanted me to keep an eye out the window for FedEx, just in case.  “You might as well,” she said, but neither of us expected it to be necessary.

Of course, Lauri had just gotten to the bottom of the stairs when I saw the truck pull up.  I called down to her, and listened as she tried to hurdle Spenser and MacGyver in order to get back upstairs.  She had the presence of mind to grab her camera and my camera case.

She got back up the stairs just as the FedEx driver got to the front door.  She raised her camera to take a picture of me signing for the envelope, then realized that we hadn’t replaced the memory card in her camera.  Lauri pulled my camera out, looked at all the controls, and handed it to me.  As I powered it up, she explained to the bewildered driver that he was holding our adoption paperwork.

As Lauri got in position to sign, I tried to frame the picture.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to swap lenses, and I was much too close to get both Lauri and the driver in.  I backpedaled, trying to get some distance, completely forgetting that the deck had a finite length.  I fetched up against the railing, which I can testify is solidly constructed.  I managed to snap the picture and maintain my balance.

The dogs had been barking contiuously through all of this.  The neighbors knew we were expecting the delivery, and alerted by the racket and the departing truck, converged on the deck.  Lauri wasted no time tearing open the envelope, and in the company of the neighborhood, we saw Alex’s picture for the first time.

We skimmed the enclosed paperwork, which included some medical records, and a letter to be returned to the China Center of Adoption Affairs.  The medical records were primarily in Chinese, with English translations.  I spotted what looked like it might be a problem.

“This says ‘Color: YELLOW’,” I told Lauri.  “Why is she yellow?”

As thoughts of some arcane liver problem flashed through my mind, I tried to make sense of the page I was reading.  “It’s okay, don’t worry,” I told Lauri.  “I’m reading the urinalysis report.  I guess yellow’s a good thing.”

After congratulating us, the neighbors wandered off, and Lauri and I went in to make our phone calls.  We spent the next three hours on the phone, spreading the good news.

We made copies of the medical records to drop off at our family physician and Alex’s pediatrician.  On the way, we stopped at Milford Health Care to show Lauri’s mother her new granddaughter.  We went to one of the lounges so we could spread the paperwork out.  All the residents in the lounge wanted to see the pictures and extend their congratulations.  We dropped off the paperwork, then realized we were starving–it was already 2 pm.

Getting the referral was clearly a Kendall milestone, and Kendall milestones call for lunch at Wendy’s.  This time it was even more appropriate, since Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas was adopted, and an advocate for adoption.

We stopped at Party City to pick up an “It’s A Girl!” banner, then drove home.  The most important step would come next.

We each signed the letter to the director of the CCAA, acknowledging that we accepted their referral of Alex to be our daughter.  As Lauri sealed the envelope, I prepared the FedEx label.  As Lauri proofread, I corrected the FedEx label.  This would have been a REALLY bad time to transpose the digits of the address.

Then it was back into the van, to drive to the FedEx drop box at the Milford Post Office.  As Lauri took pictures, I practiced placing the envelope.  A flick of the wrist, and the package was on its way.  I checked the box a couple of times, to make sure the envelope had gone in securely.  Can’t be too careful in a case like this.

Back home again, to make some more phone calls and begin sending out the emails.  We were beginning to feel the day taking its toll, and Lauri fell asleep on the sofa.  I felt like I do after a full day during tax season: not physically tired, but mentally drained.  I woke Lauri up at 7, and, for the record, we had dinner at the Ninety Nine restaurant in Orange.

That was referral day.  No one warned us how hectic it would be, and we wouldn’t have believed them if they had.

And we’d do it all again.

It’s a girl!

As you can see on the left, Alexandra’s information has arrived.  We’ve just gotten back from dropping our letter accepting the referral in the FedEx box.  We’re happy, but exhausted.  We have a big update coming with details from today’s adventures, and a photo gallery from referral day.