Thursday, February 01, 2007

Finding Zoe: Our Adoption Video

While we were in China, we took about 1,000 pictures and shot nearly 3 hours of video. It's taken this long to distill it all, and convert it to a form that's watchable for family and friends (who wants to watch 3 hours of video clips?). The result is just a snippet (about 15 minutes long) of our journey, but it tells the story nicely. Enjoy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

One Month Anniversary

One month ago today, Zoe joined our family. In some ways, that month has flown by, and in others, it feels like a lifetime.

As much as they say you shouldn't, I fell in love with Zoe's picture. But in real life, she is so much more. She has brought such joy to our family! We can't help but laugh when she's around. I can't believe how easily she has fit into our lives and hearts. My love for her just keeps growing, and I am reminded of the Grinch, who's heart grew and grew and grew.

Over and over, I have heard adoptive parents say they got the child they were meant to have, and I've wondered if that can be true in every case. Maybe it is, because it certainly happened to us.

Today, Doug went over to a friend's to play while Katie was at dance class. When Katie came home and discovered he was gone, she was upset that she hadn't been able to go with him. She started to go into total meltdown mode. Jerry and I were trying to talk to her, when we heard splashing coming from the kitchen. Jerry ran in, and came out holding Zoe. He said she'd had both hands in Rosie's water dish, and had looked up at him with a big smile. This made all of us laugh, and miraculously, Katie's tears disappeared. I then mentioned that she could feed Zoe, since Doug wasn't around, and all was sunshine and happiness.

Later, when Doug came home, Jerry opened the front door, and he rushed past him, up the stairs, straight to Zoe's room, where she and I were were playing. He scooped her up and carried her downstairs. When I asked what he was doing, he said he wanted to show her to his friend, and he wanted to play with her before bed.

A few people have told us they're addicted to this blog. I know the feeling, because there are a few blogs I'm addicted to. I've really enjoyed writing this one. I have not been great at keeping up with baby books for Doug and Katie, I can't seem to find the time to scrapbook, most of my pictures are in boxes or stored on the computer, but this blogging-thing seems to work for me. So, now that our adoption adventure has come to an end, I plan to keep on blogging.

However, now that we've "found Zoe", I want to start a new blog. I can't promise it will be as interesting as this one, as we are all happily settling into the routines of everyday life. Blogging will simply be my way of documenting our lives, but you are welcome to check in on us once in awhile.

We plan to print out "Finding Zoe" for Zoe, complete with comments. I hope she'll enjoy reading it someday. I also hope she'll get a sense of how much she is loved by her family and friends!

The night Jerry and I met, one of our first conversations was about the TV show, "Party of Five". Now that we are five, it seems like an appropriate name for a blog. So it will be:

See you there!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Happy Days

First, thank you to Dale for the lovely comment after our last post. Your timing could not have been better. At the time we read it, Jerry and I were starting to feel like the world's worst parents. When Zoe was awake, she would just cry and moan. Nothing we did seemed to help. She drank very little, refused to eat, and became steadily weaker throughout the week. We didn't go anywhere or do anything, except try to figure out what food or liquid would tempt her to eat and drink. Now that it's over, all I can say is: it was depressing. I think there are few things worse than being unable to feed, comfort, or soothe your child. Anyway, your post raised our spirits, and helped us make it through. We are lucky to have good friends!

So, we had decided to take Zoe back to the doctor on Monday, but then Sat. night she ate an M&M cookie, and things started looking up. We should have known, everyone feels better with a little chocolate!

On Sunday, she began eating and drinking more, and seemed happier. Since Sunday, she has improved a little each day. Tues. night we went to Marie and Joe's for dinner. Zoe had eaten a small jar of baby food when she woke from her nap at 3 p.m., so I figured she wouldn't eat much. Boy was I wrong! Marie had made beefstew, and Zoe could not get enough. She just kept eating and eating and eating. Even when the rest of were done, she kept going. On top of that, she was a delight to be around -- smiling, flirting, and laughing, just like in China.

Here she is chowing down on beefstew. (Sorry for the "see"food.)

So, here's what's new:

Zoe turned 17 mos. on Oct. 9th. The rash is completely gone. She has gotten used to Rosie, and will reach out to pet her (although she's not fond of dog kisses). She loves to play in Rosie's water dish. She's very snugly and loves to be held. She's always happy in the bathtub. Her favorite game is still peek-a-boo. She also does this thing where she blinks both eyes at us, holds them squeezed shut for an instant, and waits for us to do it back. She will "brush" her hair, wipe her mouth with a napkin, and hold her foot up for me to put on a shoe (all things she learned in the orphanage). She's learned about telephones, and will put any long object up to her ear to "talk", she also knows what "bye-bye" means and will wave when we say it. She knows her name. She can say: hi, mama, dada, and Doug, and is working on Katie. She loves to shake her head (vigorously) "no" or "yes", depending on her mood. She has certain ways she wants to be held, and Jerry swears she is classically conditioning us to just the right position. She's becoming more independent, and enjoys exploring on her own, she also wants to feed herself.

She has become more of a daddy's girl. No matter what she is doing, if she sees Jerry, she stops and reaches for him. She's not big on strangers, and has been warming up to everyone slowly. Other than those who went with us to China, she has only gone to our pastor, and to Julie. She also let Kyra feed her the other day.

She has had no problems sleeping. From day one, she has preferred to sleep by herself, in the crib. Most of the time she goes to bed without a peep. If she fusses, it is never for more than a minute. She sleeps about 12 hours each night and will take a 2-3 hour nap during the day.

Although she was walking pretty well by the time we left China, since she was sick, it's like she's forgotten how. I think part of the problem was that with no food and little to drink, she had no energy or strength. Hopefully, that will come back quickly.

We've noticed that the times she seems truly sad, are once in awhile when she first wakes up. I noticed this in China, also. It's almost like sometimes she is still expecting someone else to be there. When she sees one of us, she just hides her head and cries. It usually doesn't last long, and is becoming more infrequent, but it is sad to see.

She loves playing with Doug and Katie, and they love playing with her. Doug likes to make her laugh (which is usually pretty easy). Katie is more of the disciplinarian, and I hear, "No, Zoe" a lot from her. Both of them are always concerned about her. If she cries, they expect us to pick her up immediately. Last night, Doug was reading to me on his bed, and Zoe was playing next to us. He was sure I wasn't watching her properly, and he couldn't concentrate, because he thought she was going to fall off the bed. He had to keep stopping to tell me to watch her or to hang on to her better.

It was beautiful outside tonight. We went to "Aunt Julie's library" downtown (Sorry, Julie, you were already gone, but all your co-workers recognized Zoe from the blog). We then walked over to the Jacksonvile Landing for Mongolian BBQ at Mongo's . On the way, we checked out several of the new artsy jaguar statues, which are popping up all over town. At dinner, we sat outside on the river ("just like in China"). The highlight was S'mores for dessert. Afterward, we went downstairs and watched a band perform, while Katie ran around the fountain about a zillion times. Doug declared it the best night since we got back from China. I'd have to agree.

By the way, I just have to mention our camera. If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that our camera and video camera were dying about a month before we left for China. Jerry went online and discovered a recall, and sent both cameras in for free repairs. The video camera came back in time for our trip, but not the camera. (Julie was kind enough to loan us hers.) We finally got our camera back the other day, only it wasn't our camera. Apparently they couldn't fix it, so they sent us a new, smaller, better camera. So, the lesson here? I don't know, I guess: check for recalls before throwing anything away!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Aftermath

We've been home for 5 days now, and we are all still very tired. When does this jet lag end? I'm hoping we right ourselves soon so we can get back into the normal routines of life. Zoe's been sleeping well, but has been running a fever which has been making her very cranky when she's awake. She's also not eating much at all, and is pretty lethargic. Katie got sick throughout Monday night and missed school on Tuesday, but whatever bug she got seems to have passed. Doug has been tired, but hasn't gotten sick (yet). Lisa is also not feeling well, and we're all just exhausted. With hope, tonight will be peaceful and restful for everyone.

Zoe had her first visit to the pediatrician on Monday. 6 shots - poor thing! He also said her rash is scabies, so we re-slathered her in Elimite cream to kill any remaining mites. The itching may continue for a couple of weeks, though, so he prescribed another cream to help with that. Hopefully, her skin will clear up, her fever will go away, and she'll return to the happy-go-lucky baby we had in China.

Zoe still has not warmed up to our dog, Rosie. The good news is she doesn't cry when Rosie gets near her any more. Rather, she looks at her and sort of wimpers. I don't blame her, though. Rosie is a big, black, furry labradoodle who stands taller than Zoe does. I would freak out too, if when set on the floor, a huge beast with fangs and a long tongue came bounding toward me.

A note from Lisa: This week reminds me of the first week home from the hospital after Doug & Katie were born. We are so tired, and everything seems kind of foggy. I had all of these plans for the things I would do while on maternity leave, and now I feel good if I can just get everyone fed, and stay awake until 9 p.m. It's got to get better, right?

We realized we did not update anyone on the family from our group who could not keep their child. They did get another child. A 3-year-old girl from an orphanage in Anhui province. We met her before we left Hefei. We also ran into them at the White Swan at breakfast on our last day, and she seemed to be adjusting well, happily watching the boats go by on the Pearl River.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Trip Home

I forgot to mention in my last post, that at about midnight the night before we left, the fire alarm in our Hong Kong hotel went off. It scared the heck out of me. I jumped up, started puilling on shorts, told Jerry to grab the baby, and ran next door to get my mom, Doug and Katie. Meanwhile, everyone started coming out of their rooms. Someone recommended calling the front desk, so I did, and was told it was a false alarm. We went back into our rooms. About 15 minutes later the alarm went off again! This time someone came around, letting us know it was a false alarm. Luckily, Doug and Katie did not wake up, and Zoe went right back to sleep, and so did the rest of us, but the whole thing was unnerving. As Joe said in his last e-mail, the last thing you want to hear in the middle of the night, when you're on the 21st floor of a hotel, is a fire alarm.

We chartered another bus to the airport the next morning. We left at 7:15 a.m. and arrived by 8 a.m. On the way, we saw some more of the beautiful Hong Kong scenery, and passed the entrance to Hong Kong Disney.

While in line to check our bags, we recognized some families from the White Swan. After getting on the plane, we learned there were 19 adopted Chinese babies on our flight. I think at least one was crying at all times during the flight -- not fun for the other passengers, I'm sure.

Our flight left on time, at about 10:30 a.m. This time, Mom only had to throw away a few things -- a tube of Cortizone cream, the file on her nail clippers, and a bottle of water.

Three of our seats were on the bulkhead, which was nice because there was some extra room for Zoe and Molli to play. Also, there was a place to hang bassinets, where we thought they would sleep. Ha! Zoe slept in one for awhile, but woke up screaming, and never would get back in during the rest of the flight. Her crying woke Molli, and that was the end of that. Here is a picture of Zoe, before she decided she hated it.

This flight was 16 hours, because Guangzhou is so far south. We all dreaded it, but for some reason, it wasn't as bad as the flight over. Maybe because we knew what to expect. Doug thought it was great because he watched the movie "Nacho Libre" 4 times. At about 4 p.m. Hong Kong time, I dosed all 3 kids with Benadryl, and they all slept for several hours. We ended up making a bed of pillows on the floor in front of us for Zoe, and she liked that much better than the bassinet.

The hardest part of the trip was our layover in Newark. We got in at 2 p.m. EST and were not scheduled to leave until 8:30 p.m. We camped out at one of the empty gates, and everyone except the grandparents, Sean, Jason, and Don, crashed. I woke up once, looked around, and decided I had to document this:

At 7:30, we woke everyone to move to our gate. We were due to start boarding at 8:00. At 7:45 they announced that the plane was ready, but they had no crew, and we would be delayed until 9:00. That later changed to 9:15, and then to 9:30!

The two and a half hour flight to Jacksonville should have been a breeze, but we were spread out all over the small plane, and somehow I ended up behind Doug, Sean, and Katie, who were seated all in a row. I was also holding Zoe on my lap. Jerry & Don were a few rows ahead of them, but promplty fell asleep. Everyone else was in the back of the plane. Zoe slept for a little while, but the other 3 were totally hyper, and kept getting up every 5 minutes. Both Doug & Sean spilled their drinks. The women sitting next to me started dogging Jerry: "Typical man, sleeping, while his wife has to handle 4 kids!" It was funny, but I had to defend him, and explained we'd started about 27 hours earlier, and that I'd slept quite a bit during the earlier flight. Still, at one point after Zoe woke up, they told me it was time to wake Jerry, and give him the baby.

We finally got in at about midnight. We were happy to see Jule and Kyra, waiting to meet us at the airport, but didn't get to spend much time with them, as we were all anxious to get home. Of course, once we got home, everyone was wide awake, and hungry. Our friend Janet had made us some delicious white bean chilli, and Julie had stocked us up with milk, eggs, bread, and bacon, so we were in good shape. Then, the kids had to play with our dog, Rosie, check on their watermelon and pumpkin plants, and jump on the trampoline. I also wanted to look up Zoe's rash, which seemed worse again. I looked in my Mayo Clinic reference book, and decided she might have 2 rashes, and that the one still bothering her was a prickly heat rash. They recommended keeping her clean and dry, and Calamine lotion for the itching. So, I gave her a bath and slathered her in lotion. We didn't get to bed until about 3:30 a.m.

The good news is, everyone slept until almost 1 p.m. on Saturday. The bad news is that Saturday night (actually Sunday morning) Doug, Katie, and I all woke up at 3:30 a.m., and as I write this at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, we are all still awake. Zoe, the kid who has been on China time her whole life, slept peacefully all night in her crib. She is so easy!

Julie, Kyra, my mom and dad al came to visit on Sat. afternoon. Zoe was shy at first, but by the end of the visit, had warmed up to the "new" family members. We also went for a walk, and she got to meet our friends, the Holts. Today we plan to go to church, where she will meet a whole bunch of new people.

The only thing Zoe has not been pleased with is Rosie. The first night she cried every time Rosie came in the room. Saturday she only cried when Rosie came close to her. Hopefully, she will get used to her soon!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (& buses, trams, & ferries)

During our last few days in China, we began to marvel at the many froms of transportation we utilized during our trip. From airplanes to buses to rickshaws, we did it all. On Thursday, Sept. 28, we left the White Swan at 9 a.m. on a 29-person bus. It was just big enough for the 14 of us, plus luggage.

We then boarded the 10:30 a.m. train for Kowloon (which is the northern part of Hong Kong). We all loved the train. The seats were large, the aisles were spacious, and the scenery was nice. We rode past big cities, smaller villages, and farmlands with rice paddies.

We arrived in Hong Kong at about noon, and after checking into the Empress Kowloon, we immediately went out sightseeing. I was in Hong Kong 10 years ago, and remember being amazed by how huge and crowded it was. I wondered if I would feel the same amazement now, after having been to New York City and Beijing. I did. I believe it is bigger and more crowded than New York or Beijing. The 12 of us walked down the crowded city streets (with babies on mine and Linda's hips) to the Star Ferry pier.

This ferry brings you across the bay to Hong Kong, providing cool breezes, and a beautiful view of the harbour and city, for about 38 US cents.

We got off the ferry, stopped for an ice cream break, then took a double decker bus to the tram at Victoria's Peak. (After our walk, it was Jerry's turn with Zoe in the carrier).

At the base of Victoria's Peak, we boarded a tram to the top of the mountain. The kids loved this ride. The tram goes almost vertically up the side of the mountain, and the buildings outside look like they're at a 30 degree angle.

Once at the top, we rode escalators (Katie's favorite form of transportation) to the top of a high building. There were glass windows all the way up. Marie is not fond of heights, and about halfway up, decided she'd gone far enough. The rest of us went to the top, for a beautiful view of Hong Kong --on one side mountains, on the other, the skyline.

We stayed at the peak for a nice dinner overlooking the city, and got to see Hong Kong lit up at night--a pretty amazing sight. Then we took the tram down the mountain, the double decker bus back to the ferry, and the ferry back to Kowloon. Instead of walking, we opted for taxis back to the hotel. All in all, we were pretty proud of ourselves for negotiating all of this sans Rui.

The babies continued to "go with the flow." They both slept fine in their third crib since leaving the orphanage less than 2 weeks earlier. I can't even imagine how strange all of this must seem to them after 16 months in an orphanage!

We made it back to Jacksonville safe and sound, and the Derfusses are now back in Orlando. I will post more about our VERY LONG trip home, later.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good-bye Guangzhou

This is our favorite shop, and shopkeeper, Stella. We took our laundry here, and she quickly knew all of our names, and relationships -- quite a feat, considering the number of people here. (I just realized I look like a giant beside her!)

Yesterday, before our consulate appointment, we spent some more time exploring Sha Mian Island. This park along the river was full of people dancing, singing, practicing Tai Chi, and enjoying the beautiful day.

My mom thought this sign was funny:

Doug and Katie made some new friends at the park.

We were not allowed to bring electronic equipment to the consulate yesterday. I wish I could have captured it, though. The American official who administered the oath was very nice, and the experience was both more formal, and more touching then I expected. There were at least 50 American families with Chinese babies. We all raised our right hands, and swore that the information we had given during the adoption process was true. I got a little choked up, and then it was over. (Of course, when we raised our right hands, Zoe started giving us high fives).

Tomorrow, we travel by high speed train to Hong Kong (or as Sean calls it, King Kong). We are all a little sad to be leaving the mainland, and ending this amazing adventure. We have had so many wonderful experiences here. I have no idea if I will have a chance to post again before we leave. Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey. Your comments and e-mails have been one of the highlights of our trip. We can't wait to see everyone!

We'll miss you, Rui

Today, we took Zoe to the American Consulate in downtown Guangzhou to receive her U.S. Visa. After verifying that her face looked like her passport photo, we were asked to take an oath along with about 50 other families. And that was it . . . Zoe is now officially ours according to both the Chinese and United States governments. She will become a U.S. citizen when we go through customs in Newark.

This event marked the end of our 1.5 year journey to get Zoe.

And the China part of our journey was made so easy because of the leadership of our guide, Rui (pronounced "Ray"). It was like having a personal assistant for two weeks. In addition to managing our paperwork, money and travel, she arranged for our sightseeing tickets, made dinner reservations for us, organized wake-up calls, facilitated networking between the parents, acted as a tourguide, arranged for buses and taxis, served as a translator, sang to our babies in Chinese on the bus, and was available 24 hours a day (remember when I had no pants at 10:45 at night?). She also told us jokes and Chinese stories on our long bus rides.

I cannot say enough about Rui. She was fantastic, and really seemed to care about us, our babies, and our families. We will miss her.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Resort Life

This morning at breakfast, Doug asked me what day it was. I thought about it for a minute, realized I had no idea, and turned to Jerry. He looked at me blankly, and said, "Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?" Then we both started laughing, because it was such a weird feeling not to know. I think Doug thought we were nuts.

Doug and Ryan are watching the goldfish in the lobby pond after breakfast.

Today was a lovely, relaxing day, with no "adoption business." I think it has finally sunk in how good we have it here at the White Swan. Here is the view of the Pearl River from our room.

While the kids & Jerry played in the room this morning, my mom and I did some more shopping. Doug's shirt says "ge ge", which means "older brother" in Chinese. We wanted him to wear it yesterday, during our pictures, but he refused.

Zoe has really found her legs in the last day and a half. She is walking all over the place. Click here to see video of Zoe walking with Doug and Katie.

For lunch, we went to a delicious Thai restaurant around the corner. After Zoe napped, we headed to the pool, which is right on the river, and really beautiful.

I am sure neither of the girls has ever been in a pool before. Molli took to the water right away, and began splashing around. Zoe took a little bit longer, but was soon splashing and laughing.

A few days ago, Don discovered this BBQ/buffet dinner out near the pool. He said it smelled wonderful, so we decided to try it tonight. There was a spread of raw meat, fish, and vegetables, you picked out what you wanted, and they grilled it for you. There was also salad, baked potatoes, fresh fruit, and delicious desserts. It was the perfect night for sitting outside, enjoying the cool breezes off the Pearl River, watching the boats go up and down, and eating great food. We learned Zoe likes creme brulee, but is not so fond of baked potatoes!

The blue lights in the background (below) are all along the other side of the river.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Guangzhou. We have our consulate appointment with Zoe in the afternoon. We all miss home, but I think we are going to miss this place when we leave!

A Proud Grandpa

Marie and Joe have been sending their "impressions" of our trip to family and friends via e-mail. Here is an excerpt from one of Joe's e-mails that I particularly enjoyed:

Speaking of cute, I really haven’t spent much time giving you
my impressions of the reason for this trip, Molli and Zoe.
As a very proud grandpa, I obviously think that we got the
best two babies in the hotel (and there must be over a hundred

Their progress reminds me of time lapse photography where a
flower blossoms before your eyes. I think that when these
kids are first turned over, they’re somewhat traumatized by
the event(who wouldn’t be?) and they shut down somewhat.
But as they get used to their new situation, they “blossom”
quickly, showing “new” skills and personality by the hour.

Both are now walking, babbling (a few discernable words like
“mama”), smiling, mimicking your movements and interacting
with all of us. They come to me with open arms and a big
smile – adorable, lovable and (yes I guess I can use the
word) cute. Some of the babies here seem to have locked onto
a single person and won’t let anybody else near them. Some
new parents(for them this adoption is their first and only
experience with a baby) are having a hard time with them
crying a lot and doing what babies do.

I can’t exactly claim that Molli and Zoe like me best, but I
am the only one of our group where they can rub my face with
gray whiskers and pat my round belly. Grandpas are special
that way.