Tuesday, September 19, 2006

4 a.m. musings

For some reason I have been waking up between 3:30 and 4 a.m. every morning that we've been in Hefei. There's not much to do at that hour, so here I am on the computer. I will try to answer some questions we've received:

Why was Zoe dressed so warmly when you got her?

It is customary in China to dress children warmly, especially in the orphanages, where they may not have good heat in the winter time. Everywhere we go, we see children dressed in long pants and long sleeves, and trust me, it is shorts weather here!

Why are you feeding Zoe formula at 16 mos.?

I attended an adoption seminar in Atlanta in April, and one of the speakers was a physicians assistant, who had adopted from China and has treated many babies adopted from China. She advised starting formula right away and continuing until the child was 2 years old. She said babies get poor nutrition at the orphanage, and we needed to start making up for it as soon as possible. We were also told that Zoe's bottle had corn syrup and rice cereal added to it, so I've been adding rice cereal and a little sugar.

Did you get any of the items back that you'd sent in the care package?

In August, we sent an outfit, blanket, doll, disposable camera, photo album with our pictures, and questionaire for the orphanage director (in English and Chinese) to Zoe at the orphanage. When we got Zoe, we got a bag with the camera, photo album, and questionaire (with the questions answered). We assume they kept the other things for the other babies at the orphange, and know they need them much worse than Zoe does. We developed the photos yesterday, and we know Zoe will be so glad to have them some day. We have not had the questions translated yet, but that will also be a cherished momento from Zoe's life before we met her.

How are Doug and Katie doing?

So far, so good. They love Zoe. To be honest, they were kind of driving me nuts that first day. Zoe needed some time to get used to us. Doug and Katie wanted to be all over her, to hold her, to play with her, to feed her. In the playground, Katie wanted her to go down the slide, and ride on the rocking horses. I had to keep telling both of them no. It was hard not to get totally frustrated with them. Jerry had much more patience. He spent time showing them how to interact with her, without being on top of her! Yesterday was a little better. Mainly because Zoe is happier, and now wants them around. Here is an example of Doug and Katie's conversations lately: "Mom, I want to push Zoe in the stroller. No, it's my turn, I haven't got to push her yet. Mom, I want to hold Zoe. No I do. You got to hold her twice, and I only held her once. Mom, it's my turn to feed Zoe a cheerio. No mine, you did it last time. " You get the picture. Similar conversations are going on in the Derfuss family.

Tell more about the baby that the woman did not keep:

Jerry left out a few details, which I thought were important. The mother is married, and has 4 children at home. She is traveling with her sister-in-law. The child she intended to adopt was identified as special needs by the CCAA. With a special needs child, the adoption agencies distribute photos to interested families, and the parents choose a child. Parents are able to view their medical records, and are generally given details of the problems the child is facing. This family had chosen this child, and were told she had deformed ears, but no other issues. The first night in the hotel, the child had severe seizures all night long. An orthopaedic surgeon in our group (who is also an adoptive dad) told us that if the child has been having these type of seizures her whole life, with no medication, she has brain damage. He said he treats children like this in the U.S., because they often break bones during sezures, and that most are institutionalized. The mom was extremely distraught about not keeping this child, but I'm not sure she even had a choice, because I believe she told me: "They won't let me keep her." Ultimately, she decided it would not be fair to her 4 other children. We are all so sad about it. I know it was terrible for her to get back on that bus with all of us yesterday, after they took the child. Please pray for her and the child. For those adopting from China, I think this is a very unusual situation, and as Jerry mentioned, the CCAA is not happy about it.

Photos of life with 3 kids

First, we must say thanks to everyone who has commented on the blog. We read your thoughts every day, and it reminds us that we have so many friends and family members that care for us, and are at home sharing this journey with us. Keep them coming!

Today was our first full day with Zoe. We spent the morning at the civil affairs office where we officially became Zoe's parents and paid lots of cash money to the orphanage and Chinese officials. Note to anyone considering, or preparing for adoption in China . . . go to your bank and get newly minted, never been used American cash. It's what the Chinese officials want, it's what the cash exchange counters want, and it will save a lot of headaches when you get here.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and touring around Hefei. Here are the pictures:

Doug wanted to help get Zoe ready this morning so he buttoned up her clothes for us. Both he and Katie have been very loving and good to their new mei mei.

Katie likes to read books to Zoe. Here she is reading a peek-a-boo book to her.

Zoe's first bath. We're not sure how she liked it. But we DO know that she doesn't like people taking naked pictures of her so early in the morning. This was her "Dad, put down that camera or I'm gonna cry" look. Katie jumped in the bath with her and they played a bit (Katie forbid me to take those photos).

Look at that face!

Zoe like to laugh. Even during a 3 hour wait-in-a-room-a-thon.

This is the room we wait in at the civil affairs office. Here we are being interviewed by the Chinese officials. The questions were short and sweet. Then we paid them cash and officially became Zoe's parents! One woman in our group refused her child because the orphanage had not disclosed that she had epilepsy, and had never been given medication! We heard that the poor girl had seizures all night. The mother was just torn apart because obviously, even in such a short period of time a bond starts to form. But in the end, it was the right decision to return the child. The family was not prepared for this, and the girl's health probably would only get worse. This affected everyone in the group. We all were overjoyed at getting our new daughters, but so sad for both the mother and the baby. The CCAA was apparently furious with the orphanage and promised to match a new baby quickly. Last we heard, she may get a new baby by tomorrow.

Zoe and Molli sitting on the floor with Lisa and Linda. We were at the civil affairs office waiting for the formal adoption process to be completed. Not much interaction yet between the two of them.

Getting ready to risk our lives crossing a street in Hefei. Cars don't stop. Bikes don't stop. Motorcycles don't stop. Pedestrians don't stop. They all just go. What we learned is to wait until a local person steps out into traffic, then stick to them like glue. . . if they slow down, you do too. When I crossed this intersection with Kathy, our heads were spinning in all directions looking for oncoming traffic. Then we saw a woman walk diagonally from one corner to the far opposite corner without looking around or slowing down. I'm still not sure how she did it, but I ain't gonna try it!

Lisa and I in the park overlooking this gorgeous lake. Later, we rented a paddle boat for about 25 cents for a half-hour ride. There's a picture below.

Our three children, playing happily together. Doug and Katie have been a great big brother and sister so far. Here they are playing with Zoe in the park.

Relaxing in the park. Zoe is playing with a laminated card that Rui gave us. The card is written in Chinese and it explains why were are here and have a Chinese baby. She gave us these because Chinese people like to walk up to you and touch the baby, then tell you that you're not dressing them warm enough. This didn't happen much to us today, but Linda got swarmed and yelled at yesterday, so we'll wear the card whenever we go out. Also, notice the person doing Tai Chi in the background? Cool, huh?

Lisa, Doug, Katie and I took this paddle boat out on this beautiful lake in the middle of the park near our hotel (which you can see as the tallest building in the background). Can you see Doug waving in the boat? Don rented a motor boat and let the kids take turns in it with him. We left Zoe with the grandparents and she did just fine.

Daddy and Zoe. She loves to suck her thumb. We are so lucky that she's begun to bond with both of us. She is pure joy!

The cousins push the cousins. Everyone took turns pushing Zoe and Molli in the strollers, but Katie and Sean looked too cute (and garnered lots of attention) pushing the girls through this outside mall. The street itself is jam packed with stores and people. It's definitely an urban shopping experience.

Our "safe" dinner. We wanted to eat somewhere other than the hotel, so while we were out, we decided to look around for a restaurant. We, of course, found plenty of restaurants, but few that had English translations on the menu. People eat weird things around here, so we didn't want to risk ordering pickled fish brain with octopus congee or something like that by accident. So where did we go? Pizza Hut! Aaaah, but this was not your ordinary Pizza Hut because my father ordered escargot. I asked how it tasted. He said "about what you'd expect from ordering a French dish in an Italian restaurant in the middle of China."

The biggest shoe store I've ever seen. It's 3 or 4 floors with nothing but shoes. And the prices are CHEAP. Don and the boys all bought shoes. Ryan told me his cool new sneakers were about $4 US. When I went in there, they were selling leather dress shoes for about 68 RMB (Yuan), which is around $8. I hate shoe shopping, but it seems a crime not to go back and buy a pair.

Night in Hefei. The lights along the river are really beautiful. Lots of people were out, walking around, shopping, and playing. It feels very much like an urban American city - except that we cannot understand what anything or anyone says.