Tuesday, September 27, 2011


So much time has passed and I am much too busy raising you and enjoying you grow up for me
to keep up with this blog. Last summer you had yet another

birthday. You turned 4! The time is hurrying on much too fast. Just last week we were looking at those old home movies of you in China and I felt tears come to my eyes. You were so small and frail. I truly felt like your father and I saved you. Now you are a beautiful and robust preschooler. You are social and have lots of friends. Your preschool teachers adore you and there is no doubt that you have brought a ray of sunshine to everyone around you. May the Lord always bless you and shine a light in your path. We are so unbelievably happy. Sometimes I wish
I could travel back to China and bring you a little sister, but perhaps you might not like that too much. You have two big sisters who
dote on you and being the baby sister is way too much fun to give up to someone else!

My little one. The best decision your father and I made was adopting you. I hope that more families start seeing adoption as a great way to add to their families without having to go through more expensive, alternative methods simply to have a child of "their own". You are our own and even though you didn't grow under my heart, you grew in it. Blessed are we to have you in our lives. May you continue to grow in love. With this final entry I end this blog.
Jaina and her buddies.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Little Monkey Turns 3!


I can't believe that you have now turned 3! Where has the time gone? You are still a bundle of joy as well as exasperation! You clobber your sisters if they get in your way, you don't allow anyone stolen displays of affection towards you, and you are still fiercely independent. There are times when I think I must have had a temporary lapse in sense bringing you home and times when I can't thank God enough for sending you to me. You fill my days with endless adventure and I am certainly never bored!

Your speech is coming along, making three and sometimes four word sentences. Your vocabulary has grown tremendously and it is all due to the great work of your speech therapist and your preschool teachers. You thrive among your peers and they seem to enjoy you as well. Just a few months before school let out, the mother of one of your classmates told me she thought her son harbored a huge crush on you because he was constantly talking about you. It seems most of the little boys you encounter find you irresistable. Even little Paul at the gym daycare enjoys your company. Don't let that go to your head, though, young lady. They don't know what a little pill you can be. Perhaps Paul might have already found that out, however, once you took that toy boat out of his hands by force.

This summer has been very exciting. I signed you up for swimming lessons and you had a ball! No fear of the pool for you...and that isn't surprising since you have never shown it from your very first bath. As a matter of fact, you flipped yourself over in the tub as much as you could at your 13 months of age and gave me quite a fright. Swimmer, gymnast, soccer player, pianist, mathematician...what will you be? Whatever it is you will have the freedom now to choose for yourself and I hope that you continue to have a ball along the way. Just don't break too many hearts. I love you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One year later...

Last week we celebrated the first anniversary of Jaina's adoption. Where did the time go? I can't believe that at this time today we were arriving home from China with our new daughter. So many new and exciting things have happened since then and the most important has been watching Jaina grow into a happy, healthy toddler. Though she still doesn't say much, she has never had any trouble communicating her needs to us. She is very comfortable with us, with her surroundings, and her place in the family. She has completely lost her fear of our lab, Plato, and even climbs into his crate with him. Bless his heart, he lets her do whatever she wants and is nothing but gentle in his old age.

We decided on early intervention to help Jaina along with her speech and she is learning sign language as well as new words, though she does not use them regularly nor does she string sentences. When she wants to get my attention she taps my leg and motions for me to go somewhere with her, or will just have a jibberish conversation--which she fully expects me to understand!

Jaina is a full-blooded all-American baby who loves pizza, kool-aid, and ice cream. I will never forget the look of wild abandon when she tasted ice cream for the very first time. That is a priceless memory as is the time she took her first steps and got into scrapes along the way. She has become very independent and me even more vigilant as she tries to push anything that isn't bolted to the floor over to the pantry to use as a step stool. She is downright scary sometimes and I have noticed my trips to the beauty salon increasing to cover the grey hairs she is starting to put on my head! The most beautiful thing that has developed in her is the sense of affection and demonstrating to others. I love getting kisses and hugs and hearing her cry when I have to leave. She has bonded so completely with us and she is my daughter so fully, that we celebrate this first anniversary of her adoption with the knowlege that she is completely and irrevocably ours forever.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

As Time Passes...

I never thought I would be adding to this blog, but I felt that I had to say a few words about Jaina's progress. She has left babyhood behind for the whirlwind that is toddlerhood. Jaina is into everything! If there is anything that can be gained access to, you can bet you'll find her there. Her new name is Jaina-no. She is naturally inquisitive--opens cabinet doors and drawers, rummages through boxes, pulls things out--and rarely puts them back. I just follow her around picking things up only to see them out a half hour later. You know where Jaina has been when you see the wake of toys, shoes, and objects she leaves behind.

Jaina started walking the beginning of September. In October she had surgery to repair her cleft lip and in November she was baptized. It was a busy time for us crammed with doctor appointments, and running around chasing life. She learned to give kisses and commicate with small hand gestures. She learned how to climb up the stairs and go down one-by-one on her fanny. She loves to dance and will do it alone or with Mommy. She has a killer smile and knows when to use her charms. Stinker. She is also comfortable and feels safe enough to fight with her older sister over toys. Yes, she has arrived. Her sisters have paved the way.

Last week we had our 6 month post placement visit with our social worker. She was very happy to see how Jaina had grown and how well she had bonded with us. The transition went smoothly I am happy to say, but I suppose the earlier you bring a child into your home the better it is for them and all those involved. I had feverishly completed my report and had handed it to our social worker along with the requested number of photographs to mark Jaina's progress. There is no denying that Jaina is a full fledged member of our family and her transition has been complete. I look at her and I don't see any haunted stares, any fears, any hesititation except when there are strangers in her midst, and that even is put to rest when she stays in the company of Mom and Dad. She is very social and has no reservations about turning to her neighbor in the pew behind her at mass to coo at and visit with regardless of their age.

Perhaps one day she will share something about her past with me--some picture in her head that will sound too alien to be anything experienced with us. I look forward to the day she begins to say new words and the questions that will come with them. She babbles so much more now and where she once said nothing but "Dada" has now been replaced with "Mama". I can't deny that it fills me with delight and she has become my little buddy. We spend every day together, just the two of us when her older sisters go off to school and Dad leaves for work. She helps load the dryer, dust the surfaces and push the swiffer mop all over the house. For her it's pure fun, for me it's an extra set of hands. I am thankful for her company.

This Chrismas has truly been a very special one for my family. Just seeing her look at our tree and wondering what it was doing in the middle of our living room was priceless. She seemed unsure at first, but then ignored it, until it was decorated. Once the lights and ornaments were on it was a grabfest. But she lost interest when she realized the ornaments weren't toys. She also never messed with the gifts and that was a relief. Christmas morning brought all the excitement of the older girls and she took her cues from them. Daddy helped her open her presents and she played for hours with her sisters. I can't thank God enough for this gift and to be able to share the beauty and holiness of this holiday with my new daughter. There are no words to describe how full my heart is when I look at her and think of how much joy she has brought to our family. She added the last puzzle piece to our hearts and now it is complete.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Life With Baby

Jaina has thoroughly entrenched herself in our hearts. I can't imagine life without her now and marvel at the strength of love I feel for her. She is every bit mine as Alina and Briana. The only difference is that I did not give birth to her. When I hold her and breathe in her soft baby scent, I wish I could drink her in. Her skin is so soft and she is so precious. I can't believe she is finally a part of my family. I can't thank God enough for this beautiful blessing and I hope that I am always worthy of her.

Jaina is very aware of her surroundings. She likes to look at objects and point to them and I tell her what their names are. I can see that even though she can't say any words yet, she is working out sounds. She understands that different things are used for different purposes. She fished out her bib from her diaper bag once and held it up to her chin. Then she went looking for her bottle. Already she is communicating her needs. "Da, da, da" are her main sounds, but she also makes "t" sounds when she points at some objects. She tried the "j" sound and then pointed to herself. She now turns her head when she hears someone call her name. I am tickled that she knows her name!

Briana is having a rough time not being the baby anymore. Though she showers Jaina with hugs and kisses, the rest of the family bears the brunt of her anger and frustration. I know she is jealous and she understands it but, of course, lacks the maturity to express her feelings. This, too, shall pass. I am looking forward to Ed being off so I can spend some one-on-one time with her. Briana needs to know that we love her just the same as always and I try to make her understand that, but I think she just needs some time to work through it herself. I love my three girls and even though life has gotten a little more complicated, I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Jaina has erratic sleep patterns right now. Sometimes she sleeps through the night and others she is up constantly--like last night. I go to her when she cries, but most times she just needs to get herself back to sleep. It seems like she gets agitated, but she is still not quite awake. If she is completely awake, she screams herself silly and that's when I run in before she wakes up the entire household. Last night I made her a bottle and by the time I made it back, she had fallen asleep. Her days follow a daily routine and I know the benefits of a schedule make her feel safe. When she is at home with us she is much more vocal, babbling and scooting her way into trouble. Since visiting the gym has become impossible for the moment, my work out regiments include chasing her around the house, carrying her up the stairs 10 times a day, or walking her around town in the stroller. I am constantly tired, but that's the life of a new mom. Luckily, I have a great 10 year old daughter to help out when I need a breather.

Jaina is also trying to crawl, but mostly, winds up on her belly. A friend calls it the wounded soldier crawl. Jaina will bring one knee up and propels herself forward on her belly. She gets around most anywhere this way, but continues to take steps only when her two hands are being held. I try to get her to walk holding only one hand, but she won't go for it yet. Whatever she accomplishes will be on her own terms and when she is ready. The best thing is watching her grow. She is eating well and gaining weight rapidly. She is beginning to look like a chubby American baby. Her doctors are pleased to see that she is thriving and, on this note, I complete my final post.

It has been an absolute pleasure keeping this blog. I never thought I would have so much fun keeping it going, but Jaina is home and we are ready to raise her "out of the public eye". I hope that my blog has been helpful to waiting adoptive parents or even helped someone consider adoption for the first time. It is truly an amazing journey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Group Shot & Red Couch Photo Enlarged

For those traveling to China...

During our 2 1/2 year wait for Jaina I voraciously read anything I could get my hands on that dealt with adoption. When the time came to travel, however, only those who had gone before me to adopt their children could answer my traveling questions. Therefore, I thought I would add a post for adoptive parents who are preparing to leave for China in the near future.

I recommend taking anibiotics, just in case, for stomach ailments. The Chinese boil their faucet water before drinking. Luckily, none of us got sick, though occasionally my stomach did feel queasy. We stayed away from salad because it tends to be rinsed with faucet water. We never ordered drinks with ice in them and opted to order soft drinks. I hated giving my kids soda since we seldom consume them at home, but sometimes they got tired of drinking bottled water all day long. Our hotel provided us with a plug in tea kettle and it boiled water within minutes. Take children's ibuprophen and any other over-the-counter drug or prescription medication you think you might need. You don't want to have to purchase medicine's when the directions are in Chinese.

I recommend packing light although your adoption agency will give you a list of things to take with you. Use your judgement on what you may think you'll need. You can get baby stuff of all kinds in China, so take only what you don't want to repurchase. We opted for taking a baby carrier instead of a stroller and it worked great. Many people who were curious asked us about it since it doesn't seem to be available in Guangzhou. Baby slings are also great, as well as Baby Bjorn carriers. If strollers are your preference, however, I would buy one there instead of bringing it all the way from home. They get beat up at the airports.

Most adoption trips last about 12-15 days so take about a week and a half worth of clothing, but take extra undergarments. Just about every shopkeeper in Shamian Island will take your clothes in for laundry and at much cheaper prices than what hotels charge. Just be prepared for stiff changes, as dryers do not exist in China. Just about every apartment high rise had laundry hanging from their balconies.

If you have other children and they are traveling with you, I recommend a DVD player. We had plenty of downtime when there weren't any adoption activities going on and the heat kept us indoors. Our electronics worked well because we decided to borrow a voltage adapter from the hotel rather than bring our own. I hear that the ones brought from home just don't work and you'll be saving some money by going this route.

The most important decision you'll need to make are hotel accomodations. Many adoptive parents are now opting to stay at the Victory Hotel rather than the White Swan because it is much cheaper and the rooms are much larger. The Victory has two buildings, the main building (East Bldg.) and the Annex (West Bldg). We opted for the West building and were very happy with our room. It was a business room, equipped with two double beds, a small refrigerator, computer, in room safe and a small, separate sitting area. Our baby's crib fit perfectly in this space.

The Victory also offers a superb western style buffet breakfast. Eggs were made to order any way you like it and each day there was a different variety of fruit juices. Tea is the main beverage and is served at every meal--anytime. Sorry, no coffee at the buffet. There was congee for the babies, assorted sweet and plain breads, fruit of all kinds, ham, sausages and a variety of Chinese dishes. Suprisingly, salad ingredients were also set out at breakfast. The best part was no lines, no waiting. All the White Swan adoptive parents spoke of having to wait in long lines for breakfast. We always found a table and ate immediately. The only thing that perplexed me was the lack of napkins. We were given facial tisssue to use as napkins and each table had a box. Many restaurants around town also offered boxes of tissues in lieu of napkins. I can only imagine it must be cost effective for them.

Since we traveled in the summer we wanted to use the pool at our hotel, but its location on the rooftop was not a safe option for our children, so we decided to use the White Swan hotel's pool which overlooks the Pearl River. Now, we were told that it was open only to hotel guests, but when we asked at the pool cabana itself, we were told that we could swim for a fee of 100 yuan per person. That comes out to 15 dollars per person and doesn't cover you for the entire day. If you leave and come back, it's another 100 yuan. Babies also have to pay to "swim". Honestly, it's a racquet and the pool supervisor makes up the rules as he/she goes along, but there isn't much of a choice if you want your kids safe from the edge of a rooftop pool. The White Swan pool overlooks the Pearl River and the view is beautiful.

There are a lot of great places to eat on Shamian Island. If you have picky eaters like mine, Lucy's, down the street from the White Swan Hotel, offers western style dishes as well as Asian favorites. Kids can eat grilled cheese and fries if nothing else appeals to them. There are also hamburgers, pasta, and a variety of Asian dishes like spring rolls, stir fry vegetables and rice. There is mashed potatoes or congee for baby, so the entire family is covered. Tipping is discouraged because a percentage is already added in the price of each dish. The atmosphere is very casual and offers indoor or outdoor dining, and the restaurant overlooks the Pearl River.

La Dolce Vita is a pricier Italian restaurant around the corner from Lucy's, but much more elegant. The meals are delicious and it is the place to go for pizza. (Yes, there is a Papa John's, and a KFC, and a Pizza Hut, but none taste as they should.) I dined there twice and had a delicious ravioli with eggplant and ricotta cheese the first time and pizza the next. Drinks are where they get you, though. Soda cost about 5 dollars for a can. Our girls ordered apple juice and they got it in a fancy glass with some frothy stuff on top. It tasted like apple juice and they liked them so much they ordered two. The servers stand at attention and stay on hand in case you need them. It's unnerving having them around watching you eat, but after a while you just tune them out. The restaurant is decorated with large prints of scenes from its 1961 namesake, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Eckberg.

For those wanting authentic Chinese food, there is a restaurant a few doors down from the 7 Eleven. The name was in Chinese so the only way to pinpoint it is by the large fish tanks as you walk in. There are two restaurants that fit this description just a door or two apart from each other, but the one you want is the one closest to the 7 Eleven. They don't speak much English and the menu is in Chinese, so go by the photos in the menu. They give you chopsticks to use, but if you need western utensils they are available. (I recommend learning to use chopsticks. When we visited our daughter's orphange, we had lunch at a local restaurant in her city. There were no forks to be had, so we had no choice but to use them or starve.) Most restaurants in Guangzhou have forks, but once you leave the city and enter the real China, chopsticks is what you get.

For quicker meals the deli/bakery, conveniently called The Deli Shop, near the White Swan hotel, is the place to go. You can get a meal like Curry Chicken with rice or smaller ones like sandwiches and salads. You can also buy all kinds of yummy sweets. My favorite was the sweet bread with the peach slice on top. Yum! They also bake cakes--we ordered a cream cake for my daughter because she turned six in China and she loved it! They put some chocolate Hello Kitty figurines on top and she was in high heaven. Drinks and ice cream are also available. You can order their strange flavors. I had one with beans in it--not bad--or you can play it safe with Hagen Daas.

There are several great places to shop in Guangzhou. Our tour guide took us to a department store called Grandbuy. There are over 7 floors, one housing a full size grocery store. You can buy anything you need from electronics, to cosmetics, to baby gear. Be careful with prices. Some things are not worth the prices they ask. We almost got sucked into buying a plastic baby bowl for 8 dollars! Take a handheld calculator with you wherever you go and convert the yuan into dollars before you decide to buy.

There are also some must see shops in Shamian Island as well. A Gift from China is one of them. All merchandise is made by locals; some are grandmothers who could no longer provide an income for their families. They make handmade items to sell from purses, to handpainted art, to Chinese style outfits for American Girl Dolls. Clothing and accessories made of 100% silk are also available. They are online and purchases can be made from their website and shipped to your door. The shop opened in the 1990's and all proceeds made from sales go to help Chinese orphans. The store is located across from the old Polish embassy, near the park.

I recommend not buying anything from streetside vendors. Most of the stuff is junk and won't last long. Many of the shopkeepers greet you because they want you to visit their shop. The more pressure they applied the more I stayed away. Jordon, store named after him, is the biggest harasser. Nice guy, but he tried too hard. We started avoiding his street after a while. Work hard to get the best deal in the shops. Much of the stuff they sell is not worth the prices they ask, so work them down. My youngest daughter asked for a keychain with an Olympic mascot on it. It was made of cheap plastic and probably wouldn't have lasted the trip. They were asking 6 dollars for it, so told her to pick something else. Most will give you a discount if you buy more than one item, so stick to your guns. Be prepared to be followed around the store. If you set foot in any shop, you are fair game and they'll try to sell you anything. It's hard to browse in peace and their constant presence can be tiresome. A Gift from China is the only shop that does not do this, so they get extra points from me just for that.

That's all I can think of. I will edit the post if I need to add anything else. Enjoy your trip, see the sights, take lots of pictures, and don't sweat the fish bowl.