Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Her loving foster family had already taught her that we were Mama and Baba (daddy in Mandarin) and she definitely recognized us.
The goodbye after we had signed our temporary guardianship paperwork was simply painful. The foster mother was barely holding back her tears as I was, but neither of us wanted to make it worse for Joya.
We got back to the room and our guide helped us try to calm her down with food and drink. She has cried a lot though with the exception of when we Face Timed with Kenyon's parents. She was giggly and animated and took right to "swiping" the iPad.
Then we returned right back to just plain sad. She much prefers daddy over me and I'm just happy she prefers someone. They are both finally asleep and I am typing this on my iPad which has no formatting ability at all. I'm going to upload a few pictures of our baby doll and then let my tears flow for her loss as I try to sleep.
Thank you for all the comments and support. We are reading each one.
Also, I was notified that my dear friend Ashley's mom passed away this morning from a long battle with cancer. Please pray for their family's tears as well.
Saturday, we reported to the Travel Medical Clinic to have Joya undergo the standard medical check to make sure she does not have any communicable diseases. There are four places to get in line and process through – general physical examination, height and weight check, ENT exam, and any children over two years old must get a TB test.
There were hundreds of people waiting in this not-so-large clinic. At least 40 percent of them were adoptive families in the same boat as we are. Luckily for us, we have friends who have adopted from China three times with our agency. Before we left for China, we went out to dinner with them and they gave us marching orders for how to get through the clinic checks efficiently. It was a good thing they did, because Joya HATED it there and cried and screamed the entire time.
Luckily, my husband is brilliant and in addition to having us wait in separate lines to secure our spots and shorten our waits, he forbade me from Joya’s sight in these exam areas. He insisted that I wait in the hallway while he played “bad guy” and held her down for the exams, but lo and behold, who do you think she wanted to comfort her when it was all said and done???
Her mommy. Yup, that would be me.
I’ve included pictures at the bottom of the post that show how crowded it was. We were the first in our group to be finished and we quickly made it to the lobby of the building where she snuggled in my sling and fell asleep for the bus ride back to the hotel.
Any child over two years of age immigrating into the States needs to undergo a TB skin test before being cleared for an entry visa by the consulate. You would have thought that someone chopped off her left arm by the way she screamed through the needle prick test. Then she repeatedly pulled up her sleeve and pointed to the dot of blood with big tears falling and rambling in Mandarin. We kissed her and hugged her and told her she was all done.
But I’m sure she thought we lied to her because we had to take her back on Monday morning to have the skin test checked. All of the other children in our group had arms that showed the teeny-tiniest little dot on otherwise smooth and normal arms.
Not our Joya. Only 24 hours after the test, she had us worried when a red and raised bump remained on her arm. Our new and dear friend Carrie who is another mom in our group, and also a physician’s assistant, worked very hard not to worry me too much, but she was also a good enough friend not to lie to me either. She told me that it definitely was suspicious, but to wait another 24 hours until Monday’s clinic check.
If the skin test is positive, the child must have a chest X-ray taken to check for active TB in the lungs. If the X-ray is not clear, it equals a big delay in bringing her home. A positive skin test is a raised bump measuring ten millimeters or more.
As the rest of the kids were checked by the nurses, they zipped in and out with just a glance and a quick finger swipe on the arm. Not us, the nurse took our her pen, marked the edges of her bump (again, she acted like her arm was being chewed by a pack of wolves), and measured with a tiny little ruler.
We waited on pins and needles only to see an “8” written down and we were told she was “okay” and we could go.
I hugged that baby girl so hard and shed a few tears of my own.
She is going to LOVE all of the doctors’ appointments we have scheduled and waiting for her at home!
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Enjoy Kenyon's debut as a guest blogger and feel free to leave comments or questions :-).
Well I am not the writer in the Sweeney clan, but my dear wife has asked me to put pen to paper….er…fingers to keyboard and share a man’s perspective on our recent experiences in China.
A few disclaimers on the front end:
First, I am a man fully in love with my new daughter so emotion may be a factor in my comments.
Second, I seek evidence for every position I hold in life and “signs” do not routinely figure into my decision making process. If you all are on board with that then here we go…
When Laur and I first started down this path, one of our motives was to give a little one a home that would have few other options. I envisioned the life of a deformed little girl in China, with no vested family members, protectors, educators, or resources contrasted with the propects of this little girl living in Park City with four tough as nails brothers paving the way for her.
Casts a pretty nice picture, huh?
Well fast forward to September 28, 2011 while I am in Colorado Springs on business and Laur calls to share that we have a file of a little girl to review. Immediately my pulse quickens and my mouth goes dry. We talk about the details and Laur tells me she has “beautiful eyes” and an “assymetrical mouth.” In a matter of hours we had four medical professionals reviewing the file and have an initial diagnosis (hemifacial microsomia).
I do what any educated, well read, and data driven individual does…I “Google” it. The pictures and description are daunting and fear takes hold of my heart and the picture of the little girl with a bright new future is dimmed by my own need for a certain kind of daughter, family, image.
Well, we hem and haw, worry and obsess and then finally I begin to pray and talk with some wise friends. My dear friend Gwen challenges me on two fronts. In a way that only she can, she cuts me to the quick on the image concern and says, “That is your issue you need to deal with.” On the real decision (is this little girl our little girl?) she says, "You need to ask God for a sign.” Well I reluctantly begin to pray for clarity and even an improbable sign.
You can read these blog posts to get caught up on the details of the signs that God has put in front of us (two words: “yellow car”).
What strikes me today that I missed in September is how lovely Joya actually is. The words on the referral letter “assymetrical mouth," the pictures on worst case scenario outcomes of HFM on the National Institute of Health website, my own bias and need to have the perfect picture of an American Family, as well as my fear of dealing with the pain of a girl who doesn’t look normal all STACKED up against me and disabled me from making a decision.
I remember verbalizing this to my dear friend David and his emailed response was, “I am sure you will make the right decision, which is to grab that little girl up as fast as you can!” I realize that the depth of the relationship, intricacies in relating, and real value cannot be communicated in a referral letter, from pictures on a well-respected medical web site, or in the dark recesses of your own mind.
Truly knowing and falling in love happens in looking into her eyes as she sits on your lap, comforting her as she mourns the loss of the family she knew, laughing with her as she learns her second English word, and realizing that we may have only known her for five days, but she already is worth protecting no matter what the cost.
Please keep in mind the aforementioned disclaimers and don’t hold me to following this logic or faith in the rest of my life…but I am sure glad that God gave me the sign I needed to see to grasp hold of this little blessing.
Just my two cents- ks
Friday, March 23, 2012
Joya had a really good morning, but our travel through airports and a short plane ride were not fun at all. We also had a little scare when we had fast food in the airport for dinner. Her paperwork said that she was allergic to seafood, so we have, of course, completely avoided it. Well, the chicken we were eating must have been exposed to seafood offerings at the restaurant because as soon as she had a piece in her mouth (but never swallowed) her face immediately broke out in a rash.
Our guide had already checked us in and said goodbye. My Benadryl was in our checked luggage. In my head, I was urgently making a plan for a medical emergency without a translator. (Angie, if you're reading this, our experience in Mexico 15 years ago prepared me for this!). Luckily, soon after it was out of her mouth, the rash started getting better.
She hated the travel, the airplane, and the overall change. She was so overtired when we finally got to our room that her Baba could not snuggle her out of her crying. I figured out that if I put the edge of her blanket by her mouth, she will suck it and pass out.
I feel like a dope for not doing it sooner because her foster sister mentioned something to me about her sucking on a towel at bedtime.
Slightly longer learning curve baby girl. So sorry!
I'm so tired, so even though there are many topics I want to write about, I simply can't do it tonight. So, I'm honoring the request for pictures (i need to get many more off the camera tomorrow) and hopefully I can transform bullet points in my brain into interesting reading for you over the next couple of days.
We love hearing from you all.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
And for the rest of you, your emails and comments were just what I needed. I choked tears back through each one and I feel so dearly loved. I'm definitely writing a future post that compiles all of the wisdom and encouragement you gave. It would be valuable in any types of trials.
Unfortunately, I'm going to disappoint you with this short and sweet post that is more of a teaser than anything. It is 10:30 p.m. here and I'm the only one awake in our dark room. We had a very full day of shopping, eating, and a visit to the Love Without Boundaries True Children's Healing Home. Google them now and realize that adoption is not the primary way to make a difference in the life of an orphan.
I can't wait to tell you about our sweet, sweet time with a bunch of smiling babies and their dedicated caregivers.
We have been splurging the 15 RMB (about $2.50) each night to enjoy the two Heineken bottles of beer in our hotel mini bar. I wish someone restocked my fridge with beer at home as dependably as the staff does here. It has been our nice little tradition to toast making it through both the good and the hard and being one day closer to going HOME!!!
Joya had a really good day overall. She learned her first English word other than her cute "Hello!" greeting. Actually, she learned her second English word too, but you'll have to check back for those stories.
We decided over the course of this week that we love China and it doesn't fit any of the stereotypes that many Americans have about it. Well, okay, the driving is CRAZY, so that is true, but other than that one it is a wonderful country to visit and we would like to bring Joya and the boys here to experience it someday.
Tomorrow afternoon we will receive her Chinese passport and get on an evening flight to Guangzhou to start the process for her entry in the US. A week from now, we will be home as a family of seven.
And that sounds just right.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Today was a really good day overall. I will admit that I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps about a combination of things. Joya had moments when she let me hold her or comfort her today, and overall, she is making bits of progress every day. But the afternoon was filled with wailing and grieving. We figured out that her red photo book that was such a comfort to her on her first full day with us, has become a trigger to her for remembering why she is with us and brings long periods of sobbing and crying for her Mama. We have changed how we refer to me as “Mommy” so that she doesn’t feel we are replacing her sweet Mama who did such a good job loving her.
The other thing bringing me down is the state of my boys’ behavior at home. I was hoping that they would rise to the occasion and really shine while we are gone, but that does not seem to be the case and each time we have talked to them on the computer, there is chaos, arguing, and stories of disobedience – tonight I just walked away from our conversation with them because I couldn’t do anything about what is happening at home. We all just have to suck it up and plan on recalibrating when we are home next week. I know this trip is hard on them as well, but I am just ready to have all my chicks in one nest.
This morning we had breakfast here at the hotel buffet with our new Nashville friends Jill and Scott and their new daughter Hannah. My impression is that Hannah is having an even rougher time than Joya and Jill is the one carrying the weight of the slow transition. We have been sharing our struggles over the last few days and gaining comfort from each other’s encouragement. The first time my feelings were hurt over Joya’s rejection of me was not a time when she drew close to Kenyon, but when Jill walked in our room and Joya went running to her and cried to be picked up. That was hard. She prefers a woman who is a complete stranger over me.
Jill was telling us this morning how she has rarely seen her husband cry over the course of their 16 years of marriage, and how he has been a complete rock through this tough time even when she has broken down and spilled her emotions through tears. However, this morning she heard him sobbing in the shower, and how it was such a relief to see him react emotionally to the tough task of helping Hannah accept their love.
The sweetest thing occurred when Scott added that he just couldn’t hold the tears back anymore because this interesting mix of emotions is like nothing he has ever experienced – he and Kenyon started tearing up together right there at the breakfast table. The best they could do was nod in agreement with each other while Jill and I felt our mouths hit the floor watching that unfold. It was a very sweet moment.
I sure do love my man.
Tracy picked us up at 9 and we took a taxi to a very beautiful and famous Buddhist temple. The weather was beautiful, and although we are wearing coats in the pictures, it really isn’t cold here. We spent the morning touring the temple where there are several enormous halls with Buddhist gods sculpted and put on display. The grounds of the complex were immaculate. It is in the middle of the city, yet it is quiet and peaceful and smells of incense. There are huge fish and turtles in the ponds and we all enjoyed watching them. Joya only wanted Kenyon for the majority of the time, but his back started to really hurt him, so I bribed her with snacks and got her to sit on my hip in my sling for about 30 minutes.
We left the temple and went to a local (hole in the wall) dumpling restaurant. Now, the way to eat Chinese food in China is to have a Chinese person order for you. Our lunch was DELICIOUS!!! We had two different types of dumplings and two vegetable dishes and Joya had congee. Tracy showed us how to use all the sauces and tutored Kenyon on his chopstick skills. It was definitely our favorite meal yet. Kenyon said it topped the Pizza Hut meal we had the night before :-)
Each Chinese province is famous for one thing in particular, and Fujian is known for tea. Tracy took us to a traditional tea room to enjoy a tea ceremony where we could taste different types of teas. Rich with tradition and ritual, the ceremony was wonderful. We learned how to hold the small teacup and how to sip each kind of tea uniquely. Our little parrot was so well behaved throughout the entire demonstration and when she got a sip of tea, she would make the noise that she heard us make while drinking it. She also said an unsolicited Mandarin “Thank you” to our tea hostess, which impressed us all.
After our tea tasting and purchasing, we went back to the hotel with good intentions for naptime, but it really turned into a couple hours of crying before she went to sleep.
After her nap on Baba’s chest, we went for a walk in the park with Jill and Scott and then out to dinner where Joya ate and ate and ate and then turned toward Baba and decidedly checked out into a near slumber.
I know you are all going to encourage me to hang in there and that you are praying for her to love me. Don’t worry, I know she will. I know this time is necessary to detach from her past and attach to her future, and I am prepared for that. I still adore her just like I adore my boys even though they are being knuckleheads at home right now. The messiness of it all is just an uncomfortable place to be.
Tracy told us that Joya’s foster sister has called her twice since Sunday’s hand off meeting to check whether Joya is doing okay. That level of concern and care just continues to impress us and clarifies what a treasure she was and still is to them. I can’t even imagine their pain tonight.
Here are some of our best photos from our day in no particular order because blogging on the iPad sucks.
Monday, March 19, 2012
We are sad for her and even Baba can't console her out of this. We just have to ride it until she gets it all out.
This morning we went to Panda World with Tracy, which is an underwhelming run down zoo for Pandas and a couple other types of Asian bears. Nevertheless, it was nice to get out of the hotel. We also planned our next couple of days' outings which include one of the orphan healing homes run by the organization "Love Without Boundaries," as well as touring a very famous Buddhist temple.
This is all to fill the time while we are waiting for Joya's passport to be processed in an expedited timeframe so we can fly to Guangzhou on Friday to get her US entry paperwork processed.
I forgot to mention that the orphanage director handed us keepsakes that are extremely rare for adoptive families to receive. She kept the blanket Joya was found in, the original note that her birth mother left with her, as well as the sweet little outfit she was wearing on that day. Tracy said that orphanages rarely keep clothing and blankets because of possible germs and that any notes are usually kept on file at the police station and sometimes adoptive parents may receive a photocopy. So, needless to say, we are so grateful.
We also found out who the older woman was that upset Joya so badly at the Civil Affairs office. She was the mother of the orphanage director, which sounds strange until you hear that she lives next door to Joya's foster grandmother and was in her life on a very frequent basis. Now it all makes sense. This woman was another grandmother to her. They all live in a rural town in the countryside where very few babies are abandoned, so it was a unique opportunity to care for her and why she didn't have to live in an orphanage for two years.
Again, we're so grateful.
Thanks again for all of your comments of love and support. We are reading each one several times and they make us feel connected to you even though we are so far away right now.
We went to breakfast at the hotel and had a moment of shock when we didn’t see any American fare options. Luckily, we were mistaken because “Goat Lung Soup” did not sound like the eye opener we were looking for. Joya’s paperwork said that she liked the Chinese food “congee” (it is like a porridge) and that part was true, because when we served up a bowl of it for breakfast, she gobbled it down.
Our hotel has little water features in the lobby that have huge goldfish swimming in them and she was enthralled with the fish. After I showed her how to make fish lips, she started making them on her own when she walked up to the water. She also learned the sign for “more” today, and picked up more iPad skills. She can also blow her own nose into a tissue and wipe her face clean.
She is a genius for sure.
After breakfast, we traveled with our guide Tracy to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize our adoption. It was crowded with people speaking loudly into cell phones and was filled with cigarette smoke. We were lead into a small office where several of the officials from yesterday were shuffling our paperwork (orphanage director, civil officials, etc.). I noticed another familiar face from yesterday as well. A grandmotherly type woman who I thought was Joya’s foster grandmother was at the desk, but when she saw us walk in with her, she quickly tried to make it out of the small office without being noticed by Joya. On her way out she looked me in the eye and put her finger to her lips like a “shhhhh” motion.
Well, Joya saw her and immediately lost all control. She fought and kicked and screamed in Kenyon’s arms. She wanted to go out of the office and find that woman so badly that when Kenyon wouldn’t let her go, she slapped him in the face and spit in his general direction. She clearly had a connection to this old woman, but it turns out that we still don’t know who she was.
Tracy told us afterward that she asked if she was the grandmother yesterday, but the family had told her that she wasn’t. So we really don’t know who she was or why she was still here in the city.
That was really the turning point of our day that brought waves of emotion for Joya. She recovered for a while as we signed and stamped our promises to love, protect, educate, and care for her until she can do so for herself. She did okay as we quickly made a trip to the Walmart Super Center for diapers and miscellaneous snacks and supplies (i.e. Snickers and Pringles).
But as soon as we stepped back into the hotel room, she sobbed and cried for her Mama again. She repeats over and over the Mandarin statement, “I don’t want it.” and “I want to leave.” Thanks to our guide Tracy, we know what she means now. Kenyon is the ONLY one she wants and luckily is able to comfort her when she is upset. He started to worry today that I was feeling left out, but I am not at all offended. I am thrilled that she loves him and finds comfort in him. If I had raised a child for two years and then sent her off to someone else, I would hope she would pitch a fit and not replace me within 36 hours.
Joya fell asleep chest to chest snuggled up with her “Baba” for a 2.5 hour nap. When he tried to move her next to him after she was asleep, she sat up and crawled right back into position on top of him to finish her nap. It is totally precious, but a lot of work for my man, which I wish I could help him with.
Luckily, he is sold out for her.
After naptime, we put her in her Chicago Bears sweatshirt and went walking along the lakeside path across from our hotel. This city of six million people (think the size of NYC) is peaceful and very safe. We were stared at by anyone and everyone who passed us and some even stopped to talk to us or interact with our cute-as-pie daughter.
One man stopped us and pointed to her and said, “China girl?” We nodded and said, “Yes,” (well, Kenyon answered him, “Si” but then nearly fell over in embarrassment for answering in Spanish instead of Mandarin or even English). Joya was walking next to us on the sidewalk and this man took her hand and started to walk with her. After only a couple of steps, she let go and ran to Kenyon. She buried her face in his legs and said, “Baba” over and over again.
She is sold out for him too and we both melted in that moment.
There is another couple staying in the hotel room next to us who are adopting their two year old daughter through another agency. Since we have four more days here waiting for our daughters passports, we became fast friends. Tonight we all walked about two miles to partake of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and French fries….
Joya loved them, by the way. Welcome to America sweet girl.
She passed out in her daddy’s arms on the walk home and we didn’t bathe her or even change her before we laid her down in her crib, hopefully for the night.
I have said several times today, that I went into this trip expecting it to be hard. I expected it to feel like she and I had a long road of relationship building to do before I really felt like she was ours. I said that if it was anything less, I would just be pleasantly surprised.
I am VERY pleasantly surprised.
This girl was meant to be ours. I look at all the other Chinese babies around us in the park, and I can’t imagine having anyone else but her in our (well, Kenyon’s) arms. She is FULL of personality, smart, independent , and genuine (which anyone who knows me, knows that last one is huge for me). I don’t feel like we’re babysitting or like she is an intruder.
I feel like she fits. And we love her already. Enjoy the pictures.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Today we played tourist. We rode a giant tour bus with 12 other families with our agency and went to see and "hike" The Great Wall, which unfortunately was quite crowded and have I mentioned the smog factor here? Worst pollution I have ever seen.
Our tour guide told us not to go too far on The Wall, lest we get too tired to come back. Well, if you know my husband, you know that means that we went farther and faster than anyone else in our group. We mentioned more than once that our friends Doug and Deb would have been in their element, which is why we love to refer to them as "The Billy Goats".
Pictures to come of The Sweeneys on the wall.
We went to lunch at a restaurant in the jade factory in Beijing. Jade is important to the Chinese people and our tour guide told us how parents pass down a certain type of jade bracelet from mom to daughter or daughter in-law from generation to generation. The longer the bracelet is worn, the richer the color of the jade becomes. The bracelets are carved from one solid piece of jade and are made in many different sizes.
Because I didn't want to be guessing if an item from a street vendor was authentic or not at a later time, I had my wrist fitted for a bracelet and will wear it for the next 20+ years before I pass it on to Joya on her wedding day. Apparently, the value increases as the colors darken.
It is a great example of how precious time is.
I have to rally for dinner. More to come soon.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Our Internet is being finicky and I can't see my blog and our VPN is kicking me off. Good thing my new friend Carrie will be at breakfast in the morning and her husband has been my tech support in preparing for this trip. I'm posting this through my iPad blogger app.
We already facetimed with my sister and said a quick hello to Squirt. I'm about to pop a little nighty-night pill so I can climb The Great Wall of China tomorrow.
Love to all!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Also, before we left, I contacted the awesome organization "Love Without Boundaries," which we sponsor a little girl through. I asked if we could tour one of their orphan healing homes in our daughter's province. Immediately before we took off from Salt Lake City I received an email that said they would be happy to give us a tour on Tuesday. I am thrilled to hear this as I see myself advocating for orphans for all my days.
I'm typing from my phone and they are telling me to shut it off.
See you on the other side.
Monday, March 5, 2012
After the biggest whirlwind of travel planning, we have confirmed Joya's visa appointment on the 27th and scrapped our crappy flights to miraculously (not an exaggeration at.all.) have confirmed seats (sitting together) on sensible flights home on the 29th of March.
The process helped me double check where my trust lies, and I am thrilled we're coming home sooner than later.
Now for packing.....
This teaching segment from Beth Moore's study of the book of Esther has been put in full application throughout this adoption process, most notably here as we get closer to travel. It is SO worth 14 minutes (it's not even video, just audio, so you can multi-task). I have listened to it over and over during the last few weeks.
If ___________, then GOD. Amen.
Friday, March 2, 2012
We gave up our good flights and really good seats for, um, not so good ones. I still requested the appointment change though and when we get firm confirmation of that, we will call the airlines and hope that availability has opened up there as well.
A wise woman experienced with adoption told me at the beginning of this process to strap on my seatbelt because this process is a roller coaster.
It sure is.
I'm holding on tight with plans to throw my hands in the air and scream on the way down!
Thursday, March 1, 2012
What's done is done though. And we leave in 13 days.