Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who Woulda Thought....

Orphanage. Social Welfare Institute. I am sure those words conjure up preconceived images your mind as to what those places look like. And those images are not all that pleasant. When I started the adoption process one of the first things that we were informed about was where our children would come from. Without reviewing the whole one child policy situation lets just say that when international adoption started most if not all of the government run orphanages were overflowing with babies, mostly girls, and struggled to feed, clothe, and take care of them all. We have been educated that our children may be underweight, not make eye contact, may not be able to suck from a bottle, and not used to diapers. They may not know how to play with toys, call out for help, and if older may hoard food. Sad, but a consequence of the situation. I use the word MAY because over the past 10 years the orphanage situations have become better and are more able to take care of those entrusted to them. There are some very good SWI's (Social Welfare Institute) that take excellent care of the children and have plenty of staff and people to love on the kids. There are still some that are not.
Since I felt the call to adopt, one of my many prayers to God about my daughter was that she would be placed in a SWI that had plenty of resources and lots of people to lover her and pay attention to her. I prayed that she would have good health and access to good medical care, lots of food to eat, and had the opportunity to make strong bonds with her care givers. I just assumed that she would come from one of the SWI's and she would have the same start that most children adopted from China have. Who woulda thought that she would be placed where she is - the Starfish Foster Home. I had no idea that places like this existed, but God did. He knew. He knew that on December 27th, 2009 a sick little girl would be found and taken to an orphanage. He knew that they would see that she was sick and would take her to a hospital - a hospital where a woman named Amanda would find her and take her to her foster home. He knew that Amanda would get the best medical care for her and take care of her until she was ready to be placed and get her forever family. He knew.
There is so much to Audrey's story that I will never know. I will never know if December 14th is her actual birthday - the hospital estimated her birth date when she was brought in. I will never know what happened in those few days between her birth date and her finding. I will never know if she has brothers and sisters, if she looks like her birth mother or father, if she was well fed. But God knows, and that makes it all OK with me. He knew exactly what she would need and took care of her. As Psalm 139 says (excuse my poor paraphrasing) "I know you and made you and all those days adorned for you. You can't get away from me because I know where you are. I know all you will do before you do it and I got you, I will never leave you." He knew her Chinese name and that she would be known as Sally. He knew that she would need the Starfish Foster Home. He knew that I would need the Starfish Foster Home even before I knew anything about it. He knew a chubby little girl across the world would need a mommy just like me and He brought us together.

The Starfish Foster Home is a gift from God. I never knew that a place like this existed. I thought all children adopted from China came from government run SWI's. But I was wrong.(borrowed from the Starfish web page) In September 2005, Amanda de Lange founded Starfish Children's Services to save children who have special health needs that are the most at-risk in its partner orphanages. This promptly resulted in the establishment of Starfish Foster Home (SCS) to rescue children in need of medical care by working in collaboration with local orphanages. After nursing them back to health through solid nutrition and a loving environment, Starfish Children's Services organizes and pays for the children’s surgeries before providing post-operative care. After the surgeries, the goal shifts to getting these children in the adoption pipeline so that they can join a stable, loving family. Here is a link to the Starfish Foster Home web page - On this web page you can find out more about Amanda and the work she does, the kids living there, and how you can help. The foster home is different from the typical SWI in that it is privately funded, not government run. The fosterhome has a ratio of 1 nanny to 3 kids. Amanda has access to excellent surgeons and medical care for the children in her facility. I have been so overwhelmed by all the Angels God has sent ahead of me on the path to my daughter. There have been so many volunteers that help Starfish and take care of our babies. Taylor and Jet are the two that have sent me photos and video of my girl.  Yonna sponsored my girl for a year before I came along, sending her clothes and gifts. And Amanda just sent me a message on FB that said that Audrey (Sally) is cruising the furniture and will be walking alone soon. Who woulda thought? I sure didn't, but I am so glad that God did. He has her, all the rest of those babies, and me in his hands. And it is good!
Taylor also sent me some new photos and video! Enjoy!



I think it is funny that at the end of this video she walks over to get some food!

Please go to the Starfish page and see if you are called to help out. You can send money, supplies, or donate to a specific child's care by sponsoring them or helping to pay for a child's surgery. Some one did that for my kid. If you feel led to adopt a child you can contact any agency dealing with international adoption and China, and also contact Amanda from the web page. If I ever get the chance to adopt again I would request a child from this place. They are well taken care of AND are just so gosh darn cute. I'm going to have a hard time not taking another child home with me. I do plan, when she is old enough, to take Audrey back to volunteer. Right now Jet and her family are there with daughter Nora volunteering - Nora was adopted from Starfish.
Here is the story that gives Starfish its name: An older man was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy was walking slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed a beached starfish back into the ocean. The older man, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, "I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely, such an industrious and kindhearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?"The boy looked up at that man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, "For this one, it makes a difference."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm the Mommy!

See this sweet face? That is my kid. I know it, you know it, practically everyone I've ever met knows it. But she doesn't. She has no clue. This fall her whole world will be turned upside down and there is nothing that I or the wonderful nannies at Starfish and the amazing Amanda can ever do to prepair her for what is to happen to her in a few months. One day (hopefully this November) she will be packed up and taken to a building she has never been to before and handed over to me who she has never seen before. Then the people handing her over to us will leave. And there she will be....scared and confused. Babies at Starfish are so lucky to have volunteers of every race and language to help them grow up, so caucasian people won't be new to her. But I will, and so will my dad, and my mom, and her room, and her clothes, and the sights, sounds, voices, food, and routines. This breaks my heart.
All the training in bonding with a child you have adopted will in no way prepair you for the actual transition. I feel good that I know alot of what I need to know, and know enough to know I don't have a clue as to what this is going to be like. Will she cry for days straight, will she turn into a zombie, will she get sick, will she be okay until bed time and then have fits all night long? Can we just skip this part?
I know my daughter has made strong bonds with her nanny and her husband. That is a good thing. She is also being cared for by people who love her and she has many friends at Starfish - Jack and Mila. Because she has strong bond with them she should have a strong bond with me. But that just doesn't happen the instance she is put into my arms. The bonding takes work and time. She has to go through a period of mourning that can take minutes to months to start and minutes to months to grow through. She has to learn that I am the mommy. Unfortunately for my Dad this is the hard part. He will be traveling with me to China, but really can't hold, feed, or comfort Audrey unless I am unavailable....and neither can anyone else. I have to do all those things.
A lady once wrote about the bonding process this way: "Imagine you were married to a wonderful spouse and was as happy and as in love as you can imagine. One day you came home and all of your stuff was gone except a few possessions and your spouse tells you that you have to go live with a new spouse. He/she takes you to an office where another person is waiting for you. You have never seen them before and can't understand them because you don't speak their language. You also don't know why you have to leave the one and go to the other, and no one can help you understand. The new spouse hugs you and cries when they see you and tells you that they love you. They thrust new possessions at you and then pull out a camera and ask you to smile. They take you with them to a place you've never been and a town you have never been to, and then they wonder why you keep crying or won't smile, or eat, or play." Or, as I said to my friend Ashley about her 11/2 year old son Wyatt, "What if something happened to you and a familiy from China came and took Wyatt back to China with them - away from everyone and everything he knew.?" A little different when you look at it from those perspectives, isn't it?
I can't wait for you all to meet my girl. I know already she is the smartest, most talented, most beautiful little thing I have ever seen. I can't wait to show her off! But this bonding process, this new life - she needs time to adjust. There are some ground rules I need to establish for when we get home:
* Please do not come over. We need time to get used to this whole mom/kid thing.
* If you MUST see her - please call first. Not only will we be jet lagged, but we need the time to get to know each other and for her to get used to our routine and house. If I say no to comming over it is not because I don't love you, or I'm trying to hurt you. We just need this time to bond.
*Do not pick her up or take her from my arms. This will confuse her. If she comes to you and climbs in your lap or reaches or you, that means it is ok for you to take her.
*Do not feed her or give her snacks. Part of her learning that I am the mommy is that I am the provider of food and comfort.
* I will do the diaper much as I'd like to push that job off on someone else.
* Be understanding if she is having a melt down or is shy around new people. It will take some time to get used to all this new she will be two years
* Also understand that the way we do things may not be the typical way most parents operate. I may carry her longer that you may think is necessary. She may also regress a little in her actions because of the trauma she has endured in this transition process. It may take longer to potty train her, for her to walk and talk, and please don't compair her to others her age.

Hopefully with following these guidelines she will transition quickly and then we can all pick her up, feed her, change her, and potty train her! Ok, maybe we all won't need to feed her.... :)
Audrey and her friend Jack!


Audrey and her friend Mila!

Audrey and her nanny's husband!

I've also been trying to upload some video of Jack and Audrey playing but can't get blogger to upload. May do a new post when I get that figured out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Audrey's Room and new photos!

 I want to start off this post with new photos. Once again people have been blessing me with photos of Audrey. Taylor - a gal that is volunteering at Starfish - has been in contact with me alot and she took quite a few photos of my girl. ( Taylor is the blond in the photos) She worked with her one day to get her to say "momma" and she did it! I am so thankful that Audrey is in a place where she is loved and paid attention to. Also, Taylor told me that Audrey was walking with help but she thought that Audrey has just not wanted to walk by herself yet.....hmmm.....could she be spoiled? My friend Tricia suggested they dangle a cookie across the room and maybe she will get up and go get it - not that she needs another cookie! I have also been in contact with Yonna. She and her family have been sponsoring Audrey and praying for her the past year. I did not know that you could sponsor a specific child, and I am so thankful that God has sent people ahead of me to watch over my daughter. Audrey is so blessed already! Every day I rush to the computer to see who has friend requested me on facebook and who has new information. Today I was contacted by two different ladies that make life books for the kids from Starfish. YAY!
oh look - she's eating
walking with a volunteer

saying mamma!

pretty in pink!
I just can't wait to squeeze those legs and cheeks!

This week I finally got  the room completed. Well, completed as much as it can be! I have a book case and a rocker to get yet...and a sweet baby girl to put in it, too! When I started this adoption process the designer in me planned the babies room first. I have never been a "pink" person and really didn't think about the color when I planned the decor of the room. I picked a soft light blue and brown with a metal bed and dark woods - this to the chagrin of my mother (she now loves the room and is ok with it not being pink). I had this design scheme in mind for the past 4 years. I didn't want to get started on the room without having an end in sight because I didn't want everything to just sit there and get dusty. Lasy year I got ancy and found a great sale. I lucked out because the crib I wanted ended up being marked WAY DOWN and got a great place for my baby to sleep. On a return trip I found a dresser and I started picking up pieces for the room along the way.
My dilema was in how to incorporate the colors, the furniture, and my ideas into a romantic, European inspired princess room. I first had to figure out where to put the stripe around the top. The room is unique because the door and window heights are all I had a cold air return vent to deal with - got that done by working with the negatives and just placing the wood right underneath the cold air return vent. Then I had to find the right stencil to create a feature wall to put the crib on - found one after hours of searching on the web. Then I had to get the molding chosen and put up - got that done by a family friend. Then the fun stuff. The folks helped and we got artwork and shelving put up to feature some of the dolls and toys I had purchased for Audrey over the last few years.
Here is how it looks so far:

my dream gun metal grey crib and princess canopy!

dolls and things I have collected or have recieved as gifts.

I can't get this to rotate but it is the dresser/changing table combo and round mirror.

can't get this to rotate either. The painting says "Audrey" in Chinese. The photo frame is awating pictures!

the bear says "Audrey" and the chinese girl is a bank

an organizing bag with Audrey's initials and a doll made by my friend Lynn North
I LOVE her room. Now to just get her in it.....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Split Pants, squatty potties, and Rude Questions!

First of all - I got some new photos and a video! I posted on the Rumor Queen website about my blog here and people just started comming out of the wood work by contacting me and hooking me up with people who are or have taken care of my daughter. Goose bump time - I lovely woman named Yonna contacted me and she has been sponsoring Audrey for a year! She and her family have been sending Audrey clothes and have been praying for her. Audrey is so blessed. I found out that she is getting stronger each day and that she is wearing 2T clothes - they are a little long for her but fit everywhere else. These photos are supplied by Starfish volunteers, the director, and sponsors:

Now onto the topic at hand. Over the last for years I have learned alot about the Chinese culture. I also have learned that as much as I know, things are going to be different that I expect. Everything from table manners to toilets, clothing to food - its all different. The way the Chinese raise their children is different as well. It is typical to give a child a fake name to "confuse" evil spirits when talking about an unborn child - so the spirits will not be able to find the child when it is born, ensuring good luck. The family will then give the child it's real name one month from the time the child is born. The Chinese are very supersticious and believe that the minute, hour, day, month, and year the child is born will be telling of what that child is and what their character will be. Belief about that child is found in their Chinese Zodia Sign. I am a Dog on the Chinese Zodiac. Dogs are loyal, creative, and dreamy....kinda like me! To find out more about your Chinese Zodiac Sign check out this website at This is for entertainment value only and not my true belief.

Did you know you can train a baby to be potty trained at 4 months? The Chinese believe you can! The Chinese diaper a child until around the age of 4 months and then babies traditionally wear split pants. The split pants are like buttless chaps and their little bottoms are free to the air. The babies are fed and after waiting about 30 minutes the children are either held over a pot or strapped to a potty chair and wait for the inevitable to happen. Sometimes the adult makes a hissing sound to alert the baby to let go. Here are some images of babies in split pants.

Can you feel the breeze - I think I would get kind of chilly! Parents also make their formula thick and cut a large hole in the nipple of the bottle so the mixture sort of falls out of the bottle - the babies rarely have to suck.
It is also common for children to publicly unrinate and other things in public. The chinese believe that childrens waste is pure and not harmful. There are horror stories of people going to upscale shopping areas and seeing a child being held by the parents over or near a trashcan or bush and letting it fly! But, I guess when you have to use a squatty potty a bush doesn't seem so bad. Here is a typical squattly potty that is found in most of Asia. I am so looking forward to using one of these (insert sarcastic tone here).

Sometimes the potties are nice like the one on the left, and sometimes they are a hole in the ground. Basically you just go in and assume the position, use it, and leave...notice no TP.

Take all of the people that live in Bethalto and put them all in the Schucks store. Can you imagine the chaos, the shoving and pushing, the yelling and impatience? That is what it is like to live in China. The Chinese have their own idea of personal space because there is none. Spitting is pretty common and alot of caucasians have been told to watch out or you might get spat upon. This is not out of rudeness on the part of the Chinese. We use a kleenex, they spit on the floor. I have been warned by many people to not be surprised, scared, or insulted if a Chinese person just picks my kid up, feeds her, or scolds me because of how I dress my daughter. The Chinese consider a child a treasure and people are free to play with them at will. They also believe children should be bundled or dressed in layers until an older toddler and feel the right to scold those that don't. Since I have lighter hair and lighter eyes I have been warned that lots of people will want to have a photo taken with me. In a land of darker skin and hair, a caucasian is a rare sight.
As lax as their personal space is, there is a formality to sharing dinner and showing respect. Do not accept a dinner invitation from someone if you do not plan to or cannot reciprocate with an equal value meal sometime later. The same with gift giving. It is rude to drink before your host does at the dinner table but it is ok to burp outloud. You also do NOT want to clean your plate because the host will continue to thing you are not full. You must sample everything but not take the last bite.
Here are some images of Dim Sum dinners. Don't be insulted if your hosts askes you why you are so fat or how much money you make. The questions are not meant to be rude, but a show of concern to the guest from the host!
I am so ready to experience this culture and ALL it has to offer. These mentioned are only a few of the cultural differences I will experience and do not encapsulate all that is China. I just have to remember not to drink the water, ask for no ice in my drinks, and only brush my teeth with bottled water in the blue label...not green.