Monday, January 23, 2006

End Days

No apocalyptic pun intended.

I’ve received some gentle prodding (euphemism for get it together and let us know how you are doing at home) to do the trip post-mortem. So, with a heavy heart tonight, I’ll tell the rest of the story. My little grandma died this afternoon, she was one month shy of 95 and lived a hard/good life, but I just thought she would last forever. All five feet two stubborn funny inches of her finally wore out and she left us today. If you have the capacity, please keep my mother in your heart tonight. I just wish Grandma could have met Nora; she would have liked her I’m sure.

The last day in Guangzhou started late. I had finally adjusted to China time and slept until 7:00 am. Then I ran around buying the stuff I swore I wouldn’t buy this time and an extra suitcase to carry the unnecessary stuff home for good measure. The kiddie rides under the raised roadway to the hotel were open this morning. The girls went round and round while I surreptitiously snapped photos of the groups practicing Chinese opera, ball room dancing, some form of martial arts, you name it, there were folks out doing it Wednesday morning. The Chinese winter holiday started last week so there were a lot of kids at the play ground too. I had a lovely conversation with a young man who had taken the Anglo name of LeBron. He wants to go to school at Harvard and become a businessman/conservationist, he’s mad for anything NBA and I think I really disappointed him because I don’t follow sports and only listen to NPR on the radio and couldn’t tell him about my favorite music. I was getting so burned out on photo snapping, that I forgot to get LeBron’s picture.

Most of the families (I don't know if the Myracles got the memo) met for a group photo before boarding the new buses the White Swan recently purchased to cart families back and forth to the new consulate location. As we boarded the spanking new cruiser, I asked Connie if the White Swan had bought the buses to keep the US adoption travelers in its property after the consulate moved off Shamian Island, her look was like, yeah, duh. Oh, and totally off topic, but to those families that have fought for food at the White Swan breakfast buffet, imagine what it would be like if you were the ONLY family in the room from 7:30 am until after 8:00 am like we were on Sunday morning, thank you Kim Jong Il, who says you’re the second most evil dictator in the world?

We jetted over (irony, there is no jetting in Guangzhou, it seems like you go in circles just to get up to the freeway to get off again real soon) to the Tian He (sp?) high rise commercial district where the consulate is now located. And here’s another irony: YuYu’s beloved gege (sounds like guh guh, Chinese for older brother) earned the right to attend a pretty prestigious military academy (equivalent to say the Air Force Academy, not quite West Point) in Guangzhou. His plan to support her when he finished university may have actually worked. For those reading this who have traveled to Guangzhou and stayed on Shamian Island, you may have noticed the trim young men in cheap green uniforms stationed around the island and they march in formation to make shift changes. (And after a wild goose chase to the island security center to find someone who may know gege’s unit and phone number, every inch of that island is on video, so don’t let your baby pee in the bushes (yet another stab at irony, Chinese babies pee anywhere they want to). YuYu’s parents had contacted gege’s instructors to ask permission for YuYu and I to meet him while we were in Guangzhou, but since he is a first year student, he can’t have any visitors unless accompanied by his parents, crap. So there we were at the new consulate and there he was, right across the street standing guard (when not in class and classes were over for the winter holiday) as the Eastern Railway Station, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, crap. Even if we had time to go poke around, I certainly would not have wanted to get him in trouble while he was on duty.
So they herded all of us into a waiting area (after security screening and much aimless milling) and there must have been what? 100 families, seemed like a mob. It really took a long time, but each parent must be seen by a consular official (even en masse) before the adopted child’s US immigrant visa can be issued because we swear that the information we provided on the immigrant application is true and correct. Then, in an anti-climatic flash, you’re done. All those months of paperwork and waiting, all over in an I do solemnly swear or affirm statement that takes 7 seconds to repeat. But a big relief no matter the lack of ceremony.

Our family and the incredible Myracle family (again, no pun intended, but what a burden Mike carries in his professional life, Dr. Myracle, whew) left straight from the consulate to the airport to catch the 9:00 pm flight back to Los Angeles. This was the Myracles’ third adoption in very few years, and their newest son is named Ben and talk about your contagious laughter, what an adorable kid. Their other children are simply gorgeous too, but this little Ben is certainly a sweet, sweet child, and the fact that he toddled over to me, motioned to be picked up and planted a big wet one on me in the Guangzhou airport has no influence on my opinion of him at all. In a few minutes, Ben liked me a ton more than Nora did/does. I just have to say that the Myracles were like a well-oiled machine, all eight of them passing treats, wipes, juice boxes, diapers, like an Olympic relay team. I want to be the Myracle family when I grow up.

The flight was long, but I know I got some sleep because it seemed like we were over the Bering Strait in a thrice. YuYu slept like a bump and Nora, not so good, but still more than not. When the drink cart came out shortly after take-off, I was all xiao xing (careful), bu yao pun (don’t touch) to Nora with an open cup and then I proceeded to dump her juice all over my lap and down my leg and I finally snapped. Two weeks of living out of suitcases and a child who didn’t like me came down on me hard and I just cried over spilled juice. YuYu was stunned, I know she’s never seen me cry and all I could say was I’m okay, I’m just tired. (Last night I must have said something about being tired and YuYu said, “Mom, you better go to bed before you cry,” so my breakdown had a lasting impression on my sweet girl.)

There were only four adoptive families (only one baby, going home to Roy, Utah, the rest were a little older) on that flight, talk about unusual, so we flew through immigration and when we popped out of customs, we were met by Kim Ma and her 5yo Alex and fresh off the plane 1yo Sydney. Kim and I were in a big group when she adopted Alex and I adopted Mimi in 2001. Kim drove down from Simi Valley for just a few minutes to chat and catch up and I so appreciate her effort. Her Alex is slightly younger than Mimi, but good heck, what a tall tall lovely child. I know she would tower over Mimi, because she towered over YuYu. What a treat to hold little Sydney, such a healthy beautiful baby. Congratulations Kim, you have a wonderful family.

Notice how I conveniently omitted photos from LAX that include me? The power of the blog.

Our flight was a full hour early, so it was great to have the time to chat with Kim before the wonderful and talented Suzanne DeCuir came flying in to scoop us up and take us to her home that is located conveniently near LAX, but there’s no way you would ever know it, such a quiet, great neighborhood. Suzanne brought her mandarin speaking friend Macy with her to help with Nora and that really really was a big help. We got to her house where we found Anna (Ellie’s orphanage buddy), Ellen, same age as Mimi and we traveled two weeks apart in 2001, but Ellen is from Chengdu, Sichuan and Mimi is from Fuling, Sichuan, and the adorable Qing Qing, 2.5, from Fujian (I could be way off on that). The last time we saw the Moody-DeCuirs was at breakfast in LA in November 2004 when we flew back with YuYu and Qing Qing was new to their family too. All the girls fell to playing and I fell on the wonderful Thai food Suzanne knows how to order. Then Patrick got home from work and it was great to see him and he ate a late dinner and we had a good visit. They gave us the master bedroom, but all I did was go in and turn out the lights, never got close to the actual bed. YuYu played all night long with the Moody girls’ toys and Nora had a 1.5 hour nap around 1:00 a.m. We disrupted their entire family routine just to sit in their front room and play with their toys until 5:00 am when we left for the airport. Thank you again Patrick and Suzanne for your home away from home for a night.

I’m glad I had snapped the day before over spilled juice, because those of you who saw my shameful display at the immigration counter in 2001 know I can get ugly during my end of trip snaps. If I hadn’t snapped earlier, I might have unleashed two weeks of ugly combined with good coffee deprivation on the s.o.b. who wouldn’t give me his aisle seat (we ticketed late and all of LA was dumping into Park City for Sundance that morning and our seats were split). I had a bag of McDonalds and I said, fine, you feed them breakfast and that one doesn’t speak English, but he would not budge. When the aisle seat in the row behind got off her cell, I asked if she would mind taking the middle seat so stretch (I did not say stretch, but good hell, he was all of 5’6” on a 1.5 hour flight, how important is that aisle seat) could maintain his seating status and she very graciously agreed. The kids became comatose in minutes (it was 8:30 pm China time). We landed in SLC and it was really hard to wake YuYu and we rode the moving sidewalks to the luggage area with YuYu weeping big juicy tears and Nora with wild child of Borneo hair and if those creative types from Sundance didn’t see a movie in that little vignette, then they need to find a new profession.

Grandma stayed with us Thursday evening and Nora and YuYu slept a little. Nora only wanted Grandma and sure she’s great, I like her too, but hey, Nora had only just met her and I’d been trying to get her to like me for two weeks. When Grandpa came to get Grandma on Friday evening, Nora laid by the front door and sobbed for 10 minutes until distracted by Ellie. I put her in bed withme at 10:00 pm and she sobbed herself to sleep, Wai Po, Wai Po, Wai Po (maternal Grandma in Chinese and I know it meant her new Grandma, she didn’t have a foster grandma, she had a foster grandpa). Ellie was at a slumber party (they had postponed it two weeks to make sure Ellie could be there, so I HAD to take her), but called at 11:00 pm to say she was fine (the other girls were calling their parents, I wish the party mom hadn't allowed that). That woke Xiao Ye up from her nap and she cried, cried, cried, cried, cried for the next five hours. But she went from crying as far away from me as possible to letting me hold her hands, to letting me hold her, but swear to God, she never stopped crying, tears and everything for five hours. I was impressed, exhausted but impressed. At 4:00 am, Mimi was whining (too lazy to get up to pee), so I went and helped her and remembered the Benadryl and dosed Xiao Ye and the next thing I knew it was 8:00 am and I had slept, really slept for 4 hours. Xiao Ye woke up happy enough, no more crying, she let me touch her and help her get dressed and that's a big change. She made it until 6:00 pm on Saturday before she crashed, 6:30 on Sunday and almost 7:30 tonight. Her clock is almost reset. She loves loves loves playing with her new sisters and she has a cute way of touching the top of her head and asking “wo de?” mine? When given something new to hold or play with. She loves loves blue jeans and insists on sleeping in them. What the heck, why not?

I took the kids to school this morning and then took Mimi to drop her off at Montessori. Nora sat right down in the calendar circle with Mimi and it took several attempts to get her to go with me. My Mom was supposed to watch her this week, but with my grandma’s imminent demise, Mom was in Logan where she needed to be and I took Nora to the office with me. Within 15 minutes she was crying for Mimi. I asked a Chinese speaking friend who works in my building to explain that I could take her to Mimi but that I could not stay. She brightened right up. I took her back to Montessori at 10:30 am and she was absolutely happy (but loud, not the Montessori way, but she’ll learn, I hope) until 3:30 pm, the kid does pre-school like a pro. Thank you Half the Sky Foundation.

And you know, she is a great kid. Sure, she doesn’t like me all that very much yet, but she did yell Ma MA when I got her attention in the play yard this afternoon and ran off to play some more, but she seemed happy to see me. She has no idea what a mother is good for, how to use me to her best advantage, but she will catch on. She is a tease and is funny and plays rough, so what a nice spice to add to the Hanson girl line-up; Ellie the calm and adaptable, YuYu the tender-heart, still waters running deep, Mimi, the odd-ball, goofy princess, and Nora Xiao Ye, the exuberant scamp. There will actually have to be some conscious effort on my part to promote bonding and attachment, but I can do that. I am glad for the opportunity to be her parent and I hope to do the role justice.

I have camera fatigue, so there’s no at home photos yet, I’ll update in a few days when I can get some good kids pics.

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