Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo Shoot!

We took the kids to have their pics done tonight, so of course Johanna was tired, solemn, and obstinately refusing to smile often like she usually does. We still got some good shots anyway. Here are a few for you to enjoy.

All the kids together and clockwise from top left the Scientist, Starshine, Daredevil, and Princess J

And Princess J herself. I'm biased, I know, but I think she's gorgeous.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back To Reality

1. Today, I'm doing my best to pick up my regular schedule and run with it.

2. I'm thankful my parents are still in town to help with that!

3. They leave on Wednesday so by Thursday afternoon, I might be a psychotic mess.

4. Those of you who just snickered and wondered how that would be any different from my usual M.O. can go dine on a breakfast buffet in Nanchang without the benefit of Pepto Bismol.

5. I spent the last week adjusting to being in the Central time zone again, helping Johanna adjust as well, dealing with Johanna's ear infection, spending time with my boys, celebrating Thanksgiving, and celebrating my hubby's birthday. Oh, and I got 95% of our Christmas shopping done over the weekend. Online. Which made me far less homicidal than braving the jam-packed department stores, I assure you.

6. This week, I'm jumping back into my work schedule, homeschooling, house cleaning, socializing with people, blogging, running private workshops for clients, and doing my best to manage all of it with a new baby in tow.

7. *gives the title "Psychotic Mess" the Beady Eye but accepts it might be inevitable*

8. I do still plan to go through our trip photos and post some of my recollections, but haven't yet found the time for it.

9. I heard a song recently that boasted the following line: "My heart was beating in my chest."

10. Where else would it be beating?

11. Honestly, sometimes I worry about the state of songwriting today.

12. One of the most amusing parts of our trip to China was reading the English translations on various signs and products.

13. Our favorite was the sign on a wheelchair ramp leading up to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Nanchang. The sign said "Ramp carefully."

14. On a side note, 99% of the ramps in China are at 60 degree angles or worse. If you're using a wheelchair there, you'd better be sure you've got excellent brakes.

15. And maybe a seat belt.

16. I received an invitation to run a contest on my blog where the winner will receive a gift certificate to the yummy Oh Nuts online store (whose products I love).

17. The contest seems low maintenance, so perhaps I will.

18. Plus, the company name is completely appropriate for the state of my life at the moment.

19. Stay tuned for more details.

20. Now, I'd love to chat more but I'm already behind (despite being up since 4:45 this morning), so I must race to my next task. Until next time, stay away from stewed intestines and ramp carefully.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Traveling Comes To An End

We're home,  now, and busy trying to recover from some serious jet lag. We've worked to get our days and nights straight and Johanna is almost there. She's still waking up ridiculously early, but it's getting better. She cried for the first couple of hours after we got home, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that she literally hadn't slept for the past 17 hours since she decided it was much more fun to talk to her fellow passengers than sleep for most of our four plane rides.

Speaking of plane rides, the security in the airports in Guangzhou and Hong Kong make our security look like a walk in the park. We literally went through three identical security checks. By the third one, we were wondering what in the world we could possibly have done to our belongings after walking fifty feet from the last security check. When Clint became frustrated and informed the Communist soldier currently checking our bags that the whole system was stupid (or something along those lines), I quickly told him to go on to the gate and I'd wait while our bags were searched yet again. He left, and the soldier was very polite about the entire experience. It still sucked, but I didn't care. We were getting out of China. That was enough for me.

For some reason, our trip home was full of turbulence. Especially on our 11 hour flight. We had so many bumps and jiggles, even Clint, who never gets motion sickness, was sick. Johanna, however, was fine.

The interesting thing about our plane rides was that the staff on the international flights were incredibly helpful, solicitous, and the plane itself was in beautiful condition and had multiple entertainment options. The U.S. flight from San Fran to Chicago on American Airlines? Not so much. It started with the plane arriving late to the gate due to rainy weather. Nothing American could do to control that, but it was stressful for us because we already had a mere 45 minutes to catch our connecting flight to Nashville. When it was clear we'd be leaving 25 minutes late, Clint approached the woman running the gate and asked about our situation. Could we still make our connecting flight? Would they hold the plane for us for a few minutes if they knew we were on the ground and heading their way? Would American provide a cart to quickly transport us from one gate to the next if the gates were far apart? The woman told Clint no, no, and no. Then she said we could fly standby on another flight...except all the flights were full until 5 pm. Our scheduled flight left at 6:30 a.m. We'd already been traveling for almost 25 hours at that point. If we had to hang around for another 11 hours in an airport, we'd be out of diapers and formula by lunch time.

The woman was unsympathetic.

Then the plane arrived and she announced they would be boarding soon in an efficient manner so as to help those of us with connecting flights make our flights. Clint asked if that meant those traveling with small children would board first to get out of everyone's way, and the woman became irritable. She informed him that we would wait until our group was called and that was final.

Once we boarded the plane and settled into our seats, I realized my tray table latch was broken. Not just broken, but mostly gone. And the magazine holder on the seat back in front of me was broken too. I realized that after I shoved the baby bottle into it, only to have it hit the floor. Then, when I opened the tray table, I realized it listed sideways and was totally useless for balancing anything at all. That left us with trying to hold all our baby stuff in Clint's magazine holder while we used his tray alone for any drinks etc we might have.

The plane finished loading and the stewardess announced that we didn't have any running water so there would be no way to wash our hands in the lavatory. By this point, I was worried about missing our connecting flight, frustrated that American cared so little about helping us with the situation, and disgusted that I'd paid so much for a ticket on a plane that wasn't even well maintained. We took off and when the stewardess came around asking about drinks, we asked if we could just have a small bottle of water to fill our baby bottle. The stewardess said no. Then we asked if she could fill it for us. She said no. So I ended up asking for two cups of water and filling it myself. I was beyond frustrated at this point.

Later in the flight, I took Johanna to the one working lavatory (one had a sign on it stating it was out of order.) to change her diaper, only to realize they didn't have a changing table. Each of the international flights we'd been on had a changing table in the lavatory, so I'd expected our domestic flight to have the same. Not only didn't it have a changing table, the entire bathroom was dirty. I ended up standing her over the toilet and trying to change her diaper while working to help her stay upright. When I finally finished, I left the lavatory and informed the stewardess that the bathroom needed some attention. She told me she'd take it under consideration.

As we neared Chicago, we learned we had fifteen minutes to get to our next gate. And that our gate was halfway around the other side of the airport. When we asked the stewardess if perhaps those of us with such a short window of time could de-plane first, we were told no. By that time, many of the passengers around us realized our situation and were gracious enough to stay seated once we landed and let us get out ahead of them. I'm grateful they were so considerate! We ran across the airport, only to realize the stewardess had told us the wrong gate. Thankfully, we found the right gate in time and the lady running the American Eagle connecting flight was nothing but gracious, kind, and solicitous. She assured us she wouldn't have left us behind since we already had boarding passes. I wish her brand of customer service would be taught to the American Airlines personnel who did nothing but treat us like we were troublesome, demanding inconveniences instead of customers who'd paid full price for that flight. I won't ever be flying on American again.

Anyway, we're home now and so grateful to be back! Johanna loves her brothers and enjoys playing with them. She's still a bit clingy to me, but every day she returns a bit more to her bold, outgoing, friendly self. I'm looking forward to a fun Thanksgiving!

I still plan to blog about our experiences in Hong Kong, Nanchang, and Guangzhou using some of the over 600 pics we took. I just need a bit more time to rest and feel like my brain is fully functioning again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heading Home

It's been a full week here in Guangzhou. We filled out Johanna's Visa paperwork, visited the American Consulate to take the oath of citizenship on her behalf, went to the local pearl market, visited a mall, took her to a clinic for her mandatory physical examination where we were given antibiotics to treat her continuing chest cold/bronchitis, visited the zoo, and did some souvenir shopping.

About three days ago, we were done. Not done with all the tasks we needed to complete, but DONE with being away from home. We wanted to see our boys, sleep on a bed that didn't feel like a park bench, and eat some good American food. Pretty much every couple in our group felt the same way. This is a long trip, in more ways than one.

Through it all, Johanna remains cheerful and easygoing. She's definitely become Daddy's little girl! She lights up when he walks into the room and starts performing tricks to make him laugh. I'm okay with it because when she's tired or needs to cuddle, she turns to me. :)

This is Friday morning for us, and we're spending the day packing up and getting ready to leave. We head to the airport at 7 pm tonight to catch a flight to Hong Kong. From there, we catch an eleven+ hour flight to San Francisco, switch planes and head to Chicago, switch planes one more time and head to Nashville. It's going to be a long, exhausting trip, but we can't wait to get started! We miss our boys and want to have the entire family together.

Plus, we're excited to sleep in our own bed!

Next week, I'll go through the 600 pictures we took and begin posting about some of the highlights in Hong Kong, Nanchung, and Guangzhou. For now, though, I need to pack and give Johanna her medicine (she's improved greatly!), and make sure I don't leave something essential behind in Guangzhou.

Home soon. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day One in Guangzhou

I didn't realize how much I missed Western food until this morning. We're staying at the White Swan hotel, a beautiful five star hotel that smells normal (the hotel in Nanchang smelled off to our Western noses). A breakfast buffet is included in our room charge. We had a breakfast buffet in Nanchang as well, but it was always a challenge to find anything appetizing to eat. There were intestines, stewed fish, "preserved" hard boiled eggs (eggs that were 4 months old), rice, noodles, mustard buns, and various other concoctions that just didn't appeal to me. Today, I recognized almost everything on the buffet and it tasted GREAT. I felt revived as I ate crisp bacon, an omelet that wasn't drenched in soy sauce like the one in Nanchang, French toast made the way I would make it, and real orange juice (the juice in Nanchang tasted like weak Tang).
I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining about the food in Nanchang. It was plentiful. And it was appealing to most of the hotel's clientele. It just wasn't appealing to me. :)
I felt like I could conquer anything with a decent breakfast under my belt. The only exception to that attitude is the bed we sleep on. The Chinese feel strongly that a firm bed is best for the back. I agree. The problem here at the White Swan is that my definition of firm is "somewhat unyielding" and their definition of firm is "feels like a slab of concrete."
I do not exaggerate.
When we first walked into the room, I plopped down on the bed, expecting it to give like a normal bed. Instead, it was like plopping onto a park bench. My spine did not thank me for the experience. I tried to sleep well, but eventually ran out of comfortable positions and got up seriously early instead.
We spent the day wandering around the shops in the White Swan area. I was delighted to discover a Starbucks! Never has a mocha frapp tasted so good. Clint, who doesn't like coffee, got a chocolate frapp and let Johanna have a sip. No sooner did he take the cup away and place it on the table, but she was literally trying to climb her way out of her stroller so she could steal the rest of his drink. We may have a little chocolate addict on our hands already. My mother will be so proud.
We purchased a few souvenirs for the boys, and then bought Johanna a pair of squeaky shoes, a tradition here in China for making the children interested in learning how to walk, and then purchased several traditional Chinese dresses for her in her current size and several sizes above. The rest of the day was devoted to playing with her until dinner. Our group had dinner together at a local Thai place. Dining out in Guangzhou is interesting because you don't tip the waiters. The tip is already added to the bill and the service definitely reflects that. The servers barely pay attention to you and the food comes out as it's ready. Regardless of whether the rest of the table's food is ready. Which means the meals slowly trickle to the table and the last person might get their meal after the first couple of people are already done eating. It's strange to us, but we just roll with whatever we find here.
We took pictures of Johanna (of course!) playing around, and wearing the skirt from one of her new traditional dresses. Be prepared to die from the Cute.


Leaving Nanchang

Yesterday was our last day in Nanchang. We boarded a flight for Guangzhou mid-morning and began the second half of our stay here in China. Johanna did very well on the flight. She took a bottle and fell asleep just after take-off, slept most of the flight, and then woke up to charm the surrounding passengers with her consistent attempts to fling herself backwards into the aisle so she could see everyone behind her. Trying to hold on to her when she's awake is like trying to wrestle a twenty pound wet fish.

A few things really stood out to me about our time in Nanchang (pronounced Nan-chung), so I thought I'd share them with you. First, of course, it will always have a special place in our hearts because it's where we first met Johanna. I'll always treasure the hours we spent in our hotel room playing, sleeping, and bonding with each other.

I'm also grateful to our agency's staff. Evelyn and Karen were available to us 24-7 and clearly loved our babies. It was sad to leave them, even though I wanted badly to get to Guangzhou.

Nanchang is city fairly free of Western influence. Nothing is in English, old customs are still followed, the food is mostly unrecognizable to us, and because they rarely see Americans, we were literally mobbed every time we went outside the hotel. It was an interesting experience. Sometimes, the people crowded too close, reaching out to touch Johanna and making it impossible for us to move forward. But mostly, they just wanted to understand what we were doing with a Chinese baby (Evelyn and Karen provided us with a card to take with us everywhere that explained in Cantonese that we were adopting an orphan and bringing her to America.). Once they understood we were adopting her, we got many thumbs up signals and smiles as the people kept repeating the Cantonese phrase for "she's going to have a beautiful life."

One of the "Western" things we really missed in Nanchang was the concept of cold drinks. No one drinks anything cold here. The soda is room temperature (and the two soda options are Coke and Sprite. No diet.), and the Chinese prefer to drink their water hot. I was excited to hear that the ice in the White Swan hotel in Guangzhou is safe for us. I really can't wait to have cold drinks every day!

Nanchang is also a place where old world beauty and recent poverty live hand in hand. We saw a royal palace, a pristine Buddhist temple, and some lovely artwork. We also saw (usually side by side with the beauty) dilapidated apartment buildings with laundry hanging from racks at every window, trash littering every alley, enough air pollution to make L.A. look like an environmentalist's dream, and people curing meat by hanging it over nearby telephone wires.

We also had a strange experience in The People's Park. It's a gorgeous park with a playground, exercise equipment (like you'd see in a gym), footpaths, statues, a river, some carnival rides, some places for the Chinese to do Tai Chi or traditional dance, and a life-size checker board where the checkers each weighed about 50 lbs. Right after we arrived, a Chinese man in a red jacket with a professional looking camera around his neck began snapping pictures of our group. We were used to the Chinese wanting to take pictures of the strange Americans by that point, but then I noticed that he wasn't actually taking pictures of our entire group (9 families total). He was taking pictures of Johanna.

After the fourth shot, I figured he had enough and walked away. He followed. For the next twenty minutes, he followed us everywhere and consistently took pictures of Johanna only. Other moms began crowding around my stroller to block her from his view. He got creative and took to the high ground. Then, as Clint and I stood beside the stroller for another couple to snap our picture, he came up behind the couple and literally rested his camera on our friend's shoulder so he could take our picture too.

I'd had enough. It's one thing to take a few pics of a pretty baby, but who needs twenty shots of a stranger's child? It felt intrusive and unsettling. I told Evelyn about him and she caught him taking yet another picture of Johanna. Turns out, Evelyn can be a scary girl when she needs to be. I'm not sure what she said, exactly, but it sounded a lot like "Bother this baby again and I'm going to open up a can of funky, Nanchung style." He left us alone after that. Clint told Evelyn if Johanna ends up on an advertisement to please send us a picture of it. :)

That was a memorable experience (and gave me new sympathy for celebrities trying to protect their children from insistent picture-taking paparazzi), but above all, what stands out to me the most about Nanchang is the traffic. It's insane. If you're from a big city and you think you know what I mean when I say "insane," you don't. I've never seen anything like it. The freeway was clogged with buses, cars, people on scooters, on bikes, ON FOOT. No one payed any attention to pesky details like lanes. In fact, I don't know why the city bothered to paint lines on the road at all since everyone ignores them and instead, drives (or walks) through gaps in the existing traffic. Once we got to the city itself, I realized what I saw on the freeway was tame in comparison. I decided they didn't need traffic lights any more than they needed lanes because no one paid attention. The streets and intersections are a maze of people walking, riding bikes, riding scooters, driving cars, or driving buses. Everyone just leaps through whatever gap is available. If you have to turn across traffic, you just start turning and slowly work your way through everyone else. People drive in the opposing lanes like a sick game of chicken. It's INSANE. I soon learned the rule of the road is that whoever is bigger has the right of way. Since we were in a bus everywhere we went, that meant we did a lot of laying on the horn (horns beep incessantly there) and driving on the wrong side of the road while smaller buses, vans, cars, and people had to scramble out of our way because we were bigger.

You almost have to see it to believe it.

Nanchang was an experience. I'm sure Guangzhou will be an experience in its own way too. Six more days and we get to leave for home!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Trip To Johanna's Roots

Today was a hard day, in a good way. We'd requested a trip to Fengcheng, the city of Johanna's abandonment and orphanage. Our agency reps (who are FABULOUS and who make sure we are well taken care of every step of the way) took all 8 Fengcheng families on a 1 1/2 hour (one way) bus ride to the city this morning.

The Fengcheng orphanage director takes pride in his job and has kept meticulous records for us. One of the things the director is required to do is run an ad with a baby's picture and where the baby was found because parents have one chance to reconsider their decision and reclaim their child. The director saved that ad for each of the babies from the Fengcheng orphanage, so we not only have a newborn picture of Johanna (Yes, she's always had those cheeks!), we know exactly where she was abandoned.

Today, our agency reps took us on a brief tour of the city, stopping at each point of abandonment so the parents could see it, take pictures, and get any information about that location our reps were able to provide. We were last on the list of stops. Other babies were found on hospital steps, in front of a motorcycle shop, at the entrance of a radio/tv company, and in the middle of a busy city park. Our ad simply said she'd been found at the gate of SWL. We had no idea what SWL stood for. The bus pulled up in front of a clean, fancy (by Fengcheng standards) building and our reps called our names. We left the bus, walked to the gate, and the rep pointed behind the fancy building to a clean, brightly painted building with an orange roof and said, "That's the orphanage."

It took us a second before we understood that Johanna's parents had loved her enough to leave her in the one place she was SURE to be found and taken care of. The entrance to the Civil Affairs Building, which is also the entrance to the orphanage. They wanted her to be safe. They cared enough to want to give her a chance for a life they were unable to provide for her.

I cried.

The gate in front of the Civil Affairs Building and orphanage

The orphanage

I don't know her biological parents' story, but I know China's story. The one child policy makes it nearly impossible for families to have more than one child. The only way a family can have a second child is to either pay a hefty fine (equivalent to an entire month's income in a country where both parents must work just to barely make it) or prove that both mother and father are an only child and therefore need an extra child to help take care of the grandparents when they become unable to take care of themselves.

In China, boys are valued more than girls because they ensure the continuation of the family name and because when a girl marries, she leaves her parents and moves in with her husband's family, leaving no one to look after her family in their old age. Many people choose abortions rather than abandonment. Some try to keep the second child hidden for weeks or months before giving in to what feels like the inevitable and abandoning the child. Some even manage to financially pay for the second child for a few years before the mounting school costs combined with the yearly fine become overwhelming, forcing an abandonment. Those who live in the country (Fengcheng is in the country) are much poorer than those who live in the city. Most could never pay the fees.

I don't know what Johanna's parents faced. Did they already have a child and were unable to pay for a second? Were they worried about their uncertain future and felt convinced they needed a boy? I'll never know, but today I learned this: they loved her. They wanted her to be safe, and they did everything they could to make sure that happened. I just wish I could send them a message letting them know the gift of life they gave her is something we will treasure and protect and that she will have the brightest future we're able to give her. I'm grateful to them. Grateful for her. And grateful that one day I can show Johanna her roots and tell her, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her biological parents loved her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Johanna: Day Two (Plus Photos!)

Johanna continues to thrive with us. She's a little social butterfly who has two speeds: Full Speed Ahead and Sleep. Our only difficulty at the moment is that she really doesn't sleep well. She wakes about every hour and a half all through the night and that means I wake up too. I'm pretty exhausted now, but we'll figure it out!

She now shows a clear preference for us over the Chinese people who come up to talk to her, even though they speak her birth language. She turns from them and burrows into us for comfort. We hold on to those moments!

We've also discovered she has a special skill. She's a champion noodle sucker. It's hilarious. We'll place the tip of a long noodle in her mouth and she'll just suck the whole thing up in no time flat. She's going to give her brothers a run for their money on spaghetti nights!

Here are a few pictures taken of her over the last day. Isn't she just precious?


Monday, November 8, 2010

Our First Day With Johanna

We've had Johanna for just over 24 hours now, and things are going really well. I'll have more pics to post soon, but in the whirlwind of the last day, this is the best I can do for now.
Johanna cried for the first 2-3 hours after we received her. She'd had a tough day. She'd been taken from her foster mother, driven three hours in a bus to a strange city, and then handed over to two strangers who couldn't even speak her language. It was a rough day for her.
Once she started crying, she refused to go to Clint. In fact, if she even SAW him in the room, she'd start crying harder. I held her on my lap, did my best to comfort her, and had our first breakthrough when I offered her the new toy giraffe we'd brought with us. She'd refused her rattle, her soft blanket, and her teething ring, but she grabbed onto the giraffe and began chewing on his ears. A few minutes later, I was able to give her a bottle and she fell asleep in my arms.
The sleep helped. When she awoke, she was better able to handle the changes in her life. She still didn't think highly of Clint, but she tolerated him and stopped crying. She woke up three times last night, hungry, and on the last time Clint fed her a bottle and she decided he was okay after all.
Today, she was a little doll. She's the most outgoing, talkative baby in our travel group (nine babies total). She bounces, smiles, and does her level best to steal Cheerios and toys from any other baby within reach. And the girl can EAT. It's honestly unbelievable how much food she put away today. I'm hoping all that solid food will help her sleep through the night tonight. I'd really like to sleep through the night myself! I decided her penchant for snagging what she wants and eating us out of house and home will prepare her well for life with her three big brothers. Clint decided she talks constantly because she takes after me.
I may have had a thing or two to say about that.
We spent the morning going to several government offices and in the end, we were handed a beautiful certificate in a decorative red case and told our adoption was now officially permanent. She's ours forever. :) We still have to stay another five days here in Nanchang waiting for her passport and visa to come in, and then we fly to Guanzghou for a week while we meet at the American consulate and immigration and swear her in as a U.S. citizen.
She smiles at us often now, and loves playing with us. And she turns to us for comfort. While she interacts with others, she clearly prefers us and recognizes us as her primary caregivers. It's amazing that she's come so far in just one day.
Tomorrow, I'll take some pictures of her and send them to Mandy to post on the blog. She really is adorable (Yes, I'm biased, but trust me, she is.) and we're absolutely head-over-heels in love with her. I looked at her today as she bounced happily on my lap and knew that every single second of our five year wait was worth it just to hold her now.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Journey to China: Part 2 1/2

Hi, everyone! This is CJ's friend MG, blogging on her behalf while she's without blogger access in China. She'll be sending me updates to post for you for the next few days.

At 2:00am Eastern, CJ arrived in Nanchang and was only two hours away from holding Johanna for the first time. The full update regarding their meeting is coming soon, so stay tuned!



Friday, November 5, 2010

Journey to China, Part 2: Flight To Hong Kong

We sat at our gate, waiting for our flight, watching the chairs fill with people. Several families arrived, and I realized that for the first time in years, the sight of a little Chinese girl no longer sent a shaft of pain through me. Instead, I smiled and tapped my foot impatiently because I knew it was only a matter of days before I would have MY little Chinese girl.

The flight was full. Which wasn’t really a problem, except that the woman sitting next to Clint in our little row of three seats had the stomach flu. She got up shortly after she sat down and announced to us she needed to get to a bathroom so she could throw up.

We were hoping maybe she’d decide not to fly, but she stayed on the plane. Now, we’re hoping maybe it wasn’t the flu and therefore isn’t contagious. The last thing we need is to be sick as we receive our baby.

Most people slept a lot on this flight. I couldn’t. I watched a movie. Read a little. Took some cat naps but couldn’t ever get comfortable. Besides, there’s a constant low-level stream of adrenalin running through me at the thought that SOON, we’ll hold Johanna.

I have no idea what time it is. We boarded the plane at 11:05 p.m. Pacific time on November 3rd and are landing in Hong Kong at 4:45 a.m. Hong Kong time (probably not the official name for it, but that’s the best I can do right now) on Friday, November 5th. It’s weird to think that Thursday, November 4th, 2010 will never exist for us. A lost day. A skipped day.

The writer in me wants to make a story out of that.

The mom in me is excited to have skipped an entire day forward toward the best day of this year: November 7th. Gotcha Day.

I can hardly wait.

Journey To China, Part 1: Flight To Los Angeles

Blog post written late Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 but sadly not posted until now due to lack of internet connection.

I must look like a threat. A very loud, red-headed threat. Why? Because while everyone else flew through security in Nashville, I was stopped for a pat down. And then? When we went through security at LAX to enter the international airport? I was subjected to a MUCH MORE THOROUGH pat down. The kind where I was offered the choice of a private room. The kind where the term “pat down” is actually a euphemism for “I’m going to slide my hands down your waistband to search for contraband.”

It was awesome.

I passed, of course, because the only contraband I’m packing around my waist is the evidence of my lemon bar addiction.

During the flight to L.A., we watched Dinner for Schmucks. It was a waste of two hours (and this is from the girl who loves Steve Carrell), but it didn’t matter. I was just glad to have the time pass quickly. I’m anxious to get to Hong Kong.

Because we had such a long lay-over in L.A., Clint insisted we go to the Holy Grail of all hamburger eateries: In N Out Burger. Since In N Out Burger is akin to a religious experience for my husband, he knew the location of the closest restaurant. We took a free parking shuttle to a lot next to the restaurant, walked over, and laughed as Clint filmed the restaurant, the menu, the sign, and his food. One day, Johanna will understand her daddy’s obsession and learn to laugh and roll her eyes like I do.

I still contend their fries are nasty.

I can type that here without worrying about incurring the wrath of my husband since he isn’t currently reading over my shoulder.

Now, we’re sitting at our gate, waiting for another hour and a half before we can board the plane, and I’m trying not to think about the fact that I’m about to strap myself into a HUGE metal can and fly across an ocean, a scenario which pits my fear of drowning against my fear of flying and turns me into something resembling a neurotic fool.

Which perhaps explains why I was searched.

One and a half hours. And I’ll be finally, irrevocably, on my way to my daughter’s country. I can’t wait.

P. S. I just let Clint read this and I would like to announce that even though I was an excellent wife who went to In N Out with him, even though I hate their food, my hubby felt the need to tell me that the coming flight is 15 ½ hours and that 15 hours and 24 minutes of that will be OVER AN OCEAN. *nearly throws up* *swallows a Valium*

P.P.S. His life insurance policy is totally up to date.

P.P.P.S. For details on where to send flowers for his memorial service, stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We're boarding a plane at 3:45 this afternoon and beginning the first leg of our trip to China. We fly to Los Angeles, where we have a five hour lay-over, and then board a plane around midnight bound for Hong Kong. 

I'm almost packed.

I spent last night combing through piles of baby clothes, trying to decide exactly what size I should bring. What colors. If I needed short sleeves, long sleeves, pants or dresses. Shoes? Or just socks? This blanket or that blanket? Or maybe both?

It's not like I can't buy something there if I've left out anything important, but I don't want to leave out anything important. I want to have everything my daughter needs from the moment she's placed in our arms. I want to have prepared well for her.

There are so many unknowns.

How will my boys do when we're gone? I know my parents will take good care of them, but I already miss them and I'm not even leaving for the airport for another five hours.

What if she's inconsolable for days? We've been told to expect that, and I think I'm ready. But how can I know until I'm actually there?

What if we can't sleep well? What if the food doesn't agree with us? What if, what if, what if....

But for all the unknowns, there's one shining certainty: Our daughter was always meant for our family, and we're finally going to be united. The rest of it pales beside the joy I feel at the prospect of finally seeing her face to face.

For now, I'm focused on details. Getting my jeans dry so I can pack them. Not forgetting deodorant. Spending precious moments with my boys before I say goodbye.

Wondering why I didn't tell my doctor to give me Valium for the dreaded plane ride. Or Vicodin. Or Vodka. Something with a V. (Have I mentioned how much I hate to fly?)

I have butterflies in my stomach, but I don't mind. I don't even mind strapping myself into a tin can propelled by gallons of flammable fuel so I can be forcibly hurtled through the sky because after five years of waiting, I'm finally going to hold my daughter.

I can hardly wait.

Harry Potter Trailer & More!

The final trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, and I'm not going to lie. I get choked up every ti...