Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vietnam 2006 - Meeting Gracie

*This is a record of my trip to Vietnam two years ago. Because of internet problems I didn't blog much and I am trying to record all the little things I don't want to forget.

After killing time in Hoi An, we loaded up in the van to head to Que Son. This was the bumpiest road I have ever been on in my entire life. I took a little video of the rice paddies and scenery but it makes you a little car sick to watch it. Not only was the road bumpy, but we were traveling at a relatively high rate of speed for the road condition. We had what felt like some close calls with other vehicles, but the Vietnamese are fearless when it comes to transportation. At one point there was a truck that had run off of the bridge and was half on the bridge and half in the ditch. You just had to close your eyes and pray.

Finally we pull up outside the orphanage. We get out of the van and Terri and Kelly both begin yelling "there's Grace!" Where? It was one of those times where seconds felt like hours. It seemed like it took forever for me to find her. She was on the porch with her nanny. I instantly gave Terri my camera and ran toward Grace. The woman I had seen holding Grace in all the pictures was the one holding her there on the porch. We would soon give her the nickname "Nanny V(for Vietnam)" because we kept getting confused when referring to her in conversation as my mother is called Nanny by all the grandchildren.

She walked inside with Grace before I made it to the porch. I don't remember if she handed her to me as soon as I walked in or if they waited until we all got into the room. I do remember holding her for the first time, it was really weird. Was I truly holding this little thing I had waited for for so long? She didn't cry when I took her, she just gave me her serious look. She is still this way with strangers. I had brought a small toy with me and it turned out that she was more interested in playing with my hair than with the toy. By this time I am sobbing. Yes because of my love for her, but mostly because these nannies are crying so hard and visibly in pain. I soon found out that this orphanage was brand new and Grace was the first baby in the orphanage. Two weeks later Lucy arrived and soon after that Khai. There were only seven babies in the orphanage total (two of those were newborns). We were taking away the babies they had been caring for for months. They loved them so much and we just hugged the ladies and cried with them. That is a really special memory for me, we all loved Grace so much. That was the common bond we shared.

Grace slept in a metal cradle with metal slats that were covered by a thin bamboo mat. There were dishpans underneath each bed because the babies usually wore no diapers. It was a very small room and it was sparsely furnished. There was a line of five cradles from the window to the door, two twin beds for the nannies and a glass front cabinet with formula and miscellaneous items. One of those items was the famous pink blanket that Grace and the other babies were laying on in all their pictures. I took a picture of it folded in the cabinet. Grace's cradle was beside the window, she did have seniority after all. I remember looking out that window at the dirt road and occasional motor bike, thinking what her life there would have been like. The window was on her left and Lucy was on her right. The back of Grace's head is flat on the right side. I can only guess that she was spent her time looking toward the other babies and that is why it is flat on one side and not the back.

I got to feed Grace a bottle while I was there and I was so surprised when they handed it to me because it was scalding hot. She took the bottle without hesitation. Then the Nanny V immediately took her from me and placed her in her cradle covering her with a wool blanket that was folded over so it was double thickness. She then began to swing her high, I mean very high. I thought she was going to go flying through the room. She immediately went to sleep. It was funny because she and the other babies were sleeping with their arms above their heads, like "I surrender." Grace slept this way forever and still does occasionally. They napped for a very short time and woke up. It seemed that their routine consisted of 2 oz. hot bottle, swing high, short nap, repeat.

It was so hot in that orphanage I could not believe that they were covering them with those heavy blankets. They also had heaters running, aimed directly at the two newborns. The babies all had on undershirts and sweaters. Poor Grace was sweating so much her undershirt was wet. I told Terri and Kelly to feel of her shirt and as we were talking about it they came over and removed her sweater. I guess they could tell what we were talking about.

By the time we left I was so hot and thirsty. We loaded up in the vans and headed back to Sandy Beach. All the way back I thought I was going to die I was so thirsty. I kept watching what we were passing and shockingly there were no convenience stores! When finally made it back to the hotel. It was now late afternoon and we headed directly for the restaurant. I most likely had my usual lasagna (I ate it almost every meal at Sandy Beach) and we each ordered a bottle of water. This very sweet gentleman who always seemed to be at work was waiting on us and told us that one water would be enough for both of us. We got one and almost immediately drank it all. After that Terri and I walked down to the beach and I took a couple of photos. Little did we know that would be the only time we visited the beach. Bad weather was coming.

That was the day I met my daughter. The next day we would travel to Tam Ky for the G&R.

Vietnam 2006 - continued

*This is a record of my trip to Vietnam two years ago. Because of internet problems I didn't blog much and I am trying to record all the little things I don't want to forget.

When I awoke on December 27, 2006, I knew that it was the most important day of my life. I was meeting Grace that day. I was so grateful that we were leaving at 8am because there was no way I handle waiting until later in the day. The other two couples and I were adopting from the Que Son orphanage and Deborah was adopting a baby girl from the Hoi An orphanage. We went to Hoi An first and got to be with Deborah when she met her sweet little Lily. Lily was the only baby in the orphanage, all the others were older children. We went to the conference room and they brought in Lily. That was so amazing seeing Deborah meet her daughter. GT then came in and told us there was a scheduling problem and we could not go to the orphanage in Que Son until 1pm. It was so disappointing. So we wandered around Hoi An for a while.

Two things stick out in my mind about this time. First - there was a very, very young woman who I am certain was trying get Justin to buy her baby. She walked up to him to show him her baby. The baby had on a ball cap and she kept adjusting it and saying "cute baby." You heart just had to break for this young girl.

The second thing is when my sister got chased through the market by hourds of Vietnamese women! This was so hilarious I am laughing as I type. Terri was being a good southern lady and acknowledging each lady that tried to sell her something. The problem was that only encouraged them to seek her out as a potential customer. Justin, Kelly and I had to stop because she was so far behind us. I kept telling her to look forward and do not engage in conversation. She said she didn't want to be rude. She heard things like you so pretty, you my best friend, and I love you. And there was a pregnant lady that asked Terri to help her baby. We bought some lovely silk postcards from her and I have them in Grace's trunk of stuff from Vietnam. Before we knew it the time had come to go meet the babies...

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Thoughts on Vietnam 2006

*This is a record of my trip to Vietnam two years ago. Because of internet problems I didn't blog much and I am trying to record all the little things I don't want to forget.

On December 24, 2006, my sister Terri and I left for Vietnam to bring Grace home. Five airports later we arrived in Saigon on December 26. We didn't know what to expect when we got off the plane. Would someone meet us at the gate? The answer was no. Unsure what to do we followed the herd of travelers and got in the long lines. We had our passports and visas ready for inspection.

Our visas were not stamped in our passports, they were pieces of paper that you just stuck in your passport. When I got the visas in the mail mine was fine but there was a letter stapled to Terri's. It said that when issuing it they made a mistake in her name. The letter showed the correction and was stamped all official like. Why they didn't just issue a new one I do not know. Paper shortage maybe. When we came to the front of our respective lines I zipped right through. Terri did not. They took her from one official to another. I began to get concerned, afraid that she was going to be thrown into a Vietnamese prison in a case of mistaken identity.

This room was packed with people and I strained to keep Terri in my sight. Another problem is that I am 5'2" but at least Terri is 5'10." Well they finally let her through and we got our luggage and headed outside. When you walk out the door there is this crowd of people who look like they are waiting for a celebrity. I might have felt special, but I was in such need of a bath special was out of the question. There were lots of signs bearing peoples names and we scanned them for mine. Wouldn't you know they had Terri's name on the sign. Probably thought it was the man's name.

We arrived at a hotel and were met by Quoc, my agency's in country facilitator. He informed us he had a room for us and that we had about 2 hours to shower/rest before we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Danang. After a much needed shower we went back down to the lobby to prepare to leave. That is where I met my good friend Kelly. She and I had been emailing forever and I absolutely couldn't wait to meet her and Justin. We also met the rest of our travel group.

Our accomodations in Danang were fantastic. We were right on China Beach and the resort was just beautiful. The rooms was lovely and there was a crib already in the room. A metal crib that had metal slats on the bottom. It was incredibly cold and uncomfortable looking. And the bottom was about an inch off of the ground. As short as I am I would fall in trying to lay her down in that crib.

I didn't really care about that because the next morning I would meet my daughter...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our Second Anniversary

Today is our second anniversary as a family. Grace has been a bit under the weather the last few days so we didn't get out today. She had no fever today, so we plan on getting out and celebrating tomorrow. When we were in Vietnam, internet access was a nightmare because of an earthquake in Taiwan. It makes me sad to look back at my blog and see the lack of documentation. I am going to do my best to post each day about what we did on that day in Vietnam. Hopefully I can remember.

It feels like that was a lifetime ago. I guess it is because it's hard for me to remember a time before Grace. What did I do with my time before we became a family? During holidays and special times I always wonder about her birth mother. I pray that her birth mother has somehow seen the pictures I have been sending back to Vietnam. I pray that she has seen that she is healthy, growing and happy. Whoever she is, her sacrifice gave me the most precious gift. Today is definitely as much about her as it is about Grace and me.

Tomorrow...we celebrate.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Few Christmas Pictures

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Well Miss Christmas continued her excitement of Christmas morning. Waking up yelling Santa Clause at 5:30. That is nothing new, she has been waking up at 5:30 for a couple of weeks. I am guessing it is all the excitement and am hoping that all will return to our normal 7 am now that Christmas is over. She is sick today. Luckily low grade fevers, none of the crazy stuff. She is sneezing and coughing. We all are. It was 6 degrees outside on Tues and it was 65 two days later. Crazy.

We had a wonderful Christmas and are so blessed. Grace had so much fun and it was amazing to watch her excitement. If your kids like Wonder Pets you must check out Ming Ming. His cape flaps and he "flys." Very fun.

Here are a few pictures. It is hilarious because the little girl who would not smile for a camera has become a camera hog. Now she poses and says cheese.

She needed a way to get out her jumping energy, so I got her a new horse. Her other one had gotten way too small. She immediately began calling it Trigger, which is what she called the old one. I love the way she pointed at the camera. She looks so tough.

How sweet is this, kissing the baby? This amazed me because she has never played with dolls very much, especially in a loving way! I told Terri that the doll had a flat head just like Gracie.

Grace got a kitchen from Santa. It is wooden and has these neet accesories like a blender with fruit that comes apart and a toaster that pops up the toast. Here she is eating a wooden chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven.

This is one of those posed smiles I was talking about. How beautiful is that? You can also see some of her kitchen stuff on the table. We are having so much fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Picture with Santa

Today we went to visit professional Santa at the mall. This is the same one we saw last year and he is wonderful. She was pretty excited when she saw him sitting on his Santa throne in the middle of tons of decorations. She went right up to him and couldn't quit staring at him. He really got a kick out of that. She sat on his lap until I made her get down. She went back up to him while I was paying for the pics.

We had so much fun singing and shopping today. She just cracks me up when we go shopping. I guess it is from watching us, but she loves to rearrange the hangers on the racks. She isn't destructive at all, just moving the hangers like she is looking for the perfect outfit. She loves it at Old Navy because they have those really low racks in the toddler department.

We listened to Christmas music on the way home. She went straight from the carseat into the bed. Here is Grace and her true love...Santa Clause.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick Update

Christmas is an around the clock celebration at our house! Singing, Santa, snowman, cookie Christmas (as Grace says), Christmas tree...you name it. Grace is full of Christmas spirit! She is amazed everytime we go into a store, she has to verbally identify every tree, angel, Santa, etc. As much as she loves all of this, when I ask her whose birthday is at Christmas she always knows. Most of the time she says Jesus but sometimes she says God. She is too young to understand, but I am so thankful that she has that beginning knowledge of what Christmas is about.

The other night we had our children's program at church. At the end Santa came in with two elves bearing cookies. My mother has been saying that Grace would probably be afraid of Santa this year. Well that girl was not afraid. She literally was pushing her way past other kids yelling Santa, Santa. Only one little girl managed to get in front of her and she was just talking to him when it was her turn! Santa had to tell her a few times to look at me because she was so intent on him and didn't hear me calling. We need to make a trip to the mall soon to see professional Santa and buy some of those terribly expensive pictures he sells. Here are Grace and baby Brody with Santa.

I took my last final on Friday and am off until Jan 12! I made a 3.42 (4 As, 2 Bs and 1 sad little C)and I am very pleased.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Old Pics and New Pics

My dear friend Susan tagged me and I'm supposed to go to the fourth photo folder on my computer and post the fourth photo in that folder. Like Susan, I wondered what that photo would look like. Can I play fair if I hate the photo? I checked it out and just grinned when I found the fourth folder. It was the folder that contained Grace's referral photos and the updates while I was waiting! Photo number 4 is Gracie at 3 1/2 months.

This photo is from my first set of update pics. I remember loving those little fingers spread out on her belly(many of you remember my finger anxiety after some comments made). And look at those thighs! I remember she even had fat rolls on her butt. Now she can't keep her pants up. Thank you Susan, those are such great memories and I am so glad that I had you to go through all of it with me. I would have died if I hadn't had her to talk to.

School is almost over for the semester! Four down and two more finals to go. So far I ended up with 2 As and 2 Bs. I can finally relax. What was I thinking taking 20 hours with a 2 year old? In the beginning I thought piece of cake. I worked 50+ hours a week. I can handle this. I didn't not work with Grace in my office. Now I attempt to study and keep track of her at the same time. I am ready for the break.

Grace is so excited about Christmas. She is constantly singing Jingle Bells. Constantly. And she can't stop commenting on the decorations. On to new pictures from Christmas card photo attempts...

This one cracks me up. She had been pushing off the coffee table to rock and had her feet on, then she was messing with her lip and it looked like she was deep in thought. Actually she had just bloodied her nose and lip and it was really starting to swell.

Typical Grace

Finally! And you can't even really see the nose/lip injury.