Friday, January 16, 2009

Healing Nicely

Doesn't her face look great? I am so glad, I was afraid that it would scar her pretty face. And she has also quit running out the door ahead of me, I hate that it took a nasty fall but at least one positive thing came out of the incident.

Today has been a very frustrating day for me. The saga started last week when I found out that I could get initial licensure to teach through the masters program. I thought I needed to do the undergraduate work, but I could get my masters without doing any undergrad work. So I decided to enter the graduate program. It wouldn't even take any longer for me to get my masters than it would to get the undergrad degree in education. It is very sad that no advisor or professor shared the information with me about this option.

Since I just made this decision last week I have not had the graduate exam needed to enter the program. I was told that I could however take a couple of classes. I have been waiting all week for them to process my application so I could register. I went to see them face to face today. As it turns out I need a 3.0 GPA to take classes without passing the GRE first. I have a 2.96 and they were unwavering. I sincerely wanted to punch this lady in the face. I mean come on! So that means I can't take classes this semester.

The awful part is I feel like I will be wasting time until June. I was in school full time, I have no job. What do I do? My plan is to substitute teach and in the summer I can take grad classes full time. What else can I do? Today was my sad day. Tomorrow will be better and summer semester will be here before I know it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


This happened yesterday around lunch. It looks much, much better today. Grace took a nose dive down our front steps and landed face first on the brick. I was holding her hand at the top and she pulled away and went tumbling down. All I could do was watch and that felt like the longest moment. She landed on her face and I was terrified to turn her over. I felt certain that she had some terrible injuries. I couldn't believe that she only had a very, very nasty scrape. She did look pretty rough in just a few minutes. Her lip swelled about 4 times it's normal size. It was so awkward for her to talk. Fortunately everything is fine except for a very nasty scrape that I am sure hurts a lot. I am giving her tylenol when she complains and I am keeping it moist with ointment. I am so thankful that she only has a bad scrape. It could have been so much worse. And banged up face and all, isn't that the sweetest smile?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vietnam 2006 - Hanoi to Home

The next day we checked out of the hotel. As we were waiting for our taxi to the airport I realized that I had left my cash in the safe. Fortunately I got the room key and retrieved my cash without a problem. Hanoi to Taipei was uneventful. I was hoping we wouldn't hear "baby cold" in a new country. We heard that the entire time we were in Vietnam. They thought Grace needed a coat and hat because it was only 80 degrees. The airport in Taipei is huge. Even though we had an adequate layover, the long lines took forever. We had to run through the airport to make our flight. We had cameras, carryons, paintings, diaper bag, etc. and we last saw our stroller in Hanoi. We were a sight running with all this stuff and Grace. We literally thought we would die. Where are the people who drive the golf cart through the airport when you need them?

We made our flight and Grace was awesome the entire flight from Taipei to LA. However there was this one passenger on the flight who was unbearable. He was so rude to the flight attendants telling them they should speak better English and demanding to see the pilot. Everything out of his mouth was rude and he was loud. He complained about the food and anything on the flight you can imagine. And we were in business class so everything was wonderfu. He was like this the entire flight. Terri cannot block things out like I can and she looked like she was about to explode. I kept expecting her to jump over the seat and choke him. Thankfully she had gone to the bathroom when we were waiting to get off the plane. The man looked at me and said "there is something wrong with that baby, her eyes are all funny. You need to take her to St Jude because there is something wrong with her." He kept saying this over and over again. Terri would have clocked him if she had of heard this. When she was a baby it was very noticeable, but Grace has a pseudostrabismus. That is when eyes appear crossed because of the flatness of her nose. It goes away as she grows.

Immigration was a breeze, it just took a few minutes. Then we headed to McDonalds. We had to go from the international terminal to the regular terminal. We had two carts full of luggage. We were very inventive and unzipped Terri's large duffel, laid it in front of me in the little basket on the cart and lined it with blankets. I pushed and held onto her. It was like her own little cradle for the long walk between terminals. She never complained.

Again Grace was good from LA to Chicago. She was kind of restless from Chicago to Nashville. But she was still pretty good. Eddie George was sitting in front of us. The flight attendant was adopted from China as a baby and it was nice talking to her. We arrived in Nashville and were greeted by my dear friend Susan, my dad and Terri's husband. We were finally home.

I was glad to see my family, but it was so special having Susan there to meet us. I guess this is because she could understand my emotions and we had been waiting together for our girls. I had Gracie and I had held Petunia while I was in Vietnam. It is like we shared the crappy days and now we were sharing the joy. When we got home everyone was there and we were so glad to be home. There were signs and pink balloons all over the place. I immediately abandoned Grace to take a shower. She had plenty of attention. Our long journey had come to an end and our new life was beginning.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Vietnam 2006 - On to Hanoi

It was very bittersweet checking out of the Royal Duxton. I loved, loved Saigon and was sad to leave. However Hanoi was our last step before going home and I was ready to take Gracie home. We had a very eventful ride to the airport. Traffic is always crazy and I was always expecting a wreck. The right of way belongs to the person who is most aggressive. On the ride to the airport a young woman on a motorbike wiped out and landed on the curb. The van carrying the other half of our group was directly behind her and slammed on their brakes in an effort to avoid hitting her. In a chain reaction our van rear ended the van with the rest of our group. The young woman hit her ribs on curb and was obviously in pain. We were all ok and we waited on a new van for the rest of our group. Once it arrived and they switched vans we made our way to the airport.

Grace did not sleep on this flight. She was a very good girl and did not fuss. We arrived in Hanoi after a short flight and made our way to our hotel. When we arrived we found out that they did not have cribs for us because they had several adopting families staying in the hotel and they were using the cribs. Quoc contacted the hotel and they went out the next day and purchased cribs. Quoc was fantastic. The other families adopting were from all over. We met another group from the US. They were using an agency I was unfamiliar with and were having lots of problems. Their babies were sick, very sick. And they were also very young. I am not quite sure how they got babies so young. Their agency had told them nothing. The didn't know they needed a physical before the interview, etc. I felt really bad for them. It made me feel better and better about my agency who had made this experience so easy.

Unlike in Saigon, our hotel's location left something to be desired. We were staying in the plumbing district so we didn't have the freedom of wandering about, we had to plan our outings. The weather in Hanoi was fantastic. It was funny because everyone was bundled up and we were enjoying the 70 degree weather. It was like spring here in the south. Our second interview went off without a hitch and we hoped to get the visas the next day and head home early. However the travel agent didn't give alot of hope for coming home the day we got the visa. We'd have to wait until the next day.

One outing we planned was to see the water puppet show. I had the tickets for Justin, Kelly, Lucy and myself. I was going to meet them outside the theatre. Terri didn't want to go so she was going to stay at the hotel with Grace. When I got ready to leave I had their tickets but could not find mine. It was one of those crazy things. You lay something down and it is right there in front of you somewhere but you can't find it. I headed out to take them their tickets. When I arrived they said that Terri and Grace were on the way with my ticket. Strange thing is, when Terri arrived I was kind of over going to the show. So I skipped the show and Terri and I did our thing - shopped. That was the most beautiful area and I wish I had spent more time there. The lake was directly across from the puppet theatre and it was just beautiful.

The visas were ready the next day and we were ready to go home! We had all our stuff packed just in case he could get us out that day. However it looked like we would be spending one more night in Hanoi. Justin and Lucy came up to our room that night to get some sinus medication. They were flying out that night. I was glad for them, but it was sad separating Grace and Lucy. We had joked all along that they kept looking at each other like "you're still here so I'm ok." The next day we were heading home too.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Vietnam 2006 - Finally in Saigon

New Years Day 2007 Grace took her first ride on an airplane. We were scheduled to leave at 6pm but our flight was delayed for a while. Grace slept through the entire flight and awoke on the drive from the airport to the hotel. Saigon's celebration of Christmas was all glitz and glamour. Lights everywhere. She was amazed.

The hotel was fantastic. It was located in the middle of lots of shopping and we could get out and walk around. It was great after being stuck inside while in Danang. We loved putting Grace in the stroller and getting out. One thing that was noticeably different about Vietnam was the lack of accommodations for handicap people. You take it for granted here in the US, there is always an elevator. At the Royal Duxton you enter the hotel via beautiful staircases in the front. There was always someone who would carry Grace up the stairs in her stroller. The Vietnamese are just really nice people.

The shopping was my favorite thing about Saigon. I did most of my shopping there and came home with some great things. I got Grace gifts for each year. When you are wandering the streets there are a couple of things you must master. Motor bike drivers anticipate your moves when you are crossing the street so DO NOT hesitate. If you do you will be mowed down by a motor bike. Step out with confidence. The other thing was that Terri and I had to work together as a team to maneuver the stroller along Saigon's awful sidewalks.

The business part of our stay in Saigon went well. We had our first interview and the lady was very, very nice despite things I had heard about her from others. The babies had their passport photos taken and Grace was such a big girl. At the hospital. We sat and waited on this waiting room that was actually an open air porch. Grace did so well through it all. When we saw the dr. I really was shocked that she only weighed 18 lbs. She has always felt much heavier than she really is. I asked the dr. about her ears, she had been pulling on them. He looked into her ears with his little flashlight (real sophisticated medical equipment) and said that it was "itchy ear wax." Grace has a habit of pulling on her ear when she is sleepy. My mother always says I hope it's not another ear infection. Terri and I both tell her "no it's just itchy ear wax."

There was a coffee shop just down from the hotel. It was a favorite stop during our excursions. One day we were having coffee and there was a table of 3 or 4 Vietnamese businessmen next to us. One of them came over and asked me if he could hold Grace. He said she was a beautiful girl. He took her, kissed her on the cheek, told her she was a pretty girl and handed her back to me. I was very shocked, but Vietnamese people tend to always love children.

There is another thing that happened in Saigon that just makes me laugh every time I think about it. It is probably one of those things that you had to be there for, but it was hilarious. Kelly, Terri and I were in the lobby with the babies and were about to take the elevator up. Kelly was wearing Lucy in a sling and was walking in front of us. We were casually walking and talking and as we approached the empty elevator the doors began to close. Without missing a beat in the conversation, Kelly kicks her leg out in front of her to trigger the sensor and open the elevator door. What a woman - she can take care of her baby, engage in conversation and open an elevator door all at the same time! That me laugh every time I think of it.

I had some good experiences with food in Saigon. In retrospect I wish I had been more adventurous, but I was so thankful for the familiar food we found there. The breakfast buffet had waffles and crisp bacon. I had a fantastic filet mignon with baked potato and salad at Amigo's. I had real Texas beef in Vietnam at a place that sounds like a Mexican restaurant. This is probably kind of gross, but I changed Grace's poop diaper at the table in Amigo's. It was late afternoon and we were in a room all to ourselves. This is where the stroller came in handy. I just laid her back, changed it quickly and bagged it. I don't remember seeing many diaper changing stations, so your work with what you got. Probably too much information but this about helping me remember the little details.

Amigo's was next to the hotel and across the street was a great Italian restaurant that we really enjoyed. One bad food type experience was the tiny, tiny coffee cups at the hotel. I am a coffee person and when I would go down for breakfast I would get a couple of good gulps from those cups. So when we went for our interview I bought a coffee mug from the USA and I would take it down to breakfast with me. The staff was very gracious about my giant cup. One thing I never understood about Vietnam my inability to get a cup of coffee to go. That is probably because the American way of life is all about being on the run. Others seem to enjoy life more than we do.

Like I said, shopping was what I did in Saigon. We wandered the streets everyday just looking around. I bought so many great things and bought two pieces of luggage for my goodies. I bought silks, rosewood carvings, beautiful embroidered pieces, and lots of other stuff. Grace was so good. In the beginning she got a little overstimulated. All the sights and sounds made her really fight going to bed at night, she wanted to see more! After I began partially draping a blanket over her stroller when we went out, she settled down. It also helped us avoid being stopped constantly by people wanting to look at her. It is very sweet how she was loved on, but sometimes it made it hard to get anywhere.

Saigon was such an awesome city that I was sad to leave. But the flight to Hanoi would bring us one step closer to home.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Vietnam 2006 - The G&R

*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.

December 28, 2006 was the day that life changed forever. Grace and I officially became a family. I woke up that morning with a fever and feeling awful so I started my antibiotics. I really can't tell you what went on that morning or what happened before we went to the courthouse in Tam Ky. I don't even remember what time of the day the G&R was held. At some point we bought strollers, water, formula, etc but I am really not sure when. Maybe Kelly or Terri can help me out with that one.

I do remember that it was a long drive to Tam Ky. However it was far less bumpy. As much as it would have been nice to see her orphanage, I was very glad we didn't have to go through that awful drive with the babies. The orphanage director and the nannies were bringing the babies to the courthouse. I was a bit disappointed that I had this adorable dress to dress her in for the G&R, but I was glad to have her clothing from the orphanage. It is a part of her past really is special to me and I hope it will be to her too.

When we walked in the front door the orphanage director was there holding Grace and he immediately handed her to me. We went into a conference room for the ceremony. While we were waiting for things to get started the nannies would come and get the babies and take them to feed or change them. I think they were just having such a hard time giving up the children they had been caring for. As the ceremony was beginning I looked around and Nanny V was still gone with Grace. Luckily she appeared soon. After the quick formalities we went and got something to drink. We had just ordered and they told us it was time to go and apply for passports. The fathers went and the mothers stayed behind with the babies. Since Deborah and I are single mothers we went too. It was so hard leaving Grace right after the ceremony. I know that she was in the best care with Terri but it felt sad. As best I can recall, when we returned we loaded and headed back to Sandy Beach. Grace was such an angel on the way back, I don't think she ever wimpered. She talked alot and she really liked a set of toy keys I brought with me. All babies seem to like those plastic keys on a ring.

When we got to the room I stripped her down to her diaper and was running water to give Grace a bath when the phone rang. It was Quoc telling me I need to get a certain form and come to the lobby. Terri took Grace and proceeded with the bath as I set about finding the right paperwork. Then I hear Terri scream from the bathroom. She is frantic, telling me to look what someone has done to this baby. Her butt was black and blue. I got caught up in Terri's frenzy and I completely forgot about mongolian spots even though I should have known exactly what it was. I call Kelly to find out if Lucy has anything like this. Justin answered and very sweetly reminded me about mongolian spots. I know he was probably thinking I was such an idiot. So I then went down to do paperwork. When I returned to the room Grace was clean, dressed and sleeping. That night I was still so sick and had fever. I was not putting her in that awful, metal crib and I didn't want her to sleep with me and get sick. So she slept with Terri. That day was the most important day of my life, but in many ways I felt like I was missing out on so much! I told Terri that Grace would probably think she was her mother.

The next day the fever was gone and I was a different person. I think maybe that was the day we went into Hoi An with Justin and Kelly. All the days at Sandy Beach sort of run together. The one thing that sticks in my mind was our visit to an area where they could make custom clothing. We were looking through books and the ladies were holding the babies. The Vietnamese love children and often want to hold your baby while you are eating, shopping, etc. This didn't bother me because I was right there, but then this woman walked off with Grace and was showing her to people in other booths. This was an extremely crowded area and since I am short I quickly lost my visual on Grace and began to really, really freak. Justin said he could still see her and watched her until the lady brought her back.

Grace amazed me, she was such a good little girl and very easy going. She liked tooking at lights and the ceiling fans. I was glad I had bought the stroller that laid back because she was still on orphanage schedule. She would take the little catnaps all day. It really helped to be able to lay her back. Like I said, days at Sandy Beach all ran together. We couldn't really leave the hotel because the weather was so bad. We literally stayed in our rooms and walked around the hotel. Our days were broken up only by the breakfast buffet and eating late in the afternoon. It was funny because we would constantly run into each other on our walks through the hallways. The second floor had a Christmas tree with a couple of couches around it and that was a popular spot. There was one really funny thing that kept happening. There was a console between the beds that controlled tv, lights, etc. I always hit the wrong button when turning the tv on and put it in sleep mode. We never figured out how to fix that. We just kept "rebooting" the room. The lights, electrical stuff, etc. only worked when your key was put into a slot by the door. When I messed up the tv I would remove the key and reinsert it to get the tv to work. Even though I was ready to leave, I really liked all the staff at Sandy Beach. They were incredibly nice. There was one waiter who I don't think ever left. No matter what time of the day it was, this guy was at work. And he was always so nice and pleasant. He had a great smile.

Our agency bought us tickets to a New Year's Eve celebration at the hotel. I think we were all so tired of that place we didn't care, we just wanted to leave. Terri and Grace were fast asleep early in the evening. I think Justin must have been too because Kelly, Lucy and I decided to go down and check things out. While we were waiting for things to start, Kelly and I had the nicest conversation with two sisters from Australia. One actually lived in Vietnam and ran a school for Vietnamese children. Her sister was there for a visit. They were very taken with baby Lucy and interested in our adoptions. And in an interesting twist, the told us they had one grandmother named Lucy and the other named Grace. We went inside for about two minutes and determined that it was not for us. There were several buffet lines, but most of the seafood still had faces and that just isn't for me. I grabbed a plateful of Vietnamese spring rolls and headed to the room. Terri awoke and we shared spring rolls and ushered in the New Year. Then it was off to sleep. The next day we were FINALLY leaving Danang. We couldn't wait to get to Saigon.