7.31.2008

innocence



at the risk of being investigated for child pornography, i thought you might enjoy a look at the infamous tan-lines of the sanzone children as referenced in a previous post. actually, the italian princess is the darkest of all but since she has 73 different bathing suits her back doesn't quite reflect her brownie browness.

"oh," they say at the pool, "you are the mom of the brown kids!" and now, its "you are the mom of the brown kids and the chinese kid!" what a place i have come to in life.

and be sure to note, the zebraesque stripes on the littlest member!

7.29.2008

miracle

i don't have much to say. to be honest, today was a very long day and i am tired and out of words. but i did want to report in that this afternoon was our appointment with the international adoption pediatrician. me and all the kids - which resulted in "uuhhh...what is the age difference between the 3 kids..oh!...that one is yours too? wow." sometimes, i do feel like an exhibit at the zoo. everyone just stares. as if they have never seen someone with 4 children before. i don't know, i didn't think we were that weird! lest i digress, what the doctor had to say...

"when i see newly adopted children, i always schedule an hour for the appointment. most of the time there is a lot to go over, many questions, health concerns, etc. lydia, well, she is a perfectly healthy little girl. her growth from september is staggering. i have never seen anything quite as dramatic."

and with that, we left his office in a matter of minutes (we didn't actually leave the lab for another two hours - they had to draw 6 vials of blood for routine adoption tests, thus one reason why today has been a bit long!) what he didn't say, but what i know, is that lydia is a miracle. 10 months ago she was a child who was not even close to being on the growth chart - her height, weight, and head circumference FAR below the 1st percentile - even on the chinese growth charts. today, she is a chubby little kid with a bit of a height challenge (hey, she is chinese!) who couldn't be healthier. a miracle. i want to be sure and shout that as loud as i can - lydia is a living, breathing M-I-R-A-C-L-E. there is no other explanation.

when i write those words there are tears in my eyes. i am overwhelmed at the gift we have been given. when there is temptation to live life in a single dimension of the here and now, lydia will always be my reminder that God is bigger, that he sees far beyond what i do, his strength is immeasurably more than my abilities. the journey God took us on to find lydia has taught me lessons for life and my prayer is that i will never forget them.

each of my children have their special place in my heart. josiah - he will always be my firstborn, my "first love" as it were; anna claire - she is my princess, my first little girl, my helper; micah - he is my baby, the one that almost didn't make it, the one that i would always choose to spoil; and then there's lydia - my miracle.

should you doubt it, let me remind you, God is a God of miracles. there's one sleeping in the bed upstairs.

7.23.2008

just the four of us

i was asked the million dollar question today...the dear woman with a furrowed brow inquired, "Are they all yours?"

Well, yes ma'am, they are. All four of the little urchins. "How old are they?" she asked. I replied quite proud of myself, "7,5,3, and 2 1/2." I feel like superwoman when I say those numbers (especially when i throw in the 1/2)! "Oh honey," she replied, "you have your hands full." And with a look on her face as if to communicate horror and sorrow all at the same time, she quickly left the scene. I think she was afraid she would get drafted!

And so it is with our new life - four little rascals who at times allow me to see the wonder of siblings and friendship and big family and lots of love. I can picture the Christmas tree with our grown children and their significant others all coming together for cookies and laughter. One big, happy family where love flows deep and life is shared. hopefully, some day.

And...then there are times...when I wonder if they will still be arguing about whose fault it is come their wedding day and who gets to go first, and as they are walking down the aisle, one is yelling sssttttooopppp while the other completely ignores them. what is it that allows them to think that the word "stop" has no meaning and even if the other one has said it 10,000 times if it is enertaining you then by all means continue! oh my word! enough already.

in all fairness to the situation, the last few days have been great. my house is STILL straight (i didn't say clean) from monday. mostly due to the fact that we have spent the morning watching cartoons - don't let anyone tell you TV isn't a great babysitter, a necessary babysitter at certain times in life - and the afternoons at the pool and then on to naps. the older ones are learning their new roles as helpers. josiah is now in charge of unbuckling both the little ones and getting lydia out of the van. anna claire is in charge of getting lydia dressed. and they are both learning to help around the house. they have lucked out when it comes to chores. we only had a week out of school before we left for china so we are just now getting to the summer chore routine. lest they think summer is all full of fun and games! the chore cards are making their return...

really, all is well. micah is having a rough go of it but he is hanging in there. although today he did mention sending daddy and lydia back to china...but he was planning for mommy to stick around!

i was snuggling with the little guy today and lydia came over to us crying, which is not abnormal. she does not like it one bit when micah is in my lap. after a minute or so she began to motion that she needed to go potty. which, we have learned, is her way of controlling us. if she isn't getting her way, she signals that she needs to go potty, we take her, and suddenly we are doing exactly what she wants! so i was not about to take micah out of my lap for her manipulation tactics. well, she kept sitting there and crying and i kept snuggling and after about 5 minutes i decided it was lyd's turn. only to find out - she had peed all over the carpet! aaaghhhh. oh well, i guess she really did need to go. hopefully no long term affects from my neglect!

speaking of neglect, lydia is sporting a new set of stripes these days. we took her to the pool and she has this cute little bathing suit with small red and white stripes. i lathered her with suntan lotion as she is by far the fairest one in the family. and when we got home, anna claire says to me while she is getting lydia dressed, "mom, lydia has stripes!" i go in to check it out and sure enough, there are bathing suit marks on her little back. amazing - 30 SPF lotion and in just 2 hours the kids has tan lines! but no, that is not what anna claire was talking about. "no look mom, lydia has stripes!" i look at her back and to my utter confusion the kid has these little stripes all across her back. she has gotten a tan THROUGH her bathing suit. unbelievable! the sanzone kids are famous for their tan lines but this brings it to a whole new level! i have seen the SPF clothing for kids but i chalked it up to a gimmick - i guess i stand corrected, suntans can be gotten through the bathing suit!

life with 4 is fun, crazy, exhausting, fulfilling, stretching, energizing, everything i have dreamed of. i am so thankful for our family. and don't hold me to it, but i am thinking the sanzone family is complete. we'll see...

7.21.2008

one week

I was talking with a dear friend of mine, also an adoptive mom, and she reminded me that when she brought her child home at 6 months I reminded her regularly that she couldn’t look at life like she had a 6 month old, she had to look her days based on how long Evelyn had been in the family.  I think that was pretty good advice – and good to be reminded of now that I am in the middle of the scene.   I can’t base our adjustment on life with a 2 ½ year old; I have to think about life with a one-week old.  Now that is a whole different ballgame.  And makes me feel so much better!  The truth is that we are a family with a brand new baby.  So for those of you who haven’t been in the new-baby world for a while, let me remind you…

            *4 hours of continuous sleep is considered a gift from God

            *pajamas are the clothing of choice

            *crying is the primary method of communication – depending on the day, this may include mom as well

            *personal hygiene is reminiscent of ancient Rome

            *walking aimlessly around, standing in awe of the mess, is standard behavior

            *survival is the name of the game – just make it another day

 

So, I think we are right where we should be.  The past two nights I have been able to put Lydia to bed and walk out of the room – a huge step forward for her and a welcome respite for me.  I was getting weary of having to campout until she went to sleep.  And last night she was up only once and that was quickly remedied with a touch and a kiss.  Today, Eric’s day off, I was able to de-junk all the kids’ rooms (how do they get all of that stuff in there?), clean out the playroom, balance the checkbook (ugh.) and get several more things done on the to-do list.  Accomplishment!  Lydia is definitely getting more comfortable but generally one of us has to be available to her.  Even if she plays for 10 minutes by herself she has a need to connect with us on a regular basis.  She will drop what she is doing and begin crying until she finds us – sometimes the crying is easily consoled, other times not.  So it really prohibits me from doing anything unless someone else is around.  Needless to say, this task-mama was thrilled to get some things done today.  I feel a little more like a real human being.  Haven’t hit the shower yet, but plan to…

 

We did take the kids swimming this afternoon – first time for Lyds.  She was understandably timid but after the first hour she was getting the hang of it.  I continued to be intrigued by her personality.  The funny thing about adopting a toddler is that their personality is there, alive and well.  But it has to be discovered.  There are glimpses of her every now and then that I think are more her true self but at this stage, they are few and far between.  For the most part, she is very clingy and timid, easily upset and very quiet.  However, in those few moments she is this very happy child with tons of energy, super confident, happy to be here kid, so completely different.  I think that is probably who Lydia truly is, behind the grief and sadness that she is experiencing.  And who can blame her – I have to remind myself when I am at my wit’s end with her crying – that she has been torn from everything and has been immersed in a world that is so completely different.  If that had happened to my little Micah it would take him months to recover, and I would expect the same with sweet Lydia.  It will be fun (exhausting…) to discover who she is beyond the transition.  Let’s just say I am looking forward to December.

 

Tomorrow I am on my own again!  Aahh!!  I have to simply remind myself that NOTHING gets done beyond breakfast, clean up, lunch, clean up, dinner, clean up, bed.  And the clean up is only a possibility.  It is highly likely that breakfast dishes will still be on the counter come dinnertime.  It’s okay, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass, I will recover…what day is it?

 

7.19.2008

precious prodding

i was sitting at a swim meet this morning - 95 degrees, no shade, three races, two minutes of swimming, 5 hours of waiting. i know, unbelievable that anyone swims. but we love it. anna claire even swam today, first time all season she actually made it into the pool at a meet. all the way to the other end of the pool without even a hesitation. pretty good for a little 5 year old!

so i was pondering why in the world i would subject myself to such a saturday morning. and i quickly came to the conclusion that its what we love. i grew up swimming, we live by the water, our kids love the pool, it is simply what our family chooses to invest in. and to be fair, it is no different than sitting at a double header for baseball or a tournament for soccer. its all the grueling agony of waiting for that little bit of action that is going to make it all worth it. that moment when you see your kids shine - when they finally beat the 40 second mark for breast stroke or when they take that first jump into the pool and head to the other end after being scared to death all season. its worth it.

i think its the same with my relationship with God right now. if i am honest it is not something that tops out on my 10 favorite things to do. really, when am i supposed to have some quiet time with God? in the morning, so i find myself grumpy all day from exhaustion? at nap time, when the list is a mile long of things that need to get done without the help of little hands? at night when i fall into bed oftentimes already pondering how i will make it to nap time tomorrow? there isn't a convenient time these days, and hasn't been for a good five years. so why make it a priority? because it is what i know is best, it is what i know will sustain me, it is what has proven over the years to be my strength. and so i do it.

i wish i could say it was that simple - i do it. but i don't. i put it on the back burner, i find 101 things more important, i make excuses, i simply choose not to. as i reflect on this past week i think it has been one that God has been quietly whispering my name. these past 3 months have been God shouting loud and clear and maybe i have grown complacent in his obvious presence. this week, a lot of other things have been shouting and i fear drowning out the voice of Him who has delivered me to this place, the very place i begged him to be.

our little girl has been with us for a week, in our home. almost three weeks in our family. the days have been good, great, horrible, and somewhere in between. we have run the gammet. but no matter where we are - for life is sure to bring us to depths deeper and broader than those of the past few days - i want to remember the God who orchestrates it all and his precious prodding, calling me to himself.

maybe i will do better this week.

7.17.2008

chugging along

i wish i could know what is going through lydia's head. here i sit in her room, working on the computer, while she toddles off to dreamland. if i try and leave the room, she cries. but she doesn't care if i am in the bed with her or holding her. she just has to be able to see me. so, i figured i would get something done! i like the idea of sticking around my kid's room while they drift off to sleep about as much as i like chinese food. not really how i trained my other kids. but i know it is right for her. hey, look on the bright side, all by myself in the peace and quiet! maybe we could keep this act up for the next 10 years. it could be my place to work on my book, which i think i need to change the title. i think a better title would be, "What the hell was I thinking? And other questions of motherhood." broad appeal - i am envisioning the oprah show and ellen.

our day was much better today. lydia has actually gotten to be quite sick in the last 36 hours so we made a trip to the doctor. she was wheezing like crazy and had a high fever. so we got some drugs and she is doing much better today. love modern medicine.

micah has begun to act out a little bit. throwing fits and refusing to do things. today we were in line to pick up the older two from vbs and i was holding lydia and he refused to move! as in, refused-to-move!! he plopped himself down in the floor and would not budge. when i tried to put lydia down she screamed so here i was holding her ever so precariously and dragging him by the arm, all while being observed by what felt like the entire congregation. at one point a man behind me said, "oh, are you ashleigh sanzone?" well, yes, i am. in all of my glory. or maybe i should have claimed a second identity at that point. i only wish, or maybe i don't, that i could know what he was thinking! i finally asked a friend of mine to pick micah up and bring him to me - by that time i had moved down the line quite a bit - which she did, as micah stayed hunched is his little ball even in mid-air. i think i might try the stroller tomorrow for one of them. 'tis a learning curve this sort-of-twins thing. but micah and i did have a special date this afternoon. we took anna claire to gymnastics and then we hit the grocery store for some hershey's syrup to make chocolate milk. just us, and i carried him the whole time. he was thrilled.

i realized something scary today. yesterday in my psychotic state it never crossed mind to call on jesus. wow. how could i have allowed myself to be so far gone and forget the place of my ultimate strength? i don't know the answer to that question. i have pondered it all day. i don't like it though. i know i can't do this thing on my own. funny how it is so easy to forget who got me to this place - you'd think i would remember and be telling him he better get me through it!

well, the girls are both asleep now. thank heaven for anna claire who goes to sleep in about 1 minute and could sleep through a tornado. at thank heavens for lydia who doesn't seem to care about ac's snoring! one more day gone by and one more day towards being a little more settled. for this, we have jesus!

7.16.2008

we are doing well.

i have always said i wanted to write a book. and i think i have finally figured out the title..."everything you need to know about motherhood that no one ever tells you" and then i am going to proceed to tell the real story, the one that no one talks about but everyone experiences. when was the last time you heard anyone tell a newly pregnant woman how horrible hemmhoroids are??? hmmm...yeah, i didn't think so.

well, that's sort of where we are right now in our house. feeling out the realities of a new child. bringing lydia home has been remarkably similar to bringing a new baby home. she's up at night, she demands attention, we are getting used to another family member, the kids are having to bow to her needs. unlike a new baby, i can't let her scream. i am a big fan of putting my babies in the crib when i am at my wit's end but in this case, i can't do that. if she is wanting me then i have to give myself to her.

so here is today. we skipped swim practice at 7:15. got up and discovered that eric was down for the count, sick and in bed (he was sleeping in another room). okay, that's what i needed. after a morning of vbs, we headed home. oh dear. breakfast dishes were still on the table. by now the cereal had morphed into some sort of alienesque blob. miscellaneous breakfast food is on the counter...all still open of course. a puzzle is strewn about the open section of the house. the playroom is covered, and i do mean covered, with toys. the den is set up as a campout scene with pillows and blankets and stuffed animals all over the place. somehow, it didn't get cleaned up in the 4 hours we were gone! lydia is refusing to be put down, micah is pulling on me and wants to be held, anna claire is wanting me to play, and josiah is whining about why daddy isn't awake. eric has not gotten out of the bed and i am feeling the effects of not having been in the bed for a large portion of the night. OH MY GOSH!

you know what was going through my head, let's just get it out there..."WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING??????" (hopefully my mother nor my pastor will read this
!) yep, that's where i've been this afternoon. i couldn't take it anymore. all of the emotion of the day and the weeks flooded me and i became this possessed being for about 5 minutes. screaming at the top of my lungs, yelling at the kids. i can't describe how angry and frustrated i was. i wanted my old life back. i thought about calling my mom to come rescue me for an hour but i wasn't sure i wanted her to see me this strung out.

it's not that we weren't prepared for the adoption - i think we read everything and talked about things as much as we possibly could have. but like a new baby, you can't know what it is like until you get there. and we are there. new baby, four kids 5 years apart. the youngest 6 months apart. its a lot. i know that it is what God has for our family - who could doubt that after our journey to get lydia - but it is on the crazier side of crazy right now.

so, when people ask how we are doing (which i get asked at least 47 times a day) i think i will say this. "we are doing well. we haven't killed anyone, buried anyone alive, or even locked them out of the house. we haven't run away or driven aimlessly around the city. we haven't even locked ourselves in the bathroom. no one is starving, everyone is clothed, a roof is over our head. so, all things considered, we are doing very good."

i don't think most people really want to know. it takes all the fun out - the story is too dreamy. really, the fun family comes home with the china doll and everyone lives happily ever after. but for those who do want to know or who will come after me on this journey, there it is. the real, live truth. really, we are doing well.

7.14.2008

easy, hard, and everything in between

back in america. what a joy it is! the trip was wonderful in terms of lydia. she slept a large portion of the flight from tokyo to detroit and was entertained pretty much the entire other portion of the trip by play-doh. we couldn't have asked for her to have been any easier.

however, once we landed in norfolk i have never felt so drained in my life. i thought i was going to collapse right in the middle of the airport. i think it was a combination of physical exhaustion (we were on hour 27 with about 2 hours of naps along the way), lack of food (airplane food is a little lacking...especially japanese airline food), and absolutely emotionally wiped. and the anticipation of seeing everyone about put me over the edge. i wasn't sure if i was going to make it! i quite literally could not even hold lydia so thank goodness she was willing to walk. it was a weird feeling to be so weak. i wanted so bad to freshen up and look great - or at least better - for our reunion but it was all i could do to just make it upright. oh well, we just won't frame those pictures!

as for being home, it has been much harder and much easier than i expected. lydia has done amazing. at times i am even a bit worried at how well she has done but i think it is all part of her miracle. she has embraced the kids, runs around the house, lets our parents hold her. lest i paint too pretty of a picture, she does want someone with her all the time. so i can't really do anything unless eric or one of our parents is around to play with her. she will play with the kids to an extent but she seems to want an adult for security.

so that brings me to the hard part. i severely underestimated how physically and emotionally exhausted i would be. in that sense, i feel like i just gave birth. i am wiped. it is all i can do just to make it through the necessary steps of the day. today, the shower was at 6:00 at night. and added in there are so many emotions. for 3 years we have been invested in this little girl and her adoption and now it is over. there is some letdown involved. and now we have this little girl who while she was very much loved in our hearts it is a little bit weird to actually have her. i think it is going to take a while before i feel like she is really ours and is a regular part of the family. right now i sort of feel like i am babysitting. i don't know. i haven't really processed it all and can't put words to a lot of my feelings. and of course, there is the general difficult of adding a child and having 4 little ones to take care of now. suffice it to say it has been a bit hard.

she is sleeping with me in our bed. eric is on the sofa, although i think he may sleep in josiah's room tonight since josiah has taken to sleeping on the floor. she took her nap in her bed today so i think we are almost to the place where she can sleep the night in her bed. i would rather sleep with her than have to get up and tend to her. she has done great - last night was just about 5 minutes of crying and being awake. can't complain about that.

overall, we are doing as good as could be expected. lydia continues to do the miraculous. and we are so thankful for that. and someday, i will come out of the fog of 4 children...i have a year, right?

thank you so much for your prayers. we would appreciate continued prayer for bonding and attachment within our whole family (especially josiah and lydia) and strength to figure this all out. grandma and aunt chrissy leave tomorrow, eric goes back to work on wednesday and i will have the 4 by myself. yikes! when's naptime???

7.10.2008

bye-bye china, hello america!

I am signing off.  Lydia is taking a bath, get her to sleep, put in a movie and sweet dreams.  We have our wake-up call at 4:30a.m!  I have lots of thoughts but I will save them for another time.  Right now I am focused on a good night sleep.

Thank you so much for your prayers.  They mean more to us than we could ever communicate.  We can’t wait for you to meet the miracle we have all watched unfold these last few months.  She is pretty darn cute!

See you in Virginia!

** for those of you who have said they want to be at the airport (which I DO NOT expect anyone to make that a priority – except our family!)  : )  …kelly rex has all of our flight info and we will be in touch with her if we are delayed at any point in time.  We fly from here to Tokyo to Detroit to Norfolk.  Right now we are scheduled to be in Norfolk at 7:02p.m. on Friday, flying northwest.  Her number is 463-8266 if you need it.

Can’t wait to see you all.

ashleigh

7.09.2008

the wall.

Yep, we’ve hit it.  We really want to come home.  We are tired of shopping, tired of spending money, tired of eating strange food, tired of living in a hotel room.  We are just tired.  We can’t wait to get on that plane.  It is sort of like labor – by the time you get to the awful part you are so ready to have that baby it doesn’t matter how much it hurts!  So it is with us, we are loving the idea of 24 hours of travel if it means we get to see our friends and family and bring Lydia home. 

Tonight after dinner we went to starbucks and had a wonderful piece of blueberry cheesecake.  It was a piece of heaven.  Anything that tasted remotely American was what both of us wanted and it fit the bill! Sitting in starbucks you would never know you were in china – it looks exactly like it does in the states.  Amazing corporate marketing!

We did nothing today.  Eric played with Lydia in the room and I worked on our shutterfly picture book (it is going to be so cool!)  Lydia loves to sleep so she didn’t wake up until 10:00!  Of course, she didn’t go to sleep until almost midnight but she does seem to like to sleep in.  we are keeping really weird hours on this trip.  We go to bed around 11:00 and wake up around 9:00.  a little vacationy I would say – its back to the real world come Saturday morning and a 7:00a.m. swim meet!  But I can’t wait to get back to real life and see my sweet family!

Lydia has done much better today.  She is responding well to some popage and is getting the point loud and clear I would say.  She continues to come out of her shell a little more each day – today she was jabbering in Chinese for a majority of the morning when eric was playing with her.  Until then she has only talked to her babydolls.  She generally shuts down when she gets around a crowd (sounds like her mom!) so I am not sure what to expect the first little while home – we have a crowd and a loud one at that! 

We kept her up today and didn’t give her a nap to see if she would go to sleep early.  A practice round for tomorrow when we need to go to bed early for a 4:30a.m. wake-up call.  She was great and laid down with eric around 7:30 and I think it may have taken her 2 minutes to fall asleep, maybe.  It could have been more like 1.  amazing.  I wish I could go to dreamland  that quickly!  Like I said, she has been much better today – no tantrums!!!

Tomorrow is the consulate appointment to get lydia’s visa and passport.  She will remain a Chinese citizen until we touch ground in Detroit at which point she is an American.  She will have to forfeit her Chinese citizenship as china does not allow dual citizenship.  I hate that we are leaving her heritage and all that she knows but boy will I be glad to be in the USA!  Chili’s, Detroit airport, chips and salsa, and a HUGE glass of ICE and TEA!

I would ask for your prayers.  Eric and I are both at the end of our ropes.  We are tired – physically and emotionally.  Please pray that God would give us an extra measure of patience and ability to push through.  He is by far the better handler of it all – today I was way grumpy and tend to take it out on him.  I had to say I was sorry and ask for his forgiveness.  He has been the most amazing husband and father you could ever imagine.   But we are all ready to go.  Pray for us if you think of it.  We want to arrive home a happy and loving family, albeit tired.

36 more hours!

**this picture is just one of the reasons why I am really excited about seeing American soil!  In case you can’t tell…snakes…your choice of dinner entrĂ©e.

And one more fun fact, tonight when one of the shopkeepers we have been dealing with saw eric coming he ran inside and hid!  Eric has quite the reputation of bargaining on this little island!!!  We are on night 4 of trying to get some Christmas presents at a certain price.  I don’t know if we will come home with them or not!  I think I might have to remind him that we can’t ask for a lower price at Home Depot.  He has way too much fun haggling with these people!

7.08.2008

There is a contemporary cultural phenomenon in china these days.  It is called the ‘little emperor syndrome’ and comes as a result of millions of little boys being the only child in their families and oftentimes the only grandchild.  Spoiled, bratty, lazy little boys…emperors in the making.  I am pretty sure that we have the little emperess.  Spoiled, bratty, lazy little girl…an emperess in the making. This kid is amazing!  This morning she dropped her doll dress on the ground and she refused to pick it up!  She sat there reaching down, never bending her knees, screeching and looking at me to retrieve her fallen wares.  Someone even asked if she had something wrong with her legs because she wouldn’t bend them! NO! she is just a spoiled little brat.  Seriously, she is not that far above the ground – about 2 ½ feet to be exact – you would think she could make it down there to pick up her beloved dress.  Nope, not a chance.  Since the bus was leaving I was somewhat forced into getting it for her but my nerve count took a tumble.  She better hope that I get some nerves before Friday!  If she doesn’t want to walk, she sits down.  If she doesn’t want to get out of the stroller, she glues her arms to her side so you can’t pick her up.  if she wants to be carried she holds her legs up and refuses to stand – some serious abs this girl has…somewhere underneath the chunk-o-lunk.  I really have never seen anything like it.  This afternoon she was going potty before naptime.  And since her favorite activity in all of the world is taking a bath she thought it would be a good time.  she kicked her shorts and underwear off, stood on the floor and refused to lift her feet up so that I could put them back on.  When I forced her feet to go in her underwear, she stomped them until she was so off balance she fell on her head.  That was the last straw…the mighty hand that has administered 100’s of pops and is prepared for 100’s more made a swift move to the leg and she was officially indoctrinated into the Sanzone family.  Enough already kid.  …It is a good thing she is so cute. 

So today was a banner day, the day of dethroning.  The day the discipline began.  The day our little emperess became just a regular old American kid. 

Things are winding up here.  14 of the families in our group leave tomorrow – 7 of us on Friday.  We took a short trip to a museum and the botanical gardens this morning.  Experimented with Benadryl this afternoon – which resulted in a rather lengthy nap – and worked on what I hope to be an amazing shutterfly picture book capturing our memories.  We did get all 4 kids something super cool – handmade just for them – but alas, I cannot write it here because my sweet Josiah can read!  Sorry buddy!  You all will have to wait and see. 

It is a weird feeling knowing that we are leaving lydia’s homeland in just a few days.  Who knows if we will ever return.  I sure hope so, but there are no guarantees.  And certainly if we do, it won’t be for a long time.  Although eric and I were found discussing the name of our next Chinese daughter…  at any rate, we are leaving behind her essence and there is some sadness to that.  Not that it will keep me from getting on the plane, i am just saying there may be a few tears shed as we take off.

Currently, our little emperess is laying nicely in bed jabbering away in Chinese.  I think the 3 hour nap might be one reason why she is still awake at 10:45!  But…we have made progress as she is not screaming but merrily chatting to her animals.  She is a trip, this kid.  I am so thankful for her.  She is our little miracle.  Even her little emperess status is a miracle – loved and cared for so obviously before she came to us. 

We are on the countdown!  Tomorrow is the consulate visit to get her visa, Thursday we take the oath, and Friday we are coming home!  I want brownies and a strawberry light smoothie!

7.07.2008

the good, the bad, and the ugly

 

 

 

if i were a rich man...

Or at least a smart man, I could be a rich man!  We went to the pearl market today and boy, I had no idea how many different kinds of pearls there were!  It was astounding.  You could pick from thousands and millions of pearls and make whatever you wanted to.  Big ones, little ones, white ones, gray ones, perfect ones, imperfect ones, pink ones, yellow ones.  A little overwhelming, but I knew what I wanted which was super basic.  Each strand ran anywhere from $15 to $75.  One lady in our group said that last time she was in china about 9 years ago she bought a necklace for $50 and went home and had it appraised for $1200!  Man, we could finance our whole adoption at the pearl market!  Of course, that would require me knowing something about pearls, which I don’t.  Maybe next time.  I bought myself a necklace and then we bought two for Lydia – for some sort of special occasions.  Maybe 16 year old birthday and wedding, or something along those lines.  We bought a big long strand of each so she will be able to do with them what she wants.  Actually, I had picked out one of the least expensive ones and Eric said we should get the more expensive ones in addition!  What kind of man is that?  I think a father who loves his little girls.  So we walked away with two different presents for her someday.  I don’t know if she’ll appreciate them or not but she will at least have the symbolism that we bought them in china when we came to get her.  And hey, she can always hock them on eBay and buy some new tennis shoes, or whatever timeless thing 16 year olds want!  : )

Currently, Lydia is screaming in our room.  She has been coming out of her shell the past two days and is quite the stinker.  Tonight, she has decided she doesn’t want to go to sleep and so she is crying in her crib.  I have tried to hold her and comfort her and she just continues throwing a massive tantrum.  So I finally have decided to lay her down.  It is so hard to know what to do with the little thing.  If it were my biological child for one, they would not be 2 years old and screaming about bedtime…but if they did their little butt would get some attention.  She, I am afraid, is going to have a hard few weeks ahead of her (and so is our whole family…).  Today she threw a massive tantrum in the middle of the hotel floor – kicking and screaming.  Embarrassing to say the least.  The good part is that the whole group is figuring out what to do with their kids and so they are understanding.  As long as she is getting what she wants, she is a gem!  I have to remember that she has only been ours for a week.  She has had a lot happen in her little life in the past month.  I am getting increasingly nervous about home.  What do we do when she is screaming at night?  She is sharing a room with Anna Claire and our house is not that big!  And what about the 1000’s of times a day she doesn’t get the toy that she wants.  And how about the Mommy who can’t devote 100% of her energy to her?  And then there’s Daddy who has to go back to work?  AAAAHHHHH!!!!!  I’ll stop thinking about all those questions right now!  Tonight has enough worries of its own.

After the pearl market Eric and I decided to leave the group and go explore Guangzhou.  It was fun, in an exploring china sort of way.  We definitely were the only westerners around and were getting quite the stares with Lydia.  Although when we ask, our guides have said that generally the Chinese think positively about international adoption, I have not felt warm and fuzzy feelings from the general population.  they just seem puzzled and the older generation definitely seems to look at us with disdain.  Today we had a younger person, maybe late teens or early 20’s ask about Lydia.  They said, “you American, she Chinese.  How come?” it was like they had no concept of adoption and they couldn’t figure out how in the world eric and I could make a Chinese baby!  And when we were at mcdonalds for lunch, along with at least 200 other people (for real) the family we sat across from stared at us THE WHOLE TIME WE WERE EATING.  They could not stop.  I wanted to say to them, “Your government is the one who forces women to give up their babies!  Don’t look at me like I am the crazy one!”  but…I didn’t say that.  It does intrigue me though.

I still can’t get over how many people there are.  It is amazing.  It is like mt. trashmore on the 4th of july, except everyday and everywhere.  I told eric that if we ever move to china (which I am NOT planning on doing) the hardest part for me would be the people.  They are everywhere and there is no such thing as personal space.  A claustrophobics nightmare.  And of course, what would a day in china be without seeing multiple children pooping on the sidewalk.  Really?  Yes, really.  I don’t think you should be able to host the Olympics when your population doesn’t know the meaning of a toilet.

We did some more shopping tonight.  I didn’t think that was possible but now we have moved into the realm of Christmas presents.  Hey, what’s a person to do when they have 15 days on a little island filled with nothing but shops!  So if you are on my Christmas list you can pretty much count on getting something from Guangzhou (not from the pearl market, ladies).  we tried to go to hong kong but turns out you have to have a separate visa so that was a no go. 

Coming home is getting to be a real thought in my head.  I started packing today.  Not because I needed to, it just made me feel better.  We are getting all our laundry done before we leave!  Now that is a perk of china.  We found this great little store that does our laundry dirt cheap and it comes back smelling great, folded, and vacuum sealed in plastic bags.  In some ways I can’t wait to get home and in other ways I am scared to death.  Lydia is still crying…I have handed her off to eric…could be a long night…

We can’t wait to see you all soon. 

7.06.2008

Our failure-to-thrive child!

 

2, 2000, 5

In case I was thinking otherwise, Lydia proved herself to be a standard 2 year old today.  China or America, two year olds are the same everywhere I think and their fits have proved to be quite similar!  Lydia decided she wanted a toy from a shop this morning and like the meanest mother in the world I would not buy it for her.  TWENTY MINUTES LATER she was still screaming, flailing, arching her back, kicking me and otherwise being a complete brat!  It didn’t help that we were walking around the streets because Eric was sitting in the Island’s church with the room key.  So here I was, this American with a screaming Chinese child (and I mean SCREAMING!!!!) wandering around this little town.  Everyone was looking at me and at one point an elderly Chinese woman stopped and began to forcefully tell me all that I was doing wrong with Lydia, in Chinese that is.  And old women yelling at you in Chinese while you are trying to hold a screaming child is not a pleasant experience!  Add in the 100 degree weather and the sweat dripping off of me as I was being kicked and hit and it was one of the low points of the trip.  It served as a reminder, probably necessary, that while Lydia is a doll, she is every bit a two year old and probably a pretty spoiled one at that.  Whenever we have had other kids in our room and they have played with her toys she is not a happy camper.  Silly me was thinking it was just the insecurity of the transition but I am now realizing that she has probably had everything she wanted in her little life.  Which in the long term is a great thing – I am so thankful she appears to have been very well taken care of and loved – but she will have a rude awakening in a few days.  And our home should be a little interesting for awhile!  I think I need to start praying right now for patience with our littlest angel.  It is a fine line between disciplining her and loving her here in these early days of transition.

Later in the day, after a pretty tasty spaghetti lunch at the local Italian restaurant (complete with an old Italian man yelling about how to make the pizza) we headed to a museum in the city.  It housed a mausoleum of a 2000 year old king.  It was unearthed about 15 years ago when the Marriott began to build a hotel and found it.  It was pretty amazing to walk around in the tomb and see the artifacts.  2000 years old!  It is almost unfathomable to me to be able to look at something that old.  To the Chinese it is hardly impressive.  They have so many cultural artifacts and their country’s history goes back for so many 1000’s of years, it is barely worth noting.  I am not the biggest fan of museums but I was glad we went.  Another part of Lydia’s heritage that I am thankful to have experienced. 

While we were there one of the museum people (I can’t remember what you call them) started to talk to our guide.  I could tell that she was talking about Lydia but of course didn’t know what in the world she was saying.  Turns out she was remarking about how beautiful she was.  The Chinese consider fair skin to be the most beautiful and Lydia has very fair and flawless skin.  She is by far the lightest child in our family!  She is also very chunky which is a sign of a good, healthy baby and is considered very beautiful by the Chinese.  Anyway, the museum person was going on and on about how beautiful she was and how she sees lots of adoptive families and Lydia was the prettiest child she had ever seen.  And, she continued, she could understand why the mothers abandon some of the babies because they are very ugly – especially the ones with the cleft lips – but Lydia was so beautiful she wanted to know why the mother abandoned her.  Needless to say, our guide was feeling a little awkward at this point and tried to explain to this woman that the babies were not ugly, they were all wonderful, and no one knew the why’s of abandonment.  It made for a funny moment to say that least.  I was glad I didn’t speak Chinese and have to try and talk to this woman!

5 more days.  I am ready. And tonight, I am very ready.  We had dinner tonight with our whole group, which is almost 60 of us including 20 kids.  Not really something this introvert enjoys.  Our table consisted of 3 screaming babies, 2 elementary aged boys (travelling with their parents) who were constantly being chastised by their mother, and 1 father that I am fairly sure has never travelled outside of Eastern Kentucky.  It was hot and sticky and the restaurant smelled something between a mix of seafood and tofu.  How much longer til Olive Garden?  The table next to us was having water beetles for dinner (I am not kidding).  And it was all I could do to just have a few bites of sweet and sour pork.  And now…I think I am going to hit the toilet to throw up (not kidding about that either).  I am MORE than ready to get on that plane and get this family home. 

Tomorrow we are going to the pearl market.  I hear we can get some beautiful things.  I would love to get Lydia a piece of jewelry for when she is older and you never know…maybe I will indulge myself.  We have shopped far more than we ever thought we would, pretty much because we have nothing else to do.  So our kids are getting a trunk full of fun!  (and no Josiah and AC, you cannot have everything on Friday night!)  We actually have found some really neat Chinese things both for our family and also specifically for Lydia as she grows older. 

Well folks, I am going to sign off for the bathroom and then hopefully to watch the Wimbledon final.  I promise to post some new pictures soon.

 

7.04.2008

There is nothing like being immersed in another culture to make you thankful to be an American.  Today was one of those days that I will never forget, both for what it was and what it wasn’t.  We visited the orphanage – just getting there was a site in and of itself.  There is no city in America that even comes close to the size of Guangzhou or BeijingGuangzhou is a city of 13 million people (Beijing has 18 million) with high rise apartments as far as the eye can see.  Its borders stretch for mile upon mile with crowds and crowds of people everywhere.  And then there is the traffic.  Had I not lived in the Philippines before I might fear for my life every time we get in a car.  There are no rules for the road.  It is every man for himself with cars passing within inches of one another.  They do seem to stay on the right side of the road but other than that, I can’t see that any standards are followed.  Add in the bicycles and pedestrians that are travelling on the same paths and it is quite an experience.  The one thing that lends a bit of a comfort is that fact that rarely do you go above 35 mph and that speed is reached only occasionally.  Most of the travel is done bumper to bumper, inching your way along.   There are no car seats and today was the first time I have ever used a seatbelt.  The roads are most definitely a cultural experience!

So after navigating this unending city we reached the suburbs and the orphanage where Lydia lived for about 15 months before she was transferred to foster care.  I was shocked – although I don’t know why at this point.  God seems to have had his hand on this little girl from day one and certainly her orphanage experience was no exception.  It was a beautiful compound with manicured lawns surrounded by a security fence and a guard.  It was huge – several stories high and multiple buildings, a playground, and lots of open space.  The director said about 200 children were there – he couldn’t give a specific number because children were being dropped off and being adopted every day.  We saw the children in their preschool and elementary classrooms.  The rooms were colorful and filled with toys.  The walls had artwork on them and it resembled every bit of a Western-style classroom.  The kids looked happy and healthy although the vast majority I noticed were special needs – cleft lips, missing hands, crossed eyes.  Several them were being adopted within the next few weeks.  There were a ton of workers around, certainly seemed to be adequately staffed.  The babies were all in a room being played with and we were able to see the crib were Lydia slept.  It was a stainless steel crib with a sheet and blanket folded neatly at the end.  Very simple and practical, but definitely adequate.  Most importantly, the workers were obviously kind and sweet people.  They loved to see Lydia and the two nannies that cared for her were thrilled that she would let them hold her.  I was thrilled when she immediately wanted to come back to me!  It was obvious they loved her dearly and obvious that she had attached to us as her family.  We met the orphanage director and he was very happy to see us.  It is a great success for them when they can see one of the children they have cared for being happily adopted into a family.  He was very thankful to us – we were far more thankful to him.  One of the unexpected surprises was when they brought out a Shutterfly book that I had made of our family and mailed to Lydia several months ago.  I had forgotten we had sent it but when they came to give it to us she squealed with delight and immediately began turning the pages.  It was clear she had looked at it many times and was very familiar with our faces.  Which would explain in large part why she has taken to us so well.  Another miracle, that she was unbelievably prepared for her adoption into our family.  When we left one of the girls who worked on Lydia’s adoption said to me, “She was one of my very favorite.”  I can understand why.  She is the cutest, most precious thing in the world.  I think it was bittersweet for her to say good-bye to our sweet girl and it was bittersweet for us to say good-bye to them.  They have played such a huge part in her life and we will probably never see them again.   

We then went to her place of abandonment.   All I could think about when we were walking to the intersection of roads was the miracle that I was holding.  To think that a 3 month old baby was left on the sidewalk in the middle of China and she is now in my arms and on her way to America is amazing to me, it is a miracle.  And as Eric so rightly said the other day, she is the perfect one for our family.  She fits.  The other girls we are with wouldn’t fit in our family and she does, without a doubt.  I cannot explain how or why, she just does.  She was left near a hospital in a place filled with all things Chinese.  Roadside vendors, beggars, bicycles, crazy traffic, stinky smells, dirt and grime.  I held her tight and thanked our Almighty Jesus for bringing her to us.  I hope that someday she will be able to recognize the life she was rescued from.  Not that these people are any less loved by our Creator but they most definitely live a very difficult life with very few opportunities.  When she begins to retrace her roots and wants to discover her history I am praying that she will have the framework for which to grasp the blessings she has been given.  God has done a miracle to bring her to us and I can only pray that the miracle continues on in her heart and she has much to share with this world as she grows older and begins to see God’s big picture for her sweet life.

As we celebrate July 4th here on the other side of the world I am quieted by God’s great gift to us in the form of America.  The opportunities and freedom we have in our country are unimaginable to the rest of the world.  And the ease of our life is astounding when compared.  I am thankful for the big things and the little, for freedom and for air conditioning, for opportunity and for traffic lights.  For garbage trucks and for bathrooms, for McDonalds and malls.  God has been good to us and good to our Lydia.  He is and continues to be our God of miracles.

 

 

7.03.2008

 

rhinos and fried frogs

Today was the zoo.  Let’s just say it was a memory.  It did have some great animals but most were looking fairly scrawny.  However, the rhinos were not looking so scrawny – they were huge – and they were 3 feet away from us!  All that was between us and mama rhino was this little wall which Eric said they could not jump over but I am not so sure.  A little frightening if you ask me.  We saw the panda and the Chinese golden monkey and an 8 year old girl pulling her undies down to pee on the sidewalk.  Just another day in China.  What is up with people thinking it is okay to go to the bathroom wherever? 

 

We headed back to the hotel and had Papa Johns for lunch.  It doesn’t taste exactly the same but it is close.  Then Lydia and I hit the sack for about 3 hours while Eric did paperwork with our guide.  Lydia is a great sleeper.  This morning she didn’t wake up until 8:30 (which is a problem when you are counting on her to be your alarm clock and you have to be somewhere at 9:00!)  She seems to be able to sleep through a lot which will bode well for her in the Sanzone home!  This evening we spent walking around the little island where we are staying.  It is called Shamian Island and is separated from the main city of Guangzhou by the Pearl River.  I think somewhere back in history it was occupied by the British so the architecture of the buildings is very Western which is sort of funny since it is in the middle of China.  It reminds me of New Orleans actually (in terms of the buildings, that is).  It is where all adoptive families stay so almost all of the businesses cater to the adoption community with children’s clothing, shoes, and souvenirs for sale.  But the Chinese live here too so there is an elementary school and lots of dwellings.  Tonight we went to a local restaurant for dinner and had some more sweet and sour chicken.  We opted not to order the crocodile claws or the fried frog.  Lydia is a crazy eater.  I have never had a kid who would eat absolutely anything you give her.  It is so nice!

 

She continues to do great.  We just keep counting our blessings.  I started thinking today that maybe she was doing too good.  That she wasn’t grieving which would be an indicator of a lack of attachment.  But then I just have to go back to the miracle that she is and what God has done to get us this far.  I think it is all part of the miracle and I have to rest in that.  You could make yourself crazy with all of the what if’s of adoption so I keep going back to the source of this whole crazy journey and counting on Him to make things right.  It is interesting to discover little things about her each day.  We have come to the conclusion that she has probably always been fed, which would theoretically indicate a very attentive environment that she was in.  At mealtime she always waits for us to feed her.  The most we have gotten her to do is eat some Teddy Grahams from a bowl.  And she will hold a piece of an apple and bite on it.  But other than that she wants us to feed her.  And when we were at the restaurant tonight we gave her some chopsticks and she had no idea what to do with them.  The other thing we have discovered is that she loves to be carried.  She hardly ever wants to walk.  I am not sure if that is because she is wanting to be close to us or just because that is who she is.  It is possible that she is used to being carried everywhere – she is definitely delayed in the walking department.  I would say she walks more like an 18 month old than a 2 ½ year old.  She has the skill down, just not very fast on her feet.  And if she is sitting in the room and wants to get to us she just holds her hands up; we have to coax her to actually get up and walk – which sometimes she does and sometimes she will pout until we pick her up.  It will be interesting to see what she does when she is in a house full of kids running around.  My guess is she will catch right up with them pretty quick!  Last night we gave her a little phone the kids had picked out for her and she was babbling away in Chinese.  It was so cute – I think Eric got some of it on video.  And then in the bathtub (which she loves) she was playing with the little toys and talking away in Chinese.  She clearly is talking in a little kid sort of voice but it is Chinese so the combination of the two is so cute.  I hope we can capture it just a little bit at some point. 

 

Tomorrow we are going to visit the orphanage that she was in.  She was there for about a year before going to the foster family and then for 3 weeks before coming to us.  It will be good for us to see her environment so we can tell her about it when she is older.  I don’t know that we are allowed to take pictures – the Chinese government is very particular about documenting the orphanages.  Nevertheless I think anything we can garner about her past will be helpful.  And we hope to be able to go see the place where she was abandoned.  We have the address of an intersection in the city so maybe we can go take pictures of that.  Eric is hoping we get McDonalds for lunch – It’s been a long time since we were cheering for McDonald’s food!

 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Eric…”This weather has to be a result of the fall.”   100 degrees today with 90% humidity.  Outside, doing nothing but standing, and quite literally dripping with sweat.  It has been a long time since I have been this sticky and hot, definitely brings me back to my days in the Philippines where we always used to say there were 3 seasons – hot, hotter, and hottest.  And for all that the Chinese are good at; they are not so good at air conditioning!  Somebody needs to let them know that the air condition generally is more effective when you close the doors. 

 

Happy 4th – and thanking God extra much for our country,

Ashleigh

 

 

7.02.2008

just another day at the office...

Our adoption is now official!  We visited the doctor’s office today for a physical (which I’m not sure what they were looking for but it appeared that everyone would pass unless they were getting ready to enter into the after-life within 2 minutes) and then the police station for something or other.  I can’t keep up with what all we are doing.  Thankfully we have a fantastic guide who stays with us all the time and does all of the business stuff.  He is a ton of fun and knows what he is doing, and is wonderful with the kids. 

Lydia continues to be a joy.  A few crying spells again today – I think though that they were more about being 2 and not getting her way than anything else.  She did set her place in history though as my first child to throw up all over me.  And I do mean ALL OVER ME.  It was completely disgusting.  Thankfully we were getting off the bus at the hotel so I just stood outside until Eric brought me some towels.  We didn’t get a picture…should have documented that one.

Tomorrow we are off to the zoo.  It is hard to believe we are still going to be here for another week.  At least tonight we finally found a restaurant that had some good food.  There are several Western style restaurants here but nothing tastes quite right.  But tonight our guide took us to a Chinese restaurant that was amazing.  I felt like I was right in the middle of P.F. Changs.  (With a quarter of the bill!)

I can’t wait for all of you to meet Lydia.  She continues to charm us and the rest of the town too.  Between her and Micah, we are going to be charmed into everything!  Those two make quite a pair.  Everywhere we go people tell us how beautiful she is.  They love her chunky little legs! 

It all seems so normal.  In some ways it is hard to believe she is with us and in other ways it seems like she has been with us forever.  God has been very good to give us such an incredible gift.

Counting the days,

Ashleigh

 

 

7.01.2008

the miracle continues...

i don't know that i have ever been witness to a miracle as quite as big as lydia.  her story amazes me and each day it seems to unfold a little more.  we start with God bringing us together in a way only He could do, which is about 100 miracles in and of itself that someday i will list so that we will never forget, and we have now come to the miracle of her, lydia herself.  i think eric and i must laugh at least once every 30 minutes at our "failure to thrive" little girl.  here she is with thighs far bigger than any child we have ever had, and an appetite that could put any grown man to shame.  for lunch the child downed 3 pieces of Papa Johns pizza, a bag of Teddy Grahams and a huge glass of water.  And three hours later she was itching for a snack.  i don't know what happened between september and now but i am claiming a miracle.  

and then there is her heart.  she is bigger than life with a smile and a twinkle in her eye that would melt ice.  normally, i might even be a bit apprehensive at how well she has transitioned to us, but in my heart i think it is all part of the miracle.   she was made for us and we for her.  she has had a couple of crying spells - one when she woke up this morning and one later this afternoon - but even in the midst of those she snuggles into my arms and closes her eyes and cries.  its as if she is saying, "i'm sad.  i miss all that i know.  but more than anything, i know i am safe and you are the one i love."  and they pass, relatively quickly, and we are on to giggles and dolls and blocks and coloring.  just like any other two year old little girl.  she loves eric and i equally, is quick to let either of us care for her.  she is perfect.  i almost feel guilty at how perfect she is.  i look around at the 50 or so families who are also here adopting and granted, i am a bit biases, but no little child even comes close to precious lydia. and to top it all off, she is a 'special needs' little girl!  this child is a miracle.  it isn't coincidence or luck of the system, it is a God-given miracle and our thankfulness is beyond measure.

we have enjoyed today.  a bit more paperwork (we had to promise not to torture or abandon her!) a great nap and some shopping tonight.  eric is a viscious bargainer.  pops, you would be proud.  lydia is so easy.  she eats EVERYTHING, sleeps great, and is a joy to play with.  today when she was playing she was jabbering away in chinese - i only wish i could know what she was saying.  we tried to get it on video but when we pull out the camera she stops, of course.  when it is time to go to bed, she lays on my chest with her panda in arm and goes right to sleep.  who could ask for more than that?  tomorrow is a bit more business and then the zoo on thursday.   this is precious time.  i know life will change when we get home to the kids so i am treasuring the time just with her.  she has no idea what she is in for! : )

we miss all of you. and i will be so glad to set foot on american soil.  but for now, i will embrace the beauty of china and all that it has to offer.  thank you so much for your prayers and notes of encouragement!

lots of love,

ashleigh

**today when we stepped outside there was a "condensation alert" on our video camera...just a wee bit humid!!!  definitely reminiscent of my days in the philippines!