Thursday, June 22, 2006

Who knew?

I was never someone who wanted children from a very young age. When I was 10, I didn't play with my Barbies and dream about my wedding day. When I was 18, 25, 30, 35 or 36, I NEVER thought about having children. (My friends and family who are reading this will chuckle at that memory).

I was the insensitive restaurant server who would cringe at the sound of a baby crying and the flight attendant who felt sorry for ANYONE who had the misfortune to be seated next to the family of four. I wasn't known to coo over babies and I never babysat the neighbors kids (well, maybe the four legged kind).

I would shake my head in wonder over mothers who adeptly changed poopy diapers and recoil at the thought of sticky little fingers and faces in high chairs. The only maternal urges I ever seemed to have completely revolved around horses. I would see a newborn foal and think "awww, that is so cute, I gotta get one of those some day."

I swore to my family, friends, and anyone else who would listen that I would NEVER have children.

And then I met Colin. And then a lot of my friends had babies and I discovered, much to my amazement, that I liked them. When Colin and I got married, I told him I was still pretty sure I didn't want kids and he still married me. What changed? I have absolutely no idea! That is not totally true. I think I finally met the right person (Colin) and perhaps, I just grew up a little.

That is not to suggest that people who choose not to have children are not grown up. I still have a lot of friends who will never have children and they are quite grown up, responsible and wonderful people. I guess what I mean is that, aside from the fact that, prior to Colin, I had never met anyone I could imagine having children with, I was also very terrified of the responsibility of having children.

Having a child is the ultimate exercise in responsibility and self sacrifice. Your life no longer revolves around you (which is as it should be). As a true blue egocentric, that utterly terrified me. I cherished the freedom to go where I like, when I like. A child was tantamount to being shackled and that was just not for me....... or so I thought.

I guess by the time Colin and I got married, I realized that I had pretty much done as I pleased for most of my life. I traveled to most, not all, but most of the places I had dreamed about going. Colin...if you are taking notes, Greece is still on my list.....say for a five year wedding gift or such. I had accomplished enough things and looked around and said to myself "is this all there is?" I realized how much I missed being close to my family. Colin missed his. And I thought to myself "self, we are both such family oriented people, why are we not raising one?"

Perhaps it really was just my biological clock kicking in and setting off alarm bells. When I readied myself to tell Colin I thought we should have children, I think I warned him to sit down as I thought the shock of my change of heart might be too much for him. I should not have been so worried, he took it in stride and in his usual unflappable manner, replied "really?"

So this lengthy diatribe was inspired by a thought I had the other day. I was busy cleaning the boogers out of Sophia's nose after realizing that just moments before I had been kissing her proffered sticky fingers while she had been eating. Those same little fingers that very likely had been up her nose full of boogers minutes before. Then I went and changed her fourth poopy diaper of the day. And some time between the fingers and the diaper, I realized "wait, what on earth has happened to me?" I was unphazed by the boogers or the poop. I don't mind her sticky fingers and I am unbothered by her screams. *****OK, I do have to admit here that she does have one type of scream that does get under my skin. It is so loud and blood curdling that, in my opinion, it holds all the charm of nails on a chalkboard.*****Aside from that particular scream, I really don't mind any of it.

She has become very talkative lately and I just could spend hours listening to her babble and discourse about 'who knows what'.....***wait, I actually do listen to her for hours, so I guess I can take out the "I could" part, because I already do. The key here is that I love it. I love her, I love how she has changed me and brought me closer to Colin. I love watching her play with my Mom who has this little girl so charmed that she literally squeals and jumps when my Mom enters a room.

It is not all wonderful and sweet. Parenthood is hard sometimes and there are moments when I hope that I really am up for the job. Having said all that, I know that, although being a parent involves sacrifices, I do not feel like a martyr. Sophia is a joy, mixed in with some frustration, stress, worry and even a little anger at times. But more than anything, I just look at her and feel this indescribable sense of love.

My heart aches for Colin who would like nothing more than to be with his family. This week he ended up on the road for over five days. While he loved hearing his daughter laugh on speaker phone (Nana was making silly faces), he misses Sophia terribly and fears her reaction of his long absence. He really has nothing to fear. When we got our referral, we sent the orphanage a photo album with pictures of our family to be given to Sophia. It was returned to us on Gotcha Day and is still one of her favorite toys. Today I found her tracing the outline of her Dad's face and I know that she misses him and will be overjoyed to see him.

But I digress. The headline of the post was titled "who knew?" It sure wasn't me. I never knew that I liked little girls with sticky fingers, boogers, poopy diapers, giggles, smiles, and a whole lot of love to give. I didn't, but I sure do now :)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A day at the beach

Well.....maybe it was just a couple of hours at the beach, but still, it was perfect hot weather to slap on the sun screen, don our hats (even Sophia did not protest hat wearing on this outing) and take a walk to the shore of Lake Michigan.

"So this is sand, huh? hmmmm......I'm not sure that I like it"

Friday, June 16, 2006

One month since Gotcha Day

May 15th in Guangzhou

Nearly a month later in Michigan

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, on May 15th, just over a month ago, we first met Sophia.

I thought it might be appropriate to do a quick photo review of our journey to date...I'll let the photos do the talking, here it goes:

All our bags are packed

15 hours on the plane

Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong

The train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou

Norman and his 'China Team'

Anxious and nervous, waiting for the babies

Gotcha Day

Friends we met along the way:

Chris, Kimberley and Tuesday

Kelly, Bill and Jane

Megan, Joe and Twilight

Adoption finalized

Since we returned home

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mmmmmmm, Cake and Ice Cream!

First bite

'What the?"

'Hey, that was good, give me another!'

An evening stroll before the party

The Birthday Girl

We had a birthday party for Kat's Mom last night and Sophia got to have her first taste of cake and ice cream. Not surprisingly, she loved it! Having said that, the expression on her face when she first tasted the cold ice cream was truly priceless. It was this myriad of expressions. Apprehensive, suspicious, contemplative and finally, sheer delight.

My Mom later said that she had a wonderful birthday but that clearly Sophia stole the show.

Sophia has been doing well. She is settling into a routine and is starting to fuss when other people want to hold her. That is good news because it means she is probably starting to form an attachment to us. We'll have to see how intense her reaction becomes to tell if there is a bad side. Of course, we want her to feel attached, secure and safe, but we would also like her to feel comfortable with all of our family members.

She apparently feels safe and secure with Kat's parents. It is hard to tell in the photo, but she has Nana's and Oompa's fingers in a death grip.

There have been a couple of questions that my friends who have yet to meet Sophia have been asking me lately.
1) Does Sophia ever cry?
I am guessing that is mostly based on the pictures that I have chosen to feature on our blog. They tend to show a smiley, giggly, happy little girl. She is absolutely all those things but she also has a moody side (don't we all)? One of the nicknames we have given her is Jekyl and Hyde. One moment, she is all smiles, and a split second later, she is wailing and protesting. A mere two seconds later, she is all smiles again. The main reason we have not posted many pictures of her 'Hyde' side is that when she is having a bit of an emotional meltdown, running for my camera isn't ordinarily my first thought! Nor my second or third for that matter. On those occasions, my main focus is 'fix what is wrong, and fast!' because boy, does this girl have a good set of lungs.

Meet Mr. Hyde......

2) Are we going to continue to post to her blog?
Yes, time permitting, we are planning on it. Look for weekly or bi-weekly installments though. I think this blog is a great journal/photo album for our family and for Sophia. I also love keeping everyone current who is interested in this continued journey. So many of our friends and family don't live in close proximity to us and it is a wonderful way to stay in touch.

Additional news:
Sophia had a battery of tests two weeks ago to establish a baseline on her health. The results? She was diagnosed with Crypotsporidium (a water borne intestinal parasite) but is being treated with antibiotics. Hopefully only four more days of that because the medicine is not fun to administer and it doesn't agree all that well with her.

Otherwise, all her tests came back normal, yeah! Her ears will be re-checked on Monday and in another month, she will have to have her one year vaccinations. I don't especially look forward to that experience. Neither the injections or the fever that seems to go with them.

She is crawling at lightning speed and pulls herself up on any surface she can find, including Mommy's bare legs (Yikes, I guess that says something about my skin elasticity!) She does not seem inclined to want to walk solo yet but will stand for a couple of seconds on her own before collapsing on the ground. She is suddenly very fond of biting and I have several teeth marks and bruises to prove it.

80% of the time, her disposition is easy-going and happy. The 20% sometimes proves to be challenging but we all have a cranky side. I also have to admit, from time to time, I'm to blame if I get her down late for her nap. She is growing more hair and seems to be getting taller, but that may just be my imagination. She is very open to trying new foods and scored big points when she downed my homemade spaghetti sauce that I had pureed in the blender.

Our trip to China seems to be ages ago and yet, I realized today that 'Gotcha Day' was only just shy of a month ago. Wow! Still harder to believe is that in just three weeks, she will be one year old. This is especially hard to believe given that we received her first photos when she was 8.5 months old. It is true, time really flies with little ones. Okay, it flies for adults too :)

Sophia models her 'Toby the Horse' bathrobe before she bids the party goodnight

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Circle Game

Years ago, Joni Mitchell wrote a wonderful song, 'The Circle Game'. My sister, Mimi, used to sing it to me when I was a little girl. The song is all about time marching on, wishing you could speed time up when your young and wanting to slow it down when you are older. The chorus was something like this "and the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down, we're riding on a carousel of time, we can't return we can look behind from where we came an go round and round and round in the circle game."

The truth in that song was never more apparent to me than this past Sunday. I took Sophia to her first Grand Rapids Art Festival to hear her Grandpa (sorry, Oompa) play with the Big Band. The band played in front of the Calder sculpture and I had such a strange sense of deja vu. Some 36 years ago, I was the little girl standing in that very plaza watching my sister perform at the Art Festival.

Later that day, I found myself putting Sophia in my old high chair. I told her, "this was my high chair when I was a little girl." That is when it hit me, it was over 38 years ago that I was first placed in that high chair. Where did the time go? I wonder if someday Sophia will have this same strange sense of the passage of time.

I think one of the best things about having our daughter is that we get to see the world through a whole new set of eyes. Everything is interesting and fascinating to her. She explores her surroundings and takes delight in the smallest of things. Daddy making silly faces, Mambo looming over her, Oompa playing the piano for her, Nana singing to her, or just feeling my hair as she is sitting in her backpack. It is hard to imagine this inquisitive little girl having limited stimulation for her first 10 months. I think she doesn't like to sleep because she is afraid she will miss something.

We are constantly amazed by Sophia. There just does not seem to be enough adjectives to describe how we feel about her. Most of the time, I am in awe. In awe of her spirit, her wonderful laugh, her beautiful eyes, her intelligence, her smile and, most of all, her determination.

Sophia helps Nana and Jill make dinner