Monday, November 25, 2013

11 Years Ago Today

Today is JieJie's adoption day, or Gotcha Day as it is sometimes known.

So last night, JieJie, who is now almost 12 and almost as tall as I am, brought me a children's book and insisted I read it to her.  I looked at her selection:  Happy Adoption Day by songwriter John McCutcheon, a fellow adoptive parent who lives over in Charlottesville.  This is unusual.  If I had suggested reading it, I'm guessing the response would be "a baby book? Whatever, mom."

But the girls got into their sleeping bags on the floor of our room, their favorite place to sleep of late, MeiMei turned off her Junie B Jones audiobook, and I read the book (which is actually song lyrics with illustrations).  Just like a song, it has a refrain:

But out of a world so tattered and torn
You came to our house on that wonderful morn
And all of a sudden this family was born!
Oh Happy Adoption Day!

I have mixed feelings about the first line (not sure I want to characterize her entire birth country that way).  The second line is a convenient rhyme but I'm pretty sure it wasn't morning when we got home.  But that third line…so crazy, as I read the refrain for the third time, something big jumped right up in my throat to the place where lumps go.  I stopped reading, and put my hand over my mouth.  Both girls sat up, and MeiMei said "Mom, are you crying?!?!"  And indeed I was, it just bloomed, suddenly.

Why are you crying?  they asked.

Because I always knew I wanted to be a mom, and sometimes it seemed like it almost wasn't gonna happen, and I love you guys so much, I said.

Oh Happy Adoption Day!

note:  I haven't been writing as much about the girls out of respect for their privacy as they grow up, though at some point I will write about our China trip in the summer of 2012 which was really great. It's cool to see how many people are still reading about our travels (45 views already today)—thanks!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2 weeks til China

What a busy time it is around here!  With less than two weeks til we embark on our journey, we've pretty much got things under control, but there's always that "what if we forget the..." feeling.

Things that we've taken care of, in no particular order...

VISAS.  I could tell you a long convoluted story but suffice to say I highly recommend, no I exhort you--use a courier to handle the visa process!  Considering the time and gas money, it would have been an overall savings to pay someone else to go to the Chinese visa office in Washington DC (2 hours each way from here).  They no longer mail visas to applicants, so I had to make a second trip to retrieve them.  Because I forgot that May Day is a holiday for that office, and the closure was not listed on their website, I also made a THIRD trip to retrieve them.  One thing to pass along though, if you need to drive can sneak a parking spot at the Safeway there on Wisconsin Avenue and you'll probably be ok - though I went in the store and bought stuff just to be able to smile for the video surveillance :)

IMMUNIZATIONS.  John is good to go because he had a round of immunizations in preparation for a trip to Ghana last summer (and then that trip was canceled).  The girls and I were fairly up to date on everything.  We got the first of a two-round HepA series, and needed typhoid immunizations as well.  JieJie and I are taking a 4-day round of oral vaccine, but MeiMei was unable to swallow the capsules, so we have her scheduled for a shot at the health department tomorrow.  She actually said she would prefer the shot because she was having such trouble trying to swallow pills...kind of surprising.

TRAVEL PLANNING.  We are again using Lotus Travel to handle all the preparations and are confident that they have everything covered.  Today I'm making a spreadsheet to estimate in-country expenses not covered in the tour fee, i.e. lunches and dinners as well as tips to each city's guide and driver.  Of course souvenir shopping will be a must as well.  I'm so curious to see what the girls end up bringing home.

HOUSE / DOG SITTER.  Our big dog does ok at the kennel for a weekend but often comes home hoarse from all the barking he does, so we made arrangements for live-in pet care and house-sitting while we're gone so that he's comfortable and someone is here looking after things.

Stuff we still need to do:

LUGGAGE ASSESSMENT...we have the two Totes rolling duffels that we took to China in 2004--they were $20/each at the Potomac Mills Totes outlet, amazing they've lasted so long!  We need two more similar pieces, as well as daypacks we can use in-country that fold away easily.  Portability is key - we are literally taking planes, trains, and automobiles on this trip...and boats...and rickshaws.  I don't want to wrestle with an unruly suitcase or give the girls anything they can't tote on their own.

PACK FOR GIRLS' SUMMER CAMP.  Yep, believe it or not, 3 days after we return home, jet-lagged as all get-out, the girls are going away for a week of sleep-away camp!!  Knowing that my brain is going to be about as useful as a schlorpy pile of jello at that point, best to pack for that beforehand.

That's about all I can think of at the moment.  I should say that I will not be posting from China because a) can't access blogger from there anyway and b) who wants to spend an hour a day in the business center when we're on a trip?!

So I'm planning to keep an old fashioned written journal and can share some highlights when we get home.

Thanks for following the blog!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

China Heritage Tour!

More soon, but you may notice that the FTJ has a spiffy new look, and that's because there's a big trip on the horizon!  All four of us, plus my parents (now in their early 70's) are going to CHINA after school lets out for the summer!  We are working through Lotus Travel, which coordinated our adoption trips in 2002 and 2004, and the airfare (gulp) is already booked.  Good thing JieJie and MeiMei love to fly, because on the way over we have a Dulles-Tokyo leg (14 hours) followed by a Tokyo-Guangzhou leg (5 hours) on All Nippon Airlines.  On the way back, it's Beijing-Tokyo (3.5 hours), overnight in Tokyo, then Tokyo-Dulles (12 hours on the way back, gotta love the jet stream).  We have been looking forward to this trip for a long time and are so excited to have grandparents along.  We'll be part of a larger tour group too.  Hoping there are other kids around our girls' age--we know from our adoption trips that friendships forged in China are special bonds forever.

And yes, we will visit Fuling and Liangping.

As I said, more later -- gotta get back to work because that bill ain't gonna pay itself!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Richmond V. Nashville

Life has changed, shifted into a different mode.  The blog, in order to survive, must change or perish.  Blogs in general are changing musings are satisfied with a quick post on facebook...I hate twitter for anything but blatant the blog...what's to become of it?

More to the point, what about this traveling family?  Are we traveling?  Yes we are.  Are we blogging? you noticed, not so much!  When JieJie and MeiMei were not the most scintillating conversationalists and John was busy, this blog was a necessary outlet, an ear that would always listen.  Now though, the girls have more to say, and a greater awareness of and desire for the respect of their privacy.  I'm more likely to tell them things, and less likely to tell You things.

This summer has had a few memorable excursions, to be sure.  Virginia Safari Park near Lexington (drove past Foamhenge to get there), the Family Drive-In in Stephens City, a memorable anniversary dinner and overnight at L'Auberge Provencale in White Post, VA (the fois gras...oh my), and last weekend, Endless Caverns.  Later this summer we'll go on a big loop from Niagara Falls to Toronto, Picton, Gananoque, Montreal, Rangeley Maine, then a week on Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay (Portland) Maine.  With grandparents.  All in the same car.  Yes indeedy!  Will I write about it?  I just don't know.  I hope so, but maybe the writing will seem different.  I'm just so much more aware that my account of things is not the only one (wasn't before, but I think you understand).

What I can write about, though, is the interesting process of researching cities other than our own, considering places we might like to live someday when John retires from the university (who knows when that will be).  These discussions used to be so wide open they were basically useless, meaningless. But in the last couple of years I've realized that I do have very definite opinions about where I do and do not want to be.  I like the eastern half of the country.  I like not-too-north, not-too-south.  Truly, I love Virginia and have been so happy to call it home for 20+ years now.  I like having all four seasons, none in the extreme or for too long.  I like proximity to DC, New York, etc.  I like a variety of topography.  Access to water.  A convenient airport.  And for my freelance work, a media market large enough to provide a diverse set of opportunities.

I've got it narrowed down to Richmond, VA (where I am as I write this, staying with extended family) and Nashville, TN (a place I've never been).  A distant runner-up is Atlanta, but more on that in a moment.  Richmond...charming, beautiful neighborhoods, some really cool new businesses locating here, creative building renovations (old elementary schools into mixed use commercial / residential prospects)...tonight we ate a lovely dinner at The Hill Cafe in Church Hill, and I had the fried oysters - yum!  I have contacts here, clients here, and it's not far from the beach if you want to make a day of it.

Nashville...the music aspect definitely intrigues me.  It's "one row of states over" from Virginia but same general latitude...seems to have an identity as a city, which is important to sports teams, good airport hub, universities, good housing stock, cultural amenities, music, music, music...but who knows whether or not I'll feel the potential to be attached to Nashville?  So I'm going there to find out.  Maybe I'll blog about it.  Maybe I won't...not trying to be coy, but let's be real - I haven't been writing as often, haven't felt the need, the drive, to write as I did from China or from Antwerpen.  I'm in my life at home, busy with work, the girls' school routines, deciding what to get for dinner, what movie to put in the Netflix queue.  And that's ok!  It has to be.  Apologies.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Disney Cruise!

So hey, wow, it's been a while!  And we've been traveling a bit here and there but I've not posted much, because many of the places are not so new...a return to the lovely Pine Terrace Resort last summer with kids and grandparents, a lovely week of fishing, canoeing, swimming, Nisswa Turtle Races, reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and gazing into an evening campfire while listening to loons...always so nice to get up to the lake in Minnesota.

Then, this fall turned into a travel extravaganza for me and for John.  The wedding in Maine last September was so fantastic, and the girls feel in love with the Maine coast.  October has been a month of tag-team travel for me and John, with kids so into school and activities.  For me:  Austin, TX (that's a whole nother entry) and a quick overnight in NoVA (that's Northern Virginia if you're not from my neck of the woods).  For John:  last-minute chance to go see Bob Dylan in NC with a high school friend from NJ...seventh-row center, to boot.  Then a weekend in NJ to attend an event in honor of his dad's 40 years of service to an area credit union...then last weekend, Tallahassee.  One more trip in his future, and then the BIG ONE...

Grandparents are taking us on a *D*I*S*N*E*Y***C*R*U*I*S*E!!...Before I had kids, something like a Disney Cruise would have sounded like something to run far away from, and quickly.  But I have heard so many great things about the way the ships are set up to allow kids-only, adults-only, and family spaces, and if there's one thing you can say about Disney, they certainly do attend to every last detail.  So we are surrendering to the Mouse...and it's going to be fabulous.

How are JieJie and MeiMei, you might wonder?  3rd and 2nd grade this year, loving school, still asking "will you take us there someday?" every time they learn of a new destination.  And to tell them about the cruise, we got on Skype with grandparents, who were wearing mouse ears to pique their curiosity...when the girls found out about the trip, JieJie had many questions about logistics (as you might predict) and MeiMei just bounced up and down, squealing "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"  So there they are in a nutshell...never a dull moment!

You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...