Aidan has asked a few times when I'll be leaving.  I put the date of our leaving on the calendar and the date of our return and suggested that he cross off the dates.  He said he would not do this, but maybe I could call him and send him some pictures because he's seen on tv where people do that when they are apart.

Today when he got home from school he asked if he could bring Eva into class for Show and Tell.  He then asked again if I would call him sometimes while I am away.

We are going to set up an email account for him and he and Daddy will check it each night to see if he has any new messages.

It is going to be really hard to be away from my baby.

I am leaving on Friday at dawn.  For those of you who have adopted, you know that this is the stage at which you start to feel like the White Rabbit.  You even start talking like him, "Don't just do something, stand there... Uh... no no! Go go! Go get my gloves! I'm late".

If you understand that, you've been there :)

Fortunately for me, Grange Fair is tomorrow so I can relax-I spent the last few nights calling people for food donations for the ham & bean supper, went to Aidan's open house, had a church officers meeting  and a meeting of the social studies council executive board.  Have also been busy getting things ready for my sub, who is more than competent to take over for me, so that is a big relief.  He also just happens to have adopted from China using the same agency that we are using for Eva.  Amazingly small world, especially because he was living in Wisconsin at the time.  What were the chances of him then moving to New Hampshire just when I needed someone like him to come along?

So I'm sort of ready-you know how that goes.

I'll leave you now with some photos of those that I will leave behind:
Aidan complained that I always have the camera and he never gets to use it, so this is his idea of a self-portrait (remember that he doesn't like having his photo taken, so of course he was being a goofball even for himself as the photographer).
At school I run a Women's Studies Group and the first thing that we do is look at how women communicate with one another, how they communicate differently from men, and how they can be biggest supporter or biggest saboteur to one another.  We progress on to trust building activities for the group, guest speakers from different careers and vocations, etc., and this year our focus is on women around the globe and trying to help those less fortunate.  One of the girls is going to Kenya in December for a week and returning next year for six months to volunteer at a home for children who were orphaned because their parents died of AIDS. 

It is because of the strong and special women in my life and our open communication that I am able to be friends with other women; a rare thing sometimes.

This isn't the best photo (Mom was sick with cancer and I had been washing dishes, hence the odd hand pose), but this is Audrey on the left, Ruth in the middle, me on the right, and Mom last winter.
This is us back in 1979 or 1980 at my cousin's wedding.  (I've got the long hair.)
These are my girls.  Lauren will be 28 while I'm in China.  Farran will be with me in China.
I do have two older sisters.  Kathy was 16 years older than me and we spent years going to the grocery store together, trading babysitting, walking at 5 a.m., going to fairs, to the beach, etc., but then she had grandchildren and I started teaching....and our schedules didn't match up.  In 2004 I found her dying of a stroke on her living room floor.  I will never stop missing her.  She hated having her photograph taken, though.  My oldest sister June, 18 years older than me (I'm the middle sister), has the mental age of a young teenager and we love one another but we don't really connect.  Still, she is as responsible for shaping who I am as Kathy was.  Here is a picture of the two of them as children (with my first and second brothers):
Two weeks from today, I will meet another female destined to change my life!
Did I only just get my itinerary this morning?  It has been the craziest day!

Between a flurry of email messages and two hours (yes, two hours!) at the bank waiting, then trying to arrange a debit card increase which the local office said I could do (oh, no, the main office says just call when you want it done so that we only increase it for a short period of time-but they forgot to tell me there will be a fee to do it over the phone, so I switch to the automated system that doesn't charge, then call back, then book the flights), and after all of that I still have the wire transfer to the Chinese coordinator to take care of.  Are you following me yet?  Does this sound remotely like doing business in China to those of you who have been there? Did I mention that the bank's fraud detection center, after all of this, froze my debit card when the travel agent tried to book all of the tickets in one day, even though I supposely increased the lim Yeah, I'm reminiscing just a bit here about Beijing.

Anyway, I do digress.  We have flights.  We will be in Guiyang a day earlier than planned on our travel agent's advice-just in case there are any flight issues, and so that we can have a day of rest before meeting Eva.  I didn't tell her that it takes me about a week to recover from a flight like that :)  On the way home we will leave Guangzhou a day earlier than planned in order to make the flight out that we got, so we will stay the night there.  That's actually good-we can take the tram up Victoria Peak which is something that the girls and I really wanted to do.  It runs every 15 minutes right up until midnight, so it will be cool to see the sights and lights there.

Farran cannot go back to college yet.  The roads leading into the city where her school is are still flooded and closed and there is still no electricity in much of the area.  So maybe tomorrow night.

Aidan and I will return to school tomorrow.  He's excited to eat lunch with RB every day now that RB is in kindergarten.  Big day for all three of us!
We are all at home.  Irene flooded our daughter's college town so we cannot get her there, and the campus is closed anyway.  School was canceled for Aidan and me in anticipation of power outages, which some of our town has.  RB should have started kindergarten today, but instead he is here too.

By the way, Eva's name is EEva.  Just had to let everyone know in case you were reading it and saying AAva in your head.  Lots of people do that.  She is named after my grandmother, so her name is pronounced like hers was.

We got our itinerary in the middle of the night and got everything we asked for except the first hotel choice in Guiyang (which was the Sheraton) and a tai-chi lesson (guess we'll have to stand in the park and emulate the thousands exercising in the morning :)

Anyway, here's the skinny on it:

Guiyang Sept. 18-Sept. 23
We meet Eva on Sept. 19
We will stay at the Trade Point Hotel and visit TianHe Scenic Pool Area (gorgeous!), Qian Ling Park (hiking trails, temples, waterfalls)

Guangzhou Sept. 23-Sept. 29
Stay at the Victory Hotel and visit Safari Park (think Canada's driving zoo), Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, and take a Pearl River Night Cruise.

Sept. 29
Fly out of Hong Kong; if we are delayed there due to flight availability, we will go up Victoria Mountain.

Now, I am a mess!  School starts tomorrow-delayed a day by Irene-and tomorrow I will not be able to concentrate on all of this.  Off to wire money and do a million other things!
My friend (who was first my junior high and then high school English teacher, then a colleague) will be lending me her blackberry for Wi-Fi access so that I don't have to lug a computer around.  Have I mentioned that I travel light?  I would actually carry a knapsack if I could get away with it, but since I can't...... and today I rented a Panda Phone.  We did this last time and it was great.  Phone is mailed to us from Texas with our number and access codes.  We called home every day from China, left the phone at the hotel lobby on our way out of the country to be mailed back to Shanghai.  Very reasonable rates, too.
We got September 20 but had to reschedule because the previous week is the Moon Festival and we would not be able to take care of the provincial stuff.  So September 27 will be our consulate date!
We needed just three things for the kids' bedroom to make it as much Eva's room as it was Aidan's room.  I'm still looking for a girlie lamp that isn't overpriced, but the other two items have arrived.  First, a girlie hamper:
Then a school years picture frame...
with her six year old photo (August 2010) placed in the Kindergarten spot because, even though that would be first grade, she will be entering first grade here.

Now, of course, Aidan is dissatisfied with his own frame....
...and wants one like his sister.  Can't really blame him, but we'll see.

Some things they will just share.  These are a gift to Aidan during Chinese New Year but they hang over Eva's bed:
And some things will be just for my girl:
This post is about being a sister.  It is dedicated to Wu Yi and  Eva Yu Qiang.

When I was a little girl I had a sister one year younger than myself named Audrey.  She was very different from me but we were together all the time.  I was smaller than her but I was the big sister so it was my job to love and protect her and I took that job seriously.  We slept together, played together, and did most things together.  Audrey and I have six brothers and three other sisters but our relationship was special because there was only one year between us in age.

As we grew up, we started to have different ideas, interests, and friends.  We got married and had children of our own.  Those people are now our family, too, and we love them very much.  We do everything together with them and it is our job to love and protect them.

Sometimes Audrey and I talk on the phone or visit with one another and it is always wonderful because inside we are still those two girls who slept in the same bed and shared our early years with one another.

Wu Yi was the big sister to Yu Qiang at their home in China.  Wu Yi now has brothers and a mother and father.  They do everything together and her family loves and protects Wu Yi and they take that job seriously.  Soon Yu Qiang will come to live at our home and she will have new brothers and sisters.  We will do everything together and we will love and protect her and we will take that job seriously.

Wu Yi and Yu Qiang will grow up in different places with different families but sometimes they will be able to talk on the phone or send letters to one another and it will be wonderful because inside they will still be those little girls who slept in the same bed and walked to school together and shared their early years in China. 

Sisters are Special.
In China we had to send a form back to DC to be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy and the State Department.  We waited a week for the DHL truck.  Is this to be a theme for me when it comes to adoption?  Does DHL make a habit of carrying really good news?  Because they did this week!
Our agency has our Travel Authorization and we could have left a week from now, but since that's just way too fast for my one-thing-at-a-time brain, we will be leaving a little later.  Waiting now for some dates to be confirmed.  Sigh.