Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bath time

Gratuitous cute baby photos for grandparents and others who are not yet tired of Sam photos. Sam loves the bath and now that we have this bath seat, he can hang out there a little bit longer. The orphanage did "baths" (sponging off) in the morning, so we have kept that part of his schedule. But we may move to evenings this week, to start creating a nighttime ritual of bath, story, song and hopefully sleep!

Going out for a walk in yesterday's fall weather. (I don't recall if that hat is from Amy or Flo, but it is adorable!) I think this walk might have been attempt #437 to get him to sleep last night. He fell asleep three times either in my arms or Ed's but then would get all agitated when we put him down and start flopping around and smiling. He finally went to bed at 11 p.m. Too many naps yesterday might have been a contributing factor. Or, as our adoption coordinator says, a fear of going to sleep because of fear of more change when he wakes up.

Ed had to get up early for a substitute teaching job today. He's gotten several days over the next few weeks for AP History at a suburban school district. It'd be a great place for a full-time job. So I'm on baby duty alone today, but so far, so good. He took a good 2-hour nap this morning and has been pretty happy all day. We just got back from a walk to the post office and Walgreens and now he's sleeping again. So I've been able to get a few things done and pick up the house. We had a short visit from our friend Jon, who was dropping off the mattress for the co-sleeper we're borrowing from them. William and Maria are due to drop by later this afternoon with a home-cooked meal. So, as you can see, we're not shunning visitors--just trying to keep them short and not let others hold him for now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Go Cubs!

After our referral we received some video of Sam in the orphanage. Our in-country liaison, Caroline of the Catalyst Foundation, was talking to him and she says, "Say hi to Mommy and Daddy. They're in Chicago. Go Cubs!" At which point Sam smiles really cute! So we figured he's a Cubs fan. I dressed him in this cute Cubs outfit (onesie on clearance from Target; little shorts with baseball stitching from the thrift store) to visit Grandma and Grandpa at the Manions on Friday. That's my sister, Auntie Amy.

Sam enjoyed gnawing on the marble countertop with Grandma. He was so darn cute the whole visit but then was a holy terror later that night. I do think we are doing too much, too soon with him. He did not like the car seat, so the hour-long drive was too much for him. We also stopped at a wake on the way home (for my friend Kristin's father). He seemed fine, but then got so agitated at night, wouldn't let us hold him or comfort him, and was crying a lot.

So I got on this attachment website and recognized some warning signs. So I think we need to back off with too many new experiences and new people. In some ways, he is attaching very well: has great eye contact with us and smiles and plays well with us. But he is definitely afraid to go to sleep at night and becomes so upset and even raging that it's scary. I'm co-sleeping with him now, so that should help. He also spends a lot of time with Ed in the Bjorn baby carrier.

It's hard because so many people are so excited to meet him, and we are so proud and want to show him off. But I think if we are cautious and conservative now, it will be best for him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best anniversary gift ever

Dear Sam,

Today your Daddy and Mommy have been married four years. We celebrated it by hanging out with you all day. It was the best anniversary ever. You were a bit tired and cranky, but better than yesterday. I think your ear infection is improving.

You are able to sit up by yourself now, if only for a few minutes. It's amazing to watch you grow so fast right in front of our eyes!

My friend Lourdes dropped by to meet you today. You really liked her necklace. She brought us two bags of groceries from Trader Joe's. Thanks to her, our romantic anniversary dinner consisted of a can of vegetarian chili and some corn chips, plus some yummy red wine. Thanks, Lourdes!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First trip to the park

As many of you know, we live in a third-story condo overlooking a city park. For four years, Ed and I have sat out on our deck and watched the kids play on the playground or practice soccer. It's so cute and we love the sound of laughing and occasionally screaming children that we hear from our living room window.

And for four years, Ed has wistfully looked out and watched fathers with their children and said, "I can't wait till I'm one of those guys pushing their kid on the swings." Today he got his wish. Apparently, Sam was more interested in chewing on the equipment, but he did enjoy the swing.

Jet-lag laundry

Like most adopted kids from Vietnam, Sam had scabies (a skin infection) when we got him. We treated him (and ourselves) several times in Vietnam, but were warned to wash all our clothes in hot water as soon as we got home to help prevent re-infection.

So, in the first 24 hours at home, I did a total of seven loads of laundry. Then, at the height of my jet-lag and lack of sleep, I found another bag full of baby clothes. I tossed the whole bag in the washer and started it. There was this huge clunking sound, but I couldn't open it because we have a front-loader.

When the cycle was done, this is what I found. I had wrapped the cups from a tea set (a gift from our in-country travel people) in the clothes and had put it through the wash cycle. At least the tea pot was saved. I'm thinking some sort of mosaic project might be in order for these shards.

Needless to say, I need more sleep.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our first visitors

We received our first visitors on Sunday evening. My friend Karen and her two kids, Mari and Mesfin, (twins adopted from Ethiopia last year) stopped by with gifts. Sam was still sleeping when they arrived and Mari and Mesfin were so good about whispering and being quiet while they peeked at the baby. In fact, Ed, who was sleeping in the same room, never knew they were there!

While we'd love to have lots of visitors, Sam has had a tough day and probably shouldn't be having to meet too many new people right now. He hardly slept for 15 hours, and when he did fall asleep, he would wake up screaming after a half hour or so. Such "night terrors" are common among newly adopted children. It's their only way of grieving the massive changes they are experiencing. But it's grueling for jet-lagged parents.

For our friends who are dying to meet him, we'd still love to see you. We may just space things out a bit so as not to overwhelm him. And of course, we'll need to see if we're awake. We're not on Vietnam time anymore, but we're not on Chicago time yet either. So call first.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home, safe and sound

We're home! It was a pretty grueling flight; Sam was up for almost all of it and was not happy to be confined to his seat or our arms. He slept the first hour or so and a little bit of the last two, but otherwise Mommy was very carefully following the flight path video to see how far we had to go.

My parents and my sister and her family all met us at the airport, plus Ed's parents were on the phone when we walked through the doors. In true Schlumpf fashion, they had signs, balloons, and American and Vietnamese flags. I don't have any pictures, but I did videotape it. I'll post more of that later. Of course, our house had also been decorated by Amy, who also came a few days ago and cleaned the whole place. Isn't she the best sister and Auntie?

Sam fell asleep in the car seat (Sure, now he sleeps!) so he was a bit of a bore for his family who had been so excited to see him. At least everyone got to hold him in the airport.

Kevin, Clare, and Jack will be great babysitters to their new cousin!

We are settling in. As soon as everyone left, Sam woke up and he slept for a couple three-hour chunks, but did his "night sleep" from around noon to 6 p.m. with Mommy. Ed and I are rotating shifts, and he's still trying to get over his cold. I'm more concerned about us just getting enough sleep to be up when he's up. We'll worry about adjusting to Central Time later.

He seems to be doing OK. Very busy exploring everything. I moved some furniture and have a nice open area for him on the floor. He hated the bouncy seat; wants to be able to scoot around. I wouldn't call it crawling, but he can move toward a toy.

Thanks again to everyone who has been following our journey. I can't believe we're actually home with our son. The real journey begins now! Thanks again for all your thoughts, prayers and good wishes. I do believe you all carried us during our long wait, and we felt the power of everyone's prayers during our trip, which went so smoothly--except for that last flight!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Hello from the Tokyo airport. Sam was a star traveler on the first leg of our journey. He took the bottle during take-off, then fussed for approximately 4 minutes until we got him in the bassinette, where he slept the whole flight. Ed and I each got a few hours of "airplane sleep." Ed is still pretty sick.

The smartest $68 we have spent this trip was for a sleeping/shower room at the Tokyo Airport. It was nicer than the boat room in Halong Bay! Ed got some decent sleep there, and I slept for a few hours while Sam slept. We both walked him around the concourse in the Bjorn, which he loves.

Unfortunately we didn't realize we could check in early, so when we did about 3 hours before the flight, the only bulkhead with a basinnette was already taken. Crap! We could have checked in 11 hours before the flight. I'm sure no one was at the airport before us! And I would have really rather had the basinette for the 12-hour flight than the 5-hour one. Well, now I am doubly glad we got a seat for Sam (using Ed's miles). Wish us luck on this longest and last leg of our journey.

We had thought about trying to meet up with Miyuki, my parents' former Japanese foreign exchange student, here in Tokyo, but we were too exhausted and worried about leaving security with Sam's Vietnamese passport and US visa. Don't want to take any chances.

Should be in Chicago in 14 hours. I know my parents and sister are counting the hours. See you there!

Good-bye Vietnam

I am writing from the Hanoi Airport at 10:30 p.m., Vietnam time. Our flight leaves in an hour. In another 29 hours we should be in Chicago (we have an 11-hour layover in Tokyo, but have rented a room with two twin beds for 6 hours in the airport). Wish us luck!

I can't believe how sad Ed and I are to leave this country. Yes, we are excited to get home and begin our life with Sam and for him to meet our friends and family. Yet we have loved our two weeks here (and are totally glad we stayed several extra days). We wouldn't have minded another week. And it is incredibly sad to be leaving Sam's birthcountry and the home of his birthfamily. Our adoption coordinator wrote to me saying these feelings are very normal. But I have to say how surprised I am at the incredible sadness I feel. Lots of crying going on here.

So far, Sam is a trooper traveler (I will write later about how great he was on the rather challenging trip to Halong Bay). We're praying for good luck with this last leg(s) of our journey. Already there was some mix-up about there not being a seat for Sam, even though we paid for one. But I think they gave it to us just to make us happy. We'll see when we board.

My parents and sister and her family will be picking us up from O'Hare. I know they are beyond excited to meet Sam, though I can't say what shape he or his parents will be in! Ed caught a nasty cold yesterday and is pretty under the weather. I hope he gets some rest on the plane too.

Goodbye, Vietnam. Thank you for your hospitality and most of all for this beautiful, precious son you have given us. We can never thank you enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Halong Bay

This trip could have been less than 10 days long, but Ed and I agreed we wanted to see as much of Vietnam as was possible with a new baby. So we signed up for an overnight to Halong Bay at the end. I'm so glad we did, but let me say it was also quite a grueling trip for a 10-month-old (almost 11-month-old!)

It started with a 3 and a half-hour bus trip, in a small bus that was completely full. Thank God this wonderful Vietnamese grandmother sat next to Ed and offered to hold, rock and sing to Sam for a good hour. Everywhere we go, women rush to hold him and help with him. It's really amazing. Sam also decided to fill his diaper pretty much right as we pulled out of the hotel, so when I went to change him at the "rest stop" it was quite a mess. This woman in the bathroom saved my life helping out. (We have now changed him on some of the dirtiest floors and toilets in the world.)
The beauty of Halong Bay are these thousands of limestone islands jutting out into the Gulf of Tonkin.

The boat was was nice but nothing very fancy. No Love Boat-type cruise. Our room was off the top-floor dining room and most other cabins were below. The men who ran the ship were nice. They also held Sam a lot. The captain even let him help steer the ship. (The captain steered with his feet!)

Sam even did his first spelunking! We toured a cave inside one of the limestone caverns. He slept through most of it.

Fishermen live on these floating boats. There was a baby living on this. I took this photo while ed went kayaking. We also swam on a sandy beach (Sam loved it), and Ed and I swam later, jumping off the boat.

Our room was super tiny. About 6 by 8 feet (no Schlumpf exaggeration factor). The three of us slept horizontally, which actually worked out OK. It was super hot, but there was AC from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in our room. Our room did have the rudder going through it, so we could see it move everytime we turned.

This is the luxurious kitchen where the crew fixed our meals. Are you getting the gist of how this was more like camping than a cruise? Still, we are glad we went, and Sam was a trooper.

Best part was watching the harvest moon at dusk from the top deck of the ship. Very romantic, even if you have a baby with you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hoan Kiem Lake

Our hotel is just blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, so our first day here we took a walk around it. The Tortoise Tower is in honor of the giant tortoise of the sword legend.

Ed peruses the guide book, while Sam drools on it.

Taking a break for a bottle. While sitting there, a one-legged woman on crutches came up and started talking to us. She had pretty good English and was very interested in the fact we had adopted a Vietnamese baby. While talking to her, a man came up to sell us a cricket fashioned from a palm frond. He couldn't speak but he communicated his interest in our adoption by pointing to my hair and then Sam's hair and gesturing pregnancy, then pointing to the ground. "Yes, he's from here," I said, and he gave us the thumbs up. He took a blade of grass and wrote USA on the sidewalk. We said yes, then he gestured shooting down airplanes. A war veteran, obviously.

A little farther around the lake, we met an American who took our picture. He came right out and asked how much we paid for the child. I just said, "We paid for the process, not for the child," then smiled and walked away. It's a common question; we've gotten it several times already.

The Ngoc Son Temple at the end of the lake.

Some moon cakes from the mid-Autumn festival, which we bought from the one-legged lady. Ed and I split one for lunch. It was good, but a strange combination of sweet and savory. I later had a bit of a tummy ache and blame that. So we had our first "Western" food last night just because my stomach felt sensative--a pizza, one veggie (I've never had pizza with corn on it before) and one seafood. Ed took over total baby duty last night while I tried to get my stomach back in order. By today I felt fine.

We're off to Halong Bay tomorrow for a overnight boat tour. It's supposed to be beautiful, but I hope we're not crazy for bringing a baby on this. We'll be off-line for two days now, but will try to post again when we're back in Hanoi. We're in Halong Bay Wedneday and Thursday, then leave Vietnam Friday night. We're excited to get home, but really loving it here. Thanks again for everyone's prayers and nice comments. We tell Sam about all of them!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sam's first flight

I went on my first flight when I was 19 years old. Little Sam is following in his dad's footsteps; Ed took his flight (to Haiti, while the coup was going on!) when he was less than 1. (His mom was a flight attendant.) Sam took his first flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi on Sunday.

This is Linh, our guide from Eurekaz, a tour company in Vietnam that is literally at our beck and call 24 hours a day. We're pretty self-sufficient, but it's been nice to know they're there if we need them. And Linh always had bottled water, Oreos and Ritz crackers for us every time she saw us.

The flight was a bit challenging, as Sam is quite a bit more active than the docile baby we got from the orphanage a week ago. We only brought about half a bottle and he had drunk that before takeoff. Bad parents! But he didn't seem to have many ear problems; and Trang, the Vietnamese nanny from Eurekaz who traveled with us to Hanoi, saved our butt by singing to him in Vietnamese for most of the flight. She was a godsend.

That gentleman next to Ed was quickly escorted to another seat by the flight attendant so Trang could sit by us. Still, I think it will be nice to have the extra seat on our flights home. He likes being able to stretch out.

Hanoi is about 1 hour from the airport, and he fell asleep in my arms in the car. But then he would not go to bed when we got to the hotel (the HoaBinh, in the Old Quarter). Finally at 11:30 he fell asleep. I was exhausted. At least he slept through the night again, till almost 7 a.m.
More pictures from our first days in Hanoi soon. We're off to our embassy appointment!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sam's first swim

Before we left Ho Chi Minh City for Hanoi, we decided to see if Sam might like the pool. We had walked to the market in the morning and we were all very hot and sweaty. So I put him in his little swim diaper and suit and we went to the Grand's pool.

Therese had warned us that he might not like the water, since he had probably never even had a bath. (The nannies washed him every morning but not in a tub.) But he had liked the bathtub so far, so we though we'd try. He loved it! Or at least he didn't express any disapproval.

The water wasn't exactly super warm so we didn't keep him in long, but he seemed intrigued by it and like when we moved him through the water like he was swimming.

He even smiled, so we're taking that to mean he might be the next Michael Phelps.

A little snuggle time with Mommy on the lounge chairs. The Grand also had some exercise machines, which we didn't feel compelled to use. But I did take advantage of the $10 massages (for 1 hour), which were awesome.

Next post will be about our trip to Hanoi. Let's just say we made it safely (thanks to Trang, the Vietnamese nanny who traveled with us) and apparently Blogger is working here, so I'll be able to post without sending everything to my mom.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Goodbye Saigon

Tonight we leave for Hanoi, where we go for our interview at the U.S. embassy for Sam's visa to immigrate to the United States. It is the last official/paperwork step, well at least the last step here in Vietnam. We are sad to leave Saigon, as this hotel room has been our first home with Samuel. And we have not gotten to see one percent of what we'd love to have seen (and eaten and bought). Still, we ventured out quite a bit (walked a good 3-4 miles yesterday to see the Jade Pagoda). On our last day we hope for one more trip to the market and maybe some shopping around the hotel.Ed didn't let me bring back a little water from the Saigon River for Sam's baptism. It was super brown and probably full of typhus, he said. Maybe we'll get some cleaner Vietnam water in Halong Bay. I thought it would be cool to have people bring water from all different places to pool together for Sam's baptism. (And I've had this River Jordan water in my freezer for almost a decade). So if you're planning to come to the baptism, start thinking of some water you can bring.Wish us luck with Sam's first plane trip. At least this one is only 2 hours. Given his growing ability to cry, I'm starting to worry about that 13-hour one from Tokyo to Chicago!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

Today is the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn festival, which (from what I understand) is mostly celebrated by children with paper laterns and mooncakes. Many adoptive parents groups back in the U.S. have Mid-Autumn Festival parties. There was one in our hotel restaurant but it was too late for Sam. When we got home from our evening walk, we did see the dragons and drummers outside our hotel. They were loud but Sam wasn't scared. He is not fazed by noise. Ed and I donated mooncakes to Go Vap orphange for all the children there. This photo is Magali donating them to the orphange director on our behalf.It's nice that we will always remember that we were in Vietnam getting Sam during this Vietnamese holiday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ain't Life Grand?

For our first week in Vietnam, we have been staying at the Grand Hotel, a historic hotel from the French colonial period. We are staying in the older wing, and the architecture is beautiful. Our room his very high ceilings, crown mouldings, parquet floors, crstyal chandeliers and a marble bathroom, complete with bath and shower. We chose this rather than staying at an apartment-style suite, in part to save on the cost, but we are very happy with our choice. We want to be in the same room with him at all times anyway, to keep on eye on him, so it works out fine. We have a small fridge and have had some "cheese and cracker" meals, but for the most part we go out for meals. Our hotel restaurant is good, but we've also had great Vietnamese food.The hotel is very centrally located, right on what seems to be the "Michigan Avenue" of HCMC, Dong Khoi, and we can walk to everything. Yesterday we walked to the Ben Thanh market, a huge indoor market where we got everything from underwear for Ed to alcoholic gifts. Sam was a big hit there, with tons of people asking about him, if he was Vietnamese, how old he is. People are so friendly to strangers. Everyone loves to practice their English.The staff at the Grand are, well, grand. The manager saw us in the lobby with the baby and gave us coupons for a free massage (I'd already had one. At $10 for an hour, it's a steal), a free dinner for two and free afternoon tea for two. The doormen all ask about the baby. A few days ago, a group of about 40 Australian girls on some sort of tour arrived at the hotel, but even they haven't been that bad, except for hogging the pool and giggling and screaming in the hallways.