Archive for September, 2010

9/15 – How Goes It (For Other Adoptive Parents)

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Before I begin, I should let you know this will probably be a longish post.  I know that the blogs of others were incredibly helpful for me, so I’m sharing this primarily for the benefit of other adoptive parents.  (Although I’m sure friends and family members may also find this helpful.) 

Here’s how we’re doing and what we’ve learned about our new daughter. 

First, her files were pretty accurate.  She is a happy girl.  She is very bright.  Her language expression ability is strong.  She loves attention. 

LANGUAGE.  Her files said that she was learning pinyin (spelling Chinese phonetically).  We’ve discovered that she can also read many Chinese characters!  We’ll have to keep up with her Chinese studies so she can improve her reading.  Her Mandarin (speaking) is also very good.  She keeps Todd on his toes and corrects any mispronunciations with the tones.  He said, “Ah!  She won’t let me be lazy!  She wants me to pronounce every single tone correctly!”   Good work Jiao Jiao.  Keep it up.  :) 

The good news is that if a child does well in their first language they will most likely do well in a 2nd language.  I noticed today that she is picking up on words that we are not deliberately teaching.  Today she said to me, “Daddy shi baba”  (shi=is, baba=daddy).  Then she asked if mommy meant mama.  She’s also started saying “no” and “okay” in appropriate context. :)   She’s talked a lot about her English name, Jasmine, too.  She said, “Jasmine, mo li hua.”  (Mo li hua=jasmine flower.)  This probably doesn’t sound like much, but I just started speaking a significant amount of English to her on Sunday, only 3 days ago.  Until then daddy was speaking only Chinese, was translating for me, and I was communicating to her with the little bit of Chinese that I know.  She’s been repeating many more English words this morning, too.  (Btw, I cannot imagine doing this without Todd speaking Chinese!!!)

THE STAGES.  I’ve been studying and reading over the past year or so and here’s what I’ve gleaned from my reading.  The first stage of adoption seems to be trust and communication.  It usually takes a few months for any significant amount of trust to develop, especially in international adoption since there is a language barrier.  The child is in the dark on what’s going on and many times reverts to survival mode.  They try to be as pleasant and pleasing as possible for fear of being abandoned or abused, until they feel secure.  It’s commonly called the honeymoon phase.  I feel like that stage lasted about 24 hours for us.  She seems to know exactly who we are and trusts us to take care of her.  Her behaviors are not always “pleasant and pleasing” but that’s not a bad thing.  (Just to clarify, we haven’t had any major behavior issues.  Just normal kid stuff—whining, pouting, testing boundaries, etc.)

The second stage seems to be a stage of dependence and seemingly baby-like behavior.  No matter what age the child is when they come home, they will have a “baby/toddler phase” that seems to last from 6-12 months.  There is a lot of dependent behavior and discovery—many of the things babies and toddlers go through.  This is actually a good thing and is part of the attachment and bonding process, but is hard to watch from the outside.  It just seems weird to the general public to see an 8 or 10 or 12 year old “baby”!  :)  We think she is there.  She went from being extremely independent and doing everything herself to asking us help her get dressed, shower, brush teeth, put shoes on, etc.  She even wants us to carry her!  No thanks.  I’m all about bonding, but really don’t want to carry around a 50+ pound baby. J  It is a very, very good sign that she is asking for help!  Some children don’t get to this stage without intervention, so I’m very grateful for this. 

Of course, we’re only 9 days in and we may have a different view of this in hindsight.

Here are some other things we’ve noticed:

  • She also loves attention and will seek it out if we’re not freely giving it to her. 
  • She has probably seen way too much TV.  :)  It was probably a good babysitter in the orphanage.
  • She has no volume control.  Loud and off are the only settings. :)
  • She is very sweet and affectionate.  She loves to say I love you, give kisses on cheeks, and is quick to apologize if she accidentally hurts someone. 

When we  go out, it’s probably hard for people to tell that she hasn’t always been with us.  I think she is doing remarkably well at this point.  (Have I mentioned how HUGE it is that Todd speaks Chinese?!  I can’t imagine not being able to communicate with her!  She’d probably go crazy!)

Okay, enough rambling for now.  Can’t wait to get home and have her meet the boys and everyone else!  It will be so nice to get into a routine at home–sans TV. :)

9/14 – Guangzhou Zoo & Swimming

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Another great day today!  Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve had a bad day yet. :)  We took a bus with our group to the Guangzhou Zoo this morning.  It was hot and sticky, but luckily most of the pathways were shaded by large trees.  I think this is the first really hot day that we’ve experienced, mostly because we were out and about in the heat. 

Long purple tongues!

We assumed this would be Jiao Jiao’s first time seeing most of the animals (not on TV), but she said it wasn’t.  Not sure if we believe that or not since there aren’t many elephants and such running around Henan Province, much less Puyang city. :)  Her favorite was the giraffe, probably because we got to feed them.  She would hold out the leaves, but as soon as those long purple tongues got close to her outstretched hand she would pull back quickly, sometimes dropping the leaves before they could grab them.  :)

Feeding the giraffes.

After the zoo we had a quick bite at a local deli (really yummy with lots of tempting desserts!) and then came back to the hotel for swimming—another first for Jiao Jiao.  She could hardly wait!  (Especially since she lost the swimming privilege yesterday for not following directions.  She was incredibly disappointed about that.)  She had a blast.  She squealed and giggled and thought that was the greatest thing ever.  SOOO glad I brought floaties!  She might not have enjoyed it so much without them. :)

9/12 – Sunday in Guangzhou & Lucy’s

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

We decided before we came to China that we would try to go to church on Sunday if we could. Then, on our first shopping trip after meeting Jiao Jiao she saw a dress in the store that she really wanted. We bought it for her, and explained that she could wear it on Sunday when we went to church. She asked about the dress several times during the week, and each time Todd reassured her that she would get to wear it on Sunday.

After church on Sunday

After church on Sunday

Sunday morning, she was the first one dressed. :) We got an address and directions to the church to give the cab driver. It took 20-30 minutes in the pouring rain, and a bit of searching for the right building, but we found it! It felt so good to be there. I really needed that. After church we were able to talk to many of the local members—most of them Americans. I figured we would draw some attention since it is a small congregation where everyone knows everyone. I was right. :)

After church we also found out how much Jiao Jiao likes music. There was a piano there and she wanted me to play. So I played and sang and she tried so hard to sing along, even though she didn’t know the songs. We’ll definitely have to learn some songs that we can sing together as a family. I think she’ll really enjoy that.

For dinner we joined up with some of my online adoption friends at Lucy’s. Lucy’s is a little “American” restaurant that serves burgers, steaks, spaghetti, pizza, etc. Small aside here…have I mentioned that Jiao Jiao knows some English? Only the most essential things—hello, goodbye, the numbers 1-4, chocolate, and hamburger. For dinner she ordered a hamburger. Surprise! Wasn’t expecting that!  :)

9/11 – First Day in Guangzhou, Shots

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Today was our first full day in Guangzhou.  We’re on Shamian Island, a tiny little island that seems to cater almost exclusively to adoptive parents.  We started our day with breakfast in the hotel and a short walk to the clinic for Jiao Jiao’s medical exam.  Every adopted child has to get a medical exam, and most have to get a bunch of shots. :( 

Eye exam.

The clinic was absolute madness!  I can’t count the number of families who were there, and the number of lines for different examination rooms running in every direction and criss crossing each other.  Parents, guides, doctors trying to squeeze their way in and out and around.  Babies crying, kids whining (because we were all waiting way to long).  It was craziness.  We just sat back and smiled.  What else are you going to do. :)

Luckily Jiao Jiao had a lot of her immunizations already.  She only had to get 4 shots, plus a small poke for her TB test.  (Some of the little ones, ages 2 and 3, were getting 5 and 6 shots plus the TB test!!)  She was one brave girl. We told her yesterday that she would see the doctor today, but we waited until breakfast to tell her about the shots.  She didn’t seem too terribly worried, especially considering she remembered getting shots before.  She winced a little with each one, but never made a peep.  Didn’t even tear up!  The nurses and our guide kept telling her how brave she was and how good she did (in Mandarin) and they really meant it.  I don’t know that I would have done as well as she did! :)  When we finished she read the characters on the sign just outside.  Translated, they said, “I don’t cry when I get my shots.”  And she didn’t!  She gave a little pep talk to a 5 year old boy who is also with our group.  I didn’t get to stay and watch, but I hope he did alright getting his shots.

We tried to relax for the rest of the day.  Todd did some laundry, signed some more papers, and then we all went to dinner at a Thai restaurant near the hotel.  The food was good–definitely Western-friendly flavors. :)  We’ve had lots of authentic Chinese food on this trip (imagine that) and tonight’s dinner didn’t have any of those “authentic” tastes.  :)

New sunglasses--one of many items purchased!


After dinner we cleaned out a local shop. I don’t know how much we bought, but it was a lot! And I don’t know that we got that great a deal since they were giving us free gifts after we finalized our purchase. That’s probably not a good sign. :) I won’t go into too many details since we purchased souvenirs for people back home. :) We did buy some traditional Chinese dresses for the girls to wear for our red couch photo. Can’t believe we’re at the “red couch photo” stage of this trip! (For those who are not versed in Chinese adoption tradition, the “red couch” is exactly that. A red couch located at the White Swan Hotel here on Shamian Island. The White Swan is very popular with adoptive parents since it is very close to the consulate.)

9/10 – Bye Bye Zhengzhou!

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Ah…playing catchup on the blog again.  I’m always behind, but that’s the story of my life, isn’t it? :) 

We flew out of Zhengzhou yesterday evening.  It was Jiao Jiao’s first plane ride.  Her reaction was very similar to Kaylee Ann’s.  (Oh…Kaylee Ann’s first planef ride is in a post I haven’t gotten around to writing yet.  See “9/1″ if I ever get around to it.)  Anyway, Jiao Jiao was so excited to fly!!!  She is a “happy girl”–just like her file said.  She loves to laugh and has quite a contagious giggle.  When she really gets excited she practically squeals!  It’s hilarious–unless you’re on a crowded plane. :)  So she did start laughing during the take off, but luckily she kept the squealing to a minimum. :)

We arrived in Guangzhou around 8pm after our 2 1/2 hour plane ride.  It was almost 10pm by the time we checked into our room at The Victory.  Another very nice hotel.  One of the greatest things is the little spigot in the bathroom.  You’ll never guess what it is.  POTABLE WATER!  How awesome is that?!  We are upTOWN!  No more bringing the bottled water in the bathroom to brush teeth. :)  And what’s more…we can flush our toilet paper!  Ahh…little luxuries. :)

Guangzhou is our last stop.  (Well, sort of.  We will take the train to Hong Kong and stay one night to catch our flight home.  But I don’t think that counts.)  The U.S. consulate is here in Guangzhou so every U.S. family adopting from China comes through here.  This is where we apply for the U.S. visa.  Everywhere we go there are American families with Chinese children.  We fit right in!  As opposed to Zhengzhou where we dealt with finger pointing and paparazzi.  I seriously doubt we’ll be doing the celebrity gig here, posing for pictures and such. :)  Should be an enjoyable, albeit muggy week!

9/9 – Puyang orphanage visit!

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

We were able to visit Puyang city today!  It was a little expensive, and a bit of a drive for one day, but so worth it!!!  We left a little after 8am and drove through the countryside.  We’re not in New Mexico for sure. :)  It was farmland–field after field of corn and lotus, divided by rows of tall, willowy trees.  And of course, there was the overcast, misty, hazy look about everything that we’ve seen every day since we arrived.

We arrived in Puyang ( a “small” city just a tad bigger than L.A.) around 11:30am.  I don’t think the orphanage has many adoptive parents that have visited because it is about a 3 hour drive from the provincial capital (Zhengzhou).  We weren’t allowed to photograph inside the orphanage, except for a few specified places.  We saw Jiao Jiao’s room and met a few of her “brothers” and “sisters”.  Her room–smaller than her new bedroom–was shared by 6 children/babies.  We asked specifically to see one little boy who is being adopted by one of my online adoption friends.  I’m excited to share his pictures with his new family. :)

Toward the end of the visit they brought a few of the “healthy” children with minor special needs for us to see.  I believe they are hoping that we can advocate for these children to be adopted.  One was a beautiful 4 month old girl, born without an arm but otherwise healthy.  Another was a little boy about 2 years old, with repaired cleft lip and unrepaired palate.  One child that tugged at my heart was a little boy they were not advocating for, one of Jiao Jiao’s friends.  He’s 10 years old, “very intelligent”, born with arm deformities.  He seemed quite shy and never smiled at us, but had one of the sweetest faces I’ve ever seen.  He let us take a picture with him, despite his shyness.  I can’t help but wonder what his future will be.

We spoke to the orphanage director and other staff for quite a while.  We were able to ask them questions, and thank them personally for all they did for Jiao Jiao and the other children.  I am so glad we got that opportunity!  Almost forgot, we were able to bring a couple bags of goodies for the children–crackers, snacks, coloring books, and stickers.  (Couldn’t bring ourselves to bring sugary candy since we heard the little ones generally have lots of cavities. :( )

As we were leaving we asked the director (and other staff) if we could take them to lunch.  Well, it got turned around and they treated us!  We just can’t win here.  The Chinese people in general are incredibly hospitable and generous.  They wouldn’t even think of us treating them since we were the guests.  After lunch they came with us to visit the place where she was found.  We all tried, unsuccessfully, to contain our emotion when it was time to say goodbye.  It was very obvious that these people trulycare about the children, and Jiao Jiao in particular.  And they prepared her so well for our arrival–read our letters, showed our pictures, talked to her about her new family.  How do you give sufficient thanks to someone who has lovingly cared for your child for the last 4 years??

They gave us their email address and asked us to send updates and pictures.  I am so glad that they want to keep in contact.  I think this will be such a good thing for all of us.  I could write so much more but as usual, I’m falling asleep at the computer.  In summary, it was a very special, very memorable day.

P.S.  I do have pictures but they’re on my mom’s camera and we won’t be able to get them off until we return. :(

9/8 – Shaolin Temple

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Today was our 4th day in Zhengzhou, Henan.  We took a 2 hour bus ride to visit the Shaolin Temple, home of the famous Shaolin Warriors.  We toured the grounds and saw a Kung Fu show.  We all really enjoyed it!  We also discovered that Jiao Jiao may need to use the bathroom, even if she thinks she doesn’t.  Can’t count how many times we had to find a bathroom while we were touring today! :) 

9/7 – Adoption Day! (Happy B-day to me!!!)

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

IT’S A GIRL!!!  Today was the adoption day and it’s official.  We have another daughter–a sweet, beautiful, funny, silly, smiley, happy daughter!  We went back to the registration building (where we received her yesterday) to finalize the adoption and make it official.  Yesterday we signed a guardianship agreement, giving us 24 hours to decide if we really wanted to keep this child.  Of course we do!  But I have to tell you, she made the decision pretty easy. :) 

Slurping noodles in the hotel room

 

I have so much more to say, but I am SOOO tired!  It’s only 8:30pm, but I’m falling asleep as I type this.  Hopefully I can make up for it by posting pictures. :)  I just want everyone to know that things are going extremely well thus far.  Tomorrow is a free day–no adoption appointments–so we’ll be visiting the Shaolin Temple.  And Thursday we’re going to try to visit the orphanage!  Yea!!

(Oops…fell asleep in the chair last night while waiting for the picture to upload.)

9/6 – Gotcha Day!!!

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Ok, you know gotcha day is going well when you can blog about it just a few hours after receiving your child!  Right now the girls and sitting on the floor peacefully coloring in their coloring books while daddy is napping.  Very sweet. :)

Jiao Jiao is amazing!!!  She was extremely nervous when she first arrived–pacing around, standing up, sitting down, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t focus her attention on us.  But after about 10-15 minutes she was a different girl.  She was fun, smiley, loving, kind, and much more relaxed.  She calls us “mama” and “baba”, calls Kaylee Ann “jie  jie”, and grandma “wai po.”  When she needs something she calls for us.  When she’s happy she wants to share it with us.

With the orphanage workers

Of course, we’re only hours into this, but I think there are 3 reasons things are going so well.  First, answers to prayers from a loving Father.  Second, Todd speaks Chinese.  Not much of a communication issue here.  Third, the orphanage seems to have prepared her very, very well.  We are so grateful for that!  They brought a photo album with pictures from the orphanage, a toy, all of the cameras, letters, and pictures we’d sent.  Everything we could have hoped and more!  The orphanage workers were wonderful.   They told us all about her, said many times that Jiao Jiao was a very good girl, very obedient, very kind.  We told them we would like to visit, and they welcomed us to come.  We will hopefully be able to visit on Wednesday!  As they said goodbye, they were holding back tears.  They obviously care about Jiao Jiao very much.

While we were at the registration building daddy tried explaining where her brothers were, in America.  She was puzzled so daddy asked if she knew where we were now.  He explained that we were in China.  It didn’t make much sense to her since she had just been driving to “somewhere” for 3 hours.  :)  So after everone received their children we all loaded onto the bus.  Then she asked, “Will we be in America when we get off the bus?”  Uh..nope.  Not quite. :)

Sisters!

One other fun detail.  She also came with a little address book.  One of the first things she did when we got to the room was grab the address book.  She pointed to a phone number, picked up the phone and started dialing!  And then there was me, “Uh…baba…get over here!”  So he talked with her and she was trying to call her ayi.  The phone number wasn’t working so kind of said “oh well” to that.  Very cute!  She knew exactly what she was doing!  She even showed Todd the area code in the front of the address book that he needed to use!  We have a smart little cookie on our hands. :)

I am so grateful.  What an answer to prayer!  I can’t begin to count the number of times that I prayed for her health and happiness.  I prayed for the nannies and orphanage workers to prepare her and care for her.  I prayed for our family to be prepared to receive her.  I know we have also had family and friends praying for us too.  Thanks you all!  Prayers have definitely been answered.  I know there are some tough times ahead, but we’ve had such a picture-perfect beginning.  I couldn’t have asked for more! :)

9/6 – Gotcha Day! (Pre-gotcha)

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Last moments as a family of 6!

IT’S TIME! I think we’re all in a state of disbelief right now.  It’s so hard to believe that after 14 months of paperwork, and just over 9 months to the day of staring at a little girl’s picture, we will be meeting her!  It’s 9:00am and we’ll be heading to the lobby at 9:30 with the 8 other families receiving their children today.

Over the last few days it’s been progressively harder to maintain my composure!  If I think about her or hear her name mentioned, the tears are there.  I’ve been trying really hard to hold it all in (mostly because it happens when we’re out touring with 20 other people!).  I’m afraid the flood gates may open once I see her.  They ask the adoptive parents not to cry since the children may mistake the tears as sadness or disappointment.  Not sure how well that’s gonna work!  I’m forgoing the mascara just in case. :)

Todd is nervous.  He’s the one who will be communicating with her.  This morning he said, “What if I forget Chinese?”  Ha ha!  Then at breakfast he says, “What if she can’t understand my weird-sounding Chinese?”  He’s so funny.  He could hardly eat.  He’s that nervous about it.  I think he’ll do fine.  He may be nervous for 5 or 10 minutes, but then he’ll be fine.  I know it. :)

15 MINUTES!!!  I hope she’s ready!  I hope we’re ready!  It’s almost too overwhelming to think about.  “Our life is about to change…are you ready?”  says Todd as I’m typing this.  It’s hard to believe that she’s almost here.  She’s being brought from the orphanage which is about a 3 hour drive from here.  I bet she’s in the city–so close!  I can’t say anything else right now because I might not be able to keep myself together.  I’ll sign off for now.

I’ll try to post again tonight, although that plan hasn’t been working out too well.  I tend to crash around 8pm.  I’ll try to at least get some pictures posted of previous days.  Then I’ll come back and fill in as I have time.  Thanks for your patience everyone!