Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Month Ago Today....

We met our Yi Man in the Civil Affairs Office in Kunming. He was not at all pleased. To say the least.

I actually had to look at the calendar to make sure my dates were right because I cannot believe we met him only one month ago. He's come so far so quickly.

*He gives love and affection very readily. As a matter of fact, some days he wants to be hugged all day long. Today he came to me and held up three fingers and then put his arms out for a hug. He hugged me three times and then ran off to play, totally satisfied. If his love tank can be filled with only three hugs as opposed to hours on the porch swing, this is major progress.

*He wants to "help" with everything. Like EVERYTHING. This is great and this is tiring. He carries in groceries, he loads and unloads the dishwasher, he sets the table, he vacuums, he cooks..... whatever I'm doing (or Lyle's doing), he wants in on the action. In a photo I have of him in the orphanage, when he was two years old, he appears to be helping in the baby room.

I get the impression that he earned his keep in the past. Having a child who knows how to work is a wonderful thing, but I hope he understands that he doesn't have to work......or at least he doesn't have to work all day long.

*The tantrums are still with us, but as his English is improving, the tantrums are subsiding. I feel like he understands us more often than not and he's spitting out English words faster than I can keep track. In China, I bought two seasons of "Dora". You thought she spoke Spanish, right? Not in China she doesn't. Our guide saw me at the checkout counter and said, "He doesn't need that. In three months you'll be e-mailing me and telling me he understands perfectly. You will see that I am right." I can already tell, she's right. And besides, Dora's English stinks.

*Food is mercifully not a big issue. It certainly was in China, but he's mellowed significantly since coming home. It's interesting that almost all of the newly adopted kids I saw in China were literally clinging to food and water. It's like they were thinking, "I don't know who these people are. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what anyone's saying. But I do know water, so I'll hold onto that."

*He's healthy as a horse. He had his first doctor appointment in Seattle and the doctor said to a resident who was observing, "I know I'm supposed to be showing you what a child raised in an orphanage looks like, but this is definitely not it!" He's in the 75th percentile in weight and just under the 50th percentile in height. His labs look great and there were no unwelcome surprises, which is a huge relief.

*He loves the dogs and they love him right back.

*The relationship with Cholita is evolving. Honestly, I'm more worried about her right now than him. We picked her up from school today and XiXi enthusiastically said, "How are you doing?" Nothing. He asked again, this time louder, "How are you doing?" And again, nothing. Finally, I asked Cholita to please respond. She made a face and said she didn't want to talk to him. She's really struggling with not being the baby anymore and it's sad to see. I know she'll come around and I do see moments that lead me to believe they'll be great friends. Yesterday they wanted to open a Gatoraide bottle that had just a little bit left in it. Cholita was trying without success to open the lid. XiXi pointed to himself and said in Mandarin, "Help?" Cholita relented and XiXi grunted and groaned trying to open that lid. Cholita cheered him on and he was so obviously determined to get it done. When his hands weren't doing the trick, he held it in his teeth and then Cholita tried turning it. Their dentist father would not have been pleased, but it was teamwork and I was thrilled. Eventually though, they said uncle and I opened it. There was so little left in the bottle and I told them they'd need to share. I first gave it to Cholita, having faith in her that she wouldn't gulp it all down in one swig. She didn't and she handed him the rest to finish. What he did next was so sweet. He took the lid, poured half of what was left into the lid for himself and then gave the rest to Cholita. She told him thank you and gave him a hug. I wished I'd videotaped it. I could play it back when their interactions are not so ideal.

It's late and bed is calling.

Next post....Bruder. Prom, track, a birthday, being awesome. So much to say.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


XiXi and Cholita were standing on the window sill in our hotel, looking down at the traffic. XiXi enthusiastically responded to each and every passing car--until he noticed the purple sunglasses Cholita was holding--a source of contention throughout the China trip. Looking at the video, I think Cholita wanted him to notice she had the sunglasses. That little stinker.

I'm so glad the Wooo-Ahhh noise was captured. He doesn't do it anymore. Sad.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


It's a unique language, that's for sure. Today at church XiXi said, "Wo yaow go see Lucy," a half Chinese/ half English sentence. He rarely chatters in Mandarin anymore, which is sad but expected. Most of his communication is made up of the few Mandarin words that we all know or a mix of Mandarin and English, or Charades, which he's great at. The other day one of the kids came to me and said, "XiXi told me that Cholita fell on her bike and got hurt?" I asked them how XiXi "told" them that. Well, he pantomimed riding a bike, then a crash, then crying. He threw in his sister's name and suddenly he had a story that made sense to the whole family. If you're ever picking teams for a game of Charades, pick XiXi. He rocks.

And I was there when Cholita fell and he ran to her saying in English, "Are you O.K.? Are you O.K?" He rarely adds single English words to his vocabulary; usually it's whole phrases and sentences. He opened the door yesterday morning, clicked his tongue at our big dog and said, "Out you go, Olaf!" Other phrases include:

*I need a' go potty.
*help please
*thank you Xie Xie, Ni. (with this one, he almost always says both the English and the Mandarin)
*Oh wow. Look a' dat! (usually the "dat" is a truck, which he also can say.)
*I love you.

He uses "Baba" less now and generally favors the word "Dad". Water is no longer "shway" and when he wants to eat he says he wants to eat, he doesn't "yaow chur". Still, even though I realize he is grasping the language at an amazing rate, I also know he's had to completely regress in his ability to communicate and it's so very frustrating for him. All research shows that the first language is lost much faster than the new language is gained. What he's left with is a frightening gap where he doesn't really have a language at all. Right now, he can muddle through both languages, but he won't be able to for long.

So, while we have it, we'll cherish the Lao Hu song:

And cheer on the emerging "I love you's":

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm Rocking My Baby and Babies Don't Keep

I once read an adoption book that said you need to calculate your newly adopted child's age not so much by their actual birthdate, but by how much time they've been home. By that estimation, I have a two week old, and two weeks olds need a whole lot of attention. He's had days that I would call easy and days that are tiring and taxing. On Wednesday he wanted me to hold him on the porch swing all day long. He wasn't interested in riding bikes with the kids. He didn't want to play in the sandbox. He didn't want to do anything but sit on Mom's lap with his legs and arms wrapped around her and his head on her chest. Two week olds need that sometimes. I tried to ignore the weeds that are crying out to be pulled and the sticky, messy kitchen floor that needs washing. In my head, I repeated the last lines of a poem I saw in my sister's nursery when I was a little girl:

So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

I've got to put the time in now because he needs it now. The problem with this age calculation though is that most two week olds are not nearly as big as XiXi. My legs fall asleep and my arms get tired. And our former baby-of-the-family, our Cholita, is not very happy to see her mom's lap so frequently occupied. Today, she wanted me to look through her drawing notebook and pick out my favorite picture. I picked one that she'd drawn a couple of months ago, of her and her little brother standing in the grass with flowers all around and a bright sun in the sky. Between the fluffy clouds she'd written, "I love XiXi". I told her that picture was my favorite. She frowned and said, "I drew that before I met him." No, she's not entirely pleased with this big sister gig, but don't believe her that it's all drudgery. I catch her enjoying herself many times a day.

Riding the ferry boat with XiXi,

or getting a friendly arm to lean on while roller skating.
O.K., on closer inspection, he is wearing her purple heels again.
Those dang heels.

But he does manage to get stuff done, despite the impractical footwear.

Anyhow, moving on, XiXi has had so many "firsts" this past week that must be documented.

*His first gift for Mom. He sprinted out of his church Primary class waving a pink paper heart that he'd colored, yelling in Mandarin, "Gay ni duh! Gay ni duh, Mama!" (It's for you!) He was so very proud. I put the heart in my coat pocket and he's checked for it everyday. When Cholita dared touch the pink heart, he told her in no uncertain terms that HE gave me the heart, not HER and that it's for MOM! As I said, this relationship will be a work in progress.

*His first prayer. I should have taped it. Would that be sacrilegious?

*His first pizza. He gave it a big thumbs down. "Boo how chur." He did entertain us though by picking it up with his chopsticks, something that takes skill I think.

*His first cookout.

*And along with the cookout came his first hot dog. He wasn't so sure about that either. It feels wrong to tell a child, "Please, just try the pizza." or "Put down that carrot and eat your hot dog."

Despite not being too keen on it, he does like a good photo opportunity. And now that I look more closely at the picture below, maybe it was just bratwurst that he found objectionable.
I'd say he ate a good half of that hot dog....
assuming hot dogs have a good half.

*He spent his first night out in the tent, along with Dad and all of the siblings and the mammoth dog. Mom and the old, tired dog sought out more comfortable accommodations inside.

Although XiXi looked pretty comfy with Rose.

As much as his smile gets me every time, this look also does me in.
I call it the smolder.
At his first check-up since coming home, he was giving the doctor the smile-smolder one two punch
and she said, "Gee, it's too bad he's such a homely child."

We gave one of Lucy's friends a ride home this week and he said in Mandarin,
"She's pretty."

His affinity for the ladies, paired with the smolder, troubles me slightly.

But not as much as this.

I think it's the feathers.

Hopefully more tomorrow on XiXi's first Easter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing Catch Up--Funny China

It's been several years since I've had a child home all day long and I'd forgotten how tiring that can be.  The laundry's piling up, the garden desperately needs weeding and I seriously doubt I'm going to be able to get to my book club selection for the month.  But I do have several posts in my head that will quickly be forgotten if they're not written.

*My oldest turned 17 right after we got home from China.  This is big and worthy of commemoration.  He's a wonderful young man and we're so proud of him and I'll write about him soon.

*China is amazing.    There's so much I didn't get a chance to say during our trip.

*Our little boy is a marvel.  There are "firsts" that I've got to share.

*China is funny.  I think I'll focus on that one today.

In the United States, we only have one aspiration for our kid's meals.  Happy. They're happy meals.  In China, they want a little more than just happiness for their children, hence the "Cute Smart Children Set", available for 48 RMB.   It's pretty heavy on the meat if you ask me and I can't imagine many American children would be satisfied with their dessert of ice cream and red bean in sweet water, but when they see the adult alternative above, stewed veal knucklebone in wine sauce, the red bean in sweet water sounds pretty good.

I heard a saying in China that, "We'll eat anything with wings but an airplane and anything with legs but a table."  I think I'd include anything that slithers, swims, buzzes or hops.   One night in a buffet line with XiXi, I saw the chicken feet up ahead and silently chanted, "Please don't pick that.  Please don't pick that."  Mercifully he only had eyes for lotus root.

I'm sure you're all familiar with the "claw" machines available at most supermarkets and arcades, where a child with a gambler's heart and quarters to burn will attempt to nab a toy.  Well, in China, they take it a step further.  The "claw" is actually a scooper and instead of nabbing a stuffed animal, you're nabbing a live fish.

Would anyone really want to win?  I suppose based on the quote above concerning food in China, your prize might be a tasty snack.

But don't think for a minute that this would be a one-stop meal.  You need to get your liquid refreshment elsewhere.  The fact that this is written in English tells me that they assume only foreigners would be dim enough to drink the fish water.

And only foreigners would think of dressing their children in only 2 layers of clothing on a mildly brisk March day.  The kids in China are so bundled they look like Ralphie from the Christmas Story.  If they fell, I doubt they could get up.  This little one next to XiXi reminded me of a hobbit.  If you lifted that brown blanket, you'd find a naked hiney.  The split pants were something that Cholita just could not get over.  If she'd only lived a few more months in China, she would have been a split-pants wearer herself, something that she just cannot accept on any level.

But I can see the utility of split pants and the freedom to go when and where you please, especially since using a bathroom in China might set you back a bit (no pun intended, really).  You can see on the sign above Lyle and XiXi that the toilet charge for these particular potties was free.  Not so with others.  At Green Lake Park, XiXi was doing a major potty dance while the bathroom attendant tried to explain to Lyle that it was not a free ride.  Leaving the bathroom, Lyle said it was the best 5 cents he'd ever spent.

More to say, but I must break up a scuffle over purple plastic dress-up heels.  Does my Yi Man really want to wear those?  Hopefully that's not a topic for another post.

I'm back.  XiXi's in the purple heels. Cholita's in the pink.  Don't even try to tell me that your family doesn't have issues.  Anyway, another funny moment in China came due to my laptop's demise in Guangzhou.  I was complaining to our guide one morning about the exorbitant price of internet usage in the business office when she said, "Oh, Eileen, I know what you should do.  There's a family in our group in an Executive Suite.  With the Executive Suite, you get to use Executive Lounge with free computer.  You go 30th floor and be fine."  She sat back and calmly drank her orange juice, satisfied that she'd solved my problem.  "But," I said, "Since that family actually uses the Executive Lounge, won't they realize I'm not the same person?"  She looked at me like I was crazy.  "They will have no idea.  All Americans look alike."  

And you know what?  She was right.  And just to soothe my conscience on the matter, I spoke with our Executive Suite travel mate and told her I was hanging on her Executive coat tails and using her computer privileges.  She didn't mind at all and said she was happy to help.  Then one day, someone from the Executive Lounge brought her a jacket that "she'd" left while using the computer.    I was thankful I'd had that little chat with her so she didn't say, "What?  This is not my jacket and I've never used the Executive Lounge  computer and you've obviously got an impostor on your hands who must be handled with all swiftness of Chinese law."  Thankfully she just took the jacket and apologized for leaving it in the first place.  Well, that would have all been fine and well except it wasn't my jacket either!  Oh, what a tangled web we weave!  The moral of this story is that honesty is the best policy.....................after free internet usage which is a policy that has its merits as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The more things change......

.........the more they remain the same.

The poor kid still can't score a boy's bike.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Checking In

XiXi's great.  Jet lag stinks.  Mercifully, XiXi seems to have no circadian rhythm and when it was nighttime in Washington, he could have cared less that it was daytime in China.  He slept like a  rock.

We absolutely love having XiXi home.  As we go about our normal everyday lives, I marvel to think that for 3 years, XiXi never went anywhere.  Literally, the only time he ever left the orphanage was when he had surgery at 8 months.  Even doctor appointments happened at the orphanage.   In the life of a typical non-institutionalized child, they're going places usually on a daily basis--the grocery store, the dentist, the mall, the bank, play dates, church, parks.  Even a trip down to the mailbox is something.  XiXi didn't experience any of those things for over 3 years.  It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that.  When he moved to the foster village 6-8 months ago, I'm sure he was initially in stimulation overload; but I'm also sure that he embraced that new life with all of the zest and passion that he so clearly possesses.    Still, the things he experienced in a village in the Chinese countryside are very different from the things he's experiencing here in the United States.  As we drive around town, I steal glances at him in the rear view mirror and his eyes seriously never leave the window.  He's drinking it all in.

I was at a stoplight when I took this picture, really.
He's also easily overwhelmed.  As much as I'd love for him to flash his amazing smile to all of our friends and relations, I realize that his reticence is healthy in his process of assimilation.  It would be much more worrisome if he indiscriminately went to anyone.  He knows that he's with us and he's cautious with everyone else.  Cholita was the same way the first couple of months home.   Her eyes would glaze over, her mouth fall open, and sometimes she'd even drool.  She completely checked out.  XiXi gets teary and clingy.

To know how far he's come in his attachment to us, I have to only think about that Gotcha' moment.  To him, I'm sure it had all the earmarks of an alien abduction.  When Auntie let him leave the room and have that time to himself, she knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't race down the stairs and into the street and she also knew he needed that moment.  When he walked back into the room, back to the aliens, it was his decision and he did it on his own power.  I pray we'll always live up to that amazing faith that he showed in us.

With Rose, his favorite person to act silly with.
I wasn't sure how long it would take me before I could revisit that Gotcha' moment.  Last night, we went to our travel companion's blog.  I clicked on their Gotcha' moment, not even thinking that of course, I'd hear poor XiXi in the background.  Hopefully the Digsbys can add a nice loud soundtrack to their video someday to drown out the chaos going on a few feet away.     You can "hear" it here:  It's the first video clip.    At some point, I'll have someone translate what he was saying.   Part of me wants to know and part of me doesn't.

And speaking of speaking, we had a friend visit yesterday to talk to our XiXi.  Judy helped me with Mandarin before both of our adoptions and was so kind to come for a XiXi playdate.  After his snubbing of the strangers in the Beijing airport, I wasn't sure if he'd talk to her, but I'm so glad that he did.  I certainly get a strong taste of his personality through his actions and expressions, but to understand what he's saying is such a gift.   At one point, he was carrying a doll and Judy asked him if he was the daddy. He told her no, that he was the doctor.  XiXi, MD.  I can totally see it.   I absolutely must get him on video speaking Mandarin.  He won't be able to do this for long.  Not long at all.  A study done with internationally adopted children in XiXi's age range of 3-4 years said:

One of the most shocking discoveries in the field of international adoption is the swiftness with which children lose their native language and the profound nature of that loss.  In a situation of full English immersion, it takes these children (3-4 year-olds) seven to twelve weeks to reduce their expressive language to a practically non-functional state.  Their receptive language may stay four to six weeks longer, but it is barely functional even in familiar situations with the support of gestures, voice tone, and other non-linguistic means of communication.

I must get him on video and do it soon.  The challenge is that he loves cameras.  When a camera comes out, he can think of nothing else.  The only video capabilities we have right now are with our plain old digital cameras. If anyone has any ideas on hidden surveillance, I'm all ears.

He won't always choose chopsticks over fork.

As he's losing his Mandarin, he's gaining English fast.  This is a sampling of the things he can say with meaning:

*thank you
*Ewww, yucky!
*bye bye
*Look at that!
*Let's go!
*one, two, three
and many, many more.  And the things he can understand far surpass that.  I just asked him if he wanted to go play the piano and he nodded, left the room, and is now plunking away.

The skill he most needs to work on right now is sharing.  Feel free to ask Cholita about it.  She has a lot to say on that matter.  I think that in the orphanage and maybe in the foster village as well, it was survival of the fittest and I'm pretty sure that XiXi was the fittest.  Even with the sharing though, it's coming along and he's doing better.  His tantrums are decreasing and life is just so much easier at home as opposed to a hotel room.  I know it will only get better.  He has dished out nothing that makes me terribly worried.

His "firsts" are still so fun to watch.  In his 4 days at home, he's seen and experienced:
*picking up siblings at the school bus stop
*Home Depot
*a construction site (very appreciated by XiXi)
*petting the horses next door
*big dogs running to greet him
*pulling weeds
*helping Dad make dinner
*bath time with Xiao Jie Jie

*Sitting in the seat of our neighbor's tractor
*vacuuming (he thinks it's great fun)

You'll have to trust me on that.  He just thinks Mom taking pictures is getting old.

*Nerf guns
*Family Home Evening

I will never forget XiXi's first hymn.  He stood on my lap and so closely watched the chorister.  Then he looked at the organ.  Then he looked at the people holding hymn books.  Then he grabbed himself a hymn book, opened it, looked at the gibberish on the page, and my boy tried to sing!  Forevermore, when I hear "Joseph Smith's First Prayer", I'll think of our sweet XiXi.  When we pulled into our driveway after church, he said in Mandarin, "We're home!"  Music to my ears.

Life with 5 children is busy.  This post has taken me all day to write.

Signing off.

But not without sharing one more photo.  In China, XiXi decided he'd mix things up a bit in the clothing department.

Friday, April 8, 2011


We are so thrilled to be back in our comfortable, familiar home.  It's not exactly familiar or comfortable yet for XiXi, but he does at least find it interesting.  When he hasn't been running away from the dogs, he's been exploring.

Before I go on, I need to send a sincere thank you to my dear friend, Jen, who posted to our blog for me everyday while we were in China.  I actually wasn't able to see our blog (Blogger is blocked in China), so it was so fun today to look back over all that we've experienced in the past two weeks.  It's unfortunate that my laptop wasn't working during the last half of our trip because I had some great photos to share but the computer at the business center was taking too long to upload.

So, I'll start with yesterday.  Again, it was a day of highs and lows.  XiXi had a long period of sadness and I finally took him downstairs to our guide's hotel room.  I wanted her to ask him if he was feeling sick.  She knelt down and asked him a series of questions, all of which he responded to with head shakes.  No, he wasn't sick, he wasn't tired, he wasn't even hungry.  Then she asked him a question that made him pause for a long time and his eyes overflowed with tears.  I asked her what it was that she'd asked him.  She told me that she'd asked him if he was missing home.  Then, my eyes filled with tears.  Our guide scolded me that I should not cry in front of him because he has a tender heart and will worry.  Then she told XiXi that my tummy was hurting and that's why I looked like I was going to cry.  As much as I'd like to believe that adoption is all rainbows and butterflies, I know that it's not.  He felt love in the orphanage and he certainly felt love in the foster village.  Those places were home to him, temporary homes, but homes still the same.   I can't expect him to not miss all that he's leaving behind.

We said goodbye to "Ayi" Rebecca at the airport.  She's been doing adoptions for something like 14 years and she's like the Baby Whisperer.  It was so wonderful having her with us: translating, soothing, and filling in the communication gaps.  XiXi loved her.  I wanted to bring her with us, even if it was only for the 18 hours of travel that lay ahead of us.

On our flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, our seats were all in different rows.  I just put XiXi next to me, hoping that maybe it wasn't a full flight and that we'd be fine.  An older man walked down the aisle, saw XiXi in his seat, and had some words with the flight attendant.  She told me that the man would not go to another seat and that he wanted XiXi to move.  I explained that I had to sit with him and she said, "You will be close enough; it will be fine."  I told her that three rows back was not acceptable, that he was newly adopted and that he was very attached to me and would scream the entire flight  if I didn't sit next to him.   The man just crossed his arms and jutted out his chin and exchanged some heated words with the stewardess once again, evidently saying that he would not give up his seat.  Looking back on it, what I should have done was said, "Fine.  Take your precious seat and I'll put my three year-old son next to you.  Enjoy your flight."  We'd had a 4:30 AM wake-up call and I was not about to be trifled with.   Finally, two men who were seated on Rose's row (and she was feeling teary too, not necessarily wanting to be squished between these two strangers), said that they'd move to wherever they needed to so that the three of us could sit together.  I gave them both very sincere "Xie Xie Ni's" and may have given a not-so-nice glance to the man who shoved past us to get to his seat.

XiXi did great on that flight, fantastic during the 5 hours at the Beijing airport, and amazingly well on the 10+ hour flight home.   He complained of a sore tummy a couple of times and pointed to his ears, saying that they hurt.  We're doing a much better job lately of communicating without words.  It was interesting in the Beijing airport, because several people were interested in why were with this Chinese boy and wanted to talk to him.  He generally acknowledged them with nods or shakes of the head, but he wouldn't really respond to their questions.  One woman even asked me if he knew how to talk.  I've already seen a steady decrease in his language just since we met him.   Well, that's not entirely true.  He goes back and forth.  The other day I was with him at the koi pond outside of our hotel and asked him in Mandarin if he could say the word "fish".  He said back in Mandarin, "No, I don't want to say "fish".  I want to say "yu"."  But overall, I hear him speaking less and less in Mandarin both to us (probably because he knows that we can understand so little) and to other people around him.  It's sad, but expected.  He's said full sentences in English (mostly just mimicking), but some with meaning.   He told Rose yesterday, "You're too funny," and I had to literally ask who said that.  It sounded so perfect, without even a hint of an accent, that I didn't think it could possibly be XiXi.  Rose had just said that to him, so he was copying her, but he's said it several more times and in the right context.  Also on the plane he repeated many times, "Going to see Baba!  Going to see Baba!"  Again, he'd heard us say it, but he seemed to know what it meant.

We got to the U.S. and then went through immigration.  "Welcome to the United States," the man said to XiXi.  "Nihao!" said XiXi.  Then the man said goodbye to him in Mandarin and XiXi said goodbye back to him in English.  I haven't really done any formal "teaching" with him, but I can tell he'll learn very, very quickly.

Lyle was very busy while we've been gone.  He wanted to surprise us with some finished projects and has admitted that he hasn't slept much.  I'll post photos tomorrow.  For now, I'm off to sleep, hopefully for the whole night.  We're praying for the same for our other travelers, especially XiXi.  He's a wonderful boy, a boy who is certainly going through a very trying time, but his resilient spirit shines through.  We're so thankful to have him in our family.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

XiXi has had a great afternoon and evening. We went on the Pearl River Dinner Cruise and he was so very excited to get on the boat. His father will be proud to know that this little boy prefers vegetables to all else. With the exception of the duck feast in Kunming, he's had hardly any meat at all since we've known him. Not surprisingly, he likes rice and he likes noodles, but he loves vegetables and fruits. He can eat his weight in bok choy. It's interesting to go through a buffet line with him. Tonight he pointed to something that was covered with holes like swiss cheese, but almost looked like a slice of lunch meat. Whatever it was, he seemed very familiar with it and wanted it on his plate. Our guide said it was a lotus root and he happily scarfed it down.

He loved going out on the deck of the boat and when he went outside, he motioned that he wanted a jacket on. We're all getting very good at charades. We got lots of "wooo-ahhhh's" from him as he marveled at the lights of Guangzhou. He was completely captivated whenever we went under a bridge. It's so fun to see him experience these new things. Tomorrow we go to the zoo and I know he'll love it.

He's called a few of the older girls in our group "Jie Jie" and I kind of worried that he was confused about who his sisters were. Thankfully our guide explained to me that in China, older kids and young adults are always just generically called "Jie Jie" or "Gu Gu". She then asked XiXi if she was a Jie Jie and he shook his head and told her that she's not a Jie Jie, but an Ayi (aunt). She laughed and said she should be offended that she no longer looks young enough to be a big sister; she's graduated to auntie.

We took our oath today at our consulate appointment. I say "we" because when the adults were asked to raise their right arms to take the oath for their children, XiXi raised his arm too. I got a little lump in my throat, knowing that this was our final task in the long process to bring him home. He was so well behaved while we were there and just quietly sat on my lap as we waited for his name to be called. We were told that roughly 73% of the China adoptions done so far in 2011 have been special needs. The wait for a "healthy" child has become ridiculously long and projected to get longer, so I expect that the percentage of special needs adoptions will just get bigger. I think that's absolutely for the best. When we asked at XiXi's orphanage if Chinese people ever adopt, we were told that they do, but it's always healthy infants. There just isn't the strong need for healthy child infant adoption that there was in the past. There's still absolutely a need for special needs and older child adoptions.

XiXi had a great time playing with Rose this afternoon and he entertained us with his Chinese soldier impression. He saluted and then did the funniest straight-legged march. He tried to keep an appropriately serious face as he marched past us, but he just couldn't handle that. He cracks himself up frequently. I can envision future parent-teacher conferences....."We love XiXi, but he is the class clown."

So, all of those things were the "best" of our day. The "worst" came this morning after our consulate appointment in the the form of the biggest tantrum we've seen yet. I'd carried him for a very long time, his preferred mode of transport. Once we got to our hotel lobby, I set him down to walk and he was not pleased. I need to learn how to say, "Mommy's arms need a break," but today I was just using charades to show that he was too heavy and mom's arms were tired. He laid down on the lobby floor and just lost it. Tantrums are especially fun when there's a crowd, especially a crowd of people who don't speak your language and you feel sure they're probably saying, "Look at the horrible American mother." Anyway, I got him up and moving, albeit slowly and beligerantly to the elevator. Back in our room, he screamed and kicked and hit and at one point picked up a chair and threw it an impressive distance. I tried to remain calm, but firm. Slowly, the tantrum subsided and he let me wipe away his tears and give him hugs. I told him that I understood and that I was so sorry that he was sad. He seemed tired, so I laid him down on the couch for a nap and then I went into the bedroom so I could have a mini melt-down as well. I called Lyle on the phone because I really needed a familiar voice. As I was talking to him, XiXi quietly came into the room, carrying a handful of tissues. I absolutely did not want him to see me crying, but he pulled himself up on my lap, wiped my tears with one hand and rubbed my back with the other. "May yo guan xi, MaMa" he said. "It's O.K." He has such a tender heart. I know that he's frustrated and that he's grieving all that's changed in his life--which is basically everything. I'm sure that I'd want to throw some furniture too.

Our guide asked him afterward if he was feeling mad and he said no. She asked him if he was feeling sad and he said no. He told her that he got upset because he wanted something else to eat. She gave him a banana and he was happy as a clam. She told him that I can understand him when he says he wants to "chur" and that he needs to tell me. Later in the day, he whispered in my ear, "Mama, wo sheong chur dong xi." (I want to eat something.) We went and got him a yogurt and he was one happy child.

He was so sweet tonight when we were putting him to bed. When we all knelt down for prayers, he kept reminding me of people I needed to mention. "Da Jie Jie, Rose, Xiao Jie Jie, GuGu, Baba...." and the girls had a hard time keeping a reverant attitude as his cute little voice would yell out another person's name. We said Amen and then he realized that he forgot someone. "Mama!" he said and we had to do a quick mini-prayer to ask for a blessing for Mama.

We so love this boy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


And that's just me and the girls. I can only imagine what poor XiXi is feeling right now. Still, even with all that will be new for him once we get home, I think in many ways it will be easier. Living out of a hotel room is difficult for anyone, especially a 3 year-old boy.

He had a great day yesterday and a very rough day today. His tummy has been hurting and he's complained of "dudzuh", which I was quick to learn was diarrhea. The poor boy has been eating unfamiliar foods and add that to the stress that I know he's feeling and I'm sure his tummy has been upset. Even with the upset tummy, he's given us lots of great smiles and laughs and hugs. But he's also had several tantrums and long periods of grouchiness. All of that seems very normal under the circumstances, so I'm not terrbily worried; I'm just really tired.

XiXi seems to have really connected to me now, whereas before his number one choice was Da Jie Jie. That's great, but he frequently wants me to carry him and 40 pounds is quite a load. I carried him all over the hotel gardens today, but for longer trips, I just can't do it and he's got to ride in the stroller. He's also seeking my approval more and more, which I consider a big step in the right direction. For example, in the tub the other night, he poured a whole bottle of bath salts into the water and I told him that was too much. Tonight, each time he wanted to add some salts to the tub, he'd say, "Ma!" and then put his cute chubby fingers close together and say in English, "little?" I'd tell him yes and thank him for asking and then he'd put in just the tiniest amount. He also points and asks "Ma?" when he wants more food. Food will be an issue, I can already see that. We need to make sure at each meal that he sees which food belongs to which person. Otherwise, he thinks it's all his and that's what's caused our biggest tantrums. We also need to keep a bottle of water with him at all times. The "shway" is like the security blanket that his photo books were on his first day. Thankfully that's easy enough to do. Cholita had issues with food when she first came home as well, so we've been there and done that and this too shall pass.

The majority of our other issues have been language-related. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be plopped into an enviroment where you don't understand the people around you. He's doing more and more actions now to show us what he means, and that's helped. We're also learning more of his Mandarin phrases and he's understanding more of our English. When we get home, I'm anxious to teach him more sign language because I think that will help a great deal. I taught him the sign for fish and he now asks to go see the koi downstairs by doing the fish sign. Along with the sign, he does a truly adorable fish face. He still likes to tell the egg story and it still makes us laugh.

Before we came to China, one of my biggest worries was that XiXi would be a hard child to connect with and that I'd struggle with bonding, which would in turn make bonding a struggle for him. With a nearly-four year-old child I knew there would be issues, but I also knew that if I felt bonded to him that we'd be able to deal with those issues. I'm so thankful to say that XiXi is a very easy child to love. And because we love him, I know that we can help him through the struggles that he'll have as he adjusts to his new life.

I'm just ready to get him home.

Monday, April 4, 2011

One Week with XiXi

Can you believe we've had XiXi in our family for one whole week? In some ways it seems longer, in some ways shorter. I already look at his Gotcha' Day pictures and see a different child. His passport picture, taken right after we met him, is so serious and sad-looking. That's not to say that he doesn't feel the sadness of all that has changed in his life in the past week (and two weeks since he left foster care), because I'm sure that he does, but he seems much more comfortable and confident with us. I can see that we're making great strides in becoming a family.

It's also a privilege to see other children in our group too, growing more comfortable in their new lives. We have some seriously cute babies that we get to spend our days with. Their adorable baby ways make me think back nearly 5 years ago to the adoption of our sweet Cholita. Oh, how we loved that baby. Back then, she was the youngest child in our travel group. This time, we have the second oldest. Although XiXi isn't what I'd consider an "older child" adoption, he's most definitely not a baby. Over the past few days, I've been thinking about what I consider to be the pros and cons of non-infant adoption.

Con: An older child needs to eat a whole lot more than congee.
Pro: An older child can order your meal in Mandarin. (Last night XiXi told our guide, "I don't think I want any meat tonight, just a little rice." Our guide told him, "I've seen you eat, and I don't believe you, XiXi." When the food came, he was true to his word and didn't eat a single bite of meat. Even when the plate of sliced pork was passed to him, he only used his chopstickes to grab the lettuce which was used as a garnish. Watching his weight perhaps?)

Con: There are no squeaky shoes in older child sizes.
Pro: There are no squeaky shoes in older child sizes.

Con: An older child might not willingly pose with all of the statues on Shamian Island.
Pro: An older child might tweak the noses of the statues on Shamian Island.

Con: An infant does not know that the popular TV show "Pleasant Goat" even exists and a parent might completely miss out on that cultural education.

Pro: An older child not only knows about "Pleasant Goat" but will sing you the theme song. Frequently. (Nevermind, that's not a positive)

Con: With an infant, their bathroom regiment is limited to diapers. With an older child, when you're out and about, you need to know the location of nearby squatty potties.

Pro: You don't need diapers and an older child can handle those things on their own.
Con: An older child might handle those things so well on their own that they might (hypothetically, of course) tell their mother that they need to use the bathroom right when their mother is in the middle of an ATM transaction and unable to respond to their "shaow shway" request and an older child might just take matters into their own hands and may possibly exit the bank and pull down their pants and "shaow shway" right into the metal sidewalk grate. It could happen.

Con: English language learning with an older child is a more deliberate process.
Pro: An older child can whisper in your ear about 20 times a day, "Wo ai ni, Mommy." And they might even point to themselves and say, "Good boy" in English. That might make you very happy.

Con: With an infant, thier mobility is limited; with an older child, be ready for a workout.
Pro: It's cheaper than a gym membership. And as an added bonus, with an older child, when your cheapy stroller's wheels get all skeewampus, they can reach down and get them straightened for you all by themselves.

Con: An infant probably wouldn't challenge the cheapy stroller's weight capacity in the first place and your wheels might be completely fine, making the stroller issue a wash.

Con: An infant could care less about their parent's personal care regiment.
Pro: An older child might insist on styling their mother's hair for them.
Con: A mother might look rather wind-blown for the rest of the day.

Con: A bigger child might mean bigger melt-downs.

                                            Pro: A bigger child might mean bigger hugs.
We're all learning and growing and we love our truly amazing XiXi.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bathing Beauty

Today XiXi picked out sandals at the store.  I get the impression that sandals have been his footwear of choice in the past!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Part Two

Making Memories
An unfortunate incident for XiXi this morning has turned into one of our very first shared stories. I consider it a first because it's the only one we've been able to retell to each other with mutual understanding. And isn't the retelling of the story the whole point? At breakfast this morning, I was helping XiXi to fill his plate. While I was loading him up with fruit, he grabbed himself an egg from a basket of eggs on the counter. He's had hard -boiled eggs before, so I was fine with his choice. As we were making our way back to our table, he must have squeezed the egg because it burst open and raw egg splattered all over him--on his shirt (his last clean one), shorts (ditto), down his legs, and into his socks. He was completely shocked, as was I. Who puts raw eggs on a counter at a breakfast buffet?

Several workers ran to assist him and we got him all cleaned up. Back in the room, he acted out the whole story for his sisters, jabbering in Mandarin and laughing hysterically. With actions and facial expressions, we've been able to tell him the story too, of course in English, as we all share a good laugh. I can't adequately explain how much that one silly story has meant to us. We're communicating!

I may come home with an accent
We've met up with several families who will now be part of our group for the remainder of our trip. This morning on the bus, Rebecca passed around a microphone and asked everyone to introduce themselves and their child and tell the others where they're from. We're the only ones without a Southern drawl. When I introduced us, I passed the microphone to XiXi and he gave everyone a hearty "NiHao!" He's such a loveable boy, a little rough around the edges certainly, but so very loveable.

There are 3 girls and 3 boys in our group, all special needs adoptions. All but one family already had children, more than one with 5 children. XiXi is the second oldest in the group after a five year-old girl. The others are toddlers and babies. The resiliancy of these kids never ceases to amaze me. They all seem to be bonding well to their families and are doing great.

On the bus, Rebecca told us about our plans for the day--Shamian Island and the medical exam. She said, "The children will get weighed.....XiXi, I saw you eat breakfast and you should be nervous." I can't imagine he had a clue what she said, but hearing his name, he laughed and everyone laughed with him. How could you not?

At the medical exam, we had the same doctor who examined Cholita nearly 5 years ago. The number of kids this man has seen must be staggering. XiXi was perfectly behaved and you could tell that he was used to doctors. They did the extremely cursory ear and eye exams--plunk a key on a toy piano, (Yes! He hears!), and wave a toy in front of him, (Yes! He sees!). The doctor also felt XiXi's face where he's had his surgery and said, "Very good." He talked with XiXi quite a bit and pointed to each of us and asked who we were. XiXi said I was his mom and that those were his sisters. Then the doctor asked him if he could take him home to his house and XiXi emphatically said no and told him that he would go with his mom. The doctor, who always seemed so serious, then had a little tickle session with XiXi. As we left, he patted me on the back and said, "Great boy!"

From the doctor's room we went for the weigh in, XiXi's moment of truth. He stepped proudly onto the scale and a nurse wrote down a number. Then our guide walked in and looked at the paper and said, "That can't be right." The nurses had a little conversation, pointing at XiXi and pointing at the number and saying, "san sway" (three years old). Then they put him back on the scale and had our guide come look and said something like, "See, we were right." Our 3 year-old is closing in on 40 pounds. I'm getting a serious work-out in China.

From there, it was off to the TB test. Lily sat with XiXi and told him that it was going to hurt, but that it would be quick. XiXi put his arm out like an old pro, sat still as can be, and then burst into sobs when it was done. Lily gave him a piece of candy and he walked around sniffling, with his injured arm held straight out for everyone to see.

While we were at the clinic, we saw two beautiful girls of about age 13, who were clearly identical twins. The strange thing was, one looked so American while the other looked Chinese. (It was like the observation an English-speaking Chinese man made a couple of days ago in Kunming. "He (pointing to XiXi) is Chinese, but she (pointing to Cholita), is not." Lucy said that no, Cholita was Chinese too. "Yes," he said, "but you can tell that she's a Chinese foreigner." ) Anways, with these two indentical girls, even wearing matching outfits, one looked American and the other Chinese. Lily spoke to the parents and later shared their story. They'd adopted one of the twins ten years ago at the age of 3. From very early on, she told her parents that she had a sister in China, but they just assumed that she meant an orphanage "sister". As the years went buy, she became more adamant that she had a twin and that she'd been left behind in China. The family, still telling her that she did not have a twin, happened to send some updated photos recently to the orphanage. The orphanage workers who saw the photos were shocked and unsure of what do, sent a message to the CCAA. "A family a sent pictures of their daughter and it's the exact image of a girl, the same age, in our orphanage." The CCAA then contacted the family and told them that they had reason to believe their daughter had a twin. The two had been abandonded at different ages and in different locations and so the orphanage workers never put the two together, but there was no doubt that they were twins. As soons as the family could, they flew to China to adopt the twin sister that their daughter always insisted she had. It was truly amazing to see those sweet sisters together.

Healthy Body Image
XiXi has no qualms about being naked. None at all. When he was done swimming today, he let us know by getting out of the pool and pulling off his trunks. He strutted over to us naked as a jaybird.

Our hotel has a huge window that goes from the bedroom staight into the shower. There's a remote controlled screedn that you can lower for privacy, but XiXi is quite fond of remotes. It's more than a little unnerving to have him pointing and laughing and I'm thankful sometimes that I don't have a translator.

XiXi has the cutest farmer's tan and I'd love to share some photos, if I can figure it out here on the business office computer.

He's a great kid
He really is. We've had frustrating moments and I have no doubt that we'll have many more in the future, but he just has such a spark to him. I hope that spark comes through in the photos. When I think of all that's changed in his life in the past 5 days, I can't believe how well he's done. Tonight at dinner, he was getting frustrated about something and started to melt down. I picked him up and took him out of the restaurant. He was not at all happy about that and immediately pulled himself together. When we went back in, I asked one of the waiters to tell him in Mandarin that if he screamed, I'd have to take him from the restaurant. He told him, and then XiXi started to cry. It was a different cry than I've ever heard from him--just a very sad, quiet cry and he said, "Dwo boo chee." (I'm sorry). I rubbed his sweet face and he hugged me for a long time. He really is trying so hard. We're also trying--trying to establish rules, but also trying to be understanding. Tonight as I was putting him to bed he said, "Wo ai ni, Mama." (I love you). We love him too. There's something so very special about XiXi.

Zai Jian, Kunming/ Ni Hao Guangzhou (part one)

We are ensconced in the lap of luxury. XiXi wasn't the only one letting a stunned "Woooo-Ahhhh" when we walked through the doors of the Garden Hotel last night. Opulent is the word that comes to mind. He is going to be seriously disappointed in his digs at home. When we arrived at the airport, I was so happy to see our guide Rebecca, from Cholita's adoption trip. It's always nice to see a familiar face, but when you arrive in a foreign city without your husband and toting a tired and overly-worked-up Yi man that you've only known for 4 days and who doesn't speak your language, I swear, I saw her face and heard the Hallelujah chorus.

Lyle, Bruder, and Cholita left yesterday morning for home and the rest of us started our day with the usual breakfast buffet and a trip to Green Lake Park. When we came back to the hotel the phone rang and XiXi ran to answer it, "Hway?" he said. I pulled it away from him and he looked seriously ticked. He was pretty sure the call was for him. It was our guide, "Eileen, we have very big problem," she said. Apparently in the chaos of Gotcha' Day, I hadn't noticed that a zero was left off my passport number and Lyle's as well. Actually, I think I did notice, but since it was the first number and they did that with both of our passports, I just thought that leaving off the zeros was what they were supposed to do. I thought wrong. "You cannot take baby out of China," Helen said. "This big problem. I go many offices. You pay lots of money." It wasn't what I wanted to hear on our travel day, but after many offices and lots of money, it was all resolved.

My computer isn't working so I'm in the business center, trying to type as fast as I can to save yuan. There's so much I want to say and pictures I want to share, but I'm running short on yuan, so I'll do my best. Ignore typos please.

Fei Ji La!
XiXi was so very excited about the airplane trip. He told many people, "Wo men yao zuo fei ji la!" (We're going on an airplane!) He plastered his body against the window at the airport and pushed more than one person jockeying for the best "fei ji la" viewing location. I think one of the funniest things I've ever witnessed was XiXi being frisked by security. You'd think the kid was an experienced international traveler the way he jumped up on the platform and spread eagled it for a thorough pat-down. He loved wearing his backpack and pulling his rolling bag through the airport. He really is so good. When it was time to get on our plane, I was happy to see that we weren't using an accordion walkway but climbing stairs directly onto the plane. He could hardly stand the excitement. He got on and promptly made himself comfortable in the first class section and wasn't too please to go to the very last row of the plane. Every time we passed an available seat, he tried to get comfy, but we'd have to move him. Once we go to our row, we made sure to give him a window seat. I use the word "seat" very loosely because he felt he had better viewing while standing. We gestured that he needed to sit down and put his seatbelt on and he told us something in Mandarin that we're sure meant, "Are you kidding? And miss the view? I don't think so." The steward then walked by and had a word with him and XiXi promptly sat down and put his seatbelt on. Maybe it was the uniform. Anyway, for all of the rest of my days, even when I'm old and senile, I'll remember XiXi's face at takeoff. He just lit up. He was so very excited. He really did a fantastic job on the plane. Afterward I asked him if he liked it and he gave an enthusiastic nod. I'm still not looking forward to the plane ride home. I don't think he has any clue whatsoever just how much Fei ji la he's going to have in the near future.

Poor XiXi. While I think he was somewhat amused by our language at the beginning, the language honeymoon has ended. With translation from guides, I've learned more of what he's saying to us and so often it's just normal, everyday requests or questions that I'd love to answer for him, but I can't and he gets frustrated. Who wouldn't? For example, he might drop his sticker on the ground as we're out for a walk and he might say in a very mannerly voice, "Mom, I dropped my sticker. Can I please go back and get it?" I don't know what he's saying, so I might just respond with a "Oh, really?" and we keep walking. He says louder, "Hey MOM! I want to go get that!" I still don't know what he's saying, but I can tell he's getting upset so maybe I'll offer him a drink. He'll violently shake his head no and try to pull me the other way. I might tell him that we're going to lunch and not back to the hotel. And then he'll throw a mini-fit and run to get his sticker. "Oh, is that what you wanted?" If I knew what he was saying I could have avoided the whole thing.

This morning at breakfast, Rebecca and Lily (our agency's China representative) had a long conversation with him. They said that he has a strong Yunnan dialect, but that they can understand him. Lily told him that when he wants more to drink, he can show me his empty cup and that when he wants more food he can pretend like he's eating. They've been through this a time or two and said he's doing fantastic. I know that's true, but it's tough to see him frustrated.

Hyper-vigilant Parenting
Do you know how it gets exhausting to watch other people's kids? I don't think it's because other people's kids are any weirder than my own, it's just that I'm accustomed to my own kid's brand of weirdness. I'm still figuring out XiXi's brand of weirdness and as I figure that out, I'm overly cautious and it's ticking him off. He really is VERY self-sufficient. I cut his omelet this morning and he nearly fell apart. I took that one and gave him mine and he expertly cut it. At the Stone Forest, I'd let Cholita wander away from us a bit because I knew she wouldn't go far, but I kept him on a short tether because I don't know yet if he's the kind of kid who will bolt. Last night at the airport, he was fascinated by the baggage carousel and really wanted to help get the bags off. I wasn't sure if he'd get hurt, so I didn't let him and he pouted. When he saw the stroller coming, I figured that was light enough that he'd be fine and he went a got it off the carousel, unfolded it, snapped it open, and looked as proud as a peacock. When he was playing with a baby in our group, I kind of hovered because I don't know for sure if he'll be gentle. He was perfectly gentle, but again, these are things I'm learning. And while I'm kind of testing him out, he's doing the same with us. We're mutually dipping our toes into uncharted waters. It's exciting, but also tiring.

So much more to say, but I've got to run to a meeting........