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:   http://digsbyland.blogspot.com/2011/03/gotcha-day.html  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.


val said...

Loved this post...especially the pic if him looking out of the car. It sounds like he's settling in.

Wendy said...

Hi Eileen,

I've loved following your trip to XiXi. Do try to video or tape him speaking Mandarin... I so regret not getting Kira on video or tape -- she was a chatterbox in Mandarin and Hunan dialect.

I don't have good ideas about video, but if you have a mini voice recorder (about $20 at Target) you can leave it running in the room. I think they may even be voice activated. And you can download to your computer.


Tammy said...

So great to hear from you and to hear how things are going. We love following your journey. Now this is the kind of reality TV that I would want to watch. :) You guys are doing a great job with Xixi and we can't wait to personally welcome him to the family.

The Saunders Family (James 1:27) said...

I am so happy for you all! He is such a cutie, thanks for sharing your journey!

Paul and Jackie said...

I agree......Record him talking fast! It goes quick! Ava was just turning 4 when we got her. She was not nearly as verbal as XiXi sounds like anyway, but we don't have much of her speaking back then. She really made the choice to stop using it soon, as it really was probably frustrating to try to communicate that way. It was survival of the fittest with three other siblings at home, and if she wanted to keep up, she had to learn english fast!!!! :)
XiXi is precious! Love his smile. You all are so blessed!!!!!! Jackie

Kelly said...

I love the last photo. I cried during the screaming though. Poor kid. But lucky kid too! I cry at your blog every time now!

Julie said...

I just love his HUGE smile. It is amazing to think of all of these "firsts". I remember when we first got home with Summer...all the places we went..even sitting out on our front lawn on blankets...it was so hard to imagine her sitting in her crib all day long. can't wait to see that video tape! ;)

Kevin Skinner said...

Eileen and Lyle,

Both Katy and I have really enjoyed your blog on this wonderful experience. You are doing a wonderful thing. I love your story and awareness of his needs. You are blessing his life and the people's lives he will influence forever.

If you are ever in a pinch trying to understand what he is saying let me know.

Thanks again for sharing!

Carla said...

In that photo of him looking out the window, is he "flicking" his finger in front of his lips? Sort of flicking them? But sort of rubbing them? LOL Our Kunming daughter does this ALL the time. It's a form of soothing herself but I've never seen another child do it.

LOVE going back through these, and I can not wait to visit Kunming again someday and actually go to Green Lake park. Katie was so sick that we hardly went anywhere.

Katie is my little "Xi" surname girl. :)