Sunday, July 24, 2011

Five Years Ago Today

In the city of Nanning, China,
this little girl entered our lives.

 She was so brave and trusting 
and decided immediately 
that we were for her and she was for us.

She loved each member of the family, but she adored her Dad.

And still does.

Believe it or not, we can still get her into her Gotcha' Day Outfit.  Five years ago
the "shorts" fit her as pants, and the tank top was tied in big knots at the shoulders.

I think the outfit could probably live to see at least one more Gotcha' Day Anniversary.

We had our two biggest kids with us in China and they were enthralled with their new sister.

In five years, they've grown up a bit too, but still adore their Jin Qiu Ju.

For five years, her smile has brightened our lives
and her sweet and feisty spirit has won our hearts completely.

Thank you, China for this most precious daughter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Language Lessons, Life Lessons, and One Unfortunate Pig

I knew, based on research, that XiXi would lose his ability to speak Mandarin.  I knew that on a logical, cognitive level, but on a deeper level, I had a hard time really believing it.  Or at least believing that it would happen as quickly as researchers said it would, 12 weeks.  Twelve weeks to completely lose the ability to speak your native tongue?  It seemed impossible.  Yet, here we are, just past the 12 week mark, and suddenly XiXi can't seem to speak Mandarin.   Or if he can, he refuses to do so.

We were at a Chinese restaurant about a week ago and the waitress was so excited to speak with him.  She chattered away and XiXi just stared at the ground.  She gave me a quizzical look like, didn't you say he was raised in China?  Then she tried some very basic questions, asked loudly and slowly.  "What is your name?" and "How old are you?"  He stared silently at the ground.  Finally I whispered in his ear, "San sway" (three years old).  He still said nothing, so I pushed the issue. "XiXi, say 'san sway'."  Finally, barely audibly, he mumbled "san sway" and then buried his head on my shoulder.  Just a few days ago we ran into "Ayi", our friend who's spoken with XiXi several times since he came home, and it was the same situation.  He wouldn't say a word in Mandarin, not so much as a Nihao.  When she changed the conversation to English, he responded.

Not surprisingly, with the end of Mandarin, his English has exploded.  He speaks in full sentences, using pronouns, different tenses, adjectives, and prepositions.  I find it truly miraculous.  As we were leaving the library yesterday, XiXi said, "I want to go home and lay on the couch with my library books."  That's one heck of a long sentence for someone who was only introduced to a language 3 months ago.  I've loved being able to communicate with him on a deeper level.  We joke together, tell stories, and just really converse.  We're also learning more and more about his life in China.  Reading a book about a farm, he pointed to the pig and pantomimed cutting its throat and said, "In China, cut pig on the head and then eat the pig.  Oh, yummy."  To get the full effect, you had to see the slaughter acted out by our 4 year-old.  I asked him who killed the pig and he said that China Baba killed the pig.  "XiXi no do it," he said.  "Baba say 'stand back.'" Thank you, China Baba for keeping our boy in an observer role in the slaughter!

XiXi saw a picture of himself in China a few days ago and his face became very serious and he said, "No like it in China."  For some reason that bothered me and I said,  "No, XiXi.  You liked China."  He emphatically shook his head.  "No," he said.  "No like it in China.  Like it here.  Want to stay here."

I think in his young mind, he has to separate the two lives.  I absolutely believe that he felt love in China; I just don't think he can mentally be in both places.  If he liked it there, he'd be missing it here, and he doesn't want that sadness.    He has cannonballed into this new life at the deep end and he's refusing to sink.  He's swimming for all he's worth and he's making incredible progress.  We feel privileged to be on the journey with him.  We adore this boy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Four Years Old Today! (Kind of)

XiXi has a fantastic birthdate--7/7/07.  As a mother of five, I very much appreciate this easy-to-remember date and should have thanked the orphanage staff for choosing it.  However, this July 7th, his biggest sister was away at camp and she begged to postpone the festivities until the 9th so that she could celebrate with him on his first birthday home.  Thankfully, he doesn't know the difference, so today was the day!

He requested a "tasty and pretty cake with strawberries".  Our garden has been full to bursting with strawberries, so the strawberry part was not a problem.  We also had the tasty portion of his request down, but the "pretty" part of cakes has always eluded me.  It's eluded me so much that I decided long ago that the 9X13 quickie option is my cake love match and haven't looked back.  I managed the strawberry border, and XiXi was in charge of candle placement and any extra decoration.

He chose this challenging spread-out candle arrangement and then opted for a 
 large strawberry grouping for balance.

He seemed pleased. 

His siblings took so much  time picking out his presents.   Rose found him figurines of all the animals he said he had in China--pigs, goats, and chickens.  Lucy and Bruder bought a large pack of various airplanes, which XiXi loves, Maya got him an "Elefun" game for them to play together, 
and from Mom and Dad, XiXi got a play ambulance.  
He said the person being rushed to the hospital had "a sore dudzuh".

When it came time for the song, he sweetly looked around the table at each person, 
smiling to beat the band. 

With the candles blown out, I'd say this boy is officially 4 years-old.  
Well, two days ago he was 4 years-old.
 But now he knows it!
Happy Birthday Mr. XiXi!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Despite the lack of blogging activity, we are alive and well.  Summer brings with it an amazing amount of laundry and we're barely keeping our heads above water (or above the laundry baskets, I guess).  But this little guy is deserving of an update and an update he shall have.

We met him in China three months ago.  It's a trite expression but truly, I can't remember what it was like before he came.  He's blended so seamlessly into our family and community.  There are many things I can attribute this to,  but one of the biggest is that he observes and then he tries so hard to do what's expected.  This summer we've joined out local YMCA and when I took him for his first class, an art class, I explained to the teacher that he's still learning English and that he might have a hard time following directions.   From the upstairs track, I could look down into the kids' area and spy on our little man.   He was always just a slight step behind everyone else, taking the time to first watch, but then he'd jump in and do exactly what he was supposed to do.   The teacher raved about him and said they'd be thrilled to have him back any time.

In the pool, he didn't have such an ideal experience.  He loves the pool and is well behaved, but apparently he was leaning on the partial wall that separates the kid pool from the adult pool, and a teenaged lifeguard thought XiXi was planning a move from the little pond to the big.  The  lifeguard yelled at him, "Do not cross that boundary!"  XiXi stared at him, not sure how to respond.  The lifeguard said, "Are you listening to me?"  and then added, "Where is your mother?"  If he'd used the word "Mom" or "Mama" or "Mommy", XiXi would have known exactly what he was saying, but as it was, he just quietly stared at him with tears welling up in his eyes.   I was annoyed at the lifeguard, who I felt was on a bit of a power trip, but it was a good reminder that I can't get complacent about XiXi's language.  Now that we're past our initial communication issues, it would be easy to let him stagnate.    At home, we know what he does and doesn't understand, but that's not the case with everyone else.

He's feeling sick today and I stayed home from church with him.  He was supposed to be the "reverence child" and was sad to miss that moment in the limelight.  As his fever worsened through the morning, I brought him some medicine.   I told him it would make him feel better and without hesitation he gulped it down.  Then he immediately threw his legs over the side of the bed and said excitedly, "Thank you, Mom!  Feel better!"  He hadn't even put both feet on the floor before he plopped back down with a dejected look and said, "Still sick."  I laughed and told him that he would feel better later.  He kept me appraised of his progress with updates about every ten minutes, "Still sick, Mom!" or "Oh, dudzuh" (stomach) and finally, "Little bit better!"   When he made it downstairs and began playing with his trains,  he gave me the sweetest look of happy amazement.  "Better, Mom!"  A teaspoon of children's Tylenol and suddenly I'm the miracle worker.

While he was lounging in bed, I showed him a book about animals.  On the pig page, he pointed and said, "Pig in China."  I asked him, "You had a pig in China?"  He nodded his head and said yes.  I told him that a pig says oink and he looked at me strangely, shook his head, and made the most realistic animal noise ever uttered in our household.  If I didn't know better, I would have thought I was in the swine barn at the county fair.  I don't doubt for a moment that his foster family did in fact own a pig.    XiXi can now understand "China" and "here" and that's been a great advance in our communication.   I asked him today if he wanted to go back to China for a visit and he immediately said no.  "Stay here," he said.  Then he quickly added, "With Mom and Dad and...." And then we went back and forth naming everyone in the family, including the dogs.  I thought we were finished when he put his finger in the air and yelled, "And Signing Time!"  No, they don't have the show Signing Time in China and apparently he'd miss it.  

Sometimes before an interaction, I'll dialogue with him to let him practice.  He went to a doctor last week and I told him that the doctor would say, "How are you doing XiXi?" and he practiced answering, "Good.  How are you?"  When the doctor came in, she said, "Hi, XiXi.  How old are you?"  Dang it.  "Good!  How are you?" he said with a proud smile.  He was so excited to deliver his answer that I don't think he'd even heard the question! He tries so hard.

As I type, he's laying on a window seat next to me,  wrapped in a blanket like a little sausage.   "Mom," he just said, "Feel sick.  Go in tub."   Although I certainly never want my kids to feel sick, there's something I do treasure about sick days--that all of the mundane stuff gets pushed aside and snuggle time and stories take top priority.  I think I need to treat more healthy days as sick days..... and surrender to the fact that I'll never be caught up on laundry.