Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last Full Day in Kunming

Did anyone happen to catch "The Amazing Race" last week?  If you did, you saw where we were today--the Stone Forest.  We completely enjoyed the 5 hour round trip, marveling at the tiny hillside villages and terraced fields.  With each of our adoption trips we've been able to get out of the city and see a totally different side of China. 

Today Lyle made major progress on the XiXi front and was able to hold his hand and even carry him.  My back is so very thankful.

XiXi marveled at everything.  I can't adequately describe his "wow" noise.  It's an adorably high-pitched "Woooo-aaahhh" sound that makes everyone around him smile.  

He's a good little walker and Lyle mentioned more than once today how excited he is to take this little man camping.

XiXi spoke more to our guide today than he has on any other day. She said that he speaks well and "knows very much". With us, XiXi has taken to saying something once in his normal voice and then repeating it in progressively louder voice. I know it's got to be so terribly frustrating for him. Yesterday at the minority village, XiXi saw some chickens and he squatted down, clicked his tongue at them, and put his hand out like he was going to feed them. He told our guide that he had chickens at his last home. I wish so much that I could really converse with him. I was almost tempted to have our guide ask him how he felt about his new family, but I thought that it would be an unfair question and not respectful of the foster family who clearly loved him so much. Besides, I wasn't sure I wanted to hear his answer.

I did ask Helen to find out his favorite foods. He said, "duck and tomatoes fried with egg." We went to a local restaurant outside of a Yi village and our guide ordered his favorites. His eyes lit up and he let out a "Wooo-aaahhh" when he saw the food.

Rose couldn't even look at it, which of course prompted to Cholita to continually turn the Lazy Susan so that the duck was always staring at Rose. It made her think of the duck who didn't want to be dinner on the movie Babe. "Christmas means carnage."

Frankly, XiXi eating duck means carnage. Holy chur, it was messy. When we left the restaurant, his place looked like some kind of gruesome crime scene--bones and gristle all over the place. The funny thing is, XiXi can't abide by so much as a crumb of bread on his chair and will stand up until someone wipes it off. Lyle was like, "Kiddo, have you taken a look in front of you? Cause it's ugly."

After lunch, we went to his finding location. The translation I had done in the U.S. said that it was "a body building place" in Biji Square. Then our guide said that it was "a health facility" in Biji Square. With the first, I pictured kind of a Chinese version of Gold's Gym and with the other, I pictured a doctor's office. When we got there, I realized neither one was exactly right, but I could see what they were getting at. It was the exercise portion of a large, busy square.

 Our guide said it was in a very nice part of town.  People of all ages were using the equipment and men sat at tables playing cards. Mothers doted on their children and grandmas sat together knitting and talking.  We spent a long time there, with the kids running and playing.  XiXi was so proud of himself when reached the top of this climbing structure.

It was the sunniest weather we've had during our whole trip and as much as I tried to attach a more somber feeling to the place, I just felt peace and happiness.  Peace that his birth mother wanted him found quickly and took him to a place where that would happen and happiness that we have been blessed with this remarkable little boy.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kunming Day 3--Our Yi Man

I'm by no means an expert on China, but it seems to me to be a kind of hobby here to look at a person and guess their ethnic heritage. With Cholita, we had some people who assigned a minority to her, but most said, "She is 'Han', original Chinese." Of course we'll never know, but I've always tended to agree with the Han theory because to me she looks so classically Chinese. Walking through the streets of Kunming, I see so much variety in appearance. In the United States, Americans feel like all Chinese people look alike, but having been to China, I know that's very far from the truth. The Yunnan province is known for its ethnic diversity and you can absolutely see that in the faces and builds of the people here in Kunming. We've spent lots of time in the beautiful Green Lake Park and love people-watching. There is a very wide range of skin tones, body builds, hair texture, and even hair color---who would have guessed that black could have so many different shades?

While there was some debate in China about Cholita's ethnic origins, there seems to be no debate about XiXi. I've heard more than one passerby point to him and say, "Yi". Our guide, Helen, said that he is clearly from the Yi group. She said that she knew this for three reasons: First, he was found in an area highly populated by the Yi people. Second, his skin is dark like the Yi, and third (and my personal favorite), she said, "All Yi men are known for their great physical strength. Always very very strong."

Since hearing this, when Lyle and I make observations of XiXi, we tend to end it with a deep-voiced, "I am a Yi man." For example, he was such a little tough guy on the rides this morning in Green Lake Park. Although I didn't get it on film, he sometimes did the "look, Ma, no hands" bit. While that might scare other children, certainly not XiXi, because, "I am a Yi Man."

We went today and toured a huge theme-park type place that highlighted the different minorities of the Yunnan Province. We learned that the "totem" of the Yi people is the tiger. What's funny is that XiXi has mentioned "lao hu's" more than once and likes to give us a hearty roar.

He was fascinated by this "Da lao hu" and pretended that he was being eaten when he walked inside. When he sees a picture of a lao hu, he sticks his finger on its mouth, pulls it away and says, "Owwww!" Also in the Yi village, there were swings that were so tall that you could get to seriously terrifying heights. Despite his Yi man bravado, he only wanted to go on it with Da Jie Jie.

After we left the minority villages, I looked back at our post from yesterday. The orphanage visit was emotionally draining and I didn't adequately give thanks for the great blessing it was to so palpably feel the love that the workers there had for our XiXi. When we adopted Cholita, although she was in over-all good health, she had some behaviors that clearly suggested neglect. When we toured her orphanage, it was clear that while she was there she'd had very little human contact. I haven't sensed for a moment that our XiXi has been neglected. On the contrary, walking through the orphanage with him, I felt like I was with a rock star. Nannies were literally hanging out of windows, waving and calling his name. They were blowing him kisses and despite his Yi Manliness, he blew kisses back. When he first got off of the bus yesterday, he literally ran into a teacher's arms (I mistakenly called her a nanny, but have since learned that the women in the flowered smocks were teachers, while the ones in the light pink smocks were "workers", or nannies). I can't adequately describe my mix of feelings at that moment of reunion between XiXi and a beloved teacher--relief that he wasn't scared or traumatized by being back at the orphanage, envy at hearing the long conversation they were having, guilt that we were taking him away from that, fear that he wouldn't want to leave with us, sadness for these dear women who so obviously adored him and would miss him, and a very healthy dose of joy, knowing that he'd been so loved. And of course, even Yi men need love.

For the past nearly nine months, I've read and re-read every detail these women had written about XiXi. It was all glowingly positive, but I tried to take it all with a grain of salt, knowing that the nannies will always emphasize and maybe exaggerate the positives and down-play or not even mention the negatives. Knowing XiXi for only 2 full days, I can honestly say that his paperwork was written by someone who knew him very well and that it accurately descibes him. They said:

"He is curious of the unseen thing."

They actually mentioned the word curious more than once. It is so very true. This is a blessing and can also be a challenge. He loves electronic devices--computers, remote controls, I-Pods, cameras, etc. He wants to touch and explore. At the Yunnan Embroidery and Antique Museum, I got a serious workout. The language barrier is a challenge and more than once I asked our guide to tell him, "Please don't touch." He tried very hard to obey, and would remember for a while, but then curiosity would get the better of him and once again he'd want to explore. When he turned a 200 year-old opium pipe into a rifle, I knew it was time to move on. Our travel companions, parents of the charming and beautiful Elita, said that their 4 year-old son at home would have been equally challenged, so I know that most boys of this age would not be impressed with embroidery and antiques. The funny thing is, after reading his referral paperwork, the song that kept coming to my head during our wait when I'd think of XiXi was that song from the Curious George movie, "Upside Down." It's a perfect theme song for our Yi man and one I will use when I create his adoption video.

"He is fond of the food he never eats."

Holy cow, does this boy love to chur. Anyone looking at him would assume he can put away the food and they'd be right. On Gotcha' Day, I noticed a bulge in each of his coat pockets. I unzipped the pockets and discovered two packets of pills with directions written on the bags in Mandarin. I had our guide tell us what it said and she told us that they were digestion pills to give him 3 times a day, "because sometimes he eats more than he should." We haven't been giving him the pills (our guide is not happy with us) because 1) I have no idea what's in them, 2) I doubt we could get that particular brand of ancient Chinese secret in the U.S. anyway, and 3) we'll just make sure that he doesn't eat more than he should. So far, we've been O.K. I do have to disagree with the nannies though about him being fond of the food he never eats. Lyle gave him some shredded cabbage the other day and after trying a bite, he promptly tilted his plate over the side of the table and scraped it onto the floor with his chopsticks. We felt rather shocked at this behavior and told him to not do that. He gave us a look of complete innoncence, shrugged, and said, "Boo how chur." Bad food. Simple as that. We have since learned that it's totally acceptable in the foster village, where they often eat outside, to dump your food on the floor. It doesn't really fly in the U.S. though. Thankfully, he's only done it once. Maybe it's just that cabbage is the only chur that he finds boo how. Entirely possible.

"He is active."

This phrase, repeated more than once in his paperwork, worried me. Of course, everyone wants children that are active, but I wondered exactly how active. Was he active like, get this kid into sports because he'll be great? Or was he active like, get this kid on ritalin now because that is the only way you'll survive? I'm thankful to say that he's just a normal, healthy little boy type of active. He certainly has his moments of being a little too active, but for the most part, he's extremely well-behaved. And under the present circumstances, I can't believe how well-behaved he really is. The other day, when he was a little too wound up, one of the kids told him to calm down and he started doing this zen-like meditation thing with deep breathing and funny arm movements. The kids all laughed and said that they taught him that. He is such a mimic and such a complete and total ham.

"He is smart."

Absolutely, without a doubt, true. I have to keep reminding myself that he's only 3 because not only does he physically look older than that, mentally he seems older too. It's strange even to me that I'd make that assesment when we can hardly communicate verbally, but you can just see that he does not miss a thing. I also know that I'm getting only a fraction of what he can do and what he knows. I've heard him count up to 15 in Mandarin and get the impression that he could keep going. He knows many songs and loves it when we all sing with him the "Two Tigers" song, a traditional Madarin children's song that we learned before we left. And of course, being a Yi man, with the tiger totem, how could he not like the lao hu song?

"He has consistent language."

He speaks so clearly and although he chatters at us in Mandarin, it's obvious that he knows we don't understand. What a sad thing for this little boy. If he really wants to say something, he knows he has to come to mom for his best hope of being understood. Sometimes I can get the gist of it, but oftentimes not. The few phrases that everyone knows, he uses often and says them with a big smile. I don't know if we're making more progress teaching him English or if he's making more progress teaching us Mandarin. I was reading him a baby board book the other day that had a single picture on each page, showing parts of the body. I'd say foot, he'd shake his head and say, "zu". That went on through the whole book with me saying the English word and him correcting me in Mandarin. At one point, he turned and looked at me and gave me this deeply concerned look that seemd to say, "Really, woman. This is like basic." The kids are learning some of his phrases too and will tell us bizarre English/Mandarin things like, "XiXi wants to chur." or "XiXi yows (wants) something." When the kids were wanting to buy some souveniers yesterday and Rose was holding up a little doll she wanted to buy, XiXi said to the woman at the stall, "Dwo shaow chen?" (How much is it?) XiXi is also learning some English. His first English phrase (I'm embarassed to say) was "Come on." We've been on the go, O.K.? He will learn English quickly, I have no doubt.

"He is lovely."

I can't imagine that any Yi man worth his salt would appreciate being called lovely, but as his Mama, I think it's true. Honestly, when I first saw him on Gotcha' Day, he was so much older-looking and so much bigger than I'd envisioned, that I had a hard time aligning the "real" XiXi with the pictures that I'd studied for months. It made me a little sad because I so dearly loved those pictures. Now, of course I still love those younger pictures, but I also love my big lug of a boy. He is lovely, don't you think?

"He cares everyone and everything around him."

This had to be my very favorite sentence in all of his paperwork and the one that I hoped most sincerely was true. I'm happy to say that despite the Yi man exterior, this boy has the heart of a teddy bear. That's not to say that we haven't had to remind him to be gentle, because we certainly have, but his usual demeanor is total love bug.
He initiated this little snuggle fest with Rose while watching a show at the Minority Village. It just melted my heart. He adores his two oldest sisters, much to their delight. He also loves Gu Gu and Xiao Jie Jie, but I think Gu Gu intimidates him a little and with Xiao Jie Jie, he's trying to establish his place. For her part, Cholita has been wonderfully patient with him. The other night at dinner, when XiXi was playing with his knife, I took it away from him. He seemed fine with that, but then looked over at Xiao Jie Jie and quickly took her knife away too and gave it to me. His message was clear: "If I can't have it, Xiao Jie Jie shouldn't have it either." There have been some squabbles, but they've been minor and short-lived. I expected worse, and that certainly may come in the future, but his go-to personality appears to be very loving.

I'll admit that I asked him to do this, but the fact that he did says something about our guy. He's Yi man tiger on the outside, kitten on the inside.

"He can cross buttons with glass fibers."
Still no clue.

It's very late/early here, so I'd better try for some sleep. I'm still not on China time. Tomorrow we make the long trip (2 1/2 hours) out to the famous Stone Forest and then we'll go to his finding location. I got a lump in my throat just typing that. The next day Lyle, Bruder, and Cholita will leave for home and I'll travel to Guangzhou with the rest of the crew. Our time in Kunming is quickly coming to an end. We've loved his city and will always be so thankful that they've allowed us to claim one of their precious strong Yi men as our own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kunming--Day 2 With Xi Xi

Did I mention yesterday that we loved this boy? Well, we love him that much more today. And guess what? He likes us too! He really likes us!
Before I say more, I need to give credit to our four older children. We are so very glad that we brought them. Even yesterday during XiXi's moments of intense distress, the kids remained calm and loving. Cholita rubbed his back and all of them repeated the words of comfort that we'd practiced at home. They play with him and act silly with him and somehow, without the English language, Cholita and XiXi created an imaginary ice cream delivery service. Cholita takes the order (mint chocolate chip, cotton candy, black licorice, etc.) and then she'll take the order to XiXi and the two of them have a dual language conversation that somehow seems to make sense to both of them and then they run around making deliveries. It's a total mystery to me.

XiXi calls Lucy "Da Jie Jie" (big big sister), Rose is "Chong Jie Jie" (middle big sister), and Cholita is "Xiao Jie Jie" (little big sister). He likes his dad and his big brother, he loves his mom, but he adores his sisters.

This photo was taken on Gotcha' Day before we left the hotel for Wal-Mart. It's absolutely incredible to me that just hours before he was in complete despair at the very idea of going anywhere with us. At Wal-Mart, we walked by the electronics department and he saw himself on a security camera and hammed it up.

Last night, he went to sleep very easily and during the night I heard him whimper a few times, but he never really woke up.  Twice in his sleep he said, "Jie Jie".  I don't know if he was dreaming about his Jie Jie Lianne or his new Jie Jie's.  Either way, I woke Lyle up and told him what he'd just said.  We had a middle of the night whispered conversation that included lots of, "Can you believe how amazing this little boy is?" and a very healthy dose of, "We are so blessed."  When he woke up in the morning, I suspected that we'd have tears, but instead he greeted us with a smile and "Mama! Baba!" and big hugs.  Then he went looking for his various sizes of Jie Jies and his Gu Gu and expected good morning hugs from them as well.  We let him pick his outfit for the day and he chose a funny shirt our neighbors had given us.  On the top it says, "What's for lunch?", very appropriate for Xi Xi.

On the way to breakfast he taught Xiao Jie Jie the ever-important peace sign. And at the breakfast table he taught us that chopsticks can be turned into a machine gun, complete with sound effects. He likes cars, trucks, balls, and weapons. Yep, he's a boy.

And there's not really any story to go with this photo, it just makes me incredibly happy.

After breakfast we went to Green Lake Park.  He danced along with the fan dancers, sang along with the singers, and just had a blast.  He stuck close to Jie Jies Chong and Da.  He's such a ladies man.

We found some little rides for Xi Xi and Xiao Jie Jie and I got a lump in my throat thinking that this was the first time he's been on a ride with a mom waving and shooting pictures and just doing the normal mom thing. Choosing an older child, we knew we'd missed many firsts, but it makes these other "firsts" so very special.

We came home for lunch, games, and a nap and then went to visit the orphanage. I was nervous and wondered if I should bring him at all. Would he be terrified, thinking we were bringing him back? Would he see Auntie and want to go back? I asked our guide to please explain to him that we were not staying, but just visiting to say good-bye and bring gifts. He nodded and we walked in. Immediately after stepping off the bus, we heard excited cries of "Xi Xi!!! Xi Xi!!!" and a nanny put her arms out and he ran to her. She asked him who we were and he proudly told her that we were his family.

She told him she loved him and that she'd miss him. Next we saw Auntie from Gotcha' Day. He gave her a very luke-warm welcome and she checked his clothing. Even though my other kids were dressed very lightly, I'd put 3 layers on his top because I wanted them to think I was a good mother. She shook her head that he didn't have enough clothes on and our guide scolded me that I need to dress him warmly.

He seems to have been a favorite there, with everyone calling his name and hugging him. We were allowed to ask questions, give gifts and see the rooms in the orphanage that they wanted to show us. The facility we saw was very clean, sterile is the word Lyle used, and modern-looking. In the baby room we oohed and ahhed over the most beautiful, precious babies. I saw the room where Xi Xi lived. It was nice, with a bookshelf, a couple of toys, a cabinet for clothes, and a cute little toddler bed. We weren't allowed to take any photos inside the orphanage, but got a few of the outside of the buildings. When it was time to go, he waved bye-byes to the nannies and Auntie told him to be a good boy and that she'd miss him.

He smiled at us, held our hands, and climbed the steps into the bus. Auntie stood outside waving until our bus turned onto the street. Xi Xi never looked back.

At the hotel, Lyle introduced him to "Smack the Stack".

I think he liked it.

We are in love with our boy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gotcha' Day

We are in love. Xi Xi is not so sure.

We walked into the Civil Affairs Office at 9 AM and were directed to sit down and start paperwork. I'd just pulled out my chair when a group of women walked in, one holding a baby. I recognized her as the daughter of our travel companions and quickly grabbed my camera to take a picture for them. Through my camera lens, I noticed a very scared, sad-looking little boy trying to back out of the room. He was older, much bigger than I'd envisioned, and so tan, but I knew it was Xi Xi. As further proof, he was clinging to the photo book we'd sent to the orphanage.

A woman, who I later learned was the assistant director of the orphanage, pushed him toward us and he erupted into hysterical sobs. The woman picked him up and handed him to me. He's extremely heavy and with the kicking and flailing, was nearly impossible to hold. He was screaming in Mandarin, "No! I don't want it!" and many other things that required no translation to understand that he was not pleased with the situation.

I'd been holding him all of three minutes when our guide asked me to come back to the table to do paperwork. There would be no 24 hour harmonious period like we'd had with Cholita, they wanted the final adoption papers done immediately. I handed Xi Xi to Lyle and the screaming and kicking continued as I signed my name saying we'd love and care for him forever. Based on the present state of things, I wasn't feeling especially confident. Every time I'd glance over at the chaos, our guide pointed to the paperwork and asked me to hurry.

Xi Xi was yelling something to "his auntie", as we learned that he called her, and then she told Lyle that he wanted to be put down. He sat on the couch next to Lyle and the kids opened his backpack and showed him that there was another copy of his photo book. I wasn't sure if he'd get the one I'd sent to China, so I'd made another just in case. He stopped crying and quickly grabbed the book, added it to the other book and held them close to his chest. He then hopped down from his seat and walked out the door, causing us to panic. His auntie motioned for us to stay where we were. From my seat at the table, I could see him in the hall outside, breathing deeply, slowly looking at each page in his photo book. I wanted to cry for him.

The auntie called him back in and after having that moment to collect himself, seemed much more content. He looked at the toys we'd included in his backpack, but it was all done only one-handed because he would not let go of his books. The ice breaker came in the form of a ball--such a boy. I'm not sure who threw it first, but he was all over it. His tear-stained face broke into a huge grin and he laughed.

When this boy smiles, I challenge anyone to not smile with him.

At this point, there was a break in the paperwork and I showed Lianne's letter to Auntie. She seemed so happy to see it and knelt down next to Xi Xi and put the picture into his available hand. He did a whole face smile and immediatley yelled, "Jie Jie!"

There was no doubt whatsoever that he remembered her and that she was a very special person in his young life. I will always love this girl who sent our boy such a precious gift on this most difficult day.

Now it was Lyle that needed to add his signature to the many papers and Xi Xi once again looked through his picture book, this time pointing and asking questions. I'd included the two pictures we have of him as an infant and he looked at them for a long time. Then very clearly he said, "Shur boo shur wo?" (Is that me?) My mandarin stinks, but I was so happy that I understood exactly what he was asking and could answer him "shur", yes, it is you. I told him he was a very cute baby and he nodded his head and smiled. He saw a picture of Bruder and pointed to him and said, "Gu Gu" (big brother).

The next big hit was Lucy's camera.

Xi Xi loved taking pictures of everyone and then would laugh as he shared their picture with them. Funny picture faces were very appreciated.

Even though it's not the clearest photo, this one completely cracks us up.

Xi Xi showed his result to Cholita and they both thought it was just hysterically funny, which it was.

While the officials did whatever else they needed to do, we all sat in a circle on the floor and threw the ball to each other. Each time we threw it, we'd say the person's name. After just a few rounds of this, he threw the ball to Rose and very clearly said her name. We all clapped and he seemd quite pleased with himself. The next time he got the ball, he said "MaMa" and threw it my way. He had my heart right then and there.

A couple of times Cholita over-threw the ball and I'm pretty sure he scolded her in Mandarin. Cholita is taller, but Xi Xi is much, much heavier. I wouldn't be surprised if he weighs more than Rose. Later in the day when I asked his auntie if he had any favorite toys, she said no, but that his favorite thing to do is eat. I believe it. The boy is a tank. While we waited for the officials to finish their part of the paperwork, we played Ring Around the Rosie, and he quickly learned to sing the "Ashes, Ashes" part. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes was also a big hit, with him attempting to sing along.

He looked very concerned as we left the office, but was happy to get a shoulder ride from Baba.

He sat quietly on the bus, calmly looking out the window at the commotion of the city. It's not just the U.S. that will give him culture shock. His orphanage was in the city, but he never really went anywhere. The foster village, where they said he'd been for the past six months, was a couple of hours away in the countryside, so this bustling city was all new to him. When the bus stopped and the auntie got out to run an errand, he cried, calling her name. When she got back on the bus, Xi Xi told her that he wanted to sit on her lap, but she told him in no uncertain terms that he could not. He tightened his grip on his photo books and laid his head on my shoulder, resigned that he was staying with us.

Our next stop was at another office for his passport photo. Only Lyle and I needed to get off the bus with him, so as we were leaving, Lucy waved and said, "Bye, Xi Xi" He waved back and said in English, "bye". In the office, he listened very attentively to the adults that spoke to him and responded in a quiet, clear voice. Someone at the office asked him if he liked his new dad and he shook his head and said no. Lyle wasn't at all offended. We were told that in his foster family he had several siblings and was very much loved by the parents. Auntie said that they took him back to the orphanage a week ago and that it was very sad and his foster mother cried when he left.

It was clear that he'd had his photo book for quite a while, which was an answer to prayer. At one point, his auntie jokingly asked if she could take one of his books and he hugged them closer and shook his head no. As we were going back to the bus, he tripped and fell and his precious books went flying. He frantically gathered them up and let Lyle give him hugs. Besides the clothes on his back (which we would later discover were many), the photo book was the only thing he was taking with him and he wasn't about to hand that over to anyone.

On the bus, he let me snuggle him and he promptly fell asleep. Mercifully, it was while he was asleep that Auntie got off the bus.

He didn't ask about her when he woke up. Back at the hotel, we discovered that he wasn't as chubby as we'd initially thought. He was wearing: a t-shirt, a long-sleeved collared shirt, a heavy sweater, a coat, jeans, pink polka dotted long johns and some funky undies. He kept repeating something that seemed to end in "shway" (water), so we gave him more and more water. We have now learned that that particular phrase means he has to go to the bathroom. Filling him with water every time he said he needed to use the toilet was not really a good move. Despite our mistakes, he hasn't had any accidents and has been fine with the western toilet.

There is so much more I want to say about our day, but I'm exhausted and the rest of the family is asleep, so I'll end with a few observances we've made in our first day together:

*Xi Xi is all boy and loves cars and trucks.
*He's a great mimic and has said several English words.
*He is a total and complete ham.
*He's got dance moves that you would not believe.
*He likes dogs (at least in theory, we'll see what he thinks when he meets Olaf)
*He's awesome with chopsticks, but a fork will do in a pinch.
*He has great dexterity.
*We think he's double-jointed.
*He's got a great throwing arm.
*He's obedient.
*He has a sweet, quiet voice, but speaks very clearly.
*He laughs with every part of his being.
*He's smart.
*And he's so very, very brave.

We love him and feel privileged to be his parents. Tomorrow we'll continue our adventure as a family of seven.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Day in Kunming

Without the help of a guide, today was an adventure. Lyle is currently out searching for a grocery store because the dinner we had was so spicy and so mysterious in nature that we ate very little. The menu was written only in Mandarin and no one at the restaurant spoke English. I think we're fairly bold eaters, but I do like to have some clue as to what I'm putting in my mouth. When we made our choices, I avoided pictures that showed anything with a head on it, but obviously my thinking was flawed because at least I know a chicken head from a snake head. What we got was definitely not chicken.

Cholita was struggling to keep her eyes open and then began crying because her tongue was on fire. Bruder sweat profusely as he plowed through what we believe was a potato/mixed meat dish. Perhaps we were feeling overly confident after a fantastic lunch. This beef stir fry knocked our socks off and there wasn't a scrap of food left on the table:

Earlier in the day we walked through Green Lake Park, right across from our hotel. The social groups in China, especially for the elderly, are impressive. They are out daily doing tai chi, playing chess, dancing, and I saw one woman who looked to be about 70 attempting a pull up on a tree branch. These dancers were from one of the many minorities that make their home in the Yunnan province:

Under a glorious blooming wisteria arbor, this man played a traditional Chinese instrument while his friend sang into a microphone. I believe it may be an acquired taste.

Bruder tried his hand at a Chinese instrument as well. It's nice that he has a talent at guitar.

And I don't think we could possibly make it through a Chinese day without the ever-present paparrazzi.

Tomorrow is the big day and I feel surprisingly calm. From the start of this process, we've had so many reassurances that we're doing the right thing. I just know that we're going to love this boy and that he'll eventually love us. Seeing our darling Cholita back in China has been somewhat surreal. She'll always be Chinese, and yet she's also not. When we first met her, I strongly felt the influence of the culture that she'd lived in for nearly a year, but more importantly than that, I saw in her eyes her indomitable spirit and that spirit wasn't born in China and it wasn't born in the United States.

Somewhere in this massive city a little boy is sleeping, completely unaware that his whole life is changing tomorrow. Please pray for Xi Yun Xi, that he'll be blessed with an extraordinary amount of courage and please pray for us that we'll feel an outpouring of love and empathy. We know that what God has started, He will finish.

We're Here!

It was with great joy and total exhaustion that I laid down to go to sleep last night. Our whole family is finally in the same city! Yun Xi is just a short car ride away.

We left our house about 10:30 Friday morning. We had a non-stop to Beijing and then an additional three-hour flight to Kunming. I was so proud of our kids. Except for a brief whining episode from Cholita at about the 9 hour mark on the way to Beijing, they were perfectly behaved. Walking through the airport, I was reminded once again how unusual it is to see American children in China. Rose and Lucy are total rock stars here--lots of smiles and good-natured finger pointing and lots and lots of photo-taking. About 20 female groupies each posed for pictures with the big girls, some more than once. Cholita was literally squeezed out of the shots and she looked completely shocked. Not that we garner much attention in the U.S., but if anyone in our family was going to get an extra look at home, it's Cholita. She didn't know what to think about people fawning over her sisters and hardly giving her a second glance.

Lucy saw that Cholita, standing off to the side with pushed-out hip and crossed arms, was not pleased and grabbed her to be in the pictures too. This morning, Cholita had completely changed her perspective on the whole episode. "They wanted pictures of us, but I know I was their favorite."

Everyone but Bruder slept for all or some of the flight to Kunming. It was early-morning Seattle time. I should have taken a photo of Lucy and Rose sleeping on the plane to use as blackmail at some point in their lives. Rose was conked out with her head thrown back and her mouth so wide open you could see her palatal expander. Lucy was flattened out on the tray table in front her, arms hanging down and face smushed, looking like a she'd expired mid-dinner.

Our guide, Helen met us at the airport and we drove the 20 minutes to our hotel. The city looks very modern with lots of lights and tree-lined streets. It's COLD here! What happened to the City of Eternal Spring? Our guide said it's unseasonably chilly, so apparently Kunming's nickname should be changed to, City of Most-of-the-time Spring.

We have a free day today and will meet our guide and another adopting family in the lobby tomorrow morning at 8:30. We'll make the short trip to the Civil Affairs Office, meet Yun Xi, sign papers, and then we're a family of seven! Yesterday, walking through the airport, people were literally counting our kids. "Ee, Ar, San Tsuh." And then they'd say, "Tsuh guh hidezuh!" (Four children!) I told one woman that we were "tsuh guh hidezuh" today, but will be "woo guh hidezuh" tomorrow. She looked completely shocked and said something that sent everyone in her group into fits of laughter. I'm guessing that it was along the lines of, "This woman is nuts!"

We've unpacked our things and gotten our room put together. There was already a crib next to our bed. I don't know if he'll fit in it! The big kids slept like logs. I woke up at about 4 in the morning China time and there was Cholita, sitting up in bed too, awake and ready for the day. We lounged for a couple more hours and then got ready for the breakfast buffet. Lyle, king of the potlucks, is in heaven. He had: Yunnan noodles, black rice congee with fresh ginger and walnuts, fried tomatoes, sticky buns, cooked vegetables, various fruits (including yellow watermelon), a salad with tangy vinaigrette, cabbage, and bacon. I'd say he's set until lunch.

The kids are ready to go explore Kunming, so I'll sign off until tonight!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Made With Love: Yun Xi's Bed

When Lyle was a little boy, he had a bedroom under the stairs.  No, he did not live with the Dursleys or anywhere else on Privet Drive.  He did live with seven siblings and he was thrilled when his grandfather built him his own room under the stairs, complete with a raised custom bed with drawers underneath.  Lyle said he learned to recognize everyone in the family just by their footsteps.

Fast forward many years and Lyle remembered that little room as he designed a bed for our boy.  After lots of thought, we decided to put Yun Xi in with the little girls.  Both teenagers each have their own rooms, but with their early wake-up times and later bedtimes, we thought it would be easier to keep the 8 PM'ers together for night time stories and prayers.  It's admittedly a girlie room, full of light blue and pink, so Lyle wanted the bed to be all boy.

Since it's a toddler-sized bed and we know Yun Xi won't be in it for long, Lyle wanted it to be dual purpose.   When the middle shelf is removed and a pine top added, it will convert into a desk.  

I helped carry it up the stairs and it's seriously solid and very well-made.

We had a very old toddler bed in our attic that each of our children have slept in.  Lyle took off its legs and cut through the back to add a ladder.  It was a dark-colored wood laminate that clashed with the pine, so Lyle headed to Home Depot to pick out paint.  For color inspiration he brought the blanket we'd tied for Yun Xi.

I so appreciate the fact that I married a man who has no qualms about carrying a baby blanket into Home Depot.  I dearly love him.

And I think a three year-old boy will dearly love this bed.  I know a five year-old girl who certainly does.

With the ladder at the end, it's a fire truck or a pirate ship or a tree house or any number of things.

But tonight it's just a bed and Cholita was thrilled to give it a test run for her brother.