Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tipping my hat to Mr. Mom ~ Sara

Since returning home from China, we are quickly settling into our routines both old and new.  For the first few days exhaustion combined with constantly chasing after a three year old, that was checking out every nook and cranny of her new surroundings made for me being a pretty inefficient homemaker.  Incompetent might be a better word.  Enter Steph, a.k.a Mr. Mom.

Steph willingly, without my asking or hinting, started emptying the suitcases, laundering the clothes, cooking up food, vacuuming, and tackling the kitchen cleaning duties.  Yes, I know, I am very blessed!  I am even more thankful that he is off for another two weeks!  Having him here during the initial transition days has been amazing.  It would have been tough without him.  He hasn't had it easy either, as many of you know Li Lin initially strongly disliked Steph.  With incredible patience he has wormed his way into her heart and earned her trust.  Just another reason why I really love this guy!  

Monday, 28 May 2012

Rykauna's Snapshot Picture~ Sara

One of the adoption blogs that Rykauna avidly follows has a weekly photography contest.  Here is the picture she is entering by adding the Sunday Snapshot link to this other blog.  It is an interesting read if not downright remarkable.  How this mom has time to run a weekly contest is beyond my figuring out, but thankfully it is not for me to try and wrap my head around.  Clearly she is a much more organized woman than I will ever be!                                                                                                                              

Sunday Snapshot Link (its supposed to be a button but can't figure out how to get it to work)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Family Hug ~ Steph

Li Lin has progressed tremendously.  She is an absolute sweetheart!  For the most part she is now very happy.  She still occasionally gets upset or whiny but its more in the typical three year old way.  Her day generally starts with a smile and either a 'mama' or a cheery 'ni hao'.  She spends much of the time exploring the world around her with a big smile and twinkling eyes.

This weekend we've had a couple of firsts.  On Saturday, some of the ladies from our church family held a shower for Li Lin.  Sara and Rykauna attended while Li Lin stayed at home with da gege, xiao gege and baba.  First time away from mama.  Sara explained to her that she would be gone for a little while and Li Lin was ok with it.  We went to the library to get some books - Li Lin is starting to show interest in looking at books.  It seems she may not have been exposed to many of them before.  We then stopped by the park on the way home.

This evening, Sara and the three oldest all went to the evening church service we usually attend on Sundays.  Once again Sara told Li Lin that she and the kids were going and that Li Lin would stay home with baba.  A big nod and smile was all Sara got.  Li Lin and I had a great time (mostly me pretending to be sick so Li Lin could fix me up), but she started asking for mama shortly before Sara got home.  I told her mom was coming and stalled her with a variety of tactics (ice cream feed worked the best).  Even an offer to brush her teeth (this is a favourite activity that can sometimes take a while as it often leads to a sink full of water as she washes her hands repeatedly) didn't work as she stated she'd brush with 'mama'.

Eventually, Sara and the kids got home.  Li Lin was precious running to Sara and jumping in her arms and squeezing tightly.  What was really heartwarming was later on, Li Lin calling me to join in the hug with her and Sara, a big smile on her face.  She then called to her three siblings and we had a great big family hug!  Three times (we put an end to it as a couple kids needed a bite to eat before bed) she called each of us by name to come and join in the big hug.  It seems she's starting to know who her nuclear family is.  Great news!

 Rykauna was experimenting with our camera and had a very willing model in Li Lin
Li Lin saw this dress after the shower and wanted to put it on right away.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Bad Chinese makes for sticky situations ~ Sara

Yesterday was Dr. appt day.  Li Lin loved her gifts bearing nurse, Lisa, and was very happy to let the doctor look at her.  After failed attempts to yield blood by our friendly pediatrician we were impressed how well she handled the appointment.  I am thankful the doctor is being very thorough and checking her for anything and everything that could have been missed along the way.  Most importantly, she is getting us a referral to the cleft clinic at Sick Kids where Li Lin's needs relative to the cleft can be assessed and treated.  Li Lin has a fistula (hole) from just behind her teeth to her nose on the left side of her mouth.  We are guessing the medical team at Sick Kids will want to repair that relatively soon to aid in her speech.   The fall would be our preference but we will see what happens. 

Today Li Lin asked me about her "ye ye" and "nai nai" again (foster grandparents) and said she wanted to know where they were after I inadvertantly mispronouced the Chinese name of the pleasant goat cartoon.  I accidentally asked her if she wanted to watch grandpa and not "ya ya" as she calls it.   I explained as best I could to a three year old that they are in China.  I asked her if she wanted to see pictures of grandma and little foster brother. (Unfortunately we were never given a pic of the foster grandpa) Bracing myself for a sobbing child, I brought out the precious pink album the director had so kindly given us.

She went through the book skipping over pictures of her as an infant, pointed out pictures of her friend, Yang yang,  and stopped at the beautiful picture taken of her and her foster grandma and little foster brother.  She beamed ear to ear and said, "nai nai, didi (little brother)".  There were no tears from her, she was just happy to see their faces again.  She asked again where they were, I told her again, and she closed up the book, put it back into it's case, and  handed it to me.  I asked me if she wanted me to put this in her room.  She smiled happily, then quickly ran over to the DVD player to try to turn on the pleasant goat cartoon.  As I climbed the stairs to her room to put the book away for safe keeping, it was my turn to shed a few tears for a child who has lost so much but is so accepting of these losses.  Please keep praying.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On her own terms! ~ Steph

I am going to apologize in advance to any ‘cat people’ that I may offend.  I myself am neither a ‘cat person’ nor a ‘dog person’.  I’m solidly a ‘hamster person’, especially since the older two children are trained to alternately clean out the cage every week.  The hamster needs food and water once a week and exercises herself any time she wants by running nonstop on a wheel that leads nowhere.  I wonder if that is where we got the idea of a treadmill… but I digress.

Stereotypically, dogs are always happy to see their ‘people’.  The tail is wagging and the mouth is open in a wide goofy grin with a bit of slobber dripping out the side.  They are always up for a hug or attention of any sort.  A cat on the other hand, is selective.  Cats like you on their own terms.  If they want alone time, you can hardly find them, and if you do, there is no way you will get close enough to pet them.  On the other hand, when a cat wants attention, they will rub up and purr against anyone’s leg or unceremoniously plop themselves into the lap of whoever it may be, with that “I want that little scratch behind the ears NOW” look.

Li Lin is a lot more like a cat than a dog (or a hamster!).  She definitely likes me now, but ON HER TERMS!  She is hilarious.  She will often insist that I am around when she is eating.  She is very good at sharing with me and making sure I am fed.  But the bathroom is an absolute no-no!  She will even at times call out to me when she needs to go to the bathroom so that I come and then she can make a show of pushing me away and ask for mama!  Usually when playing downstairs, she will make sure that I am around.  She will occasionally come of her own volition and crawl into my lap, or pat the seat beside her, asking me to sit down.  But, if I try to pick her up and she doesn’t want it, I find out in a hurry!  I am also entitled to go on a walk with her as long as I am accompanied by her mama or at least one of her siblings!

We are currently co-sleeping with Li Lin (apparently one of the best ways to for attachments with a newly adopted child).  Li Lin likes to make sure that someone is in bed with her and within arm’s  reach when she sleeps.  That person of course is Sara.  Throughout the night, she will slightly come to, reach out with her little hands and make sure that Sara is nearby.  She will then wiggle just a bit closer to Sara.  Eventually, Sara is lying on the very edge of the bed.  A couple nights ago, we both came to in the middle of the night and we switched sides of the bed so Sara would have a bit more space.  A little while later I felt a little hand on my arm.  It felt the less smooth skin (ok, furry).  Her hand moved up to my face and felt the scruff.  Then, still in sleep, she batted at me (her ‘go away from me’ action) and she wiggled across the bed towards Sara.  Even in sleep… she likes me ON HER TERMS!

Here she is doing the 'thumbs up' in front of her new little kitchen.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Home Sweet Home! ~ Steph

Well, we've been home for 5 days now and are starting to settle in.  The jet-lag has been really tough to overcome with a little one that we can not explain things to.  Finally last night we had her down from about 7pm to 5am. We all feel like different people!

We have so many people excited to see Li Lin and we truly appreciate the interest, but we are still cocooning to help with the bonding and attachment.  Grandmaman spent some time with her the first day back and here is an excerpt of her impressions.

"She explored everything, looking at the pictures on the wall and recognizing her brothers and sisters and her parents.  She is definitely full of spunk and has numerous facial expressions.  She is actually hilarious and laughs easily... which is to be expected because she also cries easily mostly when she doesn't get her way.  She is definitely a high energy child and loves adventure.  In a way, she is in the right family.  We know that God doesn't make mistakes and she is the one that He has chosen to complete the family.  Now that I see her and already love her, I would not have picked anyone else."

We of course, would also not pick anyone else.  The first few days back were tough.  She seemed to regress a bit in her anger and grieving but has progressed rapidly.  She was also very active when we first got back, seemingly needing to explore every little nook and cranny and object around!  We are now enjoying a happier little one who is less active and is able to sit still and chill a bit.  However, we still see that though she is accepting us more and more as her family, there are still things to be worked out.  When upset, she definitely does not want anything to do with dad.  She generally will call for one of her siblings first, but they have been really good at not responding and letting mom comfort Li Lin.

As far as helping out when she is hurt, Li Lin loves the attention and little kisses on the booboos from both mom and dad!  She will even intentionally whack her hand or poke her finger somewhere and the say "aiyo" and ask for a kiss from both of us! We figure it will help with the bonding so we make a big deal of it!

Today was the first day of school for the older siblings.  They were all excited to go and share their pictures and stories with their classes.  Even Hudson (6 years old) prepared a powerpoint, mostly on his own!  Li Lin has done well at home soaking up the attention of mama and baba.  She is generally more settled when the other children are not around, though I'm sure she'll be excited to see them when they get home in another hour or two!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

How do you get over jetlag with a 3-year old? ~ Steph

We arrived home on Thursday 6:30 pm Toronto time.  The flight went really well, other than being separated a bit on the plane.  Sara and Li Lin sat behind Rykauna and Logan, while Hudson and I sat a few rows back on the other side of the plane.  Li Lin was absolutely amazing.  She played quietly for the first several hours of the flight, then slept soundly until we landed.  It made for a quiet flight but... she is still pretty completely on China time!

My Mom picked us up at the airport and we had a snack when we got home.  The kids were all pretty awake but Sara was exhausted since she had stayed awake making sure the tossing and turning Li Lin did not fall off the seat on the plane!  Sara went for a nap, the other three kids went to sleep around midnight and Li Lin stayed up until 2am.  She was really cute always whispering and shushing with her finger to her mouth because mama was sleeping.  We had our best bonding time yet.  She sat on my lap, let me give her a bath in the bathroom sink and change her.  I even got one little kiss as I brought her upstairs to bed.  She asked to sleep in her bedroom (she seems to think its pretty cool).  She slept from 2:00 - 5:00 (equivalent of afternoon nap!) then woke up.

Sara got up with Li Lin and the other kids were also up shortly.  The morning and afternoon were quite rough.  Li Lin was tired but would not sleep.  She was getting frustrated and we saw some of her anger come out again.  Eventually, after her last of many fits on the day, she fell asleep around 3:30. Problem!  She woke up at 8:00pm for a bathroom break and then fell back asleep to midnight.  She woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and much happier and busier!  Luckily, we had gone to sleep early as well, around 6:30pm but... it will take a while to get switched over to Toronto time!

As we are settling in, we see still the confusion of Li Lin.  She has now been living in 3 different places with us - 2 hotels and now home.  I'm guessing she doesn't yet know that this is 'home' and a permanent place.  She is really comfortable around the kids, which is great.  She calls Sara and I mama and baba, but she doesn't really know what their roles are.  She does NOT like being told no... but as a rambunctious and curious 3 year old, there needs to be limits set, for her safety and ours!  She is once again showing more grieving and anger.  We continue to appreciate your prayers for wisdom in helping this little darling to grieve and heal and adjust to a very different life half-way around the world.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Last Day in China

Our last full day in China was a good one.  We had another early start, this time heading for Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City.  Once again, the size and majesty of some of the ancient Chinese architecture was stunning.
Tianamen Square is a very large open area, for the most part commemorating the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.  There is a large 37 meter tall tower representing the 37 years between 1912 (the end of the last Emperor’s reign) and 1949.  
 Another prominent thing is the picture of Chairman Mao overlooking the Square, and of course, the large mausoleum containing Mao’s body.   
The line up to see his remains in a crystal coffin was incredibly long, and apparently it is so every day.  The mausoleum is the building you see on the right.
 At one end of Tianamen Square lies the Forbidden City.  This large complex originally containing 9999½ rooms (now somewhere around 8800) was constructed between 1406 and 1420 towards the end of the Ming Dynasty.  It was the living and governing area of the Emperor.  There are building upon buildings,

different throne rooms
and multiple stairways  and archways
We did a fairly quick walk and saw just parts of the city and it still took us over 2 hours.

After our last sight-seeing tour, our agency hosted a good-bye China party.  We once again had a great feed, followed by a magic show.   
We sat with the family that we were in Wuhan with
 The clown was really good and even had Logan volunteer to have his arm cut off!   
 They then presented all of the kids on the trips with beautiful scrolls with their names on them and presented me with a scroll for my birthday.  We then had a birthday cake.  Can’t remember any birthday party at which I had over 70 guests before!  The performer returned in some theatrical Chinese outfit and performed a dance.
So, here ends our adventure.  It has been quite the ride.  We are very appreciative that we have been able to experience so much of China’s history, geography and culture.  We have enjoyed our time tremendously.

Of course, the biggest part of this trip has been the adoption journey.  We left Canada as a family of 5.  We return as a family of 6.  We have added a little spitfire.  A sweetheart that has grieved tremendously over the losses in her life and who will continue to grieve throughout the days, weeks, months and years to come.  She has adapted quite well to her new family.  She enjoys playing with the kids tremendously.  She goes to her mama when she is hurt, dirty, needing something.  She calls her baba to help carry the stroller and she runs to him to give him any money she finds.  We know that our roller coaster ride is not over.  There are going to be ups and downs.  Even though it may seem to others that Li Lin is completely adapted, we know that there is still grieving and bonding to go through.  We once again ask for your support as we continue to help her in her journey.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Shopping, Shopping and Shopping! ~ Sara

Today was a woman’s dream... a full day of shopping!  We started out the day at a silk factory.  We learned and saw the process of how silkworms are used to make silk.   

 Although a silk duvet was tempting we kept our money in our pockets and waited until we went to the pearl market.  It is called this as the fourth floor of this large building is mainly, you guessed it, pearls.  The rest of the market is like a massive flea market selling everything from fake IPADS to fancy chopstick sets.

The best part of the market, in my opinion is the bargaining!  I love bargaining!  Bargaining in Chinese makes for even better deals as no merchant expected me, a Caucasian Canadian, to bargain with them in their own language!   It was lots of fun.  My best deal of the day?  Probably something that the merchant wanted 240yuan for and I paid 30 yuan!
After the pearl market we hit the toy market.   Needless to say this was a big hit with the kids!  Next stop was lunch.  We felt like a bit of western fare so Subway fit the bill.  I was relieved that Li Lin finally agreed to go to the washroom while we were ordering the subs.  She hadn’t gone since the night before so needless to say that after some 16 plus hours without a bathroom stop I was starting to get concerned about her risk of dehydration/kidney issues.  I kept trying to get her to drink and she would not drink.  Once we walked into a very smelly washroom she pinched up her nose and refused to go!  I couldn’t believe it... 16hrs of not “going” and she was going to hold it because of the stench.  I finally convinced her to go in the much cleaner wheelchair stall.

Once we shopped around a bit more, we all hopped in the tour bus again and stopped in at a tea house for a tea ceremony.  We tried many tea varieties but did not purchase any tea there as it was pricey.   
Steph was able to buy the tea variety that we liked best at the local grocery store for one quarter the price.  At least now we are informed Chinese tea connoisseurs!

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Zoo and a few odds and ends ~ Steph

Today we visited the Beijing Zoo.  The highlight of course was seeing the several pandas!  While most were sleeping, we did see a few of them up and about.
 We were only there for a couple hours so we did not get to see too much of the zoo.  The landscaping is beautiful with lots of water flowing around.  Some of the exhibits are great, with lots of things for the animals to do.  Monkey Hill in particular was neat.  Other animals were simply placed in basic concrete and metal cages which was pretty sad.

After the zoo trip we had 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat before we headed out to an early acrobatics show.  ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!   What those people are able to do was incredible.  We were not allowed to videotape or take pictures so sorry, we can’t share, but the visuals are inked in our memories for a very long time.

Since this is a short entry, I figured I’d share a few funny things that have happened over our time here that we have not mentioned yet.  Some of the places we have visited in China will never be the same since we were here, in particular the Civil Affairs Office where we got Li Lin and where the adoption was officially authorized the following day.  As Sara and the kids were fawning over a new and fairly receptive (at the time) Li Lin I had to sign an Agreement of Guardianship.  There were several couches and tables around.  I was standing next to a table so I sat on the corner to sign the paperwork.  One of the kids brought me one of our bags, and so I placed it beside me on the table as I slid towards the middle of the table to complete the paperwork.  Nearly done, I heard a loud ‘crack’ and I found myself sitting IN the table.  The glass top of the table was broken in half!  Luckily they were more concerned for my well being than for the table.  We did notice the 2 following trips that the table was still there, without the glass top!
Not to be outdone, the following day, we were swimming in our hotel in Wuhan.  Sara comes out of the change room with the shower curtain and bar that she had angrily pulled off the wall! (Ok, so yeah, anyone who knows Sara knows that she would not angrily do anything of the sort!)  Rather, when she hung a towel on the curtain rod, the rod (which was attached with glue) and the curtain fell into her hands.

One thing we have been doing here is some of our own laundry in the tub.  We thought of sending some out to get done, but it costs 10 yuan (about $1.60) for a pair of underwear.  Shirts are about 25 yuan ($4.00).  So hand-wash and hang to dry it is!  In Wuhan, the air was so humid that none of the clothes dried properly throughout the week. 
During our last day while we were packing, I spent about 1 hour drying clothes with a hair dryer!  Not very effective but we had to get the dampness out somehow!  Here in Beijing things dry a bit better which is good, since we don’t have a blow dryer in the room!  We did cheat a bit as the agency had an outside person come in who did laundry at a much cheaper rate.  We got a few pieces of clothing washed by him.

Every once in a while in our travels we get random strangers asking to take pictures with us.  I think the novelty is Sara with her lighter coloured hair as well as the kids.  I am sure that if I was travelling by myself, no one would be interested in taking their picture with me.  Today, we had a man asking to take his picture with us.  The thing is, he had no camera and he wanted us to use ours.  So here is the picture of the rest of my family with a couple of random men.
 Finally, I've got to mention Li  Lin's diet!  We were told that she was a fussy eater and didn't eat much.  This was true for the first couple of days.  Now, Li Lin eats a wide variety of things, though unfortunately, her favorites are junk food!  Here is a picture of Li Lin with a can of Lays Stacks.  We have to be careful what we open with Li Lin around, because she figures whatever is opened neats to be finished off immediately.  That can of stackers would be shared amongst her siblings, mama and baba until is was completely empty!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Great Wall!

Well, we’ve finally climbed the Great Wall of China!  It is definitely impressive.  A wall that long along the prairies would be impressive; a wall that big snaking its way through large hills and small mountains is just awesome.
 We climbed up the steeper trail, and it sure was steep!  Sara and Li Lin waited at one landing as Rykauna, Logan, Hudson and I continued up to the next tower.  Unfortunately the sky was a big foggy so the view was not clear but it was still breath-taking and awesome.  As has been said, you haven’t been in China until you have seen the Great Wall so officially, we’ve now been in China!
On the way to the wall we stopped by at a Jade Factory/Store.  There were some absolutely amazing jade sculptures.  This one with the horses took 5 years to carve out.
  Hudson would like this boat to play with at home!
 After the wall, we went to a Cloisonne (sp?) factory for lunch.  After a great lunch upstairs, we were able to tour the factory, see the people handcrafting these vases step by step (they are INCREDIBLY patient!!!) and look in awe at the handiwork.  No wonder this stuff is so expensive.  We could choose between our house or owning this one vase!  Not sure if we could all fit in though?
When we got home, there was a carnation and a little card for Sara from our agency, wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day.
We were then treated to round... 5, or 6 of Chinese hospitality.  Our friend Claire from Toronto had wanted us to meet up with her sister while here in Beijing.  We were able to arrange that and so Mingfang (Lucy), her beautiful daughter Jenny and our friend Ruth Vance came to the hotel and we were treated to another wonderful feast.  We tried out Peking Duck, as well as quail’s eggs, crab, fish, chicken, beef and pork, along with a variety of vegetables.  I definitely will need to take up my running again once I get home!

This morning we went for a swim in the beautiful pool here in the hotel.  We are planning a trip to the Beijing Zoo this afternoon, followed by an acrobat show.  The kids have been wanting to go to one of those since we got to China so they are very excited.  Hopefully Li Lin is in awe of the sights and sounds and so sits still while watching!

Li Lin is continuing the bonding of our family.  She quickly takes off her shoes once she gets into the hotel room.  Given that she would not take them off even to sleep for the first several days, it shows her comfort level with us.  When Sara asks if she likes little brother, she nods.  Big brother, she nods.  Big sister, she nods.  Mama, she will sort of shyly nod.  Baba, usually a shake of the head!  She has mentioned a couple of times that she loves foster grandma and foster grandpa.  However, she did not cry when talking about them and has not called for them in several days now.  She also no longer asks to go out of our room constantly.  She seems to have an idea that this is her family, whether she likes it or not!