Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Dog?

"Mama, buy a dog."

That's what I heard in the car tonight. Funny thing, though, unless the dog is smaller than a cat, she's afraid of it...

But she'll pet and brush a great big goat.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Singing in the Bathtub

Jie Jie is adding new notes to the songs she makes up. Some words are actually real Chinese, the rest is just made up. Watch the whole thing and she'll pop her head around the corner then let me record her face.

Our First Party

Our first party of the season just happened to fall on our two month Family Day anniversary. A mere two months and I feel like I've always had my daughter. I can't imagine life without her.

She did very well at the party, though, by her bedtime she was telling guests to "Go!" At least she was good-natured about it, and it was quite funny, but I think next time, I'll leave the guests long enough to put her to bed. She stayed up until 11pm then slept until noon today. She did great sharing the yard and joining in the play. She did eat too much and had some cramps, but they didn't last and weren't as bad as she has had them.

She helped me make her first cupcakes, roasted her first marshmallows and ate her first s'mores. She didn't get the mess off her face with her tongue, as she's trying to do in the last picture so I took care of it like a mama cat which had her in peels of laughter. For those of you who don't get it, I licked her face clean! It only took one lick, I've been watching my cats for years so I knew just what to do. LOL!

Our guests were some families from my local single adopt group who all have daughter's from China. Others were friends with and without kids. It was a smaller group that my other parties, which was just right, and we did get some rain, but not enough to put out the fire.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sing Me To Sleep

My daughter didn't use these words, but she asked me to sing to her as she snuggled in my bed beside me before falling asleep. Today was one of those days when I could feel myself falling more deeply in love with my child all day long. The more I get to know her and the more she blossoms, the more there is to love and love about her.

She is starting to experiment with melody. I discovered awhile ago that she doesn't know any songs and makes up her own in an almost monotone alto voice. She loves to sing and dance, though, so it didn't really click with me for awhile that she didn't know a single song all the way through. Then, more recently, I realized she couldn't follow a tune. That's all changing now, though. Today I finally heard her experimenting on her own and hitting new sweeter notes and she is trying like crazy to learn the words to Part of This World from The Little Mermaid which we've watched together in Mandarin once. I have the music CD and let her listen to it all the time.

So, tonight, I put the CD on at bedtime and she watched my mouth so closely in order to learn the words and she tried so hard to repeat them. I'm very proud of her and all she is accomplishing lately.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We've Been Having Fun

Backyard fun with first sunglasses and a spring day.

Working on the ABCs and playing in the mirror with Mama.

Fun with fingerpaints

Going to the local zoo

Next, to San Francisco to the Aquarium of the Bay

Jie Jie's first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. She loved it!

Fist time the van went to the beach, too.

On the way home through G.G. Park, we saw this goose family.

Two babies under the mom's wing, one peeking out.

Last Monday, bright and happy all day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meow Died Today

This "old geezer girl," as I called her, was 19 years old! In case that doesn't sound old, I got her when I was 22 years old.

She died peacefully at home, in my arms, while I brushed her cheek with her brush. It was her most favorite thing.

I knew that her death was near from before I went to China so I feel very fortunate to have had these past weeks with her. I prepared Jie Jie as best as possible, starting several weeks ago, and she's done just fine. She doesn't have an emotional attachment to this particular cat, but I knew she needed to understand that I'd be sad and shed tears and not to worry, that it's normal to miss loved ones when they are gone.

I also explained about burial and the spirit leaving the body and I think she'd already been taught about this. She seemed to understand quite readily and appeared to have had some kind of experience like this before. Perhaps in her SWI other children have passed away and she was taught something about it.

I put my Mother's Day flowers at the bottom of Meow's grave to honor her as the first to become a mother in our household 18 years ago. It seemed fitting. I still have her daughter, the only offspring Meow ever had.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Baby Tooth Gone

It'd been hanging by a thread for four days and today Jie Jie finally pulled it out. She asked for my help a couple of times, but was too afraid that I'd say I'd not pull it out then go ahead and do it anyway. It was a great step in learning to trust me. In the end, she sat facing me on my lap, and as we sat outside on the porch swing, I taught her how to wriggle and twist it and after about an hour it came out without so much as a single drop of blood. The permanent tooth is already growing in.

It struck me again today how she must feel, not fully trusting me and having no one else to rely on. Can you imagine how scary that can be?

I watched the video I took in China of her first time on a slide and play structure and I was amazed to notice how out-of-shape she really was and how much effort it took for her to climb the bars and things. She couldn't even fully sit up on the slide, because she'd never done it before and might not have had the strength. She was full of energy and never stopped moving and now I realize it was excitement, stimulation, nervousness, adrenaline and survival. She hid it well for first three days, but by then I only had to take a look at her feet to see that she was over-doing it. Luckily, I had the Ergo. I use my stroller here all the time. Tonight she was good walking for 2.5 very long blocks before climbing into it.

It's very exciting watching her each day. During our school time, she learned to write the capital letters Y and U. She has trouble with letters that have slanting lines like A, V, X and Y. We've skipped W for now. She loved writing the letter U, though. I'm super glad that I have an almost endless supply of various equipment and ideas. After she covered one part of a large sheet of paper with her name that I'd made first in dashed lines for her to trace, I folded it over and showed her how it shows through and she could trace it again, but she didn't quite get it and it seemed like more effort than she was willing to put out to try and see it. I popped into my sewing room and brought out my portable light table and, Voila!, it was like magic.

I almost forgot to mention that our time on the porch swing brought out another story from her past. I asked her who pulled out her two bottom teeth and she told me that her foster brother (who has dwarfism and is VERY timy) came up behind her and shoved her and she fell into something. She indicated the pole on the porch swing frame, but I've learned that this could mean anything hard. I do know that she said she didn't fall down. The two teeth were knocked out and blood was everywhere, down her front and all over the ground. Her caretaker picked her up gently and laid her down and took good care of her. The same caretaker slapped the little boy on each hand several times and it seemed like on a few other parts of his body, too, perhaps his upper arms and thighs.

I have noticed two scars on her forhead that have had stitches and wonder if she knows how she got them. She said she didn't go to the doctor for the teeth getting knocked out, but I wonder if it's part of the memory or the entire memory and if the other is an entirely different accident.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ready to Talk About the Orphanage

I've had some time now to sort out my feelings on my visit to Jie Jie's orphanage and would like to share them with you in the hope that another adopting family will be able to use this to their benefit.

Jie Jie's orphanage was in a smallish rural city. My guide said that she'd rate it in the middle as far as orphanages go, and she's seen quite a lot of them. I'd seen pictures of the SWI, tons of them, inside and out, the bathroom, etc... I'd heard from other parents on my egroup that the children were "loved as their own." I only had to see the pictures of my daughter's smiling face, full of life, to know that she was loved.

When I arrived at the orphanage, my daughter and I had been together for only 24 hours. I wasn't sure how she'd react, but she seemed to be doing very well. We were greeted warmly and a wonderful lunch had been prepared. I would have rather the resources for that lunch gone to the children, but it was too late, there is was.

Honestly, after only a short time there, I had the most visceral reaction that I should grab my daughter and get out of there fast. I was repulsed by the squallor and filth and couldn't believe my daughter had thrived there. She didn't want to go to her caregiver. I placed her in this woman's arms and put my daughter's arms around her because the woman was clearly happy to see my daughter, happy she had been adopted, grieving terribly and trying not to show it, but the tears still slipped down her cheeks. I was told that the caregiver had not been able to sleep at all the previous night because of worry about Jie Jie. This woman had been my daughter's caregiver for 5 years!

I saw a dining area and briefly peered into a kitchen. Went to the public restroom, which was horribly filthy, and saw my daughter's room, where she lived family style with her caregiver and three other children, two of them babies under 7 months old. All three children had special needs.

This SWI is a combination orphanage and old folks home. The old folks who are able take care of the children. Some are way too old and are taken care of themselves. There was a large courtyard, but I didn't see any play equipment anywhere at all. I only saw 5 other children, the three in my daughter's room and two others in strollers in the courtyard, both with severe special needs.

I peeked into another resident's room and it was so much cleaner and well-organized compared to the room that had been my daughter's. I got through the rest of the visit by telling myself that these are people who kept my daughter alive and loved her.

In the past few weeks, my daughter has been telling me her experiences. She has experienced corporal punishment and other things that are emotionally damaging, but considered normal for raising children in the Chinese culture. Sometimes she says she loves her caregiver and other times she says that she doesn't. Everything so far has been within the realm of normal for a child coming from this background. My agency did prepare me for this, but it's a bit different experiencing it and it's taken me time to put it into perspective. I also predict that my perspective will continue to change as my daughter shares more of the past with me.

The more I've learned about my daughter's medical condition before her surgeries and what it is currently and also learned more about her personality, the more I can find it in my heart to embrace the people who raised my child until I adopted her. They did love her, they did keep her alive against tremendous odds. They never gave up trying to find medical help for her and it took them five years to find it, but they did, due to their perseverance. I will go back to visit them, if possible, when I'm next in China, and I will send them updates on Jie Jie.

I'm relieved to be able to have reached this point. A parent recently sent me a picture of her daughter's SWI, a state-of-the-art facility with several play structures and lovely paint, toys, big windows and more. I was envious. But, as another mother told me, there was a play structure at her daughter's SWI, too, but the children were never allowed on it. Was the child in this state-of-the-art facility loved? Did she have a consistent caregiver? How was she treated?

What I look at now for perspective is my daughter. She is doing great! She is brave and strong and full of life. She didn't get this from me, but from her past. She will reconcile her past, as we all do, throughout her life, and I will continue to do all that I can to meet her needs, as SHE needs them met, in order to help her do this.

First Sentence in English

It came at the zoo last Saturday. We didn't actually go into the zoo, but played on the little carnival rides at the gate and rode the little train they have. When we got onto the train, my little girl said her first full sentence in English, clear as a bell:

"Mama, take a picture!"

As I typed this, I realized what's so amazing about watching my daughter right now. Imagine the miracle of a newborn baby growing up, learning to roll over, crawl, get teeth, stand, walk, talk, etc...

Now imagine watching development like that take place at warp speed where you can see it occurring every single day. The milestones are a little different, though: learning to speak English, learning the alphabet, mastering the use of a fork and knife, improving physically in strength and other areas, in our case, in foot flexibility (more on that later). There are so many little things that happen that light up my day. Today, at church, I was talking to the bishop and Jie Jie asked to use a piece of paper from a legal pad and the bishop's really nice pen. She then proceeded to "write" on every single line as though writing in cursive, beginning with her name in proper printing that I'd taught her. Afterward, as I carried her out to the car, she began to "read" it in Chinese to me. It seemed to be a letter to her caregiver in China and seemed to be full of happy things.

4 Years 1 Month Logged In

This is such a significant milestone to me, for some reason that I cannot put my finger on. I remember long ago when the first families started reaching this point and now I've reached it, too. Somewhere in China, there will be another little child I will some day call my own.

Today as I drove to church, I reflected on the miracle it took for Jie Jie to become my daughter. I remember the months of trying to lock her file and how I was changed and made better in order to be worthy of being her mother. I remember the deep connection I had to God and how exhausting it was to stay at that spiritual level. I've learned that if one can stay at deep levels of spirituality or have miraculous spiritual experiences often, one builds up endurance and strength.

I was blessed that I never felt the wait (locking Jie Jie's file was a completely different thing altogether). I know that it was and is a very important part of God's plan for me and my girls. Without this wait, I would never have been eligible to adopt Jie Jie. I still am awestruck by the feeling I had in early 2010 that there was an older child waiting for me. I am eager and curious to know what God has in store for me with my next child. For now, I'm most grateful for Jie Jie and thoroughly enjoy watching her blossom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Living My Dream

I took a late night walk tonight, something Jie Jie and I love. I tucked her into the pram under a pile of quilts and she giggled and pointed at the moon as she drifted off the sleep and I got a bit of exercise. Tonight I went about 4 miles over an hour's time and it gave me a chance to reflect of the fact that I am living my dream and loving it! Motherhood is exactly as I'd imagined it would be. I've fit right in to this new phase of life with my daughter and the adjustments have been welcome and come naturally to me.

As I walked, I revelled in her giggles and my heart was bursting with joy in the knowledge that tonight my little girl fell asleep giggling and happy. I also marvelled that she fit into the pram and loved it. The last two walks we took, I used the seat part, but tonight it was windy and I wanted to make absolutely certain that she'd be warm. When I unbundled her afterward, she was very warm and next time I think I can leave off the bathrobe and gloves. But, honestly, not too many 7 year-olds fit into prams or even want to try them. I love that I have opportunities here and there to do the things I'd have done with her had she been my daughter during her infancy. It has been great for our bonding. Earlier today I even used the Ergo since she needed some "time-in" with mama during daycare hours when I had to work. It works like a charm every time!

Now on to today's entertainment: Photos!

This first photo going to be our standand Mother-Daughter pose since I can easily propped the camera up on the cat climber and set the time. Taken May 7, 2011 as we were all dolled up to go into San Francisco to the Yanni concert at the historic Warfield Theater.

First Mother's Day flowers, from the woman who came to China with me.

First face painting from the art fair last weekend.

Jie Jie didn't want to disturb Henry, so she pretended to be asleep with him.

Just two little eyes peeking out before she fell asleep.