Sunday, July 29, 2012

Not Too Bad Today

I let the girls sleep too long, by accident, but they seem tired enough to sleep well tonight anyway. We didn't make it to church, but we went up to the Oakland Temple Visitor's Center and I had the Chinese sister-missionaries give Sissy the very basics of an introduction to God and Jesus. They said that Sissy doesn't understand very much at all and even the little they tried to teach her, they were surprised at how little she could comprehend.

I will know eventually if Sissy has some kind of learning disability or it's just a product of her upbringing.

Sissy did have a rough night last night so I didn't expect much from her today and at dinner she did become defiant and sullen, but here at home, it's easy to walk away from her and give her some space. After a little while, I came back and told her that if she didn't eat her soup for dinner, she'd have it for breakfast. I again gave her some space and in a few moments, she'd eaten. It wasn't about the soup at all, but something else. She's actually turned out to be a much less picky eater than I expected her to be.

So, here I am, third day home, and I have to say that despite everything, I still encourage older child adoption. Take what I've written for what it is, one family's story, and know that it can be much easier and even a bit more difficult. My motto is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

What about loving a sullen teen? Honestly, I do love her, but I know I'll love her more and more, just like my love for Jie Jie grew. Do I like her? Not all the time. But any parent can say that. This is when a mother must "fake it 'til you make it."

You can clearly read that Sissy and I didn't have an instant connection like Jie Jie and I had. What Jie Jie and I had was very, very rare. It was as perfect as an adoption could ever be. The connection Sissy and I have is growing with every passing day. I didn't get angry for her episode tonight because it's par for the course. I've also learned that I don't need to react with anger; she's old enough to know what she's doing. She will, on her own, as I've learned, come around, and she did tonight. As I tucked her into bed, she apologized. She always sounds sincere when the apologizes, too. What she knows, after our time together so far, is that I mean exactly what I say. If I say, "Eat it for dinner or you'll have it for breakfast," she knows I'll follow through.

I spent part of today looking back on my time in China, wondering if there was anything I could have done differently to have made a smoother transition. The answer is a definite NO. The thing she wanted and still wants most is to communicate with her beloved Teacher Yang, and I won't allow it for at least one month. That tie is so strong, in order for her to begin to attach to me, I had to cut it completely. I know that if I'd have allowed any contact, other than the orphanage visit, she would not have come home with me. The pain of having to say good-bye is too strong and painful. She has been sheltered from pain and hardship all her life. Her entire life has been orchestrated to get numerous children through life with the greatest of ease on the children and on the adults caring for them. I'm a childcare provider, I really understand that concept. You don't give too many choices, you don't let in too many distractions and you don't upset the routine. The result of this as a life, is that one doesn't develop emotionally. If there isn't disappointment, one doesn't learn to cope with it. If one doesn't have fears to face, once doesn't learn how to be strong and brave.

Many, even I, have said, "These kids who have to give their permission for adoption are the bravest people I know." I really am going to rescind that on my part, at least for Sissy. She's brave by the need to survive, not by choice. If she'd have truly understood what adoption meant, she most certainly would never have agreed. She did tell me that she was reluctant to come and she did say, the two days before we left, the night after the big problem at the consulate, that she wanted to leave me and return to the orphanage.

The reality is that she is already becoming enthralled with America. She's smart enough to recognize and comment on how beautiful it is here. She is already getting a glimpse of how large the world really is and how small a world she came from. She can't help herself; she's already starting to like it here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My First Compliment from Sissy

We are definitely on a roll of progress here! Sissy has done really well for another day. We've been using the translator a lot in the evenings and she told me tonight that I'm "sensible." I was explaining about why we are going to church, what it is, etc... She hasn't had any exposure to any type of worship or religion at all, she said.

Tonight I washed her hair again for her. I asked what she did in her SWI and she said that when she washed her body, her hair got wet and that was it and that her head itched. She does have a touch of dandruff but I think I took care of that with tonight's wash.

We also talked of womanly things, if you get my meaning. Even though she finished her cycle the day after I adopted her, she started again, completely in sync with my own cycle. Isn't that amazing? I thought more time together had to pass before that could happen.

I gave each girl their special dolls this morning by leaving them on their beds last night. They are generic Am. Girl Dolls, but Jie Jie's is a little smaller. They are starting to play a little now and I can see them getting closer and closer in the future.

I have a couple pictures, but I'll wait until tomorrow for them. I'm dying for some down-time before going to bed tonight!

After how Sissy was in China, I truly didn't expect such a fast turn-around the moment we got home, but I love it. I love that each day I get to know her better and fall in love with her more and more. I really looked forward to this time with her. I remember how wonderful it was with Jie Jie. Sissy was such a fun teen tonight, saying how she doesn't like the few itty bitty pimples she's got right now that you need a microscope to see. Oh, and I found out why she was so resistant to drinking water... She considered the water out of the tap raw. One doesn't drink raw water in China, of course. So I explained and now all is well in that department.

So, though it's very early days still, anyone considering adopting a teen, please note how fast Sissy and I went from terrible to great, and consider the snippets of insight I gained as to why this occurred.

She truly had no clue what any of this really meant. I also found out yesterday that she didn't know I sent her the disposable camera or the journal or how I got the pictures I did of her. So, while the letter from Chloe sounds like a great idea, here's my daughter, just out of Chinese 5th grade, completely unable to read or understand most of it, so I really wonder what the best approach is for getting these older kids to consent to and follow through with their adoptions. I'm eager to see in upcoming years how things evolve for these older kids in China.

Grieving In the Night

So far, no jetlag for me. At all! I attribute that to the lack of sleep and wacky hours I kept before travelling. Usually I'm slammed with jetlag coming home. However, as I was about to turn in last night, Sissy got up and came to me, very sad, grieving, sobbing. I held her and then we talked, using Go0gle translastor, until 5am. She shared her "secrets" with me, a USB drive full of pictures, music, email addresses and more. I was relieved as I was going to go behind her back and check out this mysterious data. In China, she adamantly told me that I may not see this and that is was secret. My mind filled with all kinds of things, like contacts here that would be dangerous, etc...

Jie Jie had her first trampoline class this morning and had a GREAT time. I made video so I'll post it. Sissy is super tired, and I'm sleepy, but I'm energetic. I'll finish the last two loads of laundry today and get the suitcases back up into the attic, then give the place a good vacuuming. I'd intended to cut up the branch that broke off the plum tree, due to the enormous amount of plums, out back, but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Right now we're off to the bank, post office, and to visit the friend who had her first baby right before I left. We've already been to Costco and I've planned the daycare menu for the week so that's taken care of. I'm having dinner brought in by friends at church Monday through Wednesday night since during the best of times, it's hard to get dinner ready once I've cooked for work and homeschooled, etc...

I do plan to jump right into a schedule, with homeschool. The girls need the structure and Sissy really needs language. I can't wait to see how far and fast she can progress through this transition. I remember how fast Jie Jie's "babyhood" with me seemed. It's quite something to observe.

Feeling Like a Family: A Transformation

Today was our best day as a family by far, thus far. Everyone got plenty of sleep last night, we ate breakfast together, then headed out. First stop was my agency, where everyone got to meet Sissy and I got to feel the love and support of experienced adoptive moms and I got some good advice that helped me see a few new things, too.

One of the main things I saw, was how Sissy reacted to the staff. They were generally young, good-looking woman that girls can easily relate to, who were experienced at what they do and immediately got us all involved in an activity, simply coloring. It was perfect because it introduced harmless interaction all around. I could see Sissy taking it all in, seeing me, her mom surrounded by this group of fantastic women and being included. Sissy, like Jie Jie, was very impressed that I can drive, too.

The realization was this: We Americans must look very inept to these Chinese teens while we are in China. We don't speak the language. We are waited on hand and foot in the hotels. We are rushed from one appointment to the next, looking lost much of the time, or at lease harried or nervous or overcome with happiness that often looks like tears or strain. We can't figure out the money most of the time and we're scounging for food. This doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it?

Well, here on my own turf, I'm rocking. Sissy is the fish out of water now and her perspective is different now, too. I'm a talker and Sissy mistakens small talk with friendship so she asks me repeatedly if all these people I encounter throughout the day are my friends, like the cashier at the restaurant we patronized for lunch, or the mom in the store also buying shoes for her daughter.

The seed of respect was planted today. So was the seed of interest.

Now that we're all more relaxed, I felt the most like Sissy's mother than I have this whole time. The only other time I felt it was on our first day. After that, I felt more like a wrangler. This doesn't mean I've not loved her, but I'm sure those of you who have been in this position know exactly the feeling I'm trying to convey.

The big success of the day was that Sissy now owns black patent dress shoes. She absolutely would not agree to buy black shoes in China, and only allowed herself to try on one pair under much duress. Once home, she even agreed to try on a dress she thought would be too big and with the shoes, she loved the result! Each little thing like this that goes in my favor and pleases her, add one more block to our slowly growing foundation.

Thanks to Jie Jie's insistance, we ended the day at the park nearest our home and the girls played together, really played, for the very first time. I got these great pictures of all around smiles and beauty. We are definitely on track and moving in the right direction!

Travel Pictures

I love when they hold hands!
Day of the Consulate Appointment.

After the Consulate Appointment as things turned sour.

Leaving the beautiful Garden Hotel.

In the van, on our way to the train station.
The first leg of our journey home.

In famous Hong Kong!

Hong Kong Station was crazy!
There was some kind of show about to start and everyone came to the station for dinner first.

A little dinner in Hong Kong.
Luckily, we had our own makeshift table because it was too crowded to get a real table.

Very aptly named.
The Regal was a fantastic hotel! You get what you pay for.

The Hotel is truly connected to the airport.
This was outside the window.
And a walk through the hotel lobby brings one to the international terminal check-in counters.
Yes, right outside the window!

This is when I really got some serious respect for kjax, who did this alone with three girls, two of them newly adopted!
I was so scared Sissy would act up,
I shed a few tears this morning while praying.

Sissy was doing well, excited for her first plane ride.

No fear here, only excitement!

Sissy was enthralled, Jie Jie hiding disappointment that Sissy got the window seat and dealing with a runny nose and dry, irritated throat.

After the quick flight to Narita, Japan, the girls settled into the 777 and saw that they got to watch The Lorax.

I always love the sunrise from 40k feet and made sure the girls got to see it.

Each got their first set of wings.

A new United States Citizen!

Jie Jie didn't quite make it home awake.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Are Home!

We made it! Thank you for all of your prayers, Sissy was wonderful. She didn't do anything but watch one movie on the plane because she wouldn't read the book I gave her or do the various other activities, but she knew she had to stay patiently in her seat and she did! I gave her one scolding in the airport in Japan because she gets right into the business of the security people inspecting the bags so she behaved after that. Immigrations wasn't too bad at all.

While still in Hong Kong, we met a single mom with an 8 year-old who behaved EXACTLY as Sissy did, not following, refusing to hold on, etc... Sissy was appalled, but at the same time, I could see that she saw herself in this behavior.

When we got home, I thought she was saying the house was dirty, but she was saying it was big. She's already motivated and asking me to teach her English. I'm relieved because I do plan to start lessons next week. She doesn't figure out gestures and signs and pointing, etc... so language is necessary ASAP.

She doesn't like the cats or cat hairs. She will soon be used to them. With 8 cats in the house, she has not choice. I sure missed my pets and they missed me. My oldest cat Rose is so happy I'm home, she's barely left my side and I'm getting tons of love and affection from all buy my youngest, who's yet to come greet me.

I've got the laundry started, already dropped off a specimen of Jie Jie's at the medical lab for testing, and some basic groceries. I've got one suitcase completely unpacked and another nearly there. Last trip it took me weeks to unpack and a year to get the last pile up off the floor. That's not happening this time! I've already switched back to my normal Jie Jie Go Bag and ditched my small travel bag that keeps my money and passports right against my front and Sissy's eyes widened at that.

Same as with Jie Jie, Sissy was thrilled and excited that I could drive. I think that has already gained some respect for me by just seeing our home and all that I've accomplished. A friend brought dinner over. It's 6:59pm and we've all bathed, and the girls are in bed for the night!

I am Super Mama!

Any tips for packing lighter for my next trip are greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Hong Kong

We made it safely to Hong Kong! Sissy has behaved beautifully. She has obeyed and came close only once to causing a problem. She always seems to pick the worse places, this time, immigration into Hong Kong. She had to use the bathroom badly so she was being super dramatic, doubling over, grimacing, etc... I had to tell her about five times to cut it out. I was so afraid they'd stop her for a health check. The temperature taking station was only a few feet away. Luckily, she stopped. When we finally did reach a bathroom, the line was very long, so we found another and the long was shorter, but there was still a good wait. She did the drama again and all the ladies in line thought she was ill. I explained to one lady (they all speak English in Hong Kong) and she in turn reassured me that Sissy was lucky to have a mom who will teach her and then spoke to Sissy a little bit.

I can't tell you the number of people who keep asking me if Sissy is mentally retarded. It is obvious she is not, but the way she presents herself sure gives that picture. However, I've taken enough pictuers of her now that she's starting to really try and change.

The Regal Hotel is impressive. Sissy couldn't stop her delight at how beautiful everything is. Jie Jie is simply tired, I think, and starting, ever-so-slightly, to act up by immitating Sissy a little bit. I've spoken to her about it and I think that being at home will help right away. Her health seems stable and she has not more complaints of pain. I am still not certain that starting the medicaton was the right thing to do, but after last time, I had to err on the side of treatment, to be safe while travelling.

We are lugging quite a load. Sissy came with two full backpacks and a bag and it was hard to manage it all, but my system did work for the most part. Only getting on and off the train were things difficult and then some other people came to our aid. I've found that the Chinese are very friendly and willing to help at any time. Their faces may not look inviting, but when I smile at them and say hello, they smile at me and say hello back far more than Americans in my neighbrohood do.

Sissy's stuff that she came to me with.

I never once encountered prejudice against Jie Jie's special needs either. She was utterly charming to all.

I'm glad for Sissy's sake to be heading home, but I am sad for mine and Jie Jie's sake. We've both loved being in China and we're aleady starting plan for when we come back for Apple.

Sissy has proven she can behave all day for one day. If she can do it for one day, she can do it for another and then another and another.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thank you!

We are about to check out and catch the train to Hong Kong. Sissy has been on her best behavior all day! There is hope here!

Thank you for your prayers. I'm feeling them. We'll be home soon.

Please add a prayer for Jie Jie's health. I think her infection has returned. Don't worry to much, I do have a whole bottle of her antibiotic and I could be mistaken, but I'm following missed clues from early-onset last time just in case. I'll be glad to have another culture done upon our return home.

Rough Day, Good Ending

Today was the Consulate Appointment. There is a small glitch in that a typhoon made landfall during the night, right on us, so it's pouring rain. We got the medical report a little late, but still in time and we're right on target for leaving tomorrow by train to Hong Kong for the night before catching our flight on Thursday. But...and it's a big one...

Sissy did her bad thing again in public and it was so bad that later in the afternoon, the lady at the Consulate who helped me, called me at the hotel to make sure I wanted to be Sissy's mother and bring her home. Before any of this happened, this woman even asked me, just based on Sissy's appearance and mannerisms, if she was mentally delayed. Jie Jie is getting traumatized and had to cover her eyes and not look at what was going on. I've already got a plan in place to shield her from this kind of thing once we're home.

However, for every huge episode we have, we then gain a few steps. Sissy took a long time, but she finally came around this afternoon and was helpful with packing and cheerful at dinner. She is finally asking pertinent questions about our home. She still doesn't seem to remember that I've told her these things before and showed her video, but perhaps previously she was too overwhelmed for it to make any sense.

I am starting to see how I can handle her better. Unfortunately, it requires a LOT of time. She seems to need a lot of time sulking in private before she can process what she ought to do that would be the right decision. I'm pretty sure now that this is what her caregiver was trying to tell me. It's less about pouting and more about having a really long cooling off period. Maybe.

I did get a sincere apology and my second real hug from her tonight and she's gone to bed with a smile on her face.

Jie Jie got her Barbie, but it's not the fancy one in the picture. That one's hair was sewn into its style so she couldn't brush it. She chose another one and had fun playing. I can't wait until she is home and can play with them in the dollhouse.

I did take a couple of pictures today, but I've already packed and the camera cable is in the suitcase. The typhoon did have high enough winds to break some tree branches and bring a ton of rain, but it's already passing by.

I'm returning home quite fat. I've eaten waffles, bacon, rice, eggs, pastries, fruit, baked beans, cabbage, and more every day. Just for breakfast! Every day, all of these things. In the same meal!

The clothes I brought were perfect. I did't end up wearing two sundresses. One needed a tshirt underneath and it was too hot. The other felt too light, like I needed to wear a slip, but I did use it as a pool wrap. I swam only once here, mostly because Jie Jie doesn't want to swim. I hope to swim in Hong Kong with Jie Jie. She is almost able to swim by herself.

Big day tomorrow. I need to get to bed!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Today's Photos

We took the subway then the free bus to the Safari Park.
The weather was perfect, not too hot, as a typhoon is heading our way.

These animals are so beautiful and unique.

Sissy's natural state, most of the time.

Thank heavens I can crop the photo.
Jie Jie and her newly adopted friend, who lives about 40 minutes from us in the States.

More flattering photo after mama poses Sissy.

This is actually a trash can, but the kids love to pose om it.

These lemurs were trained to stay in this area. They weren't tethered at all. Jie Jie touched the tail of one before the keeper told her not to.

Jordan the Koala and me.

Jie Jie with Jordan.

Sissy with Jordan.

These little monkeys could swim!

The amigos were so excited that it sprinkled and they got to use the rain gear I'd brought.

Yep, Jie Jie and I rode the elephant again.
See the top of her head?

Jie Jie didn't remember this from her adoption trip.
She'd been looking forward to riding the elephant for a long time.

I gave the elephant her banana treat.
She grabbed it from my hand with her trunk.

Jie Jie's Had Enough!

Today at the Safari Park, Jie Jie accidently bumped into Sissy. Sissy always makes a big deal of things like this and Jie Jie always apologizes immediately on her own. Sissy was still griping about it and being mean and Jie Jie finally just had had enough. She broke down and cried and told me she couldn't stop.

You have to realize, in case you don't already, that Jie Jie rarely, and I mean RARELY, ever cries. She can usually sort herself out using other means, but she's always been able to share her feelings with me before she needs to cry so that we can fix whatever is going on.

Jie Jie told me that Sissy is acts so bad that she doesn't want to play with her any more or sleep with her. Last night, Sissy started coughing and got so dramatic with it that she forced herself to cough hugely over and over despite my warnings that she's hurt her throat, which she did. Needless to say, she woke Jie Jie up four times! I finally gave Sissy some Benadryl in case the irritation that started the cough was real, then left the room door open and pushed Jie Jie in her stroller up and down the hallway to relax us both. It was after midnight by this time.

While still difficult, Sissy is, at least, trying. She is so clueless about so many things and doesn't have a natural sense of curiousily or problem solving to work it out. For example, she didn't even know how to open the door of the taxi from the inside. She didn't even try, only banged on the window and shouted. Yesterday I bought her a book in Mandarin and English, A Little Princess. When I handed it to her, she looked at it blankly, shrugged and handed it back to me. She didn't read anything about the animals today at the Safari Park until I insisted, then it seemed she just skimmed or pretended.

I have shown Sissy that Chloe and Paisely are sisters. Honestly, she doesn't get it. She doesn't get the adoption thing. If my guess is correct, I think she believes there is a Zhuhai SWI in America where all her friends have gone and that, somehow, beloved Teacher Yang is able to be there, also.

She doesn't realize that while she and I communicate on the computer translator for two hours straight, Jie Jie is left all alone. Jie Jie has been so good to keep herself amused, but even I'd had enough of this. Tonight, my guide came to deliver Sissy's passport and notary booklets and I had him explain that Jie Jie has had enough and doesn't want to play with her and needs a break from her. I didn't turn the computer on at all and made dinner right away. Sissy saw that I had apples and said, "No," as usual. Then I asked, "Orange?" and got another, "No." So I told her that she needed to pick one. Again, another insolent, "No." So I said, "Okay, no fruit, no bread." This meant no dinner.

In case you think me horrible, remember that this child has never known deprivation. She also had a HUGE lunch, for a change, so she wasn't going to come to any harm, physically or psychologically.

About 15 minutes later, I get, "Wo er le," which is, I'm hungry. I ask, "Apple or orange," and she said apple. I told her she had to eat it before her sandwich and she did. Then she exclaimed, "Hao chur," which means it's really good.

The Safari Park was all I remembered it to be. Jie Jie and I rode the elephant again and loved it. Sissy was afraid of the height of the platform we went on to mount the ride and freaked out, so she didn't ride the elephant with us. All three of us pet a Koala, and he was amazing! He liked me a lot and looked me in the eyes and responded to how I stroked his back, but with the others, he turned away. They have such pointy faces!

So, while Jie Jie ate, I put on a movie for her on the portable DVD player while I washed Sissy's hair. Sissy was to wash her body first and she had plenty of time to do so. I told her about six times, I kid you not. After the hair was done, I turned off the water and Sissy starts to dry off then stops, motioning that she needs to wash herself. I shook my head and said, "Too bad, first wash, second hair." I used some Chinese, of course, so she'd understand. She did and dropped it, and this is progress, because she knew I'd told her. After that, she also watched some of the DVD, which was the movie Up. We'd never seen it before and we were watching it in English as per Jie Jie's preference. It's super easy to follow, though, and the beginning doesn't even have words. Sissy started sighing, going on about how she couldn't understand it, etc... Finally, she realized I wasn't going to change anything and the moment it was over, I sent her to bed. She tried to argue, then I reminded her of her coughing the night before and she didn't give me any further lip about it. Within moments, she was asleep and Jie Jie and I worked on the puzzle and finished it. It was something we were all supposed to do, but Sissy just isn't interested in anything. If, later, she complains that I dragged her around China, I'll be able to tell her that it sure beat staying in the room watching her sit doing absolutely nothing but huff at us. Culture shock doesn't begin to describe what Sissy is going to go through in the US.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We Found the Fish...and Other Tails!

Jie Jie at breakfast.

Sissy at breakfast.

The garden at the Garden Hotel

Jie Jie on the little bridge.


Family of 3.

The bottle-fed fish!

Even Sissy tried it after having mama help her.

Jie Jie didn't need any urging.
She'd been looking forward to this.

The Barbie Jie Jie really wanted.
It was about $15.

The Barbie she acutally got, $7.
Now I wish I'd spent more getting her the other because she's been so excellent on this trip, she deserves it.
Perhaps I'll go back and get it.