Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holidays!

Here we are, once again, getting ready to celebrate another Christmas. It was just about this time of the year in 2010,when we decided to adopt Sam and Leo. We decided to adopt Ben and John just before Thanksgiving in 2008. The holidays obviously affect my decision making! No, I'm not about to announce another adoption is on the horizon. I wish. We just don't have the money anymore. Adopting four kids in two years, and six kids in private schools, has emptied our bank account. However, our house is all decorated, the tree is up, and we've been teaching the "reason for the season" to our new sons. Both Sam and Leo were absolutely ecstatic when they first saw Christmas lights on the houses. "Look left! Look, look! Christmas!" I think it's simply amazing that our sons (home seven months) even know left from right, much less understand the birth of Jesus. But they do. We don't teach our children about Santa Claus (although we watch tons of Christmas movies that extol Santa's virtues) because we want to focus on the spirit of Jesus's birth. Yes, our children receive a ton of Christmas presents, but they all come from MOM. We tell the kids that the wise-men brought Jesus presents on his birthday, and I give the presents on Christmas so that we can remember to celebrate Jesus. In fact, I video-taped Sam singing the song "Happy Birthday Jesus" the other day on my cell-phone. I wish I knew how to upload it to my computer and post it here. I am technically challenged. I learn just enough computer stuff to get by, and that's it.
On Saturday, Sam had a strange virus hit him suddenly. I heard him crying at 6:00am, and when I got him out of bed he was sobbing that his head hurt. The crying, pounding migraine-like headache and then vomiting lasted for over two hours. I was eternally grateful that I could be there to hold him, rub his back, wipe his face and rock him. I kept wondering if he'd be left to suffer alone if he was still in China. Any family, even a dysfunctional one, is better than no family at all. I don't care what the anti-adoption factions say. Every child needs a family. Our foster child lives in a bad, bad situation, with parents who are less than stellar, and yet he still says that the thing he's most thankful for (on Thanksgiving) is his family.
On another note, on Thursday we have the first meeting with the committee on special education for Sam. I'm really interested to hear what types of recommendations the teacher for the visually impaired has. Most of the time, most people wouldn't even guess that he's blind. His dark tinted glasses (orange) look like sun glasses, and people just assume he's being cute, wearing his sun glasses inside. The orange tint does seem to help him see better though. Whatever it takes. For the last two years, Ben has been receiving extra help in reading and receiving speech therapy. This week we received a call that Ben has met all his speech goals and no longer needs speech therapy. Hooray! Also, Ben's spelling list has been increased from ten words to fifteen words weekly. We used to spend (no exaggeration) ten hours a week working with Ben on his spelling list. We now spend 30 minutes a week, and Ben still gets 100% on every test. Yippee. Soon Ben will be reading confidently at grade level (3rd). I can not tell you how pleased we are with our children's education. The school has bent over backwards to help our boys, and the results are worth every penny we pay in tuition.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving is more than turkey and pie

This year we have been especially thankful. We honestly count every blessing, every single day. In case I sound like a greeting card, I will confess that David and I still "lose our cool" regularly. Over the holiday weekend (5 days of togetherness) David lost his temper with the teens, and I lost mine with John. But the little ones bring us more joy than we can even begin to measure. If only they stayed little forever! Sam has been extremely affectionate, and crazy about the idea of snow. Of course, being from southern China, Sam has no real understanding of our upstate NY winter! So far, only a few flakes have fallen, but that hasn't stopped us from getting ready for a cold, long winter, and the beginning of our ski season. Really, if we can't swim, then we might as well ski. I actually did heat up the new inground pool one last time and we went swimming on Thanksgiving!! I don't even want to see that propane bill! Hopefully, we'll close the pool this week, and the snow will quickly follow. We can skip the muddy fall season, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, Sam is scheduled to receive adaptive ski lessons at Holiday Valley Ski resort on December 26th. The instructors at the Lounsbury adaptive ski lodge are well-versed in teaching downhill skiing to visually impaired students, and the Association for the Blind in Rochester has agreed to sponsor Sam for up to four lessons. Leo is less excited for snow, since he lived in northern China, near Mongolia. Brrrr. On another note, we've been providing respite foster care to a boy who is almost 12 years old. I'm finding that once we have a houseful of boys, one more just doesn't change anything. Kindof makes me wish we could afford to adopt another little guy. The price is high, but the rewards are so great! And we just adore having little ones again!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Update on Sam's vision

I realized that I should've posted an update on Sam's vision. October 1st he underwent an ERG test under general anesthesia. The Dr. found that the rods in his eyes are permanently damaged, but the cones are fine. This means that his blindness "probably" will not progress. Sam will never see well enough to drive a car (even with corrective lenses), but he manages his condition and functions just fine. Most people would not even guess that he has 20/400 vision and is legally blind. We are in the process of having Sam evaluated by the special education committee at school so that we can make the appropriate educational accommodations. Leo will be evaluated by the special education committee for his hyper-sensitivity to smell, noise, touch etc. Basically, Leo's environment was so lacking in stimulus that he over-reacts to sensory activities. We think that he'll become thicker skinned with some physical therapy, and the school is looking into integrating more sensory experiences in his curriculum. In the meantime, Leo is in kindergarten and he's learning to read like crazy! He recognizes most of his letters and knows many 3 letter words. Sam still struggles with the alphabet (in first grade) but some of that is probably due to his vision. Baby steps. We adore all of our children, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat! In fact, we are now foster parenting an 11 year old boy on the weekends too. He will probably never be legally free for adoption, but we love that providing him respite care is making a difference in his life.

6 months home

We've been home with Leo and Sam for six months now. Wow! We're all adjusting amazingly well, although we are still in "hunker down" mode. This means that we still can't even think about upsetting the daily routine for a weekend in NYC to watch Austin's championship race. It would just be too disruptive. The boys' taekwondo teacher had his car in the repair shop for a few days, and Leo's "good thing" at dinner last night was the teacher's car was back at the school. Yes, the fact that the teacher had a rental car in the parking lot totally threw Leo off his game. As Austin commented, "Boy, do these kids ever need structure and routine." So, yes, the adjustment has been smooth, but only because we've resigned ourselves to never actually going on a vacation. With that in mind, I spent the entire summer having an inground pool installed. Our home might as well be our vacation destination. Again, we're comfortable and calm most days, but I found these two posts wonderful to read.

Obviously, I'm a fan of Jen Hatmaker. And I did just read Jen Hatmaker's book "7." I found the book a bit preachy, and I didn't find anything revolutionary in the steps she took to reduce excess in order to live a more holy life. For instance, the family reduced their computer use, TV 7 types of media.Well, we watch TV (the one station we actually get) 2-3 times per month. We rent a family movie once a week and watch it together.  We don't have internet in the house (except for my smart phone), and we don't own any gaming systems. Jen gave away clothes etc...big deal, we donate enormous bags of stuff every single month. But she does seem to have a handle on the issues surrounding adoption. So read her posts. I'm sorry I post so infrequently. The whole lack of internet (a choice we made because we have teens) slows down my blogging.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


September 5 was the first day of school, and also Sam's 7th birthday! Wow! What a fabulous day! The kids all LOVE school (even Leo!) and we celebrated Sam's birthday with cake and ice cream.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sam's vision

Oops. I forgot to mention that we have received a new medical diagnosis regarding Sam. My bad. In a previous post I mentioned that Sam (age 7 soon!) needs to have a Electronretinography test on his eyes (under sedation) in October. What I failed to realize, because the Dr. only told me the acuity number and not what it actually MEANS, is that Sam is legally blind, in both eyes. I guess that makes me "blond" for not understanding the truth of the number 20/400. Supposedly, Sam has no central vision, only peripheral vision. I say supposedly because Sam rides his bike, he scooters, he runs, jumps and plays on the playground, just like all the other kids. Truly. The only time Sam has problems is with unfamiliar steps. If we walk across a parking lot, for instance, he sometimes tries to step up when it's only a color change in the sidewalk. He "feels" for steps too, when he's walking down an unfamiliar stairway. Other people would Never notice his vision impairment. I'm still not convinced that Sam only sees 20/400 with glasses. In fact, when the Dr. told me the acuity was 20/400, I thought he meant that was Sam's vision without his glasses. If he's really blind, I would've thought the Dr. would have made a bigger deal out of the exam and made a point to let me know that I needed to contact the Association for the Visually Impaired. Instead, we were referred to another Dr., who decided to schedule the ERG. I didn't clue in on the fact that he was blind until I asked the original Dr. to please write a note to the school saying that Sam should be given up-front seating due to his undiagnosed vision issue. Instead, the letter I received states that Sam is legally blind and should have the rights of individuals with disabilities
. Anyway, we won't know a real diagnosis or prognosis until October. In the meantime, we're just enjoying our summer. For the last six weeks, we've been in the midst of installing a new swimming pool, and it's finally ready for swimmers! 

Large families

I find it interesting that most people think we have an ENORMOUS family. In fact, when people ask me how many REAL children we have, I often answer, "Do you mean how many children do we claim on our taxes? Or how many  kids have our last name? Or How many call me Mom? Or how about the number of kids who ask me for money?" It's my way of reminding people that Moms are not always defined by the act of giving birth. I am the mom of 8 children, 6 who live at home still. And because you are so very curious, I'll tell you that four of our children were biological. We've also been foster parents to 5 children, and Mom and Dad to 4 foreign exchange students. So, how many children is that in total? Obviously, I've been feeling a bit defensive about our choice to have a larger than average family. I'm not sure why, exactly, but we do think it gets much easier to parent a bunch than to parent only two children. And we really do enjoy the chaos, wrestling and noise. Most of the time. I'm NOT looking forward to the quiet that settles on the house when the children begin school in September. Maybe it's time to return to work? Or time to think about adopting again? Just kidding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Learning English and other stuff

Our amazing little guys have been busy, busy, busy! I can't even begin to tell you how wonderfully they fit into our family now. YES, even Leo. He had challenging behaviors for awhile, but you'd never know it now, after being home for four months. And boy, oh boy, can they speak English...incessantly. I am constantly in awe. Leo begins Kindergarten this year (in a few weeks) and Sam will begin First Grade at Lima Christian School. They are healthy. They are happy. They are loved. Sam still needs to have a medical test under sedation (an ERG on his eyes) in October, but we still see no signs of his previously diagnosed cerebral palsy. Leo is a super-quick learner and very loving. No signs of any unknown medical issues with him either. We feel so blessed. In fact, people who meet our boys (including Ben,adopted 2010) would NEVER suspect that they haven't lived here many years. Ben will be in third grade, he reads constantly, and he speaks English with no trace of an accent. Would I adopt an older child again? In a heartbeat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Finally, it happened. I've been expecting it, and I was (sort of) prepared, but somehow it caught me by surprise anyway. Maybe I should post this on our first blog, but this is the most current one, so I'll talk about it here. On the way home from swimming lessons, Ben began questioning me about his adoption story. We adopted Ben 2 years ago. Since he will be 9 years old next month, and he began his questioning asking if he's REALLY 9 years old, and if August 23 is his REAL birthday. I answered the only way I know how to answer anything; with total and complete honesty. We don't know your exact birthday, Ben, but your documents show August 23. When a baby is found in China, someone takes a guess as to how old the child is and gives them a probable birth date. You were found as a young baby, so we do know that your year of birth is accurate. That led to the discussion of why babies are given up for adoption.
Ben seemed ok with the idea that sometimes babies have medical needs and their birth mom's don't have enough money to take them to the Dr. so they take them to the orphanage to find new parents who can take care of them better. What Ben really struggled with is the fact that his foster parents didn't adopt him. Ben lived in a foster home for his entire life, as far as we know. Ben talks about his foster mom taking him to the Dr. ALL the time! Ben declared emphatically that his foster mom had the money to take him to the Dr. "Why didn't she keep me?" Now, I'm pretty sure Ben's foster family wasn't well-off. They ran a farm in China, had dirt floors, and all shared one bed. But in all honesty, trying to explain why a Chinese family can't adopt a foster child had me stumped. I'm sure it's like attempting inter-state domestic adoption here, darn near impossible because of the government. All I could say, repeatedly, is that your foster mom knew that we would be able to take great care of you, provide you with a good education, and the medical care in the U.S. is better. Lame. Lame. Lame. My one wish, right now, would be to be able to contact Ben's foster parents for him. I've tried and only reached dead-ends. So...did I have the right answers for Ben?  Nope. I hope he at least remembers that I didn't lie to him. His foster mom told Ben that he was coming to the United States to go to school, and he would return to China soon. The poor little guy spent six months here before he realized that he wasn't going "home." Advice anyone?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

English as a Second Language

Our little guys have been home three months now, and one of the things that continues to amaze me is how FAST our children are learning English. They understand 99.99% of what I say, and they speak English constantly now, even to each other. This morning they asked me when Austin is coming home (he's in China), and I answered, "In three more weeks." Leo went to the calendar, sang the song "Sunday, Monday, Tues, Wed..." three times, and pointed to the day that he thought Austin would arrive home. He was only a few days off the mark! In church, Sam greeted our pastoral associate by asking her "What are you doing?" She wasn't outside greeting parishioners like normal, she was in the back hallway by the bathrooms, and Sam thought it was noteworthy. Leo asked me, "Today, everybody good church! Today, doughnut?" I will admit, I often reward the little guys with french fries and donuts. I know, I know. I shouldn't start bad habits blah, blah, blah. But they are painfully thin, and I want to fatten them up a bit. Unfortunately, I've also gained weight too, by osmosis it seems. Soon, our french fry stops will be a thing of the past, I promise. But I digress. Before we adopted John and Ben, we spent a ton of time worrying about how we were going to communicate with them. We've found that we just don't have any issues with communication. I'm great at reading body language, and our adoptees have been great self-advocators. They manage to let me know what they need and want with no trouble at all. They need lots of attention, lots of love, and lots of french fries! The English language acquisition hasn't been an issue for us. Ben and John have been here two years and most people assume we adopted them as babies. John still speaks with a slight accent, but Ben speaks American English as if he's lived here all his life!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Still Loving Summer

I can't believe it's almost mid-July! This amazingly hot summer is just flying by! We're loving life and loving the summer weather, although our gardens and grass would prefer more rain. The kids' summer reading program started last week, and that has been working out great. Monday-Thursday four of the boys (John, Ben, Sam and Leo) work with a tutor (a graduate student in the SUNY Geneseo Literacy program) for 90 minutes. That gives me 90 minutes to run on the track next to the school. Of course, now I'm incredibly sore too. We're hoping the reading program will prepare both Leo and Sam for school  ( a local
Christian School) in the fall.

After reading, we come home, eat lunch and take naps. Then off to taekwondo lessons (for me) 1-2pm, followed by swimming lessons for the 3 little boys 2:30-3:30, and then taekwondo for the rest of the boys 4:30-6pm. We sit down as a family for dinner by 6:30pm, and watch a family movie until bedtime. On the weekends we usually invite another family over to roast marshmallows around a bonfire. Sound boring? Probably to most people. But I can't think of a better life for us. The kids have been getting along wonderfully, and we feel blessed.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My sentiments EXACTLY!

Once again, another adoptive mom was able to put into words my exact feelings. I'll simply post the link here and hope you take the time to READ IT to the end!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Want to Help Them but....

Our adoption agency posted the question, Is being an older parent easier? I would say DEFINITELY.  As an "older" parent, I finally, finally, finally understand that almost every time I leap in to HELP my children, I am doing them a disservice. I really love to help. I will tie my kiddos shoes until they are twelve, if they would let me. I do not want my kids to ever feel discomfort, distress or hardship.I want to solve all their problems, help with their homework and make their lunches. Now, as an older parent, I know that every time I rush to their side to help them, I am telling my children that I don't think they can do it without me. I am NOT helping. I am merely making myself feel important and needed. That is not good parenting, in my mind. So I changed the way I do things.
When we first adopted the two little guys, for instance, I gently put on their coats, zipped them, carried them to the van,lifted them into the van, placed them in their carseats, and buckled them in place. The experienced mother in me, however, only allowed this total dependence for a week or so, in the name of bonding. Or maybe I'm just not that patient anymore, and I couldn't stand to spend 15 minutes getting everyone into the van. By week two, I would hold their hands and walk them to the car, wait while they climbed into the vehicle and sat in their seats, and then I gently buckled them. By week three, I was teaching them how to buckle themselves into the seat. Whenever they buckled themselves in, they received high-fives from all the passengers! Now,two months after the adoptions, I say, "Come on!! Let's go!" and I fully expect all the children to get their own shoes on, and their own butts in their seats (buckled) in 30 seconds flat.
I am proud when the director of the swimming pool thinks my 13 year old son is 16. "Not because of how he looks, but he just seems so mature and independent." Yesterday, I dropped our 16 year old son off at the grocery store (with a list) while I took the littles to swimming lessons. I picked him up 45 minutes later, and our grocery shopping is done! Of course, he made a few mistakes, bought the wrong brands sometimes, and didn't use coupons. Next time, he will do it better. I will not be the parent who sends her children off to college not knowing how to do their own laundry!! I like to do laundry, usually, but I wash linens at our rental cottage each week. Everyone over 9 years old does their own laundry. It's not sorted, but who cares anyway. Really. Everyone over the age of 10 knows how to cook on the grill and use a cordless drill. I hold my breathe every time I want to HELP, and I let them struggle for a count of 60. Tears of frustration bring smiles of joy when the task is mastered. Repeat after me...My helping tells them I don't think they can do the task. I am taking anyway from them every time I leap in to solve their problems.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Camp Mom? Not me!

Summer is here and it's been hot, hot, hot! Our kids get out of school the first week of June, so we've had over a month off already. What I find interesting is that I realized that I am again the exception to the norm. I'm reading lots of blogs talking about the kids driving the moms crazy by now, and I just don't feel that way. I find articles on how to get the kids away from the TV this summer and learn how to play outside again, like this one and I find blogs on the same topic.I love this blog! But I don't get it. We have five boys home, and I'm missing number six (Austin, who is in Asia all summer). Maybe because we have Connor.Connor who spends a whole day trying to design a parachute that will lift him off the ground when he runs down our back yard hill. In general, Connor spends unbelievable amounts of time building things, or taking things apart, and he gets the other kids to "help." Last week he researched and built a ballista (a type of catapult). Connor found a come-along in the garage and decided he needed to use it to build something.First, he had to fix it, since it was broken. Then he had to find enough scrap wood for the project. Overall, it took at least a week to build the ballista, and Connor can now launch big sticks a few hundred feet. Then he built a workbench in the garage. I did have to buy two 2 x 4's for that project, but it was worth it in the end. The other day, Connor had friends over for the day, and I handed out the cordless drill and suggested that it was time to disassemble the rotting wooden play structure and burn it. That project kept seven (the friends too) busy all day! Yes, the fire was a bit HOT, but the bucket brigade was ready. I guess I'm just lucky that I don't need to research ways to leave the technology behind  because we have so little technology here. We can't get TV stations unless we move the TV into Austin's room, and spend hours with the rabbit ears and tin foil. We did this for the Superbowl. We only have internet on one laptop, and we get it by plugging in a cell phone device. We just don't have video games or handheld games, or any of that technie stuff. I'm not judging those that do; it's a choice we made and we are happy with our life. We do have a ton of books, and 12 acres of fields/woods/streams/ponds.We mow six acres of grass and have a level playing area for football, Frisbee,soccer games etc. We have a trampoline, and a 1/4 mile long paved driveway for bikes/scooters/basketball/skates etc. Also, I purchased a 14' put together pool from Walmart, which has been worth every dollar.So..if the kids bicker, I have a set of index cards with chores listed on them. Draw your punishment,kiddo. If they whine, draw again. If they come into the house when they should be outside, draw once more. I can have the cleanest house in town,or the kids can go play nicely--outside. I simply feel no need to organize a day camp for our children. I admire those mothers who organize their kids' summer, but I am just not going to feel pressured into trying to entertain the kids all summer. They need to entertain themselves or I'll find them jobs to do. But, I do not wish they were back in school. I'm happy they have the summer to just play outside! I take them to pick berries sometimes, and to their various lessons (swimming, taekwondo, guitar). We all nap everyday. We get up early everyday (even the teens must be up by 8:30) to run, and we have a bonfire or a family movie every night. I LOVE SUMMER!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Staying home

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am NOT a homebody. I like to be on the GO, GO, GO! I plan months in advance, and we usually go to friends' houses or entertain at our house every weekend. Although I love our home, I'm a type A++ personality and thrive on exercise, activities and lots of stimulation. (This is probably why I still don't know how to work a remote control). However, when you adopt older children, we have found that it's important to just stay home. A lot. Staying home, even when the kids seem to be adjusting well, goes against my normal inclinations;but we believe that it's the most important thing we can do to help our children adjust. Our new little guys still don't know our extended family, and they get confused/stressed when we have a bunch of people over. They get super stressed when we upset their normal routine. For example, every single day, at least 100 times a day, the little guys ask about what we are going to do today and tomorrow. " Eat lunch, and little sleep today?"  "Baba working?" "Connor and John running?" "Swimming lessons?" "Today, taekwondo?" It's readily apparent that routines are what make them feel secure. Makes sense to me. If my life was suddenly completely out of whack (if I were to be kidnapped by very nice aliens, and forced to live on a very nice planet, called Mars), I might feel better knowing that every day followed a specific pattern.
 And I might be confused meeting a bunch of people too. We decided not to attend any of the 4th of July celebrations/parties for this specific reason. The Independence Holiday is a BIG deal on Conesus Lake, and we've had to decline a bunch of invitations so that we can stay home and just vegetate. Maybe we'll roast marshmallows or watch a movie, but big crowds are out of the question this year. It's just too confusing for Sam and Leo. Yesterday, Leo ran to the car of the electrician and tried to give him a hug. Yep. The electrician is an older gentlemen, and Leo thought that he must be another relative.
Which brings me to another point. How do I nicely tell our relatives (and close friends) that it's confusing to our children to be greeted with hugs? Our adopted sons are just learning to comfort (or apologize) to each other with a kind word and/or a hug. They do not know these friends and relatives one iota, and it's weird to be hugged by nice "strangers."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pillow talk

I don't know if it's the summer weather we've been having, or just a product of more time together, but all of the boys have been getting along FABULOUSLY these days. Last night, David and I could hear the three little guys giggling and whispering for an hour after we put them to bed. It was so cute it brought tears to my eyes. And Connor and John have been biking, hiking, playing basketball and running (training for cross-country that starts in the fall) together every day. Yesterday, John and Connor biked 6 miles to the library, ran 3 miles, got out some books, and then biked 6 miles home. They were gone so long that I actually drove to the library to check on them! It's amazing how much they can find to do together in the absence of video games and TV.  I even confiscated their MP3 players at the beginning of the summer because I find that the ear phones tend to become a means of disconnecting from others. I only wish Austin was here to join in the fun!! We are truly enjoying summer. But, right now Austin is completely off the grid in Burma. He will be there for 18 days, then he travels to Thailand to work at the Hilltop orphanage. After 7 days in Thailand, Austin flies to China to stay with Cheng, our former exchange student. Austin will be there a month, learning Chinese! It's all good. I must admit, I love having six sons!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Soy Sauce and Sleep

One of the challenges of adopting an older child is that they already have their likes and dislikes well established. We can encourage them to try new things (swimming!!), but our little guys definitely have set preferences. A few weeks ago, Leo somehow managed to sneak the soy sauce out of the refrigerator and pour it all over his clothes and blankets. Yep, his dresser drawers and some of his clothes were nearly ruined. But they smelled like Chinese food, and I'm guessing he needed that comfort that particular day. Then, recently, Leo began to set up his "bed" on the bedroom floor. If you've been following this blog, you already know that Leo had a difficult time sleeping for several weeks after we arrived home. We attributed it to jet-lag, and eventually we were able to coax Leo into sleeping most nights, although fitfully. Ben (home 2 years now) pointed out to me that the beds in China are wooden boards (literally) covered with a blanket. Leo's bed in China was rock hard. He sleeps better on the floor because our beds are too soft. Duh! Why didn't I think of that? So, every day now, Leo (and now Sam too) will spread their blankets on the floor (next to their very expensive bunk-bed set) to sleep. Do I hope that they will eventually sleep in their bed? Yes. But, for now, I'm thrilled that Leo figures out ways to make our home more like what he was used to in China. Self-advocating, even without words, is an amazing skill-set.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2 months!

We've been home with our sons for exactly 2 months today. Our pediatrician wanted to see the little guys (again) to see how they are progressing, and our appointment was this morning. We found out that in 8 weeks Sam grew 1/4" and gained 3 1/2 lbs!!  Leo grew 1/2" and gained 1 1/2 lbs!! Now, for me, gaining 3 pounds is possible in a weekend, but for these guys that is a HUGE gain in only two months. They weigh less than 40lbs each, so proportionately that is a lot of weight gain! We talked at length about some of Leo's behaviors, and basically we decided to just give him more time to heal. The Dr. is a big proponent of ADHD medications, and he gave us the speech about that particular disorder. Overall, David and I think we need to find another pediatrician that is more familiar with adoption/trauma/abandonment/abuse issues, and isn't so quick to decide ADHD is the problem. Institutionalization is the problem. Adopted children typically lose 3-4 months developmentally for every year they have to live in an orphanage. The boys will continue to make gains as they feel safe enough to sleep, as they eat healthy meals, and just as they heal. No medications can undue years of neglect and abuse. We can only love them as they are right now, and understand their trauma. We are not even certain we will send Leo to school in the fall. It might prove to be too stressful for him. At this point, we are rejoicing the daily progress and harnessing our patience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm thrilled that school is over and all the kids are home for the summer! Call me crazy, but I find that it's so much easier on me to have all six boys all home and on the same schedule. The big kids run around to a million activities during the school year, and they attend two different schools, with different school calendars. When they are home for the summer, we can play, rest, play, swim, and rest. I know you don't believe me, but the big kids entertain the little kids, and I have more time to just relax and read a book! Unless we have a houseful of company, which we often do during the summer. For instance, on Father's Day, Leo and Sam received the sacrament of baptism. We hosted our big extended family for a cook-out, and I ran around like a madwoman cooking, cleaning, and getting the children in their best finery. I purchased a small (14') pool from Walmart a few weeks ago, and the kids are also spending many hours splashing in the pool. Don't get me wrong; we're plenty busy in the summer too. I like to be busy, and I believe idle hands are the devil's tool. So, another session of swimming lessons begins next week, and the first week of July the kids begin their summer reading program (9-10:30 daily). We still take taekwondo classes 10 times a week, and we will catch up on our yard work. With 12 acres of land, we spend a ton of time just mowing the yard! We also have a cottage that we rent out to weekly tenants all summer, and we have to go there and clean it and mow the lawn weekly. So we'll be busy, but on my terms, not the school's. We can skip lessons when we need a break, or add more if we are bored. Hooray for summer!

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Job as a parent

As a parent, I feel one of my most important jobs (other than providing love, medical care etc.) is to teach my children how to be independent adults. To achieve this, I sometimes have to take a hard (or hands-off) stance. A perfect example took place this morning. Our 16 year old son, John, (adopted 2010) has a regents exam (NYS mandated test) today at school. John announced to me last night that he told the bus driver that he wouldn't be taking the bus because I was going to be driving him. John obviously thinks it's ok to try to manipulate me into being his personal chauffeur. So, I told John that I was NOT going to drive him 20 minutes there, come home, and then turn around and pick him up again 2 hours later--sorry he thought I should spend 80 minutes in the car today, but I disagreed.  Austin has 2 friends overnight, we have 3 other little kids to take care of, and my day isn't going to revolve around John's regents exam. I told him, last night, that he could take the bus to the regents exam, like all the other kids did, or he could ride his bike the 15 miles. Well, this morning he came downstairs all agitated, insisting that the bus wasn't coming, and that I was forcing him to ride his bike to school (15 miles each way). Obviously, I'm a bad mother and all this mess is my fault. David just happened to be home still, and he told John that if the bus didn't come as scheduled, then Dad would drop him off to school on his way to work. But NOPE. John was determined to punish me. He left for school, by bike, at 6:30am, for a 11:00am test. I suggested that John take food and water, and I was rebuffed. I insisted that John take a cell phone with him, and John was even angrier with me. Not only wasn't I going to be manipulated into driving John, but I was going to try to help him pack for the long bike ride. Ugh. Overall, though, I think this will help prepare John to be an independent adult. He (hopefully) will learn that transportation to and from work is not easy sometimes. Sometimes, you need to ask another adult for a ride and accept proffered help. Sometimes, being stubborn, only punishes yourself. In fact, the 15 mile bike ride didn't inconvenience anyone but the child who stubbornly tried to manipulate the situation. And I'm hopeful that John won't assume that I'm his personal chauffeur the next time he decides he won't take the bus.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Loved this post from another adoptive mom..hope she doesn't mind if I share her link.


We are all adjusting more and more as each day goes by. At least 100 times a day Sam asks me about our schedule. Really, it's almost comical. All day long Sam asks questions such as: "Tomorrow, Connor, Ben, John, go to school?" "Baba working today?" "Tomorrow, Sam and Leo, taekwondo?" "Baba driving truck work?" "Today, Momma, taekwondo?" "Today, momma drive boat?" "Tomorrow, Austin's friend?" "Ben and Sam, swimming pool?"
Constantly Sam seeks to know what's on the calendar! Obviously, he has a pretty good idea of our normal activities, and then I throw in a visit to Grandma and Grandpa and it totally throws him off. Grandma and Grandpa live in Florida, but they are visiting (staying at my brother's house) for a week. But Sam suddenly remembers something important...."Grandma and Grandpa, gave!" Yep, he's quickly learning the score!
Leo is less inquisitive about our schedule, but just as clever. Leo sets the table (CORRECTLY) every night before dinner. He can say prayers, and he's exceptionally organized and neat. He loves to help clean--hooray!! Leo does still have LOTS of anxiety. New situations, new people, and doctors, make him a bit nutty. I constantly have to reassure him that "Leo is a good boy." Leo doesn't accept even the mildest correction without getting stressed, and upset --and hitting himself as punishment for the minor infraction. He blossoms when praised though. I have to keep reminding the other boys that Ben and John also had lots of issues when they were first adopted. In fact, they still have some orphanage behaviors that we are just used to by now. Ben will still eat until he vomits, if we don't monitor his food intake. John still hoards and hides things. Oh! Did I mention Leo's propensity to hoard and hide? Yes, every time we are missing anything, we know that Leo has squirreled it away somewhere. Usually, he hides things like match-box cars, or bathroom supplies. But a few weeks ago, my credit card and grocery money were missing. Eventually, Ben found my grocery money in a pocket in his backpack, and I found the credit card in the cabinet with the toilet paper. Life can be challenging when you constantly have to watch out for where you put your car keys!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Building forts

This morning Leo and Sam are doing the most normal thing in the world, building pillow/blanket forts. I honestly didn't even dare hope that they would be playing nicely and playing imaginary games together only six weeks after joining our family. WOW! We actually feared that Leo was on the autistic spectrum, and now here he is cooperating fully and playing make-believe and pretend with Sam. Sam is pushing Leo around in a laundry basket, and they are going to the first "fort," that I now understand is  a drive-thru coffee shop. Sam is running into the fort, and Leo is saying, in English, "Coffee Please" from his make-believe car. Again I say, God is great. Love can't conquer all, but having a family can make the world of difference to a child.

Singing the ABC's

Friday, June 1, 2012

boys doing their taekwondo form--video

Friends--for now!

Hooray!  Leo and Sam suddenly decided to be friends!!!! Yipee! It all started out when Leo forgot his matchbox car, as we were leaving for swimming lessons, and he ran back into the house to get it.  Leo carries toys with him everywhere he goes, and I knew I had to wait for him to retrieve the toy. When he got back into the car, Leo handed Sam a toy too. For some unknown reason, Leo decided that Sam should also have a toy. Later that morning, Sam gave Leo a pair of sunglasses that were stashed in a backpack. Leo was THRILLED. Leo then gave Sam a big plastic straw that makes an obnoxious whistle sound. By nap time, the boys wanted to share a bed and nap together. God is good.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


 Photo is of Benjamin--adopted March 2010

We adopted Leo and Sam only six weeks ago, and there are already obvious signs of healing. I should backtrack and say that every adoption begins with loss. Adopted children lose their birth parents. It’s a sad truth that remains with every adoptee forever. A new family cannot simply negate the feelings of abandonment, but a loving family can help the child’s heart heal.  Our family provides the children with a sense of safety too.
It’s amazing how we take safety for granted.  Our biological children learned since birth that I will keep them safe.  I will catch them, fight for them, and meet their every need, all of the time.  Older adopted children do not believe this to be true. Somewhere in the back of their heads, they always feel the need to ensure their own survival. We see it in subtle ways every day, and all we can do is constantly show them that they will always be safe in our home. For instance, we’ve had to take a hard stance against bullying and teasing. The teens can “joke” with each other sometimes, but the “just kidding” usually slides into bullying if we don’t intervene.
Our adopted sons, particularly Leo, were under the constant stress of survival before they joined our family. As I mentioned in a previous post, Leo often acted like a wild animal the first few weeks.  He was in flight or fight mode every minute. Thankfully, he is healing faster than we hoped. He is learning to trust us to keep him safe and meet his needs. David and I are starting to anticipate the activities that are Leo’s stress triggers, and we are able calm his fears before they overwhelm and claim his poor exhausted soul.
For example, when Leo spills a cup of water, he immediately begins to scratch his head and arms. He will scratch himself absolutely raw when he is scared. Or he will bite his own arm until he breaks the skin, if we do not intervene.   I’m guessing that small spills were a serious offense in the orphanage, and Leo was probably punished when he spilled. We won’t hurt him, so he hurts himself. Now, I simply serve Leo all his drinks in a cup with a lid. No spills lessen the daily stress. Reduced stress means no furious scratching. As the stress of daily life is reduced, Leo is rapidly changing his own behaviors. He rarely hurts himself anymore, and he never hits or pinches me now. For this reason, we seldom implement “time out” or any other punishment when Leo is misbehaving. We’ve found that standard measures of discipline only add to Leo’s stress and exacerbate the behaviors.
What we’ve learned from adopting Leo is that parenting an older hurt child requires a different way of parenting. Our son was so traumatized by orphanage life that our first priority is to help him heal and bond. Only after he heals we can guide him to appropriate behaviors. This is not to say that we don’t get angry and frustrated sometimes, and act accordingly. We are NOT saints. We lose our cool and yell at our kids, just like every other parent. We just try harder to remain calm now. Older child adoption is challenging, yes, but every challenge we meet brings us growth.  How much can we grow as a family? We shall see. We have to remember, the difference between try and triumph is a little umph.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Today, after swimming lessons, the boys and I stopped by David's office so that they could see where Daddy went all day. One of David's law partners remarked that our lives certainly have changed! I had to pause for a second, and then honestly say that our lives really haven't changed all that much. Leo and Sam's lives have definitely changed, but we are still doing most of the same things we did before. I still stop at the store 4-5 times a week. I just buy an extra gallon or two of milk now. I still do laundry everyday. I still jog and work out on the rowing machine everyday, although now I run with a stroller and get hit with nerf bullets as I row. I garden, with the boys "help." I drive children back and forth to various lessons. I mow the lawn while the boys play on the swings. My life actually hasn't changed as much as I anticipated. The little guys play in the playroom, and I still take taekwondo classes three times a week. David still picks up children from various activities, and he still reads bed-time stories every night. We still eat dinner together every evening, and there are still left-overs, even with two more plates on the table.
Leo and Sam's lives, however, are vastly different!! What a difference a day makes in their young lives. Wow. Leo has changed drastically in the last month. He went from acting like a needy two year old, to an independent little guy who is surpassing our wildest expectations. Every morning, since Leo is the first child awake, he sets out the cereal bowls, the spoons, and the napkins. He then looks to see if David is watching, and waits for a word of praise. Leo then pours everyone a bowl of cereal, making sure he is loud enough to wake up the rest of the household! We never told or asked him how to do this little job, but it certainly makes him feel important!! Yes, Leo and Sam are two more little blessings in our daily lives, and we are grateful to be their parents. Hooray for adoption!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Two weeks home!! One month since the adoptions!

We've been home a little over two weeks, and it's been exactly one month since family day with Sam. Leo's family day was April 12, which is exactly a month before my birthday, and is at the end of this week. I can't even begin to describe how much the children have grown already! First of all, our little guys are simply AMAZING! Both boys can count up to 10 in English already, and they recognize their written names!!! Nothing like a pocketful of pennies to get a kiddo motivated to count. They both know and speak at least a couple of HUNDRED words in English, and they understand much more than we would have thought possible. I can tell them, "We are going to the store, " and they will promptly go get their shoes. If I say things like "If you won't go play downstairs nicely, then it's time for a nap," and they both race for the downstairs playroom.
 Leo has made ENORMOUS progress this past week. Their first swimming lesson was yesterday, and I was geared up for a battle. In China, Leo wouldn't go near the pool. In fact, when I put Leo's bathing suit on in the morning, I had to fight him every inch of the way. I was pretty sure he was going to throw a raging temper tantrum at the YMCA. Surprise, surprise!! Once at the Y, Sam eagerly went in the pool, and Leo gingerly followed. No, Leo didn't embrace the swimming lessons, but he did get wet without any tears. We followed the morning swim lessons with my taekwondo class. Both boys played nicely (in my sight) while I sort of paid attention to my taekwondo class. After taekwondo, I received a call from the school nurse. Connor was really sick, with probably strep-throat and a sinus infection. Off to the school we went, to pick up the big kids, and rush Connor to the doctor. Leo and Sam played loudly and energetically in the doctor's waiting room, charming the pants off the office staff. Since we were already at the doctor's office, both Sam and Leo received their first series of shots-- 5 shots each. Leo did cry then, understandably, but Sam didn't even shed a tear. John told Sam that if he was brave, Mom would get them ice-cream (which I did).
After the doctor appointment,  I took Leo to his second dentist appointment since coming home because he needed a cavity filled. Leo actually acted like a regular little guy, in spite of the stress of seeing the doctor earlier. The first month, whenever Leo was stressed, he started hitting, scratching, and pinching himself (or me), or he threw a tantrum. This time, Leo trotted into the dentist's office holding Ben's hand, and he happily shared his prizes with all the other boys.
  Really, most of my time these days is spent at various doctor appointments! In fact, this week I also had to take Austin to the doctor for the follow-up on his concussion that happened back in February!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One week home!

We've been home one week, and I'm happy to report that things are going remarkably well. Much Better than we anticipated. Both Leo and Sam are no longer terrified of the dogs! Leo is finally sleeping through the night! Sam has new glasses! Leo rarely pinches and hits anymore! Sam began taekwondo lessons! Leo doesn't have to be carried everywhere! Honestly, Sam fits in our family as if he's always been here! Leo adores Connor! Don't get me wrong; adoption isn't always easy. But, we'd do it again in a second. The things that are worth doing are often difficult. Check out this video that another family created.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Normal

I haven't blogged in a few days because we are busy settling into our new normal. We've spent many hours this week at the eye Dr., dentist and the pediatrician. Today, we will do the blood draws to test for lead, HIV, Hepatitis, parasites and everything else. It's been a great big help having John to translate for all these exams. The dentist was even able to get bite-wing x-rays because John was able explain to them what they needed to do. 
Leo still does not sleep through the night, which is killing me. We spend the entire night taking turns sleeping with him. We want to keep him out of our bed as much as possible, so one of us lies down in his bed. About an hour after Momma or Baba sneaks out of Leo's bed to sleep in the marital bed, Leo comes to find us, screaming. I remember we went through the same thing with Austin, although he was only two years old at the time. This too shall pass.
I'll eventually add photos to this blog, but in the meantime, if you want to keep up with our daily doings, you can friend me on facebook.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First day home

Our first day home
Today was our first full day as a family. God smiled on us, and the schools all declared a snow day (although the weather wasn’t really that bad at all!). We live in Upstate NY, close to Canada. Usually, we regard 2 feet of a minor inconvenience, and school is only cancelled when there is a major, major blizzard. Our town even boasts a local road-salt mine. So, because God is good, we had an unexpected day together, with all six boys together! Really, it was just Manna from Heaven. Of course, all the kids were wide awake by 4am this morning. The time-zone thing will be the death of me, I swear. David decided to go grocery shopping in the wee hours of the morning, to save me a trip. We’ve been gone almost 3 weeks, our fridge was bare, and he was wide awake at 4am!  Whoo hooo! By 6am, Dad was back from the store, and we were ready for a full breakfast feast. Too bad our new little guys will only eat rice, fruit and congee (rice soup). Really, by the time a snow day was declared this morning, our household had already been awake for 3-4 hours!! But overall, it worked out great.I was able to get an eye Dr. appointment for Sam today, and the Dr. confirmed what we suspected; Sam does have something going on with his eyes; it's called nystagmus. We received a referral to another Dr. and we'll roll with it. The eye doctor appointment took almost 3 hours, and we're lucky we had John to translate and help the boys' get examined. Otherwise, it might have been another few months before we received a diagnosis for Sam. Leo's eyes are perfect. Yippee.
  Connor got to spend a whole lot of time with Leo (DangTong) today. I explained to Connor that Sam has already bonded with John, and Ben and Austin are already tight, so I asked Connor to spend his time today playing with Leo . Or, alternatively, he could help me do all the laundry! Every little boy needs a big boy to show him how to play and be nice, in my humble opinion. By dinnertime, Connor was saying, “Why are you all thinking that Leo is difficult? He just loves me, and does whatever I ask. And he can catch a ball better than Ben!”  PLT.

We ate lunch (If you know me at all, you won’t believe it, but I let the kids eat Ramen noodles. I’m really that exhausted!) and I put everyone down for a nap. We all slept 2 ½ hours. We would have slept longer, but I set an alarm and woke us all up. We have to work hard to get back on East Coast time. I took the kids (4 of them) to taekwondo at 5:30pm. David was asleep on the coach (he left work at 3), and Sam and Leo watched the taekwondo class. Or maybe Sam just lectured Leo the entire time. I’m not really sure what happened, since I was half sleeping. I only know that I MUST intervene whenever there is hitting, pinching etc. The rest, really, I’m just so exhausted at the moment. I’ll get right on that, I promise, if only I could catch up on my sleep. Leo slept with me last night.; which means I haven’t slept in four days.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I'm been absolutely exhausted this entire trip. And I've been awake close to 30 hours straight now, because of our flight cancellation. But before I go to bed, I need to say that we just ADORE our new sons. I don't think I've taken the time to fully capture the emotions; I'm too busy reporting events, most days. The last few days, while traveling, I cuddled our new sons for the entire two day trip home.Yes, I've spent a fair amount of time complaining about United Airlines. They suck, by the way. But I got to spend endless, uninterrupted hours holding and loving our children. Sam and I walked the aisles multiple times, and we found the secret stash of pretzels to raid in the back galley of the plane. Hooray, Momma. That earned me a kiss!   Leo just cries his heart out for me,and meets me gleefully (picture previous post) if I'm gone for even a minute. I've never met a child who needs love and a family more than Leo. And let me tell you about Sam...Oh. My.Word. Sam is terrified of the dogs, but he stands on the carpet (it took him less than 5 minutes to realize our well-trained dogs do not step on carpet), and scolds the 3 dogs. He claps his hands, wags his finger, and throws them treats. So amazingly adorable. I can't wait for our family to meet them. Leo is needy, sweet (when's he's not terrified), and very baby-like. This evening he sang to me the lyrics of "Rock a bye Baby.." because I sing it to him and I rock him every day. If I had any inkling that Leo would learn English so quickly, I really would have picked a different song to sing. Leo was listed on his file as "cognitively delayed." Obviously, he's as smart as a whip. So now, we think, perhaps he was "just" traumatized. In case you're part of an anti-adoption group and you just don't get it, I'm being sarcastic. When I realized that Leo was responding to rocking, the song"Rock a Bye Baby" was the first song that popped into my head. Knowing that Leo doesn't understand English , I just sang the same numbing lullaby, over and over again, just trying to calm him and prevent him from hitting and pinching me and himself.I didn't really think about the lyrics. Now, upon reflection.. Ugh. I'm Sorry. I really could have picked a better song with which to sooth my traumatized child. The whole " Down goes baby, cradle and all." Yikes.So all of you who think I'm a super parent------be gone. I picked the worst-ever baby song to sing to our five year old. I wasn't ready for a baby! And, by the way,  I'm not that tolerant right now of the advice of parents who have less than 8 children!
Leo also has definite and absolute fears and night terrors. He is terrified of the water (making bath time less-than-fun), afraid of the dark,afraid of  being alone,afraid of the toilet, etc. etc...Leo is a child who has been traumatized, in my experience.

Home at long last

April 22nd 2010 Home at Last!
After what seemed like the  never ending trip, we finally did arrive home, safe and sound. If you ever want to truly question your sanity, travel on a 15 hour (17.5 hour if you count sitting on the tarmac for 90 min)flight with four boys, two of whom don’t speak English, and a United crew that doesn’t believe in food or service. Enough said. Our family met us at the Rochester airport, our friends met us there also with us our oldest son (and a fabulous dinner---Thanks Joan---just what the Dr. ordered!) and everyone is in bed a mere 29 hours later. No, we didn’t sleep on the plane one iota, so I’ll keep this entry amazingly short.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The never ending trip

April 21—leaving Hong Kong--the first attempt

After the first good night’s sleep (we had a double bed, instead of sharing a twin bed!) we left for the airport at 7:20am. At the airport we learned that our flight out of Hong Kong was delayed by 5 hours. Of course, we had to stand in line for an hour, only to find out that by the time we arrive in Newark tonight (and clear customs and immigration for our adopted children) we will have missed the last flight to Rochester. Great. Just great. The United representative offered us no alternatives, and I had to push hard to even get him to check for flights and times for other airlines, and/or alternate routes. My laptop wouldn’t connect to the wi-fi for some reason, and so I couldn’t even tell him exactly what it was that I wanted. Later, when I found a pubic computer available for use, I saw that we could have been moved to a Cathey Pacific flight instead. However, it was already too late by the time I saw it online. Really, this trip is no fun at all. DangTong (Leo) is still acts like a feral cat. He rubs up against us, loving and purring and begging for attention, then suddenly he scratches or hits. His behavior is a good indicator of the quality (or lack thereof) of his orphanage. Last night, John showed Leo the bruises on my arm (from where he has pinched me) and he did act guilty and remorseful. So we have hope that with lots of love, consistency, and attention we will be able to help him heal.

It’s 10 hours later now, and we are STILL just sitting in the airport. We are now waiting for a bus to take us to the Hyatt Regency Shatin (45 minutes from the airport). Yep, our flight was delayed for five hours, then it was canceled entirely. We waited in line at the United Airlines counter for another two hours, in order to be rescheduled for the flight tomorrow. The only good thing I can say about Hong Kong airport is that they have regular toilets!! I’m thrilled that I don’t have to hold our five year old child over the squatty potty anymore. United was NOT at ALL helpful. We’ve received no compensation for our delay, or sympathy; we are lucky they are putting us up in a hotel 45 min away, I guess. As we waited in line, we watched platters of dumplings and other food being wheeled past us, into the lounge. We were not offered any food, drink, or even a comfortable waiting area. Our children sat on the dirty floor, waiting for hours. Sam said several times, in both English and Chinese, “Let’s go.” He also told everyone within earshot that he was HUNGRY. We didn’t dare leave the line to seek out lunch, and breakfast was at 7am! Our rescheduled flight is at 7:30am tomorrow (Sunday), which means we get to leave the hotel at 5am. After receiving our hotel vouchers and bus tickets, we had to wait in line for another hour to go back through immigration, fill out arrival forms (again), and wait to reclaim our baggage. Then we had to walk (what seemed like) another mile to get to the area where we had to wait for the bus to take us to the hotel. Again, we were afraid to go find food because we didn’t want to miss the bus. No one from United would give us (in English or Chinese) any information. We (all the passengers from the canceled flight) were shuffled around like unsuspecting cattle, heading to the slaughter.

DangTong (Leo) still refused to take off his jacket, and he was hot and sweaty during this entire ordeal. As we headed through customs (again) an airline personnel took Leo’s temperature. I was crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t be placed in a medical quarantine! Our poor guy is from Daqing (two hours outside of Harbin) where it’s bitter cold, so he’s used to wearing many layers all the time. We can’t convince him that it’s ok to take off his jacket/sweater/shirt/long underwear, even when sweat is just pouring down his face. Every morning he dresses in his layers, and we don’t want to fight with him over clothes. We just hope Leo will eventual mimic the other children and dress for the warmer weather.

As I write this, we are now sitting in a meeting room on the 24th floor of the Hyatt Shatin. Apparently, United Airlines sent twenty of us to this hotel, without confirming it with the hotel first, and there are no rooms available. The Hyatt staff brought us orange juice and water, but it’s 6:30pm now, and our children have had only a few apples and candy since breakfast at 4am. I didn’t pack much food, since we were stuck in the airport yesterday, and were supposed to be flying all day, with meals provided. Fortunately, since the hotel reserves the “family suites” for large groups, we were one of the first of our “layover group” to actually get assigned a room!!  A bunch of other people weren’t as lucky. After not eating all day, we ran at the dinner buffet by 7:30pm, and it was one of the nicest buffets I’ve ever seen. Rooms full of food, of all types, and the children ate a ton. During dinner, Leo was playing with his water glass and Sam told him in English “No.” Leo responded, in English, “Be nice.” Lol. We let the kids swim for 30 minutes (Leo still won’t go near the pool), and we put them to bed by 9:30pm. We have a 4am wake-up call and a 5am bus to catch.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Last full day in China

April 20, 2012

This morning, I was awakened by a great big hug and kiss from Sam!! Be still my heart! What an amazing gift to receive from a child who has only known me for two weeks. Sam was jumping around, all excited for the day to begin, calling “Qichuangle” in a light and lilting voice (Wake up! Wake up!). Leo also gave me a hug this morning, but that is normal for him, being the clinging one. Sam and Ben are the best of buddies, but Sam still regularly lectures (yells at!) Leo. Sam wags a finger in Leo’s face and tells him that he’s not a baby, stop crying and be a boy; at least that is what John tells us that Sam is saying. We ate our last breakfast in Guangzhou, and we packed up our suitcases. Hooray!! Yippee!! Now we have only seven more hours to kill before we board the bus to Hong Kong. All the toys are packed now too, so it’s going to be an especially long couple of days of travel. Our flight is out of Hong Kong Saturday morning, and our first flight is 15 ½ hours long. Then we have several hours in Newark, NY, followed by our 90 min. flight back to Rochester. Please pray that we don’t have trouble with the kids on the plane, and that we don’t have any delays.

We’ve been away from home for sixteen days now. If it wasn’t pouring rain for the last four days, we might have been able to enjoy Guangzhou more. It is a tropical paradise, after all. The pool is gorgeous, although it is outside and we have only been able to swim a few times.

Both Leo and Sam are already beginning to learn English. So far, Leo can say (and understand) the following: Let’s go; Brush your teeth; Banana; apple; more coffee (he’s heard us say that so often); Uno; blue; yellow; red; one; two; three; four; five

Sam seems to understand quite a bit, but he doesn’t actually speak much in English yet. He does answer and recognize his American name already. Leo sounds quite similar to Liu (six) in Chinese. Leo knows he is the sixth brother too, which was our original intent.

At noon, we met Cheng’s parents (the Liang family) for a last meal together. We walked (in the rain) to a dumpling restaurant and gorged on yet another two hour feast. Chinese food in China bears little resemblance to the Chinese food served at restaurants in America. When you have someone who knows where to eat, the food is simply amazing. The glass bowls etc. were wrapped in plastic wrap, but the Liang family still insisted that we use our hot tea to wash our bowls and cups. (We were taught that we should swish it around and pour it out before we ate off the dishes). Mrs. Liang explained that it accepted is tradition. We are always served first, and if we decline to take a sample of the dish our hosts would be insulted, so we eat everything. Some things were too spicy for my taste, and we NEVER ask what type of food is being served, we all just try everything and eat more of the dishes we like the best. Cheng’s parents know that we are not used to Cantonese spicy dishes, and they order with our tastes in mind. Again, they are an amazing family, and we love spending time with them. We had John translate sometimes, but for the most part we just communicate using body language, the little Mandarin I know, and the little English they know.

Today Cheng's parents commented that Leo is adjusting a little better each day, and we learned that he loves corn congee. Our hotel in Guangzhou only served rice congee at breakfast, and none of the children like rice congee, so I’ve never learned how to make it. Now that I know the boys all like corn congee, I will learn how to cook it. I had to tell the two Chinese Grandmas that Leo really couldn’t eat any more food (after four bowls of congee) because his stomach is small (from having just a small amount to eat each day) and Leo will throw up if he eats too much. They want to show their love by feeding our children lots of goodies, and it was hard to tell them no. They just dote on our children. Through the translation of John, we explained that both Ben and KangChao threw up regularly when we first adopted them, and we were trying to spare Leo the experience. Luckily, I did have a plastic bag ready, and as I predicted Leo threw up on the 3 ½ hour (absolutely, a take your life in your own hands during the pouring rain, car trip) to Hong Kong. We’re in the hotel by the airport now, watching KungFu Panda. Really, really, can’t wait to get home! We miss Austin and Connor, and our dogs. We miss having a king-sized bed. We are grateful for the blessings we have received in China, and we are really, really, happy to be going home!!!!! The memories will fade (as will the bruises inflicted by DangTong on my arms) and we will eventually look back at all this with fondness. That is just how it works. People are amazingly resilient. Thank you God, and thank all of you for all your prayers.