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.

Consulate Appointment

April 19 2012

We got up and out the door early this morning because finally, finally, we had our Consulate Appointment! We went by van (15 min away) and sat in a big waiting room with a bunch of other adoptive families. Our kids were the oldest, other than two 13 year old children. The one boy who was almost 14, kept his head down in his hands (maybe crying) the entire time. I felt terrible for him (and his parents) because I remember how hard it was for John, only two years ago. Anyway, we swore the oath (standing up, right hand raised), signed more documents, and then we were back at the hotel by 9:45am. Cheng’s parents were supposed to meet us at 10:30, but then, since it was pouring rain, they didn’t come to our hotel until noon. John, Ben and I went with the Liang family to a wonderful museum. David stayed and napped with Leo and Sam. They had been awake for 6 hours by then, and needed a rest. Ben really enjoyed the museum, and John took over 300 photos. We returned to the hotel at 4:00pm, and all 10 of us walked to a restaurant for an early dinner. As I’ve mentioned before, after an enormous breakfast buffet in the morning, we rarely eat more than a piece of fruit for lunch. We are always hungry by 4p. We walked across the street to another restaurant and again ate a long and elaborate meal. I’m sure I’ve gained quite a few pounds this trip! At 7:30pm, we were once again playing UNO in our room. By 8:30pm, we were back in bed. Tomorrow is our last day in China, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much we are looking forward going home!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Best Day in China!

We had the best day in China, to date!! Yippee. This tired momma is happy to report that we are seeing huge improvements in Leos behavior!! Rocking him routinely (several hours a day) has really helped a ton. We had breakfast this morning,. and Leo did not throw any utensils or food. He called me names sometimes, but very quickly clamped his hand over his mouth and just as quickly said Sorry momma. Then he said Momma Hen Hao! (spelling??). It means momma is very good. Many times today Leo said Momma is very good; I think he said I was good at least as many times as he called me bad names. I call it even. Leo still hits and pinches himself regularly, which. to be honest, scares the crap of out of us, but he seems to know now that we don’t want him to hurt us or himself either. Cheng’s parents (Cheng was our exchange student 09-10) came to visit, and it took them less than a minute before they asked John what’s wrong with DangTong. John explained in Chinese that we’re working through some things, and, of course, they were just FABULOUS. They don’t know more than 10 words of English, but they are just wonderful people, and extremely supportive. They also brought their parents on this trip (a 5 hour flight) to meet us too!! Wow!! We feel so honored. We all went (several taxi cabs) to a botanical park to spend the day. It poured rain half the time, but they are all such great people we just hid out in a greenhouse waiting for the storm to pass. We had an elaborate and wonderful lunch, and we were all honored guests of Cheng’s parents. David and I took turns carrying DangTong, and the two grandmas kept trying to talk him into giving momma‘s back a break. He's 5 years old next week, and should really walk sometimes. No dice. After lunch (and we were soaked to the skin by the afternoon), we retired to our hotel. Cheng’s parents took John and Ben (and the grandparents) to their hotel, and the four of us rested in our room for two hours. When they all returned to our hotel at 5pm, we spent a few hours playing the card game UNO! No one was hungry, so we let the new little kids play legos while we all played cards. After KangChao and DongTang went to sleep, about 8pm, we left the sleeping children with John and met the Liangs (Cheng’s parents) at the lounge to really talk. We spent several hours attempting to talk with them,about adoption, our children, the economy, China, their son Cheng, and world politic. We just now (11pm) said goodbye. They are going to look for an activity tomorrow that is not outside. It’s supposed to rain again all day. Ugh. We just can’t seem to catch a break.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Italian Restaurant

We went to “The Italian Restaurant” (around the corner from the hotel) for the third time this week. We go there early (4pmish) and it’s been working out well. First of all, they are used to seeing Americans. We do not get stared at, and no one asks John a bunch of questions that make him uncomfortable. We are usually the only people there at that hour, so it’s relatively fast to eat there. And they have great French-fries! The boys love French-fries! And John likes their pizza too. Things are improving with DangTong (Leo). He only threw food once during dinner, and he immediately he looked guilty and said Sorry. It was like he just couldn’t help himself. I didn’t have to remove all the utensils out of his reach this time, and we ate in relative peace. I’m finding that Leo enjoys being rocked. I don’t have a rocking chair, but I do hold him like I would a baby, rock him with my body, and sing soothing lullabies. John and David think it’s ridiculous that I treat Leo as I would a baby, but it does seem to be helping his behavior. Hey, whatever works!

We had our friends from Seattle over to “our house” again tonight. Yep, we had 6 boys and two adults in a hotel room, pretending we actually had a normal social life. Their bio son is the same age as Ben, and really, it’s just nice to hang out with English speaking, intelligent people this week!! We exchanged emails, and you never know. Maybe they’ll join us on a cruise or something, sometime in the future! Leo is slowly showing signs of improvement. He didn’t hurt anyone at all today, only hit David over the head (with a gameboy) once, and he’s not self-mutilating anymore. We take that as a good sign.

Our friends from Seattle are leaving tomorrow, and our exchange student’s parents (lived with us’09-‘10) are flying down from Lanzhou (5 hour flight) to see us for a few days. We can’t wait to see them!! I told John to tell them to spoil the heck out of Ben and Sam, which they LOVE to do, and leave Leo to me. They always come loaded with gifts, and they tend to just love our children to death!! But I still want Leo to only want me, for now, so that I can help him adjust. Again, we need to keep him as close as possible and just rock and hold him all day. I’m not sure Cheng’s parents will “get” that Leo has special needs and we need to keep him close to us. John said they are going to think you are a bad mom. I assured him that they know me better than that. Their son lived with us for a year! They know that if I’m doing something different with Leo, it’s because he needs help. Fingers crossed.

Ground Hog Day

Ground Hog Day, once again, here in China. We ate at the buffet, again, and we’ve spent three hours sitting around the hotel room, again. We haven’t ventured out of the hotel room too much because of DangTong (Leo). Lucky for John, he got invited to go to the bookstore with the guide and Joshua, another teenager in our adoption group. He was happy to ditch us for the day.

This morning, I did take Ben and KangChao (Sam) across the street to the mall for 20 minutes, just to get out of the room. Sam and Ben are both behaving like angels, and they are getting along and playing great too. I wanted to spend a little time with them both, without Leo around. I’ve probably mentioned that The Garden Hotel is set in the most exclusive, expensive, high class area of town. We could never afford to buy anything at the mall here; I just thought it might be fun to walk around with the two boys. David stayed in the room with DangTong. When I got back, David reported that the poor little guy screamed and cried the entire time I was gone, calling for Momma, Momma, Momma. I won’t be leaving him again; it was just too upsetting. Obviously, DangTong is going to be high maintenance, and we think we will have to keep him in the house until he adjusts. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be able to take him any place public for a bit. For example, he’ll ask me to pick him up, mere seconds after calling me obscene names in Chinese. John tells him not to say bad things, but Leo just laughs and repeats the insult. It doesn’t bother me at all, since I don’t understand him anyway. I’ll pick Leo up, cuddle him (at his initiation), and a second later he’ll pinch my face and then laugh madly. In fact, he often laughs after hurting someone, which is rather disconcerting. He’ll be playing nicely, then all of a sudden he will haul off and wack someone, for no apparent reason. We’re not sure exactly how to address his all his behaviors yet. We are just taking it one day at a time.

Sam kept his distance from David and me for the first few days, favoring John, but now he’s warming up to all of us. Sam, Ben and John play together and hold hands all the time. Sometimes they do get frustrated with Leo’s behavior; however, they have all shown great restraint. We explained to them that they can defend themselves (take the toy that he snatched from their hands, back again), but they cannot hit him. Honestly, if we weren’t watching them 100% of the time, I think Sam would retaliate. John told me that the lecture Sam delivered to Leo (on video) was Sam telling Leo that if he didn’t stop misbehaving then he (Sam) was going to call 911 and have the police come take him away to jail. Yep, I could tell that Sam was just about fed-up with Leo that night; I just didn’t know what he was saying until John translated the video for me. Ben has such a gentle nature that he is just sad that Leo is having such a hard time adjusting. We know that the most important thing is to keep our sense of humor through all this. We will look back at this (which is why I write it all down) and remember it with humor. I still recall fondly the crazy things Austin did (he was a WILD child), and Leah’s constant (and I mean constant) crying and screaming. Chasin, our foster child who was two years old, was also very high maintenance, and we would have adopted him in a second. So, in case you’re wondering, no, we do not regret adopting Leo. The fact that he is being so difficult, only underscores how badly he needs the love and care of a family!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Photos from Guangzhou


Monday April 16

We are still just killing time in China, waiting for our appointment at the US Consulate. I filled out the visa paperwork yesterday, but our appointment isn’t scheduled until Thursday. This morning, after the enormous breakfast buffet, we fed the fish (huge carp) in the garden. Did I mention that this hotel has an enormous garden area? Complete with bridges, pavilions, waterfalls, and lush landscaping, the garden area of The Garden Hotel looks like a movie set. We usually do not take the children there, because we know they will disturb the tranquility (and walk on the grass—heaven forbid!), but we had time to kill this morning. After feeding the fish bread (which I’m sure is against the rules), we decided to rent the tennis court for an hour. John and Ben played tennis for an hour, and Sam ran around happily fetching the balls. DangTong (Leo) mostly sat on the sidelines with David and me. Of course, Leo had to find trouble, and he was held tightly in my lap for a “time in “after he suddenly kicked and spit at David for no apparent reason. He’s done the same types of things to all of us. The tennis courts are away from prying eyes, so it was much easier for David to effectively address Leo’s misbehavior. It’s often difficult to send a clear message to Leo because Chinese people try to intervene whenever we discipline. For instance, on the airplane to Guangzhou, we had one guy shoulder his way over me to unbuckle Leo's seat-belt for him, after I had just moved him to his seat and buckled him in tightly enough so that he couldn't escape and stand- up during take-off. Yes, of course I know he’s crying at the moment, but he will never obey if we give in every time he throws a temper tantrum! Grrr. Whenever Leo spits at us, pinches us, or hits us, we need to immediately address the behavior, but we keep getting undermined by the well-meaning, nosy Chinese people, who think we are just dumb Americans. Last night, Leo took a drinking glass off the bathroom counter and deliberately threw it (smashing it) into the toilet bowl. As I've said before, Sam is just great, but Leo acts like a terrible two year old most of the time. We had to call maintenance to deal with the glass mess. Ugh. We know; this too shall.

And just so you know, Leo acts out physically because obviously that is what he is used to doing for attention. It’s really sad. When we prevented him from hitting and pinching us, he began to pinch himself---hard! Really, it’s just sad to witness. We did have one mother (of 8 children, 4 adopted) tell us that she is truly impressed with how well we are handling Leo. We were on the bus to Shamien Island, and I was singing nursery songs to him to calm him down. Hey, whatever it takes. I’m just very,very thankful that Sam has stopped mourning for his foster family and seems to fit in so well with our family!! We can take extra time to help Leo heal now, knowing that Sam is going to be ok.

Some more photos

April 14, 2012

A brotherly discussion

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15

Have I mentioned lately how much I like having all boys? My last post I recounted some of the challenges of adopting a 5 year old, who acts very much like a 2 year old. Well, last night, Sam and Ben had about enough of Leo’s tyranny and tantrums. Sam (6 ½ years old) told Ben (8 1/2) that they were going to be a team now, and the big brothers needed to set Leo straight. Or at least we are guessing he said something to that affect (it was in Chinese) because Sam then went over to Leo and began to tell him off in Chinese. Sam was wagging his finger in Leo’s face and rambling a mile a minute. I got a little bit of the lecture on video, and I hope to post it later. It is hysterical to watch Sam telling Leo that he had enough of the antics. Sam and Ben then each took Leo’s hands and feet and carried him to the other room, plopping him down on the bed. More dominance boy behavior occurred, and a few minutes later Leo was properly cast as the youngest sibling, instead of the littlest emperor. Honestly, the two big brothers successfully reined in Leo in less than five minutes. I guess I didn’t really need to worry, after all.

Another funny thing that happened last night is that Cheng’s mom, Mrs. Liang, called our hotel. John talked to her for ten or fifteen minutes, and relayed that both Mr. and Mrs. Liang will be arriving at night on April 17. They will come to our hotel on the 18th. I asked John if he warned them that Leo is not always cooperative, so I’m not sure how much touring we’ll be able to do while they visit. Our witty teenaged son John jokingly answered, “Yes. I told them that if they want to punch DongTong, they will have to get in line.” Yes, it helps us all deal with the situation when we try to keep our sense of humor.

We did end up going on the sight-seeing trip today, just to get out of the hotel for awhile. We took a bus (with the rest of the adoptive families) to a park about 40 minutes away. It was similar to the Genesee Country Museum, in that it was a bunch of new buildings that are supposed to look old and depict the history of the culture. Mostly we just walked around and tried to stay cool. It’s 90 degrees here, and muggy, so no one felt like running around too much. We finally got Leo to walk on his own (instead of being carried) and sit in his own seat on the bus, so we’ve made some progress. Sam continues to be an absolute delight, and he still adores John above all others.

After naps and a 30 min. appointment to fill out the visa paperwork, we ended up at the pool at 4:30pm. Sam (KangChao) LOVES the water!! I’m already online looking for swimming lessons for him. DangTong wouldn’t get near the pool this time. We had dinner at again at the Italian restaurant (no one stares at us there, or even questions us) and then we wound up the evening meeting another family in our room for a little bit. Ben has made friends with their son (bio) who is the same age (8) and they just adopted an almost 3 year old. The father is a pilot and the mother is a dual citizen (Canada and US) and we had a spirited, lively conversation. It’s great to chat with opinionated, intelligent, English speaking people!!!! They only have two children, but they seem like great parents and I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. It’s funny how shared pain (adoption) brings people closer together. Now, it’s 9pm and time to send the troops to bed.

Guangzhou April 14, 2012 video

Here is a video of the kids at the pool. Look how thin Fu KangChao is, and he's from a good orphanage!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14, 2012 Medical apppointment

This morning was the cattle call medical appointment in Guangzhou. After the most amazing breakfast buffet ever (really), we met a whole group of WACAP adoption families, and we all took a van to the medical clinic. I can’t even begin to describe the chaos at the clinic. Hundreds of children crying, bodies pressed together in lines, each waiting to visit the various medical stations. There was a room for ENT, one for the TB test, one for the eye test, one for a quick general health exam etc. We were packed in the clinic, like stinky sardines, for two hours. Our boys were amazingly well-behaved, considering the circumstances. DangTong stuck to Baba (Dad, in Chinese) like glue, and refused to be put down. Yes, as I’ve mentioned before, Leo acts like a needy two year old, at the moment. We confirmed during the medical exams that KangChao needs glasses, and that both boys weigh at least five pounds more than did Ben when he was adopted. When we carried Ben all over China, in 2010, at least he was quite light and he would ride piggy-back style. Leo is heavy and insists on being carried like a baby. Yes, we know the clinginess will abate, in time, as will some of his naughtiness. Did I mention that both Sam and Leo are little terrors at times? For instance, Leo (DangTong) picked his nose today, wiped it on David, and then laughed hysterically. We view these shenanigans, overall, as a good thing. To us, it means they are both normal, mischievous, boys. When we adopted Ben, the first day he put his butt in Connor’s face and made a loud farting noise (a raspberry). Potty humor and boogers are funny to boys in all languages.

Right now, I am sitting in the room while the two little boys take naps. David took Ben and John to the pool. Guangzhou is tropical, and the hotel here feels more like a resort in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, we still only have two (rock hard) twin-sized beds (and a small sofa) for the six of us, so we are not on vacation, but at least this room has a separate living room area. Now, we don’t all have to nap and go to bed on Leo and Sam’s schedule.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go on a sight-seeing tour. I’m not sure yet if we’ll join the rest of the group, or skip the tour entirely. While it’s great to meet and chat with other adoptive parents, most of them have adopted toddlers. There is one mother here who just adopted a girl, just before she aged out (age 14). She brought her 13 year old son for the trip too, and he was adopted only two years ago. I want to find out if they are also going on the optional sight-seeing tour. It would be nice for John to get to know other adopted teens and speak to them in Mandarin. By the way, John’s Mandarin is still excellent, according to everyone we meet. He was self-conscious and tongue-tied the first few days in China, but now he’s conversing with the locals easily. Ben hasn’t been so fortunate. Sadly, I seem to know and understand more Chinese than Ben. Our hope was that the language would come back to Ben on this trip too, but it hasn’t. Maybe Sam and Leo will continue to talk to each other in Chinese, and Ben will pick it up again. Time will tell.

It’s evening now, and I’m finishing up the post for today. DangTong is being a big pain in the butt, and we are working out a strategy for addressing his needs and those of our family. We discussed trying the good cop, bad cop, routine, which works sometimes with the kids, but we don’t think Leo can reason on that level yet. Really, it’s like dealing with a naughty two year old, instead of a child who will be 5 next week. For instance, at dinner tonight, Leo threw a butter knife at me. When I sternly grabbed his hand and told him NO, he laughed and tried to do it again with a fork. I put him in my lap, wrapped my arms tightly around him and repeated NO. Then he hit me in the face. I really needed to hold him strait- jacket style, and not let go for at least a few minutes, but we were in restaurant and again people were staring at us. So….I just put him down, ignored him and proceeded to take care of the rest of the boys. Of course, Leo immediately went to David, who also refused to carry him. Remember, this is the kid who doesn’t want to sit alone and wants to be carried 24/7. We were leaving then, and David had to hold his hand while we walked home because the traffic is nuts (and Leo would be in danger walking unattended), but we all tried to send him the message with our body language that he was in big, big trouble. John scolded Leo in Chinese once in the restaurant, and then we all refused to speak to him as we walked. When we got to the hotel, where it was safe, David refused to hold Leo’s hand or pick him up. I don’t know if Leo really understands, but it took less than 10 seconds of both of us refusing to hold him when he said “sorry momma “(in Chinese), “pick me up” (which I did) and he give me a kiss. Now, of course, it’s as if it all never happened. David wants me to be firmer, because I tend to error on the soft side. If you know me, you probably don’t believe that, but David thinks that if I’m not careful, I’ll create a little emperor. Yep, adoption isn’t for the faint hearted. Thankfully, Fu KangChao (Sam) hasn’t had any more melt-downs or trauma in a few days, and he is being an angel here in Guangzhou. He loves the pool, the food, and all things related to the hotel. As long as they take turns being difficult, I guess we’ve got it easy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13, 2012 Guangzhou first day

It was another grueling day of travel. According to David, "All we do in this freaking country is wait in airports." Lol. We had another flight delay, and we sat in the airport for 3 hours, and it wasn’t really that bad. It just annoys some of us (not me, I’m immune) to be constantly stared at and questioned by strangers. We look odd, and they are extremely curious (my words) and extremely rude (David and John’s words). I suggested to John that he just sit with his ear buds in his ears and pretend that his MP3 player doesn’t have a dead battery. Or maybe he could be honest, and say, I really don’t want to answer your questions, it makes me uncomfortable. I remember after Kenny died, total strangers would come up to me and ask the rudest questions, such as, "How are you paying your mortgage?" And "Can I have his new golf clubs. I know he’d like me to have them. "I guess I developed a thicker skin after that debacle, and I also just chalk it up to cultural differences. The best part of the whole trip, according to David, is watching Chinese KungFu movies. John loves to watch them, and David makes up entire dialogues, in English, to go with the scenes. Really, it could make anyone almost wet their pants. If you don’t know him, David has a warped sense of humor. In the midst of what is a stressful time in any family, an adoption, David brings levity. David inserts what he thinks is appropriate dialogue, but he says things like "I am Santa Claus. Wait, I will get my red suit and defeat you!" By the way, the flight from Harbin to Guangzhou was no picnic. DangTong refused to sit in his seat, and was only happy on my lap. The seats on this plane were very close together, and it was impossible to lower the tray table to eat with him on my lap. And it was hot. But when I tried to shift him to his seat, next to mine, he screamed loudly and kicked like crazy. I quickly acquiesced, just to avoid more attention. Did I mention that he’s a momma’s boy? Finally, DongTong agreed to torment Baba for awhile, and I switched DangTong for Fu, KangChao. Fu, KangChao usually looks for space between us. While all this was going on, John and Ben, of course, just slept on the plane; traveling is old hat to them. Interestingly enough, the fact that DangTong really, really wants his momma has influenced Fu, KangChao. Up until now, he’s pretty much rejected both David and me, and he has only responded to our teenaged son John. We understand that this is normal for a child who feels he has been "stolen" from his foster parents. His loyalties indicate that he had relationships, we know, and that is good. But today, Fu KangChao is beginning to ask me to pick him up (I carry DangTong everywhere), and he suddenly kissed me on the airplane, for no apparent reason. So, Fu, KangChao seems to be picking up on the cues that I’m a good momma, and maybe he should also get in on the action while the getting is good.

We finally arrived in Guangzhou, and at the Garden Hotel. Hooray! Civilization! The Garden Hotel is a westernized hotel, where even the maids and room service speak English. We will have electric all the time (unlike in Beijing) air-conditioning (which didn’t work in Jinan), and all the western amenities. I can even order wine with dinner!! Whoo Hooo! The hotel in Harbin is second rate, at best, and honestly, I’m tired of camping. The endless hours in the hotel will be much more tolerable now. Also, we just found out that there is another family here who has a son John’s age, who was also adopted 2 years ago. If they get alone, this part of the trip might be great!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Adoption day of DangTong

April 12 2012

After breakfast (the boys only ate rice and orange, in spite of the huge buffet), we navigated through the snowy streets to return to the Civil Affairs office to complete the paperwork. In Heilongjiang Province (city of Harbin) all the paperwork is completed in one central location. This made it much easier for us all. It was one-stop shopping, so to speak. DangTong became quite the momma’s boy in the offices, refusing to leave my lap. The orphanage director and a few teachers were present, and DangTong did shed a few small tears when he saw them. However, when the director asked DangTong to come to her (he was on my lap) he flatly refused. She laughed and commented that he is bonding well with his momma. Because we were not allowed to actually visit the orphanage, we gave the orphanage director a large cash donation (in addition to the adoption expenses) to help the waiting children. She presented us with a written donation certificate, to show accountability. As I’ve mentioned before, DangTong is several years behind developmentally, and that stems from the orphanage being in a more rural area and lacking provisions. The whole adoption process took about an hour total. We will receive DangTong’s passport tomorrow morning, and head to Guangzhou (a five hour flight) to complete the U.S. consulate part of the adoption process. The rest of our trip will seem like the movie “Ground Hog Day.” We basically get up, eat, and kill time in the room. It snowed quite a bit this morning, so we can’t even take the kids out for a walk. I didn’t bring boots or warm enough jackets. I knew we were only here for a couple of days, and decided that winter gear would be too much to pack. Right now, David and John are playing DS, and the little boys are playing with the balloons I packed.

Thursday morning

It’s Thursday morning here in China, and I thought I’d write more of my impressions of the boys. Sam (Fu, KangChao) is like a typical six year old. He likes to play ball, shooting games, and computer games. He figured out the main electric panel that controls the all the different lights and the TV in about two minutes flat. As I mentioned earlier, Sam already tried to out muscle Ben. Luckily, Ben outweighs him by 10 lbs because Ben is not a dominant personality. Sam likes to wrestle and play physically, and he can be rambunctious at times. We already know that he has a great capacity to love, and we can tell already that he is going to fit in with family quite well.

DangTong (Leo) just explores everything. He takes things out of the bathroom and puts them in his backpack, then takes them out again. He knows how to sort the army men by color, and he likes to stand on the chair and look at the river out our hotel window. Leo carries around a water bottle (or crackers or candy), and offers it to each of us, one at a time. Dang Tong is much quieter and more cuddly. He likes to sit on my lap, and he is left-handed. Both the boys seem to be in great health, although DongTong has lots of pock marks on his face from what I presume was the chicken pox. So far, we’ve yet to see Leo eat anything other than candy or crackers. When his stash is gone, we’re hoping he’ll eat at least rice.

Today we will go back to the Civil Affairs office to make our adoption of DangTong final. Then we’ll go to the notary (which is similar to our court) and the police station to apply for his passport. In this province, we will be able to get his passport within 24 hours. We still don’t have a passport for Sam, which is why we will need to stay in Guangzhou a whole week. We need to wait five days for Sam’s passport to be issued from Jianan, then apply for his US visa at the consulate in Guangzhou on the 20th.