Saturday, December 18, 2010
I'm still sad, but things aren't too bad with these folks. They like to buy me things, and give me all sorts of treats that my foster grandmother wouldn't let me have. Candy, ice cream, sweet milky drinks that I still don't know what they're called, more candy and so on. As a matter of a fact, these people do a lot of eating. I'd worry about my waistline, but they're making sure I walk it off. In the past two weeks, I've walked enough to circle all of China at least once. I've learned that all I have to do is stand in front of my new mom and act like I'm about to cry, and she'll pick me up...but she insists on carrying me in her arms. Doesn't she know I'm easier to carry strapped to her back? Her choice, I guess.
Their Chinese is getting a little better, but we still have a lot of communication problems. I'm patient though, and hopeful that they'll get the hang of it soon. My mom has a few phrases that she utters. I think she really thinks she is talking to me. I appreciate her effort, and sort of nod, when she gets close. I talk all the time, thinking that they'll pick it up soon.
They've taken me to what must be a very rural area. We were on a plane for a long time, so it must be in the far corners of China. When we were driving to the hotel, I saw almost no other cars on the street, maybe only a couple hundred. And people...where are the people? The sidewalks are nearly bare of people. And the sky...where is the sky? They've got some odd blue haze covering the sky here. I hope it's not toxic.
I've met my other brother and sister. Their Chinese is much worse but we all speak the international language of "play". We played all morning today and had tons of fun. They must be joining us on our journey now. I hope so. It's nice to have traveling partners. The more the merrier. They also keep talking about a person named "Maggie". Maybe we'll meet her soon.
I really like this hotel though and hope we can stay awhile. It's much larger than the others. There are all sorts of plants outside, but they don't eat any of them. And the toys...there are toys all over the place. I need to remember this place. Maybe they do birthday parties. Oh, and they don't boil the water here. I freaked out a bit when they brushed my teeth with tap water, but so far, so good. My stomach is still intact.
It's really cold here too...must be Northern China. Still, they don't bundle me up in all those cloths that me and the other kids in my old neighborhood were forced to wear by our grandparents...why did they do that to us? I mean, it's 21 degrees Celsius outside; beautiful fall afternoon, and I've got three sweaters on over my long underwear and under a snow suit. Can't they see I'm sweating?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Brook: He wants to sit in the chair in his bedroom with a beer by his side and watch football...doesn't matter who, just American football. During commercials, he wants to flip among TV stations that are in English. At halftime, he wants to wander into his backyard, maybe the garage, and piddle.
Graham: Misses nothing and would like to bring Nashville to China. Assuming he could somehow import his toys and, in particularly, his Wii...then he'd be cool here. Oh, he'd like to play with his brother and sister too.
Really, I don't know how Maggie is going to do when we touch down in Nashville. I think she is pretty well accepting us as parents. I think her foster grandparents prepared her for us pretty well, and I also think it's her personality. However, in Guiyang, I think she grieved, in part, because I think she was expecting us to move in with her foster Grandparents...there was room on the floor. Now, I think she is expecting us to go to the airport to pick up Davis and Corinne to move into this hotel room with us any day now. She's going to be shocked when we touch down and she's suddenly in the minority.
That said...I actually think she is going to do pretty good. She's got a strong personality. Graham having been here is turning out to be more important than I thought it would. I think he'll be the link to Corinne and Davis, and she is going to love to play with them, and them with her. She'll learn to love them, and the rest of us, later.
To the rest of you adults...it will come a little later, but your going to like her and we can't wait for you to meet her...now to bed...packing tomorrow and can't wait.
Maggie is talking away in this video. Just wish we knew what she was saying
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Today was one of our best days, probably our best. The first thing that we did was get ready and go down to breakfast. Maggie didn’t do so well at that. After that, we went outside to walk around the street then we went to a tea shop and we tried all different types of tea, then we bought tea. Then after that we went back to the hotel and met our guide Aron and went to the US Consulate office for an hour and I had to do school work. Then we came back to the hotel to order our dinner of fried rice. Then we went out to the street again to go look at restaurants to eat at. We went to a restaurant and I ordered cake. I shared part of the cake with Maggie. A lady brought out bread sticks that me and Maggie ate. Three bread sticks that we ate, I had a side, and Maggie had a side and then we ate it down until we were really close to each other and then I gave it to Maggie to finish. When we were leaving, Maggie gave us all a kiss. Then we went down the street to look at other restaurants and then we went back to our hotel. In the hotel, me and Maggie slept in a bed together for maybe 6 minutes while I fed her a bottle. After that, we put Maggie in a crib and she did a lot better than she did a lot of other nights. Then I got in my bed to do some dot to dots, but then mom and dad said I had to get up here and write what I’m writing now. When Maggie gave me a kiss and I was able to give her a bottle, it made me feel good. I wish she could have slept with me tonight and hope that she can sleep with me one day soon.
See, every other day, she's real good with us in the morning, and a little more distant in the evening...other than "rough house" time. With me, for instance, she'll let me be close in the early part of the day, even reach out for me at times. However, later in the day she starts pushing boundaries, and is generally...well, a 2.5 year old adopted child...think my description of the night on the cruise. Tonight, she was still 2.5, but, for at least tonight, she wasn't so "adopted" behaving.
Oh, we all got our first kiss today. Mine was leaving the consulate. I think I was first...but, I'm pretty sure it was by mistake. Stef was holding her as we went down an escalator a step ahead...and below me...and I kissed the top of her head...she turned around laughing...she laughs at almost everything...and kissed my belly. Hey, it's a start.
Tonight, we were just sick of eating. Seems we're always planning the next meal. We ordered in a simple...aka cheap...fried rice for the kids and peeled a few oranges for them that we bought from a local fruit vendor. Then, we went out walking. We stopped at, of all places, a little Italian place and Stef and I shared a bruchetta and the kids split a tirimisu. Everyone was happy. Stef started asking Maggie for a "ching". She went to kiss Graham, but he got bashful and it didn't happen. Then, she walked around the table and actually kissed Stef on the cheek. As we left, she kissed Graham, and finally got her guts up and kissed me...it really was more of a "mush her face into my cheek while laughing" kind of thing...but I'll take what I can get.
Oh...they just finished the bottle. Maggie rolled over to go to sleep with Graham. Graham whispered, "how about a little more juice". Maggie burped. Stef moved Maggie to the crib.
The visit to the US consulate sort of reminded me of the visit to the medical clinic, but in a better way. I was sad seeing all those despondent kids...and parents who were either wide eyed or still in denial. Again today, I saw all sorts of kids, with all sorts of terrible stories. I overheard a grandfather tell about his new grandson. The child is 10, and he's deaf. He was abandoned at a railroad station when he was 6, then spent the next 4 years in an orphanage. For a moment, for those of you with kids, imagine one of your kids living that life. He was adopted this week by this man's daughter and son in law, also deaf. He said that the child has some real problems. Go figure. I don't know what they are...I didn't hear all the details, and adoptive families don't always need to give all the details...but we all sort of know what their talking about. The child has been hurt..not hurt, but traumatized. Maybe even for the rest of his life. His story, just the bit I know, is heartbreaking. I'm sure if I knew the details, I'd cry.
Today, however, I felt excited. With each child was a set of really great parents. I was in a room with people who were willing to not just support these kids, but bring them into their home and give them the rights and privileges of being called "Smith" or "Jones". We've got it pretty easy this time, Stef and I. Maggie...knock on wood...seems pretty O.K. I'm sure we'll hit rough times, but many of these kids are really fighting their parents right now...or will later, but their parents are bringing them into their families anyway. I helps me understand what it means to be adopted into my Fathers family despite my fighting and pushing back.
A couple notes about Maggie. We hit the 7-11 and bought everyone some treats. The big hit was a chocolate thing, that had a coconut thing on the inside. Maggie loved them. More than she wanted to shove the whole bag into her mouth, she wanted to share those little morsels of goodness with her brother. She laughs when she "poots" on the toilet. She will talk to herself...or maybe she's talking to us...we don't know, when she pretend plays. We took a great video of her doing this and we'll get it up later...no way we'll pull this off tonight. It's cute...and kind of long. When I carry her, sometimes I start telling her that she is a sassy little girl...I can do this because 1) she is, and 2) she has no idea what I'm saying....or maybe she does because she will point her finger in my face and start giving me the "what for" in Chinese. I'd probably be totally embarrassed if I actually knew what she was saying...the locals are probably looking at me and saying "I can't believe those Americans don't reprimand their children". She said her first English word today..."woman". Graham calls her woman when they play rough...tonight, she started saying it back. When she plays by herself, she sings. I always kind of thought they were sweet little children's songs...maybe even a Chinese version of Jesus Loves Me. Found out today that she's singing the Chinese equivalent of the Barney intro song. Oh well. That's it for now.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It was pretty hot today, and terribly muggy. It was hard to think that Christmas was near, and hard to comprehend a "snow storm" back in Tennessee. Once we were ready to head home, Maggie was hungry...and when Maggie is hungry, you better feed her our your going to hear about it. We hit one of those roadside stands that serves mystery meat on a stick (it was chicken...but mystery meat sounds better). She woofed down two, and was mad that Graham and I ate the third and fourth that came with the order. They were greasy, and the grease was that orangey yellow kind of grease that is full of curry, or some similar spice and stains every thing it comes in contact with...and it came in contact with a lot when Maggie was eating it. Mix that with a slight glaze of sweat, and you've got a pretty rough looking kid.
After her nap, we took her to a little play area at the hotel. She and Graham ran around for about 30 to 45 minutes. It took about 5 for her hair to be drenched with sweat. She was all over the place. I think I said it last night, but she is just a kid that loves life, and loves to have fun. Sure, she's a little loud...but it's all fun. Probably, it was her first time on a slide. She hesitated a bit, but took to the little slide pretty quickly. Then, she went to the spiral slide. She hesitated slightly, and wanted my hand to get started...but then it was "game on". Not a lot of fear in this little one. She even tried to climb off the open side of the platform at the top of the slide...in China, they must not have lawyers like we have at home or else there would never be openings at the top of slides that sit 5 feet above a sharp rock ledge that little kids could bash heads on...I was quick to stop her, and she just couldn't figure out why it was a bad idea.
Once Stef and I determined the fun was over, we head to eat. She runs into the restaurant with a head full of wet hair, residual curry grease on her chin, a giant smile less one front tooth, a deep belly laugh, a lot of people staring at her but a lot of life and a couple parents who feel like their just on for a ride and a brother who thinks it's all GREAT. She has hot tea and teaches us how to eat noodles with chop sticks. I wish, I had the camera tonight at dinner. Sort of a duh statement, but she's so Chinese...she held the bowl of noodles to her mouth with one hand while the other wielded chopsticks that manically worked a steady stream of noodles from bowl to mouth. She was in her element...oh, and her eyes were on the center of the table where the rest of us were dishing out our portions of noodles, rice and beef. She was choking food down to make sure she got her fair share of the food on the table...even standing, pointing and talking wildly to make sure we knew that the last portion of fried rice was HERS.
I really think she's going to be great....and I mean this in a couple of ways. First, she's so much fun. She's rowdy, but sweet at the same time. I want to say innocent...but she's a bit of a pistol too, so I'm not sure that word fits. She will be sassy, but then turn around and give you a sly little laugh to show you that she's also kind of joking around...unless she thinks she can get away with it. Secondly, I think she seems like shes going to be pretty good mentally. For those of you with adopted kids, you know what I'm talking about. She was in foster care from the time she was a couple days old, and she really, really attached to these people. I think they were great parents and she really didn't go through some of the disruptions that so many other kids go through. Sure, she's grieving the loss, but that is such a good thing, in the long run. We sort of know the signs, and we aren't seeing them in her now...though we're not so naive to think that they won't poke to the surface at some point. I think she's going to attach to us just fine eventually...and I pray to God that this be the case.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I didn't take a poll or anything, but I think we all enjoyed the zoo. Like I said last night, there are all sorts of cool things to see and do...I mean, your in China...but you've got a 2.5 year old with you that you adopted a couple days prior. They kind of slow you down. Some places are good places to go with them, some aren't. The zoo is a good place. First...it's a zoo, and as long as the good animals show up...and by that I mean the elephants, tigers, hippo's, etc...not the goats, birds, gophers or other small mammals...you've got a good outing. They did for us, and we got to see them close up...so close up it seemed staged...even the tigers got into a roaring contest with each other. I couldn't imagine how intimidating that would be if you heard it on the plains of Africa at night. Pretty cool in a zoo in China though. It is also a place where the kids can run a bit, be loud and generally burn some energy. Maggie seemed to like it too. She really liked looking at the animals...and running, being loud and burning energy...which she has in bucket fulls.
Tonight, we did the Pearl river dinner cruise. This is not a good place for kids to run, be loud and burn energy...unless you want to really irritate the other guests and risk jumping overboard to save a kid who can't swim. Maggie apparently didn't get the memo. Note to families...the cruise really, is pretty...well, pretty. It is pretty, cruising up the river and looking at all the neon lights of the city. For a moment, you forget the smog and haze that seems to settle over China permanently, and all you see are the bright lights cast against the night's black sky. The dinner is slightly below average...I mean, your going to eat it, but it's nothing to write home about...wait...I just did that. Also, it's a buffet for maybe a hundred people, and it's set in a really tiny horseshoe arrangement, and once the food is set, it's a free for all. The locals descend on the food like vultures to a dead horse. I was a bit intimidated...then I felt challenged and I began to nudge a bit thinking my family isn't going to eat...ok, I was really worried about myself. Then everyone gets their food, and guess what...they bring out all sorts of other dishes. Just crazy, in my way of thinking anyway. Almost lost a hand to a little Chinese kid, probably 12 years old...but I showed him who was boss and got my fried rice before he did...hope his dad wasn't watching.
Maggie decided that she needed to stick to desserts, and threw a bit of a fit when we told her that the 3rd trip the the dessert table wasn't necessary. You see, you're in charge of parenting a child who doesn't recognize you as a parent...doesn't understand you...and is in a developmental stage where they are testing boundaries, and maybe even seeing if they can convince us to let her stay with someone a little better and of her choosing. Put that together with a generally rambunctious kid, and you suddenly have a...well, long cruise. She then wanted to run up stairs and down stairs...up the length of the deck, and down the length of the deck. Oh, and she refused to hold my hand on the steps...which were wet and overlooked a inky river. She was going to do it her way, or else....I was patient for a while...but eventually I took away her control. I picked her up and found a quite area on the boat where she could cry...and scream. I felt good...just being honest...I had regained some control. I'd skip the dinner cruise if I did it again.
Maggie is a lot of fun. She seems to be a kid who enjoys life. Sure, she gets sad, really sad. And she gets mad, really mad. But she gets over it pretty quickly, and then she's got that mischievous smile on her face again....she's looking for a good time. She's reaching over the car seat to tickle my shoulder and bursting out laughing when I turn around and make a funny face...she's reaching for her brother to try to start "something"...anything to have some fun. And she's tough...and fearless. I mean, why walk on the sidewalk, when you can walk on the raised edge of the sidewalk. Fall and bump your head...hey, no big deal. Just go a little faster next time.
She plays sweet too, I don't want to make her out too bad. She loves her tea set and play dough. She plays pretend well...she'll roll the play dough into little green dumplings, put them in a cup, swirl them around with her spoon, dish them out and "eats" them for a mid afternoon snack. She'll share too. I've eaten her dumplings, and washed them down with her tea. She thinks it's hilarious. She plays great like this for a long time. I bet she and Corinne will play with Corinne's kitchen in their bedroom a lot.
We're all getting along better and better too. Again...I'm a distant third in the batting order, and probably will be for a while, though I'm making up ground. This morning, she warmed up to me much faster than before. She was reaching out to me and touching me affectionately, and she's not done this before....the hit she tried to deliver later was the yen, to the affectionate touches yang, I guess. I think she realizes she's falling victim to our "spell" and fights back.
A couple quick notes...she sleeps with her pink blanket all the time...it was a great gift. She'll have her TB test read tomorrow, and according to Stef's professional opinion, it's negative. The air here is horrendous. Beijing and Guangzhou have been a little better than Guiyang, but Stef and I have been dealing with bad allergy and sinus problems and we don't usually have those problems that bad. We've done OK at the local pharmacies, but if your inclined to those problems (Eve...we're thinking of your kids) you better come over prepared. Let's see...Stef probably told me to say a few other things...so maybe check this paragraph later because we might add to it.
Oh, and we're putting up a few videos...it just takes forever to get them uploaded. The one up now, we posted just so you can see her play. She has so much fun. In the next video...which will be up later...she started looking at a picture book of all of us, and she was explaining to herself, I guess, who all the people in the picture were...she called me Ba Ba, Stef Ma Ma, Graham, Gua Gua, Davis, Gua Gua, and Corinne Je Je (probably mispelled the words, but point is she was saying it correctly). It was really cute, she even said it with a bit of conviction...and we really appreciated hearing it. Stef grabbed the camera, and got her to repeat what she was saying.
Hey, thanks to all who have helped with Corinne and Davis while we're away. It means a lot to us and you all have gone out of your way...we know it, and we are so thankful.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
It was a relief leaving Guiyang...yet, on the last night, we played in a pedestrian park that sits between our hotel and the river that runs through the heart of the city...as we walked home, I looked at little Tao Tao...she was so happy, so excited, having so much fun...and I was about to take her out of a city that she LOVED...it was her home. If you know Tao Tao, and you know Guiyang, you'd understand this. I understand where we are taking her, I understand what is better and what is not...I also understand that people from New York think Franklin is the sticks. I was sad, and she was clueless.
All that said...I'M SO HAPPY TO BE IN GUANGZHOU! Whew. It even felt good to say. This really is a nice city. It has a life to it that you expect in a big city...and even though I'm pretty much a small city, Southern sort of guy...I like this in small doses. It's clean...relative to China, at least...and they have pictures for all the food options on the menu, so I'm OK.
We're getting to know Maggie more and more each day, and she's getting to know us better too. I think she had a really awesome foster Grandmom...and it's obvious that Maggie loved her so much. She grieves hard...hard at times...but in a healthy way. She wakes up from a nap, for instance, and she is sad...really sad. This is typical. Then, after a few minutes, she cries. Hard. She calls out for her Lei Lei, and Stef rocks her in her lap. Once it is out, she's on her way...about her business. I think her grief is real...and I think she is really dealing with it. This makes me think that she'll be pretty healthy...mentally.
A young Chinese lady told our guide the other day that Maggie is so lucky to have a "foreign" family...they know we're not Chinese, but they don't immediately know we're American, which I find odd in my obvious USA centric sort of thinking...I started to tell our guide that the lady was wrong...Maggie would be better off if somehow she could stay with her foster family...but I wasn't sure it would be appropriate, so in my Southern style...I stayed quite and smiled.
Maggie, on one hand, is shy. On the other (big) hand, she has an extremely strong personality. I know those statements don't make much sense, but a lot now doesn't. She shys away from people when they talk to her. She covers her eyes with her hand to hide...but she peeks out the other side. Stef is the one she's attached to...and Stef is doing a great job with her.
Maggie needs to be told "no" a good bit. I feel a little uncomfortable doing that, considering the circumstances, but knowing Maggie as I do...well, let me just stay it needs to be done. Stef really does a good job with this. Me...not so much. Tonight at dinner, I decided that Maggie had enough fried bean curd with peanut sauce, so I moved the plate to the person who actually ordered the dish...Stef. Well, Maggie didn't appreciate my insensitivity, so she threw her chop sticks at me. With cat-like quickness, I was able to dodge, and swat them away as the Chinese man behind me snickered in an international sign of "thank god it's you and not me". I semi-panicked...Maggie screamed Chinese words that everyone except us frustrated white people understood. Stef, on the other hand, was cool as a cucumber (not really, but in comparison to me she was, at least). She grabbed Maggie up, and whisked her outside the restaurant. I don't know exactly what went down between the two of them...I stuck my face in a bowl of beef noodles in spicy broth in an attempt to hide my shame...but every time after that, when Maggie was about to get out of hand, Stef would gesture to the outside of the restaurant, and Maggie was suddenly in control.
We had the medical exam today. I know I saw this last time, but the scene at the medical exam is kind of surreal. You're surrounded by families who are so happy to have finally been united with their little angel that they've waited for, for so long. You see little Chinese kids with T shirts that say "Little Princess" and such...but the faces are heartbreaking. If you look past the Tshirts and American tourists with fanny packs and digital cameras, there are kids whose lives have been turned upside down, who are devastated and wonder who are these odd people who've taken me away from "my home". The medical visit made me sad. On the other hand, I think of little Corinne, and how much I love her, and how much she loves me...how she sneaks into our room early in the morning hoping that we're still in bed so she can cuddle with me...and how I wait a few more minutes most mornings hoping she shows up...and I'm suddenly happy because I know that is the future for these kids.
Tomorrow I think we're going to a zoo....I hope we enjoy it. These are odd trips. There are so many awesome things you see and experience...but you JUST ADOPTED A KID!!! Stress is high in our hotel room, so I ask that you pray that we be calm, be safe, enjoy our time here, bond as a family and enjoy each other before we GET HOME SAFELY!
Oh...a couple more odd tidbits...I thank our government for infringing on our rights to smoke in public places....I also thank God for Starbucks and McDonald's...when I pointed out a McDonald's to Graham, he said he didn't like McDonald's. I said "me neither...but I sure like looking at the Golden Arches".
PS...trouble with pictures tonight...I'll give it one more shot and then I'm going to bed. Otherwise, it will be tomorrow morning...or tonight for you guys....and I'm putting up a couple short videos this time too.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
There are a couple of things that describe Maggie.
1. She has the stamina of an Ox. We walked a couple of miles today through caves, parks, ect. She had to walk approximately 250 steps today. She preferred to walk instead of being carried. Pretty much at all times she prefers walking instead of being carried and we do alot of walking.
2. She always has dirty hands. She rubs her hands over every dirty surface
3. She is extremely messy when she eats - food is everywhere and she is wearing 1/2 of it.
4. She likes to sing under her breathe
5. She can NOT play with markers - like the food it is everywhere
6. She plays really well inside and will sit around and play with toys, but if she is outside she is climbing and moving. She is not fearful of heights nor ledges nor steps or anything. She can move fast and loves to run with Graham.
I think she has some rough and tumble in her. Her gross motor movement in general is not refined. Think more like Mac truck. She has good fine motor skills and has quite a bit of hand strength.
Brook is tired tonight. We all colds we think from the pollution. Tomorrow evening we head to Guangzhou. Have to say we are ready to go. We miss home and look forward to the ease and comfort that Guangzhou has to offer.
If you are coming to adopt and are adopting a toddler I highly recommend bringing a plastic tea set. Maggie plays with it for hours on end.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
We had the guide talk to the front desk to have someone clean the sheets and give us a new mattress, but later that evening, the wet sheets and mattress were still there, so I called downstairs. Now, in Beijing, the hotel staff spoke pretty decent English. Here...not so much. When you speak, you have to talk very basically, and you can't use any local phrases or they simply have no idea what you are saying. I knew this when I placed the call.
Well, when I called downstairs, I told them my daughter had an accident in her crib....as soon as the words left my mouth, I wanted to pull them back in. I knew I had made a mistake. The problem is, you can't just hit the rewind button...nor can you backtrack and try to explain yourself...that's just too much talking...but that didn't stop me. I tried to explain that she wet her crib...."crab?", "crab?" Assuming they couldn't pronounce crib, I said "yes, the baby crib"...then they said..."ACCIDENT!...BABY CRABS??". I said..."ugh", and just hung up. I looked at Graham and said, "I think, they think I said Maggie was hurt by baby crabs in our room". Needless to say, he thought it was hilarious.
Moments later, a very worried manager was knocking on our door. I sheepishly let her in, and showed her what I meant and tried to explain that we use the term "accident" for reasons other than what they thought. She was very nice, and we all had a good laugh. Obviously, they had no idea why those crazy Americans had baby crabs in their room. We've since come to find that the 5 western families in Guiyang in this hotel are all on one floor...all by ourselves. I guess we are high maintenance...or maybe they are worried we'll offend the other guests. Probably, both.
And Play dough
She'll kill me for these kind of pictures one day
I tried to get a picture of the "attempt to hide a smile" face...not a great picture...maybe tomorrow
Still playing at bedtime...I love how they sit like that.