Monday, June 9, 2014

What's In a Name? (Part One)

Today, we celebrate six months of having Zoe in our lives. It is hard to believe that it has been six months.  It seems she has been part of our family forever! So, here’s a little (okay, it ended up being big) update that has been on my mind for about three months.

Just like all parents, we spent a lot of time picking out a name for each of the girls. (More about Kayleigh in Part Two).  Zoe Annaliese was chosen very carefully for our little Ling Ling, which is her Chinese name. Zoe means “Life” and Annaliese means “Graced with God’s bounty.”  So, in effect, it reads “a life graced with God’s bounty.” Although I thought about the “life” Zoe would have as an adopted child, I didn’t know at the time we chose her name to what extent it would be so true to her.

For those of you who may not know about the life of an orphan….basically, there would be none. Some orphanages are clean, well-kept, and well managed, and the children are well cared for under the circumstances. Other orphanages are mismanaged, the caretakers are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, abusive and cruel.  Resources are minimal in many of the orphanages. Yes, she will be fed – most of the time. Yes, she will be clothed – in hand me downs that may or may not fit.  Yes, she will probably receive an education – of sorts - not nearly as much education as a first born and healthy child will receive. Yes, she will receive some medical care – but only what is necessary, and, in some cases, not even that.  By the time she turns 14, she will be ineligible for adoption.  Her options will be limited, as orphans are not recognized by the government. If she is lucky, she will be able to move to an adult center where she might be able to learn a trade or a skill, but many of those centers are just as bad as the orphanages. If not, she will be on the streets, looking for a way to support herself.  You can imagine what ways there are that are available to her. Many orphans end up in the criminal system.  So, the “life” of an orphan is not really a “life” at all. 

Gotcha Day, December 2013

Gotcha Day, December 2013

When Zoe was placed in my arms, she was a content child.  She didn’t cry; she didn’t even whimper. She hardly grieved the loss of her foster mother or the life she had lived for 2 ½ years. It was almost as if Zoe knew that the life she was gaining was much better than the life she was leaving.  At that time, Zoe weighed about 15 pounds at 2 1/2 years of age. She had no muscle tone in her little body. When she was picked up under the arms, she would literally slide out of our hands. She could crawl about a foot or so, and then she would stop. She scooted on her bottom a little to get around. She could barely stand and could barely support her weight. She refused solid food and would only take formula and NOTHING else. She freaked out at bath time – screaming at the top of her lungs – probably because she had rarely had one. Her body odor was quite unique and strong. It took about 3 baths before she started smelling like a clean baby.  Her teeth were quite yellow because they had never been brushed, and her breath was horrible. Again, it was several days before that was remedied.  The only “playing” she knew how to do was to rub the two little fingers on her right hand across her toys over and over again. She was very quiet and non-verbal. The few noises she did make were guttural sounds. If she had remained in her foster home, this "life" probably would have continued for several more months until someone became concerned enough about her lack of development.

December, 2013

December, 2013

On the flip side of the coin, she was happy. She laughed and giggled. She explored and played with the toys that we carried to China. She entertained herself with whatever she could find in the room to play with. She began scooting more around our little living room to see what was going on. She would let any of us hold her. She slept through the night almost every night we were in China.

Late December, 2013

Today…….   Oh, my! We have a different child than the one we brought home six months ago.  She now weighs about 26 pounds!  Yes, I have a little chunk on my hands! She has also grown over an inch in height. Her muscle tone began developing within days of being handed to us. Finally, someone was actually picking her up and holding her! She still doesn’t crawl, nor does she scoot – because she is WALKING all the time, running some of the time, although she still has a ways to go before she will win any races.  She eats anything I put in front of her and guzzles whatever I give her to drink.  She will feed herself finger foods, and we are making progress with utensils, although she still prefers that we do the feeding in that regard.  She has a grand time in the bathtub, and only cries when we wash her hair. Her teeth became relatively white, once we were able to start brushing. It took a long time to get to the point of actually being able to use a toothbrush, but she tolerates it well. She will flit from place to place and room to room, actually playing and exploring. I have to be careful that I don’t let her get out of my sight for too long or there is no telling what I might find when I catch up to her. (for example, perched on the arm of the rocking chair trying to get to the bed in her bedroom! ) She will easily entertain herself and play on her own for long stretches of time. We rarely see her rubbing her fingers across things like she did when she came home. She continues to sleep through the night. She does, however, fight nap time, but once she gives up the fight, she is out like a light. She will still let any of us hold her, but favors Mom and Dad. Her vocabulary is growing very quickly. She will easily say Momma, Daddy, Sissy, Noah, her version of Kayleigh and Zoe, hungry, milk, eat (usually accompanied by whining that I am not getting the food to her plate fast enough), red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and black (although not always with the appropriate color.) and lots of other words I will not bore you with. Usually, though, it sounds like babble, and I ask her often if she is speaking Chinese. :)

March, 2014

April, 2014

Early May, 2014

Late May, 2014

Late May, 2014

Her little personality has blossomed. She still laughs and giggles, even at herself. She has a ready smile and will say “cheese” for the camera. She claps for herself whenever she accomplishes something. She also claps at the end of the prayer. (Got to work on the “amen”). She likes to be held and cuddled, and she will raise her arms to be held often, saying “hold me”. She screams in delight when Jeff gets home from work or when one of us comes to pick her up from the nursery. When we tell her not to do something, she gives you “the look” that says, “I hear you, but I’m not going to do what you say.” If she doesn’t want to do something, she will stop where she is and start whining and crying! If she doesn’t get her way, she will do the same.  Oh, my….  If Kayleigh asks for a toy that Zoe is holding and Zoe is not ready to give it up, she will very quickly and very adamantly say “NO!” while pulling the toy closer to herself.  She says “No”, even when she means “Yes.”  If she is in a different room and you call “Zoe!” she will yell back “Whatee?”. :) If she is trying to do something, like climb up on the couch, and she can’t quite do it herself, she will say “I help.” She has two favorite books right now – the Colors book and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which sounds more like “browbur” when she says it. She likes music and will come running when she hears DJ Shuffle on Disney Junior begin to play. She will also sing “Wheel, roun, roun, beep, beep, beep.” That’s “The wheels on the bus go round and round and the horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep” for those who might have missed the translation.  If Jeff is home and she is wherever I am, she will look at me and say, “I Daddy.”  So, she will run off to where Jeff is, then she tells him, “I Mommy” and runs back to me. It goes back and forth like this until Jeff and I are in the same room.  She will say “Hi” and “Bye Bye” to just about anyone. Recently, I was in Sam’s and Zoe was with me. She began saying “Hi” to anyone she saw. A day later, I was somewhere else and a lady stopped us and asked if we were in Sam’s the day before. She had been the recipient of Zoe’s “Hi”. Zoe learns quickly and imitates us often. When we say something, she will often repeat it right back to us. When I ask her if she wants some juice, she promptly gets up and sits down in the kitchen floor with her back to the cabinet.  No, I did not teach her this, but in her preschool, at snack time, the children have to sit on the tile part of the floor. She apparently thinks that is what you have to do when it is snack time. :)  I could go on and on about all the things she is doing and learning!

June, 2014
June, 2014
What it all comes down to is that Zoe doesn’t just have “life” – She has “a life graced with God’s bounty”.  And our prayer is that one day both she and Kayleigh will come to know the Lord Jesus and have truly abundant life. We are forever grateful to those who had a hand in bringing Zoe home – especially to THE ONE Who placed the desire in our hearts and brought us to the place where Zoe became ours.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Some Random Thoughts about Kayleigh and Zoe

As I sat rubbing Kayleigh's back to get her to sleep today, I thought about Kayleigh and Zoe - how quite frankly, adopting internationally is a crap shoot. I hope you don't think that is too crass, but it is the absolute truth.

When you get a child's referral, you hope and pray that what you read in the referral is accurate.  Usually, it's about half true, if that much. Of course, you also have to understand that the referral you get may be about a child who is much younger than the child you actually bring home. And there is the fact that you are, literally, ripping them from the only life they have ever known and whisking them away from their country, their language, their "familiar."

For Kayleigh, her referral did prove to be mostly accurate. Her only known need was her left eye.  When we got her, she was healthy and had been well taken care of and had no serious deficiencies.   Because she was in the orphanage, I think she developed her survival instinct.  Although that instinct doesn't come in to play in our daily lives, her fierce independence as a result of that instinct does. I hear a million times a day (and I'm not exaggerating) "I can do it." "Let me do it." "I want to do it." "I don't want to." (and the list goes on.) Kayleigh is very clingy to me. She has always been so, but has gotten more so since Zoe dropped in her life and started taking my time. I am the only one she will let do some things for her, and she has cried more in the last 2 1/2 weeks as a result of not getting to be with me, beside me, near me, etc. Kayleigh seemed to learn early on that we were her parents and bonded to me very easily and to Jeff later. She never seemed to look back or grieve over the loss of her "life". Kayleigh takes great naps. She will ask me if it is time to go night night and tell me she is tired. She gets her sleep so she can get back on the go after that.

Zoe, on the other hand, has not proven true to her referral. The only known need was her right hand. As you all know from previous posts, she is not walking, talking, or eating solid food. Zoe does not seem to have the independence that Kayleigh has. She sort of watches the world go by and then decides if she wants to jump in. I think that is exactly what happened to her in the foster home. Since she is a content to watch the world go by, that's exactly what the foster mother let happen. And while the world passed by, Zoe did not learn to walk, talk, or eat. Zoe went into shut down mode when we got her. For the first few days, she was mostly unresponsive to much that we did. Although she did give us smiles at times, it seemed to be more a smile because we expected it.  Zoe is not a clingy child. She will go just as easily to others as she will to Jeff and me.  We are having to work harder to make sure she understands that we are her parents. As far as naps, I just have watched Zoe babble non-stop for over an hour and then eventually make her way out of Jeff's lap to the floor to play. She refuses to take a nap (even though her referral information said she takes a 2 hour nap each day). It is almost as if she knows she has a lot to catch up on and a lot to do, so she doesn't want to take a nap.

Kayleigh, home for over 2 1/2 years now, still amazes us with how quickly she picks up things and learns things, and she still makes us laugh often. We call her our "funny monkey."  Zoe, only with us for 2 1/2 weeks, is still revealing herself to us. We have a lot to learn about her in the next few weeks and months.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Arrival Time!

Hey, Everyone!
We arrive tonight (Friday) at 5:55 p.m. at Huntsville Airport. Would love to see everyone and introduce the newest family member. If we don't see you tonight, we'll see you soon!  Our flight is United 5727.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Short Story, maybe....

So, since I am so far behind on the blog, I am just going to try to give you and overall picture of what has been happening the last few days. (Didn't get all my pictures to load. Will load more tomorrow)

On Friday, we boarded the plane to leave the cold of Beijing to come to adoption paradise - Guangzhou. We were hoping for warm and sunny days. Well, we haven't had any of those yet. It has rained every day we have been here and has been pretty darn cold for Guangzhou - in the 30s and 40s yesterday morning. Right before we boarded the plane, little Zoe decided to have major tummy troubles. This seems to be the norm the last few days.  She had about 5 stinky diapers right before we flew out and as we were departing.  She was crying and writhing in pain.  I thought if this is going to last for the next 2 1/2 hours, we are in serious trouble.  Well, it lasted about 20 minutes and then she was mostly fine.  We have tried to figure out what is causing her tummy issues. We are using the same formula that she was getting in the orphanage.  She has still had episodes over the last couple of days, although none of them seem to be quite as bad as the one on the plane.  We will probably have to see the doctor sooner rather than later if this keeps up.  We made it Guangzhou, and got settled in our hotel. For any larger families traveling to China soon, we highly recommend the Executive apartment.  We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. It is nice that everyone has a bed, and we aren't all scrambling to use the bathroom in the morning. It does not cost any more than it would cost to get two of the regular hotel rooms.

Marissa and Noah chillin' in their bedroom

Kayleigh trying on Marissa's boots
With Rebecca at the International Clinic. Rebecca facilitated Kayleigh's adoption 2 years ago

Poinsettia's at the Beijing Airport

Saturday, we went to the International clinic for the medical check.  There were two things we were facing - our traveling companions for the first week needed a clear check on their daughter who had chicken pox.  They got that almost immediately. They had felt sort of like outcasts for the last few days, and we were all excited that they would be able to rejoin the fold.  The second thing was the TB test. Well, we made it through the first check fine, although the doctor seemed to be very concerned that Zoe was so far behind developmentally and mentally. The second check was the eyes and ears. No problem there either. Then we got to the third check - ugh - Zoe had a fever..... that meant that we would have to come back before the consulate appointment to make sure she was fever free. The rest of the day was spent on our own and doing paperwork with Miko.  We also sent our laundry out. We were getting sort of desperate for some clean clothes.

Sunday we went to Liwan Plaza to do some shopping. The most popular thing there for families is the pearl shop and the jade shop.  I didn't really go thinking I would buy any pearls, but I ended up having pearl earrings and pearl bracelets made for the both the girls to give to them on their 16th birthdays (or when they get married - haven't decided which. I have time to think about it). I knew I wanted a necklace from the jade shop and I also needed to get a bracelet for my mom. I was able to take care of both of those.  We also went to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall. We got more of the souvenir type stuff here - the kid's names in Chinese and English, finger painting (amazing to watch these men do this), ceramic Christmas tree ornaments, chops.  We got several things there.
Kayleigh and Zoe's pearls being strung

Jeff and Kayleigh hanging out while Momma shops :)
Monday, we went to another local plaza/mall. I honestly don't know how these shops stay in business. Imagine your bathroom (or smaller) and imagine a shop in there crammed full of stuff, and imagine that there are probably 15 or 20 others in the store that offer similar products. And imagine that there are halls and halls of these shops and you can just wander everywhere and see everything and get lost in the mall!!!  Well, that's about what happened.  We only had a few things we were in search of - tea sets and Chinese dresses. Somewhere in the middle of it, Noah decided he wanted a sword for himself (his 2nd) and one for a friend. At the last minute, we found the shop he needed and he was able to make his purchase.

Monday night we went on the Pearl River Boat Cruise. The cruise has a buffet, but there isn't much that we would eat, so if you are coming to China soon, we recommend you eat before you come and/or bring some food for your children if you are more the adventurous type. Normally, we would have been up on the deck enjoying the lights and taking tons of pictures, but, again, warm, balmy Guangzhou was freezing cold, and we ended up inside for most of the ride.

Tuesday - (hey, I will be caught up!!!) Today was the 2nd biggest day of all - the consulate appointment to make it all official and to get Zoe's Visa to travel to the U.S. Of course, first we had to go back to the clinic to have the check of Zoe's fever. I was pretty sure she had been fever free for the last two days, but I still gave her a little Tylenol this morning, just to make sure! She passed with no trouble and off we went to the Consulate. Did I mention it was pouring rain?  When you go to the consulate, you cannot take anything with you. No bags, no umbrellas. You can't even wear your watch.  If you need anything for your children, it has to be packed in a clear Ziploc bag.  Remember, it is pouring rain. We all had hoods, but we were trekking through the streets in the rain to get from the clinic and to the Consulate.  We were the last of 11 families who had appointments at 9:00. It took about 30 minutes for all of us to have our paperwork submitted.  We walked out at 9:30 with the last step completed. Zoe's Visa will be picked up tomorrow and we will be free to leave after 7:00 p.m.

We were supposed to go the zoo after the consulate appointment, but, have I mentioned it is raining and cold? So, we all opted to go Shamian Island so we could at least slip in and out of shops and go eat lunch at Lucy's - a local restaurant that caters to Americans. They even had SWEET TEA!!!! Of course, little Zoe decided to have another bout of tummy troubles, and I didn't really get to enjoy my lunch. :(

We are looking forward to tomorrow. We get to sleep in! We don't have to be anywhere until 11:30, and it is supposed to be warmer and it is not supposed to rain!!We shall see.....

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Little More about our Zoe

I thought I would tell you a little about Zoe. I know most of you know the basics, but maybe I can tell you a little bit more of what we are learning about her.

Zoe has a ready smile. She smiles often at us, especially when she is playing.  She has the cutest little giggle and will giggle at different things we do. She started giggling today when I was throwing kisses to her across the counter at the pearl market. (Noah was holding her at the time).

Zoe is an easy child.  She rarely demands your attention and will entertain herself. She will lie in her crib and hardly make a sound (unless she is awake and doesn't want to go to sleep, then she will get up and play in the crib). She is totally different from Kayleigh. Kayleigh is extremely high maintenance, and although she has adjusted well, she is still clingy to me and wants me to do a lot of things for her.  Zoe will let any of us hold her or play with her, although we are very careful that only Jeff and I do the personal things - feed her, change her, bathe her, etc.

She is beginning to reach for me specifically a little more often. I think she is beginning to recognize that we are her parents. Her only grieving came in the form of emotional shut down the first couple of days, but since then, she has not really looked back. I was prepared for a child who was going to grieve deeply over leaving her foster mother, but the foster mother grieved more than Zoe did.

She can take little steps if we hold her hands and help her a little. Today, that little stinker stood up in her crib while I was lying next to Kayleigh trying to get her down for nap.  Zoe did not want to take a nap, and so she got up and played. We still have a loooooonnnnnnggggg way to go before she is mobile, but it's a start. She is still very shaky in standing up and walking, so we will have to do some things to strengthen her little leg muscles.

Sorry! Don't have any pictures of her trying to walk, but I do have this one of the two cutest little girls wearing their Christmas shirts. :)

I think I have already told you that she refuses to take solid food.  We keep trying, but she is usually successful in spitting it out, although I keep putting it back in. She also will not drink anything but her bottle of formula. She will not let me hold the bottle for her. She keeps a firm grip on it the entire time. Until just a day or so ago, she guzzled the thing in about 3 minutes flat. She has slowed down and sometimes won't even finish the entire bottle. We are having to give her water with a medicine syringe, and she cries and fights us the entire time.

She still hates the bath, although we have seen a teeny tiny improvement since the first and second time.  We keep giving them to her and she keeps crying, but we know it will get better eventually. She doesn't like to be naked, either. She does not like it when you take her bottoms off to change her diaper... probably because she thinks she is about to get a bath.

She does not like to be put in the baby carrier on my chest. Why? Because she wants to SEE what is going on and be able to look around. She is very interested in what is going on around her. She will watch and follow things, especially when we are out and about.

As I said earlier, she entertains herself easily and plays easily, but we have a long way to go in that area as well. Her version of entertaining herself and playing is to rub things with her two little fingers on her bad hand. We have taught her how to press the buttons on the little phone, and she will do that some of the time. We are working on stacking the cups and rolling the cars and other simple tasks.

Although I have no way of knowing for certain and I know there are major issues we will have to deal with when we get home, I have a sense that perhaps the foster mother spoiled her. There was apparently another toddler in the home with Zoe. I think when Zoe didn't want to do something, the foster mother didn't force the issue. If Zoe didn't want to eat solid food, then the foster mother didn't give it to her. If she didn't want to take a bath, the foster mother didn't give her one.  So, I believe that some of what we are dealing with is Zoe getting her way (she is so darn cute, it is hard not to give in :) ). Fortunately for her, we aren't going to give in so easily. We have months and months of catching up to do, and we hope we have already started that for her here in China.

I am sure we will continue to learn more and more about her in the coming days, weeks, and months, but I know one thing for sure.... we love her!

Pictures from Day Two Touring of Beijing

hotel lobby in Beijing

Thursday - Day Two of Touring in Beijing

Did I say in my last post it was cold?  Well, it was still cold on Thursday.  We had three places to visit on this day. 

First we went to Hutong. This is the old part of Beijing which has preserved the old life in many respects.  There are no high rises here, and the people live in a very simple fashion. We rode in rickshaws - a covered cart pulled by a guy on a bike. Although we were all wrapped up and had a lap blanket, it was still cold. We first rode through the city streets and just got an idea of the area.  We then stopped and got out of the rickshaws and went into a local person's home.  We were able to talk with him and ask questions through our guide.  Turns out, he is a fourth generation Kung Fu instructor. His son is a 5th generation instructor.  He and his son taught Jackie Chen and Jet Li, preparing them for movie roles. Also, his students performed in the opening ceremonies of the last Olympic Games held here in China. He is somewhat of a local celebrity.

It was interesting to learn that he has two sons.  The minority groups in China, which make up only about 5 - 10% of the population, are allowed to have more than one child. One of his sons lives in Houston, Texas. The gentleman also lives in a house that has been handed down through his family for four generations.  As long as a family member remains in the house, they will be able to keep the property.  In the cities, an apartment lease is only for 70 years (I know, you are thinking 70 years?, but that's the way it is).

After seeing the home, we went for a stroll through the market.  It was amazing to see all of the different foods just out there for purchase.

Since we had been to the market and all the food made us hungry, we decided it was time for lunch. Our guide took us to a noodle shop - a chain restaurant. We joked that the picture on the door was the young Colonel Sanders. Kayleigh and I had chicken noodle soup, Marissa and Noah had beef noodle soup, and Jeff had some spicy dish that none of us would try! 

After lunch, we headed over to the Olympic Center. Although we could not go in the Bird's Nest (the stadium), we were able to walk around the Olympic Park and see it and The Cube (the swim center). The wind on Thursday was worse than the day before. It was especially windy at the Olympic Park because there are no tall buildings to block the wind. Although we would have liked to go inside the stadium and see the inside, it was still cool to see the Bird's Nest and the Cube. There is also a hotel nearby that is built in the shape of a dragon. Our guide told us that during the Olympics, the hotel rooms were over $1000 a night. Even now, the rooms are very expensive, but not as expensive as during the Olympics.

After the Olympic Park, we headed off to the Zoo to see the Pandas.  To say we were disappointed in the zoo is an understatement, but perhaps it was tainted by the cold weather. Very few of the animals were out or active. Only the  monkeys!  We stood and watched the monkeys for quite a while. We did see the Pandas. Two of them kept their backs to us most of the time, but we were able to see one.

After freezing to death all day, we headed back to the hotel to try to thaw out!