Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Month Home...

...and we may have reached a new milestone!

"GuangGuang, you are going to take a nap. Mommy is going to clean the kitchen."

Then we prayed. (He ritualistically puts his hands together to pray at each meal and before every sleeping time. It's been fascinating to watch, as this has really been his idea.) "Dear God. Help GuangGuang to have a good nap. Help Mommy to clean the kitchen." And then he says, "A...MEN," grins, and sticks his thumb in his mouth.

He's asleep and the kitchen is *almost* clean. Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zucchini Tomato Yum

Picked the first zucchini of the season today. And made my favorite zucchini recipe. "Recipe?" Not really. But it's what my dad always did with new zucchini when I was growing up. I loved it as a kid and still love it today. It's easy. And YUM.

You need:

sliced zucchini
can of tomato sauce
your choice of cooking oil

Lightly saute the zucchini in a bit of olive oil. If you like, add some chopped, fresh basil. After sauteing, add tomato sauce to taste and heat. Parmesan cheese, optional.

Sausage and Greens Soup

You know it's a winner when EVERYBODY asks for seconds! (Except GG...but he ate "firsts"...which was a first for anything GREEN...so it counts!)

Tonight I tried "Sausage and Greens Soup" from the "Spring" section (pp. 38) of Simply in Season. I doubled the recipe. It was a hit. The only request was for more "bulk" next time with the suggestion that I add more potatoes. That's easy enough. :)

Sausage and Greens Soup (serves 4)

1/2 lb. bulk sausage
Brown in a soup pot and drain all but a spoonful of fat. Remove meat.

1 c. onion, green onions, or chives, chopped
Saute in reserved fat until soft. Return sausage to soup pot.

4 c. chicken or veg broth
1 c. potatoes, diced
salt/pepper to taste
Add, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, 10-15 mins.

1 1/2 c. evaporated milk**
1-3 c. fresh, tender greens (I used spinach), chopped
Add and cook until tender (really brief for spinach). Garnish with grated Parmesan.

**This is where I thought I'd get in trouble. I used all kinds of milk odds and ends. A little rice milk, a little leftover (freezer) goat milk, a little leftover (freezer) evaporated milk, a little 2%. I could taste the strange combination of milks, but apparently no one else could. [Grin.]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kids Cook! #2 (Green Beans/Pasta, Strawberry Yum)-Anakin

My meal included Green Beans and Sausage and for dessert I made a dressing for the strawberries that I cut. Everyone enjoyed the meal and it was a great success.

We made the strawberry dressing by mixing together:
1 cup sour cream
a heaping 1/4 cup of brown sugar
a dash of vanilla

Compost Pile Eatin' (Mustard Greens)

Imagine my surprise to return from China and find gorgeous mustard greens growing on top of my compost pile. I'm not sure how it happened. I recently composted some mustard that had gone to seed, but I'm shocked and slightly doubtful that it would grow this quickly.

We ate it for dinner in a family favorite recipe. The original recipe (which I found on the internet, and now seems to have disappeared) calls for kale. I love kale in it, but we seem to be able to grow mustard a lot easier!

Kale or Mustard Green Salad

Barely cook the greens (approx. 3-5 mins.) by boiling a small amount of water in a pot filled with greens. (This basically wilts them.) Drain/squeeze out the water. Cut greens into bite sized pieces. Add about 1 1/2 T. soy sauce and 1 T. sesame oil for 12 oz greens. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bathtub Toy Basket (Homemade!)

My friend, Lisa, is a genius at organization.

I, on the other hand, am pathetic. But good at stealing, coveting, admiring other people's ideas.

When I saw her bathtub toy basket, I had to have one. Our bathtub toys, kept in a mesh bag, usually look like they just slimed up from some bog in the deepest of ancient forests. Seriously gross.

I thought I'd have to hand over a wad and buy one at some fancy organizational store. Imagine my surprise when I found out I had to MAKE MY OWN!

Here are her instructions:

You go to a dollar store and choose a basket (with a lip.) Then buy 2, heavy duty, suction cups. Take a medium sized nail and a hammer and punch a half-dozen or so holes in the bottom of the basket. (It's best to do this when you get home -- they frown upon it at the $Store ;-) Also, this could be an opportunity for a husband to break out a power drill!) Use your common sense for the location of the holes after first trying the basket out on the tub wall.

She advised I buy the suction cups at a hardware store. So I went on a major shopping spree and spent $2.18...$1 for the basket and $0.59/each for suction cups.

My only problem? Getting it to stick. Apparently, her brand new tub accepts suction cups better than my grimy, slime-covered 35+ year old tub. I had to scrub off 35 years of soap scum before mine would stick.

Kids Cook! #1 (Lemon Asparagus Pasta)-Lizzi

Introductory note from Mom:
This summer, both Lizzi and Anakin are cooking one meal/week. Here is Lizzi's first...

I found this recipe in Simply in Season a while back, and always wanted to try it. When Mommy told Anakin and I that we would each be cooking one meal a week this summer, I decided to make it. The whole family declared it a success. The menu consisted of this pasta, Chef Salad (lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, ham, green onions and poppy-seed dressing), and fresh strawberries for dessert. We used a little less dried dill, and still found it fairly strong. Overall, VERY delicious. ~Lizzi

Lemon Asparagus Pasta
from Simply in Season

8 ounces angel hair pasta (**see gluten-free note below)
2 1/2 cups asparagus (cut into 1" pieces)

Cook pasta in boiling water 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook 2 minutes longer or until tender. Drain.

1 T. butter
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
1 1/2 t. lemon peel, grated
3 T. lemon juice

While pasta cooks, melt butter in large frypan over medium heat. Add green onions and lemon peel and saute 1 minute. Add lemon juice and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.

3/4 c. milk (I used rice milk in the gluten-free portion. Worked great.)
2 eggs

Beat together. Add with pasta and asparagus to pan with green onions. Cook over low heat until milk mixture is slightly thick, about 4 minutes. Do not boil.

1 T. fresh dill (chopped, or 1 t. dried)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground nutmeg.

Stir in. Serve immediately.

** Gluten-Free: We did a double recipe with half being gluten free. We tried a new kind of spaghetti pasta, Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta, Spaghetti Style, Supergrain, containing organic corn flour and organic quinoa flour. This was by FAR the BEST gluten-free pasta we've tried. Not slimy or gummy like many of the rice pastas. I honestly couldn't tell the difference between this and regular wheat pasta. So, so good. And it held up great through all the cooking.

Mom's notes:
This meal was AWESOME! So proud of Lizzi's first attempt in the kitchen. While she cooked, Anakin brought his copy of Simply in Season to the kitchen (they each have their own copies) and started looking for a seasonal recipe that he could make on Thursday. Since they each have their own cookbook, they have ownership in planning & preparation. And since the recipe book is seasonally based, they know where to turn to find recipes with ingredients that we can easily find in the garden or at the farmer's market. I'm having them both make notes in their own cookbooks about the recipes they try.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grace in Action

Friday night, the kids and I ate a "normal" meal while Dh worked outside. A bit later, we popped a pizza into the oven for a graduation/end of school celebration (not to mention "dinner!" for Dh.) All sat at the table.

GG made a sound. We looked at him.

He gazed around the table at each of us and put his hands together. The message was clear...we forgot to pray for our dinner. We all made a big production of thanking him. He proudly revealed a little smirky smile, excited that he'd brought us all back to how meals are supposed to start.



* "The unmerited love and favor of God toward man."

* "A short prayer in which blessing is asked, or thanks are given, for a meal."

We definitely experienced BOTH.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

No Translation Necessary

We Skyped with the foster family.


No translator needed.

This morning I again awoke around 5am. In the midst of attempting to catch up on email I received a message indicating the foster family wanted to Skype. We "chatted" a bit, with me having to translate (both English to Mandarin and Mandarin to English) in between each message. They desperately wished to see GG. At the time (now 6am), he was asleep, but they assured me they would wait.

I figured this would be a good trial run. A short chat with video. Just to see what his reaction would be.

He woke up in his usual unhappy state. (BTW, the foster family wrote this morning, "Graciousness, he early morning gets out of bed does not have any spirit generally." That explains what appears to be sadness upon waking.) I fed him, dressed him and got him in a playful mood. Then I drew a picture to show him that auntie was going to be on the computer to say hello and that Mommy was going to hold him and sit in a chair by the computer. He VEHEMENTLY shook his head NO. It was clear he understood and he wanted nothing to do with it. (Edited to add...he HAS Skyped before and HAS enjoyed it. He laughs and laughs when the kids do it with their friends. And he enjoyed talking with BigSis and Grandma & Grandpa from China. This was different.)

Lizzi went back to the computer where they were waiting. I let him listen at the door and peek in so he could see them. Two aunties and a well-loved cousin were present. I again asked if he wanted to talk to them. NO.

This may have been horrible, but I carried him in front of the computer so they could see him. Less than two minutes, tops. They were very excited to see him. Laughing and talking. I had previously asked them to say positive things about him being in his new family and to keep it happy. They were great.

He looked ready to cry. Refused to speak. I told them we'd have to say goodbye. At my request he did say "goodbye" in English.

After we left the computer he was sad but very quickly snapped into a playful mood and tossed a ball with me and Daddy. Suddenly in the midst of playing (maybe 15 minutes later?) he got very sad and buried his head on my shoulder. But he again snapped right back out of it.

I sent a message to the foster family apologizing for the short time with GG and saying we'd try again sometime with a translator.

Several hours later he found the picture I'd drawn. He launched into several sentences in Chinese. Then he took a pencil and ERASED auntie's picture from the computer screen. (My original drawing is at left in the above photo. He added everything else, including the marks on and around the chair and computer. He tried to erase auntie but seems to have scribbled out her head instead. He said the two circles--big and little--in the middle of the page were Mommy and said a lot about the whole scene. In Chinese.) I called my friend Doris to see if she could understand any of what he was saying. When he heard her speaking Chinese, he immediately left and went to another room.

The foster family then wrote back saying they want to try Skyping again tomorrow. I had to reply telling them that he refuses to talk on the computer right now.

The best I can figure is that he's upset with them for abandoning him (in his eyes) and his way of processing grief is to not think about it. The good news is that he does ask to see their photos, so small doses must be okay...it's the "real thing" that is just too much at this point.

All that to say I didn't need a translator. At least not yet. His message was very clear. No words needed.

I wish we had an adoption therapist who speaks Chinese and lives within driving distance. It's too bad that he cannot process his feelings with someone right now. He tried to tell us this morning, but all I know is that auntie got erased.

Speaking of powerful drawings...

LilDude continues to struggle with big-brotherhood. He brought home a book from school yesterday containing drawings from the year. It included a recent drawing of his family. Mommy was laying down at the bottom with everyone else standing above her. GG wasn't included at all, but LilDude added him after the teacher asked where he was. He's a scribble off to one side. This morning LilDude clearly said that he is mad at Mommy because he does not like sharing Mommy. We had a long talk. Things are better. For the moment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Universal Language Called "Dumptruck"


We attended Lizzi's 8th grade graduation last night. We sat on the edge of the crowd, but GG seemed fairly unfazed by all the commotion. He met Grandma and Grandpa for the first time and enjoyed the Gum Game. What's the Gum Game? Why, it's when you chew one piece of gum til the initial flavor wears off (this starts at 15 minutes with piece #1, then 10 minutes with piece #2, then 1 minute with piece #3) and then you ask Grandpa for a new one. GG's only downfall during the ceremony was that he was positive that one of the balloons in the balloon arch had his name on it; when balloons would fall off the arch it was all I could manage to keep him with me and not have him disappear after a balloon.

After the ceremony, LilDude, GG, and I, escaped the crowds by heading to the playground. He LOVED it there. My only problem was keeping up with him. Right at the end he was approached by a small crowd of people and he buried his head in my shoulder, obviously uncomfortable.

We returned to the house where we enjoyed Grandma's cooking, then headed outside to play. And, ooooohhhhhhhh, did we play. The kids ran and ran and ran. You'd have never known that Grandpa and Grandma were new to GG. He fed them all his funny faces, teased them, threw balls with them, and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Last night, however, was not good, sleeping-wise. I'm not sure why. He definitely was struggling with nasal congestion. It's really hard to suck your thumb when you can't breathe through your nose. It was much worse last night, but it's been fairly bad ever since we met him. I'll be interested to see what the pediatrician says. He also repeatedly woke up, with a slightly panicky edge to his voice/cry. We haven't had that much since our initial days in China, so I'm not sure if the crowds last night were too much or what???

This morning we return to school for Anakin's 6th grade awards ceremony and LilDude's "summer birthday" kindergarten event. By noon today we'll all be ready for a NAP!

P.S. Since this is titled "Graduation" I need to mention how proud we are of Lizzi. She gave a speech, sounding and looking so grown-up. I could have burst with pride. (Or maybe that was the balloons that kept exploding behind me??) :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Boot Envy

Who woulda guessed that one pair of boots had so much power?

Last week my friend Jennifer loaned me some clothes for GG. In one bag was a pair of boots. From the moment my boy saw those boots, he was in love. He proudly put them on and paraded around, finally testing them out in the garden, stepping on over rows of emerging bean plants.

Tonight he's been anti-Daddy. We're not pushing it terribly hard, but we're making it enticing. I stayed inside where life is BORING. Daddy and LilDude went outside. After awhile, LilDude came in and traipsed down the hallway in his BOOTS. GG immediately wanted to go get his boots on, too. But boots go with outside which goes with Daddy. He had quite the conflict...get the boots and get Daddy, or stick with Mommy and have boot envy.

The boots and Daddy won.

GG is amusing me. We're slowly moving from behavior based on fear to behavior based on "I'm a 3yo and 3yo's want to do whatever they like!" Last night he goofed around in bed for over an hour (with me supervising) until Daddy lay down with one hand on his back and he feel asleep in 15 minutes. Today's naptime was a similar experience. He was really tired, having gone to sleep too late and woken up too early. He didn't seem at all frightened to be alone in his bed, so I lay him down (with the door open) alone. We spent about an hour with me repeatedly returning him to his bed. I didn't fuss or say anything. I just calmly picked him up and put him back in bed. After he took himself to the potty twice, I finally wised up and locked the bathroom doors. By the end of the hour he was weeping a few "Mom is annoying me to death" tears, but they definitely weren't tears of fear.

I think we're both going to be ready for an early bedtime. GG from lack of sleep. Me from carrying him back to bed so many times.

P.S. GG does not like asparagus, Swiss Chard bake, or strawberries...aka dinner. But he didn't want hot rice cereal either, so maybe he just isn't hungry. He impressed us mightily, however, by using the kid sized chopsticks we bought. He was clearly more chopstick-coordinated than me. I have chopstick envy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

More Updates...

Let’s see…now where were we?

And why haven’t I written in 3 days?

Oh, yeah…I’m too busy to sit at the computer but a tad bored, all at the same time.

I’ll try to sum up the last several days…

We seem to alternate “really good mood” days with “not such a good mood” days. The bad days (hate to even call them bad, cause they’re not THAT bad), don’t necessarily look like grieving, although I’m sure that’s the root cause. On the bad days he just suffers from occasional temper tantrums (that are actually quite tame, though I’m not telling him that!), impatience, total reluctance to be away from me for a sec, etc. The reluctance to be away from me means that Dh can often not take him, even to play, (unless Dh is really sneaky about convincing him) and he cannot go to sleep (nap or night) without me in the bed. As I start to recover from jetlag, I’m getting a bit tired of keeping the schedule of a 3-year-old, but I know this too, shall pass.

Karen K. brought over a meal Friday in the midst of one of the only “holdings” we’ve had. He’d had been fussy much of the afternoon, so I sat down and just held him. He did not want to be held. But I just hung in there, stroking his face, singing songs, and looking in his eyes. By the time we were done (which resulted in him crying the most he'd cried in days), he was in a MUCH better place. Immediately after, I hand fed him dinner, which also seemed to work well in the moment. (This usually does not work with him as he very much wants to be an independent 3yo and feed himself!)

On Saturday, I took him along to a curriculum sale. The place was packed, but no one was paying any attention to him in particular, so he was fine; he only seems threatened if people approach him directly. He took it in stride until he simply got tired of being carried. By then I was ready to go anyway. Saturday afternoon, Teddi and her girls (born in China) came over and he had a delightful time playing. He’s done exceptionally well with all the kids we’ve introduced him to, but I thought he really adapted quickly to Teddi’s girls, perhaps because they look like the kids he is used to playing with. Saturday night, everyone in the family left for various events except GG and me. I lay down with him until he fell asleep and was actually able to get up a bit later. I’d do this more often (just to get something done for a change!) but it often takes him 45 minutes to fall asleep…and by that time, I’m asleep as well, so it’s usually not worth the bother.

Sunday, everyone went to church except us. He’s simply not ready for a big, yet intimate "where we know everyone", crowd. Thankfully, my sister took the morning off from church to keep us company. We chatted while he played around us. In the afternoon, Dh tried to nap with him but GG would NOT have it. So I napped AGAIN. At least I can’t complain too much about lacking sleep!

One thing that seems to have helped his sleep a bit is our new acquisition of a crib. Thanks, Craigslist! We put the crib against our bed with one side off as we did with LilDude when he co-slept. It’s nice because GG now has his own space yet can easily roll over and touch me whenever he wants; it’s basically like we expanded our bed temporarily. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to it, but he grinned as soon as he saw it and seemed happy to have his own space. He is still kicking the bars, but at least now it’s the bars of HIS bed and not the bars of MINE.

Monday (today) we again had a quiet morning at home. At this point it seems helpful to keep his world as small as we can. We stay home most mornings, occasionally going for a jog with the jogger, and nap in the afternoon, playing with LilDude after kindergarten/naptime.

LilDude’s adjustment to being a big brother is not going all that swimmingly. I think his comment to Nana was something along the lines of “sending him back.” I look forward to the day when we’re all a little more settled.

Tonight I lay down with GG for bedtime, as usual. I was serenaded by a very long, very loud, either story or song (have no idea which!) in Chinese. This was accompanied by 360s in bed as well as crib bar climbing, etc. It didn’t seem to work to close my eyes alongside him, so I finally got up to read/type on the floor. As long as he stays in bed, I’m letting him sing as loud as he wants. (Like I could stop him!) I think his whiny behavior today was largely due to tiredness, but he seems to have gained a second (third?) wind. As I type he’s laying there saying “Patty Cake, Patty Cake” and clapping. His English is coming along quickly! ;) He knows how to say quite a few words in English but can understand even more. At meals he’ll hand sign and say “all done” and “more.” He can say “doggie” and “kitty.” And calls the dog, “Sarah,” by her name. I’ve learned Chinese for “go potty,” well enough that it isn’t an issue anymore. He tries to say “please” but usually uses Chinese for “thank you.”

Almost no one commented on my dilemma about talking to the foster family. (You guys are all a LOT of help!) I put in a call to our child psychologist and our SW. The one thing they were in agreement about was that if we do a call, we need to have a translator present. Our psychologist made it quite clear that it’s very important and needs to be done ASAP. She equated it to him feeling completely abandoned if we don’t and said that since we couldn’t make a transition through multiple visitations (think domestic adoption) that we needed to do this. So I’ve asked the foster family to try to get Skype (it’s free but they’ll have to come up with a computer with a microphone) and I’m arranging for a translator. I’m afraid I may go broke with all the translating. The previous written piece I had translated was $72. I can’t afford to do that very often. But there’s no way around it if we Skype. Short of learning Chinese. Anyone know a fast course in Mandarin/Cantonese/village dialect? Our guide in China said that even she had a difficult time understanding the foster mom at times. But we may end up only talking with the family member I’ve been emailing who is probably a little easier to understand. Should be interesting.

GG continues to ask to see photos of the foster family; he knows he can easily ask when I’m at the computer as I have photos on my desktop of them. He used to cry when he looked at them. Then he no longer cried but looked really sad. Now I’d characterize it more as “wistful.” On Friday morning, I asked him if he wanted to make “Nie Nie” (grandma, the foster mom) pictures. He vehemently nodded yes. He’d draw a picture. In some pictures he'd ask me to write "Nie Nie." I asked him if he wanted a few more phrases. He wanted "ni hao" (hi), but interestingly enough, he did not want "I love you." Not sure how to interpret that. When he finished a picture, I'd take a photo of it and we’d email it to his auntie in China. He seemed to “get” the idea that the pictures were being sent to China. At least he acted like he did. He enjoyed pushing “send” and counting down as the data was sent.

In some of the photos I had him hold his drawing. I think he looks sorta sad. But when the auntie got the photos she responded with “haha” (don’t know if it correctly translated, but it appeared that she was amused) and a comment about how he doesn’t like this type of activity. (making pictures) I found that odd as ever since we got him, one of his favorite activities seems to be sitting down with paper and a bunch of crayons or colored pencils. But it may be that he never had the opportunity to use so many different colored writing instruments before? I don’t know.

We did learn that he knows how to do somersaults. Very well! Although he initially seemed to have no interest in books (which makes sense as he probably had none and pictures/content certainly wouldn’t look familiar in ours) that is quickly changing. He’s learned to appreciate Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and will also sit through Brown Bear, Brown Bear. A friend pointed out that by three, most kids are interested in stories, not just pictures. But since he cannot understand the stories, the baby board books (with good pictures!) that we’re showing him may just not be all that interesting.

Well, it’s 9pm and he’s still not settled in bed after an hour of me sitting here. He’s about to get very unhappy as this means that it’s soon going to be Daddy’s turn to come lay down with him. Wish us luck. :)

P.S. I went to post this and listened as Daddy got in bed with GG. GG cried "Momma" about twice, then immediately got quiet and, I assume, went to sleep. Yea, Daddy!

P.P.S. My back seems to be fine. Thank you for your prayers! (And thanks, Shirley, for being concerned about my well being!!) :)

P.P.P.S. I haven't said this nearly enough... GG is naturally a HAPPY, HILARIOUS kid. He LOVES to laugh. He LOVES to make us laugh. He does eye tricks and "monster hands" (which is obviously something he's done before) all in the hopes of creating an audience, which he always does. He is a giggly, super cute, loving ball of sweetness. Seriously could not have dreamed up a nicer little personality!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Foster Family Letter

I decided to go ahead and post this for a variety of reason... I think it's good for people to see how much Chinese foster families love their foster children. And I want to share what a special boy GG is.

This is written by the girlfriend (to be married) of the 3rd son of the family.

The following messages are parts of my diary I wrote for GG after [GG's foster mother] received your letter last year.

October 30, 2008
GG is a very smart little boy! After he spent 20 days in the orphanage, Aunt (GG's foster mother) brought him home. Now he is two and half years old. GG is a very good boy and has very sweet heart. Every time I went over to their place for dinner, he always came to the door to greet me and found shoes for me to wear inside the house. When dinner was ready, he always sat by me. GG had eaten food by himself since he was very young. He likes meat but not fish, and he likes vegetables but not leaves, such as peas and carrots. He doesn't like to drink a vegetable soup. After he is done eating, he always tells us how full he is, then he runs outside to play. In the afternoon, he takes a nap by himself and he never cries after waking up. When the people to to work, GG goes outside to play from 9:00 to 11:30 in the morning. After lunch and a nap, he goes outside again from 3:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon, then he comes back home for dinner in the evening. If grandma keeps him out late, he would call grandma and say "Grandma, Hurry up! little sister (lives in the opposite building) is waiting for me".

He has a very strong personality and protects himself very well. He never lets other kids take advantage of him. He likes music very much. Everytime he listens to rock 'n' roll, he dances to the music. He has an excellent memory. When we taught him a new song, he learned very fast. It wouldn't take him very long and he can sing that song very well. He doesn't like to have his picture taken. If you don't take his photo within 3 secands, your job is done. He wouldn't let you take it again.

He likes talk a lot. He can speak Cantonese and Mandarin. He is a such sweet little boy. When I brought a gift for him, he always gave me a lot of kisses and told everybody he knew what he got from me. He is a very brave boy too. Everytime he gets shots from hospital, he never cries. After he has his shots, he never forget to say thanks and ask the nurse to give him a CANDY.

I was in the bed this morning, Aunt brought GG into my bedroom. She asked me to help care for him because she has to go to orphanage very early today. By noon, she came home and looked worry and sad. She brought a letter and photos from the orphanage. The letter from a America family who will adopt GG introduced the family's members and their home and told us they love and care for GG. The letter was so moving that it made us cry. After we read letter and saw the photos, Aunt felt much better and she said " God bless him! He'll have a happy life and bright future there. We pray for him!"
GG, We will miss you very much!

May 18, 2009
In the morning
From now on, GG will have a new home to belong to. He will have lovely parents just like other children. We are so happy for him.

In the afternoon
Just sent GG away. Watched him crying his eyes out, our hearts were broken. When I left him, I can not help it, my tears come out just like river,so that I can not see anything. Aunt didn't say a single word when we came back.She looks sad and tired because she hadn't slept for a few days. We all missed him very much. Agents are so inhumane at the orphanage. They didn't want us to have any contact with the adoption family; they didn't even want to give us the adoption family's telephone number. Before GG left, he held my photo and said he would come over to sleep with me tonight. Right now, he had left us.....possibly never to see him again. The more I think about him, the sadder I am, I start to cry.......

May 19, 2009
Last night was a long night for all of us! I woke up at night. GG's cute little face was in front of me. GG recently had a lot of nightmares and cried and looked for Aunt when he woke up at night. Hopefully, he is OK now. God help us! Before GG leave China, let us see him one more time and give us a chance to say goodby to him. GG, Are you OK? You know we missed you so much!

May 20,2009
GG, Are you OK? we all missed you. Grandma cried and she always calls your name no matter who she sees, She said she took care of a lot of kids, but you are the best. Yen Yen, little sister, is not happy because nobody plays with her. Bing bing, a big brother, is lonely because nobody is with him. When I go over for dinner, there is no little boy to say "Hi!" to me and give me indoor shoes and kiss me anymore. I never hear that lovely voice "Aunt, come over tonight for dinnr!" All gone, but only a lot of memories left......

May 21,2009
When I go over to their place for dinner tonight, Aunt told me the interpreter called. GG will leave China after 5 o' clock on Friday evening (May 22,2009). In the morning on May 22, His new parents will visit us. Agents in the orphanage didn't allow us to see GG again. God knows we are missing GG. The kindness of the interpreter and the America adpotion family gave us a chance to see GG for the last time. Finally Aunt smiles again. All of us were so excited for next day coming.....!

I'm in Pain, Help!

#1 pain:

As of last night, my lower back feels like it's gonna give out. I am in pain. Not sure what to do about it other than baby it for a bit. I did not see this coming as I've had no pain and no problems lifting/carrying GG. I think the new "potty technique" (see previous posts) put my back over the edge. Prayers for my back (and ability to carry him) are appreciated.

#2 pain:
This is literally pain. Not "a pain" but "pain." Last night we got a message from the foster family asking to TALK with GG on the PHONE. The translation is, "My meaning is wants to telephone with the summer light, we think of him." I don't know what to do. I'm bidding my time by not immediately responding.

Although talking to them on the phone is good in theory, I have several concerns.

1. Yesterday was the best day he's had so far. He was happy from almost as soon as he woke up (not full out crying on waking), had a wonderful day, and only was upset at bedtime when I insisted on rocking him before bed. This became a necessity only because he was hanging from the bars of my headboard and flipping himself sideways so he could monkey up the bars with his feet. We made the mistake of skipping the normal bath routine and playing too hard right up until bedtime. He was tired but wound. He fought hard against rocking, but eventually settled in and actually looked me right in the eye for a long time as I rocked and sang to him. So I think it turned out to be a good thing.

During the morning I took him with me to our first really "public" place, the annual used curriculum sale. He did great just riding in the Ergo and looking around.

In the morning he asked to see photos on the computer of himself. I showed them to him, including one with his playmate in China. He seemed to enjoy them, but didn't ask specifically to see the foster mom's photos. I didn't and he seemed to have a better day. I know that he needs to continue to process grief but also figured that a day off wasn't bad either.

2. If he talks with them on the phone, we have no way to talk with him about what he's feeling. We also have no way to talk with the foster family. It's only foster family directly communicating with 3-year-old child. No other communication. That seems like it has the potential makings of disaster. I think he would get very upset, which would make them very upset, and we'd just be standing here feeling helpless.

3. While delay seems like a good possibility, it probably won't be long before he doesn't understand them. The more English he gains, the less Chinese he is likely to be able to use. So if we delay for months, he may or may not be able to talk with them.

4. We received the translation of a long message that the foster family sent to me by email when we were still in China. I don't know if I should post it here or not. Need to think about that. But it's a long, very loving post about what a great kid he is and how much they love him. Reading it, I feel like we owe them as much contact as we can give them...as long as it's in GG's best interest.

But bottom line right now is that I'm afraid that this will plunge him into depression, possibly more than he already has. It's really like his entire family has died. Would it help or hurt to get a "call back from the grave?" And what about the fact that we can't communicate with him about the call?


And what would you specifically say to the foster family, either way?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trampoline Math

This is so fun!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Yum

If you eat leftover raspberry cream cheese yum at 5am, is it considered:

1. dinner dessert seconds

2. midnight snack

3. breakfast


The "I'm Up Again at 3:30am" Post

Posts written at 3:30am should be at least somewhat entertaining, dontcha think? (For one thing, I'm in dire need of keeping myself awake. So I'll do my best. The obvious danger is that sometimes things written at 3:30am *SEEM* funny in the moment but are really just pathetic. So give me grace.)

Multiple choice test...

I am up because:

A. I alternately keep getting kicked in the kidneys or hit in the face with flailing limbs.
B. Someone with unchecked allergies is snoring loudly enough to wake the dead me.
C. Someone is sucking their thumb loud enough to wake "B" above.
D. All of the above.

In an effort to protect annoying bedmates (that would be PLURAL) the guilty, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

But you'll be relieved to know that it doesn't really matter that I'm awakened at 3:30 am. Cause I've gone to bed in the 8ish range all week. Why do you ask?

Well, here are the choices. (Again, multiple choice, this time with a 50% of getting it right!)

A. Go to bed at 8pm with child and have child fall almost right to sleep.

B. Put child in bed alone at 8pm. Read with a flashlight in same room. Child gets up and down, up and down. Put child back to bed. Figure this isn't working. Step out of room to tell other family members good night. Return to room where said child is now seated in doorway, quietly sobbing. Put child back to bed. Put jammies on. Get in bed with child. Child continues to sob. Then child gradually ceases crying, only to start clapping. Then slamming his feet on the bed. Then slamming his feet in uncomfortably close range to your kidneys. Then talking. Then a range of all of the above that is getting a little hazy cause you've been up since around 3:30am the night before. Then you fall asleep, knowing that somewhere in close proximity, limbs are still slamming about your head. Then you wake up, realizing said child has finally just gone to sleep and that it's 9:45.

Hmmm. Which would you choose?

Yesterday was a little rough. He woke up crying, but didn't improve his mood much over breakfast as he often seems to. I did learn that he likes fried eggs and LilDude's rice bread. He ate very well. But as soon as the kids left he wanted to see photos of the foster family on the computer. This time he repeated "Ni Ni" (Granny = foster mom) and quietly cried.

I was thankful for a distraction in the form of Jennifer with Ethan (just his age!) who came to visit for the morning. We jogged the boys up and down the street. (Thanks, Ethan, for saying that I won!) Then hung out while they played. During this time I learned that GG adores corn flakes. Throughout the day I probably refilled a little Tupperware container for him about 10-12 times. Today he repeatedly rejected congee in favor of corn flakes. This wasn't my idea, believe me! At this point, however, I'm encouraging "grazing"; hopefully a full tummy will help to keep his spirits up.

GG did nap alone in bed for the first time. I sat in the doorway of my bedroom and read a book while he lay down on my bed and went to sleep. That was progress. I was stupid hopeful enough to think that the same pattern might extend to bedtime. Ha.

In the afternoon, we tried going out in public for the first time as I needed to pick Lizzi up at the school office for her piano lesson. When the secretary came up to him, he visibly cowered and buried his head in my chest, all while in the Ergo. Similar behavior happened at church when he saw the piano teacher. It's good we're staying home.

Over the course of the day he had multiple instances of getting mad at LilDude. It's been fairly easy to redirect him with "gentle" and redoing an instance of hitting with a gentle pat. This is in stark contrast to LilDude's ability to redirect at the same age, so I'm very hopeful.

At dinner we learned that he loves ham loaf, corn and cheesy potatoes. He also ate a little bread but refused the most amazing raspberry cream cheese dessert. It seems that anything berry is so new that even the idea of trying it repulses him. That's okay. The rest of the family didn't seem to have a problem with it. :) (Thanks, Judy! After we were done eating, there were several loud exclamations of adoration for dinner.)

In the evening he happily went outside with Daddy. They've invented a new game, sneaking around the house, peering in windows to see who they can find to spy on. I don't think we're creating a Peeping Tom. ;) When he finds one of us, he giggles and giggles.

Then both boys in the bathtub, which they've come to love as a nightly ritual. LilDude is the cleanest he's been in years!

Anyway, I think things continue to go as well as can be expected. Although I don't want to jinx myself by saying too much, this process seems to be relationally less complex than it was to bring home LilDude at 6 months. Now, granted, we had a 6 month honeymoon with LilDude in which everything looked perfect. So I don't want to speak too soon. But LilDude suffered from multiple transitions in that 6 months. GG, in contrast, has had 3 years of consistent, loving care. It shows. Day to day life is harder because I'm watching a child who has no sense of what's safe in this foreign environment...not to mention the fact that he can move at 100 miles an hour and doesn't listen when I say "that will land you in the hospital!" in English. But relationally, he really wants to seek us out.

Thank God. Even Especially at 3:30 am.

P.S. We had no potty accidents today. My solution? (Try to picture this.)

1. Lift child up in the air, tipping him head down, bottom and legs up.
2. Pull his pants UP to his ankles in one swoop.
3. In the next swoop, pop him straight onto the potty.

It's an UUUUPPPPPPPP, then PLOP motion.

Works so far. Apparently, one is less likely to pee when one's bottom is hanging upside down in mid-air.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Potty Problem

This might be TMI, so consider stopping here ****************

I do have one problem. Potty problem.

GG is completely potty trained. But I think we're having a problem that's due to the major difference between U.S. and Chinese toilets.

In China, one uses a "squatty potty." This is particularly easy for the under-5 set who often wear split pants and can easily just walk onto the squatty potty, relieve themselves, and go on their merry way.

But it's not so merry when they get home and their stupid new parents actually have to disassemble underwear (totally new concept!) and pants BEFORE depositing them on the "throne." A toddler used to squatty potties and split pants *might* just figure that the moment the pants are half-way down that it's an "all clear" signal to let nature take its course.


Any advice???


Things are going well. Yesterday I think GG only cried upon waking (before he got to me) and on waking after nap. And maybe when he was mad at LilDude...but his "mad" is so wimpy compared to the mad we've seen around here before that it's humorous. Last night he actually giggled with me when we went to bed. That's definitely a first as bedtime seems to often be a time of more intense grief.

Yesterday GG gave me a kiss on his own. He is also very huggy, loving, and wanting to be carried...at least an appropriate amount for a busy 3-year-old. I spent most of the morning on the floor playing with him. We probably took an hour going through a box of "junk toys" (McD*nalds, garage sale freebies, etc.) By the end, he was wearing several treasures, primarily fascinated by one of those bracelets that you stiffen into a straight piece of plastic and then snap into a circle around your wrist. He's probably seen one before as he knew what to do with it before I ever showed him. He spent the rest of the day--and night--wearing it.

I made congee. Turned out okay but not as flavorful as the stuff Doris made. He didn't inhale it, but he ate it. He is definitely interested in sampling our dinners; he won't eat most things, but the things that he will eat are very exciting to him. Karlene brought over a container of canned Coolwhip. He thinks it's great fun to get a squirt on a piece of cake, though he still won't touch the strawberries.

BigSis played with him while I took a shower and made congee. He initiated a game of peekaboo with her. We're still having a tough time with the dog, Sarah. He is too rough with her, often looking like it's on purpose. She nipped at him yesterday and I thought he seemed to back off for a while.

We looked at foster family photos again. This time he seemed the least emotional that I've seen him. He didn't cry, only looked a little sad, but again was genuinely delighted to look.

Daddy continues to be a hit, playing with the boys outside for an hour in the evening. GG loves watching the videos of Daddy goofing with him. That's certainly been helpful in the bonding department where Daddy is concerned.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I continue to think things are going as well as can be expected. GG has now been in our care for just over two weeks; we've been home for five days. Until yesterday he cried each time he awoke (nap and night) and each time he went to bed at night. He'd also cry every time he saw photos of the foster family. Yesterday, in contrast, he awoke crying but stopped after Dh brought him to me and I could distract him with the busy-ness of breakfast. The foster family sent us new photos; I'd written and requested photos that were of a time other than the day that we visited. I think seeing the photos from that day had their own trauma, separate from just missing the family. Anyway, we received some yesterday in an email, and although he looked emotional while viewing them, he named all the people and seemed delighted to see new pictures. He didn't cry but seemed to take comfort in them. I think we'll probably be looking through photos daily to help his grief along.

Yesterday he went down for a nap with me without problem but then I awoke (I was zonked after not sleeping from 1am on) to find him staring at me, on the verge of crying. He did start crying then. But at bedtime he went to bed with me without issue. So overall, things are improving. (We do need to get some sort of sidecar for the bed, however. I cannot count the number of times I woke up last night with either a foot in my face--he sleeps perpendicular, much of the time--or a knee in my kidneys.)

We had several visitors. Karlene & Abby stopped with a delicious meal. He seemed to do fine while they were here but had a small meltdown just as they were leaving. That was the first meltdown I've seen in a few days. Within minutes he got mad at LilDude and it turned into a huge meltdown. I held him as he kicked, screaming bloody murder--Lizzi called it a "teapot scream." He screamed it all out and then I Ergoed him while I put food on the table.

Food/eating continues to be interesting to watch. About every two hours or so he goes into the kitchen and pulls out a Chinese spoon. (Highly recommended purchase for anyone adopting a preschooler!) He knows where they are kept and has made himself at home with opening drawers and pulling items out. So every little bit I get him a snack (he likes rice chex, spicy dill beans, bananas), or some congee. I also hand feed him the mini cracker balls we got in China. This is our bonding moment as I make it a game and get eye contact before popping each cracker into his mouth. With this system of regular eating, he is usually satisfied before mealtimes come along. This works well because he can then sample what we're eating for dinner without the pressure of actually having to fill up on anything. Last night, he asked for repeated helpings of homemade calzone and Caesar salad, downing a carrot stick on the side. He loved the whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake but spit out the strawberries. I've tried blueberries as well; it seems that berries are not on his short list at the moment. But calzone sure is. ;) I've been so grateful for the congee. Doris brought a huge pot of it on Saturday and he'll finish it today, having eaten the whole thing alone. I'll have to get brave and try my own batch today.

Yesterday Lisa stopped by with Thomas. He warmed up amazingly quickly to having another small child around. Thomas went out in the backyard to play with LilDude and GG wanted down to go play too. Within seconds the three boys were racing around the backyard like longtime pals. He definitely needs that kind of interaction.

Although I would like to be wearing him long hours in the Ergo (my goal was to even do half of the six hours/day that Nancy Thomas recommends), I've found it impossible in our situation. Here's why... GG was not in an orphanage. He was a fully functional, happy, independent 3-year-old, living normal life in a normally attached family in China. That's all he knows or remembers. When we yanked him out of there, his capacity for attachment remained very high, just disrupted. His desire/ability to be normal in his daily play, remains. To keep him from that play by wearing him does nothing to enhance our attachment; in fact, I would argue that it impedes it because it's like a punishment to be strapped down when he's used to playing. Now, had he been living a less-than-ideal attachment life, the priority would have to be helping him to learn what normal attachment looks like. But he already knows that; he's lived it for 3 years. He is quickly trying to find that again within our family cause he knows what it feels like.

I do wear him a lot, but I wear him when he wants to be worn for his own comfort/safety/security rather than wearing him because I'm trying to teach him emotional regulation. Several times a day, he'll happily raise his arms to be held when I put on the Ergo. Last night at dinner was definitely one of those times. He wasn't feeling good about life and he happily wanted in the Ergo to have "close time" and feel better. Ironically, if his attachment wasn't as good as it is, he'd likely be rejecting closeness when he feels bad. If at some point I see him struggling with attachment, we'll have to change plans. But for the moment, what he most needs is to be actively participating in regular family life, which for him includes learning a lot about our environment, all new to him.

Which brings me to another interesting point...

I cannot get anything done.

This child is everywhere, all the time.

Let me explain.

With a "normal" 3-year-old, they understand some basics...what's hot, what's electric, what's dangerous, what has a motor, what you can drown in, what you can fall off of... Obviously they don't understand all of this, but they have spent the bulk of their lives learning to know things like: what a stove is, what electrical outlets do (or at least how Mom/Dad react when they approach one), what happens when you walk in front of a swing, what happens when you walk off the edge of a play structure. The BASICS.

GG doesn't understand any of this. Everything about this environment is NEW.

But that's not all. We don't have language to communicate what is/isn't safe. And when I call him, he doesn't tend to respond or react because I'm literally not speaking his language. He has to be watched as you would watch a 9-12 month old who RUNS, FAST!

An example...

I want to get him ready for nap. I take him potty. After getting him off the potty, I stop to (heaven, forbid!) wash my hands. In that time, he streaks out the door and is gone. I don't know if he is:

1. Walking out the backdoor.

2. Holding the dog's muzzle, begging to be bitten. (This is an ongoing problem as he seems to have no concept that teasing the dog will lead to dyer consequences.)

3. Pulling a chair up to the kitchen counter and investigating what's "up there."

Now, you might just say, "Well, you dumb bunny, childproof your house!"

It's not that simple.

When you "childproof" a house for a 9-12 month old, you are childproofing against a 9-12 month old brain. You cannot childproof against a SMART 3-year-old brain in the same way. He can climb fences. He could feasibly remove light socket covers. He certainly can open doors, with or without locks. He can open doors and climb into bathtubs.


Any questions about how I'm spending my days???

P.S. Thanks for all those who are helping. Yesterday my mom played "guardian angel" (basically watched his every move) so I could print out some PECS cards that will hopefully help communication. The meals have been ever so helpful as I cannot watch him and cook at the same time. (Once I tried to wear him while cooking. I knew I was in trouble when he said, "TWO!" as Dh has taught him a game where he says "one, two, three" and throws himself backward. In that particularly moment, I was cutting a cantaloupe. With a knife.) And the calls from the grocery store "what can I pick up for you?" have been very helpful as I'd prefer to not yet enter the world of U.S. consumerism. Help us all, Hannah.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Foster Family Contact

I am so, so grateful to be in contact with GG's foster family. I've gotten several emails from them including what appears to be journal entries of sadness in anticipation of losing him. This morning I received this:

The sky is like listening to music,He will hear the fast-paced dance along with,Teach him to sing two will sing, strong absorptive capacity.
He is like the popular deep-fried food, but it is easy to inflammation of the throat.
Grandpa does not like the camera, almost no family photos, the future I will give you a new photo sent.
I am not very good English, you may see some do not understand. If you have the translation, I Chuan Chinese to you.

I wish you happy every day!

This is so precious to me now and will be so valuable to GG in the future. If you have the opportunity to be in contact with your child's foster family, don't hesitate! :)

Smart Daddy

Daddy is so smart.

Although Dh did take GG from me (unhappily), it wasn't long before GG was giggling with Daddy on the play structure. As usual, GG has fun with Dh eventually, but doesn't want to go with him initially. I captured the moment on video.

Later, when GG saw the video, he laughed and laughed. Then he ran off from the office, Dh following. He wanted Dh to take him outside. So I guess I need to catch all the happy moments with Dh on video and show him so he'll want to repeat them?!?! We also decided on another tactic...have the other kids play with Dh, looking like they're having a marvelous time so that GG will want to join in.

Later, Dh took GG on the John Deere. After they came inside from this tractor ride, GG was sitting on my lap and Dh came up to him and made "brrrmmm, brrrmmm" sounds. GG REACHED FOR DADDY! That's a first!!!

Btw, I'm writing this at 3:30am. I think my jetlag is still showing, don't you???? I think I'm also a little (lot?) desperate for some alone time. Right now, "alone" might be more important than "sleep."

Oh, and more "firsts." GG did not eat cold things in China as far as we know. And, to date, he's only had orange juice and a few small chunks of dilled beans. But he was watching LilDude eat some cantaloupe and wanted some too. He happily ate several small slices and asked for more. He also tried one bite of Popa's famous cookies, but didn't want any more. So perhaps the sugar diet from China won't transfer here? He did eat some of our traditional Sunday night popcorn. But his favorite food continues to be congee. Tonight he had seconds on that.
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