31
Jul

Friends and Fears

We made our visit to New Day Foster Home today.  We wanted Samuel to build a few memories of the place he had called home before meeting us.  We are forever indebted to the staff and volunteers there.  He received therapy and encouragement that definitely helped prepare him well for his future.  We were so thrilled that some of Samuel’s special friends came to visit us and while he was a bundle of nerves, his response once he got back to the hotel with us really showed us the value in the visit.  The real Samuel returned and spoke about his “friends” and “when I was little”.  The pictures will be priceless to him in the years to come and the visit with friends was priceless to us.  Such a treat to visit a place so close to our hearts!

We finished the day with our travel group at the Goodbye China party our agency always throws for the families.  It’s always a nice way to end off the adoption trip.  This year Samuel was so pleased to receive an Opera mask like the performer of the changing faces mask.  He told us he needs to go home to practice his magic!  My folks, Stephen, and Isaiah received beautiful scrolls.  Long Life, Happy Family and Isaiah’s Characters. So lovely. We are truly spoiled by our agency and appreciate them so very much!

Off to Canada tomorrow on that incredibly long flight!  The best and most motivating factor is seeing our kids the next few days – first Faith, Grace and Garnet, followed by James on Friday.  It will feel so amazing to have the Super 8 together at last!

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18
Jul

Returning Home, part 2

DSC_6507 DSC_6508 DSC_6584 DSC_6618 DSC_6623When we arrived in at the Yueyang County SWI, we were let into the gate and pulled up in front of a shiny, new, several stories high building.  The old orphanage had been only used for offices for some time, as the children had all been fostered in the neighbouring area.  The new building was designed to house the offices and the children.  We were told that the children’s home was still being furnished and completed, but that the children would be returning soon.  They had begun building it shortly after we’d visited in February 2011 and had only moved in recently.

We took the elevator upstairs and were warmly welcomed by the staff, one of whom we had spent time with during our initial visit, as she’d come to process Samuel’s adoption.  We were ushered down the hall into a meeting room.  Samuel was much fawned over and we shared stories of his progress, as well as the photo book we had brought.  There were many framed photos waiting to be hung on the walls of the new meeting room.  They each featured returning families on homeland tour visits.  It was fun to see all those photos of tweens and teens returning to visit their roots.

Samuel’s file was brought out without us asking and we were able to see original photos of him as an infant.  The youngest photos we have of him to date.  (He has hardly changed!)  We appreciated the information we were offered and took photos of everything.

There was much laughter and smiling over Samuel’s attempts at showing off his new walking skills. There were also many gasps as he tried many stunts near the glass topped coffee table.  We all were trying to protect his noggin’ from the tile floor and table! But, I think he got his point across.  It had been a good idea to send him to Beijing and to have his paperwork processed for international adoption.  We were happy to have them see him so full of little boy spunk and strength!

All of a sudden his foster grandmother came in holding a small boy’s hand.  She was exclaiming in excitement to see us all again and we her!  Big smiles, handshakes, hugs and happiness to see each other!  The little boy (in split pants, much to Samuel’s amazement) was her grandson (25 months old).  The last time we had visited, her son had just been married and this was his son.

Much laughter, showing off, snacking, and kisses ensued.  Samuel was less than impressed with the kissing, but he was rescued by his Dad and all was well in the end.

We then headed off around the corner for a relaxed lunch.  Samuel and his “cousin” faced off across the turntable at the table and had that food spinning.  By the end of the meal, the little guy was fast asleep and Samuel was in a trance like state in the stroller.  Both had full tummies and were surrounded by happy chatter and smiling faces.

Joining us at lunch was another staff member and her two “nephews” (according to our guide, “Stacy”), which were in actual fact nieces.  The nieces had studied English in school and while they could understand much of what we said, much like myself with Chinese, they were too shy to use much of their English on us.  I did manage to get the one girl to tell me that her English name in school was “Vivienne”.  She blushed mightily and laughed behind her hand when I told her that Vivienne is considered a name for beautiful girls.  She took the teasing well.

After a few photos at the orphanage gate, we headed to the foster grandparents home.  Samuel enjoyed handing out his hand drawn pictures for them, as well as the photos and other gifts we had brought.  He warmed up to his foster grandpa and shared the fact that his tooth is wiggly (he is convinced that it is a sign that he is growing up).  He sat on his knee for a bit.  They served us the best watermelon I have had in my entire life.  It grows here in the south prolifically and really, as with all food, is best eaten close to its source!  Samuel and his “cousin” played with the boy’s plasma car and other ride on toys.  The family’s daughter came home and we found that she has also been married and is expecting.  The son and daughter live at their parent’s home with their families.  The little guy really warmed up to us by the end.

Samuel did not want to leave.  I was so pleased that he enjoyed his time there.  I did say to him as we left, “Can you believe you lived in this house when you were a baby?”

“No”, he said.

I understand.  It’s a bit much for me to take in, let alone a 5 year old.  After all, sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a time without him.  And I suppose that is why these trips back to visit our kid’s homeland areas are so very valuable.  It’s so important to not forget what is so integral to who they are.  Not Chinese.  Not Canadian.  Not even, Chinese-Canadian.  Rather, they are Chinese + Canadian.

Samuel’s foster grandma and cousin joined us for a quick photo op at the finding spot.  And then off we went back to the city, exhausted and emotionally spent.

Was it too early for a return visit for Samuel?  It all depends on what the goal was.  Did he gain value and meaning of his past?  Yes, but not at the same level as if he had been older.  Will it provide continuity for his next few years as the questions get wider in scope and deeper in meaning?  Absolutely.  As I posted on Facebook, he has a deeper sense that this is his wider, global extended family.  Because really, that is what they are.  They are no less related than we are.  The legacy of love they gave him from his infancy lives on in the way he has opened his heart to us.

 

28
Oct

Breaking the Ice & a Sneak Peek…

I woke up super early this morning with the determination that I absoutely needed to post something… ANYTHING… on the blog.  I have missed my little blog world so much!

So in an effort to break the ice, I share with any of you still out there, my beautiful daughter…

 

Isn’t she fabulous!

:)

 

And for the Sneak Peek…

Take a look at what is taking shape for Samuel over here on The Almy Family Journal.

Makes me get all choked up every s.i.n.g.l.e. time I think about it.

Here’s to a new beginning in blogging…

I hope!

6
Mar

Zhongshan visits

Ah, how to sum up today…

Maybe saying we went 3 for 3 as far as the homeland visits went would be best. 

Yueyang was amazing.

Yinchuan was surprising and yes, amazing.

Zhongshan, well, it definitely was otherworldly in so many ways!

We visited the orphanage for a few hours.  We toured the usual places everyone has been in as of lately, but this time with personal stories and lots of children accompanying us (older ones mostly – I’ll upload all of the photos including other children to my private photo blog once we are home for all of you who are waiting for your kids just in case you see them). 

We then went to a local restaurant with Grace’s closest adult friends and the director.  Wonderful Dim Sum.  Grace’s volunteer had had his wedding party there.  Beautiful!

Afterwards Grace, Faith and Garnet got to ride scooters with Grace’s adult friends over to first one volunteer’s home and then the other!  I haven’t ever seen them grin so much!  Through traffic, over a huge bridge, zipping here and there.  We have had an amazing guide and driver here.  Our guide is super spunky and our driver purposely drove down the middle of two lanes of traffic at times in order to provide a sort of “pilot car” for the scooters carrying our children!  Talk about personal service.  haha

Just a note about Zhongshan.  I knew it was beautiful and full of flowers and palm trees before.  But now that I have seen the old town and its side streets and also the modern urban centre with its riverwalk and koi ponds, I’m very taken with it.  It’s got so much character and beauty.  Blue skies and soft breezes. 

We found out so many personal details about our little girl.  We feel as though she is finally ours.  And Grace?  She’s now claimed us for sure!  We had the opportunity to receive blessings from a number of people who dearly loved her and she was able to finally see with all of us in the same room, that we all love her and that the relationships do not have to end.  I think we were all (Chinese and Canadian alike) holding our breathe, but it went incredibly well. 

She (we) are all exhausted tonight.  And she’s a bit strung out.  Pretty normal considering!  It was draining to say the least (a very emotion packed 7.5 hours) and we fully expect lots of ups and downs yet, but the new foudation has been laid. 

Mission Accomplished.

On to Hong Kong via ferry tomorrow.

4
Mar

Challenging Day

We ended up travelling with all 9 of us to and from Yinchuan.  Samuel works better with everyone at his disposal and it was great to have everyone there to support Garnet.  Unfortunately, this morning, both girls woke up with bad colds.  Grandma is still recovering from one she caught last week (all three were sharing a room this past week).  Samuel refused food and slept through breakfast.  After his impromtu nap, he rose to the challenge and downed 4 sausages though.  We rearranged some of our plans and had a slower morning, a Hot Pot luncheon including an interview with a local journalist (“Surprise!” our guide sprung on us as we drove into the restaurant parking lot with sick and tired and rumpled kiddos – Oh well!) and a tour of the Wetsern Xia Tomb site and museum in the afternoon. 

This evening, we arrived at the airport and attempted to check in only to find that some of our tickets had odd comments attached and so we almost missed out on our flight, but for the diligence of our facilitator and our guide.  Yay!  Then we cleared security (they let Samuel be carried through this time and thankfully didn’t confiscate our liquid cold medicine or “Grandma Soap”/hand sanitizer) only to find that our flight had been delayed two hours.  Many odd gift shop food iems later, Samuel took a long crawling tour of the departures area and we finally made it onto the plane intact.  Half the kids slept or dozed.  The other half caught a meal on the flight. 

After sending four of us in the first taxi at the Beijing airport and almost being charged highway robbery for a van-taxi, we found a regular cab driver who would take the remaining 5 of us in one cab (the cabs are only supposed to take 4 passengers).

Arriving at the hotel we found out that our gear was still in our rooms, but our key cards no longer worked.  The front desk quickly made new ones up and after picking up some gifts left for us at the Concierge desk courtesy of our dear facilitator and friend, we made our way upstairs.

Soft snoring is calling to me from the other side of the room. 

Off to Guangdong tomorrow afternoon. 

Good Night!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please pray for health and rest for our bunch.

We received some information that we hope to persue for Grace, just this evening.  Pray that God would move clearly one way or the other on her behalf.

Pray for Jia Yi who I referenced in the other posts (Yinchuan).  She is a very special little girl who very much deserves a forever family.

Pray for my brother and his family who are holding down many forts with us all gone.  They are all very ill with strep and eye infections.  Healing, rest and encouragement for all of them. Love you guys.  Thank you for everything.  It had meant so much to all of us. 

Love,

3
Mar

Yinchuan CWI photos

3
Mar

Yinchuan CWI Visit

Garnet was treated as the returning hero.

He glowed.

The end.

Well.  Not really.

He had a banner with his name on it (“Welcome Back Huyan Baoer!”, in characters).  A crowd of people who knew him “when”.  Children who remembered him. Speeches.  A professional movie camera trained on him.  Gifts.  Baby photos.  His special Ayi was delighted to see him and ran out after him once we left for a few extra moments with him.  The director called the finding person and they came and held him, pointed out the EXACT place and details of his finding story.  Garnet got tears in his eyes (total joy) more than once. 

My heart actually felt it would burst for him.

He’s played second fiddle to the other kids’ stories for so long just by nature of a lack of information.   No longer. 

We were so proud of him.

I think I glowed too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We have video and photos, current medical info and eyewitness stories for Murong Yilan, Mu Rong Jin Bo and Jia Li.  We gave the updates to the staff (they were delighted).  We toured the physical therapy rooms and many other class areas (no sleeping quarters) and have photos.

Lisa, Garnet’s Ayi asked after Yang Yang too. I told her about both boys fishing trips.  :)

E-mail me for a quick update to the parents of the children I named above and I’ll send photos and video once we are back in Canada (a couple weeks).  [email protected]

27
Feb

Yueyang County Photos (Part 2)

Click to enlarge photos.

Hover Cursor over photos to see short description.

26
Feb

Yueyang County Photos (part 1)

As usual, click on each image to see an enlarged version. 

Hover cursor over thumbnails to see short description.

Valerie, “Superman Sleeps” is for you.  :)

3
Feb

How it Really is

 

From an e-mail I wrote this morning…

Hi Friend,

Ahhh, your blog has people calling me and saying certainly Grace and Grace’s friend must have some of the same DNA. Seriously! Okay, that isn’t exactly what they mean though. They are referring to the control issues, the anger, the sheer force of nature that is our girls experience right now.

I could’ve written every word that you have written lately. And that is why I haven’t Skyped or written or attempted to even call.

Am I a wimp? Yeah, maybe. How do I empathize without sounding negative? Some days drive me to the brink of the crazy house. And yet honestly we have come so far in a year. A year. And that is again, why I don’t write. It takes time. If someone had told me that we’d be fighting these battles still I would’ve burst into tears. I know why. I know it is logical. If I were chatting with another Mom and they were wondering why it is taking so long then I would have all the answers. But when you’re in the trenches, it is just hard to see it all clearly some days.

And right now Grace is fighting for control with all her being. We are facing her demons. The reality of the golden China that she dreams of is always looming for her and she knows or at least fears that it won’t be what she remembers. She is scared. I mean terrified. But we have to face it together. Hopefully on the other side of this trip she will have clung to us more and trusted what she can see without the mask of the confusion of the actual adoption clouding her vision. Really, when we visited the orphanage the day or so after the adoption, she was just plain shell-shocked and it was all rosy. And it’s only grown from there.

So as for talking with Grace’s Friend. Grace hasn’t been up to it. She has pushed away from her friends or at least the reality that her friends are actually adopted now too. It unnerves her. Of course it does. I think seeing that they are no longer in China will help draw her closer to the girls here in North America too. Perhaps finally she will see them as part of a shared experience.

All this to say that I am walking right beside you in this. Grace is struggling right now behind her brave face of control. Praying that once we are home again, we can begin again with her from a new place of understanding.

Love,