22
Jul

What can I say?

IMG_2653 IMG_2669 IMG_2676 PIC_0884 PIC_0887Isaiah is:

Absolutely charming!

Delightful!

A smiler

A joker

Ticklish

A cheek filler – with food at the end of a meal :(

A splasher (in the tub)

A whiz (at the ipad – swiping games work well!)

Strong!

A communicator ( he has a few words: like chee-chew-ah which is car, family titles like jiejie, Baba, Mama, and he’s copied a few English words like Hello and likes to say Uh-Oh)

A giggler (sooo cute!)

A player (he knows how to put on a show)

A page turner ( he loved showing off his page turning skills again and again today – we are truly amazed!)

VERY, VERY LOVED!

We met our guide in the lobby and were happy to reconnect with her.  She had helped us process Samuel’s adoption 2 years ago and now has a little one of her own as well.  We purchased some flowers for the official gifts today (an idea I stole from another parent) and off we went to the civil affairs office.  Our guide, Vicky, let us know that we would most likely beat Isaiah to the office, so not to worry.  We arrived and headed upstairs.  Walking into the meeting room, our eyes were drawn to a family that we’d met in the hotel lobby the night before.  They were trying to engage their new three year old son.  What we didn’t notice right away were the two ladies sitting off to the side with the little boy on their laps!

There is was!  Watching us with wide, speculative eyes.  We’d seen those eyes before (James, Garnet).  I walked over and knelt in from of him.  Talking softly to him he didn’t move much.  Then I reached forward to pick him up.  He didn’t resist me and I turned him around on my lap to cuddle him closely.  He turned to look up at me and we stared at one another for a second.  Then I smiled.

He began to curl into me a bit and kicked at his legs.  The nanny handed me the small quilted photo album they had been looking at (one we’d sent the orphanage a but more tan 4 months ago).  And then the fun began!

Isaiah began turning the pages of the book with his hands!  We had no idea he could do that!  He was able to control his arm muscles so well.  Well, we all clapped and told him how smart he is and he really warmed up to the idea.  Next thing we know he’s doing it again and again – wiggling in pride as we praised him.

He holds himself up in a sitting position with a lot of strength.  He moves his legs around and can wiggle his toes. He can easily pick things up with his mouth.  He can sit up from a reclined position (amazing abs!).  He plays with toys and can grasp objects between his fingers to pick them up and move them.  He likes to wiggle and bop up and down to music.  And he sings and hums.  He also chatters in a soft voice and belly laughs loudly.

We are totally smitten, just as every new parent should be.  Once again I can honestly say that I really and truly felt my heart expand.  It’s an unbelievable knowledge that from now and forevermore, I am Isaiah’s Mama.

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.

 

11
Jul

A note to remind myself of where we are at today.

This post has described just so perfectly where we are at in our parenting journey right now. 

 This day. 

 Today. 

It’s days like today that remind me that we are raising broken people into health. 

Sad little hearts into joyful ones. 

Lost little souls into Princes and Princesses of the King.

Lonely hearts into members of a forever family.

It’s good to be reminded of why we do what we do sometimes.

Just a little note.

 

28
May

Everyday Randomness

I know random is the tween catch all descriptive, but these days it just fits our lives.  So, in an effort to catch up on my blogging before our big adventure begins, here goes…

“I guess we’re all done training wheels in this house…” Said by Steve.  Reason enough for both of us to pause momentarily and feel a little nostalgic.  Grace and Garnet have officially figured out how to ride their two-wheelers.  We tried and tried to help them (including several on and off manoeuvres with the training wheels) and then one day they both took it upon themselves to figure out how to balance and pedal fast.  Braking came next.  Only a few band aids later and there has been no turning back.  The two of them are a force to be reckoned with when they work together! 

Happy Birthday Grandma!  The family put on a fun weekend for my Mom’s big birthday a couple of weekends ago.  The weather was beautiful.  The cousins were happy and had a tremendous time playing and dousing Grandma with water balloons.  Other than a smoky restaurant and a few shrill chirps from a smoke alarm, the whole weekend was beautiful.  A great family time for us to come together and celebrate with our much loved Mom / Grandma.

6 months with our Grace  Yes, this should warrant its own post.  And yet, when the day passed we were together celebrating Grandma’s birthday weekend.   She was just one of the grandkids.  Her English is blossoming.  Her accent and slightly husky voice is charming.  She had the chance to sit on her Grandma’s lap a whole lot and play with the amazing contents of Grandma’s purse on more than one occasion.  She ate ice cream twice in two days (something she tells me,“I no have this in Chwina.  Never, never in Chwina.”).     And I think that sums up how she is doing quite nicely don’t you think?

School’s Out  Yes folks, we made it.  Our first school year with four at home.  It has been a defining year for each of our kids in one way or another and I am so incredibly proud of my kids.  Really.  They all outdid themselves.

Our patio.  This was our first experience hiring a contractor to do work.  It’s been educational and overall I think the patio itself is a vast improvement over our ill placed, overgrown trees and dead, patchy grass.  It was just poured today, so we’ll get to enjoy it more fully when we return from our big adventure.

End of an Era – Goodbye Ayi Sherri  Garnet has been attending Sherri’s preschool for two afternoons a week since shortly after coming home.  This was a huge deal for us.  We had committed wholeheartedly to homeschooling our older two kids.  We had absorbed much material on building healthy attachments.  So when our little man came home from from China, we were all set to carry on as planned.  God used a few well placed observations by some foks who didn’t even know Garnet to soften my spirit.  Sherri was referred to us by a friend of my sister-in-law and after speaking with her on the phone I was amazed at the peace I sensed.  God used Sherri in so many ways to not only help Garnet learn, but also to develop trust and relationships in a safe testing ground.  As I wrote in the front of the Curious George book we gave her, “Sherri, you have been such an encouragement to our entire family…”  We’ll miss her very much!

Faith’s Year End Dance Production  Months and months of tapping around our house are about to be displayed for all her adoring fans grandparents to see.  Yes, the year end production is set to begin tomorrow.  She’s braved blocking and dress rehearsal and is now catching some beauty rest before the big day.  We can’t wait to applaud our girl.  Way to go Faith! 

Our Big Family Adventure (And yes we have housesitters – just in case anyone out there is getting any funny ideas about an empty house! lol)  We are heading out in a few days and taking a long road trip.  We’ll be camping some.  Doing some touristy things.  Spending lots and lots of time squished together in small confined spaces.  And you know what?  I can’t wait!  There will definitely be those tense moments that always happen on a trip like this, but we sort of planned it that way.  Life since returning home with Grace has been its normal full, busy, packed, crazy self.  Lessons and activities and work and friends and church and therapy and medical appointments and volunteering are all great things, but they leave little wiggle room for working out some of the issues that crop up more readily under the pressure cooker of 3 weeks together on our own without distractions.  So, I’m excited!  I know God has some big growth planned for all of us and I’m ready for a fresh breeze straight from Heaven.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9  This is the verse that God has really been speaking to my heart about the last couple of weeks.  I won’t kid you that I have been quite exhausted for some time.  Health issues and life, not to mention adding a spunky new seven year old to the mix can be physically and emotionally wearing.  When I think to myself that I simply can not step up and be consistent, be a translator, be a mediator, be an instructor, be a mentor, be an advocate one more time, He reminds me of this verse and speaks it to my deepest soul.  May I offer His encouragement to you as well?

I’ll update if I get the chance.  We’ll have a laptop along, but Steve’ll be keeping up with the goings on at work, so my computer quota may be limited.  Take care everyone!

2
May

Crazy Love hits close to home

A few months ago I had the privilege to read an incredible perspective altering book, Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  At the time I read it with maybe a more outreach based mentality.  Today we had a speaker come to our church, with the focus of his talk being on kindness.  I nodded along throughout his message, but when he closed with the clip, “What is that?”, I lost it – along with pretty much the entire congregation.  Now that hit close to home.  Suddenly I saw God’s example, His call to us, for Crazy Love, come to roost in my own household. 

So, here it is.  Sit down.  Prepare your heart and mind.  Oh, and grab the kleenex box.

 What is that?

(Oh, and if someone can tell me how to find a plugin for video embedding that is compatible with the newest version of WP, please let me know!)

 

17
Mar

Growing with Grace 4 months on

Growth is really the best word to describe these past four months with our Grace Qiao.  I decided to make a Top 10 list of all the growing she and we have done.

10. Pants.  Grace has grown from perfectly fitting a size 4 slim fit jean, to needing a size 5 (with the occasional flash of an ankle).  Size 6’s aren’t too far away now. 

9. Bellybuttons.  Not the actual thing, although I am sure it is growing too!  Her shirts are shrinking and we are seeing more and more navel everytime she is dancing and playing.  Again, she is now moving into a size 6 shirt regularly now.

8. Dance.  Grace has always loved to dance.  That is the one thing each and every adult from her life in China has told us emphatically.  She has a knack for quickly picking up moves and memorizing long sections of choreography.  The thing we are noticing is how she is not only dancing with bravado like she has all along, but she is also gaining more poise as time goes on.

7.  Poise.  That’s a funny word for a slight 7 year old, but she is learning more and more each day about what it means to be a young lady.  She is morphing from a little girl into a feminine princess at times – such a gift to see.

6. Princess.  A neighbour girl gave Grace Qiao an outgrown princess dress.  It has been much loved and is a bit well worn, but when my little girl took that dress in her hands she hugged it and ran to her room to change into it.  ONe thing we know about her childhood thus far is that she was very highly praised for her intelligence and her competitive nature.  While we are proud of her achievements, we are delighted to see her embracing her girlhood too.  It is a true treasure to watch her twirl and swirl in her gown.  She’s even had the blessing of being invited to a tea party this week.  Her little friend from church asked all the girls to dress in their best.  We used mini elastic bands and gave her a fancy do.  She wore her Cinderella glass slippers and her blue gown and looked every bit the princess.  I couldn’t help but get a little choked up watching her.

5. Friends.  Grace is learning to be a friend.  She has been given lots of opportunities to practice this since coming home.  But didn’t she grow up with dozens of little girls – doesn’t she already know how?  Well, yes and no.  She had sisters.  She had people to watch over her.  We don’t think she had many people to speak into her relationships though.  Her daily interactions with the other girls were not mentored ones.  Let’s leave it at that for now.  Happily, she is making friends at church and with the other girls in our neighbourhood.

4. Mentors.  Grace is learning what it means to have people who love her dearly, also speak into life with wisdom and kindness.  It has been tough for her to hear criticisms (healthy ones) and to have someone do it with kindness has been even harder.  In many ways, because she was always at the top of all she has attempted, it has been harder for her.  Her self-esteem came home *fully* intact.  The first challenge has been drawing her into relationship.  The second has been challenging he strength of the relationship by speaking truths to her.  The third phase has been all about helping her accept it and now we are into the fourth stage – growng from it. 

3.  Acceptance.  Grace came to us with a shy smile and an open face, but I wouldn’t say she was accepting of us.  She tells us now that she wasn’t afraid of us (and according to a comment she made today, apparently we didn’t smell bad!  LOL), which is good to know.  But, as we soon found out, although she had been very well informed about us, it would take some time before she would accept us as becoming one with her.  She had it very good in China (yes, she was very blessed in many ways, for which we are truly thankful) and there were many who cared deeply for her.  Unfortunately, at 7 she was unable to look ahead and see that the things that were good in her life would not be able to be there for her forever.  In the past few days, her comments regarding visiting Zhongshan have become different.  Now she tells me just where each of us would sleep if we could go there to visit the orphanage.  Now, suddenly, we are all going with her on her much planned visit to Zhongshan.  I think that says so much about where her acceptance of her family is at.  It is more than crayon drawings of her family or claiming us in a crowd.  Zhongshan is her heart home.  And we have been invited.

2. Visit.  Wow that is a bit of a jump to number two, but hopefully you’ll see the connection.  A visit to Zhongshan.  We hope and pray that we will get to return to both Yinchuan and Zhongshan with the kids in the next couple of years.  With that is mind, we haev a very real goal of continuing our Chinese language learning.  In Grace’s case, we see such a neat blance happening for her still.  She is growing in her knowledge of English.  She loves to pick up new vocabulary (her English word box is her favourite part of our homeschool day) and is flying through her Explode the Code books.  We have begun using honics Pathways to begin early reading instruction too.  It’s really wild to see how much she has picked up.  On the flip side, she has seemed to hang on to her Mandarin and Cantonese for so much longer than I expected.  She sings and chats away in Mandarin to all of us, but flips to English for most of her day now.  When she is really excited she will speak a definite mix now.  With that in mind, she (as well as James and Faith) have started a new batch of Mandarin lessons with our dear friend and Mandarin teacher, Anna.  Hopefully she can hang onto enough to be able to visit with her friends once we visit.  Hopefully this will fill her heart in a way that only truly speaking your heart can do.

1. Heart.  We are seeing it. Her heart is opening.  She came to us so very confident and yet so deeply scared.  She is quicker to forgive now.  Quicker to reach out to someone (albeit somtimes that someone is one of the family cats) when they are sad or upset.  She has continued to be a really generous “sharer” and yet now, we see it coming from the heart more often.  She is learning to pray now.  Learning who HE is.  HE made you Grace, did you know? HE is invisible now, Gracie, but did you know HE came here to earth? Did youknow HE loves you? That HE was always with you, little girl? That you are truly HIS princess? That is the growth that we long to see.

Four months on and so much growth.