Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ears are pierced!

Wow, what an ordeal!

We went to the Piercing Pagoda at the mall yesterday to get Kenzie's ears pierced. Jia's ears are already pierced (one of the teachers at the orphanage did it.) I guess for every girl, at some time in her life, she goes through this rite of passage, from little girl to (in Kenzie's case) a bigger little girl. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was twenty. And then I did it the old-fashoined way - drink a pint of vodka and hold ice to my ears so when my cousin shoved a needle through them I (hopefully) wouldn't feel it. NOTE TO OTHERS: it doesn't work - you feel it anyway. Especially since she had to try it about three times on each ear - I have really thick cartilage in my ears.

Kenzie picked out the earrings she wanted to have her ears pierced with, and another pair she could wear once they had healed. After paying for the earrings, it was time to have her sit in the chair.

She got up there and then began to freak a little. They took alcohol wipes and cleaned her ears off, to which she sat with scrunched up shoulders. Then they took the marking pen to put the dots on her ears - and she again began to scrunch her shoulders and cried out a little. I explained to her that they had to mark where they were going to put her holes so they could give her a good piercing. Otherwise, they'd have to do it again and we only want to do it once.

Then they pulled out the "guns" that they use to pierce the ears with. That's when all hell broke loose. She screamed and then stood up on the edge of the chair and wrapped her arms around my neck in a choke hold and just kept crying and screaming...

It told her that if she wanted pierced ears then she had to have them put in with the equipment she saw. She screamed she didn't like the needle. After trying to calm her down a bit (with no luck) I picked her up out of the chair, put her down on the floor and told her if she didn't want her ears pierced today and wanted to wait until she was older, that was fine with me. I would go ahead and give the earrings to Jia.

She looked at me and said, "But can't you save them for me?"

I told her the earrings were for little girls, not older girls, and that since Jia had her ears pierced already, she could wear them. The earrings wouldn't fit her if she was 13.

It took her a few seconds. but you could see the wheels turning in her head, and by all things sacred she was not going to let her earrings be given to Jia for any reason.

She walked back around me and got up in the chair, this time a little more resolute. I told her that she could hold my hands and squeeze as tight as she wanted to. When the moment came that the earrings went through her ears ( and she felt the pain) she was back to crying again. But they did a great job of getting her ears pierced - they look really good.

I took her for some ice cream, and for a while, she was not too happy with me. But after about a half hour, we were in Claire's looking at other earrings, and she went to their full-length mirror and was smiling at herself, moving her head back and forth to admire her new look. And feeling very grown up about herself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Walmart, ear piercings, and Thanksgiving

Thanks for all the advice on the Walmart situation. I will go back, get the woman's name and take a picture of her, then send a letter to corporate. There is no excuse for her behavior or words - and no excuse for this if Walmart hasn't trained their personnel better than that.

On the other hand, we will get Kenzie's ears pierced either today or tomorrow. There's a place in the mall we will go to, and we'll let her pick whatever earrings she wants to have put in her ears. Kenzie is not adjusting very well to this new arrangement. She wanted a sister for so long, but no matter how many times we talked with her about the changes that would take place, she didn't realize that it would be like this. Luckily, Jia adores her big sister - and that may work to our advantage, as long as Kenzie doesn't use it to get her to do things that we don't even want Kenzie to do.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was a very happy one! We had ours at my mother's, and my poor mother was run ragged by Jia. Before we left the house, I told Jia we were going to visit Meemaw. Jia shook her head yes and got very animated. Then, after a little while, we still weren't ready to go, she got her coat and began chattering away in Chinese and the only thing I caught was "Meemaw". She wanted to go, and NOW. We finally got there and when we pulled up and got the kids out of their car seats, Jia saw her Meemaw and she said "I lub eyou!" the very first thing. Wow... what a sweet child! She really loves her Wai Po and is thrilled to spend time with her and wants her attention.

Of course, we have to work on Jia's voice level. Everything she says is at top volume. By the end of the day, we all have headaches and need some tylenol. Thank goodness she goes to sleep!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walmart and Jia

I took the kids to Walmart to do some shopping. We needed groceries and especially the Chinese noodles - so I went to town buying things for the pantry.

As we walked through, Jia would point at things at the shelves as if to say "I want that, and I want this, and I want that over there, and some of that..." If I stopped for anything, she would begin to grab as many cans/bags/pieces of the item as she could carry to put it in the cart. I know she feels more like a family - and I'm sure she's never experienced the joy of being able to put as much food into a shopping cart as it can carry and to know that there will always be something to eat.

This was a great experience for both of us, and I find that she's beginning to cling a little more to me today.

I also wanted to pierce Kenzie's ears today... but that didn't work out. I'll have to go out to the mall again tomorrow. We went to Walmart and asked there if they pierced ears, but the old biddy looked at me and then the kids, and asked me if I was their mother. I told her of course, that the children were adopted from China. She asked "Where are their papers?" As if they were dogs I just picked up from the pound. I guess I should have expected it - but wow... that was a real shock. Walmart lost a lot of respect from me for not training their people better in how to ask for documentation. I understand the concern, but the attitude and phrasing that she used was truly objectionable, especially when my oldest was standing there listening to the entire conversation. Worse, I am willing to bet that she doesn't ask for any documentation from bio parents - or parents who have adopted children who are of the same race.

I think I will talk with the manager about this... he or she should be informed about their employees' lack of finesse.

OK, got a cranky baby - gotta get her to bed.

Baba is the man!

We have found out that when it comes to bedtime, Jia only wants to sleep next to Baba. If he isn't next to her, she cries so pitifully and won't stop until he is beside her. And all the time she is crying she says "Wo ai babaaaa! Wo yao babaaaaa!" [I love daddy. I want daddy.]

Guess Roy has his role for the evenings mapped out for him.

Too cute.

Later today, while Kenzie is at school, I will take Jia with me shopping for groceries. I wonder how she'll do in the store....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Curious about language...

I wonder - if those of you who have adopted an older child from another country - when did it finally sink in with your child that no one understood what they were saying?

Jia just chatters on and on and on... and I don't know if she's chewing me out or just discussing the affairs of the day. She's upstairs right now with her baba and jie jie and is talking into a voice changer I introduced her to... and having the greatest time!

There are those moments where she just chatters away in her little child lispy Mandarin. She never seems to comprehend that we are not understanding a word she says... and I wondered... does it ever sink in and when?

So far, I've been lucky to understand what she wants just by paying attention to her actions or catching a familiar word or two... but when it comes to her "conversation" - which obviously tends to be one-sided - there's yet to be a give and take. I just wondered when she'll get it... and what do I do when it happens? How do I handle the pain of her isolation? I have Chinese friends I can call for help when she needs desperately to be understood, but they aren't available 24 hours a day. Her passive learning of the English language has been pretty good so far.

But then - in the middle of the night when she says she has to go to the bathroom (in Chinese) and when we get back into bed and snuggle, she says as best as she can, "I lub eyou-eh!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We're home..

Well, once we got to Guangzhou, I fell off the face of the earth... sort of.

I have to say, I didn't like the White Swan the first time we went, and I like it a whole lot less this last time. It may be beautiful on the inside, but the rooms are literally in a state of decay. In the bathroom we had, the wood was rotting at the bottom of the door jamb, big chunks of wood was torn off of the jamb... and the sink broke (the thing that allows you to either hold water in the sink or drain it out just came undone... it was a struggle to get the stopper out and then I had to keep Jia from putting it back in.)

And on Shamian Island, there are many, many shops that are now closed. My favorite, Jennifer's, is no longer in business. It was so sad... a lot of the shops I wanted to see were no longer there. The Vietnamese restaurant is now a shop with all kinds of stuff... All the prices on Shamian Island were extremely high, I thought.

I have one word of warning - for families preparing to go to China and adopt - do NOT go to a place called Jessica's Place on the island. They will cheat you. Just take my word for it. They are crooks and are not to be trusted.

I can tell you that Jia hasn't seemed to look back once since we left Harbin. She had the one bout of grieving and then after that, she seemed to have accepted what has happened. She is currently exploring every toy in the house while Kenzie is sleeping off the jet lag.

I honestly think the transition has been hardest on Kenzie. She hasn't had her mama to herself and she was really feeling it on the plane ride home. When we got close to Detroit, she began crying that she wanted to have her mama sit with her... and we all had had so little sleep - I began to cry too. I feel so bad that most of the attention has been on Jia. Jia wanted to sleep between me and Kenzie, Kenzie wanted me to sleep by her and turn my face to her, Jia wanted me to face her. I expected that.

We had some interesting insights into Jia. On the plane ride back, Jia was coloring in her coloring book. Kenzie wanted to color, too. So, Jia understood (somehow - maybe it was Kenzie's whining voice and her trying to color on the page.) Whatever it was, Jia gave Kenzie the coloring book she was coloring in, and then got out another book from her backpack and began coloring in that. That was a surprise.

We watch her play, and it's like watching a two year old. She has a lot of catching up to do to get her where she should be. At this point, I can't tell if she is just so overwhelmed by all the toys or has a problem with her attention span, but she is all over the place with toys. She will make noise with two or three at the same time. I'm hoping with all my heart that she will get so she knows what each toy does and can play with just one at a time. Everything is so new, so she will take a lot of time to adjust to this playground we call home.

I have noticed that the only real similarity between Kenzie and Jia are the facts that they are both happy children with their own unique sense of humor. However, where Kenzie is delicate and thin, Jia is robust and solid. Where Kenzie's voice is soft, Jia's is loud and boisterous.

I remember at the consulate in Guangzhou, they had a "ceremony" in honor of National Adoption Month (November). While waiting, there were toys to play with. Both Kenzie and Jia were at separate tables playing with the same kind of toy. At Kenzie's table, there were two other children trying to play with it at the same time. Kenzie never looked at them, but instead looked at me as if I was supposed to intervene. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes as the other two kids just began to pull back and forth on the toy against each other and Kenzie couldn't get control. Kenzie cried, and Roy went to pick her up to hold her and comfort her.

Jia was accosted by an older boy who wanted hers. She not only held on tight, she stared him down with a look that must have conveyed to the practiced orphanage kid "Don't mess with me, Buddy!" Of course, she did it with a smile on her face... but the kid backed off. Big difference with the kids.

The unfortunate thing was that this was her birthday, and all kids think that the world should revolve around them on that date. Kenzie was no different.

After the consluate, when on our way back to the hotel, our FTIA guide, Catherine, arranged for the White Swan to provide us with a birthday cake for Kenzie 's birthday - sent by room service. It was a wonderful surprise for her. Catherine was very sweet to arrange that for us. In fact, Catherine was wonderful throughout the whole trip. The first time we adopted, she seemed shy and reserved, yet a sweet young woman. This trip, she was very self-assured, as if she had come out of a cocoon and blossomed. And we still love her. She is in our hearts forever. Both Jia and Kenzie adored her, and I'm glad they love her.

I have tons of pics to share. I'll post once I have them on my computer and can upload them to the blog. I may not take time to post them in order, but one post will be entirely pics. Some of them are just priceless.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today - we go to Guangzhou

this morning, we will meet with Susan, who is the director of Adoption Services at the Civil Affairs Bureau. She will be bringing Jia's passport and a photo album of her during the procedures at the Civil Affairs Bureau. We don't have her birth certificate, and that worries me. I hope we also get that - we'll need it if we are to register her in Indiana.

Lynn will be bringing the notary paperwork also. We meet in 2 hours in the hotel lobby.

Later this afternoon, we fly to Guangzhou. I hope Jia won't break down in tears again when Lynn says goodbye... but I have a feeling she's going to cry... and who could blame her. This is all she's ever known, and the people she loved all her short little life are no longer going to be there for her.

On the up side, Jia is perfectly capable of putting on her shoes and socks. Instead, she wanted me to do it. Afterwards, I got a huge hug. Bless her.

Our first bout of greiving

Today, we went to the Aquarium to see the fish and then to a really nice restaurant. Roy and Deb decided to walk down China Street (a big shopping area) and then take a taxi home. Jia had fallen asleep in the van, and it was snowing (small, wet snow) so I decided it would be best to just have the kids go back to the hotel.

Once back, we woke Jia and Lynn went upstairs with us. I asked her to explain to Jia what was going to happen tomorrow so she would have time to digest it. Lynn told her we would fly to Guangzhou and then on to America to her home with her baba, mama, and jie jie. She asked if she understood and she nodded yes.

At some point, Jia was looking at me with tears in her eyes. Lynn asked her what was wrong, and she said she wanted a tea drink I had taken from her... found out it wasn't just strong tea but rather a tea drink - not heavy on the caffeine. So I got her a small bottle we had left over and poured some into it and then had Lynn tell her we would save the rest of the drink for her for later.

Lynn watched our adoption video of Kenzie, and then got a call from the notary so she had to leave. She said goodbye to Jia and told her she'd see her tomorrow. When I turned around and went to sit down on the bed, I noticed Jia had huge tears in her eyes. She looked at me like she had lost her way, lost her everything, and was scared. She began to cry quietly... literally choking back her sobs and trying not to cry out loud. I opened my arms to her and said "Dou Mama zhi lai." (Come to mama.) At first she shook her head no... then came to me and put her back to me and raised her arms for me to pick her up.

I put her on my lap, and began to stroke her hair and cheek as she cried and tried to keep from crying loudly. I told her "Wo zhi de. Wo ai ni." She would turn to look at me as if to say, "How could you do this to me? What will happen to me now?" I ached for her so much... feeling her little body shake with each sob and hearing her whimper and then choke down each sob while wiping away her tears with a tissue. I cried, too, and she watched as Kenzie took a tissue and wiped away my tears - and then I would take a tissue and wipe Jia's tears for her. hb` Her heart was breaking... I wanted so much to reassure her that all would be okay.

She allowed me to hold her and rock her, and then to hold her like a baby for awhile. Then she wanted to get down. I asked if she wanted tv, she shook her head no. Then I asked if she wanted to watch the computer, and she shook her head yes. I showed her more video of Kenzie - videos with music. Her attitude changed a little.

Then she had to go pee (niao), and when we got back, we got out some snacks. She began to be her old self again. She began to ask questions about baba - and I figured she was asking where he was. But she was laughing as we teased and played with each other. She got past it... and it was as if she began to accept it a little. I have a feeling that she will have another little bout with the tears when we say goodbye to Lynn.

Lynn has been a wonderful, sweet young woman. I don't know what we would have done without her help with both Kenzie and Jia. I know Jia won't be the only one to miss her.

Here are some pics from today - before she was told what her fate was to be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Last night we had our first lesson in how to behave. Jia was in Deb's room, just basically tearing everything up. Roy kept telling her no in Chinese, but she was ignoring everything he said and every effort to pull her away from the destruction she was causing.

That's when he walked her into our room (crying and throwing a fit) and closed the connecting door to Deb's room. He made it clear she wasn't going to go back in and that he wasn't happy with her behavior. She cried and jumped up and down and was saying something. I went over and put my arms around her, then picked her up and held her as she cried. We waited for about a minute, then Roy gestured and asked if she wanted to go back into Deb's room (Deb's room had cartoons and Kenzie - and Jia didn't want to be away from either). Jia nodded her head. Then Roy and I demonstrated what we did not want her to do. She nodded again, saying "Wo bu dong le" (I think that was what she was saying).

We opened the door and let her in and the difference was night and day.

Then we got ready to go to eat. Once we were at the elevators, she began acting up again - really bad this time. We told her no and made gestures to try to get our point across, but she was once again ignoring us. Roy picked her up and we took her back to the room and I went with him, Again crying, she said the same thing again, which I am interpreting as "I won't be bad." When we left the room again, she was different... better behaved, holding my hand and not screaming or jumping or pushing every button in sight on the elevator.

At the restaurant, she was well behaved, with only a couple of testing phases. But overall, she was being good. She was giving me hugs and a kiss, and when one of the waitresses was trying to get her to come over to her, Jia shook her head no. Last night was progress.

At the end of the evening, just before we went to bed, I showed her four of the Youtube videos I had on. One being the adoption video of Kenzie. She sat still on my lap and was mesmerized by it all... and she recognized her jie jie as a baby, plus baba and mama. At the end she thanked me for letting her see it. It was very touching.

We had noticed that she didn't act up around the orphanage people - in fact, she was quite subdued. But we have to stop the wildness now or she'll not understand by the time we get back home why we are punishing her. Today is more sightseeing and we will have to work on her behavior consistently. But she really has it in her to behave and you can tell she wants to be part of the family.

I was proud of Roy, because he's never been the disciplinarian with Kenzie. But this time, he came through like the Baba I knew he could be. He wasn't mean, just firm. And I know she'll feel more secure if we set limits and don't allow her to run wild with her behavior.

And we are so proud of her - she understands very well what we are doing and that we love her. We both think she's an amazing child.

Everyone is right - I'll have my hands full and then some - esepcially when Roy goes back to work.

More about Jia

Well,, it's day three and we've been to Tiger Park and an Orthodox Russian church (now just a museum type area). We had the girls feed pigeons in the square, which was a treat. The tigers were unbelievalbly huge... some of their heads were up as high as the windows of the van.

We are finding that Jia is generous. She will share her stuff. We had bought her some blocks. She gave Kenzie some to play with. When Kenzie came to take one more, Jia didn't want her to take any more and jumped up and down and cried. I told Kenzie that she had enough blocks to play with and shouldn't have taken any more. In fact, Jia had given her most of the blocks. Jia settled down and I played with her a little with the blocks. But once she was done, she took the rest of the blocks and gave them to Kenzie to play with. However, we are finding out that she does not like to be told no... and she is stubborn - very stubborn. We are thinking that she is actually younger than her given age... that or her emotional development is on par with a young 4 year old, not a child almost five. I sometimes can't tell if the things we are seeing is a result of the children being raised or treated different in China, or if it's a product of orphanage living, or if it is a developmental issue due to her age given being incorrect. However, we are sure that we'll not start her in Kindergarten next year in the fall. I think an extra year out of school would be good for her, and so does Roy.

Jia is very vocal. She chatters constantly. Most of it we can't understand at all... and she is pretty loud when she talks. I have a feeling that in the orphanage, the loudest got the attention. And Jia is LOUD! But when she's tired, she quiets down a bit.

She loves to brush her teeth, to wash her hands, she's learned to wipe herself when she goes to the bathroom, she loves to sing, and is the biggest tease. I know I've said that last one, but it's worth repeating. There's a lot of testing behavior... doing things she knows she's not supposed to, but looking at me for a reaction when she does. If it's not harmful, I have been ignoring it. But when she's tried things that she shouldn't, I gather her in my arms and hold her for a few moments and then allow her to go back to playing.

She picks up on how to do things fast. She didn't know how to button buttons together. I showed her one time and she can do it now. First time we went to a restaurant, she was banging every utensil, plate,and chopstick she could find. I would take them away and put them far from her so she couldn't do that - returning only what she needed when it was time to eat. The next time we went to a restaurant, she began to bang and I said, "Give to Mama." She smiled and gave me everything but her plate. The next time, she just started to give me her utensils and extra stuff.

Our guide, Lynn, asked her if she loved her mama, baba, and jie jie. She said yes. Then Lynn asked which one she liked the best... she said she loved her jie jie best. That's good. Not so sure that the feeling is completely reciprocated at this point... but it will be as time goes on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


We went to the Civil Affairs Bureau on Monday. We were sitting with the director? deputy director? Susan doing some paperwork - checking our passports and information. And we signed a paper called the Harmonious Period, stating we would be her guardians until the adoption took place. Then there was noise coming from the stairwell, and we heard that Jia was coming. In walked four or five people accompanying the sweet little girl we had been waiting so long for. She was holding the doll I sent her so tightly, looking around, not certain what was going to happen. They told her who each of us was... and it appeared that the book I had sent helped her a little. They told her to give each of us a hug, and she obediantly came to each of us and put her cheek to our faces and her arm around us. But the look on her face showed she was scared and didn't understand. The caregiver gave us a beautifully bound book with pictures of Jia all dressed up and also had many pictures of her as a baby. She was the cutest little baby. We didn't get the original pictures of her, but the book was a wonderful keepsake.

Everything happened so quickly... we learned very quickly the niao and la ba means pee and poop respectively. I paid particularly close attention to that when she had to go pee.

Before we knew it, the orphanage people left as quietly as they could to not make a big deal of the exchange. We then went down to the van ourselves and got in. That's when the quiet crying started. She was sniffling and the tears were running down her cheeks and she was wiping them. I gave her a kleenex and she wiped her tears. Lynn, our guide (did I tell you how much I love this girl?) asked Jia if she liked noodles or dumplings... and Jia said jiao zi (dumplings). So Lynn took us to a dumpling restaurant. Wow... when Jia understood that we were going to eat... her whole demeanor changed. She began to smile and laugh. Lynn asked her if her mama and baba were good, and she said yes.

Later, at the hotel, she went wild. She immediately began to check everything out, turning the lights off and on and off and on and... you get the idea. When she got tired of that, she found the tv and began turning it on and switching channels and then going through everything. It was hard to keep up with her. Later, Deb gave her some playing cards and we watched as she sorted them and then took only the face cards and began counting them like a Las Vegas dealer. This kid has incredible fine motor skills. She chattered all the time, and she calls me mama and was really upset when baba left the room for a little bit. We blew up balloons and had a great time playing with those in the hall.

After all the play and the manic day - what we are finding out she is very inquisitive, smart and has a wonderful sense of humor. She likes to play tricks and laughs at everything - a very happy child. She is picking up English words quickly. The first being Bye bye and then no-no-no-no- no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no (as she laughs at us), and then Thank you, and pee pee.

At one point, Roy went to the bathroom to take a shower and locked the door (thank goodness). She began trying to get into the shower and she was yelling "Baba! Guo Lai!" She finally said "Baba! Come on!" Also, yesterday, she had cards that she was holding one up at a time and she counted them to me one at a time up to nine... When she would say the number, I would repeate it and she would give me the card. We got to nine and I looked at her and said "Where's ten?" She then counted in English with me as I handed the cards back to her. Then, when she had all the cards back, she picked up a card and said "Shi!" With a huge grin on her face, and then threw her head back and laughed. She got the joke... she is a very funny girl.

She is a handful at this point, but there was a time during last night (Tuesday night) where she was very tired. I sat down and held my arms out and she came to me and allowed me to hold her and rock her, stroke her hair, and she just melted into me and fell asleep. I think she feels fairly secure with us. Today we go to the Tiger Park and then maybe the Russian Church. I can't hardly wait until we get to settle in as a family.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pics from Beijing

The usual tourist places. But worth the visit.