Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crap People Say to Adoptive Families

Let me preface this with saying that, in general, it takes a lot to offend me.  And that in general, I've heard a lot of these comments and I really am not offended because I believe most people mean well when they ask them.  But I do think this video is food for thought...

In general, I think the biggest beef is that a lot of these comments come from complete strangers or casual acquaintences.  It's like being ask to tell your labor and delivery story to people whom you don't know.

Real brothers and sisters...yes I know people want to know if they are biologically related.  Sometimes, it just really isn't anyone's business and sometimes, it's about the fact that the word "real" makes it seem like adopted siblings aren't really siblings.

So lucky...this one does make me cringe.  I know it's a compliment but 1.  we are not saints and 2.  my children are not lucky; there is nothing lucky about losing your first family, losing your second family (orphanage or foster family) and having your early life look extremely different than just about everything else's

Hair...petting people is never acceptable, especially if you don't know them.  Once is not so bad but my children get petted a lot and honestly, it gets a little annoying to them.

Cost...just plain rude when done in front of my children unless you are seriously interested in pursuing an adoption and are trying to gather information.  If so, clarify this and ask when a good time to talk is.  Mind you, I am not opposed to discussing the financial end of adoption; I just don't want my kids feeling like a commodity due to the way someone words their questions.

Where are their birth parents?...most people are asking out of curiousity not because they have a really important reason for asking.  If you are a stranger or casual acquaintence, I'm not sure it's your business.  This question puts me in an awkward position because I don't want my children to feel ashamed of their story but I also don't want them to feel like they have to share their private story with everyone who asks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Unrequited Love

He lets me feed him breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.  He comes and finds me if he has lost a toy or if he wants his shoes put on.  He enjoys the routines of getting ready, taking a bath, and going to bed.  He looks into my eyes, laughs at my silly antics, and plays with me if I play by him.  But he does not seek out my affection, miss me, run to me, or cherish me.  Because I am a babysitter, someone who can trust with the basic stuff but not with his heart.

And that is the battle in adoption, well, in all parenting:  the battle for the heart.  This adoption has been my easiest and my hardest all at the same time.  The trip itself was hard.  The little boy who grieved for a week was hard. 

But now that we are home, he's pretty easy.  He doesn't fuss a lot.  He is very capable of independent play, of falling asleep on his own.  He is pretty clear that he doesn't really want too much help with eating or drinking.

 I know what you're thinking.  That sounds great!  So much easier than a baby.  And it is.  Way easier than my other two who clung to at us, who wanted to be carried everywhere, who were not all that independent, who almost always craved affection.  But in a lot of ways, that also makes it hard.  It is a concious choice to parent him with what he needs versus parenting him with what he appears to need.  The appearance is that he's fairly self sufficient and requires only minimal help from us.  But the reality is he stills sees us in a caregiver role not a "my mama and papa are the most precious things in the world!" to me role.  He chooses us because he has no choice not because he desires us.  It is a thinly veiled tolerance, based in a trust that thankfully his foster family grounded him, a trust that says "I can count on others to meet my needs."  But it is not a love affair.  There is no romance, no swooning, no heart beat that says "I need you with all my being."

It will come.  It's like most cases of falling in love.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It's wooing and pursuing.  But sometimes the pursuit is hard.  Sometimes this mama wishes she didn't have to pursue, that it just happened on its own, without my instigating and insisting. 

Believing 1 Corinthians 13 to be my prayer today, for myself not for him...

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
(The Message)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Puppy Love

As I said before, Zeke is in love with our Basset Hound, Bo.  We arrived home at 2 a.m. on Saturday night and pretty much went straight into our bedroom with him and went to sleep.  When I woke back up around 7 a.m. that same morning, I headed out into the open area that is our kitchen, living, and dining room combined.  My mom, grandma, Kenson, Conleigh, Aunt Sheree, and 3 cousins soon followed.  The dog heard all the noise and of course whined to be let out.  So out he came.  About 15 minutes later, Zeke came toddling out and beelined for the dog.  His face lit up and he started babbling "Woo, woo!" which is his version of "woof."  He spent the next 30 minutes adoring the dog, from his tail to his paws and ears to his dog bed.  And the adoration has not stopped.  The word "Bo" is the first English word he says consistently.  If the dog is out on the patio, wanting to be let in, Zeke lets us know.  In the mornings, if the dog is still in his kennel downstairs, Zeke points at the dog bed and wants to know where he is.  I'm kind of wondering if he perhaps had a dog.  He actually tried to feed Bo on his first day home which to me seems like something only someone who had a dog might try to do. 

First morning home

Zeke loves to sit in the dog bed, with or without the dog.

Zeke loves to lay down on the floor with Bo.  The other day, Zeke actually covered the dog up with a blanket because he was sleeping.  The dog was unimpressed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

What I Can Do Myself

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible ~ what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves. ~ AW Tozer

A fitting quote for me as we welcome a new little boy to our home. For the first time in years, I have found myself thinking maybe 3 will be the magic number where we stop. For some reason I had always thought 4 or maybe more. But this time around, things have felt different. Two weeks away from my kids was HARD. Being just about the only Americans in a vast Chinese city was completely isolating. A grey landscape that seemed dark and a bit desolate seemed depressing. A little boy who rejected us and whose presence was going to change everything seemed overwhelming. Mind you, I knew at the time that all of it was temporary, that things would get better. But the Monday night, after we picked up Zeke, I was not doing well. The straw that broke the camel's back was thinking we would not have Internet access to Skype and Facebook with our kids, family, and friends. I woke up around 3 a.m. and cried until about 7. I wanted to get online and ask people to pray for me but I was afraid of using the computer in case we couldn't find an adapter for our power cord. I was afraid to be without a way to contact my kids. If it had been my first adoption, I probably would have wanted to give up and go home.

Now we're 2 weeks past that point. My prickly pear of a little boy is slowly letting go of his need for control; he's making more eye contact and craving affection in small doses. I am home with my kids although I definitely cried when I hugged each of them for the first time. I am still sleep deprivived but things seem much more manageable. And adoption number 4, while never a sure thing, doesn't seem like something I could never do.

God is at work in the impossible, the improbable, and the downright uncomfortable. So thankful that He sees beyond my plans and continually nudges me towards the plans He has made.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hits and Misses

A very literal take:  our flight from Hong Kong to Chicago.  We sat on the tarmac in China for an hour and then made it into Hong Kong about 5 minutes before that flight was departing.  Long story short, it was a fiasco.  20 people or so missed the flight, most of them people with young children.  They were able to get our luggage off the original plane and reroute it to our new destinations but refused to hold the plane for the 20 or so minutes it would have taken us to get on board.  We got vouchers for lunch and were told we would be informed at 1:00 how we would get home.  At 1:30, people started getting antsy as no one from the airline had said anything.  People started going up to the ticket desk and noticing the paperwork that was lying around.  Someone realized that they were booked on a flight that left at 2.  Mind you, it is 1:30 and they have not be instructed about what gate to be at or anything. Ten minutes pass and the ticketing officials take a small group off to meet the 2:00 flight.  D and I were left with two other people from the original group, two men who were flying together.  Mr. Salmon was dressed in salmon, hence the name, and was hot from the get go.  He continued to be a jerk pretty much the entire rest of the time and actually ripped up his boarding pass because they reticketed him in a seat that was not an aisle seat.  We flew out of Hong Kong at 4 to Los Angeles.  Mr. Salmon ended up on our flight, in the bulkhead with lots of leg room, in an aisle seat.  Our 3 tickets were not together at all and no one wanted to really fix it (not the ticket counter or the gate personal) so we had to have the stewardess try to find us seats together.  The flight was not full but no one wanted to give up their seats because the only available seats were middle seats so all we could manage was 2 seats together with Zeke on our laps.  For about 12 hours.  Fun times.  We flew the rest of the way LA to Denver then into Omaha and arrived at a bit after midnight.  We ended up having to do security 4 times.  More fun times.  None of our flights had us sitting together so every flight we had to ask at the gate then ask a stewardess to try to put us together.  And the last fight had Zeke in an exit row with me which was a no go. 

Thank heavens our luggage all made it to where it was supposed to be, including our stroller which we really needed at LA and Denver.  We had checked it in China because we were afraid if we gate checked it, it would slow us down when we got off the plane in Hong Kong if we had to wait for it.  We knew we had a tight connection and didn't want the stroller to slow us down.  Our plan was to pick it back up in Chicago when we picked up our other checked baggage at customs but then keep the stroller with us for the other flights.  When we arrived in LA and claimed our checked baggage, our stroller was no where to be found.  The attendant basically told us we were going to have to wait until we arrived back in Omaha to file a claim.  Not what I wanted to hear, espcially since we had been rerouted.  But just as he was saying that, it showed up.  Praise the Lord because we had to get to the United Terminal in LA which was basically as far as way as possible from customs.  No stroller would have been awful.

Zeke really did pretty good considering that he didn't get a lot of sleep and that it was a crazy day.  We were not "those people" with the crying, screaming, poopy baby.

A few people (really very few) looked at us with a two year old and were extra kind.  Like the man who let me cut in front of him in the pretty long bathroom line on the international flight.  And someone else who let us board ahead of him instead of us going to the end of another long line.  Most people, especially on the international flight, were just very worried about themselves.  And the flight attendents were not all that worried about us.

Loved flying into Denver and seeing Cinch jeans and cowboy boots.  Definitely a Midwest crowd with Midwest smiles and personalities.

When we originally left, we had planned for several friends from church, my mom, my aunt, my cousins, my kids, and friends whom were babysitting our car to be at the airport.  When our flights got rerouted, I didn't think anyone would be there to meet us nor did I expect it.  When I called my mom from LA, I was overjoyed to find out that she and my grandma and cousin were planning to be there.  (They had dropped my brother off for a flight to Chicago earlier that night so they were already in Omha.)  And when I talked to my friend, Heather, who was in charge of calling my "change of plans" list, she said our church friends were planning to come as well since they were going to be in Gretna watching their grandkids.  And my friend, Beth, who was babysitting our vehicle at her house in Omaha, was also there with her husband.  While I didn't "need" their presence, I really did "need" their presence.

Getting home at 2 a.m. was not high on my list but I loved coming home to a full house as my aunt and cousins had stayed at home to watch my kids.  I peeked in on my sleeping kids and showed Zeke the kids but didn't wake them.  But Conleigh woke up to voices around 2:30 and stumbled out.  And Kenson woke up around 4 when he heard me fumbling with my laptop because I couldn't sleep.  Love seeing their faces and being home with them.  And I loved waking up (after a brief two hour nap) to a full house, even if it was chaotic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Consulate Appointment; Catch you on the Flip Side!

Our time in China is winding down and oddly enough, I'm not itching to leave.  (Now, I am definitely ready to be at home but I am not feeling desparate about it.)  Today we finished up the last part of our paperwork here:  processing Zeke's visa.  The adoption paperwork was finalized in his province so this is the last piece we need in order to get into the US with Zeke.  The appointment was held at the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  For those of you with Haitian ties, it's definitely different than the Consulate in Haiti.  It was more like they had the floor of an office building versus the polished marble mansion of the Consulate in Port Au Prince.  It was pretty loud and crowded as probably ten other families had appointments at roughly the same time as us.  The worker in charge of adoption paperworks greeted all families and explained a bit about the immigration process.  Then the other workers started calling family names to come up to different cubicles to finish the paperwork.  We were actually the first family called.  Our guide will go back tomorrow to the consulate to pick up Zeke's Chinese passport which will have his US visa affixed to a page on the inside. 

That means Thursday will be a free day for us.  I think we are planning to catch a taxi and go to Shaiman Island.  Shaiman Island used to be where most adoptive families stayed because the medical appointments for visa processing were held there.  But the office there relocated and then one of the major hotels on the island closed for rennovation so many families choose to stay elsewhere.  We're going to head over just to see what is there and maybe shop.  It will help break up a long day of hotel room lounging. 

Then Friday morning we will be headed to the airport.  We will be headed to Hong Kong to catch a flight to Chicago and then home.  Our turn around in Hong Kong is pretty tight (like 50 minutes) but there are other adoptive families on the same flight so I'm hoping that will help ensure we get on it even if we are not there as early as we would normally be.

Newest American citizen, signing out...well newest as of Friday afternoon once we land in Chicago.

Six Banyan Temple and Yuntai Park

Tuesday, we spent a couple hours sight seeing in Guangzhou.  I can't say that the sites we went to were anything all that fantastic but going out beat spending the afternoon in a small hotel room with a two year old.  (Pretty much anything beats that.)  The Six Banyan Temple was another Buddhist monestary/temple.  It was basically the same thing as the first temple we saw:  maybe 20-30 Chinese lighting incense and praying with tall Buddhas surrounded by offerings.   This one was a bit different in that it had a tall pagoda structure in the center which, until the modern era, was the tallest building in Guangzhou.  Also, as we were entering, there was a display set up with assorted offerings (peanuts, apples, candy, etc.).  Zeke pointed at it and said "I want" in Mandarin.  The woman who was in charge of the enterance heard him and gave him two pieces of candy and an apple.  Our guide explained that many adoptive families come to this temple and that following Budhist customs, eating the offerings can be seen as a way to ensure good luck.

Pagoda structure from the temple; it was very tall so it was hard to even get a picture that captured it.

 We also toured Yuntai Park.  The park contained several fountains, a huge variety of plants (cosmos, impatients, roses, boxwoods, and an assortment of tropical plants), and a greenhouse which housed more plants (a huge swath of orchids, a cactus garden, and more tropical plants). 
Working clock constructed from live flowers
Love the red lanterns hanging from the trees

Path leading through the rose garden

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bath Time

As futher proof that Zeke may or may not have undergone a complete transformation, he has twice today taken off his pants and wanted new ones from the suitcase.  Not only that, but he also took...drumroll please....a bath!  He wanted a new diaper and new pants so as I was changing him, I decided to try the bath bit.  We filled up the tub, then D got in and we put in our old water bottles that we've been using as toys.  I picked him up, handed him a bottle, and put him in.  He played and played and didn't want to get out.  Slow and steady wins the race or in this case, the heart.

Just Call Me a 2 Year Old Boy

Today and yesterday were full of progress.  Yesterday was even tear free, not one melt down or moment of being upset.  Zeke is coming out of his shell and is more talkative, more smiley, and has less hard edges when being held; he's actually starting to act like he enjoys our touch rather than simply tolerating it.  Our hotel room is starting to feel a bit cramped as he is starting to act like a normal two year old, to have a short attention span and to be into everything.  This morning after breakfast, I gave him a pen and paper to write with and found him with ink all over his arm, sitting in an empty box.  Looks like a 2 year old to me! 

Showing me his arm

And he's starting to sound like one too as he has been babbling and chattering constantly.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Safari Park, Guangzhou

Today we spent most of the morning at a local zoo.  It's actually called the Chimelong Safari Park and is owned by an entertainment company that has a water park and a circus in Guangzhou.  It was a very nice zoo with most animals in their natural habitats rather than cages or behind glass enclosures. We started the outing by doing their Safari on Wheels which is a trek through an open wilderness area on a tram.  You can also drive a car through as well.  There was a good variety of animals from reas to bears to giraffes to zebras to elephants, hippos, and gazelles.  (Plus a lot more.)  The remaining time we spent doing the walking trails through the zoo.  Most of the exhibits were set up so they were very close to walkways so you could really see the animals.  Many had keepers out and about interacting with the animals or had a feeding station so you could buy food for the animals.  When I talked to the kids back home this morning, they were a little shocked we were going to the zoo.  (Mostly because they were missing out, I think.)  So these photos are for them-enjoy the zoo!


Guess who decided the stroller was okay?

And guess who has decided he doesn't need his three "must have" toys?  They got covered up by a blanket last night so when we went out for supper, they just got left behind.  He wanted them when he went to bed but I stuck them in Derek's backpack once he fell asleep and he hasn't asked for them.  Derek also thought it would be a good idea to buy him a backpack so he could take his stuff with him.  Maybe that has helped him feel like he has his stuff with him.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nakey Time

Subterfuge and trickery...all part of my M.O..  Zeke has had a lot of difficulty in letting go of the items that came with him.  His shoes, his jacket, his pants, and his toys have been constant companions.  Trying to take the clothing off while he is awake and you've got a melt down.  He's been sleeping in his shoes.  It feels a bit mean to do a complete switcheroo while he is sleeping.  It doesn't really seem to send the message "these people are okay and can be trusted." 

So I had tried to change his pants or his shirt every other day and left the rest alone.  However, his feet are starting to reek (from wearing the same shoes every day for 5 days straight with no breathing time?).  And his jacket is looking a bit, well, disgusting.  Days of rolling on the airport floor, chewing on the collar, and dribbing watermelon juice down the front are starting to take their toll.  Plus the jacket is hot.  Since he refuses to be in a carrier or stroller, we have been forced to carry him so it's not just hot for him, it's hot for us. 

To be sure, I have tried lots of things to get him to change his clothes.  Every morning, I've pulled out two shirts and two pants and asked him to choose one.  I've tried running the bath water and putting toys in it.  But he wanted nothing to do with those things.

So today I decided to be sneaky.  Zeke seems to have a pretty good sense of order.  He likes to use napkins and puts things into the garbage.  I decided to try the bath and toy thing again but this time, with a glint in my eye.  My plan?  Get him soaking wet in his clothes.   With a sippy cup, an empty bottle, a toothbrush and a plastic car, I set to work.  The two of us played a bit beside the tub.  Then I sat on the edge with my feet in.  Then I got in, completely clothed.  I asked him many times to join me but he didn't want to.  So I sat in the tub, used my bottled under the spigot to make a fountain, and played.  He giggled and laughed and had a good time splashing me.  And my fountain bubbled, and gurgled and sprayed everywhere.  Pretty soon, he was soaked.  I made one last attempt at getting him in the tub.  I turned the water off and told him he needed to get in if he wanted to play more.  (He has figured out the baby signs for more and all gone already.) 

After a bit of a sign discussion, he decided he was done.  Out he went to Derek and what did he immediately start doing?  Stripping down.

 Do you hear my evil laugh?   MWWAAHHHH!  

The smelly jacket and shoes were hidden away while I helped him finish getting undressed.  I got out a few clothing choices but he was uninterested so we just let him run around in a diaper figuring that at some point, he will get cold or we will leave and he will want to put clothes on because we are leaving.  Right now, as I type this, he has on new pants and new socks.  He actually had on new shoes at one point but took them off.  No interest in a shirt just yet.  And maybe the melt down will come when he realizes that his jacket is missing but we'll deal with that when it comes.

So enjoy the nakey time pics!  We're enjoying the fact that we've got a few more smiles and a few less smells.

Even headed back into the bathroom to put new toys in the tub; guess he'll have to try them out another time.

Success...taken an hour or so after I wrote this post!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


If you are familiar with two year olds, you know that they firmly believe that what's theirs is theirs, what's yours is theirs, and anything you have yet to see is also theirs.  For a two year old who has lost pretty much everything he has every known, the concept of mine becomes a bit of a battle cry. Who knows what might happen to those few precious pieces of your previous life?

 "Do not take my jacket off!  It is mine!" 

"Do not take my shoes off!  They are mine!" 

"Those few toys I brought from where I was living?  Mine!" 

"And no I do not want to wear or play with anything you have because it is not mine!" 

So yes, Zeke is sleeping in his shoes.  And yes, Zeke has been wearing his coat like a shirt day in and day out.  (Although somehow in these photos it is not on.)  And yes, he has some beloved toys that he refuses to let out of his sight. 

Qiun Ling Park and Monestary

Thursday we took in Quin Ling Park which butts right up to a Buddhist monestary.  Quin Ling Park is again probably not what most people think of when they think of China.  It features a lake with paddle boats and several small shops (all done in pagoda style architecture) and a winding road which leads up into the mountain.  The road is steep with trees and mountaineous terrain on either side.  Our guide had our driver drive us most of the way to the top and let us walk maybe an eighth of the way.  The eighth of the way was a lot of work; most of the Chinese people visiting the park walked the entire way and showed no signs of straining to do do.  What makes Quin Ling Park unique are its monkeys.  Wild monkeys live in the park and can be seen just about everywhere.

And yes, I did keep thinking this might turn into a scene from America's Funniest Home Videos where the monkey does something outrageous.  Our guide told us to leave anything extra in the car (water, our bags, food, etc.) to prevent one of those moments.  Later we found the monkeys camped out on someone's car.  The car they are sitting on had an antennea that the monkeys thought was pretty interesting but they did not break it as one might think.  Apparently there is a monkey park in Taiwan  where the monkeys have learned to throw rocks so visitors must wear a helmet.  (As relayed to us by our Chinese guide.)
Right next to the car is the monestary.  I'm not sure if monestary is the right word or if temple would be a better description.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside but inside were three separate rooms for three different Buddhas.  Each Buddha represented a branch of the religion, one developed in India, one that was old Buddhism and one that was newer.  There was also a fourth room set aside for a Buddhist goddess.  (Not sure if she actually was considered a Buddha or not.)  The goddess is considered the goddess of mercy and believers pray to her to fulfill their wishes especially regarding fertility (but for anything one desires).  There were many Chinese people inside lighting incense and kneeling on the cushions in front of each Buddha.  I tried to get a feel for how often people might come here, like if the people we saw were sightseeing or frequent worshippers.  What I was told was that most people in China only come to a place like this occasionally and often only if they are wanting to ask for help with something.  He said there are more devout followers but that this does not represent China as a whole. 
I could not help but wonder how many people worshipping there had even heard the name of Jesus.  I fully realize that many people would cast Christianity in the same light, as a superstition, people praying to an imaginary God or people desparate for favor from a God.  But I think what sets Christianity apart from Buddhism (and so many other religions) is grace. 
A central theme to Buddhism is the idea of enlightenment, of doing enough good things (good works, meditation, sacrifice, etc.) to become a better person so that the gods will look on you with favor and move you forward on the path of enlightment.  Each person lives over and over again, repeating the cycle of living, dying, and suffering; if you are lucky enough to have won favor, your next life will be closer to an enlightened one. 
 For me, it's the sadness of a never ending cycle where you are always wondering if you were good enough.  While I know there are many Christians who struggle with the same idea of measuring up, that struggle is not a Biblical one.  The love of God which compelled Him to send his son as the ransoming hero is a once and done thing. 
Once for all. 
No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. 
His grace is sufficient. 
Jesus, friend of sinners. 

Wall just inside the monestary, features dragons bathing a Buddha

Before we headed back to the hotel, we stopped at the base of the park for a chance to walk around on a plaza.  A lake framed by mountains was on one side while some small shops were on the other.
I have no idea what was actually in the building on the other side.  The architecture is interesting.  Guiyang is a very large city so we have not seen all there is to see but we have seen very little traditional Chinese architecture. 

While we were on the plaza, we saw some pigeons.  We've used an Android app called Sound Touch as something to entertain Zeke.  Because of that, we knew he really likes animals, especially birds.  (Sound Touch has pictures of all sorts of things from animals to household objects to vehicles.  So one page will show all animals.  If you touch the picture of a cat, it will bring up another picture of the cat, say the name, and make the animal sound.  In our case, we set it to say the names of the items in Mandarin.  Zeke has liked it and has especially been fond of the bird pictures.)  We have seen him try to whistle like a bird by puckering up his lips so I thought I'd try to get him to do that while we looked at the pigeons.  Of course, if I was trying to capture it, he wouldn't do it.  The minute I put the camera down, then he be making his funny little bird sounds.  I think I finally managed to get it.  However, the sound is drowned out...too bad.  It's kind of a slurping little noise; you can definitely see his lips moving.  (And ignore the blue tinged lips, a blue sucker is to blame.)

We also visited the Wax Printing Cultural Museum in Guiyang.  It's not very big but it houses a nice display of ancient Chinese history and minority group cultural artifacts (masks, jewelry, and clothing).  China is a country populated by many different people groups.  Often, we as Americans, think all Chinese are the same but they are not.  That is one of the reasons Chinese history is the way it is.  For hundreds of years, China was an area full of different ethnic groups ruled by different warlords (for lack of a better term).  Each little area of China was a faction with each own customs and distinct facial features.  Often these groups disliked each other and fought wars with each other land, livestock, etc..  When Chiang Kai Chek came into power in the 20th century, he managed to create a loose confederation of Chinese states and he tried to unify China under a central government.  General Mao continued this and the centralized government has grown and gained strength so that the divisions between the different ethnic groups are not as strong.  Specific groups no longer live soley in one area but there are still pockets of minorities.  While in China, you will see some Chinese who look very similar to Native Americans or the Guatemalan students I see back home.  Others look traditionally Chinese (Han). 

Given that Guizhou is home to many minority groups, we assumed Zeke is probably not Han Chinese.  We actually asked but were told he was Han.  After reading more at the museum and thinking a bit, I am wondering if he is Buoyei or Zhaung.  There's no real way to tell (other than maybe genetic testing) but those are two of the largest minority groups in Anshun.  Zeke is also a big kid, very long torso that makes him tall.  He easily fits into 2T clothes as a 27 month old which is really not normal for many of the Chinese babies who are adopted.  I don't know if that is a real indicator of being a minority or not but it's worth asking.  Yao Ming (who for some reason reminds me a bit of Zeke in facial features) is has some Zhaung in his bloodline.  Anyway, I'm glad we visited.  It also had a very nice gift shop.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Catching Cats

If I had to describe what it's like to spend your first few weeks with a toddler who is soon to be in your family forever, I think I'd say it's like catching cats.  See, I grew up on a farm where farm cats were half pets, half wild.  Because they lived outside and were useful as mousers and just basic companionship, they were not pampered and often quickly lived their nine lives.  Wild animals, the highway, and a cat's personal decision making regarding where to make his permanent home meant that the farm cats kind of just came and went.  So many times, they were never really tamed.  Would they tolerate people?  Sure, because people meant food.  But they were not cuddly.  And if on the off chance one decided to weave itself between your legs, back arched, tail waving in a surpising show of affection, you could be sure such behavior was on the cat's terms.  Reaching down to further the affection might send the cat hightailing or be met with a quick swipe of a paw.  To really catch such a cat, to get it to set on your lap and to allow you to pet it, maybe even getting it to respond with a purr, required patience.  It meant crouching low to get on the cat's level.  It mean sitting and not moving, too fast of a move was sure to send the cat running.  It meant changing your position, from a tall loud human to a smaller, quiet being. 

And toddler adoption is a lot like that.  Your first few days or weeks together are about patience and time, about small steps towards a child, and a quiet calm voice.  It's about not moving too fast lest the child bolts, about not being too forceful about things that really don't matter.  It's about a small shift in your position that recognizes which hills you want to die on when it comes to compelling a child into action.  The child wants more watermelon despite having eaten what you think is an appropriate amount?  You say yes where you might normally have said no.  The child is pushing away your gentle touch?  You comply with his request and instead look for another opportunity to offer affection.  The child wants only you?  Or only your spouse?  You take it for what it is and don't force the interaction.  The child refuses to change his clothes?  Or take a bath?  Or eat?  You let it go, reminding yourself that stinky clothes, a dirty body, and a hungry belly are not quite as awful as they sound.

Catchining cats, I tell you, it's just like catching cats.

Huang Gusho Waterfall and Tianxing Bridge

We spent Wednesday on the road and sightseeing.  The largest waterfall in China is in Guizhou Province so that was on our list as was a park that featured a stone forest (if that makes any sense).   The two places are located close together and were about an hour and thirty minutes from Guiyang.  Guiyang is a huge city (3 million people, if I am remembering correctly) so heading out into a more rural area was nice.  (Rural, yes, but not in the same way I think of rural.  My rural is the Sandhills of Nebraska with wide open blue skies and only an occasional house or windmill.  Rural China means a four lane road with farms on each side but toll booths and large cities frequent occurances.  And a grey sky.  (Smog, I assume.)  The farms are small plots of land divided into different crops.  Corn, wheat, and rice I suppose but I didn't ask.  The farmers still do the work by hand so it's this juxtaposition of a modern Chinese highway next to small parcels of farmland. 

The entrance to Huang Guoshu Waterfall featured a bonsai garden.  Doesn't sound all that interesting, I know but it actually was.  There were over a hundred different bonsai, all done in amazing minature.  The walk down to the falls reminded me of the walk at Mt. Rushmore, lots of steps and plank sidewalks.  The waterfall itself was pretty impressive, a huge cascade of falling water that poured into a river with more rapids, surrounded by a mountaineous, heavily wooded space.  Mossy greens and granite grey, not what most people think of when they think of China.

Bonsai garden

More bonsai
Us beside a naturally carved rock at the bonsai garden, supposedly the area was all under the ocean at one point in time which is what created the unique rock formations

Hong Guoshu Falls

Base of the waterfalls
After you descend the stairs to the base of the falls, you can pay to ride China's tallest escalator.  

We also visited Tian Xing Bridge which was something another adoptive family recommended.  It was very unique, something I don't think I will probably see again.  Located next to the waterfall, the park and bridge feature natural rock formations, carved out of the mountain by water.  The rocks are covered in a special tree that is hardy enough to actually put down roots atop of the rocks.  Above the rocks is a canopy of green from the trees.  Below is water and more rock.  Many of the rocks are formed into stepping stones creating a bridge across shallow streams of water.  Intertwining limbs and uneven rocks made smooth by the water mean you have to watch your head in a few places.  All in all, a unique experience.
The rock bridge-each stone has an inscription of a date so there are 365 total stones, one for each day of the year
Small waterfall at the stone bridge park
On another note, K survived her first squatty potty encounter.  (I am a trouper!  Managed to keep my shorts pee free!)  We also got to see Zeke at work with chopsticks.  Pretty good for a guy with only 1 1/2 fingers.