Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer School

Summer school has begun for Lin. It's only been two days, but I'm very happy with everything so far. Lin's ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher met us outside both yesterday and today, and was there waiting for me when I came to pick Lin up both afternoons. After the first day, seeing that Lin has no English language to speak of, her teachers decided that a far more one-on-one course was more appropriate, rather than having her struggle along with the whole class.
Lin is in a class with 5th graders and she seems to fit right in, socially speaking. It was so cool when I picked her up today -- there she was, walking with 4 or 5 other girls... Friends. When she saw me she smiled and waved, then turned and waved good-bye to her new friends. Very sweet.
Lin's ESL teacher does not speak Mandarin, but fortunately there is a Mandarin-speaking reading specialist who is working in a 3rd grade classroom. The original plan was to go get the Mandarin teacher only when Lin hit a roadblock. After the first day it was decided that Lin should plan to spend some of her day with this other teacher, even though that means sending her in to a 3rd grade classroom. I was able to speak with both teachers today when I picked her up and both said she is doing great. She came home with some flash cards for us to review with her. I could tell she was unenthusiastic to review her school work, but I made her do it anyway!

Little things are so thrilling to me right now. Two mornings in a row, Lin has changed the radio station in the bathroom from my beloved NPR to a music station. I'm so happy she did that, all on her own! It shows her independence, that she has opinions about things and isn't afraid to let us know. She has been watching TV a bit more and flipping through stations on her own. Again, she's feeling comfortable with us. She knows this is her home. And today she got on the computer and surfed the web for awhile, without my having to navigate to a website I think she may like.
Most parents of 12-year-olds would say "What?! She messed with your radio, watches TV and is spending time on the internet?!? Get some control over that child!" But to me, after not being home 2 weeks yet, these are wonderful developments.
(Obviously, we will keep track of what she's listening to, watching, and surfing on the 'net...)
First day of Summer School!
No blog post is complete without a picture of goofy Ruby.

Lin and her new set of wheels! Now she just has to learn to ride.

Here's a picture of the moment Lin was informing me, in Chinese, that going for a walk to the end of the street and back, in the summer heat, with her mother and kid sister, was the dumbest idea she'd ever heard. (I made her go anyway.)

And Lin, returning from the afore-mentioned walk. Notice how far ahead of me she is? Ruby and I were apparently too slow for her. (Yep, I jumped right into the adolescent years...)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Girl Loves BBQ

Quick update today, no new pictures -- I'm sorry!

Yesterday we went to Grand Rapids to see our friends' kids in their end-of-camp show. If we had only been home maybe a month or two sooner I would have gotten Lin into this camp. It's a heritage camp for kids who are adopted internationally (at least, I think it was all adopted kids -- it was certainly mostly adopted kids). It's for preschool-aged kids through 9th grade. The elementary kids spend the week learning about their own country of birth, and also get exposure to other countries. The teenaged kids spend the week just doing fun stuff like going to Michigan's Adventure, Meijer Gardens, and doing campout stuff. The end-of-camp show consisted of a Parade of Nations, followed by each "country" doing a little performance.

I wonder what Lin was thinking as she watched the group of teenagers parade past her. So many girls who look just like her, but are so American. Did she want to be part of them, or did they look so foreign and intimidating to her?

Afterward, we went to eat at Famous Dave's. We can't go to Grand Rapids without making a stop to eat at the greatest BBQ restaurant on the planet. Let's just say, Lin loves her some BBQ!! This girl is a meat-eater, and BBQ ribs, chicken, and beef brisket apparently are right up her alley. Needless to say, her father was thrilled! (Dan and Kerri, if you're reading this, we'll meet you there any day, any time!)

Last night we fired up the popcorn and the home theater and Lin got to be part of her first Drzick Family Movie Night. We watched Toy Story 2. I knew that Lin wouldn't understand the dialogue, but I thought she would at least be able to get into the visuals. She was clearly bored for the first half of the movie, but then settled down and watched and even laughed in places. After that Lin and Dave stayed up to watch another movie, The Wolfman. Ruby and I thought that going to bed sounded like a better option than The Wolfman, so we skipped out. Dave reports that Lin fell asleep. Lin says she only fell asleep "a little" and that the movie was only a little scary.

In general, Lin seems to be having fun and adjusting well. We play a lot of games (Go Fish, Square Up, Ruckus, Othello, Uno) and yesterday while playing Go Fish I was challenging Lin to say the numbers in English. Communication is getting better -- I can say "Are you hungry?" and she can answer me without the two of us going through elaborate charades. We continue to keep Fresca away from her, although I think tensions are easing. Yesterday she was joking that she was going to give Dave's beloved coffee to the dog and she was even calling out "Fres-caaaaaa!" to tease Dave. She says "Bless you" when someone sneezes, which is too cute. And right now she is flipping through TV stations. It's the first time she's done this on her own! I think she's feeling comfortable here.

We bought her a bike yesterday. She seemed excited to pick one out. She's not thrilled about having to wear a helmet, but when she sees that the rest of us wear one hopefully she'll be OK. The weather is supposed to be stormy today and tomorrow, but hopefully we'll have a chance to get out. That is, after we clean the house this morning. Oh yes, she's got to learn the joys of household chores, too!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Week Home

Wow! Has it already been a week? Has it only been a week?!?

We're trying to settle into a routine here. It's tough, and I know that it will take far more time than a mere 7 days for us all to get used to our new household. But it's hard to be patient.

Two and a half years ago when we brought Ruby home, I had moments when I just wanted to go back in time to before we had her. I felt so terrible thinking that, but now I know that's a normal reaction for first-time parents.

This time around I don't wish I could go back in time. I wish I could go forward in time. About 3 or 4 months forward, when Lin can talk with us, at least a little bit. It's so hard to know what to do with ourselves. We bought her a couple books in China, but she doesn't read them. We bought her some CDs but she doesn't go into her room and listen to them. We upgraded our cable to include a few Mandarin-language TV stations but she doesn't watch them. And I don't know why. I can't ask her, and she can't tell me.
So, it's just tough. But we knew it would be.
I still have to say, yet again, how amazed I am with Lin. She is just doing great. And Ruby is doing great. I don't want to jinx anything, but the temper tantrums seem to have decreased back down to normal levels (she is 3, after all!). Dave and I are still feeling tired a lot. How strange that Lin seems to have gotten over the jet lag before we did? But that seems to be the case. I think I'm having trouble staying asleep due to anxiety. I wake up, worried about so many things, from household chores that remain undone to wondering how on Earth Lin is going to learn to read and write English.

We do have a meeting with a family counselor next week, so I'm looking forward to that. Our social worker suggested counseling when we first started the process to bring home an older child and I couldn't agree more. I just want to be very proactive, not reactive. If I feel there's an issue that needs dealing with, we will already have a counseling relationship established. In the ten minutes I was on the phone with her to set up the appointment we already talked about Lin and the dog. The counselor, Sara, told me that what Lin needs right now is to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her mom and dad will respect her fear of our dog and keep the dog away from her. She needs to know she can depend on us to protect her. In time I hope she learns to like the dog, but for now we are just keeping them seperated.

Dave just peeked over my shoulder and told me I was writing a "Debbie Downer" post. I certainly don't mean to sound negative! Haven't I said over and over that our Lin is amazing?!? In fact, she's sitting right next to me taking a picture of me even as I type. And she showed interest today in learning how to ride a bike. Tune in for more of that great adventure!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Pictures

Dave just scolded me for not putting a picture of him and the girls in my Father's Day post yesterday. So, here you go!

Dad and his daughters

Ruby and Lin teamed up to paint Dave's nails. Lovely, eh?

After dinner Lin got her first official drum lesson. Dave's says, to quote an ACDC song, "The girl's got rhythm."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day - Now I Need a Nap!

Happy Father's Day!

We were all suffering from the jet lag today. So cruel that it gets a bit worse each day for the first few days instead of getting a bit better!

We got up and went to church this morning. Lin was very polite to everyone, shaking hands and saying "Good Morning" to each person who greeted her. She did great during the service. She was funny during the congregational prayers, looking around at everyone and, through gestures, asking me why everyone had their eyes closed! And she got quite a kick out of listening to me sing the hymns, and pestered Dave because he declines to join in the singing.

After church we went to our second home -- Target! Unfortunately this excursion did NOT go well. Ruby was in prime three-year-old mode and threw such a temper tantrum that I had to take her out to the car. It was my first experience walking quickly through a store holding a thrashing, screaming child.
On the way home Lin was pretty sober. When we got back to our house (Ruby had calmed down by then) I had us all sit down in the couch together. Dave and I circled the girls in our arms and I looked at Lin and said "This is a family. We have good days and bad days." I know she didn't understand me, but I felt it was important for us to have closure on what was a really awful episode.

The rest of the day was good overall, except for trying to wake up from our naps this afternoon. Lin completely amazes me that she is so willing to be part of our family. She never left our sides today, even when we knew she was feeling unhappy and tired. She hung in there and participated in everything we were doing. What a great kid!

Lin does continue to hate our dog. It has improved enough that as long as the dog is motionless they can be in the same room together. But as soon as Fresca moves, Lin is a bundle of nerves -- jumping up, running around the corner, sometimes almost screaming. I'm not really sure what to do. I certainly don't want to torture her but I don't want to just get rid of a truly great dog who's been with us for nearly 7 years without giving Lin a chance to settle down a bit. It's a puzzler...
The following pictures are the result of Ruby getting hold of the camera. Not a bad photographer, overall!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ups and Downs

Today had numerous moments of stress... for me!

Ruby is doing exactly what I knew she would do upon our arriving home with a brand new big sister. She is competing for attention and throwing multiple knock-down-drag-out temper tantrums. Like I said, I completely expected this and I know it is totally normal for her to react this way. What I didn't expect is how quickly I still lose my patience with her. Even though my rational head is telling me "You knew this would happen, be patient and kind to her" the angry part of my brain just won't listen. Thank goodness it was Dave's turn to read her bedtime stories tonight because I had just about had it by then.

Lin had another really great day. No sadness, no tension on her part. I know that we will see more tears from her, more homesickness, more frustration... but my feeling is, as long as we can delay those emotions with more of these good days, the more bonded she'll feel to us when she needs to grieve.

We took her shopping this morning. She came to us with quite a few possessions, actually. We expected her to just have the clothes on her back and little else, but she actually has a closet-full of T-shirts and many keepsakes from her life in China. However, she only came with one pair of pants and one pair of shoes. Thus, shopping!

We took her to a good kids' shoe store here in town, where she would be properly fitted for good-quality shoes. In China I guess-timated her shoe size to be about a 7. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out she wears a size 3 1/2!! It was really awesome, though, when the sales lady put those shoes on her feet. Her eyes lit right up, she got a huge smile on her face, looked at me and gave me the "OK" sign. Needless to say, she wore the new pair of shoes out of the store. I wonder if she's ever worn a well-fitting shoe before today?

I'm sorry to say I'm going to have to break it to her that her other shoes, from China, are going to have to be trashed. To put it delicately, I have assumed from the day we met her that she had a puberty-related foot odor problem. I even brought it up with the doctor yesterday because the smell is overwhelming in a small space like an exam room. However, now I'm pretty confident that there is some sort of mold or fungus growing inside her China shoes. They're darn cute, too! It's a shame but, honestly, I can't even bring those shoes in the house due to the smell. At least it's not just her!

I realized near the end of the evening that I felt like I hadn't spent much time with Lin today, and I missed her. She was in my presence all day, but I was so consumed with Ruby that I didn't spend time with Lin. I am going to make every effort, each day, to spend one-on-one time with both girls, just playing. I was able to play a quick game with Lin while Dave was reading to Ruby, but I know it was not enough. I need to get to know this girl, and just having her sit there while I interact with Ruby won't do it.

Here's Lin playing the Nintendo Wii for the first time.

She got the hang of it!

Isn't this a great picture of Ruby? This picture was totally random and non-posed.

And here's what happens when I ask Ruby to smile. I'm going to stick with the random shots from now on!

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Full Day at Home

Well, it's been 24 hours now since we came home. All in all, I'd say this was a pretty darn good day!

As you may recall, yesterday ended in some tears. Totally normal and certainly not unexpected. Lin was awake in the night from about 2:30 to 4:30am. I'm pretty sure Ruby woke her up. Ruby has a tendency to cry out in her sleep (aka Sleep Terror, although I think "terror" is a pretty strong word) and it can be pretty loud at times. So I think that's what woke Lin out of bed. Hopefully either Ruby's sleep terrors settle down soon, or Lin learns to sleep through them, or a combination of the two.

Anyways, we were up. We spent the time quietly putting index-card labels on much of the furniture and the doors of the different rooms. She needs to get used to seeing English-language words so that she can learn to read them. Then I made some index-card flash cards with the words for different feelings: Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared, and Tired. We went through them, and after each one I told her it was OK to feel that way. I think she understood me. Then, after a couple games of Go Fish she told me she was tired and wanted to go back to sleep.

This morning when the whole household was up, and after a breakfast of Ramen noodles, we headed out to both the grocery store and the Asian grocery store around the corner. Mostly we just got stuff for our dinner tonight, but we did pick up a few snacks as well. Lin was pretty quiet, even in the Asian store, and after a quick snack back at home she took a nap.

I had to wake up the poor girl to take her to a doctor's appointment at 3:00. From 3:00 - 5:00 was the low point of the day. Lin was completely exhausted but had to endure the exam plus a trip to the lab to have blood drawn, all without understanding a word of what was being said around her. By the times we left she seemed to be either on the verge of tears or sleep, whichever came first. I felt so awful for her, and there was very little I could do to communicate this except to put my arm around her and say "I'm your mother and I love you" in Chinese. I at least got a smile out of her when I said this.

And then we got home and it was dinnertime and this was when the day really turned around! She helped Dave cook and man, what a treat! As I sat at the table, with Ruby on my lap, watching my new daughter cook dinner with my husband, it just really felt right. And she seemed to really enjoy herself. She could easily have walked through the door, gone straight to her room and shut us out for the rest of the day. But she didn't. This girl is truly amazing. As we sat down to dinner I pointed around the table at all of us, looked Lin in the eye, and said "Family."
Cooking with Dad. The droplets you see is evidence of all the steam in the air!
First family dinner
Being goofy, cleaning up the dishes.

Lin and Dave, mugging for the camera here, enjoyed playing Connect 4 after dinner. Ruby enjoyed drinking her Jelly Juice.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today we became a family of four! Yes, we made it home from China in one piece. I am exhausted.

For those who followed our Journey To Me blog, thank you. We had so much fun doing it, and checking our emails each day.

And now I'm back here, to start chronicling the next adventure -- actually parenting this 12-year-old girl. I'm not going to write much tonight because as I sit here I realize that the room has started slightly spinning around me. But I do want to write that Lin shed her first tears tonight, at bedtime. I have to say I wasn't a bit surprised and frankly, a tiny bit relieved to know that the grieving has begun. We had so much fun in China, constantly teasing and joking around. But Lin needs to grieve for what she's lost, too.

Today was just overwhelming for all involved -- even Ruby cried for awhile tonight after our welcoming party of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all left. Ruby is just crushed that Lin does not want to be anywhere NEAR our dog! I'm confident that Lin and Fresca will get along just fine, as soon as they get to know each other.

So that's what's happening right now. Hopefully we can all get a decent amount of rest tonight. Lin has a doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon, but I think the rest of the weekend will be spent quietly here at home. I'm no expert, but my instinct tells me that Lin needs some peace and quiet right now, to start processing all the changes she's been through and all the changes ahead in the road for her.

Please pray that Lin lets me comfort her through her grief. She didn't want me to know she was crying tonight and was trying to put on a brave smile. I just held her and told her it was okay. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be scared. It's going to be okay.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Travel Blog

We are using a different site for our travel journal, so this is my last post here for the next couple weeks.
Our travel journal can be found here.
Happy reading, and please pray for this beautiful girl, our Lin Guo Chu, as her new life begins.

Last Day

Today is the last day we are a family of three. Our goal was to be mostly ready to go to China by today, so that we could just spend today enjoying Ruby. We went to the zoo...

As you can see, a great time was had by all. I think Ruby's favorite part of the day was seeing the baby giraffes, and then getting her own baby giraffe to take home. She named it "Ruby The Giraffe."

You can't see it in any of the pictures, unfortunately, but Ruby's T-shirt reads "Little Sis." I think Ruby's as ready as she can be. We've been talking every day about how she's going to stay with her grandparents while we're gone, all the things she's going to do. She's got a paper chain to mark the days we'll be gone and I know she'll be super-busy all the time, to keep her distracted. She told me she's excited to play with Grandma and Grandpa Dickerson's doll house and toy train, and she's excited to go to her cousin Brandon's baseball games. She also told me she thinks Grandma Linda is going to take her and her cousin to a water park. Hmmm, is that a hint?

Anyway, it will be awfully tough saying goodbye to her tomorrow but I'm going to try really hard to keep it together. I don't want her to see my tears because I want her to stay excited about these upcoming weeks, and not anxious. I know she'll be just fine.

Wish us luck!