Friday, July 23, 2010

A Breakthrough!

Lin is currently sitting on the floor next to the computer desk... petting the dog!! I knew this day would come! We just had to give it time.

In the last few weeks Lin has gotten much more relaxed around the dog, little by little, day by day. I had noticed that in the last 10 days or so, Lin has become comfortable walking right by the dog or vice versa, even in our narrow hallway. And then last night she got on her hands and knees on the floor and shyly reached out to touch Fresca's tail. I took the opportunity to explain to Lin what it means when a dog is wagging its tail, and what it means when a dog is not wagging its tail.

And now today Lin has been petting the dog repeatedly. She opened the door when Fresca barked to come inside, and opened the door when Fresca wanted to go out. Now she can't seem to get enough of the dog! In fact, she just now brought a pillow over so that she can lay on the floor right next to Fresca and just pet her.

What a relief!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

American Citizen!

We got Lin's U.S. citizenship certificate in the mail on Monday. Dave stopped at the store on the way home from work and bought a little cake to celebrate. I'm very proud to say Lin is developing a sweet-tooth similar to her mother's (although she has a loooonnnnngg way to go on that front!).

We also got word yesterday that Lin is being watched by the Department of Homeland Security!

Well... okay, that's not entirely the truth...

We did get a phone call from our county's Department of Community Health, saying they had been notified by the Dept. of Homeland Security that Lin had tested positive for TB. (Her skin test in China was positive, but she had 2 x-rays to verify that she does not have TB.) But despite the negative x-rays, the Health Dept. recommends that she still get treated for TB. Fortunately she has a doctor's appointment on Friday, so we will ask her doctor then whether or not treatment is actually necessary.

Ah, the TB saga continues...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chinese Church

We took Lin to a Chinese Christian church this morning. This is something we always intended to do, but after last weekend when she told us she was lonely we decided to take her today. What a wonderful welcome we had! The service was in Mandarin and each time the congregation got ready to sing a hymn we had several people around us pointing out which page number so that we wouldn't be lost.

Also very funny, after the sermon the man who was leading the service (the regular pastor is on a mission trip in China right now) looked around and said very pointedly, in English, "If there are any newcomers here today, please stand and introduce yourself. Anyone here for the first time? Do we have any visitors today?"

Okay, okay, we get the hint.

So we stood and introduced ourselves and Lin and told everyone she's from Shanghai and home about a month. After the service was over we were practically swarmed! So many people shaking our hands and speaking to Lin -- it was overwhelming for everyone. Lin was introduced to a 13-year-old girl named Lucie, and everyone stood back and watched these two girls stare at each other, all assuming that they would become instant best friends.

Uh, do you remember what it was like to be 12 years old and introduced to someone new? Self-consciousness takes over pretty quickly and no one knows what to say after a shy "hello." But, Lucie did give Lin her phone number and Lin seemed like she just might possibly be interested in calling her. We'll see. As far as youth activities, things seemed pretty quiet there due to it being summertime, but we look forward to getting Lin more involved this Fall, if she's interested. It's hard to tell for sure what she thought, but she was sure in a good mood after we left! Hopefully that's a good indicator.

We then spent the afternoon at Grandma's pool for Dave's sister's birthday. I keep forgetting to bring along our camera to get a picture of Ruby in the pool! She has graduated to wearing "swimmies" on her arms and can get around the pool all by herself! She is so proud!

Lin still has less-than-zero interest in swimming. She will put her feet in but nothing else. She still does not own a bathing suit, but told me today that she'd be willing to look. Then she indicated what kind of bathing suit would be acceptable. Let's just say, she's going to need to time-travel back to the early 1900s to find the full-body-coverage suit she's looking for! Anyone got a time machine I can borrow?

One more quick anecdote from the day about our near-teenaged daughter. We were watching Looney Tunes DVDs downstairs, after we got back home early this evening. Lin seemed to be really responding to the cartoons and laughing. I was so thrilled! I immediately put on my mental shopping list, more Looney Tunes DVDs! So after we turned it off I looked at Lin and asked if she liked it. Well, if she had wrinkled her nose anymore she would have gotten a black eye! She told me "No! Bu hao! (no good)" then indicated it was for little kids.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Week's Worth of Livin'

Sorry it's been awhile since my last post. I intended to do an update every day or two when I started this thing, but fatigue tends to get the better of me more often than not. I really should start writing shorter posts -- that would probably make a difference!
Anyway, here's what we've been up to this week: On Sunday we went to Comerica Park in Detroit to take in a Tigers game. It was hot and sunny, and I'm sure overwhelming for Lin, but we had a good time.
One night this week we made homemade jiao zi, dumplings (or "dumpwins" as Ruby calls them). Lin was so funny. She told us she'd made them before in China, so Dave and I were both excited to see if she had a really authentic technique.
Well suffice it to say, she didn't. Her "authentic" technique was to put the filling in the middle of the wrapper and then wad the wrapper up till it was sealed. As you can see from the photos, she thought her "ugly" dumpling was pretty funny! (Lin's attempt is in her right hand and mine is in her left.)
Lin and I made a total of 39 dumplings. After we sat as a family of four and consumed all 39 dumplings, along with shrimp fried rice, we went outside for some popsicles. It was the first time Lin played games outside. She has been rather averse to physical activity since we've known her and we were thinking that maybe her heart condition (repaired Tetralogy of Fallot) keeps her from participating in sports. But I think she actually just needed time to warm up a bit more before showing us this side of her. She tossed a Frisbee around and played badminton, but when Ruby brought out her jump rope, that's when Lin really got excited! The girl loves to jump rope! She prefers not to hold the rope herself, but rather to jump alongside the person holding the rope. In this case, me.

And today we went to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. The girls had fun on the rides and Lin was being goofy in the little kids' area. Lin and Dave went on the flight simulator twice, and the second time he was able to snap a couple pictures -- while they were spinning around!

Our social worker called on Thursday afternoon to check up on us and I told her I was afraid she'd think I was lying because it's just going so well! How did we get so lucky? Lin's English is flourishing every day, she's getting more and more comfortable around the house. She just seems truly happy, and so are we.

We did have a few more tears this week. She told us she's lonely, especially being in school with other kids who can't understand her. Then she called her friends back at the orphanage and cried. It was hard to listen to, but Dave and I both know how very normal her feelings are. She let me comfort her when she was off the phone and the next day at school her teacher told me that Lin had been really talkative at lunch, teaching the other kids the Chinese words for what they were eating. I was really proud of her!

We've also been slowly spending a bit more time with a 13-year-old girl we know through Ruby's day care. This girl and her 11-year-old sister have been just dying to be friends with Lin since we started the process to adopt her. We went out for lunch and shopping with these girls last weekend, and Lin spent more time with the 13-year-old on Friday at day care. Sometime in the next couple weeks we were thinking of inviting these two sisters over to our house to make more dumplings, or go out to a movie or something. We want Lin to feel like she has friends, but we also know that it will be a difficult process for her to make new friends in a new culture. It's a delicate balance.

If you don't mind, I'd like to request that you all keep in your thoughts and prayers a family we know of who made the impossible decision to disrupt their adoption of an older girl. I don't have any idea of the details, nor is it my business to know, but it seems that they had this girl for a few days in China, then decided not to complete the process. I cannot imagine how devastated they must be right now. Please join me in praying for comfort for them and for the girl who was almost their daughter.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Month Together

Wednesday, the 7th, marked one month since we met Lin. When Dave and I pointed it out to her, she basically said "Yeah... so?" Ah, teenagers. I know she's only 12, but she just acts so much like a teenager, it's easy to forget that she is still a young girl.

So, how has this month been? I'd say 93% fantastic, and 7% tough. Not a bad ratio, don't you think? And even the tough times are just not that bad. Through talking with our social worker and our family counselor I've learned that I need to relax a bit. I've been really worried about how easily Lin and Dave are getting along, and wondering whether I'm doing enough to form our Mother/Daughter bond. I worry about the times Lin and I are alone together, anxious about how we'll spend the time and how will I keep her entertained.

Well, now I know that I don't have to worry so much about always doing something with her. It's enough just to be in the same room with her. Maybe she's watching TV and I'm reading a book. Maybe we're both taking a snooze on the couch. It doesn't have to be much, I just need to be a presence in her life. And so what if she and Dave have all this stuff in common and have a great, fun relationship? Instead of worrying that I'm not doing enough, I need to take a step back and be grateful for what the two of them share, and appreciate it. The fact that Lin smiles and waves at me when I pick her up from school each day shows that she is bonding with me, it's just a different bond.

It's been really fun the last few days to listen to how much English Lin is acquiring. Here are some of the words and phrases she uses now on a regular basis: hello, hi, good morning, good night, you, me, yes, yeah, no, okay, I don't know, you are crazy, bathroom, what, wait, I'm hungry, a little, thank you, thanks, I love you... I've even heard her say what sounded like "oh my gah" a couple times, though that one's not very consistent yet. When I've heard it I make sure to quickly say "Gosh... Oh my gosh."

I'm not even sure she is always conscious of using these words. They just seem to slip in to conversation. She makes a lot of effort to communicate with us, which is just wonderful. Have I said it enough? I'm just amazed at how much effort this girl is making to fit in to our family! I also have to say yet again how great it is that she dives right into whatever it is we're eating. The only thing she has definitely turned up her nose at is cheese. But we expected that, since cheese is not part of a typical Chinese diet. We did go out to a Chinese restaurant a few nights ago, the first since we've been home. We showed her the takeout menu before leaving the house and she did seem very relieved, as if to say "Oh yes, I'd love to go out for Chinese!"

We haven't gotten her back on the bike this week. It's just been way too hot. I think she is a bit frustrated that getting the hang of the bike didn't come easier to her. And we haven't revisited the idea of swimming since we've been home. Dave's mom has a pool, but they've been doing some repairs to it and it has not been swimable. I think it might be ready by this weekend, so maybe we'll head there so that she can at least stick her feet in the water. We're not going to push it. The bathing suit we had waiting for her when we got home has been returned. She tried it on but didn't like it. I guess maybe I should just buy her a suit, whether she likes it or not, just so she has one.

School has been going well. She doesn't seem to hate it and is always cheerful when I pick her up. One of her teachers told me yesterday that she had worked up to doing 5th grade math (fractions and percentages -- something she said she could not do a week ago) but she apparently has no knowledge whatsoever of science. Not sure where we go with that one. I'm told she does try very hard, but sometimes seems to give up or expects the teacher to just give her the answer. We're not going to freak out quite yet. She's got so much swirling around in her head right now, I don't blame her one bit for getting to a point where she wants to stop trying. I can't imagine how befuddled her poor mind must be.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

1st 4th

Lin celebrated her first Big American Holiday yesterday. We started the day by going to a good ole' Small Town USA 4th of July Parade. It was hot and sunny, so Lin chose to stand back from the street under the shade of an umbrella.

Ruby stood right up front, catching all the candy with her best buds, Lily, Mae and Ben. (That's Ruby on the right, in the pigtails.) Mae is 5 years old and according to Ruby, the sun rises and sets with her best friend Mae!

Doesn't Lin look great in her new glasses?

After a barbeque at Grandma Linda and Grandpa Marty's house (it was Grandpa Marty's birthday yesterday, too) we went to see some fireworks with Dave's sister and her family. We got there plenty early, which meant we had plenty of time to play some games and eat some snacks before the sun went down.

As dusk hit, Lin found a new past-time: catching fireflies! I feel silly for not knowing, but do they have fireflies in China? The following shot is of Lin putting a freshly-caught firefly into her empty water bottle. This morning when I looked at the bottle I counted 7 of the bugs. She told us this morning that before she fell asleep she took the lid off the bottle and awoke in the night to fireflies lighting up her room!

We had our first sisterly spat yesterday morning. Ruby was getting a bit physical with Lin all morning, pushing her around and being a bit obnoxious. We were trying to keep a handle on things, but apparently we both missed it when Ruby stomped on Lin's foot. Well, Lin was none too happy, and rightfully so. She started rattling off in Chinese and sounded like she was on the verge of tears. I think Dave and I handled it well. We made Ruby apologize but Lin was not inclined to accept and kept angrily chattering away. So we took her over to the computer to translate to her that Ruby shouldn't have stomped on her foot, but that she did say she was sorry and that we expected the two girls to get along. I thought it was important for Lin to see that sisterhood is a two-way street. And I think Ruby was genuinely startled by Lin's angry reaction and truly was sorry for what she'd done. After the computer-translated conversation I said to Lin "We're done. It's over." Ever since, Ruby has been very sweet to Lin and Lin has been tolerant, even a little pleasant, to Ruby. It's not that Lin doesn't get along with Ruby, but right now she merely coexists with her sister. There's just not much interaction between them. I guess it's better the way it is than to have them fighting all the time, but I do wish they would play together a bit more. This relationship, like her relationship with us, will continue to develop over time. As long as we can keep Ruby from ever stomping on Lin's foot again I think we'll manage!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday with Mom

Lin's summer school is only Monday - Thursday, so it was a Mom/Daughter day today! I admit, I was nervous. What were we going to do, the entire morning, just the two of us? This "nervous" feeling is something I'm still struggling with. I certainly don't want to be apprehensive about spending time with my own child, but at the same time, I've only known her for 3 1/2 weeks at this point. She is still very much a stranger to me. I don't know much about her personality, what she truly enjoys doing, and without being able to ask her directly it's up to me to just plan something and hope for the best.

So my plan was that we would drop Ruby off at her daycare (we've been keeping Ruby on her "normal" routine these last two weeks home even though she could have been home with us -- she's had enough of a disruption to her life without taking her away from her daycare friends, too!). Then we'd go to a paint-your-own pottery place around the corner from us, which would kill a couple hours, then a nice lunch somewhere, and then pick up Ruby by early afternoon.

Well, the pottery place didn't open until Noon, so that plan went out the window. I was thinking we could just spend the morning making cookies and dinking around the yard, but then the folks at Ruby's daycare suggested Lin and I head downtown and wander the pedestrian mall. So off we went.

We had a nice time. Lin seemed to enjoy browsing in the stores and I found myself a cute 4th of July wreath for the house. We walked through the library and went to the museum. Lin enjoyed looking at the library books but didn't get much out of the museum, even though I was being a total geek oohing and aahing over the film/TV costume exhibit they have this summer (I saw the actual jacket Harrison Ford wore in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!!).

After lunch we picked up Ruby and headed home. Lin seemed tired so I thought we would just pop in a movie and veg-out. She picked "Snow White" of all things. I tried to get her to watch Harry Potter with me, but I think it's just a no-go there. Have I mentioned that here before? I am a total Harry Potter freakazoid and I was horrified to learn, while still in China, that Lin does not care for Harry Potter but likes "Twilight" instead! Blurg!!! I thought for a minute that I would take Lin to see the new Twilight movie that opened this weekend, but since I am utterly unfamiliar with anything Twilight, I figured I should probably read the books first to see if it's appropriate for her. My inkling is that it's not.

So that was our day. We picked up Lin's new glasses (no pictures today, I'll get some up before the weekend is through -- she looks so pretty in them!). At first she wouldn't wear them for more than about 10 seconds at a time, but then she started giving them a chance and I think she likes them. She still wants contacts but I feel like she should have a better grasp of English before going down that road.

I mentioned in previous posts that Lin had been a little mad at me one day when I suggested going for a walk. Well, I got to see more of that teenager attitude from her again. She had been on the internet for about an hour and I told her it was time to get off the computer. Ruby had just gotten up from a nap and I wanted the three of us to do something together; go outside and play or something. At first Lin thought I wanted her to come do something and that she would go right back to the computer in a minute. When I told her, no, it's time to shut it down, she was clearly annoyed. Then she decided that she needed a nap. I said, no, we're going to do something fun together. When I started heading for the back door, I got an earful! I don't need to speak Chinese to know that she did NOT want to go outside, WHAT are we supposed to do outside, she was going BACK to the computer! I said, no, we're going outside. Whew! She sulked outside, plopped down in a chair, crossed her arms and proceeded to GLARE at our backyard, not looking at me. And that's how she sat for about 10 minutes until Dave got home. What made it even better was that Ruby also didn't feel like doing anything I suggested and sat there, whining the entire time.

Good times, folks. Good times.

What other people have pointed out to me is that this behavior is actually good. Huh?!? But I get it. Lin feels secure enough with me that she can be angry with me and still trust that I will not send her away. She knows she is here to stay. And so, she can be a total brat to her mother! Oh, I shouldn't say "total brat." I was surprised, that's all. I thought I'd have a little more of a grace period before I had to say "Watch your mouth, young lady!" (I didn't say that, by the way. But I thought it!)