Thursday, September 30, 2010

As Promised... Almost

As promised, here follows a far more upbeat post than my last two.

However,  I do not have any pictures to share. I'm so sorry! First of all, our camera has gone to Camera Heaven after being left outside in the rain the other night. And secondly, Lin has taken a few pictures with her camera in the last few days, but that means that there are very few pictures of Lin, and all the other pictures are of Ruby with one or more of her friends. As I am not the parent of those children, I don't feel comfortable posting their pictures. So... no pics.

But I will take this opportunity to fill you in on just how fabulous Lin is doing in school. What a champ! Two of her teachers sent home nice notes with her today. Her math teacher recognized her for having turned in all her homework and for always giving 100%. And her band teacher wrote a note for us telling us how hard Lin works (she's learning to play the flute). When I explained to Lin what her teachers said, she asked why. I told her that her teachers know that she has to work harder than everyone else because she is still learning English, and her face just glowed. I said it before, but it's worth repeating, this girl really is smart. I'm just so excited to see her continue to blossom and learn, and to think of what the future may hold for her.

Lin got a haircut the other night -- about 3 or 4 inches cut off, by her own choice. It's so pretty! And she's been wearing her glasses a bit more now that school is in full-swing. I can't describe it, but she just walks with an air of confidence about her. It's the little things that most of us take for granted every day -- the way she says "Hey, mama" when I pick her up from school; the way she goes into the kitchen and gets herself something to drink; the way she goes into my bathroom and helps herself to my nail polish remover, without asking permission first. For the last few months this house, this town is where Lin has lived. But lately, I get the feeling that this is truly becoming Lin's home.

Keeping Track of My Days

I am amazed by the many families I know of who have more than 2 or 3 children. I'm talking the families of 6, 7, 10 kids. Seriously, how do you survive? I am having trouble keeping track of my own brain now that I am the mother of two!

The house always seems to be dirty. I don't mean cluttered. I mean dirt. My kitchen floor is disgusting! And why? My new child is 12, it's not like she's a baby who spits food out onto the floor. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my laundry has increased, or the dishes in my sink have multiplied. But the dirt! What is happening here?!

I apologize for the unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails. I've got a few of each hanging over my head. And the online groups I belong to -- I do read the messages with every intention of getting back into the discussion, but I just don't have the time. My first conscious thought of the day today was "Oh, I still haven't figured out the bills." (Not to worry, nearly all our bills are paid automatically, so I can't think of anything that will be late, but I really should at least take a look at our checking account balance...) I hate starting my day with a mini anxiety attack.

And it's not like we are a super-busy family, either. Ruby takes a gymnastics class one day a week. Lin might start taking tennis lessons, but we have not committed to anything yet. But other than school and church, that's it. Why do I feel so disorganized when all we do is go to school and work, and then come home?

Someone tell me, will I gradually get my organizational skill back? Or is this my new normal?

(Next post will be more upbeat, and have pictures, I promise!)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Not Always Easy

Let me start this post by making clear, I am writing this for the people who are reading this blog because they are preparing to bring home their own older adopted child, or are already home with their new son or daughter. So don't worry, friends and family -- we're still doing fine...

The day before we were to fly back home from Shanghai, after adopting Lin and knowing her for all of 8 days, Dave and I said to each other that we couldn't think of one thing we wish would have gone better. Our experience with Lin was, and continues to be, amazing. Simply amazing. How could we ever imagine that this girl, who spent 2 years with her birth family and 10 years in an orphanage, would come to us so happy and so willing to be a part of our family.

That being said, we do have our moments. I am writing this with several days' hindsight after a pretty rough weekend. We were told to expect Lin to be immature for her age. I thought that meant that she would be interested in Barbie dolls and Legos. That wasn't the case (she likes boy-bands and nail polish like any pre-teen) but I've come to recognize that immaturity in other ways. With the help of our family counselor, I am now able to see that Lin often acts very much like her 3-year-old sister. She constantly "pesters" me -- she tickles and pokes at me, she pretends to grab the wheel while I'm driving, she sits and stares at me while I'm trying to read a book. I call it annoying. Our counselor called it attention-seeking -- like a toddler. When Lin does these things she is demanding my attention. I have to learn not to be annoyed by it, but rather to take those moments and give Lin the attention she is craving.

What is often so hard to remember is that, it's fantastic that Lin is demanding my attention. She is demanding that we form a bond between us. Not all adoptive parents are so lucky. Lin could easily shut herself in her room every day and shut us out of her head. She refuses to do this and I need to remind myself to be thankful for this.

Lin's immaturity also comes through when she's upset about something. Here's what happened on Thursday night: we were eating dinner and Lin was goofing around and opening her mouth with food in it. I've told her over and over again not to do this. So when it continued to happen this particular night, I got mad. I told her that the next time I saw her open her mouth or stick her tongue out with food on it, I would ask her to leave the table. She told me just not to look at her. I said no, and I repeated what would happen if she did it again. She then started saying that she would leave the house if I told her to leave the table. I countered by saying, don't worry about where you're going to go, just don't do it in the first place. It was then that things began to escalate.

Lin started whining and stomping her feet. She said over and over "You mad at me." When I would try to talk to her she would say "You no listen me." When I tried to get her to stop talking so that I could say something she accused me of not wanting her to talk to me. She said that I don't love her. She said that I don't want her to be my daughter. On and on this went, Lin whining, not looking at me, refusing to let me speak. We were in a downward spiral and I couldn't see the bottom.

Her school had an open house that night, so in the midst of this we were trying to get ready to go. So this continued into the car. Lin refused to buckle her own seatbelt and demanded I do it for her. She refused to shut the car door. When we got to the school it was the reverse -- I had to open the door for her and unbuckle her seatbelt. Inside the school I asked her where her locker was. "I don't know" was the reply. In fact, "I don't know" was the response I got when I asked her where her classes were, where she sits in each class, etc. If she did say something and I asked her to repeat herself, she would whine "Mama you no listen me" and stomp her foot. If she half-heartedly pointed something out and I didn't see it, she would whine "Mama you no look-ah me. Mama you no watch." More than once I almost turned around and walked out of the school, I was so frustrated.

Lin finally did apologize for her behavior after we were home. I will give her all the credit for that. But it was after probably two hours of this, non-stop.

So, this is what we're dealing with. Fortunately scenes like this don't happen every day, but we did have a rather long weekend with several stints of this type of behavior. It's not always easy. And again, I'm writing this not to be a downer and for people to think we're regretting bringing Lin into our lives. Far from it! But for those of you who are thinking about older-child adoption, or are preparing to bring home your older child, or who are already home and may be seeing the same behaviors, this was for you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Great Day at School!

Ruby's first-ever day at preschool was yesterday! She was so excited. She goes to school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and on most days she will walk to school from daycare. But yesterday I stopped in to walk with her and the other kids. I say walk with her, but in reality the kids nearly sprinted down the sidewalk while the adults followed behind. It was ridiculously cute! When we got there all the kids gathered outside until the teacher told them they could go in, and Ruby was the first one in the door!

When I got there to pick her up after school the first thing she said to me was "We climbed out a window!" so they must have practiced a fire-drill, I guess. And when Lin sat down to do her homework last night Ruby insisted she had homework, too. So she got out her crayons, scissors and construction paper and got to "work." What a sweetie!

And speaking of Lin, she also had a great day at school. There was a new student at school yesterday -- another Chinese girl who speaks no English! I'm thrilled!! The guidance counselor told Dave that the two girls would have all their classes together, except for Band, and Lin told me they ate lunch together. She also told me this girl asked Lin to be her friend. How sweet! When I picked Lin up from school, the two girls came out of the building together, chattering away. I'm just so happy that they will have each other, to help get them through the day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do Not Adjust Your Sets...

As I go back and scan through the blog, I realize that about 75% of the pictures of Lin show her wearing the same plaid purple shirt. The girl does own other clothes! It just so happens that the purple shirt is one of her favorites, not to mention the fact that she looks so cute when she wears it.

One thing about our adopting an older child: we have not stressed too much about her clothes. She would wear the same clothes 2 or even 3 days in a row if she could. I think that's what she was used to in China -- the same outfit for 2 or 3 days and a shower every 2 or 3 days. These first couple months home we've let this go. Now that the official school year has started, I did tell her that she needed to wear a different shirt every day. I explained to her that it didn't matter to me, but that the kids at school might tease her. She rolled her eyes like a good almost-teenager, but she has complied. Her grandma also bought her a ton of new school clothes this weekend, so she has much more variety in her wardrobe now.

Today when she was getting ready for church, there she was in her same old T-shirt, jacket, jeans and flip-flops. I said "Why don't you wear one of your new shirts?" She looked at me and said (in English, the smarty-pants) "You say is-ah for school. School tomorrow. No today."

Hmph. What could I say to that?

Fun Sunday

Took the girls to the zoo today, a spur-of-the-moment decision after we got home from church this morning. Man, was it busy!! We stayed for just a couple hours and only saw half the park before calling it a day. No pictures to show, the battery on our camera died after just a few minutes inside the gates.

While at the zoo, we ran into another family who is adopting a classmate of Lin's from Shanghai. He will be home in November. Lin got a little peeved at me after I spent a few minutes chatting with this family (are you reading this, Jane?) and I learned a valuable lesson on keeping Lin's life private. We had just walked away from this family and Lin was telling me a few things that she remembered about their soon-to-be son. Well, I ran back to tell the family what Lin told me, because I knew they would want to know everything they can about him. When I got back to Lin, she was mad. I immediately stopped her and said "What did I do?" She asked me why I had gone running back to this other family to repeat her conversation. Luckily we had the pocket-translator with us and I was able to type in that this other family was excited to meet their new son, and how they want to know everything they can about him. Then I told her that I was very sorry for not asking her permission first for sharing what she had told me. It took a minute, but she lightened up and said she wasn't mad, she just didn't understand why I repeated our conversation.

Whew! Crisis averted, and lesson learned!

Tonight we watched "Jurassic Park" on our home theater. It was so much fun! Ruby huddled in my lap with her beloved blankie over her eyes (in between asking where the dinosaur babies had gone) and Lin next to me shrieking and saying "Oh my goodness!" during the scary dinosaur parts. Good times!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First Week of School

Well, Lin survived her first week of 6th grade...

First day of school -- isn't she cute?

We haven't been able to get too much detail out of her, but I think this week has been okay. She has had homework every night for her English class, and she is enthusiastic about getting the work done. She actually asked to do her homework on Saturday night.

I am so very pleased with Lin's English skills. She is learning new words all the time and can even do some simple reading now. Today I was in the process of writing something into her translator and she started reading the English before I was done! One thing we didn't know before bringing Lin home was her ability to learn. Her referral paperwork only stated what grade she was in, but nothing about how she did in school. Frankly, I was prepared for the possibility that she would be a slow learner. Well, after sitting with her while she worked on her homework tonight, I'm now thinking we may very well have a prodigy on our hands! I know it's only the first week of school, but I'm thinking we may need to have Harvard on speed-dial...

And speaking of school, our Ruby starts preschool next week! Here's a picture of her at her school's Back To School Picnic:

Unlike many parents of preschoolers, we're not one bit concerned that Ruby will be scared or cry on her first day of school. The wonderful daycare that Ruby has attended since we brought her home is right down the street from preschool, and walking kids to-and-from school is the daily routine at daycare. Ruby has been waiting for this day for over two years!!

Playing on the playground at Ruby's Preschool Picnic
Taking the dog for a walk -- yes, Lin and Fresca are officially friends!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Great Weekend!

We're back home after spending Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, meeting one of Lin's best friends from Shanghai, and her new Mama and Baba. The girls have not seen each other since April. Indianapolis is roughly the half-way point for each family, and we spent two nights at a hotel with an indoor water park. It sure looked to us like the reunion was fun for the girls!

Here are some pictures from the weekend:

A few minutes after meeting each other again

Goofy girls!

Dinner at a Chinese restaurant

To say the girls were wound-up would be a supreme understatement!!

So all-in-all, a fantastic weekend. We had HUGE success with Lin and swimming! Knowing we were going to a water park, I took Lin to buy a swimsuit on Friday afternoon. It was... not fun. But we survived the ordeal. How did I manage it? I offered to get myself a new suit as well, which had us playing role-reversal. She helped look for a suit in my size and she came into the dressing room as I tried it on. I think seeing me, with all my normal human flaws, still willing and able to walk around in a bathing suit helped with some of her fears. She is just modest to the extreme, and quite self-conscious about her body.

But... we got the suit.

And after much reassuring and comforting, we got her into the water. And then we could barely get her out! She LOVED it!! At one point I was telling her how proud I was of her and she looked at me like I'd left my brain back at home, and said, "What? Me no scared water!" Well duh!

Seeing her friend again did bring up some emotions for Lin, which I thought might happen. Since the last time they saw each other, both of these girls' entire worlds have changed. They are not orphans anymore. They are daughters now. So it had Lin questioning why. Why did we adopt her? Why did we want her? Why is she a big sister? Why did her first mom and dad give her up? Hard questions to answer, regardless of time and place. Dave and I were caught off-guard. It's a good lesson for us, that these hard questions can come out of seemingly nowhere, and we have to be ready.

Oh, I just realized that it's bedtime for Lin... First day of school tomorrow!!! We're all excited and nervous and excited and worried and excited and ... Well, you get the point. Her outfit has been picked out, washed and ironed. Her bag is packed, pencils sharpened. And she has a piece of paper with helpful phrases written in both Chinese and English, things like her home room number and locker number, and phrases like "I'm sick. Call my mom." I think we're ready!

Last but not least, I will leave you with a picture of Ruby, who also had a great time playing in the water this weekend:

Mmmm White Castle... lunch of champions...

Thursday, September 2, 2010


We have an exciting weekend on tap. Our last big hurrah before Lin marches off to start school. We'll be spending the holiday weekend with the family who adopted her best friend from Shanghai. They've chatted and Skyped many times since they've both moved to the States, but this will be the first time they've seen each other in person. We're happy to help keep their connection, their bond.

Lin (purple coat, center) in Shanghai with her friends.
We'll be meeting the girl in the grey jacket, front, 2nd from left
We'll be spending the weekend at a water park conveniently nestled between a Cracker Barrel and Famous Dave's BBQ. Oh joy! Not sure if Lin will get wet, but Ruby is half-mermaid. You can't keep her out of the water. Just today, our little Rubinator asked if I would get the hose out and just spray her. We'll pick up a modest swimsuit for Lin and bring it along just in case her friend can convince her to get a little wet.

Ready for a night with grandma and grandpa
Speaking of reunions. Lin has been to several as the Summer has flown by. This past weekend, she and Ruby spent the night with the grandparents before heading off for another dizzying round of "Meet your Relatives!" We've been introducing everybody as an aunt, uncle or cousin and not by their names just yet.
Summer day... sweet corn. Is there anything better?
How about some s'mores!
Tuckered out after spending a day in the sun!
What happens after spending five hours in the car!
Speaking of school. I think we are as prepared as we could ever hope to be. Lin will be entering the 6th grade, which our district has recently moved into the middle school. We've met with the guidance counselor, bilingual director and spoken with many of the office staff. They've been very helpful and prepared for her to start. Her class schedule will include math, English, science, gym, band and a study hour. We will get to walk around with her the first day after classes end to meet her teachers, help her find her way around and practice her locker skills. We've had a fun, and challenging Summer... just today, Lin told us that she feels very lonely and very bored. We know those feelings are natural, especially in a 'tweener, but not being able to make friends because of the language barrier has been tough on her. She is smart, funny, happy girl and will defnitely make friends. Heck, during the 6th grade orientaion, several kids said "hello" to her. In addition, we took Lin to visit one of the local Chinese schools in town and she has volunteered to help teach kids to read, write and speak Chinese. There are several girls her age and even one who is also entering the 6th grade at the same school. Hopefully, we are entering the "friends" stage. Lin needs an outlet to just be a kid again after all of the changes she has gone through and the challenges still facing her.
Stir-frying up some chicken with black walnuts!
Getting Ruby ready for the day with a bowl of spicy noodles!
One last little word of warning... if you have any exercise equipment in your house. Lin went into our workout room when nobody was looking and tried to benchpress. Well... needless to say she got pinned between the barbell and the bench. Lisa ran in to help lift the bar off of her. She's fine. And I'm betting she won't do that again.