Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Goose is Getting Fat

Well, Christmas is coming ... I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on where we are with Lin, and where I thought we'd be by this time.

November 17th marked 5 months since Lin became an American citizen. In those first weeks home I set my sites on Christmas, as the time when we would have met certain milestones. For example, I thought by Christmas maybe Lin would have a friend her own age. I thought by Christmas she would be fairly fluent in English, at least in her ability to understand every day conversation. I thought by Christmas our new routine as a family of 4 would be running smoothly.

I was kinda right...

First of all, Lin's English. It's great. Truly great. I definitely feel like she understands most of what I'm saying, and she communicates with us almost exclusively in English. Now, with that said, I would describe our communication as being very much like having a young toddler in the house. Lin speaks in words and phrases. She will say a full sentence occasionally, but it is extremely rare that she says anything really grammatically correct. I understand her when she talks because I'm used to the words she uses and the pattern of her speech, and that goes for Lin as well -- she understand us, but may not know what someone else is saying. When we are around other people I still feel it necessary to be Lin's translator. I guess, without knowing what to expect ahead-of-time, I'd say the communication was never as difficult as I'd feared. It is often inconvenient, but never a total roadblock that we can't get around.

I was wrong in hoping that Lin would have a friend by now. She just can't communicate with other kids yet. I know a lot of that has to do with her age. If she were a couple years younger and in elementary school, she would play with other kids at recess. As a 13-year-old in middle school, there is never an opportunity for playtime. She routinely sees a couple girls (Sophie and Anna -- I've mentioned them before) but that's because I'm making the effort, not because Lin is expressing any real interest in interacting with them. But we're at a point now where Lin at least will talk about them on occasion. For example, last week Anna was not at our tennis lesson because of an orthodontist appointment, so yesterday when I said "maybe Anna will be at tennis tomorrow," Lin said "Anna no teeth tomorrow?" It's such a little thing, but I was so happy that Lin remembered, first of all, who Anna is (it's sometimes a struggle for Lin to remember American names and faces), and secondly, why she had not been at tennis last week. This is a step forward.

As far as our routine as a family... I guess I've decided that maybe family life is never supposed to feel routine. Maybe family life is just meant to be chaotic. Right now we're struggling quite a bit with Ruby and her 3-year-old temper tantrums. She is just so often mad about something, and it usually involves Lin (why does Lin get to go outside? Why does Lin get to watch TV? Why is Lin on the couch?). And I feel so bad for Lin when Ruby starts up, because I just think, what must Lin be thinking right now as her kid sister is screaming her head off in the other room? I get it, it must be so hard for Ruby right now. To not only have a new sibling to deal with, but a new sibling that's older than her on top of it. The girl is just really out-of-sorts and I'm trying very hard to figure out how to deal with it. One thing I think might help is if Lin put some effort into playing with Ruby. It is still the case that the girls merely co-exist, but never really interact in a positive way. I'm wondering what would happen if Lin just got down on the floor and acted silly with Ruby. Maybe I'll suggest it today...

So that's where we are... I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! We're adding fried rice and stir-fried noodles to our Thanksgiving dinner this year -- I can't wait!

Oodles of Noodles

Noodles 3 Ways... This is what a typical breakfast in our household looks like... noodles, noodles, noodles.

Sometimes it seems a little strange to make a bowl of black bean garlic noodles at 6:30 in the morning, but when it brings a smile this big, what can you do? Answer... get that pot of water boiling!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary! Dave and I have been married for 12 years... Now would someone like to explain to me how we ended up with a 13-year-old daughter?!?

For a few brief moments yesterday morning, Dave and I were the only ones awake. He asked me if I ever thought, 12 years ago, that I would someday be the mother of two Chinese girls. And that got me thinking...

12 years ago, Dave and I weren't actually planning on having children at all. We daydreamed about living on the beach in South Florida, travelling -- just being the two of us. Probably not a-typical for a newlywed couple. But of course, after a few years our priorities changed. We were happy in our jobs, happy in our town and we decided to buy a house, temporarily shelving the dream of the beach-side condo (there's always retirement!).

And with the house came the decision that maybe it was time to start thinking about children. We were adament that we would never "try" to have a baby. We just wanted to let nature take its course. So when a couple more years had passed and it was still just the two of us, our family doctor told us to go see a fertility specialist. We agreed and set the appointment, neither of us telling the other that we did not want to go.

I wish I could remember now how we stumbled into the conversation... I just remember the relief I felt when we finally admitted to each other that neither of us actually wanted to go to a fertility specialist. That's not the way we wanted to bring a child into our home, through appointments and treatments and stress.

I called the doctor's office to cancel the appointment. The receptionist was very nice, but surprised. I don't think many people cancel their appointment with a fertility doctor! But I happily told her, we're going to look into adoption...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grab the Tissues...

We have not pushed religion on Lin. We go to church on Sunday mornings. I know she understands why we go, she knows that we are Christian. But to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what is the best way to bring religion into her life, besides bringing her into church and hoping she picks something up through osmosis!

So I was utterly shocked with what she said last night. I was not in the room when the conversation started, so I'm not sure how Lin and Dave got on the topic of her birth parents. But when I walked in, she was saying that she sometimes is a little sad when she thinks about her birthparents (or "1-Mama" and "1-Baba" as we call them). But she said that she doesn't really think about them that much because she doesn't know what they look like.

And then she said that someday she will be old and she will die.. and she will wake up in Heaven... and she will recognize them there...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We have a winner!

Sorry to our competitors, but did you really think you had a chance against the culinary skills of Team China?! Ha ha... only kidding, kinda. Last weekend, our church had an international taste-off to help raise funds for youth projects. So naturally, we teamed up with another family with beautiful Chinese kids to represent China in the "friendly" competition... And we won the appetizer division!! Let's hear it for the champs! 

The day started early as Dave, Lin and my great friend Pam stuffed, folded and fried 150 pork dumplings.. the ultimate comfort food! Next up, Dave prepared one of his most requested dishes, Crispy Prawns with Honey Garlic Sauce.

As the gang frantically slaved away in the kitchen, our friend Alan got out the lanterns and banners and decorated our table.

Ruby and her best friend in the entire world, M, put on their qi paos to help sway votes with their cuteness. The only problem with that was the fact that the girls spent more time running around playing and sampling food from the competition than hanging out at our cooking station. Oh well, at least they were still advertising our booth.

Serving up our award-winning shrimp and dumplings! I lost count of the number of repeat visitors (chowhounds) we had at our table.

You know they're good when the chefs can't stop eating them! It was also great to see Lin walking around the fellowship hall by herself and sampling the food. She'd even bring plates of food back to our table for us to enjoy. Recipes available upon request...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Pictures

Playing in the leaves...

 Carving pumpkins...

 Ready for trick-or-treating...

Looking scary with Zombie-Dad... 

Halloween and Other Good Times

We had a great Halloween weekend! Both Saturday and Sunday were just beautiful; temperatures in the 50s and sun sun sun! We got everyone outside Saturday afternoon to rake leaves and do some fall lawn clean-up. I love cleaning up the yard in the fall, getting everything cut down and "put to bed" for winter. And then I love it when all the new flowers bloom in the spring. Now, if someone could just tell me the secret to keeping motivated to do all the maintenance work from mid-June to mid-September!

Anyway, back to our weekend. After raking leaves we headed inside to carve our pumpkins! Lin jumped right in without hesitation, drawing the face on her pumpkin and then carving it out. If you remember an earlier post, Lin is very confused as to why we're not eating the pumpkins, and she was still asking about it on Saturday. We told her, some people do, of course, but we're not planning on it (I've never cared for roasted pumpkin seeds...).

And then we headed out Sunday night for trick-or-treating! Ruby was a bat-ballerina and Lin was... well, the vampire teeth didn't work out, so Lin was just Lin-with-weird-makeup. She had a lot of fun with the makeup, especially seeing me and Dave getting all dolled-up as well (she made us promise that if she wore a costume, we would too). Dave was a zombie and I was... well, my vampire teeth didn't work out either, so I was just Lisa-with-weird-makeup.

We had a good time but overall, trick-or-treating was not quite the glorious experience I wanted it to be, unfortunately. After all the build-up and excitement from the last several weeks, Ruby decided to clam-up and be shy, pretty much refusing to let go of our hands or legs the whole time and barely able to whisper "trick or treat". Typical 3-year-old! And after about 3 houses, Lin decided that trick-or-treating was stupid and didn't want to do it anymore. Typical 13-year-old!

I was disappointed with her sudden switch in attitude and I told her, "This is Halloween! This is what Halloween is all about! It's a really big deal in America!" And finally she said to me (I'll paraphrase) "What if you were 13 years old and sent to live in China? And everyone was telling you that you had to do something but you didn't understand why, but everyone's telling you that it's a big deal in China and everyone in China is doing it. But you didn't understand it. How would you feel?"


So I lightened-up on her, and then she lightened-up, and we all had a truly great time. I'll do a picture-post later today...