Friday, April 15

Will is learning to read!

What...what's this? A post about something other than an adoption or Eli's transition home? (Well, hey, I do have four children after all. FOUR. Holy cow!) See, there they are. Count them watching TV together. One, two, three, four. I still can't believe it. when I picked Will up from his ABA school, the teacher let me know that he had mastered all of the word to word matching he was doing....that he is really attending to the details/letters of the words, and next up is matching pictures to words! READING!! I can't tell you how excited and even emotional I am about this. I've known for a long time that he was going to be a reader, at least on some level. Most children with autism perseverate on things. Will chose to perseverate on letters very early on. If you ask me, if you are going to perseverate on something, letters are a very good thing to pick. Numbers would be high up on my list as well. ;)

But that wasn't always the case. When he was diagnosed at two weeks old, I had no way of knowing if this child would ever be able to walk or talk, let alone read. At the moment I was chased down by the pediatrician in the NICU, my hopes and dreams flew out the window, and I was devistated by what a chromosome deletion might mean.

Six years later, in kindergarten, my son is beginning to learn to read. And I couldn't be prouder.

Thursday, April 14

glasses and other things

First, let me show you the cutest boy in glasses ever!

Yep, that's right. He got his glasses yesterday. Is he not just adorable? Surprisingly, he's kept them on quite well. My guess is.....well, because he can SEE! He's asked to take them off a couple of times, and usually, it is because he's afraid of what might happen to them.

Aside from the glasses, everything is chugging along here at our house. Eli has made great progress since those first days in China. I was driving to Will's school this morning thinking about how far we've come in just 5 weeks home. He is talking in modified sentences already...amazing to me. He says things like, "This is Eli Tao's chips." or, "Eli Tao not hungry." (Yes, he calls himself by his English name and Chinese name. I think its cute.)

With improved communication and some very consistent consequences, the behavior issues are almost completely gone. What we're dealing with now is an issue between my Irish twins....Norah and Eli compete for attention almost constantly. This is not uncommon for kids their ages, and especially those who just gained a new sibling that is close to the same age. It just makes for some exhausting days right now. If one gets in trouble, the other points out that he/she isn't in trouble. If one does something we praise, the other is quick to imitate and look for praise. This too shall pass, but mom goes to bed tired at night. (Or leaves to escape to IKEA or some place similar.)

All in all, life is good here. It is hard to believe that this is the same child we met in China. But I'm guessing we're just beginning to see the real Eli, and let me tell you....the real Eli is a sweetie. We're glad he's ours!!

Saturday, March 26

eye appointment update

On Thursday, Eli and I visited the opthamologist to check out the situation with his eyes. As I suspected, he has infantile estropia...meaning he has had this issue since he was a baby. He has the features of this diagnosis....things like the fact that it isn't always the same eye that turns in. He uses one at a time to focus, which you can see when he is concentrating on something. His eyes also swing upwards (like in this picture). This is something surgery must address, as opposed to patching or glasses.

The doctor also dialated his eyes and checked to see how clearly he could see. Well, the kid also has severe astigmatisms in both eyes, so he also gets the pleasure of wearing glasses. :) No wonder he has trouble tripping over things and has difficulty with eye hand coordination. LOL

Surgery consult is scheduled for the end of May (which was the first available) and his glasses should be in next week. He is also scheduled for a renal ultrasound next week as well as an appointment with pediatric rehab who would be the department that will follow his PT, whether he needs orthotics and so on. They will coordinate these things for us.

Just as a side note...Eli found his hat that he wore the day we got him and has been putting it on to run around the house in. Don't these two make quite a pair? I'm sure that I'm in trouble when they start communicating better. Partners in crime....

Friday, March 25

a miraculous change

I'm not really sure how to even put this post into words. Today marks two weeks since we've been home with Eli. As I sit here today, I have a very different child than what I had in China, or even first coming home.

Maybe I should have known better. After all, Norah's personality changed dramatically when she finally began to trust us and settle into the new routine. I suspect Eli is doing the same. I think it is interesting to note that no matter how much I read, talked with other adoptive parents, took the required classes....I could have never been prepared for what we faced in China, and I doubt that I would have ever believed the change we'd see this week. Even though we all know that these kids have basically had everything they've ever known ripped from their world...they are stuck with parents who can not understand them, who can not calm them or console them in the way they are used to being calmed...shoved into new environments with new foods, new languages, and new rules. I still would not have been prepared. Sometimes, you just have to live it and muddle through.

Eli's flight or fight response to having a new family coupled with the fact that we knew he was allowed more freedom and less discipline than we are used to created some really tough times while we were over there.

Now two weeks at home, I see my son for the very first time. He's no longer hitting or kicking when he wants to get his way and is instead choosing to use his (many!) new English words with us. He is in big boy underwear full time and has been dry for two days! He is beginning to settle down and play with some toys as well as watch an occasional TV show with his siblings. (Much needed downtime for mom.) He is also blowing us kisses and telling us that he loves us, which is oh-so-sweet. He is eating the foods that the other kids eat and trying lots of new things, always thanking us so sincerely after we fill his bowl or his glass. He wraps his little arm around us at night when we lay down with him to fall asleep.

I am amazed at the change in this child and continue to pray that he feels safe and loved here in this family. What a journey this has been. Amazing.

Friday, March 18

Still here...

my little girl growing up and attending a pre-preschool class

my little asian irish twins :)

I still plan to blog here and there, just not every day. Right now, though, its been a stretch to get to the computer when there isn't a child that needs cared for. At night, due to jet lag, I'm falling asleep with the kids. :)

Eli continues to make progress, but it has been a rough transition for all of us. There isn't enough time or enough words in a blog post to go through it all. At the moment, we are beginning to restrict visitors because he's showing some signs of "indiscriminate affection", or in other words...he's doing some mommy shopping. He seems attached to his daddy and doesn't do this with men. But we've noticed a pattern with women we're around, whether it is a neighbor, a friend, or even people we traveled with in China. He's wanting them (the other women) to hold him and meet his needs. He's saying, "mommy, up" when he wants to be picked up by them and gets upset if I pick him up instead. Unfortunately, it wasn't even that we had many people coming by to see him...more so that we had a few friends stopping by to bring a meal or even hang out with me for some coffee.

So...we're limiting visitors except for what's necessary. He has to learn that he has one mom and one dad who will be taking care of his needs and who love him, rather than allowing any woman to meet his needs. This isn't uncommon when a child has been cared for by several women at a time. He is allowing me to show affection and meet needs, but when someone else is around, he tries like heck to get the other woman's attention, even if it is all the wrong methods.

All of that aside, he's making great progress with his english. It is really quite amazing. We're hearing a combination of Chinese and English now....he's saying things like "boo potty" when I want him to try and use it (in Chinese boo=no). Actually, we hear a lot of "boo _______ (insert English word here)". LOL He repeats almost everything we say, and he knows all of the family members' names. He's learning how to communicate things even if we don't understand, and he has told me on several occasions that he needs to use the potty despite still being in pull ups. He's learning to play with a few toys, and he's having fun with his siblings. All in all, pretty good stuff.

Saturday, March 12

We're home!

I am SO glad to be here!! After the long 15 hour flight (and a second, 2 hour flight), we finally arrived here in Cincinnati. Because of some traffic, my kids and parents got to the airport a little late, so we were standing there talking with my inlaws when they arrived. Seeing Will's face was especially priceless as he took off running for us and jumped into Jim's arms. :)

Eli did pretty well on the flight, all things considered. He played well with the things we brought, slept REALLY well (this kid can fall asleep at the drop of a hat), and endured the long lines going through security and customs. He had 3 or 4 screaming, hitting, kicking fits which were extremely wearing on both of us, and for this reason, I am so glad to be home where people aren't looking at me in a sort of "those mean American parents are picking on that poor Chinese child" kind of way. On a plane, there isn't much you can do more than restraining his hands and legs to stop from being kicked and hit. We'd hold them and then allow him to calm down while we spoke calmly to him. When he started up again (and he usually did, until about 20-30 minutes into each one), we'd begin the process again.

By the end of the flight, I had had it. My perspective was totally skewed....not because I was tired from the flight or anything...and I continued to pray for God to give me the wisdom and strength as well as the heart for this child that obviously He has. At that moment, a flight attendant arrived. My tired brain thought here we go...someone who thinks we're abusing the child by restraining his hands and feet and is going to try and appease him. (I might add that I was chuckling to myself because anyone who tried up until that point got smacked. LOL)

She asked if we spoke Mandarin (um, no.) and began speaking to him. Now, I have no idea what was said, but he smiled. For all I know, she may have been telling him that his parents were nuts. It hit me at that moment that although he is not going to be allowed to hit or kick us, I also needed to remember that his life had just been turned upside down, and that he was scared, without parents who really understood what he said.

Interestingly, once my perspective was brought back to where it should have been, his demeanor changed too. The second short flight was much better and the past day and a half at home have been very pleasant. He's playing with our other three much better than we ever expected, and we've been the recipient of some hugs and kisses. He's also already learned to say sorry in English and has used it twice, once without prompting. He's been much more gentle with us and it has been an entire day without my glasses being ripped off of my face. ;)

What a difference a day makes.

Friday, March 11

Goodbye China.

I'm not sure how to even begin this post. I didn't really realize how many people have read the blog while we were gone until I started checking email and facebook. All I can say is that we appreciate it more than you know. This journey has been of the hardest we've encountered yet. (and that says a lot, considering some of our dark early days with Will's diagnosis.)

I could tell you about the train ride from Guangzhou to HK, where Eli and I played the grand old game of "Battle of the Wills". (For the record, I won.) I could tell you about how a 15 hour plane ride is enough to make me stop and ponder just how many more days I could stay in China. But I could also tell you about how I listen to him ask where daddy went when Jim leaves the room. Or, about how he falls asleep touching our faces.

He's a really sweet child who deserves a family just like anyone else. There have been many times that Jim or I have wondered what we've done, and what we've just subjected our family to. We prepared for this adoption, we know in our heads what it means for a child to be ripped from everything he's ever known, all in the name of a family, and even how they are supposed to react. When you are faced with it in reality, it is daunting. However, we felt strongly that we were supposed to do this, so we continue to pray and plug along.

So anyway, we wanted to say thanks. Thanks to our families, friends, neighbors who have prayed for us and read with us along this adoption trip. It has helped us tremendously.

The next time we post here, we should be in the US! Hooray!!

Thursday, March 10

Victoria Harbor and other fun in Hong Kong

I am really thankful we had this extra day to play with. We left Guangzhou a day early and decided to spend it in Hong Kong instead. What fun. I wish I had a few more days here. (Well, not right now. And not with children. But anyway.) Since we knew we were leaving tomorrow, we decided to stay close by and enjoy things close to our hotel. Before I left the US, I booked this hotel because it was close to the train station. (As in, right across from it.) We had a choice...we could stay here, near the train station and have to get up earlier to go to the airport, or we could stay near the airport. We chose here. I am SO thankful we did, as we are right on the harbor, and gorgeous.

The hotel itself is really pretty and very clean. (and hey! soft beds!) We ordered in room service last night for the two of us, and Jim ran back to the train station to get....wait for it....McDonalds for Eli. He's gotten a bit picky on us after leaving Changchun. If it ain't rice or noodles or french fries, then we get a big 'ole NO in Chinese in our faces. He's got a rude awakening coming when we arrive home. I kids like rice and noodles, but not for every meal and not everyday. :)

This morning, we walked the harbor, bought some artwork, shopped a bit, took a ferry across the water to the main island, and then checked out the mall attached to the hotel. We also found a grocery store and stocked up on ammunition - aka oreos and chips and suckers - for the 15 hour plane ride home. (I realize we are setting this kid up to think America is happy meals and potato chips. However, the term "survival of the fittest" comes to mind.)

Tonight, we walked the Avenue of Stars (think Hollywood, only the stars on the pavement are all in Chinese) and waited for the Symphony of Lights on the Harbor. It was wonderful. I'm now posting on the blog and Jim is packing. I got the better end of that deal, if you ask me. Until all of my things are smooshed as he crams things in. Oh well....

The next post will be sometime after we leave the way I've scheduled it, and then, we'll be touching down on US soil!! Can't wait. Eli has had a marvelous day...the best yet, and it was just what we needed. He is a sweet, sweet kiddo who just needs to sort through what just happened, and perhaps to learn some significant boundaries. (and possibly, the real meaning of the word "no" LOL)

United States, here we come!!

Hey, everyone else was doing it. Besides, he was the only star we recognized. LOL

This would be the third Starbucks we visited, in case you are counting.

The harbor, but this picture really doesn't do it justice. It is beautiful, and even better at night. (Reminds me of the neon in NYC at night.)

These light up, spinning toys would have gone for at least $20US at home. Here, they cost $20HKD. Equivalent = $2.50US (Sure, you can have one. That should buy us at least 15 more minutes in the stroller, right?)

Tuesday, March 8

Headed to Hong Kong

Last night we had Papa Johns' for dinner. (Yes, we ordered pizza in China.) We're over the food. We've had some great Chinese food (mostly in Changchun), but here, we've enjoyed checking out the variety of things available. Having pizza delivered and not having to go out in the rainy cold weather was so nice.

Today is our last day in Guangzhou. I'm going to miss the awesome breakfast buffet they have here. I have loved the White Swan Hotel....everything except the beds. I joke that I'm sleeping on a rock. Jim generally likes hard beds, but this is harder than anything we've or in Vietnam. LOL If I came again, I'd stay at the Victory for half the price and softer beds. (and better playroom for older kids) But, we loved having the experience of the White Swan. The breakfast alone was amazing. (Did I mention that yet?) I wish I had taken a picture.

Right after posting yesterday, Eli woke from his nap and had a wonderful afternoon and evening. I think we've had some breakthroughs with him, though we're still in for some rough times. This morning, as I checked email and the blog, he's tried hard to get my attention with all the wrong methods. Slamming his hand on the computer, turning it off, and yanking the phone off of the hook. But he's learned quickly that it will get him nothing more than a sit in the chair and no attention. He doesn't like that too much. ;) Then, when his behavior has calmed down, we're able to give him the attention he so desperately needs and wants.

This afternoon, we check out and take the train to Hong Kong, after Michael (our guide) picks up Eli's passport with his visa in it. We'll be traveling with the other family here from our agency. Can't wait. We're looking forward to seeing the harbor there. I've heard it is well worth it. For now, we're off to do some last minute shopping and walking around the island.

The huge mall we found with the awesome restaurant...see the Gymboree in back? Sadly, I didn't have time to look. LOL

A Journey of Faith

We're plugging along here in Guangzhou. I've had little time to blog, honestly, because we've tried to stay out of the hotel room and keep busy, both for our sake, and for Eli's.

The reality is that we are finding ourselves in prayer more than we could have ever imagined. I wasn't even sure what to blog, which is why the posts from Guangzhou have been sparse. I decided to be honest.

We've been having some good times once we arrived here, but this is definitely one of the hardest things we've ever done. Some of our prayers were answered when we met up with the other couple from our agency who are here at the same time, adopting a four year old as well. They share our faith, and the conversations we've had have been helpful for us. We've enjoyed their company more than we can put into words.

The hard work with Eli has started, here in Guangzhou, once we could establish that we were now his parents and he was not returning to the center. I was once told that kids often handle the initial shock of adoption one of two ways - they shut down or they fight for their lives. (Not all kids do this, but many do, even if it is subtle.) Norah was a kid who shut down. We didn't see her true personality until close to the time to leave Vietnam. Eli is clearly fighting for his life. He's made it clear that he doesn't want me to replace the nannies, and he's attaching much more quickly to his dad. That's okay, and not unexpected.

As we make our way through this, we realize that some of what we're experiencing with him comes simply from the upheaval in his life. Some comes from having few boundaries or consequences. We've been hit, kicked, spit on, and had things thrown at us. I'm happy to say that all of these behaviors have diminished greatly already. The first few days were horribly exhausting, but he's already accepting no and learning that we mean what we say. For instance, just now, he climbed up on my lap and pointed at the computer. I told him no, and he got down and moved on. The first few days, that would have been him grabbing the computer anyway, smacking me as I told him no, and him throwing anything he could find near the computer to the ground.

Anyway...enough of the tough stuff. We've had a lot of good moments too, and I don't want the hard times to completely overshadow the good.

We went yesterday to have his TB test read. (It was fine.) Today we stood in the US Consulate and held up our hands and took an oath. Everything is nearly finished now....we are only waiting for our guide to pick up Eli's passport with his visa tomorrow afternoon. We are hoping to leave GZ a day early and head to Hong Kong (where we will fly out of) so that we can do some sightseeing with the other family we are here with. The consulate just changed some of their procedures and we now are faced with being able to leave a day earlier. Rather than change our flight, the day in Hong Kong sounded like fun.

Yesterday and today we had a lot of fun just exploring on our own with the other family....we've taken the subway and headed to some tourist destinations, but we also found a hidden mall where the locals clearly shopped. (Things were dirt cheap.) Today we wound up at a mall and had the best meal ever, for about 10 USD per person. (It was a five course meal, complete with salad, soup, dinner, and dessert. I don't think I'll eat tonight.)

Some pictures from today and yesterday:

Hey, cold stuff isn't so bad! McDonald's ice cream is pretty good. After all, he likes the "Kentucky Chicken." Why not McDonald's?

At the Chen Clan Academy. Beautiful place in the midst of the city.

Oh yes he did. He found one even in China.

Saturday, March 5

Pictures from Guangzhou

My boy with his favorite snack, which happens to be what he ate for lunch today as he refused all other food

Yes, we got his hair cut at the White Swan as we figured it would be easier with someone talking to him in Chinese

Mommy (aka Hello Mama) and Eli out for a walk

Pretty scenary in the White Swan Hotel

Teaching him to climb stairs, which he wants to do over and over and over

a picture from his medical appointment (man, that place was crazy!)

walking halls, trying to wear him out

Finally!! Guangzhou!!

Friday, March 4

We've arrived in Ghangzhou!!

It's like we're in a whole new world. Changchun was nice, and it was a wonderful experience to see the center and meet Hannah. While I was sad to leave his province and everything he knew, I am SO thankful to be here. 70 degree weather, a five star hotel (the White Swan is beeeeautiful), and somehow, a total change in Eli. There's even a deli just outside the door of the hotel. I just finished an entire lunch that did not include rice or noodles. Heaven. (I actually really enjoy eating food from other cultures, but after a week of rice and noodles and some really bad chicken nuggets, a sandwich on some yummy bread with a COLD sprite was really like the best thing ever.)

About the change in Eli...I think Jim and I are both really hesitant to even discuss it, for fear that it might change at any time. Clearly, there are going to be rough times ahead, but once we got off of the plane, it was like a whole new kid. He's showing us affection, calling us mama and baba or daddy, and allowing us to touch him and do things for him that he fought against since the visit to the center.

It was like he did his grieving mid-week and once we left Changchun and stepped off the plane, a whole new kid emerged. He's still testing us....a lot, but he is listening to us tell him no and accepting no without the constant hitting or fits we saw before.

Right now I'm enjoying watching him look in the mirror and talk to himself. LOL

Also (Jane, Dick, and Cheryl - if you are reading this, you'll appreciate this story), Eli calls me "hello mama." Apparently this was his name for an American volunteer that visited the center last summer. He told the nannies prior to us coming that his American mom was going to put him in time out like hello mama did. This is part of the reason he's been wary of me, according to the nannies. Unfortunately for him, he's probably right. I see time outs in our future. ;) But for now, things are getting better and there isn't much need while we are here. We also invested in an umbrella stroller, and honestly....I'd have paid 50 bucks for that thing for the amount of headache it has already saved us. Lesson learned.

For those who have asked, Jim and I are doing fine. We've been up and down a lot, feeling overwhelmed at times, and then feeling like things were fine. We watch some of the families with babies, ages 2 and under, and realize that our experience this time around is a whole different experience. But, you know....I think that's just what God had in mind.

Thursday, March 3

The Hospital Visit

When Eli was just a few months old, he had his surgery for his meningocele. Hannah set it up so that we could visit and so that the doctors and nurses could see him one more time. After the night before, he was really excited to see Hannah and wanted little to do with us. ;)

The doctors and nurses were wonderful and posed for pictures that we promised to forward to them. After we were through at the hospital, we went back to Hannah's place for lunch and also got to meet her husband, who happens to be the pediatrician that performs the check ups on the babies at the center. We had a great time...meeting them both was something we'll remember forever. This morning, the student that has been helping us out brought us to the airport for our flight to Ghangzhou. Hannah thought it might be best if Eli didn't see her again as he is attached to her and grieves each time he leaves her.

The afternoon after we left Hannah's place was another rough one as he woke from his nap to find that he was alone again with us. However, we've just arrived in Ghangzhou, and what a difference. I'm going to finish this post as our guide is meeting us here soon, but I will try and post later about the day.

(Sticky fingers got a hold of the camera again. Haze on the lens.)

Visit to the Center: Part 2

Our visit to the center was very emotional, to say the least. Not only were we in such a wonderful place...this was where Eli spent the first four years of his life. We also knew that leaving was going to be very difficult, both for Eli and for the nannies. Up until the visit, he really hadn't cried much (other than getting hurt) because we continued to see Hannah every day and he didn't seem to realize that he wasn't returning.

After the nannies fixed us a (wonderful) local lunch with pita type pockets filled with meat, sauce, and vegetables, we got together for a group picture and then got ready to leave. The nannies gave us many things....a hard board book that they had made with Eli's pictures in it, a professional looking picture that was made not too long ago, his baby records, books and markers that he uses, and several other things. It was clear that they loved him as they told us his favorite things to eat, when he slept, how he slept and many other details. They had him show us things they had taught him (and he is one smart kiddo), had him count to 10 in chinese and to 4 in english, and showed us how they taught him to jump.

We left after several pictures and one of the nannies carried him to the car. When she turned to put him in, I realized she was crying and any effort I made to control it fell apart. He cried for the first time as well and has since told Hannah that he misses that nanny. He says that he is her (the nanny's) son.

Last night, when Hannah left us, he cried more. He was okay in the room for a while and then brought us his coat and shoes and hat. When we told him no, he eventually cried himself to sleep, calling for the nannies. Even though I knew that things would be tough and this would likely happen, it is a whole different ball game when you are dealing with the reality of it. It is heartbreaking.

Today we visited the hospital where he had his surgery and had lunch at Hannah's place. That will have to be another post in itself.....later, when I get another chance to be on the computer.

Eli's bed where he slept (holding a pillow I sent for him)

the entire group of us

Eli with a buddy in the kitchen, waiting for lunch to be served to the adults

This is the nanny whom he calls out for the most.

Visit to the Center: Part 1

Eli woke up yesterday morning and was thrilled to be getting his coat on to meet our guide, Hannah, to head to the center. (If I haven't said it before, Hannah is also the woman who runs the center. She is not there everyday, but frequently, and the kids know and love her.)

Driving here is crazy compared to what we are used to and yet different from Vietnam. (which was even crazier, if you can believe it) Here, it is mostly cars where in VN, it was mostly mopeds. At least with the mopeds, you can only go so fast. Here, the cars will run you over if you aren't careful. You cross the street following the people and play your own sort of Frogger. I've seen walk/don't walk lights....I can't figure out what purpose they really serve.

So, on the way to the center, we stopped to check on Eli's passport. Not ready. This put us behind to start and then we encountered a truck that had lost it's load of rocks on the way. However, the cars all just kind of went around it. Forget that there is a center lane in the roads. At any given time, any car can decide to go around the one in front of them and go past the center lane. So when we got to the problem truck, there were cars everywhere kind of blocking each other. Our lane of cars just simply went offroading and drove in the mud and rocks on the side of the road until it was clear again. It was an experience.

When we got to the center, there was a lot to do, so I was running between loving on kids, making sure all of the gifts, clothes and blankets were delivered, and snapping pictures while Jim had kids crawling all over him. Those of you who know him from the neighborhood know that is just typical for him. We call him the pied piper. LOL The center is the kind of place, though, where I feel right at home. I'm a special education teacher by trade anyway and the last place I worked reminded me a little of this place due to some of the physical challenges of the kids.

(Some of the pictures did not turn out all that crisp....the older kids are fascinated by cameras and cell phones and I realized later that a little one had put his fingerprints on my lens. Oh well...not a big deal.)

The Pied Piper of Children

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes! The nannies say "thank you thank you" Kathy and Scott!!

A little one wearing one of the hats that was made by a church near IAAP (the fundraising agency for this center...there were many great quilts too) According to Hannah, this one needs a family!! Any takers? He's a cutie and seems to be doing well!!

Monday, February 28

Ni Hao! 24 hours later...

Things are calmer here, and we are so thankful. We can feel the prayers from halfway around the world! As I type this, Eli is napping. Naptime will most likely be my computer time as otherwise, I'm not sure I could type a whole post without a million keys being hit by my "helper". LOL

He is very, very busy, but just 24 hours later, we've seen some improvements and some really good signs. For starters, we've gotten really good at some Chinese phrases. You know, all of the important things like "no" and "stop" and "sleep." Apparently I'm saying them well enough for him to get it. Our agency sent us with a phonetic list of phrases for Chinese, and what a lifesaver.

The point at which I became really good at saying "no" in Chinese

I'm not entirely sure he's figured out that he's stuck with us as he told the student of our guide - "I go with you." I'm sure he'd much rather be with someone who understands what the heck he is saying! He was also playing with a really long shoehorn that was in the hotel room (yes, I know I let him play with a really big stick, which might not have been smart, but I was TIRED) and he apparently told her, "I'm a policeman!" The teacher in me thinks - Great! Pretend play...a good sign! The realist in me says - "No wonder this kid is bored with us...we're totally lame when we're talking in one word sentences." He kept trying to do something with the shoehorn, and now I realize that he was trying to lock us up in handcuffs, I'm almost certain. LOL

Regardless, he is a sweetie. I hear him call Jim "baba" (which means daddy in Chinese) and has been giving us kisses. We went to breakfast today in the hotel and it went well. He let us know what he wanted for breakfast (rice with shrimp) and he was determined to feed himself. His fine motor skills are really poor, and his core seems really super weak. (I probably lost most of you at this point if you aren't a parent of a kid with needs or a therapist, sorry.) Regardless, he is very determined and persistent, which Hannah had already told us. This is a great thing! I'm certain he will overcome any of the physical issues he might have by being so determined, and his language and pretend play skills seem spot on. He isn't quite sure how to play with most toys or else doesn't have the attention to do so right now but these things will come with time.

Eli Tao and his "baba"

Anyway, at breakfast, he wanted a spoon and was set on it. (The big white ceramic spoons that they use in Asian countries) At the end of the meal, he dropped it and it shattered all over. I'm sure we are quite a spectacle anywhere we go. I'll be glad to get to Ghangzhou where we will fit right in with tons of other American adoptive parents.

Outing to Walmart

Tomorrow we visit the center. If you are interested in watching the webcam, make sure to check out the post I put up with the link.

Happy Adoption Day!!

We've got him! He's ours!

He's adorable, social, spunky, and busy. Those are the best words I can think of to describe him at the moment. He's very talkative which, to me, is a really good sign. I can't understand him at all obviously, but he seems very observant and totally appropriate for a new four year old when what he's saying is translated to me. I've been told some of his sounds are not clear, though this really isn't unusual for a just-turned-four year old.

Jim and I would love continued prayers for the transition. Hannah told us that it was like "living with Grandmas" at the center, and while it is clear he was really loved, it is also clear that with his spunky personality, he might need a bit more structure than he's had in the past. ;) For that reason, I think he's going to give Jim and I a run for our money while we're here. (Hannah told us we need one of those leash harness things! LOL!!) When we left her today, she told us to make sure we didn't lose the child! :)

It is hard to describe our emotions at this point....we're super excited to have him, and yet really overwhelmed when we sit and look at this child who is trying so hard to communicate but can't with us. He also wants to dictate what's going on and wants to have his way.

On the positive side, we're figuring things out as we go. He let us know that he was tired and that he was hungry, and we also figured out very quickly that he was trying to tell us that he needed to use the potty. ;) He told Hannah that he wanted "Kentucky chicken" (AKA KFC) much to Jim's dismay, so we ate chicken nuggets for lunch today. He was adorable because we guessed at what else he wanted, and he ended up with some sort of spicy chicken wings in addition to the nuggets and yet, he was trying to plow through them, as he told the student we had with us "so hot, so very hot". I can see how he won over the hearts of the nannies at Siping.

So far, he has not been very sad at all, though we are just now on our own, so we'll see how he handles having no one who understands him. When he arrived this morning, he was very hesitant to come near Jim and I, but as the morning went on, he asked for us to hold and carry him. Which means that my biceps are going to be getting a workout as he is a big boy and very heavy!!

Sunday, February 27

finally catching up

I am finally beginning to feel a bit better and be able to keep food down. I still don't feel "normal" but I'm pretty sure getting sick doesn't help jet lag. ;)

We are here in Changchun, the capital of Eli's province. We spent the day today with Hannah, the woman who runs the center where Eli has lived for the majority of his life. It was great getting to meet her in person, and we really enjoyed the day. She took us to lunch at a place that specializes in hot pots, and I was so thankful to be able to eat. It was delicious! A hot pot reminds me of a fondue that we might make at home, with raw meat and vegetables that you cook and then dip into sauces.

She also told us more about Eli and his personality, which was fun to hear. We've been told that he is persistent, a hard worker, and a joy. He also likes to be first to do things and that he is a good eater. She said he is also very happy all of the time and that when he is sad, it is short lived.

We are both feeling very excited, but very nervous at the same time. We meet him early tomorrow morning, and we know this is going to be a huge transition for him. I can't wait until we finally just have him and can begin the transition instead of just thinking about it.

Next time we post, he'll be ours! :) :)

Below are some pictures from the day we spent with Christina in Beijing. (It was really cold, but Changchun is colder!! Snow on the ground in both places.)

Jim at the Temple of Heaven. This is a place where they used to hold sacrifices and pray for the harvest long ago. They still hold a ceremony once a year.

We also visited a tea house where we learned to make and drink tea the way that they do here.

Last (after the whole lunch event), we did some shopping. This picture is from one of the calmer floors, of jewelry. There are booths just stacked on top of booths, and on the floors where they sell handbags and shoes and toys, things are kind of crazy with people grabbing you and asking if you want to buy. I thought it was fun. Jim looked like he wanted to jump off of a cliff. ;) (Of course, that was nothing compared to the Walmart we visited today. Yes, there are Walmarts in China. Crazy stuff.)

Saturday, February 26

Leaving for an early flight

Posting about Beijing will have to wait until we get to Eli's provincial capital. We got back last night after being out with our guide, Christina, all day and I went right to bed.

Somehow...I don't know how...I ended up with either a 24 hour stomach virus within the first 12 hours in China, or I already have eaten something bad, on the plane or in the one meal we had here before I got sick. It wasn't pretty. Oy. I started the medication our doctor sent with us just in case it was something bad I ate.

Let's just say, throwing up at lunch in a restaurant wasn't how I planned spending our first day in China. I didn't quite make it fully to the lovely squatty potty they had there, and I had to flag down a woman working there, whom I'm not sure understood what I was saying until I showed her. Totally embarrassing, to say the least.

We are leaving in just a half hour to meet Christina to take us to the airport to fly to Changchun. Can't wait!! (Hopefully I'm recovered...prayers are appreciated, because that wouldn't be too fun flying or meeting Eli the way I felt yesterday!!)

Friday, February 25

We're here!

Exhausted, but here. Checked into the hotel in Beijing and hope to just get dinner in the hotel. I'm having to prop my eyes open to stay awake as I just can't sleep on planes. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22

A new email address

While we are in China, I am not sure I'm going to be able to access my home email account. I've added a link on the blog for a google mail account that I will be switching to once we're home, so if you need me, use that one please.

(Check on the right hand side of the blog, where it says "Email Me." There is a link you can click on to send me an email.)

Thanks!! :)

In the final days before we leave....

So we need several thousands of dollars and in the newest bills we can find to take with us on our trip. I knew this ahead of time, but for some reason, forgot about how difficult this might be.

This morning I called the bank. (Because yesterday, of course, was a holiday. And last week? Well, last week, I kept saying we had a week left before we got on the plane. I don't know what I was thinking.)

The conversation goes something like this:

me: "Hi there. I'm getting ready to leave for an adoption to China, and I have been told I need to bring $$$$ with me in the newest bills I can find."

unlucky bank teller who answered the phone (sounding slightly panicked) "In Chinese Yuan?"

me: "Oops. Sorry. American."

bank teller (calmer now): "Okay. Well, when do you need it by?"

me: "Ummmm.....tomorrow."

bank teller: *crickets chirping*

In the end, I have two branches that are gathering the money for me. Thank heavens.

So, I will be carrying $$$$ with me, split in half with my husband, in money belts. By the time we arrive, those bills should be nice and sweaty and crumpled. Don't you think?

(I did buy one that went around my neck for me. I can't imagine flying for hours with something around my waist. Yuck.)

our visit to Siping Center

If you are interested, you may be able to watch our visit to Eli's foster care center. We are scheduled to visit on March 2nd. For those in the US, this will be the evening of March 1st, around 9 pm EST. (We will be 13 hours ahead of our time at home, so it will be morning there.) We've been told that family might want to start checking around 8:30 pm in case we are early.

To see the webcam, click here.

The foster care center is a wonderful place, funded completely through donations. The adoption agency we used for Norah (and found Eli through) are the ones who raise money for the center. Eli has lived here almost his entire life, and we are so thankful for the work that they do.

Sunday, February 13

A must-read

Last week, I came across a blog article that speaks to the many questions I get asked about Chinese adoptions. Things like: "How did you get a boy?" or "Why are there so many kids with special needs being abandoned?"

Although I thought I knew the answers to many of these questions, I was surprised to find out that I actually only knew a small piece. In fact, the information shared in the article was so good, I immediately emailed it to family members and friends. It is well worth the time to read it.

To read the article, please click here.

Friday, February 11

Our Itinerary

So, I've been a terrible blogger lately. However, we plan to update during our trip here, so if you are interested in following along, this is the place!

Our itinerary looks like this:
2/24 Leave for Beijing
2/27 Arrive in Eli's province
2/28 Adoption Day! (or Forever Family Day or Gotcha Day....take your pick)
3/4 Leave for Ghangzhou
3/10 All paperwork is finally finished, and we leave on a train for Hong Kong
3/11 Fly HOME (Yay!!)

I think some of the reason I have been so bad about posting lately is because I'm just not sure what to write. My emotions have been all over the place the past couple of weeks. We are super excited to be going, and oh-so-ready to finally meet Eli and add him to our family. Yet, we aren't new to this game. We know the transition that lies ahead, and while it will all be worth it in the end, we know that it will likely be really tough before it gets better.

I say this simply because despite how prepared we feel we are mentally, it is a whole different ball game when dealing with things in reality. I know we can do this, and we want to...very much. But certainly, there have been moments here of feeling overwhelmed and a little anxious and definitely nervous as we begin our newest adventure.

So, we do what we have learned to do over the past 8 years of parenting. Take a deep breath and dive in head first, praying for wisdom as we go! The countdown is on!!

Tuesday, February 1

It came, it came!!!

We received travel approval yesterday, and this morning, we received the much-prayed-for consulate appointment. It came just as the government over there shut down for Chinese New Year holiday.

We are busy working with the travel agent, but it looks like we'll be China bound around February 24th and have him in our arms on February 28th!! Oh, happy day!!

Can't wait!

Saturday, January 29

the picture I forgot to post

It was a Christmas miracle!

All three of my kids in one picture, smiling, on the FIRST try, no less!

The answer is...not yet.

It's been a rough week around here. I belong to a couple of online forums/yahoo groups of kids being adopted from China. Every last one of them with our Article 5 date (the last piece of paperwork we turned in) received their travel permission last week and most have received consulate appointments. (This is the date that your trip revolves around.)


I generally belong to these groups to read tips from others who have gone before us, to find out a little bit more about how the trip works, and so on. At this point though, all it has done is cause me total agony and plenty of stress, knowing we are still waiting even though we rushed to get paperwork done. Probably what makes it harder is knowing that the offices we need shut down from February 2nd through the 8th for Chinese New Year.

Whining aside, he is still coming home very soon. We're hoping to receive travel permission this Monday, and we could hear something about travel dates on Tuesday. We are still hoping to go in late February if at all possible.

Monday, January 24

Is it today?

We're number one on the list for travel approval for our agency. According to websites I check in with occasionally, it looks like many times, this comes on a Monday. We're hoping to hear something today!!

Meanwhile, Eli's little friend, who he has been with since being a baby, left today to meet his forever family. I am so excited for little C and for his family, but it brings the reality of what we're doing a little closer to home as well. C's mom emailed to say that he is sad right now, which she expected, and we expect with Eli. However, it doesn't necessarily make it any easier in real life, especially when you know these boys are happy-go-lucky little boys who come bounding in front of the webcam on Sunday nights.

We're adopting a four year old. Yes, the four year old may be a child who lives in a foster care center and needs a family, but the center is the only family he has ever known. With friends who are like brothers and sisters to him.

We are so excited to go and finally get Eli and bring him here, to get him the medical care we know he needs, and to show him the love of a family. The reality is that we are much more excited than he is going to be, and we need to be prepared for that.

Friday, January 21

I've been busy....obsessing

That's right. It finally hit. First I was able to clean out every closet and container known to man in our house. Then, I busied myself with all kinds of chores and adoption related to-do lists. Had we not been waiting for travel right before Chinese New Year, this would have worked. We'd be traveling soon. However, since the New Year is February 2nd, it's going to be a while. As in, probably another month.

At this point, I am at the end of my patience, kind of like I was at the end of each pregnancy. Ready to be finished, ready to see my child's face in real life. So, I've spent more time on the computer lately (but not here on the blog, where I have nothing to report!) and less time doing things I actually should be doing.

Off to do some laundry and wait.......hopefully I'll have some news on Monday (which, in adoption land from China, is the day that many of these types of things show up).

Sunday, January 9

some birthday pictures

Here's the birthday girl, just turned three. of the greatest surprises for's the birthday boy, just turned four.

When we began this adoption, we had hoped to be home with him before his birthday. (We started the adoption in April of last year, after all. It seemed reasonable at the time. ;) However, it wasn't meant to be, and in some ways, I'm glad.

He got to spend this very special day with some very special people who have cared for him and loved on him since he was a tiny baby. He will miss them greatly, and I know they will miss him. He's in a loving place...they threw him a party that rivaled what we did here with Norah. For that, we are so very thankful.

Saturday, January 8

Happy birthday to my Irish twins!

Born exactly one year apart on this day in countries halfway around the world from their forever families.

Friday, January 7

closer and closer to Eli

As our date to travel gets nearer, I find that I have a harder time waiting. I remember this same feeling at the end of my pregnancies....kind of like a small child waiting for Christmas. I can't wait to meet him!

We know that this transition is going to be a tough one for him. Obviously we have no idea how he'll handle it, but living in the foster care center is all he's ever known. He seems to have strong attachments to the nannies, and that is very good news if my guess is correct. The fact that he's attached to them helps with his attachment to us later.

Many have asked us about his language and how we'll handle that. The best answer I have for anyone is that I don't know. We have learned a few simple phrases to get us by and we plan to pair some really basic signs during the time in China so that at least he'll be able to communicate basic needs to us. (We're talking basic here, people. Help, potty, eat and sleep.) Beyond that, there are some things we'll have to figure out as we go along.

Tomorrow is his birthday. He shares his birthday with his sister, Norah, so as we are celebrating her, he will be in our hearts as well.

For those who are wondering, we are now waiting for travel approval (TA). Our wait began on Tuesday, when our article 5 was picked up and taken to the appropriate office. Our agency tells us that they begin looking for approval around two weeks after this date. Once we receive TA, we will apply for a consulate appointment with the help of our agency. This will be after Chinese New Year due to the holiday. However, we should know the appointment date within a couple of days of receiving our TA and therefore, we will know when we are traveling hopefully by the middle of this month. I can NOT wait!

Wednesday, January 5


With very little sleep, words aren't coming to me today. Will is sick, presumably with an ear infection that is leaving him lacking sleep and not wanting to eat.

It is a delicate tightrope we walk. With his mito dysfunction and without sleep, his GI system starts to have issues. When the GI system has issues, we see reflux. Reflux causes fluid in his ears and swallowing trouble as his esophageal dysmotility is worse. The fluid in his ears causes an ear infection (which is how we got in this situation in the first place), and the whole cycle repeats itself.

We do this dance every winter. Every winter, he gets a fresh new set of PE tubes. Last year I asked the doctor for the more permanent tubes. He declined, for reasons I can't fully remember. So, again this winter, as soon as the cold season hit, the dance began again.

Today I'm on the phone with the doctor's office, having cancelled his school, his respite worker, and other activities we had planned for the day. The bad news is that I'll be waiting all day for them to call me back. Then, how soon I can get him in to see the (very busy) ENT and get surgery scheduled is another battle entirely.

Each winter we lose months because of this ongoing battle. Today, I'm feeling defeated. Some days I wonder. I know we have a good team of doctors and that they want what's best for Will. We've dropped those that had no bedside manner or didn't seem to understand that his needs were more than the average kid, but overall, we are pretty lucky. Why is it then, that we have to fight year after year, losing months each time, over something so minor (in the grand scheme, at least)?

Off to get another cup of coffee and wait on the phone some more. Maybe I'll have better news next post. ;)