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!!