Sunday, February 12, 2012

More of Our China Life

We actually left Guangzhou and are now in Beijing, but the internet is so slow here, it's tough to update the blog. The last few days in GZ were a whirlwind of activity.  Here are some of the pictures we took last week at the White Swan Hotel. It is a tradition for adoptive families to take pictures on the red couches there.  The hotel is being renovated, but used to be the most popular place for adopting families stay in GZ. We went over with our friend Emma and her family:

Emma and Elise on the red couch, Elise has no interest in posing. 
Elise does not like posed photos

Getting a smile.

"Chasing" Emma's big brothers, they are such good sports!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

China Life

As we wait to complete all our official adoption paperwork to bring Elise home, we are keeping busy by exploring the area and meeting up with other adoptive parents. I wonder what Elise thinks of all the change in her life and if she thinks her new home is living in this hotel. While staying in one room gets old for Dave and I, we will miss having eggs, coffee and juice waiting for us in the morning. Elise will miss the endless supply of yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and bananas.

Today, Dave and Elise went down to breakfast before me, our waiter asked Elise where Mama was, she pointed up, as in upstairs, so cute!  I love this waiter, he has been so sweet to us.  He greets Elise enthusiastically every morning, sometimes she is super friendly and sometimes she snubs him, but he never gives up on their friendship.


This weekend we walked back through the market towards the pedestrian street where we shopped for pearls and jade last week.  I had read about a good hot pot restaurant and wanted to try it out. (Nicole if you are reading this, it was your recommendation on RQ!)  Knowing the menu would be in Chinese with no English, I had someone write "chicken" and "noodles" on a pad of paper. When we arrived, it was a little complicated for me to figure out. Fortunately some college students were willing to practice their English with us and ordered all our food. It was our best meal yet.  We have been so fortunate to run into friendly people willing to help us navigate since neither of us knows any Chinese. 

Here's some pictures from our weekend, plus a video of Elise going down the slide in our hotel's playroom. She is so enthusiastic about every experience, she entertains everyone!

We rocked this toy very hard.
Our friend, Emma.
Looking back at the island, as we walk to the market.

The Holiday Inn looming large over the market.

We ordered a whole chicken, they included every part.

Cooking at our table.

A very busy pedestrian area.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's a Marathon, not a Sprint

Knocking over stacking cups is hilarious!
It's only been a few days since we've had Elise, but overall, our time together as gone very well. We are thankful! Many families pick up children that are so traumatized that they won't or can't eat, sleep, be held or consoled.  Elise has been so agreeable, eats well, smiles, talks, laughs with us and generally goes with the flow.  

We've had a busy few days though. The day after picking up Elise, we went back to the Adoption Affairs office to be interviewed and fill out paperwork. The next day we took her to complete her medical exam and to the police station to apply for her passport.  Wednesday, we explored the local street markets for hours. We started to take for granted that she is very laid back and because we have no outward signs of major issues, that she is processing her life changes well.

Having cookies at our hotel.
Then came Wednesday night. In the only way Elise knows how, she told us to slow down. It took 3 hours to get her to bed.  She wasn't throwing a tantrum or even crying, just being playful, talking to herself, flopping her legs and arms, re situating herself again and again.  Her babbling and talking became louder, her movements more frantic.  We both were thrown off, a little alarmed.  Dave ended up walking the halls with her at 11 at night to completely tire her out and then held her until she finally went to sleep. 

We were going to visit the local Safari Park on Thursday (a large zoo with white tigers and pandas!), but we canceled our plans.  It was better to spend a quiet day around the island, go for a walk, to the playground, nap, eat and not be over stimulated by new sites, people and experiences.

I think all the changes are just tough for her little brain to process and she needed some down time. It reminds us that this is not an immediate or quick process and we have to pace ourselves. Nobody can adjust and bond in a few days or weeks, this process takes months and years of showing her consistency and commitment. Anyone that runs a long race knows if you start out too fast in the beginning, you are going to lose steam and not get the results you trained and planned for. 

We are still having a great time getting to know Elise and are enjoying the island and all the people we are meeting, including many other families here getting their children. Thank you for everyone's prayers and support.  We can't wait to get home with her!

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1
Walking around the island.  
Elise believes in always having a snack with you.
It's somewhat of a traditions for adoptive families
 to take pictures with these statues.

Elise says "meh" to this tradition.

Lucy's has become a regular spot.
Lanterns for the New Year.

Scorpions at the local market, good for soup.
Many birds for sale.

More scorpions and turtles for soup. 
In case you can't make it to this McDonald's.

Turn around and you can go to this one! 
Disclaimer: We did not go to either McDonald's.

Tai Chi at the park. 

Pedestrian street in GZ.
Lanterns for Chinese New Year.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Process of Connection

We’ve had Elise for 2 days now. There are definitely a lot of challenges involved in such a dramatic change for all our lives. I feel like everything has been going very well, mostly because we’re working very hard to figure each other out. So far, this is some of what I’ve learned about my daughter:

1.     She is very strong-willed and persistent, especially when she wants to (or doesn’t want to) do something. We knew that getting her to take a bath was going to be a challenge. She has acted like the bathroom is some sort of toddler minefield since we brought her to our hotel room, and she pitched a fit any time we did something that might indicate she would need to bathe. So, this morning we mustered up the courage to get her into the bath (actually, Catherine decided we needed to. I was willing to go as long as possible before facing this ordeal—maybe until those squiggly lines started emanating from her like in Charlie Brown cartoons). She flew into a rage as soon as she realized what was about to happen, but we pushed through, and she calmed down pretty quickly once she got in and realized that we weren’t actually torturing her.

2.     She has a very small, sweet, quiet voice… until she gets angry. We had to go to a clinic today for a final physical, and she was NOT happy about that (especially when she had to have a shot). The clinic was very crowded, but when we emerged from the exam room, it was clear that everyone else in that place had heard just how unhappy she was. It’s almost comical how so much sound can come from such a small person.

3.     She loves to be held and carried. We tried to use a stroller yesterday for the first time. She tolerated that only for a while, but I don’t think there’s been a time yet where she wanted to get down from being carried. One of the first English words she has mastered is “up!”. I think in most situations parents want to encourage some sense of independence in their child, but at this point, the need to form a bond outweighs any sort of independence, so I’m happy to carry her around as long as I can.

4.     She loves to laugh, and to make sure everyone else is laughing with her. She’s probably knocked over the stacking cups we have for her a couple hundred times by now, but it’s still hilarious.

5.     She is EXTREMELY possessive. I mentioned this from the first day, but it’s a big one for her. It probably stems from whatever survival instincts she learned at the orphanage, so I can completely understand. It definitely poses a challenge when she gets ahold of something random like a small sign at a store and decides it’s hers. For such a small person, she has a monstrous death grip. Fortunately, I can see small signs that she can learn to share at some point, and right now bonding with her takes precedent over correcting her.

6.     She’s very smart, and is always working to figure things out. Yes, I know, every parent says that, but it’s too obvious NOT to mention. Everyone else who has met her and can speak her language tells us how smart she is, and I’m sure Chinese culture would never allow courtesy to take precedence over honesty, right? But seriously, it’s fun that she tries so hard to repeat everything we say back to us, and I’m confident she’ll be speaking English in no time.

I don’t really have the energy right now, but at some point I’ll post some more photos, and I’ll put something together with all the video we have from the day we met Elise. That was some pretty cool stuff.

Monday, January 30, 2012

And Just Like That, Now I'm a Dad!

  It’s definitely a unique experience, adopting my first child. I was pretty nervous as we were going to pick her up. Being the video nerd that I am, I had no less than 4 cameras ready to document this time, in the hopes that she will someday appreciate my efforts to capture our first encounter. I’ve already missed the opportunity to witness her birth, first words, first steps… so for me, this was kind of like all those things wrapped up into one event. It was impossible to know how she would react to us—two strangers that she just met who don’t even speak her language (and surprisingly, she speaks and understands quite a bit… in Chinese), but I was determined to make sure I could remember every moment.

I guess I somehow failed to picture how things would actually happen. We were in a big room with maybe a dozen other families, and all of the sudden there she was in front of us. At first, she was obviously overwhelmed by the whole situation. A couple of women from the orphanage were with her, and I could tell they were struggling a little with letting her go. We just had to wait patiently for our daughter to warm up to us enough to be willing to let us hold her. We had heard a lot from other families about using food to help a child start to connect with her new parents, so we had brought small bags of Cheerios and Goldfish. That was definitely the trick to winning her over. Once we started making a game of feeding her snacks, she was laughing and smiling and perfectly content to sit in my lap. I was afraid that the happiness would end as soon as the women from the orphanage started to leave, but she was much more interested in the snacks.
For the next hour or so, I just carried Elise (who, for now, we are still calling by her Chinese name: Ping Chang) around everywhere. She clung to the bag of snacks and made it clear that any attempt to take them from her would not be tolerated. We went to a grocery store, and rather than stick her in the shopping cart, I preferred to carry her for as long as she would let me – and she didn’t seem to mind that at all. She made no attempt to leave my arms at any point, so it’s fortunate that she’s so small. I was able to carry her until we got back to our hotel.

We spent the rest of the evening playing with her in our room. She was entertained for hours with a set of stacking cups Catherine’s mother had given us, and a zoo book with little opening panels that our neighbors Heidi and Dustin had given us. She laughed and played and seemed completely satisfied with her new surroundings… until it was time to go to bed.

I’m not sure if it was because the room was too warm (we were told that the orphanages aren’t heated), or if the air was too dry, or if she suddenly realized that everything was different; but soon after Elise laid down to go to bed, she suddenly popped up and started screaming her head off. Any attempt to console her only fueled her anger, until after a few minutes she started to settle down and focus on the pop-up book again. She was completely unwilling to move from the spot we had coaxed her into on the bed, so we just shut of the lights and let her sit there and play with her book in the dark. Eventually, I felt her slump over against my leg, and a little while later, I carefully shifted her to a spot in between us, where she slept through the rest of the night. I woke up the next morning to find she had curled herself around my left arm, and was not at all interested in getting out of bed.

I had come to China completely prepared for this first day to be filled with crying and screaming and an inconsolable child, so I’m very satisfied that she’s doing so well at this point. We still have to stay two more weeks in China with her, but both Catherine and I are wishing we could just take her home tomorrow.