Friday, April 16, 2010

Really my last post

Ok, I know that I said I was done posting, but this will REALLY be my last blog post on the Peter's adoption blog. We've been home with our sons two weeks as of today, and I just wanted everyone to know how amazingly well things are going. We anticipated lots of adjustment issues, and instead our family has melded together almost seamlessly. Ben LOVES kindergarten, and he already has everyone charmed. John will begin school on Monday, after a week of ESL testing. The testing must have been extremely frustrating for him, but he accepted the fact that he had to sit through these tests before he could attend school. And John absolutely wants to attend school. We originally planned on keeping both boys home until September so that they could learn English and get comfortable here; however, they both told us that they wanted to attend school immediately. I am just thrilled that they are adjusting and seem happy. Last night all the boys were outside playing nerf guns, and it was as if we always had 5 boys in the house. John has also started Tae Kwon Do with Connor, and he is an absolute natural. I don't have much else to say; I just wanted to make certain to document that we are delighted with our children and feel that we've done a great thing for our entire family.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Last post

This will officially be my last post. Really. I'm quite certain everyone is tired of reading about our daily trials and tribulations anyway. I'll try to end this last post on an up-note. This past weekend was great overall. Only a week home and everyone is settling in nicely. The weather was warm for April, and the kids played outside most of the weekend. They hiked, played basketball, played lacrosse, played soccer, rode bikes, shot squirt guns, etc. etc. Really, 5 boys are no problem when it's nice out. In fact, Connor had several friends over too, and we even entertained two other families Friday night for dinner. Our friends all have kids too, and we ended up with quite the houseful of adults and children. Emily (my friend's daughter) stayed overnight and half the day Sat. too. We have found that since we are outnumbered now, it really doesn't matter how many kids we have anymore. As David says, "Once you switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense, it's quite simple." The excellent weather makes it a ton easier though, I will admit. Now, I will take one minute to be negative and complain about our local public school. Both John and Ben expressed an interest in attending school right away. We were going to wait until Sept. to send them, so that they would have time to learn English. However, they both told Cheng (our exchange student) that they are bored and they really want to meet kids and start school. So today, the day after spring break, I took the boys to register for school this morning. I did an hour of paperwork, and then they made me take them home. The school wants a day to "prepare" before the boys actually start school. I feel terrible for the boys because they had themselves all psyched up to go to school, and then we were sent home. It was like a slap in the face to them, just one more rejection. It about broke my heart. What exactly are they going to do to "prepare" anyway? Learn Chinese in a day? They have an ESOL teacher, and I know they have had lots of other students admitted who don't speak English. Mostly, the kids will just listen until the summer, since it is the last marking period. Ben will be in kindergarten, which is just organized play-time. Then, to top it off, this afternoon,I received a call that Mrs. Sleggs class is "full" and therefore Ben will be with Mrs. Bennett. I adore Mrs. Sleggs, and I don't even know Mrs. Bennett. I'm sure she'll be fine, I am just a little frustrated. Later in the day, I received a call that the school can't accept John until next Monday, because they are just not prepared to admit a new student at the end of the marking period. Since I told the school that we were adopting before we left for China, I would have thought there would be a plan in place. They have had lots of non-English speaking students before!! They have an ESOL teacher! Grrr.. It's quite frustrating. Ok--back to being positive. John had a exceptionally great day today. Cheng was at school all day, so John HAD to work to communicate with me, with no translator handy. He really tried hard, and he made a concentrated effort to be part of the family group today. I took John shopping to buy some shirts at Wal-mart, and he was just thrilled to be able to pick out his own clothes. He was disappointed about school, naturally, but his "good thing" at dinner tonight was "Mom." Whoo hooo! Ben continues to delight us more every single day. He still has his little tantrums sometimes, but even then he is just adorable. He's sooo very funny, that one of his first sentences is, "You're so funny!" David(unfortunately) has taught Ben to say "You fool!" --which is the literal translation of you silly boy. Now, Ben loves to tell Connor, "Connor! You fool, go brush your teeth!" And yes, he knows what he is saying because he laughs and laughs when he says it (as he makes the motion of a toothbrush by his mouth). So, for my final blog I can honestly say---WE DONE GOOD.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thurs April 8th--almost a week home

We have been home almost a week already, and it's time to wrap up this blog. Ben continues to be an absolute delight! We love him more everyday. And what a smart boy! He's already working hard to learn English, and we predict that he will be fluent within a month. John is starting, ever so slowly, to warm-up to us. He still prefers Cheng's company to ours, and we feel as if we constantly need to watch him to make certain that he doesn't go on QQ (a chat service on the internet) or call China. Funny, we expected all sorts of adjustment problems, but we never expected to have to closely monitor the internet! John showed his memory/scrapbook today to Cheng. According to Cheng, all of John's friends wrote on the pages to make sure to "instant message" them etc. I explained to Cheng that we feel that John will not make an effort to bond with us if he keeps in constant contact with his friends from home. It's like going to summer camp; the kids who call home during the week are the ones that go home. We told Cheng to tell John that he can write letters to his friends and we will mail them for him. Cheng also said that in the scrapbook several teachers wrote comments about John having too many friends, talking, and not studying hard enough. He sounds American already! I sat with John for awhile today and helped him with a English matching game. Tomorrow, I will show him some English learning websites with games. We did have a small "incident" yesterday, that I only learned about today. Cheng invited John to watch track practice at school. John did this on Monday too, and he seemed to enjoy seeing the other kids and the school. Well, today I received a phone call from the principal of the school. Apparently, during practice, John just got up off the bleachers and headed up to the road (Rt.39). Mr. Henchen noticed John's disappearance, and sent Cheng running up there to fetch John. John told Cheng he was going to run home. Yikes! Poor Mr. Henchen was in a tizzy thinking that a young child (John looks to be about 11 years old), who doesn't speak English, was going to disappear on his watch. The principal told me that the school has a liability issue with John watching track practice, since he is not enrolled at the school yet. I pointed out that the registrar is not there this week, therefore we were unable to register the kids, but we would on Monday. Basically, the school doesn't want to have to assume any liability. What was surprising is that Cheng (our 17 year old exchange student) didn't even think to mention the issue to me. I don't know if the school is blowing it all out of proportion, or what, but obviously I can't let John go with Cheng anymore. Today, I was going to let John stay with Connor at the library while Connor worked with his Chinese tutor. Instead, I made John come with me (and Ben) to the hair salon. I was afraid, after yesterday's incident, that John might decide to leave the library when Connor wasn't looking. It sounds worse than it is though. John is a great kid, he's just testing his limits a little. I think he is not used to constant supervision. Overall, we are seeing small improvements each day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tues. April 6

David asked me last night when I'm going to stop this adoption journey blog. I decided that it should be at the end of this first week home. There will be many challenges ahead, since the journey is really just beginning, but this blog does need to end. My intention is to add a ton of pictures to compliment each entry, and then "blog to book." I hope that a published version of this adoption journey will prove valuable to the boys later in life. So, let me blog about yesterday and today. Yesterday, Connor had schoolwork to do, and Cheng, Austin, John and Ben got to play. It was hard on Connor, but he missed 2 1/2 weeks of school and he simply has work to finish. Connor, Ben and I left the house for Tae Kwon do at 12:30, went grocery shopping, and picked up Connor's guinea pig. The three big boys hung out, watched TV, played pool, played ping-pong, drove the riding lawn mower (blade up) and just "chillaxed." By the end of the day, they were all pretty bored. I'm letting the kids watch a whole lot more TV (DVDs--we don't have regular TV at all) than I normally would, only because people tell me it helps with language acquisition. But even the kids grew tired of movies, thank goodness. I put Connor and Ben to bed early, and the three big boys and David went to go watch the basketball finale, Duke vs. Butler. Basketball is a big deal in our house this year, although I am completely out of that loop. This morning, Tues., I took the boys (John, Connor and Ben) to the college library to work with the Chinese/English teacher. Ben and I had a fabulous time digging through all the puppets, science kits, globes, puzzles, and other teaching manipulatives (on the educator's floor of the library), while John and Connor met with Meng. While we were playing, I noticed that Ben is making great strides with his English, repeating the names of all the animals and other toys. We read a ton of picture books together, and, in general, had a fabulous time. John sat with Connor and his tutor and just listened. Cheng (our exchange student) spent most of the day translating for John today. We are starting to make John repeat words in English now too (even when he resists). We know that too much translating will only hold John back from learning his new language. We don't want him to be a burden or too dependent on Cheng either, since he's leaving in a few months. Ben, on the other hand, is a little parrot. He is parroting everything we say, and he often points to things, tells me the name in Chinese, and then says, "Zhe shi shenme?" which means, "What is this?" I tell him in English, and then he repeats the English word. What a smart boy! Speaking of smart, today I printed (and Cheng translated) a math test for John. We want to see where he is academically, so that we can find an appropriate school for the fall. John scored at the 6/7th grade level in math. He is only one grade level below where he should be at age 14, which is great. He can easily catch-up. He's obviously intelligent, and we are confident that with extra help he will meet the age appropriate grade-level without a problem. And tonight John smiled and said hello to Alice (she delivered dinner for us!) which is a huge improvement. After dinner, Ben vomited all over the kitchen table. I told the other kids to turn their heads, and removed the offending plate, and replaced it with a bowl, that Ben also filled (and then another). Yes, Ben often reminds me of Austin. When Austin was little, every time he had too much of a yummy thing he ate it too fast (and too much) and he got sick. Alice brought us cupcakes and Ben wolfed it down (and it promptly came back up). No big deal though; all par for the course. At least it didn't set off a chain reaction!! A few minutes after cleaning up Ben, I told Connor to get a bottle of water so that we could head out to Tae Kwon do class and John readily understood the word water. He repeated to me, water--shway (however its spelled). Great! John is listening to our conversation and picking up a few words! Everyday we see small signs of improvement. Overall, although we know there will be many challenges ahead, things are improving. As David says, this is not a sprint; it's a marathon. We're in for the long haul.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ben and Sharing Don't Mix

This is Connor!
Yesterday, mom let me buy more Nerf Gun bullets and a new Nerf Gun. Well, after I opened the Nerf Gun and added the bullets, Ben somehow got the gun, and is never letting it go. It was bad enough when I tried to get a few of the bullets; he cried as if the world was ending. After I finish school today, I am going to take the new gun and all the bullets from him, whether or not he cries. Don't get me wrong, Ben is as cute as heck, and he loves me a ton, but he can sometimes be a pain.

Today (still Connor!)
Today, in the morning we went to church. I asked Ben if he wanted to go, and he agreed readily. Ben is so cute, but, as I already said, he is not big on sharing. I then asked John if he wanted to go to church. I had to look up the word for church in Chinese in a book. I asked John and he agreed to go too. After we went to church and came back, John was yelling at me in Chinese. I asked Cheng what it meant, and he said, that John thought he was going to go buy dumplings, not go to church! I guess my tone was wrong when I said church in Chinese. Oh well, John still enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Wow! Today, day two at home with our new sons, was fantastic.David made pancakes and bacon for breakfast, which was a fantastic start to the day. The boys LOVED pancakes. The sun was shining, and we went to a beautiful Easter Mass. Alice and Father John came over to chat with us (and meet the boys),and Austin and Connor were altar servers. We found out just before heading to church that John "used to be" Christian. Cheng translated that John was raised for many years in an orphanage run by a Korean Christian organization. John had never been to church,until today, but clearly he understands the idea of Christianity.Church wasn't overly long either; Ben was restless sometimes, but was great overall, and the feeling of Easter was in the air. Ok. I'm being a bit melodramatic, but it was a wonderful day,really. After church, I took John, Connor and Ben to Wal-mart for sneakers and bikes. Yesterday, the three oldest went for a bike ride, but John's bike was too small and it doesn't shiftgears. And it is Connor's bike. So, for Easter, I bought John and Ben new bikes. We didn't do Easter baskets or eggs or anything else--bikes instead. Cheap Walmart ones, of course, since we're broke after the trip. The boys spent the rest of the day shooting pool, playing soccer, playing lacrosse, hiking in the woods, building a bonfire, bike riding, and a ton of outdoor activities. Again, I'm so grateful that God blessed us with great weather. I just know that God wanted us to have a good day, after a rough start yesterday. At 7p, my brother, Steve, and Mindy brought us dinner. They brought the boys helium balloons saying "Welcome" and we ate and chatted for a few hours. It was great to see them. During dinner, Ben fell asleep. Poor little guy was exhausted; probably tired from his earlier temper-tantrum. What happened is this: when we were at Walmart, I bought a package of Nerf bullets for the half-dozen Nerf guns the kids own. I let Ben carry the bag with the bullets,and apparently he decided they were just for him. When Connor tried to use one of the 100 bullets, Ben had a major tantrum. I literally had to hold Ben on my lap and restrain him; he was going to try to kill Connor--biting him and everything!! It was kind of funny, in a warped (if you laugh when kids-go-nuts)way. I asked Cheng to explain to Ben that the bullets are for all the children, and he couldn't keep them all for himself. After a few minutes, Ben calmed down and all was well again. Really, that was the only issue today, and it only lasted five minutes. The rest of the day was what I had hoped for and more, considering the boys have only been in the US for two days and they don't know English! Again, I have to say, I am grateful for Cheng's help. I think John is doing much better today because he has Cheng to translate. They spent a ton of time shooting pool today, and Cheng is off school this week too. A much better day overall.

(Photos by Connor Peters)

Day one at home

April 3 2010

Our first day full day home with our new sons was quite the rollercoaster. Like a rollercoaster, it was fun, in spite of the sometimes scary ups and downs. First of all, I had trouble with Austin, our bio 14 year old son. If you know Austin at all, you know that he is a complainer. No matter what anyone says or does, he always can find something negative to say. I woke him up at 8am, and that started the first crisis of the day. I didn’t want anyone to sleep-in too late because we need to get back on US time, which means an early bedtime the first few days. We headed out at 8:30am to pick up Luke (the dog) and Cheng (our exchange student). Austin complained and had attitude the whole ride. I pointed out the school to John, and Austin corrected my lousy Chinese accent, using his most sarcastic voice. When we got home, I told Austin that I decided to switch his room with Cheng’s room (to give the two boys that are sharing, Austin and John, both age 14, a room double the space), and Austin had his first real fit of the day. He didn’t want to move his stuff, and he certainly didn’t want to share a bed (queen-sized) with John. Ok, we will bring in a second bed (twin-sized) for John, since the room is three times bigger than Austin’s original room. Cheng, bless his heart, was totally upbeat and positive about moving into the very smallest bedroom, and he got right to work. With Austin, lots of arguing ensued, and at 10:20am I called John, Connor and Ben to head out the door to Tae Kwon Do while Austin stayed home to re-arrange rooms. John was silent and sullen the entire car ride. I did notice that John did snag the front seat though. Both Ben and John watched Connor intently during the hour Tae Kwon Do class. After class, Connor asked John (in Chinese) what did he think of the class. John simply ignored Connor. Connor asked again; John refused to respond. Sigh. This will be a long day, I can tell already. After Tae Kwon Do, we stopped at Tops to get a few groceries. John asked me to buy Cola (Coke) and I told him no. In our home, children don’t drink soda; I spend way too much money on their teeth, so our children drink milk or water (unless it’s a special occasion). That did not go over well at all. John pouted and sulked. When we arrived home, I was pleasantly surprised that John did help unload the groceries without being asked, and Cheng put them all away. In the meantime, Austin still had not finished moving his stuff into the larger room, and we’d been gone over 2 hours. Another big sigh. I go upstairs, yell some more, and get the task done finally. I decide that I had better unpack our suitcases, and I sent the boys all go outside to play. We were very lucky that the weather was unseasonably warm. In fact, it was a record high of 86 degrees! The boys dragged out the water guns, and for the first time in several weeks, everyone was happy all at the same time!! Even Cheng joined in the water war, and my vision of a big, raucous family was briefly fulfilled. One thing I haven’t mentioned is David’s frustration with Connor. Connor has regressed several years in age since adopting Ben. For instance, Connor has a newfound interest in matchbox cars, and he needs to relearn some basic rules, such as we don’t run in the house. We both know that playing with a six year old is part of the problem, but we also know that Connor was the baby of the family, and suddenly he’s the big brother. A little attention-seeking behavior is not uncommon when a new child arrives in a household. Austin, on the other hand, is trying to exert his independence. Sharing a room has never been a problem for Austin. In fact, until a few years ago, we kept trying to put the boys in their own bedrooms and they kept sneaking into each others’ rooms during the night. We gave up, and put them back together in a room (and made the extra bedroom an office). Suddenly, now Austin is complaining about his lack of privacy. I told him to get over it; he’s a member of a big family and we all have to share a bedroom, including me! I pointed out to Austin that he’s lucky that our house is over 4000 sq. feet, and he has lots of elbow room, in spite of having five children in the house. I know lots of big families who live in smaller houses. At 3pm, the big boys (Cheng, Austin and John) decided to bike into town. Hooray!! Have fun, don’t get hit by a car, and here’s some money. Go for it! Whew. If they can do an activity together, the three big boys, maybe John and Austin will be able to bond. Connor and Ben also went outside to play, and I started dinner. At 6pm, we all sat down to our first family dinner. I had to rearrange our “spots” for eating because Ben needs to be next to an adult. As I’ve mentioned before, he is a picky eater, and he has the table manners of a 3 year old. We said our prayer, ate, and went through our normal “good thing” and “bad thing” conversation. We have a tradition at the table that each person says their one “good thing” that happened during the day, and then their one “bad thing.” Austin’s bad thing is that he had to come home from his Aunt and Uncle’s house. We have always had a hard time with Austin’s behavior after he stays at their house. They buy lots of junk food, let the kids stay up all night and sleep all day, allow endless gaming (and rated M games!), and basically have no rules or structure. It’s like a paradise to our kids, since it is the exact opposite of how we live. Since the kids were little, we would spend a week getting them back to normal after a weekend at Linda and Victor’s house. Here we go again. After the English speakers said their good thing and bad thing, I asked Cheng to ask Ben and John to say their good thing and bad thing. John, at first, refused, but Cheng kept encouraging him. Finally, John said his good thing was the water fight, and his bad thing was the bike ride. John rode a bike that didn’t shift gears, and it was quite a workout for him. Ben said his good thing was playing. He didn’t have a bad thing. It was cute and Austin said that it reminded him of when we had our four foster children. Logan used to say, “My good thing is…, and my other good thing is…, and my Other good thing is…” He would list 10 good things, and he could never come up with a bad thing. He was almost six years old, and we simply adored him. Chasin, age 2 ½, would say the same thing for his good thing and his bad thing. He never quite figured out what we were trying to accomplish. Skylar would always say, “I don’t know.” Yep, even with five children in the house, we still miss our foster children and talk about them almost daily. For the 30 minutes of dinner, things were looking positive. Not too long after dinner, at 7:45, I called the kids up for bed. Austin had a major attitude, and I lost my temper big-time. We traveled 30 hours, had jet-lag, and needed to get the kids at least in the direction of bed. I told Austin that he could read for awhile (he has a book due for school anyway) and he still fought me. I really, really, lost my temper with him. He is not being the role-model I had hoped, that’s for sure. Five minutes after everyone grudgingly went upstairs Ben, Connor and John were asleep. An early bedtime was the right thing to do. Day one at home--

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The trip home

April 2, 2010
The trip home. Boy, am I tired! We are in the Newark Airport, waiting for our 3rd and final flight home. With all the airport time and layovers, the total travel time (from when we left the hotel) will be 30 hours!! When we arrived at the airport in Guangzhou, we found out that our flight to Guangzhou had been canceled, or perhaps rescheduled. It's funny because as we left the hotel I asked the guide if she double checked the flights on the internet early in the morning. I always do a quick check the morning of departure, just to avoid last minute snafus. She looked at me as if I was crazy, and I let it go without further comment. In Beijing, I had to insist that the guide pick us up for the airport 30 minutes before he wanted to,and that took some persuading on my part.I absolutely want to get to the airport 2 hours before a flight, and everyone else thinks I'm nuts. Well, the guide in Guangzhou was absolutely frantic when she realized that we had missed our flight! There was a whole ton of running around (on a golf-cart!) and a frenzy of activity and phone calls. It was a bit chaotic and sticky in the airport for awhile. In fact, at some points we weren't certain that we would make our connecting flight in Beijing to fly to the USA. We waited in several lines, changed our tickets several times,and took the bus to another terminal to wait for the next flight. Finally, everything fell into place and we were able to get on a flight that would connect on time to get us to NYC. It was rough overall. Actually the day didn’t start out on the right foot either. I checked out of the hotel at 7am, and discovered that John made 57 phone calls (over 4,400 Rmb, or nearly $700) to his friends. Actually, the first 20 or so calls were just trying to figure out how to make the call back to Beijing, but the hotel still bills a minimum charge every time an outgoing call is dialed. Honestly, we spent a ton of money to adopt, and I wasn't planning on a $700 phone bill. Naturally, I flipped out on him, right in the restaurant over breakfast. He KNEW that he wasn’t supposed to use the phone, and so he was making the calls from the bathroom. Dummy me, not thinking of telling the front desk to block all outgoing calls. I should’ve seen that one coming-- especially after John asked our guide to ask us if he could call his friends back home, and we answered "No." So our very long day began with me losing my temper, and John crying. In fact, once he started crying, it took awhile for him to stop. He clearly didn’t want to leave China and all his friends, and he wasn’t happy about the situation one little bit. Our guide showed up in the middle of this crisis, and she spent awhile trying to talk to John too. He admitted to her that he knew he wasn’t supposed to use the phone, and he called secretively, etc. Our guide told John that he might not understand everything now, but he needed to respect and obey us. After all that, our guide told me it was a communication issue, and that once John knew English we wouldn’t have these problems. I assured her that we would indeed have these same problems in the future. Every parent has these types of rebellions and communications problems when it comes to teens! It’s a given. We don’t like it; it upsets us; it makes us yell sometimes. But all of this is normal in a family. Normal, happy families have trouble communicating sometimes; it is reality. So, no, I don’t feel any regret adopting John. We just know that it’s growing pains, and adjusting, and that things will work out in time. Austin might be a great big help too, since John finds Connor too young, and Austin can be the role model that John needs. Back to the actual trip home: the boys all watched video games and TV for the first five hours, and then slept for at least seven hours. Then there was breakfast and more TV and games; it was all kid heaven. We couldn’t have asked for more. The kids actually traveled better than we did. David and I had stomach issues during the flight, and honestly, we did not have a great trip. The children were just amazing, and I mean absolutely amazing. 30 hours later, we finally arrived home, safe and sound. Linda and Victor (and Dan) were there to meet us, and they brought stuffed animals for the kids. Ben was thrilled with his monkey, and John rolled his eyes at the Panda (and immediately passed it off to Ben).Point taken. We collected the luggage, and drove home around 11:30pm. The kids gave the boys a quick tour of the house, and by midnight we had everyone tucked into bed. David and I were still not feeling well (and we're shocked the kids were not affected)and we stumbled into bed about 1am. Of course, I was up for the day at 3:45am., after Ben called for Ba (Dad) to take him to the bathroom. But that is the next blog, since it is now the next day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1st, 2010

Today we went to the Guangzhou Zoo with the kids. The weather was hot, and it was not too far from the hotel. We took a taxi there, and the taxi was only 11 Yuan (which is less than $2.00). We have found that things are inexpensive here, with the exception of wine, which costs triple U.S. prices. The admission for all five us at the Zoo was 60 Yuan, or less than $10 total. The zoo was larger than we expected and much cleaner and nicer. The only disappointment is that the panda cage was undergoing renovations, and the pandas must have been moved to another zoo during construction. Darn; we are in China, home of the pandas, and we didn’t get to see them. Overall, though, we had a great morning. I took over 150 photos, and most of them were of the kids. I even took photos of a school group that was visiting the zoo. The school must have been a special “English School” because the Chinese teachers (and one American college-aged kid) were trying to get the children to say things in English. For example, I was standing nearby with a camera, and the teacher told the students, in English, “Say hi to Auntie.” And then all the children (maybe 5 years old) said, “Hi, Auntie!” to me. I responded, “Hello.” The American student-teacher was playing “Straw, straw, straw, Go!” with the children. Notice, he used the word “Go”, and not "shoot," as they would use in the U.S. It must be a weapon thing. Anyway, the kids were all very cute. The school children were dressed in several layers of clothing, which is typical of children in China. For some reason, it is customary here to bundle children up, no matter what the weather. It was 81 degrees, and the kids had on t-shirts, long sleeved-shirts, and then sweater vests on top. Tucked into the back of their outfits, by the back of the children’s necks, they had bibs draped. Basically, it looked like a there was a big rag, tucked into their clothes to absorb the dripping sweat! We did reach one important milestone today at the zoo; Ben told Connor, in Chinese, that he loved him. It was when Connor was carrying him piggy-back through the zoo. As I mentioned before, Ben often asks to be carried now. This is quite a change from when we first met Ben. The first few days we would pick him up to go down the long flights of stairs (down to the subway) and he acted like he just hated to be carried. He held himself stiffly and struggled to get down. He can’t yet alternate his feet when walking downstairs, so in Beijing we carried him downstairs and through the city crowds, despite his protestations. Now, he often asks to be carried; or at the very least he will come up and take one of our hands. He also will now walk around without shoes sometimes. The first week, both Ben and John insisted on wearing shoes 100% of the time; they wouldn’t even go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without putting on their shoes first. Another difference we have noticed is that now Ben will physically go after Connor sometimes. It’s hysterical to watch. We can’t help but crack up when we see this tiny little guy hurl himself at Connor, fists flailing, yelling at Connor in Chinese, when he doesn't get his own way. Connor and Ben are already very close and it’s gratifying to see. John stands separate and just rolls his eyes. He’s a typical teenager. We gave our guide the list of things Connor wanted to see in Guangzhou, and asked her to ask John which of these sights he would like to visit. Of course, he wasn’t interested in seeing anything. He wanted to go swim in the pool, and that is not an option because it doesn’t open for another few weeks. The zoo received a resounding "No" from John, but since there wasn’t anything else he wanted to do, we decided to go anyway. We knew Ben would enjoy the zoo. After the zoo, we sat around the hotel room waiting for our guide to bring us the boys’ passports with their visas stamped. Tomorrow evening, we have to go through the “non-resident” line at the airport in New York, and then apply for U.S. passports for them later. We are thrilled to be finally going home, but I’ll bet the boys are extremely nervous. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to know that you are leaving your country forever, to live with a foreign family. Our guide brought us the boys’ passports at 4p, with the IH-3 visa inside. We found out that the US Consulate has issued well over 100,000 (wow!!) visas to Chinese children adopted by US citizens since the late 1980’s. Holy Cow!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31st

March 31, 2010
As you can tell from Connor’s blog, we’ve had about enough time together in close quarters. The kids are bickering, and I’m heartily sick of the TV. We rarely watch TV at home, and we don’t even have cable; here both TVs are on constantly. This is the longest we’ve ever been away from home, and we miss our dogs and Austin too. The only one who still seems happy- go -lucky is Ben. He entertains himself most of the time, and he finds humor in everything. I awoke this morning to the sound of Ben laughing hysterically. What a cutie. Connor told our guide yesterday that although Ben wakes him up during the night, he doesn’t mind because Ben is so cute. The other night, Ben woke up and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Ba? Ba!” He was calling in Chinese for Dad. He sleeps in the living area of the suite, (there is only a sliding door separating our bed from his), but since he couldn’t see David immediately upon waking, he was upset. He has obviously bonded with his dad already. John is still not certain of his place, I think. As Connor said in his blog, he seems to be battling for a position in the family hierarchy. And just so you didn’t misunderstand Connor, I did say that Connor can defend himself if necessary, but I am not encouraging the boys to duke it out. For instance, this morning John supposedly “flipped off” Connor. I told Connor that he shouldn’t be a tattletale, but he also shouldn’t accept any bullying from John; basically, Connor needs to treat John as he would Austin. I asked Connor to think about how he would react if Austin acted like John (which he does sometimes!). Connor told me that he will give it more thought. Remember, this is the son who wants to be a priest, and he is struggling with how to deal with a new older brother who isn’t nice sometimes. I think the best thing I can do is back off and let the boys work it out. I did remind Connor that John lived in an orphanage of 200+ children. He might need to be taught how to relate to other people in a constructive manner. What I actually said is, “Can you imagine the power struggles when 200 children are struggling just to survive? Would you want to live there?” Again, Connor told me he will give it more thought, and since our talk this morning, things HAVE improved. Ben’s needs are so simple compared to John’s. But he is trying to adjust. For instance, he teases me every time we pass McDonalds. He says, in Chinese, let’s go to McDonalds—and then I make the noise of vomiting. It’s a joke (as lame as it is) that we share. It’s a start anyway. And he obviously adores Ben, as do we all. He watches out for him (and Connor too sometimes) when we least expect it. Yes, it might be a challenge, but we know John will be O.K. in time.
On another note, last night, we went on a Pearl River cruise. The weather was nice and balmy, and it was a lovely outing. We went with the other couple I mentioned previously, and our guide. I took 107 photos, and the kids ran around the boat and danced to Ricky Martin music. I invited John up to the open deck alone, before dinner, just to carve out some one-on-one time with him. He seemed to be excited to be on a boat. We spend so much time doting on Ben; I don’t want John to feel like he’s not important too. After the cruise, there was a man on the sidewalk with a trained monkey. I took a photo of the monkey, and, of course, the guy then demanded money. David gave him some change, but the man was angry because it wasn’t enough. It was funny, really. For the most part, we feel that we are just in a holding pattern, waiting for the trip to be over. Our guide wants us to tour around Guangzhou, and we just aren’t in the mood to sight-see. To us, Guangzhou is just another big city. It’s not any more ancient or Asian feeling than Beijing. Most people who adopt, do so from a rural, poor, village. They visit the rice paddies and farms that we didn’t get to see on this trip. We decided to adopt from Beijing because our pediatrician told us that the children from Beijing have the best medical care and educational opportunities. Although this is probably true, I sometimes envy the other families who were able to see the “real” China during their adoption trip. On the other hand, I am also happy we stayed in five-star hotels the entire trip!!! And tomorrow, the pool might be open!

Connor's post, March 31st

March 31, 2010 by Connor
John and I are not getting along all that well. He slept in until 9, and when I woke him up, he was really mad at me. All I can say is that when he gets to America, he has to wake up at 6 everyday, and that is going to be a rude awakening. John was also being a jerk when we went to the roller-skating rink. John is better than me, so he kept on coming up to me a pushing me over and laughing. Then, when he fell, I laughed at him and I got in trouble. The world is a stupid place…
The Pearl River Cruise (March 30, 2010)
At 5:25 pm, my family, and the Turner family (another family adopting a baby) left to go on a Pearl River Cruise. It was fun. There was a buffet going the whole time, and I was never hungry. It was cool to go on the top of the boat and see the Pearl River lit up. I had a good time. Bye!
March 31, 2010 (again)
Today we woke up at 8 (John woke up at 9) and watched cartoons. We then went to the breakfast. The buffet was nothing special, and at 10:30 we went over to the health club to play tennis. The health club manages the entire hotel athletics program. After playing tennis for about an hour, we went back to the room. And here I am now, typing this blog…
Back to tennis (and John)…
I am probably the best person at tennis in this family. Dad is OKAY and John hits the ball to hard and it goes out of bounds. I think John fights with me because he is the “Gege” (older brother in Chinese), and should be the “dominate” one. But since I am stronger than him, he feels it is necessary to insult me to prove that he is the older one. Mom says that I should not put up to this, and I do have the right to “Defend” myself when necessary. But she will not constantly referee our fighting, she said. We need to work it out ourselves. Maybe I should show him that I am not going to be pushed around. I guess I will think about it…

swearing in ceremony

This afternoon we went to the American consulate to do the “swearing in” ceremony. This is merely a formality, since the adoption is actually already (technically) ,legal in China. However, at the American Consulate all the families (over 300 per week!!) swear an oath that they told the truth on the adoption paperwork, and they promise that will be good parents to the children that they adopted. It was quick, but a little emotional too, at least for me. I actually teared up a bit. It is the final step in the adoption process, and finally we are done! Really, 100% done--finished. Unless, of course, we decide we want to re-adopt the boys in the US. But that is another whole story, and we don’t need to worry about that now. So, back to the beginning of our day today; we left the hotel at 2:30pm for the oath (I was quite happy to go there, because really, I just couldn’t stand not even one more minute of TV) to drive to the consulate with our guide. She left us there while she went to go pick up the Visa packet for the other family; we hung out in a waiting room, until they called our name to sign some documents. While we were there waiting, I noticed a boy approximately Ben’s age. I struck up a conversation with his parents, and, amazingly enough, they are from Syracuse. They just adopted a boy that was only a year younger than Ben!! They also have a 15, 13 and 11 year olds at home! Our new sons played with the toys, and the adoptive mother and I just hit it off and talked and talked and talked. They are Christians too, and our reasons for adopting seem to be similar. She even graduated from SUNY Geneseo, and she knew our area well. Of course, she blogs too, and she thinks she might have actually read our blog! She follows a blog from a Geneseo soon-to-be adoptive family, but she’s not sure if it’s ours or not. How many Geneseo adoptive blogs can there be? She will look up the link when she gets home, and send it to me (if it’s not actually us). Anyway, I as usual, I pause to wonder why I am always amazed at how things work out. We decided (and you need to realize, we only chatted for less than 30 min) that we would meet this summer at Letchworth Park. Honestly, it was that quick. We just knew we each had met someone of kindred spirit, and yes, I again stop to wonder why I am continually amazed at how things work. At the risk of boring many of our blog followers, I will say, on record, that God works in mysterious ways. After all that emotional experience, we had a simple dinner at the hotel, and then, out of the blue, Cheng’s parents called us at the hotel. It was almost a tearful reunion. They miss us all so much, and of course we (and our children)miss them. She spoke to each one of the kids on the phone, and they were so happy to hear from here! And, although we don’t speak the same language, Cheng’s mom told Connor she will see him again soon in America. Hmm. It looks like we might have Chinese family visiting soon!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Connor's post

Hey, this is Connor again! Yesterday, we had the whole day to ourselves. Well, the whole day except for the first half. But we went shopping at the Guangzhou market, and that isn’t boring like going to the hospital or offices. So, I still consider the two hours spent at the Guangzhou market to be leisure. I cannot believe that we spent half of the day at Guangzhou market, and only bought a cheap drum rattle thing. There was nothing I was really interested in buying, except for a sweet knife that the ancient Chinese warriors used. Of course, mom wouldn’t let me buy it. It’s not like I’ll go around injuring people. Well, I know that I can’t get everything I want.
When we were browsing in the Guangzhou market, there were a number of animals in cages that you could buy as a pet. My family passed a cage with three little puppies in it. There was a golden retriever ( just like Maggie when she was a puppy) and two huskies. They were so cute we couldn’t help but pet them, even though mom said they might not have shots. A few days ago, we were walking from a restaurant, and we saw a golden retriever on the corner that looked Just like Maggie and Luke! I really miss them. They are such good dogs! Anyway, that was fun. Too bad I didn’t really get to buy anything.
After shopping, we went to a roller-skating rink we saw in the park. I forgot how hard it was to skate. I haven’t skated in a long time, plus they were the type with 4 wheel arranged in a square. I have never used those kind before. I fell an awful lot, and my knee kills from falling. Well, that’s about it for yesterday. I have to go now, and I will probably write more later. See ya!

I am back from breakfast! We just went down to the buffet on floor #1. I was talking to Ben about the dogs. I said in Chinese, I love dogs, do you? And he answered I also love dogs. Ben keeps calling me Counner (Connor). He is so cute. I love him!

Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29th, 2010

In the morning yesterday, we went shopping in China. No, not Prada, Gucci or designer clothes; although the city is absolutely teaming with designer labels. It would be a fashionista’s paradise. Instead, we went to a Qinqping market and Shanxiajui pedestrian street. Qingping market is where local Chinese people buy herbs, spices, roots, dried lizards, and snake skins. It was quite interesting to see. We did not go to the part of the market where they sell the meat (live animals for butchering) though. We did pass through the pet-store area too. Then we headed to the wholesale jade market, and the wholesale pearl market. What an amazing sight! Floors and floors of jewels, piled high. Businesses come to Guangzhou to buy jewels in bulk. The only thing we ended up buying was a noise-maker toy for Ben. As you know by now, I’m not a shopper, and have no interest in buying jewelry. It was fun to see, though, for a few minutes. We returned to the hotel by 1pm, and sat in the lobby with the kids eating ice-cream. After a nap, at 4p we took the boys roller-skating at the park that is 15 min. walk from the hotel. Our guide showed us how to get there the other day. I rented a pair of skates too, and I was surprised that I remembered how to skate pretty well. David chased Ben around, since he is too little for skates at this particular park. John knew how to skate already, and Connor figured it out fairly quickly. I did feel sorry for Connor though, because John kept laughing at him whenever he fell. I hope he’s not going to be a mean big-brother to Connor. Austin picks on Connor enough. I was hoping John would be kind. David tells me that is just how brothers are; I shouldn’t intercede unless someone is going to get hurt. So far, we all baby Ben. He is quite small, and we all treat him as if he is 3 or 4 years old. Ben even asks to be carried everywhere. David puts him on his back usually, and people stare at us as we walk around the city. Our guide asked us if we wanted to go on another city tour today, with a stop at another park. I thought it was better than sitting around the hotel room, but during dinner last night (Italian food) both Connor and John said that they didn’t want to go anywhere. Both boys just want to sleep in and be lazy in the morning. Yes, they are bored, but they also don’t want to be shuffled out the door every morning. It’s almost 9am now and both John and David are still sleeping!! I’m wondering if John is up during the night. I always hear Ben when he awakens, but I haven’t heard John wander around at all. However, this morning my computer was again set on the Chinese language. I’m going to have to make it time-out and request a password. Our guide told me that John has a QQ account (or whatever it’s called) and he wants to talk to his friends online. Of course he misses his friends, but chatting with them online in secret at night is not be the best way for him to adjust. At home, we don’t let the children use the computer unless it’s for homework, and our internet is limited anyway. I guess I have to diligently monitor the internet for awhile.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 27, 2010

I didn’t blog yesterday because we mostly spent the day traveling to Guangzhou. Our U.S. consulate is in Guangzhou China; therefore, we have to stay in Guangzhou for a week for the boys’ vaccinations, medical exams, and to apply for their visas to travel to the U.S. In Beijing, the adoption was finalized, and we applied for their passports. We left the Ascott Hotel Beijing yesterday at 9:45am to go to the airport. The boys were fantastic on the airplane, although John was a tad bit nervous. The flight was 3 hours, and a guide met us at the airport in Guangzhou to take us to our hotel. The Garden Hotel, where we are staying, is much more impressive looking than the hotel in Beijing. There are stuffed peacocks, ornate gold ceilings, waterfalls, murals, etc. etc. all designed to wow the traveler when he enters the lobby. We had two bell-hops and three housekeepers escort us to our room. The room itself is quite a bit smaller though, than the hotel in Beijing. I chose the Ascott in Beijing because it is apartment style. We had a full kitchen and 2000 sq. feet of living space at the Ascott. We have a suite here, but it is small and we are on top of each other. After our check-in, we walked to a mall area across the street to eat. It is warm and tropical here, similar to Florida. There are palm trees and lots of flowers among the millions of buildings. For the first time since we arrived, we ordered all on our own (without Cheng’s parents) in a Chinese restaurant. I did great with the food, we liked everything I ordered, but I made the mistake of trying to order wine too. The waiters brought a fancy bottle of something and they opened it before I had a chance to see exactly what it was. I think it was some sort of liquor, similar to Scotch. Yuck. I took one tiny sip and that was the end of that; David didn’t like it either. I couldn’t even stand the smell! Since it was opened, we had to pay for it, and it was 480 RMB (over $100!!), we took the bottle back to our hotel to leave for the housekeepers when we checkout. I won’t make that mistake again, that’s for sure. We went to bed shortly after dinner, around 8p.
Today, Saturday, we had to take the boys to a medical clinic for exams. We met another family (who adopted a 14 month old baby this time, and a baby 5 years ago), and we headed to Shamian Island for the medical appointments. The clinic was jammed with adoptive families, and we had to go from “station” to “station.” One station weighed the kids, the next examined their eyes, the next their blood pressure, etc. We arrived at 10:30a and left at 1:30p. Our boys had to receive 3-4 shots each, and they were great the entire time. I’m not just saying that, either. They were shuffled from Dr. to Dr. to Dr. on a medical assembly line, and they were just cooperative and overall wonderful, in spite of the stress, crowds, and invasion of privacy. While we were there, we chatted with four or five other adoptive couples. Almost all of the couples we spoke to told us that they competed their adoption applications over four years ago; after three years of waiting for a healthy infant, they all switched to the special needs program and completed their adoptions within 8 months. The couple we rode the bus with, adopted a girl with cleft palate. We feel very lucky that our children are healthy overall. On the way back to the hotel, Ben fell asleep and David carried him into the hotel. Now, we are resting while watching Cartoon Network. At 3:30 today, I have to go to the 28th floor (with the guide and another couple) to complete the Visa packet for the consulate appointment on Monday. David will take the boys to the pool to swim probably.

It’s later now, and I can finish typing this blog entry. I spent about an hour (3:30-4:30) completing the Visa paperwork with our guide this afternoon, and David took the kids to the pool. Unfortunately, David found out that the pool is an outdoor pool, and it’s not open until April 1st. I called our guide at 5p, to tell her that sorry, but she needs to find us another hotel, with an indoor (or outdoor heated) pool. She will let me know tomorrow how she makes out. She told me that because Guangzhou is in the south, most of the pools are outdoors, and they are not open until April. I’m wondering why no one told us that before today. So, I asked our guide to work on our hotel more because we have three boys in very close quarters, and they might kill each other if they don’t have a place to work off some energy.
It’s a bit frustrating for us sometimes because everything is geared towards people adopting babies, and no one seems prepared for parents of older children. When we checked into the hotel, for instance, there was a crib set up in our room with baby toys, powder etc. I had to tell housekeeping that we needed a roll-away bed, not a crib. The adoption agency booked us a ton of tours that would be interesting to adults with a sleeping baby in tow, but not much fun for children. This afternoon I actually became quite direct and asked our guide, Jennifer, if she had any children. She said yes, a six year old boy. I then asked her if her son would want to go on the tour (a museum)scheduled for us for tomorrow. Well, no, he would be bored. Well, then… our kids don’t want to go on it either. Can’t she find a park or playground for our kids, or something they would enjoy? I came right out and said to Jennifer, “We are not tourists. We are here for our children, and if our kids are bored, then it’s not fun for us either.” It was only an hour later when I called her room to tell her that this hotel simply wasn’t going to do it for us if it doesn’t have a pool open. Jennifer then told me about a lovely “garden” to take the children for a walk. We went down to check it out, and it was really gorgeous and would be a fantastic backdrop for a wedding, or a movie set. The kids would have liked it too, if I let them try to catch some of the goldfish in the ponds or climb the trees. Unfortunately, it was a waterfall garden full of exotic plants, beautiful walkways, pavilions, and hidden alcoves—really ideal for a romantic stroll. Our boys rolled down a grassy slope a few times, picked a few of the protected species (when I wasn’t looking), and scared the fish. Then we decided to head to dinner before someone called security. During dinner, western style at the restaurant at the hotel, the boys were kicking each other under the table, telling each other to shut-up (in Chinese) and in general, fighting and bickering. Yep. A little over a week of close quarters and togetherness (in a tiny hotel room) and it’s time to separate the children already. On the plus side, I finally got to have a decent glass of wine with my meal! We are back to watching Cartoon Network on TV because there really isn’t anything else for them to do here. We can’t wait to get home!