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!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adoption March 25th

Another long and busy day here in Beijing! After a sleepless night (Ben kept us all awake all night) we left at 8:15am to go to the Civil Affairs office to complete the paperwork there. Ben was running a low-grade fever during the night and he cried all night, so we expected a rough day today overall. Although he was cranky and tired, Ben was actually great during the first appointment of the day. The Civil Affairs worker, Ms. School, remembered us from the other day, and she asked us if she could send her child to us for a foreign exchange. She actually offered to take Connor at her house, and we could take her son, who is the same age, in a language exchange! Our guide decided that I must have impressed Ms. School with my gift the other day, since she thinks that we’d make good host parents for her child. I told her to give me her email, and I’d send her the information on AFS exchange programs and how to apply. Joking with Ben, Ms. School asked him if he was ready to return to his hometown now. Wow!! We would never say something so insensitive to a newly adopted child. Lucky for us, Ben answered, no; he just wants to go back to the hotel. After the Civil Affairs Office appointment, which took 90 least, we had to go to the Notary Office to have all the documents notarized. We were escorted into a big conference room to wait with several other families for the documents to be notarized. Until now, I haven’t mentioned the other family that we keep running into at various adoption checkpoints, including the notary office. They are an older couple (in mid to late 50’s) who are adopting a girl who is almost 7. Their new daughter has significant special needs, and Chinese people stare at them and whisper. Why would they adopt a girl? Why would they adopt a child has developmental delays? After talking to the other parents, we found out that they have another daughter, age 6, at home already. She is also from China, and they adopted her as a baby. They applied to adopt a second child 4 years ago, and then waited 3 years for a healthy infant before deciding to accept a special needs child. It’s weird how the term “special needs” has so many different definitions. Our children are considered special needs adoptions because they are over the age of 3 and both need minor surgeries. The family we met this week adopted a child with a multitude of significant special needs. I guess it’s all a matter of opinion as what is special and what is simply impossible.But I digress. We waited for a long time (close to 90 min) at the Notary Office,when we finally received 8-10 copies of all the official documents notarized. Then we left for the passport office. Now remember, we have a feverish 6 year old and two tween boys with us during all these government appointments—we feel quite fortunate that no one has had a crisis/meltdown/fight/ yet. The passport office also took forever, it seemed,although everyone managed to behave and we got the job done. Ben didn’t want to take his hood off to have his photo taken, but alas, new photos in hand, the orphanage director (who met us at the passport office) applied for the boys’ passports. Finally, five or six hours after we left the hotel, we headed back to our room. On the van trip back, I gave Ben a sweet-roll, just to keep him awake. Poor little guy was ready to fall over, he was so tired. We returned to the room, and I went across the street to get a pizza. We ate a late lunch, and David and the boys went down for a nap. Cheng’s mom, in the meantime, had called David and told him she was on her way over to our hotel to take me SHOPPING. Now, anyone who knows me at all, knows that shopping is my most HATED, absolutely DETESTED activity. I’ll spend all morning in government offices without too much complaining, but shopping is sheer torture for me. I do need to buy gifts for our family and friends, however.By 3pm we were at a shopping area that is famous for ripping off tourists far and wide. But most tourists don’t have my secret weapon, Cheng’s parents. Ha! I would go into a “shop” ( like a booth at a flea market), pick out what I thought I might want to buy, and then step back and let them bargain. I had to be willing to walk away (and since I don’t like to shop, that was easy for me) and let them decide if it was worth the price. Actually, it was fun to watch them “work.” Cheng’s parents would get angry, and walk away; the shopkeeper would throw the item on the floor; Cheng’s parents would criticize the quality of the item, and we would walk away again; the vendor would get more and more anxious to make a sale-- and all this was in the first minute. Then the bargaining was just beginning. Really, by the end, I began to feel sorry for the shopkeepers. It must be hard to actually make a living, although I guess there are a ton of foreigners who are willing to pay half the asking price, thinking they got a deal. Just so you have a clearer picture of the mark-up, we were quoted a price of 800 yuan for an item, and Cheng’s parents bought it for 100 yuan (less than $20). They asked another man (walking by) what he paid for the same item, and he told them 1600 yuan. Yes, he paid 16 times what we paid, and he was still happy with his purchase. If you ever go to China, be a tough shopper, or be prepared to spend too much. After shopping, we left the hotel for dinner. Ben was feeling better after his afternoon nap, but during dinner, he started to fade away fast. He didn’t want to eat much, looked feverish again, and was just ready for bed. As always when he’s tired, he began to reminisce. He told Cheng’s parents about his hometown and the circumstances of his coming to be available for adoption. Ben told Cheng’s parents that he knows his family name (we were told this info was pinned to him, with his date of birth), and that his father did not have a job. His family couldn’t feed him. We knew that this information was left with him when he was found by the police, but we didn’t know that Ben was actually aware of all this information. We thought we would inform him later, when he is older and asks us questions about his adoption. We are glad that he knows already, and that he is comfortable enough to share that information with Cheng’s parents (and us, via them) so soon. Towards the end of our dinner, Ben began crying again. He was overtired, feverish, and he just told us all why he was available for adoption. But I know how to comfort a crying little guy. I scooped him into my arms, crooned, rubbed his back and carried him home. David climbed into bed with him and rubbed his back until he went to sleep. We both kissed John goodnight, of course, but he remains quiet and distant.Time. Yes, we know it takes time to develop a relationship with an older child. We hope that at some point John will share with us his feelings too.

Adoption March 24th

I didn’t blog yesterday because I was too tired. We went to the Great Wall of China with Cheng’s mom. The van (with our guide) picked us up at 9am, and we arrived at the Great Wall about 10:40am.The entry point that we visited is one of the more natural areas, without the addition of cable cars and elevators to assist tourists. We hiked up a million, or maybe more, steep steps to the first summit, ate our picnic lunch that we packed and hiked back down. David, Cheng’s mom, and I were huffing and puffing the whole way up, while the kids had no problems whatsoever. Even little Ben climbed 99% of the time by himself. David did have to carry him down at points because the steps were so big he would have had to jump from step to step, and he would’ve fallen for sure. When we got back down, our legs were literally shaking. It was quite the work-out, to say the least, and well worth the trip. It’s hard to describe the scope of the Great Wall, so I won’t even try. I’ll just post photos when I get back to the States and have access to my blog. After all that climbing, who do you think stayed awake on the return trip to Beijing? Yep. Our little Ben. He is just like Austin sometimes—outlasts everyone. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Bird’s Nest, the Olympic site. We walked around there for an hour or so and took lots of photos. It was pretty cool. We found out, via our guide’s translation, that John actually attended one of the swimming events during the Olympics!! We have yet to tour a site that he hasn’t already seen. During the day, several groups of tourists asked Connor if they could take a photo with him. Connor has blond hair and blue eyes and everyone thinks he is handsome. We must look like the oddest family. We are obviously a family to even casual observers (we are quite physical with each other), but we don’t speak the same language and we don’t look related. After all the touring, we decided we’d just relax for the rest of the day in the room. Cheng’s mom went back to her hotel, and we got Subway subs for dinner. As picky as Ben is, we were shocked that he ate a Subway Sub with no problem. He refuses all vegetables normally, yet, he didn’t think to pick off the lettuce, cucumber, tomato etc. on the sandwich. He previously told us (via Xiao’s translation) that his favorite food was McDonalds and KFC, and now we find he is quite happy to eat Subway too. He’s going to have a whole lot of adjusting to do because we rarely eat fast-food at home. After dinner we all went to bed, even though it was only 7pm. Ben began crying at bedtime, asking for Cheng’s mom (who he calls auntie), or maybe he was asking for his foster mother, or another aunt. We kissed him goodnight and tucked him into bed with his brothers. It’s a good thing we went to bed early because Ben woke up crying about 11pm, and that was it for us for the rest of the night. We brought him into our bed, and alternated between giving him drinks to keep him hydrated, and taking him to the bathroom. He is running a low-grade fever, just as Connor was the other day. He is also crying that his legs hurt, which is not surprising considering the big hike the day before. Unfortunately, this morning we need to go to Civil Affairs, the Notary Office, and the Passport Office. We gave Ben Ibroprophen, and we are hoping he’ll be ok today. It might be a very,very, long day, dragging around a sick little guy. Unfortunately, we can't change the appointments or it will affect our return trip date. Connor’s illness resolved itself in 24 hours, so we have our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adoption March 22, 2010

This morning we went to the office of Civil Affairs to complete legal paperwork for the adoption. It was long and tedious, but painless overall. The boys wrestled and played in the waiting room for most of the hour, except when we had to obtain fingerprints for John and Ben. John was quite serious about signing the documents (Ben only had to leave a handprint in ink), and both boys seemed happy about the adoption. The Civil Affairs worker congratulated John and he smiled. As I said before, although John is quiet,he does smile a lot. While we were waiting for our appointment,the guide of another family came up to me to tell me (in English)that my older son (referring to John) is a very good boy. She knew him from the orphanage somehow, and she wanted to assure me that we will be happy with our new son. We have no doubt. Also, while we were waiting, I questioned our guide (George) about Ben’s reported age (6 ½), and asked why he tells everyone he is 5. George showed us the newspaper ad(dated Nov. 2003) that was placed to try to find Ben’s parents. An advertisement and search for parents is required for six months before a child is released for adoption. Obviously, if he was several months old in Nov. 2003 when the newspaper ad was run, then in 2010 Ben will be 7 years old. The guide asked Ben again in Chinese his age, and again Ben said 5. The guide then told him, “After the spring festival, you turned 6.” Forty-five minutes later the Civil Affairs worker asked Ben how old he is, and he answered 6. He also told her his zodiac is “goat.” I looked up the year of the goat, and yes, Ben was born in 2003. Problem solved; he is 6 years old. I also found out from the guide that the mess we were walking through on Saturday was a real sandstorm! We read about it in today’s newspaper too. No wonder we were so miserable,and we couldn’t breathe on the way to the museum. There is a ton of smog here, but the yellow dust and dirt that was in the air was highly unusual. After the Civil Affairs appointment this morning, we went to a medical clinic for Ben’s T.B. test. He was very brave and did not complain or cry, and the medical personnel were wonderful. They took him right in and fussed over Ben. It made be feel comfortable with the hospital, in case we end up needing medical treatment. Speaking of which, I forgot to mention that Connor woke up with a fever this morning. I medicated him and took him with us to the appointments because we had no choice. Hopefully, he hasn’t contracted anything serious. Right now, David and Connor are resting, while Ben terrorizes the joint. I’ll bet Connor feels better after he gets some rest. Like the two of us, Connor isn’t sleeping well due to the time-change.
It’s 10p now, and I’ve been up since 3:30am, so I’m ready for bed. I just hope that maybe tonight I’ll sleep through the night. I need the energy for our Great Wall of China trip tomorrow morning. Tonight we went to a famous Beijing Duck restaurant. It was the equivalent of the Hof Brau House in Germany in both size and reputation. Cheng’s parents took us, of course, and it was only two subway stops away. It was a huge hall, and loud, which made it easier for us since we can’t easily talk to each other anyway. There was a plethora of food again, and most of it duck based. We had duck feet (I was not impressed), duck liver, duck gizzards, duck filled dumplings and duck meat wraps etc. Ben told Cheng’s dad as we sat down that he wanted MEAT. It’s so funny that he’s such a picky eater. He only wants lean meat and rice; sometimes he’ll eat watermelon, but that’s about all. It seems as if John spends a great deal of time trying to get Ben to cooperate. I don’t think John realizes that we’ve been there, done that; we can outlast a hyperactive, stubborn, demanding child. Or at least we could when we were younger! Finally, though, Ben is taking an interest in learning English. Up until now, when I’d tell him anything in English, such as the floor number, Ben would get irate and tell me over and over the word in Chinese. Tonight he began to count 1 2 3 in English, and he is calling Connor by name now. He also is beginning to recognize his own name as Ben. On the walk back from the restaurant, we passed Tiananmen Square, all lit up at night. It was impressive, and Ben was absolutely thrilled. He bounced around, shouted, and called out the building names. He was like a kid in Disney World, and he insisted I take a ton of pictures. Ben was even more excited than when we went to the Museum of Natural History and he saw the dinosaurs. He told Cheng’s parents that he’s seen all these places in photos. It was adorable, to say the least. John took it all in stride; he’s had school field trips to Tiananmen Square. John also went to the Great Wall on a school field trip last year. Oh well. We are going anyway. Cheng’s parents were originally going to return home on Sunday, but it looks like they are going to stay longer. We are all having such a great time together that they extended their trip. Unfortunately, Xiao had to return to school today. We’ll see him again when he begins school in the US in August.He will come visit us during breaks too.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

adoption day 3

It’s Sunday, and today we went to the Emperor’s Summer Palace. We took 2 subways, which I could write about for pages, and we finally arrived at the Summer Palaace after about an hour of travel time. We were supposed to have the van and driver today, but there was a mix-up of sorts; the van was booked up, and we decided to take subways instead. We went with Cheng’s parents again, and it was an amazing experience. More like how we envisioned China. Mostly Beijing looks like NYC, or any other major metropolis. Nothing special, and nothing ancient or Asian. However, the Summer Palace is a preserved tourist area, and it is like what you see on National Geographic. Again, the kids were just fabulous. John told us he’d been to the Summer Palace before. As David commented, we have less and less stock in all that we read to prepare for our adoptions. We were told that our children have probably never been out of the orphanage, would not know how to use a westernized toilet, and might have sensory adjustment issues. Too much stimulation might send them into crisis mode. We were told to be prepared for post-traumatic stress disorder, eat all meals in the hotel room, and not even let our own relatives come visit for several weeks after arriving home. Well, our two children already kn0w how to buy and use tickets to the subway, ride the escalators and elevators like pros, ran around the Summer Palace with no problem, and are knowledgeable about both restaurants and swimming pools. It’s great that the children in Beijing orphanages are not denied a normal existence, but after preparing for the worst, we find we have adopted normal, everyday kids. No special needs that we can ascertain, unless you count Ben’s endless energy. Everyone was almost asleep on the subway home (and John and Connor actually Were asleep), and Ben was still just wired for sound. We occupied him with the digital camera on the hour subway trip. He is still taking 100’s of photos a day, and now he knows how to zoom in and review the photos too. I have to tell you, it’s going to be a long, long trip home on the airplane if he won’t sleep. Ben reminds me of Austin, at age 6. For instance, when we were waiting for Cheng’s parents in the lobby of the hotel, Connor was sitting in a chair and Ben came over to him, stuck his butt in Connor’s face, and made a fart noise with his mouth. Then he laughed hysterically. Apparently, farts are funny to 6 year old boys no matter what language they speak! We went out to dinner with Cheng’s parents again, to an elegant restaurant lavishly decorated. Our room was separated from the main dining room by a curtain of beads. Again, the boys took it all in stride. They were exhausted by then, and Ben was starting to show signs of the grumps. He is a picky eater (only likes meat and rice) and he was starving, but all the dishes had vegetables as a main ingredient. John coaxed him into eating some of the dumplings finally. What a good big brother John is going to be. He is protective of Connor and Ben already, and he often puts his arm around one or the other to guide them through a crowd. He’s not much bigger than Connor, but it’s obvious that he’s almost 14 and probably took care of younger children at the orphanage. Speaking of orphanages, we knew that Ben had been raised in a foster home outside of Beijing, under the orphanage umbrella, but not actually in an orphanage.Yesterday Ben told Cheng’s dad and John (over and over and over again, until he could get them to understand) that he lived in a certain town outside of Beijing. It turns out that the foster home where he lived is way out in the country, which is why he has such a different accent. Honestly, Xiao and Cheng’s parents and John can’t understand Ben half of the time. Xiao said it would be similar to us talking to a black person from the ghetto. We would understand only about 50% of black vernacular. On the subway, a woman was trying to chat with Ben. After a few minutes of conversation, she said to him in English, “Do you speak Chinese?” Cheng’s dad answered by telling her that Ben doesn’t understand English, he is Chinese. The woman responded that he doesn’t speak Chinese either! In the afternoon, Ben and Cheng’s father were actually arguing about how to pronounce something (this is when Ben was getting cranky). Cheng’s father was trying to correct Ben’s pronunciation, and Ben was insistent on his own pronunciation, repeating it louder and louder. Xiao told us, “They are arguing over how to say something. But they are both wrong because Mr. Liang is from Lanzhou, and he has an accent, and Ben is from the country, and he has an accent. I am from Beijing area, the capital, so I say it right.” In Chinese, one word can mean 100 different things, depending on the tone in which it is said. There are only 400 words in Chinese (opposed to the minimum 10,000 words a normal English speaking person uses), and each time the meaning is determined by the accent and tone, so you can see why there might be misunderstandings. After dinner, Cheng’s parents took David out for a drink and to see Tiananmen Square at night. I stayed back with the boys and went to bed by 8p. David got back to the hotel about 11p, and we were both up for the day at 3:30am on Monday morning, which is why this entry is so long. This time change thing is a killer. It is now Monday morning, and today our adoptions become official. We can’t take them out of the country yet (they don’t have passports or visas yet), but they are legally ours today after we go to the Department of Civil Affairs and complete the paperwork. We also have to take Ben to the hospital to get his T.B. tine test.Oh boy, it's going to be a long day!

adoption day 2 cont.

Here I am again, writing in the middle of the night. Actually, it’s only midnight, but since we went to bed by 8pm, it seems like the middle of the night. I’ve never been one to sleep straight through the night, and I do want to make certain I document as much as possible of this trip so that the children have a record of it later. I already wrote about the Museum of Natural History, but I didn’t tell about the trip getting to the museum. Cheng’s parents had hired a driver and a car several times over the last several days, but with the addition of Xiao and John, we had too many people to fit in one car. Xiao found a way to get to the museum by subway and then bus. Off we went. The weather was absolutely terrible! Honestly, it was like walking in a desert sand-storm. The wind was blowing, and there was a layer of dirt in the air that is hard to describe. Many people had masks over their nose and mouth, and it wasn’t to protect against the flu. There was sand in the air everywhere! As we went down the escalator to the subway, Connor leaned against the railing, completely blackening his jacket with a layer of redish soot. He was so dirty that Cheng’s mom stopped to try to wipe him off. We reached Tiananmen Square by subway (I took a few photos) and then hopped on a bus. The busses and subways were jam packed, just like New York City, although cleaner than I had envisioned. I previously worried about people smoking virtually everywhere, and so far this is not the case. No one on the subway or bus was smoking, luckily. We arrived at the museum and Cheng’s father bought our admission tickets. That is another thing I should mention. I feel terribly guilty about Cheng’s father paying for virtually everything for us. We have yet to spend a dime on food, transportation or admission tickets to anything. They are so very grateful that we are hosting Cheng that they insist on treating us like visiting royalty. They are also enamored with Connor and Ben. John, as I mentioned, is shyer, and they are giving him time to choose to be their friend. Cheng’s parents are just fantastic people, and we are so happy to have had the chance to spend a few days with them. At the museum, we walked around for less than two hours and we were ready to leave. Our feet hurt and we wanted to just sit down and relax. Cheng’s dad called for a car to come pick us (the Peters’ family and Xiao) and they must have taken a taxi back to their hotel. I was relieved that we didn’t need to spend another hour on the return trip, but again I felt guilty for the expense. When we arrived at the hotel, Ben immediately went to the toy cupboard. He has established a place and order for the toys, and he sorts and plays with them constantly. After a half an hour of relaxing, the boys wanted to go to the pool.What cuties they are in the pool. John is athletic, and he is already picking up how to swim. The the US, and the information we received from WACAP, was to treat the children for skin conditions (scabies) and lice the first day. We have not had to do any of that. Both boys have been swimming each day, and we can see that their skin looks healthy, as does their hair. Although we might regret it later, we decided not to subject them to any unnecessary treatment or tests. Scabies leave a rash and itch, and lice shows symptoms also. Our boys appear healthy and happy, although Ben is quite thin.After swimming, Xiao decided to play ping-pong with Connor and John. David and I stayed in the hotelroom with Ben for awhile. Cheng’s parents arrived at our hotel at 3:30p, and Cheng’s dad and David went to join the boys in the ping-pong room. Cheng’s mom and I stayed in the room with Ben for awhile. Cheng’s mom showed Ben a map of the United States and pointed out where he was going to live. He answered, “I already know that.” Eventually, Ben headed towards the door. When Cheng’s mom asked him where he was going, he announced that he was going to go to the ping-pong room. I told him to wait a minute; I needed to find my shoes. Well, he must have thought I told him something else because he came back into the room and picked up all the toys and put them away in what is now the toy cabinet. I must say, I was impressed. So we headed down to the ping-pong room. Ben knew exactly what floor it was on (he pushed the right button anyway) and then proceeded to lead us through three halls and several turns to find the ping-pong room. At one point I told him it was the wrong way, and we needed to go the other way, and a woman who works at the hotel told me that Ben is going the right way; I had the wrong way. You have to realize, we only saw the ping-pong room once before, and this hotel has several buildings all connected by hallways. When we got to the ping-pong room (a big dance studio actually), David and John were playing furiously. They played for about 30 minutes more, while Ben ran around the room with Connor throwing balls and playing. Then Cheng’s mom played with John for awhile. She is quite young at heart and very playful,although she is around my age. John was smiling the whole time, enjoying whipping everyone at ping-pong. I can’t wait until we get him home and the four big boys (Cheng, Austin, John and Connor) play partners. I’ll bet that they spend hours playing ping-pong, now that we have even teams. Xiao left to meet his parents at the subway station. It was 4:30p, and all 10 of us were set to have dinner together. We walked across the street to an Italian restaurant. Yes, Italian. We are a little tired of Chinese food already. The kids had a pizza, and the adults ate delicious pasta, and the meal passed very quickly. After dinner, we came back to our room for tea. I uploaded the photos from the day onto Cheng’s dad’s flashdrive, and we visited for awhile. By 7p we were visibly tired. Xiao decided that he would stay with us another night (or maybe the rest of the week even) and so he left with his parents to go buy some clothes at a nearby Wal-Mart. The boys climbed into bed at 7p, and John pulled out a book from his backpack. Hooray! He likes to read before bed! Wonderful! I turned off the TV and told Connor he could read too. They were asleep by 8pm, and David and I were in bed by 8:15pm. Now, it’s almost 1am, and I suppose I should try to go back to sleep. Xiao called our guide, George, and told him we needed to have the van and driver for tomorrow. We are going to go visit the Summer Palace, which is an outdoor park/palace. Xiao’s parents are returning home, and Cheng’s parents are going to accompany us again. They are returning home to Lanzhou on Monday.

adoption day 2

This is day two for us with the boys. Already we are falling into a routine, which is a good thing. Connor continues to behave like a wild-man, Ben (BingHui) mimics him (or instigates the action himself) and John (FengHong)quietly watches. John smiles a lot, but doesn’t say much. Of course, he knows that no one understands him. It was funny, this morning over breakfast when the kids tried to converse,Ben kept talking and talking to Xiao, and Xiao couldn’t understand him. Xiao said that Ben spoke with a different accent, or maybe it was gibberish.Young kids sometimes just say stuff that doesn’t make sense. But Ben kept trying to get Xiao to understand him, and he spoke louder and louder. It was cracking us all up. John, Cheng’s parents and Xiao all said that half the time what Ben says they can’t understand, but the other half of the time he’s really smart and speaks clearly. At lunch yesterday he raised his glass and exclaimed “Gombay” (sp?) which means Cheers. When we went to the Natural History Museum today, every time he saw a dinosaur he would exclaim in excitement and call out the dinosaur’s species (according to Xiao). Ben also told Cheng’s dad, “Those are dinosaur eggs. The baby dinosaurs come out of them.” Yesterday, he was counting in Chinese, and Connor was trying to teach him how to count in English. Today, in the pool, he said, “Ready? Set. Go!” They were playing a game and I had been saying “Ready, Set, Go” for awhile. He also tries to say his ABC’s (gets up to F, but says B twice).Ben is still obsessed with the camera, and he’s taken hundreds of photos, some of them actually printable. Right now, Connor and Ben are wrestling and yelling, and John is watching TV. It’s going to take John awhile to warm up. Not that he’s cold, by any means, just a little shy. At the museum, John and Connor were playing straw, straw, straw, shoot, and also a game where you have to push each other until one relents. Connor was also teaching John how to swim today in the pool. John is now putting his face in the water and holding his breath. One thing that surprises me is that John and Ben don’t try to talk to each other much. Maybe it’s because there is such a large age difference, or maybe it’s the fact that Ben speaks with a different accent half the time. I was hoping that they would be able to retain their language through conversation with each other, but so far they ignore each other most of the time.

adoption day 1 cont.

It’s 2:00AM, March 20th, and I have so much that I need to write down that I can’t sleep. I know how important it will be to our sons to have every detail of their adoptions preserved, and thoughts keep running through my mind. First of all, I don’t feel as if I captured FengHong’s arrival and personality on paper yet. I need to replay it in my mind, and then get my fingers to cooperate. I hate the keyboard on my new computer (it’s tiny) and that is slowing down my writing. Generally, I can type as fast as I can talk. Now, I am typing so slowly that I have to think slowly too. Anyway, FengHong walked into the lobby of the hotel, looking nervous, but not terrified. Of course, he’s much older than BingHui, and maybe more prepared for the idea of adoption. I approached him first and gave him a little hug. I told him I was his mama. He nodded a little. I called Connor and BingHui over to meet FengHong. For the 30 minutes (while we waited for FengHong) Connor and BingHui had been terrorizing the lobby of the hotel room. Really. They were playing tag and climbing on the furniture and just being loud obnoxious boys. I would not have allowed Connor to behave that way publicly, but I know that he was bonding with BingHui and that is more important than decorum in a hotel lobby. Anyway, Connor and BingHui came over and I introduced them to FengHong as “Didi, and didi” Yes, a year of Chinese lessons and all I can come up with are the words for mother and little brother. I asked the guide to tell FengHong that we just adopted BingHui this morning. I knew that would make him feel better because it is obvious that BingHui is a bit of a firecracker and is having a great time today. Then, the orphanage director asked where FengHong could wash up because he’d been sick in the car. Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that. David stepped in then and offered to take FengHong to the bathroom. Off they went. By the time they came back, FengHong had a shy smile on his face. He still didn’t speak to us, but he was looking around curiously at everything. I had to deal with paperwork for another 15 minutes, and the three boys all began to play in the lobby. We discovered that we were missing a copy of our home-study, so I left David in charge of the wild Indians, all led by Chief Connor, and I went upstairs to get the flashdrive with the scanned copies of all our documents. When I came back downstairs, FengHong was trying to teach Connor a game with a rope and a wheel. It looked like they were going to be ok. with each other. FengHong isn’t much bigger than Connor really, and it was fun to see them playing. BingHui was taking pictures. Oh, I forgot to mention, before I had to go upstairs, BingHui literally grabbed my hand and led me over to the coach next to FengHong. Then he dragged Connor there, and made us “pose” for a photo. He loves the digital camera, and he obviously remembered that in the morning he was required to pose for the camera. I only hope the camera doesn’t break and we lose the photos. He wore out one battery already. I also forgot to mention in my previous entry that BingHui has a little bit of a cold. When we picked him up at the orphanage, I was given two boxes of Chinese medicine to give BingHui. Of course, I have no idea what is in the medicine or how much to give him. Instead of medicating him, we just hand him a tissue whenever his nose is dripping, and he wipes it up and hands me back the tissue. BingHui is quite independent. A curious thing about him though, is that he tells everyone who asks that he is 5 years old. David and I rechecked his documents, and they say that he was born in Aug. 2003, which would make him 6 years old. Generally, if a mistake is made, it is to say a child (who is small) is younger than they actually are, not older. I mean to say that the officials might find a child and estimate his age as 2, when he’s really 3. BingHui is small enough to be 5, it just seems odd that his documents definitely show him entering the orphanage in 2003.We will ask our guide to check on that on Monday. It doesn’t matter to us, but it might influence medical tests etc. Speaking of medical tests, we found out that this morning (actually it would be yesterday morning now) that FengHong was taken to the hospital for a TB test just prior to arriving for the adoption. It’s unfortunate that the children have to have yet one more traumatic experience on the day they meet their new family. The Children’s Welfare number 1 forgot to have BingHui get the TB test, prior to our arrival.Our guide said that it used to be done in Guangzhou as part of the medical exam there, but now (a recent change) it needs to be done at the beginning of the adoption process. That way if the results are abnormal, treatment can be started before flying home to the U.S. Currently, BingHui has a little bit of a cough and a runny nose, and I’m hoping that his congestion doesn’t lead to complications for the test. I have antibiotics that I brought with me, and I’m trying to decide if I should administer them to the boys. Both boys seem healthy overall, but the cautious approach is to treat them here in China for virtually everything before we leave for the U.S. Honestly though, I’m not sure how I’d get BingHui to take the antibiotic if he didn’t want it. He is a stubborn eater and quite definite about what he likes. He takes everything off his plate that he doesn’t want and dumps it on my plate. Mostly, both boys eat rice. BingHui did tell Xiao that his favorite foods are McDonalds and KFC. If I didn’t mention it before, he is full of spit and vinegar. In the pool yesterday, Xiao was trying to talk to BingHui about his age and if he attended school. While they were chatting, I decided to take a photo. Suddenly, Xiao burst into laughter. He told me that BingHui told him to “Stop talking to me!She’s trying to take a picture!” Yep, he’s a bossy little thing too. Xiao said that FengHong said that he doesn’t know his favorite food. We found out that FengHong is in 6th grade at a normal school. That might be age-appropriate because there is sometimes a 3 year age difference between the oldest and the youngest in a certain grade, according to Xiao. Children begin first grade at 7 or 8 years old in China. It also seems as if FengHong understands a little bit of English. Not much, mind you, but a little. I showed him photos of our family and our house and he seemed to understand. Did I mention playing in the pool? There is a children’s wading pool here, and all the kids spent most of the time in that shallow area. FengHong and BingHui spend most of their time splashing Connor. When they double teamed him like that, Connor just jumps out of the shallow pool into the deep water. It’s apparent that both boys had been to swimming pools before and love the water. Whew. They can’t swim, but I see swimming lessons in the future. BingHui also had no issues with the westernized toilet. Within 5 minutes of arriving at the hotel he told David (in Chinese) that he had to go to the bathroom. When David didn’t understand, BingHui yanked on his pants to demonstrate. BingHui has absolutely no trouble communicating with us through pantomime,although he did ask Cheng’s father, “Do you speak Chinese?” FengHong is a bit shy. I forgot to ask David if FengHong had any fears of the flushing toilet. Both boys knew how to brush their teeth, and FengHong brought his own pajamas in his backpack. FengHong, as I said, is much quieter than BingHui, but he seems to be just observing. When we said prayer at dinner, FengHong tried to mimic our motions. He is quietly working things out in his head, it seems. We have only had him with us for about four hours, since he was asleep by 8p. David climbed into the bed with the boys and they watched cartoons for about 5 min. before falling asleep. I’ll write more about FengHong’s personality as I get to know him better tomorrow. We are going to the Museum of History tomorrow with Cheng’s parents, Xiao, and Xiao’s parents. That should be a long, eventful day, so maybe I’d better try to go back to sleep. It’s 3:00AM now and we have to be up in three hours.