Friday, August 26, 2011

Remember the skinny baby that used to live here....

Hanging out in the walker.


Towel wrap.

Quick-someone tell ayi that he needs a bigger tub!

Yes, when you mix love and good get a deliciously chunky little guy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And let me just say this...

My day started off with cr@p X 2 diapers.  Our little guy woke up at even more dark o-clock than he usually does.  I played dead for as long as I could and then got up and whoa!  Mega filled, stinky diaper.  And then another one an hour later.  When I changed the second one, I decided to get him dressed.  I sat on our bed and noticed something wet...yes, our dreadful cat peed on our bed.  I had heard him scratching around his litter box earlier in the morning and knew this was a possibility.  We clean his box every day but occasionally he has an angry fit and pees on our bed.  Yes, it's as gross as it sounds.  So I stripped the bed and started washing the mattress cover, fitted sheet, top sheet, quilt and quilt cover...all done one at a time in our little washer.  Fortunately the woman who watches our little guy while I am working did most of it for me...or I would have come home late this afternoon to yucky cat pee sheets.
I taught this morning and that was fun.  The students that I have are cute and now that they are relaxing, I am getting a better grasp of their English level.  For the sixth and seventh graders, we are reading The Phantom Tollbooth aloud- super fun book but challenging for them to understand.
Anyway, this afternoon Elisabeth and I had to go to the Consulate to turn in her paperwork for a new passport.  Hers expires next Spring but she needs a different visa when she turns 18 in October.  Passports usually have to have a year left before expiration before a visa can be given so she needs a new one.  Plus when we left San Francisco, the airline ticket agent looked at her passport and asked who it belonged to.  That might me a sign that she looks different now than when she was thirteen.
So we taxied up to the American Consulate.  Paul and I were there once before to get some documents notarized and I was prepared to sit a while.  We crossed the blocked off road to get into the Consulate and showed our passport and appointment slip.  We then got the golden ticket to enter the building, gave up our backback and purses but took in money, passports, paperwork and two books to read -Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry for me and Crazy Love by Francis Chan for Elisabeth.
When we got to the office, we went to the window, she went over the paperwork and then we paid $135.00 for the passport.  That is not the expedited fee. Then we were told to go and sit and wait.  I wondered what we were waiting for.  So we waited and waited and waited.  My hopes for going to the foreign grocery store with Elisabeth were dashed after the first hour.  After an hour and a half, a guy who was ahead of us was called up.  He was there to get extra pages put in his passport.  He came back from being called up looking disgusted.  Apparently he was told that the pages weren't in yet and they were confirming that's what he wanted.  Um, yes since that's what he told them when he came in and paid the $82.00 for extra pages. After two hours, we were called up.  The nice man said "Oh, so you need a new passport?" we said two hours ago and paid for....YES! Then we were sent to another window and told  "Okay, we'll e-mail you in about two weeks and you can make another appointment to pick it up."  Really, another appointment?  You actually can have it couriered to you but we couldn't do that.  Elisabeth is traveling next week and needs her passport to check into a motel.  By agreeing to come back and get it, she could keep her passport.  If we had it mailed, she couldn't keep her passport.  We'll have to turn in her passport when we go back to pick up her new passport.  I hope that when "we" have to go back, "we" doesn't include me.
Really, Consulate.  You can do better than that.  Don't make people sit for hours for that kind of thing.  Get more people, open more windows, develop a better system. Do something.
Anyway, it was bad taxi time when we got out (bad taxi time is shift change and taxi's don't want to stop).  After throwing ourselves in front of a taxi, we had a very nice taxi driver who got us home quickly and alive.  Rush hour traffic in a big city in China is not for the fearful.
Have I mentioned that after 7 weeks apart, two weeks together, and then 3 weeks apart, Paul is coming home on Thursday.  I wonder if I will recognize him.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back in China for two weeks.

We've been back in China now for about two weeks.  Paul is still in the US and planning on flying here on Tuesday.  He will overnight in Seoul and then arrive here Thursday morning.  His time in the STL/Columbia area was way too short and he didn't get to see all the people he wanted/needed to see.  He had some important things to take care of and that cut into his time quite a bit.
So, it's been two weeks and it all feels normal again.  The first year I was here, I carried my camera everywhere so that I could capture that sense of newness and uniqueness.  Yesterday, I was in a van coming home from the school, and I saw the following- two women walking under umbrella's in the sun.  A woman on a motorbike wearing bright orange skin protectors on her arms.  Two men walking on the streets in their pajamas.  A group of men in camouflage pants, all with their shirts off- not a good look.  Later, when I road my bike to the grocery store, I saw two families from the upscale kindergarten on the corner, holding their children near a tree so that the children could defecate.  All of these things were unique and new to me two years ago-now I hardly even notice.
We've had many changes in our life in the last two weeks.  I've gone back to teaching.  I am teaching three middle school English classes at the international school that Elisabeth ends.  They are classes for students whose native language is not English.  We use the same curriculum as the regular class-it's just modified somewhat.  It's a very different kind of ESL than I usually teach and I am enjoying it.  I get up each morning and hang out with the sweet baby.  At 7:30 the ayi comes and then I get on the school bus with the kids and go to school.  I prep and teach until 1:00 and then go home.  It's a good schedule that still allows me to do other things that I need to.  The kids are sweet and the other teachers are great.
Elisabeth started her Senior Year.  She has 4 AP classes, Chinese, Choir and Model United Nation.  She is working hard on college applications and looking for scholarships.
Our little guy has struggled a little with the transition back here.  We have struggled, also.  He is now very mobile, very curious, very active and very persistent.  He is a whole different baby than when we left in June and we have some adjustments to make.  He is very, very attached to his ayi-excited to see her when she comes in the morning and sad to see her go.  He is relearning to attach to us.  Sometimes life for these little guys is just so tough- so many transitions, so many people.
After two weeks, he seems back to his happy, sweet little self. It's amazing to think that we have had him for a year.  A year!  What a difference.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oh, my word!

If you all would just indulge me a picture heavy post, check out our little guy.  He has come back this from a summer in a Chinese family with major skills.  He sits well, he crawls, he initiates contact.  It's amazing.  He is almost two and just more on track than ever. He is loud, loud, loud.  He is fairly demanding and it's hardly tell whether that is because of being played with non-stop for nine weeks, being almost two or having Down Syndrome.  He's been back with us for three days and seem fine.  I think it's a little confusing for him as he stays with us but spends his day with his summer ayi (in our home).  When she arrived today, he got very excited and waved Zai Jian  (goodbye) to me.  Yes, it's a little hard on me emotionally.  He seems happy to be with us but really loves his ayi right now.  It's all good but challenging.
Anyway, the mad skills!

Apparently this is the Chinese version of "show me your nose."  He can show you his ears if you ask him to.  He pulls them forward and it is uber cute.

This is what he does when we say "Xie Xie" or thank you.  It's a kind of putting hands together and moving them up and down.  Pretty cute.

He likes to hand us things and doesn't want them back.

Army crawling to the mystery thing on our shelf.

Look at that straight back!

Blurry picture because he is really moving.

Again blurry but because of my bad photography.  However, finally someone is playing with the cat toy.

If your say "Chinese name, where are you?"  he pats himself on the stomach.

Still loves books- we brought new ones back.

Still shaking his hands.

Still clapping!

Still very much himself.

It's hard to believe that he has been in our life for almost a year.  A year ago, he was lying in a hospital bed in the orphanage, hungry and alone.  Now, his life is full 
of people who love him deeply and fiercely.  All glory to the Giver of Life.

Monday, August 8, 2011

And then there was hysteria.

Our sweet little guy came home today to people he wasn't sure he knew.  It's been nine long weeks- a lifetime to a less than two year old.  He has been well loved by our friend and her family. Her daughter and husband came too.
I wasn't there when they came because I started working at the international school today.  All day I have been waiting for the call that they were there.  It came as I was riding the teacher bus home from a prep day.  I felt total joy and a little nervous.
When I got home, our friend was holding him and he looked at me a little startled.  I wondered if he recognized me but didn't remember.  The family started tell me how intelligent he was and showed me all the things they had taught him- he can point to his ears, bow his hands while he says Xie Xie,  point to himself when they say "Where's (his name)? and more.  It was sweet.
I held back from grabbing him because I knew he needed time.  He is clearly attached to our friend.  We played with him together on the floor and then it was time for her to go.  That's when the hysteria started. Screaming, crying, sobbing until he fell asleep.  And you know what?  As hard as it was, it was wonderful.  It means that he can show grief.  That he knows that someone will respond. That he is attached to someone and feels loved and safe.  I remember the first night we had him.  I woke up to feed him (that was in the time of the every two hour feeding) and found him just lying there looking.  No tears even though he was hungry and in a new place.  It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen.
But he clearly knows how to cry now!  Our friend will be working for us taking care of him while I work.  She'll be back tomorrow so he'll have continuity of care.
After a good hour of tears and being held, he fell asleep in my arms.  After a few hours, we were able to get him in the high chair for dinner.  We were able to get him down on the ground to play with him.  At bed time he drank his bottle but had to be rocked and then patted to sleep.  Seeing him curled up in his crib is sweet, sweet, sweet!

A little unsure and check out that haircut!  His legs are still delicious.

New game- he picks up the ball and hands it to you.  Very cute.

One emotionally exhausted little boy.  One foster mom who is happy to hold him.

Love him!

Oh the sweetness.

Yes, cool haircut and painted toe nails.  Welcome to our world!

After the hysteria, passing the toys to me.

Looking at his adored Jie Jie.

She was pretty happy to see him, too.



He can now get in a sitting position by himself, get himself down to a crawl and crawl.  The progress is amazing.  He is much closer to being a little boy than a baby.  It's wonderful.
Jia you, little baby.  We are happy to have you home.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Parallel Universes

We took off on Friday around 12:45.  The baggage guy looked at out suitcases, picked them up, weighed them, winked at us and put them on the conveyor belt. Yay for nice airport workers.  The check-in lady looked at Elisabeth's passport and asked who this passport was for?  I guess she has changed since we got her first passport four years ago.  She needs a new one anyway.

When we got to Korea, they greeted us with a traditional procession.

Okay,  maybe it wasn't just for us.  The Seoul/Incheon airport does lot's of cool stuff like this.  On our way to the states, there was a band of students playing traditional Korean instruments-it was beautiful.

Of course, we had Korean food for dinner.  Even at the airport, it was good.

We had an overnight in Seoul and at first we thought we would stay in the Rest and Relaxation lounge.  The Transit hotel was full.  But once we looked at the Rest and Relaxation lounge, we knew it wasn't the right place.  There were loungers but they didn't fold out.  There were many people and it was light and not very comfortable. So we asked at information and they got us through immigration and customs and to the hotel desk.  We went to a funky in a good way. little hotel and spent the night.  It was great to sleep and shower after a long plane ride.  I must say that every single person in the Korean Airport was helpful and kind.  It was really nice.  Also claps and cheers to the flight attendants who helped a little girl travelling by herself who got really airsick.  Korean Air is just the best.

Back at the airport, we ran into Elisabeth's cute classmate- we knew she and her family would be on the flight.  We switched seats on the plane so they could sit together.

Remember all this stuff (sorry, blurry picture)

Well it actually fit into all of these.  Plus all the stuff in the post above.  Now to unpack it all.

Best thing for me- we still have a view from our living room!  There are cranes and a high rise will eventually go up but so far, we can still see the river.

It's odd to think that a week ago we were still in the Portland area, meeting new friends and seeing old ones.  Now we are back China.  The first thing I had to do was ride my bike to the bank, get cash and get some food.  Really different than just driving to the store and using my debit car.  The sense of living in two parallel worlds is very strong.  Both are good worlds and we are happy to be in them.  It's just an odd thing that in less than one day, we can be in one of our worlds in the morning and the other by night.  
We are happy to be here and ready for our next year's adventures.  Tomorrow- the sweet baby comes home.  We can't wait!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Last day in the land of dryers and dishwashers.

We leave for China on Korea Air tomorrow from the San Francisco airport.  Paul took off today for St. Louis and Columbia.  We are excited to get back to the crazy, fun, loud world of China and the sweet baby who is waiting for us there.  We actually get into China on Sunday (overnight in Seoul) and won't see him until Monday.  

We can't wait to see him again!

Medicine, vitamins and moisturizer.

New little boy clothes from consignment and discount shops.  He'll be a well dressed little dude!

A few new toys..again from consignment shops.

New yarn bought by me and by my mother.

More stuff.

Trader Joe's - how we love you!

Dutch soup, taco seasoning and cup of soup.

Some of the vitamins that you generous people sent me.  I haven't even done all the purchasing with the donations.  I'll have to find more people to carry them in for me.  They are heavier than we thought!  Thank you so much to those of you who sent donations and vitamins.

Books- ESL, baby, fiction, knitting magazines  and theology.  If I could carry more in, I would.  We stopped in several used book stores during our travels.  One more things we miss in China.  But I think we are pretty well stocked up.

We have had a great summer in the USA.  Now back to China for another year- one that we hope brings much fruit and many good things.