Monday, May 28, 2012

He knows his name...

I've been thinking about names lately and today I read this quote on another blog from David Platt, the author of Radical.  We saw a DVD of David Platt preaching yesterday and it was powerful.  Here is the quote

We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes 

The thing is, we don't know our little guy's name.  We don't know the name that his parents gave him.  We don't know what they wrote on the hospital form before they had to/choose to/who knows why they walked away.  We don't know.  We know the name he has now- the same last name as everyone in the orphanage.  His name is one chosen by the orphanage.  For us it has meaning as his name means "treasure" and he is such a treasure.

We call him lots of things- the sweet baby (because oh, this little guy is sweet).  We call him "Monkey Boy" because he has gotten so active.    We have chosen to keep his Chinese name rather than a Western name for two reasons. One- we thought that his future would be in China and he he would need to keep his Chinese name.  Two-if the possibility for adoption opened up, we thought his forever family should choose his name.
But the name his parents chose...maybe full of hope at this son's birth- we will never know that name.  Somewhere out there are parents who know his name and I feel so sad at what they are missing with their sweet little son. 
When his forever family comes, he will get their name- a name that identifies him uniquely as part of his new family.  That is a wonderful thing.
Several years ago we worked at a camp way to the north of us.  While we were there, the kids sang this song a lot.

He knows my name

I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hand
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
I have a Father
He calls me his own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

In speaking to Israel (and also to us)

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
(Isaiah 43:1 ESV)

So fear not, our sweet baby,  You have a name and a future.  The most important One knows you and knows your name.  You are a treasure to us...and to your family that is coming soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.
Fredrick Buechner

We are in the season of endings.  Our daughter will graduate from high school in a few weeks.  Now that we know our little guy will be adopted, we are preparing ourselves to  let him go.  The endings lead to wonderful beginnings- a future and a hope for both of them.  But that doesn't lessen the pain of good-bye- it only gives the good-bye meaning.  For me, there are many tears these days- some unexpected, some at the usual times.  My heart is really aching.

The last choir concert.  I made it through the high concert but when the middle schoolers started singing "Can You Feel the Love tonight" from the Lion King, I started bawling.

Little Women

The school play with the usual multi-lingual instructions at the beginning - English/Chinese/Korean
Please turn off your cell phones, take out crying children, no flash photography.

Elisabeth as Marmee

Marmee and Jo-international casting!  Marmee's daughters were African-American, Korean and Filipina!  Mr. March was Korean.

After the show, the cast was called up and the Seniors came forward.

Their amazing director spoke to them as this was their last play.  This led to much sobbing from mother's in the audience, including me.

And then they danced....

and hoop skirts!

A joyful ending to a emotional moment.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Monkey Boy passes his adoption physical.

While I was gone on the Middle School Trip, our little guy got to go to the doctor. Right before I left, we got the e-mail telling us that the little guy needed to go to the hospital for his adoption physical.  I was really sad to miss that as it just seemed to make the adoption process on the China end real.  So in the spirit of over-preparation, I made Paul a long list of the sweet baby's development and made him promise to tell the doctor everything I wrote.  Then the appointment turned out to be on a day that he couldn't go.  So our beloved ayi (helper/aunty) took him. I had Paul coach her in what to say to the doctors and then our foster care person called her and coached her again.
The exam was at the same hospital where he spent five days with pneumonia when we first got him.  She said that the exam was fairly simple- ears, eyes, throat and that they asked a few questions.  She however, insisted on telling them all the things he can do.  No way was she not going to brag about him.  It's hard to describe how much we owe our ayi.  Her love for him is a strong as ours and her heart will be broken when he goes to his forever family.  She knows that is the best future for him and she will love him (as we will) forever.  The examiner said that he looked great, asked a few questions and did the paperwork.  Real progress!
So in the spirit of the exam (and the foster tiger mama), here is the list of what he can do now.  He is 2. 6 months old and a bundle of fun and energy.
Chinese- Mama, Baba, Jie Jie,Ayi, Zai Jian
English- Hi, bye, No and maybe "more."
Sign language- Signs for more which he has generalized into "want."  So what ever he wants, he signs "more."  Also sign for full or in Chinese "Chi bao le" when he is satisfied with his eating.

Imaginary Play
Pretends to cry
Rocks and pats his stuffed animals
Pretends to sleep while on our bed
Pretends to be a tiger with a tiger noise and claws
Can make duck, chicken, cat and dog noises
Makes car noises when he plays with his cars

Pulls to a stand on his own or by holding on
Stands for 30 seconds or more
Walks with support- wants two hands.
Throws balls...and other things :)

He likes to walk behind these stools.

Self feeds by hand
Learning to use fork and spoon
Eats- oatmeal, yogurt, jiaozi (dumplings), noodles, rice,crackers, tortillas, bananas, apples, pears, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.  Not a big meat fan but lives on eggs.
Drinks from a sippy cup-water, apple juice, milk.
Loves watermelon seeds but we discourage them because the diapers are awful

Toys- loves books, puzzles, stacking cups, trains, cars, stuffed animals, balls

Sleep- 9-10 hours a night 7PM - 5:30 AM.  Yes, we have tried putting him down later so that he would sleep many, many people have told us.  He still wakes up super early.
Naps about two hours.  Go to sleep on his own- loves his crib.

Loves his jie jie!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HACKED: A Mother's Day Post

DISCLAIMER: This blog has been hacked by Elisabeth, but for a good reason. Today is Mother's Day, a day when mothers all over the world are celebrated. Our family did some celebrating today, but certainly not enough. I don't think there's anything I could ever do to celebrate my mom as much as she deserves, but since as far as I know, this is my last Mother's Day with my mother, I thought I'd tell you all about how amazing she is.
So here I go.

Dear Mom,
First of all, sorry for hacking your blog. That's what happens when the wireless is down, we're all forced to share a computer, and you leave yourself signed in. Just sayin'.
When I was little, you used to read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch to me. Every night before I went to bed, you would sing me the song from that book:
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be
Even though I'm 18 now, this is still one of my favorite books. Every time I see it at a book store, I can't help but picking it up and reading it, hearing your voice sing me to sleep. This book describes our relationship fairly well. Although I'm going off to college in the fall, I'm still, and will always be, your baby.
You have influenced me more than you think. You are the reason I am who I am today. You have taught me so much: to love reading, to knit, to care about people, and, most importantly, how to be a godly woman. You have passed on your taste in music and sense of humor to me. You have shown me what it means to love someone who hasn't done anything to deserve your love. You have been a pillar of strength when it feels like my whole world is crashing down around me. You have been my best friend even when all my other friends leave me, or I leave them. You have been honest with me and not sheltered me from the world. You have sacrificed so much for our family, and we truly do not express our appreciation enough.
Words cannot describe how much you have done for me. Watching you care for our little guy and nurse him from near-death to the chubby boy he is today has only reinforced my respect for you. Only an amazing, godly woman cares that deeply for a boy that isn't even her son by blood. Only someone who cares that deeply can give an orphan what he really needs- a family. You have done that and so much more. You are amazing.
At the end of Love You Forever, the mother grows old. Obviously, this is never going to happen to you. But even if it does, I will be there like the boy in the story, always singing:
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living,
My mommy you'll be
I love you, Mom.
~Elisabeth (AKA your favorite daughter ;) )

Saturday, May 12, 2012

24 hours on a train with middle schoolers.

This year I have been working part-time at the Shenyang International School to help off-set some of Elisabeth's tuition costs.  I've been teaching in the middle school English support program and it's been fantastic.  The kids are great, the teachers are so committed and it's been a good experience all around.
Every year, the students go on a Spring Adventure.  They go to different places in China-this year we went south.  I was asked to come along as a chaperone and without hesitation, I said yes.  The trip is to expose them to more of China and to stretch them individually.  They start out each day with a devotional that has a theme.  This year it was "hesed".  "Hesed" is a Hebrew word that has a meaning for humans and for God. For humans, it implies kindness and mercy.  For God, it means His Covenant or one way love/mercy for us.  They studied about different friendships in the Bible and considered how to be good friends for each other.  These kids are 11 and 12 years old and the studies and ideas were very challenging to them.
We started off with 24 hours on a train to Nanjing.  You might think that 24 on a hard sleeper in China would be difficult but it was really fun.  Middle schoolers are old enough to take are of themselves but still sweet and respectful.  During the train ride, they played games, sang, read books, knit and just hung out.  Most slept pretty well and woke up ready for our day in Nanjing.
Traveling in China with a group of international kids and a multi-national staff brings a lot of attention!  There is no social prohibition against staring in China or picture taking.  Many of the kids speak pretty good Chinese and storekeepers and others are always surprised by this.  The kids dealt with the attention with good grace and humor.  One of the kids is from an African country-dark skin and a shaved head are not often seen in China-he got more than his fair share of attention and pointing.  He was amazing at the way he dealt with it - he laughed, got a fan, covered his face with it when the cameras came out and pointed at the American kids and told people to take a picture of the Americans.  He then told people they could take a picture with him if they gave him 5 RMB.  I was pretty impressed with how he dealt with it- that kind of attention can be exhausting.
One of theother funny things that happened was this.  The train was air-conditioned but warm.  The train compartments have no doors so you are open to the aisle.  I got hot in the middle of the night and stuck my feet up from under the quilt.  I woke up a little later as a train worker was gently covering up my feet.  It wasn't creepy-it was actually rather sweet.  Keeping your feet warm is a critical thing in Chinese culture and they were just being nice.
I won't post much detail about the trip but here are a few pictures.  We were in a beautiful part of China- so different than where we live now. Southern China is green and lush and very economically prosperous.

Sun Yet Sen  (father of modern China) Mausoleum.

Old astronomy instrument.

The top of Golden Purple Observatory.

At one of Suzhou's Gardens.  These tiles are laid on the in formation of the Chinese character ren 人 which means "people." This is where the men could walk.  The idea was that if you walked here, you would have great prosperity.

This is where the women could walk.  Hmmm. no 人 for the women?

The gardens were stunning and peaceful.

Lily pads

Canals in ZhouZheng

Boats in ZhouZheng

"Everybody's got a water buffalo
                                                     Yours is fast but mine is slow                                                     Oh, where we'd get them, I don't know                                                     But everybody's got a water buffalo"(from Veggie Tales)

We stopped outside a house on a commercial street in ZhouZeng.  This man came out and invited us into his shop-he was a well known painter and showed us how he painted.  Great experience for the kids

HangZhou Silk Museum...the worms, cocoons and mulberry leaves.

Ancient Silk Garments.

Old, huge looms.  The history of the silk trade in China is really interesting.  Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama is one of the best books about this  Actually, all of her books are excellent.

The floating dragon boat on the West Lake...or as the kids called it "The Lochness Monster of China."

Small bridges at the West Lake

Heart shaped flowers.

Passing through Shanghai on our way to the airport to fly back to Shenyang.  We didn't have enough time to really stop here but it looks like an amazing city.
The trip was good on so many levels- the kids, the things we saw, the discussions, singing and more.  I got to know one of the Chinese teachers better and to talk with her about life and marriage in China.  I am so glad I was able to chaperone this trip.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Designed for love

When we first got our little guy, I thought he would be rather passive in his development.  How wrong I was!  He is eager to grow, to do all the normal things.  He has no guile, clapping for himself when he accomplishes some thing.  We have learned that children with Down Syndrome are just designed for love- the round little bodies, the desire for touch, the sweet spirits and easy going attitudes- just so easy to love.
We were at a friend's house the other night and I commented that he was trying hard to learn to eat with a spoon.  He can get the food onto the spoon but can't manage the twist of the wrist it takes to get food onto a spoon and into the mouth.  My friend (mother of four, pediatrician and the one who found our little guy in the orphanage) suggested a fork.  I would have never thought to try a fork (I've only done this once before and it's been a while!). So we got a child's fork and knife and here he is trying his little heart out.

Blurry picture of practicing.

Sometimes the hands are just easier.

He has had good success stabbing at scrambled eggs and noodles.  Here he is putting food on a spoon with his hand! Jia You, little guy!

My friend, Gillian Marchenko has been an enormous resource and help for me in the journey of caring for a little guy with Down Syndrome.  Here she posts about her own experience of giving birth to her daughter, who also has Down Syndrome.  She writes very movingly and powerfully here about her emotions after she gave birth to Polly.  You might need a kleenex as you read this.  I did.

I'll be traveling  this week as a chaperone on the international school middle school Spring trip.  There will be 30 plus international 6th and 7th graders, an international adult staff- our first leg is 24 hours on the train!
See you all when I get back.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Last of the Korea report.

The poet Mary Oliver wrote.
Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be amazed.
Tell about it."

The last few pictures of some beautiful things we saw in the National Museum and the Folk Museum.  We paid attention, we were amazed and love to tell about the wonderful things we saw.
At the Folk Museum, we saw..

Old shoes and clogs.

Old hats for men.

These are bojagi-basically cloth to carry around daily goods.  Beautiful fabric with beautiful designs.

I also went to the National Museum.  Elisabeth was going to meet a friend so after the kimchi museum, we took off in different subway directions, agreeing to meet up downtown to go to a Good Friday Service.  The plus side of going to a museum by yourself is that you can look and see what you want.  When Paul and I lived in Europe, we discovered that we had different museum "styles." This occasionally led to conflict. With the National Museum, I started at the top in the Asian art and ended up quickly strolling through the history part on the first floor.
The negative part of being alone was that I got massively and frustratingly mixed up on the subway.  I went the wrong direction on my first train and it took forever to get back in the right direction.  I was an hour late to meet Elisabeth.

Here are some of the beautiful things in the National Museum.

Celadon pitcher

Japanese printwork.

Chinese bowls

Animal representing the calendar- really humorous faces.

Small statues from graves.

More beautiful Korean scrolls.

I will say that the pictures I took in Korea are some of my worst.  They were blurry- I'm not sure how much was me and how much was the camera.  But it's disappointing how few came out.

 Earlier in the week. I searched the internet for an English service.   I  also stopped by the Anglican church next to the British consulate to see if there was a service-there wasn't.  I sat in the church for a while and watched a nun prepare the altar for Holy Week.  The cross was covered in a purple cloth, signifying both the suffering of Jesus and his royalty.  They were changing the color of the cloth from purple to black for Good Friday. I didn't want to take too many pictures as it seemed disrespectful.

I finally searched for Presbyterian churches in Korea and found Young Nak Presbyterian church. They were having a good Friday service at 7 PM.     The church was packed with over a thousand people.  In the three years since we have lived in China, we have not been often able to go to "church."  So to worship with an international English no less was fantastic.  It was very emotional for me.  The preaching was fantastic-centered on the cross and what is good about Good Friday. Several people shared about issues of human trafficking and orphans in Korea.   The issues are both the same and very different than China and to hear people so passionate about these issues in Korea was very moving.  It was a good Good Friday service and I am so glad I kept searching.  I had such of feeling of being part of the global body of Christ- we didn't know a soul in the church and yet we were family

We are so thankful that we were able to go to Korea.  It was a dream of Elisabeth's since she goes to school with so many Koreans.  A generous gift from some friends last summer (thank you Doug and Becky and a tax return made it possible).  Next time. I like to see more cities and take Paul with us.