Thursday, June 30, 2011

One month: what I know so far

My friend Suzanne, whom I met in Jiangsu (she was there adopting her son), reminded me that today marks exactly one month since we met Jiushu for the first time.  Here's what I've learned so far:

We may have brought home the cutest boy in all of China.  He's really a good looking kid.

He goes ballistic when he spies his bottle.  I cannot get it into his hands fast enough. 

His skin is like butter.  (Say it "like buttah"...from Coffee Talk with Linda Richman)

His noggin still sweats like crazy, but at least I know it has nothing to do with his heart.

He likes to stick his legs out of his crib.

He hates being on the changing table.  I have no doubt of his strength...the way he kicks and thrashes about during diaper changes. 

90% of the time he is happily calm, if not downright wild with joy.

His lips are enviably plump, and his eyes are like dark chocolate.  Mmmmm. 

He still gets very upset before I put him to bed, even though he cries for all of 24 seconds (or less) and then sleeps like a rock.  Not sure what that's about or how to remedy it.   

His nanny must have brushed his teeth.  He knows just what to do! 

He loves to swing. 

He does not like tomato sauce. 

He explores everything with the middle finger of his left hand.  It's like a little flagellum.

He was truly angry and grieving for a solid three weeks after we met him.  I think this is evidence of a strong little personality and will.  Jiushu has been through some trauma in his young life--abandonment, surgery, life in an orphanage, being taken away by two slightly neurotic parents and joining a new family.  I know he doesn't yet realize how much better his life will be from here on out.  But I can see that this boy has a fighting spirit...definitely not a bad thing.  And we are teaching him, day by day, what it means to feel consistently happy, safe, content, and loved. 

Here's to the next month...and all that we have yet to learn. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Park incident, and doc visit part 2

Took another lovely walk to a park this morning.

And then, a nose got bonked.  My little jewel of a girl.  And blood happened.  My chivalrous older son, seeing that I had nothing with which to wipe the blood, offered up his red shirt.  After all, the staining would be minimized on a red shirt.  Sweet boy.
 After my best attempt at clean-up.  Older sis was on baby duty during the incident.
She recovered quickly. 

I didn't want anything to detract from the joy of yesterday's news about J's heart, so here's the scoop on the rest of our doctor visits.  We think Jiushu has an inguinal hernia, so he has an appointment with a general surgeon in a few weeks to determine whether he needs surgery to fix it.  We also got a referral to a neurosurgeon (I think?) to examine the tumor site, do some kind of scan, and make sure there are no residual issues there.  And a referral for physical therapy.  Haven't made those appointments yet.  He had blood drawn to check various things--recheck of labs done in China--and we also sent in a stool sample (ewww).  Results not back on any of that.  Jiushu's current size:  25%-ile for height, 50%-ile for head size, and a whopping 3%-ile for weight.  That's not a typo.  Third percentile.  Still working on putting some chub on that kid. 

We are slowly discovering our new normal as a family of six.  Not easy, but as we approach the throne of grace with confidence, we receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.  Thank God!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Heart echo report

I'll just cut to the chase:

Jiushu's heart echocardiogram was COMPLETELY NORMAL.

No evidence of an ASD.  No VSD.  No PFO.  No PDA.  No evidence of any other abnormality.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

We give all glory to God, the best Father we know.  He binds up the every way.  We stand in awe of His goodness today. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's in a haircut?

I gave Jiushu a haircut yesterday.  The same haircut I give my other men.  You know, with the clippers.  Dad held him in his lap, and that brave kid of ours didn't even cry. 
We decided to cut his hair partly because J has a super sweaty noggin, and partly because he came to us with a semi "bowl" haircut with obvious scissor lines which I was eager to correct.  His hair would get all Don King on top, especially after a nap, and I was seriously a little concerned about how oddly shaped and large his head looked.  Maybe it's not so crazy to say that after his new cut, Jiushu looked better, cuter...more like...ours.  There's something strongly parental about that authority to cut, or not cut, your own kids' hair anyway you want.  What's in a haircut?  A lot more than meets the eye. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One week home...

...and life as a new adoptive family gets a little better each day.  There are many more smiles than tears (from all of us), and the triggers that had been setting Jiushu off into fits of grief, anger, or anxiety seem to be fading.  He is more relaxed and much happier as he is learning to recognize and trust us.  Making him smile or giggle feels like such a worthy accomplishment! 

And look who now has a pincer grasp.  I grabbed my camera quickly yesterday morning, so these are not particularly winsome photos (note the girl's bib, the prunes smeared on his face), but I was glad to document this milestone. 

We ventured out again to the park (walking) this week, and also to story time at our library.  Jiushu seemed to enjoy it.  He sat on the floor in front of me, and every few minutes would tilt his head back to catch my eye and then turn back to face the front.  He's doing fine in his car seat in the van...doesn't hurt that he faces the big kids sitting in the back.  And he's sleeping great too, a huge answer to prayers I prayed long before we brought him home.  In his crib, all night long, from day one.  (Yeah, that alone probably should eradicate any other frustrations, right?) 
We have our first doctor appointment at the international adoption clinic (at our great local children's hospital) next Friday, and I was pleased also to have scheduled a heart echocardiogram for J at the same time.  Please join us in praying for a successful visit, one in which Jiushu isn't too scared and we get some clear answers about his health and development and any treatment that might be required. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Let me clarify

Apparently I've upset at least one of you out there with my previous honest words about our difficult first days home.  I received an email this morning from a bloggy friend expressing her concern.  I think my response is worth sharing here: 

  Thanks for writing and for being concerned about us.  I'm sorry to have given off a very negative vibe in my blog, and knew that I ran the risk of being misunderstood...I just wanted to be honest about how we were feeling.  It was a bit painful to us to have seen adoption and its process glamorized by others, and to have waited with such expectation, only to get to China and face such an unpleasant and challenging situation with our son.  It was crushing, really.  Add to that the trauma of our return trip home and the challenge of reconnecting with the three children we had left for two weeks, and Jiushu's screaming his head off all day long was absolutely more than I could bear.  My frustration and anger were not directed at him, but at well-meaning people who still didn't do a very good job of helping this boy learn and grow.  It's also terribly frightening to bring home a child with so many medical and developmental unknowns, and to have him continue to be so very, very angry despite our every effort to comfort and care for him, especially when I hear of other children appearing to adjust perfectly to their new families before even leaving China. 

  I liken this to a mom giving birth to a baby with a serious, and possibly unexpected, birth defect (this has happened to several of my close friends), or experiencing a very traumatic labor and delivery.  The baby is innocent, but the feelings of fear and sorrow in the mother are legitimate, and mom will need time and permission to grieve the loss of her imagined scenario even as she continues to care for her new child.  That's where I was when I wrote that post.  [This part was not in my original response, but certainly marriage, with its equal parts hard work + romance--or maybe it's 80/20 in favor of hard work, is also a fitting analogy.]

  Jiushu is making great progress and is feeling more safe and secure and content each day.  We are performing acts of love and service to him all day long, and understand that the feelings of love and affection may take a bit longer to develop.  I'm incredibly grateful for the people who have acknowledged that this was the case for them as well.  Every adoption is different.  Some of them start off great.  Ours did not, but we know there is hope and joy and love to come for us all.  I hope this helps you understand a little better where I was coming from. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Status update--3rd full day home

My husband went back to work today--though he did get up early with Jiushu and go in to work late--so today has been my first day alone with four children.  I won't say we're thriving, but we're surviving, and I'm content with that. 

We have been teaching Jiushu to feed himself Cheerios, small pieces of bread, and the little steamed bun crackers he ate a million of in China.  He has no pincer grasp, and when his fingers reach his mouth and the snack has dropped, he doesn't even seem to realize it.  When I help him to try again, he throws a colossal tantrum.  And this is the tricky part--is it grief?  or is it a tantrum?  I'm sure it could be a mixture.  To our experienced-in-birth-parenting-only eyes these fits sure look like tantrums from an indulged child.  Ironic, I guess, but we really suspect that Jiushu's nanny (we think he did have only one main caretaker) babied him, perhaps pitied him, and so expected almost nothing from him. 

I say that because, as we've attempted to lovingly turn play into therapy, we've found that this boy absolutely can bear weight on his legs.  And surprise, surprise...can now do it with a smile on his face!  And he's sitting up like a champ, though it's clear to us that lying down has been his default mode.  I'm no doctor, and I'm not claiming to know yet whether or not he has nerve damage, but if you've never ever worked with a child to help him learn to stand or sit, how could you possibly make that claim?  He has no strength in his legs (as the staff wrote)?  Well, no, not if he lies down or sits in a stroller all day.  Do I sound a little ticked off? 

Anyway, we took a nice walk to the park after lunch.  Big brother on his scooter, big sister walking, and the two littles in the stroller.  Jiushu was almost asleep by the time we got there, and I quickly picked him and woke him up.  Again, his default mode = go to sleep.  (He had already taken a two hour nap.)  He enjoyed the change of scenery and took his first (I assume) ride in a baby swing.  He LOVED it...smiled the entire time!  Stayed awake for the return walk home, and had some quality sitting/playing/bearing weight on his legs time.  He's taking another nap now as I could tell he was genuinely tired.  Maybe because of his heart, I don't know.  He also sweats like nothing I've ever seen.  When he wakes up in the morning, there is a one-foot diameter circle of soaking wet sweat under his head on his crib sheet.  I look forward to getting some answers when we have our first appointment at the international adoption clinic later this month. 

I have been so blessed by the encouraging comments and prayer going up for us in this crazy time of transition...thank you!  "Weeping may last for the night [or many nights...whatever], but a shout of joy comes in the morning."  Psalm 30:5 NASB 


The following is a guest post by my eldest son, who's been begging me for his own blog for some time now.  He loves to type in all caps. 



Saturday, June 11, 2011

We're home

Other appropriate subtitles for this post are:  "Oh, the Horror."  Or "The Trip That Nearly Killed Me."  Or perhaps the most positive one I can offer, "Thank You, Jesus."

We got to the Guangzhou airport in plenty of time and checked in at the counter, only to learn that the agent had no record of our tickets.  He could not find us anywhere in the system.  We stood there nearly an hour, in sheer panic, and then opened our suitcases to search frantically for the boarding passes for our first Chicago to Beijing flight.  It's a wonder we saved them, and an even bigger wonder that I found them where I did.  So the agent found our tickets and we literally ran to our gate to board the plane. 

The flight to Beijing was pleasant and uneventful.  We had a short layover there, and left for Chicago on time.  Jiushu did very well on our long flight to Chicago.  No complaints!  We did not get a bassinet, but he slept across our laps, albeit fitfully, so Vince and I got almost no sleep on the flight home.  I did get to watch two entire movies, though!

We got to Chicago around 4:30 p.m. and went through immigration.  Jiushu became a U.S. citizen there and then!  Our flight to Des Moines* was to leave at 8:40 p.m., but kept getting delayed.  We finally boarded the plane at 11: 15 p.m.  I fell asleep draped across my seat tray and woke to hear Vince telling me we had flown half way to Des Moines, but the plane was turning around and flying back to Chicago due to weather.  We got back to Chicago after midnight and stood in line, tears running down my face, to speak to the ticketing agents.  There was no flight going to Des Moines until Friday evening, so Vince booked us on a flight to Kansas City leaving at 9:30 Friday morning.  We had no choice but to spend the night at O'Hare airport.  We tried in vain to find a quiet place to sleep.  You haven't lived until you've lain on the floor at an airport with a newly adopted 13 month old, trying desperately to sleep even an hour.  No luck.  Between Jiushu's screaming, the terminal's being freezing cold, the seats having armrests so we couldn't stretch out, the intermittent announcements, glaring lights, and CNN that couldn't be turned down, Vince and I got no sleep for the second night in a row.  Jiushu finally succumbed to sleep around 2 a.m. and woke up at 5 screaming bloody murder.  

*If you're wondering why I said Des Moines instead of Kansas City, it's because our original flight to Chicago (at the beginning of our trip) got canceled.  In order not to miss our orientation and sight seeing in Beijing, we drove three hours, at 2:00 a.m., to catch a flight to Chicago, something we would not have done if we had it to do again.  We left our car in long-term parking, so had to have our return flight re-routed to pass through Des Moines.  When our flight back to Des Moines got canceled, we accepted a flight to Kansas City, knowing we'd have to drive up to Des Moines at some point to retrieve our car. 

I don't think I'd ever in my life felt so desolate and drained.  And I'm being very transparent when I say there was not much affection for Jiushu at that point.  There was nothing in me to draw upon but the commitment we had made.  Nothing but a clenched jaw and sheer determination to survive this unpleasant situation, to somehow make it home, to start fresh from there. 

We threw around the idea of renting a car, and made a few phone calls, though we questioned the wisdom of driving in our sleepless condition.  By 6 a.m. we decided it was our best option, reserved a car with Hertz, and left Chicago by 7:00.  After we'd driven a while, I called the airline to cancel our return flight and to set up a refund.  The agent told me that our 9:30 a.m. flight (to Kansas City) had been canceled, so we were elated to have made the decision to drive ourselves to Des Moines.  There wasn't another KC flight until Friday evening, so we would have been stuck at O'Hare another full day.  We drove about six hours to Des Moines, dropped off our rental at the airport, and walked straight in to find our luggage waiting for us!  Believe me, I was praising God for that small blessing!  We got our car from long-term parking and drove home to Kansas City, pulling into our driveway around 5:30 p.m., almost 24 hours after we were supposed to have arrived home.  I will add here that my amazing husband drove all but a half hour of our drive because I could not keep my eyes open, and was scared of killing us all.  He's great. 

Jiushu went to bed at 7:45 p.m. and slept about 13 hours.  I slept 11.  Being with my other three kids today was heaven!  Having them here has already been so helpful in easing Jiushu into the family.  They're a distraction, if nothing else, and I think he is amused by them.  That is, when he's not mad.  It's beneficial for me to already have an established routine to fit Jiushu into.  He has so much to learn, and I continue to be saddened by all that he has never been taught--things that a 13 month old ought to have learned many months ago, like how to feed himself Cheerios, how to crawl, how to bear weight on his legs without throwing a tantrum.

It's now evening and all the kids are in bed.  It's been a rough day.  Our 23 month old daughter spent most of the day in an out-of-character furious rage, mad that we left her, I think.  And Jiushu cried.  All. Day. Long.  My intent in this post is not to gripe, but to paint a realistic picture.  Adoption is not glamorous.  It's not romantic.  I truly believe things will get better.  But right now, it's just raw and ugly and not much fun.  I read this blog post several weeks before we traveled, and reread it just now.  Take a look if you have time.  Lynne expresses so perfectly what I am feeling right now, and it's a huge relief to know that I am not alone.  I hesitate to quote DC Talk, but seriously, love is a verb; it's not an emotion.  Not yet. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Red couch photos...we leave tomorrow!

The famous red couch and group photos!   Proud of my kid--he sat there like a champ, despite the chaos around him.  A mom can brag, right? Keep your eye on the little girl (Eden) in red next to Jiushu. 
Right before the smack to the face, they were linking arms.  Maybe someone caught that on film.
Our awesome group--nine Holt families
And the three shall soon become six. 
So this is it.  We've attended all the appointments, signed all the papers, paid all the money, bought all the souvenirs.  We'll get Jiushu's visa this afternoon.  And then we are so ready to come home!!!  We are here one more night, and in the morning fly from Guangzhou to Beijing and then to Chicago.  We leave Beijing at 4 p.m. on Thursday and get to Chicago at...4 p.m. Thursday.  Isn't that crazy?  Please pray that we make our connection in Beijing, that all flights are on time, for protection, and especially for grace, grace, grace as we fly home with a 13 month old! 

This has been a difficult (to say the least) experience, but one in which we have felt the presence of the Lord--His strength and endurance, and His healing, restoring touch on Jiushu, even in the last few days.  Thank you for your prayer, encouragement, and wonderful comments!  Blogging this trip has been very meaningful for me...even better since someone is following along.  I'll close with some fantastic news we received this morning.  We had applied for a grant this past winter, before we were matched with Jiushu.  We were turned down, but the foundation encouraged us to reapply once we were further along in the process.  The new deadline was end-of-April, and we sent an update letter with news of our referral.  Kind of forgot about it after that, especially once we were preparing to travel.  The director of the foundation emailed me this morning to say they are giving us $3000!  Oh God, you are SO good!  Not a bad way to end our trip, huh? 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CA and Safari Park

We had to meet at the White Swan this morning at 7:10 a.m. to get on a bus for our Consulate Appointment at the U.S. Embassy, which is no longer on Shamian Island.  No cameras are allowed there, so there will be no photos of this momentous occasion--you know, the one this entire process was focused toward, the date we couldn't wait to add to our forum "signature."  We were all there together, all the Holt families, and it felt like just another hoop to jump through.  A long wait in an un-air-conditioned lobby, then a short wait in a line, then another long wait in the slightly cooler embassy waiting area, a visit to a squatty potty, and then a "regular" potty, waiting for our name to be called, the group oath.  I don't at all mean to sound cranky, or like I don't get the significance of this day.  I do.  But it's interesting, and perhaps profound, the way we've already assimilated these children into our lives.  So there we were, trying to keep the kids happy, feeding them juice and cheerios, just ready to get on with our scheduled day--in this case, a trip to Safari Park.  And in other cases, fitting them into our shopping excursions, our meet-ups with other adoptive families, our dinners out.  Pretty much "real life," huh?  Except for the part where we don't live on an island in a tiny hotel room and eat Thai food every night for dinner.

Here's a funny photo from inside the building, but before we passed through security where they took our cameras.  We tried to guess what it meant.
Our guide told us it means "no loitering." 
After our CA we took a long bus ride to Safari Park, the largest zoo in China.  I'll try not to bore you with a million photos of zoo animals.  The pandas were about the cutest things I've ever seen, and the zebras gorgeous.  And there were some hilarious signs!  (If you can't read the text, try clicking on the photo to see it enlarged.)  It was mind-numbingly hot today...but we survived.  'Cause we're a bunch of troopers.
Oh, Ting Ting.  How embarrassing.
This sign promises that we will experience wildlife friends "most wildly and primordially."  It also says children and the elderly (those over 70) should be accompanied by a family member.
Mama Z nursing her baby Z.
Me and two of my Holt lady-friends:  Janet and Donna
Hey, guys.  What's up?  (He talks just like Jiushu.)
Eating a carrot
Just a few flamingos

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday in the island!

A small group of us decided to go exploring this morning, so we crossed a bridge (the wrong bridge, as it turned out) to go into Guangzhou for some more "local color." 

I'll let you guess what these are.  I sure don't know.
We walked past 50 shops just like this one, mostly identical.  I don't know how any of them makes enough money, but I guess there are a lot of people in China. 
Snake skins?

You can't even tell how disgustingly hot and sweaty we are! 
We came back to the island and Vince took Jiushu up to the hotel room.  I did some more shopping with Phillip and Tara, another Holt family.  We had a fantastic time!  Phil is of Chinese descent and speaks Cantonese, so he was willing and able to bargain with the clerks for us.  In two stores, he said Tara and I were his two wives, to which they responded, "Oh, you lucky man!"  It was great fun, and I think I have now completed my shopping for this trip, but I'm totally looking forward to shopping the Target clearance rack--no hassle, no bargaining...nice and simple.  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Look what I can do!

I gotta start with the best news from today (Sunday 6/5 here in China), and a photo (or several) says it best: 

These are my cups.  I didn't know what to do with them a week ago, but now they're pretty cool.
Oh...did you notice I'm sitting up?  I couldn't do this a week ago, either.

Excuse me a moment.  Gotta arrange my cups.
Yeah, I'm still sitting.  And I'm pretty darn proud of myself!
And then the weeble wobbled, and did fall down.  And then giggled.  'Cause falling down is hilarious!  That last photo?  That smile?  Makes it all worth it.  Amazing, the difference one week and a whole lot of prayer make in the life of an orphan-no-longer. 

On a less poignant note...we went to the jade and pearl markets this afternoon.  Talk about overwhelming.  Stall after stall, corridor after corridor, of exactly the same, mostly green, stuff.  And we Americans, not even knowing if we're being swindled.  Not my idea of a good time.  
Vince is pretty sure SARS originated in this very alley.
The "pearl market" was actually an indoor mall.  Five (maybe six?) floors with nothing but beads and jewelry.  Insane.  We didn't even make it past the first floor. 
Beads, pearls, crystals, jewelry.  Every. Single. Store.  I swear.
This is a marathon post, so I'll just keep going.  I took a lot of photos today.  The rest are of Shamian Island. 
Outside a Chinese restaurant.  Do you pick out your meal before going in?  I don't know, and I don't want to know.
Some of these buildings are businesses; some are residential. 
View of "off the island"--the rest of Guangzhou, a city of about 14 million
Christ Church.  We had hoped to attend a service, but didn't make it in time.
Apartments, I think?