Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting our groove

It's a beautiful day here, but I am sooooooooooooo tired. She was up from about 2-4 this morning, probably because we had let her take an overly long nap yesterday. Live and learn. Luckily, her brothers have played with her quite a bit and I did grab about 20 minutes while she napped today.



She has been quite happy to have Jonathan take care of her as long as it's day time and even though he feels as bad or worse than I, he's right in there with her. In fact as I type this, he's following her up and down the stairs to be sure she doesn't fall. She climbs until her brow is sweaty. We bought a gate for the bottom but with all this practicing we might not need it anyway. She'll be a 10,000 hour Malcolm Gladwell-style stair-safe prodigy in no time.

If you sit down, then I will sit down, big brother.
Because you are pretty much awesome.
Needing sleep infects everything. It's like moving through jello mixed with sand, but not even as fun as that might sound. Having this stupid cold on top of being sleep deprived makes me prone to ill temper and impatience. I promise I fight it, but I'm just so much more fun when I am able to sleep.

Isaac invented a game with her. He said they
ended with the exact same number of points.
Someday she'll appreciate the weight of that.  
I'm grateful that tomorrow is a holiday. One final day of our non-maternity maternity leave. The average birth doesn't take two weeks away but with adoption the hardest time is just after you get home. By then you've used up a lot of people's patience and the reasonable amount of time off. We're supposed to go to our Classical Conversations homeschool group on Tuesday, but I'm not sure we'll be ready to swing that yet. In point of fact, while I say "we" I should say I'm not sure that I'll be ready. I'm okay with being wiped out and disheveled at home, working in the things we need to do like mortar in our day. When I add outside obligations to it, things can get emotionally overwhelming. For now, I'll do what I can to give myself a bit of time to get back into the public rhythm of a new school year.

After her bedtime bath, I thought J should try getting Primrose into her jammies and maybe putting her down. She was not impressed. She loves him at the park, on our stairs, when she's eating, pretty much all day long anywhere we go. At night when she's tired, the fear and anxiety of the girl we met at the Child Welfare Institute come back out a bit. She cries when she hears his voice trying to soothe her. She covers her eyes with the back of her hand- the Scarlet O'Hara maneuver. She waves her open hand quickly in the air between J and her to say she CANnot EVen. She wails and squeaks and it's hard. It's like she realizes that, while we've had our fun, this "new family foreign country" thing is a crazy situation. Where are her people, who are these new weird-language mutants? If she must go with taking care from one of us, for whatever reason she chose me. Little does she know J is actually more patient parent by far and way more tender hearted.

It's possible our daughter (I do love saying that) won't have a problem with daddy running bedtime if I am gone from dinner time on through bedtime for a rehearsal. It's just stressful not knowing how it will go for him and for her. Frankly, from what I have seen I know that even if she cries for a while, she'll probably recover quickly. It would be so nice for her awesome dad if they could have a quiet, easy time together. Just an everyday kind of night.

Here she is reaching a foot over "helping" daddy fill out our entry cards for Hong Kong.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Average Saturday at the Park

We're slowly recovering from jet lag and colds and it feels like the fog of what-will-it-be-like's is starting to lift away. The shape of our new family is starting to peek out from beneath it all.


I convinced Ms. Primrose FangFang to sleep through the night last night from about 8:30pm. She was up at 1:30am but with a new diaper and a location change from her crib to my bed, she eventually went back to deeply sleeping without playing or sitting up. In fact, I had to get her up around 10:30am this morning. It would be so lovely if that's the end of her main adjustments to our time zone. I daren't hope...
She's a sprawler, all right.
In the middle of the night, I get these glimpses of what it will feel like to be settled in as mother and daughter. In the dark, she sometimes caresses my face. She sighs in a long ragged exhale while turning her head to me. She's calmed by my voice and likes to hear me humming, have her little legs rubbed and back patted. I soak it all up, try to memorize every preference. I don't really expect her to feel perfectly attached and part of me all at once, and I resist pushing her. It seems like that would be presumptuous and even selfish of me. But each bit she gives in my direction thrills me, I can't lie about that.


When she's tired she is still insecure and wants nothing to do with anyone but me, and I think even I am just a concession because she has a strong pragmatic streak and no better choice. That can be hard when I am also tired and J is tired, everybody has a cold and I have a lot of nighttime gigs staring us down in September's schedule. We're figuring it out as we complete our second week with her, and truthfully we are grateful she's faster than some at this transition. Her crying is short-lived. I try to grab at gratitude, to prop it up and fill it out. Like all my imperfect parenting, it takes a certain amount of intention not to turn to self-centered frustration. It helps that she is so little that logic itself is on my side. It also helps that I know I have been given grace and this chance to show it in return is also a gift. Is it grace I'm giving a child who has every reason to cry? I've asked myself all of these petty things about the kids I gave birth to as well.

My daughter played with her brothers today. Six year old Isaac in particular wants to play with her at every opportunity. He and she have similar personalities, it seems. I worried before we brought her home that he would miss being able to take the spotlight and that he would get less of the personal interaction he craves. He has always done that by being both the sweetest, most engaging child and by misbehaving in complicated drawn-out ways. But the past 48 hours have given me a view of a third option I hadn't anticipated: Isaac craves company and a similarly wired one year old loves to be entertained. He has been a truly outstanding big brother.


He brings her toys, plays with her, doesn't mind repeating the same joke 37 times in a row to get her to giggle. She wants to follow him everywhere. Before our trip we had asked the boys to donate stuffed animals, and it was as if we wanted to remove a limb. Today I had to cut Isaac off from adding his toys to her crib, and he is the one who has her giggling longer and louder than anyone yet, though Toby is doing a good job in this video, too.



Toby is enthralled with her. He wants to pick her up constantly and he is happy to make silly loud noises until his dad and I are driven to irritated distraction and she is delighted. I think he will be even more intrigued when they can chat about his interests and she has her own deck of Pokemon cards. He doesn't like when she cries, and I have seen him tear up in sympathy. He is going to be such a good father himself (in like 40,000 years when I'm ready for it).



There are things that will cover our shortcomings as parents, and one that I bank on most is their relationships as siblings. They were already a very strong pair, but as a trio I see their strengths magnified. I'm looking forward to watching that develop.

She'll go anywhere with them.

Friday, August 29, 2014

USA! USA! zzzzzz

We have completed Primrose FangFang's first full day as an American!

I had planned to try to keep her up through her nap, but she pointed at the bathtub and then pointed to a fresh diaper and then pointed to her bed. She's not one to hang back and waffle about what she would like, this kid. Then again, most toddlers know what they want and they want it now.

This is after we woke her up the second time.
So our sleep schedules are still all jacked up, but we did manage to keep her up a bit longer in the afternoon by taking her to her first Beaverton park and then to that most American of family restaurants, Red Robin.

While we waited for our meal, we regaled the boys with tales of food in China. There are generally no napkins given there. And the bathrooms: no towels for hands, and sometimes no toilet paper and sometimes no (Western) toilet! You can't have drinkable water without paying (Isaac looked intrigued at the idea that he might be able to have sugar drinks more often if even water costs money) and you should avoid ice even though it sounds soooooo good when you're hot and thirsty. Whoa! said they. I also told them that they should practice trying lots of unusual things when they eat because when we take them to China or anywhere else, the food will be different. Toby pointed out that we should bring hand sanitizer (so my child, that one).



Primrose eats like a champ. She had teriyaki grilled chicken and the tomatoes and cucumbers from my salad. She tried a fry but mostly liked the chicken. I think we are giving her more variety and she enjoys that. On her discharge report the foster family listed Congee (kind of a soupy rice) at least twice a day. We found that she will eat that, especially at breakfast, but I don't think she really wants it as often as they had been giving it. It's pretty cheap to make. The sweetened yogurt & milk drinks she came with and loves are also cheap- cheaper than formula. She has never taken a bottle from us, and doesn't show any interest. I gave our box of formula & bottles to the orphanage before we left Wuhan.

We'll try not to wreck that tendency of hers to be open to so many kinds of foods. We've already accidentally undone all her potty training. In China, many kids wear split-pants at home. Their moms hang them over the toilet at regular intervals and they get used to going there. If they have an accident, they squat where they are and it's on the floor and can be cleaned more easily than a spoiled outfit. In the train stations I saw people hang their children over the trash can more than once, and there were kids peeing just about everywhere outdoors. In the fancy marble-floored museum in Wuhan, I'm almost certain I rolled the stroller right through a fresh puddle. A few years back, both of our boys would have loved that opportunity. (To pee freely, not to roll through puddles.)


FangFang has given me a long direct look a couple of times over the last 10 days, and I think it was her way of telling me she would like a turn in the loo. Unfortunately, I'm a bit dense and it wasn't always convenient to take her. With the diapers we had on her, and her early insecurity with us anyway, we just went a bit more with our comfort level than keeping up her early training. I still hold her over the pot if I've just taken off a dry diaper, but she's clearing going with "when in Rome". I think using diapers will be simpler than explaining her cute little tushie hanging out in church or in the supermarket. Besides, I'm happy to put off cleaning accidents from the floor until we have a fuzzy little puppy to show for it.


The adoption of a child is such a miracle, in a different way than the miracle of birth kids. All their potential is given to you, as it is with a biological child but in adoption it's somebody else's hopes and dreams on top of your own. It feels even more weighty a responsibility to me today, her first day on the other side of the planet. She is so incredible. She fits so well. I hope we'll live up to that.

Jet lagged toddler gone wild

It's 6am and we've been up for 4 hours. Primrose has expressed that she is not interested in sleeping. I've donated a whole packet of document marker tab thingies to the cause because it's kept her occupied for 48 minutes. She's very excited about everything and has mentioned that she would prefer to go upstairs and wake up the boys. I was going to look up the Mandarin for "they are sleeping" but then thought that might just encourage her to go remedy that situation. She's a go-getter that way.

I'm waiting for her to wind down so I can sleep again. It will probably happen in 2018 or so. We picked up her cold and the whole other side of the world time change is making for some hefty jet lag. My head feels dried out inside.

She's dumping out dice from our homeschool stuff and putting them back. (Most of them.) She also dumped out our plastic counting cookies, half of our food storage, and a bunch of other stuff. It's fun to watch her unpack the house. It will be even more fun when I've finished unpacking our luggage and my head stops throbbing, and when her playmates are up.

Did you realize 3M makes such awesome toddler toys? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Siblings!

Man are these boys excited to have their sister.

She likes music, duh!



She already wants to follow them everywhere.

Peekaboo peekaboo peekaboo!!!

Travel complete! Game over, she is the champion!

We are home.
Hong Kong airport check-in. 6am. 
She only really did this once.
We thought she would sleep more on the second flight.

Everything is a toy when you're trying to avoid the screaming.
Primrose was a rock star, traveling pretty much two days straight.

Immigration in Portland was the worst, though, and it finally broke her. She cried for a good little while and I was worried she would want nothing to do with the family when we were finally released. It was really frustrating to have it take so long. They said they are "really understaffed", which I find a little embarrassing. It was the longest wait by far of the five we went through on this trip.

Thankfully, she had perked up a bit and started out so well with her brothers. She threw her dolly on the ground like 10 times for each of them to pick up, and I saw the corner of a smile as they both went for it with a giggle. She was also already flirting with my mom.

We have zero pictures of all the cuteness. My brain by then had dried up into a shriveled sleep-deprived airplane-tired walnut and as predicted I started crying when I saw the boys and brought her to them. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was one of the best moments of our whole life as a family.

Primrose fell asleep in the car despite 6 other people chatting away with excitement. She went down for a nap right away, and the boys have been asking fairly regularly since then if we can wake her up yet.

She whipped up a quick meal for us between drink services. 

Airplane bed head

Finally in Portland! (See the famous carpet from PDX?)
This is about 30 minutes before the crying, and about 75 minutes before we were finally released. 
The sky is so blue, the shower felt sooooo good, and I finally smell like myself. As soon as the world stops spinning from jet lag and exhaustion, I am sure we'll have fun showing Beaverton to its newest resident.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The lame kind of travel


Guangzhou's train station
Well, we made it to Hong Kong. It was a very long hot boring dumb travel day. I will not rehash the boring details, but can tell you I laughed out loud when I reread my previous post which said we "take a train and then arrive at the hotel" or some such. Between those two events there was a shuttle bus and another train and a long walk with a sleeping baby in the carrier because the stroller just didn't cut it.

I think Primrose was a bit further traumatized by our travel at first. She probably thought we lived in the hotel in Wuhan, and then the one in Guangzhou, and when we packed up there today she was definitely a bit confused with all these major transitions. I could even say she was agitated, getting a bit demanding at breakfast, feisty with the other kids while we waited for the group picture and then again while we waited for her visa to arrive.

By the time we were on the train, however, she had leveled right out.

Look at the difference.

Here she is on that sad first day together, just two hours after meeting us in Wuhan:




And after ten days with us (turn down your volume and back away from your computer):



There is so much awesome packed into this one kid. I can't wait to unleash her on America.

Holy frijoles, we're on another train?!?!
Mama, what is with you people and trains?

Start of our ride.

End of the ride.


Last time on the Metro for a while.

We spent our last morning here taking the metro the opposite direction from before, toward the “biggest mall in Guangzhou”. It apparently has an ice rink like Lloyd Center in Portland but probably much nicer and definitely 100% free from any threat of running into Tanya Harding.

Despite some hilarious miming we tried with a pair of confused security guards who wanted to give us directions, we did not make it to the rink. Wandering is fun and we found some great shopping anyway, much better than the mall I was gushing about before. This new mall was filled with a thousand adorable kiosks packed with random cute things. The target audience seemed to be mostly young student-types. There was a whole shop full of Totoro goods, and a thousand more with other mixes of cutesy things. I had hoped to find some little trinkets for the boys, but just about struck out there. I did get myself a great bracelet, and we again ate in the food court with upper working class and students.

Primrose sat with daddy, happily eating his ramen and dumplings. I think her favorite parts were little bits of heart or liver or who-knows-what organ. She pointed daintily to each one, then as the soup cooled just reached right in for what she wanted. Someday she will understand how much her daddy loves her when she learns he gave her any bit of the meats she wanted from his plate in their first two weeks together.



She charmed several students including one who had studied English while completing a degree in math, who helped me try to find something without pork in it at the ramen shop. I wish I had snapped a picture of her, she was very kind and I liked her even more as soon as she said, “Yes, I saw your daughter when you were walking. She is so very cute.”

I am pretty tolerant of crowds in foreign countries and big cities, but I am not sorry that we don't have to ride the Chinese metro for a while. our line to the Marriott has been packed at all times of day. I am often not even able to move into the middle of the car where people will immediately offer a seat when they see our girl in my arms. Instead we are packed so close it is hard to find a place to hold the poles and Primrose likes to try touching all the people around us. People almost invariably smile and talk to her, but it can be a bit awkward. Despite them being fairly well air conditioned, I am always hot and sweaty when we finally arrive at our stop in the busier train cars. 


Greeting one of the ladies who clean the tables.
We get to take a big group photo with all the Holt families currently in Guangzhou in a few hours down in the lobby when Fang Fang’s done with her nap. We’ll take our junk down with us and head out from there.


After a nice train ride, we’ll check into the airport hotel in Hong Kong where the internet is finally open and the TV has way more channels. It's probably the first time Primrose has been outside of mainland China. I cried for her a bit when we left Wuhan, and will probably be a bit sad for her to fly away again. Adoption always starts with losses for the child. We are so grateful to be part of the restoration of a family for this exuberant child, but loss is part of her story as well.

We’ll be in Portland on Thursday morning August 28th, and should be done with immigration by about 9:45am. One of the best moments of this journey (besides the moment she walked into the Children’s Welfare Institute and every moment she has given us her trust & affection since then) will be walking out of the security gates and into the arms of our friends and family. I can hardly wait to see my boys, and to watch her meet them. They have been waiting years for a sibling, and we’ve simply been given the perfect one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Level up... final level.

We completed our last level in this Chinese Adoption Challenge EX 2014. The Embassy went very well. A little boring, with an atmosphere made of 20% James Bond and 80% DMV, but everything approved. I think Primrose thought it was a too-long play date for newly adopted friends in a kind of lame play area with lots of glass walls and a gray stone floor and not enough toys.

Here is my gorgeous gal getting ready for naptime with her hankie-sized soothie blanket.


Tomorrow our guides pick up our Visa packets, meet us in the hotel lobby with them and we leave for our pre-flight night in a Hong Kong hotel attached to the airport. Then we get up a bit early, schlep to the airport and head out! Lunch layover in Tokyo... on to Portland.

When she is admitted through immigration to the US in PDX, one Ms. Primrose Ward will be a citizen. I will cry, unless I'm distracted because she's throwing a tantrum or throwing up. One year old... gotta keep the bases covered.

Here's the star herself. It's considered a selfie when you're one year old even if your mama takes the video. She is saying "That's YOU!" at the beginning.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spicy Wuhan Girl

Hey! Here in Guangzhou China I have found a club worth joining. Between that and the "constant temperature swimming pool", I believe the hotel next to ours might just have something going on.

"Tuning Life Platinum Club"
We walked t' hell and back tonight, as my Papa would have said. We were looking for some local grub, and went about a mile radius. Turns out we are in the garment district and the many fancy-looking malls all around us are used by garment wholesalers. The weird thing is, at 6pm at night the shops are all empty. I mean not just of their people. It looks like an apocalypse has swept through and it's been looted already. Sometimes in the barren shops there are one or two people working on huge plastic bagged bundles of... jeans? shmancy underthings? ringer tees? You can't ever really tell what they are by the time they're bundled. These malls have no food, except one where we saw signs pointing through half-lit hallways and over stopped escalators toward a McD's. If you thought the food in American McDs was bad (we are not fans), apparently the Chinese ones have been recently cited for knowingly using tainted chicken. Our guides even specifically advised against going to them.

So on we walked. You should know we crossed the street twice. Yes, we are made of courage. In one place there was a friendly crossing light and crowds ready to walk from both sides. I tried to get a video for you, but as soon as we started into the street we had to run like refugees from the safety of the sidewalk. The video was a comical dizzying mishmash of feet on a dirty street. Everyone scurries across as there are no guarantees that a pedestrian will EVER have the right of way here. The second time we crossed it was a small... well, four lanes are small here anyway... one-way street. We waited for it to look completely clear and then ran as fast as we could with the stroller. A Chinese couple who went at the same time weren't casual about it either, running just as quickly as we did.

Having survived crappy uneven-street crazed-traffic frogger, I was glad to see the concrete stair flyover on our last big crossing. It's hot and uncomfortable climbing them with her stroller, but much less likely that we'll have a bad day. They are mostly crumbling and rusted, but even with communist building standards your odds are still going to better than down on the street.
Have you noticed how ordering takes for EVER when you are starving and maybe even tired to the point of yawning?
Finally we gave up, trekked back to our hotel and ate in the Chinese place there. I have to say, it was amazing. Our beautiful girl ate most of my abalone (abalone!), rice, cabbage, the most delicious scallion pancakes I've ever had, and noodles.

The noodles were in a hot red soup/sauce, and we thought she would love those. Apparently, we have found the ceiling for her spice tolerance. You have to give her some true Wuhan girl props: it's a very high ceiling. I tried a few bites of her daddy's noodles, too, and they left me spluttering and coughing from all the red pepper oil. Much more dignified, all she does is hang her mouth open and finally refuse to eat any more of them. That, my friends, is a big statement right there.


Tomorrow is our US Embassy appointment. We aren't allowed to bring our phones, so sadly there will be no cute or humorous photos. In fact, we have to bring only essential items and only in clear ziploc bags. Let's hope our new citizen (and her mom) is in a compliant and cheerful mood. 

She is going to think we live in a shopping mall.

Today and yesterday we spent most of our time at the mall, which is air conditioned and shiny. We have probably spent 5 or 6 hours there over three days, though we didn’t buy much. I found some cute cheap leggings at the supermarket on level 2 and a great lunch (both days!) at the food court on level 3. The leggings have stuffed animal birds sewn to them and cost less than $10. I like buying her the cheaper Chinese-Western clothes rather than the full-on Western expensive stuff that is also everywhere. The low-brow things are quirkier than what I have seen in the states and certainly the price doesn’t hurt. 

Today we were joined on our outing by some friends from our Wuhan group who were the first other family I met when we arrived in Wuhan. They have a spicy-sweet 3 year old, whom we have loved to watch as she opens up to her new family. Despite sporting some serious feistiness, she is so gentle with our Primrose, and never seems to take offense when our girl asks to hold her dolly, patiently mothering her younger adoption group sister. They kept kissing and trading toys, and our little friend was happy to walk along with her hand on Fang Fang’s stroller. That’s a big deal, as she has insisted for six days straight that her new mother carry her almost everywhere. That woman is going to have guns of steel, I tell you.
Have some milk, little sissie!
From the way many of the other preschool aged kids behave and a few things I have observed in Chinese families in public places, I wonder if there is more slapping going on in Chinese parenting in general. It could be these are just universal frustrated-kid behaviors, but some of them seem learned. There is a gruffness to the tone of voice used with children that then comes right out of the kids’ mouths when they are annoyed with us or each other.

This is another thing we have been mostly spared because Fang Fang is just so young. We made a game of crossing our arms, turning our head away and saying "BU!" when she starts to get sassy. It turns her right around and I think shows her we can handle it if she decides to try out being a mean grump. She has tried a bit of slapping, but not with great conviction and not in a way that a quick correction hasn't cured. Some of the older kids need more time to let those habits work their way out of their systems. 

Primrose was so happy to have a friend in her room, she kept running around with her hands in the air going "OOOOOHHHHH!!" I can see we're going to owe her a lot of girly play dates when we get home. 

Almost all the rest of our group went out to a safari today. I cannot imagine voluntarily sitting out in the sun in 93 degrees and 70% humidity but who knows, it might have been better than I thought. It was nice to still have some camaraderie even though we opted out, and I’m really glad our friends were looking for an alternative as well.

The Wuhan group overall is doing pretty well, all things considered. There is one older child having a very rough time and it is terrible to watch. I won’t be specific as it’s their story to tell. Please pray for them to see improvement and make it to the states with them all in one piece, both emotionally and mentally. The little I know of her new family (it's a very good match) and her old story leaves me in tears just thinking about it. Please do pray for her and for them. She is broken like no child should be and distraught, and we are all so helpless to do anything for her.


I think we may be in for the night, except perhaps foraging for dinner. "The best hotel in China" prices their food accordingly, so eating in is not an option. We’re probably going back to the pool later, and hope to see more of our friends. The pool is gorgeous, and the hotel is a comfortable place to pass a week before being released to go home. The pool's outdoors but up off the street and inside the u-shape of the guest room towers. Yesterday we saw the sun set while cooling off, pointed at airplanes and enjoyed a cooling breeze. Well played, Marriott. I suppose we’ll forgive you for the expensive bottled water and dearth of towels. The hotel room came with a "welcome adoptive families" basket with a teddy bear and baby wash inside. Between that and the Starbucks downstairs, we are just about set. Two more nights, then one in Hong Kong. So close.